Pope begins New Year with apology, prayers for peace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis began the New Year with an apology for losing his patience the night before with a woman who grabbed his hand and yanked him closer to her while he was greeting people in St. Peter’s Square. To get away, the pope had slapped her hand and gave her a very serious scowl. A video of the incident went viral on Twitter. Reciting the midday Angelus prayer Jan. 1, Pope Francis was talking about how God’s offer of salvation in Jesus is “not magic, but patient, that is, it involves the patience of love, which takes on inequity and destroys its power.” Then, briefly departing from his prepared text, the pope said that “love makes us patient. We often lose our patience; me, too, and I apologize for my bad example last night.” Returning to his text, Pope Francis said that in gazing upon the Nativity scene with the eyes of faith, “we see the world renewed, freed from the dominion of evil and placed under the regal lordship of Christ, the baby lying in the manger.” The Church marks Jan. 1 as both the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day, he said, urging Catholics to pray for peace and to recognize their responsibility to work for peace.
‘Violence in the name of God is blasphemy,’ USCCB president says
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Decrying the acts of religious violence that have taken place during the Christmas season, the president of the U.S. bishops declared: “Violence in the name of God is blasphemy.” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chosen in November as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The rise of anti-Semitic violence in this country and around the world must be condemned along with the ongoing persecution of Christians. Protecting religious freedom and freedom of conscience should be among the highest priorities of every government.” Archbishop Gomez’s remarks, in a Dec. 31 statement, were prepared with the Jan. 1 observance of the World Day of Peace in mind. He cited three incidents in particular: the Dec. 29 assault on worshippers in a Texas church by a gunman, which left two congregants and the shooter dead; the Dec. 27 a stabbing rampage during a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home in New York; and the Dec. 26 posting of a video by an Islamic State affiliate in Nigeria that showed the beheading of 11 Christians. “In our neighborhoods and communities, violence and cruelty are a sad and ordinary reality of daily life,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Children in our country are killed each day in the womb and many of our neighbors do not have what they need to lead a dignified life. Our politics and cultural discourse are often marked by anger and a merciless and unforgiving contempt for others.”
At New Year’s Mass, bishop says religious prejudice cannot be tolerated
PORTLAND, Maine (CNS) — Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland Maine, called for the country to continue working to end “any form of religious prejudice” during a New Year’s Day Mass. Citing incidents of religious violence as 2019 came to a close, including a knife attack at a rabbi’s home in New York and a shooting at a Texas church, Bishop Deeley said American society is experiencing “too much” religious-based violence and hatred. “Unfortunately, it marks the century for us,” he told worshippers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. “We have seen too many shootings and attacks on religious houses and communities. As Christians we cannot tolerate any kind of religious prejudice.” Bishop Deeley attributed the violence to “the implicit permission of society” for giving rise to such attacks. While acknowledging that some of the attacks are carried out by “mentally disturbed” people, he said they “find their ideas in places where such hatred is fostered.”
Nigerian diocesan spokesman: Bridal party beheaded en route to wedding
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — Father Francis Arinse, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, confirmed that a bride-to-be, Martha Bulus, and her bridal party were beheaded Dec. 26 at Gwoza, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state. Father Arinse told Catholic News Service that Bulus and her companions were traveling from Maiduguri to her Dec. 31 wedding when they were killed. “They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” he told CNS. He added that Bulus used to be his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Maiduguri, after he was first ordained. Father Arinse said there had been a series of abductions in the area recently. He said government agencies must beef up security in northeast Nigeria to prevent a recurrence. Several international media outlets reported Dec. 26 that the Islamic State group released a video showing it had beheaded 10 Christians and shot an 11th Dec. 26. The news agencies said they were unable to confirm the contents of the video but described the victims as men. IS said the beheadings were payback for the late-October killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.
Catholic publications join in naming people of the year
WASHINGTON (CNS) — With the close of 2019, Catholic publications joined the trend in naming people of the year by identifying Catholics who made a particular impact over the past 12 months. Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Indiana, listed eight people as 2019 Catholics of the Year in its Dec. 29 issue, and National Catholic Reporter, a national Catholic newspaper based in Kanas City, Missouri, selected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as its Catholic Newsmaker of the Year in its Dec. 20 issue. The eight people to make Our Sunday Visitor’s list were: Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; St. John Henry Newman, English theologian canonized in 2019; Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman from Pakistan whose blasphemy charge was overturned in 2019; Janice Benton, a founder of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Kendrick Castillo, a Colorado student who was killed in May after rushing toward a school shooter; Bob Lockwood, former president of Our Sunday Visitor; Franciscan Sister Stephanie Baliga, an athlete who uses her talent to raise funds for charity; and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
‘A victory for women is a victory for humanity,’ pope says on Marian feast
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world will not know peace unless there is an end to violence against women, the exploitation of their bodies and the denial of their dignity, Pope Francis said on the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Celebrating Mass Jan. 1 for the feast day and the World Day of Peace, the pope said: “If we want a better world that is a house of peace and not a courtyard of war, we must take to heart the dignity of every woman.” Jesus, the prince of peace, was born of a woman, he said. “The woman is a giver and mediator of peace and must be fully involved in decision-making processes because when women can share their gifts, the world will find itself more united and more at peace.” “A victory for women is a victory for all of humanity,” the pope said. The Christmas season and the feast of Mary, Mother of God, he said, are celebrations of the great gift of God sending His Son into the world as a human baby, born of a woman so that He would have the same human flesh of all those He came to save.
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