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Vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers continues across US with incident near Seattle

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Denver Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 12:39 pm (CNA).

Pro-life organizations and Catholic church buildings continue to be targeted with arson and graffiti attacks, incidents which began in earnest earlier this month after a leaked draft opinion suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the question of abortion policy to the states. 

In the latest reported incident, a Seattle-area crisis pregnancy center was tagged with graffiti and vandalized in the early morning hours of May 25. In addition to the red paint, at least five of the front windows of Next Step Pregnancy Center in Lynnwood, Washington were smashed. 

Security video footage shared online by a local radio host shows a lone person dressed in black, spray painting the slogans “Jane’s revenge” and “If abortions aren’t safe, you aren’t either.”

The Next Step center provides free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, counseling, post-abortive support, pregnancy loss support, and adoption information, according to its website

"I believe that we were targeted because a lot of people, including maybe that person, are very misinformed and misguided about what really goes on in a pregnancy resource clinic,"  Heather Vasquez, director of the center, told local radio host Jason Rantz.

"I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what’s really happening here. But none of them ever want to come in and, you know, be with us and see what happens day to day."

The center has stayed open and continued its work despite the damage, and Lynnwood police have opened a case on the incident, Fox News reported. 

The latest spate of attacks on pregnancy centers began with an incident at the headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action, an organization that advocates for the unborn, marriage, and religious liberty, which were set on fire May 8. "A molotov cocktail, which did not ignite, was thrown inside the building. It also appears a separate fire was started in response," a police report said.

Graffiti left outside the building, located on the north side of Madison, Wisconsin, said, "If abortions aren't safe than you aren't either" — matching the graffiti left in Washington. 

A group called “Jane’s Revenge” reportedly claimed responsibility for the Wisconsin attack. 

That same evening, Oregon Right to Life reported that Molotov cocktails were thrown at the organization’s offices in Keizer, igniting a small fire. The fire was quickly put out and no one was hurt.

Since then, there have been several other notable attacks. In Denton, Texas, near Dallas, two women's resource centers, Woman to Woman Resource Center and Loreto House, were vandalized over the May 7-8 weekend. The buildings were spray painted with slogans such as “Forced birth is murder” and “Not a clinic.”

In Maryland, the ​​Alpha Pregnancy Center in Reisterstown, northwest of Baltimore, suffered spray-painted threats May 14 including "If abortions aren't safe, neither are you,” "Not a clinic," and "You're anti-choice and not pro-life." Those messages were also signed as being from "Jane's Revenge.” 

Other incidents have been reported at pro-life centers in Frederick, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia. 

Catholic church buildings have been targeted too. 

St. John XXIII parish in Fort Collins, about an hour north of Denver, was tagged with graffiti in the early morning of May 7, police said. “My Body My Choice” and a symbol that appears to be an “A” signifying “anarchy” were written on the church’s exterior. Some exterior glass panels at the church also were broken.

The look and style of the graffiti appears similar to that which appeared on a Catholic church building in nearby Boulder a few days prior. Sacred Heart of Mary Parish was defaced with pro-abortion slogans the evening of May 3, marking the second time in less than a year that the parish has been targeted with graffiti of this sort. 

Is Pope Francis about to name new cardinals?

Pope Francis creates five new cardinals during a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica on June 28, 2017. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, May 27, 2022 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis could soon convene a consistory for the creation of new cardinals, taking the number of cardinals eligible to take part in a future conclave over the 120 limit established by Paul VI.

Rumors of a new consistory have multiplied in recent weeks because the new Vatican constitution Praedicate evangelium will come into force on June 5, the feast of Pentecost. Several new Vatican dicasteries will come into being that day and there is an expectation that their leaders will be named cardinals, though the constitution emphasizes that laypeople can lead certain departments.

Pope Francis has two options. He can wait until the end of the year, when the number of cardinal electors will drop to 110 and he will therefore have 10 slots available. Or he can convene a consistory on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. A consistory that day would, in all likelihood, take the number of cardinal electors over 120. But then their number is expected to drop in the following months.

The College of Cardinals currently has 117 cardinal electors. Of these, 12 were created by John Paul II, 38 by Benedict XVI, and 67 by Pope Francis. Cardinals created by Pope Francis account for 57% of the cardinal electors.

The last consistory creating new cardinals was on Nov. 28, 2020. Up to that point, Pope Francis had convened a consistory every year since 2014. But 2021 passed without the creation of new cardinals.

