WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Prior to the first anniversary of a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its prior abortion precedent, pro-life activists lauded legislation passed in multiple states while advocating for additional support services for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies. The Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2022, undoing nearly a half-century of its own precedent on abortion as a constitutional right. The case involved a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, in which the state directly challenged the high court’s previous abortion-related precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Jeanne Mancini, March for Life president, told OSV News that the first post-Roe year has been “amazing in so many ways” in reducing abortion, but it also has introduced “an element of confusion.” The way forward, Mancini said, must be to “lean into this and do it with a lot of love” and also “emphasize the truth that pro-life is pro-woman, whether it’s the support of a pregnancy care center or funding support at the state level.”

GOWER, Mo. (OSV News) – Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell puts the number of pilgrims who in the past six weeks have flocked to her Benedictine abbey in rural Missouri between 10,000 and 15,000. It’s a conservative estimate, she said, of the droves of people who, at times, have waited hours in line to see the body of the community’s foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles disinterred her remains April 28, four years after her death at age 95, and discovered a surprising lack of decay, leading to claims of her incorruptibility and potential for canonization. Most visitors are locals, or from Kansas City or St. Louis. Some, however, have traveled from Washington state, Maine, California and Florida, but also from as far as Canada, Colombia and India, Mother Cecilia said. “It was her relationship with Christ on the path (to) holiness that led her to greatness before him. She sends a message of the value of vocation, of charity and forgiveness, even through racial barriers, and that holiness is possible in our day. Quite a few people have said, ‘I knew her. This makes me realize that I can be holy too!’” Mother Cecilia said.

ROME (CNS) – Devotion to Marian apparitions should lead people to Jesus and not to a particular individual or community, Pope Francis said. In an interview with the Italian state television network, RAI, broadcast June 4, the pope said Marian apparitions are “an instrument of Marian devotion that is not always true” and may be used to focus on or promote an individual. “There have been true apparitions of Our Lady, but always with her finger like this, to Jesus” he said pointing outward, “never has Our Lady drawn (attention) toward herself when (the apparition) is true, she has always pointed to Jesus.” Pope Francis said that a Marian devotion that becomes “too centered on itself” and lacks guiding people to Jesus “is no good, be it in the person that has the devotion or those who carry it forward.” Through an observatory body overseen by the Pontifical International Marian Academy, the Vatican tracks alleged Marian apparitions around the world and studies their authenticity. During his upcoming trip to Portugal Aug. 2-6, Pope Francis will travel to a shrine honoring the apparitions at Fátima in which Mary appeared to three Portuguese children in 1917. Public devotion to Our Lady of Fátima was approved by the local bishop in 1930 and has since been promoted by the Vatican.

BENIN CITY, Nigeria (OSV News) – The killing of Father Charles Igechi June 7 is further evidence of Christian persecution in Nigeria, church officials in the country say. The priest was on his way to St. Michael College, Ikhueniro, where he was assigned, when unidentified gunmen swooped in and shot him in the back. Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City said in a statement that the body of the priest was found in Ikpoba Hill, not far from Benin City, the capital and largest city of Edo state in southern Nigeria. In a June 8 condolence message, the archbishop reported “with deep sadness and sorrow in our hearts” the death of one of the priests of the archdiocese, Father Charles Onomhoale Igechi, who was ordained Aug. 13, 2022, and at the time of his death was vice principal of St. Michael College in Ikhueniro, Archbishop Akubeze asked for the faithful to pray “for the happy repose of his soul.” Josef Ishu, secretary of the Nigerian bishops’ conference Laity Office, told OSV News the killing of the priest is “the latest evidence of Christian persecution” in Nigeria.

KHERSON, Ukraine (OSV News) – Delivering aid in Ukraine’s flooded Kherson area has become a life-threatening task. Aid workers of Caritas and other organizations told OSV News they cannot go on rescue boats without bulletproof vests and military helmets, as Russian troops have continued to fire on civilian victims and rescuers. In some towns that are still under Russian occupation, sources say the situation is so dire that people die on their own rooftops. On June 6, damage to the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant in Kherson released some 4.3 cubic miles of water (a single cubic mile of water equals 1.1 trillion gallons) from the Kakhovka Reservoir, one of the world’s largest capacity reservoirs. Dozens of towns and villages along the Dnipro River have been flooded so far, with tens of thousands at flood risk, according to Ukrainian government officials. The Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington, has assessed that “the balance of evidence, reasoning, and rhetoric suggests that the Russians deliberately damaged the dam.” Father Piotr Rosochacki, director of Caritas-Spes Ukraine since 2015, told OSV News the flooded terrain is now being “regularly shelled” by Russian troops, lamenting the attacks as “never-ending.” He appealed to Catholics around the globe not to forget about Ukraine and not to become indifferent. “The water will go away and in a month, two, others will live their own lives and forget about the dam. But people here will remain without basics like drinking water,” he said, adding that long-term help is needed “so that those people can live again.”