April 23, 2024 // National

News Briefs: April 28, 2024

U.S. House Passes Aid to Ukraine Bill

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – Ukrainian Catholics in the United States are breathing a sigh of relief and prayers of gratitude after a bill for aid to Ukraine cleared the House of Representatives following months of delay and political infighting. On Saturday, April 20, the House approved $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, part of a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes Israel, Gaza, Taiwan, and other U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region. “Ukrainians are very grateful to people of goodwill in the global community, and in a special way to Americans who are in solidarity with (Ukrainians’) valiant struggle for God-given dignity,’’ Metropolitan Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, head of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, told OSV News. “They’re also very grateful to American Catholics, most of whom not only understand, but pray and help.” Archbishop Gudziak said “anything that keeps Russia from advancing in Ukraine is to be welcomed,” since such support represents “a defense of life, liberty, and our freedom of conscience.” The passage of the bill represents “our prayers being answered,” said Eugene Luciw, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America’s Philadelphia chapter. “It started off with a very stark scenario. … How can we account for this without the power of prayer?”

Probe Finds ‘No Evidence’ of FBI Religious Bias

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – A review by the Department of Justice’s watchdog found “no evidence” of religious bias in the creation of a leaked and since-retracted FBI memo that suggested some “radical traditionalist” Catholics pose threats of racially or ethnically motivated violence. Members of Congress requested information about the document, ordering the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General to conduct a 120-day review. In an April 18 report detailing its investigation, the officials with the OIG said although “there was no evidence of malicious intent or an improper purpose,” the document “failed to adhere to analytic tradecraft standards and evinced errors in professional judgment,” creating “the appearance that the FBI had inappropriately considered religious beliefs and affiliation as a basis for conducting investigative activity,” and “reflected a lack of training and awareness concerning proper domestic terrorism terminology.” The employees involved in drafting, editing, and reviewing the document “failed to adhere to FBI standards,” the report said. A spokesperson for the FBI said on Friday, April 19, “there was no intent or actions taken to investigate Catholics or anyone based on religion,” and that “this was confirmed by the findings of the OIG.”

D.C. Knights Call to Remove Rupnik Art from JPII Shrine

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – Officials with the Knights of Columbus Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Council 11302, based in Washington, D.C., reportedly have called for the removal of artwork by Father Marko Rupnik at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in that city, following the disgraced priest’s decadeslong legacy of sexual and spiritual abuse claims by multiple victims. The council reportedly adopted an April 9 resolution urging the fraternal organization’s executive leadership to remove and replace mosaics created by Father Rupnik for the shrine, according to an April 17 article by The Pillar, an online Catholic media outlet that stated it had obtained a copy of the document. Members of the council also requested that the Knights’ state and supreme councils “immediately make a public apology to survivors of Father Rupnik’s abuse for the Order’s continued inaction in addressing the matter of the mosaics in the Shrine.”

Virginia Bishop: ‘Christian Nationalism’ is Opposed to Catholic Teaching

ARLINGTON, Virginia (OSV News) – The concept of Christian nationalism is not compatible with Catholic teaching, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, said in an April 15 episode of his ‘Walk Humbly’ podcast. The term “Christian nationalism” has been the subject of recent controversy, as some understand the term to mean an ideology that the United States should be a specifically Christian nation, enforced by the power of the federal government, while others contend the term is used loosely by some to exclude Christians from the public square. Bishop Burbidge explained Catholic teaching distinguishes “between patriotism and nationalism.” He explained patriotism involves “a proper, healthy love for our nation” but nationalism is “a view of one’s nation only in competition with others.” He explained Christian nationalism “can confuse two things that should be distinct: devotion to the nation and devotion to the Church.” He explained that a Catholic is a “follower of Christ,” and as a Christian, “never identifies oneself entirely with a particular nation.” He added, “A Christian loves his nation, but within the broader and larger love for God and neighbor.”

Sacramento Priest Appointed as Auxiliary Bishop

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – Pope Francis has appointed Father Reynaldo Bersabal, a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento, California, as Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento. Born in the Philippines, Bishop-designate Bersabal, 59, was ordained to the priesthood on April 29, 1991. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Sacramento in 2004. He currently serves as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Sacramento. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, April 20, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto said in a statement that he was grateful to the Holy Father for appointing “a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus as an able co-worker in this favored part of His vineyard,” and he described Bishop-designate Bersabal as “a joyful pastor” whose cheerful manner brings others to communion with Christ. “I am humbled to be chosen to serve God’s people in this capacity. I vow to uphold the responsibility to demonstrate Christ’s holiness to the people of the Diocese of Sacramento,” said Bishop-designate Bersabal in an April 20 statement.

New York Court Hears Challenge to Abortion Mandate

ALBANY, New York (OSV News) – Religious groups in New York challenged the state’s abortion mandate in arguments before its highest court on Tuesday, April 16, arguing against the qualifying criteria for exemptions based on religious beliefs. The case, Diocese of Albany v. Vulo, involves women religious, Catholic dioceses, and faith-based organizations protesting the mandate to cover abortion in their health insurance plans contrary to their religious convictions. New York’s Department of Financial Services introduced the mandate in 2017, eventually narrowing exemptions to religious groups primarily focused on teaching religious values and serving and hiring those who share their faith. However, that criteria excludes Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities, which serve all, regardless of faith. The case, now before the New York Court of Appeals, was brought by public-interest law firms, Becket and Jones Day, representing various Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, and Baptist groups, after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated prior New York state court rulings and ordered the mandate reconsidered in light of its recent jurisprudence on the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. Noel Francisco, a former U.S. Solicitor General who argued the case for Jones Day, said the mandate put the state in the position of deciding who is authentically religious, which is “not a question this court should answer.” A decision from the Court of Appeals is anticipated in the coming weeks.

Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, N.Y., holds a monstrance during the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Eucharistic Revival at Louis Armstrong Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., April 20, 2024. More than 6,000 pilgrims from diocesan parishes attended the event. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, The Tablet)

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