‘New pro-life agenda’ sees wins in state battles to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms

By Kimberley Heatherington

(OSV News) – The pro-life movement in post-Dobbs America requires robust support for health care and social service programs to accompany parents who choose life, some clergy, legislators and advocates told OSV News – including efforts to expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers.

The most recent front in the struggle to deliver such assistance is Mississippi, home to the city of Jackson referenced in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade. After a two-year clash of political wills, Mississippi’s House March 7 finally passed 88-29 a Medicaid postpartum coverage extension already approved by the state Senate, after the governor said this legislation was part of the “new pro-life agenda.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and other faith leaders gathered at a press conference offering their support of the extention of postpartum coverage for Mississippi mothers on Monday, Feb. 27 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that gives health coverage to some individuals, families and children with limited income and resources. It’s also the largest single payer of pregnancy-related services, funding 42% of all U.S. births in 2019. According to a 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation study, the average U.S. birth costs $18,865; for those insured, the average out-of-pocket expense is $2,655.
In Mississippi, low-income mothers will now be eligible for a full year of postpartum coverage instead of just 60 days. With the signature of Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who as lieutenant governor helped craft the Dobbs brief, the bill becomes law.

“I am grateful for the prayer, hard work and collaboration that brought this bill to the finish line,” Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson told OSV News. “One big step forward for the common good.”

“Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is very important that we provide support to moms and parents who are keeping their babies rather than aborting them,” Debbie Tubertini, coordinator in the Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Family Ministry, told OSV News.

Jennifer Williams, diocesan director of Catholic Charities of South Mississippi, also shared with OSV News that “expanded Medicaid for postpartum benefits will allow our clients and others across the state the opportunity to receive much-needed medical care and mental health care.”

Both Bishop Kopacz and Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi, Mississippi, issued a Feb. 24 letter urging lawmakers “to protect the life and health of mothers in this state.”

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates Mississippi has the country’s highest infant mortality rate, and its population includes a sizable number of women with chronic medical conditions.

While federal law requires all states to provide Medicaid coverage without cost sharing for pregnancy-related services to pregnant women with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, individuals with pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage typically lose benefits two months after the end of pregnancy.
The 2021 American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to extend Medicaid pregnancy coverage from 60 days to one year postpartum – however, the law’s provision expires in May.

Not all states have taken legislative action – some have done so in varying degrees – owing to political disagreement about the role of government when it comes to assisting mothers in need. Some advocate the government should provide a wider and stronger social safety net, while others oppose efforts to enlarge government programs and spending.

“It’s a philosophical difference about the role of government. I understand that,” said former Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Catholic pro-life Democrat who represented his Illinois district in the U.S. House 2005-2021.

“But I believe that (extending postpartum coverage) is the right thing to do. I don’t think that it is the government stepping in too much to help women who are really in need.”

Two pro-life groups, Democrats for Life of America and Americans United for Life, outlined a proposal declaring that “to change the future, we need a new model, a better paradigm. Birth in the United States of America should be free.”

Lipinski said the pro-life movement is at a critical moment “to demonstrate – now that Roe is gone – what we really stand for, and what we really want to do.”

Lipinksi’s call to comprehensive pro-life action has been echoed on the other side of the political aisle.
“As we take steps to protect the unborn, we also have an obligation to support pregnant and new moms, as well as their young children,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told OSV News. “My Providing for Life Act provides a national blueprint to do exactly that, and I am encouraged to see states across the nation stepping up to do the same.”

Rubio’s plan would enable paid parental leave; expand the Child Tax Credit, Child Support Enforcement requirements, tax relief for adoptive parents and access to social services; provide additional funding, with reforms, to the Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, program, and more.

Wyoming state Rep. Cody Wylie, R-Sweetwater, grabbed headlines when he declared in support a bill to expand temporarily postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months through 2024, “If we’re going to hold the line and protect life by outlawing abortion, we also need to be damn sure we’re prepared and willing to roll up our sleeves and fund programs for mothers and children.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed the bill into law March 3 calling it a “signature piece of pro-life legislation” that is expected to help as many as 2,000 low-income Wyoming mothers.

Patrick Brown, a Catholic and fellow in the Life and Family Initiative at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, told OSV News that both Lipinski and Rubio are “champions in trying to think through what an authentically pro-life policy agenda should be.”

“We should be prudently – but also meaningfully – investing in families, because they’re doing the important work of carrying on society for the next generation,” Brown explained. “That’s my overarching argument for why these kinds of policies are important.”

Nonetheless, “big changes like this don’t happen overnight,” he said. “It took 49 years to overturn Roe v. Wade – and we’re not even in the first year of what a post-Dobbs reality looks like.”

(Kimberley Heatherington writes for OSV News from Virginia.)

Traditional Irish dance is individual and communal, much like faith, priest says

By George P. Matysek Jr.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – As a lilting Irish hornpipe blared from his smart phone, Jesuit Father Brian Frain’s hard shoes repeatedly smacked a wooden floor with rapid-fire precision. The hypnotic rat-a-tat-tat-tat that echoed in the empty room seemed like the perfect percussive accompaniment to the Celtic tune.

When the music changed to a jig, the priest’s feet flew even faster as he floated across the floor – arms rigidly held alongside his torso.

The music ended, and a smile engulfed the clergyman’s face as he leaped about three feet and kicked.
“You know, I should really have the 911 button ready to go,” said the 59-year-old pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Baltimore, his breathing slightly heavy after several minutes of high-energy dance. “I’m out of shape.”

