November 10, 2021 // National

News Briefs: November 14, 2021

Pope thanks Retrouvaille for support of couples in crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A period of crisis in a marriage is frightening and painful, but it also can be an opportunity for growth, especially if the couple receives the support of others who have survived similar crises, Pope Francis said. Meeting Nov. 6 with couples involved in Retrouvaille, a couple-to-couple ministry for people experiencing difficulty in their marriages, Pope Francis said the program is a gift to those involved, but also to the Church. “To be credible, one must have experienced” a time of crisis, he said. “It cannot be a theoretical discourse, a ‘pious exhortation’; it would not be credible.” Members of Retrouvaille have been in crisis and have been wounded, he said, but “thanks to God and with the help of your brothers and sisters you have been healed; and you have decided to share this experience of yours, to put it at the service of others.” “Crises help us to grow,” the pope said. They are unpleasant and make people “wobble,” but they can be overcome, especially with a helping hand. Pope Francis reminded the couples that in depictions of the risen Christ, His glorified body still has the scars of his crucifixion, a sign of His compassion for “the wounds of us all.”

Patriarch is out of hospital after stent placement, extends U.S. visit

NEW YORK (CNS) — Toward the end of his first apostolic visit to the U.S. in many years, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was hospitalized Nov. 3 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to undergo stent placement. He was released Nov. 5 and expected to return to Turkey Nov. 7 after completing the rest of his visit, which was extended by four days because of his hospital stay. A news release from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America announced Nov. 3 the patriarch had had a check-up at Mount Sinai that led to an angiogram, which determined the need for stent placement to open a clogged coronary artery. The 81-year-old patriarch, primary spiritual leader of the world’s estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians, arrived in Washington Oct. 23 to begin his visit. The next day he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital for an overnight stay. The patriarch “felt unwell due to the long flight and schedule of events upon arrival,” the archdiocese said. But upon his release Oct. 25, Patriarch Bartholomew began a rigorous itinerary that included meetings in Washington with President Joe Biden and other government officials, a dinner at Georgetown University and events in Pittsburgh and at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, before he headed to New York.

Bishop Wack’s first pastoral urges Catholics to share ‘the gift’ of Gospel

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Evangelization “is fundamental to who we are as Christians,” Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee said in a Nov. 3 interview about why he chose that topic for the first pastoral letter he has issued since becoming the shepherd of the Church in Florida’s panhandle in 2017. “It is something so positive and we need that right now in the midst of acrimony and confusion,” he told Catholic News Service. “The Holy Spirit is calling us back to our roots as apostolic community.” Installed Aug. 22, 2017, Bishop Wack, 54, said he waited to issue his first pastoral until he could get to know the Catholic community some, and he spent the first couple of years “trying to figure out” what he was doing and “to find my legs as a new bishop.” Titled “Sharing the Gift,” the 20-page pastoral was released in a digital format Nov. 4 and in document form Nov. 5, a day before the anniversary of the establishment of the diocese in 1975. “’The church exists to evangelize!’ The words of Pope St. Paul VI encapsulate the Christian mission,” he wrote. “Put simply, if we believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, and then rose again to set us free from sin and death, we are compelled to share that good news with everyone around us.” Bishop Wack’s pastoral can be found in English at and in Spanish at

Pope plans Dec. 2-6 visit to Cyprus and Greece

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ planned trip to the eastern Mediterranean in December will focus on migration, Catholic-Orthodox relations and promoting peace in a region known more for its vacation spots than its ongoing political tensions. The Vatican announced Nov. 5 that Pope Francis would visit Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2-4 and Athens and Lesbos, Greece, Dec. 4-6. The pope had made a one-day visit to migrant and refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, but this will be his first visit to the Greek mainland. The Moria refugee camp the pope visited was the largest refugee camp in Europe until it burned down in September 2020; a temporary camp was set up nearby and continues to host thousands of migrants and refugees. While migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean and landing in Italy, Spain, Greece and even Malta make headlines, significant numbers of them end up in Cyprus. As of Oct. 31, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, 464 migrants had reached Malta since Jan. 1 while 1,515 had reached Cyprus.

Grassroots effort calls on pope to canonize six Black sainthood candidates

BALTIMORE (CNS) — When Sister Rita Michelle Proctor was a young child, she was taught by the Oblate Sisters of Providence from grades three to 10. The sisters’ hospitality and trust in Divine Providence inspired her to become a religious sister in their Baltimore-based order. After 53 years of love and service for the Lord in the Oblate community, the current superior general of her religious community was honored to participate at St. Ann Church in Baltimore in a Nov. 1 procession of six candidates for canonization. She held a portrait of the community’s foundress — and one of those sainthood candidates: Mother Mary Lange, who has the title “Servant of God.” Five other members of the African American Catholic community processed to the altar holding portraits of the other prominent Black Catholics they hope will be canonized. They are: Sister Thea Bowman, the first African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and Julia Greeley, known as the city of Denver’s “Angel of Charity” — both have the title Servant of God — as well as Mother Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, Father Augustus Tolton and Pierre Toussaint. The latter three have the title “Venerable.” The title “Servant of God” is given by the Church to a sainthood candidate when his or her cause is officially opened.

