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Anglican Church reports synod member to police for tweeting ‘hate speech’

A view of a Pride flag hanging from Peterborough Cathedral in 2019 / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

As Church of England leaders meet in a contentious synod over whether to bless same-sex unions, tensions escalated when a diocese reported a lay synod member to police for “hate speech.” 

The Diocese of Coventry announced reported synod member Sam Margrave to the police after he reportedly posted his beliefs that same-sex relationships are sinful. The diocese is part of the Anglican communion and not in communion with the Catholic Church.

Margarve has been a vocal critic of Anglican Church leaders who want to bless homosexual unions and those who want to go further and perform marriages for homosexual couples.

Bishop Christopher Cocksworth of the Diocese of Coventry informed Margrave that they had reported him to the police, according to a news release from the United Kingdom-based Christian advocacy group Christian Concern. 

“The diocesan secretary has had no option, in view of a number of complaints received, [but] to report your offending tweets to the West Midlands Police and is in continuing conversation with them,” the correspondence read. 

“[The police] have advised her that they have been able to speak to you but that you continue to deny you have done anything wrong.”

When contacted by CNA, the diocese forwarded its statement condemning Margrave but refused to comment further on its decision to report him to the police. 

In its statement, the diocese wrote that “everyone has the right to feel safe when interacting online” and encouraged people to read an information sheet that includes information about how to receive mental health support and report supposed hate speech to social media companies and local police. 

“We are extremely sorry when an individual makes comments that fall short of the social media guidelines published by the Church of England and fails to behave in a way fitting of their office as a member of Synod,” the statement read. 

“We continue to take all the appropriate action available to us, including reporting the matter to external agencies, and are working to introduce a Code of Conduct with sanctions for non-compliance to our own Synod. We have not taken these actions lightly and have only done so in view of the sheer number of complaints received from third parties, and only after other avenues have been exhausted, including repeated offers of support to the individual concerned.”

Mexican court rules against pro-family leader who called a trans woman legislator a man

Member of Mexico Congress Salma Luévano. / Credit: Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 6, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

The Specialized Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary in Mexico has ruled against the National Front for the Family (FNF) and its president, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, for calling Salma Luévano, a “trans” woman congressional representative, a “man.”

In a Feb. 2 statement, the court said that Cortés and the FNF “committed political violence against women based on gender due to various posts on social media and the internet against the federal congresswoman, Salma Luévano, and trans women.”

To the Specialized Chamber, “the reported expressions were offensive and discriminatory by rejecting the gender identity and devaluing the performance of the federal congresswoman, which constituted digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence against her.”

“Consequently, a fine was imposed on the aforementioned association as well as on its president; in addition, the publication of a retraction of the sentence was ordered [to be posted] on the social media on which the offense was committed, the issuance of a public apology, and other comprehensive reparation measures and guarantees of non-repetition,” the statement added.

This ruling is the most recent episode in a controversy that arose after Luévano, a member of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, showed up in the Federal Congress on Sept. 21, 2022, wearing clothing similar to that of a Catholic bishop.

On that occasion, Luévano announced a bill to reform the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship, which would allow churches that, according to the bill’s criteria, spread “hate speech,” to be penalized.

“The full weight of the law [must fall on] those leaders who incite hatred against us until [our] dignity becomes the norm,” said Luévano, who wore a miter and a red chasuble.

The National Front for the Family, along with the Citizens Initiative platform, charged in a social media post that “the transsexual deputy [legislator] Salma Luévano” by his actions “offends the believers of a religion but insults all of Christianity.” 

Cortés later said in a video that Luévano is “a man who describes himself as a woman, who demands respect, but it is exactly what he does not give, he asks for what he does not give, with tremendous disrespect.”

These and other posts critical of Luévano were deleted from social media by order of the Grievances and Complaints Commission of the National Electoral Institute in November 2022.

