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Irish Catholic dioceses to go ahead with First Communions, confirmations after government advises delay

Bishop Kevin Doran. / Courtesy of the Diocese of Elphin.

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 31, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A number of Irish Catholic dioceses have said that they will proceed with First Communions and confirmations after the government advised them to delay the ceremonies.

The bishops of Elphin, Clogher, and Waterford and Lismore have given the green light to First Communions and confirmations in their dioceses.

Irish media reported that the four Catholic archbishops of Ireland wrote to the government on July 28, indicating that the ceremonies would go ahead from mid-August.

The Irish government website currently states: “It is advised that religious ceremonies such as baptisms, First Holy Communions and confirmations should not take place at this time. Further advice will follow on resumption of these ceremonies when it is safe to do so.”

“From Thursday, Aug. 5, baptism services may proceed. However, they must follow all protective measures and social gatherings afterward should be avoided.”

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, western Ireland, said on July 30 that, after a consultation with clergy, the ceremonies would be held following the regulations for general religious services.

“The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely,” he wrote in the Irish Independent, describing the state’s guidance as “advice by government rather than regulation.”

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin responded by saying that he did not approve “any unilateral breaching of regulations no matter what quarter they come from.”

“I’d say to the Church authorities that the government’s only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people and to protect people’s health,” he commented.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All Ireland, accused the Irish government earlier this month of communicating in a “grossly disrespectful” way that baptisms, First Communions, and confirmations should be delayed due to COVID-19.

Martin said on July 1 that the government’s decision marked a “complete reversal” of its previous position.

He noted that the Church had received a letter from the office of the Taoiseach in June indicating that the ceremonies could go ahead the following month.

He said: “We’ve been deluged with calls from parishes and I know that priests and others have been extremely disappointed by this reversal of the position that was written to us from the Taoiseach’s office from the very beginning of June that said that, in line with the gradual reopening of society from July 5, these ceremonies could take place.”

Ireland, a country of 4.9 million people, has recorded 299,549 coronavirus cases and 5,035 related deaths as of July 31, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The country is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant first detected in India.

RTÉ reported that Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore, in southeastern Ireland, criticized the way that the government and National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 (NPHET) communicated with the Church.

“The communication from the government and from NPHET regarding the sacraments leaves a great deal to be desired,” the bishop said.

“We are all conscious of the need to remain vigilant. Parishes have been exemplary in taking the health guidelines seriously and will continue to do so, but for any local parish community and their priest who wish to avail of these sacraments, they must be allowed to do so.”

“Therefore in line with the four archbishops’ letter to the government this week, access to these sacraments for our children will go ahead from mid-August.”

RTÉ also reported that Bishop Larry Duffy, whose diocese of Clogher straddles the border with Northern Ireland, said that the ceremonies would take place in the Republic of Ireland from Aug. 20.

“The appropriate protocols presently in place in our churches will be maintained, and families are reminded of the need for adherence to public health guidance in relation to social interactions following the church celebration,” he said.

“As with the practice last year, these liturgies will take place with small groups of children where attendance is restricted to the child, the parents/guardians, and sponsor.”

“The celebration of First Holy Communion and confirmation has been completed already in the parishes situated in the northern part of our diocese, with full adherence to public health protocols.”

Archbishop Martin previously criticized the Irish government’s approach to public worship during the coronavirus crisis.

In April, he accused officials of introducing “draconian” new regulations on public worship “in a clandestine manner.”

While public worship was suspended in the Republic of Ireland at the end of 2020 as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the new regulations effectively criminalized Mass with a congregation.

After meeting with Ireland’s health minister, Martin underlined that priests’ pastoral work should be “deemed essential, rather than subject to penal sanction” amid the pandemic.

Irish Catholics’ long wait to return to public Masses ended on May 10.

Report: 17 Christians killed every day in Nigeria in first half of 2021

The flag of Nigeria on a soldier’s arm. / Bumble Dee/Shutterstock

Onitsha, Nigeria, Jul 31, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

An estimated 3,462 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, according to a new study.

