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Arizona lawmakers vote to retain law protecting life at conception

null / Credit: Jill Sauve/Unsplash

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Arizona House Republicans blocked two attempts on Wednesday to repeal an 1864 law protecting life at conception.

In a near party-line 30-30 vote on Wednesday, House Democrats failed to gain a majority of votes to suspend the Legislature’s rules to fast-track a so-called “abortion ban repeal” bill that would have overturned the 1864 pro-life law

Dormant since being invalidated by Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1864 law protects all unborn life from conception and imposes prison time for those who “provide, supply, or administer” an abortion. 

This temporarily stalls ongoing efforts to repeal the law, which is set to go into effect in the next 37 days.

Debate on the House floor was tense just before the vote as Democrats called the pro-life law “abhorrent” and “archaic.” 

Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez bashed Republicans, saying that “the fact that we will not even entertain a motion to allow those who have been raped or pregnant by incest to be able to have an abortion is extremely, extremely disappointing.” 

Republican Rep. Ben Toma, meanwhile, said: “I understand that we have deeply held beliefs [about abortion], and I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children.” 

Abortion is currently legal in Arizona until the 15th week of pregnancy. If the 1864 law takes effect, however, all abortion will be illegal, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. 

Outrage from abortion advocates erupted last week when the Arizona Supreme Court issued an April 9 ruling that cleared the way for the law to go back into effect. The court ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision, there were no legal reasons to keep the law from being enforced.

Planned Parenthood is continuing abortions in Arizona for the time being. The abortion organization holds that a separate ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court keeps the 1864 law from being enforced until 45 days after the high court’s ruling. 

After the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Democrats in the Arizona House moved quickly to repeal the law, demanding a vote on the measure on April 10. That attempt was also blocked by Republicans. After their efforts to repeal the law were blocked, Democrats began shouting “shame” and “blood on your hands” at their Republican colleagues on the House floor.

This comes as Arizona will likely be one of several states considering an abortion-until-birth amendment on the ballot this November. If passed, the amendment would enshrine a “right” to abortion in the state constitution, strike down virtually all of Arizona’s pro-life protections, and legalize abortion until viability and through all nine months of pregnancy for physical or mental health reasons.

The group advocating for the amendment, Arizona for Abortion Access PAC, has surpassed the required number of signatures and already filed language with the state to include the proposal on the November ballot.

The Arizona secretary of state’s office has yet to verify the signatures, which must happen before the initiative will officially be on the ballot.

The Arizona Catholic Conference, which consists of the state’s four bishops, has spoken out against the ballot initiative, saying that it would “remove most safeguards for girls and women” and “allow for painful late-term abortions of viable preborn babies.” 

“We do not believe that this extreme initiative is what Arizona wants or needs, and we continue to pray that it does not succeed,” the Arizona bishops said in a statement published April 9.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 11,530 babies were killed through abortion in Arizona in 2022. 

Belgian court overturns ban on conservative conference attended by German cardinal

Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, speaks during a panel discussion on Day 2 of The National Conservatism Conference at the Claridge on April 17, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium. / Credit: Omar Havana/Getty Images

Brussels, Belgium, Apr 17, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Belgium’s highest court ruled late last night that a conference upholding conservative values in the public square could go ahead in the country’s capital after a Brussels district mayor had ordered police to shut it down yesterday. 

Emir Kir issued the order to halt the National Conservatism conference that was scheduled to take place April 16–17 and that featured among its speakers the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

Police surrounded the venue on Tuesday, denying access to speakers and guests. 

The conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute, aims to promote conservatism as “inextricably tied” to the idea of nation, national independence, and the revival of national traditions. 

The event has been held in various capitals including Rome, London, and Washington, D.C., since its founding in 2019.

Among other speakers at this year’s conference were Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Britain’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and the founder of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. The British politician called the attempted shut down “a disgrace” and accused the EU of becoming the “new form of communism.”