The verdict of the Specialized Chamber against Cortés and the FNF could be appealed to the Superior Chamber of Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, whose mission, according to its website, is “to resolve controversies in electoral matters, protect the political-electoral rights of male and female citizens, and administer justice in the electoral sphere.”

The Superior Chamber ruled last year against Congressman Gabriel Quadri from the opposition National Action Party for criticizing “trans” congressmen occupying spaces reserved for women in the Congress of the Union (i.e., federal congress).

Based on the notion of “parity” added to the constitution in recent years, state agencies in Mexico must aim to be made up of 50% men and 50% women. That includes both houses of the Congress of the Union, Mexico’s national legislature.

According to the court ruling, Quadri’s name must remain for two years and nine months in the “National Registry of Persons Sanctioned in Matters of Political Violence against Women based on Gender.”

Months prior, Quadri was sanctioned by the National Action Party’s Platform Committee for calling Salma Luévano “sir.”

The verdict against Cortés and the FNF was criticized by well-known pro-life and pro-family politician Juan Carlos Leal, a former state representative from Nuevo León.

In response, Salma Luévano taunted “@CarlosLealMx you want to end up like the transphobes of @gquadri and @rodrigoivanc: suspended of their political-electoral rights.”

In his posts, Luévano used ungrammatical gender-neutral endings to words that in Spanish have either masculine or feminine endings.

‘We are already in a gender dictatorship’

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Leal pointed out that Luévano is a “man who perceives himself as a woman and who is taking the place of a woman in the Congress of the Union.”

“We are already in a gender dictatorship. It’s a dictatorship where if you think differently, and if you mention a biological truth, that sex cannot be changed, you can now be fined by an electoral authority,” he criticized.

Leal pointed out that it ought to be determined in the legal system “if this electoral authority has the jurisdiction to penalize anyone for this kind of situation.”

For the Mexican pro-family politician, “it’s unfortunate that we are already living through a gender dictatorship imposed by the progressive and left-wing governments that have ruled the country.”

“We really require a change now, we need a right-wing party to be formed now, that a right-wing government be formed, and we hope that this will be very soon,” he said.

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

The ‘Four Chaplains,’ selfless heroes of WWII, honored on 80th anniversary of their deaths

The Four Chaplains — Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest (pictured above); Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; and Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister — gave their life jackets to save others when their ship was torpedoed in the frigid North Atlantic in 1943. / Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 6, 2023 / 14:36 pm (CNA).

A crowd of military veterans, their families, and Boy Scouts filled a New Jersey parish church on Sunday to honor the “Four Chaplains” — a band of men of different faiths who all sacrificed their lives to save others on the torpedoed U.S.A.T. Dorchester 80 years ago. 

“Most of us will never die a hero’s death… But all of us are called by the idea of faith to, day in and day out, give of ourselves,” said Bishop Gregory J. Studerus, an Archdiocese of Newark auxiliary bishop, who presided over the Feb. 5 Mass. 

“Day in and day out we look for ways of being generous, ways of being kind, ways of reaching out and touching the heart of those who are sad and mourning, reaching out and touching those who are oppressed. And sometimes [we go] as far as the ones we honor today, giving our lives because of faith.” 

Newark Auxiliary Bishop Gregory J. Studerus of held up the Four Chaplains’ sacrifice as the ultimate sign of faith during the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
Newark Auxiliary Bishop Gregory J. Studerus of held up the Four Chaplains’ sacrifice as the ultimate sign of faith during the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

The Four Chaplains — Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; and Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister — gave their life jackets to save others when their ship was torpedoed in the frigid North Atlantic in 1943. 

The Mass commemorating the 80th anniversary of the chaplains’ sacrifice took place at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearney, New Jersey — the last parish where Washington served before being dispatched for war. 

The Feb. 5 ceremonies featured a presentation of colors featuring veterans organizations, Boy Scouts, and the Knights of Columbus. A group of Boy Scouts received special Four Chaplains patches after completing an educational program designed by St. Stephen’s Boy Scout Unit 305 in honor of the 80th anniversary.

