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Pro-life MP hails ‘clear victory’ over abortion amendments

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 06:15 am (CNA).- A leading pro-life MP welcomed the defeat Monday of attempts to strip away protections for unborn children in the U.K.

Fiona Bruce, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told CNA July 7 that the result was a “clear victory” for the pro-life movement.

A group of MPs sought to introduce two amendments July 6 removing restrictions on abortion to a bill aimed at combating domestic abuse.

The first, New Clause 28, would have permitted women in abusive relationships to undergo both medical and surgical abortions in any location. 

The second, New Clause 29, would have introduced abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks. 

The first clause was withdrawn after it became clear that it would not be backed by a majority of MPs.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that the second clause would not be selected for debate, deeming it “out of scope” of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Bruce said: “I and other MPs, Members of the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group, are delighted at this clear victory.”

“Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MP -- and prayed -- about the concerning amendments proposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which would have brought in the most significant -- and disturbing -- changes to our abortion laws in 50 years, none of which were passed by the House of Commons last night.”

“Indeed one of them, New Clause 29, was not even allowed to be debated by the Speaker: he deemed it ‘out of scope’ before the debate even began.”

Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton, continued: “I was very pleased that the proposer of the other -- New Clause 28 -- proposing an extension of the temporary emergency provisions for the provision of ‘at-home abortion pills’ during the current coronavirus crisis, withdrew it.” 

“As the debate went on, with many strong contributions from pro-life MPs against New Clause 28, it became clear to MPs in the chamber of the House of Commons that if New Clause 28 was put to a vote the proposers of this dangerous clause risked a serious defeat.”

Bruce noted that pro-life MPs also won a commitment from the Government to review temporary measures on at-home medical abortions before it takes further action.

“It is to be hoped, and we need to ensure, that this review -- consultation -- will properly and fairly highlight safety concerns around the taking of ‘at-home abortion pills’ which have been highlighted in recent press reports,” she said.

The government announced in March that women would be allowed to perform medical abortions at home until the coronavirus crisis ends. In May, it was reported that police were investigating a case in which a mother took home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant, four weeks past the legal abortion time limit.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which oversees the “pills by post” service, reportedly confirmed that it was looking into the case, along with eight others in which women were beyond the 10-week limit for medical ­abortions at home.

Dr Helen Watt, senior research fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, told CNA July 6 that it was “a huge relief” that neither of the two amendments were incorporated into the Domestic Abuse Bill.

She said: “For years, the abortion lobby has been pushing for home abortions, and COVID-19 provided the pretext to introduce them. Already, this temporary permission has led to on-the-ground use of abortion pills far beyond the ‘right’ gestation: in a harrowing recent case, one baby killed by home abortion was stillborn at 28 weeks.” 

“It would be unconscionable to entrench permanently home abortions for genuine abuse cases, not least as abusive environments are precisely those in which coercion to abort is most likely, while such coercion is clearly harder to detect remotely.” 

Watt added that women who were not being abused might be tempted to claim that they were in order to gain access to the pills. 

“Checking the facts here is no easier than checking for coercion, gestational age or possible ectopic pregnancy,” she said.

“Home abortions are not only lethal to the baby but carry real harms and risks for the mother: women with crisis pregnancies need swift in-person help, not remote, abortion-focused consultations.”

Ahead of Monday’s House of Commons debate, an English bishop urged Catholics to contact their MPs to express their concern about the amendments. Bishop John Sherrington said that the proposals would “leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe.”

He said: “This is being presented as decriminalizing abortion but it would, if carried, do far more than that. It would result in the introduction of abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks.”

“It would leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe, where in nearly all countries the time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. The majority of our fellow citizens would like to see the current 24-week limit reduced, not increased.”

Last month official figures revealed that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2019.

The government said June 11 that a total of 209,519 abortions took place last year, more than in any other year since the practice was legalized by the Abortion Act 1967. 

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the charitable organization Right to Life UK, said: “This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies. These amendments would have left the unborn child with considerably worse protections and removed many of the current safeguards which protect women facing unplanned pregnancies.”

“Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied over the last week to get friends and family to email their MPs. MPs received more emails ahead of this vote than they have ever received ahead of an abortion vote.”

