WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Multiple states will have measures to expand access to abortion on their ballots in November, a key challenge for pro-life groups in the fall after their losses on similar contests in post-Dobbs elections. The Florida Supreme Court on April 1 simultaneously ruled that the state’s Constitution does not protect abortion access and allowed a proposed amendment seeking to do so to qualify for the state’s November ballot. Kelsey Pritchard, state public affairs director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said that while her group celebrates that the Florida Supreme Court upheld abortion restrictions in that state, “at the same time, we recognize that Florida is in real jeopardy of losing those protections through the ballot measure that they also upheld and said would be on the ballot in November.” Maryland and New York also will have efforts to enshrine abortion protections in their state constitutions on the ballot, while efforts for similar amendments to qualify for the ballot are still underway in several states including Arizona and Montana, where closely-watched races for the U.S. Senate will also take place. Ballot measures on abortion proved elusive for the pro-life movement in 2022 and 2023, despite achieving their long-held goal of reversing Roe v. Wade when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision.

CHICAGO (OSV News) – A new video series featuring several U.S. Catholic bishops will offer what organizers call a “deep dive into the sacred mysteries of the Mass.” “Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy,” produced by the National Eucharistic Revival, will be livestreamed on seven consecutive Thursdays from April 4–May 16 at 8 p.m. ET on the revival’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram channels. Launched in June 2022, the revival is a three-year grassroots initiative sponsored by the nation’s Catholic bishops to enkindle devotion to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The various events and programs of the revival will be capped by the National Eucharistic Congress, which will take place July 17-21 in Indianapolis. The upcoming video series will be hosted by Sister Alicia Torres, a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago and part of the revival’s executive team; and National Eucharistic Revival missionary Tanner Kalina. The episodes, led by various bishops, will survey the central aspects of the Mass as part of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1075) calls “liturgical catechesis,” or “mystagogy.”

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (OSV News) – A group of Catholic bishops recently traveled to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama in what trip organizers called a “powerful encounter” amid the nation’s long-running reckoning with racism. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and current committee chair Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago hosted a March 18-20 “Bishops’ Lenten Experience” in the two cities, which were the endpoints of a five-day, 54-mile nonviolent march led by civil rights leader and pastor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of voting rights for Black Americans. The bishops’ visit to the sites had been coordinated by the committee on racism and the Washington-based Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works closely with the U.S. bishops to end the death penalty, promote restorative justice and advance racial equity. Touring the numerous historical sites commemorating the nation’s legacy of slavery, racism and mass incarceration was a profoundly moving experience, participants told OSV News. “I don’t think anyone can journey through the exhibits without registering great emotion in the face of the human devastation involved in our American history,” said Bishop Perry. In a Facebook post, Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia said that “slavery, racism and the marginalization of Native North American peoples and African Americans represent the original sin of our nation.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The protection and preservation of human dignity must extend into the digital realm, the Vatican said in a new document on human dignity. While the advancement of digital technologies “may offer many possibilities for promoting human dignity, it also increasingly tends toward the creation of a world in which exploitation, exclusion, and violence grow, extending even to the point of harming the dignity of the human person,” read a declaration approved by Pope Francis and published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith April 8. “If technology is to serve human dignity and not harm it, and if it is to promote peace rather than violence, then the human community must be proactive in addressing these trends,” it read. The document, a declaration on human dignity titled “Dignitas Infinita” (“Infinite Dignity”), reflects on Catholic teaching about human dignity and addresses “some grave violations of human dignity” today, among them “digital violence.” In his introduction to the declaration, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the doctrinal dicastery, wrote that “although not comprehensive,” the contemporary issues touched upon in the document were selected to “illuminate different facets of human dignity that might be obscured in many people’s consciousness.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While giving each person his or her due is fundamental for justice, the virtue of justice is not concentrated on the individual in isolation but on ensuring the common good of all, Pope Francis said. Justice “is represented allegorically by scales, because it aims to ‘even the score’ between people, especially when they risk being distorted by some imbalance,” the pope said April 3 at his weekly general audience. In St. Peter’s Square, still decorated with thousands of flowers from Easter, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about virtues and vices. Justice is related to law, which should seek “to regulate relations between people equitably” and to ensure the dignity of each person is respected, he said.

BARCELONA, Spain (OSV News) – After more than a century, construction of Spain’s Basilica of the Holy Family in Barcelona, known as Sagrada Familía for its Spanish name, will be completed in 2026, the foundation overseeing the project announced. During a March 20 press conference announcing the publication of the Sagrada Familía Foundation’s 2023 annual report, Esteve Camps, the foundation’s executive chairman, said construction of the basilica’s Chapel of the Assumption will be completed in 2025, while the tower of Jesus Christ is set to be finished in 2026. The completion of the basilica in 2026 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of its designer, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Construction of the sacred edifice began in 1882, and it is considered the masterpiece of Gaudí, a Catholic whose cause for sainthood is underway. After construction was halted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work on the basilica resumed two years later. At the press conference, Camps said that the basilica welcomed more than 4.7 million pilgrims in 2023. The majority of the pilgrims who visited came from the United States, accounting for 19% of the total number, he noted. While the main building will be finally completed in 2026, work will continue until 2034 on statues and other areas of the basilica.

