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.)

The definitive guide to Holy Week

By Lorene Hanley Duquin

(OSV News) — What are you doing for Holy Week?

It’s OK if your Holy Week list includes coloring eggs, cleaning and baking for Easter, shopping for new outfits, traveling to a relative’s home or going on a spring vacation. There’s nothing wrong with secular Easter activities.

But it’s important to keep in mind that there is also a profound spiritual basis for the holiday celebration.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends at sundown on Easter Sunday.

Our remembrance of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus makes Holy Week the most sacred time of the year for Catholics.

How will you balance the sacred part of Holy Week with all of the other things you will be doing? All of it is important in your life and in the lives of your family members. But keeping a balance between the spiritual and the secular will require a little planning on your part.

Start by making a list of everything that needs to be done during Holy Week. Then block out time in your busy calendar for attending Holy Week liturgies. Be sure to set aside specific times every day during the week for Lenten devotions, quiet prayer, Scripture reading and meditation.

Your greatest temptation will be scrimping on your spiritual needs because there is so much going on! If you let that happen, your Easter celebration may look perfect on the surface, but will feel spiritually unsatisfying.

— Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, the Sixth Sunday of Lent, marks the beginning of Holy Week. The Mass on this day commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when people waved palm branches and shouted “Hosanna.”

Before Mass begins, palms are blessed, and there is a procession that symbolizes the beginning of the spiritual journey into the Paschal Mystery that will unfold throughout Holy Week.

During the Mass, the full Gospel account of the passion and death of Jesus is read. The priest usually takes the lines attributed to Jesus. Several lectors take other parts. The people in the pews read the lines attributed to the crowd.

The Mass continues with the celebration of the Eucharist.

People are encouraged to take the blessed palm branches home where they can be fashioned into crosses or placed behind a crucifix.

The blessed palms that are left in the church are burned and used for ashes the following year on Ash Wednesday.

— Monday of Holy Week

The Gospel reading this day, John 12:1-11, recalls the woman who anointed Jesus with oil.

— Tuesday of Holy Week

Today’s Gospel — John 13:21-33, 36-38 — offers a hint of the events to come as Jesus predicts the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter.

— Wednesday of Holy Week

This day is traditionally referred to as “Spy Wednesday” because it recalls the decision of Judas to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

— The chrism Mass

During Holy Week, bishops bless sacred oils in the diocesan cathedral at a special liturgy known as the chrism Mass.

The oil of chrism is used during baptisms, confirmation, ordination and the consecration of altars. The oil of catechumens is used at the Easter Vigil. The oil of the sick is used to anoint people during the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

The oils are then distributed to the parishes for sacramental celebrations throughout the year.

As part of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, the renewal of priestly promises was incorporated into the chrism Mass.

The chrism Mass is an ancient celebration that traditionally takes place on Holy Thursday morning. But in recent years, many dioceses celebrate the chrism Mass on an evening earlier in Holy Week so that more people can attend.

— Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates the Passover meal that Jesus shared in the Upper Room with the apostles on the night before he died. Before the meal, he washed their feet to impress upon them the call to serve others. The church recognizes the Last Supper as the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

During the meal, Jesus also instituted the Eucharist by transforming bread and wine into his own body and blood.

After the meal, Jesus went to Gethsemane where he suffered the agony in the garden, the betrayal of Judas and the brutality of being arrested.

The Mass of the Last Supper is a dramatic liturgy with the priest washing the feet of 12 parishioners.

After Communion, the altar and sanctuary are stripped and there is a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, which is taken to a separate altar of repose, usually located on a side altar or in a chapel. There is no dismissal or final blessing. It is the last time the Eucharist will be celebrated until the Easter Vigil.

People leave in silence, but continue to keep a vigil with Jesus in their hearts in anticipation of the events that will take place on the next day.

— Good Friday

The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday is a somber service that commemorates the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. Because it is considered a continuation from the night before, the liturgy begins in silence. The priest enters and lies prostrate at the foot of the altar.

