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CNA - Daily News

US:    Why this Spokane Catholic school is going classical

Spokane, Wash., Jun 3, 2020 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- St. Charles Catholic School in Spokane, Washingon adds its name to a growing list of Catholic schools across the country that hope to find a renewal through an embrace of a classical liberal arts educational model.

St. Charles sits in a part of the Spokane metro area that is thick with Catholic schools. Four other parochial schools are within a ten minute drive from St. Charles. With so many Catholic schools in the area, the question for each school is, “what sets us apart?”

St. Charles’ decision to embrace a classical liberal arts model follows a track record of schools making the same transition. In Denver, Colorado, Our Lady of Lourdes School had only 104 students enrolled when it decided to switch to a classical curriculum. The following year, enrollment increased to 180 and the growth has continued. In the fall of 2018, Lourdes opened a second campus.

St. Charles’ move to classical was not a forgone conclusion; the school has had several changes of leadership over the last few years. In 2019, the school welcomed a new pastor and principal, Fr.  Esteban Soler and principal Heather Schlaich. As school leaders looked at the future of the school, they hoped to bring stability and growth to the school.  

Soler said he “has a heart” for classical liberal education and for the humanities. Growing up in Argentina, the priest was classically educated from 6th grade through high school. For Schlaich, the appeal of a classical liberal arts curriculum was multifaceted.

"In doing our research, we found it is an idea that is spreading nationwide," she said. The emphasis on the arts also impressed Schlaich, whose background is music education.

“Knowing that we needed something new and exciting in our community, and knowing that there is a need to fill because there isn’t a Catholic elementary school that is classical in Spokane, we felt this is a niche we could fill,” she added.

The decision to fill a niche role with a classical curriculum is expected to help neighboring Catholic schools. Rather than competing for the same pool of students, St. Charles hopes to bring new families into the Catholic school system.

“I’m hoping we meet that need and get more kids into Catholic school,” Schlaich said.

For those who are not familiar with it, the idea of classical education can seem mysterious.  But Schlaich said there is a simple way to define the underlying principle of classical liberal arts education: “I would describe it as an integration of subjects with the faith.”

Explaining further, Soler stressed the unity of the curriculum, all subjects are rooted in faith and in the Catholic vision that all truth comes from God.

“The curriculum is oriented to help the kids to grow in a coherent base, where everything is understood as a whole, before they can go to different specifications.”

A classical education can seem old-fashioned to many, and in a way, it is. The roots of classical curriculum go right back to ancient Greece. The educational model continued to develop in Mediterranean and European countries. The curriculum is not stuck in the past though; technology is incorporated into the classroom on an as-needed basis and the curriculum meets current educational standards, school leaders told CNA.

What about Latin? The students at St. Charles will learn Latin, starting in kindergarten. The study of one or more of the classical languages, Greek or Latin, is a hallmark of classical schools. Soler will teach the students Latin himself, having an extensive background in Latin himself, studying the language for 10 years both in Argentina and in Rome.

Schlaich said that compared to a typical secular, modern school, the focus of a classical school is on “cultivating wisdom and virtue.” The school does this by “teaching the students Latin, exposing them to high quality literature, and focusing on appreciation of beauty, goodness, and truth.”

After the change was announced in the spring of 2020, those in the school community had many questions.  

“I have had a lot of positive feedback, [but] there is anxiety in some people, I would say, because it is a change, and there is anxiety with any change,” Soler noted.

Priest and principal met with families to explain the changes, and while many families are supportive, some have decided to move to neighboring schools.

Heather Morrisson, a parent of St. Charles' students said she is excited for the change in curriculum. "I love that we are integrating religion into every aspect of the curriculum and I like that we are encouraging critical thinking in the students."

Schlaich said the response from teachers has also been enthusiastic.

“Our teachers are very loyal," she said. "They are excited we are going to be digging deeper, looking at deeper meanings.”

Soler said he is looking forward to the adventure of undertaking this change.

“We will be the only Catholic school in the area – not in the state because we have St. Monica on Mercer Island, and there are other schools in the Seattle area looking to make the change – but we will be the only one in the area to make the change.”

Looking to the future, both Soler and Schlaich are hopeful about the transition.

“We are excited,” Fr.  Soler said. “It is a challenge, but overall, I think it will be good. I think it will attract families who are not served by Catholic schools now. The school is part of the life of the parish. The mission of the parish, like every Catholic parish, is to evangelize. I hope the school will help bring the students to a deeper knowledge of Christ.”

 


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Americas:    Human rights groups decry effort to promote abortion in pandemic response

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 05:57 pm (CNA).- A total of 434 human rights organizations from 16 countries have released a manifesto condemning the push from external groups to promote abortion in their nations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The “International Manifesto for the Right to Life” was delivered this week to the foreign ministry offices of Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador.

It repudiates the U.N.’s Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19 for Ecuador, which requires “safe, legal abortion” as a condition for aid.

The plan claims to be “humanitarian aid” but “includes a $3 million allocation to train health care personnel in so-called 'safe and legal abortion,' in violation of the Constitution and Ecuadoran laws,” the manifesto says.

The manifesto also rejects the “Joint Statement on Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Promoting Gender-responsiveness in the COVID-19 Crisis” signed by representatives of 59 countries – including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru – which promotes access to abortion.

The International Manifesto for the Right to Life argues that there is a major disconnect between the efforts to promote abortion and the broader society’s focus on safeguarding human life amid the coronavirus crisis. Many of the countries in question have protections in their constitutions, criminal codes, and civil codes to protect human life of the moment of conception, the document notes.

