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Bishops celebrate National Migration Week, highlight overlooked ‘right to remain’

"Angels Unawares," a work by Timothy Schmalz on The Catholic University of America's campus, depicts 140 immigrants. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 19:10 pm (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is highlighting the overlooked right to remain in one’s country during its weeklong celebration of National Migration Week from Sept. 18–24.

“For millennia, people have been forced to flee their homelands, seeking safety and security, because of factors beyond their control,” El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said in a statement ahead of the celebration.

Bishop Seitz referenced the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, in which the child Christ, the Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt when King Herod intended to kill Christ by slaughtering infants. He said the flight “was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel.”

National Migration Week encourages Catholics to reflect on challenges that affect migrants, refugees, and those harmed by forced displacement, according to the USCCB. The week is also meant to celebrate the ways in which newcomers enrich communities and how the faithful are called to welcome them as members of the same human family.

The celebration finishes on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which was established by the Holy See more than a century ago.

“Through our belief in Jesus Christ, we are compelled to respond with charity toward those who must uproot their lives in search of refuge, but efforts to manage migration — even when predicated on the common good — require that we also address the coercive forces driving people to migrate,” Seitz said.

“Only through collective efforts to alleviate these forces and by establishing the conditions required for integral human development can people truly avail themselves of the right to remain in their country of birth,” the bishop continued. “May God, through the [intercession] of Our Lady of Guadalupe, sustain us in these pursuits and protect those whose lives depend upon their success.”

The USCCB’s statement reflects the theme for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is “Free to choose whether to migrate or stay,” which Pope Francis announced in May.

“The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not,” Pope Francis said in his announcement. “Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave. ... Migrants flee because of poverty, fear, or desperation. Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each.”

The USCCB said the right to remain in one’s natural homeland and not be forcefully displaced is a right that is often overlooked in the immigration debate in the United States. 

New movie explores Christian and Jewish perspectives of the Holy Land’s history

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the red carpet at the premiere of the film "Route 60: The Biblical Highway" on Sept. 12, 2023. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

Generally in “road trip” films, travelers on a ribbon of asphalt are taken on both a literal and figurative journey — sometimes one that leads them to a deeper connection with the transcendent and divine. 

The new documentary “Route 60: The Biblical Highway” is such a film, but the setting and the characters are far from ordinary. 

The movie features two powerful American former diplomats, both of whose tenures have helped shape the modern Holy Land: former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, both of whom served together in the Trump administration.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Sept. 12, 2023, premiere of their movie "Route 60: The Biblical Highway" at the Museum of the Bible. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Sept. 12, 2023, premiere of their movie "Route 60: The Biblical Highway" at the Museum of the Bible. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

In the movie, opening Monday, Pompeo and Friedman travel together in an auspicious convoy of black SUVs down Route 60, a modern two-lane highway that runs through Israel and Palestine and exists within a vital and millennia-old transportation corridor. 

The 146-mile road, also known as the “Way of the Patriarchs” for its significance in biblical history, begins in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth and ends in Beersheba, today a hub of high technology. The vast majority of Route 60 runs through the Palestinian-occupied West Bank.

The movie premiered Sept. 12 at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Pompeo at the premiere said Christian and Jewish viewers alike have much to learn from Friedman’s commentary on the sites they visited.

“[Friedman] is a Bible scholar, and so I learned an awful lot from him,” Pompeo told CNA at the event. “We would go to places, and I would hear him tell the stories from a Jewish perspective. And it always added color to the things that I’d seen in my life, whether it was when I attended a sermon or when I was trying to teach Sunday school.”

Pompeo said walking around the Holy Land and taking in the sites described in biblical accounts helped to make the Bible more real for him and remind him that the events described in Scripture really happened.

“There is no mistaking the history. It reminded me that what you’re reading is, in fact, the word of God,” Pompeo continued.

“And it was wonderful to get a chance to see and experience that in a way that I had never done.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak before the Sept. 12, 2023, premiere of their movie "Route 60: The Biblical Highway" at the Museum of the Bible. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak before the Sept. 12, 2023, premiere of their movie "Route 60: The Biblical Highway" at the Museum of the Bible. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

“Route 60,” scheduled to appear in theaters Sept. 18–19 only, was produced by Trinity Broadcasting Network, a strongly pro-Israel Christian TV network based in Texas, and directed by Matt Crouch, the president of TBN.

