Catholic Church News 

Archbishop Fulton Sheen's beatification cause could soon be moving forward

Archbishop Fulton Sheen's beatification cause could soon be moving forward

June 15, 2016 - (CNA) - The stalled beatification cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen could soon resume, thanks to a petition by his family members weighing in on where he should be buried.

Joan Sheen Cunningham, the archbishop’s oldest living relative, was joined by other relatives of the archbishop in filing the legal petition with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, asking that the body be transferred to Peoria, Illinois.

“With the progress that the cause has already made, a beatification could be celebrated shortly after the arrival of the remains in Peoria and with the approval of Pope Francis,” the Diocese of Peoria said June 14 in its comment on the petition. Continue Reading Sheen Cause Moving Forward>

'This is my light saber' - Tulsa's new bishop makes his own staff

'This is my light saber' – Tulsa's new bishop makes his own staff

June 8, 2016 - (CNA) - Deep in the heart of Texas, a campus chaplain is busy making his final spiritual and practical preparations for becoming a bishop.

However, unlike many of his soon-to-be brother-bishops, Fr. David Konderla is carving his very own staff – or crosier – to signify his new position and duty as a teacher and head of a diocese.

“Every Jedi has not completed his training until he’s made his own light saber that he uses to fight evil with – so this is my light saber,” Bishop-elect David Konderla told CNA in an interview.

On June 29, Fr. David Konderla will be ordained and installed as the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently, the Bishop-elect serves as the Director of Campus Ministry for St. Mary’s Catholic Center, the campus chaplaincy for Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Continue Reading Bishop's Lightsaber>

Meet the Papal Ninja who's taking a hit TV show by storm

Meet the Papal Ninja who's taking a hit TV show by storm

June 8, 2016 - (CNA) - Two minutes and thirty seconds is all it took for Sean Bryan to complete the Los Angeles qualifier round of American Ninja Warrior.  

The season eight premiere of the hit NBC/Esquire show – which follows competitors as they try to complete obstacles courses of increasing difficulty – featured the amateur flying through every obstacle. He even climbed the newly designed, 14.5-foot Warped Wall on his first try.

Bryan claimed 4th place and ranked among the show’s veterans, but something else caught everyone’s attention.

On Bryan’s bright, yellow shirt was written: ‘Papal Ninja’. Continue Reading Papal Ninja>

LA Archdiocese prays novena for dignity of life as assisted suicide looms in California

LA Archdiocese prays novena for dignity of life as assisted suicide looms in California

June 8, 2016 - (NC Register) -  California’s assisted-suicide bill will go into effect on June 9, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is fighting back — with prayer.

On June 1, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell celebrated Mass at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services. The Mass marked the beginning of a call to nine days of prayer and fasting for the elderly, disabled and terminally ill.

“This is a challenge to all of us, especially to all of us who have faith,” the bishop said, “to teach always about the infinite value of each human life.”

Bishop O’Connell, who has lived in California for more than 30 years, said the passing of the End of Life Option Act makes it a sad time for the state. Continue Reading CA Assisted Suicide>

Mother Angelica honored by Catholic media for life of service

Mother Angelica honored by Catholic media for life of service

June 5, 2016 - (CNA) -  Mother Angelica, the nun who founded EWTN, has been posthumously honored for her lifetime achievement in Catholic communications. One of her close collaborators said she wanted Catholic media to rely totally on God.

The Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals on June 2 awarded Mother Angelica its President’s Medallion during the Gabriel Awards gala at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis, Mo.

Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Global Catholic Network chairman and CEO, accepted the award. He said Mother Angelica had spoken with him about her expected legacy.

“She said her legacy, and the legacy of the network, would not be what had been done, but how it had been done – by relying totally and completely on the providence of God,” Warsaw said. Continue Reading Mother Angelica>

New saints show the pwoer of Jesus' resurrection, Pope Francis says

New saints show the power of Jesus' resurrection, Pope Francis says

June 5, 2016 - (CNA) -  St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary and St. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad are key examples of how to unite oneself to Jesus’ Passion and death, as well as the power of his resurrection, Pope Francis said Sunday, after canonizing the two.

“In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us,” the Pope said June 5.

Jesus, he said, tells us that “we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope.”

“This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints. They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.” Continue Reading New Saints>

Pope approves new Vatican department for the Laity, Family, and Life

Pope approves new Vatican department for the Laity, Family, and Life

June 4, 2016 - (CNA) -  Pope Francis has approved the institution of a new Vatican department dedicated to the family, the laity, and life.

According to a set of statutes released Saturday, the new department will promote “the pastoral care of the family, maintain the dignity and basic good of the Sacrament of marriage, favor the rights and responsibilities of the Church in civil society.”

This will be so “that the family institution may always fulfill its proper functions both within the Church and society.”

The Vatican department – which is also known as a dicastry – will also will pay “special attention to the particular mission of the lay faithful to permeate and perfect the order of temporal reality,” the statute continues. Continue Reading Laity, Family, and Life>

FWSB Priest Ordination 2016 - At St. Matthew Cathedral and On Redeemer Radio

FWSB Priest Ordination 2016

June 3, 2016 - (FWSB) -  On Saturday, June 4, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will ordain three men to the priesthood during an 11 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, Indiana. 

The three deacons to be ordained priests are Deacon Robert Garrow, from St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, Deacon David Violi and Deacon Craig Borchard both from St. Pius X, Granger.

Bishop Rhoades expressed his joy regarding the upcoming ordination, “Theordinations will be a joyful blessing for me and our whole diocese. We are grateful to God to receive three new priests and two new deacons to serve in His vineyard. I am grateful that these young men have generously responded to the Lord’s call to ordained ministry in the Church in our diocese.”

 Doors open at 9:30 a.m. and both ordinations are open to the public. A capacity crowd is expected for the Masses.  For those who are unable to attend the priest ordination Mass, coverage of the event will be broadcast live on Redeemer Radio at 10:55 a.m. on 95.7 FM in the greater Michiana area and 106.3 FM in the greater Fort Wayne area. More on Our Soon-to-Be Priests in Today's Catholic>

Catholic man sentenced to attend Baptist church services - for real

Catholic man sentenced to attend Baptist church services – for real

June 2, 2016 - (CNA) -  An Ohio judge sentenced a 23-year old Catholic man to 12 consecutive Baptist Sunday services after an altercation in downtown Cincinnati in January.

It was dollar beer night at the Cincinnati Cyclones vs. Fort Wayne Komets hockey game on January 23, and Jake Strotman and his buddies had had a few before heading downtown after the game (a Cyclones victory).

Strotman and his friends came across a group of Baptist street preachers, who Strotman claims were condemning him, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Already a curious and outgoing person, Strotman engaged with the preachers and “gave them my two cents worth.”

“They were telling me I was going to hell,” Strotman told Enquirer reporters. “I was asking them: 'Why do you think you can condemn people?' I didn't understand why they thought they could judge me.” Continue Reading Unique Church-Sentence>

Pope Francis: Pray to God, not to a mirror

Pope Francis: Pray to God, not to a mirror

June 1, 2016 - (CNA) -  One who prays with humility and awareness of his or her sin speaks to God, Pope Francis said on Wednesday, whereas one who prays with arrogance and self-righteousness is speaking to a mirror.

“It is not enough to ask ourselves how often we pray,” the Pope said to the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly general audience. “We must also ask ourselves how we pray, or rather, how our heart is.”

The pontiff centered his June 1 catechesis on Jesus' parable of the tax collector and the pharisee.

The problem with the pharisee – who stands in the temple and gives thanks for not being like other sinners – is that, as he prays to God, he looks at himself, Francis said. Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

Catholics in Mongolia look forward to ordination of first-ever native priest

Catholics in Mongolia look forward to ordination of first-ever native priest

June 1, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) -  The little Catholic community of Mongolia-- about 1,000 strong-- awaits the ordination of the first native priest in August.

Deacon Joseph Enkh will be ordained on August 28 by Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, the apostolic prefect of Ulan Bator. He received his training in South Korea, and was ordained to the diaconate there in December 2014. Returning then to Mongolia, he has been visiting country's six parishes-- which to date have been served exclusively by foreign missionary priests. Continue Reading Mongolian Priest>

Number of enslaved persons rises to 45.8 million

Number of enslaved persons rises to 45.8 million

June 2, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) -  Following the publication of the 2016 Global Slavery Index,L’Osservatore Romano devoted a front-page article in its June 2 edition to modern-day slavery.

According to the index, the nations with the highest numbers of slaves are India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. 58% of the world’s 45.8 million slaves live in these five countries.

North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India, and Qatar have the highest percentage of slaves among their populations.

In his message for the 2015 World Day of Peace-- “No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters”-- Pope Francis issued an “urgent appeal” to the international community to end “this abominable phenomenon.” Continue Reading Modern Slavery>

Priest goes down into the pit on Indy Race Days

Tears for a Gorilla

May 29, 2016 - (NCRegister) -  This morning, Max Lindenman offers this astute critique of one of the most talked-about stories of the long weekend:

For a Christian, the progression is all too predictable: With God, who created mankind alone in His image, struck from the equation, we’re hard pressed to name what inherent value any of us has that a gorilla – especially an endangered western lowland gorilla – might lack.  If our only concern is meeting some quota, then, yes, we might as well install a preferential option for the apes.

Twenty years ago, St. John Paul II warned that any culture given to assigning human life a priority value or a price tag would end up creating a tyranny of the strong over the weak. Continue Reading Priest in the Pits>

Pope's June prayer intentions span old and young

Pope’s June Prayer Intentions Span Old and Young

June 1, 2016 - (Zenit) -  This month, Pope Francis will be praying for the elderly, as well as young people just starting off in their vocations.

The Apostleship of Prayer announced the intentions chosen by the Pope for June.

The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for June is: “That the aged, marginalised, and those who have no-one may find, even within the huge cities of the world, opportunities for encounter and solidarity.”

His intention for evangelisation is: “That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.” Continue Reading Pope's June Prayer Intentions>

Priest goes down into the pit on Indy Race Days

Priest goes down into the pit on Indy Race Days

May 29, 2016 - (NCRegister) -  A hint of pink paints the fringes of the eastern sky as dawn begins to break on race-day morning over the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Father Glenn O’Connor, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, pulls into the track at 4:30am.

It’s the start of a very long day for the priest, who will be working the pits with Ed Carpenter Racing, after saying multiple Masses for the faithful starting at 8am.

Father O’Connor saw his first race at the speedway as a fan in 1969, and he started working in the pits in 1975.

This year is the 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” on May 29, and it’s the 41st year that the priest has been on pit road. Continue Reading Priest in the Pits>

George Clooney among celebrities honored by Pope Francis

George Clooney among celebrities honored by Pope Francis

May 30, 2016 - (CNA) -  On Sunday, Pope Francis praised Hollywood actors George Clooney, Salma Hayek, and Richard Gere at a conference promoting a Vatican education initiative that helps poor communities.

Speaking in the Paul VI's Synod Hall, the Pope reminded the celebrities of their responsibility to “help the world recover the language of gestures.”

During the gathering, the actors received the “Olive Medal” of peace, which were presented by the Scholas Occurentes initiative, who organized the Vatican conference.

Touching on a separate topic altogether, Francis said he does not intend to step down from the papacy, as Benedict XVI did when he became the first pope to resign in centuries.

“I never thought of quitting being pope, or of leaving because of the many responsibilities,” the pontiff said during a Q&A session. Continue Reading Celebrities at the Vatican>

Teen girls cancel Disney World trip to see Pope Francis instead

Teen girls cancel Disney World trip to see Pope Francis instead

May 21, 2016 - (CNA) -  Dozens of teen girls in Paraguay had planned to celebrate their 15th birthday – or Quinceañera – at Florida's Disney World.

But the students at the Almenas de Asunción school ultimately called the trip off and decided to visit Rome so that they could attend the Jubilee of Adolescents with Pope Francis.

Quinceañera is a commemoration of the transition from childhood to adulthood, when Latin American girls reach 15 years of age. In Paraguay, many families give their daughters a special trip at this age, and these teens dreamed of visiting the amusement park.

However, one of the school's teachers read on Aci Prensa about the celebration of the Jubilee of Adolescents in Rome held last month as part of the Year of Mercy. Continue Reading Mickey or Pope Francis>

Pope: Trinity is a model for how to live relationships

Pope: Trinity Is a Model for How to Live Relationships

May 21, 2016 - (CNA) -  The Trinity is not just a mystery to adore, but a model for how to interact in all our relationships, from friends to family to coworkers.

The Pope gave this lesson today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity.

Drawing from John’s Gospel, the Holy Father explained the first part of the Spirit’s mission, saying he “guides us in new existential situations with a gaze fixed on Jesus and at the same time, open to events and to the future. He helps us to walk in history, firmly rooted in the Gospel and with a dynamic fidelity to our traditions and customs.”

But another aspect of the Spirit’s mission, the Pope said, involves our own relationship with God and with each other. Continue Reading Trinity Sunday Angelus>

Pro-soccer player turned priest reunites with fans in Chile

Pro-soccer player turned priest reunites with fans in Chile

May 18, 2016 - (CNA) - With a Mass celebrated in the chapel where he used to pray, former soccer star Chase Hilgenbrinck was reunited recently with the faithful, friends and fans – not as a soccer star, but as a priest.

An American, Chase Hilgenbrinck was a successful pro soccer player who spent four seasons in Chile before returning to the U.S. He played for the New England Revolution before experiencing a call to the priesthood and leaving behind his soccer career to enter seminary.

In 2014, he was ordained a priest in the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where he currently serves.

After being away from Chile for nine years, Father Chase returned to the city of Chillán in the southern part of the country, where he played on first division teams for three years.

He thanked the more than 600 faithful who attended the Eucharist he celebrated on May 7 in Santa Ana chapel, “especially the Chillán community that supported me before and who feel part of my soccer experience, and also now that I am a priest.” Continue Reading Pro-Soccer Player and Priest>

Catholics have filled the internet with venom and vitriol, says Vatican media advisor

Catholics have filled the internet with venom and vitriol, says Vatican media advisor

May 18, 2016 - (CNA) - Many Catholics on the internet are uncharitable and disturbed individuals, the Vatican’s English-language media advisor has said.

Speaking to the DeSales Media Group of Brooklyn diocese, Fr Thomas Rosica said: “Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we ‘Catholics’ have turned the internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!

“The character assassination on the internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around.”

Fr Rosica described internet bloggers and commentators as “obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices”. Continue Reading Catholics Online>

'To ignore the poor is to despise God,' Pope Francis says

'To ignore the poor is to despise God,' Pope Francis says

May 18, 2016 - (CNA) - If we don’t show mercy to others we shouldn’t expect to get it from God, Pope Francis said, stressing that while turning a blind eye to the poor might make life on earth easier, the eternal result will be much different.

“To ignore the poor is to despise God! We must learn this well: to ignore the poor is the despise God,” the Pope said May 18.

He spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience, continuing his ongoing catechesis on mercy as understood through scripture.

Francis focused his speech on the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, a poor beggar who laid outside the man’s house every day, asking for the leftover scraps from his table.

Both men eventually die, and the rich man, who ignored Lazarus and denied him the scraps, is tormented by constant fire and an insatiable thirst, whereas Lazarus is “carried by the angels” to heaven and comforted. Continue Reading General Audience>

'We must protect the family from the devil's attacks,' Cardinal Sarah tells faithful

‘We must protect the family from the devil’s attacks,’ Cardinal Sarah tells faithful

May 18, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - Cardinal Robert Sarah has said the devil is “intent on destroying the family”, and that Christians must fight ideologies which deny the importance of children having a mother and father.

Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, Cardinal Sarah, head of the Vatican’s liturgy commission, said that the world was “increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism”.

In a wide-ranging speech, covering religious persecution, the neglect of the elderly, “our closing our eyes and hearts to the poor and vulnerable”, and American politics, the Guinean cardinal focused on the threat to the family.

He quoted Pope St John Paul II as saying that the family was where the Gospel is first preached. “The generous and responsible love of spouses, made visible through the self-giving of parents, who welcome and nurture children as a gift of God, makes love visible in our generation,” said Cardinal Sarah. Continue Reading National Catholic Prayer Breakfast>

Pharmaceutical firm hailed for ban on supplying drugs for executions

Pharmaceutical firm hailed for ban on supplying drugs for executions

May 18, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, in a position statement issued earlier this spring, said some of its drugs are not meant to be used for executions and that it would restrict those drugs’ availability to government agencies that might use them to make compounds for lethal injections.

The action was hailed by Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilising Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

“The medical community’s mission is to save lives; Pfizer’s actions … are consistent with that mission,” Clifton said in a May 16 statement. “As Catholics, we hold human life to be sacred and we are encouraged when we see that value reflected in our wider culture.”

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment,” said the statement. Continue Reading Lethan Injection Drug Ban>

Fr. Lombardi on Pope's remarks about female deacons

Fr Lombardi on Pope’s remarks about female deacons

May 16, 2016 - (Vatican Radio) - The Director of the Holy See’s Press office, Father Federico Lombardi, said Pope Francis did not say in his remarks to the Heads of female religious orders and congregations that he intends to introduce the ordination of women and even less the ordination of women as priests. Father Lombardi’s statement followed the Pope’s widely-reported remarks that he wants to set up a Commission to study the question of female deacons. Pope Francis’ remarks on deaconesses came during a question and answer session on Thursday with some 900 heads of female religious orders and congregations who form part of the International Union of Superiors General. 

During the hour and a half long conversation about the mission and ministry of women in religious life, the Pope responded to several delicate questions, including one where he was asked what prevents the Church from including women among the permanent deacons, just like during the early Church. In his reply, the Pope said understanding about the role of female deacons in the early Church remained unclear and agreed with the sisters that it would be useful to set up a Commission to study the question. Continue Reading Pope on Women Deacons>

Supreme Court sends Little Sisters case back to lower courts

Supreme Court sends Little Sisters' case back to lower court

May 16, 2016 - (CNA) - In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court sent the Little Sisters of the Poor HHS mandate case back to the lower courts on Monday, in light of new developments in the case.

“We are very encouraged by the Court’s decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters. The Court has recognized that the government changed its position,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious – the Little Sisters respectfully object,” he continued.

Religious charities including the Little Sisters of the Poor had sued the federal government saying that they were being coerced, under threat of heavy fines, to violate their consciences. They said that despite revisions, the Obama administration’s federal contraception mandate requires them to cooperate in actions they believe to be immoral. Continue Reading HHS Contraception Case>

For US bishops, Pope Francis brings  clarity to transgender issues

US House passes big upgrades to international religious liberty law

May 16, 2016 - (CNA) - As an alternative to the “deeply disturbing” new federal guidance on transgender regulations for schools, the U.S. bishops pointed to the words of Pope Francis in offering a positive path to young people.

“The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created’,” the bishops said, quoting the words of Pope Francis in his 2016 exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia.”

“Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect,” the bishops said. “All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents.”

They said the new federal guidance “does not even attempt to achieve this balance.” It ignores ongoing political and cultural discussion about how to address these sensitive issues and “short-circuits those discussions entirely.” Continue Reading Bishops Response>

US House passes big upgrades to international religious liberty law

US House passes big upgrades to international religious liberty law

May 16, 2016 - (CNA) - A significant upgrade to a landmark religious freedom law passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday afternoon.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill’s author, outlined what is at stake abroad for religious freedom in a statement: “The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the US interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.”

The 2015 Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed the House May 16 by unanimous voice vote. It had strong bipartisan support – 116 co-sponsors, including 20 Democrats. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was the lead co-sponsor. Continue Reading Religious Liberty Law>

Pope's 'Mercy Friday' mission for May: Visiting L'Arche

 Pope's 'Mercy Friday' mission for May: Visiting L'Arche

May 13, 2016 - (NCRegister) - On Friday afternoon, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a community in Italy that houses and cares for persons who have severe mental disabilities. He visited both the caregivers and the beneficiaries.

The visit was part of his “Mercy Friday” initiative, in which he carries out one act of mercy a month on a Friday throughout the Jubilee of Mercy.

The Pope’s visit to Il Chicco was announced in a May 13 communiqué from Father Federico Lombardi, the Holy See press officer.

Today’s visit to Il Chicco is the fifth “sign of mercy” done by Pope Francis to mark the months of the Jubilee of Mercy: In January, he visited a nursing home; in February, he spent time with a community for addicts; in March, he went to a refugee center; and in April, he greeted refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. Continue Reading May Work of Mercy>

We were made to be God's children, Pope says on Pentecost

We were made to be God's children, Pope says on Pentecost

May 15, 2016 - (CNA) - Although sin separates us from God, Pope Francis stressed on the feast of Pentecost that we haven’t been left as orphans, but that thanks to Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can reconcile with the Lord and continue to live as his children.

“The central purpose of Jesus’ mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters,” the Pope said May 15.

“We were made to be God’s children, it is in our DNA,” he said, explaining that “the Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father.”

Dressed in red vestments traditional for the solemnity of Pentecost, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto Mary and the Apostles, Pope Francis made these remarks during Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Continue Reading Pentecost Homily>

Pope Francis: You can't love your pet more than your neighbor

Pope Francis: You can't love your pet more than your neighbor

May 14, 2016 - (CNA) - People in need deserve more love from us than the animals do, Pope Francis has said.

In off-the-cuff remarks Saturday, he said: “How often do we see people greatly attached to cats, to dogs,” but fail to “help their neighbor, their neighbor who is in need... This will not do.”

The Pope’s catechesis for the Jubilee of Mercy audience discussed the theme of piety and how it shows God’s mercy through compassion for the suffering and afflicted.

