CNA General News

Syndicate content CNA
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 14 min 46 sec ago

In Argentina, 400 grottos to be built for celebration of Virgin Mary

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 8:16 PM

Catamarca, Argentina, Feb 6, 2020 / 01:16 pm (CNA).- To commemorate the anniversary of a statue of the Virgin Mary being discovered in Argentina, 400 small grottos are being constructed in one region of the country.

Four hundred years ago, an indigenous Argentine discovered a statue of Our Lady in a rock niche on the side of a remote slope. The image bears the brown skin tone of the native population, and has led to widespread popular devotion, under the title Our Lady of the Valley, the patroness of the province of Catamarca, where the discovery occurred.

Marking the 400th anniversary of the finding of the statue, the bishops of Argentina have declared Dec. 8, 2019 to Dec 8, 2020 a National Marian Year.  The year 2020 also marks the 500th anniversary of the first Mass offered on Argentine soil.

Parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in the town of Hualfín in Catamarca suggested the idea of building 400 grottos as part of the celebration. The idea was approved by Bishop Luis Urbane of Catamarca and the parish councils in the area. Each parish is responsible for building 13 of the small grottos.

The first grotto has already been completed and was blessed Jan. 30 in the hamlet of Laguna Blanca.

Parolin: On McCarrick report release, Pope Francis has 'final word'

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 7:20 PM

Vatican City, Feb 6, 2020 / 12:20 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis will make the final decision on when to publish a highly-anticipated report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Thursday.

“I think that [the report] will come out soon, I cannot tell you exactly when,” Parolin told a small group of journalists Feb. 6.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on holiness, the cardinal said “we are trying to speed up the time to arrive” at the publication of the report on the Vatican's internal investigation into the disgraced former cardinal.

Parolin did confirm that he expects the document to be released “in the near future.”

“However, the publication depends on the pope. The work that is done is done, but the pope must give the final word,” he added.

The Vatican announced that it would conduct an internal review of files on McCarrick’s career in October 2018. McCarrick was a cardinal and the archbishop of two major American sees before he was found guilty of serial sexual abuse and laicized in 2019, following a canonical process.

Since the review was announced, American Catholics - including many bishops - have repeatedly called for the release of its findings.

Over the past several months, the bishops of the United States have been meeting with Pope Francis for their ad limina visits, travelling to Rome in regional groups. While there, several bishops have raised the issue of the McCarrick report. 

When the topic was came up during the USCCB meeting in Baltimore in November last year, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, recently returned from Rome, updated the U.S. bishops on the report’s progress, saying that the final draft was being translated into Italian for presentation to Pope Francis and was expected to be released at the beginning of 2020, if not sooner. 

In the 87 days since Cardinal O’Malley gave that update, other bishops have said they also raised the issue while in Rome.

In December, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing told EWTN News that he asked about the status of the McCarrick investigation and was “very glad to hear that a report is coming.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler also told reporters that he'd asked about the timing of the report’s release in a meeting with Pope Francis during his own ad limina visit in January.

McCarrick was laicized in February 2019, after he was found by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

Pope Francis announced an internal Vatican investigation into the career of McCarrick in October 2018.

Trump slams opponents, asks for votes at National Prayer Breakfast

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 6:00 PM

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump chastised political opponents, touted strong economic numbers, and asked for votes at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

At the beginning of his remarks, President Trump spoke of the “terrible ordeal” he had been through, caused, he said,  “by some very dishonest and corrupt people.” On Wednesday afternoon, a Senate vote failed to convict Trump on two impeachment counts of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was the only Republican who broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, the only member of an impeached President’s party to vote to do so in U.S. history. Romney cited his “conscience” and “oath before God to apply impartial justice” as the reasons for his decision to do so.

Joining Trump at the event was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who coordinated the House of Representatives’ effort to serve articles of impeachment against Trump, resulting in his trial in the Senate. 

In December last year, Pelosi angrily confronted a reporter who asked her if she hated Trump. She told the reporter not to “mess with [her].” Citing her Catholic upbringing, Pelosi insisted that she did not hate anyone and that she prayed for the president “all the time.”

“I don’t like people using their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong, nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so,” Trump said Thursday, apparently in reference to Pelosi and Romney.

“The enemies and the allies, we have them all,” he said. “Sometimes the allies are enemies, but we just don’t know it.”

“They like people, and sometimes they hate people. I’m sorry. I apologize. I’m trying to learn. It’s not easy. It’s not easy,” he said. “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them. It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.”

“We want every nation to look up to us like they are right now. We were not a respected nation just a few years ago. We had lost our way. Our country is respected again, by everybody,” he said.

The 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast was held at the Hilton International Ballroom in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Held annually since 1953, the event is hosted by members of Congress from both parties and organized by the Faith Foundation. Thursday’s breakfast was attended by representatives of more than 140 countries.

In keeping with previous years at the event, the president was invited to make an address, joined by Dr. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute as a keynote speaker.

Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) were the congressional co-hosts, and other members of Congress in attendance included Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Rep Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.).

Three Ahmadi Muslims—a religious minority in Pakistan—were guests of Suozzi and Moolenaar. One of them, Ummad Farooq, was shot in the head in a religiously motivated attack but has since made a dramatic recovery.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence also attended the breakfast. Singer Cece Winans performed, with her husband Alvin Love III present.

In her own remarks, Speaker Pelosi prayed for the “poor” and “persecuted” around the world, including Tibetan Buddhists, “one to three million” Uyghurs incarcerated in camps in China, “writers” and “freethinkers” persecuted in Saudi Arabia, detained Patriarch Abune Antonios in Eritrea, victims of anti-Semitism, Yazidis and Rohingya Muslims, and other persecuted religious minorities.

She also prayed “that we treat everyone with dignity and respect” and that “the moral clarity of faith moves us to demand justice for those who are suffering.”

Arthur Brooks, in his remarks, called attention to a “crisis of contempt and polarization that is tearing our societies apart.”

“The problem isn’t anger my friends,” he said, but “contempt.”

“Contempt kills marriages. Contempt kills relationships. Contempt kills love,” he said. “Watch how we talk to each other.”

While some are calling for “civility” and “tolerance,” he said, that’s a “low standard.” Jesus, he said, “didn’t say ‘tolerate your enemies,’” but rather “love your enemies.”

After Brooks spoke, President Trump remarked to laughter from the audience, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. But I don’t know if Arthur’s going to like what I’m going to say.”

Trump also mentioned victims of religious persecution in his remarks, saying the U.S. is standing up for “religious minorities around the world like nobody has ever done.” He noted the case of “Mary,” a 21 year-old detained in Iran for converting to Christianit,y and the arrests of church leaders by Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro.

Trump also praised the cultural contributions of religious immigrants throughout American history. 

“Before a single skyscraper rose up in New York City, thousands of poor American families donated all they could to build the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” Trump said.

