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Pope Francis cancels Saturday audiences due to a mild flu, Vatican says

Pope Francis delivers an address during his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 14, 2024, in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canceled his public appearances on Saturday due to a mild flu, the Vatican has said.

The Holy See Press Office released a short statement announcing the cancellation on Saturday morning without further details.

“Due to a mild flu-like condition, as a precautionary measure, the pope has canceled the audiences scheduled for today,” the Feb. 24 statement said.

The cancellation comes after Pope Francis concluded a five-day Lenten retreat at his Vatican residence in which all of his regular activities were suspended from the afternoon of Feb. 18 to Feb. 23..

The 87-year-old pope has slowed down his schedule with less international travel since he underwent abdominal surgery last June to repair an incisional hernia. Francis canceled a trip to Dubai in December after his doctors advised him not to travel because of a bronchial infection.

When the Vatican said that Pope Francis had a “mild flu” in November, the pope underwent precautionary testing at a Roman hospital.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope’s Angelus address on Sunday is still on the schedule and that the Vatican does not plan to release any further health updates on Saturday. 

The pope had been scheduled to meet with deacons from the Diocese of Rome on Saturday morning, in addition to his regularly scheduled meetings at the Vatican.

Beer for Lent? The Diocese of Scranton’s ‘40 Days’ brew helps feed the homeless

Beer lovers gather at the release of the "40 Days" beer brewed by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. / Credit: Kristen Mullen

CNA Staff, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics give up beer as part of the penitential rigors of Lent. One diocese is brewing it as part of a Lenten tradition stretching back 400 years.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has launched a beer collaboration with a local brewery to support its anti-hunger programs for the homeless.

The tradition of Lenten beer stretches back centuries. In Bavaria in the 17th century, Paulaner monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season. Paulaner is now a global brand and is among the bestselling beers in Germany.

In the spirit of the Paulaner brewers, the Scranton Diocese on its Facebook page earlier this month shared that its “Forty Days” beer collaboration with local Breaker Brewing Company would be launching on Mardi Gras, Feb. 13. 

The Forty Days beer is a doppelbock, the announcement said. A doppelbock, according to CraftBeer.com, is “reminiscent of toasted bread” and may include “dark fruit flavors such as prune and raisin,” depending on the recipe used.

The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen
The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen

The brewery created the beer in collaboration with Father Brian Van Fossen. The priest told CNA this week that he went to high school with Mark Lehman, one of the co-owners of the brewery. 

“Back in November we met about the project and Mark asked me to do some research on the beer,” Van Fossen said.

“Though I thought it was a good idea, the diocese was not able to send Mark and me to Munich to do research on beer, so I went to the computer,” he joked. 

“I discovered a doppelbock beer which was rooted with the Paulaner brothers in Munich, Germany,” he said. “The beer consisted of strong grains and an interesting mixture of hops and barley, which provided a strong nutrient content.” 

The priest said the beer was originally developed as part of the “strict fast of the Paulaner monastery.” The beer “celebrates the history of the Doppelbock beer style and its ties with the Lenten season,” the press release announcing the beer said. 

Breaker Brewing is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes outside of Scranton. The beer collaboration is meant to help fund the diocese’s “Rectory, Set, Cook!” program to help feed homeless people. 

The diocese announced the launch of that program in 2021. It was billed at the time as Scranton’s “first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser,” one taking the form of “a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests.”

“Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10,” the diocese said. “Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.”

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to local anti-hunger efforts by Catholic Social Services, including the local St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen “as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint.” 

The diocese continued the program for a third year, and the contest this year took the theme “Collars and Scholars,” with “some of the priests [being] assisted by Catholic school students and other young people.”

Sandy Snyder, the director of foundation relations and special events at the Diocese of Scranton, said that upon launching the program the diocese “considered it experimental and hoped to raise $50,000 to call it a success.” 

“We hit $50,000 pretty quickly, and the momentum just kept going,” she said. “We finished at $171,697 raised in our first year. So we knew there would be a Rectory, Set, Cook! 2023.”

“Last year, we finished at $197,313,” she said. “So this is the year we hope to make Rectory, Set, Cook! a six-figure fundraiser times two and raise more than $200,000, which is important because we’ve added homelessness as a second benefiting cause.” The diocese is focused on building a brand-new permanent shelter in Luzerne County, she said.

Lehman, the co-owner of the brewery, told CNA that the beer was brewed using “Pilsen, Munich, and melanoidin malts with Hallertau hops to balance out the sweetness.” 

