Browsing News Entries

Human rights activist to China: Don’t wait till 2025 to lift all birth restrictions

An elderly Chinese woman walks with her granddaughter. / Fotokon/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

In light of a report that China’s rapidly aging population has caused Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials to consider eliminating government-imposed birth restrictions in 2025, a human rights advocate has asked: why wait?

After vigorously imposing a one-child policy from 1980 to 2016, CCP officials have discussed the possibility of doing away with all birth restrictions at the end of the party’s current five-year economic plan, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on June 18.

Reggie Littlejohn, the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an aid and advocacy organization founded in response to forced abortion, forced sterilization, and sex-selective abortion of baby girls under the one-child policy, told CNA that she is continuing to call on the CCP to end all coercive population control policies immediately.

“If the CCP waits until 2025, how many more tens of millions of ‘extra’ pregnancies will be aborted -- too often by force?” Littlejohn asked.

“Women should be free to give birth to their children -- now,” she said.

Decades of government-enforced population control have left China with significant gender and age imbalances that have had far-reaching societal consequences, including a rise in sex trafficking and elderly suicide.

China’s most recent census results released in May revealed that 190.64 million people, or 13.5% of the country’s aging population, are over 65 years old.

In 2020, the country recorded the slowest population growth rate since the early 1960s, when the Great Leap Forward campaign by Mao Zedong, the founder of the Chinese Communist Party, resulted in a famine that killed 45 million people in four years.

The Chinese government announced last month that couples can now have up to three children in response to the sharp fall in the country’s birth rate.

The official state-run Xinhua News Agency said that the decision was taken as the government sought to ensure continued economic growth, national security, and social stability.

Littlejohn pointed out that the Chinese officials have not “repented of forced abortion or sterilization, but are considering this measure purely for demographic and economic reasons.”

“Since they are heading into a demographic disaster, why do they need to wait until 2025?” she asked.

The human rights advocate also questioned whether the reported future elimination of birth restrictions would be granted equally, noting that the CCP has recently conducted forced abortion and sterilization among the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

“The three-child policy rule is that every couple is allowed to have three children. Therefore, it remains illegal for single women to give birth,” she said.

“If the CCP ‘eliminates’ all birth restrictions, will they finally let single women give birth? Or will the new rule be, ‘all couples can now have as many children as they want?’”

For more than three decades, Chinese authorities enforced a one-child policy with steep fines, sterilizations, and forced abortions, in an effort to curb what they perceived as excessive population growth.

The Catholic Church has consistently opposed such measures. In his 1967 encyclical Populorum progressio, Pope Paul VI spoke out against “drastic remedies to reduce the birth rate.”

“There is no doubt that public authorities can intervene in this matter, within the bounds of their competence,” he wrote. “They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures, so long as these are in conformity with the dictates of the moral law and the rightful freedom of married couples is preserved completely intact.”

“When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.”

China replaced the one-child policy with a two-child policy following concerns that the country’s population was aging rapidly. The change inspired a brief baby boom, but the birth rate fell again, with couples citing the high costs of raising children.

“Right now the problem in China is not that they have too many people. It is that they have too few young people to support their rapidly aging population and, even under the two-child policy, they are not getting the baby boom that they need to help with that situation or to help with the fact that their labor force is now declining,” Littlejohn told CNA in 2018.

In response to this shift, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has expanded its mission to also serve elderly widows in China in need of support.

More than 35 million women in China will be over the age of 84 years old by 2050, while the number of women in their 20s and 40s will drop significantly, according to the United Nations Population Division.

Pope Francis said in a speech last month that low birth rates reveal the need to recover the idea that every life is an “unrepeatable gift.”

“Life is the first gift that each one of us received,” the pope said in his opening address at the General States of Birth event in Rome on May 14.

“We have received a gift and we are called to pass it on. And a child is the greatest gift for everyone and comes first,” he said.

“Let us help each other, dear friends, to rediscover the courage to give, the courage to choose life,” he said.

