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Cardinal calls for action after 27 migrants drown in English Channel

Cardinal Nichols at Westminster Cathedral on April 18, 2019. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

London, England, Nov 25, 2021 / 08:05 am (CNA).

It is the deadliest crossing of the Channel on record.

Meet the young Catholics restoring wayside crucifixes across France

Members of SOS Calvaires, a group restoring wayside crucifixes across France. / SOS Calvaires.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 25, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The movement is growing — thanks to a cigar-chomping bench press champion.

10 saintly quotes to reflect on this Thanksgiving

null / Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 25, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

A thanksgiving should be made to God each and every day, according to the saints in heaven. In special celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, here are 10 saintly quotes on the importance of gratitude.

1. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.”

2. St. Gianna Beretta Molla: “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”

3. Pope St. John Paul II:Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep!) These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence.”

4: St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude.”

5. St. Josemaría Escrivá: “Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have. Because he made his Mother so beautiful, his Mother who is also your Mother. Because he created the sun and the moon and this animal and that plant. Because he made that man eloquent and you he left tongue-tied … Thank him for everything, because everything is good.”

6. St. Teresa of Ávila: “In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.” 

7. Blessed Solanus Casey: “Thank God ahead of time.” 

8. St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” 

9. St. John Vianney: “Believe and adore. Believe that Jesus Christ is in this sacrament as truly as He was nine months in the womb of Mary, as really as He was nailed to the Cross. Adore in humility and gratitude.”

10: St. Francis, in his “Canticle of the Sun”: 

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and You give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;

in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful ...

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve Him with great humility.

Wife of Catholic radio host among those killed in Christmas Parade attack

Jackson Sparks, 8, was among those killed in the Christmas parade attack Nov. 21 in Waukesha, Wisc. / Screenshot of Twitter post

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 25, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

Tributes have continued to pour in in the wake of the SUV attack at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisc., as the death toll continues to rise, with the wife of a Catholic radio host among the victims.

On Tuesday, 8-year-old Jackson Sparks succumbed to his injuries and became the youngest fatality of the attack. The death toll now stands at six, with at least 50 injured. He was marching in the parade with his baseball team, the Waukesha Blazers.

Sparks was remembered by his baseball organization’s president Jeff Rogers as someone who was “a sweet, talented boy who was a joy to coach." 

“He was an awesome utility player and played on the Blazers Wolfpack team. Jackson was sweet and tender-hearted with a contagious smile. He was the little guy on the team that everyone supported. You couldn’t help but love him," Rogers said in a Facebook post.

The attack on Nov. 21 involved a red SUV that barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of Waukesha just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21. The driver, Darrell Brooks Jr., was arrested. 

Videos posted on social media showed the vehicle racing down the parade route, with police in pursuit, past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck.

A priest injured in the attack was released from the hospital on Monday, according to the Catholic Community of Waukesha. 

Father Patrick Heppe, a parish priest of the Catholic Community of Waukesha, a cluster of the four Catholic churches in the Milwaukee suburb, is recovering well.

“At the prayer service last night, Fr. Matthew informed everyone that Fr. Pat is at home and recovering from a concussion after spending Sunday night in the hospital,” said a Nov. 23 statement from Monica Cardenas, the parish’s director of stewardship and communication.

“At this time, he is resting, maintaining his sense of humor and his prognosis is good. He appreciates your prayers and is thinking of and praying for our community,” she said. 

message sent to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee said that the pope was “asking the Lord to bestow upon everyone the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence and overcomes evil with good.”

“The Holy Father asks you kindly to convey the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic incident that recently took place in Waukesha,” said the telegram, released on Nov. 23 and sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“He commends the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”

Four of the dead were affiliated with a popular local dancing troupe, the “Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.” The “Dancing Grannies'' perform at parades throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. Two dancers, their choreographer, and the husband of a dancer were killed, and others were injured. 

