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

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

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

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

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

Nación y Mundo en fotos

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

Catholic organizations voice ‘anger’ over policy that keeps migrants out

By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In front of the White House, a large group of women religious and their supporters shouted just a few feet away from the president’s residence Dec. 3, calling him to end a Trump-era policy that keeps migrants out.

Though they were there to denounce a different policy, they called on President Joe Biden to end the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP.

Better known as “Remain in Mexico,” the Trump-era policy that forces asylum-seekers to stay on the Mexico side of the border until their cases can be heard by U.S. immigration courts is about to restart.

Immigration advocates wasted no time in criticizing the restitution of MPP, saying the president has not kept a promise he made to get rid of it.

The Biden administration tried to end MPP with an executive order issued by President Joe Biden shortly after he was inaugurated that temporarily halted the policy. Subsequently, it was officially ended in June.

But in August a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas told administration officials to continue the policy, saying officials had not ended it properly. On Aug. 24 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the judge’s ruling and ruled the administration had to restart the policy.

Children in Tapachula, Mexico, near the Guatemalan border look at each other while migrants wait and hope to receive help from the Mexican government Dec. 2, 2021, to obtain humanitarian visas to pass through Mexican territory. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

The administration has vowed to end MPP but said that, for now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has to comply with the order and planned to restore the program at one location on or around Dec. 6, and then expand it.

“Reinstating MPP is a stain on our nation,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, in a statement from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a group of 55 national, faith-based organizations, whose members spoke out shortly after the announcement of the policy’s restitution.

Immigration advocates said it puts people in danger by forcing them to stay in dangerous border towns on the Mexico side that are ruled by gangs and drug dealers.

“It is a dangerous and deadly policy. As happened during its prior implementation, vulnerable men, women and children will suffer denigration, disrespect, assaults, rapes and murders,” said Gallagher. “It is inhumane, unjust, and violates our obligations under our own legal system and international refugee law.”

“Mr. President, we implore you to follow the Catholic values that form the foundation of your lifelong public leadership of our country,” she said. “It is time to draw on those values and prioritize the lives of the suffering men, women and children waiting at our border over politics. It is time that you do what is humane and stop MPP.”

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said the reimplementation was a “huge win for Texas” and via Twitter said it was needed to “restore safety and order along our southern border.”

But faith groups, which included many Catholic advocates, reacted with great disappointment.
“We are deeply dismayed by the reimplementation of MPP,” said Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration for. “Unfortunately, attempts by the Administration to make this program ‘more humane’ – however well-intentioned – will not cure its inherent faults, nor will they alleviate its inevitable toll on human lives. We are especially concerned that this will perpetuate the existing tragedy of family separation, since many mothers and fathers are likely to feel compelled to part ways with their children in a desperate attempt to ensure their safety.”

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition said in its Dec. 2 statement that it wanted to express its “righteous anger at this immoral decision that will continue to deny migrants their internationally recognized right to seek asylum.”

At the border, Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso said this was time to restore protections, not taken them away.

“We can no longer afford half-measures or backsliding and the return of Remain in Mexico is a devastating step backwards,” one which puts people in danger, he said.

At the event featuring Catholic women religious in front of the White House, a man named Santiago from Honduras, who was helped by the Jesuit-run Kino Border Initiative in the area of Nogales, on both sides of the border, made a plea to Biden, saying “the border is a difficult place.”
Having escaped a kidnapping and praising God for guiding him, he pleaded for an end to measures that he said are putting people, including his family, in danger.

“The dead don’t need asylum, the living do,” he said.and walking with our brothers and sisters.”
“We will emerge from the present crises together,” he said, “as the church Christ has called us to be.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BALTIMORE (CNS) – A funeral Mass was offered Nov. 23 at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore for Beverly A. Carroll, a social justice advocate who spent her life raising her voice for African American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the United States and the world. Carroll, the founding director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Black Catholics, died Nov. 13. She was 75. Bishop John H. Ricard, a former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and current superior general of the Baltimore-based Josephites, celebrated the Mass for his friend. Carroll worked for many years with Bishop Ricard, who also is the retired bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. “She was a great advocate for the community, for the church, for African Americans in the church,” said Josephite Father Ray P. Bomberger, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish, to which Carroll belonged her whole life. “She was interested in the church, the people of the church, what was going on, (and) how we could do it better,” he said. Father Bomberger praised Carroll’s devotion to her church, both in her home community and around the country, as well as her interest in education and social justice. Carroll was a lifelong parishioner of St. Peter Claver, where she served as a corporator and parish council member.

