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Stories for February 2016

Released Tuesday, Feb. 2

Swiss Bishops’ Conference opposes ballot measure on deportation of immigrants

Swiss voters will go to the polls on February 28 to decide whether to approve a ballot initiative that would lead to the automatic deportation of foreigners convicted of any crime. The justice...

Cardinal Sarah emphasizes importance of silence in the liturgy

Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has stressed the importance of moments of silence in the...

4,000 religious gather in Rome as Year of Consecrated Life concludes

Over 4,000 consecrated persons have gathered in Rome for a five-day gathering to mark the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life. All forms of consecrated life—the Order of Virgins,...

Pontifical Theological Academy considers human dignity

The Pontifical Theological Academy held its biennial conference on January 28 and 29 at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. The conference’s topic was the transcendent dignity of man...

Strong track record of priestly vocations in Seoul

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul will ordain 20 men to the priesthood on February 5, according to a report from the Fides news agency. The South Korean archdiocese has a strong track record...

‘The Son of God was not an anarchist,’ Pope tells consecrated persons

Over 4,000 consecrated persons who had gathered in Rome for a conference concluding the Year of Consecrated Life met with Pope Francis in the Paul VI Audience Hall on February 1. Setting aside...

Catholic theological institute to open in Vietnam

Vietnam’s bishops have announced that a theological institute will open in Ho Chi Minh City this coming September. The institute will offer courses in biblical and dogmatic theology. When...

Vatican dismisses rumor that Pope will act in movie

The prefect of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for Communications has dismissed reports that Pope Francis will make his acting debut in a forthcoming movie. The Pontiff will make an appearance in...

Bishop Schneider: 'semi-heretical' Church leaders lead the faithful astray

Bishop Athanasius Schneider charges that many “semi-heretical” Church leaders are misleading the faithful, in a provocative interview for the Rorate Caeli website. Bishop...

New Orleans archdiocese goes silent on social media to dramatize danger of human trafficking

The Archdiocese of New Orleans, Louisiana observed a "day of fasting" from social media on February 1, in a gesture designed to draw attention to the fight against human...

Pope speaks of 'great respect' for Chinese culture

”The Chinese people are moving forward, and this is their greatness,” Pope Francis told an interviewer for the Asia Times, observing that China, like all societies, moves “through...

Italian cardinal speaks out against civil-union proposal

Cardinal Velasio Di Paolis has said that a proposal for legal recognition of same-sex unions would be "fundamentally against the Italian constitution." The retired president of the...

Rome relaxes Jubilee Year ban on concession carts

The city of Rome has relaxed a ban on carts and trucks selling food and souvenirs around St. Peter's Square. The ban, introduced for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, had been imposed to ease...

Released Wednesday, Feb. 3

USCCB files brief in support of regulation of abortion clinics in Texas

Joining with other Christian organizations that oppose abortion, the Office of General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court)...

Canadian nun recounts ordeal as captive in Cameroon

A Canadian nun held captive for two months in Cameroon—likely by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram—has discussed her ordeal. Initially, “they were laughing and humiliating...

Iraqi Jesuit saved 1,000 manuscripts

An Iraqi Jesuit estimates that he saved 1,000 ancient manuscripts, including biblical and liturgical books, from the advance of the Islamic State. “If Daesh burns down a church we can...

France: mixed reactions to new law on end-of-life care

French lawmakers have passed legislation on end-of-life care that rejects euthanasia but permits “terminal sedation” and the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration for the...

Pope concludes Year of Consecrated Life with call to encounter, wonder, gratitude

Calling upon consecrated persons to live lives characterized by gratitude, wonder, and an encounter with the Lord and others, Pope Francis concluded the Year of Consecrated Life with Mass at St....

Pope reflects on God’s mercy and justice

Continuing his Wednesday reflections on mercy, Pope Francis devoted his February 3 general audience to God’s mercy and justice. “The Sacred Scriptures present God as infinite mercy,...

Vatican statement: religious violence is ‘particularly heinous’

At the conclusion of Pope Francis’s February 3 general audience, Rinaldo Mirmara, a historian and president of Caritas Turkey, presented the Pope with a copy of his new history of the Battle...

