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In-person Mass attendance dips following pandemic, study suggests

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St. Louis, Mo., Mar 30, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The results of a new study from the Pew Research Center show that in-person Mass attendance among Catholics has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and only about 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass in person as often as they did before the pandemic. A quarter of all Catholics say they now attend less often.

The self-reported Mass attendance numbers in the Pew study combine those Catholics who say they attend in person, virtually, or both. The drop in in-person attendance is accompanied by a 14% rise in the number of Catholics who say they attend Mass more frequently online now than they did before the pandemic. The Pew researchers suggest that participation in Mass among U.S. Catholics remained relatively stable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if virtual attendance is taken into account. 

The Catholic Church teaches that Catholics are obliged to go to Mass every Sunday, “unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (or bishop). 

When virtually every U.S. diocese shuttered churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, many bishops issued dispensations from Catholics’ Sunday Mass obligation, leading to a rise in virtual worship for many. Bishops began lifting those dispensations later in 2020, with a few bishops holding out until 2022 before lifting the dispensation and inviting Catholics back to Mass in person. 

The Pew researchers concluded that “the vast majority of respondents showed no change in their self-reported general level of religious service attendance over this period” — while treating in-person and virtual attendance as being equal. 

“While most Americans did not report significant changes in their religious service attendance over the course of the pandemic, the share who now indicate they are attending less often than they did before the initial COVID-19 outbreak shuttered many in-person services is slightly larger than the share who say they are going more often,” Pew reported. 

“Most Americans either say they attend in person at about the same rate as before the COVID-19 outbreak (31%) or that they did not attend religious services before the pandemic and still do not (42%).”

Other findings from the Pew study included:

  • 84% of Catholics said in 2022 that they attend Mass at the same rate they did in 2019, whether in-person or online. Pew arrived at this figure by surveying the same individuals in 2019 and 2022. (For the adult population overall, that rate was 87%.) Six percent said they attend more often than in 2019, and 9% said they attend less often.

  • 38% of Catholics said they attend in-person religious services “about as often” as before the pandemic, 24% less often, and 9% more often. This is compared with 31% of adults overall who said they attend in-person religious services “about as often” as before the pandemic, 20% less often, and 7% more. 

  • Protestants, especially Black Protestants, reported a larger increase in participation in virtual worship than Catholics. Twenty-six percent of Protestants overall said in 2022 that they attend virtually more often than before the pandemic, as did 35% of Black Protestants. 

  • Throughout most of the pandemic, about 6 in 10 Americans have not taken part in religious services in any way, including roughly 7 in 10 adults under 30 and about 9 in 10 religiously unaffiliated adults. 

The present research comes following another recent survey released in January by the American Enterprise Institute, which concluded that ​​the percentage of Americans who attend religious services is now “significantly lower” than before the COVID-19 pandemic. As of spring 2022, according to that survey, 33% of Americans said they never attend religious services, up from 25% before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020. Religious affiliation, though, is largely unchanged, according to that survey.

The Pew study, which was done in November 2022, used a sample of 11,377 people in total, 2,207 of whom were Catholic. The margin of error was ±1.5 percentage points overall and ±3.4 percentage points for the Catholics.

The full results can be read here. 

Cardinal O’Malley ‘surprised, disappointed’ by abuse expert’s criticism of Vatican commission

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 30, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Thursday he strongly disagrees with a critique of the Vatican’s safeguarding commission by abuse expert and recently resigned member Father Hans Zollner.

In a new statement March 30, O’Malley, who heads the commission, said: “I am surprised, disappointed, and strongly disagree with [Zollner’s] publicly-issued assertions challenging the commission’s effectiveness.”

The 56-year-old Zollner, a founding member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement March 29 that “structural and practical issues” within the commission had led him “to disassociate” from it.

A statement from commission president O’Malley issued a few hours earlier had characterized the Jesuit priest’s departure as an effort to reduce his already significant administrative responsibilities, including “his recent appointment as consultant for safeguarding to the Diocese of Rome.”

The commission issued an updated statement on March 30 in which O’Malley said he was “supplementing” his earlier sentiments regarding Zollner’s resignation.

“We do both share the view that the protection of children and vulnerable persons remains at the heart of the Church’s mission and the commission will continue to manifest that conviction,” he said.

