By Mark Pattison WASHINGTON (CNS) – The National Catholic Educational Association says Catholic schools have recovered more quickly from the pandemic than its public school counterparts.
The successes, according to the NCEA, go across the board when looking separately at Black students, Hispanic students, students from low-income households, and students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.
The scores were first reported in October by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, colloquially known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” The numbers tracked the progress, or lack thereof, in math and reading by both fourth graders and eighth graders.
While Catholic schools’ scores are generally better than those of their public school counterparts – Annie Smith, NCEA vice president of data and research, said eighth graders pre-COVID-19 were about 5% better in math and 6% better in reading – the new numbers, based on testing conducted in 2021, showed a wider separation between the two.
Catholic schools’ scores have pretty much bounced back to the levels they had achieved prior to the coronavirus pandemic’s onset in March 2020. The only area that is still not up to snuff is eighth-grade math, which is still five points behind pre-pandemic levels.
Even so, said NCEA president Lincoln Snyder, those numbers are 15 points ahead of the comparable figures reported by public schools.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me at all,” Snyder told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 28 phone interview. “We’ve been monitoring testing data, really, throughout COVID.”
The NAEP numbers, Snyder said, bear out what a private firm found in 2021 when it conducted a lateral study of 3 million U.S. students to assess learning loss.
Given the upheaval wrought by the pandemic within society in general, and education in particular, Snyder said, “you would expect all students to have some learning loss.” But it was the ability to bounce back that characterized much of Catholic education, he added.
“It’s a testament to our educators to meet in person as soon as possible,” Snyder said. “It greatly did improve our Catholic school outcomes.”
The NAEP numbers dovetail with the NCEA’s own census showing that, for the first time in 20 years, enrollment in Catholic schools across the United States increased by 62,000. The number of Catholic schools also stayed steady, as 50 new schools were created to offset the closing of 50 other schools. “We did have a big uptick in enrollment. We had an initial drop. In March of ‘20, when we went to distance learning, people were fearful for losing their jobs. Or they did lose their jobs, but they quickly recovered. “
“Our retention of those new families was very high,” Snyder told CNS, citing a rate of 90% percent and “some dioceses were really as high as 98%.”
“They fell in love with the school, but they also stayed because of the community. This is a real opportunity for us to shine,” he said.
Only about one-third of dioceses had reported enrollment numbers for the current school year to the NCEA. A final tally is not expected until the spring.
Smith told CNS in a Nov. 1 phone interview that for Catholic schools to get back to their 2019 achievement levels, “our teachers are doing what they need to do already. They’re in the classroom, they’re working with students, they’re creating individualized learning plans.”
She confessed to being “a little disappointed with the drop in the eighth-grade math” scores, but “they’re going to graduate into our high schools, so we’re going to make sure this doesn’t have a long-term impact.”
Snyder said the NCEA has to “do a good job of telling our story.”
“I think we have a very compelling story to tell,” he explained. “We educate the whole children. We teach them to be servant leaders in Christ. Our teachers really model that servant leadership. I think they were committed to an adult that was committed to them. They can see that commitment and they responded to it.”
JACKSON – St. Andrew the Apostle is known as the “Protokletos,” or “The First Called’ to be an apostle of Jesus.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and saw Andrew and Simon Peter fishing. Jesus asked the two to become disciples and “fishers of men.” The Gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and when Jesus walked by one day, John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” It is then that Andrew, and another, made the decision to follow Jesus. In both stories, Saint Andrew answered the call to follow Jesus.
As members of the church, Jesus also calls us to be disciples to a new way of life, the Christian way of life, of which stewardship is a part. But Jesus does not call us as nameless people in a faceless crowd. He calls us individually, by name.
God intends each one of us to play a unique role in carrying out the divine plan. The challenge is to understand our role, and to respond generously to this call from God.
Christian stewardship is recognizing that “Everything we have and everything we are” is a gift from God and we are to be grateful and generous with those gifts.
The Spirit is calling and can show us the way. Stewardship is a part of that journey. Are you listening to the call?
