Browsing News Entries

The enduring legacy of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, martyred for celebrating the Mass

St. Edmund Arrowsmith | An altar display of items associated with 17th century English Martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith. / Wikimedia (CC0) | Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Manchester, England, Oct 1, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

As Mass finished on a recent late-summer Sunday morning in northern England, people sang heartily “Faith of Our Fathers,” the anthem to the men and women who were executed by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

No sooner did the chords die down than the people started forming a solemn queue. As they passed by a small cylinder enclosing a withered hand — COVID’s aftermath means they still cannot touch or kiss the reliquary — each worshipper prayed a silent prayer.

The hand belongs to Edmund Arrowsmith, a priest who was executed for celebrating Mass in the 17th century.

An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell
An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Like other martyrs of that era, he was hanged until nearly unconscious and then cut down only to be dragged through the streets lying on a hurdle before arriving at his final execution spot, where he was cut open and mutilated. (Picture the final scene of the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart,” when William Wallace is disemboweled.) As a further deterrent, his body parts were displayed prominently to scare others from defying the monarch.

Brave devotees salvaged these relics, which is how the hand of now St. Edmund Arrowsmith has pride of place in the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester.

“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

A persecuted family

The Jesuit and martyr was born Brian Arrowsmith around 1585 into a Catholic family that was constantly harassed for practicing the “old” faith.

One uncle died in prison, and Arrowsmith had to be cared for by neighbors, as his parents were carried off to jail when he was a child. A relative of his mother’s, Father John Gerard, wrote the classic account of life as an illegal pastor in his book “Autobiography of a Hunted Priest.” Gerard was tortured in the Tower of London and staged a daring escape from the prison in which so many Catholics were incarcerated.

Given this heritage, it was no surprise the future saint became a priest. Using his confirmation name, Edmund, he served as a missionary from 1612 to 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican bishop of Chester.

Arrowsmith was released when King James I of England ordered an amnesty for all arrested priests as part of negotiations to arrange a Spanish marriage for his son.

During this period, restrictions ranged from punitive to murderous, but for six years, Arrowsmith was able to travel around the northwest of England, tending to the needs of a far-flung flock. Sadly, his rebuke of a couple for their sexual immorality saw him reported to the authorities, and he tried to flee his pursuers on horseback.

The house where he was based is called Arrowsmith House in the village of Brindle near the city of Preston. Holy Mass is celebrated once a year in the upstairs room where St. Edmund said his final Mass before fleeing.

The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish
The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish

This time, there was no reprieve, as the horse refused to clear a ditch. He was kept overnight in the cellar of a local pub, where his captors used his money to buy beer.

Arrowsmith was kept in Lancaster Castle before his execution but not before another priest to be martyred, now St. John Southworth, heard his confession. (Southworth’s remains are enclosed in a case in Westminster Cathedral, London.)

After his execution in Lancaster, the Arrowsmith family kept St. Edmund’s hand as a relic before it went to its present home in 1929 — the year of his beatification. The saint was one of the 40 English martyrs canonized by St. Paul VI in 1970.

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, feels the weight of the saint’s history on his shoulders.

“I feel like I am the custodian of his legacy, which is a very big responsibility,” he said. “As I told the people in my homily for the feast day [Aug. 28] this year, we are not likely to be executed for our faith but what we believe is not popular in the current climate. We all have to have the same fidelity of St. Edmund.”

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

The rosary: common myths and facts

null / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the “Month of the Rosary.” Here are seven common myths and facts about this devotion to Our Lady.

Only Catholics can pray the rosary. 

False. While rosaries are typically associated with Catholics, non-Catholics can certainly pray the rosary — and in fact, many credit it with their conversion. Even some Protestants recognize the rosary as a valid form of prayer.

Praying the rosary is idolatry. 

False. Some have objections to the rosary, claiming it idolizes Mary and is overly repetitive. 

Just like any practice, the rosary could be abused — just as someone might idolize a particular pastor or priest, form of worship, or fasting. But the rosary itself is not a form of idolatry. 

The rosary is not a prayer to Mary — it is a meditation on the life of Christ revealed in five mysteries “with the purposes of drawing the person praying deeper into reflecting on Christ’s joys, sacrifices, sufferings, and the glorious miracles of his life.” 

When we pray the Hail Mary, we are not adoring Mary, we are asking for her intercession — just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us. 

Second, any prayer can lose its meaning if we do not intentionally meditate on it. Focusing on the mysteries with purpose and intention is key to the rosary’s transforming power. As one author encourages: “The rosary itself stays the same, but we do not.”

You can wear a rosary as a necklace.

It depends. It is typically considered disrespectful and irreverent to wear a rosary around one’s neck, even though the Church does not have an explicit declaration against doing so. 

However, Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law says that “sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”

It is important to treat the rosary with respect and intention. If you intend to wear the rosary as a piece of jewelry, this would not be respectful and should be avoided. It goes without saying that wearing the rosary as a mockery or gang symbol would be a sin. 

But if it is your intention to use the rosary and be mindful of prayer, then it could be permissible. It is not uncommon in some cultures, like in Honduras and El Salvador, to see the rosary respectfully worn around the neck as a sign of devotion.

Rosary rings or bracelets might be a better option if you want to keep your rosary close at hand as a reminder to pray, as they are kept more out of sight and would not be as easily misconstrued to be a piece of jewelry. 

The rosary is an extremist symbol.

False. A widely-shared Atlantic article this summer went viral for accusing the rosary of being an “extremist symbol.” 

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” the article read.

The author also cited the Church’s stance on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life as evidence of “extremism” and claimed that Catholics’ tendency to call the rosary a “weapon in the fight against evil” as dangerous. 

As CNA reported this year, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary since 1571 — often referring to the rosary as a prayer “weapon” and most powerful spiritual tool. 

The rosary is not biblical.

Untrue! Most of its words come directly from Scripture.

First, the Our Father is prayed. The words of the Our Father are those Christ taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9–13.

The Hail Mary also comes straight from the Bible. The first part, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” comes from Luke 1:28, and the second, “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is found in Luke 1:42.

Finally, each of the decades prayed on the rosary symbolizes an event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The decades are divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, the majority of which are found in Scripture. 

A rosary bead, or pea, can kill you.

Somewhat true. A rosary pea, or abrus seed, is a vine plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds of the vine, which are red with black spots, are often used to make beaded jewelry — including rosaries. Rosary pea seeds contain a toxic substance called abrin, which is a naturally-occurring poison that can be fatal if ingested. However, it’s unlikely for someone to get abrin poisoning just from holding a rosary made from abrus seeds, as one would have to swallow them. 

Today, most rosaries are made from other non-toxic materials, such as olive wood, plastic, or glass — eliminating this concern.

Carrying a rosary can protect you.

True. The rosary has proven to be a miraculous force for protecting those of faith and bestowing upon them extra graces, such as the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto after St. Pius V implored Western Christians to pray the rosary.

Many great saints across history, including Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Lucia of Fatima, have also recognized the rosary as the most powerful weapon in fighting the real spiritual battles we face in the world. 

We know that spiritual warfare is a real and present danger: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11–12). 

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin … If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors,” Pope Pius XI said. 

House of saints: Visiting St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s home has inspired conversions

The backyard of St. Thérèse’s childhood home in Lisieux, France. / Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Scenes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s beloved spiritual autobiography “Story of a Soul” come alive when walking through the rooms of her childhood home in northern France.

The red brick home in Lisieux in the region of Normandy nurtured a household of saints under one roof.

In addition to the youngest doctor of the church, Thérèse’s parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, were canonized together in 2015, and the cause of her older sister, Léonie, is currently being examined by the Vatican.

Sister Veronique, a Carmelite who assists visitors to St. Thérèse’s childhood home, told CNA that visits to the house have resulted in “many conversions.”

“People are very touched by the witness of the Martin family when they come into this house. They realize how much love was exchanged between the parents and the children,” she said.

“They feel that love and that this house has a soul.”

The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The Martin family settled in the house in Lisieux in 1877 after Thérèse’s mother, Zélie, died of cancer when Thérèse was only 4 years old.

Thérèse was the ninth child in the family — four of her siblings, two of whom were boys, died before she was born.

After the death of his wife, Louis Martin “educated his girls well by placing God at the forefront of the family,” Sister Veronique said.

“He went to Mass every morning and when his daughters saw their father pray, they imagined him as a saint. Truly all of the Martin girls realized that they had parents who were saints and followed their example.”

Thérèse chose her older sister Pauline as her “second mother.” When Thérèse learned that Pauline planned to enter the local Carmelite convent as a cloistered religious sister, she was very distressed and eventually became ill. Her father asked for a novena of Masses to be offered for 10-year-old Thérèse’s healing. His prayers were soon answered.

The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

In Thérèse’s bedroom, on the second floor of the house, one can stand in the spot where a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at Thérèse and she experienced a miraculous healing on May 13, 1883.

Thérèse recounted the event in “Story of Soul”: “I turned to my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words to describe. The expression of Our Lady’s face was ineffably sweet, tender, and compassionate, but what touched me to the very depths of my soul was her gracious smile.”

With the grace of the smile from the Blessed Virgin, Thérèse was cured. The white Marian statue currently in Thérèse’s bedroom is a copy of the original, which can be found above the shrine in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux.

Hanging on the wall in the bedroom is St. Thérèse’s real hair, cut before she entered Carmel.

The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The dining room contains the original kitchen table and chairs where the Martin family would gather for their daily meals. The clock on the wall is signed “Louis Martin” by Thérèse’s father, who was both a jeweler and a clockmaker.

Sister Veronique’s favorite story from the life of St. Thérèse took place near the fireplace where Thérèse received a “Christmas grace” of complete conversion at the age of 14 in 1886.

The Little Flower wrote: “I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child, which proves that my sisters still treated me as a baby.”

However, Thérèse overheard her father complaining that she was too old to behave like such a little child. Though greatly upset, she did not cry, as she would have before.

“Choking back my tears, I ran down to the dining-room, and, though my heart beat fast, I picked up my shoes, and gaily pulled out all the things, looking as happy as a queen.”

Thérèse pinpointed this moment as the time that she “regained, once for all, the strength of mind which she had lost at the age of four and a half.”

Less than two years later, Thérèse left the childhood home where she had spent 11 years of her life and entered the Carmel, where she remained until her death from tuberculosis at 24 years of age on Sept. 30, 1897. Her house has been a place of pilgrimage since 1913.

“My mission — to make God loved — will begin after my death,” she said before she died. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Seeking to build on papal visit, Canada’s bishops stress indigenous reconciliation

Pope Francis meets with clerics, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers of Canada at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City, July 28, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Indigenous issues were at the forefront when about 90 Catholic bishops met in Cornwall, Ontario for the Canadian bishops’ 2022 plenary assembly.

“2022 has been a historic year for listening, learning and working to rebuild longstanding relationships that have been profoundly damaged by the legacy of residential schools,” Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Sept. 29.

“Pope Francis apologized on behalf of the Church for the sins of her children, acknowledged the catastrophic impact of the residential school system and called on us to promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to favor processes of healing and reconciliation,” said Poisson, who heads Quebec’s Diocese of Saint-Jérôme - Mont-Laurier.

The residential school system was set up by the Canadian government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means to forcibly assimilate indigenous children and strip them of familial and cultural ties. Both Catholic and Protestant groups ran the schools, with Catholics responsible for the majority of them. 

The schools were poorly supervised and funded. The students received a poor education and lived in substandard housing. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a 2015 report estimated that 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of disease, injury, neglect, or abuse over the decades. Tuberculosis was a major killer, as was influenza. As late as 1945, the death rate among indigenous children at the schools was almost five times the death rate of other Canadian children the same age.

The Canadian bishops’ conference president emphasized the need for continued action.

“We know that this is a journey that requires long-term commitment, dialogue and consultation, and we pray that our discussions at this plenary have been a meaningful step towards a more hopeful future,” Poisson commented.

Canadian bishops pledged continued dialogue and relationship-building with Canada’s indigenous people, known as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Indigenous delegations to Rome in March and the papal visit in July saw “respectful collaboration” between the Catholic Church and local, regional, and national indigenous leaders. The bishops hope to make this kind of collaboration more effective and permanent.

Poisson, writing on behalf of the Canadian bishops, sent a Sept. 26 letter thanking Pope Francis for his visit to Canada.

“There can be no question that it has left a profound and lasting mark on Canada, Indigenous Peoples, and the local and universal Church,” said the letter. He said the Roman Pontiff’s presence and his words of healing and reconciliation have helped the bishops take steps toward “a more hopeful future.”

The bishops’ meeting pledged to continue providing documentation and records to help residential school survivors and researchers find the truth, in the face of cumbersome processes to identify and request records. They have approved guidelines for dioceses across Canada, emphasizing “transparency and simplicity.”

While the historic injustices against indigenous people have been discussed for decades, the residential schools again became a major issue in Canada in mid-2021 when researchers reported preliminary findings of what appeared to be graves of students near former residential schools. 

News reports erroneously depicted the possible graves as “mass graves” and often failed to clarify that the findings had not been confirmed by exhumation and other analysis. It is also possible that any graves are from community graveyards and include remains of non-students and non-indigenous peoples of the area, including residential school staff and their families.

The reaction to the reports helped inspire a wave of vandalism and arson against Catholic churches, including some churches on indigenous land which still serve indigenous Catholics. The attacks drew condemnation from indigenous leaders. Canada’s national statistical office, Canada Statistics, reported a 260% spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in 2021.

Catholic outreach efforts continue. 

The Canadian bishops’ meeting pledged continued support for Catholic institutions, seminaries, and religious communities that foster a greater understanding of indigenous culture, language and spiritual traditions and values. They hoped that this support would lead to more direct encounters with indigenous communities and help non-indigenous clergy and laity hear indigenous perspectives, “with attention to the issues of colonization and residential schools.”

The bishops voiced recognition for “the contribution of Indigenous culture and wisdom to our future life in Canada.” They will stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples in “their stewardship of the land and the goods of Creation, the gifts of the Creator.” They will work with local community leaders to support the spiritual well-being of young people and to address social challenges like poverty, suicide, violence, and incarceration.

They reiterated support for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, which accepts donations from 73 Catholic dioceses across Canada to support reconciliation initiatives. The fund has raised $5.5 million and is “on track” to exceed its $30 million goal over five years.

The bishops said they would continue dialogue with the Vatican on issues indigenous delegates and representatives have identified. They are actively working with the Vatican to issue a new statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” principles of sovereignty and conquest found in some papal documents dating to the expeditions of European exploration in the 15th century, especially disputes between Spain and Portugal.

The bishops’ conference website provides documents on this subject, including the April 27, 2010 remarks of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations. 

Migliore said that the documents supposedly behind the “Doctrine of Discovery” were rendered irrelevant by successive documents or changing circumstances only a few years after they were issued.  He emphasized papal teaching in support of indigenous people, including the 1537 papal bull Sublimis Deus.

“Canada’s Bishops continue to reject and resist ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest way possible,” the bishops’ conference said Sept. 29. They pledged continued support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The gathering was the first in-person plenary meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Bishop Poisson, in his report to the bishops, discussed ongoing child abuse prevention efforts and the Synod on Synodality. He also noted that the new French-language version of the Roman Missal was implemented across the country. The bishops’ new National Program for Priestly Formation has been published and implemented. His report anticipated new resources to help dioceses form lay ministers of catechist, lector, and acolyte in keeping with Pope Francis’ apostolic letters.

Catholics converge on DC for a week of prayer and fasting

The International Week of Prayer and Fasting kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the National Basilica in Washington, DC. / The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF)

Denver, Colo., Sep 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Catholics from around the world will once again kick off a week of prayer and fasting at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

Prayer and fasting are needed now more than ever, Maureen Flynn, founder of The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF) told CNA. 

“It seems to be a real battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light,” she said. 

The IWOPF is a grassroots movement made up of churches, schools, communities, and clergy who come together to pray and fast. In 2022, for the 30th IWOPF, Catholics everywhere are invited to pray for five intentions: the conversion of all peoples, to build a culture of life, defend the sanctity of marriage, for God’s mercy, and for all priests and vocations. 

The week of prayer and fasting will culminate in the National Rosary Rally at the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9. The events cap a 54-day rosary novena prayed by Catholics around the country, which begins each year on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ends on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF
Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF

Speakers at this year’s event include Bishop Joseph Coffey, who will offer the opening Mass on Oct. 1. Also speaking are Father Francis Peffley; Dave and Joan Maroney, founders of MOMM, a Divine Mercy apostolate; Father Robert Altier; and Ted and Maureen Flynn, the founders of IWOPF, and several others. 

In an interview with CNA, Maureen Flynn talked about the moment she decided to take action and get others to join in prayer and fasting. She recalled that in 1989 she was reading a newspaper article about some grandmothers who said they were for abortion.

“I was appalled,” she said. Soon after, she called a good friend and brought up the idea of starting a day of prayer. 

“Because this is ridiculous. These are grandmothers and they’re thinking it’s fine to kill children,” she remembers telling him.

However, instead of a single day of prayer, he suggested an entire week. The following year, the first conference was held in front of the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 500 people attended.

In 1997, the event was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. That was also the year Mother Teresa was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The event would be held on Oct. 5, 1997. However, Mother Teresa would not be in attendance. The now-saint died one month before, on Sept. 5. 

Flynn recalled that Mother Teresa had been very enthusiastic about the project.

“I remember at one point, she said, ‘My daughter, you must do this. God wants this. Prayer is the answer to the world's problems.’ I'll never forget what she said. So I think that gave us encouragement,” she said.

St. John Paul II also gave the organization two apostolic blessings, one in 1997 and the other in 2001. Pope Francis also gave his apostolic blessing to participants at the 22nd conference.

EWTN’s foundress, Mother Angelica, was the keynote speaker in 2000 and gave a talk on the Lord in the Eucharist. Jim Caviezel joined the conference in 2003 as the keynote speaker after finishing the filming of “The Passion of the Christ.” 

Flynn told CNA that she is encouraged by how much more receptive Catholics are to prayer and fasting now. 

“Years ago it was like pulling teeth to try to get people to see the importance of the rosary and fasting. Now I hear people saying, ‘Tell me how to fast, and could you recommend some good books on fasting,’” she said.

Flynn feels optimistic about other aspects of the Church as well.

“There are prayer networks everywhere now, compared with 30 years ago. The prayer networks are amazing. They give me great hope,” she added. 

“There’s a lot of great ministries out there compared with 30 years ago; there are many Marian groups, many pro-life groups, a lot of publishers; there are just tremendous ministries out there now that weren’t there before,” she said. “So although the battle seems to be intensifying, you see the great goodness going on.”

This year’s conference will also be held virtually in addition to in person. The week’s events will be live-streamed on the IWOPF website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel beginning Oct. 1. 

LGBT organizations in Spain are pressuring the government to pass the ‘trans law’

null / Juanje Garrido/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Three LGBT organizations have met with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the main party of the governing coalition in Spain, seeking the passage of the “trans law” before the close of the legislature at the end of next year.

The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans, Bisexuals, Intersexuals, and more (FELTBI+); the Triangle Foundation; and the Chrysallis association, made up of families of minors who have declared themselves transgender, have put pressure on the PSOE due to the division in the socialist ranks on the proposed law.

LGBT organizations fear that the debate between the feminists inside and outside the PSOE — those who deny that any man can define himself as a woman by his own volition and those who think it’s possible — will end up scuttling the law.

There are also members of Podemos, the party of the governing coalition, who oppose the law.

These members point out that they reached an agreement with the government on this law, “so there is no possibility that its going through the legislative process will be delayed or drawn out” as pro-family organizations have requested through a campaign.

Changing one’s sex in the Civil Registry

The Council of Ministers approved June 29 the bill titled “For the Real and Effective Equality of Trans People and for the Guarantee of LGTBI Rights,” known as the “trans law,” promoted by the Ministry of Equality. The council’s approval has allowed the bill to go through the legislative process, which has now begun.

The law provides that one can change one’s name and sex in the Civil Registry by submitting a statement, without providing medical reports, having started cross-sex hormonal treatments, or needing judicial authorization.

In the case of minors, a judge’s approval would be mandatory from the age of 12 and parental permission is required between the ages of 14 and 16. Those over 16 years but not yet 18 are considered to have reached the age of majority — the age when one is considered an adult as recognized by law — so they would be able to make the change upon request.

The General Council of the Judiciary, the governing body of judges, questioned various aspects of the law. On the registry issue, it issued a report that calls for the limit to claim a change of sex in the Civil Registry  upon request to be raised to at least 18 years of age.

Thus, the procedure requiring the approval of a judge who has to determine at least level of maturity or the stability of the person’s will in order to proceed with the change of sex in the Civil Registry would be extended until the age of majority, which is 18 in Spain.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholic organizations in Colombia call Bogotá cathedral attack by militants ‘terrorism’

The Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá. / Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic organizations joined the chorus of condemnation of the Wednesday night attack by abortion militants on the Bogotá cathedral and demanded that the Colombian authorities arrest those involved in this act of “terrorism.”

The night of Sept. 28, a group of feminists with their faces covered tried to burn down the main doors of the Bogotá cathedral while others tagged the wall with pro-abortion graffiti to the astonishment of passers-by and the inaction of the officials present from the Bogotá Mayor’s Office.

The attackers were part of demonstration for the Day for the Decriminalization and Legalization of Abortion. In their speeches, the feminists demanded that “legal and safe” abortion be allowed in Colombia.

Abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in February.

In a Sept. 29 statement, the Archdiocese of Bogotá said: “We reject all forms of violence in actions and words, we demand civility on the part of the promoters and participants of marches and protests, we ask the authorities to guarantee the life, honor, and property of citizens.”

The newly formed Pro-Life Caucus of the Colombian Congress stated Sept. 29: “We reject the acts of violence and intolerance that occurred yesterday by a group of marchers in defense of abortion. The attacks against believers and the attempted incineration of the doors of the Primatial Cathedral of Colombia are unacceptable.”

The citizen platform United for Life and the Catholic Solidarity Movement joined pro-life members of Congress and the Archdiocese of Bogotá in condemning the arson and vandalism. 

In a statement issued Sept. 29, the Catholic Solidarity Movement accused the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, of having “dismantled the reaction capacity of the police,” which allowed the attack to take place.

“When a crime such as murder by abortion, which is in the Penal Code, is legitimized, these young women believe that they can commit any other crime,” the group said in reference to the feminists.

The president of the Catholic Solidarity Movement, Samuel Ángel, announced that they will file a complain against “these terrorists” so that they take responsibility “for the alleged crimes of damage to the property of others, rioting, damage to the public good, disrespect for beliefs, vandalism, terrorism, attempted murder, [and] conspiracy to commit a crime.”

The United for Life platform demanded that the National Prosecutor’s Office locate and capture “this group of abortionists.”

“We demand disciplinary sanctions from the mayor’s office of the city of Bogotá for the officers of the peace who did nothing to prevent this aggression by the abortionist advocates,” the organization stated.

United for Life said “it is not possible for the homicidal violence of the abortion movement to turn into terrorist actions that attack churches and people and institutions that do not want to be part of the genocidal crime of abortion.”

Not only have abortion proponents worked for “the decriminalization of abortion by prevaricating judges of the Constitutional Court, but now these abortion advocates intend to terrorize anyone who doesn’t actively cooperate to carry out this crime against Colombian unborn babies and their parents,” the platform said.

The people’s ombudsman, Carlos Camargo Assis, also condemned the attack and pointed out that “freedom of expression or the right to peaceful public demonstration cannot be understood as letters of marque to attack the exercise of worship by citizens” or to destroy the religious heritage, “which is considered sacred by millions of people.”

Camargo noted in an official statement posted online that freedom of worship is a fundamental right recognized by the Constitution and Statutory Law 133 of 1994, which impose on the authorities the obligation to guarantee it.

The ombudsman called for investigations to be conducted “that allow punishing, if appropriate, those who may have committed crimes against this fundamental right.”

The director of the National Police, General Henry Sanabria, told a local radio station that four women involved in this incident have been taken into custody.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Caritas Algeria closes at government’s behest

null / Caritas Algeria

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Church in Algeria announced Sunday that the country has ordered the Church’s aid organization Caritas Algeria to cease its operations.

“The Catholic Church in Algeria regrets to announce the complete and definitive closure of its service called ‘Caritas Algeria,’ from 1 October 2022, in conformity with the request of the public authorities,” read a Sept. 25 letter signed by Archbishop Paul Desfarges, archbishop emeritus of Algiers and president of the Diocesan Association of Algeria, and by Archbishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Algiers.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has in recent years recommended that the State Department put Algeria on its “special watch list” for “engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.”

AFP reported that a 2012 law “required all registered nonprofits to submit new documentation.”

Vesco told the French news agency that the public authorities had judged Caritas Algeria “an unauthorized organization.”

In their letter, Desfarges and Vesco wrote that “naturally, the Catholic Church remains faithful to its charitable mission in the service of brotherhood, in partnership with all people of goodwill.”

They quoted from the 2019 document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, which says, “believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.”

The bishops concluded their letter: “The Catholic Church would like to thank all those who, over the years and in different ways, have contributed to the realization of this work at the service of the most vulnerable and the Algerian people.”

Agenzia Fides, a news service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reported that “Caritas was probably the subject of these restrictive measures because it is considered a foreign nongovernmental organization.”

It added that “representatives of the local Catholic community rule out that the measures imposed by the Algerian authorities are fueled by feelings of hostility towards the Catholic Church and its presence in the country. Rather, they see a connection with the general policy of restrictions that have recently been imposed on foreign and multinational NGOs.”

Caritas Algeria was founded in June 1962, days before Algeria gained independence from France.

In June 2021 USCIRF’s chair, Nadine Maenza, commented that “recent decisions by Algerian courts to sentence Christians accused of blasphemy and proselytizing to multiyear prison sentences and to seal Protestant churches that have been forcibly closed demonstrates the country is headed in the wrong direction.”

Catholic bishops’ pro-life chair supports 15-week abortion ban nationwide

Archbishop Lori delivers the homily at Mass for the bicentennial of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary / © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is expressing support for a nationwide abortion ban aimed at protecting unborn babies after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Lori recently thanked Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey — both Republicans — for introducing the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.”

“Although we will never cease working for laws that protect human life from its beginning and supporting mothers in need, we think that this proposed legislation is a place to begin uniting Americans regardless of their views on abortion,” Lori wrote in a Sept. 19 letter. “Further, we strongly agree that there is a federal role for protecting unborn human life.”

The legislation, proposed by Graham in the Senate and Smith in the House on Sept. 13, would ban abortion after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“I support your efforts with the ‘Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act’ to protect the right to life of unborn babies from 15 weeks’ gestation,” Lori said. “All elected officials, including federally elected members of Congress, now have the opportunity to protect unborn human life and should rise to the occasion.”

He added: “It is long past time to end the barbaric practice of abortion and to provide life-affirming alternatives that support and protect both mother and child.”

The new legislation follows the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June with the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision found that the constitution does not grant a right to abortion and leaves abortion up to the people and their elected represenatives. 

Earlier this month, in anticipation of Respect Life Month in October, Lori called the Supreme Court’s decision an “answer to prayer” — and an opportunity to build a culture of life by practicing “radical solidarity and unconditional love.”

Recent research has revealed much that was previously unknown about babies in the womb, Lori said.

“Science continues to reveal the amazing development and characteristics of babies in utero, such as their ability to respond to music, to their mother’s voice, and to other stimuli,” he wrote. “Furthermore, there is significant scientific evidence that babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.”

He cited the study, “Reconsidering Fetal Pain,” published by J Med Ethics in 2020.

In his Sept. 19 letter, Lori stressed that abortion puts mothers at risk.

“Finally,” he added, “not only does abortion end the life of the unborn child, but it is frequently harmful to the mother, emotionally and physically.” 

Citing additional sources, he urged: “Late-term abortions, such as those performed when the unborn child is 15 weeks or older, pose significant physical, and potential fatal, risks to the mother.”

The Catholic Church, he said, is committed to accompanying moms in need and providing life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

“The Catholic Church remains clear and consistent in asserting that true justice demands the right to life, the most basic human and civil right, for every child, from conception onward,” Lori wrote. “No person or government has the right to take the life of any innocent human being, regardless of its stage of development.”

Catholic Charities helps to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Ian

A woman looks over her apartment after floodwater inundated it when Hurricane Ian passed through the area on Sept. 29, 2022 in Fort Myers, Florida. The hurricane brought high winds, storm surge, and rain to the area, causing severe damage. / Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Local and national Catholic Charities agencies are working to assess needs and provide aid after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast this week, leading to what will likely be billions of dollars in damage and several confirmed deaths.

In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice, said that it was still too early to assess the extent of the hurricane’s damage but that “the diocese was hit hard and directly.”

“It’s safe to say that the recovery effort will be extensive,” Gloria said.

Catholic Charities has deployed teams on the ground to assess the damage and where their efforts are most needed. Most of the diocese, which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, is still without power — across the state, some 1.9 million customers remain without power.

The Diocese of Venice’s pastoral center was closed Friday and is expected to reopen Oct. 3. Bishop Frank Dewane posted a statement on the diocesan Facebook page Sept. 30.

“Thank you for your continued prayers for the Diocese of Venice and all those affected by Hurricane Ian. Damage is still being assessed, but it is clear that the devastation in the diocese is widespread,” Dewane wrote.

“There are several crews already at work throughout the diocese, and Catholic Charities is putting their local team into action. We are grateful for all those who have helped, and continue to help, during this difficult time.”

Gloria, the Catholic Charities CEO, said that communication was still a big challenge due to cell phone towers being downed in the storm. Various parts of the diocese, such as DeSoto County, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Naples, have been completely cut off due to roads and bridges being submerged under water.

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has launched a dedicated disaster donation page with 100 percent of the funds raised going to support people impacted by Hurricane Ian and served by their local Catholic Charities agencies. Funds raised through CCUSA will be used for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. The Florida Catholic Conference urged donations to CCUSA in a Friday tweet. 

Gloria said Catholic Charities set up several relief sites before the storm, which they plan to activate soon based on their assessments of the sites. They plan to continue to work together with the diocese and parishes to reach people in need of basic necessities like emergency housing, food, and water.

“We’re walking through this cautiously and carefully … wherever we allocate our resources, that is where we are having the greatest impact,” Gloria said.

He also urged prayers to help them through the process.

Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, pummeling Florida’s Gulf Coast with storm surges and heavy wind. Central Florida received 17 inches of rain as Ian passed overhead. Hurricane Ian has continued on and is expected to slam the South Carolina coast imminently.

A handful of Catholic parishes in the Fort Myers area have announced online that they have reopened. St. Cecilia parish in Fort Myers has power and Wi-Fi, but no water, according to a Thursday Facebook post. As of Thursday, there will be regularly scheduled Masses at St. Cecilia Catholic Community, the post says.

St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Fort Myers said in a Facebook post that its high school youth group will be gathering at the parish for Mass at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and then going out into the community to try to help people in need.

“If you have power at your house… offer to launder someone’s salt water-drenched clothes and linens before the mold sets in. If you are strong… offer to pull out drenched carpet and baseboards in someone’s house. If you are in an area where there is no flooding… go bag up debris and save homes from future floods to clear the drains. Kids, let’s get to work and help our neighbor… it is exactly what Jesus would do,” the Sept. 30 post from the church reads. 

All Saints Byzantine Church in southwest Florida set up a separate webpage where the parish has been monitoring conditions and updating parishioners. As of the most recent update on Sept. 30, all services at the church had been canceled and the parish priest, Father Steven Galuschik, had evacuated. The church has asked for parishioners to contact the parish office with their safety status and to request any needs in the aftermath of the storm.

All Saints was not immediately available for a comment.

Ave Maria University, which is located south of where the direct path of the storm hit, issued an update on Thursday evening saying that power and air conditioning had fully been restored to the university and town.

Ave Maria is not in the floodplain zone but received small amounts of damage and power outages that were quickly resolved by generators. The university said that classes would resume today, Friday, Sept. 30, with an online option. Classes will resume fully in-person by Monday and campus Masses have fully resumed.

Ave Maria is engaging in various volunteer efforts to support relief for storm victims, including hosting families of first responders in the area because the school is considered a “shelter-in-place” location.