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WASHINGTON (CNS) — Political commentator Mark Shields, who died June 18 at age 85, often...

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Political commentator Mark Shields, who died June 18 at age 85, often wore his Catholic faith on his sleeve in his columns, commentary and talks around the country.

Shields, who died of complications from kidney disease at his home in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was known for his wit and his genial presence on television, where he hosted “The Capital Gang” on CNN and appeared frequently on PBS’ news programming.

He provided weekly political analysis and commentary for the PBS “NewsHour” from 1988 to 2020.

Born in the Boston suburb of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1937, Shields was steeped in the New Deal political values of his family, and read as many as five newspapers a day. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1959, then served in the Marines for two years.

After a few years working in the TV industry in Los Angeles, Shields moved to Washington. He became a top Democratic strategist, directing winning election campaigns before turning to political commentary. He joined the editorial board of The Washington Post in 1979 and in time became a syndicated columnist who soon was in demand on TV and at conferences.

Almost like the swallows returning to Capistrano, rare was the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington that did not feature Shields talking about contemporary political topics.

In 2004, he suggested that likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry spend the next six months in a Benedictine monastery because it would leave President George W. Bush as the only visible candidate on whom attention could focus. “If the election becomes a referendum on Bush, Kerry can win,” Shields said. “If it’s a referendum on Kerry, Bush can win.”

The year before, as war loomed with Iraq for the second time in 12 years, Shields, criticized what he called a “spectator-sport” aspect of the current situation, in which he said only one member of a Congress who was backing the administration’s push toward war had a child serving as an enlisted member of the military.

“The strength of any nation will be determined by its will and resolve to stand together for common sacrifice,” he said.

But the rich and powerful people of the United States aren’t even being asked to sacrifice a tax cut, he said, let alone risk the lives of their sons on the front lines of battle. “Too often in recent American politics, the question is, ‘Are you better off today than you were four years ago?'” Shields said. “The question we should be asking is, ‘Are WE better off?’

Shields was an admirer of Pope Francis. In 2015, more than six months prior to the pope’s U.S. visit, he said, the pontiff “has a message which makes both sides uncomfortable.” The papal address to a joint session of Congress is “going to be unlike any State of the Union address we’ve ever see,” he added.

He imagined watching “(then-Vice President) Joe Biden and (then-House Speaker) John Boehner, both Catholics (but from different political parties, Democratic and Republican, respectively), figuring out when to stand and applaud.”

In 2014, a month before Pope Francis and then-President Barack Obama were to meet at the Vatican, Shields said he hoped the summit would provide a chance for Obama to learn something.

“If there’s an anti-insular pope, Pope Francis embodies that,” he said, while quickly turning his observation into a jab against Obama, whose contacts, he said, “are limited to those in the 312 area code,” meaning Chicago. Shields said the pope was a natural communicator and someone who has “brought a sense of communion and communication unrivaled in my lifetime.”

But Shields, as frequent a guest as he was at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, did not limit his appearances to that forum.

Speaking at the 2004 Catholic Press Association convention in Washington, Shields said it is a “tragedy of politics” that both political parties had become dedicated to appealing to individualism.

He said that the Democrats come from the perspective that all individuals are autonomous and entitled to live as they choose without regard for the concerns of the broader society and that Republicans adhere to the notion of economic individualism, where the overriding goal is to reduce how much individuals are expected to contribute financially to society.

Neither party is emphasizing goals for the nation that focus on justice for those in need, for the working poor and for those who can’t afford to be hospitalized when sick, Shields said.

In 2009, he weighed in on Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama to speak at the school’s commencement exercises. “As a proud graduate of Notre Dame and, frankly, as an admirer of (university president Holy Cross Father John) Jenkins, I am not an uninterested bystander in this controversy,” Shields wrote in his column.

At least 70 U.S. bishops and other critics said Obama’s support of legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research made him an inappropriate choice to be commencement speaker at a Catholic university.

Shields defended Obama as a “major political leader,” not a “champion of legalized abortion.” He argued that while Obama is decidedly “pro-choice,” other issues such as the economy, health care and the Iraq War “are more important to Obama.”

During a 2013 “Francis Factor” roundtable at Georgetown University, Shields said of the first-year pope, “I cannot think of a single public figure, whether secular or religious, who has inspired the level of civil discourse and substance and exchanges that this man has in just six months. It is remarkable.”