St. Andrew was sentenced to a death of crucifixion by the Romans in Greece. He asked to be crucified on a diagonal cross as he felt he wasn’t worthy to die on the same shape of cross as Jesus. His feast day is Nov. 30, the date of his death.
By Kathleen Finley (CNS) ”Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle” by Shannen Dee Williams. Duke University Press (Durham, North Carolina, 2022). 424 pp., $29.95.
“Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s: A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition and Diversity” by Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2022). 192 pp., $17.95.
In Catholic books, an African American perspective is usually missing; these two books attempt to address that important gap in different and complementary ways.
In “Subversive Habits,” historian Williams has given us a remarkable work of scholarship, one that may be distressing for many readers because she clears away any shred of doubt about the U.S. Catholic Church being racist from its very beginnings.
That, unfortunately, includes the key roles that women religious have played in the building of the church.
Williams writes, “Few have considered what it meant that most of the sisters to minister in the United States before 1850, including the nation’s earliest female saints and sainthood candidates, were slaveholders or people who relied on the labor, sale and brutal mistreatment of enslaved people – and the economic benefits of whiteness and racial segregation – to establish and secure the financial futures of their orders and celebrated social service institutions.”
As she traces the hidden history of Black sisters, she admits that the only Black nun she had ever seen personally was Whoopi Goldberg’s fictional character in the movie “Sister Act.” That was true also of her mother, both of them lifelong African American Catholics.
Williams, a Catholic News Service columnist, tells story after story of institutional and personal barriers to pursuing religious vocations for African American women who, in many cases, were of mixed race because of their white fathers’ unions with Black women.
Most white religious communities refused to accept Black applicants, unless they could “pass” for white – and in several cases when women who were in positions of authority were later found to have been Black or of mixed race, they were largely erased from the community’s archives.
Because of a lack of acceptance by white religious communities, several Black religious orders were founded in the South, mainly to serve in Black schools and health care institutions, although many priests saw them as a “profanation of the habit.”
In at least one case, a Black religious community was not allowed to wear a habit in their early years so as not to arouse any further community opposition than necessary. Some women of color who wished to enter religious life fled to Canada or elsewhere to be able to live their vocations peacefully.
Even the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, established by St. Katharine Drexel specifically to minister to Native Americans and Blacks, refused to admit African American or Native sisters into its novitiate for many years.
By 1903, a Belgian priest ministering in Virginia complained to Rome about white religious communities. “In every convent of religious women, a girl having a little Negro blood in her veins is immediately rejected. It does not matter at all that she is well-educated, pious, pure and truly Catholic, so long as she seems Negro or there is the slightest suspicion of color.”
Even in the post-World War II era, Black women still had to battle for any acceptance at all in religious life, although their struggle was helped somewhat by the perspectives of Vatican II and the civil rights movement.
In 1989, when Sister Thea Bowman, one of the best-known African American women religious and then dying of cancer, addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops she observed that most of those ministering in the Black community are not Black and “do not feel an obligation to learn or understand Black history or spirituality, or culture or life – Black tradition or ritual.”
As Williams clearly shows, in the face of nearly impossible odds, Black women religious have made impressive contributions to the church they love. “In the long-standing absence of an empowered African American clergy, Black sisters served as the most genuine and effective leaders of the African American community. …
“As educational and moral leaders, African American sisters instilled racial pride, molded community servants and, most important, taught that racism and sexism had no place in the church – long before the bishops and others collectively did so.”
The book “Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s” shifts our focus from vowed religious to laywomen and a folksy look at everyday life in Black Catholic homes.
Authors Lane-McGee and Schmidt give the reader an informative glimpse into what celebrating the faith looks like for them, based loosely around the liturgical year, although the section on Ordinary Time seemed to be in an odd order.
The authors also have a podcast, “Plaid Skirts and Basic Black,” and give a helpful multiethnic view of the Catholic experience, although there may be too many in-jokes for those who may not have listened to them.
They describe their focus: “As Black women, we believe there is a place for everyone at the proverbial table, and that if there aren’t enough seats, we bring in another chair.
“This journey through the liturgical year is meant to create some additional space at that table for others to learn. In particular we are here to sit with our fellow Catholics of every background to help us all better understand our culture, our faith and our hope.”