So far this year, four cardinal electors have already turned 80, and another six will do so before 2022 ends. The last will be Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga on Dec. 29.

Of these 10 cardinals, only four were created by Pope Francis. Therefore, if Pope Francis decided to name 10 new cardinal electors and return to the maximum limit of 120 electors established by Paul VI and confirmed by John Paul II, there would be 76 cardinals created by him in a possible conclave. That is to say, only four fewer than the 80 cardinals who represent the two-thirds of votes needed to elect a new pope.

Pope Francis has generally chosen candidates who are little known in the wider Church, with more pastoral than theological profiles, and with great attention to local churches that are considered marginalized, such as those in Tonga, Cape Verde, and the Central African Republic.

Any discussion of conclaves is, of course, speculative. It is not known who the cardinals will vote for. When they enter the Sistine Chapel, they are isolated, without the possibility of contact with the outside world. There, they ponder the choice of the next pontiff based more on pragmatic considerations than geopolitical ones.

But studying the composition of the College of Cardinals is still worthwhile. If nothing else, it allows us to understand what direction Pope Francis wants to give to the Church and bishops around the world.

Reviewing Pope Francis’ seven consistories creating new cardinals, three fundamental criteria can be distinguished.

The first is unpredictability. The second is a desire to expand the representation of the Church to the most remote and least Christian regions. The third is that at least one new cardinal should represent a connection to the past.

On the first point, Pope Francis has shown that he can choose anyone as a cardinal. But there are some figures who are more likely to receive red hats due to their positions at the Vatican. They include Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Arthur Roche, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State.

Then there are the less obvious possibilities. The number of Italian cardinals has consistently decreased under Pope Francis. Traditionally cardinalatial sees such as Naples, Palermo, Venice, Milan, and Turin are currently without a red hat. But the pope may opt for Archbishop Marco Tasca of Genoa, even though his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, is still among the cardinal electors.

He might also reward Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, Lithuania, the president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE).

Among the surprises, there could also be another Italian: Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri, president of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. Sequeri is 77 years old and would therefore be a cardinal elector.

With the red hat, would Pope Francis somehow wish to bless the new direction of the institute named after the Polish pope but profoundly reshaped in recent years?

It is a hypothesis, as is a red hat for Archbishop Piero Marini, Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations from 1987 to 2007 and, until this year, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

Both Sequeri and Marini would arguably fit into the category of cardinals who represent a connection with the past. One would underline the new theological course under Pope Francis and the other the new liturgical line expressed most recently through the motu proprio Traditionis custodes.

A red hat for Marini, who was known for his progressive liturgical ideas during the pontificate of John Paul II, would say more than a thousand words about the direction that Pope Francis wants to give to the Church.

France could also gain a red hat. Apart from Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Pope Francis has not placed a red hat on a French head since his election in 2013. With former Paris archbishop Cardinal André Vingt-Trois turning 80 on Nov. 7, and losing his right to vote in a conclave, there is a possible opening.

Spain currently has four cardinals: the archbishops of Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, ​​and Valladolid. Archbishop Francisco Cherro Chaves of Toledo, the Primate of Spain, is not a cardinal. But insiders think that is unlikely to change.

Looking at Europe, the absence of red hats in influential archdioceses such as Kraków, Poland, and Armagh, Northern Ireland, is striking.

Neither the United States nor Canada seems a likely destination for a new red hat. The U.S. already has six resident cardinal electors: Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. There are three others in Rome: Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and Cardinal James Harvey.

Canada, meanwhile, has two residential archbishops — Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Quebec — and two curial cardinals, Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

In Latin America, the pope is thought to be able to give the red hat to Archbishop Carlos Mattasoglio of Lima, Peru, and Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte, the president of Brazil’s bishops’ conference.

Africa is currently under-represented in the College of Cardinals (as well as among the heads of Vatican dicasteries) and three African cardinals turned 80 in 2021. Pope Francis could look to South Sudan, where he intends to visit in July. A possible candidate would be Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba.

But the pope might also gravitate toward Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Dakar, Senegal, or Archbishop Siegfried Mandla Jwara of Durban, South Africa.

Australia does not currently have a cardinal elector, and the two most prominent names would be Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney and Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne. But the possibility of a red hat for Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane should not be underestimated. Coleridge was until recently the president of the Australian bishops’ conference and was seemingly highly esteemed by Pope Francis during the 2015 family synod.

