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Amid riots, Minneapolis basilica damaged by fire

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 10:46 PM

Denver Newsroom, May 30, 2020 / 04:46 pm (CNA).-  

The nation’s first basilica sustained fire damage amid the Minneapolis riots that have crippled the city after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer May 25.

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did withstand minor damage yesterday. No one was injured in the incident. At the time we pray for peace and healing in our city,” a spokesperson for the basilica said in a statement issued May 30.

The basilica church was dedicated in 1914, as a pro-cathedral for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was designated a minor basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1926, the first church in the country to be so designated.

Photos posted on social media purport to show several fire damaged pews inside the basilica. While the photos do seem to match the appearance of the church’s interior, a basilica spokeswoman told CNA she could not comment on the photos or verify their authenticity.

 

People it’s happened. My daughters godparents just sent me these pictures from the Basillica of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis. pic.twitter.com/hFXIrzhNwa

— MrsBrometheus (@MrsBrometheus) May 30, 2020  

 Mae Desaire, communications director at the basilica, told CNA that the church is focused on praying for the city.

“Our damage in comparison to what is going in the city is really just minimal, and we’d really like to focus on that,” Desaire told CNA.

The basilica will livestream a “Pentecost Evening Prayer for Justice and Peace” Sunday evening, at 5:30pm Central.

Desaire said the basilica’s security personnel will be working with a police investigation into the matter, and with the church’s insurance provider to plan for repairing the damage.

Buildings across the Twin Cities have burned or been destroyed, after protests responding to Floyd’s death have turned into several nights of rioting and looting. Both peaceful demonstrations and riots have taken place in dozens of other cities across the country.

St. Mary’s Basilica is located near the Minneapolis downtown, and more than a mile from the center of the riots in that city.

 

English cardinal asks why car showrooms can open but not churches

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 10:30 PM

CNA Staff, May 30, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- An English cardinal will ask Sunday why the government has failed to set a date for churches to reopen when it is lifting lockdown restrictions on car showrooms.

In a homily May 31, Cardinal Vincent Nichols will question why plans to ease lockdown measures from June 1 do not include places of worship.

Preaching at a Pentecost Sunday Mass in Westminster Cathedral, the cardinal will say that the Catholic Church accepted the government’s decision in March to close churches “because the protection of life required it.” 

“But this week’s announcements by the Prime Minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on June 15, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed,” the Archbishop of Westminster will say, according to a press release issued May 30.

“We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?” 

Public liturgies were suspended in England March 20 and churches closed a few days later. Bishops in the country have faced mounting calls from Catholics to reopen churches and allow congregations at Masses while respecting social distancing rules.

video by lay Catholics appealing for churches to be reopened has been viewed more than 10,000 times since it was posted April 22.

Cardinal Nichols, who has been involved in discussions between the government and religious communities during the lockdown, is expected to say that the pandemic has underlined how important faith is to many people. 

“The role of faith in our society has been made even clearer in these last weeks: as a motivation for the selfless care of the sick and dying; as providing crucial comfort in bereavement; as a source of immense and effective provision for those in sharp and pressing need; as underpinning a vision of the dignity of the every person, a dignity that has to be at the heart of the rebuilding of our society,” he will say.

“The opening of our churches, even if just for individual prayer, helps to nurture this vital contribution to our common good.”

The cardinal, who is the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, will also say that the bishops are confident they can reopen churches safely.  

“We are ready to follow the Government's guidelines as soon as they are finalized. What is the risk to a person who sits quietly in a church which is being thoroughly cleaned, properly supervised and in which social distancing is maintained? The benefits of being able to access places of prayer is profound, on individual and family stability and, significantly, on their willingness to help others in their need,” he will say.

“It is now time to move to the phased opening of our churches.”

The island of Guernsey will permit what are thought to be the first public Masses in the British Isles since the coronavirus lockdown from June 1.  

The island, located in the English Channel, is a self-governing British crown dependency and not part of the U.K. It is therefore able to set its own rules.

The U.K. is among the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With a population of 67 million, the U.K has had more than 274,000 documented coronavirus cases and 38,450 deaths as of May 30, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pope Francis calls for “a more just, equitable and Christian society” after coronavirus crisis

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 9:15 PM

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- Our suffering during the coronavirus crisis will have been in vain if we fail to build “a more just, more equitable, more Christian society,” Pope Francis said May 30.

In a video message released Saturday, on the eve of Pentecost, the pope urged Catholics to seize the opportunity for change presented by the pandemic.  

He said: “When we come out of this pandemic, we will no longer be able to do what we have been doing, and how we have been doing it. No, everything will be different.”

“All the suffering will have been useless if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name, but in reality, a reality that leads us to a Christian behavior.”

“If we do not work to end the pandemic of poverty in the world, with the pandemic of poverty in the country of each one of us, in the city where each of us lives, this time will have been in vain.”

The pope made the comments in a message to members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service (CHARIS). The body was established in December 2018 by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life to bring together the different branches of the Charismatic Renewal worldwide. Its statutes came into force on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2019.

The pope told CHARIS members, who were taking part in an online Pentecost vigil, that “Today more than ever we need the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.”

The world is suffering, he said, and it needs the witness of Catholics to the Gospel of Jesus, which can only be given through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“We need the Spirit to give us new eyes, open our minds and hearts to face this moment and the future with the lesson we have learned: we are one humanity. We are not saved alone,” the pope explained, speaking in his native Spanish.

He said that the pandemic had underlined that, despite their differences, Christians are one, united by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“We have before us the duty to build a new reality,” he said. “The Lord will do it; we can collaborate.”

He continued: “From the great trials of humanity, and among them the pandemic, one comes out either better or worse. It is not the same.”

“I ask you: How do you want to come out? Better or worse? And that's why today we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that He may change our hearts and help us to come out better.”

“If we do not live to be judged according to what Jesus tells us: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was in prison and you visited me, a stranger and you welcomed me’ (cf. Matthew 25:35-36), we will not come out better.”

The Pope urged members of CHARIS to be guided by a text called Charismatic Renewal and the Service of Man by the Belgian Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens and the Brazilian Archbishop Hélder Câmara. 

He also encouraged them to reflect on “the prophetic words” of St. John XXIII announcing the Second Vatican Council, in which he spoke of a “new Pentecost.” 

Pope Francis concluded: “To all of you, I wish on this vigil the consolation of the Holy Spirit. And the strength of the Holy Spirit to come out of this moment of pain, sadness and trial that is the pandemic; to come out better. May the Lord bless you and may the Virgin Mother take care of you.”

UN and US trade criticism over abortion during coronavirus

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 7:00 PM

CNA Staff, May 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- United Nations Human Rights Council has criticized some U.S. states for using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict abortion. 

“UN experts are concerned some U.S. states – such as Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee – appear to be manipulating #COVID19 crisis measures to restrict access to essential #abortion care,” tweeted the United Nations Special Procedures account on Wednesday, May 27. 

The tweet linked to an article published Wednesday on the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Office of the High Commissioner’s website that further cited the states for classifying elective abortions as a non-essential medical procedure. 

“We regret that the above-mentioned states, with a long history of restrictive practices against abortion, appear to be manipulating the crisis to severely restrict women’s reproductive rights,” said Elizabeth Broderick, vice-chair of the  UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, quoted in the article. 

“This situation is also the latest expmple illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country. We fear that, without clear political will to reverse such restrictive and regressive trends, states will continue pursuing this pattern,” Broderick added. 