“We are creating a culture that protects freedom, and that includes religious freedom,” Trump said. “We are upholding the sanctity of life, sanctity of life,” he said, “and we are doing that like nobody has ever done it before from this position.” He added that “every child is a sacred gift from God.”

The president also appeared to ask for support from the audience at the non-partisan event.

“You better get out and vote on November 3rd, because you have a lot of people out there who aren’t liking what we’re doing,” he said.

At the prayer breakfast, Trump also touted strong economic and employment numbers, as well as a recent Gallup poll reporting satisfaction by Americans—"and that’s from Gallup, no friend of mine,” he said.

“And the great American comeback, that’s what it is,” he said. “Our country has never done better than it is doing right now. Our economy is the strongest it has ever been.”

“And for those of you who are interested in stocks, it looks like the stock market will be way up again today,” he said.

What Pope Francis told Tim Tebow

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 5:37 PM

Vatican City, Feb 6, 2020 / 10:37 am (CNA).- He is a Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time college football champion, a sports broadcaster, and one of the most watched players ever to play professional football, even while his career was short-lived. At 32, he is also a minor-league baseball player, taking the field with almost no chance of a big league career, and against players ten years younger than himself, solely for love of the game.

Tim Tebow is recognized, beloved, and respected by millions around the world, even years after his career as a spread option quarterback sputtered.

Those things, though, are not the most important to Tim Tebow. Most important to him is faith in Jesus Christ, Tebow says. Tebow is well-known as an Evangelical Christian, the son of missionaries, and an outspoken witness to his convictions about living the Christian life.

When he met Pope Francis at the Vatican Feb. 5, Tebow talked with the pope about his faith, and especially about the project, borne of that faith, that had brought him to Rome.

“Our visit to the Vatican was a great experience for our entire team and it was a joy to meet with Pope Francis to share with him our heart for people with special needs and the joy that we experienced at Night to Shine - Rome,” Tebow told CNA after the visit.

Night to Shine, the project Tebow talked about with Pope Francis, hosts proms - dances - for people with intellectual disabilities and other special needs around the world. Tebow began the project in 2014, and sponsors it through the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Tebow hosted the first Night to Shine in Rome earlier this week. He told CNA he hopes it is the first of many such events in Italy.

“Our hope is that Night to Shine could grow across Italy and the entire world, where we all celebrate and love people with special needs," the athlete told CNA.

Tebow told EWTN News on Tuesday that part of Night to Shine’s purpose is to let people with special needs know “they matter, that they have significance -- and more than just to us, but to the God of this universe, because we believe that everybody has value, everybody has meaning.

“God loves every single person. They were created in love, by love, and for love and God loves them just the way they are,” Tebow added.

When he met with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Tebow reiterated those things. He and his wife, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, spoke with Pope Francis after his Wednesday audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

After Tebow explained the project, the athlete told CNA, he got some words of encouragement from Pope Francis.

“Thank you for the important work you're doing,” Tebow says Pope Francis told him.

“Keep it up!"

Tebow has every intention of doing just that.

Bishops applaud school choice as Pence visits Catholic school

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 2:00 PM

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 6, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference praised a Trump administration plan to expand school choice Wednesday, as Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to a Catholic school in inner-city Philadelphia. 

In a statement released Feb. 5, USCCB education committee chair Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of the Diocese of Oakland, and Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, praised President Donald Trump, Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for their commitment to school choice, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for its expansive scholarship tax credit programs.

“The right of parents to exercise freedom of choice in education is firmly rooted in the teachings of our Catholic faith,” said the bishops in the statement. In the USCCB document “Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium,” published in 2005, the bishops explained that it was the entire Catholic community’s job to advocate for school choice programs, including personal and corporate tax credits. 

“We applaud the goals of Education Freedom Scholarships and hope to one day see the opportunity for all families to have the freedom to select a school according to their conscience,” said the bishops. 

Pence and DeVos visited St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia on Wednesday, hours after President Trump spoke in favor of school choice during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. 

During the speech, Trump informed Janiyah Davis, a fourth-grader who attends a low-performing public school in Philadelphia, that she would be receiving a scholarship to attend a different school. Davis and her mother attended the speech as guests of the president. 

“Janiyah, I have some good news for you -- because I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over,” said Trump to Davis. “I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available, it is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice.”

DeVos will be personally funding the scholarship awarded to Davis. 

During Pence’s visit to St. Francis de Sales, he praised Pennsylvania for “leading the way” on school choice. The vice president said school choice is “not a partisan issue,” although those who are in favor of charter schools or scholarships often face opposition. He echoed Trump’s State of the Union, saying that “No parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.”

DeVos also spoke at the event. 

“Pennsylvania families want more education freedom,” Devos told the crowd at St. Francis. She said that the type of school a child attends, whether it be charter, public, or private, should not matter, and instead people should “focus on what truly matters: students and their learning."

St. Francis de Sales is run by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.). Six IHM sisters work at the school. 

Sister Mary McNulty, IHM, is the principal of the school. She told the Philadelphia Inquirer that nearly nine out of 10--87%--of students enrolled at the school receive a scholarship. The tuition at St. Francis de Sales school is $5,200 per year, or $4,000 per child per year for families who send multiple children to the school. 

McNulty told the Inquirer that the scholarship programs “mean everything to me,” and that she “gladly hosted” Pence and DeVos. She hopes the scholarship program would be expanded to a federal program. 

“If this would go to the federal level, we could help so many more families,” she said.

Bangladesh court signals support for ban on prenatal gender detection  

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 1:14 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb 5, 2020 / 06:14 pm (CNA).- The High Court in Bangladesh has asked the government to justify its continued allowance of prenatal gender detection technology, which opponents are seeking to ban in the name of gender equality and the right to life.

The court said the government must explain why its failure to regulate prenatal gender detections should not be struck down as illegal.

Last month, Supreme Court lawyer Ishrat Hasan filed a petition claiming that the prenatal tests violate constitutional protections for gender equality and a baby’s right to life, the Daily Star reported.

The Bangladesh High Court has given government officials six weeks to respond with an explanation of why they believe prenatal gender detection procedures to be constitutionally acceptable.

The Feb. 4 court order addressed the Directorate General of Health Services and the secretaries for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare, and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.

Rita Roselin Costa, who works in women’s ministry for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, said the preference for male babies is deeply rooted in society, with the belief that a boy will become the provider and ensure a family’s future financial security.

“In our society people of all religions - Muslims, Hindus and Christians - prefer a son over a daughter while having their first child. Behind this deep-rooted social practice is our patriarchal societal system,” said Costa, according to UCA News.

“People think that if I have a son my clan will survive, I have no tension for the future and he will look after his parents in their old age. They think the son will always be with them and they will be safe and secure.”

Costa applauded the court ruling, but added that the real challenge lies in changing a cultural mindset. She expressed hope that the ruling will lead people to reassess their views toward women.

“Often parents think that if they educate daughters up to master’s degree level, they will be married off one day and may earn money but they will spend it on the family of the in-laws,” she said. “Our society at large has yet to consider in most cases that daughters can get education, prosper in life, earn money and support their parents as well.”

