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Catholic News

null / ContentForAll/ShutterstockWashington D.C., Oct 17, 2021 / 11:55 am (CNA).A group of 17 missionaries and family members were abducted in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported. The missionaries were part of Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio, and were kidnapped while visiting an orphanage.In an update posted to its website on Sunday afternoon, Christian Aid Ministries asked for prayers for a "resolution." It said the group included five men, seven women, and five children; nearly all of those abducted were U.S. citizens, with one Canadian citizen in the group."As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust Him to see us through. May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation," the group stated.A person familiar with the situation said one of those abducted sent a message via WhatsApp, the Washington Post reported. "Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray...

null / ContentForAll/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2021 / 11:55 am (CNA).

A group of 17 missionaries and family members were abducted in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported. The missionaries were part of Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio, and were kidnapped while visiting an orphanage.

In an update posted to its website on Sunday afternoon, Christian Aid Ministries asked for prayers for a "resolution." It said the group included five men, seven women, and five children; nearly all of those abducted were U.S. citizens, with one Canadian citizen in the group.

"As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust Him to see us through. May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation," the group stated.

A person familiar with the situation said one of those abducted sent a message via WhatsApp, the Washington Post reported. "Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don't know where they are taking us," the message stated.

A Haitian police official alleged that the infamous "400 Mawozo" gang was responsible for the kidnapping, the AP reported on Sunday. That same criminal gang was behind the kidnapping of Catholic priests and religious in April.

The missionaries were based in the town of Titanyen, and were returning from building an orphanage in Fond Parisien, according to the Times report.

The website of Christian Aid Ministries states that it serves as a "channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals" to provide aid to those in need around the world. It supports aid and anti-poverty efforts in countries such as Haiti and Kazakhstan, but also promotes billboard evangelism in the United States and advertises assistance for any conscientious objectors in the event of a U.S military draft.

Haiti has been rocked by natural disasters, civil unrest, and frequent gang violence and kidnappings in recent months. The country's president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home in July, and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the country in August.

A top Holy See diplomat on Friday warned of "unbearable" security problems in the country, in a statement at the United Nations Security Council Arria Formula Meeting on Haiti.

The presidential assassination "proves that no one is invulnerable," said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. "Lack of security has become unbearable, with seemingly no hope in sight."

He noted "widespread civil unrest" in Haiti, where "kidnappings have become commonplace, and gang violence is so pervasive that humanitarian actors are impeded from carrying out their vital work."

"Frequently these have included missionaries and personnel of faith-based organizations," he said.

In April, 10 Catholic priests and religious were abducted in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets. The criminal gang which calls itself "400 Mazowo" demanded a $1 million ransom in the case. Three of those abducted were released the same day, while the remaining seven were released after several weeks; it was unclear if the ransom had been paid.

At the time the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned in a statement that gang violence in the country had reached "unprecedented" levels.

This article was updated with new information on Oct. 17. An earlier version of this article stated that Christian Aid Ministries was an "evangelical" organization. The article has been updated with information from the group's website.

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Mother Teresa. / India 7 Network via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).Vatican City, Oct 17, 2021 / 09:42 am (CNA).Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity.It wasn't until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa's spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.  When Mother Teresa's cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa's close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications.Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten b...

Mother Teresa. / India 7 Network via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2021 / 09:42 am (CNA).

Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity.

It wasn't until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa's spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.  

When Mother Teresa's cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa's close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications.

Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions.

During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary's school in Calcutta.

Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.”

It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.

“She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.”

Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “'I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,'” Fr. Vazhakala related.

According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “'I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.'”

After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.”

Mother Teresa's spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta.

This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.”

People around the world know about Mother Teresa's visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala.

Mother Teresa's motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said.

Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted.

She said, “I'm not going to sleep in heaven, but I'm going to work harder in another form.”

Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 27, 2016.

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Pope Francis lays his hands on the head of Guido Marini during his episcopal consecration in St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 17, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/EWTN/Vatican PoolVatican City, Oct 17, 2021 / 05:21 am (CNA).On Sunday, Pope Francis consecrated two new bishops for the Catholic Church in St. Peter's Basilica: Bishop Guido Marini of Tortona, Italy, and Bishop Andrés Gabriel Ferrada Moreira, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy.During the Mass, Pope Francis reminded the bishops-elect to always be close to God, their brother bishops, priests, and the People of God.Two of the most important things a Catholic bishop must do are pray and announce the Gospel, the pope said in impromptu comments during the homily Oct. 17."The first task of the bishop is to pray," he said, "and not like a parrot, to pray with the heart, to pray."Do not make excuses about not having time to pray, he added. "Remove the other things, because praying is the bishop's first duty."Pope Francis also advi...