She further expressed fears that the measures introduced to conserve medical resources to fight the coronavirus would result in women staying pregnant past their state’s legal limit for abortion and “render abortion services completely inaccessible,” and reiterated her belief that “abortion care constitutes essential health care and must remain available during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Abortion access in the United States has remained a contentious issue throughout the pandemic. Several states sought to halt elective abortions as well as other medical procedures deemed non-essential, such as knee replacements. 

Courts throughout the country reached differing conclusions on the legality of these rules. Some of these bans, such as the one in Texas, have already expired

The UN’s criticism of the abortion policies in the U.S. comes less than 10 days after acting USAID Administrator John Barsa sent a letter United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on May 18, criticizing the United Nations for putting abortion access and other sexual health issues on the same priority as other basic human needs, such as access to food and shelter.

“The U.N. should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’” wrote Barsa. 

“Unfortunately, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan does just this, by cynically placing the provision of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ on the same level of importance as food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation. Most egregious is that the Global HRP calls for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.” 

Barsa cited President Donald Trump’s priority of “defending innocent life” in his letter, and reminded Guterres that Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the organization has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

“To use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to pressure governments to change their laws is an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care,” said Barsa. “The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn.” 

Three days later, on May 21, the U.N. refuted this claim and said that they would not use the pandemic to promote abortion. 

"Any suggestion that we are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote abortion is not correct," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at the time, noting that “we do not seek to override any national laws.”

Ahead of Pentecost, Supreme Court backs California coronavirus limits on churches

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 5:53 PM

Denver Newsroom, May 30, 2020 / 11:53 am (CNA).-  

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s limits on the number of people who may attend a church service, in a decision that saw justices debating whether religious services were being treated more strictly than similar gatherings under restrictions aimed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a President George W. Bush appointee, joined four Democrat-appointed justices in the 5-4 majority Friday. His opinion emphasized the need to defer to elected officials amid efforts to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.

“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement,” he said, adding that local officials are “actively shaping their response to changing facts on the ground.”

Precedent entrusts to elected officials judgments about the safety and health of the people, he said, and they have especially broad latitude in areas of “medical and scientific uncertainties.”

“Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people,” he continued.

The decision responded to an emergency appeal from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church and its senior pastor Bishop Arthur Hodges III, who had challenged California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order limiting churches to 25% of their normal maximum capacity, with 100 people maximum at any service. The church said it would follow other guidance on social distancing and hygiene.

Roberts said “comparable secular gatherings” have similar or more strict restrictions, including “lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

“And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods,” he said.

In a mid-May interview, Hodges stressed the need for in-person events at his church.

“For example, it’s essential for people to be baptized,” he told NBC San Diego. “But you can’t baptize yourself. You have to have the church, the clergy, to do that.”

In a May 29 post on Twitter, Hodges said “a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is necessary to avoid civil disobedience by thousands of churches in California and other states on this Pentecost Sunday, May 31.”

The church had filed an injunction request alleging that state and local officials “intentionally denigrated California churches and pastors and people of faith by relegating them to third-class citizenship,” City News Service reports. It objected to the placement of places of worship in Stage 3 of California’s reopening plan. This stage includes movie theaters, salons and gyms. The church also argued that manufacturing and warehouses had been arbitrarily classed in Stage 2, a faster track for reopening.

Roberts said the restrictions “appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” He rejected the claim that it is “indisputably clear” the government limitations are unconstitutional.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, said the occupancy cap “indisputably discriminates against religion, and such discrimination violates the First Amendment.”

“The church would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentecost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities,” he said in his dissent.

“The basic constitutional problem is that comparable secular businesses are not subject to a 25% occupancy cap, including factories, offices, supermarkets, restaurants, retail stores, pharmacies, shopping malls, pet grooming shops, bookstores, florists, hair salons, and cannabis dispensaries,” he continued.

Kavanaugh said the state must offer a “compelling justification” to distinguish between religious worship services and “the litany of other secular businesses that are not subject to an occupancy cap.”

“California has not shown such a justification,” he said, noting the importance of the church’s willingness to abide by state rules that apply to comparable secular business, including social distancing and hygiene rules.

“I would grant the Church’s requested temporary injunction because California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses. Such discrimination violates the First Amendment,” he said.

Kavanaugh’s dissent was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Samuel Alito dissented but did not join the opinion.

The court rejected a different appeal from two Chicago-area churches that challenged a 10-person limit on attendees at religious services. Before the court took action, Gov. Jay Pritzker increased the limit to 100 attendees per service.

The churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church of Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries of Niles, Ill., had both sought to open ahead of the Christian holy day of Pentecost.

 

 

 

 



 

Everything you need to know about Pentecost

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 5:52 PM

Denver, Colo., May 30, 2020 / 11:52 am (CNA).- This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year that concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.  

Here’s what you need to know about the feast day:

The timing and origins of Pentecost

Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ten days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date, and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.

The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the Novena - nine days of prayer - because in Acts 1, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, the Church prays the Novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.

The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word "pentecoste," meaning 50th.

There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu`ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover.

Originally a harvest feast, Shavu`ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast.  

What happens at Pentecost?

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room.

A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk - but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and said the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission - to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It fulfills the New Testament promise from Christ (Luke 24:46-49) that the Apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel.

Where’s that in the bible?

The main event of Pentecost (the strong driving wind and tongues of fire) takes place in Acts 2:13, though the events immediately following (Peter’s homily, the baptism of thousands) continue through verse 41.

Happy Birthday, Church

It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other non-believers, in which he opened the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptised. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptised following Peter’s sermon.

For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church - Peter, the first Pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.

Pentecost vestments and customs around the world

Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.

However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “WhitSunday”, or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit, and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.

An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called Pascha Rosatum (Easter roses).

In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.

In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited. In Russia, Mass goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.

This article was originally published on CNA June 2, 2017.

Pope Francis asks Mary to intercede for end to pandemic during rosary with world’s shrines

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 5:15 PM

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 11:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis asked the Virgin Mary to intercede for an end to “this terrible pandemic” as he recited the rosary with Marian shrines worldwide via videolink May 30.

The pope was joined Saturday by 50 shrines in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa as he implored God’s help amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 365,000 lives so far.

During the rosary, the pope was seated before the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens. The grotto’s altar is the original altar from the Grotto at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.   

Sitting behind Pope Francis were rows of people wearing medical masks spaced apart to avoid spreading the virus. 

At the conclusion of the rosary, the pope rose to pray, saying: “O Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes to us in this pandemic of coronavirus, and comfort those who are lost and weeping for their dearly departed, sometimes buried in a way that hurts the soul.”

“Support those who are distressed for the sick people to whom, to prevent contagion, they cannot stay near. Instill confidence in those who are anxious about the uncertain future and the consequences for the economy and work.” 

“Mother of God and our Mother, implore for us from God, Father of mercy, that this hard trial ends and that a horizon of hope and peace returns.” 

Flanked by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, he continued: “As at Cana, come to your Son Jesus, asking him to comfort the families of the sick and victims and to open their hearts to trust. Protect the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, volunteers who in this time of emergency are in the front line and put their lives at risk to save other lives.”

“Accompany their fatigue and give them strength, goodness and health. Be close to those who night and day care for the sick, to priests and consecrated persons who, with pastoral solicitude and evangelical commitment, seek to help and support everyone.” 

The pope prayed for scientists and world leaders, and that money spent on weapons would be given instead to those studying how to avoid future catastrophes. 

He implored Mary to help the world grow in solidarity, firmness in faith, and perseverance in service and prayer. 

