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Catholic Scout councils not affected by bankruptcy case, chairman says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Roytek, courte

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Boy Scout councils and units sponsored by Catholic parishes and other entities will not be affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed by the Boy Scouts of America, said the chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Jim Weiskircher told Catholic News Service in an email late Feb. 18 that all local Scout councils and units will continue "business as usual, while monitoring the situation."

The Boys Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Feb. 18 in an attempt to work out a compensation plan in response to hundreds of sex-abuse lawsuits.

The flood of cases involves several thousand men who claim to have been abused as scouts by scoutmasters and other leaders decades ago. The cases have been filed as some states changed statute-of-limitation laws.

Weiskircher wrote that the National Catholic Committee on Scouting does not plan to follow the route of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which as of Jan. 1 broke with BSA and introduced its own global youth program.

The withdrawal of 400,000 members was a blow to the BSA, dropping its membership below 2 million, the lowest since the World War II era. Membership peaked at more than 4 million in the 1970s.

The BSA website confirmed that local "unit meetings and activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures and countless service projects will take place as usual" despite the bankruptcy filing.

"Local councils are legally independent, separate and distinct from the national organization," the website said. "No local council assets are directly affected by the Chapter 11 filing because the local councils are not filing entities."

Local councils "will have an opportunity to contribute" to a trust fund established by BSA to assist abuse victims, the website added.

Weiskircher said the Catholic Church and BSA "are committed to making their youth programs safe and that there are many safeguards in place."

"Unfortunately, some youth have been seriously hurt by unscrupulous adults in the past," he added. "Scouting under the auspices of the Catholic Church continues to be an excellent program to help young people to grow and develop the values that are central to Christian discipleship."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Eastern churches help Catholic Church be truly catholic, bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In January, when Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, published a book supporting mandatory priestly celibacy -- a book, which included an essay by retired Pope Benedict XVI -- it was "painful," said Bishop John M. Botean of the Ohio-based Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St George.

The majority of Bishop Botean's two dozen priests are married, he said, and the book seemed to question their vocations and ministry.

"The culture of married priests is still part of our culture, and our people, especially from Romania, expect it," the bishop told Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Reporter Feb. 18 during his "ad limina" visit to Rome.

The U.S. bishops' last round of "ad limina" visits was in 2012 with Pope Benedict XVI. At that time, Bishop Botean said, the Eastern Catholic bishops requested official recognition of their churches' tradition of married priests.

In the late 1800s, at the request of the Latin-rite bishops of the United States, who said they were worried about the confusion the practice caused, the Vatican prohibited married Ruthenian priests from living and ministering in the United States. And in 1929-30, the Congregation for Eastern Churches extended the ban to all Eastern-rite priests throughout North America, South America and Australia.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some Eastern Catholic bishops in North America sent married candidates for the priesthood to their churches' homelands for ordination. When they returned to minister in the United States or Canada, many of them received suspension notices from the Vatican.

By the mid-1990s, some Eastern Catholic bishops were ordaining married men in Canada and the United States, and while Vatican officials continued to restate the rules against it, eventually, the suspensions stopped.

But the bishops continued to ask for respect for their churches' traditions, including by officially allowing them to ordain married priests and to bring married priests from their homelands to minister in the United States and Canada.

The requirement of celibacy for priests in North America was "a huge, huge problem for us, and it just evaporated" in the first year of Pope Francis' pontificate when he dropped the prohibition, Bishop Botean said.

A married priesthood is not "a panacea," he said, explaining that besides financially supporting a married priest and his family, the church also must work out assignments and transfers that consider the fact that many of the priests' wives have careers and their children are in school.

"It's not in the code (of canon law), but a priest's wife has veto power" over assignments, "because you are not going to split people up or put the relationship at risk," he said.

Catholics cannot say they know their church unless they know at least something about the 23 Eastern Catholic churches that enrich the universal church with their own spiritualities, liturgies and disciplines, Bishop Botean insisted.

"A Catholic who wants to know the Catholic Church needs to know us because we are a part of it," he said.

In the United States, there are 17 eparchies -- dioceses -- that belong to one of nine Eastern Catholic churches: the Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Maronite, Chaldean, Melkite, Syriac, Syro-Malabar, Armenian and Romanian Catholic Churches.

