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Amid protests against Italy’s vaccine rules, Cardinal Parolin says Church’s message is clear

Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends an ordination at the Basilica of Sant'Eugenio in Rome, Sept. 5, 2020. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Verona, Italy, Nov 30, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Commenting on protests against Italy’s vaccine rules, the Vatican’s Secretary of State said that the Church’s message is clear that vaccination is an “act of love.”

In an interview with Vatican News published on Nov. 28, Cardinal Pietro Parolin was asked about “No Vax” and “No Pass” demonstrations in cities across Italy.

“No Vax” refers to demonstrators who object to COVID-19 vaccines, while “No Pass” protesters focus on the Italian government’s decision in October to require all workers to possess a Green Pass proving that the holder has been vaccinated, tested negative every 48 hours, or recently recovered from COVID-19.

Parolin was asked specifically to comment on the actions of a priest, Father Floriano Pellegrini, who blessed the crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators before a “No Vax” march in Verona on Nov. 27.

“It seems to me that the message is clear and well known, there is no need to repeat it, it is what the Holy Father has always said,” said Parolin, who was attending an event promoting the Church’s social doctrine in the northern Italian city where the march occurred.

“I refer to his statements, his admonitions, to experience the reality and the issue of the vaccine with a sense of responsibility.”

He went on: “I believe this is what it is: a responsible freedom. Because many call for freedom, but freedom without responsibility is empty, indeed it becomes slavery.”

“Therefore, responsibility towards oneself, because we see how the No Vax [people] are affected by the disease, and responsibility, above all, towards others, which then the pope summed up with this beautiful expression that I like so much but that, in the end, goes in this sense, of an act of love.”

Italy was one of the countries worst hit by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The nation of almost 60 million people has recorded more than 5 million COVID cases and 133,000 related deaths as of Nov. 30, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Almost 73% of the population is vaccinated.

The Italian authorities have announced plans to introduce a “super Green Pass,” entering into force on Dec. 6. The move will bar unvaccinated people from dining indoors at restaurants, going to the gym, visiting museums and other tourist sites, or attending weddings or other public ceremonies until at least Jan. 15.

The new rules will remove the possibility for people to offer proof of a negative test within the past 48 hours to enter the venues, meaning that only those who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed access.

Father Pellegrini, a priest from Coi, a hamlet in the northern Italian province of Belluno, has gained media attention for his opposition to the Green Pass.

Pellegrini has been supporting a dock workers’ strike in the port city of Trieste in protest against the government’s COVID rules.

The priest of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre wrote an open letter to the Italian bishops, questioning their willingness to protect religious freedom from state power.

“For a year and a half now, the vast majority of the Italian Catholic faithful have been disconcerted and scandalized by your incomprehensible silence, by your lack of ability to indicate the path of faith,” Pellegrini wrote in September.

"You seem, for all intents and purposes, salt that has lost its flavor and, as Christ says, ‘is good only to be thrown away and trampled on by men.’ You have yielded to almost everything that the Italian government has asked of you and continues to suggest and you have transformed the Church from a divine reality into a society manipulated by the government.”

The priest, who is a champion to the Trieste dockers, has criticized Pope Francis for promoting vaccination and regards Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the United States who is also an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates, as a “hero.”

Italian media reported that the country’s Catholic bishops took aim at No Vax protesters in their message for Italy’s Day for Life, issued on Nov. 17.

They praised Italians’ response to the pandemic, but said that “there were also manifestations of selfishness, indifference, and irresponsibility, often characterized by a misunderstood affirmation of freedom and a distorted conception of rights.”

“Very often, these were understandably frightened and confused people who were essentially also victims of the pandemic,” they wrote.

“In other cases, however, these behaviors and speeches expressed a vision of the human person and social relations that was far removed from the Gospel and the spirit of the [Italian] constitution.”

The Vatican’s doctrinal office said in December 2020 that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said that vaccination “must be voluntary,” while noting that those who refuse to receive vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses for reasons of conscience “must do their utmost to avoid … becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”

Pope Francis called vaccinations an “act of love” in a public service announcement issued in collaboration with the Ad Council in August.