“O Mary, comforter of the afflicted, embrace all your troubled children and ask that the Merciful Father intervene with his omnipotent hand to free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life may take its daily course in serenity,” he prayed. 

“We entrust ourselves to You, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, O merciful, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.” 

The Argentine pope then greeted those gathered at shrines in Latin America via videolink. 

Speaking in Spanish, he said: “To all of you, the shrines of Latin America -- I see Guadalupe and so many others -- who are connected with us, united in prayer. In my mother tongue, I greet you. Thank you for being close to all of us. May our Mother of Guadalupe accompany us.”

As those gathered sang the Ave Maria of Fatima, the pope prayed silently beneath the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was illuminated inside the grotto, before departing.

The rosary event was promoted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, with the theme “Devoted with one accord to prayer, together with Mary,” inspired by the Acts of the Apostles 1:14.

The Pontifical Council has been responsible for Catholic shrines since 2017.

In an interview with EWTN Vatican ahead of the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said: “I think we have discovered two main things during this special moment. First of all the importance of the media for the new evangelization and the importance of media for the prayer.”

Shrines joining the pope from the Americas included the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal in Canada, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá in Colombia, Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and Our Lady of Luján in Argentina.

The majority of shrines were located in Italy, including Loreto, Pompei, and Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Padre Pio. Other participating shrines in Europe included: Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal; Częstochowa, Poland; and Walsingham, England.

The pope was joined from Israel by the Basilica of the Annunciation, and from Africa by the shrines of Elele in Nigeria and Notre-Dame de la Paix in Ivory Coast.

The rosary was recited in the Vatican Gardens by men and women affected by the coronavirus crisis. They included a doctor, a nurse, a hospital chaplain, and a woman who had lost her mother to COVID-19. 

In a May 30 interview with the Italian version of Vatican News, Archbishop Fisichella noted that a baby born during the pandemic would also be present at the event with his family. 

He said: “Last but not least, I like to remember that there will also be Jacopo, a child just one month old, whom we have chosen with his parents, because he was born during this dramatic period. 

“Jacopo is the one who gives hope, he is the one who makes us understand that life continues and will always go on, because man is made for life, he is made to live.”

There have been more than 5.9 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide as of May 30, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pope Francis praises sacrifices of Rome’s clergy amid pandemic

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 3:30 PM

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has praised Rome’s priests for remaining close to their flocks as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged Italy.

In a 3,000-word letter dated May 31 and marking Pentecost Sunday, the pope expressed his deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by clergy during the crisis.

“As a priestly community we were not strangers to this reality and we did not look at it from the window; drenched in the storm that raged, you made an effort to be present and accompany your communities: you saw the wolf coming and did not flee or abandon the flock,” he said, according to an unofficial translation of the letter provided by the Holy See press office.

In the letter, released May 30, the pope noted that he had been unable to address priests at this year’s Chrism Mass, which was due to take place on Holy Thursday but was postponed due to the pandemic. 

The pope, who is Bishop of Rome, said he wished to share his vision for the future with his brothers in the priesthood. 

“The new phase we are beginning asks us for wisdom, foresight and common commitment, so that all the efforts and sacrifices made so far will not be in vain,” he wrote. 

He thanked priests for sharing their recent experiences with him via telephone and email. 

He said: “Although it was necessary to maintain social distancing, this did not prevent us from strengthening the sense of belonging, fellowship and mission which helped us to ensure that charity, especially with the most disadvantaged people and communities, was not quarantined.”

“I was able to see, in those sincere dialogues, that the necessary distance was not synonymous with withdrawal or isolation of the self that anesthetizes, sedates and extinguishes the mission. Encouraged by these exchanges, I am writing to you because I want to be closer to you, in order to accompany, share and confirm your journey.” 

The pope drew a parallel between the Church in Rome today and the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem before Pentecost. The first apostolic community, he said, “also lived through moments of confinement, isolation, fear and uncertainty.”

He wrote: “We have suffered the sudden loss of family, neighbors, friends, parishioners, confessors, points of reference of our faith. We saw the disconsolate faces of those who could not stay close and say goodbye to their loved ones in their last hours. We have seen the suffering and helplessness of the health workers who, exhausted, spent themselves in endless days of work, worried about having to respond to so many requests.” 

“We have all felt the insecurity and fear of workers and volunteers who exposed themselves to risk on a daily basis to ensure that essential services were provided; and also to accompany and care for those who, because of their exclusion and vulnerability, were suffering even more from the consequences of this pandemic.” 

“We have heard and seen the difficulties and discomforts of social confinement: loneliness and isolation, especially of the elderly; anxiety, anguish and a sense of a lack of protection in the face of job and housing uncertainty; violence in and pressure on relationships.” 

“The ancestral fear of contagion has once again struck hard. We have also shared the distressing concerns of entire families who do not know what to put on their plates the following week.”

Faced with this suffering, the pope said, priests experienced a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.

“The unpredictability of the situation highlighted our inability to live with and face the unknown, which we cannot govern or control, and like everyone else, we felt confused, frightened, helpless,” he wrote. 

Clergy were unable to serve the people in the way they had become accustomed to, the pope noted.

“The complexity of what had to be faced did not allow for ‘recipes’ or textbook answers; it required much more than easy exhortations or edifying speeches, incapable of taking root and consciously taking on everything that concrete life demanded of us,” he said.

“The pain of our people hurt us, their uncertainties afflicted us, our common fragility stripped us of any false idealistic or spiritualistic complacency, as well as any attempt at puritanical escape.”

Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus crisis had shaken society’s most basic assumptions.

“The narrative of a society of prophylaxis, imperturbable and always ready for indefinite consumption, has been questioned, revealing the lack of cultural and spiritual immunity to conflict,” he wrote.

The pandemic posed urgent questions, he said, and they could not be answered simply by resuming activities put on hold during the lockdown.

He wrote that “it will be indispensable to develop a way of listening which is attentive but full of hope, serene but tenacious, constant but not anxious, which can prepare and pave the way for the Lord’s call to us.”

He urged priests to resist the temptation to withdraw into “brooding” over the devastation wrought by the pandemic, as well as the trap of an “unlimited optimism” that refused to accept the true extent of the damage. 

He wrote: “There are many temptations, typical of this time, that can blind us and make us cultivate certain feelings and attitudes that do not allow hope to stimulate our creativity, our ingenuity and our ability to respond.” 

“From wanting to honestly take on board the gravity of the situation, but trying to resolve it only with substitute or palliative activities, waiting for everything to return to ‘normal,’ ignoring the deep wounds and the number of people who have fallen in the meantime; until we are immersed in a certain paralyzing nostalgia for the recent past that makes us say ‘nothing will ever be the same again’ and makes us incapable of inviting others to dream of and develop new ways and styles of life.”

The pope encouraged clergy to fix their gaze on the Resurrection in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“If an invisible, silent, expansive and viral presence has put us in crisis and caused us upheaval, let this other discreet, respectful and non-invasive Presence call us again and teach us not to be afraid to face reality,” he wrote.

“If an impalpable presence has been able to disrupt and overturn the priorities and seemingly irremovable global agendas that so suffocate and devastate our communities and our sister earth, let us not fear that it is the presence of the Risen One that traces our path, opens horizons and gives us the courage to live this historic and unique moment.” 

Returning to the theme of Pentecost, he described the Apostles as “a handful of fearful men” who were nevertheless able to release “a new current” into the world.

“Let us be surprised once again by the Risen One,” he said. “May it be He, from His wounded side, a sign of how harsh and unjust reality becomes, who pushes us not to turn our backs on the harsh and difficult reality of our brothers and sisters.”

