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Europe:     BREAKING: Pope Francis appeals to Putin for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

Pope Francis dedicated nearly all of his Angelus address on Oct. 1 to the war in Ukraine. / Vatican News

Rome Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 06:32 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for an immediate ceasefire on Sunday, imploring him to end the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Oct. 2, the pope dedicated nearly all of his Angelus address to the war in Ukraine.

“I deeply deplore the grave situation that has arisen in recent days … It increases the risk of nuclear escalation, giving rise to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide,” Pope Francis said.

“My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the president of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his people,” he said.

The pope also appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be “open to serious proposals for peace” and to the international community to “do everything possible to bring an end to the war without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations.”

He said: “After seven months of hostilities, let us use all diplomatic means, even those that may not have been used so far, to bring an end to this terrible tragedy. War in itself is a mistake and a horror.”

The pope’s five-minute speech on the war in Ukraine from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square was a departure from his typical Sunday routine. The pope usually gives a reflection on the Church’s Sunday Gospel reading before praying the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, and speaking about his prayer intentions.

Pope Francis underlined that he chose to devote his entire reflection to Ukraine because the course of the war has “has become so serious, devastating, and threatening that it has caused great concern.”

“I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months,” he said.

“I am grieved by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction that has left many people and families homeless and threatens vast territories with cold and hunger. Such actions can never be justified, never!”

The pope has frequently mentioned Ukraine in his prayers at the end of his public audiences since the war began in February. Recently in a conversation with Jesuit priests during his trip to Kazakhstan, the pope said that he had attempted to help a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia.

“In the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart, I renew my call for an immediate ceasefire,” Pope Francis said in his appeal.

“Let there be a halt to arms, and let us seek the conditions for negotiations that will lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but consensual, just and stable. And they will be so if they are based on respect for the sacrosanct value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns.”

At the end of his Angelus address dedicated to Ukraine, the pope said that he has also been praying for the people of Florida and Cuba hit by Hurricane Ian

“May the Lord receive the victims, give consolation and hope to those who suffer, and sustain the solidarity efforts,” he said.

Francis added that he was praying for the victims of a stampede at the end of a soccer match in Indonesia, where at least 174 people died, according to the Associated Press.

Pope Francis also offered a reminder to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that a new light display on the life of St. Peter will be projected on the Vatican basilica each night for the first two weeks of October. Andrea Bocelli is slated to sing at the show’s inauguration on the night of Oct. 2.


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Vatican:     More than ‘the nuts and bolts’: World’s newest bishops talk synodality in Rome
St. Peter's Basilica / Simone Savoldi / Unsplash (CC0)

Rome Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

The world’s newest bishops gathered in Rome last month to learn more about what it means to be a Catholic bishop.

While the week’s presentations spanned a range of topics, three U.S. bishops who attended told CNA that synodality emerged as a key theme.

The Vatican’s annual formation course, sometimes known by the nickname “baby bishop school,” was canceled for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic — making the 2022 edition the largest yet, with approximately 330 participating bishops across two sessions.

“People kind of picture baby bishop school as nuts and bolts, like ‘how to be a bishop.’ It’s not that at all,” Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, told CNA at the end of the course.

“It’s kind of whatever the Church is talking about at that time, bringing that to the bishops that are coming on board,” he said. “The synodal process has been ... a hallmark of conversation for the last couple of years, so now as we’re new bishops ... the reflections revolved around that.”

The seminar’s first session was primarily attended by bishops consecrated in 2019 and 2020, while the second session was mostly those who joined the ranks in 2021 and the first part of 2022.

Thirty-nine U.S. bishops and auxiliary bishops attended, divided between the two weeks.

Pohlmeier was the freshest U.S. bishop to join. He was ordained a bishop on July 22 — just two days after his 51st birthday and seven weeks before arriving in Rome for the Sept. 12–19 course. 

Speaking to CNA in Rome on Sept. 19, Pohlmeier said that as a new bishop, there are many things you do not know, but that’s where one’s fellow bishops come in.

“Every bishop knows other bishops,” he explained, like the bishop of the diocese where they served as a priest. “And they’re always, I mean to a person, helpful.”

Bishop Gregory Gordon, the first-ever auxiliary bishop of Las Vegas, Nevada, told CNA on Sept. 19 that the U.S. bishops’ conference also organizes meetings between bishops of the same ordination year, or “class,” as a way to build fraternity and create a network of support.

Bishop Gregory Gordon greets Pope Francis at the end of the course Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media
Bishop Gregory Gordon greets Pope Francis at the end of the course Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media

While the formal theme of this year’s seminar was how to announce the Gospel in changing times, Pohlmeier, Gordon, and Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria, Illinois, said the unofficial topic of the week was synodality.

What they talked about

“We’re in the midst of the synod,” Tylka, who attended the seminar Sept. 1–8, told CNA by phone from his diocese. So the course, he added, focused on questions such as: “What does it mean to be a synodal Church? What is the ministry of the bishop in relation to that?”

Care for the planet and one’s neighbor, themes important to Pope Francis’ pontificate, were also a major part of the seminar, Tylka said.

The week’s presentations also covered child protection and the sexual abuse crisis.

“That’s one of those things that I think we will take home, saying we will be very, very careful not to neglect,” Gordon said. 

Some talks, Pohlmeier noted, were directly about synodality and what it means. At the same time, those of a more practical nature, such as canon law for bishops, “would always include some comment on the synodal approach.”

“You’re going to get different articulations of what that means depending on who you talk to, but in general, my understanding is that it is more of a listening posture,” the St. Augustine bishop said.

A bishop takes a photo of Pope Francis during their encounter on Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media
A bishop takes a photo of Pope Francis during their encounter on Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media

Bishop Gordon said Pope Francis himself modeled this listening attitude in their meeting with him on the final day of formation.

In the nearly two-hour meeting, he said most of the time was spent with the pope answering the bishops’ questions. “So you finished the course, [the pope] said. You’ve heard a lot already... Now I want to hear from you.”

This was Gordon’s big takeaway from the week: “It has to go back to the Holy Father’s words to us as he was answering our own questions, you know, asking us to exercise that episcopal closeness.”

The week also included time for communal prayer, Mass, adoration, and confession. 

Bishop Tylka of Peoria said his personal opinion is that “a big part of synodality is the willingness and openness to create space for people to share their stories, to share their own encounters with Christ, to share their own experiences of how life is going.”

“So I think the role of the bishop clearly is to model that openness and that willingness to engage in dialogue,” he said.

What (not) to wear

But there is also a lighter side to being a new bishop, as Pohlmeier evidenced with an amusing scene from the end of the week.

“Here we are, brand new and so ... we got instructions on what we’re supposed to wear to meet the pope,” Pohlmeier said.

He explained that bishops in the Latin Church have two main styles of a full-length garment called a cassock. The new bishops were told to meet the pope. They should wear a black cassock with red trim, a purple fascia, and a purple zucchetto. (There is also a purple cassock with red trim for special liturgical events.)

Pohlmeier said it was funny to watch the bishops get ready for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and, afterward, the meeting with Pope Francis. Many of them were helping each other figure out where each piece of the complicated attire went — including the tall headpiece, called a mitre, which bishops wear to denote their office.

“Guys are literally opening up bags that haven’t been opened with miters from right there, from Euroclero,” Pohlmeier said, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of a clerical supply store next to St. Peter’s Square.

“You could see everybody that bought one this morning because they all matched,” he chuckled. “There were several people that were literally opening it up and pulling it out of the package and trying to get it on straight, and get things attached right, and not sure what clips go where and what’s right.”

“Those kinds of things are funny,” Pohlmeier said, “but nobody just tells you, ‘OK, buy this stuff, here’s what you need.’”


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US:     8 quotes from saints on guardian angels
null / Petra Homeier/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 00:00 am (CNA).

On Oct. 2, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of the guardian angels.

Guardian angels are instruments of providence who protect their charges from suffering serious harm, and care for their salvation.

It is a theologically certain teaching that every one one of the faithful has his or her own guardian angel from baptism, and it is the general teaching of theologians that every human person has his or her own guardian angel from birth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC, 336).

Several of our greatest saints have also shared their thoughts on guardian angels. Here’s what they had to say:

St. John Vianney: “Our guardian angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.”

St. John Bosco: “When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.”

St. Jerome: “How great is the dignity of souls, that each person has from birth received an angel to protect it.”

St. Basil the Great: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the father.”

St. Francis de Sales: “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá: “If you remembered the presence of your angel and the angels of your neighbors, you would avoid many of the foolish things which slip into your conversations.”

St. John Cassian: “Cherubim means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely, the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.”


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Europe:     The enduring legacy of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, martyred for celebrating the Mass
St. Edmund Arrowsmith | An altar display of items associated with 17th century English Martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith. / Wikimedia (CC0) | Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Manchester, England, Oct 1, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

As Mass finished on a recent late-summer Sunday morning in northern England, people sang heartily “Faith of Our Fathers,” the anthem to the men and women who were executed by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

No sooner did the chords die down than the people started forming a solemn queue. As they passed by a small cylinder enclosing a withered hand — COVID’s aftermath means they still cannot touch or kiss the reliquary — each worshipper prayed a silent prayer.

The hand belongs to Edmund Arrowsmith, a priest who was executed for celebrating Mass in the 17th century.

An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell
An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Like other martyrs of that era, he was hanged until nearly unconscious and then cut down only to be dragged through the streets lying on a hurdle before arriving at his final execution spot, where he was cut open and mutilated. (Picture the final scene of the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart,” when William Wallace is disemboweled.) As a further deterrent, his body parts were displayed prominently to scare others from defying the monarch.

Brave devotees salvaged these relics, which is how the hand of now St. Edmund Arrowsmith has pride of place in the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester.

“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

A persecuted family

The Jesuit and martyr was born Brian Arrowsmith around 1585 into a Catholic family that was constantly harassed for practicing the “old” faith.

One uncle died in prison, and Arrowsmith had to be cared for by neighbors, as his parents were carried off to jail when he was a child. A relative of his mother’s, Father John Gerard, wrote the classic account of life as an illegal pastor in his book “Autobiography of a Hunted Priest.” Gerard was tortured in the Tower of London and staged a daring escape from the prison in which so many Catholics were incarcerated.

Given this heritage, it was no surprise the future saint became a priest. Using his confirmation name, Edmund, he served as a missionary from 1612 to 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican bishop of Chester.

Arrowsmith was released when King James I of England ordered an amnesty for all arrested priests as part of negotiations to arrange a Spanish marriage for his son.

During this period, restrictions ranged from punitive to murderous, but for six years, Arrowsmith was able to travel around the northwest of England, tending to the needs of a far-flung flock. Sadly, his rebuke of a couple for their sexual immorality saw him reported to the authorities, and he tried to flee his pursuers on horseback.

The house where he was based is called Arrowsmith House in the village of Brindle near the city of Preston. Holy Mass is celebrated once a year in the upstairs room where St. Edmund said his final Mass before fleeing.

The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish
The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish

This time, there was no reprieve, as the horse refused to clear a ditch. He was kept overnight in the cellar of a local pub, where his captors used his money to buy beer.

Arrowsmith was kept in Lancaster Castle before his execution but not before another priest to be martyred, now St. John Southworth, heard his confession. (Southworth’s remains are enclosed in a case in Westminster Cathedral, London.)

After his execution in Lancaster, the Arrowsmith family kept St. Edmund’s hand as a relic before it went to its present home in 1929 — the year of his beatification. The saint was one of the 40 English martyrs canonized by St. Paul VI in 1970.

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, feels the weight of the saint’s history on his shoulders.

“I feel like I am the custodian of his legacy, which is a very big responsibility,” he said. “As I told the people in my homily for the feast day [Aug. 28] this year, we are not likely to be executed for our faith but what we believe is not popular in the current climate. We all have to have the same fidelity of St. Edmund.”

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell


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US:     The rosary: common myths and facts
null / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the “Month of the Rosary.” Here are seven common myths and facts about this devotion to Our Lady.

Only Catholics can pray the rosary. 

False. While rosaries are typically associated with Catholics, non-Catholics can certainly pray the rosary — and in fact, many credit it with their conversion. Even some Protestants recognize the rosary as a valid form of prayer.

Praying the rosary is idolatry. 

False. Some have objections to the rosary, claiming it idolizes Mary and is overly repetitive. 

Just like any practice, the rosary could be abused — just as someone might idolize a particular pastor or priest, form of worship, or fasting. But the rosary itself is not a form of idolatry. 

The rosary is not a prayer to Mary — it is a meditation on the life of Christ revealed in five mysteries “with the purposes of drawing the person praying deeper into reflecting on Christ’s joys, sacrifices, sufferings, and the glorious miracles of his life.” 

When we pray the Hail Mary, we are not adoring Mary, we are asking for her intercession — just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us. 

Second, any prayer can lose its meaning if we do not intentionally meditate on it. Focusing on the mysteries with purpose and intention is key to the rosary’s transforming power. As one author encourages: “The rosary itself stays the same, but we do not.”

You can wear a rosary as a necklace.

It depends. It is typically considered disrespectful and irreverent to wear a rosary around one’s neck, even though the Church does not have an explicit declaration against doing so. 

However, Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law says that “sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”

It is important to treat the rosary with respect and intention. If you intend to wear the rosary as a piece of jewelry, this would not be respectful and should be avoided. It goes without saying that wearing the rosary as a mockery or gang symbol would be a sin. 

But if it is your intention to use the rosary and be mindful of prayer, then it could be permissible. It is not uncommon in some cultures, like in Honduras and El Salvador, to see the rosary respectfully worn around the neck as a sign of devotion.

Rosary rings or bracelets might be a better option if you want to keep your rosary close at hand as a reminder to pray, as they are kept more out of sight and would not be as easily misconstrued to be a piece of jewelry. 

The rosary is an extremist symbol.

False. A widely-shared Atlantic article this summer went viral for accusing the rosary of being an “extremist symbol.” 

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” the article read.

The author also cited the Church’s stance on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life as evidence of “extremism” and claimed that Catholics’ tendency to call the rosary a “weapon in the fight against evil” as dangerous. 

As CNA reported this year, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary since 1571 — often referring to the rosary as a prayer “weapon” and most powerful spiritual tool. 

The rosary is not biblical.

Untrue! Most of its words come directly from Scripture.

First, the Our Father is prayed. The words of the Our Father are those Christ taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9–13.

The Hail Mary also comes straight from the Bible. The first part, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” comes from Luke 1:28, and the second, “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is found in Luke 1:42.

Finally, each of the decades prayed on the rosary symbolizes an event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The decades are divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, the majority of which are found in Scripture. 

A rosary bead, or pea, can kill you.

Somewhat true. A rosary pea, or abrus seed, is a vine plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds of the vine, which are red with black spots, are often used to make beaded jewelry — including rosaries. Rosary pea seeds contain a toxic substance called abrin, which is a naturally-occurring poison that can be fatal if ingested. However, it’s unlikely for someone to get abrin poisoning just from holding a rosary made from abrus seeds, as one would have to swallow them. 

Today, most rosaries are made from other non-toxic materials, such as olive wood, plastic, or glass — eliminating this concern.

Carrying a rosary can protect you.

True. The rosary has proven to be a miraculous force for protecting those of faith and bestowing upon them extra graces, such as the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto after St. Pius V implored Western Christians to pray the rosary.

Many great saints across history, including Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Lucia of Fatima, have also recognized the rosary as the most powerful weapon in fighting the real spiritual battles we face in the world. 

We know that spiritual warfare is a real and present danger: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11–12). 

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin … If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors,” Pope Pius XI said. 


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Europe:     House of saints: Visiting St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s home has inspired conversions
The backyard of St. Thérèse’s childhood home in Lisieux, France. / Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Scenes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s beloved spiritual autobiography “Story of a Soul” come alive when walking through the rooms of her childhood home in northern France.

The red brick home in Lisieux in the region of Normandy nurtured a household of saints under one roof.

In addition to the youngest doctor of the church, Thérèse’s parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, were canonized together in 2015, and the cause of her older sister, Léonie, is currently being examined by the Vatican.

Sister Veronique, a Carmelite who assists visitors to St. Thérèse’s childhood home, told CNA that visits to the house have resulted in “many conversions.”

“People are very touched by the witness of the Martin family when they come into this house. They realize how much love was exchanged between the parents and the children,” she said.

“They feel that love and that this house has a soul.”

The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The Martin family settled in the house in Lisieux in 1877 after Thérèse’s mother, Zélie, died of cancer when Thérèse was only 4 years old.

Thérèse was the ninth child in the family — four of her siblings, two of whom were boys, died before she was born.

After the death of his wife, Louis Martin “educated his girls well by placing God at the forefront of the family,” Sister Veronique said.

“He went to Mass every morning and when his daughters saw their father pray, they imagined him as a saint. Truly all of the Martin girls realized that they had parents who were saints and followed their example.”

Thérèse chose her older sister Pauline as her “second mother.” When Thérèse learned that Pauline planned to enter the local Carmelite convent as a cloistered religious sister, she was very distressed and eventually became ill. Her father asked for a novena of Masses to be offered for 10-year-old Thérèse’s healing. His prayers were soon answered.

The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

In Thérèse’s bedroom, on the second floor of the house, one can stand in the spot where a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at Thérèse and she experienced a miraculous healing on May 13, 1883.

Thérèse recounted the event in “Story of Soul”: “I turned to my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words to describe. The expression of Our Lady’s face was ineffably sweet, tender, and compassionate, but what touched me to the very depths of my soul was her gracious smile.”

With the grace of the smile from the Blessed Virgin, Thérèse was cured. The white Marian statue currently in Thérèse’s bedroom is a copy of the original, which can be found above the shrine in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux.

Hanging on the wall in the bedroom is St. Thérèse’s real hair, cut before she entered Carmel.

The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The dining room contains the original kitchen table and chairs where the Martin family would gather for their daily meals. The clock on the wall is signed “Louis Martin” by Thérèse’s father, who was both a jeweler and a clockmaker.

Sister Veronique’s favorite story from the life of St. Thérèse took place near the fireplace where Thérèse received a “Christmas grace” of complete conversion at the age of 14 in 1886.

The Little Flower wrote: “I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child, which proves that my sisters still treated me as a baby.”

However, Thérèse overheard her father complaining that she was too old to behave like such a little child. Though greatly upset, she did not cry, as she would have before.

“Choking back my tears, I ran down to the dining-room, and, though my heart beat fast, I picked up my shoes, and gaily pulled out all the things, looking as happy as a queen.”

Thérèse pinpointed this moment as the time that she “regained, once for all, the strength of mind which she had lost at the age of four and a half.”

Less than two years later, Thérèse left the childhood home where she had spent 11 years of her life and entered the Carmel, where she remained until her death from tuberculosis at 24 years of age on Sept. 30, 1897. Her house has been a place of pilgrimage since 1913.

“My mission — to make God loved — will begin after my death,” she said before she died. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares


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Americas:     Seeking to build on papal visit, Canada’s bishops stress indigenous reconciliation
Pope Francis meets with clerics, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers of Canada at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City, July 28, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Indigenous issues were at the forefront when about 90 Catholic bishops met in Cornwall, Ontario for the Canadian bishops’ 2022 plenary assembly.

“2022 has been a historic year for listening, learning and working to rebuild longstanding relationships that have been profoundly damaged by the legacy of residential schools,” Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Sept. 29.

“Pope Francis apologized on behalf of the Church for the sins of her children, acknowledged the catastrophic impact of the residential school system and called on us to promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to favor processes of healing and reconciliation,” said Poisson, who heads Quebec’s Diocese of Saint-Jérôme - Mont-Laurier.

The residential school system was set up by the Canadian government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means to forcibly assimilate indigenous children and strip them of familial and cultural ties. Both Catholic and Protestant groups ran the schools, with Catholics responsible for the majority of them. 