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (OSV News) – Catholics turned out in large numbers to celebrate Holy Week in Nicaragua. But the ruling Sandinista regime prohibited public exhibitions of faith – such as processions and reenactments of the passion of Christ – as it continued exercising control over religious activities in what’s becoming an increasingly totalitarian country. Processions occurred within church atriums and sanctuaries as police and paramilitaries monitored activities outside and even were captured filming events, according to social media accounts. Some 30 police officers corralled attendees at the Managua cathedral on Good Friday, March 29, independent news outlet Confidencial reported, ensuring that nothing occurred outside of church property. Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer in exile who documents church repression, calculated some 4,000 police were deployed during Holy Week and an estimated 4,800 processions were canceled. She posted a video on X of three students being arrested for simply carrying the image of a saint. “Palm Sunday with police and paramilitaries inside and outside of parishes. They’re filming and photographing laity. A Sunday under extreme siege,” she posted March 24. Holy Week marked the second consecutive year the regime has prohibited processions and limited activities to church premises. A source in Nicaragua told OSV News that priests watch their words during Mass and report being spied upon by police and paramilitaries.
PARIS (OSV News) – For some, the Notre Dame fire was a sign of devastation of faith and Christian values. But for many more in France, it meant awakening of faith on an unprecedented scale. “The fire gave us all a boost,” Father Henry de Villefranche told OSV News, speaking of a “renewed vitality” encouraged by the Notre Dame worksite. “The church was asleep. Some people were behaving badly. In that respect, the fire was providential. It pushed us all to move forward and give our best.” Few know it better than the chaplains of the iconic cathedral and Father de Villefranche is one of them, but the only one remaining from before the fire. A few yards from Notre Dame, on Ile de la Cité, he works on ensuring continuity of Notre Dame’s heritage with the new team, responsible for the liturgical life of the renovated cathedral, in which “culture and worship should not be separated, but rather linked,” he said. “We hope that visitors who enter as tourists leave as pilgrims.” Father de Villefranche told OSV News that he is “not very interested in the official ceremonies” to reopen the cathedral. He said he is “signing up to celebrate the first ordinary Mass of the week that follows.

Mundo en Fotos

En una canasta de Pascua se ven huevos decorados a mano. (Foto de OSV News/Nancy Wiechec)
El Domingo de Ramos marca el comienzo de la Semana Santa. Miembros de la Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Paz en Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, participan en una procesión al aire libre alrededor de la iglesia el Domingo de Ramos, 24 de marzo de 2024. (Foto de noticias OSV/Sam Lucero)
Una mujer religiosa hace gestos hacia un contramanifestante frente a la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos en Washington el 26 de marzo de 2024, mientras los jueces escuchaban argumentos orales en un caso presentado por grupos provida que desafiaban las restricciones relajadas de la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos sobre la mifepristona, la primera de dos medicamentos utilizados en un aborto químico. (Foto de OSV News/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)
Niño reza frente a una imagen de Cristo crucificado en una image compartida en un webinar organizado por la la Asociación Católica de Vida Familiar y Catholic Relief Services. Durante el evento del 21 de marzo, 2024, William Becerra, asesor bilingüe de la Oficina de Participación Hispana de CRS, habló de la importancia de vivir los días de Cuaresma en familia y el papel de los padres en la fe de sus hijos. (Foto OSV News/cortesía de William Becerra)
La gente camina cerca de la Basílica de la Sagrada Familia en Barcelona, España, el 11 de octubre de 2017. Después de más de un siglo, la construcción de la basílica se completará en 2026, anunció la fundación que supervisa el proyecto el 20 de marzo. 2024. (Foto de OSV News/Iván Alvarado, Reuters)

Papa Francisco: Selva del Darien, Via Crucis de Migrantes

Por Manuel Rueda
(OSV News) – Mientras obispos de Colombia, Costa Rica y Panamá visitaban dos campamentos de migrantes en el extremo norte de la selva del Darién, el Papa Francisco calificó el traicionero viaje hacia una vida mejor del migrante como un vía crucis.

La “caravana humana pasa por el Tapón del Darién, una selva que es triunfo de la naturaleza pero que hoy se convierte en un verdadero ‘viacrucis’”, escribió el pontífice en un mensaje del 19 de marzo a los obispos reunidos en Panamá del 19 al 22 de marzo.

Un grupo de migrantes venezolanos comienza la caminata a través del Tapón del Darién el 30 de abril de 2023, al salir del pueblo colombiano de Capurganá. El Tapón del Darién está en la frontera entre Colombia y Panamá y consta de más de 60 millas de denso bosque tropical, montañas escarpadas y vastos pantanos. (Foto de OSV News/Manuel Rueda, Informe Global Sisters)

El Papa Francisco advirtió que la crisis en el Tapón del Darién “no sólo pone en evidencia los límites de la gobernanza migratoria en el hemisferio occidental, sino alimenta un próspero negocio que permite acumular ganancias ilícitas del tráfico humano”.

La visita a los campamentos de migrantes fue una iniciativa denominada “Pascua con nuestros hermanos migrantes” durante el encuentro de los obispos fronterizos de Colombia y Costa Rica y los obispos de Panamá. Los prelados llamaron a los gobiernos de América Latina a respetar los derechos fundamentales de los migrantes y refugiados que transitan por sus territorios rumbo a Estados Unidos.

En una declaración emitida el 22 de marzo, los líderes de la Iglesia también dijeron que intentarán encontrar formas para que sus diócesis estén más cerca de los migrantes y llamaron a las naciones a donde se dirigen los migrantes a idear políticas públicas que faciliten su desarrollo económico, social e integración cultural y derribar los muros legales físicos y simbólicos que enfrentan millones de migrantes y refugiados.

La declaración de los obispos culminó una reunión en Panamá, donde miembros del clero y funcionarios de Caritas se reunieron para analizar la crisis humanitaria que se está desarrollando en el Tapón del Darién, la densa y sin carreteras jungla que separa América del Sur de Centroamérica.

En 2023, el número de migrantes que cruzan el Darién en su camino hacia Estados Unidos se duplicó: 520.000 personas realizaron el peligroso viaje a través de la selva.

Si bien esta ruta se ha vuelto cada vez más popular para los migrantes de América del Sur, África y Asia, sigue siendo peligrosa y los migrantes que cruzan el Darién están expuestos regularmente a enfermedades tropicales, robos y agresiones sexuales a lo largo de la caminata de tres a cinco días. Decenas de migrantes también se ahogan cada año mientras intentan cruzar los traicioneros ríos de la selva.

La hermana Margaret Pericles, miembro de la Congregación de San Juan Evangelista, sirve comidas para migrantes en el centro comunitario de Necoclí, Colombia, el 27 de abril de 2023. (Foto de OSV News/Manuel Rueda, Global Sisters Report)

A pesar de estos peligros, Panamá redujo recientemente el apoyo médico a los migrantes que sobreviven la ruta, al suspender las operaciones del grupo médico Médicos Sin Fronteras, conocido por las siglas francesas MSF.