Several veterans’ organizations, including the Marine Corps League, participated in a presentation of colors to begin the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
Several veterans’ organizations, including the Marine Corps League, participated in a presentation of colors to begin the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

Washington, Fox, Goode, and Poling, all first lieutenants, met in 1942, having been inspired to sign up as military chaplains after Pearl Harbor. Their vessel, the Dorchester, a troop ship bound for a U.S. military base in Greenland, was struck by a U-boat torpedo in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943. Washington had celebrated Mass just hours before the hit and began to offer absolution. 

The chaplains calmly assisted and encouraged numerous civilians and soldiers, offering them their own life jackets as the terrified crowd sped to the lifeboats. 

“When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line,” a history from the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation noted. 

The chaplains themselves all stayed behind as the ship capsized and sank in just 20 minutes. They joined more than 670 of their peers as they perished, reportedly with locked arms and hymns on their lips. 

Many of the 230 survivors lauded the chaplains’ selfless actions. At one point, Petty Officer John J. Mahoney remembered returning to his cabin to find his gloves. Rabbi Goode stopped him, saying, “Never mind. I have two pairs,” and handed him some — Mahoney later realized the rabbi had given him his only pair. 

One eyewitness, John Ladd, said as reported by Columbia magazine: “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

The St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band performed “Amazing Grace” at the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
The St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band performed “Amazing Grace” at the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

“The Four Chaplains did something without hesitation that a lot of us would at least pause to think about before doing,” said Father Joe Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, this week. 

“They selflessly acted out of faith in God and a need to help others. They were true heroes, and it’s important to look to them at a time when so many people are only thinking about themselves. That’s the goal of this Mass and everything else we do at the parish — we want to keep the Four Chaplains at the forefront of people’s minds even 80 years later.”

In 1944, all four men posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, and in 1948 a U.S. postage stamp was issued in their honor bearing the words “These Immortal Chaplains.” Then, in 1988, a unanimous act of Congress established Feb. 3 as the annual Four Chaplains Day, Columbia reported. 

Police say church vandal was about to break into tabernacle — until he saw the statue of Mary

Jerrid Farnam, 32, has been charged with several felonies in connection with a violent vandalism at Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco, Arkansas, on Jan. 5, 2023. He said he was about to begin breaking open the tabernacle where the consecrated bread is kept, but something stopped him in his tracks: a statue of the Virgin Mary. / Credit: Logan County Sheriff's Office / Suzanne Stratford YouTube screen shot

Boston, Mass., Feb 6, 2023 / 13:55 pm (CNA).

In early January, a man entered a Benedictine monastery in Arkansas and began smashing the altar with a sledgehammer.

He was about to begin breaking open the tabernacle where the consecrated bread is kept, but something stopped him in his tracks: a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Jerrid Farnam, 32, of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, was arrested for the crimes of property damage and theft committed at Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco, Arkansas, and is currently incarcerated awaiting trial.

Sheriff Jason Massey of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office told CNA that when they brought the suspect in he confessed to the crime. But, Farnam told the police, after he looked up and saw a statue of Mary, he couldn’t continue to break open the tabernacle as he had planned to do.

“He decided he just couldn’t do it,” Massey said. “I think he felt it was wrong at that point.”

Subiaco Abbey had reported that on Jan. 5, a man using “a regular hammer and sledgehammer/axe” began destroying the abbey’s marble altar by smashing it in different places. Founded in 1878, Subiaco is home to a community of 39 Benedictine monks.

The suspect left a gaping hole in the top of the altar and broke open stones that contain relics, the abbey said. Two reliquaries — small, brass-colored boxes that each contained three relics of saints from more than 1,500 years ago — were stolen, according to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office.

Father Elijah Owens, OSB, the abbot of the monastery, told CNA in January that the relics contained in one of the reliquaries were those of St. Boniface, St. Tiberius, and St. Benedict of Nursia.