Except for the two U.S. Chaldean Catholic bishops who made their "ad limina" visits with the world's Chaldean bishops in 2018, the U.S. Eastern Catholic bishops were in Rome Feb. 16-22 for the visits, which include praying at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, visiting the offices of the Roman Curia and meeting with Pope Francis.

Each wearing the liturgical vestments of his own church, the bishops were scheduled to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy according to the rites of the Syro-Malabar, Armenian, Melkite and Ukrainian Catholic churches.

While the bishops were more familiar with each other's liturgies than most Catholics would be, they still were given booklets or sheets with all the prayers written out in English so they could concelebrate.

"You don't have to be an Eastern Catholic to enjoy the richness" of the Eastern liturgies, Bishop Botean said, highlighting as an example the harmonized plainsong sung by four Armenian seminarians at the bishops' liturgy Feb. 18 at the tomb of St. Peter.

Asked why the Catholic Church has so many different liturgies for celebrating the Eucharist, Bishop Botean responded, "Why do we have different languages?"

In the first centuries of Christianity -- without the internet or any other reasonably quick form of communication -- Christianity spread out from the Holy Land and took root in local communities with their languages and cultural expressions. Councils -- first of the apostles, then of the bishops -- were held to clarify the essential points of faith and doctrine, but a huge variety of religious expression flourished.

"Christianity has many forms outside of Western Christianity," Bishop Botean said. Too many people get stuck "thinking in binary, kind of 'Catholic-Protestant' terms," and miss the history and spirituality of the Christian East, which includes the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics.

People, including Eastern Catholics themselves, need to stop thinking of the Eastern Catholic churches as "cultural relics that somehow became appendages of the Roman church" and begin to see that they are integral parts of the Catholic Church and "instruments of the new evangelization," he said.


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Being meek does not mean being a pushover, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Those who are meek are patient, gentle and merciful, drawing people together and salvaging relationships, Pope Francis said.

Meekness entails tenaciously holding onto one's trust in and relationship with God and protectively guarding his gifts of peace, mercy and fraternity, the pope said Feb. 19 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall.

The pope continued a series of talks on the Eight Beatitudes by reflecting on the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."

It seems strange that meekness and inheriting land are somehow related, the pope said.

But, he said, it is rooted in Psalm 37:3-11, which tells believers to trust in the Lord, refrain from anger, be patient and "make your righteousness shine" for then shall they "inherit the earth" and "delight in great prosperity."

The "land" the psalm refers to is something greater than some earthly territory, which is so often a source of conflict, war and aggression, the pope said.

"That land is a promise and a gift for the people of God," he said. It is heaven -- that "new earth" that God has made for his children.

"Therefore, the meek are those who 'inherit' the most sublime of territories," Pope Francis said. "They are not cowards, weak, looking for some fallback moral principle in order to steer clear of trouble. Far from it!"

Whether a person is meek is seen during moments of conflict, crisis or pressure, he said, since it's easy to seem meek when life goes smoothly.

"You see it in how they react to a hostile situation," when they are attacked or offended, he said.

Meekness is what Jesus displayed during his passion since, according to St. Peter, Jesus returned no insult, did not threaten and instead, "handed himself over to the one who judges justly."

The meek are those who know and trust in what God has offered and they do not want to lose it, the pope said.

"The meek are not people-pleasers but are Christ's disciples who have learned to defend a whole other land," he said. "They defend their peace, they defend their relationship with God and God's gifts, guarding mercy, fraternity, trust, hope."

"People who are meek are people who are merciful, fraternal, trusting and hopeful," he said.

To talk about meekness, the pope said, it is important also to talk about the sin of wrath.

"A moment of anger can destroy so many things; you lose control and you don't evaluate what is really important and you can ruin a relationship" with someone, sometimes irreparably, he said.

How many family members, he added, no longer speak with each other or are cold with each other because of anger, which always divides, while meekness, "gathers together."

"Meekness conquers many things. Meekness is able to win over hearts, salvage friendships and much more," he said.

It's natural to get angry, he said, but then people should "calm down, rethink it and get back on track and this is how you can rebuild with meekness."

"There is no earth more beautiful than the heart of another person," he said, "no land more wonderful to win over than that peace" reestablished with another, and this is the land the meek shall inherit.


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Virgil Dechant, past supreme knight of Knights of Columbus, dies at 89

IMAGE: CNS photo/Knights of Columbus


LEAWOOD, Kan. (CNS) -- Virgil C. Dechant, the longest-serving supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, holding the office from 1977 to 2000, died in his sleep Feb. 15 in his hometown of Leawood. He was 89.

