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Be proud of your uniform, committed to peace, pope tells military

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Entrusting to God's mercy all of their comrades-in-arms who have died serving their countries and defending peace, Pope Francis urged Catholic members of the military to let their faith inform their service.

"The world needs you, especially at this dark moment in our history. We need men and women of faith capable of putting weapons at the service of peace and brotherhood," said the papal message to thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and cadets making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

The annual International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, held May 24-26 this year, involves some 15,000 current, retired and wounded members of the military from 40 nations -- including members of the Vatican's Swiss Guard. They are joined by military chaplains and bishops who head their nations' military ordinariates, including Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, led the pilgrimage and brought with him the pope's blessing in a message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The message was released at the Vatican May 25.

Italian military gather at Lourdes grotto
Members of the Italian military and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are seen in this screen grab gathering for Mass at the grotto of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes, YouTube)

Making a pilgrimage is a time to renew one's baptismal commitment by listening to the Gospel and receiving the sacraments, the message said. "This spiritual pause in Lourdes is a time to rethink your military vocation from the perspective of faith and of the love that every Christian must cultivate toward his brothers and sisters, even his enemies."

"Be military men and women, proud to honor your uniform, your regiment and your homeland, but also be aware that you are part of a single human family, a family that is torn and wounded but which Christ came to redeem and save through the power of love, not the violence of arms," it said.

The military pilgrimage to Lourdes, the message said, also is "a faith experience that helps us discover the beauty of journeying together, supporting one another and reaching out to one another."

British and Croatian bishops and soldiers in Lourdes
Bishop Paul Mason, bishop of the British Forces, center left, and Bishop Jure Bogdan, military ordinary of Croatia, center right, pose for a photo with two members of the Royal Air Force and two Croatian soldiers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Flt. Lt. Luke Bluer)

Being in Lourdes is a time "to be close to your sick and wounded comrades-in-arms and to care for them -- especially in a place where the sick are so present -- and to bring God's mercy to the military world," the message said. "May this translate into true, simple and humane gestures that reveal the tender face of our God."

"May you live this out not only in Lourdes, but wherever you are sent, bearing witness to the Gospel among your fellow soldiers," it continued.

The message assured the pilgrims that Pope Francis "entrusts to God's mercy all servicemen and women who have died in the service of their country or in international operations to defend peace."

"He invokes on all present at Lourdes and their families, as well as on the soldiers engaged on various fronts, on missions for the preservation of peace far from home, and on those who are wounded and suffering, a special abundance of graces," it said.


Pope tells children joy is good for the soul, always help others

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To change the world, children must press ahead, be joyful, ask adults why there is injustice and always help others, Pope Francis told thousands of children gathered in Rome's Olympic Stadium for the church's first ever World Children's Day.

"We are gathered here at the Olympic Stadium, to 'kick-off' the movement of boys and girls who want to build a world of peace, where we are all brothers and sisters, a world that has a future because we want to take care of the environment around us," he said May 25. 

About 50,000 people gathered in the stadium for a sunny afternoon of music, dance and even a brief friendly match in the center field between two teams made up of kids and retired Italian soccer champions. Multiple award-winning goalie, Gianluigi Buffon, placed a soccer ball in front of the pope's chair. The pope stood and kicked the ball from the sidelines to symbolically kick-off the game. The pope later signed the ball and the kids' jerseys. 

pope soccer ball
Pope Francis signs a soccer ball for kids that played in a brief friendly match with retired Italian soccer champions during the first World Day of Children May 25, 2024, in Rome's Olympic Stadium. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope established the world day, which will include a Mass in St. Peter's Square May 26, after holding a smaller encounter at the Vatican in November 2023 with some 7,500 children from 84 countries dedicated to learning from young children and listening to their questions about the future.

