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Americas:     Argentine bishops’ commission opposes government’s technical assistance to sex workers

null / Credit: Pexels

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 21, 2023 / 18:50 pm (CNA).

In a Sept. 20 post on X, the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference requested that the agreement made between a government agency and an association of “sex workers” be rescinded, warning that it “fails to comply with the abolitionist legal framework of the Argentine state.”

The term “abolitionist” here means the state is committed to abolishing prostitution. Argentina has passed laws against prostitution and human trafficking in 1913, 1936, 2008, and 2012.

The agreement for technical assistance was made between the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) — which operates under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation — and the Network of Sex Workers of Latin America (RedTraSex).

The commission recalled the words of Pope Francis in the prologue to the book “Crucified Women: The shame of trafficking told from the street” by Father Aldo Buonaiuto: “Any form of prostitution is a reduction to slavery, a criminal act, a repugnant vice that confuses making love with venting one’s instincts by torturing a defenseless woman.”

The commission stressed that “all organizations and entities of the Argentine state must respect the abolitionist principle of prostitution to which our country adheres” and pointed out that the law states that “any form of prostitution is a reduction to slavery.”

This legal framework, explained the bishops’ commission, is mandatory for all agencies of the Argentine state.

This framework includes Law 26.842, the U.N. Convention for the Suppression of Human Trafficking and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, and Article 6 of the U.N. Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. 

According to Art. 75 Sec. 22 of the Argentine Constitution, international treaties signed by the state have the force of constitutional law.

Furthermore, the commission noted that according to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation “the Argentine state has assumed the national and international commitment to take all appropriate measures to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.” 

Consequently, the Justice and Peace Commission called on CONICET to “rescind said agreement.”

The signing of the agreement took place Wednesday morning at the Workers’ Innovation Center (CITRA). Researcher Cora Arias explained that this agreement is the formalization of a process that began in 2021.

At that time, CONICET linked up with RedTraSex to provide research experience and study methodologies, and thus develop studies to respond to the worries and concerns that the association had about the working conditions of “sex workers.”

As a result of this process, Wednesday morning a regional report carried out this year on working conditions and human rights violations of sex workers in Latin America and the Caribbean was presented.

What is a technical assistance agreement?

A technical assistance agreement is a connection that, through a research group, CONICET carries out with a company or public agency. The purpose is to provide technical collaboration in some area it specializes in.

Technical assistance consists of the provision of knowledge, which is generally in the public domain, but highly specialized.

In this case, the agreement with RedTraSex is made through CITRA, an entity under CONICET and the Metropolitan University for Education and Work (UMET).

According to CITRA’s website, this consists of a research, innovation, and development center associated with trade unions to produce scientific and technical capabilities, with the perspective and participation of workers.

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


Americas:     Mexican diocese denounces hacking of several of its social media accounts
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ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 21, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

Different social media accounts related to the Diocese of Irapuato in the Mexican state of Guanajuato were hacked and inappropriate content was posted on the accounts.

“We want to inform you that in recent days, six Facebook accounts related to the Diocese of Irapuato and Our Lady of Solitude Parish have been hacked. We condemn this attack on our social media,” wrote Father Efrén Silva Plasencia, spokesman for the diocese, in a statement posted on Facebook Sept. 16.

The hacked pages were: Diocese of Irapuato Cathedral, Cathedral of Irapuato Altar Servers, Diocese of Irapuato Pastoral Ministry for Liturgy, María Goretti Academy, Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Solitude, and St. Michael the Archangel Parish-San Miguelito.

Plasencia explained that “an attempt was made to restore them, but it wasn’t possible. In recent days inappropriate content has been uploaded to some of these pages.”

The bishop of Irapuato, Enrique Díaz Díaz, said at his Sunday Zoom press conference posted on Facebook that they have not yet found the person responsible for the attack or the motive for the hacking.

“These pages are related to the diocese, but they are not those of the diocese. So I have no idea where this could come from or if it is from someone who could cause us harm. Apparently yes, because by uploading such explicit, lurid content, it does become suspicious, but I wouldn’t know from whom,” he said.

While the pages of the Diocese of Irapuato Cathedral and María Goretti Academy remain active and also continue to share inappropriate content, the accounts of the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Solitude and St. Michael the Archangel-San Miguelito were taken down from Facebook after several complaints.

The accounts of Cathedral de Irapuato Altar Servers and Diocese of Irapuato Pastoral Ministry for Liturgy have already been restored.

Given the impossibility of restoring some of the accounts, the diocese urged followers and users to “help by reporting these pages to Facebook so that said platform can deactivate them.”

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


Europe:     ‘Destruction’ of ethnic Armenians is imminent, experts warn
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan speaks during a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on Nagorno-Karabakh at the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 21, 2023, in New York City. The security council held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. / Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2023 / 18:08 pm (CNA).

The “destruction” of an enclave of 120,000 Armenian Christians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is imminent, warns Siobhan Nash-Marshall, a U.S.-based human rights advocate.

“The impact of the recent attacks and subsequent disarmament will almost certainly result in the destruction of the people of Artsakh,” Nash-Marshall told CNA.

In 2011, Nash-Marshall founded the Christians in Need Foundation (CINF) to help Armenian Christians in the region and in 2020 she started a school for children and adults in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nash-Marshall said that as the Azeri government seeks to further assert its control over Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, the ethnic Armenians will be forcibly removed.

“There are those Artsakhtsi who will not leave their homeland — those lands that their people have inhabited for millennia. They will be forcibly removed or worse,” Nash-Marshall said.

For those Armenians who choose to leave, Nash-Marshall said they “will bear permanent scars akin to those of the descendants of genocide survivors.”

What happened?

Though internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is made up almost entirely of Christian ethnic Armenians who claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the Republic of Artsakh.

On Wednesday, ethnic Armenians in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to lay down their arms and dissolve their military forces following a short but intense Azerbaijan offensive on Sept. 19.

The attacks, which included rocket and mortar fire, were perpetrated by Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.

In just over one day, over 200 Armenian Christians were killed, including 10 civilians, and many more were injured, the New York Times reported.

According to the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the attacks also forced over 10,000 people, including women, children, and elderly, to evacuate their homes.

Ruben Vardenyan, former Artsakh state minister, called on the United Nations Security Council, which will be meeting Thursday afternoon, to take “concrete steps” to protect the Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The U.N. Security Council must go beyond mere calls for action. No more empty rhetoric; we need concrete steps,” Vardenyan said in a Thursday X statement. “Currently, 120,000 Armenians are facing a dire situation, with hundreds killed, wounded, and missing. We urgently require a U.N. mission to be dispatched to Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Vardenyan said that without aid from the international community, “the risk of massive ethnic cleansing will inevitably increase.”

The Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh, who have been cut off from receiving supplies because of an Azeri blockade of the Lachin Corridor, are in urgent need of food, medicine, and doctors.

“It is imperative that you take action now!” Vardenyan said. “We implore you to show that words carry weight and that aggression and the use of force cannot lead to lasting peace. Dictators must be held accountable for the suffering they inflict upon humanity, and hatred directed at any ethnic group, in this case, Armenians, is unacceptable.”

Why the fighting?

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region for decades.

Since December 2022, the single road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor, has been blockaded first by Azeri-aligned protestors and then by the Azeri military.

The blockade has resulted in what Vardenyan has previously called a “humanitarian catastrophe,” due to a critical shortage of food and essential supplies.

For the first time since November 2020, the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh erupted into outright military conflict on Tuesday, with Azerbaijan unleashing missile strikes and offensives on Artsakh.

Nash-Marshall said she thinks it is likely that the Azeri government will continue its blockade of the Lachin Corridor.

“The blockade, in my understanding, was a means for Aliyev. It locked up the people he wants to destroy,” Nash-Marshall said. “Now that he has invaded the lands of those whom he wants to destroy, will he open up the door of their prison?”

She also said she fears the Azeri success will encourage them to begin construction of a proposed railway cutting through the Zangezur Corridor in Armenia’s Syunik province.

“Another part of me is worried about the precedent that Aliyev’s violation of the cease-fire … that is the blockade of Lachin [sets],” Nash-Marshall added. “Will Aliyev begin construction of the Zangezur Corridor in Syunik?”

United Nations Security Council holds emergency meeting

The United Nations Security Council, at the request of France, held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon to address the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

During the meeting, which took place in New York City, representatives from 16 different nations, including the U.S., Russia, and China, condemned the violence unleashed during the conflict, especially the violence against civilians.

The representatives also applauded the cease-fire but cautioned that more must be done to protect the human rights of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Catherine Colonna, French minister for Europe and foreign affairs, said that “what is at stake is the possibility for the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh to be able to live with their rights, history, and culture being respected.”

“France has taken note of the statement of President Aliyev made yesterday, affirming his wish to live in peace with the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and to preserve their rights,” Colonna said.

Colonna went on to say that “if Azerbaijan really wants to arrive at a peaceful and negotiated solution it must here and now provide tangible guarantees” including that Azerbaijan commit to not use deadly force against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, to grant amnesty to the authorities who surrendered, to allow international humanitarian aid into the region, and most notably, to “re-establish unconditionally and without delay traffic on the Lachin Corridor.”

Also present at the emergency meeting were the foreign affairs ministers of both Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, and Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov. The two ministers accused each other’s nations of violating international law and of being responsible for the outbreak of violence.

Despite France’s demands, Bayramov did not make any additional guarantees, only reiterating Aliyev’s position that the Azeri government wishes to peacefully reintegrate the people of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan.

How is the international community responding?

Speaking to more than 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 20, Pope Francis said he was troubled by the news he received about Nagorno-Karabakh, where “the already critical humanitarian situation is now aggravated by further armed clashes.”

“I make my heartfelt appeal to all the parties involved and to the international community to silence the weapons and make every effort to find peaceful solutions for the good of the people and respect for human dignity,” the pope said at the end of his Wednesday general audience.

In the United States Congress, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who called an emergency hearing to address the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in early September, called on President Joe Biden to take immediate action to help the Armenians in the region.

“Now more than ever, President Biden must immediately push the United Nations Security Council to establish a mandate and peacekeeping mission to protect the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Smith said in a Wednesday press release.

“The people of Nagorno-Karabakh are in a moment of grave danger,” he went on. “They have been forced to disarm and surrender their independence to a ruthless dictator whose government has repeatedly committed horrific abuses against them over many years, expressed its will to ethnically cleanse them, and even initiated a genocide by starvation with the blockade of the Lachin Corridor.”

“Tragically, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has called the Biden administration’s bluff that it ‘will not tolerate’ an attack,” Smith added. “I urge President Biden to immediately dispatch diplomats and expert observers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to monitor the situation and immediately report any atrocity or abuse. The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh have, as ever, every right to continue to live in their ancient homeland — and to do so in safety.”


Middle East - Africa:     Catholic peace organization condemns sexual enslavement of Mozambican Christians
A group of women and children guarded by security forces in Mucimboa da Praia of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in early September 2023. / Credit: Denis Hurley Peace Institute

ACI Africa, Sep 21, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Reports have emerged of Islamist jihadists operating in Mozambique forcefully converting abducted Christian women into Islam and sexually enslaving some of them.

In an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, the director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute confirmed reports of a leaked internal circular, purportedly from the leadership of the Islamic State, allegedly advising the group’s fighters in the Southern African country to also kill those who refuse to convert to Islam.

“We have confirmed from the people in Cabo Delgado that indeed, it is true; the fighters are turning Christian women into sex objects and forcing them to convert to Islam,” Johan Viljoen said in the Wednesday, Sept. 20, interview.

“We condemn any attempt to force people to change their religion,” Viljoen added. “We condemn the Islamists for forcing women into sex slavery. It is a reprehensible violation of human rights.”

The leaked Islamic State internal circular, reported by Cabo Ligado, shows the terrorist group advising its members to conduct medical tests on nonvirgin enslaved women before distributing them among fighters and killing those who refuse to convert to Islam.

The advice is based on allegations that the kidnapped women are infecting the ISIS fighters with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

“Captured women with AIDS who do convert can be released for a ransom or killed if they refuse to become Muslims,” the circular reads. “Those who convert to Islam and are confirmed free of the disease can be given [to ISIS members].”

The document notes that nonvirgin women should all take tests before they are given away as slaves to ISIS members.

Armed men belonging to the Islamic State — referred to as Al Shabaab in Mozambique — have been attacking innocent civilians, mostly targeting Christians, since 2017.

The conflict has also been hinged on glaring socioeconomic disparities between Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, and the marginalized north, especially Cabo Delgado, where fighting is concentrated.

Terrorists have also made inroads into neighboring provinces of Nampula and Niassa, where they continue to attack civilians. In the latest attack, 11 Christians were reportedly separated from the Muslim population in the embattled Cabo Delgado province and executed.

Reports indicate that more than 800,000 people in these Mozambican provinces are still displaced despite the return of some civilians and a heavy military presence.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.


US:     Senate confirms military appointments, bypassing pro-life blockade by Tuberville
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, speaks during a hearing to examine the nomination of USAF General David Allvin for reappointment to the grade of general and to be Chief of Staff of the Air Force on Sept. 12, 2023 at Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

The United States Senate began confirming military appointments one by one on Wednesday to bypass a pro-life blockade led by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, which has been holding up the usually routine process since February.

Military promotions and appointments to fill vacancies are normally approved in large blocks through the unanimous consent of the Senate, but one senator refusing to consent forces the chamber to take the votes up individually. Tuberville has blocked unanimous consent for seven months in protest of the Department of Defense’s pro-abortion policies. 

A new policy adopted last year provides paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for service members to obtain abortions, which was meant to increase access to abortion for anyone living in or stationed in states that impose restrictions on the procedure. It also covers travel costs for spouses or dependents to obtain abortions.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 83-11 to confirm its first individual military appointment since Tuberville’s blockade began: Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Senate confirmed two more appointments individually on Thursday — Gen. Randy George as Army chief of staff and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the Marine Corps — but it’s unclear whether other nominees will get individual votes anytime soon. 

The blockade has caused a backlog of more than 300 appointments. 

Before Wednesday’s vote, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the blockade forced leadership “to confront his obstruction head on” by holding a vote but added that “this cannot continue.” He said the appointment would be confirmed, the DOD policy would remain in place, and Tuberville “will have accomplished nothing.” 

“What Sen. Tuberville is doing will set the military and the Senate down a path to vote on every single military promotion,” Schumer said. “It will make every single military officer’s promotion subject to the political whims of the Senate and even of one senator. It will change the nature of our nonpolitical military. It will hamstring the Senate and further bog down this body and make it harder for us to legislate.”

Tuberville responded to Schumer’s comments when speaking on the Senate floor later that day, saying that the Senate “could have confirmed these nominees a long, long time ago” but that Democrats have instead “spent months complaining about having to vote.” He said he will continue his blockade but blamed the backlog on Schumer for not holding any individual votes on the appointments. 

“My hold is still in place,” Tuberville said. “The hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon’s illegal abortion policy remains in place. If the Pentagon lifts the policy, then I will lift my hold. It’s as easy as that.”

After the confirmation, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin thanked Schumer for holding the vote and criticized Tuberville for continuing his blockade.

“Sen. Tuberville’s continued hold on hundreds of our nation’s military leaders endangers our national security and military readiness,” Austin said in a statement. “It is well past time to confirm the over 300 other military nominees.”

Austin said Brown “will be a tremendous leader of our joint force and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity” and that the nominees are “well-qualified” and “apolitical.”

Federal law prohibits DOD funds from being “used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in a case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” Although the statute does not expressly prohibit funding for travel to obtain an abortion, some Republicans have argued that such funds violate the statute. President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice told the DOD that such funding is permissible under the law.

Republicans have introduced legislation that would expressly prohibit agencies from funding ancillary expenses related to obtaining an abortion, but those efforts have failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


US:     Seton Shrine’s new additions offer interactive encounter with first American-born saint
The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is opening a new $4 million state-of-the-art Seton Shrine Museum and Visitor Center on Sept. 22, 2023. / Credit: Seton Shrine

Charlotte, N.C., Sep 21, 2023 / 15:46 pm (CNA).

The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is opening a new $4 million state-of-the-art Seton Shrine Museum and Visitor Center on Sept. 22, offering visitors an interactive encounter with the first American-born canonized saint.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774–1821), a widowed mother, opened one of the first free Catholic schools for girls in the United States and established the first order of women religious in the country — the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph — on the very grounds where her shrine and the new museum and visitor center are located. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

One of the interactive exhibits features the legacy of the Daughters of Charity, highlighting missions from around the globe. Credit: Seton Shrine
One of the interactive exhibits features the legacy of the Daughters of Charity, highlighting missions from around the globe. Credit: Seton Shrine

The shrine includes St. Elizabeth Ann’s original “Stone House” and “White House” as well as the basilica. With the addition of the museum and visitors center, pilgrims to the shrine now have the opportunity to immerse themselves in her life by walking in her footsteps where she lived and served, and through interactive displays and exhibits in the museum that are rich in American history and the history of the Catholic Church in America.

What was formerly the provincial entrance near the basilica has been transformed into a modern and welcoming visitor center, seamlessly connecting visitors to the gift shop and museum galleries. Inside, the galleries paint an intimate portrait of Mother Seton through dozens of artifacts, visual storytelling displays, and digital interactive exhibits.

The museum houses three core galleries: the SEEKER exhibit, which delves into Mother Seton’s troubled childhood, fairytale marriage, bankruptcy, widowhood, and conversion to Catholicism; the SERVANT exhibit, which explores how Mother Seton founded a new community of consecrated religious and pioneered a way for women in America to serve God; and the SAINT exhibit, which provides insights into the dedicated efforts of thousands of Americans across four generations for Mother Seton to be declared a saint.

A commonplace book, one of several artifacts in the new Seton Shrine Museum. Credit: Seton Shrine
A commonplace book, one of several artifacts in the new Seton Shrine Museum. Credit: Seton Shrine

“One of my favorite exhibits is an exhibit which consists of a digital touch screen, showcasing the 14 Sisters of Charity communities,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the shrine. “The impact exhibit allows visitors to look all around the world at all the past and present missions that the hundreds of sisters have worked in over the years, showcasing the huge impact they’ve had in serving the poor. And it all came from a woman who decided to start a school after she was widowed and invited other women to join her.”

Judge notes that Elizabeth Ann Seton never set out to build a huge network. “That’s the beauty of it. If we are faithful one step at a time, that is available to all of us. The impact exhibit helps make that clear. Her life and work developed into so much more than founding a school. By a simple yes, so much good has been done,” he told CNA.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also features two special exhibits that will be on display for a limited time.

The first is “Fancywork: Early American Needlework from St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School,” an exhibit with more than 20 pieces of needlework dating from the early 1800s to the 1870s and the stories of the students behind the works.

The "Fancywork" exhibit at the Seton Shrine highlights needlework done by students in the late 1800s at St. Joseph’s School. Credit: Seton Shrine
The "Fancywork" exhibit at the Seton Shrine highlights needlework done by students in the late 1800s at St. Joseph’s School. Credit: Seton Shrine

The second is “Getting in the Habit: Iconic Clothing of the Daughters of Charity,” which displays dozens of historic artifacts that explore the ranging apparel of the Daughters of Charity throughout the years, exhibited by the Daughter of Charity Province of St. Louise, Provincial Archives. 

“This story from 200 years ago is worth telling today through this state-of-the-art facility,” said Tony Dilulio, director of programs for the shrine and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Dilulio coordinated the experts involved in the lighting, exhibits, and design — many of whom also created landmarks such as presidential libraries.

One of the interactive exhibits features the legacy of the Daughters of Charity, highlighting missions from around the globe. Sept. 20, 2023. Credit: Seton Shrine
One of the interactive exhibits features the legacy of the Daughters of Charity, highlighting missions from around the globe. Sept. 20, 2023. Credit: Seton Shrine

“I would love to challenge every visitor to be a ‘servant saint seeker.’ To seek God as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did. To work as diligently as she did her whole life, and to be a saint!” Dilulio added.

With the addition of the new museum and visitors center, the shrine anticipates a significant increase in pilgrims, which averages 60,000 visitors annually.

“We need models and intercessors, and she’s par excellence,” Judge said. “We’re hoping that through these exhibits people get to know her a bit. She’s a very relatable saint. In order to relate to someone you have to know something about them. We hope this museum allows people to relate to her and get to know her better and seek her intercession in their lives.”

The Mass, blessing, and dedication Sept. 22 will be presided over by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. More information on the Seton Shrine Museum can be found on the shrine’s website.


US:     Pro-life students harassed by ‘mob’ after VP Kamala Harris talk in North Carolina
Lydia Taylor (blue shirt), and other student pro-life protesters from across the state of North Carolina traveled to North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro on Sept. 15, 2023, to demonstrate outside of Vice President Kamala Harris's speech calling for the expansion of abortion access. / Credit: Students for Life of America

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2023 / 14:53 pm (CNA).

A group of pro-life students who participated in a demonstration at a North Carolina college last week during a visit to campus by Vice President Kamala Harris say they were escorted off campus by police for their own safety after being harassed by a large crowd.