"God has called home a good man and one of the Knights' great leaders," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who succeeded Dechant in the top post. "Virgil Dechant used to say that his goal was to leave the Knights better than he found it, and in myriad ways, he accomplished that."

Dechant "leaves a lasting legacy and an excellent example of what it means to be a Knight and a fraternalist," Anderson added in a statement released Feb. 17. "Nowhere is this more true than in his home state of Kansas, which remains in many ways a model jurisdiction."

Born Sept. 24, 1930, in Antonino, Kansas, Dechant joined the Knights in 1949 and was a member of LaCrosse (Kansas) Council 2970 and St. Augustine Council 2340 in Liebanthal, Kansas. A successful businessman, Dechant operated a private farm in Kansas and he also owned and operated his own car dealership and farm equipment firm.

Dechant arrived at the Knights' headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1967 to serve as the supreme secretary for the fraternal order. Ten years later, he was elected supreme knight.

During his tenure in the top post, Dechant "oversaw tremendous growth in the order's membership as well as in its assets and insurance business," according to a Knights' news release about his death. He also opened the organization to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members.

In addition, Dechant forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the order to sponsor numerous renovation projects -- including of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica -- and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1988, when the Knights held their Supreme Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, President Ronald Reagan in addressing the attendees via videotape singled out Dechant "for the counsel he has given me over the years.'' In his wider comments, Reagan commended the organization for its views on the family, work against pornography and help for the disadvantaged.

In 1990, the pope appointed Dechant to the lay board of directors for the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.

At the 2003 convention, the then-retired Dechant urged the assembled Knights to take the lead fighting the "new anti-Catholicism." He also said the Knights understand that lay leadership "is not about the laity seizing control of the church" but rather to work in " solidarity and cooperation" with bishops and priests.

On April 6, 2005, Dechant escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of St. John Paul at St. Peter's Basilica.

Among his honors was his appointment to the Order of Pius IX, the highest papal honor that can be conferred on a Catholic layman who is not a head of state. Dechant also received the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and was a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

In 1998, Dechant received the National Right to Life award along with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, for their staunch support of the right to life and opposition to abortion.

Dechant is survived by his wife, Ann, their four children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Raphael's tapestries briefly return to Sistine Chapel

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Vatican Museums

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An artistic masterpiece conceived by the Renaissance master Raphael was on display for one week in the Sistine Chapel to help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

"It's an important moment" and a way to celebrate a truly great artist, Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told Vatican News Feb. 17. Raphael died in Rome on Good Friday, April 6, 1520, at the age of 37.

The 10 enormous tapestries designed by Raphael for the lower walls of the chapel were on display Feb. 17-23 in the Sistine Chapel, "putting them in the place they were commissioned for in 1515 and where (some) were hung in 1519," Jatta said. The tapestries are normally displayed behind glass on a rotating basis elsewhere in the museums.

The colorful and detailed tapestries depict the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul and events from the Acts of the Apostles. They were designed to specifically correspond to the frescoed images higher on the walls depicting scenes from the lives of Moses and Jesus, and Michelangelo's images from the story of Genesis.

After Michelangelo had completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1512, Pope Leo X wanted to leave his mark on the chapel, but every surface had already been painted by Michelangelo, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Pope Leo chose the young and rising star, Raphael, to create 10 designs for a special set of tapestries for the chapel's lower walls, whose panels had already been adorned with "trompe l'oeil" drapery. Tapestries were a popular art form at the time and the church liked to use them for special liturgical ceremonies.

The painted designs, called "cartoons," were sent to famed tapestry artisans at Pieter Van Aelst's workshop in Brussels. Seven of the 10 original cartoons still survive and belong to the British Royal Collection.

The tapestries cost 1,600 gold ducats a piece -- an enormous amount of money because of the intense labor involved and the expensive materials used, including real gold and silver thread. The total cost for the 10 designs and tapestries was five times the amount Michelangelo was paid for decorating the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Seven of the tapestries were completed and sent to Rome in 1519 and the last three arrived in 1521, right before Pope Leo died in December and one year after Raphael passed away.

Miraculously, they have survived the centuries despite numerous unfortunate events. First, they were stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527 but, by 1536, seven of the 10 tapestries made their way back home. Pirates got hold of the others and some ended up in Tunisia and Turkey.