Speaker Pelosi won’t answer if unborn child is a human being at 15 weeks

Michael Candalori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday would not say if an unborn child at 15 weeks was a human being.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a reporter from CNSNews asked Pelosi about a case currently before the Supreme Court – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – regarding Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15-weeks. The exchange was broadcast by CBS News.

“Is an unborn baby at 15 weeks a human being?” the reporter asked Pelosi. The Speaker answered that she supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Let me just say that I am a big supporter of Roe v. Wade. I am a mother of five children in six years. I think I have some standing on this issue, as to respecting a woman’s right to choose,” Pelosi answered.

Pelosi, a Catholic, has supported legal abortion during her time in Congress, and has pushed for taxpayer funding of abortion through removing the Hyde amendment.

In a Jan. 18 podcast with former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Pelosi said that the support for President Trump by pro-life voters “gives me great grief as a Catholic.” She said that those who voted for Trump because of the abortion issue “were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.”

She added that those who “reject terminating a pregnancy” should “love contraception.”

Her local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, responded in a statement several days later, “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion.” Archbishop Cordileone said that “Nancy Pelosi does not speak for the Catholic Church.”

In a 2008 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Pelosi said that regarding the question of when life begins, “over the centuries, the Doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.” She said that her Catholic faith “shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose.” 

“And on the question of the equal dignity of human life in the womb, she [Pelosi] also speaks in direct contradiction to a fundamental human right that Catholic teaching has consistently championed for 2,000 years,” he said.

In May, Cordileone expressed hope that “progress can be made” in talks with Pelosi on her support for legal abortion and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.  

Supreme Court oral arguments in the Dobbs case are scheduled for this fall.

In 2013, in response to a question about a 20-week abortion ban, Pelosi said the bill was part of an effort to ensure that “there will be no abortion in our country.” She described the issue as “sacred ground” to her.

“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this,” she said.

In 2019, she said the passage of pro-life laws in several states was “about lack of respect for women.”

US parishes must better serve hidden migrant communities, bishops hear

Aug. 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas helps a Central American refugee family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Many parishes in the United States are unaware of the immigrant, refugee, and itinerant communities within their boundaries, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants said on Friday.

In a presentation to the U.S. bishops at their annual spring meeting – held virtually this year –Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima introduced a new report by the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) on migrant communities in the United States, and the Church’s awareness of them at the parish level. The bishops’ conference contracted with CARA to produce the report.

Regarding migrant populations – which include immigrants and refugees, but also seasonal and transportation workers and human trafficking victims – “there is a widespread lack of awareness of the presence of the communities by Catholic worship sites, including parishes, missions, cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, shrines, and other pastoral centers,” said Bishop Tyson.

“Where worship sites do report an awareness of these communities, a majority do not provide specialized pastoral care to migrants, refugees, and itinerant communities,” Bishop Tyson,chair of the bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants, refugees, and travelers, said on Friday.

The U.S. bishops met virtually this week for their annual spring general assembly. From Wednesday through Friday afternoon’s session, the bishops held public debates and votes as well as private meetings, discussing issues such as a planned three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, two causes of canonization, translations of liturgical texts, pastoral statements, and a teaching document on the Eucharist.

The CARA report presented to the bishops on Friday was compiled through an inventory sent to nearly 20,000 “worship sites” in the United States, and which remained “in the field” from June 2017 to November 2020. Of these sites, 2,391 of them – parishes, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, and chapels – responded for the survey.

Territorial parishes are “not necessarily stable” models now, Bishop Tyson said, noting that many Catholics are quickly transitioning in and out of parish boundaries.

According to a General Social Survey, four-in-10 of foreign-born persons residing in the United States in recent years self-identified as Catholic, Bishop Tyson said.

Prior to the pandemic, CARA studied residential mobility between dioceses, he said, and  the archdioceses of Miami, Galveston-Houston, and Los Angeles saw the majority of new residents coming from other countries.