Vatican newspaper denounces UK approval of ‘gene-editing’ of human embryos

The United Kingdom’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has approved a request by scientists to genetically modify and then destroy human embryos conceived through in vitro...

Russian Patriarch discourages high expectations for pan-Orthodox council

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has warned against what he regards as unrealistic expectations for the outcome of the pan-Orthodox council that is scheduled to be held in Crete in June. The...

Mexico's violence, corruption, is not Our Lady's plan, Pope says on eve of visit

“I come to Mexico as a pilgrim, to look for something among the Mexican people,” Pope Francis said in an interview with a Mexican news service as he prepares for his visit to the country next...

UNESCO confirms Jordan site as place of Christ's baptism

With a formal ceremony on February 2, the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has acknowledged Al Maghtas, Jordan, as the site of Christ’s Baptism, declaring it as a...

Released Thursday, Feb. 4

Delaware judge: priest-penitent privilege may be unconstitutional

A Delaware superior court judge has questioned the constitutionality of a state law that protects the secrecy of sacramental confession. State law mandates the reporting of suspected child abuse...

Vote to stay in EU, European bishops’ official urges UK

The general secretary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has urged voters in the United Kingdom to choose to remain in the European Union. A...

Holy Land Custos calls on Muslim clerics to confront extremism, Christians to stay in Syria

Stating that it is impossible for jihadists “to control such large parts of Syria and Iraq for such a long time without support from the general population,” the Custos of the Holy Land...

Cardinal Parolin meets with religious, inaugurates nunciature in Slovenia

The Vatican’s Secretary of State began a three-day journey to Slovenia on February 2. At a Mass in Ljubljana Cathedral marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, Cardinal Pietro...

Objections raised to Anglican-Presbyterian agreement

The Church of England and the Church of Scotland have agreed to the Columba Declaration, an ecumenical statement that calls for closer cooperation between the two bodies and permits clergy to...

Leading Orthodox theologian: forthcoming council is ‘extraordinary and exceptional event’

A leading Eastern Orthodox theologian has offered an overview of the upcoming Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Writing in First Things, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis said that the...

Canadian cardinal urges lawmakers to protect conscience rights in assisted-suicide legislation

Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto made a plea for the conscience rights of health-care workers in February 3 testimony before Parliament about a proposal to allow physician-assisted...

Syrian refugees need more aid, says Vatican 'foreign minister'

The Vatican's top foreign-policy official has called for better funding for Syrian refugees. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States, told a London audience that...

European Parliament condemns Islamic State 'war crimes' against Christians

The European Parliament has approved a resolution that classifies the Islamic State's campaign against Christians as war crimes. The resolution states that the Islamic State's killings of...

Pope meets with Argentine cross-cultural educational group

Pope Francis met on February 3 with members of the Scholas Occurrentes foundation, an Argentine group that promotes educational projects to bring together young people from different...

Turkey returns ambassador, who was recalled after Pope spoke of Armenian genocide

The government of Turkey has returned its ambassador to the Holy See, who had been recalled last year in protest after Pope Francis spoke about the Armenian genocide. The Pontiff incurred the...

Australian churches offer sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation

Some Christian churches in Australia are offering to provide sanctuary for immigrants, after a court ruling that the government is authorized to deport the immigrants to Nauru. About 260 people, of...

Kenyan bishops pleased with government's decision to withdraw proposed regulations of religious bodies

The Catholic bishops' conference of Kenya has applauded the decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta to withdraw a proposal for the regulation of the country's religious bodies. The bishops...

Released Friday, Feb. 5

French leftists press for universal ban on surrogacy

Decrying the exploitation of women, especially those in impoverished nations, a coalition of self-described leftists in France, including pro-abortion and lesbian organizations, is pressing for an...

As ambassador reinstated, Turkish, Armenian governments differ over Vatican statement

Turkey reinstated its ambassador to the Holy See because of the wording of a recent Vatican statement, according to the Turkish foreign ministry. Turkey recalled its ambassador in April after...

Australia’s religious speak out against Pacific trade deal

Catholic Religious Australia, which represents the nation’s male and female religious orders, has joined a coalition opposing swift ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade...