He said: “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. I pray to God that each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love, no matter how small, love is always grand.”

The pope was asked about the sharp differences among Christians over vaccines during an in-flight press conference as he returned from Slovakia to Rome in September.

He said that he did not know how to explain the opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.

“Some say it comes from the diversity of where the vaccines come from, which are not sufficiently tested and they are afraid. We must clarify and speak with serenity about this,” he said.

“In the Vatican, everyone is vaccinated except a small group which they are studying how to help.”

The Pontifical Swiss Guard, charged with protecting the pope, has required all 135 of its guards to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It emerged in October that three Swiss Guards had quit after refusing to comply with the requirement.

7 things to know about the Dobbs abortion case now before the Supreme Court

Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, March 2, 2016. / Catholic News Agency

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 30, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a historic case on Dec. 1 that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What is the case about?

The case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a 2018 Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. “Dobbs” stands for Thomas E. Dobbs, who serves as the state health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health. Jackson Women’s Health Organization provides abortion in Jackson, Mississippi, and is the only abortion clinic in that state.

The case centers on the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. The case challenges two landmark abortion cases that Mississippi calls “egregiously wrong”: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

2. Why does the case challenge Roe and Casey?

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes,” Mississippi argues in its brief. “Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

3. What time are the arguments?

The oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, and will last for 70 minutes. 

4. Who will argue the case before the court?

Three people will speak before the justices. Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, will have 35 minutes to represent the state. For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will have 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will also have 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  

5. How can Americans hear or read the arguments? 

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. is temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19, but Americans can still listen in. The high court provides an audio livestream of all oral arguments on its website. Following the event, its website also offers an audio recording and same-day transcript of the arguments. C-SPAN also livestreams the audio of Supreme Court arguments on its website and on its YouTube channel. CNA will provide updates on the arguments as they occur.

6. Who will be outside the Supreme Court during the arguments?

In support of abortion, the Women’s March will march to the Supreme Court at 2:15 p.m. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Access Coalition will gather outside at 7:30 a.m. NARAL Pro-Choice America will arrive at the same time.

A pro-life rally called “Empower Women Promote Life” will begin at 8 a.m. outside of the Supreme Court. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch recently released the speaker list, which includes a slew of pro-life women of diverse backgrounds and numerous politicians.

7. What happens after the oral arguments are completed?

What happens next is that America waits. Nothing will be decided on Dec. 1. The Supreme Court generally releases decisions in high-profile cases, such as this one, in June. So there will be plenty of time between now and then to parse the questions that the various justices will pose during the oral arguments, looking for hints of how this or that justice might vote.

Whatever the court ultimately decides, the consequences for the country will be enormous.

If Roe and Casey are overturned, abortion law would be left up to each individual state. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive research organization once associated with Planned Parenthood, predicts that 26 states would certainly or likely ban abortion.

If the Mississippi law is struck down, and Roe and Casey are affirmed, it would be a devastating setback for the pro-life movement, which has pinned its long-term legal strategy on someday having a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, as is the case today.

Live updates:



Bolivian archdiocese condemns feminist violence against those protecting churches 

Red paint is splashed on the cathedral of Santa Cruz de la Sierra - Members of Mujeres Creando. / Graciela Arandia de Hidalgo - Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Nov 29, 2021 / 15:42 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra has condemned the violence perpetrated outside its cathedral by feminist demonstrators Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In a Nov. 27 statement, the Bolivian archdiocese deplored the recent violence and insults by a group of feminists who attacked and  "viciously and violently" beat a woman outside the cathedral.

"It’s astonishing that the self-proclaimed defenders of women would act violently against women themselves,"  the archdiocese said, adding that their “intolerant and aggressive attitude belies the goodness of the cause.”

In various cities in Bolivia and other parts of the Americas, feminists demonstrated violently, damaging public and private buildings, and attacking Catholic churches.