Instead of advocating for pro-abortion policies, the right to life manifesto calls for a “focus on public policies based on human dignity, and for effectively putting an end to any attempt to interfere with or attack the sovereignty of our countries, in particular coming from the U.N. and its principal agencies.” It pointed specifically to the United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Martha Villafuerte, a representative of Ecuador for the Family, argued that international aid “must come without conditions or financial coercion.” She noted that Ecuador currently has the highest level of coronavirus deaths per capita recorded in Latin America.

“[I]t is unacceptable to try to take advantage of the situation to slip in through the back door a crime that the Constitution rejects,” she said.

Luis Losada, director of CitizenGO Campaigns for Latin America, called the U.N. effort to promote abortion in Ecuador a textbook example of “ideological interference.” A CitizenGO petition opposing the international pressure for abortion has garnered more than 32,000 signatures.

“[The international interference] violates the statutes of the United Nations that expressly commit it to not interfere in national policies or legislation, respecting the sovereignty of nations,” Losada said. “It violates the Constitution of Ecuador that protects the right to life from the moment of conception. And it violates the parliamentary debate (in Ecuador) that took place last year on the proposal to decriminalize abortion, which fortunately did not succeed.”

Losada said the U.N.'s humanitarian proposal is “an insult not only to the sovereignty of Ecuador but to that of the rest of the countries in the region, which take note of the impunity with which this interference is being done.”

“[T]he government of Ecuador must defend its sovereignty, national dignity, the Constitution and the right to life by rejecting this illegal and immoral proposal by the United Nations,” he said.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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US:    Delaware lifts controversial rules for reopening churches

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 3, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The governor of Delaware has amended controversial restrictions on houses of worship after a local church threatened a lawsuit. 

In an updated guidance released by Gov. John Carney (D) on the evening of June 2, the number of people who are allowed to gather in a house of worship was adjusted to match that of other businesses during the phased reopening. Additionally, previous limitations on baptisms and the distribution of Communion are now encouraged, but not mandatory, according to the June 2 guidance. 

“Special services, such as baptisms, initiations, weddings, and funerals are permitted, but pose significant health threats if strict social distancing, hygiene and other measures are not taken to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” says the updated guidance.

The only express prohibitions in the updated guidance are the sharing of microphones, the sharing of food or beverages between people who do not reside in the same household, and the passing of a collection plate. 

The changes came after a lawsuit was filed by the Rev. Dr. Christopher Alan Bullock, who is the pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in New Castle. Bullock argued that the restrictions that had been placed on houses of worship, but not other categories of essential businesses, were unconstitutional. 

Previously, the houses of worship were held to a hard limit of 10 people allowed inside, instead of a percentage of the listed fire capacity. Services were encouraged to be outdoors if possible, choirs were banned, masks were required, and those who were over the age of 65 were instructed to stay away from a house of worship. Additionally, the older guidance prohibited a worship leader from holding a congregant, including for a baptism. 

These things are now discouraged, but not banned. 

Bullock’s lawyer argued that the guidance prohibiting a pastor from touching someone being baptized was discriminatory, as there was no similar ban on person-to-person contact for a Jewish circumcision or for a childcare worker taking care of a child. 

Earlier on Tuesday, attorneys for the governor said that there would be changes made to the guidance for houses of worship in order to comply with the First Amendment. 

Robert Krebs, the director of communications for the Diocese of Wilmington, told CNA that the diocese had “been working very closely with the governors” of states in its territory, and has “tried our best to comply” with various orders and regulations. 

The Diocese of Wilmington includes the entirety of the state of Delaware as well as the eastern shore of Maryland. 

Krebs remained hopeful that the diocese would be able to continue collaborations with state authorities as reopenings continue. 

“We found that both Governor Carney’s administration and Governor Hogan’s in Maryland have been very willing to listen and open to suggestions,” said Krebs. “We have no reason to believe that won’t continue.”


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US:    Racial justice is a pro-life issue, says leading pro-life legislator

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 3, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates must speak out in defense of all human life--including issues of racial justice and deaths at the hands of police, a prominent pro-life lawmaker told CNA Wednesday.

Louisiana state Senator Katrina Jackson told CNA in a June 3 interview that the pro-life movement “has made great strides in becoming more racially diverse” and should now be speaking out against racism and the killings of black men by police or by other people who target them for their race.

A nationally known pro-life Democrat, Jackson addressed the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. in 2019 and 2020. She served eight years in the Louisiana House before she became a state senator this year. 

Jackson, who is black and a Baptist, spoke to CNA about racism, and the nationwide demonstrations that have taken place, including violence in some cities, in the wake of the death of George Floyd on May 25.

The lawmaker said pro-lifers cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. She quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noting that “a time comes when silence is betrayal.”

Jackson, who has been lauded for her bipartisan efforts to pass some of the country’s most stringent restrictions on abortion, told CNA that she is “pro-life from conception until death.” 

“I tell people that it’s not enough that we ask someone not to have an abortion and keep going.”

Protests began in Minneapolis last week after Floyd’s death in police custody. Video of his arrest showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd groaned, cried out, and repeatedly said he could not breathe. Chauvin has since been charged with murder, and other officers on the scene charged as his accomplices. 

Demonstrations, along with rioting and looting, have followed in numerous U.S. cities and suburbs last week and into this week, with more than 9,000 people arrested. Protesters have clashed regularly with police forces in some cities, while in other cities, police leaders have supported or joined in peaceful protest marches.

Floyd’s death, Jackson said, came as he was arrested “by those who took an oath to protect and serve,” 

She lamented the “alarming amount of African-American males that are killed by murderous hands,” including those killed by police officers. Such deaths, she said, are “a life issue.”

