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Vatican:     Pope Francis in Greece: ‘Let us ask for the grace of hope’

Pope Francis offers Mass in the Megaron Concert Hall in Athens, Greece on Dec. 5, 2021. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 5, 2021 / 09:05 am (CNA).

In Athens, Pope Francis said Sunday that the Greek language gave the entire Church a word that sums up the gift of Christ.

This word is “eucharistia” -- the ancient Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” adopted by the early Church as a word for the sacred host, the Eucharist.

“For us Christians, thanksgiving is at the heart of our faith and life,” Pope Francis said after offering Mass in Athens’ Megaron Concert Hall on Dec. 5.

“May the Holy Spirit make of everything we are and everything we do a 'Eucharistia', a thanksgiving to God and a gift of love to our brothers and sisters.”

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on Saint John the Baptist’s call for conversion as “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, in our lives as individuals or nations, there will always be times when we feel that we are in the midst of a desert. Yet it is precisely there that the Lord makes his presence felt,” Pope Francis said.

“Indeed, he is often welcomed not by the self-satisfied, but by those who feel helpless or inadequate. And he comes with words of closeness, compassion and tenderness: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.’ (Is 41:10).”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope encouraged the 2,000 people gathered in the hall to be “witnesses of hope and sowers of joy.”

“Brothers and sisters, let us ask for the grace to believe that with God things really do change, that he will banish our fears, heal our wounds, turn our arid places into springs of water,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today’s world are thirsting.”

Pope Francis said that “to be converted” means “not listening to the things that stifle hope, to those who keep telling us that nothing ever changes in life.”

“Here your beautiful Greek language can help us by reminding us of the etymology of the verb ‘to convert’, metanoeίn, used in the Gospel,” he said.

“Composed of the preposition metá, which here means ‘beyond’, and the verb noéin, ‘to think’, it tells us that to convert is to ‘think beyond’, to go beyond our usual ways of thinking, beyond our habitual worldview.”

“By calling us to conversion, John urges us to go 'beyond' where we presently are; to go beyond what our instincts tell us and our thoughts register, for reality is much greater than that. The reality is that God is greater,” he added.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The Mass in Athens concluded Pope Francis’ fourth day of his apostolic trip to Cyprus and Greece taking place Dec. 2-6.

Pope Francis arrived in Greece on Dec. 4 after a two-day visit to Cyprus. In a packed itinerary, he met Cypriot authorities, Orthodox bishops, local Catholics, and migrants, as well as celebrating Mass in the country’s largest stadium.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

His three days in Greece have also included meetings with Orthodox leaders and migrants on the island of Lesbos.

The pope will return to the Vatican on Dec. 6 after offering a Mass at a Catholic school in Athens in the morning.

“Tomorrow I will be leaving Greece, but I will not leave you. I will carry you with me in my memory and in my prayers. And I ask you too, please, to keep praying for me,” Pope Francis said.


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US:     5 small Catholic business to help you finish your Christmas shopping
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Denver Newsroom, Dec 5, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

With Christmas quickly approaching, you may still need that perfect gift for that special someone on your list. We’ve compiled a list of small Catholic companies that offer wonderful and thoughtful gifts for anyone in your life. 

Every Sacred Sunday

Founded in 2017, Every Sacred Sunday Mass journals are a great gift for those who love to take notes and reflect during Mass each Sunday. The Mass journals have the full Mass readings for each Sunday and Solemnity throughout the year. It also offers a 4-part journaling template that helps you study scripture and grow in your prayer life. These sections include a place to write a Bible verse that stood out to you, a section for a prayer request and prayer of thanksgiving, a notes section for the homily or how God spoke to you during the Mass, and a section to write down something you’ll do that week to help you grow in your faith. 

West Coast Catholic 

A rosary from West Coast Catholic would be the perfect gift for someone looking to grow in their prayer life and grow closer to our Blessed Mother. These beautiful handmade rosaries are inspired by the natural colors and landscapes of the West Coast and by a person, place, or story from the Bible. If you’re shopping for a married couple, the Eden set includes a pair of decade rosaries resembling the relationship between Adam and Eve with the hope to inspire couples to pray together.

House of Joppa

A family-run business, House of Joppa offers modern, Catholic home decor and gifts that are beautiful, timeless, and intentional. Their gift sets make the perfect gift for anyone on your Christmas list. Each set is faith-inspired, and are bound to be one-of-a-kind treasures that will make a great addition to any home. The San Damiano Cross and Refuge Candle gift set is just one of the many options you can find for your loved ones this Christmas. 

The Little Catholic

Do you know someone looking for a beautiful piece of Catholic jewelry? Perhaps a Sacred Heart pendant, a Miraculous Medal, or a stunning crucifix? The Little Catholic offers fine crafted, elegant Catholic jewelry in gold and sterling silver. All of their pieces are handmade by local artisans in Los Angeles, California. Catholic jewelry is a wonderful gift that inspires faith and encourages evangelization through these outward signs we wear. 

OréMoose Catholic Leather

If you’re shopping for a man in your life, then we’ve got you covered. OréMoose Catholic Leatherwork creates handmade, custom leather bible and portfolio covers, wallets, coffee sleeves, koozies, satchels and so much more. These pieces are durable and stylish. Most pieces are engraved with a cross; however, you can also customize your piece with your own design or engraving. 

This Christmas, give the gift of God, of faith, of true beauty. After all, that is the reason for the season.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis calls migrant crisis a 'shipwreck of civilization' during refugee camp visit
Pope Francis visits the Mavrovouni refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Dec. 5, 2021 / Vatican Media

Lesbos, Greece, Dec 5, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

From a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis decried European indifference to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean as a "shipwreck of civilization.”

“The Mediterranean, which for millennia has brought different peoples and distant lands together, is now becoming a grim cemetery without tombstones. This great basin of water, the cradle of so many civilizations, now looks like a mirror of death,” Pope Francis said in Lesbos on Dec. 5.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Let us not let our sea be transformed into a desolate sea of death. Let us not allow this place of encounter to become a theatre of conflict. … Please, brothers and sisters, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization,” he said.

About 200 refugees were present to welcome the pope to the Mavrovouni migrant reception and identification center located along the shore of Lesbos, according to the Vatican.

Pope Francis shook hands and offered blessings to the migrants he encountered as he walked through the camp.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Sisters and brothers, I am here once again, to meet you and to assure you of my closeness. I am here to see your faces and look into your eyes. Eyes full of fear and expectancy, eyes that have seen violence and poverty, eyes streaked by too many tears,” he said in his speech.

“Those who are afraid of you have not seen your faces. Those who fear you have not seen your children. They have forgotten that dignity and freedom transcend fear and division. They have forgotten that migration is not an issue for the Middle East and Northern Africa, for Europe and Greece. It is an issue for the world,” he said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Lesbos, also known as Lesvos and Mytilene, is a temporary home in the Aegean Sea for thousands of migrants. The new Mavrovouni camp that the pope visited has a capacity of 8,000 people, but is not full due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In his speech, Pope Francis repeatedly quoted Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor and author who died in 2016.

“‘When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders become irrelevant,’” the pope said, quoting Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

In a meeting with migrants in Cyprus two days prior, Pope Francis also brought up Nazi concentration camps when discussing the suffering of migrants.

“We complain when we read the stories of the camps of the last century, those of the Nazis, those of Stalin. We complain when we see this and say, 'but how did this happen?' Brothers and sisters, it is happening today, on nearby shores,” the pope said in Nicosia on Dec. 3.

Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA
Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA

Pope Francis said in Lesbos that he is distressed when he hears proposals that common funds be used to build walls.

“Problems are not resolved and coexistence improved by building walls higher, but by joining forces to care for others according to the concrete possibilities of each and in respect for the law, always giving primacy to the inalienable value of the life of every human being,” he said.

This was Pope Francis’ second visit to Lesbos, which has a population of around 115,000, and housed more than 17,000 refugees before the Moria camp burned down on Sept. 8, 2020.

Pope Francis made a daylong visit to the island in April 2016 during which he visited the Moria refugee camp and returned bringing 12 refugees with him to Italy.

“Five years have passed since I visited this place … After all this time, we see that little has changed with regard to the issue of migration,” the pope said.

“With deep regret, we must admit that this country, like others, continues to be hard-pressed, and that in Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them,” Francis said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

During his visit to the camp, Pope Francis listened to a testimony from Christian Tango Mukaya, a Catholic refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mukaya is the father of three children -- two of whom have been with him since his arrival at the Lesbos camp in November 2020. He said that his other child and wife were not able to join him in Greece and he has not heard from them in over a year.

The refugee shared how his current Catholic parish in Lesbos has been a great support to him during this time of difficulty.

“With the strength of prayer and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Mother and Mother of the Church, I was able to overcome the difficulties I encountered in life as a refugee,” Mukaya said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis' visit to the refugee camp occurred on the fourth day of his apostolic journey to Cyprus and Greece taking place Dec. 2-6.

After his visit to the camp, the pope will return to Athens by plane to preside over a Mass in the afternoon at the Megaron Concert Hall in the Greek capital at 5pm.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope concluded his time in Lesbos by praying the Sunday Angelus from the refugee camp.

“Let us now pray to Our Lady, that she may open our eyes to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. Mary set out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant. How many pregnant mothers, journeying in haste, have found death, even while carrying life in their womb,” he said.

“May the Mother of God help us to have a maternal gaze that regards all human beings as children of God, sisters and brothers to be welcomed, protected, supported and integrated. And to be loved tenderly. May the all-holy Mother teach us to put the reality of men and women before ideas and ideologies, and to go forth in haste to encounter all those who suffer.”


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Europe:     Smallness can be a blessing, Pope Francis tells Greece's Catholic minority
Pope Francis meets with clerics, religious, consecrated persons, seminarians, and catechists at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysius the Areopagite in Athens, Dec. 4, 2021. / Vatican Media

Athens, Greece, Dec 4, 2021 / 13:40 pm (CNA).

The smallness of a Christian community can be a sign of closeness to God, Pope Francis told members of Greece’s tiny Catholic minority in Athens Saturday evening. He reflected on the example of St. Paul in evangelizing ancient Greece and proclaiming that their pagan culture held the seeds of Christian faith.

“So, dear friends, I would tell you this: Consider your smallness a blessing and accept it willingly. It disposes you to trust in God and in God alone,” the pope said in remarks to bishops, priests, religious, seminarians, and catechists at Athens’ Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysius the Areopagite.

“Being a minority – and do not forget that the Church throughout the world is a minority – does not mean being insignificant, but closer to the path loved by the Lord, which is that of littleness: of kenosis, of abasement, of meekness,” he continued. “Jesus came down even to becoming hidden in the weakness of our humanity and the wounds of our flesh. He saved us by serving us.”

While Christians can often be “obsessed with external appearances and visibility,” St. Paul teaches that the Kingdom of God “does not come with signs that can be observed.” Rather, “it comes secretly, like rain, slowly, over the Earth.”

Greece’s 10.7 million people are predominantly Eastern Orthodox. Only about 50,000 are Catholic. The pope arrived in Greece for a three-day trip on Saturday after a two-day visit to Cyprus.

In his Saturday evening remarks, Pope Francis emphasized St. Paul’s trust in God and his wise approach towards the Greeks he evangelized. The apostle knew that God had already planted the seeds of evangelization before him, and saw “the desire for God hidden in the hearts of those people, and wanted gently to share with them the amazing gift of faith.”

“Paul proclaimed the God unknown to his hearers. He thus was able to present the face of a God, who in Jesus Christ sowed in the heart of the world the seed of resurrection, the universal right to hope,” said the Roman Pontiff.

“When Paul proclaimed this good news, most of them laughed at him and went their way,” the pope said. However, some Athenians joined the apostle and became believers, including the cathedral’s namesake, St. Dionysius. “A small remnant, yet that is how God weaves the threads of history, from those days until our own,” the pope remarked.

Pope Francis praised Greece as “a land that is a gift, a patrimony of mankind, on which the foundations of the West have been built.”

“All of us are sons and daughters of your country, and in her debt: without the poetry, literature, philosophy and art that developed here, we would not be familiar with many aspects of human existence, or be able to respond to many profound questions regarding life, love, suffering, also death,” he told the gathering.

“At the dawn of Christianity, this rich heritage gave rise to an inculturation of the faith, carried out, as if in a ‘laboratory,’ thanks to the wisdom of many of our Fathers in the faith, who by their holiness of life and their writings remain a beacon of light for believers in every age,” he added. St. Paul helped inaugurate “this encounter between early Christianity and Greek culture.”

“He began this work of synthesizing those two worlds. He did it in this very place, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles,” said the pope.

Pope Francis found in the apostle two attitudes that can help contemporary Christians enculturate the faith. First, St. Paul showed “confident trust” in God. Some philosophers who encountered his preaching in Athens considered him a “charlatan” and brought him to the Areopagus not simply to “offer him a platform,” but “to interrogate him” about his “new and strange teaching.” According to the pope, Paul was “being put to the test.”

“This was not a moment of triumph for Paul,” Pope Francis explained. “He was carrying out his mission in a difficult situation. Perhaps, many times along the way, we too feel weary and even frustrated at being a small community, a Church with few resources operating in a climate that is not always favorable.”

“Think about Paul in Athens. He was alone, in the minority, unwelcome and with little chance of success. But he did not allow himself to be overcome by discouragement. He did not give up on his mission. Nor did he yield to the temptation to complain,” said the pope.

“This is very important: watch out for complaints,” he emphasized. “That is the attitude of a true apostle: to go forward with confidence, preferring the uncertainty of unexpected situations rather than the complacency that comes from the force of habit. Paul had that courage.” This courage was “born of trust in God,” who “loves to accomplish great things always through our lowliness.”

As shown by St. Paul, an attitude of acceptance “does not try to occupy the space and life of others, but to sow the good news in the soil of their lives.” This approach, the pope said, “learns to recognize and appreciate the seeds that God already planted in their hearts before we came on the scene.”

“Let us always remember that God always goes before us, God sows before we do. Evangelizing is not about filling an empty container; it is ultimately about bringing to light what God has already begun to accomplish,” Pope Francis said.

St. Paul did not proselytize but based his work on the meekness of Christ. He did not approach the Athenians with the attitude that they were all wrong, as if to say, “Now I will teach you the truth.” Rather, he accepted their religious spirit, invoking their altar dedicated to “an unknown god.”

“The Apostle dignified his hearers and welcomed their religiosity,” the pope said. “Even though the streets of Athens were full of idols, which had made him ‘deeply distressed,’ Paul acknowledged the desire for God hidden in the hearts of those people, and wanted gently to share with them the amazing gift of faith.”

“The Holy Spirit always does more than what we can see from the outside. Let us not forget this. In every age, the attitude of the apostle begins with accepting others,” said Pope Francis. He encouraged Christians “to cultivate an attitude of welcome, a style of hospitality, a heart desirous of creating communion amid human, cultural or religious differences.”

“The challenge is to develop a passion for the whole, which can lead us – Catholics, Orthodox, brothers and sisters of other creeds, including agnostics, anyone – to listen to one another, to dream and work together, to cultivate the ‘mystique’ of fraternity,” said the pope.

Being a small Church, he said, “makes us an eloquent sign of the Gospel, of the God proclaimed by Jesus who chooses the poor and the lowly, who changes history by the simple acts of ordinary people.”

The Church is not called to have “the spirit of conquest and victory, impressive numbers or worldly grandeur,” he said.

“All this is dangerous. It can tempt us to triumphalism,” said the pope.

“We are asked to be yeast, which rises patiently and silently, hidden within the dough of the world, thanks to the constant work of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said.

“The secret of the Kingdom of God is in the little things, often quiet and unseen,” the pope reflected.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis apologizes for mistakes of Catholics in meeting with Greek Orthodox leaders in Athens, Greece
Pope Francis speaks to His Beatitude Ieronymos II and other Greek Orthodox leaders in Athens Dec. 4. / Vatican Media

Athens, Greece, Dec 4, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis apologized for the ways Catholics have contributed to division with Orthodox Christians during a meeting with Greek Orthodox leaders in Athens on Saturday.

“Shamefully, patriarch, — I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church — actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power, gravely weakened our communion,” the pope said on Dec. 4.

“In this way, we let fruitfulness be compromised by division,” he added. “History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics.”

Pope Francis spoke during a live-streamed meeting with leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, including His Beatitude Ieronymos II, archbishop of Athens and All Greece, in the throne room of the Orthodox Archbishopric of Greece.

When Pope Francis arrived at the archbishopric, an Orthodox cleric started to protest, shouting “Pope, you are a heretic! Pope, you are a heretic!” before he was taken away by police.

Last month, a Greek Orthodox metropolitan, Andreas of Konitsa, spoke out against Pope Francis’ visit to Greece, also calling the pontiff a heretic.

The incidents reflect a longstanding suspicion of the pope in some corners of the Greek Orthodox Church. Pope John Paul II also tried to bring healing to the Catholic-Greek Orthodox rift during a controversial 2001 visit to Greece, the first by a Catholic pope in over 1,000 years.

John Paul II’s visit, during which he apologized for the sins of Catholics against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, was also strongly protested.

Francis is traveling to Athens Dec. 4-6, after spending two days in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus. He will also visit the Greek island of Lesbos, where he met Ieronymos II for the first time during a 2016 visit to the island. The two also met privately Dec. 4.

The populations of both Greece and Cyprus are predominately Orthodox Christian. Pope Francis also met Cypriot Orthodox leaders in Nicosia on Dec. 3.

Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, is a country of 10.7 million people, around 50,000 of whom are Catholic.

Pope Francis told Greek Orthodox hierarchs Dec. 4 that despite the deep divide which still exists between Catholics and Orthodox, “we are comforted by the certainty that our roots are apostolic and that, notwithstanding the twists and turns of time, what God planted continues to grow and bear fruit in the same Spirit.”

“It is a grace to recognize one another’s good fruits and to join in thanking the Lord for this,” he said.

Francis reflected on the old olive trees which can be found in both Italy and Greece, noting that they “unite us” and remind him of the roots Catholics and Orthodox share in their apostolic founding, prior to the division which followed the Great Schism of 1054.

“Underground, hidden, frequently overlooked, those roots are nonetheless there and they sustain everything,” he said. “Saint Paul speaks of them when he stresses the importance of being ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles’ (Ephesians 2:20).”

Unfortunately, after the first centuries bore good fruit, especially in Hellenic culture, “worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion,” the pope said, quoting St. Basil the Great, who said “that true disciples of Christ are ‘modeled only on what they see in him.’”

Pope Francis also invoked the Holy Spirit and his gifts of communion, wisdom, and consolation. “I pray that the Spirit of love will overcome every form of resistance and make us builders of communion,” he stated.

Quoting St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Homily 15 on the Song of Songs, Francis added that “Indeed, ‘if love truly casts out fear and fear is transformed into love, then we will discover that what saves is unity.’”

“On the other hand, how can we testify before the world to the harmony of the Gospel, if we Christians remain separated?” he asked. “How can we proclaim the love of Christ who gathers the nations, if we ourselves are not united?”

“Many steps have already been taken to bring us together. Let us implore the Spirit of communion to spur us to follow his lead and to help us base communion not on calculations, strategies and expedience, but on the one model to which we must look: the Most Holy Trinity.”


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Europe:     Pope Francis decries global ‘retreat from democracy’ in Athens speech
Pope Francis addresses a meeting with authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece, Dec. 3, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Athens, Greece, Dec 4, 2021 / 04:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis lamented a global “retreat from democracy” in a speech on Saturday in Athens, the cradle of Western civilization.

The pope was speaking to political leaders, representatives of civil society, and members of the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace on Dec. 4, hours after arriving from Cyprus.

“Here democracy was born. That cradle, thousands of years later, was to become a house, a great house of democratic peoples. I am speaking of the European Union and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples,” the pope said.

“Yet we cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy.”

The pope arrived in Greece after a two-day visit to Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In a packed itinerary, he met Cypriot authorities, Orthodox bishops, local Catholics, and migrants, as well as celebrating Mass in the country’s largest stadium.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The 84-year-old pope’s three days in neighboring Greece will be equally frenetic, with scheduled meetings with Orthodox leaders, the Catholic community, local Jesuits, migrants on the island of Lesbos, and young people.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis made a daylong visit to Lesbos on April 16, 2016, after which he took 12 refugees back to the Vatican.

He is the first pope to visit mainland Greece since John Paul II, who in May 2001 became the first pope to visit the country in 1,291 years.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, is a predominantly Orthodox Christian country of 10.7 million people, around 50,000 of whom are Catholic.

Vatican Pool.
Vatican Pool.

After a farewell ceremony at Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus, the pope departed for Athens. Following an official welcome at the airport, he traveled to the city’s Presidential Palace, where he paid a courtesy visit to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Afterward, he met with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Vatican Pool.
Vatican Pool.

In his live-streamed address, which cited the Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle, the pope stressed that democracy requires the participation of all citizens.

“It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive,” he said.

Vatican Pool.
Vatican Pool.

