Browsing News Entries

Second Option - First Reading: Zechariah 2:14-17

10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the LORD.
11 And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
12 And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem."
13 Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

First Option - Gospel: Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
21 "Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
23 And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."

First Option - Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of thy steadfast love answer me. With thy faithful help
29 But I am afflicted and in pain; let thy salvation, O God, set me on high!
30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
32 Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Second Option - Gospel: Matthew 12:46-50

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
48 But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother."

HHS brings Protect Life Rule into effect

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Monday evening that parts of the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits recipients of Title X family planning funds to refer or provide abortion services, will go into effect immediately. 

As of July 15, the Department of Health and Human Services informed Title X fund recipients that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions. 

As of March next year, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds. 

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The Protect Life Rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X. 

Previously, abortion providers were ineligable to receive Title X funds, and the Supreme Court upheld this restriction in 1991. When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, his administration changed the program to include abortion providers. 

No money has been cut from Title X as a result of this change, and funds will still be available for eligible clinics. 

The Protect Life Rule was formally announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2018. Immediately after it was announced, the administration was sued by several states opposed to the changes. On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay that would have blocked the rule from going into effect. 

Planned Parenthood described the court’s decision as “devastating” and “crushing news,” though the organization remains eligible to receive $500 million in federal funding.

Last week, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, described the Protect Life Rule coming into force as “greatly encouraging.”

“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.” 

Orange diocese to dedicate Christ Cathedral

Orange, Calif., Jul 15, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Orange will dedicate its Christ Cathedral July 17 after a seven-year, $77-million renovation process.

“I would pray and hope that it (the Christ Cathedral) will build on the heritage we have and help bring new life and commitment and joy in the age we live and that through here the diocese will have a focal point of unity where God will be known and loved,” Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange told CNA.

Christ Cathedral was formerly named the Crystal Cathedral. The property was purchased by the Orange diocese in February 2012 for $57.5 million from the Protestant community which founded it. The building with its campus was sold after the community, founded by Robert Schuller, filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment.

The architectural landmark is made from over 10,000 panes of glass, and its interior had to be renovated to make it suitable for Catholic worship. CNA reported in September 2014 that the cathedral's dedication was scheduled for 2017.

The Christ Cathedral campus consists of seven buildings on 34 acres.

EWTN opened a studio on the campus in May 2015. CNA was acquired by EWTN in 2014.

An architect who was in the office of the Crystal Cathedral’s original designer told CNA in 2013 that Schuller “wanted a building that was both a building and not a building, so that in a sense he could be in an enclosure, but it would be as if he were out of doors, which is where he began his ministry: so this building was an entire shell of glass.”

Under the purchase agreement, the diocese agreed to maintain the exterior of all the buildings, including the then-Crystal Cathedral.

But Tony Jennison, Vice President of Philanthropy for the Diocese of Orange, said the interior of the cathedral is now completely different.

“We took what was basically a used cathedral, that wasn’t a Catholic cathedral...it was really a television studio for his [Schuller’s] Hour of Power...and we turned it into a Catholic cathedral,” Jennison said. “It’s completely different other than the outside facade.”

Bishop Vann inherited the renovation of the Crystal Cathedral when he was appointed Bishop of Orange in September 2012.

The bishop remembers the first time he stepped foot inside the church.

“I guess I thought, ‘How are we going to do this? How are we going to make it a Catholic space?” he told CNA.

Now, seven years later, Bishop Vann believes they’ve succeeded.

“We’ve actually made a Catholic space out of all this, with a lot of good will, a lot of study, a lot of prayer, a lot of work, a lot of discussions, a lot of meetings.”

Weekly meetings, to be exact. And Bishop Vann attended each of them.

“The bottom line was, I have to sign off on all these things,” he said. “It’s my responsibility before God to make sure we’re good stewards of what God has given us for the people of the diocese. So I really had to be vigilant and to really be involved in it.”

One of the most noticeable changes is the addition of an altar, crafted from stone and marble Bishop Vann selected in Italy.