The service begins with the Liturgy of the Word, which includes a reading about the suffering servant in Isaiah, a psalm, a reading from the book of Hebrews, and the account of the passion and death of Jesus from the Gospel of John. During this part of the liturgy there are special prayers for all the people in the world.

The second part of the liturgy is the veneration of the cross, an ancient practice that allows each person to touch or kiss the instrument of torture that leads to salvation.

The third part of the liturgy is a Communion service with hosts that were consecrated the night before. Afterward, the tabernacle is left empty and open. The lamp or candle usually situated next to the tabernacle, denoting the presence of Christ, is extinguished.

People leave the church in silence, but continue to keep a vigil with Jesus, who has entered the tomb and will rise on the third day.

— Good Friday fasting regulations

Only one full meal is permitted on Good Friday for Catholics between 18 and 59. Two smaller meals are allowed, but they should not equal a second full meal. Drinking coffee, tea and water between meals is allowed, but eating snacks between meals is not.

All Catholics who have reached the age of 14 must abstain from meat on Good Friday.

— Easter Vigil

In the first century, the early Christians celebrated every Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. By the second century, they established a particular day for the celebration of the resurrection, which was connected to the Jewish Passover.

Their observance began at sundown on Saturday evening. They called it the Night of the Great Vigil, a time of remembrance and expectation that lasted throughout the night so they could sing “alleluia” at dawn on Easter morning. It was during the Night of the Great Vigil that new Christians were received into the church.

By the fourth century, it became customary for people to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to celebrate what was called the “Great Week,” which included Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. The diary of a woman named Egeria in 381 contains the first accounts of the special rites, prayers and devotions that took place in Jerusalem during the Great Week.

Over time, the practice of observing Holy Week spread throughout the Christian world, with prayers, historical re-enactments and special liturgies. During the Middle Ages, the celebration of the Easter Vigil gradually fell out of practice. The important days of the week were Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

In 1955, the Vatican reestablished the Easter Vigil as an important part of Holy Week observances.

During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the bishops called for the restoration of the early Christian rituals for receiving new Christians into the church at the Easter Vigil. In 1988, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was issued.

Today, the Easter Vigil begins the Easter fire, the lighting of the paschal candle, the reading of salvation history, the celebration of the sacraments of initiation for catechumens and renewal of baptismal promises for the faithful is once again an integral part of Holy Week celebrations.

As with Good Friday, the celebration begins in silence with people waiting in darkness.

The first part of the Vigil is the Light Service, which begins outdoors with the Easter fire and the lighting of the paschal candle. The candle is carried into the dark church as a symbol of the Light of Christ, a powerful reminder that Jesus is light in the darkness.

The individual candles, held by people in the pews, are lit from the paschal candle. By the time the procession reaches the altar, the church is bathed in candlelight.

The Exultet, an ancient song of proclamation that gives thanks and praise to God, is sung.
During the Liturgy of the Word, Scripture readings and psalms help people reflect on all of the wonderful things God has done throughout salvation history.

Then the baptismal water is blessed, the candidates and catechumens receive the sacraments of initiation, and the congregation renews baptismal vows.

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, people share in the body and blood of Christ.

The mystery and ritual of the Easter Vigil touch the deepest part of people’s souls with elements of darkness, light, silence, music, fire, water and oil, along with bread and wine that become the body and blood of the risen Lord. They are reminded that new life in Christ can never be overcome by darkness or death.

— Easter Sunday

For the early Christians, the celebration of Masses on Easter morning developed as a way to accommodate people who were unable to attend the Easter Vigil.

Today, Easter Sunday Masses are joy-filled celebrations of the risen Lord with the singing of the Gloria and alleluias, the renewal of baptismal vows, and a sprinkling with Easter water. After sharing in the Eucharist, people go forth strengthened in faith to serve the Lord and one another.