Racism, and the deaths of young black men, have been “plaguing our nation for years,” she said.

“It has to stop, because it goes directly against the pro-life stance that every life has value.”

“Right now, the pro-life movement could be holding very diverse online townhall meetings to discuss this issue,” she said, to “talk about life being important at every stage of life.”

Jackson also called for a more visible presence by pro-life advocates in peaceful protests, holding signs with language such as “life matters at every stage.”

“It’s as simple as that. Those are two things that we could be doing immediately, that I’m doing, to make sure people understand that we believe that innocent life should not be taken, at any stage,” she said.

While Jackson appeared with President Donald Trump at the 2020 March for Life, and has praised pro-life measures enacted by his administration, she expressed concern about the president’s response to the riots and protests.

“President Trump is doing more to incite and to perpetuate anger over this issue than he is doing to calm it down,” Jackson told CNA.

Last week, while threatening to deploy the U.S. military to quell riots, Trump tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Jackson said the president’s words, under the guise of upholding law and order, might have exacerbated lawlessness.

“Of course I stand against the looting, but I also stand against lawless actions of those who are put in positions to protect and serve, and to serve constituencies—which he is,” she said of Trump. “And what he did when he stated that, he basically promoted a lawless action himself. And that’s what’s so problematic.”

The next day, Trump offered an explanation for his use of the phrase, saying that violent riots could lead to other acts of violence. “Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night,” he tweeted.

The tweet was nevertheless interpreted by many to justify police firing rubber bullets or live rounds at those protesters who are looting stores. “What the president needs to understand is that—as the leader of the free world—what he tweets, what he says, has great consequences,” Jackson said, adding that, in her view, Trump “needs to understand that.”

“And it’s becoming very disturbing,” she added, that “he seems not to.”

Jackson said that the idea a person might be shot in response to a theft “goes directly against what American laws, every criminal justice system in America stands for.” 

She told CNA that the president’s comments could encourage some people to take the law into their own hands: “There may be someone who goes out and shoots someone who’s looting because the president said it’s okay,” Jackson worried.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis noted that he had “witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd.”

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the pope said. “At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”


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US:    Detroit archdiocese's parish restructuring aims for more than mergers

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Detroit has announced a major restructuring process that could combine over 200 parishes into “family” groupings that aim to alter and, perhaps, avoid, aspects of the parish merger model.

“Even before the pandemic, we knew God wanted to renew our parishes. The structures we inherited served our mission well in the past, but they need to be renewed and aligned for mission,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a May 31 announcement.

“And so, in prayer and in consultation with others, I’ve discerned that this is the time to respond in faith to our new reality and to better equip our parish communities for mission,” he said.

The changes envision groupings of three to six parishes, in what the archdiocese is presenting as a “family of parishes” model. The archdiocese expects about 60 to 80 “family” groupings to be formed from its 218 parishes. These parishes serve about 1.4 million Catholics.

Among the difficulties for the archdiocese is the aging of its clergy.

Almost two-thirds of the 382 priests in the archdiocese are older than 60. With an average age of 64 in 2018, many of the priests are near retirement. The coronavirus epidemic could worsen the problem, if older priests become ill from the disease or retire early due to health concerns, the archdiocesan news site Detroit Catholic reported.

The “parish family” model differs from a parish-merger model because each parish in a “family” group would retain its identity under canon law, the Detroit Catholic reports. However, it would share a leadership team that could include priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, and other parish staff.

This model would not make one priest responsible for multiple communities, which can cause burnout and isolation. Rather, several priests and deacons would work together to administer the parishes and serve parishioners’ sacramental needs, providing better bonds among clergy.

The changes are presented at the Families of Parishes website.

According to its frequently asked questions section, the merged parish model “leaves the parishioners feeling as if they do not have the support that they want and need from clergy.”

In the planning process, teams of clergy and lay leaders will discuss various options for how to lead and govern parish families. This discussion will follow models like that of the neighboring Diocese of London.

The new model could still mean parish closures.

“As each ‘family’ discerns how to best align resources, they may decide to retain their separate identities and worship spaces,” the Families of Parishes’ frequently-asked questions said. “Others, after a careful and honest review of existing resources, may opt to close worship spaces or merge with partnering parishes.”

Some staff could be cut, for instance, if each grouping opts to share a single bookkeeper. The archdiocese said it is possible some groupings could add positions to better serve their mission.

The groupings of parishes will be announced in Advent.

The archdiocese plans for half of the parishes to begin to operate in the new model by July 2021, with the other half intended to shift to the model by July 2022. Six months of preparation are planned for the parish change.

In this time, each group of parishes will discuss practical problems about clergy, staff, and parish interaction. They will finalize leadership structure and staff positions, and consider changes to Mass and confession schedules to help accommodate parishioners.

Archbishop Vigneron asked for prayers for this “very important step in the life and mission of our local Church.”


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Vatican:    Pope Francis called Archbishop Gomez to express prayers after death of George Floyd

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 02:53 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis called the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference on Wednesday to convey his prayers and solidarity for Americans during the period of national unrest that began with the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed May 25 during an arrest by Minneapolis police.

“The Holy Father said he was praying, especially for Archbishop Bernard Hebda and the local Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote in a June 3 letter to bishops obtained by CNA.

“He thanked the bishops for the pastoral tone of the Church’s response to the demonstrations across the country in our statements and actions since the death of George Floyd. He assured us of his continued prayers and closeness in the days and weeks ahead,” Gomez added.

