Posted on 11/27/2023 21:45 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).
A Christian school based in Vermont filed a lawsuit against state officials after the school was banned from participating in the state’s sports leagues and a tuition program because of its policies related to transgender athletes.
The lawsuit, filed by Mid Vermont Christian School, a K–12 school in the town of Quechee, argues that the ban is a violation of the school’s First Amendment rights. It asks the court to readmit the school into the sports league and allow the school to participate in the tuition program.
Mid Vermont Christian School was banned from participating in the sports league earlier this year after its girls basketball team refused to participate in a playoff game against Long Trail School because the team’s roster included a biological male who identifies as a girl. Mid Vermont Christian chose to forfeit the game due to concerns about fairness and safety.
“The biological male on Long Trail’s team is taller than any girl on Mid Vermont Christian’s team,” the lawsuit states. “Available video of the biological male playing basketball, which showed the athlete repeatedly blocking girls’ shots, throwing elbows, and knocking girls down further underscored Mid Vermont Christian’s concerns.”
In response, the Vermont Principals’ Association expelled Mid Vermont Christian from sports participation, claiming that the school’s decision to forfeit the game violates the VPA’s policies related to gender identity, which bans “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
“Mid Vermont Christian school is ineligible to participate in VPA activities going forward,” the expulsion letter read.
Vermont’s Agency of Education subsequently refused to recognize Mid Vermont Christian School as an approved independent school, which prevented the school from participating in the state’s Town Tuitioning Program. The lawsuit argues that the school meets all requirements to access the program except for its refusal to adhere to the state’s nondiscrimination policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which the school says violates its religious beliefs.
“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker, who is representing the school in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
“The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights,” added Tucker, who serves as the director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”
The lawsuit argues that the state agencies’ actions violate the First Amendment on several grounds, which include the school’s freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. It also claims that the actions constitute unconstitutional retaliation and violate the 14th Amendment’s implied right of parents to control the upbringing of their children, based on prior Supreme Court precedent.
Two families whose children are enrolled in the school also joined the lawsuit, claiming that they and their children have been negatively impacted by the state’s actions, which they say violate the Constitution.
“The students who choose to attend Mid Vermont Christian are currently losing out on valuable tuition reimbursement and being excluded from playing competitive sports and participating in academic competitions … whom we represent in this case,” ADF legal counsel Jake Reed said in a statement. “Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports.”
Neither the Agency of Education nor the Vermont Principals’ Association responded to a request for comment from CNA.
Posted on 11/27/2023 21:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).
A Jewish group and an Islamic advocacy team have weighed in on a Catholic school’s challenge of a Michigan anti-discrimination law, calling for religious liberty protections to be upheld by the appeals court hearing the case.
In July 2022 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected categories under a 1976 Michigan anti-discrimination statute, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and its school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Grand Rapids, filed a lawsuit last December arguing that the new interpretation of the law would require schools to impose strict policies and practices enforcing non-Catholic views of sexual orientation and gender identity. They also argued the law would ban catechesis about marriage and the sexes and force the school and parish to hire staff who “lead lives in direct opposition to the Catholic faith.”
A district court tossed out the lawsuit earlier this year, stating the school lacked standing to bring the challenge. The attorney general’s office has not yet issued any legal warnings or brought any complaints to the school under the court’s reinterpretation of state law.
Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a religious freedom legal advocacy group representing the Catholic plaintiffs in the case — revealed that a Jewish group and Muslim advocacy team had filed a brief urging the appeals court to preserve key protections for religious groups regardless of how it otherwise rules in the suit.
The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, with the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, filed the brief “in support of neither party,” with the groups stating that they “take no position on which party should prevail in this specific appeal.”
Rather, the groups said, they wrote “to address one question and one alone: whether the First Amendment protects religious groups’ authority and autonomy to decide which roles and responsibilities should be limited to coreligionists.”
The petitioners sought to “aid the court’s understanding of the coreligionist exemption and to explain the deleterious effect that a limitation or revocation of that right would have on religious groups in general and on minority religious groups in particular.”
The “exemption” in question, the filing said, “[defers] to religious organizations’ own determination of which roles and responsibilities are so tied to the group’s religious mission that they may be filled only by fellow believers.”
