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China continued religious crackdown during renewal of Vatican deal

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Chinese government continued to enforce sweeping restrictions on religious freedom in the weeks prior to the renewal of a deal with the Vatican on October 22. 

According to Bitter Winter, an Italian magazine that focuses on religious freedom in China, the Communist government has recently ramped up enforcement of the prohibition on the sale and distribution of religious texts. Religious texts are not permitted to be mailed in China as they are considered to be “contraband.” 

Bitter Winter reported on October 13 that the owner of a publishing shop was visited by officials one month earlier to ensure that he was not printing religious materials. 

“They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor, to see if they have prohibited content,” the printing house manager located in Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan. “If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed,” he said.

The manager told Bitter Winter that he had to refuse any order that involves religious materials, saying that he could lose his business if he was discovered to have printed the papers. The manager said that “the only faith [people] can practice freely is that in the Communist Party.”

Other printing shops maintain similar policies, citing government prohibitions on the publishing of religious texts, particularly Christian texts. A publishing shop was recently closed down and its staff arrested after authorities discovered they had published Christian books.

Photocopying religious materials is similarly prohibited, and a worker at a copy shop told Bitter Winter that he was instructed to report anyone who was looking to make copies of religious material.

“If businesses are discovered, they could be fined as much as ten times their monthly income; or worst of all, workers could even be arrested,” the worker Bitter Winter. “If we are not sure if a text is religious, we must keep its copy and report it to authorities.”

According to ChinaAid, a Christian NGO, Chinese publications have started to replace the words “Christ,” “church,” and “Jesus” in their books with the initials of the pinyin terms for those words to avoid censorship. Some book titles, ChinaAid reported on October 20, obscured religious words with color blocks.

Pinyin is a Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese.

By replacing these words, Christians are hoping to evade the censors that would otherwise block their books from being read online. Bibles do not have an ISBN number in China and cannot be purchased at normal bookstores.

Last year, the Chinese Communist Party took down displays of the 10 Commandments in churches in several parts of the country, and replaced them with altered texts to better reflect Communist principles. Communist Party officials have also announced they are working on a Communist-approved version of the Bible. 

Even long-dead Christians have been subject to persecution in China. Bitter Winter reported on October 16 that the previous month Chinese authorities authorities had demolished the tombstones of 20 Swedish missionaries, some of whom died over 100 years ago. 

The missionaries were buried in Xiezhou town, which is administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. Swedish Christian missionaries first established a presence in Yuncheng in 1888, and eventually built schools and hospitals in the area. Many people converted to Christianity as a result of the work of the Swedish missionaries, and their renovated gravesites had recently become an attraction for Christian tourists. 

According to Bitter Winter, the Yanhu district government sent over 100 police personnel to the cemetery on the morning of September 12. The gravesites, and a house containing photographs of the missionaries, were bulldozed two hours later. Plants were planted on top of the gravesites. 

Members belonging to the church that erected the tombstones were blacklisted, Bitter Winter reported. Those who lived near the cemetery were also taken in for questioning. 

These reports of Christian persecution in China arose around the same time a high-ranking Vatican official chided a reporter for asking about Christian persecution in China. 

Despite the ongoing persecution of Christians in China, which has also seen Communist authorities bulldoze churches, arrest bishops, and offer bounties for information on underground religious services, on Oct. 22 the Vatican announced that it had agreed “to extend the experimental implementation phase” of the two-year provisional agreement first signed with the Chinese government on Sept. 22, 2018, 

“The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement -- which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value -- to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people,” a communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State said.

On October 21, the day before it was announced the deal had been renewed, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists that while he was “happy” with the agreement, he also acknowledged “there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve.” 

The cardinal said that the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” and that through this unity “it will become an instrument of evangelization,” according to a transcript provided by Italian newspaper Avvenire.

When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin responded: “But, what persecutions?” 

“You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.”

In China, religious education of any person under the age of 18 is illegal. This means that catechism classes have been closed and minors are not allowed to enter church buildings. Catholic churches registered with the Chinese authorities are closely monitored via CCTV cameras connected to the public security network. Priests have been forced to attend government training courses.

