Colorado family finds hope in Mary statue largely untouched by wildfire

By Dennis Sadowski
LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CNS) – Amid the smoldering ashes of his family’s recently remodeled Louisville, Colorado, home that was destroyed by a Dec. 30 wildfire, Tom Greany found hope in a symbol of his deep Catholic faith.
A statue of Mary that he and his wife Kat had placed outside their home was left unscathed except for the soot that covered its right side.
“Bricks appeared to have fallen all around her – some probably even hit her. But she didn’t even fall over,” Greany wrote in a reflection shared with Catholic News Service by a friend, who asked to remain unidentified. He wrote about what happened just hours after the blaze raced through the suburban communities of Louisville and Superior, about 20 miles northwest of Denver.
Greany wrote that the discovery of the statue is a reminder of how their faith provides protection and can “sustain us through everything.”

A statue of Mary is seen standing amid the rubble of a Louisville, Colo., home Dec. 31, 2021. (CNS photo/courtesy Tom Greany)

The Greanys were among hundreds of families who lost their homes in the wildfire driven by winds estimated to top 100 mph. In the Greanys’ Louisville neighborhood, 50 of 55 homes were destroyed. The other five were untouched.
Authorities said 991 structures, including businesses, were destroyed and another 127 damaged. Flames from what is called the Marshall Fire swept through more than 6,000 acres, devastating entire neighborhoods before snow helped extinguish the blazes. Residents said they fled with few possessions through dense smoke that turned the sky orange.
The Archdiocese of Denver reported on its website that two parishes – St. Louis in Louisville and Sacred Heart of Mary outside Boulder – were evacuated as flames advanced, but were undamaged. The fire nearly reached Sacred Heart, seemingly blocked by a roadway.
Both parishes as well as St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Boulder and Immaculate Conception Parish in Lafayette, northeast of Louisville, were helping affected families.
Saying the ferociousness of the flames “shocked everyone,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila quickly established an emergency fund Dec. 31, seeding it with $250,000. He asked that parishes throughout the archdiocese take a special collection at Masses the weekend of Jan. 8-9.
“To those affected by these fires, know that Joseph and Mary had to flee with Jesus shortly after he was born. The Holy Family is close to you and knows the anguish and loss you are feeling,” the archbishop said in a statement posted on the archdiocesan website.
Archbishop Aquila also encouraged parishes and other agencies to help those who fled — with little more than the clothes they were wearing, computers and important documents — by hosting families, opening food pantries and offering other services.
Recovery was complicated by cold weather and the onset of snow following an unusually warm and dry fall and early winter in the area located near the Rocky Mountains.
The fire in the middle of the holiday season remained under investigation. Authorities have focused on a property south of Boulder where the fire is believed to have started, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told reporters Jan. 2.
In the aftermath, the Greany family is counting on Mary to intercede for them as they seek to rebuild their lives.
“It stings to look at this – our home and all of its contents were lost,” Greany said in his reflection. “The Christmas giving we had celebrated with our sons up in smoke along with everything else they and we owned. The entire neighborhood gone in less than a day.”
“Awareness of the loss stings mightily,” he continued. “But we can only feel the loss as pain because of the extraordinary magnitude of the gifts we have been given in our lives. How richly blessed we are!
He said his family’s home was not burned to teach them a lesson, but it did give them the chance to experience God’s comfort through Mary’s intercession.
Greany is also convinced no one can take away his family’s faith and their trust that the Holy Family is “looking out for us.”
“They pray for us. And they pray for the world in these dark times we live in.”

Briefs

NATION
OWENSBORO, Ky. (CNS) – Celebrating Mass in a 20-by-25-foot metal outbuilding on Dec. 24, 2021, for the displaced community of Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, the image that came to mind for Owensboro Bishop William F. Medley was “there was no room at the inn.” But parishioners did find room in a structure shared by a couple in the parish for Christmas Eve and Masses in the new year as well. “I felt the gratitude that the congregation could be together again – but that they were still stunned,” Bishop Medley told The Western Kentucky Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Owensboro, of the Christmas Eve Mass. The bishop had driven the 90 minutes to Dawson Springs from Owensboro that day, wanting to open the Christmas season with the Resurrection community. Resurrection Church was among the buildings lost to the historic tornadoes that hit western Kentucky during the night of Dec. 10, 2021. The strong winds had torn out windows and ripped off parts of the roof, exposing the interior of the little church to the elements. In the following days, parishioners Donnie and Rhonda Mills offered the use of their outbuilding, which is used primarily as an exercise room, as a substitute church for the time being. The parish gathered for Mass for the first time since the tornadoes on Sunday, Dec. 19. Their second gathering was that Christmas Eve. “Their doors have always been open to everybody,” said Deacon Mike Marsili.

Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky., celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in a 20-by-25-foot metal outbuilding Dec. 24, 2021, for the displaced community of Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, Ky. (CNS photo/James Kenney, courtesy The Western Kentucky Catholic)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – The 49th annual national March for Life – with a rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court Jan. 21 – will go on as scheduled this year amid a surge in the omicron variant in the nation’s capital. Outdoor events are not affected by the District of Columbia’s vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but participants should expect to wear face masks. Indoor events associated with the annual march will have to comply with city COVID-19 restrictions. The national Pro-Life Summit, sponsored by Students for Life, is also scheduled to take place Jan. 22 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. The March for Life has canceled its three-day Pro-Life Expo and is combining two planned Capitol Hill 101 panel discussions Jan. 20 into a single event. The organization is still holding its annual Rose Dinner Gala. Participants who are 12 and older attending the panel discussion or dinner will have to provide proof of receiving one COVID-19 vaccination by Jan. 15, or, if they are seeking a medical or religious exemption, they must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of the event. The Pro-Life summit is also requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination following the city’s regulations.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At his celebration of Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 23, Pope Francis will formally install new catechists and lectors. The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which coordinates the annual celebration, said the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica will include “the conferral of the ministries of lector and catechist.” Pope Francis’ formally instituted the ministry of catechist in May 2021. He often has spoken of the importance of selecting, training and supporting catechists, who are called to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus, prepare them to receive the sacraments and educate them in the teachings of the church. The Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to encourage among all Catholics interest in knowing the sacred Scriptures and their central role in the life of the church and the Christian faith. The theme for the 2022 celebration is “Blessed are those who hear the word of God,” a verse which comes from the Gospel of St. Luke.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Living out and proclaiming the Gospel are inseparable aspects at the heart of an authentically Christian life and witness, Pope Francis said in his message for World Mission Sunday. “Every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ. And the church, the community of Christ’s disciples, has no other mission than that of bringing the Gospel to the entire world by bearing witness to Christ,” the pope wrote in his message for the celebration, which will be held Oct. 23. The theme chosen for the 2022 celebration is taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “You will be my witnesses.” The Vatican released the pope’s message Jan. 6. In his message, the pope reflected on three key “foundations of the life and mission of every disciple,” beginning with the call to bear witness to Christ. While all who are baptized are called to evangelize, the pope said the mission is carried out in communion with the church and not on “one’s own initiative.”

WORLD
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – For Christians in Chin and Kayah states, there were no Christmas and New Year celebrations due to fighting. They have borne the brunt of a decades-old civil war and faced oppression and persecution at the hands of the military, reported ucanews.com. On Dec. 29, Catholics in Kayah’s Hpruso Township held a funeral for 35 civilians – all Catholic – killed by troops and their bodies set on fire Christmas Eve in Mo So village. Ucanews.com reported local sources said the funeral was led by catechists, because the military would not allow a local priest to officiate. The killings shocked the world and drew swift condemnation from Cardinal Charles Bo, who called it a “heartbreaking and horrific atrocity. The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening. As much of the world celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the people of Mo So village suffered the terrible shock and grief of an outrageous act of inhumanity,” he said. Cardinal Bo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, urged the military “to stop bombing and shelling innocent people, to stop destroying homes and churches, schools and clinics” and to begin “a dialogue.”
DUBLIN (CNS) – After a year at the head of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Archbishop Dermot Farrell said, “Radical change is coming in the church,” which will see a renewal of energy and new forms of ministry. “With a powerful commitment from clergy and lay faithful, across the full range of the life and ministry of parish communities, we are going to experience a renewal of energy and the adoption of new forms of outreach and ministry,” the 67-year-old archbishop told Catholic News Service. He also said he believes change is already happening in the church’s structures all over the Western world. “Pope Francis is offering us a way of being church, the synodal pathway, of walking together more closely and being a church that is hope-filled, despite many challenges.” The leader of the largest Irish diocese, with more than 1 million Catholics and 207 parishes, invited the faithful to “walk this journey together with me – and walk it with hope: a hope that frees us to undertake radical change, a hope that inspires us to be ambitious and a hope encourages us to be brave.” In November, the archdiocese published its “Building Hope Task Force Report,” a strategic plan for pastoral renewal amid major challenges such as a collapse in revenue and priest numbers.
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – As Ethiopia celebrated Christmas Jan. 7, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa called for humility, patience and gentleness, while urging the people to remember those suffering from war. Ethiopia is celebrating the birth of Christ under the shadow of a deadly war in the northern state of Tigray. In less than 14 months, the conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions and ignited an international outcry over human rights abuses. Agencies say a huge humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the region, as food, medicine and basic needs fail to reach the people. “As we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, let us remember those who are suffering in war, those who have suffered a moral breakdown, those who have been displaced from their homes and injured, those who have lost their parents and families, by sharing in their pain and grief,” Cardinal Souraphiel said in a message. The cardinal said people needed to get away from pride, hatred and anger for the sake of peace.