This equates to 17 Christians being murdered every day in Africa’s most populous country, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

The study by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) in Onitsha, eastern Nigeria, said that the figure included 10 priests and pastors who were murdered between Jan. 1 and July 18.

“The number of defenseless Christians hacked to death by Nigeria’s Islamic jihadists and their collaborators in the security forces in the past 200 days ... has risen to no fewer than 3,462 and this is just 68 deaths less than the total deaths of Nigerian Christians in 2020, which the Open Doors’ World Watch List of Persecuted Christians put at 3,530,” Intersociety said.

The figure is the second-highest since 2014 when more than 5,000 Christian deaths were recorded at the hands of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, the Intersociety study noted.

The report indicated that Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, was responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 Christians in 2014. Fulani herdsmen, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land, accounted for an additional 1,229 deaths that year.

“In our last report issued on May 11, 2021, covering January to April 2021, we found that no fewer than 1,470 Christians were hacked to death and in the past 80 days -- or May 1 to July 18, 2021 -- not less than 1,992 Christian lives have been lost,” said the report issued on July 18.

Intersociety is a research and investigative rights group that has monitored religious persecution across Nigeria since 2010.

The human rights group gathers information through contact with victims and eyewitnesses, media tracking, and interviews, among other methods.

Intersociety found that 2,200 Christians were abducted between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year, with a further 780 kidnapped between May 1 and July 18 -- a total of 3,000 people seized since the start of 2020.

The investigators said that at least three out of every 30 abducted Christians were likely to have died in captivity, suggesting that some 300 kidnapped Christians died in the first half of this year.

The additional deaths of 150 people were also added to represent what researchers referred to as “dark figures,” meaning deaths that occurred but were not reported.

Around 300 churches have been targeted since January 2021, the investigators said.

They noted that Taraba State, in northeastern Nigeria, was the worst-affected area, with at least 70 churches threatened or attacked.

The report’s authors said it was “deeply saddening” that those responsible for anti-Christian attacks had continued to evade justice, creating a sense impunity and leading to repeated atrocities.

According to the organization, surviving victims and families of murder victims have been totally abandoned by the Nigerian government.

“The country’s security forces have so fumbled and compromised that they hardly intervene when the vulnerable Christians are in danger of threats or attacks, but only emerge after such attacks to arrest and frame up the same population threatened or attacked,” the report said.

It added: “In the north, the jihadists operate freely under the cover and protection of the security forces; abducting, killing, looting, destroying or burning and forcefully converting their captive and unprotected Christians and their homes and sacred places of worship and learning.”

“But the same security forces hatefully and brutally respond with utter ferocity against southern and northern Christians accused of infraction or offending the law.”

According to the report, Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the most killings, having murdered an estimated 1,909 Christians in the first 200 days of this year.

They were followed by Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Muslim Fulani bandits who jointly killed 1,063 Christians.

The report said that the Nigerian army, alongside the Nigeria Police Force and other branches of the armed forces, accounted for 490 Christian deaths.

“The Muslim Fulani bandits, originally formed in [the northwestern] Zamfara State in 2011, are jointly responsible for terrors going on in Christian parts of Southern Kaduna, Niger, FCT [Federal Capital Territory], Nasarawa and Kogi states,” the report said.

The Fulani bandits are also responsible for attacks on indigenous Hausa Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Kebbi.

In Kebbi State, in northwestern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani bandits target and kill or abduct both Christians and Muslims, alleging that the “indigenous Hausa Muslims are not pure Muslims,” the report said.

The bandits are also staging what Intersociety called “ferocious jihadist attacks” against their fellow Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Muslim areas of Kaduna and Niger states.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Agnes Aineah. It has been adapted by CNA.

Mother Angelica's monastery elects new abbess, asks for 'continued prayers'

The newly elected Abbess and Council of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala., July 2021. Credit: Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.

Birmingham, Ala., Jul 30, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Mother Mary Paschal has been elected the newest abbess of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama, filling the role once held by EWTN foundress Mother Angelica.

