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Pope Francis to youth: face your fears with discernment, courage

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing youth around the globe, Pope Francis encouraged young people Thursday to face their fears with discernment and courage, looking to the Mother of God as their example.

“What are your fears? What worries you most deeply? An ‘underlying’ fear that many of you have is that of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are,” Pope Francis said in his Feb. 22 message, saying that many insecurities arise from a “sense of inadequacy.”

“For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God…and in life!” the Pope continued.

Pope Francis’ words come ahead of the 33rd diocesan-level World Youth Day, which will take place March 25. This localized event is a preparation for the international World Youth Day, which is set to occur in Panama in 2019.

The diocesan World Youth Day also coincides with the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will discuss the topic of “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Pope Francis called this a “happy coincidence,” which will place the gaze of the Church on young people.

While many youth are ruled by their fears and hide behind “masks and false identities,” Pope Francis encouraged young people to remember the words from Scripture “do not be afraid,” which have been “repeated 365 times with different variation, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.”

“In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary,” the Holy Father said, noting that it is also “indispensable when searching for one’s vocation.”

While many see discernment as an individual process, Pope Francis said that it is rather an interior reflection on each person’s vocation, or “call from above.” Prayerful silence and dialogue with others, the Pope said, are necessary for the process of discernment.

On this note, the Roman Pontiff pointed to the example of Mary and her witness of love despite her fears, which was “full of boldness and focused completely on the gift of self.”

“Mary, like others in the Sacred Scriptures, trembles before the mystery of God’s call, who in a moment places before her the immensity of his own plan and makes her feel all her smallness as a humble creature,” Pope Francis said, noting her complete willingness even in the face of uncertainty.

“The first reason not to fear is the fact that God has called us by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name,” Pope Francis continued, noting that God has also called “each of you by name.”  

The angel’s words to Mary also ring true for youth today, the Pope said, noting that the all-knowing power of God will always sustain every individual, even amidst fear and darkness.

“The Angel’s words descend upon our human fears, dissolving them with the power of the Good News of which we are heralds: our life is not pure chance or a mere struggle for survival, rather each of us is a cherished story loved by God,” Pope Francis said.

However, the Pope said that courage is also needed for the youths of today to address their fears and discern what God wants for them, just as Mary did.

“From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, and in every area of our lives,” the Holy Father said.

Encouraging young people to face their fears with faith, discernment, and courage while looking to Mary as an example, Pope Francis said that the universal Church awaits the gift that all youths have to offer in their unique personhood.

“Dear young people, the Lord, the Church, the world are waiting for your answer to the unique call that each one receives in this life!” the Pope said.

“As World Youth Day in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves for our gathering with the joy and enthusiasm of those who wish to participate in such a great adventure… do you accept the challenge?”

German bishops discuss intercommunion of Lutheran, Catholic spouses

Munich, Germany, Feb 22, 2018 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced that the German bishops' conference will publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist".

According to the press report of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, the handout is primarily aimed at pastoral workers and is to be understood as a tool for pastoral situations, "to consider the concrete situation and come to a responsible decision about the possibility of the non-Catholic partner to receive Communion".

The announcement was made "after intensive debate" at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops' conference, which was held Feb. 19 - 22 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, and attended by 62 members of the bishops' conference under the leadership of conference chairman Cardinal Marx.

The press release declares that its premise is that "in individual cases, the spiritual hunger for receiving Communion together in interdenominational marriages can be so strong that it could jeopardise the marriage and the faith of the spouse". The statement goes on to say that this applies all the more to spouses who "already want to live out their marriage very consciously" as a Christian couple.

The central message of the handout is "that everyone in a marriage that binds denominations," after a "mature examination in a spiritual conversation with their priest or another person charged with pastoral care, that has come to a decision of conscience to affirm the Faith of the Catholic Church as well as thereby concluding a 'grave spiritual need' as well as fulfilling the desire to receive the Eucharist may approach the Lord's table and receive Communion."

Cardinal Marx' statement emphasises: "We are talking about decisions in individual cases that require a careful spiritual discernment."

The handout is expected to be published in a few weeks' time.

The Code of Canon Law states that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

The bishops' announcement follows a discussion of such a proposal at a previous general assembly held in the spring of 2017.

According to Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg in a report in the German diocesan newspaper "Tag des Herrn" from March 2017, Schick is quoted as saying that the bishops were seeking "a responsible decision" on the question of non-Catholic partners in interdenominational marriages in individual cases by pastoral means.


On Dec. 31 2016, the website of the Lutheran ecclesial community in Germany reported that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück was hoping for a recognition of what was already the case, namely, that in many places, Protestants went to Communion with their Catholic spouses. "We have to give a foundation to what often already is in place in practice", the website quotes Bode from an interview with the Lutheran press agency EPD.