Nación y Mundo en fotos

Los participantes disfrazados montan camellos durante la Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos en celebración de la fiesta de la Epifanía en Varsovia, Polonia, el 6 de enero de 2022. (Foto de CNS/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)
Hombres y niños cantan y bailan en las aguas heladas del río Tundzha en celebración de la fiesta de la Epifanía en Kalofer, Bulgaria, el 6 de enero de 2022. (Foto CNS/Spasiyana Sergieva, Reuters)
Una estatua de María en una gruta cubierta de nieve durante una tormenta de invierno en North Beach, Maryland, el 3 de enero de 2022. (Foto de CNS/Bob Roller)
Una persona y un caniche (poodle)  miniatura durante las celebraciones de Nochevieja, en medio de la pandemia de coronavirus en la ciudad de Nueva York antes de las celebraciones de Año Nuevo en Times Square el 31 de diciembre de 2021 (Fotos de CNS/Dieu-Nalio Chery, y Stefan Jeremiah, Reuters)
Las personas participan en Polar Bear Plunge en North Beach, Maryland, el 1 de enero de 2022. El evento anual de recaudación de fondos está patrocinado por las Damas de la Caridad del condado de Calvert. (Foto del SNC/Bob Roller)

Mourning, prayer and a resolve to rebuild follow devastating tornadoes

By Catholic News Service
MAYFIELD, Ky. (CNS) – Mourning, prayer and a resolve to rebuild shattered lives, homes and businesses in Mayfield followed one of the most powerful twisters in U.S. history that leveled the city of 10,000 in western Kentucky overnight Dec. 10.

The Bluegrass State was the worst hit as numerous devastating tornadoes traveled across it and its neighboring states of Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri, leveling entire communities.
As of early Dec. 13, at least 34 people were confirmed dead, but rescue efforts were still underway in Mayfield and elsewhere.

Twenty of those who perished were in Kentucky, and six died when a roof collapsed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois.

As members of two of Mayfield’s faith congregations came together to pray Dec. 12 amid rubble – piles of brick, metal and glass – prayers for their city and all of those affected by the ferocious mid-December twisters came from far and wide, including from Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic bishops, and from close to home – Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, whose diocese covers western Kentucky.

Debris surrounds a badly damaged church in Mayfield, Ky., Dec. 11, 2021, after a devastating tornado ripped through the town. More than 30 tornadoes were reported across six states late Dec. 10, and early Dec. 11, killing dozens of people and leaving a trail of devastation. (CNS photo/Cheney Orr, Reuters)

A papal telegram conveyed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said Pope Francis “was saddened to learn of the devastating impact of the tornadoes” in the Midwest and the South.

“He offers heartfelt prayers that almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy,” it said.

“With gratitude for the tireless efforts of the rescue workers and all engaged in caring for the injured, the grieving families and those left homeless, Pope Francis invokes upon all engaged in the massive work of relief and rebuilding the Lord’s gifts of strength and generous perseverance in the service of their brothers and sisters,” said the telegram, which Cardinal Parolin sent to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio in the U.S.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the destruction and devastation was “heartbreaking” and called for prayer and assistance for all those who were in the path of the storms.

“During this Advent season where we await in joyful anticipation for the birth of our Lord, we pray for those who have been injured, for those who have lost their lives, and for their grieving families and communities,” said Archbishops Gomez and Coakley. “May those who have been impacted by these storms find peace, comfort and hope in our faith and in God’s endless love.
“We also pray for the emergency responders and those who have begun the work of providing for the needs of the impacted in these communities in the recovery efforts,” they said in a statement issued late Dec. 11. “We entrust all our brothers and sisters in harm’s way to our Blessed Mother, and we ask for her continued protection and for her intercession in comforting those who are suffering.”

The two prelates urged Catholics and all people of goodwill to donate to recovery efforts and financial help for tornado victims by supporting the work of Catholic Charities USA: https://www.catholiccharities.us/campaign/ccusa-disaster-relief/c353051.

Bishop Medley in a Dec. 11 statement called on the Catholic community of the diocese “to unite in prayer … for all of the suffering that was caused by this disaster.”

He asked all parishes to take up a special collection over the Dec. 11-12 weekend to aid tornado victims.

The bishop also took note of the leveling of Mayfield’s candle factory, where 110 employees were working around the clock, which is customary during the Christmas season, according to news reports.

Initially, city officials feared the death toll among factory workers would reach 70. Late Dec. 12, a company representative told reporters that eight workers were confirmed dead and eight remained missing, but the rest had been accounted for.

“Many of those injured in the Mayfield candle factory were parishioners, and others represented migrants and the marginalized in our communities,” Bishop Medley said in his statement.

He added that through its Catholic Charities office, the diocese planned “to offer immediate help and services” for those displaced by the tornado and/or need immediate emergency financial help.

“I am proud of the many ways that your generosity always allows the Catholic Church to respond to the suffering and to families in crisis,” Bishop Medley said. “So I thank you in advance for your generous response to this terrible devastation. God will bless our generosity.”