Jesuit Father Brian Frain, pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, shows a traditional Irish dance step Feb. 6, 2023. He is a former competitive Irish dancer and avid accordion player who first learned Irish dancing at age 5. His father was born in Ireland, as were his maternal grandparents. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Traditional Irish dance has been an important part of Father Frain’s life ever since he was a boy. His father was born in Ireland, as were his maternal grandparents. His aunt, who first taught him to dance when he was about 5, learned the art form while attending an Irish boarding school. He later studied in an Irish dance school.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, Father Frain remembers falling in love with the beauty of the movement. He won several regional Irish dance championships and once competed at the national level. From 1987 to 1992, he ran his own school of Irish dancing before giving it up to enter religious life.
Father Frain, who earned his dance licensure from An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha in Dublin, the world’s premier Irish dance commission, also taught with Irish dance groups at Fordham University in New York, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.

Now just under a year into his new pastoral assignment in Baltimore, he plans to offer Irish dance classes at St. Ignatius this Lent. Over the years, he has helped three people earn their certification to teach Irish dance.

Irish dance is both individual and communal, Father Frain said, much like the practice of the Catholic faith.
“It takes a lot of coordination and perfection with others,” he told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “You are no longer just a self, but you’re part of a community and you can’t do what you want. You have to lift your leg exactly at the same height that the others lifted. You have to lift your hands at the precise millisecond that the others lift their hands. It requires you to stop thinking individually and start thinking of who’s around you.”

Father Frain, who has visited Ireland seven times, also plays the accordion and enjoys monthly Irish jam sessions in the rectory with a cousin. He recently began serving as chaplain to the Baltimore-area Lady’s Ancient Order of Hibernians.

“There’s a joy that’s expressed in Irish dancing,” he said. “I just love it when I see kids dancing and they know what they’re doing and that they can do it. It’s a beautiful thing.”

(George Matysek Jr. is managing editor of the Catholic Review, news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.)


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Surgical, chemical or other interventions that aim “to exchange” a person’s “sex characteristics” for those of the opposite sex “are not morally justified,” said the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee in a statement released March 20. “What is of great concern, is the range of technological interventions advocated by many in our society as treatments for what is termed ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender incongruence,’” it said. The statement urged “particular care” be taken “to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent” for surgical procedures or treatments such as chemical puberty blockers, which arrest the natural course of puberty and prevent the development of some sex characteristics in the first place.” Technological advances that enable the cure of “many human maladies” today and “promise to cure many more” have “been a great boon to humanity,” but there are “moral limits to technological manipulation of the human body,” it said. “The human person, body and soul, man or woman, has a fundamental order and finality whose integrity must be respected.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee March 15 approved release of the 14-page statement by the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, chaired by Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (OSV News) – In a legislative development that has drawn concern from both Catholic and labor leaders, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., signed into law March 8 the Youth Hiring Act of 2023 which eliminates state age verification for children younger than 16 seeking a job. Arkansas law previously stipulated the Arkansas Department of Labor issue an official employment certificate for minors under 16 seeking to work, which included parental or guardian permission, a job description and schedule – measures considered a deterrent to potential child labor law violators. Dennis Lee, diocesan chancellor for administrative affairs, told OSV News the Little Rock Diocese “is concerned about the exploitation of children and youth under the age of 16 to perform dangerous jobs.” He said removing the “reasonable, non-burdensome law” means they will have to rely on enforcement of remaining state and federal laws to protect children. Benjamin Smith, senior child labor specialist at the International Labor Organization, said the law’s removal “only heightens the risk that children will become involved in child labor.” The law’s revision also increases risks to migrant children as parental permissions on file with the state are no longer required. The U.S. Labor Department reports it has 600 ongoing child labor investigations, while witnessing a 69% increase in children illegally employed since 2018. The department called for Congress to take action, noting Feb. 27 “the challenge of child labor exploitation – particularly of migrant children – increases nationwide.”

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (OSV News) – Wyoming became the first state in the nation to specifically ban the use or prescription of abortion pills on March 17. Gov. Mark Gordon, R-Wyo., signed the law with a ruling by a federal judge in Texas still outstanding that could potentially implement a nationwide ban on the drug mifepristone amid a legal challenge brought by pro-life groups. The state’s legislature passed two pieces of legislation in March that would restrict abortion in the state, but the governor allowed the other bill to become law without his signature.

VATICAN CITY (OSV News) – Reflecting on people’s right to remain in their country of origin, share in the common good and live in dignity will be the focus of Pope Francis’ next message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The pope chose “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay” as the theme for the 2023 world day, which will be celebrated Sept. 24. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development released the theme of the message March 21. The pope chose this theme to foster “renewed reflection on a right that has not yet been codified at the international level: the right not to have to migrate or, in other words, the right to be able to remain in one’s own land,” the dicastery said in a communique. “The right to remain is older, more deeply rooted and broader than the right to migrate,” the dicastery said. “It includes the possibility of sharing in the common good, the right to live in dignity and to have access to sustainable development.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The faithful must set aside their egos and sense of superiority over others to make room for God and his tender mercy, Pope Francis said at a Lenten penance service. “Only those who are poor in spirit and who are conscious of their need of salvation and forgiveness come into the presence of God,” he said March 17. And those whose hearts are filled with haughty, self-righteous comparisons and judgment, “you will go to hell,” he said in his homily. The pope led the penance service in a Rome parish, rather than St. Peter’s Basilica, to mark the start of the worldwide celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord.” In his homily, the pope talked about the danger of being proud of one’s “religious accomplishments” and believing oneself better than others. “Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego,” the pope said.

UNITED NATIONS (OSV News) – It was his first speaking engagement at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York, and Gabriel Cobb, who has Down syndrome, was admittedly “a little nervous.” But it was obviously nothing the 22-year-old Catholic from St. Louis couldn’t handle. “I am Gabriel, God’s messenger,” he told OSV News in a March 17 interview, moments before he was set to address a U.N. gathering of advocates for those with Down syndrome and autism who were discussing the challenges faced by families raising children with different developmental expectations and milestones. Gabriel’s speech highlighted the role his family played in his life. “I have two loving parents who have always kept the ball high,” Gabriel told the U.N. conference hall. Gabriel explained he was a triathlon athlete, which meant he swam, ran and biked all in one race – and not just once, but 10 times. “I have done it, I am a triathlete,” he exclaimed, to loud applause. Gabriel vowed “to continue to … compete” and he thanked the “coaches, family and friends, who have encouraged me to press boundaries.” He said, “I pray that I have given them joy and inspiration. Because, with their help, I have Down syndrome and I have no limitations.”