“In some societies, concerned for security and dulled by consumerism, weariness and malcontent can lead to a sort of skepticism about democracy.”

“Yet universal participation is something essential; not simply to attain shared goals, but also because it corresponds to what we are: social beings, at once unique and interdependent.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope said that another aspect of skepticism about democracy was the loss of faith in institutions.

“The remedy is not to be found in an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises or in adherence to forms of ideological colonization, but in good politics,” he said.

“For politics is, and ought to be in practice, a good thing, as the supreme responsibility of citizens and as the art of the common good. So that the good can be truly shared, particular attention, I would even say priority, should be given to the weaker strata of society. This is the direction to take.”

Vatican Pool.
Vatican Pool.

The pope quoted Alcide De Gasperi, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, who said in 1949 that “There is much talk of who is moving left or right, but the decisive thing is to move forward, and to move forward means to move towards social justice.”

The pope commented: “Here, a change of direction is needed, even as fears and theories, amplified by virtual communication, are daily spread to create division.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Let us help one another, instead, to pass from partisanship to participation; from committing ourselves to supporting our party alone to engaging ourselves actively for the promotion of all.”

Greece has a long southern coastline along the Mediterranean Sea and is a popular destination for migrants trying to enter the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states.

In his address, the pope acknowledged that migration brought new pressures to the local populace, especially in Greece’s islands.

“This country, naturally welcoming, has seen on some of its islands the arrival of numbers of our migrant brothers and sisters greater than the number of their native inhabitants; this has heightened the difficulties still felt in the aftermath of the economic crisis,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Yet Europe also continues to temporize: the European Community, prey to forms of nationalistic self-interest, rather than being an engine of solidarity, appears at times blocked and uncoordinated.”

He went on: “In the past, ideological conflicts prevented the building of bridges between Eastern and Western Europe; today the issue of migration has led to breaches between South and North as well.”

“I would like to encourage once again a global, communitarian vision with regard to the issue of migration, and to urge that attention be paid to those in greatest need, so that, in proportion to each country’s means, they will be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated, in full respect for their human rights and dignity.”


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Europe:     PHOTOS: The funeral of Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master
The funeral of Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, takes place at St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, Dec. 3, 2021. / Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.

Valletta, Malta, Dec 4, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the 79th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, was laid to rest in the crypt of a cathedral in Malta’s capital city following his state funeral on Friday.

When his coffin arrived at St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta on Dec. 3, a loud clap of thunder sounded, the order’s British association reported.

Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta, celebrated the live-streamed Requiem Mass. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Msgr. Jean Laffitte, the Prelate of the order, concelebrated.

Those present included Malta’s President George Vella and Prime Minister Robert Abela, as well as Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant of the Grand Master.

In his homily, Tomasi said: “Through the choice of becoming a Knight of Justice, Fra’ Matthew dedicated his life to the mission of the order, a mission that has remained constant through the centuries: tuìtio fidei et obsequium pauperum, the defense of the Faith and service to the poor.”

“After nine centuries, the mission of the order continues to inspire and it advances on the main road of the Church, faithful to its teaching and to all those who like Fra’ Matthew — and may he rest in peace — tried without fear of their limits to implement the Gospels’ message.”

Festing served as the Grand Master of the lay religious Catholic order, founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century, from 2008 to his resignation in 2017. He died in Malta on Nov. 12 at the age of 71.

Following the Requiem Mass, he was interred in the Crypt of the Grand Masters in St. John’s Co-Cathedral, becoming the order’s 12th Grand Master to be buried in the crypt and the first for hundreds of years.


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US:     Pro-life legal experts say they're encouraged by justices' questions in Dobbs abortion case
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 4, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Three legal experts are expressing optimism for a pro-life victory in the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationside.

“I am hopeful that the court will take the opportunity in Dobbs to correct the grievous error of Roe v. Wade, and get the court out of our nation's abortion politics,” Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Dec. 1.

The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks and centers on the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. In 1992, the court largely upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. If Roe is overturned — one possible outcome of the Dobbs case — abortion law would be left up to each individual state. 

“Today the court did a great job articulating its constitutional role: not to pick winners and losers on divisive issues like abortion, but to remain ‘scrupulously neutral,’ as Justice Kavanaugh said,” Severino tweeted just hours after the arguments. “The way it works out will look different in different states, but the Court should let the people decide.”

Although the arguments were held in December, the Supreme Court generally releases decisions in high-profile cases, such as this one, at the end of its term in June. 

Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA

“I am very encouraged by oral argument and the prospect of a favorable decision this summer, but we should keep up our prayers for the justices,” legal scholar Erika Bachiochi told CNA.

Bachiochi serves as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she founded and directs the Wollstonecraft Project.

She identified one part of the oral arguments that she found surprising.

“Although I suppose shouldn’t have been, I was surprised by Justice Sotomayer’s naked pro-abortion rhetoric, especially with regard to her question concerning the ‘religious’ source of a 15-week abortion ban,” she said. “Does she really not know the science of fetal development?” 

During the oral argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi.

“How is your interest anything but a religious view?” she asked. “The issue of when life begins has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It's still debated in religions.”

She added, “So, when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that's a religious view, isn't it — because it assumes that a fetus' life at — when? You're not drawing — you're — when do you suggest we begin that life? Putting it aside from religion.”

In anticipation of the oral argument, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, documented information about 15-week-old unborn babies, who can, among other things, already exhibit whether they prefer sucking their right or left thumb.

Earlier this year, Bachiochi, together with law professors Teresa Collett and Helen Alvaré, filed an amicus brief representing 240 women scholars and professionals and various pro-life organizations in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In a piece published by the National Catholic Register, Alvaré, a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, found the oral argument “promising for the pro-life cause.”

But, she added, “it would be impossible to cram into the few minutes of an oral argument all the reason, facts, principles, analyses — and hopes — of 50 years of pro-life argumentation,” she wrote. “There was no time to call out abortion advocates’ lies, more lies, and made-up statistics. No time to show that women have not depended upon abortion for their dignity and freedom, but that the opposite is true. No time to detail the miraculous, the beautiful humanity of the unborn.” 

“Based strictly upon the oral arguments, it is clear that Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan will vote to uphold abortion rights,” she said. “It is more difficult to pronounce where the remaining Justices might fall, but their comments were largely promising.”


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Asia - Pacific:     Hong Kong bishop consecrated in Cathedral of Immaculate Conception
Bishop Stephen Chow's ordination as bishop in Hong Kong’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 5, 2021 / Screenshot from livestream

Rome Newsroom, Dec 4, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan was ordained a bishop in Hong Kong’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday.

“As a successor to the Apostles by the grace of Almighty God, I request your constant prayers that I may always be loyal to God’s will as a shepherd to the People of God in Hong Kong, and faithfully carry out my duties,” Chow said at the Mass on Dec. 4.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, presided over the Mass. Cardinal Joseph Zen and auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha were co-celebrants.

“Through the Bishop’s wisdom and prudence, it is Christ himself who leads you in your earthly pilgrimage toward eternal happiness,” Tong said in his homily, according to the diocese of Hong Kong.

“He has been entrusted with the task of bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel, and with the ministry of the Spirit and of justice,” he said.

During the Mass, Chow laid face down on the floor in total surrender to God as the congregation recited the Litany of the Saints in Cantonese.

Bishop Chow said in a brief speech at the end of the Mass that he wanted to help “foster healing and connections” in the Catholic community in his "beloved hometown."

“As the bishop, it is my desire to be a bridge between the government and the church in Hong Kong and between the Catholic Church, fellow Christian denominations, and other religions,” he said.

“It is through sincere connection with one another, including within our own diocese that emphatic understanding can be established, appreciation can be fostered, respect and trust can be deepened, and hopefully collaboration can become a living culture in our community."

Chow also read aloud an excerpt from a letter that he recently received from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. The archbishop emeritus of Ottawa-Cornwall wrote: “Given the history of the church in China and Hong Kong, Catholicism can no longer be seen as a foreign religion, but as integral to Hong Kong society."

More than 6,000 people tuned in live to watch Chow’s consecration Mass on YouTube.

Among those watching the livestream were priests and seminarians in Italy from the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), who have launched a prayer campaign for the newly consecrated bishop.

Father Gianni Criveller, who is helping to organize the campaign at the PIME missionary seminary in the Italian city of Monza, told UCA News that he knows that Bishop Chow will face “great difficulties and challenges.”

“The long-awaited consecration of the bishop calls for prayer and solidarity. Bishop Stephen has a very difficult task ahead of him humanly. In fact, it seems nearly impossible. However, we believe in the power of prayer and in the communion of those who entrust their lives to the Lord Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis appointed Chow to be bishop of Hong Kong in May. Before his appointment, Hong Kong had been without a permanent bishop since January 2019.

Chow, 62, previously served as the provincial of the Jesuits’ Chinese Province. In that role, he led the Jesuit order in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China as the Vatican-China deal was first signed and during the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy protest movement.

Born in Hong Kong in 1959, Chow went on to study in the United States, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota, before entering the Society of Jesus in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 25.

During his Jesuit novitiate, he obtained a licentiate in philosophy in Ireland and then returned in 1988 to Hong Kong, where he was ordained to the priesthood on July 16, 1994.

Chow continued his studies at Loyola University in Chicago, where he earned a master’s degree in organizational development in 1995. He spent the next five years working as a campus minister, vocations director, and ethics teacher at Wah Yan College in Kowloon and Hong Kong.

In 2000, Chow began a doctoral program at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education studying development and psychology. He graduated with a Doctorate in Education in 2006.

The following year, he made his final vows in the Jesuit order and worked as an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong from 2008 to 2015 and Jesuit Formator from 2009 to 2017. He also served as the president of the Chinese Jesuit Province’s education commission since 2009 and the Hong Kong Diocesan Council for Education since 2017.

Chow began his role as provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus on Jan. 1, 2018.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers have historically enjoyed freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, by contrast, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.

With the 2020 passage of new “national security laws,” the Chinese government seized more power to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law is broad in its definitions of terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion. Under the law, a person who is convicted of the aforementioned crimes will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

On April 16, authorities in Hong Kong sentenced several Catholic pro-democracy figures, including lawyer Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to prison sentences under the new security law.

“Hong Kong is going through perhaps the most dramatic phase of its history and has almost disappeared from the radar of international attention. However, those who love Hong Kong have not forgotten it,” Criveller said.


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US:     Report: Hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits filed against New Jersey Catholic priests during 2-year window
Theodore McCarrick arrives at Dedham District Court on Friday morning, Sept. 3 for his 9 a.m. arraignment / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Boston, Mass., Dec 3, 2021 / 21:30 pm (CNA).

At least 820 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the past two years — including some 180 in the past month alone, according to an analysis by news outlet NorthJersey.com.

About 250 of the lawsuits, representing 30% of the total, involved priests, with religious sisters and lay church employees also named as abusers, the analysis showed.

The flood of civil complaints came during a two-year period New Jersey provided under the 2019 Child Victims Act to allow victims who otherwise would have been barred by the state’s statute of limitation to file lawsuits. The two-year “lookback” window closed on Nov. 30.

More than 1,200 lawsuits were filed in all. About two-thirds of these were filed against Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Among the findings by NorthJersey.com:

  • The Archdiocese of Newark, the largest of New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses, accounted for the most abuse lawsuits, with 432.

  • The Diocese of Trenton had the next highest total, with 182 suits, followed by the Diocese of Paterson with 85. The Diocese of Metuchen was named in 70 lawsuits, and the Camden Diocese had 54.

  • The Order or St. Benedict of New Jersey, which runs the local Delbarton school in Morristown, was the most sued among New Jersey’s religious orders, with 36 suits and another case pending.

  • Twenty-three lawsuits were connected to Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, which is run by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. That religious order, however, can’t be sued, the website reported, per a nationwide settlement agreement that happened years ago.

  • The Salesians of Don Bosco, which runs Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, have been sued 19 times. Five of those lawsuits were connected to the high school.

  • Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was named in 10 lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Nov. 24.

  • McCarrick’s predecessor as the head of Newark Archdiocese, Peter Gerety, is named in two lawsuits. The most recent suit, filed on Nov. 16, accuses Gerety of abusing a girl from 1984 to 1989. The alleged abuse, starting when she was just 5 years old, allegedly took place at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NorthJersey.com reported.

  • While many of the alleged abusers have died, several are still alive and could be prosecuted. One of these defendants is Father Benoît Guichard, FSSP, who is accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when she was a child, a claim that Guichard has denied through his attorney. Another is former Ridgefield Park priest Gerald Sudol, who was named in seven lawsuits.

  • Two priests were named in at least 20 lawsuits each: John Capparelli, of the Newark Archdiocese, and Timothy Brennan, a former teacher at the Delbarton school. Both men have died.

Under the Child’s Victim Act, people alleging sexual abuse as children can still file lawsuits up to age 55 or within seven years of when they first realized the abuse caused them harm, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the signing of the law, child victims had to file by age 20 or two years after first realizing the abuse caused harm. 


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US:     Archbishop Aquila urges Catholics to 're-acquire a biblical worldview' this Advent
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says a Mass of diaconal ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a pastoral note for Advent, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver urged Catholics to seek a way of seeing the world informed by the Bible and the story of salvation brought about by Christ’ death and resurrection. 

“God is inviting us...to move beyond ideologies in order to ‘put on the mind of Christ and re-acquire a biblical worldview,” Aquila wrote in the letter

“This proclamation of what God has done in Christ, known in theological circles as the kerygma, is meant to do more than be an interesting re-telling of events that happened in the distant past...the first element needed for the renewal of the Church is not strategic planning, changes to structure or doctrine. The initial battle is for our minds and hearts; it is a question of worldview, a question of how we see,” Aquila continued.

From the feast of Christ the King through Christmas, the entire Archdiocese of Denver is “going on retreat together,” Aquila said, with the goal of  “systematically unpacking the story of salvation” through the homilies Catholics will hear each Sunday. 

“Even lifelong Catholics receive Communion, baptize children, get married, and go to Mass every Sunday without ever really coming to a deep awareness of the point of it all,” Aquila said, explaining why he chose to focus on the topic of salvation in particular. 

Aquila noted that “our Church no longer benefits from carrying out its life and mission in a Christendom culture...One which, while imperfect in its own ways, had an imaginative vision for reality that arose from and largely aligned with Christian beliefs.”

Instead, Christians today find themselves in a missionary context, “increasingly at odds with the broader society.”

Aquila noted that while all human beings will inevitably ask and attempt to answer life’s biggest questions, the Gospel message— the answer to all of life’s biggest questions— is not merely a result of human thinking, but rather comes from God. 

“Our earth-shattering profession is that God himself has provided answers to these questions that are rooted in our being. Revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, gives us the answer. These present not disconnected individual lives, but a story of salvation – the Father’s love for humanity,” Aquila wrote. 

“More than a confusing collection of disparate books, if you have eyes to see, you discover in the pages of the Bible a narrative, told by God to humanity, of why he made us, what happened to interrupt his plan and how he came to win his world back.”

The story of salvation, Aquila wrote, is about how God created the universe out of love, how humanity was captured by sin, how Christ came to rescue humanity, and how each and every person has been given a chance to offer their own response to Christ’s love. 

When Catholics see the world from a biblical perspective, “we come to consider the span of our lives as a brief but essential moment in a grand epic narrative, unfolding from long before we were born and continuing long after we go into eternity. We accept that no life is an accident; you and I have been chosen, intentionally, to play a definite part in this epic adventure.”

“We see clearly who God is: that he is Lord, and he is for us, so we can trust him. We recognize that everything he has done to rescue us means that we matter, he loves us more than we could have ever imagined. We understand that the mission and identity of the Church, in all she teaches and celebrates, are oriented to help God get his world back by rescuing his children from sin and death…to bring us home.

“We begin to see on both sides of the veil, to have an eye and a heart on eternity and to see our daily lives in light of the supernatural mysteries of our faith. Whatever difficulties life presents, we have the courage to hold fast to the truth that God is always on the move, he is not worried about the state of things, and he wins in the end.”

A temptation among many people today is to let a secular or ideological worldview inform one’s perspective of the Gospel or “what the Church should do,” adapting and changing the difficult teachings of Christ. 

“Jesus does not gain a single disciple by his followers watering down or adapting his Gospel on his behalf, in order to make it, and therefore him, seemingly more palatable,” Aquila said. 

“We have only to look at his teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6 as confirmation. Jesus told his followers the Eucharist was his body and blood and he let them walk away when it wasn’t something they could accept.”

Aquila concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism… is the fruit of an anxious…lack of trust,” (Evangelii Gaudium 85).


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Europe:     Catholic doctors thank Portugal's president for vetoing euthanasia bill
Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock. / null

Lisbon, Portugal, Dec 3, 2021 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

The Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors on Tuesday thanked President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for vetoing the euthanasia bill passed by the Portuguese parliament in November, and reaffirmed that as healthcare providers "they cannot be agents of death."

The Portuguese parliament approved a first version of the euthanasia bill in early 2021. But in March Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the text as unconstitutional. The parliament approved a second version Nov. 5, which was then vetoed by the president Nov. 29.

The Catholic doctors thanked the president in a Nov. 30 statement, reaffirming that human life must be defended "in all circumstances" and stressed that "doctors cannot be agents of death."

“As Catholic doctors, we want to continue caring for all the sick, including those at the end of life, who are more fragile. We will continue to fight for them, to treat them and give meaning to every moment of their life, also giving meaning to the oath that we took as professionals and making visible the Christian faith that we share,” they said.

In vetoing the bill for the second time, Rebelo de Sousa asked the parliament to clarify "what appear to be contradictions in the law on one of the grounds for resorting to assisted death."

The new version of the bill “maintains in a regulation the requirement of a 'fatal disease'” to request euthanasia, but “extends it, in another regulation, to an  'incurable disease,' even if it’s not fatal, and in a 'serious illness.’"

The AMCP stated that the reasons indicated by the president, "namely, the lack of clarification of some expressions used," show "the inconsistency of a hastily reformulated text with the intention of getting it passed during a time when the government is very fragile."

The law was "reworked in 25 hours, to take advantage of a favorable makeup of the parliament which is coming to an end,” the doctors charged.

The Portuguese parliament passed the euthanasia law in its last session before being dissolved for failing to approve the 2022 state budget.

According to the association, since 2015, lawmakers “have deliberately not listened to the protests of civil society, the National Council on Ethics for the Life Sciences and other bioethics associations, joint statements of religious conferences and unanimous condemnations of the Physicians of the Order and other associations of healthcare professionals.” 

“Euthanasia has already been rejected by the Assembly of the Republic, vetoed by the Constitutional Court and now returned without being enacted by the President of the Republic. The facts speak for themselves: despite the insistence of its advocates, there is no good law on euthanasia. This veto marks the end of a legislative process, leaving a bad memory,” the federation said.

The civic movement Stop Euthanasia stated in a communiqué that the time has come for the political parties to make their legislative agenda for the parliamentary elections known to the Portuguese, especially in relation to the problem of euthanasia.

According to Stop Euthanasia, this makes it "very important for the Portuguese to vote."

In addition, the organization stated that it is “extremely urgent to coordinate with the NHS [National Health Service], invest in palliative care and promote better medical care that allows a truly dignified death for all the most fragile and vulnerable in Portuguese society."

"We are waiting for more humanizing policies that put the person at the center of decisions and the life of society," they concluded.


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US:     Benedictine nuns in Missouri honor Christ the King with new album
null / Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec 3, 2021 / 15:06 pm (CNA).

After the harrowing experience of shootings at their abbey in rural Missouri, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles resolved to record an album for Christ the King in thanksgiving for His protection and governance.

“We were talking about a CD dedicated to Christ the King last year, realizing it was a feast we had not yet covered in our recording history. It seems a tumultuous time on so many levels, we thought that focus on Christ as our true leader and Prince of Peace was apt for these days. This was drilled home especially after some unfortunate incidents at the Abbey,” Mother Cecilia, abbess of the community, told CNA.

“In March, we had a series of three shootings at the Abbey, and one of the bullets entered my room, five feet from my bed. The incidents really lit a fire under us to get going on the CD we had discussed, since we realized the power of the protection of Christ and His angels over our Abbey. So the CD is also an act of gratitude to Christ our King and to all the many people who have shown their love and concern for us.”

The generosity of the abbey's benefactors has allowed the closing of the road alongside the property, “and a wall in front of our property was installed for our protection,” Mother Cecilia explained.

“We see in it a symbol of the spiritual protection Christ our King is always giving us, and it was appropriate to hail Him as the 'inexpugnable wall' in the ancient chant of Christ the King, the Laudes Regiae, sung at Charlemagne’s coronation over 1220 years ago.”

Christ the King at Ephesus is the latest offering from the chart-topping community of nuns, who have also released seasonal albums for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter; and in honor of saints and the Eucharist.

The album includes 20 songs, from well-known works such as “the traditional and melodic Christus Vincit, as well as To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King,” to pieces which have significance to the abbey, such as Catherine Maguire’s King of Kings, which Mother Cecilia noted “was sung at the high school graduation of a priest friend of the community.”

