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U.S. bishops commemorate 2nd anniversary of Dobbs ruling
Mon, 24 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. Pro-abortion demonstrators gradually made up a decided majority of the crowd as the day wore on. / Credit: Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life committee has released a statement commemorating the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reflected on the challenges faced by the pro-life movement since the historic decision.

“On June 24, 2024, we celebrate the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ending the tragic reign of Roe v. Wade,” he said.

“It is a day for thanksgiving to God for answering our prayers and blessing the many years of hard work. This anniversary calls us to reflect on where we have been and where we are going,” Burbidge said.

He then noted recent defeats and upcoming challenges in the fight to protect life in the womb.

“Kansas, Michigan, and Ohio drastically expanded access to abortion,” he said.

“This fall, as many as 10 additional states will have abortion referenda on their ballots, allowing voters to enshrine ‘abortion rights’ and override existing pro-life safeguards,” Burbidge noted.

Burbidge urged Catholics “to engage their elected officials on all issues endangering life.”

Burbidge then went on to reflect on the power of the Eucharist to transform the current culture, stating that he “cannot help but think the Holy Spirit has inspired our National Eucharistic Revival for such a time as this. Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist has the power to transform our own hearts and the heart of our culture.”

Amid these reflections, Burbidge acknowledged the ongoing commitment of various advocacy groups that assist women facing unexpected and difficult pregnancies. Initiatives such as Walking with Moms in Need exemplify the Church’s dedication to providing comprehensive “material, emotional, and spiritual support,” he said.

Furthermore, Burbidge recognized efforts such as Project Rachel and Respect Life Prayer and Action, which offer assistance to individuals affected by abortion and encourage proactive engagement in legislative processes.

“Jesus reminds us,” Burbidge cited, “’I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly’ (Jn 10:10). Let us unite in safeguarding the fight of life in all its stages and circumstances.”

This year, a unique convergence of historical milestones not only brings attention to the second anniversary of the Dobbs ruling but also the first National Eucharistic Congress of its kind in more than 80 years.

In recognizing this, Burbidge concluded his statement by inspiring all to “draw strength from our communion in the body and blood of Christ our savior” during this significant time.

‘Summer Christmas’: Why does the Church celebrate the birthday of St. John the Baptist?
Mon, 24 Jun 2024 04:00:00 -0400

Statue of St. John the Baptist with golden cross, Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic. / Credit: Oldrich Barak/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 24, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, is one of only three people in history — after Jesus and Mary — whose birthday is celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.

In fact, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24 is a solemnity, meaning it is the highest form of Catholic feast day. And because it falls exactly six months before the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, it is sometimes known as “summer Christmas.”

“The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s,” St. Augustine of Hippo said in his sermon 293.

In the Mass for the solemnity, the priest prays to God in the preface, that in Christ’s precursor, “St. John the Baptist, we praise your great glory, for you consecrated him for a singular honor among those born of women.”

“His birth brought great rejoicing; even in the womb he leapt for joy at the coming of human salvation. He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption,” the prayer continues. “And to make holy the flowing waters, he baptized the very author of baptism and was privileged to bear him supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.”

St. Augustine explained that “John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, ‘The Law and the prophets were until John.’ So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.”

John’s connection to Christ

Father Mauro Gagliardi, a theologian and liturgist who teaches in Rome, wrote in a 2009 article on Zenit that it is important to emphasize John the Baptist’s role as “Indicator.” John is “a prophet who refers back to Christ.”

The liturgy, Gagliardi said, does the same thing, and thus the June 24 solemnity “reminds us of this: The Christian liturgy is a powerful Indicator of Christ to the peoples, like [John] the Baptist.”

John the Baptist’s feast day also has cosmic connections, the theologian pointed out. The fact that June 24 is close to the summer solstice demonstrates the fulfillment of the prophecy in John 3:30 that “he must increase; I must decrease,” since after John’s birthday the days get shorter, or “decrease,” while after Jesus’ birthday on Dec. 25, the days get longer, or “increase.”

“This interweaving between a figure from the history of salvation — John — and the cosmic rhythms (both guided by the same God) has found a fruitful development in the devotion and liturgy of the Church,” Gagliardi said.

Popular customs of ‘summer Christmas’

The Church’s liturgical commemoration of St. John the Baptist dates back to the fourth century.

Acknowledgement of the saint’s importance can also be noted in his shared patronage, together with St. John the Apostle, of Rome’s Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which is also the seat of the bishop of Rome, that is, the pope.

The night of June 23 is known in some countries, including Italy, as “St. John’s Eve.” Due to the solemnity’s timing, shortly after the summer solstice, some of the practices connected to the feast have a pagan character, including that some refer to it as “the Night of the Witches.”

Modern-day secular festivities may include concerts and theatrical performances, while Catholics usually celebrate Mass and hold religious processions.

One of the most typical customs related to St. John’s Eve, both secular and religious, is the bonfire, called in some countries “St. John’s Fires,” which are lit in honor of the saint who “was not the light, but came to testify to the light (Jn 1:8).” Fireworks or candle-lit processions can also take the place of bonfires.

In an Angelus message on June 25, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said the feast of St. John the Baptist “reminds us that our life is entirely and always ‘relative’ to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps, and friends we are.”

“‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn 3:30): The Baptist’s words are a program for every Christian,” Benedict said.

Pope Francis: Jesus in the Eucharist strengthens us in times of trial
Sun, 23 Jun 2024 10:26:00 -0400

Pope Francis delivers a message to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 23, 2024 / 10:26 am (CNA).

Jesus does not spare us from difficulties but strengthens us with the Eucharist to have the courage to face them, Pope Francis said in his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on June 23, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on how they usually deal with times of trial.

“When a storm arrives, do I let myself be overwhelmed by the turmoil or do I cling to him … to find calm and peace, in prayer, silence, listening to the Word, adoration, and fraternal sharing of faith?” the pope asked.

Pope Francis urged people to remember that Jesus is always with us to come to our aid, particularly in the Eucharist.

“In the Eucharist, he gathers us around him, he gives us his word, he nourishes with his body and his blood, and then he invites us to set sail, to transmit everything we have heard and to share what we have received with everyone, in everyday life, even when it is difficult,” the pope said.

“Jesus does not spare us contrarieties but, without ever abandoning us, he helps us face them,” Francis added.

“So we too, overcoming them with his help, learn more and more to hold onto him, to trust in his power, which goes far beyond our capacities, to overcome uncertainties and hesitations, closures and preconceptions, and to do this with courage and greatness of heart, to tell everyone that the kingdom of heaven is present, it is here, and that with Jesus at our side we can make it grow together, beyond all barriers.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pointing to the Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus and his disciples being caught in a storm on Lake Tiberias, the pope noted that it was Jesus himself who told the disciples to get on the boat and cross the lake.

“Why does he do this?” Pope Francis asked. “To strengthen the faith of the disciples and to make them more courageous.”

“Indeed, the disciples come out of this experience more aware of the power of Jesus and his presence in their midst, and therefore stronger and readier to face other obstacles and difficulties, including the fear of venturing out to proclaim the Gospel,” he said.

“Having overcome this trial with him, they will know how to face many others, even to the cross and martyrdom, to bring the Gospel to all peoples.”

Pope Francis invoked the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who welcomed God’s will with humility and courage, to provide us with the serenity to surrender to God in difficult moments.

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis greeted the participants in Italy’s March for Life, which drew thousands of people to Rome on Saturday.

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

As the pope offered greetings to the visiting pilgrim groups, Francis pointed out the group in St. Peter’s Square that was holding up an Israeli flag next to a Vatican flag.

Pope Francis said that the Israeli flag was a reminder to pray for peace in Gaza and other parts of the world that are experiencing war and violence. He repeatedly asked people to pray for peace in Palestine and Israel as well as in Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The pope also remembered a Franciscan priest in Rome who had served as his confessor, Father Manuel Blanco Rodríguez, who died a few days ago.

“Remembering him,” he said, “I would like to remember the many Franciscan brothers, confessors, and preachers who have honored and continue to honor the Church of Rome.”

How principals and Partnership Schools are keeping historic inner-city Catholic schools alive 
Sun, 23 Jun 2024 07:00:00 -0400

Archbishop Lyke students in the school library in 2022. / Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

When historic Catholic schools started closing across the nation, an organization that manages Catholic schools in low-income communities stepped in.

With four schools in Cleveland and seven in New York City, Partnership Schools is helping to manage, support, and fund schools in need while providing scholarships for students to be able to attend their local Catholic schools.

Initially launched as a fundraising organization, Partnership Schools shifted to a management and operations organization in 2013 to better amplify its impact, making it academically, operationally, and financially responsible for each school it partners with while the schools remain owned by their local dioceses. The group provides curricula, offers professional development for teachers, fundraises, and manages things such as payroll.

The Partnership Schools model enables dioceses to retain ownership of the schools while the organization takes full responsibility for them.

St. Thomas Aquinas students on the playground in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
St. Thomas Aquinas students on the playground in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

St. Thomas Aquinas: a 125-year legacy

When a Catholic school that had been in operation more than 100 years needed help staying open, it decided to work with Partnership Schools. But first, it had to get the pope’s permission.

St. Thomas Aquinas School in Cleveland started by serving Irish and German immigrants in 1899. Scheduled to close in 2020, the school was able to stay open by working with Partnership Schools. Now, nearly 125 years since its founding, St. Thomas is thriving and serves students in the local community.

“For about the last 60 years or so, we have been serving a predominantly Black community, and that still is the case now,” principal Rachael Dengler told CNA in a Zoom interview. “We have 250 students currently enrolled. One hundred percent of them are Black. Actually, zero percent of them are Catholic, but many come from a strong Christian faith and live in the neighborhood, so this is a community school to them.”

Though no Catholic students attend St. Thomas Aquinas, the school fosters community, teaches the faith, and finds commonalities with its largely Protestant students and families.

“When our beliefs and our values are so aligned, it’s not difficult to find a common ground in Christ,” Dengler explained.

“We are surrounded by Cleveland public schools, and so [parents] certainly have their options that aren’t Catholic,” she said. “But I think when parents see an education that’s driven in values and driven in beliefs that are aligned with how they were raised themselves or how they want their children to be raised, I think it really does become a pretty simple decision.”

Unlike most parochial Catholic schools, St. Thomas is no longer affiliated with a local parish and is now under the local bishop. Because he was reassigned before he could officially approve of St. Thomas joining Partnership Schools, then-Bishop Nelson Perez (now archbishop of Philadelphia) needed Pope Francis’ permission to get the program running.

“The pope ended up approving of this collaboration, which was a really different turn,” Dengler recalled. “Then, two weeks later, every school in the nation shut down for COVID, and that was in the midst of becoming a Partnership school. That was also the same year I was hired to be the principal.”

Despite the added challenges, the school’s enrollment increased by about 40% in the last four years since St. Thomas first partnered with Partnership Schools in 2020.

“We wouldn’t be celebrating our 125th year if it weren’t for being a part of the network,” she explained.

Dengler said she’s worked with students whose grandparents and parents have attended the school.

“It’s a beautiful thing to feel like you’re a part of a family in a community that’s been there far longer than you have and will certainly outlast any individual’s time there,” she said.

Rachael Denglar at St. Thomas Aquinas in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Rachael Denglar at St. Thomas Aquinas in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Though the school has changed over the generations, it has maintained its Catholic identity, especially by keeping its chapel accessible, Dengler explained.

“Because there is no parish, because there are challenges to the creation of community in the neighborhood, it is the school that is intentionally emotionally creating a sense of community,” she said.

“[Families] may not be Catholic, but they love being a part of a Catholic school, and they love and are proud of sharing where they go to school,” Dengler said. “And I think it’s because of the values that we uphold and the love that we have for them, regardless of whatever faith that they practice.”

St. Athanasius students at a play area at St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
St. Athanasius students at a play area at St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

111 years in the Bronx

After 11 years of managing the seven New York Catholic schools in the Partnership Schools organization, the Archdiocese of New York will resume management of them, a spokeswoman for Partnership Schools told CNA on Tuesday.

Beth Blaufuss, Partnership School vice president for strategic initiatives, said that though they are sad to say goodbye to the schools, they were only ever “stewards.”

St. Athanasius School in the South Bronx is one of the schools that Partnership Schools has helped preserve for the past 11 years. It opened in 1913 and has centered the local community for 111 years, including when it was suffering from rampant arson by landlords in the 1970s.

Jessica Aybar, current principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, said community has been a key part of the school both now and in the troubled past.

“At that time, the school was obviously still standing but serving a population that was really traumatized,” she explained. “It was a very normal occurrence for kids to come to school in their pajamas because their apartment building burned down the night before.”

“At the height of the Bronx’s burning era, the school went from having 16 classrooms to having nine,” she continued. “So in terms of enrollment, it was pretty much demolished.”

Jessica Aybar, principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Jessica Aybar, principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Decades later, the school reached 280 students in 2012. Then, while under Partnership Schools, St. Athanasius nearly doubled, reaching 440 students.

“There is a ton of growth in terms of enrollment. I would say a rebirth, a renaissance, of Catholic schools in our neighborhood due to the Partnership support,” Aybar explained.

“A lot of times, families in our neighborhood think they can’t afford a quality Catholic school to attend,” she continued. “Partnership Schools has done so much to change the narrative and to make Catholic education accessible to as many students as possible.”

St. Athanasius is a happy place, and that can be seen in its 100% teacher retention rate this year, Aybar noted. She said there’s a variety of veteran, beginners, and in-the-middle teachers who are “a huge source of stability and community within the school.”

“All of those teachers, together, combined make a really diverse staff that has different strengths, different areas of growth,” she said. “That’s one of the things that I’m really proud of. I think there’s a reason that people stick around, and part of it is because of how much they love the community and how respected that they feel within the community.”

Most people find the school through word of mouth, not through the internet or other sources — a testament, Aybar said, to how special the community is.

A St. Athanasius elementary school student works on a craft in class in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
A St. Athanasius elementary school student works on a craft in class in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Moving forward: NY management returns to the archdiocese

After an 11-year contract with the New York Archdiocese, Partnership Schools announced on June 18 that the archdiocese will resume management of those Catholic schools.

In a statement to CNA, Partnership Schools said it is celebrating successes of the past decade including a record of $7.7 million in scholarships earned by this year’s New York Partnership graduates alone and a 28% increase in New York schools enrollment since the COVID pandemic began in 2020, as well as doubling achievement scores.

“When we took on the six original schools that we began to serve, academic performance was unacceptably low,” Blaufuss explained. “For example, 17% of the students met the proficiency standards for the state of New York in math.”

“Flash forward 11 years, we’ve not only increased the number of students who are achieving proficiency — in fact, last year … the percent of partnership eighth graders and graduates scoring proficient on the state test in math was higher than the average for the city as a whole.”

For the future, the network plans to expand its work in Cleveland and beyond.

An elementary student raises his hand in class at St. Francis School in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
An elementary student raises his hand in class at St. Francis School in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

“Impact has grown in this diocese, and we look forward to continuing our partnership to benefit the increasing number of students and families served by our Catholic schools in the heart of the city,” Frank O’Linn, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Cleveland and a Partnership Schools trustee, said this week in a press release shared with CNA.

Partnership Schools’ current agreement with the diocese will run through 2028 while it investigates options in other dioceses, particularly those with school choice funding already in place, according to the release.

Elementary students in class at Metro Catholic School, another Partnership School in Cleveland, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Elementary students in class at Metro Catholic School, another Partnership School in Cleveland, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

“Catholic schools enable students in low-income communities to become excellent students and caring citizens,” the chair of Partnership Schools’ board of trustees, Russ Carson, said in the release.

Canadian man offered euthanasia ‘multiple times’: ‘I don’t want to give up my life’
Sun, 23 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favourite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project in Canada. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) "several times." / Courtesy of Amanda Achtman

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Amid ongoing efforts to expand euthanasia in Canada under the name of “medical aid in dying” (MAID), one Ottawa man says he has been offered euthanasia “multiple times” as he struggles with lifelong disabilities and chronic pain from a disease called cerebellar ataxia.

Roger Foley, 49, shared some of his story in a recent video interview with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project, which was created to “humanize our conversation on suffering, death, meaning, and hope.” The project seeks to “[restore] our cultural health when it comes to our experiences of death and dying” through speaking engagements and video campaigns.

In the video, the fourth of a series, Foley said he has struggled with subpar medical help in his own home, where he is supposed to be getting quality care. Canada has a nationalized health care system but Foley said that individuals with illnesses are “worked at … not worked with.” He spoke out against being devalued as he fights for the support he needs to live.

In one case, he said, a home worker helped him into his bathtub and then fell asleep in the other room; Foley was left to crawl out of the bathroom on his own. “I reported to the agency, and then he confessed, and the agency, they really didn’t care,” he said.

Asked by Achtman if he has ever been offered euthanasia, Foley said: “Yeah, multiple times.”

“One time, [a doctor] asked me, ‘Do you have any thoughts of self-harm?’ I’m honest with them and tell them I do think about ending my life because of what I’m going through, being prevented from the resources that I need to live safely back at home.”

“From out of nowhere, he just pulls out, ‘Well, if you don’t get self-directing funding, you can always apply for an assisted.’”

Foley said the offers from doctors to help end his life have “completely traumatized me.”

“Now it’s this overlying option where in my situation, when I say I’m suicidal, I’m met with, ‘Well, the hospital has a program to help you with that if you want to end your life.’”

“That didn’t exist before [MAID] was legalized, but now it’s there,” he said. “There is not going to be a second within the rest of my life that I’m not going to have flashbacks to [being offered suicide]. The devaluing of me and all that I am.”

Noting that he’s “not religious,” Foley said: “Saying that it’s just religious persons who oppose euthanasia in society is completely wrong.”

“These people who usually say it, they have an ableist mindset,” he said. “And they look at persons with disabilities and see us as just better off dead and a waste of resources.”

Achtman told CNA there is a need for euthanasia-free health care spaces, not only for protecting the integrity of Catholic institutions but also because many patients — including nonreligious patients like Foley — want to be treated in facilities that do not raise euthanasia with patients.

“Having euthanasia suggested, in a sense, already kills the person. It deflates a person’s sense of confidence that doctors and nurses are going to truly fight for them,” Achtman told CNA. “When euthanasia is suggested ostensibly as one ‘treatment’ option among others, there are all-too-frequently no other real options provided.

She continued: “This is why I always say that a request for euthanasia is not so much an expression of a desire to die as it is an expression of disappointment. Responding to such disappointment with real interventions that are adequate to the person is demanding, but that’s what people deserve. It is wrong to concede or capitulate to a person’s suicidal ideation — instead, every person deserves suicide prevention rather than suicide assistance.”

Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favorite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)
Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favorite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) "several times.". Courtesy of Amanda Achtman

Canada has become one of the most permissive countries in the world when it comes to euthanasia. The country first began allowing doctors to help kill terminally ill patients nearing death in 2016; the law was then expanded in 2021 to include patients whose death is not imminent.

In February the country paused a proposal to allow mentally ill individuals access to MAID, with the proposal set to be reconsidered in 2027. Earlier this year, Canadian health researchers alleged that MAID will “save” the Canadian health care system between $34.7 and $136.8 million per year.

A couple in British Columbia is currently suing the provincial government, as well as a Catholic health care provider, after their daughter was denied euthanasia while suffering from a terminal illness. The suit demands that the government remove the religious exemption from the Catholic hospital that protects them from having to offer MAID.

A judge in March, meanwhile, ruled that a woman with autism could be granted her request to die by MAID, overruling efforts by the woman’s father to halt the deadly procedure.

Asked what gives him hope, Foley told Achtman that he aspires one day to “be able to break through [the health care system] and get access to the resources that I need and to live at home with workers who want to work with me and I want to work with them and that we can work as a team.”

“I have a passion to live,” he said. “I don’t want to give up my life.”

Zoe Romanowsky contributed to this story.

PHOTOS: Thousands take part in Italy’s pro-life march
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 16:35:00 -0400

Thousands of people from across Italy braved the summer heat to join the national Demonstration for Life in Rome on the afternoon of June 22, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2024 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

Thousands of people from across Italy braved the summer heat to join the national Demonstration for Life in Rome on the afternoon of June 22.

“Let’s Choose Life” was the motto of the annual procession, which began at 2 p.m. in Rome’s Piazza della Repubblica, close to the city’s main Termini train station.

"Life begins at conception" reads a sign at Rome's pro-life march June 22, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The slow march continued almost one mile down the Via Nazionale before reaching the area of the ancient Imperial Forum, where a rally with speeches and musical performances was held.

“There is no compromise on human life!” Pope Francis said in a message sent to organizers ahead of the march.

He thanked participants for their “commitment and public witness in defense of human life from conception to natural death” and urged them to “go forward with courage despite every adversity.”

“The stakes, namely the absolute dignity of human life, the gift of God the Creator, are too high to be the object of compromise or mediation,” Francis wrote.

The march for life makes its way through Rome's city streets. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
The march for life makes its way through Rome's city streets. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The pope also invited families to bear witness to “the beauty of life and of the family that welcomes it” in order to build “a society that rejects the culture of waste at every stage of existence: from the most fragile unborn child to the suffering elderly, passing through the victims of trafficking, slavery, and every war.”

Rome's pro-life march drew people from all across Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Rome's pro-life march drew people from all across Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Massimo Gandolfini, one of the spokespersons for the annual protest against abortion, said earlier this year that the organization is calling on Italy’s political leaders to create “structural public reforms to encourage the marriage of young couples, incentivize the birth rate and support parenting by mothers and fathers by reshaping taxation and social services to be family-friendly.”

Priests and religious were among the marchers. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Priests and religious were among the marchers. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
The march arrives at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs in Rome. Credit: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs
The march arrives at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs in Rome. Credit: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs
Many young families joined the march for life in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Many young families joined the march for life in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Pope Francis names Chinese bishop who attended Synod to Archdiocese of Hangzhou
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 10:00:00 -0400

Bishop Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun (right) of the People's Republic of China at the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican in October 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang to lead the Archdiocese of Hangzhou in China, transferring him from the Diocese of Zhoucun, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The June 12 nomination took place “within the framework of dialogue concerning the implementation of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican’s June 22 press release said.

The new archbishop was one of two bishops from mainland China to participate in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

He has led the Zhoucun Diocese in Shandong Province since 2013.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists last year that Yang and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated to attend the synod by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government.

Yang was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995. He was named a bishop by papal mandate in November 2010, and his consecration as bishop took place a little over two years later, in February 2013.

He was elected vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016.

The Archdiocese of Hangzhou is located in the province of Zhejiang on the eastern coast of China. The province’s capital city of Hangzhou has an estimated population of nearly 12 million people, according to a 2020 census.

The archdiocese did not have a bishop with a papal mandate from 1956 to 2008. It was previously led by Archbishop Matthew Cao Xiangde, who was appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained without Vatican permission in 2000. In 2008, at his request, the Holy See recognized the bishop’s episcopal consecration but not his jurisdiction over the archdiocese.

Matthew Cao Xiangde died in July 2021 at the age of 93.

Statistics from the 1950s estimated the number of Catholics in the archdiocese to be only .4% of the total population.

March for Life president Mancini urges advocates for unborn to continue fight
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 09:00:00 -0400

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, attends the 50th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2023. / Credit: Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini opened the Celebrate Life Conference on Friday with an impassioned speech calling for pro-life advocates to embrace a new season of fighting for the unborn.

At the event held at the Westin Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., Mancini shared her recollection of the moment she first discovered that Roe v. Wade had been overturned.

“I was interviewing on CBS the moment the decision came down, and I’ll never forget how my interviewer was not pro-life,” she shared as the crowd laughed. “She was shocked as I was bustling and so happy, thinking of all of the marchers over the years, the collective millions that have made this moment possible.”

Mancini then became choked up as she recalled the second the news truly sunk in later that same day, stating: “I don’t think in my lifetime I thought Roe would be overturned, and to consider that it was overturned in our lifetime is just unbelievable. It is so easy to forget what a massive victory that was.”

Mancini acknowledged on the eve of the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade that the pro-life movement has since faced some setbacks amid a climate of “cultural confusion.”

Calling the enshrinement of abortion “rights” in Michigan and Ohio “tragic,” Mancini urged those attending to keep up the fight for the unborn.

“While we have had some losses, it is not an option for us to abandon this fight. It is absolutely essential for pro-life leaders, for lawmakers and citizens, to educate their neighbors on the harms of these ballot initiatives and what they do,” Mancini continued. “We are in the single-most significant human rights battle of our time, and we’ve got to dig in.”

The March for Life organization has implemented state capital marches in 17 different states since 2019.

Sharing her experience of attending a Mass at the 2023 Michigan March for Life, Mancini repeated the words that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, shared in his homily: “On a day like today, you want to fight like hell. But you have to fight like heaven… we are called to fight with love at the heart of [the movement].”

She called on audience members to “pray and ask God for what he wants from you in this new season” and to “embrace your given pro-life mission.”

Additionally, Mancini cited a 2023 Charlotte Lozier study that found among women who had had abortions, 60% would have preferred to give birth if they had received either more emotional or financial support.

“I feel like this season is about addressing that 60%,” Mancini shared before emphasizing the importance of promoting pregnancy care centers and maternity homes throughout the country.

In closing, Mancini called on pro-life advocates to “persevere, persevere, persevere.”

“Dig your heels in as change takes time. We are in this for the long game, so persevere. You were made for such a time as this; now get out there and keep doing it,” she urged.

The Celebrate Life Conference is sponsored by the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, the National Sidewalk Advocacy Center, and Students for Life among other organizations. The event will continue through the weekend with various other keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and the Celebrate Life Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 22.

Mother Angelica’s shrine fills to capacity as National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passes through
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 07:00:00 -0400

Hundreds of faithful filled the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, site of Mother Angelica's tomb, beyond capacity as the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage St. Juan Diego Route passed through on June 20, 2024. / Credit: EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 22, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

“I live because of the Eucharist,” Mother Angelica once said.

The foundress of EWTN and member of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, Mother Angelica made no secret of her love and devotion to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

On Thursday, more than eight years after her death, the legacy of Mother Angelica’s Eucharistic love was on full display as pilgrims along the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage stopped at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, which she founded and where she is buried.

The shrine was filled beyond capacity by hundreds of religious and lay faithful of all ages, including many families.

Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

Those attending participated in a Eucharistic procession despite temperatures in the 90s. The procession began at the shrine’s Marian grotto and ended at the main church, where there was a healing service that included a reflection by Father John Eckert of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the role of shame in the Christian life.

Eckert said that shame serves as a guardrail helping Christians to differentiate good from evil and stay on the right path. This guardrail, however, can become distorted when Christians fall short and the devil twists shame, telling us: “How dare you miss this guardrail!” in attempts to further separate them from God.

But God comes to remind us not to believe the devil’s lies but to release us from those lies, Eckert said.

Built in 1999 and on 400 acres of land, the shrine serves as the chapel for the cloistered Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which houses the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.

The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

The shrine, renowned for its tranquil beauty and as the resting place of Mother Angelica, attracts pilgrims from around the globe. Located in northern Alabama, the shrine marked the halfway point for the Juan Diego Route and served as a place of much-needed respite, with the pilgrims spending several days in private prayer and retreat before Thursday’s event.

The eight Juan Diego “Perpetual Pilgrims” — five young men and women, two seminarians, and a religious brother — began their journey at the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, on May 19. Since then, they have trekked over 1,000 miles, passing through four states and 12 dioceses.

The Juan Diego pilgrims will finish their journey on July 16 in Indianapolis, where they will join pilgrims from the three other routes and thousands of faithful for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

The Catholic Church in France will have 105 new priests in 2024
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

Priests concelebrate a Mass in Rome. / Credit: Martha Calderón/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 22, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) reported that, in 2024, 105 new priests will be ordained, 17 more priests than in 2023, when 88 new priests were ordained in the European country.

An article published on the CEF website said the vast majority of priestly ordinations are celebrated during the month of June, particularly on the Sunday before the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, which the Catholic Church celebrates every year on June 29.

Of the 105 new priests, 73 are diocesan, 16 belong to religious orders, 10 are members of communities, two belong to societies of apostolic life, while the remaining four “were ordained in the institutes under the former Ecclesia Dei commission, celebrating according to the Roman Missal of 1962 [before the reform of Vatican II].”

At a press conference, Bertrand Lacombe, the archbishop of Auch and a member of the council for ordained ministers and laypeople in ecclesial mission, highlighted two aspects to be considered regarding the new priests: “the essential mission of the priest in the Church and the meaning of this mission today within an increasingly secularized French society” and “the ongoing reflections of the bishops as well as the initiatives launched in the dioceses to raise up vocations.”

The French prelate wished a “beautiful ministry to the priests who are responding to the spiritual expectations of our time: The adventure is worth the effort and gives light to the world!”

The CEF article also noted that according to its 2024 Catéchuménat survey, every year there are more young people and not so young people who want to receive baptism, the Eucharist, and confirmation.

The archbishop told the new priests that this new generation of young people drawn to the Church is also their generation that “they grew up with and matured” in and that in administering the sacraments to them they both will be nourished.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More: following God’s law above all else
Sat, 22 Jun 2024 04:00:00 -0400

Details from St John Fisher by Jacobus Houbraken (c. 1760), and St Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527). / Credit: Public domain

London, England, Jun 22, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More is observed as an optional memorial June 22. So that readers don’t have to fish for more information (pun intended), CNA has compiled a question-and-answer lowdown on their lives and legacies:

Who was St. Thomas More?

St. Thomas More (1478–1535) was a humanist and intellectual — he worked as a lawyer and explored theology through his written works, many of which were defenses of the Catholic faith against heresy. He studied at Oxford and briefly considered religious life, but he eventually followed a vocation to marriage and fatherhood.

More was appointed by King Henry VIII to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.

What does “lord chancellor” mean?

The “lord chancellor” was the highest-ranking member of the king’s cabinet. This role was commonly filled by a clergyman. Historically, the role entailed great judicial responsibility — its influence has evolved to scale back on this particular front.

How did he manage to get on Henry VIII’s bad side?

St. Thomas More stood firmly in his Catholic faith when Henry VIII began to pull away from the Church.

The king wanted a declaration of nullity for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Church, upon examination, could not find his marriage to Catherine invalid. More refused in 1530 to sign a letter asking the pope to declare the marriage null, and he would not sign an oath acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church in England.

In May 1532, Henry pressured the English synod, the Convocation of Canterbury, to submit the clergy’s authority to his own. The day after the convocation agreed to Henry’s terms, More resigned as lord chancellor.

More wished to retire from public life, but when he refused to assent to the Act of Supremacy 1534, which repudiated the pope’s authority over the Church in England, he was imprisoned on charges of treason.

He was sentenced to execution, which took place July 6, 1535.

Why is he a saint?

More’s persistence to remain with the Church rather than the king, ending in martyrdom, was a testament to his tireless devotion to God’s law. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and was named patron of statesmen and politicians by Pope John Paul II.

I’ve heard something about his beard…?

Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.

The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.

His last words were, “This hath not offended the king,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.

Who was St. John Fisher?

St. John Fisher (1469–1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22 and was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.

His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time traveling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defenses in response to Martin Luther.

What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?

St. John Fisher studied Henry’s request for a declaration of nullity but could not find grounds for such a declaration.

He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognized the king’s supremacy over the Church in England, and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.

Fisher was jailed, starved, and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.

Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535 in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.

Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…

It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.

However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honor of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.

Why is Fisher a saint?

Same deal as More — he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonized with More in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

But he’s not nearly as well known as St. Thomas More.

No, he’s not. St. John Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.

This article was first published on June 22, 2018, and has been updated.

UPDATE: Tennessee priest indicted on additional sex crime charges
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 15:55:00 -0400

Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin. / Credit: Courtesy of the Franklin Police Department

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

A priest in Tennessee already facing multiple sexual abuse charges has been served with two additional battery charges this month, police have revealed.

A grand jury earlier this month returned a superseding indictment against Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza, charging him with two additional counts of sexual battery, according to a press release from the Franklin, Tennessee, Police Department.

In February, Garcia was indicted on eight other charges, including continuous abuse of a child, aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and two counts of sexual battery.

The priest is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin.

The Diocese of Nashville had said in a press release in January that it first learned of accusations against Garcia in November 2023 when “a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching” involving the priest.

The diocese made a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; it also contracted with a former FBI agent to oversee the diocesan investigation into the claims.

A spokesman for the diocese told CNA on Friday that Garcia had been removed from active ministry in November after the first report was made regarding the priest.

Earlier reports had suggested the diocese delayed for several weeks in removing the priest from active ministry; the spokesman denied those reports.

“The diocese has kept the Holy See informed throughout this matter and the canonical process is ongoing separate from the criminal proceedings,” the spokesman told CNA.

Garcia was ordained in 2020 and served at several parishes in the Nashville Diocese before his indictment.

This story was updated on Friday, June 21, at 4:30 p.m. with additional comments from the Nashville diocesan spokesman.

Vatican’s secretary of state rues Russia’s absence at Ukraine peace conference
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 15:25:00 -0400

The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends a plenary session at the summit on peace in Ukraine at the luxury Burgenstock resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 16, 2024. / Credit: ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin this week appealed for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine amid their ongoing war while noting the absence of Russia at the Swiss conference on peace in Ukraine.

“Peace is always made together,” he said June 19 as reported by Vatican News.

Parolin led an observer delegation from the Vatican to the Conference for Peace in Ukraine, held in Switzerland June 15–16. About 100 delegations, mostly from Western countries, attended the conference, AP News reported. Russia was not invited.

Parolin in a statement following the conference reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to maintain “regular communication with the Ukrainian and Russian authorities” and assist in potential mediation initiatives, Vatican News said.

Parolin also said the Holy See is greatly concerned about the tragic humanitarian consequences of the war “and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians.”

“On behalf of Pope Francis,” Parolin concluded, “I wish to confirm his personal closeness to the tormented Ukrainian people and his unwavering commitment to peace.“

Pope Francis, and Parolin, have repeatedly called for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as a means of brokering peace in the now two-year-long Russian war of aggression. However, the pope faced criticism when on March 20 he suggested that “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said. At the time, Parolin issued clarifying remarks in an interview with Corriere della Sera, saying that it is incumbent upon Russia “as the aggressor” to “put an end to the aggression.”

In his more recent remarks, Parolin said that in the face of war, it is crucial to continue to seek ways to end the conflict “with good intentions, trust, and creativity.”

Parolin has in the past reiterated that Ukraine has a “legitimate” right to defend itself from Russian aggression, but he also has warned that weapons being sent there by other countries could lead to a “terrible” escalation of the war.

In mid-2023, Pope Francis asked Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine. However, Parolin has since clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal.

EWTN earns multiple accolades at 2024 Gabriel Awards
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 14:55:00 -0400

The first season of the EWTN series “James the Less” received the Best Video award at the 2024 Gabriel Awards presentation on June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. / Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Atlanta, Ga., Jun 21, 2024 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

The 58th annual Gabriel Awards saw EWTN, the world’s largest Catholic media organization, win five awards in multiple categories in recognition of “outstanding artistic achievement in a television or radio program or series that entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and true vision of life.”

Sponsored by the Catholic Media Association, this year’s awards took place on June 20 within the context of the association’s annual conference in Atlanta. EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado and National Catholic Register Editor-in-Chief Shannon Mullen accepted the awards for Best Feature Film, Best Video, Best Television Special Event Coverage, Best Single News Story, and Best Short Documentary on behalf of their colleagues.

Winning first place for Best Single News Story, “EWTN News in Depth” anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, whose body was exhumed in May 2023 in an unexpected state of preservation.

EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA
EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Winning along with Hadro for the report were EWTN News editor Andrew Spangenberg and videographer Craig Campbell.

Taking top honors for Best Television Special Event Coverage was EWTN’s 2023 World Youth Day coverage, led by EWTN News correspondent Colm Flynn along with Eleonora Vescovini and Father Mark Mary, MFVA. EWTN Vice President of Programming and Production Peter Gagnon was also among the network’s award winners for his role as executive producer of the network’s coverage of the event.

Meanwhile, Season 1 of EWTN’s innovative series “James the Less” received the prestigious Best Video award. EWTN Director of Studio Operations Stephen Beaumont worked with EWTN producers Michael Masny and Greg Hendrick to develop the scripts for the five-part romantic comedy.

Speaking of the series, whose second season is currently in production, Beaumont told CNA: “The narratives provide an opportunity to attract people who might not otherwise watch Catholic programs. Our hope is that Catholics and non-Catholics alike will find the show entertaining and that atheists will gain insight into what Catholics believe.”

The global Catholic network, the parent company of CNA, also took first place in the feature film category for “Faith of Our Fathers,” a riveting original film about a Catholic priest defending the faith against the 19th-century English penal laws and the determination of the Irish community to protect him in the face of unrelenting persecution. EWTN President Doug Keck in his capacity as executive producer of the film received the award, along with fellow executive producer Aidan Gallagher, director Campbell Miller, and producer John Elson.

