March 16, 2022 // National

News Briefs: March 20, 2022

Russian Catholic: Current ‘situation very like the atheist Soviet Union’

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – A Catholic professor said Russia’s clergy fear arrest if they question the war against Ukraine and warned that the Church now faced a “new era of silence. Prayers for an immediate cease-fire are being said in parishes – but priests can no longer speak publicly,” said the lay Catholic, who asked not to be named. “We are back in a situation very like the atheist Soviet Union, when a priest must turn up the radio or TV so as not to be overheard by the special services. They’re explaining they don’t want to say anything that could harm the Catholic community, or see them thrown in jail with their churches closed.” The Catholic spoke to Catholic News Service on March 10 as Russia’s war against Ukraine entered its third week and the Russian government clamped down on all nonofficial news and information. Criminal Code amendments, passed on March 4 by the Russian Duma, allowed for heavy fines and jail terms up to 15 years for “public dissemination of falsehoods about the use of Russia’s armed forces,” while high-profile media outlets, including the religious Credo Press website, have now been closed. The professor said many Catholics had friends and family members in Ukraine and remained well-informed about events, but added that priests could face prison if they used the wrong words in homilies. “Though Catholics are divided over this war, with some supporting it, most have a good enough grasp of the Church’s social teaching to differentiate between a just and an aggressive war,” the Catholic told CNS.

Cardinals arrive in Ukraine, Hungary on mission of hope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Two cardinals arrived at separate destinations on one mission entrusted to them by Pope Francis: to bring relief, hope and encouragement to suffering Ukrainians. Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 8 and met with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, head of the Latin-rite Archdiocese of Lviv. Father Andriy Soletskyy, a spokesman for Archbishop Shevchuk, told Catholic News Service on March 9 that Archbishop Shevchuk traveled from Kyiv to Lviv the day before specifically to meet with Cardinal Krajewski and help him fulfill the mission Pope Francis had entrusted to him. That may include helping the cardinal get to Kyiv “if possible,” Father Soletskyy said. However, he said, for the security of both the cardinal and Archbishop Shevchuk, the Church will not share details of how or when either is traveling. Lviv has not been shelled, “thanks be to God,” Father Soletskyy said, but the city in Western Ukraine is being overwhelmed with displaced people gathering there to try to find rides, trains or buses to Poland, Hungary or Romania. People are sleeping in line at the train station and every church has opened as a shelter.

Senate passes omnibus spending bill with Hyde, other pro-life provisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – The chairmen of several U.S. bishops’ committees and the head of March for Life on March 11 praised the U.S. senators who voted to pass the government’s omnibus bill with the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life provisions included in it. The bishops also commended lawmakers for including “critical humanitarian assistance for the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” In a 68-31 vote late on March 10, the Senate OK’d a $1.5 trillion government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. The House passed the measure a day earlier. It will now be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. To avoid a government shutdown, both chambers also passed a four-day stopgap measure to extending current funding levels through March 15 in case the massive bill was not passed. The 2,741-page text was released around noon on March 9, leaving many lawmakers complaining they had little time to review the measure before having to vote. The measure was “the product of months of negotiations,” as CNN reported. “We applaud Congress for including provisions in the omnibus appropriations package that uphold the sacred dignity of human life and will support and assist many vulnerable people here and abroad,” said the chairmen of five U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees in a joint statement.

Thirteen priests in Arkansas face uncertainty over their immigration status

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) – Thirteen priests from outside the United States ministering in the Diocese of Little Rock have had to stop working, and in some cases have had to return home, because of federal delays in processing immigration paperwork. Work at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has slowed, leading to uncertainty about the priests’ future in Arkansas as well as clergy and religious workers elsewhere. “It’s not just our diocese, and in fact, several months ago we had a Zoom meeting with attorneys, civil attorneys throughout the country who work on religious immigration stuff to kind of brainstorm,” said Deacon Matt Glover, Diocesan Chancellor for Canonical Affairs. “It’s not anything that any of our priests are doing wrong, or not doing quickly enough. It’s a problem completely across the board,” he told the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Little Rock Diocese. “So you might have someone who’s able to be here legally, who has legal status, but their employment authorization document has expired, even though we have timely filed to renew it,” Deacon Glover said. There are “multiple ways in which someone might fall out of (legal) status and have to return (home) or even if they’re here, they wouldn’t necessarily be authorized to work and it puts them in a real limbo,” he said.

Knights’ councils in Ukraine, Poland help those fleeing Russian assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – The Knights of Columbus established a small presence in both Ukraine and Poland a few years ago, but now Knights councils in both countries have sprung into coordinated action with help for refugees since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24. In Ukraine, there are fewer than 1,900 Knights, with the first councils established in 2012. In Poland, where the first councils were established in 2006, there are 8,400. The Ukraine Solidarity Fund, established by Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, was launched on Feb. 25. Intended to help with shelter, food, clothing and medical supplies, it has received more than $4.5 million to date in donations, with the first truckload of aid arriving on March 1 in Lviv, a city of more than 700,000 near the Polish border. “It’s really providential,” said Szymon Czyszek, a lawyer in Krakow, Poland, who heads the Knights’ relief efforts there. “We want to overcome evil with good,” he said in a March 8 Zoom call with news media. So far, at least 1.2 million refugees have crossed into Poland, with the main crossing at the town of Medyka and more arriving at the train station at Przemysl.

Meta, Twitter, Netflix on ‘Dirty Dozen’ list for enabling exploitation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – Some familiar brand names were put on the newest “Dirty Dozen” list of companies by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for enabling exploitation. Those names include Google Search, Netflix, Twitter, Meta and Visa. Netflix and Twitter are repeats from 2021, as are Reddit and OnlyFans. Others making the list, released on March 8, are Etsy, Kik, Verisign and Kanakuk Kamps. “We oppose all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation,” said Lina Nealon, Director of Corporate and Strategic Initiatives for the center, during a video call announcing the 2022 version of the Dirty Dozen. “Last year, the majority of the list were tech companies,” Nealon said, as they “reap soaring revenue without making substantive changes” to deter exploitation. “We thought 2020 was bad,” she added. “The Internet Watch Foundation called 2021 the worst year on record for exploiting children online.” Despite Google and parent firm Alphabet making improvements over the past year – such as, NCOSE noted, Google activating age-appropriate controls on school-bound Chromebooks last year – Google Search was named for 2022.

Four sentenced for 2016 killing of French Father Jacques Hamel

PARIS (CNS) – A Paris court sentenced four men in connection with the 2016 killing of Father Jacques Hamel, giving them sentences ranging from eight years to life in prison. The harshest sentence was applied to Rachid Kassim, a recruiter for the Islamic State group, who was not present at the trial. Father Hamel was killed on July 26, 2016, when two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while he celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation. The four men on trial accompanied the two killers. During the trial, Jean-Philippe Steven Jean-Louis, Farid Khelil and Yassine Sebaihia asked for forgiveness, but they were found guilty of criminal association with terrorists. The Associated Press reported that Kassim, who had already been sentenced to life in absentia in 2019 for having ordered a failed attack in Paris, is thought to have been killed in a 2017 drone strike in Iraq. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen welcomed the sentencing as “a sure step on the way to the truth,” but said he had to digest all he had heard during the trial, because “to pervert the relationship to God to the point of killing in his name has shaken me and questioned me deeply.”

Volunteers from Caritas Hungary give food to people at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, March 12, 2022. The Knights of Malta and the Red Cross also were participating in efforts to distribute food, supplies, clothing and toys to Ukrainian refugees as well as local homeless and Roma people in Budapest. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

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