That event "brought a wave of joy" and "left a lasting impression in my heart," he told the kids and those accompanying them in the stadium. He said he wanted that conversation to continue and expand to reach more children and young people, and "that is why we are here today: to keep the dialogue going, to ask questions and seek answers together." 

pope child
During an audience at the Vatican May 25, 2024, Pope Francis meets with a group of children who come from countries experiencing war or conflict and who have suffered physical injury or the loss of a family member. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope told the children he knows they are sad about war, and he recounted his meeting earlier that day with children from Ukraine, Palestine and other parts of the world experiencing war. Many of the children had been injured and were in Italy to receive care. Vatican News reported that among those at the audience was Yana Stepanenko, 13, who lost both legs from a Russian missile strike in Ukraine. She ran the 5K at the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for prosthetics for a Ukrainian soldier in need.

The pope asked the children in the stadium to pray for their peers who cannot go to school, who suffer from war, who have no food or who are sick and lack medical care.

"Dear children, let us press ahead and be joyful. Joy is healthy for the soul," he said, quizzing them to make sure they knew that Jesus loved them, and the devil did not.

Dozens of children representing different continents and countries gave the pope gifts, including two baskets of letters, 5,000 drawings and a pectoral cross modeled after the large and colorful "cross of joy" that was created for the world day and accompanied the events.

Riad, a young boy from Syria, gave the pope copies of photos taken in 2016 when Pope Francis invited 12 Syrian refugees, Riad included, to fly with him to Italy from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece.

"He's grown!" the pope said, looking at the young boy and the photos of him as a small child. 

pope flags
About 50,000 children and adults gather for the first World Children's Day May 25, 2024, in Rome's Olympic Stadium with Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Between musical sets, children from different parts of the world asked the pope questions, such as what can children do to make the world a better place. Speak nicely, play together and help others, the pope replied.

How can people truly love everyone? a boy asked the pope. "It's not easy," the pope said. But start with just the people in one's own life, including one's classmates, and expand from there, he said.

When asked about why there were people without jobs or homes, the pope said all injustices were "the fruit of malice, egoism and war."

Those who "climb the ladder," crushing those below, are bad, and many countries spend money to build or buy arms while there are people going hungry, he said. He asked the huge crowd to be quiet for a moment of silence, praying for all those facing injustice and remembering that everyone shares a bit of the blame.

When asked how to help adults be more compassionate about those who are less fortunate, the pope said kids can help others and be a good example, and they can create "a true revolution" by always asking God and their parents, "Why?" such as why are there people living on the street or going without food.

He also urged the kids to visit their grandparents, who gave life, raised families and passed down their wisdom. "We have to respect," visit and listen to grandparents, he said.

How Padre Pio overcame suffering with hope

The body of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. / Credit: patterned via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

CNA Staff, May 25, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. Pio of Pietrelcina — better known as Padre Pio — one of the most beloved modern saints in the Catholic Church, was born 137 years ago on May 25 in Pietrelcina, Italy. On the occasion of his birthday, we remember what one of the last journalists to interview him said about how the friar bore his sufferings.

Renzo Allegri, the author of the biography “Man of Hope,” visited the famous friar a year before he died in 1968 and said that while Pio’s suffering was difficult to witness, the saint’s silent strength was observable.

“It was hard for me to watch him walking in the sacristy or the corridors of the monastery, bent over, dragging his swollen feet, and holding on to the walls so that he would not fall down,” Allegri wrote.

“His suffering was tremendous, but he bore it without complaining as he continued to give himself to those who needed him. When he would lift his head and look around, his big eyes looked like they were burning, not from pain but from a goodness that he could not contain.”

Allegri said that during his stay at San Giovanni Rotondo in 1967, he was able to speak with Pio twice. He said he witnessed an “extraordinary moral strength that emanated from [Pio’s] whole being.”

Following the saint’s death, Allegri wrote a long newspaper piece on Pio’s life and works. During his research, the journalist was given thousands of unpublished documents regarding the saint’s hardships.

“I discovered something about Padre Pio that few people knew: He had endured incredibly enormous suffering throughout his life, consisting of more persecution, humiliation, accusations, slanders, trials, and condemnations than one can imagine,” he said.

He said many people will focus on Pio’s intense life of penance and characterize him as dark and medieval. However, he said the saint is better labeled as “a man of hope.”

