By Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) – An elderly man stood alone in St. Peter’s Square May 13, using his wooden rosary beads to pray by a simple plaque marking the place where St. John Paul II was shot exactly 40 years earlier. The man soon was joined by members of “Polska w Sercu” (Polish at Heart), a group of Polish Catholics who have lived for years in Rome but have not forgotten their homeland or their beloved pope. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served for more than three decades as personal secretary to the late pope, arrived to process with the group to the plaque where someone already had placed two red roses. They added a bouquet of gerbera daisies – red and white – the colors of the Polish flag. Cardinal Dziwisz had begun marking the anniversary of the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt by concelebrating Mass with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and dozens of Polish priests at the tomb of St. John Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica. Remembering how Mehmet Ali Agca shot and “almost mortally wounded” St. John Paul, “I still can feel his body slip as if paralyzed and fall into my arms,” Cardinal Dziwisz said in his homily. “I see his blood dripping onto his white pontifical cassock, staining my hands and clothes. I also hear a continual, fainter and fainter, repetition of the invocation, ‘O Mary, O my Mother!'”
“How difficult it is to forget the bang of the would-be assassin’s gunshots, which in a single moment could have put an end to this extraordinary pontificate,” the cardinal said, thanking the medical personnel who saved his life and the people all over the world who prayed for his recovery. “Today, 40 years after that event, and 16 years” after his death, “I think with fear of what it would have been like if we had lost him in St. Peter’s Square back then,” he said. “How poor and different the world and our homeland, Poland, would have been without his witness of faith and doctrine, without his indications and his warnings in the face of the dangers and turmoil that can threaten us in today’s world.” Noting the day’s feast of Our Lady of Fatima and St. John Paul’s conviction that she saved his life, Cardinal Dziwisz also turned to Our Lady of Fatima with “a trusting prayer for the world fighting against the coronavirus pandemic,” for a greater commitment to keeping the Ten Commandments and following the beatitudes “and, finally, for fidelity to the teachings and mission left to us by St. John Paul II the Great.”
NATION WASHINGTON (CNS) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has signed into law a bill requiring death-row inmates to choose between the electric chair or the firing squad for their executions if lethal injection drugs are not available. The measure, signed by the Republican governor May 14, was touted as a move to restart capital punishment in the state after a 10-year pause due to a lack of lethal injection drugs. Days before it was signed into law, a Catholic death penalty opponent called the measure a “setback for South Carolina” and a move that “stands in stark contrast to powerful efforts elsewhere to abolish the death penalty.” “The decade without executions in South Carolina should be seen as a mark of progress toward a culture of life, not a reason to backslide into immoral and gruesome means of killing,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network. The electric chair and firing squad “should have no place on the state’s list of means to address harm or bring about so-called justice. … There is no reason why the state should be executing people at all,” she told Catholic News Service in a May 10 email.
VATICAN VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Nations of the world must work together to solve the key global crises of migration and climate change, which are questions of justice that can no longer be ignored, Pope Francis told diplomats. “In the development of a global consensus capable of responding to these ethical challenges facing our human family, your work as diplomats is of paramount importance,” he said. The pope’s comments came May 21 in a speech to new ambassadors to the Vatican from Singapore, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Sweden, Finland and Nepal. Speaking to the group of diplomats, the pope recognized the difficulties involved in traveling during the ongoing pandemic and thanked them for being able to attend the meeting in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has made people more aware of how interdependent everyone is and of “our need to be attentive to the poor and the vulnerable in our midst,” the pope said. VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The annual diocesan celebration of World Youth Day is an important event that emphasizes the role young people play in the Catholic Church, the Vatican said. In a document published by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life May 18, the Vatican issued a set of pastoral guidelines for local WYD celebrations “to ensure that younger generations feel that they are at the center of the church’s attention and pastoral concern. The celebration of these youth days at a local level is therefore extremely useful in keeping the church mindful of the importance of walking with young people and of welcoming them and listening to them with patience while proclaiming the word of God to them with affection and power,” it stated. The document was signed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, dicastery prefect, and Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, dicastery secretary. Divided into six chapters, it said local celebrations offer young people “a personal experience of a ‘festival of faith,'” which is especially important for those who cannot attend the international event “because of studies, work or financial difficulties.” World Youth Day is celebrated annually on a local level and every two or three years with an international gathering with the pope. In November, Pope Francis moved the local celebrations of World Youth Day from Palm Sunday to the feast of Christ the King.