 

“It is with overwhelming gratitude to Our Eucharistic Lord for His great goodness, and to you who have assisted us in countless ways these past years, that we ask for your continued prayers,” the monastery said in the announcement of Mother Mary Paschal’s election. “Please pray for each of us at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, that the Holy Spirit may overshadow and guide us as we begin this new chapter and continue anew in this venture of faith and adoration.”

 

Alongside the new abbess, Sister Mary Jacinta was elected vicar and three other nuns were elected councilors on July 29. Bishop Steven Raica of Birmingham was present to witness the election.

 

The monastery is an autonomous Poor Clares of the Perpetual Adoration monastery. The cloistered nuns elect their abbess and council from among their sisters every three years.

 

The monastery was founded by Mother Angelica and several other founding sisters from Sancta Clara Monastery in Canton, Ohio. It was dedicated May 20, 1962. Our Lady of the Angels will mark its feast day Aug. 2.

 

“With our Holy Father Francis, Holy Mother Clare and all our Franciscan brothers and sisters in heaven, we return great thanks for our vocation and call, to live according to the Gospel, in continual thanksgiving and adoration to Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament,” the monastery said.

 

Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network Aug. 15, 1981, as a new missionary endeavor. Her media apostolate has grown to become the largest Catholic media network in the world.

 

The monastery was originally at EWTN headquarters in Irondale. Mother Angelica moved it to Hanceville.

 

She died at the monastery in Hanceville March 27, 2016.

 

The monastery is adjacent to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which was dedicated in 1999.

 

Some nuns from the monastery have been sent to their mother monastery in Ohio and to the Poor Clares’ cradle monastery in Troyes, France, the monastery website said. The community has made new foundations in Tonopah, Ariz., and San Antonio.

‘Abortion is not health care’: Members of Congress speak out against proposed abortion billing rule

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 16:02 pm (CNA).

More than 25 Republican senators wrote to the Biden administration this week warning that a proposed rule would allow federal dollars to subsidize abortion coverage.

“Abortion is not health care, and American taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize it,” the senators said in the letter. The members included Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus. 

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, insurance providers of “qualified health plans” [QHP] on the exchanges had to collect separate premium payments for elective abortion coverage, to ensure federal subsidies did not pay for abortions. The rule was meant to implement the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which prohibits funding of abortions in Medicaid.

However, a 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that many insurers were not properly separating billing of abortion coverage from coverage of other drugs and procedures in the plans. 

In 2019, the Trump administration required health plans under the Affordable Care Act to have separate billing and separate accounts for elective abortion coverage premiums. Three federal courts halted the rule from going into effect.

The proposed rule-change of the Biden administration would allow abortion coverage to be billed together with other items, in insurance plans on exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The new proposed rule, published on July 1, would require only a single bill and payment of federally-covered services, including abortion coverage. 

Some pro-life leaders have warned for years of the possibility of federal dollars subsidizing abortion coverage in these plans, if the billing is not done separately.

“The Biden administration’s proposed rule would prop the door wide open for Obamacare insurance plans to use taxpayer funds to cover abortions—a move that violates federal law,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, on Wednesday.  

“In construing ‘separate’ to mean ‘together,’ the Proposed Rule would illegally allow insurance companies to collect combined payments for elective abortion coverage, rather than separate payments as the law requires,” the senators said. 

The senators noted that this rule would “undermine consumer transparency” and could potentially result in consumers “pay(ing) for abortions in violation of their consciences or religious beliefs.”

The senators accused the rule of being an attempt to “increase taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, to the financial benefit of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.” 

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest chain of abortion providers. 

“Separate billing requirements for healthcare plans are the best way to ensure that popular laws preventing tax-funded elective abortion are respected,” Bowman said.

The other senators who signed the July 28 letter were: Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Thune (R-S.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

 

Thank God ahead of time: What Blessed Solanus Casey teaches about a spirituality of gratitude

Blessed Solanus Casey. Photo courtesy of the Capuchin Franciscan Order of St. Joseph in Detroit.