It is a “well-established” principle, they wrote, one that has “been consistently recognized by all three branches of the federal government.”
The brief argued that “regardless of which party prevails in this appeal,” the court should “make clear … the importance of the coreligionist exemption and its protection of the right of religious groups to make religiously-informed decisions” in directing their own institutions.
In a news release, ADF senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch said Michigan “is forcing Sacred Heart to make an unconstitutional and unconscionable choice between teaching and practicing the Catholic faith or closing their doors forever.”
“We and the groups that have filed briefs in support of our clients are urging the 6th Circuit to allow their lawsuit to continue so they can take steps toward serving their community without fear of government punishment,” Bursch said.
ADF noted that the Grand Rapids parish was founded more than a century ago by Polish immigrants.
Posted on 11/27/2023 20:45 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis is being treated with antibiotics intravenously and has postponed some of his meetings this week as he recovers from a “mild flu,” according to the Vatican.
A CT scan at a Rome hospital over the weekend “ruled out pneumonia, but it showed lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Nov. 27.
Francis, who turns 87 next month, spent much of the past decade as pope in relatively good health but has dealt with several painful medical conditions over the last few years.
Here is a timeline charting Pope Francis’ recent health concerns:
A bout of sciatic pain in the final days of 2020 keeps Pope Francis from presiding at the Vatican’s liturgies on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Francis has suffered from sciatica for a number of years; he spoke about it during an in-flight press conference returning from a trip to Brazil in July 2013.
“Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone,” he said about the condition, which starts in the lower back and can cause pain running down the back of the thigh and leg to the foot.
📹 VIDEO | Sound on! Listen to thousands of pilgrims encouraging Pope Francis as he makes a huge effort to stand up and walk at the end of the general audience. He is undergoing treatment for a torn ligament in his knee. Stay strong, dear Holy Father! pic.twitter.com/iejCLYtBlF— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) May 4, 2022
Pope Francis cancels three more public appearances at the end of the month due to sciatic nerve pain.
A problem with his colon lands the pope in the hospital on July 4.
Pope Francis undergoes surgery to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery includes a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.
The pope spends 11 days in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital recovering from the surgery.
Pope Francis shares that he was having problems with his knee.
“Excuse me if I stay seated, but I have a pain in my leg today ... It hurts me, it hurts if I’m standing,” the pope tells journalists from the Jerusalem-based Christian Media Center on Jan. 17.
Francis tells the crowd at his general audience that the reason he is unable to greet pilgrims as usual is because of a temporary “problem with my right leg,” an inflamed knee ligament.
Pope Francis cancels two public events at the end of February due to knee pain and doctors’ orders to rest.
In the month that follows, he receives help going up and down stairs but continues to walk and stand without assistance.
During a trip to Malta, Pope Francis uses a lift to disembark the papal plane. A special lift is also installed at Malta’s Basilica of St. Paul in Rabat so Francis can visit and pray in the crypt grotto without taking the stairs.
On the return flight on April 3, Francis tells journalists: “My health is a bit fickle, I have this knee problem that brings out problems with walking.”
At the Vatican’s Good Friday service, the pope does not lay prostrate before the altar as he has done in the past.
He also does not celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16 or participate in the paschal candle procession but sits in the front of the congregation in a white chair.
On April 22 and April 26, Francis’ agenda is cleared for medical checkups and rest for his knee. The following day, the pope tells pilgrims at his general audience that his knee prevents him from standing for very long.
Pope Francis also begins to remain seated in the popemobile while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
On April 30, he says that his doctor has ordered him not to walk.
The pope says at the beginning of the month that he will undergo a medical procedure on his knee, “an intervention with infiltrations,” by which he may have meant a therapeutic injection, sometimes used to relieve knee pain caused by ligament tears.
Two days later, he uses a wheelchair in public for the first time since his July 2021 colon surgery. Throughout May he continues to use the wheelchair and avoids most standing and walking.
Francis also undergoes more than two hours of rehabilitation for his knee every day, according to an Argentine archbishop close to the pontiff.
The treatment “is giving results,” then-Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández writes on Twitter on May 14 after he has a private meeting with Francis.
Other than his knee, “he’s better than ever,” Fernández adds.
Earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister says that a reported papal visit to the country in June was postponed due to the pope’s health.