“The piety of which we speak is a manifestation of God’s mercy,” the Pope told the rain-soaked crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The pontiff explained that piety, or “pietà”  – which in Italian can also be translated as compassion, pity, or mercy – should not “be confused with compassion which we feel for the animals who live with us.” Continue Reading Jubilee Audience>

Pope says he will ask CDF about history of women deacons

Pope says he will ask CDF about history of women deacons

May 12, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - Pope Francis has said that the historical role of female deacons needs to be studied, and that he will ask the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith (CDF) whether such research has been carried out.

At a meeting with heads of women’s religious orders from around the world, the Pope was asked whether he would create an official commission to study whether women could be ordained as deacons.

Female deacons are mentioned in the New Testament, by several Church fathers, and in the documents of the Council of Nicea, but it is debated whether this role was similar to that of present-day permanent deacons – who officiate at baptisms and weddings, and sometimes preach at Mass.

Francis told the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) that, on his understanding, the women described as deacons in the New Testament were not ordained in the manner of today’s permanent deacons; rather, they helped when women received full-immersion baptism, or with anointing. Continue Reading Women Deacons> 

John Paul II's words in the abulance, 35 years ago

John Paul II’s Words in the Ambulance, 35 Year Ago

May 12, 2016 - (Zenit) - In the book “Stories about John Paul II. Told by his close friends and co-workers” (Ignatius Press, San Francisco), there is the testimony of the Pope’s personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, about May 13, 1981. Here’s what Dr. Buzzonetti responds to the question of Włodzimierz Redzioch about the assassination attack:

The chronology of May 13, 1981, has already been recounted a thousand times, from every angle.  To this day, however, the direct testimony of the victim has been missing, which we can try to reconstruct just from a few fragments of what he experienced during those tragic hours.  

In the ambulance, in which I accompanied him to the Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital, he ceaselessly pronounced these words in Polish: “Jesus .\.\. my Mother .\.\.”, and nothing else.  In the text of the Angelus message, which he laboriously read from his bed in the intensive care unit the following Sunday, he added on his own initiative the word “brother” when he pardoned the assassin.  Perhaps that is the eloquent summary of those hours of struggling to survive. Continue Reading JPII Assassination Anniversary> 

Late-term abortionist may be selling body parts of babies born alive after failed abortions

Late-term abortionist may be selling body parts of babies born alive after failed abortions

May 12, 2016 - (LifeNews) - The House Select Panel on Infant Lives announced yesterday that it has issued a total of nine subpoenas to notorious late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart, Germantown Reproductive Health Services (GRHS), the Germantown, Maryland, abortion facility where he conducts abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and other agencies.

The subpoenas reveal that the Select Panel is focusing on obtaining records related to Carhart’s participation in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts and information related to babies who may have been born alive during attempted late-term abortions. There is also concern about the increased number of medical emergencies that have been reported at GRHS in recent months. Continue Reading Late-Term Abortionist> 

Whoopi Goldberg pulls off her own 'Sister Act' with big donation to nuns

Whoopi Goldberg pulls off her own ‘Sister Act’ with big donation to nuns

May 10, 2016 - (CNA) - Whoopi Goldberg, a co-host of the T.V. show “The View” and of “Sister Act” fame, surprised a group of Harlem nuns with a donation of a new van, a year’s worth gas and $10,000 to go towards their order’s charities.

The order of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary caught Goldberg’s attention as one of three traditionally black orders in the U.S. The Franciscan Handmaids serve in Harlem, New York City, and their apostolates include youth evangelization, education, palliative care, and a food pantry.

And then Goldberg, dressed in her own version of a Franciscan Handmaids habit, popped around the corner to surprise Sister Gertrude and her order with the money, donated by Retail Me Not, and the Sienna van donated by Toyota. Continue Reading Sister Act Surprise> 

Jobs for Syrian Christians: 'Jesus was a carpenter - you can be too"

Jobs for Syrian Christians: ‘Jesus Was a Carpenter – You Can Be Too’

May 11, 2016 - (Zenit) - “Jesus was a carpenter—you can be too.” With these words the Melkite archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, recently urged on reluctant candidates eligible for a professional formation course offered by the local Church in Syria’s second city.

Even as fierce fighting between the Syrian regime and opposition forces continues to rain down death and destruction on the city, Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart speaks with determination about his vision for life after his country’s bloody civil war. That vision has taken the form of the “Build to Stay” program, an ambitious initiative that aims to lay the groundwork—both practically and spiritually—for the enduring presence of the city’s local Christian community, its numbers cut in half to some 75,000 since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

“We have to do all we can to make sure Christians can stay in Aleppo and return from exile once the fighting stops,” the archbishop told international Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need. Continue Reading Jobs for Syrian Christians> 

No one can take our dignity - not even the devil, Poep Francis says

No one can take our dignity – not even the devil, Pope Francis says

May 11, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis said the father’s embrace in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a reminder that we never ought to despair, because nothing and no one can take away our dignity as children of God.

Pointing to how the father in the parable had watched and waited for his younger son’s return, Francis noted how “tenderly he saw him from afar, meaning that he waited for him constantly, from above.”

“The mercy of the father is overflowing, unconditional and manifests itself even before the son speaks,” he said. Even though the son recognizes his sin and voices remorse, “these words dissolve in front of the forgiveness of the father.”

Our state as sons of God “is a fruit of love from the heart of the father,” the Pope said, adding that “it doesn’t depend on our merits or our actions, and therefore no one can take it away. No one can take this dignity away from us, not even the devil! No one can take this dignity!” Continue Reading Wednesday Audience> 

Man runs across American in the name of Mercy during the Jubilee Year

Man runs across America in the name of Mercy during the Jubilee Year

May 8, 2016 - (Rome Reports) - Dylan Cuddy runs an average of 15-20 miles a day across the United States, passing through the Holy Doors of Mercy at basilicas and cathedrals in each state he visits.  

This mission was a dream of his that came to fruition on February 26, 2016. Since then, he's covered 5 states and around 700 miles and he plans to continue running until late summer, when he will end at the cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California. 

Cuddy is sharing his re-found identity in Christ with those he meets through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He speaks and prays with the struggling and homeless, and buys them meals with the restricted monetary funds he has. The more he gives, the more mercy he receives, not only by Catholic churches, but by every denomination and person on the street.  Continue Reading Running for Mercy> 

Is this really about women's health? The ACLU's latest tiff with Catholic hospitals

Is this really about women's health? The ACLU's latest tiff with Catholic hospitals

May 10, 2016 - (CNA) - The American Civil Liberties Union's claims that Catholic hospitals are denying emergency care to pregnant women in the U.S. is not about healthcare – it's about forcing religious groups to perform abortions, critics say.

A recent ACLU report finds that one out of every six beds in the country's acute care hospitals is in a hospital with Catholic affiliations and that Catholic hospitals make up 15 percent, or 548, of the country's hospitals. The report claims that because these hospitals follow Church teaching in regards to reproductive care, they put women at risk.

All Catholic hospitals operate under the U.S. Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which ban abortion, sterilization, and emergency contraception or tubal ligations.

Marie Hilliard, the director of public policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told the Guardian that if the directives are properly followed, a woman’s life should not be at risk.  Continue Reading Catholic Hospitals> 

'Don't go there' - Belgians plead with Canada not to pass euthanasia law

'Don’t go there' – Belgians plead with Canada not to pass euthanasia law

May 10, 2016 - (CNA) - The Parliament of Canada has until June 6 to consider Bill C-14, controversial legislation that, if passed, would legalize euthanasia in the country.

But some citizens of Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, have a message for Canada: Don’t do it.

In a new series of videos, Belgian doctors, lawyers, and family members of the euthanized argue that legalizing euthanasia sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the most vulnerable in society and compromises patient-physician relationships.

The videos are produced by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Dunn Media. The group is also producing a documentary on the issue entitled “Vulnerable: The Euthanasia Deception” due out in June.

“Don’t go there,” Hendrik Reitsema, whose grandfather was euthanized in Belgium, said in one of the videos. “Why? You open Pandora’s Box to the practice of killing as though it were a normal part of medicine.”   Continue Reading Euthanasia Laws> 

Pope Francis marks World Communications Day with handwritten note

Pope Francis marks World Comms Day with handwritten note

May 8, 2016 - (News.Va) - Pope Francis marked World Communications Day with a Message and withwords of encouragement to Catholic communicators during his Regina coeli remarks.

He also used his Twitter and Instagram accounts to spread the word, which he composed by hand and photographed digitally for worldwide sharing.

The text of the Holy Father's handwritten note says, "To you, who from the great digital community, ask for my prayers and blessing, I wish to say that you will be the precious gift in my prayer to the Father. And you, don't forget to pray for me so that I may be a servant of the Gospel of Mercy." Continue Reading Pope's Note> 

Pope entrusts all moms to Mary on this Mother's Day

Pope Entrusts All Moms to Mary on This Mother’s Day

May 8, 2016 - (Zenit) - Pope Francis noted that many countries are celebrating Mother’s Day today, as he entrusted all mothers to Our Lady.

The Pope mentioned mothers at the end of his address after praying the midday Regina Caeli in St. Peter’s Square.

“We recall with gratitude and affection all mothers, those who are today in the Square, our mothers, those who are among us and those who have gone to heaven,” he said.

The Pope led the faithful in a prayer for mothers, as he said, “We entrust them to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and for all of them we pray a Hail Mary.” Continue Reading Mother's Day> 

Pope to Swiss Guard: Here at heart of Christianity, deepen your friendship with Jesus

Pope to Swiss Guard: Here at Heart of Christianity, Deepen Your Friendship With Jesus

May 9, 2016 - (Zenit) - Pope Francis on Saturday recommended to the new Swiss Guards to grow in faith, experience the universality of the Church and live in fraternity.

He said this in an address as he received the new recruits and their families in audience. The swearing-in ceremony was Friday; it is held annually on May 6 to commemorate the death of 147 Swiss soldiers who fell defending the Pope during the Sack of Rome (1527).

“It is good to see that young people like you dedicate several years of your lives to the Church, and in particular to Peter’s Successor,” he said.

To grow in faith, the Swiss Guards are called upon to live their work “as a mission that the Lord Himself entrusts to you,” the Holy Father affirmed; “to make the most of the time you spend here in Rome, in the heart of Christianity, as an opportunity to deepen your friendship with Jesus and to journey towards the aim of every true Christian life: holiness.” Continue Reading New Swiss Guard> 

Pope pledges wine, not beer, to fulfill military challenge

Pope pledges wine, not beer, to fulfill military challenge

May 4, 2016 - (Crux) - Pope Francis receives countless gifts, but most do not require anything in return. However, at his audience with members of the military April 30, the pope received a small gift with a tradition — and obligation — attached.

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services gave the pope a military challenge coin with a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi stamped on it.

Spencer, who ministers to U.S. service members in Europe and Asia, explained to the pope — and then to Catholic News Service — the tradition of military challenge coins.

“A long-standing military tradition is for leaders to ‘coin’ a person as an outward sign of appreciation and admiration for their actions and service,” the bishop said.

But the coins come with a catch. Continue Reading Pope's Military Challenge> 

Jesus' closeness to sinners isn't a scandal - it's an example, Pope says

Jesus' closeness to sinners isn’t a scandal – it's an example, Pope says

May 4, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis said the parable of the Good Shepherd is a key example of God’s mercy, because it represents the depth of the Lord's concern in ensuring that no one is lost.

The parable “represents Jesus’ solicitude toward sinners and the mercy of God which is not resigned to losing anyone,” the Pope said May 4.

Jesus tells the parable in order to make the people understand that his closeness to sinners “shouldn’t scandalize, but on the contrary provoke in all a serious reflection on how we live our faith,” he said.

Francis stressed that God’s mercy toward sinners is the personal style with which he acts, and “he is absolutely faithful to that mercy: nothing and no one can dissuade him from his will for salvation.” Continue Reading Wednesday Audience> 

EWTN asks federal court to reconsider its HHS mandate case

EWTN asks federal court to reconsider its HHS mandate case

May 4, 2016 - (CNA) - The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has asked a federal court to reconsider its ruling forcing the company to comply with the revised HHS mandate, based on an admission by the federal government in its brief before the Supreme Court.

“The government admitted what we have said from the beginning,” said Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN. “Once you get past the bureaucratic smokescreen, this really comes down to one issue: the government wants to hijack our health plan. EWTN cannot let them do it.”

EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, is one of hundreds of non-profits and charities suing the federal government over its mandate – and the revisions it made to the mandate – that requires employers to offer health plans including contraceptives, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause early abortions. Continue Reading EWTN HHS Mandate> 

Pope Francis' May prayer intention: honor the dignity of women

Pope Francis' May prayer intention: honor the dignity of women

May 3, 2016 - (CNA) - In his May prayer video Pope Francis issued a global petition that women in all countries would be respected and valued, asking rhetorically if the mere recognition of their role is enough, or if more can be done.

“The contribution of women in all areas of human activity is undeniable, beginning with the family. But only to recognize it – is that enough?” the Pope asked in the video, published May 3.

“We have done little for women who are in very difficult situations: despised, marginalized, and even reduced to slavery,” he said, stressing that “we must condemn sexual violence against women and remove the barriers that prevent their full integration into social, political and economic life.”

The Pope speaks in Spanish as images of women working in various fields, including science, teaching, and medicine flash across the screen. However, women in desperate, marginalized circumstances also appear next to phrases such as “I do my job as well as a man,” “I will never be a slave,” “no gender violence,” and “enough of discrimination at work.” Continue Reading Pray for Women> 

Use your vote to protect life: a message from Northern Ireland's bishops

Use your vote to protect life: a message from Northern Ireland's bishops

May 3, 2016 - (CNA) - Northern Ireland’s voters should use their vote to uphold the right to life, not violate it, the Catholic bishops of the region said.

“The social and moral teaching of the Church is clear, that it is never morally acceptable to support any policy that undermines the sacred inviolability of the right to life of an innocent person in any circumstances,” they stressed.

The bishops released an April 27 pastoral reflection message ahead of Northern Ireland’s May 5 elections.

“As Christians, our encounter with the risen Jesus, living and among us, is a decisive event that has consequences for every aspect of our lives. This includes our lives as citizens,” the bishops said.

Voting is a moral act, they explained: “Each vote cast, or not cast, potentially influences the values that will shape future law and policy.” Continue Reading Vote for Life> 

Indiana primary elections

TODAY: Indiana primary elections

May 3, 2016 - Indiana’s primary has been getting a lot more attention than usual this year, since presidential candidates from both the republican and democrat parties have been campaigning here in last ditch efforts to overcome the front-runners.  But don’t forget there are important state and local races to vote in as well. 

Find information about your voter registration and assigned polling place by going to

For information about how the faithful Catholics should allow their conscience to guide their vote, you can find resources at

For information about candidates position on life issues of candidates running for national or state-wide offices check out Indiana Right to Life's voter guide.  For Allen County and surrounding areas, visit, and for St. Joseph County and surrounding areas visit

Homeless to have their own Jubilee celebration

Homeless to Have Their Own Jubilee Celebration

May 2, 2016 - (Zenit) - One of the last events of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a jubilee pilgrimage for several thousand people with experience of life on the street.

They will come from all over Europe to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy one week before the closure of the Holy Year, from 11 to 13 November, according to a press release issued by the FRATELLO association, which is organising the event.

“This time of pilgrimage and the opportunity to meet Pope Francis will give people from the most vulnerable sectors of society, who are often treated as outcasts, a chance to discover that their place is in the heart of God and in the heart of the Church,” a statement announcing the event said.

In addition to taking part in the Jubilee activities, prayer meetings and visits discovering Rome, participants will be received in the Vatican by Pope Francis, who will lead a catechesis session on 11 November. They will attend a Mass presided by the Pope for them on 13 November. Continue Reading Homeless Jubilee> 

The world became more dangerous for religious believers last year

The world became more dangerous for religious believers last year

May 2, 2016 - (CNA) - The right to exercise religion came under sustained assault around the world in 2015, according to a new report from a bipartisan United States commission, affecting Christians, Muslims, Jews, among others.

“By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission's last Annual Report in 2015,” Dr. Robert George, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, stated Monday.

He was speaking at the release of USCIRF’s annual religious freedom report.

“At best, in most of the countries we covered,” George noted, the situation of religious freedom “failed to improve” or, worse, “spiraled downward” in 2015. Continue Reading Global Persecution> 

Pope laments recent violence in Syria, renews call for dialogue

Pope laments recent violence in Syria, renews call for dialogue

May 1, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis on Sunday decried the resurgence of violence in Syria in recent days, especially in Aleppo, and renewed the call to bring about peace through dialogue.

“I receive with deep sorrow the tragic news coming from Syria, about the spiral of violence that continues to aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation of the country,” the pontiff said May 1 after reciting the Regina Caeli address in St. Peter's Square.

Citing in particular the nation's largest city Aleppo, which has borne the brunt of the most recent violence, the Pope remembered the “innocent victims,” namely the children, the sick, and “those who with great sacrifice have pledged to help others.”

“I urge all parties to the conflict to respect the cessation of hostilities and to strengthen the ongoing dialogue, the only path that leads to peace,” he said. Continue Reading Pope's Prayer>

U2's The Edge gives concert in the Sistine Chapel for a good cause

U2's The Edge gives concert in the Sistine Chapel for a good cause

May 1, 2016 - (Sky News) - The Edge has performed four songs in the Sistine Chapel to raise awareness for cancer prevention, becoming the first contemporary artist to play at the venue.

The guitarist played for around 200 doctors, researchers and philanthropists as part of a conference at the Vatican on regenerative medicine.

He played acoustic guitar and was backed by a choir of seven Irish teenagers. He performed Leonard Cohen's If It Be Your Will, and versions of three U2 songs. The Edge, whose real name is David Evans, lost his father to cancer last month. He is on the board of several foundations working in aid of cancer prevention. Continue Reading Sistine Chapel Concert>

Knowledge is empty unless it leads to love, Pope Francis says

Knowledge is empty unless it leads to love, Pope Francis says

Apr. 27, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis said that just because someone is an expert in God’s law and a strict adherent to the rules doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to love and serve others.

“It’s not automatic that whoever frequents the House of God and knows his mercy knows how to love their neighbor. It’s not automatic,” the Pope said April 27.

“You can know the bible, you can know all the liturgical norms, you can know theology, but ‘to know’ is not automatically ‘to love,’” he said, explaining that “to love has another path, with intelligence, but it has something more.”

While knowledge and worship are good, they are false unless they are “translated into service of others,” Francis stressed.

“Let us never forget: in front of the suffering of so many people exhausted by hunger, violence, injustice, we cannot remain spectators. To ignore the suffering of man means to ignore God!” Continue Reading General Audience>

Pope opens the door for beatification of Albanian martyrs

Pope opens the door for beatification of Albanian martyrs

Apr. 27, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis on Tuesday gave the green light for the beatification of 38 Albanian martyrs, all of whom were killed by the country’s atheistic, communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

In an April 26 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis officially acknowledged the martyrdom of Archbishop Nikollë Vinçenc Prennushi of Durrës and his 37 companions.

Archbishop Prennushi, who was a member of the Order of Friars Minor, was jailed by the communist regime in the 1940s, and died in prison as a result of torture in 1949. The rest of his companions shared a similar fate, and were murdered by the regime from 1945 to 1974.

The martyrs were a key focus of Pope Francis’ Sept. 21, 2015 trip to Albania, in which he urged the country to learn from their dark past, but look toward the future with hope. Continue Reading New Beatifications>

Vatican media reform must 'open windows'

Vatican media reform must 'open windows'

Apr. 27, 2016 - (News.Va) - The head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, Mgr Dario Viganò spoke about the ongoing reform of the Holy See’s media operations on Wednesday at a seminar for Catholic communicators which is taking place this week at the ‘Holy Cross’ Pontifical University.

Beyond simply reforming structures, Mgr Viganò stressed the need to renew the process of bringing the Good News of the Gospel to all people. Every euro spent in this field, he said, must be used to ensure that the Gospel and the teaching of the Pope reaches the hearts of all people. The goal, he said, is not to substitute for local churches but to support those communities that have the greatest needs.

Mgr. Viganò spoke of the reform ‘timeline’, which focuses this year on a closer integration of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre, of which he is the former director. The reform process, he stressed, must go beyond a mere makeover and a change of names.  Instead it must lead to a greater efficiency and interactivity through the use of new technologies, yet without forgetting those facing serious communications challenges. Continue Reading Vatican Media>

Islamic State destroys another landmark church in Mosul

Islamic State destroys another landmark church in Mosul

Apr. 26, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Islamic State has destroyed a landmark Catholic church in Mosul, Iraq, the Fides news service reports.

The Church of the Miraculous Virgin-- also known as the "Clock Church" because of the clock on its prominent bell tower-- was razed by explosives, after Islamic troops evacuated the surrounding area. The church was thoroughly looted before it was destroyed, witnesses report.

The "Clock Church," whose chimes could be heard throughout the center of the city, was built in 1873 as a gift to the Christian community in Iraq from Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III. The Fides report notes that it might have been seen by Islamic fundamentalists as a symbol of French influence, as well as Christianity.  Continue Reading Islamic State>

Pope writes back to prisoners in Velletri

Pope writes back to prisoners in Velletri

Apr. 25, 2016 - (Vatican Radio) - Pope Francis has sent a letter to prisoners detained in a prison in the Italian city of Velletri, a short distance from Rome. Prisoners at the facility had written to the Holy Father earlier this year, entrusting their letter to Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the Bishop of Albano, during a pastoral visit to the facility.