The missing tapestries eventually were recovered in Venice in 1554, but others were snatched again from their home in 1798 during the Napoleonic Wars. It took the diplomatic finesse of Pope Pius VII's secretary of state to wrangle for their return in 1808.

All 10 tapestries have been restored over the years. Each covers about 35 square yards (30 square meters) and weighs between 110 and 132 pounds. (50-60 kilograms).



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Pope adds year of missionary service to Vatican diplomats' training

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, adopting a suggestion made at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, has decided that every priest preparing for service in the Vatican diplomatic corps must spend a year in ministry as a missionary.

In a letter to U.S. Archbishop Joseph S. Marino, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains Vatican diplomats, Pope Francis said the year of missionary service should be added to the academy's curriculum beginning with students entering in the 2020-2021 academic year.

"I am convinced that such an experience could be helpful to all young men who are preparing for or beginning their priestly service," Pope Francis wrote in the letter released Feb. 17. In a special way, he continued, mission experience would be helpful "for those who in the future will be called to collaborate with the pontifical representatives and, later, could become envoys of the Holy See to nations and particular churches."

Currently students -- all already ordained priests -- usually spend four years at the academy in central Rome. They earn a license in canon law from one of the pontifical universities in the city and then a doctorate in either canon law or theology. If they already hold a doctorate, then their time at the academy is only two years.

In addition to their university courses, the students study diplomacy, Vatican diplomatic relations, languages, international law, papal documents and current affairs.

Vatican diplomats represent the Holy See to individual countries around the world as well as to international organizations, such as the United Nations. But they also represent the pope to the local Catholic Church and coordinate the search for new bishops.

At the end of the Amazon synod, Pope Francis said he had "received in writing" a suggestion that "in the Holy See's diplomatic service, in the curriculum of the diplomatic service, young priests should spend at least one year in mission territory, but not doing an internship at the nunciature as happens now, which is very useful, but simply at the service of a bishop in a mission area."

In his letter to Archbishop Marino, the pope quoted from a speech he gave to students at the academy in 2015 when he reminded them of the missionary focus of all that the church does, including its diplomatic activity.

He had told the students, "The mission to which you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world: To Europe, in need of an awakening; Africa, thirsting for reconciliation; Latin America, hungry for nourishment and interiority; North America, intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that is not defined by exclusion; Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity to ferment in diaspora and to dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures."

Pope Francis told Archbishop Marino that he was certain that, "once the initial concerns" about changing the formation program are overcome, "the missionary experience that it aims to promote will be useful not only for the young academicians, but also for the individual churches they will collaborate with and, I hope, it will give rise in other priests of the universal church a desire to make themselves available for a period of missionary service outside their dioceses."


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Update: Cardinal Dolan meets with Cuban President Diaz-Canel in Havana

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

HAVANA (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan met privately with the president of the Republic of Cuba Feb. 11, the last full day of a six-day visit to the island nation mostly filled with visits to Cuban prelates and humanitarian organizations and facilities where the island's Catholics operate services for the poor and elderly.

"The meeting went very well, and it was no surprise because he's always extraordinarily cordial," the archbishop of New York said in an interview with Catholic News Service following the meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez in Havana. "I said I'm not here as a politician. I'm here as a pastor, Mr. President. I want you to know how much I admire my brother bishops (in Cuba).

"We've been very thrilled to meet priests and women religious, lay leaders and the faithful and they are happy, and they love Jesus and his church. I'm so grateful for the openness of Cuba to allow priests and sisters and lay faithful leaders into Cuba to help in the mission of the church."

The meeting lasted 50 minutes, Cardinal Dolan said, adding that he reiterated the ardent desire of the church "to just be a partner in the public square in any project that enhances the dignity of the human person, human life, the dignity of the family, the importance of marriage, and the real deep heritage of faith found in the Cuban people."

He said he found the president to be "realistic" but also "yearning to see if there could be good relations."

Cardinal Dolan said he'd met Diaz-Canel twice before and the last time was in 2018, the year he took over the helm as head of Cuba from Raul Castro. Diaz-Canel visited New York later that fall and spoke before the United Nations. He asked for a meeting with Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick's Cathedral and during that visit, he gave the prelate a present: a statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

Though church members, along with other religious groups on the island, suffered persecution after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Cuba's Catholic Church underwent a wave of openness from government officials following the 1998 visit of St. John Paul II to the island. Then Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, followed by Pope Francis in 2015 -- all with messages of salvation.

