Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2015 / 09:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. officials have confirmed that Pope Francis will make a stop at the White House to meet with President Barack Obama on Sept. 23, during his trip to the United States for the World Meeting of Families.

“The President and the First Lady will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday, September 23,” said a March 26 statement from the White House press secretary.

“During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

“The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope,” the statement said.

Late last year, Pope Francis officially confirmed that he would be coming to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September.

A global Catholic event, the world meeting seeks to support and strengthen families. St. John Paul II founded the event in 1994, and it takes place every three years. The Philadelphia gathering this year will take place Sept. 22-27. The papal events during the final days of the meeting are expected to draw crowds as large as 1 million.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza – a member of the organizing committee for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S. – had told CNA in January that the proposed papal schedule included a projected arrival to Washington, D.C. on the evening of Sept. 22, and a proposed visit to the White House the following morning, where the official welcoming ceremony would take place.

Other details of the proposed itinerary included a Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, an address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24 and a papal address at the United Nations general assembly in New York on Sept. 25, before heading to Philadelphia to spend Sept. 26-27 at the World Meeting of Families.

Organizers have stressed that the official schedule during his trip to the U.S. in September has yet to be finalized, although individual items on the itinerary – such as the address to Congress and now the White House visit – are gradually being confirmed by U.S. officials.

The Pope has also announced that he will canonize the founder of California’s first missions, Blessed Junipero Serra, during his U.S. trip.

The announcement of the Pope’s visit to the White House comes at a time of mixed relations between President Obama and U.S. Church leaders.

U.S. bishops have voiced support for some of Obama’s initiatives, including immigration reform policies, while strongly opposing others, including a redefinition of marriage and the federal contraception mandate, which has drawn religious freedom lawsuits from several hundred plaintiffs.

The World Meeting of Families will take place shortly before the October 2015 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which will discuss the mission of the family in the Church and in the world.

Focusing on the theme, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the world meeting will include many speakers and breakout sessions. Keynote speakers include Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, Cardinal Robert Sarah, professor Helen Alvare, and Dr. Juan Francisco de la Guardia Brin and Gabriela N. de la Guardia.

The Philadelphia meeting will mark the first time that the event will be held in the United States.

Registration for the 2015 World Meeting of Families began on Nov. 10.

The World Meeting of Families website is www.worldmeeting2015.org. It is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WorldMeeting2015 and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WMF2015.

Trenton, N.J., Mar 26, 2015 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A New Jersey law crafted to ban the Archdiocese of Newark from selling cemetery headstones might not pass muster under judicial review, according to a constitutional law expert.

Matthew Franck said the law “may well be violating the freedom of religion” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution because it “singles out religious organizations for disfavored treatment.”

Franck directs the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Princeton, N.J.-based Witherspoon Institute. He characterized the law as “a direct assault on the freedom of churches to offer services to the bereaved in their own congregations.”

In a March 16 article at the news site NJ.com, Mark Mueller wrote that “the measure, while applied broadly to all religious institutions, is designed to counter a move by the Archdiocese of Newark in 2013 to enter the headstone business at its Catholic cemeteries.”

The law bars any “religious corporation, association, organization or society” that owns, controls or manages a cemetery from selling memorials, vaults, or mausoleums. Under the law, such religious groups also may not own or manage funeral homes or mortuaries.

The bill was signed into law March 23 by New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Until 2013, private companies had exclusively sold headstones and family crypts in the state. Their trade association, the Monument Builders of New Jersey, said the tax-exempt Newark archdiocese had an unfair competitive advantage that could drive them out of business. The trade association engaged in a lobbying campaign against the Newark archdiocese's move into their market.

John Burns, president of the trade association, said the archdiocese’s market share in headstone sales had grown to 36 percent in two years, and that the archdiocese would be selling over half of all headstones within 10 years.

Franck, however, was sceptical.

“If the archdiocese owns one or more cemeteries, as it surely does, I cannot see how it can constitutionally be prevented from undertaking to sell headstones, let alone crypts, to the families who bury their loved ones there,” he told CNA.

Franck compared the case to a Louisiana regulation that restricted casket sales to registered morticians. The rule barred Benedictine monks from selling inexpensive caskets to support themselves.

He noted that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the rule because it “lacked any rational basis” and was “sheer protectionism for the Louisiana funeral homes cartel.”

The court wrote that the Louisiana rule puts coffin customers at a greater risk of abuse and “exploitative prices,” striking down the protectionist law as violating the monks' rights to equal protection and due process.

Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA he thought the law was “certainly bad public policy,” though he would need further research to answer whether the law violates religious freedom or other constitutional law.

He said there is nothing inconsistent with an organization having a religious status and conducting a business to support its activities.

“Monasteries and convents have long produced breads, cheeses, wines, and other commodities. Retreat houses provide lodging as well as spiritual guidance. Schools provide educational services. What's the problem?” Destro asked.

He told CNA the Church must maintain cemeteries “in perpetuity” and must find new sources of revenue for maintenance. Failure to do so could mean raising the costs of burial or limiting the duration of burials in order to reuse the graves.

Archbishop John Myers of Newark wrote a column in the Star-Ledger in December, remarking that the bill “is a drastic change in the law solely for the financial benefit of the funeral directors and monument builders, at the expense of families. The bill also is extremely negative and anti-consumer, eliminating fair competition, along with removing the religious exemption and independence Catholic Cemeteries currently possess.”

The New Jersey State Assembly passed the headstone legislation by a vote of 68-7 earlier this month, adding a recommendation that it take effect one year after becoming law. The State Senate passed the legislation on March 16 by a vote of 31-2.

Christie had conditionally vetoed an earlier version of the bill in February, saying he did not want the law to take effect immediately.

Jim Goodness, communications director for the Newark archdiocese, told CNA March 18 the archdiocese is disappointed in the legislature’s action but “thankful, at least, that there is a year’s delay until it is implemented.”

While the law also bars religious groups from operating funeral homes and mortuaries, Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, told CNA that no Catholic dioceses in the state operates funeral homes.

Bridgeport, Conn., Mar 25, 2015 / 10:02 pm (CNA).- With hopes of better serving the Catholic community, the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors announced this week the development of their new faith-based investment opportunities, which are specifically geared toward Catholic institutions and organizations.

The Knight of Columbus, with over 1.8 million members around the world, launched the formation of their Asset Advisors last year and are now moving forward in offering a few different services to Catholic institutional investors.

These registered investment advisors are a part of the wholly owned subsidiary of the Knights of Columbus and are the same in-house group of portfolio managers, credit analysts, and traders that manage the Knights of Columbus's own substantial assets.
The Knights of Columbus advisors are equipped specifically to work with Catholic institutional investors who wish to commission the use of their funds within the realm of Catholic options. These opportunities are in compliance with the guidelines of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"We believe a Catholic firm committed to Catholic values can offer a more compelling solution for Catholic entities," Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight and CEO, said March 24.

The four services offered by the Knights of Columbus encompass a set of separate account strategies with the option of investing in the Knights of Columbus' own mutual funds, including fixed income and domestic and international equity funds.

Other services include model portfolios, asset allocation and rebalancing, and the choice of an outsourced chief investment officer service. Various risk-reward fund diversifications are also available.

The president of the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors and Chief Investment Officer, Anthony Minopoli, believes that the Knight's of Columbus's investment program offers Catholics meaningful and imperative ways to invest their money.

"As an organization grounded in Catholic values and with a track record of growth and success with our insurance, annuity and Catholic lending businesses, we offer a compelling solution for Catholic institutions seeking investment options."