Bishop Vann and the architects wanted the altar to be the major focal point of the space. Previously, the focal point was a massive, brown, wooden organ.

“We painted it (the organ) white so it would blend in,” Jennison said. “Your attention is drawn to the altar, which as Catholics that’s where it’s supposed to be.”



Underneath the altar is a bronze reliquary, designed by Brother William Woeger of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Bishop Vann will install relics of St. John Paul II and St. Junipero Serra, along with several Mexican, North American, Vietnamese, and Korean martyrs.

The relics will be available for veneration the evening before the cathedral’s dedication.

Another noticeable change is the addition of 11,000 “quatrefoils” to the glass panes that make up the walls and ceiling of the cathedral. Each quatrefoil is made of four triangles, situated at various angles to deflect UV rays and heat, help with acoustics, and disperse better the light from outside.

“From the inside, it filters the light. From the outside, it makes the structure look like a box of stars at night,” Jennison said.

The quatrefoils are a favorite feature of Christ Cathedral’s rector, Fr. Christopher Smith.

“I really think it’s kind of ethereal, I think it’s comforting, I think it’s peaceful, I think it lends itself to worship,” Fr. Smith said.

The quatrefoils cost the diocese about $6 million to install.

The diocese also permanently sealed two 90-foot glass doors Shuller would open to preach to people outside the church, and installed air conditioning.

Bishop Vann and the architects removed a fountain that ran down the middle of the original space, and installed a baptismal font in a baptistry connected to the main space, and near the campus’ nearly 1-acre ecumenical cemetery.

A 24-hour Adoration chapel sits on the opposite side of the baptistry. At the center of the round chapel is a tabernacle designed by the 20th-century German enamelist Egino Weinert and positioned on a pedestal of bronze that depicts images from the Gospels.

The interior of the Christ Cathedral is largely monochromatic, save for two pieces of artwork: a tapestry of the Pantocrator, and a mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The mosaic includes a crown that is removable for May crowning or other Marian celebrations.

There are also Stations of the Cross, designed by Bolivian-born sculptor Pablo Eduardo. The sculptor is currently working on artistic renditions of the manifestations of Christ’s divinity, which will be installed at a later date.

Also in the works is a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang, a Marian devotion from Vietnam. The shrine is located in the campus’ two-acre Marian Court, which will also include a rosary arden and space for other Marian shrines.

“It’s really a pilgrimage destination for all to come and really worship [sic] her [Mary],” said Michelle Dao, a major gift officer with the Orange Catholic Foundation.

The diocese added festal doors, which will open only on special occasions, including the July 17 dedication of the cathedral. The doors are made of blackened steel, and a bronze band depicting the creation spreads across the middle of the doors.

The narthex also has a bronze bar depicting the end of time, and portraits of saints.



When the property was purchased, a local parish and school, located eight blocks from the campus, were relocated.

“What that meant was that a parish community that had been there for 50 years, that had built the current parish church, was now going to have to leave...and not even have a real church for some years,” said Fr. Smith, who has served as pastor of St. Callistus on the Christ Cathedral campus.

The parish gathered for Mass in the Arboretum while the Christ Cathedral was under renovation.

They had 12 Masses in four languages, serving nearly 12,000 local Catholics, Fr. Smith said.

“We’ll literally see people from all over the world coming here,” he said. “They already do, but they’re really going to be coming here when the cathedral opens.”

Fr. Smith told CNA he’s excited for the dedication of the cathedral, because he’ll once again be able to focus on being a pastor.

He said he hopes the cathedral will help unite the diverse diocese.

“We want to build unity,” Fr. Smith said. “That’s a challenge, but it’s also beautiful when that unity takes place.”

“Cathedrals traditionally are like the downtown of the community,” he said. “Somebody once said Christ Cathedral is like the ‘downtown’ of the Diocese of Orange.”

“So if we can be a place like that, that not only offers worship, but also offers a place where the poor are cared for, where the arts are celebrated, where people are invited to pray together...I hope we can provide all that.”

Christ Cathedral will be open to the public every Sunday following the dedication. It will be open daily by early 2020.

In-text photos credit: Kate Veik / CNA.

Trump administration issues new asylum rules for southern border

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced a new rule on Monday, changing the asylum application process along the U.S.-Mexco border.

The interim rule, which will be published in the Federal Register July 16, will require that anyone seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border must have first applied and been rejected for asylum in any third country they have travelled through. The rule is set to go into effect on Tuesday.

The change in policy means that a person fleeing - for example - Guatemala, who traveled through Mexico before presenting themselves at a legal port of entry into the United States, would first have to claim and be rejected for asylum in Mexico in order to be eligible to claim asylum in the United States. 

The new rule brings asylum policy along the southern border in line with current policy along the northern border with Canada. Under the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, a person must make a claim for asylum in either the United States or Canada, depending on where they arrive first. A similar policy, the Dublin Regulation, exists in the European Union. 

“Pursuant to statutory authority, the Departments are amending their respective regulations to provide that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum,” reads the new rule. 

The rule will apply to people who apply for asylum or enter the United States after July 16. 

In addition to those who have already been rejected for aylum in a third country, “limited exceptions” to the new rule apply to survivors of human trafficking, and those who traveled through a country that has not signed an international treaty regarding refugee management. These people would still be eligible to apply immediately for asylum at the U.S. border.

Currently, a person may apply for asylum at the United States’ southern border, regardless of the number of other countries through which they travelled to arrive there. 

Under the new rule, the failure to seek asylum in a third country traveled through on the way to the U.S. border will also be considered under the “credible fear” screening, which is the first step in the asylum process. A person seeking asylum must prove that they have a credible fear for their lives in their country of origin, due to their race, ethnicity, or other factors. 

Although the rule “does not change the credible-fear standard for asylum claims,” the person doing the interview must consider whether or not the person seeking asylum has traveled through a third country without seeking asylum there. 

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted. 

The announcement follows a weekend in which immigration enforcement officers began carrying out a series of pre-announced raids aimed at removing approximately 2,000 people in cities across the country. The enforcement action is targeting individuals whose removal has ordered by the courts.

Several bishops in the United States issued statements opposing the enforcement action. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark issued a statement ahead of the raids, which began Sunday, in which he said that they “will not provide a solution to our broken immigration system.”

“Instead,” the cardinal wrote, “they will cause more suffering to immigrant families, many of whom have been subject to detention, family separation, and violence.”

"Particularly disturbing is that these raids will be carried out as other families are attending Mass or services in churches, synagogues, or mosques,” Tobin said. “These enforcement actions should not be pursued on or around church property, as our brothers and sisters should not be afraid to worship God. It would show disrespect to all who worship and to God our Creator, who created us in His image.”

Despite no details being made available, President Trump praised the raids, claiming they were widespread and thousands were deported.

“The ICE raids were very successful — people came into our country illegally, illegally,” said Trump to reporters at the White House. “Many, many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn't know about it.”

Armed rebels threaten peace agreement in Central African Republic, bishop warns

Bangui, Central African Republic, Jul 15, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Armed rebel groups are thwarting the prospects for success of the Central African Republic’s recent peace agreement, warned the president of the country’s Catholic bishops.

“The government is keeping its part of the bargain in this current peace agreement, but the armed group leaders are not really eager to implement their own part of the obligations,” Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, the president of the bishops’ conference in the CAR, told CNA in an interview July 15.

In February, the government signed an agreement—the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation—in Khartoum, Sudan, with more than a dozen rebel groups. Several other peace agreements to end the country’s prolonged conflict have fallen through in recent years.

Violence has gripped the country since late 2012, when rival Muslim factions in the Northeast merged into the group “Seleka” and “anti-balaka” groups and began fomenting sectarian violence against both Christians and Muslims.

More than half the country’s population needed humanitarian assistance in 2018, the group Human Rights Watch reported, and over 640,000 were internally displaced in 2018 according to UN figures; the total number of refugees was reported to be 574,600.

However, reports that the violence in the CAR is religious-based misses the true nature of the conflict, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia said, as many Christians and Muslims have not joined in the fighting which is instead carried out by the rebel groups that claim to represent Christians and Muslims.

“The reality is, the Muslim population have been taken hostage by the Seleka,” the bishop said, “who present themselves as protectors and defenders of the Muslims in the country.” Meanwhile, “the anti-balaka are also abusing the rights of the non-Muslim population.”

In March, the CEO of the UN’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) called the CAR “the most dangerous place in the world for children,” noting that 1.5 million children were at risk of starvation.

Complicating matters is the ineffectiveness of the country’s army to deal with the armed rebels which can purchase sophisticated weaponry as needed. “That has to change,” Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia told CNA.

The recent peace agreement, the bishop acknowledged, is “nothing to write home about” according to civil society leaders, but it is still “better than nothing.” It has a “mechanism” to bring peace to the country, he said, but the rebel groups are not cooperating.

Christians are “people of faith and hope,” Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia said. “I strongly believe that with a bit of good will from each and every one of us, we will be able to work out something good” and “come out of this crisis.”

The country’s bishops issued a message in June “to the Church Family of God, to men and women of good will,” where they noted that “the people are tired of the hypocrisy that characterizes the signing of the various agreements that have taken place in the country.”

“Indeed, hardly these Agreements are signed, immediately they are violated by the same signatories,” the statement noted. 

The visit of Pope Francis to the CAR in 2015 provided a critical message on the need for unity, the bishop said, as it “really helped in making the people understand that it is their responsibility to stand for their country, fight for their country, and then come together as brothers and sisters.”

Some other challenges to establishing peace in the country are a lack of access to education and lack of investment, he told CNA. With an illiteracy rate of around 70%, “people are easily manipulated in such circumstances,” and lots of youths are recruited by armed groups as child soldiers.

“That is the future of the Central African Republic,” he said. “We have to take those youths from the grip of these armed leaders, give them something else, let them rely upon themselves, let them trust in themselves,” and “education is the key.”

There is a particular need for technical and professional education, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia said, to help young people provide an honest living for themselves and their families. “The Church is trying our best in that regard,” he said.

N Ireland bill legalizing abortion, gay marriage faces challenges in House of Lords

London, England, Jul 15, 2019 / 02:42 pm (CNA).- As the British parliament continues to consider a bill on Northern Ireland including amendments that would legalize abortion and same-sex marriage, a peeress from the region has warned the amendments are “not workable.”

The bill and its amendments will take effect only if the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, is not functional by Oct. 21.

Last week the House of Commons voted to add amendments legalizing same-sex marriage and liberalizing abortion provision in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which is designed to keep the region running in the absence of a functioning devolved government.

Thence the bill passed to the House of Lords, where it is now at the committee stage. It will remain in the upper house until July 17, when it will return to the House of Commons for amendments.

Nuala O'Loan, Baroness O'Loan, a member of the House of Lords from Northern Ireland, told BBC News NI July 15 that the amendments cannot work, and that it is wrong of the British government to “push it through in a situation where the people of Northern Ireland had no say.”

O'Loan said members of parliament had “hijacked” the Northern Ireland bill: “This was a bill that started its life in Parliament with the intention of allowing the secretary of state to postpone the date for an election... to enable the talks which are currently under way to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly to proceed. What happened was it was hijacked in the Commons... various amendments were put in and these should not have been accepted because they were outside the purpose of the bill.”

She added that the amendments don't work, because “it says the secretary of state must make regulations - the secretary of state can't.”

Introducing the bill into the House of Lords July 10, Ian Duncan, Baron Duncan of Springbank, said that “crucially, the amendments as drafted do not function properly and so do not enable the government to deliver on the instruction of Parliament.”

Similarly, John Larkin, attorney general for Northern Ireland, said the abortion amendment was not “drafted clearly or consistently” with human rights laws.

O'Loan noted that “100% of the Northern Ireland MPs who have taken their seat in Westminster voted against this.”

A letter opposing the bill was distributed at Masses held in Northern Ireland July 14. Authored by O'Loan and Robin Eames, who was the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Armagh from 1986 to 2006, it focused on the bill's threat to devolution.

Addressed to British prime minister Theresa May, it said the overwhelming vote in the Commons “treats the people of Northern Ireland with contempt,” especially it was “voted for only by MPs who do not represent constituencies in Northern Ireland.”

May has said in the past that abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland.

The letter stated, “The imposition of this legislation on Northern Ireland in its current form … would represent a massive democratic deficit.”

It adds that the bill “has the capacity to undermine the delicate political calibration between Northern Ireland and Westminster and to cause significant damage to attempts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

O'Loan and Eames called on the government to withdraw the  Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.

Failing this, they called for an amendment they introduced which would require public consultation and the support of a majority of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly before any change in the region's legislation.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Both amendments to the were introduced by Labour MPs.

Stella Creasy, who represents a London constituency and who introduced the abortion amendment, has said the Commons “spoke clearly to say we wouldn't accept the rights of women in Northern Ireland being ignored any longer”.

Earlier this year Creasy intended to propose an amendment to a draft Domestic Abuse Bill that would give the British parliament jurisdiction over abortion laws throughout the United Kingdom. However, the bill's scope was restricted to England and Wales by the Conservative government.

She also introduced an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 to repeal Northern Irish law on abortion and gay marriage, which was defeated.

Ahead of last week's vote in the Commons, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh registered his deep concern that the bill would be hijacked "to remove existing legal protection for unborn babies and to ‘fast track’ the legalisation of abortion on demand in Northern Ireland. How tragic it is for humanity that some legislators would ‘fast track’ the ending of the lives of the most defenceless in our society."

Abortion and same-sex marriage are both legal in both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, while currently it is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

In June 2018, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission challenged the region's abortion laws in the UK Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court concluded that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws violated human rights law by banning abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest, it threw out the case saying it had not been brought forward by a person who had been wrongfully harmed by the law.

Amid political uncertainty, Haitian bishops announce year of prayer

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jul 15, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Haiti have announced a year of prayer and adoration for the country, which continues to face heightened tensions and instability amid calls for President Jovenel Moise to resign.

“The misery has become so sharp and the insecurity so destabilizing that the tree of hope has been torn from the ground,” the Haitian Bishops’ Conference said, according to Vatican News.

For months, protests have rocked the impoverished nation, following an official audit report finding billions of dollars missing from a government program intended to benefit low-income Haitian residents.

The 600-page report, released May 31, implicates the three most recent presidential administrations in serious financial corruption.

The controversy centers around the PetroCaribe program, created by Venezuela before its economic collapse, through which it lent oil to nearby countries, with payments deferred for up to 25 years.

Haiti, the poorest country in the region, joined the program in 2006. The money it saved was intended to be invested in infrastructure, social programs, and heath care projects.

However, the audit report found $2 billion missing, leaving taxpayers indebted to Venezuela and lacking the benefits that had been promised to them through the program, according to Time Magazine.

The report suggests that Moise embezzled funds before he took office in 2017, including $1 million received for the paving of a rural road that was paid for twice, the Miami Herald reports.

Moise has denied wrongdoing and says he will not resign from office before his term expires in three years.

Protests have turned violent, with schools and businesses shutting down, and roadblocks impairing the distribution of food, water, and medication.

Faced with this grim reality, the bishops of Haiti said that the upcoming year – which will last until the Feast of Pentecost on May 31, 2020 – will be dedicated to praying for hope and an eradication corruption in the country.

“Hasn't the Lord always listened to the voice of His people crying for him? Are we not his people, His flock?” they said in a communique, Vatican News reported.

Each diocese will organize specific events as part of the year of prayer and adoration.

The bishops called on the people of Haiti to pray, individually and in prayer groups over the coming year, seeking “to consecrate and restore to God the destiny of our country and our people.”