Browsing News Entries

San Marino to vote on abortion legalization Sept. 26

Guaita tower, San Marino / princeztl/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 20, 2021 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The tiny European nation of San Marino, where abortion has been illegal for nearly a century and a half, is set to hold a referendum on the legalization of abortion later this month. 

The nation of about 35,000 people, which is estimated to be over 90% Catholic, will vote Sept. 26 on whether to allow abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy; the vote would also determine the legality of abortion after 12 weeks if there “are anomalies and malformations of the fetus that involve a serious risk for the physical or psychological health of the woman.” 

Over 3,000 signatures were collected in support of the referendum, more than double the legal requirement, the Guardian reported. Several attempts to change the country’s abortion law over the past 20 years have failed after vetoes from successive governments. 

The currently-ruling Christian Democratic Party has urged citizens to vote no on the legal change. 

Abortion has been illegal in San Marino since 1865. Italy, which geographically surrounds the microstate, legalized abortion in 1978. Other majority-Catholic countries, notably Ireland, have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years by referendum. 

“San Marino has no obligation to adopt the laws of its border nations and it doesn’t need to depend on the bad example of Italy,” said Dr. Adolfo Morganti of Comitato Uno di Noi (“One of Us Comittee”), a pro-life group which campaigned against the legalization of abortion in San Marino. 

Morganti warned that the referendum language could open San Marino to the possibility of “abortion tourism,” as it does not impose a citizenship or residency requirement.

He also questioned the need for abortion legalization, given the strong welfare system in the country that provides aid to pregnant women in need. San Marino also has an already low birthrate of about 1.2 children per woman, and legal abortion will likely add to the state’s population decline, he said. 

Comitato Uno di Noi has received criticism from abortion advocates for a campaign of posters in San Marino that depict a boy with Down syndrome, with the caption: “I am an anomaly, so do I have fewer rights than you? Vote no [on the referendum].”

In many countries with liberal abortion laws, such as Iceland and the Netherlands, abortion rates for babies diagnosed witth Down syndrome is over 90%. Morganti said the poster conveys “a very uncomfortable truth, which is that wherever abortion has been liberalized, the hunt for [people with Down syndrome] has started immediately.”

Father Gabriele Mangiarotti, a priest who serves at a church in the historic center of San Marino, told France24 that changing the country’s abortion law would be a betrayal of the country’s principles. San Marino "was founded by a saint and therefore has a Christian presence in its DNA,” he said. According to tradition, a Christian named Marinus in the fourth century established a Christian community which eventually became the city-state of San Marino.

"Killing an innocent child is a serious act, a crime," he said. 

Supreme Court sets argument date for challenge to Roe v. Wade

null / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 12:02 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in a critical abortion case on Dec. 1.

In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the court will decide the question of whether all state abortion bans pre-viability are unconstitutional. “Viability” is the court’s legal standard from 1973, regarded as the point at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb.

The court on Monday announced the date of oral arguments in the Dobbs case, scheduled for Dec. 1. Both the state of Mississippi and the abortion clinic challenging the law will have an opportunity to present arguments in-person to justices both for and against the law.

The Dobbs case is considered to be the latest and perhaps the best opportunity for pro-life advocates to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. States, the court ruled in Roe, could not ban abortions pre-viability.

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the law in question, was signed into law in 2018 but is not currently in effect. Although it restricted most abortions after 15 weeks, it included exceptions for when the mother’s life or major bodily function is in danger, or in cases where the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to survive outside the womb at full term.

The law would be enforced by revocation of state medical licenses for doctors in violation, and a fine of up to $500 for falsification of medical records about the circumstances of an abortion.

One pro-life leader on Monday expressed support for Mississippi’s law.

“It is time to follow the science and modernize our laws,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has hampered state efforts to regulate abortion, she said, arguing that it has “made the United States one of only seven countries in the world – including China and North Korea – that allow abortion on demand for any reason up to birth.”