La organización había estado atendiendo hasta 5.000 migrantes por mes en sus puestos de salud en el extremo norte de la selva de Darién, pero perdió el favor del gobierno de Panamá después de emitir un comunicado de prensa en el que afirmaba que los funcionarios estaban permitiendo que grupos criminales entraran por esa región del país para operar “con impunidad”.

“Algunas personas nos dijeron que estaban recibiendo medicinas de la Cruz Roja”, dijo a OSV News Margaret Cargioli, una abogada de derechos humanos que visitó el campamento de Lajas Blancas a principios de marzo. “ Pero lo que parece estar sucediendo es que ha menos apoyo médico”.

En su declaración del 22 de marzo, los obispos de Panamá, Costa Rica y Colombia dijeron que la iglesia necesita aumentar su influencia sobre las políticas que los gobiernos están adoptando hacia los inmigrantes.

“Como Iglesia tenemos un compromiso de incidir políticamente”, dijo el obispo Mario de Jesús Álvarez Gómez de Istmina-Tadó, Colombia. “¿Cómo vamos a hacer eso? Con el Evangelio y la constitución en las manos”.

Los líderes de la Iglesia dijeron que, durante su reunión del 19 al 22 de marzo, también discutieron la posibilidad de crear ministerios para la movilidad humana dentro de sus diócesis, y también consideraron la necesidad de capacitar a los miembros de Cáritas para abordar temas relacionadas con la migración.

“La iglesia tiene como vocación y como esencia acompañar a todo aquel que sufre”, dijo el obispo Daniel Francisco Blanco Méndez de San José, Costa Rica, durante la conferencia de prensa posterior a la visita al Tapón del Darién. “Por eso es necesario que reflexionemos sobre cómo podemos ser más cercanos en medio de estas situaciones de dolor (de migración forzada)” que tantos hermanos y hermanas experimentan.

La tumba de un haitiano de 19 años que murió intentando cruzar la selva tropical del Tapón del Darién se muestra en Capurganá, Colombia, el 7 de agosto de 2021, cerca de la frontera con Panamá. Decenas de migrantes han muerto al intentar cruzar la selva. (Foto OSV Noticias/Archivo CNS, Manuel Rueda)

El padre Rafael Castillo Torres, director de Cáritas Colombia, dijo que, si bien los trabajadores de Cáritas en su país tenían “compasión y buena voluntad”, necesitaban una mejor capacitación sobre cómo brindar apoyo legal y humanitario a los migrantes.

El arzobispo José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta de la ciudad de Panamá dijo que establecer servicios de apoyo a los inmigrantes sería un “gran desafío” para las parroquias de su país. Pero los animó a emprender esta tarea.

“Hablar de migrantes también es hablar de nuestra espiritualidad”, afirmó el arzobispo. “Acogiendo a los migrantes estamos ya construyendo la ciudad de Dios y la ciudad del hombre con la justicia y la solidaridad”.

Los obispos también dijeron que el Papa Francisco les había enviado un mensaje a los migrantes y que el nuncio apostólico en Panamá, el arzobispo Dagoberto Campos Salas, lo había leído en el campo de refugiados.

“No se olviden nunca de su dignidad humana”, decía el mensaje. “No tengan miedo de mirar a los demás a los ojos porque no son un descarte, sino que también forman parte de la familia humana y de la familia de los hijos de Dios”.

Los obispos y agentes pastorales, dijo el Papa, son como “la Verónica, con cariño brinda alivio y esperanza en el viacrucis de la migración”, y “el rostro de una madre Iglesia, que marcha con sus hijos e hijas”.

(Manuel Rueda escribe para OSV News desde Bogotá, Colombia.)

Border pilgrimage like Stations of the Cross for sisters as they learn of migrants’ hardships

By Rhina Guidos
SAN DIEGO (OSV News) – Congress’s latest attempt at immigration reform in early February was going down in flames.

The sisters were keeping tabs on it. But their focus Feb. 5-9 was the road from San Diego via the cold desert toward Mexico, to see what the landscape, migrants and the Holy Spirit had to say to them during a five-day “border pilgrimage.”

“This wasn’t just nuns crossing the border and feeling good,” said Sister Suzanne Cooke, provincial of the U.S.-Canada province of the Society of the Sacred Heart, who was one of about two dozen sisters from various congregations who participated.

It was an opportunity to contemplate “What is God saying? What’s my responsibility?” she told Global Sisters Report Feb. 9 about the pilgrimage.

What spoke to her and others were the stories from those they met on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, including a family of 10 from Afghanistan running from the Taliban’s treatment of women; a Peruvian family of seven who left after threats from criminal elements; and a young Chechen escaping Russia.

A group of women religious, along with a priest and a Franciscan friar, stop by an abandoned camp in the desert, near Jacumba Hot Springs, south of San Diego, Feb. 7, 2024. Some prayed near the shoes, tattered tents and wet sleeping bags left behind where migrants sought shelter from the cold rain and snowstorms affecting the San Diego region this winter. (OSV News photo/Rhina Guidos, Global Sisters Report)

Though silent, landmarks that sisters visited in the desert also told of the tragedies and ignominy people on the move are increasingly facing, such as “a potter’s field with a fence,” as one sister said of a dirt plot where unidentified remains – believed to be of migrants – are buried and kept behind a chain link fence in a cemetery. Or a group of feeble tents, the only shelter that protected recent border crossers from the winter’s cold rain and snow that have pummeled the desert south of San Diego this season.

“We were talking ‘pilgrimage,’ but it seems almost like the Stations of the Cross,” Sister Suzanne Jabro, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said of the tales of hardship along the way.

Sister Suzanne, along with Sacred Heart Sister Lisa Buscher, Mercy Sister Mary Waskowiak, and Franciscan Friar Keith Warner – all from California’s San Diego and Palm Desert area – organized the pilgrimage. It began and ended with a reflection at the Franciscan School of Theology at the University of San Diego.

The organizers billed this on the theology school’s website as an opportunity for congregations to think about “next steps in ministry to migrants, whether direct service, pastoral care, education or advocacy.” But the pilgrimage also provided the opportunity to network and discern, as religious, what is happening at the border beyond the headlines and how to respond, Sister Suzanne said.
The pilgrimage sought to go beyond a border immersion experience, Sister Lisa said, and attempted to engage sisters in looking at the situation “with the eyes of the heart.”

