April 10, 2024 // National

News Briefs: April 14, 2024

Bishops Have ‘Powerful Encounter’ with Legacy of Racism

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (OSV News) – A group of Catholic bishops recently traveled to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, in what trip organizers called a “powerful encounter” amid the nation’s long-running reckoning with racism. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, former Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, the committee’s current Chair, hosted a March 18-20 “Bishops’ Lenten Experience” in the two cities, which were the endpoints of the historic five-day, 54-mile nonviolent march led by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of voting rights for Black Americans. The bishops’ visit to the sites had been coordinated by the committee on racism and the Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works closely with the U.S. bishops to end the death penalty, promote restorative justice, and advance racial equity. Touring the numerous historical sites commemorating the nation’s legacy of slavery, racism, and mass incarceration was a profoundly moving experience, participants told OSV News. “I don’t think anyone can journey through the exhibits without registering great emotion in the face of the human devastation involved in our American history,” Bishop Perry said.

Church Warns of Mexico’s Drug Cartels Entering Politics

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – In an endless cycle of violence, Bishop Eduardo Cervantes Merino of Orizaba, Mexico, traveling with a group of priests, suffered an assault on Wednesday, April 3, on a highway in the border area between Puebla and Veracruz, officials with the Mexican bishops’ conference said on Saturday, April 6. While the group was robbed but unharmed, the incident comes in the middle of what is shaping up to be the deadliest election cycle in Mexico’s history, with 29 political candidates killed in the run-up to the June 2 elections. Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez aspired to become mayor of a violent Mexican municipality, but the mayoral candidate was shot dead as she prepared for one of her first campaign events near Celaya. Gaytán’s death shocked Mexico. “Not only did they kill a candidate, they killed a host of possibilities for good, which were taken from this city by criminals,” Father Padre César Cadavieco said at Gaytán’s funeral Mass. “We have never seen an electoral period so full of murders. This is something that should move us and shake our hearts,” retired Bishop José Raúl Vera López of Saltillo said in a March 24 homily. “They are fighting to obtain political power. What kind of rulers are we going to have if political parties are winning public positions through assassinations?”

Report Shows Decline in Several Urban Dioceses

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – A new report shows the overall number of parishes in several U.S. dioceses has declined during the past 50 years, even as both the general population and the total Catholic population have grown – and the data points to shifts in where U.S. Catholics are now living. “Parish, Ecclesial, and Socioeconomic Statistics for 11 Dioceses between 1970 and 2020” was released on Thursday, April 4, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The 775-page report from CARA had been commissioned by the Cleveland-based nonprofit FutureChurch, which had requested insights on trends within 11 largely urban Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the nation’s Northeast and Midwestern regions: the archdioceses of Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, and the dioceses of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Cleveland; and Memphis. CARA’s Executive Director, Jesuit Father Thomas P. Gaunt, told OSV News the data aligns with his previous research on Catholic demographics in the United States. While the nation’s South and West have experienced a boom in the number of Catholics, the Northeast and Midwest have had “a bust,” he and fellow researchers previously wrote in 2021. Given the many factors affecting U.S. Catholic parish size, Father Gaunt told OSV News, in some places one bishop may be “building churches,” while another is “looking at empty pews.”

Pope Marks 800th Anniversary of St. Francis’ Stigmata

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The wounds of Christ’s passion and death and the stigmata given to some Christians through the centuries are reminders of “the pain Jesus suffered in His flesh out of love for us and for our salvation,” Pope Francis said. But, the pope said, the stigmata is also a reminder that through baptism Christians participate in Christ’s victory over suffering and death because “it is precisely through His wounds that the mercy of the Risen, Crucified One flows to us as through a channel.” With a visiting group of Italian Franciscan friars from La Verna and from Tuscany, Italy, on Friday, April 5, Pope Francis joined celebrations of the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi receiving “the gift of the stigmata” after he had withdrawn to the hills of La Verna to pray and do penance in 1224. The friars also brought to Pope Francis a reliquary containing blood from the stigmata of St. Francis, a reliquary that is making a pilgrimage to different Franciscan communities.

Bishops in Rwanda Express Closeness to Genocide Survivors

KIGALI, Rwanda (OSV News) – This year, as Rwanda marks 30 years since the 1994 genocide, the Catholic bishops in the country have expressed their closeness to survivors of the massacre while urging those convicted of crimes to seek forgiveness. The bishops spoke as the East African nation of 14 million people began a weeklong mourning period to remember nearly 1 million killed in 100 days of slaughter. “This crime caused misfortune and pain, the depth and breadth of which only God knows. Hearts still bleed, wounds are still fresh,” Bishop Anaclet Mwumvaneza of Nyundo, President of the Rwandan bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said in a statement received by OSV News on Monday, April 8.

Court Condemns Canadian Cardinal for Dismissal of French Nun

LORIENT, France (OSV News) – A civil court in Lorient has ruled that a French religious congregation, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet – a former high-ranking Vatican official – and two Vatican-appointed investigators committed “serious misconduct” in expelling Sabine Baudin de la Valette, whose religious name was Sister Marie Ferréol, from her own community “without cause” after 34 years of consecrated life. The religious sister suffered an expulsion described by court as “infamous and vexatious,” without having committed “the slightest offense,” and on the basis of “non-established motives,” adding she was “sent back to lay life without mercy.” The ruling was made public on Wednesday, April 3. The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Spirit was ordered to pay Sister Marie $36,000 as a “duty of relief.” In addition, her congregation, Cardinal Ouellet, and the two apostolic visitors picked by Cardinal Oullet are jointly ordered to pay her nearly $216,000 for material and moral damages. The French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported the convicted parties have announced their intention to appeal the decision. He said he sends “a message of consolation and closeness to the survivors of the genocide in this moment of deep pain for the loss of their loved ones.” The massacre was triggered on April 6, 1994, when suspected rebels shot down a plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana. Ethnic Hutu extremists blamed the incident on the Tutsi ethnic group led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front and went on a killing spree, targeting ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, eventually killing 800,000, but Rwandans say the genocide took more than a million lives and thousands of others were pushed out as refugees.

Pope Francis speaks with the family members of Israeli hostages held in captivity by Hamas during a meeting at the Vatican April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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