Tamara Durand, 52, was making her debut performance as a “Dancing Granny.” Durand’s husband, Dave, is a Catholic author and the host of “The Dave Durand Show” on Relevant Radio. According to local media reports, Tamara was actively involved in her parish and hoped to one day travel to the Vatican. 

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Tamara Durand, wife of Dave Durand, part of our Relevant Radio family,” Cale Clark, host of “The Cale Clark Show” on Relevant Radio, tweeted on Wednesday. “She lost her life in the tragedy that occurred at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.”

Another “Granny,” Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, 79, was the “heart and soul” of the team. In an August 2021 profile of the team by CBS 58, Sorenson explained that although she was sidelined from performing due to surgery, she stayed in the group as their choreographer. 

Glencastle Irish Dancers, Inc., where Sorenson's daughters and granddaughters take dance lessons, spoke of her friendly personality. 

“She always had a smile on her face and a kind word to share,” the dance organization said in a Facebook post on Nov. 22. “Our hearts are heavy today for the family and all who knew and loved Ginny. Please keep this family and all families affected by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.” 

Leanna Owen, 71, was the shortest and smallest “Granny.” A Catholic, she was described by the Washington Post as “a Packers fan and an animal lover” who owned an English bulldog. She managed apartment buildings and “didn’t have a mean bone in her body.” 

Petition seeks to return St. Junipero Serra statue to ‘place of honor’ at Catholic university

An illustration of Saint Junipero Serra. / Public domain.

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 24, 2021 / 18:04 pm (CNA).

A statue of Saint Junipero Serra must return to the Loyola Marymount University campus, an alumni group has said in a letter and petition to the president of the Los Angeles-area Catholic university.

St. Junipero Serra “recently completed the lengthy and rigorous examination process involved in becoming a canonized saint,” Marcos Chavira, a Loyola Marymount University 1995 graduate, said in an open letter to university president Timothy Snyder, posted at the Renew LMU website.

“Regardless of what any committee may recommend to you, we hope your decision about this statue does not further erode our Catholic identity,” Chavira said.

He cited Pope Francis’ words about Serra during a Sept. 23, 2015 canonization Mass. Serra “sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said.

Chavira’s letter to Snyder cited recent comments from Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.

Serra “defended indigenous people’s humanity, decried the abuse of indigenous women, and argued against imposing the death penalty on natives who had burned down a mission and murdered one of his friends,” the archbishops wrote in a Sept. 12 essay for the Wall Street Journal. “At age 60, ill and with a chronically sore leg, Serra traveled 2,000 miles to Mexico City to demand that authorities adopt a native bill of rights he had written.”

The statue dates back to the 1990s, when it was placed outside the campus library as a gift of William H. Hannon, a Catholic philanthropist and passionate admirer of Serra. Hannon was a major benefactor of the campus, an honorary trustee, and regent emeritus. Many campus buildings are named for him at the university, which claims affiliation with both the Society of Jesus and the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

In a Nov. 24 statement to CNA, the university said: “In summer of 2020, the statue of Rev. Serra on LMU's Westchester campus was removed to conduct repairs. When the campus reopened from the pandemic in fall of 2021, the university convened a task force to invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans. No final decisions have been made, and the university remains committed to a thoughtful process of open dialogue.”

Chavira said Snyder’s choice to remove the statue was “one more step you have made towards LMU losing its distinctive identity and becoming just like any secular school.”

“With all due respect to some on campus who see things differently, the statue of St. Junípero Serra should be returned to a place of honor,” Chavira said. “The saint’s statue should be accompanied by exactly the same contextualization, historical perspective, and critical evaluation that accompanies all the other statues, plaques, memorials, and quotations in stone on campus from figures including Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and the Virgin Mary.” 

“That is to say, none,” Chavira added. “For these figures, we do not publicly document their real or alleged sins, or the sins of those associated with them, near their sites of commemoration.”

Renew LMU has objected to the new mission statement of the university’s liberal arts college, which dropped wording that expresses a “commitment to Roman Catholicism and the Judaeo-Christian tradition.” The alumni group was also critical of the university for allowing a student group to hold an on-campus fundraiser for Planned Parenthood at the campus’ Roski Dining Hall.

