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Legal challenge to abortion law in Northern Ireland delayed

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sep 21, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A legal challenge to the prosecution of a Northern Irish woman who allegedly procured abortifacient medication for her underage daughter which was to have begun Thursday has been adjourned.

Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said Sept. 20 that “dealing with the case in the absence of understanding the Public Prosecution Service response to the Supreme Court would be entirely inappropriate.”

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Abortion pills are illegal in Northern Ireland.

In June, the UK Supreme Court threw out a case challenging Northern Ireland's abortion law, saying the commission which brought the case does not have standing to do so. However, the judges also said the current law violates the European Convention on Human Rights by banning abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest.

Morgan has delayed the hearing challenging the law, directing prosecutors to respond to the Supreme Court's indications within two weeks.

The woman faces two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying the pills with intent to cause a miscarriage under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

She had purchased the pills online in July 2013 for her 15-year-old daughter.

Bernie Smyth, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Precious Life, said outside the Belfast court that “the importance of this case is to send a very clear message out to the people in Northern Ireland, to women in Northern Ireland who would feel maybe their only option is to purchase very dangerous illegal abortion pills and we are saying there is another way.”

“It is vitally important that we uphold the law here in Northern Ireland,” iNews reported Smyth as saying.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, and Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

In its June 2018 judgement, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that banning the abortion of unborn children with serious, but not fatal, abnormalities is compatible with the ECHR.

Northern Ireland's abortion law could be taken up by either the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended. The Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.

British prime minister Theresa May has said abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland. But Labour MP Diana Johnson is expected to introduce next month into the British Parliament a bill to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland.

Catholic groups aid Philippines in wake of Typhoon Mangkut

Cebu, Philippines, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a powerful typhoon that struck several Northern provinces in the Philippines late last week, Catholic relief groups are working to provide essential post-storm aid.

Typhoon Mangkut made landfall at Baggao in the province of Cagayan Sept. 14, bringing with it winds of 125 mph. At least 88 people have been killed and more than 60 are missing, according to Time.

UCA News reported that the typhoon has brought damage to 30 provinces across the Philippines and more than 264,000 people have been affected, including over 37,000 displaced individuals.

The most damaged regions are Cagayan Valley, a major source of the country’s corn and rice, and Benguet, a landlocked area known for its agriculture and mining. In some areas, residents have lost access to food, clean water, and other necessities.

Catholic Relief Services said an estimated 1.6 million farmers and fishermen have been affected, and up to 90 percent of the area’s corn and rice crops have been destroyed.

Due to landslides caused by the typhoon, many mountain communities remain isolated, and more damage is expected to be found as emergency teams gain access to these areas.

“We are having difficulty reaching distant barangays (villages) because of boulders, debris and landslides along the roads. The soil is still saturated and unsettled and we are concerned about additional landslides,” said Aprilynn Villamar, an emergency program officer with CRS.

“Some families in evacuation centers are not sure where they will go or how they will rebuild their houses. There are evacuees who are showing signs of shock. This is the most devastating thing they've ever experienced.”

Catholic Relief Services is sending water purification and storage kits to areas hit by the typhoon, and said shelter kits and cash assistance will follow shortly.

Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal in Rome for financial relief efforts in the Philippines, saying, "After the storm has passed people will need help to restore their livelihoods.”

Pope's Baltics visit to honor those who sacrificed for freedom

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of his visit to the Baltic states Sept. 22-25, Pope Francis praised liberty and said his trip would honor those who have sacrificed for the freedom the countries now experience.

In a video message to the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia Sept. 20, Francis said freedom, “as we know, is a treasure that must be constantly preserved and handed down, as a precious heritage, to the new generations.”

His visit coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Baltic states, which were part of the Russian Empire until 1917 and gained independence in 1918.

They became part of Soviet Union in 1940-1941, endured Nazi domination in 1940-1944, and were returned to the Soviet Union in 1945. In 1991, they regained democratic independence, and have been members of NATO and the EU since 2004.

The pope said his visit “will honor all those whose sacrifices in the past have made possible the liberties of the present.”