Detroit, Mich., Jul 30, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Blessed Solanus Casey's childhood was not easy. He contracted diphtheria that permanently damaged his voice. Casey’s family also struggled economically since he was one of sixteen children. Despite these struggles, Casey’s large Irish Catholic family instilled in him a love for the Catholic faith and a devotion to the rosary.

After bad harvests, Casey left home at 17 to find work. He took on many jobs, including a lumberjack, a prison guard, and a streetcar conductor, during which he witnessed a murder, causing him to rethink his life. 

Instead of sinking into despair at the sight of such an awful scene, Casey decided to give his life in service to others as a priest. He struggled academically and he joined the Capuchins, where he was ordained a simplex priest, meaning he could say Mass, but could not preach publicly or hear confessions. 

While others might feel it beneath their dignity to serve as a doorman, Solanus Casey accepted his position humbly and gratefully.  Solanus Casey tended to those he met at the door of the monastery with gentleness. Fr. Carlo Calloni, the general postulator for the Order of Friars Minor-Capuchin, said, “There was no one, after visiting Solanus Casey at the door of the monastery, who returned with nothing. Everyone received something, spiritual or material.” Casey realized that everything he had came from God, so he directed everything he had in praise of God  through love of neighbor. 

Casey viewed gratitude as an essential human quality. He said, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature; ingratitude leads to so many breaks with God and our neighbor.” 

Gratitude gave him a cheerfulness and joy that ran through everything he did, even though he suffered illnesses. For example, Solanus Casey loved to play violin, but was not good at it. So as not to disturb the other friars, he would play his violin in front of the Blessed Sacrament, out of joy and gratitude. 

Solanus Casey’s gratitude to God and faith in him manifested itself in many miracles, including one with ice cream. According to Fr. Tom Nguyen, OFM Cap., a friar in Detroit, Casey put two ice cream cones in his desk drawer to save them for later. When another brother returned from an appointment, Casey pulled out not just two ice cream cones, but three, all frozen still and ready to eat. 

Casey’s mantra “Thank God ahead of time” shone in his advice to people. Fr. Joseph Mary Elder, OFM Cap. recounted a story. In 1940, the Fanning parents from Dearborn, Michigan, came to Fr. Solanus Casey worried about the health of their daughter Elizabeth, who was sick with leukemia. Fr. Solanus urged them to thank God for all the good he had done and was sure to do for them and their daughter. A few days later, Elizabeth was completely healed from her leukemia.

Catholic Charities in Texas criticizes state order restricting immigration work

August 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen helps a Central American refugee family take a bus to go stay with U.S. family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 30, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

Catholic entities helping migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border responded this week after the Texas governor restricted who could transport migrants following their release from federal custody. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order restricting transportation of migrants to law enforcement personnel only. While the order will not prevent law enforcement officers from transporting migrants, it will affect volunteers’ ability to give migrants rides to and from shelters and quarantine sites.

Abbott, who is Catholic, cited pandemic-related concerns as the basis for his order.

Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said in response that their precautions against COVID-19 are rigorous, and that the new order will make it harder for people of good will to help migrants “who have been given permission to be in the United States.”

The order, which Abbott issued July 28, mandates that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by [Customs and Border Protection] for crossing the border illegally.” 

Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop or impound “any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of such violation and reroute such vehicles back to its point of origin or a port of entry.”

Abbott said he issued the order out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic. He wrote that “busloads of migrants, an unknown number of whom are infected with COVID-l9, are being transported to communities across the State of Texas.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, said the new order gave her “great sadness,” and urged its reversal. 

Located on the Mexican-U.S. border, McAllen is a hub for immigrants, and concerns have been expressed by locals about the transient population of asylum seekers and other immigrants in the town. 

Federal law enforcement officers drop migrants off at Catholic Charities’ downtown McAllen facility, where they are tested for COVID-19. The respite center, which is staffed by volunteers, mainly offers food, showers, and basic necessities; it has changed locations several times since 2014.

Pimentel noted that migrants who test positive for COVID-19, as well as their families, are placed in local hotels at Catholic Charities’ expense to recover in isolation.