WORLD MUMBAI, India (CNS) – The High Court in Mumbai order prison authorities to take an ailing 84-year-old Jesuit to the hospital, as it heard his appeal to receive bail on medical grounds, Indian media reported. The High Court said Jesuit Father Stan Swamy must be taken to JJ hospital at noon May 20. Media reports said the court ordered the hospital to have him examined by a neurologist, orthopedic physician, general practitioner and ear, nose and throat specialist. The court ordered the hospital to report back to the judges May 21. Father Swamy suffers from Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss and lumbar spondylosis. Jesuits and family members believe he might also have COVID-19. “Father Swamy had a severe cold, fever, body pain and diarrhea and could not even attend a call from his legal team. This indicates that he was suffering from COVID-19,” his elder brother, Irudaya Swamy, 90, told a virtual news conference May 15. “We are not sure if he is getting proper medical attention. His health condition is getting worse.” The priest has been in Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail since Oct. 9, a day after he was arrested in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. The activist, who works for the rights of tribal people in Jharkhand, was accused of conspiring with the outlawed Maoist rebels to overthrow the federal government and organize violence. FRANKFURT, Germany (CNS) – Germany’s Third Ecumenical Convention concluded in Frankfurt May 16 with an open-air church service on the bank of the River Main. With the city’s skyline of office towers providing the backdrop, some 400 people attended the service, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. But Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, head of the Catholic bishops’ commission on ecumenical relations, told the website katholisch.de that he could not see that the convention gave a particular boost to ecumenism. In terms of language and visually, the meeting “largely took place in an internal church bubble” and was thus unlikely to have reached nonbelievers or people who were distanced from the churches, the German Catholic news agency KNA said May 17, reporting on his remarks. “Nevertheless, I am impressed that the meeting could take place at all at this difficult time and apparently did reach a large number of people.” The convention, or kirchentag, wrapped up three days of events in which approximately 160,000 people, mostly via video conferencing, participated in discussions, Bible readings, worship services and other events exploring theological and social issues. Protestants and Catholics called for the church to work for justice in society and the church. Bishop Feige was critical of the “ecumenically sensitive services” that took place during the convention. He said the issue of shared Communion was “extremely complex and emotionally charged.” This made it all the more important to move forward carefully, he said. ROME (CNS) – The Spanish bishops’ conference expressed concern that migrants were being used to exert political pressure after a sudden influx of migrants in the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla increased tensions between Spain and Morocco. In a statement released May 18, Auxiliary Bishop José Cobo of Madrid, head of the conference’s migration department, and Dominican Father Xabier Gómez, the department’s director, warned of the exploitation of migrants following a diplomatic row between the two countries. “Appealing to the supreme value of life and human dignity, remember that the despair and impoverishment of many families and minors cannot and must not be used by any state to exploit the legitimate aspirations of these people for political purposes,” the statement read. Spanish authorities were caught off guard May 17 when an estimated 8,000 migrants – including more than 1,500 unaccompanied minors – entered Ceuta, a Spanish enclave bordering Morocco. An estimated 86 migrants entered Melilla, another Spanish territory located on the North African coast. According to BBC News, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez deployed military forces to the territories to tighten the border controls and deport migrants back to Morocco.
NATION ROSLYN, N.Y. (CNS) – Caring for the sick is a vocation and way of life shared by a mother and two daughters serving together at a Catholic Hospital in Long Island, New York. Novlet Davis-Bucknor, 59, is a nurse practitioner in the cardiothoracic department of St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center in Nassau County. Her oldest child, LaToya Bucknor, 39, also a nurse practitioner, works with the critical care team. Another daughter, Shekeya Washington, 31, is a registered nurse in the medical intensive care unit. “It’s good to work together because we always have each other to lean on,” said Novlet, who was born and raised in Jamaica and immigrated at age 26 to the U.S., where a few years later she began her studies to be a nurse. Novlet is the ultimate role model as a mom and professional woman, LaToya and Shekeya told Catholic News Service. “She’s always there for us,” said LaToya. “She’s always loving and showing us that no matter what we go through in life, she’s always going to be there to support us.” “My mom has shown so much ambition and strength,” Shekeya said. WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Joe Biden announced May 3 he was raising the historically low refugee cap of 15,000 left by the Trump administration, but he also warned that his administration may not be able to meet the new number of refugees it is seeking to resettle in what remains of the fiscal year: 62,500. In a statement, the president said that while the previous cap set by Trump did not reflect the country’s values “as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,” it may be difficult for his administration to meet the new goal. “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway,” he said in the statement. “We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.” The announcement was aimed at sending a signal, he said, “to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin.” In November, Biden said during a virtual Jesuit Refugee Service event that he would be heading in a dramatically different direction than the previous administration on refugee admissions and said he would raise the ceiling when he took office to 125,000.
VATICAN VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Updating the Litany of St. Joseph, approved in 1909, the Vatican has added seven invocations, including two that address the guardian of Jesus and husband of Mary as “support in difficulty” and “patron of refugees.” The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the additions May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The additions were approved by Pope Francis, the congregation said, and drew the new invocations mainly from modern papal texts about St. Joseph, including Pope Francis’ December apostolic letter proclaiming a Year of St. Joseph and St. John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation, “Redemptoris Custos” (“Protector of the Redeemer”). Since Pope Francis wanted, as he wrote in his letter, “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal,” the congregation said, it seemed appropriate to update the 112-year-old litany. Providing only the Latin-language version of the invocations, the congregation said it would be up to bishops’ conferences to translate the phrases and to add others if St. Joseph is invoked by their people in a particular way. The Latin phrases are: “Custos Redemptoris” (Protector of the Redeemer); “Serve Christi” (Servant of Christ); “Minister salutis” (Minister of salvation); “Fulcimen in difficultatibus” (Support in difficulty); “Patrone exsulum” (Patron of refugees); “Patrone afflictorum” (Patron of the afflicted); and “Patrone pauperum” (Patron of the poor). VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s proclamation of new saints demonstrates that it is possible for men and women to live holy lives and that God is present and at work in the world, said the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. “It’s useful on earth, not for heaven,” said Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect, when asked, “What is the use of proclaiming saints?” In an interview published May 4 in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, the cardinal noted how the Second Vatican Council spoke of the “universal vocation of holiness. To proclaim saints helps convince us that this vocation really exists, that the Gospel works, that Jesus does not disappoint and that we can trust in his word,” Cardinal Semeraro said in the interview the day after Pope Francis and cardinals resident in Rome held a consistory to approve the canonization of seven men and women. The causes took years, even decades of work: studying the lives and writings of the candidates, verifying the events surrounding the deaths of those who were martyrs and looking at cures submitted as miracles attributed to the candidates’ intercession.