In conclusion, the pope encouraged Rome’s clergy to “take responsibility for the future and plan it as brothers.”

“We place in the wounded hands of the Lord, as a holy offering, our fragility, the fragility of our people, that of all humanity,” he wrote. 

Vatican tees up summer fun with sports camp

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 3:00 PM

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- After weeks stuck indoors, the children of Vatican employees will be able to stretch their legs, and grow in their faith, at a sports camp hosted inside the Vatican this summer.

“Estate Ragazzi in Vaticano” is a camp for the children of Vatican City State employees in the style of the oratory of St. John Bosco.

And it is not letting ongoing coronavirus safety measures get in the way of an “educational, sporty, and fun” experience for kids ages 5-14, one organizer told CNA.

“What we are trying to do is to not change the way in which kids play, but to change the games” to comply with the safety measures in place, said Pasquale Acunzo.

Acunzo works for “Tutto in una Festa” which runs children’s events and is partnering with the Vatican’s Salesian community to put on the day camp, which will take place in July.

The idea for the camp, he said, started from Pope Francis’ desire to welcome kids to the Vatican in the model of the Salesian oratory.

Salesian Fr. Franco Fontana, chaplain of the Vatican Museums and gendarmes, told Vatican News that organizers wanted a way to help parents working at the Vatican, many of whom will be back in the office this summer. 

With camp activities taking place inside the Pope Paul VI hall, the Vatican Gardens, and other sport facilities inside the city state, moms and dads will be able to have their kids nearby while working.

“After months in which families have been forced to stay at home, parents will need to entrust their children to trusted people who know how to restore hope, enthusiasm, and to teach their children safely,” Fontana said.

The theme of the camp will be “happiness and the beatitudes.”

“We are all called to happiness. We look for it, we all want it even though we know that it is not easy to find or maintain it. But what is true happiness?” the camp website says.

“Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus of Nazareth gave an extraordinary answer. He used eight sentences that all begin with ‘Blessed…’ and are called the ‘Beatitudes.’”

Bishop Fernando Vergez, secretary general of the Vatican City State, wrote about the camp in a letter to parents in March, saying “summer should be, especially after these months, a beautiful and fruitful time for the growth of young people.”

The time risks being filled with television and video games, Vergez said. “A lot of free time needs to be filled with meaning.”

Activities will include prayer, workshops, group and individual sports, games, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

Christ can overcome racism, Minnesota priest says at George Floyd prayer service 

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 2:00 AM

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The love of Christ can overcome the sin of racism, the pastor of a historic Minnesota African-American parish said Friday, at a prayer service in the aftermath of the protests and riots in St. Paul and Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

“Racism,” said Fr. Erich Rutten said, “is a very deep sin in our souls. In not only our personal souls, but in the soul of our country.”

“To get past it, we need the love of Christ,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones and encounter one another. Pope Francis says so often that we need to truly encounter one another.”



Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, led the service on Friday evening, hours after buildings in the parish neighborhood were set ablaze. The prayer service was also attended by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Because of coronavirus social distancing measures, parishioners attended the prayer service via a Facebook livestream.

St. Peter Claver Church was founded in 1888 as the first African-American Roman Catholic parish in Minnesota.

Rutten read the Gospel passage in which Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves Him and then instructs Peter to feed His sheep.

The priest then preached about the nature of love, the sin of racism, and a need for justice in the world.

In the Gospel, said Rutten, Jesus asks those to love him and to commit to him, and “that the love of God the Father might include all in everything.”

And while people may say that they do desire to love everyone, this is often easier said than done, Rutten added.

“When we think about it in the abstract, sure, we want to love everybody,” said Rutten. “But it’s a little bit harder with family, it’s a little bit harder with our fellow parishioners. It’s even harder with people that we don’t know very well, or people that maybe are different than us, or people that might even frighten us.”

Rutten offered prayers for justice and peace, “because there can be no peace without justice.” To achieve these goals, Rutten said that he thinks “we need to be very humble, we need to be very generous, and we need to seek true reconciliation: restorative justice.”

This Sunday, Pentecost, the world needs “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said Rutten.

“Amidst our noisy lives, our noisy world, and especially the energy of the last couple of days, we pray for racial justice and peace,” he added.

Cozzens prayed “Wake Me Up Lord,” a prayer against racism that was published in the 1989 USCCB message “For The Love of One Another.”

At the close of the evening’s service, Hebda spoke of his “great fondness” for the parish of St. Peter Claver, and noted that the church has a unique and important role for the Catholic Church in the Twin Cities in raising awareness of racism and how the Church could be more welcoming.

“I’ve heard more than once in these walls that it can be ‘exhausting’ to teach the rest of the Church about racism, and I’m grateful for your patience and perseverance,” he said.

“We continue to learn from you and your deep prayer. So please, know of my great gratitude, and that of Bishop Cozzens as well, for all that you do,” said Hebda. 

 

New South Wales worship restrictions changed after complaints of unfair treatment

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 11:46 PM

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 05:46 pm (CNA).- Churches in New South Wales will be allowed to open with the same restrictions as other buildings, after Australian Catholics complained that religious services were being treated unfairly.

Over the past few days, 20,000 Catholics signed a petition by the Sydney Archdiocese asking Premier Gladys Berejiklian to offer churches the same treatment as other NSW venues.

When coronavirus restrictions begin to lift on June 1, bars, restaurants, and clubs will be permitted a maximum capacity of 50 people present. Churches, however, were only to be allowed 10 worshipers at any one time.

“I am at a loss to explain to Catholics in Sydney why our reasonable requests to the government are not being granted,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, according to the Catholic Weekly.

Following the launch of the petition, NSW officials announced Friday that places of worship will instead have a 50 person limit like other facilities, as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Weddings will only be allowed to have 20 people in attendance, but funerals will be permitted 50.

Fisher applauded the government's new regulation and expressed gratitude to the Catholics who signed the petition. He said it was “a victory of common sense.”

“The closure of our churches and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” Archbishop Fisher said, according to Catholic Weekly. “It added to the isolation and anxiety that so many were feeling.”

“With restrictions easing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind, and wanted to make their voices heard. People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally.”

“I look forward to welcoming them back in greater numbers from Monday,” the  archbishop said. “We will continue to abide by government health directives, and continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and all those affected by it.”

‘Racism is not a thing of the past’ – US bishops respond to George Floyd killing

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 11:36 PM

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference responded to the killing of an African American man in Minneapolis this week by stressing that the fight to eradicate racism is a pro-life issue.

“As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue,” they said in a May 29 statement.

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on,” the bishops said.

“As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life.”

The statement was released by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee against racism; Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the cultural diversity committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the pro-life committee; Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, head of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, chair of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, chair of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

The bishops responded to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody this week. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd, who is black, subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, and other officers stood nearby and watched.

Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has prompted protests in numerous cities, including rioting and looting in some parts of Minneapolis.

After widespread protest, former police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

In their statement, the bishops said they were “broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”

“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

The bishops called for non-violent protests, while acknowledging that people are understandably outraged.

“Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life,” they said.

Catholics must fight indifference surrounding the issue of racism and speak up to fight it, the bishops said. They pointed to their most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” which calls for greater engagement on the issue.

The bishops encouraged Americans to encounter people of different cultural backgrounds and seek greater understanding and unity.

“Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States,” they said.

Hearing ‘cry of the poor’ is key message of 'Laudato si', Cardinal Turkson says

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 10:00 PM

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Peter Turkson has said that the principle of “non-violence” extends beyond opposing physical violence, and must include the protection human rights from exploitation.