At times, it was an exercise that produced pain and tears.

Sister Clara Malo Castrillón, provincial of Mexico’s Society of the Sacred Heart, wept as she rested her head against a fence that separated the migrant remains buried at Terrace Park Cemetery in Holtville, California, during a Feb. 7 pilgrimage stop.

Unable to enter the area, which has a locked gate, she and other sisters threw flowers over the fence that landed near the bricks marked “John Doe” that serve as tombstones for the unknown. They prayed for those buried there, some who drowned or died of exposure. They also prayed for the families who may never know what happened to their loved ones.

Sister Phyllis Sellner, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota, said she couldn’t help but think of the Holy Family as she looked at the cold landscape of another pilgrimage stop, an abandoned camp near Jacumba Hot Springs, an unincorporated community south of San Diego.

The spot, until recently, served as an unofficial outdoor detention site for migrants turning themselves in to border authorities. Volunteers had been taking water, food and other necessities to those at the desolate spot in the wilderness after crossing the nearby border to the U.S. side.

Some sisters in the group prayed, others looked inside the tents and at the objects left behind: wet sleeping bags, shoes, a small cooking pot with a large piece of wood that looked as if it had been used to stir food.

“It was very disheartening for me. I kept thinking about Mary and Joseph traveling over the rocks and the desert, probably meeting with people who didn’t want them there. It came flooding over in my mind,” Sister Phyllis said in a reflection at the end of the pilgrimage.

But sisters also shared smiles, candy and helped crack open Valentine’s-Day-themed piñatas with children and adults at the Cobina Posada del Migrante shelter in Mexicali, Mexico, Feb. 8. In return, the women at the shelter made pozole, a popular Mexican soup of hominy, to share with the sisters.
Still, the enormity of the humanitarian plight was never far behind. During the celebration, a Honduran woman, whose husband, a diabetic, was facing renal failure, entered the shelter with a wound on the man’s leg.

Sister Clara reflected the following day that it was hard to see the difficulties those they came into contact with found themselves in, including many fleeing “a violence that no one can stop,” such as corruption and other ailments.

“Life could be good for most of these people” if governments made an effort to solve problems, she said, and it was sad that “the only answer they (migrants) can think of is ‘Let’s go to the United States,'” because they see no solutions at home.

Sister Anne Carrabino, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, said she thought of how U.S. Cold War policy and its past interference in Latin America had much to do with creating “push factors” that have led people to leave their native countries. And yet leaving homelands in turbulence isn’t always the cure-all, given the difficulties and sometimes hostility that people on the move encounter even if they’re successful entering a more stable country – legally or otherwise.

“I was thinking, they have no idea what awaits them,” she said.

For Sister Mary Grace Ramos, the week’s visits and stops presented a “rewind” of her life, as she remembered how her mother had left the family home in the Philippines to find work in Hong Kong and later Canada. It was the only way to provide her and her siblings with an education, said the Sister of St. Joseph of Orange, California.

“It’s not just here that it’s happening,” Sister Mary Grace said, struggling to contain tears. “It happens in Asia. … All of this struggle … it’s happening all around the world.”

Sister Catherine Murray, of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, California, said that, in the good and difficult things they encountered, “pilgrimage is a holy journey.”

“The attitude with which I come is, this is not a tour,” said Sister Catherine, chairperson for Region 14 of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Like Carrabino, she said it was important to share the pilgrimage experience with other communities and discern what steps to take going forward.

In the middle of the border journey, on Feb. 7, Republicans in the Senate rejected a rare bipartisan bill on immigration, which the sisters had been paying attention to. Regardless of what happens – or doesn’t – in Congress, the sisters seemed to be buoyed by their experience.

“We need to tell the story, we need services, we need everything,” Sister Anne said. “We’ve got ideas and energy.”

Sister Mary Waskowiak told GSR that the happenings at the border are increasingly becoming of interest to communities of women religious.

“I know a lot of women religious feel this is a new calling,” she told GSR. “Before, it was teaching. Now, it’s the border. This is the time.”

(Rhina Guidos is the Latin America regional correspondent for Global Sisters Report.)


This image is part of the promotional material for “Follow That Bishop,” a 28-minute documentary reporting on the FBI file kept on Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. (OSV News photo/courtesy Rome Reports)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Nearly 75 years after he stopped teaching at The Catholic University of America in Washington, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) can still fill a campus auditorium. The occasion was a March 7 screening of “Follow That Bishop!” a half-hour documentary made last year in support of Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause and produced by Rome Reports, a TV news agency that covers Pope Francis and the Vatican. Co-directed by Antonio Olivié, CEO of Rome Reports, and Sean Patrick Lovett, director of the news agency’s international department, “Follow That Bishop!” focuses on the oddities of a file the FBI kept on the prelate and a miracle attributed to his intercession that involved the sudden recovery of James Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was initially considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. The file begins in 1943 with an anonymous complaint about a speech the then-monsignor made in which he criticized communism and the Soviet Union, then an American ally in World War II. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover concluded that not only was the bishop not prone to sedition, he was instead a powerful and respected ally in the Cold War against communism. He added him to the bureau’s mailing list, and later invited him to a swearing-in of new agents, and even to the annual agent retreat in Maryland.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – A special “baptism-in-a-day” celebration in the Archdiocese of Baltimore earlier this year welcomed unbaptized children into the faith. Twenty children ranging in age from approximately 1 to 6 were baptized. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori came up with the idea for the event, a first-of-its-kind liturgy inspired by a priest friend in Connecticut who has had success with similar group baptisms in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The event at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen was designed to be welcoming to families that had not had their children baptized for varying reasons. It included sacramental preparation, lunch, an invitation to become involved in parish life at the cathedral and the conferral of baptism during the 5 p.m. Mass. The cathedral made godparents available for those families that needed them. Stacy Golden, director of the Office of Family, Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocesan Institute for Evangelization, noted that the number of families receiving baptism and other sacraments has declined steadily in the archdiocese over recent decades – even prior to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there were more than 1.2 million infant baptisms in 1965 in the United States. That number declined to just over 996,000 in 2000 and to 437,942 in 2022 – even as the general population grew.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The saints are not unreachable “exceptions of humanity” but ordinary people who worked diligently to grow in virtue, Pope Francis said. It is wrong to think of the saints as “a kind of small circle of champions who live beyond the limits of our species,” the pope wrote in the catechesis for his general audience March 13 in St. Peter’s Square. Instead, they are “those who fully become themselves, who realize the vocation of every person.” Just like at his general audience March 6, Pope Francis told visitors in the square that due to a mild cold an aide, Msgr. Pierluigi Giroli, would read his speech. Continuing his series of catechesis on virtues and vices, the pope wrote that a virtuous person is not one who allows him- or herself to become distorted but “is faithful to his or her own vocation and fully realizes his or herself.” Reflecting on the nature of virtue, which has been discussed and analyzed since ancient times, the pope said that “virtue is a ‘habitus’ (expression) of freedom.” He added, “If we are free in every act, and each time we are called to choose between good and evil, virtue is that which allows us to have a habit toward the right choice.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has decided that some of the most controversial issues raised at the first assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will be examined by study groups that will work beyond the synod’s final assembly in October. The possible revision of guidelines for the training of priests and deacons, “the role of women in the church and their participation in decision-making/taking processes and community leadership,” a possible revision of the way bishops are chosen and a revision of norms for the relationship between bishops and the religious orders working in their dioceses all will be the subject of study groups. That Pope Francis did not wait until the end of the second assembly to convoke the study groups, “shows that he has a heart that listens; he listened and is acting,” Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, told reporters March 14. Pope Francis approved the 10 groups and their topics; he asked the groups, coordinated by different offices of the Roman Curia, to make a preliminary report to the synod’s second assembly in October and to give him a final report on their work by June 2025.

