February 14, 2023 // National

News Briefs: February 19, 2023

Philadelphia Archbishop Expresses ‘Shock, Deep Disappointment’ Over Racist Video by Catholic High School Girls

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia issued a Feb. 10 message stating he shares in the “shock and deep disappointment” of an archdiocesan Catholic high school community, following a racist social media video that came to light on Feb. 7. Three students from St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls are “no longer part of the school community” for posting a social media video featuring racial slurs and blackface, according to officials. At least two community protests have taken place at the school. St. Hubert administrators are seeking support from the Anti-Defamation League and from the archdiocesan Commission on Racial Healing, whose chair, Father Stephen Thorne, told OSV News that “encounter, formation, and action” are needed to dismantle racism.

Church Of England Plans to Debate Referring to God ‘In a Non-Gendered Way’

LIVERPOOL, England (OSV News) — The Church of England is planning to debate the introduction of liturgy that refers to persons of the Holy Trinity “in a non-gendered way” instead of using male pronouns. The move was confirmed in the answer to a question submitted ahead of the General Synod 2023 which took place from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9 in London. The Reverend Joanna Stobart, an Anglican vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in southwestern England, asked the Liturgical Commission to provide “an update on the steps being taken to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy and to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns.” The Church of England signaled, however, that the exercise might not result in the replacement of non-gendered pronouns or alternative references to the persons of the Trinity as substitutes for Father and Son. “This is nothing new,” officials with the Church of England said in a Feb. 8 statement sent by email to OSV News. “The Liturgical Commission — the body which prepares forms of service for the Church of England — has been regularly considering these questions since 2014,” the statement continued.

Miami Archbishop Offers to House Exiled Nicaraguan Priests, Seminarians

MIAMI (OSV News) — Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski spoke to the Florida Catholic on Feb. 11 about the expected arrival in Miami of some of the political prisoners released by the Nicaraguan government and flown to the U.S. on Feb. 9. “Most of the people expelled were politicians or candidates for public office that (Daniel) Ortega locked up before the elections,” the archbishop said, but among them were “four or five priests, a couple of seminarians, a deacon, and an organist.” Although they would be taken in at first by Nicaraguan families, Archbishop Wenski said he offered the priests and seminarians longer term housing at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. “I’m offering them the hospitality of the seminary as well as the opportunity to get acclimated, acculturated, and see what the next steps would be after that,” he said. At the seminary, they could take “intensive English classes” while finalizing their immigration paperwork. The Nicaraguans were expected to arrive from Washington, D.C. on Feb. 12 and take part in the 1 p.m. Mass normally celebrated at St. Agatha Church by exiled Nicaraguan Bishop Silvio José Báez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua.

Church Leaders Upbeat after Key Synodal Assembly for Europe

OXFORD, United Kingdom (OSV News) — Catholic delegates have praised the conciliatory atmosphere of debates on the church’s future direction at a continental assembly preparing Europe’s recommendations for October’s Rome Synod on Synodality. “With so many cultural and liturgical differences, particularly between East and West, we won’t achieve a complete consensus — but this very diversity gives Europe its distinctive voice within the universal church,” Father Jan Nowotnik, Mission Director for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, told OSV News. The priest spoke to OSV News after presenting a 22-page draft report to the assembly in Prague, attended in person or online Feb. 5-9 by 590 delegates representing 39 bishops’ conferences across the continent and including 44 guests from church organizations and non-Catholic denominations.

U.S. Catholics Urged to Aid, Pray for Quake Victims in Turkey, Syria

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — Reacting to “heartbreaking scenes” of death and destruction in Turkey and Syria, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee urged U.S. Catholics and all people of goodwill to pray for the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the two countries on Feb. 6 and to give generously to those in need. According to The Associated Press on Feb. 10, the death toll had risen to more than 23,000 and about 75,000 others were injured. “I join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in praying for the souls of the departed as we mourn the loss of so many lives,” Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a Feb. 8 statement. “We pray for those injured and the many others suffering, and we also pray for the safety and protection of emergency personnel working to save lives and tending to those in need in the wake of this disaster,” he said. Bishop Malloy urged U.S. Catholics to give to Catholic Relief Services, crs.org, and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, cnewa.org, to support their efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief.

‘We Cannot Defend Ourselves Without Arms,’ Ukrainian Archbishop Says in a Catholic Panel

OXFORD (OSV News) — The head of the Ukrainian Catholic church has defended President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s requests for long-range weapons, although a Vatican diplomat warned that arms supply is a complex topic. “I cannot morally endorse this request for arms because I don’t know all the details — but we cannot defend ourselves without arms,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, during a Feb. 8 online seminar organized by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. “It may sound strange that religious leaders favor the military support Ukraine is looking for, but to survive, we have to defend ourselves. If someone knows how we can stop Russian troops without arms, let them please tell us the secret.” However, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Vatican’s nuncio in Kyiv, told the seminar that “when we raise such questions about weapons and arms, the country which first introduced their military to Ukraine would have this question addressed to them first,” suggesting talks with Russia are a necessary step as they started the war. “When addressing Ukraine’s legitimate right to self-defense, the Holy Father and our Secretariat of State have always stressed the proportional use of weapons — you must think how to use them, wisely and attentively addressing all aspects,” he said. “I really have no idea when this war will end — though it’s shocking to hear this, not all the world is united against it, so we still have a lot of work to do, even if we believe in miracles,” the nuncio said. “My main preoccupation is with those living close to the front line, or under constant shelling in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Kherson, or Bakhmut, where the priests themselves are becoming depressed and tired after so many months seeking shelter from bombardment.”

Pilgrims light a candle at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem Jan. 29, 2023, where tradition holds that spot marks the places of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. (OSV News photo/Tom Tracy)

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