Obama, at mosque, defends religious liberty

Speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, President Barack Obama defended religious liberty, compared anti-Muslim sentiments to anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism, and called on Muslim leaders...

Sierra Leone prelate speaks out against abortion

Lawmakers in Sierra Leone, sometimes ranked as the world’s poorest nation, have passed a law legalizing abortion, and the bill awaits the president’s signature. Joining other...

Pontifical council, World Council of Churches discuss Christian witness in multi-faith world

Officials from the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue met in Geneva on February 3 and 4 to discuss their 2011 document, “Christian Witness in a...

Pope visits curial offices

On February 4, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the offices of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New...

Pope, Russian Orthodox Patriarch schedule unpredecented meeting

Pope Francis will meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on February 12, in Cuba. The Vatican and the Moscow patriarchate announced plans for the historic meeting on February 5....

Former Salvadoran colonel faces extradition, trial for 1989 murder of six Jesuits

A court in North Carolina has approved a request for the extradition of a former Salvadoran army officer, so that he can face trial in Spain on charges connected with the 1989 murder of six Jesuit...

Latin American prelates decry push for abortion as response to Zika virus

Catholic prelates in Latin America have reacted strongly against a drive to promote abortion as a response to the spread of the Zika virus. Because the Zika virus is connected with severe birth...

New bishop for Anglican ordinariate means 'we're here to stay'

The ordination of the first bishop to lead the Anglican ordinariate in the United States means "we're here to say," Msgr. Harry Entwistle, who leads the Anglican ordinariate in...

Long lines of pilgrims to venerate relics of Padre Pio in Rome

Tens of thousands of pilgrims have lined up in Rome to venerate the remains of St. Pio of Pietrelcina—Padre Pio—and St. Leopold Mandic. Relics of the two saints will be exposed for veneration at...

Zambia's president meets with Pontiff

Pope Francis met on February 5 with President Edgar Chagwa Lungu of Zambia. A Vatican statement released after the meeting indicated that the conversation had centered on Church-state relations,...

Released Monday, Feb. 8

Prayer unlocks the heart of God, Pope tells Padre Pio prayer groups

Thousands of members of Padre Pio prayer groups, in Rome for the veneration of the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic, gathered in St. Peter’s Square on February...

Pope Francis: Christ and the Church ‘fish’ for men and women

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading (Lk. 5:1-11), Pope Francis told the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his February 7 Angelus address that the mission of Christ and the...

Papal appeals for Syria, respect for human life from conception to natural death

Following his February 7 Angelus address, Pope Francis issued an appeal for Syria. “I follow with deep concern the dramatic fate of civilian populations involved in heavy fighting in Syria...

Papal condolences following Taiwan earthquake

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has sent a message of condolence following an earthquake that killed dozens in Taiwan. “The Holy Father was saddened to...

Zambia’s bishops decry ‘political hooliganism,’ warn priests against partisanship

Decrying “political hooliganism” and repression, Zambia’s bishops recently issued a statement surveying the state of the nation as elections approach in August. “The...

Patriarchs call for prayer, fasting for suffering Church in Syria, Iraq

The heads of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church have called upon Catholics to pray and fast for the suffering Christians of Syria and Iraq, especially on Ash...

182 madrasas closed in Pakistan for promoting extremism

Since December 2014, the Pakistani government has closed 182 madrassas, or Muslim schools, for promoting extremism, according to an AsiaNews report. The closings have followed the Peshawar school...

European bishops’ commission welcomes European Parliament’s condemnation of ISIS

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) has welcomed the European Parliament’s use of the word “genocide” in condemning atrocities committed...

Maronite Patriarch sees Lebanon empty presidency pushing Lebanon toward collapse

Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara al Rai has warned that Lebanon is "on the brink of collapse" because of a long political stalemate that has blocked the election of a new president, the...

Australian abuse panel will take Cardinal Pell's testimony by video link

The head of an Australian royal commission investigating the sex-abuse scandal has agreed to take testimony from Cardinal George Pell by a video link. Cardinal Pell, who has already given...

