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Pro-abortion vandalism targets Michigan clinic, Minnesota pro-life group

The Lennon Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, was vandalized sometime between the night of June 19 and the morning of June 20, 2022. / Courtesy of The Lennon Pregnancy Center

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 21, 2022 / 12:52 pm (CNA).

A pro-life pregnancy center in Michigan and a pro-life organization in Minnesota have both been vandalized within the past week. 

The Lennon Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, was vandalized sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. 

Gary Hillebrand, the center’s president, told CNA Tuesday that 12 of the clinic's front windows were smashed. Four glass doors were smashed as well, he said.

He said graffiti was left that said “If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you!”

In Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) had four of its office building windows smashed between the night of June 14 and the early morning of June 15. 

The building was also written on with red graffiti that said "ABORTION IS LIBERATION.”

MCCL has now been vandalized twice in the past two months, Paul Stark, communications director for MCCL told CNA Tuesday. 

The first vandalism against the group’s office occurred May 9 and included red graffiti spelling out the words “Never Again.” A hanger and an anarchist symbol were also graffitied on the building in red. 

There was also a homemade sign taped to the building which said, "You are BAD people. You can't take away people's rights."

The Minneapolis Police Department was notified but no perpetrator has been caught yet. Stark said the group is not intimidated nor afraid and will continue to serve women and families. He also said the group is planning to heighten its security measures.

MCCL serves its pro-life mission through education, advancing pro-life legislation, and supporting pro-life candidates for office.

In the Michigan attack, photos posted by the clinic’s Twitter account show that the pro-abortion graffiti has been painted over and the windows have been boarded up. Hillebrand said the graffiti was painted over by police. The online post at Abolition Media shows what the graffiti originally said. 

“On the night of 6/19 a gang of criminal queers smashed the windows of two fake abortion clinics in the greater Detroit area leaving the messages ‘if abortion isn’t safe, neither are you’ and ‘fake clinic,’ the post says.

In the post, “Jane will have her revenge” claimed responsibility for the vandalism. 

Hillebrand estimates that the repairs will cost between $10,000 and $15,000. The staff at the clinic is not intimidated, he said, but they are cautious. The clinic has ordered more security cameras, he said. 

Hillebrand’s clinic provides all its services for free such as ultrasounds. The clinic also offers free classes on parenting, preparing for childbirth, relationship counseling, budgeting, nutrition, and more. The clinic offers material help as well by providing “anything from diapers to strollers, to car seats,” Hillebrand said. 

The Dearborn Heights Police have been notified about the vandalism. 

Vandalism against pro-life pregnancy centers have surged in the past two months after a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court of a Mississippi court case showed that the justices may have intended to overturn Roe v. Wade. Roe is the 1973 court case that federally legalized abortion. 

Since the leak on May 2, not only pregnancy centers but churches as well have come under attack from pro-abortion activists. The FBI said last week that they are investigating the attacks. 

Pope Francis: Nuclear weapons are ‘immoral’

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 21, 2022 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned the use of nuclear weapons in favor of a “culture of life and peace” in a message released Tuesday. 

“I wish to reaffirm that the use of nuclear weapons, as well as their mere possession, is immoral,” the pontiff wrote to Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, president of the First Meeting of States Parties, regarding the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). 

“Trying to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security and a ‘balance of terror,' sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust inevitably ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any possible form of real dialogue,” Pope Francis wrote. “Possession leads easily to threats of their use, becoming a sort of ‘blackmail’ that should be repugnant to the consciences of humanity.” 

States parties to the TPNW are gathering in Vienna, Austria, June 21-23 to “commit to concrete actions to implement obligations under the Treaty,” which envisions a world without nuclear weapons, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

“The Holy See has no doubt that a world free from nuclear weapons is both necessary and possible,” Pope Francis added. “In a system of collective security, there is no place for nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”

Pope Francis identified the treaty’s “courageous vision” as “ever more timely,” adding that “we need to remain aware of the dangers of short-sighted approaches to national and international security and the risks of proliferation.”

“As we know all too well, the price for not doing so is inevitably paid by the number of innocent lives taken and measured in terms of carnage and destruction,” he said.

He urged that disarmament treaties are not only legal obligations but also “moral commitments.” 