The Santa Cruz archdiocese also expressed its concern about “the absence of law enforcement, whose mission is to avoid confrontations, defend the personal safety and lives of the people, as well as preserve peace for the citizens and the historical, cultural and religious heritage of our city.”

In La Paz, video surveillance footage showed an unidentified person placing an explosive device around 4:30 a.m. Nov. 24 outside the doors of the Bolivian bishops’ conference’s offices. 

The device exploded moments later and local media reported that the explosion damaged a step and part of the door.

Also in La Paz, at dusk on Nov. 25, a mob of women approached Mary Help of Christians church where a group of Catholic women were standing on the steps accompanied by some men in order to protect the church.

As the group was praying the rosary, the protesters began shouting pro-abortion slogans and for the separation of church and state. The demonstrators threw red paint, feces, bottles, and other objects at those defending the church from attack.

"We ask the authors of these excesses and everyone to accept the Lord's call and to work for peace and life” and not to incite “hatred and violence" the Santa Cruz archdiocese concluded its statement.

Phil Saviano, survivor of clerical abuse featured in 'Spotlight,' dies at 69

Clerical sexual abuse survivor Phil Saviano at the premiere of "Spotlight" in 2015. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2021 / 14:48 pm (CNA).

Phil Saviano, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse whose story was featured in the 2015 film “Spotlight” died on Sunday, Nov. 28, at the age of 69. 

Saviano wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 23 that doctors had informed him that they had exhausted all possible treatment options for his gallbladder cancer. He moved in with his brother, Jim Saviano, at his house in Douglas, Mass., and began hospice care. 

His death was announced in another Facebook post shortly after 3 p.m. on Sunday.

In December 1992, Saviano came across a news article in The Boston Globe saying that a priest named Father David Holley had been arrested for the sexual abuse of boys at a church in New Mexico during the 1970s. 

Saviano told People Magazine in 2015 that discovering that article was a “big life-changing moment.”  

“I was very much surprised and just stunned,” he told the magazine. “It was just sort of a one shot, fairly short story in the Globe, not even in the front section, I could’ve easily missed it. But I didn’t.”

Starting as an 11-year-old child at St. Denis Catholic Church  in Douglas, Saviano was molested for one and a half years by Holley. Speaking in a video with the Daily Mail, he said that Holley was unlike other priests, and had the ability to speak on the level of an adolescent boy. Saviano said that  Holley “took an interest in me” and initially had him do odd jobs around the rectory and parish after CCD class. 

“I remembered feeling lucky that this priest, who was so revered and respected in the community, was paying attention to me,” said Saviano to the Daily Mail. The funny stories shared by the priest quickly became sexual in nature, and which then progressed to assault. 

Motivated by the news report, Saviano came forward with the story of his abuse in 1992. At the time, having been diagnosed with AIDS, he did not think he had much longer to live. He figured that by coming forward with his story, he had nothing to lose. 

After filing a civil suit, Saviano was given access to Holley’s record. It was then he learned that there were “seven priests in four states” who were aware that the priest was a child-molesting pedophile. 

“I knew that the bishops were in on the cover up,” he said to the Daily Mail. “I settled my case without signing a confidentiality agreement, which gave me the ability to talk about this.” 

Holley died in prison in 2008, 15 years into a 275-year sentence for the sexual assault of eight boys in New Mexico. 

After settling with the diocese in 1995, Saviano attempted to contact The Boston Globe three years later with his story. He was initially rebuffed, but years later, the paper once again took an interest in his case. In January 2002, The Boston Globe published the first of its “Spotlight” team investigations into abuse by Catholic priests and subsequent cover-up. 

Cardinal Bernard Law, the then-archbishop of Boston, resigned in the wake of the scandal. 

Saviano was portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight” by Neal Huff. Saviano and Huff became friends throughout the course of filming, and Saviano advised writers on the screenplay. 

Actor Neal Huff (left) and Phil Saviano attend the "Spotlight" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on October 27, 2015 in New York City. Shutterstock
Actor Neal Huff (left) and Phil Saviano attend the "Spotlight" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on October 27, 2015 in New York City. Shutterstock

In 1997, he founded the New England chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP.) 