The other reliquary contained the relics of St. Tiberius, St. Marcellus, and St. Justina, Owens said.

A video of the damage can be seen below.

The abbey said in its press release that the man approached the tabernacle and removed a cross located on top as well as the tabernacle’s veil before being “interrupted.”

Farnam was arrested the same day and three of the relics were found in his truck.

At the time, the reliquary containing the relics of St. Tiberius, St. Marcellus, and St. Justina was still missing. The sheriff’s office later discovered them in a trash can in Farnam’s father’s house. 

Farnam gave the reliquary to his father, who, unaware of the nature of the objects, threw the contents of the container in the trash, while keeping the container for himself, the sheriff said.

“Luckily there was no food or anything on them. They were found in great condition,” he added.

Massey said that one of the seven offenses Farnam was charged with was theft of property, a Class B felony, which is the highest classification of a felony in the state, he said.

“You can’t put a price on those relics. They’re 1,500 years old,” he said.

Farnam thought that Jesus’ bones were in the altar and that God was telling him to remove the bones, Massey told CNA. He added that Farnam has a history of substance abuse and was intoxicated during his arrest. 

The abbey is under repairs, and a portable altar will now be used until repairs are made, according to the abbey’s press release.

AP tells reporters to call crisis pregnancy centers ‘anti-abortion centers’

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 13:21 pm (CNA).

The Associated Press (AP) issued new guidelines advising reporters not to use the terms “crisis pregnancy center” or “pregnancy resource center” but to instead refer to centers that offer pro-life counseling and support as “anti-abortion centers.”

Reporters should “avoid potentially misleading terms such as pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy counseling centers,” because “these terms don’t convey that the centers’ general aim is to prevent abortions,” according to the AP’s Abortion Topical Guide.

The AP publishes the most widely used style guide, which journalists and editors across the country look to determine proper rules for coverage. According to the Daily Signal, the AP made the rule change in November 2022.

In its updated guidance, the AP states that though the centers provide “counseling, material support and/or housing,” because their purpose is to “divert or discourage women from having abortions” they should be labeled “anti-abortion centers.”

The new AP policy suggests the term “crisis pregnancy center” be used only if placed within quotation marks and if it is explained that its purpose is to “dissuade people from getting an abortion.”

The AP instructs reporters to frame the abortion debate as “anti-abortion” or “abortion rights” and to not use the term “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”

Reporters are also advised not to talk about a fetal heartbeat when referring to laws that ban abortion after a detectable heartbeat. Rather, the guide says, they should use the term “cardiac activity” as “the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and it has only begun forming a rudimentary heart.”

“The Associated Press shows itself to be tongue-tied with political correctness in trying to finesse how to explain organizations dedicated to public service,” Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist at Students for Life of America, told CNA.

“Without any sense of irony, they want to call Pregnancy Resource Centers ‘anti-abortion centers,’ diminishing the love and support such nonprofits offer to mothers and their children, born and preborn,” Hamrick said. “With that logic, hospitals must be ‘anti-death centers’ and our food support through the federal government named ‘anti-starving’ programs.”

Crisis pregnancy centers, which typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials, have faced a spate of attacks, vandalism, and acts of intimidation since May 2022, when the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked.

According to the Family Research Council, more than 100 pregnancy centers, churches, and pro-life organizations have been attacked or vandalized.

See CNA’s coverage of the attacks against pregnancy resource centers and pro-life groups and churches below.

Some Democratic politicians, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have called for a “crackdown” on crisis pregnancy centers. In an August 2022 speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Warren decried pregnancy centers as “organizations that deliberately deceive women and girls who are seeking help to terminate a pregnancy.”

