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Major archbishop: Pope Francis’ day of prayer for Ukraine brings ‘hope of peace’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 26, 2022 / 07:27 am (CNA).

For Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Pope Francis’ declaration of a day of prayer in Ukraine brings “the hope of peace” in the Eastern European country.

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church told CNA in an interview on Jan. 25 that the pope’s initiative underlined that “if ever a conflict would break in Ukraine, it would be a threat not only to Ukraine but to the whole world.”

Amid a build-up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, Pope Francis called last Sunday for a day of prayer for peace on Jan. 26.

The event is the culmination of a series of papal appeals for peace and political negotiations in Europe’s second-largest country by area after Russia.

Since the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014, Ukraine has faced enduring conflict. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea, the war is ongoing in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Pope Francis has consistently shown his concern for the Ukrainian people. In 2016, he launched a charitable project, known as “The Pope for Ukraine,” that has helped more than a million people.

In July 2019, he summoned the bishops and synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to Rome for a meeting with the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has visited Ukraine twice. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, also traveled there, reaching the territories engulfed in conflict.

Shevchuk told CNA that the proclamation of a day of prayer for Ukraine “was for us like the Christmas Star that came to shine out of the dark.”

“We are grateful to the pope, who heard our voice and reaffirmed that the situation here is serious. Not only Ukraine but humanity would suffer if a conflict broke out,” he said.

He explained that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome — has organized a chain of prayer on Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, during which “all of our eparchies, metropolitan churches, monasteries from all over the world will join in prayer with us in Ukraine.”

Shevchuk said that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has eparchies and exarchates in four continents, was already engaged in praying for peace.

“Every day, we pray the rosary for peace at 8 p.m., which is broadcast live on television and followed by 20,000 people. In addition, every day of the week, according to a rotation, an eparchy or exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church commits to fasting for peace,” he noted.

While the major archbishop shares concerns about a deeper Russian incursion into the country, he said: “This is not the first time that fear spread: we have been living in conflict for eight years. But, sad to say, people sometimes adapt to the situation, and they live as if there was no war in Ukraine.”

Shevchuk is the past president of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which gathers all the country’s religious groups. He said that in Ukraine, churches have always served as a “hotspot of safety, hope, and reasonable proposals to address difficult situations.”

“Churches and religious organizations are cooperating for the good of the people, at every level: they help to find missing people, they negotiate the liberation of hostages, they commit to providing humanitarian assistance to those in need,” he said.

Asked if ecumenical efforts in the country could work as a “track to diplomacy,” Shevchuk replied that the council is currently drafting a declaration.

“The declaration will be first of all addressed to the faithful, our first interlocutor. We want to prevent their panic, as panic is the worst enemy in this hybrid war we are living in. Because of panic, people bought all food supplies, withdrew money from the bank system, and carried on a series of initiatives that can lead society to collapse,” he said.

Shevchuk added that “as churches, entrusted with a moral authority, we must address the issues of people who are suffering, because living with the fear of losing everything tomorrow is one of the greatest tortures.”

The declaration will also be addressed to Ukrainian politicians, asking them to be united, as well as to international interlocutors, as many ambassadors have sought to engage with church leaders.

Shevchuk underlined that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has a global reach. He mentioned an appeal by the Archieparch Valdomiro Koubetch of Curitiba, which had an “impressive echo in Brazil,” as well as statements issued by Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops in North America.

“They issued their appeals not only as a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church but also as a member of the bishops’ conferences of their countries,” he observed.

Pope Francis’ interest in Ukraine has prompted rumors of a possible papal trip to the country. Shevchuk did not confirm the rumors, but said: “We are waiting for him and we will do everything we can so that the pope might visit Ukraine and get in touch with these people he prays for every day, as the pope himself said.”

Ukraine is a majority Orthodox Christian country where ecumenical relations are sometimes difficult. There are also tensions within Orthodoxy: After Bartholomew I of Constantinople granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate broke ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, accusing it of encroaching on its canonical territory.

With a second meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow seemingly imminent, Shevchuk said that he was not concerned about the possible outcome.

“We are happy about an eventual meeting since it is good that the mediator meets both parties when there is a conflict,” he commented.

