Browsing News Entries

Polish city unveils giant St. John Paul II mural in centenary year

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- A Polish city has unveiled a giant mural of St. John Paul II in honor of the birth centenary of the pope whose feast day is celebrated Thursday.

City authorities in Stalowa Wola, southeastern Poland, commissioned the portrait, which is 30 feet wide and 100 feet high, to mark the anniversary year, which is being commemorated by events in Rome and Poland.

The image, on the side of an apartment building on the city’s John Paul II Avenue, depicts the pope who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 leaning on his crozier while praying. The mural was officially blessed Oct. 18 by Bishop Edward Frankowski, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sandomierz.

At the base of the portrait are words that the Polish pope spoke about the city: “I embrace with my heart Stalowa Wola, a city symbolic of the great faith of working people.”

The city held a competition to design the mural. The winner, Piotr Topczyłko, was selected by a jury ahead of six other candidates. 

Lucjusz Nadbereżny, the mayor of Stalowa Wola, shared a video on Twitter Oct. 16, the 42nd anniversary of John Paul II’s election as pope, showing how the mural was created. 


W Stalowej Woli na 30 metrowej ścianie wieżowca powstał niezwykły mural z wizerunkiem Świętego Jana Pawła II. Na krótkim filmie widać jak autor Piotr Topczyłko tworzy piękny mural Papieża.
Janie Pawle II nasz święty orędowniku, miej w opiece Miasto i Mieszkańców Stalowej Woli.

— Lucjusz Nadbereżny (@lucjuszn) October 16, 2020  

The city secured the agreement of both the housing cooperative that manages the building and residents. 

While John Paul II never visited the city as pope, he expressed his admiration for its inhabitants, applauding their determination to build the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, despite opposition from the communist authorities. 

He consecrated the church in 1973, when he was archbishop of Kraków. Later, as pope, he gave the church the status of a minor basilica.

Local media quoted the city’s mayor as saying: “Just as in this mural St. John Paul II is leaning against the cross, let this image be a support for us. Our pope, with his life, like the Moses of our time, opened the hearts of others, so let us also be kind, warm, and loving to one another. Then we will fulfill the life and teachings of St. John Paul II.”

Meanwhile, in an interview marking the Polish pope’s feast day, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki recalled his encounters with St. John Paul II.

The president of the Polish bishops’ conference said that the pope was an “extremely brave” man who “could talk with anyone.” 

“It seems to me that a focal point was his reverence for the Eucharist. The Holy Father restored the Corpus Christi processions in Rome. He led the processions from St. John in Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major,” he recalled. 

“Back then, when he was able to walk, and later when he could no longer walk, it was extremely edifying to watch his behavior and see how he revered the Eucharist. Now, I think that the whole Church needs that today.”

Killer of martyred Italian nun: ‘I can have of her only a memory of love’

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The three teenage girls who killed Sr. Maria Laura Mainetti 20 years ago attested afterward that, while they were stabbing the 60-year-old religious sister to death, she told them she forgave them.

“The sister cried out. She said she would not report us. That she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista, Ambra Gianasso, and Veronica Pietrobelli told police when they confessed to killing the woman as part of a Satanic ritual.

In May, Pope Francis declared Venerable Maria Laura Mainetti a martyr, killed in “hatred of the faith” in Chiavenna, Italy. She will be beatified on June 6, 2021, the 21st anniversary of her murder.

Born in a small town in northern Italy, Mainetti entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross at age 18. In 1984 she moved to the convent in Chiavenna, where she became superior.

Mainetti was known in the small town for her social and charitable commitment to dispossessed youth and poor people. According to a person who knew her, Mainetti had “an unconditional love for the weak. A life that was a real witness of love for Christ.”

“She never said no to anyone: she always opened the door ready to listen,” the person added.

The sister displayed this quality on the seemingly ordinary Tuesday night when the teens drew her out of the convent with a call claiming that a girl was pregnant by rape and needed to speak with her. They brought the sister to an isolated and dark street, near a cliff called “Paradise,” which originated from an ancient soapstone quarry.

According to local legend, a 160-feet tall and nearly 500-foot deep opening in the side of the cliff leads to the “inferno,” and was the work of the devil, who created the fissure to escape to hell while fleeing the Virgin Mary.

