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Archbishop Samuel Aquila / Denver CatholicDenver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).The "unmitigated tragedy" of a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub prompted "irresponsible" press coverage that wrongly scapegoated religious communities for their stands on sexual morality and identity, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has said."This type of irresponsible commentary is increasingly common," he said, summarizing the assumption as "You don't accept what I believe, therefore you are not only wrong but hateful.""Unfortunately, the reaction has thus far fostered more vitriol and division than peace and unity as the press has blamed religious communities, including the Catholic Church, to which the shooter has no apparent connection," Aquila said.His comments come in a Dec. 8 commentary for the Wall Street Journal weeks after the Nov. 19 shooting.The alleged gunman, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, entered Club Q just before midnight on that Saturday and began s...

Archbishop Samuel Aquila / Denver Catholic

Denver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The "unmitigated tragedy" of a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub prompted "irresponsible" press coverage that wrongly scapegoated religious communities for their stands on sexual morality and identity, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has said.

"This type of irresponsible commentary is increasingly common," he said, summarizing the assumption as "You don't accept what I believe, therefore you are not only wrong but hateful."

"Unfortunately, the reaction has thus far fostered more vitriol and division than peace and unity as the press has blamed religious communities, including the Catholic Church, to which the shooter has no apparent connection," Aquila said.

His comments come in a Dec. 8 commentary for the Wall Street Journal weeks after the Nov. 19 shooting.

The alleged gunman, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, entered Club Q just before midnight on that Saturday and began shooting. Several people at the club overpowered the gunman and subdued him. The gunman killed five and wounded 17 people.

In the wake of the shooting both Aquila and Bishop James Golka of Colorado Springs voiced their concern, prayers, and sympathies for the victims and others affected. Golka's statement specifically lamented the apparent targeting of "members of the LGBTQ community."

Some reactions to the shooting in the news media seemed to blame Catholicism and other Christian communities, Aquila noted. "Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric leads to violence" was the headline of a Nov. 20 Denver Post news article he cited.

"The piece asserted that 'hateful rhetoric directed toward transgender people and the broader LGBTQ community has been aired from 'church pulpits' to 'school board debates and libraries,'" the archbishop continued.

"It cited the Archdiocese of Denver's school-admission guidance on transgender and same-sex-attracted students to substantiate its claim," Aquila objected. "The archdiocese's policy allows schools to discern whether they can admit those who actively live or encourage sexual expression contrary to Church teaching."

Aquila also criticized the New York Times for placing the mass murder in the context of Colorado Springs' evangelical community and its opposition to same-sex marriage.

"A reasonable approach to the tragedy at Club Q would ask some essential questions, such as: Is there evidence that Christian teaching influenced the gunman? Was he a believing or practicing Christian in any sense?" Aquila asked. "If reports about the shooter's background are accurate, the answer to these basic questions appears to be no."

Aldrich "obviously violated" the biblical commandment "Thou shall not kill," the archbishop noted, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he added, teaches "that gay people shouldn't be unjustly discriminated against."

"Rather than suffering from overexposure to Catholicism, it seems he suffered from being raised in a dysfunctional household," Aquila said. The alleged shooter's parents separated at a young age and he sometimes lived away from his mother.

"Reports indicate that the shooter's father admitted to encouraging him to violence during his formative years," the archbishop continued. "The shooter has since described himself in court documents as 'nonbinary,' suggesting still further detachment from Catholic teaching."

Aldrich's lawyers said he identified as "nonbinary" and uses the pronouns "they/them," though a Dec. 8 Associated Press analysis said there is no known evidence he professed this identity before the shooting. A nonbinary identity is sometimes professed by those who say they do not identify as a male or female.

While some initial news reports tried to put the shooting in the context of religious disapproval of LGBT causes, news reports are now scrutinizing Aldrich's previous encounter with local law enforcement. In June 2021, he threatened his grandparents, professed a desire to become "the next mass killer," and held a standoff with a SWAT team, the AP reported. Authorities discovered bomb-making materials at his home.

Felony charges against Aldrich were not pursued, reportedly because family members refused to cooperate.

NBC News, citing a former neighbor, reported that Aldrich allegedly created an internet forum for people to post anonymous videos with racist and antisemitic content and voiced racist and anti-gay statements in the presence of a neighbor. According to the New York Post, the neighbor said Aldrich was previously addicted to drugs.

