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Archbishop Gänswein celebrates Mass for Benedict XVI one month after pope’s death

Archbishop Georg Gänswein celebrates Mass in the Vatican crypt close to the tomb of Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 31, 2023, to mark one month since the death of the pope emeritus on Dec. 31, 2022. / Angela Ambrogetti/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter on Tuesday to mark one month since the death of Pope Benedict XVI.

Gänswein, the pope emeritus’ longtime personal secretary, offered the Mass in the Vatican crypt close to Benedict’s tomb in the presence of a small group of people.

Benedict XVI died on Dec. 31 in the Vatican. He was buried in the crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 5 following the celebration of his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

In his homily, Gänswein said Benedict, “one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time on the Chair of Peter, put himself under the protection of a saint for whom there was no theology, only adoration.”

The saint was Benedict Joseph Labre, known as the “beggar saint,” whose feast day — April 16 — was also Benedict XVI’s birthday and baptismal day.

“What a surprise, what a mystery, what a humility, but also what a lesson,” Gänswein said.

According to the German archbishop, Benedict XVI’s spirituality echoes that of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

Labre, and Benedict XVI, believed “one must have three hearts united in one: a heart for the love of God, a heart for zeal for one’s neighbor, and a heart that gives witness for the beauty of faith,” Gänswein said.

One difference between them, however, is that “theology opened the door to adoration” for Benedict XVI.

In a 2012 homily, Benedict XVI called St. Benedict Joseph Labre “one of the most unusual saints in the Church’s history.”

The 18th-century “pious mendicant pilgrim,” Benedict said, was “a rather unusual saint who begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wanted to do nothing other than to pray and thereby bear witness to what counts in this life: God.”

“He shows us that God alone suffices; that beyond anything in this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what matters, what is essential is to know God,” Benedict said on April 16, 2012.

Pope Benedict, according to Gänswein, saw his mission to be, if necessary, admonishing theologians and bishops to keep them out of dangerous theological currents and in the unity of the universal Church and the deposit of faith.

Benedict XVI knew there was a certain aversion to his pontificate because of this, the archbishop said. Benedict also endured a lot of criticism and insults because he did not think the life of the Church should be dealt with according to political or ecclesiastical expediency.

Instead of wanting to give orders, Benedict trusted in the “mild power of truth,” Gänswein said. “Was this naïve and out-of-touch idealism or the proper behavior for a priest, a bishop, a pope?”

The German archbishop also defended Benedict XVI against accusations that he sympathized with a certain ecclesiastical anti-Semitism of the past.

Benedict XVI considered anti-Semitism a stain on the Church and an attack on its very foundation, Gänswein said.

Father Federico Lombardi, former Vatican spokesman and president of the Ratzinger Foundation, concelebrated the Mass for Benedict XVI.

Sister Birgit Wansing, a close collaborator of Benedict, and the consecrated women who ran Benedict’s household at the Vatican and during his retirement at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery were also present at the Mass.

Cardinal Zen hospitalized in Hong Kong after returning from Benedict XVI’s funeral

Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Hong, attends the funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Jan. 5, 2023, in St. Peter's Square. / Credit: Diane Montagna

Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 09:02 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen has been hospitalized in Hong Kong after his health deteriorated upon returning from Benedict XVI’s funeral in Rome.

The 91-year-old cardinal wrote on his blog on Jan. 31 that he is receiving treatment in the hospital after experiencing difficulty breathing.

Zen said that the doctors have already conducted many examinations and ruled out that he does not have a bacterial infection in his lungs as he experienced in 2016 when he was hospitalized for three weeks.

“You have not heard from me as I have been staying in the hospital. Please rest assured, Hong Kong’s most senior doctors are taking care of me,” he wrote.

The former bishop of Hong Kong revealed that he had already been experiencing some health difficulties before he received permission from a Hong Kong court to travel to Rome for the Jan. 5 funeral of Benedict XVI.

Despite having inflammation in his shoulders, an aching back, and numbness in his hands, Zen said that he felt that he “could not give up the opportunity” to be present at the funeral.

“The funeral of Pope Benedict was very important to me; and like a miracle, God allowed me to go to Rome to attend: The court approved, the police let me get back my passport; the airline just had a flight so that I could catch the funeral in time, therefore, I felt that I couldn’t give up this opportunity and decided to go,” he said.