Oceania could also be rewarded with a cardinal, perhaps from Papua New Guinea, where the pope has indicated that he wants to travel.

Asia now has 15 cardinal electors and is probably unlikely to gain many more at a new consistory.

Yet geographical considerations could become irrelevant if Pope Francis decided to expand the number of cardinal electors. There is a precedent: With the consistory of Nov. 28, 2020, he exceeded the threshold of 120, reaching 128 cardinal electors.

When choosing new cardinals, the pope has tended to opt for candidates whom he trusts. But he has also sent signals about the direction of his governance. It is notable that since the beginning of his pontificate, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops has been a cardinal (first Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and now Cardinal Mario Grech.) This is a sign of how important the pope considers the Synod of Bishops to be.

When Czerny received the red hat, he was under-secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and responsible for Vatican policy on migrants and refugees. The gesture was a clear indication of the pope’s strong interest in the themes promoted by the dicastery.

And when it comes to Pope Francis’ choices, no signal should be underestimated.

Large US companies rated on respect for free speech, religious freedom

null / zimmytws/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 10:58 am (CNA).

With some American companies able to have a profound impact on the exercise of free speech and religious freedom, Alliance Defending Freedom and Inspire Investing have launched a Business Index to rate their commitment to these values.

“CEOs and business leaders have positions of considerable power. They shouldn’t weaponize their influence or the companies they run to divide Americans or engage in speech censorship or anti-religious bigotry,” ADF Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco said in a May 26 statement.

“Instead of using the cultural power of their brands to drive polarization, business leaders should commit to respecting everyone, regardless of their religion or ideology. Businesses should respect viewpoint diversity at every level of their organizations, from the shop floor to the board room, and externally as well.”

The 2022 Business Index rates 50 companies on the Fortune 1000 list according to a “Viewpoint Diversity Score” in the market, the workplace, and the public square. The 50 companies examined were organizations in the banking, payment processing, and cloud services industries.

Companies that “serve as platforms for third-party expression in the digital space” were also examined, ADF stated. The report said that only companies in “specific sectors of concern” were considered for rankings.

The statement said that “Viewpoint Diversity Score will provide companies with workable solutions through model polices, research, toolkits, polling, and constructive dialogue.”

Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing, a Christian investment firm, commented that “By adopting the model policies and strategies we recommend, companies can cement their reputations as tolerant businesses that respect free speech and religious freedom as a standard part of doing business.”

In a May 25 op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, Tedesco and Netzly wrote that “the time is ripe to restore a business culture that respects American freedoms and ideals as well as diverse views among employees, customers, shareholders, and the general public.”

Businesses in the U.S., they said, have become captive “to a left-wing political agenda that many of their employees, customers, and shareholders don’t support, and that many Americans don’t want imposed on them by powerful governments or private actors.”

“Companies that respect diverse viewpoints are better equipped to serve people and communities with diverse values, recruit and retain top talent, and contribute to a public culture that supports liberal democracy and open markets,” Tedesco and Netzly stated.

The 50 corporations on the Business Index were given an average Viewpoint Diversity Score of 12%, with a range from 2% to 35%.

While no industry performed well, according to ADF, certain industries scored “particularly poorly.”

Computer software industries were given a score of 6%, while internet services and retailing scored 7%. The financial and data services industry garnered an 8% rating.

Companies that have come under fire for encroaching free speech, such as Twitter, Meta, and Alphabet, are all on the list.

Among the members of the Viewpoint Diversity Score Advisory Council are Andrew Abela, Dean of The Bush School of Business at Catholic University of America; Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals & Institutions at Princeton University; and Andrew Olivastro, Vice President for Outreach at The Heritage Foundation.

Cardinal Zuppi announces report on clerical sex abuse in Italy

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. / Screenshot from CEI Chiesa Cattolica Italiana YouTube channel.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 09:18 am (CNA).

In his first press conference since being selected as president of the Italy’s bishops’ conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi announced on Friday plans for a report on clerical sex abuse in the country.

“Our thoughts always go to the victims and that is the first concern,” Zuppi said on May 27.

“We need to strengthen diocesan services for minors and vulnerable people,” he said, according to ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.

The cardinal announced that the report will only cover abuse in the Catholic Church in Italy from the year 2000 to 2021. He said it is due to be released on Nov. 18, 2022.

“There is a willingness peacefully and painfully to clarify, here we evaluate with accuracy … We want fair and true clarity,” Zuppi said.