The schools were poorly supervised and funded. The students received a poor education and lived in substandard housing. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a 2015 report estimated that 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of disease, injury, neglect, or abuse over the decades. Tuberculosis was a major killer, as was influenza. As late as 1945, the death rate among indigenous children at the schools was almost five times the death rate of other Canadian children the same age.

The Canadian bishops’ conference president emphasized the need for continued action.

“We know that this is a journey that requires long-term commitment, dialogue and consultation, and we pray that our discussions at this plenary have been a meaningful step towards a more hopeful future,” Poisson commented.

Canadian bishops pledged continued dialogue and relationship-building with Canada’s indigenous people, known as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Indigenous delegations to Rome in March and the papal visit in July saw “respectful collaboration” between the Catholic Church and local, regional, and national indigenous leaders. The bishops hope to make this kind of collaboration more effective and permanent.

Poisson, writing on behalf of the Canadian bishops, sent a Sept. 26 letter thanking Pope Francis for his visit to Canada.

“There can be no question that it has left a profound and lasting mark on Canada, Indigenous Peoples, and the local and universal Church,” said the letter. He said the Roman Pontiff’s presence and his words of healing and reconciliation have helped the bishops take steps toward “a more hopeful future.”

The bishops’ meeting pledged to continue providing documentation and records to help residential school survivors and researchers find the truth, in the face of cumbersome processes to identify and request records. They have approved guidelines for dioceses across Canada, emphasizing “transparency and simplicity.”

While the historic injustices against indigenous people have been discussed for decades, the residential schools again became a major issue in Canada in mid-2021 when researchers reported preliminary findings of what appeared to be graves of students near former residential schools. 

News reports erroneously depicted the possible graves as “mass graves” and often failed to clarify that the findings had not been confirmed by exhumation and other analysis. It is also possible that any graves are from community graveyards and include remains of non-students and non-indigenous peoples of the area, including residential school staff and their families.

The reaction to the reports helped inspire a wave of vandalism and arson against Catholic churches, including some churches on indigenous land which still serve indigenous Catholics. The attacks drew condemnation from indigenous leaders. Canada’s national statistical office, Canada Statistics, reported a 260% spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in 2021.

Catholic outreach efforts continue. 

The Canadian bishops’ meeting pledged continued support for Catholic institutions, seminaries, and religious communities that foster a greater understanding of indigenous culture, language and spiritual traditions and values. They hoped that this support would lead to more direct encounters with indigenous communities and help non-indigenous clergy and laity hear indigenous perspectives, “with attention to the issues of colonization and residential schools.”

The bishops voiced recognition for “the contribution of Indigenous culture and wisdom to our future life in Canada.” They will stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples in “their stewardship of the land and the goods of Creation, the gifts of the Creator.” They will work with local community leaders to support the spiritual well-being of young people and to address social challenges like poverty, suicide, violence, and incarceration.

They reiterated support for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, which accepts donations from 73 Catholic dioceses across Canada to support reconciliation initiatives. The fund has raised $5.5 million and is “on track” to exceed its $30 million goal over five years.

The bishops said they would continue dialogue with the Vatican on issues indigenous delegates and representatives have identified. They are actively working with the Vatican to issue a new statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” principles of sovereignty and conquest found in some papal documents dating to the expeditions of European exploration in the 15th century, especially disputes between Spain and Portugal.

The bishops’ conference website provides documents on this subject, including the April 27, 2010 remarks of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations. 

Migliore said that the documents supposedly behind the “Doctrine of Discovery” were rendered irrelevant by successive documents or changing circumstances only a few years after they were issued.  He emphasized papal teaching in support of indigenous people, including the 1537 papal bull Sublimis Deus.

“Canada’s Bishops continue to reject and resist ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest way possible,” the bishops’ conference said Sept. 29. They pledged continued support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The gathering was the first in-person plenary meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Bishop Poisson, in his report to the bishops, discussed ongoing child abuse prevention efforts and the Synod on Synodality. He also noted that the new French-language version of the Roman Missal was implemented across the country. The bishops’ new National Program for Priestly Formation has been published and implemented. His report anticipated new resources to help dioceses form lay ministers of catechist, lector, and acolyte in keeping with Pope Francis’ apostolic letters.


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US:     Catholics converge on DC for a week of prayer and fasting
The International Week of Prayer and Fasting kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the National Basilica in Washington, DC. / The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF)

Denver, Colo., Sep 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Catholics from around the world will once again kick off a week of prayer and fasting at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

Prayer and fasting are needed now more than ever, Maureen Flynn, founder of The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF) told CNA. 

“It seems to be a real battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light,” she said. 

The IWOPF is a grassroots movement made up of churches, schools, communities, and clergy who come together to pray and fast. In 2022, for the 30th IWOPF, Catholics everywhere are invited to pray for five intentions: the conversion of all peoples, to build a culture of life, defend the sanctity of marriage, for God’s mercy, and for all priests and vocations. 

The week of prayer and fasting will culminate in the National Rosary Rally at the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9. The events cap a 54-day rosary novena prayed by Catholics around the country, which begins each year on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ends on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF
Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF

Speakers at this year’s event include Bishop Joseph Coffey, who will offer the opening Mass on Oct. 1. Also speaking are Father Francis Peffley; Dave and Joan Maroney, founders of MOMM, a Divine Mercy apostolate; Father Robert Altier; and Ted and Maureen Flynn, the founders of IWOPF, and several others. 

In an interview with CNA, Maureen Flynn talked about the moment she decided to take action and get others to join in prayer and fasting. She recalled that in 1989 she was reading a newspaper article about some grandmothers who said they were for abortion.

“I was appalled,” she said. Soon after, she called a good friend and brought up the idea of starting a day of prayer. 

“Because this is ridiculous. These are grandmothers and they’re thinking it’s fine to kill children,” she remembers telling him.

However, instead of a single day of prayer, he suggested an entire week. The following year, the first conference was held in front of the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 500 people attended.

In 1997, the event was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. That was also the year Mother Teresa was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The event would be held on Oct. 5, 1997. However, Mother Teresa would not be in attendance. The now-saint died one month before, on Sept. 5. 

Flynn recalled that Mother Teresa had been very enthusiastic about the project.

“I remember at one point, she said, ‘My daughter, you must do this. God wants this. Prayer is the answer to the world's problems.’ I'll never forget what she said. So I think that gave us encouragement,” she said.

St. John Paul II also gave the organization two apostolic blessings, one in 1997 and the other in 2001. Pope Francis also gave his apostolic blessing to participants at the 22nd conference.

EWTN’s foundress, Mother Angelica, was the keynote speaker in 2000 and gave a talk on the Lord in the Eucharist. Jim Caviezel joined the conference in 2003 as the keynote speaker after finishing the filming of “The Passion of the Christ.” 

Flynn told CNA that she is encouraged by how much more receptive Catholics are to prayer and fasting now. 

“Years ago it was like pulling teeth to try to get people to see the importance of the rosary and fasting. Now I hear people saying, ‘Tell me how to fast, and could you recommend some good books on fasting,’” she said.

Flynn feels optimistic about other aspects of the Church as well.

“There are prayer networks everywhere now, compared with 30 years ago. The prayer networks are amazing. They give me great hope,” she added. 

“There’s a lot of great ministries out there compared with 30 years ago; there are many Marian groups, many pro-life groups, a lot of publishers; there are just tremendous ministries out there now that weren’t there before,” she said. “So although the battle seems to be intensifying, you see the great goodness going on.”

This year’s conference will also be held virtually in addition to in person. The week’s events will be live-streamed on the IWOPF website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel beginning Oct. 1. 


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Europe:     LGBT organizations in Spain are pressuring the government to pass the ‘trans law’
null / Juanje Garrido/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Three LGBT organizations have met with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the main party of the governing coalition in Spain, seeking the passage of the “trans law” before the close of the legislature at the end of next year.

The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans, Bisexuals, Intersexuals, and more (FELTBI+); the Triangle Foundation; and the Chrysallis association, made up of families of minors who have declared themselves transgender, have put pressure on the PSOE due to the division in the socialist ranks on the proposed law.

LGBT organizations fear that the debate between the feminists inside and outside the PSOE — those who deny that any man can define himself as a woman by his own volition and those who think it’s possible — will end up scuttling the law.

There are also members of Podemos, the party of the governing coalition, who oppose the law.

These members point out that they reached an agreement with the government on this law, “so there is no possibility that its going through the legislative process will be delayed or drawn out” as pro-family organizations have requested through a campaign.

Changing one’s sex in the Civil Registry

The Council of Ministers approved June 29 the bill titled “For the Real and Effective Equality of Trans People and for the Guarantee of LGTBI Rights,” known as the “trans law,” promoted by the Ministry of Equality. The council’s approval has allowed the bill to go through the legislative process, which has now begun.

The law provides that one can change one’s name and sex in the Civil Registry by submitting a statement, without providing medical reports, having started cross-sex hormonal treatments, or needing judicial authorization.

In the case of minors, a judge’s approval would be mandatory from the age of 12 and parental permission is required between the ages of 14 and 16. Those over 16 years but not yet 18 are considered to have reached the age of majority — the age when one is considered an adult as recognized by law — so they would be able to make the change upon request.

The General Council of the Judiciary, the governing body of judges, questioned various aspects of the law. On the registry issue, it issued a report that calls for the limit to claim a change of sex in the Civil Registry  upon request to be raised to at least 18 years of age.

Thus, the procedure requiring the approval of a judge who has to determine at least level of maturity or the stability of the person’s will in order to proceed with the change of sex in the Civil Registry would be extended until the age of majority, which is 18 in Spain.

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


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Americas:     Catholic organizations in Colombia call Bogotá cathedral attack by militants ‘terrorism’
The Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá. / Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic organizations joined the chorus of condemnation of the Wednesday night attack by abortion militants on the Bogotá cathedral and demanded that the Colombian authorities arrest those involved in this act of “terrorism.”

The night of Sept. 28, a group of feminists with their faces covered tried to burn down the main doors of the Bogotá cathedral while others tagged the wall with pro-abortion graffiti to the astonishment of passers-by and the inaction of the officials present from the Bogotá Mayor’s Office.

The attackers were part of demonstration for the Day for the Decriminalization and Legalization of Abortion. In their speeches, the feminists demanded that “legal and safe” abortion be allowed in Colombia.

Abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in February.

In a Sept. 29 statement, the Archdiocese of Bogotá said: “We reject all forms of violence in actions and words, we demand civility on the part of the promoters and participants of marches and protests, we ask the authorities to guarantee the life, honor, and property of citizens.”

The newly formed Pro-Life Caucus of the Colombian Congress stated Sept. 29: “We reject the acts of violence and intolerance that occurred yesterday by a group of marchers in defense of abortion. The attacks against believers and the attempted incineration of the doors of the Primatial Cathedral of Colombia are unacceptable.”

The citizen platform United for Life and the Catholic Solidarity Movement joined pro-life members of Congress and the Archdiocese of Bogotá in condemning the arson and vandalism. 

In a statement issued Sept. 29, the Catholic Solidarity Movement accused the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, of having “dismantled the reaction capacity of the police,” which allowed the attack to take place.

“When a crime such as murder by abortion, which is in the Penal Code, is legitimized, these young women believe that they can commit any other crime,” the group said in reference to the feminists.

The president of the Catholic Solidarity Movement, Samuel Ángel, announced that they will file a complain against “these terrorists” so that they take responsibility “for the alleged crimes of damage to the property of others, rioting, damage to the public good, disrespect for beliefs, vandalism, terrorism, attempted murder, [and] conspiracy to commit a crime.”

The United for Life platform demanded that the National Prosecutor’s Office locate and capture “this group of abortionists.”

“We demand disciplinary sanctions from the mayor’s office of the city of Bogotá for the officers of the peace who did nothing to prevent this aggression by the abortionist advocates,” the organization stated.

United for Life said “it is not possible for the homicidal violence of the abortion movement to turn into terrorist actions that attack churches and people and institutions that do not want to be part of the genocidal crime of abortion.”

Not only have abortion proponents worked for “the decriminalization of abortion by prevaricating judges of the Constitutional Court, but now these abortion advocates intend to terrorize anyone who doesn’t actively cooperate to carry out this crime against Colombian unborn babies and their parents,” the platform said.

The people’s ombudsman, Carlos Camargo Assis, also condemned the attack and pointed out that “freedom of expression or the right to peaceful public demonstration cannot be understood as letters of marque to attack the exercise of worship by citizens” or to destroy the religious heritage, “which is considered sacred by millions of people.”

Camargo noted in an official statement posted online that freedom of worship is a fundamental right recognized by the Constitution and Statutory Law 133 of 1994, which impose on the authorities the obligation to guarantee it.

The ombudsman called for investigations to be conducted “that allow punishing, if appropriate, those who may have committed crimes against this fundamental right.”

The director of the National Police, General Henry Sanabria, told a local radio station that four women involved in this incident have been taken into custody.

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


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Middle East - Africa:     Caritas Algeria closes at government’s behest
null / Caritas Algeria

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Church in Algeria announced Sunday that the country has ordered the Church’s aid organization Caritas Algeria to cease its operations.

“The Catholic Church in Algeria regrets to announce the complete and definitive closure of its service called ‘Caritas Algeria,’ from 1 October 2022, in conformity with the request of the public authorities,” read a Sept. 25 letter signed by Archbishop Paul Desfarges, archbishop emeritus of Algiers and president of the Diocesan Association of Algeria, and by Archbishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Algiers.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has in recent years recommended that the State Department put Algeria on its “special watch list” for “engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.”

AFP reported that a 2012 law “required all registered nonprofits to submit new documentation.”

Vesco told the French news agency that the public authorities had judged Caritas Algeria “an unauthorized organization.”

In their letter, Desfarges and Vesco wrote that “naturally, the Catholic Church remains faithful to its charitable mission in the service of brotherhood, in partnership with all people of goodwill.”

They quoted from the 2019 document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, which says, “believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.”

The bishops concluded their letter: “The Catholic Church would like to thank all those who, over the years and in different ways, have contributed to the realization of this work at the service of the most vulnerable and the Algerian people.”

Agenzia Fides, a news service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reported that “Caritas was probably the subject of these restrictive measures because it is considered a foreign nongovernmental organization.”

It added that “representatives of the local Catholic community rule out that the measures imposed by the Algerian authorities are fueled by feelings of hostility towards the Catholic Church and its presence in the country. Rather, they see a connection with the general policy of restrictions that have recently been imposed on foreign and multinational NGOs.”

Caritas Algeria was founded in June 1962, days before Algeria gained independence from France.

In June 2021 USCIRF’s chair, Nadine Maenza, commented that “recent decisions by Algerian courts to sentence Christians accused of blasphemy and proselytizing to multiyear prison sentences and to seal Protestant churches that have been forcibly closed demonstrates the country is headed in the wrong direction.”


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US:     Catholic bishops’ pro-life chair supports 15-week abortion ban nationwide
Archbishop Lori delivers the homily at Mass for the bicentennial of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary / © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is expressing support for a nationwide abortion ban aimed at protecting unborn babies after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Lori recently thanked Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey — both Republicans — for introducing the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.”

“Although we will never cease working for laws that protect human life from its beginning and supporting mothers in need, we think that this proposed legislation is a place to begin uniting Americans regardless of their views on abortion,” Lori wrote in a Sept. 19 letter. “Further, we strongly agree that there is a federal role for protecting unborn human life.”

The legislation, proposed by Graham in the Senate and Smith in the House on Sept. 13, would ban abortion after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“I support your efforts with the ‘Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act’ to protect the right to life of unborn babies from 15 weeks’ gestation,” Lori said. “All elected officials, including federally elected members of Congress, now have the opportunity to protect unborn human life and should rise to the occasion.”

He added: “It is long past time to end the barbaric practice of abortion and to provide life-affirming alternatives that support and protect both mother and child.”

The new legislation follows the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June with the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision found that the constitution does not grant a right to abortion and leaves abortion up to the people and their elected represenatives. 

Earlier this month, in anticipation of Respect Life Month in October, Lori called the Supreme Court’s decision an “answer to prayer” — and an opportunity to build a culture of life by practicing “radical solidarity and unconditional love.”

Recent research has revealed much that was previously unknown about babies in the womb, Lori said.

“Science continues to reveal the amazing development and characteristics of babies in utero, such as their ability to respond to music, to their mother’s voice, and to other stimuli,” he wrote. “Furthermore, there is significant scientific evidence that babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.”

He cited the study, “Reconsidering Fetal Pain,” published by J Med Ethics in 2020.

In his Sept. 19 letter, Lori stressed that abortion puts mothers at risk.

“Finally,” he added, “not only does abortion end the life of the unborn child, but it is frequently harmful to the mother, emotionally and physically.” 

Citing additional sources, he urged: “Late-term abortions, such as those performed when the unborn child is 15 weeks or older, pose significant physical, and potential fatal, risks to the mother.”

The Catholic Church, he said, is committed to accompanying moms in need and providing life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

“The Catholic Church remains clear and consistent in asserting that true justice demands the right to life, the most basic human and civil right, for every child, from conception onward,” Lori wrote. “No person or government has the right to take the life of any innocent human being, regardless of its stage of development.”


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US:     Catholic Charities helps to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Ian
A woman looks over her apartment after floodwater inundated it when Hurricane Ian passed through the area on Sept. 29, 2022 in Fort Myers, Florida. The hurricane brought high winds, storm surge, and rain to the area, causing severe damage. / Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Local and national Catholic Charities agencies are working to assess needs and provide aid after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast this week, leading to what will likely be billions of dollars in damage and several confirmed deaths.

In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice, said that it was still too early to assess the extent of the hurricane’s damage but that “the diocese was hit hard and directly.”

“It’s safe to say that the recovery effort will be extensive,” Gloria said.

Catholic Charities has deployed teams on the ground to assess the damage and where their efforts are most needed. Most of the diocese, which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, is still without power — across the state, some 1.9 million customers remain without power.

The Diocese of Venice’s pastoral center was closed Friday and is expected to reopen Oct. 3. Bishop Frank Dewane posted a statement on the diocesan Facebook page Sept. 30.

“Thank you for your continued prayers for the Diocese of Venice and all those affected by Hurricane Ian. Damage is still being assessed, but it is clear that the devastation in the diocese is widespread,” Dewane wrote.

“There are several crews already at work throughout the diocese, and Catholic Charities is putting their local team into action. We are grateful for all those who have helped, and continue to help, during this difficult time.”

Gloria, the Catholic Charities CEO, said that communication was still a big challenge due to cell phone towers being downed in the storm. Various parts of the diocese, such as DeSoto County, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Naples, have been completely cut off due to roads and bridges being submerged under water.

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has launched a dedicated disaster donation page with 100 percent of the funds raised going to support people impacted by Hurricane Ian and served by their local Catholic Charities agencies. Funds raised through CCUSA will be used for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. The Florida Catholic Conference urged donations to CCUSA in a Friday tweet. 

Gloria said Catholic Charities set up several relief sites before the storm, which they plan to activate soon based on their assessments of the sites. They plan to continue to work together with the diocese and parishes to reach people in need of basic necessities like emergency housing, food, and water.

“We’re walking through this cautiously and carefully … wherever we allocate our resources, that is where we are having the greatest impact,” Gloria said.

He also urged prayers to help them through the process.

Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, pummeling Florida’s Gulf Coast with storm surges and heavy wind. Central Florida received 17 inches of rain as Ian passed overhead. Hurricane Ian has continued on and is expected to slam the South Carolina coast imminently.

A handful of Catholic parishes in the Fort Myers area have announced online that they have reopened. St. Cecilia parish in Fort Myers has power and Wi-Fi, but no water, according to a Thursday Facebook post. As of Thursday, there will be regularly scheduled Masses at St. Cecilia Catholic Community, the post says.

St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Fort Myers said in a Facebook post that its high school youth group will be gathering at the parish for Mass at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and then going out into the community to try to help people in need.

