March 7, 2023 // National

News Briefs: March 12, 2023

Catholic Aid Groups Network to Serve Needs of Turkey, Syria Quake Survivors

NEW YORK (OSV News) — Catholic aid agencies are working alongside other international humanitarian organizations to house, feed, and administer additional life-saving assistance to tens of thousands of people in Syria and Turkey. Devastating earthquakes and tremors that ravaged those two countries in February have killed at least 50,000 people, wounded many more, and displaced millions of others, according to the United Nations, which is leading some of the recovery efforts and has repeatedly appealed for millions more dollars in aid for recovery. In Syria, where people were already suffering the effects of ongoing civil war, the post-quake situation is particularly dire, according to Catholic aid groups doing work there. Through a network of Syria-based Catholic churches, Catholic Near East Welfare Association is now feeding and sheltering about 4,600 people in four areas of the country that had suffered the most damage, said CNEWA Spokesperson Michael La Civita. Jesuit Relief Services ultimately plans to reach out to about 40,000 affected people in Syria, via its food and shelter programs now underway, which include a psychosocial component. Caritas Turkey Program Manager Giulia Longo said the agency was helping distribute food, clothing, blankets, hygiene packages, and some psychosocial services to approximately 2,600 people, including refugees, in some of the hardest hit and remote areas of Turkey.

Abuse Expert Father Hans Zollner Looks at the State of the Crisis in the Church Today

ROME (OSV News) — On March 3, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, Pope Francis’ point man on the clergy abuse crisis, was appointed as consultant to the Diocese of Rome’s newly established office dedicated to the protection of minors and vulnerable persons. “I am committed to listening to survivors and to promoting education and formation in the field of safeguarding, and look forward to continuing to do so in this new role,” Father Zollner said in a March 3 statement following the announcement. OSV News sat down with Father Zollner ahead of the announcement to ask about the state of the matter on abuse in the Church today. Father Zollner said that while the road to successfully tackling the clergy sexual abuse crisis globally remains a long one, he is hopeful that “there is some improvement.” But, he added, “it is a very, very slow process that needs constant input and constant reminder.” The Director of the Institute of Anthropology – Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care in Rome spoke to OSV News on the 4th anniversary of the Vatican Summit on Child Protection, which concluded on Feb. 24, 2019, and was attended by presidents of bishops’ conferences across the globe. Father Zollner’s institute has created a network and a place to go to when help is needed, even if it cannot offer extensive case work. “People who are interested, want to consult, want to visit, want to share — they find us. Victims and secondary victims, bishops, bishops’ conferences, councils, religious, laypeople.” 

Vatican Statistics Show Decline in Clergy, Religious Women, Worldwide

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The number of Catholics and permanent deacons in the world rose in 2021, while the number of seminarians, priests, and men and women in religious orders declined, according to Vatican statistics. At the end of 2021, the number of Catholics in the world reached 1.378 billion, up 1.3 percent from 1.36 billion Catholics at the end of 2020, according to the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a brief overview of the global numbers on March 3. The total number of diocesan and religious order priests decreased globally by 0.57 percent to 407,872, the Vatican office said. The total number of religious women, it said, was 608,958 at the end of 2021 — a decrease of 1.7 percent from 619,546 at the end of 2020. The number of permanent deacons — 49,176 — saw a 1.1 percent increase over the previous year, with the majority of them serving in the Americas. The number of seminarians has been declining each year since 2013, Vatican officials said. The only increase by region for 2021 was in Africa with 0.6 percent and the sharpest decline in the number of seminarians was in North America and Europe with a 5.8 percent decrease each in 2021.

Prayer Services Honor Student Slain Outside Atlanta’s Lyke House Newman Center

ATLANTA (OSV News) — A broom swept glass shards from the crime scene into a dustpan as Lyke House Newman Center staff cleared the parking lot. The workers removed the small, gleaming debris for its upcoming prayer service. At midday on Feb. 28, Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling was killed outside the center, the spiritual home for students attending three historically Black colleges and universities, and Georgia State University. On March 2, police arrested Keontay Holliman-Peoples, 25, in the death of Sterling and he was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and other counts. Police said the two young men knew each other and had gotten into a dispute before the fatal incident. On the day of the shooting, Father Urey Mark, the center’s chaplain, and lay minister Rudy Schlosser had returned to the center after celebrating Mass and visiting with students at the Georgia State campus, less than two miles away, to find yellow crime scene tape circling the parking lot and police officers out in force.

Supreme Court to Consider Employers Who Make Christians Work Sunday Violates Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a case on April 18 that could have broad implications for employees seeking religious accommodations from their employers. The high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Groff v. DeJoy, a case concerning Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian and former U.S. Postal Service worker, who was denied an accommodation to observe his Sunday Sabbath by not taking Sunday shifts. Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees who request religious accommodations unless the employer can show that the worker’s religious practice cannot be “reasonably” accommodated without “undue hardship.” The Supreme Court issued a 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison finding that the “undue hardship” standard is met even at a minimal cost. Randy Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center, a group representing Groff, told OSV News that Groff “has a very strong conviction about Sunday being the Lord’s Day,” which caused him to seek employment at a place that was closed on Sundays.

Remembering Deadly Shipwreck, Pope Prays to End Human Trafficking

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Human traffickers must be stopped from risking the lives of migrants traveling in search of a better future, Pope Francis said. After praying the Angelus with some 25,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square on March 5, the pope prayed for the victims of a shipwreck off the coast of Cutro in Italy’s southern province of Crotone, which killed at least 70 people on Feb. 26. A boat carrying some 180 migrants sank near the Italian coast after sailing from Turkey. Only 80 survivors had been found as of the morning of March 6. According to Italy’s border police, the migrants each paid smugglers 8,000 euros (about $8,500) to be taken to Europe. “That human traffickers be stopped, and that they do not continue to take the lives of so many innocent people,” Pope Francis prayed after the Angelus. “May the journeys of hope never again turn into journeys of death,” he said. “May the clean waters of the Mediterranean no longer be bloodied by such tragic accidents.”

A family member of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell from his native Ireland brings up the gifts during his funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels March 3, 2023. Bishop O’Connell was fatally shot at his home in Hacienda Heights Feb. 18. (OSV News photo/Sarah Yaklic, courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

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