In a Dec. 12 tweet, Bishop Medley said he visited the Catholic community of St. Joseph Church in Mayfield: “Fr. Eric Riley, the pastor, preached on the Advent and Our Lady of Guadalupe themes of hope and joy. Neighboring parish St. Jerome of Fancy Farm welcomed them.”
At a news briefing Dec. 12 in Mayfield, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear noted one tornado traveled 227 miles. “It didn’t take a roof, which is what we’ve seen in the past. it exploded the whole house. People, animals … just gone.”

“The very first thing that we have to do is grieve together,” he said, “and we’re going to do that before we rebuild together.”

Justices seem willing to allow Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In the Supreme Court’s first major abortion case in decades – which looked at Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy – the majority of justices Dec. 1 seemed willing to let that ban stay in place.

But it was unclear if they would take this further and overturn Roe.

While the justices considered the state law and the possible ramifications of supporting it or not, people on both sides of the issue were on the steps of the Supreme Court revealing the divide on this issue by what they were shouting or with their placard messages calling abortion murder or an essential right.

At several points during the argument, Chief Justice John Roberts continued to bring the focus back to the question at hand: the 15-week ban on abortions in Mississippi, which was struck down by a federal District Court in Mississippi in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

A 15-week ban is not a “dramatic departure from viability,” Roberts said.

The point of viability – when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own – was key to the discussion because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before 24 weeks or when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own.

A pro-life activist holding a crucifix joins a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Dec. 1, 2021, ahead of the court hearing oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Roberts seemed hesitant to take this further, asking if the court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, if it also would be asked to reconsider several other cases that people could say have been wrongly decided.

And that discussion of previous court decisions, the use of “stare decisis” came up frequently. The term, which literally means to stand by things decided, was used in reference to previous abortion cases but also several other cases with some justices pointing out that precedence should not always be a deciding factor and that some cases did need to be overturned.
Justice Stephen Breyer indicated the court was treading on contested ground and was concerned that its decision could be seen as merely being political.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor took this a step further, saying the court would be seen as highly politicized if it were to overturn Roe and other related rulings. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she asked. “I don’t see how it is possible.”

But as the arguments continued, more reflection seemed to be on the issue of abortion itself and the possibility of bringing the issue “back to the people,” as Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart suggested.

Stewart stressed that Roe and Casey court decisions “haunt our country” and “have no home in our history or traditions.”

Roe v. Wade is the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Casey v. Planned Parenthood is the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe and also stressed that a state regulation on abortion could not impose an “undue burden” on a woman “seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh emphasized the court was being forced to “pick sides” on a contentious issue and questioned why the court had to be the arbiter here.

“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice,” he said, noting that it “leaves the issue to the people to resolve in the democratic process.”

Justice Clarence Thomas asked what those opposed to the state ban thought was the constitutional right to an abortion, and Justice Samuel Alito spoke of the fetus having “an interest in having a life.”

Julie Rikelman, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represented the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in its challenge of Mississippi’s abortion law, said keeping the law in place would cause “profound damage to women’s liberty, equality and the rule of law.”

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar went on to argue that overturning the court’s previous abortion rulings would have “severe and swift” effects causing abortion restrictions in other states.

If the court sides with Mississippi, it would be the first time the court would allow an abortion ban before the point of viability and could lay the groundwork for other abortion restrictions that other states could follow.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a court brief supporting Mississippi, stressed that abortion is not a right created by the Constitution and called it “inherently different from other types of personal decisions to which this court has accorded constitutional protection.”

Referring to the court’s major abortion decisions, the brief warned that if the Supreme Court “continues to treat abortion as a constitutional issue,” it will face more questions in the future about “what sorts of abortion regulations are permissible.”

Just as the arguments started, the USCCB issued a statement from Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, which said: “We pray that the court will do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion and in doing so protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act.”

A ruling in the case is expected in July.

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

New Orleans billboard campaign reminds all to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – Eternal hope is the overarching message of Christmas: A child born in a barn changed the world.

Charlie LeBlanc was one of those hope-filled New Orleans Catholics – a regular communicant, a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus and a straight shooter – who for decades ran the Christ in Christmas Committee billboard campaign with deep faith, good humor and back-of-the-envelope math.

When LeBlanc’s home was flooded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he never lost his faith that someone bigger was in control.

“I don’t know,” he said in 2006 as he prepared to rebuild, shortly before his death. “I’m 85 years old, and I just got approved for a 30-year mortgage.”

LeBlanc was one in a line of New Orleans Catholics who since 1952 have created the most successful Christmas billboard campaign in the country.

This year, more than 60 “Keep Christ in Christmas” billboards sponsored by Catholic schools, Knights of Columbus councils and women’s auxiliaries, businesses and individuals sprouted up after Thanksgiving in the Greater New Orleans area. The billboards, emphasizing the spiritual meaning of Christmas, are put up by Outfront, the company that has been involved in the program since 1952.

Another seven to 10 electronic billboards with the “Keep Christ in Christmas” message will be running around the clock near the city on the Northshore, courtesy of Lamar.