The three teens, dressed in black, then stabbed Mainetti 19 times with a kitchen knife and beat her, while shouting abuse. They had, according to Italian media reports, intended to stab her 18 times, six times each, to form by their violence the number 666. 

“I deceived her by drawing her into a trap and then I killed her, and while we were doing this she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista wrote to Sr. Mainetti’s religious community some years after the act.

“I can have of her only a memory of love. And in addition to this, it also allowed me to believe in something that is neither God nor Satan, but which was a simple woman who defeated evil,” Milena wrote.

“Now in her I find comfort and the grace to endure everything. I always pray and I am sure she will help me become a better person.”

Milena’s letter is included in an Italian-language biography of Mainetti written by Sr. Beniamina Mariani in 2005.

Sr. Mainetti was known to the girls, who did not have any prior history of violence or crime. They confessed that they had originally planned to kill the parish priest, but decided that, because he was larger, it would prove too difficult. Investigators said that the girls’ notebooks were filled with Satanic writings and they had made a blood oath some months earlier.

The three served sentences in different juvenile prisons. After their release, between six and seven years later, at least two of them spent time in community recovery centers. According to media reports, the women changed their names, and now have jobs and families.

After her release from prison in 2006, Milena was a guest for several years of the Exodus communities in the area of Verona -- residences for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction, founded by Fr. Antonio Mazzi.

Mazzi once said, as recounted by Amedeo Mainetti, the murdered nun’s brother, that Milena “is fully aware of what she did and at the same time repentant and convinced that she can be reborn and recover better and better.”

Speaking to Il Giorno Milano newspaper in June this year, Mazzi said that Milena had been an active participant in the communities, though she never spoke about the murder and they never “fully faced the fact” with her. 

The priest also noted that Milena “never declared herself a believer and neither the opposite.”

“She did not want to give testimony for the sister. However, she radically changed her life, and with her actions she clearly showed that she was repentant and that she understood that she had made a great mistake,” he said. “Today she has her own life and her own job.”  

In a 2008 interview in the magazine Panorama, Veronica asked the public to forget her. 

“Prison, psychologists, and the recovery community have allowed me to become the person I otherwise would never have been,” she said.

“It was decided to kill at age 16 while sitting for six hours over a beer in a small village bar,” she recalled. “Everything we said, thought and did was worthless. What was I terrified of? Of Sr. Maria Laura’s gaze? Of blood? I don’t know, because it was dark and I didn’t look at her face, just as I didn’t look at the blood. At that moment and only then, I was afraid of everything, even of Ambra and Milena.”

In her biography of the slain religious sister, Mariani wrote that when she was among young people, Mainetti felt “at ease and loved to entertain them both in scheduled meetings and in casual ones.”

Someone who knew her said in an interview for the book that “only God can know how much she sacrificed herself for young people! Meetings, talks, school camps, world youth days, catechesis, individual accompaniment.” 

The biography reproduced what Mainetti wrote in her journal on the day of her perpetual profession in 1964: “Give me your feelings, Jesus, those of the Beatitudes: the poor who trusts, abandons himself/the child who feels loved by him/the affliction that is participation in that of Christ and is salvation/Mercy, Benevolence, Purity of body and heart, Humility. To serve Christ is to reign: Here I am… The joy of my service every instant in conformity with Your Divine Will.”

From this life, “a spring gushes out, a gush of evangelical life,” Sr. Kitty Hiriat Urruty, the superior of her congregation, wrote at the time of Mainetti’s martyrdom.

“This spring speaks to us of our consecration, of our life offered to the Trinity, of our desire of identification with Jesus Christ, of our choice of the poorest, of the wounded in life. And this leads to the origins of our Congregation,” the sister said.

“She showed that our charism is alive and very current,” she continued. “In this style of love and gift, she gave herself with both hands, without calculation, just like someone who knows that all she has is a gift of love, to be shared and made to bear fruit.”

Vatican and China renew provisional agreement on appointment of bishops

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican and China have renewed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for two more years, the Holy See announced Thursday.

An Oct. 22 Vatican communique said that the Chinese government and Vatican authorities agreed “to extend the experimental implementation phase” of the two-year provisional agreement first signed on Sept. 22, 2018, concerning the nomination of bishops. It added that the two parties intended to pursue “an open and constructive dialogue.”

