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Nine Catholic bishops with COVID-19 die in a single week

Rome Newsroom, Jan 15, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In the past week, nine Catholic bishops have died worldwide after testing positive for COVID-19.

Between Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, bishops across three continents died as a result of the coronavirus. The deceased bishops ranged in age from 53 years old to 91. Five of the bishops died in Europe, where a new strain of COVID-19 has led many countries to implement further restrictions.

Four bishops died on the same day, Jan. 13: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, who was 70 years old; Bishop Moses Hamungole of Monze, Zambia, who died at the age of 53; 87-year-old Bishop Mario Cecchini of Fano, Italy; and Cardinal Eusébio Oscar Scheid, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Tartaglia tested positive for COVID-19 after Christmas and was self-isolating, but Glasgow archdiocese stressed that the cause of his death was currently unclear.

Bells tolled across the Colombian diocese of Santa Marta on Jan. 12 to honor Bishop Luis Adriano Piedrahita Sandoval, 74, who died on Jan. 11 of complications from COVID-19. Bishop Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje of Trujillo, 69, became the first bishop from Venezuela to die after contracting the virus on Jan. 8.

Bishop Florentin Crihalmeanu, the 61-year-old bishop of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Cluj-Gherla in Romania, died on Jan. 12. He was remembered by his eparchy as “a diligent, meek, and humble soul.”

Polish Bishop Adam Dyczkowski, emeritus of Zielona Góra-Gorzów diocese, died on Jan. 10 at the age of 88 and Italian Archbishop Oscar Rizzato died at the age of 91 on Jan. 11. Rizzato had served as papal almsgiver under both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis expressed his condolences following the death of Cardinal Scheid in a telegram on Jan. 14.

“I offer fervent prayers to welcome him into eternal happiness and console him with hope in the resurrection and to all those who mourn the loss of their beloved pastor,” the pope wrote.

Breaking: March for Life 2021 goes virtual

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2021 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- The 2021 March for Life will take place virtually, organizers announced Friday.

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the organization behind the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., said the decision was made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of unrest in the nation’s capital. This year’s march, now virtual, will take place Jan. 29.

In a Jan. 15 statement announcing the decision, Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, said, “The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life.”

“In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different,” Mancini said. “The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually.”

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, with over 383,000 deaths to date in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. faces the aftermath of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Organizers said participants will be able to follow the march and participate virtually on its website.

The march will still happen, Mancini said, but in-person attendance will be confined to a small number of pro-life leaders who will represent the movement.

“We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC this year,” she said. “These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected.” 

A representative for the March for Life told Catholic News Agency that this small group of pro-life leaders will carry roses with them, which they will leave at the Supreme Court, in honor of the lives lost to abortion.

Mancini said the March for Life “is profoundly grateful for the countless women, men, and families who sacrifice to come out in such great numbers each year as a witness for life – and we look forward to being together in person next year. As for this year’s march, we look forward to being with you virtually.”

The March for Life, which organizers describe as the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, takes place every year on or near Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

As of Friday, law enforcement officials locked down huge portions of the nation’s capital city following the attack on the U.S. Capitol building last week and in anticipation of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. The National Mall is closed to the public through at least Jan. 24, just days before the planned March was to take place on Jan. 29. According to the Associated Press, the number of National Guard troops in Washington to secure the locked down area is about 21,000.

Mancini told Catholic News Agency, “I welcome the prayers of my fellow Catholics during this unique moment in history as we work together to build a culture of life in our country. ‘With God all things are possible.’”

Vatican court due to hold sentence hearing for ex-Vatican bank president

Rome Newsroom, Jan 15, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican court is due to hold a sentence hearing next week in a criminal trial against the former president of the Institute for Religious Works.

Angelo Caloia, the 81-year-old ex-president of the institute commonly known as the “Vatican bank,” has been on trial for two years for money laundering and self-laundering, and embezzlement.

The HuffPost reported last month that the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, is seeking an eight-year jail term for Caloia, the first time the Vatican has sought a prison sentence for financial crimes.

The Jan. 21 hearing is reportedly being held to issue the court’s sentence after the two-year trial.

Caloia was president of the institute -- also known by its Italian initials, IOR -- from 1989 to 2009.