“If you have power at your house… offer to launder someone’s salt water-drenched clothes and linens before the mold sets in. If you are strong… offer to pull out drenched carpet and baseboards in someone’s house. If you are in an area where there is no flooding… go bag up debris and save homes from future floods to clear the drains. Kids, let’s get to work and help our neighbor… it is exactly what Jesus would do,” the Sept. 30 post from the church reads. 

All Saints Byzantine Church in southwest Florida set up a separate webpage where the parish has been monitoring conditions and updating parishioners. As of the most recent update on Sept. 30, all services at the church had been canceled and the parish priest, Father Steven Galuschik, had evacuated. The church has asked for parishioners to contact the parish office with their safety status and to request any needs in the aftermath of the storm.

All Saints was not immediately available for a comment.

Ave Maria University, which is located south of where the direct path of the storm hit, issued an update on Thursday evening saying that power and air conditioning had fully been restored to the university and town.

Ave Maria is not in the floodplain zone but received small amounts of damage and power outages that were quickly resolved by generators. The university said that classes would resume today, Friday, Sept. 30, with an online option. Classes will resume fully in-person by Monday and campus Masses have fully resumed.

Ave Maria is engaging in various volunteer efforts to support relief for storm victims, including hosting families of first responders in the area because the school is considered a “shelter-in-place” location.


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Europe:     UK doctor investigated for praying with patients calls on Christians to ‘stand up and fight’
Dr. Richard Scott / Photo Courtesy of Christian Concern

CNA Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

A Christian doctor from Kent, United Kingdom, has appealed to Christians in professional life to “stand up and fight” after he faced investigation for offering his patients “spiritual care.”

A tribunal between the National Health Service (NHS) England and Dr. Richard Scott, who is based at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, was canceled earlier this week after it was agreed that Scott would instead attend a one-day course on “professional boundaries” because a number of patients had complained about him offering spiritual support.

Scott told CNA that he agreed to the course as a “goodwill gesture” and that it was crucial for him that it was understood that there was “no guilt attached” on the grounds that he had been acting within the guidelines of the General Medical Council and according to the European Convention on Human Rights and religious expression.

Following the resolution, Scott said that he was pleased with the outcome, which held “huge significance” for religious freedom, and added: “I want Christians to toughen up in this country because prayer is hugely beneficial and makes a huge difference to people’s health, and it shouldn’t be controversial. We need to stand up and fight.”

He went on to say that Christians were increasingly being “marginalized for their faith.”

“I fought this case because I want to encourage other Christians to share their faith in the workplace when it is relevant and not to be cowed by professional organizations. We have good news that we should be able to speak into, which is in line with the GMC guidelines and the ECHR Articles 9 and 10, to manifest your religion.”

Scott went on to say that the complaints about his approach had come after patients had consented to a conversation about faith and that he always followed an established process, ensuring that patients consented first to discussions concerning spiritual care.

A spokesperson for NHS England in the South East told ITV News: “NHS England has reached an agreement with Scott for his appeal to be withdrawn without an admission of liability. Any spiritual care in Scott’s consultations must be in accordance with GMC guidance, and Dr. Scott has agreed to attend a one-day Professional Boundaries Course within three months.”

When asked if he would continue to offer his patients spiritual care, Scott told CNA that he would.


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Vatican:     Let your beauty shine, Pope Francis tells young people
Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday told young people to let their true beauty shine, the beauty that is a reflection of divine beauty. 

In a message to participants in the Ursuline Global Education Compact, the pope said Sept. 30 that one could not educate “without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty.” 

“The beauty we are talking about is not turned in on itself like that of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and drowned in the lake in which he saw himself mirrored.”

Instead, Pope Francis told students he was speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty. 

“The beauty that Jesus revealed to us is a splendor that communicates itself through action; a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made.” 

Pope Francis told the students he wished them “a healthy restlessness” to be open and courageous like St. Ursula, the “little bear,” who dared to embark on a long journey with her companions and fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom.

Finally, Pope Francis said he hoped to see participants at next year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon, “which promises to be a great sign of hope and beauty for all the young people of the world.”


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Vatican:     Prosecution calls witnesses as Vatican finance trial resumes
null / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 08:37 am (CNA).

After a break of over two months, the Vatican trial on financial corruption in the Secretariat of State continued this week with the interrogation of witnesses for the prosecution.

The court reconvened Sept. 28, 29, and 30 to begin the questioning of the first of what the prosecution expects to be a total of 41 witnesses it will call.

The witness list includes Vatican gendarme Stefano De Santis, who assisted the Vatican’s now chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi during the trial’s preliminary investigation; he is expected to testify at the next scheduled hearing on Oct. 12. 

A British-Italian architect, Luciano Capaldo, has been called to testify by the prosecution the same week. Capaldo was the registered director of the holding company London 60 SA Ltd, through which the Secretariat of State controlled the London property after its purchase.

The building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London is at the center of the Vatican’s historic corruption trial, which began at the end of July 2021.

The Vatican has charged 10 people with crimes, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State. Becciu was questioned in May.

The London investment property was purchased by the secretariat in stages over several years for a reported £350 million pounds.

In July, the Vatican confirmed the London building had been sold to Bain Capital for £186 million ($223.6 million).

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) reported that the losses from the sale were absorbed by the savings of the Secretariat of State and therefore did not touch the pope’s charitable fund, Peter’s Pence.

The hearing on Wednesday consisted of the second half of the questioning of defendant Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official at the Secretariat of State.

Thursday’s audience opened with the questioning of defendant Nicola Squillace, the lawyer of businessman and fellow defendant Gianluigi Torzi.

In the course of the trial, the only defendants who have not taken the stand are Gianluigi Torzi and Cecilia Marogna.

The Sept. 29 hearing then continued with the first witness, Roberto Lolato, who was called to testify for the prosecution as an expert witness.  

Prosecutors asked Lolato to examine the financial operations carried out by the Secretariat of State in relation to the purchase of the London building as a technical consultant.

On Friday, the Vatican’s auditor general, Alessandro Cassinis Righini, testified.

Righini had been acting auditor general since June 2017 and full auditor since May 2021.

He succeeded Libero Milone, who served as auditor general from 2015 until he was dismissed in 2017, just two years into a five-year mandate.

Milone was hired as the Vatican’s first auditor general in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State. 

Three months after stepping down, Milone claimed that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work and accused Cardinal Becciu of targeting him after he launched an investigation into a possible conflict of interest.

A Sept. 30 statement from Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, claimed the suspension of the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit in April 2016 “was not an autonomous choice of the then-sostituto Monsignor Becciu, but a position taken by the Secretariat of State.”

Righini was questioned Sept. 30 about the external audit ordered by Cardinal George Pell, then prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and reportedly opposed by Becciu. 

He also answered questions about meetings he took part in with secretariat officials regarding financial investments.

Righini said he was surprised that the Secretariat of State considered making an investment in an oil company in Angola given its evident conflict with the teachings of Pope Francis in his environmental encyclical Laudato si (the investment eventually fell through).

Funds originally earmarked for the Angola investment were reportedly rerouted into the London building purchase.

The auditor general said Pope Francis did not know anything about the London investment. But later, under additional questioning, he revised his statement to say he could not be 100% certain the pope knew nothing.


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Europe:     Cardinal Eijk: Same-sex blessings undermine Church teaching on marriage, sexual ethics
Same-sex wedding cake. / Sara Valenti/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Utrecht has urged that the Flemish bishops be asked to withdraw their statement introducing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, saying the practice undermines Church teaching.

“If gay couples in monogamous, lasting sexual relationships can receive a blessing, should not the same be possible in the monogamous, lasting sexual relationships of a man and a woman living together without being married? Allowing the blessing of gay couples carries the great risk of devaluing blessings and undermining the Church’s teaching on the morality of marriage and sexual ethics,” Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht wrote Sept. 27 in The New Daily Compass.

“The statement of the Flemish bishops, in which they allow the blessing of same-sex couples and even provide a liturgical model for it, meets with inherent ethical objections, radically contradicts a recent ruling by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and carries the risk that it may lead Catholics to views on the morality of same-sex relationships that are contrary to Church teaching,” the cardinal stated.

“Catholics who accept the Church’s teaching, including on sexual morality, therefore fervently hope that the Flemish bishops will soon be asked by ecclesiastically competent circles to withdraw their statement and that the latter will comply.”

The bishops in Flanders published Sept. 20 a model liturgy for the celebration of homosexual unions.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had affirmed in March 2021 that the Church hasn’t the power to bless same-sex unions.

Eijk noted that “the Flemish bishops took the remarkable step of allowing the blessing of same-sex couples based on their interpretation of certain passages from Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family.

“Distinguish, accompany, and integrate remain the main keywords of Amoris Laetitia (chapter VIII), according to the Flemish bishops,” the cardinal wrote.

“It goes without saying that people with a homosexual orientation must also be treated with respect and have a right to pastoral care and guidance,” he added. 

“By discernment, however, it is meant in Amoris Laetitia that people in an irregular relationship are brought to understand what the truth is about their relationship (AL, 300). In short, that they come to understand that their relationship goes against God’s order of creation and is therefore morally unacceptable. Integration means giving people in an irregular relationship — as far as possible — a place in the life of the Church. Of course, people in a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex are welcome in church celebrations, even if they cannot receive Communion or actively participate in the celebration.”

Discussing inherent objections to same-sex blessings, Eijk first noted that sacramentals, which blessings are, are analogous to sacraments: “The declaration prayer in which same-sex couples commit to each other shows an unequivocal analogy with the ‘I do’ that a man and a woman say to each other during the marriage ceremony.”

A blessing, he added, supposes not only a good intention in the recipient but also that what is blessed corresponds “to God’s order of creation.”

“God created marriage as a total and mutual gift of man and woman to each other, culminating in procreation,” he taught. “Sexual relations between persons of the same sex cannot in themselves lead to procreation. They cannot therefore be an authentic expression at the bodily level of the total mutual self-giving of man and woman, which marriage is essentially. Situations that are objectively wrong from a moral point of view cannot be blessed. God’s grace does not shine on the path of sin. One cannot cultivate spiritual fruit by blessing relationships that go against God’s order of creation … it is not morally permissible to bless the homosexual relationship as such.”

Eijk noted that “in the community’s prayer on the occasion of the blessing of gay couples, the Flemish bishops said that the community prays ‘for God’s grace to work’ in the gay couple to enable them to care for each other and the community they live in. However, we cannot pray for God’s grace to work in a relationship that does not conform to his order of creation.”

“The wording of the community prayer in [the Flemish bishops’] liturgical model for the blessing of gay couples suggests that same-sex relationships can be morally justified,” he wrote.

“Indeed, at the end, the community prays: ‘Give us the strength to walk with them, together in the footsteps of your Son and strengthened by the Spirit.’ Do same-sex people in their same-sex relationship follow in the footsteps of Christ? So do the Flemish bishops really believe that same-sex couples in their same-sex relationship follow in the footsteps of Christ? In the sample prayer, the gay couple says: ‘By your Word we want to live.’ But the Word of God contained in Scripture unequivocally and undeniably qualifies homosexual relationships as a sin.”

The cardinal affirmed that “at the very least, in the formulation of model prayers for the gay couple and the community, there is a risk that the average Catholic … will be led astray and begin to think that lasting, monogamous same-sex sexual relationships are morally acceptable.”


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Europe:     Are modern Bible translations always better? A Catholic linguist praises St. Jerome’s Vulgate
Saint Jerome Writing, a painting by Caravaggio, dated to 1605–06. Public domain. / null

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 30, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Most people know that St. Jerome — whose feast day the Catholic Church celebrates on Sept. 30 — is famous for translating the entire Bible into Latin in the fourth century A.D., creating a widely read edition later known as the Vulgate. 

But likely fewer people realize how groundbreaking — and how enduring — Jerome’s work truly is. The Vulgate became the predominantly-used Bible of the Middle Ages and has endured to this day as a translation that at least one prominent linguist considers one of the very best available. 

“I don’t know any other translation, either ancient or modern, so good as the Vulgate,” Christophe Rico, a Catholic linguist living and working in Jerusalem, told CNA.

Rico, a Frenchman, is a professor of ancient Greek and dean at the Polis Institute in Jerusalem, which teaches a variety of ancient languages. Working with the Polis Institute, Rico produces books to help students learn to speak and read Latin and Greek — with the goal, in part, of allowing those who wish to read the original Latin Vulgate to do so. 

An expert teacher in Greek and Latin, Rico says that despite the more than 1,600 years that have elapsed since its completion, Jerome’s translation of the Bible — while not perfect, as no translation is — has proven to be amazingly accurate and very valuable for the Church. 

“If you have a doubt about the soundness of a modern translation, go to the Vulgate; especially for the New Testament,” he advised, adding that the Old Testament translation in the Vulgate also is “excellent.” 

Christophe Rico. École Biblique
Christophe Rico. École Biblique

Who was Jerome?

St. Jerome was born around 340 as Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in present-day Croatia. His father sent him to Rome for instruction in rhetoric and classical literature. 

Baptized in 360 by Pope Liberius, he traveled widely and eventually settled on the life of a desert hermit in Syria. He later was ordained a priest and relocated, living a solitary and ascetic life in Bethlehem from the mid-380s. It was there that he learned Hebrew, mainly from studying with Jewish rabbis. He eventually became St. Damasus I’s personal secretary. 

Amusingly, linguistic genius and an admirable work ethic aren’t the only qualities Jerome is known for today. He’s also the patron saint of people with difficult personalities — as he was said to have one himself, displaying a harsh temperament and biting criticisms of his intellectual opponents.

The birth of the Vulgate

Contrary to popular belief, the Vulgate wasn’t the first time there had been a Latin Bible — at the time of Jerome, in the fourth century, there was a version already widely in use called the “Vetus Latina” (“Old Latin”), which was itself a roughly second-century A.D. translation of the Greek Septuagint. In addition, the Vetus Latina contained the translation from the Greek original of all the books of the New Testament. All the books of the New Testament were written in Greek originally, but the Old Testament — save for a handful of books — was first written in Hebrew. 

Rico described the Vetus Latina as a “good translation, but not perfect.” In 382, St. Damasus I tasked Jerome, who was working as his secretary at the time, with revising the Vetus Latina translation of the New Testament. 

Jerome did so, taking several years to painstakingly revise and improve the Latin translation of the New Testament from the best Greek manuscripts available. Rico said throughout the process, Jerome corrected certain passages and expounded on the deep meanings of many of the Greek words that had been lost in earlier translations.

For example, the Greek word “epiousios,” which was likely coined by the Gospel writers, appears in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke and Matthew and is often translated in English as “daily.” In the Gospel of Matthew, however, Jerome translated the word into Latin as “supersubstantialem,” or “supersubstantial” — an allusion, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, to the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. 

All of Jerome’s work resulted in a “brilliant improvement” over the Vetus Latina, Rico said. 

What Jerome did next was even more ambitious. He set about translating the entire Old Testament as well, from its original Hebrew. Jerome knew Hebrew very well, Rico noted, since he had lived in the Holy Land for 30 years at that point and kept in close contact with Jewish rabbis. Jerome also had access to the Hexapla of Origen, a kind of “Rosetta Stone” for the Bible that displayed the Bible text in six versions side by side. (The Hebrew text, a transliteration in Greek letters of the Hebrew text, the Greek Septuagint translation, and three other Greek translations that had been made in a Jewish milieu.)

In an effort that would ultimately take 15 years, Jerome succeeded in translating the entire Old Testament from the original Hebrew, which was no mean feat given the fact that Hebrew was originally written without the use of short vowels. 

Upon its completion, the Vulgate not only superseded the Vetus Latina in becoming the predominant Bible translation used in the Middle Ages, but it was also declared the official Bible of the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545–1563). 

The Vulgate has been revised a handful of times over the years, most notably in 1592 by Pope Clementine VIII (the “Clementine Vulgate”), and the most recent revision, the Nova Vulgata, promulgated by St. John Paul II in 1979.

In addition to its use today in the Traditional Latin Mass, the Vulgate has endured as the basis for the popular English translation of the Bible, the Douay–Rheims. 

While again cautioning that no translation is ever perfect, Rico was quick to praise Jerome’s Vulgate for its accuracy and its importance in the history of the Church. 

“For the New Testament, I have not been able to find any mistakes ... The whole thing is incredible,” he said. 

For his part, Jerome is today recognized as a doctor of the Church. He lived out his last days in study, prayer, and asceticism at the monastery he founded in Bethlehem, where he died in 420. 


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Europe:     Vatican cardinal says he did not compare German Synodal Way to Nazi ideology
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in Rome on Oct. 23, 2019. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA. / null

CNA Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 22:07 pm (CNA).

A Vatican cardinal has defended himself against an accusation by the president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, of making a “totally unacceptable gaffe” over remarks regarding the German Synodal Way.

“I am responding promptly, but I cannot retract my essential point, simply because I have in no way compared the Synodal Way to a Nazi ideology, nor will I ever do so,” the Swiss cardinal said, according to a report by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. 

Cardinal Kurt Koch, a native of Switzerland, is president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In an interview with the Catholic weekly “Die Tagespost,” Koch said that he was shocked that, of all places, the German Synodal Way was talking about new sources of revelation. 

“This phenomenon already existed during the National Socialist dictatorship, when the so-called ‘German Christians’ saw God’s new revelation in blood and soil and in the rise of Hitler,” Koch said.

The “German Christians” (Deutsche Christen) were a Nazi-era pressure group that wanted to align Protestantism with racist Nazi Ideology.

In contrast, the opposing Confessing Church’s Barmen Theological Declaration spoke against such distortions of Christian teaching. 

The 1934 statement said, in its first article: “We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.’”

Koch said in his response, written late Thursday: “It was a matter of concern to me to recall the Barmen Theological Declaration in this context, because I still consider it important today, also for ecumenical reasons. In order to make the content understandable to those who read it, I had to briefly note what this declaration responded to.”

“In saying this, I was in no way comparing the Synodal Way with the mentality of the ‘German Christians,’ nor did I want to do so,” the Swiss prelate added. 

“Just as the so-called ‘German Christians’ — thank God — did not comprise all German Christians, I also, in no way, had all [Synodal Way] participants in mind with my statement, but only those Christians who represent the assertion formulated in the question. And I hope to continue to assume that this assertion is not the opinion of the Synodal Way.”

Bishop Bätzing demands an apology

At a press conference marking the conclusion of the German bishops’ fall plenary assembly on Thursday afternoon, Bätzing demanded Koch make “a public apology” in light of his remarks. 

Otherwise, Bätzing said he would “file an official complaint with the Holy Father,” CNA Deutsch reported.

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg at a press conference of the German Synodal Way. Synodaler Weg / Max von Lachner
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg at a press conference of the German Synodal Way. Synodaler Weg / Max von Lachner

Koch’s statement betrayed a fear that “something will change,” Bätzing continued. “But I promise you: Something will change and even Cardinal Koch will not be able to stop that — certainly not with such statements.”

“The plenary assembly of bishops has reacted with horror to this statement, with which Cardinal Koch disqualifies himself in the theological debate,” the German prelate continued. 

There had already been “attempts to delegitimize the Synodal Way” by the cardinal for some time, Bätzing claimed.

Koch replied on Friday with a statement published in full by CNA Deutsch. 

“To those who feel hurt by my statement, I apologize and assure them that this was not and is not my intention,” Koch said.

The Vatican cardinal said he had “simply assumed that today we can also learn from history, even from a very difficult time. As the vehement reaction of Bishop Bätzing and others show, I have to state, in hindsight, that I failed in this attempt.”

“However, I cannot retract my critical query,” the cardinal stressed. “I raised it not out of ‘pure fear that something will change,’ and not with the intention of ‘delegitimizing,’ as Bishop Bätzing accuses me of doing, but out of theological care for the future of the Church in Germany.”

Koch pointed out he was far from “alone in my criticism of the orientation text of the Synodal Way,” adding: “My critical comment, then, cannot simply be an expression of a completely mistaken theology.”