On May 25, Floyd was arrested for attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, while other officers stood nearby and watched.

Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has spurred widespread protests, and looting and riots in numerous cities. President Donald Trump sparked controversy Monday when he said he would deploy federal troops to quell riots if state governors did not mobilize the National Guard.

Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force. On June 3, Minnesota’s attorney general announced that Chauvin will be charged with second-degree murder, and the other officers charged with aiding and abetting.

U.S. bishops in numerous states have since expressed their support for protestors, prayed for healing, called for police reform, and decried racism.

On May 29, several members of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they were “broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”

“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

“Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life,” they said.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered Mass for Floyd’s soul on for his family May 27, has led or attended numerous prayer services, and marched June 2 with other area faith leaders to place where Floyd died, for a moment of prayer.

Gomez said that on behalf of the U.S. bishops, “I expressed our gratitude for his concern for the people of the United States,” and assured him that bishops are praying for him.

“In this challenging moment for our ministries and our country, I hope we can all take comfort and gain strength from our Holy Father’s prayers and encouragement.”

 

 


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US:    Madison diocese says it will sue over religious restrictions

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 3, 2020 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- Attorneys representing the Diocese of Madison sent a letter to Dane County and City of Madison officials on Wednesday, June 3, notifying officials they will file suit if parishes in the diocese are not permitted to operate at the same capacity as retail outlets. 

Under Dane County’s reopening guidelines, retail businesses are permitted to operate at 25% capacity. Places of worship, however, are limited to a maximum of 50 people regardless of the capacity of the building, with regular religious services classified as “mass gatherings,” similar to concerts or music festivals. 

“Under the Order, thousands of people may shop together at a mall; hundreds of employees may arrive at an office or factory every morning to conduct the business’s everyday operations; and hundreds of children may spend a few hours bouncing off each other at trampoline parks,” said the June 3 letter sent by lawyers from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. 

“But, because religious services have uniformly been deemed ‘Mass Gatherings,’ no more than 50 of the 1,225 seats in Saint Maria Goretti Church may be filled.”

Madison Bishop Donald Hying said Wednesday that the Church had an urgent mission to serve the community, one the reopening plan was preventing. 

“In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the racial injustice of the past week, our community is crying out for unity, for grace, and for spiritual healing. We are ready and able to answer that call, but the 50-person cap has unjustly stifled our pastoral mission,” the bishop said.

“Our diocese has been, and remains, committed to promoting and protecting the health and safety of our fellow Madisonians, but the county and city have wrongly subordinated the spiritual needs of the community to the operations of non-essential businesses,” he added. 

Places of worship are the only category capped in Madison by a specific number for “everyday operations” rather than by a general capacity restriction. Violators will be subject to fines and citations, and the Department of Health in Madison and Dane County threatened to send enforcement officers to monitor the congregation size at Masses. 

The letter is signed by attorneys from The Becket Fund and three other law firms. It is addressed to Dane County Executive Joseph T. Parisi, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Janel Heinrich, the director of public health for the City of Madison and Dane County. 

“Throughout this pandemic, the Church has been a good public citizen. It suspended public worship before the law required, and continues to impose greater operational restrictions than required,” the letter said, adding that the Church has continued to tend to the sick, poor, and incarcerated during this time. 

But, the lawyers argued, local Emergency Order 3, issued May 22, “treats religious interests unequally and unfairly.” 

“In no event, not even in the largest synagogue, mosque, church, or temple, and no matter how carefully spaced or protected, shall more than 50 people gather for worship. This unequal and unfair treatment violates the Church’s cherished constitutional freedoms and, more importantly, hobbles unconscionably its pastoral mission.” 

The first two reopening plans issued by Dane County did not contain the 50-person limit for houses of worship; churches were expected to reopen on the same level as other businesses and operate at 25% capacity. The Diocese of Madison developed a reopening plan that assumed they would be allowed to have congregations of this size. 

The third version, Executive Order 3, removed this parity and, the lawyers argue, “there is no valid, nondiscriminatory reason to maintain far stricter restrictions on houses of worship.” 

The letter requests that the county and city change the policy by June 5 and allow for churches to operate at 25% capacity, otherwise they will file suit. 

“To be clear, the Church has no particular interest in litigation or in a protracted dispute or an uncooperative relationship with civil authorities,” said the letter. 

“However, the Church is legally and morally entitled to be treated equally with other similarly situated nonreligious associations that have been permitted to reopen up to 25 percent capacity,” they added, asserting that the Diocese of Madison “stands ready” to once again safely hold Mass.

The complaint by the Madison diocese is similar to challenges against state rules issued in Minnesota and Illinois. 

After they were challenged by the state’s bishops, who announced they would defy the governor, Minnesota rules were amended May 23. After three lawsuits and the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, Illinois Governor JB Prtizker announced May 28 that state guidelines for churches would be non-binding.


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Europe:    German bishop calls for Rome synod to discuss German synod

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 01:31 pm (CNA).- The president of the German bishops' conference has called for a synod in Rome that would discuss resolutions of the German "synodal process" at the level of the universal Church.

"What arises synodally must also be clarified and answered synodally," Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said, explaining he was "very much in favour of transporting to Rome, to the level of the whole Church, the insights and decisions that we garner from the Synodal Process - also with regard to [the role of] women and ecclesial ministry."

In an interview with the magazine "Publik-Forum" published May 27, the bishop reiterated his support for the "Synodal Process" currently underway in Germany, and for resolutions providing for "coalitions that set changes."

Bätzing, 59, who succeeded Cardinal Reinhard Marx as president of the German bishops' conference in March, also said he had "concrete ideas about what can be achieved in the Forums" of the process.