“When I went to Rome, I felt that I represented the whole of Hong Kong and the whole of China, expressing our respect and love to Pope Benedict XVI.”

After his four-day trip to Rome, the cardinal spent 10 days resting in Hong Kong, but his health unexpectedly continued to deteriorate, worsening on the first day of Lunar New Year, Jan. 22.

Zen shared the update on his health in a blog post titled “Letter to Inmates.” The retired cardinal  has dedicated his time over the past 10 years to prison ministry in Hong Kong and has baptized several prisoners.

“Do not forget that we will never be separated in prayer,” he wrote to the inmates. “I will continue to pray for you, and please remember me in your prayers.”

Republican and Democrat leaders urge Biden to add Nigeria to list of countries violating religious freedom

Altar of St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese, Nigeria, where dozens were slain in a massacre on June 5, 2022. / Courtesy of ACN

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2023 / 08:29 am (CNA).

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith and a group of Republican and Democrat leaders in Congress introduced a resolution Tuesday to urge the State Department to add Nigeria to its annual list of countries that violate religious freedom, known as the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. 

The resolution also calls for the appointment of a special envoy to monitor and combat human rights violations in the region.

Co-sponsored by Arkansas Republican Rep. French Hill and Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar, the resolution will signal U.S. commitment to religious freedom across the world, especially in Nigeria.

“Last year alone, 5,014 Christians were killed in Nigeria — accounting for nearly 90% of Christian deaths worldwide as well [as] 90% of Christian kidnappings across the globe,” Smith said in a Tuesday press release. “The Biden administration must act immediately and redesignate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern to mitigate this alarming and growing threat to religious liberty.”

Despite evidence of rampant human rights violations — including massacres, murders, and kidnappings — against Christians and religious minorities in Nigeria, the U.S. State Department under the Biden administration removed Nigeria from its CPC list in 2021 and kept the country off the list again in 2022.

Sponsors of the resolution questioned why the designation was removed.

"In 2020, Nigeria was a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Despite little having changed in Nigeria’s treatment of religious freedom since then, the Biden Administration continues to leave Nigeria off the CPC list for political gain. This resolution sends an important message to the Biden Administration and the Government of Nigeria that the U.S. Congress sees what is happening there and will continue to speak out against the ongoing violence and the government’s inadequate response," Hill told CNA.

“The Biden administration’s totally unjustified decision to retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution puts even more people in jeopardy,” Smith said.

Sean Nelson of Alliance Defending Freedom International told CNA that the CPC list is “the most powerful tool the U.S. government has to influence the religious freedom situation in other countries.”

Robert Destro, former assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under the Trump administration, told CNA that the resolution is “the beginning of a coalition-building exercise” to bring attention to and unify Congress in support of persecuted Nigerians.

Hill, who was recently appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced plans to introduce the resolution Tuesday morning at a meeting of advocates for Nigerian religious freedom at the Belmont House, a center for Catholic community on Capitol Hill. Hosted by Aid to the Church in Need, the pontifical foundation supporting persecuted Christians, the meeting brought together religious freedom advocates in Washington, D.C., for the International Religious Freedom Summit.

Father Augustine Deji Dada of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria; Marcela Szymanski, editor of Aid to the church in Need's Religious Freedom Report; and Rep. French Hill at a meeting on Christian persecution in Nigeria held at Belmont House in Washington, D.C. Belmont House
Father Augustine Deji Dada of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria; Marcela Szymanski, editor of Aid to the church in Need's Religious Freedom Report; and Rep. French Hill at a meeting on Christian persecution in Nigeria held at Belmont House in Washington, D.C. Belmont House

Bishop Jude Arogundade of the Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria, participated in the Belmont House meeting via video call. According to Arogundade, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is a “crime against humanity.”

Arogundade’s diocese suffered a terrorist attack on Pentecost Sunday 2022 in which 50 Catholics attending Mass were killed at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Nigeria’s Owo state. Among the Christians massacred were victims as young as 2 and 3 to as old as 85. 

The situation is dire, Arongundade told the group, citing recent attacks on Christians. 

Earlier this month a Catholic priest, Father Isaac Achi, was burned to death in his rectory by armed bandits. Arogundade said that he “will continue to speak out” but noted that he can only travel in his home country accompanied by armed guards.

The Nigerian bishop told the group that upcoming elections in the country offer Christians some hope. Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress party have ties to terrorists, he said.