The possibility of reparations for victims is an open question at this time, according to the cardinal, who said that the consequences for bishops found to have covered up abuse will be “very serious.”

The Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into abuse during the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome this week.

Italian associations joined together in February to coordinate a movement against abuse in the Church. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to carry out an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the last 70 years.

The consortium sent a letter to the Italian bishops’ conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston urged Italian bishops on May 25 to work for a “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the appeal in a video message played on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly.

It was announced on May 24 that the pope had chosen Zuppi to lead the Italian bishops’ conference as its president.

The 66-year-old archbishop of the northern Italian city of Bologna has been dubbed the “bicycling cardinal” and has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

During the live-streamed press conference, Zuppi also touched on physician-assisted suicide, which is been a subject of national debate in Italy this year.

In February, Italy’s constitutional court blocked a referendum to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide in the country, citing inadequate legal protections for the weak and vulnerable.

“The doctrine of the Church is very clear,” Zuppi said. “Closeness to suffering remains the fundamental starting point.”

UPDATE: These Catholic bishops support Nancy Pelosi ban on Holy Communion

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:39 am (CNA).

So far only a small minority of U.S. bishops have come out publicly in support of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s May 20 announcement that he is barring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, until she repudiates her longstanding advocacy of abortion.

There are 194 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. Here is a list of those bishops who have spoken in favor of Cordileone’s action. Please send updates, with links to online statements if available, to [email protected]


Diocese of Oakland

Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he spoke to the pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in St.Helena, a parish that Pelosi reportedly attends on occasion. 

Vasa said, “I have visited with the pastor at St Helena and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it.”

“The new Canon (1379 §4) makes it clear that providing sacraments to someone prohibited from receiving them [has] its own possible penalties,” he said.


Archdiocese of Denver


Diocese of Springfield


Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann issued the following statement on May 20:

"I applaud Archbishop Cordileone’s patient and persevering efforts to enlighten Speaker Pelosi about the moral gravity of her extreme efforts to promote, to advocate and to initiate legislation to enshrine legalized abortion into federal law. I fully support the both pastoral and courageous actions that Archbishop Cordileone has now taken in an effort to awaken Speaker Pelosi’s conscience and at the same time to protect Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and throughout the country from being confused by Speaker Pelosi’s radical support for abortion, while claiming to be a faithful Catholic. I pray that Speaker Pelosi will have a change of heart."


Diocese of Lincoln


Archdiocese of Oklahoma City


Diocese of Baker

Bishop Liam Cary issued the following statement on May 20:

"Representative Nancy Pelosi proudly combines “devout” practice of Catholic faith in her personal life with high-profile promotion of legalized abortion in her political life. The scandalizing gap between belief and behavior on the part of the Speaker of the House grievously misleads her fellow believers about Catholic teaching on social justice and seriously handicaps Catholic efforts to defend unborn life in the womb. 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly brought these sad facts to Representative Pelosi’s attention and called her to repentance. In response, the Speaker has defiantly doubled down on her uncompromising advocacy for unlimited abortion, thereby proposing herself as an exemplar for Catholic politicians who deliberately distance themselves from the saving clarity of the Gospel of Life. At the same time, in choosing to ally herself actively with abortion’s most extreme proponents, Representative Pelosi has unilaterally broken communion with Archbishop Cordileone and the flock he shepherds. She has withdrawn herself from communion with the Church.  

In a letter to the Speaker on May 19 Archbishop Cordileone acknowledged this sad rupture for what it is and made her aware of its consequences: she is not to present herself for Holy Communion until she publicly renounces her support for abortion, makes a sacramental confession, and receives absolution. These conditions invite Representative Pelosi’s return to Communion and show her the way to do so on the Church’s terms, not her own. May our merciful Lord grant her the grace to accept them. May He strengthen Archbishop Cordileone to walk the path of courage with confidence."


Diocese of Fort Worth

Diocese of Tyler

Bishop Joseph Strickland said on May 25 that Pelosi would be barred from receiving Communion in the Diocese of Tyler in eastern Texas.

He wrote on Twitter: "The concern for Mrs Pelosi’s eternal salvation extends to the Diocese of Tyler. She is barred from Communion here until she repents & stops advocating the murder of children. Pray for her heart to be turned to God & away from the power of this world."