In his response, Pope Francis thanked the detainees for thinking of him, and assured them that they, and others in similar situations, were often in his thoughts as well. He noted that during his Apostolic Voyages, he always tries to make a visit to local prisons.

The Pope noted that during the Holy Year of Mercy, there will also be a jubilee for prisoners, and he assured them that on that day he would be “in communion” with all prisoners “spiritually and in reciprocal prayer.” Continue Reading Letter to Prisoners>

Religious freedom commission approves list of 10 'Countries of Particular Concern'

Religious freedom commission approves list of 10 'Countries of Particular Concern'

Apr. 25, 2016 - (News.Va) - Religious-freedom leaders applauded the U.S. State Department’s recent re-designation of nine countries, and the inclusion of one more, as the worst situations for religious freedom, but urged the agency to do more.

After the State Department on April 14 added Tajikistan to its “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) list, keeping the nine countries already on the list, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it “welcomes the designation of these 10 countries.”

The countries already on the list were Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Sudan.

A “country of particular concern” is a term used by the State Department to denote the countries that present the worst situations for religious freedom in the world. Either these governments “engage in” or “tolerate” “severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious,” USCIRF explained in its 2015 annual report. Continue Reading Religious Freedom>

Hong Kong Cardinal urges China to end religious persecution

Hong Kong Cardinal urges China to end religious persecution

Apr. 25, 2016 - (NCRegister) - Leading a prayer service in front of China's Hong Kong liaison office, Hong Kong’s retired bishop,  Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun called on Beijing on Sunday to end the persecution of Christians and allow religious freedom.  “Facing all this persecution, we cannot take it for granted. We cannot stand idly. If we keep silent, we are accomplices," Cardinal Zen told a group of about 100 people who attended the April 24 service. 

The same day Hong Kong's diocesan Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) announced the conclusion of a petition campaign to ask Pope Francis to pray for religious freedom and an end to religious persecution in China.  The campaign garnered 800 signatures from across the diocese. The petition is asking the pope to urge the Chinese government to stop removing crosses from churches and to pray for two missing bishops.  Or Yan-yan, project officer at JPC spoke to UCANEWS saying they hope the Pope can include the cross-removal campaign and two missing bishops in his prayers on the May 24 World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. Continue Reading Hong Kong Protest>

Pope to teenss: There isn't a phone app for love and happiness

Pope to teens: There isn't a phone app for love and happiness

Apr. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - Freedom does not come from things we possess or from doing whatever we want, Pope Francis said Sunday in his homily for the Jubilee for boys and girls. Rather, true freedom and happiness can only be found in the love of Jesus.  

“Your happiness has no price,” the Pope said during Mass in St. Peter's Square. “It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”

“That is because love is a free gift which calls for an open heart,” he said. “It is a noble responsibility which is life-long; it is a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams!”

Francis challenged the young teens to not “be content with mediocrity,” or believe those who equate importance with the sort of toughness shown by heroes in films, or by wearing the “latest fashions.” Continue Reading Pope to Teens>

Pope hears confessions at Jubilee event for teens

Pope hears confessions at Jubilee event for teens

Apr. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis on Saturday heard the confessions of young people in St. Peter's Square as part of this weekend's Jubilee for Boys and Girls, an event which is expected to draw tens of thousands of teenagers from around the world.  

Sitting on simple chairs out in the open along with other priests just within the Square's colonnade, the Pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to 16 boys and girls between 11:30am and 12:45, the Vatican press office said. More than 150 priests were in the square to hear confessions, according to Vatican Radio.

This is not the first time Pope Francis has heard the confessions of pilgrims. Most recently, the Pope took part in a penance service during the March 4 “24 Hours for the Lord.”

The Jubilee for Boys and Girls, which is the latest initiative for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, is directed specifically towards young teenagers. Continue Reading Teen Confessions>

Abby Johnson tells Georgetown University students: 'At the heart of life is Christ'

Abby Johnson tells Georgetown University students: 'At the heart of life is Christ'

Apr. 22, 2016 - (NCRegister) - No matter how deeply people may be entrenched in the culture of death, they are never beyond the loving reach of Christ, said former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson to a group of Georgetown University students on Wednesday.

“I’m standing in front of you today as a testament to the power of conversion,” Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood director who later converted to Catholicism, said in a talk scheduled the same day as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’ address to students on Georgetown’s campus.

Reflecting on Richards addressing students earlier in the afternoon, Johnson said, “I just kept thinking, you know, I believe that one day – I have faith – that one day it won’t be me standing here speaking and defending the sanctity of human life: I believe that one day it will be Cecile Richards standing here.” Continue Reading Pro-life Georgetown>

After Prince's death, Vatican praise for his rare gift of music

After Prince’s death, Vatican praise for his rare gift of music

Apr. 22, 2016 - (CNA) - The death of the songwriter, singer and music producer Prince drew reactions from the Vatican and praise for his musical talent.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, sent a tweet quoting the artist’s song “Sometimes It Snows In April:”

“Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending / All good things they say, never last.”

The singer died at his Chanhassen, Minn. home on April 21 at the age of 57, the New York Times reports. His given name was Prince Rogers Nelson.

Prince played guitars, keyboards and drums in multiple music genres since the late 1970s. He won the Grammy award seven times and achieved Top 10 hits like “When Doves Cry” and “1999.” His acclaimed 1984 movie and album “Purple Rain” was about an aspiring musician. Continue Reading Vatican Honors Prince>

Norway's Church to seek Vatican permission to stop officiating at civil weddings

Norway’s Church to seek Vatican permission to stop officiating at civil weddings

Apr. 21, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - A Norwegian bishop has said the country’s clergy will no longer officiate at civil weddings, after the predominant Lutheran Church’s governing synod voted to conduct gay marriages in Norway.

Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo told Catholic News Service that he would have to seek permission from the Vatican, saying: “It’s clear we must distinguish our own Church marriages from others.

“This is a matter of liturgy, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect broader change in our society’s moral values. But politicians may now get aggressive toward churches who resist these weddings, so the best option is for us to stop conducting marriages on the state’s behalf.”

He said Norwegian Catholics “hope to maintain good relations with the Lutheran Church”, but said they would “make it clear we don’t understand their decision and hope they’ll still reconsider it.” Continue Reading Norway Marriage>

26 organizations urge Congress to pass Conscience Protection Act

26 organizations urge Congress to pass Conscience Protection Act

Apr. 21, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Twenty-six religious, pro-life, and healthcare organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have called upon Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2016.

The legislation, the organizations noted, “would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life.”

Absent from the list of signatories was the Catholic Health Association, which lent its support to the passage the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Continue Reading Conscience Protection>

Norway's Church to seek Vatican permission to stop officiating at civil weddings

Norway’s Church to seek Vatican permission to stop officiating at civil weddings

Apr. 21, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - A Norwegian bishop has said the country’s clergy will no longer officiate at civil weddings, after the predominant Lutheran Church’s governing synod voted to conduct gay marriages in Norway.

Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo told Catholic News Service that he would have to seek permission from the Vatican, saying: “It’s clear we must distinguish our own Church marriages from others.

“This is a matter of liturgy, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect broader change in our society’s moral values. But politicians may now get aggressive toward churches who resist these weddings, so the best option is for us to stop conducting marriages on the state’s behalf.”

He said Norwegian Catholics “hope to maintain good relations with the Lutheran Church”, but said they would “make it clear we don’t understand their decision and hope they’ll still reconsider it.” Continue Reading Norway Marriage>

Know the difference between sin and sinner, Pope Francis says

Ukraine: 'The papal collection can help to overcome the crisis'

Apr. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - The special collection on behalf of the poor and needy in Ukraine, set down by the Pope for 24th April, may also be a contribution towards helping overcome the crisis in this country. This was the hope expressed recently by Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, in East Ukraine, in conversation with the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He is praying that "the fruits of this collection will not only ease the material needs, but also heal the spiritual wounds that people have inflicted on one another, and help to accelerate the process of forgiveness and reconciliation". 

The news of the planned collection has been welcomed with great joy, the bishop said. "When people heard that the Pope is organising help, it gave them hope. The Catholic Church looks simply on the suffering a person is enduring, without asking what church he belongs to, or indeed whether he even belongs to a church, and what political views he holds. Continue Reading Ukraine Collection>

Know the difference between sin and sinner, Pope Francis says

Know the difference between sin and sinner, Pope Francis says

Apr. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis stressed the importance of knowing how to distinguish between sin and sinner, adding that God’s mercy is not afraid to reach out and touch our sins in order to forgive them.

“The Word of God teaches us to distinguish between the sin and the sinner,” the Pope said April 20, noting that when it comes to sin, there are no “compromises.”

When it comes to sinners, “which are all of us,” it’s important to reach out to them, he said, adding that sinners “are like the sick who are healed, and in order to be cured the doctor must be close to them, visit them, touch them.”

However, Francis also clarified that in order to truly be healed, a sick person must first “recognize their need for the doctor!” Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

Harriet Tubman, new face of 20 dollar bill,  praised for her faith

Harriet Tubman, new face of 20 dollar bill, praised for her faith

Apr. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - As the U.S. treasury announces the legendary Harriet Tubman as the new face of the 20 dollar bill, she also drew praise from religious freedom advocates for her deep and abiding Christian faith.

“Harriet Tubman was a woman of faith who was not afraid to act on her beliefs to fight for justice,” said Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“Her incredible moral and physical courage is an example to all Americans, as is her willingness to act on her Christian faith. She is an icon of religious liberty.”

Known for helping rescue hundreds of fugitive slaves through a network called the Underground Railroad, Tubman will replace former president Andrew Jackson – who will now be placed on the back of the bill, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced April 20. Continue Reading New Currency>

Trevi Foundtain in Rome to be dyed red for Christian martyrs

Trevi Fountain in Rome to be dyed red for Christian martyrs

Apr. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - On April 29, the Trevi Fountain, one of the most popular and emblematic tourist spots in Rome, will be dyed red in recognition of all Christians who even today give their life for the faith.  

The event is being organized by Aid to the Church in Need and seeks to “call attention to the drama of anti-Christian persecution.”

In a statement posted on their website, the aid group said they hope this initiative will be “the start of a long lasting, concrete reaction everywhere so that the persecuted people of the 21st century can as soon as possible return to fully enjoying their natural right to religious freedom.”

The organizers added that “the systematic violation of the right to religious freedom, especially that of Christians, must become the central issue of the public debate.” Continue Reading Trevi Fountain>

Cardinal Dolan announces new stage in Dorothy Day canonization process

Cardinal Dolan Announces New Stage in Dorothy Day Canonization Process

Apr. 19, 2016 - (ArchNY) - The Cause for Dorothy Day’s possible eventual beatification and canonization moved into a new phase today as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, opened the canonical Inquiry on the life of the Catholic Worker movement founder, gathering evidence to determine if Dorothy Day lived a life of “heroic virtue” in the eyes of the Church. 

The Archdiocese, which is sponsoring her cause, will gather the evidence and present it to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Saints and Pope Francis.  After carefully examining the information presented, the Congregation and Pope Francis will determine if she will be elevated from “Servant of God,” to “Venerable,” and become eligible for beatification and ultimately canonization. 

Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933 in New York City, following her conversion to Catholicism in 1927. Its “houses of hospitality” minister directly to people living in poverty and operate in over 120 places in the United States, and as far away as New Zealand. Continue Reading Dorothy Day>

Americans agree: Obama administration unfair to Little Sisters of the Poor

Americans agree: Obama administration unfair to Little Sisters of the Poor

Apr. 19, 2016 - (CNA) - A new survey says most Americans think the Obama administration’s federal contraception mandate is unfair to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups defending themselves before the U.S. Supreme Court.

About 53 percent of Americans said the process required by the government is “unfair,” while only 32 percent did not, according to a new Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.

The federal government has exempted many other organizations’ employee health care plans from a requirement to provide contraception and drugs that can produce abortions. But it has no exemption for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who help run houses to care for the elderly poor.

“It is not reasonable for the government to demand that some – and only some – religious employers engage in activity that is totally unnecessary to the government’s stated purpose of providing elective and morally problematic drugs to employees,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said April 18. Continue Reading Little Sisters>

Please forgive our indifference - Pope Francis' heartfelt plea to refugees

Please forgive our indifference – Pope Francis' heartfelt plea to refugees

Apr. 19, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis has offered his praise to the Jesuits in Italy for their longstanding work with refugees, but asked the foreigners for their pardon on behalf of all who have been closed-minded and indifferent to their plight.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” the Pope said in a video message directed to refugees and workers who help them, calling to mind Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel.

“Too often we have not welcomed you! Forgive the closure and indifference of our societies, who fear the change of life and mentality that your presence requires,” he said.

Francis noted that after coming to a new country, refugees are frequently treated as burdens and problems which only bring more cost. However, “you are instead a gift.” Continue Reading Little Sisters>

Check out this Eucharistic miracle in Poland

Check out this Eucharistic miracle in Poland

Apr. 18, 2016 - (CNA) - A bleeding Host that “has the hallmarks of a Eucharistic miracle” was approved for veneration in Poland over the weekend.

The announcement was made by Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski of Legnica on April 17.

On Christmas Day 2013, a consecrated Host fell to the floor, the bishop said. It was picked up and placed in a container with water. Soon after, red stains appeared on the host.

Then-Bishop of Legnica, Stefan Cichy, created a commission to monitor the host. In February 2014, a small fragment was placed on a corporal and underwent testing by various research institutes.

The final medical statement by the Department of Forensic Medicine found: “In the histopathological image, the fragments were found containing the fragmented parts of the cross striated muscle. It is most similar to the heart muscle.” Tests also determined the tissue to be of human origin, and found that it bore signs of distress. Continue Reading Eucharistic Miracle>

Catholic Relief Services gears up response to Ecuador quake

Catholic Relief Services gears up response to Ecuador quake

Apr. 18, 2016 - (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which struck Ecuador Saturday causing widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure in the country’s coastal region. At least 272 people died in the destruction and 2,068 others were injured. 

In a televised address to the nation, Ecuador’s visibly shaken President Rafael Correa said he feared those numbers would increase. 

“Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard... This is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years,"  "There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority."

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working with local partners in Ecuador to provide assistance to those who need it.  The aid agency says water, food and emergency shelter will be the biggest needs in the coming days. “Some of the poorest provinces are located near the coast and we expect thousands of people to need immediate help,” said Tom Hollywood, CRS’ Representative for South America. Continue Reading CRS in Ecuador>

In Greece, Pope Francis tells migrants 'You are not alone"

In Greece, Pope Francis tells migrants 'you are not alone'

Apr. 16, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis had a simple message for the thousands of refugees now staying on the Greek island of Lesbos: you are not forgotten.

“I have wanted to be with you today. I want to tell you that you are not alone,” Pope Francis told some 3,000 refugees during his April 16 visit.
“In these weeks and months, you have endured much suffering in your search for a better life,” he said. He explained that he and the other religious leaders present came not just “to be with you and to hear your stories,” but also to “call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution.”

Pope Francis praised the Greek people for the help they have given in spite of their own economic difficulties. At the same time, he said, “so much more needs to be done.”

He said “this is the message I want to leave with you today: do not lose hope!” He added that love is “the greatest gift we can offer one another.” Continue Reading Pope Francis in Greece>

Pray and act to help refugees - what Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders said at Lesbox

Pray and act to help refugees--what Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders said at Lesbos

Apr. 16, 2016 - (CNA) - Forced migration affects millions of people and is “a crisis of humanity.” That is what Pope Francis and two leading Greek Orthodox churchmen have said in a joint declaration signed on the Greek island of Lesbos.

“Europe today faces one of its most serious humanitarian crises since the end of the Second World War,” the declaration said.

Pope Francis, the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece signed the declaration April 16. They traveled to the Greek island to meet some of the thousands of refugees and migrants trying to enter Europe.

“We urge the international community to make the protection of human lives a priority and, at every level, to support inclusive policies which extend to all religious communities,” they said.

“The terrible situation of all those affected by the present humanitarian crisis, including so many of our Christian brothers and sisters, calls for our constant prayer.” Continue Reading Pope and Patriarchs Declaration>

Bernie Sanders came to the Vatican, and here's what he said

Bernie Sanders came to the Vatican, and here's what he said

Apr. 15, 2016 - (CNA) - Attending an event hosted by a Vatican academy, U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) provided a long reflection on Catholic social teaching, as he saw it.

Sanders spoke Friday at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s “Centesimus Annus.” The senator commented:

“With the fall of Communism, Pope John Paul II gave a clarion call for human freedom in its truest sense: freedom that defends the dignity of every person and that is always oriented towards the common good.”

The April 15-16 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which fosters dialogue between scientists, politicians and various experts. Continue Reading Sanders at the Vatican>

Pope's visit to Greece tomorrow is 'not political' says Vatican

Pope’s visit to Greece tomorrow is ‘not political’ says Vatican

Apr. 15, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - In a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture,” not a political one, Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, the Vatican has said.

Releasing the detailed schedule for the Pope’s trip tomorrow to Lesbos, Greece, Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the Pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to “a situation in which many people are suffering” and where a “solution worthy of the human person” still must be found.

Pope Francis is to make the trip with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece.

The three are scheduled to visit the Moria refugee camp, which the European Union has designated as a “hotspot” for registering those seeking asylum in Europe and from where those whose applications are denied are sent back to Turkey, which was their last stop before entering Greece and, therefore, EU territory. Continue Reading Francis in Greece>

Canadian archbishop: assisted suicide makes the elderly fear hospitals

Canadian archbishop: assisted suicide makes the elderly fear hospitals

Apr. 14, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - The spectre of assisted suicide is leading ageing people to “fear an institution that should be the last thing they should ever fear – a hospital,” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith has said.

“The strong feeling is, ‘If I can’t speak for myself, if I’m alone with no family members, are they going to kill me?'” said Archbishop Smith in a talk at Edmonton’s Corpus Christi Church.

It is a question that “flows naturally” from the January Supreme Court decision allowing doctor-assisted suicide under certain conditions, the archbishop said. “This decision turns inside out the relationship between patient and doctor, patient and hospital; it undermines the trust that must be there.”

A series of talks across the Edmonton Archdiocese has drawn large crowds and raised poignant questions on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Continue Reading Assisted Suicide>

School sports transgender policy bad for students, say Nebraska's bishops

School sports transgender policy bad for students, say Nebraska's bishops

Apr. 14, 2016 - (CNA) - Nebraska’s body governing school athletics has failed to overturn a policy that will recognize gender identity rather than biological sex as a standard for student athletes, and last week the state’s bishops said they “deeply regret” the situation.

“Recognizing the truth about each person’s biological sex, and basing policies upon that fundamental truth, would serve the best interest of Nebraska’s students, families and schools,” they said April 8.

The bishops said that the Catholic member schools of the association will continue to urge it to rescind the policy, and will “require that students participate in NSAA activities according to their sex at birth.”

“Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being.  Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness; the safety, privacy, and rights of all students; and the truth about the human person.” Continue Reading School Sports Policy>

Pope Francis reflects on the calling of St. Matthew

Pope Francis reflects on the calling of St. Matthew

Apr. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - Continuing his series of Wednesday catecheses on mercy, Pope Francis devoted his April 13 general audience to the calling of St. Matthew.

“Jesus not only invites a tax-collector, a public sinner, to be his disciple, but also sits at table with him, thus scandalizing the Pharisees,” Pope Francis told the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, according to the official English-language synthesis of his remarks. “The Lord then explains that he has come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

“The calling of Matthew reminds us that when Christ makes us his disciples, he does not look to our past but to the future,” the Pope continued. “We need but respond to his call with a humble and sincere heart.”

The Pope added: "Jesus invites us to sit with him at the table of the Eucharist, in which he purifies us by the power of his word and by the sacrament unites us ever more deeply to himself. Citing the prophet Hosea, he tells us that what God desires is “mercy, not sacrifice”, true conversion of heart and not merely formal acts of religion. May all of us, acknowledging our sins, respond more generously to the Lord’s invitation to sit at table with him, and with one another, with immense gratitude for his infinite mercy and saving love." Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

Little Sisters lay out alternatives to HHS mandate before Supreme Court

Little Sisters lay out alternatives to HHS mandate before Supreme Court

Apr. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - Asked whether there are ways for the government to provide contraceptive coverage that do not require them to violate their consciences, the Little Sisters of the Poor are saying “yes.”

“These non-profits said ‘yes’ to the Supreme Court, just as they have been saying ‘yes’ to the federal government for many years.” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Rienzi explained their supplemental brief submitted to the court on Tuesday outlining alternative means of ensuring government-mandated contraception coverage for employees without the direct or indirect participation of objecting employers.

“At some point, the government has to learn how to take yes for an answer. The religious objection has always been only to those methods of distribution that forced the non-profits and their plans to participate,” he continued. Continue Reading HHS Mandate Case>

'Astounding' - Cardinal Dolan talks about his trip to Iraq

'Astounding' – Cardinal Dolan talks about his trip to Iraq

Apr. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - As he leaves Iraqi Kurdistan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said what struck him most during the visit were the people’s faith and hope, despite violent persecution.

“These people from an earthly point of view don't have much, but my, oh my, their sense of resilience and hope were simply astounding,” Cardinal Dolan said in an interview with CNA.

“Do they mourn the past? Yes they do, but they’re about the present and they’re about the future, and that’s a sentiment that will never leave me.”

Cardinal Dolan is the Archbishop of New York and chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).