Synodal Way flags fly in front of the Congress Center Messe Frankfurt in Germany. Max von Lachner/Synodal Way.
Synodal Way flags fly in front of the Congress Center Messe Frankfurt in Germany. Max von Lachner/Synodal Way.

Participants in the Synodal Way (Synodaler Weg) approved the “orientation text” in February. It sets out the theological underpinnings of the controversial process, sometimes referred to as the Synodal Path.


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US:     Four female athletes challenge Connecticut policy in fight to save women’s sports
Female student athletes prepare to take their case for fairness in sports to court Thursday. / Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Four female student athletes are at the center of an ongoing case to protect girls’ sports, which advanced to the 2nd District Court of Appeals this week. 

The case, Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, has been at the heart of the debate over whether or not male athletes who identify as female can compete on girls-only sports teams.

The girls are being represented in the case by attorneys from the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

“These young women, meet after meet, saw that in Connecticut those who were born female didn’t have an equal chance,” ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks argued before the court Thursday morning.

“Perhaps more problematic, their little sisters standing on the sidelines saw [that] those born female like them didn’t have an equal chance to win. That is contrary to the very heart of Title IX,” he concluded.

Title IX, adopted in 1972, protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Four female track athletes take a stand

ADF is representing four female track athletes — Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Ashley Nicoletti — in a legal challenge to Connecticut’s policy that allows transgender athletes to compete on high school girls’ sports teams.

The complaint argues that Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) policy allowing males to compete on female sports teams violates Title IX and has deprived female athletes of the equal opportunity to compete, obtain medals, and advance to championships.

All of the girls were either denied medals and advancement opportunities as a result of male athletes dominating the playing field — something that has had a lifelong impact.

Mitchell, for example, would have won Connecticut’s 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition but was denied the gold medal when two male athletes identifying as transgender — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — took first and second place. 

Mitchell told CNA that she lost four state championships and other advancements in all New England awards as a result. 

“I don’t know exactly how that would have impacted my college recruitment,” she said. 

“Especially at the time, those state championships meant a lot to me. To train and work that hard to be in the contention for a state championship and lose because of biological males in my race was really disheartening and frustrating.”

The ACLU of Connecticut, which represented CIAC and its member schools in the suit — along with Miller and Yearwood who joined as defendants — did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

A CIAC spokesman told CNA the conference had no comment.

Because of the CIAC policy, Smith walked away from a regional New England meet with a bronze medal instead of a silver because a male took first place. 

“All the other female athletes weren’t able to advance to the state open or the New England Regional meet because the spots were taken by biological males,” Smith said. 

Soule lost the opportunity to qualify for the meet and the 55-meter dash, which she had previously qualified for, for the same reason.

“I was forced to watch my own event from the sidelines,” Soule added.

ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer said that on average, males have a 10%–15% higher performance average than females.

“Why should girls even try?” Kiefer asked. “The whole reason we even have women’s sports as a separate category is because we recognize those real physical differences.”

Uphill battle ahead for future of girls’ sports 

The girls’ case was dismissed earlier last year by a Connecticut district court judge when it was submitted. ADF then appealed the ruling to the 2nd Court of Appeals.

“What the district court did in dismissing the girls’ lawsuit is essentially [say] that their inaccurate records, their lost opportunities didn’t matter. And that’s simply wrong under Title IX,” Kiefer said. 

“Records do matter to athletes,” Kiefer added. “Chelsea Mitchell lost four state championship titles. She was four times the fastest girl in a state championship race, and yet the record books don’t reflect her accomplishments. That’s something that needs to be fixed.”

The complaint requests that CIAC grant the plaintiffs monetary relief, update the district’s records to remove males from the scores, and strike down the policy. 

Kiefer said that ADF was “optimistic” the court of appeals will rule in their favor because the Title IX violation was so “clear.”

She added that they hope it won’t be necessary to bring the case to the Supreme Court, “but if necessary, we will take this case as far as it needs to go.”

Biden’s Title IX policy muddies the waters

In June, President Biden reinterpreted Title IX’s federal ban on sex discrimination to include “sexual orientation or gender identity,” paving the way to require single-sex sports teams to allow transgender athletes.

Title IX was originally crafted in part to ensure fairness in women’s sports. 

Kiefer said that Biden’s recent proposed revisions to Title IX do not bode well for the future of protecting female-only sports.

“I think it could very well spell the beginning of the end of female sports,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer said that ADF believes Biden’s redefinition of sex in federal law is “unlawful.” 

“If the administration goes through with this, we will see ramifications and difficult situations for female athletes, like we saw in the state of Connecticut, that will be replicated across the entire United States,” she said. 

ADF was one of many other dissenting groups that submitted a public comment opposing the administration’s proposed regulations. 

“I hope that this won’t impact their future,” Soule said, speaking about younger female athletes who come after her, “and that girls will have a fair opportunity to not only participate but to succeed in the sports that they love.”

Smith added that she hoped “more female athletes will start to stand up so that a change can be made quicker.”

“The more people that speak up on this issue, the faster hopefully it’ll get rectified,” Mitchell agreed. 

“In the meantime, just keep working hard on your score. That’s all we really can do until this issue is fixed.” 


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US:     Cardinals Cupich, Dolan urge reconsideration of transgender mandate
Credit: lazyllama/Shutterstock / null

Denver Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration’s proposal to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries is “misguided” and should be reconsidered, two cardinals wrote Monday in an article published in America Magazine.

“Under this new proposed rule, it would be considered discrimination for a health care facility or worker to object to performing gender transition procedures, regardless of whether that objection is a matter of sincerely held religious belief or clinical judgment,” Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Timothy Dolan of New York wrote in a Sept. 26 statement.

“This is government coercion that intrudes on the religious freedom of faith-based health care facilities. Such a mandate threatens the conscience rights of all health care providers and workers who have discerned that participating in, or facilitating, gender transition procedures is contrary to their own beliefs.”

The rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would apply to any health care program or activity that receives federal funding. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557. 

It would reverse Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures contrary to their beliefs.

Cupich and Dolan said that Section 1557 “rightly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in health care. We wholeheartedly support all efforts to ensure that everyone, without exception, receives the best health care that is their due.” 

They emphasized that at Catholic hospitals, “all people who come to us, no matter their age, sex, racial or ethnic background, or religion,” as well as “people who identify as transgender,” “will receive the same treatment as any other patient.”

“Catholic hospitals do not discriminate against anyone and to do so would be offensive to the embracing and expansive healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” the cardinals wrote. “However, if health care facilities are to be places where the twin pillars of faith and science stand together, then these facilities and their workers must not be coerced by the government to violate their consciences.”

“Does objecting to performing gender transition procedures — but welcoming patients who identify as transgender — constitute discrimination? Of course not. The focus of such an objection is completely on the procedure, not the patient,” they wrote. “Prohibiting the removal of a healthy, functioning organ is not discrimination, provided that the same determination would be made for anyone of any sex or gender, which is true at Catholic hospitals.”

The cardinals said that “People of many faiths, or of no faith yet with deep personal convictions, may find these procedures profoundly troubling, and their constitutional rights deserve to be respected. In a society that protects the free exercise of religion, religious health care providers cannot be expected to violate the teachings of their religion as a condition of continuing their care, and religious health care workers cannot be expected to violate their consciences as a condition of employment.”

The proposed rule “does not codify the rights of faith-based providers to decline procedures based on conscience, as other federal laws do,” according to Cupich and Dolan. “Rather, it holds that H.H.S. reserves the right to decide whether, despite those existing conscience protections, it can force faith-based providers to violate their beliefs.”

Noting that courts have ruled that similar mandates violate religious freedom, and the administration “is currently fighting” those rulings, they said that “it is reasonable to lack confidence in the department’s commitment to construing these laws to provide appropriately robust conscience protections.”

“We support H.H.S.’s efforts to ensure all people receive high-quality health care,” the cardinals wrote. “We have long proposed moral principles for discerning health care policy: It should respect the life and dignity of every person, be accessible to all, honor conscience rights, be truly affordable, and be comprehensive and of high quality.”

“By the same token,” they added, “Catholic hospitals and health care workers should not be punished because of their religious convictions or clinical judgments. We urge H.H.S. to reconsider its misguided mandate.”


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Europe:     Priests reject controversial synod poster: it’s ‘out of bounds and confusing’
Image posted by the Synod of Synodality on its social media networks. / Image credit: Facebook Synod of Synodality

Denver Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Father Francisco “Patxi” Bronchalo, a priest of the Diocese of Getafe, Spain, recently posted on social media that a controversial drawing on the official Facebook page of the Synod on Synodality “is out of bounds and confusing.” Father Jesús Silva of the Archdiocese of Madrid also criticized the image.

The drawing shows a group of young people in front of church, including a woman dressed in a white chasuble and red stole and another young man wearing a multicolored LGBT “Pride” shirt.

In a series of Twitter posts, Bronchalo said that the image “surprised” him, and he began his analysis with the woman dressed in priestly vestments.

He noted that this image “can give the feeling to whoever sees it that one of the fruits of the synod could be that the sacrament of priestly ordination may also be given to women,” which entails “deceiving whoever sees it and sowing confusion.”

Bronchalo pointed out that “there may be people inside and outside the Church who believe that this will be the case” and then be disappointed. At the same time, the priest fears that within the Church there may be people “who feel disgusted by the promotion of slogans that don’t help them in their faith but rather create confusion.”

The priest affirmed it’s not possible for the synod to approve the ordination of women “because it cannot,” since St. John Paul II in his apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis confirmed as part of the Church’s magisterium that ordination is reserved to men. 

Bronchalo then quoted the document: 

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (OS, 4).

‘The priesthood is not like changing a tire’

Expanding on the issue, Bronchalo used three arguments on the impossibility of ordaining women. The first is that “Holy Scripture tells us that Christ chose his Twelve Apostles only from among men.”

And it was not because of a cultural issue, because, the priest argued, “it’s easy to see how Christ’s way of acting was not conditioned by sociological or cultural reasons.” 

“He chose twelve specific men because he wanted it that way,” he stressed.

Furthermore, Bronchalo argued that “it makes perfect sense that priestly ordination be given to men, because in our masculinity we (represent Christ, the Bridegroom) of the Church when we celebrate the sacraments. Therefore the fact that candidates for the priesthood should be living a healthy and integral masculinity is important for the Church.”

The priest emphasized that “the priesthood is not a functional matter that anyone can do, like changing a tire. Receiving it configures the being.”

Imitating Christ for two millennia

The second argument provided by Bronchalo regarding the ordination of women is based on the fact that “the Church has lived out a constant practice for two millennia in giving the sacrament of priestly orders only to men, imitating Christ in his choice.” 

“We are depositories of a faith that we have received and that we transmit. That’s why the Church does not feel empowered to change matters that come from Christ himself,” the priest added.

He also pointed out that in the Catholic Church, 24 ritual Churches coexist and “in all those churches during all this time, it has always been understood that the priesthood is given to men because Christ himself wanted it that way.”

From the Fathers of the Church

Third, Bronchalo pointed out that “the magisterium of the Church has continually referred to the fact that priestly ordination is for men” — not only as St. John Paul II did in recent times, but also at other times in the history of the Church. Thus, in the first centuries, Fathers of the Church such as St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, or St. Augustine speak “of the reasons for ordination being reserved to men.”

Women such as St. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, have also supported the exclusive ordination of men. The saint “spoke of the wonder of being priests, in order to exhort men to exercise their ministry well,” the priest noted.

Bronchalo concluded that the drawing “is out of bounds and is confusing” because “rather than uniting, which is what the synod seeks, what these things do is divide,” adding that “I wish they would remove it or they could give an explanation to those who feel confused.”

‘Everything that is not the Church’

Father Silva of the Archdiocese of Madrid commented on Twitter:

“Don’t you find it endearing that on the @Synod_va page they’ve put a representation of non-Catholic churches with all their errors summarized in a single image? So we can know everything that is not the Catholic Church. Interesting strategy.”

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


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Asia - Pacific:     Vatican confirms East Timor bishop under ‘restrictions’ related to sexual abuse of minors
Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts related to East Timor, speaks during an Indonesian Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) public hearing in Jakarta, March 26 March. / Photo credit: AHMAD ZAMRONI/AFP via Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 29, 2022 / 14:54 pm (CNA).

The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, a Nobel laureate and bishop from the Southeast Asian nation of East Timor, has been under “certain disciplinary restrictions” since September 2020 related to accusations of sexual abuse of minors. 

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, said in a Sept. 29 statement to the press that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was “first involved in this case in 2019” and imposed restrictions on Belo the following September. 

“These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with Timor Leste,” Bruni said.

“In November 2021 these measures were modified and reinforced. On both occasions, the measures were formally accepted by the bishop,” he said.

Belo, 74, a priest of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, led the Archdiocese of Dili as apostolic administrator from 1988–2002. Along with current East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, Belo jointly received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his nonviolent resistance and advocacy amid the 1975–1999 Indonesian annexation and occupation of the country. 

The Vatican’s statement comes after a left-leaning Dutch magazine, De Groene Amsterdammer, published on Sept. 28 an investigation into allegations of abuse, including rape, allegedly committed by Belo against teenage boys, both before and after he became apostolic administrator of Dili. 

The investigation anonymously quotes two alleged victims, now in their 40s, who say the bishop abused his position of power over boys in the area who lived in extreme poverty. De Groene says their reporters spoke to “several victims and 20 people with knowledge of the matter,” about half of whom “know a victim” of Belo’s alleged abuse. 

According to the investigation, allegations against Belo first came to light in 2002. That same year, St. John Paul II accepted Belo’s sudden resignation as apostolic administrator — which at the time Belo said was done for health reasons. The Vatican has not yet confirmed whether or not it had knowledge of the abuse allegations against Belo at the time of his resignation. 

The following year, Belo left East Timor for Portugal, and in 2004 he took up a missionary post in the Portuguese-speaking African nation of Mozambique, returning to Portugal a few years later. Belo told UCA News in 2005 that while in Africa, he taught catechism classes to children and gave retreats for young people. 

Ramos-Horta declined to comment on Belo’s case to the Associated Press. The Salesian order in Portugal says that Belo did not have “any educational or pastoral positions or responsibilities” with the group in the country. 

Belo’s former archdiocese is the largest of East Timor’s three dioceses. In August, Pope Francis made Dili’s archbishop, Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, a cardinal. 

East Timor, or Timor-Leste, occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor, which it shares with Indonesia. The population of the country, which was colonized by Portugal, is nearly 98% Catholic and very youthful — approximately 40% of the population is below the age of 15 and the country’s median age is 20, according to the CIA World Factbook. 

Pope Francis has expressed interest in visiting the region. In an October 2021 interview, the pope said that in 2022 he would like to make trips to Papua New Guinea and East Timor, which had been planned for late 2020 before they were canceled because of the pandemic.


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Americas:     Nicaraguan dictator Ortega verbally attacks pope, calls Church ‘the perfect dictatorship’
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega / Photo credit: Flickr Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan) | Government Website Open Information Announcement (CC BY 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 13:54 pm (CNA).

The dictator of Nicaragua, former guerilla fighter President Daniel Ortega, verbally attacked Pope Francis and said that the Catholic Church is “the perfect dictatorship” during a public event Sept. 28 in Managua, the country’s capital.

In his speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the National Police, Ortega questioned: “Who elects the priests, the bishops, the pope, the cardinals, how many votes, who votes for them? If they’re going to be democratic, they must begin by electing the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, with the vote of the population, with the votes of Catholics.”

“Let the population elect them and not all of them imposed [on the people], it’s a dictatorship, the perfect dictatorship. It’s a tyranny, the perfect tyranny,” he continued.

After calling the pope a “holy tyrant,” the Nicaraguan dictator asked: “With what authority do you speak to me about democracy? How many votes did the bishop have from the population to be appointed bishop?”

This is not the first time that Ortega has publicly attacked the Catholic Church. In September 2021, he insulted the Catholic bishops, calling them “terrorists,” “demons in cassocks,” and men in “satanic cassocks.”

On that occasion, as well as in yesterday’s event, the dictator accused the bishops of being behind the 2018 protests and promoting a coup d’état against him.

Ortega’s remarks come almost two weeks after Pope Francis said that there is dialogue with the Nicaraguan government, although “right now there are problems.”

Persecution of the Church in Nicaragua

Ortega’s remarks came a day after Santa Lucía-Boaco parish in the Diocese of Granada reported that “the Nicaraguan government denied our pastor, Father Guillermo Blandón, re-entry into our country.”

The newspaper La Prensa reported Sept. 11 that the Nicaraguan Immigration and Foreigners Office prevented Father Juan de Dios García, vicar of the Santo Cristo de las Colinas parish, from returning to the country after having traveled to the United States.

On Aug. 19, the police abducted in the middle of the night the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, from the chancery where he had been forcibly confined by riot police for over two weeks and took him to Managua, where he remains under house arrest.

According to local media, the prosecution has supposedly indicted him but the charges are unknown.

On Sept. 15, the European Parliament approved by a vote of 538 to 16 a resolution demanding the immediate release of the bishop.

The night Bishop Álvarez was seized, the other priests, seminarians, and a layman who were confined in the chancery with him were also taken away and are being held in the El Chipote prison, known for torturing opponents of the regime.

Those imprisoned there are Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Diaz, Sadiel Eugarrios, and Raúl González; seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira; and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, all from the Diocese of Matagalpa.

Another priest who is being held in El Chipote is Father Oscar Benavidez of the Diocese of Siuna.

These prisoners have also reportedly been indicted but for what crimes is unknown.

In other attacks, the Ortega dictatorship expelled in March the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.

The former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, has been living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.

In addition, the Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta, were expelled in July and were welcomed in neighboring Costa Rica by the bishop of Tilarán-Liberia. The Religious of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were expelled this month and returned to Mexico, where the congregation was founded.

In fewer than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations according to the investigative report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022)” by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory.

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


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Vatican:     ‘Everything is connected’: Cardinal Czerny explains future of Vatican office for integral human development
Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, takes possession of his titular church of San Michele Arcangelo in Rome, Jan. 19, 2020. / Pablo Esparza/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s office for integral human development is rethinking its work in light of the implementation of Pope Francis’ curial reform, its prefect and secretary said Thursday.

Following the publication of the constitution Praedicate evangelium, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has “reorganized” competencies within the office, and “there has been some turnover,” Sister Alessandra Smerilli, the dicastery’s secretary, said at a press conference Sept. 29.

Prefect Cardinal Michael Czerny said the dicastery’s mission is “to help the Church to promote integral human development,” that “development, that growth, that flourishing of each person in the different dimensions of their existence.”

“A few of us,” he added, “cannot be happily or integrally developed if others of us are underdeveloped or mal-developed or simply totally left out.”

The process in the dicastery, the cardinal said, is to think about the issues people are suffering from, “the key injustices that need to be addressed if people are going to be able to flourish,” to reflect on the response and to see its connection to other issues, and to create an effective proposal for action by the local Church.

“The concerns can come in many forms,” he said, naming human rights, health, injustice, the legal system, the prison system, armaments, violence, economy and labor, the environment, and humanitarian emergencies.

“And so on and so on, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t have a closed list. We don’t have a preferred list. We would like to listen and through that to establish the priorities that we need to address,” Czerny said.

Integral

What does the word “integral” mean in the context of the dicastery? Czerny told CNA during a press conference the word, applied to “human development,” means authentic and evangelical, and is the opposite of fake, narrow, and exploitative.

“The word integral is ... a hard word for saying what Pope Francis often says much more clearly and simply,” he said, that “everything and everyone is connected. That’s at least one of the important meanings of ‘integral.’”

The cardinal said human beings have the tendency to fixate on things that are important to them while forgetting the needs of others.

“I can become, yes, I would say, obsessed with my personal fulfillment, without realizing that I cannot really be fulfilled, and certainly not from a faith point of view, if it is at the cost of others,” the cardinal said. “If others are deprived in order for me to prosper, then there is something intrinsically and morally wrong with my prosperity. And that is contained, or implicit, in the idea of ‘integral.’”