Peace, Pope Francis said, is “indivisible,” and to be just and lasting, it must also be “universal.” 

“It is deceptive and self-defeating reasoning to think that the security and peace of some is disconnected from the collective security and peace of others,” he said.

He emphasized the Catholic Church's role.

“For its part, the Catholic Church remains irrevocably committed to promoting peace between peoples and nations and fostering education for peace throughout its institutions,” the pope’s statement says. “This is a duty to which the Church feels bound before God and every man and woman in our world.”

Pope Francis called on people to be responsible for maintaining peace, both on a public level and a personal level. It is a legal discussion as well as an ethical discussion, he said. He added that this treaty recognizes that education for peace can play an important role in teaching current and future generations.

The statement also paid homage to the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as to all victims of nuclear-arms testing.

Pope Francis closed by encouraging representatives, international organizations, and all of civil society to continue to promote “a culture of life and peace based upon the dignity of the human person and the awareness that we are all brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis has expressed concern about nuclear weapons in the past. More recently, in the context of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the pope said that the image of Noah’s flood is “gaining ground in our subconscious” as the world considers the possibility of a nuclear war “that will extinguish us.”

US Supreme Court rules against Maine's ban on tuition aid to religious schools

null / Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jun 21, 2022 / 10:55 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 6-3 that Maine’s policy barring students in a student-aid program from using their aid to attend “sectarian” schools violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

“Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the June 21 decision in Carson v. Makin.

He added that “a neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause.”

“Maine’s decision to continue excluding religious schools from its tuition assistance program … thus promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires.”

Roberts noted that Maine “pays tuition for certain students at private schools— so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion. A State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

Having chosen to fund private schools through its aid program, Roberts said, Maine cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

The case was brought by the Carson family, consisting of parents Amy and David and their daughter Olivia, who reside in Glenburn, Maine. Because Glenburn has no public school system, families with school-age children are eligible for a school-choice program that pays tuition at either public or non-sectarian schools.

About 5,000 Maine students are eligible for this program, which excludes private schools that are “​​associated with a particular faith or belief system and which, in addition to teaching academic subjects, promotes the faith or belief system with which it is associated and/or presents the material taught through the lens of this faith,” which Maine considers “sectarian”.

The Carson parents are alumni of Bangor Christian Schools, a K-12 school in the nearby city of Bangor. But because Bangor Christian Schools mandates Bible class, it is ineligible for the town tuition program, meaning the Carsons have to pay for Olivia’s tuition. 

The Carsons, along with two other Maine families seeking to send their children to “sectarian” schools, filed suit in 2018.

The Carson v. Makin decision referred to other recent rulings on free exercise and and equal protection.

In its June 2020 decision Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the court struck down as a violation of the free exercise clause a state scholarship program that excluded religious schools. And in 2017, the court found in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer that a church-owned playground can be eligible for a public benefit program.

Dissenting from the decision on Tuesday were Justices Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Elena Kagan, and in part, by Sonia Sotomayor, who also filed a dissenting opinion.

Breyer argued that the interpretation of the First Amendment advanced by the majority opinion will work against its “general purpose,” which he said is “to allow for an American society with practitioners of over 100 different religions, and those who do not practice religion at all, to live together without serious risk of religion-based social divisions.”

He also argued that Maine “excludes schools from its tuition program not because of the schools’ religious character but because the schools will use the funds to teach and promote religious ideals.”

“State funding of religious activity risks the very social conflict based upon religion that the Religion Clauses were designed to prevent. And, unlike the circumstances present in Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza, it is religious activity, not religious labels, that lies at the heart of this case,” Breyer maintained.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, chairmen of the US bishops's committees for religious liberty and Catholic education, respectively, commented that "The Supreme Court has rightly ruled that the Constitution protects not just the right to be religious but also to act religious. This common-sense result reflects the essence of Catholic education ... In our pluralistic society, it is vital that all people of faith be able to participate in publicly available programs and so to contribute to the common good."