Harris’ speech at North Carolina A&T University on Sept. 15 was part of her “Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour,” an effort to mobilize college students to vote and support the Democratic agenda on a variety of issues, including the expansion of abortion. 

Before the event, a number of students holding signs with pro-life messages such as “abortion hurts women” and “fight for our freedoms” gathered on the Greensboro, North Carolina, campus.

According to members of the group, they engaged in positive dialogue with students on campus. When the vice president’s speech was over, however, things got ugly.

A video shared on X shows a crowd of young people stealing signs from the pro-life activists who were brought together by the group Students for Life of America.

One young man can be seen taking the Students for Life group’s marker and sign and writing “BLM,” otherwise known as Black Lives Matter, on it. The crowd cheered as he raised the sign and danced around. 

Two others can be seen on video holding up signs that say “F*** dem kids,” while the crowd is heard chanting the same. 

Other profanities could be heard being shouted at the pro-life group. Photos from the protest show the pro-life group being taunted with obscene hand gestures. The group also claims they were “twerked on” (a type of suggestive dancing), which several photos confirm.

One of the Students for Life of America student leaders, Lydia Taylor, told CNA Wednesday that as the “mob” closed in on her and was waving signs in her face, the police intervened. 

“They immediately came in and said, ‘We have to go now’ and pulled us out of the mob. We were forced to leave a lot of our stuff behind,” the 20-year old said. 

The group ended up retrieving a bull horn, microphone, and some speakers but lost some of their signs and materials that are used at other pro-life demonstrations.

“It was so chaotic,” she said.

Taylor, who organized the group of about 10 pro-life students from across the state, is a student at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, about an hour and 20-minute drive away from where the protest took place.

When she heard about the vice president’s plan to talk about expanding abortion access at college campuses in states across the country, including her own, she felt called to spring into action. 

“We need to go and stand up against her pro-abortion extremism, especially since she supports abortion with no restrictions up until the moment of birth,” she said.

During her speech at the university, Harris called for greater access to abortion in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“One does not have to abandon their faith, or deeply held beliefs, to agree that the government should not be telling [a woman] what to do with her body,” Harris said, taking issue with what she called “extremist so-called leaders” passing state pro-life laws. 

The vice president criticized those laws, especially those being passed without rape and incest exceptions, calling them “immoral.”

“What the [Supreme] Court took away, Congress can put back in place. Congress can pass a law that puts back in place the protections of a case called Roe v. Wade, which gives you the right to make decisions for yourself,” she told the crowd, urging them to vote for lawmakers who will do so. 

Taylor told CNA that before the crowd of students harassed them, her group had many positive conversations with students attending the vice president’s event on campus.

“We changed at least 10 minds and have connected with students there that are interested in starting a pro-life group, which was incredible,” she said.

Other university students approached Taylor expressing support for the pro-life cause, she said.

It was after the talk that things went south.

“I think it’s interesting that it went peacefully before the Kamala Harris event, but after hearing her speak, immediately, the first thing they did was come and harass us and vandalize our signs,” she said.

After someone wrote “Black Lives Matter” on the pro-life group’s sign, Taylor said: “Hey, we actually agree that Black lives do matter, and the abortion industry is targeting Black lives, and we’d love to have a peaceful conversation with you.”

But the crowd, which she said numbered in the hundreds, just became more aggressive.

CNA reached out to the university for a comment but did not receive a response.


Vatican:     Who are the Chinese bishops attending the Synod on Synodality?
Credit: FreshStock/Shutterstock / null

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2023 / 09:54 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Thursday that two bishops from mainland China have been added as official delegates in the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly.

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun will travel from China to Rome to participate as full members of the Oct. 4–28 Synod of Bishops on the topic of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

The bishops join Taiwan Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi and Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow, the bishop of Hong Kong, who were already announced as synod delegates in July.

The Vatican publicized the addition of the two mainland Chinese bishops during a press conference on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Vatican-China deal, the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops between the Holy See and Beijing on Sept. 22, 2018.

It is not the first time that Beijing has approved bishops from the mainland to participate in a Synod of Bishops. Chinese Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai and Bishop Yang Xiaoting of Yan’an attended the first half of the youth synod in 2018 before suddenly leaving the synod early without explanation. Both bishops had close ties to the government-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and stayed in Vatican City’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis resides.

One of the bishops attending this year’s assembly was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Vatican-China agreement. 

Here is what we know about the two Chinese bishops who will come to the Vatican for the 2023 Synod on Synodality assembly: 

Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang was ordained as a bishop with Vatican approval in 2010 and has served as the bishop of Zhoucun in mainland China’s Shandong Province since August 2013.

Yongqiang, 53, participated in the 2023 National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body that is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s united front system, where it was decided that the Catholic Church should integrate its thought with the party and unite more closely to Xi Jinping, according to the official website of the Catholic Patriotic Association. 

He is the vice president of the Chinese-government-sanctioned Catholic bishops’ conference and was elected as a leader of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016. At his episcopal ordination, Yongqiang told UCA News that he saw the potential to increase dialogue with the underground Catholic community.

Last year, Yongqiang led a meeting presenting how Catholics must study the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Yongqiang was born into a Catholic family in Shandong’s Boxing County in 1970 and studied for the priesthood in Shanghai’s Sheshan seminary before he was ordained in 1995.

He worked for the provincial Catholic Patriotic Association and Chinese Church Affairs Committee in 2005 while he taught at the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Jinan.

Earlier this month, Yongqiang attended a study session on how to implement the new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” government restrictions that ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. He is the bishop of Jining in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. 

Before his appointment, Yao, now 58, had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as vicar general.

Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

The New York Times has reported that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89. 

However, Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.

“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism, told the New York Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”


Vatican:     Synod 2023: Participants to include two bishops from mainland China, Archbishop Paglia
Pope Francis greets Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on Feb. 20, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Two bishops from mainland China and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Academy for Life are among several additions to who will participate in the Synod on Synodality assembly next month.

The leadership of the synod on Thursday released the final list of participants for the first session of the assembly, which will begin Oct. 4 and end Oct. 28.

Bishop Giuseppe Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun in Shandon Province and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government, Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists Sept. 21.

The two bishops from mainland China are late additions and will participate together with Archbishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong and Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi, Taiwan, who were already on a list of synod members published by the Vatican in July.

Two Chinese bishops also took part in the 2018 youth synod.

Archbishop Paglia, who leads the Vatican academy on life issues, was also added to the list of synod members as a pontifical nomination.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who recently concluded his term as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will no longer participate in the synodal assembly, San Martín said, noting that Ladaria had asked Pope Francis directly to withdraw.

The Vatican also published Thursday a general schedule for the October assembly, which will begin with an opening Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 4 and close with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29.

Each week’s work will include a day off for participants on Sunday, as well as Masses and other times of prayer, including a half-day pilgrimage, praying the rosary in the Vatican Gardens, and a prayer service dedicated to migrants and refugees.

On Oct. 28, members with voting rights will express their approval or disapproval of a document summarizing the three and a half weeks of proceedings.

The other new additions to the synod assembly are:

  • Cardinal Paulo Cezar Costa of Brasilia from the episcopal conference of Brazil

  • Sister Mary Theresa Barron, OLA, president of the International Union of Superiors General

  • Sister Maria Nirmalini, AC, superior general of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel

  • Margaret Karram, president of the Focolare Movement

Newly added as experts and facilitators:

  • Andrew Spiteri from Australia

  • Sister Christina Danel, superior general of the Congregation of Xavières, from France

  • Péter Szabó from Hungary

  • Eva Gullo from Italy

  • Father Mario Antonelli from Italy


US:     Where is St. Matthew? A visit to his tomb
The statue of St. Matthew above the crypt altar beneath the cathedral of Salerno, Italy. / Credit: Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Sept. 21 marks the feast day of St. Matthew, also known as Levi, an apostle of Jesus and, according to tradition, the author of one of the four Gospels. 

Surprisingly little is known for certain about Matthew’s life, even though his Gospel is so crucial for the Church. The manner of Matthew’s calling by Jesus is well known — Matthew was a Jew but worked as a tax collector for the Romans in Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee, making him a pariah among his own people. When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew gave up his presumably materialistic life as a tax collector to follow the Lord. 

Jesus’ calling of Matthew led some religious authorities of the Jewish community to wonder: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” To which Jesus responded: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, however, that no further reference is made to Matthew in the Gospels, except in the list of the Apostles, and “of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data.” It appears though, according to a number of other ancient sources, that he evangelized for at least a decade and a half in Asia. 

Matthew’s earthly body is purported to lie in the crypt beneath the cathedral of Salerno, Italy. In the crypt, a bronze St. Matthew made by Michelangelo Naccherino in 1606 sits above the altar. The saint is shown writing the Gospel with a book resting on his left knee and a pen in his right hand. At his left side, an angel hands him an inkwell as he writes his Gospel. 

Alfano I, the archbishop of Salerno from 1058–1085, completed the crypt in 1081 and placed Matthew’s body in the sepulcher. The renovation in the early 17th century was carried out by architects Domenico and his son Giulio Cesare Fontana. 

According to legend, St. Matthew’s intercession helped to protect the city in 1544 from the dreaded pirate Ariadeno Barbarossa, supreme commander of the Turkish military fleet, when a storm that had been prayed for by devotees to St. Matthew in Salerno blew Barbarossa’s fleet away from the city. 

Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox churches celebrate St. Matthew on Nov. 16, along with St. Fulvianus, a prince who is recorded in some traditions as converting from paganism after Matthew’s martyrdom.

Pope Benedict said in 2006 that “in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvelous effects in their own lives.


US:     Attorney General Merrick Garland reacts to accusation of DOJ’s anti-Catholic bias
Attorney General Merrick Garland. / Credit: Justice Department

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 20, 2023 / 19:25 pm (CNA).

Attorney General Merrick Garland strongly objected to accusations that the Department of Justice would discriminate against Catholic Americans during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.  

Garland called the suggestion of anti-Catholic bias “outrageous” and “absurd” when questioned about a memo that originated with the Richmond Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The memo, dated Jan. 23 and leaked to the media in February, revealed an FBI Richmond investigation into “radical traditionalist” Catholics and their possible ties to “the far-right white nationalist movement.” It suggested “trip wire or source development” within Latin Mass communities to mitigate risks. 

The FBI quickly retracted the memo shortly after it was made public. Both Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray have condemned the memo. 

During the hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Jeff Van Drew questioned Garland about the memo, which led to a tense exchange. 

“Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists?” Van Drew asked Garland. 

“I have no idea what ‘traditional’ means here,” Garland responded. “...The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous, so absurd.” 

Garland, who is Jewish, has spoken about his family escaping persecution in Europe. He said in a speech in April that his grandmother was one of five children. He said that she escaped religious persecution before World War I but that two of her siblings remained in Europe and were ultimately killed during the Holocaust. 

Van Drew pressed Garland further, saying: “It was your FBI that … was sending undercover agents into Catholic churches.” He asked Garland whether he believes that traditionalist Catholics are extremists. 

Garland stated that he was “appalled by that memo” and told Van Drew that “Catholics are not extremists.” However, the attorney general said he did not know whether anyone was fired for drafting or circulating the memo. 


US:     More Republicans hesitant on Ukraine funding as Zelenskyy talks to lawmakers, UN
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a high level Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine on the sidelines of the 78th U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City on Sept. 20, 2023. / Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 20, 2023 / 18:50 pm (CNA).

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making his case to the United Nations and the U.S. Congress for more military aid against Russia, a growing number of Republican lawmakers have expressed reservations about sending the country tens of billions of additional taxpayer dollars.

“While Russia is pushing the world to the final war, Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation,” Zelenskyy said at the United Nations meeting in New York City on Tuesday as he urged foreign leaders to stand against Russia.

“Weaponization must be restrained,” Zelenskyy said. “War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home. And the occupier must return to their own land.”

During Zelenskyy’s trip to the United States, he also plans to visit Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress about additional aid to support Ukraine’s military effort against Russia’s invasion. The United States has already approved more than $113 billion in humanitarian and military support for Ukraine throughout the war, but President Joe Biden is asking Congress to approve another $24 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine.

Growing hesitation among Republicans

Most Republican lawmakers and every Democratic lawmaker have supported previous Ukrainian funding packages, but opposition to additional aid is growing within the Republican Party. Some polls have shown a slim majority of Republican voters opposing more aid to Ukraine and more Republican lawmakers are hesitant to support Biden’s request for emergency funding. 

“Is Zelenskyy elected to Congress?” Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told a press gaggle when asked whether he will commit to more funding for Ukraine’s war effort this week. 

“Is [Zelenksyy] our president?” McCarthy continued. “I don’t think I have to commit [to] anything. I have questions for him. Where’s the accountability in the money we already spent? What is the plan for victory? I think that’s what the American public wants to know.”

McCarthy famously promised that Republican leadership would not write a “blank check” to Ukraine last year but has consistently voted to support aid for the war effort. Other Republican lawmakers who have voted for aid, such as Republican Reps. Mike Garcia and Nancy Mace, have also suggested that Congress focus on domestic needs instead.

Republican Rep. Lisa McClain said in a statement to CNA that “Vladimir Putin’s illegal and aggressive invasion of Ukraine is reprehensible” and that “the United States has stood with Ukraine in this war since day one,” but she also warned that the United States is falling short of domestic obligations.

“To write another check for a foreign war while we still haven’t given relief aid to Maui or East Palestine is a big ask that will not be met with open arms,” McClain said. “I think all Republicans have no issue standing in solidarity with Ukraine, but we have real problems here at home that need to be addressed first.”

Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has taken a strong stance against military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war, told CNA in a statement provided by his office that he will continue to oppose any funding requests “to perpetuate the needless death and destruction on both sides in this war.”

“Our nation is under attack at the southern border, inflation is at an historic high, and our country is buried in $33 trillion national debt,” Gosar said. “Anyone in Congress who thinks differently should spend more time away from Washington, D.C., because most Americans are fed up with the war and the endless spending. Congress should stop wasting money in Ukraine and focus on America’s needs.”

Will it be enough to block more aid?

In spite of this growing movement, some members of Republican leadership believe this faction is still a minority of the party’s elected officials. When contacted by CNA, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul’s office referred to statements the congressman made to CNN this week. 

“I do think the majority of the majorities in both [the] House and Senate support this effort [to provide additional aid to Ukraine],” McCaul, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said. 

“We’ll be meeting with Zelenskyy on Thursday,” McCaul continued. “... But I think we also need answers. … A lot of members want to know, ‘What is the plan for victory? Why aren’t we putting the weapons into Ukraine that they need to win rather than a slow bleeding survival rate that was counterproductive to the counteroffensive?’”

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has also maintained staunch support for military aid to Ukraine in the country’s fight against Russia. While speaking in the Senate this week, McConnell doubled down on support for aid to Ukraine

“Tomorrow, I’ll join colleagues in welcoming President Zelenskyy to the Capitol,” McConnell said. “I’ll continue to make the case myself for sustained support for the Ukrainian cause, not out of charity, but out of a primary focus on Americans’ interests.”

Support for continued aid to Ukraine has also remained strong among Democratic lawmakers, who have not seen a similar opposition movement rising from within their party.


Europe:     Shrine of Virgin of Flowers whose name traveled to Mars with NASA desecrated
The sanctuary of the Virgin of Flowers Shrine in Álora, Málaga, Spain, was found desecrated Sept. 19, 2023. / Credit: Diocese of Malaga

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

Our Lady of Flowers is one of the most noted Marian devotions in the Diocese of Malaga in Spain and her devotees were disheartened to learn Sept. 19 that her shrine, located in the town of Álora, of which she is the patroness, had been desecrated.

The incident took place Monday night but was not discovered until early Tuesday, when the person in charge of opening the church noticed the damage and the theft.

According to the Diocese of Malaga, the assailants entered by neatly forcing open the grating on the sacristy window. From there, they entered the church, where they desecrated the tabernacle and the image of the Virgin.

In addition to leaving the consecrated hosts that were reserved in the tabernacle scattered on the floor, the thieves took a ciborium and the mantle of the Virgin and Child Jesus that is part of the image, which is kept in an alcove with tempered glass.

Along with the mantle, the thieves took “small jewelry left by the faithful” during their recent Sept. 8 pilgrimage. Some collection boxes where the faithful deposit their alms were also broken into. The incident was reported to the Civil Guard.

In a joint statement posted on X Sept. 19, the pastor of the shrine, Father Felipe Manuel Gallego; the leader of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Flores, Álvaro Fernández; and the mayor of Álora, Francisco Jesús Martínez, announced that the place “will remain closed” until the repairs are completed and that the image of the Virgin “will remain in a reserved place for protection,” which the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Flowers stated is “the high altar of the Church of the True Cross” in Álora.

The shrine of the Virgin of Flores was founded by Queen Isabella (1451–1504) and is located 1.25 miles from the town of Álora. A convent of Franciscan Recollects was built there and they remained there until 1835, when they were expelled by the so-called Confiscation of Mendizábal.

The Virgin of Flowers on Mars

The name of the Virgin of Flores has gone beyond diocesan devotion in Malaga in a particular way, as it was among the 150,000 references to life on Earth that were placed aboard NASA's Perseverance space probe sent to Mars in 2020. 

On Feb. 18, 2021, the space mission robot landed on the surface of Mars after seven months of travel. On a hard disk in the robot was included a reference to the patroness of Álora thanks to Spanish Air Force Sgt. Francisco José Fernández.

Upon learning that NASA had opened the possibility of including terrestrial references in the robot, he registered the name of the Virgin of Flowers. 

In a report published in Diario Sur in 2020, Fernández explained the reasons for this action: “I have always been a [member] of the Brotherhood, although I can [get to the] town very little; that’s why I wanted to do something nice for them and this occurred to me. It is still exciting to know that for a few years her name will be there, in space, among the valleys and deserts of Mars.”

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


US:     Republicans urge repeal of ‘weaponized’ FACE Act due to anti-pro-life bias
An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. / Courtesy of the Houck family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 20, 2023 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy and 25 House Republicans introduced a resolution Tuesday to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that has been used extensively by the Biden administration to penalize pro-life activists.

Passed in 1994, the FACE Act imposes criminal penalties on individuals convicted of “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct” that interferes with access to abortion clinics, places of worship, and pregnancy centers.

The resolution introduced by Roy in the House and sponsored by Utah Senator Mike Lee in the Senate would repeal the FACE Act on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional use of federal power and that it has been weaponized against people of certain religious and political beliefs.

In a Monday press release Roy said that “free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs. Yet, Biden's Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life.” 

 “Our Constitution separates power between the federal government and the states for a reason, and we ignore that safeguard at our own peril,” Roy went on. “The FACE Act is an unconstitutional federal takeover of state police powers; it must be repealed.”

Roy also led an unsuccessful effort to prohibit taxpayer funding from being used to enforce the FACE Act in April. 

How has the FACE Act been used?

Though churches and pregnancy centers are included in the FACE Act, in the last year only four people have been charged for attacks on churches and pregnancy centers, despite over 100 attacks.

During Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Roy questioned Biden Administration Attorney General Merrick Garland about bias in the FACE Act’s application.

“Are you concerned that enforcement of the FACE Act has been biased towards pro-lifers over anti-life protestors 126 to 4,” Roy asked Garland. “126 times against pro-lifers, versus 4 times.”  

Most recently, three pro-life activists — Joan Bell, 74, Jean Marshall, 73, and Jonathan Darnel, 41 — were found guilty on Sept. 15 of felonies related to the FACE Act that could land them up to 11 years in prison and fines as much as $350,000.

The Biden Department of Justice alleged that the three activists engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade of an abortion clinic in an October 2022 protest in Washington D.C.  

Another eight pro-life activists in Michigan were charged with FACE Act violations in February. 

The most notable FACE Act charge was made against Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania father of seven, who made national headlines when he was arrested by armed authorities at his home on Sept. 23, 2022. Houck was eventually cleared of all charges in January. 

New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, a co-sponsor, said in a press release Tuesday, that “the FACE Act prescribes harsh, mean-spirited punishments when pro-life individuals engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience — the staple of the human rights and civil rights movements.”

“Under the FACE Act, peaceful actions like holding a sign, singing a hymn, or praying the Rosary, if conducted near an abortion mill, can result in jail sentences, massive fines, and punitive damages by the party that feels it has been offended,” he said. 

“The Biden Administration has weaponized the FACE Act, singling out nonviolent pro-life advocates and punishing them as felons,” Smith continued. “At the same time, there has been no documented arrest in over 80 instances of violent attacks, firebombing, and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate front-line volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls.”


Europe:     Spanish priests criticize radio personalities who say Mother Teresa took advantage of poor
St. Teresa of Calcutta. / Credit: © 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / Lizenz: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0 de

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Several priests with a presence on social media and the civil association Enraizados have protested derogatory comments made against St. Teresa of Calcutta on a radio program in Spain.