“Thank you to the amazing group of pro-life MPs in Parliament who have worked so hard to ensure that these extreme amendments were defeated.”

Spokane bishop responds to Catholic Charities racism video

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 04:58 pm (CNA).-  

Both the Bishop of Spokane and the leader of a Washington state Catholic Charities organization have spoken out about a controversial video in which the charity leader said that he, his organization, and the Catholic Church are racist, and that the Catholic Church is premised on the idea that Jesus Christ was white.

“I am a racist. That’s the hard truth. I am a racist. How could I not be? As a white person living in America, where every institution is geared to advantage people who look like me, it’s seemingly impossible for me to be anything other than a racist,” Rob McCann, CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, said in a video posted to YouTube June 19.



“My Catholic Church, and my Catholic Charities organization, is racist. How could they not be? Our Catholic faith tradition is built on the premise that a baby, born in a manger, in the Middle East, was a white baby. So how can we be surprised to know that we must still fight against racism,” McCann added in the video.

Jesus Christ was a Jewish man, born to Jewish parents in the Middle East, centuries before contemporary categories of racial identification emerged amid European colonization in various parts of the world. The Catholic Church teaches that the Jewish and Israelite identity of Jesus are central aspects to his role in salvation.

McCann's video also said that “the Catholic Church in America has its own long, terrible history of owning slaves, staying silent about others who did the same, and being part of the institutionalization of racism.”

The CEO said that Catholic Charities has been “unknowingly part of the institutionalization of racism,” because its board and staff is primarily composed of white people, while those it serves are “disproportionately people of color.”

The video garnered national attention after its release. McCann is also vice chair of Catholic Charities USA, the umbrella organization for Catholic Charities organizations in dioceses across the country.

On July 5, McCann posted a set of “clarifications” on the website of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.

In his clarifications, McCann wrote that in his video, “instead of engaging in a discussion about race, I spoke in a way that some heard as a critical rant against the Church. For that, I am deeply and truly sorry.”

He noted that by identifying himself as a racist, he meant: “I realize that due to my upbringing and my membership in the majority race in this country, I certainly have areas of both known and unknown bias in my heart that I need to work on, and that in my lifetime I have struggled with those biases in ways that are so subtle I may not have fully realized them.”

“As an individual with white privilege, I certainly have had moments where I could and should have done more to be actively anti-racist.  I am not saying that all white people are racists or that all Catholics are racist.  I am acknowledging that I need to deeply evaluate my own sin in this area every single day and that I hope others will do the same.”

On his charge that the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington are racist organizations, “what I intended to convey is that my experience of my own flawed faith life and my experience inside human organizations, lead me to know that there are areas of both known and unknown bias, as well as areas of historical mis-steps that should be acknowledged in order to be a positive force for change.”

McCann’s clarifications also addressed his charge that Catholicism is premised on the notion that Jesus Christ was white.

“My description of our Catholic faith tradition being built on the premise that a baby born in a manger in the Middle East was a white baby has also caused pain, and here I must admit I misspoke and was wrong to say it that way,” McCann wrote.

McCann said that after the video's released, his pastor had reminded him “that in other parts of the world, and in some places in the U.S., artistic and pictorial representations of Jesus are in the images and likenesses of the local culture. Jesus, and the entire Holy Family, are consistently, artistically, beautifully represented as members of every race and culture around the globe where there are Catholic churches,” he wrote.

The letter came after a meeting between McCann and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly.

In a July 5 statement, Daly said of that meeting that “our conversation was candid and frank – and hopefully productive.”

In response to the controversy, in the Diocese of Spokane “the Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Collection will either be replaced by or taken in conjunction with the Black and Indian Missions Collection,” Daly said, adding that Catholic Charities will be asked “to sponsor a series of speakers, approved by me, to address the subject of Church and Race.”

The organization will also “address the issue of abortion and its detrimental effects on the Black community. In places such as New York City, more Black babies are aborted each day than are born. As Catholics, we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death,” the bishop added.

While McCann’s “letter answers some of my concerns, others remain. His support of the Black Lives Matter organization (BLM), albeit now modified, puzzles me. BLM is in conflict with Church teaching regarding marriage, family and the sanctity of life. Moreover, it is disturbing that BLM has not vocally condemned the recent violence that has torn apart so many cities. Its silence has not gone unheard. One need not stand with BLM to stand for Black lives. I will address this and other issues with Dr. McCann in future meetings,” Daly said.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” has become the rallying cry for a broad social movement. But there are also specific organizations which take the slogan into their name, the largest and best-funded of which is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation aims to “foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” the group’s website says.