Aldrich reportedly changed his name to distance himself from his father, Aaron Franklin Brink.

Brink was absent from his son's life, has been jailed on drug convictions, and has been involved in pornography production. In an interview with CBS 8 San Diego he spoke erratically and made comments hostile to gays. The father, a former mixed martial arts fighter, indicated he encouraged his son to behave aggressively and violently. Brink identified the family background as Mormon, though Aldrich has not been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Aquila, in his commentary, stressed that Catholic teaching is about truth and love for the good of all people, not discrimination or encouragement of violence.

"Some will say that the Church encouraged this violence by not 'accepting' those who identify as LGBTQ. On the contrary, the Catholic Church accepts every person. Our most sincere desire is that everyone someday become a saint — someone who has lived a life of exceptional virtue and then is united with God in heaven."

The archbishop pointed to Catholic ministries that aim to "accompany and seek dialogue with people experiencing same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, sex addiction, and related issues."

The archbishop rejected the claim that it is discriminatory against self-identified gay or transgender people to say their beliefs "don't conform to nature." Rather, this is "an act of charity."

"The Catholic Church teaches an integrated and complex worldview about sexuality and the human person that deserves to be engaged with, not caricatured and defamed," he said. "This is a matter not of hate but of disagreement about the foundation of who we are as human beings."

"The Catholic Church isn't perfect in its efforts to welcome those who don't live according to her teachings," he added. "We need to cooperate better with God's grace, help people discover Jesus Christ and more radically love those who disagree with us to build understanding rather than sow division."

At the same time, he insisted on the need for substantive discussion and warned that anti-Catholic polemics can have consequences, too.

"Ignoring the substance of an argument and resorting to scapegoating is the sign of a weak argument. Our politics are plagued by it. But a weak argument isn't always a peaceful one: Labeling Catholic teaching or one's political enemies as a root cause of violence may itself inspire violence. The attacks on churches and pregnancy-resource centers — including several in northern Colorado — in the wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision have made this clear."

As the solution, he suggested embracing the "pluralism that has served as a bedrock of our nation's founding for centuries."

"When we can openly discuss our beliefs without caricaturing each other and assuming evil intentions, we'll be making progress toward the common good."

In the week before the shooting, the Denver Post editorial board called for Catholic schools and any high school with similar beliefs or policies on sexual orientation and gender identity to be expelled from the Colorado High School Activities Association, which helps organize school sports. "Religious schools that discriminate should face consequences," was the title.

Other news reports that week focused on the Denver Rescue Mission's proposed employee morals clause that banned same-sex behavior and gender nonconformity for employees. There was debate about whether the Christian homeless shelter's proposal violated a nondiscrimination policy tied to its acceptance of city funds. The organization withdrew its proposal after the shooting.

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null / ShutterstockDenver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 17:15 pm (CNA).The Biden administration may not force Catholic organizations and medical professionals to perform gender-transition surgeries or provide insurance coverage for them, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has said in a Dec. 9 ruling that cited religious freedom grounds."The federal government has no business forcing doctors to violate their consciences or perform controversial procedures that could permanently harm their patients," Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket legal group, said Friday. "This is a common-sense ruling that protects patients, aligns with best medical practice, and ensures doctors can follow their Hippocratic Oath to 'do no harm.'"Becket serves as legal counsel for a coalition of Catholic organizations representing hospitals, doctors, and clinics that had filed the legal challenge to the mandate issued by President Joe Biden's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS...

null / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration may not force Catholic organizations and medical professionals to perform gender-transition surgeries or provide insurance coverage for them, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has said in a Dec. 9 ruling that cited religious freedom grounds.

"The federal government has no business forcing doctors to violate their consciences or perform controversial procedures that could permanently harm their patients," Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket legal group, said Friday. "This is a common-sense ruling that protects patients, aligns with best medical practice, and ensures doctors can follow their Hippocratic Oath to 'do no harm.'"

Becket serves as legal counsel for a coalition of Catholic organizations representing hospitals, doctors, and clinics that had filed the legal challenge to the mandate issued by President Joe Biden's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Catholic groups alleged that the mandate required them to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition surgeries and abortions, against their conscientious objections.