He added, “Francis brings that sense of joy, the good news of the Gospel. Most of all, he asks the question, not are you better off than you were, but are we better off. It’s a message we need desperately in this country and in this world and I’m grateful for it.”

In a 2002 column, he took the Democratic Party to task for including a link to Catholics for Choice on its website; it was the only Catholic organization with a link on the site. Shields called this “a deliberate act of political bigotry” and said it was the equivalent of the committee “daily telling Catholic voters to get lost.” Soon afterward, the party added links to three more Catholic groups’ websites.

And in 1990, Shields issued a rejoinder to those who accused the U.S. bishops of “meddling” in public policy debates on abortion.

In 1886, Shields noted, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore supported transit workers striking against a 17-hour workday and was criticized by The New York Times for “meddling in nonchurch affairs,” Shields said.

“The nation’s Catholic bishops have continued to meddle in nonchurch affairs," Shields said, listing their criticisms of President Ronald Reagan’s policies affecting the poor, their endorsement of a nuclear freeze and their support for limits on funding for the Nicaraguan contras.

Shields’ survivors include his wife, the former Anne Hudson, a lawyer and federal official. The couple was married for 55 years. He also is survived by their daughter, Amy Doyle, and two grandchildren.

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null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 06:35 am (CNA).Pope Francis said Wednesday he is mourning the death of two Jesuit priests who were killed in Mexico this week."I also express my sorrow and dismay at the killing in Mexico the day before yesterday of two Jesuit religious, my brothers, and a layman," the pope said on June 22 in St. Peter's Square."How many killings in Mexico," he said before thousands of pilgrims. "I am close with affection and prayer to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases unnecessary suffering."The Jesuits of Mexico announced Tuesday that two of their priests were killed on June 20 inside a church in a mountainous region of Chihuahua state. Fathers Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar had served as Jesuit priests for nearly a century combined. The gunmen who carried out the June 20 attack on the church in Cerocahui, Chihuahua also took their...

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday he is mourning the death of two Jesuit priests who were killed in Mexico this week.

"I also express my sorrow and dismay at the killing in Mexico the day before yesterday of two Jesuit religious, my brothers, and a layman," the pope said on June 22 in St. Peter's Square.

"How many killings in Mexico," he said before thousands of pilgrims. "I am close with affection and prayer to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases unnecessary suffering."

The Jesuits of Mexico announced Tuesday that two of their priests were killed on June 20 inside a church in a mountainous region of Chihuahua state.

Fathers Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar had served as Jesuit priests for nearly a century combined. The gunmen who carried out the June 20 attack on the church in Cerocahui, Chihuahua also took their bodies.

According to the Chihuahua State Attorney General's Office, both priests tried to protect a person who sought refuge in the church while being chased by at least one other man, both armed, El Sol de Mexico newspaper reported. The chaser reportedly shot and killed all three men.

Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits of Mexico, condemned the killings and said they are "working with the federal and state authorities to ensure the safety" of the parish's two remaining priests.

Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the death of the priests in an appeal at the end of his Wednesday general audience.

He also said he is praying for victims of a powerful earthquake in Afghanistan, which struck just after 1:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

At least 920 people have been killed, and hundreds injured, according to Taliban officials, the BBC reported.

"In the past few hours, an earthquake has claimed lives and caused extensive damage in Afghanistan," Pope Francis said.

"I express my sympathy to the injured and those affected by the earthquake and pray especially for those who lost their lives and their families," he said. "I hope that with everyone's help, the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan can be alleviated."

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Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. / Courtesy of Diocese of RomeVatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 09:46 am (CNA).Relics of the first married couple to be beatified together by the Catholic Church can be venerated inside St. Peter's Basilica this week during the World Meeting of Families in Rome.Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi are the official patrons of the 10th World Meeting of Families taking place in Rome on June 22-26.The Italian couple was married for 45 years, enduring two world wars together and nurturing their four children's vocations in service of the Church amid unprecedented difficulties facing Europe.Both of their sons became priests in the 1930s and went on to concelebrate the beatification Mass of their parents with John Paul II in 2001. Their eldest son, Father Tarcisio Beltrame, a Benedictine monk, and his younger brother Father Paolino, a Trappist, both risked their lives to secretly work with the resistance during the Nazi occupation o...

Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. / Courtesy of Diocese of Rome

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 09:46 am (CNA).

Relics of the first married couple to be beatified together by the Catholic Church can be venerated inside St. Peter's Basilica this week during the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi are the official patrons of the 10th World Meeting of Families taking place in Rome on June 22-26.

The Italian couple was married for 45 years, enduring two world wars together and nurturing their four children's vocations in service of the Church amid unprecedented difficulties facing Europe.

Both of their sons became priests in the 1930s and went on to concelebrate the beatification Mass of their parents with John Paul II in 2001. 

Their eldest son, Father Tarcisio Beltrame, a Benedictine monk, and his younger brother Father Paolino, a Trappist, both risked their lives to secretly work with the resistance during the Nazi occupation of Italy in World War II, while the Beltrame Quattrocchi family's apartment in Rome served as a hiding place for fugitives and Italians with Jewish heritage.

A living relative of the Beltrame Quattrocchi family says that he has documents from the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) confirming the sons' collaboration in the Resistance movement, which was made even riskier by the fact that the family's apartment was located right by the headquarters of the German command in Rome. 

"If they had been discovered they would have all been immediately shot," Francesco Beltrame Quattrocchi told EWTN. 

The Beltrame Quattrocchis' daughters also enthusiastically served the Church. Their eldest daughter, Stefania, entered a Benedictine monastery as a nun in 1927. And the youngest child in their family, Enrichetta Beltrame Quattrocchi, was a lay consecrated woman who has been declared venerable.

'Extraordinarily rich spiritual life'

At the root of their children's vocations and the courageous witness of the Beltrame Quattrocchi family during times of trial was the rich spiritual foundation within Luigi and Maria's marriage. 

When St. John Paul II beatified Luigi and Maria in 2001, he said that the blessed married couple "lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way."

"Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the center of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the rosary," he said.

Luigi and Maria lived lives of heroic virtue together as spouses and parents. The couple was married in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Nov. 25, 1905. Luigi was 25 years old and Maria was 21. A plaque commemorating their marriage can be seen in the basilica's Corsini chapel today. 

After being married in Rome's largest Marian basilica, the couple later entrusted their family and all their children to Our Lady of Divine Love.

The Beltrame Quattrocchi children. Courtesy of Diocese of Rome
The Beltrame Quattrocchi children. Courtesy of Diocese of Rome

"This couple lived married love and service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity. With full responsibility they assumed the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to their children, to teach them, guide them and direct them to discovering his plan of love," John Paul II said.

"From this fertile spiritual terrain sprang vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which shows how, with their common roots in the spousal love of the Lord, marriage, and virginity may be closely connected and reciprocally enlightening."

Luigi worked as a lawyer and Maria served as a catechist and wrote several books on education while raising their four children.

The couple also organized Catholic marriage preparation courses for engaged couples through their work in Catholic Action.

During World War I, the family also assisted the wounded and families facing difficulties. They also financially supported some young people who wished to become priests or enter religious life.

Luigi died of a heart attack in 1951 at the age of 71. Maria lived for another 14 years after the death of her beloved husband and continued her dedicated service to her family and the Church.

Relics of Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi currently on display in St. Peter's Basilica. CNA
Relics of Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi currently on display in St. Peter's Basilica. CNA

In addition to the first-class relics of the blessed married couple, which can be found in front of the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica, several other personal items of theirs will be on display in the Paul VI Hall during the World Meeting of Families in Rome. 

The items showcase how the couple's spiritual lives were intertwined with the love shared in their marriage. On display is the engagement ring that Luigi gave to Maria and the Bible that the couple would read together. 

There is also the small holy card of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei that Maria gave to Luigi before their wedding, which Luigi kept in his wallet for over 40 years. 

The beatified couple are buried together in Rome's Sanctuary of Divine Love. 

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Elderly Christians are called to bear witness to the strength that...

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Elderly Christians are called to bear witness to the strength that comes from God, especially when moments of frailty and weakness make them dependent on others, Pope Francis said.

“Our dependency grows with sickness, with old age, and we are no longer self-sufficient as before. Our dependence on others grows and even our faith matures; even there, Jesus is with us, even there that richness of a faith well-lived along the path of life flows out,” the pope said June 22 during his weekly general audience.