Acknowledging the week's protests and rioting in Minneapolis, the Vatican cardinal made the comments during an event to mark five years since the promulgation of the papal encyclical Laudato si’.

“There’s a lot of talk within the same church about Christian non-violence,” said Cardinal Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, making reference to the social unrest in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

“Christian non-violence is not only when you [do not] hold a gun or a knife to the throat of somebody. Christian non-violence is also when you do not do violence to people’s dignity, people’s rights,” he said.

When the conditions necessary for human flourishing are not met in society, then the “cry of the poor” can be heard, he said, pointing to prayers for victims of racism and injustice in the wake of the Minneapolis riots.  

Cardinal Turkson made his remarks as he led an online panel discussion on Friday. The event “Laudato Si After Five Years: Hearing the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor” was co-sponsored by the Vatican and Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Kim Daniels, associate director of the initiative, began Friday’s event with a prayer for George Floyd “and all those who suffer from acts of racism and injustice,” after a “tragic week” where large riots and protests had occurred in Minneapolis, New York, and other cities in the U.S. Daniels was appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication in 2016.

The protests followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday after a police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes while arresting him. Floyd, moaning and crying out in apparent pain, said repeatedly that he could not breathe in a video of the incident taken by bystanders. 

Floyd appeared unconscious several minutes into the video, and according to the police department was later taken to a hospital where he died. Four police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired from the department, and one was arrested on Friday and charged with murder and manslaughter.

Noting the prayer for Floyd and other victims of racism and injustice at the beginning of Friday’s event, Turkson said that “it’s just a cry for people to recognize that every human being requires a minimum of social conditions to enable him to live, and live successfully and happily.”

Both human beings and the environment need to be cared for, he said, and when they are not “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” is heard—a key message of Laudato si’.

The “cry of the poor” occurs because “what they need to constitute their thriving, prosperous environment, is denied them,” the cardinal said. “And that’s why we talk about justice.”

The human and economic toll of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has also taught ecological lessons, he said. 

Turkson pointed out that lockdown conditions have resulted in emissions drops, causing cleaner air in India and China, but the sudden unemployment of millions of people as a result of the economic shutdown challenges the very sustainability of the current economic system.

Cardinal Turkson said that Pope Francis’ letter was the “result of a lot of teaching” from previous popes.

Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio stressed care for nature and established ecology as “a set of conditions which constitute an environment which enables something to thrive,” Turkson said, while Pope St. John Paul II talked about human ecology and the environment of moral conditions which one needs to live well, and Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate taught that “society itself also has an environment that needs to be respected.”

Integral ecology, he said, is “ecology of nature, ecology of the human person, ecology of society, ecology of peace.”

After death of George Floyd, Minnesota Catholics pray for justice

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 9:55 PM

Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- While rioters and looters took to the streets and parts of Minneapolis burned, some Minnesota Catholics called for justice and unity after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer on Monday.

“I am saddened. I am sickened. I am angered. And I am tired. I am tired of such things happening again and again. ‘How long, O Lord,’ must we endure such things?” Fr. Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Paul, said in a YouTube message May 27, two days after Floyd was killed.

“The love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, clearly shows us that we are all children of one God, and that we are all equally subjects of Christ our King, in the Kingdom of God our Father. We are all brothers and sisters.”

The parish is home to the largest African-American Catholic community in the Twin Cities. In 1888, it was the first Catholic Church founded by and for African-Americans living in Minnesota.

“Here is a case where white supremacy has cost someone their life. The misguided idea that white people can somehow push other people around, or that we own this country, or that we own Minneapolis, leads to terrible disrespect. Leads to poverty. Leads to, in this case, violence, and in many cases, violence,” Rutten added in his video.

“This particular case is so egregious,” Rutten told CNA Wednesday, “that it’s just maddening.”

“Our faith calls us way beyond racism, into a radical unity, in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom we're all brother and sisters. I mean truly: Really brothers and sisters,” Rutten added.

“There's a great African-American hymn: 'We've come this far by faith, leaning on his holy Word, he hasn't failed us yet.' It's just enduring faith that God will always be with us through it.”

St. Peter Claver is located in a St. Paul neighborhood where buildings were damaged by looters on Thursday evening.

“It was a crazy night, with lots going on around here,” Rutten said in a video released Friday morning.

“Just feeling very badly for our community, for so much pain, and hoping we can find ways for healing, reconciliation and peace. I know that won’t be easy.”

The parish will livestream a prayer service Friday evening.

St. Peter Claver parishioners have also called for justice.

Estelle Jones, 75, leads the social justice committee at St. Peter Claver, and facilitates a parish support group for families of incarcerated men and women.

On Tuesday, she told CNA that “I am feeling...it’s very difficult to even want to talk about it.”

“Something has to stop, I hope. It’s sad, but I hope, and it’s too sad, that George Floyd’s death would wake up the community, and the United States of America, that we stop this violence and police brutality, and this racism.”

God made all of us. It’s hard to understand why black people and brown people are hated so much. I’m devastated.”

Jones said she watched in 2015 as police assaulted her own grandson, then in his mid-thirties, while at a traffic stop. She said her grandson “got out of his car, and, um, they— he didn’t resist them at all. In fact, he was standing with his hands in the air. The next thing we knew, they had thrown him on the ground and were tasing him.”

“We were there. My daughter, his mother, and me. This was one of the most horrible, horrific things to ever see happen to a loved one, and we were standing there.”

Jones said her grandson was hospitalized for his injuries.

“Watching what happened to George Floyd just brought back this whole situation to me. To just know what this family must be going through, what the community is going through….Something has to stop this.”

Jones said her social justice and social support work at her parish is part of her effort to help young people in the parish understand the struggle for civil rights, and an ongoing struggle for racial justice. But she says she can’t do that alone.

In his YouTube video, Rutten said the parishioners of St. Peter Claver are called to “agitate both in our Church and in our world for racial justice and peace and healing, and the reality that we truly are brothers and sisters.”

“Remembering George, we need to continue that mission,” Rutten said.

Jones said she hopes for justice in the case of George Floyd.

“To me, justice— I feel like everyone else. Too many black men have been murdered, and nothing has been done by the police.”

Jones mentioned the deaths of Phliando Castile, Treyvon Martin, and Eric Garner.

“Enough is enough. And with George Floyd- that is blatant killing somebody in front of the whole world. How can you do that and think you can get away with it? Justice should be them being prosecuted, and serving some prison time.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

“The video of George Floyd in police custody Monday evening is gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. The sadness and pain are intense. Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice,” Hebda said in a May 27 statement.

“Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection. All human life is sacred.”

“Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when ‘love and truth will meet [and] justice and peace will kiss,’” Hebda added, quoting Psalm 85.

For her part, Estelle Jones told CNA she hopes Catholics across the country will pray for George Floyd.

She also said she hopes Catholics will remember that “God created us all as equals, and to recognize that we all should love each other no matter what the color of our skin is, our economic status, or anything that would make us seem different from anybody else. To accept us all as human beings. As God would want us to do.”

 

Last Missouri abortion clinic will stay open, despite state’s safety concerns

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 9:15 PM

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- The last abortion clinic in Missouri will be allowed to continue operating, despite the state’s decision not to renew its license last year because of health and safety concerns. 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis had been battling the state of Missouri in court for over a year after the state Health Department argued that the clinic— the last one allowed to perform surgical abortions in the state— is unsafe. 

Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commissioner, issued a ruling May 29 stating that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with Missouri state law, and that “in over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” the Associated Press reports. 

