60TH ANNIVERSARY ST. SABINA CATHOLIC CHURCH 1957-2017

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Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis calls on Christians to recognize the face of Christ in migrants

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2020 / 06:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered Mass Wednesday asking the Virgin Mary to help Christians recognize the face of Christ in each migrant and refugee.

“As we undertake to seek the face of the Lord, we may recognize Him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. And this encounter becomes for us a time of grace and salvation, as it bestows on us the same mission entrusted to the Apostles,” Pope Francis said in the Casa Santa Marta chapel July 8.

“May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, ‘Solace or Comfort of Migrants,’ help us discover the face of Her Son in all our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee from their homeland because of the many injustices that still afflict our world today,” the pope said in his homily.

Invoking the new Marian title added to the Litany of Loreto in June, Pope Francis prayed for the migrants who are in detention camps in Libya and elsewhere who are often subject to abuse and violence.

He recommended words of Christ that can be used as a part of one’s daily examination of conscience: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The pope said: “The encounter with the other is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us. It is He who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, seeking an encounter with us and requesting our assistance.”

Pope Francis offered Mass at his residence to mark the seventh anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only the staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Department for Promoting Integral Human Development were in attendance. 

“Today’s responsorial Psalm urges us always to seek the Lord’s face: ‘Rely on the mighty Lord, constantly seek His face,’” he said. “This quest is a fundamental attitude in the life of all the faithful, who have come to realize that the ultimate goal of their existence is the encounter with God.”

During his homily, the pope told the story of his encounter with an Ethiopian migrant during his visit to Lampedusa in 2013, recalling that he later found out that his translator at the time had “distilled” the migrant’s story because of the intensity of the suffering recounted.

“This happens today with Libya,” he said. “They give us a ‘distilled’ version. The war is bad, we know it, but you cannot imagine the hell they live through there in those detention camps. And these people only came with hope to cross the sea.”

Pope Francis has frequently spoken out about the plight of migrants detained in Libya this year. On June 14 the pope called on the international community to “take their plight to heart” and to identify pathways and means to provide them with the protection that they need for a dignified condition, adding that the health situation with the coronavirus pandemic has aggravated the migrants’ already precarious conditions.

Lampedusa, the southernmost part of Italy, is located 160 nautical miles from the Libyan capital of Tripoli. It is a primary destination for migrants from Africa seeking entry to Europe.

Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island on July 8, 2013. The trip, his first pastoral visit outside Rome, signaled that concern for migrants would be at the center of his pontificate.

The pope quoted part of his Lampedusa homily in the livestreamed Mass. He said: “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference.” 

“In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business.”

The pope then responded with a reflection on how the Apostles’ lives were transformed by their encounter with Christ.

“The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation, immediately entails a mission: ‘As you go, Jesus tells them, make this proclamation: The kingdom of heaven is at hand,’” he said. “Encounter and mission cannot be separated.”

Pope Francis appoints new bishop of Savannah, Georgia

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2020 / 05:35 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Fr. Stephen D. Parkes as the next bishop of Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday.

The Holy See press office announced July 8 that Parkes, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, would succeed Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, who was appointed archbishop of Atlanta in March.

Parkes, 55, currently serves as pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Longwood, Florida. His older brother, Gregory Parkes, is bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A day of great joy as my brother, Fr. Stephen Parkes, is appointed Bishop of Savannah by Pope Francis! Blessed to be brothers. Blessed to be brother Bishops! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/courageouslyliving?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#courageouslyliving</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/DioStPete?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DioStPete</a> <a href="https://t.co/yYxTDSVGVi">pic.twitter.com/yYxTDSVGVi</a></p>&mdash; Bishop Parkes (@BishopParkes) <a href="https://twitter.com/BishopParkes/status/1280809423171203073?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 8, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The bishop-elect was born on June 2, 1965, in Mineola, New York. He attended Massapequa High School in New York and gained a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked in business and banking before pursuing a vocation to the priesthood.

In a 2015 Legatus Magazine interview, he said: “After college I started working for a bank. I always felt that I was seeking something more. I knew that I wasn’t fulfilled working for the bank, and I felt God was calling me to a life of service to the Church.”