“We could not leave off The King of Love My Shepherd Is, nor Palestrina's Jesu Rex Admirabilis, familiar to many through its inclusion in The Sound of Music,” the abbess said.

“Byrd’s Non Nobis was always the starting piece for the Burke family singers. It was the father’s idea, in order to keep the kids humble! Vexilla Christus Inclyta was written for the Office of Christ the King by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi, and it was released by Pius XI the day after his publication of Quas Primas, extending the feast of Christ the King as a universal feast.”

Also included is St. Robert Southwell's The Bonnie Prince. The Jesuit priest and poet's work is set to the music of Auld Lang Syne.

Christ the King at Ephesus is the first album that the nuns have recorded in their new abbey church, which they have now been using for three years.

“We finally got to [record] in this edifice that is not only beautiful, but offers amazing acoustics, which was a real boon for the process - which has been a whirlwind!” Mother Cecilia related.

The album was recorded over two days in September, and was released the following month.

The recording and sound engineering was done by William Crain of BRC Audio in Kansas City, the abbess said. “We did the editing and production, and Will brought it all together along with the mastering.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the ancient use of the Roman rite, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Since the abbey's last album release, its church has been built, as has a guest house for families and those wishing to make a silent retreat. The community's foundress, Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, “went to her heavenly reward at 95 years old,” Mother Cecilia added. The abbess said Sr. Wilhelmina's “life and the amazing circumstances of her death” were both “a grace beyond our imaginings.”

The community has been blessed with abundant vocations in recent years, Mother Cecilia said.

A group of eight sisters was sent to found a daughter house in southern Missouri, and “We now number 55 Sisters between the two houses, and young women continue to knock on our door,” she related.

The sisters at the daughter house “are living in a temporary residence, and one which does not lend itself to growth. So the construction of this monastery is imperative, as we have no more room here at the abbey either. We certainly do not want to turn away young women who are called to this life on account of no space!”


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Vatican:     These Christian migrants prayed for a better future. Now Pope Francis is making it possible
Grace and Daniel have been stuck in Cyprus' buffer zone for more than six months after they fled Cameroon. / Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As a sign of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, the Vatican announced Friday that it is helping to arrange the transfer of about 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy.

Among the migrants that Pope Francis is helping to bring to Italy are Grace, 24, and Daniel, 20, Christians who fled Cameroon after schools were shut down due to the Anglophone Crisis, provoked by tensions between the English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority.

The two migrants met after paying the same smuggler to help them cross from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus to the Greek-speaking south, where they hoped to find asylum in the European Union.

“We were misled,” Grace said. The smuggler told them where to cross over the 16-foot-high wall that divides the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, but they were promptly taken into custody by the United Nations forces stationed in the demilitarized buffer zone.

“The most scary moment in my life so far,” said Grace, who injured her leg after jumping from the wall.

Since crossing over the wall last May, Grace and Daniel have been stuck in the buffer zone that divides Cyprus, which is also called “no man’s land,” living in a tent for more than six months.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

In an interview with EWTN News ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Cyprus, Grace said that faith in God helped to give her strength in the difficult times in Cyprus. She hopes for a better future in which she can find work.

Daniel, a Catholic, said that he would like to be able to continue his studies once he receives asylum in Europe.

“That’s what is keeping us strong because, like our faith, we believe that in any circumstances that you find yourself, never give up in life, so that saying has been keeping us strong and I believe God can do something,” Grace said.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, told EWTN that the numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus “have been really dramatic.”

“Cyprus right now receives more asylum seekers per capita than anywhere in Europe,” Kassinis said.

“It is a frontline state … all of the local systems are overwhelmed,” she added.

Recently, Kassinis has noted the arrival of people from Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, in addition to the flow of migrants from Syria and African countries.

The Caritas Cyprus migrant services center in Nicosia receives about 300 people requesting assistance each day.

“Most of the numbers that we're getting now are people who've just arrived,” she said.

Pope Francis is currently in Cyprus, where he met on Dec. 3 with a group of migrants, who shared their stories with the pope in an ecumenical prayer service in Nicosia.

“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage … but at the same time … in the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to hope, to greater human companionship,” Pope Francis said.


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Vatican:     Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI had three COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘out of conviction’
Archbishop Georg Gänswein in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 25, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that both he and Benedict XVI have received three COVID-19 vaccine doses “out of conviction.”

The pope emeritus’ private secretary made the remark in a nine-page interview in the December edition of the German publication Vatican-magazin.

The Vatican began administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in January and confirmed in February that the pope emeritus had received the second dose of the vaccine. It began to administer the third dose in October.

Gänswein was asked about Catholic opposition to coronavirus vaccines, some of which were produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses.

His interviewer said that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the United States, had criticized the Vatican for promoting a vaccination campaign.

Gänswein said that he could not understand the criticisms.

“One cannot raise the question of vaccination to the level of faith. Nor can one speak of Pope Francis having launched a media campaign for vaccination. But he did call for it and also had himself vaccinated at an early stage. That is correct,” the 65-year-old archbishop said.

“By the way, Pope Benedict and I have already been vaccinated for the third time. And we did so out of conviction.”

Pope Francis recorded a public service announcement supporting vaccination that was released in August in collaboration with the Ad Council.

Gänswein acknowledged that “every vaccination has advantages and disadvantages.” But he recalled that Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, became seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 and afterward cautioned “against any form of ideological crusade against vaccination.”

“One must not force anyone to vaccinate, that is quite clear. But one should appeal to the conscience,” Gänswein commented.

Asked if Benedict XVI saw the issue the same way, he answered in the affirmative, saying: “Otherwise he would not have had himself vaccinated three times.”

But Gänswein, who is from the Black Forest region of Germany, also criticized the Church’s response to the virus in his homeland.

“As far as Germany is concerned, I have never understood why Church authorities have sometimes even exceeded state guidelines and have been so excessively loyal to the state during the crisis,” he said.

“I understand the concern for safety and security. But when the welfare of the body is placed above the salvation of the soul, and that was not just my impression, then something is awry.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the archbishop described Benedict XVI as “stable in his physical frailty and, thank God, crystal clear in his head.”

“But it is also understandable that at 94 and after the death of his brother, which took its toll on him, his physical strength continued to decline. It is similar with his voice. The best medicine for him is humor and a steady daily rhythm,” the archbishop said.

Gänswein became personal secretary to the future Pope Benedict XVI in 2003.

He was appointed prefect of the Papal Household in 2012, continuing in the role after the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis a year later.

But he was placed on leave from his duties as prefect in 2020 to be able to dedicate his time exclusively to the former pope.

He said that the decision had troubled him, but he had been able to discuss it with Pope Francis.

“The good thing is that you can talk to him openly and directly,” he said.


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Europe:     Pope Francis in Cyprus: We encounter Jesus in the faces of migrants
Pope Francis takes part in an ecumenical prayer with migrants at the Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spent time in prayer Friday with migrants on the island of Cyprus, which currently receives more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in the European Union.

As the pope met with the migrants, the Vatican announced Dec. 3 that it had helped to arrange the transfer of 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy via an agreement between the Vatican Secretary of State with the Cypriot and Italian authorities.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope was welcomed to the Church of the Holy Cross in the divided capital of Nicosia by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“Cyprus, first among the islands of the Mediterranean, experiences the tragedy of thousands of migrants, fleeing war and misery and who stop here, with no way out, with no clear prospects for their future,” Pizzaballa said.

“It was right and proper, before ending your pilgrimage, to turn your gaze also to that painful and difficult reality that exists on this island, in which the dramas that the Mediterranean experiences every day are symbolically presented,” he added.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Four migrants, from Iraq, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shared their testimonies with the pope.

In his testimony, Rozh Najeeb from Iraq said: “I am someone who is on a journey. I have had to run away from violence, bombs, knives, hunger, and pain. I have been forced along dusty roads, pushed into trucks, hidden in the trunks of cars, thrown into leaking boats — deceived, exploited, forgotten, denied. I was forced on my journey.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Yet my journey has also been towards something. I journey every day, anxious to reach a new destination. A place of safety and health, a place that affords liberties and choices, a place where I can give and receive love, a place where I can practice my faith and my customs proudly, sharing them with others, a place where I can dare to hope,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Thamara da Silva from Sri Lanka said that each time she has to fill out migration paperwork, she must reduce her identity into “a check mark next to a box on a form.”

“I have to use a word or two to explain myself to one of the few who might choose to ask or to acknowledge that I am even here. What do I say? Usually, I must choose ‘xenos,’ foreigner, victim, asylum seeker, refugee, migrant, other, but what I want to scream is ‘person,’ sister, friend, believer, neighbor,” she said.

Pope Francis thanked the young people for sharing their testimonies, which he said were “like a mirror held up to us, to our Christian communities.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage,” Pope Francis said.

“But at the same time — as you said — the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to a hope, to greater human companionship.”

Pope Francis said that he feels that it is his responsibility to help people open their eyes to the sufferings of migrants who are held in camps.

"Looking at you, I think of so many who had to go back because they were rejected and ended up in the camps, real camps, where women are sold, men tortured, enslaved," the pope said.

"We complain when we read the stories of the camps of the last century, those of the Nazis, those of Stalin. We complain when we see this and say, 'but how did this happen?' Brothers and sisters, it is happening today, on nearby shores. ... I've watched some filmed accounts of this: places of torture, of selling people."

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The live-streamed ecumenical prayer with migrants was Pope Francis’ last public event in Cyprus before he heads to Greece on Saturday morning.

Over the weekend, the pope will meet Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II in Athens and visit refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis said that he had the image of barbed wire in his heart after seeing how it divides Nicosia amid the “war of hatred that the country experiences.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Barbed wires in other areas are in place to not let refugees in. The one who comes to ask for freedom, bread, help, brotherhood, joy, who is fleeing from hatred, finds before him a hatred called barbed wire,” the pope said.

“May the Lord awaken the conscience of all of us before these things. And excuse me if I have said things … but we cannot remain silent.”


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Europe:     Apostolic nuncio to EU dies after contracting COVID-19
Pope Francis meets Msgr. Aldo Giordano, apostolic nuncio to the European Union, on June 17, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Leuven, Belgium, Dec 3, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the apostolic nuncio to the European Union, died Thursday at the age of 67 after he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich paid tribute to the archbishop, who died on Dec. 2 in Leuven, Belgium.

“In the few months since his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, Mgsr. Giordano left a lasting mark on all of us,” said the cardinal, who is president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE).

“Motivated by his great desire to contribute to the European project from a Catholic perspective, since his arrival in Brussels he dedicated every moment to develop human and diplomatic ties.”

Giordano served as general secretary of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) from 1995 to 2008 and as permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2013.

Pope Francis appointed him apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 2013, replacing the future Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was recalled to Rome to serve as Vatican Secretary of State.

The pope named Giordano apostolic nuncio to the EU, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states, in May this year.

COMECE general secretary Father Manuel Barrios Prieto said: “It was a real blessing to meet him and to share with him beautiful moments of coexistence and fraternity, together with the bishops of COMECE.”

Giordano’s funeral will take place at the cathedral in Cuneo, a city in northern Italy where he was born in 1954. The date of the funeral has not yet been announced.


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Vatican:     Interrogation tapes in Vatican finance trial leaked to media
A hearing in the Vatican finance trial on Nov. 17, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2021 / 07:20 am (CNA).

Videotapes of interrogations with a key witness in the ongoing Vatican finance trial have been leaked to an Italian newspaper.

Corriere della Sera reported in a Dec. 3 article billed as an “exclusive” that journalists at the Italian newspaper had viewed the video footage of interviews between Vatican prosecutors and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a former official at the Secretariat of State, who was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations but has not been charged after volunteering information to investigators during extensive questioning in 2020 and 2021.

The Perlasca tapes have been at the center of arguments at recent hearings in the trial to prosecute alleged crimes committed against the Secretariat of State surrounding its purchase of a 350 million euro ($404 million) investment property in London.

Prosecutors allege that the investment went sour because people in and around the Secretariat of State conspired to defraud the Vatican of hundreds of thousands of euros.

The newspaper has published on its website over 14 minutes of excerpts of the videos of Perlasca’s depositions, in which he indicates that Pope Francis authorized the Secretariat of State to negotiate with businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London deal and is one of the trial’s defendants.

Perlasca can be seen sitting behind a table in front of a wall of guns. He claims that he was “distanced” from the London deal by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, because “everyone knew I was for the reporting of those men.”

Asked why he was distanced from the deal, Perlasca can be seen pointing upward, while he says, “because the indication from above was to deal… to deal…” Another voice can be heard interjecting, “The indication [was] from the Holy Father?” To which Perlasca replies, “Sure, sure.”

Eighteen lawyers for the defense signed a joint statement Dec. 3 condemning the publication of the video recordings for creating a “parallel trial ... in defiance of the law.”

“According to the rules of the Vatican jurisdiction, the documents formed ‘in the proceedings’ (or in the investigations) cannot be published even in part until they have been read at the trial,” the statement said, noting that the leaked video recordings have not come out yet in trial hearings.

“Therefore, this disclosure appears illegitimate and we hope that those responsible for it will be identified,” the attorneys said. “We believe that the right of defense must be respected and implemented with every possible attention.”

Perlasca's statements about Pope Francis had also been made public via transcripts in a note from defendant Enrico Crasso’s lawyer to the court in a hearing on Nov. 17. The lawyer used the statement to raise questions about Pope Francis’ involvement in the deal at the center of the trial, arguing that if the pope was questioned regarding the London investment, his testimony should be considered part of the evidence.

For the defense attorney, it indicated another reason why the tribunal should nullify one of the indictments against his client.

Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone said at the Nov. 17 hearing that he would rule at the next audience, now postponed to Dec. 14, on the defense’s new request to dismiss the trial on procedural grounds.

At a previous hearing, Pignatone decided to throw out several of the indictments against a number of the original 10 defendants on procedural grounds.

While the prosecutor’s office — called the Promoter of Justice — decides whether to re-do the investigations and again present the dismissed indictments, the trial proceeds with six defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.

At the most recent hearing on Nov. 17, defense lawyers complained that parts had been edited out of the video recordings of Perlasca’s interviews, after the prosecution had finally handed copies over to the attorneys after an order by court president Pignatone.

This story was updated at 9:53 MST with the lawyers' statement.


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Europe:     Pope Francis to Catholics in Cyprus: ‘Jesus alone frees the heart from evil’
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec 3, 2021 / 04:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that “Jesus alone frees the heart from evil” as he celebrated Mass in the divided capital city of Cyprus.

Preaching at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Dec. 3, the pope described Christ as a “physician” eager to bring healing to the human heart.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Jesus is the physician: he alone is the true light that illuminates every man and woman, the one who gives us an abundance of light, warmth, and love. Jesus alone frees the heart from evil,” he said at the live-streamed Mass.

The pope was offering Mass on the second day of his visit to Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1.2 million people.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

The country is predominantly Orthodox Christian, with a Catholic minority of around 10,000 people — the estimated attendance figure at the Mass, according to the Holy See press office.

The booklet for the Mass, celebrated on the feast of St. Francis Xavier in the largest stadium in Cyprus, included Latin, English, Greek, and Italian.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope based his homily on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 9:27-31, in which Jesus heals two blind men who call out to him.

He reflected on three facets of the encounter: first, that the men went to Jesus for healing; second, that they shared their pain; and third, that they joyfully proclaimed the Good News.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Like those two blind men, we are often like wayfarers, immersed in the darkness of life,” he said.

“The first thing to do in response is go to Jesus, just as he tells us: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Is there any one of us who is not, in some way, tired or heavy laden? Everyone. Yet, we resist coming to Jesus. Often we would rather remain closed in on ourselves, alone in our darkness, feeling sorry for ourselves and content to have sadness as our companion.”

The pope urged Catholics instead to follow Jesus, telling him their needs, and handing over their bitterness to him.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass at the same altar that Benedict XVI used during his trip to Cyprus in 2010, when he became the first pope to visit the island.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis was flanked by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the leader of the Maronite Church, one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. The cardinal had welcomed the pope to the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia on the first day of his visit.

Pope Francis greets Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greets Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem. Vatican Media.

Also at the pope’s side in the home stadium of the Cyprus national soccer team was the Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem, who oversees the pastoral care of Latin Catholics in Cyprus.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

The pope, who turns 85 on Dec. 17, said that Catholics had much to learn from the way that the two blind men shared their suffering with Jesus, asking him to have mercy on them.

“Each of us is blind in some way as a result of sin, which prevents us from ‘seeing’ God as our Father and one another as brothers and sisters. For that is what sin does; it distorts reality: it makes us see God as a tyrant and each other as problems,” the pope reflected.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

“It is the work of the tempter, who distorts things, putting them in a negative light, to make us fall into despair and bitterness. And a terrible sadness, which is dangerous and not from God, lurks well in solitude. So, one must not face the darkness alone. If we bear our inner blindness alone, we can become overwhelmed.”

He said that healing occurs when Christians carry their pain together, listening deeply to one another.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope noted that the two blind men began to share the news of their healing, despite Jesus’ request that they tell no one.

“From what we are told, it is clear that their intention was not to disobey the Lord; they were simply unable to contain their excitement at their healing and the joy of their encounter with Jesus,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, he continued: “This is another distinctive sign of the Christian: the irrepressible joy of the Gospel, which ‘fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.’ The joy of the Gospel frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy, and querulous faith, and leads us into the dynamism of witness.”

He thanked Catholics in Cyprus for their witness to the Gospel.

“It is not proselytism — please, never proselytize — but witness; not a moralism that judges — no, don’t do that — but a mercy that embraces; not superficial piety but love lived out. I encourage you to keep advancing on this path,” he said.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

Concluding his homily, he said: “Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus is passing, passing also through the streets of Cyprus, hearing the cries of our blindness.”

“He wants to touch our eyes and hearts and to lead us to the light, to rebirth and raise us up within. He asks us the same question that he asked the two blind men: ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ (Matthew 9:28).”

“Do we believe that Jesus can do this? Let us renew our faith in him. Let us say to him: Jesus, we believe that your light is greater than our darkness; we believe that you can heal us, that you can renew our fellowship, that you can increase our joy. With the entire Church, let us pray, all together: Come, Lord Jesus!”


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Europe:     Pope Francis to Orthodox bishops in Cyprus: Let us seek full unity
Pope Francis addresses Orthodox bishops in the Orthodox Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 01:15 am (CNA).

In a meeting with Orthodox bishops in Cyprus on Friday, Pope Francis expressed the desire that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church will continue to journey toward full unity.

The live-streamed meeting with members of the Holy Synod took place on the second day of Francis’ Dec. 2-6 trip to the Mediterranean island countries of Cyprus and Greece.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Holy Synod is the highest authority of the Church of Cyprus, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church.

“The grace of being here reminds me that we have a common apostolic origin: Paul traversed Cyprus and went on to Rome,” Pope Francis said Dec. 3. “We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us, that of the Gospel. I like to see us advancing on that same path, seeking ever greater fraternity and full unity.”

The meeting with Orthodox bishops followed a private meeting between Francis and Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, at his residence early Friday morning.

Pope Francis said in his speech that he had been touched by the way that Chrysostomos II had spoken about the Church as a mother.

Chrysostomos II represented the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the opening Mass of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Benedict XVI and Chrysostomos II met another two times at the Vatican and during Benedict’s own trip to Cyprus in 2010 — the first papal visit to the island.

Pope Francis kisses the pectoral cross of Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis kisses the pectoral cross of Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus. Vatican Media.

Pope Francis thanked the bishops for their active participation in the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

He reflected on the example of St. Barnabas, an apostle who came from Cyprus and helped St. Paul to spread the Gospel among pagans.

“Barnabas, son of consolation, exhorts us, his brethren, to undertake the same mission of bringing the Gospel to humanity; he asks us to realize that the message cannot be based only on generic exhortations, the inculcation of precepts and rules to be followed, as often has been the case,” the pope said.

“Rather, it must follow the path of personal encounter, be attentive to people’s questions, to their existential needs.”

“Because the Gospel is not handed on by communication, but by communion,” Francis emphasized. “It is this that we Catholics want to experience in the next few years, as we rediscover the synodal dimension, which is essential to being Church.”

“In this, we feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis met the Holy Synod in the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian, the Orthodox cathedral of the Church of Cyprus in Nicosia, the country’s divided capital city. The cathedral was built in the 14th century and the interior features frescoes depicting scenes from Scripture.

“It is my heartfelt hope that there will be increased opportunities for encounter, for coming to know one another better, for eliminating preconceptions and for listening with docility to our respective experiences of faith,” the pope said in his speech.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He also spoke about the importance of keeping what is sacred, but not “absolutizing” certain customs and habits “that do not require uniformity and assent on the part of all.”

“Let us not become paralyzed by fear of openness or bold gestures, or give in to talk of ‘irreconcilable differences’ that in fact have nothing to do with the Gospel. Let us not permit the ‘traditions,’ in the plural and with a small ‘t,’ to prevail over ‘Tradition’ in the singular and with a capital ‘T,’” he said.