“Notes of this medium-brown-hued malty sweet delight is that of toasted bread, slight caramel/toffee, with hints of raisins throughout,” he said.

“The beer was one of the top sellers since its release, competing with another one of our beers for the top slot each day,” Lehman said. “Although we made quite a bit, I believe at this rate, we may not have enough to make it through the 40 days.”

Van Fossen confirmed that the beer is selling “like Lenten fish dinners.” Buyers have ordered the drink from as far away as Maine, he said, allowing the diocese to direct considerable funds to its homeless program. 

“All we need to do is look to the cross,” the priest said. “So if the joy of Lent can be found in a beer while feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless, I think God is being glorified in all things.”

CPAC speakers urge lawmakers to embrace life, end coerced abortions

Stanton Healthcare CEO Brandi Swindell and Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance speak at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference. / Credit: CPAC Screenshot/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

With elections in the United States less than nine months away, pro-life speakers at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference are urging candidates for public office to embrace the issue of life and for lawmakers to crack down on coerced abortions. 

“At 16 weeks, a little baby girl has all her major organs, has fingernails and eyebrows, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice, and can feel pain,” Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said during a panel titled “Babies-R-Us.” 

“She’s an important part of our human family,” Nance said. 

The panel addressed the upcoming elections in the U.S., which includes races for the presidency, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 seats in the United States Senate. In 13 states, there will be elections for governor and several states will also hold local races. 

Nance criticized the “media” and the Washington, D.C., “consulting class,” which she claims has fed false narratives of the abortion issue.

“The other side thinks abortion should be legal any time, any reason, any number, at any point in gestation, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Nance continued. “That is an extremist position.”

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 states have passed into law stricter limits on abortion. However, in every state in which abortion policy was directly placed on the ballot via a ballot initiative since the overturning of Roe, every pro-life ballot initiative has failed and every pro-abortion initiative has succeeded.

Brandi Swindell, the founder and CEO of the pro-life pregnancy center group Stanton Healthcare, also spoke on the panel and emphasized the need to end coerced abortion. 

“If you are a victim or a survivor of abortion abuse, we believe you, we stand with you, and we will not abandon your stories, and there is help and hope,” Swindell said. “We have got to end abortion abuse as a society.” 

Stanton Healthcare is launching a new initiative and website to combat coerced abortion, which includes seeking criminal charges against anyone who has forced a woman to abort her child. Swindell said the organization already has 2,000 affidavits for confirmed cases of abortion abuse that they are looking into.

Swindell claims that the pro-abortion movement, including Planned Parenthood, “has normalized and enabled” abortion abuse. She said pro-life pregnancy centers provide alternatives for women who desire to keep their children.

“We stop the cycle of substance abuse, of domestic abuse, all these different things, of poverty, economic issues,” Swindell said.” When a woman finds hope through unexpected pregnancy, she gets her life together and does what’s best for her baby and what’s best for her if she has access to quality health care services that are life-affirming.”

During the panel, Nance encouraged women who regret their abortions and men who regret their participation in abortions to join the pro-life movement. “Our movement is replete with people who deeply regret their abortions,” Nance said.

“At the cross of Jesus Christ, he forgives all sin,” Nance continued. “There’s nothing you could ever have done that’s bad enough that he won’t love you, he won’t forgive you, and he won’t be in a relationship with you and want to spend eternity with you.”

CPAC is an annual event that features leading conservative speakers from the U.S. and around the world. The event, which is held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage released a schedule of all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes planned across the country and ending at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis this July. 

The stops, which were announced by organizers on Thursday, include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks.  

At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

According to the statement, each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims,” who have already been selected and whose names will be announced on March 11. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

After Alabama Supreme Court’s embryo personhood ruling, what comes next?

Technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

An Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos drew praise from pro-life groups. The possible wider effects of the decision, meanwhile, remain shrouded in uncertainty. 

The state Supreme Court ruled that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments.

The nine-judge court said in the 8-1 ruling that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is “sweeping and unqualified” and that its provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said. “It is not the role of this court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy.”

The court’s decision came about as part of a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The plaintiffs had argued that the destruction fell under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Pro-life advocates praised the decision. Katie Daniel, the state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement to CNA that the court in its ruling “recognized what is obvious and a scientific fact — life begins at conception.” 