Pope Francis lays his hands on the head of Guido Marini during his episcopal consecration in St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 17, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/EWTN/Vatican Pool

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2021 / 05:21 am (CNA).

On Sunday, Pope Francis consecrated two new bishops for the Catholic Church in St. Peter's Basilica: Bishop Guido Marini of Tortona, Italy, and Bishop Andrés Gabriel Ferrada Moreira, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy.

During the Mass, Pope Francis reminded the bishops-elect to always be close to God, their brother bishops, priests, and the People of God.

Two of the most important things a Catholic bishop must do are pray and announce the Gospel, the pope said in impromptu comments during the homily Oct. 17.

"The first task of the bishop is to pray," he said, "and not like a parrot, to pray with the heart, to pray."

Do not make excuses about not having time to pray, he added. "Remove the other things, because praying is the bishop's first duty."

Pope Francis also advised the bishops-elect to go out of their way to make time for their priests: "If you learn that a priest has called you, call him the same day or the day after. And with this he will know that he has a father."

"May the Lord make you grow on this path of closeness, in this way you will better imitate the Lord, because he has always been close and is always close to us, and with his closeness, which is a compassionate and tender closeness, he carries us forward," Francis concluded his homily. "And may Our Lady watch over you."

During the consecration, the bishops-elect promised to preach the gospel with faithfulness and perseverance, to protect the deposit of faith, to care for Catholics as a father, to be welcoming and merciful to the poor, to obey the pope, to pray tirelessly, and "to go in search of the lost sheep to bring them back to the fold of Christ."

Marini and Ferrada then prostrated themselves on the ground while the Litany of Saints was sung.

Afterward, Pope Francis laid his hands on each of the men as they knelt in front of him. Other bishops also laid their hands on the heads of the bishops-elect.

An open Book of the Gospels was held over their heads while Pope Francis said the prayer of consecration.

The new bishops each received the miter and crosier, as well as a ring with the image of a shepherd carrying a lamb, which they will wear on the third finger of their right hands.

Bishop Guido Marini, 56, was the Vatican's head master of ceremonies for papal liturgies for 14 years. On Aug. 29, Pope Francis named him to lead the Diocese of Tortona, which is in northern Italy not far from Marini's hometown of Genoa.

Bishop Andrés Gabriel Ferrada, 52, is from Chile's capital city, Santiago. He was named the titular archbishop of Tiburnia in honor of his new position as secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.

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Photograph of a bronze statue of Saint Father Junipero Serra in the Gardens of the Carmel Mission Basilica in Carmel, California / Terry Huntingdon Tydings/ShutterstockDenver Newsroom, Oct 16, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).While Catholic leaders have made strong defenses of St. Junipero Serra after a wave of vandalism and crime targeted Catholic statues and churches last year, political leaders in California continue to remove markers of the missionary whom Pope Francis canonized as the first Hispanic American saint. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Oct. 11 that the city would no longer call the park across from Union Station by its informal name, Father Junipero Serra Park. A statue of Serra had been in the park from the 1930s until 2020, when protesters toppled it amid racial tensions and claims the saint, who died in 1784, was involved in injustices of the Spanish colonial period. The park will be called La Plaza Park until a new name is adopted. The park is walkin...

Photograph of a bronze statue of Saint Father Junipero Serra in the Gardens of the Carmel Mission Basilica in Carmel, California / Terry Huntingdon Tydings/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 16, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

While Catholic leaders have made strong defenses of St. Junipero Serra after a wave of vandalism and crime targeted Catholic statues and churches last year, political leaders in California continue to remove markers of the missionary whom Pope Francis canonized as the first Hispanic American saint. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Oct. 11 that the city would no longer call the park across from Union Station by its informal name, Father Junipero Serra Park. A statue of Serra had been in the park from the 1930s until 2020, when protesters toppled it amid racial tensions and claims the saint, who died in 1784, was involved in injustices of the Spanish colonial period. The park will be called La Plaza Park until a new name is adopted. 

The park is walking distance from La Placita, the Church of Our Lady Queen of Angels, the city's oldest Catholic church, which has elements dating back at least to 1814. Serra did not have personal links to the key landmark

"We all share the same mission, the mission that brought St. Junípero Serra to California — to share the good news of God's love and to witness to his love through our actions!" Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles had said on Twitter Oct. 15, showing a historic drawing portraying friars baptizing an indigenous baby.