Arriving at St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile, the pope stopped briefly and welcomed aboard several Ukrainian children. According to the Vatican press office, the children were refugees who fled the war and are studying at an elementary school in Rome.

Before concluding the audience, the pope urged the faithful to “not forget about Ukraine.”

“Let us not forget the suffering of that martyred people,” he said.

He also mourned the killing of two Jesuits and a layman in northern Mexico June 20. According to the Jesuits, gunmen stormed the parish church in parish in the community of Cerocahui in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua state while in pursuit of the layman, who worked as a tour guide.

The priests came outside after the gunmen killed the man, and were subsequently shot.

“How many killings in Mexico!” the pope lamented. “I am close with affection and prayer to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases needless suffering.”

In his main talk, the pope continued his series of catecheses on old age and reflected on St. John’s account of Jesus’ warning to Peter that “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Jesus’ words to Peter, he explained, reveal an open, frank and direct relationship that is “truthful.” Often, Christians can be tempted to cover the Gospel message in a “cocoon of ‘sugar-coated’ revelation” that “distances us from the real Jesus, and even becomes the occasion for a very abstract, very self-referential, very worldly path of faith.”

“Jesus is the Word of God made man, and he acts like a man, he speaks to us like a man, a God-man,” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. Jesus speaks “with this tenderness, with this friendship, with this closeness. Jesus is not like that sugar-coated image of the little pictures, no. Jesus is there, he is close to us.”

The pope said Jesus’ conversation with Peter is a valuable lesson for all believers, especially the elderly, who can still bear witness to the Gospel, even with their lives are “entrusted to others.”

However, in old age, some elderly men and women may find it difficult to accept frailty or the inevitability of death and hesitate to relinquish their role as “a protagonist” to younger generations.

“We elderly should not be envious of young people who make their own way, who take our place, who outlast us,” the 85-year-old pope said. “Learning to take our leave: this is the wisdom of the elderly. But to leave well, with a smile.”

Pope Francis said that the life of an elderly person is “a slow, yet joyful farewell” that allows them in their last moments to reflect on the beauty of the life they lived.

“It is beautiful when an elderly person can say, ‘I have lived life, this is my family; I have lived life, I have been a sinner but also I have done good.’ And this peace that comes, this is the elderly person’s farewell,” the pope said.

– – –

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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MUNICH (CNS) — A victim of sexual abuse is reported to be suing retired Pope...

MUNICH (CNS) — A victim of sexual abuse is reported to be suing retired Pope Benedict XVI in connection with the Munich abuse scandal.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported the victim has accused Pope Benedict — who, as Joseph Ratzinger served as archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 — of having “responsibly approved” the appointment of a priest as a pastoral minister in a Bavarian parish some 40 years ago, even though the man was known to be an abuser.

The legal action is aimed at establishing that the retired pope was partly to blame for the abuse scandal through a so-called “declaratory action,” public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk reported June 22.

The plaintiff claims to have been abused by the former priest Peter H. The plaintiff’s lawyer wants -a civil court to declare that Pope Benedict must compensate the victim for the damage caused by the abuse, since the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising had been aware of H.’s offenses.

The former pope has always denied this knowledge and has claimed that he was not involved in the decision to employ the cleric.

The lawyer has based the lawsuit on a canonical decree on the H. case from 2016 and on the study by a Munich law firm from 2022. He argues that the decree stated that the church officials in charge at the time had committed a breach of duty. The law firm report also established that the Munich archbishops were partly responsible for cases of abuse, the lawyer claimed.

Peter H. abused minors in the Diocese of Essen in the 1970s. He was sent to Munich for therapy in 1980. This move was also agreed to by Archbishop Ratzinger.

Shortly afterward, Peter H. was reinstated in parish pastoral care. In 1986, he was given a suspended sentence by a criminal court for abusing several boys. Nevertheless, he was again appointed to parish pastoral care. In 2010, he was relieved of his duties, and in June 2022 he was dismissed from the clergy at his own request.

