April 23, 2023 // National

News Briefs: April 23, 2023

Orthodox Christians Celebrated Easter in the Holy Land with Another Year of Holy Fire Restrictions

JERUSALEM (OSV News) — Thousands of local and international Christian pilgrims thronged to Jerusalem’s Old City and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the ancient Eastern rite ceremony of the Holy Fire on April 15, with some scuffles reported as Israeli police restricted the number of people able to reach the church. Celebrated for more than 1,000 years on the Saturday before Orthodox Easter, as reported by Christian historian Eusebius in A.D. 328, the Orthodox Christian ceremony involves the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, in the presence of an Armenian Orthodox bishop, entering the Edicule where tradition holds Jesus’ tomb is located. There, according to the tradition, a fire is mysteriously produced with which the patriarch lights two sets of candle bundles. In previous years, as many as 10,000 worshippers could celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony inside the church, while this year, police had limited attendance to 1,800 people inside and 1,200 outside, citing safety reasons. Pilgrims also gathered on the roof of the church, and in locations in the Old City where the police had placed shading and large TV screens where the ceremony was broadcast live.

Pope Defends St. John Paul from ‘Offensive’ Insinuations in Vatican Case

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis called insinuations that St. John Paul II played a role in the 1983 disappearance of Vatican schoolgirl Emanuela Orlandi “offensive and unfounded.” After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer on April 16, the pope told people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “Certain I am interpreting the feelings of the faithful around the world, I express a thought of gratitude to the memory of St. John Paul II, who in these days has been the object of offensive and unfounded insinuations.” Emanuela’s brother, Pietro Orlandi, in a television interview on April 11 alleged that St. John Paul was involved in his sister’s mysterious disappearance. Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican usher who lived inside the walls of Vatican City, disappeared in Rome on June 22, 1983, when she was 15. The Vatican recently opened a new investigation into her disappearance, which also was the subject of a 2022 Netflix documentary. In the television interview, Pietro Orlandi played an audio recording of someone he said was close to a mafia group allegedly linked to his sister’s disappearance. The speaker said that St. John Paul was involved in bringing young girls to the Vatican to be sexually exploited. In an editorial for Vatican News, Andrea Tornielli, Editorial Director at the Dicastery for Communication, denounced the “slanderous accusations” presented by Orlandi as a “sleazy” and “absurd” defamation of the former pope.

Portland Music Minister Arrested in Undercover Child Predator Sting

PORTLAND, Oregon (OSV News) — An Oregon parish music minister has been arrested as part of an undercover child predator sting, according to officials with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Sean Baba, the Director of Music Ministry at St. Pius X Parish in Portland, was one of six men taken into custody on April 13 by sheriff’s officers. Investigators posed as underage boys and girls on a number of online dating platforms and social media sites. The suspects contacted the profiles and offered to meet in person for sex. Authorities arrested the men upon arrival. In an April 13 news release, sheriff’s officials stated that St. Pius X Parish and its school “were notified of his arrest and have fully cooperated with the investigation.” Baba’s LinkedIn page lists a number of music ministry assignments at various Catholic parishes, schools, and organizations in California, some of them concurrent.

Notre Dame Cathedral Was on Fire Four Years Ago; Here Is What’s Happening Now

PARIS (OSV News) — Notre Dame Cathedral will get its spire back by the end of 2023, more than four years after it was devastated by a fire. But to reopen by its deadline of Dec. 8, 2024, the cathedral, a beloved symbol of France, needs to meet three conditions, currently in the works. This includes cleaning and restoration of the interior of the building; restoration of masonry and collapsed vaults; and working to restore the missing spire and frameworks, which, according to the newest statement from the “Rebuild Notre Dame” committee, “is in progress, both on the Ile de la Cité and in the workshop.” More than 1,000 people, spread throughout France, are working simultaneously on the revival of the masterpiece of Gothic art that Notre Dame is, including nearly 500 workers, craftsmen, and supervisors who are currently working on the building site, inside the cathedral. Notre Dame also attracted an unprecedented surge of generosity in the history of French philanthropy, with 340,000 donors from 150 countries raising $929 million in donations.

Washington Legislature Advances State Mandatory Reporting Bill that Lacks Confession Exception

OLYMPIA, Washington (OSV News) — A bill that would require clergy to report child abuse or neglect in Washington state was advanced 75-20 on April 11 by the state’s House, prompting concern from some Catholics who are seeking a clergy-penitent exemption to protect the seal of the confessional. Catholics in the state have expressed concern that the House’s version of the bill could force priests to violate the civil law in order to uphold Church law regarding the seal of confession. Mario Villanueva, Executive Director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state’s Catholic bishops, told OSV News he is asking lawmakers to consider “what our confession is.” “It’s one-on-one, it’s private, it’s part of our worship, it’s liturgy,” he said. The original Senate version of the bill — passed unanimously in that chamber — would make clergy mandatory reporters, but it contained an exemption for what the bill’s sponsor described as “clergy-penitent privilege, referred to as confession in some faith communities.” The Senate and the House must iron out differences in the bills before it advances to the governor’s desk for signing into law.

Transgender Interventions Pose Serious Medical Consequences for Minors, says Surgeon

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (OSV News) — A former Navy surgeon with experience in reconstructive surgeries for combat-wounded troops, Deacon Patrick Lappert of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, shared with OSV News his insights on transgender interventions for children. Deacon Lappert, who researches and speaks nationally on this topic, warns that gender reassignment poses grave risks to both body and soul. Insufficient evidence and politicized, rather than scientific, discourse prevent medical professionals from effectively treating children and youth who “are growing up in a very anxious, very disconnected world” in which they are encouraged to believe “their happiness lies in their sexed self, in what they call their gender identity,” said Deacon Lappert. He noted that Sweden, Norway, and Great Britain have greatly restricted transgender interventions in children based on long-term studies. “Transgenderism and the whole gender ideology business are inhuman, because they separate our souls from our bodies,” he said. “We have to protect our children from this great evil that’s been unleashed into their lives.”

Pilgrims holding an image of Divine Mercy and others holding a banner featuring St. John Paul II, who instituted the universal celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, join Pope Francis for the recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer April 16, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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