“We hope the data collection will increase the visibility of the communities and provide the initiative to reach out to them, and develop new programming and resources to serve their needs and draw them closer to Christ and the Church,” Bishop Tyson said.

Among these communities are human trafficking victims, he said, stressing the need for parishes to provide specialized outreach to this vulnerable population.

“How can the Church assist the victims of human trafficking, who may not have anyone else to turn to in the new community that they’ve been taken to against their will?” he said.

Parishes in the South were slightly over-represented than those in other regions among respondents in the CARA report. This might reflect a greater number of migrant communities in the South and West, Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ, executive director of CARA, noted.

For sites that did not respond, “Many worship sites had no awareness of the presence of any of these communities in their territory, and so did not have anything to report,” Fr. Gaunt stated on Friday.

Of the parishes that responded, around 22% indicated they provide at least one Spanish Mass each weekend, and around 8% of them have a Mass in a language other than Spanish or English.

Of the respondents, 554 of the sites reporting serving an immigrant community, Fr. Gaunt said,

Of immigrant communities from various world regions, parishes were most aware of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala – out of Latin American and Caribbean countries. They were most aware of Nigerian immigrant communities from Africa, and in Asian and Pacific communities, they were most aware of immigrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, and India.

Some communities have high rates of Catholics; 65% of Filipino Americans self-identify as Catholic, Fr. Gaunt reported.

Certain communities are more likely to be clustered in certain regions. The largest communities of Nigerian-born people are located in the archdioceses of Galveston-Houston, Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Dallas. The largest communities of Filipino-born people are in the Pacific West, in Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, Oakland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Bernardino.

More than 270 responding parishes reported undocumented immigrant communities in their boundaries, while 256 parishes reported annual tourist and pilgrim populations. Nearly 220 parishes reported migrant farmworker communities. Other communities reported included refugees, family members of migrants in U.S. immigrant detention facilities, truck drivers, circus performers, unaccompanied child migrants, and airport communities.

Parishes in the Pacific and Mountain West – in California areas of Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Yakima, and Sacramento, as well as Portland, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho – reported the largest foreign-born agricultural worker populations.

Bishops plan response to Native American Catholics who 'want their voice heard'

Bishop James Wall of Gallup greets parishioners following Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gallup.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Native American ministry was an action item for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday, as the relevant subcommittee sought approval for a new statement and a “comprehensive vision” for indigenous Catholics and those who serve them.

“There is at present no guide for the Catholic Church in the U.S. in approaching, understanding and promoting Catholic Native ministry,” said Bishop James Wall of Gallup, head of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs under the U.S. bishops’ Standing Committee for Cultural Diversity.

In his June 17 remarks to the bishops’ spring assembly and in an interview with CNA, Wall outlined a plan for better enculturation of the Catholic faith, recognition of Native American ministry and spirituality, and the needs of Native American communities. He especially noted the need to address lingering issues of justice and reconciliation regarding historical matters like Catholic boarding schools that were part of the effort to assimilate and Americanize Native American children, often through coercion.

Native American Catholics have not had a new statement from the U.S. bishops in over four decades.

Subcommittee listening sessions with Native American Catholics drove home the point that “they wanted to make sure that their voice was being heard within the Church here in the U.S.,” Wall said. There was concern about a “perceived lack of interest” in Catholic Native American ministry by the Catholic Church. The statement would reassure Native Americans that their ministry has “a high priority” in the Church.

As subcommittee chairman, Wall proposed the formal question to the bishops: “Do the members authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American and Alaska Native ministry?” 

The measure passed easily, with bishops voting 223 in favor, six voting against, and zero abstentions.

“The last time we had a pastoral plan was 1977. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since,” Wall said. Many aspects of Native American ministry ministry have changed in the last 44 years: approaches to racism; canonization of the first indigenous North American saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha of the Mohawk people; and new approaches to social justice in Native American communities. Pope Francis’ remarks “have made indigenous peoples a priority in the universal Church,” Wall added.

