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Vatican prelate says individual bishops have final say on Communion

As some American bishops discuss the possibility of denying Communion to Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden for supporting abortion-rights policies, a senior Vatican prelate said decisions about administering the sacrament rest solely on the bishop giving the Eucharist.

Sainthood cause opened for Filipino priest killed by Islamists in 2000

Fr. Rhoel Gallardo (1965-2000). / Courtesy of the Claretian Missionaries.

Rome Newsroom, May 7, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The sainthood cause opened this week of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who died on May 3, 2000, after being held for 43 days by Islamists.

The Claretian missionary was killed at the age of 34, just six years after his ordination as a priest and 11 years after making his first profession as a religious.

On March 20, 2000, Gallardo was kidnapped, together with a school administrator, five teachers, and 22 students from the Claret School of Tumahubong, a village located on the island province of Basilan, in the Philippines.

The majority of the population in Basilan is Muslim; the next largest religious group is Catholic. Gallardo, who was the school’s principal, and the teachers and students, were taken captive by the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf, the East Asia branch of the Islamic State.

Gallardo died when he was shot in the head, shoulder, and back at close range, after repeatedly refusing to renounce his Catholic faith. Three teachers and five children also died when they were caught in a gunfight between the terrorists and the military.

When Gallardo’s body was recovered, it was discovered that the nails on his index fingers and toes had been pulled off before he was shot. There were also other signs of torture.

The Territorial Prelature of Isabela, led by Bishop Leo Dalmao, officially opened Gallardo’s cause for beatification on May 3, 2021, the 21st anniversary of his death.

The ceremony took place at St. Vincent Ferrer’s Church in Tumahubong, the town where Gallardo had volunteered to serve the year before his murder.

According to Claretian Fr. Angel Calvo, quoted in Asia News, “Fr. Gallardo was the first priest kidnapped in Basilan to be killed. Other priests and nuns had been seized, even beaten, but in the end everyone was freed.”

“People already think of him as a martyr, a hero. The other hostages said that he did not want to give up the cross and the rosary, as the Islamists wanted. That's why they tortured him by ripping off his nails,” Calvo said.

“He suffered a lot; yet, as school principal, even in captivity he cared first of all about the teachers and the children entrusted to him. He offered his life for the people around him.”

The priest said that even after Gallardo’s death, the Claretian missionaries stayed in Basilan. In the two decades since Gallardo’s death, Abu Sayyaf has moved its activities more to the island of Jolo.

“Fr. Gallardo’s testimony remains an example that no one has forgotten,” Calvo said.

CBCP News, the news agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, quoted Fr. Elias Ayubon, the provincial superior of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines, who said that Gallardo “stood up for God who was faithful to him until the last drop of his blood.”

Martyrdom “could have occurred to any of us who were the young missionaries then, but it was given to Fr. Rhoel because, in hindsight, he was the most prepared to receive the crown,” Ayubon said.

“We join in fervent prayer that our brother and friend Servant of God Fr. Rhoel Gallardo will, one day, be counted among the martyrs and saints of our Mother Church.”

German Catholic diocese hosts event declaring same-sex blessings a case of ‘not if, but how’

Churches in Germany are flying LGBT pride flags in response to the Vatican’s ‘no’ to same-sex blessings. / Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

CNA Staff, May 7, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

A German Catholic diocese has hosted an online event declaring that same-sex blessings are a matter of “not if, but how.”

The Diocese of Essen, in Germany’s industrial Ruhr area, held the conference, entitled “Blessings for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples,” ahead of a nationwide event on May 10 in defiance of the Vatican’s “no” to same-sex blessings.

The diocese said in a May 3 post on its website that around 100 people took part in the conference. Among them were theologians who, it said, argued that “the Church must move out of the premodern era and embrace the current state of knowledge of science and society.”

The report noted that “currently some dioceses are jointly developing a handout on the topic [of same-sex blessings], which will also include a proposal on how to conduct a blessing celebration.”

One participating professor suggested that blessings of homosexual unions should take the form of comprehensive and festive liturgies, including the proclamation of the word, a prayer of blessing, intercessions, and the exchange of rings.

“Blessing celebrations are high forms of Christian liturgy, comparable to baptism,” Benedikt Kranemann said.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Essen’s Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck said in an interview last month that he would “not suspend a priest in his diocese or impose other Church penalties on him” if the cleric blesses same-sex couples.

Essen diocese noted that its vicar general, Fr. Klaus Pfeffer, addressed the virtual conference.

It said: “Deeply hurtful, wounding, overshadowing entire life stories: according to the impression of Essen’s vicar general Klaus Pfeffer, this is how the Church acts when it judges the lives of homosexual couples, refuses to bless them and dares to declare the binding, faithful love of two people a sin.”

“This finally needs to end: Not if, but how blessing celebrations for homosexual couples can be conducted in the church was the focus of the digital symposium ‘Blessing for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples’ on Friday, April 30, in the Diocese of Essen.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. A number of bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Catholic pastoral workers are organizing a day of protest on May 10. The event is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” The organizers, who are using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”), hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.

Several German bishops have previously spoken in favor of blessings for same-sex couples, including Overbeck, bishops’ conference chairman Georg Bätzing (Limburg), Helmut Dieser (Aachen), Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück), Peter Kohlgraf (Mainz), and Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meissen).

But other bishops have welcomed the CDF’s intervention. Among them are Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne), Stephan Burger (Freiburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg).