Some Black Catholic Leaders in recent weeks have told CNA they support the Black Lives Matter social movement, even while they do not support the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation or other particular groups.

In his statement of clarification, McCann wrote that “Our support of the important non-violent racial justice advocacy elements of Black Lives Matter is specifically support for human dignity, which has a clear connection with Catholic Social Teaching. To be clear, we support the concept of Black Lives Matter, but that does not mean we support any elements of that movement that promote violence or violate Church teachings.”

“We affirm the life and dignity of every human person from conception to natural death. We stand firmly against abortion, poverty, violence, and the death penalty. Racial justice and equality are values inherent to life and dignity, and Catholic Charities is not only dedicated to upholding those values, we stand willing to work in strength and in peace to see those values realized in our world.”

McCann was appointed executive director of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington in 2005, after serving as the organization’s associate director, and as an employee of Catholic Relief Services. He has a doctorate in the field of “leadership studies” from Gonzaga University.

In 2006, he told The Fig Tree newspaper that his understaning of the “the core values of the Catholic tradition, values shared by most other traditions—Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths, as well as other Christian,” namely “respect, compassion, collaboration and justice,” animate his approach to Catholic charity.

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington is a distinct entity from the Diocese of Spokane. Bishop Daly sits on the board, but is not the chairperson. In 2018, the latest year for which date is available, the organization ran a budget deficit of $614,836.

Daly concluded his letter with prayer “that Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, will heal any divisions that yet might persist among us.”

 

 

 

Catholic parish rallies for young girl hit by truck

Minneapolis, Minn., Jul 6, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Last week, 8 year old Rosie Sajevic was riding her bike a couple blocks from her house in Hibbing, Minnesota, when a FedEx truck hit her, severely damaging her legs.

“I was riding my bike and I saw the FedEx truck and then it went black out, and then I woke up on the ground,” Rosie told CNA.

Rosie’s mom, Teresa Sajevic, heard sirens and wondered what they were responding to. She soon received a call from the police, dropped the laundry she had been folding, and ran to the scene of the accident.

“Her legs were totally mangled,” Teresa told CNA. “Her femurs were totally broken. I couldn't see her moving and I was just really afraid that she was dead.”

But when she got closer to her daughter, she realized that the girl was praying the Hail Mary.

The Catholic faith is very important to the Sajevics, and homeschooling allows the faith to be built into Rosie’s curriculum. Teresa said that Rosie recently did a consecration to the Virgin Mary, and now thinks of Mary as her heavenly mother.

“She likes to read stories of the saints in comic book style, she is your average kid. But she knows that this world has more,” said Teresa.

Rosie credits Christ, her guardian angel, and the intercession of her five deceased siblings with her life.

“Mom, they must have all come around me like a bubble with my guardian angel,” Theresa recalled Rosie telling her after the accident. Rosie told her mom that her guardian angel must be “really tired.”

Christ “has been with me so much. He could have let me get run over but He didn’t, which is really helpful to me, and I’m so thankful,” Rosie told CNA.

The Catholic community of Hibbing and the neighboring town of Virginia, Minnesota, immediately reached out to the Sajevics with help and prayers.

When Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Virginia, heard about Rosie’s accident, he quickly rallied his parishioners to offer aid.

“It took a couple days but I realized they were going to need some kind of ramp to get into their house,” said Moravitz. 24-hours later, it was built, in part due to the contributions of local Catholic-owned small businesses such as Pohaki Lumber.

“I couldn't believe it,” said Teresa. “We’re united in the Eucharist as brothers and sisters, but we’re not their parishioners. Just that they reached out like that, it’s so overwhelming.”

The ramp will allow Rosie, who just returned home from the hospital, to go outside during Minnesota’s summer months. The parish will also install a door that will allow her to go outside on her own.

“If we didn't have that ramp, I don’t know how she would handle being home, you know, being locked up inside,” said Teresa. It was a financial burden that she and her husband would never have dreamed of making a reality.

