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Put good of human person at center of public policy, Pope Francis says

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan 21, 2020 / 04:56 am (CNA).- In a message to the global delegates of the 2020 World Economic Forum, Pope Francis stressed the duty of governments and businesses to place the good of the human person above power or profit.

“The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family,” he said in the Jan. 21 message.

“The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy,” he stated.

The pope decried views which treat others as a means to an end and are lacking in solidarity and charity, resulting in injustice.

Integral human development only flourishes, he argued, “when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good.”

He stressed that “all too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest.”

“In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.”

The 2020 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from Jan. 21-24.

The annual meeting has 3,000 participants from around the world. The aim is “to give concrete meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance,” according to the meeting’s website.

Pope Francis’ message was addressed to Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Vatican.

In his message, the pope claimed that the meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” points to the need to address the many issues facing humanity.

Over the last 50 years there have been significant changes at the geopolitical level, he noted, adding that “many of these developments have benefitted humanity while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae.”
 
While today’s challenges are different than those half a century ago, a number of principles remain the same, such as the primacy of the human person,” he said.

“As a result, it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.”

 

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- Last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

 

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA Jan. 14, 2018.

U.S. bishops say death row inmate likely innocent, call for new trial

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference and the bishops of Florida are calling for a Florida death row inmate to be given a new trial, in light of evidence the bishops say suggests the inmate is actually innocent.

“The deeply troubling facts of Mr. Dailey’s conviction and death sentence raise profound moral questions,” the bishops said in a brief submitted Jan. 17 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The evidence of Mr. Dailey’s actual innocence is not only credible; it is overwhelming,” the bishops added.

“The only just and legal solution is to require a remand for a new trial.”  The brief was filed in support of a petition for a new trial from James Dailey, who was convicted of the brutal 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl, Shelly Boggio.

Dailey was connected to the murder after he being named by Jack Pearcy, who was also convicted of killing Boggio. Pearcy was Dailey’s roommate in 1985. When Pearcy was apprehended for the murder of Boggio, he told police it was Dailey who had done the killing.

Although there was no physical evidence linking Daily to the crime, Pearcy’s testimony, along with that of jailhouse informants who claimed Dailey had incriminated himself, led to his conviction.

Dailey got the death penalty. Pearcy was sentenced to life in prison.

In the state of Florida’s “prosecution of Mr. Dailey for complicity in the murder, it adduced no physical, forensic, or eyewitness evidence implicating him. Rather, Mr. Dailey was convicted on the basis of testimony of three jailhouse informants, who each had every incentive to lie,” the bishops said in their brief.

Pearcy’s accusation formed the basis of Dailey’s conviction, and was supported by the testimony of the jailhouse informants, each of whom received please bargains on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony.

But years after Dailey was convicted, in 1993, Pearcy recanted his allegation. He said he’d lied about Dailey’s involvement.

“It was just a self-serving statement to exonerate myself,” Pearcy said in a sworn statement.

“I was in custody and they were going to charge me and I was just trying to get around it, that’s all," he added. In 1998, Pearcy again claimed he’d seen Dailey kill Boggio. In 2017, Pearcy again said that Dailey wasn’t there, and that he’d killed Boggio alone.

But in 2019, Pearcy gave contradictory statements, telling a Florida reporter that Dailey killed Boggio, and then making a sworn statement that he “committed the crime alone.”

The U.S. bishops’ brief noted that Dailey has produced evidence indicating that he was not with Pearcy the night that Boggio was killed. The bishops also noted that the jailhouse informants received plea deals on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony, and that there was additional evidence their testimony could have been manufactured.

Dailey, 73 and a Vietnam veteran, has consistently maintained his innocence.

He was due to be executed Nov. 7, 2019, but was granted a stay of execution. That stay expired Dec. 30, and Dailey could be executed anytime. He has petitioned the Supreme Court for the right to a new trial.

