CASHION, Arizona (OSV News) – St. William Catholic Church in Cashion, Arizona, was destroyed in an overnight fire May 1. The fire broke out just before 1 a.m. Local station Fox 10 Phoenix reported that firefighters arrived and found flames coming from the attic of the church. The roof of the church ultimately collapsed as firefighters fought the flames. “This is a devastating loss to this community,” Avondale Fire Battalion Chief Steve Mayhew said. Father Andres Arango, pastor of St. William, wrote on the parish’s website, “as many of you know, we had a major fire on campus very early this morning and it appears the church has been totally destroyed. Thankfully no one was injured and everyone is safe.” “An official investigation on the cause of the fire is being handled by local officials,” he added. “The campus is closed off during this investigation.” He wrote that “plans for a location for future Masses are currently being developed.”

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – The Louisiana State Police and the FBI are investigating whether Archdiocese of New Orleans officials – including previous archbishops – covered up child sex trafficking by clergy over several decades, with some alleged victims reportedly taken out of state to be abused and marked for further exploitation among clergy. On April 25, the state police executed a comprehensive search warrant on the archdiocese for documents related to a widening investigation into how the archdiocese has handled allegations of abuse. The warrant – a copy of which OSV News obtained following the document’s April 30 release – cites the felony of “trafficking of children for sexual purposes” as the reason for its sweeping access to archdiocesan records, including the diocese’s canonically required secret archive and archdiocesan communications with the Vatican. Probable cause for the warrant, based on the testimony of a state police investigator also assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, details reports of clergy marking out victims for abuse on archdiocesan and out-of-state properties, with complaints ignored or paid off and withheld from law enforcement. The warrant also claims several unnamed New Orleans archbishops were aware of the abuse but overlooked or obscured allegations. A spokesperson with the Archdiocese of New Orleans told OSV News the archdiocese “has been openly discussing the topic of sex abuse for over 20 years. In keeping with this, we also are committed to working with law enforcement in these endeavors.”

Pope Francis greets members and new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican May 6, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Loneliness causes tremendous harm, including to families, Pope Francis told international leaders of the Teams of Our Lady lay movement. “With your charism, you can become rescuers attentive to those who are in need, those who are alone, those who have family problems and do not know how to talk about them because they are ashamed or have lost hope,” he said during an audience with the leaders at the Vatican May 4. “In your dioceses, you can make families understand the importance of helping each other and forming a network; building communities where Christ can ‘dwell’ in the homes and in family relations,” he said. “Without Christian communities, families feel alone, and loneliness does a great deal of harm!” The lay movement, which formed in France in 1938 and has spread to numerous countries, is dedicated to improving married couples’ spiritual lives. Pope Francis said, “The Christian family is going through a genuine ‘cultural storm’ in this changing era and is threatened and tempted on various fronts.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Meeting members of the Swiss Guard, including 34 new recruits, Pope Francis thanked them for their dedication and generous service protecting the pope every day. He told them they stand out for their professionalism and their “kind, attentive, indeed scrupulous style,” during an audience at the Vatican May 6, ahead of the swearing-in ceremony for the new guards later that day. The men have built “a positive and respectful atmosphere in the barracks,” the pope said, and they show great courtesy toward “superiors and guests, despite sometimes long periods of intense and strenuous service.” Serving in the Swiss Guard, an enlistment that lasts at least two years, means it is “an important and formative time for you,” he said. “It is not just a period of work, but a time of living and relating, of intense fellowship in a diverse company.”

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (OSV News) – A retired Mexican bishop known for brokering deals with drug cartel bosses was located in a hospital bed after being incommunicado for two days, though local officials say he was briefly abducted in an “express kidnapping” by unknown assailants. Retired Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa was reported missing April 29, sparking an outpouring of concern amid widespread violence in Mexico. The bishop has long been famous for trying to diminish violence in the southern state of Guerrero – which includes his former diocese – through dialogue with crime bosses and more recently helping to negotiate a peace pact between rival drug cartels. The Mexican bishops’ conference said in an April 29 statement that Bishop Rangel was hospitalized in the city of Cuernavaca, where he has resided since resigning as bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa in early 2022. The conference provided no details on Bishop Rangel’s condition or the circumstances of his disappearance. Morelos state prosecutor Uriel Carmona showed reporters a cellular phone picture of Bishop Rangel lying in a hospital bed and said officials were investigating an “express kidnapping,” in which victims are briefly abducted and robbed.

KYIV (OSV News) – The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has denounced Russia’s seizure of a Catholic church in Ukraine’s Kherson region, calling the structure’s rededication for the Russian Orthodox Church a “sacrilege.” The Church of St. Archstrategist Michael, located in the village of Oleksandrivka in the occupied Kherson region, was captured and joined to the ROC during Holy Week of the Julian calendar, said Major Archbishop Sviatslav Shevchuk. Construction on the church began in 2017, some 11 years after the formerly Orthodox parish was officially received into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The seizure is part of a steady campaign by Russia to suppress the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, along with Catholicism in general and other faiths, in occupied areas of Ukraine.