In another viral video, Warren said pregnancy centers “torture” pregnant women and called for them to be shut down across the nation.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua sentences priest critical of the regime to 10 years in prison

Father Oscar Benavidez. / Credit: Parish of the Holy Spirit of Mulukukú, Nicaragua

CNA Newsroom, Feb 6, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The dictatorship in Nicaragua, led by President Daniel Ortega, sentenced Father Óscar Danilo Benavidez Dávila to 10 years in prison for the alleged crimes of “conspiracy” and “spreading fake news” to the detriment of the regime.

The news site Despacho 505 obtained access to the closed-doors verdict and reported Feb. 4 that the Tenth Criminal Trial District Court of Managua, presided by Judge Nancy Aguirre, had sentenced the priest on Jan. 24.

According to the ruling, after a trial riddled with irregularities, the priest was given five years in prison for the crime of “spreading fake news” and another five for “undermining national security and sovereignty.”

In addition, the Catholic priest was fined 49,917 córdobas, about $1,350. 

Benavidez, 50, known for being a critic of the dictatorship, has been in custody since Aug. 14, 2022, when he was arrested after celebrating a Mass in the Conception of Mary chapel in the Diocese of Siuna.

He was found guilty Jan. 16 and the state prosecution requested a sentence of eight years in prison. However, the court sentenced him to 10 years.

Despacho 505 noted that Benavidez is the first priest sentenced for “conspiracy and cybercrimes, crimes invented by the regime of Daniel Ortega and [his wife, Vice President] Rosario Murillo to imprison opponents.”

According to the priest’s defense, during the trial the alleged “crime” he committed was expressing his opinion in a social media post.

The Nicaraguan news outlet Mosaico reported Jan. 16 that the only trial hearing lasted fewer than eight hours.

In total there are nine Nicaraguan clergy that the dictatorship has accused of the crime of “conspiracy,” including Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was  arrested along with other priests around 3 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2022.

A recent report from the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, endorsed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), indicated that the number of political prisoners in Nicaragua has risen to 245 as of January 2023.

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

3 dead, 20 injured after bus traveling to Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Mexico overturns

null / Credit: pixelaway/Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 6, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Three pilgrims died and another 20 — including at least two minors — were injured Sunday in a traffic accident on the Mexico-Puebla highway as they were traveling to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The pilgrims began their journey from the town of Ajalpan in the Mexican state of Puebla when the brakes of the bus they were traveling in reportedly failed and the vehicle overturned around 6 a.m. on the highway that connects Puebla with Mexico City.

According to the local press, the pilgrims were an hour and a half from their destination in a trip that takes more than four hours.

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Sánchez Espinosa of Puebla included the deceased and injured among the intentions of the Mass he celebrated Sunday. “We join therefore in prayer to God Our Lord, praying for them and for their families,” the prelate said.

The Primatial Archdiocese of Mexico also stated that “we join in prayer after the accident that occurred on the Mexico-Puebla highway, praying to Holy Mary of Guadalupe for our deceased brothers and their families.”

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

Church in Costa Rica to compensate four victims of ex-priest serving 20-year sentence

null / sergign/shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 6, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

The Costa Rican Bishops’ Conference and the Archdiocese of San José announced that an agreement has been reached to compensate four victims of sexual abuse by ex-priest Mauricio Víquez Lizano, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The bishops said in a Feb. 1 statement that in order to close the legal proceedings for damages against the victims, “an agreement has been reached” that is “satisfactory to all parties.”

“According to what is established in this instrument, the content of this agreement is subject to a confidentiality clause, so no statements will be made in this regard,” the local Church said.

The bishops’ conference and the Archdiocese of San José stated that “the problem of the sexual abuse of minors is a dramatic situation in society” and added that “the Church regrets that cases have occurred in ecclesial contexts and works actively for prevention in order to provide safe environments.”

In August 2022, a court ruled against the Costa Rican Bishops’ Conference, San José Archbishop José Rafael Quirós, and the Temporal Assets of the Archdiocese of San José for covering up Lizano’s sexual abuse.

The compensation amounted to 65 million colones, about $114,000.