Easter Sunday marks the beginning of the Easter season, which will last the next 50 days and include the celebration of Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

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

Give alms and financially fast this Lent

By Phil Lenahan , OSV News

(OSV News) — In word and deed, Pope Francis continues to encourage Catholics to reach out to the poor and not succumb to a consumerist mentality where what we have is deemed more important than who we are. The season of Lent provides a special opportunity to take the Holy Father’s words to heart and live them out more fully.

Lent is a time to meditate more deeply on the life of Christ, especially on his passion and crucifixion. By better understanding and appreciating the love he has for us, the more able we are to respond to him with love.

U.S. dollars are seen in this illustration photo. (OSV News photo/Yuriko Nakao, Reuters)

The church provides traditional Lenten practices that help us focus on our relationship with Christ. “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the church’s penitential practice,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)” (No. 1438).

While the primary emphasis of these practices are spiritual, you will be surprised at how much they enhance your ability to fulfill your daily responsibilities as well — not just during Lent but throughout the year. Since my focus is on personal finances, I’d like to discuss how two of these practices can assist you in becoming a better steward of providence.

The first is fasting. One of the most common difficulties Americans have with their finances is living beyond their means. This tendency is linked to our fallen nature. The catechism describes it this way: “Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched” (No. 2536).

The ramifications of our overspending are great and are apparent at the national, state, local and personal levels. Overspending leads to a failure to save, leaving future obligations unfunded. It also leads to unproductive debt, which creates major obstacles to having a successful financial future.

Fasting provides a discipline that helps us corral this tendency to overspend. It promotes temperance, which “is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable” (CCC, No. 1809).

While the church requires fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, many faithful practice it on a more regular basis. They recognize how it builds their character not only in the virtue of temperance, but in other virtues as well.

The second Lenten practice I want to touch on is almsgiving. Generosity is a key part of our Christian journey, having a direct impact on our relationship with God and neighbor. With American Catholics giving about 1% of their income to charity, it’s clear that our practice is to give from what’s left over rather than following the Scriptural principle of giving from our first fruits (Prv 3:9).

Renewing our commitment to almsgiving in a special way during Lent stretches our ability to love. Tobit 12:8-9 says, “It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin.”

Just as fasting strengthens the virtue of temperance, almsgiving builds the virtue of charity. I encourage you to make both of these practices part of your Lenten plan in a meaningful way. Most importantly, they will lead to spiritual closeness with our Lord. Secondarily, they will help you become a more effective manager of your finances and a better steward of providence. Those are benefits worth pursuing throughout the year!

(Phil Lenahan is chief financial officer and treasurer of Catholic Answers.)

50 days of Easter spirit

By Lorene Hanley Duquin ,

(OSV News) — Most people don’t think in terms of Easter spirit. Yet the Easter season is a time that is filled with a spirit of joy and hope.

During the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, we proclaim and sing the word “alleluia,” which means “praise the Lord.” We are reminded that Jesus has overcome death. We are given the assurance that our lives have meaning and purpose. And we have the promise of eternal life with Jesus in heaven.

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion is depicted in a stained-glass window at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Centereach, N.Y. Palm Sunday, also known Passion Sunday, commemorates the event and marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is observed March 24 in 2024. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Now that’s something to celebrate. But there’s even more!

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised his disciples they would never be alone, because he would send the Holy Spirit to guide them. Then he commissioned his followers to spread his message all over the world and make disciples of all people.

Ten days later, on Pentecost Sunday, the apostles heard a loud noise, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them in tongues of fire. When that happened, they received spiritual gifts that transformed their lives and gave them the power to touch the lives of others. They ran into the streets and began to tell people about Jesus. Each person in the crowd understood them in his or her own language. Thousands became believers that day.

So, Easter spirit is more than just experiencing joy and hope. It’s also a special call to share the Easter message with others.

Good news is contagious. Here are ways you can spread the good news this Easter season:

— Host a neighborhood gathering on Sunday afternoons. As the weather warms up, send the kids out to play and meet and greet the people who live next door. Ask everyone to bring a dish or beverage to share. What a great way to live out Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor.”

