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Back-to-school in Uvalde means Catholic school scholarships for hurting families

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. / Catholic Extension

Denver Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The school shooting that rocked Uvalde, Texas continues to affect young children and their families. As these families try to recover, a Catholic charity with a longtime link to the area has funded 30 scholarships so that students may attend the local Catholic school.

“The tuition assistance means everything to my son and our family,” said Oscar Orona, whose son survived the school shooting. “My son has gone through a lot, and still has a long road to recovery ahead. At the very least, he deserves to go to a school where he feels safe.”

Catholic Extension is supporting 30 students who were affected by the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a city of about 15,000 in south central Texas 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

On May 24, an 18-year-old gunman entered the school and killed 19 children and two teachers. Another 14 children and a teacher were wounded. Sacred Heart Church hosted funeral Masses for 11 of the victims.

The Mass for 46-year-old teacher Irma Garcia also remembered her 50-year-old husband, Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days after his wife’s death.

Eleven of the new students at Sacred Heart were wounded in the shooting. Their former school is less than a mile and a half away.

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension
The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension

Joe Boland, vice president of missions at Catholic Extension, was at Sacred Heart School on Monday, the first day of school.

“For many of these children, literally the last memory of being in a school building was an experience of a mass shooting,” Boland told CNA on Tuesday.

“We’re very encouraged by the kind of loving, joyful, faithful environment that they are creating at Sacred Heart School in Uvalde and it really gives us hope that it will be a place where these children can begin the long process of healing after the atrocities that they witnessed,” Boland said.

For more than a century, Catholic Extension has worked to serve Catholic parishes and communities in remote areas. It has deep roots in Uvalde. In 1906 the charity sent aid to build Sacred Heart Church and in 1912 it began to fund the construction of the school, which adjoins the church.

“When this horrible crime occurred Catholic Extension remembered its unique connection to the faith community,” Boland said.

Principal Joseph Olan of Sacred Heart School told CNA he wants the school to be a place “where all children will understand that the love for Jesus is the center of (an) academic journey.”

“My hopes for the school year is that our school culture continues to reflect a place of grace, unity, and love,” he said Aug. 17.

“My overall hope is that the students, families, and community understand that school is more than just a place for teaching and learning. It is a beacon of hope for the community, one that can also educate the heart as much as the mind,” the principal said.

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension
The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension

Boland praised the local community’s response to the shooting. 

“We are in awe of how the church there rose to the occasion to really accompany these families, who had experienced unimaginable loss and accompanied the entire community, who have experienced just trauma that is going to take many, many years to get over,” he said.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District permanently closed Robb Elementary School and has worked to disperse students to other public schools, though in this small district only four other schools serve primary grade students.

Catholic Extension learned that many families wanted to transfer their children to the nearby Catholic school, but they faced economic barriers. About 80% of the families of Uvalde are low-income households. At least 80 families in total might seek to transfer their students to the Catholic school.

Catholic Extension is asking for donations to its scholarship fund to help meet demand.

“We’re calling upon people to consider giving to the fund,” Boland said. 

The Teresian Sisters, formally known as the Society of St. Theresa of Jesus, have worked at the school for over a century.

With the support of Catholic Extension, sisters from other religious communities will assist them this year. Six additional religious sisters were scheduled to be at Sacred Heart School the first week of class to help provide emotional assistance to both students and teachers. They aim to provide spiritual comfort, peace, and solidarity. Over the next 18 months, about 100 religious sisters will serve Uvalde and the Catholic community in various ways.

“It was very powerful to see a group of Catholic sisters from a number of different congregations just be in the classrooms yesterday with the children,” Boland said. 

Olan, the school principal, described the sisters as “phenomenal.”

“Our students and staff truly enjoy their company, guidance and wisdom,” he said. “I have noticed that students look to them as mentors, role models, and as friends of Jesus!”

Boland said Catholic Extension wants the scholarship fund to provide an “avenue of healing” so that children and their parents “are going to be able to heal, move forward, and do so through the lens of their own Catholic faith.”

“It's a difficult, painful moment for this for this local community, especially the Catholic faith community that has been so much a part of the lives of the people there,” he said. For Boland, the commitment to helping these children and their families is “a proud moment for the Church.”

The Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of San Antonio are “going to continue to walk with these families for the long haul,” said Boland, who noted the presence of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio at Sacred Heart School’s opening Mass.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller summarized to Good Morning America his message for the schoolchildren: "God wants to bring everyone joy and glory in heaven. but it is not our time yet. So we need to carry on, and to carry on with joy, because our life has meaning.”