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, submitted its legal brief to the Supreme Court last week arguing that the court should maintain its abortion jurisprudence in Roe, as well as the 1992 case that upheld Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The clinic is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Although the case regards Mississippi’s abortion law, both the state and Jackson Women’s Health Organization focused their legal briefs on either overturning or upholding Roe and Casey.

The state of Mississippi asked the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

Meanwhile, the brief of Jackson Women’s Health claimed that Mississippi’s law was a violation of rights established in the Roe and Casey decisions. Because of the two abortion rulings, “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” the clinic argued.

Furthermore, Mississippi’s standard of 15 weeks violates Roe’s standard of viability, the brief argued.

“Medical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey,” the brief stated.

On Monday, Dannenfelser stated that “[s]cience reveals the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.”

“By 15 weeks, an unborn baby’s heart has beat nearly 16 million times. She already shows a preference for her right or left hand, responds to taste, and can feel pain. They and their mothers deserve protection in the law,” she said.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the group March for Life, said on Monday, "We look forward to when the Supreme Court will reconsider the status quo of abortion jurisprudence which currently allows abortions to take place through all nine months of pregnancy."

"States have the right to protect all of their citizens, including those developing in the womb," she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 20 with a statement from March for Life. 

Massachusetts bishop: Clergy can support individuals' own vaccine exemption requests

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts / Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Mass., Sep 20, 2021 / 11:28 am (CNA).

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts said Tuesday that clerics in the diocese should support Catholics who themselves seek conscientious exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandates by attesting to their baptism and practice of the faith.

“It is important for us to recognize and encourage the well-formed consciences of those who both desire the vaccine for themselves and the common good, as well as those who for health concerns or other reasons, may desire not to receive the vaccine,” Bishop Byrne wrote Sept. 14 to clerics of the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.

“In charity as priests and deacons, we should help to support the conscience rights of our Catholic faithful on this and all matters. We can do this by attesting to their Sacramental Baptism and the ‘practicing’ of their Catholic faith, as a separate letter or statement, to support their letter or request for religious exemption, but not to compose or sign a letter or form ourselves.”

The bishop wrote his letter to assist his clerics who are receiving requests from parishioners seeking “religious exemption” from mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.

He cited documents from the US bishops' conference, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which indicate that the vaccines may be taken, but that their reception is not a moral obligation and must therefore be voluntary.

“Many organizations and institutions are beginning to require the vaccine, and so in understanding conscience rights objections, we as leaders of our congregations, may be asked to assist Catholics in our parishes to pursue an exemption,” Bishop Byrne wrote.

The bishop said that “on the basis of conscience, it is not possible for anyone to act or speak on behalf of another person seeking an exemption.”

“Such a conscience right’s request for exemption must come from the individual themselves by way of

their own letter or the completion of an organization's form applying for exemption,” he noted.

However, he directed his clerics to provide accompanying letters that support individuals' own requests for religious or conscientious exemption.

“I hope the clarification of these points on what we can do, and what is beyond our scope of responsibility, is helpful to you as these requests may arise among our good people in the future,” Bishop Byrne concluded.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected. Therefore, vaccine participation must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that some persons may have conscientious objections to the taking of the COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious convictions ought to be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

The bishops of South Dakota and Colorado have both issued statements supporting Catholics wishing to seek conscience exemptions. The Colorado Catholic Conference issued a template for Catholics and their pastors to send to employers for religious exemption based on conscience.

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly have both stated that any Catholic seeking an exemption places the burden on the individual’s conscience rather than on Church approval, and thus priests of their dioceses are not allowed to vouch for the conscience of another person in seeking an exemption from a vaccine mandate.

The five bishops in Wisconsin in late August issued a statement encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, while maintaining that people ought not be forced to accept a COVID vaccine. The bishops added that, in the cases of Catholics conscientiously objecting to receiving a vaccine, clergy should not be intervening on their behalf.