Those who “are supposed to make things better, they are the ones involved in attacks here,” he told the group.

Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer and fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the group that terrorists in Nigeria continue to act with “impunity” and are rarely held accountable for their crimes.

New report details abuses of L’Arche founder

Jean Vanier at a Templeton Prize press conference in London March 11, 2015. / Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 07:35 am (CNA).

A new independent report commissioned by L’Arche International and released on its website Jan. 30 has shed light on the magnitude of psychological and sexual abuse committed by its famous founder, Jean Vanier, who died in 2019.

Founded in the French commune of Trosly-Breuil in 1964, L’Arche is an international federation gathering networks of community where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together. The initiative has inspired thousands of faithful around the world, allowing it to expand to 38 countries on five continents through 150 different communities. The shockwaves caused by the revelations about its founder were all the greater because he was often regarded as a saint.

While a previous report issued in February 2020 revealed Vanier’s sexual misconduct with six women in the context of providing spiritual direction to them, this new investigation found that between 1952 and 2019, at least 25 women — all of them adults without disabilities, single, married, or consecrated — experienced “at some point of their relationship with Vanier a situation implying a sexual act or intimate gesture.” 

The more than 900-page report, the result of a two-year investigation, also looks into the actions of Father Thomas Philippe, a Catholic priest who died in 1993 and whom Jean Vanier considered his spiritual mentor. Philippe was also the subject of a parallel investigation by the Dominican order, which will be published Wednesday.

Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates Carney, leaders of L’Arche International, wrote in a letter to the federation’s members that they were “appalled” by the report’s findings. The leaders wrote that “we once again condemn, without reservation, the actions of Jean Vanier and Thomas Philippe which are in total contradiction with the elementary rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles of our communities.”

Composed of six researchers from different backgrounds, the independent commission sought to understand the context and sectarian mechanisms that enabled Vanier, as a great spiritual figure, to use his power to take advantage of young women. His relationships with those women, according to a synthesis provided by L’Arche, “all fit into a continuum of confusion, control, and abuse.”

The report stated that “while some people described themselves as ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’ of an abusive relationship, a few described themselves rather as consenting partners in a transgressive relationship … justified by mystical-sexual beliefs inherited from Philippe.”

Investigators also looked into Vanier’s complicity in Philippe’s actions, covering up his spiritual and sexual abuses for decades, despite the Vatican’s canonical sanctions against the religious and his brother, Marie-Dominique Philippe, who was also a Dominican, as early as the 1950s.

Among the most shocking revelations of the report is the fact that the foundation of L’Arche had as its primary objective to serve as a “screen” against Rome’s sanctions against Philippe and to continue the work he had been developing through his spiritual center L’Eau Vive, which the commission described as a sect.

The researchers, however, concluded that “L’Arche as a project and as an organization has nothing to do with a sect, and that while the original sectarian nucleus did form a microsystem at the heart of L’Arche, in the light of the facts of abuse identified by the commission, it did not seem to have developed beyond the [French] mother house in Trosly-Breuil.”

Contacted by CNA, Father Christian Mahéas, chaplain of L’Arche in France for 16 years until 2020, expressed his deep pain and dismay at reading the new report and the details of the abuses committed by Vanier.

Mahéas, whose priestly vocation flourished through his mission at the service of L’Arche and its members with intellectual disabilities, accompanied Vanier the last five months of his earthly life and was beside him when he died.

“I find it very disturbing that a man as seemingly free as Jean Vanier could have remained under the influence of Father Thomas Philippe for so many years without standing up to him,” he told CNA. He said that Vanier had been under Philippe’s thumb since he was 20 years old and that Philippe had shaped Vanier’s entire spiritual development.

According to Mahéas, the aura of holiness that surrounded Vanier, and Philippe before him, was likely to aggravate the sectarian aberrations in which he engaged.

“This warns us against the all-too-common temptation to canonize people during their lifetime by putting them on a pedestal,” he said, also underlining the extreme prudence that spiritual guides must show toward their flock, always taking care to respect the inner freedom of each person.

“There is a path, a work of purification and conversation to live in the Church and this is all part of it. It is a matter of continuing our mission in this sense without losing sight of the innumerable fruits borne by L’Arche in its service to the least of this world, and which are to be dissociated from its founder,” Mahéas continued, expressing his appreciation for the strong support the federation continues to receive from Christians around the world.