“We know that Pope Francis often meets Patriarch Bartholomew, and we hope that this routine will be replicated with Patriarch Kirill. A meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will give them time to think together, and this will make things clearer for us in Ukraine.”

He added: “These meetings have a prophetic dimension, as they show the will to carry forward a culture of the encounter and dialogue. If there will be a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, it will pave the way for similar meetings at a local level, also in Ukraine.”

Pope Francis on day of prayer for Ukraine: ‘Please, no more war’

Pope Francis during his general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Jan. 26, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 04:28 am (CNA).

At the beginning of the Catholic Church’s day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, Pope Francis made an earnest appeal to those in power: “Please, no more war.”

“I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 26.

“Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions.”

The pope urged people not to forget the more than five million people who died in Ukraine during World War II.

“Think that more than five million were annihilated during the time of the last war. They are a suffering people; they have suffered hunger, they have suffered so much cruelty and they deserve peace,” Francis said.

“May the prayers and invocations that are being raised to heaven today touch the minds and hearts of those in positions of authority on earth, so that dialogue may prevail and the good of all be put before the interests of one side. Please, no more war.”

Pope Francis called for Jan. 26 to be a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine during his Angelus address last Sunday amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, will preside over a prayer for peace in Ukraine in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere at 5:30 p.m. local time, the same time as Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidio will gather in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 23.

“Those who pursue their own interests, to the detriment of others, disregard their human vocation, as we were all created as brothers and sisters.”

Catholic bishops in Europe have also expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) said.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said earlier this week that rising tensions with Russia pose “a great danger” to the whole of Europe.

“The current situation represents a great danger for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the entire European continent, which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe,” their appeal, also signed by other bishops, said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

In their joint message, the bishops of Ukraine and Poland called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“Today, the quest for alternatives to war in resolving international conflicts has become an urgent necessity, since the terrifying power of the means of destruction are now in the hands of even medium and small powers, and the increasingly strong ties existing between the peoples of the whole earth make it difficult, if not practically impossible, to limit the effects of any conflict,” they said.

“Therefore, drawing on the experience of previous generations, we call upon those in power to refrain from hostilities. We encourage leaders to immediately withdraw from the path of ultimatums and the use of other countries as bargaining chips.”

“Differences in interests must be resolved not by the use of arms, but through agreements. The international community should unite in solidarity and actively support endangered society in all possible ways.”

Pope Francis to parents: Never condemn a child

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday never to condemn their children.

At his Jan. 26 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope encouraged parents to turn to St. Joseph for help, including those whose children are of “different sexual orientations.”

He said: “I am thinking at this moment of so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”

Speaking off the cuff, he added: “And I am thinking, too, of parents in the face of their children’s problems: Children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent maladies — how much pain is there! — parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.”

“Parents who see their children leaving because of an illness, and also — even sadder, we read about it every day in the newspapers — children who get into mischief and end up in a car accident. Parents who see their children not progressing in school and don’t know how... So many parental problems. Let’s think about it: how to help them.”

“And to these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”

The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience to “St. Joseph, a man who ‘dreams,’” in the ninth installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November 2021.

He emphasized the saint’s sensitivity to dreams, which he said were “considered a means by which God revealed himself” in biblical times.

“Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly,” he said.

The pope recounted the four dreams of St. Joseph described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the first, an angel told the saint not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

“Life often puts us in situations that we do not understand and that seem to have no solution,” he said.

“Praying in these moments — this means letting the Lord show us the right thing to do. In fact, very often it is prayer that gives us the intuition of the way out.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never allows a problem to arise without also giving us the help we need to deal with it.”

In the second dream, Joseph grasped that the Infant Jesus was in danger and the Holy Family needed to flee to Egypt.

“In life we all experience dangers that threaten our existence or the existence of those we love,” the pope reflected. “In these situations, praying means listening to the voice that can give us the same courage as Joseph, to face difficulties without succumbing.”

In the third dream, St. Joseph heard that it was safe to return home and, in the fourth, that he should settle in Nazareth, away from Archelaus, the son of Herod.

“Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer,” the pope commented. “God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness.”

