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French bishops vote to open sainthood cause of Henri de Lubac

Henri de Lubac / Society of Jesus

Rome Newsroom, Apr 1, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

French bishops have voted to open the sainthood cause of 20th-century theologian Henri de Lubac.

The French bishops’ conference announced on March 31 that the opening of de Lubac’s cause for beatification was approved during the bishops’ plenary assembly in Lourdes.

De Lubac is considered by many to be one of the most important theologians of the 20th century. The French Jesuit priest was a leading thinker in the ressourcement school of thought that encouraged a return to the writings of the Church Fathers in Catholic theology. He also founded the Communio journal together with Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Some of his best-known books are "The Splendor of the Church," "The Christian Faith," "Catholicisme," "The Drama of Atheist Humanism," and "The Motherhood of the Church."

Born on Feb. 20, 1896, in the northern French city of Cambrai, de Lubac grew up in a traditionally Catholic family with five siblings. After his family moved to Lyon, de Lubac studied at a Jesuit school before making the decision to enter the Jesuit order in 1913.

His novitiate studies in England were interrupted by World War I the following year when he was drafted into the French army. He served in the army from 1914 to 1919, sustaining a head injury that caused him pain for the rest of his life.

De Lubac was ordained a priest in 1927 and began teaching theology at the Catholic University of Lyon.

During World War II, he resisted the ideologies of Nazism and anti-Semitism. He co-founded Sources Chrétiennes, a collection of patristic texts published in Greek or Latin with a French translation.

In 1950, de Lubac was banned from teaching at his Catholic university for a period of eight years. He continued to write and was named a member of the Institut de France in 1958.

Pope John XXIII appointed de Lubac as a member of the Second Vatican Council’s preparatory commission in 1959. De Lubac later participated in the council as a peritus, or theological expert, his writings are seen as having been influential in the texts that emerged from the council.

Pope John Paul II named De Lubac a cardinal in 1983 at the age of 86. He died five years later in Paris on Sept. 4, 1991.

What’s this parish’s secret to forming missionary disciples? ‘It’s Boulder.’

null / Credit: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center Facebook page

Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

After interviewing three priests in January who were students at CU Boulder, Denver Catholic spoke to the men and women behind the ministry to figure out their “secret sauce.” What is the St. Thomas Aquinas Center doing to turn out great apostles?

“It’s Boulder,” said Father Peter Mussett, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. “The secret sauce that we have is that we get to do ministry in Boulder, which is on one hand, two steps ahead of the culture in its progressivism and on another hand, it actually facilitates this strange openness of exploration.”

“There’s oddly an openness to Boulder, too; there’s a curiosity,” said Megan Dillon, director of advancement for St. Thomas Aquinas. “It’s a tough environment but also there’s a genuine curiosity.” 

The St. Thomas Aquinas Center (St. Tom’s), serves the University of Colorado-Boulder community through its Catholic center for students and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. Mussett has been at St. Tom’s since 2006. During his time, he’s seen 10 “Buffs” (the CU-Boulder mascot is a buffalo) become priests and has a count of 21 priests who have come from Boulder over the years.

Father Peter Mussett has been assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, Colorado, since 2006. While it seems counterintuitive for a parish in a highly secularized city like Boulder to be home to a vibrant community of faith, St. Tom’s has earned a reputation as a diamond in the rough. Credit: Denver Catholic
Father Peter Mussett has been assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, Colorado, since 2006. While it seems counterintuitive for a parish in a highly secularized city like Boulder to be home to a vibrant community of faith, St. Tom’s has earned a reputation as a diamond in the rough. Credit: Denver Catholic

“If you really want to know the strength of the hero in any story, it’s going to be directly in relationship to the antagonist,” Mussett said. “The antagonistic parts of Boulder, the parts that are hostile towards Christianity, hostile towards any sort of living in a traditional way drive our student life here to really have a magnanimity and a strength of character.”

“We’ve been very intentional in structuring this ministry in creating missionaries,” Dillon said. “We are intentional with the students throughout their time here, even so much so that at graduation Father Peter prays the blessing of missionaries over our students and says, ‘I’m sending you out.’” 