WORLD QUEBEC CITY (CNS) – Police have seized large quantities of altar wine in the province of Quebec, creating a situation where buying a bottle is nearly impossible. On April 9, police officers seized sacramental wine from Bertrand, Foucher, Bélanger, Inc. in Montreal, Procure Ecclésiastique, Inc. in Quebec City and Chandelles Tradition MB, Inc. in Saint-Constant. Sandra Dion, spokeswoman for the Quebec City Police Department, said the wine was seized following an investigation. The seizures appear related to laws governing the resale of alcohol within provinces, although some distributors claims they are within the law and have licenses. The altar wine available in Quebec comes from two Californian producers: Mont La Salle Altar Wines and Cribari Premium Altar Wines. However, since the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) – the provincial liquor board – does not sell these products, the wines had to be imported from other Canadian provinces. Although that was the practice for many years, police now says it’s illegal. “Officers from the Montreal Police Department showed up with a warrant,” said Alain Denis, general manager at Bertrand, Foucher, Bélanger, Inc., a store specializing in church goods. The warrant mentioned illegal possession and selling of alcohol. Chandelles Tradition MB did not return calls. DUBLIN (CNS) – The Irish government said a COVID-19-related ban on Catholics attending Mass will be lifted May 10. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin made the announcement in an address to the nation April 29 as he revealed a new road map for the reopening of society. Public worship has been banned since Dec. 26 amid increased cases — a move accepted by the Irish bishops’ conference and other faith leaders. However, the government provoked controversy earlier in April when Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made it a criminal offense for a priest to plan a public Mass or a Catholic to leave home to participate in Mass. Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, head of the Irish bishops’ conference, described this move as both “provocative” and “draconian.” The prime minister announced in a televised address that up to 50 people will be permitted to attend Mass beginning May 10. Up to 50 people will also be able to gather for funerals and wedding ceremonies; however wedding receptions will be restricted to just six people, or 15 people if the reception takes place outdoors. FRANKFURT, Germany (CNS) – Instead of comfortable footwear, participants in Germany’s third ecumenical convention, or kirchentag, will need stable internet connections. Organizers had hoped to attract more than 100,000 visitors to the approximately 2,000 public events May 13-16, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA. With the COVID-19 pandemic, that has changed. “As the people can’t come to Frankfurt, the ÖKT will come to them at home,” said Thomas Sternberg, Catholic president of the convention, using its German acronym. Bettina Limperg, Protestant president of the convention, said when its motto, “Schaut hin” (“Take a look”) was devised in 2020, organizers were still hoping to have an in-person convention. Now most people will be taking a look on computer screens. KNA reported the kirchentag will open on the feast of the Ascension with an ecumenical service on a parking deck with a view of the famous skyline of Frankfurt’s international banking center. It will be broadcast live on German television. The exact location will not be made public beforehand to avoid crowds gathering during the pandemic. The digital program, with about 80 events each day, will focus on 10 main topics, including the church and power, international responsibility and the climate crisis.
Pope prays emergency workers in India find strength to persevere
By Carol Glatz VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As India faces a massive surge in new infections and deaths caused by COVID-19, Pope Francis said he was praying for all those affected by the huge health emergency. With so many in India suffering, “I am writing to convey my heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, together with the assurance of my prayers that God will grant healing and consolation to everyone affected by this grave pandemic,” he wrote. Smashing global records, on May 5 more than 412,000 new cases and 3,980 deaths were registered in India in just 24 hours; however, health experts estimate the actual numbers are much higher due to unrecorded deaths and infections. The World Health Organization said India has accounted for 46% of global cases and 25% of global deaths reported in the past week. In a written message sent May 6 to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the pope said he was praying for all those who have become sick, for their families and caregivers and for those mourning the loss of loved ones. “I think too of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers, ambulance drivers and those working tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters,” the pope wrote. “With deep appreciation I invoke upon all of them God’s gifts of perseverance, strength and peace.” The pope also expressed his closeness to the nation’s Catholic communities and thanked them for their “charity and fraternal solidarity carried out in the service of all; I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people.” He prayed for the faithful who have lost their lives, including “the great numbers of priests and men and women religious,” and asked that “in these days of immense grief, may we all be consoled in the hope born of Easter and our unshakable faith in Christ’s promise of resurrection and new life.” Meanwhile, UNICEF has warned that the deadly surge in COVID-19 cases in India “is larger and spreading more rapidly than the first,” putting an enormous strain on health and critical care facilities. “Urgent action is needed to avert further tragic loss of life,” it said on its website, appealing for funding to deliver urgently needed testing equipment, supplies and oxygen products and other services. The pandemic’s first wave last year resulted in major cuts to public health services in South Asia, costing the lives of an estimated 228,000 children and 11,000 mothers, said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF’s regional director. Essential health services, such as routine inoculations, have been disrupted and even risk being shut down with healthcare staff, equipment and facilities being diverted to addressing the ballooning pandemic, he said in a statement May 4. Increasing numbers of children are being hurt by the pandemic as they lose parents and caregivers, witness traumatic scenes and lose vital health care, nutritional, education and support services, he said. The current second wave throughout South Asia has the potential to cause immense devastation, Laryea-Adjei warned saying immediate assistance from the international community was “a moral imperative.”