Resolutions of the synod could include the introduction of a Church blessing for homosexual couples, according to Bätzing. The bishop said that "quite a few suffer from the fact that their relationship does not receive full Church recognition", adding that those affected were waiting for a positive "signal" from the Church and warned that in his view, the magisterium of the Church, as currently proclaimed, was perceived by people as one of "prohibitive morals."

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized that the Church’s teaching regarding the morality of homosexuality is a matter of doctrine that cannot change.

In 2003, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Despite those things, Bätzing said that in his view "time is running out for us," and stressed an urgent need for "changes."

Other changes could include, the bishop told the magazine, the admission of Christians of other denominations to the Eucharist purely on the basis of their decision of conscience.

"Christians can decide with good arguments and according to their own conscience to participate in the Eucharist or Last Supper of the respective other denomination," Bätzing said, since there was "now so much agreement about what we believe and celebrate."

In 2018, Pope Francis said that the matter of intercommunion could only be decided by local bishops, and then only with respect for the Church’s norms on the subject.

Bätzing, who has previously voiced his potential support for the ordination of women, conceded that several Popes, including Pope Francis, had emphatically declared that the question of the admission of women to the priesthood was a closed one. However, this could not mean "that the question of the ordination of women is not discussed further," the German bishop said.

Given the debate over an ordination of women was not going away, Bätzing continued, he supported bringing insights and resolutions garnered on the "Synodal Path" also "to Rome. What arises synodally must also be clarified and answered synodally."

The German bishops' conference president also said that in his view, a "lack of priests does not necessarily damage the vitality of the Church", telling interviewers that he hoped for changes to "certain formulations as they reflect the current state of doctrine in the Catechism" of the Catholic Church.

Whilst the "substance of the Faith" is immutable, Bätzing asserted that in his view, "the self-revelation of God continues steadily." Furthermore, the Church needs to always seek out the "signs of the times", and where necessary "develop" its teachings, including those on sexual morality, as CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner, reported.

Catholic teaching on the development of doctrine is complex. But the Church teaches that doctrine cannot develop in such a way that it contradicts itself, and teaches that “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Prior to his election to the role of president of the bishops' conference, Bätzing chaired the forum on sexuality of the "Synodal Process." On May 28, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cologne announced he was no longer participating in that "Synodal Forum" as it endorsed "polyvalent sexuality".

In September 2019, Marianne Schlosser, a member of the International Theological Commission, announced that she was no longer available to participate in the process, citing concerns over both the approach and methodology of the "synodal path."

Schlosser, a professor of theology at the University of Vienna and the recipient of the 2018 Ratzinger Prize, was invited to take part in the Synodal Way’s forum “on women in ecclesial roles and offices” as an expert.

Saying she could not identify with the intermediate report of the preparatory group, Schlosser raised a number of issues, in particular identifying a “fixation on ordination” of women.

Last year the German bishops announced plans for a two-year “Synodal Way,” bringing together lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

They said the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge Church teaching and discipline.

In June, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

“Every time an ecclesial community has tried to get out of its problems alone, relying solely on its own strengths, methods and intelligence, it has ended up multiplying and nurturing the evils it wanted to overcome,” he wrote.

In September, the Vatican sent a letter to the German bishops declaring that their plans for the synod were “not ecclesiologically valid.”

After a back and forth between the bishops’ conference and Vatican officials, the first synodal assembly took place in Frankfurt at the end of January. The second meeting is expected to go ahead, though in a changed format and at a later date, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Initially, the process was scheduled to be completed in October 2021.

 


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Asia - Pacific:    Bishop says UK must 'safeguard fundamental freedoms' in Hong Kong

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- A bishop has urged the U.K. Government to defend “fundamental freedoms” in Hong Kong after the Chinese parliament approved a controversial security law for the city.

According to a June 1 press release, Bishop Declan Lang challenged the U.K. to fulfill its responsibilities to Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which led to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule. 

In a letter to the U.K.’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, Bishop Lang said: “Like so many others in the Catholic community I am deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of autonomy, suppression of political freedoms, and violent response to peaceful protests taking place in breach of this treaty.”

“The U.K. has a clear legal, moral and historical duty to safeguard fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. Failure to do so at this critical time will not only have devastating consequences for more than seven million people living there but is also likely to have dangerous repercussions for human rights and international law more broadly.”

Lang, who is chairman of the Department of International Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the U.K. should stand in solidarity with Hong Kong’s citizens, “using all available diplomatic means to protect them from the serious violations of their human dignity that we are now witnessing.”

The bishop’s comments echoed those of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Bishop of Hong Kong, who told CNA last week: “The international community should feel the moral duty to help this city where we live according to international values, also for their own interests.”

Lang’s intervention came as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if Beijing imposed the new security law he would offer the nearly three million Hong Kong citizens eligible for a British national overseas passport the right to live and work in Britain.

In an article in the Times of London June 3, Johnson said the 350,000 residents who already hold British national overseas passports, as well as around 2.5 million who are entitled to apply for them, could be given 12-month renewable visas. 

“If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change its immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights including the right to work which would place them on the route to citizenship,” he wrote.

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chair of Hong Kong Watch, which monitors the rule of law in the city, told CNA: “I warmly welcome Bishop Declan’s statement, which is a profoundly important declaration of solidarity with Hong Kong at this critical time.” 

Rogers, a vocal critic of China’s human rights record who was denied entry to Hong Kong in 2017, added: “Hong Kong’s freedoms, including religious freedom, have never been more in danger and it is vital that everyone who values freedom and human dignity speaks up for Hong Kong now.”
 