“I’ve mentioned it to people in other states, and nobody’s done it to the extent that we have in the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” said Stephen Hart, who succeeded LeBlanc as committee chair in 2002 and has witnessed the number of billboards grow from the low to mid 20s to more than 60.

Former committee member Blanche Comiskey recalled being asked to join the mostly male group in the late 1960s. She said Francis Doyle, a local bank executive, had started the effort because he felt the secularization of Christmas, with the emphasis on buying things, was overshadowing the spiritual message.

As a leading member of the Council of Catholic School Cooperative Clubs – the association of parents’ clubs across the archdiocese – Comiskey recruited more schools to sponsor billboards. Dozens of schools continue to do so.

“The schools really do cooperate, and if one school can’t afford a whole board, they can combine with another school,” Comiskey said. “It was wonderful to see the reaction. It means that sometimes volunteer work is rewarding. Imagine the little kids who might have put in a little money for a billboard. They had to feel special.”

The cost of sponsoring a “Keep Christ in Christmas” billboard is $430. Although all reservations have been made for this year, there are always openings for next year, Hart said.

“We’ve had a number of people thank us for doing the ministry – for getting the message out and for putting it at the front of people’s attention,” Hart said.

“I’m hoping what the billboards do is bring back the family celebration and the real meaning of Christmas, where people can celebrate together,” he said. “This whole isolation – where parents are isolated in their home and often couldn’t visit their grandkids because they were afraid for their own safety – hopefully will all be over.”

(Editor’s Note: More information on the Christmas billboard campaign can be found at www.keepchristinchristmasnola.org. Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.)

Corte Suprema parece favorecer límites al aborto en Mississippi

Por Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – En el primer caso importante sobre el aborto en la Corte Suprema en décadas, que examinó la prohibición de Mississippi sobre los abortos después de 15 semanas de embarazo, la mayoría de los jueces parecían dispuestos el 1 de diciembre a dejar que la prohibición se mantenga.

Pero no estaba claro si irían más allá y anularían el antecedente de Roe contra Wade que permitió el aborto en EE.UU. como un derecho.

Mientras los jueces consideraban la ley estatal y las posibles ramificaciones de apoyarla o no, partidarios de ambos lados del asunto estaban en las escalinatas de la Corte Suprema exponiendo la división en este tema por lo que gritaban o con sus mensajes en pancartas calificaban al aborto como un asesinato o un derecho esencial.

En varios momentos en la etapa de argumentos, el presidente de la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos, John Roberts, continuó centrando la atención en el tema principal: la prohibición de abortar a las 15 semanas en Mississippi, que fue anulada por un Tribunal Federal de Distrito en Mississippi en 2018 y confirmada un año después por el Tribunal de Apelaciones de Estados Unidos para el 5º Circuito, con sede en Nueva Orleans. Una prohibición de 15 semanas no es “una desviación drástica de la viabilidad”, dijo Roberts.

El punto de viabilidad –cuando se dice que un feto es capaz de sobrevivir por sí mismo– fue clave en la discusión porque el Tribunal Supremo ha dictaminado sistemáticamente que los estados no pueden restringir el aborto antes de las 24 semanas o cuando se dice que un feto es capaz de sobrevivir por sí mismo. Roberts parecía tener dudas en cuanto a llevar el asunto más allá al preguntar si en el caso que el tribunal anulara Roe vs. Wade, también se le pediría que reconsiderara varios otros casos que la gente podría decir que se han decidido erróneamente.
Y en esa discusión sobre decisiones anteriores del tribunal, el uso de “stare decisis” surgió con frecuencia. El término, que literalmente significa mantener lo que se ha decidido, se utilizó en referencia a casos anteriores sobre el aborto, pero también a otros varios casos en los que algunos jueces señalaron que el precedente no debería ser siempre un factor decisivo y que algunos casos debían ser revocados.

Pero a medida que los argumentos continuaban, la mayor reflexión parecía centrarse en la cuestión del aborto en sí y en la posibilidad de devolver el asunto “al pueblo”, como sugirió el procurador general de Mississippi, Scott Stewart.Stewart subrayó que las decisiones judiciales Roe y Casey “persiguen a nuestro país” y “no tienen cabida en nuestra historia ni en nuestras tradiciones”.

El caso Casey contra Planned Parenthood es la decisión de 1992 que afirmó el fallo en Roe y también subrayó que una regulación estatal sobre el aborto no podía imponer una “carga indebida” a una mujer “que busca un aborto antes de que el feto alcance la viabilidad”.
El juez Brett Kavanaugh enfatizó que el tribunal se estaba viendo obligado a “elegir un bando” en un tema polémico y cuestionó por qué el tribunal tenía que ser el árbitro aquí.”La Constitución no está ni a favor de la vida ni a favor del aborto”, dijo, y señaló que “deja la cuestión al pueblo para que la resuelva en el proceso democrático”. El juez Clarence Thomas preguntó qué pensaban los que se oponían a la prohibición estatal sobre el derecho constitucional al aborto, y el juez Samuel Alito habló de que el feto tiene “un interés en tener una vida”.Julie Rikelman, del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, que representó a la Organización de Salud de la Mujer de Jackson en su impugnación de la ley de aborto de Mississippi, dijo que mantener la ley en vigor causaría “un profundo daño a la libertad de la mujer, a la igualdad y al estado de derecho”.