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Pope Francis speaks at the general audience on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNAVatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).Do not sugarcoat your witness of the Gospel, but let the truth be made manifest even through your weakness, Pope Francis said in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. "We can ask ourselves: are we capable of preserving the tenor of this relationship of Jesus with the disciples, according to that style of his that is so open, so frank, so direct, so humanly real?" the pope said on June 22. "How is our relationship with Jesus? Is it like that, like him with his disciples?""Are we not, instead, very often tempted to enclose the testimony of the Gospel in the cocoon of a 'sugary' revelation, to which is added our own circumstantial veneration?" he continued. "This attitude, which seems like respect, actually distances us from the real Jesus, and even becomes the occasion for a very abstract, very self-referential, very worldly walk of faith."Pope Francis said Jesu...

Pope Francis speaks at the general audience on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Do not sugarcoat your witness of the Gospel, but let the truth be made manifest even through your weakness, Pope Francis said in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.

"We can ask ourselves: are we capable of preserving the tenor of this relationship of Jesus with the disciples, according to that style of his that is so open, so frank, so direct, so humanly real?" the pope said on June 22. "How is our relationship with Jesus? Is it like that, like him with his disciples?"

"Are we not, instead, very often tempted to enclose the testimony of the Gospel in the cocoon of a 'sugary' revelation, to which is added our own circumstantial veneration?" he continued. "This attitude, which seems like respect, actually distances us from the real Jesus, and even becomes the occasion for a very abstract, very self-referential, very worldly walk of faith."

Pope Francis said Jesus is present to us even in our old age and infirmity, as our dependency on others grows.

"Jesus is the Word of God made man, and he acts as man, he speaks to us as man, God-man. With this tenderness, with this friendship, with this closeness. Jesus is not like that sugary image in those little pictures, no: Jesus is at our side, he is close to us," he said.

Continuing a series of lessons on old age, Francis reflected during the general audience on Jesus' "moving dialogue" with Peter at the end of the Gospel of John.

The conversation, in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, reflects "a relationship in truth," he said.

He recalled Jesus' words to St. Peter, that "when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

The pope encouraged the elderly to embrace their weaknesses and their ill health, rather than fight against it.

"Tell me about having to go in a wheelchair, eh," he said. Pope Francis has been using a cane and wheelchair in recent weeks due to an inflamed ligament in his knee.

"But that's how it is, that's how life is: with old age you get all these diseases and we have to accept them as they come, don't we," he remarked.

"We don't have the strength of the young," the pope continued. "And your witness, too, Jesus says, will go along with this weakness. You are to give witness to Jesus even in weakness, in sickness and death."

Pope Francis recalled a quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola, who said, "Just as in life, even in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus."

Even at the end of life we must continue to be disciples of Christ, he urged, noting that St. John the Evangelist, in the Gospel, explains that Jesus is alluding to the witness of martyrdom.

"But we can well understand more generally the meaning of this admonition: your pursuit [of Jesus] will have to learn to be taught and shaped by your frailty, your helplessness, your dependence on others, even in dressing, in walking," he said.

Jesus, the pope said, continues to say, "you, 'follow me.'"

Catholics should reflect, he said, on how to "remain faithful to the lived pursuit, to the promised love, to the justice sought in the time of our capacity for initiative, in the time of fragility, in the time of dependence, of leave-taking…"

"Following Jesus is important: always follow Jesus, on foot, running, slowly, in a wheelchair, but always follow him," he urged.

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Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. / bakdc/ShutterstockWashington D.C., Jun 21, 2022 / 18:41 pm (CNA).Known for its grandeur, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City has long been an architectural inspiration worldwide. Now the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is honoring the history of the structure's architecture with a new exhibit."Basilica Sancti Petri: The Transformation of Saint Peter's Basilica" opened May 27 and will remain in the museum's long-term Vatican exhibit, Treasures from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library, through Sept. 25.The exhibit features numerous original prints of design ideas put forward by infamous artists of the 16th century such as Antonio da Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Carlo Fontana, Agostino Veneziano, and Antoine Lafréry."We have that historical perspective, but also these unique and beautiful prints at the same time," Jeff Kloha, chief curator of the Museum of the Bible, told CNA. "So it's a combinat...

Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. / bakdc/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2022 / 18:41 pm (CNA).

Known for its grandeur, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City has long been an architectural inspiration worldwide. Now the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is honoring the history of the structure's architecture with a new exhibit.