Finally, the network’s short documentary “Alive in Christ — The Eucharistic Martyrs” also took top spot in its category. The documentary brings to life the account of the first Christians and their courageous struggle to live their faith in the midst of persecution. Once again, Keck received the award in his capacity as the documentary’s executive producer, along with fellow executive producers Elson and David Sipoš, who was also the director.

In addition, EWTN News anchor Hadro also won the Best Podcast — Single Episode award for her role as co-host and producer of the “Purposeful Lab” podcast “Is Extraterrestrial Life Compatible with Christianity?” produced by the Magis Center and co-host Dr. Daniel Kuebler.

The Catholic Media Association notes that “the Gabriel Awards have been a beacon of inspiration since their inception in 1965, encouraging media professionals to create works that serve, enrich, challenge, and uplift audiences.”

Commenting on the wins for the network, EWTN Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Michael Warsaw said “this year’s Gabriel Awards are particularly meaningful to EWTN as our submissions reflected the broad range of productions the team is committed to bringing our audience— from an online digital series aimed at young audiences to the deeply meaningful story of determination of our Irish forefathers, to our wall-to-wall coverage of World Youth Day.”

Warsaw added: “We’re grateful to the Catholic Media Association board and the award selection committee for their recognition and support of the team’s hard work and are honored to stand alongside the other nominees and winners that seek to share the truth of our faith with the world through media.”

For her part, EWTN News President and COO Alvarado observed that “the recognition of the ‘EWTN News In Depth’ team’s coverage of the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster is especially significant as Catherine Hadro takes on the role of host of the program this week. We’re all grateful for the recognition from our peers in the Catholic media space and applaud the other nominees and winners for their submissions.”

Diocese of Rome closes first step toward sainthood for young wife and mother
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 14:25:00 -0400

An attendee holds a photo of Chiara Corbella Petrillo at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome on Friday officially closed the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a joyful 28-year-old wife and mother who died from cancer in 2012 in Rome.

“We strongly trust that the Church, after a careful and accurate discernment of her life and virtues, will want to soon celebrate also on Earth this daughter of our Church of Rome and propose her as an example of Christian life to contemporary Christian generations,” Bishop Baldassare Reina said at the closing ceremony June 21.

Reina, vice regent of the Diocese of Rome, presided over the session in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the inquiry was opened nearly six years ago on Sept. 21, 2018.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella, Reina said, shows us that “holiness is possible and it is the only path that makes us happy. Let us enjoy, or rather I would say, let us savor this moment, with all the processes that will be explained to us.”

Hundreds of people attended the session despite temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city of Rome. More than 3,000 people also watched a video livestream of the event on the YouTube page of the diocese.

The servant of God’s family sat in the first row of the basilica for the ceremony and included Corbella’s husband, Enrico Petrillo; their 13-year-old son, Francesco Petrillo; her parents Roberto Corbella and Maria Anselma Ruzziconi; and her sister Elisa Corbella.

In an interview before the session, Enrico Petrillo told CNA the closing of the diocesan phase for beatification “brings me so much peace.”

“The most beautiful testimony, he said, is this one made by the Church herself, because it is necessary for the Church to say, ‘Yes, what you have experienced is really something great.’”

During the closing session on Friday, diocesan officials tied up the documents and sealed them with wax. The beatitudes were also read and everyone sang hymns and prayed together the Our Father and the Glory Be in thanksgiving for the life of Corbella.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella’s cause for beatification was opened exactly five years after her death, following the requirements of canon law.

With the closing of the diocesan investigation into her life, virtues, and sanctity, documented testimonies and other materials will now be sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further scrutiny.

The next step in the process will be for the pope to recognize her as someone who lived a life of heroic virtue and declare her venerable. Corbella will then need two miracles attributed to her intercession to be declared a saint.

Corbella’s life and message

Corbella met her husband at the age of 18 while on a pilgrimage to Međugorje. They married six years later in Assisi on Sept. 21, 2008. Within the first two years of their marriage, they suffered the death of two children, Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, both of whom died less than an hour after birth from incurable disabilities.

Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Despite receiving the terminal diagnoses in pregnancy, Corbella chose to carry her babies to term.

Enrico Petrillo told CNA on June 21 that the couple made the decision to let their babies die a natural death in their parents’ arms because “for us they were lives, they existed and they were not problems to be eliminated. ... This, in my opinion, is a core part of our experience: the fact of safeguarding life.”

Sometimes Catholics use the language to “defend life,” he continued. “Life is not even to be defended, it is to be guarded, which is perhaps a nuance, but it is a nuance that Chiara helps us to grasp, because those who ‘defend’ have enemies. We don’t have any enemies and we embraced [the story] the Lord was writing.”

Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“That is why it did not feel right,” he said, “to substitute ourselves for what the King of History was thinking of for us, because we knew, because we sensed, that it could be the most beautiful thing.”

Corbella became pregnant for a third time with their son Francesco in 2010 and ultrasounds showed that he was in perfect health. The joyful news was short-lived as Corbella was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors removed a tumor on her tongue that turned out to be cancerous.

As the cancer metastasized, it became difficult for Corbella to speak and see clearly. A photo of her wearing an eye patch with a big smile was taken in April 2012, less than two weeks after she learned that her condition was terminal. She prepared for death by receiving the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Corbella died on June 13, 2012, at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends, one year after her son was born. Hundreds of people packed into the filled church at her funeral three days later.

“The most beautiful message” Corbella reveals to the world “is that we are all children like her,” Enrico Petrillo told CNA.

“And so, these years and all that we experienced help to make people understand that Chiara is not a holy card to put on an altar,” he continued. “She is like us, she is a daughter like us, she is not ... a heroine or a superhero, but she is simply a girl who knows that she is loved by God and because of that she can do anything.”

In a speech at the closing session, Reina, who is also an auxiliary bishop of Rome, recalled an important moment in the young life of Corbella. During a difficult period before her marriage to Enrico, a spiritual adviser told Corbella: “When God opens a door, no one closes it, and when God closes it, no one opens it.”

It was a reference, Reina said, to Revelation 3:7: “‘The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open.’”

Corbella wrote that “this word changed my life,” Reina said. “From that moment on, Chiara understood God as the king of history, but above all as the king of her own personal story.”

“That which God thought good, beautiful, or holy for her life, he would realize, and because of this, she should not be discouraged, nor have fear, because despite sin, trials and tribulations, sickness, and death, God is faithful!” the bishop continued.

“That verse of Revelation,” he said, “would be the hermeneutic key to understanding everything that would happen: The Lord would give to her the husband, children, time, and health in the measure that he always thought of for her.”

“Her desire to be a wife and mom, to grow old together with her husband and to raise their children, would not be realized according to her human aspirations, but in the measure and way that God had planned and without depriving her of his happiness,” the bishop said.

Corbella’s father, Roberto Corbella, told CNA on June 21: “I always say that we are lucky parents, because every day, in the news, we hear about young kids who have died in violent situations ... meanwhile [Chiara] left with a smile, meanwhile she left after telling us all, ‘I love you.’”

“Then, the fact that we see that so many people in the world rely on her helps us to accept [her death] better, in the sense that it’s clear that I would rather ... still have her sitting on my lap,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But seeing so many people ask for help certainly makes us accept everything much better.”

Pope Francis advances martyred Albanian priests along path to sainthood
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 13:51:00 -0400

Father Luigi Paliq (left) and Father Gjon Gazulli were declared martyrs by Pope Francis on June 20, 2024. / Credit: Screen capture from of photo courtesy of The Order of Friars Minor, Episcopal Conference of Albania

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 13:51 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday advanced the cause for sainthood for two martyred Catholic priests who were killed “in hatred of the faith” in Albania in the first decades of the 20th century.

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints made the announcement of the priests’ martyrdom and subsequent beatification in a press release on Thursday. When the pope declares that a person was martyred for the faith, that individual is beatified, and the title “Blessed” is granted.

Father Luigj Paliq was murdered in Albania in 1913, and Father Gjon Gazulli was killed in 1927. In 2016, Pope Francis beatified 38 Albanian clerics and lay Catholics who were martyred under the country’s communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

Paliq, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor in Cortemaggiore, was the rector of the Franciscan Convent of Gjakova. He defended local populations, including Muslims, from the persecutions of the Montenegrin forces that took control of the region after the First Balkan War.

He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Montenegrins on March 7, 1913. Before his death, he “confirmed his full willingness to die for Christ and for the Church,” with his last words to that effect “heard and reported by those who had witnessed his shooting.”

Gazulli was born in Dajc, Albania, in 1893. He entered the Pontifical Seminary of Skorka at age 12, being ordained a priest in 1919 after overcoming several health problems.

He established a parochial school in the Koman region of Albania; eventually, he drew the ire of local authorities due to the religious influence he held over priests and other locals.

Arrested by the government, he was “subjected to a farce trial” and convicted on false charges. He was hanged in the square in Skorko on March 5, 1927.

The priest died “by forgiving his killers and professing his loyalty to Christ and the Church,” the dicastery said.

The dicastery on Thursday also put several other faithful on the path to being declared saints, including recognizing the heroic virtues of Servant of God Isaiah Columbro, an Italian priest who during his life was “much sought after for his prayers and blessings.”

Columbro was “above all esteemed and well-liked for the indefatigable exercise of the sacrament of penance.” He died in 2004.

The Vatican also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Vicenta Guilarte Alonso, a member of the Spanish Daughters of Jesus who joined the order in 1909 and subsequently traveled to the Brazilian town of Pirenopolis to found a community there.

She was later transferred to the municipality of Leopoldina, where she was made doorman and sacristan. Though she had earlier been deputy superior, she “humbly accepted this situation, which astonished many sisters, without protesting and expressing regret,” the dicastery said.

She served in that role until her death in 1960.

Democrats move to repeal federal law that forbids abortion materials in U.S. mail
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 11:30:00 -0400

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Democrats worried that a new Trump administration may use a 150-year-old federal law to stop abortion pills from being sent through the mail have announced an attempt to repeal it.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, said in a Thursday press release on her website that she had introduced a bill to repeal the Comstock Act, a law she claimed “Republicans and anti-choice extremists want to misuse to ban abortion nationwide.”

Passed in 1873, the Comstock Act bans in part the usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any materials that can facilitate or cause abortions.

The portions of the Comstock Act banning the mailing of abortion-causing items have not been enforced for decades, at least since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to abortion under the federal constitution in Roe v. Wade.

Yet the question came up again after the court overturned Roe in June 2022 and declared that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, sending abortion law back to legislatures and state referendums.

Smith in her announcement on Thursday said the Comstock rule is “a 150-year-old zombie law,” one that’s “long been relegated to the dustbin of history.”

“Now that Trump has overturned Roe, a future Republican administration could try to misapply this 150-year-old Comstock law to deny American women their rights, even in states where abortion rights are protected by state law,” she alleged.

The senator said it was “too dangerous to leave this law on the books.” Multiple other Democrats signaled their support for the bill on Thursday.

The federal Food and Drug Administration began allowing abortion pills to be sent through the mail on a temporary basis in April 2021, not long after President Joe Biden took office. The agency made the approval permanent in December 2021.

The Biden Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said in December 2022 that mailing abortion pills does not violate federal law “where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully.”

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, decried attempts to repeal the Comstock Act’s references to abortion-causing items.

“It’s quite astounding. Democrats in Congress must wake up every day wondering what else they can do to make it easier to end the lives of unborn children,” Tobias told CNA by text.

“These are the same people trying to shut down pregnancy centers, trying to block pregnancy centers from online search engines, and vilifying the abortion pill reversal process,” Tobias said. “This latest effort is one more attempt not to help women and babies but instead an effort to make it easier to kill preborn babies.”

“It’s sad that the Democratic Party has become the party that pushes death for the most innocent and vulnerable among us.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, meanwhile, said the Comstock Act repeal isn’t likely to gain traction in Congress this year, given that Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate, both by a narrow majority.

“The bill is unlikely to go anywhere given the makeup of the House and Senate,” a spokesman for the organization told CNA by email.

“Instead of fearmongering about how a law may be applied, Democrats should be ensuring that the FDA is actually protecting women’s health with proper safety standards for abortion drugs.”

Is there a satanic element in rock music? An expert explains
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 07:00:00 -0400

null / Credit: NOVODIASTOCK/Shuterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Claudia Caneva, an Italian professor at the Roma Tre University, gave a presentation recently on “Music and Satanism” in the course “Exorcism and Deliverance Prayer” that was held in the Italian capital and sponsored by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the Italian Socioreligious Research and Information Group.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Caneva warned about the influence that rock music and other subgenres such as heavy metal, death metal, or death rock have on the behavior of youth, mere “victims” of a cultural industry produced by the “adult world.”

Caneva, who is also a professor at the Institute of Sciences of the Pontifical Lateran University and the Salesian University of Rome, has been studying for years how artistic products influence the behavior of young people.

An author of books on the incitement of the contemporary imagination or on the relationship between music and philosophy, Caneva asserted that this type of music is harmful and can even “physiologically alter adolescents.”

“Demonic influence through music, a choice vehicle of dissemination, is a phenomenon to which we must be very attentive,” she warned.

The professor also stated that heavy metal, “which has a very piercing sound that envelops young people,” has become an object of study and is a topic “that is currently of interest to experts and researchers.”

In this regard, she recalled the case of the Italian Davide Canotti, a former follower of Marco Dimitri’s Satanic sect known as “Satan’s Children,” which was founded in 1982 in Bologna, Italy.

Canotti, Caneva noted, was interrogated by the police after he had desecrated several ossuaries in cemeteries in Italy and stolen bones of buried children.

“In his response to the authorities, he said that he had never taken drugs and that his only drug was music,” the expert pointed out. The man claimed that he listened to black metal groups in whose songs they even invited people to “destroy the tombstones and break the crosses.”

Young people, the main victims

According to Caneva, this is just one example of how Satanism is present in this type of music, which from the beginning stirs up a certain type of behavior and “induces certain emotions” in a person.

She also pointed out that music albums include subliminal invocations to Satan, although she clarified that “if you listen to it, it’s not an inevitable result that the devil is inside you.”

However, the professor noted that many exorcisms that are carried out are due to the victims listening to these types of songs.

“I believe that young people are victims of this situation, and I always ask myself: Who produces these things? Who controls them? Why are certain things allowed?” she lamented.

Along these lines, Caneva made reference to the phenomenon called “mirror neurons,” a relevant discovery of neuroscience used in the educational field that explains how neurons have a behavior similar to that of a mirror.

This dynamic shows “that the action we observe in another individual is reflected in our brain, making neurons play a decisive role in our behaviors.”

Consequently, she warned that “music is not just music, music is a show, it’s a performance,” and young people are “victims of those who produce it.”

The fundamental role of parents

Caneva stressed to ACI Prensa the importance that parents play in this area and in their role in forming their children. “Parents are educators and must be attentive, initiate a conversation with young people, fostering maturity.”

“Young people are very sensitive to neuroendocrine dynamics, and especially in adolescence, where they experience a hormonal explosion, loaded with aggressiveness and emotional affectivity,” she said.

She also reiterated that prohibiting this type of music “is of no use,” but rather it’s a process requiring a serious effort and working on awareness to make young people see that this type of music “can have very negative consequences.”

Caneva also cited the musical subgenre of Trap and other sectors of the industry such as video games or television series, which lead to “negative emotions, aggressiveness, and restlessness.”

The purpose? Hopeless and manipulable youth

Regarding the purpose pursued by a large part of the current industry, the Italian expert said that they seek “a lack of hope that destroys young people, to make them insecure and to be able to manipulate them.”

“In television series they propose ‘antiheroes’ as role models. Young people are the future and Satanism is not only found in music, those who engender war or who exploit the poor at work are also Satanic,” she emphasized.

Finally, Caneva noted that if you look at the album covers or posters of this type of musical group, Satanism “is easily identifiable.”

“But remember that Lucifer was the most beautiful of the angels on the throne of ice, and ice means indifference, something that this industry also aims to do, to make young people become cold and indifferent people,” she concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholic abbey and Baptist university exchange land ‘to build up the kingdom’
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

In exchange for the transfer of the 74-acre Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Green Campus — formerly St. Gregory’s University — to St. Gregory’s Abbey, OBU will receive two parcels of land for future development totaling 134 acres in Shawnee, just east of Oklahoma City. The abbey and the university announced the news on June 7, 2024.  / Courtesy: St. Gregory’s Abbey

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In a unique sign of ecumenicism, a Catholic abbey and a Baptist university are exchanging property so the abbey can receive historically significant land that once was home to the abbey’s university.

In exchange for the transfer of the 74-acre Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Green Campus — formerly St. Gregory’s University — to St. Gregory’s Abbey, OBU will receive two parcels of land for future development totaling 134 acres in Shawnee, just east of Oklahoma City. The abbey and the university announced the news on June 7.

The abbey shared the announcement in a press release on June 7, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, stating that the “entirety” of the former campus of St. Gregory University “once again is dedicated to the life and ministries of the monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey!”

The announcement also coincides with the 147th anniversary of “the beginning of the liturgical life of our community.”

Founded in 1875, St. Gregory’s University first began as a high school, then a college in the 1990s, and finally a university in the early 2000s. But when it closed in 2017 after the university filed for bankruptcy, it came into the ownership of OBU.

“Over the last two years, we have been in quiet conversations with the leadership of Oklahoma Baptist University as to how we might work together for the betterment of our complementary missions,” the statement read.

“Through these conversations, we discerned a path by which the abbey could exchange part of our undeveloped pastureland for the grounds and facilities that for some 120 years had served the legacy and ministries of our monastic community,” it read.

“We prayerfully considered both the opportunities and the risks that such an exchange could present and now are thrilled that the exchange has taken place,” the announcement continued.

“The monastic community is thrilled that our historic grounds and facilities once again are available for the benefit of our mission and ministries,” Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen said in a June 7 press release.

“We were pleased that these facilities dedicated to the kingdom of God were entrusted to our brothers and sisters in Christ at OBU after the closure of St. Gregory’s University,” he noted. “Now they come back to the abbey but will continue to be accessible to the needs of OBU.”

The abbot noted that this reflects the brotherly bond beyond between the two groups.

“As we read in Proverbs 17:17, the bonds of Christian brothers are strengthened in times of adversity,” Stasyszen continued. “Whether it be through the closure of St. Gregory’s University or the ongoing aftermath of the 2023 tornado, our relationship has grown stronger in challenging times for the good of our institutions and of the broader community.”

Heath Thomas, president of OBU, said in the release that the lands received from the abbey will help their community “for years to come.”