“Throughout his life, in the midst of the most difficult trials, he always looked to the future with a spirit of optimism, faith, and love,” Allegri said.

The saint was born in 1887 to farmers Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio. During his childhood, Pio was known for his zealous spirituality, and when he was 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone.

World War I broke out in 1914 and Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. He was released shortly thereafter due to medical reasons. In 1916, he moved to the Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Many miracles and extraordinary sufferings have been attributed to Pio’s life. Beside experiencing bilocation and levitation, he also had the stigmata — a miraculous exhibition of the wounds of Christ — and underwent physical attacks from the devil.

In his recent reflection, Allegri pointed to the words of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, archbishop emeritus of Genoa, who highlighted Christ’s redemptive suffering as essential to the faith. In times when this is misunderstood, Siri said God will send men like Padre Pio.

“With the stigmata, which he bore throughout his life, and with the other physical and moral sufferings he endured, Padre Pio calls our attention to the body of Christ as a means of salvation,” Siri told Allegri in an interview for “Man of Hope.”

“In our time, the temptation to forget about the reality of the body of Christ is enormous. And God has sent us this man with the task of calling us back to the truth.”

This article was originally published on Sept. 19, 2019, and has been updated.

Iowa parish still working to help tornado victims after deadly twister

Residents continue recovery and cleanup efforts on May 23, 2024, with the help of family and friends following Tuesday’s destructive tornado in Greenfield, Iowa. The storm was responsible for several deaths in the small community. / Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 18:08 pm (CNA).

Ever since a massive tornado ripped through the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, the afternoon of May 21, St. John’s Catholic Church has been mobilizing volunteers to provide material assistance and respite to those in need. 

According to a blog post from the Diocese of Des Moines, St. John’s opened its doors the afternoon of the disaster to provide shelter, food, a place for the community to charge their phones, and to rest. That evening the parish provided pizza in their parking lot until 9 p.m. and Greenfield residents used the parish hall to charge their phones until 10 p.m. 

Believed to be an EF-4 based on data from the National Weather Service, the tornado, which left a line of destruction from 2:57 p.m. to 3:43 p.m. local time, has killed at least five people and injured 35. Peak winds were estimated at 175-185 mph and the tornado was at least 1,000 yards across. Greenfield is situated about an hour’s drive southwest of Des Moines.

“Our church has been designated as a collection point for nonperishable food and hygiene items, and providing meals,” Father Philip Yaw Bempong, St. John’s pastor, told the diocese.

“This morning [May 22], we provided breakfast for those impacted and our volunteers. Currently, we are distributing sack lunches, and local volunteers are cooking food in our parking lot … We will continue serving warm meals three times daily and remain open as a place to eat, relax, charge devices, and access necessities such as hygiene products, food, and water.”

On its Facebook page, the parish said on Friday that it has been “abundantly blessed with donations” of nonperishable food items, hygiene items, and gift cards, and encouraged community members who are in need after the tornado to come and get them. They also said restaurants have been donating food in order to help the parish continue to provide free meals. 

The Diocese of Des Moines said Wednesday it is doing a damage assessment, inviting all pastors and parishes to send to its communications office what kind of damage their communities sustained and how the diocese might be of assistance.

Bishop William Joensen will be with the Greenfield community on Saturday, the diocese said, celebrating the 5 p.m. Mass at St. John’s.

Pro-life roundup: Louisiana passes abortion fraud bill, California invites abortionists from Arizona

A pro-abortion activist displays abortion pills as she counter-protests during an anti-abortion demonstration on March 25, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 17:48 pm (CNA).

Here’s a look at major abortion-related developments that took place in the states this week. 

Louisiana passes bill to make abortion coercion a crime

In the wake of the case of a pregnant Texas woman being poisoned with an abortion drug, Louisiana is taking steps to criminalize “abortion fraud” and defining abortion drugs mifepristone or misoprostol as controlled substances.

When Catherine Herring told her husband Mason she was pregnant, he spiked her drink with abortion drugs. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years on probation. Their daughter, Josephine, survived his multiple attempts to poison her, though she has developmental issues as a result and was born 10 weeks early.

