Pope amends canon law so women can be installed as lectors, acolytes
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Recognizing “the gifts of each baptized person” — women and men — Pope Francis ordered a change to canon law and liturgical norms so that women could be formally installed as lectors and acolytes. “A consolidated practice in the Latin church has confirmed, in fact, that such lay ministries, being based on the sacrament of baptism, can be entrusted to all the faithful who are suitable, whether male or female,” the pope wrote in his order changing canon law. The document, issued “motu proprio” (on his own accord), was published by the Vatican Jan. 11. It changes the wording of Canon 230, paragraph 1. In most dioceses around the world — and at the Vatican as well — women and girls have been lectors at Mass and have served at the altar for decades. That service was possible, not as a formally instituted ministry, but under the terms of Canon 230, paragraph 2, which allowed for women or men to carry out the functions “by temporary designation.” In a letter published with the document, Pope Francis repeated St. John Paul II’s teaching that the Catholic Church “in no way has the faculty to confer priestly ordination of women” since Jesus chose only men as His apostles. But with “nonordained ministries it is possible, and today it seems opportune, to overcome this reservation” of allowing only men to be formally and permanently instituted as lectors and acolytes.
National Prayer Vigil for Life will be virtual this year
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Each year on the night before the annual March for Life, at least 10,000 people have filled the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. This year, due to local restrictions on attendance sizes because of the pandemic, the prayer vigil will be virtual. Catholics across the country are instead being are encouraged to take part in a nationwide prayer vigil from Jan. 28 through Jan. 29, marking the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion. The vigil will begin with a live broadcast at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 28 from the basilica, starting with the praying of the rosary followed by Mass. Bishops from across the country will leading Holy Hours throughout the night in the livestreamed vigil. The service can be viewed on EWTN or livestreams from the basilica or from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
COVID-19 claims lives of over 200 priests in Italy since start of pandemic
ROME (CNS) — Of the more than 76,000 people known to have died of COVID-19 in Italy the past 11 months, more than 200 were priests, according to the Catholic newspaper, Avvenire. Already four priests have died since the start of 2021, the newspaper said Jan. 6, adding that the cumulative toll amounts to about one death every one and a half days since the pandemic began. Some 204 priests, many of whom were still actively serving their communities, have died in Italy as of early January, the newspaper reported. While the majority of men were in their late 70s and 80s, one of the youngest to have lost his life was 58-year-old Father Alfredo Nicolardi of the Diocese of Como, who died Dec. 31. Hospitalized Dec. 8, his condition worsened and, right before he had to be intubated, he asked a visiting priest for absolution “through the glass” separating them. Vocationist Father Matteo Mpampanye, who was born in Congo and was serving in parishes south of Salerno, died Dec. 1 at age 51.
Virtual retreats offer boost for spiritual health
CONCORDIA, Kan. (CNS) — The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions for a spiritual crisis, but a traditional retreat at a house run by women religious isn’t necessarily COVID-19 friendly. Though the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, have long offered one-on-one spiritual direction — with the sisters and staff of Manna House of Prayer also offering directed retreats on a variety of topics — the threat of COVID-19 has made most in-person meetings impossible or impractical. The sisters at Manna House quickly assessed the situation and began offering both spiritual direction and many of their retreats virtually. Virtual spiritual direction is not new to Manna House. Several of the spiritual directors had previously used video calls or messaging platforms to reach out across long distances to offer their services. They used that experience — and the addition of other technology tools like Zoom — to increase their reach in 2020 as the pandemic swept across the country. “In these times of COVID-19 and all of the uncertainty and suffering it has caused, the heartbreak of losing loved ones, jobs, markets, businesses and the future that we’d dreamed of or banked on, it is sometimes helpful to have a ‘spiritual companion’ or ‘soul friend’ to visit with about the deepest concerns and questions that haunt us,” said Sister Marcia Allen, a spiritual director at Manna House.
Quebec government closes places of worship for a month
QUEBEC CITY (CNS) — Churches and all places of worship are once again closing in the province of Quebec in an effort to stop the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision is part of a new series of containment measures announced by Premier Francois Legault Jan. 6. Places of worship will be closed from Jan. 9 to Feb. 8. Only funerals will be authorized, but limited to 10 people. The government of Quebec announced stricter rules Jan. 6, including a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. “It’s urgent to reduce contacts between Quebecers,” said Legault, asking citizens to leave their homes only when absolutely necessary. “We are in a race against time and, right now, the virus is going faster than us. We need to strike a blow if we want to save lives and if we want to continue to be able to heal our world,” he said. During his news conference, Legault mentioned some “problems” with places of worship but did not go into details, simply saying they’ll also be closed — along with many other public places, including nonessential stores — for at least a month.
Pope marks opening of Holy Door at Santiago de Compostela
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pilgrims who embark on the long journey of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela remind others of the spiritual journey all Christians make through life toward heaven, Pope Francis said. In a letter marking the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the pope said that just like countless pilgrims who embark on the famed Camino toward the tomb of St. James the Great each year, Christians are “a pilgrim people” who do not travel toward “a utopic ideal but rather a concrete goal. The pilgrim is capable of placing himself or herself in God’s hands, aware that the promised homeland is present in the one who wished to make camp amid his people, to guide their journey,” the pope wrote in the letter sent to Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela and published Dec. 31. The Holy Year is celebrated in Compostela in years when the July 25 feast of the apostle falls on a Sunday. The most recent Holy Year was observed in 2010. For centuries, pilgrims have traveled along the famed Camino de Santiago de Compostela to venerate the remains of St. James.
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