Kir said he made the decision because the conference’s vision “is not only ethically conservative (e.g., hostility to the legislation of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defense of ‘national sovereignty,’ which implies, among other things, a ‘Eurosceptic attitude.’” 

His order also stated that some of the speakers “are reputed to be traditionalists” and that the conference must be banned “to avoid foreseeable attacks on public order and peace.”

Prior to Kir’s attempted shutdown, political pressure had already forced the organizers to cancel two other venues shortly before the conference had begun, after which they found a third hotel venue, called Claridge, located in Kir’s district.

Cardinal Müller told author Rod Dreher, who was also speaking at the conference, that the attempt to shut down the conference was “like Nazi Germany” and that the authorities were acting “like the SA” — Hitler’s brownshirts who used violence and intimidation against opponents. 

The attempted forced cancellation also drew opposition from Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who defended the rights of the conference participants to freedom of speech and of assembly. 

Writing on X before the court’s decision, he called the attempted shutdown “unacceptable” and said that “banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop.”

The Belgian court overturned Kir’s decision after the order was challenged by conference organizers with the support of ADF International, a Christian legal group that works to oppose threats to religious liberty. 

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said that while “common sense and justice” had prevailed, the attempt to shut down the conference was a “dark mark on European democracy.” 

“No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said,” he said in a statement. “The kind of authoritarian censorship we have just witnessed belongs in the worst chapters of Europe’s history.” 

Belgian ADF lawyer Wouter Vaassen called the attempt to shut down the conference “unjust” and said that it “should never have happened, especially in Brussels — the political heart of Europe.” 

“We must diligently protect our fundamental freedoms lest censorship become the norm in our supposedly free societies,” he added.

Along with Müller, other Catholic speakers at this year’s event included Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, which helps persecuted Christians; the German aristocrat Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis; and Gladden Pappin, president of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs.

Another speaker, Jewish author and broadcaster Melanie Phillips, told the audience that she was in Jerusalem on Saturday night when Iran launched aerial attacks on Israel. 

“At 2 a.m., the air raid siren wailed, and I huddled in my stairwell for safety,” she recounted. “Well, I left a war zone to come here. I didn’t realize that I was coming into another war zone in Brussels.” 

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

Caitlin Clark’s former coach says she ‘tries to maximize her God-given talents’

Caitlin Clark attended Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she was coached by Kristin Meyer, who joined “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on April 16, 2024, to share what it has been like for her to watch Clark become a basketball phenom. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly” screen shot

CNA Staff, Apr 17, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Caitlin Clark, a guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was selected as the No. 1 draft pick by the Indiana Fever in the 2024 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft on April 15. 

The record-breaking face of women’s college basketball ended her collegiate career with 3,951 points — the most in men’s and women’s Division I history — and was a two-time national player of the year among a multitude of other impressive achievements and recognitions.

Raised in a Catholic household, Clark attended Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she was coached by Kristin Meyer.

Meyer joined “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on April 16 to share what it has been like for her to watch Clark become a basketball phenom. 

“I always expected her to be successful in college,” Meyer said. “She is a tremendous basketball player, and we saw that throughout her high school years. So, I’m not all that surprised to see the success that she’s had.”

Meyer added that the community in West Des Moines and at Dowling Catholic are not only proud of her accomplishments but also about “how she carries herself as a person.”

“She’s a great leader, a great teammate, and she’s really making a positive impact on not just the sports world, but I think [on] the world in general,” Meyer said.

Meyer explained that Clark’s mother, Anne, along with her aunts and uncles on her mother’s side all attended Dowling Catholic. Clark’s grandfather was also a football coach and teacher at the school. 

“The main reason that her family was involved in Dowling Catholic was because of the faith component, and so Caitlin was always going to go to Dowling Catholic, and she really enjoyed her four years here,” she recalled. 

However, Meyer admitted that Clark was not vocal in high school about her dream to become a professional basketball player. 