“Fat Luther” explores several helpful topics of Black culture and history, such as appreciation vs. appropriation, soul food, Black hair, the Black church, even code-switching and colorism.
Each season includes a companion, such as St. Martin de Porres, and a gentle sense of humor at times. “And here’s the thing: the Holy Spirit doesn’t care if your Advent wreath is made from four tiny birthday candles you found at the bottom of a drawer. The Spirit will come as long as you make room.”
Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.
(Also of interest: “Race and Rhyme: Rereading the New Testament” by Love Lazarus Sechrest. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2022). 414 pp., $39.99.)
(Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace” and “Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses,” and formerly taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University.)
”The Message Behind the Movie – Reboot: Engaging Film Without Disengaging Faith” by Douglas M. Beaumont. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2022). 243 pp., $17.95.
Douglas M. Beaumont is a former evangelical who joined the Catholic Church several years ago. A former professor in an evangelical Christian seminary, he has published a Catholic update and “reboot” of his 2009 book, “The Message Behind the Movie.”
In an age when Christians can access online websites that reveal the number of times profanity is used in a film, how many sexual scenes and sexual references there are and how many drug references, Beaumont provides a biblical framework in which a religious believer can evaluate a film, absorb the positive elements and use various aspects of the film in communicating the Gospel.
His ability to provide a balanced, well-thought-out view on the Scriptures and a positive point of view on a Christianity’s ability to be “in the world” but not “of the world” is quite refreshing and encouraging. The author loves movies and sees the value of the art form, the significance movies have in forming the values of our culture and the practical opportunities they bring to find common ground with others in order to bring the truth of the Gospel and conversations on faith.
The author makes it clear that increasing our pleasure in movie watching is not the primary goal, but rather to learn how to evaluate a movie in light of Christian beliefs. Analogous to great music or art that communicated an aspect of God’s sovereignty or Christ’s compassion for past generations, movies can do likewise.
This involves discerning the message of the movie revealed by its story, the structure and the assumed worldview of that story. Beaumont would argue that “only then can Christians evaluate whether the movie presents a strong Christian, non-Christian or anti-Christian worldview, which they can then respond to and use as a starting point for apologetics and evangelism.”
By discussing the cinematic techniques and the genre considerations filmmakers use to communicate their ideas, this book helps Catholics and other Christians to become informed viewers. The book shows how to evaluate the stories that movies tell and how to discern what they say about reality, God and what it means to be human.
At the same time, he illustrates how movie watchers can engage in thoughtful, lively discussions not only about film but also about the big questions in life. The book is organized in three basic “acts.” Act One focuses on watching and understanding movies. Act Two discusses the evaluation process. Act Three explores what kinds of movies to watch and what kinds of movies to avoid. Ultimately, the author seeks to “show how we can all better interact with our culture by understanding the movies that shape and reveal it.”
The author begins by setting forth the historical context by which we knowingly or unknowingly evaluate entertainment. The two positions find their origins in Plato and Aristotle. Plato held that art is basically useless and may even be harmful.
Beaumont sides with Aristotle and writes approvingly: “An Aristotelian approach to movies needn’t condone sinfulness; instead, it can recognize how central storytelling is to human experience and seek to accurately critique the messages that stories in films are communicating.”
In Act Two, on evaluating and discussing movies, Beaumont encourages Christians to discern good and bad in movies. He prompts Christians to use movies as a starting point in sharing the Gospel message and to discern the philosophical angle that may “open doors to conversations which may clarify the faith.” In Jesus’ parables, the listeners are obliged to do the same.
In Act Three, on applauding and avoiding movies, the author not only has his eye on culture; he also rejects the sympathetic attitude that some Christians have toward postmodernity and positions himself in a school of thought that is focused on classical apologetics.
The book has excellent insights into the production of a movie and ends with a commentary on the film, “The Truman Show.” Parents should certainly have discretion over what is allowed in their households and the rating designation of a movie can be informative for age-appropriate viewing.
The reader will gain appreciation for the messages that are found within movies, which can be a starting point for dialogue with people of divergent faith backgrounds or no faith at all.
