Browsing News Entries

Vatican halts some parish closures in St. Louis following appeals

Stained-glass window at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis. / Credit: Ella Manthey/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., May 15, 2024 / 14:47 pm (CNA).

Two St. Louis parishes that appealed to the Vatican after Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski ordered them to merge last year have had their appeals upheld by the Holy See, reversing the archbishop’s prior decision.

As part of the archdiocese’s major pastoral planning initiative dubbed “All Things New,” Rozanski announced a year ago that the number of parishes would be reduced by nearly 50 by way of parish mergers and closures.

Under canon law, a diocesan bishop has the authority to alter parishes, but only for a just reason specific to each parish. Concern for souls must be the principal motivation for modifying a parish.

Amid the All Things New process, a number of parishes announced their intention to send appeals to the Vatican, putting aspects of the mergers planned for the parishes on hold until the Dicastery for the Clergy’s rulings. 

After studying the acts of the case for St. Angela Merici Parish in Florissant, Missouri, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy did not find just cause for the parish to be combined to form a single parish with St. Norbert and Holy Name of Jesus parishes, the archdiocese said in a May 14 statement. The dicastery was therefore unable to sustain Rozanski’s decree. 

While retaining their statuses as three separate parish communities, St. Angela Merici, St. Norbert, and Holy Name of Jesus parishes will all remain under the pastoral guidance of Father Peter Faimega, the archdiocese continued.

In addition, the Dicastery for the Clergy did not find just cause for St. Martin of Tours Parish in Lemay, Missouri, to be subsumed by St. Mark Parish, the archdiocese said.

The same day, the archdiocese announced that another appeal brought by St. Roch Parish in St. Louis had resulted in Rozanski’s decree being upheld. St. Roch was to be subsumed by Christ the King Parish, effective Aug. 1, 2023, and this month its school is set to close. 

Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Before announcing the changes in May 2023, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the 178 current parishes. It also considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. The archdiocese also held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski had originally declined to revoke any of the 83 decrees he made regarding the final plans, leaving the parishes with recourse only to the Vatican. However, he did suspend his decree regarding St. Angela Merici and St. Martin of Tours prior to the decisions from the dicastery, so “no additional changes will be necessary,” the archdiocese said. 

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the dicastery earlier this year overturned the closure decree for St. Richard Parish near Creve Coeur, Missouri, while also denying an appeal from the closed Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Ferguson. At least 11 parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis still have outstanding appeals regarding closings or mergers, the archdiocese has noted. 

The archdiocese has previously said that the widespread reassignment of 158 archdiocesan priests, which was announced along with the various mergers, will proceed as planned. 

The St. Louis parishes’ appeals to the Vatican are not unprecedented in the United States. In dioceses such as Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, Boston, and Springfield, Massachusetts, parishioners have issued appeals to the Dicastery for the Clergy to save their parishes after their bishops ordered them closed.

A look at the bishop of Hong Kong’s recent visit to mainland China

Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, archbishop of Hong Kong, China. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez

Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2024 / 14:17 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Stephen Chow recently visited three Catholic dioceses in mainland China, one year after the bishop of Hong Kong’s first historic trip to Beijing.

Chow led a 10-person delegation of Catholics from Hong Kong to the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shantou, and Shenzhen in April in his second official visit to China since becoming bishop of Hong Kong.

“We brought our people to have an encounter … where we share common concerns, for example, youth ministry, catechism, marriage and family,” Chow said in a video interview published May 5.

Here is a look at some of the Catholic communities Chow visited:

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou, China. Credit: Kc1446 at Chinese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou, China. Credit: Kc1446 at Chinese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of Chinese Catholics attended a Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou concelebrated by Chow and Bishop Huang Bingzhang of Shantou on April 24, according to the Sunday Examiner, a publication of the Diocese of Hong Kong.

Huang is one of seven bishops appointed by the Chinese government from whom Pope Francis lifted the decree of excommunication when he first signed the Vatican’s provisional agreement with China in 2018. 

He replaced an elderly underground bishop of Shantou who was loyal to the Vatican, Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, who was asked to step aside as a result, despite a personal appeal to the pope on his behalf by Cardinal Joseph Zen in Rome. 

Earlier this year, Huang spoke at the Chinese government’s National People’s Congress. He previously participated in the National People’s Congress in 2018 that revoked presidential term limits, clearing the way for Xi Jinping to rule for life. Huang said in 2017 that he would work to actively promote the practice of Catholic patriotism, according to the Chinese Patriotic Association website.

A new residence for the bishop is currently under construction and the Hong Kong delegation visited the construction site during their visit.

Shantou is a city in eastern Guangdong Province on the coast of the South China Sea with a population of about 4.6 million people. The city is known for its toy manufacturing. Shantou’s Chenghai district is home to 10,000 toy companies. 