“It wasn’t a quick, easy decision. I attended a weekend discernment retreat, but it took me two years before I picked up an application for seminary.”

He studied philosophy and theology at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Orlando on May 23, 1998. 

His first appointment was as parochial vicar to Annunciation Catholic Church in Longwood. In 2005, he was named parochial administrator at Most Precious Blood Church in Oviedo, Florida.

From 2004 to 2011, he served as spiritual director for Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Parkes was appointed pastor at Annunciation Catholic Church in 2011. A speaker of both English and Spanish, he has served as spiritual director of the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida since 2009, and as Dean of the North Central Deanery from 2010.

The Diocese of Savannah covers 37,038 square miles in the state of Georgia, with a total population of  2,934,000 of which 75,603 are Catholic, according to a July 8 press release from the USCCB.  

The diocese announced July 8 that his episcopal ordination and installation will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, the feast of St Padre Pio.

In a message to members of the diocese Wednesday, Diocesan Administrator Fr. Daniel F. Firmin wrote: “We are deeply grateful to our Holy Father for this gift to our diocese.”

“How fortunate we are to welcome a seasoned and gifted pastor! In his 22 years of priestly ministry, he has served in parishes, directed souls, and was the campus minister at the University of Central Florida for nearly a decade. His pastoral zeal and concern are immediately evident when meeting him.”

‘It meant a great deal to her’: the Catholic faith of the woman voted ‘greatest Black Briton’

CNA Staff, Jul 8, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- She was voted the “greatest Black Briton.” A statue of her stands opposite the Houses of Parliament. Her heroic life is taught to students in England as part of the National Curriculum. Yet few people know that Mary Seacole was a Catholic convert.

There may be a good reason for that: although the 19th-century businesswoman who cared for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War is a celebrated figure today, little is known about her journey to Catholicism. 

Jane Robinson, author of a 2004 biography of Seacole, told CNA: “I was unable to find out much about Mary’s Catholic faith myself, but given that she was a convert, I can only assume that it meant a great deal to her.” 

“It’s frustrating that in this, as in many areas of her personal life, information is scant. She obviously considered it to be a private affair.”

Seacole was born in 1805 in Kingston, Jamaica. Her father was a Scottish lieutenant in the British Army and her mother was a Jamaican “doctress” who taught her how to treat illnesses using herbal remedies. 

She traveled to Britain in the 1820s, and worked as a nurse in the Caribbean and in Central America. She treated patients suffering in the cholera epidemic of the time.

When the Crimean War broke out in 1853, Seacole tried to join a contingent of nurses but was refused. She decided to travel independently to set up an establishment called the “British Hotel,” offering “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers.”

Catholic author and broadcaster Joanna Bogle told CNA: “Mary Seacole never sought to be a nurse -- she was a well-to-do business lady who ran a shop selling snacks and sweets to the officers.”

“She was certainly kind and helped sick soldiers, offering them comfort and doing what she could for them, and sometimes offered some of her family remedies, learned from her mother and grandmother in Jamaica.” 

“Above all, she offered the strength of her faith, and the warmth of her heart: there are touching accounts of her holding dying soldiers, and saying ‘Mother is here…’ She became known affectionately as ‘Mother Seacole’ and years later, living in London, would recall with tears the poor dying soldiers whose last hours she had shared.”

When the war ended in 1856, Seacole returned to England with little money and in poor health. Prominent supporters, including the Duke of Wellington and William Howard Russell, war correspondent of the London Times, raised funds on her behalf. 

Fr. Stewart Foster, the archivist of the Diocese of Brentwood in southeast England, told CNA that Seacole was received into the Church in 1860, at the age of 55. It appears that she became a Catholic in England, but because her reception occurred after the publication of her autobiography she left no record of her reasons for embracing the Catholic faith, which was remerging in Britain after centuries of suppression.

When Seacole died in 1881, she was buried in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green, northwest London. Her gravestone, which was restored by the Jamaican Nurses Association in 1973, describes her as “A notable nurse who cared for the sick and wounded in the West Indies, Panama and on the battlefields of the Crimea.”