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Vatican:    Vatican Museums offer free entry to Italian medical workers

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican Museums are offering free entry to medical workers in appreciation for their work on the front line of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.

Doctors, nurses, and all other staff members of Italy’s public and private health facilities will have free entry to the museums on June 8-13. 

The announcement June 3 came as Italy opened its regional borders, allowing doctors throughout the country to visit Rome.

The Vatican is also offering free entry for the next two weeks to the Pontifical Villas and gardens at Castel Gandolfo, which are due to reopen for weekend visits starting June 6. 

All visitors to the Vatican Museums are required to make online reservations in order to limit the number of people in the museums and stagger entrance times. Visitors will only be admitted if they wear a face mask and undergo a temperature check.

The daily number of new documented cases of COVID-19 in Italy rose this week after Italy lifted many of its coronavirus restrictions in May.

There were 318 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Italy June 2, up from 178 confirmed new cases June 1. More than 50% of the new infections were recorded in Lombardy, the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, group visits to the Vatican Museums will be capped at a maximum of 10 people.

To accommodate local visitors, the museums have extended their hours to encourage afternoon and evening visits, especially over the weekend.

The museums will be open Monday through Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. each day. On Friday and Saturday the museums and gardens will stay open until 10 p.m. with an option to purchase cocktails in the museum courtyard.

Visitors to the Vatican Museums will be able to see the newly restored frescoes in the Raphael Rooms’ Hall of Constantine, which were unveiled to the public when the museum opened its doors June 1. 

Italy opened its international borders to visitors from Europe’s Schengen area June 3. It is the first European country to open its international borders in the hope that tourist visits during the summer months will boost the country’s economy.

The Italian Ministry of Health has reported 39,893 current positive cases of COVID-19 in Italy as of June 2. More than 160,000 Italians have recovered from the coronavirus and 33,530 have died, including at least 125 healthcare workers.


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Vatican:    Vatican cardinal urges forgiveness, justice in response to George Floyd killing

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2020 / 08:10 am (CNA).- Cardinal Peter Turkson on Wednesday decried the existence of racism around the world, urging people to seek justice and fraternity, and to forgive those who have hurt them or others.

Speaking to Vatican News June 3, the Ghanaian cardinal said racism was a widespread social phenomenon, and could be found not only in the United States but in many other parts of the world.

“For us as a Church, it goes against the basic thing we believe about the human person right from Creation. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Every person is imbued with human dignity that is precious in the sight of God, which doesn’t come from any human person,” he said.

Turkson responded to questions about racism in the context of widespread protests taking place in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd in police custody. Some protests have turned to nights of rioting, and conflicts with police. At least five people have died amid the protests.

The cardinal, who is the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke about justice as a “positive virtue.”

“Justice is actually the mending of relationships, the restoration of ties. In a situation like this, the cry for justice means the cry against what hurts brotherhood, what keeps brotherhood from happening,” he said.

“When we have situations that go radically against human dignity, that stymy it or kill it, it becomes a big source of concern,” he continued.

Turkson pointed out two examples of acts of injustice toward God and man which took place soon after creation.

“The first was disobedience of God’s word. The second was the killing of a brother,” he said, referencing Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. “The first instance of violence in the human person is the killing of a brother.”

In the video of the May 25 arrest of George Floyd, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes after he was taken into custody. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe.” He died soon after.

In the face of racism, the Church must promote the dignity of the human person, Turkson said in the interview.

“It is in this context,” he stated, “that the President of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, reflecting on this situation, says that the riots in U.S. cities reflect the justified frustration of millions of brothers and sisters who, even today, experience humiliation, indignity, unequal opportunity only because of the color of their skin.”

The cardinal also noted the Catholic Church’s praise for calls by George Floyd’s brother for non-violent civil action, and said: “I would add to the call of non-violence also the call to forgiveness. This, I think, is the way we can dignify the memory of George Floyd.”

The cardinal also urged bishops, priests, and other Catholic leaders in the United States to unite in prayer, especially in the many cities experiencing violence, proposing that they hold an ecumenical or interreligious prayer event in an open park.

“As a Catholic Church, that’s what we can do: pray for George now. And it would be great if there could be some organization of a big prayer event to bring people together,” he added. “It would give them the chance to express their pent-up anger, but in a way that is wholesome, in a way that is religious, in a way that is healing.”


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Vatican:    Pope Francis on what we can learn about prayer from Blaise Pascal

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis pointed to an experience of 17th-century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal as an important testimony of how one can sense the living presence of God in personal prayer.

The pope called a small handwritten note that was discovered sewn into Pascal’s coat at the time of his death “one of the most original texts in the history of spirituality.”

“It begins thus,” Pope Francis said. “‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob not of the philosophers and of the learned. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ.’”

Pope Francis said June 3 that in these lines from Pascal’s “Memorial,” the philosopher “expresses not an intellectual reflection that a wise man like him could conceive of God, but the living, experienced sense of his presence.”

“Pascal even notes the precise moment in which he felt that reality, having finally met it: on the evening of November 23, 1654,” Pope Francis said. 

The experience of Pascal, who was known in his time as a mathematician and a scientist, on that night in 1654 led him to more fervently practice his Catholic faith with asceticism and written apologetics.

This was not the first time Pope Francis has spoken of his admiration for the French thinker. In an interview in July 2017, the Jesuit pope said that he believes that Pascal, who was at times a harsh critic of the Jesuits, “deserves beatification.”