Plaintiffs included four Catholic groups under the Religious Sisters of Mercy, along with the Catholic Benefits Association, the Catholic Medical Association, the Diocese of Fargo, and Catholic Charities of North Dakota. They were joined by the state of North Dakota.

The ruling from a three-judge panel with the Eighth Circuit noted that the Religious Sisters of Mercy believe "that performing gender-transition procedures would violate their medical judgment by potentially causing harm to patients." Performing these procedures would violate their religious beliefs about human sexuality and procreation, as would providing insurance coverage to employees for such procedures.

The ruling affirmed a federal district court's January 2021 decision granting injunctive relief. The appeals court sided with the lower court's ruling that the intrusion on the Catholic plaintiffs' free exercise of religion was sufficient to show "irreparable harm."

"The government's attempt to force doctors to go against their consciences was bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty," Goodrich added. "Today's victory sets an important precedent that religious healthcare professionals are free to practice medicine in accordance with their consciences and experienced professional judgment."

The ruling ends a long legal battle stemming from a similar rule dating back to the Obama administration in 2016. The administration of President Joe Biden issued changes in January 2021.

If finalized, the Biden administration rule would have empowered the HHS to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries, in addition to expanding the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion.  

The rule revised Section 1557 of the 2010 Affordable Care Act to add "sexual orientation and gender identity" and "reproductive health care services" including "pregnancy termination" to existing "protections against discrimination on the basis of sex." 

It also reversed Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures against their beliefs.

The proposal met with strong opposition from religious doctors, medical organizations, and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which condemned the move in a July 27 statement. The bishops objected to requiring healthcare workers "to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts."

"Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate," the bishops said. "This is a violation of religious freedom and bad medicine."

Another federal lawsuit, Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, resulted in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the mandate in an Aug. 26 decision. The deadline to appeal that decision passed on Nov. 25.

In that case, religious medical groups including Franciscan Alliance, Christian Medical and Dental Society, and Specialty Physicians of Illinois had challenged the mandate.

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Indiana State Capitol. / Henryk Sadura via www.shutterstock.com.St. Louis, Mo., Dec 9, 2022 / 10:32 am (CNA).An Indiana abortion doctor, Caitlin Bernard, has voluntarily withdrawn her lawsuit against state attorney general Todd Rokita, whose office is investigating her after she publicly disclosed performing an abortion last summer on a 10-year-old Ohio child who was raped. Bernard in June performed an abortion on the girl, who traveled from Ohio to Indiana. Already known for her pro-abortion activism in Indiana, Bernard drew worldwide media attention to herself when she disclosed to the Indianapolis Star details about the abortion, though she did not name the patient. Ohio has a "heartbeat" abortion law in place, which took effect after the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, whereas Indiana at the time allowed abortions until 22 weeks' gestation. In late November, Rokita asked the state's medical licensing board to discipl...

Indiana State Capitol. / Henryk Sadura via www.shutterstock.com.

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 9, 2022 / 10:32 am (CNA).

An Indiana abortion doctor, Caitlin Bernard, has voluntarily withdrawn her lawsuit against state attorney general Todd Rokita, whose office is investigating her after she publicly disclosed performing an abortion last summer on a 10-year-old Ohio child who was raped. 

Bernard in June performed an abortion on the girl, who traveled from Ohio to Indiana. Already known for her pro-abortion activism in Indiana, Bernard drew worldwide media attention to herself when she disclosed to the Indianapolis Star details about the abortion, though she did not name the patient. Ohio has a "heartbeat" abortion law in place, which took effect after the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, whereas Indiana at the time allowed abortions until 22 weeks' gestation. 

In late November, Rokita asked the state's medical licensing board to discipline Bernard, contending that she "violated the law, her patient's trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient's abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment" to a reporter. 

For her part, Bernard had sued in November to stop Rokita from issuing subpoenas over patients' medical records, IndyStar reported, with her attorneys arguing that the "consumer complaints" Rokita used as a pretext to investigate Bernard came from people who had never interacted with the doctor. 

On Dec. 2, Marion County Judge Heather Welch ruled that Rokita could continue investigating Bernard. However, the judge also said that Rokita unlawfully made public comments about investigating Bernard before he filed the complaint with the medical board, the Associated Press reported. 