“All this has been done to protect our communities from COVID while simultaneously protecting and caring for the [migrant] family, who needs assistance,” she wrote. 

“At no time have the COVID positive immigrant families been walking around exposing others in the community. They are kept in isolation until they test negative.”

In his order, Abbott specifically mentioned a recent incident in La Joya, Texas. Local police had been called in response to a migrant family who were eating in a local restaurant and who “appeared to be sick,” MyRGV News reported. The migrant family told the police they were quarantining at a nearby hotel after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Pimentel called the La Joya incident “an isolated case” that has led to “a great deal of misinformation.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville on Wednesday contested the governor’s characterization of the migrants helped by local Catholic Charities as “illegal.”

“Catholic Charities RGV assists families who are referred to us by Border Patrol, a Federal entity,” he noted on Twitter.

“How can the Governor’s order identify them as ‘illegal’ and how does looking for them not constitute racial profiling of persons legally in the US?” he asked.

Governor Abbott has declined to aid the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in its effort to house thousands of migrant children amid a surge at the border. 

In a letter to HHS director Xavier Becerra, Abbott cited hastily-erected emergency federal facilities as justification for withdrawing state support of the federal effort to house migrant children. Abbott has also pledged to continue building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Confidential data obtained by the Associated Press shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled from April to May of 2021. In April, border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors - an all-time high. 

Abbott plans to revoke the licenses of any shelter in the state that houses migrant children beginning Aug. 31, Politico reported. The May 31 declaration is set to strip the licenses of at least six Catholic Charities agencies, including CCRGV, meaning they may have to close. 

If the state’s Catholic Charities agencies lose their license and are forced to close, two of the state’s bishops have said that hundreds of Texas-born children will be transferred to the state’s foster care system which is already stressed. 

In a video published on April 6, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones - known for falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax - alleged that a man driving a car with migrant children outside a Catholic Charities humanitarian center in McAllen, Texas, was “smuggling” the children. 

In response, Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said the video was “inaccurate and unauthorized,” stating the video in fact shows “families and children peacefully entering the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen.”

Irish Catholic bishop prays for road users’ protection ahead of August long weekend

An aerial view of the M7 motorway and N18 national road junction on the outskirts of Limerick, Ireland. / Diarmuid Greene via Shutterstock.

Ennis, Ireland, Jul 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bishop said on Friday that he would be praying for road users’ protection ahead of Ireland’s August long weekend.

Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe, in mid-western Ireland, announced on July 30 that he would lead a “Blessing of the Roads” ceremony to pray for the protection of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

“Long weekends are specific periods which can record serious road accidents. The loss of 73 lives so far in 2021 is a national tragedy as well as being devastating for the families and loved ones of the deceased,” he said.

“I invite parishes across the Diocese of Killaloe to pray for those who have lost their lives in tragic circumstances, and also to pray for the safety of all road users during this long weekend.”

Ireland’s roads are expected to be busier than usual between July 31 and Aug. 2, the country’s August bank holiday.

Ireland’s Road Safety Authority recorded 137 fatal collisions resulting in 148 fatalities in 2020, an increase of 6% from 2019. The highest numbers of road fatalities were in the counties of Dublin and Cork.

Overall, the number of road deaths in Ireland has decreased since 2006, when there were 365.

The 54-year-old bishop said: “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a marked increase in use by pedestrians and cyclists of our public roads.”

“Over these 16 months, we have also gained a common understanding of the vulnerability of human life like never before. It is commendable how we have, as a society, pulled together to share responsibility in protecting human life.”

The bishop will preside at the “Blessing of the Roads” at the Church of Our Lady, Roslevan, at 6 p.m. local time on July 31.

The bishop recommended that motorists recite two prayers before setting out on a journey.

The first is a 17th-century prayer in Irish:

In ainm an Athar le bua,
In ainm an Mhic a d’fhulaing an phian,
In ainm an Spiorad Naoimh le neart,
Muire is a Mac linn inár dtriall. Áiméan!