For Pascal, Pope Francis said, God is not an abstract cosmic concept: “No, he is the God of a person, of a call, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, the God who is certainty, who is feeling, who is joy.”

“The God of Abraham becomes ‘my God,’ the God of my personal history, who guides my steps, who does not abandon me; the God of my days, the companion of my adventures,” the pope said.

He said that Abraham was so familiar with God that he was capable of arguing with him, while remaining faithful. 

“I wonder and I ask you: do we have this experience of God?” the pope asked in his weekly catechesis offered via livestream.

“‘My God,’ the God who accompanies me, the God of my personal history, the God who guides my steps, who does not abandon me, the God of my days. Do we have this experience? Let’s think about it,” he said.

The pope encouraged people to learn to pray with faith by listening to the Lord and having a discussion with him, even if this discussion is about something that angers us. 

“We are not afraid to argue with God,” he said. “This is a form of prayer because only a child is able to get angry with his father and then meet him again.”

Pope Francis encouraged people to read the Book of Genesis to see “how Abraham lived prayer in continuous fidelity to that Word.”

“We learn from Abraham to pray with faith, to dialogue, to discuss, but always willing to accept the word of God and put it into practice,” he said.

“When God speaks, man becomes the receptor of that Word and his life the place where he asks to become incarnate,” he said. “This is a great novelty in man’s religious journey: the life of the believer begins … as a call, as a place where a promise is fulfilled; and he moves in the world not so much under the weight of an enigma, but with the strength of that promise, which one day will come true.”

After his catechesis, in his greeting to English speakers, Pope Francis addressed the ongoing protests and riots happening across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd.

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” Pope Francis said.


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Europe:    Assembly rejects ‘imposition’ of abortion regulations on Northern Ireland

CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2020 / 04:45 am (CNA).- The Northern Ireland Assembly voted Tuesday in favor of a motion rejecting the “imposition” of abortion legislation by the Westminster parliament. 

The motion was non-binding, meaning that it will not alter the law in Northern Ireland, which came into force March 31 and permits abortion up to birth on grounds of disability. 

But the vote will send a signal to MPs in Westminster who are due to vote on the regulations and give a boost to those campaigning for abortion laws to be determined by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Assembly debated the new regulations June 2 in response to an appeal from Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman with Down syndrome who advocates for disability rights.

Assembly members voted by 46 to 40 in favor of a motion which read: “That this Assembly welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the imposition of abortion legislation that extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s syndrome.”

Members rejected an amendment proposed by Sinn Féin, an Irish nationalist party that supported the liberalization of abortion of laws in Northern Ireland. The amendment, which was defeated by 52 votes to 32, was more narrowly drafted, focusing on “the specific legislative provision in the abortion legislation which goes beyond fatal fetal abnormalities to include non-fatal disabilities, including Down Syndrome,” but not challenging other aspects of the law.

Arlene Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which proposed the successful motion, tweeted June 2: “Our MPs will be raising this result at Westminster. On a devolved issue like this, it should be for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide.”

The British parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 in July, with amendments legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage.

The act took effect Oct. 22 because the Northern Ireland Assembly, which had been suspended for the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, was not able to do business by Oct. 21.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 allow elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortions up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to the mother’s physical or mental health; and abortion without time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment or fetal abnormality.

Previously, abortion was legally permitted in the region only if the mother’s life was at risk or if there was risk of long-term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

According to Health Minister Robin Swann, 129 abortions took place in the seven weeks between March 31 and May 22 in Northern Ireland. In January, the Northern Ireland Department of Health disclosed that eight abortions had taken place in hospitals in 2018/19.

The day before the Northern Ireland Assembly vote, the Catholics bishops of Northern Ireland urged members to reject the new abortion regulations, which they said were imposed “without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.”

“Politicians and all people of good will, who recognize the extreme nature of the Regulations, should not meekly acquiesce to their promulgation,” the bishops wrote in a letter to legislators June 1.

Catherine Robinson, spokeswoman for Right to Life UK, said June 2: “Tonight’s vote has made it clear that the UK Government must urgently hand back this devolved matter to the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland at the Assembly.”

“The UK Government and Westminster now have absolutely no mandate whatsoever to impose these extreme regulations on Northern Ireland.” 


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US:    Better to engage WHO than leave, UN observer says 

Denver Newsroom, Jun 3, 2020 / 03:26 am (CNA).- While President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization, a better strategy would be engagement and linking U.S. funding to reform, says the head of U.N. advocacy for a pro-life legal group.

“Defund, don’t disengage. Don’t leave. There’s still good that can be done if the U.S. really takes a stand,” Elyssa Koren, director of United Nations advocacy at ADF International, told CNA June 1.

On May 29, President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the WHO, charging that the agency failed to alert the world when the novel coronavirus emerged. He accused the U.N. agency of helping China cover up the threat.

Last month, Trump put a temporary freeze on U.S. funds during a review of U.S. membership. The U.S. had typically given $400 million per year to the organization, whose budget is about $4.8 billion per year.

“This situation actually warrants a middle-ground approach,” Koren said. “It doesn’t make sense for the U.S. to back out.”

Koren, author of the ADF International white paper “The United Nations Population Fund and the Illicit Promotion of Abortion,” is among the observers who has criticized WHO for its involvement in abortion. She suggested the U.S. could defund the agency without completely cutting ties.

It is not appropriate “for taxpayer dollars to go for abortion in developing world,” she said. However, the U.S. has the ability to make funding dependent on reforms.

“We understand the value of the U.N. We understand the value of the WHO,” she said. According to Koren, the popes “always underscore that there has to be a place for those global conversations to be had.”