Following the judge's ruling, Bernard withdrew her lawsuit. It is currently unclear what consequences Rokita may face for discussing Bernard's case unlawfully, but his office expressed confidence that the judge's comments on that point did not have "legal value." Rokita's office instead focused on Bernard, whose case is now before the state licensing board. 

"Her decision to withdraw her suit less than a week after our win in court is further confirmation that she was putting her political agenda above the privacy and safety of her 10-year-old patient," a spokesperson for Rokita's office told the AP. 

Indiana's medical licensing board, which has the authority to suspend, revoke, or place on probation a doctor's license, said Dec. 2 it had received the complaint but that no hearing date had been set, the AP reported. 

In his Nov. 30 legal complaint, Rokita said Bernard "failed to immediately report" the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities, as required under Indiana law. Bernard, through her attorneys, has stated that she reported the minor's abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline to do so, which in Indiana's case is three days. Rokita contends, though, that a child abuse report should have been made to Indiana authorities within four hours so that the state could ensure the child was not being returned to an unsafe situation in Ohio. 

Bernard has testified that she had confirmed that child abuse authorities in Ohio were actively investigating the case before the girl arrived in Indiana for the abortion, and her attorneys contend that that satisfies the requirements of Indiana law, Law&Crime reported. 

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Ultrasound of a baby in the womb. / GagliardiPhotography/ShutterstockDenver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 11:05 am (CNA).A proposed ordinance in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo would require abortion clinics to follow federal law and allow citizens to file a civil complaint against any clinics that violate the law. The proposal comes after news that late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart seeks to open an abortion clinic in the city.The proposal asks U.S. attorneys for the District of Colorado "to investigate and prosecute all abortion providers and abortion-pill distribution networks.""We call upon victims of abortion providers and abortion-pill networks to sue these criminal racketeering enterprises," the text says.The ordinance text cites federal provisions of the 1873 Comstock law, which bar sending abortion-related items in the mail. The proposed ordinance says federal law imposes criminal liability on those who ship or receive abortion pills or abortion-related paraphernalia in ...

Ultrasound of a baby in the womb. / GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Dec 9, 2022 / 11:05 am (CNA).

A proposed ordinance in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo would require abortion clinics to follow federal law and allow citizens to file a civil complaint against any clinics that violate the law. The proposal comes after news that late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart seeks to open an abortion clinic in the city.

The proposal asks U.S. attorneys for the District of Colorado "to investigate and prosecute all abortion providers and abortion-pill distribution networks."

"We call upon victims of abortion providers and abortion-pill networks to sue these criminal racketeering enterprises," the text says.

The ordinance text cites federal provisions of the 1873 Comstock law, which bar sending abortion-related items in the mail. The proposed ordinance says federal law imposes criminal liability on those who ship or receive abortion pills or abortion-related paraphernalia in interstate and foreign commerce. Violations may be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The ordinance would require abortion clinics to obtain a city license and comply with this understanding of federal law. If the proposal becomes law, it requires enforcement of the law to take place "exclusively" through a right of private action. This enforcement mechanism resembles a Texas law that allowed lawsuits against abortion clinics that violate state law.

The ordinance passed its first reading Nov. 28 by a vote of 4-3, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA Dec. 7 that the proposal is "a tremendous effort for life, protected in federal statute and within the rights of Puebloans to enforce themselves."

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar said he has not yet decided whether he would veto the ordinance if it passes. Five votes would be required to override a veto. The final vote, which could still be postponed, is currently scheduled for Dec. 12.

Pueblo, located more than 100 miles south of Denver, is the ninth-most populous city in Colorado with more than 111,000 people. The closest abortion clinic is in Colorado Springs, about 50 miles north of Pueblo.

Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence (CARE) has purchased a location in the city's Bessemer neighborhood. It also has clinics in Nebraska and Maryland.

CARE's medical director is LeRoy Carhart, a prolific late-term abortionist who waged a legal fight in Nebraska in the late 1990s and early 2000s to strike down the state's ban on partial-birth abortions. He also unsuccessfully sued to block a 2003 federal ban on partial-birth abortions, which remains in place today. Carhart is one of the few abortion doctors in the country who openly performs abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Pueblo City Councilwoman Regina Maestri, a sponsor of the ordinance, said it was a response to news that Carhart planned to open an abortion clinic.