A Louisiana native, Herring testified in support of the Louisiana law while Herring’s brother, Sen. Thomas Pressly, introduced the bill.

Louisiana SB 276 was established “to create the crime of coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud,” establishing penalties of five to 10 years in prison or $10,000 to $75,000 fines for those who give a pregnant woman abortion drugs without her knowledge or consent.

The bill contains harsher penalties when the unborn child is more than 3 months old given that the nonconsensual use of an abortion drug can “substantially increases the pregnant woman’s risk of death or serious bodily harm” and carries the penalty of either 10 to 20 years in prison or a fine between $50,000 and $100,000, or both. 

“We are proud of Sen. Pressly’s outstanding defense of SB 276, which will protect women like his sister for decades to come,” Sarah Zagorski, the communications director for Louisiana Right to Life, said in a May 23 statement, adding: “The intention of SB 276 is to stop the abortion industry from profiting off of abuse and trafficking of vulnerable women through their flagrantly illegal distribution of pills.”

The Louisiana Senate passed the law on Tuesday and it is expected to be signed by the governor. The bill would still allow pregnant women to abort their unborn children through the medication but would prevent anyone who does not have a prescription from obtaining the drug.

Louisiana Right to Life noted that its statement was issued “in response to the onslaught of misinformation” about the bill and noted that no female senators voted against the bill. 

“From my experience in northeast Louisiana, medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol are recklessly available online and on the street without a prescription or a physician’s exam,” Dr. Amber Shemwell, a Louisiana OB-GYN, said in the Louisiana Right to Life press release.

“Without proper physician screening for ectopic and molar pregnancies, these medications have the potential to be dangerous,” she continued. “For these reasons, I support categorizing both of these medications as controlled substances. Physicians commonly use controlled substances, and I’m confident that my care for women will not be harmed by this legislation, even as it applies to the appropriate use of misoprostol in my practice.”

Louisiana protects unborn children from abortion in all stages except for cases where the life of the mother is threatened or the baby is discovered to have a lethal fetal anomaly.

California allows traveling abortionists from Arizona 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Thursday that allows Arizona abortionists to come to California to perform abortions until the repeal of a pro-life Arizona law goes into effect later this year.

An Arizona Supreme Court repealed the 1864 law protecting unborn babies at all stages of life except for those conceived by incest or rape. The 1864 law came into effect in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s overturn, and though it was repealed, the repeal won’t go into effect until September.

The California law, SB 233, which immediately went into effect, allows any licensed Arizona abortionists to come to California to offer abortions until Nov. 30 of this year. In a May 23 press release, Newsom said the state of California “stands ready to protect reproductive freedom.”

“Together, we will continue to work to ensure that all who are forced to leave their home state to access abortion care can get the services they need and deserve in California,” CEO Jodi Hicks of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California added in the release.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature’s Democrat supermajority have found yet another devilishly clever way to promote the abortion industry,” California Right to Life Director Mary Rose Short told CNA in an email. 

“Based on the fact that Arizona law may protect the right to life of all unborn children for a few weeks’ duration, they passed SB 233 as an urgency bill, encouraging the fiction that pregnancy is a deadly disease that strikes without warning,” she added. 

“Not content with the executions of over 100,000 of our state’s baby boys and girls every year, California Democrats want to facilitate the deaths of Arizona children as well,” she concluded.

Myanmar conflict: a state of unprecedented turmoil and suffering, Cardinal Bo says

Cardinal Bo during his interview with ACI Prensa and EWTN News. / Credit: ACI Prensa/EWTN News

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2024 / 17:18 pm (CNA).

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, said there is an “unprecedented state of turmoil and suffering, which seems to have no end” in the country resulting from a coup d’état at the beginning of 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conflict has already left more than 100 places of worship bombed or damaged, the cardinal said, and the violence has spread in many areas of the territory.