The pope underlined that prayer was an active practice, always connected to charity.

“Prayer, however, is never an abstract or purely internal gesture, like these spiritualist movements that are more gnostic than Christian. No, it’s not that,” he said.

“Prayer is always inextricably linked to charity. It is only when we combine prayer with love, the love for children in the cases I just mentioned, or the love for our neighbour, that we are able to understand the Lord’s messages.”

“Joseph prayed, worked, and loved — three beautiful things for parents: to pray, to work, and to love — and because of this he always received what he needed to face life’s trials. Let us entrust ourselves to him and to his intercession.”

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.

Speaking to English-speaking Catholics, he highlighted the day for prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, which he announced at last Sunday’s Angelus.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from the United States of America. Today, I especially ask you to join in praying for peace in Ukraine. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

The pope also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on Jan. 27.

He said: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope told pilgrims that he was unable to move among them at the end of the audience because of a temporary “problem with my right leg.”

He said: “A ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing.”

With a smile, the 85-year-old added: “They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but... I don’t know.”

Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for many years. He spoke about it shortly after his election in 2013, saying it was “very painful” and “I don’t wish it on anyone.”

He suffered a resurgence of the condition at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, which forced him to cancel public appearances.

The pope ended his general audience address by reciting a prayer:

St. Joseph, a man who dreams, teach us to recover the spiritual life
as the inner place where God manifests Himself and saves us.

Remove from us the thought that praying is useless;
help each one of us to correspond to what the Lord shows us.

May our reasoning be illuminated by the light of the Spirit,
our hearts encouraged by His strength
and our fears saved by His mercy. Amen.

How big was the March for Life? Here’s how one pro-life group came up with a massive total

Students for Life of America estimates that about 150,000 people attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022, based an analysis of a video of the marchers. / Screen shot of Students for Life of America video

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pro-life Americans recently traveled from across the country to attend the 2022 March for Life. Despite the pandemic and local COVID-19 rules, marchers gathered in numbers comparable to years past, leaving people to ask: How many marched for life?

The nation’s largest annual pro-life event in Washington, D.C., is held on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. While the march condemns abortion every year, marchers exhibited a new momentum on Jan. 21, as the Supreme Court considers a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.  

In other words, the 49th march could also be the last.

While neither the March for Life nor the police provide specific numbers, organizers estimated that tens of thousands attended the 2022 March for Life, in a statement to CNA. 

Another pro-life group made a more exact estimate: roughly 150,000 marchers. Students for Life of America (SFLA) made the estimate by reviewing footage from their timelapse video capturing the entire 2022 March for Life. They shared the 45-second clip just hours after the march concluded.

“We froze a frame of the timelapse, counted all the people individually, and multiplied that by total frames,” Lauren Enriquez, deputy media strategist for SFLA, told CNA.

Ahead of the 2022 march, organizers guessed that 50,000 Americans would attend, in their permit application. After the event, news reports estimated anywhere between “thousands” and “tens of thousands” of Americans attended. SFLA stands by their 150,000 estimate.

“The Pro-Life Generation showed up in force to remember the sisters, brothers, friends, classmates, children, and neighbors lost to abortion in our lifetime — millions of priceless, beloved individuals who should be here with us today,” Enriquez told CNA. “We also showed up to represent the nearly five decades of activism and hard work that have led to this truly historic moment of potentially reversing Roe.”

She emphasized the resilience of the pro-life marchers.

“What’s more is that those thousands and thousands of marchers, young and elderly, braved sub-freezing temperatures to be out there,” Enriquez added, commenting on the harsh weather that day. “Their sacrifice is a testament to the unshakable fervor of this generation — and this moment. We are ready for a Post-Roe America!!”

Spanish PM meets with head of country's bishops' conference

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez meets with Cardinal Juan José Omella Jan. 24, 2022. / CEE

Madrid, Spain, Jan 25, 2022 / 17:11 pm (CNA).

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez visited the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, on Monday to discuss a series of issues including the registered assets of the Catholic Church.

In the one hour meeting, Sánchez’ first visit to the conference’s headquarters, "we expressed the desire for collaboration between the two institutions, the State and the Church, for the common good, for the good of Spanish society,” explained Cardinal Omella.