Many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago and Philadelphia, have instructed clergy not to assist parishioners seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, stating that there is no basis in Catholic moral teaching for rejecting vaccine mandates on religious grounds.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.

Vatican requires vaccine pass for visitors, employees

People use hand sanitizer before entering St. Peter's Basilica. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

The Vatican will require all visitors and personnel to show a COVID-19 pass proving they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus, or have tested negative for the disease in order to enter the city state beginning Oct. 1.

To enter Vatican territory, tourists and other visitors, employees, and officials will be required to show a digital or paper Covid Certificate issued by the Vatican or another country, according to an ordinance published Sept. 20.

A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The president of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, issued the ordinance at the request of Pope Francis, who asked “to take all appropriate measures to prevent, control and combat the ongoing public health emergency in the Vatican City State.”

Under the new order, Catholics attending liturgical celebrations at the Vatican will be an exception to the vaccine rule. People will be allowed to access a liturgy “for the time strictly necessary for the conduct of the rite,” while also following distancing and masking rules.

Italy’s vaccine passport, called the “Green Pass,” requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19, proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous six months, or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

On Sept. 17, the Italian government approved an expansion to the Green Pass, making it a requirement for all private and public workplaces beginning Oct. 15.

Employees who do not have the pass could be suspended without pay or be forced to pay a fine of up to roughly $1,800.

Since Aug. 1, Italy has required the vaccine pass to enter certain indoor venues, such as restaurants and museums, and in September the pass also became necessary for travel within the country. The vaccine pass was already required for certain workplaces, such as hospitals and schools.

The ordinance mandating COVID-19 vaccination for visitors and employees of Vatican City State was signed Sept. 18, the day after Italy’s government expanded its vaccination mandate to the public and private sectors.

Vatican gendarmes will be responsible for checking vaccine passes at entrances to Vatican territory, according to the ordinance.

The order says Pope Francis, in a Sept. 7 meeting with Vatican City President Bertello, “affirmed that it is necessary to ensure the health and wellness of the work Community in respect of the dignity, rights, and fundamental liberty of every member.”

Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

From Oct. 1, it will be required to have the Green Pass to enter St. Peter’s Basilica as a tourist.

In Italy, many historic Catholic churches which charge tourists ticket fares to enter had already required the Green Pass.

Since August, proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test has been required for tourists who wish to visit the Duomo in Florence, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and many of Italy’s most famous Catholic cathedrals.

Among the hundreds of churches in Rome, only the Pantheon has required the Green Pass for tourists. And the Pantheon, which was transformed into the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres in the 7th century, does not require the pass for entrance to its Masses.

Poland’s March for Life and the Family draws 5,000 people

A family participates in Poland's March for Life and the Family in Warsaw on Sept. 19, 2021. / Family News Service

Rome Newsroom, Sep 20, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Poland’s March for Life and the Family drew 5,000 people this year, according to the event’s organizers.

The annual march took place in Warsaw on Sunday, Sept. 19. Thousands of participants took to the streets in the Polish capital brandishing the country’s red and white flag and posters with pro-life slogans.

Family News Service
Family News Service

It was Poland’s first March for Life since a landmark decision on abortion by Poland’s constitutional court came into effect earlier this year.

The Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw ruled on Oct. 22, 2020, that abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, is expected to lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country.

Abortion remains legal in Poland in cases of rape or incest and in cases of risk to the mother’s life after the ruling.

Polish President Andrzej Duda met with the organizers of the march, who are affiliated with the Center for Life and the Family and the Christian Social Congress, on Sept. 19.

Duda welcomed the constitutional court's ruling last year saying that “abortion for so-called eugenic reasons should not be allowed in Poland.”

Family News Service
Family News Service

The March for Life and the Family, which usually takes place in 140 Polish cities, was limited to Warsaw this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The organizers of this year’s scaled-down march selected “fatherhood” as a key theme of the event.