In a statement released by SNAP, the organization said it was “heartbroken” at Saviano’s death, and praised him as someone who “played an integral part in exposing sexual assaults against children by Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.” 

“There are not enough words to describe this terrible loss for both our movement and the world,” said SNAP. 

“Anyone who met Phil immediately recognized his gentleness and humility. He was a kind soul who helped provide a listening ear and shoulder to cry on as the founder of the New England SNAP chapter,” said the organization. “He embraced the principles of seeking truth and justice as the means to bring about healing for survivors at a time when the scandal was still in its infancy.”

Saviano’s funeral will be held Dec. 3 at St. Denis, his childhood parish.

Paris archdiocese to present plans for Notre-Dame’s interior amid outcry

Repair scaffolding on Notre-Dame de Paris, November 2019. / Vicente Sargues/Shutterstock.

Paris, France, Nov 29, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Archdiocese of Paris will present its plans for the restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s interior next week after it dismissed criticism that its proposals would turn the site into “a kind of theme park.”

Officials will submit their proposals to France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission on Dec. 9 amid a new outcry over the restoration of the cathedral badly damaged by fire in 2019, reported AFP.

The news agency said that the archdiocese denied foreign media reports that the celebrated French Gothic cathedral, built between 1163 and 1345, risked being transformed into a theme park or filled with jarring contemporary art.

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported on Nov. 26 that critics feared the changes would turn the building into a “politically correct Disneyland.”

It said that “confessional boxes, altars, and classical sculptures will be replaced with modern art murals, and new sound and light effects to create ‘emotional spaces.’”

“There will be themed chapels on a ‘discovery trail,’ with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, while quotes from the Bible will be projected onto chapel walls in various languages, including Mandarin,” it added.

Maurice Culot, an architect who has seen the plans, told the newspaper: “It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame.”

“What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or St. Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place,” he commented.

In an interview with AFP, Father Gilles Drouin, the priest overseeing the interior restoration, appeared to confirm the proposals but argued that they did not amount to a radical change.

He explained that the restoration sought to preserve the cathedral as a place of worship, but also to welcome and educate visitors “who are not always from a Christian culture.”

He said that side chapels would feature “portraits from the 16th and 18th century that will be in dialogue with modern art objects.”

“The cathedral has always been open to art from the contemporary period, right up to the large golden cross by sculptor Marc Couturier installed by [the then archbishop of Paris] Cardinal Lustiger in 1994,” he said.

The French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, but the cathedral authorities are responsible for its interior renewal.

The plans must ultimately be approved by France’s Ministry of Culture. Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot has previously suggested that the restored cathedral should look “identical” to before the fire.

This is not the first time that restoration plans have generated controversy. Critics denounced a proposal leaked in December 2020 to replace architect Viollet-le-Duc’s historic stained-glass windows with colorful contemporary designs in the chapels around the nave.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese told the National Catholic Register at the time that “it goes without saying that the archbishop has never had any intention to turn the cathedral into an airport or a parking lot.”

The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

Catholic priests survey finds lower morale, 'conservative shift' among U.S. clergy

Priest collar / / null

Denver Newsroom, Nov 29, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

First in a series of articles examining the 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests (SACP) findings.

A new survey released this month suggests a more “pessimistic” view of the Catholic Church among U.S. priests today as compared to 2002, as well as an increasing perception of “more theologically conservative or orthodox” young priests as compared to their older counterparts. 

A Nov. 1 report summarized findings from the 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests (SACP), which comprised 54 questions posed to 1,036 Catholic priests in the United States. 

“If the major story of the SACP had to be summarized briefly it would be noticeable conservative shifts among U.S. priests over the last two decades coupled with a turn toward pessimism about the current state and trajectory of the Catholic Church in America,” write the report’s three researchers.  

When asked about politics, the priests surveyed were significantly more likely to describe themselves as “conservative” as compared to respondents in 2002, the researchers say. 