"Pueblo has not really ever had an abortion clinic of this nature," she told CNA Dec. 7. "My community doesn't feel like we need to be hosting Dr. Carhart because he's been unwelcome in other areas, in other cities."

CNA sought comment from CARE but did not receive a response by publication.

The proposed Pueblo ordinance comes after a strong pro-abortion advocacy campaign in Colorado anticipating the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision, ending Roe v. Wade and returning abortion law to the states.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Legislature passed the strongly pro-abortion Reproductive Health Equity Act, which explicitly denies any legal rights to unborn children.

Vessely characterized the law as "abhorrent." She told CNA it "removes all limits in favor of gruesome abortion on demand for the full 40 weeks."

Maestri told CNA she was concerned about Colorado's lack of abortion regulation, including its permission for non-doctors to perform an abortion under a licensed doctor. Another concern is that Carhart's clinic is far from the nearest hospital emergency room that could accept a patient in case of complications.

"What's important about this proposed ordinance is that it stops abortion clinics from coming in and setting up in Pueblo," she said. The ordinance is "the only thing that we can put in place in order to stop the abortion clinics from coming to town until we feel that they're properly regulated. It's about women's safety at this point."

"The state of Colorado has been very negligent in legalizing abortion," she said.

However, the proposed ordinance has its critics. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat who campaigned on a pro-abortion-rights position, is "committed to defending the Reproductive Health Equity Act and challenging any local ordinance that violates the law," according to his director of communications, Lawrence Pacheco.

Sara Neel, a senior staff attorney for the Colorado ACLU, which backs abortion, said the Comstock laws the proposal cites are interpreted to apply only to unlawful items.

"Since abortion is lawful, and drugs have been approved by the FDA and even approved for mailing in the United States … I think their reliance on the Comstock laws is misplaced at the current time," she said, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

The city's legal department has recommended the city council not adopt the ordinance.

In Vessely's view, the proposed ordinance is in line with Coloradan and American legal traditions.

"Pueblo is saying, 'not in our city!' which is a commendable act of federalism, intended by the founders of our country and state," she said. "Late-term abortionists like Leroy Carhart, who acknowledge the humanity of the babies they murder in the womb and have caused the deaths of many women, have no place in Pueblo or in Colorado."

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Altar of St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese, Nigeria, where dozens were slain in a massacre on June 5, 2022. / Courtesy of ACNAdo Ekiti, Nigeria, Dec 9, 2022 / 12:05 pm (CNA).Six months after the Pentecost Sunday attack on St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish in Ondo Diocese, which left 39 Catholic worshipers killed and more than 80 injured, there have been arrests and promises but no prosecution, Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye has lamented. "Dec. 5, 2022, is the sixth month of the evil attack, the dead have been buried and their people and other well-wishers are still in sorrowful moods," the leader of Ondo's neighboring Ekiti Diocese said in a Dec. 5 statement."Nigeria is still waiting."On Aug. 11, Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor told journalists that four suspects allegedly involved in the June 5 attack had been arrested. He identified the suspects as Idris Omeiza (a.k.a Bin Malik), Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa, and Auwal Onimisi."More t...

Altar of St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese, Nigeria, where dozens were slain in a massacre on June 5, 2022. / Courtesy of ACN

Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, Dec 9, 2022 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

Six months after the Pentecost Sunday attack on St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish in Ondo Diocese, which left 39 Catholic worshipers killed and more than 80 injured, there have been arrests and promises but no prosecution, Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye has lamented.

"Dec. 5, 2022, is the sixth month of the evil attack, the dead have been buried and their people and other well-wishers are still in sorrowful moods," the leader of Ondo's neighboring Ekiti Diocese said in a Dec. 5 statement.

"Nigeria is still waiting."

On Aug. 11, Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor told journalists that four suspects allegedly involved in the June 5 attack had been arrested. He identified the suspects as Idris Omeiza (a.k.a Bin Malik), Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa, and Auwal Onimisi.

"More than ever, the people who have been in custody since they were arrested need to be prosecuted now," Femi emphasized.

"General Irabor, Nigeria is still waiting," he said, adding that the Nigerian security official should issue an update on the investigation and the status of the prosecution.

There were "outcries, condemnations, and there were promises" made nationally and internationally, the bishop noted.