Washington State

Diocese of Spokane


Diocese of Green Bay

Diocese of Madison

Bishop Donald Hying supported Cordileone, saying: “I fully support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s prudent decision to recognize that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, has persistently taken public positions in support of legal abortion, contrary to her professed Catholic faith, choosing to separate herself from full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore is not to present herself for the reception of Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

Hying said that “Cordileone’s public statement made it clear that this serious measure is ‘purely pastoral, not political’ in a further attempt ‘to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking…’”


Diocese of Arlington

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said May 25 that he would respect the ban imposed by Cordileone because of Pelosi's staunch advocacy for legalized abortion.

“He is her bishop and as that bishop the direction and guidance he provides is not limited to just a geographical area,” Burbidge said on his diocese's "The Walk Humbly Podcast." His comments were first reported by the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese's newspaper.

“I can’t say it enough, (these) decisions are made for the good of individuals to guard the faithful from scandal," which is caused when Catholics in public office take positions at odds with Church teaching," the bishop said, according to the newspaper's report. "That confuses people and a bishop has to guard against that."

Burbidge revealed that while he has not publicly announced that someone should not receive Communion in his diocese, "I have privately shared that directive with individuals who have continuously scandalized the Church by holding a personal Catholic identity while also publicly advocating for abortion or other inherent moral evils," the newspaper reported.

“All people, including those who are not public individuals, have to approach the sacraments truly in communion with the Church and Our Lord,” Burbidge said.

This Catholic is trekking 4,000 miles across Europe to Jerusalem

Carlota Valenzuela. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:12 am (CNA).

A 29-year-old woman from Spain is walking 4,000 miles across Europe on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Carlota Valenzuela began her journey in January at Cape Finisterre in northern Spain, a point which the ancient Romans considered “the end of the world.”

Her goal is to reach the Holy Land by Christmas after trekking on foot across 12 countries with only a backpack and her deep faith in God.

“It was something that I felt in a very clear and a very obvious way that God was calling me to do a walking pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” Valenzuela told EWTN News Nightly from Rome on May 25.

“Before this day, there was a period of around six months in which I kept feeling the fact that God was calling me for something bigger,” she added.

Currently in Rome, Valenzuela is at about the halfway point of her pilgrimage. During her trip, she has made stops at many historic Catholic churches and shrines, including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Monastery of St. Joseph in Cotignac in France.

For Valenzuela, the highlight of her pilgrimage so far has been “the encounters along the way.”

“My way of doing this pilgrimage is literally knocking on people’s doors to ask them to host me, so the fact that I am in a position of need is helping me to see the best of humanity. I’m having a daily lesson of generosity,” she said.

Valenzuela added that she loves talking with people she meets about the faith and praying together.

The 29-year-old has also been filming and sharing aspects of her journey with a growing audience on social media via her Instagram account, @finisterreajerusalen, which already has more than 13,000 followers.

Her posts often show the natural beauty of the paths where she is walking with a voiceover of her reciting a prayer or reading a poem.

Valenzuela describes her pilgrimage so far as “a process of abandonment,” surrendering to God everything that is outside of her control.

“I feel that He is in charge, that this is not up to me, it's up to Him. I've never felt that kind of loneliness, although I've never been alone for so long in my life,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“My prayer has been changing a lot and I am learning little by little to contemplate, to see the landscapes and contemplate the work of God in the things I see, in the song of the birds, in how the leaves move with the wind, in the landscapes,” she said.

Valenzuela said that her parents were quite worried when she first told them of her plans to walk across a continent alone.

She left behind her job, friends, and family to make the pilgrimage. But even at the halfway point in her journey, she already feels like she is not the same person who set out from Spain in January.

She said: “I would invite people to have the courage to search a little inside, to ask themselves: what has God put inside of me?”

“And on that path of discovery, when they begin to glimpse which way to go, then they should set out on the road. For you only have one life, even if that sounds very cliché. You only have one life and there is only one opportunity to reach its fullness.”

Valenzuela will head off from Rome on the next leg of her journey at the beginning of June, on her 30th birthday. Her next stops include Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece.

Once she arrives in Jerusalem, she hopes to tell God “what I have been telling him since I started: that I am here, so that he may do his will in me.”

Germany’s Bishop Bätzing defends promotion of priest accused of sexual harassment

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. / Bistum Limburg.

Limburg, Germany, May 27, 2022 / 06:45 am (CNA).

German Catholic Bishop Georg Bätzing has defended his decision to promote a priest accused of sexual harassment.

The bishop of Limburg, western Germany, said on May 26 that if he was taking the decision today, he would send the case for review to a diocesan advisory board, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The board did not exist at the time that Bätzing appointed the unnamed priest to the post of district dean, although the bishop knew of the allegations and was in contact with both reported victims, the “Christ und Welt” supplement of the German newspaper Die Zeit said on May 25.

The victims were identified as a trainee Protestant pastor and a Catholic employee of the Limburg diocese.

Bätzing, who has served as chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference since 2020, said that today he would “present the whole matter and ask for advice” from the board.

“It’s not about criminal liability or not,” he said. “It’s about hurt and a conflict that simply goes incredibly deep.”

The Diocese of Limburg issued a statement on May 25 addressing the case.

It said a diocesan employee alleged in 2007 — years before Bätzing was appointed to the diocese — that the unnamed priest had called her pet names and stroked her hair and back with his hand.

The diocese said that it took immediate action. The priest was confronted with the allegations and told to refrain from the behavior.

The employee then alleged in 2013 that the priest had touched her under her T-shirt in 2007.

“The priest was also confronted with this accusation, but in contrast to the earlier accusations, he emphatically denied it,” the diocese said.

It said: “Georg Bätzing only learned about the priest’s misconduct and the accusations a few years after his move to the Limburg diocese [in 2016].”

“He then spoke with the [Church] employee and with the priest. In 2020, the bishop also confronted him about a new allegation relating to misconduct dating back to 2000 and made against the priest.”

“Bätzing made it unmistakably clear that he disapproved of such behavior. He issued a monitio, an admonition in written form. The priest apologized for his behavior to the employee, asked for forgiveness, and showed credible remorse. He has been dealing intensively with his misconduct for years.”

It went on: “After a renewed examination of the accusations and further discussions, Bishop Georg Bätzing appointed the priest as district dean of one of the 11 districts of the diocese.”

“The employee’s consternation and indignation over this personnel decision are understandable. In a personal conversation with the employee, Bätzing tried to convey and explain this decision to her.”

“In the appointment as district dean, both the formally disapproved misconduct of the priest and his handling of it were taken into account, as well as the fact that the pastoral workers entitled to make proposals expressed a clear vote for the appointment of this priest. Bishop Georg has come to the conclusion that an appointment as district dean is possible.”

Speaking on May 26 at the 102nd Katholikentag in Stuttgart, southwest Germany, Bätzing said that physical or verbal harassment of women was “an absolute no-go.”

But he said that, in light of the accused priest’s remorse and apology, and the penalties imposed, he asked whether the priest should be offered the possibility of rehabilitation.

This was “not a faux pas,” he insisted.

Pope Francis cites JRR Tolkien in essay on storytelling

Pope Francis and J.R.R. Tolkien. / Mazur/ and TuckerFTW via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, May 27, 2022 / 04:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis cited J.R.R. Tolkien in an essay on storytelling published this week.

“As Frodo, the main character in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ says: ‘The tales never end,’” Pope Francis wrote in an afterword to a book published on May 26.

The pope may have been referring to an exchange between Frodo and Sam in the second book of the trilogy on “the tales that really mattered.”

In the exchange, Sam says: “And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got — you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It's going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’”

“‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.’”

The pope brought up Tolkien in an afterword he wrote for the recently published Italian book “La Tessitura del Mondo” (“Weaving the World”).

According to its publisher, the book features chapters written by “major cultural figures” in Italy on “storytelling as a way to salvation.”

In the pope’s afterword, published in full by Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope also quoted Donna Tartt, an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for her novel, “The Goldfinch.”

The pope reflected on Tartt’s description of the stories human beings tell as unbreakable ropes that connect the living and the dead and weave vast webs across centuries and cultures.

“The American novelist keenly captures one of the points on which many of the authors in this book converge: storytelling as a ‘fabric’ made of ‘unbreakable ropes’ that connects everything and everyone, present and past, and allows one to open to the future with feelings of trust and hope,” the pope said.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has made reference to books such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Romano Guardini’s “The Meaning of the Church.”

Among his favorite books are the Italian novel “The Betrothed,” by Alessandro Manzoni, and “Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson.

This was not the first time that Pope Francis has referenced “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit.”

In a 2008 Easter homily when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly said: “Tolkien portrays in Bilbo and Frodo the image of man who is called to walk, and his heroes know and enact, precisely by walking, the drama … between good and evil.”