KURIGA, Nigeria (OSV News) – Recent kidnappings of hundreds of people in Nigeria, including almost 300 schoolchildren March 7 in Kuriga in central part of the country, have left church leaders and parents, including Catholics, speechless in the face of another wave of senseless violence. As kidnappings become a horrific new normal in Nigeria, church leaders have strongly urged the government to act. In broad daylight gunmen raided a government primary school and kidnapped at least 287 pupils in the biggest mass abduction from a school in a decade. The incident is the second mass kidnapping in the West African nation of more than 200 million in less than a week. “This is heartbreaking to all of us, and it’s now time for the authorities to act fast to stop the killings and abductions,” lamented Emmanuel Ayeni Nwogu, catechist from the Archdiocese of Kaduna, where the March 7 abduction happened. “We continue to pray for the children who have been kidnapped, and we hope they are still alive and under the mighty hand of God.” Africa’s most populous nation has faced an array of security challenges since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its Islamic uprising to overthrow Nigeria’s secular government and create an Islamic state. The primary target of the militants are Christians, although the terror groups target government schools as well as they lack fighters and abduct boys for military purposes.

JERUSALEM (OSV News) – A bishop in Jerusalem appealed for Christians to start returning to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to visit holy places located within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, made the comments after Israel’s tourism minister appealed to Christian leaders during a visit to the U.S. to recommence pilgrimages “to strengthen yourselves and to strengthen us.” Bishop Shomali also said he is hopeful church leaders in the Holy Land will issue an invitation for Christian pilgrims to return. Tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims had to leave the Holy Land on emergency flights following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the attacks, and Israel’s subsequent assault on Gaza, many airlines canceled flights to Tel Aviv. The absence of pilgrims has had a dramatic effect on the region’s tiny Christian minority in particular, given that many Christians have job working with pilgrims. Bishop Shomali said, “There are difficulties because of security, but still Jericho and Bethlehem can be visited.” Encouraging people to visit Palestinian Territories is crucial today so that those barred from entering Israel can still make money to support their families. Sources close to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need said conditions for the small Christian community that remains in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated over the last four months.

Mundo en Fotos

Una persona disfrazada sostiene un cartel el 9 de marzo de 2024, oponiéndose a un referéndum del 8 de marzo para eliminar la redacción sobre las madres amas de casa en la Constitución irlandesa. El titular del cartel y otras personas asistían al Festival Amigos de Ted, o TedFest, una convención anual para fanáticos de la querida comedia “Father Ted”. La propuesta de cambiar la redacción sobre las madres y una segunda para redefinir la familia fueron rechazadas rotundamente por los votantes. (Foto de OSV News/Reuters, Clodagh Kilcoyne)
El cardenal nicaragüense Leopoldo Brenes ora durante la Misa de ordenación de nuevos diáconos en la Catedral Metropolitana de Managua el 7 de marzo de 2024. (Foto de OSV News/Maynor Valenzuela, Reuters)
En esta foto del 24 de febrero de 2018, el Coliseo de Roma está iluminado en rojo para llamar la atención sobre la persecución de los cristianos en todo el mundo. La fundación pontificia Ayuda a la Iglesia Necesitada proporciona asistencia espiritual y material a católicos y otros cristianos que enfrentan persecución religiosa, dificultades económicas y otras dificultades. (Foto de OSV News/Remo Casilli, Reuters)
(izq.) Carl Bohman, de 78 años, aparece el 24 de enero de 2024, de pie en su granja en Brookville, Indiana. Bohman capacita a jóvenes de su parroquia rural del sureste de Indiana, St. Peter en el condado de Franklin, sobre cómo asistir a misa como monaguillos. Pero no sólo los instruye: sirve en la misa junto a ellos y en el proceso les muestra su profundo amor por la Eucaristía. (Foto de OSV News/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)
A stained-glass window at St. Mary Church in Glenmore-Stark, Wis., depicts St. Isidore the Farmer, whose feast day is May 15. Born in Madrid, he was canonized March 12, 1622, by Pope Gregory XV. St. Isidore is patron saint of farmers and rural communities. (OSV News photo/Sam Lucero)

Pope praises those assisting victims, clearing anti-personnel minefields

By Carol Glatz , Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Anti-personnel mines are “devious” weapons that continue to kill innocent civilians and children long after a conflict has ended, Pope Francis said.