For their part, Native American Catholics have seen a need for coordination between Native Catholic organizations, dioceses, parishes, schools, and missions. A pastoral plan is “a most important step” in this coordination, said Wall.

The bishops who spoke in response welcomed the proposal.

“Natives can be present, yet unseen and unheard,” lamented Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, who previously served in Alaska.

“The opportunities to deeply listen to Native Americans and see how we could be of assistance would be a wonderful thing, and writing this document could help this,” said Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, a former Bishop of Cheyenne. He said he had seen “tremendous, tremendous needs” among Native Americans and their communities, including “a lot of need for healing." 

Ricken suggested the subcommittee speak about the importance of Catholic spirituality “intersecting with Native American spiritualities to help them see the similarities and the differences.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha, he said, could help advance understanding given “the two worlds she lived in.”

Some bishops emphasized the need to consider the majority of Native Americans who live in urban centers, not reservations.

“There’s great poverty in urban centers. I certainly experienced that here in the Twin Cities,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Wall said the subcommittee was taking the urban presence of Native Americans into account. The subcommittee is also looking at the needs of immigrant indigenous people with roots in Central and South America.

Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said there was a need for “greater understanding” of the history between Native and non-native peoples to help improve relations. Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse asked whether the subcommittee might address the Doctrine of Discovery, the 500-year-old principle by which Christian explorers, European monarchs, and their colonies asserted the right to claim the lands of non-Christian natives.

Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles cited his two decades of involvement with the local Native American community, whose presence in Los Angeles is among the largest in the country. Clark said he has heard “deep suffering and pain over and over” from some Native Americans and noted the “suspicion” that many have towards the Church. California’s bishops have made “an outreach and a promise” to Native communities both on and off the reservation.

Wall said that the subcommittee’s listening sessions showed the need for the bishops to address the boarding school period of American history, which involved tens of thousands of indigenous children and their families

Boarding schools were run by the U.S. government, the Catholic Church, or Protestant ecclesial communities and bound up in the ideologies and assumptions of late 19th-century America. Children were sometimes forcibly removed from their homes to go to the schools. The schools generally assumed white racial superiority, the inferiority of indigenous cultures, and the need to assimilate and Americanize children in isolation from their families. They were physically punished for speaking their native languages. Native dress and cultural practices were also targeted for elimination.

Some schools had significant problems of neglect or physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. A lack of trained staff and adequate resources to care for the children compounded the dangers of common threats at the time like outbreaks of deadly diseases.

Wall’s comments came only weeks after the rediscovery of unmarked and likely undocumented mass graves of 215 children on the grounds of the closed Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The school, which closed in 1978, had hundreds of students each year. It opened in 1890 under lay Catholics, then operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 to 1969, followed by a short period of government operation.

The Canadian residential schools, whose mission was similar to American boarding schools, came under major scrutiny in recent decades and have prompted apologies from many Canadian government and Catholic leaders. Prior to the discovery at Kamloops, a commission had estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the Canadian schools. Though established by the Canadian government, two-thirds of them were run by the Catholic Church or individual Catholic religious orders.

Bishop Wall told CNA the Kamloops revelations were “really sad and tragic news.” Wall said the bishops “need to be able to address that in a pastoral way so that we can bring things into the light and we can talk about it. We can bring healing, we can bring reconciliation, we can move forward in a healthy way.”

In response to Wall’s presentation, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said the current work of Catholic schools deserves to be acknowledged.

“We not only need to look at the residential schools in the past, but also the Catholic schools we have now that are serving the Native American people. We are blessed in the Diocese of Phoenix to have the St. Peter’s Indian Mission School, which does a really great job.”

“We should not forget that COVID had a really terrible impact on Native American peoples certainly here in Arizona. The health and the well-being of our native brothers and sisters is really important,” he said, adding that the bishops should seek to foster religious vocations among young Native Americans who are “a great source of leadership.”