"The walking man has within him the dimension of hope: he enters into hope. Throughout mythology and history, there resounds the echo of the fact that man is not a still, tired being, but is called to the journey, and if he does not enter into this dimension he destroys himself as a person and becomes corrupted.”

Papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa also cited Tolkien at the Vatican’s Good Friday liturgy this year. He reflected on a letter that the author wrote to his son about people who denied the existence of Jesus.

Armenian patriarch to represent Catholics at Middle East Council of Churches

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian. / Screenshot from MECC - The Middle East Council of Churches YouTube channel.

London, England, May 27, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian is the new representative of Catholics at the Middle East Council of Churches.

The Armenian Catholic leader was elected to represent “the Catholic family” at the closing session of the council’s general assembly, held on May 16-20 in Wadi El-Natrun, northern Egypt.

He succeeds Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, reported ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner.

The Middle East Council of Churches was founded in 1974 to bring together the region’s Evangelical, Oriental Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox Christians. Catholics joined the body in 1990. The council has four presidents, each representing one of its four constituent communions.

Patriarch Minassian, 75, became the 21st Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics in September 2021.

He succeeded Patriarch Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, who died in May 2021 at the age of 86.

The Armenian Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. It has more than 700,000 members worldwide.

Before his election as patriarch, Minassian served as the bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe since 2011.

He was born to an Armenian family in Lebanon on Oct. 24, 1946. He was ordained in 1973 in Beirut as a priest of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar, an Armenian Catholic religious congregation of priests founded in 1750.

From 1990 to 2006, he served as a pastor in California, where he helped to create a foundation supporting humanitarian projects in Armenia. He also initiated the construction of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale.

In 2005, he was appointed leader of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and Amman. In 2009, he established perpetual Eucharistic adoration at the church marking the Fourth Station of the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

In a statement at the end of their general assembly, members of the Middle East Council of Churches said that they were praying “for the stability of the Middle East, the end of wars and conflicts, the lifting of the epidemic and inflation, and the establishment of security and peace in the East and the world, so that everyone may explore the path of peace.”

Bishops lament threats facing Jerusalem's Christians

Members of the Holy Land Coordination meet with young people of Jerusalem at St James the Apostle Beit Hanina parish, May 21, 2022. / Mazur/ via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

At the end of a trip to the Holy Land, a group of European bishops lamented the threats to Jerusalem’s Christians, noting in particular the attack on mourners at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“The Christian community is essential to Jerusalem’s identity, both now and for the future. Yet its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice,” read the May 26 final communique of the Holy Land Coordination group.

“Many of those we encountered are facing violence and intimidation by settler groups, restrictions on their freedom of movement, or separation from their families because of the status they are assigned.”

Six bishops from across Europe visited Jerusalem May 21-26. Since 2000, the Holy Land Coordination has taken an annual trip to the Holy Land, promoting awareness, action, and prayer for the region. The group was founded by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

“We share the concerns expressed by the Christian community about unilateral restrictions on freedom of worship during Easter, imposed by the Israeli police,” the bishops stated. “We experienced the deep sorrow and anger felt by local Christians at the killing of Palestinian Catholic journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the shameful attack on mourners at her funeral.”

Abu Akleh was a Melkite Greek Catholic and a Palestinian American who was killed while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank May 11. During her funeral procession May 13, Abu Akleh’s coffin nearly fell as police waded into the crowd brandishing batons and using stun grenades.

The bishops said that Jerusalem is a “common patrimony” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and it must “never become the exclusive monopoly of any one religion.”

“We came to meet and pray with our sisters and brothers, mindful of Patriarch Pizzaballa’s message that it is our right and duty as Christians to uphold the city’s openness and universality.”

They noted that “people of all backgrounds are living in poverty, which has been compounded by the pandemic. The absence of pilgrims during the past two years has devastated livelihoods, including among Jerusalem’s Christian community, leaving some families struggling to afford housing, food, or other essentials.”

The bishops added that there are “signs of hope,” however. “We visited Christian organisations taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and wider society. They are working tirelessly to alleviate hardship and improve lives. We met young people who, despite facing daily violations of their fundamental human rights, refuse to be the last generation of Christians in the city.”

They urged pilgrims “to support Christians in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land,” saying, “It is essential that all pilgrims understand and engage with the reality of life for the Christian community here.”

“All Christians must help preserve the city’s sacred character,” they wrote, “and promote an authentic vision for Jerusalem as a place of dialogue and unity.”