The second is a contemporary English prayer:

Holy Mother, hear our prayer,
Keep us in your loving care,
Whatever the perils of the way,
Let us not add to them this day.
So to our caution and attention,
We add a prayer for your protection,
To beg God’s blessing on this car,
To travel safely near and far.
Amen.

Pope Francis thanks South Korea’s bishops for $1M COVID-19 vaccine donation

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican July 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a letter to South Korea’s bishops thanking them for a donation of $1 million to be used to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for the poor.

“I would like to thank you for your gesture of Christian charity, which really touched me,” Pope Francis said in a July 21 letter published on the bishops’ conference website on Friday.

At their spring general meeting in March, the Korean bishops agreed to join a Vaccine Sharing Campaign which had been launched by the Archdiocese of Seoul, the Dioceses of Suwon, Daejeon, and Chuncheon, and the Korean Catholic Lay Apostolic Organizations Association.

The bishops launched the nationwide campaign on Easter Sunday. It will run until Nov. 27.

According to the bishops, the collection of funds to help pay for COVID-19 vaccines in poor countries is part of the Church in South Korea’s activities for the 2021 jubilee year, which is being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the births of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Venerable Choe Yang-Eop Thomas.

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul noted in his Easter Sunday homily that Pope Francis had called for universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine more than once in his public speeches and prayers.

“We are living through difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cardinal Yeom said, according to Vatican News.

Yeom said that “the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for those who live in poverty,” adding that the Catholic Church in South Korea would like to “turn this crisis into an opportunity.”

The campaign encouraged both Catholics and non-Catholics in South Korea to consider donating around 60,000 South Korean won, about $52, which would cover two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Your generosity and fraternity will allow the people suffering the most from the pandemic COVID-19 to receive the necessary aid,” Pope Francis said in his letter thanking the bishops for the donation of $1 million.

He added that the Office of Papal Charities would be responsible for using the money to help poor countries.

“I embrace you all and I kindly ask you to thank the priests, religious and faithful of your local Churches, granting them my sincere affection and my spiritual closeness,” the pope wrote.

Francis closed his letter by invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Andrew Kim. He also imparted his apostolic blessing on the bishops and those entrusted to their pastoral care.

“Please, continue to pray for me,” he said.

Knights of Columbus fundraise to replace vandalized statues at NYC parish

Remains of the statues vandalized at Our Lady of Mercy parish in New York City, July17, 2021. Credit: Diocese of Brooklyn.

New York City, N.Y., Jul 30, 2021 / 11:33 am (CNA).

A Knights of Columbus fundraiser for the replacement of vandalized statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Therese of Lisieux at a New York City church has raised over $21,000 as of Friday, July 30. 

The statues were smashed July 17 at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Queens by a woman who was seen on security cameras. The vandalism is being investigated by the New York City Police Department Hate Crimes Unit and the 112th Precinct.

“Will you please consider helping us restore these proud symbols of our parish?” Knight of Columbus Brian Allen wrote on a GoFundMe page for the effort.

The two statues had been on display at the parish since 1937. 

The fundraiser, launched July 21, is being run by the Our lady of Mercy Knights of Columbus Council and Our Lady of Mercy Academy. 

The Our Lady of Mercy Council said that artisans inspecting the damage have determined that the statues are beyond repair and will have to be replaced. 

The parish told CNA July 30 that they are collecting the information and estimates they need in order to find the best way to put the new statues in, and how to keep them protected.

The night before the statues were smashed, a perpetrator, who has not been identified, toppled both the statues over, the parish said. 

The night of the vandalism, pastor Fr. Frank Schwarz was on his phone with police in response to the incident. The parish said at 3:30 in the morning Monsignor John McGuirl heard the vandalism taking place and yelled at the perpetrator out the window to stop. 

The perpetrator “told him in no uncertain terms to shut up.” At that point, the perpetrator was already fleeing the scene and when police arrived, they were gone. 

