March 13, 2024 // National

News Briefs: March 17, 2024

On Good Friday, Catholics Urged to Support Middle East Christians

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis plans to launch a humanitarian project in Gaza or the West Bank with the possible help of the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land, according to officials with the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches. “The outbreak of the war in Gaza, after the events of October 7, paralyzed the Holy Land. The lack of pilgrims and tourists has put thousands of families in difficulty,” the dicastery officials said in the group’s annual appeal to bishops around the world asking them to urge their people to generously support this year’s collection. “The Holy Father intends to carry out a project with humanitarian purposes in Gaza or the West Bank, which can help the population resume a more dignified life and create job opportunities once the war is over,” said the appeal, which was published on Friday, March 8. “This project could be realized with the offerings of the faithful from all over the world who participate in the collection for the Holy Land.” The collection “is not merely a pious tradition for a few,” wrote Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the dicastery. “Everywhere in the Catholic Church, the faithful have an obligation to offer their contribution,” he wrote, “because, apart from the custody of the holy places that saw Jesus, there are still Christians living and operating in the Holy Land, amid many tragedies and difficulties often caused by the selfishness of the powerful of the world.”

Zelenskyy, Ukrainian Church Respond to Pope’s Call for Negotiations

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis’ comment that Ukraine should have the “courage of the white flag” and engage in negotiation to end its war with Russia was dismissed by the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian Church leaders. In an interview with the Swiss media outlet RSI, the pope had said the stronger side in the war in Ukraine “is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people, and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.” Elsewhere in the interview, released in part on Saturday, March 9, the pope specified that “negotiation is never a surrender.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy clearly alluded to the pope’s comments in his nightly video address on Sunday, March 10, but made no explicit reference to Pope Francis. Zelenskyy, speaking in Ukrainian in a video with English subtitles, thanked Ukrainian military chaplains on the frontline and said, “This is what the Church is – it is together with people, not 2,500 kilometers away somewhere virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.” The bishops of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church released a statement on March 10 in which they said that “with Putin there will be no true negotiations.”

Pope Francis Tasks Judge to Investigate Quebec Cardinal

MONTREAL (OSV News) – Pope Francis has asked a retired Quebec judge to conduct an investigation “into the facts, circumstances, and imputability of (an) alleged offense” targeting Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix. In a letter he personally signed, the pope indicated to Judge André Denis that he was appointing him to investigate acts of a sexual nature allegedly committed by the archbishop of Quebec before he was ordained a priest under the provisions of the Church law for investigating abuse titled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You Are the Light of the World”). At the end of this investigation, the pope added, “you will take care to produce for me a detailed report of your steps and your conclusions.” The pope said the allegation against Cardinal Lacroix was brought to his attention back in January. Pope Francis did not mention in his letter a final date for submitting the investigative report into Cardinal Lacroix.

Papal Commission to Submit Safeguarding Report Launches Study

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The pope’s commission for advancing the Catholic Church’s efforts to prevent the abuse of vulnerable persons is due to submit its first annual report on the state of safeguarding in the Church. In a statement dated Friday, March 8, and sent to reporters on Monday, March 11, officials with the commission said they had approved the submission of its “pilot annual report” on safeguarding policies and procedures to Pope Francis, who had requested a report from the group in April of 2022. Officials with the commission also announced in their March 8 statement the approval of a study group “to examine the reality of vulnerable persons in the context of the Church’s ministry and how this informs safeguarding efforts.” The goal of the study group is to “adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to the questions around vulnerability to provide concrete recommendations on how the Church might better combat the harms committed against non-minors by the Church’s ministers in a variety of pastoral settings.”

Alabama Governor Signs ‘Ill-Considered,’ ‘Unjust’ IVF Bill

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (OSV News) – Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed into law on Wednesday, March 6, a bill passed by lawmakers to grant legal protection to in vitro fertilization clinics after a ruling by that state’s Supreme Court found that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state law’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. Ivey said in a statement, “The overwhelming support of SB159 from the Alabama Legislature proves what we have been saying: Alabama works to foster a culture of life, and that certainly includes IVF.” The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court found that embryos are children under the terms of 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, their frozen embryos were improperly removed from storage equipment, which the couples argued constituted a wrongful death.

Irish Voters Reject Bid to Redefine Family, Undermine Motherhood

DUBLIN (OSV News) – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has conceded that his government was defeated “comprehensively” when voters rejected amendments to the constitution that the country’s Catholic bishops warned would have weakened supports for marriage and undermined motherhood. Opinion polls showed a clear majority favored the government plan to widen the definition of the family to include other “durable relationships” as well as marriage. But when votes were counted on Saturday, March 9, 67.7 percent of citizens rejected the amendment. A second amendment proposed removing a provision from the 1937 document that said women should not be forced by economic necessity to take a job “to the neglect of their duties in the home.” Again, polls showed it was likely to pass, but this proposal was rejected by an even wider margin, 73.9 percent to 26.1 percent. It is the highest-ever “no” vote in Irish referendum history. Maria Steen, a Catholic lawyer who campaigned against both proposals, described the result as “a great victory for common sense.”

U.S. Bishops Open Religious Freedom Essay Contest

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – High school juniors and seniors are invited to enter an annual religious liberty essay contest hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, along with the USCCB Secretariat of Catholic Education and Our Sunday Visitor Institute. The contest, titled “Witnesses to Freedom,” asks entrants to “share the story of a witness to freedom.” “Participants should choose one person or group, such as an organization or community, who is important in the story of religious freedom,” according to the contest rules. Participants must include a completed consent form. Both the contest rules and consent form can be found at Essays are due March 29 and can be submitted via email at [email protected]. Winners will be announced in May. The first-place essay will be published by Our Sunday Visitor, the newspaper of OSV (the parent company of the OSV News wire service), and the author will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship. Second place will receive a $1,000 scholarship, and third place will receive a $500 scholarship.

A boy holds a sign in Kaduna, Nigeria, March 8, 2024, protesting current conditions in the country. Recent kidnappings of hundreds of people, including almost 300 schoolchildren March 7 in Kuriga in the central part of Nigeria, have left church leaders and parents, including Catholics, speechless as kidnappings become a horrific new normal. (OSV News photo/Reuters)

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