Helping those in need is nothing new for Holy Spirit parish.

Last year, Holy Spirit rented and furnished an apartment for a single mother whose house burnt down. They also bought a car for a young woman with cancer.

“(The parishioners) are just big hearts and want to help people in need, and they really rise to the occasion every time that I tend to ask. And it has done some really life changing things for families in our area,” said Moravitz.

The Catholic small business owners in his parish have been especially generous.

“I think, like all economic situations in our country right now, people are struggling,” said Moravitz. “I think they witness Catholic small businesses in such a beautiful way. They’ve got a heart for the Lord, and they’re using their businesses to build up the kingdom of God.”

Moravitz said that although we often think that “we’re going to be the hands and feet of the Lord,” we rarely actually put our prayer into action.

“I hope this might be an example to other parishes, other priests, other lay people, not just to talk about doing it but actually stepping out and doing it. Because there are people in every community across this country that are in need of the light of Christ and the light of the faith and we can bring that to anybody through the gift of service,” said Moravitz.

Teresa is acutely aware of how much these parishioners sacrificed to build the ramp, in resources and time.

“They gave up a Saturday in Minnesota, and we don’t have a lot of nice summer (days). They could have been fishing, but they came together to work for my baby. And that means so much,” Teresa said.

Over the course of her accident and hospitalization, Rosie herself has thought of others first.

Teresa said that Rosie’s first concern was if the driver was okay.

“Mom, they have to feel so much worse than you did,” Teresa recalled Rosie saying after the incident. They have been keeping the driver in their prayers.

And although Rosie was excited to use the new ramp, her first thoughts were for her three brothers, who she said would have fun sledding and riding their bikes down the slope.

Rosie, who sometimes tells her mom to “trust more,” is confident in the future. She is excited to be able to walk on crutches in a few months, and is even more excited to meet her new baby brother or sister around Thanksgiving.

When asked what she would tell any kid who complains about his or her life, Rosie said, “I’d be like, you’re alive!”

Teresa also trusts that God has a plan for Rosie’s future. Rosie will turn 9 years old this month.

“Even though there are so many bad things that happened, and she has such a long road ahead, God is already there. He's already in the future, he has already got it,” said Teresa.

Coronavirus comes to a migrant tent city at US border

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 02:07 pm (CNA).-  

More than 1,500 people live in a tent city without running water or adequate sanitation at the border of Texas and Mexico, while they apply for asylum in the U.S. Coronavirus has arrived in the camp, a religious sister has said, which should call attention to the condition in which asylum seekers are living.

“These families are living in donated tents at the mercy of extreme weather. Here, the temperatures can rise above 100 degrees, and when it rains, the downpours knock down their only refuge and leave them in mud pits,”Sr. Norma Pimentel wrote in a July 5 op-ed for the Washington Post.

“Imagine living in such uncertainty, where even such basics as running water and a place to shower are nonexistent; where you have to depend on outside organizations for food, which you have to cook over a campfire. Like the prisons and nursing homes that have been breeding grounds for the virus in the United States, the camp is crowded with people who for now are not going anywhere.”

Pimentel, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, is director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, in Texas.

“Do not ignore the suffering occurring here,” she urged, explaining that the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, has more than 1,500 men, women, and children, in a make-shift tent city, as they wait for their applications for admittance to the United States to be processed.

The camp has been in existence since last summer, after the federal government initiated the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which allow U.S. officials to return undocumented migrants to Mexico pending adjudication of their claims for asylum.

Addressing the situation is more, not less urgent because of the coronavirus pandemic, she said, noting that the camp recorded its first positive case last week.

That the camp has remained free of coronavirus for so long was, she said, was “remarkable” and a testament to the dedication of volunteers working to serve the people enduring emotional and practical hardship.

While the one patient in the camp, a woman from the interior of Mexico, was quickly isolated and removed to a nearby medical center run by Doctors Without Borders, Pimentel said that the conditions make the camp a potential outbreak waiting to happen, and that because of the pandemic, the camp has become less safe.

Because of the pandemic, volunteer activity in the camp is limited to a small number, who are able to provide assistance with nourishment and some health care needs, Pimentel wrote.

“All this makes it even harder to keep the camps safe from the cartels and gangsters who continue to prey on these largely defenseless asylum seekers.”