The Jan. 21 hearing will also include Caloia’s lawyer, the 96-year-old Gabriele Liuzzo, and Liuzzo’s son, Lamberto Liuzzo. The lawyer was tried on the same charges as Caloia and is also facing a possible eight years in prison. His son was tried for money laundering and self-laundering and may get up to six years in prison, according to the HuffPost.

Diddi also reportedly asked for the confiscation of 32 million euros ($39 million) already seized from the accounts of Caloia and Gabrielle Liuzzo also at the institute.

In addition, Diddi is said to have requested the confiscation of the equivalent of a further 25 million euros ($30 million).

The Vatican court ordered Caloia and Liuzzo to stand trial in March 2018. It accused them of participating in “unlawful conduct” from 2001 to 2008 during “the disposal of a considerable part of the institute’s real estate assets.”

The HuffPost said that the two men allegedly sold the IOR’s real estate assets to themselves through offshore companies and firms in Luxembourg via “a complex shielding operation.”

Former IOR director general Lelio Scaletti, who died on Oct. 15, 2015, was part of the original investigation, launched in 2014 after complaints were lodged by the IOR.

In February 2018, the institute announced that it had joined a civil suit, in addition to the criminal proceedings, against Caloia and Liuzzo.

The trial began on May 9, 2018. At the first hearing, the Vatican court announced plans to appoint experts to assess the value of properties that Caloia and Liuzzo were accused of selling at below-market rates, while allegedly making off-paper agreements for higher amounts to pocket the difference.

Caloia was present at the nearly four-hour hearing, though Liuzzo was absent, citing his age.

According to the HuffPost, hearings over the next two and a half years drew on appraisals by the Promontory Financial Group, at the request of Ernst von Freyberg, IOR president from February 2013 to July 2014.

The hearings also reportedly considered three letters rogatory sent from the Vatican to Switzerland, with the most recent response arriving on Jan. 24, 2020. Letters rogatory are a formal request from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance.

The Institute for Religious Works was founded in 1942 under Pope Pius XII but can trace its roots back as far as 1887. It aims to hold and administer money designated for “religious works or charity,” according to its website.

It accepts deposits from legal entities or persons of the Holy See and of Vatican City State. The IOR’s main function is to manage bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations.

The IOR had 14,996 clients as of December 2019. Nearly half of clients are religious orders. Other clients include Vatican offices, apostolic nunciatures, episcopal conferences, parishes, and clergy.

Vatican ambassador Callista Gingrich has farewell meeting with Pope Francis

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2021 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- The United States ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, met with Pope Francis Friday as she prepares to leave Rome in tandem with the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

She will leave the post Jan. 20 to return to the United States. Deputy Chief of Mission Patrick Connell will be Chargé d’ Affaires until a new ambassador is appointed, an embassy official confirmed to CNA.

Gingrich was nominated for the position by President Trump in May 2017, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate the following October.

During her three years in Rome, Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, drew attention to issues such as human trafficking, Christian persecution, and religious freedom, by hosting symposiums and other events.

On Twitter, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See said Jan. 15 the “Ambassador and Speaker Gingrich were honored to have a farewell visit with Pope Francis today.”

Ambassador and Speaker Gingrich were honored to have a farewell visit with Pope Francis today. (Vatican Media Photos)

— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) January 15, 2021 The two also met with other Vatican officials Friday. Gingrich wrote on Twitter Jan. 15 that she had a “beautiful visit today with Cardinal Parolin” and a “beautiful visit” to the Apostolic Palace.

In an interview on the website of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, published in September 2020, Gingrich said “it has been an incredible and fulfilling experience serving as our nation’s ambassador to the Holy See.”

“The United States and the Holy See collaborate on many important foreign policy objectives. From advancing religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, to combatting human trafficking, to delivering humanitarian assistance, to preventing conflict and violence, our partnership with the Holy See is a worldwide force for good,” she stated.

Gingrich, who is a life-long Catholic, also noted that working in Rome and the Vatican had “greatly strengthened” her faith.

“Every time I participate in a meeting at the Vatican or attend a papal liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica, I feel honored and blessed,” she said.

In May 2020, Gingrich called attention to the role of faith-based organizations in delivering U.S government relief funds to assist people who were suffering due to the coronavirus in Italy.

“The United States is funding NGOs and faith-based organizations that can effectively deliver critical assistance,” she told EWTN News.