Wall told the bishops’ assembly there is a need to address “a true sense of inculturation” for the Church in Native American communities, including through the Christian liturgy.

“Within the Native American communities, how is it that we are allowing the light of the Gospel to truly shine, like light through a prism?” he said to CNA. “How much are we letting that light shine through the beautiful culture of Native American peoples?”

Centuries ago, at the same time the Protestant Reformation drew millions of Europeans away from the Catholic Church, Wall noted, “Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous person, St. Juan Diego.”

 “The evangelization of the ‘New World’ first came through an indigenous person,” he added. “They’ve always been a very integral part of the Church, just as any baptized person.”

In Wall’s view, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia Charles Chaput was a “trailblazer” in this ministry. The part-Potawatomi churchman, the first Native American U.S. archbishop, has “always been a strong voice for the Native American Catholics in the U.S.”

While Wall was hard pressed to name younger Native American Catholic leaders, he said some Native Americans are notably serving as deacons. He acknowledged the need for more vocations and lay involvement.

He praised the work of Maka Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, who heads the reconciliation process at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D.

The proposal put to the bishops on Thursday had its origins in a meeting with Catholic Native American leaders in 2019, Wall told CNA. The bishops of the subcommittee were joined by bishops whose dioceses have a large Native American population for a “listening session” with Native American individuals and groups involved in Native American ministry. Also in attendance were subcommittee advisor Father Henry Sands of the Black and Indian Catholic Mission Office and some leaders of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization which now has a Native American initiative.

About 20% of Native Americans are Catholic and make up about 3.5% of all U.S. Catholics, according to the Native American Affairs subcommittee section on the U.S. bishops’ website. Over 340 parishes serve predominantly Native American congregations. As of 2008, about 2.9 million Americans identified as Native Americans or Alaskan Natives. Another 1.6 million people claim some kind of Native American ancestry, about 780,000 of whom are Catholic.

USCCB approves drafting of Eucharist document, other action items

U.S. bishops meet at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week voted to move forward on several action items, including a draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Meeting virtually for their annual spring general assembly, the U.S. bishops voted on Thursday to begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” The vote took place after extensive and, at times, spirited debate on Wednesday and Thursday, with some bishops opposing the move to begin drafting the document.

The measure passed by a vote of 168 to 55, with six abstentions. A simple majority was required for passage of the action item. The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

Results of voting for the various action items of the spring meeting were announced on Friday afternoon, on the third and final day of the meeting. The bishops also authorized the development of a statement on Native American ministry, approved several liturgical translations, and approved a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

They also held a canonical consultation on two causes of canonization, for Servant of God Fr. Joseph Verbis LaFleur, and Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue. The bishops voted overwhelmingly to “consider it opportune to advance on the local level” their causes of canonization.

One action item, which asked the bishops to “authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American / Alaska Native ministry,” passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 223 to 6. 

Three action items concerned the approval of ICEL translations of readings and prayers for the feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as well as translations of prayers and intercessions for the Liturgy of the Hours and a translation of the Order of Penance. 

The action items passed by a vote of 188 to 2, 186 to 3 (with one abstention), and 182 to 6 (with two abstentions), respectively. The items required two-thirds of all Latin Church bishops present to vote in favor of approval. 

Another action item, to authorize the drafting of a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults, passed with a vote of 222 to 7. The bishops also voted to approve a  draft of a pastoral framework on marriage and family life ministry “Called to the Joy of Love,” which passed by a vote of 212 to 13, with four abstentions.

The bishops had extensive debate before voting to authorize the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. A proposed outline of the document, provided by the doctrine committee, included the Church’s teachings on the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, Sunday as a holy day, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and worthiness to receive Communion.

A proposal on the first day of the assembly to adjust the agenda to allow for unlimited dialogue on the draft of the statement stretched into an hour-long debate. Although the proposal failed with 59% of bishops voting in opposition, debate on Thursday stretched long after the proceedings were scheduled to end.