 

What the pope said when Martin Luther King was killed

Memphis, Tenn., Jan 20, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).- On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally shot outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

King is remembered as the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and as the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But he was first a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and remained active in pastoral leadership throughout his life.

On the day after King was killed, Pope Paul VI expressed remorse during his Angelus address, saying that the civil rights leader was “a Christian prophet for racial integration.”

Shortly after King’s death, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas released an interfaith statement, mourning their colleague in ministry.

We “bow together in grief before the shameful murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a unique apostle of the non-violent drive for justice, [and] affirm that no service of remembrance or local memorial is equal to the greatness of his labor or the vastness of our national need.”

The faith leaders also applauded the efforts of Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, encouraged Americans to support measures favoring integration, and pled with government officials to fund legislation aimed at fighting poverty.

We “affirm that only through massive contributions by the American people can this nation duly honor the life-offering of Martin Luther King, Jr. and responsibly lift up the burden of the poor and oppressed in our land.”

The statement also promised to implement coordinated efforts among religious communities to fight poverty.

We “declare our intention to take immediate steps to develop a coordinated sacrificial effort on the part of the American religious community to help the disadvantaged,” the statement read.

Faith leaders were not the only ones to pay tribute to King after his assassination.

On the night King was killed, Senator Robert Kennedy, a Catholic, spoke to the people of Indianapolis, urging them to greater compassion and a deterrence from violence. Kennedy spoke during a stop on his 1968 campaign for President, delivering the news to a multiracial crowd that King had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black,” he said on April 4, 1968.

Kennedy referenced the assassination of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, which had taken place in 1963.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times,” Kennedy said.

The senator urged Americans to take up King’s efforts, pray for King’s family and the nation, and join in solidarity those longing for peace.  

“The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land,” he added.

“I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”

This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2018.

1 of 4 kidnapped Nigerian seminarians released after suffering serious injuries

Kaduna, Nigeria, Jan 20, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- A Nigerian seminarian who was abducted this month was freed by his kidnappers after 10 days in captivity. Three seminarians kidnapped with him remain in captivity.

The freed seminarian, who has not yet been identified, is being treated at a Catholic hospital in Kaduna, Nigeria. The extent of his injuries is unclear, but he is being treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“From the time of the abduction, this seminarian was stubborn to the abductors; he could hold on anything he could find, resisting the kidnapping,” a source close to Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kaduna told ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

“The seminarian was beaten up badly resulting in some fractures of his body parts, yet they took him still,” the source said of the Jan. 8 kidnapping.

The seminarian, still suffering injuries from his abduction, was dumped by kidnappers Jan. 18 on the side of Nigeria’s Kaduna-Abuja highway. He was taken to the hospital after being found by passing motorists.

The seminarian might have been freed and dumped along the road “because the abductors felt the boy could not survive in their hands,” a source told ACI Africa.

The abducted seminarians were first year philosophy students at Good Shepherd Seminary.

The students, Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; Stephen Amos, 23; and Michael Nnadi, 18, were abducted on the night of Jan. 8 in a 30-minute operation that saw the kidnappers, dressed in military uniform and armed with guns, force their way onto the Catholic seminary campus, which is home to 268 seminarians.

Since Jan. 11, the abductors have been making contact with family members of the seminarians to discuss ransoms for their release, a source in Nigeria told ACI Africa Jan. 12.

According to a Sunday news report, Archbishop Matthew Man’oso Ndagoso of Kaduna has cautioned against speculation about the abductors’ demand for ransom for the safe release of the seminarians.

“We have streamlined discussion with the kidnappers, it is only one person that is communicating with them, we can’t disclose any discussion with them,” Archbishop Man’oso told local media. Good Shepherd Seminary is located just off the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. According to AFP, the area is “notorious for criminal gangs kidnapping travelers for ransom.”

The news agency said that schoolgirls and staff from a boarding school also located near the highway were kidnapped in October, and were later released.

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent months, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.