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‘Red Week’: Buildings and monuments across the world lit red in honor of persecuted Christians

The Austrian Parliament building is lit red as part of the international "Red Week" in honor of persecuted Christians across the globe. / Aid to the Church in Need

Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Buildings, monuments, and hundreds of churches across the world are being lit up in red throughout November in honor of persecuted Christians suffering for their faith.

Organized by the Christian aid group Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), the week of demonstrations Nov. 19–26 is known as “Red Week” and has been taking place in honor of persecuted Christians every November since 2015.

This year several special events being held in conjunction with Red Week will emphasize the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, India, and Africa.

Maria Lozano, a spokesperson for ACN, told CNA that “the challenges for Christians in many parts of the world are increasing.”

According to ACN’s 2023 Religious Freedom Report, released in June, over half of the world’s population lives in countries in which severe violations against religious freedom occurred in the last year. ACN’s report said that “intense persecution became more acute and concentrated, and impunity grew.”

“There is a huge erosion of the universal right to religious freedom, and we think this cannot go unnoticed,” Lozano said.

Global witness

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, several castles in Slovakia, the Austrian Parliament building, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, are just a few of the many significant and historic landmarks being lit red in honor of the modern Christian martyrs and persecuted faithful across the globe.

Many buildings at the Vatican and several Italian government buildings and landmarks, including the Colosseum, will also be lit red in Rome, according to a press release by ACN Italy.

The first Red Week demonstration took place in 2015 when ACN Brazil had Rio de Janeiro’s massive Christ the Redeemer statue lit red in honor of persecuted Christians in Iraq.

According to an X post by ACN, the color red “evokes the color of bloodshed by millions of [Christian martyrs].” 

This year, according to ACN, over 10,000 people are expected to participate in Red Week activities scheduled in more than a dozen different countries. Millions more will see the buildings and monuments lit red.

“In a world increasingly marked by conflict, the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the universal right to religious freedom can go unnoticed,” ACN said in a Nov. 6 statement. “The goal of ACN’s initiative, which includes lighting in red monuments and buildings around the world, is to make sure they are not forgotten.”

In the United Kingdom, where many churches and cathedrals will be lit in red, several events and demonstrations were scheduled for “Red Wednesday” on Nov. 22 to bring attention to the suffering in Africa and Nigeria especially.

Religious liberty in Nigeria has been continually worsening in recent years, with massacres, killings, kidnappings, and intimidation a daily occurrence, Nigerian Bishop Wilfred Anagbe told CNA in a June interview.

This January, Father Isaac Achi, a priest serving in the Catholic Diocese of Minna, Nigeria, was burned to death by bandits inside his parish church.

This past Good Friday, April 7, 43 people were killed and many more were injured in an attack at an elementary school in Ngban.

“If you see the video, you would just weep,” Anagbe said. “They came and they slaughtered all of them.”

According to International Christian Concern, 90% of all Christians killed for their faith in 2022 were Nigerian.

ACN UK organized a special Mass on Wednesday at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark in honor of the suffering Church in Africa. The Mass will be celebrated by the apostolic nuncio to the U.K., Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía.

Organizers have also begun a campaign to pray 100,000 decades of the rosary for Africa and to raise funds for the persecuted African Church.

In Austria, ACN held a rally Nov. 15 in solidarity with persecuted Christians in the Stephansplatz square in the country’s capital city of Vienna.

Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the Austrian National Council, voiced his support for the demonstrations in Vienna and across the country in a Nov. 15 ACN statement

“By illuminating the Parliament, I would like to set an example as president of the Austrian National Council to raising awareness in the fight against the persecution of Christians,” Sobotka said. “It is absolutely unacceptable that people become victims of violence and oppression because of their faith!”

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions: vanguards of the faith in a time of persecution

This work of art was displayed at St. Peter's on the occasion of the Vatican's Celebration of the Canonization of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs on July 19, 1988. / Credit: Public domain

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Today, Nov. 24, is the feast day of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, a group of 117 martyrs, led by Father Andrew, who died for the Catholic faith in Vietnam during a 19th-century persecution. 

The group was made up of 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spaniards, and 10 French. Roughly half were clergy and half were laypeople, including a 9-year-old child. Some of the priests were Dominicans; others were diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society.