“I thank all those who offer their help to assist victims and clean up contaminated areas,” he said at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall Feb. 28.

“Their work is a concrete response to the universal call to be peacemakers, taking care of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

A graphic, entitled “The Persistent Scourge of Landmines,” shows the global number of mine/explosive remnants of war casualties per year. Copyrighted work created by Statista available under Creative Commons attribution only license CC by 4.0 (CNS photo/Statista, CC by 4.0)

The pope, who was still dealing with a cold, read aloud his remarks about landmines after having aides read his lengthier catechesis and greetings during the audience.

March 1 marks the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and mandates assisting victims, clearing minefields and destroying stockpiles.

Anti-personnel mines, the pope said, “continue to target innocent civilians, particularly children, even many years after the end of hostilities.”

“I express my closeness to the many victims of these devious devices, which remind us of the dramatic cruelty of war and the price civilian populations are forced to pay,” he said.

At least 4,710 casualties of mines and explosive remnants of war were recorded in 2022, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said in its 2023 report. Civilians made up 85% of all recorded casualties in places where the military or civilian status was known, and children accounted for half of all civilian casualties, where ages were recorded.

Anti-personnel landmines were used by Ukraine, Myanmar and Russia during 2022 and the first half of 2023, the report by the global coalition of non-governmental organizations said.

“Russia has used anti-personnel mines extensively in Ukraine since invading the country in February 2022, resulting in an unprecedented situation in which a country that is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty is using the weapon on the territory of a state party,” it wrote.

Non-state armed groups used anti-personnel mines in at least five countries in 2022: Colombia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Tunisia and countries in or bordering the Sahel region of Africa, it added.

At least 60 countries and other areas are contaminated by anti-personnel mines.

Eighty percent of the world’s nations have joined the mine ban treaty, and while 33 states remain outside of the treaty, most of them do not use or produce antipersonnel mines, it said.

A small number of countries are actively producing anti-personnel landmines and they are likely to include India, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and Russia, The biggest stockpiles are held by Russia, Pakistan, India, China and the United States.

A graphic, entitled “Where are the Landmines?”, shows global landmine contamination statuses as of 2022. Copyrighted work created by Statista available under Creative Commons attribution only license CC by 4.0 (CNS photo/Statista, CC by 4.0)

As war enters third year, Ukrainians helped by church number in the millions

By Paulina Guzik

KRAKOW, Poland (OSV News) – A group of women from a little village between Kharkiv and Izium in eastern Ukraine decided they were fed up with landmine danger in their village, preventing residents from living their lives in some normality amid war.

So with materials as simple as a plank and a long string, they constructed their own equipment and demined a part of the village.

“They really show the incredible resilience of this country!” Father Leszek Kryza told OSV News.
Father Kryza travels to Ukraine at least once a month, especially to the devastated eastern regions. In January, he visited the “mine-blowing” women not only because of their sheer bravado, but because the Polish bishops’ Office for Helping the Church in the East led by Father Kryza equipped them with sewing machines so that – despite ongoing war – they have a job.

Once the war started, the women sheltered with the Orionine sisters in Korotych and it was the sisters who signaled Father Kryza, who then alerted his friends in the church in Italy, and that’s how supplies and sewing machines eventually landed in eastern Ukraine.

“It has worked like that since Feb. 24, 2022,” he told OSV News, referring to the start of a full- scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a constant chain of good hearts,” he said.

Entering the third year of war several church institutions wrapped their aid effort in “two years of war” reports, showing that millions of people have been saved thanks to the Catholic Church.

A million people – whether Ukrainian refugees in Poland or those inside Ukraine – have been helped by Caritas Poland. In 2023 alone, the aid was worth $37 million.

Another 1.6 million have been helped by the Knights of Columbus, with $22.3 million raised for Ukraine since 2022.

CNEWA, or Catholic Near East Welfare Association, rushed $5,8 million in emergency funds over the past year to church-led relief efforts in Ukraine and in neighboring countries receiving those fleeing the missiles.

The Vatican sent 240 trucks with supplies to Ukraine over the past two years, with $2.2 million of its charity funds dedicated to Ukraine just in 2022.

Asked what percentage of help for 17 million Ukrainians, including 5 million of those internally displaced, comes from the Catholic Church, Father Kryza said, “I tried to calculate it once, but it’s impossible! Because it’s not that you’ll gather data from Caritas, Knights of Columbus, the Vatican and other ‘big actors.’ It’s the orders, female and male congregations, individual priests, volunteers spread across Ukraine, it’s just one big church on the front lines.”

Father Luca Bovio, an Italian Consolata Missionary who works next door to Father Kryza in Warsaw, in the Polish branch of Pontifical Mission Societies, told OSV News that it’s an “incredible international chain” of aid. “When the war started, people from Africa, Canada and several European countries called me, and said, ‘We want to help, where do we send the funds or supplies?’ So I knocked on my neighbor’s door – Father Leszek, for whom Ukraine is another home, and that’s how since his first trip after February 24, we’re in this together!”

If numbers hide the concrete faces of people aided by the church, Polish Dominican Sister Mateusza Trynda, who is working in the western Ukraine city of Zhovkva, has plenty to talk about.

Sister Mateusza was on front pages of Polish media when the war started, pictured with a ladle and huge pot of soup, standing in the middle of a field next to the road leading to the Ukrainian border with Poland.

Now she said the help looks different – but the needs are just as great.

“We distributed aid packages to 700 people in February, but in the war’s peak moment we handed aid to a group of 2,500 internally displaced people regularly,” she told OSV News.

“We distribute everything that is needed for life. So there’s food, clothing, furniture, mattresses, pillows, quilts, dishes, heaters, irons,” she said.

All is needed – a sentence repeated over and over again from Kyiv to the Vatican.

“In one of our trucks we had thousands of jeans. One was full of chairs. And in one we sent hundreds of electric shavers,” Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity and papal almoner, told OSV News.

“The war is not ending. The needs are huge. I am told by Ukrainians all the time, ‘We need everything.’ Everything,” he said, adding that the shavers were sent to soldiers and that he recently received a picture of a female sergeant cutting the hair of her colleagues somewhere on the front line.