In a Sept. 12 essay, Gomez joined San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to criticize the "outrageous claim" about Serra and the mission system he founded. 

"As leaders of the state's two largest Catholic communities, we serve thousands of native Californians who trace their faith to ancestors who helped build the missions," they said. "We understand the bitter history of native exploitation. But history can be complicated and facts matter."

They said Serra was a "complex character" who "defended indigenous people's humanity, decried the abuse of indigenous women, and argued against imposing the death penalty on natives who had burned down a mission and murdered one of his friends." 

Even though aged and infirm, Serra had traveled 2,000 miles to Mexico City "to demand that authorities adopt a native bill of rights he had written," they said.

Mayor Garcetti announced the change to honor Indigenous Peoples Day.

"Los Angeles is a city of belonging that takes responsibility for the mistakes we've made in the past," he said in an Oct. 11 statement. "Our indigenous brothers and sisters deserve justice and today we take a step toward delivering both greater cultural sensitivity and spaces for Angelenos to gather and perform their traditional ceremonies."

"This is not about tearing down or erecting statues. This is about telling the complicated truth of history," he said, according to KABC News.

Garcetti spoke at an event with members of indigenous Californians from the Gabrielino/Tongva and Fernandeño Tataviam tribes.

"The buildings that are here were built on the slave labor of native inhabitants. And we're sorry," Garcetti continued. "We're sorry as a city for all the things that were done as a Spanish city, a Mexico city, an American city to erase the peoples whose land this is and always will be."

Garcetti said the city plans to issue a formal apology, give Native Americans priority access to the park, and work to determine what lands should be given to them.

The Los Angeles mayor's Civic Memory Working Group released an April 2021 report on engagement with the past. It does not mention Serra or Catholicism specifically. It acknowledges the "history of erasure of the Indigenous people of Los Angeles," endorses statements of apology or reconciliation, and recommends "clear practices to ameliorate and/or decolonize the practices of erasure and exclusion."

Also speaking last Monday was Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, a member of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, a federally recognized tribe. O'Farrell's remarks were explicitly critical of Serra.

"Places like Serra Park, named after Junipero Serra who in this region led local subjugation and conversion efforts on behalf of the Catholic Church, are a powerful symbol of past wrongs," O'Farrell said, according to KABC News.

Archbishops Gomez and Salvatore explicitly criticized a California bill's claim that Serra oversaw a mission system that included "enslavement of both adults and children, mutilation, genocide, and assault on women."

"While there is much to criticize from this period, no serious historian has ever made such outrageous claims about Serra or the mission system, the network of 21 communities that Franciscans established along the California coast to evangelize native people," they said in their essay, contending lawmakers base their claims on a single tendentious source, a book by journalist Elias Castillo.

CNA sought comment from the Los Angeles archdiocese but did not receive a response by deadline.

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The Texas capitol. / f11photo/ShutterstockDenver Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 18:12 pm (CNA).A federal appeals court has allowed a heartbeat-based Texas ban on abortion to remain in effect, rejecting the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to reinstate an injunction. Biden administration officials have pledged to ask the Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction.A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Oct. 14 ruled 2-1 that the Texas Heartbeat Act, Senate Bill 8, may continue. Their decision follows a temporary ruling last week that overturned an injunction against the law.Texas' law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies.The law allows for awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits against those who perform or "aid and abet" illegal abortions. Women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law, which ...

The Texas capitol. / f11photo/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 18:12 pm (CNA).

A federal appeals court has allowed a heartbeat-based Texas ban on abortion to remain in effect, rejecting the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to reinstate an injunction. Biden administration officials have pledged to ask the Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Oct. 14 ruled 2-1 that the Texas Heartbeat Act, Senate Bill 8, may continue. Their decision follows a temporary ruling last week that overturned an injunction against the law.

Texas' law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies.

The law allows for awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits against those who perform or "aid and abet" illegal abortions. Women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law, which first took effect Sept. 1.

The law was designed to avoid judicial review, the Washington Post reports.

Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said Oct. 15 the Justice Department "intends to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the Fifth Circuit's stay of the preliminary injunction against Texas Senate Bill 8."

In early September the Supreme Court declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. It said foes of the law had raised "serious questions" about its constitutionality but the abortion providers challenging the law had not shown they were challenging the proper defendants.