“That Tradition bids us imitate Barnabas and leave behind everything, however good, that could compromise the fullness of communion, the primacy of charity, and the need for unity.”

Pope Francis said that St. Barnabas laid all he had at the feet of the Apostles, and “we too are asked by the Lord to realize that we are members of the same body and to bow down, even to the feet of our brethren.”

He noted the deep divide that exists between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but said that “the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another.”

“[The Holy Spirit] invites us not to grow resigned to our past divisions and to cultivate together the field of the kingdom with patience, perseverance, and concrete gestures,” he said. “For if we set aside abstract concepts and cooperate, for example in works of charity, education and the promotion of human dignity, we will rediscover our fraternity, and communion will mature by itself, to the praise of God.”

Francis said that Cyprus’ Church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa, “Our Lady of the Golden City,” is a concrete example of fraternity, since it serves as a place of worship for all of the Christian confessions in the country.

“It is thus a sign of communion in faith and life under the gaze of the Mother of God who gathers her children together,” he said.

“Each will maintain his own customs and identity, but in time, our joint efforts will increase concord and bear fruit,” the pope continued. “Just as these beautiful Mediterranean lands are embellished by respectful and patient human labor, so too, with God’s help and humble perseverance, may we cultivate our apostolic communion.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis landed on Dec. 2 in Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip that will also take him to Athens, Greece, and the island of Lesbos. The visit is expected to highlight the plight of migrants, since both countries have been major stopping points for people seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

The predominantly Orthodox Christian Republic of Cyprus has a population of 1.2 million people, just 10,000 of whom are Catholic.

The island is split by a U.N. buffer zone, with the de facto state of Northern Cyprus located on the northeastern portion of the island. The predominantly Sunni Muslim territory is recognized only by neighboring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is regarded by all other states as part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus and Greece are significant in early Christian history, because the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas traveled to the Mediterranean countries to bring the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

“Dear brethren, I wish to assure you of my own prayer and closeness, and that of the Catholic Church, in the most troubling problems that beset you and in the best and boldest hopes that spur you on,” Pope Francis told the Orthodox bishops. “Your sorrows and your joys are also ours; we sense them as our own. At the same time, we feel great need of your prayers.”


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Middle East - Africa:     'Fulani association' warns Christians in Nigerian state to close churches or risk attacks
A Fulani herdsman in Cameroon. / Philippe Semanaz via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sokoto, Nigeria, Dec 2, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Christians in Nigeria’s Zamfara State have been cautioned against public worship in churches lest they be attacked, abducted, and their places of worship torched.

The warning, for which a “Fulani association” claims responsibility, is contained in a letter circulated by the office of the state police commissioner.  

“The command has already alerted its Divisions/Formations for immediate proactive action and deployment of men at churches especially during services,” the police leadership in Zamfara said in reaction to what it described as “an anonymous letter threatening to launch attack on churches, especially churches located at the outskirt of the metropolis.”

The threatening letter was delivered to police headquarters in Gusau, the state capital, Nov. 19.

In the document, members of the "Fulani association who are planning to launch war against Christian religion" claimed responsibility of the "anonymous letter".

“We want churches to be closed from now to the next three years. If they are not closed, we will start burning them,” those behind the letter threatened, and added in reference to Christians in Zamfara, “We will follow their pastors to their houses whether during raining or in the mid night and kidnap them and their family.”

They claimed responsibility of some previous attacks on Nigerians saying, “We have been harming people but we have forgotten the Christians. So, we will start from now until Christmas time. We are going to start with churches located out skirt of Gusau.”

“We are going to start kidnapping of Christians and burning of their churches located outskirt of Gusau town and we are going to do it when no one expect it to happen.”

The letter said, “We are taking this action because they (Christians) were the one that started causing this problem; they harmed our children at Saminaka area and chased away our cows while on rearing behind Karma Hotel.”

According SaharaReporters, security officials in Zamfara said they have taken precautionary measures following the threats.

Mohammed Shehu, spokesperson for the Zamfara State police command, DSP, said that Christian Association of Nigeria leadership in Zamfara had been invited to “discuss security measures around the churches.”

“In that regard, a special squad has been created by the CP to patrol and protect worshippers, especially on Sundays,” the security official said, adding, “plain-clothes personnel have been deployed for intelligence gathering and to unravel those behind the threat letter.”

Speaking to ACI Africa Dec. 1, the Director of Communications of the Diocese of Sokoto said measures are being taken to protect Christians.

“No formal statement has been made by Church officials in the State but internal strategies are at work,” Fr. Chris Omotosho said.

In a Dec. 1 message, CAN representatives in Zamfara said, “Threat against Christians and churches by the terrorists is a divisive strategy against the effort of Christian and Muslim leaders towards ending criminalities in the North-West.”

“We know that all kidnappings and other criminalities being perpetrated in the North-Western part of the country are the handiwork of terrorists who either migrated from the North-East or those who were released under the purported rehabilitation program of the Federal government,” the Christian leaders said in their message, “No Christian Should Be Killed in Zamfara.”

They added, “Now that a Federal High Court has labelled those criminals terrorists, we call on the Police, the military authorities and other security agencies to rise up to the challenge of the terrorists who have turned kidnappings into the biggest business venture in the geopolitical zone.”

“The way and manner by which our security agencies have been handling those criminals are totally unacceptable, reprehensible and unprecedented. Criminals are criminals irrespective of their religious, political and ethnic affiliations,” CAN wrote.

“The leadership of the national Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in our recent visit to Sokoto and Kebbi states was alarmed, surprised and shocked by the record of those criminals who are killing and kidnapping with impunity in the area as if there was a pact between them and the security agencies,” the Christian representatives recalled.

CAN stated that with Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria working together to stop sectarian criminality in the northwest, the criminals “are now trying to introduce divisive ways by declaring war against Christians and churches in the zone especially in Zamfara State where they are gradually turning into their strongholds.”

“We have no problem with Islam or with our Muslim brothers and sisters but with the handful fanatics and their financiers who have declared war against Christianity,” they said.

CAN representatives in Zamfara appealed to all peace-loving Muslims “to speak against those who are painting Islam what is not. We know that there is no right-thinking Muslim leader who will be happy with the killings of Christians.”

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to sanction any Commissioner of Police or Zonal Police Commanders and the Director of State Security Services wherever kidnappers operate in the country henceforth. This will go a long way in reducing the menace as we are approaching the Yuletide season,” they said.

The Christian leaders urge the federal government “to refund all the ransom paid for the release of those who were abducted in the last five years.” 

“President Buhari should also direct the Police to arraign all suspected kidnappers, bandits and terrorists in their custody with a view to stopping those who are perpetrating the atrocities. Failure to do this will force the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to ask our members to embrace the principle of self-defense wherever the security agencies appeared compromised,” they added.

Nigeria has been grappling with insecurity since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began targeted attacks with the aim of turning Africa's most populous nation into an Islamic State.

Members of the Islamist group have organized attacks on various targets including civilians and political and religious leaders.


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US:     15 photos from outside the Supreme Court during the Dobbs abortion case
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Thousands of abortion supporters and pro-life Americans rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 as justices heard oral arguments in the historic abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

Here’s what it looked like outside of the Supreme Court:

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA


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Americas:     What would the overturning of Roe mean for Latin America?
A pro-life march in Mexico City, Oct. 3, 2021. / David Ramos/CNA.

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 2, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

If the US Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country in 1973, what impact would it have on Latin America? Pro-life leaders in Latin America spoke to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, about how a ruling reversing Roe v. Wade would impact each of their countries.

A key effect, the leaders explained, is that there would be less pressure to legalize abortion in the region, which often comes politically and economically from the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week state abortion ban Dec. 1. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could overturn the court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which has barred restrictive early-term abortion laws like Mississippi’s for the past 48 years.

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family of Mexico, and vice president of the Political Network for Values, told ACI Prensa that a decision reversing Roe v. Wade "would mean a huge setback for the ideological activism for the culture of death" that the United States exerts in Latin America, especially under the Biden administration.

Cortés said, "it has been clearly noted that that administration is putting pressure on Mexico to change laws and policies to impose abortion."

In addition, he said that this change "would mean a very important example" for the magistrates on Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, who "are clearly subservient to that ideology of death."

Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, stressed that if Roe v. Wade were overturned "it would help El Salvador, in the sense that the arguments and lies that were used in the United States to legalize abortion, and that are still used here by those promoting the abortion industry, would be undercut."

Although one would expect "more pressure from International Planned Parenthood Federation, in a desperate attempt to legalize its lucrative business that would be greatly affected," the president of the Yes to Life Foundation emphasized that with a pro-life ruling by the United States Supreme Court "the humanity of the 15-week fetus would become more evident, which has already been demonstrated by science and technology."

Ligia Briz, executive director of the The Family Matters Association of Guatemala, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be excellent news for us."

"The organizations that are trying to push this issue in our countries, going against our legislation, especially in Guatemala, by law they will have to cease and desist," she said.

Giuliana Caccia, director of the Origen Association in Peru, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be a clear example of an indisputable premise, which is that the truth always triumphs."

“In Peru, I think that, if it were reversed, it would give us an indisputable argument, because this ruling was always invoked. Abortion has no legal basis, and no ruling or law can deny that it is a duty to defend life from conception, under any circumstance," she said.

“Our country is one of the nations that has resisted the most, because abortion is legal in Argentina and in many countries in the region. The reversal of the ruling would be one more weapon to continue containing the advancement of this regional agenda that is making steady progress through NGOs financed by international collaboration,” she said.

The president of the More Life Foundation of Argentina, Raúl Magnasco, told ACI Prensa that "the possibility of reversing" Roe v. Wade “means for the whole world a very important ray of hope.”

“As the United States is the most influential country in terms of the communications media, it would mean great progress for the entire region and the world, which would understand, in light of the North American experience, that the future is inclusive regarding the care and recognition of both lives, the mother’s and the unborn child’s,” he stated.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, stressed that the Roe v. Wade decision "has been disastrous not only for the United States but for the world," because "abortion was legalized through a juridical act that ended up exceeding the functions of the Supreme Court, because it’s practically a kind of legislation contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which protects human nature and the people as a whole.”

"In fact, in Colombia the model that has been used to decriminalize abortion has been precisely that of the United States, since the Constitutional Court, acting against the Constitution, has decriminalized abortion," he said.

For Magaña, "if the ruling is reversed, it would be very important because it would put the Judiciary back within its just limits and the democratic process."

Thus "this terrible imbalance” would be avoided “that we have today in our countries, where the interference of the judiciary is so aggressive that it ends up destroying the democratic system by invading the domains of the legislative or executive branch,” he said.

For Elizabeth Bunster, director of Project Hope in Chile, “the possibility of reversing Roe v. Wade would be a sign of hope in the face of a powerful onslaught against life in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Although Chile’s Chamber of Deputies narrowly defeated a bill Nov. 30 that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, "we know that there are groups that will continue to insist on this law," she said.

If Roe v. Wade were reversed “it would represent great hope for Chile because one of the arguments wielded to legalize abortion is to talk about the progressivism of developed countries.”

"The United States is seen as a model for these issues," she noted.

Also contributing to this article were Walter Sánchez Silva and Diego López Marina.


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US:     'Come to our rescue': Nigerian priest to international community after month of captivity
Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, who was held captive for more than a month by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria's Kaduna state earlier this year. / Aid to the Church in Need.

Kaduna, Nigeria, Dec 2, 2021 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

A Nigerian priest who spent more than a month in captivity following his abduction earlier this year has called on the international community to come to the aid of the people of God in Nigeria’s Kaduna State amid heightened insecurity.

Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, told Aid to the Church in Need Nov. 25 attacks from the predominantly Muslim Fulani herders “have become very common in Kaduna state.”

“I am therefore calling on the international community to please come to our rescue,” Fr. Awesuh told the pontifical charity organization.

In a September 2021 report, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) ranked Kaduna as one of Nigeria’s least secure states.

Intersociety members said in the report that at least 608 people in Kaduna state have lost their lives in what has been described as “Christian butcheries” perpetrated by Fulani bandits in the first nine months of the year. 

The report also indicated that 4,400 Christians in Nigeria have been killed, while at least 20 priests and pastors have been murdered or abducted in the West African nation.

Fr. Awesuh told Aid to the Church in Need that Fulani herdsmen stormed his residence in Kachia Local Government Area at 11 pm May 16. 

“I heard gunshots and I quickly turned off the television set. Turning off the light, I saw shadows and heard footsteps. I carefully opened the curtain to see what was going on. I saw five bulky Fulani herdsmen who were well-armed. I recognized them by their dress and by the way they spoke. I stood there confused, not knowing what to do, as I felt completely lost,” the priest recounted.

He added that his body became stiff and started sweating profusely after the attackers knocked at his door.

“They kept on knocking, but, afraid, I refused to open the door. They broke down the door and forced themselves inside. One of the men pushed me to the floor, tied me up and flogged me mercilessly, saying ka ki ka bude mana kofa da tsori (‘you are getting tortured because you kept us standing outside for so long and refused to open the door when we were knocking’). They stripped me naked down to my shorts.”

Abducted along with ten of his parishioners, the priest said that for the next three days they trekked in the bushes feeding only on mangos.

“We were hungry, tired, and weak and our legs hurt a lot and our feet were swollen as we trekked barefoot. There was rain on the second and third days, but we had to keep moving. On the third day, we arrived at a camp deep in the forest,” Fr. Awesuh said.

They remained in the forest for nearly five weeks, where they were fed with rice, oil, and salt. The food was prepared by the women who had been kidnapped, he added.

“We were not allowed to bathe throughout our captivity. We had to urinate and defecate in the hut. We were smelling like dead bodies and the hut smelled like a mortuary. We were tortured and threatened with death if a ransom of 50 million naira ($120,000) was not paid,” Fr. Awesuh said. 

He related that “Our families pleaded and negotiated with our kidnappers, until they finally accepted the sum of 7 million naira ($17,000).”

The priest recalled that three parishioners tracked down the abductees, meaning to rescue them, but they lost their lives in the process.

“Oh, what sorrow to have watched three of my parishioners shot dead in cold blood, right before my eyes—and I couldn’t do anything. It was very painful! At this point, I felt helpless, hopeless, useless, and restless! I urgently craved for death to take me, as the scene of the killings kept playing in my head.”

“Whenever I opened my mouth to pray, words failed me. All I could say was ‘Lord have mercy,’” Fr. Awesuh recounted.

He thanked God for his freedom saying, “To the greater glory of God’s name, we were released and came out alive. I narrowly escaped death. I know of so many priests kidnapped before and after me who were killed even after a ransom was paid.”

Fr. Awesuh, whose current location remains undisclosed for security reasons, said he has undergone counselling.

“The love I received and experienced from my family, friends and especially the Church, was enormous,” he concluded.


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Europe:     Pope Francis tells Cypriot authorities he is praying for ‘the peace of the entire island’
Pope Francis addresses the authorities, civil society, and diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec 2, 2021 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told Cypriot authorities on Thursday that he is praying for “the peace of the entire island.”

The pope addressed political leaders, representatives of civil society, and members of the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in the capital, Nicosia, on Dec. 2, hours after he arrived on the island divided by a U.N. buffer zone.

Pope Francis with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.
Pope Francis with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

He described the de facto partition of the island as “the greatest wound suffered by this land.”

“I pray for your peace, for the peace of the entire island, and I make it my fervent hope,” he said.

“The way of peace, which reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, has a single word as its signpost. That word is dialogue.”

Pope Francis is the second pope to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI made a three-day trip to the Mediterranean island in 2010. He is embarking on a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece, another predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

Pope Francis meets Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis meets Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Vatican Media.

In his live-streamed address, the pope described Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1.2 million people, as “a country geographically small, but historically great.”

He said that the nation has served as “the eastern gate of Europe and the western gate of the Middle East,” offering “an open door, a harbor that unites.”

“Cyprus, as a crossroads of civilizations, has an innate vocation to encounter, favored by the welcoming character of the Cypriot people,” he said.

The island of Cyprus also contains Northern Cyprus, a predominantly Sunni Muslim territory located on the northeastern portion of the island.

Northern Cyprus is recognized only by neighboring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is considered part of the Republic of Cyprus by all other states.

Pope Francis left Rome at 11 a.m. local time on Thursday. After touching down at Larnaca International Airport, he traveled to the divided capital city, where he addressed members of the country’s Catholic minority at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia.

He was then driven to the Presidential Palace, where he paid a courtesy visit to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who later gave a speech praising the pope’s outreach to the poor and defense of the environment.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Anastasiades said that Cyprus receives an outsized share of migrants compared to other European Union member states and thanked the pope for his role in transferring 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy.

“Your symbolic initiative is, first of all, a strong message about the need for a much-needed review of EU immigration policy, so that, on the one hand, there is a fairer division of the management of problems and, on the other, and a more humane life for those who emigrate to the member states,” he said.

Flanked by Anastasiades, the pope visited a statue of Makarios III, the first president of Cyprus, in the Presidential Palace gardens. Considered the “Father of the Nation,” Makarios was also the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus. He survived four attempts on his life and a coup during his three presidential terms.

Pope Francis with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades before a statue of Makarios III at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades before a statue of Makarios III at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Vatican Media.

Pope Francis paid tribute to Makarios in his address to the country’s leaders, pointing out that his name means “blessed” in Greek, which, he said, evoked the Beatitudes presented by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.

The pope noted that Cyprus played an important role in early Christian history.

“Precisely from this place, where Europe and the East meet, there began the first great inculturation of the Gospel on this continent,” he said.

“I am deeply moved to be able to retrace the steps of the great missionaries of the early Church, particularly Saints Paul, Barnabas, and Mark.”

The pope compared the island, with its natural beauty and man-made treasures, to “a pearl of great price in the heart of the Mediterranean,” alluding to Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl, recounted in the Gospel of Matthew.

He said: “A pearl in fact becomes what it is because it takes shape over time. It takes years for its various layers to become compact and give it luster.”

“So too, the beauty of this land comes from the cultures which over the centuries have met and blended here. Today too, the light of Cyprus is richly variegated.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He went on: “Many peoples and nations have contributed different shades and tints to this people. I think too of the presence of many immigrants: percentagewise, more than any other country of the European Union.”

“To preserve the multicolored and multifaceted beauty of the whole is no easy thing. As in the formation of a pearl, it takes time and patience; it demands a broad vision capable of embracing a variety of cultures and looking to the future with foresight.”

“I think in this regard of the importance of protecting and supporting all the members of society, especially those who are statistically a minority.”

The pope observed that a pearl is created when an oyster faces “an unexpected threat to its safety,” such as a grain of sand.

The Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.
The Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

“To protect itself, it reacts by assimilating the thing that wounded it: it encloses the foreign body that endangers it and makes it into something beautiful: a pearl,” he said.

“The pearl of Cyprus has been darkened by the pandemic, which has prevented many visitors from visiting it and seeing its beauty; here, as in other places, this has aggravated the effects of the financial and economic crisis.”

“In this period of recovery, however, it will not be anxious efforts to recover what was lost that will ensure and consolidate growth, but the commitment to promote the recovery of society, especially through a decisive fight against corruption and everything that violates the dignity of the person; here I think, for example, of the scourge of human trafficking.”

The statue of Archbishop Makarios in the grounds of the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.
The statue of Archbishop Makarios in the grounds of the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

Pope Francis urged the Cypriot authorities to make bold gestures to try to achieve reconciliation between the island’s divided peoples.

“Not gestures of power, threats of reprisal and shows of force, but gestures of détente and concrete steps towards dialogue,” he suggested.

“I think, for example, of openness to sincere discussion that would give priority to people’s needs, ever more effective involvement on the part of the international community, the need to protect the religious and cultural heritage, and the restitution of all that people hold most precious in that regard, such as places or at least sacred furnishings.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope praised a peacebuilding initiative called the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Project, which brings together the island’s religious leaders under the auspices of the Swedish embassy.

“Times that seem least favorable, when dialogue languishes, can be the very times that prepare for peace,” he said.

“The pearl also reminds us of this, for it takes shape in the patient, hidden process of weaving new substances together with the agent that caused the wound.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope urged dispirited leaders to think of younger generations that long for a “world of peace,” rather than “one marred by perennial rivalries and poisoned by unresolved disputes.”

“Cyprus, as a geographic, historical, cultural, and religious crossroads, is in a position to be a peacemaker. May it be a workshop of peace in the Mediterranean,” he said.

“Peace is not often achieved by great personalities, but by the daily determination of ordinary men and women. The European continent needs reconciliation and unity; it needs courage and enthusiasm, if it is to move forward.”

“For it will not be the walls of fear and the vetoes dictated by nationalist interests that ensure its progress, nor will economic recovery alone serve to guarantee its security and stability.”

He concluded: “May we look to the history of Cyprus to see how encounter and welcome have brought forth good fruits that endure. Not only in the history of Christianity, for which Cyprus was ‘the springboard’ on this continent, but also for the building of a society which found its richness in integration.”

