Vatican tells dioceses to include Protestants, Orthodox in Synod preparation (CNA) The Vatican has asked the world’s Catholic bishops to include Orthodox and Protestant officials in their consultations during the diocesan phases of preparation for the next worldwide meeting of the Synod of Bishops.
Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; and Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, joined in a letter to bishops, asking them to recognize the “ecumenical dimension” of preparations for the Synod on Synodality. They urged bishops to issue personal invitations to other Christian leaders, asking them to join in local discussions to prepare for the 2023 Synod meeting.
Pope encourages Franciscans to tell the story of the Holy Land, foster fraternity (Vatican Press Office) On January 17, Pope Francis received a delegation from the Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscan province there.
“To make known the Holy Land, means communicating the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ that is, the historical and geographical environment in which the Word of God was revealed and incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, for us and for our salvation,” said Pope Francis. “It also means making known the people who live there today, the life of the Christians of the various churches and denominations, but also that of Jews and Muslims, to attempt to build a fraternal society in a context as complex and difficult as that of the Middle East.”
Pope to confer new formal ministries on lay catechists (CNA) Pope Francis will confer the new canonical ministries of catechist and lector on lay candidates in an unprecedented ceremony in St. Peter’s basilica on Sunday, January 23.
In May the Pontiff issued the apostolic letter Antiquum ministerium, formally establishing the office of catechist as a ministry within the Church. The Congregation for Divine Worship has prepared a ritual for conferring the ministry, which has not been made public but will be used for the first time as the Pope confers that ministry on candidates from Brazil, Ghana, Poland, and Spain.
At the same ceremony the Pope will also commission lectors from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana, and Italy. In January 2021, Pope Francis opened the ministry of lector to women.
Recall the signs the Lord has worked in your lives, Pope tells pilgrims (Vatican Press Office) On January 16, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Pope Francis reflected on John 2:1-11 (the wedding at Cana), the Gospel reading of the day.
“Let us relive the moments in which we have experienced his [the Lords] presence and Mary’s intercession,” the Pope said to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “May she, the Mother who is always attentive as at Cana, help us treasure the signs of God’s presence in our lives.”
Cardinal Cupich threatens action against priest who protested liturgical restrictions (Pillar) A Chicago priest who questioned restrictions on the traditional liturgy has taken a letter of protest that he posted on his parish web site, after having been warned that his statement could be seen as grounds for disciplinary action.
Father Anthony Bus of St. Stanislaus Kostka had written that although he would comply with liturgical directives issued by Cardinal Cupich, “the archbishop does not provide evidence that ad orientem was abrogated at the Second Vatican Council.” He went on to say that “many faithful Catholics have been cruelly demoralized” by the new restrictions on the traditional liturgy.
After being summoned to a meeting with Cardinal Cupich, Father Bus took down his initial protest, and reported that he would take a ten-day retreat. He said that he had been informed his statement “verges on a violation of Canon 1317,” which allows severe penalties for anyone who incites “animosities or hatred” against Church authorities.
Ukrainian priests appeal for prayers, support as Russian threat grows (CNS) “While our TV news shows tanks and army units deployed on our borders, the war in eastern Ukraine is continuing — but the Church in the West is saying little,” said Msgr. Gregory Semenkov, chancellor of the Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia. (The war in eastern Ukraine is the War in Donbass, which began in 2014.)
Democrats favor penalties for unvaccinated, poll shows (Tampa Free Press) Most Americans who identify with the Democratic party would favor enforced penalties for those who are not vaccinated, according to a new Rasmussen poll.
The poll also found that many Democrats—although not a majority—would favor prison terms for the unvaccinated, and even removing children from their custody.
Rasmussen found that 77% of self-identified Democrats support President Biden’s campaign for vaccine mandates, but only 22% of Republicans.
Among the poll results:
55% of Democrats favor fines for the unvaccinated;
59% say the unvaccinated should be “confined to their homes”—essentially under house arrest—except in emergencies;
48% say government should be allowed to fine or imprison people who question the effectiveness of Covid vaccines;
45% would approve a plan to let the unvaccinated “temporarily live in designated facilities or locations” (internment camps?) and
29% would endorse “temporarily removing parents’ custody of their children if parents refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Pope met privately with Prizer chief (National Catholic Register) Pope Francis met privately with Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of Pfizer, twice last year, the National Catholic Register reports.
The Vatican has provided the Pfizer vaccine for Covid to staff since early last year. Vatican policy now requires all staff members and visitors to show proof of vaccination.
The Pope’s meetings with Bourla were not listed on the Vatican’s official calendar.