The pope does stand for long periods of time when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico catches a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greets them from the popemobile. Someone thanks the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis responds: “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”
In early June, the Vatican postpones Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for health reasons. The trip was planned for July 2–7 but is put off “at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee,” according to the Vatican.
Less than a week later, the Vatican announces that Pope Francis will not preside over the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass because of his knee problems and “the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”
Pope Francis comments on his health and speaks about the effects of old age in general terms during his June 15 general audience.
“When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do,” the pope says. “The vigor of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: Be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life. When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: The body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”
Toward the end of the month, on June 28, Pope Francis walks with a cane to meet bishops from Brazil and tells them: “I have been able to walk for three days.”
On Aug. 4, the Vatican announces that Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse, has been appointed as Pope Francis’ “personal health care assistant.”
José María Villalón, the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, is recruited to assist Pope Francis with his knee problems. He says the pope is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want” and that “we have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”
In an interview published by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, Pope Francis announces that his diverticulitis has returned. He emphasizes that he is in “good health” and that, for his age, he is “normal.”
On Feb. 23 the Vatican announces that Pope Francis has a “strong cold.” The pope distributes copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than reading them aloud as usual.
On March 29 the Vatican announces that Pope Francis is expected to remain in a hospital in Rome for “some days” due to a respiratory infection. It had announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.
Pope Francis undergoes a three-hour abdominal surgery to repair an incisional hernia on June 7.
A team of surgeons removes scar tissue and operates on a hernia in the pope’s abdominal wall at the site of a previous surgical incision in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.
The pope is discharged on June 16 after an eight-day stay in the hospital recovering from the operation.
Pope Francis comes down with a “mild flu,” according to the Vatican. The pope cancels his scheduled meetings and goes to the hospital on Nov. 25 for precautionary testing.
The CT scan at the hospital rules out pneumonia but shows that the pope has lung inflammation that is “causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni tells journalists on Nov. 27.
The pope is treated with antibiotics intravenously as he recovers. A bandage holding in place a cannula for intravenous treatment can be seen on the pope’s right hand as he gives the Angelus blessing from his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, rather than from the usual window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
“Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this problem of inflammation of the lungs,” the pope says in the Angelus broadcast on Nov. 26.
The pope indicates in his Angelus address that he still intends to travel to Dubai Dec. 1–3 to deliver a speech to the United Nations COP28 climate conference.
Pope Francis feels well enough to keep his scheduled appointment with the president of Paraguay the following day. The Vatican releases photos of the pope’s meeting with the Paraguayan president showing the pope smiling and using a cane to walk.
This story was originally published May 21, 2022, and was last updated on Nov. 27, 2023.
Posted on 11/27/2023 20:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).
Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana — historically a school for undergraduate women — will now be accepting men who identify as women.
The school’s president confirmed the change to students and faculty in an email last week. The college also updated its nondiscrimination policy in June and referenced the new policy there.
The nondiscrimination policy, which was approved by its board of trustees, says that Saint Mary’s “considers admission for undergraduate applicants whose sex is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”
There are 32 individuals listed on the school’s board of trustees, along with one trustee emeritus. The list includes six religious sisters of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the order that founded the college in the 1840s. Additionally, two priests, one Jesuit and one Congregation of Holy Cross father, also serve on the board.
The policy says that graduate programs are “open to all” and that the school’s admission policies “are informed by Title IV of the Education Amendments of 1972, which allows for single sex admission policies in institutions that have historically served women.”
The school’s mission is to “empower women, through education, at all stages in life,” the school says. “Essential to this mission is fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus experience.”
In a Nov. 21 email, the college’s president, Katie Conboy, said to students and faculty that the school is “by no means the first Catholic women’s college to adopt a policy with this scope,” the Washington Examiner reported.
She added that admitting men who identify as women “encompasses our commitment to operate as a Catholic women’s college.”
The school is still determining the “practices that will follow from the policy,” the email reportedly said.
Conboy put together a “President’s Task Force for Gender Identity and Expression” earlier this year that will be making recommendations for housing policies, the school’s student paper, The Observer, reported last week.
In a statement on Monday, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades said he had learned of the policy change last week and that he found it "disappointing that I, as bishop of the diocese in which Saint Mary’s College is located, was not included or consulted on a matter of important Catholic teaching."