Bode, who also attended the 2014-2015 Synods of Bishops on the family, was elected vice-chairman to the German bishops' conference Sept. 26, 2017.

 

What to do if you're too ashamed to go to Confession

Madrid, Spain, Feb 22, 2018 / 03:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While Reconciliation is intended to allow Christ’s victory to overcome sin in our lives, what happens when shame over one’s sins is so great that it keeps people away from the sacrament?

The famous Spanish theologian Father José Antonio Fortea discussed this phenomenon, and practical solutions to it, in a blog post.

Normally, a sense of Christ’s mercy should be enough to help people overcome their shame and go to Confession, in order to receive forgiveness and healing.

However, in some cases, Fr. Fortea acknowledged, people are overwhelmed by their sins, and this shame becomes “a wall” keeping them away from Reconciliation.

“They would rather make a 100-mile pilgrimage than have to confess face-to-face certain things they did that are terribly and frightfully humiliating to them,” he said, reflecting on the torment that faces some penitents who struggle approaching the sacrament.

The Spanish priest first pointed out the importance of priests offering fatherly compassion on those who have “these burdens on their consciences.”

He also noted the importance of ensuring truly anonymous confessions. In each city, he said, “there ought to be at least one confessional where instead of a grill, there is a metal sheet with small holes, making it totally impossible to see the person making their confession.”

The person confessing should not be visible to the priest as they approach or leave, he continued. If there is a window on the priest’s door, it should not be transparent.

“With these measures, the vast majority of the faithful can resolve the problem of shame,” Fr. Fortea said.

But for those “truly very rare” cases where shame is still a major obstacle, even with anonymous confessionals, additional steps can be taken.

In these instances of extreme shame, the person can “make an anonymous phone call to a priest in the city and tell him about this problem.” Confession itself cannot take place over the phone, but “in many cases, the phone conversation will be enough so the penitent can get up his confidence and can approach the kind of above-mentioned confessional.”

If the penitent still finds that the shame of mentioning his sins is too great to bear, he can arrange for a written confession with the priest.

Fr. Fortea said that in several of the confessionals in his city of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, “it's possible for the penitent to move the screen slightly, just a fraction of an inch, and slip in a piece of paper.”

He offered guidelines for such written confessions: they should generally not be longer than one page, sins should be written “in a clear and concise manner,” or if possible, should be typed for clarity in reading.

“The priest will give his counsel, the penance and absolution without needing to bring up any questions for the penitent. In this case asking questions would be counterproductive,” he reflected.

While the general rule is that confession should be vocal, it can be done through writing in some cases, the priest said. He noted that those who are deaf or mute have always been permitted to make written confessions.

And in the case of insurmountable shame, this would also be licit, he said. “A psychological inability can be just as real as a physical one.”

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 18, 2016.

In Aleppo, a heroine of endurance

Aleppo, Syria, Feb 21, 2018 / 03:23 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- Annie Artin, 15, is a lonely girl who lives with her mother, Silva Owadis, 37, her grandmother, and aunt in a modest but new apartment in Aleppo, Syria.

The family has lived there since the middle of 2016, after moving a number of times, each time because neighborhoods had come under attack in the battle for control of the city.

Annie is lonely because she had to move so often and change schools, plus her father disappeared from her life. This Armenian Catholic family has no regular income and depends on support from local Catholic sources for its livelihood.

Annie is a tenth grader at a school run by her Church, Al-Markazia. She loves going to school and studies very hard.

Here is her story, in her own words:

“I came up against serious problems with both French and math. While I was the top student in chemistry, my math scores suffered a lot at one point. I attribute this problem to my teacher who did not have a streamlined approach to teaching. To make matters worse, my mother didn’t have enough money to pay for a math tutor. There were difficult circumstances, too, with many mortar attacks on areas very close to my school. Fortunately, we survived the terrible consequences of war after a long period of having to stay home from school.

“Even before the war started, things had not been going well between my mother and father; he was unemployed and rather lazy. Things got worse when the fighting started – they clashed every day. Eventually, my father decided to go to Armenia, supposedly in search of work and finding a way to make better life for himself and his family. He ended up disappearing, no longer responding to our communications and calls; he didn’t even try to ask about us.

“After a while, visiting a government center for some paperwork, my mother was shocked to discover that my father had divorced her and married another woman. My mother collapsed upon learning the news and got sick. I was left with no financial support owing to the fact that my father couldn’t care less about my school requirements. I was in dire need of financial help not only to pay tuition, but also to secure the basic necessities of life.  