Church leaders offer prayers after Mexico City metro crash
By David Agren MEXICO CITY (CNS) – Mexican church leaders offered prayers for the victims of a metro line collapse that left at least 23 dead and more than 70 people injured. Bishop Andrés Vargas Peña of Xochimilco – which serves three southern boroughs in Mexico City – offered condolences to the victims, while announcing each priest in the diocese would celebrate Mass three times May 4 “for the deceased, the injured and their families.” The bishop asked parishioners to pray for the victims and also asked diocesan priests in the affected area and hospitals treating the injured to provide spiritual support. An elevated portion of a metro line in Mexico City collapsed at around 10:30 p.m. May 3, sending two train cars crashing onto a busy thoroughfare below and crushing at least one vehicle. Rescuers worked through the night to free trapped passengers and search for victims. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said the cause of the tragedy remains unclear. Line 12 of Mexico City Metro, where the accident occurred, has been plagued by construction problems since being inaugurated in 2012. Half the stations in Line 12 were closed in 2014 due to construction issues. A strong earthquake in 2017 also damaged columns on the metro line, but Sheinbaum said repairs were made and the inspections occur daily. “Absolutely nothing will be hidden,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at his morning news conference May 4. “The people have to know the complete truth.” The Mexico City Metro serves 4.6 million passengers daily, carrying armies of workers from far-flung suburbs to jobs in the Mexican capital.
By Carol Glatz ROME (CNS) – To help foster a wider discussion on work that still must be done to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church, a canon law journal published a series of talks by experts regarding accountability, transparency and confidentiality in the handling of abuse allegations. The talks were part of a seminar in December 2019 sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to address the topics as well as the seal of confession and the pontifical secret. The “Periodica” journal of the faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University published the talks at the end of 2020.
Among the suggestions for improvements, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said more could be done in supporting the rights of victims. Pope Francis’ “Vos estis lux mundi” provides for the first time “a universal law that states that the victim has a right to be advised of the outcome of the investigation” concerning crimes allegedly committed by people in leadership, he wrote. But “I would suggest that we also use this law by analogy for all other situations” by giving the same right to victims of people who are not just leaders but are members of the clergy or of religious orders, he wrote. Another suggestion, he said, is to appoint “a safeguarding officer or other suitable person that keeps contact with the victim and informs the victim of the progress of the procedures,” including the outcomes of investigations, trials or extrajudicial processes, especially now that the “pontifical secret” has been removed. Archbishop Scicluna said there should be a “procurator for the person aggrieved,” that is, a person designated to represent the victim in the church’s penal processes and share information with the victim. Father John P. Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said in his talk that past abuse scandals in the U.S. showed “how lack of transparency in church governance allowed these lapses in accountability to go unrecognized and unaddressed for decades.” Restoring a sense of legitimacy to ecclesial governance will be ineffective, he wrote, “as long as the church’s accountability structures are judged inadequate by the faithful, and they will continue to be judged inadequate as long as they remain almost totally lacking in transparency.” The “almost total lack of transparency that enshrouds the canonical penal process” and the administrative penal process, he said, makes it difficult to know if the accused and victims have been dealt with fairly. This absence of transparency “is often justified by concern for the reputations of the accused and the victim. While there may be good reason to withhold from the public record the names of accusers and victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are still minors,” the name of those found guilty of abuse should be made public, he wrote. Clear and public procedures would also help restore the reputation of those who have been wrongly accused instead of letting rumors fill the vacuum when investigations are not transparent or conclusive, he added. “We in the United States have learned with much pain that efforts to ‘hush up’ unpleasant ecclesiastical business will ultimately fail,” Father Beal wrote. The pope’s removal of the “pontifical secret” in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics allows bishops and other church authorities to provide “timely information to victims and affected communities of the faithful about the status, progress and outcomes of cases, while maintaining due confidentiality about matters that might jeopardize reputations or the progress of process,” he wrote. Nevertheless, he wrote, more robust accountability for how diocesan bishops and other church authorities handle abuse cases “is still almost exclusively vertical, toward higher authorities, and not downward to the faithful.” Until accountability is complemented by “a serious commitment to transparency on the part of all involved, they will do little to dispel the pervasive anger and cynicism among the faithful about the bishops’ handling of complaints of misconduct.” Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, professor of canon law at the Gregorian University, wrote that transparency does not mean universal or public access to sensitive or confidential information, but it is sharing information with those who have a right to see it. Total and inappropriate public disclosure of certain information is often driven by a sense of guilt and a hope that “selling” a better image of the church will bring credibility, he said. The focus should be on justice for the entire community of faithful, fidelity to the Gospel value of truth and on professionalism rather than on what people think. Authorities in charge of investigating and acting on accusations must seek the truth and follow the principles of real justice, which guarantees due process, the right of defense and presumption of innocence for the accused, he said. Neville Owen, a retired supreme court judge from western Australia and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said equality before the law and the right to a fair trial would be better guaranteed by providing the reasons for how a case was decided. Providing reasons for a decision is part of fairness, due process and justice, he said. It would let the parties know why they have won or lost; let them see whether their arguments were understood and accepted; facilitate accountability because decisions could be scrutinized; and help build a basis upon which similar cases will be decided in the future.