During their stay in the city, the Hong Kong delegation also visited the Holy Family Church and St. Roch’s Church in Shantou.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, China. Credit: beibaoke/Shutterstock
Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, China. Credit: beibaoke/Shutterstock

Chow’s first stop in China was Guangzhou, a port city located about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong with a population of more than 15 million people. The city’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on the banks of the Pearl River was built almost entirely out of granite in a Gothic style by French missionaries from 1861 to 1888 with financial support from Napoleon III.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Guangzhou Joseph Gan Junqiu was appointed by the pope and consecrated in the cathedral with the Vatican’s support in 2007 after attempted obstruction by Chinese authorities. At the time, Gan said that the archdiocese averaged about 100 baptisms per year.

Gan welcomed the Hong Kong delegation to the Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 23, where they celebrated Mass together. Father Joseph Yim Tak-lung, the chief executive of Caritas Hong Kong, also gave a presentation about his ministry at the cathedral.

Huanghuagang Mausoleum of the 72 Chinese Martyrs

The Huanghuagang Mausoleum in Guangzhou, China. Credit: NGCHIYUI/Shutterstock
The Huanghuagang Mausoleum in Guangzhou, China. Credit: NGCHIYUI/Shutterstock

Following Mass in the cathedral, the Hong Kong delegation also visited the Huanghuagang Mausoleum, which commemorates the 72 revolutionaries who died in the Guangzhou uprising on April 27, 1911, against the Qing dynasty.

The 1911 Revolution ended China’s imperial dynasty and led to the establishment of the Republic of China under the leadership of its first provisional president, Sun Yat-sen, a convert to Christianity known as the father of modern China who is revered today by both Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party. 

The Huanghuagang Mausoleum is topped with a tiny replica of the Statue of Liberty in New York, which was removed during China’s Cultural Revolution and replaced by the city in 1981.

St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen

St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

With a population of more than 17 million people, Shenzhen is one of China’s megacities and is known as “the world’s factory.” Shenzhen experienced rapid growth in recent decades as one of China’s special economic zones. Inc. reported in 2015 that 90% of the world’s electronics were made in the city, which is located just north of Hong Kong. 

The Catholic population in Shenzhen includes many migrant workers who came from more rural parts of China and abroad to work in the factories. 

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Shenzhen was built between 1998 and 2001. At the time of its opening, it was the only Catholic church in Shenzhen, according to UCA News. St. Anthony’s also offers Masses in English for foreign Catholics who work or travel to Shenzhen for business. Chow and the Hong Kong delegation visited the church on April 26. 

Christ the King Church in Shenzhen

Christ the King Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Christ the King Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The foundation for Shenzhen’s Christ the King Church in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district was laid in 2007 and the construction of the church was completed in November 2010.

During their visit to Christ the King Church, the Hong Kong delegation discussed the possibility of future cooperation between Chinese Church officials and the Diocese of Hong Kong via a catechetical formation center in China. Connie Chung To-hing, the director of Hong Kong’s diocesan catechetical center, took part in the meeting. 

Other members of the delegation from Hong Kong who traveled to China included Father Peter Choy Wai-man, Father Paul Kam Po-wai, and Father Joseph Chan Wing-chiu.

Deacon Gabriel Lau Nam-shan, the chairperson of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family; Wong Ka Chun, the personal assistant to the cardinal; and Sherman Cheng Ching-man of the Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council also joined the cardinal on the trip.

In the video posted by the diocese, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, the auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, said that “friendship” was really at the heart of the trip.

Chow joked that everyone in the delegation “put on a few pounds” because of all the meals involved in getting to know these new friends, adding that it was true for him even as a vegetarian.

“Cardinal Stephen also expressed his belief that the Church in Guangdong is similar to the Church of Vietnam, which he visited earlier in April,” the Hong Kong Diocese’s Sunday Examiner reported. “Both have continued under communist/socialist rule for many years and are functioning well, with individuals evangelizing in a creative manner.”

Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker rails against Pride month, Biden in speech at Catholic college

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker railed against Pride month, working women, President Biden’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and abortion during a commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend.

Baltimore auxiliary, head of ministry to seafarers visit ship at site of bridge collapse

When Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker and Andrew Middleton, director of the archdiocesan Apostleship of the Sea, approached the stranded MV Dali at the site of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the bishop noticed that it looked like it was leaning, and wondered if that would be evident onboard the ship.

At Vatican conference, Massachusetts governor announces Climate Careers Fund

Faith leaders must collaborate with public and private partners to set an example on combating climate change for the communities they serve, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said while standing in the Vatican Gardens.