The Church indicated at the time that it would appeal the sentence, but after several months, an agreement was finally reached with the victims.

The former priest Víquez was sentenced on March 30, 2022, to 20 years in prison for sexual abuse and the rape of an 11-year-old boy in 2003.

The abuse of the victim, who at the time was a minor, took place at St. John the Baptist Parish in Patarrá de Desamparados on the outskirts of San José when Víquez was the pastor there.

According to the local newspaper Delfino, the former priest “was also accused of 29 counts of non-penetrating sexual abuse; 22 for sexual abuse of a minor; one for attempted rape; three for rape; five for the dissemination of pornography; and one for aggravated corruption of a minor involving sexual practices.”

Víquez was captured in Mexico on Aug. 18, 2019, six months after leaving Costa Rica. Interpol had issued an international arrest warrant for him, and following his arrest he was extradited to his home country.

Víquez, who for a time was a spokesman for the Church in Costa Rica, was expelled from the clerical state by a decree dated Feb. 25, 2019.

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

European court: Russia violated human rights by not legally recognizing gay unions

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France / CherryX|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 09:55 am (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Jan. 17 that Russia violated the human rights of three homosexual couples because the government did not have any formal legal recognition of those unions under Russian law.

Two female homosexual couples and one male homosexual couple claimed Russia’s failure to recognize their request for homosexual marriages violated the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. One of the couples brought their claims to the court in 2010 and the other two brought their claims in 2014, while Russia was subject to the European Convention on Human Rights because of an international treaty. Although Russia backed out of the treaty on Sept. 16, 2022, the court ruled that it still had jurisdiction because the country was subject to the treaty when the claims were originally brought before the court.

The court ruled in the case of Fedotova v. Russia that Russia did not need to recognize homosexual marriage under the convention but that it needed to have some formal legal recognition of same-sex couples, such as civil unions, as long as the homosexual couples had similar legal rights to married couples. 

According to the court, the Russian government argued that “it was necessary to preserve the traditional institutions of marriage and the family” because they are “fundamental values of Russian society that were protected by the Constitution.” The court ruled against that argument, claiming that the recognition of these unions would not jeopardize the rights of heterosexual couples. 

“There is no basis for considering that affording legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples in a stable and committed relationship could in itself harm families constituted in the traditional way or compromise their future or integrity,” the court ruled.

“Indeed, the recognition of same-sex couples does not in any way prevent different-sex couples from marrying or founding a family corresponding to their conception of that term,” the court ruled. “More broadly, securing rights to same-sex couples does not in itself entail weakening the rights secured to other people or other couples. … The Court considers that the protection of the traditional family cannot justify the absence of any form of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples in the present case.”

Although Russia does not have an explicit ban on homosexual marriage, according to the court, Article 1 of the Russian Family Code defines marriage as a “voluntary marital union between a man and a woman” and does not include any recognition of homosexual marriages. The court also noted that the form for a notice of marriage contains two fields, one for the man and one for the woman, which means the form’s structure prevents it from being used to marry homosexual couples. There is no alternative legal recognition of homosexual couples in Russia. 

The homosexual couples sought €50,000 (more than $54,000) in damages, but the court stated that its common practice is to only award money to offset the costs and expenses incurred through the proceedings. Because the applicants did not submit any claims for those costs, the court did not award any monetary damages. 

Homosexual unions are legally recognized in 21 of the 27 countries in the European Union and homosexual marriages are legally recognized in only 14 of them. 