The restoration of her grave was part of a wider rediscovery of her life, which had been all but forgotten in the decades after her death. 

In 2004, Seacole came top of a list of 100 great Black Britons. The poll took place after a BBC series asked viewers to vote for the “100 Greatest Britons,” but no Black people were included in the top 100.

Following the poll, Seacole was the subject of a television documentary, several biographies, and an exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum. A portrait was discovered and placed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

A statue of Seacole was erected in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital, London, in 2016. The statue, which faces the Palace of Westminster, was believed to be the first of a Black woman identified by name in Britain. 

Reflecting on Seacole’s selfless service during the Crimean War, Bogle said: “I remember reading that when men are dying they often call for their mothers. It is apparently something noted by many nurses over the years.” 

“I am rather moved by the thought of kindly Mother Seacole responding to the cry of a dying soldier, so that at least he felt loved and caressed… and perhaps somewhere in all of that is the thought that surely Our Lady heard their cries.”

Catholic builds a shrine to St. Junipero Serra on the site of destroyed Sacramento statue

Denver Newsroom, Jul 8, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).-  

After rioters pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento on July 4, a local Catholic told CNA that she felt compelled, after prayer and reflection, to clean the spot where the statue once stood, to pray there, and to defend the 18th-century missionary’s legacy.

"I know enough about him to know that he was not a bad man, and that he doesn't deserve the inaccurate histories that were being portrayed in our local media. I'm not going to be silent about that when given an opportunity." Audrey Ortega told CNA.

Ortega, a homemaker from Sacramento and a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, set up a makeshift shrine to Serra on the statue's empty plinth July 5, and led other Catholics in cleaning graffiti from the site.

On July 4, a rioter burned the face of the Serra statue with an ignited spray from an aerosol can, before a crowd pulled the statue from its base using tow straps. After the statue fell, members of the crowd struck it with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.

Ortega said it hurt her especially that the rioters waited for the cover of darkness to destroy the statue, which according to an eyewitness took less than ten minutes to accomplish before the rioters scattered.

St. Serra’s detractors have accused him in recent years of perpetrating abuses against Native Americans. The statue, installed on the grounds of California's state capitol in 1965, was the third figure of the missionary saint to be torn down by crowds in California in recent weeks.

Ortega was not present at the protest, but watched the coverage that evening on the local news. She resolved to go to the site to, in her words, put "something beautiful on this marred, awful place."

Her 12-year-old son had made a simple wooden cross for their family's door during Holy Week, she said. She decided it would be an appropriate item to use to honor Serra, along with holy water, an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle, and holy dirt from Chimayo, New Mexico.

Ortega said she was scared at first to approach the former statue site— which is now little more than a "stump" with rebar sticking up, she said— but soon had her "prayer spot" set up on the stump with a lit candle, and she began to pray the rosary and the stations of the cross.

"I was just praying for peace, and praying for the safety of everybody involved," she said. "I'm standing on firm ground as a Catholic...I don't want to live with anger or bitterness in my heart. That's what caused the statue to be torn down in the first place."

She said praying the stations of the cross at the site was particularly powerful for her.

"I felt so connected to the sufferings of Christ, and to the sufferings of St. Serra, because I do know his story of how he suffered, of the deprivation he went through and the sacrifices he made," referring to Serra’s practices of self-mortification and the health issues he endured as a missionary in New Spain.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say the priest actually was an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights.

While Ortega was praying at the stump July 5, a reporter from the Sacramento Bee approached Ortega and asked to interview her about why she was there. The reporter later posted the video, which shows Ortega passionately speaking in defense of Serra, online.

“Pope Francis canonized him in 2015. He’s not going to canonize a rapist. There were rapists, yes, but it was not St. Serra,” Ortega said in the Sacramento Bee video.

Serra specifically advocated for the rights of Native peoples, at one point drafting a 33 point "bill of rights" for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

Serra often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over treatment of native people, and point to the outpouring of grief from native communities at his death.