“While we are honored to have stewarded this gift for the past several years, we are thrilled that the historic heritage of the Green Campus will go back to the abbey. It is fitting and right,” he noted.

“Our trustees voted unanimously for this land exchange and we are both excited and hopeful as we look towards the future opportunities that will result for OBU,” said Eric Costanzo, chair of the OBU board of trustees.

“We are grateful to President Thomas and the leadership of OBU for working with us in such a positive way so that the complementary missions of OBU and the abbey can continue to flourish and be of benefit to our many constituents,” the abbot continued.

“We look forward to continuing our positive relationship with OBU to build up the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ Our Lord,” he noted.

“Our work now begins in earnest as we seek to restore these historic grounds and facilities to their former splendor and even improve them to welcome many others to share in our life and service to the kingdom of God!” the abbey press release concluded.

Pope Francis to Lutherans: ‘Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism’
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 17:15:00 -0400

Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation on June 20, 2024, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis this morning received a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation at the Vatican and stressed that “Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism.”

In his talk given during the audience held in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, the Holy Father called this encounter “an important gesture of ecumenical fraternity.”

The pontiff recalled the visit of this delegation to Rome three years ago, an occasion in which they reflected on the upcoming 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea in 2025 as an ecumenical event.

In this context, he noted that it is “a beautiful sign of hope that has a special place in the history of reconciliation between Catholics and Lutherans.

“Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism,” Pope Francis highlighted, at the same time noting that “he is divine mercy incarnate, and our ecumenical mission is to bear witness to this.”

The Holy Father also recalled the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” signed 25 years ago, as “another sign of hope in our history of reconciliation.” Thus the pontiff encouraged his listeners to keep it “in our memory as something always living” and to celebrate this anniversary “as a feast of hope.”

“May the God of hope be with us and continue to accompany our dialogue of truth and charity with his blessing,” Pope Francis said.

Finally, the Holy Father recalled “something beautiful” from the Orthodox bishop Zizioulas, a pioneer of ecumenism, who “used to say that he knew the date of Christian union: the day of the final judgment!”

“But in the meantime, he said, we must walk together: walk together, pray together and do works of charity together, on the way toward that ‘hyper-ecumenical’ day that will be the final judgment,” the Holy Father concluded, adding that “Zizioulas had a good sense of humor!”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage marches through extreme heat to bring Jesus to the people
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 16:45:00 -0400

Cows in Nebraska watch as the Eucharistic Jesus passes by. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Amid a brutal heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, the pilgrims on each of the four legs of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage have all passed what is roughly the halfway point on their journeys to Indianapolis.

The four pilgrimage groups — currently in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Nebraska — will converge in Indianapolis on July 16 in time for the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17–21. A cohort of 30 young men and women have committed to walking the entirety of the routes, encouraging people to join along the way as they process with the Eucharistic Jesus. The processions have attracted thousands of participants in many areas.

“We have definitely spent a lot of this week in the heat, in the mid-90s,” said Marina Frattaroli, one of the pilgrims on the eastern Seton Route, at a Wednesday press conference. Much of the eastern U.S. is baking in unseasonably warm spring weather, with Pittsburgh under an excessive heat warning until Saturday evening.

“On Monday, I believe that we walked 15, 16 miles in the mid-90s. And so the team definitely is feeling the heat wave … it’s another opportunity to bring out those big prayer intentions, as we unite ourselves in Christ,” she said.

The Eucharist makes its way through Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Juliana Lamb
The Eucharist makes its way through Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Juliana Lamb

Frattaroli mentioned that despite the heat, the pilgrims have been able to act as “ambassadors” several times and explain the purpose of the processions to non-Catholic onlookers.

“There has always been a crowd with us. And even Monday, over 15 miles … there were well over 100 people, even at the smallest, and probably closer to 200 in the crowd at all times. So people are coming out, and people are even enduring the hard days together,” she said.

Marian Route pilgrim Matthew Heidenreich told about a boat procession the group took on Shawano Lake in Wisconsin and a walk to nearby Camp Tekakwitha, where a large number of kids at the summer camp greeted the pilgrims. On Sunday, the group visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion near Green Bay, the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage continues from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion near Green Bay, Wisconsin, the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States. Credit: Emma Follett
The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage continues from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion near Green Bay, Wisconsin, the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States. Credit: Emma Follett

Heidenreich said it has been a blessing to engage in service projects for the poor during the pilgrimage as well. The Marian group will soon reach Milwaukee, where dozens of events are planned.

As told by Serra Route pilgrim Jaella Mac Au, a procession at a lake in Nebraska included an unexpected surprise — one of the vans that occasionally carries the Eucharist and the pilgrims got stuck in some sand.

“We were just like, oh, my gosh, like, what are we gonna do, Lord? ... We asked for the prayers of St. Anthony, and praise God, our van got out. And it was just such a beautiful team bonding moment where we were digging out the van and pushing together, and it was just so beautiful to also include Our Lord in it.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln carries the Eucharist through Nebraska. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln carries the Eucharist through Nebraska. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

On the southern Juan Diego Route, which began in Texas, the pilgrims endured extreme heat near the start of the route but have found respite at a retreat the last few days at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

As in past weeks, the pilgrims praised the hospitality of the people they encountered on the route and said they have been well-fed with local food at almost every stage.

Mac Au said her favorite food so far has been tacos and other Hispanic food provided to them when they went through Sacramento, while Frattaroli praised the authentic Italian food they were given while passing through Brooklyn.

Catholics throughout the U.S. are encouraged to register to join the pilgrims in walking short sections of the pilgrimages and joining in numerous other special events put on by their local dioceses. To read ongoing coverage about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress, visit the National Catholic Register.

Pope Francis fields questions from students about gender identity and LGBTQ discrimination
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 16:15:00 -0400

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 20, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis participated in a live Q-and-A video call with university students on Thursday in which a bisexual student from the Philippines asked the pope to stop using “offensive language” and an Australian student expressed concern that teachers in Catholic schools are espousing gender theory.

In the one-hour conversation on June 20 organized by Loyola University’s Building Bridges Initiative, Pope Francis spoke directly to students from across the Asia-Pacific region.

Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera, a psychology student from a Catholic university in Manila who introduced himself as “JLove,” told the pope about how he feels stigmatized.

“I myself am outcasted and bullied due to my bisexuality, my gayness, my identity, and being the son of a single parent,” Acebedo said.

“My mother cannot divorce my father. Please allow divorce in the Philippines and stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community. This leads to immense pain. Due to this, I developed bipolar disorder and I am stigmatized,” the Filipino student added.

Elizabeth Fernandez, a law and business student from Sydney, expressed how many Catholic university students today feel “bombarded by circular ideologies, mock for our faith, and outnumbered in our mission to be beacons of hope.”

“We are also concerned that many young people receive shallow faith formation. Some religion teachers in Catholic schools use class time to preach their own agendas of abortion, contraception, and gender theory,” she said.

“We propose that all religion teachers be trained catechists and that young people be incentivized to become catechists themselves,” Fernandez said. “We want young people to also have greater access to confession and to have Christ integrated into all school subjects, thereby fostering a culture of greater reverence for the Eucharist.”

The Australian student also asked the pope to pray for her mother, Donna, who is the mother of nine children and was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.

The video livestream showed Pope Francis carefully taking notes on a piece of paper on his desk as each of the university students spoke and shared their concerns. The pope listened to multiple students before answering their questions all together as a group.

In his response, Pope Francis noted that the question of one’s personal identity was a recurring theme mentioned by many of the students.

Pope Francis underlined that problems of discrimination can be solved with closeness and proximity.

Speaking in Spanish to the students who listened to a simultaneous English translation, the pope said that there is “discrimination against people based on identity,” including “gender discrimination.” The English translator on the video call translated this for the students as discrimination due to “sexual identity or orientation or gender discrimination,” although Pope Francis did not use the words “sexual identity or orientation.”

Francis went on to focus much of his response on the problem of discrimination against women in which women are treated as if they are in “a second category,” adding “but we see that today in the world women are the best leaders … and are superior to men in their ability to create community.”

“The capacity for motherhood gives women a much more effective position of action than men and this is important,” Pope Francis said.

“To sum up, no to discrimination … and yes to proximity, closeness,” he said. “This is what leads us to love.”

Pope Francis also addressed the issue of Catholic education, stressing the importance of having good faith formation so that young people know their faith well and are led to become “authentic Christians.”

In response to Elizabeth’s concern that Catholic students are mocked for their faith on campus, Pope Francis told her “Christians have always been persecuted from the very beginning.”

The pope warned that with persecution comes the temptation to “lukewarm Christianity” but underlined that “martyrdom is part of Christianity.”

In total, 12 students from Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand spoke to Pope Francis in the video call.

Hseih Hsiang, an electrical engineering student from Taiwan, told the pope: “Although Catholics are a minority in Taiwan, we have the freedom of sharing our faith without being threatened or not respected.”

In response to a concern from a student from Indonesia about technology isolating young people, Pope Francis said that technology can help, but it is not sufficient. He stressed the importance for young people to have a sense of belonging and asked the students to reflect on what is the real meaning of “belonging.”

The Building Bridges Initiative described the event as “a synodal encounter between Pope Francis and university students,” noting that the event was not officially part of the Synod on Synodality.

Pope Francis will travel to the Asia Pacific region Sept. 2–13 in which he will visit Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore.

San Diego Catholic Charities struggles with security risks after accusation of ‘smuggling’
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 15:30:00 -0400

Asylum seekers wait in line to be processed by the Border Patrol at a makeshift camp near the U.S.-Mexico border east of Jacumba, San Diego County, California, Jan. 2, 2024. / Credit: GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A California Catholic charity has been struggling for weeks to deal with ongoing security risks amid claims that the organization is illegally sheltering and trafficking migrants.

Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego CEO Vino Pajanor told CNA that the ongoing chaos, which includes protests and harassing messages, has been a shock even to workers who have served at the organization for decades.

“They have never seen something like this,” he said.

The difficulties began earlier this year after activist-journalist James O’Keefe reported on what he described as an “illegal immigrant compound” at a Ramada Suites in San Diego. In the video, O’Keefe suggests the facility is involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants.

At one point O’Keefe’s team identifies what it claims is a list of “people who run the facility,” which included workers listed with the San Diego Catholic Charities. O’Keefe also posted an organizational chart of the charity group on X.

The New York Times reported on June 2 that Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego began experiencing protests and harassing calls after O’Keefe’s allegations. Pajanor, meanwhile, told CNA this week that the organization is still dealing with those threats.

“More of [O’Keefe’s] followers” have been demonstrating, he said, “thinking that we are harboring undocumented ‘illegal’ individuals, and that we are smuggling kids and trafficking kids.”

“Protesters have come to our buildings,” he said. “Over the weekend they protested in front of our migrant shelter, blocking our driveway for about an hour, until the local police came by.”

There is no truth, Pajanor said, to the suggestion that the charity is participating in a smuggling scheme.

“None at all,” he said. “None at all.”

O’Keefe did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Spokeswoman for Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego Kimberly Ortiz told CNA that the charity has “a lease with the hotel and CCDSD does the day-to-day management of the shelter operations.”

“The hotel management does the janitorial, upkeep, and maintenance of the hotel,” she said.

‘Exactly what Jesus calls us to do’

For years, San Diego Catholic Charities has offered immigrant services in the Diocese of San Diego. The charity group’s main headquarters is fewer than two dozen miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

On its website Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego says it aspires to be “the premier nonprofit provider of immigration services in San Diego and Imperial Counties.” It offers immigrants help with applications and other services with the aim to “enable eligible immigrants to obtain legal immigrant or citizenship status.”

Pajanor said the organization began operating migrant shelters in April 2021 amid a surge of illegal immigration to the U.S. “We’ve always been open about what we’re doing,” he said.

The organization shared material with CNA showing that it has assisted more than 245,000 individuals since the shelters opened — many from Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. About 25% have been children.

“Every one of these individuals are processed by [the U.S. Border Patrol],” Pajanor said. “Every one of them has a notice to appear in a court of law. Once they get that notice, Border Patrol releases them to us.”

“When they come to Catholic Charities, every one of them has a document,” he said. “They’re all documented individuals in the United States. Not a single one is undocumented.”

“There’s nothing illegal about what Catholic Charities is doing,” he said. “What we are doing is a humanitarian service.”

The CEO said the group has been forced to deal with a logistical headache of security in the months since O’Keefe made his allegations.

“It made us add more security,” he said, saying the process involves both “unnecessary costs and unnecessary fear for our team members and clients and guests coming to our location.”

“This has cost us unnecessary work and unnecessary expenses while we’re taking care of the people coming to ask us for help,” he said.

Pajanor said the security process is a “constant pain.”

“Every time that a sporadic group wants to protest, we have to add security,” he said. “Either we add security ahead of time or we add it afterwards until it dies down.”

Amid successive years of record illegal immigration, San Diego has lately been at the center of illegal border crossings. U.S. government data show that the city’s border enforcement has encountered more than 220,000 illegal immigrants fiscal year-to-date, seconded only by Tucson.

Pajanor argued that the immigrant facilities run by the San Diego charity group are addressing both a humanitarian crisis and the local civic emergency of rising homeless populations.

“We’re preventing them from being homeless in the streets,” he said. “If we’re not involved with Border Patrol to bring them to migrant shelters, those hundreds of individuals every day would end up on the streets of San Diego and add to the homeless population.”

The CEO expressed disappointment over the negative response to its migrant work.

“Matthew 25 calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit prisoners,” he said. “That’s our faith and that’s our belief. And we are doing exactly what Jesus calls us to do.”

“We are here to serve the community,” he said. “Why are they targeting us?”

U.S. bishops issue plea for nonviolence ahead of elections
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 15:00:00 -0400

Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. / Credit: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 20, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A leading U.S. bishop issued a statement Wednesday urging Christians “and people of goodwill” to abstain from political violence and resolve differences through dialogue and the voting process.

In the statement titled “‘Pursue What Leads to Peace’: A Christian Response to Rising Threats of Political and Ideological Violence,” Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia warned that violent behavior is “seen by many as an acceptable means for carrying out political or ideological disputes.”

Gudziak, who serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) committee on domestic justice and human development, wrote:

“We pray and urge all Christians and people of goodwill: Abstain from political violence of any kind! Instead, ‘pursue what leads to peace and building up one another’ (Rom 14:19) through dialogue, seeking justice.”

Describing the political climate today, Gudziak wrote that “political speech is often full of insults, fear, anger, and anxiety. Sadly, racism, religious discrimination, and xenophobia are on the rise. People in public office are receiving more death threats than ever before, some of which turn into physical attacks.”

The document references an Axios poll from earlier this year, which showed that 49% of Americans expect there will be violence in response to the results of future presidential elections.

He called on Christians to address others “with the God-given human dignity” of each person when engaging in political discussions.

“It is hypocritical for a Christian to ‘bless the Lord and Father,’” the document continues, “and then turn around and ‘curse human beings who are made in the likeness and image of God’ (Jas 3:9).”

“Between violence and indifference, persistent and humble dialogue is the necessary path to peace,” the statement said.

The statement’s release comes during a tense presidential election year, fewer than five months until the rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

“Let us pray, then, that by turning away from violence, away from anger, away from demeaning others who are made in the likeness and image of God, we may work for peace through dialogue and justice,” the statement concludes.

“We pray with trust and thanksgiving that the Lord will bless our country, including our political process, and that ‘the tender mercy of our God’ will ‘guide our feet into the path of peace’ (Lk 1:78-79).”

Former U.S. nuncio Viganò to undergo Church trial for schism, rejecting Pope Francis 
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 14:19:00 -0400

Archbishop Carlo Vigano. / Credit: Edward Pentin/National Catholic Register

CNA Newsroom, Jun 20, 2024 / 14:19 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on Thursday claimed that the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has initiated proceedings against him over the alleged crime of schism.

Citing a document he published on his website and posted on social media, the former papal nuncio to the United States wrote that he was summoned to Rome on June 20 to face an extrajudicial penal process for the charges.

“I have been summoned to the Palace of the Holy Office on June 20, in person or represented by a canon lawyer,” the prelate wrote on X. “I assume that the sentence has already been prepared, given that it is an extrajudicial process.”

The specific charges outlined against Viganò involve making public statements that allegedly deny the fundamental elements necessary to maintain communion with the Catholic Church. This includes denying the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the rightful pontiff and outright rejection of the doctrines established during the Second Vatican Council.

Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C., from 2011 to 2016, commented he regarded the accusations against him “as an honor.”

Vatican News reported that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has not commented on the alleged proceedings.

CNA contacted the Vatican for confirmation and comment.

Viganò made headlines in 2018 with the allegation — followed up by several letters — that senior prelates had been complicit in covering up alleged sex abuse by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He also called on Pope Francis to resign.

According to Vatican News, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Thursday in reaction to the news: “Archbishop Viganò has taken some attitudes and some actions for which he must answer.”

Parolin added: “I am very sorry because I always appreciated him as a great worker, very faithful to the Holy See, someone who was, in a certain sense, also an example. When he was apostolic nuncio he did good work.”

Daniel Payne contributed to this report.

This is a developing story.

Colorado baker returns to court after activist sues over ‘gender transition’ cake
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 12:08:00 -0400

Cake artist Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. / Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom

Denver, Colo., Jun 20, 2024 / 12:08 pm (CNA).

A Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, is back in court defending what he sees as his right not to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition on the grounds that doing so would interfere with his religious beliefs.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who was sued for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

On Tuesday the Colorado Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Phillips’ appeal of a lower court’s ruling that found he had discriminated against the individual who had sued him for refusing to make a pink birthday cake with blue frosting.

This latest case began in 2017 when Autumn Scardina, a “transgender” attorney, asked Phillips to make a cake to celebrate Scardina’s “transition.” Scardina later requested the cake shop make a custom cake of Satan smoking marijuana, to “correct the errors of [Phillips’] thinking.”

After both a trial court and an appeals court ruled against him, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) appealed on behalf of Phillips.

“Jack serves everyone at Masterpiece Cakeshop, including those who identify as LGBT,” ADF Legal Counsel Jake Warner told CNA in a statement. “Whether he creates a custom cake always depends on what the cake will express, not who requests it.”

“For over a decade, government officials and activists have misused state law to threaten and punish Jack because they disagree with him,” he continued.

“Yesterday, we asked the Colorado Supreme Court to affirm free speech is for everyone and to ensure that the government cannot force Jack to create a custom cake expressing a message that violates his beliefs,” he said of the oral arguments in the Colorado Supreme Court.

The case is related to a recent Supreme Court decision to affirm a graphic designer’s religious freedom, Warner noted.