“In times of darkness, violence and persecution, the flame of freedom is not extinguished, but inspires the hope of a future in which the dignity given by God to each person is respected and we all feel called to collaborate in the construction of a just and fraternal society,” he said.

Today a sense of solidarity and service to the common good is more important than ever, he continued, saying he hopes his visit will be a source of encouragement to people “inspired by the deepest spiritual and cultural values inherited from the past,” who are working to relieve suffering and promote peace and unity.

Pope Francis’ four-day visit to the Baltics will include the usual meetings with authorities, with priests and religious, and with youth. He will also celebrate three Masses, one in each country.

He will also pray a decade of the rosary in the chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, which contains an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Mercy – an important shrine and place of pilgrimage in Lithuania.

In Latvia, he will stop to pray at the tomb of St. Meinhard in the now-Lutheran cathedral in Riga. And in Tallinn, Estonia, he will visit the cathedral where the first Estonian martyr, a Jesuit, was last seen alive.

He will participate in ecumenical prayer meetings in Latvia and with youth in Estonia, where there are only around 5,000 Catholics in a population of 1.3 million. About 16 percent of the population is Eastern Orthodox and about 10 percent are Lutheran. Around 54 percent identify as non-religious.  

In Latvia, Lutheranism accounts for about 34 percent of the population of just under 2 million and Catholics make up 25 percent, primarily in the eastern portion of the country.

He will travel by helicopter to the other side of Latvia, to the Marian shrine at Agrona, where he will celebrate Mass. He will also make stops at several markers of historical significance in the three countries.

Indian bishop accused of rape arrested

Kochi, India, Sep 21, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur was arrested by Kerala police Friday over allegations that he raped a nun repeatedly over the course of two years. The bishop denies the accusations.

The Sept. 21 arrest was made in Kochi after three days of interrogation. The bishop will be brought to court Saturday, the BBC reports.

Mulakkal, 54, wrote to the Vatican last week asking to be relieved of administration of his diocese; his request was granted, and Bishop Agnelo Gracias, an Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Bombay, was appointed apostolic administrator of Jullundur Sept. 20.

A nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, has said that Bishop Mulakkal raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

During his questioning by police, Bishop Mulakkal made several inconsistent statements, India Today reported.

According to India Today, the bishop claimed he did not stay at the Kuravilangad convent May 5, 2014, when the nun alleges she was first raped by him, but that he visited the convent, while he stayed the night at a convent in Muthalakodam.

“When police cross-checked this information with his driver and another nun who made entries of his visit in the register, they found that the bishop and his driver actually stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on the said day,” the Uttar Pradesh-based outlet reported.

A nun in the Muthalakodam convent denied he visited them, and data from the bishop's mobile phone indicated he was present at the Kuravilangad convent that night.

A group of seven nuns, most of them Missionaries of Jesus, began protesting state and Church inaction over the matter Sept. 8 in Kochi.

Bishop Mulakkal has claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, the bishop told UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin's husband.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the Missionaries of Jesus' superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

US nuncio to Encuentro: Missionaries must first know the joy of Christ

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A missionary disciple is one who has encountered Christ personally and is then able to bring him to others, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Thursday at the National V Encuentro.  

Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, addressed approximately 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic and Latino background gathered for the summit in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. The event is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year, the National Encuentro’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Pierre said he believes, as do Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, that one must first encounter the person of Christ before one can become a missionary.

“For (Pope Francis), the whole missionary endeavour begins with an encounter with Christ,” Pierre said.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” Pierre said, quoting the beginning of Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Benedict also began his first encyclical reflecting on the personal encounter with Christ which every Christian must have, Pierre noted.

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pierre said, quoting Benedict’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est.

This joy of encountering Christ breathes life into the missionary, who is then able to go out and encounter God’s people, Pierre said.

A Church filled with “missionary impulse” is one that channels her “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures...for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Pierre noted, referencing Evangelii gaudium.

“Just as wind pushes against a sail and causes a boat to move upon the water, so too the Spirit of God pushes the whole Church to go forth into the world, attentive to the signs of the times and the needs of the people, jettisoning that which is obsolete,” Pierre said.

The missionary spirit which leads to a conversion of heart must be inspired by belief in the God and the Church, Pierre added.