“The commission has a plenary meeting scheduled in the next few weeks during which we can address these and other matters more fully as a group.”

In his critique of the commission, Zollner said he had “grown increasingly concerned” with the Vatican’s safeguarding commission and its lack of “responsibility, compliance, accountability, and transparency.”

“I am convinced that these are principles that any Church institution, let alone the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, is bound to uphold,” he said.

In early March, Zollner was appointed a consultant to the Diocese of Rome’s new office for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

He is also the director of the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC), hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The IADC, formerly called the Center for Child Protection, is an academic institute offering higher-education degrees in abuse safeguarding and anthropology.

In his March 29 statement, Zollner also criticized a lack of transparency about decisions in the Vatican safeguarding commission, including problems with “insufficient information and vague communication” with members on how particular decisions were made.

“With regard to compliance, there has been a lack of clarity regarding the selection process of members and staff and their respective roles and responsibilities,” the priest also said. “Another area of concern is that of financial accountability, which I believe is inadequate. It is paramount for the commission to clearly show how funds are used in its work.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, instituted in 2014, serves as an advisory body to the pope, providing recommendations on how the Church can best protect minors and vulnerable adults.

Update: Pope Francis rested well, continuing treatment in hospital, Vatican says

Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Mar 30, 2023 / 04:47 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will continue to receive treatment after being hospitalized for a respiratory infection on Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday.

“His Holiness Pope Francis rested well overnight. The clinical picture is progressively improving and he is continuing his planned treatment,” Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said in a brief statement issued just after 12:30 p.m. local time on March 30.

“This morning after having breakfast, [Pope Francis] read some newspapers and resumed work,” Bruni added. “Before lunch, he went to the chapel of his private apartment, where he spent time in prayer and received the Eucharist.”

On March 29 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was expected to remain in a Rome hospital for a few days due to a respiratory infection. It had been announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.

As of Thursday morning, the pope’s agenda lists no appointments for the day for March 30. He is still scheduled to preside over a Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 2 for Palm Sunday and to give the usual Sunday Angelus address.

“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some difficulty breathing and this afternoon went to [Gemelli Hospital] to carry out some medical tests. The results of these tests showed a respiratory infection (a COVID-19 infection was excluded) that will require some days of opportune medical treatment in the hospital,” Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said Wednesday evening.

“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages he received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” Bruni added.

Bruni had issued a brief statement earlier in the afternoon of March 29 to say the pope was at Gemelli Hospital “for some previously scheduled checkups.”

Gemelli is the same hospital where Pope Francis was hospitalized in July 2021 when he underwent surgery on his colon for diverticulitis, or inflammation of the intestinal wall.

In an interview with the Associated Press in January, Pope Francis disclosed that the diverticulitis had “returned.” At the time, the 86-year-old pontiff — who traveled to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in late January — insisted he was in relatively good condition.

The pope has also suffered since last year from a problem with his right knee, making it necessary for him to rely on a cane and a wheelchair to move around. But Francis told the AP that a fracture had healed without surgery after laser and magnet therapy.

Vatican: ‘Doctrine of discovery’ is not Catholic teaching

Pope Francis started his Canada trip by visiting the cemetery and chapel of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Maskwacis, Alberta, on July 25, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 30, 2023 / 04:03 am (CNA).

Two Vatican departments issued a joint statement Thursday on the “doctrine of discovery” and the dignity and rights due to indigenous peoples.

The statement said the legal concept of the “doctrine of discovery” is “not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church” and historical research shows certain papal documents “written in a specific historical period and linked to political questions have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith.”

“In no uncertain terms, the Church’s magisterium upholds the respect due to every human being,” the document said. “The Catholic Church therefore repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘doctrine of discovery.’”

The joint Vatican statement was published March 30 by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

It said the Church is committed to listening to indigenous peoples and fostering efforts for reconciliation and healing. In this context the Church heard the need to address the so-called “doctrine of discovery,” it added.

People from indigenous communities in Canada had urged Pope Francis last year to rescind the “doctrine of discovery.”

“The legal concept of ‘discovery’ was debated by colonial powers from the 16th century onward and found particular expression in the 19th century jurisprudence of courts in several countries, according to which the discovery of lands by settlers granted an exclusive right to extinguish, either by purchase or conquest, the title to or possession of those lands by indigenous peoples,” the Vatican explained.

