April 16, 2024 // National

News Briefs: April 21, 2024

Pope to Make 12-Day Trip to Asia in September

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis is planning to make the longest trip of his papacy this coming September, visiting Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and Singapore, officials with the Vatican Press Office announced on Friday, April 12. During the 12-day Asian tour, he intends to visit: Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, from September 3-6; Port Moresby and Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, September 6-9; Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, September 9-11; and Singapore, September 11-13. The last papal trip announced by the Vatican – a visit to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from December 1-3, 2023, for the U.N. climate conference – was canceled three days before Pope Francis was scheduled to leave because he was suffering from bronchitis. The longest foreign trip Pope Francis had previously made was his September 2015 visit to Cuba and the United States.

‘Blessed by Cancer’ Social Media Evangelist Dies

DETROIT (OSV News) – When Jessica Hanna was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, she fought to find treatment that would heal her and preserve the life of her unborn child. Months later, she had a healthy baby boy and scans showing no sign of cancer. But tragically, the Michigan mother’s cancer soon returned. Through the ups and downs of her illness, the Catholic wife and mother of four shared her story with her nearly 50,000 followers on social media using the powerful handle “blessed_by_cancer.” She died on Saturday, April 6, leaving behind a legacy of pro-life advocacy and an example of a steadfast trust in God, no matter what. On her Instagram page, Hanna frequently shared that she was grateful for the physical healing, but more grateful for the spiritual transformation God had begun in her. “We have to stop thinking earthly. We have to always focus on eternity,” she wrote. “Yes, I am blessed by cancer, by suffering, by my cross … because it is how He found me and made me new. There is no greater blessing than that.”

Arizona Court Upholds 1864 Abortion Ban

PHOENIX (OSV News) – The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, April 9, that a 160-year-old near-total abortion ban still on the books in the state is enforceable, a move that could shutter abortion clinics in the state. But, Arizona may have the issue of abortion on its ballot in November, which could undo those restrictions. The state’s highest court said that following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and its related abortion precedents, there was no federal or state law preventing Arizona from enforcing a 19th-century abortion ban – with an exception for the life of a mother – that had become dormant following Roe. In a 4-2 decision, the state Supreme Court said the 1864 law, which predated Arizona’s statehood, is “enforceable.” Earlier in April, a coalition called Arizona for Abortion Access said it had gathered enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure to enshrine abortion access in the state constitution. The state’s bishops on Wednesday, April 10, called it an “extreme initiative” and not what “Arizona wants or needs. … We continue to pray that it does not succeed.”

Pope Pleads for Military Restraint in the Middle East

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The morning after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, Pope Francis pleaded with nations to avoid a further escalation of the violence. “I make a heartfelt appeal for a halt to any action that might fuel a spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict,” the pope said on Sunday, April 14, after reciting the Regina Coeli prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Iran launched 330 exploding drones and missiles at Israeli military facilities late April 13 and early April 14. The vast majority of the weapons were intercepted. Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “I am following in prayer and with concern, also sorrow, the news that has come in the last few hours about the worsening of the situation in Israel because of the intervention by Iran.”

Masked Gunmen Shoot Priest During Mass in Myanmar

MOHNYIN, Myanmar (OSV News) – Unknown assailants gunned down and seriously injured a priest while celebrating morning Mass in Myanmar’s conflict-stricken northern Kachin state on Friday, April 12. Two men opened fire at 6:30 a.m. on Father Paul Khwi Shane Aung, 40, the parish priest of St. Patrick’s Church in Mohnyin, within the Diocese of Myitkyina, according to sources. “They were wearing black clothes and masks and entered the church on a motorcycle to shoot the priest three times,” U Zaw, a local catechist, told UCA News, an independent Catholic news service covering East, South, and Southeast Asia. The motive behind the attack is not yet known. Zaw said the injured priest was rushed to a Mohnyin hospital and was later moved to a hospital in Myitkyina, the state capital. An activist based in Kachin state said anti-social elements are fomenting religious and ethnic conflict as the civil war in military-ruled Myanmar has entered a critical phase. Clergy, pastors, and Church-run institutions are being targeted by the military, which toppled the civilian government in February of 2021, for supporting the rebels.

Pope: Seek Contact with Nature to Change Polluting Lifestyles

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Humanity must have more direct contact with nature to counter the modern lifestyles that are destroying the planet, Pope Francis said. Respecting and loving the earth as well as seeking direct contact with nature “are values that we need so much today as we discover ourselves increasingly powerless before the consequences of irresponsible and short-sighted exploitation of the planet,” he told members of the Italian Catholic Movement of Adult Scouts. Meeting with the members, dressed in their scouting uniforms, at the Vatican on Saturday, April 13, the pope said people in modern society are “prisoners of lifestyles and behaviors that are as selfishly deaf to every appeal of common sense as they are tragically self-destructive; insensitive to the cry of a wounded earth, as well as to the voice of so many brothers and sisters unjustly marginalized and excluded from an equitable distribution of goods.”

Parishioners pray and grieve at St. Patrick’s Church, in Sydney’s Bondi neighborhood, in the wake of the horrific knife attack at Bondi Junction on April 13, 2024. (OSV News photo/Patrick Lee, The Catholic Weekly).

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