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Vatican dedicates May to global rosary ‘marathon’ for end of COVID-19

Red Confidential/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has announced a rosary initiative dedicating the month of May to prayer for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization said April 21 that “for the deep desire of the Holy Father, the month of May will be dedicated to a prayer marathon with the theme ‘Prayer to God went up incessantly from the whole Church.’”

The council said that the world’s Catholic shrines would be involved in a special way as promoters of the rosary among Catholic individuals, families, and communities.

Thirty of the shrines will take turns leading a daily live-streamed rosary at 12 p.m. Eastern time, the council said.

The Catholic Church dedicates the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Francis will open the month of prayer on May 1, asking for Mary’s intercession.

Pope Francis spoke about the coronavirus and its economic effects in a video message to participants in the 27th Ibero-American Summit in Andorra April 21.

The COVID-19 pandemic “has demanded enormous sacrifices from each nation and its citizens,” he said. The crisis has called on “the entire international community to commit, united, with a spirit of responsibility and fraternity, to face the many challenges already in action, and those which will come.”

The pope said that he had prayed for the millions of people who have died from COVID-19 or who are suffering from the illness, as well as their families.

“The pandemic has made no distinctions and has hit people of all cultures, creeds, social and economic strata,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of considering anti-COVID vaccination as a “universal common good.”

He said: “In this area, initiatives that seek to create new forms of solidarity at the international level are particularly welcome, with mechanisms aimed at guaranteeing an equitable distribution of vaccines, not based on purely economic criteria, but taking into account the needs of all, especially those of the most vulnerable and needy.”

“It is urgent to consider a recovery model capable of generating new, more inclusive and sustainable solutions, aimed at the universal common good, fulfilling God’s promise for all men,” Pope Francis said.

He added that, in responding to the coronavirus, attention should be paid to reforming the international debt structure and allowing access to external financing to promote economic development “so that everyone can get out of the current situation with the best chance of recovery.”

“None of this will be possible without a strong political will that has the courage to decide to change things, mainly priorities, so that it is not the poor who pay the highest cost for these tragedies that are hitting our human family,” he said.

Syracuse diocese to hold Mass for Healing amid nearly 400 sex abuse claims

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse, New York / Mahmoud Masad/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2021 / 13:22 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Syracuse will hold a Mass for Healing on April 29 after nearly 400 sex abuse claims involving the diocese have been filed.

“One victim of sexual abuse is too many,” said an April 19 letter from Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse to his diocese. “And so, to see the number ‘371’ is particularly disheartening and of the greatest concern for me because of the damage done both directly and collaterally,” he said of the 371 claims that had been filed under the state’s Child Victims Act.

Lucia said that he is renewing his commitment and that of the Diocese of Syracuse to assist survivors of sexual abuse with their healing. 

“We seek to make amends for the wrong and sinful behavior perpetrated against you and cannot apologize enough for the failure to protect you from your abusers,” said the bishop. 

New York’s Child Victims Act created a one-year extension of the statute of limitations for old sex abuse cases; originally scheduled to close in August 2020, the one-year period was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will close at the end of August 14, 2021. 

However, a bankruptcy court determined April 15 as the closing date for abuse claims to be filed against the Syracuse diocese. In preparation for the deluge of lawsuits under the Child Victims Act, Lucia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last June. 

In the letter, Bishop Lucia said it was “of particular concern” how the diocese “could respond in a just and fair manner to the claims of sexual abuse arising from the NYS Child Victims Act.” 

At the time of the filing, around 100 lawsuits had been filed against the diocese. 

The “next phase” of this reorganization will begin now that all abuse lawsuits have been filed, said Lucia. The phase will involve the diocese meeting with insurance companies and the creditors committee, with the goal of compensating victims of abuse while moving on from bankruptcy.

“Over the course of the coming months, I ask you to pray with me for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as both Advocate and Consoler for this work, so that it may bear much healing and fruit for those involved,” said Lucia. 

“Particularly, I seek a reasonable way to assist the victims of child abuse in the Diocese of Syracuse which fosters restoration and renewal in their lives as children of God,” he said. 

Lucia added that a Mass for Healing will be held at the cathedral on April 29, the end of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. He said that there will be a special blessing during the Mass for survivors of abuse, and that he “will particularly pray for the gifts of healing and fortitude for all victims of crime and oppression.” 

“Having just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, I again place our diocesan family under the loving care of the Sacred Heart of Jesus praying that He will make our hearts more like His through this time of purification and reparation,” said Lucia. 