Their goal is to form the minds of the students in the truths of the faith and also have a whole Catholic culture to surround them. Bible studies, intramural games, socials, liturgies, and more make up a typical week at St. Tom’s.

But the St. Tom’s Center is not just a club, Dillon said.  

One way the Catholic center keeps itself open to new people is the coffee shop located within St. Tom’s: Drogo’s Coffee Bar. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community.  

“The coffee shop serves as kind of a bridge between the Catholic culture that we’re creating and also just the secular culture that we’re immersed in,” Mussett said. 

At any moment you might find professors, construction workers, moms who live in the neighborhood, and students frequenting the cafe. And with drip coffee priced at $1.75 and a latte for $3, it might be the most reasonably priced coffee in town.

That’s intentional, Mussett said.  

“Everybody knows that a cup of coffee is a ticket to sit in a chair at a table for as long as you possibly want,” he said. “If I can make that ticket cheaper than any other ticket in town, now all of a sudden I have somebody who’s sitting there, who wouldn’t have sat there for the next six hours, observing what the culture of Catholic Church is.” 

Among the outreach and ministries spearheaded by St. Tom’s is Drogos Coffee Shop. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community. Credit: Denver Catholic
Among the outreach and ministries spearheaded by St. Tom’s is Drogos Coffee Shop. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community. Credit: Denver Catholic

“[It’s] a place for us to engage the community,” Mussett said. “We all know that it’s so easy to get trapped in the Catholic bubble. The world’s a little scary.” 

Drogo’s gives students a chance to live out their faith and extend an invitation to someone new while still being in a familiar environment.  

“Invitation is the most powerful gift that we have been given by God, and teaching other people to invite into the light is the great joy of our work here,” Mussett said.

Amid the temptation to be insular in the harsh environment of Boulder, St. Tom’s stays outwardly focused, said Hilary Draftz, former student and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary at CU. Draftz is now the west area director for FOCUS, meaning she oversees 46 teams of missionaries, including the team at CU.

“It is a light in the darkness,” Draftz said. “The cultural opposition makes faith shine all the brighter.” 

FOCUS has had a presence on campus for the last 24 years, Draftz said. The vibrancy of the center complements the work of the FOCUS missionaries.

“It frees up the missionaries to be the hands and feet on campus,” she said. Instead of spending time planning the events, the missionaries can concentrate on outreach while always having something to invite students to.

The parish has six students who are in the process of becoming Catholic this year.  

Mussett is also a key part of the center’s success, Draftz said. 

“He’s a very human priest,” she said. “He’s so confident being himself.”  

She described some of his quirky hobbies: jeeping, art, and jiu jitsu — where he even brought his sensei through RCIA.

“God wants to do amazing things through us,” Mussett said. “He’s not limited to us, but he loves working with us and doing great things. We are here to both foster and to catch those who experience grace.” 

The Buffalo Awakening retreat is a mainstay ministry at St. Tom’s in Boulder, Colorado. Many students, some of whom went on to become priests, credit this retreat as a crucial turning point in their spiritual life. Credit: Denver Catholic
The Buffalo Awakening retreat is a mainstay ministry at St. Tom’s in Boulder, Colorado. Many students, some of whom went on to become priests, credit this retreat as a crucial turning point in their spiritual life. Credit: Denver Catholic

Mussett and St. Tom’s make an impact on young men opening their lives to vocation, but it’s more than that.  

“There are on-fire disciples coming out of St. Tom’s,” Draftz said. Dynamic families and laypeople having an impact on the archdiocese are among the fruits from Boulder — not just priestly vocations.  

To date, 56 FOCUS missionaries have come out of St. Tom’s. And seven women alum have discovered religious vocations, Dillon said.

“None of this is inaccessible to anybody else,” said Mussett of their work at the center. “Inviting new people, risking ourselves, being personal, creating opportunities for grace. It’s just that God has asked us to do it in a place where it takes courage to do it. And courage always yields great results.” 

“If you’re willing to listen to what God is asking of you — that’s the secret sauce,” Mussett said. “Having the courage to listen to the voice of God and not resisting what God is asking you to do. That’s the only real way.”

This story was originally published in Denver Catholic and is republished here on CNA with permission.

