March 11, 2022 // National

News Briefs: March 13, 2022

Archbishop urges ‘sensitive’ care for families of U.S. troops now in Europe

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – In the midst of pastoral visits to Wyoming and Colorado, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, urged fellow bishops to “be sensitive” to the families of U.S. military personnel recently deployed to Europe. “I can feel the tension and the uncertainty” among families, he said in a statement released March 1 by the archdiocese, which is based in Washington. “The world watches in horror as one European nation invades another and we cry out: When will the insanity cease? In the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the concern is immediate,” he said of the families of those deployed. Since early February, the Pentagon has deployed 14,000 U.S troops, primarily in Lithuania, Poland and Romania in response to the Russian buildup of military forces and eventual invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. No U.S. forces have been sent to Ukraine, and President Joe Biden said there is no plan for U.S. personnel or NATO allies to enter the war that has claimed at least 200 Ukrainian lives, caused hundreds of injuries and sent 600,000 people to neighboring countries. Many of the soldiers are active in civilian parishes and schools, Archbishop Broglio said, adding, “They need support, interest and prayerful concern.”

Pandemic pushes kids’ mental health issues to forefront

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (CNS) – Off and on since the COVID-19 pandemic began and in-person instruction resumed, St. Joseph School counselor Suzanne Krumpelman in Fayetteville has spoken to students to gauge how they are coping. During one informal survey, Krumpelman asked how many students know someone who has died from COVID-19 or become gravely ill. “Almost every single one of the kids raised their hand,” she said. “And you know we just don’t think about it. There are kids who lost grandparents, uncles, cousins, friends who were significant in their life. They are dealing with a lot of other difficult things. … Every child has been impacted by this pandemic in one way or another.” In December, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a grim advisory regarding the mental health of youth. While there was a mental health crisis among children before the pandemic shut down the world, the fact that one in five children ages 3-17 are having a mental, developmental, emotional or behavioral disorder, the isolation, fear and uncertainty has magnified the problem. “I think that’s where we all want people to be: ‘The kids are great, they are fine.’ They probably seem that way, but they are not. You have to dig a little deeper,” Krumpelman said.

Catholic leaders plead for clemency for Texas woman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – Texas Catholic leaders and other opponents of the death penalty are urging Texas officials to grant clemency to a 53-year-old Latina woman set to be executed in late April. Melissa Lucio, a Catholic mother of 14, was given the death sentence for the 2007 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, which Lucio has maintained was due to her daughter’s accidental fall down a stairway. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Lucio’s April 27 death sentence and “reexamine the case to consider her history as a victim of sexual abuse,” along with the “troubling interrogation by law enforcement and the lingering questions regarding the manner” of her daughter’s death. On Feb. 28, the state’s bishops said Lucio’s sentence was based on a flawed process that lacked evidence and witnesses. They also said she was convicted based on a coerced, passive admission of guilt after a rigorous interrogation the night her daughter died. The bishops said Lucio has “undertaken a spiritual journey while in prison” with her spiritual adviser, Deacon Ronnie Lastovica of the Diocese of Austin. They also expressed agreement with the statement of Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, where the Lucio family lives. “One tragedy is not somehow made better by killing someone else. Justice is not suddenly restored because another person dies,” Bishop Flores said.

With rosaries, Catholics join protesters at Washington’s Russian embassy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – The protesters – and the sunflowers – have been coming and going from the sidewalk in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Carrying the national flower of Ukraine, or wrapped in the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, some have arrived to voice their anger, their indignation, shoving protest signs against the embassy’s security camera at the front gate. Ever since Russia attacked the East European nation on Feb. 24, Catholics, too, have joined them, but with prayers. On Ash Wednesday, Pax Christi USA’s Young Adult Caucus gathered there to start their Lenten journey by praying for “the crucified peoples of Ukraine and all conflict zones.” A day later, a week after Russia’s initial attack, a group of Catholics from Annunciation Catholic Church, a parish within walking distance of the embassy, arrived. With rosary beads in hand, they began to pray. They prayed for the protection of Ukrainians in danger, for the rights and dignity of all people, and, on the day Russians attacked and seized a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, for the conversion of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “May Putin, and all the oppressors, seek the way of peace,” said Annunciation’s pastor, Father Michael Mellone.

Ukrainian archbishop condemns attack on nuclear facility

ROME (CNS) – The attack on and seizure of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Russian forces could lead to an ecological disaster 10 times worse than the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, said the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In a video message released on March 4, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych said the attack should be a cause of concern for the world, especially for those “who care for the environment, those who care for the ecological awareness of humanity. This is not only becoming a humanitarian catastrophe before our very eyes. It is an irreversible attack on God’s creation that for decades, for centuries, will be impossible to correct,” he said. “Ukraine already experienced Chernobyl. Now it stands on the threshold of a new atomic threat that can be 10 times worse.” According to the Reuters news agency, a fire that broke out at a training center in the facility, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, was extinguished after Russian troops captured the site. Although the fire took place in an area outside the main plant and there were no signs of elevated radiation levels, the attack prompted a response from the International Atomic Energy Agency. “I’m extremely concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and what happened there during the night,” said Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, in a March 4 statement.

Angolan priest struggles against the invisibility of starvation in Angola

LUBANGO, Angola (CNS) – Although a severe drought in southern Angola has led to widespread hunger among more than 1 million people, the government has taken few measures to address it. One Catholic priest is taking action, however. Father Jacinto Pio Wacussanga of Lubango in Huíla province has spent a decade organizing local farmers and peasants and helping them gain new skills in response to the climate change-induced drought. The 56-year-old priest’s efforts to assistant poor and hungry people as well as his criticism of governmental inaction have been recognized by some and criticized by others. Recently, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – known by the Portuguese acronym MPLA – reached the point of denying the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in Angola. In December, President João Lourenço, an MPLA member, affirmed during a speech that his “adversaries” only talk about hunger, but “hunger is always relative.” Father Wacussanga said he has observed the struggles of hungry people in his work at St. Anthony of Gambos Mission, where people arrive every day looking for help. “Unfortunately, the government has adopted a denialist attitude lately. Affirming that part of the Angolans are starving would be an insult for the authorities, who have been claiming that it is a middle-income country with a considerable level of development,” Father Wacussanga told Catholic News Service.

Supreme Court reinstates death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – The Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a 6-3 vote. The court’s March 4 ruling said a federal appeals court in 2020 should not have thrown out the death sentence for Tsarnaev for his role in the bombing that killed three people in 2013 at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston had said the initial trial judge in this case left out evidence that could have mitigated Tsarnaev’s sentence by showing how his brother was more of the mastermind in the attack. It also said the trial judge had not sufficiently questioned jurors about what they had seen on the news about the bombing. The Trump administration initiated an appeal to this decision that was continued by the current Justice Department. “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion, in which he also said that Tsarnaev had received a fair trial before an impartial jury. Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the dissent joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, stressed that “particular judicial care” is required in cases where the death sentence could be imposed. He also said he agreed with the appeals court decision saying the lower court should have introduced all evidence.

A soldier from the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, seen March 2, 2022, with ashes on his forehead for Ash Wednesday, waits at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., to board a transport plane bound for Europe on a deployment launched in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. (CNS photo/Michael A. McCoy, Reuters)

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