“It’s important that American money be put to good use. Faith-based organizations are effective and trustworthy partners. They’re inspired by a sense of purpose and dedication to help those most in need,” the ambassador said.

In a column for CNA in 2019, Gingrich reflected on 35 years of diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

“Although our embassy was officially established in 1984, ties to the Holy See date back to our nation’s founding,” she said.

“Throughout our history, U.S. presidents have recognized the important role of the Holy See in advancing peace and justice,” she continued. “From 1870 to 1984, several personal envoys were dispatched to the Vatican for discussions on humanitarian and political issues. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt’s envoy to Pope Pius XII worked with the Holy See to feed European refugees, provide aid to Eastern Europe, and assist allied prisoners of war.”

Gingrich said that with the Cold War and the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II “realized that an unofficial relationship between the United States and the Holy See was no longer adequate to meet the dangers posed by Communism.”

The two leaders met in Vatican City in 1982, and within two years, official diplomatic relations had been established, she recounted.

“When Ambassador Wilson presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II on April 9, 1984, the Pope told him that renewed collaboration between the United States and the Holy See should mean ‘exerting common efforts to defend the dignity and the rights of the human person,’” Gingrich said.

“For the last 35 years,” she said, “this unique partnership has done just that. It has existed, in President Reagan’s words ‘to the benefit of peace-loving people everywhere.’”

Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

Rabbi: Polish Catholic Church’s Day of Judaism is a ‘holy day’

CNA Staff, Jan 15, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Chief Rabbi of Poland on Thursday described the Catholic Church’s annual Day of Judaism as a “holy day.”

Speaking at a livestreamed press conference on Jan. 14, Rabbi Michael Schudrich expressed gratitude for the annual commemoration observed by Polish Catholics since 1998.

“The Day of Judaism in the Church for me, a Rabbi, is a holy day,” he said at the press conference, which unveiled the theme for this year’s commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 17.

The theme will be “Life and death. ‘Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.’” The quotation is from Deuteronomy 30:15 and the theme reflects the loss of life worldwide as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The Day of Judaism is held at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held annually on Jan. 18-25. In Poland, the Catholic Church also observes a Day of Islam at the end of the ecumenical week.

In his address, Schudrich, who was born in New York City and whose grandparents emigrated from Poland to the United States before the Second World War, noted that the Day of Judaism was inspired by St. John Paul II. 

The Polish pope, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005, strengthened ties between Catholics and the Jewish community. He described Jews as “our elder brothers” and became the first pope to make an official visit to a synagogue, in Rome in 1986.

Schudrich said that one of the most important things he learned from John Paul II was that if you are secure in your own faith then knowing about other faiths can be an enriching experience.

The 65-year-old has served as Chief Rabbi since 2004 and is credited with helping to inspire a “Jewish renaissance” in the country, which was home to more than three million Jews before the Holocaust. 

In 2010, he was invited to travel with Polish president Lech Kaczyński and other dignitaries to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Schudrich declined because the flight was on the Sabbath. The plane crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, killing all 96 people on board.

Also speaking at the press conference was Bishop Rafał Markowski, an auxiliary bishop of Warsaw and president of the Polish bishops’ council for religious dialogue.

He noted that the Church was engaged in three principal forms of dialogue: ecumenical, interreligious, and with the modern world. While dialogue is not easy, he said, it is necessary for identifying common values that are worth fighting for.

Bishop Romuald Kamiński, head of the diocese of Warszawa-Praga, said that the Day of Judaism helped Catholics to learn about their Jewish brothers’ faith in God and their difficulties.

He said that Poles, in particular, had a responsibility to ensure that the creative contribution of Jews to the country’s history is remembered and made known to the next generation.

The focus of this year’s commemoration is in the diocese of Warszawa-Praga, where the day will be marked with meetings, a moment of prayer at a Jewish cemetery, and a liturgy of the word with addresses by both Catholics and Jews, ending with a concert. The day will also be observed in other dioceses across the country.

Catholics remember Shahbaz Bhatti 10 years after his assassination in Pakistan

Rome Newsroom, Jan 15, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The diocese of Rome will host a memorial Mass on Friday for Servant of God Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic politician in Pakistan assassinated by an Islamic terrorist group 10 years ago.

