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What do practicing Catholics think about the 2020 election?

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Catholics who say they accept all Church teachings are more likely than other Americans to say they are planning to vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new nationwide poll.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-21 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 2,055 registered voters; 1,223 of them self-identified as Catholic.

In addition to asking about political viewpoints and priorities, researchers asked respondents about their faith tradition. The poll asked self-identified Catholics whether their faith plays a role in their life, and if they accept all, most, or some of Church teaching.

While it is easy to segregate the responses of self-identified Catholics from other voters, it is more difficult to determine which Catholics might be described as “faithful,” “observant,” or “orthodox.”

Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less. Seventeen percent of Catholics said they accept all the Church’s teachings, but only 64% of those Catholics said they attend Mass at least weekly. At the same time, many Catholics who said they attend Mass weekly also said they do not accept all doctrinal teachings of the Church.

To understand one segment of the “Catholic vote,” CNA took a close look at answers from Catholics who told researchers they accept the teachings of the Church and try to live their lives according to them.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are “sure to vote” for Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 34% of all Catholics and 32% of respondents overall who gave the same answer.

Among Catholic voters who accept all of Church teaching, Trump enjoyed a significant lead in a hypothetical matchup against leading Democratic candidates. These voters favored Trump over Joe Biden by 18 percentage points, over Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by 25 percentage points, and over Pete Buttigieg by 26 percentage points.

Issues of major concern to Catholics who say they accept all Catholic doctrine are religious freedom and immigration.

Sixty percent of all survey respondents say religious freedom is either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind” in considering presidential candidates for the upcoming general election.

Among Catholics who accept all Church’s teaching, that number is 77%.

Asked about immigration, two-thirds of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said the issue is “a major concern,” compared to just over half of all respondents who answered similarly. Respondents were not asked to indicate specifics about their policy positions on immigration.

On other issues, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were less likely to voice concern than other respondents.

The survey found that 35% of Catholics accepting all Church teaching listed the environment as “a major concern,” while 44% of all respondents said the same. Fifty-six percent of Catholics in that category listed climate change as either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind,” compared to 65% of all respondents.

Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were slightly more likely than other respondents to be seriously concerned about national security, foreign policy, taxes, and China trade policy, while they were slightly less likely to list health care as a major concern.

On the issues of college affordability, income equality, and criminal justice, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching responded similarly to other respondents.

Gun control and late-term abortion were the two biggest issues considered “deal-breakers” by this voting demographic, with a little over half saying a candidate disagreeing with their views on these issues would automatically disqualify that candidate from receiving their support.

Forty-two percent in this demographic considered a candidate’s differing views on religious freedom to be a deal-breaker, and 47% said the same about immigration.

Just 25% of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said they would automatically disqualify candidates who oppose their views on same-sex marriage, 11 percentage points lower than the overall response to the question.

Thirty-one percent of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said a candidate opposing their views on the death penalty would be a deal-breaker for them, compared to just 16% of overall survey respondents.

The poll's entire data set can be downloaded here.

Survey: Americans dissatisfied with bishops’ response to sex abuse crisis

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Americans largely disapprove of the way the U.S. bishops have handled the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church, a new survey has found. A majority said their trust in the leadership of the Church has been damaged by the abuse crisis.
The poll was conducted by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News. It surveyed 2,055 registered voters from Nov. 15-21.

Among other questions, participants were asked about their impressions of how Church leaders have acted in response the clerical sex abuse crisis of the last 18 months.

Sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in summer 2018 led to revelations of clerical sexual abuse throughout the United States, as well as some bishops engaging in cover-up and negligence in reporting suspected abuse.

Overall, 19% of survey respondents said they approve of the bishops’ handling of the abuse crisis, while 58% said they disapprove of how the bishops have responded. Another 23% percent said they were unsure.

Of those who identify as Catholic, 30% approve of the bishops’ handling of the crisis, while 55% disapprove. Among non-Catholics, 16% approve and 59% disapprove.

The disapproval rate was consistently more than 50% for Catholics, whether they attend Mass at least weekly, a few times a month, or rarely.

Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s teachings were more likely to say the bishops are doing an acceptable job handling the crisis. Among this demographic, 52% approve of the bishops’ response to the abuse crisis, and 38% disapprove.

Survey respondents were more likely to voice approval of Pope Francis’ handling of the abuse crisis than that of the bishops, although he still faced significant levels of criticism.