In video message to Mexico, Pope anticipates visit with 'great joy'

In a message to the people of Mexico, released less than the week before his arrival there, Pope Francis says, “I feel great joy” at the prospect of the visit. “I want to come as a missionary of...

Germany cannot accept so many refugees: Cardinal Marx

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich has called for "a reduction in the number of refugees" entering Germany. Although he has said that Europe should welcome refugees, Cardinal Marx-- the...

Outspoken member removed from Pope's sex-abuse commission

An outspoken member of the special papal commission on sexual abuse has been removed from his role—but refuses to step down quietly. The Vatican announced on February 6 that Peter Saunders...

Released Tuesday, Feb. 9

American, Indonesian officials renew push for family planning

Government officials from the United States, Indonesia, and other nations renewed their push for family planning at 2016 International Conference on Family Planning, which recently concluded in...

Maltese bishop rues ‘privatization’ of Confession

Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, a Maltese bishop called upon confessors to be merciful and to see themselves more as doctors than as judges. Noting that the Second Vatican Council called...

Film highlights Soviet brutality against Polish nuns

Les Innocentes—a French film being released in the United States as Agnus Dei—premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in late January. Based on a true story, director Anne Fontaine...

Russian Orthodox bishops emphasize that doctrine cannot be changed

In a statement concluding a recent two-day meeting in Moscow, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasized the immutability of doctrine. The bishops cited Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev...

Lutheran leaders emphasize ‘quest for unity’ with Catholic Church

The leaders of the Lutheran World Federation have issued a statement welcoming Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Sweden to commemorate the anniversary of the Reformation. “It is...

Prominent US curial official named nuncio

Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Peter Wells, a Tulsa priest who has served as Assessor for General Affairs of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State since 2009, as the apostolic nuncio to South...

Italian group for divorced/remarried Catholics gets special invitation to papal audience

Pope Francis has invited members of an Italian group, devoted to helping divorced Catholics, to attend a papal audience, the Crux news site reports. The Pontiff called Deacon Paolo Tassinari, who...

'Never tire of forgiving,' Pope urges Capuchin confessors

Speaking on February 9 to Capuchin friars from around the world, Pope Francis exhorted them to be good confessors, and “never tire of forgiving.” At a Mass in St. Peter’s...

In new interview, Pope reflects on European malaise

European society needs to re-examine its responsibilities and its cultural roots, Pope Francis said in an interview published February 8 by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.  The Pope...

New undercover video shows National Abortion Federation 'really interested' in proposal for fetal-tissue sales

Undaunted by a federal court’s injunction against release of undercover videos involving the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a new video, in...

Christians boycott Iraqi parliament's 'peaceful coexistence' conference, saying talk produces no action

Iraqi Christians boycotted a conference on "the protection of peaceful coexistence," sponsored by the country's parliament, to protest the lack of effective action to protect...

Northern Ireland: Catholic bishops oppose move to allow abortion in cases of severe fetal defect

The Catholic bishops have issued a statement urging lawmakers to reject a proposal that would "permit the direct and intentional killing of unborn children with life-limiting...

Gallup diocese has spent $3.5 million in legal fees for bankruptcy

The Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, has spent $3.5 milion in legal fees and associated costs during its bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese, which filed for federal bankruptcy protection in...

Released Wednesday, Feb. 10

Cardinal Parolin defends clerical celibacy

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, delivered the concluding address at a recent conference on clerical celibacy as a pathway to freedom. Speaking at Pontifical...

Pope appears in video on monthly prayer intention

Pope Francis has appeared in a video designed to publicize his general prayer intention for February: “that we may take good care of creation-- a gift freely given-- cultivating and protecting...

Prelate decries North Korean rocket launch

The chairman of the Philippine bishops’ public affairs committee has joined his nation’s government in condemning a North Korean rocket launch. Referring to “the insane minds...

Cardinals discuss curial changes, decentralization

The Council of Cardinals—the body established by Pope Francis in 2013 to assist him in the reform of the Curia—has concluded its thirteenth meeting, which took place on February 8 and...

Cover penitents with a blanket of mercy, Pope tells Missionaries of Mercy

Pope Francis has called upon priests who will serve as Missionaries of Mercy to cover their penitents with a blanket of mercy, as two of the sons of Noah covered the nakedness of their father. In...

