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Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Continuing his occasional series of "Mercy Friday" visits, Pope Francis surprised the students at a school renamed in March in honor of a student who died of leukemia at the age of 11.

For the visit May 25 to the Elisa Scala Com...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Continuing his occasional series of "Mercy Friday" visits, Pope Francis surprised the students at a school renamed in March in honor of a student who died of leukemia at the age of 11.

For the visit May 25 to the Elisa Scala Comprehensive School, which includes students from the age of 3 to 14, the pope also brought books for the school library. The Vatican did not provide the titles of the books or give any other details about them.

Before the city of Rome and the Italian department of education allowed the whole school to be named after Elisa, the library was. Her parents, Giorgio and Maria, said their daughter loved to read and, after she died in 2015, they started the library, which now holds more than 20,000 volumes, all of which were donated.

The couple gave the pope a guided tour of the shelves.

Pope Francis arrived at the school after classes had ended for the day. But more than 200 students were there preparing for a year-end show featuring dance, sport and theater. After five months of rehearsals, they sang for the pope.

The pope began the "Mercy Friday" initiative during the Holy Year of Mercy in 2015-16 to highlight the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Among other places, the visits have taken him to hospitals and rehabilitation centers, a group home for children, a L'Arche Community, a halfway house for women inmates with small children and a home for women rescued from forced prostitution.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: May 25, 2018, 6:35 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is a contradiction to claim that promoting access to safe abortions is somehow protecting the human rights of women and girls, a Vatican representative said.

"In fact, abortion denies the unborn child his or her most basic right...

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is a contradiction to claim that promoting access to safe abortions is somehow protecting the human rights of women and girls, a Vatican representative said.

"In fact, abortion denies the unborn child his or her most basic right -- to life itself," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

As Pope Francis has said, "Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Jurkovic spoke May 25 at the World Health Assembly, a meeting of the member states of the World Health Organization to set W.H.O. policies and programs.

He was addressing one of the agenda items of the May 21-26 meeting, specifically on the global strategy for the health of women, children and adolescents.

The Vatican delegation "shares many of the concerns and observations" in the W.H.O. director-general's report, he said, including: the importance of universal health coverage; improving specific data on health; ending violence against women and children; and revising child health policies and programs so they cover from infancy to 18 years of age.

However, he said, the Vatican delegation had serious concerns about the inclusion of an item "on so-called 'safe abortion' in this report and in the global strategy in general."

"The Holy See does not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of reproductive health or reproductive health care," Archbishop Jurkovic said.

The delegation was also "immensely concerned" about the W.H.O. being part of an open-access "Global Abortion Policies" database launched by several U.N. departments and programs. The database summarizes every country's laws and policies concerning abortion with the aim, according to the W.H.O., "to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries' accountability for the protection of women and girls' health and human rights."

"The Holy See does not endorse any form of legislation that gives legal recognition to abortion and, thus, firmly objects to any and all efforts by the U.N. or its specialized agencies to promote national legislation that permits the taking of the life of an unborn child," the archbishop told the assembly.

"Moreover, the Holy See cannot accept the contradictory claim that promotion of so-called 'safe abortion' is a means to 'protect' the human rights of women and girls, when, in fact, abortion denies the unborn child his or her most basic right -- to life itself," he said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: May 25, 2018, 3:15 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

Veterans taking part in the 2018 Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage to France said the journey has positively influenced their lives and benefited those around them.

Maj. Jeremy Haynes, a first-time spiritual p...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

Veterans taking part in the 2018 Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage to France said the journey has positively influenced their lives and benefited those around them.

Maj. Jeremy Haynes, a first-time spiritual pilgrim and Lourdes visitor, said he is a changed man since visiting the shrine, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in a series of visions in 1858.

"The trip has been life-changing for my wife and me," Haynes told Catholic News Service. "With faith as our compass, we remain committed to moving forward."

Haynes was shot four times in Afghanistan and sustained injuries that have left him struggling to overcome the physical constraints of paralysis. It has been a difficult journey. He also seeks healing for wounds in his family life that occurred prior to his physical injury.

"With a minimum emphasis on faith, my family life was a disaster and divorce was imminent. After being shot multiple times, I recall sinking into a dark place," said Haynes. "Despite being a sinner, God showed mercy by sparing my life and allowing me to witness the birth of my son. Taking part in this spiritual journey has cleansed my soul and created a stronger connection with my wife."

Haynes previously served within the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, and the American Red Cross national headquarters. He commanded a parachute rigger company, served as an aide de camp, and taught at the Army Logistics University. He is currently assigned to the Walter Reed National Medical Center and soon will retire from the military. He has been awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Jumpmaster, Parachute Rigger Badge and Air Assault Badge.

Haynes, who went on the Lourdes trip to seek healing "mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally," said he was honored to visit Lourdes with military from around the world. The Warriors to Lourdes trip -- sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Knights of Columbus -- occurred in late May, during the 60th annual International Military Pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in France.

"We broke bread together, worshipped together, and promoted peace together. Although we speak different languages, faith connected us," Haynes said. "I experienced the power of prayer as being a universal language that led me to encounter awesome individuals."

The Rev. Steven Rindahl, an Anglican priest and U.S. Army veteran, took part in the pilgrimage and said he believed the journey benefited all who participated in it.

"There have been people who have been touched in so many different ways. It would be difficult to make a list to encompass all the different blessings people have received while they've been here," said Rev. Rindahl, a retired U.S. Army chaplain who has served in duty stations in many states, including Texas, New York and Georgia.

Rev. Rindahl, who has ministered to active-duty soldiers and veterans, has worked with veterans afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder as an "extensive piece" of his total ministry. In addition to emotional stress, people exposed to combat often suffer from a condition he refers to as "moral injury," which he describes as a conflicted conscience resulting from complex or traumatic wartime experiences.

"War is an unnatural thing. They get this sense of guilt or shame," said Rev. Rindahl, who believes this condition can be treated successfully with a faith response, particularly the sacrament of reconciliation.

"The great thing about Lourdes is that it is a known place for healing. Regardless of what your injury is -- whether it's physical, emotional or damage to your soul -- when a person says, 'I want to go to Lourdes,' they're going specifically with a heart and mind open to receiving God's grace and what God has in store for them," said Rev. Rindahl.

Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary M. Rose said the 2018 Lourdes journey helped a friend recently suffering from severe PTSD connected with "a very bad, horrible battle" that happened in 1966. Rose said there has been a "noticeable improvement in his demeanor" since their return.

"Every single person that I know that went on that trip has come back much better than they were when they left for Lourdes," said Rose, a Catholic. "Even me -- I feel a lot better. My outlook is far better than it was a week or 10 days ago."

Rose said while visiting the shrine he was often asked by others whether he believed the Mary was present.

"I got asked, 'Do you think Mary is here?' I don't know. I can't personally say, 'Mary is here,'' said Rose. "But I can personally say that there is some entity in the Lourdes shrine area that spreads nothing but good and seems to improve the demeanor and the psychological aspects of everybody that I associated with that went to Lourdes with me last week."

Haynes said he is extremely grateful to all those who sponsored the opportunity and who volunteered at it -- and also expressed a special thanks to organizers for allowing his wife to take part in the journey with him.

"Thank you for equipping me with the tools to become a better God-fearing man, husband, father, and citizen," said Haynes.

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Fletcher is a correspondent for Catholic News Service.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: May 25, 2018, 3:03 pm
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