“We also argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis reaffirmed that Colorado can’t force artists to express a message inconsistent with their beliefs,” he added.

Phillips opened Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in 1993 and runs the shop with his wife, Debi. Both prioritize their faith as Christians and don’t make cakes that go against their consciences. Phillips has noted in the past that he won’t make cakes for messages he disagrees with including Halloween, divorces, or any cakes with disparaging messages.

“We hope the Colorado Supreme Court will protect free speech for all and finally bring justice for Jack,” Warner said.

The ethics of IVF: Where Catholics and Baptists can agree
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 11:15:00 -0400

null / Credit: Tati9/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention, which represents the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., voted to approve a resolution laying out the ethical implications of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and calling on Baptists to “only utilize infertility treatments and reproductive technologies in ways consistent with the dignity of the human embryo.”

The resolution, which is a statement of belief and is nonbinding, follows a landmark ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in February that found that frozen human embryos are children under state law. The resolution represents the first official statement on IVF from the SBC — which claims nearly 13 million members — despite prominent SBC leaders and ethicists criticizing the use of IVF for years.

The SBC resolution garnered national attention when it passed last week, in part because it now means that the two largest single Christian denominations in the United States — Catholics and Southern Baptists — have both officially explicated teachings specifically against IVF, despite the procedure remaining popular among members of both faiths. Overall, roughly 2% of all children in the U.S. are conceived through IVF.

What does the Baptist faith teach about the use of IVF, and how does this compare with the teaching of the Catholic Church? Here’s what you need to know.

First, the Catholic view

While the Catholic Church encourages certain fertility treatments for couples struggling to have children, the use of IVF is contrary to Catholic teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2377) states that IVF is “morally unacceptable.”

In the IVF process, the sperm and egg are joined in a lab environment and the live embryo is later implanted into a uterus to continue developing until birth. Prior to this, a drug is administered to the woman to induce the release of multiple eggs in one cycle, while the man’s sperm is retrieved through masturbation.

Ultimately, IVF involves the use of artificial means to achieve pregnancy outside of sex between a husband and wife, or “the marital act” — a disassociation that the Church teaches is contrary to the dignity of both parents and children.

In addition, almost half of the human embryos — millions — created through IVF are “discarded” during the process whereby embryos are selected for implantation, according to the Center for Genetics and Society. Millions more are being kept frozen in laboratories across the country, where they are often stored indefinitely, discarded after a while, accidentally destroyed, or intentionally destroyed in embryonic scientific research.

For these and other reasons, the Church has judged the process of IVF, similar to surrogacy, to be incompatible with the Church’s understanding of the sanctity of every life from the moment of conception.

What do Baptists believe about IVF?

Like many Protestants, Baptists believe in the Bible as “a perfect treasure of divine instruction.” According to a 2000 statement of faith from the SBC, Christians “should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

The SBC has released over 20 resolutions affirming the pro-life view that life begins at the moment of conception. Still, similar to several other major Protestant denominations, the SBC lacked a clear teaching on the morality of IVF.

The June 12 resolution calls on Southern Baptists to pray for couples who experience infertility, promote adoption, and ask the government to restrict actions that violate the sanctity of human life. And, specifically for couples experiencing infertility, the resolution asks them to consider reproductive technologies that are ethical.

Despite this action, many Baptist individuals have expressed support for IVF, especially since the resolution passed. Because Baptist congregations are autonomous and the Baptist faith lacks a central, infallible teaching authority — such as the pope — Baptist Christians are free to assess the issue of IVF for themselves and decide accordingly.

But just because the SBC as a body has not explicitly taught against IVF until now doesn’t mean prominent Baptist leaders and ethicists have not been critical of the practice. In particular, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC has released detailed ethical analyses of IVF, with the commission variously concluding that it is “opposed to the willful destruction or even donating to scientific experimentation of non-implanted human embryos wantonly created in the typical IVF process.”

Other Baptist leaders such as Russell Moore, Karen Swallow Prior, and Albert Mohler, president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky, have written and spoken extensively against the use of IVF for years. Mohler’s criticisms, in part, include the fact that IVF can be used by LGBT couples.

In an op-ed published following the SBC resolution, Mohler admitted that “evangelical Christians have been late to get serious on this issue.”

“Far too many Christians say they believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life at every stage, from fertilization to natural death, but when the issue turns to the massive ethical issues related to IVF, many evangelicals, including far too many Southern Baptists, have refused to connect the dots,” Mohler wrote.

“The SBC gains nothing politically by speaking up for human embryos. We speak up because we truly believe that human life is sacred from the moment of fertilization,” the respected theologian continued.

Mohler authored the June 12 SBC resolution along with SBTS professor Andrew Walker. In a June 13 statement on social media, Walker noted that “Southern Baptists can no longer remain silent or on the fence about IVF.”

“Protestants, I fear, have unwittingly acquiesced, with the greatest of intentions, to an industry that promises life by also tampering with it. Given what is happening in the culture, now is as good a time as ever to speak with biblical clarity,” he continued.

“Human embryos are human beings who bear God’s image at all stages of their development. We believe this consistently, or we do not. Everyone who is reading this was once an embryo themselves. Though you and I are no longer in the embryonic stage of our existence, who we are today is not substantively different than who we were then. Our nature is all the same,” Walker said.

“The bottom line is this: If we believe it is wrong to kill unborn life in the womb, we should extend that logic to understand that creating excess embryos and freezing them outside the womb is also wrong.”

What should Catholics make of the Baptists’ resolution?

Andrew Kubick, a Catholic bioethicist with the Religious Freedom Institute and the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that he welcomes the SBC’s resolution, saying it affirms numerous truths that Catholics and Baptists hold in common as Christians. These include the belief that every human being bears God’s image, has intrinsic dignity, and possesses inherent rights, and also that children are a gift from God.

“These truths are expressly taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but they are also expressed in the Bible and accessible through reason so that our brothers and sisters outside of the Church can understand and live according to the moral order established by God,” Kubick said.

While the Catholic Church’s moral analysis of IVF “goes much deeper,” he said, it is commendable that the South Baptist’s resolution identifies some immoral elements of IVF.

However, there are a few ambiguities in the resolution that ought to be clarified, Kubick noted. First, he said, the immoral elements of IVF were enumerated, yet IVF was never outright condemned. Rather, he said, it falls to the prudential considerations of the married couple.

In addition, the SBC resolution encourages couples who are infertile to consider embryo adoption in order to “rescue” these children who are in danger of death. Embryo adoption is a practice that the Catholic Church has not definitively addressed, but the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has expressed serious moral reservations about it.

“While embryo adoption sought as a treatment for infertility is explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church, (see Dignitas Personae, No. 19), Catholic theologians and ethicists who are faithful to the magisterium are split on whether such a rescue operation is morally permitted,” he noted.

Family sues over hospital’s religious exemption for euthanasia
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 07:00:00 -0400

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. / Credit: Margarita Young/Shutterstock

Vancouver, Canada, Jun 20, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The parents of a terminally ill woman who was transferred to another facility to be euthanized after St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, refused to allow the procedure on its premises are suing the provincial government and Providence Health Care, the Catholic health care provider that operates St. Paul’s Hospital.

The couple’s lawsuit says their daughter’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated by the British Columbia government’s religious exemption to the provincial medical assistance in dying (MAID) policy.

The lawsuit filed in British Columbia’s Supreme Court on June 17 wants the province to remove the religious exemption.

Providence spokesperson Shaf Hussain said in a statement that the court filing is being reviewed.

“Providence is committed to providing compassionate care to all patients and residents,” he said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement saying he respects all parties’ perspectives but can’t comment on the matter while it is before the courts.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said in a statement that it is examining the case and will apply to intervene.

St. Paul’s routinely arranges for the transfer of patients who request euthanasia to non-Catholic facilities, but the decision by the hospital to transfer Sam O’Neill last summer ignited public and media reaction after her family drew attention to the case.

Dix addressed the situation at the time, saying hospital transfers for MAID are rare, occurring in about 0.2% of cases. He said St. Paul’s Hospital acted according to protocol and praised its contributions to the provincial health system, saying the overall relationship with faith-based health care providers is beneficial.

Media extensively covered the issue, with stories quoting critics calling for the British Columbia government to reconsider the master agreement with the Denominational Health Association, which allows religious health providers to follow their ethical guidelines.

Further fueling the debate, Dying with Dignity Canada released a poll to indicate strong public support for MAID. Health Canada also announced $560,000 in funding for a project to gather Canadians’ experiences with MAID. Dying with Dignity is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, a survey last year by the Angus Reid Institute, in collaboration with Cardus, showed the majority of British Columbians support the right of religiously affiliated health care facilities’ right to reject providing MAID and transfer patients seeking euthanasia to other institutions.

Fifty-eight percent agreed with transferring patients, while only 24% said these hospitals should be forced to provide MAID against their beliefs.

Nationally, a majority in all regions except Quebec said transferring a patient who wants MAID should be sufficient. In Quebec, 47% believed transferring the patient is adequate while 35% said the hospital should be mandated to provide MAID on-site.

The survey also found that 61% of Christians and 56% of those from other faiths supported transfers, while 54% of nonreligious individuals agreed. However, 70% of Canadians said doctors who object to MAID should be required to refer patients to another willing doctor.

In November, the British Columbia government announced a plan to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide at St. Paul’s Hospital — by making it available next to the hospital. The Ministry of Health announced it was taking over property beside the hospital to create a “clinical space” where St. Paul’s patients requesting euthanasia can receive it without having to be transferred to another setting.

In the announcement, the ministry said it had directed Vancouver Coastal Health authority to take land next to the hospital and “establish a clinical space and care setting for VCH use.”

The government said it is updating protocols for discharging and transferring St. Paul’s patients to the new site where MAID can take place.

The government said the “clinical space” will be staffed by Vancouver Coastal Health staff and be connected by a corridor to St. Paul’s. Patients who want MAID will be discharged from the hospital and transferred to the care of the regional health authority. The new site is expected to be completed in August 2024.

Providence Health Care, the Catholic health care provider that operates St. Paul’s, said at the time that the ministry’s announcement respected Providence’s position of not allowing MAID to be performed within the walls of a Catholic facility or setting.

The ministry said in an announcement at the time: “While faith-based organizations may opt not to offer MAID services at their facilities, they are expected to work with regional health authorities to ensure the option is available to patients who choose it.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller said the directive “respects and preserves Providence’s policy of not allowing MAID inside a Catholic health care facility,” and the new patient discharge and transfer protocols are consistent with existing arrangements for transferring patients from its other hospice and palliative care sites, St. John Hospice and May’s Place.

“Providence Health Care and St. Paul’s Hospital will continue to provide compassionate care, in accordance with Catholic teachings, and support the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of every patient we serve,” he said.

The government’s announcement came just hours before the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement reiterating its opposition to euthanasia in Catholic hospitals. Miller noted that the bishops had already drawn a line in the sand at their September 2023 plenary meeting when they stated unanimously that MAID would not be delivered at Catholic hospitals.

The new statement formalized that stance by saying the bishops “unanimously and unequivocally oppose the performance of either euthanasia or assisted suicide (MAID) within health organizations with a Catholic identity.”

The bishops said: “Any efforts by governments or others to compel such facilities to perform MAID” would be “in violation of Catholic teachings” and would “deeply betray the identity of these institutions as Catholic and would not be in keeping with the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.”

This article was originally published by The B.C. Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

Can generous family policies help boost fertility rates?
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Advocates and policymakers have for years argued that extending family benefits — such as paid leave, job guarantees, and cash payouts for new babies — could help reverse the steep declines in fertility rates observed in recent decades in most of the developed world.

The data, meanwhile, paint a less optimistic picture, though there are signs that some policies could play a role in convincing families to have more children.

Government leaders in numerous countries have been struggling in recent years to address falling birth rates. In South Korea, for instance — where the birth rate has cratered to less than one birth per woman — the Seoul metropolitan government will next year begin offering housing subsidies to newlywed couples, in part so husbands and wives might have more children.

Some private companies in South Korea, meanwhile, have begun offering generous baby bonuses to employees.

In Taiwan, which has a similarly grim birth rate, the government has grown desperate enough to begin hosting its own singles mixers in the hopes of encouraging men and women to marry and have children.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, has vowed to take on the country’s perilously low birth rate, with the Tokyo government launching its own dating app and the national government considering expanding both child allowances and parental leave.

European countries are trying to institute their own policies and incentives to boost birth rates.

Italy is offering “baby bonuses” to couples, doling out a monthly allowance for the first year of a new baby’s life.

In France earlier this year, President Emmanuel Macron proposed free fertility checks for 25-year-old women. The government is also looking to expand its parental leave policy.

And the Greek government has raised its own baby allowance in a bid to fight the country’s low fertility.

‘It takes a rather large amount of money’

Beyond special measures that specifically target falling fertility rates, many countries have offered generous family policies for decades. Sweden, for example, began offering parental leave benefits in the 1970s, while Germany has offered various forms of paid leave for nearly as long.

Yet both of those countries are nevertheless posting birth rates well below “replacement rate,” or the rate necessary to keep a population stable. Below the replacement rate, a country’s population will inevitably decline.

Essentially every country in Western Europe is recording sub-replacement fertility rates, as are the U.S., Canada, and many Asian countries.

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told CNA in an interview that there have been numerous studies in recent years on the effectiveness of family policies in boosting the fertility rate.

“In general, these policies work,” he said.

Stone pointed out that there are “nuances” to the data. “It takes a rather large amount of money,” he acknowledged. But “not an implausible amount,” he said.

He noted that a family policy’s effect on fertility depends on the policy itself. Some policies merely guarantee a parent’s job will be held for a period of time after a baby’s birth; others offer straight cash payouts for a new baby.

“What the research suggests is that job guarantees have probably no effect on fertility, and possibly in some contexts have a negative effect on fertility,” he said.

“Job guarantees might convince currently employed people to have a bit more babies than they otherwise have; they may also convince people who might have stayed home to have another baby to return to the workforce. Job lock doesn’t seem to do very much.”

“However, the compensation side does,” he said. “When you increase the wage replacement rate for maternity leave programs, you get more babies.”

“Money works,” he said. “Job guarantees probably don’t have a big effect.”

Stone pointed to a 2017 study from Anna Raute, an economics professor at Queen Mary University London, one that examined a “major maternity leave benefit reform” in Germany that “considerably increase[d] the financial incentives for higher-educated and higher-earning women to have a child.”

Raute in her study found “an up to 22% increase in the fertility of tertiary educated versus low educated women” stemming from the new policy.

Stone said the overall picture of the data is straightforward. “If you put more money into families, you get more babies,” he argued.

‘You need to solve it for 18 years’

Not all experts are as confident about the data, however. Catherine Pakaluk, an associate professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, said the field doesn’t have “enormous experimental data on paid leave and maternity leave policies,” mainly because “they’re hard to implement at a really huge macro level.”

But “if you survey leading economists and demographers around the world, the bulk of the evidence is that it doesn’t work,” she argued.

The source of the stubborn problem, she said, lies within “the collision between career and family” that occurred throughout the 20th century as more and more women went to work. Pakaluk described this phenomenon as “an enormous inflection point.”

“That is the source of low birth rates,” she argued.

“The goal of a good maternity leave program is to keep women attached to their jobs,” she pointed out. “They have the baby, they stay home, then they can return to their jobs.”

But “is keeping women attached to their jobs longer — past the birth of their child — likely to solve the problem that arose in the first place with the tension? What we’re trying to do is, in a sense, more of that which got us the problem in the first place.”

“It sounds a little weird,” she said, “but the point of maternity leave is to give women a break right after a baby comes. Well, you’re resolving the tension for just six weeks. Okay, double it. You’ve solved it for 12 weeks.”

“You need to solve it for 18 years,” she said bluntly.

Indeed, there are signs that the fertility crisis goes beyond concerns of financial stability. In one recent survey, a majority of Americans who don’t want children cited “maintaining personal independence” as a motivating factor.

Large percentages, meanwhile, also cited politics, work-life balance, and “safety concerns” in addition to financial constraints.

Pakaluk, who has eight children, says couples “have to figure out a 20-year solution for how you’re going to make work and family work together.”

“Once that conflict has been settled, in that context, a generous maternity leave can be a really great benefit or blessing,” she pointed out.

“For people on the margin, who haven’t got the 20-year thing solved, I don’t see how it’s likely to incentivize people to solve a 20-year plan,” she said.

Stone, meanwhile, said that even when they do work, family policies should not be seen as a panacea for low fertility rates. He shared with CNA a survey he co-authored on the effects of various family policies on fertility, one that found mixed results across various countries.

The effects of those policies, the survey noted, are “sufficiently irregular that they are likely contingent on the wider realm of social norms and political structures in which the policy is implemented.”

“Family leave probably helps boost fertility in contexts where it is part of a wider pro-family policy regime, complementing, supporting, and enabling voluntary family choices,” the review said.

“But implementing family leave on its own, or in a context where parents primarily want to make bigger investments per child rather than having more children, may have little impact on fertility.”

Stone told CNA that “all these different family policies have a different role.”

“None of them is a silver bullet,” he said. “They’re part of the types of things that societies would need to do if they wanted to get fertility rates meaningfully elevated.”

New York court puts pro-abortion amendment back on November ballot
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 17:45:00 -0400

Pro-abortion activists gather in front of pro-life advocates outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Manhattan on Feb. 3, 2024, in New York City. / Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

A New York court ruled in favor of putting a proposed amendment to enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution back on the Nov. 5 ballot, but Republicans plan to take the fight to appeal.

The unanimous appellate court decision on June 18 reverses a lower court ruling that would have taken the proposal off of state ballots.

Although the lower court had ruled that the state did not follow the proper procedure when approving the ballot language, the appellate court found that the lawmakers who challenged the procedure had done so after the statute of limitations had passed. For this reason, the appellate court dismissed the complaint entirely.

Republican opponents of the ballot measure intend to appeal the appellate ruling to New York’s highest court, according to the Associated Press.

“We continue to believe the Legislature violated the constitution when it adopted the proposal,” said David Laska, a party spokesperson, according to the AP report. “We will fight this proposal in the courts and, if necessary, at the ballot box.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James praised the appellate court ruling for allowing the proposal back on the ballot.

“Today’s decision to put the Equal Rights Amendment back on the ballot in November is a huge victory in our efforts to protect our basic rights and freedoms,” James said in a statement.

“The ERA was advanced to protect access to abortion care, enshrine this basic right in our constitution, and protect people from discrimination,” James added. “We will continue to do everything in our power to protect these rights and ensure everyone can live safely and freely in the great State of New York.”