Voting was extended an extra hour on Thursday evening due to the extensive debate on the issues.

Berlin Catholic archdiocese releases previously unpublished section of abuse report

St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the cathedral of the Berlin’s Catholic archdiocese. / Cedric BLN via Wikimedia (Public domain).

Berlin, Germany, Jun 18, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic archdiocese of Berlin published Friday a previously unreleased section of a report on clerical abuse.

The archdiocese announced June 18 the publication of Part C of the report “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons, and male religious in the area of ​​the Archdiocese of Berlin since 1946.”

The report, originally issued Jan. 29, was commissioned by the archdiocese in November 2018 and compiled by the law firm Redeker Sellner Dahs.

It concluded that 61 clerics were accused of abusing 121 minors in the archdiocese that covers the German capital between 1946 and 2020.

Part C of the report presents the personnel files of the accused clerics.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the names of many of the 61 accused clerics do not appear in the newly published section.

Names, file numbers, place names, and other content relating to accused clergy are blacked out.

The archdiocese argued that the redactions were “legally necessary.”

Other German dioceses are publishing similar reports, including Cologne archdiocese, which released the 800-page Gercke Report in March.

A study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, by the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, is expected to be released in the next few months.

CNA Deutsch said that, unlike the Cologne study, the Berlin report did not provide an assessment of personal accountability when it came to the responsibility for handling cases.

CNA Deutsch noted that Archbishop Heiner Koch, archbishop of Berlin since 2015, was mentioned in 13 cases, as were other senior figures serving in the archdiocese over the past decades.

The archdiocese said that the report did not mark the end of its efforts to investigate past cases and “remedy identified structural deficits.”

“By publishing the report, the archdiocese of Berlin hopes that further victims of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults will be encouraged to come forward and disclose their case,” it said.

Cincinnati archdiocese celebrates 200 years, looks forward 

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains at the bicentennial Mass for the archdiocese / The Catholic Telegraph

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 11:33 am (CNA).

On June 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati celebrated its bicentennial with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving offered by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. 

At the Mass, Schnurr re-consecrated the archdiocese to Jesus through Mary. In his homily, he reflected on the growth and successes of the archdiocese in the 200 years since its founding. He also encouraged the faithful to continue the work of the Church by asking: “What in God’s plan must we do next?”

“The care and affection of God for His people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that we celebrate today is not unique to us. It is part of God’s constant providence,” Archbishop Schnurr said in his homily. 

“It is what has been going on from the very beginning. Loving and leading and pardoning and protecting and enlightening and enlivening is what God does as a matter of course,” he said, “and that is not going to change.” 

Pope Pius VII established the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in June 1821. The archdiocese, only the ninth diocese to be established in the United States at the time, originally encompassed the entirety of Ohio and the present-day state of Michigan, as well as parts of present-day Wisconsin. 

When bishop-elect Edward Fenwick set off to take possession of his new diocese at its founding, he faced a difficult journey and had to swim the Kentucky River on his way to Cincinnati, Schnurr said. 

Archbishop Schnurr noted that although the territory of the archdiocese has shrunk considerably since its founding, there are twice as many Catholics living in the archdiocese of Cincinnati today - some 440,000 - than resided in the United States in 1821. 

“This local Church has welcomed waves of immigrants, dealt with economic depressions and wars, and enjoyed times of unprecedented growth and prosperity,” he said. 

“And throughout it all, Our Lord’s teaching has been proclaimed, His sacraments celebrated, and His people bound together in the Body of Christ which is His Church.”

Despite expressing some uncertainty about the future - particularly whether the archdiocese will have enough priests in the coming years - Schnurr proclaimed confidence that God will continue to bless the archdiocese as He has in the past. He also emphasized the responsibility of the faithful to cooperate with God’s grace and support the mission of their local Church. 

“[T]o be alive as Church, as an archdiocese, and as the people of God, we must be keenly aware that, regardless of whether we celebrate successes or stress over challenges, what we see today is not the finish line,” he said. 