"Basilica Sancti Petri: The Transformation of Saint Peter's Basilica" opened May 27 and will remain in the museum's long-term Vatican exhibit, Treasures from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library, through Sept. 25.

The exhibit features numerous original prints of design ideas put forward by infamous artists of the 16th century such as Antonio da Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Carlo Fontana, Agostino Veneziano, and Antoine Lafréry.

"We have that historical perspective, but also these unique and beautiful prints at the same time," Jeff Kloha, chief curator of the Museum of the Bible, told CNA. "So it's a combination of a historical exhibit and an art exhibit. You get to see what [the artists] started on, an idea, and how it changed."

St. Peter's Basilica is designed with a combination of primarily Roman and Latin influences. Its current state depicts bits and pieces from each artist's prints.

"Basilica Sancti Petri," the 2014 book by Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, inspired the Museum of the Bible exhibit. Kloha told CNA that Jatta's collection of the prints for the book led her to offer the original copies for display in the exhibit.

St. Peter's Basilica was originally built by Roman Emperor Constantine during the pontificate of Pope Sylvester I (314–345) and was completed in 337. It was eventually demolished and rebuilt in the 16th century. The basilica has been the primary church of the Vatican and the site of papal celebrations for centuries. Its architecture has been a blueprint for numerous churches and secular buildings, and it is the first Christian church to be built on the burial site of a martyr — its namesake, St. Peter.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Simon Peter, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

"It's an interesting way that the Bible becomes kind of concrete in that sense," Kloha told CNA, while also noting that "in many ways it becomes a model, a pattern for what follows," both in Catholicism and other traditions.

"Basilica Sancti Petri: The Transformation of Saint Peter's Basilica" will be included as a part of general admission tickets to the Museum of the Bible through Sept. 25. To learn more about this exhibit and others, visit the museum's website.

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Map of Nigeria. / ShutterstockWashington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 21, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).An early morning raid Sunday by terrorists in north-central Nigeria hit a Roman Catholic congregation hard."We lost three of our parishioners, and 36 people were kidnapped, the majority of whom were Catholics," Father Francis Agba, pastor of St. Moses Church in Rubu, told CNA via text message. "This is the third attack against this village in this month alone and the latest of 15 attacks in the 17 outstations of the parish this year," he added. Agba is the head of St. Augustine's Parish which has 17 churches, one of which is St. Moses.The three churches were in a complex of villages called Rubu in Kajuru County, approximately 30 miles south of Kaduna City in north-central Nigeria. Other churches attacked included Maranatha Baptist and Evangelical Church Winning All. The abductees included 31 females and five males, according to Jonathan Asake, the head of Southern Kaduna People...

Map of Nigeria. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 21, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

An early morning raid Sunday by terrorists in north-central Nigeria hit a Roman Catholic congregation hard.

"We lost three of our parishioners, and 36 people were kidnapped, the majority of whom were Catholics," Father Francis Agba, pastor of St. Moses Church in Rubu, told CNA via text message. 

"This is the third attack against this village in this month alone and the latest of 15 attacks in the 17 outstations of the parish this year," he added. Agba is the head of St. Augustine's Parish which has 17 churches, one of which is St. Moses.

The three churches were in a complex of villages called Rubu in Kajuru County, approximately 30 miles south of Kaduna City in north-central Nigeria. Other churches attacked included Maranatha Baptist and Evangelical Church Winning All. 

The abductees included 31 females and five males, according to Jonathan Asake, the head of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella group for all Christian communities in the State.

Father Francis Agba, pastor of St. Moses Church in Rubu, Nigeria. Courtesy of Father Francis Agba
Father Francis Agba, pastor of St. Moses Church in Rubu, Nigeria. Courtesy of Father Francis Agba

Worshippers told reporters that they had decided to attend the 7 a.m. service in hopes of lessening the chance of becoming victims of terrorists who have struck the village many times in recent years. 

The terrorists thwarted those plans. When the shooting started the congregants ran toward the forest but three lost their lives, said Agba, the St. Moses pastor. 

Another attack the next day

The village of Gwando, 10 miles east of Rubu, was swarmed by terrorists Monday, according to Stingo Usman, a community leader in Maraban Kajuru. "No one was killed because the villagers ran into the forest, but their animals were rustled," Usman said.