“That does not mean fertility treatment is prohibited,” Daniel said. “Rather it means fertility treatments need not carelessly or intentionally destroy the new life created.” 

“Alabama or anyone concerned by this decision can look to Louisiana, which has had a law in place since the 1980s that requires IVF be practiced in a more ethical way,” she said. She noted that “1,000 babies are born every year in that state as a result of IVF.”

Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, likewise said after the ruling that the decision “affirms the scientific reality that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

“This ruling, which involved a wrongful-death claim brought by parents against a fertility clinic that negligently caused the death of their children, rightly acknowledged the humanity of unborn children created through in vitro fertilization,” Rose said, calling the decision “an important step towards applying equal protection for all.”

Will it affect other states?

Though the ruling was understandably welcomed by pro-life advocates, it is less certain how the court decision may play out beyond the state of Alabama.

The question before the state Supreme Court was whether or not frozen embryos should be considered children under Alabama state statute. Jay Tidmarsh, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that the ruling “decided only a question of state law.”

“On whether this will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, I think many people do not realize that the U.S. Supreme Court decides only issues of federal law,” Tidmarsh said. 

“On matters of [Alabama] state law, the Alabama Supreme Court has the final word, not the United States Supreme Court,” Tidmarsh said. 

“For the United States Supreme Court to become involved in this case, therefore, the Alabama decision must involve an issue of federal law,” he said.

The Constitution established the Supreme Court as overseeing cases involving “controversies to which the United States shall be a party,” as well as “controversies between two or more states.” The Alabama decision “does not decide or invoke any matter of federal law,” Tidmarsh pointed out. 

“I could well imagine some theories of federal law that the decision might implicate, but none of those theories was mentioned in the opinion,” he said. 

Danielle Pimentel, who serves as policy counsel at Americans United for Life, echoed Tidmarsh’s assessment. 

“Right now I don’t see there are any federal questions to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said. The decision was “focused on Alabama law and will stay within Alabama,” she said.

The ruling “doesn’t limit IVF or access to it,” she pointed out. “It simply ensures that both the parents and the children are protected under the Wrongful Death of the Minor Act. If the fertility clinic is acting negligently, parents can potentially bring a civil claim.”

The state Supreme Court’s decision, meanwhile, is only part of the lawsuit brought by the parents whose embryonic children had died at the fertility clinic, Pimentel noted. 

“[The court’s ruling] wasn’t a ruling on the merits,” she said. “We still don’t know what a trial court will decide on whether the defendants have violated the act. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the trial court decides.”

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of embryos. There are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted.”

The Holy Father had noted at the time that there “seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.” 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, meanwhile, wrote in the 1987 document Donum Vitae that even an IVF and embryo-transfer procedure that is “free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it.”

CPAC speakers stress the role of faith in healing from sex trafficking

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Faith plays an important role in the healing process for those who have survived human trafficking, a victim of sex trafficking and a founder of a shelter for victims shared during a panel discussion at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Just remember that when you were little, when all of you were small, just like myself, there are dreams … ideas and thoughts about life and what you want to be; who you want to be,” said Tanya Gould, who was a victim of human trafficking and now serves as the director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.

“It takes faith to believe that you’re still that person after all of that has happened to you,” Gould said.

An important part of the recovery process, according to Gould, was “having people and places and folks that believe in … just me being human — who I am and being [made] in the image of God.”

Elizabeth Ameling, the founder and executive director of The Latisha’s House Foundation, which provides housing for sex trafficking victims, said those who work at her shelter tell women that “they’ve always been loved and there’s no one like them,” adding that the group’s housing manager tells them: “You’re the apple of God’s eye, he only made one of you, [and] you’re perfect.”

“We say that to them because [most of them] don’t have moms and dads — overwhelmingly their parents are dead or in prison,” Ameling said. “They have to have that connection. If they develop that while they’re in our house, they do better going through counseling, they do better dealing with addiction and it is transformative because it lets them know they’re loved.”

The panelists also discussed efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement and government initiatives.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, another member of the panel, encouraged officials to go after those who purchase sexual services from women, noting that many of the women are victims of trafficking. He said that this emphasis, which his state is focusing on through Operation Buyer’s Remorse, ensures that women who are victims are not being prosecuted.

“Don’t buy sex in Ohio,” Yost said. “If the money dries up, the trafficking will dry up.”

Yost added that the influx of people immigrating into the United States illegally has heightened the problem of sex and labor trafficking in the United States. He argued that this problem is “dispersing everywhere” and is not just taking place in states that border Mexico.