“She didn’t really talk about it a lot, but her skill set definitely made me think that it was possible,” Meyer said. “She’s always been one who’s focused on the here and now. So I think she had those long-term goals, but she just wanted to everyday maximize her potential and her time and her efforts. And so she just focused on getting better every single day.”

The high school coach pointed out that “Caitlin is a type of person [for whom] it’s always been important ... to maximize her God-given talents and to share those with the world.”

Meyer continued: “She knows that some of her gifts from God are not only her athleticism but [also] her ability to entertain. So I think she really just tries to maximize those gifts and share those with the world through the sport of basketball.”

The segment of Meyer’s interview on “EWTN News Nightly” can be viewed below.

Catholic and Anglican nuns defend religious freedom in New York’s highest court

Anglican nuns from Sisterhood of Saint Mary (photographed with bishops from the Anglican Church of North America's Diocese of the Living Word) are among those suing the state of New York for requiring that they cover abortion in their health plans. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Becket Law

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

A coalition of Christian groups — including Catholic nuns, Anglican nuns, Catholic dioceses, and other faith-based ministries — defended their religious freedom rights to abstain from covering abortions in their health care plans in front of New York’s highest court on Tuesday.

The New York State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges a New York Department of Financial Services regulation that could require the organizations to cover “medically necessary” abortions. Although the law includes a narrow religious exemption, the strict criteria needed to qualify for the exemption could prevent many faith-based organizations from being approved.

Even though the New York State Court of Appeals previously upheld the regulation, the United States Supreme Court asked that the court reconsider its ruling in light of the new religious freedom precedent set in 2021.

Noel Francisco, the lawyer representing the religious groups, told the seven-judge panel that the regulation would force these groups to violate their religious beliefs. He said the narrow religious exemption allows some faith-based groups to abstain from funding abortion but that others fail to qualify, which effectively lets the state “pick religious winners and losers.”

Per the state regulation, a faith-based organization would only qualify for the exemption if it primarily employs people who share in its religious tenets and primarily serves people who share in its religious tenets. Effectively, charitable faith-based organizations that provide services to people regardless of their faith are unable to qualify.

In his oral arguments, Francisco argued that the law is not generally applicable because it does not treat all religious groups equally and prevents some faith-based groups from qualifying for an exemption based on its narrow criteria. Under the strict rules, he noted that the ministry of St. Teresa of Calcutta, widely known as Mother Teresa, would not even be able to qualify for a religious exemption under such rules.

“Under this law, the state would have the discretion to deny a religious employer exemption to Mother Teresa and the sisters of Calcutta because, the last time I checked, the poor people of Calcutta were not predominantly Catholic,” Francisco told the judges. “This is a regime that is contrary to the Supreme Court precedent from root to branch.”

The judges challenged Assistant Solicitor General Laura Etlinger, who represented the state agency that promulgated the regulation, during oral arguments. One of the primary concerns expressed by the judges was that the regulation would force faith-based ministries to either provide abortion coverage or drastically curtail their religious mission to conform themselves to the exemption criteria.

In her oral arguments, Etlinger claimed the state drew “a reasonable line” when setting the criteria for an exemption. She further argued that ruling against the state would “discourage the state from providing accommodations” and the result would be “restrictions on free exercise rather than promoting free exercise.”

Etlinger told the judges that there is “deference [given] to the requesting objector” when an organization applies for the exemption and noted the organizations suing the state “have never sought an exemption.”

In a rebuttal, Francisco countered that his clients did not apply for an exemption because they provide services to people regardless of faith and clearly did not meet the criteria set in the state regulation.

The United States Supreme Court requested that the New York State Court of Appeals reconsider the case in light of the religious freedom victory in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Philadelphia could not discriminate against faith-based adoption services that refuse to facilitate adoptions for homosexual couples.

