Browsing News Entries

Memorial liturgy, prayer service honor victims of two mass shootings in California

The memories of Valentino Marcos Alvero brought a wide, warm smile to the face of Fr. Joseph Magdaong.

Pope, archbishop of Canterbury beg for peace in historic joint visit to South Sudan

Pope Francis, the archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Church of Scotland arrived in South Sudan on Feb. 3 in an historic ecumenical visit, offering a joint and impassioned appeal for peace. "No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence," Francis begged in remarks outside the presidential palace.

Pope Francis: Congolese Catholics are ‘a lung’ for the universal Church

Pope Francis met the Catholic bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo on his final day in Kinshasa on Feb. 3, 2023 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 03:20 am (CNA).

The enthusiasm, joy, and missionary zeal of Congolese Catholics give oxygen to the whole Church, Pope Francis said during his final meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday.

“As a Church we need to breathe the pure air of the Gospel, to dispel the tainted air of worldliness, to safeguard the young heart of faith. That is how I imagine the African Church and that is how I see this Congolese Church,” he said during an encounter with the country’s bishops.

Pope Francis met 57 of the 74 current and retired bishops of the DRC at the headquarters of the national bishops’ conference of Congo (CENCO) before heading to the country’s N’djili International Airport for a more than three-hour flight to South Sudan, which he will visit Feb. 3-5.

The pope said during his Jan. 31-Feb. 3 visit he saw the Church in the DRC as “a young, dynamic and joyful Church, motivated by missionary zeal, by the good news that God loves us and that Jesus is Lord.”

“Yours is a Church present in the lived history of this people, deeply rooted in its daily life, and in the forefront of charity,” he told the bishops. “It is a community capable of attracting others, filled with infectious enthusiasm and therefore, like your forests, with plenty of ‘oxygen.’ Thank you, because you are a lung that helps the universal Church breathe!”

According to the Vatican, there are more than 52 million Catholics in the DRC, almost half of the country’s total population of over 105 million people. The country, which covers 905,600 square miles, is divided into 48 Catholic dioceses.

After praising the beautiful features of the Church in the DRC, Pope Francis said he was sorry to have to speak of another side to the bishops’ country.

“Sadly, I know that the Christian community of this land also has another face,” he said. “It is the face of a Church that suffers for its people, a heart in which the life of the people, with its joys and trials, beats anxiously. A Church that is a visible sign of Christ, who even today is rejected, condemned and reviled in the many crucified people of our world; a Church that weeps with their tears, and like Jesus, a Church that also wants to dry those tears.”

He encouraged the bishops to be close to the Lord in prayer in order to be prophets for their people.

Being a bishop, he said, is not about self-sufficiency or exercising a worldly power.

“Above all else, may we never open the door to the spirit of worldliness, for this makes us interpret ministry according to the criteria of our own advantage,” Francis said. “It makes us become cold and detached in administering what is entrusted to us. It leads us to use our role to serve ourselves instead of serving others, and to neglect the one relationship that matters, that of humble and daily prayer.”

“Don’t forget that worldliness is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, the worst thing,” he added.

Bishops, Pope Francis said, “are called, then, to pluck up the poisonous plants of hatred and selfishness, anger, resentment, and violence; to break down the altars erected to money and corruption; to build a coexistence based on justice, truth, and peace; and finally, to plant the seeds of rebirth, so that tomorrow’s Congo will truly be what the Lord dreams of: a blessed and happy land, no longer exploited, oppressed, and drenched in blood.”

The pope urged the Catholic bishops to console their people, and above all, to be “shepherds and servants of the people, not entrepreneurs, not moneymakers.”

“Be witnesses of mercy and reconciliation amid the violence unleashed not only by the exploitation of resources and by ethnic and tribal conflicts, but also and above all by the dark power of the evil one, the enemy of God and humanity,” he said.

The Francis Effect podcast: Pope Benedict's death; Cardinal McElroy's essay; women preaching

Listen: Heidi, Father Daniel and David look at the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and his legacy. They also explore the many facets of synodality, as they consider a recent essay by Cardinal Robert McElroy.

At Netflix, a new leading lady takes center stage

Is this new leading lady a reflection of the average modern woman or is it the other way around? And whichever it is: Is it a good thing?