"There are issues that affect us very directly, such as social issues, poverty, the suffering of many people because of this historical moment that we are living through, also because of the pandemic," the Archbishop of Barcelona added.

The cardinal said that other issues they touched on that came up during the Jan. 24 conversation were medicine, life, abortion, euthanasia, freedom of conscience, housing, immigrants, and humanitarian corridors. 

Regarding migrants, the cardinal explained that Caritas and the parishes are already working to help them “for the good of society.”

"Then there are the other issues where we can diverge on a little more, not agree completely, which are the most moral issues, which affect morality the most, such as the issue of abortion and euthanasia," he noted.

“We also touched on the issue of education. I believe that it is very important how the new generations are formed, with the whole issue of the difficulties encountered in the application of the Church-State accords on the subject of education, of religion,”  Cardinal Omella said.

“It was a very beautiful moment of rapprochement between the government's presidency and the president of the Episcopal Conference,” he concluded.

At the meeting Cardinal Omella handed Sánchez the book containing the study carried out by the Church on the list of registered assets covering the years 1998 to 2015 that the Government delivered to the Congress of Deputies.

A statement on the bishops’ website explains that “Recently, the capacity of the Church to possess material assets and to register them in the Registry of Property has been questioned. It has been said that the Church should not have so many assets and that its inclusion in the Registry of Property has been carried out fraudulently.” 

The statement further explains that in past centuries there was no question of what the Church owned. However, a controversy has arisen as to whether certain properties claimed by the Church are actually public property or vice versa.

Another statement notes that "out of the meeting held last August between the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) and Democratic Memory Law and the President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the work of the 'ad hoc' Committee set up between both parties has intensified within the dialogue between the Church and the Spanish State, on the matter relating to assets registered by the Catholic Church.”

The Church in Spain "in the context of dialogue with the Government, has made an exhaustive study of it through timely consultations with the dioceses."

"This study has consisted in cataloging the assets, their division by diocese and verification of the registration processes in each of the aforementioned assets" from which it follows that approximately one thousand assets "the Church considers belonging to a third party, or there is no record of ownership of it.”

It is then expected that “the Government will inform local entities and registries of this information and the processes of regularization can thus be initiated wherever appropriate.”

"To this end, the Church expresses its commitment to collaboration in order to facilitate such processes," the statement concludes.

Bishop Luis Argüello, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, said that the report delivered to the government will be made public through the conference website.

Bishop Argüello also stressed that, in general terms, "the Church offers the radical affirmation of human dignity and works for the common good."

He said Monday's meeting was "satisfactory for both parties."

State drops charges against Father James Jackson, but he's still being prosecuted. Here's why:

Father James Jackson, FSSP, appearing at a Nov. 15 arraignment before the Rhode Island District Court. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Providence, R.I., Jan 25, 2022 / 16:56 pm (CNA).

State charges accusing Providence priest Father James Jackson of possession of child pornography, transfer of child pornography, and child erotica prohibited have been dropped, according to the state court website

But the ex-pastor, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), still must face federal charges of distributing child pornography and possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, his lawyer John Calcagni III told CNA. He declined further comment.

The state’s move to drop charges was an expected procedural development that allows the federal case against Jackson to move forward.

Jackson, formerly pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was arrested on Oct. 30 by the Rhode Island State Police after an investigation by a Rhode Island computer crimes task force.

The state police had executed a search warrant that day at the parish and arrested Jackson after determining that he was the owner of large amounts of child sex abuse material found on an external hard drive in an office area near his bedroom, an affidavit states. 

The investigation revealed that an internet subscriber geolocated to St. Mary’s rectory shared child sexual abuse material via the peer-to-peer network on four occasions between Sept. 4 and Oct. 17, 2021, the affidavit states. 

His state charges could have amounted to a maximum penalty of up to 21 years in prison. 

The federal charges of distributing child pornography is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory term of incarceration of five years. Possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, his other federal charge, is punishable by up to 20 years of incarceration.

Prior to becoming pastor at St. Mary’s on Aug. 1, Jackson spent 15 years at the FSSP apostolate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado.