"It is fitting that this decision concerns a program in Maine, the state that James G. Blaine served as Senator in 1875 when he worked for the passage of the Blaine Amendment – a cynically anti-Catholic measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure that no public aid be provided to ‘sectarian’ schools. While his effort was narrowly defeated, Blaine Amendments were ultimately adopted in some form by 37 states. These laws have nothing to do with government neutrality towards religion. Rather, they are expressions of hostility toward Catholics. We are grateful that the Supreme Court continues to rebuke this harmful legacy," the bishops concluded.

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, called the majority opinion “another blow to bigoted and arcane anti-Catholic laws. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that parents want and deserve better school choices for their kids. Religious families, and even families that aren’t religious but see the value in faith-based schools, should not be cut out from programs that help parents make the best educational choice for their kids. Maine’s law and others like it especially hurt low-income children who suffer the most in failed schools. Today’s win helps to end anti-religious discrimination and expands sorely-needed school choice for low-income families.”

Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, a law firm focused on religious freedom, commented: “We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country.  Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government.”

The Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum educationis, said that parents "must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools."

"Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children."

Firebombed NY pregnancy center facing investigation — for not offering abortion services

CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center near Buffalo, New York, was heavily damaged by fire and spray-painted with pro-abortion graffiti on June 7, 2022. / CompassCare

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 20, 2022 / 17:08 pm (CNA).

While Jim Harden waits for those responsible for firebombing the pro-life CompassCare pregnancy center he runs in upstate New York to be brought to justice, he's facing another, unexpected investigation — of the clinic itself.

One of several pro-abortion measures New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law on June 13 authorizes the state’s commissioner of health, currently Dr. Mary T. Bassett, to conduct an in-depth study of pro-life pregnancy centers like CompassCare that don't provide abortion services. 

The probe will assess the impact that so-called "limited service pregnancy centers" have on women's access to "accurate, non-coercive health care information" and "a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services," the legislation states. A final report is due in December 2023.

Harden, CompassCare's CEO, told CNA that the state wants him to turn over information on CompassCare's donors, patients, service processes, affiliates, and more. Meanwhile, no arrests have been made in the June 7 firebombing and vandalism of the clinic, located in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, New York.

“They want to know anything and everything. They want an open book," said Harden, who does not intend to comply. “It's absolutely ironic and crazy."

CompassCare is one of a growing number of pro-life pregnancy centers that have been vandalized in the past two months in response to the leak of a draft decision in a Mississippi abortion case that calls for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide. The FBI confirmed Friday that it is investigating the attacks.

On EWTN’s "The World Over" with Raymond Arroyo on June 16, Harden took issue with the New York law calling pro-life pregnancy centers “limited.” He said abortion clinics are actually the ones with limited service because they only provide one service: abortion. 

“The only intent here is to draft more legislation to regulate us,” he told Arroyo. You can watch the full interview in the video above.

CompassCare provides women with free, baseline OB-GYN care, diagnostic pregnancy services, sexually transmitted disease (STD) treatment, and abortion pill reversal care. More information is available on the center's website.

Fathers are more than providers, and St. Joseph is their example, archbishop says

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Lima, Peru, Jun 20, 2022 / 16:44 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, president of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, said in a Father's Day message that fathers are not just providers and that their example is St. Joseph.

In his message "Being fathers following the example of St. Joseph," the archbishop stressed that "as sons and daughters, we shouldn’t see our fathers as simple material providers that help us get through day to day living."

“Dads are more than providers, they are true companions in life, forgers of encouragement and hope that help us to fully develop,” the prelate emphasized.

Although "in some families, the presence of the father is nil or distant, we have the option of turning to the experience and wisdom of our grandfather, who can also accompany us, giving clarity to the moments in which darkness seems to prevail," Archbishop Cabrera continued.

In this regard, he said, “Pope Francis encourages fathers to have St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, as an intercessor and a role model, who fully fulfilled his mission as a father, taking up his commitment to accompany Jesus and the Virgin Mary, giving them everything they needed.”

"Nowadays, says the pope, many people suffer from different circumstances, lack of work, the consequences of the pandemic, despair, among many other things," the archbishop noted.

Therefore, the pope "invites us to have recourse to the encouragement, help and inspiration of St. Joseph, who with his luminous testimony in dark times, presents us with the guiding light to follow to face any need in life."

The Archbishop of Monterrey asked those who don’t have a father "not to feel abandoned, God never leaves any of his children."