“The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement -- which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value -- to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people,” the communique said.

An article in L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 lauded the results of the agreement, saying that “processes for new episcopal appointments are underway, some at an early stage, others at an advanced stage.”

It reported that two bishops had already been appointed under the “regulatory framework established by the agreement”: Bishop Antonio Yao Shun, of Jining Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, and Bishop Stefano Xu Hongwei, of Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province.

“It must be acknowledged that there are many situations of great suffering. The Holy See is deeply aware of this, takes it into account and does not fail to attract the attention of the Chinese government to encourage a more fruitful exercise of religious freedom. The path is still long and not without difficulties,” the Vatican newspaper said.

Following the Vatican-China agreement in 2018, state officials in different regions of China removed crosses and demolished church buildings, and underground Catholics and clergy have reported harassment and detention. A 2020 report of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China found that Chinese Catholics suffered “increasing persecution” after the deal.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists Oct. 21 that he was “happy” with the agreement. But he acknowledged “there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve.” 

The cardinal said that the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” and that through this unity “it will become an instrument of evangelization,” according to a transcript provided by Italian newspaper Avvenire.

When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin responded: “But, what persecutions … You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.”

In China, religious education of any person under the age of 18 is illegal. This means that catechism classes have been closed and minors are not allowed to enter church buildings. Catholic churches registered with the Chinese authorities are closely monitored via CCTV cameras connected to the public security network. Priests have been forced to attend government training courses.

The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a September report out of the province of Jiangxi.

But other religious groups have fared far worse under the Chinese Communist Party’s policies of “sincization” and technological control, particularly the Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province, who have suffered forced labor, indoctrination, sterilization, forced abortion, and torture in dentention camps.

While introducing more restrictive rules on religious practice, President Xi Jinping’s repeatedly stated goal has been the “sinicization” of religions. The authorities have sought to diffuse “religious theories with Chinese character” into the five official religions supervised by the government, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. This has included instructing Chistian churches to remove images of the Ten Commandments and replace them with the sayings of Chairman Mao and Xi.

In March 2018, the Chinese government instituted a major change in its religious regulation by placing the management of religions, including Catholicism, under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD). The United Front has the task of ensuring that groups outside of the CCP, such as Xinjiang Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Hong Kong democracy activists, and the Catholic Patriotic Association, are following the party line.

Xi Jinping has called the United Front Work Department one of his “magic weapons,” used to co-opt and control.

Despite mounting international condemnation of China’s internment of more than a million Uyghurs in detention camps, neither Pope Francis nor the Holy See has commented publicly on the situation.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, attributes this silence to the Vatican’s ongoing diplomatic talks with the Chinese government.

“It seems that in order to save the agreement, the Holy See is closing both eyes on all the injustices that the Communist Party inflicts on the Chinese people,” Zen wrote Oct. 7.

The Vatican-China agreement gave CCP officials a say in the ordination of bishops, but also allowed for the enforcement of “sinicization” in Church matters, Zen said. 

Cardinal Parolin has previously compared “sinicization’” to the Church’s practice of “inculturation,” saying in 2019 that “these two terms … refer to each other without confusion and without opposition.”

In his most recent comments to journalists this week, Parolin said that the contents of the Sino-Vatican agreement would not be made public. But he added that what has been agreed to thus far “does not envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations.”

“On both sides, as long as the agreement is ad experimentum [provisional], it was decided to keep the contents confidential,” Parolin said, 

“For the moment there is no talk of diplomatic relations, we are focused on the Church,” he said. “The agreement does not concern diplomatic relations nor does it envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations. The agreement concerns the situation of the Church, a specific point which are the appointments of bishops and the difficulties that exist and that we hope to tackle through dialogue.”

In grim accounting, Canadian report says assisted suicide saves health care money

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:18 am (CNA).- A Canadian report has put a dollar figure on legal assisted suicide, claiming that legalization has saved millions of dollars in health care costs—and that a looming expansion of legal assisted suicide, known by backers as “aid in dying,” would save millions more.

A new Parliamentary Budget Officer report, released Oct. 20, is intended to provide economic and financial analysis of legislation to improve parliamentary debate and promote “greater budget transparency and accountability.”