Dr. Edward Pallab Rozario, head of the community health and natural family planning for Caritas Bangladesh, also commended the bill, warning that mothers can face significant pressure to abort a child if they learn that they are having a girl.

“Some family members and relatives put pressure on a new mother to know the gender of the child. Because our society is male-dominated, families are usually happy if they know the child is a boy but become upset if the child is a girl,” said Rozario, who also is the medical director of St. John Vianney Hospital in Dhaka, according to UCA News.

He noted that the neighboring country of India already has a law banning the gender detection of unborn babies, and voiced hope that Bangladesh will follow suit.

“[A]ll human beings are created by God and we must welcome each and every one, men and women, boys or girls alike. This is our responsibility to welcome each child as a gift from God,” he stressed.


NY doctors 'refuse to abandon patients' at rally against assisted suicide

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 11:00 PM

Albany, N.Y., Feb 5, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A group of doctors and advocates against suicide gathered at the New York State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to oppose efforts to legalize assisted suicide in the state.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act, or S.3947/A.2694, was introduced in the state assembly and state senate in 2019. Both the assembly and senate versions of the bill are currently at the committee stage. 

“We are not isolated, self-sufficient individuals. Every human being is part of a huge network of relationships with others,” said Dr. John O’Brien, a family practitioner from central New York who attended the event. “How physicians respond to the patient’s request for life-ending drugs can have a profound effect on the patient‘s choices, as well as on their view of themselves and their inherent worth.”

O’Brien shared a story of an elderly patient who had requested euthanasia. The woman, named Ellen, felt as though she was a burden on her family, and was suffering from depression in addition to chronic weakness. O’Brien said that with encouragement, Ellen and her son developed a stronger relationship, and she no longer wished to end her own life, eventually dying of natural causes. 

“Physician-assisted suicide does not end the hurt, it just transfers it to another person,” said O”Brien. “I refuse to abandon my patients at a time when they need me the most.”

Dr. Mary-Ellen Edmiston, a palliative care specialist from Syracuse, said that instead of advancing assisted suicide, New York should instead move to further assist people who are in the last days of their lives. 

“No patient should have to spend their final days in pain and torment, and with the medical resources now available to us, no one has to,” she said. These resources include medications, and, “ultimately, the choice of palliative sedation for when symptoms become unmanageable and unbearable.”

“There are alternatives to unrelenting suffering, alternatives involving a variety of treatments to ensure that our patients do not have only two limited choices: on the one hand, dying in agony, or alternatively, a physician-assisted suicide, meaning a death by their own, and their physician’s, hands.”

As the medical community is “increasingly invested” in training people in palliative care and hospice techniques, Edmiston said the focus should be on increasing hospice utilization within the state, not allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to their patients. 

Elected officials, she said, should move to “provide more aid-in-living rather than aid-in-dying.”

Dr. Gregory Weston, an infectious diseases physician from New York City, also spoke about the importance of palliative care, as well as the discriminatory nature of assisted suicide. 

“Many disability advocacy groups oppose doctor assisted suicide,” he said. “To understand why, consider the reason that doctor assisted suicide is not proposed for young, healthy, and strong people – it is because everyone seems to agree that no reasonable young, healthy, and strong person should consider her life no longer worth living.”

“Our doctors and legislators should send a better message: that every life is worth living and that no person is a burden, every person is valued,” added Weston. 

Weston remarked that assisted suicide, if it were to become legal in New York, could result in insurers simply refusing to pay for expensive treatments and urging patients to opt for death instead. 

“There will be a financial incentive for any insurer to make it more difficult to choose an expensive therapy, and easier to choose suicide. Decreased access to therapy is more likely to

affect poor and underinsured people,” he said, noting that in Oregon in 2018, about two out of every three people who died by assisted suicide was on a government insurance plan. 

Weston echoed the call for better end-of-life care, saying “New Yorkers need better access to hospice and palliative care services,” and urging that all physicians have a standard level of training in palliative care.

“Doctor-assisted suicide is the wrong solution to a difficult and complex problem – we need to work towards a better solution,” he said. 

Neurologist Dr. Matthew Lynch raised concerns that the Medical Aid in Dying Act does not have proper safeguards to prevent abuse and to protect patients. 

The bill, Lynch said, “does not ensure that a person’s suffering is truly intractable. It is not offering a last resort. This proposed law does not require a person to try hospice or palliative care before receiving a prescription for suicide pills.”

“In fact, this bill does not even require a person to be suffering in any way,” he added. The text of the bill would allow those with an illness which will “within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months” to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Lynch also raised his alarm that the bill did not require doctors to undergo any sort of training before they are allowed to “prescribe death.” Unlike other controversial medications, such as opioids and medical marijuana, the bill would not require doctors in New York undergo additional training before they are allowed to prescribe life ending drugs. 

“Exploring requests for hastened death is a very complicated and time-consuming process that requires skill and experience,” said Lynch. “This bill does not ensure doctors would

have that experience.”

Unlike similar legislation in Oregon, said Lynch, the proposed law in New York does not have a waiting period or residency requirement. Both of these factors can result in the potential abuse of the law, he explained. 

The press conference was organized by the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, which describes itself as “an informal association of many diverse organizations, institutions, agencies and individuals in New York State committed to preventing the legalization of assisted suicide in the state. They include representatives of the following communities: disability rights, patients’ rights, health care, hospice care, civil rights, senior rights and various faith-based advocacy organizations.”

The rally was led by Kristen Hanson, an anti-assisted suicide advocate. Hanson’s husband, JJ, passed away in 2017, after a multi-year battle with brain cancer.

Pope Francis to financial leaders: Ending poverty is our duty 

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 10:12 PM

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2020 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis called on global financial leaders and economists to end economic inequality Wednesday, saying that modern resources make ending global poverty possible - and a responsibility.

“A rich world and a vibrant economy can and should end poverty,” Pope Francis said Feb. 5.

The pope made an unscheduled appearance at a Vatican conference on “New Forms of Solidarity,” organized on the premise that “an outdated financial structure is endangering our planet and dividing our societies.”

“You, who have kindly gathered here, are the financial leaders and economic specialists of the world,” Francis said. “You know firsthand what are the injustices of our current global economy, or the injustices of each country. Let’s work together to end these injustices.”

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva, Nobel Laureate Economist Joseph Stiglitz, and Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs each presented a keynote address at the conference.

Sachs’ address, “Restoring the Ethical Foundations of Economics,” was delivered off-the-record.

The economic solidarity conference occurred ahead of Pope Francis’ international economic summit, “The Economy of Francesco” -- named for the the pope’s patron, St. Francis of Assisi.

The gathering will bring 2,000 young economists and entrepreneurs together in Assisi March 26-28 to explore alternatives to the current global economic system that are more beneficial for the poor and environment. Nobel laureate economists Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus will provide the opening remarks.

In his comments, Pope Francis said that the 50 richest people in the world could together end child poverty.