Restitution

Following its reorganization, the dicastery describes its workflow as a three-part process: listening-dialogue, research-reflection, and communication-restitution.

The idea behind using the word “restitution,” Czerny told CNA in a brief one-on-one interview, “is an element of justice.”

Restitution “is to restore something that was given,” though not something that was taken away, he emphasized.

There are, he said, “so many situations in which the poor have given their concerns, have shared their concerns with people, and the people have said, oh, that’s too bad, and then they’ve gone away.”

“We feel that … if we ask them what are their anxieties, what are their fears, what are their challenges, that we owe them an answer.”

Evangelization

The role of the dicastery, Czerny said during the press conference, “is not advocacy itself,” nor does the office directly evangelize — an important focus of the new constitution.

“We are ready to help accompany, we are ready to help repair, we are ready to help reflect,” he said.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development plays a supporting role to the local Churches, “the primary agents of evangelization,” Czerny told CNA after the presser.

“We think that promoting integral human development is a very effective and often wordless way of evangelizing, and we hope to help the Church to do that.”

The cardinal said he sees a complementarity with the work of the Dicastery for Evangelization, which merged the former Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

On the topic of practical help for local Churches in need, the dicastery’s secretary, Sister Smerilli, said that if nuncios — the pope’s ambassadors — get in touch, the dicastery can act as a go-between to connect them to aid.

The dicastery exists to support the bishops’ conferences and other local Catholic organizations, the office’s leaders said.

Relationships with multilateral bodies such as the United Nations fall under the purview of the secretariat of state. 

“But Praedicate evangelium asks us to collaborate with the secretariat of state,” Smerilli explained, “and what we can bring is the experience on the ground, the voice of the local churches, to be able to make these voices also matter” to those who work in the diplomatic or political spheres.


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Europe:     What does Giorgia Meloni’s victory mean for Catholics in Italy?
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) holds a “Thank You Italy” sign during a press conference at the party electoral headquarters on Sept. 25, 2022 in Rome. / Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The victory of Giorgia Meloni and her “Fratelli d’Italia” (Brothers of Italy) party in Italy’s recent election made global headlines.

Meloni won with a platform that supports traditional families, national identity, and the country’s Christian roots. In a speech earlier this year, she said “no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology.”

As the leader of a party that originates from a postwar movement born from the ashes of fascism, Meloni can neither be called a post-fascist nor simply a far-right leader.

Her international position is Atlanticist, and she has supported Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, congratulating him on his election.

On European issues, Meloni is critical of how Europe runs the risk of imposing policies on nation-states, but she is not against the principle of a European Union.

In short, the reality of Meloni’s politics is much more nuanced than it may seem at first glance. This explains why Catholic hierarchies in Italy have shown a degree of openness toward the politician following her electoral victory.

Italian political background

Italy’s history plays an essential role in understanding this reality. After fascism, the Italian state was reconstituted with a powerful Catholic party, the Christian Democrats, which for decades was the undisputed leader in the elections. 

Catholics had been among the first opponents of fascism. 

The Italian Constitution was inspired by a group of Catholics who, in 1943, already toward the end of the war, had gathered in the monastery of Camaldoli in Tuscany to define the principles for a post-fascist state.

In the early 1990s, a widespread corruption scandal in Italian politics called Tangentopoli wiped out traditional parties, including the Christian Democrats.

New parties arose, and members of the Christian Democrats joined these or were part of varying political formations.

The current Italian Democratic Party, considered center-left, is made up of former members of the Christian Democrats as well as members of the old left parties.

The secretary, Enrico Letta, had a background with the Christian Democrats. Similarly, parties considered to be center-right in Italy, such as Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, include among their ranks heirs of the Christian Democrats but also former socialists and former members of the Italian Liberal Party, traditionally secular and in some respects even anti-clerical.

The Italian Church had initially supported the so-called center party, which was the first direct heir of the Christian Democrats. Soon, however, the policy of the Italian bishops became not to support political formations but rather the values ​​and themes promoted within the various parties — no longer, therefore, a Catholic party, but Catholics in politics.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Cardinal Camillo Ruini was the Italian Bishops’ Conference president. In the face of tremendous parliamentary battles, Ruini coined the expression “nonnegotiable values.”

By nonnegotiable values, ​​he first meant the importance ​​of life at a time when political actions promoted euthanasia, in-vitro-fertilization, and even abortion as a matter of personal conscience.

After the bishops’ conference presidency of Ruini and that of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the question of nonnegotiable values ​​has become more nuanced.

With Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who became president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference in 2014, the Church in Italy has aimed more at a concrete look at the issues of poverty and the economy, arguably losing sight, somewhat, of the values platform.

It was a strategic choice dictated by the fact that Catholics in politics were increasingly marginalized and that the social doctrine of the Church took less and less space in the formation of the new ruling class. There were attempts to create new platforms of Catholic culture in the early 2010s. These were sidelined by an economic-institutional emergency that had led to economist Mario Monti leading the government.

To all this, it must be added that the culture in Italy has been strongly forged by leftist thinking. It should be remembered that Italy had the largest Communist Party beyond the Iron Curtain after the war.

The Communist Party strongly developed an anti-fascist resistance narrative. Yet, the communist partisans were also authors of heinous murders and systematic elimination of priests — for instance, the recently beatified seminarian Rolando Rivi.

The Catholic platform in Italy

The historical context explains how Catholic thought in Italy was forged, especially in the years following the Second Vatican Council. Then, Catholicism in Italy fluctuated between the need for identity and the narrative of a rupture, which wanted a Church more committed to social issues and less to the centers of power.

A case in point: The latest bill against homophobia, which could have introduced gender classes in schools, was strongly supported by the Italian Democratic Party, led by the former Christian Democrat Letta.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Catholic vote in Italy has rewarded Giorgia Meloni. Lacking a political party of reference, the Catholic center looked to the party that most corresponded to specific values.

Meloni’s voters are likely people who attended Family Day events held in Italy in 2007 and 2016 to oppose two bills on the civil unions.

The organizer of the most recent Family Day, Massimo Gandolfini, said in 2019: “We recognize that Brothers of Italy and Giorgia Meloni are pursuing a policy to the advantage of the family, for the defense of life from conception to natural death, and the educational freedom of parents.”

On the other hand, Meloni has been met with skepticism and concerns over leading a party with a fascist legacy.

Much attention was paid to her meeting with Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship. But there were other talks with Vatican figures. Rumors also speak of contact with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Added to this is a meeting with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. In an interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire on Sept. 28, Zuppi made it clear that he knew Meloni well. He also described the Church in Italy as committed to collaborating with all parties.

To fully understand the context, it is worth remembering that Zuppi is an exponent of Sant’Egidio, a movement closer to the demands of the center-left than the center-right.

The Italian bishops’ position

In general, the Italian bishops do not endorse any particular political candidate, keep a low profile, and only issue statements regarding the bishops’ conference president or possibly the secretary of state.

Meloni also kept a low profile. Compared with others, her campaign did not exploit religious faith. While setting what is generally considered a conservative tone, Meloni’s rhetoric was political, not religious.

The president of the “Fratelli” is described by those who know her as someone “who considers herself part of the Church, very respectful of Pope Francis even when perhaps she does not understand or share certain [aspects] of his statements or acts.”

She was also present at the Communion and Liberation Meeting in Rimini, which takes place every August, and spoke about Catholic social teaching.

Brothers of Italy and the Italian Church

Cardinal Ruini, whose voice still carries weight, said in an interview with Corriere Della Sera on Sept. 28, “intellectuals are on the left, but the real country is on the right.” He acknowledged the reality of Meloni’s role and her party’s election.

In doing so, Ruini pointed out that the Catholic world in Italy has been closer to the so-called center-left rather than the center-right. In Italy, as elsewhere, there is a perception of a deep rift between those who stand up for nonnegotiable values and those who instead support a more pragmatic approach to dealing with contemporary challenges. But this is a perception, and reality is more nuanced.

Perhaps now is the time for a nuanced reconciliation of opposites for the Italian Catholic world. Giorgia Meloni is not a Catholic politician. The values ​​she espouses, however, also won over the Catholic electorate. This is a reality to be ignored at peril.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis says that he tried to help Ukraine, Russia prisoner swap
Pope Francis meeting with Jesuits in Kazakhstan, Sept. 15, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said that he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to Jesuits during his trip to Kazakhstan earlier this month, the pope said a Ukrainian military chief and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s religious adviser came to him with a request for help.

“This time they brought me a list of more than 300 prisoners. They asked me to do something to make an exchange,” Pope Francis said, according to a transcript published by the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica on Sept. 29.

“I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”

The pope did not specify when these conversations about a prisoner swap occurred. He spoke about the exchange in a private conversation with 19 Jesuits in Nur Sultan on Sept. 15 — six days before Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine and Russia had conducted a prisoner swap involving nearly 300 people.

Zelenskyy said that the exchange had been under preparation for a long time. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres specifically thanked Turkey and Saudi Arabia for their roles in facilitating the prisoner swap, which involved the return of 215 Ukrainians and 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians. It was the largest prisoner exchange since the war began.

In his meeting with the Jesuits, Pope Francis also recalled how he attempted to call Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “I recall that the day after the start of the war I went to the Russian Embassy. It was an unusual gesture; the pope never goes to an embassy. He receives the ambassadors personally only when they present their credentials, and then at the end of their mission on a farewell visit. I told the ambassador that I would like to speak with President Putin, provided he left me a small window for dialogue.”

The pope underlined, “from the first day of the war until yesterday, I spoke constantly about this conflict, referring to the suffering of Ukraine.” He later added that in his public statements, he has called “the invasion of Ukraine an unacceptable, repugnant, senseless, barbaric, sacrilegious aggression.”

Pope Francis also said that he believes “international factors … contributed to provoking the war.”

“I have already mentioned that a head of state, in December last year, came to tell me that he was very concerned because NATO had gone barking at the gates of Russia without understanding that the Russians are imperial and fear border insecurity. He expressed fear that this would provoke a war, and this broke out two months later,” the pope said.

Among the Jesuits who met with Pope Francis in Kazakhstan were priests who served as missionaries in Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. 

Father Bogusław Steczek, the superior of the Russian Region of the Society of Jesus, told the pope of the Jesuits’ pastoral work in Moscow, Kirov, St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and Siberia. 

“We are working on geographical, cultural, and religious frontiers,” Steczek said. “Now, in order to go forward with courage, we ask your apostolic blessing.”


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Europe:     Catholics in Poland and around the world pray Divine Mercy Chaplet to end war
Catholics in Poland pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Sept. 28, 2022 / Monika Bilska

Warsaw, Poland, Sep 29, 2022 / 06:42 am (CNA).

On Wednesday, Catholics recited the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the streets of 173 cities in Poland and 44 localities worldwide, according to organizers of the prayer event. 

At 3 p.m. local time, street intersections and public squares in towns and villages throughout Poland turned into places of prayer for peace and for those affected by war. 

With rosaries in hand, the faithful asked God for mercy for all humanity. 

“We believe that 10 minutes of supplication to God can change our families, cities, and the whole world,” the organizers said.

Participants in the prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Poland, Sept. 28, 2022. Monika Bilska
Participants in the prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Poland, Sept. 28, 2022. Monika Bilska

The event was held under the auspices of the Polish community Spark of Divine Mercy Team.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was recited on six continents for families, priests, and those holding any power in the world.

The faithful prayed for peace, especially in Ukraine. They prayed for refugees fleeing war, that they may return to their countries — and that people may be found to help them rebuild their war-damaged homes. 

On official count, 173 towns and cities in Poland joined in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

People prayed in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw and the largest Polish cities: Gdańsk, Poznań, Katowice, and Lublin. Organizers said that prayer events were also held on the streets of Papua New Guinea, Croatia, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, and the Ivory Coast.

A young man praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Poland, Sept. 28, 2022. Monika Bilska
A young man praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Poland, Sept. 28, 2022. Monika Bilska

The chaplet event, including the prayer on the streets of several cities, was held for the first time on Sept. 28, 2008, in Łódź. 

Since then, the initiative has continued to take place every year on the anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Father Michael Sopoćko, confessor of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938). 

The consecration and entrustment of the world to the Divine Mercy represented the fulfillment of a mission for the poor, young Polish nun. 

She experienced visions of Jesus in which he asked her to make his message of infinite love and mercy known to the world.

To learn more about the Divine Mercy devotion, visit the website for the Divine Mercy shrine in Poland or the National Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


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Europe:     Supporters of statue of St. Michael the Archangel in small French town vow to fight removal order
St. Michael the Archangel / Credit: Pixabay

CNA Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 01:30 am (CNA).

After a French court confirmed the removal of a statue of St. Michael from a seaside town, supporters have vowed to continue their fight to keep it standing.

On Friday, Sep. 16, the Court of Appeal in Nantes ruled in favor of removing a statue of St. Michael in the town of Les Sables-d’Olonne in the Vendée.

The court decision was made against the wishes of more than 90% of participants in a consultation held by the town’s mayor, Yannick Moreau, last March. 

On Sept. 29, the feast day of the archangel, one supporter posted an image of the statue on social media, writing “A thought for the statue of Saint-Michel in Les Sables D’Olonne in Vendée which, according to the court of Nantes, must be removed in the name of ‘secularism’ while the people of Sablais in a popular referendum have voted to maintain.”

According to a report in Le Figaro, the municipality will now take the legal fight to the Conseil d'État. The Council of State is the supreme court for administrative justice in France.

The statue was installed in 2018 opposite the church of St. Michael. It was initially at a school of the same name from 1935 until 2017.

In 2021, a complaint was filed by the “Libre Pensée de Vendée,” a group that advocates secularism and “free thought” and initially opposed the statue’s installation.

The concept of secularism — laïcité — has been a fixture of French law since 1905. At that time, the Third Republic officially established state secularism, causing a subsequent wave of anti-Catholicism, which included the end of government funding for religious schools, mandatory civil marriage, and the removal of chaplains from the army.

The group cited a 1905 law on the separation of church and state. Article 28 prohibits the display of religious images in public spaces, except for places of worship, cemeteries, monuments, or museums. 

On Dec. 16, 2021, a hearing at the Court Appeal in Nantes decided that the statue must be unbolted within six months. 

According to the ruling, although the statue is in the forecourt of a church, “the square on which the statue was installed is not a building used for worship,” and the statue must therefore be removed in accordance with 1905 laws.

Demonstrations have been held to protest the removal of the statue, according to local media reports.


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US:     Denial of clemency to death row inmate disappoints Oklahoma archbishop
null / California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

One day after a parole board denied clemency to death row inmate Benjamin Cole, the archbishop of Oklahoma City registered his disappointment in the decision.

“The denial of clemency by the Pardon and Parole Board is disappointing, as there is hardly any justice to be seen in taking the life of a man who is hardly able to speak and lacks the basic understanding of why the state is seeking his execution,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Sept. 28.

“While it is too late to provide Benjamin Cole with any care or treatment that might have prevented his crime almost 20 years ago, we still have an obligation to recognize the dignity bestowed upon him by God and the effects of his debilitating mental illness.”

Cole, the archbishop said, “should be allowed to live out what remains of his life in the hope that he receives the mental health care he should have received decades ago. Pray for the victims of violence and their families, that God brings them comfort and peace. Pray for the soul of the condemned and those who will be involved with his execution.”

The Pardon and Parole Board voted 4–1 to deny clemency to Cole, 57, on Sept. 27.

In 2002 Cole killed his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna.

His attorneys maintained that Cole is “severely mentally ill and that he has a growing lesion on his brain,” the AP reported. The lawyers told the board that he has refused medical care and has little or no communication with others.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor welcomed the panel’s decision, saying, “Although his attorneys claim Cole is mentally ill to the point of catatonia, the fact is that Cole fully cooperated with a mental evaluation in July of this year. The evaluator, who was not hired by Cole or the state, found Cole to be competent to be executed and that ‘Mr. Cole does not currently evidence any substantial, overt signs of mental illness, intellectual impairment, and/or neurocognitive impairment.’”

Cole had been incarcerated previously for the abuse of another of his infant children, and prosecutors, according to the AP, “noted that [Brianna] had numerous injuries consistent with a history of abuse.”

Relatives of Brianna’s mother asked that the board deny clemency.

A county judge is due to decide whether a trial will be held to determine whether Cole is competent to be executed. 

The parole board having denied clemency, the Oklahoma governor is unable to commute Cole’s sentence. Cole is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Oct. 20.

While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.

Regarding the execution of criminals, the Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that by its “legal and judicious exercise” civil authorities “punish the guilty and protect the innocent.”

St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

And Pope Benedict XVI exhorted world leaders to make “every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and told Catholics that ending capital punishment was an essential part of “conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

In August 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new draft of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph regarding capital punishment.

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech on Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for changing the teaching, the paragraph says, include: the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Dominican Father Thomas Petri, a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Petri said.


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US:     Supreme Court Justice Alito: faith ‘should affect the way you treat people’ as a judge
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito / Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — author of the deciding opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade — stressed the importance of his Catholic faith to serving on the highest court in the country Tuesday in a lecture to law students at the Catholic University of America (CUA).

“A person’s faith shapes what kind of person [he or she] is,” Alito said, adding “it also should affect the way you treat [people] when you’re serving as a judge.”

Alito’s inaugural lecture was given at the opening of CUA’s new Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT), a program started for students at the university’s Columbus School of Law.

CIT explores the relationship of Catholicism to American Constitutionalism, focusing on doctors of the church such as Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and secular thinkers such as Aristotle and Cicero.

Professor J. Joel Alicea, who co-directs the program, said in the lecture’s opening statement that the school believes the Catholic intellectual tradition “can help us better think through the challenges of our day.”

Alicea, who clerked for Justice Alito in 2016, introduced the justice as the honorary chair of the project’s advisory board to the reception of thundering applause.

The justice then gave remarks outlining how CUA’s project will consider how the Catholic faith relates to law but did not address the overturning of Roe or other controversial opinions from the summer.

When asked by a student how his personal faith affected his professional life, Alito pointed to how formative Catholicism is in shaping how a person treats other human beings.

“Among other things, [faith] shapes how a person regards other people and treats other people,” Alito responded.

“Judges affect people — indirectly, but sometimes very powerfully, through their decisions,” he continued. “It’s important to keep in mind that these decisions are not just abstract discussions. They have a real impact in the world and you have to keep that in mind.”

Alito authored the historic Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

“Roe was … egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,” Alito wrote in the decision’s opinion.

The decision denounced the claim that there is a “constitutional right to abortion” and returned the question of it to the states.

“Abortion presents a profound moral question,” the opinion concluded.

The son of Italian immigrants, Alito was born to a Catholic family in Trenton, New Jersey. He was a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School. After serving in positions for the Justice Department and as the U.S. attorney general for the district of New Jersey, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush — a position he’s held since 2006.

Following this summer’s landmark decision overturning Roe, Alito and the other justices have faced virulent criticism both nationally and abroad, increased violence, and even death threats.

Alito dismissed some of these attacks in a speech at a Notre Dame conference in July.

“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said.


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US:     Afghan refugees reunited with baby thanks to pro-life pregnancy center
null / Vulnerable People Project

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

On Tuesday night Benafsha and her husband, Mustafa, anxiously waited at Dulles International Airport for their son, 22-month-old Jasoor, to arrive from Afghanistan.

Benafsha tugged at her long brown hair nervously, and Mustafa held his wife close to him as they watched for their son to walk through the airport security exit and into their arms.

The last time they saw Jasoor was over a year ago — they had been separated from him for more than half his life.

An unexpected, tragic parting

On Aug. 26, 2021, the family was supposed to begin a new life together. 

Benafsha had served as a translator for coalition forces in Afghanistan, and when the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country after more than 20 years, she was among the lucky ones granted Special Immigrant Visas to evacuate to the United States. 