The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a September report out of the province of Jiangxi.

China is also reported to have interred more than one million ethnic Uyghurs in a network of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province. Ostensibly for the purposes of combating religious “extremism,” multiple reports from international bodies and human rights watchdogs have recorded instances of torture, forced labor, forced abortions and sterilizations, and anti-religious Communist indoctrination. 

Human rights groups have repeatedly called the Chinese actions against the Uyghurs “genocide.”

Pope Francis' Christmas liturgies to take place without public

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2020 / 11:13 am (CNA).- Pope Francis' Christmas liturgies at the Vatican will be offered without public participation this year, as countries continue to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a letter seen by CNA which was sent by the Secretariat of State to embassies accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis will celebrate the Vatican liturgies of the Christmas season "in a private form without the presence of members of the diplomatic Corps."

The letter, which was sent by the section for general affairs Oct. 22, said the liturgies will be streamed online. Diplomats accredited to the Holy See usually attend papal liturgies as special guests.

Due to pandemic measures, including a two month nation-wide lockdown of Italy, Pope Francis also offered the 2020 Easter liturgies without the presence of the public.

Italy has seen a dramatic increase in positive coronavirus cases, as well as increased hospitalizations and deaths, in recent weeks, leading the government to issue new containment measures, including the full closure of gyms and theaters, and a 6pm closure for bars and restaurants except for takeout. Parties and receptions are also suspended. Since earlier this month, it has been mandated to wear face masks at all times in public, including outside.

During Advent and Easter, the pope's schedule of public liturgies and Masses is usually particularly full, with thousands participating in Masses at St. Peter's Basilica.

In past years the pope has offered a Dec. 12 Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a Dec. 8 ceremony and prayer at Rome's Piazza di Spagna for feast of the Immaculate Conception.

According to the 2020 schedule of public papal events published on the Vatican website, instead of a Mass Dec. 8, the pope will lead the Angelus in St. Peter's Square to mark the day.

During the Christmas season, the pope usually says Midnight Mass for the Nativity of the Lord in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 24, and on Christmas Day he gives the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing from the central loggia of the basilica.

In past years he has also prayed First Vespers on Dec. 31 followed by a Mass on Jan. 1 for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, both in St. Peter's Basilica.

These events are not listed on Pope Francis' public schedule for 2020, except for the Christmas Day "Urbi et Orbi" blessing. The pope is still slated to give all of his typical Angelus addresses and to hold the Wednesday general audience every week, except that of Christmas.

The schedule of public events does not extend past December 2020, so it is unclear whether Pope Francis will publically celebrate any of the liturgies of January 2021, including Mass for Epiphany Jan. 6.
It is also unknown if Pope Francis will next year baptize the children of Vatican employees and say a private Mass for them and their families for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, per his tradition.

Indian Jesuit remains in jail, despite call for release from Asian bishops and international groups

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).-  

A Jesuit priest arrested in India on charges of sedition will remain in jail for at least another two weeks, after the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences has called for his release, along with other international organizations. 

Fr. Stan Swamy, S.J., was arrested Oct. 8 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s counter-terrorism task force. The 83-year-old priest is accused of being involved with a Maoist group, and inciting violence in the town of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. One person was killed and others injured during mob violence that day.

Swamy denies all charges and says that he has never even been to Bhima-Koregaon. The priest is the co-founder of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee, an organization that assists those who are being held in prison but have not been yet been convicted of a crime, and are still undergoing a trial. It is estimated that 70% of India’s prison population is in this category. 

On Oct. 26, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) issued a statement in support of Swany, and calling for his release. 

“It is with great shock and agony the FABC heard of the arrest of the 84-year-old Father Swamy and his incarceration and we are surprised at the charges brought against him,” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Burma, the president of the FABC, said in a statement on October 26. 

“The arrest and cold-hearted incarceration of Father Swamy reminds us of the treatment meted out to Mahatma Gandhi when he stood up for the rights of the Indian people,” said Bo.