Under the terms of his release from federal court in early November, Jackson is free on an unsecured bond with electronic monitoring. He was allowed to return to his home state of Kansas to live with a relative while waiting for the charges to be adjudicated.

Fresno parish church vandalized

Damage at St. Alphonsus parish church in Fresno, Calif., where the building was accessed late on Jan. 14, 2022. / Chandler Marquez/Diocese of Fresno.

Fresno, Calif., Jan 25, 2022 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

St. Alphonsus parish in Fresno was broken into overnight earlier this month. Both the tabernacle and a Marian shrine were vandalized.

Father Carlos Serrano, the pastor of St. Alphonsus, first discovered damage to the tabernacle the morning of Jan. 15. 

“When going through the church, he saw the other damage,” Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Diocese of Fresno, told CNA.

The parish has a Marian statue behind glass, where people often come to pray. Beside the statue is a box with monetary donations for the parish made in thanksgiving. Marquez said the vandal took the box with the donations.

The Fresno police investigated the incident, and were able to recover surveillance images of the vandal. Police assessed the monetary damage to the church at $35,000.

Marquez told KMPH that “The community is devastated. To begin it's a direct attack on the most sacred part of the church but also to have the Shrine of our Blessed Mother attacked. Culturally that means so much to this community.”

Marquez added that the tabernacle's doors were damaged enough that it is being examined to determine whether it can be restored.

St. Alphonsus parish was established in 1908, and it serves 700 families. Masses at the parish are said in English and Spanish.

In a message marking Religious Freedom Day earlier this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York stated that “For nearly two years, the U.S. bishops have noticed a disturbing trend of Catholic churches being vandalized and statues being smashed.”

“We are not alone. Our friends from other faith groups experience these outbursts too, and for some communities, they occur far more frequently,” he said.

Study will investigate impact, evolving role of maternity homes in US

null / _Nezemnaya_ (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jan 25, 2022 / 15:49 pm (CNA).

An upcoming study will consider the impact and evolving role of maternity homes in the United States, in the hope of better serving women with crisis pregnancies. 

The study is projected to launch this spring and continue for three to five years. It is a collaboration between the Catholic organization Heartbeat International and the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities. 

It will center on five maternity homes in the South and Midwest. 

The study aims to assess the impact of maternity homes today, standardize care across maternity homes, and better serve women experiencing crisis pregnancies across the nation.

Organizers also hope to secure funding for maternity homes with an “all-comprehensive approach to support for the entire family.”

“The heartbeat of this housing movement is to approach her more about the value of her own life, and help her with some long-term help,” said Valerie Humes, a housing specialist for Heartbeat International and director of the National Maternity Housing Coalition. 

“Now the mom can live in the home, or if she chooses, to live out of the home,” Humes said. “The mom still receives care and support through the process in the community through these maternity homes.” 

This shifting role of maternity homes reflects the reality of many women facing crisis pregnancies today, Humes suggested in an interview with Pregnancy Help News, which is managed by Heartbeat International. 

When maternity homes first began in the 1980s and ’90s, society was less forgiving of crisis pregnancies, she said. There were few school programs and state or federal subsidies to support women. But women would frequently return to their families after seeking the support of a maternity home. 

Today, maternity homes are reporting a rising correlation between crisis pregnancies and broken families, trafficking, or substance and domestic abuse, Humes said. 

“Now we are seeing that (reuniting with family) is not the case, because now these women are totally alone, abused and trafficked,” she said. “Now we see fourth-generation displaced family units, 50% to 70% in maternity homes experienced…foster care or have aged out of foster care.”

The maternity homes included in the study are Maggie’s Place in Phoenix, Ariz.; Our Lady’s Inn in Saint Louis, Mo.; Bethlehem House in Omaha, Neb.; In My Shoes in Dallas, Texas; and Aid for Women in Chicago, Ill.

Lawmakers: FDA should regulate prenatal tests in wake of bombshell report

Prenatal blood tests for genetic conditions have become an enormous unregulated industry generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Over 90 members of Congress are requesting that the Food and Drug Administration oversee non-invasive prenatal testing after a bombshell New York Times investigation showing that these tests are wrong far more often than they are correct.  

