February 3, 2021 // National

News Briefs: February 7, 2021

Archbishop welcomes federal actions on housing, hunger as pandemic continues

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee welcomed the extension of the federal eviction moratorium and an increase in nutrition assistance to families struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said Jan. 27 that the steps by the incoming President Joe Biden administration were necessary for anyone experiencing hardship as the pandemic continues. The Centers for Disease Control announced Jan. 20 that it was extending its order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31. On Jan. 22, the Department of Agriculture announced a 15% increase in food stamp benefits at least through June under the coronavirus aid package passed by Congress in late December. About 29 million people, including as many as 12 million children, live in households struggling to afford food, the department said.

U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair calls plan to codify Roe in federal law ‘tragic’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee called it “deeply disturbing and tragic” that any U.S. president would mark the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe decision that legalized abortion by praising it and committing to codifying it in law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling “denies unborn children their most basic human and civil right, the right to life, under the euphemistic disguise of a health service,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Catholic teaching affirms “the moral evil of every procured abortion, and this “has not changed and remains unchangeable,’” the archbishop said in a statement released late Jan. 22 in response to a statement on Roe by President Joe Biden, a Catholic, and Vice President Kamala Harris. They said their administration “is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.” Meanwhile, Virginia’s Catholic bishops decried the state Senate’s passage of a measure to expand abortion. In Texas, the state Catholic conference endorsed two major pro-life bills that have bipartisan support in the Legislature.

14-nation survey shows U.S. faith has stayed strongest amid COVID-19

WASHINGTON (CNS) — According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, more Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has strengthened their religious faith than those in 13 other nations that possess what Pew called “advanced economies.” On the other side of the coin, though, a majority in every country, the United States included, said the pandemic has made no difference in the level of their faith. With the exception of Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea, the other nations surveyed were all European: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The survey, released Jan. 27, showed that 28% of Americans said the pandemic had strengthened their own religious faith, and 28% said it had strengthened the faith of people in their country. The countries closest to the United States were Spain, where 16% of respondents said the pandemic had strengthened their faith, with 17% saying it had strengthened the faith of other Spaniards, and Italy, where 15% said it had strengthened their own faith and 19% said it had strengthened the faith of other Italians.

U.S. bishops welcome Biden’s order not to release census citizenship data

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The leaders of two U.S. bishops’ committees applauded President Joe Biden’s executive order reversing a policy of the previous administration that excluded unauthorized immigrants from the census count. “We welcome this return to more than a century of American precedent that ensures all residents will be counted and included in the census and apportionment,” said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration. “This return to our previous policy reflects the inalienable truth that all people matter and are imbued with human dignity,” they said in a joint statement Jan. 22. Biden’s census order — among several that he signed his first day in office — reversed two of President Donald Trump’s directives related to the 2020 census. The former administration had sought to determine the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records and also planned to exclude those in the U.S. illegally from being counted in the process of apportioning state congressional seats.

Biden action on Title X makes abortion part of family planning program

WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Joe Biden’s decision to rescind a regulation governing the Title X family planning program that was enforced by the Trump administration “will force abortion” to be part of the program and “may be unlawful,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee. Started in 1970, the Title X Family Planning Program is a federal grant program for low-income patients to receive family planning and reproductive health services, such as contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and breast and cervical cancer screenings. In February 2019, the Trump administration implemented the “Protect Life Rule” that enforces the Title X rule banning taxpayer funds from being used to promote or provide abortion as family planning. On Feb 24 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rule, which is what Biden is revoking. With enforcement of the rule, Title X “draws a bright line between abortion and family planning,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “Forcing abortion into a pre-pregnancy program specifically designed to exclude abortion,” he added, is “immoral, impractical and may also be unlawful.”

Academy for Life urges quick action to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Saying there is “too much antagonism and competition” as well as an obvious “risk of severe injustices” in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the Pontifical Academy for Life called for international cooperation in setting up vaccine production sites around the world. The same kind of collaboration that went into the development of the vaccines must now be employed to ensure there is an adequate supply available, including for the world’s poorest countries, the academy said in a statement Jan. 22. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, and Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, the academy’s chancellor, insisted swift action must be taken to avoid some countries receiving the vaccine “very late because of shortages due to the prior purchase of large quantities by the richer states.” In an earlier statement, the academy had asked governments “to overcome the logic of ‘vaccine nationalism,’” with wealthy nations reserving massive amounts of the vaccine without considering how poorer countries would access doses. The academy called for international agreements “to manage patents” on the approved vaccines so that, using the same formulas, doses could be produced around the world and distributed locally.

WYD organizers release official theme song for Lisbon 2023 gathering

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — World Youth Day organizers released the winning theme song for the international gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2023. The official song is titled “Ha Pressa no Ar” (There Is Urgency in the Air). The lyrics were written by a 51-year-old priest, Father Joao Paulo Vaz, and the music was composed by 41-year-old Pedro Ferreira, both of the Diocese of Coimbra, Portugal. The musical arrangement was by Carlos Garcia. The winning song was officially presented online Jan. 27 on the websites of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life (www.laityfamilylife.va) and the local organizing committee at www.lisboa2023.org. People from all over Portugal submitted more than 100 potential theme songs, and they were evaluated by a jury made up of musical and artistic professionals, according to a press release from the organizers. The song’s lyrics reflect the theme chosen for WYD Lisbon by Pope Francis, “Mary arose and went with haste” — a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke about Mary going to see her cousin Elizabeth after Mary had been visited by an angel who told her she would bear the son of God.

Church activists demand investigation after possible massacre of migrants

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Catholics groups are calling on the Mexican government to investigate a possible massacre of migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexican officials found 19 charred bodies in two burned-out vehicles Jan. 23 in municipality of Camargo, an area rife with organized crime activity, which sits opposite the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. It’s considered a popular spot for smugglers working with organized criminal groups to move migrants across the border. The crime scene immediately caused suspicions, however: no shell casings were found, prompting suspicions that the victims were murdered elsewhere, according to Mexican media. Families of migrants who had set out from Guatemala voiced worries that the victims might be their kin. “They have the certainty that they are their family members,” said Jesuit Father José Luis González, coordinator of the Jesuit Migrant Network, Central America and North America, who was in touch with some of the families who have lost contact with their loved ones. The families said their relatives set out from the Mayan communities of San Marcos, a Guatemalan department in the highlands near the Mexican border. They received news on migrants possibly going missing from another group that also was traveling north, Father González said.

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