President Joe Biden has called the law "an unprecedented assault on a woman's constitutional rights" and promised a "whole-of-government" effort to maintain abortion access in Texas.

He directed federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to review what actions could be taken "to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe."

An Oct. 6 ruling from a federal district judge had barred Texas from actions such as awarding damages to successful lawsuits or enforcing judgements in such cases. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then temporarily reversed that decision Oct. 8.

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department argued the state acted "in open defiance of the Constitution" in restricting "most pre-viability abortions," and requested a preliminary injunction to block the law.

In late September, two non-Texas residents sued a Texas abortion doctor who announced he had performed an abortion in violation of the new law. A Texas pro-life group criticized those lawsuits, however, calling them "imprudent" and "self-serving," saying that neither was filed "to save innocent human lives."

Pro-life leaders in the state estimate that the law has saved more than 4,700 babies from abortion. Some clinics could be forced to close permanently.

Abortions generally halted in Texas after the law took effect, but many women seeking abortions are traveling to nearby states. At least six abortion clinics resumed performing abortions during the period when the law was enjoined.

The Texas state legislature has increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and securing $100 million in annual funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed into law a ban on the use of abortion-inducing drugs in the state seven weeks into a pregnancy. The measure is set to take effect in December.

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Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. / Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)Solsona, Spain, Oct 15, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, who resigned as Bishop of Solsona in August, has applied for a civil marriage license with his partner, who is herself a divorcee.After various inquiries with Spanish ecclesial authorities by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister news agency, there is no record that Bishop Novell, 52, has been dismissed from the clerical state, or has even requested such.Those who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage, as do those bound by the bond of a prior marriage. A cleric who attempts marriage can be punished, even by dismissal from the clerical state.According to a document released by Spanish media, Bishop Novell made the request with the Civil Registry of Suria in Spain's Barcelona Province Oct. 7.Within the 15 days established by the Civil Registry of Spain, the authorities ask "all persons ...

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. / Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Solsona, Spain, Oct 15, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, who resigned as Bishop of Solsona in August, has applied for a civil marriage license with his partner, who is herself a divorcee.

After various inquiries with Spanish ecclesial authorities by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister news agency, there is no record that Bishop Novell, 52, has been dismissed from the clerical state, or has even requested such.

Those who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage, as do those bound by the bond of a prior marriage. A cleric who attempts marriage can be punished, even by dismissal from the clerical state.

According to a document released by Spanish media, Bishop Novell made the request with the Civil Registry of Suria in Spain's Barcelona Province Oct. 7.

Within the 15 days established by the Civil Registry of Spain, the authorities ask "all persons who know of any legal impediment" to state so before the marriage takes place.

In the document signed by Justice of the Peace Jaume Bransuela Alsina, "all persons who know of any legal impediment (...) are asked to express it in writing or orally to this Court within a period of fifteen days."

Bishop Novell resigned Aug. 23 citing "strictly personal reasons." The diocese announced that the decision was made freely and in accord with a canon which asks that a bishop "who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause … present his resignation from office."

Various media broke the news Sept. 5 that Bishop Novell moved to Manresa to live with Silvia Caballol, 38, a psychologist and author of erotic novels with satanic overtones, some of them restricted to those 18 or older. 

Caballol is separated from her husband, and the mother of two. 

Bishop Novell was born in 1969 in Spain's Lérida province.

He earned a degree in agricultural technical engineering from the University of Lleida, a bachelor's in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1997, and a doctorate in 2004.

He was ordained a priest of the Solsona diocese in 1997, and in 2010 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed ordinary of the same diocese.

The apostolic administrator of Solsona, Bishop Romà Casanova i Casanova of Vic, wrote in September that after Bishop Novell's resignation some of the feelings people were experiencing were of "truncated fidelity," "abandoned fatherhood" and "shaken fraternity", because a bishop's relationship with his diocese is "much more than the cold reality of a captain who makes things go as best as possible."

Bishop Casanova said, "the Lord never abandons his people. To come out of this we have to live out the communion that leads us to fraternity and trusting prayer. We need to hear the voice of the Lord and experience the strength of his hand that does not allow us to perish."

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Baltimore, Maryland / Sean Pavone/ShutterstockWashington D.C., Oct 15, 2021 / 15:10 pm (CNA).A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Baltimore city officials cannot block the parent company of the website Church Militant from holding a rally during a meeting of the U.S. bishops in November. St. Michael's Media, Inc., the parent company of Church Militant, had planned a "Bishops: Enough is Enough" prayer rally to coincide with the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops' conference in Baltimore, which is scheduled for Nov. 15-18. The rally had been scheduled for Nov. 16, at the city-owned MECU Pavilion. On Aug. 5, the company managing the venue informed St. Michael's that it could not host the rally, by order of the city. The city cited safety concerns, and city officials later argued in court that they moved to cancel the event due to controversial speakers and the event's planned size. They warned of possible "disruption and violence" that could result from the rally.Among the...