By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D. This year in the Catholic Church marks the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, when the American Catholic Bishops through the charter document and its essential norms “promised to protect and pledged to heal,” committing the church to safe environments for our children, young people and their families. Because of our sins and crimes, justly, as an organization, the church has been in the crucible, and the purification continues. Yet, the experience of the past twenty years has shown that an organization’s culture can be transformed when best practices are put in place and all in the organization are required to abide by them. In the church, this includes all the ordained, professed and baptized who work with children.
Over the past twenty years new allegations and actual proven cases of abuse are far and few between. Even one case is one too many, but we have learned how to protect in our church programs and gatherings. Moreover, the pledge to heal comes from the heart of Jesus Christ because we are his body, far more than an organization, who hunger and thirst for healing and peace for all who have been so unjustly harmed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. This Gospel imperative must be at the center of all that the church does on the road back to the abundant life Jesus promised to all believers.
For all in the church and in the world who are steadfast in their love for children’s safety and flourishing, we can rejoice in the recent declaration of the United Nations.
On Nov. 10, 2022, the General Assembly declared Nov. 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. The resolution, which was sponsored by Sierra Leone and Nigeria and co-sponsored by more than 120 countries, was adopted by consensus and a bang of the gavel by the assembly’s acting president, which was greeted with loud applause. Following the action, H.E., Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See United Nations, New York addressed the Assembly expressing appreciation for the UN’s action, and the full support of the Vatican State for the newly adopted World Day.
Over 50 individuals including leaders of prominent child welfare and advocacy organizations, and survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), including several who experienced abuse by clergy, joined H.E. Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a survivor of child marriage, as she addressed the General Assembly urging action. “Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis. We must acknowledge this problem, and take every necessary action to protect our children, especially our girls, from this tragic human condition.” Her eloquent, impassioned speech was greeted with a round of applause, and cheers from survivors in the gallery.
“Child sexual abuse is one of the greatest violations to human dignity, one can suffer,” said H.E. Ambassador Alhaji Fanday Turay. “The World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence is a critical step in bringing institutional recognition to this horrific childhood trauma. Too many victims of child sexual abuse are suffering in shame and silence. Many live anguished lives. By adopting this Resolution, we can provide a platform for all nations and civil society to mobilize and take actions to protect children from this tragedy.”
“We promoted the World Day to increase awareness of the actions all governments can take to prevent abuse and bring healing to survivors,” said Dr. Jennifer Wortham, a researcher at Harvard who founded the Global Collaborative, the survivor led network that led the international advocacy campaign to launch the world day. Wortham’s brothers are clergy abuse survivors, and Wortham shared that they have struggled with the effects of their abuse for their entire lives. “The World Day will help my brothers and all survivors of child sexual violence to know that the world cares about them, that they matter, that what they experienced was unjust, and that healing is possible,” said Wortham.
Finally, the world has spoken, and this is a victory for us all,” said Mark Williams, clergy abuse survivor, and advisor to the Archdiocese of Newark. “This day has been extraordinary, I am filled with awe, and peace.” At the Bishop’s recent meeting in Baltimore, Williams addressed the assembled body along with Cardinal Joseph Tobin, his Archbishop of Newark, N.J. to encourage the bishops that the Lord can make a way where there is no way. Healing, hope, and a new dawn are God’s desire for all in the church, especially the victims of sexual abuse.
Williams and Cardinal Tobin’s witness and friendship from the center of the church, the United Nations declaration, and a growing world-wide commitment to human flourishing on behalf of children and young people make this Thanksgiving an extra special day of gratitude in our nation and in our world.
SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT FLOWOOD St. Paul, Women’s Ministry Advent Day of Reflection, Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Deacon Tony Schmidt will lead the day of reflection to help us in our spiritual journey during Advent. Cost: $10 donation to cover cost of lunch. Details: register at https://bit.ly/StPaulAdventReflection2022.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Advent/Christmas Concert, Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. The concert will be followed by a parish dinner. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Season one of “The Chosen” will be shown as an Advent/Christmas study on Mondays beginning Nov. 28, in the Family Life Center at 6 p.m. The study will continue into the Mondays of January 2023. Each episode will include the use of Catholic study and discussion materials developed by the Augustine Institute and FORMED. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
PARISH, FAMILY & SCHOOL EVENTS ABERDEEN St Francis of Assisi, Christmas party after the 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Dec. 3. There will be a sign-up sheet posted on the bulletin board in the parish hall for you to sign up for what you would like to bring. We will play “Dirty Santa” following supper. Each person wanting to play needs to bring a $10 gift. Details: church office (662) 813-2295.