President Biden pays tribute to religious freedom (White House) President Biden issued a statement for Religious Freedom Day (January 16), which commemorates the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
“In my life, faith has always been a beacon of hope and a calling to purpose, as it is for so many Americans, and I believe that protecting religious freedom is as important now as it has ever been,” said President Biden. “We must continue our work to ensure that people of all faiths — or none — are treated as full participants in society, equal in rights and dignity.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also issued a statement for the day. The statement, written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, decried attacks on houses of worship.
Russian Orthodox Church against lifting moratorium on death penalty (Interfax) Since 1996, there has been a moratorium on capital punishment in Russia. Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, said recently that Russia could lift the moratorium, though he opposed doing so.
“I don’t think we should return to what was in the past and resume the death penalty, because this institution will lead neither to fewer crimes, nor any positive shift in public consciousness whatsoever,” said Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
“I don’t think this is something we should return to, at least for the sake of memory for those who fell innocent victim to the flywheel of Stalinist repressions,” he added. “It seems to me that our own sad history, with mass executions and later rehabilitations, should teach us that we must not repeat these mistakes.”
Italian bishop bars the unvaccinated from distributing Holy Communion (Cremona Oggi (Italian)) Appealing to a “sense of responsibility and attention to the common good,” Bishop Antonio Napolioni of Cremona said that those who are not vaccinated against Covid are not permitted to distribute Holy Communion and added that Communion is to be received in the hand.
While not permitted to distribute Communion, unvaccinated priests are permitted to celebrate Mass if they have tested negatively for Covid in the past 48 hours, or if they have recovered from Covid in the past 180 days.
Bishop Napolioni’s policy echoes, but is not as restrictive as, the policy of Bishop Giacomo Cirulli, who has barred all unvaccinated priests, deacons, and laity from any in-person ministry.
California removes Aztec prayers from public-school curriculum (Religion Clause) Following a legal settlement, the California Department of Education has agreed to remove prayers and chants to Aztec gods from its Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.
“The curriculum instructed students to chant the prayers for emotional nourishment after a ‘lesson that may be emotionally taxing or even when student engagement may appear to be low,’” said an attorney for the Thomas More Society. “The idea was to use them as prayers.”
Azerbaijan seeks Vatican mediation of dispute with Armenia (Crux) The government of Azerbaijan is seeking Vatican assistance to resolve a territorial dispute with Armenia.
Last week Pope Francis met with a delegation of religious leaders from Azerbaijan, who stressed their country’s commitment to religious tolerance. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, is due to visit Azerbaijan this year.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The border conflict is aggravated by religious differences. Azerbaijan is predominantly Islamic; Armenia is overwhelmingly Christian, with most residents belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Nagano-Karabakh region is heavily populated by Christians of Armenian descent.
Polish diocese apologizes for asking in court if abuse victim is gay (AP) The Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec “said that its letter to the court should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or have suggested that he drew pleasure from contact with the priest,” according to the report. “Poland’s Catholic bishops had already strongly criticized the southern Polish diocese.”
“The issue of sexual orientation or the way a child reacts emotionally to an offense of sexual abuse cannot constitute an argument against the injured person and diminish the responsibility of the perpetrator,” said Father Piotr Studnicki, who leads the Polish bishops’ child-protection office. “It must be clear to everyone that a child never bears responsibility for violence experienced.”
Former Omaha chancellor faces new theft charges (AP) The former chancellor of the Omaha, Nebraska archdiocese faces new criminal charges for allegedly taking funds from a parish account for his personal use.
Father Michael Gutgsell had been indicted last year, with prosecutors saying that he took over $150,000 from the savings of another priest who suffered from dementia. Police reported that he also admitted taking funds from his parish. The latest charge involves another parish in the archdiocese, from which he reportedly siphoned more than $100,000.
Pope greets ecumenical delegation as Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts (Vatican News) On January 17, Pope Francis opened the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by greeting an ecumenical delegation from Finland.
“Those who are touched by God’s grace cannot turn in on themselves and live only for themselves;“ the Pope said; “they are always on the march, always driven to go forward, and to go forward together.”
The Pope mentioned two approaching historical landmarks concerning Christian unity: the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicea, which cemented the unity of Christian doctrine; and the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, “when Christians were about to set out on different paths.”
Dutch cardinal orders parishes opened (Crux) Cardinal Wim Eijk of Utrecht has ordered several parishes to reopen, siding with parishioners who were “very disappointed and angry” that the church doors remained closed even after government Covid regulations allowed for congregations of up to 50 people.
Cardinal Eijk reminded pastors that the celebration of Mass is “essential for the salvation of souls.” He said that keeping churches closed results in a “scarcely recoverable undermining of church life.”