La procuradora general de EE.UU., Elizabeth Prelogar, continuó argumentando que anular las sentencias anteriores del tribunal sobre el aborto tendría efectos “graves y rápidos” que provocarían restricciones al aborto en otros estados.

Si el tribunal da la razón a Mississippi, sería la primera vez que el tribunal permitiría una prohibición del aborto antes del punto de viabilidad y podría sentar las bases para otras restricciones al aborto que podrían seguir en otros estados.

La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de EE.UU., en un escrito judicial de apoyo a Mississippi, subrayó que el aborto no es un derecho creado por la Constitución y lo calificó de “intrínsecamente diferente de otros tipos de decisiones personales a las que este tribunal ha concedido protección constitucional”. “Rezamos para que el tribunal haga lo correcto y permita que los estados vuelvan a limitar o prohibir el aborto y, al hacerlo, protejan a millones de niños no nacidos y a sus madres de este doloroso acto que destruye la vida”.

Se espera en julio un fallo sobre el caso.

Briefs

NATION
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Jim Liston believes his idea of emphasizing the true meaning of Christmas is so simple that he wonders why it took him so long to think of it. The idea came to Liston as he traveled through the neighborhoods around his Indianapolis home and saw how many people decorated their houses with brilliant light displays and filled their lawns with large, inflated Santas, reindeer and snowmen. It suddenly hit him that he rarely saw another kind of Christmas display. “It’s almost an anomaly when you see a Nativity scene,” said Liston, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. “We’re in a society where everything about Christmas is glitz and consumerism. The simplicity of the Nativity scene struck me right in the heart. This is what Christmas is all about. I thought, ‘Why don’t I get one?’” Liston not only got one – and loved it – he also had the grand idea to make central Indiana the “Outdoor Nativity Scene Capital of the United States.” He set his plan in motion this year with a two-part approach. He contacted the manufacturer that made his Nativity scene to see if he could negotiate a reduced price for a large order. He also reached out to all the Catholic schools in the Indianapolis deaneries and in nearby Hamilton County to have them ask their families who would be interested in buying a Nativity scene to display in front of their homes.

CLEVELAND (CNS) – As an author and lecturer, Father Donald B. Cozzens, a Cleveland diocesan priest and former seminary rector, shared candid insights on the priesthood, challenging the Catholic Church to confront clericalism and renew its structure. Despite criticism privately and publicly from fellow clergy, Father Cozzens maintained that it was his love of the priesthood that prompted his outspokenness for positive change. Father Cozzens, 82, died Dec. 9 of complications from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. It was Father Cozzens’ book, “The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” published in 2000, that set the course for much of his life after he stepped down as president-rector of St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in the Diocese of Cleveland a year later to focus on teaching and writing. He spent more than 20 years tackling the issues he believed church officials needed to address including transparency in decision-making and welcoming women into a wide role in the church. Other works included “Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church,” “Faith That Dares to Speak,” and “Freeing Celibacy.”

Pope Francis blows out a candle on a 13-foot-long pizza as he celebrates his 81st birthday at the Vatican in this Dec. 17, 2017, file photo. The pope will celebrate his 85th birthday Dec. 17 and, according to his nephew, Jesuit Father José Luis Narvaja, he is still energetic and rarin’ to go. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Although Italy no longer has a 10 p.m. curfew in force as part of its measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, Pope Francis will celebrate the “Christmas Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m., as he did in 2020. On Dec. 13, the Vatican published the list of Pope Francis’ liturgies for the Christmas season. The schedule begins with what many people refer to as “midnight Mass” although the Mass has not been celebrated at midnight at the Vatican since 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI moved it to 10 p.m. Pope Francis moved it to 9:30 p.m. in 2013, his first Christmas as pope, and to 7:30 p.m. in 2020.

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis will turn 85 years old Dec. 17. And according to his nephew, Jesuit Father José Luis Narvaja, he is still rarin’ to go. “I see him doing very well, with so much strength; really, he doesn’t seem to be 85,” the Argentine priest told the Italian Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, for its Dec. 12 issue. Father Narvaja, who is the son of the pope’s youngest sister, the late Marta Regina Bergoglio, said he visited his uncle, the pope, right after his colon surgery in July. Even then, “he was doing well but he was still in a bit of pain, and he told me, ‘Don’t make me laugh, the stitches hurt!’” he said. “He is very active, enthusiastic, he doesn’t stop. He said some people had hoped his illness would make him shut up a little, but it didn’t. He’s doing very well,” said Father Narvaja, who teaches patristics and divides his time between Rome and Cordoba, Argentina. Speaking about his uncle’s approach to his ministry as pontiff, the fellow Jesuit said, “He does what he feels the Spirit is asking of him.”