“We are all part of the Lord’s plan for his Kingdom,” he said. “God has given each of us something specific to contribute.” 

The Mass was also the culmination of a 33-day archdiocesan pilgrimage for the bicentennial celebrations. Beginning on May 16, participants walked over 300 miles with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, ending at the cathedral basilica in time for the Mass. Pilgrims signed up for three-day walking shifts for the pilgrimage, and made stops at 36 parishes throughout the archdiocese.

Pope Francis may continue to make changes in the Roman Curia

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2021 / 10:19 am (CNA).

As the completion of curia reform approaches, Pope Francis would be moving towards some changes. The pope's next moves might be the appointment of a new Master of Ceremonies and the appointment of a president for the Committee to prepare the Jubilee 2025.  

Msgr. Guido Marini has been the Papal Master of Ceremonies since 2007. Called to the position by Benedict XVI and well known for his rather traditional approach to liturgy, Mons. Marini was able to cooperate with Pope Francis, even if sometimes their views on liturgy differed. According to sources speaking to CNA, Monsignor Marini would be appointed a bishop in Italy. 

Marini's replacement, according to the sources, should not be interpreted as a punishment. It is, instead, a clue that Pope Francis wants no “permanent” positions in the curia.

The pope might send Marini to Tortona, a diocese near Liguria, Marini's birthplace. The diocese is vacant since the Pope picked its bishop as secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. 

There are three candidates to replace Marini as Master of Ceremonies, according to the sources. One is Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the Liturgical Office of Rome's Vicariate. The second is Msgr. Diego Ravelli, already one of the Papal Master of Ceremonies; and finally Msgr. Pietro Moroni, Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urbanian University and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

Meanwhile, curia reform continues to be under discussion. Originally scheduled to be announced by the end of June, the draft reform should come out next autumn, according to a cardinal who spoke with CNA. 

According to the cardinal, the delay is in part due to discussions regarding how to merge smaller dicasteries with larger ones. In fact, in the first draft of the reform, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization was going to be absorbed by the Congregation for Evangelization. The purpose of the merging was to combine into one dicastery traditional and new evangelization.

Things have changed, and now the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization should become an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The president of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, might be appointed president of the Jubilee 2025 Preparatory Committee. A Jubilee, or ordinary “Holy Year”, happens every 25 years. The last ordinary Holy Year was headed by St. John Paul II in the year 2000. Fisichella, who already successfully organized the 2015 Special Holy Year or “The Year of Mercy,” would bring his experience organizing major events.

Freshman congresswoman appointed as Pro-Life Caucus co-chair

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 09:07 am (CNA).

The new co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus says that a top priority for her is fighting taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers. 

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) was appointed co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus this week. A freshman congresswoman elected to the House last November, she previously served as the first female president of the Minnesota state senate and as the state’s lieutenant governor. 

In the state senate, she wrote Minnesota’s Women’s Right to Know Act, which requires women undergoing an abortion to be informed of certain medical risks assocated with abortion. 

Fischbach told CNA in an interview on Thursday that one of her first priorities as caucus co-chair will be to defend the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars taxpayer funding of most elective abortions through Medicaid.

“We need to continue that fight,” she said, noting that she is “very excited and very honored” by her appointment to the caucus. 

“It’s a very important issue to my family and it's one of those fundamental things that it’s so important we work to defend,” Fischbach said.

Democratic leaders in recent years have called for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, which has been passed into law each year as a rider to budget legislation. 

President Joe Biden recently excluded the policy from his budget request submitted to Congress, the first step toward Congress eventually passing government funding bills that do not include the policy - and thus that would allow for abortion funding.

While Democrats appear to have the votes to pass appropriations bills without the Hyde amendment, it is unclear if such legislation would clear the Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), seen as a crucial swing vote in the chamber, has pledged his support of the Hyde amendment. 