On Monday this week, a contributor to the Spanish radio station Cadena SER’s main news program, Roberto Enríquez Higueras, known as Bob Pop, claimed that St. Teresa of Calcutta was part of a list of “bad people who did things well” along with personalities such as Shakira, Diana Spencer (Lady Di), the writer Truman Capote, the politician Margaret Thatcher, and the Nobel laureate in literature Mario Vargas Llosa.

Higueras said the Albanian saint who founded the Missionaries of Charity “is worse than cinchona,” an expression used in Spain that refers to the bitter taste of the plant. 

Asked about the reasons that led him to assert such a thing, he responded that it was based “on her entire policy, on her entire creed. She actually dedicated herself to taking advantage of poverty, all of the worst: She prevented abortions, she sold children... The only good thing that Teresa of Calcutta did was to appear that she was good."

Higueras further accused the saint of being a “chunga,” (a dodgy person as defined by the Spanish Royal Academy: “bad-looking, in poor condition, of poor quality”) because she dedicated herself to “claiming pain, poverty — other people’s of course — as a experience of coming to Christ. But in reality she worked for the system, for power.”

In his opinion, what she did well was play “the character, we believed it,” which he called “a great job.”

The host of Cadena SER’s star program, Ángels Barceló, added: “Acting all day has to be terrible.”

Bob Pop has been a contributor to Mongolia magazine, known among other issues for its irreverent and blasphemous covers. He is also the author of a television series titled “Maricón perdido.” In 2021, the Ministry of Equality awarded him the Rainbow Recognition for LGBT visibility in the field of communications.

In response, Father Jaime Melchior pointed out on X that the attack on St. Teresa of Calcutta “hides something more important: Smearing people, and their heroic actions, worthy of imitation, so that we believe it’s impossible to attain holiness.”

Father Francisco José Delgado ironically commented on the controversial radio program when he said of Bob Pop and the journalist Ángels Barceló: “If these two despicable persons spoke well of St. Teresa of Calcutta I would be worried.”

Father Francisco Llorens of the Archdiocese of Valencia considered that what happened is “very serious” and that what pains him the most “is the silence of the house of Añastro” — in reference to the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, whose headquarters are on that street in Madrid.

Father Ignacio Narváez, SJ, asked that the link to the video that has circulated on messaging apps not be opened, “because they will interpret the views as a victory. What we Christians do is pray for those who denigrate, lie, and sow hatred.”

Father Juan Manuel Góngora of the Diocese of Almería responded to the criticism of radio contributor Bop Pop with a brief image from the film “The Passion of the Christ” in which Jesus, in the Garden of Olives, crushes the head of a serpent.

Today the Enraizados Association launched a protest campaign against the performance on Cadena SER, which they said “harshly lashed out against St. Teresa of Calcutta, spreading hatred against her life.”

In the text encouraging the protest, the association’s president, José Castro, stated that “if Mother Teresa were here, she would probably tell us that ‘lack of love is the greatest poverty.’ Precisely for that reason, because of her enormous capacity to love, she saved children from being aborted. Which this heartless commentator absurdly denounces.”

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


Middle East - Africa:     Human rights group to Nigeria security agents after priest’s kidnapping: ‘Act or resign’
A road in Enugu State, Nigeria. / Credit: International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety)

ACI Africa, Sep 20, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) has condemned the Sept. 16-17 kidnapping of more than 30 people across Nigeria’s Enugu State, including a Catholic priest, and called on police officials in the Nigerian state to either act on the lack of security in the region or leave office.

Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide was abducted Sept. 17 on his way back to St. Mary Amofia-Agu Affa Parish in the Enugu Diocese, where he serves as parish priest. A prayer appeal has been sent out for the priest’s safe release. Okide is among dozens of people who were taken by armed Fulani bandits in separate locations within Enugu State.

Intersociety condemned the police force in Enugu for “looking the other way” and “choosing to be deaf” as Islamist Fulanis wreak havoc on Christian populations in the Nigerian state and in the entire southeast region of the West African country.

Instead, the authorities are busy killing innocent civilians in the name of a crackdown on the “sit-at-home” order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Intersociety said in a Sept. 19 report sent to ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa.

“The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law is deeply shocked and dismayed that more than 30 defenseless citizens of the southeast were abducted in two days in three different locations in Enugu State by the jihadist Fulani herdsmen, with the Enugu State Police Command … looking the other [way] and choosing to be deaf,” said officials of Intersociety led by their board chair, Emeka Umeagbalasi. 

Those whom Intersociety want out of office for laxity amid the rampant attacks are Enugu State Commissioner of Police Kanayo Uzuegbu; Anambra Commissioner of Police Tony Olofu; and General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army Maj. Gen. Hassan Taiwo Dada.

The three must tackle security challenges in Enugu State “without being selective and partisan as widely perceived or seen as errand boys of the jihadist Fulani herdsmen,” the human rights activists said.

In reference to the kidnappings in Enugu, they added: “The trio must as a matter of uttermost urgency and extreme public importance speak out including addressing a joint or separate press conferences so as to keep the southeasterners abreast of the abductions and efforts put in place, if any, to rescue the victims and apprehend the jihadist Fulani herdsmen responsible.”

Between Sept. 16-17 more than 30 passengers and others on the road were abducted by jihadist Fulani herdsmen. 

Intersociety reported that the abductions took place in at least three different locations, including Edem-Nrobo-Ezikolo-Abbi Road in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, where armed jihadists on Sept. 16 attacked a passenger bus that was traveling to the town of Nsukka.

The jihadists are also said to have killed one civilian in Ezikolo-Abbi, shot and wounded others, and abducted several others into the nearby forests. 

On Sept. 17, another group of jihadist Fulani herdsmen launched an attack on a bus that was carrying Father Okide and several other passengers, abducting the Catholic priest and six others, according to the Intersociety officials. 

Intersociety called for action to address the lack of security specifically in Enugu, saying: “The unchecked activities of the jihadist Fulani herdsmen in the southeast have not only risen to an apogee but also mandatorily required that the trio of Enugu State commissioner[s] of police … unmask and go after the jihadists.”

They challenge those in charge of security in Enugu to “retire voluntarily from the army and the police” if they cannot live up to what is expected of them.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.


US:     Kamala Harris promotes abortion access on nationwide college tour 
Sen. Kamala Harris speaks during National Action Network 2019 convention. / Credit: lev radin/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

A monthlong nationwide college tour by Vice President Kamala Harris, meant in part to promote the expansion of abortion under law, has prompted repudiation from pro-life advocates. 

The tour, announced Sept. 7, is aimed at bringing together “thousands of students for high-energy, large-scale events” focused on “key issues that disproportionately impact young people across the country — from reproductive freedom and gun safety to climate action, voting rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and book bans.”

Harris is set to visit “around a dozen campuses in at least seven states,” including historically Black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, community colleges, apprenticeship programs, and state schools, the White House said. Most of the states Harris will visit, such as Virginia and North Carolina, are considered swing states in U.S. presidential elections. 

Harris’ most recent stop was at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro on Sept. 15. In her speech, which focused mainly on voting rights, Harris urged voters to support, among other things, the “freedom to make decisions about your own body.”

“One does not have to abandon their faith, or deeply held beliefs, to agree that the government should not be telling [a woman] what to do with her body,” Harris said, taking issue with what she called “extremist so-called leaders” passing state pro-life laws. The vice president criticized those laws, especially those being passed without rape and incest exceptions, calling them “immoral.”

“What the [Supreme] Court took away, Congress can put back in place. Congress can pass a law that puts back in place the protections of a case called Roe v. Wade, which gives you the right to make decisions for yourself,” she told the crowd, urging them to vote for lawmakers who will do so. 

Harris has long been considered a champion of the abortion industry, raking in numerous endorsements and campaign contributions from pro-abortion organizations. She and President Joe Biden, a Catholic, have on numerous occasions jointly reaffirmed their support for abortion and condemned efforts by pro-life lawmakers to enact restrictions on abortion. 

In recent months, Harris has lamented the growing number of states that have restricted abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and encouraged Congress to enact pro-abortion legislation, drawing ire from national pro-life groups. 

SBA Pro-Life America, a national advocacy organization, condemned Harris’ urging the young people in attendance to use their votes to expand access to abortion. 

“Vice President Kamala Harris just kicked off her ‘Abortion Activism Around America’ tour aimed at indoctrinating our young people. Today, she spoke in the beautiful and vibrant state of North Carolina. While there, she continued to push her no-limits abortion-on-demand beliefs. But Harris needs to understand that North Carolinians do not support her radical approach,” said Michelle Ashley, SBA Pro-Life America’s North Carolina state director. 

“In fact, the majority of North Carolinians want serious limits on abortions, wanting no elective abortions after the first trimester,” Ashley continued, citing a poll SBA conducted in January. 

“This belief stands in complete opposition to the Biden-Harris administration’s stance. I’m grateful to the brave North Carolinians who stand fearlessly for life in the face of this current administration’s nationwide no-limits pro-abortion push.”

Students for Life of America (SFLA) staged a protest in North Carolina ahead of Harris’ arrival and said they were directed by university police to stand in a “free speech area.” The group said that despite some resistance from students, a number of “genuinely curious students approached us, wanting to hear more about our beliefs and resources. Several minds were changed.”

“Unfortunately, after Harris’ event ended, a large mob surrounded us, and chaos ensued,” SFLA member Lydia Taylor narrated. 

“When they shouted ‘Black Lives Matter,’ I told them that pro-lifers agree with them and that the abortion industry was targeting Black lives in the womb. Together, we could protect those Black babies — but sadly, this made them even more aggressive. Finally, the police came through the mob to get us out and to safety. We were forced to leave some of our property behind in the chaos, and the deserted signs were torn up immediately and vandalized further.”

The day before Harris arrived in North Carolina, SFLA president Kristan Hawkins sent a letter to Harris inviting her to debate the issue of abortion on a college campus. Hawkins is making her own college tour this fall and both women are stopping at Northern Arizona University, albeit on different dates. 

“The administration that you help lead fights for abortion through all nine months, for any reason, with taxpayer funding, up to and including infanticide. Throw in the attacks on conscience rights and states passing pro-life laws, and it’s clear that your administration is working to earn the money that Planned Parenthood Action and others have invested in your agenda,” Hawkins wrote in part.

“While this is well known to those of us who track this human rights policy, for most students on college and university campuses, the extent of the radial abortion agenda of the Biden-Harris administration is more camouflaged by rhetoric about ‘access’ and ‘justice.’”

The pro-life group National Right to Life responded the day before Harris’ North Carolina stop, on Sept. 14, saying the Biden administration has “employed a whole-of-government approach to promoting abortion, using every lever of power at its disposal to make abortions more available and more common, with no thought of the innocent unborn children who would die.”

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have made unlimited abortion throughout pregnancy a priority issue,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. 

“The Biden-Harris abortion agenda is extreme and out of step with the majority of Americans.”

Harris’ next stop will be at Morehouse College, a historically Black men's liberal arts college in Atlanta, on Sept. 26, according to the White House website.


Middle East - Africa:     11 killed as Islamist jihadists reportedly target Christians in Mozambican village
At least 11 people were killed Sept. 15, 2023, after members of the Islamic State attacked a village in Mozambique and opened fire on Christians after hand-picking them from Muslims, the Catholic pontifical and charity foundation Aid to the Church in Need International reported. / Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International

ACI Africa, Sep 20, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

At least 11 people were killed Sept. 15 after members of the Islamic State attacked a village in Mozambique and opened fire on Christians after hand-picking them from Muslims, the Catholic pontifical and charity foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International reported.

In a Sept. 18 report, ACN indicated that the terrorists arrived in the village of Naquitengue, located in Mocímboa da Praia district of the embattled Cabo Delgado province, in the early afternoon and summoned the villagers.

After separating the Christians from the Muslims, “based on names” to identify them, “they opened fire on the Christians,” the report stated.

The charity foundation has gathered accounts of those affected by the violence in the Mozambican district and said: “The reports are disturbing.”

Those who spoke to ACN recounted that Christians were “showered with bullets” in the incident. 

“There are also records of burned houses and destroyed property,” ACN reported. “Hours later, on Sunday, the terrorist organization Islamic State claimed this attack, reporting 11 deaths, although the number of victims is expected to be higher, at least 12, with several injured.”

The Catholic entity further reported that the attack, which it described as “of enormous cruelty,” caused panic among the populations, who fled to the forests.

Friar Boaventura, a missionary from the Institute of the Fraternity of the Poor of Jesus (PJC) present in Cabo Delgado, confirmed to ACN the terrorists’ strategy to isolate Christians from others before executing them, noting that it was not the first time such an incident had happened in Cabo Delgado.

“This strategy has already happened in the past,” he said, adding that terrorists had already carried out attacks “with this same scenario” — that is, to “separate Christians from Muslims.”

The missionary told ACN that the Sept. 15 incident had left the population scared, adding that the attack occurred at a time when many people were beginning to return to their homelands.

Friar Boaventura lamented that “new moments of tension and insecurity” had engulfed the population and asked “that we pray for our brothers who suffer so much.”

The crisis in northern Mozambique, which erupted in 2017, is mostly concentrated in Cabo Delgado province but has also spread to neighboring provinces, such as Nampula and Niassa. 

Here, armed men belonging to the Islamic State, locally referred to as Al Shabaab, continue to attack civilians. As of April, the violent conflict had displaced more than 1 million people.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.


Europe:     Ethnic Armenians surrender and disarm following Azerbaijan offensive
Protestors gather in downtown Yerevan, Armenia, on Sept. 20, 2023, as separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s authorities announced they would cease hostilities, signaling the end of an “anti-terror” operation launched just one day earlier by Azerbaijan’s forces in the breakaway region. / Credit: KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Ethnic Armenians in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, have agreed to lay down their arms and dissolve their military forces following a short but intense Azerbaijan offensive on Sept. 19.

Though internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is made up almost entirely of Christian ethnic Armenians who claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the Republic of Artsakh.

The Azeri attack — labeled “counterterrorism measures” by the Azeri government — included rocket and mortar fire on both military and civilian targets, according to Artsakh authorities.

During the attack close to 100 Armenians were killed, including civilians, and several hundred were wounded, according to a statement from former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan to Reuters.

The attacks forced over 10,000 people, including women, children, and elderly, to evacuate their homes, according to the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

This week’s escalation was the first indication of large-scale outright military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020. Christian Armenians have been trapped, without food or medicine, behind the Lachin Corridor blockade for months sparking outrage among human rights activists who say Azerbaijan is engaged in ethnic cleansing.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan said that “an agreement has been reached as of 13:00, 20 September 2023, to stop the anti-terror measures.” 

The terms of the agreement, according to the Azeri Defense Ministry, were that all “illegal armed groups lay down their arms, withdraw from their battle positions and military outposts, and are subjected to complete disarmament” and “simultaneously, all the ammunition and heavy military equipment is handed over.”

The Azeri government also demanded the withdrawal of all “formations of Armenia’s armed forces stationed in the Karabakh region,” though Armenia denies it has any forces stationed inside Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a Wednesday press briefing, Azeri Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fariz Rzayev said that “as a result of the counterterrorism measures taken by the Azerbaijani armed forces, the agreement was reached today for the full demilitarization, disarmament, and disbandment of the remnants of the regular forces of the Republic of Armenia, which were still illegally deployed in the sovereign territories in the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

According to the defense ministry, the disarmament is to be conducted with the supervision of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in the region. 

Reuters reported that the Artsakh Republic also agreed to the disarmament, saying: “In the current situation, the actions of the international community to end the war and resolve the situation are inadequate. Considering all this, the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh accept the proposal of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to cease fire.”


Vatican:     Vatican cardinal to make charity mission to Ukraine city hit by Russian drones
Black smoke billows over the city after drone strikes in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Sept. 19, 2023, amid Russia's military invasion on Ukraine. Drones attacked Ukraine's western city of Lviv early on Sept. 19, and explosions rang out, causing a warehouse fire and wounding at least one person. / Credit: YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 12:29 pm (CNA).

The head of the Vatican’s charity office is traveling to Ukraine to inaugurate a new home for displaced mothers and children in Lviv days after a warehouse containing aid burned to the ground following a Russian strike.

According to a Sept. 20 press release from the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski is in Ukraine this week to open the House of Refuge “in the name of Pope Francis, as a sign of support and closeness to the many people who were forced to flee because of the conflict, bringing the apostolic blessing.”

The shelter was built during the conflict with Russia and financed in part by the Vatican. It will provide temporary housing to women who have fled the bombing in other parts of Ukraine.

The visit follows Russian attacks in Ukraine that killed nine people Sept. 19, according to Reuters. In Lviv, a drone strike set on fire several industrial warehouses, including a warehouse used by the Catholic charity Caritas-Spes to store humanitarian aid.

The secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, Alistair Dutton, said the attack destroyed more than 330 tons of humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.

“The mission’s employees were unharmed,” the head of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, Father Vyacheslav Grynevych, said, “but the warehouse with everything inside burned to the ground including food, hygiene kits, generators, and clothes.” 

“We will be able to calculate the final details of the losses later, as special services are currently working at the scene. We already know that 33 pallets of food packages, 10 pallets of hygiene kits and canned food, 10 pallets of generators and clothes were destroyed,” the priest said, according to a press release from Caritas Internationalis.

Dutton is in New York this week to attend the U.N. General Assembly at which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke Tuesday.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse served as a place to store aid from other countries, including Caritas Poland, before it was transported to families in eastern Ukraine.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse has also been used as a deposit for supplies, including generators, donated to Ukraine by Pope Francis through the Vatican’s charity office.

“I am sorrowful for what happened in Lviv with the attack on the warehouse of Caritas-Spes,” Krajewski said. “They struck to destroy the possibility of helping people who are suffering.”

In a message to Cardinal Peter Turkson on Sept. 19, Pope Francis denounced “the use in contemporary warfare of so-called ‘conventional weapons,’ which should be used for defensive purposes only and not directed to civilian targets.”

The pope’s message, dated Sept. 12, was sent to the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the occasion of a Sept. 19-20 conference on Pacem in Terris, St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical on peace.

“It is my hope that sustained reflection on this issue will lead to a consensus that such weapons, with their immense destructive power, will not be employed in a way that foreseeably causes ‘superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering,’ to use the words of the St. Petersburg Declaration,” Francis said.


Americas:     Bishop who will attend synod: We must address issue of women deacons and priests
Bishop Alfredo de la Cruz of San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic. / Credit: IacobusL CC BY-SA 4.0

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The bishop of San Francisco de Macorís in the Dominican Republic, Alfredo De la Cruz, who will be participating in the Synod on Synodality in October at the Vatican, said the event should discuss mandatory celibacy, the diaconate, and the ministerial priesthood for women, among other issues.

The prelate made the remarks during a virtual event titled “International Synod Conversation of the Church. Will anything change in the Church?” organized by the Academy of Catholic Leaders and held Sept. 18.

Also participating in the event were Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Luis Cabrera, archbishop of Guayaquil, Ecuador; and the Spanish laywoman Eva Fernández, coordinator of the International Forum of Catholic Action.

Asked about what could change in Catholic doctrine, De la Cruz noted: “We must first distance ourselves from everything that fundamentalism signifies, from believing that doctrine can’t be touched. That would be the first temptation we would have, to believe that doctrine can’t be touched. Doctrine is there in order to reflect, to see.”

Regarding the topics the synod should address, “in the light of the word,” De la Cruz noted there is “without a doubt, the protagonism of women. The Church cannot turn its back on this entire movement, this growth, these victories of women. I’m going more specific. For example, in the case of the diaconate, we have to address priestly ministry.”

The Commission for the Study of the Female Diaconate was established for the first time by Pope Francis in August 2016. In May 2019, the Holy Father indicated that he was not afraid to study the topic further, “but up to this moment it doesn’t work.” In April 2020, the pontiff established a new commission to review the issue.

St. John Paul II wrote in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the ministerial priesthood is reserved only for men and that the Church has no power to change this.

“On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was pronounced by St. John Paul II, and this remains,” Pope Francis said during the press conference on his return trip from Sweden to Rome in November 2016.

De la Cruz also pointed out in his participation in the online event that “we would have to address mandatory celibacy; we will have to address Communion to all those who participate in the Eucharist as a feast of the Lord and as a community of faith, because we say that Eucharist is the meeting place of all brothers. ‘Ah, I encounter my brother, but to one group I don’t give anything to eat’ and I leave them hungry,” he added.

Canon 277 of the Code of Canon Law states: “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy, which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.”

Regarding the limits for the issues he mentioned, the bishop from the Dominican Republic commented that “the pope is very wise to sometimes leave that time for reflection. There are things that need time... When we often say that doctrine can’t be touched, the pope has pointed out the temptation of ‘backwardness.’ Rather, they don’t go to the doctrine as such, but to the ways in which we express and live the faith.”

“And God spoke to us concretely through Jesus at one time. He took up truths that in his time were difficult to address, yet he dared. I believe that we have to have that strength of Jesus, that daring, that ability to dare to propose things that have not been proposed,” the prelate said.