Overall, 31% are satisfied with the pope’s response to the crisis, while 44% disapprove. Among Catholics, 44% approve and 41% disapprove.

Of those who say they accept all of Church teaching, 62% approve of the pope’s response, and just over one-quarter disapprove.

Close to two-thirds of survey respondents, both Catholic and non-Catholic, said the abuse crisis has damaged their trust in the leadership of the pope and bishops. Responses were similar for Catholics regardless of how frequently they attend Mass, as well as for non-Catholics.

The survey also looked at religious practices among Catholics.

Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less.
Just under half of Catholics said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

 Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with 70% of respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.
Six percent of Catholics who responded to the survey said they go to confession at least once a month. Another 17% percent said they go a few times a year, while 35% receive the sacrament once a year or less, and another 41% percent said they never go to confession.

Of those who said they identify as Catholic, 79% said they pray at least weekly, with just over half saying they pray every day.
The prayer frequency of Catholics was greater than that of general survey respondents, of whom 64% said they pray at least weekly, and 45% said they pray daily.

New poll shows how Catholics view the 2020 election

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Less than a year before the 2020 presidential election, a landmark poll of both Catholic and non-Catholic voters found that Catholics largely align with other American voters, representing a broad diversity of political perspectives and plans for the upcoming national election.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-21 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 2,055 registered voters; 1,223 of them self-identified as Catholic. Poll findings offer new insights into how Catholics plan to vote and what issues they value.

Since the “Catholic vote” generally tracks with the outcomes of national elections, the data likely offers insights into the direction campaigns could take and the issues that might be prioritized, especially in the weeks leading to the first presidential nominating contest, the Iowa caucus, scheduled Feb. 3, 2020.

John Della Volpe, director of the RealClear survey, explained Dec. 9 that “with few exceptions, for generations, tracking the preferences of the Catholic vote has proven to be a shortcut to predicting the winner of the popular vote -- and I expect 2020 to be no different.”

“Like the rest of America, the 22% of people who comprise the Catholic vote is nuanced and diverse. And like America, the diverse viewpoints based on generation, race, and ethnicity are significant and prove that no longer are Catholic voters a monolith,” Della Volpe added.

Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump look to fare well against the president in the 2020 contest, the survey found.

In hypothetical head-to-head contests, Catholics broke for former vice president Joe Biden 52% to 39% over Trump, similar to the 51% to 39% outcome among non-Catholics. Fifty-four percent of Catholic said they’d vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders in an election against the president, with 39% for Trump; the figures were 52% to 40% among other voters. Catholic voters said they choose Senator Warren, 49% to 41%, in election against Trump, while non-Catholics broke 50% to 41% for Warren.

The narrowest hypothetical election was between South Bend, Indiana’s mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has in recent weeks built leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states with nominating contests. In a head-to-head hypothetical election with Trump, Catholics chose Buttigieg 46% to 41%. Non-Catholic voters preferred Buttigieg 45%-40%.

In addition to preferring other candidates in the 2020 election, 55% of Catholics, and 54% of non-Catholics, said they support the impeachment and removal from office of Trump.

On some issues, Catholics voters differ more significantly from their non-Catholic counterparts. Sixty percent of Catholic voters say that the economy is of great concern to them, compared to 54% of non-Catholics. Fifty-four percent of Catholics say immigration is an issue of greater concern, compared to only 50% of non-Catholics, and 44% of Catholics say climate change is a major issue, compared to 40% of non-Catholics.

On national security, however, along with taxes, the environment, criminal justice, race relations, Supreme Court appointments, education, and foreign policy, Catholics and non-Catholics aligned within two points of each other.

Thirty percent of Catholics said that religious liberty is an issue of greater concern to them, compared to 34% of non-Catholics. Seventy percent of Catholics, however, said that Americans are becoming “less tolerant” of religion in America, while 62% percent of Catholic voters said they would like Christian values to play a more important role in society, compared to 54% of all registered voters.

The survey also found that 37% of Catholics believe the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, while 34% of non-Catholics said the same.

Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, spoke Dec. 9 with EWTN News Nightly about the poll.

“There is not a Catholic vote, and there hasn’t been a Catholic vote in a long time. Catholics, in the aggregate, tend to line up on political questions pretty much the way the country does. There’s not any distinctive margin for Catholics being conservative or being liberal, or really, strictly speaking being Democrat rather than Republican,” George told EWTN News Nightly.