In addition, he said that almost 3 million people have been displaced and are in urgent need of assistance, which has been arriving little by little thanks to the work of the Catholic Church and other nongovernmental organizations such as Religions for Peace

Religious freedom under threat

Although Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, the constitution guarantees religious freedom. However, Bo pointed out a worrying reality: “The last decade saw the emergence of fundamentalist forces that targeted minority religions.”

The situation has been exacerbated by recent political unrest affecting people of all faiths who are suffering the consequences of an expanding civil war. “Peace is the common prayer of all the religions,” the cardinal emphasized.

The conflict has left a devastating mark on the country’s religious infrastructure, especially in the Sagaing region and the Diocese of Loikaw, the archbishop reported.

“The attack on places of worship has forced many congregations to abandon their churches, a significant blow to predominantly Christian communities such as Kachin,” he lamented.

Furthermore, armed ethnic groups, which do not officially represent any religion, are often mistakenly associated with their particular faith, which quickly leads to attacks against places of worship.

How is the Catholic Church surviving?

“Summer has brought unbearable heat and water is scarce. The Church has suffered but continues to be a source of healing, especially through the priests and religious and social work,” Bo related.

The prelate also said that Catholic churches have taken in numerous internally displaced people throughout the country.

“The needs are enormous and food security is an urgent need for our people,” he emphasized.

The cardinal, who is also president of the Myanmar Bishops’ Conference, said many religious communities have lost homes, monasteries, and churches due to the violence.

In November 2018, Pope Francis visited the country. According to the archbishop of Yangon, during his visit the pope gave “several messages of love and peace, but unfortunately it didn’t register.” Despite everything, the pontiff, the cardinal added, brought a message of peace between religions and their leaders.

In the face of so much violence, the cardinal made a universal call to bring about peace in Myanmar:  “We call on all parties to seek a path of peace. At the beginning of the war, the Church tried to bring together all parties to work for consensus. Recently, the avenues for peace seem to be limited, but the Church continues to reach out to all stakeholders in the hope of bringing peace.”

United Nations warns: ‘Never-ending nightmare’ in Myanmar

In early March, the United Nations (U.N.) expressed its profound concern about the situation in Myanmar, describing the crisis as a “never-ending nightmare” that has inflicted unbearable levels of suffering and cruelty on its population.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk reported in May that the military regime has caused thousands of deaths, including airstrikes in towns and cities, and has arbitrarily detained more than 20,000 opponents, including 3,909 women. 

Additionally, the U.N. Security Council in April called for an immediate end to violence, the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners, and improved humanitarian access. 

Finally, the U.N. also reported that the humanitarian emergency will worsen this year, with 18.6 million people needing assistance in 2024, a figure 19 times higher than that recorded in February 2021.

The coup d’état in Myanmar

In early 2021, the Asian country’s armed forces (known as Tatmadaw) seized control of the government, alleging election fraud in the general elections of Nov. 8, 2020, in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991, won a landslide victory.

However, these claims of fraud were not supported by independent observers and are seen by many as an excuse for the military to regain control of the country. 

Although Myanmar moved to civilian rule in 2011, the country’s constitution — enacted by the military in 2008 — ensures that the military retains significant control over the government, including control of important ministries and a quarter of the seats in Parliament. 

The NLD’s overwhelming victory in 2020 increased the Tatmadaw’s concern about the loss of its political and economic influence. The combination of these circumstances, among several other factors, led the military to overthrow the democratically elected government, arrest Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders, and declare a state of emergency, promising new elections, which have not yet materialized.

Consequently, the coup d’état triggered widespread resistance, mass protests, and an escalation of armed conflicts across the country, thrusting Myanmar into its current, unprecedented humanitarian and human rights crisis.

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

What would a road trip with Jesus and Mary be like? These young Catholics are finding out

Small white vans dubbed "monstrance mobiles" are being used for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. They are just big enough for some of the "perpetual pilgrims" and a pedestal upon which Christ in the monstrance can be placed. / Credit: Jonathan Liedl/CNA

Houston, Texas, May 24, 2024 / 16:44 pm (CNA).

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be one of the apostles and journey, eat, joke, and live out your daily life beside Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary? 