“Please know my prayers for you and your loved ones continue and I ask humbly for your prayers for all victims, as well as for me and the Church of Syracuse.” 

Cardinal Bo and Cardinal Sarah among speakers at Budapest International Eucharistic Congress

Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary. / Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Apr 21, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

More than 25 cardinals and bishops will take part in the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, which will include Cardinal Charles Maung Bo and Cardinal Robert Sarah among its speakers.

The International Eucharistic Congress, a celebration of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with participants from across the world, will take place in the Hungarian capital Sept. 5-12.

Bo is the archbishop of Yangon, the former capital city of Burma, while Sarah served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship from 2014 until his retirement in February this year.

The event’s program lists cardinals from five continents as leaders of the congress’ morning prayers, catechesis, testimonies, and workshops.

Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Luxembourg’s Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, and Syrian Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Youssef Absi are among the listed participants in the eight-day event.

The program also includes lay Catholic speakers such as Mary Healy, a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and Barbara Heil, an American mother of eight who converted to Catholicism after serving as an evangelical missionary in 55 countries.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis has said that he plans to visit Hungary to take part in the closing Mass on Sept. 12 in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and host of the congress, told CNA in February that he believed that the event would be “a great sign of hope” amid the pandemic.

“Many parishes have learned how to broadcast liturgies online, but they also experienced that nothing can replace the personal presence,” Erdő said.

“That is how the motto of the Congress becomes reality and gets a new meaning: ‘All my springs are in you’ (Psalm 87:7).”

Each day of the Eucharistic Congress will include Mass, as well as cultural and spiritual events around the Hungarian capital.

The International Eucharistic Congress dates back 140 years. The first congress took place in France in 1881.

It has been held every few years in a different city and has crossed the globe, taking place in Jerusalem, Nairobi, Melbourne, Korea, the U.S., and throughout Europe.

The last congress was held in Cebu, Philippines, in 2016. There were 12,000 participants at the congress, though millions took part in associated Masses. Hungary last hosted the Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

The Vatican announced last month that Pope Francis has designated the Archdiocese of Quito in Ecuador to host the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress.

Manuel Mejía, the Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter April 21 that he expects that the pope will visit Ecuador in 2024 for the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress.

'Cleanse our land': U.S. bishops call for prayer, action to end racism after Chauvin verdict

CHOOGKY/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Bishops across the United States on Tuesday and Wednesday responded to the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the trial for the murder of George Floyd.

Two chairs of committees at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) issued a joint statement on Tuesday evening, after a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

“The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed,” read a statement by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the USCCB’s anti-racism committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the USCCB’s domestic justice and human development committee.

“Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred,” the bishops said.

The trial of Derek Chauvin began on March 8. He was arrested on May 29, 2020, and charged with third-degree murder for the killing of George Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man.

Chauvin and three other police officers held Floyd in custody on the evening of May 25, in Minneapolis, after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby store. Video taken by bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground. Floyd was audibly gasping and moaning, and complaining that he could not breathe; toward the end of the video, he appeared unconscious.

After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to the hospital, he was declared dead. The killing sparked mass protests and riots around the United States against racism and police brutality.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, joined by bishops of the five other Minnesota dioceses, called for civility and prayer on Tuesday afternoon before the verdict was announced.

In the wake of Tuesday’s verdict, the first African-American cardinal called for Catholics to fight racism without violence.

“As the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us and the life example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us, it is the virtue of charity, non-violence, prayer, and working together that moves us toward reconciliation and true healing from trauma we have experienced,” stated Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

“May we choose to respond with civility and respect for the dignity of all of our brothers and sisters, as we continue the work of rooting out all injustices and systemic racism in our society,” Cardinal Gregory stated.

U.S. bishops called for prayer and action to end racism. “Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines,” Bishop Fabre and Archbishop Coakley stated.

“Let us not lose the opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit falls like a flood on our land again, as at Pentecost, providing us with spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, as well as new ways to teach, preach, and model the Gospel message in how we treat each other,” the bishops said.

The archbishop of Baltimore, where racial tensions and riots flared in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, said that the verdict should prompt Catholics to fight racism.

“As citizens, we must insist on the elimination of all forms of racism in our societal structures. Let us take personal responsibility in overcoming racism, prejudice, and other injustices,” said Archbishop William Lori.

Other bishops said that police officers must be held accountable for their actions.