"We write to you today because it is our understanding that many of these tests have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and we seek further clarification from the agency on this important matter," said the Jan. 21 letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock. 

The letter was led by Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). 

While these types of tests have been on the market since 2011, and about one and three pregnant women take non-invasive prenatal testing during their pregnancies, the tests have “largely escaped FDA regulatory review,” said the letter. 

“Companies that market and sell these products continue to see their profits grow and more products enter the market. According to a Pew Trust report from January of 2021, more than 40 non-invasive prenatal tests are now available on the market,” the members of Congress said.  

“Unfortunately, many of the test manufacturers do not publish data on the accuracy of their tests, and others point to less than satisfactory studies to support their products.”

On Jan. 1, the New York Times published the results of their investigations into the tests. 

The Times interviewed researchers and combined studies “to produce the best estimates available of how well the five most common microdeletion tests perform”: DiGeorge syndrome, 1p36 deletion, Cri-du-chat syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, and Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes.

The tests’ positive results are wrong around 85% of the time, the Times found. Many women are pressured or moved to consider abortion after a test comes back positive.  

“While these tests can help parents prepare for the arrival of their child, we are concerned that they could be a predatory financial windfall for manufacturers and directly result in the termination of innocent human life,” said the letter. 

Prenatal testing for conditions such as Down syndrome has been commonplace for decades, but these non-invasive tests for rare diseases are newer. In some countries, upwards of 95% of babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted. 

The letter asked Woodcock to release information regarding the efficacy of the tests, what the FDA knew about the tests, and if there was anything the FDA could do to evaluate the efficacy of these tests, as well as any potential FDA approval steps for certain non-invasive prenatal tests.

A spokesman from Roy’s office emphasized the need to ensure that these kinds of tests are accurate. 

“The results of these tests have literal life or death consequences for unborn fellow Americans, yet it turns out some of them are wrong about 85% of the time,” the spokesman told CNA. 

“Some parents might use this information to help prepare for the arrival of a child, but we know that others are pressured by the medical system and our pro-abortion culture to abort a human life based on dubious information.”

“Eugenic abortion is evil enough to begin with; basing it on unreliable test results is even worse. The American people deserve answers about these tests,” the spokesman said.

Funeral Mass homily: Catholic intellectual Alice von Hildebrand 'defended all that is worth defending'

'Memoirs of a Happy Failure' cover design by Marylouise McGraw. / null

New York City, N.Y., Jan 25, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Editor's note: Catholic intellectual Alice von Hildebrand, whose husband was the late Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, died Jan. 14 at the age of 98. Revered as a "tigress" in defense of objective Truth and the Catholic Church, von Hildebrand appeared more than 80 times on EWTN and contributed many outstanding essays over the years to Catholic News Agency. Some of those CNA essays are referenced in the homily below, given by Father Gerald E. Murray at von Hildebrand's funeral Mass on Jan. 22 at her parish, Holy Family Church in New Rochelle, New York.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” — Letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans 5:1-2

As we join together in prayer at this Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of our beloved friend and mentor Alice von Hildebrand, known as Lily to her friends, we pray that she who had such deep faith in the truth who is our Lord Jesus Christ, that she who radiated the peace that God bestows on those who love Him, may now see the fulfillment of her hope, sharing in the glory that God bestows on His good and faithful servants who have received the supreme gift of the beatific vision, seeing God face to face.

Before the body of a deceased Catholic is brought to the parish church for the Requiem Mass, the Church offers this prayer at the wake: “O Lord, we commend to you the soul of your servant Alice, that having departed from this world, she may live with you. And by the grace of your merciful love, wash away the sins that in human frailty she has committed in the conduct of her life.” Lily asked for Masses to be offered for her soul. She was very conscious of the need that sinners have to seek God’s pardon. In December of 2016 she told a friend: “You know, I have lived a long life. I will tell you a secret. I am ready for it to be over. I think I have done what God wanted me to do. If I died tomorrow, I think I would be grateful. Also, I am a coward: I am afraid of what is coming. I pray for the younger generation. I think we are coming back around in history when people will be killed for their faith. If you are there when I am on my deathbed remind me to say, forgive me my sins, thank you to God and I love you. Have you ever thought about the words you will say on your death bed? Of course, not; you are too young but for me it is very close.” She was only off by five years in predicting her departure from this vale of tears. Those five years, indeed all her 98 years on earth were a gift from God both to Lily and to all those who loved her. Her gratitude to God for all He did for her in this life never wavered, but rather grew stronger. She marveled at her long life as she marveled at everything that God did for her. 