While the family was waiting to board a flight to the U.S. at Kabul’s airport, a suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing more than 170 people. Jasoor was in the arms of his grandmother, and in the chaos that ensued, as soldiers exchanged gunfire with militants of the Islamic State – Korasan Province, the pair were separated from the baby’s parents. 

Benafsha and Mustafa, distraught but powerless in the face of a military operation reacting to a wartime situation, were forced to leave Kabul without Jasoor. The hope that they would soon be reunited and that by leaving they would best ensure their son’s safety sustained them as they departed without him.

A crisis pregnancy center says 'yes'

By December, however, that hope appeared to be fading. It had been almost four months since they had seen their son, and things were not going well. Jasoor and his grandmother were barely surviving on their own in Kabul — as the dead of winter approached, they were running out of coal and had little food. 

Things were no better for Benafsha and Mustafa, who were about to be evicted from the temporary housing they had found with a relative in Texas. Adding to the stressful situation, Benafsha was pregnant and in need of medical care.

Desperate for help, she contacted the Pflugerville Pregnancy Resource Center outside of Austin. Little did she know that this pro-life crisis pregnancy center would not only help her with her immediate needs, but it would be the means to seeing her son again.

Brittany Green, executive director of the pregnancy center, told CNA that when Benafsha came to them, they saw there were two critical issues facing the couple: medical care and housing. 

The clinic helped her get health insurance and made an appointment with the center’s medical director for OB-GYN care. 

Next came finding a place for the couple to live. While the pro-life pregnancy center offers counseling and health care to women in crisis pregnancies, there’s a lot more to the services they offer. 

“Our perception here is we come from a place of ‘yes.’ If it is something that we can do, we’re going to do it. If it’s something we can’t do, we’re going to find the people who can help us do it,” Green said. 

“The people that we serve often hear ‘no.’ And we don’t want them to come to us and hear another ‘no.’ So we will do everything in our power to make sure that their future and success is set up,” she explained.

With the help of Loveline Outreach Ministry and a local church, the Pflugerville pro-life clinic found Benafsha and Mustafa a hotel room for a month, and they helped Mustafa find a job. Then, through Texas Alliance for Life, she learned about Jason Jones’ work evacuating refugees in Afghanistan through the nonprofit he founded, the Vulnerable People Project (VPP). 

Green got in touch with Jones, who happened to be in Texas at the time, and arranged to have coffee with Jones, Benafsha, and Mustafa.  

Jones asked for Jasoor and his grandmother’s address, and within 24 hours a care package of coal and food was delivered to them in Kabul. He also helped make funds available for Benafsha and Mustafa to secure more permanent housing in Texas. VPP works with organizations in Afghanistan to provide much-needed services including food, health care, and education to those still in the country. 

‘Only God could make this happen’

In addition to providing aid in Afghanistan, the VPP has helped thousands of Afghan citizens obtain visas to leave their country and find a safe haven elsewhere. Jones set the wheels in motion to get Jasoor a visa to the U.S. 

Marilis Pineiro, the nonprofit’s legislative and diplomatic relations liaison, successfully lobbied the State Department to approve Jasoor’s visa after months of paperwork and negotiations. 

Since Jasoor is considered an infant, it was particularly difficult to get him a visa to travel without his parents, Pineiro told CNA. The State Department finally allowed his 24-year-old aunt a visa to accompany him.

Vulnerable People Project
Vulnerable People Project

While Pineiro has helped shepherd hundreds of Afghanis to safety, she said that reuniting Jasoor with his parents was an especially emotional experience for her.

“I’m still in shock because it was such a seemingly impossible task,” Pineiro told CNA. “I ask myself ‘How?’ and the answer is that only God could make that happen.”

Jones told CNA that getting the family back together again showed the important role pro-life pregnancy centers play in serving mothers and their families.

“I’m so grateful for the thousands of pregnancy centers across America that help women meet their needs. If not for this pro-life clinic reaching out to us, we never would have met Benafsha and Mustafa and been able to help them reunite with Jasoor,” he said.

When a curly-haired Jasoor, now a toddler, finally entered the international arrivals waiting area at Dulles Airport, his mother and father hugged him and kissed him as they thought they might never get a chance to see him again.

The last time they saw each was at another airport, and the circumstances could not have been more different. 

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Benafsha said, holding baby Helen in her arms, and Jasoor by his hand, as they set off to their new home in Virginia, a dream come true after so much sorrow and uncertainty. 

The family of four is together for the first time. Vulnerable People Project
The family of four is together for the first time. Vulnerable People Project

Vulnerable People Project
Vulnerable People Project


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Americas:     Salvadoran Education Ministry dismisses official who endorsed kids’ TV show with gender ideology
null / itakdalee/Shutterstock

San Salvador, El Salvador, Sep 28, 2022 / 14:38 pm (CNA).

El Salvador’s Ministry of Education has dismissed the official responsible for allowing a children’s program with gender ideology to be broadcast on national public television, following an uproar from parents.

The Ministry of Education (MINED) dismissed Sept. 26 the director of the National Teacher Training Institute (INFOD), Carlos Rodríguez Rivas, in wake of the controversy caused by a segment of the educational program “Let’s Learn at Home,” which introduced minors to the topics of homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual sexual orientation.

“The MINED has decided to carry out an in-depth restructuring of INFOD to promote changes that allow an education adhering to our reality and with the vision of this government ... We also inform you that the current director of INFOD has been removed from his position,” a Sept. 27 statement from the government explained.

“We are clear that we must always be vigilant for children, protect their mental health and promote family values that are the basis of Salvadoran society,” the MINED continued.

The ministry “also takes on the commitment to review all programs that come from abroad, so as to not allow materials that violate our principles or are contrary to the vision of the country we want to build.”

Hours before the announcement, El Salvador’s public television Channel 10 decided to terminate the agreement with INFOD “due to non-compliance with educational standards,” including the inclusion of “unauthorized sexual content.”

The Parents’ Alliance, a civil society movement in defense of the family in El Salvador, welcomed the removal of the director of INFOD.

“This was thanks to the complaints from all the committed families and parents in El Salvador. This precedent makes it clear to us that the Parental PIN must be a reality, we must protect our children from ideologies contrary to human dignity,” the parents group said on its social media.

The concept of a Parental PIN is that parents of schoolchildren must be informed in advance by the school of any workshop, talk, subject, or activity dealing with topics of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, feminism, or diversity, and can then give or withhold their consent.

Sara Larín, founder of the VIDA SV Foundation in El Salvador, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, on Sept. 27 that the dismissal of the director of INFOD “is good news for all good Salvadorans who have denounced the perverse Social Studies material, not only in the Channel 10 program, but in the textbooks given to children.”

Larín charged that the content in children’s textbooks still “talks about terms such as sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual pleasure, eroticism, and masturbation from a gender ideology perspective.”

According to the pro-life leader, teaching this type of material “puts students at risk of sexual and emotional abuse when a public school teacher dares to address these issues with minors without the consent of their parents.”

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


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Europe:     40 Days for Life in Spain announces guidelines amid government harassment of pro-lifers
null / Image credit: 40 days for life

Denver Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The first 40 Days for Life campaign in Spain since the government criminalized what is deemed harassment at abortion businesses by pro-lifers begins today and ends Nov. 6. 

In response to the new legislation, which amended the Penal Code and went into effect in April, the campaign of prayer and fasting announced on its website a series of guidelines to avoid being arrested.

The amended code establishes “a prison sentence of three months to one year or community service from 31 to 80 days” for whoever undermines the freedom of women at an abortion center.

The law penalizes anyone who “in order to hinder the exercise of the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy harasses a woman through annoying, offensive, intimidating, or coercive acts that undermine her freedom.”

40 Days for Life reminded its volunteers that “prayer saves lives” and that their mission is to “pray peacefully, so that at no time can there be an act of harassment.”

The prayer movement advises participants to exclusively use a sign reading “You are not alone, we can help you,” and if possible to identify themselves with the 40 Days for Life official wear.

Participants are cautioned about the presence of people not part of 40 Days for Life: “Make sure your fellow time slot members have signed up for the vigil. If you don’t know someone in your time slot, try to focus on prayer and limit your conversation.”

The organization stressed that “now more than ever” it is necessary to maintain “exemplary behavior” in such a way that in case of verbal aggression to not respond and to continue praying.

If the situation persists, the participant should notify the “captain” responsible for the time slot and call the police. If possible, a video of the situation should be taken with a mobile phone “but not forwarded.”

In case of physical aggression, the police should be called.

It’s not uncommon for abortion center owners to notify the police of the presence of pro-lifers near their businesses, so in this case, it is recommended that everyone interact with the police in such a way that “there is no leading voice.”

If the police ask for identification, it’s recommended to ask the reason in a polite way and to show the National Identity Document.

40 Days for Life also foresees that a police officer may state that either someone can’t be at that place praying or that “praying is a crime.” In that case, participants are urged to be polite but to question such a statement and ask why he or she can’t be there, for example: “What am I doing wrong?” or “How should I act?”

In the event that the police insist that the volunteer must leave the place, 40 Days for Life is blunt: “Obey, never confront the police,” and “remember, they’re only doing their job.”

All these guidelines have been given despite the fact that 40 Days for Life considers that the change to the Penal Code criminalizing the actions of pro-lifers “doesn’t affect us” because “this law does not apply to us.”

“40 Days for Life is limited to praying at a fixed spot in a peaceful and silent way. Don’t engage anyone; don’t go over to speak with women who want to abort or with health care workers. Therefore, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for there to be harassment,” they stressed.

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


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US:     Florida Catholic schools prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian with action and prayer
A vehicle drives through the winds and rain from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022, in Sarasota, Florida. Ian is hitting the area as a likely Category 4 hurricane. / Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2022 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools of all levels are taking measures to keep their students safe amid the imminent arrival of Hurricane Ian, which strengthened into a Category 4 storm overnight and is expected to hit Florida’s Gulf Coast starting on Wednesday.

Ave Maria University, a Catholic college located about an hour northeast of Naples, Florida, has canceled classes through Sept. 30. Though the school is not in the direct path of the hurricane, heavy rainfall and wind are expected. 

As of midday on Sept. 28, Hurricane Ian had reached Category 4 strength with winds of 155 mph, barely shy of a Category 5 rating. Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Port Charlotte are expected to be hit with major storm surges.

Matthew Dionisi, a freshman business major at Ave Maria, told CNA that most of his friends are remaining in their dorms, but they haven’t yet received a mandate from the school to do so. As of Wednesday, all classes at the university have been moved online, and the school says it will ask students to shelter in place if they receive a tornado warning.

In addition to switching to online learning, Ave Maria has canceled virtually all extracurricular activities. The school is running shuttles from the dorms to the dining hall to allow students to eat.

“For the rest of the day today, please do not ride your bikes, scooters, or skateboards around campus. If you would like to go to the Dining Hall, please take one of the three van shuttles from the residence halls to the Dining Hall that are running continuously today,” reads a Sept. 28 noon announcement from the school.

“It is likely that we will continue to experience heavy rainfall and wind throughout the day. Avoid nonessential travel. Updates will continue throughout the day.”

Dionisi said the mood is generally good among most fellow students he’s encountered, mainly because they know that the buildings on campus are designed to withstand a hurricane. The school, in its Sept. 28 message, noted that the campus was built to withstand a direct hit of a Category 4 hurricane — 130–155 mph sustained winds.

Dionisi said he also is confident that if an evacuation becomes necessary, the school will be able to provide that. He said despite being disappointed that he is no longer able to sing in the choir at an upcoming Mass — which had been scheduled for Wednesday evening — most of the people he has encountered are in good spirits and relaxed.

The Tampa Bay area, two and a half hours north of Naples, is expected to suffer hurricane-force winds and heavy rain likely to cause flash flooding and power outages, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Though the hurricane will likely hit just south of the bay area, mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal and low-lying areas, and Tampa officials warned residents on Tuesday to take the hurricane seriously, as first responders are not sent out if winds are higher than 40 mph.

Jesuit High School in Tampa, an all-boys school, has canceled all classes and extracurricular activities through Sept. 30.

Jimmy Mitchell, director of campus ministry, told CNA that the school itself is not at particular risk of storm surge and that it has storm-proof windows and other safety features. Still, he said, many of the school’s families have evacuated north, but others have decided to ride out the hurricane.

“I know the Jesuits are staying in their residence and offering Mass and many prayers for our greater school community each day,” Mitchell told CNA by text.

“Lots of students [are] connecting in small groups to pray rosaries over Zoom and things like that as well,” he said.

St. Leo University, a Benedictine college located 40 minutes northeast of Tampa, also issued a weather advisory on Tuesday canceling classes. While the university is closed for normal business operations, only essential personnel and students who are being sheltered may be on campus, the school says.

In the nearby Diocese of St. Petersburg, Bishop Gregory Parkes on Tuesday asked for prayers for “protection during the storm.”

“Loving God, maker of heaven and earth, protect us in your love and mercy. Send the spirit of Jesus to be with us to still our fears and to give us confidence in the stormy waters. Jesus reassured his disciples by his presence, calmed the storm, and strengthened their faith,” Parkes prayed in a message emailed to each parish in his diocese and posted on the diocese’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“Guard us from harm during the storm and renew our faith to serve you faithfully. Give us the courage to face all difficulties and the wisdom to see the ways your Spirit binds us together in mutual assistance,” Parkes prayed. “With confidence, we make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”


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Vatican:     Pope Francis to visit Kingdom of Bahrain in November
Pope Francis boards his flight to Geneva June 21, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 04:57 am (CNA).

The Vatican confirmed Wednesday that Pope Francis will travel to the Kingdom of Bahrain, a Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf, from Nov. 3–6.

The possibility of a papal trip to the Islamic monarchy was mentioned on the pope’s return flight from Kazakhstan on Sept. 15.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed on Sept. 28 that Pope Francis will visit Awali and the capital city of Manama for the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.”

Further details and the full trip schedule will be published at a later date.

Bahrain, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and west of Qatar, has a population of 1.7 million people. The population is nearly 70% Muslim, with the majority belonging to the Shiite branch of Islam, the country’s state religion.

Christians, at approximately 210,000 people, make up 14% of the overall population, followed by Hindus at 10%. 

There are an estimated 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India. 

Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, is the location of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, which was consecrated on Dec. 10, 2021.

The ark-shaped Catholic cathedral seats 2,300 people and was built as part of a 95,000-square-foot complex. The church was the idea of Bishop Camillo Ballin, the vicar apostolic of Northern Arabia, who died in 2020, shortly before he could see his project completed.

The title of Our Lady of Arabia was approved in 1948. A small chapel in Ahmadi, Kuwait, was dedicated in her honor on Dec. 8 that year.

In 1957, Pius XII issued a decree proclaiming Our Lady of Arabia the main patron saint of the territory and of the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait.

In 2011, the Vatican officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia the patron saint of the vicariates of Kuwait and Arabia.

Later that year, the Holy See reorganized the Vicariate of Kuwait, giving it the new name of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, and including the territories of Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.


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Asia - Pacific:     Cardinal Zen’s second day in court: Magistrate rules there is sufficient evidence
Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Yung Chi Wai Derek/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).

On Tuesday, Cardinal Joseph Zen’s second day in court in Hong Kong, five witnesses were cross-examined and the magistrate ruled that there was sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

The 90-year-old cardinal appeared on Sept. 27 for the second consecutive day in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. The prosecution called four police officers and one other witness to testify in the preliminary hearing. 

Principal Magistrate Ada Yim ruled that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to make a prima facie case against the cardinal and five others for failing to properly register a fund to provide legal aid to pro-democracy protesters, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

Zen’s next trial date is set for Oct. 26. He was arrested in May along with other democracy activists under Hong Kong’s strict national security law. Under the current less serious charge, he could face a fine of about $1,200 but no jail time.

In addition to Zen, who has been free on bail since early May, several others have been charged for failing to apply for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between 2019 and 2021. 

Those accused with Zen are lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, activist Sze Ching-wee, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty. Cyd Ho is already jailed for a different charge. The fund helped pro-democracy protesters pay their legal fees until it dissolved itself in October 2021.

The legal representatives for the six defendants said that they will not testify in court or call any witnesses, but they will submit legal arguments on the interpretation of Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. 

The defendants’ lawyers have previously said they had the right to associate under Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the legal framework created when Great Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Zen’s trial has received international attention this week, with several Catholic leaders and human rights activists expressing solidarity for the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.

Paul Marshall, the director of the Religious Freedom Institute’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team, told CNA that Zen’s trial “further undercuts China’s 1997 promise of ‘one country, two systems’ when Hong Kong was returned to its rule and shows the government cannot be trusted to keep its agreements.”

“The prosecution and trial of 90-year-old Cardinal Zen for peacefully raising funds shows the extreme lengths to which the Chinese government will go to crush any vestiges of dissent and free religion in Hong Kong or the mainland,” he said.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis: The first element of discernment is prayer
Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 03:41 am (CNA).

Prayer is the first element of discernment, Pope Francis said in his general audience message on Wednesday.

“To discern we need to be in an environment, in a state of prayer,” he said Sept. 28 in St. Peter’s Square.

“We resume our catecheses on the theme of discernment,” the pope said, “because the theme of discernment is very important to know what is going on inside of us — feelings and ideas — we have to discern where they come from, where they lead me, to what decision.”

Francis emphasized that discernment does not lead to absolute certainty, because “life is not always logical” and humans are not machines, but “prayer is an indispensable aid.”

“It is not enough to be given instructions to carry out,” he said. “We would like to know precisely what should be done, yet even when it happens, we do not always act accordingly. How many times have we, too, had the experience described by the apostle Paul: ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.’”

He pointed out that the first miracle Jesus performs in the Gospel of Mark is an exorcism. In the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus delivers a man from the devil, “freeing him from the false image of God that Satan has been suggesting since the beginning: that of a God who does not want our happiness.”

Pope Francis blessed a child at the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022. Pablo Esparza / CNA
Pope Francis blessed a child at the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022. Pablo Esparza / CNA

Pope Francis noted that this is a trap many people, even Christians, can fall into: they may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, “but they doubt that he wants our happiness.”

“Indeed, some fear that taking his proposal seriously means ruining our lives, mortifying our desires, our strongest aspirations. These thoughts sometimes creep up inside us: that God asks too much of us, or wants to take away what we hold most dear. In short, that he doesn’t really love us,” Francis said.

But, he explained, meeting the Lord in prayer should produce joy, not fear or sadness, which are signs of distance from him.

He encouraged people to pray to God with simplicity. Just like they would greet a friend, they can say “hello” to God throughout the day.

Prayer “is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity,” he said, adding that “true prayer is familiarity and confidence with God. It is not reciting prayers like a parrot, blah blah blah, no.”

“To be in prayer,” he said, “is not to say words, words, no; to be in prayer is to open my heart to Jesus, to draw closer to Jesus, to let Jesus come into my heart and let us feel his presence.”

This, the pope continued, is how we can discern when it is Jesus speaking to us and when it is just our own thoughts. 

Francis said familiarity with the Lord also helps us to overcome the fear or doubt that God’s will is not for our good, “a temptation that sometimes runs through our thoughts and makes the heart restless and uncertain.”

“Discerning is not easy, for appearances are deceptive, but familiarity with God can melt doubts and fears in a gentle way, making our lives increasingly receptive to his ‘gentle light,’ according to the beautiful expression of St. John Henry Newman,” he said.

“It is a grace we must ask for each other: to see Jesus as our friend, our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not extort us, who, above all, never abandons us, even when we turn away from him,” he said. “He remains at the door of the heart.”

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022. Pablo Esparza / CNA
Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022. Pablo Esparza / CNA

In his final greeting at the end of the audience, Pope Francis recalled that Thursday, Sept. 29, the Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

These saints “arouse in each one of us a sincere adherence to the divine plans. Know how to recognize and follow the voice of the inner Master, who speaks in the secret of our consciousness,” he said.