“There’s no such thing as a border state anymore,” Yost said. “Or maybe I should say every state is a border state.”

Gould also highlighted the importance of raising awareness of sex trafficking as a means to combat the illicit market. She said a major part of Virginia’s efforts includes awareness to businesses and employees.

CPAC is an annual event that hosts conservative and Republican speakers. The event, which is located at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

Catholic University installs Crucifixion artwork by imprisoned Catholic activist Jimmy Lai

A drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai is unveiled by Lai's godfather, William McGurn, and his wife and daughter at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. / Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., has installed a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Hong Kong Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.

Father Robert Sirico, a supporter and friend of Lai’s, said during the installation ceremony on Thursday that the sketch is a testimony “not just of Jimmy’s struggle but the struggle of all people of Hong Kong” and “all of the people of China, who will, by faith, resist [oppression].”

The large drawing depicts Christ on the cross flanked by eight orange flowers. It was created by Lai in prison, where, according to Sirico, he has been kept in solitary confinement for close to 1,500 days.

A drawing of the Crucifixion created in prison by Catholic Hong Konger and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai now on display at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America
A drawing of the Crucifixion created in prison by Catholic Hong Konger and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai now on display at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

The picture was blessed by university chaplain Father Aquinas Guilbeau. It is now on permanent display by the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel in Catholic University’s Busch School of Business.

Catholic University Chaplain and Vice President of Ministry and Mission Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, blesses a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America
Catholic University Chaplain and Vice President of Ministry and Mission Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, blesses a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

Who is Jimmy Lai?

A successful entrepreneur, newspaper owner, Catholic, and outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Lai has been in a Hong Kong prison since 2020 for his pro-democracy and free speech advocacy.

The activist, a convert to Catholicism, was originally arrested in August 2020 under that year’s controversial national security law, which was passed by China’s communist-controlled government. The law sharply curtailed free speech in Hong Kong in an effort to quash what the Chinese Communist Party considered subversion and sedition in the separately administered region.

The plaque below Lai’s drawing at Catholic University explains that he “cites his Catholic faith as the basis for his refusal to be silenced or flee to save himself from arrest.”

Sirico said that the Hong Kong activist willingly chose to give up his comfortable, affluent life by resisting the CCP and refusing to leave Hong Kong. Although Hong Kongers have for years enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than that found in mainland China, that is now quickly changing as Chinese officials crack down on the region.

“If I go away, I not only give up my destiny, I give up God, I give up my religion, I give up what I believe in,” Lai said in 2020. “I am what I am. I am what I believe. I cannot change it. And if I can’t change it, I have to accept my fate with praise.”

Sirico told CNA that Lai sees his imprisonment as a way of joining in Christ’s passion on the cross. He said that the drawing should serve as an inspiring reminder that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Father Robert Sirico, founder of the Acton Institute and producer of a documentary on Jimmy Lai called "The Hong Konger," gives an address at the installation and blessing of a drawing of the crucifixion by Lai at The Catholic University of America's Busch School of Business, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America
Father Robert Sirico, founder of the Acton Institute and producer of a documentary on Jimmy Lai called "The Hong Konger," gives an address at the installation and blessing of a drawing of the crucifixion by Lai at The Catholic University of America's Busch School of Business, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

In prison, Sirico said that Lai has devoted himself to religious reading and prayer. He has also begun creating religious drawings, mostly pictures of the Crucifixion, like the one now on display at Catholic University.

A symbol of resistance

CUA has been a vocal supporter of Lai in previous years. In 2022, the university awarded Lai an honorary degree.

Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, Catholic University’s president, told CNA that Lai “represents resistance to real oppression” and that he “represents freedom.”  

Kilpatrick said that he hopes students will look at the drawing and learn about Lai and his resistance in Hong Kong and realize that “there are still people in the world who are willing to fight for the truth and who are willing to fight for freedom.”

“I see freedoms being denied all around the world,” Kilpatrick said. “In 2024, we may have to fight harder … not just in Hong Kong, but perhaps right here in the United States, for freedom to worship as we should and must, for the freedom and the dignity of the human person, which is under assault.”

Chen Guangcheng, a world-renowned Chinese human rights activist known commonly as the “barefoot lawyer,” was also at the dedication ceremony. He told CNA that he came to show his support for Lai. 

“Jimmy Lai is a good person,” Guangcheng said. “He used his media to see the truth; that is why the CCP persecuted him.” 