WORLD
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) – When restoration on the Church of the Nativity’s wooden beams and leaking roof began in 2013 with the blessing of the three custodial churches, everyone involved was aware of the historic significance of the venture. It was the first time in 540 years that any repair work was done on the church on the site where Jesus was born. But what the team of workers – including local Palestinian committees and engineers and international restoration experts – did not know was the true impact of the initial ecumenical cooperation. Historically the Franciscans, Greek Orthodox and Armenians jealously guarded their rights in the church, under the 1852 Status Quo agreement that regulates the ownership of spaces in various holy sites as well as the times and duration of religious liturgies. As recently as 2011, Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks came to blows over cleaning rights in a certain area in the church. But with the leaking of the roof endangering the ancient structure, all agreed to undertake the necessary work. And a new era began. “Along the way the three churches noticed the good results that were coming from the cooperation and that it would be good to continue,” said Khouloud Daibes, the new executive director of the Bethlehem Development Foundation.

SOMERSET, England (CNS) – Through the heavy oak door of a 15th-century mansion set in a sweeping, frosty valley comes the sound of singing, backed by a mix of violins, concertinas and woodwinds. “Almighty God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon him – at this time born of a pure virgin.” When Thomas Clark, a cobbler, composed his Christmas Day liturgical music around 1830, he probably never expected it would still be performed two centuries later. Halsway Manor, in Somerset’s Quantock Hills, has been a center for English folk arts since the 1960s and includes “West Gallery” music by Clark and others on its annual Christmas program. “Although long neglected and forgotten, this music has an intrinsic quality,” explained Dave Townsend, co-founder of Britain’s West Gallery Music Association. “Beneath the surface simplicity of some West Gallery settings, there’s a depth of feeling not found in more expansive music from the period. It was central to people’s lives and deserves historical recognition.”

U.S. bishops spotlight programs on Eucharist, young people, moms in need

By Catholic News Service
BALTIMORE – The U.S. bishops spotlighted two major initiatives focused on the central role of the Eucharist Nov. 17, the second of two days of public sessions of their fall general assembly.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a 26-page statement, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” with 222 “yes” votes, and also OK’d plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will culminate with the National Eucharistic Congress 2024 in Indianapolis.

On other matters, they were invited to take a multicultural journey with young Catholics to Chicago next June; were urged to implement a framework for marriage and family ministry that they had approved at their spring assembly in June; agreed to begin review of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” earlier than planned; and heard how the pandemic may have slowed but not stopped a pro-life initiative called “Walking With Moms in Need.”

They approved guidelines governing the USCCB’s financial investments that include wider limits on where money would be invested. The guidelines advance a policy of engagement on corporate practices that impact human dignity.
The prelates, meeting in person for a national gathering for the first time since 2019, also approved guidelines for the exposition of the Eucharist and Benediction, affirmed sainthood causes for three U.S. laypeople, approve revisions of statutes for the catechumenate and voted for revised English- and Spanish-language editions of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Bishops attend a Nov. 16, 2021, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the first in-person bishops’ meeting since 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The bishops assigned a feast date to St. Teresa of Kolkata – Sept. 5, the death date in 1997 for the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. It will be an optional memorial on the U.S. liturgical calendar.

Their vote on the Eucharist statement came a day after their discussion of the document – a discussion that was markedly different than their debate in June about what it could potentially contain, namely a call for President Joe Biden and Catholic politicians who support abortion to be denied Communion. But the final document had nothing like that and is addressed to all Catholics in the United States.

It “endeavors to explain the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee, in a short presentation on the statement Nov. 16. It “addresses the fundamental doctrine about the Eucharist that the church needs to retrieve and revive.”
Even bigger than the statement is the plan for the three-year eucharistic revival, ending with the National Eucharistic Congress 2024 in Indianapolis. The bishops approved it 201-17, with five abstentions.

The revival will officially start on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 16, 2022, with a diocesan focus that will include eucharistic processions and other events of adoration and prayer around the country. In 2023, the emphasis will be on parishes and resources aimed at increasing Catholics’ understanding of what the Eucharist really means.

As chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was recently named bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, gave the bishops details about this planned revival just before they voted on it.

The revival could be a time of healing for the entire church, he said, as well as a movement of evangelization and a reawakening of understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist for Catholics across the country.

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez invited fellow bishops to a national gathering in Chicago in June to participate with young Catholics in a dialogue about issues of culture, racism and inclusion through the prism of faith.

“Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit’s way of telling us bishops that we really needed to take time to listen to young people, those who minister to them and, especially, those who are in the peripheries, feeling unimportant and unloved, and often alienated from the church,” Archbishop Pérez said Nov. 17. He is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.

He detailed the opportunity the coronavirus pandemic has provided in facilitating virtual gatherings between young Catholics and bishops over the last year and a half. More than 60 bishops have joined virtual gatherings as part of a process called “Journeying Together,” he said.