In a video posted to social media prior to his arrest, Swamy described being interrogated for 15 hours by the NIA. He said that because of his history of activism, the state “wanted to put me out of the way, and one easy way [to do that] was to implicate me in some serious cases.” 

Swamy said he was “raided twice” by authorities who “put before me certain extracts, supposedly taken from my computer, extracts which showed Maoists were communicating with each other, and in some extracts even my name was mentioned,” he said. Swamy said that authorities were unable to tell him who sent the emails, who received the emails, on which date the emails were sent, and if there was any sort of signature on the emails. 

“So I just denied and disowned every single extract that was put before me, except one,” which he said was a message from him and the co-founder of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee to other human rights organizations in India. That letter explained the purpose of their organization and requested that other groups join them in their efforts. 

“What is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone,” he said. “It is part of a broader process that is taking place all over the country.” 

Swany said it is common knowledge that figures from all walks of life--from lawyers to student leaders--are jailed for expressing dissent or questioning “the ruling powers of India.” The priest said he was “ready to pay the price, whatever be it.” 

Following his arrest on Oct. 8, Swany was flown from his home in the city of Ranchi, located in the eastern state of Jharkhand, to Mumbai, for additional questioning. In the video posted prior to his arrest, Swany said that he was apprehensive about going to Mumbai as he is elderly and infirm, and did not want to be exposed to the coronavirus. Swany has Parkinson’s Disease and is hard of hearing.

Swany has been jailed in Mumbai ever since, and was denied bail on October 23. He has since reportedly been transferred to a prison hospital. 

Both religious and secular organizations have called for Swany’s release from jail. 

Jesuit provincials and leaders from across the world have issued statements requesting that the Indian government release Swany. 

“We ask that the United States strongly condemn the incarceration of Fr Stan Swamy, ask the Indian Government to ensure his immediate release, and ask it to refrain from arbitrary arrests of innocent citizens,” said Fr. Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J. in an October 20 letter addressed to Sec. of State Mike Pompeo on behalf of Jesuits from the United States. 

Throughout India, thousands have gathered to peacefully protest for Swany’s release. Vatican News reported that on October 16, over 1,000 people, including priests, nuns, an archbishop, and an auxiliary bishop, formed a 3.2 mile human chain in Ranchi as a protest. 

On October 20, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement to the Indian government condemning the “vaguely defined laws” that are “increasingly being used to stifle” those who speak up against injustices. 

The press release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner mentioned Swany by name. 

"I urge the Government to ensure that no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India's robust civil society," said Bachelet. 

Senate set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Monday evening

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 08:45 am (CNA).- Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed to the Supreme Court on Monday evening, after the Senate held a rare Sunday session during which a majority of senators moved to advance her nomination to a full vote.

In a 51-48 vote on Sunday, senators moved to invoke cloture on Barrett’s confirmation—setting a time limit on the debate over her confirmation, with a final vote at the end to confirm her to the Supreme Court. She was nominated by President Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court, on Sept. 26.

Barrett, a Catholic, currently serves as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a former professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she would be the sixth Catholic on the bench, with a seventh, Neil Gorsuch having been baptized Catholic but now practicing as an Episcopalian.

Sunday’s cloture vote fell largely along party lines, with two Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—voting with Democrats against bringing up the final vote on Barrett. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) also voted “No.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, did not vote on Sunday as she was campaigning in Michigan ahead of election day on Nov. 3. She told reporters on Saturday that she would vote against Barrett in the final confirmation vote.

Senators spoke from the Senate floor on Barrett’s confirmation throughout Sunday afternoon and evening, and into Monday morning.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that Barrett “represents a threat to women’s reproductive rights” and warned that if confirmed, “she would likely be the court’s most extreme member on reproductive rights.”

When the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering Barrett’s appointment to the Seventh Circuit in 2017, Feinstein opined that Barrett’s Catholic faith could improperly influence her judicial opinions on matters like abortion. Feinstein told Barrett “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”

Last week, Barrett’s nomination advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous favorable recommendation, after 10 committee Democrats boycotted the vote.