Like the local public schools, Sacred Heart Catholic School has announced efforts to upgrade security. All school supplies, including backpacks, have been donated for pre-K through sixth-grade students at the Catholic school.

The Chicago-based Catholic Extension, formerly known as the Catholic Church Extension Society, was founded in 1905 to help provide the sacraments and other aid to Catholics in remote areas. Today, the organization helps more than 15 million American Catholics. Its work includes grants to build churches and repair facilities. Catholic Extension also provides scholarships for emerging leaders and works to empower various ministries.

Spanish bishops stand in solidarity with Church in Nicaragua, persecuted by Ortega government

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa walks with other pilgrims to the Shrine of the Divine Child in July 2022. / Credit: Manuel Obando and Diocese Media

Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2022 / 11:29 am (CNA).

At least two Spanish archdioceses have expressed their support for the Church in Nicaragua, which is being persecuted by dictator Daniel Ortega, with messages of solidarity on social media, especially for the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez.

Spain’s primatial archdiocese of Toledo, said on Twitter  “We entrust the entire Diocese of Matagalpa (to God) in these critical moments and ask the Lord for the gift of fortitude for their pastors and lay faithful."

The message was sent commenting on a previous tweet from Bishop Álvarez himself: "Love one another as I have loved you." (Jn 15:12-27)

The recently named coadjutor archbishop of Granada, Spain, and apostolic administrator of Ávila, José María Gil Tamayo, expressed his “solidarity for the Church in Nicaragua, its freedom under siege by the dictatorship that governs the country."

The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been increasing for years. The bishops accurately warned of the dictatorial drift of the Ortega government as early as 2014. The bishops have decried the indiscriminate use of force by the regime in cracking down on the opposition, beginning in 2018 when it brutally repressed protesters demanding change.

Because the Catholic Church supported the demonstrators’ cause, the government ramped up the pressure on bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

The clearest example is that the former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, is living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.

The apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was also expelled from the country in March of this year, with the Vatican expressing its “surprise and pain.”

“It’s incomprehensible since, during his mission, His Excellency Archbishop Sommertag has worked tirelessly for the good of the Church and the Nicaraguan people, especially the most vulnerable, always seeking to promote good relations between the Apostolic See and the Nicaraguan authorities,” the Holy See said in a statement.

In July, 18 Missionaries of Charity, whose congregation was founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were also expelled.

The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, has been held under house arrest at the chancery along with five priests, two seminarians and three lay people since Aug. 4 and neither food nor medicine is being allowed in. The chancery is surrounded by police and is under aerial surveillance by drones.

A few days earlier, the Sandinista regime forcibly shut down the radio stations run by the diocese of Matagalpa.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and Álvarez in particular — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicaraguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power. The stolen switch has been replaced, restoring electricity.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Vatican will not take Cardinal Ouellet to trial for sex abuse allegation

Cardinal Marc Ouellet. / Daniel Ibañez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 10:11 am (CNA).

The Vatican said Thursday it will not hold a trial against Cardinal Marc Ouellet over allegations he sexually assaulted a woman.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, was accused of sexual assault in a civil suit filed this week against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

A Vatican spokesman said Aug. 18 that the conclusion of a preliminary investigation by Father Jacques Servais, SJ, found “that there are no elements to initiate a trial against Cardinal Ouellet for sexual assault.”

AFP reported that a class action suit, filed Aug. 16, includes the testimony of 101 people who say they were sexually assaulted by clerics or Church staff from 1940 to the present. Eighty-eight clerics face accusations in the suit.

Ouellet is accused by a woman who says that he assaulted her multiple times while she worked as a pastoral intern for the Quebec archdiocese between 2008 and 2010, while he was Archbishop of Quebec. She described him kissing her and sliding his hand down her back to her buttock.

The Vatican statement included a quote in French from Servais, the Vatican investigator, who said that “there are no grounds to open an investigation into the sexual assault of F. by Card. M. Ouellet. Neither in his written report sent to the Holy Father nor in the testimony via Zoom that I subsequently took in the presence of a member of the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee, did this person make an accusation that would provide grounds for such an investigation.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni added that “following further pertinent consultations, Pope Francis declares that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against person F.”

Australian Anglicans split over same-sex marriage

null / SunKids/Shutterstock.

CNA Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 09:38 am (CNA).

The Anglican Church in Australia has split over the question of whether marriage is only between a man and a woman and accusations that bishops are out of touch with grassroots Anglicans. 