Thousands mourn Cardinal Pell at Sydney funeral: ‘Be not afraid’ was his motto 

Cardinal George Pell’s funeral Mass drew thousands of mourners to Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 2, 2023. / Credit: Giovanni Portelli/The Catholic Weekly

Denver, Colo., Feb 2, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The late Cardinal George Pell’s funeral Mass drew thousands of mourners, filling Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral to capacity. 

Civic leaders, friends, and members of Pell’s family remembered the Australian cardinal’s dedication to the Church and the Gospel and his courage in the face of many obstacles, including more than a year in prison before his exoneration.

“George Pell was my brother. He was a prince of the Church. A good and holy man, and a proud Australian,” David Pell said at the cardinal’s funeral Mass Thursday, according to The Catholic Weekly newspaper.

“’Be not afraid’ was George’s motto. These words are mentioned in the Bible 365 times,” Pell’s brother continued. “They are powerful words and need to be remembered by us as we continue the daily struggle.”

Addressing the cardinal, he added: “You have fought the good fight. Help us to accept the battle. Rest in peace.” 

The cardinal died Jan. 10 in Rome at the age of 81 from cardiac arrest following complications during hip surgery.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney celebrated the Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. The four-hour liturgy included a specially composed offertory motet by Sir James MacMillan based on the cardinal’s motto “Be Not Afraid” and the text of Wisdom 3:1–4.

Attending the funeral were 30 bishops, 220 priests, and dozens of seminarians. The congregation included women religious, theologians, Catholic school teachers, and families. Representatives of Catholic agencies and ethnic communities were at the Mass, as were the residents of David’s Place, a community for the homeless and marginalized in Sydney.

Fisher in his homily described his predecessor Pell as a “lion of the Church” who proclaimed the Gospel “shamelessly, vehemently, courageously to the end.”

“He had a big heart, too, strong enough to fight for the faith and endure persecution but soft enough to care for priests, youth, the homeless, prisoners, and imperfect Christians,” the archbishop said.

David Pell described his brother as a “passionate” player of Australian Rules football. 

“He believed in the rule of law, a fair go to all, and in Aussie Rules parlance, he ‘played the ball, and not the man,’” he said. “He may have disagreed with your opinion, but he didn’t disagree with you as a person.”

Pell was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances. His work there won praise and admiration, especially his apparent discovery of $1.5 billion in assets in previously unreported Vatican accounts.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of charges that he had sexually abused two 13-year-old boys after Sunday Mass in Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was convicted in 2018. After 404 days in prison, the cardinal was acquitted in 2020, when Australia’s High Court unanimously overturned Pell’s conviction. 

That same year a Royal Commission report on sexual abuse made public its findings on Pell, including claims that he was aware of sexual abuse by clerics in the 1970s and 80s, and failed to act. Pell rejected the claims as “not supported by evidence.”

He returned to live in Rome later in 2020.

Fisher said the cardinal marked “404 days spent in prison for a crime he did not commit” despite “media, police, and political campaign to punish him whether guilty or no.”

Pell’s brother David said the family “knew that it was not true.”

“We had to be stoic against the relentless campaign to smear George’s life, especially with the youngest members of our family,” he said. 

At the same time, Pell’s brother noted the cardinal’s “magnificent” prison diaries that resulted from his imprisonment. He thanked Catholic and non-Catholic supporters of Pell, including those who had sent more than 4,000 letters of support. Some letters came from Pell’s former fellow prisoners.

“We sympathize with the legitimate victims and are in complete abhorrence of the criminals. Our own family has not been immune to this evil,” David Pell said. It is “simply untrue” to say he lacked sympathy for victims, said Pell’s brother, contending the cardinal was “unjustly convicted for his predecessors’ failings.”

Pell’s brother said he and his family had “no idea of the evil curse that was perpetrated upon the innocent children of unaware parents, by secretive, deviant, and manipulative criminals.” 

He also recalled his brother’s happiness to serve as archbishop of Sydney.

“He was at home here. He loved Sydney, and gauging by the outpouring of love as he laid in state and today, Sydney loved him.”

About 2,000 people arrived at the cathedral’s forecourt to secure a seat inside. Many stayed and took part in Mass even though they could not enter the cathedral.

Leading dignitaries in attendance included former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbot and Peter Dutton, leader of the opposition Liberal Party. Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet both sent representatives.