“It would be a great shame if people who need to be welcomed by L’Arche were to suffer the double punishment of being rejected by society in principle, and now rejected a second time because of this case which concerns its founder only. What a tragedy that would be!”

In their official communique that accompanied the release of the report, the federations’ leaders also announced that a new audit will be undertaken in 2023 in all the communities of L’Arche and that from then on audits will be scheduled every three years to protect its members against all types of abuse in the future.

Pope Francis appoints auxiliary bishop from Colombia to lead Louisiana diocese

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville in 2015. / CNA file photo

Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 06:58 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, to lead the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana.

Dorsonville, 62, was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He first moved to the United States in the early 1990s to study for a doctorate in ministry from the Catholic University of America.

The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux serves approximately 90,000 Catholics in southeastern Louisiana.

Dorsonville succeeds 59-year-old Archbishop Shelton Fabre, who was transferred to the Archdiocese of Louisville in Kentucky by Pope Francis in March 2022.

Dorsonville has been an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington since 2015. From 2019–2022 he served as chairman for the Migration and Refugee Services Committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington said in a statement Wednesday that Dorsonville will “bring his many talents in service to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. May the Lord abundantly bless him and his new family of faith.”

Dorsonville was ordained a priest in 1985 in Bogotá. He served in several parish assignments and taught business ethics at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá.

After moving to Washington, D.C., and earning a doctorate in ministry from the Catholic University of America in 1996, the priest returned briefly to Colombia, where he served as a chaplain and professor at the National University of Colombia and as a professor at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá.

In 1997, he received his first parish assignment in the Archdiocese of Washington.

He was vice president of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities and director of The Spanish Catholic Center from 2005–2015.

Before he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop in April 2015, Dorsonville was a mentor to newly ordained priests and an adjunct spiritual director at St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington.

The bishop has been vicar general for the archdiocese since 2015.

His bishop’s motto is “Sacerdos in Aeternum,” taken from Psalm 110:4, which says: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”

1 million attend joyful Mass with Pope Francis in Democratic Republic of Congo

Pope Francis celebrated Mass with around 1 million people in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).

More than 1 million people attended Pope Francis’ Mass in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday morning, according to local authorities.

The Mass in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital city, took place on the airfield of the N’Dolo Airport on the second day of the pope’s trip to two countries in central and east Africa.

Catholics attended a prayer vigil with confessions and music the night of Jan. 31; some people who traveled from far away stayed at the airport all night until the morning Mass on Feb. 1.

People gathered in the field hours before the start of Mass at 9:30 a.m. local time. Catholics danced and sang songs, including a joyful chant of “Maman Maria,” which means “Mama Mary” in French, as they awaited Pope Francis’ arrival.

According to statistics from the Vatican, there are more than 52 million Catholics in the DRC, almost half of the total population of more than 105 million people.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in French, the official language of DRC, and Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and by millions of speakers across Central Africa.

The pope delivered his homily in Italian with French translations for the Mass, which was celebrated according to the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

The Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is an inculturated Mass formally approved in 1988 for the dioceses of what was then known as the Republic of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pilgrims used umbrellas, hats, and even sheets of paper to shade themselves from the sun as temperatures soared into the low 90s Fahrenheit.

A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA
A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA

“Brothers and sisters, with Jesus, evil never wins, evil never has the last word,” Pope Francis said at Mass.

“‘For he is our peace,’" he added, “and his peace is triumphant. Consequently, we who belong to Jesus must never yield to sorrow; we must not permit resignation and fatalism to take hold of us. Even though that atmosphere reigns all around us, it must not be so for us.”

A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA
A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA

Violence in eastern DRC has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.

On Feb. 1, Pope Francis will meet with victims of violence from eastern DRC and with volunteers from local charities.

“In a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus,” Francis said in his homily. “As if to insist on the point, Jesus told the disciples once more: Peace be with you! We are called to make our own this inspired and prophetic message of peace and proclaim it before the world.”

A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA
A scene from Pope Francis' Mass in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023, attended by an estimated more than 1 million people. Elias Turk/CNA

The pope said there are three “wellsprings of peace” — forgiveness, community, and mission. He also encouraged the people of DRC to unite their suffering to the suffering of Christ.

“When guilt and sadness overwhelm us, when things do not go well, we know where to look: to the wounds of Jesus, who is ever ready to forgive us with his infinite, wounded love,” he said.