While the report acknowledged cost savings of assisted suicide, it said “this report should in no way be interpreted as suggesting that (medical aid-in-dying) be used to reduce health care costs.”

At the same time, the report acknowledged the “disproportionately high” health care costs to care for people in their last year of life, especially in their last month. Such patients represent 1% of the population and 10% to 20% of total health care costs.

Access to medically assisted suicide, the report said, reduces health care costs for Canada's provincial governments, the primary health care providers. Since the legalization of assisted suicide in June 2016, the report estimated some $66 million in U.S. dollars have been saved because individuals are helped to die rather than receive health care or palliative care.

A Quebec superior court last year ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit medically assisted suicide only to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable,” according to the Canadian news site Global News. Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada chose not to appeal the decision, a decision lamented by Canada's Catholic bishops.

This court ruling required the government to introduce legislation to comply. That legislation would no longer require natural death to be “reasonably foreseeable” for a patient to be eligible for assisted suicide.

Rather, the bill provides easier eligibility rules for people near death and stricter eligibility rules for people who are not near death. It removes a 10-day waiting period for those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

For persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, eligibility assessments must take at least 90 days unless loss of capacity to consent is imminent. According to a summary of the bill at the website of Canada's Department of Justice, two independent doctors or nurse practitioners must provide an assessment and confirm the requester is eligible. At least one doctor or practitioner assessing the person's eligibility must have expertise in the medical condition causing his or her suffering.

The bill allows the possibility to waive final consent for assisted suicide for patients whose death is reasonably foreseeable and who are at risk of losing the ability to consent. It would also reduce the number of required witnesses for patient consent from two to one.
Under the legislation, the patient must be informed of options to relieve suffering, including counseling, mental health and disability support, community services, and palliative care. Mental illness as a sole underlying condition would not be sufficient to access legal assisted suicide.

The report's financial analysis predicted an estimated 6,465 assisted suicide deaths in 2021 under the current law, with over $66.14 million in U.S. dollars saved in provincial health budgets due to these deaths. The number of dollars saved is reached by subtracting the costs of palliative care, about $55.4 million, from mean end-of-life costs of about $138.6 million, and then subtracting $17 million in costs to administer that number of assisted suicides.

The new legislation to expand access to assisted suicide will result in another 1,164 assisted suicide deaths in Canada in 2021, the report predicted, with an estimated $46.8 million in health care costs saved. This would increase total estimated savings to some $113.4 million, compared to a situation in which assisted suicide was illegal, the Parliamentary Budget Officer report said.

“While this amount may appear significant, it only represents 0.08% of total provincial health care,” said the report. The cost reduction “represents a negligible portion of the health care budgets of provinces.”

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced the latest assisted suicide bill in February but its progress was halted when the House of Commons adjourned in mid-March because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The bill, numbered C-7, is characterized as a “medical assistance in dying” bill. It would modify Bill C-14, passed by Canada's Parliament in 2016 to legalize and regulate doctor-assisted suicide.

In February the Catholic Bishops of Canada voiced “the greatest concern and dismay” about efforts to expand assisted suicide. They condemned “the lamentable legislative aim” of broadening access to assisted dying, and insisted “that every opportunity for due diligence be taken during the parliamentary process.” They have said better palliative care is needed.

“We unequivocally affirm and maintain the fundamental belief in the sacredness of all human life, a value that we share with many others in our country, including persons of different faiths and no faith at all,” Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an October letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Despite the misleading euphemism, ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ remains simply euthanasia and assisted suicide – that is, the direct taking of human life or the participation in his/her suicide, which can never be justified,” Gagnon added, according to Grandin Media.

A report released by the Canadian government said that more than a third of those who opted for “medical assistance in dying” cited concerns of being a burden to family or carers.

Assisted suicide opponents have warned that legalizing such killings helps increase social or financial pressure on a person to kill him or herself, whether this pressure comes from insurance companies, private or government health care administrations, or relatives. They question how society can campaign against suicide for the healthy or in favor of better palliative care for the ill while justifying assisted suicide at the same time.

They say there is a danger that assisted suicide further marginalizes the disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill and undermines the duty to respect and care for them. People facing treatable conditions could be presented assisted suicide as a better option, they warn.