Bhatti served as Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs from 2008 to 2011. He advocated for four member seats for religious minority candidates in Pakistan’s senate and spoke out against religious persecution, especially the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

At the time of his death, he was the only Christian in Pakistan’s federal cabinet. He was gunned down by members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan while driving in Islamabad on March 2, 2011, after receiving death threats for more than a year.

Following his death, Catholic bishops in Pakistan called for the pope to recognize him as a “martyr and patron of religious freedom.”

The diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi opened Bhatti’s cause for beatification in March 2016. Among the testimonies documented was that of Bishop Anthony Lobo, who gave an interview to Fides News Agency shortly before his death in 2013.

He said that Bhatti “decided to play an active part in politics in order to protect the country’s Christians and other minorities.”

“A man of great commitment, he decided not to marry. He lived a life of celibacy. He had no possessions and saw his activity as a service. I believe that Clement Shahbaz Bhatti was a dedicated lay Catholic martyred for his faith.”

Religious freedom in Pakistan has worsened in the 10 years since Bhatti’s death, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The U.S. State Department has designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” for violating religious freedom since 2018.

This week Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked Pakistan among the top five countries where Christians face the worst persecution in the world.  

When Bhatti took office as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, he said that he had dedicated his life to the “struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower the religious minorities’ communities.” He added that he accepted the post for the sake of the “oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized.”

“Jesus is the nucleus of my life and I want to be His true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with the poor, oppressed, victimized, needy, and suffering people of Pakistan,” he said.

As a member of Pakistan’s ministerial cabinet, he supported religious minorities in several ways, including launching a national campaign promoting interfaith relations. In 2010, he led the organization of a National Interfaith Consultation in Pakistan which resulted in a joint declaration against terrorism.

Before his career in parliament, he founded Pakistan’s Christian Liberation Front and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance movement, which fought against blasphemy laws used to persecute religious minorities, particularly Christians.

Bhatti had begun to receive death threats in 2009, but they increased in 2010 after he showed support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. Bibi remained on death row until her acquittal by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in October 2018.

Bhatti was 42 years old when he was killed by gunshots while traveling by car to work in Islamabad.

In a video he recorded before his death, Bhatti had said: “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us, and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community ... and I will die to defend their rights.”

Pope Francis said in 2018 that Bhatti’s “sacrifice is bearing rich fruits of hope” in Pakistan.

The pope added: “The words of Jesus apply also to him: ‘Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’”

Archbishop Gianpiero Palmieri, vice-regent of the diocese of Rome, will offer the memorial Mass for Bhatti at the Church of St. Bonaventure in Rome on Friday evening. Paul Bhatti, the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti will share his testimony after the Mass. A collection will be taken at the Mass for a mission school in Pakistan. 

‘This was a historic moment’: England’s personal ordinariate celebrates its 10th anniversary

CNA Staff, Jan 15, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).- Ten years ago today, Msgr. Keith Newton was preparing to be ordained a Catholic priest at Westminster Cathedral, the mother church of Catholics in England and Wales. It would be an ordination like no other. 

The date was Jan. 15, 2011. Up until Dec. 31, Newton had been an Anglican bishop. The next day, he was received into the Catholic Church. On Jan. 13, he was ordained a deacon. Now, he was about to become a Catholic priest. 

But not only that: at the ordination ceremony he would be appointed to oversee an entirely new structure within the Catholic Church: the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the ordinariate’s creation, Newton recalled that he was asked to keep his ordination date a secret until after he was received. He worried that no one would be present for the ceremony, at which two other former Anglican bishops -- John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham -- would also be ordained as Catholic priests. It turned out that Newton was quite wrong.

“The cathedral was absolutely packed to the doors,” he said in a Jan. 14 interview with CNA. “It was at our ordination Mass that a letter was read out from Cardinal Levada [the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], announcing that the Holy Father had appointed me as the Ordinary.” 

“And the ordinariate was erected with the title of Our Lady of Walsingham -- and nobody knew that beforehand.”

Newton, a 68-year-old Liverpudlian, described the day as “pretty emotional.”

“The excitement was palpable. There were a lot of people who had come to the Mass who were going to come with us, who were still Anglicans but were hoping to be received eventually. And there were lots of local Catholics as well,” he said.

The then Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster began his homily with the words: “Many ordinations have taken place in this cathedral during the 100 years of its history. But none quite like this.”