Jesus, Francis added, “knows your wounds; he knows the wounds of your country, he knows the wounds of your people, your land! They are wounds that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to arrive.”

“My brother, my sister, Jesus suffers with you. He sees the wounds you carry within, and he desires to console and heal you; he offers you his wounded heart. To your heart, God repeats the words he spoke today through the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort,’” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Catholics in DRC to take the crucifix from their wall or hanging on a chain around their neck and to hold it in their hands, close to their hearts, “in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus.”

“Give Christ the chance to heal your heart, hand your past over to him, along with all your fears and troubles. What a beautiful thing it is to open the doors of your heart and your home to his peace!” he said.

A number of cardinals and bishops from Africa concelebrated the papal Mass Feb. 1.

Cardinal Antoine Kambanda of Rwanda, Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Central African Republic, Archbishop Edmond Djitangar of Chad, and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria were among those who traveled from other African countries for the Mass.

The pope will fly to the city of Juba in South Sudan on Feb. 3 for the second leg of the trip. The visit to South Sudan will be a “pilgrimage of peace” and take place together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.

Rubio bill would block Biden from declaring public health emergency to expand abortion

Sen. Marco Rubio Credit: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock / null

Washington D.C., Jan 31, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill that would prohibit the executive branch from expanding abortion access through a public health emergency, just one day after a Biden administration official floated the idea.

The legislation, which Rubio introduced on Tuesday, would prevent any emergency declaration that was intended to promote, support, or expand access to abortion or punish states that have restricted abortion. It would expressly prohibit the president from declaring a national emergency or an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act and prohibit the secretary of Health and Human Services from declaring a public health emergency for this purpose. 

More than 80 Democratic lawmakers have encouraged President Joe Biden and his administration to issue an emergency declaration to expand abortion access. Although the administration has not committed to this approach, Axios reported on Tuesday morning that the Department of Health and Human Services is examining the possibility of declaring a public health emergency for this purpose. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said there has not yet been a full assessment but that there is an ongoing evaluation into this possible approach, Axios reported.

“There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency,” Becerra reportedly told Axios. “That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration.” 

A public health emergency declaration is normally issued to address severe weather, disease outbreaks, or other imminent health emergencies. Some pro-life lawmakers and organizations warned that using this authority to expand abortion access would be an abuse of power. 

“The fact that the Biden administration wants to declare a public emergency to promote the wanton abortion of unborn children, a grotesque abuse of power, but won’t hardly spend a dime on tackling true emergencies like the one at our southern border, proves just how painfully out of touch President Biden is,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, the chair of the Senate Pro-Life caucus, told CNA in a statement.

National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told CNA that using a public health emergency to expand abortion access would be overstepping the executive branch’s authority and would likely face legal challenges.

“In the end, the ability not to kill preborn babies does not make for a public health emergency,” Tobias said. “There are times where I think this is absolutely their No. 1 priority.”

Tobias cautioned that “this could be a way that the administration is trying to undermine the Hyde Amendment” and “use our tax dollars … to fund abortion.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits the federal government from funding abortion, with the exception of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. 

Alternatively, Tobias said Biden should support “programs to help moms and babies” such as allowing mothers to deduct an unborn child as a dependent for tax purposes or supporting pro-life pregnancy centers. 

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA Pro-Life America, referred to the possibility of a public health emergency declaration as pro-abortion extremism. 

“They think allowing more Americans to be born is a crisis, and the only solution is ending those lives through abortion for any reason up until birth,” Dannenfelser said in a statement

“Their latest scheme would result in taxpayer-funded abortion on demand across the country with no protections whatsoever for unborn children or their mothers — including dangerous mail-order abortion drugs that put women at risk of serious complications. If Democrats were truly concerned about women facing difficult circumstances, they would support the pregnancy centers that serve them and outnumber Planned Parenthood 14 to 1 nationwide,” Dannenfelser said.

Rubio introduced a similar bill last June, but the Democrat-controlled Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions failed to move it forward. 

Democrats still maintain narrow control of the Senate, which also gives them control over the committees. 

Spanish bishop: Reference to UN’s Agenda 2030 on World Youth Day website was ‘a mistake’

Logos of WYD Lisbon 2023 and the 2030 Agenda. / Credit; WYD and U.N.

