December 13, 2023 // National

News Briefs: December 17, 2023

Pope Invokes Korean Martyrs Ahead of WYD

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In preparation for World Youth Day 2027, South Korea’s young Catholics must maintain the Christian witness of their country’s martyrs who laid the foundation for the Catholic Church’s “vibrant” community in the country, Pope Francis said. Korea’s martyrs “sowed the seeds for what has become a blossoming and vibrant Church” in South Korea, the pope wrote in a telegram to Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-Hoon of Suwon, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between South Korea and the Holy See.  Vatican officials released the text on Monday, December 11. “The youth of today are the heirs of this great testimony of faith, and I pray that they will carry on this precious witness to Christ as they prepare for the World Youth Day 2027,” the pope wrote.

Nebraska Priest Dies After Attack During Rectory Break-In

OMAHA, Nebraska (OSV News) – A Nebraska priest died after being attacked in the rectory of his parish in the early morning of Sunday, December 10. Father Stephen Gutgsell was found “suffering from injuries sustained during an assault” at the rectory of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, where he served as pastoral administrator. According to a news release from Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson, the county’s 911 emergency dispatch received an emergency call that day at approximately 5:05 a.m. reporting an attempted break-in at the rectory. Deputies arrived within six minutes and took a suspect into custody while the injured priest was transported to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he later died from his injuries. Robinson said the investigation is ongoing and told local media he does not believe the death is related to the deceased priest’s 2007 conviction for embezzling more than $125,000 from a former parish, for which he received five years’ probation and was returned to ministry following a successful residential rehabilitation program.

Latin Patriarch Calls for Sides to Negotiate Lasting Peace

JERUSALEM (OSV News) – The war between Israel and Hamas may finally force a diplomatic solution to the long intractable tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Holy Land, said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, 58, who has served as Patriarch of Jerusalem since November of 2020, said that while there have been constant conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians since the State of Israel was formed in 1948 and even earlier, this time, it feels very different, and a comprehensive political solution may be the only way to stop the ongoing bloodshed. “It is a political conflict, first of all, that now is assuming more and more religious connotations, unfortunately. This makes things more difficult, because religion is less open to any kind of compromise,” Cardinal Pizzaballa told the Rhode Island Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Providence. The cardinal said that now is the time for leaders to concentrate their efforts on finding a viable solution for all those living in the Holy Land, including the Palestinians living in the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip. Cardinal Pizzaballa feels that the time is now for political leaders to finally make good on slogans that have only paid lip service to resolving the long-term conflict. “A Two-State Solution was a slogan without content for many years. Now, we have to give to this slogan some content,” he said.

Federal Judge Moves to Block Migrant Family Separations

SAN DIEGO (OSV News) – A federal judge has moved to end separating migrant families at the U.S. border for the next eight years, heading off a possible reinstatement of a policy enacted by former President Donald Trump. On Friday, December 8, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the Southern District of California tentatively approved an October settlement reached between the U.S. Department of Justice and families represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The settlement concluded the class action suit Ms. L. vs. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed nearly seven years ago on behalf of some 4,500 to 5,000 children and their families who were forcibly separated from each other. Sabraw had ordered an end to the separations in June of 2018, with then-President Trump having suspended them on his own after international outrage. Among those weighing in at the time was Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, then-Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, who in a June 1, 2018, statement said that “forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values.”

Texas Court Rejects Abortion Petition

AUSTIN, Texas (OSV News) – The Texas Supreme Court on Monday, December 11, overruled a district judge’s order allowing a pregnant mother to obtain an abortion under an exemption to the state’s abortion ban. The justices ruled the woman’s case, which required a doctor to exercise “reasonable medical judgment” regarding the danger of pregnancy to the woman’s health, failed to meet the standards crafted by the Legislature. Hours before the ruling, the woman’s attorneys reported she left Texas to seek an abortion elsewhere. The high court’s order ruled Judge Maya Guerra Gamble erred in permitting Kate Cox to have a “dilation and evacuation” abortion under narrow exceptions to Texas’ ban. The court said Cox’s physician had “asked a court to pre-authorize the abortion” but “could not, or at least did not, attest to the court that Ms. Cox’s condition poses the risks the exception requires.” While the statute gives physicians discretion, the court ruled it “requires more than a doctor’s mere subjective belief … the medical judgment involved must meet an objective standard.”

Macron to Invite Pope to Notre Dame’s 2024 Reopening

PARIS (OSV News) – On Friday, December 8, a year from the reopening of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the French capital, French President Emmanuel Macron said he will invite Pope Francis to attend the historic moment. “I hope so, in any case we’ll invite him,” Macron said when asked about the pope’s possible presence. “The invitation will be extended. But it’s not for me to answer on his behalf,” he added. Macron, in his sixth visit to the reconstruction site, climbed to the scaffolding of the newly installed spire. The spire, Notre Dame’s iconic topping, collapsed amid a fire on April 15, 2019, to the shock of France and the whole world. After debates on how it should be rebuilt, French and Church authorities decided to rebuild the spire exactly the same as before.

Pope: Disconnecting from Social Media ‘Essential’ to Christian Life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To connect with God, Christians must disconnect from the “pollution of vain words and chatter” that reach them through social media and instead seek silence in the desert, Pope Francis said before praying the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, December 10. The desert is “the place of silence and essentials, where someone cannot afford to dwell on useless things, but needs to concentrate on what is indispensable in order to live.” Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark, in which St. John the Baptist is described as “a voice of one crying out in the desert,” the pope said that the saint’s decision to preach in the desert is a reminder of the need to be “freed from the superfluous, to dig deeply within ourselves so as to hold on to what is truly important before God.” He said, “Silence and sobriety – from words, from using things, from media, and from social media” – are not just sacrifices offered to God, but “essential elements of Christian life.”

The Nativity scene is unveiled and the Christmas tree is lighted in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 9, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

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