Although the proposed “Equal Rights” amendment does not use the word “abortion,” it would establish broad rights to “reproductive health care” by prohibiting any discrimination based on “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive health care and autonomy.”

The text would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Constitutional amendments to establish abortion rights will also appear on the ballots in other states on Nov. 5, including Colorado and Florida.

Culture of death advances in Spain with two new developments
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 17:30:00 -0400

null / Credit: Josh Applegate/Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The culture of life suffered two setbacks as the culture of death advanced again in Spain: The government is proposing to extend euthanasia to people with mental illness, while the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of abortion for minors 16 and over without parental knowledge.

According to the Diario Médico journal, the Spanish government’s Ministry of Health is going to modify the “Manual of Good Practices for Euthanasia” to include mental illnesses.

The draft of the planned change states that the Organic Law for the Regulation of Euthanasia “does not exclude mental illness, allowing people with an unbearable suffering due to the presence of a mental illness to request PAM [aid in dying] on ​​equal terms with those whose suffering comes from a bodily illness.”

Consequently, the government would apparently allow euthanasia for people with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, or those who are bipolar.

In addition, the Constitutional Court upheld a provision in a recently passed law that allows minors 16 years of age and older to abort their baby without the knowledge and permission of their parents.

The VOX political party had filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the latest changes to the abortion law made in February 2023.

This change in the law, in addition to allowing minors to make a decision of this magnitude without the involvement of their parents or legal guardians, establishes other anti-life measures.

Eliminated from the provisions of the previous law were the three-day waiting period after the initial appointment for an abortion and the practitioner’s obligation to provide complete information, which could include ultrasounds, alternatives to abortion, and the methods and risks involved in abortion.

Furthermore, the changes to the law now upheld by the Constitutional Court mandate that abortion be deleted from the patient’s medical history after five years.

VOX told Spanish media that the court’s ruling affects “millions of young women who are left helpless at a time when they are most vulnerable.” According to the political party, it is “a decision against the value of human life” that creates “the configuration of a society without a culture of life and that represents another attack on the family, parental authority, and the duty and right of parents to ensure the well-being of their children.”

Also in February 2023, the Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal against the abortion law passed in 2010. This was a decision surrounded by controversy due to accusations of lack of impartiality on the part of the judges since at least four of them had been involved in the legislative process for the law under appeal.

In response the Christian Lawyers Foundation filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights for prevarication against the president of the Constitutional Court, Cándido Conde-Pumpido.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Argentine bishops speak out about interrupting Mass with political chants
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 16:30:00 -0400

null / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

In two separate recent incidents, participants at Mass in Argentina started chanting the political slogan “the country is not for sale,” an expression of opposition to the policies of President Javier Milei. Videos showing the chanting have circulated on social media, leading several bishops to speak out about the situation.

One of the Masses was celebrated by the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Gustavo Carrara, who later issued a statement “humbly apologizing” to those who might have felt offended. Although he did not participate in the chanting, as the celebrant he took responsibility for what had happened.

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, also spoke out about the incidents during a June 15 Mass at St. Ildephonsus Parish, making it clear that “the Mass is something sacred.”

“Here we come to be nourished by unity, brotherhood, peace. That’s why it’s not good to use the Mass to divide, to fragment, to be partisan,” he added.

Two more bishops have now commented on the matter.

In an interview with Radio 10, the bishop of San Justo, Eduardo García, when asked about the “political tone” that has been attributed to the actions of the Church lately said it “would seem that since there is no opposition, we [the Church] are the opposition.”

“We are doing what we have to do, what we always do, and perhaps it becomes more visible and stronger because the reality is more painful,” he said in defense of the Catholic Church and its solidarity work in the face of the crisis besetting Argentina.

“Reality kills the story,” García added. “You have to get down to reality, look at the people, ask questions, see what is happening to them.”

Regarding the videos going viral of people chanting political slogans at Mass, García said: “We are in a critical moment, what is critical is accentuated, perhaps, by the issue of communications, social media, that anyone can say anything and it’s taken as truth, then that creates even more confusion.”

“I believe that social media used well, coming from the truth, ethically, with common sense and with sensitivity can do a lot of good; when used coming from another place they are very harmful,” he concluded.

In a June 15 post on Facebook, the bishop of San Francisco in Argentina, Sergio Osvaldo Buenanueva, also referred to what happened, expressing his appreciation for Carrara’s gesture of apologizing for the incident.

“In a polarized country like ours, the power of social media quickly makes incomplete information go viral. Thus people rush to take positions and make judgments, largely unappealable. And social harmony is greatly diminished,” the prelate noted.

“This polarization also hurts our Christian communities,” lamented Buenanueva, who, referring to Carrara, said that “the words and the gesture of the bishop are sincere and ameliorating, and so they are appreciated.”

“The Mass cannot be used to promote political causes,” he pointed out, “not because politics is bad, but because that’s not the purpose of the Mass, which is to glorify God and sanctify the baptized, strengthen the unity of the Church and promote its mission in the world, also encouraging ‘better politics’ as Pope Francis says and Bishop Carrara has aptly noted.”

“This video, like another one that circulated before, causes estrangement, discouragement, and annoyance in many good Catholics, both pastors and especially laypeople,” he acknowledged.

“The vast majority of our Christian communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, do so with deep faith and respect for the sacred mystery,” Buenanueva noted, pointing out that “some minority positions and — in my opinion — also anachronistic positions, cannot make us lose sight of the rich life of faith, mission, and commitment of our communities throughout the country.”

“I say it again that I value the gesture of Bishop Gustavo Carrara because it expresses the will to work for the harmony that animates all bishops. It is the power of the charity of Christ to which we must always return so that he may transform us into artisans of peace,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Arizona governor vetoes bill requiring insurance companies to cover trans ‘detransitions’
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 15:45:00 -0400

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs sits in the audience prior to President Joe Biden's remarks at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Sept 28, 2023, in Tempe, Arizona. / Credit: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs this week vetoed a bill that would have required insurance companies to cover “detransitioning” procedures for transgender-identifying individuals who had undergone sex-change surgeries.

The Democratic governor vetoed state Senate Bill 1511 after it passed both houses of the state Legislature. The measure would have stipulated that health insurance plans that offer “coverage for gender transition procedures” may not “deny coverage for gender detransition procedures.”

It would have also required that physicians who perform gender transition procedures “must agree to provide or pay for the performance of gender detransition procedures.”

“Detransitioners,” or transgender-identified individuals who have ceased trying to make their bodies resemble those of the opposite sex, have been getting increased attention in the media in recent years.

Oftentimes such people have been on cross-sex hormones for years, resulting in significant or irreversible changes to their bodies; in other cases, they have undergone irreversible surgeries. Extensive medical work can be required to attempt to return their bodies to normal function.

In a “veto letter” provided to CNA by the governor’s office on Wednesday, Hobbs said the measure was “unnecessary and would create a privacy risk for patients.”

On its website, the Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus said Hobbs in her veto of the bill was “aiding doctors and insurance companies taking advantage of a vulnerable population.”

State Sen. Janae Shamp, who sponsored the bill, argued on Tuesday that doctors “must be prepared to undo the damage” of gender transition procedures “as much as possible.”

Insurance companies should also pay for such reparative procedures, she said.

“Shame on Gov. Hobbs for sending a message that the institutions tasked with protecting their health and well-being have turned their backs on them,” Shamp said on the state senate GOP’s website.

Advocates say detransitioners demonstrate why doctors and health officials should proceed cautiously with transgender procedures, especially given that many of those procedures cannot be easily reversed, if at all.

Some formerly transgender-identified individuals, such as young adult Chloe Cole, have spoken out strongly against what they say is a too-permissive medical culture that rushes into “gender-affirming” models of care.

In the Netherlands earlier this year, a study found that nearly two-thirds of children who had wished that they belonged to the opposite sex as adolescents ultimately became comfortable with their biological sex in early adulthood.

In an interview with the New York Times last month, meanwhile, English pediatrician Hilary Cass warned there is no comprehensive evidence to support the routine prescription of transgender drugs to minors with gender dysphoria.

The doctor earlier this year published the independent “Cass Review,” commissioned by the National Health Service in England, which prompted England and Scotland to halt the prescription of transgender drugs to minors until more research is conducted.

Shamp, the Arizona senator, this week pointed to Chloe Cole as an example of the perils of transgender medicine.

Cole was “given puberty blockers and underwent a double mastectomy” at a young age and now struggles with “the severe damage left behind,” the senator said.

“It’s unfathomable that we consider mutilating an undeveloped child’s body as ‘health care,’” Shamp said, “but what’s even more horrifying is the fact that we deny them access to care when they go on to suffer the mental and physical consequences.”

Pope Francis tells Communion and Liberation leader: ‘Do not look at your navel’
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 14:57:00 -0400

Pope Francis greets members of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation in St. Peter's Square Oct. 15, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 14:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis in an audience last week with the president of Communion and Liberation (CL) reportedly told the leader not to “look at your navel” but to share their movement with the whole Church.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement founded in the 1950s by Italian priest Father Luigi Giussani, a theologian and public intellectual. It received papal recognition in 1982 and today is present in 90 countries worldwide, with its members — clerical and lay — primarily focusing on community, culture, and Catholic education and faith formation. Its members meet weekly in small discussion groups that they call the “School of Community.”

In a June 15 audience, the pope received Davide Prosperi, president of CL, and Father Andrea D’Auria, director of CL’s International Center.

As reported by Prosperi, the pope spoke of “the need to share the charism and for a co-responsibility in the leadership of the movement.” He also stressed, Prosperi said, that every charism must conceive of itself as being at the service of the whole Church.

Prosperi said Pope Francis said several times during the audience: “Do not look at your navel, go outside, go outside! The whole Church needs this.”

“A movement, the Holy Father reminded us, must remain faithful to its charism by communicating itself creatively in every place around the world where it is present,” Prosperi said.

Pope Francis has previously warned representatives of Catholic movements that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that hinder their call to serve the Church, saying it is “treachery” when a leader “wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord.”

CL has faced dissension among some members in recent years over its governance. The Holy See in September 2021 appointed a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay-consecrated branch of CL. Two months later, Father Julián Carrón announced his resignation as president of CL, and Prosperi succeeded him.

Pope Francis spoke to thousands of CL members at a 2022 event marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Giussani. Giussani died in 2005 and his cause for beatification was opened in 2012.

“Times of crisis are times of recapitulation of your extraordinary history of charity, culture, and mission; they are times of critical discernment of what has limited the fruitful potential of Father Giussani’s charism,” the pope said. “They are times of renewal and missionary relaunch in light of the current ecclesial moment as well as the needs, sufferings, and hopes of contemporary humanity.”

He encouraged the movement to foster unity amid diversity and to not waste any time with “gossip, mistrust, and opposition.” He added: “Please, do not waste time.”

Holy See convenes UN panel urging global abolition of surrogacy
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 12:30:00 -0400

Panelists speak at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” held by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. / Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Holy See this week hosted a panel at the United Nations at which advocates highlighted the “exploitation and commodification” inherent in the surrogacy industry and stressed the need to regulate and eventually abolish surrogacy around the world.

The participants “highlighted the need for a universal ban to protect against exploitation and commodification,” the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations said, with the panelists calling for “increased awareness and concrete steps at the U.N. level to abolish surrogacy and uphold human dignity.”

The event, titled “At What Price? Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” was held at the Palais des Nations at the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters.

The side event, held at the 56th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organized by the Holy See mission and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Italy to the United Nations and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Francis earlier this year called surrogacy “deplorable” and called for a global ban on the exploitative practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood” in a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors.

“The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking,” the pope said in January.

A press release from the Holy See mission said the panel this week brought together “a wide range of participants” to discuss surrogacy, including a woman born through surrogacy who has since become a child rights activist, as well as an Italian government minister and other advocates.

It was moderated by Gabriella Gambino, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Attendees listen to panelists at the event
Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

Olivia Maurel, who was born in America through surrogacy and raised in France, told participants at the panel of the “severe emotional and psychological toll it took on her life,” according to the mission.

She argued that surrogacy “commodifies children and exploits women, violating international laws and children’s rights,” the release said.

Gambino, meanwhile, argued that surrogacy has resulted in “procreative tourism” around the globe. Italian Minister for Family, Natality, and Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella also argued that surrogacy regulations often fail to capture the complex ethical concerns regarding the exploitation of women and children.

This has resulted in “a vast international movement of individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds advocating for a global ban on surrogacy,” the Holy See mission said.

The mission held a similar event earlier this year at the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

At that event Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See Mission to the U.N., argued that “children have rights and interests which must be respected, starting with the moral right to be created in an act of love.”

The archbishop at the time called for “an international prohibition on this abusive practice.”

Pope Francis tells faithful: Learn some of the Psalms by heart
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 11:45:00 -0400

Pope Francis gives a blessing to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday there are Psalms to fit any need and that they should be learned by heart and repeated often.

“It is necessary to make the Psalms our prayer,” the pope said at his general audience in an overcast but hot and muggy St. Peter’s Square on June 19.

Continuing his series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church, he explained that the Psalms “are the songs that the Spirit himself has placed on the lips of the Bride, his Church.”

“If there are Psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The Psalms are prayers ‘for all seasons’; there is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer,” he said.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Speaking to a crowd of Catholics and tourists, he pointed out specific Psalms that could be helpful to pray in different circumstances, such as Psalm 50 for when one is feeling bad for having sinned.

He also recommended Psalm 51 for when one is feeling oppressed by remorse or guilt for being a sinner. “We can repeat with David: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love,’” he said.

“If we want to express a strong personal bond with love, let us say: ‘O God, thou art my God / I seek thee, / my soul thirsts for thee; / my flesh faints for thee, / as in a dry and weary land where no water is,’ Psalm 63,” he continued.

“And if fear and anguish assail us, those wonderful words of Psalm 23 come to our rescue: ‘The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil.’”

A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pontiff told listeners that there are many Psalms that can help them in their day-to-day lives. He added that the Psalms do not lose their effectiveness by being repeated many times, unlike other prayers.

“Form the habit of praying with the Psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end,” Francis said.

He drew attention to another beautiful aspect of praying with the Psalms: the fact that they help one avoid reducing prayer to just a series of requests to the Lord — “give me, give us…”

“The Psalms help us open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise,” he said.

Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also pointed out that the Psalms are so important that, though they are part of the Old Testament, they are sometimes included together with copies of the New Testament.

This is the case with a book he received as a gift, he noted, an edition of the New Testament and Psalms that once belonged to a Ukrainian soldier who died in the war. The Holy Father keeps it on his desk, he said.

The pontiff highlighted that not every Psalm, or every part of some Psalms, is relevant to modern man given that they “reflect, at times, a historical situation and a religious mentality that are no longer our own.”

“This does not mean that they are not inspired,” he underlined, “but in certain aspects they are linked to a time and a temporary stage of revelation, as is also the case with a large part of ancient legislation.”

“What most commends the Psalms to our attention is that they were the prayers of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and all the Christian generations that have preceded us,” Francis said. “When we recite them, God listens to them with that grandiose ‘orchestration’ that is the community of saints.”

At the end of his hourlong audience with the public, the pope publicly greeted members of the Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini Association as it marks the 100th anniversary of the First Council of the Catholic Church in China.

The “Primum Concilium Sinese” (the first Plenary Council of China) was held from May 15–June 12, 1924, and was led by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini.

Pope Francis said this anniversary makes him think of “the dear Chinese people.”

“Let us always pray for this noble people who are so brave and have such a beautiful culture. Let us pray for the Chinese people,” he said.

U.S. bishops approve plan for youth, young adult ministry
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 11:15:00 -0400

Pilgrims kneel in adoration at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. / Credit: Claudette Jerez/EWTN News video screen shot

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops approved a new pastoral framework for youth and young adult outreach, titled “Listen, Teach, Send,” following their spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, last week.

The framework was approved on Monday, passing with 188 in favor, four against, and four abstentions, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced in a Tuesday press release.

The initial vote was held at the bishops’ spring plenary assembly, but not enough eligible bishops were present to vote and were contacted to cast their votes after, the release noted.

“We’re hoping that ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ can offer new life for these ministries in our local Churches,” Bishop Robert Barron, who is heading the initiative as chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, explained at the USCCB June Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky.

Barron noted that it has been 30 years since the “last major moment” for the Church’s work with youth, the World Youth Day gathering in Denver, which was accompanied by the release of two national frameworks on youth and young adults.

“Since then, frankly, enthusiasm has waned while disaffiliation has risen,” he told the bishops gathered in Louisville. “It’s our fond hope that the ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ framework, combined with the Holy Father’s encouragement in the Synod and Christus Vivit, will be another watershed moment.”

Five years ago, Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, “Christ Is Alive!”, an apostolic exhortation addressed to young people and the “entire people of God” after the Youth Synod. In response to this, the U.S. bishops authorized this framework in 2021.

The framework, “Listen, Teach, Send: National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and with Young Adults,” follows Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and highlights how he listens to them, reveals Scripture to them, and sends them forth.

“‘Listen, Teach, Send’ is a summons to the Church to renew her engagement with youth and young adults in imitation of Jesus Christ on the journey to Emmaus,” Barron explained.

“Like the Lord in that familiar story, we’re called deeply to listen to the realities facing young people with pastoral care and compassion; to teach in a new way that shares the light of Christ with young people and brings about a conversion of heart; and, finally, to send youth and young adults forth so they eagerly choose to follow God’s call and their mission to transform the world,” he continued.

Barron and his department took inspiration from ministries such as the National Dialogue, the Hispanic ministry V National Encuentro, and Journeying Together, as well as other bishops’ insights in drafting the document.

“What we heard was a strong desire to develop a framework that was streamlined and straightforward, one that could be used not just by pastors and pastoral ministers but also by families and by young people themselves who can evangelize and guide their peers to Christ,” Barron said.

“We heard a desire to name and address issues, including sexuality, mental health, disaffiliation, racial justice, polarization, and the desire of so many young people to transform our society,” he continued. “Most importantly, we heard that we cannot be silent or inactive when it comes to the engagement and accompaniment of youth and young adults.”

The framework highlights mutual listening, mentorship, evangelization, and vocation, noting that formation should take place in the home and through parents, grandparents, and families but can take place in a variety of contexts.

The USCCB will be releasing complementary and supplemental resources this year with concrete ideas for implementing the framework on a local level.

“In this, we encourage ministry leaders and families to establish conditions for mutual listening to take place: where older generations can truly listen to the young and where the young can truly listen to God speaking to them in the Word and the wisdom of the Church,” the document reads.

