March 6, 2024 // National

News Briefs: March 10, 2024

Church Leaders Condemn Attack in Gaza City

JERUSALEM (OSV News) – Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem condemned a “wanton attack” by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians in Gaza City who were waiting for delivery of humanitarian aid on Thursday, February 29. Gaza health authorities said the attack left more than 100 people dead. In the aftermath of “horrifying events” and their “cruel context,” Christian leaders condemned the attack “against innocent civilians” in a March 1 statement and called “for the warring parties to reach an immediate and lengthy” cease-fire that “allows for the speedy disbursement of relief supplies” throughout the Gaza Strip, and for enacting “a negotiated release” of those being held captive and prisoners. After the October 7 Hamas onslaught on Israeli southern border communities that left some 1,200 people dead and 253 people taken hostage into Gaza, Israel launched a fierce air and land military attack into the Gaza Strip, which to date has claimed the lives of 30,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. As the war enters its fifth month, international aid organizations have warned about increasing dangers of infectious disease spreading and starvation. Recalling “thousands of dead, wounded, displaced, and the immense destruction cause suffering” of the “small and the defenseless,” Pope Francis urged in his Angelus prayer on Sunday, March 3: “Enough, please! Let us all say it: enough, please! Stop!”

Walgreens, CVS to Dispense Pills Used for Abortion, Early Miscarriage

DEERFIELD, Illinois (OSV News) – Officials with two major U.S. pharmacy chains have announced they will begin dispensing the drug mifepristone, which has been prescribed for both abortion and early miscarriage, within the coming days. Representatives of Walgreens and CVS announced the move on Friday, March 1, in an interview with The New York Times. Walgreens officials issued a news release the same day, stating that it “expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws” in a “phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members.” Both pharmacy chains have received certification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to supply the drug under guidelines the agency issued last year. At present, the chains will only provide mifepristone in person, not by mail, in select states where both abortion and pharmacy distribution of the drugs is legal. A synthetic steroid, mifepristone – introduced 20 years ago – works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for pregnancy to continue. When used in combination with misoprostol, which causes contractions, it induces a “medication abortion” up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy; this regimen accounts for more than half of abortions today according to Guttmacher Institute data.

Alabama House, Senate Pass Bills to Safeguard IVF

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (OSV News) – Alabama lawmakers in both the state’s House and Senate on Thursday, February 29, passed similar bills to implement legal protections to in vitro fertilization clinics following a ruling by that state’s Supreme Court that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state’s wrongful death law. IVF is a form of fertility treatment opposed by the Catholic Church on the grounds that it often involves the destruction of human embryos, among other concerns. Both chambers passed similar bills, but they must reconcile their pieces of legislation before sending one to the governor’s desk. Republican Governor Kay Ivey has signaled her support for protecting IVF in law. The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court found that embryos are children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, a statute that allows parents of a deceased child to recover punitive damages for their child’s death. That ruling came in response to appeals brought by couples whose embryos were destroyed in 2020, when a hospital patient improperly removed frozen embryos from storage equipment, which they argued constituted a wrongful death. The judges found that under the law, parents’ ability to sue over the wrongful death of a minor child applies to unborn children, without an exception for “extrauterine children.” Though limited in scope, the ruling has created complex legal questions about what it entailed for IVF treatments in the state.

Church Calls for Participation as Divisive Mexican Election Campaigns Begin

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Mexican electoral campaigns started on Friday, March 1, for a historic election: The country is likely to elect its first female president as women lead the two main party coalitions. Ruling MORENA party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum would become Mexico’s first Jewish president if she wins on June 2. Xóchitl Gálvez, a candidate for a three-party coalition, is of Indigenous Otomi descent. Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the small Citizen Movement party is also on the ballot. Officials with the Mexican bishops’ conference have urged citizens “to actively and committedly participate in the upcoming electoral elections … as a gesture of service, justice, and peace.” But the campaigns are unfolding amid divisions in Mexico, where populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador – who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking reelection – has overshadowed the candidates running to replace him. Much of the preelection period has been marked by political bickering and rising violence. Two mayoral candidates were murdered in western Michoacán state on Monday, February 26, reflecting the increasing incursions of drug cartels into electoral politics. “This is a completely polarized country,” said Father Raúl Martínez, a priest in the Diocese of Valle de Chalco on the southeastern outskirts of Mexico City. The bishops planned to meet with the three candidates on Monday, March 4, to sign a National Commitment for Peace, “which seeks to propose public policy strategies to stop the painful violence that has left thousands of victims.”

Pope Returns to Work After Going to Hospital for Tests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The day after Pope Francis paid a brief visit to Rome’s Gemelli Isola Hospital for “diagnostic tests,” he had a full morning of audiences, including a meeting with bishops from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region making their ad limina visits to the Vatican. The bishops, including Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, had been scheduled to meet the pope on Monday, February 26, but the meeting was postponed to Thursday, February 29, because of what the Vatican press office described as “mild flu-symptoms.” Pope Francis held his weekly general audience on Wednesday, February 28, but began the gathering by telling visitors, “I’m still a bit sick,” and having aides read most of his prepared remarks. Immediately after the audience, “Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests. Afterward, he returned to the Vatican,” according to a statement from officials with the Vatican Press Office. The Reuters news agency reported that the pope underwent a CT scan at the hospital on Rome’s Tiber Island. Officials with the Vatican Press Office did not respond to a request for confirmation. The 87-year-old pope had canceled his appointments on Saturday, February 24, and again on February 26, but he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, February 25, without obvious difficulty.

Italian Bishop Reaffirms Catholics Cannot Join Freemasons

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After participating in a seminar on the Catholic Church and the Freemasons, an Italian bishop reaffirmed that Catholics who belong to Masonic lodges are in a “serious state of sin” and cannot receive Communion. Bishop Antonio Staglianò, President of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, spoke to Vatican News on Saturday, February 24, after participating in the seminar on Friday, February 16, with the leaders of Italy’s three main Masonic lodges, Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan and Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, retired President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. The seminar was sponsored by GRIS, an Italian Catholic research group founded in the 1980s to promote research about cults and religious sects. News that the seminar was taking place made headlines across Italy, particularly because in November officials with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed Church teaching that membership in Freemasonry is incompatible with being Catholic. “Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” the doctrinal officials said, pointing to the longstanding Church position, explained in detail in the office’s “Declaration on Masonic Associations” in 1983.

A Palestinian man who was wounded by Israeli fire while waiting for aid, according to health officials, lies on a bed at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, March 1, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (OSV News photo/Kosay Al Nemer, Reuters)

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