Chavira referred to this event in his letter.

“If a Planned Parenthood fundraiser can be held at LMU in Roski, certainly a statue of this country’s first Hispanic saint canonized by the first Hispanic pope can be in a place of honor and respect at LMU,” he said. “If you wish to have the statue placed inside, so as to lessen the likelihood of vandalism, it should be in a place of high visibility as it was before. We suggest putting it in Roski.”

Renew LMU has asked supporters of the Serra statue to add their name to Chavira’s letter at its website, RenewLMU.com. The alumni group describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.” CNA sought comment from RenewLMU but did not receive a response by deadline.

Serra, a Franciscan friar from Spain, left a prestigious university chair in Majorca for what is now the United States in 1749. He founded a system of missions to evangelize the Indigenous in modern-day California. He celebrated more than 6,000 baptisms and 5,000 confirmations, and the missions are at the historic center of many of the state’s cities.

While he was lionized through much of the 20th century, critics have since lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism. They said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

Serra’s defenders point to the priest’s advocacy for native people and a champion of human rights. They note that he often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over mistreatment of native people, and the native communities themselves showed an outpouring of grief at his death. They said Serra is wrongly blamed for injustices that came after his death.

Last year, the death of Minnesota man George Floyd during his arrest by a police officer, who was later convicted of his murder, led to racial tensions, protests against police brutality, and riots. In California, protesters and vandals targeted statues of Serra on the grounds that he represented colonialism and oppression of Native Americans. Some state and local lawmakers renewed previous efforts to remove images of Serra from public parks and other official places, and many succeeded.

The Los Angeles-area San Gabriel Mission, which Serra founded in 1771, burned in a devastating fire on July 11, 2020. The alleged arsonist, 57-year-old John David Corey, faces two felony counts in connection with the fire. He was known to the mission and had quarreled with staff members in the past. He reportedly harbored anger toward the Catholic Church.

On Nov. 4, Loyola Marymount University hosted a discussion about Serra linked to the observance of Indigenous Heritage Month, the university news site LMU This Week reported. 

At the discussion Robert M. Senkewicz, emeritus history professor at Santa Clara University, cited both a letter from Serra seeking mercy for indigenous people who had attacked a mission and another letter instructing harsh punishment for indigenous people who had left a mission and were returned by force. He depicted the Catholic mission presence and the Spanish military presence as mutually reinforcing and said Catholic evangelization efforts accepted the use of force. Mexican and Californian representations of this time of history erased the indigenous peoples’ experiences, Senkewicz said.

Cecilia González-Andrieu, a Loyola Marymount professor of theological studies, said that the missions are now in mainly Latino neighborhoods, but she said there is no devotion to Serra at these places. Edgar Perez, a member of the Gabrielino-Tongva people, said the mission system planted the seeds for policies to separate indigenous people from their language and religion and lands. Serra is an integral part of that history, he said.

Than Povi Martinez, a sophomore dance major at Loyola Marymount from the Tewa Pueblo People of San Ildefonso in New Mexico, said Serra’s statue should be permanently removed. According to LMU This Week, she said the statue represents pain and racism and such representations trigger trauma.

Among the critics of Serra are the Indigenous Student Union of LMU. A petition on Change.org attributed to the group had 243 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. The petition said Serra’s statue should “stay off of our LMU campus.”

“One of our founding goals at ISU has been the removal of the Junipero Serra statue on LMU’s campus,” the petition said. “We see this as just one step acknowledging that LMU currently resides on stolen land of the Tongva Tribe and taking action towards making our campus a safe and welcoming place for Indigenous people and others of marginalized identities and backgrounds.”

“We demand that the statue stay off campus and that the education surrounding Christian colonization be conducted through a different, more intentional manner that centers the lives of our community members of Indigenous and/or marginalized backgrounds,” the group continued. “If the university is truly committed to ongoing efforts to increase diversity and inclusion within our institution, the Junipero Serra statue would be kept off our campus.”