Alex Lindbergh, left, a freshman at Bishop Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, arm wrestles Asia Carmon of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis Nov. 20, 2021, during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – “Follow me to arm-wrestle a seminarian! See if you can beat a man who receives Communion every day!” Holding a chalk board with “Arm Wrestle a Seminarian” written on it, seminarian Samuel Hansen barked his invitation while walking through the halls of the Indiana Convention Center Nov. 20, the final day of the National Catholic Youth Conference. “It was incredibly fun,” said Hansen, a senior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and a member of St. Roch Parish, both in Indianapolis. “Just walking with the sign made a lot of people laugh. I felt like a ballpark food salesman. But it energized the convention center quite a bit.” In response to Hansen’s hawking, a steady group of challengers gathered around a table promoting vocations to the diocesan priesthood that had earlier attracted fewer visitors when the seminarians manning it waited for NCYC participants to come to them on their own. As lighthearted and winsome as his strategy to attract attention was, Hansen saw it as following in the tradition of the saints. St. John Bosco, for example, did sleight-of-hand tricks and juggling acts for kids in his village to get them to listen to his catechesis lesson. The NCYC always includes a thematic area made up of villages, or venues, in the convention hall that have traditional exhibits as well as interactive educational and recreational activities for attendees. “The saints stepped out of line and took extraordinary actions to inspire others,” Hansen told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Titus Brandsma, clearing the way for the canonization of the 20th-century martyr murdered at the Dachau concentration camp. The Dutch Carmelite friar was sent to Dachau for treason – after defending Jews and press freedom – and was killed with a lethal injection. The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision in his case and a number of other sainthood causes Nov. 25. Dachau, the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Germany most associated with the genocide of thousands of Jews during World War II, also held more than 2,700 clergy – 2,400 of them Catholic priests. Blessed Brandsma was sent there after urging editors of the Dutch Catholic press to violate a new law of the Third Reich and not print any Nazi propaganda. He also denounced Nazism as “a sewer of falsehood that must not be tolerated,” said Dianne Traflet, an assistant professor of pastoral theology and the associate dean of graduate studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, during a talk at the national World War II Museum in 2018. Pope Francis also recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carolina Santocanale, also known as Blessed Mary of Jesus, an Italian nun born in 1852, who founded the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes. The Vatican did not immediately announce dates for the canonization ceremonies.

ANKAWA, Iraq (CNS) – Walking through this mainly Christian town outside of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, it’s easy to see many changes since the victims of Islamic State militants fled here for safety seven years ago. Gone are the tents and caravans that dotted church yards and open fields to house those escaping forced conversion to Islam or death at the hands of the Islamic State militants in 2014. Colorful laundry once hung from balconies, while some people slept on church pews. The cavernous concrete skeleton of a shopping mall then sheltered 2,500 displaced people. Support from Catholic and other churches built and cordoned off rooms on three-stories; each room housed a single family, and all shared basic cooking and bathroom facilities. The unfinished structure has given way to the Ankawa Mall, where people can food shop at the French Carrefour supermarket, eat in a Turkish restaurant or buy Hello Kitty accessories at a Japanese import shop. In 2017, the Iraqi military and U.S.-led coalition troops forced out Islamic State fighters. Since then, Catholic churches and organizations have been working hard to address challenges faced by Iraq’s historic Christian community and other religious minorities. “People have faced tremendous difficulties and wounding by the Islamic State. We are still experiencing the practical effects of loss and trauma,” said Fadi, an Armenian Christian worshipping at a local church. Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil stewarded the building of four schools, a university and a hospital, providing local people with badly needed employment, with assistance from Stephen Rasche, who is counsel to the Chaldean Archdiocese of Irbil.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) – When Father Francis Galvan left Sacred Heart Church in Delta Nov. 15, he did not expect to find himself at the center of a catastrophic flood and what is being called the storm of the century. But within hours, the Augustinian priest was at ground zero of rescue efforts and witnessing humanity at its best, joining with Agassiz residents in responding to the needs of stranded travelers. “There I saw and realized how the human heart in the worst situations comes out its best – eyes looking only at those in need of help,” he told The B.C. Catholic, newspaper of the Vancouver Archdiocese, by email. Father Galvan arrived in Harrison Hot Springs only to find the study week canceled due to torrential rains, so he headed over to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Agassiz to check in with pastor Father Dennis Flores. There, the two priests saw rescue helicopters flying overhead and decided to head to the town’s community center. They found themselves in the middle of a massive rescue and relief effort. “Strong winds were blowing along with heavy rains, and I watched rescue helicopters landing, one after another,” Father Galvan said. Evacuees who had been stranded by highway mudslides emerged from the helicopters.


BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. church today is called more than ever to carry out its centuries-long evangelizing mission at a time of spiritual awakening rising from “under the clouds of the pandemic” and the country’s uncertain future, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told his fellow prelates. “People are starting to examine what they truly believe and what they value most deeply in their lives,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, who spoke Nov. 16 during the opening public session of the USCCB’s Nov. 15-18 general assembly in Baltimore. The questions people have allow the church to continue its mission, even in an increasingly secularized society, the archbishop said. The challenge, he said, is “to understand how the church should carry out her mission.” Archbishop Gomez acknowledged that differences among members of the church exist because of the differing views people hold on how to move forward. Still, he said, “there are also many signs of hope” that present new opportunities to bring the Gospel to others. The archbishop turned to a 19th-century prelate to find inspiration for the path ahead. Archbishop John Ireland, who as a young priest served as a chaplain in the Union Army, was a “powerful advocate for African Americans and for the rights of immigrants,” he explained.

Attendees are seen Nov. 12, 2018, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore. The Nov. 15-18, 2021, assembly in Baltimore is the first time the bishops gathered in person for a national meeting since the pandemic began. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A billboard will go up in New York’s Times Square during Christmas and New Year’s to promote and celebrate the evermore popular podcast “The Bible in a Year,” but more is in store for the program that topped the charts shortly after its debut in January. The creators of the daily podcast that leads listeners through the Bible’s narrative have announced several new initiatives designed to highlight the show’s success and attract even more listeners. An all-new Spanish-language version of the podcast – La Biblia en un año – with original commentary and a new, native-Spanish speaking host, will be launched Jan. 1. “The Bible in a Year Retreat” virtual event for listeners will take place Feb 18-20. It will have a limited capacity for participants but is “designed to help Catholics cultivate a lifelong relationship with the word of God – one that extends far beyond the podcast.” The planned billboard will be unveiled Dec. 19 in Times Square and will stay up through Jan. 9. “Through distraction and distress, our culture has lost a hopeful, historical biblical worldview – but by the grace of God this podcast has helped thousands rediscover it,” said Father Mike Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, and popular Catholic speaker and author, who hosts the podcast.