He was joined by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, a CNEWA board member, for a three-day visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he toured projects aimed at helping refugees and met with families, Church leaders, priests and religious who were displaced as a result of the 2014 Islamic State attacks. Continue Reading Dolan in Iraq>

Why one bishop thinks religious freedom laws matter

Why one bishop thinks religious freedom laws matter

Apr. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - Mississippi’s new religious freedom law helps protect Catholic education and social services like adoption, said the Catholic Bishop of Jackson.

The bishop said his diocese supported the bill out of these concerns.

“We would like to continue to provide these services while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz said.

Last week the Mississippi governor signed the state’s new religious freedom law, H.B. 1523.

The act specifically protects the belief in marriage as a union of a man and a woman and the belief that sexual activity should be reserved for marriage. It also protects the belief that the idea of male and female are rooted in an individual’s biological sex.

The law bars government action against religious organizations that make decisions regarding employment or services based on this belief in marriage – for example, an adoption agency that believes in placing children only with a married mother and father. Continue Reading Religious Freedom>

Pope appoints new Vatican ambassador to the US

Pope appoints new Vatican ambassador to the US

Apr. 12, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis has appointed French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre as the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., replacing Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Holy See press office announced Tuesday.

The appointment of the new Vatican ambassador – known as an apostolic nuncio – comes after Archbishop Viganò reached the retirement age of 75 on Jan. 16 of this year. The Italian prelate had served as apostolic nuncio to the U.S. since 2011.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who heads the U.S. bishops’ conference, welcomed the announcement.

"On behalf of my brother bishops in the United States, I extend Archbishop Pierre a heartfelt greeting and my prayerful support as he embarks on his service to our country,” he said April 12. “A shared closeness with the Church in Mexico already creates a strong fraternal bond between us.”

Archbishop Kurtz also thanked Archbishop Viganò for “his selfless contributions to the life of the Church in the United States.” Continue Reading Vatican Ambassador>

King Abdullah II of Jordan funds Holy Sepulchre restoration work

King Abdullah II of Jordan funds Holy Sepulchre restoration work

Apr. 11, 2016 - (LaStampa) - “His Majesty King Abdullah II has issued a Royal Benefaction (makruma) to provide for the restoration of Jesus’ Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, at His Majesty’s personal expense.” The news was announced by Jordanian press agency Petra, which says that the Hashemite Court sent an official letter to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III. It will therefore be a Muslim sovereign and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who will foot part of the bill for the restoration of the niche in the Holy Sepulchre, the place of Jesus’ burial and resurrection in Jerusalem, which has, for centuries, been the most venerated Christian shrine in the world. 

The restoration project was announced two weeks ago – the day before Easter for the western world – by the three Christian denominations which for historic reasons hold joint jurisdiction of Jerusalem’s most important church: the Greek Orthodox, the Latins (represented by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land) and the Armenians. Restoration work is needed because of the progressive alteration of the mortars as a result of condensed moisture from the breath of thousands of pilgrims and candle smoke. Continue Reading Holy Sepulchre>

'Amoris Laetitia' and the constant teaching and practice of the Church

'Amoris Laetitia' and the constant teaching and practice of the Church

Apr. 11, 2016 - (NCRegister) - The secular media and even some Catholic media are describing the recently-issued post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “On Love in the Family,” as a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church, up to now, regarding marriage and the family.

Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful, and potentially a source of scandal not only for the faithful but for others of good will who look to Christ and his Church to teach and reflect in practice the truth regarding marriage and its fruit, family life, the first cell of the life of the Church and of every society.

It is also a disservice to the nature of the document as the fruit of the Synod of Bishops, a meeting of bishops representing the universal Church “to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world” (Canon 342). In other words, it would be a contradiction of the work of the Synod of Bishops to set in motion confusion regarding what the Church teaches, and safeguards and fosters by her discipline. Continue Reading Cardinal Burke>

The Bible joins Fifty Shades of Grey on list of books most objected to at US libraries

The Bible joins Fifty Shades of Grey on list of books most objected to at US libraries

Apr. 11, 2016 - (Catholic Herald) - The Bible is on the latest list of books most objected to at US schools and libraries, targeted nationwide, at times for the sex and violence it contains, but mostly for the legal issues it raises.

“You have people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of the Bible, it’s a violation of Church and state,” said James LaRue, who directs the Office for Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association (ALA), which released its annual 10 top snapshot of “challenged” books on Monday, part of the association’s State of Libraries Report for 2016.

He added: “And sometimes there’s a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible.”

LaRue emphasised that the library association does not oppose having Bibles in public schools. Guidelines for the Office for Intellectual Freedom note that the Bible “does not violate the separation of Church and state as long as the library does not endorse or promote the views included in the Bible.” Continue Reading Challenged Books List>

Pope: When giving to the poor, look them in the eyes

Pope: When giving to the poor, look them in the eyes

Apr. 10, 2016 - (CNA) - In Saturday's address for the monthly Jubilee of Mercy general audience, Pope Francis said almsgiving is not just about the money; it is about being attentive to the actual needs of the person asking for help.

“Almsgiving is a gesture of love which directs us toward those we meet,” the Pope said in his catechesis. “It is a gesture of sincere attention to those who come to us and ask our help.”

“We should not identify almsgiving simply with a (hastily given) monetary offering” he said, “without looking at the person, and without stopping to talk, to understand what they really need.”

In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope challenged the faithful as to whether they are able to “stop and look in the face, look in the eyes, of the person who is asking for my help.”

The April 9 gathering in St. Peter's Square was the latest in a monthly series of special audiences for the Holy Year of Mercy, which are held in addition to the weekly general audiences. Continue Reading Jubilee Audience>

'You are not forgotten,' Cardinal Dolan tells Iraq's Christians and Yazidis

'You are not forgotten,' Cardinal Dolan tells Iraq's Christians and Yazidis

Apr. 10, 2016 - (CNA) - On his second full day in Iraq, Cardinal Timothy Dolan traveled three hours to Dohuk, the city where the majority of those who fled Mosul, including the members of the minority Yazidi population, escaped to when ISIS overran the city.

After the lengthy ride, Cardinal Dolan briefly visited a medical dispensary set up by CNEWA, where he greeted the staff and some refugees, most of whom come from Mosul.

He then traveled to the Inishke village in the upper region of Dohuk where he concelebrated Mass in the Chaldean rite in the presence of the local Christian community, a number of refugees, as well as representatives of the Yazidi and Muslim communities.

The principal celebrant for the Mass was Bishop Shlemom Wardoni, who is one of three auxiliary bishops serving under Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. Members of other rites, including the Syriac-Catholic rite, were also present at the Mass, including a number of displaced priests. Continue Reading Cardinal Dolan in Iraq>

Bernie Sanders, 'a big fan of Pope Francis, to attend Vatican conference

Bernie Sanders, 'a big fan' of Pope Francis, to attend Vatican conference

Apr. 10, 2016 - (CNA) -  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has announced that he will attend a Vatican conference on social justice and the economy just before the New York primary election on April 19.

“I was very moved by the invitation from the Vatican which was just made public today,” Sanders said April 8 during an interview on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”

The invitation was extended on behalf of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The academy is hosting an academic discussion April 15 to 16 to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus annus which was written for the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum.

Participants will reflect on world changes over the last 25 years and how Catholic social teaching can best serve these new challenges.

Sanders called himself a “big, big fan” of Pope Francis for his work at “injecting moral consequence into the economy.” Continue Reading Sanders at the Vatican>

Pope to visit Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

Pope to visit Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

Apr. 10, 2016 - (CNA) -  Pope Francis will journey this summer to Armenia, and will visit Georgia and Azerbaijan later in the year, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The visit to Armenia will take place June 24-26, following the invitation of Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, the nation's civil authorities, and the Catholic Church, according to the April 9 statement from the Holy See press office.

Francis himself had expressed his wish to go to the Caucasus nation in his Nov. 30 press conference in the flight from Central Africa. In 2014, he said: “I promised the three (Armenian) Patriarchs that I would go: the promise has been made. I don’t know if it will be possible, but I did promise.”

Armenia is the site of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire which targeted Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christian minorities. Some 1.5 million Christians, most of them Armenians, were killed, and millions more were displaced during the genocide.

Speaking during a Sept. 7 Mass, the Pope called it “one of many great persecutions.” Continue Reading Pope to visit Armenia>

Family exhortation stresses accompaniment, discernment, integration

Pope Francis opens door to Communion for divorced, civilly remarried, balanced with careful formation of conscience

Apr. 8, 2016 - (OSV Newsweekly) - “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”

With those opening words, Pope Francis began the second apostolic exhortation of his pontificate, Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love,” his reflection on the work of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and 2015 on the crises and challenges facing families in the modern world.

Signed on March 16 and officially released on April 8 with a press conference in Rome, Amoris Laetitia is longer than most apostolic exhortations at 262 pages and nearly 60,000 words. It is also already likely to be as controversial as his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, and will no doubt be likewise subjected to misinterpretation and even misrepresentation in both secular and even Catholic media.

Similar to other documents by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia contains some genuinely eloquent and beautiful teachings that are likely to be severely overshadowed by the more debated and controversial elements. This is, of course, unfair to both the pope and the document, but this is also Francis’ consistent pattern, and he seems comfortable with the risks. Continue Reading Amoris Laetitia Analysis>

FULL TEXT of Amoris Laetitia

Vatican confirms Pope Francis will travel to Greece, visit refugees

Vatican confirms Pope Francis will travel to Greece, visit refugees

Apr. 7, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis will travel to the Greek island of Lesbos next Saturday, April 16, where he will meet with ecumenical leaders and refugees, the Vatican announced Thursday.

Director of the Holy See Press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told journalists the invitation for the Pope to visit the island came from Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

“Welcoming the invitation,” said Fr. Lombardi, “Pope Francis will travel to Lesbos Saturday,  April 16, 2016.”

A Vatican statement released April 7 to journalists said the Pope, along with “His Holiness Bartholomew, and His Holiness Jerome II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, will meet with the refugees accommodated there.”

While on the island, Pope Francis will be joined by Patriarch Bartholomew and His Beatitude Hieronimus II, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, in meeting with the refugees staying on the island. Continue Reading Pope to Greece>

Kids being exposed to porn is abuse, Australian bishops say

Kids being exposed to porn is abuse, Australian bishops say

Apr. 7, 2016 - (CNA) - Exposure to pornography harms children to such an extent it should be considered child abuse, Australia’s Catholic bishops said in a recent call for action.

“Children have a right to be children, away from the pressures applied by advertising and other images on television and the internet for them to dress and act as mini-adults. Bombarding children with sexualized images can hurt their normal development,” a commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement to the Australian Senate committee last month.

The committee was making an inquiry into the harm of internet pornography.

Australia’s Catholic bishops said there is an obligation to protect families from pornography. They said that pornography has become mainstream and is now “the wallpaper of young people’s lives.” They lamented sexualized images in advertising, music videos and computer games. Continue Reading AUS Bishops on Porn>

The blessing of a lifetime: 5-year-old girl going blind meets Pope Francis

The blessing of a lifetime: 5-year-old girl going blind meets Pope Francis

Apr. 6, 2016 - (CNA) - When Lizzy Myers was diagnosed with a condition that could result in complete blindness, her parents, Steve and Christine, went to work on a “visual bucket list” for their daughter.

Today, Lizzy got to check something off: meeting Pope Francis.

The five-year-old, along with her parents and three-year-old sister Michaela, had special seats for the general audience with the Pope on Wednesday, where she was able to meet him in person. She gave him a gift – a piece of meteorite from an observatory she had recently visited – and he gave her a hug and blessed her eyes.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of peace” when they met, Christine Myers said at a press conference following the meeting. “Since the beginning of all of this, this is the first time I have felt peace.” Continue Reading Blessing for Lizzy>

Tennessee bishop opposes making Bible 'state book'

Tennessee bishop opposes making Bible ‘state book’

Apr. 6, 2016 - (Crux) - If a group of Tennessee lawmakers have their way, the Bible is set to become the state’s official book.

By a vote of 19 to 8, the state senate passed HB0615Monday, which would dub “the Holy Bible as the official state book.” Supporters say the measure recognizes the book’s unique role in American history. But opponents, including some Catholic leaders, say the move could make people of non-Christian faiths feel slighted.

“As a Catholic, as a Christian, we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but I also recognize that we live in a pluralistic society and we have a mixture of different faiths,” said Bishop Richard Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville.

Making the Bible Tennessee’s official book could “cause division within the state,” he warned, noting that he doesn’t need a state proclamation to realize the Bible is an important book. Continue Reading Bible State Book>

Cardinal Dolan visiting Iraq to show support for displaced Christians

Cardinal Dolan visiting Iraq to show support for displaced Christians

Apr. 6, 2016 - (CNA) - This week Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will travel to Iraqi Kurdistan in order to offer support to families displaced by extremist violence.

The news of the cardinal’s visit came in an April 5 press release from Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which he chairs.

He will be joined by CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar, and the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan. CNA will also be part of the delegation.   

According to the press release, the purpose of the visit is fourfold. Firstly it is meant to “demonstrate solidarity with the families – many of whom are Christian – displaced when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in summer 2014.” Continue Reading Cardinal Dolan>

Saint's relics discovered intact in rubble of Syrian monastery destroyed by Islamic State

Saint's relics discovered intact in rubble of Syrian monastery destroyed by Islamic State.

Apr. 6, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - In the rubble of the ancient Mar Elian monastery in Quaryatayn, Syria, which was destroyed by the Islamic State, the former prior has discovered relics of the saint for whom the monastery was named.

Father Jacques Murad, who was taken prisoner when forces of the Islamic State overran the area, returned to the Mar Elian monastery after Syrian government troops recaptured Quaryatayn. He reported that relics of St. Elian-- the son of a 3rd-century Roman military official, who was executed when he refused to renounce his Christian faith-- were found near the saint's tomb. "The fact that the relics of Mar Elian are not lost is for me a great sign," the priest told the Fides news service. "It means that he did not want to leave the monastery and the holy land."

The Mar Elian monastery, established in the 5th century, was systematically demolished by the Islamic State last year. Continue Reading Mar Elian Relics>

Pope may visit Greece to meet with migrants facing return to Turkey

Pope may visit Greece to meet with migrants facing return to Turkey

Apr. 6, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Vatican is weighing a quick trip to Greece by Pope Francis, to dramatize the plight of migrants who are being sent back to Turkey.

Responding to Greek media reports that the Pope might visit the island of Lesbos as early as next week, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that no commitment had been made. "I don't deny that there are contacts about a possible trip," he allowed.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has confimed that he will be traveling to Lesbos to meet with refugees, accompanied by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens. The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Athens has said that Pope Francis expressed an interest in joining them. Continue Reading Papal Greece Visit>

Pope breaks record on Instagram

Pope breaks record on Instagram

Apr. 6, 2016 - (CNS) - With a simple tap, Pope Francis joined Instagram and quickly set a record for gaining 1 million followers.

The launch of the "Franciscus" account March 19, the feast of St. Joseph and the third anniversary of the formal inauguration of his papacy, was preceded by huge media coverage. But still, he hit the million-follower mark in just 12 hours, making his "our fastest growing account on Instagram to date," said Stephanie Noon, an Instagram spokeswoman. The pope broke the record held for almost a year by former soccer star David Beckham, who took twice as long to gather 1 million followers.

Joining Instagram, Pope Francis jumped into a community that tends to be younger and more complimentary than people on Twitter, although with similarly impressive "engagement rates." Continue Reading Pope's Instagram>

FDA expands use of RU-486 abortion pill

FDA expands use of RU-486 abortion pill

Apr. 6, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The US Food and Drug Administration has announced that the RU-486 abortion pill may now be used in the first ten weeks following the mother’s last period.

The FDA, which approved the use of RU-486 (also known as Mifeprex and Mifepristone) in 2000, previously permitted its use to the first seven weeks. It now accounts for over 22% of abortions in the US.

“The FDA has irresponsibly loosened its guidelines for the dangerous abortion drug RU-486, expanding its use an additional three weeks into pregnancy, and allowing provision by non-physicians,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“The unofficial, off-label use of RU-486 is now the new normal, paving the way for the destruction of even more innocent lives, and putting women and girls at risk for all the life-changing effects of abortion,” he added. “Far from wanting abortion to be 'rare', abortion advocates are celebrating this expanded use as opening an ever-widening door to abortion.” Continue Reading Abortion Pill>

The 2016 Christopher award winners are...

The 2016 Christopher Award Winners Are...

Apr. 3, 2016 - (Patheos) - Country music icon Dolly Parton, silver screen legend Sylvester Stallone, and popular comedian Jim Gaffigan are just a few of the creative forces behind the 21 feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people that will be honored at the 67th annual Christopher Awards, to be presented in New York City on May 19th, 2016.

The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications, says, “The world around us can seem like a dark place in light of all the violence and hatred we hear about in the news. But the stories we honor with Christopher Awards remind us that we can shine a light that illuminates the darkness by choosing to practice faith, love, compassion, courage, teamwork, and determination.” Continue Reading 2016 Christopher Awards>

Polish bishops seek complete abortion bam

Polish bishops seek complete abortion ban

Apr. 3, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Catholic bishops of Poland have issued a call for a full ban on abortions.

Existing law in Poland makes abortion illegal except in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal deformation, or threat to the health of the mother. The bishops argue that these exceptions undermine the logic of the ban. In a statement read at all Catholic Churches in the country over the weekend, the Bishops said, "When it comes to the life of the unborn, we can't remain at the current compromise set out in the law.”

If the law is passed by the government, it would make Poland the 7th country where it is illegal to kill an unborn child under any circumstances.  The 6 countries where abortion is currently completely illegal are the Vatican, Malta, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile. Continue Reading Polish Abortion Ban>

Mary's 'yes' to God changed history, Pope Francis says

Mary's 'yes' to God changed history, Pope Francis says

Apr. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis marked the Feast of the Annunciation on Monday by reflecting on the power of Mary’s “yes” to God.

“Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the door to Jesus’ ‘yes’: I have come to do Your will, this is the ‘yes’ that Jesus carries with him throughout his life, until the cross,” he said in his April 4 homily.

The Pope celebrated Mass at the Casa Santa Martha residence Monday morning, Vatican Radio reports.

Through Mary’s affirmation, God “becomes one of us and takes on our flesh,” he said.

“Today is the celebration of ‘yes’,” the Pope continued. “It is God’s ‘yes’ that sanctifies us and keeps us alive in Jesus Christ.”

The Feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, when he told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary responded “Let it be done to me according to your will,” according to the Gospel of Luke. Continue Reading Francis on Annunciation>

Pope Francis meets with SSPX superior general

Pope Francis meets with SSPX superior general

Apr. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - Both the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X have confirmed that this weekend Pope Francis met with the priestly society's superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, at the Vatican.

The Holy See press office issued a statement April 4 indicating that Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay had met April 2 at the Vatican.

An April 4 statement issued by the SSPX, meanwhile, said that Pope Francis received Bishop Fellay at his Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican on April 1. The statement said Bishop Fellay was accompanied by Fr. Alain-Marc Nely, second assistant general of the priestly society.

“Pope Francis had wanted a private and informal meeting, without the formality of an official audience. It lasted 40 minutes and took place under a cordial atmosphere,” the SSPX stated. “After the meeting, it was decided that the current exchanges would continue. The canonical status of the Society was not directly addressed, Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay having determined that these exchanges ought to continue without haste.” Continue Reading Francis and SSPX>

Mercy is an open book - and it's our task to write it, Pope says

Mercy is an open book – and it's our task to write it, Pope says

Apr. 3, 2016 - (CNA) - On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said the “Gospel of Mercy” begun by Jesus and the apostles is still unfinished, and is an open book that each person is called to write through their words and actions.

“The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy,” the Pope said April 3.

He noted how at the end of the day’s Gospel reading from John, the evangelist expressed that while Jesus carried out many signs in the presence of his disciples, not all of them were written down.

Because of this, “the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples, which are concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy, continue to be written,” he said.

“We are all called to become living writers of the Gospel,” Francis continued, explaining that this is done by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, “which are the hallmarks of the Christian life.” Continue Reading Divine Mercy Homily>

Indian government says kidnapped priest in Yemen still alive

Indian government says kidnapped priest in Yemen still alive

Apr. 3, 2016 - (Crux) - Denying rumors of an Indian missionary priest being crucified on Good Friday by Muslim extremists, India’s government has assured local bishops that Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped a month ago in Yemen, is alive and could be freed soon.

Uzhunnalil was taken by suspected militants of the terrorist organization ISIS who killed 15 people in an attack on the elderly home he was living in. Among those killed were four “Mother Teresa” nuns, who ran the compound that was attacked in March.

One of the Missionaries of Charity survived the attack, and she is the one who claimed the attackers were from the Islamic terrorist group. However, no group claimed responsibility for the killings nor for the kidnapping.

Rumors about Uzhunnalil, a member of the Salesian religious order, having been crucified spread on Good Friday after Austrian papers reported that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna had allegedly confirmed the report as he was celebrating the day’s liturgy. Continue Reading Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil>

Centuries of religious freedom at risk with Virginia veto, Catholic bishops warn

Centuries of religious freedom at risk with Virginia veto, Catholic bishops warn

Apr. 3, 2016 - (CNA) - The veto of a religious freedom bill means faith-based groups that support marriage as a union of a man and a woman won’t have needed protections, the state’s Catholic bishops said.

“The Virginia Catholic Conference is deeply dismayed by the governor’s action,” the conference said March 30. “This veto risks the destruction of Virginia’s long tradition of upholding the religious freedom of faith communities which dates back to Thomas Jefferson.”

The bill would have forbidden the state of Virginia from punishing religious groups that follow their sincerely held beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. The bill passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 59-38 and the Senate by 21-19.