The bishop of San Francisco de Macorís also highlighted the importance of doctrine in seeking the truth and commented that “when we seek that truth about God it cannot be something non-dynamic; it has to be in motion.”

‘Great possibilities’

“I believe the synod has great possibilities,” O’Malley commented. “Of course, much will depend on us, the members of the Church, if we are willing to work with this issue and let the Holy Spirit guide us.”

Given the concern of many of the faithful who believe the synod is going to change the doctrine of the Church or that it is going to undermine the profession of faith, the cardinal said that “the idea of the Holy Father is to help us live that beautiful principle that we received from St. Augustine: unity in the essential, freedom in the accidental, and charity in everything.”

“I believe that the Holy Father wants us to use as a paradigm for the Church the life of the early Church, which we find in the Acts of the Apostles. There is where we see a Church that had to face many very serious crises such as Judas’ betrayal, the difference between ethnic groups, and the theological debate on how to receive Gentiles into the Church,” the cardinal continued.

O’Malley highlighted that “the way to overcome those divisions and those challenges was prayer, dialogue, and the Holy Spirit.”

During his participation, Cabrera referred to the issue of ideologies and said that these are partial visions of reality and each one of them “sometimes tries to declare itself as the only way and there we fall into a serious problem.”

“How to break with that? For us the first point of reference is the word of God. In these two thousand years we have a magisterium and a doctrine, which are very little known,” the bishop said. “The ideology is there, but if we analyze from the word, from the magisterium, we can overcome it.”

Eva Fernández highlighted the need of formation for the faithful: “a comprehensive formation for life that helps us to live our faith coherently in the midst of the world, and above all in that great unknown — which academics help us a lot here — the social doctrine of the Church.”

Liberation theology and the poor

Later in the online conversation, De la Cruz commented that “the synod becomes that light that is waking us up, keeping us alert in the face of all the problems. In the case of social issues, it has to do, especially in Latin America, with the rise of liberation theology, which was strongly attacked. “So those priests who were involved in social life found themselves persecuted and rejected.”

“In Latin America, it’s no secret that all this tension that was experienced around liberation theology caused that inaction we have today in concern for social issues,” he added.

“The neoliberal message,” he continued, “that the poor cannot be helped, that the poor must be given the hook to fish, that also permeated the Church in a negative way and this has also led to that certain inaction of not worrying about social matters.” 

“The synod is encouraging us to look again towards the poorest,” he concluded.

Liberation theology, which arose during the second half of the 20th century, presents an analysis of social reality from historical materialism. Many of its postulates were criticized during the pontificate of St. John Paul II and by the then-prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.

Several of its main ideologues abandoned the Church or held ideas contrary to the magisterium. Some even became guerrilla fighters, such as the Colombian priest Father Camilo Torres.

In May 2022, Pope Francis addressed a video message to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in which he said that at the beginning of liberation theology, “Marxist analysis was played with a lot” and they didn’t have “the slightest idea” of the Latin American reality.

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


Vatican:     Pope Francis lauds Catholic saint who fought to end slavery in Africa
Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 10:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis extolled Wednesday the “apostolic zeal” of St. Daniele Comboni, an Italian missionary priest and bishop who fought to end slavery in Africa.

Comboni witnessed “the horror of slavery” as a missionary in the mid-19th century in what is now Sudan. In his writings, he spoke of slavery more than 450 times and decried how the slave trade “degrades humankind and turns human beings, endowed like all of us with the light of intelligence, a ray of divinity and image of the most holy Trinity, to the dismal condition of animals.”

Pope Francis shared the “energetic and prophetic” life story of the founder of the Comboni missionary orders during his general audience on Sept. 20.

“Comboni’s dream was that of a Church who makes common cause with those who are crucified in history, so as to experience the resurrection with them,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Vatican Media

Speaking to an estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, the pope pointed to Comboni as an example of how Christians are “called to fight every form of slavery.”

“Slavery, like colonialism, is not something from the past, unfortunately,” he added.

“In Africa … political exploitation gave way to an ‘economic colonialism’ that was equally enslaving,” he said, quoting a speech he gave in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year.

Comboni summed up his vision for evangelization in Africa with the words “Save Africa with Africa,” a mindset that Pope Francis called “a powerful insight devoid of colonialism.”

“St. Daniel Comboni wanted every Christian to participate in the evangelizing enterprise,” he said. “With this spirit, he integrated his thoughts and actions, involving the local clergy and promoting the lay service of catechists.”

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Vatican Media

Comboni was born in 1831 into a poor family in a town on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. After discovering his vocation to the priesthood, he was inspired by the stories he heard from missionary priests returning from Africa.

At the age of 26, he joined a missionary expedition bound for Khartoum, Sudan, in 1857, three years after he was ordained to the priesthood.

After two years in Africa, three of the five other missionaries Comboni had traveled with had died, and Comboni also became ill.

Comboni wrote to his parents: “We will have to toil, sweat, die, but the thought that we sweat and die for the love of Jesus Christ and the health of the most abandoned souls in the world is too sweet to make us give up on the great undertaking.”

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Italian missionary priest later wrote that the African people “have taken possession of my heart that lives for them alone.”

Pope Francis highlighted how “Comboni’s great missionary passion” came from “the joy of the Gospel, drawn from Christ’s love, which then led to Christ’s love.”

The priest wrote: “The Eucharistic Jesus is my strength.”

Comboni was appointed apostolic vicar of Central Africa and ordained a bishop in 1877. He died in Sudan in 1881 amid a cholera epidemic. His legacy lives on in the religious orders he founded, which are now known as the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters, and are present in 42 countries on five continents.

“St. Daniele testifies to the love of the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the one who is lost and gives his life for the flock. His zeal was energetic and prophetic in being opposed to indifference and exclusion,” Pope Francis said.

“In his letters, he earnestly called out his beloved Church who had forgotten Africa for too long. … His witness seems to want to repeat to all of us, men and women of the Church: ‘Do not forget the poor — love them — for Jesus crucified is present in them, waiting to rise again.’”


Vatican:     Pope Francis appeals for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh: ‘Silence the weapons’
Pope Francis speaks at his general audience on Sept. 20, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 05:50 am (CNA).

One day after Azerbaijan launched a new military operation against Nagorno-Karabakh, Pope Francis made a public appeal for both sides to “silence the weapons.”

Speaking to more than 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 20, the pope said that he was troubled by the news he received Tuesday from Nagorno Karabakh, where “the already critical humanitarian situation is now aggravated by further armed clashes.”

“I make my heartfelt appeal to all the parties involved and to the international community to silence the weapons and make every effort to find peaceful solutions for the good of the people and respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said at the end of his Wednesday general audience.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region in Azerbaijan that is home to about 120,000 Armenian Christians. Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh deny Azeri control of the region and claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the “Republic of Artsakh.”

The South Caucasus region has been a flashpoint since Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union, sparking a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the 1990s.

In 2020, with the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan reignited the long-simmering conflict by invading Nagorno-Karabakh. The six-week conflict ended in Azerbaijan seizing control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A critical humanitarian situation developed in Nagorno-Karabakh this year after Azerbaijan began to restrict access to the Lachin Corridor, the sole road connecting the breakaway region to Armenia, in December 2022, cutting off access to food and medical aid.

The Azeri government on Tuesday called the strikes “anti-terror measures” against “illegal Armenian military formations.” Azerbaijan said the attacks will not stop until the ethnic Armenians completely surrender.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s “Artsakh Defense Forces” reported 23 civilian injuries and two deaths on Tuesday after the Azeri military unleashed artillery and mortar strikes on both military and civilian positions.

The military escalation marks the first indication of a large-scale outright military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020.

Ruben Vardenyan, an Armenian politician who served as the state minister of the unrecognized state of Artsakh, has appealed to the international community to demand action in defense of the Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The Christian world needs to realize this is unacceptable,” Vardenyan said in a video message to EWTN News. “I believe that only together we can stop this war.”


US:     Who are the Korean martyrs?
A new statue of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, a Korean martyr, was unveiled at St. Peter's Basilica on Sept. 16, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The feast of the Korean martyrs, celebrated by the Catholic Church on Sept. 20, remembers 103 men, women, and children who died for their faith in the first decades of Korean Christianity. The Korean martyrs marked on this day are collectively known as Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions. They were among the 8,000 to 10,000 Korean Christians killed for refusing to deny Christ.

Persecutions began in 1791, with five additional waves through the 19th century. Catholics in Korea celebrate the witness of their country’s Catholic martyrs throughout September, with celebrations culminating in the feast of the Korean martyrs.

They died for Christ

When Pope John Paul II canonized the Korean martyrs in his 1984 visit to South Korea, he noted their great diversity.

“From the 13-year-old Peter Yu to the 72-year-old Mark Chong, men and women, clergy and laity, rich and poor, ordinary people and nobles, many of them descendants of earlier unsung martyrs — they all gladly died for the sake of Christ,” he said in his homily for the May 6, 1984, canonization Mass in Seoul.

The martyrs commemorated on Sept. 20 include Korea’s first priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, and lay Catholic leader St. Paul Chong Hasang.

Kim was born in 1821 into an aristocratic Korean family that eventually included three generations of Catholic martyrs.

Kim’s great-grandfather died for his Catholic faith in 1814. While Kim attended seminary in China, his father was martyred for the faith in 1839. Kim was ordained in Shanghai in 1845 and returned to Korea to catechize Christians in secret. He was arrested 13 months later, tortured, and beheaded.

Paul Chong Hasang was a layman who helped unite Christians under persecution and encouraged them to be strong in the faith. His appeals to Pope Gregory X directly led the pope to recognize Korea’s Catholic community and to send more priests. Chong died by martyrdom in 1839 after penning a letter in prison defending the Catholic faith to the Korean government.

Another martyr, 17-year-old Agatha Yi, and her brother were falsely told that their parents had denied the faith. She responded: “Whether my parents betrayed or not is their affair. As for us, we cannot betray the Lord of heaven whom we have always served.”

Her words were reported widely and inspired six other adult Christians to report themselves to the magistrate. Yi, her parents, and these six are among those canonized.

Some of the first French missionaries to Korea are numbered among these Korean martyrs. There are many more to be recognized, and many forgotten by history.

“There are countless other unknown, humble martyrs who no less faithfully and bravely served the Lord,” John Paul II said in his canonization homily.

Korean Christianity’s unique history

Knowledge of Catholic Christianity arrived in Korea early in the 1600s, but not directly through missionaries. Rather, non-Christian Korean scholars learned about it through books. Some Koreans would become convinced Christians, but only in 1784 was the first Korean baptized after traveling to China to seek out Jesuit missionaries. It was these lay Christians who brought the Gospel to Korea and formed Catholic communities even without priests.  

“In a most marvelous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Savior,” Pope John Paul II commented in his 1984 canonization Mass homily. “From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea.”

Korean leaders, however, saw Christianity as a disruptive force that undermined hierarchical society and Confucian ideals of the political system. Some Christians openly renounced ancestor worship, which Korean society prized, according to UCA News. The Christian priority on God was perceived to be treason to the king, especially under the ruling Joseon dynasty. Some Korean Christians also turned to foreign powers to establish trade links and encourage religious freedom, actions that other Koreans found suspicious.

Hostility toward Christians turned violent multiple times.

As John Paul II said in 1984: “This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution … the years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846, and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your martyrs and engraved in your hearts.”

Other Korean martyrs have been beatified — and more are expected

Pope Francis beatified another 124 martyrs during his August 2014 visit to South Korea. These included Paul Yun Ji-chung, Korea’s first martyr.

In 2017, the Korean bishops announced they would begin an inquiry that could lead to the beatification of another 213 people, including some from the period of the Korean War in the mid-20th century. Candidates for beatification include the first bishop of Pyongyang; American-born Bishop Patrick Byrne; and numerous priests and laity. At the time of the announcement, the process was expected to take 10 years.


Americas:     Argentine bishops hold day of prayer, reflection against human trafficking
null / Credit: Pixabay

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 19, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

With the motto “We make our journey for dignity,” the Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking was held in Argentina on Sept. 17.

The No to Trafficking Team of the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference invited the faithful to join in prayer, especially interceding for the victims of this scourge and their families.

One of the prayer intentions that was emphasized was the importance of each person from his station in life contributing to eradicate this “aberrant crime.”

The invitation to prayer, quoting Pope Francis, calls for each member of the faithful to “feel committed to being a spokesperson for these brothers and sisters of ours, whose dignity is humiliated.”

The president of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Oscar Ojea, pointed out in a video posted on the conference website that “Human trafficking does serious, very serious injury to the dignity of the human person. The person is treated as a useful and disposable object, generally in the hands of a powerful person.”

“Here machismo makes its appearance vividly, and the weakness of women and girls who, out of desperation, vulnerability, fleeing from tragedies … look for a place, and for looking for a place they are so poorly welcomed that this very serious crime takes place,” he warned.

“The exploitation of people, sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, the human organ business… the issue of human trafficking encompasses a number of aspects that transforms the person into a thing,” the bishop lamented.

To address the situation, Ojea proposed “reflecting and praying to create networks, networks that do good, that call for the profound conversion of society to be able to recognize these tragedies, and not turn our backs on them or not live with them as if they were natural things.”

Inviting participation in the Day of Prayer and Reflection, the president of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference called on the faithful to pray to the Lord that this profound injury to the dignity of the person “can truly be reversed by us in order to build together a more fraternal, more just, and more human society.”

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


US:     Exclusive interview: Convicted pro-life activist speaks out
Jonathan Darnel speaks at a news conference at the Hyatt Regency on April 5, 2022, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2023 / 17:20 pm (CNA).

The fight for the unborn continues, even from jail, Jonathan Darnel, one of the three pro-life activists who was convicted in federal court last Friday under the controversial Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act), told CNA.

Darnel, 41, who was charged with a felony conspiracy against rights and a FACE Act offense, now faces up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $350,000 maximum fine along with Jean Marshall, 73, of Kingston, Massachusetts; and Joan Bell, 74, of Montague, New Jersey.

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.”

Passed in 1993, the FACE Act was written to prosecute crimes at both abortion clinics and pro-life pregnancy facilities. Despite its broad areas of protection, it has been used almost exclusively against pro-life activists.

The three protesters, along with five others who were convicted for the same offenses in August, participated in a “conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services,” according to the DOJ’s press release on the convictions.

Two clinic doors were blocked by the protesters, who used their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes, the DOJ said.

Darnel, an evangelical Christian, filmed the protest. 

In the more than one-hour, 30-minute video of the protest, some of those who sat inside the clinic blocking doors can be seen praying the rosary and singing hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary while refusing to leave.

“Pro-life rescuers are entering the doors of an abortion clinic and saving babies from death. This is very risky for the rescuers, but it’s about time we got serious about ending abortion again,” a description of the video reads.

Speaking to CNA on the eve of his conviction in a phone interview, Darnel said he was there that day to save lives. He told CNA that it’s estimated that the abortion clinic, which advertises killing of a child up to “​​27-plus weeks of pregnancy,” was inoperable for about four hours during the sit-in protest.

It also appeared as if some women were turned away from the clinic that day and a staff member at the clinic said that several appointments needed to be rescheduled, according to Darnel. 

“So we hope that some of those children were saved, but I can’t confirm that for sure,” he added.

Darnel, Marshall, and Bell are currently incarcerated awaiting sentencing along with five others who were convicted in a separate trial for violating the FACE Act.

Paulette Harlow of Kingston, Massachusetts, a woman in her mid-70s, is set to be tried on Oct. 23 on similar charges.

Darnel said he doesn’t believe he violated the FACE Act and is “frustrated” that the government brought charges against him. 

“FACE is a crime, but it shouldn’t be a crime because abortion shouldn’t be tolerated,” he said, adding that “it’s an honor to be taken like so many others.”

Darnel, who has engaged in pro-life work “quasi-full time” since 2009, said: “Except for the unjust execution of Christ, abortion is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world.” 

“I live in a nation that murders kids,” he added. 

“How can I say I love Christ and not respond with extreme zeal, extreme action, and drastic measures to this holocaust?”

Darnel said he filmed the protest that day because he wanted to inspire people to “get more serious about abortion,” adding that a “rescue” is one way to do that.

Asked if one can continue pro-life ministry in prison, Darnel said: “You certainly can.”

“I know the females who get incarcerated say they’re constantly meeting women who are abortion-minded and having opportunities to talk them out of it, show them a better way, or post-abortive women who need some kind of repentance and healing from that,” he said.  

As far as men go, Darnel said he is positive he is going to meet other inmates who have instigated or paid for abortion. 

“They’re probably less likely to talk about it than the women might be, but hopefully I can still be a good witness to them in one way or another,” he said. He added that his witness could help men recognize that involvement in abortion is wrong and inspire them to make amends for it.

Before his conviction, Darnel created a website dedicated to repealing the FACE Act, which says the federal law “was designed to protect the criminal abortion industry by cruelly punishing anti-abortion rescuers.”

Despite Darnel’s incarceration, others are taking up the fight against the FACE Act. Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy called for the repeal of the FACE Act in newly proposed legislation on Tuesday.

Darnel told CNA on Thursday night that “there might be something happening soon on that front,” referencing the repeal of the FACE Act.

In Roy’s press release Tuesday, he said: “Free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs. Yet, Biden’s Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life.”

The announcement also said that Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

“Who knows? This case may be putting the plight of the preborn and the injustice of abortion and all those who would stand up for them on the map,” Darnel told CNA.

“And I hope that maybe, just maybe, if our case is appealed to the Supreme Court, FACE might get struck down, and that might have big implications nationally,” he said. 


Asia - Pacific:     Vatican launches investigation into Australian bishop accused of child sex abuse  
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2023 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

The Holy See is investigating a former Australian bishop after receiving a 200-page report alleging the bishop sexually assaulted four indigenous youths and may have used hundreds of thousands of dollars in Church and charity funds in attempts to groom 67 others.

Former bishop Christopher Saunders of the Diocese of Broome, who is the subject of the investigation, stepped down from his role in 2020 amid sexual abuse allegations. The Vatican, which commissioned the independent report, received the findings in April but did not release them to the public. The report was leaked to 7NEWS in Australia, which published excerpts of the findings.

According to the excerpts, the report found that “the bishop has been variously described by witnesses as … a sexual predator that seeks to prey upon vulnerable Aboriginal men and boys” and “during the investigation, four victims of sexual (delictual) acts were identified.”

The report added that 67 “additional Aboriginal boys and men were also identified as persons that may have been subjected to delictual acts or grooming behaviors by Bishop Saunders.” 

According to 7NEWS, the report found that allegations against Saunders date back to just shortly after he was ordained a priest in Sydney, about 50 years ago, and that he developed a method of grooming Indigenous males by giving gifts of alcohol, cash, phones, phone credit, hotels, and air and bus travel.

The report found, according to 7NEWS, that Saunders spent about $4,000 per month on alcohol for the youths. The report discovered that he had five bank accounts, which held about $3 million at one point and purchased a $70,000 boat and several cars. 

Police launched an investigation into Saunders in 2018 after a man came forward with sexual abuse allegations, but after a two-year investigation, the prosecutors did not find enough evidence against the bishop and declined to bring charges. The Holy See’s investigation began in 2022 and is being led by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The dicastery’s investigation is still ongoing. 

The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, said in a statement that the Holy See will make a determination “in due time” and “it is hoped that this will not be unduly delayed.” He said the Church’s investigation could not begin until the police finished its inquiry into the allegations.

“We will respect the enduring confidential nature of this process by not commenting on specific allegations that have been raised,” Costelloe said. “Bishop Saunders, who has maintained his innocence, is able to respond to the report by communicating directly with the Holy See.”

Costelloe added that the allegations “are very serious and deeply distressing, especially for those making the allegations” and that “it is right and proper for them to be thoroughly investigated.” 

“After what has been a long and painful process for so many, it is important that a just and authoritative finding be made,” Costelloe said. “Only then can the process of rebuilding the Church community in Broome, begun under the leadership of Bishop Michael Morrissey, the apostolic administrator of the diocese, continue to make progress and bring healing.”

The Holy See’s investigation was “entrusted to an experienced and independent specialist investigations organization,” according to Costelloe. It was overseen by Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

There were 102 witnesses identified in the report, 30 of whom were formally interviewed, according to 7NEWS. 


Middle East - Africa:     Nigerian diocese calls for prayers for kidnapped priest
Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide was reportedly abducted from Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese on Sept. 17, 2023. / Credit: Enugu Diocese

ACI Africa, Sep 19, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

Prayers are being sought for the safe release of Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide, who was reportedly abducted from Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese on Sept. 17.

In a Sept. 19 statement obtained by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, the diocese’s chancellor provided details about the abduction. Okide, who serves as a parish priest at St. Mary Amofia-Agu Affa Parish, was on his way back to the parish in the late afternoon when he was kidnapped along the road.

“The diocese requests your prayers for the quick and wholesome release of Father Okide and for a change of heart on the part of the kidnappers,” Father Wilfred Chidi Agubuchie said.