“This spirit of enlargement, this ability to look beyond one’s own borders, brings rejuvenation and makes possible the rediscovery of a brilliance that was lost.”


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Europe:     Pope Francis invites Catholics in Cyprus to be agents of fraternity
Pope Francis visits the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2021 / 08:47 am (CNA).

On his first day in Cyprus, Pope Francis invited the Catholic community to promote a spirit of fraternity in the island country, which is divided by a U.N. buffer zone.

“We need a fraternal Church, one that is an agent of fraternity in our world,” the pope said Dec. 2, shortly after arriving in Nicosia, the divided capital city.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his live-streamed speech at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace, Francis said that “in Cyprus, there are many spiritual and ecclesial sensibilities, different backgrounds and histories, different rites and traditions. Yet we should not experience diversity as a threat to identity; no, we should not be jealous or defensive.”

“If we fall into this temptation, then fear grows, and fear gives rise to distrust, distrust leads to suspicion and then, sooner or later, to conflict,” he continued. “We are brothers and sisters, loved by a single Father.”

Pope Francis landed Thursday afternoon in Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip that will also take him to Athens, Greece, and the island of Lesbos. The visit is expected to highlight the plight of migrants, since both countries have been major stopping points for migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

Pope Francis boards the plane to Cyprus at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Dec. 2, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis boards the plane to Cyprus at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Dec. 2, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The pope touched down at Larnaca International Airport, then traveled the 31 miles to Nicosia by car.

Addressing Catholic priests, consecrated, deacons, catechists, and ecclesial associations and movements of Cyprus, he said: “By your spirit of fraternity, you can remind everyone, and Europe as a whole, that we need to work together to build a future worthy of humanity, to overcome divisions, to break down walls, to dream and work for unity. We need to welcome and integrate one another, and to walk together as brothers and sisters, all of us.”

The predominantly Orthodox Christian Republic of Cyprus has a population of 1.2 million people, just 10,000 of whom are Catholic.

The island is split by a U.N. buffer zone, with the de facto state of Northern Cyprus located on the northeastern portion of the island. The predominantly Sunni Muslim territory is recognized only by neighboring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is regarded by all other states as part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Before leaving the Vatican on Dec. 2, Francis greeted around 12 migrants from Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, and Syria, now living in Italy. Some of them were migrants who came to Rome on the plane with Pope Francis after his 2016 visit to Lesbos.

On his way to the airport, the pope stopped to meet another group of immigrants hosted by the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a parish close to Fiumicino Airport. While there, he also prayed before an image of Our Lady of Loreto.

The night before the trip, Francis made his customary stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to visit the icon of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, to ask for her intercession for his travels.

Pope Francis prays before the icon Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on Dec. 1, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis prays before the icon Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on Dec. 1, 2021. Vatican Media.

Cyprus and Greece are significant in early Christian history, because the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas traveled to the Mediterranean countries to bring the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the head of the Maronite Church, traveled from the Holy Land and Lebanon to be present at the pope’s encounter with Maronite and Latin Catholics in Cyprus Dec. 2.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Maronite Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. There are an estimated 3 million Maronite Catholics worldwide, around a million of whom live in Lebanon.

After listening to songs and testimony from Raï and two religious sisters, Pope Francis spoke about St. Barnabas, the apostle who was born on the island of Cyprus.

Barnabas “was a great man of faith and wisdom chosen by the Church in Jerusalem — the Mother Church, we could say — as the person best suited to visit a new community, that of Antioch, made up of a number of recent converts from paganism,” Francis said, praising the patience that Barnabas showed to “people coming from another whole world, another culture, another religious sensibility.”

“They were people who had just had a life-changing experience; theirs was a faith full of enthusiasm, yet still fragile,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Barnabas, he added, had “the patience of discernment that is capable of perceiving the signs of God’s work in every place, the patience to ‘study’ other cultures and traditions. Above all else, Barnabas had the patience of accompaniment ... he did not overwhelm the fragile faith of the newcomers by taking a rigorous and inflexible approach, or by making excessive demands about the observance of precepts. He accompanied them, taking them by the hand and dialoguing with them.”

Pope Francis invited Catholics in Cyprus to have the same patience.

“The work you are carrying out on this island, as you welcome new brothers and sisters arriving from other shores of the world, is precious,” he said. “Like Barnabas, you too are called to foster a patient and attentive outlook, to be visible and credible signs of the patience of God, who never leaves anyone outside the home, bereft of his loving embrace.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He pointed out that Barnabas is also a good example of fraternity, as seen in his friendship with St. Paul, which they were able to maintain even through disagreements about how to carry out their mission.

“I share with you my joy in visiting this land and journeying as a pilgrim in the footsteps of the great apostle Barnabas, a son of this people, a disciple who loved Jesus and a fearless herald of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

“As he visited the emerging Christian communities, [Barnabas] saw the grace of God at work; he rejoiced and urged everyone ‘to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose’ (cf. Acts 11:23). I come with the same desire: to see the grace of God at work in your Church and in your land, to rejoice with you at the wondrous things the Lord has done, and to urge you to persevere always, without growing weary or discouraged,” he said.


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US:     Dobbs Day: Here's what it was like at the rallies outside the Supreme Court
Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Anna Del Duca and daughter, Frances, woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to brave the 30-degree weather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. They arrived hours before oral arguments began in the highly-anticipated abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

“We're looking forward to the end of Roe versus Wade in our country,” Anna, who drove from Pittsburgh Tuesday night, told CNA. In her hands, she held a sign reading, “I regret my abortion.”

Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

“I would like to use my testimony to be a blessing to others,” she said, so that “others will choose life or those who have regretted abortion or had an abortion would turn to Jesus.”

Anna remembered having an abortion when she was just 19. Today, she and her daughter run a group called Restorers of Streets to Dwell In Pittsburgh that offers help to women seeking healing after abortion. 

Anna and Frances were among thousands of Americans who rallied outside the Supreme Court before, during, and after the oral arguments. To accommodate them, law enforcement closed the street in front of the court. Capitol police also placed fencing in the space in front of the building in an attempt to physically separate rallies held by abortion supporters and pro-lifers.

At 21-weeks pregnant, pro-life speaker Alison Centofante emceed the pro-life rally, called, “Empower Women Promote Life.” The event featured a slew of pro-life women of diverse backgrounds and numerous politicians.

“It’s funny, there were so many diverse speakers today that the only unifying thread was that we want to protect preborn children,” Centofante told CNA. They included Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, women who chose life, and women who regretted their abortions, she said.

She recognized women there, including Aimee Murphy, as people who are not the typical “cookie cutter pro-lifer.”

Aimee Murphy, 32, founder of pro-life group Rehumanize International, arrived at the Supreme Court around 6:30 a.m. She drove from Pittsburgh the night before. Her sign read, “Queer Latina feminist rape survivor against abortion.”“At Rehumanize International, we oppose all forms of aggressive violence,” she told CNA. “Even as a secular and non-partisan organization, we understand that abortion is the most urgent cause that we must stand against in our modern day and age because it takes on average over 800,000 lives a year.”

She also had a personal reason for attending. 

“When I was 16 years old, I was raped and my rapist then threatened to kill me if I didn't have an abortion,” she revealed.

“It was when he threatened me that I felt finally a solidarity with unborn children and I understood then that, yeah, the science told me that a life begins at conception, but that I couldn't be like my abusive ex and pass on the violence and oppression of abortion to another human being — that all that I would be doing in having an abortion would be telling my child, ‘You are an inconvenience to me and to my future, therefore I'm going to kill you,’ which is exactly the same thing that my rapist was telling me when he threatened to kill me.”

On the other side of the police fence, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Access Coalition and NARAL Pro-Choice America participated in another rally. Yellow balloons printed with the words “BANS OFF OUR BODIES” escaped into the sky. Several pro-choice demonstrators declined to speak with CNA.

Voices clashed in the air as people, the majority of whom were women, spoke into their respective microphones at both rallies. Abortion supporters stressed bodily autonomy, while pro-lifers recognized the humanity of the unborn child. Chants arose from both sides at different points, from “Whose choice? My choice!” to “Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!”

At 10 a.m., the pro-life crowd sudddenly went silent as the oral arguments began and the rally paused temporarily as live audio played through speakers.

Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

During the oral arguments, students from Liberty University knelt in prayer. One student estimated that more than a thousand students from the school made the more than 3-hour trip from Lynchburg, Virginia.

“Talking about our faith is one thing, but actually acting upon it is another,” he said. “We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. So to me this is part of doing that.”

Sister Mary Karen, who has been with the Sisters of Life for 21 years, also stressed the importance of prayer. She drove from New York earlier that morning because, she said, she felt drawn to attend. She came, she said, to pray for the country and promote the dignity of a human person. 

“Our culture is post-abortive,” she explained. “So many people have suffered and the loss of human life is so detrimental, just not knowing that we have value and are precious and sacred.”

Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA

She stood next to Theresa Bonopartis, who traveled from Harrison, New York, and ministers to women and others wounded by abortion.

“I've been fighting abortion for 30 years at least,” she told CNA. 

Her ministry, called Entering Canaan, began with the Sisters of Life and is observing its 25th anniversary this year. It provides retreats for women, men, and even siblings of aborted babies.

Abortion is personal for Bonopartis, who said she had a coerced abortion when she was just 17. 

“I was kicked out of the house by my father and then coerced into getting an abortion,” she said. “Pretty much cut me off from everything, and that's something people don't really talk about … they make it try to seem like it's a woman's right, it's a free choice. It's all this other stuff, but many women are coerced in one way or another.”

She guessed that she was 14 or 15 weeks pregnant at the time.

“I saw my son. I had a saline abortion, so I saw him, which I always considered a blessing because it never allowed me to deny what abortion was,” she said. Afterward, she said she struggled with self-esteem issues, hating herself, guilt, shame, and more. Then, she found healing.

“I know what that pain is like, I know what that experience is like, and you know that you can get past it,” she said. “You just want to be able to give that message to other people, that they're able to heal.”

Residents of Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson case originated, also attended. 

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, drove from Mississippi to stand outside the Supreme Court. She said she was in her early 20s when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. 

“At the time, of course, I could care less,” she said. Since then, she had a change of heart. 

“We were the generation that allowed it,” she said, “and so we are the generation who will help close that door and reverse it.”

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA

The crowd at the pro-life rally included all ages, from those who had witnessed Roe to bundled-up babies, children running around, and college students holding up homemade signs. 

One group of young friends traveled across the country to stand outside the Supreme Court. They cited their faith and family as reasons for attending.

Mathilde Steenepoorte, 19, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, identified herself as “very pro-life” in large part because of her younger brother with Down syndrome. She said she was saddened by the abortion rates of unborn babies dianosed with Down syndrome.

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, arrived Tuesday. He woke up at 6 a.m. to arrive at the Supreme Court with a crucifix in hand.

“I believe that God is the giver of life and we don't have the right [to decide] whether a baby should live or die,” he said.

He also said that he believed women have been lied to about abortion. 

“We say it's their right, and there's a choice,” he said. When girls tell him “I have the right,” his response, he said, is to ask back, “You have the right for what?” 

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.
Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, also woke up early but emphasized “it was worth it.” A pro-life podcast host, she called abortion a “human-rights issue.”

“I hope that it overturns Roe,” she said of the case, “but that doesn't mean that our job as pro-lifers is done. It makes this, really, just the beginning.” 


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Europe:     From Syria to Slovakia, buildings are lit up in support of persecuted Christians
Red Week 2021 is marked in Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Aid to the Church in Need.

Königstein, Germany, Dec 2, 2021 / 05:20 am (CNA).

Hundreds of buildings across the world were lit up in solidarity with persecuted Christians in Red Week, an annual event organized by the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

This year’s commemoration, on Nov. 17-24, marked the first time that the eastern European countries of Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina have taken part in the event, with Kyiv’s Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ and Sarajevo Cathedral illuminated in red.

Another highlight was the participation of the Maronite Cathedral of St. Elijah in Aleppo, Syria. The cathedral was badly damaged in the country’s ongoing war but rebuilt with help from ACN.

Also lit up in red were Sacré-Cœur in the French capital, Paris, and the cathedrals in Sydney, Melbourne, and Hobart in Australia.

On Red Wednesday, the final day of Red Week, ACN released a report declaring the treatment of Christian minority women and girls in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia a “human rights catastrophe.”

At the start of Red Week, the pontifical foundation announced it was donating $5.6 million to help Christian communities in Lebanon and Syria.


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Europe:     Pope Francis accepts resignation of Catholic archbishop of Paris
Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris. / Ibex73 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2021 / 04:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit on Thursday amid a controversy surrounding an alleged prior relationship with a woman before he was archbishop of Paris.

A statement from the Holy See press office on Dec. 2 said that Pope Francis accepted the resignation submitted by Aupetit and had appointed Archbishop Georges Pontier, archbishop emeritus of Marseille, as the interim apostolic administrator.

Aupetit, who was installed in the French capital in 2018, wrote to the pope after the French weekly magazine Le Point published a report portraying him as an authoritarian and divisive figure.

The report also raised concerns about Aupetit’s contacts with a woman dating back to 2012, when he was vicar general of Paris archdiocese.

The 70-year-old archbishop, who had a late vocation to the priesthood after working as a doctor, told Le Point that he was not in a relationship with the woman.

He said: “My behavior towards her may have been ambiguous, thus suggesting the existence between us of an intimate relationship and sexual relations, which I strongly refute … I decided not to see her again and I informed her.”

Aupetit told the French Catholic daily La Croix that he had spoken to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, about his situation, as well as to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio to France.

“This is not because of what I should or should not have done in the past — otherwise I would have left a long time ago — but to avoid division, if I myself am a source of division,” he said.

In a Dec. 2 statement also released as a video message, Aupetit said: “The painful events of the past week, about which I have already spoken, had led me to place my mission in the hands of Pope Francis in order to preserve the archdiocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust always provoke.”

“I have received this heavy burden from the archdiocese of Paris and I have tried to carry it out with fervor and dedication. I give thanks to God, who has always given me the gift of a benevolent gaze at my fellow human beings and of love for people, which led me to the practice of medicine in the first place. Caring is something deeply rooted in me and the difficulties of relationships between people do not diminish it.”

He added: “I was, of course, greatly disturbed by the attacks on me. Today, I thank God that my heart is deeply at peace. I thank the many, many people who have shown me their trust and affection over the past eight days.”

“I pray for those who may have wished me ill as Christ taught us to do, who helps us beyond our poor strength. I ask forgiveness of those whom I might have hurt and assure you all of my deep friendship and my prayer, which will always be yours.”

Concluding his message, he recalled the words of his first homily as archbishop of Paris: “Don’t look at the archbishop, contemplate Christ!”


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Europe:     Sixteen martyrs of the Spanish Civil War to be beatified in Granada
Father Cayetano Giménez Martín, a martyr of the Spanish Civil War who will be beatified along with 15 companionions in Granada, Feb. 26, 2022. / Archdiocese of Granada.

Granada, Spain, Dec 1, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The beatification ceremony for sixteen martyrs of the Spanish Civil War will be held in February at the Granada Cathedral. 

Fr. Cayetano Giménez Martín and his 15 companions will be beatified Feb. 26, 2022. Of the group, all were priests, except a seminarian and a layman. 

The Spanish Civil War was fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Nationalist forces, led by Francisco Franco, and the Republican faction. During the war, Republicans martyred thousands of clerics, religious, and laity; of these, 11 have been canonized, and more than 2,000 beatified.

Fr. Cayetano refused to escape to safety at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. When his parish church was burned, he took refuge with a family for two weeks but was captured, and then shot Aug. 1, 1936, shouting “Viva Cristo Rey”.

His companions were: Fr. José Becerra Sánchez; Fr. José Jiménez Reyes; Fr. Pedro Ruiz de Valdivia; Fr. Francisco Morales Valenzuela; Fr. José Frías Ruiz; Fr. Manuel Vázquez Alfalla; Fr.Ramón Cervilla Luis; Fr. Lorenzo Palomino Villaescusa; Fr. José Rescalvo Ruiz; Fr. Manuel Vilches Montalvo; Fr. José María Polo Rejón; Fr. Juan Bazaga Palacios; Fr. Miguel Romero Rojas; Antonio Caba Pozo, a seminarian; and José Muñoz Calvo, a layman.

Caba Pozo was about 22 when he was arrested on July 19, 1936. He was shot while praying the rosary two days later.

Muñoz Calvo was president of the youth of Catholic Action. He was jailed July 27, 1936 for refusing to deny his membership in the group, and killed July 30. 

The diocesan phase to study their cause for beatification was opened on July 1, 1999 and concluded on Sept. 28 the same year. On Nov. 29, 2019, the Holy See announced the promulgation of the decree of martyrdom.

While there is a tendency to associate the Spanish martyrs of the 20th century solely with the civil war of 1936-39, there were decades of preparation leading to this, accompanied by desecrations of churches, according to a Spanish priest serving in Rome.

The religious persecution in Spain in the 20th century took "some preparation. It is not something that can be narrowed down, it cannot be limited simply to the first months of the Spanish Civil War," Msgr. José Jaime Brosel Gavilà, rector of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli, the Spanish national church in Rome, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, last year.

While a great number of the martyrs lost their lives during the civil war, there were also other periods, such as the Tragic Week, an uprising of Republicans, socialists, and anarchists in Catalonia in July 1909; the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931; and the Revolution of 1934, a movement of rebellious strikes.

These incidents were also accompanied by the destruction of religious buildings, desecrations, persecution, and the murder of priests, bishops, men and women religious, and lay people out of hatred of the faith.


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US:     Pro-life leaders react to President Joe Biden's statements about Dobbs abortion case
U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis Oct. 29, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:52 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden reaffirmed his support of Roe v. Wade on Wednesday, in response to a question about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn the nation’s abortion precedent, though he said he did not listen to the oral arguments that took place earlier in the day.

"I didn't see any of the debate today, the presentation today,” Biden said. “And I support Roe v. Wade.” 

Biden’s presidency, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and expanded access to abortion and abortion rights, has been a source of continued contraversy owing to his Catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” 

“If Joe Biden had paid attention today, he would have heard the most rigorous debate the Supreme Court has ever had on abortion — the kind of debate all Americans deserve, but have been denied for almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade,” said Prudence Robertson of the Susan B. Anthony List. 

“President Biden may have missed the debate at the Supreme Court today, but it's impossible to miss how much technology has advanced in fetal development, how far women have come in being able to carve their own path without abortion, or the rise of pregnancy help centers across the nation that stand ready to help her not need an abortion,” said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. 

Megan Wold, an attorney practicing in appellate and constitutional law who is a former law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito and a former deputy solicitor general in Ohio, said that “Roe v. Wade did not hold that abortion was simply rational, it held that abortion was so fundamental that states are obligated to allow abortion on demand until viability. That was wrong when Roe was decided and it is still wrong now.”

Wold continued: “I think the Supreme Court knows that. As we heard today, a majority of the court understands that Roe has no basis in the Constitution or in our history and traditions, and that the passage of time has only further exposed how deeply flawed Roe is.”

Andrea Trudden, senior director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, told CNA that if Biden had paid attention he “would have heard that women do not ‘need’ abortion to be successful. Through technological and scientific advances over the last 50 years, women have resources at their fingertips to help them overcome hurdles and set them up for success. Pregnancy help organizations offer compassionate care and support while providing practical needs to pregnant women through parenting classes, job training, and even housing so that no woman feels that abortion is her only option.”

Brian Burch, president of Catholic Vote, said that it was almost impossible for him to believe the president would not have tuned in to Wednesday’s oral arguments “given the historical significance of the case and the politics surrounding it.”

“I can't help but think his conscience is agitating him. He knows he's wrong, and yet persists in doubling down on defending the killing of millions of innocent children," Burtch said of Biden.

During a press conference, Biden defended his support as the “rational position to take,” adding, “And I continue to support it.”

“Even former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood Roe was wrongly decided,” Godsey told CNA. “Keeping the country captive to a culture of death is far from rational. Women deserve better than abortion.”

“In 1974, Biden stated that I ‘went too far.’ Indeed, it put us in the company of a tiny handful of nations that allow abortion on demand more than halfway through pregnancy, when unborn babies can clearly feel pain, even up to birth,” Robertson of Susan B. Anthony said.

“That is the radical status quo our ‘devout’ Catholic president swears allegiance to today," she said. "The American people and their elected representatives overwhelmingly reject this extremism. It’s time to restore their right to protect women and children.”

Added Burch: “The Holy Spirit doesn't stop working, and neither should we."


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US:     Dobbs v. Jackson: What did Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett say?
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 13, 2020. / null

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

As the wait begins for a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case, close attention will be paid to the comments and questions of three conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that some observers view as possible swing votes: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

At issue is a 15-week abortion ban passed in Mississippi, which challenges the court’s precedent of allowing abortions before viability, roughly 24-28 weeks into pregnancy. Pro-life groups are hoping the court, where conservative appointees have a 6-3 majority, will strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

A number of questions from the justices focused on the principle of stare decisis, a Latin phrase roughly meaning “to stand by things that have been decided,” and understood to mean that the court generally stands by its own precedent.