Baltimore, Maryland / Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2021 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Baltimore city officials cannot block the parent company of the website Church Militant from holding a rally during a meeting of the U.S. bishops in November. 

St. Michael's Media, Inc., the parent company of Church Militant, had planned a "Bishops: Enough is Enough" prayer rally to coincide with the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops' conference in Baltimore, which is scheduled for Nov. 15-18. The rally had been scheduled for Nov. 16, at the city-owned MECU Pavilion. 

On Aug. 5, the company managing the venue informed St. Michael's that it could not host the rally, by order of the city. The city cited safety concerns, and city officials later argued in court that they moved to cancel the event due to controversial speakers and the event's planned size. They warned of possible "disruption and violence" that could result from the rally.

Among the advertised speakers at the rally were Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopolous. Both speakers have attracted significant controversy and protests at past speaking events.

In her Oct. 12 opinion, federal district Judge Ellen L. Hollander found that the city had "presented somewhat shifting justifications for its actions, with little evidence to show that the decision was premised on these justifications" in blocking the request for a rally permit. Hollander granted a preliminary injunction against the actions by city officials.

In a complaint filed on Sept. 13, St. Michael's Media claimed the event cancellation happened without warning, and said that there was months of communication with the venue without incident. 

As part of its argument that the event posed a security risk, the city cited a Church Militant broadcast where host Michael Voris had referred to those who "stormed" the U.S. Capitol on January 6 as "patriots."

Hollander said the decision to cancel the rally was made based on the "anticipated reaction" of a crowd. "The City never accuses St. Michael's of actual involvement in the events of January 6, 2021. Rather, it is critical of plaintiff for its coverage and support of the occurrence," she said. 

"The City cannot conjure up hypothetical hecklers and then grant them veto power," she wrote.

The city appealed the ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.  

Cal Harris, a spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D), said, "The proposed rally is slated to take place on Baltimore City property, and we have a responsibility to protect our property and fellow citizens."

Church Militant held a similar rally at the MECU Pavilion during the 2018 USCCB fall general assembly. There were no incidents of violence.  

St. Michael's Media is a 501(c)(3) in the state of Michigan. The nonprofit operates the website Church Militant. Church Militant, which is run by Michael Voris, is a website that has been the subject of criticism from some bishops. 

In 2011 the Archdiocese of Detroit announced that Voris was not authorized to use the word "Catholic" in reference to his media project "Real Catholic TV." 

In a Sept. 23 memorandum in court, city officials cited previous statements of rally speakers Bannon and Yiannopoulos to make their case that the rally posed a security risk. Bannon had previously said on a podcast that he would "put the heads" of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray "on pikes. Right. I'd put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats."

Regarding Yiannopoulos, the city noted he had previously "incit[ed] racist and misogynistic abuse of an African American celebrity," called for "gunning journalists down," and addressed rallies that coincided with riots and disruption. Yiannopoulos has said that his comment about shooting journalists, made in a text to a reporter, was a taunt of reporters and not an incitement to violence. 

He also had "a history of making comments advocating for pedophilia," the city argued. Yiannopoulos was disinvited from the event CPAC in 2017, following reports of previous comments he had made suggesting that consensual sexual relationships between teenagers and adults could be beneficial. He responded at the time that he did not support pedophilia, and was "not referring to prepubescent boys" in his comments. He has said he is a survivor of child sex abuse.

In Yiannopoulos' testimony in the case, Hollander wrote that he "called the City's accusation of pedophilia 'revolting' and 'grotesque.'"

"Although he acknowledged his history of 'biting commentary,' which is sometimes quite 'caustic,' he maintains that he is not the provocateur that he once was," Hollander wrote of Yiannopoulos. "Moreover, he expressly condemned the use of violence," she added.

Regarding his role at the Nov. 16 event, Yiannopoulos testified that he would function "primarily" as "emcee," Hollander noted.

"He recounted that he was 'raped' by a priest, and he wants to speak about his experience to help others confront their abusers and the enablers," Hollander noted. "He stated that the Catholic bishops are not his 'enemy,' but he views some of them as 'very lost' and 'failing in their pastoral duties,' and he believes they deserve to be held 'to account.'"