COLUMBUS Annunciation, Blood Drive, Monday, Nov. 28. Services Bus will be parked in our parking lot to accept any and all types of blood. Details: church office (662) 328-2927.
JACKSON St. Peter Cathedral, The Vigil Project will provide an evening of music/prayer/inspiration on Friday, Dec. 9. The Vigil Project is a group of musicians and speakers from South Louisiana who host what they call “True Presence Nights” at parishes around the country. The evening consists of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, music and inspirational talks from members of the group. Details: church office (601) 969-3125.
St. Richard, Christmas Candlelight Memorial Service, Thursday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m. at Foley Hall. Details: to RSVP, please contact Nancy McGhee (601) 942-2078 or email@example.com.
MADISON St. Francis, Ring In Your Faith 10k run and 5k run/walk, Saturday, Dec. 31 at 8 a.m. Registration fee guarantees your shirt through Dec. 17 and you will enjoy a mouth-watering New Year’s Day meal with a Southern twist. Ring in 2023 and register here: https://bit.ly/RingInYourFaith2022 Details: Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Francis, Evening of Worship & Adoration for Advent and Christmas with music by John Finch, on Sunday, Dec. 4, 6:30-8 p.m. in the church. The evening will include a time of worship music, Advent reflection and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction. Open to the public, donations accepted. For more info on John Finish visit johnfinchmusic.com. Details: email email@example.com.
MADISON St. Joseph School, Christmas Arts and Crafts Camp, Saturday, Dec. 17, St. Joe Fine Arts Building from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m. For grades K through eighth. Cost is $40 per session or $70 for both. Snacks included. Bring lunch if staying for both sessions. Details: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick, Candy Cane 5k Dash, Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:30 a.m. Details: to register visit https://bit.ly/CandyCane2022.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Advent Fair, Sunday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m., Family Life Center, all PreK-4 through fifth graders are invited! Advent and Christmas symbols and their history and meaning will be featured, with stories, crafts and treats. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
SAVE THE DATE DIOCESE SEARCH Retreat – For Teens, By Teens, Jan. 13-15, 2023 at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman. Details: email email@example.com.
World Marriage Day, Feb. 12, 2023 at Jackson, St. Peter Cathedral. Details: register to attend with your home parish.
JACKSON St. Richard School, Krewe de Cardinal set for Feb. 10. Call for tickets and sponsorship opportunities. Details: school office (601) 366-1157.
MADISON St. Anthony School, Starry Night Gala, Friday, Dec. 9. Details: school office (601) 607-7054.
BILOXI Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, The Role of Beauty in the Spiritual Life: understanding and praying with the Church’s Sacred Music, Jan. 26, 2023 at 7 p.m. Event is a talk by Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka. Details: visit olgchurch.net.
Our Lady of the Gulf, Sacred Music Workshop for cantors, choir members, music directors and clergy, Jan. 27-28, 2023. Cost is $40 with registration deadline of Jan. 13. Details: Registration and more information at classicalartsfoundation.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
NATION BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S bishops were encouraged to send participants to the African National Eucharistic Congress, slated for July 21-23 in Washington, and to come themselves. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, in a Nov. 16 address to the bishops, told them the congress, known as ANEC, would be “more engaging” beyond the workshops that are part and parcel of the multiday gathering. He said there would be Masses, a eucharistic procession, a rosary procession and cultural celebrations on the congress schedule. “The ANEC is the right ground for the new evangelization, an opportunity for all of us to engage – dioceses, parishes, religious congregations, associations and others – to address the pastoral needs of African Catholics in the United States,” he said. “Your presence will be a tremendous inspiration for those who will attend, and make the ANEC a success.” Next year’s African National Eucharistic Congress will be the fourth such gathering. It will be held on the grounds of The Catholic University of America in Washington. The congress is held every five years.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Latinos may be changing American politics more than politics is changing Latinos. To hear speakers at a Nov. 16 Georgetown online forum, politics is trying harder to bring Latinos into the fold. Jens Manuel Krogstad of the Pew Research Center, in his work studying Latino demographics and politics, noted that Latinos do not identify as strongly with either the Democratic or Republican parties as do other Americans. “Latinos support for the two parties has ebbed and flowed over the decades,” Krogstad said during a forum sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life on: “How Are Latinos Changing Politics and How Are Politics Changing Latinos?”