Nigerian security forces attempted to respond to the attack in Rubu an hour after it began but changed plans after hearing that the bandits had left the town with their hostages, Usman said. "The military then decided to meet the bandits at Kutura Station, but abandoned that effort due to bad roads," Usman said. Kaduna Police spokesman Mohammad Jaliga Kumo did not respond to CNA's request for comment.

The attacks are part of a systematic campaign by Fulani bandit gangs to force the majority-Christian farmers off of the land in southern Kaduna, Asake said. The Sunday morning raids came nine days after a June 5 bandit assault on three villages approximately 12 miles away that left 32 dead and 12 wounded, Asake said. The villagers attacked in that raid on June 5 reported that a helicopter hovered over the village and fired rounds that killed or wounded residents of the village instead of the terrorists. The Kaduna State Commissioner for Public Security disputed the claim, but the villagers have held firm in their version of events.

In that earlier raid 27 villagers, chiefly women, were abducted. The bandits have since contacted relatives using the abductees' cell phones and demanded a ransom of the equivalent of $,1300, Asake said.

"We told the bandits that most of the captured women are widows whose husbands were killed in previous attacks," Asake said.

"Their answer was that the women could be returned in lieu of a promise that our villagers will not go to their farms carrying any weapons," he said. "They cannot carry even a machete, making them utterly defenseless during the next attack."

"The International Committee on Nigeria believes the Fulani militants have an attack strategy to instill fear, cause displacement, and allow occupation of Christian farms," Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), told CNA. The goal is to disrupt these farmers from generating a harvest and a wage. After leaving the area, these lands will be re-occupied by Fulani herders and their families," Abts said.

The spate of attacks targeting Christian churches has been attributed to "communal violence" by analysts with the Council on Foreign Relations and the result of "clashes over land and water resources" in reports by the U.S. Department of State. 

Human rights scholars who spoke to CNA sharply disagree with those characterizations. They say the massacres in Kajuru are part of a long-term campaign by radicalized Muslims to Islamicize the whole of Nigeria.

The widespread killings by terrorist gangs along with the Islamist insurgencies of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa have taken more than 350,000 lives since 2001, said Abts, of ICON. 

"The overall aim of the terrorists is economical and partly religious," Father Agba said. "Partly religious, because many Muslims have fallen victim, too, but the frequency of the attacks is much more on the predominantly Christian parts of the state." 

The gangs that have terrorized the state of Kaduna with mass kidnappings of college students and groups of motorists on the highways have grown wealthy and powerful since they emerged in the northwestern state of Zamfara in 2011, according to bandit expert Dr. Murtala Rufa'i, a historian at the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University in Sokoto. Scholars estimate that between 10,000 and 30,000 bandit terrorists are operating in five of Nigeria's northwestern states. 

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Lorie Smith, owner and founder of 303 Creative. / Alliance Defending Freedom.Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).The U.S. bishops are coming to the aid of a Colorado web designer, a Christian who fears prosecution under state anti-discrimination law for stating her faith-based objections to providing services that promote same-sex marriage.Along with five other faith groups, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amici curiae brief in support of the web designer, Lorie Smith, in her Supreme Court case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis."Free speech plays a critical role in protecting religious exercise because 'freedom of conscience and worship' have 'close parallels in the speech provisions of the First Amendment,'" the June 2 amici brief reads.Supreme Court justices will hear the case next term, considering "Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendme...

Lorie Smith, owner and founder of 303 Creative. / Alliance Defending Freedom.

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops are coming to the aid of a Colorado web designer, a Christian who fears prosecution under state anti-discrimination law for stating her faith-based objections to providing services that promote same-sex marriage.

Along with five other faith groups, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amici curiae brief in support of the web designer, Lorie Smith, in her Supreme Court case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

"Free speech plays a critical role in protecting religious exercise because 'freedom of conscience and worship' have 'close parallels in the speech provisions of the First Amendment,'" the June 2 amici brief reads.

Supreme Court justices will hear the case next term, considering "Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment."

Smith, the owner of the graphic arts and website designing business 303 Creative, is being represented in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom

Her work is animated by her deeply-rooted faith, she says.

"As a Christian who believes that God gave me the creative gifts that are expressed through this business, I have always strived to honor Him in how I operate it," her website description states.