"The First Amendment to the Constitution is at the heart of this case," she stated. The city "acted on an ad hoc basis" in canceling the event, "without any standards," Hollander said. Thus, St. Michael's "is likely to succeed on its claim that the City's conduct was not viewpoint-neutral."

Regarding the city's arguments of a security concern, she noted, "There are, no doubt, true emergencies in the life of a city, when officials must act immediately to protect life and property."

"But, the matter at hand does not constitute an emergency," she wrote.

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Sister Monica Chikwe, vice president, Slaves No More / U.S. Embassy to the Holy SeeVatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 10:06 am (CNA).When a 26-year-old Nigerian girl was first forced out on the streets of Italy by her traffickers, she was told: "You have to start smiling."Blessing Okaedion still thinks back on that moment in 2013 as a turning point in her life."I can remember the shame. I can remember covering my face," Okaedion said at an event in Rome on Oct. 14.Her traffickers told her to smile for the clients, and Okaedion thought: "How can I just stop crying and start smiling?"She said that that was the moment that she realized that she was a slave without the freedom even to express her own emotions."You can no longer prove your emotions because it doesn't matter anymore because you are a slave," she said."You have to present yourself to the buyers that you are a product, that you chose to be there. You have to present yourself to the buyer, that this is your desire … because th...

Sister Monica Chikwe, vice president, Slaves No More / U.S. Embassy to the Holy See

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 10:06 am (CNA).

When a 26-year-old Nigerian girl was first forced out on the streets of Italy by her traffickers, she was told: "You have to start smiling."

Blessing Okaedion still thinks back on that moment in 2013 as a turning point in her life.

"I can remember the shame. I can remember covering my face," Okaedion said at an event in Rome on Oct. 14.

Her traffickers told her to smile for the clients, and Okaedion thought: "How can I just stop crying and start smiling?"

She said that that was the moment that she realized that she was a slave without the freedom even to express her own emotions.

"You can no longer prove your emotions because it doesn't matter anymore because you are a slave," she said.

"You have to present yourself to the buyers that you are a product, that you chose to be there. You have to present yourself to the buyer, that this is your desire … because that is what the buyer sees on your face and through your actions."

"No one really understood that those girls on the streets, they are not smiling, they are crying," she said.

Rediscovering Dignity

Okaedion described the dehumanizing experience of sex slavery at an event co-hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Embassy of Ireland to the Holy See entitled: "Empowering a New Generation to Fight Modern Slavery."

She shared how Catholic religious sisters helped her to regain her freedom, recognize her dignity, and be empowered to advocate for other sex trafficking victims through an NGO which she founded.

"I will not stop this speech without appreciating the role that the sisters played in our lives," she said.

Okaedion said that the sisters showed her "what it means to be autonomous and to be free," and helped her "not only to regain her dignity, but to have a voice and to have eyes to look profoundly for those social injustices."

Sisters on the frontlines

A network of more than 2,000 Catholic religious sisters serve on the frontlines of the fight against sex trafficking, helping survivors heal and find true freedom.

Among these sisters dedicating their lives to serving human trafficking victims is Sister Imelda Poole, who works with trafficking victims in Albania.

Sister Imelda was invited to come from Albania to Italy by the American and Irish embassies to the Holy See to receive the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Hero Award at the event.

"Survivors in our shelters in Albania are nearly all minors today," Sister Imelda said in her speech.

"And they have come back from countries which have abused them beyond any of your imagination."

She said that the religious sisters help these women through "human empowerment to bring them through the trauma" using art therapy.

Sister Imelda is a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary congregation and serves as the president of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation.

Sister Monica Chikwe, a member of the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy from Nigeria and the vice president of Slaves No More, and Sister Gabriella Bottani, a Comboni Missionary who leads the "Talitha Kum" network, also spoke at the panel and shared their strategies for how to combat human trafficking. 

Talitha Kum

Talitha Kum is a network of religious sisters present in 77 countries. Members of the network have served 10,000 trafficking survivors by accompanying them to shelters and other residential communities, engaging in international collaboration, and aiding survivors' return home.

At the highest levels of the Church, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is working on anti-trafficking issues and coordinating different agencies, including the anti-trafficking network Talitha Kum.

The name "Talitha Kum" is Aramaic, from Jesus Christ's words in the Gospel of Mark's fifth chapter. There he spoke to the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, who had just died: "Young girl, I say to you, arise!" Jesus then took the girl by the hand and she got up and walked.