BANGOR, Maine (CNS) – “I hope he knows how awesome he is!” said a seventh grader at All Saints Catholic School when students sprang into action to honor Roy Ward of Bangor, a World War II veteran who celebrated his 102nd birthday on Veterans Day itself. All Saints students, who have a special appreciation for veterans, decided to create 102 birthday cards to celebrate Ward’s birthday and honor his service in the process. Ward served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a machinist mate first class from 1941 to 1947, serving on three different vessels – USS Mizpah, USS Shenandoah and USS Yosemite. “It was too much of an opportunity for community service to pass up,” said Matthew Houghton, principal of All Saints in Bangor. “The cards are warm and creative and showcase the appreciation our students have for those who have fought for our freedom,” Houghton said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Lasting peace in the world can be achieved only by responding to the needs of current and future generations, the Vatican said as it announced the theme Pope Francis chose for his 2022 World Peace Day message. “Education, work and dialogue between generations: tools for building lasting peace” will be the theme for the Jan. 1 commemoration and for the message Pope Francis will write for the occasion, said a Vatican communique published Nov. 13. The Vatican said education, work and dialogue are consistently evolving and that Pope Francis’ message will “propose an innovative reading that responds to the needs of current and future times.” The pope’s message, the communique said, will be an invitation “to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, so that the direction of this change awakens new and old questions with which it is right and necessary to be confronted.” Pope Francis will seek to answer questions about education and how it contributes to lasting peace, the Vatican said. He will also address how work can “respond more or less to the vital needs of human beings on justice and freedom.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Visiting Cyprus and Greece in early December, Pope Francis will have several meetings with the countries’ Orthodox leaders and with the migrants and refugees their nations host. While Catholics account for only a small percentage of the Christians in both countries, the pope will hold meetings in both Nicosia and Athens with priests, religious and seminarians and will celebrate public Masses in both cities. The Vatican Nov. 13 released the detailed schedule of the pope’s visit Dec. 2-4 to Cyprus and Dec. 4-6 to Greece, including a return visit to migrants and refugees on the island of Lesbos awaiting resettlement.

HONG KONG (CNS) – A Chinese bishop who was allegedly kidnapped by authorities in late October has returned to his diocese, media reports say. reported Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou has resurfaced, with church officials and the faithful offering thanksgiving prayers for his return. It is still unknown when the 58-year-old bishop was released following his arrest Oct. 25. The authorities reportedly said the bishop was taken for “tourism.” Bishop Shao, ordained with a papal mandate as a coadjutor bishop in 2011, fell out of favor with the government as his appointment was not approved by the state-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. His refusal to join and collaborate with state-run bodies led to a series of arrests and detentions. Before this detention, he had been arrested six times, including for seven months in 2017. The whereabouts of Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang remain unknown, reported. Bishop Zhang was arrested in May with 10 priests and an unspecified number of seminarians.

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – With a mix of awe and excitement, pilgrims from many parts of Europe conquered the exhaustion of a long road trip and prepared to celebrate the World Day of the Poor with Pope Francis. Lukasz Baczkowski from Poland was a bit incredulous but proud that other members of his community supported by the Barka Foundation for Mutual Help elected him as one of their 10 representatives to the pope’s meeting with the poor in Assisi Nov. 12. They drove 24 hours in a Volkswagen bus to get to the hilltop town in central Italy. Baczkowski said St. Francis of Assisi is an “inspiration” for him. With his renunciation of his family’s wealth and his total devotion to serving God and God’s poor, the Assisi saint proved that “everyone can change. No one was a saint from the beginning,” Baczkowski told Catholic News Service Nov. 11 at a pilgrim hostel in Assisi. That is a message he clings to as he continues his journey of sobriety and of living in a community rather than on the streets. The faith aspect of the Barka community and of the pilgrimage is a key part of what Baczkowski sees as his redemption. “The most important thing is the soul of a man,” he said. Faith and a helping hand from other Catholics are what helped him move from sleeping on the street, drinking, stealing – and especially from having contemplated suicide, he said.

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico (CNS) – Thirteen-hundred miles from home, a group from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, on a border immersion trip encountered a young woman with two kids and a car with a flat tire in Ciudad Juárez. The group, which included five deacon candidates, their formation director, diocesan bishop and immersion experience leaders, stopped to change the tire. The unexpected encounter reinforced the purpose of the Iowans’ journey: to witness life on the border, to learn about the experience of migrants, and to better minister to migrants back home. “It is one thing to hear their stories, but it is quite another to see and be at one of the main crossing points from Mexico to the U.S.,” said Davenport Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula. “It is important to talk to and learn from people who are ministering to forcibly displaced persons at the border and to the migrants themselves,” he told The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Davenport Diocese. Their journey began Nov. 2 with a 20-hour drive in a van from Davenport to El Paso, Texas, where they took up residence at the Encuentro Project retreat house. The Encuentro Project provides a faith-based, multifaceted immersion program in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border region to give participants a deeper understanding of the complex migration reality and of the community. “Encuentro” is Spanish for “encounter.”