Abbot spoke at the funeral about Pell’s place in Australia, calling him “one of our greatest sons.” He suggested the late cardinal was “made a scapegoat for the Church itself,” the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported. On Jan. 14. Pope Francis presided over the rite of Final Commendation and Farewell.

About 150 protesters critical of Cardinal Pell and Catholicism gathered outside. Some bore banners saying the cardinal should “burn in hell.” Four or five mourners objected strongly to some protesters and police intervened and arrested one man carrying a rainbow umbrella, The Catholic Weekly reported. 

David Pell said the cardinal was a friend of Pope Francis and was greeted by the pope in the Apostolic Palace after he returned to Rome from prison.

“When he arrived, he was stunned, as he was afforded the complement of a cohort of Swiss guards, something only reserved for visiting heads of state.”

Pope Francis, in a Jan. 11 condolence message, praised Pell’s “dedication to the Gospel and the Church” and noted his work on economic reform of the Holy See.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated a Requiem Mass in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Here’s what Pope Francis said about exploitative mining in the Congo

An artisanal miner carries a sack of ore at the Shabara artisanal mine near Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Oct.12, 2022. / Photo by JUNIOR KANNAH/AFP via Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 2, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

As part of his visit to Africa this week, Pope Francis met Tuesday with civil leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the largest and poorest countries on the continent. Speaking with authorities including President Félix Tshisekedi, the pope denounced the practice of child labor in the country’s many mines, a widespread problem exacerbated by an ever-increasing global demand for cobalt, a vital component of rechargeable batteries. 

“It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation,” Pope Francis said. 

“Situated in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is host to one of the great green lungs of the world, which must be preserved,” he continued. “As with peace and development, also in this area there needs to be an ample and fruitful cooperation that can permit an effective intervention without imposing external models” that are more useful to those who are helping than to those who are being helped.

The rich natural resources of the DRC, including diamonds, have been exploited for centuries, particularly while the Congo was a Belgian colony from 1908 to 1960. In the past few decades, however, the resource in the spotlight has been cobalt, an element that has risen from relative obscurity to global necessity as a vital component of lithium-ion batteries, which today power devices as small as smartphones and as large as electric cars. 

Demand for cobalt has surged as countries in Europe and elsewhere make policy shifts away from fossil fuels and toward the use of electric vehicles. Some electric car makers, such as Tesla and General Motors, have in recent years announced research into the recycling of existing batteries, as well as moves away from lithium-ion batteries toward more environmentally friendly solid-state batteries. But progress has been slow, and the DRC still exports billions of dollars worth of cobalt a year, as well as vast quantities of other metals such as copper. 

Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testifying on July 14, 2022, at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the use of child labor in China-backed cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Screenshot from YouTube video
Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testifying on July 14, 2022, at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the use of child labor in China-backed cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Screenshot from YouTube video

Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testified at a July 2022 congressional hearing that children in DRC are often trafficked and exploited because of their small size and mine the cobalt with primitive tools or more often with their bare hands. An estimated 40,000 children work in these mines in DRC. 

The DRC supplies more than 70% of the world’s demand for cobalt. Of that, 15% to 30% is extracted in artisanal mines, meaning they are small-scale operations that use dangerous, primitive methods. Almost all of the cobalt mines in DRC are owned by Chinese companies, and China, which manufactures myriad electronic goods, is the world’s largest importer of cobalt. Even in larger mines with marginally better working conditions, the salaries are small and the work is dangerous.

Father Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, a Catholic priest who has worked to expose child labor and human rights violations in the DRC’s mining sector, testified last year to the dangerous working conditions at the mines. 

“They work seven days a week and more than 12 hours a day,” he said. Using tools like hammers, chisels, and spades, their working conditions are like that of slavery, he said. Injuries are common, and for those who are hurt or become sick, the lack of medical care means “the majority will die due to various untreated illnesses,” he said.

In addition to the toll on the workers in the country’s vast mining operations — which can include illnesses and birth defects — environmental concerns, such as water pollution from the mines, also threaten the Congolese people. 

In his address to Congolese authorities, Pope Francis encouraged those present to undertake a “courageous and inclusive social renewal” to change the mining conditions in the country. 

“The most precious diamonds of these lands are the sons and daughters of this nation; they need to have access to an education that enables them to make their innate talents shine brightly. Education is fundamental: It is the path to the future, the road to take for achieving the complete freedom of this country and of the African continent ... yet many children receive no schooling,” the pope lamented. 