Here is Pope Francis’ schedule for Holy Week and Easter 2023

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Square for Easter 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Apr 1, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Palm Sunday marks the start of one of the most full and beautiful liturgical periods of the Catholic Church year.

It is also one of the busiest liturgical periods at the Vatican, where Pope Francis has been scheduled to preside over nine Masses, liturgies, and devotions between April 2 and Easter Monday, April 10.

With Pope Francis having been hospitalized on March 29 for a respiratory infection, it was unclear if he would be well enough to participate in any or some of the liturgies.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed on April 1 as Pope Francis was discharged from the hospital that the pope is still planning to be present for Palm Sunday Mass on April 2. Pope Francis will preside over the liturgies with a cardinal celebrating at the altar.

Here is the Vatican’s full schedule for Holy Week and Easter 2023:

Palm Sunday

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

On Sunday morning, April 2, Pope Francis is scheduled to preside over Mass for Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday or the Commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem.

The Mass, which will be in St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m. local time, will kick off with a grand procession of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals, and laypeople carrying palms.

The procession includes olive tree branches, palm fronds, and the large, weaved palms called “parmureli,” all blessed by Pope Francis.

Holy Thursday

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis is set to start Holy Thursday with a Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:30 a.m. in the presence of cardinals, bishops, and priests living in Rome.

During the Mass, Pope Francis, as the bishop of Rome, will bless the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and the chrism oil to be used in the diocese during the coming year.

In the evening, the pope will offer Mass at the juvenile detention center "Casal del Marmo," the same detention center where he offered Holy Thursday Mass in 2013, shortly after his election.

Pope Francis washes inmates’ feet at Rome’s Regina Coeli Prison on Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis washes inmates’ feet at Rome’s Regina Coeli Prison on Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018. Vatican Media.

In 2022, the pope offered the Mass at a prison in Civitavecchia, a port city about 50 miles northwest of Rome. After the homily, Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, representing the disciples.

Good Friday

Continuing the liturgies of the Triduum, Pope Francis is also scheduled to preside over a celebration for the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday at 5 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica.

During this liturgy, which is not a Mass, instead of the pope papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa preaches on Christ’s crucifixion.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In the evening, Francis will lead the Stations of the Cross devotion at the Colosseum at 9:15 p.m.

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, Pope Francis is set to preside over the Easter Vigil at 7:30 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities,” according to the Roman Missal.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The liturgy begins in darkness with the blessing of the new fire and the preparation of the paschal candle. At the Vatican, cardinals, bishops, and priests process through the dark basilica carrying lit candles to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.

Pope Francis also typically baptizes new Catholics at this Mass.

Easter Sunday

The morning of Easter Sunday, Pope Francis will preside over Mass in St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m. on a flower-decked parvise.

After Mass, he will give the annual Easter urbi et orbi blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis gives the Urbi et Orbi blessing for Easter 2022. Vatican News
Pope Francis gives the Urbi et Orbi blessing for Easter 2022. Vatican News

“Urbi et orbi” means “to the city [of Rome] and to the world” and is a special apostolic blessing given by the pope every year on Easter Sunday, Christmas, and other special occasions.

In 2022, local authorities estimated 100,000 people were present for the blessing.

Easter Monday

Pope Francis will mark Easter Monday, also called “Monday of the Angel,” by praying the Angelus at noon from a window of the Apostolic Palace.

The Angelus is a traditional prayer honoring the Virgin Mary. Pope Francis leads the prayer and gives a brief reflection every Sunday and on important Marian and other feast days.

Courtney Mares contributed to this report.

Pope Francis returns to the Vatican after 3 days in the hospital

Pope Francis greeted the crowd gathered outside of the hospital after he was discharged on the morning of April 1, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2023 / 04:16 am (CNA).

Pope Francis was discharged from the hospital Saturday morning after a three-night stay in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Before departing by car, the pope greeted the crowd gathered outside of the hospital. In an emotional moment, he stopped to embrace and pray with a sobbing mother whose 5-year-old daughter died in the hospital the night before.

When asked by a journalist how he was feeling, the pope quipped: “Still alive!”

A Vatican statement on April 1 said that the pope spoke to the hospital administrators as well as the team of doctors and medical staff who treated him before leaving the hospital around 10:30 a.m. local time.