“We have to believe in the Church, this is important today not to forget...believe in the Church who makes Christ incarnate in the culture and among the people,” he said.

This conversion of heart and a missionary spirit must happen within pastors and Church leaders as well, Pierre noted, as they listen to and learn from the different people whom they serve.

“People’s religious experiences, including those of the Latinos, are an authentic place of encounter with God,” he said. “Pastoral conversion means moving from mere conservation to a decidedly pastoral ministry. Pastoral and missionary conversion go hand in hand with a conversion of attitudes and a conversion of statues.”

A Church full of missionary spirit is one that accompanies people and remains united - in a word, a missionary Church has “synodality,” he said, something that can be seen incarnate in the mission of Encuentro.

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality in the Church,” Pierre added. “Listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward .if Communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is a sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Another characteristic of a missionary Church is joy, Pierre said. It celebrates “even small victories in the work of evangelization” and is nourished by the Eucharist, the sacrament in which “Christ is among us, and the joy that he has won is preserved and shared.”

Finally, Pierre said, a missionary Church is one that is not afraid to go to the “peripheries”, both geographical and cultural, to encounter people and bring Christ to them.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be,” Pierre concluded.

“With (Jesus) at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministries, confident that with the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and intercede for us, may we always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”

Pope accepts resignation of two more Chilean bishops

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of two Chilean bishops, the Holy See has announced. The decision brings the total number of prelates to have had their resignations accepted by the pope to 7, following the allegations of systemic sexual abuse and cover-ups by Church authorities.

The removal of Bishop Carlos Pellegrín Barrera of Chillán and Bishop Cristián Contreras Molina of San Felipe was confirmed in the daily Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office. It was also confirmed that no successors had yet been chosen.

Instead, the dioceses will be led temporarily by apostolic administrators appointed by the pope. Two religious priests were named as having been chosen to take over from the bishops.

Fr. Sergio Pérez de Acre Arriagada, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, will administer the Diocese of Chillán. Fr. Pérez has been serving as the rector of the church of the Sacred Hearts in Valparaiso.

Fr. Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano Piquer, S.V.D., will serve as the temporary head of the Diocese of San Felipe. Fr. Ortiz is currently the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

On May 17, 2018, almost the entire Chilean hierarchy presented their resignations to the Holy Father after accusations emerged concerning the suppression of allegations of sexual abuse, the transfer of suspected or known abusers between parishes, interference in canonical investigations and pressuring the investigators themselves, and destroying evidence. 

A subsequent investigation conducted by Archbishop Charles Scicluna produced a final report more than 2,000 pages long.

The sexual abuse crisis in Chile, although a serious local concern for some time, came to international attention following a visit by Pope Francis to that country in January 2018. Initial focus centered on the ministry of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused of protecting Fernando Karadima, a priest and serial sexual abuser of children.

Karadima was convicted of sexual abuse by a Vatican court in 2011, at the age of 84.

During the papal visit, the pope appeared to dismiss Barros’ accusers, saying he had not seen any credible evidence against the bishop.

Several of Karadima’s victims, led by Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz, had previously sought to present their accusations to Pope Francis, following Barros’ appointment to Osorno. Although submitting a written plea to the pope through Cardinal O’Malley, Francis subsequently said he had not personally received it and offered a personal apology for his handling of the matter.

The media scrutiny which followed the pope’s visit resulted in the scale of the sexual abuse scandal in Chile becoming clear, leading to a crisis meeting between the pope and the Chilean bishops in May.

Since then, Chilean civil authorities have raided several diocesan chanceries, seizing document and issuing subpoenas to numerous Church officials.  

Cardinal Tobin will not attend Oct. Vatican synod

Newark, N.J., Sep 21, 2018 / 09:21 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Newark has announced that he will not attend an October gathering of bishops slated to discuss young adults and vocational discernment. The archbishop cited his pastoral obligations in the archdiocese amid the U.S. Church’s ongoing sexual abuse crisis.

“This Synod is a uniquely important moment in the life of the Church, and I was honored to have been named by the Holy Father as a member of this special gathering whose topic, Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, is of vital concern to the Church today and in the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to Newark’s Catholics.