In addition, the percentage of priest respondents overall who view younger priests as “much more conservative” than older priests increased from 29% in 2002 to 44% in the new survey.

To track changes in answers over time, the survey reused questions from a 2002 poll of Catholic priests conducted by the Los Angeles Times, and also a few questions from a survey of priests from 1970. 

The priests were contacted in late 2020 via two unconnected email lists, one provided by the Official Catholic Directory and one provided by an unidentified “Catholic NGO.” Despite the small sample size, the authors say the results they garnered from the two email lists are “reassuringly similar,” both to each other, and to the 2002 results. 

The researchers analyzed the data they collected, classifying each priest by his self-described political persuasion. They also classified the priests into “cohorts” based on their ordination year. 

Brad Vermurlen, the survey’s co-author and a sociologist with the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in an article announcing the study that researchers observed a “relatively conservative cohort of priests ordained prior to 1960” followed by “more permissive or liberal men ordained to the priesthood in the 1960s and 70s.”

“After the permissive cohorts, there is a steady move toward more conservative views with each successive cohort. Catholic priests ordained since the year 2000 tend to be the most conservative,” Vermurlen wrote. 

Priests in the more recent survey were, on average, less in favor of female deacons, less in favor of ordaining women as priests, and less favorable toward the idea of married priests compared to the 2002 survey, the researchers write. 

Morale

While priests today are slightly less likely to leave the priesthood than they were in 2002, “life satisfaction” for priests is lower overall, the researchers write, down from 72.1% of priests in 2002 saying they were “very satisfied” with their life as a priest, to 62% saying the same in 2021.

“Over the same time that priests became more conservative in multiple ways, their perceptions of the current state of the Catholic Church in America took a pessimistic turn, now with a majority of priests saying things in the Church are ‘not so good’ — and this holds true across the political spectrum,” the researchers, two of whom work at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote. 

Orthodoxy

The researchers’ measure of “orthodoxy” was a theological question: whether the priests surveyed believe faith in Jesus Christ to be the “sole path to salvation.” 

The Catholic Church teaches in Paragraph 846 of the Catechism that “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body,” and notes that Jesus Himself “explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism.” 

However, in the next Catechism paragraph, the Church affirms that those who “through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.” Nevertheless, “the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

Priests in 2021 were, overall, slightly more likely to affirm belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the “sole path to salvation” than priests in 2002, but stark differences emerged among the different political persuasions. 

Among priests who self-identified as “very liberal,” nearly 40% “disagreed strongly” with the assertion that the sole path to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. On the other end of the spectrum, among “very conservative” priests, 82% said they “agreed strongly.”

Morality

To assess opinions on morality among the priests, the researchers laid out six activities that the Church teaches to be sinful, and asked whether the surveyed priests also consider them sinful. These activities were: nonmarital sex; abortion; birth control use in married couples; homosexual behavior; suicide to relieve suffering, and masturbation.

The researchers concluded that priests in 2021 were more likely than their 2002 counterparts to say each of those six activities to be sinful. 

Assessment of Pope Francis

The researchers also asked about the priests’ approval of Pope Francis. They found that priests ordained in more recent years are less likely to approve of how Pope Francis is handling his duties.

“In the latest cohort of priests, ordained in 2010 or later, only 20.0 percent ‘approve strongly’ of Pope Francis and nearly half (49.8 percent) disapprove, whether ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’” the researchers found. 

Is the Church getting better or worse?

The priests were asked about their opinion of the Catholic Church’s “trajectory”— whether the Church is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. 

The researchers noted that priests who assessed the Church as “not so good” spanned the political spectrum, and speculated that the apparent pessimism seems to be a “period effect,” meaning “there is something about the early 2020s distinctly different from 2002 generating these changes.”

The researchers speculate that one reason for the increased pessimism among priests might be “the spiritual and moral lives of the Catholic laity.” The researchers claim that just 22% of priests reported that “most” of the laity they encounter are living out the Church’s teachings on moral issues such as those relating to sexuality, a decrease from 30% in 2002.