Live in relationship with God the Father, Pope tells Pompei’s youth

Pope Francis has sent an audio message to the Territorial Prelature of Pompei in support of its Lenten youth initiative. “Jesus asks us to do good for the sake of good,” he said....

Pope reflects on Old Testament jubilee year

Continuing his Wednesday reflections on mercy, Pope Francis devoted his Ash Wednesday general audience to the jubilee in the Old Testament. “We learn from Scripture that the Jubilee Year is...

Pope meets with Iraq’s prime minster

Pope Francis met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the Vatican on February 10 and discussed the importance of protecting the rights of Christians and other minorities. “During...

Lay member of papal abuse commission defends vote to remove outspoken member

A lay member of the papal commission on sexual abuse has defended the group's decision to ask Peter Saunders to take a leave of absence. Marie Collins, an Irish abuse victim who has admitted...

Russian Patriarch responded to Pope's open invitation, says Cardinal Koch

Pope Francis "opened the door" for a meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in November 2014, when he said that he would meet with the Russian prelate any time, the president of...

Bishop reports terror attacks in Central African Republic, and 'nothing is said'

A Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic has told the Fides news service that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) terrorist group has attacked six villages in his diocese in recent...

Armenian Orthodox Patriarch ruled incapable of decisions because of Alzheimer's disease

A Turkish tribunal has confirmed a medical diagnosis that Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Mesrob II of Constantinople is no longer capable of making his own decisions because of advancing dementia, and...

Former Texas priest charged in 1960 murder case

A former Catholic priest, now living in Arizona, has been arrested and charged with the murder of a young woman in Texas more than 55 years ago. In 1960, Irene Garza disappeared after going to...

Firing of tenured faculty prompts uproar at Maryland Catholic college

A heated controversy has erupted at a Catholic college in Maryland, after two tenured faculty members were fired, apparently for criticizing the policies of the school's new president. Simon...

Two appointed to head sections of new Vatican Secretariat for Communications

Pope Francis has appointed directors for two sections of the newly created Secretariat for Communications. Natas Govekar, a Slovenian theologian who now works at the Centro Aletti in Rome, will...

Polish bishops object to article post by European bishops' conference

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has removed an article from its web site after receiving a protest from the bishops' conference of...

Colombian president disputes link between Zika and microcephaly

Reacting against suggestions that the Zika virus is responsible for severe fetal defects, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has reported that his government has studied over 3,000 cases of...

Released Thursday, Feb. 11

Background: World Day of the Sick

February 11 is the 24th World Day of the Sick, a commemoration instituted by St. John Paul II that takes place each year on the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. The title of Pope Francis’s...

Church of England warns against unlimited Sunday shopping hours

In a move that has prompted opposition from the Church of England and unions, the British government will allow municipalities to lift limits on Sunday shopping hours. Since 1994, stores in...

Philippine cardinal: donate savings from Lenten fasting to feed the hungry

In a brief Ash Wednesday pastoral letter, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila called upon the faithful to fast and then donate the money saved to a charity that feeds the hungry. “In this...

Malaysian prelate warns families against secularization, divorce

In a pastoral message for the lunar new year, a Malaysian archbishop called upon families to resist temptations to secularization and to heed the example of the Holy Family rather than seek material...

Cardinal Nichols celebrates Vespers at Henry VIII’s palace

At the invitation of London’s Anglican bishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols led a Vespers service on February 9 at Hampton Court Palace, a British royal residence from the reign of Henry VIII...

Benin bishops’ website: nation’s prime minister should resign

As Benin prepares for a February 28 presidential election, the nation’s bishops sponsored a conference that denounced corruption and called upon Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou to resign because...

Pope Francis at Ash Wednesday Mass: be reconciled to God

Celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called upon the faithful to heed two exhortations in the Scripture readings for the day: “be reconciled to...

Papal appeal for prayers for sick and for meeting with Russian patriarch

Following his reflection on the Old Testament jubilee year during his Ash Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis called upon the faithful to pray for his upcoming meeting in Havana with Patriarch...

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