According to the Vatican, Father Andrew Dung-Lac was born with the name Dung An-Tran to a poor family in northern Vietnam around the year 1795. When his family moved to Hanoi to find work, the 12-year-old Dung met a Christian catechist who shared the faith with him and baptized him with the name “Andrew.” 

The climate at the time was very dangerous for Christians in Vietnam under the Emperor Minh-Mang, who banned foreign missionaries and commanded Vietnamese Christians to trample on crucifixes in order to publically renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. (Japanese authorities had for years forced Christians to do something similar, a practice that is dramatized in the film “Silence.”) 

Later, in 1823, Andrew was ordained a priest, and his preaching and simplicity of life led many others to baptism, despite the young priest needing to be hidden by the faithful in order to keep him safe from the emperor. He was imprisoned multiple times and each time was ransomed by the Catholic faithful. Many Christians during this time were suffering brutal martyrdoms — strippings, torture, beheadings — and the priest changed him name to Lac in an attempt to avoid detection. 

It’s estimated that from 1630 to 1886, between 130,000 and 300,000 Christians were martyred in Vietnam, while others were forced to flee to the mountains and the forests or be exiled to other countries.

In 1839, the Vatican recounts, he was arrested again along with another Vietnamese priest, Father Peter Thi, to whom Dung-Lac had visited in order to go to confession. The two were ransomed, then arrested again, tortured, and finally beheaded in Hanoi on Dec. 21, 1839. He is the patron saint of Vietnam. 

Described as the “Nero of Indochina” for his harsh persecutions, Minh Mang’s reign ended the next year. 

Pope John Paul II canonized the 117 martyrs together on June 19, 1988. At the time, the Vatican said, the communist government of Vietnam did not permit a single representative from the country to attend the canonization. But 8,000 Vietnamese Catholics from the diaspora were there, “filled with joy to be the children of this suffering Church.”

Nationalist Firebrand Geert Wilders wins Dutch election in electoral upset 

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), celebrates in his party office after his party's victory in yesterday's general election, on November 23, 2023, in The Hague, Netherlands. The Netherlands' far-right, anti-EU leader Geert Wilders won the most votes in parliamentary elections on November 22, dominated by debate around rising immigration in the Netherlands. / Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Far-right populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) dominated the Dutch election on Wednesday in what has been viewed as a seismic political upset. With nearly all the votes counted, the PVV is set to win an unprecedented 37 seats in the Tweede Kamer (lower house), a significant increase from the 17 seats the party held in 2021. 

In the Dutch system, a ruling coalition needs 76 of the 150 seats in Parliament. Should Wilders be able form a coalition in the coming weeks, he will become the prime minister. 

Born in 1963 to a Catholic family in Venlo, near the German border, Wilders entered politics in 1996 with the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). In 2006 he founded the PVV. 

He has long been considered a political outlier for his acerbic style and virulent anti-Islamic views, a religion he has often called “backward” and “an ideology of a retarded culture.” Wilders has called for banning mosques, Islamic schools, and the Quran from the Netherlands. 

While the 60-year-old has toned down the rhetoric, the election was in many ways a referendum on immigration and on the acceptance of asylum seekers, which Wilders wants to ban outright and was an issue that led to the outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte’s resignation earlier this year. 

During his victory speech on Wednesday night, Wilders vowed to stop what he called the “asylum tsunami.” 

“The Dutchman has hope. The hope is that people get their country back. That we make sure that the Netherlands is for the Dutch again,” he continued. 

Wilders has been a fixture of the European right, forging close ties with other European nationalists including Marine LePen of France, Matteo Salvini of Italy, and the Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban. 

On X (formerly Twitter), Orban congratulated Wilders on the party’s victory, writing: “The winds of change are here! Congratulations to @geertwilderspvv on winning the Dutch elections!”

Despite the jubilation of Europe’s populist right, many Catholic leaders have tacitly condemned the growing surge of populism across the continent. 

The Catholic bishops of the Netherlands published a comprehensive letter on Nov. 2 that criticized many of the key pillars of Wilders’ political manifesto. Titled “Everyone should be able to participate,” the letter highlighted a myriad of issues ranging from the importance of the common good, human dignity, the right to life, the issues of political indifference, and the urgency to address climate change. The letter also expressed consternation over growing political polarization in the country. 

Quoting Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli Tutti, the Dutch bishops called for a “better” politics that “pursues the common good by recognizing the dignity of every human being and the solidarity we all share.”