Friedman told CNA that while serving as an ambassador he had the idea to create a movie in the style of Anthony Bourdain, starting off in the country’s north and heading south, stopping off at places of biblical significance.

“What I thought was important was to explain this area,” Friedman told CNA, referring to the region of the Holy Land known in the Bible as Judea and Samaria. Route 60 traverses through this region. 

“It’s an area of conflict … the West Bank, a nondescript area. And it sort of sounds to most people like some strip of land 6,000 miles away, with people fighting over it for the last couple of hundred years,” Friedman said.

“I want people just to understand that there is massive history here, massive religious significance for Jews and Christians going back to Abraham.”

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Freidman overlooking Jerusalem during the filming of their movie, "Route 60: The Biblical Highway." Credit: Route 60 movie promotional still
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Freidman overlooking Jerusalem during the filming of their movie, "Route 60: The Biblical Highway." Credit: Route 60 movie promotional still

The images and sound design of the film are arresting, with the sweeping drone shots, artful illustrations and motion graphics, and booming score that cinema-goers expect from an epic documentary. It includes countless biblical references and passages as well as historical reenactments of biblical events as they are described. 

Sites visited in the movie include the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Rachel’s Tomb, and other places of significance to biblical figures such as Jacob, Joseph, and King David. The hosts also discussed the ecumenical nature of the sites, such as the Tombs of Abraham and Sarah at Hebron, which remains a place of spiritual significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

“You can’t be in that place and not recognize how central this is to who we are as faithful followers in the Abrahamic tradition,” Pompeo noted. 

The men also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses, according to tradition, the tomb of Christ and the site of the crucifixion. The church was first consecrated in the year 335 and is jointly administered by the Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Armenian Apostolic Church. 

In the context of Middle Eastern policy, Friedman and Pompeo are perhaps best known for helping bring to fruition in 2018 former President Donald Trump’s controversial vision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a decision that provoked a mixed reaction from the international community, including expressions of concern from the Vatican (which has long supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict). 

The two men are also known for helping to broker the fall 2020 deals known as the Abraham Accords, whereby a number of Arab nations agreed to normalize relations with Israel. 

Despite the film’s laudatory and frequent references to these diplomatic accomplishments — not to mention conspicuous commendations of Trump — Friedman, at least, insisted to CNA that what they have made is “not a political film.”

“We don’t suggest solutions to any disputes. We just want people to care about [the region] and understand what’s there,” Friedman told CNA. 

Friedman expanded on this point while introducing the film with Pompeo.

“What we want people to get from this, if they can, is just to care about Judea and Samaria as the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, and as the wellspring of the Jewish and the Christian faiths,” he said. 

“I think if you’ll see that and I think hopefully it moves you, I encourage people to read the Bible. ’m sure many people here do. But there’s nothing like being there, nothing like seeing it,” he continued.

“There’s nothing like taking biblical stories that are in the nature of legends or myths to people and then all of a sudden you’re there and they enter the world of truth. And that’s extremely powerful.”

“Route 60: The Biblical Highway” will be in theaters nationwide Sept. 18–19 only.

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood resumes abortions after ruling against 1840s abortion statute

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).

The abortion provider Planned Parenthood will resume offering abortions in Wisconsin in the wake of a court ruling that ruled against a putative 1840s-era ban on those procedures.

The development points toward continued national conflict after last year’s Supreme Court repeal of Roe v. Wade, with state governments, abortion providers, and pro-life activists jockeying to hold their respective lines amid a legal framework in which abortion is no longer a constitutional guarantee. 

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in a release on Thursday that it would begin providing abortions in multiple locations in the state next week. The organization said it had earlier “made the agonizing decision to suspend abortion services” in the wake of Roe’s repeal. 

The abortion provider pointed to a July ruling at the Dane County Circuit Court that ruled an 1840s Wisconsin law was “not enforceable for voluntary abortions,” as Planned Parenthood put it.