“We want to send a signal not only to the whole of Poland, but also to the whole world that there are men in Poland who take responsibility, that they do not run away from it,” Pawel Ozdoba, one of the event’s organizers said at the opening of the March for Life and the Family.

Family News Service
Family News Service

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, expressed good wishes to the participants of the march in a social media post.

The archbishop invoked two recently beatified Polish Catholic figures as examples of supporting the right to life.

Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland who led the Church’s resistance to communism, and Blessed Elżbieta Róża Czacka, a blind nun who revolutionized care for the visually impaired, were beatified the weekend prior in Warsaw.

“May Blessed Cardinal Wyszynski and Blessed Mother Czacka support you in showing that everyone has the right to life, and the family is the most precious good of humanity,” Gądecki wrote on Twitter.

A Mass was offered at the conclusion of the March in Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross.

Family News Service
Family News Service

“The Primate of the Millennium was so often called the ‘Father of the Nation,’ hence the connection. We wanted to show that Polish fathers are responsible,” Ozdoba said.

“A responsible and strong father and a strong man are needed not only by the family, but also by the whole society,” he said.

Pope Francis: The true measure of success is what you give, not what you have

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that in God’s eyes, success is measured “not on what someone has, but on what someone gives.”

In his Angelus address on Sept. 19, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 9:30-37, in which Jesus declares that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The pope said: “Through this shocking phrase, the Lord inaugurates a reversal: he overturns the criteria about what truly matters. The value of a person does not depend anymore on the role they have, the work they do, the money they have in the bank.”

“No, no, no, it does not depend on this. Greatness and success in God’s eyes are measured differently: they are measured by service. Not on what someone has, but on what someone gives. Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way.”

Giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that those who wish to follow Jesus must take “the path of service.”

“Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because ‘it tastes like a cross.’ But, as our care and availability toward others grow, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve, the more we are aware of God’s presence,” he explained.

“Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion: and we in turn discover God’s love and embrace there.”

He noted that after making his declaration about service, Jesus brought a child before his disciples, saying: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The pope said: “In the Gospel, the child does not symbolize innocence so much as littleness. For the little ones, like children, depend on others, on adults, they need to receive. Jesus embraces those children and says that those who welcome a little one, welcome him.”

“The ones who are to be served above all are those in need of receiving who cannot give anything in return. In welcoming those on the margins, the neglected, we welcome Jesus because He is there. And in the little one, in the poor person we serve, we also receive God’s tender embrace.”

Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope urged pilgrims gathered in the square below to ask themselves whether they were truly committed to serving the neglected or simply sought “personal gratification” like Jesus’ disciples on that occasion.

“Do I understand life in terms of competing to make room for myself at others’ expense, or do I believe that being first means serving?” he asked.

“And, concretely: do I dedicate time to a ‘little one,’ to a person who has no means to pay me back? Am I concerned about someone who cannot give me anything in return, or only with my relatives and friends? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to victims of flooding in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

He highlighted the deaths of at least 17 patients after a river burst its banks and water inundated a hospital in the town of Tula.

He also referred -- without mentioning any countries by name -- to those held unjustly in detention outside their homelands.

“I want to assure my prayer for the people who have been unjustly detained in foreign countries: unfortunately, there are several cases, for different, and sometimes, complex causes. I hope that, in the due fulfillment of justice, these people might return as soon as possible to their homeland,” he said.

He then greeted pilgrims gathered for his address, singling out those from Poland, Slovakia, and Honduras.

Finally, he acknowledged the 175th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, southeastern France.

He noted that Mary appeared in tears to two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, in 1846.

“Mary’s tears make us think of Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem and of his anguish in Gethsemane: they are a reflection of Christ’s suffering for our sins and an appeal that is always contemporary, to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy,” he said.

St. Januarius’ blood liquefies for the second time in 2021

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia holds a reliquary containing St. Januarius’ liquefied blood in Naples Cathedral, Italy, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:25 am (CNA).