Pope Francis’ first stop before returning to Vatican City was to pray in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he entrusted the sick children he met at the hospital as well as all who are sick and suffering from illnesses to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After being discharged from the hospital on April 1, 2023, Pope Francis went to pray in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Vatican Media
After being discharged from the hospital on April 1, 2023, Pope Francis went to pray in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Vatican Media

Pope Francis was released from the hospital one day before the start of Holy Week. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope is expected to be present at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 2.

The 86-year-old pope was admitted to the hospital on March 29 with difficulty breathing. He was later diagnosed with bronchitis. His condition improved after receiving antibiotic infusion therapy, according to the Vatican.

While being treated in the hospital’s papal medical suite, the pope read the newspaper, did some work, and even shared a pizza dinner together with some of the medical staff.

On his last full day at Gemelli, Pope Francis visited the pediatric oncology ward, where he gave out rosaries and chocolate Easter eggs to the children. The pope also baptized a baby named Miguel Angel, who was only a few weeks old.

Gemelli is the same hospital where Pope Francis was hospitalized for 10 days in July 2021 when he underwent surgery on his colon for diverticulitis, or inflammation of the intestinal wall.

In an interview with the Associated Press in January, Pope Francis disclosed that the diverticulitis had “returned.” At the time, the pope — who traveled to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in late January — insisted he was in relatively good condition.

Rome's Gemelli Hospital. The papal medical suite can be identified from the street by its five large windows covered by white blinds. Courtney Mares/CNA.
Rome's Gemelli Hospital. The papal medical suite can be identified from the street by its five large windows covered by white blinds. Courtney Mares/CNA.

Pope Francis recovered from bronchitis in the papal medical suite situated on the 10th floor of Gemelli University Hospital in a wing reserved for papal medical emergencies.

It is the same hospital suite where John Paul II was treated throughout his pontificate, including after being shot in an assassination attempt in 1981.

These are the most popular FAQs about Palm Sunday — and their answers

A priest holds palms on Palm Sunday. / Grant Whitty via Unsplash.

Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

When is Palm Sunday 2023? 

Palm Sunday is on April 2, 2023. 

What is the meaning of Palm Sunday? 

Palm Sunday is the day we remember and honor Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion. As Jesus entered the city on a donkey, people gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across Jesus’ path, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It is also significant because it fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. For example, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. 

When was Palm Sunday first celebrated? 
According to Brittanica, the earliest evidence of Palm Sunday being celebrated dates back to the eighth century. 

Why do we use palm branches on Palm Sunday? 
The palm symbolized victory in the ancient world. All four Gospels tell us that people cut branches from palm trees and laid them across Jesus’ path and waved them in the air as he entered Jerusalem triumphantly a week before his death. As the Church enters Holy Week, the faithful use palms to commemorate his victory and Jesus’ passion liturgically. 

What kind of palms are used for Palm Sunday? Where do they come from?
Palm harvesters can be found around the world. However, a certain kind of palm tree grown in Florida, cabbage palmetto, makes up a large majority of the palms used in U.S. parishes. 

Where is Palm Sunday found in the Holy Bible? 

The account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

Who celebrates Palm Sunday?

Catholic and Protestant communities celebrate Palm Sunday. 

Is Palm Sunday a holy day of obligation? 

Yes. Owing to the fact that every Sunday is a holy day of obligation, Palm Sunday is also a holy day of obligation.

How do you make a cross out of palms?

Watch this video with step-by-step instructions.

Can you eat meat on Palm Sunday? 

Yes, you can eat meat on Palm Sunday. Sundays during Lent are still celebrations of the Resurrection. Abstinence from meat, the traditional form of Lenten penance, occurs on Fridays during Lent. Fasting, which involves abstaining from meat and eating only one meal with two smaller snacks that do not equal the size of the main meal, occurs on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Are Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday the same? 

Yes. Palm Sunday can also be referred to as Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday comes from the fact that it honors Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, where the people carried palm branches. It also is called Passion Sunday because the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ passion is read on this Sunday. 

What is the link between Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday? 

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. That means the palms used this year will be burned into ashes to be used during Ash Wednesday next year. 

What are the Palm Sunday colors? 