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2023 / 15:11 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain, José Ignacio Munilla, called the reference to the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 on the World Youth Day (WYD) website “unnecessary.” However, once the reference was later qualified to read “following the guidelines of the Holy See,” he said he considered not going to WYD in Lisbon — as some have said they would — to be a mistake, because it would cause a “wound in communion.”

In the Jan. 30 edition of the “Sixth Continent” program on Radio María Spain, Munilla responded to the “very many” questions that have been addressed to him regarding the inclusion of references to Agenda 2030 on the website for World Youth Day in Lisbon.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is “the most comprehensive blueprint to date for eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and protecting the planet,” according to the United Nations website.

There is a section on sustainability on the WYD website that includes a commitment letter, which says: “Our mission is to build WYD Lisbon 2023 taking into account the sustainability goals embraced throughout the world, the Laudato Si' goals presented by the Vatican and the United Nations’ Agenda 2030.”

Underneath the letter could be seen the logos of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the U.N.

Munilla explained that “since there were many complaints, the reference was later qualified. The logos have been removed and the qualification was made that we adhere to Agenda 2030 ‘as it is interpreted according to the Catholic Church.’”

What this qualification literally means is “following the guidelines of the Holy See,” an expression associated with a note signed in 2016 by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, at the time the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Auza’s note makes precisions and clarifications that go further into the value and meaning that the Holy See attaches to Agenda 2030, both regarding its objectives and in the clarification of essential concepts and the methods of application of the proposed goals.

These concepts are mainly those referring to man, his nature and dignity, sexuality, the right to life, the family, and the importance of the foundations of international law in the interpretation and implementation of Agenda 2030 in such relevant issues such as gender, the idea of empowerment, and the so-called right to sexual and reproductive health.

A ‘fair complaint’ in the face of a ‘mistake’

The Spanish prelate acknowledged that the reference to Agenda 2030, a document not signed by the Holy See because it has a voice but not a vote in the United Nations, “has created controversy.”

“What is the WYD page doing making that reference? What need was there to have to make that reference?" asked Munilla, who said that the complaint “is fair” because citing Agenda 2030 “is a mistake.”

“The fact that it has gone away little by little — now I remove the logos, now I say that ‘according to the Catholic Church’ — it’s a kind of rectification without completely rectifying, which makes it clear that a mistake has been made,” the prelate pointed out.

A wound in the communion of the Church

The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante also responded to the question about whether, in view of the confusion that has been caused, it is opportune to go to the youth event with the pope in Lisbon next summer in Europe.

For Munilla “it’s a mistake that there are Catholic movements and schools that have decided not to attend WYD in Lisbon for the mere fact that this inclusion has been made.”

The bishop believes that “they are depriving themselves of a very great good” and, furthermore, “non-attendance creates a wound in the communion of the Church, of youth ministry.”

The prelate considers that the qualification that WYD’s support of Agenda 2030 is “following the guidelines of the Holy See” that has been added onto the controversial letter of commitment “substantially saves some face, although they don’t finish explaining why it’s not eliminated, period.”

“It’s an error to have put that mention on the webpage but it’s also an error to announce that it’s not going away. It’s too bad that this happens and that such a thing is cause for perplexity,” he said.

A qualified but unnecessary statement

At the end of his commentary, Munilla made reference to the conference given by the apostolic nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, last Friday at Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona in which he explained the position of the Holy See regarding Agenda 2030 from its genesis to its application.

Munilla stressed what Auza said regarding the policy on donations for Agenda 2030, noting that “the most sensitive thing is that when it comes to implementing it, the one who donates determines what program it goes to.”

Thus “a direct link is established between the approval of aid and the adoption of ideologies.” So for example, for some donor nations in order to receive aid for the relief of hunger, the implementation of contraceptive policies is required.

For the prelate, it’s a “poisoned model” that implies “a risk of paternalism that ultimately ends up being an ideological instrument.”

Munilla also emphasized the risk of “declarationist nominalism” expressed by Pope Francis in the U.N. General Assembly, which means that in Agenda 2030 “there are super beautiful words that are utopian.”

To sum up the controversial reference to Agenda 2030 on the website of the World Youth Day in Lisbon, the bishop of Orihuela-Alicante said that “a statement has been rectified that, in its literal meaning by introducing this qualification, it can no longer be said to be wrong. But, obviously, it’s unnecessary.”