In August of 2017 Lily told a friend: “I love the story of Abraham, how Isaac asked him on the way to the mount where God had told him to sacrifice his son, ‘but where is the sacrifice?’ and Abraham responded, ‘God will provide.’ That is how I feel about my death — God will provide the right people and the right circumstances.” The Lord did indeed provide for her as Holy Mass was celebrated in her apartment, and she received the Anointing of the Sick and the Apostolic Pardon, on January 13th. She went to the Lord that very night, shortly after midnight.

Her death brings to an earthly close a truly amazing life. Born in 1923, her journey through this world into the world to come took her in 1940 from her native Belgium to New York, in flight from the Nazi invaders. Her first home here was at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with her aunt and uncle. Little did she know then that she would spend 38 years at a nearby secular school, Hunter College, teaching philosophy. It was her love of books and learning that led her to Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart and then to Fordham University, where she studied philosophy under the guidance of the brilliant and courageous Dietrich von Hildebrand, who had fled Munich for Vienna when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party took power in Germany. His writings against the Nazis put him at the top of the Gestapo list of people to be arrested when the German army marched into Austria. He escaped on the last train out of Vienna and made his way to New York, where he resumed his work as a philosopher and as a Catholic writer and speaker who inspired his students and friends with a deep love of Christ, of the Church and, in particular, of the Church’s sacred liturgy.

Lily soon became his secretary, and after von Hildebrand’s wife Margarete died in 1957, he asked her to marry him in 1959. They eventually moved to New Rochelle and were members of this parish of the Holy Family. My family were also parishioners here. I remember as a grammar schoolboy wondering who this couple was as they sat a few pews ahead of our family at Sunday Mass. I was to find out, to my great benefit, a few years later, when I decided to enter the seminary to study for the priesthood. I discovered the greatness of these two philosophers who defended all that is worth defending so that man may live at peace with himself, with others and with God.

One of the most central themes in the lives of Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand was the crucial importance of reverence if man is to order his life properly and fruitfully in this world.

Lily wrote extensively about matters of faith in various Catholic publications in the years that followed her retirement in 1984 from teaching at Hunter College. Reverence was a central topic. Let me cite three passages from her articles.

  1. “The curse of modern men is that so many of them have lost their sense for wonder and gratitude. Boredom is a punishment for irreverence. Alas, our mind-boggling technological progress has brought with it the curse of taking things for granted and assuming with blind stupidity that there is nothing we cannot know — nothing that he cannot master. Having a small gadget in his hand, one feels that he is the master of the universe. He can click on a button and have the world at his fingertips. Regretfully, we never hear homilists say a word about the sin of being ‘blasé.’ It is a sin because it is a consequence of ingratitude — because it is a fruit of pride and metaphysical arrogance. Every sin brings with it its own punishment.” (“Reverence: The Mother of All Virtue,” Catholic News Agency, April 26, 2016.)

  1. “What is ‘reverence?’ It is an uplifting and joyful feeling of awe, a response that man is called upon to give to God’s creation which clearly points to the Creator; it is an ever renewed and grateful discovery of the mysteries of being; it is an overcoming of one’s moral blindness preventing us from perceiving the glories of the universe that we live in. It is a joy to perceive how marvelous it is ‘to be,’ and consequently, should make us respond with horror at abortion, willingly and brutally denying existence to others (for I doubt that abortionists would have chosen to be aborted themselves had they had a chance of doing it.) They deny life to others, not to themselves. We all should tremble with respect at perceiving a little creature making its dramatic entrance into our world.” (Ibid.)