Episcopal bishops oppose Catholic music group’s use of New York seminary

The Chapel of the Good Shepherd is home to the General Theological Seminary in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 17, 2024 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Episcopal bishops in New York state are vocally opposing a Catholic music group’s usage of a seminary facility in New York City, citing concerns over the purported position of the group’s founders on LGBT issues.

Episcopal News Service (ENS), the official news wire of the Episcopal Church, reported this month that the seven bishops who serve the Episcopal dioceses of New York and Long Island “are publicly opposing the potential long-term lease of General Theological Seminary’s property and facilities” to the School of Sacred Music (SSM).

SSM is “grounded in the Roman Catholic tradition,” the institute says on its website. It offers “support, development, and inspiration to all who value sacred music,” including through a professional choir.

The school “engage[s] and inspire[s] students and professional church musicians, members of the clergy, congregations, faith communities, and all interested members of the public,” it says. 

Since late 2023 the Catholic institution has been using the Episcopal seminary’s Chapel of the Good Shepherd in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The music school meets twice weekly there for vespers. 

ENS reported this month that the seminary is considering a “long-term lease” with the Catholic organization, one that would see the School of Sacred Music undertaking renovations of the Episcopal campus and paying the seminary an annual rent. 

In their letter, the Episcopal bishops said they were “concerned by the lack of full acceptance of the LGBTQ stance” of the founders of SSM, as well as “the lack of transparency in its funding.” 

“We recognize the difficult financial situation … with the General Seminary campus,” the bishops wrote. “We are also making difficult decisions about the future use of sacred spaces. It’s important to make decisions that align with our mission and values. Human dignity is not negotiable.”

It was not immediately clear what the bishops in their letter meant by the “lack of full acceptance of the LGBTQ stance” of the school’s founders. Spokespersons for the New York and Long Island Episcopal dioceses did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. 

Though SSM lists relatively little information about its structure or organization on its website, the Episcopal news wire reported that the group is a subsidiary of the Ithuriel Fund, a “major donor” of which is Colin Moran, the president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. That institute is the publisher of the Catholic magazine First Things. 

ENS reported that “some of the articles published by First Things” under “Moran’s leadership” advocate “particularly conservative views toward human sexuality,” such as a recent article arguing that Christians should not attend gay wedding ceremonies. 

Moran could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. 

In a statement last month, meanwhile, the seminary’s president, Ian Markham, suggested the proposed lease with the Catholic group was necessary for the Episcopal institution to remain solvent. 

The seminary “faces significant revenue and cash flow challenges,” he wrote. “In fiscal year 2023, GTS’ operating expenses were $7 million, against an annual income of $4.3 million. The seminary has no funding source for any emergency capital expenditure, or deferred maintenance, which is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.”

The seminary’s board “gave its unanimous backing to enter into negotiations with SSM at its November meeting and for these negotiations to continue at its recent February meeting,” he wrote. 

“Any agreement it reaches with the SSM will be consistent with the seminary’s mission and respect GTS’ core commitment to inclusivity,” Markham said in the statement. 

On Wednesday, meanwhile, seminary spokeswoman Nicky Burridge told CNA that “nothing has changed” regarding the plan for the Catholic group to use the property in both the short term and the future.

“[N]egotiations continue with SSM; meanwhile, SSM continues to have a short-term rental agreement to use parts of the Close, such as the Chapel of the Good Shepherd,” she said.

New York prosecutor, Brooklyn Diocese reach agreement over sex abuse mishandling

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the media on May 26, 2022, in New York City. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 17, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that the Diocese of Brooklyn has agreed to “significant action” to address shortcomings in how it handles sexual abuse complaints. 

The diocese “knew about this pervasive problem” for years, James said upon making the announcement, but “did not adequately address allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct,” leading the organization to fail to “consistently comply with its own policies and procedures for responding to sexual abuse.”

In 2018, James’ office launched an investigation into the diocese. Among the failures highlighted by the investigation include an instance in which the diocese for more than a decade neglected to inform parishioners after a priest admitted to sexually abusing minors. 