"As usual, the Buhari-led government commiserated with the people concerned. Typical of the administration's trademark, it vowed to be on top of the situation and fish out the culprits," Femi said. Yet authorities have said little since announcing the arrests months ago.

Referring to the Gospel of St. Matthew, the bishop said: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: It is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more."

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Cardinal Konrad Krajewski visits the Italian island of Ischia Dec. 8, 2022, on behalf of Pope Francis to console victims of recent flooding there. / Credit: Holy See Press OfficeCNA Newsroom, Dec 9, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).The prefect of the Dicastery for Charity, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, visited the Italian island of Ischia on behalf of Pope Francis to meet with the victims of recent floods.The floods took place in the early morning hours of Nov. 26 and have so far caused the deaths of 12 people, several serious injuries, and the evacuation of at least 200 people.The Holy Father asked Krajewski to travel on his behalf on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, to express his spiritual closeness.In an interview with the local press, the Vatican official said that he visited some homes of the relatives of the deceased and also prayed in the Church of the "Santissima Annunziata" ("The Most Holy Virgin of the Annunciation"), where some of the coffins with the bodies of...

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski visits the Italian island of Ischia Dec. 8, 2022, on behalf of Pope Francis to console victims of recent flooding there. / Credit: Holy See Press Office

CNA Newsroom, Dec 9, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The prefect of the Dicastery for Charity, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, visited the Italian island of Ischia on behalf of Pope Francis to meet with the victims of recent floods.

The floods took place in the early morning hours of Nov. 26 and have so far caused the deaths of 12 people, several serious injuries, and the evacuation of at least 200 people.

The Holy Father asked Krajewski to travel on his behalf on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, to express his spiritual closeness.

In an interview with the local press, the Vatican official said that he visited some homes of the relatives of the deceased and also prayed in the Church of the "Santissima Annunziata" ("The Most Holy Virgin of the Annunciation"), where some of the coffins with the bodies of the deceased were placed and whose funerals will soon be conducted.

Krajewski told the people there he brought the blessing of the Holy Father and also presented rosaries to each one.

"Words fail me at this time ... The important thing is discrete presence, respecting their mourning," the papal envoy said.

The Holy Father expressed his closeness to those affected by the natural disaster at the conclusion of the Angelus prayer on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

In addition, the pope sent a message on his official Twitter account in Italian, @Pontifex_it.

"I am close to the population of the island of Ischia, affected by the floods. I pray for the victims, for those who suffer and for all those who have come to the rescue," the pope said.

In addition, the bishop of the Diocese of Ischia, Gennaro Pascarella, called for hope and for "a wave of spiritual and concrete solidarity" with those affected by the floods and landslides on this Italian island.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Our Lady of Guadalupe “always leads us to Jesus, who will...

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Our Lady of Guadalupe “always leads us to Jesus, who will show us the way to find peace,” Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said Dec. 4.

“Jesus will show us the way to the true happiness and love in our lives,” he told thousands of the faithful gathered for an annual outdoor Mass at East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium.

“True conversion is to change the way in which we live,” Archbishop Gomez said in Spanish during his bilingual homily. “Let’s ask our Mother Mary to help us discover what are those small things we need to change in our lives.”

He reminded Massgoers of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message of hope, compassion, unity and love.

“God wants us to remain united, to be close to him and close to each other, especially in our families. Let’s make of our families a model of unity and a place full of love,” the archbishop said. “Our homes should always be where Jesus should be present and a place where all can find love, compassion and mercy.”

The liturgy followed a procession through the streets of East Los Angeles that included “andas,” or decorated handmade carts with framed images or statues brought by families and parish groups to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Themed “Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Mother of life and peace, pray for us,” the procession and Mass commemorated the 491st anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to the peasant Juan Diego, who was canonized in 2002 by St. John Paul II.

The Mass featured the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of St. Juan Diego that have been hosted by several parishes and cemeteries of the Los Angeles Archdiocese since October.

It was preceded by a musical tribute to Mary, including singers Araceli Sipaque and Jose Franco, and dances by the archdiocese’s Filipino ministry. Mariachi Charros de Oro de Adrian Cruz was part of the Mass.

The celebration is the oldest religious procession in LA. It was established by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero War in 1931.