“However, as you are aware, the Archdiocese of Newark suffers greatly as a result of the crisis that continues to unfold. After the revelations of the past summer, I could not see myself absent for a month from our archdiocese and from you, the people entrusted to my care. After prayer and consultation, I wrote to Pope Francis, asking that he dispense me from attending, but assuring him that I strongly support the objectives of the Synod and that I would obey whatever he decided.”

“The Holy Father responded the next day with a beautiful pastoral and compassionate message. He told me that he understands why I need to stay close to home, and he released me from the obligation to attend the Synod next month,” Tobin added.

Tobin was a personal appointment of Pope Francis for attendance at the synod of bishops, which will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome.

Other U.S. bishops who will attend are Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who was also appointed by Pope Francis to attend, along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and Bishop Robert E. Barron, who were elected as delegates by the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Archbishop William Skurla, leader of the Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, who will participate as an ex officio member of the synod.

On Sept. 19, Dutch Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, elected by his country's episcopal conference, also announced that he would not attend the synod.

According to a statement from the Dutch bishops' conference, Mutsaerts "informed Pope Francis that he does not find the time right to keep a synod about young people, in view of the investigations and the news about sexual abuse that has been brought out in America, among others. He therefore chooses not to participate."

Tobin’s Archdiocese of Newark has been the subject of controversy in recent months. In June, retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, formerly of Newark, was revealed to have been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s. McCarrick was subsequently accused of serially sexually abusing another teenage boy, and of sexually coercing and assaulting numerous priests and seminarians for decades.

Tobin told a journalist in late August that he had heard rumors shortly after his 2017 arrival in the Archdiocese of Newark about McCarrick's sexual misconduct. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

In August, after reports emerged about homosexual behavior among some Newark priests, and allegations were made public regarding the conduct of a former seminary administrator, Tobin told Newark priests that no priest had “ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Later that month, Seton Hall University announced an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct at Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary, which is connected to the university.

In his Sept. 21 letter, Tobin said that during a Sept. 14 prayer service at Newark’s cathedral, “I promised that we will act decisively to address the sins and injustices that have been committed against our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and to ensure that victims receive justice. I also acknowledged that rebuilding trust in the leadership of our Church at all levels will require authentic and measurable change.”

“I am keenly aware that words alone are not enough. We must show by our actions that justice will be done. Never again will we permit the horrific abuses that occurred here and in too many other places in our Church. Never again will we return to ‘business as usual,’ allowing human wickedness, sin or hypocrisy to blind us from the truth or prevent us from doing God’s work.”

Tobin asked that Newark’s Catholics pray for Pope Francis and the synod, saying that “during the month of October, and throughout the months and years ahead, I will do everything in my power to lead this Archdiocese through processes of renewal and change that break down structures and systems that permit or foster abuse in any form.”

“I will work for justice, healing and compassion for all.”

 

Ed. note: This story is developing and has been updated.

 

Blessed Stanley Rother shrine fundraising campaign surpasses initial goal

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 21, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced Tuesday that its capital campaign, one of the goals of which is the construction of a shrine for Blessed Stanley Rother, had surpassed its original $65 million goal.

“I have been grateful and humbled by the generosity of families across the archdiocese who have supported this historic campaign,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Sept. 18. “We have been blessed to have the powerful witness of Blessed Stanley to help guide us as we build upon his legacy for future generations.”

In addition to the shine for the Oklahoma priest who was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala, the One Church, Many Disciples campaign will fund local parishes and schools, renovation of the cathedral, evangelization efforts, faith formation endowments, and retirement for elderly priests.

The Blessed Stanley Rother shrine will be built in Oklahoma City off of I-35, and will house the relics of the martyr. According to the Oklahoma City archdiocese, it will include a 2,000-seat church, a chapel, ministry and classroom buildings, a museum, and a pilgrim center.

One-third of parishes in the archdiocese have completed the capital campaign, 34 are in its midst, and 32 will begin in January 2019.

Given the success of the campaign, Archbishop Coakley has announced a challenge goal of $80 million.

Father Rother was beatified Sept. 23, 2017 in Oklahoma City.