The camp’s existence, said Pimentel, was the unnecessary consequence of the government’s asylum protocols, which itself fail to “address people with dignity.”

“We should not have people forced to wait for asylum — trying to find safety for themselves and their families — while camped outside in the elements for months at a time. It is contrary to our laws and the dictates of humanity.”
 
Pimentel said that “the story of these asylum seekers has faded from the front pages of U.S. newspapers and from television screens but the cruel and unfair situation continues.”

“It is time that we put an end to it, and to end the MPP policy. Until that happens, we will continue to help those who are defenseless, whose only real ‘crime’ is trying to seek protection for themselves and their families.”

The Trump administration has made several changes to asylum and immigration policy over the past 18 months, all of which have come under sustained criticism from the bishops of the United States.

In September 2019, after the Trump administration announced a rule limiting asylum eligibility to those who had already applied and been rejected for asylum in those countries passed through on their way to the U.S, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, issued a strong critique of the change.

Vásquez said the rule “jeopardizes the safety of vulnerable individuals and families fleeing persecution and threatens family unity” and “undermines our nation’s tradition of being a global leader providing and being a catalyst for others to provide humanitarian protection to those in need.”

In November 2019, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international relief agency signed a joint statement on the Trump administration’s changes to asylum policy.

Administration policy “undermines U.S. moral leadership in protecting vulnerable populations and risks further destabilizing the region,” they said.

“To preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, we cannot turn our back on families and individuals in desperate need of help.”

“In light of the Gospel, let us always remember we are invited to embrace the foreigner and to take care of this human person.”

Primate of Poland: Church must rebuild trust amid abuse crisis

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic Church can only rebuild trust in its handling of clerical abuse by “taking responsibility for clarifying all crimes and omissions,” the Primate of Poland said Monday.

In a statement issued July 6, Archbishop Wojciech Polak noted the steps that the Polish bishops have taken in response to a burgeoning abuse crisis in the country. 

“I am convinced that only by standing in truth and taking responsibility for clarifying all crimes and omissions, we will rebuild our credibility and trust in the Church in Poland,” he said.

Polak is the Polish bishops’ delegate for the protection of children and youth. As the metropolitan archbishop of Gniezno, the Polish primatial see, he is the Primate of Poland.

His comments came a week after more than 600 people took out a full-page advertisement in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica urging the pope to intervene in the growing abuse crisis in the country.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis had been informed of the appeal and was praying for those who sent it.

The Church in Poland has faced intense scrutiny of its handling of abuse allegations in the wake of a documentary film, Tell No One, which has been viewed almost 24 million times on YouTube since its release last year. 

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

Polak recalled that the Polish bishops’ conference had appointed the Jesuit priest Fr. Adam Żak as its coordinator for the protection of children and youth in 2013.

Żak oversaw the establishment of a child protection center at the Ignatianum Academy in Kraków, which has trained 6,000 people, including priests and religious, in the past six years.

The Primate of Poland also highlighted the creation in 2019 by lay Catholics of a helpline, known as “Wounded in the Church,” to support the Church’s official abuse reporting system. 

He said that the Polish bishops’ safeguarding guidelines complied with the norms of the Holy See and Polish law, and had earned praise from Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the leading figures in the battle against clerical abuse.

“He assessed the documents and guidelines of the Polish bishops’ conference as being very good; but what counts is their application that in some cases malfunctions,” Polak said in his statement, which was issued by the Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

The archbishop noted that he personally had reported a fellow bishop, Edward Janiak of Kalisz, to the Vatican under the law promulgated by the pope in June 2019 in the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi

He said that he had taken the step after viewing the documentary film Hide and Seek, by brothers Marek and Tomasz Sekielski. In the follow-up to Tell No One, they alleged that Janiak had failed to take action against a priest accused of abuse. The bishop has denied the allegations.

“After watching the film, I could not remain silent or stay inactive in the face of the presented facts,” Polak said. 

Last month Pope Francis appointed an apostolic administrator to take charge of Janiak’s diocese while an investigation into the bishop’s actions is carried out.

“Reporting does not resolve the guilt and gives Bishop Edward Janiak a real chance to present arguments in his defense in the context of a canonical process. Judging the case is the exclusive competence of the Holy See,” the Polish Primate explained. 