“This was a historic moment,” Newton reflected, “not only because we were three serving bishops -- other Anglican bishops had been previously received into the full communion of the Catholic Church -- but because we were being received into this new structure which Pope Benedict had set up which allowed you not just to become a Catholic but actually to bring something that had nurtured you in the faith into the Universal Church.”

Benedict XVI had authorized the creation of personal ordinariates for groups of former Anglicans in his 2009 apostolic constitutionAnglicanorum coetibus.” 

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, covering England, Wales, and Scotland, was the first to be established. It was followed by the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, for the United States and Canada, on Jan. 1, 2012, and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, for Australia and Asia, on June 15, 2012.

As Newton is married and has three children, he was unable to be ordained as a Catholic bishop. But this was no obstacle to his appointment as an Ordinary.

“To all intents and purposes it is like being the bishop,” he explained. “The only things I can’t do that a bishop can do is to ordain people to the diaconate and the priesthood and to consecrate the chrism.”

“My jurisdiction is slightly different in that it’s not immediate. It’s vicarious on behalf of the Roman pontiff. But I’m an equal member, as an Ordinary, of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.”

Like a bishop, he can wear a miter. But he pointed out that the miter is not, in fact, reserved for bishops.

“Miters and crosiers are not signs of being a bishop. They are actually signs of jurisdiction. Abbots wear miters and carry crosiers,” he said.

“I’m an Ordinary because an Ordinary is a person who has jurisdiction over an entity. In the Church of England, for instance, an Ordinary doesn’t even have to be a clergyman because at Westminster Abbey the Ordinary is the Queen.”

Newton spent the first 58 years of his life as an Anglican. Born in 1952, he was ordained as a Church of England clergyman in 1976. In the latter half of the 1980s, he served as the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in Blantyre, Malawi. In 2002, the archbishop of Canterbury ordained him as an Anglican bishop.

These experiences prepared him to take on the challenge of launching a new structure in the Catholic Church with minimal resources.

“It was starting off from absolutely nothing,” he said. “The first six months were taken up with preparing laity and priests for reception into the Catholic Church, which took place around about Easter of that year, 2011.”

“And then the preparation for clergy to be ordained later in the summer. They had a crash course, from Ash Wednesday until their ordination. And then after that, there was a two-year process of continuing formation. But they were ordained early so that they could pastor the groups they brought in. That was the whole idea.”

At the same time, Newton had to ensure that former Anglican clergy ordained as Catholic priests had someone to live and something to live on. Despite popular notions about the vast wealth of the Catholic Church, Catholicism in England, at least, operates on a shoestring.  

“That was a great headache in the first few months, to make sure that everybody had sufficient money to live on and somewhere actually to live,” he said. “But it all worked out in the end.” 

In its first 10 years, the ordinariate has grown in some places and “withered away” in others, Newton said. The group has a church in London, where Newton is based, and another in Torbay, Cornwall. But the ordinariate doesn’t have the money to purchase other churches of its own across Britain.

“So what’s happened over the 10 years is that we’ve started to work more with local dioceses in running parishes on behalf of the diocese as well as the local ordinariate group,” Newton noted. 

“There are about 25 or 30 parishes in England and Wales that we are the parish priests of on behalf of the diocesan bishop. This gives a way of financing and a place for them to live.”

The ordinariate has its own approved liturgy, incorporating the sonorous prayers of Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury. But Masses in parishes run by ordinariate priests aren’t always celebrated according to the Ordinariate Use.

Ever since the ordinariate’s creation, critics have accused it of being “top-heavy” with clergy. Newton said that was a fair criticism, but pointed out that ordinariate priests serve not only ex-Anglicans but also the wider Catholic community through the parishes.

Another common criticism is that the ordinariate has failed to attract the number of Catholic-minded Anglicans that it was expected to 10 years ago. Again, Newton accepted that there was some truth to this.

“If you look at the Church of England, probably many Church of England people just followed what their local parish did and didn’t really have the sort of deep feelings about union with the Catholic Church that many of the priests had,” he reflected.

As an Anglican drawn to the Catholic faith, Newton felt frustrated that Catholic-Anglican dialogue didn’t appear to be leading to greater unity between the two communions. 

“In fact, not only was it not coming to anything, but the distance between the Catholic Church and Anglican Church just seemed to be getting larger rather than smaller,” he said. 