“It is quite disheartening that this evil scheme is still plaguing our people,” Agubuchie continued. “May the Lord who came to set captives free (Lk 4:18) deliver our brother from the hands of our enemies and save our country Nigeria.”

Nigeria has experienced insecurity since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

The situation in the country has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia.

The Sept. 17 abduction of Okide is the latest of a series of kidnappings of members of the clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

On Aug. 2, a priest and seminarian were abducted from the Diocese of Minna. Father Paul Sanogo from Mali and seminarian Melchior Mahinini from Tanzania were released on Aug. 23 after three weeks in captivity.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.


US:     Maternity leave policies: How Catholic dioceses and organizations rank
null / Credit: Kseniya Ivanova/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

In the United States, there are no federal policies that guarantee maternity leave for new mothers. The time and pay a woman receives varies by state and organization. FemCatholic, a media company dedicated to having honest conversations about Catholic women, published a report in 2022 showing that very few dioceses in the United States provide comprehensive maternity leave.

Samantha Povlock, founder of FemCatholic, and Renee Roden, a journalist who worked on the report, joined “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” on Aug. 24 to discuss their findings and why they believe Catholic organizations should be leading the way in pro-family policies.

“I wish I were surprised that the number of dioceses that offered a full 12 weeks of paid leave was so low,” Roden expressed. 

The report was done in March 2022 and at the time only four dioceses offered a full 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. These were the Archdioceses of New York, Chicago, Omaha, and the Diocese of Raleigh. Since then, one additional archdiocese has begun to offer paid maternity leave — the Archdiocese of Denver. 

“Two things were surprising: One is it should be surprising that Catholic dioceses, so few of them, are offering women the 12 weeks of fully paid leave,” she said. “I think another thing that’s surprising is that 1 in 4 women go back to work two weeks after giving birth.”

Roden explained that in the report they also discussed the “medical realities of childbirth” and how essential those 12 weeks after giving birth, which are starting to be called the “fourth trimester,” are not only for the mother but also for the child.

Povlock, a mother of four, added: “Those early days are just so vital in building mom and baby’s connection and I think it really is the way we’re designed as people, so giving families that time is really important.”

Many of the dioceses who were not providing paid maternity leave were concerned about the cost, Roden shared. 

“Studies show that 55% to 69% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so it’s just unrealistic for them to take that 12 weeks off without pay,” she explained. “So it puts a burden on the company and dioceses feel like they may not be able to afford that.”

However, the FemCatholic report found that not all of the four dioceses offering paid maternity leave were among the richest. 

Roden pointed out that the Diocese of Raleigh and Archdiocese of Omaha “don’t have as big of assets as these other two archdioceses.”

She added: “So, I think it showed us that obviously we understand when people say they think finances are a barrier to doing that but it showed us that finances aren’t prohibitive of companies or dioceses being able to offer these policies.”

Both Roden and Povlock shared that after their report was published several dioceses — including Tucson, Orange, and Arlington — have taken steps in the right direction to improve their maternity leave policies. 

“They’re doing what they can and it’s a step in the right direction, and I think all those baby steps in the right direction are really encouraging to see,” Roden said.

Povlock added: “I want to call on business people and leaders in our Church to help advance these types of business policies for women.”

Ascension, the media company responsible for the popular “Bible in a Year” podcast with Father Mike Schmitz, recently unveiled its parental leave policy, which expands new moms’ fully paid maternity leave from one week to 12 weeks. It also includes six weeks for paternity leave and extended leave time for new parents to adopt, as well as leave for those who experience a miscarriage.

Jonathan Strate, CEO of Ascension, told “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” that Catholics “have an opportunity to lead the way” in terms of setting the bar when it comes to maternity leave policies.

“These are the kind of policies that do help build a culture of life. To really send the message that you can be a working parent and you can raise a family and the work should be able to support the family,” he said.

Strate explained that while creating their new leave policies, they did not see many templates available from other companies to draw from. Due to this, they decided to make theirs available for other companies who may want to implement similar pro-family policies for their employees.

He invited viewers to visit ascensionpress.com/familyleave to see its policies.

“Hopefully that helps some other organizations to adopt these a little bit quicker,” he said.


Europe:     Azerbaijan unleashes military strikes against Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenians protest to urge the government to respond to the Azerbaijani military operation launched against the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region outside the government building in central Yerevan on Sept. 19, 2023. / Credit: Karenn Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2023 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Azerbaijan unleashed military strikes against an enclave of about 120,000 Armenian Christians in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday, shelling buildings and firing on Armenian military and civilian positions. 

The Azeri government on Tuesday called their strikes “anti-terror measures” against “illegal Armenian military formations.” Azerbaijan said the attacks will not stop until the ethnic Armenians’ total surrender. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1988. Today the region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, though it is made up almost entirely of Armenian Christians. The ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh deny Azeri control of the region and claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the “Republic of Artsakh.” 

The breakaway state’s “Artsakh Defense Forces” have been reporting Azeri small-arms attacks on ethnic Armenian military and civilians for months.  

The attacks appeared to escalate on Tuesday with the Azeri military unleashing artillery and mortar strikes on both military and civilian positions. 

Shelling continued through Tuesday, resulting in 23 civilian injuries and two deaths, including one child, according to the Artsakh Defense Forces. 

“The situation is horrible,” former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardenyan told EWTN in a video message. “We have a lot of civilians killed by the Azeri army. We have a lot of people injured. The operation started in the morning and has not stopped yet.” 

Vardenyan went on to urge the international community to demand action in defense of the Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

“The Christian world needs to realize this is unacceptable,” Vardenyan said. “I believe that only together we can stop this war.” 

Artsakh foreign minister Sergey Ghazaryan decried Azerbaijan’s advances, saying in a Tuesday X statement: “We are witnessing how Azerbaijan, in order to implement its policy of genocide, is moving towards the physical destruction of the civilian population and the destruction of civilian objects of Artsakh.”

Eastern European news source Visegrád 24 reported on Tuesday that “large-scale fighting has just started in Nagorno-Karabakh” and that “artillery and suicide drones are in action by both sides.” 

According to Visegrád 24, it is “possible that another war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is starting in front of our eyes.” 

Why are they fighting? 

Though some see the conflict as strictly over borders, experts have emphasized that religion also plays a central part in the war between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan.

According to Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Armenia wants to retain its influence in Artsakh, while Azerbaijan wants to expel the Armenian Christian population to solidify its hold on the region. 

In 2020, with the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan reignited the long-simmering conflict by invading Nagorno-Karabakh. A six-week conflict ended in Azerbaijan seizing control of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The war killed 6,800 combatants, displaced 90,000 people, and left approximately 120,000 Armenian Christians cut off from the rest of Armenia. A narrow road less than four miles long, called the Lachin Corridor, connects Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and is the only way to get food and supplies to the Armenians living there.

In December 2022 pro-government Azerbaijanis, ostensibly protesting Armenian environmental violations, began blockading the Lachin Corridor, cutting off all access to aid. In April, the protests ended after Azerbaijani troops, defying warnings from the international community, established a military checkpoint on the road, continuing the blockade.

Since December the Christian Armenians have been trapped, without food or medicine, behind the Lachin Corridor blockade. 

What is the latest? 

This week’s escalation shows the first indications of large-scale outright military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020. 

According to multiple sources on the ground, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital city of Stepanekert has taken heavy shelling. 

The Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Tuesday: “Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive against the Republic of Artsakh. At this moment the capital Stepanakert and other cities and villages are under heavy shelling.” 

Robert Nicholson, president of the human rights group the Philos Project, said on Tuesday that “Azerbaijan has finally launched the war intended to erase Armenians from #NagornoKarabakh — and with Russian and Turkish permission.” 

Brownback said: “I denounce in the strongest possible terms this unprovoked attack by Azerbaijan on the peaceful Armenian Christians of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)! This is wrong. It is an attack on civilians and it must cease immediately.” 

Azerbaijan justifies actions as ‘anti-terrorist operations’ 

For its part, Azerbaijan has denied targeting civilians and has labeled its activity in Nagorno-Karabakh “anti-terrorist operations.” 

In a Tuesday press release, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense said: “Local anti-terrorist activities carried out by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan are ongoing.”

“As part of the activities,” the release went on, “only legitimate military installations and infrastructure are targeted and incapacitated using high-precision weapons.” 

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of deploying armed forces to help ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and warned civilians to not interfere.

“Considering the deployment of firepower by Armenia’s armed forces formations near residential areas, we urge the civilian population to stay away from military facilities and not support the formations of Armenia’s armed forces,” the Azeri release said.

The Azeri Defense Ministry also said that it is encouraging Nagorno-Karabakh residents to evacuate danger zones and relocate to “reception stations” they have established in the Lachin Corridor. 

“Humanitarian corridors and reception stations have been created on the Lachin road and in other directions to ensure the evacuation of the population from the danger zone,” the release said. 

Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a humanitarian aid group, called this a tactic to cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh of Armenian Christians. 

“As it bombs civilian areas,” CSI said, “Azerbaijan is texting people in Nagorno-Karabakh, telling them to leave through the Lachin Corridor. The same road they’ve been blocking for nine months to starve the population, they’ve now opened for people to leave through. The goal is the same: to empty Karabakh of Armenians.”

How has Armenia responded? 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has denied Armenian military involvement and despite the ongoing Azeri attacks has refused to respond militarily. 

Open Caucasus Media (OC Media), reported Pashinyan saying on Tuesday: “I want to go on record that the Republic of Armenia is not involved in military operations, and I want to go on the record once again that the Republic of Armenia does not have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh.” 

“At this moment, we should not carry out any unplanned, drastic action, any adventurous action,” Pashinyan added, according to OC Media. 

The Armenian prime minister’s refusal to become involved has caused significant unrest among the Armenian populace. 

Video taken outside Armenia’s capitol building shows outraged Armenian citizens attempting to storm the capitol building. 

Pashinyan reportedly had a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. 

According to OC Media, Macron informed Pashinyan that France called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a statement on X that said: “Azerbaijan’s brazen assault on Nagorno-Karabakh further proves [Azeri President Ilham] Aliyev’s malicious intention to wipe out the Armenian population there. The U.S. and international community must act.”


Vatican:     Rupnik’s victims say Diocese of Rome’s statement ‘ridicules’ their pain
Father Marko Rupnik. / Credit: Screen shot/ACI Prensa

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Victims of Father Marko Rupnik’s alleged spiritual and sexual abuse on Tuesday expressed “bewilderment” with the Diocese of Rome’s recent statement praising the art and theology center founded by the former Jesuit artist, saying that it “ridicules victims’ pain” and shows little care for those seeking justice.

In an open letter published on Sept. 19, former members of the Slovenian religious community Rupnik is accused of abusing said they were “left speechless” by the diocese’s concluding report on its canonical investigation of the Aletti Center, an art and theology school in Rome where Rupnik lived and served as the director from 1995 to 2020.

The diocese described the Aletti Center — where Rupnik has been accused of engaging in sex acts with consecrated women — as currently having “a healthy community life … that is free of particular serious issues” and added that the investigation raised “doubts” about the procedures that led to Rupnik’s excommunication.

“This report …. which exonerates Rupnik of any responsibility, ridicules the pain of the victims, but also of the whole Church, mortally wounded by such blatant hubris,” the open letter said.

The letter was signed by Fabrizia Raguso and other former sisters of the Loyola Community, a Slovenian community co-founded by Rupnik and Sister Ivanka Hosta. The letter was posted to the website Italy Church Too, an online platform for victims of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis meets Maria Campatelli, director of the Aletti Center, at the Vatican on Sept. 15, 2023. The Aletti Center was founded in Rome by the former Jesuit priest Father Marko Rupnik. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets Maria Campatelli, director of the Aletti Center, at the Vatican on Sept. 15, 2023. The Aletti Center was founded in Rome by the former Jesuit priest Father Marko Rupnik. Credit: Vatican Media

The women said that Pope Francis’ recent meeting with Maria Campatelli, the current director of the Aletti Center and a close collaborator of Rupnik, further caused them pain because the pope never responded to letters from members and former members of the Loyola Community. 

“That meeting granted by the pope to Campatelli in such a friendly atmosphere was thrown in the faces of the victims (these and all victims of abuse); a meeting that the pope denied them,” the open letter said.

“The victims are left with a voiceless cry of new abuse,” it added.

Rupnik was dismissed by the Jesuits in June after having been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse spanning more than three decades.  

The Diocese of Rome announced on Sept. 18 that a canonical investigation into the Aletti Center conducted by Monsignor Giacomo Incitti, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, had concluded and cleared the community of having any serious problems.

Last year, a woman claimed in an interview with the Italian newspaper Domani that Rupnik had previously abused her in his room at the Aletti Center in Rome when she was a religious sister.

The statement released by the diocese said that the visitation was “able to ascertain that the members of the Aletti Center, although saddened by the accusations received and the ways in which they were handled, chose to maintain silence — despite the vehemence of the media — to guard their hearts and not claim some blamelessness with which to stand as judge of others.”

It said that the investigation also had examined the main accusations against Rupnik and the procedures behind his excommunication.

Rupnik previously received an automatic, or “latae sententiae,” excommunication for hearing the confession and then attempting to grant absolution to a woman with whom he had sexual relations. The Jesuits’ internal investigation confirmed Rupnik’s excommunication in January 2020, which was lifted in May 2020 after Rupnik repented of the canonical crime.

According to the Diocese of Rome, the visitation identified “gravely irregular procedures” that “generated well-founded doubts about even the request for excommunication itself.”

In light of these “doubts,” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of the Diocese of Rome, submitted the report to Church authorities.

The announcement from the Rome Diocese came days after Pope Francis met with Campatelli, the director of the Aletti Center, who published a letter in June defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations” and claiming the Jesuits had withheld documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

In the letter posted to the Aletti Center website on June 17, two days after the public announcement of Rupnik’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus, Campatelli accused the Jesuit order of withholding information from the media, including documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

She said that Rupnik had in January requested to leave the Jesuits after losing trust in his superiors for favoring “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Father Rupnik and the Aletti Center to forms of lynching).” She also said other Jesuits who are part of the Aletti Center had put in requests to leave the religious order.

The canonical visitation of the Aletti Center took place between Jan.16 and June 23, and included community meetings and interviews with members of the center. 


US:     U.S. bishops urge ‘radical solidarity’ with mothers for Respect Life Month
null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The United States Catholic bishops are calling on the faithful to embrace “radical solidarity” with mothers who are facing difficult or challenging pregnancies this October, which the Church in the United States has observed as “Respect Life Month” since 1973.

Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge, the chairman of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, echoed St. John Paul II’s call for “radical solidarity,” which means, according to the bishop, “putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own.”

“This new mindset requires that we come alongside vulnerable mothers in profound friendship, compassion, and support for both them and their preborn children,” Burbidge wrote in a statement to Catholics for the 50th anniversary of Respect Life Month. 

“It means addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child God has entrusted to her,” Burbidge continued. “This includes collective efforts within our dioceses, parishes, schools, and local communities; engagement in the public square; and pursuit of policies that help support both women and their preborn babies. It all the more so requires our individual, personal commitment to helping mothers in our own communities secure material, emotional, and spiritual support for embracing the gift of life.”

“Radical solidarity,” the bishop said, “means moving beyond the status quo and out of our comfort zones.”

The statement cites Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which says solidarity “presumes the creation of a new mindset” and does not simply refer to “a few sporadic acts of generosity.”

Burbidge added that although “ending legalized abortion remains our preeminent priority,” it is not enough. Rather, he stressed that “the most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with lifegiving support and personal accompaniment.”

The statement encourages Catholics to ask themselves whether they know of efforts in their area to help women who are pregnant or parenting in difficult circumstances, what their gifts and talents are, and how they can adjust their schedule or budget to help mothers in need and their children. It references the “Walking with Moms in Need” parish-based initiatives, which help parishes become welcoming places for mothers facing difficulties, as a possible option to get involved. 

“Radical solidarity can be lived out in countless ways, including volunteering at your local pregnancy center; helping an expectant mother find stable housing; babysitting so a mom can work or take classes; providing encouragement and a listening ear to a mom without a support system; or speaking to your pastor about beginning Walking with Moms in Need at your parish,” Burbidge said. 

The statement emphasizes that “the transformation of our culture also requires continual conversion of our own hearts, so that we can recognize in every person the face of Christ and place their needs before our own” and that this must be a focus, in addition to promoting pro-life laws and policies. 

“This October, I invite all Catholics to think about building a culture of life in terms of radical solidarity,” Burbidge said. “We are the Church. Our prayers, witness, sacrifices, advocacy, and good works are needed now more than ever. We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world today and we each have a personal responsibility to care for one another.”


Vatican:     Pope Francis accepts resignation of two Chicago auxiliary bishops
Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Ill., mother church of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Credit: Edlane De Mattos/Shutterstock. / null

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of two auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Chicago: Andrew P. Wypych and Joseph N. Perry.

Bishop Perry turned 75 in April. At age 75, Catholic bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope, who chooses whether and when to accept it.

The reason for 68-year-old Wypych’s early resignation was not given. The Polish-born priest moved to Chicago in 1983 to be close to his mother, who had immigrated to the United States nine years prior after the death of Wypych’s father.

In a 2011 interview with Catholic New World, Wypych said the first years of his priesthood he couldn’t speak with his mother except by letter “because telephone connections between Poland and the United States were prohibited by the communist government.”

Born in Kazimierza Wielka, Poland, Wypych grew up as an only child after the death of his younger brother, Robert, in infancy.

He was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1989 to help minister to the Polish Catholic community in the city.

Wypych had been ordained a deacon by Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow just before the latter became Pope John Paul II. He was ordained a priest in 1979.

In 2011, Wypych was named an auxiliary bishop of Chicago. He served as episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s Vicariate V. He was also national executive director of the Catholic League for Religious Assistance to Poland and Polonia since 2011.

Perry, episcopal vicar of Chicago’s Vicariate VI, was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1998.

Born in Chicago, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1975.

Perry has a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. From 2004, he was vice president of the board of the Black Catholic Congress and chairman of the USCCB committee on African American Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Chicago serves approximately 2.2 million Catholics. It is led by Cardinal Blase Cupich assisted by six auxiliary bishops.


Europe:     Blood of St. Januarius ‘completely liquefied’ on feast day
Archbishop Domenico Battaglia holds up the reliquary with the liquefied blood of St. Januarius on the martyr bishop's feast day Sept. 19, 2023. The announcement that the blood had liquefied was made at the start of Mass in the Naples Cathedral by Abbot Vincenzo De Gregorio. / Screenshot / YouTube channel Chiesa di Napoli

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 06:10 am (CNA).

The blood of the martyr St. Januarius again liquefied in Naples on Tuesday.

“We have just taken from the safe the reliquary with the blood of our patron saint, which immediately completely liquefied,” the abbot of the chapel of the treasury of the Naples Cathedral announced on Sept. 19.

The declaration that the miracle had again taken place was made at the start of Mass by Abbot Vincenzo De Gregorio.

The archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia, held the relic of the blood, moving the glass ampoules to demonstrate the liquid state of the blood to the sounds of strong applause, while the deputy of the wisdom of the people waved a white cloth.

On Sept. 19, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Januarius, bishop, martyr, and patron saint of Naples, Italy. Traditionally, on this day and on two other occasions a year, his blood, which is kept in a glass ampoule in the shape of a rounded cruet, liquifies.

It is believed the miracle has taken place since at least 1389, the first instance on record.

The liquefaction process sometimes takes hours or even days, and sometimes it does not happen at all. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disaster.

At Mass Sept. 19, Battaglia spoke about the miracle and what it is — and is not.

“Every year we see firsthand how the witness of a man who generously gave his life for the Gospel, until his last breath, until his last drop of blood, is not something of the past, a historic event useful only to write about in some pages of a book,” he said.

“No,” Battaglia continued, “it’s a testimony that is present, living, current, and capable of speaking to the heart of every believer, pushing him to more consistency, beyond courage, to a life of giving, steeped in sharing.”

He reminded those present that the blood of St. Januarius “is not an oracle to consult and even less a city horoscope whose function is to predict misfortune or fortune for the city. No, the relic we bless is simply a road sign, a finger that points us to the necessity, the urgency, the requirement to follow the Gospel in a radical way, being unreservedly attracted by its liberating beauty, listening with an open heart and mind to its word of life and hope.”

Battaglia said the blood of St. Januarius makes him think of the unjust bloodshed that happens every day “whenever a person is wounded, humiliated, not respected in his dignity.”

“I believe that the real miracle will take place the day this blood [of St. Januarius] is forever hard, compact, clotted!” the archbishop said. ”Yes, I believe that the real miracle will happen when justice kisses peace, when good overpowers evil forever, when the good news of Jesus Christ dries up the pain of the world, illuminates the darkness for good, brings all things to completion, enters so deeply into the hearts of men and women that their words, their deeds, their thoughts will be nothing but goodness, benevolence, beauty.”