“Certain scholars have argued that the basis of the aforementioned ‘doctrine’ is to be found in several papal documents, such as the Bulls Dum Diversas (1452), Romanus Pontifex (1455), and Inter Caetera (1493),” it continued.

While the statement said these papal documents are not considered expressions of the Catholic faith, it added that “the Church acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples.”

“The Church is also aware that the contents of these documents were manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers in order to justify immoral acts against indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesiastical authorities,” the document said. “It is only just to recognize these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon.”

The note also pointed out that there are numerous statements by the Church and popes upholding the rights of indigenous people, such as the 1537 bull Sublimis Deus by Pope Paul III, who wrote: “We define and declare [ ... ] that [, ... ] the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the Christian faith; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”

The prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, said in a separate note that the Vatican statement was part of an “architecture of reconciliation.”

He described the art of reconciliation as “the process whereby people commit to listening to each other, to speaking to each other and to growth in mutual understanding.”

The insights informing the statement, he added, are the fruit of a renewed dialogue between the Church and indigenous peoples.

“It is in listening to indigenous peoples that the Church is learning to understand their sufferings, past and present, and our own failings. It is in cultural dialogue that we are committed to accompanying them in the search for reconciliation and healing. We have to live out the art of encounter,” the cardinal said.

The joint statement said “the Catholic Church strives to promote universal human fraternity and respect for the dignity of every human being” in fidelity to Christ’s mandate, and that is why Catholic popes throughout history “have condemned violence, oppression, social injustice, and slavery, including those committed against indigenous peoples.”

“There have also been numerous examples of bishops, priests, women and men religious, and lay faithful who gave their lives in defense of the dignity of those peoples,” it said.

“At the same time,” it added, “respect for the facts of history demands an acknowledgement of the human weakness and failings of Christ’s disciples in every generation. Many Christians have committed evil acts against indigenous peoples for which recent popes have asked forgiveness on numerous occasions.”

According to the statement, in recent years, a renewed dialogue with indigenous peoples, including Catholic indigenous, has helped the Church to better understand their values, cultures, as well as past and present sufferings.

“As Pope Francis has emphasized, their sufferings constitute a powerful summons to abandon the colonizing mentality and to walk with them side by side, in mutual respect and dialogue, recognizing the rights and cultural values of all individuals and peoples. In this regard, the Church is committed to accompany indigenous peoples and to foster efforts aimed at promoting reconciliation and healing,” the document said.

During a July 2022 visit to Canada, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the harm done to indigenous Canadians by Catholics.

“I express my deep shame and sorrow, and, together with the bishops of this country, I renew my request for forgiveness for the wrong done by so many Christians to the indigenous peoples,” the pope said in a July 27, 2022, address, citing the Catholic Church’s role in running many of the country’s government-sponsored residential schools for indigenous children.

The encounter with top government officials and representatives of the indigenous peoples in Canada was part of a weeklong “penitential pilgrimage” in which Francis also publicly apologized for the harm done to indigenous Canadians and repeatedly expressed his shame and sorrow.

UPDATE: Doctors report 'marked improvement' in pope's condition

ROME (CNS) -- More than 24 hours after he entered the hospital, Pope Francis' doctors reported a "marked improvement" in his condition, which they attributed to treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

The tests the pope underwent after entering Rome's Gemelli hospital with difficulty breathing revealed he had bronchitis, said a medical bulletin released by the Vatican press office March 30. "Based on his expected progress, the Holy Father could be discharged in the coming days."

Earlier in the day, the Vatican said the 86-year-old pope "rested well" his first night in the hospital and was "steadily improving" from what it described as a respiratory infection.

He spent the morning reading some newspapers, eating breakfast and had "resumed working," the Vatican had said. Before lunch, he went to the chapel near his hospital room to pray, and he received Communion.

The evening bulletin said, "Pope Francis spent the afternoon at Gemelli devoting himself to rest, prayer and some work duties."

The Vatican said that the pope had complained of "some respiratory difficulties" in recent days and was admitted to the hospital for medical tests, the results of which detected a "respiratory infection" but excluded COVID-19.