“The 50 richest people in the world have an equity equivalent to 2.2 trillion dollars. Those 50 people alone could finance the medical care and education of every poor child in the world, whether through taxes, philanthropic initiatives or both. Those 50 people could save millions of lives,” he told the conference.

“If there is extreme poverty in the midst of wealth - also extreme wealth - it is because we have allowed the gap to widen to become the largest in history,” he said.

Pope Francis referenced St. John Paul II several times in his speech, borrowing his phrase “structures of sin” to describe “repeated tax cuts for the richest people” and “tax havens for private and corporate profits.”

“Each year hundreds of billions of dollars, which should be paid in taxes to finance medical care and education, accumulate in tax haven accounts thus preventing the possibility of decent and sustained development of all social actors,” he said.

The pope also denounced government spending on “the industry of war,” saying: “The world loses billions of dollars in armaments and violence every year, which would end poverty and illiteracy if they could be redirected.”

“A new ethic means being aware of the need for everyone to commit to work together to close the fiscal lairs, avoid evasions and money laundering that steal from society, as well as tell the nations the importance of defending the justice and the common good over the interests of the most powerful companies and multinationals - which end up suffocating and preventing local production,” Pope Francis said.

“Hundreds of millions of people are still mired in extreme poverty and lack food, housing, medical care, schools, electricity, drinking water and adequate and indispensable sanitation services. It is estimated that approximately 5 million children under 5 this year will die from poverty. Another 260 million children will lack education due to lack of resources, due to wars and migrations,” the pope said. “These realities should not be cause for despair, no, but for action.”



US bishops: Israel and Palestine must 'negotiate directly' if there is to be peace

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 9:01 PM

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- After US president Donald Trump and Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu last month proposed a two-state peace plan for Israel and Palestine, the bishops of the United States are encouraging Israel and Palestine to “negotiate directly” with each other and agree on a common resolution for peace.

“Intrinsic to a fruitful discussion is the necessity that each state recognizes and supports the legitimacy of each other,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a Feb. 3 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The United States and all other interested parties who offer their counsel and aid must do so as contributors to strengthen bilateral agreement between the two principal entities.”

Trump and Netanyahu unveiled their plan Jan. 28, which includes an independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

Despite this, Trump insisted that Jerusalem would also remain “Israel’s undivided— very important— undivided capital.” The United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2017.

Despite optimism from the two leaders, the proposal was not welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. President Mahmoud Abbas said the proposal “will not pass.” Protests erupted in Gaza following the announcement of the plan, which would involve annexation of Palestinian territory.

Malloy said that “The two principals - the Israelis and the Palestinians - are the only ones who can resolve the differences and agree on a common resolution to the chronic impasse.”

“While acknowledging the significant role the United States plays, these principals must negotiate directly with each other with the support of the international community, that they may find a fair compromise, which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples.”

Under the plan, none of Jerusalem’s Old City or territory within the current security wall would be ceded to the Palestinian state. The agreement also preserves the status quo policy regarding control of various religious sites, including the site of the Temple Mount and Al Aqsa Mosque, and, under the proposal, Muslims would still have access to the site.

The plan also proposes the construction of a “West Bank-Gaza Tunnel” to connect the two halves of Palestine, and that a third of the Gaza Strip be designated as a “high-tech manufacturing industrial zone.”

As part of the plan, Trump also pledged money to the Palestinian state for job creation and poverty reduction. Trump said that if Abbas and the Palestinian Authority “choose the path to peace,” that the United States and other countries “will be there, we will be there to help you in so many different ways.”

Malloy noted that both the US bishops and the Holy See have long supported a two-state solution, respecting the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to “live in peace and security.”

“The goal is twofold: the right both Israel and Palestine have to a state that is viable and that threats of violence and reprisal from the other cease. Israel has a right to her sovereignty with safe and secure borders. Palestine has a right to her sovereignty consistent with her legitimate aspirations for a homeland based on dignity and freedom,” Malloy continued.

Monsignor Fredrik Hansen, chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, affirmed to the UN Security Council Jan. 22 Pope Francis’ continued support for a two-state solution and a status quo policy in Jerusalem for shared religious sites.

“Indeed, the appeal to maintain the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem, dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims in virtue of their religion and important for the cultural heritage of the whole human family, is one that has been repeatedly made,” Hansen said.

Pope Francis, Hansen said, wishes for Jerusalem to live out “its vocation as a city of peace,” which can be a symbolic location of peace and encounter, with respect between religions and continued dialogue.

Malloy emphasized that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders must guarantee the rights of Christians to exercise and profess their faith, as well as enjoy free access to shrines and holy sites in the area.

“We shall be one in our prayers that both Palestinians and Israelis be able to live side by side with sovereignty, dignity, and peace,” he concluded.

While Israel has strongly backed the US proposal, the European Union on Feb. 4 rejected parts of the peace plan.

Polish bishops call for John Paul II to be named co-patron of Europe

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 8:21 PM

Warsaw, Poland, Feb 5, 2020 / 01:21 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, is calling for St. John Paul II to be declared a Doctor of the Church and a co-patron saint of Europe.

The late pope and recent saint should be recognized as a co-patron saint of Europe for his efforts to bring down the Iron Curtain and reunite Western Europe with Central and Eastern Europe, Gadecki said in a letter to the bishops of the world, asking for their support in the effort, according to Poland In.

“Fifty years of Soviet domination in East-Central Europe painted an image in many people’s minds of Europe consisting only of Germany, France, the UK, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. One might say that John Paul II ‘brought back’ half of Europe from ‘nonexistence’, [he brought back] grand and wonderful heritage of cultural and Christian roots,” wrote Gadecki.

Fr. Karol Wojtyla (who would later become Pope John Paul II) was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow in 1946, shortly after a Soviet-backed communist government had come to power in Poland. Fr. Wojtyla promoted religious liberty and Christianity in the face of the anti-religious regime.

Wojtyla was ordained a bishop in 1958, and in his elevated position, fought the communists for the right to build a Catholic church in Nowa Huta, which was constructed specifically by the communists to be a city without God. During his time as archbishop of Poland, Woytjla staged a traditional Marian procession with an empty frame where the icon of Our Lady of Czestachowa would normally be - the communists had banned the procession of religious icons, but not of frames.

As pope, John Paul II returned to his homeland of Poland for nine days (instead of the planned two) in 1979, bringing a message of hope and solidarity to his people who were still under communist rule. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II also met a total of four times before the Iron Curtain fell, including just six days before the president’s famous “tear down this wall” speech in 1987. Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev also met with Pope John Paul II in 1989, and later said that the fall of the Iron Curtain would not have been possible without him.

“The Polish Pope knew that the current cultural crisis is an epochal call to a wise return to the common historical heritage that Christianity is. In this regard, the saint Pope became… a protector of European values that constitute an irremovable foundation of the modern-day civilization,” Gadecki said.