The blood of St. Januarius, patron of the Italian city of Naples, liquefied on Sunday.

The miraculous event took place in the city’s Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary during morning Mass on Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day.

Before the Mass, Naples Archbishop Domenico Battaglia went to the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of St. Januarius with Msgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, the chapel’s abbot, and city mayor Luigi De Magistris.

Battaglia opened the safe containing a reliquary with a circular sealed vial filled with the third-century bishop’s blood.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disaster.

At 10 a.m. local time, the 58-year-old archbishop brought the reliquary to the cathedral’s high altar.

Battaglia moved the reliquary from side to side to show its changed state.

“The blood has liquefied,” he said.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

After making the Sign of the Cross, signaling the start of the live-streamed Mass, he said: “We thank the Lord for this gift, for this sign that is so important for our community.”

In his homily, Battaglia, who was installed as archbishop of Naples on Feb. 2, urged Catholics to avoid superstition and to see in the saint’s blood a sign that points to the blood shed by Jesus to redeem humanity.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The bones and blood of St. Januarius -- San Gennaro in Italian -- are preserved as relics in Naples Cathedral. The bishop of the southern Italian city is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though it is yet to receive official Church recognition. The liquefaction traditionally happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day, the first Saturday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The saint’s blood also liquefied earlier this year.

Preaching at Mass in Naples Cathedral on May 1, Battaglia urged people not to be overly “intrigued by the miracle” and “seized by the yearning to read in it good omens or ominous omens for our future.”

Regardless of whether the blood liquefies, he said, it should remind Catholics of the blood of Christ “in whose Paschal Mystery we still find ourselves and who is the only one who gives meaning to the great and intense icon of the liquefying blood.”

The archbishop, who was known as a “street priest” who was close to the poor before his elevation, recalled victims of the Camorra mafia and domestic violence, as well as lonely elderly people and the unemployed.

He said: “There is no social sore or communal wound that does not have the right of citizenship in this precious reliquary, the marvelous apex of the entire treasure of St. Januarius.”

“But don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about the precious stones, nor the gems set among golden miters, nor the silver busts of the saints. The real treasure of St. Januarius is his people, and, within them, those who sit on the margins of life, the last ones, the most fragile.”

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The archbishop, known locally as Don Mimmo Battaglia, will receive the pallium on Sept. 27 from Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, apostolic nuncio to Italy.

Before the final blessing at Sunday’s Mass, Battaglia walked down the cathedral’s nave and through its doors, where he held up the reliquary, blessing those gathered outside.

The Vatican Nativity scene 2021 will include llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus

A screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Peruvian Nativity scene that will be featured at the Vatican during the 2021 Christmas season. / ACI Prensa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Last year, the Vatican nativity set came, for some, from outer space; in 2021 it is coming from the Andes.  

The 2021 manger that will be placed in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to celebrate Christmas will arrive from the town of Chopcca, Peru, a small town nestled in the Andes over 12,000 feet high. 

"As of December 15 and for 45 days, more than 100 million tourists and followers of the media will be attentive to the Christmas celebrations in the Holy See that will revolve around the Andean manger," indicates a note from the Andina news agency, the official media outlet for Peru.

Last year's nativity scene, a set of 54 figures dating to the 1960s and 1970s, was panned by many on social media. One detractor described it as "some car parts, kid toys, and an astronaut."

The Vatican has not announced the details yet, but the local news agency released a video with a 3-D rendering of the nativity scene. You can a video from ACI Prensa (in Spanish) about the 3D rendering below:

Chopcca's nativity scene will have more than 30 pieces and will be made by five renowned Huancavelica artists. Huancavelica is located nearly halfway between Lima and Cusco.

The images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Child Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds will be made on a realistic scale with materials such as ceramics, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will wear the typical Chopcca clothing.

The Child Jesus will be represented by a "Hilipuska" child, wrapped in a “chumpi” or woven belt and covered with a typical Huancavelica blanket.