The Diocese of the Southern Cross was officially launched in Canberra on Sunday, and former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies was named its first bishop.

“I think you’ll see the Diocese of the Southern Cross will have a significant impact,” the 71-year-old told the Sydney Morning Herald, saying many Anglicans felt the Australian church had strayed from the teachings of the Bible.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Adelaide Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, labeled the move as “perplexing” in a statement published Thursday.

A meeting of the General Synod “held in May this year clearly affirmed the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, and declined to affirm same-sex marriage,” Smith said. 

“It is perplexing, therefore that the leaders of this breakaway movement cite the reason for this new denomination as the failure of General Synod to explicitly express an opinion against the blessing of same-sex marriages.”

However, an attempt by the Sydney archdiocese to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman was narrowly voted down at a synod in May, prompting warnings of the risk of a schism.

Notably, the statement upholding the traditional view of marriage was passed by the house of the laity by 63 votes to 47 and by the house of clergy by 70 votes to 39. But the bishops exercised their veto power by rejecting the statement by 12 to 10, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Two bishops abstained.

This led to accusations that bishops were out of touch with grassroots Anglicans. 

Tasmanian Anglican Bishop Richard Condie, who supports the new Diocese of the Southern Cross, told the Herald Sun on Aug. 17 that disaffected Anglican clergy and laypeople who “can no longer sit under the authority of their bishop” would be drawn to the new diocese.

Deep divisions over a statement on banning same-sex marriage emerged recently at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England. 

The worldwide Anglican Communion, including its American branch, the Episcopalian Church, has been in tension over same-sex marriage issues for years. 

In 2009, former members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, disaffected by those communities' liberalization on homosexuality, formed the Anglican Church in North America.

Like the breakaway group in Canada and the Church of Confessing Anglicans founded in 2019 in New Zealand, the new, nationwide diocese in Australia is aligned with the Global Anglican Future Conference.

According to the 2016 census, 3.1 million Australians identified as Anglicans, making it the second-largest Christian denomination in that country; the largest is the Roman Catholic Church.

Why the Vatican's Secretariat of State is set to face a trial in the UK over the London property deal

The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. / Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 07:31 am (CNA).

Can a department of the Vatican, a sovereign state, be forced to defend itself in a British court? Following a ruling by the British Court of Appeal, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State is set to face a trial about the purchase of the Sloane Avenue building in London — in a lawsuit brought by the businessman Raffaele Mincione.

The ruling also means there can now be a parallel case to the Vatican’s “trial of the century” — in which the same Mincione is defending allegations of financial crimes, including embezzlement and money laundering.

The London deal 

First of all, a quick recap: In 2014, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State entrusted Mincione with money which was then intended for a real estate investment in London: A former Harrod’s warehouse at 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea was to be turned into a luxury property.

After four years, the Secretariat of State decided to remove the management of the property from Mincione and entrust another businessman with the project, Gianluigi Torzi.

Subsequently, the Secretariat of State decided to take complete control of the property. This, however, is a different aspect of the saga, and one the Vatican trial is also dealing with. 

In July, the Vatican finally confirmed the sale of the property — incurring a loss of about 140 million euros, according to Reuters. 

What does the appeal sentence mean?

The British Appeal Court’s sentence states that Mincione can bring his claim against the Vatican.

A lower court had suspended any decision on the matter until the trial held in the Vatican was concluded. Mincione appealed. And the appellate court has determined that the case in the UK can go ahead. 

Furthermore, it appears that the Secretariat of State must also pay the legal costs of the appeal, which are said to amount to 200 thousand pounds. 

The ruling of the court opens up new scenarios. First, it should be remembered that the Secretariat of State is called into question, not the Holy See or the Vatican City State. Therefore, this is not a procedure that affects the sovereignty of the Holy See.

However, it is a procedure that involves a crucial process element: Mincione can resort to English law because, in the contract with which he sold the management of the London property, it was clearly stated that the contract exclusively fell under English jurisdiction.

According to English commercial law, in this specific case, the Secretariat of State is an entity, one of the parties of a contract, and therefore must comply with the commercial laws defined in the contract. 

In technical terms, we are dealing with iure gestionis (private law) and not iure imperi (law of the acts of the public power).

Was the Secretariat of State neutral? 

Mincione appealed the first sentence because he wanted the validity of the stipulated contracts to be recognized first, which was also important in the context of the appeal sentence.

The English judges found the decision of the Secretariat of State to appear as a civil party in the Vatican trial meant the Secretariat of State was not a neutral party.