The pope is missing a piece of his lung that was removed in 1957 when he was 20 years old and training to become a priest in his native Argentina. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

Photographers, television cameras and reporters waited outside the hospital March 30, but they formed the only crowd gathered there for the pope.

Before going to the hospital, Pope Francis held his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square and showed no obvious signs of breathing problems.

The Vatican originally said the pope was taken to the hospital for "previously planned tests," and later stated that he would remain the hospital for a few days. Pope Francis' scheduled meetings for March 30 and 31 were cancelled "to make room in his agenda for the tests to continue," an official said.

"Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer," the Vatican said in its second statement March 29.

Italian media reported that the pope was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but the Vatican press office refused to comment on those reports.

The Gemelli hospital, part of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, keeps a suite of rooms reserved for the popes on its 10th floor.

Pope Francis had spent 10 days there in July 2021 after undergoing a three-hour surgery that included a left hemicolectomy, which is the removal of the descending part of the colon, a surgery that can be recommended to treat diverticulitis.

In late January, the pope told the Associated Press that his diverticulitis had returned, but insisted he was in good health for his age.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency in July 2022, he dismissed as "court gossip" rumors that cancer was found during his colon operation.


USCCB Statement on “Doctrine of Discovery”

WASHINGTON - The Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development released today a Joint Statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery.” The matter at issue involves documents (papal bulls) issued in the fifteenth century with regard to European exploration of land beyond continental Europe. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a statement in response to today’s Joint Statement by the dicasteries:

We are grateful to the Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development for their Joint Statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery.” The Joint Statement is yet another step in expressing concern and pastoral solicitude for Native and Indigenous peoples who have experienced tremendous suffering because of the legacy of a colonizing mentality. We welcome the statement’s renewed repudiation and condemnation of the violence and injustices committed against Native and Indigenous peoples, as well as the Church’s ongoing support for their dignity and human rights. In the centuries that followed the papal bulls at issue, many popes boldly proclaimed the God-given rights owed to all peoples, but we must also confront those moments when individual Christians lacked such boldness or clarity.

As the Joint Statement points out, there were times when Christians, including ecclesiastical authorities, failed to fully oppose destructive and immoral actions of the competing colonial powers.  In this regard, we too express deep sorrow and regret. In recent years here in the United States, dialogues among Catholic bishops and Tribal leaders have illuminated more aspects of this painful history, and, with humility, we wish to offer our continuing solidarity and support, as well as a further willingness to listen and learn. We will continue to support policies that protect the poor and vulnerable, and that will offer relief to Native and Indigenous families who are struggling. Through Catholic charitable, health, and educational initiatives, we will continue to offer service to all people, with particular concern for those Native and Indigenous communities where the Church has been present. We support the ongoing efforts of various Catholic communities to make archival and historical records more easily accessible. 

Finally, as the Joint Statement indicates, the centuries of history at issue are complex, and the term “doctrine of discovery” has taken on various legal and political interpretations that merit further historical study and understanding. The experiences and histories of different countries and different Native and Indigenous peoples are distinct, and deserve further inquiry, although there are also opportunities for meaningful common understandings as well. As a Church, it is important for us to fully understand how our words have been used and misused to justify acts that would be abhorrent to Jesus Christ. We hope for more dialogue among Indigenous and Catholic scholars to promote greater and wider understanding of this difficult history. To that end, the USCCB and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops are exploring how they may support an academic symposium. This initiative has also received encouragement from the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and the Dicastery for Education and Culture. 

May God bless with healing all those who continue to suffer the legacy of colonialism, and may we all offer true aid and support. By God’s grace, may we never return to the way of colonization, but rather walk together in the way of peace.


Responding to Indigenous, Vatican disavows 'doctrine of discovery'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church formally "repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of Indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political 'doctrine of discovery,'" a Vatican statement said.

Issued March 30 by the dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development, the statement said papal texts that seemed to support the idea that Christian colonizers could claim the land of non-Christian Indigenous people "have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith."

"At the same time, the church acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples," the statement said.

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the document responds to the repeated requests of Indigenous people in Canada and the United States to disavow the so-called doctrine, but it does not claim the discussion has ended or should end.

"It acknowledges that dealing with such a painful heritage is an ongoing process," he told reporters. "It acknowledges still more importantly that the real issue is not the history but contemporary reality."