The Three Wise Men, or Magi, will carry saddlebags or woven sacks from the region with popular superfoods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes, they will be accompanied by llamas that will have the Peruvian flag on their backs.

Several other local Peruvian animals such as alpacas, vicuñas (a more beautiful relative of the llama), sheep, vizcachas (related to rabbits with squirrel-like features), parihuanas or Andean flamingos, and the condor will also be present.

The Regional Government of Huancavelica will present the manger to Pope Francis in gratitude for having chosen Peru in the year in which it celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

Canadian archbishop: Only fully vaccinated can attend Mass

Coronavirus vaccine, stock image. / M-Foto/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 22:48 pm (CNA).

Anyone age 12 or over attending a gathering at Catholic churches, rectories or community centers under the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Moncton must present proof that they are fully vaccinated, the archdiocese announced Friday.

The new policy applies to all religious celebrations, Sunday and weekday Masses, baptisms, wedding and funerals, parish and pastoral meetings, catechesis, and social meetings.

The archdiocese's announcement comes in the wake of new provincial government rules set to take effect Tuesday requiring proof of vaccination to access certain events, services, and businesses. Fewer than 50 people have died from COVID-19 in the province of New Brunswick since the pandemic began, out of a total population of more than 780,000, according to government statistics. But provincial officials say they are concerned about a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

The New Brunswick rules apply to those 12 and older seeking to attend “indoor organized gatherings,” including weddings, funerals, conferences, workshops and parties, excepting parties at a private dwelling.

Other events requiring such proof include indoor festivals, performing arts and sports events; movie theaters, nightclubs, bowling alleys and casinos; gyms, indoor pools, and indoor recreation facilities; and indoor and outdoor dining and drinking at restaurants. Proof of vaccination also is needed to visit a long-term care facility.

Events, business and services must have proof of vaccination and government-issued identification from all participants and patrons aged 12 and older. Individuals who claim a medical exemption must show proof. Failure to follow the rules can be fined for amounts between $172 and $772 Canadian, about $135 to $605.

There have been 48 Covid-19-related deaths in New Brunswick out of some 3,200 total cases since the epidemic began. However, there are now some 370 active cases, higher than its previous peak of 348 on Jan. 25, CBC News reports. The province recently witnessed its largest single-day report of new COVID cases, when active cases jumped by 63.

About 17 people in the province are currently hospitalized, 10 of whom are in intensive care.

“As we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic, it is imperative that we do what is needed to protect our residents while living with the reality that the virus is still with us,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. The premier had loosened COVID restrictions on July 30.

“These changes are necessary to ensure that our province is able to remain in Green and avoid lockdowns, which we know are detrimental to businesses and people’s mental health. We also need to avoid overwhelming our health-care system. The vaccine is an effective tool that can help us combat this virus, but more people must get vaccinated to provide us all with better protection.

Dorothy Shephard, the provincial minister of health, met with religious leaders after the Sept. 15 announcement of the new rules, Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton said Sept. 17.

“While explaining new guidelines, she indicated that they had only one goal: to increase the rate of people fully vaccinated in the province,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“We ask you to implement these new measures in each of your Christian communities not only to respect the government's request but above all to help stop the spread of the virus among our population. We would not want one of our places of worship to be the location of a COVID exposure due to our negligence,” Archbishop Vienneau said. “The Minister of Health is counting on our cooperation.”

The archbishop said volunteers are expected to be at the church doors to ask attendees for full proof of vaccination and to collect their names. This list can be used again each Sunday to avoid repeated requests for proof of vaccination from repeat visitors.

“This list may eventually be requested by the government,” the archbishop noted.

The rules apply to everyone present, excepting those under age 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

The only possible other exception to this mandate is for someone with a proof of medical exemption, which is rare. Parish employees who do not seek vaccination must wear a mask at all times and take a COVID test periodically. Any parish office visitor may be asked to wear a mask if not vaccinated.