“How many of them, instead of receiving a good education, are exploited! All too many of them die, subjected to servile labor in the mines. No effort should be spared to denounce and finally end the scourge of child labor.”

The topic of mining and exploitation was raised again on Thursday during the pope’s meeting with priests and religious in the Kinshasa Cathedral. A Congolese religious sister, offering testimony to the pope, described her country as “a land of martyrs, murders, and wars entertained and financed from outside.”

The sister told the pope: “Most Blessed Father, despite this picture of multiple injustices, the Congo remains a land blessed by God, a generous, prayer-loving people, filled with vitality and hope, as Your Holiness has surely observed. That is why we are not discouraged, because we believe in the risen Christ.”

Responding to her testimony, Pope Francis said he was reminded “how difficult it is to carry out your mission in a land rich in natural beauty and resources but wounded by exploitation, corruption, violence, and injustice.”

20 attorneys general warn CVS, Walgreens against abortion pills in their states

null / Ken Wolter/Shutterstock and Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

As CVS and Walgreens continue to seek federal approval to sell an abortion drug, 20 attorneys general whose states restrict abortion warned the pharmacy chains against fulfilling mail orders within their states. 

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of mifepristone through pharmacies if the companies receive FDA certification. The drug can be used to abort a preborn child up to 10 weeks of gestation, according to the FDA; however, the World Health Organization has stated it can be used up to 12 weeks of gestation. Walgreens and CVS are both seeking certification to sell the drug but have not yet received approval or begun to sell it.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, several states enacted abortion laws that outright ban abortion in most cases or impose a cutoff earlier than 10 weeks. In these states, the bans often apply to surgical abortion and abortion-inducing drugs. Some states also specifically ban the sale of abortion-inducing drugs through the mail. After CVS and Walgreens expressed their intent to distribute the abortion drug through mail orders, a coalition of 20 attorneys general sent letters to the companies, warning them they cannot sell the drug in their states. 

“As attorney general, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws as written, and that includes enforcing the very laws that protect Missouri’s women and unborn children,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who led the coalition, said in a statement. “My office is doing everything in its power to inform these companies of the law, with the promise that we will use every tool at our disposal to uphold the law if broken.”

The letter states that companies must “keep apprised not only of federal law but also of the laws of the various states.” It adds that these laws reflect a commitment to “protect the lives and dignity of children” and women.

Explaining their concern, the state officials cite research published in 2015 that found that abortion-inducing drugs are nearly six times more likely to cause complications for women than surgical abortions. They also note that abortions performed away from medical professionals carry an added risk. 

In the letter, the attorneys general also caution that mail orders of abortion-inducing drugs “invite the horror of an increase in coerced abortions” because there is no medical oversight and “a person can obtain an abortion pill quite easily and then coerce a woman into taking it.” The attorneys general also expressed the opinion that mailing abortion drugs violates federal law, which is contrary to a Department of Justice opinion issued earlier this year. 

A spokesman for Walgreens told CNA that the company is aware that it may be unable to provide the drug in every location. 

“We are not dispensing mifepristone at this time,” a Walgreens spokesman said. “We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program; however, we fully understand that we may not be able to dispense mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program.”

CNA reached out to CVS for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

Some pro-life groups praised the attorneys general for defending preborn children against the abortion drug within their respective states.

“Ohio Right to Life is thankful for Attorney General Dave Yost and the 19 other attorneys general who united to not only uphold and protect our state laws but also federal law,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a statement. 

“This is what true pro-life leadership looks like, and we are proud to stand behind them,” Gonidakis added.

“Not only is the lackadaisical distribution of mifepristone via the mail illegal per federal law, but it is also extremely dangerous for women,” he said. “We have stated since the very beginning that this FDA approval is nothing short of anti-women and prioritizes a political agenda over medical safety. It is time for the Biden administration to prioritize the health and safety of women and children.”

The Utah-based Sutherland Institute, which promotes religious freedom and family values, also approved of the attorneys general’s actions. Bill Duncan, a religious freedom policy fellow with the institute, told CNA that the letter is an “appropriate exercise of their responsibility.” 

Duncan said Utah’s Legislature passed a bill to prohibit abortions in most circumstances, but the law is currently facing a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood, which he said is claiming “that the Utah Constitution contains an unwritten right to abortion.”