“I’m sure that He himself will place beside you someone who can play an important role in your life and will accompany you in the realization of all your projects and dreams,” the president of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference said.

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

Did a saint work in Catholic campus ministry? Bismarck diocese opens inquiry for Michelle Duppong

Michelle Duppong, about whom the Diocese of Bismarck has opened an investigation with a view to a cause for beatification. / University of Mary

Denver Newsroom, Jun 20, 2022 / 14:26 pm (CNA).

Michelle Duppong was a North Dakota Catholic woman who lived such an exemplary life of faith, joy, and campus missionary work that her home diocese will open an inquiry into whether she should be recognized as a saint of the Church. 

That was the news Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck had for a Fellowship of Catholic University Students gathering on Thursday.

“Michelle’s holiness of life and love for God certainly touched us here in the Diocese of Bismarck, at the University of Mary, and throughout FOCUS, but hers is also a witness which should also be shared with the Universal Church,” Kagan said June 16 at a new staff training for the organization at the University of Mary campus.

Others who knew Duppong, like former colleague Mark Bartek, praised her life.

“I think she just had such a zeal and passion for souls and an urgency to help them to encounter the joy that she was able to experience through her own relationship with Jesus,” said Bartek, who was a regional director for FOCUS when Duppong was on the college missionary organization’s staff.

“Her joy was contagious,” he told CNA on June 17. “People describe the experience of meeting Saint John Paul II or Teresa of Calcutta, as (being) like you're the only person in the room. Michelle definitely had that quality as well, where it felt like the whole rest of the world faded away and there’s just this conversation between you.”

“Every time people would see her, she would just have a big smile for them,” he said. “I remember she always was smiling. It was not a forced smile. She lived with this joy that always sought to draw other people, and she would go really the extra mile in order to try to encounter them and just make sure that they were OK.”

Duppong joined FOCUS in 2006 as a student missionary and worked for years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, South Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Her missionary and mentoring work reached hundreds of students. In 2012 she joined the staff of the Diocese of Bismarck as director of adult faith formation.

A cancer diagnosis in December 2014 was followed by a year of declining health. She died on Christmas Day in 2015 at the age of 31, surrounded by family at her childhood home.

Kagan’s announcement that the Bismarck diocese would investigate her life is a first step to possible beatification and canonization. The investigation will gather evidence about Duppong’s life and deeds, compile any private or public writings, and collect testimony from witnesses of her life.

The diocese will present her case to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation accepts her cause, she will be known under the title “Servant of God.” Not all cases proceed beyond the diocesan phase. Typically a prospective saint advances to beatification after a credible report of a miracle attributed to the saint’s intercession, and a second miracle is required for canonization. 

Bartek said from what he knew of Duppong, the investigation into her sainthood wasn’t much of a surprise.

“Actually, I was not really surprised by it,” he told CNA. “Knowing Michelle over the years, I just always assumed that this would be the natural way things would go. I didn't expect it to happen within my lifetime.” 

The Bismarck diocese’s announcement did bring him “quite a bit of sadness,” recognizing “that we miss Michelle.” 

“We were pretty good friends. Her passing leaves a big hole in the world and my life,” he said.

Duppong was born in Colorado on January 25, 1984. At the age of one her family moved to a farm in Haymarsh, N.D., about a 60-mile drive west from Bismarck. Her obituary said she loved farm life, working in the gardens and vineyards, and taking part in campfire sing-alongs.

“Michelle will always be remembered as a spirited woman of God who loved to have fun and spread joy,” her obituary said. “Aside from constantly opening her own home to share her faith and enthusiasm for music and dancing, one of her greatest joys was in sharing her love for Haymarsh and the family farm with others.”

“She cherished the small country church of St. Clement located near their home and as an adult, frequently made trips there to visit her Beloved Lord Jesus,” the obituary added.

Duppong was a 2002 graduate of Glen Ullin High School. She studied horticulture at North Dakota State University in Fargo, where she graduated in 2006, but she also spent the time focused on her faith. She took part in the Fellowship of Catholic University Students ministry at St. Paul’s Newman Center, the Catholic campus ministry. 

During this time, she later wrote, she was inspired by the life of St. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Italian who contracted polio from working with the poor and died at the age of 24 in the early twentieth century.