Commemorating the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it recalls the miraculous apparitions of Mary to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill near what is today Mexico City in December 1531, when she left her image on his “tilma,” or cloak.

Her image has been a symbol of unity, peace, compassion and hope for people around the world. She also is the patroness of the Americas.

Starting in mid-October, the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known as La Peregrina, and St. Juan Diego began a pilgrimage to visit 25 parishes and Catholic cemeteries, where hundreds of faithful had the opportunity for veneration.

La Peregrina, a pilgrim image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, is an exact digital reproduction of the original image in Mexico City’s basilica, which has been blessed and touched to the original image.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and one of St. Juan Diego were gifts hand-delivered 17 years ago to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Msgr. Diego Monroy, then rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

St. Juan Diego’s feast is Dec. 9.

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Pope Francis met Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege on Dec. 9, 2022. / Vatican MediaRome Newsroom, Dec 9, 2022 / 04:18 am (CNA).Pope Francis met Friday with Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, a Congolese physician known for his work treating victims of sexual violence.The private audience at the Vatican on Dec. 9 comes as Pope Francis is preparing to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) next month.Mukwege has said that he hopes the pope's January visit will "shed light on what is happening in the Congo.""The international community is making the same mistake as it did in Rwanda when it allowed the genocide of the Tutsis. Today Rwandan-backed guerrillas are massacring the Congolese: these are crimes against humanity, war crimes that can also be crimes of genocide. And the international community has closed its eyes as it closed them in 1994," he told Vatican News on Dec. 5.The M23 armed rebel group in the DRC executed 131 people last week "as part of a campa...

Pope Francis met Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege on Dec. 9, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 9, 2022 / 04:18 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met Friday with Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, a Congolese physician known for his work treating victims of sexual violence.

The private audience at the Vatican on Dec. 9 comes as Pope Francis is preparing to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) next month.

Mukwege has said that he hopes the pope's January visit will "shed light on what is happening in the Congo."

"The international community is making the same mistake as it did in Rwanda when it allowed the genocide of the Tutsis. Today Rwandan-backed guerrillas are massacring the Congolese: these are crimes against humanity, war crimes that can also be crimes of genocide. And the international community has closed its eyes as it closed them in 1994," he told Vatican News on Dec. 5.

The M23 armed rebel group in the DRC executed 131 people last week "as part of a campaign of murders, rapes, kidnappings and looting against two villages," the UN reported on Dec. 8.

"The humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unprecedented: six million people are now displaced, homeless and without food," Mukwege said.

Another rebel group aligned with the Islamic State, the Allied Democratic Forces, attacked a Catholic mission hospital in the country's northeast province of North Kivu in October and killed six patients and Catholic Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki.

Mukwege responded to the news of the attack in North Kivu "with horror" and called on all Congolese doctors to demonstrate peacefully on the day of the funeral of the Catholic nun.

"The time has come to consolidate the rule of law and prevent the recurrence of the mass atrocities that have bereaved every Congolese family for more than a quarter of a century," he said.

Amid the violence perpetrated by armed rebel groups in DRC's eastern region, Mukwege founded a hospital in 2008 in his hometown of Bukavu, where he and his staff have treated the injuries of thousands of women and girls who were victims of rape and sexual violence.

As a gynecologist, Mukwege is recognized as "one of the world's leading experts on the treatment of internal injuries suffered by women subjected to gang rape," according to the Nobel organization.

Mukwege was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 along with Nadia Murad. Both were recognized for their "efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of armed conflict."

The pope previously met with Murad, a survivor of ISIS enslavement and an advocate for persecuted Iraqi minorities, at the Vatican in 2018 and 2021 following his trip to Iraq.

Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to the Congolese capital of Kinshasa on Jan. 31 before he heads to South Sudan on Feb. 3. The pope's trip to the African countries was originally to take place at the beginning of July but was postponed by the Vatican due to problems with Pope Francis' knee.

With the media attention that comes with a papal visit to the Congo, Mukwege said that he wants to see "the international authorities finally take the necessary measures to stop these atrocities, which are a shame for our humanity."

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — All workers should feel welcomed by the church and know that...

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — All workers should feel welcomed by the church and know that their needs and problems are taken seriously, Pope Francis said.