“Catholics in general will sometimes be a majority for Democrats, sometimes be a majority for Republcan So if you know where the American public in general is on a candidate, or on an election referendum, you’ll pretty much know where the Catholics are, taken in the aggregate.”

George pointed out that among Catholics, demographic groups vary widely in terms of partisan affiliation and political priorities.

Indeed, the poll found that among Catholic voters under 35, 56% are Democrats and 20% are Republicans, while 20% identify as independent. Among Baby Boomers and older Catholics, over 55, 45% are Republicans, 36% are Democrats, and 18% are independents.

Thirty-four percent of Catholics under 35 say they approve of Trump’s job performance, while 55% of Catholics over 55 approve of the president’s job performance.

As to ethnicity, 37% of white Catholics are Democrats, 42% are Republicans; while 60% of Hispanic/Latino Catholics are Democrats, 24% Republican.

Twenty-two percent of white Catholics consider themselves to be liberal, 36% conservative; while the opposite is true for Hispanic/Latinos, where 33% report being liberal and 26% conservative.

Fifty-four percent of white Catholics approve of Trump’s job performance, while 31% of Hispanic/Latinos Catholics do.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are “sure to vote” for Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 34% of all Catholics and 32% of respondents overall who gave the same answer.

Catholics were also asked about their religious practices. Almost 4 in 10 self-identified Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of self-identified Catholics said they attend Mass once a year or less.

The poll's entire data set can be downloaded here.

Iraqi Cardinal pleads for help for Christians on Nineveh Plain

Mosul, Iraq, Dec 9, 2019 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has appealed for financial and spiritual aid for Christians in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, made the plea in a letter on Friday, December 6.

“Today, after two years of its liberation from ISIS, the Nineveh Plain area still needs the help of our brothers and sisters who can pray and give us a hand,” said Cardinal Sako. 

In the letter, addressed to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social institutions, churches, and governments, Sako said that the Christians in the region “need your help so that all the people of the Nineveh Plain (can) remain in their homes, and those who have been displaced outside the region can return to it.” 

The Nineveh Plain is region in northern Iraq. 

Although ISIS was defeated, the need for assistance of all forms is still great, wrote Sako. Particularly, there is a “vital need” for healthcare services of all kind, he said.

“I strongly urge all actors to work specifically to restore life to the Nineveh Plain, for instance. By encouraging projects in agriculture, livestock, trade, etc.,” he said, suggesting that some more cooperation among bishops in the area could help achieve these goals.

The cardinal also asked Christians to “pray for Iraq, and in particular for the people of the Nineveh Plain,” as a special Advent devotion. 

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, said that the biggest problem facing people living in the Nineveh Plains is a lack of infrastructure. 

"They don't have have regular resources, as they should, because of the many years of war and now, sporadic help from the government as far as roads, security, things like that,” Clancy told CNA in a phone interview. 

Clancy added that Americans should work to become aware of the problems facing Christians in the Middle East. Without awareness, the entire Christian community there is facing extinction. 

“Awareness is a very big portion of it,” said Clancy. “Another thing is that people in the Christian world, the Christian community, tend not to self-promote. You don't hear a lot of, you know, ‘this is happening to Christians.’ There seems to be a lot more interest in helping others, which is a great thing, but at the same time we have to understand that there's Christians in great need in the Middle East."

On the local level, Clancy said that parishes should work to provide “some sort of aid” to their brethren in the Middle East, either financial or spiritual. Without this aid, Christians will continue to flee their homelands or be at risk of terrorism. 

“We have to, as a Church, get the message out better, understand better that there are Christians there and then do something about it," he said.  

"We should be shocked by the fact that over 90% of the Christians of Iraq have left, perhaps for good,” said Clancy. “And that means that it's going to take a concerted effort of the global Church to help Christianity remain in places like Iraq and the Middle East.”

German bishop accused of taking $140,000 from elderly woman's account

Aachen, Germany, Dec 9, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A German bishop has been relieved of all his diocesan responsibilities after being charged by prosecutors with taking more than $140,000 from an elderly woman’s account.

Bishop Johannes Bündgens "left all offices" in the Diocese of Aachen following charges by state authorities in Cologne.

On Thursday, the diocese, where Bündgens has served as auxiliary bishop since his consecration in 2006, announced that prosecutors had filed charges in the district court of Kerpen on December 2.

Msgr. Andreas Frick, vicar general of the diocese, released a statement on Dec. 4 confirming that Bündgens has been accused of taking €127,000 from a 78 year-old woman alleged to be legally unable to act in her own interests. Frick also confirmed that Bündgens had been removed from all his positions in the diocese.

