SCHRIEVER, La. (OSV News) – Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Houma-Thibodaux passed away unexpectedly late Jan. 19 due to complications from recent health problems, according to the diocese. He was 63. He is remembered for his various teaching and pastoral roles in his native Colombia as well as his service as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop Dorsonville had headed the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese as its fifth bishop just under a year since his installation on March 29, 2023.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, the fifth bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, La., has passed away at age 63. He died Jan. 19, 2023, from complications related to recent health problems, the diocese announced. He is seen celebrating his installation Mass March 29, 2023, at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma. (OSV News photo/Lawrence Chatagnier, Bayou Catholic)

Prior to that, the bishop had served as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington for eight years since his appointment in 2015. “It is with great sadness and deep shock that I announce to you that our beloved Shepherd, Bishop Mario Dorsonville, passed away at 6:50 pm this evening after he gave in to complications arising from recent health problems,” Father Simon Peter Engurait, the diocese’s vicar general, said in posting the news of the bishop’s death on social media Jan. 19. “My heart is broken.” Washington Auxiliary Bishop Juan Esposito, vicar general and moderator of the curia, remembered Bishop Dorsonville Jan. 20 as “a special soul” and “a good and faithful servant of the Lord he loved so well.” Bishop Dorsonville was a former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration from 2019 to 2022.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The first U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual report, “State of Religious Liberty in the United States,” published Jan. 16 said potential threats to religious liberty in the United States largely come in the form of federal regulations or cultural trends. Five top areas of concern, the 48-page report said, include attacks against houses of worship, especially in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict; the Section 1557 regulation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which the report said “will likely impose a mandate on doctors to perform gender transition procedures and possibly abortions”; threats to religious charities serving migrants and refugees, “which will likely increase as the issue of immigration gains prominence in the election”; suppression of religious speech “on marriage and sexual difference”; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations, which the report said “aim to require religious employers to be complicit in abortion in an unprecedented way.” The report’s introduction said that due to a divided federal government, “most introduced bills that threatened religious liberty languished,” resulting in threats in the form of “proposed regulations by federal agencies,” or cultural trends like growing partisanship over migration.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The skills of winegrowers – respect, perseverance and knowing how to prune to produce fruit – are also valuable messages for the soul, Pope Francis said. “Wine, the land, farming skills and entrepreneurial activity are gifts from God,” the pope told winegrowers, winemakers and others taking part in an event organized by Vinitaly – an international wine and spirits exhibition held in Verona, Italy, every year for industry professionals. The event was dedicated to Italian wine and “the economy of Francesco,” an economy inspired by St. Francis of Assisi that respects the earth and promotes peace and justice. “It is good that you find yourselves reflecting together on the ethical aspects and moral responsibilities involved (in wine production) and that you draw inspiration from the ‘Poverello’ of Assisi,” he told the group during an audience at the Vatican Jan. 22. Respect and kindness are important in treating the earth, workers and consumers, he said. “Indeed, ‘genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others,’” he said, quoting from his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.” Pope Francis thanked the group for striving to follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi and knowing the importance of harmony, helping the least and respecting creation.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis praised the legacy of an Italian priest who looked for ways the Catholic Church could make sure the poor were not left further behind in the world. “And with wisdom and love,” the late Father Lorenzo Milani found “the answer in education, through his model of schooling, which is putting knowledge at the service of those who are considered the last by others, but first for the Gospel and for him,” the pope said. During an audience at the Vatican Jan. 22, the pope met with members of a national committee in charge of last year’s celebrations and initiatives marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Father Milani. The priest used the schoolroom to help “to restore dignity to the least, respect, entitlement to rights and citizenship, but above all the recognition of the sonship of God, which includes all of us.” He saw education as the answer to the question, “How can the church be meaningful and make an impact with her message so that the poor do not fall further and further behind.” “He invites us not to remain indifferent, to interpret reality, to identify the new poor and the new forms of poverty; he invites us instead to approach all those who are excluded and to take them to heart. Every Christian should play his or her part in this,” the pope said.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (OSV News) – Six nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne were kidnapped Jan. 19 while traveling on a bus in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, according to the Haitian Conference of Religious. Other passengers on the bus also were taken in the abduction, the conference said in a statement. “These many kidnappings fill the consecrated people of Haiti with sadness and fear,” said the statement, signed by conference president P. Morachel Bonhomme. He prayed that “the spirit of strength be given” to the sisters “to find a way out of this terrible situation.” On Jan. 21 in remarks after the Angelus, Pope Francis appealed for the release of all the hostages, while praying for “social harmony” in the country. Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne prayed “to help us put an end to this bitter nightmare and this tragic ordeal of our people which has lasted too long.” In a statement published Jan. 19, the bishop offered himself in exchange for the hostages and denounced what he called an “odious and barbaric act which does not even respect the dignity of these consecrated women who give themselves wholeheartedly to God to educate and train the young, the poorest and the vulnerable in our society,” Bishop Dumas wrote, according to a translation posted to social media by Father Louis Mérosné.

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (OSV News) – The situation in the Gaza Strip is “extremely catastrophic,” and people are dying not only from violence but from preventable illnesses, said the CEO of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “People are really losing their life because of no treatment, no medical care,” Sami El-Yousef, CEO, told OSV News Jan. 20. He repeatedly described the situation as “catastrophic” throughout the interview. The supplies that are being allowed in are being transported from Egypt into southern Gaza Strip. “There have been no supplies allowed into the northern part of Gaza,” including Gaza City, where most Christians are sheltering in the Catholic and Orthodox parishes, El-Yousef said. He said that during January, a black market has sprung up, and things like medicine and blankets were being sold for 10 times the amount they sold for before Israel declared war on Hamas in retaliation for an Oct. 7 land and air attack launched by the militant Islamic group. At the beginning of the war, a Gaza medical clinic run by the Catholic charitable agency Caritas transferred most of its medicine stock to Holy Family Catholic Parish, but all of those supplies are now depleted, El-Yousef said. El-Yousef said the local Christian community wanted to conduct clothing drives for the Gaza Christian community, but Israel is not allowing goods into Gaza.