"To call itself a 'women’s college' and to admit male students who 'consistently live and identify as women' suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual," Rhoades said. "This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching."
"The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem," the bishop said in the statement. "The problem is a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic."
The prelate urged the school to "correct its admissions policy in fidelity to the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect."
When news broke last week of the policy change, meanwhile, the school received backlash online.
“Just found out my alma mater [Saint Mary’s], an all-women’s Catholic college, will be accepting BIOLOGICAL MEN starting next fall,” one online post on X said. “This decision is blasphemous & a complete rejection of the Church and its teachings on gender and sexuality.”
“[Catholics] we have an issue here!! Don’t allow your child to go to this school!! [Saint Mary’s] Shame on YOU!” another post said.
“My Alma Mater. I’m disgusted,” another post said.
Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to promoting faithful Catholic education, told CNA Monday that Saint Mary’s College “needs to reverse course” on its policy.
“Catholics, and most especially Catholic educators, need to have the courage to speak the truth about gender and even to suffer for it,” he said.
“The consequences of false gender identity and bodily mutilation are dire, and we need our bishops and laity to firmly oppose institutions embracing gender ideology, especially schools and colleges that claim to be Catholic,” he continued.
“Saint Mary’s needs to reverse course for the very same reason that presumably led to its misguided policy: compassion for confused students. Embracing false gender identities does students great harm, and a school or college that does so is no less confused and perhaps deliberately false about its Catholic identity.”
Reilly also said that the college is being “disingenuous” in its citing of federal law, “which has strong exemptions for religious education and is subject to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.”
“It is almost as if Saint Mary’s wants to publicly acknowledge it is not in fact religious, or at least it has no intention of upholding and teaching Catholic doctrine. Perhaps the college should be forthright in saying so to its bishop and Catholic families,” he said.
In a statement to CNA on Monday, Lisa Knox, a spokeswoman for the college, said that “in today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive.”
“When the college’s board of trustees approved an update to the school’s policy in June, it included a shift in our language about who we will consider for admission as well as about how we will support employees across the continuum of gender expression,” she said.
Knox said that the timing of the decision was “driven by changes” to the College Board’s Common Application, which is an online form that prospective college students can fill out to apply to many different institutions.
Some of those changes in the application include the ability for students to choose “F, M, or X” for one’s legal sex, Knox said.
She added that the change has “created challenges” for single-sex colleges “that are trying to be inclusive while maintaining their status as women’s or men’s institutions.”
Knox said that the board of trustees “reflected carefully” on its role as a Catholic institution and “what it means to be an inclusive educator of women in society today,” adding that it sought guidance from other female-only Catholic colleges “that had already updated their own policies.”
“We are not on the leading edge for a change of this type,” she said.
Knox said that the board of trustees and college leadership foresaw disagreement that would come from some parents, alumnae, and current students, adding that “many have reached out to express their concerns and others who support the more-inclusive policy have written and called to let the college know.”
“Our leadership will always go back to our founding mission, to respond to the needs of the times. In today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive,” she said.
Saint Mary’s College isn’t the only single-sex Catholic college that has announced it will be accepting individuals of the opposite sex.
The all-female College of Saint Benedict and the all-male Saint John’s University in Minnesota say on their joint website that they “support every student’s right to self-identification” and are dedicated to “creating spaces that allow women, men, and those who do not identify within the binary,” including “transgender, nonbinary, gender-fluid, and gender-nonconforming individuals.”
The College of Saint Benedict will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as female, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”
Saint John’s University, meanwhile, will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as male, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”
In March, Pope Francis called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”
“Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added.
“All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation,” he said.
This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 with a statement from Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades.
Posted on 11/27/2023 19:45 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Africa, Nov 27, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).
Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, a member of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (also known as the White Fathers) who was reportedly kidnapped in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on Nov. 20, 2022, has been set free.
According to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the German priest was released on Sunday, Nov. 26.
A representative of the Malian government and two representatives of the Archdiocese of Bamako made public the announcement of the release and “wished to remain anonymous,” according to a Monday, Nov. 27, report by Agenzia Fides.
After being released and handed over to the Malian authorities following a negotiation that was reportedly done directly by the German government, Lohre was said to have been “flown to Germany overnight on a special flight.”