‘What is love?’ Pope, other elders share stories for Netflix

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis, Martin Scorsese, Jane Goodall and a group of less famous “over 70s” talk to young filmmakers about love in the first episode of a four-part documentary available worldwide on Netflix on Christmas Day.

The episode “Love,” part of the series “Stories of a Generation,” premiered at the Rome Film Festival Oct. 21.

The documentary is based on “Sharing the Wisdom of Time,” a book in which Pope Francis called for creating “an alliance between the young and old people” by sharing their stories.

Published by Chicago-based Loyola Press in 2018, the book featured an introduction by Pope Francis, the stories of 30 older people and reflections by a handful of younger people on “What I learned from an elder.”

Simona Ercolani, director and producer of the Netflix series, told reporters Oct. 21 that she started working on the project after reading the book, and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, hitting Italy early and devastating its elderly population.

The idea to make the series “became urgent because every day we had a bulletin of deaths,” she said. “We spoke with Netflix, which also felt the urgency of collecting the stories of people, who at that moment were more fragile. They liked this idea of a dialogue between generations – filmmakers under 30 and contributors over 70.”

Pope Francis is interviewed at the Vatican for “Stories of a Generation,” a Netflix series based on the pope’s book, “Sharing the Wisdom of Time.” The documentary features the pope and other people over 70 sharing their life stories and experiences with filmmakers under 30. The documentary is scheduled to be available on Netflix Dec. 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Simone Risoluti, Vatican Media)

“The stories are extraordinary in their normality, because everyone, including Pope Francis, put themselves in a position of relating (to the filmmaker) not just as a grandchild, but human being to human being,” she said.

Giovanni Bossetti, nonfiction manager for Netflix Italy, told reporters that the streaming service is all about sharing stories, so “besides the incredible access to the Holy Father” that Ercolani had, the series gave Netflix an opportunity “to tell stories that are completely different and that touch themes that are central” to the life of every person.

Eighteen elders from five continents and speaking four different languages appear in the series’ four episodes: Love, Dreams, Struggle and Work.

Pope Francis’ commentary on the four themes and reflections from his own life appear in each episode.

While the series is not “didactic” at all, Bossetti said, the elders share important, universal values with the young filmmakers and the viewing audience.

For the Netflix series, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica interviewed Pope Francis while young filmmakers interviewed the other elders. Francesca Scorsese, 21, interviewed her father, the director and producer, Martin Scorsese.

Father Spadaro told reporters that Pope Francis agreed to participate in the series on the condition that he would not be “the star” of the project but would simply enter into the conversation like the other elders interviewed, “talking about himself and his personal experiences.”

“The stars are the people the pope likes to refer to as ‘the saints next door,’” he said. “They are normal people who are the heroes of daily life.”

“What is love?” Father Spadaro asked Pope Francis.

That, the pope responded at first, would be like asking, “What is air?”

“You can say love is a feeling,” or a series of electrical impulses or something akin to magnetic fields drawing together, he said. But one thing is certain: “Gratuity is key. Love is free or it is not love.”

Tango, his grandmother Rosa, helping others and the importance of dreaming of a better world all come up in the papal conversation.

Speaking via Zoom, Jane Goodall, the primatologist and anthropologist, told reporters at the Rome news conference that the film, like her Roots & Shoots program for young people, can sow much needed hope by bringing elders and young people together.

“To bring the wisdom of the elders alongside the passion of the youth is what it is going to take to change the world,” Goodall said.


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Ahead of President Joe Biden’s Oct. 29 meeting with Pope Francis, panelists in a webinar offered mostly praise for Biden’s sincerity and what they said is his commitment to his Catholic faith. “We believe President Biden treats his vocation as a sacred one,” said Mary J. Novak, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby organization. Biden and the pope both “lead with a very clear conviction that solidarity is essential to our faith,” she said during the Oct. 26 event. In announcing the webinar, a Network news release called the meeting of the two leaders “an important inflection point for global and U.S. politics.” The White House has indicated that discussion topics for Biden and the pope in their private meeting at the Vatican are likely to include climate change, income inequality and migration. Webinar participants highlighted these same issues as those they hoped the two leaders would discuss. Whether the issue of abortion will come up is not known; Biden as a Catholic supports legal abortion, while church teaching upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. One prominent U.S. pro-life leader, Judie Brown of the American Life League, said in an Oct. 28 statement that Pope Francis “needs to hold Biden accountable” for “his pro-abortion views.”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The theme of the 2022 March for Life in Washington is “Equality Begins in the Womb.” “We want to expand” the nation’s current “rigorous debate about inequality” to the unborn, said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. She made the comments Oct. 27 at the Heritage Foundation, where the theme was announced. Calling the theme a cry for “inherent human dignity because of who we are in our essence,” she added, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere, including in the womb.” The March for Life is scheduled for Jan. 21. It is always held on a date near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 rulings, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion nationwide. Carrie Severino, president of Judicial Crisis Network, said 2022 is “going to be one of the most significant years for the march yet,” said Severino, referring to oral arguments to be heard Dec. 1 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It’s an appeal by Mississippi to remove a lower court’s injunction on its law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. A ruling in the case is expected next year. If the court upholds the state’s law, many expect Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) – When the Taliban began taking control of Afghanistan in mid-August, “in one night, everything changed,” recalled Adam. Adam, his wife and their 7-year-old son are three of the more than 150 Afghans whom Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville have helped and will continue to help resettle in the next several months through the State Department’s Afghan Placement Assistance Program. At the beginning of September, the Department of Homeland Security implemented Operation Allies Welcome “to support vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside us in Afghanistan for the past two decades as they safely resettle in the United States,” according to the official Department of Homeland Security website, further leading to implementation of the placement program. Since August 2018, Adam served as an Afghan interpreter for U.S. service members through the security office at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Because of his service to the U.S. troops, he requested his family’s true identity remain anonymous to protect their loved ones who are still in Kabul. Adam hopes to study anthropology and prepare for his dream career. “My hope for my future in America is to serve as I served before,” Adam said. “I want to serve for the government because the government can help Afghanistan; the government can help my people.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the COVID-19 pandemic still underway and with restrictions on gatherings still in place in some countries, the Vatican has again extended the period of time when people can earn a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery and praying for the souls of the faithful in purgatory. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal dealing with matters of conscience, said the indulgences traditionally obtained during the first week of November can be gained throughout the entire month of November, the Vatican announced Oct. 28. The cardinal said he was acting in response to “pleas recently received from various sacred pastors of the church because of the state of the continuing pandemic.” Traditionally, the faithful could receive a full indulgence each day from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8 when they visited a cemetery to pray for the departed and fulfilled other conditions, and, in particular, when they went to a church or an oratory to pray Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day. Because of the pandemic and the popularity in many cultures of visiting cemeteries for All Souls’ Day, some local governments and dioceses closed cemeteries in the first week of November to prevent crowding. That led Cardinal Piacenza to issue a decree in 2020 extending the period for the indulgences. The decree for 2021 renewed those provisions.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square this year will have a distinctly Indigenous, Andean look with the centerpiece being a “Hilipuska” baby Jesus, that is, one wrapped in a blanket bound with a long cord known as a “chumpi.” The super-swaddled baby is typical of the Andean highlands, particularly in Peru’s Huancavelica region, which is home to the five artists who created the 30-piece Nativity scene. In a statement released Oct. 28, the Vatican City State governing office said the scene was chosen, in part, to mark the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence. “The Three Kings will have saddlebags or sacks containing foods characteristic of Huancavelica, such as potatoes, quinoa, kiwicha and cañihua, and will be accompanied by llamas carrying a Peruvian flag on their backs,” the Vatican said. “In the crèche, there also will be statues of different animals belonging to the local fauna such as: alpacas, vicuñas, sheep, vizcachas, flamingoes and the Andean condor,” which is the national symbol of Peru. The crèche will sit under a spruce tree, which is expected to be about 90 feet tall. The tree will come from a sustainably managed forest in the Dolomite mountains of Italy’s Trentino-South Tyrol region. The round wooden ornaments also will come from Trentino, the Vatican said.