The hearing, presided over by Dandamudi, began last October.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services initially refused to renew the clinic’s abortion license in June 2019, following a inspection that March that found evidence of at least four “failed abortions”— meaning they took multiple procedures to complete— at the clinic. 

The Health Department submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” in court, citing an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, and a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care.”

In one instance, inspectors found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete, the AP reports. In another instance, a Planned Parenthood physician reportedly failed to notice that a woman seeking an abortion was pregnant with twins.

The Health Department also said Planned Parenthood went back on an agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” and that several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the department. 

For its part, Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”

When the clinic’s license expired in June, 2019, lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order from Judge Michael F. Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis to allow the clinic to continue performing abortions without a license.

Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis supported the measure.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

The law was crafted to be able to survive successive challenges in the courts, but a federal judge in August, 2019, struck down all of the bans related to every stage of pregnancy. The following months, the same judge also struck down the part of the Missouri law banning Down Syndrome abortions while the legal challenges continue to be heard. 

In the adjacent state of Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed legislation to expand access to abortion in that state.

In response to the possible closure of the St. Louis clinic, Planned Parenthood announced in October, 2019, the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million “mega” abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from the Missouri site.

Planned Parenthood reportedly arranged construction through a shell company, shielding the nature of the building from public view - and even from workers helping in the construction.

Swiss accounts frozen in Vatican property deal probe

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 8:30 PM

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Tens of millions of euros have been frozen in Swiss banks as part of the investigation into a Vatican property investment, according to a Swiss media report. Swiss authorities have also forwarded documents to Vatican prosecutors, as part of an investigation into investments made by the Holy See Secretariat of State.

On May 23, NZZ am Sonntag reported that Holy See prosecutors sent Swiss authorities a formal request for help examining the Holy See Secretariat of State’s investment of more than $300 million in a luxury London property development.

"The Federal Office of Justice received a request for legal assistance in this matter," spokesman Raphael Frei told NZZ. "With a diplomatic note dated April 30, 2020, the Federal Office sent the Vatican a first part of the requested documents." 

The newspaper also reported that its sources had confirmed tens of millions of euros have been frozen in several Swiss banks as part of the investigation.

Vatican investigators are examining the Secretariat of State’s purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, London.  In October 2019, four officials at the department were suspended following a raid by Vatican gendarmes in which they seized files and computers. A further raid on a former senior official at the secretariat was conducted in February.

CNA has reported that that deal was at least partially financed with loans from several Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and BSI.

BSI was the subject of a damning report by Swiss banking authorities in 2016, which found that the bank was in “serious breaches of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organization.” The bank was ordered into an extinctive merger with EFG Group in 2017, on condition that no BSI officer retain a management role.

Credit Suisse acknowledged to NZZ that it was involved in the investigation, but said that it was not the subject of any accusation by either Swiss or Vatican authorities. 

"Credit Suisse is not the subject of the Vatican's investigation, but is working with the authorities in compliance with the applicable regulations," said bank spokeswoman Anitta Tuure.

The London building was purchased by the Secretariat of State in stages, over a period of years, from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

When it sold to the secretariat 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company retained the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. Mincione eventually offered to part with those, at greatly inflated prices.

To complete the sale, in 2018 the Secretariat of State enlisted the help of another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, who acted as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares. Torzi earned 10 million euros for his role in the deal.

Earlier this month, CNA reported that one of the five suspended employees, Fabrizio Tirabassi, who was charged with managing the secretariat’s investments, was made a director of a Luxembourg-registered holding company belonging to Torzi.  

Sources close to the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that Tirabassi has been involved in managing several financial transactions at the secretariat that are now being examined by financial investigators at the Vatican.

CDC removes faith guidance discouraging choirs, shared cups 

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 6:56 PM

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 12:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has removed guidance on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website which discouraged, among other things, singing, choirs and “shared cups” at religious services.

Despite the CDC’s backtrack, Catholic medical professionals and other experts with whom CNA has spoken continue to recommend that singing and the Communion cup ought to be discouraged at Mass for the time being.

Religious communities should “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition,” the guidelines, posted May 22, originally read.

“The act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”

CNA learned from a person familiar with the deliberations that the White House did not approve the original CDC guidance before it was published.

That guidance was reportedly met with concern by many people of faith for certain provisions that seemed to intrude on the autonomy of religious groups, such as one recommendation that Jews should be allowed to use electronic devices on the Sabbath to stream services online.

A new CDC guidance page went live May 23. The new guidance, CNA was told, was to have the input of lawyers with experience in religious freedom cases. It was to be more sensitive to the autonomy of churches and religions and apply a “lighter touch” to them, functioning as a set of recommendations rather than instructions, and implying that actions taken by state and local governments that go beyond the federal recommendations are inappropriate.

The new guidance page contains no specific guidance related to singing or choirs. A recommendation to suspend the use of “shared cups” and passed or shared objects such as collection plates also was removed in favor of a recommendation to “clean and disinfect” such objects between uses.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous administration officials, has reported that the White House pushed against the CDC issuing guidance for churches, with the concern that it did not want to unnecessarily limit their freedom under the First Amendment.

The new guidance states at the top that it is not “intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or any other federal law.”

It goes on to say that the federal government may not prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship, and that in accordance with the First Amendment, no faith community “should be asked to adopt any mitigation strategies that are more stringent than the mitigation strategies asked of similarly situated entities or activities.”

As the novel coronavirus spread in March, all U.S. Catholic dioceses curtailed public Masses to prevent the spread of the disease. However, beginning in mid-April, dioceses have begun resuming the offering of public Masses.

An April 28 document from the Thomistic Institute in Washington D.C., written by medical professionals, researchers, and theologians and distributed to dioceses by the U.S. bishops’ conference, recommends that singing at Mass ought to be discouraged.

The Thomistic Institute’s document also recommends that the Precious Blood ought not be distributed at Mass.

To date, dioceses that have developed Church reopening plans have called for suspension of distribution of the Precious Blood. The Catholic Church teaches that reception of either the host or the chalice is a complete act of Eucharistic reception.

The Thomistic Instutute’s website does state, however, that the  guidelines “will be updated as the situation changes and as the WHO/CDC guidance changes.”

Deacon Tim Flanigan is a member of the Thomistic Institute’s working group, an infectious disease specialist who has battled Ebola outbreaks, and a professor of medicine at Brown University. Flanigan also told CNA that Catholics can return to Mass and the sacraments safely if they observe CDC protocols.

“The question is: can I follow the CDC guidance just as carefully, in each setting, in order to decrease transmission of coronavirus? Can I maintain safe distancing? Can I maintain good hand hygiene? Can I ensure that I am not ill?” Flanigan told CNA last week.

If CDC guidelines are followed, “There is no reason to prohibit church services when you don’t prohibit other gatherings,” Flanigan said.

“The CDC gives us that guidance to decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just as important that guidance be followed at a house of worship, as at a conference, as at any other gathering.”

An ad-hoc committee of seven Catholic doctors and medical school professors released on May 12 a plan entitled “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely.”

That group of doctors concluded that “choirs and singing should be avoided” due to the aerosol risk.

They also concluded that the safest recommendation is to receive Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue. The plan does not contain specific guidance on the use of the cup at Mass.

The doctors’ plan calls for Mass to be held with social distancing, and for the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Those who are ill or believe they may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, it says.

Churches have been the focus of concern during the epidemic because of the close proximity of church attendees, socialization before, during and after services, and singing. Some churches have older congregations and so are believed to be more vulnerable to extreme consequences from coronavirus infection.