According to Frick, Bishop Bündgens is currently out of the country but that "there would be talks with him" as soon as he returned to the diocese.

According to court documents, the Cologne prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into Bündgens in early 2018. It is alleged that the woman gave the bishop power of attorney over her bank account in late 2017 and that he transferred the funds to his own private account over a two month period.

Reports from the German bishops’ conference website indicate the bishop claims to have offered her accommodation and use of a property he owned for the remainder of her life, though there was no documentation to support this.

The transfer was noticed after the subsequent court appointment of a legal guardian for the woman, who noticed the removal of the unusually large amount of money. The legal competence of the woman at the time she apparently gave the bishop power of attorney is unclear.

Canon law prevents clerics from assuming responsibility for the finances or assets of lay people unless they have the permission of the diocesan bishop.

Canon 285 §4 states that “without the permission of the local ordinary, clerics are not to take on the management of goods belonging to lay persons… which entail an obligation of rendering an account.”

Bishop Helmut Dieser, the diocesan bishop of Aachen and Bündgens’ superior, said he was “shocked” by the case and has called for complete transparency on the matter. Bündgens maintains that he has since repaid the money.

In addition to his role as auxiliary bishop and episcopal vicar of Aachen, Bündgens also serves on the German bishops’ conference committee on the global Church and is the chairman of the board of directors for Missio, the German international Catholic mission society. It is unclear if he has also been suspended from these roles as the case continues.

Supreme Court denies appeal against Kentucky ultrasound law

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Kentucky’s ultrasound requirement for abortions survived an appeal to the Supreme Court on Monday as the justices declined to take up a challenge to the law.

Kentucky’s law, “The Ultrasound Informed Consent Act,” requires abortion doctors to present and describe an ultrasound image of an unborn child to a mother seeking an abortion, along with having to play audio of the baby’s heartbeat. Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who recently lost his bid for re-election, signed the bill into law.

Under the legislation, the mother would have the option of refusing to look at the ultrasound image and requesting that the audio of the baby’s heartbeat be muted.

In April, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, a decision that was then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court’s denial of certiorari on Monday leaves in place the Sixth Circuit’s decision.

Kentucky’s law was supported by the state’s Catholic bishops who praised its intent “to ensure women have access to unbiased and medically sound information about abortion procedures and the unborn child in the womb before making an irreversible decision to have an abortion.”

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, three states require doctors to show and describe ultrasounds to the mother seeking an abortion; 11 states require the doctor to perform an ultrasound.

Circuit judge John K. Bush wrote the Sixth Circuit’s opinion, stating that Kentucky’s law required disclosure of information that was relevant to the patient and thus did not violate the First Amendment.

“The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description, and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her,” he wrote, adding that “[t]hat this information might persuade a woman to change her mind does not render it suspect under the First Amendment.”

The Supreme Court’s 2018 NIFLA decision found that “informed-consent” laws like Kentucky’s ultrasound law did not merit “heightened First Amendment scrutiny,” the judge wrote. That Court decision said that crisis pregnancy centers would be “likely to succeed” in their First Amendment case against California’s law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information about abortions.

As long as laws such as Kentucky’s required doctors to give information that is “truthful, non-misleading, and relevant to an abortion,” they do not violate the doctor’s First Amendment rights, Judge Bush said.

In a de-Christianized world, priests should be pillars of faith, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 07:24 am (CNA).- Priests should strive after a strong relationship with Christ, beginning in seminary, in order to be the guides in faith the de-Christianized society needs, Pope Francis said Monday.

To seminarians and priests from northern Italy Dec. 9, he said: “You are called to be evangelizers in your region, also marked by de-Christianization.”

“Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith which is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which to cling,” he stated.

A strong faith, the pope said, “is cultivated above all in a personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ.” In the seminary, candidates for the priesthood should evaluate their actions “in reference to Christ.”

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary in Bologna.

He encouraged men studying for the priesthood to focus on their relationship with Christ while in seminary, which he called a “‘house of prayer,’ where the Lord again calls ‘his people’ to ‘a secluded place’ to live a strong experience of meeting and listening.”

To become a priest, the Church requires a long period of formation, he noted, underlining the aspects of prayer, study, and communion.

Study is an important part of the foundation of formation of future priests, also in its communal aspect, such as sharing lessons and studying with fellow students, Pope Francis argued: “The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual.”