Ortega lamented the fact that the statue was removed with due process, or a rational discussion. She said the groundskeepers have told her that the statue has been recovered, but she does not know if there are plans to put it back up again.

"The city has to decide: are we going to pretend like this isn't happening? Or are we going to do better than this?" she said, suggesting that the city could hold a community forum to talk about the issue.

"At least people are now learning [Serra's] story, even if it's a little late for this statue," she laughed.

On July 6, Ortega said she decided to go and scrub graffiti from the plinth, which she and her children did for two hours straight. She said many passers-by, including some state employees, thanked them for what they were doing.

Today, she said, the plinth looks nearly back to normal thanks to the cleaning efforts. But she worries that, because of the apparent inaction of the city government, it may be vandalized again.

A statue of Serra was torn down by demonstrators in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on June 19, and one was torn down in Los Angeles on the same day. Other California cities have moved Serra statues to avoid their toppling, or plan to do so.

Ortega said she plans to pray at the statue site for a few minutes each day for as long as she can.

"Anybody can walk around the capitol grounds and pray the rosary and pray for peace. And anybody can go and pray at the Serra statue, or pray the stations of the cross like I did...you can do that without a permit and without drawing...counter protestors."

In a July 5 statement, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said that while “the group’s actions may have been meant to draw attention to the sorrowful, angry memories over California’s past,” their “act of vandalism does little to build the future.”

“All monuments are imperfect as are our efforts to live up to America’s founding ideals. The primary task is to build up our community, not tear it down,” the bishop added.

 

Tucson diocese again halts public Masses to curb rise of coronavirus cases

CNA Staff, Jul 8, 2020 / 12:08 am (CNA).- As cases of COVID-19 spike in Arizona, the Diocese of Tucson has once again suspended the public celebration of Mass to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wish to inform you that after a careful review of the medical situation, and hearing the recent concerns of our Governor and civic leaders on television, I have been advised by Diocesan leadership to suspend public worship,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson announced July 1.

“This returns us temporarily to those protocols we were following just prior to the reopening of our parishes. You should anticipate a suspension of approximately four weeks but the matter will be reviewed daily and the suspension could be for a shorter or longer duration.”

According to KVOA, Arizona health officials reported 3,352 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Total cases reported have now surpassed 100,000, with nearly 2,000 deaths. As of Tuesday, about 25% of tests were coming back positive, a number that experts say far exceeds the 5% goal indicating adequate testing levels.

“Those who follow national news are aware that the State of Arizona has been referenced across the nation for our substantial spike in Covid-19 cases,” Weisenburger said.

“When the pandemic began I stressed that a primary factor on reopening would be the ability of our hospitals and medical personnel to respond adequately to the sick,” he noted, adding that the medical community has now said they are at a crisis point, with changes needed to prevent shortages in care.

The Diocese of Tucson had reopened Catholic parishes with added precautions on May 29, after parish-based public gatherings, including Masses, had been suspended beginning March 16 as part of national efforts to flatten the curve of the pandemic.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the Tucson area has been hit particularly hard in the spike following the state’s reopening, pushing the healthcare system to the brink of being overloaded and forcing some patients to seek medical care at out-of-town hospitals. Residents of Pima County suffering from COVID-19 have been sent to hospitals in Albuquerque, San Diego, and Las Vegas.

Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County health director, said the availability of beds in intensive care varies throughout the day, but, as of Monday, there are about 11 remaining beds in the Tucson area that are staffed with a critical care physician.

“We are in a critical situation right now. That doesn’t mean we’re unstable because you can be critical and stable. But our numbers keep increasing,” Cullen said, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

She said hospitals are referring patients when the staff does not believe long-term care can be adequately provided at their facility. Cullen said officials have discussed an alternate care site in Pima County, but no pop-up hospitals have yet been erected.

Bishop Weisenburger said parishes in the diocese will offer livestreaming videos of Mass online, noting that the only public Masses will be funerals and weddings, which will have a limit of 10 persons in the congregation. He said confessions will only be heard outdoors.

“The protocols we instituted for our parishes at the time of our reopening were sensible, thorough, and implemented with care and sensitivity,” he said. “When we are able to open up once again these protocols will be reinstated. But for now, where it is safe, pastors will arrange for an outdoor distribution of Holy Communion after members of the faithful have observed a Mass via technology.”