What did Pope Francis say about civil unions? A CNA Explainer

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:49 pm (CNA).-  

“Francesco,” a newly released documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, has made global headlines, because the film contains a scene in which Pope Francis calls for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis has changed Catholic teaching by his remarks. Among many Catholics, the pope’s comments have raised questions about what the pope really said, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage. CNA looks at those questions.

What did Pope Francis say about civil unions?

During a segment of “Francesco” which discussed Pope Francis’ pastoral care of Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope made two distinct comments.

He said first that: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did not elaborate on the meaning of those remarks in the video, Pope Francis has spoken before to encourage parents and relatives not to ostracize or shun children who have identified as LGBT. This seems to be the sense in which the pope spoke about the right of people to be a part of the family.

Some have suggested that when Pope Francis spoke about a “right to a family,” the pope was offering a kind of tacit endorsement of adoption by same-sex couples. But the pope has previously spoken against such adoptions, saying that through them children are “deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God,” and saying that “every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”

On civil unions, the pope said that: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” 

“I stood up for that,” Pope Francis added, apparently in reference to his proposal to brother bishops, during a 2010 debate in Argentina over gay marriage, that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.

What did Pope Francis say about gay marriage?

Nothing. The topic of gay marriage was not discussed in the documentary. In his ministry, Pope Francis has frequently affirmed the doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church that marriage is a lifelong partnership between one man and one woman.

While Pope Francis has frequently encouraged a welcoming disposition to Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope has also said that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” and said that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” and that efforts to redefine marriage “threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation."

Why are the pope’s comments about civil unions a big deal?

While Pope Francis has previously discussed civil unions, he has not explicitly endorsed the idea in public before. While the context of his quotes in the documentary is not fully revealed, and it is possible the pope added qualifications not seen on camera, an endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples is a very different approach for a pope, one that represents a departure from the position of his two immediate predecessors on the issue.

In 2003, in a document approved by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith taught that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Even if civil unions might be chosen by people other than same-sex couples, like siblings or committed friends, the CDF said that homosexual relationships would be “foreseen and approved by the law,” and that civil unions “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity,” the document concluded.

The 2003 CDF document contains doctrinal truth, and the positions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on how best to apply the Church’s doctrinal teaching to policy questions regarding the civil oversight and regulation of marriage. While those positions are consistent with the long-standing discipline of the Church on the issue, they are not themselves regarded as articles of faith.

Some people have said what the pope taught is heresy. Is that true?

No. The pope’s remarks did not deny or call into question any doctrinal truth that Catholics must hold or believe. In fact, the pope has frequently affirmed the Church’s doctrinal teaching regarding marriage.

The pope’s apparent call for civil union legislation, which seems to be different from the position expressed by the CDF in 2003, has been taken to represent a departure from a long-standing moral judgment that Church leaders have taught supports and upholds the truth. The CDF document said that civil union laws give tacit consent to homosexual behavior; while the pope expressed support for civil unions, he has also spoken in his pontificate about the immorality of homosexual acts.

It is also important to note that a documentary interview is not a forum for official papal teaching. The pope’s remarks were not presented in their fullness, and no transcript has been presented, so unless the Vatican offers additional clarity, they need to be taken in light of the limited information available about them.

We have same-sex marriage in this country. Why is anyone talking about civil unions?

There are 29 countries in the world that legally recognize same-sex “marriage.” Most of them are in Europe, North America, or South America. But in other parts of the world, the debate over the definition of marriage is just getting started. In parts of Latin America, for example, the redefinition of marriage is not a settled political topic, and Catholic political activists there have opposed moves to normalize civil union legislation.

Opponents of civil unions say they are usually a bridge to same-sex marriage legislation, and marriage campaigners in some countries have said they are concerned that LGBT lobbyists will use the pope’s words in the documentary to advance a pathway to same-sex marriage.

What does the Church teach about homosexuality?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.

Are Catholics bound to agree with the pope on civil unions?

Pope Francis’ statements in “Francesco” do not constitute formal papal teaching. While the pope’s affirmation of the dignity of all people and his call for respect of all people are rooted in Catholic teaching, Catholics are not obliged to support a legislative or policy position because of the pope’s comments in a documentary.

