January 16, 2024 // National

News Briefs: January 21, 2024

Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez Released, Exiled

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa has been released from prison and sent into exile along with 18 imprisoned churchmen as the Nicaraguan government expelled its most prominent critic, whose presence behind bars bore witness to the Sandinista regime’s descent into totalitarianism, along with its unrelenting persecution of the Catholic Church. Vatican News confirmed on Sunday, January 14, that with the exception of one priest who remained in Venezuela, all released priests, including Bishop Álvarez and Bishop Isidoro Mora of Siuna, have arrived in Rome “in the last few hours” and are “guests of the Holy See.” A Nicaraguan independent media outlet posted a photograph on X, formerly Twitter, of the two freed bishops concelebrating Mass in Rome. The media outlet reported that the churchmen had departed Nicaragua on a flight for Rome after the government reached an agreement with the Vatican for their release and exile. Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez of Managua, who left the country in 2019, also confirmed the news at a Mass in Miami. “‘Get up quickly.’ The chains fell from his wrists,” Bishop Báez said on X, formerly Twitter, quoting Acts 12:7. “With great joy, I thank God that my brother bishops, priests, and seminarians are out of prison. Justice has triumphed. The power of the prayer of God’s people has been displayed.”

Ohio House Votes to Override Veto of Gender Bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (OSV News) – The Ohio House voted on Wednesday, January 10, to override Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s recent veto of legislation that bans certain types of medical or surgical gender reassignment procedures for minors who identify as transgender and also prohibits athletes from competing on sports teams corresponding with their self-perceived gender identity opposite their biological sex. The Ohio Senate is expected to vote on overriding DeWine’s veto on Wednesday, January 24. Ohio law requires a legislative supermajority, three-fifths of both the House and Senate, to override a governor’s veto. Supporters of prohibitions on surgical or hormonal treatments for minors who identify as transgender say the legislation would prevent minors from making irreversible decisions as children they may later come to regret as adults. Officials with the Ohio Catholic Conference supported the passage of the bill, saying in written testimony in November that the organization “recognizes the significant distress, pain, and complications caused by gender dysphoria,” but argued that “concerns about human ecology with a humility about the empirical claims regarding medical best practices for minors experiencing gender dysphoria,” should restrict transitions for minors.

Michigan AG Issues Gaylord Diocese Report

GAYLORD, Michigan (OSV News) – Officials with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office on Monday, January 8, released its second of seven expected reports related to clergy sexual abuse in Michigan’s seven dioceses and outlined its findings related to abuse allegations in the Diocese of Gaylord. The report found that more than 85 percent of allegations against 28 clergy took place before 2000, with the majority in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Since 1950, it said, allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against 26 priests and two deacons in the Diocese of Gaylord; of those, 18 were ordained or incardinated by the Gaylord diocese, which was established in 1971. The report details both substantiated and unsubstantiated allegations of abuse, including cases in which Michigan’s statute of limitations or the death of the priest in question have precluded charges. “It is important to note, a criminal charge is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” the statement said. The Attorney General’s Office praised the Diocese of Gaylord’s cooperation in the investigation, adding the diocese’s help “was instrumental in the compilation of the report.”

Argentine President Invites Pope to Visit ‘Beloved Homeland’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Argentine President Javier Milei has invited Pope Francis to visit their “beloved homeland” and said he will come to the Vatican in February. “I believe that your trip will bring fruits of pacification and the fraternity of all Argentines, eager to overcome our divisions and conflicts,” he said in a letter sent to the pope. “Your presence and your message will contribute to the long-desired unity of all our compatriots and will provide us with the collective strength necessary to preserve our peace and work for the prosperity and enhancement of our beloved Argentine Republic,” he wrote. The letter, addressed to “Holy Father,” was dated Monday, January 8. The next day, the Argentine daily newspaper La Nación reported that Milei would be coming to the Vatican to attend the canonization ceremony of Blessed María Antonia de San José on Sunday, February 11. She will be the first female of Argentina to be canonized.

Wisconsin Judge Suspends Criminal Case Against McCarrick

MADISON, Wisconsin (OSV News) – A Wisconsin judge suspended a criminal case against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick on Wednesday, January 10, citing incompetency. McCarrick had been charged with fourth-degree sexual assault for abuse that allegedly took place in 1977. The ruling follows a dismissal of all criminal charges against McCarrick in Massachusetts in August, when the former cleric also was deemed no longer mentally competent. In that case, Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole ruled McCarrick, a once-powerful and influential Catholic cardinal, is unable to stand trial after receiving a medical report from prosecutors that agreed with the earlier defense report that McCarrick, 93, is suffering from dementia. McCarrick’s lawyers claimed McCarrick suffers from advancing and irreversible dementia. No other criminal cases regarding McCarrick are pending.

Pope Fields Questions About Blessings

ROME (CNS) – Responding to questions from priests and deacons ministering in the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis said the possibility of blessing gay couples regards “people, not organizations” or their agendas. The pope spent about three hours on Saturday, January 13, with some 800 priests and deacons at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, the diocesan cathedral. He prayed with the clergy and answered about 30 questions from them, according to diocesan officials. The meeting was held behind closed doors, but Vatican News reported on what the pope said, although it did not quote him directly. Avvenire, the daily Catholic newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, reported quotes from the pope attributed to priests who were present. In Africa, the provision allowing for non-liturgical, informal blessings of gay couples and couples in irregular marriage situations will not be adopted, the pope said, because “the culture will not accept it,” Avvenire reported. But the pope added, “We are blessing people, not (their) sin.”

Pope Francis Says He’s Not Thinking of Resigning

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While a pope can resign, Pope Francis said it is not something he is thinking about or worrying about now. “It is neither a thought, nor a worry, nor even a desire; it is a possibility, open to all popes. But for the moment, it is not at the center of my thoughts, my worries, my feelings,” he said in an interview on Italian television on Sunday, January 14. “As long as I feel I still have the capacity to serve, I will go on,” the 87-year-old pope said. “When I can no longer do it, it will be time to think about it.” Pope Francis made the comments in an interview, lasting more than 50 minutes, on the program “Che Tempo Che Fa” on Italy’s Nove channel.

Faithful walk in procession toward the Dnipro River for the blessing of water Jan. 6, 2024, after Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, celebrated a Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv amid ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. (OSV News photo/courtesy Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)

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