The bishop called for solidarity with those who are sick, scared, or unemployed, as well as the healthcare workers treating those who have been infected. He expressed his appreciation for the clergy and ministers who have fulfilled their vocations with fidelity and zeal even in the midst of the pandemic.

He also encouraged prayer for a quick resolution to the pandemic and asked Catholics to be examples of good social health practices.

“Let us pray that this suspension is brief and that we can soon be in one another’s company,” Weisenburger said. “Let us also be unified in our resolve to lead the way in battling this pandemic. The witness and example of our lives and the intensity of our prayers will surely help to heal the world.”

 

'Roe' abortion decision could still be overturned at SCOTUS, law professor says

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-  

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court's overturned a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, one law professor says that longstanding abortion precedents could still be overturned, even if the makeup of the court does not change.

“Given the right case, a strong enough factual record developed by state legislatures and supported at trial, I believe that the current majority on the Supreme Court could overturn Roe and Casey, and return the question of abortion to the states to resolve through the usual political processes,” University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA July 7.

On June 29 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

Its 5-4 decision in the case June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo ruled that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women.

The decision was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion. In his concurrence, Roberts said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of a Texas law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case about Texas safety regulations for clinics in the 2016 ruling Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Roberts, long considered a skeptic of pro-abortion rights jurisprudence, had dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”

For Snead, the latest decision was disappointing, but also a “road map” for continued efforts.

He lamented that Roberts failed to join four other justices in “affirming the constitutionality of a modest health and safety law for women seeking abortions, namely, the requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.”

“Nothing in the Constitution forbids Louisiana from enacting such a law. But Chief Justice Roberts felt bound to strike it down under the prudential doctrine of stare decisis because it was so factually similar to a Texas law invalidated four years ago in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (in which Chief Justice Roberts dissented).”

Snead thought the four justices who dissented in the Louisiana case were right that stare decisis did not require rejecting the law.

However, even with the Supreme Court's apparent dedication to a recent precedent, Snead was hopeful that pro-abortion rights decisions like 1973's Roe v. Wade and 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey could be overturned.

“No one in June Medical Services asked for Roe or Casey to be overturned, and Chief Justice Roberts applied Planned Parenthood v. Casey without affirming or endorsing it,” said Snead.

“He made it explicitly clear that he does not believe the Court can or should balance a woman's self-determination against a state's interest in the life of an unborn child. But this is the very calculus from whence the right to abortion came in Roe and Casey. So it's clear that Chief Justice Roberts believes that Roe and Casey are conceptually unsustainable.”

“That leaves the issue of stare decisis as the final obstacle to convincing him to undo the injustice of Roe and Casey. It is clear from his concurrence that pro life litigants need to explain why principles of stare decisis do not require Casey and Roe to be sustained,” he said.

In a July 4 essay for the First Things website, “The Way Forward After June Medical,” Snead argued that Roberts' concurrence is “the controlling opinion for purposes of precedent” and “leaves pro-life litigants on a better jurisprudential footing than before.”

“Most important, June is a road map for tailoring arguments to the new swing vote on abortion, Chief Justice Roberts,” Snead said. “It is certainly tempting to give up because there is still so far to go. But in the face of setbacks in the struggle for the equal protection of the law for every member of the human family, born and unborn, we must remind ourselves that none of it matters. We must find a way to win.”

Roberts' concurrence acknowledged that the 2016 law was wrongly decided. For Snead, a case can be “readily made” to address Roberts' concerns about precedent because of the unstable place of abortion in constitutional law. He wrote “it is built on outdated and dubious factual predicates.”

Snead told CNA that American jurisprudence on abortion “has never offered a stable, coherent, or predictable legal framework; it has been re-theorized multiple times, thus reducing its precedential standing; and there is no evidence that women have structured their lives around access to abortion, nor evidence that their personal or social flourishing depends on it.”

He said Roberts' concurrence puts forward a “new standard.” If a state's abortion restrictions face legal challenge, the state needs only “to demonstrate that it is pursuing a legitimate purpose via rational means.”