They also cited a “challenging, ‘post-Christian’” society and the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis as likely drivers of lower morale. 

Report: Pope Francis could bring 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy

Pope Francis greets a migrant at a welcoming hub near Cesena, Italy on Oct. 1, 2017. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis could reportedly help to bring up to 50 migrants to Italy as part of his trip to Cyprus and Greece this week.

Cypriot government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said that the Vatican wanted to arrange the transfer of migrants currently in Cyprus to Rome, Reuters reported on Nov. 26.

“This is a tangible expression of solidarity by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to people in need, affirming that the Vatican recognizes the problem that the Republic of Cyprus faces today because of the increased migratory flows and the need for a fair distribution among EU member states,” Pelekanos said, according to Reuters.

Pope Francis will depart for the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this Thursday for a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece. The trip is expected to highlight the plight of migrants seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

The last time that Pope Francis visited Greece, in 2016, he brought three Syrian refugee families from the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos back with him to Rome.

Among the refugees relocated with the pope’s help was Majid Alshakarji, who escaped the Syrian civil war at the age of 15.

Five years later, Alshakarji is now studying at a university in Rome to become a dentist and volunteers with the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, helping to welcome new refugees to Italy.

“We have been allowed to have a new life in a new country … It is a beautiful experience,” he told CNA in 2020.

Sant’Egidio helped to organize the arrival of 70 Syrian refugees in Rome on Nov. 29.

The refugees, who had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon, came to Italy through the humanitarian corridors promoted by the Catholic movement in coordination with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Italian government.

Pope Francis has repeatedly urged governments not to “lose sight of the human face of migration.”

Most recently, in a message on Nov. 29 marking the 70th anniversary of the International Organization for Migration, the pope decried the “double standard” that places economic interests over “the needs and dignity of the human person.”

“On the one hand, in the markets of upper-middle-income countries, migrant labor is in high demand and welcomed as a way to compensate for the lack of it. On the other, migrants are generally rejected and subject to resentful attitudes by many of their host communities,” he said.

“This tendency was particularly evident during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when many of the ‘essential’ workers were migrants, but they were not granted the benefits of the COVID-19 economic aid programs or even access to basic health care and immunization,” the pope added.

The pope’s message to the U.N. organization was read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a video message.

Pope Francis underlined that “we must never forget that these are not statistics, but real people whose lives are at stake.”

“Rooted in its centuries-long experience, the Catholic Church and its institutions will continue their mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating people on the move,” he said.

The meanings and traditions of Advent

Kara Monroe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Nov 29, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, and welcome his presence into our lives. 

During a time of Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and family gatherings, it can be hard to find the time to prepare properly for this faith-filled season. However, the Catholic Church has a rich history of traditions to help keep our minds focused on the true meaning of the season.

In an interview with EWTN News In Depth, Father Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P., host of the Godsplaining podcast, discussed the history of Advent and how it began in the fourth century. 

“It was originally a kind of time of preparation for people that were preparing for baptism,” he said. “The feast of the epiphany was a great day in the old calendar, it used to be alighted with the feast of the baptism of the Lord.”

Since it was a time of preparation for those soon-to-be baptized, Fr. Patrick pointed out that “It had more of a feel of Lent to it.” 

“There was a kind of rigor again, looking forward to the coming mysteries that were celebrated by the sacraments,” he said.

Jumping forward to the present day, the meaning of Advent is different. It now focuses on the birth of Jesus, and families place an Advent wreath in their home. The Catholic Church also uses different colors to represent the season. 

“That deep purple that you see in Advent, that very rich color, is the color of repentance,” Fr. Patrick explained. “It reminds us of the sober and somber character of the season and tells us that we should be preparing not just our homes, not just our surroundings, but our souls.” 

The Advent season is not one entirely characterized by somberness, however. Gaudete Sunday represents the midway point of the Advent season and is a Sunday of rejoicing. On Gaudete Sunday, which is the third Sunday of Advent, a rose colored candle is illuminated.  

“Christmas and the Advent season, I think, are so different from Lent principally because they have this note of hope,” Fr. Patrick said. “Advent is a season ultimately of light and we see that in the candles of the Advent wreath.”

While many think primarily of the outward signs of Advent, this time of year is deeply rooted in the inward preparation we are called to as we draw closer to the birth of Jesus. 

During the interview, Fr. Patrick recalled a homily given by Saint Bernard Clairvaux, which is read by the Church in the liturgy of the hours. In the homily, the saint describes three comings of Christ. 

“Christ came once as a child in Bethlehem, and the Lord Jesus is going to come again to judge the living and the dead, so this is the second principle meaning of Advent,” he said. “But, the third coming of Christ is that Christ is coming into our hearts.”

“The spirit of Advent, then, is to be ready each Christmas to receive Christ in my life, in the here and now, in a new and deeper way,” he said.

The leader of Afghanistan’s Catholic community longs to return to the country

Fr. Giovanni Scalese, head of the Mission Sui Iuris of Afghanistan, celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in 2019. / Courtesy photo.

Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Following the Taliban takeover, there is no longer a Catholic community to speak of in Afghanistan. But Fr. Giovanni Scalese’s eyes are set on the future, not the recent past.

The Italian priest who has led the Mission Sui Iuris of Afghanistan since 2014 is hopeful that the country will eventually return to a “normal situation” in which foreign personnel can return and live the faith “without limitations.”

He underlines that Catholics “are not interested in who is in government: we just need no obstacles to the exercise of religious freedom.”

Scalese, a member of the Barnabites, took over the Afghanistan mission from Fr. Giuseppe Moretti, who had led it since it was established by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

Moretti was also a Barnabite because the mission in Afghanistan has been entrusted to the religious order also known as the Clerics Regular of St. Paul since 1933.

This mission, which extends to the whole of the country, is based at a single location: the Our Lady of Divine Providence Chapel, the Italian embassy’s chapel in the capital, Kabul.

Back in 1919, Italy had asked Afghanistan’s ruler, Amanullah Khan, to build a Catholic place of worship. He agreed as he wanted to express his gratitude to the Italian government for being the first to recognize the country’s independence that year.

Today, the chapel is empty as Scalese returned to Italy after the Taliban took power. Arriving in Rome on Aug. 25, he brought with him a number of Missionaries of Charity and 14 disabled children cared for by the sisters.

In an email interview with CNA, Scalese outlined the situation in Afghanistan and shared his hope for a future in which everyone can exercise freedom of expression.

He said: “I hope that, as soon as possible, we can return to a situation of normality — which means peace, stability, security — and that, therefore, foreign personnel can return to the country and can also live their faith without limitations. We do not care who is in government: it is enough that no obstacles are placed to religious freedom.”

Reflecting on his role in Afghanistan, Scalese said that he could be described as a missionary “only in an analogical way.” This is because his ministry was limited to the spiritual assistance of Catholics, the vast majority of whom were foreigners, while “any form of evangelization is excluded a priori” in Afghanistan.

The very term “mission” is considered highly sensitive in the country, though the priest noted that “no one ever had a problem when that term was used for NATO military missions or the humanitarian missions of the United Nations.”

He said that proselytism “was excluded from the very beginning,” but initially “the pastoral activity of foreigners could take place without restriction.”

But the coronavirus pandemic had a heavy impact on the local Catholic community as the Italian embassy’s chapel was forced to close when the embassy itself entered lockdown.

“In the last seven years, it had become increasingly difficult for me to leave the Italian embassy and for the faithful to leave their respective compounds (diplomatic representations and humanitarian and international organizations) and enter the green zone and the embassy,” he said.

“Over the past two years then, due to the pandemic, many faithful returned to their countries. The embassy was subjected to a strict lockdown, so for several months I was forced to celebrate alone.”

He went on: “Only from October 2020 were the Sisters readmitted for the Sunday liturgy. The other few faithful who remained had the opportunity to participate in the Eucharist only at Christmas and Easter.”

The Taliban’s arrival created even more complications, though at first there was some hope that the status quo would be maintained.