The document notes that young people “need faith-filled parents and pastoral ministry leaders (and peers) who can lovingly interpret young people’s stories through the lens of faith and foster a conversion of the heart.”

“Too many youth and young adults today lack mentors in their lives, and yet these wisdom figures can do so much to guide a young person along the right path,” it continues. “This experience of accompaniment is something that begins in the family and extends to the teachers, respected adults, Church leaders, and professional connections that a young person encounters as they mature through life.”

The framework explains the importance of conveying the whole Gospel, including what may challenge young people.

“The teachings of Christ are countercultural and transformative: seeking God’s kingdom first above all, loving enemies, living a moral life, and sacrificing one’s own self for the good of others, especially those who are marginalized and forgotten,” the document reads. “It may take time to embrace these truths, and young people should be given loving environments where they can ask questions without judgment and wrestle with difficult issues.”

“As young people are accompanied on a pilgrimage of faith, they need to hear a clear proclamation of the message of salvation, the implications of Gospel living (including the effects of sin), the embrace of God’s mercy, and the unconditional love that Christ offers those who follow him — all inculturated in their lives in a language and style they can understand, appreciate, and appropriate within their own lives,” the document notes.

The document concludes by highlighting that young people have a mission to “go where Christ is calling them,” highlighting the importance of reaching out to the vulnerable and marginalized, embracing the universal call to holiness, and being transformed by Christ through “prayerful openness” while recognizing God’s work in their lives.

Juneteenth and the life of the first Black American Catholic priest
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 07:00:00 -0400

Venerable Augustus Tolton. / Credit: Public domain

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

On June 19, the United States commemorates the anniversary of the 1865 order that gave freedom to enslaved African Americans in Texas, issued two months after the Civil War ended. More commonly known as “Juneteenth,” it became a federal holiday in 2021 and serves as a fitting day to remember the first Black Catholic priest in the U.S. whose cause has been opened for canonization — Venerable Augustus Tolton.

Tolton was born into slavery in Brush Creek, Ralls County, Missouri, on April 1, 1854, to Catholic parents Peter Paul Tolton and Martha Jane Chisley.

Peter Paul escaped shortly after the beginning of the Civil War and joined the Union Army, dying shortly thereafter. In 1862, Augustus Tolton, along with his mother and two siblings, escaped by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.

“John, boy, you’re free. Never forget the goodness of the Lord,” Tolton’s mother reportedly told him after the crossing.

Tolton began to attend St. Peter’s Catholic School, an all-white parish school in Quincy, Illinois, thanks to the help of Father Peter McGirr. The priest went on to baptize Tolton, instruct him for his first holy Communion, and encouraged his vocation to the priesthood.

No American seminary would accept Tolton because of his race, so he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained in 1886 at the age of 31, becoming the first African American ordained as a priest.

Tolton returned to the U.S. where he served for three years at a parish in Quincy. From there he went to Chicago and started a parish for Black Catholics — St. Monica Parish. He remained there until he died unexpectedly while on a retreat in 1897. He was just 43 years old.

During his short but impactful life, Tolton learned to speak fluent English, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, and African dialects. He was also a talented musician with a beautiful voice. He helped the poor and sick, fed the hungry, and helped many discover the faith. He was lovingly known as “Good Father Gus.”

Tolton’s cause was opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago on Feb. 24, 2011, making him a Servant of God, and then on June 12, 2019, Pope France declared him Venerable, which is the second step toward canonization.

Cardinal Giovanni Simeoni, announcing to the committee deciding where Tolton would be sent after his ordination in 1886 and who overruled the previous decision to send him to Africa, reportedly said the following:

“America has been called the most enlightened nation in the world. We shall see whether it deserves that honor. If the United States has never before seen a Black priest, it must see one now.”

Despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation going into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, it could not be implemented in states still under Confederate control, and enforcement of the Proclamation relied upon the advance of Union troops. It wasn’t until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans were freed by executive decree.

From alcoholic to future saint: The inspiring conversion of Ireland’s Matt Talbot 
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 06:00:00 -0400

Venerable Matt Talbot, an Irishman whose journey from alcoholism to the heights of holiness has inspired many who struggle with addiction, is being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church.  / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Venerable Matt Talbot, an Irishman whose journey from alcoholism to the heights of holiness has inspired many who struggle with addiction, is being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church.

After spending more than a decade of his life as an alcoholic, Talbot found strength in the Eucharist, the rosary, and confession to uphold a vow he made at the age of 28 to abstain from all alcohol and in the process cultivated a deep interior spiritual life that led some to dub him “an urban mystic.”

Father Selva Thomas, one of the Salesian priests who ministers at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dublin where Talbot is buried, says that many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Talbot’s tomb to pray nearly 100 years after his death.

The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

“Matt Talbot has become the source of inspiration for so many,” Thomas told CNA.

People feel that the Matt Talbot Shrine in central Dublin is a place where they can come and experience “spiritual rehabilitation as they undergo other forms of rehabilitation,” he added.

Talbot was born into a poor working class family in Dublin on May 2, 1856. He was the second of 12 children — nine who survived beyond infancy — and grew up surrounded by poverty and alcohol abuse in the wake of Ireland’s Great Famine.

He dropped out of school barely knowing how to read or write and began working for a wine merchant at the age of 12 where developed the habit of sampling the drink, often coming home drunk. By his early teens, Talbot had already developed a dependency on alcohol, which consumed him for the next decade.

Many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Venerable Matt Talbot’s tomb at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to pray nearly 100 years after his death. Credit: Cograng, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Venerable Matt Talbot’s tomb at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to pray nearly 100 years after his death. Credit: Cograng, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite holding various jobs as an unskilled laborer at the Dublin docks and later as a bricklayer, his wages were often squandered at the pub, leaving him in a state of destitution and despair.

The turning point came in 1884, when, at the age of 28, Talbot, penniless and humiliated after being refused credit, vowed to change his ways. He went to confession and made a solemn pledge to abstain from alcohol for three months. This initial pledge was the first step in a journey of lifelong sobriety, which was underpinned by a profound spiritual conversion.

Amid the difficulties of withdrawal, Talbot turned to prayer and found solace in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as well as the rosary. He eventually embraced a life of prayer, penance, and dedication to the Church. He joined many prayer groups and confraternities, which provided a strong sense of community. He became one of the first members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart after it was founded in Dublin in 1898.

With Talbot’s newfound sobriety, he was finally able to learn how to read and write, which allowed him to deepen his faith. He read biographies of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Philip Neri, St. Thomas More, and many more saints, as well as “The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues” by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, “Growth in Holiness” by Father Frederick William Faber, and “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort.

The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Talbot was “a poor man who lived an extraordinary kind of focused life,” according to Father Hugh O’Donnell, who has served at the Matt Talbot Shrine for 20 years.

O’Donnell told CNA that even as Talbot continued working in a tough environment down on the docks he was “always focused on the divine.”

“Prayer was like breathing for him,” O’Donnell said. “It wasn’t an effort. It was what he loved to do.”

“He was able to do his work, but every time there was a lull in his work … he’d be either reading or praying,” he added.

For the last 35 years of his life, Talbot was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, or Secular Franciscans. He rose early to attend daily Mass before he began work at 6 a.m. He embraced the ascetic traditions of the early Irish monks, taking on many personal penances.

A statue of Matt Talbot at Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin with Dublin’s financial district in the background. Credit: Cograng, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A statue of Matt Talbot at Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin with Dublin’s financial district in the background. Credit: Cograng, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“He slept on a couple of planks which he had by the side of his bed and a little block of wood that he rested his head on, which must have been awful,” O’Donnell said.

“He seemed to manage to be able to work a full day doing physical labor on a very small amount of food, which always struck me as some kind of connection with the Eucharist,” he added.

Talbot’s death on June 7, 1925, was as humble as his life. Collapsing on a Dublin street on his way to Mass for Trinity Sunday, he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. It was only then that the extent of some of his penances became known, revealing secret chains he had worn as acts of devotion.

The Franciscans recall Talbot’s memory each year on June 19. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Talbot’s death. His legacy is one of hope.

A prayer plaque with the Prayer for Canonization of Venerable Matt Talbot at the Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
A prayer plaque with the Prayer for Canonization of Venerable Matt Talbot at the Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Talbot’s story has inspired many people battling addiction, serving as a testament to the possibility of recovery, redemption, and the human capacity for change, regardless of past mistakes.

The Salesian priests at the Matt Talbot Shrine hold a special Mass on the first Monday of every month offered for people struggling with addictions and their families. Many churches and cathedrals throughout Ireland now also offer a Mass at the same time for this intention.

The Matt Talbot Prayer Society prays daily for its enrolled members to be freed from addictions, including alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, eating, and smoking, through Talbot’s intercession.

‘American Spartacus’: Honoring a Black Catholic Civil War hero on Juneteenth
Wed, 19 Jun 2024 04:00:00 -0400

An 1889 rendition by architects Bullard & Bullard of the National Emancipation Monument proposed for Springfield, Illinois (Library of Congress), superimposed on a 34-star U.S. flag dating to the Civil War. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

National Catholic Register, Jun 19, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Juneteenth is a federal holiday recognizing the liberation of Black Americans and marking the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, saw the Union Army, which included regiments of armed Black Americans fighting under the American flag, reunite the country and declare them free from bondage.

Black Americans began Juneteenth celebrations in Texas, and the celebration eventually spread throughout the country as the struggle to secure the peace and promise of racial equality won by the Civil War continued. This Juneteenth 2024 marks 168 years after the first Juneteenth celebration and is the fourth time the entire U.S. will observe it as a national holiday.

Catholics on Juneteenth should celebrate this day by honoring the memory of Capt. André Cailloux, the Black Catholic hero and patriot called the “American Spartacus,” whose ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield was crucial to turning the tide of the Civil War and allowing us the opportunity to live in a country that strives after “peace and justice for all.”

In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens proudly declared the Confederacy would be the first nation in the world built on white supremacy, “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

But the Confederacy would end in ruins by 1865, and the United States would triumph, because Black Americans — making up 10% of the Union Army and suffering 10% of total battlefield casualties — would help turn the tide of the U.S. Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln, at the strong urging of abolitionists like the Black orator Frederick Douglass, agreed in 1863 to allow the enlistment of Black Americans for combat regiments. But everything depended on how the first Black Americans proved their valor in battle and whether Black Americans would join in the overwhelming numbers needed to win the war.

Cailloux responded to the call to form one of the first Black combat regiments in the Union Army, the First Louisiana Native Guard. Moreover, this Catholic — a married father who owned a cigar business, supported the charitable works of the Church, and proudly called himself the “Blackest man in New Orleans” — was a commissioned officer. So much responsibility rested on his decisions; he doubtless knew his conduct in the heat of battle would become the measure by which the fighting capability of Black Americans would be judged.

Cailloux and his men met their finest hour in the bitter siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. He was ordered to lead the First Louisiana Native Guard in an assault on entrenched Confederate fortifications — practically a suicide mission in the face of artillery and sharpshooters. In his charge, Cailloux never wavered, urging his men onward in both French and English as the bullets pierced his flesh, until finally an artillery shell struck him down. Even then, he managed to give one final order for his lieutenant to take charge.

The news of Cailloux’s undaunted heroism in the face of certain death electrified the country, and the significance of his pivotal sacrifice as a Black officer, soldier, and free man led African Americans to enlist in droves into the Union Army. With the valiant sacrifices of the Black volunteers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry at the Battle of Fort Wagner following Cailloux’s death in July 1863, the U.S. had its answer: Black Americans would fight with courage and distinction for the union and freedom.

Over the next two years, Gen. Robert E. Lee would see the ideology of the Confederacy unravel before his very eyes. White and Black Americans together in the Union Army fought his Army of Northern Virginia, and with their combined strength, finally defeated Lee and forced his surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Cailloux’s body would later be recovered with the fall of Port Hudson. New Orleans commemorated this native son and hero with a military parade, with mourners stretching a mile long. Cailloux’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Father Claude Paschal Maistre, the only Catholic priest in New Orleans who opposed slavery against the pro-Confederate clergy and suffered greatly for his witness at the hands of his own archbishop.

Cailloux’s life was cut short in his prime, but contemporaries stood in awe of his decisive contribution to ending the Civil War.

Louisiana civil rights activist Rodolphe Desdunes (1849–1928), whose brother served under Cailloux, wrote: “The eyes of the world were indeed on this American Spartacus. The hero of ancient Rome displayed no braver heroism than did this officer who ran forward to his death with a smile on his lips and crying, ‘Let us go forward, O comrades!’”

One Union Army veteran, Col. Douglass Wilson, would say of Cailloux: “If ever patriotic heroism deserved to be honored in stately marble or in brass that of Captain Caillioux deserves to be, and the American people will have never redeemed their gratitude to genuine patriotism until that debt is paid.”

This article was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA's sister news partner, and has been updated and adapted by CNA.

Bishops speak out against worsening violence in southwest Colombia
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 17:50:00 -0400

The flag of Colombia. / Politicnico Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

The bishops of the dioceses located in the Valle del Cauca district of Colombia have demanded that armed groups stop their actions that continue to cause more deaths in the southwestern part of the country and have called on the authorities to “find the solutions” that would bring peace to the country.

The prelates issued a statement on June 14 signed by the archbishop of Cali, Luis Fernando Rodríguez; the bishop of Buenaventura, Rubén Darío Jaramillo; Bishop César Alcides Balbín of Cartago; Bishop José Roberto Ospina of Buga; as well as the bishop-elect of Palmira, Father Rodrigo Gallego Trujillo, and the apostolic administrator of the same diocese, Bishop Edgar de Jesús García.

In their statement, the prelates decried “the worsening of polarization, threats, harassment, extortion, attacks, murders, and other acts of violence in Valle del Cauca and in a good part of southwestern Colombia, resulting in uncertainty, sadness, pain, and death, creating fear and eroding the hope of citizens.”

Given the situation, the prelates strongly reiterated their call to the armed groups “to cease these actions.”

“In the name of the Lord, we exhort those who plan and carry out these insane acts to become aware of the evil they do to the population and even to themselves. Nothing justifies violence!” the bishops stated.

They also asked the authorities on behalf of “the population that feels overwhelmed and afraid” to join forces with civil society “in order to find the solutions that will lead to overcoming this disturbing and painful situation.”

In their statement, the bishops of the Valle del Cauca district also reiterated the commitment of the Catholic Church “to continue accompanying all efforts to foster bridges of dialogue that would make it possible to achieve the pacification of hearts and the silencing of weapons.”

The Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz) noted on its X account that on the same day that the bishops issued their statement, “three people were shot to death in the Nuevo Horizonte neighborhood of Florida, Valle of Cauca.”

According to Indepaz, the Dagoberto Ramos Front of the Western Bloc, local gangs, the Adán Izquierdo Company, with “Front 57 possibly moving in,” operate in this area.

The Dagoberto Front and Front 57 are factions of the marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that rejected the 2016 peace agreement with the government.

Indepaz also noted that in its early warning 031/23, the People’s Ombudsman’s Office stated that “between southern Valle del Cauca and the northern Cauca there is a worsening of the armed conflict and direct violence, not only due to the presence and territorial control of the groups present but also for the entry into these areas of other illegal armed elements.”

Indepaz said these groups were not executing a “permanent incursion or operations” in these regions “beyond sporadic transiting or pamphleting.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

U.S. bishop applauds Biden’s move to allow undocumented spouses pathway to citizenship
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 17:30:00 -0400

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the East Room at the White House on June 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday praised the Biden administration’s new plan to offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented spouses and children of American citizens.

This new streamlined process will permit noncitizen spouses married to U.S. citizens to apply to legally live and work in the U.S. without fear of being deported. In addition to the spouses, noncitizen children of applicants would also be allowed to receive such protections.

To be eligible for this process, noncitizens must have resided in the U.S. for 10 years or more and be legally married to an American citizen while satisfying all other applicable immigration requirements. Those who qualify under these guidelines would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after three years while also being allowed for work authorization in that period of time.

“We welcome today’s announcement and the hope it brings to thousands of American families who have grappled with the fear of separation for a decade or more,” Seitz shared following Tuesday’s announcement from the White House.

This executive action would also relieve the visa process for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), who would be able to stay in the country upon receiving a degree from an American educational institution and a job offer with a company based in the United States.

The Biden administration’s announcement comes on the anniversary of DACA, an Obama-era program created to protect eligible young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

“As we commemorate the 12th anniversary of DACA, we’ve seen the positive impacts such programs can have, not only for beneficiaries themselves but for the families, employers, and communities that rely on them. This new program is sure to yield similar benefits,” Seitz stated. “However, as the fate of DACA hangs in the balance, we also know how insufficient these programs are.”

This plan of action comes amid an ongoing legislative stalemate on immigration reform. Last month, a bipartisan security bill pushed by the Democrat-led Senate failed to advance on a 43-50 procedural vote. Immigration policy has especially remained a prominent issue leading up to November’s presidential election, in which both candidates have spoken extensively of the topic on their campaign trails.

Despite this, Seitz emphasized the importance of advancing legislation centered on families.

“Legislators have a moral and patriotic duty to improve our legal immigration system, including the opportunities available for family reunification and preservation. A society is only as strong as its families, and family unity is a fundamental right,” he said. “For the good of the country, Congress must find a way to overcome partisan divisions and enact immigration reformation that includes an earned legalization program for longtime undocumented immigrants.”

Texas doctor indicted after exposing transgender child surgeries at children’s hospital
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 17:08:00 -0400

null / Credit: ADragan/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 17:08 pm (CNA).

A Texas doctor has been indicted for allegedly breaking federal law after he accessed patient records as part of an exposé into child transgender surgeries.

In 2022, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston announced that it would cease performing transgender procedures on minors, citing concerns over “legal ramifications” after state Attorney General Ken Paxton said some of those medical procedures could be considered child abuse under state law.

Roughly a year later, journalist Christopher Rufo reported at City Journal that the hospital had “secretly continued to perform transgender medical interventions … on minor children.” Rufo cited “whistleblower documents” he obtained from inside the institution.

On Monday the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a press release that Texas doctor Eithan Haim had been “indicted for obtaining protected individual health information for patients that were not under his care and without authorization.” Rufo previously identified Haim as the source of the documents.

Haim was set to make his first court appearance on Monday afternoon, the attorney’s office said. The doctor allegedly “obtained personal information including patient names, treatment codes, and the attending physician” from the Texas children’s hospital without authorization.

He “allegedly obtained this information under false pretenses and with intent to cause malicious harm to TCH,” the press release said.

If convicted, Haim “faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum possible fine,” the government said.