Cardinal Krajewski visited Ukraine seven times since the start of the full-scale invasion, including Zaporozhzhia, where had to escape gunfire in September 2022.

In the eastern Ukraine city, the Albertine brothers still distribute 1,500 meals a week. Their bakery is operated by the homeless they shelter on a daily basis.

Russian occupation authorities banned the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other Catholic ministries, including Caritas and the Knights of Columbus in December 2023 in occupied areas of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.

“That ban shows how important the role of the church is, and under what circumstances we can and must act to help those most in need,” said Szymon Czyszek, the Knights of Columbus’ director of international growth in Europe.

The organization delivered aid to the besieged town of Avdiivka before it fell to the Russian forces in mid-February.

“It must be said that such actions involve the risk of loss of life. A bomb exploded in front of the car with the Knights driving with help,” he said. “They were lucky to survive,” he added.

From establishing border Mercy Centers at the beginning of the war, to distributing 250,000 care packages with 7.7 million pounds of food and supplies, and thousands of warm coats to Ukrainian children in addition to running programs deactivating landmines, the Knights will continue to help, said Czyszek.

“No matter how tense the political situation over Ukraine will be, we won’t stop. Because Ukraine is the embodiment of the suffering Christ – we cannot be indifferent,” he said.

“We can’t be bored by this war,” Father Marcin Izycki, director of Caritas Poland, told journalists ahead of the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine.

Father Bovio added that “the situation is as bad as it was at the beginning of the invasion, it’s sad, but that’s the reality.”

Cardinal Krajewski emphasized that the church won’t stop helping as it’s the “pure Gospel” to stand with those that suffer, but that discussions in the West regarding whether to send or not to send aid to Ukraine are worrying him the most.

“Being divided never helps, it doesn’t help any country, it doesn’t help any church, and it doesn’t help Ukraine,” he said.

“I know so many people who still dedicate all their free time of the year to go to Ukraine and distribute help as volunteers – the world needs to learn how to be compassionate from them,” he said.

“It’s so that hope doesn’t die,” Sister Mateusza told OSV News. “I met people with damaged houses that have nothing at all. But they still had hope. Because if hope dies, that’s really the end.”

Sister Mateusza said psychological help is urgently needed for people tired of war, and desperate for it to end, widows and orphaned children, but also those internally displaced and over 6 million Ukrainians living abroad as refugees.

She said everyone can help with prayer, too. “It’s crucial. None of us in Zhovkva, and there are four of us sisters there, won’t go to bed without saying a rosary for soldiers. We added those prayers to our daily order routine. Please pray, Ukrainians need you.”

Basilian Sister Lucia Murashko talks with volunteers Denys Kuprikov, left, and Ivan Smyglia, far right, in Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine Feb. 7, 2023, where they planned to distribute humanitarian aid along the front in Russia’s war against Ukraine. (OSV News photo/Konstantin Chernichkin, CNEWA)

(Paulina Guzik is international editor for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @Guzik_Paulina)


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (OSV News) – Alabama lawmakers in both the state’s House and Senate Feb. 29 passed similar bills to implement legal protections to in vitro fertilization clinics following a ruling by that state’s Supreme Court that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state law’s wrongful death law. IVF is a form of fertility treatment opposed by the Catholic Church on the grounds that it often involves the destruction of human embryos, among other concerns. Both chambers passed similar bills, but they must reconcile their pieces of legislation before sending one to the governor’s desk. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has signaled her support for protecting IVF in law. The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court found that embryos are children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, a statute that allows parents of a deceased child to recover punitive damages for their child’s death. That ruling came in response to appeals brought by couples whose embryos were destroyed in 2020, when a hospital patient improperly removed frozen embryos from storage equipment, which they argued constituted a wrongful death. The judges found that under the law, parents’ ability to sue over the wrongful death of a minor child applies to unborn children, without an exception for “extrauterine children.” Though limited in scope, the ruling has created complex legal questions about what it entailed for IVF treatments in the state.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (OSV News) – A candidate for sainthood is inspiring Catholic Scouts in Illinois to earn a new patch while deepening their relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. The Catholic Committee on Scouting in the Diocese of Springfield has announced the creation of the Venerable Father Augustine Tolton Activity Patch, which honors the first recognized Black priest in the U.S. Requirements for the patch include learning about Tolton’s life, visiting a seminary or religious community to better understand vocational discernment, modeling Father Tolton’s patient disposition and engaging in prayer. Kyle Holtgrave, the diocese’s director for catechesis, said the inspiration for the Tolton patch came from the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress, set to take place in Indianapolis July 17-21 as the culmination of the three-year National Eucharistic Revival, a grassroots effort by the U.S. bishops to rekindle devotion to the Real Presence. Father Tolton, who persisted in his faith despite systemic racism and rejection, exemplified a love for the Eucharist – one that speaks to a new generation, said Holtgrave.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The ability of Catholic and other faith-based groups to “meet migrants’ basic human needs” at the U.S.-Mexico border is a religious liberty issue and must be defended, U.S. bishops said in recent statements. In a Feb. 26 statement issued in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an attempt to shut down Annunciation House, a Catholic nonprofit in El Paso serving migrants, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed solidarity with faith-driven ministries to migrants. He noted the “strong tradition of religious liberty” in the U.S. “allows us to live out our faith in full,” and said that as “the tragic situation along our border with Mexico increasingly poses challenges for American communities and vulnerable persons alike, we must especially preserve the freedom of Catholics and other people of faith to assist their communities and meet migrants’ basic human needs.” Paxton’s suit targeting El Paso’s Annunciation House comes as some Republicans have grown increasingly hostile toward nongovernmental organizations, particularly Catholic ones, that provide resources such as food and shelter to migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Bishop Rhoades’ statement followed the Texas bishops’ Feb. 23 statement, which he praised for “expressing solidarity with those seeking simply to fulfill the fundamental biblical call: ‘whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