From Oct. 12-15, the committee held four days of hearings featuring statements from senators and from Barrett herself, questioning of Barrett, and witness testimonies for or against Barrett’s confirmation.

Senators grilled Barrett on a number of issues including health care, voting rights, and abortion and contraception.

Barrett repeatedly refused to opine on previous Supreme Court rulings, saying that she did not want to influence any possible case she might have to consider as a justice; she explained that she wanted to offer “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.”

Senators asked Barrett multiple times about Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court’s 1965 ruling that legalized contraception; while Barrett refused to opine on the ruling, she emphasized that “Griswold is very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to go anywhere.” 

Regarding the Court’s legalization of abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Barrett would not say that it is “super precedent,” or a legal theory that certain Supreme Court rulings have been upheld so many times and are seen as institutional and cannot be challenged.

Some senators warned on Sunday that Barrett could undo legal contraception on the Court.

 “I can’t even imagine going back to Griswold v. Connecticut—a time when we had to fight just to have contraception,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that Barrett could rule on contraception cases such as those of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which businesses and religious non-profits including the Little Sisters of the Poor challenged in court.

He also said she could rule with other “conservative” justices “as a bulwark against further expanding privacy protections in family life.” As an example, he noted the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, for which oral arguments are scheduled at the Court in November.

That case involves the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which had contracted with the city on foster care placements but saw its contract stopped in 2018 when the city demanded that it work with same-sex couples.

Vatican to discuss parish instructions with German bishops, not Synodal Way committee

Rome Newsroom, Oct 26, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican has told the German Bishops’ Conference that a forthcoming meeting in Rome to discuss Germans’ concerns about the new instruction on parishes will not include laymen representing Germany’s “Synodal Way”.

A letter from Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, to the president of the German Bishops’ Conference Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg was leaked to the press and later correspondence was confirmed by a spokesman for the bishops’ conference on Oct. 26.

Cardinal Stella’s letter was written in response to Bishop Bätzing’s proposal in August that the executive committee of the Synodal Way be included in a meeting at the Vatican “since bishops, priests, deacons and laity are equally addressed in the instruction.”

Stella replied: "In view of the fact that this instruction, because of its nature, is primarily addressed to the bishops (cf. can. 34 § 1 CIC), at this stage I consider them to be the necessary interlocutors of this Congregation,” according to the German media outlet, Herder Korrespondenz.

The cardinal made it clear that in preparation for his eight-page letter he had “spoken to the Holy Father on September 7, 2020 about an appropriate response to the German bishops.”

Stella also responded to the criticism that has come from some German bishops of the instruction on parishes issued by his congregation in July: “The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church,” which underlined that according to canon law only priests can direct the pastoral care of parishes.

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, vice-president of the German bishops’ conference, described the instruction in July as a “strong brake on the motivation and appreciation of the services of lay people.”

Bode said he feared that the text indicated a “conversion to clericalization” because it emphasized the priest’s role in directing parishes.

In Stella’s most recent letter, the cardinal addressed this line of thinking: “Just as the bishops are attentive and jealous of the protection and respect of their prerogatives and rights, so it is just as right that they observe and recognize those canonical norms that concern the fields and competencies of the clergy, consecrated people and lay people.”

If and when the meeting between the Vatican and the German bishops is scheduled to take place is still unclear.

The new instructions on parish life, approved by Pope Francis, called the parishes of the Church around the world to an evangelizing mission.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported that some commentators saw the instruction as a response to plans to drastically reduce the number of parishes in German dioceses.

The Vatican recently blocked a plan by the Diocese of Trier to turn 800 parishes into 35. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Freiburg has said that it will press ahead with plans to reduce its 1,000 parishes to 40.

The document provoked a mixed reaction in Germany. While Bishop Bode spoke critically of the parish instruction, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne and Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt expressed their gratitude for the text.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, meanwhile, defended the Vatican intervention, saying: "The German criticism completely misses the actual concern of the instruction: the pastoral conversion to a missionary footing. But precisely this basic concern of Pope Francis would be highly topical in view of the disturbing recently published numbers of departures from the Church."

He was referring to statistics issued last month which showed that a record number of Catholics left the Church in Germany in 2019.

Pope Francis: 'The times we live in are times of Mary'

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2020 / 04:22 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Saturday that the times we live in are the “times of Mary.”

The pope made the remark at an Oct. 24 event marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Theological Faculty “Marianum” in Rome.

Speaking to an estimated 200 students and professors from the theological faculty in the Paul VI Audience Hall, the pope said that we are living in the time of the Second Vatican Council.

“No other Council in history has given Mariology as much space as that dedicated to it by Chapter VIII of ‘Lumen gentium,’ which concludes and in a certain sense summarizes the entire Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” he said.

“This tells us that the times we live in are times of Mary. But we need to rediscover Our Lady from the perspective of the Council,” he urged. “Just as the Council brought to light the beauty of the Church by returning to the sources and removing the dust that had settled on it over the centuries, so Mary’s wonders can be rediscovered best by going to the heart of her mystery.”

In his address, the pope highlighted the importance of Mariology, the theological study of Mary.

“We could ask ourselves: does Mariology serve the Church and the world today? Obviously the answer is yes. To go to Mary’s school is to go to the school of faith and life. She, teacher because disciple, teaches well the basics of human and Christian life,” he said.

The Marianum was founded in 1950 under the direction of Pope Pius XII and entrusted to the Servite Order. The institution publishes “Marianum,” a prestigious journal of Marian theology.

In his address, the pope focused on Mary’s role as a mother and a woman. He said that the Church also possessed these two characteristics.

“Our Lady rendered God our brother, and as a mother she can render the Church and the world more fraternal,” he said.

“The Church needs to rediscover her maternal heart, which beats for unity; but our Earth also needs to rediscover it, to return to being the home of all her children.”

He said a world without mothers, which focused on profits alone, would have no future.

“The Marianum is then called to be a fraternal institution, not only through the beautiful family atmosphere that distinguishes you, but also by opening new possibilities for collaboration with other institutions, which will help to broaden horizons and keep up with the times,” he said.

Reflecting on the womanhood of Mary, the pope said that “as the mother makes the Church a family, so the woman makes us a people.”

He said it was no coincidence that popular piety was centered on Mary.

“It is important that Mariology follows it with care, promotes it, sometimes purifies it, always paying attention to the ‘signs of the Marian times’ that run through our age,” he commented.

The pope observed that women played an essential role in salvation history and that therefore they were essential for both the Church and the world.

“But how many women do not receive the dignity due to them,” he lamented. “Woman, who brought God into the world, must be able to bring her gifts in history. Her ingenuity and style are needed. Theology needs it, so that it is not abstract and conceptual, but sensitive, narrative, alive.”

“Mariology, in particular, can help bring to culture, also through art and poetry, the beauty that humanizes and instills hope. And it is called to seek more worthy spaces for women in the Church, starting from the common baptismal dignity. Because the Church, as I said, is woman. Like Mary, [the Church] is a mother, like Mary.”

Named for Father Michael McGivney, Catholic high school eager to celebrate beatification

Denver Newsroom, Oct 25, 2020 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- The upcoming beatification of American priest Father Michael McGivney is a time for celebration and reflection for southern Illinois’ Father McGivney Catholic High School, named for the founder of the Knights of Columbus who lived a life of service before dying in a pandemic.

“After the first couple of years teaching about (McGivney), I realized just how much this school is set up in a way that sees him as a model for what we do,” Craig Brummer, faith formation director at the high school, told CNA Oct. 23.

“His care, particularly for widows and orphans, has been a constant reminder that the most vulnerable always need our help,” Brummer added. “His example helps me remember what I am called to do, and his intercession continues to help this school work towards its vocation of helping shape committed followers of Jesus Christ.”

McGivney will be beatified October 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut.

Pope Francis approved McGivney’s first miracle in May. The miracle involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed of a life-threatening condition in utero in 2015 after his family prayed for McGivney’s intercession.

Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.

The priest founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, with an eye towards providing spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help to the widows and orphans of its members. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with close to two million members worldwide.

Father McGivney Catholic High School opened in fall 2012 with just 19 students, after seven years of preparations. It is located in Glen Carbon, Illinois, a town of some 12,000 people about 15 miles northeast of St. Louis.

For the high school's president, Fr. Jeffrey Goeckner, V.F., the success of the school is itself a miracle.

“To date, Father McGivney Catholic High School has successfully educated and faithfully formed over 400 students while promoting ‘A Culture of Life’. Truly a miracle,” Goeckner said in a statement.

Brummer said the beatification is “uniquely special for us,” as the high school is the only U.S. Catholic high school to have McGivney as a namesake.

McGivney, who was born in Waterbury, Conn. in 1852, played a critical role in the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. After his ordination in Baltimore in 1877, he served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven.

He was serving as a parish priest during the pandemic of 1889-1890 when he became seriously ill with pneumonia. McGivney died on Aug. 14, 1890, at the age of 38. His contemporaries remembered him for his charity towards the poor, his sympathy to those suffering afflictions, his approachability, his cheerfulness and his integrity.

Brummer said McGivney’s own life offers lessons for students.

“When we offer the life of Fr. McGivney as an example of Christian discipleship, they can see that the life that he lived, as a Catholic, a child of immigrants, a priest, and a son of a deceased father, had plenty of points of connection,” he told CNA. “One year, I presented a lesson that asked students to choose someone in their life who reminded them of Fr. McGivney. Of course, the people themselves were a wide variety, but even the reasons why they reminded them of McGivney were just as varied.”

The school closes each day with a final prayer for McGivney’s canonization, Brummer said. This daily prayer calls him “an apostle of Christian family life” and invokes his work caring for “the needy and the outcast.”

“If the people who pray the prayer listen to the words, it would be hard to not be edified by the life of the man for whose intercession we are praying.”

Elizabeth Moody, the high school’s development and marketing director, said the school will celebrate McGivney’s beatification during “an intimate, socially distanced event,” live streamed to the internet.

“Father McGivney spent his entire priesthood in parish ministry and died of pneumonia on August 14, after falling ill amid a pandemic,” Moody said. “Our students can relate to Fr. McGivney on so many levels: he was young, he was rooted in service, he lived during a pandemic, and he followed the path the Lord set for him. What a wonderful reminder to our students that they too should work towards becoming saints.”

The high school will host a virtual beatification celebration Oct. 31 via Facebook Live at 7 p.m. Central Time. A video presentation will begin the event, following exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and evening prayer. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. will deliver a homily, and the event will close with benediction at 8 p.m.

The high school in a statement said its founders chose McGivney as a namesake because they “wanted to honor a person who was committed to the same values they hoped to instill in its future graduates.”

“Fr. McGivney was an idealist whose youthful vision and commitment to families led to the creation of his legacy – the Knights of Columbus,” said the school.

The high school works closely with the Knights of Columbus.

“[The Knights’] pillars of Unity, Charity, Fraternity, and Patriotism are the foundation of Father McGivney Catholic High School’s mission,” said the high school’s principal Joe Lombardi. “We are very proud of what our school has accomplished and we know that Fr. McGivney’s intercession helped get us here.”

Brummer, the faith formation director, joined the Knights of Columbus not long after his 18th birthday. After he became a high school theology teacher he took part in its second- and third-degree ceremonies, a membership initiation now merged into a single public ceremony for new members.

“At the time, I didn’t know much of Fr. McGivney other than his general biography,” said Brummer. “In the past few years, now working at a school named after him, I have felt an obligation to teach about him more so our school community understands his patronage better.”


Polish archbishop speaks out as protesters disrupt Masses after abortion ruling

CNA Staff, Oct 25, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The president of Poland’s bishops’ conference has urged critics of a landmark abortion ruling to express their opposition “in a socially acceptable way” after protesters disrupted Sunday Masses.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki issued the appeal Oct. 25, after the country’s constitutional court ruled Thursday that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

In a highly anticipated ruling, the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw declared that the law introduced in 1993 was incompatible with Poland’s constitution.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country. 

Videos on social media showed protesters interrupting Sunday Masses while holding signs supporting abortion.

“Profanity, violence, abusive inscriptions, and the disturbance of services and profanations that have been committed in recent days -- although they may help some people to defuse their emotions -- are not the right way to act in a democratic state,” the archbishop of Poznań said.

“I express my sadness that in many churches today believers have been prevented from praying and that the right to profess their faith has been forcibly taken away.”

Gądecki’s own cathedral was among the churches targeted by protesters.

The archbishop emphasized that it was not the Church that decides whether laws comply with Poland’s constitution.

“For her part, the Church cannot cease to defend life, nor can she fail to proclaim that every human being must be protected from conception until natural death. On this point, the Church, as Pope Francis often says, cannot compromise, because it would be guilty of the culture of rejection that is so widespread today, always affecting the most needy and vulnerable,” he said.

The constitutional court was asked to examine the law last year by a group of 119 MPs belonging to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), as well two smaller parties. 

Polish president Andrzej Duda, who is associated with PiS, welcomed the court ruling Friday.

“I have said it many times and I have never concealed it, that abortion for so-called eugenic reasons should not be allowed in Poland. I believed and believe that every child has a right to life,” he said in an interview with Dziennik Gazeta Prawna Oct. 23.

Abortion will continue to remain legal in cases of rape or incest and risk to the mother’s life.

Gądecki said: “I am asking everyone to express their views in a socially acceptable way, respecting the dignity of every human being. We need a conversation, not confrontational attitudes or feverish exchanges of opinions on social networks.”

He continued: “Once again, I encourage everyone to a dialogue on how to protect the right to life and women’s rights. I am asking journalists and politicians not to escalate tensions, in a sense of responsibility for social peace.”

“I am asking all the faithful for prayers for unborn children, for parents expecting children, and for the conversion of those who use violence.”

Benedict XVI distances himself from embattled Catholic community

CNA Staff, Oct 25, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Benedict XVI has distanced himself from a Catholic community with which he had maintained close ties for decades. 

The German magazine “Herder Korrespondenz” reported Oct. 25 that the Pope Emeritus had taken the step regarding the Catholic Integrated Community.

Referring to the group by its German initials, IG, Benedict told the publication: “Obviously I was not informed about some things in the inner life of the IG, or even deceived, which I regret.” 

He had given the group ecclesiastical recognition during his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, from 1977 to 1982.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Benedict also said: “At first I did not realize that in the attempt to shape the things of daily life integrally from faith, terrible distortions of faith were also possible.”

"I deeply regret that this gave the impression that all activities of the community had been approved by the archbishop.”

The Catholic Integrated Community, founded in 1948, was intended to be, according to its own description, “a place for an enlightened and unabridged Christianity.” 

The community achieved ecclesiastic recognition in 1978 by the archbishops of Paderborn and Munich -- Johannes Degenhardt and Joseph Ratzinger respectively -- and in 1985 it was established as a public association of the Christian faithful under Church law. 

As CNA Deutsch previously reported, the archdiocese of Munich and Freising published an interim report in November 2019 in which ex-members of the group described interventions in their private life. These included the choice of a place of residence and the number of children in a family, as well as the exertion of psychological pressure on relatives.

A spokesperson for Munich and Freising archdiocese informed the group that the decision to investigate the community in greater depth was taken after IG had obtained the archbishop’s confirmation of a chairperson for its executive committee. This step, which is required of public church associations and is scheduled every six years, took place in November 2010.

In addition, the archdiocese had been in contact with former members who had made accusations against the group, which is also known as the KIG.

A spokesperson said at the time: “These talks are currently being continued and their results so far have been included in the interim report of the visitation. At two reconciliation meetings in 2016 and 2018, initiated by former members and the archdiocese, none of the active KIG members took part, despite being invited to do so.”

Also in November 2019, a former member welcomed the investigation, telling CNA Deutsch that it was “a stroke of good fortune and a blessing for the Church and for the last members of the IG itself, whom one can only feel sorry for.”