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US:     Legislators raise concerns about FBI raid at pro-life family’s home
Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck with their seven children, ages 2 to 13. / Courtesy of the Houck family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Twenty-two members of Congress are demanding an explanation from the Department of Justice after the arrest of a Catholic pro-life leader in front of his wife and children at the family’s home in Pennsylvania last week. 

Mark Houck, 48, was charged with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act, and entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The FACE act “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain or provide reproductive health services,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

“The FBI’s treatment of pro-life leader Mark Houck is chilling,” Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines said in a press release that accompanied the Sept. 27 letter. “Instead of allowing for a local resolution of the dispute, the FBI nationalized the matter by using excessive force with an early morning raid at gunpoint in front of young children. The American people deserve answers.” 

The letter requests, by Sept. 30, “an explanation for the excessive level of force used by the FBI in this case, and why the power of federal law enforcement was once again used against an American citizen in what should be a state and local matter.”

“Attorney General Merrick Garland oversees an increasingly politicized FBI that seems hell-bent on making examples of average American citizens who don’t align politically with the administration,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in the press release. 

“Given what we know about it thus far that is what the case of the raid on Mark Houck’s home appears to be,” Roy added. “And the FBI should immediately answer for its apparent use of a 25- to 30-person SWAT team with guns drawn to target Mark Houck, a pro-life father of seven, for allegedly shoving a guy in front of an abortion clinic (while he maintains he was defending his 12-year-old son).”

Houck’s arrest gained national attention after his wife publicly offered her account about details of the resources and tactics used by the FBI to arrest the pro-life leader and family man.

“A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door,” Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told CNA the day of the arrest.

“They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids,” she added.

The FBI disputed Ryan-Marie Houck’s account of the arrest in a statement on Monday, calling the claims “inaccurate.”

“No SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved. FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck’s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked him to exit the residence. He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment,” the statement said.

“Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search,” the statement said.

“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” the statement concluded.

An FBI spokesman declined to answer CNA’s questions about the number of law enforcement personnel at the scene and whether any drew their weapons and pointed them at the family.

The charges

Houck was indicted by a federal grand jury Sept. 22 after a Planned Parenthood clinic escort alleged that Houck pushed him twice, causing him to fall to the ground both times.

The federal indictment says that Houck twice assaulted the 72-year-old man, identified in the indictment by the initials B.L., who was at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 2021.

According to the indictment, Houck shoved the man to the ground as he was attempting to escort two patients. The indictment also says that Houck “verbally confronted” and “forcefully shoved” him to the ground in front of Planned Parenthood the same day. The indictment says the man was injured and needed medical attention.

Houck regularly prays the rosary, hands out literature, and “does some sidewalk counseling” outside the clinic, his wife told CNA the day of the arrest.

Brian Middleton, who acted as Houck’s family spokesperson, told CNA Monday that Mark Houck maintains that he pushed the clinic escort in an effort to protect his then 12-year-old son from the man’s verbal harassment of the boy.

Middleton said that the man fell down but was not seriously hurt and required only “a Band-Aid on his finger.”

Houck faces the possibility of 11 years in prison if convicted under the new federal charges. 

The congressional letter addressed the dropped state charges.

“There is much to learn about the extent of the FBI’s operations in this case, especially since state-level assault charges were apparently dismissed by local authorities in Philadelphia,” the congressional letter says.

“Surely, the FBI must have an extraordinary reason for showing up at the home of an American family, allegedly with roughly 25 heavily armed federal agents, and arresting a father in front of his seven children. At the moment, it appears to be an extraordinary overreach for political ends.”


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Vatican:     What’s behind the ‘woman priest’ Facebook post from the Synod of Bishops?
A screenshot of the image at the Synod of Bishops' Facebook page / null

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A social media stir has greeted the image of a “woman priest,” among several other artistic images, posted to the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page. Though it is unclear whether the Facebook page noticed the figure, the artwork does come from a Philadelphia gathering of college students that said Holy Orders should be open to women.

“In #Frascati22 our experts are working on the syntheses produced during the local consultation phase,” the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page said in a Sept. 24 post, referring to the Italian town of Frascati. These gatherings for the Synod of Synodality included “pages and pages full of stories, insights, but also in some cases real works of art. Look at that!”

The Facebook post includes several cropped artworks with the Latin-language watermark of the Synod of Bishops in the upper-left corner.

One image shows five young people holding hands in front of a church, including a woman in the vestments of a priest. She is next to a person holding a microphone and wearing a yellow shirt that says “pride” in rainbow-colored letters. The person with a microphone appears to say “we are the young people of the future and the future is now.” The uncropped image is subtitled “Chain of Discipleship.”

Comments on the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page zeroed in on the woman in clerical vestments.

“Why is there a woman in a chasuble?” asks one commentator.

“This is epic cringe. Uggh,” says another.

Though the images are unsourced, CNA determined they originate with the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod. The artwork is included, uncropped, in this synod’s May 16 summary report. The images “reflect and precede each of the organizing themes included here,” the report says.

Despite authoritative Catholic teaching that the Church cannot ordain women, the report’s authors recommend that the Church “open doors to women in leadership and Holy Orders.”

In the 1994 document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, St. John Paul II definitively excluded the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood. In 2016 remarks, Pope Francis characterized this as “the final word.”

The Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod drew about 400 participants from 11 Catholic colleges or universities and three non-Catholic universities’ Catholic centers. Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia attended the final plenary session with more than 50 college students and an almost equal number of campus administrators and officers, the report said.

Becky McIntyre, a northwest Philadelphia artist and alumna of St. Joseph’s University, created the images. On her professional website, she said she had been “commissioned as a visual notetaker to facilitate an interactive art installation and create digital synthesized notes of the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod cross-campus listening session event.”

Thierry Bonaventura, a spokesperson of the Synod of Bishops, confirmed to CNA he had seen the reaction to the Facebook post. "This was an example of the contributions we received. Not only [the] texts but also some designs," Bonaventura wrote. "It was an example of what the listening consultation over the world has produced."

CNA also sought comment from McIntyre and the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod.

One of McIntyre’s images summarizes the synod and pictures students against the backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline. One element of local color is included: a small image of Gritty, the mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers.

It appears to be a visual summary of this synod: 48 listening sessions at 14 universities, 28 interracial sessions, and 27 interreligious meetings. Six young people sit in folding chairs. They are labeled as “Muslim,” “first-year education student,” “physics major,” “CLC leader,” “grad student,” and “Queer.”

The image records several statements, though it is unclear if they are direct quotations from synod participants. “Being Catholic is a crucial part of my identity,” says one. “It’s all about encounter with Christ,” reads another comment.

Other comments seem more critical. “I fear labeling myself Catholic because I don’t want to be thought of as ignorant,” says one. “The only woman leader in my church was in the choir,” said another. “I don’t want my future family to be excluded because I’m gay,” one comment says.

Another synod comment suggests more “coffee dates” with priests, religious, and campus ministers.

In another image, McIntyre appears to depict the Church as a refuge from all the tensions, divisions, and broken bonds of life. Yet another image depicts the threads of various identities, including racial, ethnic, and sexual identities, being woven into a single garment by hands captioned “God is Love.”

The synod’s summary report includes various views in tension or conflict.

Some students found joy in “a strong affiliation with a tradition with deep history in the midst of so much change provides comfort and clarity.” Others cited an “inability to be who you truly are in the church, being unhealthy, hurtful, wrong.” There was consensus on some matters like the need to “be animated by a God who loves recklessly and a Church defined by hospitality.”

Last updated on Sept 28. to include the reaction by the spokesperson of the Synod of Bishops.


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US:     Catholic University raises replica of Notre-Dame de Paris truss
A group of volunteers stand in front of a Notre-Dame Cathedral truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. / Patrick G. Ryan

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A full-scale replica of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss creaked gently in the morning sun as dozens of students and volunteers pulled on ropes to raise it above the lawn of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The truss — a roof support — went up just hours before Philippe Villeneuve and Rémi Fromont, chief architects leading the restoration of the historic cathedral, visited the U.S. for the first time since a fire engulfed the medieval church in 2019. 

The architects’ first stop, the university said, would be to see the truss.

The raising was no small feat: the 45-foot-wide by 35-foot-high white oak structure weighs 8,100 pounds. Its creation, the university noted, is also remarkable. Produced using traditional, 800-year-old methods, the hand-hewn truss was created using blueprints of the original.

Together with the educational nonprofit Handshouse Studio and other groups, the university’s School of Architecture and Planning crafted the truss during a 10-day workshop last year as part of the Notre-Dame de Paris Truss Project. A team of timber framers, carpenters, faculty, and students followed French protocol from the Middle Ages in everything from timber harvesting and tools to assembly.

“It’s my understanding that we’re enacting the building and the utilization of a truss that was made with authentic materials and in an authentic construction fashion when the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was raised in the 12th century,” the university’s president, Peter Kilpatrick, told CNA.

While the creators originally dreamed of gifting the truss to the cathedral, now they are hoping to donate their talents instead — and travel to Paris.

“We’ll be sending American students and craftsmen over there to work with their materials and their supplies,” Sam Merklein, a graduate student studying architecture who is involved with the truss project, told CNA.

Architecture students Juan Soto, Andrew Masison, and Sam Merklein helped build a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica that was raised at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Architecture students Juan Soto, Andrew Masison, and Sam Merklein helped build a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica that was raised at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

In the meantime, the truss has stood on the National Mall — between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol — as well as inside the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta.

Monday marked its fifth exhibition.

Merklein, a 23-year-old from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, called the effort a “symbol of solidarity, from the U.S. to offer to the French their condolences.”

Opening the day with prayer, Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, New York, a university trustee, called on the intercession of French saints for the rebuilding of not only the cathedral but also the Catholic Church in France.

“This morning we pray in solidarity with Parisians and people around the world who treasure Notre Dame Cathedral’s beautiful expression of the Catholic faith and the Catholic soul in art, architecture, liturgy, and history,” Barres said.

Kilpatrick, together with Andre Finot, the chief communications officer for the cathedral, attended the raising. Afterward, following an ancient tradition, one of the builders scaled the truss to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration.

A builder scales the Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan
A builder scales the Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan

Juan Soto, 24, from Ashburn, Virginia, called the truss’ placement on the university lawn, next to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a “beautiful sight.”

“We all worked on this hands-on, we got to hew the logs as they came in last summer,” said Soto, an architecture student who graduated earlier this year. 

With this project, Kilpatrick said that he hopes that these students come away with a new curiosity. He revealed that he attended Mass at the cathedral in Paris as a young assistant professor during his first trip to France in 1984. 

He explained, today, why he is excited about the truss project.

Catholic University of America President Peter Kilpatrick attends the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Catholic University of America President Peter Kilpatrick attends the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

“It represents one of the most important elements of our university education, and that is that we believe in the integration of the disciplines,” he told CNA. “So knowledge is not isolated in a discipline, it’s not isolated in a time or chronology. Knowledge is part of human understanding of God’s truth for the world and so when you integrate something like history and architecture and our faith and human culture — when you integrate all those things — you’re helping our students and our community understand the continuity of knowledge and the relationship between the disciplines.”

Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising. A donor to the project, he attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate.

“I jumped at the opportunity and I thought, what a great way to not only support the school and the students here but also a project that is important — not just for Catholic University, but also for people around the world and, of course, Paris,” he told CNA. 

Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. A donor of the project, he formerly attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate. Katie Yoder/CNA
Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. A donor of the project, he formerly attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate. Katie Yoder/CNA

Afterward, the cathedral’s Finot, representatives from Handshouse Studio, and Catholic University faculty participated in a panel discussion. The group identified two carpenters present who will help with the efforts to help rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris — after making connections through the truss project.

Marie Brown, executive director of Handshouse Studio, highlighted the beauty of building something the way it was originally fashioned, whether with the truss replica or with the cathedral itself.

“By remaking something in the method it was originally made, the process of that maker, the experience of that maker, is actually embodied,” she said. “The person now picks up the tool — they might not even be familiar with it if they’re a beginner, they might be next to a person who is an expert and get to watch and learn. But then their actual embodiment of that action gets you into the mind of the maker.”

She added: “It suddenly brings out this whole understanding of history in a way that’s so personal.”

A group of students and volunteers pose in front of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan
A group of students and volunteers pose in front of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan


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US:     Colorado Springs Diocese mourns death of emeritus Bishop Sheridan
Bishop Emeritus Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, who died Sept. 27, 2022. / Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs, Colo., Sep 27, 2022 / 16:17 pm (CNA).

Bishop Michael Sheridan, who led the Diocese of Colorado Springs from 2003 to 2021, died Tuesday. He was 77.

The diocese announced his death at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs Sept. 27.

Bishop James Golka, Sheridan’s successor, wrote on Twitter: “Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul. He was a faithful servant until the end.”

Sheridan was born in St. Louis in 1945. He attended Rockhurst College for a year and then Cardinal Glennon College Seminary and Kenrick Seminary. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1971. 

He continued his studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, earning a licentiate, and returned to teach at Kenrick. He was active in the theater group there.

In 1997 Sheridan was consecrated a bishop and appointed an auxiliary of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

In 2001 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Colorado Springs, and he succeeded as ordinary on Jan. 30, 2003. He retired in 2021 at age 76.

“Among his many achievements during his tenure as bishop of Colorado Springs were the development of a robust vocations program that resulted in the ordination of many new priests for the diocese and the construction of the St. John Henry Newman Chapel and Catholic Student Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs,” the diocese said.

Sheridan also hosted a weekly radio show from 2008 to 2020.

A vigil for Sheridan will be held Oct. 6 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs, and his funeral Mass will be said the following day at the city’s Holy Apostles Church.


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US:     Florida bishop calls for prayers ahead of Hurricane Ian
United States Naval Research Laboratory's infrared-gray satellite image of Hurricane Ian. / Public Domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

As Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg asked for prayers for “protection during the storm.”

In a message emailed to each parish in his diocese and posted on the diocese’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, Parkes offered a prayer of his own.

“Loving God, maker of heaven and earth, protect us in your love and mercy. Send the spirit of Jesus to be with us to still our fears and to give us confidence in the stormy waters. Jesus reassured his disciples by his presence, calmed the storm, and strengthened their faith,” he said.

“Guard us from harm during the storm and renew our faith to serve you faithfully. Give us the courage to face all difficulties and the wisdom to see the ways your Spirit binds us together in mutual assistance,” Parkes prayed. “With confidence, we make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

On Tuesday afternoon the Category 3 storm struck western Cuba and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. While the exact path of the hurricane is not yet known, forecasters have issued warnings for the entire Gulf Coast. Current projections are for the storm to hit between Tampa and Ft. Myers on Wednesday.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is, for now, to the north of the hurricane’s expected path, but dangerous flooding and damaging winds are expected for all of Florida's west coast. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal and low-lying areas.

Tampa officials warned residents on Tuesday to take the hurricane seriously, as first responders are not sent out if winds are higher than 40 mph.

With sustained winds expected to reach 115 mph, and gusts up to 145 mph, the National Hurricane Center warned that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

National Hurricane Center's track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain
National Hurricane Center's track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain


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Americas:     Church in Nicaragua asks for continued prayers for abducted bishop and priests
Bishop Rolando Álvarez / Photo credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Matagalpa has asked the faithful to continue praying for its bishop, Rolando Álvarez, the priests, seminarians, and the layman who were arrested and abducted in the middle of the night by the police of the Nicaraguan dictatorship, led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

In a Sept. 26 Facebook post, the Diocese of Matagalpa asked the faithful to continue “praying for our pastor, Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, priests, and laity who were with him in the Matagalpa chancery until the early hours of Aug. 19” when they were taken away by police.

“Bishop Álvarez, in his pastoral work in the Diocese of Matagalpa, of which he took possession on April 2, 2011, has chosen the preferential option for the poor, the sick, the young, those who suffer adversity, and the rural population, to whom he has shown his closeness through prayer and pastoral visits,” the post said.

“We’re praying for him,” the diocesan post concludes.

Álvarez, along with the others, was prevented by the Ortega riot police from leaving the chancery in Matagalpa from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19, when the police abducted him and took him in the dead of night to Managua, where he remains under house arrest.

According to local media, the prosecutor has supposedly indicted the bishop, but the charges against him are unknown.

On Sept. 15, the European Parliament approved a resolution by a vote of 538 to 16 demanding the immediate release of the bishop.

The night the bishop was taken into custody, other priests, seminarians, and a layman were also arrested and are currently being held in the El Chipote prison, known for torturing opponents of the regime.

Those imprisoned there are Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Diaz, Sadiel Eugarrios, and Raúl González; seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira; and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, all from the Diocese of Matagalpa.

Another priest who is being held in El Chipote is Father Oscar Benavidez of the Diocese of Siuna.

These prisoners have also reportedly been indicted, but for what crimes it is unknown.

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


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Europe:     Archbishop calls on consecrated to wear religious dress as a ‘revolutionary’ gesture
Archbishop Luis Argüello of Valladolid, Spain / Screenshot, CEE/YouTube

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, Luis Argüello, called it “revolutionary” in our times to make the supernatural present in the streets by wearing in public the clothing proper to consecrated religious or ordained men.

The prelate gave this reflection in his homily for a diaconal ordination, noting that the deacons will wear specific vestments.

“You are going to wear clothing proper to you. A diaconal stole and a dalmatic will be placed on your alb. And you can also wear clerical dress, you can wear a symbol so that it can be seen in the public square that you are men consecrated to the Lord,” the archbishop explained.

“There was a time when the novelty appeared that had to do with our taking off the cassock and the Roman collar. Today there is a time in which surely what is revolutionary, novel, the presence of the supernatural in the streets and squares, is friars wearing a habit, nuns being recognizable, and those of us who have been ordained also being recognizable,” he added.

The archbishop also considered the promises made by deacons at their ordination to be “revolutionary.” 

“Brothers, what these friends are going to promise today is a revolutionary novelty that our world needs,” the prelate said referring to the commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to be celibate, and to obey.

Argüello explained that praying of the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that “in the Church from morning to night, from sunrise to sunset, the name of the Lord is praised” and warned that “without praise the heart shrinks and without praise the hands close.”

Living the spousal dimension of every human being

Regarding the new deacons’ promise of celibacy, the prelate stressed that it’s a matter of living the “spousal dimension that every man and woman has.”

“How countercultural!” he exclaimed. “At a time of extraordinary trivialization of sexuality, at a time when the spousal dimension seems to have lost its place, you promise to live in celibate love!”

It’s also “a promise to love that wants to open itself up to fruitfulness,” he said, stressing that “the greatest test for your celibacy in this time of the mission of the Church may be the sterility of apostolic works.”

The freedom to love unconditionally

The archbishop of Valladolid also highlighted the promise of obedience to the bishop and his successors in an era dominated by “self-referentiality, of ‘I decide,’ of the right to decide, of the proclamation of rights, without the flip side of rights that is, inevitably, duties.”

With the promise of obedience, deacons place their freedom “in the hands of the Church, so that communion may shine forth and so that freely given freedom may shine forth. The freely given freedom of not seeking ourselves, the freely given freedom of loving without reciprocation, without conditions.”

“It’s a revolutionary proposal to live in God from morning to night, to live in celibate love, to live in obedience,” the archbishop summarized.

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


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Europe:     Religion is ‘interruption,’ not continuity, German bishops’ president says
Bishop Georg Bätzing / Photo credit: Synodaler Weg / Maximilian von Lachner

CNA Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 12:33 pm (CNA).

The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said that the shortest definition of religion is “interruption,” and that some forms of continuity people seek from religion are “frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke in a live-streamed Mass on Tuesday on the occasion of the bishops’ plenary assembly, which is being held in the central German town of Fulda from Sept. 26–29, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In his homily the bishop of Limburg said, “all too surely asserted continuities, i.e., seamless connections according to the motto ‘that has always been so; that has always been believed so; what was wrong yesterday cannot be right today’ ... are frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke of the “great images in which God’s people spelled out their historical experiences with faith and recognized God’s guidance in them.”

