Bishop Peter M. Muhich of Rapid City, S.D., revealed Feb. 14, 2024, that he is entering hospice due to cancer. He is pictured in an undated photo. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Rapid City)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (OSV News) – The Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, announced “with sorrow” that its shepherd, Bishop Peter M. Muhich, died Feb. 17. “Bishop Peter, 62, was in hospice care after suffering from esophageal cancer. Please continue to pray for the soul of our shepherd,” the diocese said in a statement. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him.” Funeral arrangements are pending. Two days earlier a message from the Diocese of Rapid City called for a novena for their bishop Feb. 15-22, the feast of the chair of St. Peter. “In our prayers for Bishop Peter leading up to this feast, we are also giving thanks for his leadership and imploring the Lord that we may enjoy this leadership for more years to come,” it said. On Feb. 14, Bishop Muhich had announced he was moving into hospice treatment, and planned to offer his suffering from cancer to increase devotion to the Eucharist. “I have reached another step along my journey with cancer. Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” Bishop Muhich said in an announcement released by the diocese. On Feb. 15, a message from the Diocese of Rapid City called for a novena for their bishop Feb. 15-22, the feast of the chair of St. Peter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSV News) – The Nashville Diocese announced Feb. 9 that Father Juan Carlos Garcia, a former associate pastor at St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, who was ordained nearly four years ago, has been indicted by a grand jury on multiple sex abuse charges. A Williamson County grand jury indicted the priest on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, one count of aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery. The Nashville Diocese removed Father Garcia from his parish post and from public ministry in January while the Franklin Police Department investigated reports of sexual misconduct. The police began their investigation of Father Garcia after representatives of the Nashville Diocese contacted the police department to provide information it had received regarding alleged misconduct. He was booked into the Williamson County Jail Feb. 9 and as of midday Feb. 13, he remained in custody. Father Garcia, ordained to the priesthood in 2020, was assigned to St. Philip in July 2022. In early November, St. Philip officials reported to the Diocese of Nashville Safe Environment Office that a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching involving Father Garcia. Per diocesan protocols, a report was immediately made by the diocese and St. Philip representatives to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The second assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will meet Oct. 2-27 and will be preceded by several formal studies coordinated by the synod general secretariat working with various offices of the Roman Curia. The Vatican announced the dates for the assembly Feb. 17, indicating that the desire of some synod members to spend less time in Rome was not accepted. The fall assembly will be preceded by a retreat for members Sept. 30-Oct. 1, the Vatican said. And in response to a formal call by members of the first assembly of the synod, Pope Francis has agreed to the establishment of “study groups that will initiate, with a synodal method, the in-depth study of some of the themes that emerged.” In a chirograph, or brief papal document, released Feb. 17, the pope said that “these study groups are to be established by mutual agreement between the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, which is entrusted with coordination.” However, the papal note did not list the topics to be studied nor the members of the groups. The synod office said it hoped the approved groups and their members could be announced by mid-March.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – One day, Jesuit Father Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, wanted to make sure a group of visitors did not go home hungry, so he whipped up a huge omelet loaded with onions and potatoes. One of those guests, Claudio Perusini, who still remembers that meal fondly, was in Rome for the canonization of Argentina’s first female saint Feb. 11. It was his inexplicable recovery from a devastating stroke in 2017 that became the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed María Antonia de Paz Figueroa, known as Mama Antula. Perusini met the pope when he was 17 on a trip with five others for an ordination. After the ordination, then-Father Bergoglio, who was provincial superior of the Jesuits, invited the group “to the residence of the Catholic university, where he cooked us an enormous omelet with 30 eggs,” onions and potatoes, he told the Punto Medio program on Radio2 in Argentina.

“He divided it into six and served each of us, and since then I have been friends with him,” he told the radio in late October after the Vatican announced Pope Francis had approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of Mama Antula. The last time Perusini saw the pope was in 2014 when he and his wife, María Laura Baranda, had an audience at the Vatican. “I brought him ‘dulce de leche,’ ‘alfajores’ (cookies) from Santa Fe, drawings from my children and craft beer that I make,” he told the radio. The pope gave away the food, but not the beer, he said.

LVIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine reaches the two-year mark, the Knights of Columbus are calling for nine days of prayer to end the bloodshed. The national chaplains of the Knights in Ukraine, Metropolitan Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Mykhailo Bubniy of the Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Odesa, recently announced a “Novena for Peace and Healing in Ukraine.” In their joint appeal, the bishops invited “the brotherhood of the Knights and people of good will around the world” to begin the novena on Feb. 15, nine days ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty on Feb. 24, 2022. The war has been declared a genocide in two collaborative reports by the New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights. Szymon Czyszek, director of international growth in Europe for the Knights of Columbus, previously told OSV News that his organization’s members are “doing heroic work, and they are willing to risk their lives to bring aid to people in places like Avdiivka and … other villages that (are) close to the front line.” To date, the Knights have provided close to $22.4 million in aid to Ukraine, even as their organization, along with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was outlawed by a Russian occupation official in the Zaporizhzhia region.

MAKURDI, Nigeria (OSV News) – Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with the best Mass attendance. As many as 94% of self-identified Nigerian Catholics surveyed said they attend weekly or daily Mass, according to a study published in early 2023 by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The World Values Survey, which conducted the poll, doesn’t survey all countries in the world, but among those asked, Nigerian Catholics had the highest Mass attendance, followed by Kenya (73%) and Lebanon (69%). At the same time, both Christian Concern and Open Doors, organizations that track Christian persecution in the word rank Nigeria as one of the worst countries for Christians to live in after North Korea, and followed by India, Iran, China, Pakistan and Eritrea as top countries for Christian persecution. Father Moses Iorapuu, director of social communications for the Diocese of Makurdi, said that Christianity should continue to grow in an environment as hostile as Nigeria, because “this is the mystery of our faith: The blood of the martyrs remains the seed of Christianity.” Nigeria’s Intersociety advocacy group said over 100,000 unarmed and defenseless citizens have died directly or indirectly outside the law in the hands of security forces in the past eight years, between August 2014 and December 2023. Emeka Umeagbalasi, director of Intersociety, said the killings are part of a government agenda to “Islamize Nigeria.”

VALPARAISO, Chile (OSV News) – Since wildfires devastated areas in the province of Valparaíso and other regions of Chile early February, authorities and international agencies have multiplied their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the communities. OSV News spoke with Lorenzo Figueroa, director of Caritas Chile, about what he called a tremendous catastrophe, saying that in addition to at least 131 lives lost, the number of those missing and the extent of the damage has yet to be determined. “There is talk of up to 20,000 houses affected,” said Figueroa, for whom psychological damage is also a determining factor during and after these emergencies. Figueroa highlighted the community’s participation in the recovery and assistance efforts amid this natural and human tragedy. “Their knowledge, their experience. They know their territory and are active protagonists,” he explained. And after the emergency aid organizations leave “the community is no longer the same because they remain organized” to face emergencies, he added. For Figueroa, the support of other organizations is fundamental, not only financially but also in terms of experience, training and human resources, which add up when it comes to providing the necessary support to the victims. “The action of Caritas all over the world is an expression of humanitarian action in which we express ourselves as a family and the help of CRS and USAID allows us to take care of our common home, our people and those most in need,” Figueroa said.