And, the cardinal said, it is a call "to discover, identify, analyze and try to overcome what we can only call the enduring effects of colonialism today."

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the Vatican statement, saying it is "yet another step in expressing concern and pastoral solicitude for Native and Indigenous peoples who have experienced tremendous suffering because of the legacy of a colonizing mentality."

As the U.S. and Canadian bishops jointly look at ways to continue discussions of the issue and its impact, the archbishop prayed that God would "bless with healing all those who continue to suffer the legacy of colonialism and may we all offer true aid and support. By God's grace, may we never return to the way of colonization, but rather walk together in the way of peace."

The Vatican statement said that the content of several papal bulls "were manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers in order to justify immoral acts against Indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesiastical authorities."

The "doctrine of discovery" has become shorthand to refer to a collection of papal texts, beginning in the 14th century, that appeared to bless the efforts of explorers to colonize and claim the lands of any people who were not Christian, placing both the land and the people under the sovereignty of European Christian rulers.

Cardinal Czerny noted, however, that the phrase "doctrine of discovery" was coined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823.

"The unfortunate thing here is that a very strongly church-related word is used by the U.S. Supreme Court to name an idea that was part of a historical process" but was never church teaching, he said. The papal bulls usually cited as supporting the idea were not "magisterial or doctrinal documents," but were attempts by the popes who wrote them to avoid war between Spain and Portugal as they made competing claims to land in the Americas.

In a series of meetings at the Vatican in March and April 2022, representatives of Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities asked Pope Francis specifically for a formal repudiation of the "doctrine of discovery."

And, at a Mass in Quebec in late July when he visited the communities in Canada, Indigenous women unfurled a banner that said, "Rescind the Doctrine."

The loss of the land, language, culture and spirituality of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the foundation of the residential school system all can be traced to the doctrine, Indigenous leaders told reporters after their meetings with the pope.

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, said in a separate statement, that while "the 'doctrine of discovery' was not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church," the "tragic history" of how it was used "reminds us of the need to be ever more vigilant in our defense of the dignity of all people and the need to grow in knowledge and appreciation of their cultures."

The statement from the two dicasteries, he said, is the result of a process of listening to Indigenous people and trying to grow "in mutual understanding. In that sense, the insights that inform this note are themselves the fruit of a renewed dialogue between the church and Indigenous peoples."

A reporter asked Pope Francis about the doctrine during his news conference flying back to Rome from Canada. He said it always has been a temptation for colonizers to think they were superior to the people whose land they were colonizing. In fact, he said, there even was "a theologian, who was a bit crazy," who questioned whether the Indigenous of the Americas had souls.

"This is the problem of every colonialism, even today," he said, pointing to modern forms of "ideological colonialism," which use requests for foreign assistance to force poorer countries to adopt policies that go against the values their people hold dear.

"This doctrine of colonialism truly is evil, it's unjust," the pope said.

The Vatican dicasteries' statement acknowledged that "certain scholars have argued that the basis of the aforementioned 'doctrine' is to be found in several papal documents, such as the Bulls 'Dum Diversas' (1452), 'Romanus Pontifex' (1455) and 'Inter Caetera' (1493)."

But, the statement said, "the 'doctrine of discovery' is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church," and, it added, "historical research clearly demonstrates that the papal documents in question, written in a specific historical period and linked to political questions, have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith."

"At the same time, the church acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples," it said. "It is only just to recognize these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by Indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon."


Jesuits in Mexico issue statement on the death of alleged murderer of two priests

Funeral of Fathers Javier Campos Morales, SJ, and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, SJ, in June 2022. / Credit: Society of Jesus Mexico

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 29, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Forensic experts have identified a body found shot to death March 22 in Sinaloa state, Mexico, as that of José Noriel Portillo, alias “El Chueco,” who allegedly murdered two Jesuit priests and laymen last year.

Father Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, superior of the Society of Jesus in Mexico, pointed out that the alleged murder of Portillo, who was allegedly responsible for the death of two Jesuit priests, is not a reason to celebrate, because it does not represent an act of justice but of barbarism and the failure of institutions.