“Twenty-seven years of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was a breakthrough to the Church and the world both in the terms of his teachings and social influence,” Gadecki wrote. He added that in 2019, he asked Pope Francis to declare John Paul II a Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Europe on behalf of the leaders of the Church in Poland.

There are currently 36 Doctors of the Church, which are saints recognized for their universal importance to the Church due to their important teachings and great sanctity.

Europe currently has seven co-patron saints. St. Benedict of Nursia was declared “Patron Saint of all Europe” by Pope Paul VI in 1964. During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II declared Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), St. Jadwiga of Poland as co-patrons of Europe.



Venezuela tops foreign policy agenda in State of the Union

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 7:00 PM

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump used the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening to highlight U.S. commitment to restoring democracy in Venezuela, inviting the opposition leader to attend as a guest of honor.

Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and recognized by the U.S. as the interim president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, watched the speech from the House Gallery on Tuesday.

“Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland,” Trump told Guaidó. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom!  Socialism destroys nations.  But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.”

Venezuela has been torn by violence, upheaval, widespread hunger and hyperinflation under the Nicolas Maduro regime. According to the Organization of American States (OAS), the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country is expected to total 6 million by the end of the year.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, praised the move.

“By inviting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Special Envoy for Intelligence and Law Enforcement Mr. Iván Simonovis, one of Venezuela’s longest held political prisoners of the Maduro narco-dictatorship, the Trump Administration has sent a clear message that the U.S. will continue to stand with the Venezuelan people as they work towards a free and democratic Venezuela,” Rubio said in a statement released shortly following the speech Tuesday.

“I think the message tonight was very clear, and that is the freedom and the wellbeing of the people of Venezuela still remains a top and important priority for this president,” Rubio said in a video statement. 

“I have all the confidence in the world that the day is coming when Venezuela will be free and democratic again.”

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, said that condemning Maduro was a “complex” issue and that she “is absolutely concerned with the humanitarian crises that's happening.”

“I think it's important that any solution we have centers the Venezuelan people and centers the democracy of the Venezuelan people first. I am very concerned about U.S. interventionism in Venezuela, and I oppose it,” the freshman congresswoman said.

Maduro was inaugurated for a second term as president of Venezuela last year following contested 2018 elections, but the bishops’ conference has said his election was invalid.

Guaidó declared himself the interim president of the country in January of 2019, and promised a transitional government and free elections. He was received by the Holy See on a visit in February, where the Vatican expressed its “grave concern” for a “just and peaceful solution” to the country’s crisis.

The country’s bishops’ conference has repeatedly called for free and fair elections for new leadership, a call backed by the Holy See.

Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, the archbishop-emeritus of Caracas, has blamed the regime for “a terrible ruin which is growing more and more” in the country, and that if the Maduro administration “truly had love for Venezuela they would have already left power.”

Guaidó was a guest at the White House on Wednesday as well, with discussion expected on a democratic transition of power in the country.

At 'Night to Shine,' Tim Tebow brings the prom to Rome

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 6:31 PM

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2020 / 11:31 am (CNA).- What most Italians know about proms, they learned from watching American sitcoms or dubbed-over versions of 90210. The "prom" is a uniquely American event. Still, Italians flocked to a prom in Rome Tuesday night - this one held for people with special needs, and organized by minor league baseball player Tim Tebow.

Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs held Feb. 4 for the first time in Rome, was an evening of joyful celebration, according to guests and volunteers in attendance.

“We are so excited to be here in Italy, so excited to be here in Rome,” Tim Tebow told EWTN News before the event.

 “Hopefully [Night to Shine] is something God-honoring,” he added.


So much JOY at tonight’s #NightToShine in Rome - a prom celebrating people with special needs organized by the @TimTebow foundation. ?????‍???‍??

— Courtney Mares (@catholicourtney) February 4, 2020  

Tebow and his wife, Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, were both in attendance at the dance. But the dance floor, not the celebrities, was the center of attention at Night to Shine.

Serena Silvi, a woman with Down syndrome, told CNA she felt “good, excited, happy,” and was “having fun,” at the dance.

“It’s truly a moment of great joy,” volunteer Anna Perluigi said, as she watched guests dance into the night.

Her sentiment was echoed by Annalisa Bellesini, who came with her daughter Lelia, who has Down syndrome.

“Not only the kids, but also the parents are happy,” Bellesini said, noting that some of the moms in attendance were dancing alongside their children.

“It’s a moment of celebration.”

“Night to Shine” proms are organized in cities across the U.S. and in Europe. The events, which invite people with disabilities 14 and older, are modeled after a typical high school prom in the United States, and include dancing, music, food, a ride in a fancy car, and a photo booth.

Hosted by local churches and volunteers, the proms take place with sponsorship by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Rome’s Night to Shine, held at the European University of Rome, was also supported by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life and hosted by Nostra Signora di Guadalupe parish.

Tebow told EWTN News that part of Night to Shine’s purpose is to let people with special needs know “they matter, that they have significance -- and more than just to us, but to the God of this universe, because we believe that everybody has value, everybody has meaning.

“God loves every single person. They were created in love, by love, and for love and God loves them just the way they are,” Tebow added.

Arriving to a crowd of cheering volunteers and taking a walk down a red carpet Tuesday, the Rome event’s guests had the opportunity to have their hair and makeup done by professionals before the night of dancing.

The royal treatment culminated in the crowning of each guest as prom king or queen.

There was also a separate room for parents and caregivers, and for guests who needed a break from dancing.

Nino Mesavic, 26, told CNA he loved the music and the red carpet.

“I love to dance, it’s my passion,” Benedetta Bianchine, 28, added.

Serena Silvi’s mom said it is important for people with special needs to come together and celebrate.

For them “to have a party, to be together, is very important I think.”

“I can do many things for my daughter, we go to the movie theater and so on, but it is just me and her. This is a different thing, a party with many people.”

Paolo Vitali de Bonda, father of 38-year-old Alexander, said the “welcome is stupendous.”

Tebow and Nel-Peters, who married last month in South Africa, also attended the general audience of Pope Francis Feb. 5, meeting the pope afterward.

Tebow, who is an outspoken Christian and former college and professional football player, said he has had a heart for people with special needs since he was a teenager.

The athlete said he has long known his “calling was to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves.”

“I believe God has called us to a lot of things but the two greatest are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our strength, and to love our neighbor as [we love]  ourselves; and so I want to spend the rest of my life trying to do those two things,” he told EWTN News.

Tebow began Night to Shine events in 2014. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation website, 100,000 guests participated in 2019.

Many of the 2020 proms will take place on Feb. 7, the foundation said. It expects 721 churches in 50 U.S. states and 34 countries to participate, with over 110,000 people with special needs in attendance.


Young missionaries bring the Gospel to prisoners in Chile

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 6:18 PM

Talca, Chile, Feb 5, 2020 / 11:18 am (CNA).- A youth ministry group in the central Chilean Diocese of Talca spent the week of Jan. 27 – Feb. 1 doing prison ministry at a local men’s prison.