Fr. Rother was born March 27, 1935 in Okarche, Okla., and entered seminary soon after graduating from Holy Trinity High School.

Despite a strong calling, Rother would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary's in Maryland. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 1963.

He served for five years in Oklahoma before joining the Oklahoma diocese's mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous persons where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.

The work ethic Fr. Rother learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station.

Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village.
Disappearances, killings, and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Rother remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point; Fr. Rother was constantly seeing
friends and parishioners abducted or killed.

In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Rother did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.

The morning of July 28, 1981, three Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of Guatemala since the 1960s, broke into Fr. Rother's rectory. They wished to disappear him, but he refused.

Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.

Though his body was buried in Okarche, Fr. Rother's heart was enshrined in the church of Santiago Atitlan where he served.

Fr. Rother's cause for beatification was opened in 2007, and his martyrdom was recognized by the Vatican in December 2016, which cleared the way for his beatification.

His body was exhumed from the Okarche cemetery in May 2017, and re-interred at a chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Blessed Stanley Rother's feast is celebrated July 28 in the dioceses of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Little Rock.

Catholic education group applauds Australian school funding plan

Sydney, Australia, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A $4.6 billion funding package for Catholic and independent schools in Australia has won the support of a national Catholic education group, which says the plan corrects key flaws from the previous funding model.

“Families can only have school choice if there is an affordable alternative to free, comprehensive government schools,” said Ray Collins, acting executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission.

“If the only option is a high-fee school, choice is restricted to those parents rich enough to afford high fees.”

The National Catholic Education Commission has given its full support to the new funding package, announced Thursday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The plan includes $3.2 billion to fund non-government schools through a new model over the next decade. It also includes a $1.2 billion “choice and affordability fund” to support rural and drought-affected schools and other schools that require extra aid.

Morrison stressed the importance of school choice, while also reiterating a commitment to government schools, which will receive increased funding, from $7.3 billion this year to $13.7 billion in 2029, according to The Guardian.

The plan replaces a controversial 2107 funding model, which had been criticized for its geographically-based methodology of determining how much funding each non-government school required. This process, Collins said, “was flawed because it assumed all families from the same neighborhood were equally wealthy.” Many Catholic schools argued that their students often came from less-wealthy families in wealthier neighborhoods.

“Hundreds of primary schools would have been forced to double or triple their fees because of the previous model’s very narrow interpretation of ‘need’. This would have rendered those schools unaffordable to most Australian families, denying them the schooling choice that has been available in those areas for decades,” Collins said.

The new plan will calculate a school’s financial data based on parental income collected from tax information rather than geographical census data.

Collins said that while a few technical questions with the 2017 school funding model must still be resolved, the new plan goes a long way toward making Catholic schools a viable option for all Australians.

According to the National Catholic Education Commission, one in five Australian students attends a Catholic school, for a total of some 765,000 students in 1741 schools.

 

It's our duty to fight racism, Pope tells international conference

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2018 / 05:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- All people have a responsibility to fight new forms of racism in the modern world, Pope Francis told more than 200 participants at a Rome-based conference this week.

“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” the pope said Sept. 20.

The international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” concluded Thursday. It had been promoted by the Vatican's Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Addressing those present, Pope Francis warned that the modern world appears to be seeing an increase in “feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity.”

These individuals are “considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society's life,” and such sentiments “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion,” he said.

Exclusion of foreigners can also become enshrined in political policy, as some lawmakers exploit fears and misgivings for political gain, he said.

Faced with these social changes, “we are all called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person,” the pope said.

He emphasized the role of religious leaders, educators, and media in this endeavor to promote a culture that respects human life and dignity.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches, told Vatican News that the conference was intended to show a strong ecumenical commitment to addressing the global issues of racism and xenophobia, to hear from voices across the globe about the issue, and to create common text that can be used as the basis of further efforts.

He stressed the importance of supporting politicians who are standing up for the human rights of migrants, and emphasized the role of religious leaders in upholding human dignity in public discussions surrounding migration.

“There is no easy political answer to all of this: it is a very complex political situation, but we believe that the churches, with our values but also with our networks, our communities, as human beings and as people of faith, can contribute a lot,” he said.