WARSAW, Poland (OSV News) – Polish church leaders have welcomed renewed calls for the beatification of a popular priest, Father Franciszek Blachnicki (1921-1987), following official confirmation that he was killed by communist secret police agents. “Most Poles still feel a sense of unfulfilled justice, and the murder of priests forms part of this – particularly when attempts to uncover the truth still face impediments,” said Father Piotr Mazurkiewicz, former secretary-general of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union. “If Father Blachnicki is beatified, it will be a sign that the church in Poland remains dynamic and vivacious, even though Western secularizing processes are at work here. For people of faith, it will also show that saints and witnesses are still living among us.” A historian working on the case, Andrzej Grajewski, told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency (KAI) March 17 a married couple, Jolanta and Andrzej Gontarczyk, had “crept skillfully” into Father Blachnicki’s trusted inner circle while working as Interior Ministry agents codenamed “Yon” and “Panna,” and had been named by the Poland’s National Remembrance Institute as prime suspects in his murder.

LONDON (OSV News) – England’s Catholic cardinal has pledged his church’s allegiance to King Charles III ahead of his May 6 coronation, as the new monarch praised the work of faith communities in national life. “For so many years, we have observed your desire and unstinting efforts to explore and enhance the well-being of the entire human family, through your commitment to religious faith, protection of the environment and relief of poverty,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. “The Catholic community is profoundly supportive of these fundamental concerns, as we strive to offer our society, your kingdom, an education for young people that is rooted in faith and its consequent commitment to human dignity.” The cardinal spoke while heading a 12-member Catholic delegation to a March. 9 ceremony in London’s Buckingham Palace, during which similar pledges were made by the representatives of the Protestant Church of England and Church of Scotland and 27 other Christian denominations, as well as of Jewish communities, royal academies, city guilds and historic universities. Meanwhile, the king paid tribute to the contribution of churches and other associations to the United Kingdom’s “national fabric,” and to advancing mutual knowledge and understanding.

Vatican accepts ‘positio’ in Mother Lange’s cause; dicastery to review documents on her life

By Matthew Liptak
ARBUTUS, Md. (OSV News) – The canonization cause of Mother Mary Lange, founder of the world’s first sustained women’s religious community for Black women, has taken a step forward.

Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, superior general of the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, said her religious community received a Feb. 27 email from the Vatican informing the sisters that it has approved the “positio” – the documentation on the life of Mother Lange, which includes both the theological and historical record of her life.

Sister Rita Michelle made the announcement March 5 at her religious community’s motherhouse in Arbutus, just outside Baltimore, during the annual conferral of the Mother Lange Awards honoring local Catholics active in the Black Catholic community.

More than 300 people broke into applause and cheers at the news.

“I don’t want you to go and say Sister Rita Michelle has just gone and proclaimed Mother Lange a saint,” the superior general said, noting that the sisters have long considered their religious community’s founder a saint in their hearts.

Mother Lange established St. Frances Academy in Baltimore in 1828 to educate Black children in an era of slavery.

A painting depicts Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, the world’s first sustained women’s religious community for Black women. Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, the order’s superior general, announced March 5, 2023, that Mother Lange’s canonization cause has taken one step forward with the Vatican accepting the “positio,” or documentation about her life. (OSV News photo/courtesy Catholic Review)

Mother Lange’s positio will go to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for review, Sister Rita Michelle said.

“Once they have concluded the review, it will be sent to Pope Francis, and he will declare Mother Mary Lange venerable,” she said.

“Venerable” is a declaration of a sainthood candidate’s heroic virtues. Next would come beatification, after which she would be called “Blessed.” The third step is canonization. In general, the last two steps require a miracle attributed to the intercession of the sainthood candidate and verified by the church.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said he was excited to hear the news about the latest development in Mother Lange’s cause.

“With each step forward, more people learn about the life and legacy of our beloved Mother Lange,” he said. “She unlocked educational opportunities for children in Baltimore and beyond during her lifetime – and that impact continues today. The Oblate Sisters have worked very hard to help bring about this key development. Along with so many others, we are delighted.”

The uplifting news was just one highlight of the annual awards ceremony, meant to honor the good works of dozens of parishioners from traditionally Black parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The program also included singing performances, opening remarks and a prayer by Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski,, a historic portrayal and presentation of Mother Mary Lange by Catholic storyteller Janice Curtis Greene, as well as formal public recognition for award recipients.

“God spoke to me and told me that I could make a difference,” said Greene, speaking in character as Mother Lange. “And I wanted to be a powerful woman of God – something I had hoped for and prayed for my entire life.”

Those honored with Mother Lange Awards were applauded as they were introduced. Over 40 parishioners from a dozen parishes received the awards for leadership and service. Youth were among the awardees.
In his remarks, Bishop Lewandowski recalled the service of fellow Redemptorist Father Thaddeus Anwander, who is considered by the Oblate Sisters of Providence to be the second founder of their order.
Faced with the order’s dissolution in its early days, Father Anwander went to the archbishop of Baltimore to plead their case. When the archbishop told him no one in Baltimore wanted “colored” sisters, he persisted anyway – prostrating himself before his superior.

“At that point, (Archbishop Samuel) Eccelston was ashamed, because a priest got on his knees and begged to be a servant of the women he was intending to dismiss – holy women, women in the service of God’s people in the church,” Bishop Lewandowski said.

The bishop concluded his remarks by leading the audience in a simple prayer to Divine Providence.
“Providence did. Providence can. And Providence will,” he prayed. “Let that be our prayer today.”