Health authorities are concerned that the vaccinated can still pass on the virus to vulnerable groups, like children too young to be vaccinated. Some 80% of new positive coronavirus cases in the province are among the unvaccinated. Over 77.5% of New Brunswick residents have been fully vaccinated, while over 86% have had at least one dose. The province’s population numbers over 750,000 people, about half of whom are Catholic.

The government aims for a vaccination rate of about 90% and the health minister aims to allow gatherings only of fully vaccinated people “to keep people safe and to act as an incentive for the unvaccinated,” the archbishop said. A return to previous measures like masking and social distancing is not being promoted for this reason, he reported.

Under the new rules, anyone entering New Brunswick will have to register with health authorities. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days or wait for a negative test 10 days into their stay.

A provincial bill to remove religious and philosophical exemptions from the mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren narrowly failed last year and could be reintroduced.

Vaccine mandates have prompted debates among Catholics about conscientious exemption, the risks and benefits of the available COVID-19 vaccines, and the ethics and legality of vaccine mandates imposed by governments and employers, including some U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary.” In its December 2020 note, it said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

Justice Clarence Thomas credits Catholic nuns’ anti-racist example

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 16:41 pm (CNA).

Catholic nuns and his grandparents’ example helped instill in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises, he said in a lecture Thursday.

“My nuns and my grandparents lived out their sacred vocation in a time of stark racial animus, and did so with pride with dignity and with honor. May we find it within ourselves to emulate them,” Justice Thomas said at the University of Notre Dame Sept. 16.

“To this day I revere, admire and love my nuns. They were devout, courageous and principled women.”

Thomas, only the second Black Supreme Court justice, delivered the Tocqueville Lecture at the invitation of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, a new Notre Dame initiative that focuses on discussions and scholarship related to Catholicism and the common good.

“In my generation, one of the central aspects of our lives was religion and religious education,” he said. “The single biggest event in my early life was going to live with my grandparents in 1955.”

His grandfather was a “very devout” Catholic convert, while his grandmother was a Baptist. Thomas, then a second grader, was sent with his brother to St. Benedict the Moor Grammar School in Savannah, Georgia. He was not Catholic at the time, but would convert at a young age.

“Between my grandparents and my nuns, I was taught pedagogically and experientially to navigate through and survive the negativity of a segregated world without negating the good that there was or, as my grandfather frequently said, without ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water,’” the Supreme Court justice said.

“There was of course quotidian and pervasive segregation and race-based laws which were repulsive and at odds with the principles of our country,” he said, but there was also “a deep and abiding love for our country and a firm desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship regardless how society treated us.”

Said Thomas: “There was never any doubt that we were equally entitled to claim the promise of America as our birthright, and equally duty-bound to honor and defend her to the best of our ability. We held these ideals first and foremost because we were raised to know that, as children of God, we were inherently equal and equally responsible for our actions.”

Thomas spoke of his second grade teacher Sister Mary Dolorosa’s catechism lessons, during which she would ask the class why God had created them.

“In unison our class of about 40 kids would answer loudly, reciting the Baltimore Catechism: ‘God created me to know love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next,’” he said.

“Through many years of school and extensive reading since then, I have yet to hear a better explanation of why we are here. It was the motivating truth of my childhood and remains a central truth today," he said.

“Because I am a child of God there is no force on this earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth,” he said. This truth was “repeatedly restated and echoed throughout the segregated world of my youth” and “reinforced our proper roles as equal citizens, not the perversely distorted and reduced role offered us by Jim Crow.”

Thomas questioned what he saw as a “reduced” image of Blacks today, deemed inferior by bigots or “considered a victim by the most educated elites.”

“Being dismissed as anything other than inherently equal is still, at bottom, a reduction of our human worth,” he said. “My nuns at Saint Benedict's taught me that that was a lie. In God's eyes, we were inherently equal.”