“So when the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, published the apostolic constitution, it was for us an answer to prayer. It was the fulfillment of our hopes that we could be in union with the Holy See and yet still honor the background which had nurtured us in the Christian faith.”

Newton noted that ordinariate members were “slightly nervous” when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, just two years after founding the ordinariate. Would his successor take the same interest in the new structure?

Newton said that Pope Francis turned out to be an “encouraging” figure, although there were few Anglicans in his native Argentina.

“He’s promoted a missal for us. He’s changed some of our norms to enlarge our mission. So it continues in the same way, really. It’s part of the Catholic Church now. It’s a constituent part, a structure which belongs to it,” he said. 

“We still relate to the Holy Father through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and they’re still very supportive.” 

The ordinariate received a morale boost in October 2019, when the pope canonized John Henry Newman.

“To see Newman’s image above some St. Peter’s Square, a person who -- rather more dramatically than us, I imagine -- had also been an Anglican clergyman and made the journey to full communion, to be canonized as a saint was an amazing experience. And of course he’s also our patron, so that’s also doubly important for us.”

Newton said that since the canonization more Anglican clergy had contacted the ordinariate inquiring about the possibility of becoming Catholic priests. 

“They’ve been younger priests rather than older ones,” he said. 

The coronavirus crisis has forced the ordinariate to put its 10th anniversary celebrations on hold, though Newton will celebrate a Solemn Mass and Te Deum on Jan. 16, livestreamed from the ordinariate’s London church at noon local time.

The ordinariate has set out its vision for the years ahead in the document “Our Calling and Our Mission.” It focuses on strengthening the ordinariate’s communal life, vocations and formation, and evangelization.

Newton believes that the ordinariate can make a distinctive contribution to the “new evangelization,” a term popularized by Pope John Paul II.

“I think we can always remind the Catholic Church that evangelization is a lot more than simply getting lapsed Catholics back to church,” he said. “Often that’s the sort of language we hear when actually the Great Commission is to go out to everybody.” 

“And in our country, you have many people who’ve got no faith, or have lapsed from any practice of the faith, and our evangelization is about all of them.”

“And I think that’s one of the things that former Anglicans understand. When we were Anglican priests, we had a ministry to the whole parish, not just to the congregation. And I think that’s an aspect of evangelization that we ought to keep in front of people.”

COVID-19 outbreak at Portuguese nursing home run by religious sisters

Evora, Portugal, Jan 14, 2021 / 09:22 pm (CNA).- A convent of Conceptionist Sisters in the Archdiocese of Évora, Portugal is experiencing a major COVID-19 outbreak, and the local bishop is asking for prayers for the sisters and the elderly they serve.

According to a January 14 statement from the archdiocese, 14 of the 16 religious sisters have been affected by virus, as have 12 workers of the residence for the elderly “Nossa Senhora do Paço” (Our Lady of the Palace) and several residents.

“I am extremely concerned with the worrying news regarding the Conceptionist Nuns from the Immaculate Conception Monastery of Campo Maior, as well as the residents they serve,” said Archbishop Francisco Senra Coelho. “We are currently awaiting further tests while all of the nuns remain isolated in their own cells.”

The archbishop asked the whole archdiocese to join in prayer for a quick recovery for the whole community.

According to the superior of the Conceptionist community in Campo Maior, “there is only one sister who has more severe symptoms, such as a high fever and body aches. The rest have some cough and the initial fever is gone.”

“At the moment we are all isolated, each in her cell,” she continued. “The two sisters who tested negative provide us with our meals and the city hall (in Campo Maior) is being excellent with us, it is supporting us in everything we need.”

Among the 14 infected nuns, the youngest is 26 years old and the oldest is 77.

The religious congregation runs the preeminent nursing house in the region, and formerly ran an outpatient program for lonely elders, who make up a significant part of the local population.

The outpatient program has been shut down since April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a record-breaking surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases since Christmas, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa ordered the country into a total lockdown starting on Friday, January 15.

The government is considering exceptions so a presidential election can take place on January 24.


Fr. James Martin connects Catholic leaders to Capitol riots; Bishop Stika unimpressed

CNA Staff, Jan 14, 2021 / 08:42 pm (CNA).- Bishop Richard Stika of Nashville voiced skepticism of Father James Martin’s recent essay claiming that Catholic leaders’ criticism of President-elect Joe Biden's stance on abortion helped contribute to the conditions for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Martin’s essay, “How Catholic Leaders Helped Give Rise to Violence at the U.S. Capitol,” ran Jan. 12 at the website of the U.S. Jesuits’ America magazine, where Martin is editor-at-large.