Mother Lange is one of six African American Catholics who are candidates for sainthood. The others are: Julia Greeley, who after her emancipation from enslavement joined the Secular Franciscan Order and promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who was a noted educator and evangelist; Father Augustus Tolton, the first publicly known Black Catholic priest in the United States; Sister Henriette Delille, who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; and Pierre Toussaint, a formerly enslaved philanthropist who supported many Catholic charitable works.

Mother Lange, Greeley and Sister Bowman all have the title “Servant of God,” bestowed when a sainthood cause is officially opened. The latter three in the list have been given title “Venerable.”

(Matthew Liptak writes for the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.)

Bishops urge state, legislative leaders to extend postpartum Medicaid as part of pro-life commitment

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Action has been taking place since Mississippi Catholic bishops issued a letter urging statewide and legislative leaders to hear and pass legislation to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage on Friday, Feb. 24.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson and Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III of the Diocese of Biloxi hoped their letter would drive leaders to action to extend coverage to new mothers from two months, as currently provided by Federal law, to a period of one year, by appealing to the states pro-life stance in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“Our faith affirms the value of every human life, and we have supported the legislature’s past action to protect the lives of unborn children. However, the commitment to life must not end at birth. We believe that access to affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right, one that is necessary for the flourishing of families and communities,” wrote the bishops in their letter.

“It is especially heartbreaking when healthcare is out of reach at the precious and vulnerable period when new life is created.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz reads a joint letter he wrote with Bishop Louis Kihneman of Biloxi urging leaders to pass legislation to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage on Monday, Feb. 27 on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Other faith leaders from Working Together Mississippi gathered at the press conference offering their support of the bishops and the extention of postpartum coverage for Mississippi mothers. On March 7, legislators passed the bill and it is now heading to the governors desk.
Left to right at the Working Together Mississippi press event: Bishop Joseph Kopacz; Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr. of New Horizon Church International; Heath Ferguson, chaplain at Mississippi Baptist Hospital; Bishop Glake Hill of the Church of Christ Holiness; and Rabbi Debra Kassoff of the Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville. (Photos by Tereza Ma)

Just two days after the bishops’ letter was delivered to every state legislator and the Governor and Lt. Governor, Governor Tate Reeves publicly reversed his stance on extending Medicaid to new mothers.
Reeves wrote on social media that if the legislature passes a law allowing for a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage, he “will sign it into law.”

He continued writing that we live in “a post-Dobbs world” and was proud that Mississippi led the charge to end Roe v. Wade, but now we need to “love” Mississippi moms providing them more support after giving birth.
“It will be worth it, as more children of God are brought into the world,” wrote Reeves.

After Reeves change of heart, Bishop Kopacz and a diverse coalition of faith leaders affiliated with Working Together Mississippi held a press conference on the front steps of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle within view of the State Capitol building, urging legislators and specifically Republican House Speaker Phillip Gunn to allow lawmakers to vote on giving new mothers a full year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth.

“We’re saying to the Speaker of the House, join us,” said Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr. of the Fellowship of International Churches and pastor of New Horizon Church International. “Let’s do this because it’s the right thing to do for Mississippi because we value and we love our mothers and our children.”

Under the leadership of Gunn, bills over the last few years to extend postpartum coverage that are passed by the Senate have repeatedly died in the House without a full vote under his leadership.

On the evening of the press conference, Gunn publicly shifted his attitude toward postpartum Medicaid expansion stating that he would not block it from House passage. Gunn stated that his decision came after Medicaid director Drew Snyder sent him a letter in support of the extention of coverage.

On March 7, Gunn did just that with the bill passing both chambers of the legislature. After an 89-29 vote in the House, SB 2212 will head to the desk of Governor Reeves.

Now, provided that Reeves signs the law as promised, new mothers in Mississippi on Medicaid will be granted 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum.

“I’m grateful for the prayer, hard work and collaboration that brought this bill to the finish line,” said Bishop Kopacz. “One big step forward for the common good.”

Thousands gather at funeral Mass for LA’s Bishop O’Connell, recalled as ‘soul friend’ to all

By Tom Hoffarth
LOS ANGELES (OSV News) – Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell was remembered as a man “gripped by grace” and “at ease with movers and shakers and also with the moved and shaken” as nearly 5,000 attended a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels March 3.

The Mass was the conclusion of a three-day tribute to Bishop O’Connell, starting with a March 1 memorial Mass at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights. On March 2 at the cathedral, local Catholics said farewell to Bishop O’Connell in an all-day public viewing followed by a vigil Mass.

In his homily at the funeral Mass, Msgr. Jarlath Cunnane, Bishop O’Connell’s classmate and close friend from their seminary days in Ireland in 1971, called upon the phrase “Anam Cara,” the Celtic concept of having a friend of the soul.

“You’re blessed if you have a soul friend,” said Msgr. Cunnane, the pastor of St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach. “And I was blessed to have David. … I was better for having known David O’Connell. Many of you were too, were you not?”

The question drew a round of applause from the pews.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez presided over the Mass that not only filled the cathedral pews but had hundreds more standing in the aisles, ambulatories and seated on the outside plaza watching a livestream presentation.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez places the Book of Gospels on the casket of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell during his funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels March 3, 2023. Bishop O’Connell was fatally shot at his home in Hacienda Heights Feb. 18. (OSV News photo/Sarah Yaklic, courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Long, yellow school buses frequently pulled up to the curb outside the cathedral to drop off more mourners. Several streamed into the Cathedral Plaza as the two-hour Mass went on, using umbrellas as shade, clutching their young children, simply wanting to be present.

Three cardinals – Roger M. Mahony, Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Robert W. McElroy of San Diego – attended as well as 34 bishops and more than 50 priests at the altar.