An image taken with the near-infrared camera from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows the Ring Nebula Aug. 21, 2023. (CNS photo/courtesy ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, M. Barlow, N. Cox, R. Wesson)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Orbiting the sun nearly 1 million miles from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope is reshaping the way scientists understand the universe and its origins, a number of astronomers said at a Vatican-sponsored meeting. “The telescope is able to see things that prior telescopes just could not see,” Jonathan Lunine, a professor of astronomy and department chair at Cornell University, told Catholic News Service Feb. 28. It has such unprecedented power in terms of its sensitivity, wavelength range and image sharpness that it is “doing revolutionary things” and leading to exciting new discoveries in multiple fields, he said. Lunine, who is a planetary scientist and physicist, was one of nearly 50 experts in the field of astronomy attending a Feb. 27-29 workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss the newest results from the Webb telescope. Launched Dec. 25, 2021, NASA’s latest space science observatory is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. It began sending full-color images and data back to Earth after it became fully operational in July 2022. NASA said on its page, “Telescopes show us how things were – not how they are right now,” which helps humanity “understand the origins of the universe.” “Webb is so sensitive it could theoretically detect the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the Moon,” it said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Crying out to God and demanding answers when one’s child dies is anything but a sign of a lack of faith, Pope Francis told a group of grieving Italian parents. “There is nothing worse than silencing pain, putting a silencer on suffering, removing traumas without facing them, as our world often encourages in its rush and numbness,” the pope said in a speech written for members of the “Talità Kum” Association from Vicenza, Italy. While the pope had an aide read his speech March 2 because he was suffering from bronchitis, he personally greeted each member of the group. In the text, the pope said he wanted to “offer a caress to your heart, broken and pierced like that of Jesus on the cross: a heart that is bleeding, a heart bathed in tears and torn apart by a heavy sense of emptiness.” The loss of a child is “an experience that defies theoretical descriptions and rejects the triviality of religious or sentimental words” or “sterile encouragements,” the text said. Recognizing that too often the pious phrases Christians offer to grieving parents do nothing to help and may just add to the pain, the pope said that the best response is “to imitate the emotion and compassion of Jesus in the face of pain,” not trying to minimize it, but to share it.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (OSV News) – As the wave of violence torments gang-decimated Haiti, six male religious, a lay teacher and a priest were kidnapped in two separate incidents Feb. 23 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The six members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart were abducted on their way to the John XXIII School, which is run by the order. A teacher who was with them was also taken, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need confirmed. “In view of this painful event, the John XXIII institution is closing its doors until further notice. The other institutions of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart throughout the country will continue the work of raising awareness among the new generation of the values of living together in harmony, with a view to the emergence of a new society that is more humane, more caring, and more united,” said the congregation in a statement sent to ACN. Only a few hours later, a priest was also kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. He was taken from his parish church, alongside some of the faithful, soon after celebrating morning Mass. Despite the tireless work of the church, clergy and religious have not been spared the violence of armed gangs.

DORI, Burkina Faso (OSV News) – At least 15 people were killed in an attack by gunmen on Catholics gathered for Sunday Mass in a Burkina Faso village Feb. 25, according to multiple news reports. Twelve Catholics were dead at the scene in the village of Essakane, with another three dying while being treated at a health center, and two others wounded, according to a statement from Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori in Northern Burkina Faso, which includes Essakane. “In these painful circumstances, we invite you to pray for the eternal rest of those who have died in the faith, for the healing of the wounded and for the consolation of sorrowful hearts,” the bishop said in the statement. “We also pray for the conversion of those who continue to sow death and desolation in our country. May our efforts of penance and prayer during this period of Lent bring peace and security to our country, Burkina Faso,” the bishop said. According to AP, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but jihadis who have perpetuated similar violence are suspected of carrying it out. Christians in Burkina Faso have been increasingly targeted in recent years by terrorist groups amid political and social upheaval.

Why the ‘Passion’? What’s Tenebrae? And why does Easter’s date change? A short Holy Week FAQ

By Lorene Hanley Duquin

(OSV News) — Sometimes the words we use in Holy Week and Easter feel so familiar we don’t consider their origins. Same for the date of Easter, which changes from year to year. The following is a quick FAQ guide to Catholics’ Holy Week vocabulary and key history.

Q. Why do we use the word “Passion” to describe the suffering of Jesus?

A. The word “Passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering. When referring to the events leading up to the death of Jesus, we often capitalize the word “Passion” to differentiate from the modern meaning of the word with its romantic overtones.

Q. Why do some parishes cover the cross and statues during Holy Week?

A. Before 1970 it was customary to cover crosses and statues during the last two weeks of Lent. After 1970, the practice was left up to the discretion of each diocese. In 1995, the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee gave individual parishes permission to reinstate the practice on their own.

Q. What is Tenebrae?

Mary and St. John stand at the foot of cross in this depiction of Christ’s crucifixion at Holy Family Church in Ramallah, West Bank. (OSV News photo/Debbie Hill)

A. The word “tenebrae” comes from the Latin word meaning “shadows” or “darkness.” It was originally the name given to somber parts of the Liturgy of the Hours that are chanted in monasteries on the last three days of Holy Week. The tone of the prayers is filled with sorrow and desolation. At various points during a Tenebrae service, candles are extinguished and there is a cacophony of noise, which evokes feelings of betrayal, abandonment, pain, sadness, and darkness associated with the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Parishes sometimes offer Tenebrae services during Holy Week.

Q. Why do we call it “Good Friday”?

A. In the English language the term “Good Friday” probably evolved from “God’s Friday” in the same way that “goodbye” evolved from “God be with you.”

Q. Why do some parishes celebrate the Good Friday liturgy in the afternoon and others in the evening?

A. Ideally, the liturgy should take place at 3 p.m. However, in order to encourage more people to attend, the liturgy can take place later in the evening, but never after 9 p.m.

Q. What is Pascha?

A. The word “Pascha,” or “Pasch,” comes from the Greek word for the Passover. The early Christians used the word to describe the resurrection of Jesus as the Christian Passover. Today, we sometimes refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Paschal Mystery, which is derived from the word Pasch. Orthodox Christians still use the word Pascha when referring to Easter.

Q. Who decides the date of Easter?

A. In 325, the Council of Nicaea decreed that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. It can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

(Lorene Hanley Duquin is a Catholic author and lecturer who has worked in parishes and on a diocesan level.)