The letter went on to note that “such recognition helps politicians find answers to current challenges and in shaping a society in which everyone comes into their own. There is also room for those who come from elsewhere, are in need, and require our care. All people are equal in dignity.” 

“We are deeply concerned about growing divisions and increased fears in our country due to conflicts elsewhere in the world, which have as a result that Jews as well as Muslims in our society are unfairly targeted and negatively affected.” 

“Common good is promoted not only by connecting people but also by uniting them in common projects such as Europe, which began as a peace project by building trust and cooperation,” the letter continued. 

Religion has been in steep decline in the Netherlands for the past two decades. According to a 2021 report by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), over 55% of Dutch do not claim any religious affiliation, while 18.3% identified as Catholic (down from 19.8% in 2020). But, according to the 2020 figures, only 13% of Catholics regularly attend Mass and almost 8% said they do not believe in God. 

Earlier this month, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) issued a statement following their 2023 Autumn Plenary Assembly on the themes of unity and peace. Singed by 21 delegate bishops of the COMECE — including Theodorus C.M. Hoogenboom, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht — it warned that the ongoing conflict in Palestine and war in Ukraine could have a destabilizing effect on the rest of Europe. 

“Such international polarization and regional instabilities also have repercussions for European societies, stirring up fears, weakening dialogue, and threatening social cohesion,” the letter stated. 

The letter also drew attention, without explicitly mentioning any politician or party by name, to the rightward populist shift that characterized the European political landscape over the last two years. 

“Dangerous phenomena have been gaining ground in several European countries, such as antisemitism, radicalization, and xenophobia, often fueled by a systematic spread of disinformation and resulting in violent extremism and terrorism, which we strongly condemn in all their forms and expressions.”

Maronite bishop dives deep into the ‘masculine soul’

Bishop Gregory Mansour released his sixth pastoral letter on men's spirituality on Oct. 12, 2023. / Credit: Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

CNA Staff, Nov 23, 2023 / 10:38 am (CNA).

In his sixth pastoral letter on male spirituality, Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour says that “fatherhood is expected of all men, whether biological, natural, or spiritual.”

In the Oct. 12 letter titled “The man of God is a man for others: Some themes in men’s spirituality,” Mansour, said that there are “some worrisome trends” in the culture that “undermine masculinity under the guise of remedying past chauvinism or over-reliance on patriarchal structures.”

Mansour added that given “the absence of dads in far too many homes in our country and the need for inspiring male role models, many young men are growing up without effective guidance about how to live out their male identity.”

Expressing the desire to reach the “hearts of men” through his letter, he added that “I would be grateful if this pastoral letter nourishes women and youth as well because so much of this letter can be helpful to everyone interested in the spiritual life.”

Pastoral letters are often released by bishops to members of their dioceses on a certain aspect of the faith in an attempt to guide the faithful. 

The letter explores a myriad of topics ranging from a man’s disposition toward his wife and children, the use of contraception and pornography, the need for self-mastery and a life of prayer, and the call to fatherhood for all men regardless of one’s current state in life. 

“Men who live as ‘chips off the old (divine) block’ are the greatest need today; women and children long for this — many men also long for this,” he wrote.

‘A man for others’

Much of a men’s spirituality can be discovered through reflecting on Jesus as “a man for others,” the letter said. 

Mansour cites the Gospel of John where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He adds that Jesus was teaching “all of us, but especially men” about servant leadership.

“Jesus wanted to teach men how to undo the sin of the first man, Adam, who after the Fall would ‘rule over’ his ‘helpmate’ Eve (Gen 3:16),” he wrote. 

Christ was making service “his privileged way,” Mansour wrote, adding that “the path of redemption would involve self-mastery rather than domination of others.” 

Men and women have equal dignity, Mansour wrote pointing to Jesus’ discourse on marriage and divorce with the Pharisees.

Mansour wrote that Christ “rebutted the religious leaders of the day who were justifying divorce by referring to how Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever.”

Jesus responded by stating “that it was God’s intention from the beginning that what God has joined no human authority should separate,” Mansour wrote, adding that his new command “shattered all previous rights to male domination in marriage.”

“Jesus, it should be noted, was speaking only to men, because women did not have the ‘right,’ given by Moses, to divorce their husbands. Thus, Jesus was indicating that a woman and a man are, by nature, and by the intention of the Creator, of equal importance and dignity,” he wrote.