  1. “Irreverence is spreading through modem society like a cancer. It is metastasizing and has infected virtually ev­ery facet of our everyday life. The authentic meaning of ‘culture’ refers to a refinement, an elevation, a spiritualiza­tion of everyday life —that is, it aims to put the seal of the Spirit on our daily activities. Today, however, the word ‘culture’ refers to whatever has been most recently produced. We have forgotten that true culture elevates; it does not drag down. I dare say that much of what we see today is an anti-culture. It certainly cannot be read as a sursum corda (Lift up your hearts) — a call to look upward, triggering gratitude in our souls. It was typical of Plato's genius that he would warn us that one of the main aims of education is to train a child to ‘love what is lovable, and hate what is mean and ugly.’ This is the antidote to the disease of irreverence that is ravaging our society and sickening our culture. When will we avail ourselves of it?” (“The Disease of Irreverence,” New Oxford Review, June 2011.)

Lily’s love for the truth was a fruit of her love for Christ, who is the Truth. She did not speak about Catholicism in the classroom at Hunter, a secular school. She taught philosophy not theology. But her students who heard about the existence of objective truth in her classes were free to ask themselves questions about the origin of truth. And that led a good number of them to seek answers beyond philosophy. Lily recounted one incident that occurred shortly before she retired:

“Not long ago, in my ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ course, I was discussing truth. I gave my students the classical argument against subjectivism and relativism, namely, that whenever one tries to deny objective truth one must simultaneously claim that one’s own statement is itself true, really and objectively. Suddenly, a male student raised his hand, rose (a most unusual occurrence), and said in a strong, clear voice: ‘I object, Professor, to your spreading Roman Catholicism in this classroom.’ There followed a moment of great tension and my thoughts rushed to God for help. Then I said quietly: ‘I’m afraid that you are guilty of an anachronism.’ Since the student in question did not know what it meant, I explained: ‘The argument I have been using is taken from Plato who lived some four centuries before the birth of Christ. He can hardly be called a Roman Catholic. This should answer your objection.’ I then proceeded with my teaching. Some 16 months later I received a phone call just as I was about to leave for the university, where I was scheduled to proctor exams for the evening. The person who was calling, a former student, said she urgently wanted to see me. I told her that this was not possible since I was to be on duty the whole evening and, furthermore, it was my last day at the university until the fall term. She started to cry over the phone and insisted that she had to see me immediately. Surmising that her problem was truly serious, I contacted a friend of mine who agreed to proctor in my stead.

I then rushed to the university. I hardly had time to take off my coat when the girl who had phoned me came in. I immediately recognized her even though she had never spoken to me personally when she was my student. She had a fine, sensitive face and I had been impressed by her attentiveness and eagerness to listen. To my utter amazement, she told me abruptly that she wanted to become a Roman Catholic. I was so surprised that I was speechless, but I then decided to test her. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Your courses convinced me.’ ‘But,’ I responded, ‘I didn’t say a word about religion in my classes; my topic is philosophy.’

‘l know,’ she answered, ‘but do you recall an incident about 16 months ago when a student got up and objected to your refutation of subjectivism and relativism on the ground that you were spreading Roman Catholicism in the classroom? I had been brought up with strong anti-Catholic prejudices. But just when the student spoke out, the grace of God struck me. I suddenly understood that the Roman Catholic Church does stand for the objectivity of truth and that I had been blinded by prejudices.

‘Your course helped me very much and I decided to take another one with you,’ she continued. ‘I heard through another student that you were the wife of a famous Roman Catholic writer, Dietrich von Hildebrand. I rushed to the library and read a couple of his works. Now I am convinced. Please, help me to find a good priest so that I can take instructions in the faith.’

This is how L.C. found her way into the Church. I learned a great lesson through her experience: God is so powerful, so great, that He can use anything for the good.” (“Classroom Conversion,” National Catholic Register, March 20, 1983.)

We give thanks to God for the life of our dear departed friend Lily von Hildebrand. We owe her many debts of gratitude for all that she did for us and for countless others who learned, and will continue to learn, from her example, her writings and her public speeches and media appearances, especially on EWTN. She taught us how to live, and how to die. May she rest in God’s peace, knowing the One who made her, redeemed her, and has now called her to Himself.