Texas has in recent years been at the forefront of the ongoing cultural and legal fight over transgender issues. The Biden administration in 2022 condemned the state policy whereby parents who facilitate “gender transition” medical treatments for children can be investigated for child abuse.

Gov. Greg Abbott in February of that year directed Texas Family and Protective Services to investigate certain procedures performed on children, including ​​castration and hysterectomy, as well as puberty blockers and hormone treatments, as possible instances of child abuse.

Earlier this month, Paxton announced that the state had “won a major victory” against the Biden administration over the White House’s attempt to rewrite federal Title IX law to include transgender protections.

The government’s new education rules in part redefined “sex discrimination” under Title IX to include protections for “gender identity.” A judge subsequently ruled that the federal government “cannot regulate state educational institutions in this way without violating federal law.”

Texas “prevailed on behalf of the entire nation,” Paxton said in announcing the ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court, meanwhile, heard oral arguments in January in a challenge to the state’s ban on extreme transgender procedures performed on children. The outcome of that case is still pending.

Judge throws out Missouri lawsuit that challenged abortion ban on religious grounds
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 16:15:00 -0400

A bridge over the Mississippi River near St. Louis. / Credit: Checubus/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 18, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

A pro-abortion lawsuit filed by a number of religious leaders in Missouri was thrown out after a judge ruled that the state’s pro-life laws do not infringe on Missourians’ freedom of religion.

In a June 14 order, the Missouri District Court for the 22nd Judicial Circuit ruled that the references to “Almighty God” in the statutes are similar to references found in the Missouri Constitution, which in turn are similar to sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

A coalition of more than a dozen Missouri religious leaders, including Jews, Christians, and Unitarian Universalists, filed the lawsuit in 2023, alleging that Missouri’s near-total abortion ban, which passed in 2019 and took effect after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, violates their religious freedom by invoking God as the creator of human life.

Missouri law currently protects all unborn babies from abortion unless the mother’s life is at risk.

The religious leaders had argued that Missouri’s abortion laws, which acknowledge “Almighty God [as] the author of life” and also state that life begins at conception, violate the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

The Jewish leaders who joined the lawsuit, in particular, argued that Judaism does not recognize unborn children as being alive until after birth.

In the June 14 ruling, Judge Jason Sengheiser also ruled that the outside of the preamble to the law, the rest of Missouri’s abortion law language does not contain any explicit religious language, with the judge finding that the state’s recognition that life begins at conception is not “only a religious belief” but a “medical and scientific” determination.

Jamie Morris, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), said in a statement to CNA that the group is “pleased that common sense prevailed and the lawsuit was dismissed.”

“The statement ‘life begins at conception’ is a scientific reality, not a religious belief. As a broader point, many lawmakers rely on their faith in making all types of policy decisions, including those related to welfare, immigration, and the death penalty,” Morris said.

“Legislators should not be required to leave their faith at the Capitol door,” he said.

In a June 14 statement, the legal team representing the faith leaders said they “respectfully disagree with the court’s decision.”

“Missouri’s abortion ban is a direct attack on the separation of church and state, religious freedom, and reproductive freedom,” the statement said.

“Missouri lawmakers made clear that they were imposing their personal religious beliefs on all Missourians when they enacted these laws. We remain committed to restoring abortion access in Missouri.”

Like numerous other states, Missouri is facing the prospect of a vote on a ballot initiative this November that, if passed, would erode the state’s protections for unborn children.

The MCC is encouraging all Catholics to pray that the state’s abortion laws remain in place.

Federal court shields U.S. bishops from abortion mandate as lawsuit plays out
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 15:45:00 -0400

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Monday protected the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from a new federal abortion rule as litigation over the directive plays out in court.

The USCCB will not be “forced to support employee abortions against their religious beliefs” while a federal lawsuit works its way through the courts, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said in a Monday press release.

The bishops, along with several other Catholic plaintiffs including the Catholic University of America, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration last month over regulations that would require that employers accommodate women for workplace limitations that arise from “having or choosing not to have an abortion.”

The new regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were related to the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The pregnancy law itself does not mention abortion.

The regulation also includes a prohibition on interference with the accommodations; it further forbids retaliation against a person who uses the accommodations.

The Monday ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana found that the EEOC “exceeded its statutory authority to implement the PWFA” and in doing so “both unlawfully expropriated the authority of Congress and encroached upon the sovereignty” of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs were granted a preliminary injunction “until final judgment is entered” in the case, the ruling said.

District Judge David Joseph said in the decision that the PWFA was not originally passed to include abortion accommodations.

“If Congress had intended to mandate that employers accommodate elective abortions under the PWFA, it would have spoken clearly when enacting the statute, particularly given the enormous social, religious, and political importance of the abortion issue in our nation at this time,” the judge said.

The federal government “failed to include a broad religious exception” in the abortion mandate, Joseph wrote. The bishops, the ruling said, “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on their claims of statutory and constitutional overreach.”

The USCCB praised the decision on Tuesday.

“We have said from the start that abortion has no place in the pro-life, pro-woman Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi said.

“We’re grateful the court has agreed and look forward to full and permanent respect for our rights and this law’s noble purpose,” she added.

Becket senior counsel Laura Wolk Slavis, meanwhile, said in the legal group’s press release on Monday that the pro-abortion mandate from the government was “unacceptable and unlawful.”

“This ruling is an important step in ensuring that American workplaces can be free to continue serving their communities consistent with their beliefs,” she said.

Catholic pilgrims at Pittsburgh processions evangelize about Christ and the Eucharist
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 15:15:00 -0400

Hundreds of Catholics participate in Eucharistic procession in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh. / Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 18, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

As hundreds of Catholic pilgrims processed through the streets of Pittsburgh as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, some of the faithful saw the procession as an opportunity to evangelize about Jesus Christ and the Catholic doctrine that he is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Pilgrims on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, traveling across the United States, spent four days last week in Pittsburgh, beginning on June 13.

The city’s rich Catholic heritage — about one-third of the residents are Catholic — made it an essential stop on the pilgrimage, which is part of the U.S. Catholic Church’s National Eucharistic Revival initiative.

Two Eucharistic processions went through the city’s streets, stopping to celebrate Mass, vespers, and adoration at local parish churches.

Sue O’Keefe, who lives in the South Hills suburbs of Pittsburgh, told CNA that she has kept an eye on the pilgrimage since its inception and was “super excited they’ve come through Pittsburgh.” She commended “the idea of the [Eucharistic] revival and bringing Jesus to the streets.”

“I’ve been praying that the Spirit moves people to see the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and [to see that] he’s walking with us,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe and a few hundred other Catholics joined the pilgrims for their first procession, which went through the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Thursday morning. The procession covered a one-mile stretch of the business district, which includes restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and a variety of other businesses. It began at the Resurrection Church of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish and concluded at the St. Pius Church of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish.

Dozens of people paused to watch the procession as it passed by — some were seen coming out of the district’s businesses to see what was happening. One woman gazed at the size of the crowd in the procession, looked back at the Eucharist, and made the sign of the cross before moving on.

The procession makes it way through a busy Pittsburgh business district. Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA
The procession makes it way through a busy Pittsburgh business district. Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

A few pilgrims, including Sister Theresa Marie of the Daughters of Mary, approached people who stopped to watch the procession and people who were waiting in their vehicles as the procession crossed the street. She handed them cards that included a QR code, which sent them to the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s website to learn more about processions, other events, and Catholic teaching about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“We met a lot of people in the streets,” Sister Theresa told CNA. “... We were able to encounter the people who were wondering what this is.”

Sister Theresa noted that “most of the people were very positive,” although some declined to take a card. For those who didn’t take one, she said, “We pray for the openness of their heart.”

Pilgrims handed out cards to passersby that included a QR code directing them to the National Eucharistic Revival's website. Credit: National Eucharistic Revival
Pilgrims handed out cards to passersby that included a QR code directing them to the National Eucharistic Revival's website. Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Mark Palaski, a Pittsburgh resident, told CNA: “So many people were driving by and stopping,” adding that they “showed us respect.”

Bob O’Mara, a teacher living in Brookline, attended the procession with his wife and seven children, ages 1 through 14. He said the neighborhood was “very ideal” for a procession because “Brookline has a large young Catholic population.”

Asked why he participated in the procession, O’Mara said: “[Christ is] the king of the universe and he deserves our praise.”

The pilgrims held a bilingual “happy hour” at St. Catherine of Siena Church of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish later that evening, followed by a reception with testimony from the pilgrims. The following day, at the same parish, the pilgrims celebrated Mass and embarked on another 1.8-mile procession to the St. Michael the Archangel-St. Bernard Church, where adoration was held.

Catholics kneel before the Eucharist at the Resurrection Church of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in Pittsburgh before the start of the procession. Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA
Catholics kneel before the Eucharist at the Resurrection Church of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in Pittsburgh before the start of the procession. Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

After adoration, pilgrims prayed the Akathist to the Blessed Virgin Mary, sung by the Ukrainian Catholic Choir. This was followed by Holy Hour with sung vespers and another reception with pilgrim testimonies.

On Saturday, the pilgrims celebrated Mass at St. Mary of Mercy Church of Divine Mercy Parish, and on Sunday at St. Paul Cathedral, they celebrated Mass, which was said by Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik.

The pilgrimage is continuing through western Pennsylvania before traveling across Ohio and eventually heading to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress.

Pope Francis erects new metropolitan see in Zambia, appoints pioneer archbishop
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 14:45:00 -0400

Archbishop-elect Benjamin Phiri of the newly erected Archdiocese of Ndola in Zambia. / Credit: Archdiocese of Ndola

ACI Africa, Jun 18, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has erected the Archdiocese of Ndola in Zambia and appointed Bishop Benjamin Phiri as its first archbishop.

The southern African nation has had two metropolitan sees — the Archdiocese of Lusaka, headquartered in the country’s capital city, and the Archdiocese of Kasama in northern Zambia.

The latest administrative changes in the southern African nation were made public by the Holy See Press office on Tuesday, June 18.

The newly erected metropolitan see is located in the central region of ​​Zambia and measures 32,000 square kilometers (about 12,400 square miles) and has a population of 3.2 million, of which 1.9 million are Catholic, representing 59.6% of the total population of the archdiocese, according to the Holy See Press report.

With Kabwe and Solwezi as suffragan dioceses, the new metropolitan see has begun with 187 priests (106 diocesan and 81 religious), 151 religious brothers, 340 religious sisters, 143 major seminarians, and several catechists.

Phiri has been serving as bishop of Ndola since his installation in August 2020.

Born in June 1959 in the Diocese of Chipata, Phiri was ordained a priest of the same episcopal see in September 1986. He holds a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Urban University (Urbaniana) in Rome.

Phiri previously served as the national director of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral office and director of the vocational pastoral ministry in his native Diocese of Chipata, where he also began his episcopal ministry as auxiliary bishop in April 2011.

Previously as a priest, he also served as a personal secretary of the former bishop of Chipata, Medardo Mazombwe, who in November 1996 was appointed archbishop of Lusaka and, after his retirement in October 2006, elevated to cardinal in November 2010. He died in August 2013.

In his 2024 Lenten message, Phiri called on Christians in Zambia to nurture a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and maintain their focus on him amid “many” challenges.

He also cautioned Christians against sinful behavior, saying: “Remain focused on Christ, regardless of the many political, social, economic, and spiritual challenges that we are going through.”

Phiri called for steadfastness in the ways of the Lord, adding: “The angels of God are and shall remain to administer to us.”

This article was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

UPDATE: ‘Jesus Thirsts’ film announces extended release
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 14:00:00 -0400

"Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" will be shown in theaters June 18-26, 2024. / Credit: "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist"

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Fathom Events announced June 18 that it has decided to give “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist” an extended release beyond its planned two-day encore of June 18–19. The film will now be in theaters from June 18–26.

The documentary scored big at the box office, grossing $2,141,273 and landing at the No. 1 spot in per screen average for all three days of its initial release earlier this month.

According to Fathom Events, the film’s distributor, the movie is Fathom’s highest-grossing documentary of 2024 and is currently in second place among all documentaries released in 2024 so far.

The feature-length documentary by executive producer Deacon Steve Greco and producers Tim Moriarty and James Wahlberg was shown in theaters nationwide June 4–6.

Through dialogue with notable Catholic figures, the documentary takes viewers on a journey to rediscover the transformative power of the Eucharist by exploring the biblical origins of the Eucharist and sharing personal stories from those whose lives have been impacted by the Blessed Sacrament.

“My greatest hope for this film has been and continues to be winning souls for Jesus Christ,” Greco said in a June 7 press release. “I’m incredibly grateful to the moviegoers for showing up! Now, we need to show up again and with others.”

“The last three days have revealed the profound impact of our movie and now we have to get outside of the pew and lead our fallen-away brothers and sisters home,” Wahlberg said in the press release.

He added: “The feedback has been incredible — we have heard about packed theaters, minds and hearts deeply moved, and an urgency to tell others. The surge of posts on social media have moved like wildfire and we hope this leads to many who will become curious.”

Moriarty, writer and director of the film and founder of the production company Castletown Media, said in a press release: “Our team at Castletown Media has been profoundly moved by the overwhelming responses to ‘Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist.’”

“Viewers, often with tears in their eyes, have rediscovered a beauty in their faith that they had perhaps only glimpsed before. Many fallen-away Catholics and those outside the Church have shared how the film illuminated for them the very heart of Catholicism,” he said.

“Let this film be a clarion call to all Catholics: The time for being ashamed of our faith has ended,” he added. “Now is the moment to rediscover the boundless love of God, who meets us in the humble guise of bread and wine, and to share this love with a world in desperate need.”

On May 7, Moriarty spoke with CNA at the premiere of the film in Orange County, California, and shared that when he was first approached with the idea he believed it was “the perfect film for our times.”

“We are in a time in our Church where we need to get back to fundamentals,” he said. “We need to get back to what is at the heart of our faith, which is the ongoing incarnation of Christ in the Eucharist.”

Moriarty shared that despite being raised Catholic, there was a period in his life where he fell away from the faith and it was the Eucharist that brought him back.

“It’s the greatest gift in the world,” he said. “It’s Jesus himself and there is nothing on Earth that can satisfy that deepest longing in us.”

This story was updated June 18, 2024, with the information regarding the extended release of the film.

Judge blocks Biden gender identity protection rule in 6 states
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 13:15:00 -0400

null / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a new Biden Title IX rule in six states that included “gender identity” in Title IX’s long-standing protection against discrimination by sex.

“There are two sexes: male and female,” began Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in his opinion.

In his ruling, Reeves said the rule was an attempt to “dramatically alter the purpose” of the law, which was originally set to protect women’s equal opportunity to education.

The U.S. Department of Education issued new regulations in April that radically redefined long-standing federal sex discrimination policy under federal Title IX provisions. The new rules in part redefined “sex discrimination” under Title IX to include protections for “gender identity.” Title IX rules apply to any educational institutions that accept federal money.

Reeves halted the enforcement of Biden’s changes to Title IX in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, explaining that Title IX was set to enable women to receive equal educational opportunities.

“The new rule contravenes the plain text of Title IX by redefining ‘sex’ to include gender identity, violates government employees’ First Amendment rights, and is the result of arbitrary and capricious rulemaking,” Reeves wrote.

The ruling follows that of another federal judge who temporarily blocked the new rule in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana following April lawsuits by the states. More than a dozen other states have pending lawsuits against the rule.

The new law bans “different treatment or separation on the basis of sex,” which includes a prohibition on any policy or practice that “prevents a person from participating in an education program or activity consistent with their gender identity.”

Opponents have argued that the law could damage the safety of women’s spaces such as bathrooms, sports, and locker rooms.

At the recent U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the conference, reiterated the incompatibility of “sex change” with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Teaching about the need to respect the natural order of the human person, Pope Francis affirmed that ‘creation is prior tous and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created,’” he said, quoting Pope Francis.

In April, the bishops came out against a New Biden HHS Obamacare rule for advancing an “ideological view of sex.”

“These regulations … advance an ideological view of sex that, as the Holy See has noted, denies the most beautiful and most powerful difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said in the April 30 press release.

Two years after overturning of Roe, pro-lifers come to DC to ‘Celebrate Life’
Tue, 18 Jun 2024 12:12:00 -0400

Pro-life activists chant during a Celebrate Life Day Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the first anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2023, in Washington, D.C. / Credit Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2024 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

With the second anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by the U.S. Supreme Court approaching, thousands are expected to travel to the nation’s capital to partake in the second annual Celebrate Life Conference from June 21–23.

In response to the June 24, 2022, ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade and the authority to regulate abortion to states, the Pro-Life Women’s Conference and National Sidewalk Advocacy Center have joined forces to convene the upcoming Celebrate Life Conference, offering attendees opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and strategizing to protect unborn children.

Among many events scheduled to take place at this year’s conference, March for Life President Jeanne Mancini will deliver the opening keynote session on the next steps for the pro-life movement following the Dobbs decision.

In addition to Mancini, the lineup of speakers includes Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None and ProLove Ministries; Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America; Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life; and Lauren Muzyka, founder of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, among others.

In their talks, the speakers will address ways the pro-life movement can engage younger generations, the ongoing sex-trafficking crisis, and healing those affected by abortion, among other subjects.

Apart from these various breakout sessions, the conference will host the Celebrate Life Gala, featuring speaker Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire’s “The Matt Walsh Show.” On Saturday morning thousands will gather at the Celebrate Life Rally, held at the Lincoln Memorial to hear more calls to action by pro-life leaders and representatives.

This three-day conference comes just over a week after the unanimous Supreme Court ruling unanimously ruled against a physician-led challenge to the abortion pill, rejecting an attempt by advocates to impose stricter regulations on the drug.

In a setback for the pro-life movement, the ruling will allow abortion pills to continue to be mailed to patients without an in-person doctor’s visit under the Food and Drug Administration.

Since the Dobbs ruling, the pro-life movement has suffered several defeats at the ballot box and in the courts. Initiatives protecting the “right to abortion” passed in California, Vermont, Michigan, and Ohio. There are currently four states with abortion on the ballot in 2024, as well as an additional nine states considering ballot measures pertaining to the issue.

In addition to these legislative setbacks, the Biden administration has aggressively targeted pro-life advocates for peacefully protesting and blockading the inside of abortion clinics. Several of these individuals, including elderly women, have recently been sentenced to years in prison for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

While the Celebrate Life Conference promises to commemorate the victory of the overruling of Roe v. Wade, its main focal point will center on continuing the fight for the unborn amid such setbacks.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, shared a similar sentiment following the recent ruling on abortion pills: “The fight for life is far from over.”