Or perhaps you may have wondered about a more modern question: What would it be like to go on a road trip with Jesus in the car?

These questions are being answered for 23 young “perpetual pilgrims” as they embark on trips that will collectively span the entire contiguous United States as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

After crossing the country with the Eucharistic Christ, these young Catholics will culminate their journeys in Indianapolis for the first U.S. National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years.

On their journey, the pilgrims are scheduled to meet thousands of people and cross mountains, deserts, and some of America’s greatest landmarks. But with all these grand and historic events happening, it is in small, ordinary moments in the van with the Eucharistic Jesus that the pilgrims are finding some of their greatest joy.

Already being dubbed by some as “monstrance mobiles,” the pilgrims are traveling portions of the journey in small white vans, which are just big enough for them and a pedestal upon which Christ in the monstrance can be placed.

As if traveling the country with the real presence of Jesus in the car was not incredible enough already, the seven perpetual pilgrims on the southern Juan Diego Route are getting an added bonus: his Blessed Mother.

Beside the monstrance is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros. The image will be carried by the pilgrims right behind the Eucharist in every procession they lead from south Texas to Indiana.

Framed in gold and portraying the serene beauty of the Virgin Mary as she appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac in 1531, the image is a unique contribution to the pilgrimage.

An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros, is being carried along with the Eucharist as the Juan Diego Route processes from south Texas to Indiana. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros, is being carried along with the Eucharist as the Juan Diego Route processes from south Texas to Indiana. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame and one of the Juan Diego pilgrims, told CNA that the image represents the special friendship between the Dioceses of Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros. And with Our Lady of Guadalupe being made the patroness of the entire national pilgrimage, the image also represents the close ties of faith between the Church in Mexico and the U.S.

“It’s really a blessing that we get to carry her image with us,” he said.

According to Velasquez, the way the image of Our Lady is positioned in the van appears “as if she’s looking directly towards the tabernacle, towards her Son, reminding us to look towards him always.” 

But what is it really like to travel with Jesus in the car? 

Velasquez called it “a very modern privilege.” 

“There’s often moments where you can’t help but be drawn into prayer because of how amazing and how unique this experience is, to not only walk with God but drive with God.”

But does one feel like they must be quiet and contemplative all the time?

“Practically speaking,” Velasquez said he has found that “it’s both an invitation to prayer but also a really unique way to live out life in a similar way to how the apostles would have lived with Jesus.” 

Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame and one of 23 "perpetual pilgrims" deployed as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. Credit: Peter Pinedo / CNA
Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame and one of 23 "perpetual pilgrims" deployed as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. Credit: Peter Pinedo / CNA

“They were in the presence of our Lord and Savior, our God, but were having fellowship with him,” he explained. “Being able to sit in a van with Our Lord is very much a reminder of the fellowship that we have with him.”

Though a unique privilege, Velasquez hopes that many more throughout the country will be inspired by the pilgrimage to share in the same closeness with Christ.

He asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. He hopes that like how St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was converted to the faith by a passing Eucharistic procession, people across the country will be moved by their encounter with the love of God.

“Us perpetual pilgrims get to be with Our Lord for two months. But as we go on the pilgrimage and as we pass through these places, people spend maybe a day or two, an hour, a second even,  as we’re walking by on the streets,” he said. “I just pray that the next St. Elizabeth to answer, that the next saints, will have that moment of encounter with Our Lord as we walk with him.”

Catholic bishops sue Biden administration over abortion provisions in pregnant workers law

null / Credit: sergign/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2024 / 16:08 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic institutions filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration over new rules that could require them to provide workplace accommodations for women who seek abortions.

The lawsuit challenges regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Catholic University of America (CUA) and two Catholic dioceses joined the USCCB in the lawsuit.

Although the law itself does not mention abortion, the regulations would require that employers accommodate women for workplace limitations that arise from “having or choosing not to have an abortion.”

The law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to women who develop workplace limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The EEOC rules consider “having or choosing not to have an abortion” as one of the related medical conditions covered under the legislation.