A May 22 article from the CDC reported that among the 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church, 38% developed a laboratory-confirmed case of infection after a pastor and his wife, who had the virus, attended several events there in early March.

Twenty-six additional cases— including one death— in the community also were linked to the church.

The CDC had also, earlier this month, released a report chronicling a COVID-19 “superspreader” event, whereby a single symptomatic person infected more than 50 people— two of whom died— at a choir practice in Washington state in March.

Deacon Robert Lanciotti, a microbiologist and the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s diagnostic and reference laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, told CNA that in his opinion, the Washington state “superspreader” example does not entirely exclude the possibility of singing in church.

“The key issue here is that a symptomatic individual practiced for 2.5 hours in close contact with others with no facial coverings,” Lanciotti pointed out.

That individual also engaged in close-contact activities such as eating and talking, he said in an email to CNA.

“I think that it is likely that this individual infected others primarily by singing in close contact with others. However, it may still be safe to sing in a church in which symptomatic people stay home and those present are wearing masks.”

 

DC parishes expected to reopen with 10 person limit

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 3:30 PM

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- After the mayor of Washington, D.C., lifted a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, public Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington are expected to resume with a limit of 10 people.

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday lifted the city’s stay-at-home order and allowed some businesses and public spaces to begin reopening by Friday.

Bowser still limited public gatherings, indoor and outdoor, to no more than 10 people. The mayor’s office confirmed to CNA on Wednesday that the 10-person limit applied to religious gatherings.

The Archdiocese of Washington said on its website that, starting May 25, all parishes could resume public Masses in areas where local governments had lifted stay-home restrictions; other parishes still subject to a local stay-home order would not offer public Masses until the order would be lifted.

As the archdiocese spans not only D.C. but also several adjacent Maryland counties, some Maryland parishes have already begun offering public Masses. The state began lifting stay-at-home restrictions in mid-May, but two counties bordering the city kept the original restrictions in place.

According to the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic Standard aknowledged that parish reopenings remained limited as “the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties are maintaining limits on the sizes of public gatherings to 10 people.”

On May 15, the archdiocese had released guidance for parishes on reopening, saying it “will continue to reflect the various limitations that those jurisdictions impose on public assemblies.”

The archdiocese has said that a team “has been planning for liturgical celebrations in the future,” but did not respond to requests for comment on a likely timetable for any further action.

The Washington transition out of a stay-at-home order allows for outdoor seating at restaurants, non-essential retail businesses to offer curbside service, barber shops and nail salons to serve customers by appointment only, and certain parks and public spaces to open.

The archdiocese is home to 139 parishes and mission parishes, and 655,000 Catholics. It is also home to major Catholic pilgrimage sites, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. 

Early in the pandemic, a friar at the Franciscan Monastery in the city’s northeast succumbed to the new coronavirus and was the city’s first reported COVID-19 death.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is not a diocesan church, despite being located within the boundaries of the archdiocese. On March 12, the basilica announced it was continuing public Masses just hours before D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory curtailed public Masses in the archdiocese. 

On the next day, March 13, a spokeswoman for the basilica confirmed to CNA that public Masses would still continue at the shrine notwithstanding Archbishop Gregory’s announcement; later on March 13, the basilica said it would suspend public Masses at the instruction of the archdiocese.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Basilica said the shrine "remains closed to the public."

"Though the stay at home order was lifted, the state of emergency remains in effect limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer," Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the shrine told CNA.

"On this account, we unfortunately are still unable to open to the public."

Some experts split from Fauci on Holy Communion recommendation

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 2:00 PM

Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- As dioceses across the United States start to reopen public Masses, the scientist leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic recommended that Catholic Churches ought not resume distribution of Holy Communion. But other medical experts told CNA there are ways that Communion can be distributed safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told America magazine May 26 that he does not consider the distribution of Holy Communion to yet be safe— even if distributed in the hand.

“I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that,” Fauci said regarding Communion, calling for “common sense” measures to protect worshippers and the wider community such as masks, social distancing, and prohibiting singing.

“As many times as a priest can wash his hands, he gets to Communion, he puts it in somebody’s hand, they put it in their mouth...it’s that kind of close interaction that you don’t want when you’re in the middle of a deadly outbreak,” he told America.

Fauci’s recommendation on the Eucharist came a month after he said it could be possible for Americans to connect with people through dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Grindr.

“If you’re willing to take a risk...you could figure out if you want to meet somebody,” Fauci told Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”

“If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk,” he added.

Deacon Robert Lanciotti is a microbiologist and the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s diagnostic and reference laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. Lanciotti told CNA that Fauci’s call for “common sense” measures to mitigate the risk of infection does not exclude the possibility of distributing Communion.

“The primary way that this virus is spread is by direct person to person contact; droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes that land on another person and then enter the respiratory tract,” Lanciotti told CNA in an email.

“Maintaining a 6-foot distance or wearing a cloth mask are both methods that disrupt this process. Utilizing one of these measures in a group setting where infected symptomatic people are not present should be a sufficient level of risk reduction.”

Lanciotti, a graduate of Loyola College, was ordained a deacon in 2017.

He took issue with Fauci’s concerns regarding Communion in the hand.

“With the use of hand sanitizer immediately prior to the distribution of Holy Communion, and being careful not to directly touch the communicant, there is virtually no risk in the distribution of Communion,” Lanciotti told CNA.

Deacon Lanciotti pointed to an April 28 document from the Thomistic Institute in Washington D.C., written by medical professionals, researchers, and theologians.

That group recommended that out of respect for the Mass, the priest ought not wear a mask or gloves during the Mass, and neither should anyone distributing Communion.

Under the group’s recommended guidelines, those who wish to receive could approach the altar, spaced six feet apart; if the priest believed he touched the hands or mouth of a recipient, he could use hand sanitizer sitting on a table next to him.

According to the Thomistic Institute's recommendations, the Precious Blood ought not be distributed at Mass.

To date, dioceses that have developed Church reopening plans have called for suspension of distribution of the Precious Blood. The Catholic Church teaches that reception of either the host or the chalice is a complete act of Eucharistic reception.

The Thomistic Institute’s document, distributed to bishops by the U.S. bishops’ conference, also recommends— as did Dr. Fauci— that singing ought to be discouraged.

It also states that it could be possible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue “without unreasonable risk.”

The document recommends that the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions ought not attend Mass anyway, as they are at especially high risk.

“I completely agree with this statement...In the setting of a church service, the single most important safety measure is for symptomatic individuals to stay home,” Lanciotti told CNA.

“I would argue that having sick individuals stay home, followed by adopting one more measure— masks or social distancing— is a reasonable approach. Utilizing both masks and social distancing represents a safety redundancy that is excessive and counter to ‘common sense,’” he said.

At St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Masses resumed May 18, after more than two months of closure amid Italy’s coronavirus lockdown.

Visitors are advised to keep two meters apart, hand sanitizer is available at kiosks in the basilica, and, at the church’s entrance, the body temperatures of visitors are checked with scanning thermometers.

The Eucharist is distributed during Masses at the basilica.

Fauci, a Catholic, attended a Jesuit secondary school and Jesuit university.

In 2015, he told C-Span that he is no longer “a regular church-attender. I have evolved into less a Roman Catholic religion person to someone who tries to keep a degree of spirituality about them. I look upon myself as a humanist. I have faith in the goodness of mankind."

He similarly told America that he appreciates his Catholic education, and especially the values he was taught at the Jesuit institutions he attended.