WELLINGTON (CNS) – New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have prepared guidelines for health professionals, chaplains and priests to assist them in their pastoral work with people who decide to die under the country’s End of Life Choice Act that takes effect Nov. 7. While the church opposes the deliberate taking of human life, it cannot turn away people who choose “assisted dying” under the new law, said Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton, New Zealand, vice president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The church must help people view the questions and choices they face through a Christian lens, Bishop Lowe said in a statement released by the bishops’ conference Oct. 28. “Individuals often find themselves in complex places. In these times, the church tries to offer guidance to people as best they can, but people make their own choices,” he said. “Often as a church, we find ourselves caring for people dealing with the consequences of such choices. Our pastoral practice is always called to be a reflection of our God, who does not abandon his people,” he added.

A euthanasia advocate who suffers from an incurable condition that atrophies her muscles and has left her breathing through a ventilator, lies in bed at her home in Lima, Peru, Feb. 7, 2020. New Zealand bishops have developed guidelines for health professionals, chaplains and priests to assist them in their pastoral work with people who decide to die under the country’s End of Life Choice Act that takes effect Nov. 7, 2021. (CNS photo/Sebastian Castaneda, Reuters)

Nación y Mundo en Fotos

Theresa Wilson Favors, ex directora de la Oficina de Ministerios Católicos Negros para la Arquidiócesis de Baltimore, lleva un retrato de la Hermana Thea Bowman, una Hermana Franciscana de la Adoración Perpetua de Canton, Miss., Durante la procesión de apertura de la Misa del Día de Todos los Santos. en la Iglesia Católica St. Ann en Baltimore el 1 de noviembre de 2021. La hermana Bowman, quien murió en 1990 a los 52 años de cáncer, es una de los seis afroamericanos que son candidatos a la santidad y cuyas causas esperan que el Papa Francisco agilice la esperanza de los defensores de las causas. (Foto del CNS / Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)
Un surfista en Huntington Beach, California, se lanza a las olas el 4 de noviembre de 2021, aproximadamente un mes después de que un derrame de petróleo cerró el área. (Foto del CNS / David Swanson, Reuters)
Los partidarios de la Segunda Enmienda, que protege los derechos de los ciudadanos a poseer armas, se manifiestan cerca de la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos en Washington el 3 de noviembre de 2021. La corte escuchó argumentos orales en un desafío a una ley de Nueva York que requiere que los propietarios de armas obtengan una Licencia especial de las autoridades locales para portar armas de fuego fuera del hogar. (Foto del CNS / Tom Brenner, Reuters)
Jóvenes migrantes cargan cruces mientras asisten a una misa binacional en memoria de los migrantes que murieron durante su viaje a los Estados Unidos cerca de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos en Ciudad Juárez, México, el 6 de noviembre de 2021. (Foto del CNS / José Luis González , Reuters)
Migrantes en Arriaga, México, son parte de una caravana que se dirige a la Ciudad de México el 6 de noviembre de 2021 (foto CNS / Raquel Cunha, Reuters)
Los nicaragüenses exiliados en Costa Rica marchan en San José, Costa Rica, el 7 de noviembre de 2021, para protestar por las elecciones presidenciales en Nicaragua. Siete candidatos presidenciales fueron descalificados y figuras de la oposición fueron arrestadas antes de que el presidente Daniel Ortega ganara las elecciones. (Foto del CNS / Mayela López, Reuters)
Los partidarios del gobernante Partido Nacional de Honduras sostienen carteles y banderas que dicen “Honduras sí, aborto no” durante una manifestación provida en Tegucigalpa el 7 de noviembre de 2021, antes de las elecciones presidenciales del 28 de noviembre. Cuando el consejo episcopal latinoamericano, o CELAM, se reúna en México del 21 al 28 de noviembre, una parte importante de su agenda es cómo enfrentar el declive de la democracia. (Foto del CNS / Fredy Rodríguez, Reuters)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will have an audience with Pope Francis Oct. 29, the day before the G20 Leaders’ Summit starts in Rome, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Oct. 14. “They will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis and caring for the poor,” she said in a statement. Biden and Pope Francis previously met in 2016, when Biden was vice president, after they both spoke at a conference on adult stem-cell research at the Vatican. In recent weeks, there has been speculation that the two leaders would likely meet since Biden would be in Rome. In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said he was helping the Holy See prepare for Biden’s first presidential visit to the