Dr. Reuben Mendoza, an archeologist and professor at California State University-Monterey Bay, who has studied the missions for more than 25 years, told CNA last year that Serra was motivated by a missionary zeal to bring salvation to the Native people through the Catholic faith, rather than by genocidal, racist, or opportunistic motivations.

“Serra writes excitedly about how he had finally found his life's calling, and that he would give his life to these people and their salvation,” Mendoza said.

Fr. Tom Elewaut, pastor of the Old Mission Basilica of San Buenaventura in Ventura, told CNA last year that indigenous people are not uniformly critical of Serra.

“There is substantial evidence that among the Chumash that St. Junipero Serra is revered and respected for his contributions to our country,” said Elewaut. “Their voices have not been heard or respected. Their voices should have equal weight and import.” 

Some indigenous Americans, both in Ventura and Santa Barbara, are “appalled by the character assassination of St. Junipero Serra,” the priest reported.

Few Americans blame God for suffering in the world, new survey finds

A woman prays the rosary. / siam.pukkato/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 24, 2021 / 16:17 pm (CNA).

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that few Americans blame God for suffering in the world. Instead, Americans are more likely to blame suffering on random chance, the actions of others, or society at large. 

The survey included questions about both religious or spiritual belief, and the meaning of suffering. Respondents who expressed a belief in God, or a higher power, were subsequently asked if they blame God when bad things happen in the world. 

Nearly 75% of respondents who expressed a belief in God, or a higher power, said they “rarely” or “never” feel angry with God in the face of suffering. Protestants in the historically Black tradition and older Americans were more likely to say this, the survey found. 

Pew Research Center.
Pew Research Center.

Fewer than 15% of those same respondents said suffering in the world makes them doubt God’s existence, omnipotence, or kindness. The survey found that doubt as a response to suffering was somewhat more common among young adults, Democrats, and religiously unaffiliated Americans. 

Pew Research Center.
Pew Research Center.

Similarly, few of those same respondents said they believe suffering in the world is a punishment from God. Only 4% believe “all” or “most” suffering is a punishment from God, while 18% said “some,” and 22% said “only a little” is a punishment from God, the survey found. 

Pew Research Center.
Pew Research Center.

The survey found that more than 70% of all respondents believe suffering in the world is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions, while 80% of respondents who expressed a belief in God or a higher power believe suffering in the world is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions, not from God. 

Slightly more than half of those respondents believe God allows human suffering as part of a larger plan, with Evangelical Protestants most likely to hold that belief. 

The survey included questions ranging from beliefs about the purpose of suffering, to beliefs in the afterlife. This was reportedly the first time the Pew Research Center attempted to pose some of these philosophical questions to U.S. adults, the survey stated. Pew asked Americans to share their views both in their own words, and by selecting from a list of options. 

Painting at center of George Floyd controversy stolen from Catholic University

A pieta painting, "Mama," by artist Kelly Latimore, has been displayed outside the law school chapel at The Catholic University of America since February 2021. It was stolen on Nov. 23, 2021. / The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 24, 2021 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

A pieta painting displayed at The Catholic University of America’s law school that some see as depicting George Floyd in the place of Jesus was stolen Tuesday night, the school announced.

But in an email Wednesday, Nov. 24, President John Garvey said the artwork — which sparked a social media backlash and an ongoing petition drive demanding its removal  — has been replaced by a smaller version of the same painting that previously hung in the school's campus ministry office.

Titled "Mama," the painting, by artist Kelly Latimore, was installed in February outside the chapel at the university's Columbus School of Law.

Lattimore has said the painting was commissioned to “mourn” Floyd, but when asked by an interviewer if the figure in the pieta is Floyd or Jesus, he responded ambiguously, answering “yes.” 

Floyd, 46, was killed in police custody in May 2020, sparking nationwide protests. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, was later convicted on three charges of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison.

“Many see the male figure as George Floyd,” Garvey said in the email, “but our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus.”

In response to media coverage of the painting earlier this week, the university has received a “substantial number of emails and phone calls,” Garvey said.

