11th Circuit ruling ‘finally’ ends EWTN court fight over HHS mandate
IRONDALE, Ala. (CNS) — The chairman and CEO of the Eternal Word Television Network said the global Catholic media organization is “grateful that finally” it no longer “has to worry about being forced to choose between massive fines and following our faith. It shouldn’t take years to prove the obvious: You can’t tell a religious media network to say one thing and do another,” said Michael P. Warsaw in a statement issued from EWTN’s headquarters in Irondale. Warsaw’s remarks came Nov. 30 about a ruling issued a day earlier by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that vacated a lower court’s ruling that EWTN had to comply with the Obama administration-era mandate to cover contraceptives and abortifacients for employees or pay huge fines. The Washington-based Becket nonprofit law firm that represented EWTN in the case — Eternal Word Television Network v. Azar — said the circuit court’s ruling “comes on the heels of a settlement with the federal government” and “ends EWTN’s seven-year legal battle.” “Azar” is Alex Azar, who is the current HHS secretary. It also follows an HHS rule put in place Nov. 7 finalizing interim rules issued by the Trump administration in October 2017 to expand the religious exemption to the mandate to religious employers; the new rules maintain the existing federal contraceptive mandate for most employers.
Pope to make historic visit to United Arab Emirates in February
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced. In a Dec. 6 statement, the Vatican said the pope will “participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on ‘Human Fraternity’” after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. “The visit will take place also in response to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates,” the Vatican said. The trip Feb. 3-5 will take place less than a week after Pope Francis returns from his Jan. 23-28 visit to Panama for World Youth Day. Shortly after the announcement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the announcement of the pope’s visit in a post on his personal Facebook page.
Pope offers condolences for death of former President Bush
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the death of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a telegram to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, telling him the pope was “saddened to learn of the death” of the former president.
“Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all the Bush family,” he said in the telegram published by the Vatican Dec. 5.
“Commending President Bush’s soul to the merciful love of almighty God, His Holiness invokes upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of strength and peace,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.
Bush died Nov. 30, at the age of 94 at his home in Houston. He was to be honored with a state funeral in Washington Dec. 5.
Catholic Relief Services marks 75 years of restoring people’s
BALTIMORE (CNS) — As Catholic Relief Services staffers and supporters spent an evening marking 75 years of service in the world, one word recurred: dignity. Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, who chaired the CRS board of directors from 2010 to 2013, spoke of it in his homily at a special Mass Dec. 5 in St. Stephen’s Chapel at the organization’s Baltimore headquarters. Every day, he said, Catholic Relief Services is trying to bring the world that is, the world that God intends. In most cases, this means “giving some sense of dignity to people robbed of their dignity.” Bishop Kicanas, who often visited CRS projects when he was chairman of the board, spoke of all the places he saw this occur: in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where children scrounge for food; in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, where CRS helps women fight infant mortality. In Peru, he said, he saw an indigenous woman speaking at a meeting in her newly learned Spanish, “and the men were listening. Amazing! CRS for 75 years has been hovering over the vulnerable,” he said, calling the international relief and development agency determined, resolved and patient. “CRS will not fail,” he said, urging staffers to continue their work for another 25 years.
Vatican urges adoption of global compacts on migration, refugees
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Welcoming the finalization of global compacts on migration and on refugees, the Vatican urged nations to adopt the nonbinding agreements to protect people who are on the move and to promote their orderly acceptance in new countries. “Greater cooperation and responsibility sharing are important themes running through both compacts,” said a statement Dec. 6 from the Vatican’s Migration and Refugees Section. In anticipation of the adoption Dec. 10-11 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Vatican noted, however, that it had registered some “reservations and comments” on references in the compact to “the so-called ‘Minimum Initial Service Package,’” which includes the distribution of condoms, and to “sexual and reproductive health services,” which could include abortion. Those provisions, the Vatican said, “are neither agreed language in the international community nor in line with Catholic principles.” Still, the Vatican said, the compact is an essential recognition that the phenomenon of migration is universal and that international cooperation is required to protect the rights and dignity of migrants and to assist the nations that welcome them. The global compact offers “a menu or a toolkit of actions that states — and other actors — can choose to do internally, bilaterally and even regionally, depending on their circumstances and needs,” the Vatican statement said.
