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Trump accuses Biden of ‘persecuting’ Catholics

Former president Donald Trump accused the Biden administration of "weaponizing the government," and targeting Catholics and pro-life advocates. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Former President Donald Trump this week reiterated his claim that President Joe Biden is persecuting Catholics, saying Biden has “weaponized” the Department of Justice (DOJ) against them. 

In an interview with Sean Hannity on Feb. 29, the former president asserted that “Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted like nothing this nation has ever seen before.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with the Catholics,” Trump said, saying that Biden has “weaponized the FBI and the DOJ to go get his political opponents and many other people.” The most recent comments echo ones Trump has made on the campaign trail, including in December when he said Biden is “going violently and viciously after Catholics” by “sending undercover spies” and sending “SWAT teams to arrest pro-life activists.”

Trump, who is not Catholic and whose views differ from those of the Church in a number of key areas, has frequently accused Biden, a professed Catholic who also disagrees with numerous Church teachings, of persecuting his fellow Catholics.

Under Biden, the DOJ has brought numerous charges against peaceful pro-life demonstrators for violations of the federal FACE Act, which prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

In recent years perhaps the most notable FACE Act charge was made against Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania father of seven who made national headlines when he was arrested by armed authorities at his home on Sept. 23, 2022, and eventually cleared of all charges.

Trump and others who allege Biden is targeting Catholics cite a now-retracted FBI document that appeared to suggest an FBI investigation into “radical traditionalist” Catholics and their possible ties to “the far-right white nationalist movement.” 

The leaked FBI memo, dated Jan. 23, 2023, claims that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists will likely become more interested in “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” within the next 12 to 24 months “in the run-up to the next general election cycle.” In response to an inquiry from CNA at the time of the leak, the FBI said it would remove the document because “it does not meet our exacting standards.”

After the memo was leaked, the U.S. bishops denounced it as “troubling and offensive.”

Pro-lifers skeptical as new study claims to prove abortion on the rise

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A pro-abortion group has released a new study in which it claims the monthly abortion rate has remained at the same level or even increased since the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Officials with two national pro-life groups, meanwhile, are casting doubt on the abortion group’s numbers and arguing that pro-life laws passed since Roe’s overturn have been effective at saving unborn lives.

What did the study say?

The Society of Family Planning’s report said that rather than declining after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision overturned Roe, the number of monthly abortions between July and September 2023 “remains similar if not higher” than in the same period pre-Dobbs.

Additionally, the report claimed that abortion volumes have “been consistent with expected month-to-month variation in the average monthly number of abortions” since April 2022, two months before the Dobbs decision. 

This, they said, was due to a sharp rise in chemical abortions as well as an increase in the number of women traveling out of states with pro-life laws to obtain abortions.

The report also found that nearly 1 in 6 (16%) of all U.S. abortions are committed via telehealth medication (also called chemical abortion).

Overall, the Society of Family Planning said the three most recent months of data collection from abortionists show between 81,150 and 88,620 abortions per month.

Are the abortion group’s numbers accurate? 

Kristi Hamrick, a representative for Students for Life of America, disputed the abortion group’s numbers, telling CNA that they were “unreliable” and based on “speculative data.”

Hamrick said that because there is currently no national abortion reporting law, it is very difficult to obtain accurate abortion numbers in the U.S.

Referencing a 2023 study by the Institute of Labor Economics that found 32,000 more babies were born in states with pro-life laws post-Roe, Hamrick said “we know” that “more children were born in states that had abortion-limiting laws post-Dobbs.”

“That’s a real number,” she said. “All the numbers from the abortion side are at best speculation.”

What about the rise in chemical abortions? 

Despite her skepticism toward the Society of Family Planning’s numbers, Hamrick said she is “very concerned” about the increase in chemical abortions, especially those done with little to no medical supervision.

Since the Biden administration has loosened restrictions on chemical abortion in the last few years, it is widely believed to account for as much as half of all U.S. abortions.

Hamrick said that whether the numbers are accurate or not the “real headline” should be that “the abortion industry is willing to risk women’s lives in 1 in 6 abortions.”

Without tests or doctor examinations, she said that abortion pills distributed online expose women to “injury, infertility, death, and abusers.”

Are pro-life laws effective?

Tessa Longbons, a senior research associate with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that “this report does not indicate that pro-life laws are ineffective and that babies have not been saved from abortion.”

She said that though “it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on abortion numbers,” abortions in the U.S. “had been increasing rapidly prior to Dobbs.”  