The justices' questions and comments were made in response to the three lawyers who gave oral arguments in the case on Dec. 1. They are: Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi; Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who was representing the Jackson Women’s Health abortion clinic in Mississippi, and U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who was representing the Biden administration in opposition to Mississippi’s law.

Here are some of the highlights of what Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett said during the proceeding:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts to Stewart: “On stare decisis, I think the first issue you look at is whether or not the decision at issue was wrongly decided. I've actually never quite understood how you evaluate that. Is it wrongly decided based on legal principles and doctrine when it was decided or in retrospect? Because Roe — I mean, there are a lot of cases around the time of Roe, not of that magnitude but the same type of analysis, that went through exactly the sorts of things we today would say were erroneous, but do we look at it from today's perspective, it's going to be a long list of cases that we're going to say were wrongly decided.”

Roberts to Rikelman: “...if you think that the issue is one of choice, that women should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy, that supposes that there is a point at which they've had the fair choice, opportunity to [choose], and why would 15 weeks be an inappropriate line? Because viability, it seems to me, doesn't have anything to do with choice. But, if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?”

Roberts to Rikelman: “...I'd like to focus on the 15-week ban because that's not a dramatic departure from viability. It is the standard that the vast majority of other countries have. When you get to the viability standard, we share that standard with the People's Republic of China and North Korea. And I don't think you have to be in favor of looking to international law to set our constitutional standards to be concerned if those are your -- share that particular time period.”

Roberts to Rikelman: “It is certainly true that we cannot base our decisions on whether they're popular or not with the people. Casey seemed to say we shouldn't base our decisions not only on that but whether they're going to — whether they're going to seem popular, and it seemed to me to have a paradoxical conclusion that the more unpopular the decisions are, the firmer the Court should be in not departing from prior precedent, sort of a super stare decisis, but it's super stare decisis for what are regarded as — by many, as the most erroneous decisions. Do you think there is that category? Is there -- or is it just normal stare decisis?”

Roberts to Prelogar: “...your discussion of the reliance interests and the ability of women and men to control their lives in reliance on the right to an abortion, the argument would not be as strong, I think you'll have to concede, given what we're talking about, which is not a prohibition; it's a 15-week line. Is that right?”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh to Stewart: “I want to be clear about what you're arguing and not arguing … to be clear, you're not arguing that the Court somehow has the authority to itself prohibit abortion or that this Court has the authority to order the states to prohibit abortion as I understand it, correct?”

Kavanaugh to Stewart: “And as I understand it, you're arguing that the Constitution is silent and, therefore, neutral on the question of abortion? In other words, that the Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion but leaves the issue for the people of the states or perhaps Congress to resolve in the democratic process? Is that accurate? ... [I]f you were to prevail, the states, a majority of states or states still could, and presumably would, continue to freely allow abortion, many states; some states would be able to do that even if you prevail under your view, is that correct?”

Kavanaugh to Rikelman: “I think the other side would say that the core problem here is that the Court has been forced by the position you're taking … to pick sides on the most contentious social debate in American life and to do so in a situation where they say that the Constitution is neutral on the question of abortion, the text and history, that the Constitution's neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion, and they would say, therefore, it should be left to the people, to the states, or to Congress … and we [the Supreme Court] should be scrupulously neutral on the question … I want to give you a chance to respond to that.”

Kavanaugh to Rikelman: “I want to ask a question about stare decisis … history helps think about stare decisis … and the history of how the Court's applied stare decisis, and when you really dig into it, the history tells a somewhat different story, I think, than is sometimes assumed. If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this Court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent. Brown v. Board outlawed separate but equal. Baker versus Carr, which set the stage for one person/one vote. West Coast Hotel, which recognized the states' authority to regulate business. Miranda versus Arizona, which required police to give warnings when the right to — about the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present to suspects in criminal custody. Lawrence v. Texas, which said that the state may not prohibit same-sex conduct. Mapp versus Ohio, which held that the exclusionary rule applies to state criminal prosecutions to exclude evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Giddeon versus Wainwright, which guaranteed the right to counsel in criminal cases. Obergefell, which recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In each of those cases...the Court overruled precedent. … So I assume you agree with most, if not all, the cases I listed there, where the Court overruled the precedent. So the question on stare decisis is why, if … we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, if that, why then doesn't the history of this Court's practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality and — and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases didn't?”

Kavanaugh to Prelogar: “When you have those two interests at stake and both are important, as you acknowledge … why should this Court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this? And there will be different answers in Mississippi and New York, different answers in Alabama than California because they're two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently. Why is that not the right answer?”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett to Stewart: “I have a question … about stare decisis. And I think a lot of the colloquy you've had with all of us has been about the benefits of stare decisis, which I don't think anyone disputes … You know, we have Plessy, Brown. We have Bowers versus Hardwick, to Lawrence. But, in thinking about stare decisis, which is obviously the core of this case, how should we be thinking about it — I mean, Justice Breyer pointed out that in Casey and in some respects, well, it was a different conception of stare decisis insofar as it very explicitly took into account public reaction. Is that a factor that you accept, or are you arguing that we should minimize that factor?. .. [Is there a distinct set of stare decisis considerations applicable to what the Court might decide is a watershed distinction?”

Barrett to Rikelman: “... Petitioner points out that in all 50 states, you can terminate parental rights by relinquishing a child ... and I think the shortest period might have been 48 hours if I'm remembering the data correctly. So it seems to me, seen in that light, both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting, and insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women's access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it's also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy. Why don't the safe haven laws take care of that problem? It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn't seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden. And so it seems to me that the choice more focused would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion. Why didn't you address the safe haven laws and why don't they matter?”

Barrett to Rikelman: “I don't understand why 27 weeks is less workable than 24.”

Barrett to Prelogar: “... I asked Ms. Rikelman this question too, but I'm not sure that I fully understand the government's position or Ms. Rikelman's position. So, on pages 18 and 19 of your brief, you talk about reliance interests and you quote some of the language from Casey about a woman's ability to participate in the social and economic life of the nation. And I mentioned the safe haven laws to Ms. Rikelman, and it seems to me I fully understand the reliance interests. There are the airy ones Justice Kagan was referring to and then there are the more specific ones about a woman's access to abortion as a backup form of birth control in the event that contraception fails so that she need not bear the burdens of pregnancy. But what do you have to say to Petitioners' argument that those reliance interests do not include the reliance interests of parenting and bringing a child into the world when maybe that's not the best thing for her family or her career?”

Note: Transcripts obtained via the U.S. Supreme Court website. Most of the questions presented here have been lightly edited for length and clarity.


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US:     Pro-life leaders, legal experts speak out after Dobbs arguments at US Supreme Court
Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerning Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks. Leading up to and in response following the oral arguments, pro-life leaders and legal experts offered their perspectives. 

Below is a collection of statements and social media posts. 

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie 
Senior Fellow, The Catholic Association

“Justice Sotomayor's assertions in today's oral argument in the landmark abortion case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health about fetal pain were wholly ignorant of the tremendous scientific advances in fetal medicine. As recently as last year, doctors in the Journal of Medical Ethics wrote, 'Current neuroscientific evidence supports the possibility of fetal pain before the 'consensus' cutoff of 24 weeks' and may be as early as 12 weeks. Not only does medicine agree that fetal anesthesia be administered for fetal surgery, a clear reflection of the medical consensus that unborn babies can feel pain, but like viability, the line marking when they feel pain continues to inch earlier.”

“As a practicing diagnostic radiologist, I can attest that advances in ultrasound technology continue to astonish the medical community as to the humanity of the unborn child, a truth and medical reality that we can now see clearly in the earliest weeks of life. To compare an unborn child to a brain-dead person or a corpse flouts science which tells us that at 15 weeks gestation, a baby's organs are fully formed, her heart pumps 26 quarts of blood a day, and her lungs are already practicing drawing breath. This case is before the Supreme Court today in large part because Americans have seen the evolving science and increasingly want a voice in a question of great moral consequence.” 

 

Sherif Girgis
Associate Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School

“Across the political spectrum, many close court-watchers who would've said at 9:59 a.m. that there is no chance the Court fully reverses Roe are now saying that's the likeliest outcome. The Chief repeatedly asked if there was a middle ground, and no one produced one. On the contrary, the lawyers for the Biden administration and the clinics repeatedly rejected any middle ground.” 

“Justice Kavanaugh repeatedly signaled that he thinks abortion is entirely for the states to decide. Justice Barrett showed that the availability of adoption undercuts many of the arguments for a constitutional abortion right. I would be very surprised if Roe survived the summer. "

Megan Wold
Legal Expert & Attorney Practicing Appellate and Constitutional Law

“During today’s argument, the justices signaled that Roe was wrongly decided as an original matter; that Roe has been undermined by subsequent scientific and legal developments; that the Constitution is silent on the question of abortion; and that no right to abortion exists in our country’s history and tradition. These views support overruling Roe.” 

“Moreover, no Justice proposed a new standard to replace Roe, and six justices suggested a willingness to eliminate Roe’s key viability holding.  It is clear that the court is likely to substantially weaken Roe, or more likely, to overrule Roe altogether." 

Stephen Billy
Executive Director, Charlotte Lozier Institute

“Chief Justice John Roberts correctly stated during today’s Dobbs oral arguments that United States abortion law is extreme in comparison to global and European norms. The United States is among a small handful of nations, including China and North Korea, that allow elective abortion more than halfway through pregnancy, or after 20 weeks.”

“I was stunned to hear the abortion industry counsel challenge Chief Justice Roberts on whether or not U.S. abortion law is extreme. The Chief Justice correctly cited CLI research that shows how Roe puts the United States in the same class with China and North Korea, allowing abortion-on-demand until the day of birth. Does the abortion industry not read the Washington Post?”

“Despite Ms. Rikelman’s claims, the black-letter law is clear:  47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to the 15-week limit proposed by Mississippi.”

Camille Pauley
Co-Founder, Healing the Culture

“Roe v. Wade is an archaic judicial artifact on life support, and the Supreme Court should seize this opportunity to dump it on the ash heap of history. But no matter how this decision falls, Roe is a crippled legal dogma that will not long survive.”

“Science, philosophy, and public opinion have passed it by. Our hope is that the Court’s ruling in Dobbs will bury this dead letter from the past and reinstate the principles of human rights that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.” 

“The lethal logic of Roe v. Wade is that your life won’t be protected unless you’ve attained a certain level of development, but this violates the most critical and important principles of civilization—do no harm, the ends don’t justify the means, every human being is intrinsically valuable, the right to life must take priority over the right to liberty, and numerous others. Without these principles, civilization collapses.” 

Chelsey Youman
National Legislative Advisor, Human Coalition Action

“Roe was egregiously bad jurisprudence and has resulted in millions of deaths. Ending an innocent human life is not justified by purported reliance interests. Continued fidelity to Roe and Casey is extraordinarily disruptive to a functioning and healthy society, and if the Court’s rulings are to have any integrity, this precedent must not stand any longer. It is time for Roe to be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

“We flatly reject the claim that abortion is necessary to the flourishing of women. We advocate every day for women who are able to parent, work, and succeed amid challenges. Human Coalition Action stands ready to advocate for a culture of life, regardless of whether Roe is overturned. We pushed for the expansion of the safety net in Texas for pregnant and postpartum mothers, and we will continue to advocate for protection of preborn children, and for prioritizing the health and safety of mothers.”

Tom Brejcha
President and Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society

“As the high court hears arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, we face the first real legal opportunity in over a decade to topple Roe v. Wade. The 1973 decision that legalized abortion in America has left a tragic trail of human carnage: more than sixty-two million dead children and countless broken families and wounded souls.”

Dr. David Prentice
Vice President of Research, Charlotte Lozier Institute

“Respectfully, we suggest that Justice Sotomayor follow the science, which has not stood still since Roe was decided in 1973.  Modern research is revealing that unborn babies do feel pain at an early stage, and we see that science in action regularly during fetal surgery, in which doctors apply analgesia in utero to prevent the suffering of the unborn child.”


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US:     Physician blasts Justice Sonia Sotomayor for 'dead brain people' comment about fetal pain
Ultrasound of a baby in the womb. / GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 16:22 pm (CNA).

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor drew criticism from an accomplished physician for comments that appeared to draw a comparison between an unborn child and a corpse, suggesting that fetal movements recoiling from pain can be likened to reflexes in dead bodies.

The comments came as Sotomayor attempted to create question marks within the larger argument for the humanity of unborn babies during the oral arguments Dec. 1 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a potentially landmark abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“To compare an unborn child to a brain-dead person or a corpse flouts science which tells us that at 15 weeks gestation, a baby's organs are fully formed, her heart pumps 26 quarts of blood a day, and her lungs are already practicing drawing breath,” said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a radiology specialist with more than 20 years of experience.

Sonia Sotomayor. Public domain.
Sonia Sotomayor. Public domain.

Sotomayor’s comments came on the heels of Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart’s argument that advances in medical science over the past 30 years have helped Americans grow in “knowledge and concern” about whether the unborn child is “fully human,” which are based in part on increased knowledge of the pain experienced by fetuses in the womb.

“Virtually every state defines a brain death as death. Yet, the literature is filled with episodes of people who are completely and utterly brain dead responding to stimuli,” Sotomayor said.

“There's about 40% of dead people who, if you touch their feet, the foot will recoil. There are spontaneous acts by dead brain people. So I don't think that a response to — by a fetus necessarily proves that there's a sensation of pain or that there's consciousness,” the justice said.

Christie, co-author of a science-based amicus brief presented to the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case, criticized the Supreme Court justice for her assertions, calling them “wholly ignorant of the tremendous scientific advances in fetal medicine.” 

“As recently as last year, doctors in the Journal of Medical Ethics wrote, 'Current neuroscientific evidence supports the possibility of fetal pain before the 'consensus' cutoff of 24 weeks' and may be as early as 12 weeks,” Christie said.

“Not only does medicine agree that fetal anesthesia be administered for fetal surgery, a clear reflection of the medical consensus that unborn babies can feel pain, but like viability, the line marking when they feel pain continues to inch earlier,” Christie added.

Christie emphasized that the medical awareness of the humanity of the unborn child has made its way to ordinary citizens, and not just doctors. 

“This case is before the Supreme Court today in large part because Americans have seen the evolving science and increasingly want a voice in a question of great moral consequence,” she said. 

Several pro-life organizations have extensive scientific information regarding the humanity of the unborn child, including the Charlotte Lozier Institute.


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US:     Notable moments from the Supreme Court arguments over Mississippi abortion law
Pro-life advocates demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021. - The justices weigh whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks and overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. / Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2021 / 16:12 pm (CNA).

Oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization have concluded. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Here are some of the more notable happenings in and around the court on Wednesday. 

1. Opening argument: The court should overturn Roe and Casey 



Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart opened his argument by claiming that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey "have no basis in the Constitution," and have "no home in our history or traditions. 

“They've damaged the democratic process. They poison the law. They've choked off compromise for 50 years,” he said. 

Stewart said those cases have "kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve.”

“Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life," he said.

2. The two big words of the day: stare decisis

“Stare decisis,” the legal term for “precedent”, was a hot topic Dec. 1, with nearly every justice raising the issue of how legal precedent should be applied to both sides of the case. Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to indicate that precedent is not necessarily a gold standard, noting that the court has overturned many high-profile cases. 

"I think that is sometimes assumed if you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent," said Kavanaugh, singling out Brown v. Board of Education, Lawrence v. Texas, and Miranda v. Arizona as examples.

3. Another hot topic: viability 



Chief Justice John Roberts asked the lawyer for Jackson Women’s Health Organization if a 15-week cutoff for abortions could be more workable as a legal standard than viability. 

"It seems to me that (viability) doesn't have anything to do with choice," said Roberts. "If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?"

Jackson Women’s Health’s counsel said it would not, as enacting a pre-viability line would result in states moving to ban abortions earlier and earlier in a pregnancy.

Since the “viability” standard for abortion law was established in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, improved neonatal care has changed when babies are considered viable. Now, babies born at the 23rd week of pregnancy are statistically likely to survive. The earliest premature baby to survive, a boy named Richard Scott William Hutchison, was born when his mother was 21 weeks pregnant.

4. Pro-lifers rallied in large numbers…


Hundreds of people braved the near-freezing temperatures on Wednesday morning for the “Empower Women Promote Life” rally outside the Supreme Court. The all-female lineup of speakers included members of Congress, pro-life leaders of all politcal backgrounds, including Terrisa Bukovinac, Dr. Grazie Christie, EWTN News in Depth host Montse Alvarado, Penny Nance, Jeanne Mancini, Erika Bachiochi, and Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America. 

5. ...While others shouted their abortions.



Three women cheered as they allegedly took mifepristone, the first pill in an abortion-drug regimen, while standing in front of the Supreme Court. A video of the act was shared by the organization “Shout Your Abortion,” an organization which seeks to normalize abortion. 

Erin Matson, executive director of Reproaction, called it “epic action.” 

Communications professional Beth Baumann called the video “pretty monstrous,” and remarked, “They're acting like they're taking a tequila shot, not an abortion pill.”



6. Will history look at Roe the same way it regards Plessy v. Ferguson? 

In his rebuttal, ​​Stewart, representing Mississippi, compared Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health to Brown v. Board of Education.

"In closing, I would say that in the dissent of Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice Harlan emphasized that there is no caste system here; and the humblest in our country is the peer of the most powerful. Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerate distinctions on the basis of race," he said.

"It took 58 years for this court to recognize the truth of those realities in a decision. And that was the greatest decision that this court ever reached. We're running on 50 years of Roe,” said Stewart. 

Roe “is an egregiously wrong decision that has inflicted tremendous damage on our country, and will continue to do so and take innumerable human lives" until it is overruled, he added.


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US:     One 'core' issue may decide the Dobbs abortion case. Here's why
Students from Liberty University pray in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case on Dec. 1, 2021. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2021 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week state abortion ban Wednesday, a high-stakes test of the settledness of legalized abortion in a deeply unsettled nation still sharply divided over the right to life.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is viewed by many Catholic leaders and pro-life groups as the best chance yet to overturn the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which has barred restrictive early-term abortion laws like Mississippi’s for the past 48 years.

Over that time, some 62 million abortions have taken place in the United States, statistics show, a grim toll the Catholic Church sees as both a grave evil and a catastrophic political failure.

Conversely, a decision that strikes down Mississippi’s 2018 law, called the Gestational Age Act, which prohibits abortions after the 15th week of gestation, would represent a devastating setback for the pro-life movement. For many years it has pinned its hopes of overturning Roe on the goal of securing a supermajority of conservative justices on the nation’s highest court, as is the case now.

With thousands of people keeping a vocal but peaceful vigil outside the Supreme Court on a bright, brisk morning in Washington, D.C., the nine justices took up the intensely anticipated case in a proceeding that lasted nearly two hours.

Among the demonstrators were four women shown in a viral video posted online swallowing pills behind a large sign that reads, “WE ARE TAKING ABORTION PILLS FOREVER,” a reference to the prescription drugs mifepristone and misoprostol that when used in combination will induce a miscarriage.

Mississippi is asking the court to do more than simply uphold the state’s abortion law; it wants the court to overturn both Roe and a later ruling that affirmed it nearly 20 years later, the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. 

Both Roe and Casey “have no basis in the Constitution,” Scott G. Stewart, the state’s solicitor general, said in his opening argument.

“They have no home in our history or traditions. They’ve damaged the democratic process. They poison the law. They’ve choked off compromise for 50 years,” he said.

In Roe, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Casey, viewed as the “Dobbs” of its day, found that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden.” The Casey court defined that term to mean “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Stewart said the two cases have “kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve.”

“Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life,” he said.

A question of ‘settled’ law

Legal scholars see the court’s reluctance to overturn past rulings, even highly controversial ones, as Mississippi’s greatest hurdle in Dobbs.

As anticipated, that legal principle, known as stare decisis, loomed large Wednesday, dominating the litigants’ oral arguments and the justices’ questions. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest addition to the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, said that stare decisis is “obviously the core of this case.”

The term comes from the Latin phrase, Stare decisis at non quieta movere, which means “to stand by things decided and not disturb settled points.”

Stewart, the Mississippi solicitor general, argued that legalized abortion remains an unsettled debate in the United States nearly a half-century after Roe. He argued that the issue should be left to democratically elected state legislatures, not the courts.

“The Constitution places its trust in the people. On hard issue after hard issue, the people make this country work,” he said.

“Abortion is a hard issue. It demands the best from all of us, not a judgment by just a few of us when an issue affects everyone. And when the Constitution does not take sides on it, it belongs to the people.”

In its court brief, Mississippi cites stare decisis as the reason Roe and Casey should be overturned.

“Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong. The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition,” the brief states. Roe itself broke from precedent because it invoked “a general ‘right to privacy’ unmoored from the Constitution,” the state argues.

“Abortion is fundamentally different from any right this Court has ever endorsed. No other right involves, as abortion does, ‘the purposeful termination of a potential life,’” the brief states. “Roe broke from prior cases, Casey failed to rehabilitate it, and both recognize a right that has no basis in the Constitution.”

But Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, sharply disagreed.

“Casey and Roe were correct,” Rikelman, who represented Jackson Women’s Health, Mississippi’s last remaining abortion provider, told the justices.

She added that there is an “an especially high bar here” as the Supreme Court rejected “every possible reason” for overturning Roe when it decided Casey nearly 30 years ago.

“Mississippi's ban on abortion two months before viability is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent. Mississippi asks for the court to dismantle this precedent and allow states to force women to remain pregnant and give birth against their will,” she said.

“Two generations have now relied on this right,” Rikelman continued. “And one out of every four women makes the decision to end a pregnancy.”

A third attorney arguing before the court Wednesday, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, representing the Biden administration in opposition to Mississippi's abortion law, couched the Dobbs case in similar terms. She said overturning Roe and Casey would be “an unprecedented contraction of individual rights and a stark departure from principles of stare decisis.”

Credibility concerns

Liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan argued that overturning Roe and Casey would undermine the court’s integrity by signaling that its decisions were influenced by political pressure.

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Sotomayor said. “I don’t see how it is possible.”

Conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, however, pushed back against that reasoning. He noted that “some of the most consequential and important” decisions in the Supreme Court’s history overturned prior rulings. He cited such cases as the historic civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down legalized segregation, and Miranda v. Arizona, which required police to inform suspects they have a right to remain silent.

“If the court had done that in those cases (and adhered to precedent), this country would be a much different place,” Kavanaugh said. Why then, he asked Rikelman, shouldn’t the court do the same in Dobbs, if it were to deem that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided?

“Because the view that a previous precedent is wrong, your honor, has never been enough for this court to overrule, and it certainly shouldn’t be enough here, when there’s 50 years of precedent,” Rikelman responded. The court needs a “special justification” to take such a step, she argued, saying that Mississippi has failed to provide any.

Said Rikelman: “It makes the same exact arguments the court already considered and rejected in its stare decisis analysis in Casey.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a conservative, took up a similar line of questioning with Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general.

“Is it your argument that a case can never be overruled simply because it was egregiously wrong?” he asked.

“I think that at the very least, the state would have to come forward with some kind of materially changed circumstance or some kind of materially new argument, and Mississippi hasn’t done so in this case,” Prelogar responded.

“Really?” Alito replied. “So suppose Plessy versus Ferguson (an 1896 decision that affirmed the constitutionality of racial segregation laws) was re-argued in 1897, so nothing had changed. Would it not be sufficient to say that was an egregiously wrong decision on the day it was handed down and now it should be overruled?”

“I think it should have been overruled, but I think that the factual premise was wrong in the moment it was decided, and the court realized that and clarified that when it overruled in Brown,” Prelogar said.

“So there are circumstances in which a decision may be overruled, properly overruled, when it must be overruled simply because it was egregiously wrong at the moment it was decided?” Alito asked.

When Prelogar didn’t directly answer the question, Alito pressed again.

“Can a decision be overruled simply because it was erroneously wrong, even if nothing has changed between the time of that decision and the time when the court is called upon to consider whether it should be overruled?” he asked. “Yes or no? Can you give me a yes or no answer on that?”

“This court, no, has never overruled in that situation just based on a conclusion that the decision was wrong. It has always applied the stare decisis factors and likewise found that they warrant overruling in that instance,” Prelogar said.

Roberts cites China, North Korea

While the main focus of Wednesday’s proceeding related to stare decisis, there was also discussion of the viability standard established by Roe.

“I’d like to focus on the 15-week ban because that's not a dramatic departure from viability,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in an exchange with Rikelman.

“It is the standard that the vast majority of other countries have. When you get to the viability standard (set at 24 to 28 weeks) we share that standard with the People's Republic of China and North Korea,” he said.

In response, Rikelman said Roberts’ statement was “not correct,” arguing that “the majority of countries that permit legal access to abortion allow access right up until viability, even if they have nominal lines earlier.” She elaborated that while European countries may have 12- or 18-week limits, they allow exceptions for “broad social reasons, health reasons, socioeconomic reasons.”

A 2021 analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks. Eight European nations, including Great Britain and Finland, do not allow elective abortion and instead require a specific medical or socioeconomic reason before permitting an abortion, the institute said.

The court may not announce a decision in the Dobbs case for several months. It may come at the end of its current term, in late June or early July, when major decisions are often announced.


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US:     US bishops respond to Supreme Court arguments in Dobbs v Jackson
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, outgoing chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, presents pro-life initiative Walking with Moms in Need to the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2021. / Screenshot from USCCB video

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

Catholic leaders offered statements and prayers leading up to and following the oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks.

The arguments in favor of the law, heard before the Supreme Court earlier today, directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

"In the United States, abortion takes the lives of over 600,000 babies every year. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could change that,” shared Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore in a statement

Lori, who is the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, prayed for the Supreme Court to “do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion.” In doing so, he said, the ruling would “protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act.”

“We invite all people of good will to uphold the dignity of human life by joining us in prayer and fasting for this important case,” he said.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing launched a day of prayer and fasting in his diocese while the Supreme Court hears oral arguments. The day includes Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the rosary, Mass, and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy at Saint Mary Cathedral in Lansing. All of the events will be livestreamed on the diocese’s YouTube channel

“The campaign to abolish abortion is, at root, a spiritual battle between a civilization of love and a culture of death,” said Jenny Ingles, director of fertility and life ministries for the Diocese of Lansing, in a statement. “Hence we need to employ spiritual means in order to finally prevail and win victory for the unborn, their mothers, fathers, families and the common good of all in the United States.”

According to the statement, Bishop Boyea issued a letter to all priests in the diocese to consider adopting a similar schedule for their parishes. 

Other clerics shared their support and asked for prayers on social media platforms. 

“Please pray for the Supreme Court and for these women who need our love and support,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Twitter.

Cordileone has been vocal about the right to life of the unborn, calling on the faithful to pray for congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic from his diocese who supports abortion. 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence also asked for prayers on his Twitter account. 

“This is a defining moment for our nation,” he said in a Tweet. “Will we continue to destroy innocent unborn children and exploit very vulnerable women, or will we promote an authentic culture of life?” 

Father Dan Beeman, a priest in the Diocese of Richmond, asked for the Supreme Court to “do the right thing and respect every human life” on his Twitter account, invoking the help of the Virgin Mary. 

Father Steve Pullis, director of evangelization, catechesis, and schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit, stated “End Roe; End Casey. Build a Culture of Life,” on his Twitter account.

On Nov. 18, the USCCB held an ecumenical prayer event to rally the pro-life faithful before the Dobbs oral arguments. The event featured prominent pro-life speakers, including Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas. 

“Our nation stands guilty of not only promoting, endorsing, and enshrining abortion across the land, but we are responsible for exporting abortion throughout the world in a sinister form of colonial imperialism,” said Naumann during the national event. 

Naumann, who was the chair of the USCCB’s pro-life committee prior to the election of Archbishop Lori to the position in 2020, said the faithful need to “pray, fast, and work harder to end this pandemic of child sacrifice.”

Legal experts say the Dobbs v. Jackson case presents an ideal opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider previous rulings that upheld legal abortion nationwide. Decisions in high profile cases such as Dobbs tend to come at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term, which could be in late June or early July of 2022.


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US:     Detroit archbishop 'heartbroken' over Michigan school shooting
Stuffed bears sit at a makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 01, 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. Yesterday, four students were killed and seven injured when a gunman opened fire on students at the school. A 15-year-old sophomore, believed to be the only gunman, is in custody, / Scott Olson/Getty Images

Detroit, Mich., Dec 1, 2021 / 14:16 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit said he was “heartbroken” on Tuesday after hearing of the “horrific tragedy” of a school shooting outside the city earlier in the day. 

“I am heartbroken to hear of the horrific tragedy at Oxford High School,” Vigneron said in a Nov. 30 tweet.

“On behalf of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, I offer heartfelt prayers for the victims, their families, and all those affected in our community,” he added. 

In a follow up tweet, the archbishop said: “May our Blessed Mother wrap all those wounded — physically, emotionally, or spiritually — in her loving mantle and offer them consolation in the difficult days ahead.”

The suspect, a 15-year-old student at Oxford High School, opened fire mid-day Nov. 30. The school is located in Oxford, Michigan, about 45 miles north of Detroit. Four students have died as a result of injuries suffered, and six more students and a teacher are gravely injured. 

The suspected shooter has been taken into custody. According to the local sheriff’s department, the boy did not resist arrest. 

The Twitter account for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commented that “We join @DetArchbishop in offering our prayers for the tragedy at #oxfordhighschool.”

According to a tweet from the Michigan Catholic Conference, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion held a Mass for “healing and peace” Nov. 30.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by today's senseless act of violence #oxfordhighschool,” it added.

St. Joseph’s parish is the closest Catholic church to Oxford, Detroit Catholic reported. Father John Carlin, the associate pastor at St. Joseph’s, gave the homily to a crowd of students, parents, and parishioners, according to Detroit Catholic.

Carlin reminded those who filled the church that God hears their prayers and cries and said that nothing is stronger than Christ’s victory over death, Detroit Catholic reported.

Carlin said that “we don't understand” when we experience a loss of friends or loved ones. He said that Christ “wants not only to walk with us in that darkness, but to let us know that He is there.” 

“He’s not going anywhere, and He never will,” he added.

Clergy from St. Joseph counseled those present after Mass, Detroit Catholic reported. Eucharistic adoration was offered afterwards, and confessions were heard as well.


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Europe:     French Catholic academy critiques landmark abuse report
Jean-Marc Sauvé speaks at the launch of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church report in Paris, France, Oct. 5, 2021. / Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.

Paris, France, Dec 1, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Members of a French Catholic academy have criticized the methodology of a landmark abuse report, prompting resignations from the group.

Eight representatives of the prestigious Académie catholique de France, which has around 250 members, questioned the conclusions of the final report published by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) on Oct. 5.

The academy members wrote a 15-page document that acknowledged the need for an independent study of clerical abuse. But they argued that CIASE departed “in a troubling way” from its mandate and cast doubt on its headline figures.

The almost 2,500-page CIASE report said that the number of children who suffered abuse by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020 was estimated to be around 216,000.

It added that when abuse by other Church workers was also considered “the estimated number of child victims rises to 330,000 for the whole of the period.”

The authors of the critique wrote that “one is entitled to question the methodology of the quantitative survey that led to the figure of 330,000 victims, the only figure used by the media.”

The CIASE report suggested there were “between 2,900 and 3,200” abusers out of 115,000 clergy and monks, which, it noted, “would imply a very high number of victims per aggressor.”

The eight academy members argued that the report lacked “scientific rigor.”

“The disproportionate assessment of this scourge feeds the narrative of a ‘systemic’ character and lays the groundwork for proposals to bring down the Church-institution,” they said.

The critique’s signatories included academy president Hugues Portelli, philosopher Pierre Manent, and priests Father Jean-Robert Armogathe and Father Philippe Capelle-Dumont.

The critique prompted a backlash, with several members of the academy, founded in 2008, resigning.

Jean-Marc Sauvé. Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.
Jean-Marc Sauvé. Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.

The French Catholic daily La Croix reported that among those tendering their resignations were Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, and Sister Véronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious of France, both of whom attended the CIASE report’s launch.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of CIASE, responded to the critique by defending his team’s work.

“Criticism of our report is of course legitimate. I wrote about it in the foreword. But in this case, I feel sadness, and even grief, because I myself am a member of this academy,” the senior civil servant told La Croix.

“The rules of due process and simple confraternity could have justified prior exchanges, if not an adversarial debate. Nothing that happened was elegant or fair, even if I have great respect for some of the signatories.”

Moulins-Beaufort wrote an article on Nov. 29 insisting that the French bishops would not play down the CIASE report.

“It is important to understand that it is not so much in the face of the damning figures established by CIASE and debated by some that the bishops have decided to assume the institutional responsibility of the Church and to speak of a systemic dimension,” he wrote.

He continued: “These figures were an indication for us. It is by listening to the victims, those whose testimonies CIASE has gathered, those whom we have been meeting for years, that we have made progress. It is by placing ourselves before the Lord.”

“Priests have committed acts of violence and sexual aggression against minors, priests have been guilty of acts of spiritual control, in too great a number for us to consider this as a marginal phenomenon.”

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort. Credit: Diocèse de Reims.
Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort. Credit: Diocèse de Reims.

The CIASE report made 45 recommendations, including a request for the Church to reconsider the seal of confession in relation to abuse as well as changes to Church law.

The critique’s authors noted that the report recognized that there was no causal link between celibacy and sexual abuse.

But they said that “recommendation 4 deals with priestly celibacy and invites [the Church] ‘to identify the ethical requirements of consecrated celibacy, in particular with regard to the representation of the priest and the risk incurred of bestowing on him the status of hero, or of placing him in a position of dominance.’”

They argued that “this recommendation falls outside the scope of the commission’s competence.”

Pope Francis prays with French bishops before his general audience, Oct. 6, 2021, in the wake of a devastating abuse report. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis prays with French bishops before his general audience, Oct. 6, 2021, in the wake of a devastating abuse report. Vatican Media.

In conclusion, the academy members underlined that an independent study of clerical abuse was necessary.

But they wrote: “The recommendations of a commission without ecclesial or civil authority can only be indicative to guide the action of the Church and its faithful.”

“Some of them could prove ruinous for the Church. They carry the seeds of a multiplication of procedures initiated by false victims, to the detriment of those who have really been victims of predators.”

The critique has reportedly been sent to the Vatican. According to French media, Pope Francis was due to meet members of CIASE on Dec. 9. But I.Media, a French news agency in Rome, said on Nov. 25 that the meeting had been postponed.

The pope responded to the CIASE report the day after its publication, describing it as “a moment of shame.”

Speaking at his weekly general audience on Oct. 6, he said: “To the victims, I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the center of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers.”


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Europe:     Pro-lifers win right to appeal ruling on German municipality’s prayer vigil ban
Pavica Vojnović, leader of the pro-life prayer vigils in Pforzheim, Germany. / ADF International.

Pforzheim, Germany, Dec 1, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-lifers have won the right to appeal a court ruling upholding a German municipality’s decision to ban a prayer vigil in front of a pre-abortion advisory center.

The Karlsruhe Administrative Court dismissed a challenge to the decision in May, but the administrative court in Mannheim, southwest Germany, has authorized an appeal.

The challenge was spearheaded by Pavica Vojnović, who led the prayer vigils outside the Pro Familia advice center in the city of Pforzheim, organized by the group 40 Days for Life.

Pro Familia is a member organization of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Vojnović said: “This is about more than our group in Pforzheim. It’s about whether prayer-free zones are lawful, or whether one is allowed to represent different opinions in the public square. That is why we will continue fighting for this freedom.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the appeal was granted in the same week that Germany’s new federal government announced plans to target “pavement harassment by anti-abortion activists.”

The incoming government is a three-party coalition formed by the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), with the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens as its partners. It is nicknamed the “traffic light coalition” because the parties’ colors are red, yellow, and green respectively.

The coalition agreement contains a section entitled “Reproductive Self-Determination” that promises to strengthen the “right of women to self-determination.” It also describes free abortions as part of “reliable health care,” CNA Deutsch reported.

Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.
Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.

In 2019, the local municipality in Pforzheim, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, denied the prayer group permission to hold vigils near the center.

Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for 40 days for women facing abortion and their unborn children. Vigil participants did not prevent anybody from entering the building or block the pavement in the surrounding area.

When the advisory center asked police to monitor the activists, they found no violations. But the center’s management asked that the vigil be moved some distance away or banned altogether.

The organization 40 Days for Life was founded by David Bereit in 2004 as a local pro-life advocacy group in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The group has grown into an international organization, holding Christian campaigns of prayer and activism to end abortion.

Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International, a Christian legal group supporting Vojnović’s legal challenge, said: “We welcome the court’s decision to hear Pavica Vojnović’s appeal. It’s encouraging that the court sees merit in the case.”

“Hopefully, it will grasp this opportunity to uphold freedom of expression, assembly, and religion. In dismissing the case, the lower court failed to affirm these freedoms which are the foundation of every free and fair democracy.”

“By prohibiting even silent prayer near an abortion organization, the Pforzheim authorities have gone beyond what could be considered reasonable or proportionate. Whether or not people agree with Pavica’s views on the sanctity of life, everyone can support the importance of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and assembly.”

Vojnović added: “Every life is valuable and deserves protection. I am shocked that we are being prevented from supporting vulnerable women and their unborn children in prayer.”

“It’s discouraging to hear that silent prayer vigils in a public place are restricted by local authorities. Our society must offer better support to mothers in difficult situations.”


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Europe:     Dutch Catholic bishops cancel Christmas Midnight Masses due to COVID-19 pandemic
The dome of the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Haarlem, the Netherlands. / Frank de ruyter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the Netherlands have decided to cancel Christmas Midnight Masses once again this year as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Dutch bishops announced on Dec. 1 that no Catholic Masses or other parish functions will be allowed to take place after 5 p.m., with public venues required to close between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. under new government measures lasting until at least Dec. 19.

The Dutch bishops’ conference website explained that the decision, also taken last year, was made to prevent large crowds gathering for evening Masses on Christmas Eve. It added that it is difficult to maintain good ventilation with multiple Masses in one evening.

Other Church gatherings, such as catechesis meetings and parish council sessions, can only take place virtually after 5 p.m. Evening Masses on weekdays and Saturdays will be brought forward to finish at 5 p.m.

Dutch officials announced that researchers had found that there were cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Netherlands before the variant was detected in South Africa, according to NPR.

More than 84% of the population in the Netherlands is fully vaccinated and a total of 587 people with COVID-19 are currently in hospital intensive care units, according to the Dutch government dashboard.

The new restrictions come as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands is struggling financially.

The Dutch newspaper Trouw reported on Nov. 30 that the 640 Catholic parishes in the Netherlands lost 15 million euros (around $17 million) last year due to the pandemic and the aging population.

It said that four out of five Catholic parishes in the Netherlands are in financial difficulty and that some parishes are selling church buildings as a result.

There are 3.7 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but only 4% regularly attend Mass, according to Dutch News.


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US:     How to listen to Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs abortion case
The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:59 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would return the issue of abortion to individual states. 

Cameras are not permitted in the chambers, but audio from the arguments will be broadcast on C-SPAN. Arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST. 

You can listen here:

Members of the EWTN News team, including reporters from CNA, will be on the ground in front of the Supreme Court. Follow along with their tweets here: 


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US:     Highlights from the Supreme Court's oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health
Groups gathered outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 1, ahead of oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. / Katie Yoder

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

This post will be continuously updated.

As the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, activists both opposed and in favor of abortion rights gathered outside the court in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

CNA is outside the court and will be providing on-the-ground updates. (All times EST.)


11:55 a.m. The Supreme Court adjourns.


11:54 a.m. In his closing rebuttal, Stewart compared Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health to Brown v. Board of Education.

"In closing, I would say that in the dissent of Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice Harlan emphasized that there is no caste system here; and the humblest in our country is the peer of the most powerful. Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerate distinctions on the basis of race," he said.

"It took 58 years for this court to recognize the truth of those realities in a decision. And that was the greatest decision that this court ever reached. We're we're running on 50 years of Roe. It is an egregiously wrong decision that has inflicted tremendous damage on our country, and will continue to do so and take innumerable human lives," until it is overruled.


11:48 a.m. Prelogar states that she does not think "there's any line that could be more principled than viability."

"I think the factors the court would have to think about are what is most consistent with precedent, what would be clear and workable, and what would preserve the essential components of the liberty interest," she said. "Viability checks all of those boxes, and has the advantage as well as being a rule of law for 50 years."


11:45 a.m. Scenes outside the Supreme Court


11:33 a.m. "Shout Your Abortion" shares a video of women allegedly taking Mifepristone, the first drug in a two-drug abortion regimen, to cheers in front of the Supreme Court.

Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone from reaching the unborn child, and is used to terminate pregnancies under 10 weeks gestation.


11:26 a.m. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar begins her arguments in support of Jackson Women's Health.


11:25 a.m. Rikelman has ended her arguments.


11:20 a.m. Justice Brett Kavanaugh notes that "when you really dig into it, history tells a somewhat different story" regarding stare decisis.

"I think that is sometimes assumed if you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent," said Kavanaugh, singling out Brown v. Board of Education, Lawrence v. Texas, and Miranda v. Arizona as examples.


11:15 a.m. Alito questions Rikelman about the historical precedent in Roe/Casey. He asked if states had recognized abortion at the time of the 14th Amendment--there were none, said Rikelman, but says there was "common law."

Rikelman could not provide a case recognizing abortion as a right.


11:06 a.m. Alito calls the viability line "arbitrary," and says that it does not make sense.

"If a woman wants to be free of the burdens of pregnancy, that interest does not disappear the moment the viability line is crossed," said Alito. "The fetus has an interest in having life, and that doesn't change."