Bätzing said last week that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”

The bishops’ conference chairman said that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”

Cardinals’ council discusses pandemic recovery, curial reform with Pope Francis

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from within the Vatican. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 7, 2021 / 04:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals met online Thursday to discuss the Church’s response to the economic and social fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in different parts of the world, according to a Vatican statement.

Each of the seven cardinals described the situation in their respective regions and “the commitment of the Church in favor of health, economic recovery and the support offered to the most needy,” the statement from the Holy See Press Office said.

Pope Francis also participated in the May 6 meeting, connecting virtually from his residence in Vatican City.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the ongoing revision of the draft of the new constitution to govern the Roman Curia, known as Praedicate evangelium.

According to the Vatican, the Council of Cardinals discussed “the working methodology that will have to be implemented for the revision and correction of some normative texts following the future entry into force of the next apostolic constitution, as well as the further perspectives opened by the text in preparation.”

The group of cardinal advisers, sometimes referred to as the C9 because it previously had nine members, was established by Pope Francis in 2013, to “assist him in the governance of the universal Church,” as well as to revise the text of the 1988 apostolic constitution Pastor bonus.

At one of the council’s first meetings, it was decided that projected revisions to Pastor bonus would be substantial enough to warrant an entirely new constitution.

The cardinals have been working on drafting and revising the text since 2014, soliciting feedback from bishops’ conferences last year. An updated draft was presented to Pope Francis last summer and suggestions from Vatican departments are being evaluated. But the Vatican has given no projected date for the constitution’s publication.

The cardinal members of the council are Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay; Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising; Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

The Council of Cardinal’s next meeting is scheduled for June.

Founder of bishops' parody Twitter account comes clean

NCR Connections: Over the months, what started as a fluke has grown to be a community of Catholics who wish bishops did things like ask their opinions or apologize when they make a mistake — like they do @usccbp.

The GOP, the big lie and the Avignon papacy

Distinctly Catholic: A big lie has emerged at the heart of the GOP — that Donald Trump is the legitimate president because the 2020 election was stolen. Until that lie is dispatched, American democracy is radically unsafe.

How to bring Laudato Si' into your wardrobe

The way we currently make clothing leads to more than just sweatshops; it's also contributing to the kind of ecological sin that wrongs future generations and the Earth alike. But you can do something about it.

Your thoughts on denying Biden Communion

Your thoughts: NCR readers respond to a recent Villanova University panel that intensified the debate about denying President Joe Biden Communion because of his support of legal abortion.

Biden's National Day of Prayer proclamation lacks mention of God

President Biden addresses the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast . Credit: National Prayer Breakfast

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 23:01 pm (CNA).

US President Joe Biden issued on Wednesday the annual proclamation of a National Day of Prayer, without mentioning any deity in it.

The May 5 statement says that "throughout our history, Americans of many religions and belief systems have turned to prayer for strength, hope, and guidance. Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements — including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans."

This year the National Day of Prayer is observed May 6.

In the proclamation Biden wrote that "today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation. As we continue to confront the crises and challenges of our time — from a deadly pandemic, to the loss of lives and livelihoods in its wake, to a reckoning on racial justice, to the existential threat of climate change — Americans of faith can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead."

"On this National Day of Prayer,” his statement continued, “we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days. We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely — no matter our faith or beliefs. Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history."

The National Day of Prayer was designated by Congress in 1952, and scheduled in 1988 to be observed annually on the first Thursday in May.

Biden's proclamation, which also invites "citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection” is the first in memory to exclude any reference to the name of God or the concept of a deity, excepting a reference to the year of our Lord 2021.

Baton Rouge diocese to celebrate 60th anniversary by celebrating St Joseph

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni. / Public Domain

Baton Rouge, La., May 6, 2021 / 22:01 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Baton Rouge plans to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph in conjunction with its 60th anniversary. 

The diocese, which has St. Joseph as its patron, announced that it will celebrate “60 Years in the Year of St. Joseph” starting May 1, 2021 and going until March 19, 2022. 

“St. Joseph has played a prominent role in our diocese since its inception in 1961, and as we began planning for the 60th anniversary celebration this year, it seemed only natural to celebrate not only the rich history of our diocese but its beloved patron,” Bishop Michael Duca said May 4. 

Pope Francis in December 2020 announced a Year of St. Joseph, concluding Dec. 8, 2021, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the universal Church.

Bishop Duca said a planning committee will be arranging various liturgical celebrations throughout the year for the faithful of the Baton Rouge diocese to take part in. The bishop says the goal is to support Pope Francis’ desire for “the faithful across the world to rediscover St. Joseph and imitate his life of heroic virtue.”

The diocesan committee is working to create prayer cards, coloring books, videos and a diocesan-wide pilgrimage guide, in the hopes of creating “opportunities for the lay faithful to learn more about the history of the local church while also celebrating its patron.”

The history of Catholicism in Baton Rouge goes back nearly 300 years. French missionaries brought Catholicism to the area, celebrating the first Mass in Baton Rouge in 1722 on the site of what would become the Louisiana capitol building. 

The Diocese of New Orleans was established in 1793, and in 1961, St. John XXIII established the Diocese of Baton Rouge, taking territory from the New Orleans diocese. The pope named St. Joseph Church as the diocese’s cathedral. 

Then-Bishop Alfred Hughes declared St. Joseph the patron of the Baton Rouge diocese in the 1990s.