Democratic support peaked at 70% during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while GOP support got as high as 40% for George W. Bush and 38% for Donald Trump. “Latinos are not a monolith,” declared Olivia Perez-Cubas of the Winning for Women Action Fund, which recruits and gives financial backing to Republican women candidates. “The GOP depends on its ability to build a tent to diversify the party – which we’re not very good at but I think we’re working on – to speak to a diverse group of voters, and Latinos are very much a big part of that equation.” The upshot of the Nov. 8 midterm elections for Latinos is that “ the community is consequential – it is very consequential – in which party will control Congress, in which party will prevail in presidential elections,” said Julián Castro, a former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development.
VATICAN ASTI, Italy (CNS) – With several of his cousins and their children and grandchildren present, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Asti cathedral, giving a nod to his family roots and drawing people’s attention to the root of Christian faith: the cross of Jesus. The Mass Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King and World Youth Day, was the only public event during the pope’s weekend visit to the region from which his grandparents, Giovanni Angelo Bergoglio and Rosa Vassallo, and his father Mario immigrated to Argentina in 1929. The visit was timed to coincide with the 90th birthday of Carla Rabezzana, the pope’s second cousin. And, after landing in Portacomaro near Asti Nov. 19 and stopping for a prayer in a village church, Pope Francis headed straight to Rabezzana’s house for lunch. After lunch, the pope visited a nearby home for the aged and then headed to the little village of Tigliole to visit another second cousin, Delia Gai. The cousins and their families joined an estimated 4,000 people for Mass with the pope the next day in the Asti cathedral. In his homily, sprinkled with words in the Piedmont dialect his grandmother taught him, Pope Francis focused on how the kingship of Christ is different from any idea people usually have of a king. “He is not comfortably enthroned but hanging on a gibbet,” the pope said. “The God who ‘casts down the mighty from their thrones’ appears as a slave executed by those in power.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican is willing to do whatever it takes to broker a cease-fire and bring an end to the war on Ukraine, Pope Francis said. “We are continually watching as the situation evolves” concerning ways the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts could help, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Vatican News published the interview Nov. 18. The Vatican Secretariat of State is working diligently every day, looking at every possibility and “giving weight to every opening that could lead to a real cease-fire and real negotiations,” he said. “The Holy See is willing to do everything possible to mediate and end the conflict in Ukraine. We are trying to develop a network of relationships that will foster a rapprochement between the parties, to find solutions. Also, the Holy See does what it must to help the prisoners,” he said, as well as provide humanitarian support “for the people of tormented Ukraine, whom I carry in my heart along with their suffering.” Asked about the prospects for reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine, the pope said, “I have hope. Let’s not resign ourselves, peace is possible. But we must all strive to demilitarize hearts, starting with our own, and then defuse, disarm violence. We must all be pacifists,” he said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The centuries’ old silver fir tree that had been destined to become the centerpiece Christmas decoration in St. Peter’s Square will now live, perhaps to see another century. Forest service rangers arrived at the scene – a mountain grove in central Italy’s Monte Castel Barone – Nov. 14 to alert workers to halt preparations for felling the tree. When it emerged back in 2019 that the small village of Rosello in Italy’s central Abruzzo region was donating the tree to the Vatican for 2022, local activists started flagging problems, such as the lack of transparency concerning the donation and the failure to carry out an environmental impact study. Dario Rapino, a lawyer and nature photographer, even wrote to Pope Francis in 2020, pointing to his encyclical “Laudato Si’ on Care for Our Common Home” and the importance of avoiding any unnecessary human impact on the environment, according to local media reports. Even the World Wildlife Fund had put out a statement Nov. 7 saying, “cutting a tree of this size in the midst of a climate crisis is a debatable decision,” which required “greater transparency.” However, it wasn’t until Rapino recently tracked down the 98-foot-tree, that he discovered it was not located in Rosello, much less in the region of Abruzzo, but was, in fact, in a protected area in the nearby region of Molise in the township of Agnone, according to a report Nov. 12 by ChietiToday. The tree’s size, he said, also put it at around 200 years old.
