January 31, 2023 // National

News Briefs: February 5, 2023

‘He is the Only Hope We Have,’ Say Refugees in South Sudan about Pope’s Visit

KAMPALA, Uganda (OSV News) — Pope Francis is taking off to the African continent on Jan. 31 for a historic and long-awaited apostolic trip to Congo and South Sudan, countries longing for peace and stability. The pontiff will first travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. From there, in what is called the Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace, Pope Francis will visit South Sudan’s capital, Juba, from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5 in the presence of Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Nyakim Chuol, a South Sudanese refugee living in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda, hopes that the planned visit by Pope Francis to the youngest country in the world will restore peace and allow her family to return to their country. “We have suffered for a very long time, and his coming means a lot to us because he is the only hope we have as people of South Sudan,” the 45-year-old mother of three told OSV News by phone. “The East African country, home to more than 11 million people, has experienced civil war since 2013, following a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar. “It’s our time, and the people of South Sudan have a chance to be blessed by the Holy Father when he visits,” Bishop Emmanuel Bernardino Lowi Napeta of Torit told OSV News, calling the visit a “historical event.” He added: “Pope Francis will be coming to see and hear our sufferings and help end the conflict and suffering of the people of this country. We should pray for him and prepare for his coming because this will have a historical effect on the current peace process.”

Catholics Call for Prayer, Justice as Video of Memphis Black Man’s Deadly Arrest Released

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (OSV News) — Catholics in Memphis and throughout the nation are joining in prayer while calling for justice, as disturbing images of a police arrest turned fatal in that city were released on Jan. 27. Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, and other offenses in the fatal arrest of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died on Jan. 10 following a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Ahead of expected protests as the police body cam footage is made public, Memphis Bishop David P. Talley has urged prayers for peace. The Dominican Friars of Memphis and the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, a historically Black Catholic fraternal order, also issued statements on Jan. 27. “The time for corrective action is long overdue,” said the Clavers’ statement. “We no longer ask ‘Why?’ We now demand the end of these merciless murders which show a stark lack of regard for the most precious gift of life.”

Dolores Leckey, Founding Director of U.S. Bishops’ Laity Secretariat, Dies At 89

ARLINGTON, Va. (OSV News) — Dolores R. Leckey, Founding Director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Laity in 1977 and at the time one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. Catholic Church, died peacefully of natural causes on Jan. 17 in her home in Arlington. She was 89. Leckey worked in the area of lay spirituality as a retreat leader, lecturer, and writer for more than 40 years. She was the recipient of 13 honorary degrees and among her many other honors, she received the St. Elizabeth Seton Medal from Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati in 2012, given in recognition of distinguished women in theology. During her 20 years at the helm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat, now called the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, Leckey was an official adviser to the U.S. bishops at both the 1980 world Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family and the world Synod of Bishops on the laity in 1987. When she retired from the post in 1997, she went to Woodstock Theological Center at Jesuit-run Georgetown University in the spring of 1998 and was the first woman to be a senior fellow at the center. Leckey was the author of numerous published articles, talks, and reflections and also wrote more than a dozen books.

Over Catholic Protests, Minnesota Lawmakers Pass Right to Abortion Law, Send to Governor

ST. PAUL (OSV News) — In a party line vote, Democrats in the Minnesota Senate passed a bill 34-33 in the early morning hours of Jan. 28 to place a right to abortion for any reason and without a limit on viability into state law. The House approved the measure on Jan. 19 and Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill into law. Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates gathered in large numbers outside the Senate chambers at the State Capitol in St. Paul shortly before the debate began about noon on Jan. 27. In that debate, which lasted more than 15 hours, Democrats rejected multiple Republican amendments to the Protect Reproductive Options, or PRO Act, before the final vote on Jan. 28.

Catholic Organizations Applaud, Express Concerns About New Program for Refugees

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — Catholic organizations applauded the announcement on Jan. 19 of a new State Department program that allows groups of private individuals to directly support refugees resettling in the U.S. The Welcome Corps allows applications from private groups formed by five or more people to sponsor refugees for their first 90 days in the U.S. The groups would be responsible for raising at least $2,275 per refugee, greeting them at the airport, arranging housing, enrolling children in school, and finding jobs for adults. The State Department’s goal is for 10,000 Americans to join in the program’s first year. Catholic groups working in resettlement, including the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services Office, praised the new law and hoped parishes would embrace the opportunity to help refugees arrive in the U.S. and potentially help reunite families. Some groups however expressed concerns that three months of support was not long enough for new arrivals to the U.S.

Mass Media Needs More Kindness, Truth Spoken with Charity, Pope Says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The media and the field of communications need to exercise more kindness and share the truth with charity, Pope Francis said. “Kindness is not only a question of ‘etiquette’ but a genuine antidote to cruelty, which unfortunately can poison hearts and make relationships toxic,” the pope wrote in his message for World Communication Day. Just as kindness is needed in social relationships, “we need it in the field of media, so that communication does not foment acrimony that exasperates, creates rage, and leads to clashes, but helps people peacefully reflect and interpret with a critical yet always respectful spirit, the reality in which they live,” he added. “We are all called to seek and to speak the truth and to do so with charity,” he said in the message released at the Vatican on Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. The theme of the 2023 celebration — marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, this year May 21 — is “Speaking with the heart. ‘The truth in love.’” The pope said, “We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable,” but communicators should fear “doing so without charity, without heart.”

A statue of Christ is surrounded by debris outside St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in the Houston suburb of Deer Park after a tornado swept through the town Jan. 24, 2023. The storm also tore off roofs, downed utility poles and power lines, and flipped cars, trucks and even a train. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. (OSV News photo/courtesy Father Reginald Samuels)

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