“Some critics called the image blasphemous because they saw it as deifying or canonizing George Floyd. Some comments that we received were thoughtful and reasonable. Some were offensive and racist. Much of the criticism came from people unconnected to the University,” he said.

Garvey wrote that as the controversy developed, the university issued a statement, which he included in his email.

“The icon ‘Mama’ is a pieta depicting Mary and her Son, Jesus Christ. The letters in the halo are Ὁ ὬΝ, which is shorthand in Greek for ‘I Am.’ The letters are used in icons only in connection with Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” the earlier statement said.

“There are those who would like to see George Floyd as the male figure in the icon. That is not how we read it. The image represents to our community a good-faith attempt to include religious imagery on campus that reflects the universality of the Catholic Church,” the statement said.

A group of CUA students started a petition to take down the painting because they “believe they are disrespectful, and sacrilegious.” The petition, which started on Tuesday, Nov. 23, had nearly 2,500 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Garvey said would not be ordering the school to take down the painting because of his “no cancellation” policy. 

“It has been the University’s policy, throughout my time as President, not to cancel speakers or prevent speech by members of the community,” Garvey said in the email.

"We hope to continue to build on campus a culture that engages in thoughtful dialogue and debate, not the sort of bully tactics epitomized by this theft," he added.

Ethics committee authorizes first assisted suicide in Italy

null / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Nov 24, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

‘Nobody can be called to be the bearer of the death of others,’ a spokesman for Italy's Catholic bishops said.

Report declares treatment of Christian minority women and girls a ‘human rights catastrophe’

A Coptic Orthodox church in Old Cairo, a historic area of the Egyptian capital. / Sun_Shine via Shutterstock.

London, England, Nov 24, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The study says that in some cases forced conversions could amount to ‘genocide.’

Congressman Smith: Nigeria's removal from U.S. watch list a 'retreat' from fight against religious persecution

Rep. Chris Smith. Public Domain. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 24, 2021 / 11:45 am (CNA).

The decision to remove Nigeria from the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” was “totally unjustified,” and a backwards step in the fight against religious persecution, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said in a speech Nov. 23.

“Despite the fact that Fulani militants are systematically targeting and slaughtering Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt as well as attacking non-Fulanis throughout the country with the apparent complicity or at least indifference of Nigerian authorities — a record that landed Nigeria on the CPC list last year — the State Department no longer identifies Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), nor even places Nigeria on its Special Watch List,” Smith said.

The New Jersey Republican, the author of several bills related to religious freedom including the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, called the Biden administration’s decision “a retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution.” 

Each year, the U.S. Department of State releases a list of countries with egregious religious liberty violations. In its most recent report, released Nov. 15, Nigeria was not included

The decision to exclude Nigeria from this list has angered religious freedom advocates. 

Two days after the release of the report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a statement saying that it was “appalled” at the State Department’s “unexplainable” decision to treat Nigeria as a country with no severe religious freedom violations. 

The USCIRF, which also publishes an annual report on religious freedom, found that Nigerian citizens are at risk of violence by militant Islamists, as well as discrimination, arbitrary detentions, and capital blasphemy sentences by state-sanctioned Sharia courts.

Smith noted that the removal of Nigeria from the list of CPCs “coincided with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Nigeria — when he should have been confronting President [Muhammadu] Buhari on his record.” 

This removal, he said, is “appalling,” and could serve to worsen the situation in the country.  

“The failure to hold Buhari to account—indeed to reward him by withdrawing the CPC designation—will only embolden Fulani militants,” he said. “The Nigerian government has also failed to protect Nigerians from other extremists such as Boko Haram, Ansaru and Islamic State West Africa.”  

Smith, who has led multiple hearings concerning the situation in Nigeria, said he “couldn’t be more disappointed in Secretary Blinken.” 

“You can’t give President Buhari a passing grade when he has utterly failed to protect religious freedom, including and especially that of Christians,” he said. “A core principle of any robust democracy is respect for human rights, including religious freedom.”