Nine young people with the Mercy Action youth group volunteered at the Penitentiary Prison of Talca for the week.

Led by Deacon Guido Goossens, they began each day with prayer and then traveled to the prison, where they offered a morning catechetical activity on a specific theme and a recreational activity in the afternoon based on the morning catechesis.

They stayed overnight at a nearby Catholic school, where they also ate. After the day’s ministry, they returned to the school to share their experiences and to prepare spiritually for the next day.

Nicolás Zúñiga Contreras, who participated in Mercy Action for the first time, shared his experience with the prison ministry.

He told the Diocese of Talca, “It was a very enlightening experience, which took some courage. I came with a lot of prejudices based on the fact that [these inmates] are in prison, for whatever reason, but we’re going to get them out of their routine and help get them assimilated into Catholic life again.”

“I’ve gone on mission in other circumstances but this one has been the most meaningful,” he added. “I felt I needed to do something different, and here I felt like I was making a contribution, like a piece that was missing from a puzzle.”

The Mercy Action mission concluded with a Mass at the prison celebrated by the Apostolic Administrator of Chile, Bishop Galo Fernández.

Mercy Action also does prison ministry during the rest of the year, and is part of Misión Alégrate (Rejoice) of the Talca diocesan youth ministry.


Pro-life leaders rally behind State of the Union

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 6:00 PM

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic and pro-life leaders have welcomed President Donald Trump’s call for Congress to ban late-term abortion throughout the United States. Trump made the call during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Feb. 4. 

After introducing two of his guests, 2-year-old Ellie Schneider, who was born prematurely at 21 weeks and six days gestation, and her mother, Trump said that he would be moving to increase funding for neonatal research, and that he hoped Congress would “pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies.” 

“Whether we are Republican, Democrat, or independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God,” said Trump. 

Pro-life leaders rallied behind the inclusion of the proposal in his speech, as well as the showcasing of a child who was born before supposed “viability.”  

“Thanks to Roe and its progeny, America’s abortion policies are wholly out of step with the people’s consensus – across the political spectrum – that abortion should be significantly restricted,” Melanie Israel, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation, told to CNA.  

Israel said it was “shameful” that the United States is one of only seven countries where it is legal to have an elective abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy, and she characterized the call to action at the federal level as “long overdue.” 

Many reactions highlighted research showing that unborn children are capable of feeling pain by the 20th week of pregnancy. 

“Precious children like Ellie are legally aborted every day in America at a point by which science shows they feel excruciating pain,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who is also national co-chair of Pro-life Voices for Trump, in a statement after the address. 

“A strong majority of Americans back legislation protecting unborn babies from late-term abortion after five months of pregnancy, yet Democratic contenders for president cannot identify a single limit on abortion they support--they won’t even condemn infanticide. The heartless policies of today’s Democratic Party would deny that babies like Ellie have any right to live,” she added. 

The four major front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president--Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders--are all on record supporting unlimited abortion access.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, shared a similar sentiment to Dannenfelser. 

"Every human life, born and unborn, is equal in worth and dignity. This truth is especially clear in the later stages of pregnancy when a baby can feel pain. Protecting babies from abortion after they can feel pain, about 20 weeks into pregnancy, is a common sense and compassionate, not to mention popular, measure that everyone should be able to easily agree upon,” said Mancini.

“If anyone doubts this, all they have to do is look at Ellie Schneider, who was born at 21 weeks and today, at two years old, is a light to her family and the world.

The inclusion of Ellie Schneider “compels us to recognize the humanity of a child at this stage of development,” said Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow for The Catholic Association.

“A new groundbreaking study led by a pro-choice researcher suggests that an unborn child can experience pain as early as 13 weeks, and concludes that women considering abortion should be so informed. We ask Congress to ban the inhumane practice of late-term abortion,” she said. 

Trump also called for paid family leave for new parents, and said that his new law, which provides leave for federal employees, serves “as a model for the rest of the country.” 

“Now I call on the Congress to pass the bipartisan Advancing Support for Working Families Act, extending family leave to mothers and fathers all across our nation,” said Trump.

How did pro-life Democrats caucus in Iowa?

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 5:00 PM

Des Moines, Iowa, Feb 5, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- While some Iowa Democrats pushed back against the presidential candidates’ strong support for abortion at Monday’s state caucus, other “moderate” pro-life voters backed pro-abortion candidates anyway. 

With recent polling suggesting that there are as many as 21 million pro-life Democrats in the country, their support, and how they prioritize life issues, could play a key role in picking the Democratic candidate for this year’s presidential election. CNA spoke to Democratic caucus goers and precinct captains to find out how pro-lifers lined up for Monday’s Iowa caucus.

Iowa, the first of the states to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, held its caucuses on Monday evening. Due to systemic failure of electronic tallying software, no official winner was declared and precinct results were not released until Tuesday afternoon. Final results had still not been issued by Wednesday morning, but preliminary returns and in-house predictions from candidates’ campaigns suggested a win for Pete Buttigieg, with Sen. Bernie Sanders in a close second.

Kathy Richardson, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Carroll, Iowa, and a precinct captain for Joe Biden, said the issue was still being brought up to her in last-minute canvassing for Biden on Monday.

The life issue, she told CNA, is extremely important to everyone in the state, Catholics in particular. While some national campaigns have encouraged women to “shout your abortion,” Richardson said she doesn’t know anyone who favors abortion.

“It’s awful,” she said, telling CNA that as a nurse practitioner she believes that life begins at conception.

Nevertheless, Richardson said she believed that the state “shouldn’t be telling women what to do for their body and health,” and that the adult mother should have greater rights than an embryo who is not yet viable.

Recent polling shows that 44% of Democrats nationally support a ban on abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Democratic presidential candidates like Andrew Yang, Buttigieg, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have explicitly said that, even in late-term abortion scenarios, the decision should be up to the mother and not lawmakers.

Late-term abortions are “horrifying,” Richardson said, but are rare and usually done for the health of the mother. They should be restricted only to cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake, she said—a formula considered a “traditional” Democratic position for moderate voters in west Iowa.

In the current Democratic presidential lineup, every candidate supports taxpayer-funded abortion—which many Democrats used to oppose, including Joe Biden before he reversed his position last summer. And while “safe, legal, and rare” used to define the abortion stances of many politicians, Sanders in a recent debate challenged “the men of this country” to support abortion, and called the practice “healthcare,” while Warren said that “abortion rights are human rights.”

The 2016 DNC platform called abortion “core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing” and advocated for taxpayer-funded abortion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the right to life must be recognized by civil society. Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae that “a law which violates an innocent person's natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law.”

Two precinct captains for Biden and Buttigieg in Carroll County justified their support for the pro-abortion Democrats by pointing to Republicans, who, Richardson claimed, “don’t care about the child when it’s born,” citing proposals to cut to food stamps and pediatric education.

“What this administration has done to the children at the border,” she asked of Trump policy which separated migrant families. Richardson said the policy “breaks [her] heart” and could cause lasting trauma for children.