WORLD SÃO PAULO (CNS) – The Vatican has advanced the sainthood cause of the late Archbishop Hélder Câmara of Olinda and Recife, who may soon be called “venerable.” Archbishop Fernando Saburido of Olinda and Recife made the announcement during the closing ceremony of the 18th National Eucharistic Congress. Archbishop Camara, one of the founders of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, was named to Olinda and Recife in 1964, three weeks before the beginning of the military coup that started the 20-year dictatorship in Brazil. Days after the coup, the archbishop released a manifesto supporting the Catholic workers’ action in Recife. The new military government accused him of being a demagogue and a communist, and he was forbidden to speak publicly. “If I give bread to the poor, everyone calls me a saint. If I show why the poor have no bread, they call me a communist and a subversive,” the archbishop is said to have said during that time. Dom Hélder, as he was known, remained a strong critic of the regime, denouncing human rights violations committed by police authorities.
OXFORD, England (CNS) – European church leaders have urged awareness of human rights issues during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, amid continued criticism that the Gulf state was allowed to host the tournament. “Women continue to be held back in Qatar, while non-Islamic religions, including Christianity, are only granted limited freedom, and sexual minorities subjected to criminal prosecution. All of this expresses, not just from a Western viewpoint, a repressive state and social order,” said Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, who heads Germany’s Catholic DJK Sportjugend sports association. He said questions were still asked about the 2010 decision by FIFA, the international soccer governing body, to award the tournament to Qatar, which has no soccer tradition. The bishop issued the statement Nov. 17 as final preparations were made for the 2022 World Cup, Nov. 20-Dec. 18. “Like other states on the Arabian peninsula, the Emirate of Qatar has been catapulted into a new era thanks to oil and gas wealth – today, a conservative-traditional Islamic society and economic hypermodern society coexist with each other,” Bishop Oster said. “Although it would be unfair to ignore this special situation when criticizing questionable conditions, it would also be inappropriate to keep silent about human rights restrictions.” The bishop said Qatar’s mostly foreign population was subject to “strict regulations,” while female domestic workers were often isolated and had trouble “upholding their rights against employers.” The situation had worsened, Bishop Oster said, during construction of stadiums and other sites for the World Cup. He said health and safety standards had been “catastrophic,” with “countless accidents and far too many deaths” among low-wage laborers.
BALTIMORE – Gathered in Baltimore for their fall general assembly Nov. 14-17, the bishops elected new leadership, heard about the crisis in Ukraine and what’s facing migrants at the U.S. southern border. They also approved several liturgical items and OK’d the advancement of the sainthood causes of three Catholic women.
The prelates also discussed whether they should update “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” their document on the political responsibility of Catholics that they issue every four years for the presidential election.
By an overwhelming majority, the bishops voted to reissue the teaching document without revisions but to add supplemental materials and begin a process of reexamining the teaching document following the 2024 election.
Speaking from the floor, several bishops said it must include what Pope Francis has said on critical issues of the day in his nearly 10 years as the successor to Peter.
But beyond the business agenda the bishops must attend to every year, there was a greater emphasis on prayer throughout their four days together and changes in seating arrangements to promote “fraternal dialogue.”
In the ballroom of the hotel where the assembly takes place, round tables replaced long rows of tables and chairs focused on the stage where USCCB leaders led proceedings.
Each day of the meeting ended with vespers and throughout the plenary, there also was 24-hour eucharistic adoration, which was instituted at their 2021 assembly. There were also less formal bishop-media encounters.