Local dignitaries included LA Police Chief Michel Moore, former Los Angeles mayors Eric Garcetti and Jim Hahn, former LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, LA District Attorney George Gascón and several other civic leaders who called Bishop O’Connell a friend over the years.
Cunnane noted that Bishop O’Connell “wasn’t just my good friend. Friendship is something he was good at. He has friends young and old, far and wide … he has friends up and down the social scale, at ease in the corridors of power and with the powerless.”

In calling him a man “gripped by grace,” Msgr. Cunnane said Bishop O’Connell was “seized by the Lord, like Jeremiah (who) said: ‘Lord, you seduced me, and I let myself be seduced; you were stronger and you triumphed.'”

“A mind and a wit always quick and sharp, but sometimes in earlier days, with an edge, by grace became levity and joyous humor, and (an) ability to affirm,” the priest added. “He was always affirming, he found the good in people and praised it. He spoke it into them.”

Msgr. Cunnane thanked Bishop O’Connell’s family members present, several who came from Ireland, “for giving us the blessing of him for all these years and all this wonderful ministry here in Los Angeles.”

Archbishop Gomez read a message from Pope Francis that concluded: “To those gathered for the Mass of Christian Burial and to all who mourn Bishop O’Connell’s loss in the sure hope of the Resurrection, the Holy Father cordially imparts his blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in the Lord.

The archbishop added: “As we know, Bishop Dave loved and served Jesus with all his heart and all his strength, and like Jesus, he loved his brothers and sisters ‘to the end,’ with a special love for those who are often forgotten and those who live on society’s margins. … We continue to pray for his eternal repose and especially we know that he has received the eternal reward. He’s in heaven. So, let’s keep praying for him, for his family, and for all of us. And let’s start going to his intercession for our needs.”

An ensemble choir with musicians from the cathedral, several parishes and Bishop Amat High School in La Puente provided music for many still in shock about Bishop O’Connell’s death at his home in Hacienda Heights on Feb. 18 at age 69.

One of the songs sung before the Mass was the traditional Irish ballad, “Danny Boy.”

After Communion, the choir sang the Irish hymn “Lady of Knock,” to whom Bishop O’Connell had a lifelong devotion. Among the lyrics: “Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland, all my cares and troubles cease. As we kneel with love before you, Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace.”

Various religious leaders also were present – from the Armenian Apostolic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ, Baptist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well as from the American Jewish Committee, the Hindu Vedanta Society, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the California Sikh Council and the Baha’i faith.

David O’Connell, a nephew from Ireland who shared a name with his uncle, said in a reflection at the end of Mass that “for me and my family and everyone listening here, we all have an opportunity to pick up where he left off and carry on the example that he set. Help those that you can help. Lend an ear and listen to people. Respect each other. Be considerate and give others the benefit of the doubt. Have patience and give everyone a chance.”

He added that his uncle “liked being a comedian, but he had a day job that seemed to be going better for him. … Uncle Dave was an inspiration for our whole lives. He taught us if we have the capacity to help someone, you should do it. All he wanted to do was make things easier for everyone else, and never asked for a single thing in return.

“He never ended a phone call without telling me how proud he was of me. And I hope he knows how proud we are of him. Let those close to you know that you love them and that you are proud of them.”
Bishop O’Connell was interred in the cathedral’s mausoleum following his funeral Mass.

(Tom Hoffarth and Mike Cisneros write for Angelus, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Pablo Kay is editor-in-chief of Angelus.)


FORT WORTH, Texas (OSV News) – Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in the hit streaming series “The Chosen,” spoke to OSV News about his latest role in “Jesus Revolution,” why he plans to do some “heavy fasting” this Lent, and how he hopes to “bring people together under the banner of Christ.” Playing a charismatic but troubled evangelist in his new film marks a shift for Roumie, who admits some fans “may be a little thrown” by the contrast with his former role. Yet Roumie relies on his Catholic faith to guide him both on and off screen, and cites Mass, confession, adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours among his daily devotions. The actor said over the years he has also become more comfortable in speaking about his faith. “I had committed to surrendering to God,” said Roumie. “This is what I’m feeling called to do, and I’m going to do it. God will have my back.” Most of the episodes of “The Chosen,” an international hit series, have been filmed on a sound stage created for the show outside of Fort Worth.

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – During the New Orleans archdiocesan celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life, Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson, 84, made her first public comments Feb. 4 about her five months of captivity in Burkina Faso in West Africa last year. She was supervising her missionary congregation’s medical clinic in Yalgo, when she was taken in April 2022 by one band of kidnappers who later turned her over to a rival Muslim group. For some still unknown reason on Aug. 29, 2022, Sister Suellen’s captors handed her over to U.S. authorities. The first thing she wanted to know was if the wife of her great-nephew had had her baby. Her great-nephew had shared a sonogram of the unborn child with her before she was kidnapped. Iris Patricia Downing was born July 27 – nearly one month to the day before Sister Suellen’s release. The religious sister has since had several chances to hold the now-7-month-old girl in her arms. Sister Suellen is getting stronger, looking forward “to being just me again” and reveling in the blessedness of the normal.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert Taylor Jr. ruled Feb. 24 that a redacted version of the Maryland Attorney General Office’s report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore must be released publicly. The judge ordered the attorney general’s office to redact more than 200 names from the report and submit it to the court by mid-March. Christian Kendzierski, archdiocesan spokesman, said in a written statement issued in response to Taylor’s ruling, “As we said publicly last year, we respect the court’s decisions in this matter and will continue to cooperate with the court and the Maryland attorney general’s office. The archdiocese continues to pray this report brings some measure of healing of the deep wounds caused by the scourge of child sexual abuse in the life of the church.” In a letter sent to Catholics in the archdiocese Nov. 17, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori acknowledged information in the report would be a source of renewed pain for many, “most especially those harmed by representatives of the church.” The report investigates 80 years of allegations of sexual abuse and the response by the archdiocese to those allegations.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – It is not enough to ask people who have suffered abuse for their forgiveness, Pope Francis said. They also must be offered “concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again” as well as the truth, transparency, safe spaces, psychological support and protection, the pope said in a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network March 2. In his video message, the pope said, “In response to cases of abuse, especially to those committed by members of the church, it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness.” “Their pain and their psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers – if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again,” Pope Francis said. “The church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse of any kind. Nor when the abuse takes place in families, in clubs, or in other types of institutions,” he said. In fact, the church must be a model to help shine light on and remedy the problem.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will travel to Hungary April 28-30 where he will meet with government officials, refugees, academic scholars and young people in Budapest, the Vatican announced Feb. 27. The pope will arrive in Budapest April 28 and will meet with Katalin Novák, president of Hungary, and the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, as well as local bishops, priests and other members of Hungary’s Catholic community. Novák, who is Hungary’s first female head of state, invited Pope Francis to visit Hungary during her visit to the Vatican Aug. 26, 2022. The pope will only spend one full day in the country April 29, during which he will meet privately with children from a local school, speak with refugees and people in need, address young people in Hungary and meet with the local Jesuit community. Before returning to Rome late afternoon April 30, he will celebrate Mass before the Hungarian Parliament building and meet with scholars from Budapest’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University.