Guangcheng urged Americans to do more in support of freedom in Hong Kong and mainland China.

“I think if the Western people and government stand with them, the situation still can change,” he said.

Pope Francis erects new diocese, names bishop in West African country of Guinea

Monsignor Moïse Tinguiano was appointed bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Boké in Guinea on Feb. 22, 2024. / Credit: Conakry Archdiocese

Rome Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 13:40 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday erected the new Diocese of Boké in the West African country of Guinea, with the new bishopric coming from territory previously under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Conakry. 

According to the figures provided by the Holy See Press Office, in the new diocese the total population sits at 1,153,909, of which 10,225 are Catholic. There will be six parishes, 11 diocesan priests, one religious priest, four seminarians, and 12 religious sisters. 

Leading the new diocese will be Monsignor Moïse Tinguiano, who has served as the parish priest of the Church of St. Augustin de Taouyah in Conakry since 2018.

Tinguiano was born on Dec. 11, 1977, and undertook his priestly studies at the minor seminary of St. John XXIII in Kindia. He went on to study philosophy and theology at the St. Augustin Samayah Major Seminary in Bamako, Mali. He was ordained to the priesthood on Nov. 26, 2006, and since then has served in a variety of pastoral roles. 

The bishop-elect went on to obtain a doctorate in catechetics and youth ministry from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, concluding his studies in 2017. 

From 2018 he served as the pastor of the Parish of St. Augustin de Taouyah, as a professor in the Benedict XVI seminary, and as director of the Catholic Radio Station La Voix de la Paix (the Voice of the People). 

Conakry is the capital and most populous city in the predominantly Sunni Muslim western African country, with nearly 89% of its residents Muslim, while only 7% identify as Christian. 

There have been multiple initiatives undertaken in Boké to promote religious dialogue in the predominantly Muslim country.

In 2022 the new governor of the administrative region of Boké, Mamadou Camara, launched the first-ever series of meetings aimed at bridging sectarian divisions between religious groups and building regional and national unity. 

According to Camara, religion has played an invaluable role in promoting “social peace,” and the prayers from religious leaders have “allowed Guinea to avoid numerous social crises and political tensions.” 

The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Guinea in 1875, and in 1890 the Conakry Mission was established. Guinea became an apostolic prefecture in 1897 and was made an apostolic vicariate in 1920. The Archdiocese of Conakry was erected on Sept. 14, 1955.

Why did four Mexican bishops meet with organized crime bosses?

The central plaza in Taxco, a city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Four Catholic bishops recently made media headlines after it was learned that they had met with members of organized crime in the Mexican state of Guerrero. 

The bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, José de Jesús González, confirmed at a press conference last week that the prelates of the Ecclesiastical Province of Acapulco “began to seek talks with the [crime] bosses who could bring about peace” in the region. However, he lamented that that goal “was not achieved.”

The other three prelates who participated in the effort were the archbishop of Acapulco, Leopoldo González; the bishop of Tlapa, Dagoberto Sosa; and the bishop of Ciudad Altamirano, Joel Ocampo.

Church ‘cannot remain indifferent’ to suffering

In a Feb. 21 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Father Mario Ángel Flores Ramos of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference and former rector of the Pontifical University of Mexico, discussed what he considers the two main considerations that led to the bishops’ meeting with the organized crime figures.

Flores pointed out that in the first place, the Catholic Church “cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of the community.” The Mexican priest noted that parish priests, as an active part of society, “are in direct contact with the realities faced by the population, which motivates the Church to seek to overcome conflicts and act as a mediator in crisis situations.”

He also stressed that priests do not have the responsibility of “finding an in-depth solution” but rather the Church tries to get the rival gangs “to reach agreements among themselves so as not to fight and thus prevent the problem from growing.”

The second reason, Flores explained, is the “lack of effective action by the authorities to maintain order” and “combat impunity.”

“Even taking into account that there is a presence of the National Guard, some state or municipal police, there’s no action and even less effectiveness. So there is impunity,” he lamented.

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador created the National Guard in 2019. It replaced the former Federal Police of Mexico and was given a mandate to “guarantee public safety.”

Flores said that the level of violence in the country exceeds any “sensitivity and respect for human life.” This situation, he noted, “leads the Church to try to make this situation a little less burdensome for everyone.”

Furthermore, the priest highlighted that “religious figures still carry a lot of weight with criminals” and “they retain respect and a certain trust for nuns, priests, and bishops. This, he said, gives the Catholic Church the “ability to be mediators even in intense conflicts.”