After the Mass, the relic of St. Januarius’ blood will remain on display for veneration in the Cathedral of Naples until Sept. 26 in thanksgiving for the miracle.


Americas:     Sin is a ‘suicidal act’ and always has social consequences, Peru archbishop warns
Archbishop José Antonio Eguren of Piura, Peru. / Credit: Archbishopric of Piura

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 18, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

The archbishop of Piura in northern Peru, José Antonio Eguren, explained in a recent homily that sin is “a suicidal act” and warned that it always has consequences.

In his Sunday Mass sermon at the Piura cathedral, the Peruvian prelate said that “sin seeks to plunge us into spiritual death and unhappiness and is ultimately a suicidal act because through it, the human being rejects God-love, his beginning and foundation, his origin and his end.”

Eguren stressed that “every sin, no matter how personal and intimate it may seem, always has social consequences and increases the forces of death and destruction in the world, what we call the ‘mysterium iniquitatis’ (mystery of iniquity), which cannot be understood without reference to the mystery of redemption, to the ‘mysterium paschale’ (paschal mystery) of Jesus Christ.”

The archbishop emphasized that “without God, the human being fades away, he doesn’t understand himself, he sinks into the existential lie, believing himself to be what he is not, unleashing within him a series of conflicts and contradictions, which he then projects negatively onto others, to his social life, and even to creation.”

In this way, “alienated from God and from himself, sin also inevitably causes a rupture in man’s relationships with his brothers and with the created world. Not for nothing, after the original sin, the next sin that the book of Genesis narrates is fratricide: Cain, who kills his brother Abel out of envy” (Gn 4:8).

Eguren noted that “one of the great evils of our time is to have lost the sense of sin” and that the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (No. 1849).

St. Augustine defined it as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

The prelate noted that “the evil and damage that sin produces is of such magnitude that, to save us from it, and to attain the wonderful gift of reconciliation with God, with ourselves, with our human brothers, and with creation, the Son of God had to become incarnate, die on the cross, and rise gloriously.”


After stressing that God is always willing to forgive because of his immense mercy, the archbishop of Piura pointed out the need to forgive others and not hold grudges, nor have desires for hatred or revenge.

In Sunday’s Gospel, to the question that Peter asks Jesus about how many times he should forgive, the Lord tells him: “I say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22).

Since for the Jews seven meant perfection or fullness, with his response Christ encourages us to forgive always and without limitations.

“May Holy Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to be increasingly aware of the gratuity of the greatness of forgiveness received from God, so that we may be merciful like the Father, and like his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, mercy incarnate,” he concluded.

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


Americas:     Bishops of Panama: Catholics must not attend SSPX Masses
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. / Credit: Antonisse, Marcel/Anefo (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL)

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 18, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Panamanian Bishops’ Conference has published a communiqué stating that the Catholic faithful should not attend the services of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX or SSPX), whose members are known as Lefebvrists.

In the Sept. 14 statement, posted on X Sept. 16 by the Archdiocese of Panama, the bishops wrote: “We notify the people of God that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, so the Catholic faithful must refrain from attending its services.”

“As for the sacraments administered at their services, the faithful are reminded that to administer sacraments the approval of the bishop or the ecclesial authority is required; and by not having it, these are illicit,” the conference added.

Lefebvre died in a state of excommunication in 1991 for consecrating four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II. Lefebvre founded the FSSPX as a response to what he considered to be errors that had infiltrated the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council.

In the context of the dialogue between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre in 1988: Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta.

Despite the Holy See’s efforts at dialogue and the society’s refusal to recognize ecclesiastical documents — especially from the Second Vatican Council — the Lefebvrists do not have a recognized status in the Catholic Church.

Traditionis Custodes and the Traditional Latin Mass

The Panamanian bishops clarified: “As for the celebration of the Mass in Latin, we communicate that it is not prohibited in the Catholic Church, but it must be approved by the bishops (Traditiones Custodes, 2) and the use of the Vetus Ordo [Mass in Latin that was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council] can only be authorized by the Holy See.”

The Vatican published the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”) by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021. The text almost completely restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (extraordinary form) or Tridentine rite of the 1962 Missal.

With this document, the Holy Father changed the provisions given by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, which led to the Traditional Latin Mass becoming more widely available.

Traditionis Custodes establishes that the local bishop is the one who authorizes the celebration of the Eucharist with the 1962 Missal. If the priest asking for permission was ordained after the publication of the motu proprio, then it is the Vatican that must give authorization.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary beginning in 2003, stated in his memoirs that for the late pontiff, Traditionis Custodes was “a mistake” and that he read the text “with pain in his heart.”

In their statement, the bishops of Panama also reminded that “the celebration of sacraments in places not authorized by the bishop is prohibited.”

The prelates also called on “all the Catholic faithful to value the richness of the current liturgy, enriched by the expression of the people of God, through their own language, as requested by the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council and as the universal Church celebrates every day around the world.”

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


US:     Catholic imagery doesn’t belong in pro-abortion Ohio campaign ad, critics say
Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons 4.0

Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).

A campaign ad for Ohio’s pro-abortion ballot measure Issue 1 wrongly used a Catholic image of Jesus Christ, several Catholic commentators say.

The newly released 30-second video ad from Issue 1 backer Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights shows a montage of people in various contexts, including a man kneeling in prayer in what appears to be a Catholic church. A divine mercy image of Jesus Christ hangs on the wall in the background.

“The ad describing Issue 1 dangerously misrepresents the proposed amendment and how the Catholic Church accompanies pregnant women in need,” Michelle Duffey, associate director for communications and outreach at the Ohio Catholic Conference, told CNA Sept. 18.

Issue 1, on the Ohio ballot this November, would amend the state constitution’s Bill of Rights to add a right to “reproductive freedom.” It would create an individual right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”

Critics say the measure will strip all rights from the unborn child, allow abortion throughout pregnancy, eliminate safety regulations for abortion clinics, and end mandatory parental consent for minor children’s abortions or other health decisions.

As the montage changes, the ad says: “When we face personal medical decisions, we depend on our doctors, our faith, our family, and the last thing we want is the government making those decisions for us.”

The ad says the passage of Issue 1 would end “Ohio’s extreme abortion ban,” protect birth control and “emergency care for miscarriages.” The proposal protects freedom and means Ohio families will always have “the freedom to make the most personal of decisions.”

Duffey said the ad “nearly tells the truth” in showing a man in prayer while narrating how people depend on faith when pregnant and dealing with uncertainty.

“A woman can confidently rely on the Catholic Church to walk with her through pregnancy, support her material needs, and accompany her and her child after birth,” Duffey said.

Brian Hickey, executive director of the Ohio Catholic Conference, challenged the assumptions of the ad.

“Ohio cannot accept a definition of freedom that perpetuates a throwaway culture of only cherishing people as long as they are useful,” he said. “The Catholic Church has always advocated for and acted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including the indigent, migrants, and preborn children in the womb.”

“We will continue to do so by explaining the harms Issue 1 pose to women, parents, and babies with Catholics and all people of goodwill across Ohio and encourage a no vote on this egregious proposal,” Hickey said. “Ohioans deserve just laws that provide expansive resources and accompaniment to mothers and young families, not proposals like Issue 1, which does nothing to support women.”

CNA sought comment from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights but did not receive a response by publication.

The group’s website lists dozens of groups that have endorsed Issue 1, including labor unions, LGBT groups, feminist groups, and medical leaders’ groups.

Among the endorsers is Catholics for Choice, whose claim to Catholic identity has long been rejected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It drew criticism in January 2022 for projecting abortion advocacy messages onto the outside of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., while Catholics attended a pro-life prayer vigil inside. 

Other religious groups endorsing Ohio’s Issue 1 are the United Church of Christ and its regional conference, a Unitarian Universalist group, six Jewish groups, Faith in Public Life, Faith Choice Ohio, and the InterReligious Task Force on Central America.

Ohio currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. The state Supreme Court is set to consider whether to reinstate a heartbeat-based abortion ban that bars abortion after six weeks into pregnancy, which a judge blocked earlier this year, WTVG News reported.


US:     Donald Trump calls 6-week abortion ban a ‘terrible mistake’ 
Former President Trump addresses attendees at CPAC 2020. / Credit: Valerio Pucci/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

Pro-life leaders condemned President Donald Trump for calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake” during a Saturday NBC interview. 

Trump made the comments in reference to Florida’s six-week Heartbeat Protection Act abortion ban signed by his chief opponent in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

During Trump’s more than hourlong interview with Kristen Welker, he said: “DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban” and “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” 

“This is politically stupid,” Shawn Carney, founder and president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA. “No liberal will now vote for Trump because he’s less pro-life.” 

Though Carney said that “Trump is accurately labeled as the most pro-life president ever, by far,” he “continues to alienate those who elected him and shrink his base.” 

Carney, a Catholic, also added that “many pro-life Catholics were hesitant to vote for Trump in 2016 but the death of Justice [Antonin] Scalia and the importance of the court pushed them to give Trump a chance. It paid off greatly with the overturning of Roe but instead of bragging about his record, Trump has treated being pro-life as if it’s something we need to apologize for.”

“This is a loser disposition heading into the 2024 general election,” Carney said. 

Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action and a prominent Catholic and pro-lifer, called Trump’s take “pathetic and unacceptable.”

“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning,” Rose said Sunday on X. 

“Heartbeat [six-week] laws have saved thousands of babies,” she posted. “But Trump wants to compromise on babies’ lives so pro-abort Dems ‘like him.’”

Rose, who has previously expressed support for DeSantis, went so far as to say that “Trump should not be the GOP nominee.”

What did Trump say?

After calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake,” Trump went on to say that he would focus on reaching a consensus between Republicans and Democrats on abortion. 

Asked at what point of pregnancy he would ban abortion, Trump said: “We’ll come up with a number, but at the same time Democrats won’t be able to come in at six months, seven months, eight months and allow an abortion.” 

The interview, which covered a wide range of topics, included a 10-minute segment on abortion. 

During the segment, Welker asked: “How is it acceptable in America that women’s lives are at risk, doctors are being forced to turn away patients in need or risk breaking the law?” 

“I did something that nobody thought was possible and Roe v. Wade was terminated, it was put back to the states. Now, people, pro-lifers have the right to negotiate for the first time, they have no rights at all,” Trump responded. “The radical people on this are really the Democrats that say that after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months, and even after birth, you’re allowed to terminate the baby.” 

When asked whether as president he would sign a national abortion ban, Trump said: “I’m going to come together with all groups and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable.”

Pressed further, Trump refused to say whether or not he would sign a 15-week abortion ban into law. 

“I’m not going to say I would or I wouldn’t,” Trump said. “I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something and we’ll have peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”  

Though saying that “we will agree to a number of weeks where both sides will be happy” and that “we have to bring the country together on this issue,” Trump also said “I frankly do not care” when asked if abortion should be a national or exclusively a states issue. 

“Everybody, including the great legal scholars, love the idea of Roe v. Wade terminated so that it can be brought back to the states,” Trump said. “From a pure standpoint, from a legal standpoint, I believe it is probably much better, but I can live with it either way, the number of weeks is much more important.” 

Trump also noted that abortion bans should include exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother. He did not answer whether he believes an unborn child, referred to during the interview as simply a “fetus,” has constitutional rights. 

Trump’s campaign did not respond to CNA’s request for clarification. 

What do pro-lifers have to say? 

Matt Walsh, a Catholic podcaster with the Daily Wire, said in Monday X post that Trump’s take is an “awful answer from a moral perspective.” 

“There is nothing terrible about stopping the satanic abortion industry from mass murdering human children,” Walsh said. 

“You can’t win over Democrats by going squishy on this issue. Republicans have tried that brilliant strategy for decades and accomplished exactly nothing by it,” he went on. “Defend life clearly and powerfully and unequivocally. That’s the only way.” 

Harry Scherer, a representative for Americans United for Life, told CNA that “we owe protection to preborn Americans at every stage of gestation.”

Scherer categorically said: “Americans United for Life is proud to stand with pro-life governors and legislators enacting lifesaving legislation in their jurisdictions.”

Though many pro-life advocates condemned Trump’s latest abortion take, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told CNA that the former president’s stance is rooted in the difficult political landscape currently surrounding abortion.

“The most prudent course going forward is to choose restrictions, which most favor, and then try to persuade the public to opt for further restrictions the next time this issue is put to a vote,” Donohue asserted. 

“It appears that this is what Trump may be getting at,” Donohue said. 

“What makes no sense is to allow the pro-abortion side to appear as though they are not the real extremists,” Donohue went on. 

“Most Americans want some restrictions on abortion, but when they are perceived as being too tight, they reject them,” Donohue said. “Ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned, states that are at least welcome to the pro-life message have drafted laws that have failed with voters in most instances, and that is because they are considered to be too restrictive.”

Erin Hawley, vice president of the Center for Life and Regulatory Practice with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that “we support Florida’s efforts to enact its law protecting unborn babies the moment their hearts begin to beat, as well as numerous state efforts across the country that protect unborn life as much as possible and provide real support for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.” 

“All life is valuable and deserves to be protected,” Hawley said. 

In a Sunday post on X, Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said that “governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked.” 

“Laws protecting the unborn are not a ‘terrible mistake.’ They are the hallmark of a just and moral society,” Waggoner added.

What is the current law? 

Abortion is fully banned in 14 states, according to data collected by Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Currently, all total abortion bans on the state level include exceptions for cases of preserving the life of the mother. 

Additionally, 11 other states have varying levels of restrictions ranging from six-week bans, as in Georgia, to 20-week bans, as in Iowa.

The six-week ban signed by DeSantis and referenced by Trump during his NBC interview is currently blocked. Current active Florida law bans abortion after 15 weeks. 


US:     Pope Francis says ‘no to war,’ urges climate action in livestreamed chat with Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton and Pope Francis have a virtual conversation during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting at the Hilton Midtown on Sept. 18, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

During a conversation with former President Bill Clinton, Pope Francis urged stronger action on climate change, called for diplomacy instead of war, promoted greater health care access for children, and highlighted the crises facing migrants and refugees.

“It is important to spread a culture of encounter, a culture of dialogue, a culture of listening and of understanding,” Pope Francis said on Monday morning, appearing virtually at the Clinton Foundation’s 2023 Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

Pope Francis was the first of several guests to address the audience at the event in New York City, which was focused on various humanitarian efforts taken up by the nonprofit. The foundation played a video that showed the pope’s involvement with Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, which is under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, before the former president asked him to “say what you believe about the obligation of ordinary people to make a difference” in society.

“It is necessary to share thoughts on how to contribute to the common good and how not to leave behind the most vulnerable people, such as children who, through the Bambino Gesù Foundation, are at the root of our meeting,” Pope Francis said.

During the conversation, the pope called for action on what he called “the ecological catastrophe” of climate change “before it’s too late.” He said people must take action “while there’s still time” and explained that this is the reason he is writing a new document to follow up on his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’.

Pope Francis also lamented the “wind of war that blows around the world,” adding that “we are in need of a great and shared assumption of responsibility.”

“It is time for weapons to cease and for us to return to dialogue, to diplomacy,” the pope stressed. “Let the designs of conquest and military aggressions cease. That is why I repeat: no to war; no to war.”

When considering the struggles of refugees and migrants, Pope Francis emphasized the need to talk about them as people, “men, women, and children,” and not simply think about them as numbers. He said people must think of “the eyes of the children we’ve seen in refugee camps.”

Pope Francis also commented on the work of the Bambino Gesù hospital, which he said “cannot solve the problems of all the children in the world; however, it seeks to be a sign, a testimony that it is possible through many struggles to bring together great scientific research geared toward children and the free welcoming of people in need.”

“In these terrible months marked by war, [the hospital] has treated more than 2,000 young patients from Ukraine who fled their country with their parents and relatives,” Pope Francis said.

The pope said that in the field of health, “the first and most concrete form of charity is science, the capacity to heal, which however must be accessible to all.” He referred to the hospital as a “concrete sign of charity and mercy of the Church.”

“There are illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are no children who cannot be cared for,” Pope Francis said.

The pontiff encouraged men and women to help each other when difficulties arise.

“Difficulties are part of life, and the best way to deal with them is to always seek the common good: never alone, always together,” Pope Francis said. “Difficulties can bring out the best or the worst in us. Therein lies our challenge: fighting selfishness, narcissism, division, with generosity and humility: better unity than conflict.”

Clinton thanked Pope Francis for addressing the meeting and “for saying something that I hope will mean something for every person.” He said one of the most difficult things in public life is “to convince every person that he or she has a role to play,”

“I think you make us all feel empowered and perhaps that is your greatest power as the pope,” Clinton said. “That you make everybody, even people who aren’t members of the Roman Catholic Church, feel that they have power and therefore that they have responsibility.”

The Clinton Global Initiative meeting began on Monday, Sept. 18, and will continue through Tuesday, Sept. 19.


US:     Bishop Robert Barron speaks at Harvard University: ‘The glory of God is man fully alive!’
Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron, with Deacon Tim O'Donnell to his left, answers questions from the crowd following his lecture "The Catholic Intellectual Tradition" on Harvard University's campus on Sept. 17, 2023. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sep 18, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Addressing a packed audience of approximately 1,000 on the campus of Harvard University on Sunday, Bishop Robert Barron offered those in attendance a window into the “Catholic intellectual tradition” by emphatically proclaiming: “The glory of God is man fully alive!”

The founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, Barron is one of the most outspoken American prelates against the errors of “secularism” and its ever-increasing presence in Western society. Harvard, the first college established in the American colonies, was originally founded to train and educate Puritan clergy members in the New World and is completely secular today.

Barron said in his lecture that secularism is a reaction to what others perceive as a “threatening God” but said that “the world is most itself when it has found a relationship to the supreme good, which is God.”

Barron, who serves as bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, spoke at the school’s Memorial Church, an interdenominational Protestant church dedicated in 1932.

Deacon Tim O’Donnell, executive director of the Harvard Catholic Forum — which co-sponsored the event along with the Harvard Catholic Center — told CNA that “Harvard’s church” was the chosen destination for the lecture because it would attract “more non-Catholics, seekers, and inquirers” than St. Paul’s Parish, the Catholic church where Barron celebrated Mass and offered a homily earlier in the day.

Memorial Church, he said, is better suited for the spoken word and also has a larger capacity. What’s more, its location was highly symbolic.

“We wanted to place Bishop Barron’s message about the Catholic intellectual tradition right in the center of the secular university, and in the center of Harvard in particular,” O’Donnell said.

Barron began his talk by saying that the “most fundamental claim” of the Catholic intellectual tradition is that “Jesus Christ is epistemically basic.”

In other words, Barron said, Jesus Christ is the “privileged lens through which the whole of reality is read.”

That claim is not “imperialistic,” as some may think, he said. Every intellectual system establishes an idea as epistemically (related to knowledge or the study of knowledge) basic, he added. 

“What I mean is that he’s not presented to us as simply one prophet among many, one religious spokesperson among many,” he said.

“Rather, we hear that he is the Word. He is Logos,” Barron said, adding that “the various sciences and perspectives have to be read from the standpoint of the Logos.”

Looking through the lens of Jesus, some aspects of life are seen “more clearly” such as God, humanity, and creation, he said. 

God is not competing with the world, as was made evident when he took on human form, Barron explained.

“God and a creature come together in such a way that neither one is compromised. How’s that possible? It’s possible only if God is not a competitive being among many,” he said.

“God is the sheer act of ‘to be’ itself,” he proclaimed.

Barron said that the closer God comes to humanity, “the more alive we are, the more ourselves we are.”

Barron pointed to the prophet Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush as an example. 

“How does Moses see God but in this great image of the burning bush, which is on fire but not consumed? The closer God gets to creation, the more luminous and beautiful it becomes without being consumed,” he said.

Offering what he called a “bold claim,” Barron said: “There is no humanism anywhere, East or West, anywhere across the ages, greater than Christian theology.”

Barron said that “divine freedom can come intimately close to human freedom and not compromise it, not crush it.”

Distinguishing between two views of freedom, Barron said the “modern sense” is that “freedom is fundamentally indifference in the face of the yes and the no.”

But in the “biblical sense,” freedom is “the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and then effortless.”

Barron told the crowd that his talk could be summed up in the simple words of one of his heroes, the second-century bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

“That’s a God who glories in our being fully human,” he said.

Speaking on creation, Barron said that anything that exists apart from God has come “fully and utterly from God.”

If everything comes from God, it must “be marked” by “intelligible form,” he said.

He said “this is precisely why the modern physical sciences emerged out of a Christian university matrix.”

“It’s the theological doctrine of creation which teaches this truth that we should expect finite reality in every detail to be marked by intelligibility that makes the sciences possible,” he said. 

Before answering several questions from the crowd, Barron concluded his lecture by saying that the Catholic intellectual tradition “stubbornly looks at God, the world, ourselves, and the way we organize our societies through the lens of Jesus Christ, and it sees them according to a divine light.”