“Why do I share his story? Well, reading about Pier Giorgio’s life made holiness seem so practical, so attainable,” she wrote in a March 2, 2015 column for the Dakota Catholic Action newspaper. “He was an ordinary young person who loved Jesus and allowed this love to pour forth into his relationships with others. He embodied what Jesus taught in the eight beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-10). He’s a hero to me; and I want to be like him.”

Bartek told CNA he believes her faith truly blossomed during her time as an undergraduate student at North Dakota State. 

“I think that was a very significant time in her life,” he said.  “Michelle, because she found a good community in a place where she could grow in holiness was really just beginning her life of holiness.”

She joined FOCUS full-time in 2006, the same year as Bartek. 

“She just prayed at all times,” he recalled. “I remember just being in conversations with her and thinking that she's actually talking to the Lord as we're having this conversation as well. She always seemed to have this interior presence, showing her connection with Jesus and the way that she prayed. She was also unbelievably faithful to her prayer and in every circumstance.”

“She always just really brought that spirit of prayer into everything we do, and it was very inspiring to me and something that I continue to take with me,” he said.

He added that Duppong was “always joyful and hopeful.”

“It could be really annoying to people because she was always finding the hopeful outcome, and so because it's not easy to see that or experience that or when you see when you're experiencing hardship when her joy would come. I think that sometimes people were a little bit irritated by that, but for the most part, she  just really inspired people to want to pray more and want to seek care for God's will in their life and to desire to be around her.” 

Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary, described her as “a radiant, joyful woman with the heart of a true servant.”

“For the students on our campus, she was an inspiration and a treasured mentor, teaching them by her example the transformative power of friendship with God.”

Bartek said he learned from her that “it’s possible to have joy in all circumstances.”

“She put Jesus first and foremost, and then she put others before herself,” he said.

Her obituary said her cancer diagnosis started “a year-long journey that brought many joys in the midst of sorrows and suffering.” 

“She received everything with a docile spirit, praying that the Lord’s will be done and trusting in his providence,” the obituary said. “Though she often felt helpless lying in a hospital bed, the last year of her earthly life was spent in complete service of the Lord continuing her most fruitful work as one of God’s servants and pouring her love out on those around her.”

Bartek spoke to her the day of her cancer diagnosis.

“I called her to pray with her a little bit and she was just almost nonchalant about it,” he told CNA. “Not joyful or anything like still trying to meet it, but just very resigned,” Bartek said. 

He summarized her sentiment in that conversation as “yeah, one way or another, God’s will be done.” 

“That's just the way that she encountered so many circumstances,” he said. 

Duppong reflected on her own diagnosis in a Jan. 30, 2015 column for Dakota Catholic Action.

“We have no idea how God’s plan will unfold in our lives and how he is using us to reach others,” she wrote. “We know that we're all in this together and that we're all on the same team in the body of Christ, so I see the present suffering as taking one for the team. May God be glorified by all the good that comes through this!”

Her funeral Mass was celebrated at Bismarck’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and she was buried at St. Clement’s Cemetery in Haymarsh. She was survived by her parents, five siblings, and a boyfriend.

For Bartek, Duppong was a woman who defied categories.  

“I think that she could have been a saint in any time, the way that she pursued Jesus with such a selfless abandonment,” he said. "She definitely lived in the midst of the world, but she was not above the world, so she definitely related to and encountered the people that she walked with, not as if she was from someplace else, but as one of them.” 

A documentary about her life is in development. “Thirst for Souls: the Michelle Duppong Story” will premiere at the FOCUS national conference SEEK23, scheduled for Jan. 2-6, 2023 in St. Louis.

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 21 to correct a misspelling of Mark Bartek's last name.

Pope Francis discusses ‘survival of Christians in the Middle East’ with Melkite bishops

Pope Francis met with the synod of bishops of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church on June 20, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2022 / 09:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis discussed the "survival of Christians in the Middle East" with Catholic bishops from Syria and Lebanon at the Vatican on Monday.

The pope met with Patriarch Youssef Absi of Antioch and other representatives of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church as the Eastern church began its synod of bishops, which is taking place in Rome June 20-25.