Catholics in Chicago work to preserve historic century-old parish

Outer details of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Chicago. / Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

CNA Staff, May 15, 2024 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

Catholics and city preservationists in Chicago are scrambling to try to preserve a historic parish on the city’s North Side, one that has survived a century of the city’s development including being fully moved to a new location after it was first built. 

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish will hold its final Mass on Sunday, May 19, before the parish merges with nearby St. Mary of the Lake. The consolidation is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ongoing “Renew My Church” initiative that has closed and merged dozens of parishes in order to address shrinking budgets and priest shortages. 

The archdiocese announced the Lourdes parish merger in 2021. Katerina Garcia, the president of the Our Lady of Lourdes Church Preservation Society, told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol this week that parishioners at the parish dispute the archdiocese’s reasons for closing the church, particularly the claim that Mass attendance had dropped steadily there. 

“We disagree with that statement because before the merge, Our Lady of Lourdes Church had the highest attendance compared to [other nearby churches],” Garcia told Sabol. 

“They decreased the Masses that we had. So of course that’s going to decrease attendance,” she argued.

Even as the parish’s final Mass looms, Garcia said efforts are underway to save the parish, possibly by purchasing it from the archdiocese. She noted the parish’s remarkable history, including its wholesale move from one side of the street to the other. 

The parish was “literally across the street on the east side of Ashland Avenue,” she told Sabol. “And Daniel Burnham, who was a prominent architect and urban developer in Chicago, wanted to widen the [city streets].” 

“In order for them to widen Ashland Avenue, they had to move the church literally across the street,” she said. “They had 150 men and horses, and they put the 10,000-ton church on top of 400 rails and 3,000 rollers and literally moved it across the street, inching it.”

A view of the parish's historic move in 1929. Our Lady of Lourdes Preservation Society
A view of the parish's historic move in 1929. Our Lady of Lourdes Preservation Society

Once the building was moved to its new location, builders “rotated it 90 degrees” and then “cut the church in half and added a 30-foot insert,” increasing capacity by roughly 50%.

“Back then, 1929, that’s such a very … I can’t even think of the word. It’s just an engineering feat,” Garcia said. 

‘It’s facing an uncertain future’

On its website, the Our Lady of Lourdes Preservation Society says its goal is to “preserve Our Lady of Lourdes Church as a historical landmark, reopen and revive it as a holy shrine.”

The group, formed in 2021 after the merger announcement, wrote on Facebook that it is “going full force to make sure [the property] is preserved as a historical landmark,” with group members aiming to “bring it back to its old glory with a new order in charge.”

Ward Miller, the executive director of the nonprofit Preservation Chicago, said his group has been working to get the building designated as a Chicago landmark. 

The group has highlighted the building’s historical qualities in the past. The parish was “modeled in the Spanish Renaissance-style architecture to resemble a church in Valladolid, Spain,” Preservation Chicago says. Among its many notable features includes a “faithful replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France,” which years ago was made a “perpetual adoration site” and remains ”the area’s only chapel open 24/7 for worship.”

The structure is “facing an uncertain future,” Miller told CNA on Wednesday. “We don’t know if it’s facing a demolition threat or not.”

The building is rated “orange” in the city’s Historic Resources Survey, Miller pointed out, which indicates that it “possesses potentially significant architectural or historical features.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to a query on Wednesday regarding the status of the church building and what will become of it after the final Mass this week. 

The parish school, meanwhile — which closed in 2004 — has already been sold, with plans to turn the structure into apartments. 

Garcia told Block Club Chicago earlier this year that she attended the school and that her children were baptized in the parish.

The parish “just has a lot of memories,” she told the outlet. “I actually made the calligraphy on the sign by the grotto entrance, so there are parts of the church I was involved in. There’s so much history there for me and my family.” 

“Every part of that church is important to me,” she said. 

What Catholics should do if their presidential candidate doesn't win

During a "Civilize It" webinar sponsored by the U.S. bishops, three prelates urged Catholics to engage in the political process, but also to remember that neither party supports Catholic teaching in its entirety

Louisiana high court to reconsider recent ruling on 'look back law' for abuse claims

Louisiana's top court will reconsider its recent decision to scrap a "look back law" for abuse survivors — a move that could have a profound impact on several Catholic dioceses in the state that are already grappling with significant legal settlements and ongoing investigations.

Pope Francis at general audience: ‘Love is charity’

Pope Francis addresses the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 15, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2024 / 09:10 am (CNA).

During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on charity — what he described as the “culmination” of the theological virtues — observing that it is the highest expression of Christian love, predicated on truth and underscored by forgiveness. 

“Love is charity. We immediately realize that it is a difficult, indeed impossible love to practice if one does not live in God. Our human nature makes us love spontaneously what is good and beautiful,” Pope Francis said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny morning in Rome.

