WASHINGTON (CNS) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has signed into law a bill requiring death-row inmates to choose between the electric chair or the firing squad for their executions if lethal injection drugs are not available. The measure, signed by the Republican governor May 14, was touted as a move to restart capital punishment in the state after a 10-year pause due to a lack of lethal injection drugs. Days before it was signed into law, a Catholic death penalty opponent called the measure a “setback for South Carolina” and a move that “stands in stark contrast to powerful efforts elsewhere to abolish the death penalty.” “The decade without executions in South Carolina should be seen as a mark of progress toward a culture of life, not a reason to backslide into immoral and gruesome means of killing,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network. The electric chair and firing squad “should have no place on the state’s list of means to address harm or bring about so-called justice. … There is no reason why the state should be executing people at all,” she told Catholic News Service in a May 10 email.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Nations of the world must work together to solve the key global crises of migration and climate change, which are questions of justice that can no longer be ignored, Pope Francis told diplomats. “In the development of a global consensus capable of responding to these ethical challenges facing our human family, your work as diplomats is of paramount importance,” he said. The pope’s comments came May 21 in a speech to new ambassadors to the Vatican from Singapore, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Sweden, Finland and Nepal. Speaking to the group of diplomats, the pope recognized the difficulties involved in traveling during the ongoing pandemic and thanked them for being able to attend the meeting in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has made people more aware of how interdependent everyone is and of “our need to be attentive to the poor and the vulnerable in our midst,” the pope said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The annual diocesan celebration of World Youth Day is an important event that emphasizes the role young people play in the Catholic Church, the Vatican said. In a document published by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life May 18, the Vatican issued a set of pastoral guidelines for local WYD celebrations “to ensure that younger generations feel that they are at the center of the church’s attention and pastoral concern. The celebration of these youth days at a local level is therefore extremely useful in keeping the church mindful of the importance of walking with young people and of welcoming them and listening to them with patience while proclaiming the word of God to them with affection and power,” it stated. The document was signed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, dicastery prefect, and Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, dicastery secretary. Divided into six chapters, it said local celebrations offer young people “a personal experience of a ‘festival of faith,'” which is especially important for those who cannot attend the international event “because of studies, work or financial difficulties.” World Youth Day is celebrated annually on a local level and every two or three years with an international gathering with the pope. In November, Pope Francis moved the local celebrations of World Youth Day from Palm Sunday to the feast of Christ the King.

MUMBAI, India (CNS) – The High Court in Mumbai order prison authorities to take an ailing 84-year-old Jesuit to the hospital, as it heard his appeal to receive bail on medical grounds, Indian media reported. The High Court said Jesuit Father Stan Swamy must be taken to JJ hospital at noon May 20. Media reports said the court ordered the hospital to have him examined by a neurologist, orthopedic physician, general practitioner and ear, nose and throat specialist. The court ordered the hospital to report back to the judges May 21. Father Swamy suffers from Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss and lumbar spondylosis. Jesuits and family members believe he might also have COVID-19. “Father Swamy had a severe cold, fever, body pain and diarrhea and could not even attend a call from his legal team. This indicates that he was suffering from COVID-19,” his elder brother, Irudaya Swamy, 90, told a virtual news conference May 15. “We are not sure if he is getting proper medical attention. His health condition is getting worse.” The priest has been in Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail since Oct. 9, a day after he was arrested in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. The activist, who works for the rights of tribal people in Jharkhand, was accused of conspiring with the outlawed Maoist rebels to overthrow the federal government and organize violence.
FRANKFURT, Germany (CNS) – Germany’s Third Ecumenical Convention concluded in Frankfurt May 16 with an open-air church service on the bank of the River Main. With the city’s skyline of office towers providing the backdrop, some 400 people attended the service, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. But Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, head of the Catholic bishops’ commission on ecumenical relations, told the website that he could not see that the convention gave a particular boost to ecumenism. In terms of language and visually, the meeting “largely took place in an internal church bubble” and was thus unlikely to have reached nonbelievers or people who were distanced from the churches, the German Catholic news agency KNA said May 17, reporting on his remarks. “Nevertheless, I am impressed that the meeting could take place at all at this difficult time and apparently did reach a large number of people.” The convention, or kirchentag, wrapped up three days of events in which approximately 160,000 people, mostly via video conferencing, participated in discussions, Bible readings, worship services and other events exploring theological and social issues. Protestants and Catholics called for the church to work for justice in society and the church. Bishop Feige was critical of the “ecumenically sensitive services” that took place during the convention. He said the issue of shared Communion was “extremely complex and emotionally charged.” This made it all the more important to move forward carefully, he said.
ROME (CNS) – The Spanish bishops’ conference expressed concern that migrants were being used to exert political pressure after a sudden influx of migrants in the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla increased tensions between Spain and Morocco. In a statement released May 18, Auxiliary Bishop José Cobo of Madrid, head of the conference’s migration department, and Dominican Father Xabier Gómez, the department’s director, warned of the exploitation of migrants following a diplomatic row between the two countries. “Appealing to the supreme value of life and human dignity, remember that the despair and impoverishment of many families and minors cannot and must not be used by any state to exploit the legitimate aspirations of these people for political purposes,” the statement read. Spanish authorities were caught off guard May 17 when an estimated 8,000 migrants – including more than 1,500 unaccompanied minors – entered Ceuta, a Spanish enclave bordering Morocco. An estimated 86 migrants entered Melilla, another Spanish territory located on the North African coast. According to BBC News, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez deployed military forces to the territories to tighten the border controls and deport migrants back to Morocco.

A Moroccan boy cries as he swims using bottles as a float, near the fence between the Spanish-Moroccan border, after thousands of migrants swam across the border, in Ceuta, Spain, May 19, 2021. In a statement released May 18, the Spanish bishops’ conference expressed concern that migrants were being exploited after a sudden of influx of refugees into the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla increased tensions between Spain and Morocco. (CNS photo/Jon Nazca, Reuters)