SAULT SAINTE MARIE, Ontario (OSV News) – As he marks the tenth year of his papacy, Pope Francis has made progress in healing long-damaged relations between the Catholic Church and Indigenous peoples, sources told OSV News. Highlights of his outreach have included pastoral visits such as his 2022 journey to Canada, during which he apologized to Indigenous nations on their land for the church’s role in the government’s residential schools and the horrifying abuses committed; the Amazon Synod; and his writings on the deep relationship between care of creation and the Indigenous peoples. “When Pope Francis visited Puerto Maldonado in Peru (in 2018), he came not to give a talk, he came to listen,” said Peru-based Maryknoll Sister Patricia Ryan, a longtime advocate for Indigenous rights. “And listen he did, to testimonies given by two spokespersons – a woman and a man – of the Indigenous Amazonian population of Peru, who gave witness to the sufferings and indignities, wisdom, commitment and just demands of their peoples and of Mother Earth,” said Sister Ryan. “Pope Francis knows the importance of listening.”

IRPIN, Ukraine (OSV News) – “We lost everything”: It’s a sentiment shared by millions of Ukrainians uprooted and displaced during a year of a war condemned by much of the world that has transformed the face of Europe, increased international tensions and caused ripples in the global economy. “We’re living a new life now. It can’t be the same as it was before the war. Life will never be the same again,” said Sister Yanuariya Isyk, a member of the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great whose ministry is based in Kyiv. The new reality is one of displacement and confusion, loss and death. Hospitals, schools and neighborhoods have been targeted in brutal acts that have outraged the world. The United Nations says more than 7,000 civilians, including more than 400 children, have died because of the war, and more than 11,700 have been injured. “It will take many years to rebuild and heal this society,” Sister Isyk said. Yet Ukrainians also speak of renewed unity, solidarity and hope. In a country that has become one big conflict zone, the war has galvanized religious communities to open their doors to those who have been displaced and to lead various humanitarian missions that include providing assistance to mothers and children with various needs. “They are providing so much help,” said Habovska who, along with her infant son, fled the then-occupied city of Kherson.

MOSUL, Iraq (OSV News) – From the devastating war in 2003 to the three-year occupation of Mosul by Islamic State militants, Iraq is often portrayed as a land caught in a spiral of violence and perennially doomed to remain in a state of instability. However, for Dominican Father Olivier Poquillon, Iraq is steadily rising from the ashes of war and taking its rightful place among the community of nations. While Iraq also has faced the global challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of economic inflation, the Dominican priest said the country is on the path toward rebuilding a lasting foundation for the new generation. Father Poquillon is representing the Dominicans to UNESCO’s flagship program “Revive the Spirit of Mosul,” an initiative that intends to rebuild the ancient city and its historical and religious landmarks that were destroyed or heavily damaged during the devastating occupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL. Among the sites being rebuilt, the UNESCO program is also working toward rebuilding the Al-Tahera Syriac Catholic Church, which Pope Francis visited during his historic pilgrimage to Iraq in March 2021.

Emotional LA sheriff details arrest of suspect in shooting death of Bishop O’Connell; motive remains unclear

By Pablo Kay and Tom Hoffarth
LOS ANGELES (OSV News) – A 61-year-old Hispanic man was taken into custody the morning of Feb. 20 by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies as the prime suspect in the murder of Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles.
LA County Sheriff Robert G. Luna announced at a news conference Monday afternoon local time at the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice in downtown LA that citizen tips led to the 8:15 a.m. arrest of Carlos Medina, the husband of a housekeeper who had worked at Bishop O’Connell’s home in Hacienda Heights, after an all-night search.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell is pictured speaking with parishioners outside St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Los Angeles July 19, 2015. According to local news reports, Los Angeles County sheriffs found him dead of a gunshot wound at his home Feb. 18, 2023, and his death has been ruled a homicide. An investigation was under way for a suspect and motive. A native of Ireland, he spent most of his four decades as a priest ministering in the inner city of Los Angeles. He was 69. Editors: This cutline has been updated to reflect new details about the bishop’s death. (OSV News photo/CNS file, John Rueda, The Tidings)

Bishop O’Connell, a native of Ireland who spent most of his 43 years as a priest serving in LA’s inner city, was found dead in his home on the afternoon of Feb. 18.
The next day, the LA Sheriff’s department announced that Bishop O’Connell’s death was being investigated as a homicide.
Luna established a timeline based on the work of detectives that indicated that at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 a tip was received linking Medina to the murder.
“They were concerned he was acting strange (and) irrational, and made comments about the bishop owing him money,” Luna said of the tip from the informant.
The tipster also said Medina had left his residence in Torrance and was headed for the Central California area.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna comforts Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez while he speaks during a Feb. 20, 2023, news conference after the arrest of 65-year-old Carlos Medina, the suspect in the murder of Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell. Bishop O’Connell was found dead of a single gunshot wound Feb. 18 at his home in Hacienda Heights, a neighborhood east of Los Angeles. (OSV News photo/Victor Alemán, Angelus News)