By Carol Zimmermann WASHINGTON (CNS) – In the days following the March 16 shootings in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six Asian American women, protests and vigils took place around the country remembering the victims and calling for an end to a growing wave of anti-Asian racism and violence. Two Jesuit universities, St. Louis University and Georgetown University, held vigils online that also included discussion on challenges faced by the Asian American/Pacific Islander community and ways to better advocate for them.
Catholic bishops and women religious also spoke out against the violence and renewed their calls to end racism. “We must support all victims of violence and stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable in our communities,” said Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer in a March 17 statement. He also pointed out many people “endure discrimination, aggression and violence every day of their lives,” and said Christians must work to protect the whole community, speaking up against aggression and actively pursuing an end to “racism and discrimination of every kind.” Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, echoed the Atlanta archbishop’s call to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable. In a March 22 statement, he said the Atlanta shootings have “prompted national dialogue on addressing anti-Asian bias that has taken the form of numerous other acts of physical violence, verbal attacks and destruction of property against those of Asian descent over the last year that have left communities across the country traumatized.” The bishop said he was deeply saddened the mass shooting has “tragically taken the lives of eight people and has renewed concerns about a rise of hostility against individuals of Asian descent.” “As bishops, we decry any kind of hatred and violence, particularly based on race, ethnicity or sex,” he said. “We pray for the families and friends of those who were lost, and for their communities, who may feel unsafe and vulnerable at this time.” Although the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Long of Woodstock, Georgia, has been arrested and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the shootings at three spas in the Atlanta metro area, he has not yet been charged with a hate crime. Investigators are still looking into if the crimes were racially motivated or if, as Long claimed, they were committed to end his temptation because he is a sex addict. The shootings touched a nerve across the country in response to a growing wave of anti-Asian violence, particularly since the outbreak of the coronavirus which began in Wuhan, China, last year and had often been referred to by former President Donald Trump as the “China virus” or “kung flu.” The group AAPI Hate, an advocacy group that tracks hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said it had had received about 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since last March, up from its usual total of 100 incidents a year. Days after the Atlanta shootings, President Joe Biden said he urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. He said the measure would expedite the federal government’s response to hate crimes that have risen during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting and make information on hate crimes more accessible to Asian American communities.
By Cindy Wooden ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM IRAQ (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue with other churches and with other religions flows from the Gospel, but Pope Francis said he knows some Catholics disagree. “Often you must take a risk” to promote harmony, he told reporters March 8 as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad. “There are some criticisms: ‘The pope isn’t courageous, he’s reckless.’ He’s doing things against Catholic doctrine. He’s a step away from heresy.’” Still, he said, through prayer and listening to the advice of experts and aides, he has become convinced that God wants the church – and all humanity, for that matter – to continue promoting a sense of belonging to one human family. And, he said, it does not matter if some religions, sects or groups seem further from sharing that vision. “The rule of Jesus is love and charity,” the pope said. “But how many centuries did it take us to put that into practice?” Preaching and living “human fraternity” – recognizing that all men and women, created by God, are members of the same human family and brothers and sisters to one another – is a process that requires effort, emphasis and repetition. “You are human. You are a child of God. You are my brother or sister,” the pope said.