Pointing to the Sermon on the Mount and repeating twice the Christian maxim “love your enemy,” the pope noted that this teaching represents the highest expression of Christian love, as it “embraces what is not lovable; it offers forgiveness.” 

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 15, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 15, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“It is a love so ardent that it seems almost impossible,” the pope continued, “and yet it is the only thing that will remain of us. Love is the ‘narrow gate’ through which we will pass in order to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Looking at the various manifestations of love, the pope noted that Christians “are capable of all the forms of love in the world” such as that expressed toward friends, civic love, and “the universal love for all humanity.” 

But Francis stressed that it is the theological virtue of charity that enables Christians to love “those who are not lovable” and “those who do not care for us and are not grateful.” 

“This comes from God, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us,” he added. 

Pope Francis also centered his catechesis on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, noting that the apostle was speaking to a community divided and “anything but perfect in fraternal love.” 

Francis observed that Paul is urging the Corinthians to embrace “not the love that rises but the one that descends.” 

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 15, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 15, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“Paul,” the pope added, “is concerned that in Corinth — as among us today too — there is confusion and that there is actually no trace of the theological virtue of love.” 

The pope contrasted the theological notions of love and charity with contemporary notions such as the one “on the lips of many ‘influencers’” or heard “in the refrains of many songs.”

At the end of the general audience, the pope stressed the importance of the Holy Spirit in light of the solemnity of Pentecost, which will be celebrated on Sunday.

The pope implored the faithful to “be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit,” which he described as “a source of relief for everyone in their trials.” 

The pope also prayed for those affected by recent flash flooding in northern Afghanistan, which has left over 300 people dead and injured more than 1,600. 

“I pray for the victims, in particular for the children and their families, and I appeal to the international community to immediately provide the aid and support necessary to protect the most vulnerable,” the pope said. 

Catholic bishops warn of polarization in Church, urge more dialogue 

Gloria Purvis, Cardinal Robert McElroy, Bishop Daniel Flores, and Bishop Robert Barron discuss polarization in the Catholic Church during a panel discussion hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Glenmary Home Missioners, and the Jesuit Conference on May 14, 2024. / Credit: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Live Stream YouTube channel

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 15, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Three Catholic bishops warned of a growing ideological polarization within the Church and the need for civil dialogue among those with disagreements during a livestreamed panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon.

“Politics is almost a religion and sometimes it’s a sport, [but] it’s not supposed to be either,” Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, said during the discussion. 

“It’s supposed to be a civil conversation … to seek what is good and make the priority how to achieve it and how to avoid what is evil,” Flores said. “And I think if we could stay focused on that, we can kind of tone down the caricature and the rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize people.”

The panel discussion included Flores, Cardinal Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego, and Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota. It was moderated by Gloria Purvis, the host of “The Gloria Purvis Podcast” at America Magazine, and co-sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities USA, Glenmary Home Missioners, and the Jesuit Conference.

The panel discussion was part of the USCCB’s “Civilize It” initiative, which is meant to foster civility in important ideological debates. As part of the initiative, the bishops ask Catholics to sign a pledge to affirm the dignity of every human person — including those with different ideological beliefs — and to work with others in pursuit of the common good.

According to the panelists, American society and the Church have grown more polarized when it comes to ideological differences — and debates about those differences have become less civil.

Barron, who founded the Catholic media organization Word on Fire, said disagreements within the Church are nothing new, but the way people approach those disagreements has changed: “What’s broken down is the love that makes real dialogue possible.”

“It’s a tribalism that’s lost the sense of love in dialogue,” Barron said.

The bishop warned that people are more focused on winning arguments and being loyal to an ideological identity than on love. He said these problems are very noticeable in discussions on the internet and encouraged people to ask whether “this comment [is] an act of love” before saying anything. 

“Is it born of love?” Barron said people should ask themselves. “Is it born of a desire to will the good of the other? If it’s not, there’s like a thousand better things to be doing than sending that statement.”

McElroy said too much dialogue today “is meant to be confrontational” to the point at which people “can’t enter into a genuine dialogue.” 

“People are coming toward each other in the life of the Church looking first at that label: What are you? Where do you stand in the war-like culture politics of our country?” the cardinal said.

People focus on this “rather than [on] what unites us: where do we stand in terms of our identity as Catholics and with a Christological outlook,” he added. 

McElroy also built on the concerns Barron highlighted regarding dialogue on the internet.

“When you’re writing the Tweet, imagine Jesus is there with you and when you think through that question ‘should I do this?’” McElroy said. 

Similarly, Flores emphasized the need to remember what Christ would do. 

“He would not be unkind, especially to the poor and especially to those who had no standing in the world,” Flores said. “And also he would never commit an injustice in order to promote justice.”