Then the state needs only rebut the plaintiff's claims that the law at issue imposes a "substantial obstacle" to obtaining a pre-viability abortion. It remains to be seen how this standard will be applied, but Chief Justice Roberts noted that it is a more permissive test than "strict scrutiny," as prescribed by Roe, Snead added.

“This is a very low standard that states can almost always meet,” said Snead, saying this standard allows states “far more latitude to restrict and regulate abortion than before.”

“Indeed, the Supreme Court just vacated and remanded for reconsideration two cases where lower courts had previously struck down a parental notice law and a law requiring an ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion,” Snead told CNA.

“States should continue to pass laws that respect and protect the intrinsic equal dignity of all human beings, born and unborn, and extend the basic protections of the law to unborn children and their mothers,” Snead said. He advised a combination of abortion restrictions and laws that strengthen “the social safety net” for pregnant mothers and families.

States should make it easier for men and women to care for their babies or, where not possible, to make an adoption plan, he suggested.

“And in our own lives, we all have the duty to extend to all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, love, respect, and radical hospitality,” he said.

 

Catholic military archbishop laments US Navy ban on 'off-base indoor religious services'

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The US Navy is reportedly loosening some restrictions on some sailors attending “off-base indoor religious services,” which it had promulgated in late June and which the archbishop for the military service had called “particularly odious to Catholics.”

The Navy had issued an order June 24 stating that "service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in...indoor religious services,” according to First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group.

Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services USA, had on Sunday lamented the Navy’s policy, noting that the orders also add that “civilian personnel, including families, are discouraged from” indoor church services.

Broglio said upon learning about the order, he had immediately contacted the Navy Chief of Chaplains’ Office, which he said was not able to offer any relief from the Navy’s provisions. His attempt to contact the Chief of Naval Operations had not been acknowledged as of July 5.

“Certainly, the Navy personnel who fall under this restriction are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, because no one can be required to do what is impossible,” Broglio said.

“However, given the great lengths to which Catholic churches...have gone in order to ensure social distancing in seating, receiving Holy Communion, and even adjust the liturgy to avoid any contagion, I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

The Navy’s director of Fleet Public Affairs told Fox News July 6 that if “conditions are met locally”— which the director did not specify— "Sailors are not prohibited from attending off-base indoor religious services.”

The Navy had on June 25 established a surveillance testing program, called Sentinel Surveillance Testing, to test asymptomatic service members for COVID-19.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics.  It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

“I want to assure the Navy Catholic faithful of my prayerful solidarity, invite them to continue to participate in Masses that are broadcast or live-streamed, and to be fervent in their faith.  This situation will pass and, as Pope Francis reminded us, Christ is in the boat with us.”

CNA was unable to reach the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA for further comment today.

Mississippi bishops denounce racism in 4th of July letter

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Mississippi’s two Catholic dioceses called on their priests to preach about racism and highlighted the Church’s anti-racism teachings in a letter to the state’s Catholics on July 4. 

Bishop Louis Kihnemann of Biloxi and Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson issued an unequivocal call for all Catholics to reject racism in society in their joint Independence Day letter.

“We join our voices to vehemently denounce racism, a plague among us. It is an evil and a force of destruction that eats away at the soul of our nation. Ultimately, it is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy—a transformation of the human heart—and compels us to act,” said the letter. 

The bishops offered a list of “practical suggestions and goals” for the two dioceses in Mississippi on how to work to end racism. These include, on the parish level, a reading of the USCCB’s “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”; homilies speaking against racism and promoting “personal responsibility to eradicate it and encourage dialog”; prayers to end racism and injustice at Mass; listening seminars for members of the parish and wider community; and invitations for chaplains and police departments “to join seminars and discussions on racism.”

Individually, the bishops suggested that Catholics read Open Wide Our Hearts and other texts concerning Catholic Social Teaching; to learn more about history and causes of racism; vote; to “not take part in racial or discriminatory humor”; work on strengthening family life; and to “speak out whenever you see injustice, racism or discrimination.” 