“My father wasn’t even worried about us after a mortar shell hit the side of our apartment. To the best of my knowledge, fathers are not only supposed to be fully committed to their families, they are also in charge of providing financial support. Life dealt us heavy blows; my mother had lost her job and we were left homeless in the middle of very difficult circumstances.

“I was hoping my father would call to inquire about our situation, but there was no response from his side. Despite being in touch with him in the beginning after he first left, he vanished without a trace a few months later. In an attempt to survive hardships after being without food for quite so long, we tried desperately to ask my father for financial support, but he was reluctant to do anything for us. Even a few loaves of bread were not available to keep us alive for one single day. My heartless father kept giving us unjustifiable excuses, such as road blocks.  

“At one point, I fell gravely ill; I was also psychologically bruised as I had been fatherless, homeless, and penniless for a long time. My mother pleaded with the doctor repeatedly to call my father and ask him to call me to make me feel better, yet there came no answer. To be frank, I would never have survived without God’s blessings.

“My mother has been with me every step of the way in unimaginable situations. I owe my success to her long-term effort to keep me going despite the challenges. Despite being envious of my friends who had private tutors and generous fathers, I never lost faith in God. I kept wearing religious symbols to offer supplications to God. I clung onto hope that God would never forget me. I always felt comfortable after my prayers, confident that I would stay safe no matter what happened.

“I did not know what to do – but God did not leave us; he was with us in every sad moment; he used to send us many people who helped us; they were angels in our lives.

“I have always dreamed of moving to Tartus, where I was born. However, the prospect of living abroad has been haunting me because of the scarcity of job opportunities in Syria. Following long discussions with my mom, however, I came to realize that this lovely idea would be hard to pull off. No matter what, I will never relent in my pursuit of being a pharmacist; and faith in God is carrying me. And should I ever leave the country, I would hope to return to Syria as soon as security and stability are restored.

 


Fawzy Basily writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international papal charity providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org

Attacks against India's Christians doubled in 2017

New Delhi, India, Feb 21, 2018 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Compared to 2016, attacks against Christians in India by Hindu extremists more than doubled in 2017 amid efforts to label the religious minority a danger to the state.

The persecution ranges from threats and physical violence to destruction of church property, but false allegations against Christians have also increased.

"It is a new trend to accuse Christians of serious crimes," said Shibu Thomas, founder of the ecumenical forum Persecution Relief.

The allegations are "a clear indicat[ion] that those opposed to Christians want to portray them as serious threats to the nation's safety and security," he told UCA News.

According to a report from Persecution Relief, last year 736 incidents of attacks occurred throughout India compared to the 348 that happened in 2016. Most of these are "daring physical attacks," the report said, but the victims of these attacks were also accused of sedition, discrimination, and destruction of religious property.

"When victims reach for police help, they find themselves accused of violations. … This is a dangerous sign. Unfortunately, the police are in league with fanatics and elects members support their actions," Thomas said.

Attacks against Christians have increased since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014, naming Narendra Modi as prime minister.

The party has now the largest representation in the country's parliament. A majority of the attacks stem from four of India's 29 states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh - three of which are governed by the BJP.

"Christians are not safe anymore in India under the current situation," said Anil Andrias, who leads a protestant congregation in Uttar Pradesh.

Andrias told UCA News that the persecution against Christians could be physical attacks and false allegations, but he also said Christians have been denied government services, such as collecting public water or using public roads.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India's population, with 80 percent identifying as Hindu.

Bishops praise Christian witness of evangelist Billy Graham

Charlotte, N.C., Feb 21, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The evangelist Billy Graham died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C., his family has announced. He was 99.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist minister in 1939. During his work in ministry, he wrote more than 30 books and conducted the annual Billy Graham Crusades until his retirement from active ministry in 2005. His last book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond the Now, was published in 2015.

During his time in ministry, Graham insisted that his crusades and rallies be racially integrated, and was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1981, Graham first met with St. John Paul II, who said that the two were “brothers.” They would meet again several times. When John Paul II died in 2005, Graham said he believed that the Pope had been “the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years,” and praised his “strong Catholic faith” and perseverance through his illnesses.

Prominent Catholics reacted with sadness to Graham’s death, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. In a statement on the archdiocesan website, Dolan wrote that while his family was Catholic, there was a level of respect for Graham’s work in bringing people to Christ.

“There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God,” said Dolan.

“As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement.  May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest."

Dolan’s sentiment was echoed by Catholic Herald editor Damian Thompson, who praised Graham’s evolution on Catholicism. Thompson called Graham a “fine man, a powerful force for good.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Billy Graham started out as an typical evangelical anti-Catholic and ended up acclaiming St John Paul II as the world’s greatest witness to Christianity. A fine man, a powerful force for good: rest in peace.</p>&mdash; Damian Thompson (@holysmoke) <a href="https://twitter.com/holysmoke/status/966317143523495936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered condolences to the Graham family and said that he was praying for the repose of his soul. DiNardo praised Graham for his work spreading the gospel around the country, and said he was thankful for his ministry.