In another case, the diocese “repeatedly transferred [a] priest from parish to parish” in order to avoid complaints of inappropriate conduct. 

Overall, the attorney general’s report on the inquiry cited nearly a dozen “clergy case histories” in which the diocese failed in various ways to investigate or address abuse claims against priests. 

Among the terms to which the diocese agreed include the installation of an “independent, secular monitor,” one who will both oversee the diocese’s compliance with its abuse reporting procedures and who will also “issue an annual report” on its handling of sex abuse claims. 

The diocese will also strengthen its current abuse reporting and monitoring policies, create new safety offices and committees, and hire a “Clergy Monitor” with “law enforcement or counseling experience” who will “develop and oversee abuse prevention plans for priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.”

The diocese “has made a commitment to implementing holistic reforms that will ensure every report of sexual abuse or misconduct is handled quickly and transparently,” James said in the press release.

“New Yorkers deserve to trust their faith leaders, and my office will continue to support the diocese’s efforts to rebuild that trust with their community.”

Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan said in a statement on Tuesday that the agreement “concludes a difficult period in the life of the Church.”

“While the Church should have been a sanctuary, I am deeply sorry that it was a place of trauma for the victims of clergy sexual abuse,” said Brennan, who was installed as the eighth bishop of Brooklyn in November 2021.

“I pray God’s healing power will sustain them. Today, we move forward with the strongest policies in place for the protection of children and adults.”

In addition to its updated reporting and monitoring policies, the Brooklyn Diocese will in the future also “publicly announce any decisions to remove priests or other clergy members from active ministry” by “issuing a press release and adding the offender’s name to a published list of credibly accused clergy.” 

The bishop in such cases will also inform the parishes at which the accused priest previously served. 

This is not the first New York state diocese with which James’ office has struck an agreement over sex abuse policies. 

In October 2022 the Diocese of Buffalo settled a two-year-old lawsuit with the prosecutor’s office over charges that the diocese covered up sexual abuse cases involving priests. 

That agreement directed the diocese to appoint a child protection policy coordinator whose responsibilities include making sure the diocese abides by its child protection rules. It also required the diocese to submit to an outside audit. 

Additionally, the deal limited the organizational privileges of Bishop Richard Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, both of whom faced allegations of covering up sexual abuse in the diocese. 

James on Tuesday noted that investigations into the Archdiocese of New York, as well as into the Dioceses of Albany, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, and Syracuse, remain ongoing.

Pope Francis: The temperate person is balanced by both principle and empathy

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 09:14 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday presented the fourth and final cardinal virtue of temperance in his ongoing catechetical series of vices and virtues by noting that temperance itself is crucial for living a happy, balanced life.

“The gift of the temperate person is therefore balance, a quality as precious as it is rare. Indeed, everything in our world pushes to excess. Instead, temperance combines well with Gospel values such as smallness, discretion, modesty, meekness,” the pope said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. 

“In a world where many people boast about saying what they think, the temperate person instead prefers to think about what he says,” the pope said. “He does not make empty promises but makes commitments to the extent that he can fulfill them.” 

Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope noted that “the temperate person succeeds in holding extremes together: He affirms absolute principles, asserts nonnegotiable values, but also knows how to understand people and shows empathy for them.”

The pope opened his reflection on temperance by looking to Aristotle’s “The Nicomachean Ethics,” an ethical treatise on the art of living. Francis noted that according to the Greek philosopher, man’s flourishing and the ability to live a happy life is realizable only by “the capacity for self-mastery, the art of not letting oneself be overcome by rebellious passions.”

This reflection on Artistolean ethics sets the foundation for an understanding of virtue present in the Church’s teaching. “Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods,” the pope said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For the pope, temperance, as expressed in ancient thought and in the Church, can be summarized as “the virtue of the right measure,” a point he made by contrasting it with those who are “moved by impulse or exuberance,” which makes them “ultimately unreliable.” 

Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis explained that being temperate does not always require one to be “peaceful” or with a “smiling face.” Instead, in certain situations, “it is necessary to be indignant, but always in the right way.”

“A word of rebuke is at times healthier than a sour, rancorous silence. The temperate person knows that nothing is more uncomfortable than correcting another person, but he also knows that it is necessary; otherwise, one offers free reign to evil,” the pope observed.

Following the blessing at the end of the general audience, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Ukraine and in Gaza, imploring that “prisoners of war” and the “tortured” be freed. 

“The torture of prisoners is a very bad thing; it is not humane,” the pope said. “Let us think of the many tortures that harm the dignity of the person and of the many tortured people.”

Christian leaders in Africa mark 30 years since Rwandan genocide

null / Credit: Elisa Finocchiaro via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

ACI Africa, Apr 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Members of the Africa Christian Professionals Forum (ACPF) have expressed their solidarity with the people of Rwanda as the landlocked central African country marks 30 years since the Rwandan genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were murdered.

“The Africa Christian Professionals Forum (ACPF), dedicated to promoting and protecting the sanctity of Life, Family Values, and good governance, extends its solidarity to Rwanda as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the genocide,” officials of the organization said in their Sunday, April 7, statement.

ACPF members join “Rwanda’s government, her citizens, African Union member states, and the global community in remembering the tragic loss of innocent lives,” the statement continued.

Recalling the events of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which lasted approximately 100 days, ACPF officials said: “Thirty years ago, humanity witnessed unspeakable violence, resulting in countless innocent deaths.”

“Today, we pause to reflect on the immense suffering endured by victims and their families, offering our deepest condolences to all affected,” they added.

​​The ACPF said the 30th anniversary of the genocide needs to inspire humanity to commit to seeking lasting peace.

“As we mark this solemn anniversary, let us recommit to creating a world where such atrocities never recur,” they said. “May the memories of the victims inspire us to tirelessly pursue peace, tolerance, and understanding.”

ACPF officials also called on the international community “to reaffirm its commitment to preventing genocide and mass atrocities, promoting justice, human rights, and dignity for all.”

In the April 7 statement, the Christian leaders in Africa said they “commend Rwanda’s resilience and determination in rebuilding, fostering unity, and reconciliation, offering hope to all.”

The 1994 Rwandan genocide was reportedly triggered by the deaths on April 6, 1994, of the country’s president, Juvenal Habyarimana, alongside his counterpart in Burundi, President Cyprien Ntaryamira. The two presidents, both Hutu, were returning from peace talks between the Hutu and the Tutsi when their plane was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, killing everyone on board.

In May 2023, Pope Francis dismissed from clerical duties a Rwandan Catholic priest considered to be a mastermind in the genocide. 

Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who was serving in France’s Diocese of Evreux, was accused of playing an active role in the genocide in different parts of Kigali while he was pastor of Holy Family Parish in the Archdiocese of Kigali.

In November 2006, a military tribunal in Rwanda found Munyeshyaka guilty of rape and involvement in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment, KTpress reported.

This article was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

Cardinal Goh of Singapore hopes Pope Francis’ visit will ‘spur a renewal’ in the country

Cardinal William Goh of Singapore celebrates Mass at the city-state's Indoor Stadium on July 4, 2015. / Credit: Archdiocese of Singapore

CNA Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Following the announcement of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to the Asia Pacific region later this year, Cardinal William Goh, archbishop of Singapore, has expressed his hope that the Holy Father’s visit to the city-nation from Sept. 11–13 “will bring renewed fervor to all Catholics in Singapore.” 

In a media release, Goh encouraged the Catholic population of Singapore to unite and pray for the Holy Father’s upcoming visit. “Let us, as a community, pray for the continued health and safety of the Holy Father and ask the Lord to grant us a truly meaningful and grace-filled visit,” he said. 