The consistent teaching of the Catholic Church is that marriage is between a man and a woman. As Pope Francis noted in Amoris Laetitia, quoting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” 

Pope Francis, Syriac Patriarch call for prayers after devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

A woman reacts as rescuers search for survivors through the rubble of collapsed buildings in Adana, Turkey, on Feb. 6, 2023, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s southeast. The combined death toll for Turkey and Syria after the region’s strongest quake in nearly a century is in the thousands. / Photo by CAN EROK/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Feb 6, 2023 / 09:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis and local Church leaders on Monday reacted with dismay and calls for prayer following a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

According to Reuters, the series of earthquakes — up to 7.8 magnitude — killed about 1,700 people and injured thousands more, with many people still trapped under the rubble Monday. Figures were expected to grow in the coming hours.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the overnight quake struck at a depth of 11 miles.

A “deeply saddened” Pope Francis sent “heartfelt condolences to those who mourn their loss” in telegrams addressed to the apostolic nuncios of Turkey and Syria.

The telegrams — signed by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin — said Pope Francis prayed “that the emergency personnel will be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance.”

The pope also affirmed “his spiritual solidarity” with the “long-suffering Syrian people.”

In Syria, which has been ravaged by more than a decade of civil war, countless buildings collapsed Feb. 6, including several Catholic churches, reported ACI MENA, CNA’s Arabic-language partner agency.

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Mar Ignatius Ephrem Josef III Younan is Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and heads the Syriac Catholic Church. Syriac Catholic Patriarchy of Antioch
Syrian Catholic Patriarch Mar Ignatius Ephrem Josef III Younan is Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and heads the Syriac Catholic Church. Syriac Catholic Patriarchy of Antioch

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Mar Ignatius Ephrem Josef III Younan called on the local faithful to pray.

The patriarch is currently on an official visit to Syrian dioceses in Iraq. He is Syriac Catholic patriarch of Antioch and heads the Syriac Catholic Church. 

Patriarch Younan asked the Lord to have mercy on the souls of the victims, heal the wounded, stand by those affected, and support all those who provide aid and assistance to the injured and affected, ACI MENA reported.

Moreover, the Church leader expressed his solidarity — and prayers — for all those affected by the earthquakes.

Among the many victims, the body of Father Imad Daher, a priest of the Greek Melkite Catholic Parish of Our Lady, was found under the rubble — after many hours of searching for the priest.

According to the Catholic humanitarian organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Daher died when the residence of the former archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, collapsed. Jeanbart narrowly escaped and is currently being treated for his wounds in a hospital, though he is said to be stable, ACN said in a statement Monday. Another Christian man who was in the building at the time also died, the organization said.

ACN reported that many cities and towns with a significant Christian population, such as Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia, and Hama, suffered major damage.

Among the buildings damaged were the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral of St. George in Aleppo and the Franciscan Church in Lattakia, ACN reported. The ACN-supported Hope Center, also in Aleppo, sustained minor damage, the organization said.

People evacuate their homes following a deadly earthquake that shook Syria at dawn on Feb. 6, 2023, in Aleppo’s Salaheddine district. At least 810 people were killed in Syria as buildings collapsed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck neighboring Turkey, state media and rescuers said. Photo by AFP via Getty Images
People evacuate their homes following a deadly earthquake that shook Syria at dawn on Feb. 6, 2023, in Aleppo’s Salaheddine district. At least 810 people were killed in Syria as buildings collapsed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck neighboring Turkey, state media and rescuers said. Photo by AFP via Getty Images

“The Church in Syria is shocked by the catastrophe. Even as far away as Beirut, people went down to the streets, worried that another explosion was about to unsettle their country,” Regina Lynch, director of projects for ACN International, said in a statement Monday.

According to a statement by the Custody of the Holy Land, a Franciscan priest in Aleppo, Father Bahjat Karakach, reported “at least 40 buildings have been destroyed and many people are still trapped under the rubble.”

The friars opened the doors of their convent to the inhabitants seeking help, the priest reported. “We have taken people into the church here, from this morning, then we celebrated Mass and opened the hall to accommodate the people and give them all something to eat; our kitchen, which usually distributes 1,200 meals a day to the poor, will do its utmost today to help everyone who is homeless and cannot eat.”

This is a developing story.

This story was originally published by CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner.