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Pro-life advocates mustn't lose hope and joy amid struggles, English bishop says

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury preaches at St. Columba's Church in Chester, Feb. 15, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. / null

Norwich, England, Oct 25, 2021 / 18:19 pm (CNA).

There will be many pro-life battles this century, but foes of abortion, assisted suicide, and other crimes against human life cannot give up joy and hope, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has told a pro-life pilgrimage.

“In this century we can expect a protracted struggle and we must be ready for repeated assaults on both the laws and the social environments of care, which have long protected and cherished the lives of our society’s weakest members,” Bishop Davies said Saturday. “Yet, this struggle is the opportunity to give witness to the value of every human life and to announce once more the Gospel of Life with joy.”

The bishop spoke Oct. 23 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk during the noontime Mass of the National Pro-Life Pilgrimage, now in its 38th year.

He looked back at the legalization of abortion in the Abortion Act 1967, when pro-life advocates thought they could find easy success.

“If we were confident at the time, that a ‘culture of death’ would be quickly overcome; that public opinion would never long tolerate the killing of the unborn on an industrial scale; if we thought that rational argument must surely prevail; and that to move consciences it would be sufficient to expose the cruel reality of abortion, we soon came to see how a culture of death advances remorselessly, precisely by dulling human consciences,”

This process has made it possible “to propose that pre-born children with disabilities be killed up to the point of birth,” Davies lamented.

He praised the “brave voice” of Heidi Crowter, a woman with Down syndrome who had helped lead an unsuccessful challenge to abortion law in England, Scotland, and Wales for discrimination against the disabled. Abortion law allows broad permission for abortion after 24 weeks if there is a substantial risk that the unborn child would be born with “physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

“‘The law does not respect my life,” she had told reporters in July.

“Remarkably, this cry barely elicited a moment of public concern,” said Davies.

Legal assisted suicide is again being debated, a fact the bishop said was among the “many contradictions” on a path to pro-life victory.

“How are we to understand that in Britain today, a society that mobilized itself in a pandemic, making many sacrifices to protect the lives of the vulnerable, is now considering assisting the suicide of some the most vulnerable members of society?” he asked.

“Dismayed by such contradictions, we must never lose the joy and hope that is the hallmark of the cause of life,” Davies continued.

He criticized “the euthanasia lobby” for repeatedly advocating for bills “to break the legal protections surrounding the care of the sick and the dying.”  He noted this movement’s history dates back to the 1930s and the crimes of the eugenics movement.

“It advocates opening the way for assisted suicide theoretically, in carefully regulated cases. Yet, experience in other jurisdictions shows that in practice this culture of assisted suicide extends rapidly to include those with mental illnesses and even young children,” the bishop warned.

Christ’s words, “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me,” means that “In today’s proliferating attacks on the lives of those most vulnerable, we are witnessing nothing less than a rejection of God-made-man.”

Davies drew on St. John Paul II’s teaching that every rejection of human life is “really a rejection of Christ” himself. As a counterexample to this rejection, he praised the motherhood of the Virgin Mary as “the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.”

In the Book of Revelation, “Death shall be no more,” is “the promise that every fearful manifestation of evil which threatens to overwhelm humanity and thwart God’s purpose will finally be dispelled by the total victory of life.”

He closed his homily with an invocation of the Virgin Mary as the “Mother of the Living,” entrusting to her “the cause of life.”

The National Pro-Life Pilgrimage to Walsingham also offered chances for confession and Eucharistic Adoration, as well as organized recitations of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and other prayers, the pilgrimage website said.

Walsingham was a major pilgrimage site in English Christianity, dating back to the 11th century. The original shrine and a nearby Augustinian priory were destroyed in the 16th century during the English Reformation. Covert Catholic pilgrimages to the site continued until they were legalized once again in the 19th century.

The pro-life pilgrimage concluded with an afternoon walk to the ruins of the priory.

Beatification of 127 Spanish Civil War martyrs in Córdoba shows 'profound spiritual wealth'

The beatification Mass of Fr. Juan Elías Medina and 126 companions in the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba in Córdoba, Spain, Oct. 16, 2021. / Diocese of Córdoba.

Cordoba, Spain, Oct 25, 2021 / 17:06 pm (CNA).

Fr. Juan Elías Medina and 126 companions, who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War, were beatified this month in Córdoba.

“While he announces the hatred of the world to us, Jesus reminds us of his favorite love, the merciful love with which he has chosen us,” Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said during his homily at the Oct. 16 beatification Mass said in the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.

“Death and life have fought in an amazing duel, the Lord of life conquers death. This consciousness animated our martyrs, many of whom when they were assassinated shouted, ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’” the cardinal preached.

Fr. Juan Elías Medina and his companions “is a group that puts before us a variety of human profiles,” he said.

"A richness and depth of spirituality, sometimes also with deep roots in theological sciences expressed in the multiplicity of daily experiences.”

"We are in front of a vision of history whose memory could become a place of evangelization within secularized contexts,” the cardinal noted. 

The Spanish Civil War was fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Nationalist forces, led by Francisco Franco, and the Republican faction. During the war, Republicans martyred thousands of clerics, religious, and laity; of these, 11 have been canonized, and more than 2,000 beatified.

Of the group beatified in Cordoba, 79 were priests, 39 were laity, five were seminarians, and four were religious. Nearly all of them were imprisoned before being martyred.

Fr. Juan Elías Medina was arrested July 22, 1936, and in the months of his imprisonment he comforted and spiritually assisted those held with him. Together with 14 others, he was killed Sept. 25.

The youngest of those beatified Oct. 16 was Francisco García León, who was 15 at the time of his martyrdom.

The Diocese of Córdoba noted on its website that from a young age Francisco "showed signs of a life of special piety" and "stood out for his availability to collaborate with the Church and for exercising simple charity with the elderly and those most in need."

In July 1936 Francisco was “one of the few young people in town who attended Mass daily and received Communion. He always showed joy, politeness and decorum, even in these supremely difficult moments,” the diocese related.

On July 20, 1936, Republican forces arrived at Francisco's house to arrest his father. An hour later, they returned to arrest his uncle. It was then that they noticed that a scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was protruding from Francisco’s pocket.

Francisco was told to throw away his scapular, or be taken to jail. Francisco was arrested, and died July 22 when Republican militias massacred the prisoners in the barracks where he was being held.

Abortion is failing women: An interview with Angela Wu Howard

Angela Wu Howard, a legal scholar with Becket, a nonprofit organization that focuses on religious liberty issues. / Courtesy Angela Wu Howard

Denver Newsroom, Oct 25, 2021 / 15:50 pm (CNA).

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say the case presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

Angela Wu Howard, a legal scholar who has practiced law in the U.S. and internationally, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law. The brief argues that women’s “social, economic, and political opportunities” were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success. 

The following is a transcript of CNA’s interview with Howard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

CNA: What is your personal and faith background? 

My parents immigrated here [to the U.S.] from Taiwan, and I grew up in Queens, New York, and in the suburbs of New Jersey. I’m a Catholic convert. I became a Christian as an adult and was baptized in the Church of England in Brussels during a year abroad, and then became Catholic about 12 years later.

CNA: How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

I studied modern intellectual history during undergrad and was always interested in the way people think. Eventually, I went to law school, and then I studied European law after getting my J.D. I had a career in international religious freedom law, and then went back to school to get my doctorate in legal philosophy.

CNA: What brought you to the place of signing the amicus brief with the 239 other women?

I work for Becket, which is a nonprofit public interest law firm that defends the religious freedom of people of all faiths. Our clients have included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Becket filed an amicus in this case focused solely on the religious freedom implications, making the argument that the constitutional structure of Roe and Casey [the landmark 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed a right to abortion] escalated religious freedom conflicts where there did not need to be any, and urging the Court to replace the Roe framework so that religious freedom needn’t be such a proxy for abortion. 

Separately, I know one of the authors of [women scholars and professionals] brief, Erika Bachiochi. She asked me to sign this brief filed on behalf of women scholars and professionals with terminal degrees. I read it, and I agreed with it, so I signed it in my personal capacity. I don’t think our nation’s laws should be based on a lie, and this brief corrects the record.

CNA: The amicus lays out an argument that, contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement, and in reality has hurt women. Can you explain why you agree with this argument?

Roe and Casey were premised on certain ideas about women in society, and about the necessity of abortion for women's advancement. This brief attacks the faulty premise that women have what the Court in previous cases called a “reliance interest” on the availability of abortion, that abortion supposedly ensured women's capacity to participate equally in the economic and social life of a nation.   

The brief points out that the political scientist whose work is at the heart of this premise — she did not herself claim any causal link between abortion and women's improved economic and social status. In fact, contrary to the way the Court used her work, she specifically said that abortion was actually a result of the changing economic and social status of women, and not the cause. The brief spends quite a lot of time deconstructing that argument and looking at the [48] years since Roe and what has actually happened to women in society and in the workplace. 

Although women in the workforce rose [as abortion increased] in the few years after Roe, in subsequent years, women's status in society and access to economic and social opportunity also continued to rise when abortion levels dipped precipitously. So, there wasn't even a correlation, much less causation. 

The brief also outlines how wide access to abortion, and the assumption that abortion is not only available, but seen as necessary, has actually done damage to women. It severed sex from any idea of a joint future between the man and the woman who have sex, an act that often naturally leads to parenthood, and to children. It also enabled this idea that single parenthood is a woman's choice, and solely the woman's choice, and that it's solely the woman's burden, because she could get an abortion, but she elected not to. It really ties into the feminization of poverty. 

[The brief] very succinctly outlines how abortion has enabled corporate actors, and public, private, and social actors to basically avoid accommodation for women with children, and avoid accommodation needed for the flourishing of the family. The brief points out that the U.S. lags behind almost every other developed country in providing basic workplace accommodations for family, for parenthood, and for paid parental leave.

CNA: What do you think is missing from the mainstream conversation around this topic with regards to what you just shared?

I was not always pro-life, even as a Christian. There was a moment in time when I realized that my position was untenable. I volunteered as a rape crisis counselor and at an overnight homeless shelter, I worked in domestic violence, and I helped to pass the Violence Against Women Act as an intern. My views on abortion have been deeply colored by that work, and, even when I thought that abortion should be legal and was uncertain about what kind of limits should be placed on it, I knew that our society was failing women. 

Now, I have the view that abortion is one of the signs of how badly we are failing women. The vast majority of women who choose abortion choose it for reasons that are entirely within our grasp to address and to ameliorate, and we, as a society, choose not to. The vast majority of women choosing abortion — sometimes multiple times — are doing it for social and economic reasons. Those reasons do not justify the taking of a life, and it's on us to fix them.

When you look at the vast majority of women choosing abortion, what they want is not to have to sacrifice their children. What they want is to have their children and have the emotional, social, and economic means to support and love their children. We’re failing, we are telling them that the only option for advancement is to take the life of their own child. Then, we’re taking a further step to diminish what is actually happening by characterizing the child as a clump of cells, and it’s a scientific lie. 

CNA: We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science.” How do you respond to that argument and what would you want women to know?

This is a major problem that we're coming up against as a society, that when we talk about anything remotely complex, we immediately go to these tropes and these ad hominem attacks. We're not looking at the facts as they really are. We’re not looking at what women really want. 

Women deserve to know what abortion actually does, the mechanics — many women have no idea how abortion is actually performed. Women deserve to understand the stages of fetal development, that a child can have a heartbeat within weeks, and arms and hands that touch the face within 10 weeks. And they deserve to know that there are alternatives to taking that life, that there are many stable, loving couples that would love to welcome their children in adoption, and that they, themselves, have access to material, psychological, emotional, and social support if they decide to keep the baby. 

That's not what's happening. When they go to Planned Parenthood, they’re not told any of this. They’re only given one option.

And there’s an enormous misunderstanding of what abortion actually is, what constitutes abortion. Doctors have always had a duty to save both lives, to save the lives of both mother and child, and when a child is lost in that process, that’s what moral theologians call double effect — a grievous harm that results from pursuing a good end. It’s not abortion; it’s not the intentional taking of an innocent human life.  

So, I think that this idea that pro-lifers are unscientific and don’t understand the science is frankly, really ironic, because it is often people who are for unfettered abortion that seem not to understand the stages of fetal development or what abortion actually is. 

CNA: You mentioned that you were not always pro-life. How did your perspective change?

I had always thought that abortion would be, for any woman, an incredibly difficult choice, and I still believe that. In an age where women are “shouting their abortion,” I still hope that it is a difficult decision. But, underlying that idea was something that I didn't want to think about, which is why

Because of the background I had had working with women in very painful circumstances, I always thought it just doesn't seem right to force a woman to carry a child to term. It seemed like such a physical burden. So, I thought I was just going to remain pro-choice while doing everything I could to support women in other ways, by making it possible for her not to have to choose abortion. 

I found myself doing all of this work, but I remember sitting in the office of a particular Dominican priest before I became Catholic and this topic came up. I remember stating my position, and he kind of sussed out that I did think a human life was at stake, and that I didn't, at that point, believe that it was just a clump of cells. I believed, both from a faith perspective and what I had learned in biology — things like that the baby's DNA is completely there from the beginning, that it was a human life at stake.

But I felt I could not impose that burden on another woman. It is very common that a lot of women say, ‘Well, I would never choose the abortion, but how can I make somebody else not choose it?’ 

The priest said to me, “What if there was a particular class of persons, of human persons, and you never saw them or heard from them, and perhaps they pose some sort of a burden on others, and you found out that they were systematically being eliminated. Is there any other class of human beings where you would think this could be justified?” 

I couldn't say “Yes” to that. It was a very defining moment where I thought, “I can't defend this anymore.” 

CNA: Was there anything else that convicted you to be pro-life moving forward?

When I had my first child. Pregnancy is really beautiful, and it can be quite difficult. You are carrying a child, and your body is in full participation in creating this other life. I remember thinking when I was pregnant that I had so much more sympathy for women who found themselves unexpectedly pregnant, for women who were afraid. 

Angela Wu Howard with her family. The legal scholar cites her experience having her first child as a major turning point in her becoming strongly pro-life. Courtesy of Angela Wu Howard
Angela Wu Howard with her family. The legal scholar cites her experience having her first child as a major turning point in her becoming strongly pro-life. Courtesy of Angela Wu Howard

I also became so much more passionate about defending the unborn because I knew that this was a life, I knew this was a vulnerable human being that I had a sacred duty to protect, even though it required sacrifice on my part. I grew in my empathy for women who find themselves in difficult or painful situations, and also in my empathy for unborn children, for the life that they carry and how much we, as a society, not just women alone, owe to them. 

CNA: What are your hopes for the future of the pro-life movement?

Whether or not Dobbs succeeds, and regardless of what happens at the legislative level, if that's where abortion law goes, I think the pro-life movement has a duty to women, to children, to fathers, and to families to create a pro-life culture, a whole life culture. That means providing the circumstances where families can flourish, and where human dignity is respected in all aspects of life. I think the movement as a whole can do a great deal better in actively presenting women with alternatives to abortion, and we can do that regardless of whether or not abortion is illegal. 

In every city we lived in, we have, in our small way, supported or volunteered with pro-life ministries that help pregnant women and mothers, long after birth. There are always so many women who need help — they want to keep their babies — and these crisis pregnancy centers and homes are amazing, but they are always underfunded. 

This emphasis on material and spiritual support does not diminish the legal case for limiting or banning abortion, because there is something really critical at stake there, and that is the inherent value of every human life, an accurate understanding of the science of life, and our willingness as a society to sacrifice for the vulnerable. But the principles that you see at stake in Dobbs and in all of these abortion cases bleed over into many areas of life that people who are not particularly concerned about abortion should be and are concerned about. I would think that even if you are not pro-life, you would want to help women keep their babies.

Religious actors, in particular, should do all the more to present women with viable alternatives. There should be publicly and privately funded alternatives for women in every city in America.

There’s another aspect to our witness, too, which we talked about earlier — creating a society that welcomes and supports families. Seamus Hasson, the founder of Becket, is deeply Catholic and has seven children. He set out to create a workplace where families could flourish, where he wouldn’t lose lawyers as soon as they had families to support. We have great maternity and paternity leave. Part-time and remote work has always been common for at least a season. 

I am consistently impressed by what a non-issue parenthood and being a mother is in the quality of work produced. The firm searches for excellence, and has largely eliminated lifestyle barriers such that parents, and mothers in particular, can continue to be within the field of consideration.

The pro-life movement needs to be the leader in supporting people who come with relationships, families, obligations. Your job is not just supporting you and your ambitions, it’s supporting you as a whole human being. It can be a real witness in the pro-life movement to say, You do not have to leave your children behind to be successful here.

CNA: If somebody was considering an abortion and was talking with you about it today, what would you say to them?

I would ask for her story. I would want her to feel seen and heard. I would hope that she knows how deeply loved and valued she is as a human being, and I would want her to know that she is strong enough to choose life. 

There are people waiting to be there for her, whether she chooses adoption or chooses to rear the baby on her own. There are people who want to help. She doesn’t have to sacrifice her children in order to flourish in life.

US bishops warn against ‘extreme’ abortion provisions in budget bills

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the USCCB religious liberty committee / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

Spending bills introduced last week in the U.S. Senate would force employers and insurers to cover and pay for abortion, and do not include longtime protections for conscience rights, the U.S. bishops’ conference warned on Friday.  

"The bills released by the Senate Appropriations chairman this week represent a radical departure from the will of the American people and the principle of justice for all,” said a statement released Friday, Oct. 22 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas. 

Dolan leads the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, while Nauman is the chairman of the conference’s pro-life committee. 

“By proposing to eliminate the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, among other longstanding, bipartisan pro-life provisions, the Senate is staking out an extreme position of forcing taxpayers to pray for the taking of innocent unborn human life and forcing health care providers to participate in this injustice,” they said. 

The Hyde amendment prohibits the use of federal dollars to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The Weldon amendment bars federal agencies, programs, state governments, and local governments from receiving federal money if they discriminate against health care entities that do not provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions. 

Each of these amendments is typically included each year in the appropriations bills that apportion funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. Neither policy is included in this year’s appropriations bill, the text of which was released on Tuesday, Oct. 19. 

While the bills contain “many life-affirming provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms, refugees, low-income families, and the elderly,” Dolan and Naumann said that this level of concern “must also extend to our vulnerable brothers and sisters in the womb.” 

“We reiterate the fact that funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to participate, are grave abuses of human rights,” they said. “We call on the Senate to prevent this injustice by passing appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity and the most vulnerable among us.” 

The House in July passed appropriations bills without the Hyde and Weldon amendments included. If the final version of the appropriations bill excludes the Hyde amendment, it would mark the first time in decades that the federal budget allowed funding of abortion in Medicaid.

Mobile heart clinic provides free visits to poor in St. Peter’s Square

A mobile health clinic in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 25, 2021. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A mobile health clinic stopped in St. Peter’s Square on Monday to provide nine hours of free heart and general check-ups for the poor and homeless who live near the Vatican.

The clinic is part of an initiative called “The Streets of the Heart,” which is traveling around Italy to raise awareness about the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

According to the Italian Society of Cardiology, with the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of heart attacks tripled in 2020 compared to 2019, and one in two heart patients did not show up for follow-up visits.

Doctors from Rome’s San Carlo di Nancy Hospital worked at the clinic throughout the day, seeing around 100 people, cardiologist Sandro Carta said.

He told EWTN News on Oct. 25 that “today was a special day, dedicated to those called ‘the least,’ those most in need, those who do not have easy access to primary care.”

“Many people were received in our mobile clinic, some with real cardiac problems who are not receiving adequate treatment,” he said. “We have invited them to come this week to our hospital, San Carlo, where they can receive the care they need.”

Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.
Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

The doctor noted that the initiative fits with Pope Francis’ many appeals to help the poor and “corresponds with our spirit of work.”

“We work with this spirit every day at our hospital, and so, each of us wanted to dedicate this day to working completely free for these people,” he said.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who, as papal almoner, is in charge of the pope’s charity, presented the doctors with rosaries blessed by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis meets Knights of Columbus leader at Vatican

Pope Francis meets with Patrick E. Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Oct. 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Patrick E. Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, on Monday.

The pope received the chief executive officer of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization on Oct. 25, along with supreme chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and former supreme knight Carl A. Anderson.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Photographs released by the Vatican showed Kelly, who took office on March 1, with a relic of Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, who was beatified on Oct. 31, 2020.

Pope Francis held the golden reliquary and venerated it.

The photos also showed the pope touching an icon of St. Joseph, the subject of a 60-minute documentary released by the Knights to mark the Year of St. Joseph.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Kelly is the 14th Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, succeeding Anderson, who served in the role from 2000 to 2021.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Married with three daughters, Kelly served in the United States Navy for 24 years. He was also a senior adviser to the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department.

Kelly was the first executive director of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., overseeing the facility’s renewal after the Knights purchased it in 2011.

As vice president for public policy for 11 years, he oversaw the Knights’ connections with the White House, U.S. Congress, and federal agencies.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He served as Deputy Supreme Knight from 2017 until Feb. 28 this year.

In September, Kelly visited the Holy See Mission to the United Nations in New York with his wife, Vanessa. He had served as a legal intern at the Holy See Mission in the summer of 2001.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Blessed Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization, dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism, has more than two million members in 16,000 councils worldwide.

In 2020, members performed more than 77 million reported service hours and gave over $187 million for charitable causes.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Knights of Columbus present the pope with an annual donation to support his personal charities through the Vicarius Christi Fund. It donated more than $57 million in earnings between the fund's creation in 1981 and 2017.

Pope Francis praised the Knights’ charitable work in a February 2020 address to the board of directors.

“Since its foundation, the Knights of Columbus has demonstrated its unswerving devotion to the Successor of Peter,” he said.

“The establishment of the Vicarius Christi Fund is a testimony to this devotion, as well as to the desire of the Knights to share in the pope’s solicitude for all the Churches and in his universal mission of charity.”

“In our world, marked by divisions and inequalities, the generous commitment of your order to serve all in need offers, especially to young people, an important inspiration to overcome a globalization of indifference and build together a more just and inclusive society.”

This new blessed spent her short life loving the poor and marginalized

Blessed Sandra Sabattini. / Guido Rossi via Wikimedia (Public Domain).

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church’s newest blessed is Sandra Sabattini, a 22-year-old woman who devoted herself to helping the poor and disabled before she was killed by a passing car in 1984.

She was beatified on Oct. 24 in the Cathedral of Rimini in northern Italy.

Originally planned for June 2020, the postponed beatification Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Sabattini’s holiness consisted of “opening herself up to sharing with the least, placing her whole young earthly existence at the service of God, made up of enthusiasm, simplicity, and great faith,” Semeraro said during the Mass.

The young woman “gave those who needed it hospitality without judgment, because she wanted to communicate the love of the Lord,” he added.

The young medical student had just stepped out of a vehicle on her way to a meeting of the Pope John XXIII Community when she and a friend were hit by a car. She was rushed to a hospital where she spent three days in a coma before dying on May 2, 1984.

Three days before the accident, Sabattini had written in her diary: “It’s not mine, this life that is developing, that is beating by a regular breath that is not mine, that is enlivened by a peaceful day that is not mine. There is nothing in this world that is yours.”

“Realize, Sandra!” the entry continued. “It is all a gift on which the ‘Giver’ can intervene when and how he wants. Take care of the gift given to you, make it more beautiful and full for when the time comes.”

Sandra Sabattini grew up on the Adriatic coast of Italy. She was baptized the day after her birth, on Aug. 20, 1961. When she was four years old, her family moved to the city of Rimini, to be in the parish run by her uncle, a Catholic priest.

She developed a love for the Lord while she was still a young child, and she often carried a single decade rosary in her small hand.

Recalling her when she was seven years old, one camp leader said: “Often I watched her when she entered the chapel alone, with a doll in one hand and a rosary in the other. She knelt in the last pew and bowed her little head. She stayed there a little, then she went out and happily rejoined the group.”

While she was still in elementary school, Sabattini was sometimes found in contemplation before the tabernacle, even in the middle of the night.

“She rose early, early in the morning, perhaps in the dark, to meditate alone before the Most Holy Sacrament, before others arrived in the church,” her uncle Fr. Giuseppe Bonini recalled.

“The first day of the year, from one to two at night, she stayed before Jesus in adoration. She loved to pray sitting on the ground, as a sign of humility and poverty.”

Besides doing well in school, Sabattini liked to paint, play the piano, and run track.

At the age of 12, she met Fr. Oreste Benzi and the group he founded, the Pope John XXIII Community, which emphasizes service to the poorest and weakest of society. Sabattini felt called to join in their activities to help people in need.

In 1974, she took part in a trip to the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy, where teens accompanied people with disabilities. The time spent in nature and helping those with disabilities left a big impression on Sabattini, who told her mother after the trip: “We broke our backs, but those are people I will never abandon.”

During high school, she continued to volunteer with the John XXIII Community and assist the poor, including from her own savings.

She also lived for a period in one of the community’s group homes, where members welcomed the marginalized, including the disabled.

“I can’t oblige others to think like me, even if I think it is right,” she wrote in her journal at age 16. “I can only let them know my joy.”

At 17, she met Guido Rossi, and the two started dating the year after. For their first date, Sabattini brought Rossi to a cemetery, so they could visit the graves of people who had been forgotten.

They attended the John XXIII Community’s youth group together. Four years into their relationship, Sabattini wrote that dating was “something integral with vocation.”

“What I experience of availability and love towards others is what I also experience for Guido, they are two things interpenetrated, at the same level, although with some differences,” she wrote in her diary.

After she graduated from her scientific high school with excellent grades, Sabattini was torn between leaving immediately to be a missionary in Africa, or starting medical school.

But with the help of her spiritual director, Sabattini decided to enroll in med school at the University of Bologna. It was her dream to one day serve as part of medical missions in Africa.

In the summer of 1982, as a drug problem began to explode in Italy, the 21-year-old medical student began to volunteer at a community for drug addicts.

The year before, she had written in her journal: “Sandra, love everything you do. Love deeply the minutes you live, which you are allowed to live. Try to feel the joy of the present moment, whatever it is, to never miss the connection.”

Sabattini was with her boyfriend, Rossi, and another friend when she was fatally hit by a car on the morning of April 29, 1984.

At her funeral, Fr. Benzi said: “Sandra has done what God sent her for. The world is not divided into good and bad, but into who loves and who doesn’t love. And Sandra, we know, loved very much.”

Sabattini was declared venerable by Pope Francis on March 6, 2018, and a miracle received through her intercession was confirmed in October 2019, which paved the way for her beatification.

Speaking to Vatican News on the eve of the beatification, Rossi said: “I am married and the Lord has given us the gift of two wonderful children. I felt a calling to the diaconate, which my wife, with great generosity, has indulged.”

Church asks people to vote their conscience in Nicaraguan general election

Protests in Granada, Nicaragua, April 29, 2018. / Riderfoot/Shutterstock.

Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 25, 2021 / 11:11 am (CNA).

The Nicaraguan bishops’ conference called Thursday on citizens to act freely and to vote according to their conscience as the country prepares for a general election next month.

Elections in Nicaragua for president and members of the National Assembly, as well as members of the Central American Parliament, will be held Nov. 7.

The incumbent president, Daniel Ortega, has been in office since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. Ortega’s wife, First Lady Rosario Murillo, is also vice president.

The country’s major opposition party has been barred from the general election.

"Given the situation we live in, each Nicaraguan should decide and act from the interior and inviolable dignity of his conscience, freely, to do what he considers most right and appropriate at this time for Nicaragua,” the Nicaraguan bishops said in an Oct. 21 message.

“As we have expressed on various occasions, an authentic democracy is the fruit of the convinced acceptance of values: the dignity of every person, respect for human rights, the search for the common good as the goal and criterion that regulates political life,” the bishops said.

"If there is no general consensus on these values, the meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised," they stressed.

The bishops also noted that “state institutions are not secondary in a democratic state, which is only possible with the rule of law, where the exercise of power is subject to the unrestricted observance of the law and is characterized by the independence and separation of the powers of the State.”

"These are, among others, basic and indispensable conditions for the exercise of free, fair and transparent elections," they said.

“With the heart of pastors,” the bishops continued, “we journey in the midst of the people of God, with their lively voice in the difficult situations that we Nicaraguans are going through; we see, feel and identify with the pain of so many.” 

"We are close to the sick, to families broken up by forced migration, to the unemployed, refugees, exiles, to those deprived of their freedom and their families."

Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship, is seeking reelection.

Many opposition candidates have been imprisoned. The Supreme Electoral Council suspended the main opposition party, the Citizens Alliance for Freedom, whose president Kitty Monterrey had to go into exile in Costa Rica. Any demonstration by a political party has also been prohibited.

The regime has arrested journalists, activists, novelists, and businessmen, and more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have emigrated.

According to Spanish daily El País, the United States is demanding the release of all such persons who have been imprisoned and does not recognize the electoral process. The European Union and Latin American countries such as Uruguay have also criticized the current situation.

On Oct. 4, Ortega again attacked the bishops, who have been critical of his government, calling them terrorists.

Protests against Ortega in recent years have led to tensions between some Catholics and supporters of the president.

Backers of Ortega have led actions against some churches.

The protests are part of a crisis which began in April 2018 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces.

Security forces have killed at least 320 protesters, with hundreds more arrested.

Vatican cardinal visits Syria in 10th year of civil war

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, in St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 10, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A Vatican cardinal is visiting Syria during the 10th year of the civil war that has devastated the country and led many Christians to flee.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will travel to Syria from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3, after the trip was postponed from April 2020.

According to a press release from the Congregation, the visit is taking place “in the desire to bring the closeness and solidarity of Pope Francis to the Catholic communities of Syria, tried by years of war and in need of a moment of discernment and pastoral examination.”

Sandri will spend a full eight days in the Middle Eastern country, with stops in Damascus, Tartous, Homs, Yabroud, Maaloula, and Aleppo.

His first meeting will be the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, where he will also concelebrate a Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Youssef Absi, the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Other items on Sandri’s agenda in Damascus include meetings with priests, and visits to Catholic charities, hospitals, and an orphanage.

He will meet with diplomats and the male and female religious of Damascus and southern Syria at the Memorial of St. Paul.

The memorial is believed to mark the spot of St. Paul’s conversion, when he fell from his horse on the road to Damascus.

In Aleppo, Sandri will take part in an ecumenical prayer service and an inter-religious meeting.

Around 87% of Syrians are Muslim, with the Christian population estimated to be 10%, according to the CIA World Factbook, though that figure does not take into account the large number of Christians who fled the country during the ongoing war.

Aleppo was Syria’s largest city, and had the highest percentage of Christians, before the civil war, when there were an estimated 180,000 Christians. According to 2019 figures, that number fell to around 32,000.

The largest Catholic community in Syria is the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. There are also Latin, Assyrian, and Chaldean Catholics.

Other Christian communities include the Armenian, Syriac, and Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Congregation for Eastern Churches links the pope with the many different Eastern communities within the Catholic Church.

According to the congregation’s website, it communicates with the churches “for the sake of assisting their development, protecting their rights, and also maintaining the various Eastern Christian traditions whole and entire in the one Catholic Church, alongside the liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite.”

Pope Francis names Jeffrey Sachs to pontifical academy

Economist Jeffrey Sachs. / World Trade Organization via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday appointed the economist Jeffrey Sachs to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The Holy See press office said on Oct. 25 that the pope had named Sachs as an “ordinary member” of the academy founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II to promote the study and progress of the social sciences.

Sachs, the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, has been a frequent visitor to the Vatican in recent years.

The 66-year-old was a featured speaker in at least six Vatican conferences in 2019-2020, lecturing on topics from education to ethics.

The president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network also took part in the Amazon synod in October 2019 and “The Economy of Francesco” international virtual event in November 2020.

Sachs, who has served as an adviser to three United Nations secretaries-general, has advocated for a reduction in fertility rates in developing countries through the dissemination of contraception, a view at odds with Catholic teaching.

“Success at reducing high fertility rates depends on keeping girls in school, ensuring that children survive, and providing access to modern family planning and contraceptives,” he wrote in 2011.

CNA asked Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, about this statement in February 2020.

Sorondo responded that Sachs had made the comment in 2011. “Now he has changed,” the Argentine bishop said.

He explained that Sachs had featured with such frequency at Vatican conferences “because he integrates the magisterium of the Church and of Pope Francis into economics by putting the human person and the common good at the center.”

CNA asked Sachs in February 2020 how his advocacy for reducing fertility rates and contraception squared with Pope Francis’ sense of “integral human ecology,” and whether he believed it was right for people in the developed world to advocate lifestyle choices to those in the developing world.

Sachs replied that he strongly agreed with “Pope Francis’ support for ‘responsible parenthood’ as also enunciated by Pope St. Paul VI. This idea means that families, that is mothers and fathers together, should take a rational decision on having children based on their circumstances with focus of securing their flourishing.”

Sachs is a special advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by U.N. member states in 2015 in a resolution called 2030 Agenda.

SDG target 5.6 is to “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”

Sachs told CNA in 2020: “Access to abortion is a choice left to each nation. The Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 do not mention abortion or promote abortion.”

Sachs was born on Nov. 5, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated in economics from Harvard University. He has taught at Harvard and was director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Time magazine has twice named him among the 100 most influential world leaders and the Economist magazine ranked him among the top three most influential living economists.

A specialist in monetary theory and international finance, Sachs is associated with the term “shock therapy,” used to describe his plans for post-communist Poland and Russia to move rapidly from a state-controlled to a free-market economy.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who ran for president in 2016 and 2020, wrote the foreword to Sach’s 2017 book “Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable.”

Sachs has criticized the Biden administration’s contention that China is engaged in genocide against the Uighur people in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

In April, Sachs wrote: “There are credible charges of human rights abuses against Uighurs, but those do not per se constitute genocide.”

According to the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, candidates for membership are proposed to the body’s president by at least two current members.

“The Council of the Academy presents to the Academy a list of candidates for each vacancy. The Assembly takes a secret vote to indicate the order of preference in which the candidates are to be proposed to the Supreme Pontiff,” it says.

“Academicians are appointed for a term of 10 years and can be reappointed directly by the Supreme Pontiff after consulting the President and the Council of the Academy. Academicians may also resign.”