The network sees its name as an expression of "the transformative power of compassion and mercy" for those who have been wounded by "the many forms of exploitation." The network grew out of efforts in the 1990s and is a collaborative effort with the International Union of Superiors General. It was formally established in 2009.

Empowering the next generation

Sister Imelda said that she has great hope that younger generations will join their efforts to "to eliminate the world of this heinous crime of human trafficking."

In an interview with EWTN, she shared the story of a Norwegian young man who was studying at the Polish Film Academy in Warsaw and who was assigned to do a film on erotica.

"He chose not to do that, but to make a film against human trafficking to express the horror of erotica, and what it can do to enslave a young woman who without her will is being abused in this way," she said.

At first, the film was critiqued by his professors who told him he did not fulfill the assignment, but later this short film was given a distinction, she explained. The award winning video was shown at the BAFTA center in Piccadilly Square in London.

Sister Imelda said that she believes education has a key role to play in empowering the next generation in the fight against human trafficking. 

" I feel that they [young people] are the future …  not I feel, I know," Sister Imelda said.

"We have a responsibility to the next generation. But our main responsibility is to listen and support them, so that they can be given all possibilities and skills to lead," she said.

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The late David Amess, Member of Parliament for Southend West / davidamess.co.ukDenver Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 11:45 am (CNA).A British lawmaker died Friday after suffering multiple stab wounds at a Methodist church in southeast England. Sir David Amess, 69, was a Member of Parliament since 1983 and a member of the Conservative party. He was Catholic, pro-life, and reportedly a strong supporter of Catholic education and animal welfare. Amess was holding a meeting with his constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church when the attack took place. A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the killing, and a knife has been recovered. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster released a statement paying tribute to Amess and urging prayers for him and his family. "I pray for him that he be welcomed into the merciful presence of Our Heavenly Father. I pray for his family and friends, those reeling from shock at this time. I pray for his constituents [and] all...

The late David Amess, Member of Parliament for Southend West / davidamess.co.uk

Denver Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 11:45 am (CNA).

A British lawmaker died Friday after suffering multiple stab wounds at a Methodist church in southeast England. 

Sir David Amess, 69, was a Member of Parliament since 1983 and a member of the Conservative party. He was Catholic, pro-life, and reportedly a strong supporter of Catholic education and animal welfare. Amess was holding a meeting with his constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church when the attack took place. 

A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the killing, and a knife has been recovered. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster released a statement paying tribute to Amess and urging prayers for him and his family. 

"I pray for him that he be welcomed into the merciful presence of Our Heavenly Father. I pray for his family and friends, those reeling from shock at this time. I pray for his constituents [and] all those who worked with him in his political career," Cardinal Nichols said. 

"David carried out his vocation as a Catholic in public life with generosity and integrity. He served in Parliament for four decades and was respected by all political parties across the House. His untimely death is a great loss."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Amess had an "outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable."

Right to Life UK described Amess as a "pro-life champion." 

"Sir David's death is a senseless tragedy and he will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Julia and their five children," said Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK. 

"Since he was elected in 1983, he always, where possible, used his position as an MP to stand up for the vulnerable, including championing initiatives to introduce more protections for unborn babies and more support for women facing crisis pregnancies. Everyone who worked with Sir David knew him to be a kind, caring and jovial man, who showed real care for the most vulnerable in our society." 

Amess' recent voting records showed that he voted against the legalization of assisted suicide, in favor of stricter gestational limits on abortions, and against ??the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland, among other pro-life measures. 

Cardinal Nichols noted that Amess was "instrumental" in the historic visit of Pope Benedict to Parliament in Sept. 2010, during the pope's visit to the UK. Amess had in 2006 established an All-party Parliamentary Group for relations with the Holy See, a group including people from different faiths and beliefs, Nichols said. 

"He fostered this mutually respectful relationship through meetings with Cardinal Parolin, the Pope's Secretary of State, and with other Catholic leaders. This contribution is both esteemed and will be sorely missed," the Cardinal said. 

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales' agency for education stated on Twitter, "The death of Sir David Amess is a horrific tragedy. He was an outstanding Catholic MP and a fervent supporter of Catholic education."

"Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace."

Benedict Rogers, chief executive and cofounder of the British human rights group Hong Kong Watch, said he and Amess had "worked together regularly on international human rights over the years."

"He was very warm, kind and fun. He was always encouraging me to stand for Parliament and tried to help me in that. He had a huge smile, great humour and a very good heart. He was a great character and will be hugely missed," Rogers tweeted. 