“Once the Taliban took power, they asked foreign NGOs to stay,” Scalese recalled, but many decided to leave or operate only through local staff.

He noted that three Catholic groups — the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Missionaries of Charity, and Pro Bambini di Kabul (“For the Children of Kabul”) — left the country “for prudential reasons.”

Fr. Giovanni Scalese (back row second from right) with religious. Courtesy photo.
Fr. Giovanni Scalese (back row second from right) with religious. Courtesy photo.

Scalese, who is continuing to monitor the situation in Afghanistan, said that “if the conditions were to be met for a resumption of activities, I think no one would hold back.”

He explained that “until now for religious personnel, the only possibility of carrying out activity in Afghanistan was to be registered as social workers, within a non-governmental organization recognized by the government.” Their work was well regarded.

The Italian priest observed that the United Nations and the European Union want to reopen their offices in Afghanistan to distribute aid.

"Personally, I believe that it is inevitable that this will happen in agreement with those in power today,” he said. “I don’t think there is any point in marginalizing internationally — or worse, demonizing — the current government. If you want to help the Afghan people, you need to be willing to work with anyone, regardless of the ideological differences that may divide us.”

He added: “My position has always been clear: I would not have left the country while even a single sheep was left of my little flock. Then when the pastoral staff of the mission preferred to go for prudential reasons, there was no longer any reason for me to stay.”

Scalese saw the departure as inevitable also because, with the embassy closed and local collaborators evacuated, “it was rather complicated to stay in place without being able to count on any support.”

It remains unclear when he will be able to return to Afghanistan.

“Any decision regarding a possible return — by me or a successor — is the responsibility of the Holy See,” he said.

“However, I know that the Secretariat of State is following the situation closely so that a decision can be made when the time comes.”

Catholic bishop ‘shocked and saddened’ by Jersey vote for assisted suicide ‘in principle’

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, pictured on May 21, 2015. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Portsmouth, England, Nov 29, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

A Catholic bishop has said that he was “shocked and saddened” by a vote on the Channel Island of Jersey to approve assisted suicide “in principle.”

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, expressed his dismay after the States Assembly, the island’s parliament, backed an assisted suicide proposition by 36 votes to 10, with three absences, on Nov. 25.

“I was shocked and saddened by the results of yesterday’s vote on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Jersey,” he said.

“It demonstrates a woeful lack of interest in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Jersey is an island with an estimated population of 107,800 people near the coast of northwestern France. The British crown dependency is not part of the United Kingdom and has it own government and legal system.

If the island changes its laws, Jersey will be the first place in the British Isles to allow assisted suicide.

The proposition would permit an adult island resident with a “voluntary, clear, settled, and informed wish to end his or her own life” to seek assisted suicide.

They must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness “expected to result in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated” and judged to have less than six months to live, or an incurable physical medical condition resulting in “unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated.”

Egan, who is based in Portsmouth, southern England, but oversees the Catholic Church in the Channel Islands, said that if the proposition became law it would “change fundamentally the role of doctors and medical staff.”

“However, this is only the first step in the process of legalizing ‘assisted suicide’; as such, we will continue to scrutinize and challenge any proposed legislation in the months ahead,” he said.

In 2018, the legislature of Guernsey, another Channel Island, rejected an assisted suicide proposal, drawing praise from Bishop Egan.

In March this year, Jersey formed a citizens’ jury, made up of 23 randomly selected applicants, to determine whether assisted suicide should be allowed on the island.

Ultimately, 18 out of the 23 of the jurors agreed that assisted suicide should be permitted.

Jersey’s Council of Ministers will now draft legislation to be discussed by the States Assembly by the end of 2022. A vote on a draft law could take place in 2023.

The bishop said: “The Catholic Church is clear that we can never assist in taking the life of another, even if they request it. Killing people and committing suicide is against God’s law.”

“All human life is a gift to be safeguarded from conception until natural death, and we reiterate our call for continuing investment in high-quality palliative care, in order to preserve the dignity of some of our most vulnerable, at such difficult moments in their lives.”