Some bishops have expressed that they are awaiting further clarity on the pope’s comments from the Vatican, while one explained that: “While Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable, the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination.”

Los Angeles' Archbishop Gomez denies claim that he plans to vote for Biden

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez has rebuked an online claim that he plans to vote for Joe Biden in the November presidential election, stating that an alleged conversation in which he disclosed his voting plans never actually took place.

“In all my years as a priest and a bishop, I have never publicly or privately endorsed a political candidate or told anyone who I might be voting for. It is disgraceful that some would use the media to spread misinformation and try to confuse and divide people,” Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in an Oct. 20 statement., a website based in California, published a blog post Tuesday evening which alleged that in February 2020, Gomez and a “wealthy ex-donor to the church” met over breakfast at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

The blog post claimed that Gomez told the individual that he is “voting [for] and supporting Jose [sic] Biden because he did not ‘like the way Trump talks.’”

“[T]he president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, socialist because he 'does not like the way Trump talks'…. I am sure that he is also forcing priests in the archdiocese to support Biden… So infuriating!” the blog reads.

Gomez denied the alleged conversation, and even the breakfast, ever took place.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese told CNA on Wednesday that the archbishop had no breakfast meetings on his calendar during the month of February.

In his statement, Gomez urged Catholics to pray and reflect on the U.S. bishops’ voting guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued the “Faithful Citizenship” document to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019.

“And let us pray for the grace to treat one another as brothers and sisters, with dignity and respect,” Gomez concluded.

The “ex-donor” who made the claim against Gomez plans to release an affidavit doubling down on his claims, based on an alleged audio recording of the conversation, according to John Paul Norris, one of the founders of

According to Norris, the accuser, who has declined to be named publicly, had— before the alleged February conversation— been meeting with Gomez at least once a year, and was a significant donor to the archdiocese.

"Everyone in the diocese knows him very well," Norris told CNA.

Norris told CNA the accuser has an audio recording of the alleged conversation with Gomez stored on his cell phone, but has no plans to release it to the public. He said the recording includes Gomez stating that if Biden earns the Democratic nomination for president, Gomez would vote for him “because he’s Catholic.” 

In 2019, Norris was removed from the Los Angeles cathedral after confronting Gomez about Cardinal Roger Mahony and the McCarrick scandal.

Norris’ blog post this week was appended to a petition on, which Clean the Church created in 2018, calling for criminal prosecution of Mahony, who led the Los Angeles archdiocese from 1985 to 2011. Mahony has faced scrutiny for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis during his tenure as archbishop of Los Angeles, and been accused of covering up serial acts of abuse.

The petition calls on all of Los Angeles’ bishops to “act now or resign from their posts.”

Norris also told CNA his group suspects the archdiocese has cut a “deal” with vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Despite a history of public anti-Catholic bias on Harris' part, Norris said he believes Gomez favors the Biden/Harris ticket because Harris appeared unwilling to prosecute Cardinal Mahony when she was district attorney in LA.

“She may be anti-Catholic faith, but she's certainly a defender of the prelates, of the clergy,” he contended.

Norris offered no evidence of a “deal” regarding Mahony, and admitted that allegations of one are likely to remain unproven.

Joe Biden, a Catholic, has in recent months doubled down on his support for legal abortion.

In July, the pro-abortion group NARAL endorsed Biden for president, just over a year after the group issued a scathing statement demanding he reverse his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding for abortions. Biden withdrew his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment and announced in 2019 he was opposed to the policy.

This month, Biden repeated his pledge to codify a right to abortion into federal law should the Supreme Court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Norris said his group believes that Gomez is not strong enough in his public pro-life statements.

The archbishop has, however, written frequently in recent years about the “preeminent” importance of ending legal protection for abortion.

“Among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016, abortion and euthanasia are different and stand apart. Each is a direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life,” Gomez wrote in the foreword for a book on Catholics’ responsibilities in the public square.

“Abortion and euthanasia are ‘fundamental’ social issues because if the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights, and no foundation for peace and justice in society.”