He said for priests, charity and fraternity should go hand-in-hand. “A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to a diocese, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of holy priests, of a particular Church.”

Francis also spoke about four attitudes of “closeness” every diocesan priest should strive after: closeness to God in prayer, closeness to his bishop, closeness to his brother priests, and closeness to the people of God.

“If one of these is missing,” he said, “the priest will not function and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes.”

“Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under rigidity, there are serious problems,” he stated.

Scotland's bishops issue letter on life issues ahead of election

Edinburgh, Scotland, Dec 8, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- After Scotland’s Catholic bishops stressed the right to life as fundamental, their parliamentary office has released a letter setting out the Church’s teaching on abortion and assisted suicide ahead of the U.K. general election next week.

“It is the duty of all of us to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right – the right to life,” the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said the letter, released Thursday ahead of the Dec. 12 vote.

“We should urge candidates to recognize human life from the moment of conception until natural death and to legislate for its protection at every stage, including protecting the unborn child, ensuring that both mother and child are accepted and loved.”

The bishops did not endorse any political party or candidate, but said abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are “always morally unacceptable,” and that all politicians should be urged to resist the decriminalization of abortion, which leads towards abortion on demand for any reason. 

The Catholic Parliamentary Office, an agency of the Scottish bishops’ conference, also reports on its website the votes of politicians on several bills, organized by parliamentary constituency.

These votes include the decriminalization of abortion, which the office said would clear the way for “abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.” MPs’ votes on a bill to legalize assisted suicide are also recorded, as are how MPs voted on the parliamentary act which imposed permissive abortion laws and same-sex “marriage” on Northern Ireland.

The website also provides links to the major parties’ manifestos and information about voter registration and methods of voting.

Scotland’s bishops emphasized the need to vote in a way that reflects Catholic beliefs.

“This general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs,” they said in their letter. 

“It allows us to revisit Catholic social teaching and to connect our voting to our Catholic faith. It can be a chance to proclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and to promote the common good.”

The bishops said that politics has taken on a divisive tone, mainly as a result of the European Union “Brexit” referendum, and they lamented that vigorous debate has sometimes turned into personal attacks and acts of violence, “which are never acceptable.”

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland, sent a separate letter to priests, the Scottish Catholic Observer reports.

“While we tend to see politics through a party prism, this general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs, including the inherent dignity and value of every human being and the promotion of the common good,” he said.

Horan urged the priests and their parishioners “to contact all candidates in your constituency and to challenge them on the issues raised in the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Pastoral letter on the General Election 2019.”

Scottish constituencies make up 59 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. While unaffiliated candidates can stand as independents, the vast majority of elected candidates are members of one of the main political parties.

The letter from the Scotland bishops also criticized pro-abortion rights advocacy backed by the U.K. government and the Scottish parliament.

“Our Governments should also promote a culture of life overseas, reversing the current practice of the U.K. government to support anti-life initiatives, which might be described as ideological colonization,” the bishops said.

The bishops also highlighted rising homelessness and reliance on food banks. The government’s two-child limit on tax credits disproportionately affects religious families, they said. 

“Society relies on the building block of the family to exist,” they said. “The love of man and woman in marriage and their openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which society is built.”

Religious tolerance and religious freedom were also a focus. The bishops called for legislation that welcomes “all faiths and none,” with respect for conscience rights and awareness of the need to work against religious persecution and intolerance around the world, including anti-Christian persecution.

“We believe that a creeping intolerance towards religious belief, including but not confined to Christianity, has become part of life in modern Britain,” the bishops said. “Certain politicians and citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to be true to their faith in an environment that tries to restrict religion to the private sphere.”

In line with recent comments by Pope Francis on his papal trip to Japan, the Scottish bishops also urged the next U.K. government to work to eliminate the U.K. nuclear arsenal and to move away from weapons industries which “fuel wars and instability across the world.”

About ten percent of Scotland’s 5.4 million people are Roman Catholic, while about 18% belong to the protestant Church of Scotland. Over half of Scottish people say they have no religion at all.

Pope Francis' prayer for the Immaculate Conception: 'You never stop loving your children'

Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- For the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Francis on Sunday venerated a statue of the Virgin Mary located in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, reciting a prayer he wrote for the occasion.

“I entrust to you all those who, in this city and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust, by discouragement due to sin; those who think that for them there is no more hope, that their faults are too many and too great, and that God has no time to waste with them,” the pope prayed Dec. 8.

“I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother, and as such you never stop loving your children, but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace, and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.”

“We thank you, Immaculate Mother,” he continued, “for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but free, free to love, to love each other, to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.”

On the feast day, Pope Francis also offered a prayer before the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church proclaimed the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day.

The statue is adorned with flower wreaths hung around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue.

Below is the full text of the original prayer Pope Francis offered for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

O Mary Immaculate,
we gather around you once again.
The more we go on in life
the more our gratitude to God increases
for giving to us as a mother, we that are sinners,
You, who are the Immaculate.
Among all human beings, you are the only one
preserved from sin, as the mother of Jesus
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But this your unique privilege
it was given to you for the sake of us all, your children.
In fact, looking at you, we see the victory of Christ,
the victory of God's love over evil:
where sin abounded, that is, in the human heart,
grace overflowed,
for the gentle power of the Blood of Jesus.
You, Mother, remind us that, yes, we are sinners,
but we are no longer slaves to sin!
Your Son, with his Sacrifice,
He broke the dominion of evil, He won the world.
Your heart tells this to all generations
as clear as the sky where the wind has dispeled every cloud.

And so you remind us that it's not the same thing
to be sinners and to be corrupt: it is very different.
It is one thing to fall, but then, repent, confess it
and rise again with the help of God's mercy.
Another thing is the hypocritical connivance with evil,
the corruption of the heart, which is impeccable outside,
but inside is full of evil intentions and petty selfishness.
Your clear purity recalls us to sincerity,
to transparency, to simplicity.
How much we need to be released
from the corruption of the heart, which is the most serious danger!
This seems impossible to us, we are so inured,
and instead it is at hand. Enough
to raise our eyes to your Mother's smile, to your pristine beauty,
to feel again that we are not made for evil,
but for good, for love, for God!

For this, O Virgin Mary,
today I entrust to you all those who, in this city
and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust,
by discouragement due to sin;
those who think that for them there is no more hope,
that their faults are too many and too great,
and that God has no time to waste with them.
I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother,
and as such you never stop loving your children,
but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace,
and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness
a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.
He, and He alone, breaks the chains of evil,
free from the most relentless addictions,
dissolves from the most criminal ties,
softens the most hardened hearts.
And if this happens inside people,
how the face of the city changes!
In small gestures and in great choices,
vicious circles become virtuous little by little,
the quality of life becomes better
and the most breathable social climate.

We thank you, Immaculate Mother,
for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ,
we are no longer slaves to sin,
but free, free to love, to love each other,
to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.
Thank you for encouraging us with your candor
not to be ashamed of good, but of evil;
help us to keep the evil one away from us,
who with deceit draws us to himself, into the coils of death;
give us the sweet memory that we are children of God,
the Father of immense goodness,
the eternal source of life, beauty and love. Amen.

Cardinal Tagle named head of Vatican evangelization office

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 09:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Tagle, 62, follows Cardinal Fernando Filoni as prefect, usually referred to by its historic name of Propaganda Fide.

Charged with the Church’s missionary works and territories, Propaganda Fide is one of the largest curial departments, with a size and scope exceeding almost any other.

The beneficiary of centuries of dedicated legacies and bequests, Propaganda Fide is also the most financially autonomous curial department.

Praedicate evangelium, the new curial constitution, not yet promulgated, is expected to place an even further emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with the possible merger of the  Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

As the head of a curial department, Tagle will no longer be the archbishop of Manila, a post he has held since December 2011. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.

Since 2015, he has been president of Caritas Internationalis. Tagle was also very involved in the October 2018 youth synod.

Tagle was born in Manila in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, Philippines. He served as bishop of Imus from 2001 to 2011.

His episcopal motto is Dominus est (It is the Lord). From 1997 to 2002 he was on the International Theological Commission, appointed by St. Pope John Paul II.

Filoni, who headed Propaganda Fide since 2011, was Dec. 8 named Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, following the retirement of Cardinal Edwin O’Brien at the age of 80.

In a statement Dec. 8, O’Brien said he accepts and appreciates the pope's decision to accept his resignation, appointing Cardinal Filoni as his successor.

The order supports around 80% of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting parishes, schools, and Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.

“Throughout my more than eight years as Grand Master, my personal faith and love of our Church have deepened as I have witnessed our members’ commitment to the goals of our Order, expressed in different cultures and languages, all profoundly Catholic!” O’Brien said.