The Colorado-based web designer fears prosecution under Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Smith's attorneys say that the law would force her to live under threat of prosecution if she declines to design and publish websites that promote messages or causes that conflict with her beliefs, such as messages that promote same-sex marriage or same-sex weddings. Because of the law, Smith has not sought to expand her business to include designing websites for weddings.

Her case is not a response to government action. Rather, it is a pre-enforcement challenge intended to prevent the use of the law that Smith's attorneys say affects creative professionals who have religious or moral concerns about creating content that violates their beliefs.

Smith's case is similar to 2018's Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a bakery rejected making a cake for a same-sex wedding because of its owner's religious beliefs. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission argued that this was an instance of unjust discrimination, but the Supreme Court ruled the commission "showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating" the owner's objection.

The Masterpiece case is the basis for many arguments in Smith's brief, as well as amici briefs in her favor.

Alongside the USCCB, the June 2 amici brief was filed by the Colorado Catholic Conference, The General Council of the Assemblies of God, The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan's Purse.

The brief states, "Values of particular importance to the USCCB include the protection of the rights of religious organizations and religious believers under the First Amendment, and the proper development of this Court's jurisprudence in that regard."

The amici brief also states, "More broadly, our culture and our politics have become increasingly polarized, leading to regulations and policies that would force minority voices to choose between violating their conscience or being pushed from the public square."

Smith, as stated in her petitioner's brief, does not discriminate against clients on the basis of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. She instead cares about the message she is asked to create.

Her brief says, "Smith will decline any request—no matter who makes it—to create content that contradicts the truths of the Bible, demeans or disparages someone, promotes atheism or gambling, endorses the taking of unborn life, incites violence, or promotes a concept of marriage that is not solely the union of one man and one woman."

The USCCB's involvement in the case aligns with its mission statement, which calls the bishops to "act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society."

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Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne speaks with students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21, 2022. / Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of LublinLublin, Poland, Jun 21, 2022 / 17:07 pm (CNA).Dialogue between young people from Israel and Poland is key to building understanding between the nations, Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne told students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21."Meetings of young Poles and Israelis constitute an investment in our common future," the ambassador said. "The future of our mutual relations is in their hands."The ambassador's remarks came at the announcement by Father Miroslaw Kalinowski, the university's rector, of the creation of The Abraham Joshua Heschel Center at the university. The center, which will carry out joint educational and cultural projects addressed to Jewish and Polish youth, "seeks to build bridges and develop Polish-Israe...

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne speaks with students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21, 2022. / Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Lublin, Poland, Jun 21, 2022 / 17:07 pm (CNA).

Dialogue between young people from Israel and Poland is key to building understanding between the nations, Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne told students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21.

"Meetings of young Poles and Israelis constitute an investment in our common future," the ambassador said. "The future of our mutual relations is in their hands."

The ambassador's remarks came at the announcement by Father Miroslaw Kalinowski, the university's rector, of the creation of The Abraham Joshua Heschel Center at the university. The center, which will carry out joint educational and cultural projects addressed to Jewish and Polish youth, "seeks to build bridges and develop Polish-Israeli research and cultural cooperation," Kalinowski said. Kalinowski added that he is looking forward to the center's cooperation with the Israeli embassy and academic centers in Israel.

"A thousand years of living together on Polish soil is the cornerstone of our present and future cooperation," Livne said. "We should work together to solve the problems that Poland, Israel, and all of Europe are currently facing. Challenges open up new opportunities. Responding to these challenges is our task."

"A lack of respect between parties who do not understand each other is the root of many conflicts," the ambassador continued. "My people have experienced this very strongly. Our main task is to build bridges — bridges of mutual understanding, bridges of communication. This is the answer to the challenges we are going to face in the future."

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne and Father Miroslaw Kalinowski, rector of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, discuss building bridges between the two countries at the university on June 21, 2022. Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne and Father Miroslaw Kalinowski, rector of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, discuss building bridges between the two countries at the university on June 21, 2022. Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

"It is much easier to distort history when we do not know our own past and that of our neighbors," Livne said. "It is therefore our responsibility to conduct thorough research and to learn from history based on facts."

The ambassador's visit is considered a stepping stone to ongoing cooperation between the countries. Kalinowski and Livne also met on May 13 at the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw. 

Livne has served as the Israeli Ambassador to Poland since the end of February.

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