Martin collected various bishops’ and priests’ comments critical of Biden’s stand on abortion and questioning whether a Catholic could vote for him. Though these criticisms ranged from respectful to inflammatory, Martin argued that their criticism “does not adequately reflect church teaching” and sent the message that the election was “an almost apocalyptic battle between good and evil.”

The priest suggested that “perhaps these comments were contributing to the unrest in the nation.”

Stika responded to Martin’s criticism of his comments about Biden.

“I don’t apologize for the tweet as I agree with the (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) that abortion is the preeminent issue in this day and age,” Stika said on Twitter Jan. 13. “Mr. Biden likes to speak about his Catholic faith. Perhaps he should realize that abortion is a human rights issue as well as the ultimate child abuse. Perhaps I missed something in the article concerning abortion as the preeminent issue.”

The dispute follows violence and riots at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters last week, leading to several deaths and dozens of injured police officers. Prosecutors appear to have a suspect in custody linked to two explosive devices left at the major political parties’ respective headquarters.

In a lengthy essay, Martin sought to connect the unrest to vocal critics of abortion. He alleged there was “widespread personal vilification of candidates from Catholic leaders” in the run-up to the violence at the U.S. Capitol. He named various figures before quoting from two Aug. 21 Twitter comments from Bishop Stika.

“(I) don’t understand how Mr. Biden can claim to be a good and faithful Catholic as he denies so much of Church teaching especially on the absolute child abuse and human rights violations of the most innocent, the not yet born,” Stika said in one tweet.

"And he also praises his sidekick who has shown time and time again in Senate hearings that she is an anti-Catholic bigot,” The bishop also said on Twitter, in a possible reference to incoming Vice President Kamala Harris’ controversial questioning of Catholic judicial nominees who were members of the Knights of Columbus.

The remainder of Stika’s Twitter comment, which was not quoted by Martin, concluded: “So sad for this team. But also, I never thought the current President was all that pro-life but he is anti-abortion as well as helpful in religious liberty.”

After citing Stika, Martin immediately cited a deleted, inflammatory tweet from Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and a former member of the Trump campaign’s Catholics for Trump group.

“Why is it that the supporters of this (expletive deleted) loser Biden and his morally corrupt, America-hating, God hating Democrat party can’t say a (expletive deleted) thing in support of their loser candidate without using the word Trump?” Pavone had said.

Pavone has drawn significant controversy for his campaign efforts on behalf of Donald Trump. He used the preserved remains of an unborn baby in a video attempting to rally support for Trump before the 2016 election.

Martin argued “personal vilification from members of the clergy inevitably gives rise to a lack of respect from the faithful, making it easier for those in the pews to revile government and civic leaders.” He alleged “an alarming number of Catholic clergy contributed to an environment that led to the fatal riots at the U.S. Capitol. Ironically, priests and bishops who count themselves as pro-life helped spawn a hate-filled environment that led to mayhem, violence and, ultimately, death.”

Although President-elect Biden was a longtime supporter of some abortion restrictions, he changed his views to support for permissive abortion laws and federal funding for abortion during the 2020 Democratic primaries. He boasted of his 100% rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America. His 2020 campaign platform called for the codification of Roe v. Wade as federal law.

Martin’s essay criticized priests who had enjoyed some internet popularity like Father James Altman of the Diocese of LaCrosse. Altman’s viral YouTube video “You Cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat” drew some 1.2 million views before the election. The video drew some criticism from the priest’s local bishop, Bishop of LaCrosse William Patrick Callahan, but was recommended by Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

Other objects of Martin’s criticism included Cardinal Raymond Burke’s comment that Biden was involved in “grave, immoral evil that is the source of scandal.” Martin also cited Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane’s question asking how a Catholic can vote for “a candidate like Biden” if “abortion is an intrinsic evil.”

The priest also cited the claims of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., who has called Biden “a puppet manipulated by the elite, a puppet in the hands of people thirsty for power and willing to do anything to expand it.”

Martin said such examples led to violence and merited correction.