“When officers fail to live up to their responsibilities, they should be held accountable, as it respects the victims of their actions as well as the reputation of their fellow officers,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia stated.

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., of Lexington, Kentucky, called the verdict “a long overdue result that finally brings justice for a Black victim of a brutal killing by police.”

“There are many other families who are longing for this kind of justice and recognition of the worth of the lives of their loved ones; we must work to make this verdict the norm rather than the exception,” he said.

The archbishop of Philadelphia recounted the “overwhelming” grief that followed Floyd’s death, and decried “the mortal sin of racism.”

“I pray that the Holy Spirit stirs up a desire in our hearts to look for solutions to the problems we encounter,” Archbishop Nelson Perez stated on Tuesday.

The USCCB vice president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, said that “social injustices still exist in our country and that together we must peacefully rebuild what hatred and frustration has torn down.”

Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis stated on Tuesday that "Mr. Floyd’s family said they want peace and do not want to see any further violence."

"Racism is not a thing of the past and we all must continue to work and pray that the God-given dignity of all people, especially those in our country whose voices have not been heard adequately, will be respected," he said.

This story was updated on April 21.

'Go to Joseph': What popes from Bl Pius IX to Francis have said about St Joseph

A detail from Joseph with the Child and the Flowering Rod, by Alonso Miguel de Tovar (1678–1752). Public Domain.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 21, 2021 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The proclamation of the Year of St. Joseph by Pope Francis in December 2020 coincided with the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1870.

“Jesus Christ our Lord ... whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life,” the 1870 proclamation, Quemadmodum Deus, stated.

Bl. Pius IX’s successor, Pope Leo XIII, went on to dedicate an encyclical letter to devotion to St. Joseph, Quamquam pluries.

“Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was,” Leo XIII wrote in the encyclical published in 1889.

“Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church,” he added.

Leo XIII presented St. Joseph as a model at a time when the world and the Church were wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity. A few years later, the pope went on to publish Rerum novarum, an encyclical on capital and labor which outlined principles to ensure the dignity of laborers.

In the past 150 years, nearly every pope has taken steps to further devotion to St. Joseph in the Church and to use the humble father and carpenter as a witness for the modern world. 

“If you want to be close to Christ, I repeat to you ‘Ite ad Ioseph’: Go to Joseph!” said Ven. Pius XII in 1955 as he instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to be celebrated on May 1.

The new feast was intentionally placed on the calendar to counter communist May Day rallies. But this was not the first time that the Church had presented St. Joseph’s example as an alternative path toward workers’ dignity.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference instituted May 1 as a holiday for labor in remembrance of Chicago’s “Haymarket affair” labor protests. In that same year, Leo XIII warned the poor against the false promises of “seditious men,” calling them to turn instead to St. Joseph, with a reminder that mother Church “each day takes an increasing compassion on their lot.”

According to the pontiff, the witness of St. Joseph’s life taught the rich “what are the goods most to be desired,” while workers could claim St. Joseph’s recourse as their “special right, and his example is for their particular imitation.”

“It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the laborer is not only not dishonoring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled,” wrote Leo XIII in Quamquam pluries.

In 1920, Benedict XV prayerfully offered St. Joseph as the “special guide” and “heavenly patron” of laborers “to keep them immune from the contagion of socialism, the bitter enemy of Christian principles.”

And, in the 1937 encyclical on atheistic communism Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI placed “the vast campaign of the Church against world Communism under the standard of St. Joseph, her mighty Protector.”

“He belongs to the working-class, and he bore the burdens of poverty for himself and the Holy Family, whose tender and vigilant head he was. To him was entrusted the Divine Child when Herod loosed his assassins against Him,” Pope XI continued. “He won for himself the title of ‘The Just,’ serving thus as a living model of that Christian justice which should reign in social life.

Yet, despite the 20th century Church’s emphasis on St. Joseph the Worker, Joseph’s life was not defined solely by his work, but also by his vocation to fatherhood.

“For St. Joseph, life with Jesus was a continuous discovery of his own vocation as a father,” wrote St. John Paul II in his 2004 book “Rise, Let Let Us Be On Our Way.”

He continued: “Jesus Himself, as a man, experienced the fatherhood of God through the father-son relationship with St. Joseph. This filial encounter with Joseph then fed into Our Lord’s revelation of the paternal name of God. What a profound mystery!”

St. John Paul II saw firsthand communist attempts to weaken the family unit and undermine parental authority in Poland. He said that he looked to St. Joseph’s fatherhood as a model for his own priestly fatherhood.