“It seems likely the court will recognize that there is nothing in the Utah Constitution that would preclude the state from enforcing its law,” he said. 

“If these companies provide drugs used to end the lives of unborn children, they would be in violation of the law,” Duncan added. “Each attorney general has responsibility to enforce the laws of the state as well as to prevent violations. This letter is a welcome example of state officials discharging that responsibility.”

In addition to the attorneys general of Missouri, Ohio, and Utah, the other states whose attorneys general signed the letter were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

American tourist desecrates statue of Christ in Catholic church in Jerusalem

On Feb. 2, 2023, a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus at the Church of the Flagellation located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the route that Christ walked to Mount Calvary, where he was crucified. / Youtube post by Father José de Jesús Aguilar

CNA Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

On Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and the Virgin of Candlemas, a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.

The Associated Press reported that the attack occurred at the Church of the Flagellation located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the route that Christ walked to Mount Calvary, where he was crucified.

The suspect in the attack is an American tourist who was detained by Israeli police officers after throwing the image of Christ to the ground. The authorities did not immediately release the man’s name.

As he was arrested, the man shouted, “You can’t have idols in Jerusalem, this is the Holy City!” According to police, he is undergoing psychological evaluation.

Father José de Jesús Aguilar, deputy director of radio and television for the Archdiocese of Mexico, posted a video showing the man’s arrest and deploring what happened.

“Unfortunately today, Brother Francisco Benito, a great friend of the custodians in Jerusalem, sent me an image in which a fanatic threw down a sculpture of Christ in one of the chapels on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem,” the priest explained.

“All the different religious communities seek peace in Jerusalem. On this day, when we remember that Christ is the light of the world, let us pray for his light to shine in Jerusalem and let’s pray for peace there,” the priest said.

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

Bishop Barron says Minnesota’s new abortion law is ‘the worst kind of barbarism’

Bishop Robert Barron spoke out against Minnesota's new abortion law after it passed Jan. 31, 2023. / Credit: Bishop Robert Barron/YouTube

Boston, Mass., Feb 2, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron called a newly passed Minnesota abortion bill that enshrines abortion rights into law “the worst kind of barbarism.”

“I want to share with you my anger, my frustration over this terrible law that was just signed by the governor in Minnesota — the most really extreme abortion law that’s on the books in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” Barron said in a Jan. 31 video on social media following Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s signing of the bill on Tuesday.

The bill, titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrines a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason, as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

“Basically, it eliminates any kind of parental notifications so a 12-year-old child can get an abortion without even telling her parents about it,” Barron said. 

“But the worst thing,” he added, “is it basically permits abortion all the way through pregnancy up to the very end. And indeed, indeed if a child somehow survives a botched abortion, the law now prohibits an attempt to save that child’s life.”

Protection for abortion in the state had preexisted the new law because the state’s Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 decision Doe v. Gomez that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. Several restrictions to abortion in the state have also been ruled unconstitutional in the courts in prior years, the AP reported. Sponsors of the bill supported it because they wanted abortion protections in law, despite the political leaning of future appointed justices, the AP reported.

Pro-life advocates fiercely opposed the bill, as it gained national attention and underwent several hours of debate in the state Senate. The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the legislation “the most extreme bill in the country.” 

Barron said that “I don’t know why this is really debated anymore in our country, but this strikes me as just the worst kind of barbarism. And in the name of, I don’t know, subjectivity, and freedom, and choice and all this, we’re accepting this kind of brutality.”

Barron’s condemnation of the law echoes that of the Minnesota bishops who raised their voices against it before its passage. 

The states’ bishops wrote in a Jan. 26 statement: “To assert such unlimited autonomy is to usurp a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Authorizing a general license to make and take life at our whim will unleash a host of social and spiritual consequences with which we as a community will have to reckon.”

In his video, Barron added: “What strikes me is this: If a child is born and now a day old, or two days old and resting peacefully in his bassinet and someone broke into the house and with a knife killed the child and dismembered him, well, the whole country would rise up in righteous indignation.”

“But yet, that same thing can happen with complete impunity as the child is in his mother’s womb about to be born. Again, I just think this is so beyond the pale and that we’ve so lost our way on this issue,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was no possibility of blocking the now-enacted legislation, but said that “we can certainly keep raising our voices in protest.”

“We can keep praying for an end to this barbaric regime in our country,” he said.