Virginia’s Catholic conference said the bill would ensure “that clergy and religious organizations are not penalized by the government.” The bill would also protect these individuals and organizations from civil liability. Continue Reading Religious Freedom>

The 'boast' of Mother Angelica was in Christ, not herself

The 'boast' of Mother Angelica was in Christ, not herself

Mar. 31, 2016 - (CNA) - The life of EWTN foundress Mother Angelica was a testament to St. Paul’s teaching that “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,” preached the celebrant of vespers at a prayer vigil offered for her repose.

“How we do need to interpret” Mother Angelica’s life, Fr. Anthony Mary, MFVA, preached, “is if we’re going to boast in anything, the boast of Mother Angelica was not herself. The boast of Mother Angelica was always Jesus Christ.”

Fr. Anthony Mary preached at Thursday evening’s solemn vespers for Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN and abbess emerita of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, as she lay in repose in the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. Mother Angelica passed away Easter Sunday, March 27.

The vespers were followed by a prayer vigil for Mother Angelica celebrated by Bishop Robert Joseph Baker of Birmingham.  Continue Reading Mother Angelica>

Two ordained Holy Cross priests

Two ordained Holy Cross priests

Apr. 3, 2016 - (Today's Catholic) - With abundant joy and thanksgiving, the United States Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross announces the Ordination of two new priests on Saturday, April 2, at 2 p.m. at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend will confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Rev. Mr. Matthew Earle Hovde, CSC, and Rev. Mr. Dennis Anthony Strach II, CSC.

On Aug. 29, 2015, Deacons Hovde and Strach professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and committed themselves to the common life and apostolic work of the Congregation of Holy Cross.  

REV. MR. MATTHEW EARLE HOVDE, CSC, is the youngest of three children of Robert and Cynthia Hovde of Miami, Fla. He entered formation with the Congregation in 2007 and professed First Vows on July 28, 2012. Continue Reading Holy Cross Ordinations>

Pope Francis sends vestments, financial aid to Iraqi Christians

Pope Francis sends vestments, financial aid to Iraqi Christians

Mar. 31, 2016 - (CNA) - As a sign of affection and closeness, Pope Francis has decided to send vestments used in the liturgy and a financial donation to Christian refugees in Erbil through the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“Mercy invites us to bend over these brothers of ours in order to dry their tears, to heal their moral and physical wounds, and to console their afflicted and perhaps lost hearts,” the Pope said in a letter addressed to Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi.

To do this, the Pope said, is not just “an act of proper charity, but a relief to your own body, because all Christians, by virtue of their shared baptism, are 'one' in Christ.”

Bishop Cavina will be part of a delegation traveling to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, April 1-4 with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Continue Reading Pope Supports Iraq>

Pope Francis' post-synod doc to be released April 8

Pope Francis' post-synod doc to be released April 8

Mar. 31, 2016 - (CNA) - The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life will be published April 8.

Titled “Amoris Laetitia,” on love in the family, the document will officially be presented to journalists next Friday, April 8, in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

Speakers presenting the exhortation will include Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., Archbishop of Vienna.

Additionally, married couple Francesco Miano, a lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and his wife Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, a lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples, will also be among the panelists presenting the document. Continue Reading Family Exhortation>

Georgia bishops: religious freedom bill veto a chance for more debate

Georgia bishops: religious freedom bill veto a chance for more debate

Mar. 30, 2016 - (CNA) - Following the Georgia governor’s recent veto of a religious liberty bill, the state’s Catholic bishops are calling for further debate and dialogue on the issue.

“We fervently support religious liberty guaranteed by the United States and Georgia constitutions and we respect those who seek to enhance those freedoms through legislation,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta and Bishop Gregory Hartmayer of Savannah.

The governor’s veto means that debate will continue, the bishops said in a March 29 statement. They encouraged respect for the “worthy motivations” of people on both sides of the debate.

The state’s Catholic bishops did not take an explicit stand for or against the legislation. Instead they commented more broadly, “While we and the other Catholic bishops in the United States support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), we do not support any implementation of RFRA in a way that will discriminate against any individual.” Continue Reading Religious Freedom Laws>

Fiat used by Pope in New York

Fiat used by Pope in New York now up for auction

Mar. 30, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Archdiocese of New York is auctioning off the Fiat hatchback used by Pope Francis during his visit to the city last year.

The Fiat 500 Lounge Hatchback was donated by the Chrysler Corporation for the Pope's use during his visit to the US. Proceeds from the sale will be used for Catholic schools and charities. 

As of Wednesday morning, March 30, with a day still left before the close of the auction on the CharityBuzz site, bidding had reached $135,000.  Continue Reading Pope's Fiat>

'She's in heaven' - Pope Francis on Mother Angelica

'She's in heaven' – Pope Francis on Mother Angelica

Mar. 30, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a special blessing for Mother Angelica following her death on Easter Sunday, expressing his confidence that she is already in heaven.

“She’s in heaven.” The Pope pointed to the sky as he spoke these words to members of EWTN’s Rome bureau, who brought an image of the late Poor Clare nun to his March 30 general audience as a sign of affection and remembrance.

Francis saw the framed photo in the crowd, and blessed it when asked by EWTN’s Executive TV Producer in Rome, Martha Calderon, for a blessing for Mother Angelica’s soul.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old. Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

A hopeful sign? New development in the Little Sisters' court case

A hopeful sign? New development in the Little Sisters' court case

Mar. 29, 2016 - (CNA) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked for parties in the Little Sisters’ case to submit alternative means, if possible, of ensuring contraceptive coverage while maintaining religious freedom.

“This is an excellent development. Clearly the Supreme Court understood the Sisters' concern that the government's current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters, stated on Tuesday.

The Court instructed both the plaintiffs in the case – the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Archdiocese of Washington, the group Priests for Life, and several Christian colleges – and the administration to submit supplemental briefs answering whether employees can receive contraceptive coverage while maintaining the religious freedom of the employers who object to providing such coverage. If a way exists, the brief should explain how it works. Continue Reading Little Sisters Case>

Utah anesthesia bill shows 'incoherence' of legal abortion, doctor says

Utah anesthesia bill shows 'incoherence' of legal abortion, doctor says

Mar. 30, 2016 - (CNA) - A new Utah law requiring anesthesia for unborn babies during late-term abortions shows the contradiction between society’s view of life and legal abortion, a leading pro-life doctor has said.

“If we as a society say it is okay to put to death the unborn, especially abortions that are done on fetuses that could survive outside the womb, then I think anesthesia is merciful,” Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told CNA March 29.

Legislation based on the concept of fetal pain helps people recognize “that this baby is a human being, a human being that can feel pain just like the rest of us,” said Harrison, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist.

At the same time, she saw a “schizophrenic” approach to fetal pain legislation, especially given that babies can survive outside the womb at 22 weeks into pregnancy. Continue Reading Utah Abortion Law>

Kidnapped Indian priest's brother on crucifixion rumors: 'I trust in the Lord'

Kidnapped Indian priest's brother on crucifixion rumors: 'I trust in the Lord'

Mar. 29, 2016 - (NCRegister) - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has deplored the widespread rumors of the crucifixion of kidnapped Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil on Good Friday in Yemen, where the Indian priest is suspected to have been held in captivity since he was kidnapped by forces of the Islamic State group there in Aden on March 4.

“A lot of rumors are being spread in the social media that Father Tom was subjected to cruel torture and then crucified on Good Friday. This gruesome news is being widely circulated, both at home and abroad,” said the CBCI in a press statement on March 29.

 The statement also acknowledged the role of the Vatican, which the CBCI said “is understood to have stepped up its efforts through diplomatic channels for the release of Father Tom, a missionary priest who offered his life for the service of the poor, the sick and the aged, in collaboration with the Missionary Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Aden, Yemen.” Continue Reading Fr. Tom Update>

Benedict XVI and US bishops remember Mother Angelica

Benedict XVI and US bishops remember Mother Angelica

Mar. 28, 2016 - (CNA) - Benedict XVI had a special response to Mother Angelica’s death falling on Easter Sunday: “It’s a gift.”

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told CNA about the pope emeritus’ comment on March 28.

Mother Angelica, an Ohio-born Poor Clare nun, founded EWTN Global Catholic Network in Alabama in 1981. It has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away on March 27, Easter Sunday, at the age of 92.

Her death prompted memorials, eulogies and remembrances from around the world.

In Rome, Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, pledged that he would pray for the repose of her soul. Many other priests, religious and laity in Rome are praying for her.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said Mother Angelica was an “extraordinary woman, devout believer and media pioneer.” Continue Reading Mother Angelica>

There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday

Benedict XVI and US bishops remember Mother Angelica

Mar. 28, 2016 - (CNA) - Reports claiming that a kidnapped priest in Yemen was crucified over the weekend are likely false and irresponsible, the local bishop told CNA Monday.

Several blogs and media outlets are reporting that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family or Fr. Uzhunnalil’s community.

The original reports were based on a statement Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna allegedly made during Easter vigil services.

On March 4, four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people including four Missionary of Charity sisters. Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped by the gunman during the attacks, which are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, though no specific group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Continue Reading Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil>

Pope condemns 'cowardly' attack on Pakistani Christians

Pope condemns 'cowardly' attack on Pakistani Christians

Mar. 28, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis on Monday mourned the loss of life in Pakistan, where more than 70 people – mostly women and children – were killed Sunday after a suicide attack on Christians who were celebrating Easter at a public park.

Speaking during his Regina Caeli address for Easter Monday, the Pope expressed his “closeness to those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime,” and called those present to to pray for the victims and their loved ones.

“Easter was bloodied by an execrable attack which massacred many innocent people, mostly families of the Christian minority - particularly women and children - who had gathered in a public park to spend the Easter holiday in joy,” he said.

The attack took place in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. At least 29 of the dozens of people killed were children, Reuters reports. The BBC reports that at least 300 people were injured, and officials expect the death toll to rise. Continue Reading Easter Monday Audience>

Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, dies on Easter Sunday

Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, dies on Easter

Mar. 27, 2016 - (CNA) - The Catholic Church in the United States has lost the Poor Clare nun who changed the face of Catholicism in the United States and around the world. Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

“Mother has always and will always personify EWTN, the network that God asked her to found,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw. “Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine Providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”

In 1981, Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures. Continue Reading Mother Angelica>

Schedule of Events: Mother Angelica's Funeral

Christian Easter celebrations targeted in Pakistan suicide bombing

Christian Easter celebrations targeted in Pakistan suicide bombing

Mar. 27, 2016 - (CNA) - A crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan where Christian families were celebrating Easter Sunday was the site of an apparent suicide bombing that left at least 65 dead and 300 wounded. 

Many women and children were among those killed and injured, reports said.

A local branch of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the March 27 attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.

Lahore’s top administration official, Muhammad Usman, told AFP that the death toll had reached 65, with the army’s rescue operation continuing. In addition, more than 300 people were wounded, according to the Associated Press. 

Local officials said the attack appeared to be a suicide bombing, which took place near children’s rides at the park. Continue Reading Pakistan Bombing>

Pope: Easter message brings hope to victims of terrorism, persecution

Pope: Easter message brings hope to victims of terrorism, persecution

Mar. 27, 2016 - (CNA) - In his Urbi et Orbi message for Easter, Pope Francis encouraged victims of terrorism and Christian persecution to find hope in the Lord’s resurrection.

By rising from the dead, Jesus has “triumphed over evil and sin,” the Pope said to the crowds which filled St. Peter’s Square. “May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world.”

The pontiff cited the March 22 attack in Brussels, where suicide bombers killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds of others, and other terrorism-afflicted nations.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.”

Speaking on persecuted Christians, Francis encouraged them to find comfort in Christ’s resurrection. Continue Reading Urbi et Orbi Message>

Members of Congress Speak up for Little Sisters before big day in court

Members of Congress speak up for Little Sisters before big day in court

Mar. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - Members of the United States Congress have voiced their support for the Little Sisters of the Poor before their case is argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“We talk a lot about public service up here. Well, these are the people who live it,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said of the sisters on the House Floor on Tuesday, noting that they serve the poor in 31 countries. “They are the definition of public service.”

On Wednesday, oral arguments for Zubik v. Burwell will take place at the Supreme Court. The case is a bundle of seven cases against the HHS mandate, including as plaintiffs Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Archdiocese of Washington, and several Christian colleges.

At issue is the administration’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans, and the ensuing “accommodations” they offered religious non-profits to comply with the mandate. Continue Reading Little Sisters in Court>

'Good Friday came early' - Catholic bishops mourn Brussels attacks

'Good Friday came early' – Catholic bishops mourn Brussels attacks

Mar. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - The Holy Week terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday led the city's bishops to mourn and reflect on the deadly crimes in light of Jesus Christ's Passion.

“Good Friday has come three days early with these totally absurd actions,” Auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols of Mechelen-Brussels said March 22. “I weep with those who weep, wherever they are. The first reaction, completely normal, is to condemn these totally absurd actions.”

“The reaction of Christians ought to be first of all one of compassion with those affected, with those who are grieving,” he continued. “I am thinking of the victims and their families, we are together in prayer, in friendship.”

The bishop spoke in an audio statement on the website of the Belgian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Continue Reading Brussels Attacks>

Pope Francis to wash the feet of migrants on Holy Thursday

Pope Francis to wash the feet of migrants on Holy Thursday

Mar. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - After spending previous years washing the feet of inmates and disabled persons on Holy Thursday, this year Pope Francis will celebrate the liturgy in a welcoming center for migrants and refugees.

The Pope will say a Chrism Mass at the Vatican before heading to the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome, on the afternoon of March 24.

He will arrive to the center around 5 pm, where he will say the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and wash the feet of 12 migrants welcomed by the center, many of whom are not Catholic.

The news came in a March 22 article from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano explaining the reason why the location was chosen. The article was written by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Continue Reading Pope Francis Holy Thursday>

Leader of Salesians asks prayer for priest kidnapped in Yemen attack

Leader of Salesians Asks Prayer for Priest Kidnapped in Yemen Attack

Mar. 21, 2016 - (Zenit) - In a video posted today, the Rector Major of the Salesians, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, appealed to the whole Salesian family for prayer for peace on Holy Thursday, with a special intention for Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian kidnapped in Yemen.

The priest was taken during an attack March 4 on a home for the elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity. Four of the five sisters there were killed.

According to a report from the surviving nun, when Fr. Uzhunnalil heard the screaming, he ran directly to the chapel, in order to consume the Hosts so they couldn’t be defiled.

Looking at the suffering in so many parts of the world, “with so many people of different religions and confessions suffering a real martyrdom,” Fr. Artime invites everyone “to spend a time of very intense prayer on Holy Thursday evening, as we accompany Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane.” Continue Reading Prayers for Yemen>

Chilean bill permitting abortion advances to Senate

Chilean bill permitting abortion advances to Senate

Mar. 21, 2016 - (CNA) - Legislators in Chile's lower house of Congress on Thursday passed a bill decriminalizing abortion in limited circumstances. The bill now passes to the Senate, where analysts believe it may also pass.

The March 17 vote in the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill by 66-44. It seeks to legalize abortion in three cases: risk to the life of the mother, non-viability of the fetus, and rape. It also limits abortion to no more than 12 weeks, though it is extended to 14 weeks in mothers under the age of 14.

Conscientious objection for doctors on an individual basis was also passed, and health centers that allow abortions to be performed  would be prohibited from advertising.

The legislators also approved the possibility of obliging the director of a hospital to make sure that an abortion be performed on any woman over 18 who asked for it following a rape, even if she did not report the rape to police. Continue Reading Abortion in Chile>

President Obama meets with Cuban cardinal

President Obama meets with Cuban cardinal

Mar. 21, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - President Barack Obama met with Havana's Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino on March 20, as White House aides acknowledged the prelate's important role played in restoring diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba.

President Obama's trip to Cuba-- the first such visit by an American president in nearly 90 years-- comes just months after the restoration of ties, which were broken after the Castro regime took power. Cardinal Ortega had worked with Pope Francis to help broker the agreement that normalized relations between the two countries.Continue Reading Obama in Cuba>

Pope's Instagram launches with appeal for prayer

Pope's Instagram launches with appeal for prayer

Mar. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - The official Instagram account of Pope Francis launched on Saturday with a simple request for his followers: “Pray for me.”

The inaugural post, which was translated into nine languages, features a photo of the Pope reverently kneeling in prayer.

The post was made after noon under the handle @Franciscus – which is Latin for Francis. Within 30 minutes of going live, the account had more than ten thousand followers.

“Instagram will help recount the Papacy through images, to enable all those who wish to accompany and know more about Pope Francis’ pontificate to encounter his gestures of tenderness and mercy,” said Msgr. Dario E. Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, in a Vatican statement Friday.

The papal Instagram will feature photos from L'Osservatore Romano, as well as short videos, according to the Vatican's March 18 statement.  “In this way we can show those aspects of closeness and inclusion that Pope Francis lives every day,” Msgr. Viganò said. Continue Reading Pope's Instagram>

Humility is the epitome of redemption, Pope says on Palm Sunday

Humility is the epitome of redemption, Pope says on Palm Sunday

Mar. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - On Palm Sunday Pope Francis said the path toward salvation can be summed up by humility and service, and encouraged pilgrims to contemplate Jesus’ shameful Passion and Death throughout Holy Week.

“Today’s liturgy teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles,” the Pope said March 20.

Instead, in the day’s second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, the apostle “epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus ‘emptied’ and ‘humbled’ himself.”

These two verbs, Francis said, “show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin.” Continue Reading Palm Sunday Homily>

Pakistan recognizes Easter as holiday for Christians

Pakistan recognizes Easter as holiday for Christians

Mar. 20, 2016 - (CNA) - The Pakistani National Assembly has passed a resolution that grants holiday time for Christians to celebrate Easter and Hindus and their Holi and Diwali celebrations. The resolution is the work of Vankwani Ramesh Kumar, an Assembly member of the Hindu faith.

While some minority rights activists appreciate the initiative, others point out that it is not enough to recognize some holy days of religious traditions. Rather, equal rights and the concrete protection of minority groups should be guaranteed.

Kashif Aslam, activist and coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told AsiaNews: "This is a historic decision for the recognition of minorities as citizens of Pakistan. We appreciate the government's effort in this regard, to ensure the equality of rights. " However, the activist adds, "there are still many steps to be taken. Continue Reading Easter in Pakistan>

All-star 'Passion' musical aims to tell the Gospel story in a new key

All-star 'Passion' musical aims to tell the Gospel story in a new key

Mar. 18, 2016 - (CNA) - Actor and singer Jencarlos Canela will play the role of Jesus in a live musical dramatization of The Passion on Palm Sunday. Only he’s still not sure how.

“How do I prepare for the role of Jesus Christ? Whoever knows the answer to that question, call me before Sunday,” Canela joked.

“Honestly, it’s a huge honor,” he told CNA March 18.

Canela plays the lead role in “The Passion,” a two-hour musical event airing Sunday, March 20 on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

With the help of famous musical performers, the event will dramatize the Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, the trial before Pontius Pilate and Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Continue Reading Passion Musical>

In groundbreaking move, US declares Christians among victims of ISIS genocide

In groundbreaking move, US declares Christians among victims of ISIS genocide

Mar. 17, 2016 - (CNA) - Secretary of State John Kerry declared Thursday that Christians, Yezidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minorities are victims of ISIS genocide.

Secretary Kerry announced at a news conference that “in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” Daesh is another name for the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The announcement is groundbreaking because the term is rarely used to describe ongoing atrocities committed by a state or non-state actor. It is the “crime of crimes,” according to the United Nations, because it involves the intentional destruction, “in whole or in part,” of an entire people.

Thursday’s announcement came after reports from earlier in the week surfaced that the State Department was expected to miss the March 17 deadline for announcing whether or not it would declare genocide. Congress mandated the deadline in the Omnibus spending bill passed in December. Continue Reading ISIS Genocide>

Pope Francis will have an Instagram account, "Franciscus" on Saturday

Pope Francis will have an Instagram account, "Franciscus" on Saturday

Mar. 17, 2016 - (CNA) - Francis also has signed up for Instagram. The Pope's account on the social network site will be launched on Saturday, March 19. The launch will coincide with the feast of St. Joseph and the profile will bear the name "Franciscus.”

Instagram has more than 400 million users and shares photos and videos with a community of followers. Kevin Systrom, president and one of the founders of the company, visited Francis a few days ago in Rome.

It will not be the first time that the Vatican is using Instagram. The news portal has had an account for three years. It has followed Francis' entire pontificate sharing his photos and messages.
The Vatican is revamping the way they communicate. At the end of 2012, they opened the Twitter account @Pontifex in nine languages, from which Benedict XVI sent several messages. Continue Reading Synod Document>

Pope's document on Synod will appear after Easter, Vatican spokesman says

Pope's document on Synod will appear after Easter, Vatican spokesman says

Mar. 17, 2016 - (CNA) - The long-awaited document from Pope Francis summarizing the conclusions of the Synod on the Family will not appear until after Easter, a Vatican spokesman has announced.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the papal document would be signed on March 19, but not released on that date. He was reacting to a statement from Cardinal Walter Kasper, who had said that the document would be released within a few days.

Cardinal Kasper was apparently referring to the date when the Pope would formally sign the document. It is customary for a Pontiff to sign official documents well in advance of their public release, allowing time for translations and the preparation of printed copies.

Father Lombardi said that he anticipated release of the document sometime around the middle of April. Continue Reading Synod Document>

Sweeping vote in Utah labels porn dangerous to public health

Sweeping vote in Utah labels porn dangerous to public health

Mar. 16, 2016 - (CNA) - Utah's state legislature recently passed a resolution warning about the harm pornography does to individuals, families and society.

