May 4, 2023 // National

News Briefs: May 7, 2023

Most Victims of Mass Cult Starvation in Kenya Are Children

NAIROBI, Kenya (OSV News) — As the death toll in what is becoming known as the “Shakahola starvation massacre” in Kenya hit 110, religious leaders in the region suspect that the forest ranch may have been turned into a secret burial site. All victims were followers of the Good News International Church Pastor Paul Mackenzie, who had told his followers to pray and fast to meet Jesus, and that the world would end on April 15. Children account for most of the 109 bodies so far recovered in the 800-acre ranch in Kilifi County in eastern Kenya, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said on April 27. The bodies were found in more than 50 graves. “The preliminary reports we are getting is that some of the victims may not have died of starvation. There were other methods used, including hurting them, just by physical and preliminary observations,” Kindiki told reporters. “Religious leaders call for investigations whether the bodies being retrieved from the graves in Shakahola are of people who died of starvation or they were brought there,” Bishop Wilybard Kitogho Lagho of Malindi told OSV News in an interview on April 28. According to the bishop, the leaders want to know to what extent the pastor had followers beyond Kilifi County.

Pope Decides Women Will Be Voting Members of Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At least three dozen women will be voting members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, Pope Francis has decided. In a decision formalized on April 17, “the Holy Father approved the extension of participation in the synodal assembly to ‘non-bishops’ — priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, lay men and women,” officials with the synod office said in a statement on April 26. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, told reporters that about 21 percent of the synod’s 370 members would not be bishops and at least half of that group would be women. Adding women and young people to the membership will make sure “the Church is well represented” in the prayer and discussions scheduled for Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican, the cardinal said. “It will be a joy to have the whole Church represented in Rome for the synod.” “As you can see, the space in the tent is being enlarged,” Cardinal Mario Grech, Synod Secretary-General, told reporters. “The Synod of Bishops will remain a synod of bishops,” Cardinal Grech said, but it will be “enriched” by representatives of the whole Church.

Biden Administration Outlines New Plan to Reduce Migrant Arrivals When Title 42 Ends

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — The Biden administration announced on April 27 new steps it would take in an effort to reduce migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border when Title 42 expires on May 11. In remarks at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration would set up migrant processing centers in Latin America to screen those seeking entry as to whether they have a legal pathway to the U.S. The administration will also expand legal pathways for entry, while increasing deportations of those who enter the U.S. unlawfully. Blinken said the centers would “improve qualified individuals’ access” to refugee resettlement, family reunification, and lawful settlement in the United States or other countries. Title 42 is a part of federal U.S. public health law granting the federal government some authority to implement emergency action to prevent the spread of contagious diseases by barring some individuals from entry. Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, the U.S. bishops’ Migration Chairman, praised the administration on April 28 for efforts to accommodate the increased need for refugee resettlement from Latin America and the Caribbean but he expressed concern that the most vulnerable, including families, will face rushed proceedings without proper due process. He also said the complex challenges of migration facing the U.S. cannot be resolved without overhauling the nation’s immigration system and making a long-term commitment to address root causes.

Federal Bill Reintroduced to Put Lab Animals Up for Adoption; Move Hailed by Catholic Ethicists

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — In a bipartisan effort showing shared concern for animal welfare, Reps. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif., reintroduced the Companion Animal Release from Experiments (CARE) Act of 2023 in the U.S. House on April 26. The legislation requires facilities that both use research animals — dogs, cats, and rabbits — and receive funds from the National Institutes of Health to plan for the animals’ future once they are no longer used in research. Under the CARE Act, the labs would need to design and implement adoption policies, and maintain public records of the animals. Fifteen states have enacted laws for post-research cat and dog placement from publicly funded research institutions, but no national requirement exists. The CARE Act drew praise from Catholic ethicists who noted how it reflects the Church’s teaching to care for creation. “The bill appropriately reflects the respect due to such animals, both because God has blessed them with awareness and subjectivity, and as a gesture of gratitude for the medical service they have provided us,” said Jesuit Father Christopher Steck, Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and Author of “All God’s Animals: A Catholic Theological Framework for Animal Ethics.” Catholic Moral Theologian Charles Camosy, Author of “For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action,” agreed, pointing to the catechism. He said, “Animals belong to God and we have a responsibility to show them kindness in ways which reflect God’s will for these creatures.”

Staten Island Ferry Named for Dorothy Day Makes Maiden Voyage

STATEN ISLAND, New York (OSV News) — A floating monument to Dorothy Day, Co-Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, made its maiden voyage to Manhattan on April 28, sailing forth from Day’s adopted home of Staten Island that afternoon. Day had deep roots on Staten Island, one of New York’s five boroughs. She was received into the Catholic Church there and lived part of her life there. As an adult, she was baptized at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Tottenville in 1927. Retired New York Auxiliary Bishop John J. O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Byrne, and Monsignor Kevin O’Sullivan of Catholic Charities represented the Archdiocese of New York. “Our saint. Our Dorothy Day, whom the Lord called over the years, and then in an encounter on the South Shore on the beach with a Sister of Charity, He began drawing her closer and closer and closer. As He formed those prophets of old, so too did He form this great woman,” said Bishop O’Hara in remarks at the ferry’s launch. The bishop was referring to Sister Aloysia Mary Mulhern, whom Day had approached in 1926 to ask where she could have her newborn daughter, Tamar, baptized. The conversation led to Sister Mulhern instructing Day in the Catholic faith and she was baptized on Dec. 28, 1927. Day is a candidate for sainthood and was given the title “Servant of God” when her cause was officially opened in 2000.

Swiss Guard recruits stand at attention in the courtyard outside their barracks at the Vatican April 28, 2023. The recruits are preparing for a swearing-in ceremony held May 6 every year to mark the date in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII in the Sack of Rome. (CNS photo/Chris Warde-Jones)

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