Justice Peter Jackons wrote, in an opinion that found agreement with the other two justices, Males and Birss, the lower court’s judge's conclusion on what he described as the Secretariat's" central argument therefore "was mistaken.”

Waiting for an end to the Vatican trial would serve no useful purpose, therefore.

The appeal ruling also denies the Secretariat of State the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary, thus effectively closing the matter and giving the green light to another trial. 

What is more, within 28 days, the Secretariat of State will also have to pay a deposit for the costs of the appeal.

Some open questions to deal with

The English sentence does not enter into the merits of the charges and the trials. The criminal trial underway in the Vatican will eventually rule whether there have been illegal actions or not. 

The appeal sentence indicates that "a starting point may be (although this will be for the Commercial Court to decide) to consider what was the true value of the Property at the relevant time. The essence of the case against the defendants in the criminal proceedings, so far as they concern the Transaction, is that the Secretariat's interest in the Property was acquired for a price very substantially greater than the Property's true value ".

According to the English judges, "that should be a relatively straightforward issue to determine, with disclosure of documents relating to the Transaction and the benefit of expert valuation evidence which is readily available to both parties in this jurisdiction. If the Secretariat paid the market price or thereabouts, it obtained an asset that was worth what it paid and (at any rate so far as the Transaction is concerned) would not appear to have any valid grounds for complaint. On the other hand, if it paid substantially more than the market price, that would, in the absence of some convincing explanation, constitute strong evidence of corruption. "

However, the English Court of Appeal ruling leaves several questions open.

The first: If the contracts were valid, then what is the trial in the Vatican about? The question will have to be defined because if there are contracts, and everything has been done according to them, then it becomes difficult even to prove a possible deception against the Secretariat of State or extortion.

The second: We know from the testimony of the trial that the negotiation in which the management of the Sloane Avenue estate was transferred from Mincione to Torzi without a lawyer appointed by the Holy See. It had been a decision of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the administration of the Secretariat of State, who had emphasized how Torzi was serving the interests of the Holy See at that juncture. The contract, however, was signed by him, and the contracts were authorized at the highest level. Why, then, are neither Monsignor Perlasca nor the heads of the Secretariat of State involved in the process? 

These questions will probably be answered in the continuation of the Vatican trial, whose next hearing is set for Sep. 28.

The relics St. Helena brought to Rome from the Holy Land

A fragment on the True Cross on which Jesus was condemned to death / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Aug. 18, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Helena. 

The mother of Constantine the Great, St. Helena is believed to have restored many sites in the Holy Land, where she discovered the cross on which Christ died and other relics from his Passion, some of which she brought back with her to Rome.

These relics can still be venerated today, in Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.

The basilica was originally a chapel designed by St. Helena to hold the relics of the True Cross found on Calvary. The chapel had been part of an imperial palace Constantine gave to his mother when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople.

The church has undergone many changes over time. One of the relics on display in the basilica’s relic chapel was rediscovered inside a wall during a restoration in the 15th century after it had likely been hidden there during an earlier renovation in the 1100s.

The Titulus Crucis, the title panel of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. In Latin, Greek and Hebrew, it says "Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews." Daniel Ibanez
The Titulus Crucis, the title panel of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. In Latin, Greek and Hebrew, it says "Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews." Daniel Ibanez

The Titulus Crucis, Title of the Cross in Latin, was the wooden tablet hung on Christ’s cross explaining the reason for his Crucifixion. In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew it says: “Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews.”

It is believed the Titulus Crucis was brought to the basilica in the sixth century. Other relics now on display were similarly not part of the relics tradition says St. Helena brought to Rome in the 4th century.

After her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, St. Helena brought fragments of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus died.

Relics of Christ's Passion in Rome's Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The central reliquary holds a nail used in Christ's Crucifixion. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Relics of Christ's Passion in Rome's Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The central reliquary holds a nail used in Christ's Crucifixion. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

She also brought one of the nails used in Christ's Crucifixion.

According to tradition, the Holy Stairs were also brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th century.

The Holy Stairs, also called the Scala Sancta, are held to be those which led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, and which Christ would have ascended on his way to the trial before his Crucifixion.

The stairs are near the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and were first opened to the public more than 400 years ago by Sixtus V.

The Holy Stairs in 2019, without their protective wood coverings. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The Holy Stairs in 2019, without their protective wood coverings. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

So many pilgrims visited the stairs in the first century after they were opened to the public, the marble became worn down, creating deep furrows in the steps.