The resolution says that the state legislature “recognizes that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”

Susan Dennin, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said the move “affirms our belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person revealed fully in Christ and the gift of human sexuality and marriage in God’s plan.”

She told CNA March 14 that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had discussed this topic in their November 2015 document “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” Continue Reading Porn and Public Health>

Benedict XVI speaks on crisis of faith, theme of God's mercy, in new interview

Benedict XVI speaks on crisis of faith, theme of God's mercy, in new interview

Mar. 16, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI speaks about a “deep crisis” of faith in the Catholic world after Vatican II, and strongly supports the emphasis that Pope Francis places on God’s mercy, in a rare public interview made public today.

The interview with the former Pontiff-- conducted by Father Jacques Servais, a Jesuit theologian—appears as a chapter in a new book published in Italy, containing the proceedings of a conference held in Rome last year. During the conference Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime personal secretary to Pope Benedict, presented the interview.

Reflecting on the nature of Christian faith, the retired Pope says that personal faith is inextricably connected with the Church: "On the one hand, faith is a deeply personal communication with God, which touches my very core and places me in direct contact with the living God so that I can talk to Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him." Continue Reading New BXVI Interview>

Pope Francis to world leaders: Open your doors to migrants

Pope Francis to world leaders: Open your doors to migrants

Mar. 16, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis renewed his appeal on behalf of the tens of thousands struggling to enter other countries as they flee war and violence, asking global leaders to “open their hearts” and doors to migrants and refugees.

“How many of our brothers are currently living a real and dramatic situation of exile, far away from their homeland, with their eyes still full of the rubble of their homes, and in their heart the fear, and often, unfortunately, the pain of having lost loved ones,” the Pope said March 16.

Such cases can often lead one to ask questions such as “where is God? How is it possible that so much suffering befalls innocent men, women and children?” he said.

Francis lamented that migrants and refugees fleeing violence in their homeland frequently find “closed doors” when attempting to enter another country. Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

It's official - Mother Teresa will be canonoized September 4

It's official – Mother Teresa will be canonized September 4

Mar. 15, 2016 - (CNA) - After months of anticipation, the date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has finally been announced. It falls on Sept. 4, which this year will also mark a special jubilee for workers and volunteers of mercy.

Though it's been rumored for months that Mother Teresa’s canonization will take place Sept. 4, the Vatican made the date official during a March 15 consistory of cardinals.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu Aug. 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia. After joining the Sisters of Loretto at age 17, she was sent to Calcutta, where she later contracted tuberculosis, and was sent to rest in Darjeeling.

On the way, she felt what she called “an order” from God to leave the convent and live among the poor.

After she left her convent, Mother Teresa began working in the slums, teaching poor children, and treating the sick in their homes. A year later, some of her former students joined her, and together they took in men, women and children who were dying in the gutters along the streets. Continue Reading Mother Teresa Canonization>

Pope announces Palestinian as winner of international teaching prize

Pope announces Palestinian as winner of international teaching prize

Mar. 15, 2016 - (CNA) - A Palestinian school teacher on Sunday became the recipient of a US$1m international award for her work with children – and it was Pope Francis who announced the winner.

“A population that is not well educated because of wars, or by other reasons that exist in order not to get any education, is a population that decays,” the Pope said in a pre-recorded video message announcing Hanan Al Hroub as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize, awarded by the Varkey Foundation.

“That is why I would like to highlight the noble profession of a teacher.”

A teacher in the West Bank, Hroub was awarded the Global Teacher Prize for her specialization in working with children exposed to violence at a ceremony held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' largest city. Continue Reading Religious Discrimination>

Justice Department announces initiative against religious discrimination

Justice Department announces initiative against religious discrimination

Mar. 15, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The US Department of Justice has announced “Combating Religious Discrimination Today,” an interagency “community engagement initiative designed to promote religious freedom, challenge religious discrimination and enhance enforcement of religion-based hate crimes.”

“Hate-motivated violence, harassment and discrimination violate America’s laws and threaten our founding vision of a free and tolerant society that welcomes people from every creed and walk of life,” said Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general. “Robust community engagement and meaningful dialogue can help our country fulfill its promise of religious freedom, and we look forward to tackling this challenging work with creative solutions in the months ahead.” Continue Reading Religious Discrimination>

Bishop Rhoades Statement on Notre Dame's Laetare Medal

Concerning the decision of Notre Dame to honor Vice-President Biden and former Speaker Boehner with the Laetare Medal

Mar. 14, 2016 - (Diocese FWSB) - Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., on March 14 criticized the decision by the University of Notre Dame to award Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker John Boehner its prestigious Laeatare Medal at its May 15 commencement exercises.

The move to honor Biden, a pro-abortion rights and pro-same sex “marriage” Catholic, comes seven years after President Barack Obama received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement address at Notre Dame.

"I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any 'pro-choice' public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service, since direct abortion is gravely contrary to the natural law and violates a very fundamental principle of Catholic moral and social teaching: the inalienable right to life of every innocent human being from the moment of conception," Bishop Rhoades stated.

FULL STATEMENT: Concerning the decision of Notre Dame to honor Vice-President Biden and former Speaker Boehner with the Laetare Medal>

Last letter of slain Missionaries of Charity: 'we live together, die together with Jesus, Mary'

Last letter of slain Missionaries of Charity: ‘we live together, die together with Jesus, Mary’

Mar. 14, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Italian bishops’ television network has published the last letter of the five Missionaries of Charity who served the poor, elderly, and disabled in Aden, Yemen.

Four of the five sisters were slain in a March 4 terrorist attack; the fifth survived and is now out of the country.

Whenever there is heavy bombing, the sisters said in a June 2015 letter to Missionaries of Charity in Rome, “we kneel before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, begging the merciful Jesus to protect us and our poor and to grant peace to this nation.”

“God can never be outdone in generosity as long as we remain with him and his poor,” they continued. “When the bombardments are heavy, we hide under the stairs, all five always united. We live together, we die together with Jesus, Mary.” Continue Reading Last Letter from MCs>

House backs genocide label for Christians under ISIS

House backs genocide label for Christians under ISIS

Mar. 14, 2016 - (CNA) - The U.S. House of Representative voted Monday to declare that what is happening to Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East is genocide. 

H. Con. Res. 75, introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) in September, expresses “the sense of Congress” that perpetrators of “atrocities” against Christians, Yezidis, Turkmens, Kurds, and other minorities in the Middle East for their religion or ethnicity are guilty of genocide, and that any supporters of the perpetrators are guilty as well. 

Over 200 members of Congress from both parties had co-sponsored the resolution, and it passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a unanimous bipartisan vote earlier in March. 

It passed Monday by a vote of 393-0, just days before the State Department’s March 17 deadline for announcing if it will issue an official declaration of genocide, as required in the recent Omnibus spending bill.  Continue Reading ISIS Genocide>

Pope praises grandparents who transmit the faith

Pope praises grandparents who transmit the faith

Mar. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - A group of elderly persons and the “grandparents of Rome” distributed copies of Luke’s Gospel at the Vatican on Sunday after Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, which touched on the human dignity of the sinner.

“How deserving grandfathers and grandmothers who transmit the faith to their grandchildren!”, the Pope said as he introduced the elderly men and women, who were assisted by volunteers of the Vatican’s Santa Marta pediatric dispensary.

Delivering his remarks to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the pontiff encouraged those present to read the Gospel daily in order that “the mercy of the Father may dwell in your heart, and you may bring it to everyone you meet.”

“I invite you to take this Gospel, because the mercy of the Father is done works in you,” he said.  In addition to containing the entire Gospel of Luke, the booklets include the seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Continue Reading Sunday Angelus>

Love is the hidden service we do for others, Pope Francis says

Love is the hidden service we do for others, Pope Francis says

Mar. 12, 2016 - (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Francis said that love is more than just saying nice words and doing things – it means forgetting oneself and serving others, just as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the disciples.

“By washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus wanted to reveal how God acts toward us, and to give an example of this ‘new commandment’ of loving one another as he has loved us; that is, giving his life for us, the Pope said March 12.

Love, then, “is the concrete service we give to each other,” he said, explaining that love isn’t just saying or doing things, but “love is service! A humble service, done in silence and hiddenness, as Jesus himself said: ‘Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his third Jubilee general audience, which are being held once a month throughout the Jubilee of Mercy. Continue Reading Jubilee Audience>

Last known Cristero soldier in Mexico dies at 103

Last known Cristero soldier in Mexico dies at 103

Mar. 12, 2016 - (CNA) - The last known surviving soldier of the Cristero War, Juan Daniel Macías Villegas, died last month in his home town of San Julián, Mexico. He was 103 years old.  

Mexican photojournalist Alejandro Moreno Merino told CNA that the funeral rites for Macías took place at San José church, with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren in attendance.

The attendees walked in procession almost two miles to the cemetery next to the “Cristero National Guard,” a Catholic organization that seeks to preserve the memory of the martyrs who died during the religious persecution in Mexico in the early 20th century.

Mexico's Cristero War was sparked by anti-clerical legislation being passed by the Mexican President Elías Calles in 1926. Continue Reading Last Cristero Dies>

It's lawful to keep immigrant families together, US bishops urge Supreme Court

It's lawful to keep immigrant families together, US bishops urge Supreme Court

Mar. 12, 2016 - (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to uphold the Obama administration’s temporary relief for millions of undocumented persons in the U.S. eligible for deportation.

“Courts have repeatedly recognized that there is a public interest in maintaining stable families and communities,” stated an amicus brief filed March 8 by the USCCB and other faith-based groups.

At stake in United States v. Texas is Obama’s 2014 executive action, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, that delayed the deportation of millions.

The action granted parents with children born in the U.S., and thus citizens or lawful permanent residents by birthright, a stay on their deportation if they met certain conditions like having lived in the U.S. for at least five years, passing a background check, and paying taxes. Up to 3.7 million persons could be eligible, the Migration Policy Institute estimated, as cited in the brief. Continue Reading USCCB SCOTUS Brief>

3 years and counting...the Pontificate of Pope Francis

3 years and counting...the Pontificate of Pope Francis

Mar. 9, 2016 - (OSV) - Three years ago, the world was astonished to witness the election of the 76-year-old Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis. Since then, he has been the pope of surprises, but we also have been given the opportunity to get to know him and, with each passing year, to learn more about him: his style, his thoughts and his hopes for the Church.

In his first year, for example, we discovered he is abidingly committed to pastoral care, speaks openly about himself as a sinner and is willing to give interviews in all kinds of settings.

So what did we learn about Pope Francis in his third year as Vicar of Christ, and what can the faithful look forward to in the fourth year of his pontificate? Continue Reading 3 Years of Pope Francis>

Pope Francis approves new rules for financial oversight of saints' causes

Pope Francis approves new rules for financial oversight of saints' causes

Mar. 10, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis has issued new guidelines for ensuring financial transparency in advancing causes of beatification and canonization, requiring both an administrator to oversee the process and annual budget checks.

The new norms place a strong emphasis on regular budgeting and accounting to ensure transparency, as well as to see to it that donations from the faithful supporting causes are used as intended.

They were approved by the Pope March 4 in a papal rescript for an “ad experimentum,” or provisional, period of three years.

Published March 10, they repeal the norms which had been put into place by St. John Paul II Aug. 20, 1983.  The new norms are the fruit of a commission established in March 2015 by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a source who works closely with the congregation told CNA. Continue Reading Saint Cause Financial Oversight>

Massive new report documents IS genocide of Christians in Iraq, Syria

Massive new report documents IS genocide of Christians in Iraq, Syria

Mar. 10, 2016 - (CNA) - One week before the State Department must announce if Islamic State atrocities against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are genocide, a 278-page report has been released documenting that Christians there do face genocide.

“We now stand on the cusp of another historic decision,” stated Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who released the report along with the advocacy group In Defense of Christians, at the National Press Club on Thursday.

"The evidence contained in this report, as well as the evidence relied upon by the European Parliament, fully support, and I suggest to you, compel, that reasonable grounds exist to believe that the crime of genocide has been committed against Christians in the region," he said March 10. Continue Reading ISIS Genocide Report>

Eucharistic procession draws nearly 2,000 at Planned Parenthood

Eucharistic procession draws nearly 2,000 at Planned Parenthood

Mar. 10, 2016 - (CNA) - It was a powerful, solemn scene at Planned Parenthood in Stapleton, Colorado on Saturday morning as Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led some 1,800 Catholics in a Eucharistic procession seven times around the abortion clinic.

“It was truly a moment of grace, a moment of blessing, a moment of praying to our Lord that hearts may be changed,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It was wonderful to see how many turned out today.”

The archbishop announced his intention to lead the procession in mid-February, and the response to the event was overwhelmingly positive, said Karna Swanson, the communications director for the archdiocese.

“We set up a simple website with a no-nonsense invitation for people to come and pray with the archbishop, and immediately we were hearing from people just thanking the archbishop for doing this,” Swanson said. Continue Reading Denver Eucharistic Procession>

'Click to Pray:' An app to pray with Pope Francis

‘Click to Pray:’ An ‘App’ to Pray With Pope Francis

Mar. 10, 2016 - (Zenit) - In the framework of the “24 Hours for the Lord,” the “App” of the Pope’s Worldwide Network of Prayer: “Click to Pray, was launched Friday. This was announced to ZENIT in the days leading up to the release by French Jesuit Father Frederic Fornos, international director of the Pope’s worldwide network of prayer (Apostolate of Prayer) and of its branch for young people, the Eucharistic Movement of Young People.  This branch springs from the Jesuits’ charism, and falls under the responsibility of the Father Adolfo Nicolas, who presented this project to Pope Francis, who approved it in July 2015.

The Pope, stressed Father Fornos, has the conviction that the prayer of the baptized must and the aid application must be stimulated to pray three times a day for the Pope’s intentions, in communion with the whole Church. It is a means to “be closer to the Heart of Jesus by praying for humanity.” Continue Reading Click to Pray App>

More info on the App here: ClicktoPray.Org

English bishop: protest persecution of atheists

English bishop: protest persecution of atheists

Mar. 10, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - An English bishop has issued a call for Christians to defend atheists from persecution.

Writing in the Universe, Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton-- who chairs the international-affairs committee for the bishops' conference of England Wales-- argued: "The Catholic community in England and Wales has a role to play in ensuring that the government maintains this position and continues to speak out when people are imprisoned, tortured or killed on account of their atheism."

Bishop Lang cited the case of an atheist who was killed by a more two years agao because he had taken the atheist position on his blog. He said that five more atheists have subsequently been murdered in Bangladesh. In Saudi Arabia, atheism is classified as a form of terrorism, he said.

The bishop said that Christian support for persecuted atheists would be "a practical expression of solidarity" and would promote religious freedom for all people.  Continue Reading Atheist Persecution>

International Women's Day Google Doodle mentions Pope Francis

International Women's Day Google Doodle mentions Pope Francis

Mar. 8, 2016 - (News.VA) - Google has marked International Women’s Day with a special live-action Google Doodle featuring real women discussing their hopes for the future, and a famous scientist mentions Pope Francis.

Google Doodles are  the usually animated drawings the internet giant uses to mark holidays and important anniversaries.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is "Planet 50-50 by 2030", an independent campaign that aims to put gender equality at the centre of global sustainability plans.  Staff from Google visited 13 countries and asked 337 women and girls to complete the sentence, “One day I will…”, and used the resulting video to create a 90-second Google Doodle.

One of the more notable women featured is anthropologist Jane Goodall – who said she wants to meet the Holy Father.  “I will discuss the environment with Pope Francis,” she said during the video. Continue Reading International Women's Day>

Push to legalize assisted suicide in Maryland is over - for now

Push to legalize assisted suicide in Maryland is over – for now

Mar. 7, 2016 - (CNA) - The latest push to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill has failed in Maryland, but opponents are well aware that this isn't the end of the fight.

When it was clear that it didn't have enough support to pass, the sponsor of the End-of-Life Option Act, Sen. Robert Young (D-Frederick), pulled the bill March 3 ahead of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee.

“It is a relief that this very dangerous legislation is not moving forward,” Executive Director of Maryland Catholic Conference, Mary Ellen Russell said in a statement provided to CNA.

However, she added, “I think it's important to remain vigilant and to know the proponents of this bill here in Maryland and around the country are very aggressive in pushing regardless of how much opposition there is against the bill.”

The Denver, Colorado-based assisted suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, said that it will continue to push for the passage in Maryland and other states. Continue Reading Catholic Population>

World's Catholic population approaches 1.3 billion as African, Asian number soar

World’s Catholic population approaches 1.3 billion as African, Asian numbers soar

Mar. 7, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Between 2005 and 2014, the world’s Catholic population rose from 1.115 billion (17.3% of the world’s population) to 1.272 billion (17.8%), according to statistics made public by the Holy See Press Office on March 5.

During that time period, the Catholic population soared by 41% in Africa and 20% in Asia, approximately double the rate of population growth on each continent (23.8% in Africa, 9.6% in Asia). During the same time period, the Catholic population increased by 11.7% in North and South America, 2% in Europe, and 15.9% in Oceania.

In 2014, nearly half (48%) of the world’s Catholics lived in North and South America. 22.6% lived in Europe, 17% in Africa, 10.9% in Asia, and 0.8% in Oceania.

Between 2005 and 2014, the number of priests increased from 406,411 to 415,792, while the number of permanent deacons rose from 33,000 to 44,566. The number of priests rose significantly in Africa (by 32.6%) and Asia (by 27.1%), which declining in Europe (by 8%). 97.5% of permanent deacons live in North America, South America, or Europe. Continue Reading Catholic Population>

Court affirms Church's right to hire and fire ministers

Court affirms Church's right to hire and fire ministers

Mar. 8, 2016 - (CNA) - A Missouri court ruling in favor of a Catholic diocese protects the right of religious institutions to fire ministerial employees who do not live consistently with their religious beliefs.

“This ruling rightly preserves the integrity of churches and religious institutions,” Jeremiah Galus, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA March 2. “If churches are forced to employ people who do not follow their religious teachings, they will no longer be able to minister consistently or freely in accordance with their faith.”

Galus was responding to a court ruling that the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is free to make ministerial employment decisions without government interference and did not violate any laws by terminating employment of a woman in a same-sex marriage.

“Churches should have the right to hire and fire people based on how consistently they live out their religious beliefs. If an employee is undermining or publicly opposing the church’s teaching, the church is within its constitutional rights to terminate employment,” Galus said. Continue Reading Missouri Ruling>

Pope Francis 'shocked' by attack on Missionaries of Charity home in Yemen

Pope Francis 'shocked' by attack on Missionaries of Charity home in Yemen

Mar. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis has condemned the “diabolical violence” of Friday’s deadly attack on a nursing home in Yemen, acknowledging in a special way the four Missionaries of Charity sisters who were killed during the siege.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was shocked and profoundly saddened to learn of the killing of four Missionaries of Charity and twelve others at a home for the elderly in Aden,” reads the telegram, released Saturday and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Pope “sends the assurance of his prayers for the dead and his spiritual closeness to their families and to all affected from this act of senseless and diabolical violence,” the message reads.

“He prays that this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.” Continue Reading Missionaries of Charity>

Majority in Brazil reject abortion for babies with microcephaly

Majority in Brazil reject abortion for babies with microcephaly

Mar. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - The majority of Brazilians are opposed to abortion in cases where the baby exhibits microcephaly, a new survey finds.

The poll comes amid continued concerns over the possible role of Zika virus in causing microcephaly.

Released by Brazil’s Datafolha Institute, the survey indicates that 58 percent of Brazilians reject the practice of abortion in cases of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus. Just 32 percent think the woman should have an abortion and 10 percent had no opinion.

Even in cases where it is confirmed that the baby will be born with microcephaly, 51 percent of respondents were against ending the baby’s life. About 39 percent approved of an abortion.

The first case of the Zika virus in the Americas was recorded in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the virus has spread through half of South America, much of Central America and Mexico. Some cases have been reported in the southern United States. Continue Reading Zika Outbreak>

God did not create us to remain crushed by sin, Pope says

God did not create us to remain crushed by sin, Pope says

Mar. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - Leading his annual penitential service on Friday, Pope Francis told attendees to stand tall and be open to forgiveness, and not to let themselves remain under the heavy burden of sin.

“Let us cast off...all that prevents us from racing towards him, unafraid of leaving behind those things which make us feel safe and to which we are attached,” the Pope said March 4.

He told attendees not to “remain sedentary, but let us get up and find our spiritual worth again, our dignity as loved sons and daughters who stand before the Lord so that we can be seen by him, forgiven and recreated.”

Pointing to the word “recreated,” Francis said it arrives to the heart of each person present, because it’s a reminder of what God said when he created man: “Rise! God has created us to stand. Arise.” Continue Reading Pope at 24-Hours for the Lord>

REMINDER: 24 Hours for the Lord in Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Friday and Saturday

24 Hours for the Lord in Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Friday and Saturday

Mar. 4, 2016 - (Diocese FWSB) - During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, with its motto, “Merciful Like the Father,” 12 parishes throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will join the universal Church on March 4-5 in the celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord.”

The 12 parishes hosting 24 Hours for the Lord in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will be: St. John the Baptist (Fairfield), St. Jude, St. Vincent de Paul and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, along with St. Therese Little Flower, St. Joseph, Christ the King, and Holy Family (all in SB) and St. Thomas in Elkhart, St. Mary in Bristol, St. Francis Xavier in Pierceton, and St. John in Goshen.