“The Society of Jesus refuses to celebrate the murder of the perpetrator of this act. On the contrary, we believe that it is a lamentable moment, as it shows that we are facing more barbarism and the failure of our institutions,” the priest said in a video posted on Twitter on March 26. 

On June 22, 2022, in the Sierra Tarahumara, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, two laymen and Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar were murdered in a church in the town of Cerocahui.

“Given the scientific confirmation of the execution of the person responsible for the murders of our Jesuit brothers Javier and Joaquín, we reiterate that this occurrence does not represent the justice so longed for by the Society of Jesus,” Moro said.

“The Jesuits are not moved by the spirit of revenge but of justice, of life. It is with sadness that we point out that the debt of justice still remains for the Sierra Tarahumara and for so many corners of this country,” the superior of the Jesuits in Mexico continued.

“Today more than ever,” Moro said, “we need to guarantee the security of the Tarahumara communities as well as the implementation of the precautionary measures of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the commitments assumed.”

These measures seek to protect a group of three nuns and nine priests who “are at risk of irreparable, grave, and imminent harm, owing to their activities in the community [Cerocahui] and the demand for justice,” the Jesuits had said in a previous statement.

The provincial of the Society of Jesus also noted that “the Jesuits have never been silent about acts of violence and, following the teaching of the Church, we are committed to a life in which the perfect justice of the Gospel shines, which provides for recognizing and respecting the rights and the dignity of all people. During the next months we will be inviting people to preserve the memory [of the victims of violence], promoting the construction of peace with truth and justice.”

“In no way will we get used to dehumanizing violence,” the priest concluded.

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

Pope Francis’ health: Here’s a timeline of his medical issues in recent years

Pope Francis enters the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall in a wheelchair on May 5, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Mar 29, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis will be hospitalized for “some days” after being diagnosed with a respiratory infection, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The 86-year-old Francis, who has spent most of his 10 years as pope in relatively good health, has dealt with several painful medical conditions over the last few years.

Here is a timeline charting Pope Francis’ recent health concerns:

December 2020

A bout of sciatic pain in the final days of 2020 kept 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.

January 2021

Pope Francis was also forced to cancel three more public appearances at the end of January due to sciatic nerve pain.

July 2021

A problem with his colon landed the pope in hospital on July 4, 2021.

According to the Vatican, Francis underwent surgery to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery included a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.

During his 11-day stay in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, the pope made “normal clinical progress” in his recovery, the Vatican said.

January 2022

At meetings in January, Pope Francis shared 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 told journalists from the Jerusalem-based Christian Media Center on Jan. 17.

He explained further at a general audience the following week, saying the reason he would be unable to greet pilgrims as usual was because of a temporary “problem with my right leg,” an inflamed knee ligament.

February 2022

At the end of February, Pope Francis canceled two public events due to knee pain and doctor’s orders to rest.

In the month that followed, he received help going up and down stairs, but continued to walk and stand without assistance.

April 2022

During a trip to Malta on the first weekend of April, Pope Francis used a lift to disembark the papal plane. A special lift was also installed at the Basilica of St. Paul in Rabat, so that Francis could visit and pray in the crypt grotto without taking the stairs.

On the return flight on April 3, he told journalists that “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 did not lay prostrate before the altar, as he has done in the past.

He also did not preside over the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16 or participate in the paschal candle procession but sat in the front of the congregation in a white chair.

On April 22 and April 26, Francis’ agenda was cleared for medical checkups and rest for his knee, the Vatican said. The following day, the pope told pilgrims at his general audience that his knee prevented him from standing for very long.

Pope Francis also started to remain seated in the popemobile while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

On April 30, he said that his doctor had ordered him not to walk.

May 2022

The pope said at the beginning of May that he would 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 used a wheelchair in public for the first time since his July 2021 colon surgery. Throughout May he continued to use the wheelchair and avoid most standing and walking.

Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square, May 18, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square, May 18, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Francis was also undergoing over two hours of rehabilitation for his knee every day, according to an Argentine archbishop close to the pontiff.

The treatment “is giving results,” Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández wrote on Twitter on May 14 after he had a private meeting with Francis.

Other than his knee, “he’s better than ever,” Fernández added.

Earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister had said that a reported papal visit to the country in June was being postponed due to the pope’s health.

The pope did stand for longer periods when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico caught a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greeted them from the popemobile.