The law itself also includes a prohibition on interference with the accommodations or retaliation against a person who uses the accommodations.

The bishops express concern in their lawsuit that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion could jeopardize pro-life speech from certain employers, as it could be seen as retaliation. 

Religious employers are subject to the rules, but the EEOC will consider requests for religious exemptions to certain aspects of the rules on a case-by-case basis. 

The bishops, who are represented by the legal advocacy group Becket Law, argue in the lawsuit that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion accommodations must be declared invalid because it is “contrary to the [law’s] plain text and purpose.” 

“Intentionally ending a pregnancy is opposed to both pregnancy and childbirth, and is not a related medical condition to either,” the lawsuit states. 

It further argues that the religious exemption is insufficient because addressing those requests on a case-by-case basis would ensure “religious defendants could never know ahead of time if they would face liability for exercising their rights.”

“The end result stacks the decks against religious employers: In EEOC’s view, the agency could normally be sure that it would have a compelling interest sufficient to override religious defenses,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit also states that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion goes against legislative intent. It cites several lawmakers who supported the legislation saying that the EEOC could not interpret the law to mandate accommodations for abortions. One lawmaker cited is Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat from Pennsylvania, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

“Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the [EEOC] could not — could not — issue any regulation that requires abortion leave, nor does the act permit the EEOC to require employers to provide abortions in violation of state law,” Casey said on the Senate floor in December 2022. 

Laura Wolk Slavis, one of the lawyers representing the bishops, told CNA that the law “does not mention abortion at all.” She said it is intended to ensure employers provide accommodations “related to a woman being able to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy childbirth.” 

“This law was meant to be a very simple, uncontroversial law that all Americans can and should support,” Slavis added.

The EEOC’s regulations, she said, is an attempt to “hijack that law and turn it into something fundamentally different.”

Slavis also said the EEOC’s decision to address religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis means the bishops and all religious employers are “forced to comply right now” and do not know whether they will receive exemptions when requested. She said the EEOC “interpreted that exemption so narrowly that it means nothing.”

CUA President Peter Kilpatrick said in a statement that the university provides accommodations for pregnant workers but that the abortion accommodation requirement conflicts with the university’s mission.

“The Catholic University of America community remains steadfast in our commitments to upholding the sanctity of life and supporting women and pregnant mothers in the workplace,” Kilpatrick said.

“We firmly reject any suggestion of tension between those two core commitments. We can — and we do — support women as they grow their families, and we believe it is possible to do so wholeheartedly while also supporting the dignity of life at all stages. Our mission to cultivate a culture of love, respect, and compassion demands nothing less.”

When reached for comment, the EEOC referred CNA to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.

German bishops praise constitution on 75th anniversary of post-Nazi era

The Reichstag in Berlin, seat of the German federal Parliament. / Credit: Gregor Samimi/Unsplash (CC0)

CNA Newsroom, May 24, 2024 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

German bishops have lauded their country’s constitution as a beacon of freedom this week as the nation commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Grundgesetz, or Basic Law.

At an ecumenical church service held in Berlin on Thursday, Bishop Michael Gerber, vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, reflected on the Basic Law’s historical significance and enduring impact, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“What was formulated 75 years ago considering the terrible catastrophe of National Socialism and the Second World War is today the foundation for the future of our country and — more broadly — our continent,” he said in his sermon.

The Federal Republic of Germany is commemorating the 75th anniversary of enacting its Basic Law on May 23, 1949, over several days. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has ordered an official state ceremony, and leaders such as President Emmanuel Macron of France are visiting. Citizens are invited to “democracy festivals” in Berlin and other locations.

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, praised the Basic Law as “a great treasure” on the conference website, saying the constitution was “formulated as a counter-draft to a totalitarian system, which is why it rightly names the reference points of all responsibility right at the beginning: God and man. Our liberal democracy stands on the foundation of this responsibility.”

Gerber emphasized the concept of responsibility embedded in the Basic Law. “Our faith is based on trust in God and God’s view of us humans. After 1945, we were given an undeserved new beginning with the opportunity to live in peace and freedom. This new beginning is interpreted as an undeserved gift — as grace.”