After obtaining an arrest warrant, police began a search of Medina’s home. Another tip at 2 a.m. Feb. 20 indicated that Medina had returned home, and LA Sheriff’s Carson Station deputies were dispatched to the scene. Medina refused to come out of his residence when asked to surrender, Luna said.
The original search warrant was amended so Medina’s house could again be searched. A tactical team dispatched again called for Medina’s surrender, and he was then taken into custody around 8:15 a.m. without further incident.
Luna said two firearms were recovered and are being tested to see if they were used in the murder.
In an emotional press conference, Luna said “my heart grieves” for the death of Bishop O’Connell, based on all the calls of support he received in the investigation over the last 48 hours.
“This man, this bishop, made a huge difference in our community,” said Luna. “He was loved. It is very sad that we are gathered here today about this murder.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, one of the speakers at the press conference, stopped several times during his remarks to collect himself. At one point, Luna put his arm around his shoulder to comfort him.
“On behalf of our entire community, I want to share thanks for your professionalism and sensitivity,” Archbishop Gomez said of the investigation. “It is a sad and painful moment for all of us. Let us keep praying for Bishop Dave and his family, just as he prayed for law enforcement officials.”
Archbishop Gomez Feb. 19 called on Catholics to pray for the late bishop and those investigating his death.
“We continue to pray for Bishop Dave, and for his family in Ireland, and we pray for law enforcement officials as they continue their investigation into this terrible crime,” he said at a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels that morning.
Sheriff Luna confirmed a deacon who worked with Bishop O’Connell was the first to find him in his home. The deacon went to check on the bishop after he didn’t show up to a meeting that morning, then dialed 911. Bishop O’Connell was found in his bed with at least one gunshot wound. No firearm was recovered at the home, nor was there a sign of forced entry, Luna said.
After interviewing neighbors, Luna said surveillance video showed a vehicle had pulled into Bishop O’Connell’s driveway – a dark-colored compact SUV – which was later linked to the car his housekeeper had used.
Luna emphasized their investigation has not confirmed anything about a financial dispute between Medina and Bishop O’Connell, only that that information came from a witness.
“Our investigation continues … to get a better picture of what happened here,” said Luna. “The detectives will go out and validate.”
Luna added that not all information from the investigation will be revealed yet, as “keeping the integrity of the investigation is a priority,” he said. “The next step is to present all of the evidence and try to get a criminal prosecution (filed against) Medina.”
Bishop O’Connell was originally from Brooklodge, Glanmire, in County Cork, the largest county in Ireland. He studied for the priesthood at the former All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979.
Bishop O’Connell was named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in July 2015. Since then, he had served as episcopal vicar for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, one of the LA archdiocese’s five regions.
During his time as auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, evangelization, pastoral care for immigrants, and ensuring the future of his region’s Catholic schools were all top priorities for Bishop O’Connell, who believed that “parishes and schools are powerful instruments of transformation of people’s lives and of neighborhoods.”
Before being named a bishop, he was well-known for his pastoral work in south LA – where he served as pastor of four different parishes  – in the years before and after the 1992 Rodney King riots. He played a key role, along with other local faith leaders, in bringing together communities already suffering from gang violence, poverty and drugs, while working to restore trust between community members and law enforcement.

(Pablo Kay is editor of Angelus News, a publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Tom Hoffarth also writes for Angelus News.)


GROSSE POINTE FARMS, Mich. (OSV NEWS) – Tears were shed, words of consolation were shared, and memories were cherished the evening of Feb. 14 during two emotional prayer vigils to honor the memory of three Michigan State University students whose lives were cut short during a shooting on the East Lansing campus one night earlier. Two of the students, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner, belonged to Catholic parishes in Metro Detroit, while the third, Arielle Anderson, was a much-loved graduate of Grosse Pointe North High School. Father Jim Bilot led hundreds of mourners at St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms in a prayer vigil that featured a picture of Fraser, 20, a Michigan State sophomore and 2017 graduate of the parish school, surrounded by candles in the sanctuary. “We come to pray, and that is the most important and most powerful thing that we could do at this time,” Father Bilot said. Deacon Christopher Stark led a livestreamed rosary from the parish, while a candlelight vigil took place at Clawson City Park, attended by community members, teachers, students and staff from Clawson High School, where Verner graduated in 2020.

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – An unexploded pipe bomb found Feb. 19 near railroad tracks behind St. Dominic Catholic Church in Philadelphia was likely not meant to target the parish, pastor Father Edward T. Kearns told OSV News. “I don’t think it was in connection to us,” said Father Edward T. Kearns, pastor of St. Dominic parish in. “It was behind us, not on our property, (but) on the other side of the railroad tracks … 100 yards from my church.” The pipe bomb posed a potential threat to the Philadelphia freight line at a time when the U.S. is still grappling with the catastrophic impact of a Feb. 3 freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. At the same time, Father Kearns said he plans to meet with staff about increasing security at the church. “I don’t think (anyone) is out to get us,” Father Kearns told OSV News. “But you never know these days. There’s so much anger in the world.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – During Black History Month in February, Catholics are being invited to register to attend this summer’s National Black Catholic Congress, which over the years has made history of its own. The National Black Catholic Congress XIII will be held July 20-23 at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside the District of Columbia. It marks the third time the Washington area has hosted the gathering, and each of those times, key participants included noted figures in U.S. Catholic history. Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory – the archbishop of Washington who was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in 2020, becoming the first African American cardinal in history – will give the opening keynote speech and celebrate the opening Mass. Early registration for the National Black Catholic Congress XIII ends Feb. 28 and regular registration ends July 15,. For more information, including a schedule of events, and to register, go online to nbccgathering2023.org.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Tradition is a source of inspiration for seeking out new paths to take with Jesus and for avoiding the traps of stagnation or impromptu experimentation, Pope Francis said. “Jesus is himself the way, and therefore, both in the liturgical journey (of Lent) and in the journey of the synod, the church does nothing other than enter ever more deeply and fully into the mystery of Christ the savior,” the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins Feb. 22 for Latin-rite Catholics. Released by the Vatican Feb. 17, the text of the pope’s message focused on seeing Lenten penance and the synodal experience both as arduous journeys that lead to the wondrous experience of Christ’s divine light and splendor. “To deepen our knowledge of the Master, to fully understand and embrace the mystery of his salvation, accomplished in total self-giving inspired by love, we must allow ourselves to be taken aside by him and to detach ourselves from mediocrity and vanity,” the pope said. “We need to set out on the journey, an uphill path that, like a mountain trek, requires effort, sacrifice and concentration,” he said. “These requisites are also important for the synodal journey which, as a church, we are committed to making.” “During any strenuous mountain trek, we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on the path; yet the panorama that opens up at the end amazes us and rewards us by its grandeur,” Pope Francis wrote. The text of the pope’s message in English is online at https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/20230125-messaggio-quaresima.html.