The gatherings have taken place online in the midst of a pandemic, under “social unrest, racial reckoning, and the polarization affecting U.S. society,” he said. The process created “an opportunity for bishops, young adults, youth ministers and campus ministers, and leaders of various other ministries with young people, to engage in respectful yet honest dialogue in matters of faith, culture, racism, inclusion and the issues that affect them as young people,” he explained.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth called on his fellow bishops to work “in every way possible” to implement the national pastoral framework for marriage and family ministry that they approved in June.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said that addressing marriage and family life is vital in a time when families are under increasing threats from “sweeping ideological currents that destroy and undermine our sexual identity as man and woman and God-given vocations as father and mother, son or daughter.” Bolstering marriage and family ministry is an appropriate undertaking to start during the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” declared by Pope Francis, the archbishop said.

Titled “Called to the Joy of Love: A Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry,” the document can serve as a practical guidebook to serve couples and families because it offers an adaptable set of principles and strategies for pastoral care, he said.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told his fellow bishops that the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities’ “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative may have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, but it has by no means stopped helping expectant mothers from any walk of life. It was launched March 25, 2020, just as the pandemic began to take hold.

This initiative “has the capacity to take what is often seen as a partisan divide and transform it into pastoral unity, bridging the divide between Catholics who describe themselves using the labels of ‘pro-life’ or ‘social justice,'” he said. “The vision of WWMIN is that a pregnant or parenting mother in need can turn to any local Catholic parish and be connected with the life-affirming assistance and accompaniment that she needs.”

A bishop looks over paperwork Nov. 16, 2021, during a session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the first in-person bishops’ meeting since 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The initiative’s website is WalkingWithMoms.com.

In presentations at end of the Nov. 17 public session:
– Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told the bishops 3 million to 11 million people in the U.S. could soon benefit from some type of immigration reform.
– Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the USCCB’s migration committee, asked his fellow prelates to advocate, pray and walk with immigrants in their respective dioceses.
– From Haiti to Afghanistan, the work of Catholic Relief Services has focused on responding to the impact of climate change, natural disasters such as earthquakes, hunger, meager farm production and developing education for children, reported Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, president of the CRS board of directors. He gave the presentation with Sean Callahan, CRS president and CEO.
– Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, told the bishops the national network of Catholic Charities agencies had provided $5.1 billion in assistance in the last year, much of it connected to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
– The synodal process the church is entering into is meant to show that “no one is unimportant in this time of listening,” said Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas. The bishop, a member of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine and voted its chairman-elect during the assembly, said the process over the next seven months must involve the participation of the whole church “listening together, praying together, discerning together.”

At sunrise Nov. 18 outside the hotel where the bishops held their assembly, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and six other Catholic prelates joined survivors of sex abuse, some the victims of clergy in an invitation-only walk to pray for an end to the “evil” of abuse and call for a day of prayer for survivors and an end to the abuse.

(Contributing to this story were Carol Zimmermann, Dennis Sadowski, Rhina Guidos and Mark Pattison.)

Bishops approve plans for three-year National Eucharistic Revival

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. bishops’ focus on the significance of the Eucharist in the life of the church isn’t just about on the statement they approved at their fall meeting.

It also is about something bigger: a three-year eucharistic revival that will culminate with the National Eucharistic Congress 2024 in Indianapolis.

The bishops approved a motion Nov. 17 during their general assembly in Baltimore to host this congress with 201 votes in favor, 17 against and five abstentions.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was recently named bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, gave the bishops details about this planned revival just before they voted on it.

The bishop, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said the revival could be a time of healing for the entire church as well as a movement of evangelization and a reawakening of understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist for Catholics across the country.

The revival will officially start on the feast of Corpus Christi June 16, 2022, with a diocesan focus that will include eucharistic processions and other events of adoration and prayer around the country.

In 2023, the emphasis will be on parishes and resources aimed at increasing Catholics’ understanding of what the Eucharist really means.

Part of the impetus prompting this effort was a Pew study in the fall of 2019 that showed just 30% of Catholics understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Bishop Cozzens noted the price tag for the National Eucharistic Congress – $28 million – is expensive, but said it is worth it and can be doable with fundraising.

He said many apostolates and ministries are donating time and resources to help make the eucharistic revival a reality.
Some bishops questioned the cost of the congress that wraps up this venture, but others spoke about the potential this will have to bring Catholics back to the church and bring those in the church to a deeper sense of devotion and a stronger faith.

Bishop Cozzens pointed out that such large-scale church events can be transformative and said the National Eucharistic Congress may end up being something the Catholic Church revisits 10 years from now.

Blessed Carlo Acutis will be the patron for the first year of the revival. The Italian teen, who was beatified in October 2020, died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15. He was a programmer who used social media to unite many people and spread Christian values.

In his apostolic letter proclaiming the youth “blessed,” Pope Francis said he “cultivated a friendship with our Lord Jesus, placing the Eucharist and the witness of charity at the center of his life.”