The German Basic Law was crafted in the aftermath of the Nazi regime and World War II, serving as a bulwark against tyranny and totalitarianism. It was influenced significantly by Christian values and the Catholic Church, aiming to prevent the recurrence of past atrocities. The constitution’s preamble, “Conscious of their responsibility before God and man,” highlights this commitment to human dignity and ethical governance.

Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen also underscored the significance of the Basic Law.

“The creators of this constitution had created a firm foundation against the background of our history that unites Christianity and the Enlightenment, faith and reason,” he said, according to CNA Deutsch. “The 75th anniversary of the Basic Law makes me look back with gratitude on this common foundation of our coexistence.”

Timmerevers highlighted the ongoing relevance of the Basic Law in addressing contemporary challenges.

“It is important to think about how the Basic Law can be filled with life. For me as a Christian, this also includes maintaining an awareness of the question of how we are ultimately responsible for our actions.”

The German prelate urged voters to scrutinize party programs through the prism of human dignity and responsibility in a year that marks the constitutional anniversary and critical European elections.

“Who stands up for human dignity and the right to life, and in what way?” he asked. “Is this only granted exclusively to some, or does human dignity apply to everyone?”

International conference on youth ministry wrapping up in Rome

Pilgrims from South Korea wave a flag at the closing Mass of World Youth Day Lisbon with Pope Francis on Aug. 6, 2023. / Credit: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2024 / 14:56 pm (CNA).

Nearly 300 delegates hailing from bishops’ conferences in 110 countries are meeting in Rome to participate in the International Youth Ministry Conference. The conference, which began Thursday, concludes on Saturday.

With the theme “For a Synodal Youth Ministry: New Leadership Styles and Strategies” the event is being held in preparation for the 2027 World Youth Day (WYD), scheduled to take place in Seoul, South Korea.

Organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life, the conference is also being held in the context of the fifth anniversary of the publication of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit.

The dicastery is dedicating 2024 to the promotion and dissemination of the exhortation, published after the Synod on Youth in 2018.

Activities include a campaign on the official WYD social media accounts as well as the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of young people with the pope (St. John Paul II) in St. Peter’s Square in 1984.

The dicastery said in a statement that these initiatives, together with numerous diocesan events in various parts of the world, “aim to revitalize youth ministry and inspire spiritual reflection among young people based on the guidelines offered by Christus Vivit.”

The International Youth Ministry Conference includes three days of study and reflection on a series of topics such as youth leadership, synodality, formation, and spiritual accompaniment. 

Each topic is discussed based on an introduction by an expert in the field of pastoral care and further explored in exchange groups, following a methodology of spiritual discernment.

Speakers at the event include Gustavo Fabián Cavagnari from Argentina, professor of youth ministry at the Salesian Pontifical University; Father Christopher Ryan, MGL, director of the Areté Center for Missionary Leadership in Australia; and Brenda Noriega, member of the first International Youth Advisory Body with extensive experience in youth faith formation processes. 

The session “From WYD Lisbon 2023 to WYD Seoul 2027” began on the first day of the congress after the introductory greeting by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life. The purpose of the session was to reflect and evaluate the significant events of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023.

This event also served as a bridge to the upcoming WYD celebration in Seoul. Cardinal Américo Alves Aguiar, bishop of Setúbal, Portugal, and Archbishop Peter Soon-Taick Chung of Seoul shared their experiences and offered a preview of the expectations and innovations for the next great global youth encounter. 

Another important event that will be presented during the conference will be the Youth Jubilee 2025, scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 3, 2025. On this special occasion, the Holy Father will invite young people from all over the world to Rome, exhorting them to be “pilgrims of hope.”

To discuss the details of this event, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, was slated to speak and present the initiatives and activities planned for the Youth Jubilee.

The International Conference on Youth Ministry will conclude on May 25 with an audience with the Holy Father in the morning and with an open dialogue with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in particular with the undersecretary, Sister Nathalie Becquart.

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