Polak hailed the creation last year of the St. Joseph Foundation, which seeks to support abuse survivors and to safeguard minors within the Church in Poland.

“The establishment of the Foundation is an expression of solidarity of the Church in Poland with the victims,” he said.

The archbishop acknowledged that, despite progress in combating abuse, confidence in Church authorities had been shaken by the crisis. A survey in January, conducted by the research institute IBRiS, found that trust in the Church had fallen by 13 percentage points compared to 2017, down to 39.5%.

“We must honestly admit that despite the actions taken in Poland, we need to work constantly on changing our mentality. Still in this area there’s a lot to do,” he said.

“We must also honestly admit that the law in force in the Church is not respected everywhere, and not all victims receive the help they need. Ensuring the safety of children and young people in the Church is still a challenge for us.” 

Pope Francis to celebrate Mass marking anniversary of Lampedusa visit

Vatican City, Jul 6, 2020 / 06:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis will celebrate Mass Wednesday marking the seventh anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The Mass will take place at 11 a.m. local time July 8 in the chapel of the pope’s residence, the Casa Santa Marta, and will be livestreamed.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance will be restricted to staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Department for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island on July 8, 2013, shortly after his election. The trip, his first pastoral visit outside Rome, signaled that concern for migrants would be at the center of his pontificate. 

Lampedusa, the southernmost part of Italy, is located approximately 70 miles away from Tunisia. It is a primary destination for migrants from Africa seeking entry to Europe.

Reports say that during the coronavirus outbreak migrant boats have continued to land on the island, which has received tens of thousands of migrants in recent years.

The pope chose to visit the island after reading harrowing reports of migrants dying while attempting the crossing from North Africa to Italy.

Upon arrival, he threw a wreath into the sea in memory of those who had drowned.

Celebrating Mass close to a “boat cemetery” containing the remains of shipwrecked migrant boats, he said: “When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”

“So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated!”

On October 3, 2013, more than 360 migrants died when the vessel carrying them from Libya sank off Lampedusa.

The pope marked the sixth anniversary of his visit last year with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he called for an end to rhetoric that dehumanized migrants.

“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

English Catholic bishop: parishes see 'dramatic fall' in income following lockdown

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- An English bishop has said that parishes have seen “dramatic fall” in income as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury urged the government to step in to help dioceses struggling financially as a result of the pandemic. 

“The weeks of the national lockdown saw a dramatic fall of about a third in parish income. This is having a serious impact on the operation of parishes,” he told CNA. 

Mike Kane, a local Member of Parliament, raised the financial plight of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, in western England, in the House of Commons last month. 

He noted June 25 that the diocese’s income was down by a third since the government announced a nationwide lockdown March 23. He said that this loss of around $875,000 would have a long-term impact on the diocese’s ability to maintain its buildings.

Kane, the Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, urged the government to consider introducing an “enhanced gift aid scheme” to shore up diocesan finances.

In his comments to CNA, Davies said that he was grateful to Kane for raising the issue in Parliament.

He said: “We have been working to mitigate the impact at parish level and are grateful for parishioners who were able to continue giving support via online giving through the crisis otherwise the situation would be even more serious.”

“The Shrewsbury Diocese will be looking at what savings are possible by reducing costs or deferring expenditure. This sadly means that the largest outgoings in parishes on planned repairs and maintenance will be an area where savings will be sought.” 

The bishop said he was also concerned that building works would be more expensive than they were before the coronavirus crisis because “contractors have to pass on costs to allow them to operate within the bounds of COVID security.”

He echoed Kane’s call for changes to the Gift Aid scheme, which increases the value of donations by 25% by permitting charities to reclaim the basic rate tax already paid by the donor.

Davies said: “In 2008 there was a transitional relief scheme for Gift Aid to support charities when the income tax rate reduced from 22% to 20%, worth an estimated £100 million to charities at that time. A similar kind of enhanced arrangement is now needed to support charities, including dioceses across the country.”

“As this has already been an operational scheme, the mechanism for the delivery following lockdown should be feasible and easy for the government to put in place quickly.”

The U.K., which has a population of almost 67 million, has recorded 44,305 deaths from the virus as of July 6, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center -- the world’s third highest reported death toll after that of the United States and Brazil.

Catholic churches in England were permitted to reopen for individual, private prayer June 15. Public Masses resumed July 4, with stringent safety measures to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

Ennio Morricone, composer honored by Pope Francis, dies at 91

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 03:15 am (CNA).- Ennio Morricone, an Oscar-winning Italian composer honored by Pope Francis, has died at the age of 91.

The Italian news agency Ansa reported July 6 that Morricone died in a Rome hospital Monday after he was admitted days earlier with a fractured femur. Morricone’s lawyer Giorgio Assumma said that the composer died at dawn “with the comfort of faith.”

A Rome native, he composed more than 100 classical works and 400 movie and television soundtracks. 

He is perhaps best known in the Catholic world for creating the soundtrack to “The Mission,” the 1986 movie depicting Spanish Jesuits’ efforts to protect indigenous people from enslavement in 18th-century South America. 

Morricone achieved international fame in the 1960s with his work on a trilogy of Westerns -- “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” -- directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood.

He won an honorary Academy Award in 2007, and an Oscar for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” in 2016.

Pope Francis awarded the composer the Gold Medal of the Pontificate last year, in honor of his “extraordinary artistic work in the sphere of music, universal language of peace, solidarity and spirituality.”

The award was presented April 15, 2019, by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in Rome’s Sant’Agnese in Agone church in Piazza Navona.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2013, Morricone discussed the relationship between his faith and art. 

He said: “I do not think about my faith when I write a piece of music. I think of the music that I have to write -- music is an abstract art. But of course, when I have to write a religious piece, certainly my faith contributes to it.”

Morricone wrote the score for “Karol: a Man Who Became Pope,” portraying the early life of St. John Paul II, in 2006.

He also composed a Mass marking the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 2015, dedicating it to Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope. 

The composer and his wife met Pope Francis before the premiere of the “Missa Papae Francisci.” 

Recalling that he cried when he met Francis, Morricone said: “Don’t get the idea that I burst into tears at every opportunity; those were the only two times I have ever cried -- when I first watched ‘The Mission’ and when I met the pope.”

St. Junípero Serra statue destroyed at California state capitol

CNA Staff, Jul 5, 2020 / 08:28 pm (CNA).-  

On the evening of Independence Day, a crowd in Sacramento tore down a statue of St. Junipero Serra, set fire to it, and beat it with sledgehammers.

The statue, on the grounds of California's state capitol, was the third figure of the missionary saint to be torn down by crowds in California in recent weeks. Sacramento’s bishop responded by saying that Serra worked to promote the dignity of indigenous people.

A large crowd gathered around the statue in Capitol Park at around 9 p.m. on July 4, according to media reports.

One man burned the face of the Serra statue with an ignited spray from an aerosol can, before it was pulled from its base using tow straps. After the statue fell, members of the crowd struck the statue with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.

 

while you you were watching the fireworks ? . On this day the 4th of You Lie 2020 , Junipero Serra was removed from his statue ??? . WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION! ?#4thofyoulie #sacramento pic.twitter.com/DeBOPPopz5

— Jae' Montgomery (@luv_jae_) July 5, 2020  

The crowd chanted “Rise up, my people, rise up,” while destroying the statue.

They dispersed when California Highway Patrol officers intervened, the Sacramento Bee reported.

In a July 5 statement, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said that while “the group’s actions may have been meant to draw attention to the sorrowful, angry memories over California’s past,” their “act of vandalism does little to build the future.”

“There is no question that California’s indigenous people endured great suffering during the colonial period and then later faced the horror of government-sanctioned genocide under the nascent State of California. This legacy is heartbreaking. Yet, it is also true that while Fr. Serra worked under this colonial system, he denounced its evils and worked to protect the dignity of native peoples,” Soto said.

“Understanding the efforts of Fr. Serra to bring light into the bitter, bleak darkness of colonial ambition is the difficult task of history. So is the present arduous work to chart the future with hope. The strenuous labor of overcoming the plague of racism should not be toppled by nocturnal looting. Dialogue should not abdicate to vandalism. Nor should these unnerving episodes distract us from the duties of justice and charity upon which a better California can be built.”

“All monuments are imperfect as are our efforts to live up to America’s founding ideals. The primary task is to build up our community, not tear it down,” the bishop added.

The Sacramento Bee reported that some protestors on the Capitol grounds carried signs saying “decolonize the streets,” and that advocates of the Black Lives Matter movement and American Indian Movement referred amid their protests to Independence Day as the “Farce of July.”

The California Highway Patrol is reportedly investigating the statue’s toppling.

The statue was installed on the state capitol grounds in 1965. At the base of the statue is a map of the 21 missions founded by Franciscan missionaries to California in the eighteenth century.

Serra, a Franciscan priest, has become a target of California vandals amid Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks, even while biographers say the missionary was an advocate for the rights of native people.

A statue of Serra was torn down by demonstrators in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on June 19, and one was torn down in Los Angeles on the same day. Other California cities have moved Serra statues to avoid their toppling, or plan to do so.

During the eighteenth century, the saint founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say the priest a was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note that he often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over treatment of native people, and the outpouring of grief from native communities at his death.

On June 27, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone held a prayer service at the base of San Francisco’s toppled Serra statue.

“Evil has made itself present here. So we have gathered together to pray for God, to ask the saints...for their intercession, above all our Blessed Mother, in an act of reparation, asking God's mercy on us and on the whole city, that we might turn our hearts back towards him,” Cordileone said in a June 27 video.

“The presence of so many wonderful people here was of great comfort for me,” the archbishop said. “I feel such a great wound in my soul when I see these horrendous acts of blasphemy disparaging the memory of Serra who was such a great hero, such a great defender of the indigenous people of this land.”

Cordileone said the San Francisco statue was “blasphemously torn down”

“An act of sacrilege occurred here. That is an act of the Evil One,” he said in the video.

“We came together to say the prayer of the rosary, and also the prayer of exorcism, the St. Michael Prayer, because evil is here, this is an activity of the evil one, who wants to bring down the Church, who wants to bring down all Christian believers,” he said.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote June 29 that “The real St. Junípero fought a colonial system where natives were regarded as ‘barbarians’ and ‘savages,’ whose only value was to serve the appetites of the white man. For St. Junípero, this colonial ideology was a blasphemy against the God who has ‘created (all men and women) and redeemed them with the most precious blood of his Son.’”

“He lived and worked alongside native peoples and spent his whole career defending their humanity and protesting crimes and indignities committed against them,” he said. “Among the injustices he struggled against, we find heartbreaking passages in his letters where he decries the daily sexual abuse of indigenous women by colonial soldiers.”

For his part, Soto wrote July 5 that Serra’s “holiness as a missionary should not be measured by his own failures to stop the exploitation or even his own personal faults.  Holiness, in the end, is more a result of God’s grace and our willingness to cooperate with His mercy.”

 

 

Pope Francis commends UN Security Council for global ceasefire resolution

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2020 / 06:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis applauded the United Nations Security Council Sunday for its recent resolution calling for an immediate global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The call for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow the peace and security necessary to provide the urgently needed humanitarian assistance, is commendable,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer July 5.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of many people who are suffering. May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future,” he said.

The ceasefire resolution applies to conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and Congo, according to the Associated Press. It demands “a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to ensure that medical and humanitarian aid will reach those in need as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The 15 countries that make up the Security Council passed the resolution July 1 after months of disagreement between China and the United States over whether the text would include references to either the World Health Organization or “transparency.”

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres first called for a global ceasefire on March 23 with Pope Francis echoing this appeal the following week.

The UN Secretary General said that a global ceasefire would “help create corridors for life-saving aid” and “bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” He pointed out that refugee camps and people with existing health conditions are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses.”

On March 29, Pope Francis said: “Conflicts are not resolved through war.” He added that conflicts must be overcome through “dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”

The pope said in his Angelus address July 5 that Jesus offers “the weary and oppressed” much more than “psychological solace or a lavish handout.”

“The joy that Jesus gives us. It is unique. It is the joy that he himself has,” he said.

“The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity. And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot,” Pope Francis said. “And it is a message for the Church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelise the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants His Church, that is, us, to be.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus placed himself among “those who labor and are burdened” because he was “meek and humble of heart.”

“May Mary, the humblest and highest of creatures, implore from God wisdom of the heart for us … that we may discern its signs in our lives and be sharers in those mysteries which, hidden from the proud, are revealed to the humble,” the pope said.