December 19, 2023 // National

News Briefs: December 24, 2023

Pope Says He’ll Be Buried Outside the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he has decided to be buried in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major instead of in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and that he has simplified the rites for a papal funeral. In an interview on Tuesday, December 12, with Mexican news outlet N+, the pope, in good humor, discussed plans for his own funeral as well as the trips he still hopes to complete during his pontificate. The pope said he had already discussed preparations for a papal funeral with his Master of Liturgical Ceremonies, Archbishop Diego Giovanni Ravelli. “We simplified them quite a bit,” he said, and jokingly added that “I will premiere the new ritual.” Breaking with recent tradition, Pope Francis said he has chosen to be buried at the Basilica of St. Mary Major because of his “very strong connection” with the church. “The place is already prepared,” he said. Asked about his future travels, the pope said that a trip to Belgium is “certain” and that two other trips, to Polynesia and Argentina, are pending.

Cardinal Becciu, Others Sentenced to Prison at Vatican Trial

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican City State criminal court sentenced Cardinal Angelo Becciu to five years and six months in prison on two counts of embezzlement and one of aggravated fraud but found him not guilty of abuse of office or witness tampering. The 75-year-old cardinal’s attorney told reporters his client would appeal. The three-judge panel of the Vatican court handed down the verdicts on Saturday, December 16. In addition to Cardinal Becciu, five other people were sentenced to jail time ranging from three years to seven years and were ordered to pay the Vatican millions of dollars in damages. Pending appeal, none of the six people given jail terms were taken into custody. The trial revolved around the Vatican’s investment in a property in London’s chic Chelsea district. But the way the deal was structured and restructured ended up costing the Vatican as much as $200 million.

Ohio Bishops Speak of Possible Diocesan Merger

COLUMBUS, Ohio (OSV News) – Two Ohio bishops told OSV News that a potential merger between their dioceses is part of their shared mission “to advance the Gospel (and) to make disciples of all nations.” In a joint letter issued on Monday, December 11, Bishop Earl K. Fernandes of the Diocese of Columbus and Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, said they “have begun very preliminary discussions regarding the potential merger of the dioceses.” The initiative, undertaken at the request of the Apostolic Nunciature, is still in its early stages, with the final decision to be made by Pope Francis after thorough consideration by the U.S. bishops and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops. A possible reshaping of the diocesan territories requires both temporal efforts and spiritual discernment, Bishop Bradley and Bishop Fernandes told OSV News. Population and priestly vocational decline have prompted the inquiry, with a goal of meeting the current and future pastoral needs of the faithful in both diocesan territories.

Having Child Out of Wedlock Does Not Bar Access to Sacraments

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Women who have conceived a child out of wedlock and have the courage to choose life for their baby “should be encouraged to have access to the healing and consoling power of the sacraments,” said the officials with the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández was responding to a question from a bishop expressing concern for single mothers who abstain from the sacraments fearing the rigidity of their pastors and judgment from Catholics in their parishes. “It is noted that in some countries, both priests and some laypeople prevent mothers who have had a child outside of marriage from accessing the sacraments and even baptizing their children,” said the cardinal’s reply, which was approved by Pope Francis on Wednesday, December 13, and was posted on the dicastery’s website the next day.

Pope Advances Sainthood Causes

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis advanced several sainthood causes on Thursday, December 14, including the cause of St. Gianna Beretta Molla’s brother, Capuchin Father Alberto Beretta, who died three years before St. John Paul II canonized his sister. Father Beretta was a missionary in Brazil for 20 years until partial paralysis from a stroke led the Capuchins to bring him back to Italy. During a meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed decrees recognizing the miracles needed for two beatifications: Mexican Missionary of the Holy Spirit Father Moisés Lira Serafín, who lived from 1893-1950 and founded the Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate, and Spanish Discalced Carmelite Sister Ana de Lobera Torres, who was born in Spain in 1545 and was a close collaborator of St. Teresa of Avila.

Court Rejects Illinois Law Restricting Speech Around Pro-Life Centers

ROCKFORD, Illinois (OSV News) – A federal court has struck down an Illinois law that restricted what the state’s 100 pregnancy resource centers, but not abortion clinics, could tell patients. Judge Iain D. Johnston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, issued a permanent injunction against the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act (SB 1909) in response to a lawsuit filed by the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a public-interest law firm. Under the December 11 injunction, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul agreed not to enforce the law, which declared both advertising and counseling by the centers, including sidewalk counseling, to be a “deceptive business practice.” Violation would have imposed fines of up to $50,000.

Supreme Court to Review Challenge to Abortion Pill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – The U.S. Supreme Court said on Wednesday, December 13, that it would take up a case concerning the abortion pill – the first major case involving abortion on its docket since the high court overturned its previous abortion precedent in 2022’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The timing of the case could result in justices issuing their decision next summer amid the 2024 presidential campaign. A coalition of pro-life opponents of mifepristone, which is the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion, previously filed suit in an effort to revoke the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug, arguing the government violated its own safety standards when it first approved the drug in 2000. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s abortion statistics from 2021 showed 53 percent of abortions were carried out via medication.

Pope Francis greets people taking part in a living Nativity scene in Rome after an audience Dec. 16, 2023, in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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