In fact, labor and employment are experiencing “a phase of transformation that needs to be accompanied,” he told members of Italy’s Movement of Christian Workers during an audience at the Vatican Dec. 9.

“Social inequalities, forms of slavery and exploitation, family poverty due to the lack of work or poorly paid work are realities that must be listened to in our church communities. They are more or less forms of exploitation — let us call things by their real name,” he said.

The movement, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its official establishment, promotes the church’s teachings and Christian values in society, in the world of work and in government policies.

Pope Francis asked members to make a special commitment to bringing the concerns and problems of workers to the many levels of the church community.

“It is important that workers feel at home in parishes, associations, groups and movements; that their problems are taken seriously, that their call for solidarity can be heard,” the pope told them.

“I urge you to keep your minds and hearts open to workers, especially the poor and defenseless; to give voice to the voiceless; to not worry so much about your members, but to be leaven in the social fabric of the country, a leaven of justice and solidarity,” he said.

The pope encouraged the movement to reject all forms of exploitation and actively offer a response to today’s situations.

“No one should feel excluded from work. Do not fail in your efforts to promote employment for women, to encourage young people to enter the workforce with decent contracts and not starvation wages, to safeguard time and ‘breathing space’ for the family, for volunteering and for nurturing relationships,” the pope said.

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BRIGHT, Ind. (CNS) — As dusk turned into darkness Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving,...

BRIGHT, Ind. (CNS) — As dusk turned into darkness Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving, colorful Christmas lights began illuminating 19 acres on the campus of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright.

The 100,000-plus lights weren’t there just to light up the night sky. The purpose of the “Bright Lights” display is to let the light of Christ shine in the souls of the people who view it.

“So many people follow secular Christmas, and Christmas lights are secular Christmas,” Father Jonathan Meyer told The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“People who don’t believe in Jesus will spend thousands of dollars decorating their yards with lights. So, my whole thing was, ‘Hey, I would like to somehow reach out to those people,'” he said.

Father Meyer is pastor in solidum with Father Daniel Mahan of St. Teresa and the other three parishes in Dearborn County — All Saints and St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg and St. Mary in Aurora — in southeastern Indiana near Cincinnati.

In what could be described as drive-thru catechesis, signs next to the various features of the display explain how ordinary holiday images are rooted in the Catholic faith.

Lighted images of an angel and Mary have a sign that explains the Annunciation. Signs by large lighted plastic candles tell visitors these are a reminder that the Christ Child is the light of the world.

Next to several Nativity scenes are signs with short prayers.

“If we can just help people say those words, I don’t know what God will unlock in their hearts,” Father Meyer said.

In addition to the signs, people driving through the campus can tune to two low-power FM radio stations to hear Christmas music and explanations of the display.

The culmination of the light show is a large, synchronized display at the back of the campus, with tens of thousands of lights blinking in time with music that viewers hear through their car radio.

Volunteers staff the free display when it’s open to the public — from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 6.

They meet people as they drive onto the campus and give them flyers that provide more information about the display and the parish.

One of the first people to visit the light show was Merita Glaub, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris, Indiana, who said the display’s Catholic themes “made me feel at home.”

A Baptist friend who came with Glaub said the display’s Christian aspects were welcoming.

“I was very impressed with it,” said Sharon Norman, a member of Dearborn Baptist Church in Manchester, Indiana. “The amount of work and time to do this was phenomenal. I love the way everything was done. Christ was brought in.”

Most of the features in the display were donated by Dearborn County Catholics. The only major costs were purchasing the synchronized light display from a previous owner and buying and installing wiring on the campus for the light show.

Funds for the purchases came from the Indianapolis archdiocesan Growth and Expansion Grant Fund offered through the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation.

Father Meyer noted that Bright Lights was the last of four events held around Thanksgiving by the four parishes to reach out to the broader community.

Two running and walking events raised funds for community food pantries. In addition, members of St. Lawrence Parish served 300 hot meals on Thanksgiving to people in need.

As he looked at the acres of lights at St. Teresa, Father Meyer said that Bright Lights and the other events in Dearborn County around Thanksgiving were a way for the parishes to share the Gospel with the surrounding community.

“This is a way to reach out,” Father Meyer said. “It’s a way to be with people. I like to refer to it as non-threatening evangelization. We’re trying to just allow things to speak, allow beauty to speak, allow truth to speak.”

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Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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