February 29, 2024 // National

News Briefs: March 3, 2024

U.S. Bishops Launch Teaching Initiative Called ‘Love Means More

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – “Love Means More,” a new teaching initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has a statement of purpose, a website, and a promise to keep building the website to provide answers on a wide variety of questions about Catholic teaching on love, sexuality, and marriage. The premise speaks to the simple question of what “I love you” can portend. “Imagine sincerely saying this to someone for the first time and getting the response, ‘What do you mean?’ In that moment, the stakes would be too high to pause for a calm, honest exploration of this question. That’s why this site exists,” according to the website, lovemeansmore.org. The initiative is led by Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. Bishop Barron also is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, author of numerous books and articles, and has a podcast and video presentations via YouTube. “Conversations about love, marriage, sexuality, family, and the human person can be confusing and polarizing,” Bishop Barron said in a February 21 news release, adding that he hoped the initiative would “help bring clarity and compassion to those questions.” “Love Means More” renews and replaces “Marriage: Unique for a Reason,” an initiative launched by the U.S. bishops in 2011.

Seven U.S. Cardinals Pledge to Help Ukraine Through New Fund

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – With Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine entering its third year, seven U.S. cardinals have become patrons of a new effort to heal the suffering of Ukraine’s people due to Russian aggression. On Tuesday, February 20, the Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the U.S. announced that their Metropolia Humanitarian Aid Fund has been restructured as the Healing of Wounds of the War in Ukraine Fund. The fund is aimed at “healing physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds inflicted by the criminal Russian invasion,” said the four bishops – Metropolitan Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago; and Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio – in a report accompanying the announcement. The U.S. Ukrainian bishops said they were especially grateful to the seven U.S. cardinals – Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey – who agreed to serve as patrons of the new fund, which will address the long-term, unseen wounds of the war.

National Shrine of a Beloved Philadelphia Saint Vandalized

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – The shrine of a beloved Philadelphia saint sustained an estimated $20,000 dollars’ worth of damage in an apparent act of vandalism. Panels of three stained-glass windows were shattered at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia in the early morning hours of Monday, February 19. The windows, depicting scenes from the 19th-century Redemptorist’s life, are located in the lower church of the shrine, which is housed at St. Peter the Apostle Church. The saint’s remains – covered by a wax mask and vestments and encased in glass beneath the altar of the lower church – were unaffected by the attack. Staff at the shrine “discovered that someone had thrown a brick and stones” through the three windows, said Kenneth A. Gavin, Chief Communications Officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in an emailed statement to OSV News. Detectives are investigating, and the incident may be related to similar vandalism that took place during the same time period at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church, a theater company, and a law firm.’

Theme for World Day of Migrants and Refugees Focuses on ‘Journey’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s focus for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2024 highlights its need to walk alongside displaced persons and to convey to them God’s presence and guidance along their paths, officials with Vatican said. In a statement released on Thursday, February 22, the Vatican announced “God walks with His people” will be the theme for the 110th World Day, which will be celebrated on September 29. Pope Francis’ message for the World Day – not yet released – “will address the itinerant dimension of the Church with a particular focus on our migrant brothers and sisters, a contemporary icon of the journeying Church,” the officials said. They added that the Church’s journeying alongside its people, and in particular migrants and refugees, “is a path to be undertaken in a synodal way, overcoming all threats and obstacles, in order to reach our true homeland together.” The officials said, “During this journey, wherever people find themselves, it is essential to recognize the presence of God who walks with His people, assuring them of His guidance and protection at every step,” adding that “it is equally essential to recognize the presence of the Lord, Emmanuel, God-with-us, in every migrant who knocks at the door of our hearts and offers an opportunity for encounter.”

U.S. Bishop: Send Ukraine Aid Amid War, Religious Persecution

(OSV News) – A U.S. bishop is calling for peace in Ukraine and humanitarian aid for its people as Russia’s full-scale invasion has marked its second anniversary. “The magnitude of the suffering in the Ukrainian conflict continues to sear the conscience of the faithful,” said Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. In a February 23 statement, Bishop Zaidan pointed to the widespread damage inflicted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bishop Zaidan cited in his statement statistics from a United Nations report placing the number of Ukrainian civilians killed and injured at more than 30,000. “The Catholic Church, including many Catholic welfare organizations, are trying to meet these enormous needs both within Ukraine and in other countries impacted by this war which has raged on for two full years,” said Bishop Zaidan, adding that the USCCB’s annual collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe “has been critical in providing much-needed aid to the region.” Bishop Zaidan urged “the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide much needed humanitarian assistance quickly.”

At Least 15 Catholics Dead in Attack During Mass in Burkina Faso

DORI, Burkina Faso (OSV News) – At least 15 people were killed in an attack by gunmen on Catholics gathered for Sunday Mass in a Burkina Faso village on Sunday, February 25, according to multiple news reports. Twelve Catholics were dead at the scene in the village of Essakane, with another three dying while being treated at a health center, and two others wounded, according to a statement from Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori in northern Burkina Faso, which includes Essakane. “In these painful circumstances, we invite you to pray for the eternal rest of those who have died in the faith, for the healing of the wounded and for the consolation of sorrowful hearts,” the bishop said in the statement, written in French and shared on the bishop’s behalf by Father Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, the diocese’s Vicar General. “We also pray for the conversion of those who continue to sow death and desolation in our country. May our efforts of penance and prayer during this period of Lent bring peace and security to our country, Burkina Faso,” the bishop said. According to the Associated Press, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but jihadis who have perpetuated similar violence are suspected of carrying it out. Christians in Burkina Faso have been increasingly targeted in recent years by terrorist groups amid political and social upheaval.

Vatican Aims to Draw ‘Digital Pilgrims’ to Rome’s Basilicas

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Officials with the Vatican are seeking to draw pilgrims to the four historic papal basilicas scattered around Rome – not physically, but virtually, through a website and podcast aimed at drawing young people into the spiritual depth of Rome’s sacred spaces. The website, basilicas.vatican.va, was launched by officials with the Vatican on Thursday, February 22. It features a virtual “table” at which animated saints and artists are seated with descriptions of who they are and their significance for the holy spaces highlighted on the site. An empty chair is also present to invite each “digital pilgrim” to sit at the table with them and visit the four papal basilicas. Rome’s four papal basilicas are St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran; they are the most highly ranked churches in the Catholic Church, and each possess a holy door that is opened during Holy Years, typically every 25 years. The new Vatican website showcases a podcast produced in partnership with Vatican News, “From Tourists to Pilgrims,” in which art historians, restoration experts, professors, and religious men and women discuss the spiritual significance of the history and art of each basilica.

Father Jim Perkl, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville, Minn., and a Burnsville police and fire chaplain, leads a rosary outside Burnsville City Hall with members of the Catholic Watchmen Feb. 24, 2024, for the three first responders who were shot and killed during a standoff with a Burnsville man who had barricaded himself with his family Feb. 18. They also prayed for the perpetrator, who died by suicide. (OSV News photo/Anna Wilgenbusch, The Catholic Spirit)

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