His grandparents also believed in equality before God. Because of that, “not only did we deserve to be treated equally, but we also were required to conduct ourselves as children of God. Hence, we were to live our lives according to his word. My grandparents repeatedly stressed that because of our fallen nature we had to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.”

Thomas continued: “There was no room to doubt this and even less for self-pity. As they saw things, on judgment day we would be held accountable for the use of our God-given talents and our opportunities.”

Thomas became a Catholic seminarian and studied for a year at Conception Abbey Seminary in Missouri, but left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elsewhere, Thomas has said he was repelled to witness fellow seminarians make disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and he only returned to the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

He said he regretted that he ignored or rejected the lessons of his youth, including “not to act badly because others had acted badly.” For a time he saw this morality “as a sign of weakness or cowardice.” After King’s assassination, he said, “I lost faith in the teachings of my childhood and succumbed to an array of angry ideologies.”

“Indeed, that was why I left the seminary in May of 1968. I let others and my emotions persuade me that my country and my God had abandoned me. I became disoriented and disenchanted with my faith and my country and deeply embittered, and perhaps worst of all, I let my family down,” he said.

At the age of 19, his grandfather asked him to leave his house. He then became a student at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where, he said, “I fell in quickly with radical ideologies such as Black Power. It was an era of disenchantment and deconstruction. The beliefs of my youth were subjected to the jaundiced eye of critical theories or, perhaps more accurately, cynical theories.”

His grandfather warned him that he had taken the wrong path, and Thomas later came to believe that “the theories of my young adulthood were destructive and self-defeating.”

“The wholesomeness of my childhood had been replaced with emptiness, cynicism and despair,” he said. “I was faced with a simple fact that there was no greater truth than what my nuns and my grandparents had taught me: We are all children of God and rightful heirs to our nation’s legacy of civic equality. We were duty-bound to live up to obligations of the full and equal citizenship to which we were entitled by birth.”

In April 1970 Thomas returned to his college campus from a riot early one morning. There, he said, “I stood outside the chapel at Holy Cross and asked God to take hate out of my heart.”

This was his background for his later encounters with the Declaration of Independence and the legacy of the founding of the United States. He praised the “self-evident” truths of the Declaration, which had been “beyond dispute” in the society, school and home of his youth,

“As I rediscovered the God-given principles of the Declaration and our Founding, I eventually returned to the Church which had been teaching the same truths for millennia,” he said, reflecting on American history and its fierce debates about slavery and racial equality.

While radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison depicted America as “a racist and irredeemable nation,” Thomas sided with those who “were unwilling to give up on the American project.”

“Equal citizenship was a black man's birthright and to give up on America was to concede that America's Blacks never were equal citizens as the Declaration of Independence had promised them,” he said. “To demoralize freedmen and slaves in that way, as Frederick Douglass argued, served only to increase the hopelessness of their bondage.”

Douglass, a former slave who became a famous American orator, aimed to convince Americans “that the country was unmoored but not lost.” Both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King similarly emphasized the promise of equality in America’s founding documents.

“While we have failed the Declaration time and again, and the ideals of the Declaration time and again, I know of no time when the ideals have failed us,” said Thomas.

“Ultimately, the Declaration endures because it articulates truth. … As Lincoln taught us, the Declaration reflects the noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures, and the enlightened belief that ‘nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows.'"

In his other comments, Thomas reflected on his friendship with the late justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that despite their different backgrounds they both thought similarly because of their shared Catholic background, their shared formation in Catholic schools, and a “common culture.”

Thomas knew Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, from her time as a clerk for Scalia. “I pray that she has a long and fruitful tenure on the court,” he said of the newest justice.

The justice was introduced by Notre Dame student Maggie Garnett, whose mother was clerking for Justice Thomas while pregnant with her. Garnett said she claims to be “the first unborn Supreme Court clerk,” though she joked that Justice Thomas might not agree that that is a “faithful interpretation of the original meaning.”