CRS works to help Afghan farmers facing climate-induced drought, hunger

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Overshadowed by the political and military turmoil engulfing Afghanistan with the Taliban takeover in August, climate change — particularly drought — is relentlessly striking this Central Asian nation with dire consequences, warns a Catholic aid agency official. “CRS has been working on a response to this climate-induced drought over the past two years. But the rest of the world is only waking up to the fact that we have the worst climate-induced drought in the world right now — the worst in living memory in Afghanistan,” said Kevin Hartigan, the Middle East regional director of Catholic Relief Services. “It was not apparent to people because there was so much focus on the political and military crisis. Now that has calmed, you are seeing the United Nations and the rest of world waking up to this enormous climate phenomenon, drought and hunger,” Hartigan told Catholic News Service by Zoom from Herat, Afghanistan. The lack of rain has compounded Afghanistan’s problems. Hartigan cited a U.N. report saying that some 2 million Afghans are experiencing hunger, the risk of food deficit, and potential famine-like conditions as people enter the winter months. Hartigan met with farmers in the rural steppe area of Adraskan, in the west, bordering Iran, and one of the areas hardest hit by drought. CRS is the only nongovernmental organization working there and few, if any Americans, have been able to visit the area in a decade.

CNS photo/Reuters
People in northwestern Myanmar displaced by fighting between junta forces and anti-junta fighters walk in Chin state May 31. Since the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military forces, seized control of the country Feb. 1, there have been 219,000 new internally displaced persons in Myanmar, coming largely from Chin state and the Sagaing region. The coup has made a bad situation only worse for the nation’s religious and ethnic minority groups, panelists said during a Nov. 4 video forum on the situation in the Southeast Asian nation. Since the coup, “Pope Francis has called for peace, dialogue and a respect of human rights in Myanmar,” noted William Canny, director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services.

Church leaders call attention to Ethiopia as troops approach capital

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — One year into the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Father Joseph Mussie Zerai is urging the international community to accelerate efforts to stop any risk of ethnic cleansing, avoid balkanization of Ethiopia and stop a food catastrophe underway. “The international community should be ashamed of the protracted war,” Father Zerai told Catholic News Service. “Everything that we find written in the international treaties and conventions on the prevention and protection of civilians in the event of a conflict” has been disregarded. He spoke as fears of all-out war in the country grew, amid reports that the Tigray Defense Force was on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The conflict, which began in Tigray Nov. 4, 2020, has killed thousands and displaced more than 1 million people, as it destroyed villages and towns. It has turned women and children into targets of violence by armed men as it spread to other regions. An Ethiopian priest who is an expert in peace and security and who had been following the Tigray crisis echoed Father Zerai’s sentiments. “My word to the international community — shame on you … when people are being exterminated, you did not have a word to say. This is a second Rwanda. They have failed us,” said the cleric, who cannot be named for safety reasons.

The culture of death includes all forms of abuse, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Every form of abuse — sexual, psychological or an abuse of power — is part of “the culture of death” that needs to be eradicated through the conversion, education and the active participation of everyone, Pope Francis said. “May the safeguarding of minors be an ever more concrete and regular priority in the church’s educational efforts and may it be promoted as a service that is open, reliable and authoritative” and aimed at combating “every form of domination, affronts to personal intimacy and complicit silence,” he said in a written message. Guaranteeing safe environments for minors and vulnerable people is a journey that everyone in the Church must embark on together, driven by “the sorrow and shame for not always having been good guardians protecting minors who are entrusted to our educational and social activities,” he wrote. The pope’s message was sent to participants in a congress held online and onsite in Rome Nov. 4. The congress, dedicated to creating safe environments and promoting the safeguarding of minors during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, was sponsored by several Italian Catholic lay associations. The associations, which include the John XXIII Community, Catholic Action and the Catholic Italian Sports Center, have joined together for a project called “SAFE” for encouraging and helping church-based organizations in Italy adopt and follow child protection policies.

Pope urges leaders at COP26 to be courageous in tackling climate change

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Education, a change in lifestyles and a model of development focused “on fraternity and on the covenant between human beings and the natural environment” are urgently needed to slow climate change and care for its victims, Pope Francis said in a message to world leaders at the COP26 summit. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and head of the Holy See delegation to the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, read portions of the pope’s message to the assembly Nov. 2. The cardinal was one of more than 50 speakers, most of whom were heads of state or government leaders, delivering three-minute “national statements” during the high-level segment of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The high-level segment resumed Nov. 9-10, and negotiations closed Nov. 12. The Vatican released the full text of the pope’s message, which was submitted as part of the official record of the summit. Like other leaders who spoke of the concrete commitments their governments were making, Pope Francis briefly explained the action the Vatican had adopted; the first is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But the Holy See, with its influence over parishes, schools and universities around the globe, also is committed, he said, to promoting “education in integral ecology,” meaning a focus on both the needs of the earth and on the needs of the people who inhabit it.

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