The bishops’ letter comes at a time when many monuments and artifacts of the Confederacy are being removed around the country, including Mississippi. Last month, lawmakers in Mississippi voted to change the state flag, which included an emblem of the Confederate battle flag. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed the bill altering the flag into law on June 30. 

The flag had flown in its previous form since 1894. 

The bishops said that an honest appraisal of history is necessary to “recognize our participation in the chains of racism,” and to acknowledge that “significant numbers of African Americans are born into economic and social disparity.” 

“Generations of African Americans were disadvantaged by slavery, wage theft, ‘Jim Crow’ laws, and the systematic denial of access to numerous wealth-building opportunities reserved for others,” they added. These effects, when added up, have led to “social structures of injustice and violence,” they said. 

Pointing to the recent widespread protests and rallies “against the tyranny of racism” in response to the “heartless killing of George Floyd,” the bishops stated that a “critical mass” has been reached that has “exploded across our nation and beyond.” 

In their Independence Day letter, the bishops acknowledged that “for many of our fellow citizens, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger,” but that they also “reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes our law enforcement personnel as a whole,” as well as violence and riots. 

At the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in November 2018, the bishops endorsed the Cause for Canonization of Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister from Mississippi who often spoke out in favor of racial justice. In their July 4 letter, the bishops repeatedly cited Bowman’s work, and agreed with her declaration that low self-esteem due to repeated criticisms from “racist society” was “one of the great problems of the black community.” 

“The enduring call to love is the heart of the matter and the antidote to this toxin,” said the bishops.  

“Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. For many in Mississippi who strive to live by the Word of God, we cannot ignore the prophets,” they added.

The bishops vowed to “recommit ourselves to continue to liberate the Church from the evil of racism,” which “severely compromises our mission to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

“With the ordained priests and deacons, religious and laity in our diocese we pledge ourselves to strengthen our Catholic tradition to educate, to serve, and to empower all who are on the margins in our communities, especially those who are oppressed by the yoke of racism,” they said. 

“We are not powerless, and the witness of Sister Thea’s life is an icon of hope that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

‘Life after ISIS’: Christians are leaving Iraq due to ongoing security concerns

Rome Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- More Christian families left the Nineveh Plains than returned to their hometowns last year amid ongoing security concerns in northern Iraq, according to a recently published report by Aid to the Church in Need. 

The report, “Life after ISIS: New challenges to Christianity in Iraq,” documents how Iraqi Christians’ worries over Iran-backed militias operating in their region drive emigration and economic insecurity. 

“Christians who have returned to their homes still feel unsafe, and substantially more insecure than other groups in the region mostly because of the violent activity of local militias,” Fr. Andrzej Halemba, the leader of ACN’s Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, wrote in the report’s foreword.

“Although economic concerns, especially employment, are paramount in some areas, it is impossible to decouple these from security considerations. These key factors need to be addressed to tackle the physical and economic insecurity that forces populations to move. If the tendency to emigrate is not stemmed, it will place, in turn, even greater pressure on Christians remaining in Iraq by reducing their critical mass and thus creating a less hospitable environment,” he said.

The ACN report found that 57% of Iraqi Christians surveyed said that they had considered emigration. Among them, 55% responded that they expect to leave Iraq by 2024.

The number of Christians living in areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State has already declined from 102,000 to 36,000 people since 2014. The report stated that some displaced Christians who returned to the Nineveh Plains as their homes were rebuilt are now choosing to leave. 

“In the summer of 2019, the Christian population of this region reached an inflection point, with more families leaving their hometown than returning. In Baghdeda alone, 3,000 Syriac Catholics left over the course of just three months in 2019 – a drop of 12% in the number of Syriac Catholics in the town,” it said.

With continued migration, the future of the Western Neo-Aramaic language known as Surith, and sometimes called “Syriac,” is also threatened if the children of immigrants do not retain the language. One Christian in Bartella told ACN: “Learning Syriac is important because it’s the language of Jesus.”

The report named Australia as one of the primary locations where Iraqi Christians emigrate, with at least 139,000 moving there since 2007.