The Diocese of Brooklyn said July 17 that “the statues were dragged 180 feet across 70th Avenue, where they were smashed with a hammer. Earlier this week on Wednesday evening, both of these statues were toppled over but were not damaged. The individual involved in both acts of vandalism is believed to be the same person.”

The parish told CNA on Friday that parishioners were devastated by the vandalism. While waiting for new statues to come to the church, a parishioner had taken the initiative to put a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue in place of the vandalized statues.

“It is heartbreaking, but sadly it is becoming more and more common these days. I pray that this recent rash of attacks against Catholic churches and all houses of worship will end, and religious tolerance may become more a part of our society,” Fr. Schwarz said in the diocesan statement.

Two weeks after Pope Francis' Traditional Latin Mass restrictions, US bishops continue to respond

Thoom/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Two weeks after Pope Francis issued his motu proprio restricting the use of traditional liturgies, bishops throughout the United States have continued to address the impact the letter will have on their respective dioceses.

Many bishops, such as Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo, have chosen to grant their priests temporary permission to continue celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass while they themselves take time to study the document, Traditiones Custodes.

“At this time,” Fisher wrote in his July 21 statement, “I grant temporary permission for those priests competent in celebrating the Eucharist according to the 1962 Missal to continue to do so at the times and places that, as of July 16, 2021, have publicly scheduled these Masses.”

In other episcopal sees, bishops have allowed Traditional Latin Masses to continue at some parishes, while prohibiting them or restricting them at other parish churches. 

In the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Archbishop Joseph Naumann told priests in a July 27 statement that he had already allowed two locations - St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community in Maple Hill and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Mission Woods - to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass. The two communities are served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a community dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

At other parish churches, however, Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal cannot be regularly scheduled on Sundays and holy days, he said. Proposals to celebrate the extraordinary form require discussion with him or his delegate “well in advance,” Naumann said. 

For priests of the archdiocese who “at times” wish to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, they “may continue to do so for the present,” Archbishop Naumann said, adding that they must contact him by Oct. 1, 2021 for continued permission to do so.

The papal document, issued on July 16 and effective immediately, recognized the “exclusive competence” of individual bishops to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in their respective dioceses.

One of the provisions of the papal document - Article 3, § 2 - says that bishops should designate a location for Latin Mass communities that is not a “parochial church.” Some U.S. bishops have already issued canonical dispensations from this provision for parish churches already offering the Traditional Latin Mass.

Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita joined the dioceses of San Bernardino, Springfield in Illinois, Biloxi, Toledo, Knoxville, and San Angelo in granting priests a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of the motu proprio.

Elsewhere, some dioceses have communicated internally with their priests on Traditiones custodes, but have not yet issued public statements. 

In the Diocese of Austin, Fr. Daniel Liu, rector of St. Mary Cathedral, posted on the Facebook page of the St. Joseph Latin Mass Society that Bishop Joe Vásquez allowed his parish to continue offering the extraordinary form of the Mass. The bishop gave his approval “as he continues to gather information and discern how the motu proprio Traditionis custodes will be applied,” Fr. Liu wrote.

The St. Joseph Latin Mass Society, meanwhile, told CNA that Vasquez has allowed the extraordinary form to continue throughout the whole diocese.

CNA reached out to the dioceses of Green Bay and Santa Rosa to confirm that their respective bishops had issued guidance on the Holy Father’s motu proprio. 

The Diocese of Green Bay told CNA that Bishop David Ricken had given private guidance to priests on the motu proprio, and the Santa Rosa diocese said that Bishop Robert Vasa “may have” communicated with priests. Neither diocese would share that guidance publicly with CNA. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C., who had allowed celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass to continue while he reviewed Traditionis custodes, this week withdrew his permission for the celebration of a solemn pontifical Mass that was to be offered Aug. 14 in D.C.

The Mass, scheduled to be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was organized by the Paulus Institute, a group dedicated to promoting the sacred liturgy. 

Donna Bethell of the Paulus Institute said in a statement to CNA on Tuesday that Cardinal Gregory "cited Traditionis custodes as the reason” for his decision, “without further specificity."