10:56 a.m. Justice Amy Coney Barrett questions Rikelman about "safe haven" laws, which permit a woman to terminate parental rights by placing the child for adoption shortly after they are born.

Rikelman notes that this case is not just about parenthood, and says pregnancy is potentially dangerous.


10:53 a.m. Chief Justice John Roberts asked Rikelman if a 15-week line could be more workable as a legal standard than viability.

"It seems to me that (viability) doesn't have anything to do with choice," said Roberts. "If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?"

Rickelman said it would not, as enacting a pre-viability line would result in states moving to ban abortions earlier and earlier in a pregnancy.


10:46 a.m. Julie Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive rights, begins her arguments before the court.

"Casey and Roe were correct," she says. She added that there is an “an especially high bar here” as the Supreme Court rejected “every possible reason” for overturning Roe when it decided Casey.

"Mississippi's ban on abortion two months before viability is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent, " said Rikelman. "Mississippi asks for the court to dismantle this precedent and allow states to force women to remain pregnant and give birth against their will."


10:31 a.m. Justice Samuel Alito questions Stewart regarding the idea that being pro-life is a religious view only, and asks if any secular bioethicists believe life exists prior to viability.

"It's not tied to a religious view," says Stewart, who said that there are a host of secular people who have differing views on when life begins.


10:12 a.m. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are pressing Stewart on the issue of stare decisis.

Here's a breakdown about why this legal concept is so pivotal in the Dobbs case.


10:03 a.m.
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey "have no basis in the Constitution," said Stewart. "They have no home in our history or traditions. They've damaged the democratic process. They poison the law. They've choked off compromise for 50 years."

Stewart said those cases have "kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve."

"Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life," he said.


10 a.m. Oral arguments will be starting momentarily. Video is not available, but an audio recording is provided by C-SPAN. Listen live here.


9:50 a.m. Arguments are set to begin in 10 minutes, and are scheduled to last 70 minutes. Normally, reporters and members of the public would be permitted to observe arguments, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to this practice.

Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, will have 35 minutes to represent the state.

For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will have 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will also have 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The crowd outside the court continues to swell as the "Empower Women, Promote Life" rally goes on.


9:02 a.m. This is Marion, from Mississippi. She told CNA that she remembers Roe v. Wade, and says that her generation allowed it to happen. That’s why, she said, her generation must also work to reverse it.

The Supreme Court first heard arguments in Roe v. Wade on Dec. 13, 1971, almost exactly 50 years ago. The case was then re-argued in front of the court on Oct. 11, 1972, and the court announced their decision in the case on Jan. 22, 1973.


8:33 a.m. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said today is a "new chapter in American history, leaving behind the false premise that abortion levels and the playing field for women."


8:00 a.m.: It's a chilly 36 degrees, but people have assembled in front of the Supreme Court. A fence serves as a physical barrier between the two opposing groups.


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Europe:     Vatican archbishop ‘ultimately very optimistic’ about Catholic-Serbian Orthodox relations
Vatican Archbishop Paul Gallagher in 2018. / Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Belgrade, Serbia, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s “foreign minister” has said that he is “ultimately very optimistic” about relations between Catholics and Serbian Orthodox Christians.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher made the remark during a visit to Serbia, a landlocked southeastern European country with a population of almost 7 million, around 85% of whom are Orthodox Christians.

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States met with Porfirije, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on Nov. 23.

“That obviously is a good sign and we believe that there is a dialog that needs to go on and needs to go forward,” he told Ivan Tašev in an interview published on Nov. 25 in the Croatian Catholic weekly Glas Koncila (“Voice of the Council”).

“There is a history that needs to be challenged and confronted and I’m ultimately very optimistic. We view very positively the signs and the comments of the new patriarch and also I can say that the Holy Father has great respect and esteem for him and considers him already a brother within the universal Christian Church.”

Porfirije was elected leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church, in February during an assembly of bishops in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

In an interview after his election, he raised concerns about the canonization cause of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac, who is considered a hero by Catholics in neighboring Croatia.

Gallagher, who also visited Russia earlier this month, told Glas Koncila: “I think obviously there is a path to take, and that is the path of reconciliation. We need to obviously look at the shared history of the region.”

“We need to reinforce our identity above all as Christians and interpret history, the present, and the future in the light of the will of Christ. That is the thing that really matters.”

The 67-year-old English archbishop added: “There are a lot of other things such as wounds, there is contested history, and there are many other problems. In the end, what matters for the disciples of Christ is to do His will.”

No pope has visited Serbia, but Porfirije’s election raised hopes in Rome that Pope Francis might one day be invited to the country, where approximately 5% of the population is Catholic.

During a visit to Serbia in 2018, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that a papal visit could only take place “under the right conditions and when everyone agrees.”


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Vatican:     Pope Francis: St. Joseph shows engaged couples what real love looks like
null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared advice for engaged and married couples based on the example provided by the Holy Family at his Wednesday audience.

The pope highlighted how St. Joseph witnessed to what real, “mature love” looks like, particularly when life throws a couple unexpected challenges.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He asked the crowd gathered in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 1 to imagine that when Mary and Joseph were engaged to one another, “they had probably cultivated dreams and expectations regarding their life and their future,” when “out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives.”

When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis underlined that “love is not the pretension that the other person, or life, should correspond to our imagination.”

“Rather, it means to choose in full freedom to take responsibility for one’s life as it comes,” he said. “This is why Joseph gives us an important lesson. He chooses Mary with ‘his eyes open.’ We can say ‘with all the risks.’”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“And Joseph’s risk gives us this lesson: to take life as it comes,” the pope said at the live-streamed audience.

In his address, Pope Francis urged Christian couples to remember that they are “called to witness to a love like this that has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to that of mature love.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He said that this requires making “a demanding choice” that “can fortify love so that it endures when faced with the trials of time.”

“Dear brothers and dear sisters, our lives are very often not what we imagine them to be. Especially in loving and affectionate relationships, it is difficult to move from the logic of falling in love to the logic of a mature love,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“We need to move from infatuation to mature love — you newlyweds, think about this. The first phase is always marked by a certain enchantment that makes us live immersed in the imaginary that is often not based on reality and facts, the falling in love phase.”

“But precisely when falling in love with its expectations seems to come to an end, that is where true love begins or true love enters in there.”

Pope Francis said that it is normal for married couples to quarrel sometimes, but advised couples to “make peace before going to bed.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“That spouses fight is our daily bread, eh … ‘And there are even times plates fly.’ It happens. But what can be done so that this does not damage the life of the marriage? Listen to me well: never finish the day without making peace,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Remember always: never finish the day without making peace. And this will help you in your married life,” he added.

This was Pope Francis’ third reflection in a catechetical series on St. Joseph during his Wednesday general audiences.

Before ending this week’s audience, the pope made an appeal marking World AIDS Day.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Today is World AIDS Day. It is an important occasion to remember the many people who are affected by this virus. For many of them, in some areas of the world, access to the necessary treatment is not available. My hope is that there might be a renewed commitment in solidarity to guarantee fair and effective health care,” Francis said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope also asked for prayers on the day before he departs for his trip to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.

Among the crowd at the audience were newly married couples who came to the Vatican to receive the pope’s blessing for their marriages.

At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis shared a prayer to St. Joseph for Christian couples:

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“St. Joseph,
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and chose to renounce your fantasies to give way to reality,
help each of us to allow ourselves to be surprised by God
and to accept life not as something unforeseen from which to defend ourselves,
but as a mystery that hides the secret of true joy.
Obtain joy and radicality for all engaged Christians,
while always being aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.”


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Europe:     EU Catholic bishops lament ‘anti-religious bias’ in guide discouraging word ‘Christmas’
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 1, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Europe’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word “Christmas” was marred by “anti-religious bias.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal on Nov. 30 of the 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication.”

“While respecting the right of the  European Commission to model  its  written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document,” the bishops’ commission said.

The guide urged officials at the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states — to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.

The guide encouraged staff based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., said: “Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality.” 

“Respecting religious diversity cannot lead to the paradoxical consequence of suppressing the religious element from public discourse.”

The archbishop of Luxembourg and relator general of the upcoming Synod on Synodality added: “While the Catholic  Church in the EU fully supports equality and countering discrimination, it is also clear that these two goals cannot lead to distortions or self-censorship. The valuable premise of inclusiveness should not cause the opposite effect of exclusion.”

The document discouraged staff from using the terms “Ms.” or “Mr.,” saying: “In case of doubt, use ‘Mx.’” It also called for forms to “include non-binary options (beyond male and female).”

Shortly before the guide was withdrawn, the Vatican’s Secretary of State sharply criticized the document.

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the text was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, launched the guidelines on Oct. 26 but announced on Nov. 30 that she was recalling them.

She said: “It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”

COMECE, which is based in Brussels, expressed concern that the document may have caused “damage” to “the image of the EU institutions and to the support  for  the European project in the member states.”

“It is to be hoped that a revised version of the document  will  take into account  these concerns,” it said.


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US:     Mike Pence calls on Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade
Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot taken from Susan B. Anthony List livestream

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2021 / 17:06 pm (CNA).

Former vice president Mike Pence is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

“I came here today to speak about right and wrong, to say life is a human right, and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to choose life,” he said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. 

Pence delivered his remarks in anticipation of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1. The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, and challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

“As we stand here today, we may well be on the verge of an era when the Supreme Court sends Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” Pence said. 

A nonprofit organization founded by Pence, Advancing American Freedom, filed an amicus brief together with other organizations urging the court to overturn Roe and Casey.

“We are asking the court, in no uncertain terms, to make history,” Pence said at the Nov. 30 event. “We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”

He emphasized what he called the “truth about abortion.”

“Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the heartbreaking consequences of the Roe decision cannot be overstated,” he said. “More than 62 million unborn children in the United States have been aborted.”

Their lives mattered, he urged.

“In the 48 years since the court’s ruling, unborn children have been relegated into a caste of second-class citizens, devoid of the most basic human rights,” he said. “Precious babies have lived outside the protection of the law, and at the mercy of a culture that devalues them and an abortion industry that profits from their suffering.”

Pence also highlighted the women wounded by abortion, including those facing regret after their abortions. He hoped that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and declared that “Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade.”

“When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — and I believe with all my heart that day will come either now or in the near future — it will not come as a surprise to anyone,” he said. “It will simply be the culmination of a 50-year journey whose course and destination has been driven by the will of the American people.”

He called for prayers for the justices.

“I urge my fellow Americans to cherish life, to pray, tomorrow and every day between now and next spring for the justices on our Supreme Court to have the courage to seize this moment for life and join us as we humbly ask our new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said, to “Overturn Roe v. Wade and give America a new beginning for life.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, introduced Pence as a “longtime friend and pro-life leader” whose “tireless advocacy personally and at nearly every level of public service has been indispensable in getting us to this pivotal moment.”

“There’s no question that because of heroes like Mike Pence, and specifically because of Mike Pence, we are standing here today,” she said. 

“Without Trump and Pence, we would not be sitting here right now,” she told CNA of the previous administration, which appointed three Supreme Court justices. 

She also credited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for refusing to move forward with the confirmation of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice in 2016, during the Obama administration.

Like Pence, Dannenfelser expressed hope for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It makes a lot of sense, given that four justices agreed to answer only one question — if any pre-viability abortion limit is constitutional,” she said of the question posed by the Dobbs case. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“To set themselves up with that question to only just go back to Roe v. Wade seems rather unlikely,” Dannenfelser told CNA. “The question in my mind is, what would it be? What would it look like?” 

“The stakes are nothing less than the lives of millions of little boys and girls waiting to be born and the welfare of their mothers,” she said during her introductory remarks.


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Americas:     Chile legislature defeats bill that would have permitted elective abortion
Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock. / null

Santiago, Chile, Nov 30, 2021 / 16:23 pm (CNA).

The lower house of Chile’s legislature defeated Tuesday a bill that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies Nov. 30 by a vote of 65-62, with one abstention. 

Since September 2017, abortion in Chile has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds of rape, and there is no upper limit for fetal non-viability or risk to the life of the mother.

Rosario Corvalán, a lawyer with the legislative department of the Chilean NGO Comunidad y Justicia, expressed her joy over "the result and for the message it sends to citizens."

"They must stop giving us the message that ‘the majority of citizens want these bills,’ because our representatives have spoken and they don’t want abortion," Corvalán said.

Voting against the bill from the Christian Democratic Party were Matías Walker, Jorge Sabag, and Joanna Pérez, among others.

One of those absent for the vote was Gabriel Boric of Social Convergence, who is also a presidential candidate for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition who will be in the Dec. 19 presidential runoff election against José Antonio Kast of the Republican Party.

In his campaign platform, Boric promises to work to incorporate a comprehensive feminist perspective and to implement policies such as “legal, free and safe abortion on demand” as well as changes to the gender identity law.

Corvalán explained that some legislators who voted against the bill were in favor of abortion on the grounds passed in 2017. However, "they aren’t going to vote for abortion on demand" because they realize the manipulation involved and the end to be achieved.

“Although the law can’t change reality, it can be instructive. If you see that the majority of Congress says that ‘abortion is a crime,’ that helps citizens to reflect and say that ‘abortion is a bad thing,’” the lawyer said.

Corvalán encouraged pro-life people “not to stop defending their ideas, thinking that they’re an exception or something unusual. Let's go back to this common sense idea of defending the life of an innocent person."

The bill was introduced in January. 

The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Women, Equity and Gender had voted 7-6 against recommending the bill in August, but the larger body discussed it nevertheless.

After the debate in the lower house, the bill was sent back to the committee and was tabled until after the first round of the presidential elections Nov. 21.

The bill was debated during three sessions amid other issues, and was defeated in a full session of the Chamber of Deputies.


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US:     New Loyola Marymount alumni petition targets use of preferred pronouns
Alumni of Loyola Marymount University have launched a petition drive calling for the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop encouraging students to use preferred pronouns tied to their gender identity. / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2021 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

After learning that students at Loyola Marymount University allegedly were required to include their preferred pronouns on assignments and are given the option to change their name and gender identity, an alumni-led group is petitioning the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop its “institutional commitment to gender ideology."

The petition partly stems from an email that a professor, Christopher Miller, allegedly sent to students on Sept. 9. The content of the email was posted on Twitter Nov. 12 by Libs of Tik Tok, a popular conservative Twitter account.

Loyola Marymount's website identifies Miller as Bhagwan Mallinath Assistant Professor of Jainism and Yoga Studies. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion.

“I added a new syllabus to Brightspace and the one major change we all need to take note of is that all are required to include their gender pronouns next to their name in their blog posts,” the alleged email reads. “I will count this toward your grade when I check for your name each time I grade the blogs.” Brightspace is a software platform for online teaching.

“Our own LMU Provost links this article in his own signature after he identifies his pronouns,” Miller allegedly wrote. “For those who are not aware of why this is important please take a few minutes to read this article.”

The linked article, addressing the importance of respecting one’s personal choice of pronouns, appears on a website called MyPronouns.org. 

“Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them,” the article states.

“Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those pronouns if that is not how that person wants to be known,” the article continues. “Or, worse, actively choosing to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive notion that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.”

The petition calls on Loyola Marymount to stop promoting gender ideology and to renew its "institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism." The group behind the effort is called RenewLMU, which describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”

“I was a student at LMU, and I would never have wanted a professor to try to force me to do something against my Catholic faith,” Anne Rosen, a 1985 Loyola Marymount graduate who wrote the petition, told CNA.

“This professor's actions contradict the Catholic faith because they both presuppose and reinforce what Pope Francis calls ‘gender ideology,’" she added.

RenewLMU has another petition underway calling for the university to re-install a statue of St. Junípero Serra on the school's Westchester campus. The university said in a statement to CNA that it removed the statue of the Franciscan missionary for repairs in the summer of 2020 and has since formed a task force to "invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans." Those deliberations are still underway, the statement said.

The petition regarding preferred pronouns and gender identity includes a screenshot of what purports to be an email insignia from the dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Robbin D. Crabtree, which includes her pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.” 

The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU
The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU

CNA emailed Miller and the university's media office seeking comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. CNA was unable to reach Crabtree or Thomas Poon, Loyola Marymount's executive vice president and provost, for comment.

Another catalyst for Rosen’s petition is Loyola Marymount's “Chosen Name Project.” The project encourages students to choose a name, preferred gender, and pronoun identity, which all can be changed on a student’s personal information page on a school system called “PROWL,” a self-service portal for students.

A chosen name is “simply a name that a person uses in their daily life that is different than the name appearing on their legal records,” according to the university website. Transgender and “gender non-conforming” members of the college, students who use a nickname, and international students are some examples of students who “are most likely to benefit from” using a “chosen name,” according to the website.

The “Chosen Name Project” also includes a video put out by campus ministry staff that encourages students to reflect on their name. Among the questions the video poses is, “Can this name of mine represent my mission in life? Or do I need another name to give me clarity of mission to this world?”

At odds with Pope's teaching

The petition on RenewLMU.com reads: “Forcing students to declare their pronouns violates the promotion of justice because it violates the right of free speech. The right of free speech, which LMU says it protects, includes the right to remain silent, the right not to say something that you do not want to say. Compelled speech is not free speech.”

The petition says that forcing students to declare their pronouns also violates students' privacy. 

“Some students may want to remain private about their gender identity,” the petition says. “It is invasive and inappropriate for a professor to force his students to publicly declare their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

The “service of faith” is also being violated, the petition says, because forcing students to declare their preferred pronouns signals endorsement of what Pope Francis has called "gender ideology.”

“The Pope teaches that the human body, as male or female, is part of the good gift of God’s creation. Any university whose mission statement includes the service of faith should protect students of faith from being forced to act against their faith,” the petition says.

Pope Francis has denounced gender ideology several times during his pontificate. In one instance, in an address to Polish bishops in July 2016, the pope stated that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’

"Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money," the pope continued. "These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”

The petition states that “we believe, as the Catholic Church believes, that all human beings deserve to be respected by everyone and protected against unjust discrimination,” and adds that “we should love all human beings, including every person with gender dysphoria.”

The petition continues: “Protecting people does not mean forcing other people to act contrary to their faith or their consciences. And loving all people does not mean speaking or acting contrary to the truth. As St. Edith Stein taught, ‘Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.’”

The petition had collected 248 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 30, RenewLMU said.


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US:     Bishop Deeley presides at outdoor prayer service for unclaimed remains in South Portland
Bishop Robert Deeley leads a committal of unclaimed cremated remains at the Old Cemetery at Calvary in South Portland, Maine, Nov. 22, 2021. / Diocese of Portland

Portland, Maine, Nov 30, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

In view of the tombstones and damp terrain of the large and rolling Old Cemetery at Calvary, a small crowd stood reverently as Bishop Robert Deeley prayed over the unclaimed and cremated remains of ten people.

“May God grant them a merciful judgement, deliverance from death, and pardon of sin,” said Bishop Deeley. “May they rejoice forever in the presence of the eternal King and in the company of all the saints.”

Bishop Deeley then sprinkled holy water on the remains, which sat next to the All Souls burial plot, part of a special outdoor prayer service on Monday, November 22.

The rite of final commendation and committal of cremated remains is an act of mercy that serves as a reminder of the sacredness of the human person. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

“We commend to Almighty God our brothers and sisters, and we commit their earthly remains to their resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the bishop prayed during the Prayer of Committal. “The Lord bless them and keep them.”

The remains on Monday came from area funeral homes.

“The diocese offers at no charge, to all funeral homes and to anyone who is considering scattering, the dignified committal of cremated remains at Calvary,” said Jessica Letendre, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.

“There are different reasons for remains to be unclaimed, including no family or the cost,” said Kenneth Greenleaf of Maine Catholic Cemeteries. “Bishop Deeley being at this service sends a powerful message that we have a bishop who is a leader that takes care of the poor and those in need.”

Respecting and taking care of families and the faithful departed is a central mission of Maine Catholic Cemeteries, one it proudly and humbly completes each day.

“We’re serving these families today. There are ten families here that don’t have anybody,” said Greenleaf. “We’re here serving them to make sure they are not forgotten.”

Joining the bishop on Monday was Monsignor Marc Caron, Deacon Mark Tuttle, and Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette.

Fittingly, the service was held in November, a month in which Catholics are encouraged to pray for deceased loved ones and recall that they enjoy communion with each other on earth and with those who have preceded them in death.

Those in attendance at the service on Monday remained mindful of the persons, men and women, represented by the remains as they were commended to God in the hope of eternal peace.

“Burial in a Catholic cemetery recognizes baptismal commitment and gives witness, even in death, to our belief in the Resurrection,” said Letendre. “It was an honor to have Bishop Deeley preside over our outdoor prayer service on Monday afternoon, highlighting the great importance of respecting and revering all remains.”

One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “bury the dead,” the act of which offers the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through prayer and action during these times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.

“In gathering to bury the dead today, we are reminded of the humanity of those who we gather to bury, the way they shared the world in which we all live, and the charity they shared with others,” the bishop said during the service. “This is an act of mercy.”

This article was first published by the Diocese of Portland, and is reprinted with permission.


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