PALM BAY, Fla. (OSV News) – A retired Florida Catholic priest and his sister were killed in a multi-location rampage that also took the life of another man, left two police officers injured and ended with the death of the suspect. Father Robert Hoeffner and his sister, Sally Hoeffner, were found slain at their Palm Bay, Florida, residence on the evening of Jan. 28, as police were investigating a domestic disturbance at another area home that turned deadly. Their car had apparently been stolen by 24-year-old suspect Brandon William Kapas, who loaded the car with a cache of weapons and drove it to a family gathering nearby. Police were called to the home after Kapas became agitated and destructive, and in the course of his flight, Kapas killed his grandfather and injured two police officers before he himself was shot and killed. No motive for has been given. In a statement, Orlando Bishop John Noonan said the diocese is mourning the loss of life and will miss Father Hoeffner’s “grace-filled presence.” Father Hoeffner had celebrated his 50th jubilee in 2023, recalling decades that included becoming a pastor, celebrating Mass on television regularly, and establishing a multicultural parish council at his final assignment. “I’ve had a glorious ride. I’m proud to serve and do wonderful things for wonderful people. I enjoy doing that,” Father Hoeffner said in his jubilee reflection for the diocese. “I’ve spent 50 years doing absolutely incredible things and I am thankful to God for it.”
BALTIMORE (OSV News) – The one-and-only known photograph ever taken of Mother Mary Lange held a place of prominence during a special Jan. 30 Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore. Resting at the foot of an altar set up inside the school’s gymnasium, the more than 140-year-old black-and-white image seemed to stare stoically at a congregation of more than 300 that had gathered to celebrate Mother Lange’s recent advancement along the path to canonization. Pope Francis declared the foundress of St. Frances Academy “venerable” June 22, 2023 – recognizing Mother Lange’s heroic virtues. Mother Lange is one of six Black Catholics in the U.S. who are candidates for sainthood, four of whom have been declared “venerable.” Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who called St. Frances Academy “holy ground” during his homily, elicited applause when he said the recognition of Mother Lange as venerable is “something of great importance, not only for this school and not only for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, but for the Catholic Church throughout the United States.” St. Frances Academy was founded in 1828 as the first Catholic school in the country to educate Black students. Mother Lange co-founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence one year later as the world’s first sustained women’s religious congregation for Blacks.
WASHINGTON (OSV News) – An upcoming webinar series hosted by a U.S. bishop explores synodality through the prism of Jesus Christ’s words to his disciples at the Last Supper. Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, leads three “John 14 and Synodality” webinars, with the sessions taking place over Zoom Feb. 14 (Ash Wednesday) at 4 p.m. EST, March 6 at 3 p.m. EST and March 19 at 4 p.m. EDT. A separate Jan. 31 webinar titled “Conversation in the Spirit” at 11 a.m. CST features U.S. Jesuit Father David McCallum, executive director of the Discerning Leadership Program in Rome. Participants can obtain more information about and register for the sessions at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ dedicated webpage for the Synod on Synodality at usccb.org/synod. Bishop Flores, who serves as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, has shepherded the synodal process in the U.S. Launched by Pope Francis, the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops organized around the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” commonly known as the Synod on Synodality, took place Oct. 4-29, 2023, in Rome. Concluding sessions of the synod will take place in Rome this October.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Ten children from Gaza in need of medical attention arrived in Rome on a military plane late Jan. 29, the first group of young patients who will receive treatment in Italy thanks to the lobbying of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and negotiations involving the governments of Italy, Israel, Palestine and Egypt. The 10 children and a young man, described as being just over 18 years old, were taken to the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital for assessment, Vatican News reported. The patients include children seriously injured in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas as well as chronically ill children who can no longer receive the necessary treatment in Gaza because of the war. Four of the patients will stay at Bambino Gesù while the young man will be treated at St. Camillus Hospital in Rome and the others will be cared for at hospitals in Genoa, Bologna and Florence.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis expressed his hopes that Lunar New Year celebrations would offer opportunities for people to experience warm friendships and to show care. “This coming Feb. 10, in East Asia and various parts of the world, millions of families will celebrate the Lunar New Year,” he said during his greetings after the midday Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 4. The holiday is widely celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam and countries with a significant number of people from China. “I send them my warm greetings, with the hope that this feast may be an opportunity to experience relationships of affection and gestures of care, which contribute to creating a society of solidarity and fraternity, where every person is recognized and welcomed in his or her inalienable dignity,” he said. “I invite you to pray for peace, for which the world longs so much,” he said.
MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Catholic peace group Pueblo Creyente marched through the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas Jan. 26 to remember the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who promoted a vision of an autochthonous church in the largely Indigenous state of Chiapas. The march also called for an end to the rising violence in Chiapas, where rival drug cartels are disputing territory in the southern Mexican state, prompting entire villages to flee. “It is urgent that the Mexican state implement measures to guarantee the comprehensive protection of the civilian population, including servants of the church and defenders of territory,” Pueblo Creyente (People Who Believe) said in a Jan. 25 statement. Residents of the municipality of Chicomuselo hid in their homes as bullets pierced the walls during a seven-hour gunfight on Jan. 4, which killed 20 people – including two locals, whose relatives were unable to retrieve the bodies – according to a statement from the community. “They’re killing us, they’re forcing us to leave our homes and others to be part of them,” the statement said. “Communities are stuck in the middle of this,” said a priest who works in the area and spoke on condition of anonymity.
DUBLIN (OSV News) – Ireland’s most-senior churchman has hailed an agreement that sees a Catholic take the top political job in Northern Ireland for the first time in its history as an “opportunity for a fresh start and a new beginning.” Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, president of the Irish bishops’ conference, made the comments as a power-sharing government was restored Feb. 3, after two years of deadlock. The executive branch is a key plank of a 1998 peace agreement that ended 30 years of bloody sectarian violence, but has struggled to take root with sporadic boycotts from political parties. Michelle O’Neill of the Sinn Féin party is the first Catholic to head the region’s government. Her title is “First Minister.” “The days of second-class citizenship are long gone, and today confirms that they will never come back,” O’Neill, 47, told the legislative assembly upon her election Feb. 3. “This is an assembly for all: Catholic, Protestant and dissenter. … the public rightly demand that we work and deliver together, and also that we build trust and confidence in our ability to collectively do that.” Archbishop Martin told The Irish Catholic newspaper that he felt there was a “sense of relief” from citizens “who are so anxious that we can have appropriate representation to deal with the very pressing problems that we have in the North at this time.”