“Bishops and priests need to understand the real-life effects of such contemptuous and even dehumanizing language. Catholic bishops and priests are meant to teach morality, but they are not meant to judge others (as Jesus said clearly) or to treat people with such bitter contempt. The real-world effect of this kind of language was revealed at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” said Martin.

“The mistake for which Catholic leaders should be corrected, the mistake for which the church now needs to repent, is not simply casting this election in terms of good and evil; it is pretending that real questions of good and evil could be simplified to the point where violent responses, even acts of domestic terrorism, become thinkable and then are carried out,” he said.

The Jan. 6 protests drew a large number of Trump supporters, who began at the White House and moved to the Capitol.

It is still unclear to what extent the incursion into the Capitol was planned, and debate continues over whether law enforcement and security personnel were adequately prepared.

Rioters at the Capitol included devotees of QAnon, a fringe conspiracy theory that sees President Trump as a savior who will liberate the country from a powerful Democratic cannibalistic sex trafficking cabal. Some rioters sported anti-Semitic garb, and at least one bore a Confederate flag.

Prosecutors have filed dozens of cases against the most visible participants, many of whom posted their exploits on social media. Charges include violent entry and disorderly content, though Justice Department officials say these could be replaced with more serious charges, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Charges of seditious conspiracy are under consideration and officials are investigating the extent to which the disorder was planned by some rioters, including those with military training.

One of those charged, 70-year-old Lonnie Coffman, faces 17 criminal counts. He allegedly brought 11 Molotov cocktails and a weapons cache in his pickup truck that included a handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, large-capacity magazines, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a crossbow, a stun gun, several machetes and a smoke device. Prosecutors appeared to link him to two explosive devices left at the headquarters of both the Democratic and Republican political parties.

Those arrested include Olympic gold medalist swimmer Klete Keller, who faces charges including obstruction of law enforcement, entering a restricted building without permission, and “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”

Prior to the riot, President Donald Trump refused to concede the election and claimed it had been stolen. Trump’s critics claimed that the violence at the Capitol was an insurrection incited by the president.

“Can anyone doubt that the moral calculus proposed by some Christian leaders, including Catholic priests and bishops, framed in the language of pure good versus pure evil, contributed to the presence of so many rioters brandishing overtly Christian symbols as they carried out their violence?” Martin asked in his essay.

The year 2020 saw a significant amount of civil unrest, including sometimes-violent protests against police brutality, systemic racism, and coronavirus restrictions.

There was also a wave of vandalism against Catholic churches and Catholic figures including St. Junipero Serra.


Vatican diplomat highlights growing religious intolerance

Rome Newsroom, Jan 14, 2021 / 07:20 pm (CNA).- A Vatican diplomat highlighted Thursday the “ever-growing intolerance and discrimination against Christians, Jews, Muslims and members of other religions.”

Addressing the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna Jan. 14, Fr. Janusz S. Urbańczyk said he hopes the council will devote close attention to the problem.

“In so doing, we recommend that the Swedish Chairmanship should adopt an approach that, while being comprehensive and addressing cross-cutting issues, acknowledges the specificity of such forms of intolerance and discrimination and addresses the specific needs of targeted communities without showing bias or preferential selectivity among them,” the Catholic priest and permanent representative of the Holy See said.

Urbańczyk also urged the OSCE to be wary of giving preference to some human rights over others.

He noted the chairmanship’s “intention to place a special focus on human rights, democracy and gender equality,” adding that “in this regard, the Holy See wishes to highlight, as specified in other occasions, the importance of adopting an approach that respects to the same extent all human rights universally recognized, in order to avoid establishing a hierarchy among them.”

“In fact, human rights should never be used either as means to advance political, economic, military, cultural or ideological agenda, or as open terms different actors can change according to their purposes,” the Polish priest said.

Urbańczyk said peace in the OSCE region must continue to be a priority.

“The Holy See cannot fail to recognize that, thirty years after the end of the Cold War, the words of an eminent Swedish diplomat, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld, still ring true: ‘the pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.’”

He made particular note of the “irreplaceable contribution women offer when it comes to reconciliation and the building of peace.”

“For its part, the Holy See remains convinced of the need to promote ‘the role of women in all levels of conflict prevention, crisis management and resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation’ as well as to the ‘post-conflict reconstruction processes,’” he said.

Quoting Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, Urbańczyk said “a real and lasting peace will only be possible on the basis of a global ethic of […] cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family.”