Watch Bishop Barron's lecture at Harvard here:


US:     ‘This is the beginning’: Florida university system adopts Classic Learning Test
null / Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Prospective college students in Florida who want an alternative to the long-used SAT exams can now submit to a test that offers what its publishers call “foundational critical thinking skills” from a battery of classical subjects.

The State University System of Florida announced earlier this month that it had “voted to accept the Classic Learning Test (CLT) as a path to admission” in the schools that comprise its system.

“The system is pleased to add the CLT to reach a wider variety of students from different educational backgrounds,” the announcement said. “Not intimidated by controversy or critics, our focus is on the success of our students and the State of Florida.”

The CLT was launched in 2015 by Classic Learning Initiatives. The organization says on the test’s website that its exams “evaluate reading, grammar, and mathematics and provide a comprehensive measure of achievement and aptitude.”

The tests “emphasize foundational critical thinking skills and are accessible to students from a variety of educational backgrounds,” offering students what it calls “a more edifying testing experience” that “reflect a holistic education.”

Jeremy Tate, the founder of the test, told CNA in a phone interview that prior to launching the new testing initiative he worked extensively with standardized testing materials, including the SAT, which is published by the nonprofit College Board.

“My background was running an SAT/ACT prep company and working at a Catholic school,” said Tate, who is Catholic himself. “I really saw the influence of the College Board on this school in not-good ways, in some pretty negative ways.” 

“Most of what we did at the school for marketing — to get new students — almost all of it was connected to the College Board,” he said. “We were marketing on average SAT scores, AP (Advanced Placement) scores, on and on.”

The pervasive influence of standardized course material had a profound effect on student choices, Tate said. “So much so that when the Dominican sisters introduced an introductory course to philosophy, so many kids did not want to take it,” he said.

“The No. 1 explanation why: ‘Because it’s not any AP points.’”

The ‘A-ha!’ moment

Tate described that experience as revelatory. “It was this kind of ‘A-ha!’ moment,” he said. “Catholic kids in a Catholic school aren’t going to take philosophy because of the power and influence of the College Board?”

That dispiriting realization spurred Tate to found the CLT. The company offers a variety of testing levels for students incorporating a wide variety of subjects. Tests for third through sixth graders review “classic children’s literature, fables, poetry, historical nonfiction,” while the higher tests for middle schoolers through upper-level high schoolers focus on “verbal reasoning, grammar and writing, and quantitative reasoning.” 

Tate said that, far from merely measuring what students have learned, tests can play a major role in forming what students do learn. 

“​​We typically think of the SAT/PSAT as evaluative tools,” he said. “We argue that that’s true, but they’re also pedagogical tools. They teach.”

“If every kid knew that on the SAT or PSAT that they were going to see Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas, it would have a dramatic effect on the attention those thinkers get in the classroom as well,” he said. “Testing inevitably drives curriculum. What gets tested inevitably gets taught.”

A practice test on the initiative’s website includes material from Plato, Cicero, Thomas Jefferson, the German-Dutch Catholic priest Thomas à Kempis, and onetime U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, among other thinkers and writers.

After developing the test, the initiative distributed it at select schools in order to start quantifying the material. 

“You can’t have an actual standardized test until you have a ton of data,” Tate said. “We had an initial blueprint of the test and we went to colleges that we thought were missionally aligned and sympathetic. We submitted it to them to add as an additional option.”

Tate was unclear as to the exact details of the test’s acceptance by the Florida university system. “What I’ve been told is that it came directly from Ron DeSantis himself,” he said. “They wanted this to happen.”

For the test’s future, Tate said his team is five years into a 25-year goal “to be more important than the SAT/ACT.” 

“We believe we have better material and better technology,” he said. “I really think this is kind of the beginning of getting there.”


Europe:     Historic twin marches for life in Germany face disruptions and defiance
Participants at the March for Life in Cologne, Germany, Sept. 16, 2023. / Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch)

CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

For the first time in the history of the German March for Life, pro-life advocates in Germany simultaneously took to the streets of both Cologne and Berlin this past Saturday.

The dual marches, organized by the German pro-life group Bundesverband Lebensrecht, drew thousands and were met with both enthusiasm and confrontation as counterdemonstrators attempted to disrupt the events in one city.

In Cologne, the march on Sept. 16 drew more than 2,800 participants but faced significant disruptions from feminist and Antifa groups, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

In neighboring Switzerland, approximately 1,000 pro-life activists also took part in the March for Life in Zurich on Saturday. Swiss police were on site with a large contingent to protect the peaceful event against left-wing counterdemonstrators, Tagesanzeiger reported.

In Cologne, counterdemonstrators temporarily halted the march, leading to a two-hour standstill. Eventually, the organizers withdrew, escorted by police to the final rally point. The situation escalated when counterprotesters began dismantling pro-life event stands, with one incident resulting in an advocate being assaulted.

Police in Cologne struggle to protect pro-life protesters from counter-demonstrators at the March for Life in Germany on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch
Police in Cologne struggle to protect pro-life protesters from counter-demonstrators at the March for Life in Germany on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch

CNA Deutsch, reporting on the incident, also contacted authorities to provide further information and details after the alleged assault was published on social media.

Meanwhile, the Berlin march proceeded with fewer interruptions, attracting nearly 4,000 participants. Both events were linked via a live feed, amplifying their collective impact.

Catholic television station EWTN Germany provided streaming coverage of the dual marches, which were attended and supported by prominent German bishops.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg was among those present in Berlin, signaling the Church’s commitment to the cause. 

Thousands gather for the March for Life at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch
Thousands gather for the March for Life at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

Earlier in the week, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and participants for their “persistent commitment” to protecting life. Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg echoed these sentiments, stating: “The gift of life is the highest good; we are convinced of that as Christians.” 

Paul Cullen, chairman of the Doctors for Life association and a board member of Bundesverband Lebensrecht, criticized the counterdemonstrators for their “intolerance and narrow-mindedness towards the weakest.” He emphasized the need to “resist and defend medical freedom of conscience.”

Susanne Wenzel, the national chair of Christian Democrats for Life, warned of deteriorating legal conditions and urged attendees to engage with politicians. Sandra Sinder of Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle spoke about the emotional and financial insecurities that often lead women to consider abortion.

Nuns attend the March for Life in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch
Nuns attend the March for Life in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

The events also featured international pro-life activists from the Netherlands and Canada. Alex Schadenberg, founder and director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, highlighted that people usually opt for assisted suicide or euthanasia due to social isolation, poverty, and hopelessness rather than physical pain.

Despite the disruptions by radicals in Cologne, the twin marches marked a significant moment for the pro-life movement in Germany, demonstrating resilience and unity in the face of opposition. 

As the German Doctors for Life chairman Cullen said: “In Cologne, we want to send a signal for the fundamental human right to life, which precedes all other human rights and is therefore the most important of all.”


Middle East - Africa:     Franciscan friar in Syria becomes bishop of Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo 
The new Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syrian, after his episcopal ordination, Sept. 17, 2023. / Credit: Photo courtesy of TAWK CENTRE

Jerusalem, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:23 pm (CNA).

A new chapter has begun in the history of the Catholic Church in Syria. For the first time, one of its own sons has become bishop of the Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, in a country where “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). 

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, was ordained a bishop and took on the role of apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins. The apostolic vicar performs the same functions as a diocesan bishop but governs in a territory that, for specific reasons, has not yet been established as a diocese. 

Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, stands before the bishop as he is presented as a candidate for the episcopate, prior to being named apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, stands before the bishop as he is presented as a candidate for the episcopate, prior to being named apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

“I was not expecting this appointment,” the new bishop told CNA. “I was totally absorbed by all the commitments and difficulties we were facing after the earthquake. But the Lord decided to call me for another mission. I was hesitant to accept; it was hard for me to leave my people. I prayed, and I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘This people is my people, this flock is my flock, it is not yours. And I want you for another mission.’ So, after praying, I accepted my appointment.”

Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, lies prostrate during the Mass of episcopal ordination while the litany of saints is sung Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, lies prostrate during the Mass of episcopal ordination while the litany of saints is sung Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

Jallouf was born 71 years ago in Knayeh, a Christian village in the northwest part of Syria, in the province of Idlib, the last stronghold of anti-government Islamist rebels who have controlled the area since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. This land, already scarred by conflict, was one of the areas hardest hit by the violent earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey in February. It was here that Jallouf’s vocation was born. 

“In Syria, almost all the parishes are entrusted to the Franciscans. I grew up with them,” Jallouf told CNA. “In the third grade, I met Father Ibrahim Younes. I went with him to visit the sick, and I saw with how much love, courage, and tenderness he attended to their needs. So I said to myself: Why don’t I become a Franciscan as well?”

Jallouf joined the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, holding various positions before returning to Knayeh in 2001 as a parish priest. Since then, he has stayed put, becoming a point of reference for his people — not only for their immediate problems but also for keeping alive a faith and hope that war has sorely put to the test. He witnessed the outbreak of the conflict and the arrival of various groups of anti-government militants.

“At the beginning, it was a very bloody uprising. Many Christians were killed,” he said. “But our testimony as Christians changed everything. The Lord said, ‘Love your enemies.’ When the rebels saw that we didn‘t confront them with weapons, that we loved them despite everything they had done, then their behavior changed. In 2014, I was kidnapped and imprisoned. Today, they send a delegation to congratulate me on my appointment.”

The holy Mass for Jallouf’s episcopal ordination was celebrated at the Latin Church of San Francesco in Aleppo and was presided over by Cardinal-elect Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Vatican‘s Dicastery for the Eastern Churches. Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, as well as the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who will be made a cardinal in the upcoming consistory, concelebrated the Mass, both laying their hands on the new bishop for his consecration. Jallouf has a special relationship with Pizzaballa, who was his direct superior during his long tenure as custodian of the Holy Land (2004–2016). 

The central moment of the ordination rite: the laying on of hands on the head of the elect by the bishops and the solemn prayer of ordination, by which the gift of the Holy Spirit for episcopal ministry is conferred on the elect. The bishop-elect is on his knees and two deacons hold the book of the Gospels open over his head. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
The central moment of the ordination rite: the laying on of hands on the head of the elect by the bishops and the solemn prayer of ordination, by which the gift of the Holy Spirit for episcopal ministry is conferred on the elect. The bishop-elect is on his knees and two deacons hold the book of the Gospels open over his head. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

The current custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, and the vicar, Father Ibrahim Faltas, as well as Bishop César Essayan, the apostolic vicar of Beirut, Lebanon, were also at the Mass.

“Dear Father Hanna,” Gugerotti said in his homily, “it is for these people, for these concrete faces, that you are ordained a bishop today. You have shown yourself to be a good shepherd. You have not left your flock alone, even when it meant to put your life in danger. God has made you a symbol for the entire Syrian people. It is really possible to spend our lives for the men and women whom the Lord places beside us.”

After his ordination Sept. 17, 2023, Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, embraces the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who as custos of the Holy Land (2004-2016) was his direct superior. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTER
After his ordination Sept. 17, 2023, Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, embraces the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who as custos of the Holy Land (2004-2016) was his direct superior. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTER

Jallouf was ordained on an important day for the Franciscans — the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. On Sept. 17, 1224, while praying on Mount La Verna in Italy, St. Francis saw a seraphim and received the same wounds as Jesus crucified in his body. “I chose this date for my ordination because it is the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis,” Jallouf told CNA. “I pray that the blood of Christ heals war-torn Syria, giving it a holy and just peace and salvation.”

The motto and coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. He chose "Sicut qui ministrat": "As one who serves" (Lk 22:27) for his motto. Credit: Courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM
The motto and coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. He chose "Sicut qui ministrat": "As one who serves" (Lk 22:27) for his motto. Credit: Courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM

The new bishop’s words convey his love for his land, a love he wanted to express in the motto and coat of arms he chose, as every bishop does. These two elements of heraldic tradition identify the spirit with which the bishop undertakes his mission and visually recall the origins and territory from which he comes. 

“As my motto, I chose ‘Sicut qui ministrat’: ‘As one who serves’ (Lk 22:27). These are the words the Lord spoke to his disciples during the Last Supper.” The coat of arms is surmounted by the cross “because the cross is our glory.” 

The coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023.  The shield is divided into four fields, with symbols indicating the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land, and the bishop's homeland of Syria, as well as the emblem of Mary "to place everything under her protection." Credit: courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM
The coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. The shield is divided into four fields, with symbols indicating the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land, and the bishop's homeland of Syria, as well as the emblem of Mary "to place everything under her protection." Credit: courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM

The shield is divided into four fields. In the upper part, there are symbols indicating Jallouf’s belonging to the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land. In the lower part are references to his homeland: on the right, a map of Syria in red, the color of blood, with a dove in the center, a symbol of peace; on the left, an olive tree, a symbol of the province of Idlib. In the center, at the intersection of the four fields, is the emblem of Mary (the M in a blue field) “to place everything under her protection.”

“Perhaps the Lord chose me because I am one of the few respected by both sides still fighting in Syria today: on one side, the official government, on the other, the rebels,” he said. “Perhaps I can help with the process of reconciliation. But it is not just my personal mission; it is also my mission as a Franciscan.” He recalled the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt, more than 800 years ago. “Since then, the Franciscans have safeguarded both the holy places and the people who visit them and those who live there. This is the first challenge: to give courage to our ‘children.’”

The second challenge, he said, is to refocus on priestly and religious vocations after years of living each day “in emergency mode.” 

“I want our religious and priests not to forget that their responsibility is not just social but above all spiritual,” he said. “The first thing I will do is visit all the parishes and congregations working in the area, to learn about their needs and see how we can move forward.” 

Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syria, after his episcopal ordination Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syria, after his episcopal ordination Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

Work and prayer are two dimensions that Jallouf draws from Franciscan spirituality. “St. Francis always had in mind the unity between the dimension of work and that of prayer. These are two things that must go hand in hand. This is the way to save Syria and bear witness to our faith in the world,” Jallouf told CNA.

The war has radically transformed the face of the Church in Syria. Before 2011, “Christians made up almost 17% of the Syrian population. Today, perhaps, they constitute only 3%-4%.” It is a wounded Church, but still alive, with no shortage of surprises. 

“Always, in the mud, there is a little gold,” the new bishop said. “Even in war, the Lord sends vocations. From Knayeh alone, there are five young people preparing for the priesthood in the Franciscan community. We thank the Lord that in the midst of war, with all its evil, he has brought forth vocations.”

These new vocations are small seeds of hope for Syria. They’re also an answer to a prayer that Jallouf loves and prayed in the weeks before his ordination: “O Lord of mercy, who are with us in our tribulations, we pray to you to save us.”


Vatican:     Pope Francis meets with new Russian ambassador to the Vatican
Pope Francis meets with Russia’s new ambassador to the Vatican Ivan Soltanovsky on Sept. 18, 2023, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 18, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday met with the newly appointed Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Ivan Soltanovsky.

The meeting, during which Soltanovsky presented his credential letters to the pontiff, comes days after papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi visited Beijing to discuss efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. 

The “atmosphere of the meeting was friendly” and the two men “discussed, in particular, the mission of the papal special envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at solving a number of humanitarian issues,” Soltanovsky told Russia’s official Tass News Agency.

“We agreed to continue an honest and open dialogue with the Holy See, traditionally based on mutual respect,” Soltanovsky told Tass.

While serving as Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Zuppi has made several diplomatic visits across the world to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine, including stops in Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Zuppi has strong ties to Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries. Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal, however, the Vatican has said. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept. 15 that “the Vatican envoy [Zuppi] is going to come again” and Moscow will “welcome him.” The Vatican has not yet confirmed Zuppi’s trip. 

Pope Francis met with outgoing Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev when the pontiff paid an unusual visit to the Russian embassy on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion began. The Vatican said the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war.” 

Later, in September 2022, Pope Francis said he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which involved calling Avdeyev “to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”

Pope Francis has condemned the war and called for peace in Ukraine on numerous occasions, but has also occasionally received criticism from Ukrainians for the way he has expressed himself. Most recently, in August, the Vatican clarified that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25. 

In the speech, Francis referenced “Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.” President Vladimir Putin had previously compared himself to the 18th-century czar Peter the Great in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church responded with alarm, saying: “We hope that these words of the Holy Father were spoken spontaneously, without any attempt at historical evaluations, let alone support of Russia’s imperialist ambitions.”

The Vatican nunciature in Kyiv clarified that the words of the Roman pontiff are to be understood in the context of Pope Francis being “a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism across all peoples and situations.” 

Russia and the Holy See restored full diplomatic relations in 2010 after maintaining limited diplomatic relations since 1990. 


US:     Sports anchor Sage Steele: ‘I wouldn’t be standing today without my faith’
Former ESPN sportscaster Sage Steele talks with “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on Sept. 6, 2023. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”/YouTube

CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

After former ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Sage Steele settled a lawsuit with the network over comments she made regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, she announced her departure in August after 16 years at the network.

“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my First Amendment rights more freely,” the former sports anchor wrote on her X account.

Steele sued the network and its parent company in 2022 for violating her free speech rights after she was taken off the air and several high-profile assignments for criticizing ESPN’s and Disney’s vaccine mandate, the Associated Press reported

Although Steele complied with the mandate in order to keep her job, according to her lawsuit, she told former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his podcast that “while she ‘respect[ed] everyone’s decision’ to get vaccinated, she believed that a corporate mandate was ‘sick’ and ‘scary to me in many ways.’ She also indicated that she ‘didn’t want to’ get the vaccine but still complied in order to keep her job and support her family.”

Following these and other comments on Cutler’s September 2021 podcast, Steele was suspended from ESPN in October 2021 and forced to apologize for her remarks.

Steele recently opened up about the ordeal and about how her Catholic faith got her through it on “EWTN News Nightly,” hosted by Tracy Sabol.

“I’ve said this a lot recently — I wouldn’t be standing today without my faith, which has become stronger than ever before,” Steele, 50, began.

“This was a huge low point in my life when all of this happened,” she continued. “[The] last couple years I had just gotten divorced after marrying my college sweetheart — only boyfriend I ever had, married for 20 years, together for 27 years. … COVID hit like a couple months right after that was final.”

To add to the problems, many things were shut down due to the pandemic, and it was a difficult time for Steele and her three children. 

“It was brutal,” Steele recalled. “And then I happened to speak up [about the vaccine mandate] and got crushed for it. [I] thought my career was over.”

To top it off, despite having received the vaccine, the single mother came down with severe COVID. “I was in trouble health-wise with it,” she told Sabol. “At that moment, I just prayed.” 

One night during the illness her heart was racing so fast it woke her up. She was all alone — her kids were at their father’s house so they wouldn’t get sick. Her parents couldn’t help because her father was undergoing cancer treatments. She tried to get ready to drive herself to the hospital but fell over. She realized if she fell again and hit her head, no one would find her.

“That was such a scary moment,” she said. “I just got back in bed and prayed and prayed that I would wake up the next morning.”

She did wake up, but she was still alone, and it took her more than a week to finally start feeling better. 

“All I had was God,” she recalled. “Fortunately, I knew that he had brought me through so much … what am I going to do, not trust him now? So I literally felt him pull me up and say, ‘You got this, girl.’”

When she was finally well enough to return to work, her father — a former football player — mother, and best friend were there with her.

“Right as I walk out the door to go to work for the first time after the apology and being suspended and embarrassed and vilified, my dad said, ‘We’re gonna say the St. Michael the Archangel [prayer] … you know, having God protect us from the wickedness and snares of the devil and rebuke them we humbly pray… that moment changed me and changed our family,” she said.

Now that Steele has left ESPN, Sabol asked what the future might hold for the broadcaster.

“I don’t know, but I’m having some really fun conversations right now with all kinds of different people that work in the industry in different ways,” she said. “I would love to interview some Hollywood celebrities, a lot of people who have been canceled and it’s like, ‘Oh wait we’re still here.’”

Steele said she hoped to announce more of her plans in the coming weeks.

“I’ve been so flattered by so many people reaching out, but it’s a blessing to be able to finally be me,” she said.

Watch the full “EWTN News Nightly” interview with Steele below. Watch part one of her interview with Sabol here.


Americas:     Archdiocese in Peru calls for respecting sacred places following theft from poor box
Interior of the Piura Cathedral in northern Peru. / Credit: Burkhard Mücke/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 18, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The press and communications office of the Archdiocese of Piura in northern Peru called for “respect for sacred places” after an unidentified individual stole donations from a poor box in the local cathedral.

“Last weekend this absolutely reprehensible act occurred. As an archdiocese we strongly condemn these types of acts, which demonstrate an absolute lack of respect for sacred places,” said a statement from the archdiocese sent to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

The theft took place Sept. 9 at about 3:20 p.m. Security cameras installed inside the church captured the presence of a man who entered the church like any other parishioner, apparently to pray.

However, once inside, the criminal used tools to break into the collection box and then grabbed all the money and put it in his backpack before stealthily leaving the church.

The archdiocesan press office stressed that “the alms that the faithful deposit in this type of box are intended for charitable works of the cathedral, such as helping Venezuelan migrants, people who are hungry, or for those who need urgent medical attention.”