“I don’t think recreating these institutions, abandoning one and setting up shop in another, is really going to change the dynamics or avoid the pitfalls,” she said.

Koren said problems in pro-life issues are serious enough to warrant defunding. The WHO's Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research has as its main funder the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a major abortion advocacy group. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also heavily involved.

She has found other areas of worry that may be benefitting in part from U.S. funding: “Labeling abortion as an essential response to the pandemic. Listing abortificacients as essential medicines. Home abortions, do-it-yourself abortions. That’s egregious enough that now is the time to defund.”

“American policy under the current administration is that we shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to promote abortion abroad,” Koren continued, labeling WHO funding a “fundamental violation” of these policies. “It doesn't make sense to be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the WHO if they will be channeling that money into the provision of abortion in these countries.”

This tendency is evident even in the UN global coronavirus response plan, which calls for $2 billion for coronavirus relief.

Koren explained that the United Nations Population Fund, known by the acronym UNFPA, provides Minimum Initial Service Packages. In these packs are instruments used in the context of abortion: vacuum extractors, craniocrasts for the crushing of fetal skills, and drugs to perform abortions.

While the UNFPA would say the equipment is used for complications from miscarriages, Koren said, “that’s largely refuted because it comes with manuals from IBIS, an abortion provider, explaining how they can be used for abortions.”

UNFPA and related agencies has a long history of sending this packages in tandem with abortion referral services.

Koren voiced alarm that the WHO refers to these kits in its coronavirus pandemic plans for Ecuador, which has suffered heavily from the disease and requested priority response from the WHO. It received $8 million in aid.

“Ecuador is a country that doesn’t have abortion. Abortion is illegal,” Koren said.

However, the coronavirus response plan for the country both says that Ecuador should implement legal, safe abortion and says that the MISP kits will be sent.

“It’s very clear that at the end of the day, the implicit or explicit understanding is that Ecuador should legalize abortion if it wants to get money for the coronavirus,” said Koren.

Some groups have asked Trump to reverse his decision to withdraw from the WHO, including the American Medical Association.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who heads the Senate Health Committee, said the move could disrupt clinical trials for high-demand vaccines, Politico reports.

“Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it,” he said.

It is unclear whether Trump needs congressional approval to withdraw from WHO. He had told WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that after 30 days he would make the funding freeze permanent unless unspecified changes took place. However, he announced the move to withdraw only 11 days later.

Asked whether abortion foes would be blamed if WHO faces resource shortages in fighting the novel coronavirus, Ebola or malaria, Koren replied: “I would say ‘isn't it tragic that the WHO brought this on itself’.”

“We have to be careful not to discredit the good work it’s done in the past,” she said. “But at the end of the day, the primary reason the U.S. defunded it wasn’t on pro-life grounds.”

Koren suggested the U.S. Agency for International Development could distribute aid instead. Beneficiary countries like Ecuador would then take its money from the U.S., without U.N. policy.

However, she acknowledged U.S. policy on foreign aid and abortion could change with the presidential administration.

Citing her 10 years of experience working at the U.N., Koren said pro-life advocates' goal there is to partner with countries to help make sure their voices are heard. The U.N., in theory, is supposed to listen.

“The member states are supposed to set the agenda. No member state, no matter how small, should be subsumed by the larger voices,” she said. “A vast majority of countries, particularly in the developing world, have highly restrictive laws on abortion.”

Koren said ADF international helps pro-life countries “stand up to the system” and tries to unite countries “to have one pro-life voice.”

“The good news is right now we have a big country on our side: the U.S. is actively working to create pro-life coalitions to stand up to the aggression of the U.N. Bureaucracy.”

She alleged that pro-abortion rights advocates are not working to elevate the voices of member states, but are instead trying to advance their agenda “at all costs” rather than “asking what the countries have to say.”

Some reports call into question President Trump's claim that the U.N. agency was involved in cover-up. On June 2 the Associated Press reported that while WHO publicly praised China's response to the new coronavirus, it encountered significant delays in collecting data from the Chinese government. WHO officials were frustrated they did not get the information they needed.

Experts have debated whether WHO should have been more confrontational, or whether that approach would have put it at risk of being kicked out of China.

WHO has agreed to an independent probe of how it handled the global pandemic.

A Department of Homeland Security report dated May 1, acquired by the Associated Press, showed that some U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the outbreak and the contagiousness of the new coronavirus in order to stock up on medical supplies.


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Vatican:    Pope Francis prays for the soul of George Floyd and for peace and justice in US

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2020 / 02:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he is praying for the soul of George Floyd and all victims of racism, adding that nothing is gained by violence.

“Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd,” Pope Francis said in a video broadcast June 3.

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” the pope said.

Pope Francis prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron of the Americas, to intercede for peace, justice, and reconciliation in the U.S. at the end of his Wednesday audience, livestreamed from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

“Today I join the Church of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and of all the United States, in praying for the rest of the soul of George Floyd and all the others who have lost their lives because of the sin of racism,” the pope said.

“Let us pray for the comfort of families and friends who are heartbroken, and pray for national reconciliation and the peace we yearn for.”

Cities across the U.S. have seen widespread protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Some protests have turned to nights of rioting, and conflicts with police. At least five people have died amid the protests.

In the video of the May 25 arrest, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes after he was taken into custody. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times. He died soon after.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Catholics across the Twin Cities have called for justice and unity in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Clergy in Minnesota, including the Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, participated in a silent walking protest June 2 to pray at the location where George Floyd died in police custody.

Archbishop Hebda had offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and in the world. God bless you all and your families,” Pope Francis said.


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