Their first public session took place the afternoon of Nov. 15 and opened with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio, followed by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The nuncio told the bishops that “as we live through a time of accelerated change,” spreading the Gospel message is particularly important.
One way to determine if the church is following its missionary role is to look at how local churches are functioning as evangelizing communities, something he said is especially evident in the current eucharistic revival in the United States.
In his final presidential address, Archbishop Gomez described images of conflict, changes and challenges he saw during his three-year term.
He spoke of the pandemic, “a long season of unrest in our cities,” a contentious presidential election as well as “deepening political, economic and cultural divisions,” war in Europe, a refugee crisis and “the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”
He raised alarm over what he saw as a U.S. society moving “hard and fast toward an uncompromising secularism,” adding that “traditional norms and values are being tested like never before.”
In their elections, the bishops chose Archbishop Gomez’s successor – Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. He was elected from a slate of 10 nominees, winning with 138 votes.
In subsequent voting, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore was elected USCCB vice president. He won the post on the third ballot by 143-96 in a runoff with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
The outgoing USCCB officers completed their three-year terms at the conclusion of the assembly, and their successors began their three-year terms.
Archbishop Broglio told reporters a few hours after he was elected that he is willing to meet with public officials, including President Joe Biden, to discuss public policy issues of concern to the church.
“I don’t see my role as political, but if there is any way to insert the Gospel into all aspects of life in our country, I certainly will not miss any occasion to do that,” he said, adding that Archbishop Gomez had desired to meet with Biden, but that such an opportunity did not present itself since Biden’s election two years ago.
The afternoon public session ended with an acknowledgement of the 20th anniversary of the drafting and passage of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” with prayer and reflection led by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.
The prelates also heard poignant remarks from Mark Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. He told the bishops he was “grateful and encouraged by the work you are doing to rid abuse from our beloved church.”
Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, outgoing chairman of the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, said the past 20 years have been a time of growth, awareness, examination and conversion as the church has worked to provide a safe environment and restore justice.
During their public sessions Nov. 15 and 16, the bishops heard several reports, including on:
– Preparations for the next October’s world Synod of Bishops on synodality: Work is proceeding – and quickly, according to Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee. Diocesan listening sessions concluded this fall. He said dioceses “managed to host over 30,000 listening sessions and other means of coming together.” Now comes “the continental stage” of consultations.
– The ongoing war in Ukraine: Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia asked his fellow U.S. bishops Nov. 16 to pray for Ukraine, and, if possible, to go to Ukraine and pray there for its people. What Ukrainians are facing amounts to genocide, he said. He thanked the bishops and their leadership for spearheading U.S. Catholic support for a nation under attack by Russia since February.
– The three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which is now under way at the diocesan level and will culminate in the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024: Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which is spearheading the revival, said the revival has “incredible momentum.” The ultimate goal, he said, is that this “this encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist” will move Catholics who have been part of this experience to be missionary disciples who would in turn lead others to the faith.
– The pro-life landscape after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade: Archbishop Lori, speaking as outgoing chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said that in a year when abortion has been front and center in U.S. politics – from the Supreme Court decision to recent state referendums – the Catholic Church faces a challenge of promoting its pro-life message to its own members and society at large.
“We have more work to do,” he said, but stressed church leaders must must remain united in their efforts to “proclaim the Gospel of life and defend human life at every stage.”
Among liturgical action items before them, the bishops approved English and Spanish versions of “Lay Ministry to the Sick,” a collection of texts taken from other liturgical books. They also approved new Mass texts for the feasts of Our Lady of Loreto (Dec. 10) and the recently canonized St. Paul VI (May 29).
The approved texts now advance to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for a “recognitio” before they can be used in the United States.
The bishops also gave their assent in voice votes to the advancement of three sainthood causes: – Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, the first order of women religious in the state of Texas. – Cora Louise Evans, a California laywoman who was a wife, a mother and possible mystic. – North Dakota laywoman Michelle Duppong.
(Contributing to this report were Carol Zimmermann, Rhina Guidos, Dennis Sadowski and Mark Pattison.)