The Vatican, with the help of Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, who died in July 2019, played a major role in the rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. and the two countries announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations in late 2014, which included the reopening of their respective embassies in Havana and Washington.

The Catholic Church has constantly held that it's better to engage Cuba instead of isolating it, and efforts -- from the Vatican to the U.S. bishops -- have emphasized diplomatic solutions.

However, with a Donald Trump presidency came sanctions and new restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba. Cardinal Dolan said that Diaz-Canel said he was appreciative of the efforts by the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying that dialogue is always better than antagonism and that mutual exchanges in commerce and culture are beneficial to the understanding of people, "and I affirmed that," he said.

Cardinal Dolan said he agreed that those who suffer the consequences of measures such as the embargo are not the government leaders but the common people of Cuba.

"And when you see the huge shortages of food and medicine, it does strike one as unfair," he said.

To those who would criticize his meeting with Diaz-Canel, he said he has plenty on his plate, but if he's invited to visit a place and the visit might do some good, that's his interest as a pastor.

"I don't sit around wanting to make trips. I got enough to do. I've got a full-time day job," he said.

He said that during the meeting, Diaz-Canel told him that Cuba was the only place in the Americas where three popes have visited.

"And I said 'No, no. There's one where four popes have been, namely St. Patrick's Cathedral. Then I gave him a gift" from the cathedral, he said.

Cardinal Dolan said if others could pay visits like his to the island, including educational leaders, business leaders, artists, writers and leaders of other faith communities, "I think how things would warm up."

The meeting made headlines in the government newspaper Granma Feb. 12, which published two stories about the cardinal's visit saying he had been welcomed to the island with "hospitality and respect," and mentioning his meetings with Cuban bishops and his visits to "places associated with church activities" in Cuba.

A second article mentioned the cardinal's "visit of solidarity with the Cuban people for whom he has declared affection on more than one occasion."

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British Columbia couple on quarantined cruise ship relying on faith

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Camales-Torrijos family

By Agnieszka Ruck

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) -- The morning routine hasn't changed for Marichu and Ding Camales-Torrijos since they and all other passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship were quarantined following discovery of the coronavirus on board.

The couple has breakfast delivered by mask-wearing cruise staff, they listen to live updates from the captain about the spread of the virus, they send online messages to family and friends, and they pray.

"We start the day with prayer thanking God that we are symptom-free," Marichu told The B.C. Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Feb. 13. The couple, parishioners at St. Matthew Parish in Surrey, boarded the ship for a Southeast Asia cruise 26 days earlier. It was a gift to Ding ahead of his 65th birthday.

They made stops in Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, when on the last day of the trip a case of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, was discovered on board. The ship was placed on quarantine, docked in Tokyo, and anchored for the next two weeks. The couple don't expect to leave the ship until Feb. 19.

On Feb. 13, 44 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on board, bringing the total number of infected individuals to 218 of the 3,700 cruise passengers and crew.

"We are taking this in stride on a day-to-day basis," Marichu said.

The couple is confined to their 200-square-foot cabin during the quarantine. They must wear masks when their meals are delivered and during the single hour a day they are allowed to walk outside. The rest of the time they stay inside, praying, sending messages to other passengers through online chat groups, and trying to stay positive.

Marichu is unaware of any Catholic priests on board the ship, but as a lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion and member of Couples for Christ at St. Matthew, she is trying to minister to her fellow travelers by offering an optimistic outlook.

When an elderly passenger was taken off the ship and sent to hospital for treatment, Marichu reached out to the man's wife, who remained on board. Through online messages, Marichu tries to provide comfort and encouragement.

"Without faith, I don't think I would last this long," Marichu said.

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller has called for prayers for those suffering from the virus.

"As Chinese health and political officials struggle to contain the virus, please pray that they see in the response of the global community a solidarity rooted in Christian charity. May God grant wisdom and healing as the countries of the world work to prevent a global epidemic," he prayed.

Although Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's deputy provincial health officer, has said just four cases of COVID-19 have been discovered in the province and the risk of contracting the illness is low, some Catholic communities have taken precautions.