Buttigieg’s precinct captain Kyle Ulveling, who is also chair of the Iowa Board of Medicine, estimated that voters in Carroll were “moderate” on the abortion issue and that around 60 of the 81 caucus-goers at the Ward 1 precinct were “pro-life.”

Illustrating the gap between voters and candidates, each of the candidates that received first-ballot votes at the precinct—Yang, Warren, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar— has come out in support of codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law, and enshrining taxpayer-funding for abortion. Three of the candidates support making abortion-inducing drugs available over-the-counter. Warren and Sanders would have abortion and contraception covered under their Medicare-for-All plans.

Some pro-life Democrats, however, are pushing for change within the party and won’t support the presidential front-runners.

One week before the caucuses, at a Des Moines townhall, Kristen Day asked Buttigieg point-blank if he wanted the support of her and other pro-life Democrats.

 “I am pro-choice,” Buttigieg responded. “And I believe that a woman ought to be able to make that decision [on abortion].” He added that if pro-life Democrats wouldn’t support him for that, he understood.

Day said she received encouragement from nearby audience members for her question, but Buttigieg was also greeted with loud applause for his answer supporting legal abortion.

“We’ve had enough,” Day told CNA afterwards, calling on pro-life Democrats to hold candidates accountable on the issue.

“We are told time and time again that it is not the right time to fight for what we believe in,” Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, stated in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “We believe that life in the womb is worthy of protection. Our party does not.”

“Too many people whisper, ‘I am a pro-life Democrat too. Keep up the good work.’ But they fear the repercussions of stating this position in public,” Day said, adding that “our party can and should do better, and we will not be silent.”

Lizzy Dowd, a Catholic student at Drake University in Des Moines, was present that evening. She planned to advocate for pro-life language in the party’s platform at her neighborhood precinct on Monday night.

“I am not trying to infiltrate this party with my pro-life views. Rather, I would love to just see a positive change, I’d love to see people’s minds and hearts be opened,” Dowd told CNA on Monday.

She credited her pro-life views to growing up in a household that emphasized “the mentality of the sanctity of life in action.”

“If we as Democrats are going to uphold the dignity of the person at the border, and inmates on death row, and the homeless and those struggling in poverty, then it only makes sense to uphold the life and the dignity of that child in the womb as well,” she said.

“I would love to take that one step further and respect every life.”

Another Democrat did not caucus on Monday night. Jim Plew, who attended Mass on Tuesday morning at St. Mary of Nazareth parish in suburban Des Moines, told CNA he identified as a Democrat did not caucus on Monday because of the candidates’ uniform support of abortion. Plew told CNA he was still undecided in the election.

Another Catholic CNA spoke with, after daily Mass on Monday in St. Anthony’s parish in south Des Moines, said she would be voting for Trump and named the life issue as her first issue. Another Trump supporter in Carroll, Dennis Ritchie, gave as his first reason of support that Trump “is against abortion.”

“Nobody else talks about the children,” Ritchie told CNA.

In the more heavily-Catholic Dubuque, on the eastern edge of the state, one Catholic college student caucused for Sanders and pleaded with other Catholics to do the same.

Carlos Garrido—a Catholic student at Loras college in Dubuque—supported Sanders because he saw his mother forego medical treatment for a condition to spare the family from medical debt. He thinks Sanders’ advocacy for Medicare-for-All is part of Catholic Social Teaching, along with his opposition to “war,” support for affordable education, and other issues.

Sanders’ proposal would have abortions and contraceptives covered in Medicare-for-All, and he said more abortions and contraceptives should made available for women in poor countries in response to a townhall question about population control as a means to slow climate change.

Garrido acknowledged Sanders’ abortion support wouldn’t square with Church teaching but said that the provision of contraceptives in Sanders’ health plan would reduce abortions. The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral.

“I realize that that’s not ethical,” Garrido said of abortion, “but I think it’s important to address the problems of the human beings that are here now that are suffering, and then to focus on the problems of beings that have the potentiality of becoming human beings.”

“Maybe I divert a little bit from the Church on that aspect,” Garrido said, citing his concern with addressing  “suffering that is here now” and that “29,000 kids are still dying every day from preventable causes.”

According to the World Health Organization statistics from 2010-2014, around 56 million abortions were conducted per year, or more than 150,000 per day.

The U.S. Catholic bishops, in a letter accompanying their document “Faithful Citizenship,” called abortion a “preeminent” priority among other important issues, a priority underscored recently by Pope Francis.

In eastern Iowa, “the Catholic community here has suffered from immense propaganda that makes them become one-issue voters,” Garrido said, claiming that Sanders “checks off every one of” the boxes of Catholic Social Teaching. “Maybe not the abortion one, but if he’s checking off everything else except for one, I think that’s a lot better than a candidate who only checks off one,” he said.

Dowd, meanwhile, expressed her frustration that pro-life Democrats would support a pro-abortion candidate because of another issue.

“We can’t continue to allow these extremist pro-abortion candidates into office, and keep thinking they’re going to make our culture more pro-life, because you can’t make the culture more pro-life while still allowing these very extreme abortion policies like late-term abortion and partial-birth abortion,” she said.

“We have to have those laws in place in order for life to be truly respected at every stage,” she said.

Pope Francis: Poverty of spirit does not hide shortcomings from the world

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 4:20 PM

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2020 / 09:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that a focus on achieving fame or having a perfect image in the eyes of the world denies God’s call to poverty of spirit and is a tiring and lonely endeavor.

The “poor in spirit” referenced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount are not those who lack economic means, but those “who are and feel poor, beggars, in the depths of their being,” the pope explained Feb. 5.

“Jesus proclaims them blessed, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them,” he said.

“How many times have we been told otherwise! You have to be something in life, to be somebody... You have to make a name for yourself...”

Francis explained that “this is where loneliness and unhappiness come from: if I have to be ‘someone,’ I compete with others and live in obsessive concern for my ego.”

Pride can prevent people from recognizing this and from asking for help, he said. “They have to prove themselves self-sufficient.”

He added that likewise, pride makes it difficult to admit mistakes and ask forgiveness. “Why is it difficult to ask for forgiveness? Because it embarrasses our hypocritical image,” he stated.

“And yet, living trying to hide one’s shortcomings is tiring and distressing. Jesus Christ tells us: being poor is an opportunity for grace; and he shows us the way out of this effort.”

In his general audience, Pope Francis taught on the first of the eight beatitudes spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The pope is focusing his next series of public audiences on the beatitudes.

“If I do not accept being poor [in spirit], I hate everything which reminds me of my fragility,” he said, “because this fragility prevents me from becoming an important person, a rich person, not only of money, but of fame, of everything.”

According to Francis, those who have worldly goods and comforts are in possession of the “kingdom of this world.” But “even the greatest empires pass and disappear,” he stressed.

He also pointed to the fact that no one can take their wealth and possessions with them after death, noting that he has “never seen a moving truck behind a funeral procession: nobody brings anything.”