FULL SCHEDULE: 24-Hours for the Lord in Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend>

This 95-year-old priest walked three miles while hearing confessions

This 95-year-old priest walked three miles while hearing confessions

Mar. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - A 95-year-old priest named Friar Roberto walked more than three-and-a-half miles while hearing confessions during a recent “Penitential Walk” in Brazil.

Some 30,000 people participated in the walk, which took place Feb. 28 in the northeast Brazilian Archdioceses of Fortaleza and Salvador de Bahia.

“It was one of most beautiful moments I saw today. That example of faith, love and fidelity for the things of God, which is what Friar Roberto showed us today, was a true proof of the presence of God in his heart. We've got to follow his example!” one person commented on social media, sharing pictures of the priest exercising his ministry.

The Capuchin priest was born on September 10, 1920, in the city of Maracanaú (Ceará State). He was baptized with the name Juari Magalhães de Sousa. When he was 14, he entered the Capuchin monastery. He then changed his name to Friar Roberto. He was ordained a priest in 1944 and has been a priest for 71 years. Continue Reading Walking Confessions>

Pope Begins 24-Hour Confession Service in Rome

Pope to Begin 24-Hour Confession Service in Rome

Mar. 4, 2016 - (Zenit) - Pope Francis on Friday will hear confessions as he presides in Saint Peter’s Basilica over the penitential celebration called “24 Hours for the Lord,” now in its third consecutive year. In fact, it was during last year’s ceremony that the Pontiff proclaimed the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

From 9:00 pm on Friday, March 4, there will be Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration in three churches of Rome: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Piazza Navona; Santa Maria in Trastevere and the church of Saint Francis’ Holy Stigmata in Largo Argentina. The churches will remain open uninterruptedly, with the presence of priests available for Confessions.

There will also be Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday, March 5 in the church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, beginning at 10:00 am. The conclusive celebration will be held at 5:00 pm in the church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, presided over by Monsignor Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Continue Reading Pope Francis 24 Hours>

Divided bench, emotional victims - Supreme Court hears Texas abortion case

Divided bench, emotional victims – Supreme Court hears Texas abortion case

Mar. 2, 2016 - (CNA) - As the Supreme Court heard arguments about a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to meet higher medical standards, advocates outside the court said the regulations are about protecting women’s health.  

For Nona Ellington, the case is a personal one.

Standing outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, she told EWTN about her own experience of undergoing an abortion in Texas as a teenager. Rather than solving her problems, she said, the procedure resulted in lasting complications that continue to haunt her to this day.

“As a result of that abortion at age 15, I’m no longer able to have children,” she said. “I had five miscarriages instead.”  And these miscarriages led to in life-threatening complications of their own, including tubal pregnancies and a ruptured fallopian tube that resulted in “near death experiences.”  

Ellington said that she also suffered severe psychological effects after the abortion, including suicidal thoughts and attempts to take her own life. Now, she is taking a stand against “shoddy abortion clinics” and warning that abortion is “a very dangerous procedure.” Continue Reading SCOTUS Abortion Case>

Pope Francis: the Church doesn't need 'dirty money'

Pope Francis: The Church doesn't need 'dirty money'

Mar. 2, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday, Pope Francis issued a harsh condemnation of those who exploit others and then donate to the Church, telling them their “dirty money” isn’t wanted.

Taking his cue from the first chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis said March 2 that God doesn’t like “the blood of bulls and lambs, especially if the offering is done with hands dirty with the blood of their brothers.”

Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience. He has dedicated the catechesis of the weekly address to the theme of mercy as seen in Scripture, as part of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, he said that when Isaiah tells the Israelites to “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me…when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood,” he thinks of certain Church benefactors.

There are some people, he said, who come with a generous offering, but which is “a fruit of the blood of so many people who are exploited, mistreated and enslaved by poorly paid jobs!” Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

For papal theologian, freedom is defining factor in US Church

For papal theologian, freedom is defining factor in US Church

Mar. 1, 2016 - (CNA) - “What can the Church in the United States offer the Universal Church and the world?”

On the cusp of Super Tuesday and in the midst of an already-heated election year, Papal Theologian Fr. Wojciech Giertych responded to that question in a Q&A style conversation hosted by the Denver-based Augustine Institute.

“I think there is certainly a very positive value that you have and you’re not particularly aware of it. That you have liberty in your country,” Fr. Giertych said in his Feb. 24 discussion. “And by liberty, I mean that you are free to set up institutions like (the Augustine Institute) without government control.”

In modern-day Europe, Fr. Giertych said, government involvement and high taxation has made independent institutions almost impossible.  “...The bureaucrats who apparently know better, who have two charisms: that of being irremovable and of being infallible,” he joked. Continue Reading On American Politics>

Rome's US seminary welcomes new rector

Rome's US seminary welcomes new rector

Mar. 1, 2016 - (CNA) - The Pontifical North American College (NAC) on Sunday officially installed its new rector, Fr. Peter Harman.

The Illinois native was formally installed as the 23rd rector of the Rome-based American seminary at Mass, during which he made his Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith.    

“It is with real humility that I stand here today,” the new rector said, during a banquet following the Mass.   “Although I never imagined becoming Rector, I know accepting this role is how God can use my service for His good.”

Archbishop Newark and College Board of Governors Chairman, Archbishop John Myers, served as the principal celebrant at the Feb. 28 Mass. “We are grateful to Fr. Peter Harman and the other formators and faculty of the Pontifical North American College for having assumed the responsibility of leading this great community,” Archbishop Myers said in his homily. Continue Reading New NAC Rector>

Amid firestorm of publicity, Mount St. Mary's president resigns

Amid firestorm of publicity, Mount St. Mary's president resigns

Mar. 1, 2016 - (CNA) - After fierce controversy during his short-lived term at Mount St. Mary's University, president Simon Newman has stepped down, the school's board announced Feb. 29.

“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time, particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” Newman said in a statement from the university.

“I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students,” he said, adding that he believes this decision to be the “right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Immediately following Newman's resignation, the university appointed Karl Einolf, Ph.D., as acting president. Continue Reading Mount St. Mary's>

Louisiana judge strikes down law that requires priest to report abuse mentioned in confession

Louisiana judge strikes down law that requires priest to report abuse mentioned in confession

Feb. 29, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - A Louisiana judge has ruled unconstitutional a new state law requiring priests to report sexual abuse that is mentioned in a sacramental confession.

Judge Mike Caldwell made his ruling in a long-running and complicated case in which Father Jeff Bayhi had been directed to testify about what a young woman reportedly told him in a confession. The young woman has said that she told Father Bayhi about being molested by a member of his parish. Father Bayhi had refused to testify, citing the inviolability of the confessional seal.

Judge Caldwell ruled that the state law making priests mandated reporters of sexual abuse was unconstitutional insofar as it applied to confessions, since it violated religious freedom. 

In an earlier phase of the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court had said that Father Bayhi could be required to testify, because in this case the penitent had waived the protection of the confessional seal. Church officials pointed out that the seal cannot be waived, and a priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession under any circumstances. Last year the US Supreme Court had declined to hear the case. Continue Reading Seal of Confession>

Pope to Oriental Orthodox Leader: Ecumenism of martyrs calls us to unity 

Pope to Oriental Orthodox leader: Ecumenism of martyrs calls us to unity

Feb. 29, 2016 - (CNA) - Today's martyrs have become “the seed of Christian unity,” Pope Francis said Monday during an audience with the leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and his delegation.

“The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity,” the Pope said at the Feb. 29 meeting at the Vatican with Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox.

“Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity.”

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. These Churches reject the 451 Council of Chalcedon, and its followers were historically considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. Continue Reading Ecumenism of the Martyrs>

Vatican paper lauds Spotlight as brave, not anti-Catholic 

Vatican paper lauds Spotlight as brave, not anti-Catholic

Feb. 29, 2016 - (CNA) - The film Spotlight, which won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday, is a courageous movie that is not anti-Catholic, the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano said in two articles dedicated to comment on the Oscars.

Historian and journalist Lucetta Scaraffia, in an op-ed titled “It is not an anti-Catholic film,” writes that Spotlight “is not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.”

The movie “does not delve into the long and tenacious battle that Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope, undertook against pedophilia in the Church,” says Scaraffia, but “one film cannot tell all, and the difficulties that Ratzinger met with do not but confirm the film’s theme, which is that too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes.” Continue Reading Spotlight Review>

Pope Francis spends his Friday with people in drug, alcohol recovery

Pope Francis spends his Friday with people in drug, alcohol recovery

Feb. 26, 2016 - (CNA) - Continuing his knack for surprises, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at a rehabilitation center for those addicted to drugs and alcohol as part of monthly works of mercy, which he carries out on Fridays during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

He traveled to the Fr. Mario Picchi Italian Center for Solidarity on Friday afternoon for the surprise visit, where he spoke with the 60 guests receiving treatment, and offered words of hope.

The center, a nonprofit organization founded by Fr. Picchi in 1979, organizes numerous initiatives aimed at fighting the marginalization of youth and families as well as social exclusion. Their primary objective is the prevention of and rehabilitation from drug addiction and alcoholism.

In a Feb. 26 communique, the center’s president, Roberto Mineo, said that everyone was “without words” when they saw the Pope pull up in front of their door. Continue Reading Pope Francis>

In Oregon, you may barely know the doctor who issues your lethal prescription

In Oregon, you may barely know the doctor who issues your lethal prescription

Feb. 29, 2016 - (CNA) - Requests for physician-assisted suicide in Oregon have almost doubled annually since 2013, records for the state’s public health authority show.

“What’s happened in America – and particularly in Oregon – is that we are changing absolute values, and then replacing it with personal choice,” Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, told CNA of the rise in requests for lethal prescriptions.

According to data published by the Oregon Public Health Division earlier in February, there were 218 lethal prescriptions written there in 2015, a sharp increase from 155 in the previous year, and 121 in 2013.

Although the average yearly increase in prescriptions was 12 percent, in 2014-15 it was 24 percent. Continue Reading Assisted Suicide>

Diocese announces Jubilee Year of Mercy event, 24 Hours for the Lord

Diocese announces Jubilee Year of Mercy event, 24 Hours for the Lord

Feb. 25, 2016 - (Diocese FWSB) - During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, with its motto, “Merciful Like the Father,” 12 parishes throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will join the universal Church on March 4-5 in the celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord.”

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “Misericordiae Vultus,” which was announced in Rome April 11, 2015 in St. Peter’s, Pope Francis called for an observance of 24 Hours for the Lord to be celebrated in each diocese on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent. The emphasis will be on Reconciliation, but participating parishes will also include Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross, various prayer services and quiet prayer throughout the 24 hours, which will run from noon on Friday, March 4 till noon on Saturday, March 5.

Catholics all over the diocese are invited to attend some part of 24 Hours for the Lord, even if it’s simply spending time in quiet reflection and prayer. There will be numerous opportunities for the faithful to encounter Jesus Christ anew in the Sacrament of Confession as well as during Eucharistic Adoration. Continue Reading 24 Hours for the Lord>

Pope Francis meet with children who wrote letters for new book

Pope Francis meets with children who wrote letters for new book

Feb. 25, 2016 - (News.Va) - Pope Francis has met with several of the children who wrote him letters for his new book, “Dear Pope Francis,” which was presented to him during the meeting.

The young people were accompanied by the President of Caritas Internationalis, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who helped Pope Francis with the book.

During the encounter – involving children from Italy, the Philippines, India, Kenya, Australia, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Ireland, Belgium, and China – the Holy Father said the questions asked for the book were some of the “most difficult” he had ever been asked.

Pope Francis then proceeded to answer more questions the children had. He said his favourite thing about being Pope was “being around people,” adding he “learned something every time” he met someone new. Continue Reading Dear Pope Francis>

A plea to the US Secretary of State: Recognize anti-Christian genocide

A plea to the US Secretary of State: Recognize anti-Christian genocide

Feb. 25, 2016 - (CNA) - The U.S. must not ignore the Islamic State’s genocide of Christians. That is the position of a petition drive and television campaign seeking to persuade Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Christians in Iraq and Syria have suffered injustice after injustice by being kidnapped, killed, having their homes and churches confiscated or destroyed, and being forced to flee for their lives,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Feb. 25. “Because of hit squads, they fear to enter U.N. refugee camps and, as a result, are then often excluded from immigration to the West.”

He said that these Christians “deserve to have the U.S. State Department call what has happened to them by its rightful name: genocide.”

By law, the State Department must choose how to designate the atrocities by March 17, according to the Knights of Columbus. Official recognition of genocide would have consequences for U.S. foreign policy, including refugee resettlement policy. Continue Reading Genocide Petition>

Singapore archbishop slams Madonna concert as 'pseudo-art'

Singapore archbishop slams Madonna concert as 'pseudo-art'

Feb. 25, 2016 - (CNA) - Singapore's music fans can do better than Madonna, the local Catholic archbishop has said.

The American pop star will stop in Singapore on Sunday Feb. 28 as part of her “Rebel Heart” tour – and Archbishop William Goh says the concert is “causing a stir” among Catholics and other Christians.

In response, he urged the faithful to reflect on how Christianity offers a contrasting vision of the arts and the world.

“As the people of God, we should subscribe to authentic arts that lead us to God through the appreciation of beauty, harmony, goodness, truth and love, respect, unity and the transcendent,” he said Feb. 20.

He encouraged Christians and others not to support “the 'pseudo arts' that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography, contamination of the minds of the young, abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies and half-truths.” Continue Reading Madonna Concert>

Demonic house in Indiana demolished

Demonic house in Indiana demolished

Feb. 23, 2016 - (NCRegister) - The home that was believed to be a site of demonic activity was demolished last month. The story, as reported in the Register, centered on an Indiana family attacked by demons and freed by a Catholic priest through a series of exorcisms.

It had attracted international attention after multiple people from various agencies, including a police officer and hospital and social-service employees, gave eyewitness testimonies of unexplained occurrences involving the family who lived there, including levitation of objects and loud footsteps leaving prints. Two hospital personnel reported seeing one of the boys walking backwards up a wall, flipping into the air and landing on his feet while in a hospital room waiting to be examined. In a separate event, the Department of Child Services report stated that the staff at a doctor’s office witnessed one of the boys getting lifted up and thrown into a wall. Continue Reading Demonic House>

Patriarch calls on Orthodox, Catholics to oppose de-Christianization, persecution

Patriarch calls on Orthodox, Catholics to oppose de-Christianitization, persecution

Feb. 25, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - In the final days of his journey to Latin America, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where he prayed for persecuted Christians at the statute of Christ the Redeemer.

Catholics and Orthodox Christians “still have some doctrinal disagreements, but no one is preventing us from fighting, hand in hand, to end the persecutions, the ousting of Christian values, to end the de-Christianization of the 21st-century human civilization,” the Interfax news service quoted him as saying.

The patriarch lamented the situation in Europe: "Where an evil political force disguised as tolerance is ousting Christianity out of the public life; when people are banned from wearing, in public places, and especially at the workplace, the cross that was laid upon them when they were baptized; when some countries ban the use of the word ‘Christmas,’ and replace it with an incomprehensible one, or simply call it a ‘winter holiday’..." Continue Reading Patriarch Kiril>

Pope: wealth and power are good, but only when used to serve

Pope: wealth and power are good, but only when used to serve

Feb. 24, 2016 - (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Francis cautioned that unless wealth and power are put at the service of society, especially the poor, they risk becoming instruments of corruption, private interests and various forms of abuse.

“Wealth and power are realities which can be good and useful for the common good, if they are put at the service of the poor and of everyone, with justice and charity,” the Pope said Feb. 24.

However, when they are instead lived “as a privilege with egoism and power, as too often happens, they are transformed into instruments of corruption and death.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience, which he dedicated to his ongoing catechesis on mercy in scripture. Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

EWTN loses court battle, waiting for Supreme Court decision

EWTN Loses Court Battle, Waiting for Supreme Court Decision

Feb. 22, 2016 - (Zenit) - In a splintered decision Thursday, a federal court ruled that the world’s largest religious media network, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), must comply with the government’s infamous HHS Mandate, which is designed to provide contraceptives and abortifacients.

Recognizing the severity of the situation, the court immediately put its ruling on hold until the Supreme Court address this important issue on March 23 in the Little Sisters of the Poor case.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s refusal to protect our religious freedom,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We simply want to continue to practice the same faith we preach to the world every day. We are prayerful and hopeful that, if necessary, the Supreme Court will correct this critical error.” Continue Reading EWTN vs. HHS>

Canadian archbishop: no anointing for people planning assisted suicide

Canadian archbishop: no anointing for people planning assisted suicide

Feb. 22, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa has told his priests that they should not administer the Sacrament of Anointing to people who plan an assisted suicide, since their desire to end their own lives shows that they lack "the proper disposition for the anointing of the sick."

The archbishop said that if a priest is called to attend to someone planning suicide, he should pray with him and seek to dissuade him from the act. In those circumstances, he said, by refusing to anoint the individual the priest may be helping to drive home the gravity of the action. He added that the sacrament includes absolution, but this cannot be given pre-emptively, to forgive a sin that is still being planned.

Archbishop Prenderast observed: "Asking your priest to be present to something that is is direct contradiction to our Catholic values is not fair to the pastor." Continue Reading Assisted Suicide>

ISIS releases 43 Christian hostages

Report: ISIS releases 43 Christian hostages

Feb. 23, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Islamic State has released 43 Christians who were taken captive during a February 2015 military offensive in northeastern Syria, according to the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization (ACERO).

The Islamic State had previously freed the majority of the more than 200 hostages, and “this freed group comprises the final hostages from the group abducted from Assyrian villages in February 2015,” according to ACERO. “Therefore, no further hostages remain.”

The Associated Press reported that ransom payments in the millions of dollars were paid to secure the release of the hostages. Continue Reading Christians Released>

Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Feb. 23, 2016 - (CNA) - As the process of reforming the Vatican's communications is carried out, Fr. Federico Lombardi will step down as director of Vatican Radio at the end of the month, though he will continue to serve as director of the Holy See press office.

A Feb. 22 communique from the Secretariat for Communications announced the decision, and that Alberto Gasbarri, director of administration at Vatican Radio, will also be leaving his post.

Neither Gasbarri nor Fr. Lombardi, who has served Vatican Radio for 25 years, will be replaced. Gasbarri had coordinated papal trips for 40 years.

The head of the Secretariat for Communications appointed Giacomo Ghisani, deputy director of the secretariat, as Vatican Radio's interim legal representative and director of administration. Continue Reading Fr. Lombardi Steps Down>

Mother Angelica still in 'delicate' condition, fellow nuns ask for prayers

Mother Angelica still in 'delicate' condition, fellow nuns ask for prayers

Feb. 22, 2016 - (CNA) - The nuns of Mother Angelica's monastery have thanked those who have prayed for the EWTN founder and have asked continued prayers for the 92-year-old nun.

“Mother's condition remains delicate and she receives devoted care day and night by her sisters and nurses,” the nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery said in a Feb. 22 update.

“Although she is most often sleeping, from time to time Mother will give a radiant smile. There is no doubt that her heart must be 'on things above,'” the nuns said, referencing St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.

Mother Angelica founded Eternal Word Television Network in 1981. The organization would become EWTN Global Catholic Network. She headed the organization until the year 2000 and became one of the most influential Catholic women in the U.S. Continue Reading Mother Angelica>

How Catholics remembered Justice Scalia at his funeral Mass

How Catholics remembered Justice Scalia at his funeral Mass

Feb. 22, 2016 - (CNA) - At a funeral Mass on Saturday, Catholics recalled the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a man of deep faith that informed his public service.

“He was God’s first,” his son Fr. Paul Scalia noted of his father, citing public servant St. Thomas More’s iconic quote: “I die the king’s good servant but God’s first.”

Justice Scalia died Feb. 13 at a resort ranch in West Texas at the age of 79. He was the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, having served since 1986.

A lifelong Catholic, Scalia attended the Jesuit-run Xavier High School in New York City and then Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. for undergraduate studies. He was a parishioner at St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean, Va.

An estimated crowd of 3,300 attended Scalia’s funeral Mass Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in North America. Continue Reading Justice Scalia Funeral>

Video of Fr. Scalia's Full Homily

Make a daily commitment to spreading God's mercy, Pope Francis says

Make a daily commitment to spreading God’s mercy, Pope Francis says

Feb. 21, 2016 - (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Francis held his second Saturday general audience of the Jubilee, encouraging pilgrims to make a daily commitment to spreading God’s mercy both in the small things, and to those most in need.

“My life, my attitude, my way of living, must truly be a concrete sign that God is close to us,” the Pope said Feb. 20.

He explained that this is done through “small gestures of love, tenderness and care” which show that “the Lord is with us, that he's close to us. And this is how the door of mercy opens.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his second Saturday general audience for the Holy Year of Mercy.

In addition to his weekly Wednesday general audiences, the Pope chose to hold an extra audience once a month on a Saturday as a special initiative for the Jubilee. In his address, Francis continued his reflections on the topic of mercy as understood through scripture, this week focusing on God’s commitment to humanity in sending Jesus. Continue Reading Jubliee Audience>

Pope Francis against the death penalty: criminals too have the right to life

Pope Francis against the death penalty: criminals too have the right to life

Feb. 21, 2016 - (CNA) - Christians must work to abolish the death penalty and improve prison conditions, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

After praying the Angelus on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called on all Christians and people of good will to work “not only for the abolition of the death penalty” but also to improve the conditions in prison. These efforts would respect the human dignity of prisoners, he said.

He appealed to the consciences of government leaders to join “the international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty.” He asked Catholic leaders not to hold executions during the Year of Mercy. This would be as a “courageous and exemplary act,” he said Feb. 21.