The German prelate, who expressed his disappointment in Pope Francis in May, said it was indeed “in our human nature to seek bridges between yesterday and tomorrow, to draw temporal lines and discover meaningful connections — which is often only possible in retrospect. We seek continuity. But the shortest definition of religion is and remains ‘interruption,’ as Johann Baptist Metz put it.”

Metz was an influential German priest and theologian who died in 2019.

This year’s fall plenary meeting of the German bishops is overshadowed by the recent turbulent meeting of the Synodal Way and the abuse report in the Osnabrück diocese with strongly incriminating statements about Bishop Franz-Josef Bode.

Bode announced he refused to resign despite a report published Sept. 20 saying he mishandled abuse cases.

The 71-year-old bishop has been vice president of the German bishops’ conference since 2017. He is also vice president of the German Synodal Way.

He has publicly supported women deacons and the development of a Church ceremony for blessing same-sex unions. At the latest meeting of the Synodal Way, participants voted to change the Church’s teaching on a number of related topics, including homosexuality and the ordination of women.


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Vatican:     Church and contraception: Experts expose errors in Pontifical Academy for Life book
null / Image credit: Simone van der Koelen / Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 10:07 am (CNA).

Nine international experts have pointed out in an open letter the serious errors contained in a book published a few weeks ago by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which promotes a change in the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of contraceptives.

“It is not possible to take good care, give spiritual advice, counsel, and accompany a married couple by applying a pastoral approach that does not take the experience of medical studies into account,” the experts pointed out to the academy.

Proposing that Catholics be able to resort to contraceptives, as the document published by the academy does, “is, beyond a theoretical intellectual exercise, an affirmation that does not take the reality of the studies on the coaching of married couples nor the experience of so many marriages into account.”

The open letter, titled “Pastoral care that does not take into account experience is no longer pastoral care,” was signed by Spanish doctor Jokin de Irala, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Michèle Barbato of Italy, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Jacques Aimé Bazeboso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, president of the African Federation for Family Action; and Italian physician Maria Boerci, national president of the Italian Confederation of Centers for Natural Fertility Regulation.

Also signing were Italian doctor Paolo Bordin, a specialist in Internal Medicine; Serena Del Zoppo, a gynecologist with experience in natural family planning and infertility, as well as a consultant in Naprotechnology; French physician Isabelle Ecochard, former president of the European Institute for Family Life Education; Belgian doctor Pierre Hernalsteen, a professor with experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Rwanda; and Italian doctor Furio Pesci, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome.

The experts’ open letter is a response to the book “Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges” published this year by the Pontifical Academy for Life by Librería Editora Vaticana, the publishing house of the Holy See.

The book compiles in 528 pages the conferences that were held as part of a theological seminar sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2021 and has an introduction by its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

According to Paglia, the book, which proposes that Catholics may resort to contraceptives, presents a “paradigm shift” in moral theology.

“The text makes a radical change, going, so to speak, from the sphere to the polyhedron,” he said.

The Church’s position on contraceptives ‘hasn’t changed’

The experts in health, fertility, and accompaniment for families lamented that after the publication of the book by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “There has been some confusion in some ecclesial circles and in the media for interpreting this as a change from the Holy See on these issues.”

“But the position of the Catholic Church has not changed,” the experts stressed.

“The proposals in the manuscript are from a group of experts; they do not reflect the position of the academy,” they added.

The experts noted that “St. John Paul II warned against confusing the ‘law of gradualness’ with the ‘gradualness of the law’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.”

“The law of gradualness supposes that we are all invited to fully live the proposals of the Church, even if we manage to reach them little by little, from our personal capacities and circumstances, counting on grace and being accompanied to overcome difficulties,” they explained.

“Pope Francis guides us along these lines, strongly emphasizing the importance of accompaniment and merciful discernment of the spouses: ‘It is necessary to face all these situations in a constructive way, trying to transform them into an opportunity for a journey towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. It is a matter of welcoming and accompanying them with patience and gentleness’ (Amoris Laetitia, 294).”

For the experts, “the gradualism of the law would mean, on the contrary, that there are different laws for different people and in different circumstances.”

After noting that “pastoral care should take medical knowledge into account,” the experts stressed that “some of us have been working and coaching married couples for 40 years. Our work covers responsible parenthood, their marital sexuality, and during their use of modern natural methods (MNM), in reciprocal respect for their fertility and in permanent dialogue, to favor, space, or avoid pregnancies.”

What we know about contraceptives after 60 years

After six decades of contraceptive use, they said, “the proven results” shed light on “the effects that this ‘new’ pastoral approach would have.”

“In the 1960s, couples were taught that the pill would solve the so-called overpopulation problem. After 1968, women were taught that the pill would protect them from ‘unwanted’ pregnancies and prevent abortions. In the 1970s, artificial insemination techniques were developed to help childless couples to get their ‘desired child.’”

“Later, in the 1980s, it was claimed that the condom would prevent infections and also ‘unwanted’ pregnancies,” they added.

“The result, the breakdown of the family and the coercion of governments, was predicted by the encyclical Humanae Vitae: in addition to the worsening situation of women who were supposed to be ‘liberated’ by these methods and the increase in marriage failures, we are now suffering a ‘demographic winter’ and epidemics of sexually transmitted infections are on the rise,” they lamented.

In these decades, the experts stressed in their open letter, “we have learned and confirmed” that the natural method known as “symptothermal double-check” is “five times more effective than the condom” in preventing pregnancy.

It’s also known that “the current contraceptive pill has, as one of its mechanisms of action, the early elimination of embryos by preventing their implantation,” they pointed out, noting that “many women would not want to use it if they knew that the destruction of an embryo was possible.”

According to the “best study to date on the relationship between the pill and breast cancer, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,” the experts noted, it’s known that “oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer in an epidemic scale.”

“They reduce some types of cancers, but it is not comparable to the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer,” they stated.

In addition, “oral contraceptives raise the risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke by 60%.”

The use of these substances, they continued, is linked to “an increased risk of depression and suicides and suicide attempts.”

Science has also shown, they added, that methods such as Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology “obtain results similar to those of artificial methods of assisted reproduction, without their bioethical drawbacks and side effects,” including “the problem of all frozen embryos.”

According to the experts, “If only the proposals of Humanae Vitae had been followed, countless deaths from the causes described above could have been avoided in the last 50 years.”

“To question today the pastoral application of Humanae Vitae on the grounds of problems in the use of NFP could lead to one of the greatest public health scandals of all times, because it would affect the health of millions of women,” they warned.

“On the other hand, it would be an unprecedented victory for the pharmaceutical industry that seeks to silence the current medical evidence on the contraceptive pill, in order to continue increasing its business at the expense of women’s health,” they said.

The success of natural methods

The experts said that the use of “modern natural methods promotes marital autonomy; it is effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy,” and they highlighted that over the years their development has presented “increasingly better effectiveness rates, with the help of smartphone applications that include symptom-thermal algorithms with individual teaching and with the support of centers that promote them worldwide with more success and professionalism.”

After noting that those who work in health and family care with natural methods, are accompanying “the grandchildren of the first users of oral contraceptives,” the experts pointed out that “the pastoral approaches proposed by the previously mentioned working group are not new, and have been applied in some places for 60 years, probably because they did not believe in [Humanae Vitae] or because they did not know how to help married couples in other ways or were overwhelmed by the influence that Big Pharma had on the media and on health workers.”

“Now we hear very different voices in our daily practice. Young women — mostly nonbelievers —- are sad, even angry, because they were never told they could live without contraception. Sometimes they have even had to go through an abortion, simply because they blindly trusted those contraceptives,” they lamented.

After discovering the natural methods, they said, the young women “feel good as women again; they feel truly emancipated for the first time, connected to their bodies and sexuality.”

These young women, they continued, “no longer want a pastor who assumes that the ‘ideal’ is not for them, who approves of contraception, minimizes abortion, and considers divorce inevitable. The pastoral approaches that have been applied in many places over the years [have] lost meaning for them because they have endured their physical and psychological consequences. They want to fulfill the dream that the Church has maintained for centuries.”

“Instead of continuing to live in the tow of false hopes of the 60s that are old and have failed, the Church can embrace with more strength the experience and advances achieved by those who work in this field: to have a renewed pastoral role; be a hopeful sign for a youth hungry for the Truth; and who want to live to the fullest their projects as couples,” they said.

For the experts, applying the law of gradualness to family planning “would mean proposing NFP to those who want to space their pregnancies and, if difficulties arise, accompanying them while they resolve their problems so that they can live like others the good news proclaimed by the Church.”

“On the contrary, the gradualism of the law and these ‘new’ proposals would be tantamount to telling them: ‘This ideal is not for you. In your circumstances, use condoms or other contraceptives,’” they said.

The experts also highlighted the need for “a greater commitment so that lay people, health professionals, and universities with a Christian inspiration do more, much more, to facilitate and improve the care of these couples.”

“It is time to abandon the failed paradigms of the sexual revolution,” they pointed out, and stressed that “it is time for the Church to develop a true and renewed pastoral care that is sustainable, following an integral ecology, centered on free and responsible men and women.”

“The Church’s teaching is healthy and promotes public health,” they said, stressing that natural methods favor “dialogue in marriage and respect for the other, in addition to strengthening the couple’s bonds and goals.”

“When they come from love, they increase true love; when they come from freedom, they increase freedom. Our experience and science confirm that it is possible to follow and apply the teachings of the Catholic Church and accompany couples in their specific situations without departing from the teachings of Humanae Vitae,” they concluded.

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


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Vatican:     Andrea Bocelli to sing in St. Peter’s Square this Sunday
Andrea Bocelli / Jakub Janecki / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rome Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Andrea Bocelli will sing at the Vatican this Sunday as a special guest for the inauguration of a new light display on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Italian tenor is scheduled to perform on Oct. 2 a song from his new album, set to be released at the end of October.

The performance at 8 p.m. will kick off a two-week nightly video display at the Vatican. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, an eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” will be projected onto the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The video tells the story of the Church’s first pope using video renderings of Renaissance artwork found in the Vatican Museums and inside the basilica. 

It will be shown in Italian with English subtitles on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night during the first two weeks of October.

According to a press release from the Vatican, Bocelli is slated to sing “The First Noël” from his new album A Family Christmas and other songs.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will also speak at the opening night, along with Italian actor Flavio Insinna and TV presenter Milly Carlucci.

It will not be the first time Bocelli has performed at the Vatican. The internationally renowned artist sang “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus” in St. Peter’s Square in July 2015 for an evening of prayer with Pope Francis.

He also led a children’s choir from Haiti in a surprise performance at the end of one of the pope’s Wednesday audiences in August 2017.

Bocelli performed the hymn for the Great Jubilee of 2000 for St. John Paul II and joined Benedict XVI and 300,000 young Catholics pilgrims in Loreto, Italy, in 2007.


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Europe:     7 things to know about Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely new Catholic prime minister
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), speaks at a press conference at the party electoral headquarters overnight on Sept. 26, 2022. in Rome. Italy’s national elections on Sept. 25 saw voters poised to elect Meloni, a Catholic mother, as the country's first female prime minister. / Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Italy’s national elections on Sept. 25 ended with Giorgia Meloni, a Catholic mother, poised to become the country’s first female prime minister. 

In the snap elections — called after former prime minister Mario Draghi’s unity government collapsed due to economic and military tensions — Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party captured the most votes at around 26%, skyrocketing from a roughly 4% share four years ago. 

Before and amid her party’s electoral victory, Meloni’s views have been described in the media as “far-right” and even as “fascist.” Here’s what you need to know about her:

She’s not the prime minister yet.

It’s worth noting that although Meloni’s party garnered the most votes in the recent election, it’s not yet certain that she will be Italy’s prime minister. 

It is up to Italian President Sergio Mattarella to nominate someone from the winning coalition as prime minister, a process that could take several weeks. The nominee is likely to be Meloni, who will then be tasked with assembling a majority in Parliament. Brothers of Italy was the leading party in a center-right coalition that now must form an alliance to govern. 

Meloni comes from a working-class Roman background. She worked various jobs, including as a waitress and as a nanny, before becoming a full-time politician. In 2008, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appointed her the country’s minister for youth, the youngest person to be appointed to that position. 

She made her faith a major part of her campaign.

Meloni has described herself in speeches as a Christian and has publicly expressed her admiration for St. John Paul II. She keeps a photo of John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta on her desk and has expressed a desire to meet Pope Francis in person — a virtual certainty when and if she becomes prime minister. 

“I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian, and you can’t take that away from me,” Meloni said in a speech in 2019. 

Meloni — who was raised by a single mother in Rome — now has a daughter with her partner Andrea Giambruno, though the two have never married. 

She supports several pro-life and pro-family policies.

In a speech to the Vox party in Spain earlier this year, Meloni summarized her pro-life and pro-family platform: “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death.”

In Italy, abortion is legal through the first 90 days of pregnancy, with exceptions after that point for fetal anomalies and risks to the mother’s life. Access to legal abortions is limited, however, due to widespread opposition from Italian doctors — 68.4% as of 2017, according to the Italian Ministry of Health — who oppose performing abortions due to conscience objections. 

Meloni has not said she will attempt to change Italy’s abortion laws. She has, however, proposed pro-life and family policies to encourage motherhood, including free child-care services. She has cited Italy’s extremely low birth rate as a problem.

“I want our families to have children,” she said in a speech to supporters in Milan earlier this month. 

She has committed to opposing LGBTQ policies and gender ideology.  

Meloni has made her views against same-sex unions widely known, referring to LGBTQ content as “woke ideology” and promising to continue opposing policies allowing homosexual couples to adopt or have children through surrogacy. 

Italy has legalized same-sex civil unions but it does not afford them the same legal protections as it does marriages. Surrogacy and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are banned for same-sex couples, for example, who must travel outside the country for such procedures. Meloni proposed an amendment in 2018 to extend the surrogacy ban to same-sex couples who seek it abroad, which was not approved.

The amendment called surrogacy an “example of the commercialization of the female body and of the very children who are born through such practices, who are treated like commodities.”

Meloni said earlier this year that her opposition to such policies is not because she is “homophobic” but that she believes every child has the right to have a mother and a father for “stability.” 

She cited her personal experience growing up in a single-parent home, saying, “I lived [in] a family condition that [made] me see this.”

Meloni is strongly against illegal immigration.

Meloni has made it clear that she opposes the practice of migrants sailing from places such as North Africa to the Italian shore. In August, Meloni posted a video on social media saying she would introduce a naval blockade to patrol the Mediterranean and return migrants to their countries of origin, NPR reported. 

Meloni’s anti-immigration stance puts her somewhat at odds with Pope Francis, who has frequently spoken about the need to welcome migrants and refugees. 

Meloni is a Eurosceptic, and supports Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Meloni has been critical of the European Union (EU), saying her first priority is to defend Italy’s national interests.

“We want a different Italian attitude on the international stage, for example in dealing with the European Commission,” Meloni said in an interview with Reuters this month on her party’s Eurosceptic views.

Still, Meloni has taken pains to assure world leaders that Italy would not leave the EU. 

“This does not mean that we want to destroy Europe, that we want to leave Europe, that we want to do crazy things,” she said. “It simply means explaining that the defense of the national interest is important to us as it is for the French and for the Germans.”

Since Russia’s invasion in February, Meloni has come out as a strong defender of Ukraine, promising to continue supplying arms to the country.

Meloni has also taken a hardline stance against China and called on Italian athletes to boycott Beijing in the 2008 Olympics.

She has rejected the “fascist” and “far-right” labels often attributed to her.

Meloni has been branded as “far-right” and “fascist” by media outlets, pro-abortion and LGBTQ activists, and world leaders — a label she has rejected. 

“Everything that defines us is now an enemy for those who would no longer like us to have an identity,” Meloni said in a widely shared speech on Sept. 26. “Like it or not … we will defend God, country, and family.” 

In an interview with Reuters last month, she dismissed any suggestion that her party was nostalgic for the fascist era and distanced herself from comments she made in 1996, as a teenager, which some critics took as a praising Benito Mussolini. 

Meloni has received a warm welcome from other conservative European leaders, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who shares her traditional family views and immigration policy.


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Asia - Pacific:     A handful of Catholic leaders and others voice support for Cardinal Zen as his trial begins
null / Screenshot from livestream of Mass

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

As Cardinal Joseph Zen begins his trial in Hong Kong, a number of Catholic leaders and human rights activists have come out with statements of support for the 90-year-old bishop emeritus.

Zen and five others are charged with failing to register properly a fund that provided legal aid to pro-democracy protesters. An outspoken critic of Beijing’s communist regime, Zen served as a trustee of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” which helped pay legal and medical bills for protesters arrested and hurt during the 2019 demonstrations in Hong Kong.

These are the Catholic leaders, scholars, and human rights activists who have publicly expressed their solidarity with Zen as his trial commences:

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wrote in support of Zen in Avvenire Sept. 23.

“Cardinal Zen is a ‘man of God’; at times intemperate, but submissive to the love of Christ, who wanted him to be his priest, deeply in love, like Don Bosco, with youth,” Filoni wrote.

He concluded his statement, which he called “a testimony to the truth,” by saying: “Cardinal Zen is not to be condemned. Hong Kong, China, and the Church have a devoted son in him, not to be ashamed of.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, made an appeal for prayers on Twitter on Sept. 19 as Zen’s trial was scheduled to begin (it was postponed because the judge contracted COVID-19):

“Today be sure to remember our brother in faith, 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, who is on trial in China, and also the Church in China, which is regularly attacked and restricted by the government. And pray for Christians everywhere who are being persecuted for their faith,” he wrote.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, wrote on Sept. 18:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco shared his prayer for Zen on Twitter on Sept. 26:

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, offered his prayers on Twitter Sept. 26:

On Sept. 1, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shared his disappointment that Zen was not present at the meeting of the College of Cardinals in August.

“Perhaps the Church should be freer and less bound to power-based, worldly logic, consequently freer to intervene and, if necessary, to criticize those politicians who end up suppressing human rights. In this case, I wonder why not criticize Beijing,” Müeller said.

“Zen is a symbol and he was arrested on a pretext, he did nothing, he is an influential, courageous, and much-feared figure by the government,” he said. “He is over 80 years old and we have left him all alone.”

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), offered his support shortly after Zen’s arrest in May:

In a statement, he wrote: “My brother Cardinal, His Eminence Joseph Zen, was arrested and faces charges simply because he served as a trustee of a fund which provided legal aid to activists facing court cases. In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help people facing prosecution meet their legal fees is a proper and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help accused persons have legal defense and representation?”

Words of support and criticism of communist Beijing came from scholars, human rights activists and those who have fought for religious freedom around the world. 

Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, shared his assessment of Zen’s trial with CNA:  

“I would say that Cardinal Zen joins a long list of ‘white martyrs’ — those who suffer for the faith. Often, like Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty in Hungary, they are abandoned by the Church that should be defending them. Cardinal Zen is a fighter for freedom and religious liberty — and a great inspiration for all those who work for religious freedom. I fear the Church in Hong Kong, like in mainland China, is facing a time of deeper struggle and persecution.” 

Human rights advocate David Alton, Baron Alton of Liverpool, posted on Twitter on Sept. 26: 

“As Cardinal Zen, Margaret Ng, and others stand trial in Hong Kong recall how the CCP arrested and imprisoned Shanghai’s Bishop Kung... same old CCP, same old kangaroo courts, hatred of dissent. And the same courage in response.”

Benedict Rogers, the founder of Hong Kong Watch, wrote on Twitter Sept. 26:

And Paul Marshall, the director of the Religious Freedom Institute’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team, told CNA that Zen’s trial confirms that Beijing is cracking down on dissent:

“The prosecution and trial of 90-year-old Cardinal Zen for peacefully raising funds shows the extreme lengths to which the Chinese government will go to crush any vestiges of dissent and free religion in Hong Kong or the mainland. It further undercuts China’s 1997 promise of ‘one country, two systems’ when Hong Kong was returned to its rule and shows the government cannot be trusted to keep its agreements.”


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