Someone thanked the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis responded: “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”

June 2022

In early June, the Vatican postponed 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 was 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 announced that Pope Francis would not preside over the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass because of his knee problems and “the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”

Pope Francis commented on his health and spoke 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 said. “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 walked with a cane to meet bishops from Brazil and told them, “I have been able to walk for three days.”

August 2022

On Aug. 4, the Vatican announced that Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse, had been appointed as Pope Francis’ “personal health care assistant.”

November 2022

José María Villalón, the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, was recruited to assist Pope Francis with his knee problems. He said 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.”

January 2023

In an interview published by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, Pope Francis announced that his diverticulitis had returned. He emphasized that he is in “good health” and that, for his age, he is “normal.”

February 2023

On Feb. 23 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had a “strong cold.” The pope distributed copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than read them aloud as usual.

March 2023

On March 29 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was expected to remain in a hospital in Rome for “some days” due to a respiratory infection. It had been announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.

This story was originally published May 21, 2022, and updated on March 29, 2023.

Arrest made in firebombing of pro-life organization thanks to DNA found on burrito

Wisconsin Family Action was attacked with two Molotov cocktails in May 2022. / YouTube/

Boston, Mass., Mar 29, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A Wisconsin man was arrested and charged with violating federal law in connection with the May 2022 firebombing of a pro-life organization’s Madison office. The case was solved thanks to DNA evidence taken from a half-eaten burrito out of a trash can, the Department of Justice said.

Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, was arrested in Boston on Tuesday, just before getting on a flight to Guatemala City, according to the DOJ. He was charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Almost a month before Roychowdhury’s arrest, law enforcement began scouting him out as a possible suspect. After watching Roychowdhury throw away a fast food bag into the trash on May 1, 2022, law enforcement retrieved the bag, which was filled with “a quarter portion of a partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper,” and other food items, the complaint said.

A forensic biologist swabbed DNA from the burrito and the bag and found that it was a match with the DNA from the crime scene. 

The Wisconsin Family Action office was damaged in an early morning arson attack on May 8, 2022, in which the perpetrator also left behind pro-abortion graffiti. The attack came just days after the news outlet Politico published a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, indicating that justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Wisconsin Family Action was just one of the first of many pro-life organizations to experience vandalism and intimidation tactics following the leak.

To date, 34 Catholic churches, 60 pregnancy centers, one maternity home, three political organizations, six billboards, one political figure, and one memorial have been targeted in pro-abortion attacks following the Supreme Court leak in May 2022.

As part of the Mother’s Day attack, the words “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either,” were spray-painted outside the building. Variations of that same pro-abortion threat have been left at several other pregnancy centers across the nation.

According to the complaint, police found two mason jars inside the building on the day of the attack near a disposable lighter. The lid and “screw top” of one were burned black. The other mason jar was intact and filled with flammable fluid.

The complaint said that DNA from three different individuals was found on evidence from the crime scene.

The Department of Justice did not respond to inquiries as to whether Roychowdhury acted alone in the crime in time for publication.

Roychowdhury, an engineer at a Madison biotech company, holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“Violence is never an acceptable way for anyone to express their views or their disagreement,” Robert R. Wells, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, said in the DOJ’s press release. 

“Today’s arrest demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue those responsible for this dangerous attack and others across the country and to hold them accountable for their criminal actions.”

The FBI has come under fire in the past year for its low arrest rate for attacks on pro-life pregnancy institutions. Only three arrests have been made out of the 60 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers.

Additionally, many pro-lifers and federal lawmakers have argued that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice has been targeting pro-lifers in aggressive and disproportionate use of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act toward those who defend life.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

On Jan. 30, pro-life activist Mark Houck was found not guilty in federal court after the government tried to prove that he violated the FACE Act while sidewalk counseling with his then 12-year-old son.

Merrick Garland, who heads the Department of Justice, testified to lawmakers in March that there is no bias in the department and that more pro-lifers have been charged under the FACE Act because they are more easily caught violating the law. 

“There are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the abortion centers, but that is generally because those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight, and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Garland said.

“Those who are attacking the pregnancy resource centers, which is a horrid thing to do, are doing this at night in the dark. We have put full resources on this. We have put rewards out for this,” he added.