Rome will host an international convention for those working to abolish the death penalty on Feb. 22. The event is being promoted by the Sant’Egidio Community.

Pope Francis said he hoped that the gathering can strengthen efforts to abolish capital punishment. Continue Reading Death Penalty>

'We are brothers' - Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill hold historic meeting

'We are brothers' – Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill hold historic meeting

Feb. 12, 2016 - (CNA) - Christian brotherhood and unity were the focus of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill when they met on Friday afternoon in Havana.

“We spoke as brothers,” Pope Francis said. “We have the same baptism. We are bishops. We spoke of our Churches.”

“We agreed that unity is created by journeying together,” he told a gathering of Catholic and Orthodox clergy and reporters after his meeting with the patriarch.

He characterized the Feb. 12 conversation as open and authentic. It focused on “a series of initiatives that I believe are viable and can be realized.”

The Pope praised the patriarch’s humility, brotherhood, and deep desire for unity.

The first-ever meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of Moscow was held privately. Afterwards they signed a joint declaration that focused on several topics. Continue Reading Pope and Patriarch>

Full Text of Joint Declaration from Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

At Guadalupe Mass, Pope highlights Mary's 'yes'

At Guadalupe Mass, Pope highlights Mary's 'yes'

Feb. 13, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis’ historic first pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City brought reflections of obedience, surrender, and hope as the Holy Father celebrated Mass on Feb. 13. 

“We have just heard how Mary went to meet her cousin Elizabeth. She sets out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative,” Pope Francis stated during his homily on Feb. 13, pointing to the Gospel of Luke. 

Mary “is the woman who says ‘yes’...this is the ‘yes’ which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others,” the Holy Father continued.

Pope Francis offered these reflections while celebrating Mass at the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe during his 6-day papal trip to the country of Mexico. 

During his homily, Pope Francis noted that listening to that particular Gospel passage on Mary “in this place has a special significance.” He went on to highlight Mary’s availability to those in need, saying her obedient surrender to God helped her serve her brothers and sisters. Continue Reading Guadalupe Visit>

Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant

Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant

Feb. 13, 2016 - (NYT) - Antonin Scalia, dead unexpectedly this weekend at 79, was not the most politically powerful justice during his three decades on the Supreme Court. That distinction belonged to the court’s two swing votes, Sandra Day O’Connor and then Anthony M. Kennedy, respectively the philosopher queen and king of our fraying republican order.

Unlike them, Scalia did not have the opportunity to write all his preferences into the law of the land. For every victory he won, there was a sharp defeat; for every important majority opinion a stinging, quotable dissent. And on the issues he cared the most about – abortion, above all – his defeats were famous and his dissents often not just eloquent but anguished.

But in every other respect, he was the most important Supreme Court justice of his era.

He was important because of his intellectual influence. There were and are many legal theories and schools of constitutional interpretation within the world of American conservatism. Continue Reading Scalia Tribute>

Knights sponsoring #40BucksforLent to help Mideast Christians

Knights Sponsoring #40BucksforLent to Help Mideast Christians

Feb. 11, 2016 - (Zenit) - The Knights of Columbus is asking those considering a Lenten sacrifice to give “40 Bucks for Lent” and use the hashtag #40BucksForLent to help Middle Eastern Christians and other religious minorities suffering religious persecution there.

“Since many people give up something for Lent, we wanted to provide an opportunity for their sacrifice to make a difference — not only in their own life, but in the lives of others,” said K of C Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “During the Lenten season, we recall Christ’s suffering and death. In turn, remembering and assisting those who are today suffering and dying for their belief in Christ is an excellent way to do good where it is most needed and to enter more deeply into the spirit of this season.”

The Knights began its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in 2014. To date nearly $10 million has been raised to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities especially from Iraq and Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight. Those persecuted have suffered enormously at the hands of terrorists, who target them simply for their faith. Lives have been turned upside down, friends and families killed, and homes seized. Continue Reading #40BucksforLent>

Northern Ireland defeats bid to allow abortion in cases of severe fetal deformnity

Northern Ireland defeats bid to allow abortion in cases of severe fetal deformity

Feb. 11, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Lawmakes in Northern Ireland have defeated a proposal that would have allowed for legal abortion in cases in which the unborn child was diagnosed with a fatal physical defect.

After a heated debate, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted 59 to 40 against the proposal. Proponents had argued that it was merciful to end the lives of babies who could not survive-- or could not live for long-- outside the womb. Pro-life advocates replied that merciful treatment would mean providing the best care for the child during its short life.

Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland today only in cases when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or could cause severe and lasting damage to her health. Continue Reading Abortion in Ireland>

Vatican: No, bishops are not being told to cover up abuse

Vatican: No, bishops are not being told to cover up abuse

Feb. 11, 2016 - (CNA) - Media reports are wrong to claim that the Vatican is telling new bishops that they don’t have to report sexual abuse, Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

A reported comment from a Vatican consultant is “not in any way – as someone has mistakenly interpreted – a new Vatican document or a new instruction or new 'guidelines' for bishops,” Fr. Lombardi said Feb. 11.

The news reports concerned a statement from French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, who contributed to a 2015 formation course for new bishops organized by the Congregation for Bishops.

Msgr. Anatrella, a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, wrote a document with a section reflecting on countries’ civil laws that mandate abuse reporting. Continue Reading Vatican Reports>


Cover sins with the blanket of mercy, Pope Francis tells priests

Cover sins with the blanket of mercy, Pope Francis tells priests

Feb. 9, 2016 - (CNA) - Pope Francis met with 650 of the 1,000 priests who've been chosen as Missionaries of Mercy, telling them to show the tenderness of God’s love to those who confess to them during the Jubliee.

“Let us not forget: before us there is not sin, but the repentant sinner. A person who feels the desire of being welcomed and forgiven,” and who no longer desires to be far from God, the Pope said Feb. 9.

He called to mind the biblical passage in which Noah, after the flood, got drunk from the wine he made in his vineyard, and was found lying naked inside his tent. While his son Ham laughed at him, Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him with a blanket. Continue Reading Missionaries of Mercy>

Patriarchs call for Lenten fast in support of Middle East Christians

Patriarchs Call for Lenten Fast in Support of Middle East Christians

Feb. 9, 2016 - (Zenit) - In two separate appeals, the heads of both the Chaldean and Melkite Churches have called on Christians worldwide to observe the fast on Ash Wednesday and to begin their Lenten journey mindful of the plight of persecuted fellow believers in the Middle East.

From Baghdad, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako I wrote:

“The war in Iraq and Syria is taking on apocalyptic dimensions. Without a doubt, we are already facing the largest humanitarian catastrophe since the end of World War II. Once-thriving cities such as Mosul and the villages on the Nineveh plains have been reduced to rubble. Those who could flee, did. Millions of children in refugee camps are waiting for their daily bread, but they thirst for a future; they want schools and a home. They want to return to their homelands, as do their parents and relatives. Aid organizations are tirelessly caring for the refugees. They are buying basic foodstuffs, clothing, drinking water, blankets and medicine. Continue Reading Middle East Christians>

New undercover video shows National Abortion Federation 'really interested' in proposal for fetal-tissue sales

New undercover video shows National Abortion Federation 'really interested' in proposal for fetal-tissue sales

Feb. 9, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Undaunted by a federal court’s injunction against release of undercover videos involving the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a new video, in which an NAF representative touts the advantage of a “group purchasing program” to promote sales of fetal tissues.

In the new video—which is not covered under the terms of the injunction granted last week by Judge William Orrick—a NAF official says that a proposal to provide kickbacks to abortion clinics that provide fetal tissues would be “a win-win” and “a really great option to be able to offer our members.”

Judge Orrick, in issuing an injunction against the release of videos filmed at NAF meetings, had charged that the CMP videos “have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions.” The judge insisted that no abortionists had shown an interest in the illegal sale of fetal tissues for profit. The new video released by CMP shows, however, that a NAF representative described a proposal to share profits from tissue sales as “something some of our members would be really interested in.” Continue Reading New CMP Video>

Could it soon be illegal for doctors to believe in male and female?

Could it soon be illegal for doctors to believe in male and female?

Feb. 8, 2016 - (CNA) - A current proposal by a federal agency has raised concerns that doctors may be punished for believing that there are only two genders, rooted in biological sex.

The proposed rule, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says that it is aimed at banning discrimination against transgender individuals under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. 

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act cites decades-old federal laws that prohibit any individual from being denied benefits or discriminated against in any health program or federally funded activity on the basis of race, color, nationality, sex, disability and age. 

However, the Office of Civil Rights is now interpreting “sex” to include “gender identity” and “sex stereotypes.” Continue Reading HHS Proposal>

Pope: Prayer isn't about getting what we want

Pope: Prayer Isn’t About Getting What We Want

Feb. 8, 2016 - (Zenit) - Prayer isn’t about getting what we want, says Pope Francis, but rather about turning things over to the merciful hands of the Father.

The Pope said this Saturday morning when he addressed the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, workers of the Home for the Relief of Suffering private hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, and the faithful of the Diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo.

The relics of Padre Pio have been moved to St. Peter’s Basilica through Feb. 11, as part of the celebrations of the Jubilee of Mercy.

“Saint Pio never tired of receiving persons and of listening to them, spending time and effort to spread the perfume of the Lord,” the Pope said. “He could do so because he was always attached to the source, slaking his thirst continually from the Crucified Christ, and he thus became a channel of mercy.” Continue Reading Pope on Prayer>

Australian churches offer sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation

Australian churches offer sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation

Feb. 8, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - Some Christian churches in Australia are offering to provide sanctuary for immigrants, after a court ruling that the government is authorized to deport the immigrants to Nauru.

About 260 people, of whom 37 are children, face deportation to the isolated island nation in the south Pacific. Human-rights activists have decried Australia’s refusal to accept immigrants, and charged that the camps were they are detained in Naura and Papua New Guinea are in effect prisons, with poor living conditions.

A dozen churches have offered to take in the immigrants, the AsiaNews service reports. Dr. Peter Catt, the dean of the Anglican cathedral in Brisbane, said that the churches are “reinventing the ancient concept of sanctuary,” and taking what “is really a moral stand.” Continue Reading Sanctuary Churches>

Denver wins Super Bowl 50 and Charity Bowl 50

Denver wins Super Bowl 50 and Charity Bowl 50

Feb. 8, 2016 - (Charity Bowl 50) - After a week of fundraising-battle, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver rode a late-game surge in donations to beat Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charlotte in Charity Bowl 50.

The two groups had a friendly wager on which group could raise more money in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.   Going into last night’s game, the groups were in a dead-heat.  It stayed close through the 3rd quarter, within just a couple hundred dollars, but it seems like watching your team win puts people in a good mood.  When they closed donations an hour after the game ended, Denver Catholic Charities had surged to $16,890, just a little more than $2,500 more than the Charlotte group.

The best news is that between the two of them, they raised over $30,000 to support their good work. Continue Reading Charity Bowl 50>

NARAL Pro-Choice America slams Super Bowl commercial for using "antichoice tactic"

NARAL Pro-Choice America slams Super Bowl commercial for using "antichoice tactic"

Feb. 8, 2016 - (National Review) - What’s causing controversy is the portrayal of that unborn baby as one with an actual human personality. As NRO’s Jay Nordlinger noted earlier, the ad dares to portray the unborn child as human, and “not a meaningless blob of protoplasm.” The pro-abortion activist group NARAL tweeted its disapproval, criticizing Doritos for “using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses.”

“Humanizing” fetuses? How dare they imply that human fetuses are actually – quelle surprise! – human? The trouble for NARAL and other pro-choice advocates is that technological advances like ultrasounds have become some of the most powerful arguments on the pro-life side. Even at the earliest stages of a pregnancy, it is clearly evident that the image an ultrasound shows is a tiny little human, and countless parents have watched that screen in amazement, overjoyed to see their baby for the first time and hear its heart beating. Continue Reading Charity Bowl 50>

'First in history' - Pope Francis to meet Russian Patriarch in Cuba

'First in history' – Pope Francis to meet Russian Patriarch in Cuba

Feb. 5, 2016 - (CNA) - On Friday the Vatican announced that while on his way to Mexico, Pope Francis will stop in Cuba to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the first-ever meeting between a Pope and a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow are pleased to announce that, by the grace of God, His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet on February 12 next,” a joint Feb. 5 press release from the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church read.

Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, will arrive to Havana Feb. 11 for an official visit to South America. His Feb. 11-22 visit includes stops in Cuba, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.

Pope Francis himself will arrive to Havana’s José Martí International Airport the next day while on his way to Mexico, where he will be on an official visit until Feb. 17. Continue Reading Pope Francis and Patriarch Kiril>

National Prayer Breakfast keynote: in a world of division, be a bridge-builder

National Prayer Breakfast keynote: In a world of division, be a bridge-builder

Feb. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - In their keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast, the couple behind the History Channel’s ‘The Bible’ miniseries called for efforts to unite people of different faiths, races and political beliefs.

“It’s very easy to divide people and it’s very difficult to bring people together,” said producer Mark Burnett.

He and his wife, actress Roma Downey, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of religious and civic leaders held since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Attendance at the event is generally in the thousands.

Describing their work to make ‘The Bible’ miniseries, Burnett said that they quickly realized the challenge in working across faith communities that included various Protestant groups, Catholics and Jews.

In fact, he said, there are more than 30,000 denominations within Christianity alone, and they have different views on parts of Scripture. Continue Reading National Prayer Breakfast>

Bizarre details emergy as fake priest gets busted in LA

Bizarre details emerge as 'fake priest' gets busted in LA

Feb. 4, 2016 - (CNA) - For months, Erwin Mena donned vestments, called himself “Padre,” and convinced Southern California Catholics that he was a priest, police say.

He was good at it, too, reportedly. He attended seminary in El Salvador for a time years ago before dropping out, so he was able to convincingly officiate Masses, funerals, and even at least one wedding. He had a likeable personality and said all the right things.  

On Tuesday, he was arrested by Los Angeles police for allegedly impersonating a Roman Catholic priest and on suspicion of grand theft. Mena allegedly conned parishioners into buying thousands of dollars’ worth of fake tickets to see Pope Francis in the fall, and he would sell religious CDs and books only to line his own pockets with the profit. He has been charged with 22 felonies and 8 misdemeanors, according to a criminal complaint filed by the L.A. County district attorney’s office. Continue Reading Fake Priest Arrested>

Do mercy and justice contradict each other? Pope Francis says no

Do mercy and justice contradict each other? Pope Francis says no

Feb. 3, 2016 - (CNA) - When God is described in the Bible as being both merciful and just it can seem like an identity crisis, however Pope Francis said it’s the opposite: rather than contradicting each other, the two actually go hand in hand.

“Sacred Scripture presents us with God as infinite mercy, but also as perfect justice. How are these two things reconciled? How can the reality of mercy be articulated with the need for justice?” the Pope said Feb. 3.

While these two characteristics can seem like opposites, “in reality it's not like this, because it's precisely the mercy of God that brings the fulfillment of true justice,” Francis affirmed.

The Pope made his comments to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience. He recently began a new series of catechesis on the topic of mercy as it is understood in scripture, in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy. Continue Reading Wednesday Audience>

New CMP video details how Planned Parenthood pads invoices for profit

New CMP Video Details How Planned Parenthood Pads Invoices for Profit

Feb. 3, 2016 - (Operation Rescue) -  The Center for Medical Progress has released a new video detailing how Planned Parenthood used bogus line-item entries to hide profits from the sale of aborted baby remains.

The video focuses on invoices obtained by Operation Rescue’s Texas attorney Briscoe Cain through Freedom of Information Act requests and connects the dots to Planned Parenthood’s duplicitous book-keeping scheme with clips from the CMP’s undercover investigation at the Houston Planned Parenthood, one of the largest volume late-term abortion facilities in the country.

“The invoices clearly show how Planned Parenthood padded invoices in such a way as to hide the fact they were making illegal profits,” said Operation Rescue Senior Vice President Cheryl Sullenger. “This is not only hard evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law, but also shows that The Harris County grand jury indicted the wrong people.” Continue Reading Planned Parenthood Video>

This LGBT advocate changed his mind about Christian bakers

This LGBT advocate changed his mind about Christian bakers

Feb. 3, 2016 - (CNA) -  Peter Tatchell is a passionate human rights campaigner who outwardly voices his support of same-sex marriage and LGBT issues.

In 2014, he proclaimed his condemnation against Ashers Bakery in Belfast, Ireland, which was found guilty of “discrimination” because a pair of Christian bakers refused to ice a cake that would read “Support Gay Marriage.”

But now, two years later, Tatchell has halted his previous claims against Ashers Bakery, saying his change of heart has been motivated by the defense of freedom.

“Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion,” Tatchell wrote in The Guardian Feb. 1, saying “the court was wrong to penalize Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.” Continue Reading LGBT for Freedom>

Pope Francis and IS victims' advocate are among Nobel nominees

Pope Francis and IS victims’ advocate are among Nobel nominees

Feb. 2, 2016 - (Crux) -  Pope Francis, a woman who champions the rights of Islamic State rape victims, and the Afghan women’s cycling team are among the known candidates for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize as the nomination window was set to close Monday.

The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee typically receives more than 200 nominations for the prestigious prize, and keeps candidates secret for 50 years. Panel members can make their own nominations during their first judging meeting on Feb. 29.

Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu has given his backing to Pope Francis, as well as the economist Herman Daly and The Club of Rome think-tank for their “significant contributions to global understanding of sustainable development.”

Norwegian lawmaker Audun Lysbakken nominated Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who escaped from Islamic State sexual slavery to become a spokeswoman for those abused by IS militants. Continue Reading Pope Francis Nobel Nomination>

UK decision on human embryos "frightening beyond belief"

UK decision on human embryos "frightening beyond belief"

Feb. 2, 2016 - (News.Va) -  In Britain, the pro-life group, CORE, said the decision to allow the editing of the genes of human embryos for research purposes is morally wrong and its implications are “frightening beyond belief.” The British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority announced this week that it had approved a research application from the Francis Crick Institute in London to use new “gene editing” techniques on human embryos. 

The project aims to provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life.  However critics describe the plan as the first step on a path towards the legalization of genetically modified babies. Josephine Quintavalle is the Director of CORE, an organization that focuses on the ethical dilemmas surrounding human reproduction and she spoke to Susy Hodges.

As a pro-life organization, Quintavalle said CORE is opposed to any destructive research on human embryos and agreed with those critics who say that this decision marks the first step along the road towards babies being created to order. Continue Reading UK Embryo Testing>

USCCB files brief in support of regulation of abortion clinics in Texas

USCCB files brief in support of regulation of abortion clinics in Texas

Feb. 2, 2016 - (Catholic Culture) - The Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, February 1, on behalf of USCCB, the Texas Catholic Conference and several Christian partners in support of a Texas law mandating health and safety standards protecting women who undergo abortions. Other groups joining the brief include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The case is Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"There is ample evidence in this case that hospital admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements protect women's lives and health," said the brief. "When such requirements are not enforced, abuses detrimental to women's lives and health arise."
Continue Reading USCCB Files SCOTUS Brief>

Who else is facing off during the Super Bowl? Catholic Charities

Who else is facing off during the Super Bowl? Catholic Charities

Feb. 2, 2016 - (CNA) - Whether fans are rooting for the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers in the upcoming NFL Super Bowl 50, Catholic Charities of Denver, Colorado and Charlotte, South Carolina are uniting to host a friendly Charity Bowl Challenge that any football fan can cheer for.

Executive directors from both cities announced the wager last week, betting that the online fundraising challenge could bring their charities $50,000 by the end of the Feb. 7 game.

"It's a worthy cause that will have a major impact on the lives of the poor and needy in each of our communities," said Catholic Charities of Charlotte CEO Gerry Carter in a recent press release.

"All of our team's fans and Catholic Charities in the Carolinas look forward to this challenge, and the inevitable victory that will be ours," Carter said. Continue Reading Charity Bowl 50>

Vermont diocese to launch digital Catholic high school

Vermont diocese to launch digital Catholic high school

Feb. 1, 2016 - (CNA) - The Diocese of Burlington, this fall, hopes to become one of the first in the country to open a digital high school, where lectures, class discussions and homework largely take place in an online environment instead of a traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom.

Although online courses have long been available to Catholic home-school students, including some that go back to the 1990s, the idea of an accredited and diocesan-supported online Catholic school is quite new. The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) said it is aware of the existence of just one other: the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School.

The Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School opened in 2013. It claims to be the only diocesan-supported school of its kind. At least one other archdiocese, Chicago, also launched a digital academy in the same year. But it is intended to offer supplementary courses taken by students already enrolled in a physical school. Continue Reading Digital Catholic High School>

Starring Pope Francis - New film features Holy Father as himself

Starring Pope Francis – New film features Holy Father as himself

Feb. 1, 2016 - (CNA) - The “Pope of Surprises” is at it again. Pope Francis is set to be featured in the upcoming film “Beyond the Sun,” the first Pope in history to play himself in a big screen production.

The idea for the film came from the Holy Father, who approached the filmmakers at AMBI Pictures, asking them to produce a movie that could effectively portray Gospel passages and parables to children.

The movie will be a family adventure story where children from different cultures emulate the apostles while searching for Christ in the world around them, says the film group.

All proceeds from “Beyond the Sun” will go to El Almendro and Los Hogares de Cristo, Argentine charities that provide support for at-risk children and young adults in need.

AMBI co-founders Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi are fully financing and producing the film through their AMBI Pictures banner. Co-producers are Graciela Rodriguez and Gabriel Leybu, and the screenplay was written by Graciela Rodriguez. Continue Reading Pope Francis' New Movie>

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