“I identify more, much more, with that than the concept of organized churches, religions,” he told America.

Other Catholic medical professionals have weighed in on the question of whether Holy Communion can be distributed safely.

An ad-hoc committee of seven Catholic doctors and medical school professors released on May 12 a document entitled “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely.” That group of doctors concluded that the safest recommendation is to receive Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.

The document calls for Mass to be held with social distancing, and for the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Singing should be avoided, and those who are ill or believe they may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, it says.

One member of that committee is Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s School of Public Health.

Baccarelli told CNA that he agrees with and appreciates Fauci’s suggestions, and that there is a risk to the distribution of Holy Communion.

“Our committee wrote a plan to minimize the risk to distribute communion. That doesn’t mean that there will be no risk nor that we advised on whether it was safe to do it now or in the future,” Baccarelli added. “We just provided a document to guide masses and distribute Communion whenever it will be safe enough to do so.”

“If Dr. Fauci suggests it is not time yet to distribute communion, I think we should listen to him and wait before doing that again,” Baccarelli said.

Another member of the committee told CNA last week that he believes Catholics can attend Mass safely, and sacraments can be administered with appropriate precautions.

“I think that if we just use common sense to compare apples to apples for metrics that we know matter - like density, for example - then there’s no real kind of objective scientific reason why Mass is any more dangerous than going to the grocery store. I think the difference here is a perceived risk,” Dr. Andrew Wang, an immunobiologist at the Yale University School of Medicine and one of the plan’s co-authors, told CNA.

The plan calls for confessions to be held in outdoor or well-ventilated indoor areas, with the use of masks, an impermeable barrier between the priest and penitent, and frequent sanitization of surfaces.

Wang said that distributing Holy Communion on the hand, rather than on the tongue, represents an appropriate precaution for churches, especially while some things about the coronavirus spread are not yet completely understood.

Acknowledging that some people may object to that recommendation, Wang said that in his perspective, “it boils down to, is it better to not have communion at all - and by extension not have Mass at all?”

Ultimately, Wang said, going to church at this time is not risk-free, just as any other public activity is not without risk during a pandemic. He noted that dioceses throughout the country have granted dispensations from the Sunday obligation for those who are unable to attend or are not comfortable with the risk involved.

Deacon Tim Flanigan is a member of the Thomistic Institute’s working group, an infectious disease specialist who has battled Ebola outbreaks, and a professor of medicine at Brown University. Flanigan also told CNA that Catholics can return to Mass and the sacraments safely - if they observe CDC protocols.

“The question is: can I follow the CDC guidance just as carefully, in each setting, in order to decrease transmission of coronavirus? Can I maintain safe distancing? Can I maintain good hand hygiene? Can I ensure that I am not ill?” Flanigan told CNA last week.

If CDC guidelines are followed, “There is no reason to prohibit church services when you don’t prohibit other gatherings,” Flanigan said.

“The CDC gives us that guidance to decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just as important that guidance be followed at a house of worship, as at a conference, as at any other gathering.”

“If somebody makes an arbitrary judgment that a church is not going to follow that guidance, without any evidence, that is biased and there is no evidence for that,” he said.

Flanigan questioned the categories of some governors who classified religious gatherings as “non-essential,” compared to more “essential” activities like grocery stores.

“Being able to come together and pray together, being able to receive the sacraments, to encounter the Lord, right there in the sacraments, is so important,” Flanigan said.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, just as important as spiritual health,” he said. “We are a whole self, which has a mind, a body, a heart a soul. To be able to pray together, to be able to support each other, to be able to worship together, to be able to receive the Lord in Communion, is so important for us to be healthy and to thrive.”

“That is why our churches are essential,” Flanigan told CNA.

 

 

Vatican offers online book for parents facing difficult prenatal diagnosis

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 1:10 PM

Vatican City, May 29, 2020 / 07:10 am (CNA).- The Vatican has published a free book online that can be a resource for parents facing a difficult or fatal diagnosis for their unborn child during pregnancy. 

The nearly 300-page ebook is a compilation of speeches given at a Vatican conference held last year dedicated to the medical care and ministries that support families who receive a prenatal diagnosis indicating that their baby will likely die before or just after birth. 

“Yes to Life: Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness,” a conference organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life in May 2019, brought together medical professionals, bioethicists, ministry providers, and families from 70 countries to discuss how best to provide medical, psychological, and emotional support for parents expecting a child with a life-limiting illness.

“Sometimes people ask me, what does perinatal hospice look like? And I answer, ‘It looks like love,’” author and mother Amy Kuebelbeck shared at the conference. 

Kuebelbeck was 25 weeks pregnant when she received the diagnosis that her unborn son had an incurable heart defect. She carried her pregnancy to term and had a little more than two hours with her son, Gabriel, before he died after birth.

“It was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” Kuebelbeck said. She wrote a memoir of her experience of grief, loss, and love called Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby’s Brief Life.

“I know that some people assume that continuing a pregnancy with a baby who will die is all for nothing. But it isn’t all for nothing.  Parents can wait with their baby, protect their baby, and love their baby for as long as that baby is able to live. They can give that baby a peaceful life -- and a peaceful goodbye. That’s not nothing. That is a gift,” Kuebelbeck wrote in Waiting with Gabriel.

Kuebelbeck’s testimony at the conference is included in the ebook in English, as is a transcript of the presentation provided by Dr. Byron Calhoun, a medical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who first coined the term “perinatal hospice.” 

Calhoun’s research has found that allowing parents of newborns with a terminal prenatal diagnosis the chance to be parents can result in less distress for the mother than pregnancy termination. 

Other speeches from the conference are also published in Italian and Spanish, such Sister Giustina Olha Holubets’ Italian presentation. The Ukrainian religious sister, who works as a geneticist at the University of Lviv, helped to found “Imprint of Life,” a perinatal palliative care center in Ukraine.

“Imprint of Life” offers grief accompaniment, individualized birth plans, the sacrament of baptism, and burial, as well as respectful photos, footprints, and memory books to help families cherish their brief moments with their child. Their motto is “I cannot give more days to your life, but I can give more life to your days.”

There are now more than 300 hospitals, hospices, and ministries providing perinatal palliative care around the world.

Many families facing these diagnoses have to decide if they will seek extraordinary or disproportionate medical care for their child after birth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘overzealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

Ministries like Alexandra’s House, a perinatal hospice in Kansas City, Missouri, provide counsel and grief support to parents as they face these difficult medical decisions. They also connect families with a network of other parents who have had a terminal prenatal diagnosis.

“Most of the families stay in contact indefinitely,” said MaryCarroll Sullivan, nurse and bioethics adviser for the ministry.

The book, published by the Vatican’s Publishing House, includes Pope Francis’ speech from his meeting with the conference participants in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

In this speech, Pope Francis said that selective abortion of the disabled is the “expression of an inhumane eugenic mentality that deprives families of the chance to accept, embrace and love the weakest of their children.”

“Fear and hostility towards disability often lead to the choice of abortion, presenting it as a practice of ‘prevention,’” the pope said on May 25, 2019.

Pope Francis also thanked the perinatal hospice providers for creating “networks of love” to which couples can turn to receive accompaniment with the undeniable practical, human, and spiritual difficulties they face.

“Your witness of love is a gift to the world,” he said.

“Caring for these children helps parents to process their mourning and to understand it not only as loss, but also as a stage in a journey travelled together. They will have had the opportunity to love their child, and that child will remain in their memory forever,” Pope Francis said.

“Those few hours in which a mother can cradle her child in her arms leave an unforgettable trace in her heart.”