“This theft not only constitutes a serious offense to God, for having been carried out within a sacred place, but also constitutes an absolute lack of charity towards the most needy, who are ultimately the direct beneficiaries,” the archdiocese pointed out.

According to information obtained, this would not be the first incident in which someone posing as a parishioner entered the church for criminal purposes.

The authorities are investigating the incident and working to identify and capture the criminal. In the meantime, the religious community hopes that justice will be served and measures will be taken to prevent future acts of vandalism.

“We as an archdiocese urge that sacred places be respected, we request more charity for the poor, and we ask that the cathedral be notified if someone manages to recognize the individual in question,” the statement said.

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


Vatican:     Synod 2023: What has Pope Francis said about synodality?
Pope Francis addressed pilgrims and tourists at his first outdoor general audience after the summer on Sept. 6, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Sep 17, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality is set to launch the first of two assemblies on Oct. 4.

The global meetings in Rome are the culmination of two years of preparation, and during that time, much has been said about synodality, including by the pope.

In some of his more recent comments on synodality, Pope Francis said, “speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public,” but it is “something truly important for the Church.”

“Precisely at this time, when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening, the Church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word together,” he said to media representatives on Aug. 26. 

“Walk together. Question together. Take responsibility together for community discernment, which for us is prayer, as the first Apostles did: This is synodality, which we would like to make a daily habit in all its expressions,” he added.

Here are some of the other things Pope Francis has said about synodality during his papacy:

Oct. 17, 2015: Address marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops

“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.

“Synodality, as a constitutive element of the Church, offers us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the hierarchical ministry itself. If we understand, as St. John Chrysostom says, that ‘Church and Synod are synonymous,’ inasmuch as the Church is nothing other than the ‘journeying together’ of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord, then we understand too that, within the Church, no one can be ‘raised up’ higher than others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person ‘lower’ himself or herself, so as to serve our brothers and sisters along the way.

“In a synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.”

Nov. 29, 2019: Address to the International Theological Commission

“In the last five years you have produced two relevant texts. The first offers a theological clarification on synodality in the life and mission of the Church. 

“You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation, in the history of the People of God on their journey, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of Trinitarian communion. As you know, this theme is very close to my heart ...

“And for this I thank you for your document, because today one thinks that synodality is taking each other by the hand and setting out on a journey, celebrating with the young, or carrying out an opinion poll: ‘What do you think about the priesthood for women?’ That is mostly what is done, isn’t it? Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality.” 

Sept. 18, 2021: Address to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome

“Synodality is not a chapter in an ecclesiology textbook, much less a fad or a slogan to be bandied about in our meetings. Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style, and mission. We can talk about the Church as being ‘synodal,’ without reducing that word to yet another description or definition of the Church. I say this not as a theological opinion or even my own thinking, but based on what can be considered the first and most important ‘manual’ of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.”

Oct. 9, 2021: Address for the opening of the Synod on Synodality

“The synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.

“The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside. If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means, and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.

“A second risk is intellectualism. Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction. This would turn the synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

“Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression — ‘We have always done it that way’ — is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.”

Sept. 4, 2023: Aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from Mongolia

“There is no place for ideology in the synod. It’s another dynamic. The synod is dialogue between baptized people in the name of the Church, on the life of the Church, on dialogue with the world, on the problems that affect humanity today. But when you think along an ideological path, the synod ends.

“There is one thing we must safeguard: the synodal climate. This is not a TV program where everything is talked about. There is a religious moment, there is a moment of religious exchange. Consider that in the synod sessions they speak for 3-4 minutes each, three [people], and then there are 3-4 minutes of silence for prayer ... Without this spirit of prayer there is no synodality, there is politics, there is parliamentarianism.

“In the synod, religiosity must be safeguarded and the integrity of the people who speak must be safeguarded.”


Vatican:     Pope Francis: Forgiveness is the cure that heals ‘the poisons of resentment’
Pope Francis speaks during his Angelus address on Sept. 17, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2023 / 07:41 am (CNA).

Think of someone who has hurt you and ask God for the strength to forgive that person, Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Speaking from a window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sept. 17, the pope underlined that forgiveness can heal “the poisons of resentment” and “restore peace to our hearts.”

In his Angelus message, the pope said that forgiving is “not a good deed that we can choose to do or not do” but “a fundamental condition for those who are Christians.”

“Every one of us, in fact, is ‘forgiven,’” he said. “God gave his life for us and in no way can we compensate for his mercy, which he never withdraws from his heart. However, by corresponding to his gratuitousness, that is, by forgiving one another, we can bear witness to him, sowing new life around us.”

“For outside of forgiveness, there is no hope; outside of forgiveness there is no peace.”

The pope compared forgiveness to “oxygen that purifies the air polluted by hatred” and heals the “many diseases of the heart that contaminate society.”

Pope Francis speaks during his Angelus address on Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks during his Angelus address on Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

He reflected on Jesus’ response to Peter, who had asked: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

“Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Mt 18:21-22).’”

Pope Francis added: “Jesus’ message is clear: God forgives incalculably, exceeding all measure. This is how he is; he acts out of love, and gratuitously. … We cannot repay him but, when we forgive a brother or a sister, we imitate him.”

“May Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to receive the grace of God and to forgive each other,” he said.

Ukrainian Catholics wave to the pope during his Sunday Angelus address on Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Ukrainian Catholics wave to the pope during his Sunday Angelus address on Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis noted that he will travel to Marseille, France, on Friday to attend a meeting of bishops from the Mediterranean region that will have a special focus on the issue of migration.

He said that migration is a “challenge” that must be faced together, adding that the future will only be prosperous if “it is built on fraternity, putting human dignity first … especially for those most in need.”

Pope Francis said that Marseille is called to be “a port of hope” and asked people to pray for his upcoming journey to the French city Sept. 22–23.


Middle East - Africa:     New discoveries may change what we know about Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. / Credit: Jorge Lascar via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Jerusalem, Sep 17, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the holiest places in the world for Christians and an important pilgrimage site since the fourth century, is revealing more of its secrets. Ongoing archaeological investigations related to the restoration of the basilica’s floor are at a turning point, with many surprises coming to light. 

The latest — and one of the most significant — findings emerged during the investigations conducted during the second half of June in the area in front of the edicule — the small shrine/temple that encloses the tomb of Jesus located in the center of the rotunda, under the big dome of the basilica. 

The excavations have exposed the marble steps leading to the edicule and a coin deposit, which were most recently minted during the reign of Emperor Valens (364–378). This allows archeologists to accurately date the early Christian edicule to that period. 

Located in the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Constantine the Great built the first church there, dedicated in about 336 A.D. His mother, St. Helena, was believed to have found a relic of the cross of Christ’s crucifixion on the site. Almost 300 years later, the Persians burned the church down, after which it was restored, destroyed again, and restored once more. The Crusaders in the 12th century undertook a rebuild of the site, which included a chapel in St. Helena’s honor. Since that time, frequent restorations and repairs have taken place.

The team of La Sapienza University who are leading the excavation work at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni
The team of La Sapienza University who are leading the excavation work at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni

Other discoveries that emerged during the first year of work involve the remains of the early Christian liturgical basilica — a construction site of the Constantinian age — and the foundations of the northern perimeter wall of the complex and the water drainage system in the northwestern area of the rotunda, next to the edicule. 

Archeologists also discovered that the quarry in the southern part of the rotunda, an area outside the city walls, was used as a cave. The cave was dismantled in the first century B.C. and transformed into an agricultural and burial area.

Excavations in the northern area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel, at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Excavations in the northern area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel, at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

“We are gaining an in-depth understanding of the entire stratigraphic sequence [the order and position of layers of archeological remains]: from the use of the quarry in pre-Constantinian times to the restoration work during the British Mandate [for Palestine],” Francesca Romana Stasolla, the leader of the team from the Department of Ancient Sciences at the University of Rome Sapienza responsible for the archaeological research, told CNA in an interview. Stasolla said her team can now trace “the entire material history of the religious complex.” 

The recent plan to restore the Holy Sepulcher’s floor, along with concurrent archaeological, structural, and waterworks investigations, was determined by the three Christian churches responsible for the basilica: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic (Custody of the Holy Land), and the Armenian Apostolic churches. Operations are coordinated by the Common Technical Bureau, an office of experts representing the three communities. 

The University of Rome Sapienza is responsible for the excavations. In addition to archaeologists from the Department of Ancient Sciences, the team also includes engineers, historians, philologists, geologists, paleobotanists, and archaeobotanists from the same university. The interdisciplinary team addresses, analyses, and interprets everything that emerges during the excavations.

Some recent findings in the Chapel of the Angel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Some recent findings in the Chapel of the Angel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

Specialists from the Venaria Reale Conservation and Restoration Center are handling the restoration of the floor. Two engineering companies from Italy — Manens, based in Padua, and IG Ingegneria Geotecnica, based in Turin — are also involved in the project overseeing infrastructure and utilities such as the electrical and water systems.

A new chapter

The recent work officially began on March 14, 2022, with the removal of the first paving stone; preparatory phases were initiated as early as 2019 but were slowed down by the pandemic.

What has been uncovered so far will make it possible to write — and rewrite — some pages of the basilica’s history. For instance, before it was a church property, the land was used as a quarry and for farming.

“We have identified the presence of at least two definite species — olive and grapevine. This confirms what it says in some passages of the Gospels,” Stasolla told CNA.

“The various discoveries emerging as the work progresses will enable us to describe architecturally something that was not known before. They will also help us understand the intermediate periods — such as between the early Christian and medieval phases, and between the medieval and modern phases, about which we know very little,” said Stasolla, who explained that this is due to a lack of sources (especially during periods of reduced pilgrimages) or when accounts are less descriptive. 

The edicule continues to amaze

From June 19–27, the area in front of the edicule and the edicule itself (the structure raised over the place of Christ’s tomb) was closed to allow the removal of the floor and archaeological investigations. 

Map of the area in front of the Edicule at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza, Roma
Map of the area in front of the Edicule at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza, Roma

Seven days and nights of uninterrupted work revealed the funerary area in the same area of the edicule and, in particular, the first “monumentalization” of the edicule in the early Christian period. (“Monumentalizing” is a term used to describe commemorating or immortalizing something with a monument.)

In fact, according to Stasolla, what the team of archaeologists discovered was a “double monumentalization,” which they didn’t expect because it occurred at a very close temporal distance. 

“We were able to document an initial phase of monumentalization from the beginning of the fourth century and a second phase from the end of the fourth century,” Stasolla said, which she explained was confirmed by the discovery of a coin deposit, with the last emissions being those of Emperor Valens. 

“In the first phase, there were three marble steps leading to the venerated tomb, which we found. In the second phase, there were only two steps because the floor was partially raised,” she added.

The marble steps -- Monumentalization of the edicule in the early Christian period. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
The marble steps -- Monumentalization of the edicule in the early Christian period. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

These discoveries align with the oldest iconography from the fifth century and the description by the famous pilgrim Egeria, whose diary is one of the most important early sources on early Christianity. Egeria is believed to have arrived in Jerusalem a few years after the conclusion of the second phase of monumentalization, sometime between 381 and 384 A.D.

A statement from the Custody of the Holy Land said the restoration of the floor inside the edicule revealed “part of the bottom of a burial chamber similar to those found in the northern portion of the rotunda, filled in and arranged to encourage pilgrims to visit since the early Christian period.” 

“In the edicule,” Stasolla specified, “the medieval floor covers a burial chamber. The monumentalization, already from the early Christian period, serves to monumentalize a tomb.” 

In the antechamber, called the Chapel of the Angel, traces of the initial arrangement of the monument for liturgical purposes and remains of the sixth-century arrangement of the edicule were found, including inscriptions by pilgrims in Latin, Greek, and Armenian (18th century).

Excavations in the northern area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel, in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Excavations in the northern area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel, in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Inscriptions by pilgrims in Latin, Greek, and Armenian (18th century) uncovered during excavations at Basilica of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni
Inscriptions by pilgrims in Latin, Greek, and Armenian (18th century) uncovered during excavations at Basilica of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni

According to Stasolla, outside there was a large polished floor made from local stone and other materials, traces of which were found in the preparation mortar.

The floor of polished lithic slabs in front of the edicule in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
The floor of polished lithic slabs in front of the edicule in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Photo credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

Other discoveries

During the first year of work, some interesting archaeological elements were discovered and reported in periodic updates signed by Stasolla and distributed by the Custody of the Holy Land. For instance, a recent update on July 7 focused on information related to excavation work in the area in front of the edicule of the Holy Sepulcher.

Strasolla highlighted other interesting discoveries. In the northern area of the ambulatory, remains of the early Christian liturgical basilica were found, already known from historical sources, which contributed to completing the plan of the early Christian complex. 

A small portion of the apse had already been discovered under the Greeks’ Catholicon (the name given to cathedrals and monastery churches by the Greek-Orthodox), and in the chapel of St. Vartan. 

“In the coming months, we will continue archaeological investigations in that area to complete the excavation of the apse,” Stazolla said. 

Additionally, in the northern nave of the basilica, the excavations revealed the construction site of the Constantinian age, and the foundations of the northern perimeter wall of the complex commissioned by the first Christian emperor. 

Excavations in the northwest area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Excavations in the northwest area of the rotunda, next to the Coptic Chapel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

According to a Custody of the Holy Land press release, in the northwestern area of the Rotunda, next to the edicule, “a tunnel has been intercepted, partly already highlighted in previous investigations, which descends vertically next to the edicule for a depth of 2.80 meters [9.18 feet] and then continues horizontally to the north.” This is an important element in the study of architectural aspects of the basilica, especially in relation to excavation stratigraphy and its connection to the entire water drainage system.

The timeline

The excavation continues to proceed in a way that allows for the regular conduct of liturgical ceremonies and the flow of pilgrims. 

“We have managed to close the northern half of the north nave, complete the entire rotunda, and half of the ambulatory,” Stasolla told CNA. “In these weeks, we are finishing the southeast area of the rotunda. We are adhering to the project timeline and expect to deliver the work on schedule.” 

They hope to finish the work by the end of 2024.

Some recent findings in the Chapel of the Angel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
Some recent findings in the Chapel of the Angel in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza

The excavation work is conducted continuously, day and night, and the processing of the materials uncovered is conducted in real time between Jerusalem and Rome. All the data processed during the excavation are entered into a database specifically created for the project and linked to various historical and archival sources.

A worker in the laboratory in the "Gallery of the Latins" inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza
A worker in the laboratory in the "Gallery of the Latins" inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Archivio Università La Sapienza


Europe:     Couple spends retirement sharing St. Hildegard of Bingen’s wisdom and faith
A group of pilgrims who followed the spiritual retreat with Claude and Marie France Delpech in front of St. Hildegard Abbey in Ebingen, Germany, Sept. 17, 2012. / Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde

Paris, France, Sep 17, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Twenty years ago, Claude and Marie-France Delpech launched a family business in France called “Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde,” selling products inspired by the life of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), an abbess and mystic proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 7, 2012.

Since then, the Delpechs’ mission has grown steadily, contributing to the rediscovery of the 12th-century German nun, celebrated in the Church calendar on Sept. 17, and her health remedies — as well as her little-known or understood spirituality.

St. Hildegard’s Abbey in Ebigen, Germany. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde
St. Hildegard’s Abbey in Ebigen, Germany. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde

The Delpechs, who are in their 70s and have three daughters and 11 grandchildren, became acquainted with St. Hildegard during Christmas 1994, when their eldest daughter gave them a cookbook called “Les recettes de la joie” (“Recipes for joy”). Originally from the Périgord region of southwestern France, the Delpechs were lovers of good food, and they tried the recipes out of curiosity.

The beginnings were simple: Marie-France cooked mainly with spelt — the dominant grain in St. Hildegard’s diet — as well as with herbs such as pyrethrum (derived from plants in the aster family) and galanga (the citrusy cousin of ginger), also recommended by the nun. Marie-France obtained her supplies from a small company in the Pyrenees that specializes in products and ingredients Hildegard used.

In 1998, as Claude prepared to retire, the couple was looking for a meaningful activity. During a charismatic prayer service in the Emmanuel community, they asked God for “something useful to do.” Strangely enough, all they got when they opened up the Bible were words about... plants. 

“I really couldn’t see what it was all about,” Marie-France said with a laugh as she shared her memories with CNA.

In the autumn of 1998, suffering from asthma, Marie-France went on a health retreat in the Pyrenees and took the opportunity to visit the business that sold products inspired by St. Hildegard. To her astonishment, the manager, who was about to close down the business, asked her to take over.

When she declined the offer because of her asthma, he advised her to try scolopendra wine (wine made from soaking a centipede in it) — in a preparation of St. Hildegard’s that included cinnamon, long pepper, and other spices. In the course of eight days, the asthma had stopped. The Delpechs asked themselves: “What if this is what the Lord wanted to show us?”

Claude and Marie-France Delpech, owners of a family business in France called “Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde.”. Credit: Courtesy of Claude and Marie-France Delpech
Claude and Marie-France Delpech, owners of a family business in France called “Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde.”. Credit: Courtesy of Claude and Marie-France Delpech

The more science progresses, the more we understand St. Hildegard

In December 1999, the couple set about researching the work of St. Hildegard, about whom they knew little. To do so, they traveled to the saint’s abbey in Ebingen, Germany. There they met a community of 60 nuns who were “extremely dynamic and full of ‘joie de vivre,’” they recalled. 

“The road was opening up,” the couple said in an email. “We felt we’d discovered a treasure, and we wanted to share it.”

Claude and Marie-France now work with German naturopath Wighard Strehlow, the successor of German physician Gottfried Hertzka (1913–1997) — a Nazi resistance fighter who rediscovered St. Hildegard when he was in a concentration camp. Strehlow has devoted his life to transmitting Hildegard’s medieval remedies “in concrete, accessible terms” for today’s generations.

“The more science progresses, the more we understand what St. Hildegard meant,” the Delpechs said in an email. “One of the latest examples is violet balm. St. Hildegard recommends it against cysts and mastitis, saying that ‘if it’s cancer, it will die when it has tasted it.’ It’s a bold thing to say in the 12th century... but last year, an Australian study demonstrated that the leaves and flowers of violets are powerful anti-cancer agents.” 

To date, only 400 of Hildegard’s 2,000 remedies have been tested.

Sample of one-week of spelt-based ingredients and foods inspired by St. Hildegard de Bingen from Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde in France. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde
Sample of one-week of spelt-based ingredients and foods inspired by St. Hildegard de Bingen from Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde in France. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde

Over the years, the Delpechs have collaborated with a group of French doctors and launched a summer university program. They combine dietary advice with a spiritual component, preached by theologian Father Pierre Dumoulin. At the request of the Catholic community Foyers de Charité, they also began offering a spiritual retreat with a fast based on spelt. The initiative has met with enormous success, with growing demand from people seeking deeper spiritual and physical well-being.

A message of personal unity

Today, the couple’s business, based in Coux and Bigaroque in the Périgord, employs about 15 people. They sell spelt-based products, plants and spices, essential oils, gemstones, flavored wines, cosmetics, and various books. 

The community of disabled brothers of Notre Dame d’Espérance participates in the preparation of the elixirs. 

At the inauguration of the new building, Claude Delpech shows the products on the shelves in Coux and Bigaroque, France, June 22, 2016. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde
At the inauguration of the new building, Claude Delpech shows the products on the shelves in Coux and Bigaroque, France, June 22, 2016. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde

Claude and Marie France remain as volunteers in their business, which they see as a mission of evangelization. 

“We’re very concerned that the spiritual side should not be neglected, but rather brought to the fore,” they said. For them, St. Hildegard is “a way of getting people to go to retreats they would never otherwise have gone to, because not everyone is interested in the Lord, but everyone is interested in their health.”

During these retreats, people regain their shape and vigor, but something also happens “at the heart level,” they noted. “When you eat less, less fatty, less heavy things, something also happens on the mental level, and there’s a facilitation on the spiritual level, too.”

St. Hildegard’s work, argued the Delpechs, is “a message of personal unification. As the saint wrote: ‘When soul and body function in perfect harmony, they receive the supreme reward of health and joy.’ Joy is essential to Hildegarde.”

The Delpechs said their aim is to restore St. Hildegard to her rightful place within the Catholic Church. 

Marie France prays in front of the relics of St. Hildegard, Eibingen, Sept. 17, 2012. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde
Marie France prays in front of the relics of St. Hildegard, Eibingen, Sept. 17, 2012. Credit: Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde

“St. Hildegard was initially known in the New Age [movement], presented as a healer, as the first of the phytotherapists, as a magician, a miracle worker,” the couple said in an email. “But above all, she’s a Catholic saint with a unique charisma. The universe remains a great mystery, and for her, the Lord lifted the curtain. She was able to see the hidden subtleties of creation in the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds. What a gift!”

Benedict XVI proclaimed St. Hildegard of Bingen a doctor of the Church not only for her spiritual work but also for “her holy medicine.” 

“For us, St. Hildegard could be the patron saint of integral ecology,” the Delpechs said. 


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