In the meeting, Absi asked Pope Francis to put pressure on political authorities to “draw a red line,” prioritizing the protection of the Christian presence in the Middle East.

The patriarch told the pope of the Melkite bishops’ concern that widespread poverty, low standards of living, and dangerous conditions have led to a wave of emigration from the region, particularly of young people.

Pope Francis said: “You are rightly concerned about the survival of Christians in the Middle East — I too am worried — it’s a concern that I fully share.”

The pope also noted that the Melkite church now has a worldwide presence with eparchies in Argentina, Australia, the United States, Canada, and Venezuela.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the pope based in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Absi was elected as the Melkite patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East during a synod in Lebanon in 2017.

Pope Francis recalled that since the start of his pontificate thousands of people have died in “beloved and martyred Syria” and millions more have fled the region as refugees.

“The tragedies of recent months, which sadly force us to turn our gaze to the east of Europe, must not make us forget what has been going on in your land for 12 years,” the pope said.

During the meeting, Pope Francis renewed his appeal to both Syrian authorities and the international community to achieve “an equitable and just solution to the tragedy in Syria.”

“On more than one occasion I happened to meet and hear the account of some young Syrian who had arrived here, and I was struck by the drama he carried within him, by what he had experienced and seen, but also by his gaze, almost drained of hope, unable to dream of a future for his land. We cannot allow even the last spark of hope to be taken out of the eyes and hearts of young people and families,” the pope said.

Two churches in Nigeria attacked during Sunday worship

Kaduna State in northern Nigeria. / CSW.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Gunmen in Nigeria attacked a Catholic church and a Baptist church on Sunday morning, killing three people and reportedly kidnapping more than 30 worshippers.

Armed bandits on motorcycles stormed villages in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna state and attacked St. Moses Catholic Church and Maranatha Baptist Church on June 19 while people were worshiping, local government officials told the Associated Press.

“It was some few minutes after 7am today, while both the Catholic and Baptist churches were holding their services when the kidnappers attacked,” Reuben Buhari, a former spokesman for the local government, told the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard on June 19.

“I spoke to a man whose wife, mother and daughter were taken from the Baptist church today. The anguish in his voice is something none of us should experience,” he said.

A local source told AP that the majority of those kidnapped were from the Baptist congregation, while the three people killed were Catholics.

The attack comes two weeks after 40 Christians were killed in an attack on a Catholic church on Pentecost Sunday. In the June 5 attack, gunmen believed to be Islamic extremists, opened fire on Catholic worshipers attending Pentecost Mass at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria.

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of the diocese of Oyo offered a funeral Mass for the victims of the Pentecost Sunday massacre on June 17 and forcefully criticized the government of Nigeria, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, for its perceived inaction in the face of killings of Christians in his country.

More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country worldwide — at least 4,650 in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone.

According to the UK-based human rights foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Nigeria's Kaduna state, where the most recent church attacks took place, has become "an epicenter of kidnapping and violence by non-state actors, despite being the most garrisoned state in Nigeria.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

US couple to share advice for Catholic family life at World Meeting of Families

Soren and Ever Johnson with their five children, ages 19 to 10. / Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

A few years after getting married in the early 2000s, Soren and Ever Johnson were reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s call for the laity to play a greater role in the new evangelization and wondering how they could contribute.

John Paul II “was constantly saying, ‘if the laity take their obligation to spread the Good News seriously, there will be a new springtime for the Church in the third millennium,’” Ever said. “And he said it over and over and over again in so many different contexts it was hard not to feel responsible to do something.”

This was the origin of their ministries Trinity House Community and Trinity House Cafe + Market, based in Leesburg, Virginia. The mission, they say, “is to inspire families to make home a taste of heaven for the renewal of faith and culture.”

The Johnsons told CNA via video call this month that they are looking forward to being speakers at the World Meeting of Families 2022 in Rome, where they will give a 15-minute presentation on Saturday, June 25.

Soren and Ever met in 2000 in Kraków, southern Poland, “in John Paul II’s footsteps,” Soren said. They will celebrate 21 years of marriage in August and have five children aged 10 to 19.

When they met, Ever was working for George Weigel, the author of “Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II.” She wanted to do more to engage Catholics and non-Catholics who might not otherwise be involved in parish life or encounter the ideas that the think tank was trying to promote.