“We don’t know what the national total would have been without the Dobbs decision,” Longbons said. “However, available research shows that pro-life laws have been saving babies.”

She referenced the Society of Family Planning report to say that states with pro-life laws have seen abortions “drop by over 120,000 post-Roe,” with the largest decline being in Texas at 46,000 fewer abortions and then in Georgia at 25,000 fewer. 

“I believe it’s important to not forget the major gains the pro-life movement [made] following the Dobbs decision,” Longbons said. “Under Roe, the pro-life movement didn’t even have a seat at the table to advocate for the unborn. Now, we can celebrate the fact that 24 states have put pro-life protections in place.” 

She added that “while passing lifesaving laws is crucial, the pro-life movement has never been solely focused on legislation.” 

“There are over 2,700 pregnancy centers around the country that work to support women and families and save unborn babies from abortion,” she said. “These centers provided over $350 million worth of goods and services in 2022 alone, and research indicates they saved over 800,000 lives between 2016 and 2020.” 

The Society of Family Planning did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the criticisms of its study.

French bishops lament country’s enshrinement of abortion in constitution

Members of the French Parliament are shown when they convened for a previous revision of the country's constitution at Versailles castle, near Paris, in 2008. / Credit: Joel Sagat/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

By a vote of 267-50, the French Senate this week approved a constitutional amendment to include women’s recourse to abortion as a “guaranteed freedom.” 

In the wake of the vote on Monday, March 4, the amendment is expected to receive a final vote of approval at the Palace of Congresses in Versailles. If approved as expected, the country will become the first in the world to specifically make abortion a right enumerated in its constitution.

“I committed to making women’s freedom to abort irreversible, enshrining it in the Constitution,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on X. “The Senate has taken a decisive step, which I welcome,” he added.

French bishops respond

In a Feb. 29 statement posted on X, the French Bishops’ Conference said it was “saddened” by the senators’ vote on the constitutional measure.

The bishops pointed out that abortion “remains an affront to life in its beginnings” and that “it cannot be seen solely from the perspective of women’s rights.”

The prelates also regretted that the parliamentary debate “did not mention the measures to help those women and men who would like to keep their child.”

“The bishops’ conference will be vigilant with respect to the freedom of choice of parents who decide, even in difficult situations, to keep their child and the freedom of conscience of doctors and all health care personnel, whose courage and commitment it commends,” the prelates concluded.

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

CVS and Walgreens to begin selling abortion pills this month

null / Credit: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock and Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

CVS and Walgreens, the two largest pharmacy chains in the country, announced on Friday that they will begin selling the abortion pill mifepristone this month.

Martin Maloney, a media representative for Walgreens, told CNA that the chain would begin distributing the pills within the next week in “select locations” in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois.

Walgreens has announced its decision to distribute the pills following the completion of the FDA certification process. The pills will not be delivered via mail, according to spokesperson Maloney.

CVS, meanwhile, said it will begin selling abortion pills in the next few weeks, the Associated Press reported.

Chemical abortions are committed via a two-pill regimen consisting of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. This type of abortion works by cutting off the nutrients necessary for an unborn child to develop and then expelling him or her from the womb. Chemical abortions are widely believed to be on the rise nationally and may account for over half of all U.S. abortions.

The Biden administration has significantly loosened restrictions on abortion drugs in recent years, allowing pills to be administered via mail and telemedicine without in-person doctor examinations.

The FDA’s broad approval of mifepristone is being called into question currently as oral arguments in the FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine case are set to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 26. The decision could restore key abortion pill restrictions that were in place before the Biden administration and could determine whether mifepristone can be prescribed by telemedicine or sent through the mail. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced grave concerns regarding chemical abortion pills, citing “the destruction of innocent human lives and the loosening of vital safety standards for vulnerable women.”

The pro-life group Human Coalition in a Friday statement decried the pharmacy chains’ decision to begin selling abortion drugs.

“This is a massive scheme of abortion on demand where our neighborhood pharmacies have been turned into merchants of death,” said Chelsey Youman, National Director of Public Policy at Human Coalition. 

“The FDA has lost all credibility in abandoning its responsibility to protect life, and women and children are paying the cost with their lives,” she said. “We are imploring the Supreme Court to intervene to stop the madness and at the very least require the FDA to reinstate basic safety protections of abortion pills.”

Pope Francis meets FSSP head, confirms right to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass 

The superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), Father Andrzej Komorowski, met with Pope Francis on Feb. 29, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Pater Stefan Reiner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met with the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) on Thursday, confirming that restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass don’t apply to the order.

The private meeting between the pope and Father Andrzej Komorowski, who was accompanied by two priests from his order, came at the invitation of Pope Francis and followed a request from the FSSP.

According to a press release from the FSSP, the meeting was an opportunity to showcase “deep gratitude to the Holy Father” and to discuss the “liturgical specificity of the Fraternity of St. Peter.” 

The FSSP was established on July 18, 1988, as a society of apostolic life of pontifical right by the Holy See, a canonical status that was granted by Pope John Paul II.

At the heart of the FSSP’s charism is the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, also known as the Tridentine Mass, Traditional Latin Mass, or “Usus Antiquior.” 

The FSSP’s statement noted that the priests shared with the pope “the difficulties encountered” in applying the pope’s Feb. 11, 2022, decree addressed to the fraternity,” in which he confirmed the right of the order to celebrate the Mass “according to the typical editions of the liturgical books, namely the Missal, the Ritual, the Pontifical, and the Roman Breviary, in force in the year 1962.” 

“The pope was very understanding and invited the Fraternity of St. Peter to continue to build up ecclesial communion ever more fully through its own proper charism,” the statement said. 

Priests celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass at FSSP’s parish in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. Credit: Matthew Santucci
Priests celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass at FSSP’s parish in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. Credit: Matthew Santucci

The FSSP was founded by 12 priests and 20 seminarians who were formerly part of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a canonically irregular traditionalist priestly society established by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970. Lefebvre, one of the most influential leaders in the traditionalist movement, was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 when he ordained four bishops for the SPPX, which was against the expressed prohibition of the Holy See.

The Feb. 29 meeting came amid a broad crackdown on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass following Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes. 

The papal decree severely curtailed the permission granted to priests for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, had previously allowed all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 without having to seek their bishop’s permission.

Traditionis Custodes reversed course and explicitly stated that it was the “exclusive competence” of the bishop to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The Feb. 29 meeting between the FSSP and the pope is their second such encounter in recent years and comes after news broke that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, canceled the celebration of the Easter Triduum according to the old rite. 

At the first private audience, held on Feb. 4, 2022, the FSSP asked for clarification regarding the implementation of Traditionis Custodes with respect to the Ecclesia Dei communities. In a press release, the fraternity noted that during the “very cordial meeting,” Pope Francis “expressed that he was very impressed by the approach taken by its founders, their desire to remain faithful to the Roman Pontiff, and their trust in the Church.” 

“In the course of the audience, the pope made it clear that institutes such as the Fraternity of St. Peter are not affected by the general provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, since the use of the ancient liturgical books was at the origin of their existence and is provided for in their constitutions,” the communique continued.

Since its foundation in 1988, the FSSP has grown to become the largest of the Ecclesia Dei communities. According to internal 2023 figures, the FSSP currently has 368 priests, 22 deacons, and 179 seminarians. The average age of their members is 39.

The FSSP is present in 146 dioceses, celebrates Mass in 246 locations, and counts 48 personal parishes. One of their most active parishes is Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome, which is one of the main sites for the annual Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage.   

The FSSP currently operates two international seminaries. Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary located in Denton, Nebraska, is for English-speaking seminarians, while the seminary of St. Peter in Wigratzbad-Opfenbach, Germany, is divided into two sections for German- and French-speaking seminarians. 

As a pontifical right society, the FSSP answers to the pope. The FSSP formerly operated within the framework of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established by Pope John Paul II. However, in 2019, Pope Francis suppressed the commission and put the fraternity under the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  

Vatican unveils the Holy Lance: a solemn tribute to soldier of faith St. Longinus

A canon of Saint Peter elevates the relic of the Holy Lance one last time before returning it to its chapel on Feb. 24, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2024 / 12:37 pm (CNA).

The Holy Lance, also known as the Lance of Longinus, holds a significant place in Christian tradition as the weapon believed to have pierced the side of Jesus during his crucifixion. Tradition holds that the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica has the jealous custody of a relic that is part of the Holy Lance. 

The Gospel of John provides the sole biblical reference to this event, recounting that a Roman soldier named Longinus, on the eve of the Sabbath, ensured Jesus’ death by piercing him in the side with a lance. This act, as described in John 19:34, has sparked centuries of reverence and fascination across Europe and inside the Vatican.

Ministers process to the high altar, with the statue of St. Longinus in the background, on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
Ministers process to the high altar, with the statue of St. Longinus in the background, on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

A soldier of faith

The story of St. Longinus has evolved into various local legends, contributing to the rich tapestry of Christianity. The city of Lanciano in the Abruzzo region asserts itself as his birthplace, claiming that his martyrdom occurred there. Conversely, Mantua in Lombardy contends that Longinus preached in the area, was martyred there, and brought relics of the Lord’s precious blood and the sponge used during the Passion to the city’s Basilica of St. Andrew. 

The diverse narratives surrounding St. Longinus highlight the widespread devotion and the impact of his acts recorded in the Gospel of St. John and in legends that go beyond the scriptural tradition.

Liturgical commemoration

The feast of St. Longinus was historically celebrated on March 15. The Roman Martyrology, however, mentions the saint on Oct. 16 without any mention of martyrdom. The entry states: “At Jerusalem, the commemoration of St. Longinus, who is venerated as the soldier opening the side of the crucified Lord with a lance.”

Statue of St. Longinus by Bernini, completed in the year 1638, is housed in St. Peter's Basilica. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
Statue of St. Longinus by Bernini, completed in the year 1638, is housed in St. Peter's Basilica. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

Inside the Vatican

The statue of St. Longinus, sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, stands as a testament to his role in Christian history. The statue is one of four statues standing in the pillars’ niches supporting Michelangelo’s dome. 

In the Vatican, a special ceremony takes place in St. Peter’s Basilica during the first week of Lent. On the eve of the second Sunday of Lent — this year on Feb. 24 — the canons of St. Peter’s Basilica gather with the archpriest of the basilica, presently Monsignor Mauro Gambetti, and with concelebrating priests and the other ministers. They process to the high altar, presently under restoration, which marks the tomb of St. Peter. At the foot of the altar they meet the faithful, who are waiting for the liturgy to begin.

The celebrant begins with the opening prayer and incenses the procession cross, which bears the corpus of Christ. The choir sings the Litany of the Saints until the intonation of “St. Peter, pray for us” — sung three times in honor of the “station,” which is kept on this day in Lent. (Each day during Lent, the local Church of Rome pilgrimages to a different tomb of a martyr, called the Roman Station Church pilgrim itinerary.)

All gather at the foot of the high altar to start the liturgy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
All gather at the foot of the high altar to start the liturgy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

After the third intonation to St. Peter, the altar servers behind the crossbearer lead the procession. They are followed by the concelebrating priests, the canons, and the celebrant. The procession goes down the nave of the basilica. Those present, the nuns and faithful alike, join in the procession, continuing to sing the Litany of the Saints. The procession continues through the basilica, culminating in the area of the altar of the chair for the holy Mass.

The crossbearer leads the procession while all sing the Litany of the Saints passing Bernini’s statue of St. Longinus. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
The crossbearer leads the procession while all sing the Litany of the Saints passing Bernini’s statue of St. Longinus. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
The consecration and elevation of the Host during the Mass on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
The consecration and elevation of the Host during the Mass on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

Another procession

After the Mass, a special moment unfolds as the ministers and servers process around the high altar as the choir sings the “Stabat Mater.” The following antiphon is also sung in Latin: “Unus militum lancea latus eius aperuit et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua,” the translation of which is: “One of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, and immediately there flowed out blood and water.”

Due to the work on the baldacchino of St. Peter’s, the procession this year continues around the canopy of the altar and pauses in front of the statue of St. Andrew. The clerics take off their head coverings, miters and birettas, and face the chapel above the statue of St. Veronica. A prayer is said by the canon who is about to expose the relic of the Holy Lance. He then goes to fetch the relic accompanied by two additional canons. 

The bells begin to ring. Slowly, three canons exit the chapel onto the loggia, and one with red gloves carries the relic of the lance of St. Longinus. The canon, accompanied by the other two, proceeds to show the relic in all directions for the veneration of those present while the thurifer incenses the relic from down below.

The relic is shown from the center of the loggia, then to its left and its right, and back to the center to elevate the relic especially for one last glimpse.

It is silent in the Basilica of St. Peter as all look up to glimpse the relic of the Holy Lance. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
It is silent in the Basilica of St. Peter as all look up to glimpse the relic of the Holy Lance. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

The bells sound one more time as the relic is processed back into its chapel — finally, the ministers of the Mass process to the sacristy of the basilica. Thus, the station liturgy is done. 

A Lenten example

According to tradition, Longinus not only witnessed the crucifixion but also was healed of a malady of the eyes by the blood that flowed from Jesus’ side. He is also said to be the centurion who said: “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Mt 27:54).

In the intricate tapestry of Roman tradition, the Holy Lance and the figure of St. Longinus stand as symbols of devotion, sacrifice, and healing. The biblical reference in the Gospel of John, coupled with centuries of veneration, has woven a narrative that forms the very fabric of the Lenten experience in the local Church of the Diocese of Rome and the spirituality of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

The Holy Lance continues to captivate hearts and minds, inviting believers to contemplate the profound significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and to say with St. Longinus: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

The relic is shown from the center of the loggia, then to its left and its right, and back to the center to elevate the relic especially for one last glimpse on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican
The relic is shown from the center of the loggia, then to its left and its right, and back to the center to elevate the relic especially for one last glimpse on Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN Vatican

This article was originally published at EWTN Vatican, a partner of CNA.

Pope Francis: ‘Today the ugliest danger is gender ideology’

Pope Francis meets with members of the French-based academic organization Research and Anthropology of Vocations Institute on March 1, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday morning gave an address on the importance of building a culture that protects human and Christians vocations, things he suggested were at risk due to contemporary cultural challenges including gender ideology. 

“It is very important that there is this meeting, this meeting between men and women, because today the ugliest danger is gender ideology, which cancels out differences,” the pope said during an audience with members of the French-based academic organization Research and Anthropology of Vocations Institute (CRAV).

Gender ideology, which seeks to blur differences between men and women through movements such as transgenderism, “makes everything the same,” Francis said.

“Erasing differences is erasing humanity. Man and woman, however, are in a fruitful ‘tension,’” Francis told the assembly, which is gathered in Rome for a two-day international conference titled “Man, Woman, Image of God: For an Anthropology of Vocations.” 

The pope did not read the full address, instead delegating the task to Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli. “I still have a cold and it’s tiring to read for a while,” the pope said to the participants assembled at the Vatican.

Pope Francis meets with members of the French-based academic organization Research and Anthropology of Vocations Institute on March 1, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with members of the French-based academic organization Research and Anthropology of Vocations Institute on March 1, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Focusing the Friday morning address on the “anthropological crisis and the necessary promotion of human and Christian vocations,” Pope Francis said this task is challenged by myriad social challenges arising from the cultural zeitgeist, including gender ideology.

Highlighting the anthropological angle of the conference, the pope pointed to “an elementary and fundamental truth, which today we need to rediscover in all its beauty: The life of the human being is a vocation.”

The pope emphasized that this is a foundational element “which underlies every call within the community” and “has to do with an essential characteristic of the human being as such.” 

“This discovery,” the pope added, “brings us out of the isolation of a self-referential ego and makes us look at ourselves as an identity in relation.” 

The Holy Father emphasized that it is imperative to understand this “anthropological truth,” as it “fully responds to the desire for human fulfillment and happiness that lives in our hearts.” 

“We sometimes tend to forget or obscure this reality,” the pope said, which carries the risk of “reducing the human being to his sole material needs or primary needs, as if he were an object without conscience and without will, simply dragged by life as part of a mechanical gear.” 

To counteract this trend, the pope stressed that there needs to be a broad recondition that “the life of the human being is a vocation” and that “man and woman are created by God and are the image of the Creator.” 

The pope buttressed this remark by highlighting that human beings must cultivate a relationship with “he who generated me, to the reality that transcends me, to others and to the world around me,” as a way to express the universal call we each face “to embrace a specific and personal mission with joy and responsibility.” 

The conference includes 15 different sessions and will run from March 1–2. It features a line of speakers including Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who will evaluate the subjects of the conference through a pastoral lens as well through a study of philosophical and theological anthropology. 

Participants will attend Mass on Friday and Saturday, celebrated by Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost and Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, respectively.

Maker of rosary for 2024 National Eucharistic Congress hopes to inspire Eucharistic devotion

The official rosary for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: Ghirelli

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic rosary company Ghirelli recently announced its partnership with the National Eucharistic Congress in making the official rosary for the congress, which will be held July 17–21 in Indianapolis.

Founded by Alessandro and Cinzia Ghirelli, the family-run company has been crafting rosaries for more than 30 years. It has created the official rosaries used by the past three popes that are given by the Holy Father to special guests during his audiences and apostolic journeys. 

Ghirelli has worked with Catholic shrines around the world — including Fatima, Knock, Lourdes, and others — to create their official rosaries. Now, the company is supplying the official rosary for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

Dino Piccinini, managing director of Ghirelli in the United States, spoke with CNA about the inspiration behind the rosary for the congress.

Piccinini explained that the rosary is “very Eucharistic in nature. The inspiration is the monstrance.”

“The centerpiece is a miniature version of the monstrance that’s going to be at the congress in July that’s going to be holding the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

He shared that Ghirelli was able to use drawings and renderings of the monstrance created for the National Eucharistic Congress in order to replicate it in great detail. 

The design of the crucifix is based on John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches.”

“It’s natural. It’s earthy. And we pulled that theme into making it into a crucifix because there’s passages that say Jesus was hung on a tree, which is symbolic of the cross,” Piccinini explained.

“It just made sense that we have kind of a double whammy of a Eucharistic theme,” he added. “So, we’ve got the grapes on the vines and we have the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament inside.”

Piccinini hopes that this rosary will inspire people to “increase their devotion to the Eucharist and at the same time to the devotion of the rosary because we all know that the rosary is a very powerful weapon against all the battles that are happening.”

“I think having the Eucharist and increasing the devotion to the Eucharist and receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist more often and also praying the rosary more frequently, I think people will be in such a better place and it’ll bring people back to the Church.”

“We share in the mission the congress has set; we just want the renewal of the Church in our country and in the world,” Piccinini said.

The rosary can also be bought on the EWTN Religious Catalog.

How the U.S. bishops are reaching non-Catholics on issues of marriage and sexuality 

Credit: Tymonk Galyna via www.shutterstock.com

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops announced a new initiative last week designed to “bring clarity and compassion” to issues surrounding love, marriage, and sexuality by addressing “hidden assumptions about love.”

The Love Means More (LMM) initiative is meant to reflect the foundational principles of the Catholic understanding of love in a way that anyone — even those who are against Church teaching — can understand.

The initiative is based on a new website, Love Means More, which organizes hot-button issues “around one basic question: What is love?” explained Andrew Buonopane, the assistant director for marriage and family life for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Misunderstanding love 

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, who heads the committee leading the initiative, noted in a press release that conversations on these issues can be “confusing and polarizing” but hopes that LMM will bring “clarity and compassion.” 

“Cultural narratives tell us love is mostly about feeling good,” Barron continued. “True love is deeper than that, calling us to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love so we can live in union with him forever.”

LMM leads with “common experience” so as to be “intelligible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” Buonopane explained. 

The initiative “addresses common objections and points back to God’s distinctive, total self-gift,” he continued. 

“If someone dives straight into the middle, say, at the question about contraception, they’ll see that it’s situated within a larger treatment of chastity, sexual relationship, marriage, eros, agape, and love in general,” Buonopane noted.

“That way, there’s a better chance that the reader’s hidden assumptions about love, prior to any resistance to Church teaching on contraception, can be addressed too,” he said. 

Preventing alienation 

The bishops hope to reach two groups of people, Buonopane said: those who are “wounded” and “alienated from the love of Christ” but also those who, in their “attempts to defend a particular truth … cause more harm than good.” 

“If your personal experience is anything like mine, you probably have people in your life that fall into both of these camps,” he said. 

“I’ve sat with friends who were living unchastely or who experienced gender discordance, and they had certain expectations about what someone coming from a Catholic perspective would say,” he continued. “Those expectations didn’t align with the approaches that Jesus, Aquinas, or recent popes would actually take, largely because of unproductive encounters with fundamentalists or misguided Catholics.”

“I’ve also had conversations with people from that side, where I thought there was more agreement, until I heard how they arrived at their position,” he continued. “The strange thing is that the encounters between these two sides are simultaneously too confrontational and not direct enough.”

Buonopane said that these kinds of discussions “only address the point of disagreement indirectly” and often cause “each side” to “become more convinced that the other hated them.” 

Building off the past  

The approach builds on Christ’s approach as described in the 1965 Vatican document Gaudium et Spes (“Joy and Hope”), Buonopane noted.

Buonopane pointed out a key quote from Gaudium et Spes: “By the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, [Christ] fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”

Christ is “truly universal and truly distinctive at the same time,” and so “he’s the only one that can make it possible for us to receive and give the Father’s agape love,” he explained.

“That love is so universal that it can enter into any other kind of love in any human relationship and bring out its full character,” he said. 

Buonopane pointed out that Christ is direct when questioned by the Pharisees. 

“Because he’s truly universal, when he disagrees with his hearers, he’s not coming out of left field,” he said. “He’s able to use reasoning that they understand on their own terms (even if they don’t always end up agreeing).”

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