Earlier in 2020, the USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the “Faithful Citizenship” document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops, led by Gomez, identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”



Bishops in Kerala on hunger strike for Catholic education

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- Several bishops in Kerala held a day-long hunger strike Tuesday to protest the state government’s withholding of funds from Catholic schools.

The hunger strike was held Oct. 20 in front of the Kerala state secretariat. The prelates participating were Bishops Joshuah Kizhakkeveettil of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Mavelikara, chair of the Kerala bishops’ education commission; Paul Mullassery of Quilon, the vice chair; and Thomas Tharayil, an auxiliary of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Changanacherry.

Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum said the state government “curtails our rights as a religious minority to run education institutions through arbitrary orders and amendments to the existing laws," UCA News reported.

Christians run about 5,000 of Kerala’s 13,000 schools. The government is required to provide financial aid to over half of these schools to support teachers’ salaries.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said that in the last five years, over 3,000 teachers in Catholic schools have not been paid because the government has not distributed its promised aid. Since May 2016, the Kerala government has been led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The archbishop said it was an “act of cruelty” to deny these employees’ salaries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said the hunger strike is not seeking to solicit “special favors from the state. It is to ensure our constitutional rights.”

Father Charles Leon, secretary of the Kerala bishops’ education commission, told UCA News that “it is an indefinite protest.” Protests were held in each of Kerala’s 14 districts.

He also said the state government tried “to meddle in the appointment of teachers in the state-aided schools.”

Minority schools have the right to appoint their own teachers, but the state government has stalled in approving the appointments in the last five years.

US bishops launch novena for Election Day

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are encouraging Catholics to pray a novena to help form their consciences ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. 

“For nine consecutive days, Monday, October 26 through Tuesday, Nov. 3, participants will be encouraged to pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the day’s intention,” says the USCCB’s webpage for the 2020 Election Novena. 

A closing prayer for elected leaders will be offered on day 10, Wednesday, November 4. 

The closing prayer asks that “the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.” 

Due to the prevalence of mail-in voting this election, it is possible that the results of some elections may not be known for several days. 

The USCCB will write a new intention each day of the novena, and a signup link for email reminders is provided on the noevena’s webpage, along with graphics for social media. 

None of the daily intentions are partisan in nature, and most are reminders of various facets of Catholic teaching, including a plea for dialogue, a reminder of the importance of the dignity of human life, and a stress on the importance of religious freedom. 

The intention for Election Day reads “Today, as we approach the polls, may we understand & embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.” 

The USCCB, as well as individual bishops, do not endorse specific candidates for election. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. bishops’ conference re-issued its document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which aims to assist Catholics in deciding for whom to vote. 

In a new introductory letter to the document, approved by the bishops in November 2019, reminds Catholics that they are called to “bring the richness of our faith to the public square.” 

“We draw from both faith and reason as we seek to affirm the dignity of the human person and the common good of all,” the bishops wrote, saying that “everyone living in this country is called to participate in public life and contribute to the common good.”

“Our approach to contemporary issues is first and foremost rooted in our identity as followers of Christ and as brothers and sisters to all who are made in God’s image,” said the letter. 

“For all Catholics, including those seeking public office, our participation in political parties or other groups to which we may belong should be influenced by our faith, not the other way around.”

“Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation,” wrote the bishops. 

“In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention. The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” they said.

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

Report: Vatican investigators provide evidence of payments to Italian ‘security consultant’

Rome Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Vatican investigators have evidence that an Italian woman accused of embezzling from the city state was paid by order of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, both while and after he was at the Secretariat of State, according to an Italian news report.

Italian news agency Adnkronos reported on Oct. 21 that it has seen a 13-page document sent by Vatican investigators to the Italian Minister of Justice, Alfonso Bonafede. The document was sent as support for the request for the extradition of Cecilia Marogna. CNA has not independently confirmed the report.

Marogna, 39, has been accused of aggravated embezzlement related to payments of hundreds of thousands of euros she received from the Vatican Secretariat of State to her Slovenia-based company Logsic, D.O.O., in 2018 and 2019.

She was arrested Oct. 13 by Italian financial authorities after a warrant was issued by Vatican prosecutors through Interpol.