With sporadic violence continuing in Iraq, the pope’s trip March 5-8 involved a massive security operation with the deployment of thousands of police and military officers. Even the Vatican police and Swiss Guards wore bulletproof vests under their dark suits, an unusual practice on a papal trip. But the other danger was posed by COVID-19 and the risk that people gathering to see the pope, who has been vaccinated, would create a surge in the already-rising number of cases in Iraq. Pope Francis said the pandemic – not the security issue – was what made him repeatedly think, “maybe, maybe not” about the visit. Decisions about foreign trips are “stewed over time,” the pope said. “I thought so much, prayed so much” about the Iraq trip because of the coronavirus pandemic, “and in the end I made the decision freely, but it came from within. And I said to myself the one who helped me decide this will take care of the people.” And even though many experts do not expect the pandemic to be resolved by the fall, Pope Francis said he has promised to go to Budapest, Hungary, for a day in September to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, which was postponed from 2020. The other trip he would like to make soon, he said, is a visit to Lebanon. Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, even asked him to stop in Lebanon on the way to or from Iraq, the pope said, but doing that would seem like giving the Lebanese people “crumbs” given how they are suffering. Asked about his meeting March 6 in Najaf with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an authority figure for Shiite Muslims in Iraq and around the world, Pope Francis described him as “a great man, a wise man, a man of God.” The meeting, he said, “was good for my soul” and was another step on the path of promoting greater understanding and cooperation with Muslims. The day after meeting the ayatollah, Pope Francis traveled to Mosul, a city terrorized and left largely in ruin by Islamic State militants who controlled the area from 2014 to 2017. Even though he said he had seen photos of the ruined churches of Mosul, Pope Francis said standing amid the rubble was “unbelievable, unbelievable.” But even more touching, he said, was the testimony of survivors, including of a mother who lost a son, who spoke about the importance of forgiveness and of rebuilding. “We are so great at insulting people and condemning them,” he said, but too many people have forgotten the power of forgiving others. Asked when, if ever, he will make a trip to Argentina, Pope Francis repeated that he imagined either dying or resigning and remaining in Rome, “my diocese.” He joked that he had spent 76 years in Argentina and didn’t see why people wanted him to spend more time there. But, denying he had what he termed “patrio-phobia,” he told reporters that he had planned a trip to Argentina, along with Chile, in November 2017. However, the trip was pushed back to January 2018 because of elections in Chile. And January in Argentina would have been just too warm. “I don’t know if the trips will slow down now, but I can tell you that on this trip, I’ve felt more tired,” he said, adding that being 84 comes with some baggage. However, he said, he does enjoy being with people, especially “after these months of imprisonment” because of the pandemic and the lockdown in Italy. “I feel different when I am far from the people,” he said, adding that he would continue to follow the recommendations of government health authorities as far as holding general audiences or other events that could attract a large public. “Closeness to the people of God” is an essential part of being a priest, the pope said. “The only ones who save us from pride are the holy people of God,” otherwise priests run the risk of acting like “an elite caste.”
By Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) – A change in wording to the concluding doxology of orations in the Roman Missal, from “one God, for ever and ever” to “God, for ever and ever,” took effect on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17. A Feb. 4 memo to bishops from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship said the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments wrote to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences in May 2020 to point out the current English translation that concludes “in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” is “incorrect.”
“There is no mention of ‘one’ in the Latin, and ‘Deus’ in the Latin text refers to Christ. Therefore, the correct translation … is simply “in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever,” the memo said, adding that the prefect of the congregation “pointed out the importance of affirming this Christological truth amid the religious pluralism of today’s world.” A copy of the memo was provided to Catholic News Service. It said the correct translation was already reflected in the Roman Missal in other languages, including Misal Romano, the USCCB’s Spanish translation of the missal. English translations of the Roman Missal for use by Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council, such the St. Joseph’s Missal of the 1950s, “reflected the correct translation,” the memo noted. “However, when the postconciliar texts were published in English, the word ‘one’ was added.” When the translation of the Roman Missal currently in use was underway in the 2000s, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy “pointed out the discrepancy to the congregation in Rome, but was told to retain the use of ‘one God’ in the new translation,” according to the memo. After the doctrinal congregation’s directive last May, the USCCB’s Latin-rite bishops voted to amend the concluding doxology of orations, or “collects,” of the Roman Missal to reflect the change. The congregation confirmed the decision, as it had for the episcopal conferences of England and Wales, Ireland and Canada. The translation change – “God, for ever and ever” – applies to other liturgical books, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, the memo said, adding that there is no need to publish new Roman Missals, because “it should not be difficult for the celebrant simply to omit the word ‘one’ when offering the prayer.” But it added that publishers “are being informed of this change” and reprints or new editions of the Roman Missal will reflect the new translation, as will any worship aids for the faithful and other similar publications.
By Dennis Sadowski ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – Arriving in the United States as a refugee from Vietnam in 1980, Divine Word Father Quang Duc Dinh wasn’t sure what the future held. “I was naive and innocent,” he told Catholic News Service. Before long, he was able to begin seminary studies with the Society of the Divine Word, later becoming ordained in 1992.