In 1724, Servant of God Benedict XIII covered the Holy Stairs in wood for their protection. They were uncovered for the first time in 2018, during a year-long restoration project — and in 2019, for a limited time visitors could venerate the marble steps without the wood coverings.

The Holy Stairs in 2019. The marble was uncovered temporarily as part of a restoration project. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The Holy Stairs in 2019. The marble was uncovered temporarily as part of a restoration project. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Each of Louisiana’s abortion clinics are leaving the state

Pro-lifers rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2021. / Rena Schild via Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 17, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The three abortion clinics in Louisiana are leaving the state following the state’s Supreme Court Aug. 12 decision that an abortion ban will remain in effect while it is being challenged in the judiciary.

It is unclear when the clinics will have finished the process of leaving and where they will relocate, per a report from WWNO.

Under Louisiana’s trigger laws, abortions may be provided only when "necessary in reasonable medical judgment to prevent the death or substantial risk of death due to a physical condition, or to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman.”

The laws will continue to be challenged by the state’s three abortion clinics: Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans, and Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge.

The abortion providers have argued the laws violate their due process and lack “required safeguards to prevent arbitrary enforcement,” according to Fox News.

Once the clinics leave the state, Louisiana will have no abortion clinics for the first time since 1974, WWNO reported.

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said Aug. 16 that the news of the clinics leaving the state marked a historic day.

“For the first time in almost 50 years, Louisiana will be free from businesses that exist to end the lives of precious unborn babies,” he said. “These businesses will also no longer inflict emotional and physical damage on women in Louisiana.”

“As they depart,” Clapper added, “numerous other Louisiana public and private agencies will remain open to offer help to women and families both before and after birth. As these abortion facilities relocate, we are dedicated to helping other states in the Gulf Coast and across America defend life."

UN: China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs amounts to modern-day slavery

Uyghur women work in a cloth factory in Hotan county, Xinjiang province, China. / Azamat Imanaliev/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 17, 2022 / 14:54 pm (CNA).

A new report from the United Nations on modern slavery provides further documentation of China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur ethnic group, a Muslim minority that according to some human rights groups is suffering genocide. 

The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Dr. Tomoya Obokata, wrote that it is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor among ethnic minorities, including the Uyghurs, “in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing has been occurring in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.”

Obokata identified two state-mandated systems that have contributed to the forced labor of the Uyghurs, one of which is a system that detains minorities and subjects them to work placements, while the other system shifts rural laborers into other forms of low-skilled, low-paid work. While the Chinese government claims that the programs provide work opportunities for minorities, the report found that “indicators of forced labor pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases.”

“Further, given the nature and extent of powers exercised over affected workers during forced labor, including excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment, some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis,” the report reads. 

In recent years, Uyghurs — with estimates ranging as high as 1.8 million — have been detained in hundreds of “reeducation camps” in China’s Xinjiang, a sparsely populated autonomous region in the far west of the country. Inside the camps, the Uyghurs are reportedly subjected to torture and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

China has for years conflated the Uyghurs’ culture and religious activities with extremism and separatism. The government at one time denied the camps even existed but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

The United States formally labeled China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide in Jan. 2021. 

China’s crackdown on Xinjiang also includes alleged coercion to have contraception devices inserted, and even full sterilization, along with systematic rape. Hospitals in the province have reportedly committed forced late-term abortions on Uyghur women and killed newborn Uyghur babies to enforce China's family planning policies, according to a former hospital worker in the region. Uyghur women, who used to have among the highest fertility rates in the country, have seen precipitous drops in fertility in recent years. 

The Vatican has remained largely silent on the persecution of the Uyghurs, though Pope Francis did describe the Uyghurs as a persecuted people in a book published in 2021. The Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying that the claim was groundless.

Catholic leaders have condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang, with two Asian cardinals and 74 other religious leaders releasing a statement in Aug. 2020 calling the Chinese government's treatment of Uyghurs "one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”

The U.N. report documented several other forms of modern-day slavery in the report, including sexual slavery perpetrated by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in the Middle East and Nigeria, and the plight of minority women and girls in the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions of Ethiopia who have been “subjected to rape, sexual mutilation and other forms of sexual violence by parties to the armed conflict.”

The Catholic Church hasn't forgotten the people in Ukraine, prelates say

While the Vatican hopes for a diplomatic resolution, Catholic leaders cater to Ukrainian faithful on the ground.

New York Cardinal Dolan offers assistance to migrants bussed from Texas by Gov. Abbott

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan met with migrants bussed from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott and said the church's perspective is to see them "with the eyes of Jesus."