— Make Friday night movie night. Pick your favorite streaming service and watch a movie as a family every Friday night through the Easter season. Eat popcorn and movie snacks and talk about the takeaway lessons each person learned from the show.

— May Day basket. Put together a small basket or box of goodies and deliver it to neighbors, shut-ins, grandparents or a young couple with a new baby. Be sure to stay anonymous — leave the basket on the front steps, ring the doorbell and run. Kids can make homemade greeting cards or cookies, or pass on a gently used toy that they’ve outgrown. Pluck some flowers or herbs from your spring garden, add a prayer card and all of a sudden you can be spreading the good news of Easter joy.

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


Bishop Peter M. Muhich of Rapid City, S.D., revealed Feb. 14, 2024, that he is entering hospice due to cancer. He is pictured in an undated photo. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Rapid City)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (OSV News) – The Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, announced “with sorrow” that its shepherd, Bishop Peter M. Muhich, died Feb. 17. “Bishop Peter, 62, was in hospice care after suffering from esophageal cancer. Please continue to pray for the soul of our shepherd,” the diocese said in a statement. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him.” Funeral arrangements are pending. Two days earlier a message from the Diocese of Rapid City called for a novena for their bishop Feb. 15-22, the feast of the chair of St. Peter. “In our prayers for Bishop Peter leading up to this feast, we are also giving thanks for his leadership and imploring the Lord that we may enjoy this leadership for more years to come,” it said. On Feb. 14, Bishop Muhich had announced he was moving into hospice treatment, and planned to offer his suffering from cancer to increase devotion to the Eucharist. “I have reached another step along my journey with cancer. Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” Bishop Muhich said in an announcement released by the diocese. On Feb. 15, a message from the Diocese of Rapid City called for a novena for their bishop Feb. 15-22, the feast of the chair of St. Peter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSV News) – The Nashville Diocese announced Feb. 9 that Father Juan Carlos Garcia, a former associate pastor at St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, who was ordained nearly four years ago, has been indicted by a grand jury on multiple sex abuse charges. A Williamson County grand jury indicted the priest on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, one count of aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery. The Nashville Diocese removed Father Garcia from his parish post and from public ministry in January while the Franklin Police Department investigated reports of sexual misconduct. The police began their investigation of Father Garcia after representatives of the Nashville Diocese contacted the police department to provide information it had received regarding alleged misconduct. He was booked into the Williamson County Jail Feb. 9 and as of midday Feb. 13, he remained in custody. Father Garcia, ordained to the priesthood in 2020, was assigned to St. Philip in July 2022. In early November, St. Philip officials reported to the Diocese of Nashville Safe Environment Office that a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching involving Father Garcia. Per diocesan protocols, a report was immediately made by the diocese and St. Philip representatives to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The second assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will meet Oct. 2-27 and will be preceded by several formal studies coordinated by the synod general secretariat working with various offices of the Roman Curia. The Vatican announced the dates for the assembly Feb. 17, indicating that the desire of some synod members to spend less time in Rome was not accepted. The fall assembly will be preceded by a retreat for members Sept. 30-Oct. 1, the Vatican said. And in response to a formal call by members of the first assembly of the synod, Pope Francis has agreed to the establishment of “study groups that will initiate, with a synodal method, the in-depth study of some of the themes that emerged.” In a chirograph, or brief papal document, released Feb. 17, the pope said that “these study groups are to be established by mutual agreement between the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, which is entrusted with coordination.” However, the papal note did not list the topics to be studied nor the members of the groups. The synod office said it hoped the approved groups and their members could be announced by mid-March.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – One day, Jesuit Father Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, wanted to make sure a group of visitors did not go home hungry, so he whipped up a huge omelet loaded with onions and potatoes. One of those guests, Claudio Perusini, who still remembers that meal fondly, was in Rome for the canonization of Argentina’s first female saint Feb. 11. It was his inexplicable recovery from a devastating stroke in 2017 that became the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed María Antonia de Paz Figueroa, known as Mama Antula. Perusini met the pope when he was 17 on a trip with five others for an ordination. After the ordination, then-Father Bergoglio, who was provincial superior of the Jesuits, invited the group “to the residence of the Catholic university, where he cooked us an enormous omelet with 30 eggs,” onions and potatoes, he told the Punto Medio program on Radio2 in Argentina.