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski had said the state’s 1849 abortion law — which has since been subsumed by modern state statute — could be used to prosecute abortion providers in the state. But the Dane County court ruled otherwise, finding the law addressed only the legal act of feticide and not abortion itself.

The statute “does not prohibit a consensual medical abortion,” Judge Diane Schlipper wrote in the ruling; per the statute, she said, abortion providers only commit a crime if the abortion occurs “after the fetus or unborn child reaches viability.”

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said it had made the decision to restore abortion services after “consultation with attorneys, physicians, partners, and other stakeholders.”

Urmanski did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Planned Parenthood’s resumption of abortion services and whether or not his office would be pursuing other means to prohibit abortion in the state.

Schlipper noted in her July ruling that the decision was “not a final ruling for purpose of appeal.” 

Pro-life groups were quick to respond to Planned Parenthood’s abortion resumption. Wisconsin Family Action called the decision “devastating news for innocent preborn children and Wisconsin mothers who deserve better than abortion,” while Pro-Life Wisconsin said it would continue to “fight for the enforcement of [the state’s] current abortion ban.”

In a statement to CNA, meanwhile, Erin Hawley, the vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Life and Regulatory Practice, argued that Wisconsin law is “clear” in that it mandates “unborn children are to be protected from the harms of abortion.” 

“And under the Dobbs ruling, states can now enact their pro-life laws that have been on the books for decades,” she said. “Courts should respect this decision and allow states to protect unborn life and women’s health as much as possible.”

The 1849 provision had been criticized by Wisconsin Democrats following Roe’s demise last year. State Gov. Tony Evers and state Attorney General Josh Kaul had both advocated the repeal of the pre-Civil War law.

Wisconsin was among the numerous states with laws in place that were set to activate if and when Roe was finally repealed. 

More than a dozen states had passed “trigger laws” to automatically kick in after Roe’s repeal. Wisconsin was among the few states with a pre-Roe abortion ban still on the books at the time that Roe was struck down.

Seriously ill UK teen dies fighting mental competence ruling

null / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Sep 15, 2023 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

“I want to die trying to live,” the young woman told a psychiatrist evaluating her. “We have to try everything.”

Consecrated hosts stolen from hospital chapel tabernacle in Spain

Bishop Rafael Zornoz of Cádiz and Ceuta, Spain, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Puerto Real. / Credit: Diocese of Cádiz and Ceuta

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 14, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Sources at the diocese told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that chaplains witnessed the tabernacle had been profaned on two occasions.

One Sicilian town’s centuries-old devotion to the Holy Cross

Men process with the historic cross on the feast of the Holy Cross in Montemaggiore Belsito on Sept. 14, 2022. It is considered a great honor to be one of the people to transport the heavy float in which the cross is carried. / Credit: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 02:30 am (CNA).

For hundreds of years, the town of Montemaggiore Belsito has marked the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross with a solemn procession.

European bishops concerned about draft bill on medical use of ‘human substances’

European Parliament. / Credit: Unsplash | Guillaume Périgois

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 13, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The bishops stated that “as the Catholic Church we are convinced ... that human life from the beginning, including unborn life, possesses its own dignity.”

Spanish bishop open to mediation regarding non-Opus Dei priest as rector of Opus Dei shrine

Procession at the Sanctuary of Torreciudad in Spain. / Credit: Torreciudad Sanctuary

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 12, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Ángel Pérez Pueyo said he has waited for things to calm down before making a statement about the Torreciudad shrine.

Swiss bishops’ study finds more than 1,000 cases of clergy sexual abuse

Switzerland. / Credit: Nikolai Lehmann (@lehmannnikolai)/Unsplash

CNA Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 10:35 am (CNA).

The 136-page report documents 1,002 cases of abuse since the mid-20th century involving 510 accused and 921 victims.

Swiss bishop reprimands clergy after viral video of woman ‘concelebrating’ Mass

The Swiss bishops' call for adherence to Catholic "rules" followed an internet controversy over an August 2022 video of a laywoman who seemed to concelebrate Mass with priests. / Katholisches Medienzentrum YouTube screenshot

Denver, Colo., Sep 11, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

The laywoman stood at the altar in ordinary dress, with two priests beside her. She extended her arms and pronounced with them the words of the Consecration.