Today, at 59, he’s the provincial superior of the society’s Chicago province and helping other young men become missionaries to the world. Father Dinh’s story is one that illustrates the missionary outreach work of the society: to bring the good news of Jesus to others, especially poor and marginalized people, as envisioned by its founder in Steyl, Holland, St. Arnold Janssen, who was canonized in 2003. The Society of the Divine Word observed its 125th anniversary of the arrival of its first member in the United States Oct. 15. To mark the milestone, the society unveiled an online exhibit at https://scalar.usc.edu/works/svd125/index. It takes viewers through the history of the order’s evolution from one man, Brother Wendelin Meyer – who volunteered to travel to the U.S. in the missionary spirit – through the most recent years that find priests of the order’s three U.S. provinces ministering in poor and marginalized communities around the world. Titled “Empowered by the Word,” the exhibit recaps hallmark moments in the society’s U.S. ministries: the opening of a technical school for orphans in Techny, Illinois, outside of Chicago; the founding of the first seminary to train African American men who wished to become priests and brothers in Mississippi; and the broadening of outreach to marginalized communities in Appalachia beginning in the 1970s, which continues today. “We serve the poor, minorities and marginalized people,” Father Dinh said. The Vietnamese priest is a portrait of the multicultural spirit of the society. He is one of about 90 Vietnamese Divine Word priests trained in the U.S. He heads a province of more than 200 priests and brothers of 30 nationalities who serve in parishes in parts of Canada, the United States and several Caribbean island nations. Priests of the society’s Western and Southern U.S. provinces also serve widely. Worldwide, the society has more than 6,000 members in 80 countries. Brother Meyer arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, Oct. 15, 1895, seeking German-speaking immigrants, a prime market for the society’s publications. He came to North America to bolster the society’s work at home. He sold magazines and pamphlets to finance his ministry while giving the newcomers a connection with their homeland. During a trip to Chicago as the society looked for a new location to build its ministry, Brother Meyer learned that a 360-acre farm north of the city – owned by a German Catholic orphanage – was for sale. The property eventually was purchased and became the site of a trade school of orphan boys. It was there that the locale of Techny was born. Techny today encompasses only the society’s Chicago Province property. It is within the town of Northbrook in Chicago’s sprawling northern suburbs. Over the years, the society expanded. In 1909, the society opened St. Mary’s Seminary in Techny. It was the first Roman Catholic major seminary for missionaries in the U.S. Other seminaries followed. Sacred Heart College in Greenville, Mississippi, opened in 1920 as the first seminary for forming African American priests. Within three years, it moved 300 miles south to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, becoming known as St. Augustine Seminary.
Other schools and seminaries followed in places such as Girard, Pennsylvania; Duxbury, Massachusetts; Bordentown, New Jersey; Conesus, New York; East Troy, Wisconsin; Perrysburg, Ohio; and Granby, Quebec. Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, educates men and women for missionary service as priests, brothers, sisters and lay ministers today. Father Dinh said the society’s work in the U.S. has welcomed the opportunity to reach out to marginalized people. For example, Divine Word priests ministered to German Americans who were targeted for discrimination during both world wars, Japanese Americans interred during World War II, and African Americans who struggled generations after slavery ended. Today, Father Dinh said, the effort focuses in many U.S. communities on Latino newcomers as well as immigrants from Poland and elsewhere. In Appalachia today, food programs benefit poor children. And in Jamaica, Antigua and elsewhere, Divine Word priests live in poverty like the people they serve. The work continues to stem from the prophetic vision Brother Meyer first saw when he arrived in New Jersey, Father Dinh explained. “It’s part of God’s plan,” he said. “It’s unfolding in history right now.”
By Junno Arocho Esteves ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – Thousands sang and applauded as Italian teen Carlo Acutis was beatified in a town dear to him and to many Christians around the world: Assisi. During the Oct. 10 beatification Mass, Italian Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, read Pope Francis’ apostolic letter proclaiming Acutis’ “blessed,” the step before canonization. “With our apostolic authority, we grant that the venerable servant of God, Carlo Acutis, layman, who, with the enthusiasm of youth, cultivated a friendship with our Lord Jesus, placing the Eucharist and the witness of charity at the center of his life, henceforth shall be called blessed,” the pope decreed. After the reading of the apostolic letter, the newly beatified teen’s parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, processed toward the altar carrying a reliquary containing their son’s heart. The reliquary was engraved with one of the teen’s well-known quotes: “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.” Pilgrims flocked both to the Basilica of St. Francis for the beatification Mass as well as to the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major, where the newly beatified teen’s remains were on display for veneration. Men and women, boys and girls passed by the tomb quietly, some stopping to pray the “Our Father.” A young toddler blew a kiss goodbye to the young blessed as she passed by.
Known as the site where a young St. Francis renounced his father’s inheritance and embraced poverty, the shrine – like the city of Assisi and St. Francis himself – held a special place in Acutis’ heart. The teen loved St. Francis “very much,” his mother, Antonia Salzano, told Catholic News Service Oct. 9. St. Francis “was a very Eucharistic soul who used to attend Mass twice a day,” and her son sought to imitate that same Eucharistic devotion throughout his brief life. Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi reflected on the link between the two saintly figures, and proclaimed that by “providential design, (St.) Francis and (Blessed) Carlo are now inseparable.” “Carlo’s life – always united to Jesus – his love for the Eucharist, his devotion to the Holy Virgin, his making friends with the poor, brought him closer to the spirituality of the Poor One,” St. Francis, Archbishop Sorrentino said at the end of Mass. “Both invite us to live according to the Gospel.” The liturgy was held inside the Basilica of St. Francis, but measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant that most of those attending sat outside on seats set three-feet apart, watching on big screens. Many young men and women came to Assisi for the beatification. For many of them, the fact that a normal teen could be beatified was a source of hope and inspiration. “With his life, Carlo made me see that despite the small or even great difficulties – like his illness – that we could live a full and happy life if we keep our eyes looking up toward heaven,” said 19-year-old Rosanna, who was among those attending the beatification. In his homily, Cardinal Vallini said that Acutis’ beatification “in the land of Francis of Assisi is good news, a strong proclamation that a young man of our time, one like many, was conquered by Christ and became a beacon of light for those who want to know him and follow his example.” Reflecting on the teen’s life, Cardinal Vallini said that like most young people his age, Carlo was a “normal, simple, spontaneous, friendly” teenager who used modern forms of communication to transmit the “values and beauty of the Gospel.” For him, “the internet was not just a means of escape, but a space for dialogue, knowledge, sharing and mutual respect that was to be used responsibly, without becoming slaves to it and rejecting digital bullying,” the cardinal said. Cardinal Vallini said that Blessed Acutis was a model of virtue for young men and women today, reminding them not to seek “gratification only in ephemeral successes but in the perennial values that Jesus proposes in the Gospel.” “He gave witness that faith does not distance us from life but immerses us more deeply in it and showed us the concrete way to live the joy of the Gospel,” the cardinal said. “It is up to us to follow it, attracted by the fascinating experience of Blessed Carlo, so that our lives may also shine with light and hope.”