Father Richard Au, pastor of Canadian Martyrs Parish in Richmond, British Columbia, has obtained a dispensation from attending Mass for members of his largely Chinese congregation who have recently traveled to regions affected by the virus, have been in contact with anyone who might be infected, or are coughing or feverish. Those who do not attend Mass "must practice other forms of piety for an hour" such as reading the Bible or praying the rosary.

Since the announcement, Father Au has noticed a decrease in attendance at Sunday Mass, while the hand sanitizer dispensers are in high demand, as are the automatic door openers, with parishioner using their elbows instead of hands to push the button.

"Everyone has someone or has a connection" to someone in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus, he said. The constant information and misinformation about new cases, compounded by fear, has led to parishioners showing up at the church "at nighttime, knocking on the door and pouring their hearts out and their tears out."


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Remains of aborted babies now in final resting place in Indiana cemetery

IMAGE: CNS photo/Indiana Office of the Attorney General

By Ann Carey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- A cold, gray, wintry day in South Bend seemed like an appropriate setting for the burial of 2,411 aborted babies, whose remains were interred in Southlawn Cemetery in the city Feb. 12.

The babies had been aborted between 2000 and 2003 by the late Dr. Ulrich "George" Klopfer, who operated abortion clinics in Indiana since the 1970s and performed an estimated 30,000 abortions before having his license revoked in 2016.

The medically preserved remains of those fetuses had been transported across state lines and stored for years on Klopfer's Illinois property, in his garage and in the trunk of a car. The grisly discovery of the remains was made after his death Sept. 3 last year.

Neither his family nor authorities have been able to determine why Klopfer kept the remains instead of properly disposing of them. Indiana law now requires fetal remains to be cremated or buried.

Records found with the remains indicated the abortions had taken place in South Bend, Fort Wayne and Gary, so Indiana Attorney General Curtis T. Hill Jr. took possession of them.

Originally, an effort was made to determine in which city each abortion took place so that the remains could be returned home for burial. The state received several offers of burial locations, including an offer by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend for space and services at Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne.

However, Klopfer's records were so incomplete and inaccurate that Hill's office was unable to determine where each abortion occurred. Thus, it was decided to bury the remains together, "each connected by their common fate," Hill explained at the burial service. South Bend was chosen as the site because it is the most central of the three cities involved.

In his opening remarks at the burial service, Hill told a somber crowd of over 200 mourners: "The shocking discovery of 2,411 medically preserved fetal remains in Illinois left in a garage and in the trunk of a car was horrifying to anyone with normal sensibilities. Regrettably, there is no shortage of depravity in our world today, including due regard for the most vulnerable among us. And so, we brought them home, back to Indiana."

The attorney general said that not only was it Indiana law that fetal remains be buried, it was fitting and proper for the aborted babies to receive a final resting place, just as it is appropriate for any human being. He observed that people hoped it could never happen that 2,411 unborn human beings would been terminated, discarded, lost and forgotten.

"But friends, we will not forget," Hill said. "We therefore honor and memorialize these unborn that their lives be remembered not for their brevity, but for how their discovery has impacted our collective conscience. May each of the 2,411 buried here rest in peace."

Hill thanked Indiana, Illinois and local authorities who worked together to bring the babies to their final resting place and acknowledged the many offers of assistance by countless others across the state.

Palmer Funeral Home donated the burial space at its Southlawn Cemetery and a memorial stone, which reads: "In memory of the 2,411 precious unborn buried here on Feb. 12, 2020." The funeral home also provided a tent with chairs for family members, chairs that remained empty during the brief burial service.

The attorney general also thanked the 200-plus mourners for coming to "personally honor and memorialize these 2,411 precious unborn who now stand as a reminder of the fragility of life and of the obligation of the state and of the nation to preserve human dignity and respect for all."

After Hill left the podium to conduct a news conference, a multifaith prayer service took place, led by a variety of religious leaders. Among them was Father Glenn Kohrman, pastor of South Bend's Holy Family and St. John the Baptist parishes and a board member of Catholic Charities and Right to Life Michiana.

Father Kohrman offered a modified version of the Catholic Church's prayer of Commendation of an Infant Who Died Before Baptism.

Sister Agnes Marie Regan of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, Indiana, attended the burial service with several of her Franciscan sisters, and probably spoke for the hundreds of mourners when she told Today's Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Fort Wayne-South Bend, that she attended because, "These are our brothers and sisters."