“He divided it into six and served each of us, and since then I have been friends with him,” he told the radio in late October after the Vatican announced Pope Francis had approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of Mama Antula. The last time Perusini saw the pope was in 2014 when he and his wife, María Laura Baranda, had an audience at the Vatican. “I brought him ‘dulce de leche,’ ‘alfajores’ (cookies) from Santa Fe, drawings from my children and craft beer that I make,” he told the radio. The pope gave away the food, but not the beer, he said.

LVIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine reaches the two-year mark, the Knights of Columbus are calling for nine days of prayer to end the bloodshed. The national chaplains of the Knights in Ukraine, Metropolitan Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Mykhailo Bubniy of the Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Odesa, recently announced a “Novena for Peace and Healing in Ukraine.” In their joint appeal, the bishops invited “the brotherhood of the Knights and people of good will around the world” to begin the novena on Feb. 15, nine days ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty on Feb. 24, 2022. The war has been declared a genocide in two collaborative reports by the New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights. Szymon Czyszek, director of international growth in Europe for the Knights of Columbus, previously told OSV News that his organization’s members are “doing heroic work, and they are willing to risk their lives to bring aid to people in places like Avdiivka and … other villages that (are) close to the front line.” To date, the Knights have provided close to $22.4 million in aid to Ukraine, even as their organization, along with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was outlawed by a Russian occupation official in the Zaporizhzhia region.

MAKURDI, Nigeria (OSV News) – Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with the best Mass attendance. As many as 94% of self-identified Nigerian Catholics surveyed said they attend weekly or daily Mass, according to a study published in early 2023 by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The World Values Survey, which conducted the poll, doesn’t survey all countries in the world, but among those asked, Nigerian Catholics had the highest Mass attendance, followed by Kenya (73%) and Lebanon (69%). At the same time, both Christian Concern and Open Doors, organizations that track Christian persecution in the word rank Nigeria as one of the worst countries for Christians to live in after North Korea, and followed by India, Iran, China, Pakistan and Eritrea as top countries for Christian persecution. Father Moses Iorapuu, director of social communications for the Diocese of Makurdi, said that Christianity should continue to grow in an environment as hostile as Nigeria, because “this is the mystery of our faith: The blood of the martyrs remains the seed of Christianity.” Nigeria’s Intersociety advocacy group said over 100,000 unarmed and defenseless citizens have died directly or indirectly outside the law in the hands of security forces in the past eight years, between August 2014 and December 2023. Emeka Umeagbalasi, director of Intersociety, said the killings are part of a government agenda to “Islamize Nigeria.”

VALPARAISO, Chile (OSV News) – Since wildfires devastated areas in the province of Valparaíso and other regions of Chile early February, authorities and international agencies have multiplied their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the communities. OSV News spoke with Lorenzo Figueroa, director of Caritas Chile, about what he called a tremendous catastrophe, saying that in addition to at least 131 lives lost, the number of those missing and the extent of the damage has yet to be determined. “There is talk of up to 20,000 houses affected,” said Figueroa, for whom psychological damage is also a determining factor during and after these emergencies. Figueroa highlighted the community’s participation in the recovery and assistance efforts amid this natural and human tragedy. “Their knowledge, their experience. They know their territory and are active protagonists,” he explained. And after the emergency aid organizations leave “the community is no longer the same because they remain organized” to face emergencies, he added. For Figueroa, the support of other organizations is fundamental, not only financially but also in terms of experience, training and human resources, which add up when it comes to providing the necessary support to the victims. “The action of Caritas all over the world is an expression of humanitarian action in which we express ourselves as a family and the help of CRS and USAID allows us to take care of our common home, our people and those most in need,” Figueroa said.