Regarding the potential consequences of a possible refusal on the part of the group to contribute to clarifying the situation, the archdiocese said that the IG, as a public church association, was still called upon to cooperate with the visitators. 

“Should it continue to evade this in the future, we will take appropriate steps that could extend to dissolution,” the spokesperson said.

On the IG’s website -- which appears to have gone offline -- the community had described the accusations in the interim report as “completely groundless.”

According to Herder Korrespondenz, a member of the group said that the community had decided to completely cease its “activity as a church association and has since done so.” Research by the Herder Korrespondenz shows, however, that the group apparently plans to continue its work “in a new legal form.”

Pope Francis prays for peace and justice in Nigeria

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria after reciting the Angelus Sunday.

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square Oct. 25, the pope said he prayed that peace would be restored “through the promotion of justice and the common good.” 

He said: “I follow with particular concern the news coming from Nigeria about the recent violent clashes between law enforcement agencies and some young protesters.” 

“We pray to the Lord that all forms of violence will always be avoided, in the constant search for social harmony through the promotion of justice and the common good.” 

Protests against police brutality erupted in Africa’s most populous country Oct. 7. Demonstrators called for the abolition of a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The Nigerian Police Force said Oct. 11 that it would disband SARS, but demonstrations continued. Armed men opened fire on protesters Oct. 20 in the capital, Lagos, killing at least 12 people, according to Amnesty International. Nigeria’s army denied responsibility for the deaths. 

Nigerian police said Saturday that they would “use all legitimate means to halt a further slide into lawlessness,” amid looting and further street violence.

Around 20 million of Nigeria’s 206 million population are Catholics. 

In his reflection before the Angelus, the pope meditated on the day’s Gospel reading (Matthew 22:34-40), in which a scholar of the law challenges Jesus to name the greatest commandment.

He noted that Jesus replied by saying “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The pope suggested that the questioner wanted to draw Jesus into a dispute about the hierarchy of laws. 

“But Jesus establishes two essential principles for believers of all times. The first is that moral and religious life cannot be reduced to an anxious and forced obedience,” he explained. 

He continued: “The second cornerstone is that love must tend together and inseparably toward God and toward neighbor. This is one of Jesus’ primary innovations and it helps us understand that what is not expressed in love of neighbor is not true love of God; and, likewise, what is not drawn from one’s relationship with God is not true love of neighbor.”

Pope Francis noted that Jesus ended his reply by saying: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

“This means that all the precepts the Lord has given to his people must be related to love of God and neighbor,” he said. 

“In fact, all the commandments serve to implement and express that twofold indivisible love.”

The pope said that love for God is expressed above all in prayer, especially adoration. 

“We neglect the adoration of God so much,” he lamented. “We make the prayer of thanksgiving, the supplication to ask for something... but we neglect adoration. Worshiping God is the very core of prayer.”

The pope added that we also forget to act charitably towards others. We fail to listen to others because we find them boring or because they use up our time. “But we always find time to chat,” he observed.

The pope said that in Sunday’s Gospel Jesus directs his followers to the source of love. 

“This wellspring is God himself, to be loved completely in a communion that nothing and no one can break. A communion that is a gift to be invoked each day, but also a personal commitment not to let our lives become enslaved by the idols of the world,” he said.

“And the proof of our journey of conversion and holiness always consists in love of neighbor ... The proof that I love God is that I love my neighbor. As long as there is a brother or sister to whom we close our hearts, we will still be far from being disciples as Jesus asks us. But his divine mercy does not allow us to be discouraged, but rather calls us to begin anew each day to live the Gospel consistently.”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted the residents of Rome and pilgrims from around the world who had gathered in the square below, spaced out to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He singled out a group called “Cell of Evangelization,” attached to the Rome Church of St. Michael the Archangel. 

He then announced the names of 13 new cardinals, who will receive the red hat at a consistory on Nov. 28, the vigil of the First Sunday of Advent.

The pope concluded his Angelus reflection by saying: “May the intercession of Most Holy Mary open our hearts in order to welcome the ‘great commandment,’ the twofold commandment of love, which encapsulates all of God’s Law and on which our salvation depends.”