In 1989 -- 100 years after Leo XIII’s encyclical -- St. John Paul II wrote Redemptoris custos, an apostolic exhortation on the person and mission of St. Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. 

In his announcement of the Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis released a letter, Patris corde, explaining that he wanted to share some “personal reflections” on the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic,” he said, noting that many people had made hidden sacrifices during the crisis in order to protect others.

“Each of us can discover in Joseph -- the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence -- an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” he wrote.

“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

The Year of St. Joseph provides the opportunity for Catholics to receive a plenary indulgence by reciting any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, especially on March 19, the saint’s solemnity, and May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. 

For an approved prayer, one can use the Litany of St. Joseph, which Pope St. Pius X approved for public use in 1909.

Pope Leo XIII also asked that the following prayer to St. Joseph be said at the end of the rosary in his encyclical on St. Joseph:

“To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.”

“Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.”

This article was first published Dec. 9, 2020.

Fargo diocese investigating vandalism outside cathedral

Cathedral of St. Mary, Fargo, North Dakota / Cathedral of St. Mary

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Fargo and the Fargo Police Department are investigating an incident of vandalism outside the cathedral last weekend.

A statue of Jesus in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo was defaced with black paint on its face. The diocese said it did not know exactly when the vandalism occurred overnight between Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17. 

By Monday, the paint had been removed, however. The diocese said it did not know who removed the paint, and would look for any permanent damage done to the statue. 

The marble statue was originally sent to the cathedral from a parish in Cincinnati which had closed. The Diocese of Fargo installed the statue outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral in May 2018. 

A spokesperson for the diocese told the local news station KVLY that the diocese would be praying for the person who committed the vandalism, hoping that he or she would “someday have an encounter with the face of Christ themselves.”

This is the second act of vandalism at a Catholic church in the Fargo area in recent years. In 2018, a statue of the Virgin Mary was decapitated at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in South Fargo. 

The incident follows a series of acts of vandalism and arson at U.S. Catholic churches last year, which has continued into 2021.

In January, someone attempted arson at the cathedral of the Diocese of Toledo, painting the message “Jesus is Black” on the outside wall and causing an estimated $5,000 in damage.

Other churches and statues were targeted and defaced throughout 2020, including numerous statues of St. Junipero Serra in California which were torn down or vandalized. In Brooklyn, a man toppled a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside a church; the Knights of Columbus donated $10,000 for a replacement statue, which was installed on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

A historic mission church in California was destroyed by fire in a suspected case of arson, another church in Florida was set on fire with parishioners inside, and St. Mary’s basilica in Minneapolis was damaged by fire.

Senator Joe Kennedy (R-La.) wrote Attorney General William Barr in August, asking the Justice Department to prosecute acts of church vandalism and increase its prevention efforts. 

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) also wrote to Barr, asking him to respond to the targeting of churches.

“Since June, there have been nearly a dozen reported attacks on Catholic churches around the nation. These disturbing attacks range from arson to the beheading of a statue of the Virgin Mary,” he wrote. 

“I find these attacks to be a disturbing trend, happening in multiple areas across the nation, including within my own congressional district,” he said.

Pope Francis donates ventilators to Colombia after record number of COVID-19 deaths

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his March 28, 2018 general audience in St. Peter's Square. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent four ventilators to hospitals in Colombia after the South American country recorded its highest daily death rate since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Colombian health ministry, the country reported 420 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours April 20. More than 68,700 people have died from COVID-19 in Colombia since February 2020. The country has a population of 50 million people.

The donated ventilators from Pope Francis were also accompanied by boxes of personal protective equipment. The Colombian bishops’ conference said that the apostolic nuncio sent the medical equipment to hospitals in Quibdó, western Colombia.

The equipment was flown into the city with the help of the Colombian Air Force and the Military Ordinariate of Colombia.

Bishop Juan Carlos Barreto Barreto of Quibdó wrote in a note: “This gesture highlights the continuous solicitude of Pope Francis for Colombia in many areas and expresses his concern for all the Churches.”

During the coronavirus outbreak, Pope Francis has donated ventilators and other medical equipment to countries such as Brazil, Spain, and Romania.

In South America, fears are growing over the spread of the P.1 variant of COVID-19, also known as the Brazil variant, which recent research suggests is much more transmissible.

In March, Peru’s health minister said that 40% of cases in the capital city of Lima were caused by the Brazil variant. Cases of the new variant have also been detected in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Argentina.

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