The call to chastity

Noting that men and women are able to give themselves as gifts to each other in the sexual embrace, Mansour said that “a man and woman need to develop within themselves the virtues necessary to ensure that they can be faithful to each other.”

Mansour wrote that chastity orders sexual intimacy to be “appropriately expressed in fidelity, love, and mutual reverence,” adding that “man completes woman and woman completes man, as two halves make a whole.”

“We can easily enslave ourselves to our desires, passions, compulsions, addictions, and whims. Pornography, masturbation, and sexual promiscuity are always sinful, as is sexual harassment or abuse,” he wrote. 

Mansour wrote that if one falls into any of these sins or crimes, “he should repent of these quickly, and ‘flee’ from them, saying that professional help may be necessary in some cases.

“We should all work to rid ourselves and the culture of such ills, to make our culture and ourselves, more holy, chaste, and respectful, especially for the sake of women, girls, and boys,” he wrote.

Mansour said that one way chastity can be used in marriage is through natural family planning, a method of tracking a woman’s natural cycle that can help couples either conceive or avoid pregnancy.

“If a couple for serious reasons prayerfully recognizes the need to space children, they should not make recourse to contraception but work together to achieve a healthy spacing of children in the chaste and natural way given by God,” he wrote.

On the topic of children, Mansour said that God intended “these ‘little ones’” to enter the world in the context of the marriage covenant. 

“A child has the right to come into the world through this kind of marital love, embrace, complementarity, and commitment, in which the mother and father mutually pledge to love and care for the child and each other in a stable and permanent relationship,” he wrote.

Turning his attention to the single and celibate man, Mansour wrote that these groups of men are also called to live chaste lives and deny themselves.

Mansour cited Pope John Paul II, who referred to the “nuptial meaning of the body,” adding that those who forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom can live in a “spiritual union” with God. 

“This gift, in imitation of the chaste and celibate Christ, depends on and deepens one’s communion with God and sets one free to embrace an intense and life-giving love for others,” he wrote.

A man’s prayer

A prayerful man will learn that his life’s purpose is holiness, Mansour wrote. He added that men are called to make themselves vulnerable in prayer.

Mansour notes that it can seem “contradictory” for a man who is a “protector, provider, and cultivator” to become so vulnerable in prayer but said that to “enter into a prayerful state requires a man to now go a step even further, and to stand vulnerable before another man, that is before the God-man, Jesus Christ, and ask him for help.”

But a man’s prayer is not just for himself, Mansour wrote, it is for “all those for whom he loves and cares.”

“A good father, husband, friend, priest, or consecrated man carries the responsibility to not only answer his call to holiness, but to also help bring others to holiness as well,” he wrote.

Fatherhood “is expected of all men,” regardless of their current state of life, Mansour wrote.

He wrote that all men, biological or not, are called to “natural” fatherhood, which is “a role in which a man teaches by example, providing proof that what the father teaches is possible in one’s life.”

The biological father is a “generator of life” that will “go on to nurture other generators of life,” he wrote.

“Thus, the biological father ‘passes on the torch,’ allowing his sons the potential to take on the same name, ‘father.’ Fatherhood does not end with the generation of new life but rather the perfection of this new life through proper rearing, education, and accompaniment,” Mansour wrote.

A natural fatherhood calls a man “to showcase a virtuous life that embodies a lifestyle worthy of imitating,” he wrote.

“Whether one is both a biological and natural father or only a natural father, both roles are ordered to an even greater level of fatherhood: spiritual fatherhood. This is a fatherhood expected of all men of goodwill, focused on accompanying one’s loved ones through this temporal, earthly journey while keeping their eyes fixated on eternal life,” Mansour wrote.

The full 15-page letter can be read here.

Peruvian bishops hail new law that specifies the rights of the unborn child

null / Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 23, 2023 / 09:09 am (CNA).

The Peruvian Bishops’ Conference congratulated the country’s congress for the passage of Law 31935, which specifies the rights granted in the constitution to unborn children.

“This legislative decision reinforces our commitment to the defense of life from the moment of conception and consolidates the recognition of human dignity as the supreme principle. Children from their conception are the greatest treasure in the world, the future of the human family,” says the Nov. 20 statement from the bishops’ conference signed by Miguel Cabrejos, the archbishop of Trujillo and conference president.

Article 2 of the Political Constitution of Peru recognizes the right of the conceived child in “everything that favors him.” However, the current Civil Code in Article 1 makes a distinction between the conceived child and human person by establishing that “the human person is a subject of law from birth” and thus leaves room for arguing “but not from conception.”

As amended, the civil code states: “Human life begins with conception. The human person is a subject of law from his conception. The Peruvian state recognizes and guarantees respect for the dignity of the conceived child, as well as its right to life, individual identity, mental and physical integrity, as well as to freely develop in the womb [i.e., without external interference].”

After its initial approval, on May 19 the executive branch exercised its power to make partial or total changes to the bill. Congress then put the bill to a new vote, and the law was definitively passed. These legislative proceedings made the law not subject to a presidential veto.

The bishops’ conference message notes that the promulgation of this law “constitutes an important step towards the construction of a society that respects and defends human life and overcomes a culture of death.”

Cabrejos wrote that work must continue “to guarantee that children come to a world that receives them with welcoming love, an expression of the beautiful gift of life and the hope of humanity.”

“We are all challenged to renew our commitment, especially families, to protect the dignity of all boys and girls and offer them the opportunity to grow up in a healthy environment,” the statement adds.

The call to action appealed to the faithful and people of goodwill, urging them “to work together to build a society that respects and defends the fundamental rights of all, especially children from the moment of conception.”

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

10 saintly quotes to reflect on this Thanksgiving

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 23, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A thanksgiving should be made to God each and every day, according to the saints in heaven. In special celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, here are 10 saintly quotes on the importance of gratitude.

1) St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.”

2) St. Gianna Beretta Molla:

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.”

3) St. John Paul II:

“Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep!) These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence.”

4) St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude.”

5) St. Josemaría Escrivá:

“Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have. Because he made his mother so beautiful, his mother who is also your mother. Because he created the sun and the moon and this animal and that plant. Because he made that man eloquent and you he left tongue-tied … Thank him for everything, because everything is good.”

6) St. Teresa of Ávila:

“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give him thanks.” 

7) Blessed Solanus Casey:

“Thank God ahead of time.” 

8) St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier:

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” 

9) St. John Vianney:

“Believe and adore. Believe that Jesus Christ is in this sacrament as truly as he was nine months in the womb of Mary, as really as he was nailed to the cross. Adore in humility and gratitude.”

10) St. Francis of Assisi, in his “Canticle of the Sun”: 

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;

in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful ...

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

This article was originally published on Nov. 25, 2021, and has been updated.

Archbishop to invite young North Koreans to next World Youth Day in Seoul

World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama City from the Archdiocese of Seoul. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2023 / 07:45 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Seoul has said that he wants to invite young North Koreans to the Catholic Church’s next World Youth Day.

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick shared at a peace forum in Seoul this week that he plans to invite a youth delegation from North Korea to the 2027 World Youth Day to take place in the South Korean capital.

The invitation will be sent to the North Korean government through the appropriate channels, according to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

North Korea has long been identified as the worst country in the world for Christian persecution. The 2022 report by the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians in North Korea are particularly targeted and tortured within the country’s prison system.

In contrast with North Korea, Christianity in South Korea has experienced rapid growth in recent decades, according to the Pew Research Center. In particular, the Catholic population in South Korea has increased by nearly 50% in the past 20 years.

Chung, as the archbishop of Seoul, is also the apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, North Korea. He said that he is committed to “the mission of peace and reconciliation.”

“Missionary work in North Korea is not only my vocation as apostolic administrator of Pyongyang but also my responsibility as a Korean citizen,” Chung said.

The archbishop spoke at the 2023 Korean Peninsula Peace Sharing Forum held on Nov. 18 at the Catholic University of Korea. The annual event organized by the Catholic Church brings together religious leaders, diplomats, academics, and South Korean government officials.

Pope Francis announced earlier this year that the next World Youth Day will be held in Seoul in 2027.

The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day in different cities around the world since the event was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong international gathering is typically held about every three years in July or August and has drawn upwards of 3 million people in past years.

Was Squanto Catholic? What we know about this hero of the first Thanksgiving

Image from page 155 of "Young Folks' History of the United States" (1903). / Public Domain

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 23, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

In 1621, lacking both the skills and the resources necessary to survive in the harsh territory of New England, European pilgrims encountered a miracle: a Native American who not only spoke English but who also used his skills and knowledge to help them adapt to their environment and survive the brutal winter. 

This was Squanto, a man who occupies a special place in the hearts of many people who celebrate Thanksgiving because of his willingness and ability to help the newcomers to his land. 

Squanto’s full name was Tisquantum, and he was a member of the Patuxet tribe, which lived in and around modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was probably born around 1585 in the area that is now Boston. 

Little is known about Tisquantum’s early life, but what is known is that he was abducted from his homeland as a slave by an Englishman, Thomas Hunt, in 1614. He ended up in Malaga, Spain, where a group of Franciscans bought him in order to free him. It is apparently from these Franciscans that he received baptism and became Catholic, though it is not clear to what extent he was catechized and practiced his new faith. 

Damien Costello, a Catholic historian and theologian, told CNA that the historical record portrays “a very skillful agent” in Tisquantum who was able to change his situation and engage with European culture. He was able to find employment as a translator in England and later convinced a wealthy financier to fund an expedition back to his homeland. 

When Tisquantum finally made it back to where his tribe lived in present-day Massachusetts, his life took a tragic turn. He discovered that his entire tribe, while he was in Europe, had been wiped out by disease — he was the sole survivor.  

The Pilgrims arrived in New England in 1620. They were far from the first Europeans to set foot on those shores — this was many years after Jesuit missionaries had started missionary activity in the area but hadn’t settled. When the Pilgrims arrived in what had once been Patuxet territory, the empty land made a good place to settle. Tisquantum, no doubt mourning the loss of his people, was nevertheless able to deftly reinvent himself as an intermediary between the Pilgrims and Native leaders. 

In March 1621, the chief of the Wampanoag confederation, Massasoit, went to meet with the Pilgrims and brought Tisquantum along to translate. After negotiations fell apart, Tisquantum stayed with the Pilgrims and helped to facilitate what we now know as the first Thanksgiving — a meal between the Pilgrims and the Natives of the area. Tisquantum died the next year, in 1622.

So, was Tisquantum a Catholic? Costello says it is likely he was baptized and thus, theologically, he was indeed a Catholic. Native American culture was very spiritual, and Costello said he doesn’t think it unlikely that Tisquantum saw his baptism as a positive spiritual experience. 

“Catholicism was a crucial ingredient in Squanto’s resiliency, the regenerative principle that gave spiritual power to sustain the disjunction of being a global citizen in a world forever turned upside down,” Costello later wrote in an article for U.S. Catholic

As to whether Tisquantum continued to practice his Catholic faith for the rest of his life, there’s little evidence to say for sure. In a very real sense, God only knows.

This article was adapted from an episode of Catholic News Agency’s award-winning storytelling podcast, CNA Newsroom, and first published on Nov. 24, 2022. You can listen to that episode here.

Alabama priest marries teen after abandoning post, leaving for Europe

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CNA Staff, Nov 22, 2023 / 18:50 pm (CNA).

An Alabama priest who was removed from ministry has reportedly entered into a civil marriage with an 18-year-old woman he met through his work at a Catholic high school.

Father Alex Crow, 31, was suspended from ministry in July after he abandoned his assignment and left the country with the woman one month after she turned 18.

The Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, suspended his priestly faculties, which prohibits him from presenting himself as a priest, saying Mass, leading church ministries, or entering school grounds. 

Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi said in a statement reported by NBC News 15 that he expects the Vatican to laicize Crow. He had previously said that he sees no possible way for Crow to return to the priesthood.

“The recent news of Crow’s civil marriage only confirms the archbishop’s judgment,” the statement read. “Archbishop Rodi anticipates that the Vatican will eventually laicize Alex Crow.”

The archdiocese reported to the Mobile district attorney’s office that Crow had traveled in July to Europe with the woman, whom he met through his ministry at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. The office, however, did not find evidence of criminal wrongdoing. 

Crow and the woman signed a notarized marriage certificate on Nov. 17, and the probate court received it on Monday, according to WKRG News 5 in Mobile.

The soon-to-be-laicized priest was ordained in the archdiocese on June 5, 2021, according to a now-removed bio of him on the Corpus Christi Parish website.

He studied at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, earning a baccalaureate of liberal arts and philosophy. He holds a master’s of divinity degree from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, and a baccalaureate of sacred theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of San Anselmo, Rome, with a concentration in demonology and exorcism, according to his biography.

Crow, his biography says, was an Episcopalian before joining the Presbyterian church. It wasn’t until he was 21 years old that he felt the call to become a priest, the biography says. 

He has given several lectures on Marian apparitions and spiritual warfare for his parish, according to posts from the parish’s Facebook page.

Pope Francis meets with relatives of Palestinians living in Gaza

Pope Francis meets with relatives of Palestinians living in Gaza on Nov. 22, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis received at the Vatican on Wednesday, separately and privately, a delegation of relatives of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists and another delegation of relatives of Palestinians who live in Gaza.

The delegations consisted of 12 Israelis and 10 Palestinians who met with the Holy Father. In the meetings, each lasting 20 minutes, some of those affected by the war ravaging the Holy Land had the opportunity to tell their stories to the pontiff and express to him their desire for peace.

Read CNA’s coverage of Pope Francis’ meeting with the families of Israeli hostages here.

‘This is terrorism’

After the meetings, Pope Francis participated in the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. At the end of his catechism, he referred to these meetings and stated “this is no longer war, this is terrorism.”

He urged “persevering in prayer for all those who are suffering because of wars in so many parts of the world,” especially for Ukraine and for Israel and Palestine.

The Holy Father stated that he “heard how both [sides] suffer: Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond wars, this is not waging war, this is terrorism. Please, let us move forward for peace, let us pray for peace, let us pray a lot for peace.”

“May the Lord put his hand there, may the Lord help us solve the problems and not continue with the passions that in the end kill everyone. We pray for the Palestinian people, we pray for the Israeli people, so that peace may come,” he prayed.

The Vatican denies that the pope spoke of ‘genocide’

After the audience, both delegations held different press conferences to speak to the media about their meeting with Pope Francis.

The members of the Palestine group talked about how the Israeli bombs had ended the lives of many of their relatives.

They noted that the pontiff had referred to what is happening in Gaza as a “genocide” and that he had pointed out that “terrorism cannot be responded to with terrorism.”

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, however, denied that the pontiff had spoken of “genocide” and stated that he used “the terms with which he has expressed himself during the general audience and words that in any case represent the terrible situation that Gaza is going through.”

When asked by journalists, Shireen Halil, a Palestinian and Christian woman from Bethlehem, reiterated that they met with the Holy Father to “ask for peace and justice” and not to “manipulate the pope’s words.”

Halil noted that at the beginning of the audience they felt “astonished” by the amount of information the Holy Father knew about the conflict.

Mohammed Halalo, who lives in Belgium, said that just a few days ago a bomb from an Israeli air strike fell on the building where his relatives lived. “My entire family has lost their lives in an instant,” he lamented.

‘We asked the pope to visit Gaza’

Palestinian Yousef Alkhoury conveyed his fear that “we will get used to the blood” of war and said that they asked Pope Francis to visit Gaza.

Halalo stated that the Holy Father responded that that was “a good idea” and that he “promised” to consult through diplomatic channels to study a safe time to go. “We believe that his presence can bring peace to the region,” Halalo said.

In response to a question from one of the journalists about their perception of Hamas, the Palestinian delegation preferred not to make any statement on the matter.

‘They have taken my family away from me’

The relatives of those kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza also had time to present their conclusions after the visit to the Holy Father. Of the 12, eight of them were able to speak alone with the pontiff.

During the press conference, Moshe Leimberg said that his wife and 17-year-old daughter were taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7.

“We haven‘t seen or heard anything since then. It‘s been 47 days. And I am alone. Every day I wake up... and wait a minute or two to hear the familiar sounds I‘m used to hearing, and there‘s nothing,” he said. “My family has been taken away from me, and my life is no longer what it was and it will never be again.”

A member of the Israeli delegation disagreed with the term “terrorism” used by Pope Francis to describe the war and stressed that it is a “false equivalence” since it equates Hamas terrorism with Israeli defense operations.

Cease-fire agreement reached

The meetings took place shortly after Israel and Hamas reached an agreement for a temporary four-day cease-fire.

During this time, Hamas has agreed to the release of at least 50 of the kidnapped hostages in exchange for the release of 150 underage Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.

More than 40 days since the war began, nearly 13,300 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza, of which about 5,600 are children. In Israel, the dead are estimated at 1,200. 

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