Soren and Ever Johnson at the Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.
Soren and Ever Johnson at the Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

“There’s only so long we can spend in the parish basement just enjoying our own company. Because this isn’t evangelization,” Ever said, commenting on their thought processes at the time. “You know, we’re having a great time and kind of encouraging each other and learning a lot, but there really wasn’t much exposure for people who weren’t already, you know, part of the choir.”

This pull to be more open to the wider community led them to open Trinity House Cafe + Market in 2014.

Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.
Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

“Our location is at the intersection of Church and Market streets, and we’re right across from the courthouse, so it’s a really amazing location to just be this Christian presence in the community,” Ever explained.

The Johnsons said the coffee shop also hosts community events and has been a way for Christians and non-Christians to engage with each other in an open and welcoming environment.

The idea, Soren said, is to “lead with beauty in the public square. Give [people] a taste of heaven, give them a taste of hospitality, a welcoming environment where people feel listened to, they feel served and they see the beauty of the Church — not in your face, but it’s there if you want to go deeper.”

“And over these eight years, we’ve seen just amazing stories of people coming back to the faith,” he said.

The Johnsons also see hospitality and outward service as important aspects of family life, which is why they are the focus of the final “level” of a framework the couple created for helping families to increase their communion with God and with each other.

Modeled on the Holy Trinity, Ever said, “if you want to be like the Persons of God, the whole point is to be outflowing. Like producing so much grace within your family that you have more than enough to go around for what the family members need.”

“Because it involves God, in his infinite grace, [it] spills over and provides for anyone else who comes your way as well,” she said.

At the 10th World Meeting of Families, taking place on June 22-26 at the Vatican, the Johnsons will speak about discernment in daily family life.

“The way we look at it is, discernment is all about being attentive to God’s voice amid the chaos and joy of family life,” Soren said. “So in our talk, we’re going to present a framework for how parents can create an atmosphere in their homes of good discernment.”

“We will point to how each family is a communion of persons, an image of the Trinity. So we’re going to point to how the heart of discernment is following the Lord’s voice and deepening that communion as a family,” he said.

Why is June the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

A statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome Italy on June 9 2015 / / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 19, 2022 / 12:19 pm (CNA).

June is known as the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus most simply because the solemnity of the Sacred Heart is celebrated during it. This year, the solemnity falls on June 24. The date changes each year because it is celebrated on the Friday after the Corpus Christi octave, or the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.

However, other reasons exist as to why June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

The feast dates back to 1673, when a French nun, belonging to the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) in eastern France, began to receive visions about the Sacred Heart.

Jesus appeared to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque and revealed ways to venerate his Sacred Heart and explained the immense love he has for humanity, appearing with his heart visible outside his chest, on fire, and surrounded by a crown of thorns.

These different ways include partaking in a holy hour on Thursdays and the reception of the Eucharist on the first Friday of every month.

Jesus told Sister Margaret Mary, “My Sacred Heart is so intense in its love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able to contain within it the flames of its ardent charity, they must be transmitted through all means.”

These visions continued for 18 months.

On June 16, 1675, Jesus told Sister Margaret Mary to promote a feast that honored his Sacred Heart. He also gave Sister Margaret Mary 12 promises made to all who venerated and promoted the devotion of the Sacred Heart.

He said, “I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special feast to honor my heart, by communicating on that day, and making reparation to it by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which it has received during the time it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that my heart shall expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its divine love upon those who shall thus honor it, and cause it to be honored.”

Sister Margaret Mary died in 1690 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV on May 13, 1920.

The Vatican was hesitant to declare a feast to the Sacred Heart, but as the devotion spread throughout France the Vatican granted the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to France in 1765.

In 1856, Pope Pius IX designated the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi as the Feast of the Sacred Heart for the universal Church. Ever since, the month of June has been devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his immense love for us all.

On the current calendar, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a solemnity, the highest-ranking feast in the liturgical calendar, although it is not a holy day of obligation.

These are the promises the Sacred Heart of Jesus made to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

  2. I will give peace in their families.

  3. I will console them in all their troubles.

  4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.

  5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.

  6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

  8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.

  9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.

  10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

  11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.

  12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.