February 19, 2022 // National

News Briefs: February 20, 2022

Pope restructures the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As part of ongoing measures to reform the Roman Curia, Pope Francis has approved restructuring the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the oldest of the congregations. Once comprised of a doctrinal office, a discipline office and a marriage office, the new structure will see the doctrinal and discipline offices become their own special sections led by their own secretaries; the marriage office will become part of the doctrinal office. The two secretaries will serve under the congregation’s prefect. Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who has been prefect of the congregation since 2017, will celebrate his 78th birthday April 19. The heads of Vatican offices are required to offer their resignations to the pope when they turn 75. In “Fidem servare” (Preserving the Faith), published “motu proprio,” (on his own initiative) Feb. 14, Pope Francis said the main task of the congregation has been to safeguard or “keep the faith.” The changes went into effect the same day. Over time, the congregation has seen modifications to its areas of responsibilities and how it is configured, and now, Pope Francis said, further change is needed “to give it an approach more suited to the fulfillment of its functions.”

Men must join fight against human trafficking, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Male-female relationships based on “discrimination and submission” lead to the exploitation and humiliation of thousands of women and girls each year, Pope Francis said. “Human trafficking, through domestic or sexual exploitation, violently relegates women and girls to their supposed role of subordination in the provision of domestic or sexual services and to their role as providers of care and dispensers of pleasure, which proposes yet again a model of relationships marked by the power of the male gender over the female,” Pope Francis said in a video message. Marking the Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking and the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis insisted, “The violence suffered by every woman and every girl is an open wound on the body of Christ, on the body of all humanity; it is a deep wound that affects every one of us, too. The thousands of women and girls who are trafficked every year denounce the dramatic consequences of relational models based on discrimination and submission, and it is not an exaggeration – there are thousands of them!” Praising the women and women religious around the world dedicated to fighting human trafficking, coerced prostitution, forced marriage and slave labor, Pope Francis said men must get involved as well, “opposing with all our might every form of exploitation in human trafficking.”

Retired pope has full support of Pope Francis, aide says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis was among those showing their support for retired Pope Benedict XVI, sending his predecessor “a beautiful letter,” according to the former pope’s secretary. In the letter, Pope Francis “speaks as a shepherd, as a brother” and “expressed once again his complete trust, his full support and also his prayers,” said the secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. The archbishop spoke to the Italian news program TG1 on Feb. 9 about the retired pope’s letter in response to a report on sexual abuse cases in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which the former pope headed as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1977 to 1982. Pope Benedict, who has denied allegations of mishandling four cases of clerical sexual abuse put forth by the report, emphasized in a letter on Feb. 8 his feelings of great shame and sorrow for the abuse of minors and made a request for forgiveness to all victims of sexual abuse. Archbishop Gänswein was asked to respond to criticisms by some victims’ advocates and media in Germany that Pope Benedict’s apology was insufficient. “Whoever reads the letter in a sincere way, the way in which the letter was written, cannot agree with these criticisms or these accusations. He asks all victims of abuse for forgiveness,” he said.

Republicans introduce immigration bill, but GOP divided over it

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – Republicans are divided on an immigration bill introduced by members of their own party that would grant citizenship to millions who are in the country without legal permission. Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar, of Florida, in a Feb. 9 news conference, talked about the Dignity Act. The bill would help those who were brought into the country as minors without legal permission and others who contribute to the U.S. economy, while it also would focus on reinforcing the border. “The United States has historically been a beacon of refuge for those fleeing violence and oppression or seeking a new life and opportunities,” Salazar said. “In recent decades, our broken immigration system has been exploited, leading to a situation that is unbecoming of our great nation. While the United States is a nation of laws, we are also a nation of second chances,” she said. “Through dignity and a chance at redemption, this legacy can continue.” Some of the provisions in the proposal include having immigrants pay $1,000 annually for 10 years into a fund as restitution and that money would help train other workers.

Priest, 79, braves cold to make pilgrimage of prayer for Ukraine by bike

WARREN, R.I. (CNS) – As Ukraine faces a fierce challenge to its young democracy from more than 120,000 Russian forces stacked on its borders, poised to invade at any time, a Rhode Island priest is showing solidarity with the plight of the people of the overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation. “Russia is surrounding the Ukraine with troops. What else can I do but pray?” said Father Thomas O’Neill, 79, a senior priest of the Diocese of Providence. Father O’Neill embarked on a pilgrimage of prayer on a morning where the mercury hovered at 15 degrees as he rode his bicycle from his home in Middletown to St. Patrick Church in Providence in late January. He stopped at churches along the way to offer prayers for peace in the region. A well-read student of history, who spent 20 years of his ministry serving outside the United States, Father O’Neill fears what will happen to the Ukrainian people if Russian President Vladimir Putin directs the vast array of forces he has amassed on three sides of Europe’s second largest nation by area to invade Ukraine. During a stop at St. Mary of the Bay Church in Warren, Father O’Neill recounted how, during the era of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, millions of Ukrainians starved to death. The brutal dictator caused a famine by ordering Ukraine’s small farms to operate as a collective, usurping their harvests to feed those living in Russia. Stalin’s goal was also to punish Ukrainians whose dreams for independence would threaten his total authority.

Since COVID’s first storm, octogenarian hospital chaplain still ministering

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Italian Capuchin Father Aquilino Apassiti lived through air raid bombings as a boy during World War II, worked as a nurse for 18 years, spent 25 years as a missionary in the Amazon facing regular outbreaks of malaria and leprosy and survived pancreatic cancer. But nothing was more shocking than seeing the lines of ambulances outside the hospital he worked at and the rows of coffins he blessed piling up in the morgue in early 2020 in Bergamo – the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy, registering the highest number of known cases and deaths related to the coronavirus. “I never saw anything like this in my life, not even in the leper colonies where I worked in Brazil,” he told Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. “But I never lost hope. People came from all over the world to help out,” he said in an interview published Feb. 11, World Day of the Sick and the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The 85-year-old Capuchin is still serving as a chaplain at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, which had allowed its four chaplains to continue their ministry, but with stricter precautions and limitations.

Vatican confirms pope to visit Malta in April

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will visit Malta on April 2-3, a Vatican spokesman said. Accepting the invitation of the president, civil authorities and bishops of the Mediterranean country, the pope will visit the cities of Valletta, Rabat and Floriana and the island of Gozo, Matteo Bruni, the spokesman, said in a written statement on Feb. 10.  “The program and further details of the journey will be announced in the near future,” he said. Malta is an archipelago made up of three main islands where St. Paul and his companions washed ashore nearly 2,000 years ago. Today, more than 90% of the country’s 460,000 people profess to be Catholic. Pope Benedict XVI visited Malta in 2010 to help commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s arrival and the birth of Christianity in this Mediterranean nation situated between Sicily and North Africa. He met privately with local sex abuse victims in the midst of a worldwide storm over how the Church handled clerical sex abuse; he assured the survivors that the Church was doing everything in its power to bring perpetrators to justice and to prevent further abuse of young people.

A veteran of the Ukrainian National Guard Azov battalion conducts military exercises for civilians in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 30, 2022, amid threat of Russian invasion. (CNS photo/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

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