A Norbertine abbey, steeped in tradition, uses modern outreach
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, just opened their doors, so to speak, to the world at large. The priests and seminarians who live a monastic life at the abbey but also have apostolic ministries at schools, parishes and prisons in Southern California, recently developed an online platform for their donors and subscribers to essentially take part in the life of the abbey — gaining access to spiritual writings of the priests, audio to their Gregorian chants and video clips including links to a series they produced last year about themselves called “City of Saints.” The site is called the Abbots Circle — www.theabbotscircle.com — and is akin to a digital library, but it also provides opportunities for subscribers to ask questions. “God is asking us to reach the Church in new ways,” said Norbertine Father Ambrose Criste, novice master and director of vocations and formation for the order. The new platform enables the priests to give back to their supporters and “provide spiritual nourishment,” he added. It also responds to those who come to the abbey seeking spiritual direction and often ask for more, wondering if they can read homilies or other works by the priests. “They are thirsty for sound instruction, teaching nourishment and real-time questions and answers,” the priest told Catholic News Service Dec. 4.
Catholic groups push for strong climate deal at U.N. summit in Poland
KATOWICE, Poland (CNS) — Catholic representatives worked to keep negotiations on track for a comprehensive deal to address global warming as the U.N. climate change conference entered its second and final week in Katowice, Poland. The effort was complicated by the actions of U.S., Russian, Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegates, who objected to a note by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, “welcoming” an October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report warned that greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would need to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 for global warming kept to a maximum of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit under the 2015 Paris climate accord or risk worsening drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty. After hours of negotiations Dec. 8 and with no consensus reached, the note was dropped under U.N. protocol. Still, the Church continued to press for sustained action on climate change. “The church is exerting pressure and showing really significant commitment. We must hope countries match this,” said Rebecca Elliott, communications director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, a coalition of more than 650 Catholic organizations. “Besides acting as a moral voice and providing a robust faith-based response, Catholic organizations are relating stories about the experiences of people from Latin America, Africa, India and the Pacific islands who are gravely affected by climate change.”
Pope: Prepare for Christ’s birth by recognizing mistakes, sowing peace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Advent is a time for people to think about what they can change about themselves so that they can sow the seeds of peace, justice and fraternity in their daily lives, Pope Francis said. The Advent season is a call for personal conversion, “humbly recognizing our mistakes, our infidelities, our failure” to do one’s duty, he said Dec. 9 before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Celebrating the second Sunday of Advent, the pope said the attitudes of vigilance and prayer that characterize the Advent season and preparations for Christmas include a journey of conversion. “Let each one of us think, how can I change something about my behavior in order to prepare the way of the Lord?” the pope said. Preparing the way entails making straight “His paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low,” the pope said, citing the day’s Gospel reading according to St. Luke.
Everyone must respect the basic human rights of all human beings, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The fundamental rights of all human beings, especially the most vulnerable, must be respected and protected in every situation, Pope Francis said, marking Human Rights Day, Dec.10. “While a part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees their dignity denied, ignored or infringed upon and their fundamental rights ignored or violated,” he said. Such a contradiction leads one to ask “whether the equal dignity of all human beings — solemnly proclaimed 70 years ago — is truly recognized, respected, protected and promoted in every circumstance,” he said in a written message. The message was read aloud by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, at a Dec. 10-11 conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University discussing the “achievements, omissions and negations” in the world of human rights today.
Christian, Muslim young people spread pre-Christmas cheer in Beirut
BEIRUT (CNS) — On a gloomy, rainy Saturday morning in Beirut, 92-year-old Julia enthusiastically greeted her visitors, Christian and Muslim youth, who had come to set up a Christmas tree in her modest apartment. “Welcome. I love you,” she said to her guests, who each greeted the beaming woman with kisses before breaking out in a chorus of “Jingle Bells.” Julia, a Maronite Catholic, was one of 10 beneficiaries Dec. 8 of a Christmas tree decoration project for poor elderly that brought together Lebanese volunteers from the Knights of Malta, a Catholic organization, and “Who is Hussein,” a Muslim Shiite organization, as well as Girl Guides associated with the local St. Vincent de Paul. Widowed for 40 years, Julia had spent her life as a homemaker. She lives with her 66-year-old unmarried son, Nicholas, who has difficulty finding work in his trade as a house painter. There are no government-sponsored services for the needy in Lebanon. Julia is one of the beneficiaries of the Knights of Malta Lebanon’s Elderly Guardianship Program, in which the order’s youth volunteers visit the homes of elderly on a monthly basis.
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