August 15, 2023 // National

News Briefs: August 20, 2023

Pope Again Prays for Maui Victims, Makes Appeal for Migration Reform

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After leading the recitation of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, August 13, Pope Francis again assured the people of Hawaii of his prayers. With some 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray with him, the pope said he was praying “for the victims of the fires that have devastated the Hawaiian island of Maui.” The official death toll from the fires had risen to 96 on Sunday, August 13, and the number was expected to increase as the search through burned out rubble continued. In his public prayers and appeals after reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis also made a strong appeal for serious efforts at immigration reform after 41 migrants were reported to have drowned in the Mediterranean in early August. “Another tragic shipwreck happened a few days ago in the Mediterranean – 41 people lost their lives,” the pope said. “I have prayed for them.” Four migrants from Africa were rescued by a merchant ship and brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa on Wednesday, August 9. They said they were on a boat carrying 45 people that capsized off the coast of Tunisia.

Pope Entrusts Prayers for Peace to Mary, Assumed into Heaven

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven, Pope Francis entrusted to her people’s prayers for peace, especially in Ukraine. “The din of weapons drowns out attempts at dialogue,” the pope told an estimated 10,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday, August 15, to pray the Angelus with him. “The law of force prevails over the force of law” and respect for human rights, “but we must not be discouraged,” the pope said. “Let’s continue to hope and pray because it is God, it is He who guides history. May He hear us.” While the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Mary’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven, the day’s Gospel reading focused on the Visitation, Mary’s decision to rush to visit her cousin Elizabeth when she heard the older woman was also expecting. The passage also includes the Magnificat, when Mary praises the greatness of God and all He has done for her. “Mary ascends, and the word of God reveals to us what characterized her as she does so: service to her neighbor and praise to God,” Pope Francis told people in the square.

‘We Cannot Remain Silent’: Ohio Archbishop Urges Catholics to Reject Abortion Amendment

CINCINNATI (OSV News) – Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr has urged Catholics to reject a November 7 ballot initiative on abortion he called an “extraordinary and dangerous attempt to radically reshape Ohio through a constitutional amendment that does nothing to aid women or promote life.” He said the initiative “would enshrine the ‘right’ to take the lives of innocent children in the womb while harming women and families in the process.” “An expectant mother of any age can face many challenges, including lack of support from the father, financial strains, concerns about her own health and that of her child, and pressures from family and friends,” the archbishop said in a Saturday, August 12, letter to the faithful of the archdiocese. “Every woman, regardless of circumstances, should be able to depend upon a community of support,” he continued. “That is why Catholic social service agencies, in collaboration with many other faith-based and secular organizations, assist pregnant women in need with material resources and personal accompaniment, both during pregnancy and after their child is born.” Archbishop Schnurr’s letter came four days after a Tuesday, August 8, special election when Ohio voters said “no” to a measure that proposed raising the threshold to make changes to the state’s constitution. “As Catholics, we are morally obliged to uphold the dignity of life of all vulnerable humans – immigrants, the poor, preborn children,” he said. “We cannot remain silent on a direct ballot question like the one in November.” Beyond voting “no” on the measure and praying for its defeat, “we must continue our commitment to caring for women, children, and families,” he said.

Syrian People ‘Again Forgotten,’ say Humanitarian Workers Six Months After Quake

AMMAN, Jordan (OSV News) – Six months after the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, Catholic aid organizations are expressing special concern and providing help particularly for the residents of northwestern Syria who they say face greater isolation from international assistance. Twelve years of civil war have left 5.4 million Syrians as refugees, 6.8 million were internally displaced and 4.3 million are sheltering in the predominantly rebel-held region from various parts of the country in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The earthquakes exacerbated an already dire economic recession, fuel shortages, prolonged drought, and health crises such as a cholera outbreak, putting even more pressure on public systems in the area. Thomas Weiss of Malteser International told OSV News that these people “depend totally on international support.” “Humanitarian access to Syria must be safe, consistent, and especially protected from politicization,” he urged. Weiss travels regularly to northwest Syria to meet with beneficiaries and the several local non-government organizations with whom Malteser International partners. Father Tony O’Riordan of the Jesuit Refugee Service serving in the northern city of Aleppo warned that Syrians are “starving,” saying nine in every 10 people in Syria need assistance. “It’s six months on and more people are in deeper need of food assistance. We have an explosion of people in need and the international donors are underfunding the response plan,” Father O’Riordan told the Cork-based Irish Examiner. In one village alone, Knayeh, almost 80 percent of homes were destroyed, according to Pro Terra Sancta.

Catholic Leaders, Pro-life Groups Take Positions on PEPFAR Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – Looming debate over the reauthorization of PEPFAR has some pro-life advocates raising alarm about the potential for some funding going to abortion, while others say safeguards are in place to prevent such spending. PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, authorized by Congress and President George W. Bush in 2003, is the U.S. government’s global effort to combat HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR is credited with saving 25 million lives and scaling back the epidemic’s spread, and is seen as an example of successful bipartisanship, continuing across each presidential administration since. The program, in part, distributes antiretrovirals in countries where as many as one-third of adults were impacted. Its funding has totaled more than $110 billion to date; Congress will consider its reauthorization this year. But some pro-lifers have raised alarm about what they argue is potential for funds to go to abortions in this year’s potential reauthorization. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a Catholic and longtime supporter of PEPFAR, this year expressed concern about reauthorization without adding language prohibiting administrators from funding groups that advocate for abortion access. Some pro-life and conservative groups, including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, have announced plans to score against a vote in favor of PEPFAR’s reauthorization in its current form. The Biden administration however has denied using PEPFAR for that purpose and is seeking a “clean” reauthorization of the program for five years, with no policy changes. A July 14 letter from Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to congressional lawmakers argued in favor of PEPFAR’s reauthorization while outlining important principles to guide Congress, including that the “life-saving work of PEPFAR should never be entangled with the promotion of abortion.”

Wiktoria Ulma is pictured writing at a table with her oldest daughter, Stasia. The Ulma family secretly hid eight Jews for almost two years in German-occupied Poland during the Second World War. The Nazis killed the family and the Jews they were sheltering early in the morning March 24, 1944. The Vatican declared the Ulma family martyrs Dec. 17, 2022, and they will be beatified Sept. 10, 2023. (OSV News photo/courtesy Polish Institute of National Remembrance)


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