“His faith and integrity invited countless thousands around the world into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the ministry of Billy Graham,” said DiNardo.

Dr. Robert George, a professor at Princeton University and a former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, compared Graham to St. John Paul II and other religious figures, saying that while he was “firmly rooted” in his denomination, Graham was able to reach all people.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Billy Graham was like John Paul II, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was firmly rooted in a particular tradition of faith, yet somehow spoke to--and in a sense belonged to--all of us.</p>&mdash; Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) <a href="https://twitter.com/McCormickProf/status/966320319681187841?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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U.S. Catholic Bishops Chairman of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Offers Condolences on the Death of the Rev. Billy Graham

WASHINGTON—His Excellency, Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has issued the following statement on receiving the news of the Rev. Billy Graham's death:

"Headlines today will describe Billy Graham as the preacher to millions and the advisor of presidents but first and foremost, he was a man of deep Christian faith. Committed to the Gospel, his personal witness and preaching of Jesus Christ touched the hearts of Americans spanning many generations.

In a particular way, Catholics feel the loss of one of the greatest pastors of our time. His ecumenical approach in ministry helped to forge bonds of friendship and understanding between Catholics and Protestants. He reminded us that what we had in common in Christ was greater than what divided us.

We pray for God to comfort his family and we join Christians throughout the nation and the world who pray today with blessed assurance, 'Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master!'" (Matt 25:23)

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joseph Bambera, Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Rev. Billy Graham, prayers, condolences

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane 
202-541-3200

USCCB President Offers Condolences on the Death of the Rev. Billy Graham

WASHINGTON—His Eminence, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement on receiving the news of the Rev. Billy Graham's death:

"Today, we pray for the soul of the Rev. Billy Graham to the Lord he so dearly loved and offer our condolences to his family. Billy Graham was a preacher of God's Word not only in his sermons, but also in the very life he lived. His faith and integrity invited countless thousands around the world into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the ministry of Billy Graham."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, The Rev. Billy Graham, prayers, condolences

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane 
202-541-3200


 

Pope Francis Names Auxiliary Bishop of the Military Services as Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has transferred Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Coyle of the Archdiocese for the Military Services to the office of auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The appointment was publicized in Washington on February 20, 2018, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Coyle was born on September 23, 1964 in Brooklyn, New York. He received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Fordham University in 1986, and he attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, earning a master of divinity degree and master of arts degree in theology in 1991.

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rockville Centre on May 25, 1991, by Bishop John R. McGann at St. Agnes Cathedral.

Bishop Coyle was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy on June 3, 1988 and served 24.5 years on Active and Reserve Duty before his retirement from the Naval Reserve on January 1, 2013. As a Navy Reserve Chaplain, Fr. Coyle served as Associate Pastor at St. Dominic Church in Oyster Bay, NY (1991-1996) and St. Patrick's Church in Glen Cove, NY (1996-1999). He served as a Navy Reserve Chaplain from 1991-1999, and on Active Duty from 1999-2009. He was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa, Japan, from 1999-2000, during which time he was promoted to Lieutenant. He deployed to the Middle East (2000-2001) and served in Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2002-2003). In 2005, he was promoted to the rank of Commander, U.S. Navy. From 2007 to 2009, he served on the USS Dwight D. EISENHOWER (CVN69) Aircraft Carrier and deployed to the Middle East in 2009 for Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2008, he was named by Pope Benedict XVI a Chaplain to His Holiness, a recognition that carried the honorary title of Monsignor.

On February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Coyle auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services. His episcopal ordination took place in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, DC, on the Feast of Saint Mark, April 25, 2013.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, comprises 1,198 square miles. It has a total population of 2,889,841 people of which 1,524,639, or 53 percent, are Catholic. Bishop John O. Barres is currently the fifth bishop of Rockville Centre.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Coyle, Archdiocese for the Military Services, Diocese of Rockville Centre


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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB President, Vice President, and Migration Chair Announce National Call-in Day for Dreamers for February 26

WASHINGTON—Late last week, the Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to move forward with debate on legislation to provide relief to Dreamers. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB President; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB Vice President; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, together issued the following statement: 

"We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers. With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that Members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty. 

"We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers. This coming weekend, we will be asking the faithful across the nation to call their Members of Congress next Monday, February 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process. 

"Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters. We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way. Now is the time for action." 

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, USCCB Committee on Migration, Dreamers, National Call-In Day, legislative protection, path to citizenship, Congress, Senate, solutions, families, unaccompanied minors, faith, vulnerable, immigrants, action, solidarity, action 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200