Amess strongly supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum. 

The last British MP to be killed was Jo Cox in 2016, who was shot outside a meeting with her constituents in West Yorkshire. Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said she was "Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family," PA reported.

"And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions," Leadbeater said.

According to PA, 80 people attended a memorial service for Amess on Friday.

"He carried with him that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they're at. Not all politicians I would say are good at that," Father Jeffrey Woolnough said of Amess, PA reported. "We don't have the words tonight. Dear Sir David, rest well."

This story was updated with new information on Friday, Oct. 15.

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The Martyrs of Zenta. / Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Orán.Orán, Argentina, Oct 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).Bishops in Argentina have welcomed the promulgation of a decree by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that regards the martyrdom of Pedro Ortiz de Zárate and Juan Antonio Solinas, priests who were killed Oct. 27, 1683.Fr. Ortiz de Zárate, a diocesan priest, and Fr. Solinas, a Jesuit, were evangelizing the indigenous populations of the Valle del Zenta in the Viceroyalty of Peru, now part of Argentina, when they were beheaded by members of the Toba and Mocoví peoples.Fr. Ortiz de Zárate was born in what is now Argentina in 1626. He married and had two children, but became a widower and entrusted them to a grandmother, intending to become a priest. He was ordained a priest around 1657. He was a parish priest in Jujuy for 24 years.Fr. Solinas was born in Italy, and made religious profession in the Society of Jesus in 1665, and was ordained a priest in 1673. His first...

The Martyrs of Zenta. / Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Orán.

Orán, Argentina, Oct 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Bishops in Argentina have welcomed the promulgation of a decree by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that regards the martyrdom of Pedro Ortiz de Zárate and Juan Antonio Solinas, priests who were killed Oct. 27, 1683.

Fr. Ortiz de Zárate, a diocesan priest, and Fr. Solinas, a Jesuit, were evangelizing the indigenous populations of the Valle del Zenta in the Viceroyalty of Peru, now part of Argentina, when they were beheaded by members of the Toba and Mocoví peoples.

Fr. Ortiz de Zárate was born in what is now Argentina in 1626. He married and had two children, but became a widower and entrusted them to a grandmother, intending to become a priest. He was ordained a priest around 1657. He was a parish priest in Jujuy for 24 years.

Fr. Solinas was born in Italy, and made religious profession in the Society of Jesus in 1665, and was ordained a priest in 1673. His first apostolate began in 1678 at the Reduction of Itapúa.

The two priests were assigned to the mission of Chaco in 1683. Together with 18 laity, some of whom were indigenous, they were massacred by a group of some 150 natives on Oct. 27. Their remains were found the following day by witnesses who narrated the event. 

Their cause was opened in 1988. The 18 lay persons were originally included, though they were expelled in 2002 for lack of documentation.

The congregation said in its decree that "the Servants of God were aware of the risks that their mission entailed, ready to be witnesses to the very last of the Gospel message they were spreading."

The priests' martyrdom was recognized by an Oct. 13 decree of the congregation, which also recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of two Venerables, and the heroic virtues of four Servants of God.

Bishop Luis Antonio Scozzina of Orán noted that since the slayings, the faithful have made a pilgrimage in October of each year from Pichanal to the site of the martyrdom.

The recognition of the priests' martyrdom in a diocese "that has five different ethnic groups, with more than 120 native communities in the territory, where a good part of these communities identify with the Catholic faith," is "an opportunity to renew this alliance at the service of the native communities, a great challenge, " Bishop Scozzina told the AICA news agency.

The Aboriginal Pastoral Ministry has gained momentum and has made "a long journey of accompaniment in the defense of aboriginal rights, with a great presence in the midst of the communities," he stressed.

The Bishops' Delegate for the Causes of Saints and the Military Bishop of Argentina, Santiago Olivera, noted that before Argentina was a country,  "men and women, also lay people, shed their blood for the faith, for fraternity, for the encounter" between peoples.

"May this be the commitment of all of us who joyfully" receive the news of this decree "to be able to give up our own lives for our convictions, our beliefs, for the faith, for the love of Jesus Christ, for the love of the Church."

Bishop Olivera said that the decree is a cause for joy and gratitude also for "so many men and women who in our country, and before it became a nation, signed with their lives the faith they professed with their lips."

"We thank God for these men who throughout the country are showing us that holiness is possible, that we must all travel that road and they are thankful that we too are always on the road," Bishop Olivera said.

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