This is in part made possible by Iraqi Christians’ family connections abroad. The study found that most Christians had at least one family member living abroad, which provides an added incentive and knowledge of how to leave Iraq. 

However, the majority of the Iraqi respondents to the ACN survey cited security concerns over family reasons as the primary reason for wanting to emigrate. 

In particular, living under an Iran-backed militia was directly correlated with feelings of insecurity. These Shia militia groups operate with the permission of the Iraqi government, but they have previously refused to comply with the prime minister's instructions to integrate into the Iraqi army. 

The ACN report detailed Christians’ complaints of theft, threats of violence, and injury perpetrated by these militia groups, which have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for human rights abuses.

Additionally, many Iraqi Christians live with the fear that the Islamic State or a similar group will return. The survey conducted by ACN found that 87% of these Christians felt unsafe or absolutely unsafe, and 67% believed that “it is likely or very likely that ISIS or a similar group will return in the next five years.”

“Disputes between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over certain Christian-majority areas have also hindered infrastructure reconstruction provoking further insecurity,” Halemba said.

The priest underlined that reconstruction efforts in the Nineveh Plains needed to continue, adding that the number of families in the immediate region that would still like to return is estimated to be more than 2,000. 

The report, published in June, is based on a stratified sampling survey conducted between August and November 2019 of 793 Christians living in areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State in the Nineveh Plains. The report was written by Halemba and Xavier Bisits, a management consultant for Bain & Company and ACN project support officer.

The authors said that the survey’s results indicated that NGOs, churches, and governments should focus on the causes that drive Iraqi Christians to emigrate and advocate for the restoration of security in the Nineveh Plains in partnership with local Church leaders.

“The findings of ‘Life after ISIS’ make clear that restoring the stability of the Christian community in this post-conflict region is only possible with a concerted effort focusing on security, education, long-term economic opportunities, and reconstruction,” Halemba said.

Catholic bishops join 1,000 faith leaders to oppose federal executions

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 10:10 am (CNA).- Several U.S. bishops, along with clergy and religious brothers and sisters from around the country, have signed a statement opposing federal executions that are scheduled to resume this month.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement read.

Catholic priests and religious, deacons, and lay leaders signed on to the statement, as well as members of Christian denominations, Reform Judaism and Conservative Jewish congregations, and Buddhist leaders, among others.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders stated.

Bishop Pates issued his own statement in addition to the joint letter, saying that “[t]he Church believes that just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

Last summer, Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to resume execution of federal prisoners on death row for the first time since 2003.

The inmates scheduled for execution are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, and Alfred Bourgeois, convicted of the murders of children and adults and, in some cases, torture.

Four of the inmates—Lee, Purkey, Honken, and Bourgeois—challenged the execution protocol, and in November a federal judge granted them an injunction so they could appeal to the Supreme Court.

The BOP had not conducted an execution since 2003, after the Obama administration decided to review the old three-drug execution protocol for lethal injection. Although Barr proposed a one-drug execution method of pentobarbital, the inmates challenged the new protocol.

The D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the inmates and vacated the injunction in April, and the Supreme Court on June 29 declined to hear their appeal, allowing for the executions to continue. The first of four executions has been scheduled for July 13, and the last on August 28.

The executions are scheduled to occur in Terre Haute, Indiana, within the archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis opposed the executions on June 18, noting his jurisdiction with regard to the location of Terre Haute federal prison and stating that “the supreme law of the Church, the salvation of souls, demands that I speak out on this very grave matter at hand.”

“Since the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, it has been the Catholic position that today’s prison system is quite adequate to protect society from inmates escaping or being unlawfully set free,” he said. While the crimes of the federal inmates cannot be ignored, he said, “humanity cannot allow the violent act of an individual to cause other members of humanity to react in violence.”

“While the Church is certainly concerned with the soul of every person, including those on death row, I make this plea against the death penalty out of ultimate concern for the eternal soul of humanity,” he said.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, has also called for the government to stop the executions.

He noted that Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty, and that the U.S. bishops’ overwhelmingly voted in favor of Pope Francis’ new language in the Catechism calling the death penalty “inadmissible.”