Although a Milan court of appeal has upheld the execution of the warrant, lawyers for Marogna have appealed her extradition to Vatican City. Pending the outcome of the appeal, Marogna is being held in a local jail after the Milan court deemed her a flight risk. She has also asked to be released from prison while she awaits her appeal hearing, scheduled for the end of this month, after which the Court of Appeal will have five days to give its decision.

According to the report by Adnkronos, Vatican investigators argued in their document that evidence shows Marogna was acting in the capacity of a “public official” under a 2013 Vatican law, and that she received a total of 575,000 euros ($683,000) from the Secretariat of State in 2018 and 2019.

The report stated that the Vatican began investigating after Slovenian police reported to them a series of abnormal movements registered by two bank accounts of Marogna’s company, Logsic D.O.O.

Logsic is registered in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in the sector of welfare and humanitarian aid.

The Vatican Gendarmerie reportedly found two bank accounts which had received nine bank transfers issued by the Secretariat of State between Dec. 20, 2018, and July 11, 2019, for a total amount of 575,000 euros, the report said.

According to the Vatican document, many of the payments made from the accounts of Logsic “concerned expenses that were not compatible with the corporate purpose of the company,” including more than 120 payments at shops such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as at luxury hotels and restaurants.

As evidence of Marogna acting as a public official, the Vatican investigators cited a Nov. 17, 2017, declaration signed by Becciu, then the second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, certifying that “Ms. Marogna provides professional service as geopolitical analyst and external relations consultant for the Secretariat of State - General Affairs Section.”

The investigators also cited as evidence the collaboration of Marogna with the Secretariat of State for the release of a Colombian nun, who was kidnapped in February 2017 while serving as a missionary in Mali.

In the document, the investigators reportedly wrote that Marogna exercised powers of a public nature, which she “debased by exploiting and bending the mandate received in her own favor.”

According to the media report, the investigators’ document included a series of conversations on the messaging platform WhatsApp between Cardinal Becciu and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who at the time was head of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State.

A Dec. 20, 2018, conversation reportedly shows Becciu directing Perlasca to send money to Marogna in several installments for the purported mediation of the release of the Colombian nun kidnapped from Mali in 2017.

Becciu reportedly wrote to Perlasca: “It seems that something is moving and the mediator must have the money available immediately. However, we send it to them in different tranches to the account that I will indicate below. First bank transfer: 75,000 euros made out to ‘Logsic D.O.O’. Reason: ‘voluntary contribution for a humanitarian mission.’”

Becciu also reportedly indicated, in a subsequent message, that the transfer had received the authorization of the “superior Sovereign Authority,” by which he appeared to refer to Pope Francis.

Also included in the investigators’ document were messages between Perlasca and Fabrizio Tirabassi, an official then working under Perlasca in the Secretariat of State. Perlasca reportedly sent the name of Marogna’s company and the account’s IBAN number, which is used to make money transfers in Europe.

Similar messages were exchanged on the dates of the other payments to Marogna between January and July 2019, the document reportedly states.

The Vatican investigators said that their conclusion is, “with a certainty that excludes any possible reasonable doubt, that the Secretariat of State paid to Logsic D.O.O, entrusting it to Ms. Cecilia Marogna, sums for institutional purposes.”

Pope Francis gives financial aid to families of shipwreck victims

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis will be sending financial aid to families whose loved ones went missing when their ship sank in September. 

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said Oct. 21 that the pope would send an “economic contribution” to all the families of the 43 seafarers who were shipwrecked Sept. 2 during a typhoon.

The vessel, Gulf Livestock 1, sank 100 nautical miles west of Amami Ōshima Island in southwest Japan amid Typhoon Maysak. The ship was traveling between New Zealand and China with a cargo of 5,867 cattle. The crew consisted of 39 Filipinos, two Australians, and two New Zealanders.

Japan’s coast guard rescued three survivors, one of whom died. A dedicated search for the 40 remaining men was called off Sept. 10, but the families continue to hope that they will be found through privately funded search operations.

The Vatican dicastery noted that members of the seafarers’ charity Stella Maris had been offering support to families in the Philippines since the disaster. The support was given via internet platforms because of restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The economic aid, in collaboration with the apostolic nunciatures and the Stella Maris of the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, will be delivered personally to the families of the missing persons and the two survivors, together with a small personal gift from Pope Francis, to demonstrate his closeness and solidarity,” the dicastery said.