Pope Francis’ visit will come 10 years after Goh outlined his 10-year pastoral plan for the Catholic Church in Singapore. 

At a 2014 meeting held with approximately 750 parish ministry representatives, Goh stated that the Church may appear vibrant because of “so many Masses, baptisms, confirmations,” but it nevertheless faces challenges, including the declining practice of faith among local Singaporeans. 

“Half of the Catholics go to church. The Church is full thanks to the migrants,” he said.

To help Singaporean Catholics to spiritually prepare “to meet Jesus through Pope Francis’ pastoral visit,” the Archdiocese of Singapore also recently launched a dedicated website containing prayers, online resources, and other updates regarding the coming of the Holy Father in September. The website also unveiled the archdiocese’s chosen trifold theme of “Unity, Hope, and the Cross” to mark the occasion of the 2024 papal trip. 

To date, there are about 395,000 Catholics living in the country who belong to diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Masses are predominantly celebrated in English but are also available in Mandarin, Tamil, and other Southeast Asian or European languages for local and expatriate communities. 

Though the Catholic Church is relatively young and diverse, and it is growing in numbers in a place of political peace where religious tolerance toward institutions and individuals is mandated by the law, Goh hopes Pope Francis’ visit will spur a renewal and strengthening of faith, conversion of heart, and missionary spirit within Singapore’s Catholic communities.   

Dominic Nalpon, a Singaporean theology student based in Rome, shares Goh’s sentiment that external factors, such as the numbers of Catholic faithful, do not necessarily indicate a “booming” Church. 

“Singapore is probably the most Western country in Asia, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, but we are also the most affluent, and I think there is a correlation between affluence and a decline in faith or religiosity,” Nalpon said. “I think that the challenge is that we can easily fall into the external practices of faith but without having a grounded relationship with the Lord. I think that’s the hardest issue.”   

One of the highlights of the pope’s visit to Singapore will be the papal Mass expected to take place on Sept. 12. 

The last and only other time a pontiff visited Singapore was in 1986 when Pope John Paul II made a five-hour stopover in the country and celebrated Mass with thousands of people at the national stadium. 

Rome to host World Meeting of Parish Priests in preparation for Synod on Synodality

Statue of St. Peter in front of St. Peter's Basilica. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 17, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The World Meeting of Parish Priests for the Synod on Synodality will be held April 29–May 2 in Sacrofano, Rome, and will reflect on the theme “How to Be a Synodal Local Church in Mission.”

With a view to the second and last session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held at the Vatican next October, the General Secretariat of the Synod has invited a number of parish priests to travel to Rome.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod and coordinator of the initiative, explained that it is “a meeting of listening, prayer, and discernment promoted by the General Secretariat of the Synod and the Dicastery for the Clergy, together with the Dicastery for Evangelization and the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.”

The meeting also responds “to the recommendations of the participants in the first session of the Synod of Synodality, held in October 2023, who suggested listening more to the voice of the parish priests.”

As Marín explained, the objective will be to “listen to and enhance the synodal experience that they are having in their respective parishes and dioceses” as well as “enable dialogue and the exchange of experiences and ideas.”

Another purpose of the meeting is to “provide materials that will be used in the drafting of the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for the synod’s second session, together with the summaries of the consultation coordinated by the bishops’ conferences and the results of the theological-canonical study carried out by five working groups formed by the General Secretariat of the Synod.”

The number of participants was determined according to a criterion similar to that used for the election of members of the Synod Assembly by the bishops’ conferences (approximately 200). However, given the requests received from some bishops’ conferences, the number of participants will be greater than 200.

In selecting participants, bishops’ conferences and Eastern Catholic Churches were asked to take into account, as far as possible, those “who have significant experience with the perspective of a synodal Church” as well as “favor a certain variety of pastoral contexts of rural or urban origin or specific sociocultural contexts.”

On the last day of the gathering, May 2, the parish priests will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican and the meeting will end with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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