A memorial service at the gravesite will take place Feb. 23, sponsored by the right to life groups of Lake County, Michiana and Northeast Indiana.

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Carey writes for Today's Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

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Pope shares with U.S. bishops his frustration with reaction to Amazon text

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a group of U.S. bishops that, like them, he is accused of not being courageous or not listening to the Holy Spirit when he says or does something someone disagrees with -- like not mentioning married priests in his document on the Amazon.

"You could see his consternation when he said that for some people it was all about celibacy and not about the Amazon," said Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

"He said some people say he is not courageous because he didn't listen to the Spirit," the bishop told Catholic News Service Feb. 13. "He said, 'So they're not mad at the Spirit. They're mad at me down here,'" as if they assume the Holy Spirit agreed with them.

Bishop Wack was one of 15 bishops from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina who spent close to three hours with Pope Francis Feb. 13 as part of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican. They were joined by two from Arizona -- Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix -- who had been unable to meet the pope with their group Feb. 10.

During the meeting, one bishop asked Pope Francis for three or four points he would like them to share with their people from the document "Querida Amazonia" (Beloved Amazonia), which was released the day before and offered the pope's reflections on the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

Auxiliary Bishop Joel M. Konzen of Atlanta told CNS that the pope said the most important message in the document for U.S. Catholics is to care for the planet, "that this is a grave matter."

Then, he said, the pope told the bishops that months or even years go into producing documents and what gets reported by the media "is one line" or that "the pope didn't have the courage to change the rules of the church."

Bishop Wack said the pope told them the synod met "'to talk about the issues of the church in the Amazon. Other people wanted me to talk about celibacy. They made that the issue. But that wasn't the issue of this synod.'"

Pope Francis told the bishops that they and their priests must teach and preach about care for the environment, Bishop Wack said. "He said even if people don't want to hear it. How can we deny that things are changing? How can we deny that we're hurting our future? And he said, if we don't talk about these things, well, shame on us. We have to preach the Gospel, and this is part of the Gospel."

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said Pope Francis also talked about what he means by "synodality" and members of the church listening to each other, praying about issues and trying to discern a way forward together. The synod, he said, is not "a parliament in which people take majority votes on a whole bunch of issues."

Among the reactions concerning the exhortation that caught Pope Francis' eye, he said, was a commentary that said "the pope lacked courage" on the issue of ordaining married men.

"But the synod is not about the courage of the pope or the lack of the courage of the pope," Archbishop Wenski paraphrased the pope as telling them. "The synod is about the action of the Holy Spirit and discernment of the Holy Spirit. And if there is no Holy Spirit, there is no discernment."

If discernment and the action of the Holy Spirit are missing, then it is just "a meeting and it's people sharing opinions and maybe research, but it's not necessarily a synod unless it's in some way governed by the Holy Spirit," Bishop Konzen said.

Bishop Wack said Pope Francis also explained that synodality and discernment are processes that continue even after a synod has met and a document has been published.

"He said, 'You can't just meet once and then say, "Oh, we have all the answers," but the conversation continues,'" the bishop said. "And so, he said, 'What we did is we raised these issues, and now we have to deal with them,'" continuing to invoke the Holy Spirit and discern the path for the future.

As with the 13 groups of U.S. bishops that preceded them, the bishops also spoke with the pope about the clerical sexual abuse crisis, immigration, youth and young adult ministry and what it means to be a bishop.

Bishop Wack said he asked for advice about finding balance as a bishop since "we are supposed to be shepherds, we're supposed to be priests for the people, other Christs. And yet, just like with our pastors, like so many people working in the church, as well as parents and people working in world, we are so busy with so many other things."

Pope Francis spoke at length about being a bishop, he said. "He said if we're too busy doing other things, we put those aside; we pray, and we preach, and we serve our people."

Archbishop Wenski told CNS that in covering the church or Pope Francis' teachings, the press often uses "categories from the world, and they don't fully appreciate that we're dealing with a different way of being, a different way of thinking."

The bishops' meeting with the pope, he added, was a moment to "be with the pope, see the pope and to hear the pope" in a relaxed atmosphere and discuss issues "that concern us bishops throughout the world."

"That was a great opportunity because often times, as bishops, we experience the pope through the filter of the news media. And it's good to experience him without that filter; (to) experience him face to face," he said.

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Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden, Junno Arocho Esteves and Carol Glatz.


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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]