By Carol Glatz VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in many countries, and questions concerning what is morally permissible regarding end-of-life care, the Vatican’s doctrinal office released a 25-page letter offering “a moral and practical clarification” on the care of vulnerable patients. “The church is convinced of the necessity to reaffirm as definitive teaching that euthanasia is a crime against human life because, in this act, one chooses directly to cause the death of another innocent human being,” the document said. Titled, “’Samaritanus bonus,’ on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life,” the letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was approved by Pope Francis in June, and released to the public Sept. 22. A new, “systematic pronouncement by the Holy See” was deemed necessary given a growing, global trend in legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, and changing attitudes and rules that harm the dignity of vulnerable patients, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, congregation prefect, said at a Vatican news conference Sept. 22. It was also necessary to reaffirm church teaching regarding the administration of the sacraments to and pastoral care of patients who expressly request a medical end to their life, he said.
“In order to receive absolution in the sacrament of penance, as well as with the anointing of the sick and the viaticum,” he said, the patients must demonstrate their intention to reverse their decision to end their life and to cancel their registration with any group appointed to grant their desire for euthanasia or assisted suicide. In the letter’s section on “Pastoral discernment toward those who request euthanasia or assisted suicide,” it said a “priest could administer the sacraments to an unconscious person ‘sub condicione’ if, on the basis of some signal given by the patient beforehand, he can presume his or her repentance.” The church’s ministers can still accompany patients who have made these end-of-life directives, it added, by showing “a willingness to listen and to help, together with a deeper explanation of the nature of the sacrament, in order to provide the opportunity to desire and choose the sacrament up to the last moment.” It is important to carefully look for “adequate signs of conversion, so that the faithful can reasonably ask for the reception of the sacraments. To delay absolution is a medicinal act of the church, intended not to condemn, but to lead the sinner to conversion,” it said. However, it added, “those who spiritually assist these persons should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action.” Chaplains, too, must show care “in the health care systems where euthanasia is practiced, for they must not give scandal by behaving in a manner that makes them complicit in the termination of human life,” the letter said. Another warning in the letter regarded medical end-of-life protocols, such as “do not resuscitate orders” or “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment” and any of their variations. These protocols “were initially thought of as instruments to avoid aggressive medical treatment in the terminal phases of life. Today, these protocols cause serious problems regarding the duty to protect the life of patients in the most critical stages of sickness,” it said. On the one hand, it said, “medical staff feel increasingly bound by the self-determination expressed in patient declarations that deprive physicians of their freedom and duty to safeguard life even where they could do so.” “On the other hand, in some health care settings, concerns have recently arisen about the widely reported abuse of such protocols viewed in a euthanistic perspective with the result that neither patients nor families are consulted in final decisions about care,” it said. “This happens above all in the countries where, with the legalization of euthanasia, wide margins of ambiguity are left open in end-of-life law regarding the meaning of obligations to provide care.” The church, however, “is obliged to intervene in order to exclude once again all ambiguity in the teaching of the magisterium concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide, even where these practices have been legalized,” it said. Euthanasia involves “an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all pain may in this way be eliminated.” Its definition depends on “the intention of the will and in the methods used,” it added. The letter reaffirmed that “any formal or immediate material cooperation in such an act is a grave sin against human life,” making euthanasia “an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration.” For that reason, “those who approve laws of euthanasia and assisted suicide, therefore, become accomplices of a grave sin that others will execute. They are also guilty of scandal because by such laws they contribute to the distortion of conscience, even among the faithful.” The letter also underlined a patient’s right to decline aggressive medical treatment and “die with the greatest possible serenity and with one’s proper human and Christian dignity intact” when approaching the natural end of life. “The renunciation of treatments that would only provide a precarious and painful prolongation of life can also mean respect for the will of the dying person as expressed in advanced directives for treatment, excluding however every act of a euthanistic or suicidal nature,” it said. However, it also underlined the rights of physicians as never being “a mere executor of the will of patients or their legal representatives, but retains the right and obligation to withdraw at will from any course of action contrary to the moral good discerned by conscience.” Other aspects of end-of-life care the letter detailed included: the obligation to provide basic care of nutrition and hydration; the need for holistic palliative care; support for families and hospice care; the required accompaniment and care for unborn and newly-born children diagnosed with a terminal disease; the use of “deep palliative sedation”; obligation of care for patients in a “vegetative state” or with minimal consciousness; and conscientious objection by health care workers.