DAVID, Panama (OSV News) – Pope Francis has expressed sorrow for the victims of a bus crash in Panama, which claimed the lives of 39 migrants transiting the Central American country. In a Feb. 16 telegram to Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán of David, Panama – whose diocese includes the site of the crash – Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said: “The Holy Father has received with deep sadness the news of the bus accident … in which several migrants have lost their lives and others were injured.” The tragedy occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 in the western Panama province of Chiriquí. Panama’s immigration director Samira Gozaine told reporters the bus had entered a camp for migrants and the driver was turning the vehicle around when it slid down an embankment. The driver was among the victims, Gozaine said. The deaths were a tragic reminder of the perils faced by migrants traveling through Central America and Mexico on their journey toward the U.S. border.


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – “Wonder,” a five-part documentary series from Word on Fire set for release Feb.13-17, shows that “the war between faith and science is untrue,” said Word on Fire founder Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota. Narrated by actor Jonathan Roumie, the episodes explore the nature of light, Trinitarian traces in the cosmos, human and animal language, St. Augustine and evolution, and even theology of salvation suggested by the geometry of Chartres Cathedral’s North Rose Window in Chartres, France. Director Manny Marquez, who said his own faith was deepened by the project, told OSV News the films are “an opportunity to make a difference in the conversation” between faith and science.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington urged “ordinary people of color” to “vastly improve our world with an understanding of the strength of character that resides within the souls of our people.” In his homily during a Feb. 5 Mass in honor of Black History Month, the cardinal said, “We are chosen by none other than the Lord, the light of the world himself; we have no choice but to be an example to the world.” In the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew (5:13-16), Jesus refers to his disciples as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. “Many have suffered martyrdom as the price of their witness and those who do become salt and light may become the subject of ridicule,” Cardinal Gregory said. “But we need ordinary faith-filled people like yourselves to allow your lights to shine – however small … to illuminate the darkness of this world.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis expressed his “spiritual closeness” and “solidarity” with those affected by a pair of powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria Feb. 6. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey hit southern Turkey before dawn Feb. 6 wreaking havoc in large areas of neighboring Syria. It was followed by what the geological survey said was a separate 7.5 magnitude earthquake, less than 12 hours later some 60 miles away. The day after, ABC News was reporting that more than 7,000 people were killed while hundreds remained trapped under the rubble of toppled buildings. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in need said a Catholic priest was among the dead in Syria. Father Imad Daher died in the collapse of the residence of retired Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, who was injured and hospitalized, the charity said. Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” to learn of the “huge loss of life” caused by the disaster and offered his “heartfelt condolences” to those mourning losses, wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, in telegrams to the Vatican’s ambassadors in Turkey and Syria. The pope also prayed that emergency personnel would “be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The principal task of the continental assemblies and the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops in 2023 and 2024 is to learn and strengthen a process of listening as a church to the Holy Spirit and not to address all the issues being debated in the church, top officers of the synod said. The theme that Pope Francis has chosen for the general assembly “is clear: ‘For a synodal church: communion, participation, mission.’ This is therefore the sole theme that we are called to explore in each of the stages within the process,” their letter to bishops said. “Those who claim to impose any one theme on the synod forget the logic that governs the synod process: we are called to chart a ‘common course’ beginning with the contribution of all,” said the letter, published Jan. 29, and signed by Cardinals Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, relator general of the synod. Addressed to the world’s bishops, the letter focused on the current “continental” stage of the synodal process, and the role of the bishop in the synodal process. The bishops, “in your particular churches, are the principle and foundation of unity of the holy people of God,” they said, and “there is no exercise of ecclesial synodality without exercise of episcopal collegiality.”

This is the logo for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, which takes place Aug. 1-6, 2023. One issue surrounding every WYD perpetually makes headlines months before the event: that of costs. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Holy See Press Office)

LISBON, Portugal (OSV News) – One issue involving World Youth Day perpetually makes headlines months before the event: that of costs. The event taking place Aug. 1-6, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal. As reported by Reuters, Lisbon’s mayor, Carlos Moedas, was sharply criticized on Portuguese social media after it was revealed his office would spend over over $5.4 million (5 million euros) to build a 54,000-square foot altar for the final Mass of the August event. The expensive altar is not the only aspect that created controversy. In October, the Portuguese government announced that public institutions would spend around $190 million in WYD. On Jan. 31, after the uproar about the altar, the government led by socialist prime minister António Costa announced a reduction of the initial figure. But these costs may not be as astronomical as they seem? WYD is a major international event of the Catholic Church – one that brings together millions of young people from around the world to pray, learn and meet with the current pope for a handful of days every few years – and major events necessarily come with a significant price tag.