Contacted for comment on the day of the release, the Society of the Missionaries of Africa told ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, that “we shall have time” to provide an update on Lohre’s situation.
Asked to confirm the media reports about the release of Lohre, Father Didier Sawadogo, the provincial of the West Africa Province of the missionary congregation, added in a note shared with ACI Africa: “We are waiting for confirmation.”
Earlier, Father Pawel Hulecki, the assistant general of the White Fathers, had asked for prayers for their kidnapped confrere, saying that his whereabouts were still unknown.
“We still don't know how he is doing, and we pray for his liberation,” Hulecki said about Lohre in a Nov. 23 report.
Lohre was taken away as he was preparing to celebrate Mass in a church in the capital city of the West African nation.
His car was found abandoned and the cross he always carried with him was on the ground near the car.
According to the Catholic pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the 66-year-old priest “was an important reference person for interreligious dialogue, teaching at the Institute of Christian-Islamic Education.”
According to ACN, Lohre, also known among his friends as Ha-Jo, had for more than three decades been a keen champion of religious cohesion in Mali.
The foundation highlighted the priest’s deep commitment to interreligious dialogue in Mali, recalling how he had, for a long time, been the foundation’s contact person in the West African nation and had taken part in several events hosted by the pontifical charity foundation.
This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.
Posted on 11/27/2023 17:49 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 12:49 pm (CNA).
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has condemned the vandalism of a pro-life organization’s headquarters in Rome perpetrated during a protest to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Demonstrators threw smoke bombs, smashed windows, and spray-painted pro-abortion graffiti on the “Pro Vita & Famiglia” association’s main office in Rome on Saturday night despite the presence of Italian police at the protest.
The vandalism occurred as thousands took to the streets in Italy’s capital for a march protesting violence against women.
In a post on social media on Nov. 27, Meloni questioned “how anyone could think of fighting violence against women by engaging in such intolerable acts of violence and intimidation.”
“Should violence always be condemned or only when it is directed at someone whose ideas we share?” the Italian prime minister wrote.
“A vandalized headquarters is always unacceptable. Especially if you ravage it in the name of women who have been raped, beaten, or killed,” she added.
Io non so come si pensi di combattere la violenza contro le donne rendendosi protagonisti di intollerabili atti di violenza e intimidazione come quelli avvenuti sabato a danno dell'associazione Pro Vita e Famiglia.— Giorgia Meloni (@GiorgiaMeloni) November 27, 2023
Voglio interrogare tutti su una questione banale: la violenza…
Pro Vita & Famiglia (“Pro-Life and Family”) is an Italian nonprofit organization that helps organize Italy’s annual March for Life. The association’s headquarters were also vandalized during Rome’s LGBTQ Pride parade in June.
The pro-life association said Nov. 26 that an incendiary weapon was also found inside the office near the broken windows, which according to the initial findings of the police could have been an unexploded Molotov cocktail or a similar weapon.
The organization said that the attempted attack on its headquarters “literally demonstrates the hypocrisy of the feminist and transfeminist movements who have exploited recent news events to carry out an intimidating action against our nonprofit organization.”
“This violence is even more unjustified given the activities of our association: the protection of life from conception to natural death, the promotion of the family, and the protection of educational freedoms of parents.”
Posted on 11/27/2023 11:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2023 / 06:05 am (CNA).
Pope Francis’ lung inflammation has caused him some breathing difficulties, but his condition is stable and “clearly improving,” the Vatican said on Monday.
The 86-year-old pope is being treated with antibiotics intravenously and is in “good and stable” condition without a fever, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on Nov. 27.
A CT scan at a Rome hospital over the weekend “ruled out pneumonia, but it showed lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties,” Bruni said.
Pope Francis felt well enough to keep his scheduled appointment with the president of Paraguay on Monday morning but has postponed some of his other meetings this week as he recovers from what the Vatican has described as a “mild flu.”
The Vatican released photos of the pope’s meeting with Paraguayan President Santiago Peña, which showed the pope smiling and using a cane to walk.
The pope was also expected to meet with a group of French sexual abuse survivors on Monday, according to the French news outlet I.Media, but it appears that this meeting was among those postponed.
“To facilitate the pope’s recovery, some important engagements scheduled for these days have been postponed so that he can devote the desired time and energy to them,” Bruni explained.
“Others, of an institutional nature or easier to support given his current health condition, have been maintained.”
Pope Francis, who turns 87 next month, has experienced a number of medical setbacks in recent years. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion, most recently in June for abdominal surgery.
Part of the pope’s right lung was removed in a surgery in 1957 in Argentina before he began his novitiate with the Jesuits. Earlier this year, the pope was treated for bronchitis for several days, quipping on his April 1 release, “I’m still alive, you know.”
On Sunday, the pope gave the Angelus blessing from his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, rather than from the usual window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
“Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this problem of inflammation of the lungs,” the pope said in the Angelus broadcast on Nov. 26.
Pope Francis indicated in his Angelus address that he still intends to travel to Dubai next weekend to deliver a speech to the United Nations COP28 climate conference. The pope is scheduled to be in the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1–3.
Posted on 11/27/2023 09:30 AM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Digital, Nov 27, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).
The town of Monte Sião in southern Minas Gerais state in Brazil can be considered a land of graces, since the first church dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is located there. Our Lady’s intercession is credited with ending a prolonged period of drought there in the 1930s.
In 1830, Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré in France and asked her to have a medal made according to the design she had been shown: the Virgin standing on a globe with outstretched hands with rays of light emanating from them, her foot on a serpent, and bearing the inscription: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
The letter M is inscribed on the back side, with a cross rising from the middle of the letter. Below are the Sacred Heart of Jesus encircled with a crown of thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced by a sword. Around the edge of the medal are 12 stars.
The Virgin promised the nun that she would give abundant graces to those who wore the medal. The devotion spread throughout the world and made its way to Brazil.
In 1849, just 19 years after the apparitions in France, the first church dedicated to the Miraculous Medal was built in Monte Sião.
According to the website of the Archdiocese of Pousso Alegre, in 1830 when Mary appeared to St. Catherine, the Monte Sião region was inhabited by about 105 Catholic families. There was no church or priest, and traveling there was precarious.
However, accounts indicate that by 1838, “devotion to the Miraculous Medal was already there.”
On March 29, 1849, the construction of the chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was authorized, and it was consecrated on April 13, 1850.
The first of the graces received came when a statue depicting the image of Mary on the medal arrived from Portugal in 1860. However, in 1937 it was removed from the main altar at the request of the bishop, who considered that the statue had “sensual lines” because it highlighted the bust and waist.
The image was then taken to a chapel in the rural area and the faithful felt its absence. After that date, the city “was ravaged by a great drought” until 1939.
According to various accounts, it rained as usual in all the cities of the region except Monte Sião.
The people associated the lack of rain with the absence of the Marian image, and so a group asked the priest in charge that the statue be placed again on the main altar. After much discussion, it was allowed to be returned.
The statue was returned Nov. 5, 1939. It was a sunny afternoon when a procession consisting of the pastor, authorities, a band, and the faithful carried the Marian image on a litter.
When the procession arrived at the entrance to the city, the first drops of rain began to fall and then a heavy rain ensued, completely soaking the faithful and the image before they finally entered the church.
The downpour is known as the Day of the Miracle of the Rain. Since then, the plantations have prospered and the rainy cycle has returned to normal.
This was another of the many graces that the people of Monte Sião received and still receive today through the intercession of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Due to its history and the great flow of devotees, on Nov. 5, 1999, the main church was elevated to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, where her feast is celebrated with special fervor every Nov. 27.
This story was first published by ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news partner. It was translated, adapted, and published by CNA on Nov. 28, 2022.
Posted on 11/26/2023 12:21 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Nov 26, 2023 / 07:21 am (CNA).
During this week’s Sunday Angelus, marking the end of the liturgical year and the observance of the solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis spoke not from the window of the Apostolic Palace but via livestream from the chapel of his residence Casa Santa Marta.
On Saturday morning the Holy See Press Office announced that the Holy Father had canceled all of his appointments due to a “mild” flu. He was later admitted to Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome to undergo precautionary testing, including a CT scan, to test for “pulmonary complications,” which “gave a negative result,” a Holy See press release said.
During the live transmission on Sunday, the Holy Father lamented that he was too sick to read the Angelus himself.
“Today I can’t look out the window because I have this lung inflammation problem,” the pope said.
Reading the address was Monsignor Paolo Braida, a close collaborator of the pope who opened with a reflection on the final judgment of man seen in today’s Gospel.
The “final judgment,” Braida noted, “will be based on charity,” and it is charity that sits at the heart of the solemnity of Christ the King, which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas.
The address focused on those seated next to Jesus enthroned. It is by looking at them that we can outline the different criteria for those who are with a king, highlighting the difference between a spiritual and worldly logic.
For Jesus, “the blessed,” or the “friends” gathered around him, are not the rich and famous, not the people of a high court, as one would expect of a royal entourage, but rather “they are those who have served the weakest people. This is because the Son of Man is a completely different king, who calls the poor ‘brethren,’ who identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the outsiders, the sick, the imprisoned.”
In this way Jesus introduces a radically different notion of kingship that does not correspond to worldly logic and associations. Instead, these individuals surrounding Jesus “are those who respond to these forms of poverty with love, with service: not by turning away, but by giving food and drink, clothing, sheltering, visiting; in a word, by being close to those in need.”
In this way, the court of Jesus “the King” who “calls himself the Son of Man” is composed of the community of believers who operate from “compassion, mercy, tenderness.”
During the address, Braida mentioned the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, or the Great Ukrainian Famine, the manmade famine that starved millions of Ukrainian people under Soviet rule from 1932–1933.
“That lacerating wound, instead of healing, is made even more painful by the atrocities of the war that continues to make those dear people suffer. For all the peoples torn apart by conflicts, we continue to pray tirelessly, because prayer is the force of peace that breaks the spiral of hatred, breaks the cycle of revenge, and opens unexpected paths of reconciliation.”
Braida also noted that a short-term truce had been reached between Israel and Hamas in the war between the two, which saw some of the hostages freed.
“Let’s pray that everyone will be freed as soon as possible — let’s think of their families! — that more humanitarian aid enters Gaza and that we insist on dialogue: It is the only way, the only way to have peace. Those who don’t want to dialogue, don’t want peace.”
In a prisoner exchange, which was the result of a joint brokerage by Qatar and Egypt, 39 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel and Hamas released 13 Israelis, the New York Times reported.
“Our world is threatened by another great danger, the climate one, which puts life on earth at risk, especially future generations. And this is contrary to the plan of God, who created everything for life,” the appeal continued.
Braida reiterated that Pope Francis would be attending the U.N. COP28 climate conference as previously announced, which will be held in Dubai. The Holy Father is expected to be present at the conference for three days, from Friday, Dec. 1, to Sunday, Dec. 3.
Posted on 11/26/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Jerusalem, Nov 26, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
The strands of lights are falling down one after another, forming a kind of curtain of threads in front of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Following the municipality’s decision to suspend Christmas events and remove decorations, workers are busy dismantling the light canopy on Nativity Square and at other locations in the city.
Outgoing mayor Hanna Hanania told CNA: “Bethlehem, as any other Palestinian city, is mourning and sad... We cannot celebrate while we are in this situation.” Following the approach already taken by the Christian churches in the Holy Land, Hanania said they are going to focus on prayer. “We’ll pray for God to have peace in the land of peace."
In a statement dated Nov.10 — issued after terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 by Hamas in Israel followed by a declaration of war by Israel, all of which has left thousands dead — the patriarchs and leaders of the churches in Jerusalem have urged the faithful “to stand strong with those facing such afflictions by this year foregoing any unnecessarily festive activities” and “focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, holding in our thoughts our brothers and sisters affected by this war and its consequences, and with fervent prayers for a just and lasting peace for our beloved Holy Land.”
However, the Status Quo, a set of rules that has regulated access to and use of the main holy sites since the time of the Ottoman Empire, will still be respected. According to those stipulations, on the eve of Advent, the custos of the Holy Land will make his solemn entrance into Bethlehem. The same will be done on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. This tradition will therefore continue, but the procession along Star Street, the route that tradition says was taken by the Magi, will take place without music and with a reduced presence of the Terra Sancta Scout Troops, boys and girls who typically participate in the procession.
Christmas is just a month away and Lina, a Christian woman from Bethlehem, told CNA that while Christian families in Bethlehem usually begin to prepare for the celebration of Christmas now, and are used to seeing many pilgrims, this year is different. “Bethlehem is so sad,” she said.
“We receive Christmas with sorrow, pain, and suffering. Parents are ashamed to buy gifts for their children, when a lot of families cannot provide the basic needs for them.”
This past Saturday, in the suk (the Arab market), people shopped for their essentials for the week, but no one is coming from Jerusalem anymore nor from the nearby villages. Since the beginning of the war, the main entry points to the city have been closed, and moving between different Palestinian cities is very challenging due to checkpoints and blocked roads.
Furthermore, there is no money to spend. Khali, a local shopkeeper, lights up another cigarette in his shoe store. “Since the beginning of the month, I haven’t sold anything. People don’t even have money for food or to pay the bills; they’re not coming to buy shoes.”
Just steps away from the Basilica of the Nativity, the shutters of the local businesses remain lowered. These are all shops selling souvenirs and local handicrafts, but without pilgrims, no one is buying. Some open only by request. Production has also come to a standstill: It’s not affordable to take on costs knowing that the Christmas season — typically the busiest in terms of business — is lost, and the items will linger on the shelves collecting dust for months. Uncertainty about the future looms over everything. “We don’t know what awaits us,” a shopkeeper said, sighing. “We don’t know if we can reopen or if we’ll be forced to leave as well.”
According to the statistics provided to CNA by the Ministry of Tourism, the economy of Bethlehem relies on tourism for 60%-70%. “We were expecting that 2023 was supposed to be the peak year” with a record attendance from the U.S., Majed Ishaq, director general of the marketing department of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Palestine, told CNA. But the war has changed everything. “We expect that 12,000 out of 15,000 workers are no longer employed in the tourism industry. I can estimate that 90% among them are Christians,” he said.
Roni Tabash is one of the best-known Christian merchants in the city. For almost a century, the family shop has overlooked Nativity Square. They sell handmade items crafted by local artisans. Today, it’s his responsibility to carry on this business, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
“This is usually the busiest period for our work, but now there is no work. We open because this square is a piece of our heart,” he told CNA.
Typically during this time of year, the large Christmas tree of Bethlehem is set up just a few meters away. “However, our true joy is not the Christmas tree. Our real joy is to let hope enter every sad heart in this very difficult situation,” Tabash added.
The footsteps echo in the deserted Basilica of the Nativity. In the Grotto of the Nativity, after the procession of the Franciscan friars, is Fares with his baby girl, who is not even 5 months old. They are from Gaza. His wife is still in Khan Yunis, in the south part of the Gaza Strip. He manages to hear from her occasionally. Their first daughter was born with a heart problem and was operated on a few days later in Israel. They were supposed to return after the rehabilitation, but the war has trapped them in Bethlehem.
Other families from Gaza found themselves in Bethlehem when the war broke out. They had arrived through the faith-based international community Shevet Achim, which helps children from Gaza, Iraq, and Syria come to Israel for open-heart surgeries. They are all Muslims and are hosted in a Christian hospitality facility.
Lina works at a pediatric hospital in Bethlehem, where she is responsible for the Social Services Department. “People are afraid to come to the hospital or they cannot reach it,” she explained. “We try to be in contact with them, to do counseling for them and to reach them with the hospital car, to provide the medications for them.”
The few who arrive at the hospital “don’t have enough money to pay, though it is a charitable hospital — the fees are very symbolic. Also,” she continued, “there are families who come asking for financial support.”
Lina said that as Christians living in the Holy Land they will not give up celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ “because this is what brings hope in our lives. I believe that the greatest gift that God has given us is the gift of hope and with Christmas we nurture this hope in our hearts.”
There is one place that is crowded in Jerusalem these days: Sunday Masses at the Latin Church of Santa Caterina, next to the Basilica of the Nativity. People are seeking peace and hope.
“We’re approaching Advent time,” the Latin parish priest of Bethlehem, Father Rami Asakrieh, told CNA. “This holy time is always an invitation for humanity to accept God’s invitation, of his love and of his peace. We decided to concentrate on the meaning of Christmas more than on showing Christmas, by clothes or by festivals and markets. All these are beautiful things, but they’re not the real meaning of Christmas.”