“This is true freedom: whoever has this power of humility, service, fraternity is free.”

Pope Francis also stressed in his catechesis that one does not have to transform one’s self to become poor in spirit, but that it is the natural human condition that “we need everything.”

“Everyone, in front of himself, knows well that, however hard he tries, he is always radically incomplete and vulnerable,” the pope continued, “there is no trick which covers this vulnerability.”



Vatican has 'no information' on Gänswein leave of absence report

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 3:10 PM

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2020 / 08:10 am (CNA).- After a German Catholic weekly reported that Archbishop Georg Gänswein was asked to take a leave of absence from his position as head of the papal household, the Vatican has said it cannot confirm the report, and the archbishop is still in his job.

Die Tagespost reported Feb. 5 that the German archbishop had recently been asked by Pope Francis to "focus on his role as private secretary to pope emeritus Benedict XVI."

A Vatican source told CNA that the Die Tagepost report was on the mark. Gänswein has been requested to “stay away from his office [as prefect of the papal household] indefinitely,” the source said.

But the Holy See press office told CNA Wednesday that it has "no information" regarding Ganswein being on a leave of absence from the prefecture.

Regarding the archbishop's absence from papal audiences in recent weeks, the press office stated "it is due to an ordinary redistribution of the various commitments and duties of the Prefect of the Papal Household, who, as you know, is also the personal secretary of the Pope emeritus."

In January, Gänswein was absent for several weeks from his usual official seat at public appearances of the pope – such as the general audiences on Wednesdays – due to being ill with bronchitis.

Gänswein's continued absence in the immediate wake of controversy over a new book on priestly celibacy written by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Benedict XVI, led to speculation the personal secretary of the pope emeritus had been removed as head of the papal household for this reason.

Fr. Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the prefecture, has been filling in for Gänswein at general audiences as representative of the papal household.


Pope Francis met woman who grabbed him New Year's Eve

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 11:50 AM

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2020 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis in January met and shook hands with the woman at whom he lost his patience after being grabbed in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 31.

After his general audience Jan. 8, Pope Francis spoke briefly with the woman. In photos the two can be seen smiling at each other as they shake hands. A priest standing near the woman appears to be acting as interpreter.

The two met during what is called the “baciamano,” a time reserved for certain pilgrims to greet the pope following an audience.

Francis had apologized during his Angelus address Jan. 1 for having lost his patience with the woman the night before.

“Many times we lose our patience; me too. I apologize for yesterday’s bad example,” he said.

While the pope was greeting the crowd in front of the Vatican nativity scene Dec. 31, a woman yanked his arm, holding onto his hand. Visibly upset, Pope Francis slapped her hand and walked away frustrated.

A video clip of the moment went viral on social media soon after and the incident has generated internet memes and remixes of the clip.

Before meeting the woman Jan. 8, Pope Francis spoke at his general audience about St. Paul and love of God, also noting that Christ can bring good out of any circumstance – even an apparent failure.

Greeting pilgrims before the same audience, the pope joked “don’t bite” with a religious sister who reached out to greet him, saying he would give her a kiss on the cheek if she stayed calm.


California university reaches settlement with Students for Life in discrimination suit

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 7:40 AM

, Feb 5, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- A California state university has this week agreed to revise its policies and pay more than $240,000 in fees after a federal court last summer found that the university had discriminated against a student pro-life group and had used mandatory student fees to fund only university-favored views.

In 2017, legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life student group Students for Life, after California State University–San Marcos denied the group access to funding paid for by mandatory student fees that should have been available to all student groups.

According to ADF, CSU-San Marcos has more than 100 student groups but has been discriminatory in distributing funding to those groups. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the university gave the Gender Equity Center and the LGBQTA Pride Center a combined total of $296,498, or 57 times what the other student groups were granted, which was less than $6,000.

The issue came to light in the 2016-207 school year when Students for Life was denied $500 to fund a visiting pro-life speaker, University of North Carolina–Wilmington Professor Mike Adams, who was to give a talk on “Abortion and Human Equality.” The group members had paid the same mandatory student activity fees required of all students.

Students for Life of America is the largest pro-life student group in the U.S., with more than 1,225 student groups on high school and college campuses throughout the country.

In 2019, a California district court ruled against CSU-San Marcos’ “back room deliberations” that determined how to distribute student group funds, and directed the university to reach an agreement with Students for Life about amendments to their policies. These changes, which will be applied to all 23 schools in the California State University system, will be made so that the policies comply with the state constitution’s viewpoint-neutrality requirement for universities.

“Public universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not create elaborate and secretive funding schemes to fund their favorite groups while excluding opposing views from equal access,” ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton said in a statement.

“The university system’s policy changes don’t simply benefit our clients but also benefit any student with a minority viewpoint and every citizen who cares about dialogue and intellectual freedom within our public colleges and university communities,” he added.

ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement that the changes to the university system’s policies will “better align with the ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘individual and cultural diversity’ it touts within its community.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, praised the student leaders on campus at CSU-San Marcos for standing up for their rights.

“Pro-life students should have every opportunity available to them that pro-abortion students have,” she said in a statement, “and anything less is a failure on the part of the university to abide by the First Amendment.”


Removing informed consent for abortion a step backward, critic of Ga. bill says

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 1:01 AM

Atlanta, Ga., Feb 4, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Georgia's heartbeat-based abortion ban is tied up in court, but six pro-abortion rights legislators in the state have reacted by proposing a bill to remove ultrasound and other informed consent requirements for women seeking abortions.

Ann Beall, director of the Kolbe Center for Life in Macon, is a critic of their bill.

“It is so horrifying to me that anyone, particularly six women, would bring this forward when that's just taking us backwards,” Beall told the Macon-based news station WGXA. “Why would a women not want all of the information possible before having a procedure that's going to change her life, kill her unborn child?”

Beall praised the regulations of the 2005 Women's Right to Know Act, which also require women seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours before procuring one.

House Bill 746, called the Woman's Right to Immediate Access Act, would remove the requirement that a woman seeking an abortion certify that she has seen informational materials and an ultrasound. It has six sponsors in the House of Representatives, all Democratic women.

“Give physicians and give women the right to waive the requirements that women would not get those unnecessary burdens to access to have immediate access to have an abortion,” State Rep. Darshun Kendrick, a sponsor of the bill, told WGXA .

Kendrick said that the existing regulations puts obstacles before women seeking abortions.

Under current Georgia law, elective abortion is legal through 20 weeks into pregnancy.

The legislation is not likely to pass. The Republican Party holds the governor's seat and has a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

A heartbeat-based abortion ban passed the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 92-78. It would bar abortion after a heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks into pregnancy.

However, that ban is currently temporarily blocked pending the completion of legal challenges in the federal court system.

Kendrick said she filed her bill against abortion regulation in response to the heartbeat-based abortion ban, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

For Beall, it was “gut-wrenching” to think abortion is the only option. She said, “helping moms make better decisions is going to make a healthier society.”