Guerrero, a ‘failed state’

Acapulco, the largest and best-known city in Guerrero, has been on the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world in the last two years according to the report compiled by the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. In 2022 the city was ranked 10th, and in 2023 it was ranked 15th.

Various crime gangs such as Los Ardillos, Los Tlacos, Guerreros Unidos, La Familia Michoacana, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, and the Sierra Cartel are fighting among themselves in turf wars and for the control of drug trafficking routes in the region. 

In Guerrero, poppies are grown from which opium and finally heroin are produced. The use of this substance, along with fentanyl and occasionally cocaine, has resulted in a powerful drug known as China White.

According to figures from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, in 2023, 1,398 first-degree homicides were recorded in Guerrero. Of these, 1,026 were carried out with firearms.

However, according to a security expert, the official figures could be lower than the real ones.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, José Antonio Ortega Sánchez, president of the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, pointed out that “it is very likely that the figures on the incidence of homicides in Mexico are higher.” He contends “there is an operation that can’t be concealed to hide the real figures.”

Ortega also referred to the role of the Catholic Church in addressing violence in Guerrero.

The security expert described Guerrero as “a failed state” where criminal organizations “exercise dominant control.” In addition, he said that the “inaction” of the authorities along with “impunity” are the factors that contribute to violence in the region.

“Given the defenselessness of the people of Guerrero and the power of the criminal organizations, the bishops of the Guerrero region decided to intervene directly, seeking to reach an understanding with the crime leaders to stop the clashes and protect the population,” he said.

The president of the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice noted that the business of crime gangs “is not limited only to drug trafficking” but also covers a wide range of criminal activities, “such as collecting protection money, robberies, kidnappings, and extortion.” This situation, he said, “has led the Church to intervene in search of peaceful solutions.”

Ortega stressed that the only thing the Church is asking for is “peace, tranquility, and security for the population, which is the first obligation of the government toward its citizens.”

Not meeting to make a deal

The bishop emeritus of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, Salvador Rangel, who has held similar meetings with members of organized crime, said that the recent meeting of the prelates of Guerrero state was “not an agreement, it was simply talking, dialoguing.”

In a Feb. 16 interview with ACI Prensa, Rangel lamented that “the ones who have won the battle here are the drug traffickers.”

However, he encouraged people not to lose hope and, whatever may happen, to work so that everything turns out for the good of the people: “We mustn’t lose faith and hope,” he said.

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

Large families association launches ‘Save the planet, have more children’ campaign

A father and son observe pro-natalist billboard campaign in Madrid, Spain. / Credit: Large Families Association of Madrid

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Large Families Association of Madrid in Spain has launched an advertising campaign featuring the message “Save the planet, have more children.” 

The campaign’s objective is to “turn on its head the prevailing pessimism and invite more people to experience the joy that comes with a large family.”

On billboards and in publicity throughout metropolitan Madrid, the campaign also directly challenges people to consider that “a world without pollution is not worth it if there are no people to enjoy it.”

The association said in a statement that the campaign aims to “challenge passersby to ask themselves what reasons may be leading them to close themselves off from the possibility of expanding their family.”

The campaign tries to make people reflect upon such common attitudes as “Kids? I already have a dog,” “One is enough,” and “Two, but not one more!”

The ads include a QR code that invites readers to watch and share a video that exposes the programs of international institutions that are pressuring governments to enact neo-Malthusian policies to reduce the world population.

This agenda has resulted in a growing reduction in aid to large families. The narrator of the campaign’s video observes: “They tell us that we have to reduce the population... and that’s why they’ll help us with abortion, ideologies, or eliminating aid to large families.”

In addition, the video narration refers to issues such as the manipulation of language, such as: “They call it reproductive health care” or the threat posed by growing depopulation in rural areas by noting: “Do you know where there is room left? In the parks, which are empty, or in the schools, which are closing more and more classrooms.” 

The video concludes by pointing out: “They say they have calculated how much each child pollutes... and they have forgotten that a world without pollution is not worth it if there are no people to enjoy it.”

The Large Families Association’s ad campaign is reminiscent of a similar one that ran in New York’s Times Square in January by EveryLife, the leading pro-life diaper company in the U.S., which featured a post by X owner Elon Musk that read: “Having children is saving the world.”

Coinciding with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January, below the Musk quote the billboard touted: “Make more babies.” 

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