Vatican, sometime during an Oct. 30-31 Rome summit of leading rich and developed nations. “It would be an anomaly if he did not meet the pope while in Rome,” especially since Biden is the first Catholic to be U.S. president in 58 years, the nuncio said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) – In his welcoming remarks to open the diocesan eucharistic congress, Memphis Bishop David P. Talley told attendees that “we are all the living body of Christ, in that we are what we receive” – the Eucharist. Christ’s mission “is our mission, for we are members of his body,” he said. “Our work is with our parishes, our parishioners and all of those who have not heard the words of Jesus Christ,” emphasized the bishop, who was installed as the sixth bishop of Memphis in April 2019. Guided by the theme, “That All May Be One” from John 17:21, the Memphis Diocese celebrated its 50th anniversary with its first eucharistic congress, held at the city’s downtown Renasant Convention Center the evening of Oct. 8 and all day Oct. 9. The congress – and the anniversary celebration – was delayed a full year by the arrival of COVID-19, and the havoc it caused. Passion and a sense of purpose were evident nonetheless – and in great abundance. The diocese in western Tennessee was established June 20, 1970, and has a Catholic population of 70,000. The “Opening Mass for All” was celebrated Oct. 8 by retired Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib, who was the diocese’s fourth bishop, and was its first African American shepherd. He headed the diocese for 23 years, retiring in 2016.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I, clearing the way for his beatification. The Italian pope served only 33 days as pontiff; he died in the papal apartments Sept. 28, 1978, at the age of 65, shocking the world and a church that had just mourned the death of St. Paul VI. The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision along with a number of other sainthood decrees Oct. 13. In the sainthood cause of Pope John Paul I, the approved miracle involved a young girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who developed a severe case of acute encephalitis and uncontrollable and life-threatening brain seizures, and eventually entered septic shock. After doctors told family members her death was “imminent,” the local priest encouraged the family, nurses and others to pray to the late pope for his intercession, according to the website of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. A panel of experts studying the cause determined there was no scientific explanation for her complete recovery in 2011 and that it could be attributed to the late pope’s intercession. The Vatican did not immediately announce a date for the beatification ceremony.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christian freedom means respecting other cultures and traditions rather than finding ways to impose “one’s own model of life as though it were the most evolved and the most appealing,” Pope Francis said. “How many errors have been made in the history of evangelization by seeking to impose a single cultural model,” the pope said Oct. 13 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall. “At times, even violence was not spared to make a single point of view prevail. In this way, the church has been deprived of the richness of many local expressions that the cultural traditions of entire peoples bring with them. But this is the exact opposite of Christian freedom,” he said. The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians by reflecting on the freedom from slavery to sin and death that comes from Christ’s death and resurrection. St. Paul’s assertion is that freedom, given to humanity through grace and love, is “the supreme and new law of Christian life,” which “opens us up to welcoming every people and culture, and at the same time opens every people and culture to a greater freedom,” Pope Francis said.

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines congratulated veteran journalist Maria Ressa on being the first Filipino to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulating Ressa Oct. 10, the bishops highlighted the importance of media freedom in the Catholic faith, reported The Nobel Prize Committee announced Oct. 8 that Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov would share this year’s prize for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said in his message to Ressa: “Recent popes have, on occasion, highlighted the important role that the press plays in gauging the health of a healthy democratic society. “For journalists, their work has become more and more difficult because of the level of disinformation and fake news that continue to spread through social communications. The vocation and mission, therefore, of members of the press (as envisioned by our popes) is to contribute not only for the search for truth but, more importantly, to help build a culture of dialogue,” said the message on behalf of the bishops.