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

Mexico priest recounts ‘amazing’ confession of accident victim he stopped to help

One car was damaged after an accident on a road in Mexico, witnessed by Father Salvador Nuño, who stopped to ask if the man in the car needed help. The man made a surprising request: “I want to confess.” / Credit: Father Salvador Nuño/Facebook

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

After getting into a bad car accident on a highway in Mexico, a young man was approached by a Catholic priest at the scene and made a surprising request: “I want to confess.”

Father Salvador Nuño, a Legionary of Christ priest who serves in Monterrey, Mexico, shared the story on Facebook Jan. 27.

“Today I was going down the road with my parents and my brother Alex and at one point, a car began to pass us. Suddenly the driver lost control and began to spin through the air. It almost came down on top of us,” the Mexican priest recounted.

“We stopped to assist him to see if he needed any help. We called 911 and the young man got out [of the car] extremely terrified, pale,” the priest related.

Nuño continued: “I told him: ‘I’m a priest and he’s a doctor. You need something?’ ‘I want to confess,’ he replies. An amazing confession.”

“The Lord granted him to be born again,” Nuño wrote. “He received the blessing and also a free appointment with the traumatologist. Nothing worse happened.”

“I hope we never forget to commend ourselves to God and the Virgin before any trip,” the priest encouraged.

“Let’s pray for the priests, the doctors, and all those who provide their services as good Samaritans,” Nuño concluded his story.

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

The little-known story of when the Masons tried to kill Don Bosco

St. John Bosco. / Credit: Public Domain

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

History notes how much the Freemasons hated St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians — whose feast the Church celebrates on Jan. 31 — but less known are their attempts to kill him.

The two assassination attempts ordered by Freemasons against Don Bosco were recounted in the June 1, 1980, issue of the Salesian Bulletin, the official publication of the Salesian Family.

The title of the article was “Purpose: To get rid of our Don Bosco,” published close to 100 years after those attempts by the Freemasons to kill the saint.

The story can also be found in “The Biographical Memoirs of Don Bosco.”

According to the account, a former student of Don Bosco named Alessandro Dasso showed up at the gatehouse in late June 1880 asking to speak to the priest.

“His eyes were full of anguish,” the bulletin related. “Don Bosco received him with his usual kindness,” but faced with the “growing agitation” of the young man, the founder of the Salesian Family asked him: “What do you want from me? Speak! You know that Don Bosco loves you.”

At these words, Dasso “fell to his knees, burst into tears and sobs,” and revealed the truth.

“The young man himself belonged to Freemasonry; the sect had sentenced Don Bosco to death; 12 men had been drawn; 12 individuals had to succeed with that order, to carry out the sentence,” the Salesian Bulletin recounted.

Dasso told Don Bosco that “it was up to me to be the first, just me! And this is why I came! I will never do it. I will draw down upon myself the revenge of the others; revealing the secret is my death, I know I’m done for. But killing Don Bosco, never!”

After confessing what his mission was, the young man threw the weapon he was hiding on the floor.

Despite Don Bosco’s attempts to console him, the young man quickly left the house. On June 23, Dasso tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Po River but was rescued in time by policemen.

Some time later, Don Bosco helped him escape from Italy and he lived in hiding “until the end of his days,” the Salesian publication stated.

Months later, in December 1880, another “young man of about 25 years of age visited Don Bosco.”

The “sinister” gleam in the young man’s eyes caused the holy priest to have “very little trust.”

The young man, the Salesian Bulletin related, expressed himself as “a high and mighty man.” As he spoke, “a small six-shooter slipped out of his pocket onto the sofa.”

“Don Bosco, without him noticing, deftly placed his hand on it and slowly put it in his pocket.”

The young man tried to find the gun in his own pocket to no avail and looked astonished.

Don Bosco, very calm, asked him: “What are you looking for, sir?” The confused young man replied: “I had something here in my pocket ... who knows how... But where did it go?”

“Don Bosco, moving quickly toward the door and putting his left hand on the handle in order to get ready to open it, pointed the gun at him and, without getting angry, said: ‘This is the tool you were looking for, isn’t it?  At the sight of this, the scoundrel was stunned.” And he “tried to grab his revolver. But Don Bosco told him forcefully: ‘Go on, get out of here right away! And may God have mercy on you!’

“Then he opened the door and asked some of those who were in the anteroom to accompany the man to the gatehouse. The assassin hesitated, but Don Bosco told him: ‘Get out and don’t come back!’” And the young man who wanted to end the priest’s life had to leave along with other companions who were waiting for him outside in a carriage.

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