Fischbach said she is also fighting federal funding of abortion providers. The Title X program, which provides grants for contraceptives and family planning, prohibits direct funding of abortions. The Biden administration, however, has moved to allow Title X grants to once again go to groups that refer for abortions or are co-located with abortion clinics - such as Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Fischbach said that a bill she has authored, the Protecting Life and Taxpayers Act of 2021, would block taxpayer funding of entities that perform abortions.

“What we’re trying to do is on another level, like the Hyde amendment, block funds from going to grant recipients performing abortions,” Fischbach said. 

Fischbach criticized the recent re-introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would override many state abortion regulations - like the one she authored in Minnesota. 

“The states are able to regulate things, and the federal government should not be telling them what they can and cannot do,” she said. “And so I don’t support them being able to pull all of those protections the states have done for the unborn.” 

In statements, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.), the other co chairs of the House Pro-Life Caucus, welcomed Fischbach to the role. 

Calling her a “steadfast champion of life,” Smith said that Fischbach’s “effective leadership could not come at a better time as we work to restore protections for the weakest and most vulnerable: the unborn baby.”

Harris said that “Rep. Fischbach is a welcome addition to our leadership team and widely supported by all those fighting for life.”

Fischbach is scheduled to discuss her new role on the caucus during an interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly next week. 

Paris archbishop: Notre-Dame Cathedral repairs a symbol of Christian renewal

Archbishop Michel Aupetit, center left, celebrates Mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France, June 16, 2021. / Thomas Samson/ Pool/AFP via Getty Images.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Wearing a hard hat and boots, the archbishop of Paris offered Mass in a nearly empty Notre-Dame Cathedral this week as restoration of the fire-damaged interior of the Gothic cathedral kicks off.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit used the occasion of the feast of the dedication of Notre-Dame de Paris to reflect on the spiritual metaphor of restoring one of the most important cathedrals in France, which was once called the “eldest daughter of the Church.”

“This cathedral is also the symbol of the restoration of this Church founded 2,000 years ago by Christ himself,” the archbishop said in his homily on the evening of June 16.

“Some believe that it is in ruins and that it is on the verge of collapse. Yet Christ asserted that the gates of death would not prevail against her. We believe it deeply: like our cathedral, the Church of Christ will remain standing.”

Aupetit pointed out that St. Peter’s first letter in the Bible calls the members of the Church “living stones.”

“St. Augustine reminds us: ‘What we see here physically accomplished with walls must be spiritually accomplished with souls. What we see here accomplished with stones and wood must be accomplished in our bodies with the grace of God,’” he said, quoting Augustine’s Sermon 366 for the dedication of a church.

The archbishop continued: “The chief architect is the Father; the model is Christ; the director is the Holy Spirit. What will bring us together, shape us, and unify us to build a Church more beautiful than ever is the fulfillment of the great commandment of Christ: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”

Aupetit spoke beneath the large stained-glass windows of Notre Dame’s Saint-Georges chapel, which includes two 13th-century medallions.

The closed-door Mass, broadcast by the Catholic television station KTO, took place with only 12 people present, each wearing a hard hat for security reasons.

The Descent from the Cross, also known as Pieta, statue inside the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris before the fire.  /  Jeanne Emmel/Shutterstock.
The Descent from the Cross, also known as Pieta, statue inside the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris before the fire. / Jeanne Emmel/Shutterstock.

Aupetit has offered a private Mass inside the closed cathedral to mark the anniversary of its dedication each year since the devastating fire in April 2019.

While the French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, the Catholic Church is responsible for its interior renewal.

Paris archdiocese launched an appeal on June 14 for this interior restoration, starting with the reliquary case of the Crown of Thorns, which was damaged on the night of the fire before it was rescued by Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

“We are so happy now that our cathedral, which was in danger of ruin, is stabilized. We are now entering the restoration phase. It will be more beautiful than ever and this makes our hearts happy and fills us with hope,” Aupetit said.