Red is worn on Palm Sunday in honor of the Lord’s passion. 

How long is Palm Sunday Mass? 

This will vary but it will most likely be over an hour long. In many parishes, Mass begins with a procession. The procession symbolizes those who went to meet the Lord as he entered Jerusalem. The Gospel reading is also much longer than usual. The Passion narrative is read and the faithful participates throughout the reading.

Can you say Happy Palm Sunday? 

Yes, of course!

This story was first published April 9, 2022, and was updated March 31, 2023.

The Sanctuary of Lourdes may remove Rupnik’s mosaics out of respect for victims

A mosaic designed by Father Marko Rupnik's studio, at Lourdes / Pixabay|domakono

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 31, 2023 / 15:07 pm (CNA).

Mosaic art created by Father Marko Rupnik could be removed from the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, France, out of consideration for victims of abuse who come to the sanctuary in search of consolation, the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes said.

“Lourdes is a place where many victims turn to the Immaculate Conception for comfort and healing. Their anguish is great before the mosaics of Father Rupnik in this very place: We cannot ignore it,” Bishop Jean-Marc Micas said in a statement released Friday.

Rupnik, a Jesuit priest and artist, founded the Aletti Center, an art school in Rome dedicated to religious art. He has been accused of sexually and psychologically abusing consecrated women from the Loyola Community in Slovenia who were associated with the Aletti Center.

As the National Catholic Register reported earlier this year, Rupnik’s art decorates more than 200 churches and shrines around the world, including at Lourdes, Fatima, and the Vatican.

The Jesuit order has received accusations against Rupnik that span from 1985 to 2018 and include claims of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience.

According to current restrictions imposed by the Jesuit order, Rupnik is prohibited “from any public ministerial and sacramental activity,” banned from public communication, ordered not to leave Lazio, and “may not engage in any public artistic activity, especially in relation to religious structures (such as churches, institutions, oratories and chapels, exercise or spirituality houses).”

In April, the bishop of Lourdes said, a decision will be made regarding what to do about the mosaics by Rupnik that decorate the Shrine at Lourdes.

The work was commissioned in 2008 for the facade of the Basilica of the Rosary at the Sanctuary of Lourdes on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother.

The bishop of Lourdes said in his statement: “Like all works of art, they are appreciated by some, less by others, but the vast majority of pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes highlight their beauty.”

He then noted that “for several months, Father Rupnik has been in the news following various accusations of sexual abuse of adults in the framework of his ministry in various parts of the world.” 

He noted that because Rupnik “has been sanctioned by his religious superiors and by the Holy See …the question of the status of his works and his future is being raised.”

Consultations with victims

“Given the specific nature of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes,” the bishop said, “the general question of the status of the works of artists involved in situations of abuse is much more delicate here.” 

Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes every year to receive healing at the site where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous.

The bishop reported that on March 27, together with the rector of the shrine, Father Michel Daubanes: “We brought this matter to the attention of the Guidance Council of the Shrine.” 

“The issue was discussed with great seriousness: We know that the victims must be at the center of our reflections, and any decision will have serious consequences,” he said. 

He said that a “reflection group” has been established, made up of the bishop, the rector, a victim of abuse, an expert in sacred art, and a psychotherapist, whose objective is to reach a determination in April. 

During this time, they intend to “develop the necessary elements to make the best decision, carry out this reflection in the most serene way possible and not reject any decision hypothesis a priori.”

Finally, Bishop Micas said that he was entrusting this process and the decision to be made “to the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, and to the mercy of God.”

“I also count on the prayers and support of the faithful of the diocese and of those who love the Sanctuary of Lourdes,” he concluded.

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

Archbishop Broglio offers prayers for 9 soldiers who died in Blackhawk helicopter accident in Kentucky

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA praised Servant of God Vincent Capodanno at a memorial Mass marking the 55th anniversary of the death of the heroic chaplain Sept. 6, 2022. / Courtesy of Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 10:35 am (CNA).

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop for the Military Services, USA, offered prayers for the nine American soldiers who died in a tragic accident during a helicopter training exercise in Kentucky on Wednesday evening.

“The tragic helicopter crash in Kentucky is a grim reminder of the risks taken daily by our men and women in uniform. They put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedom, our values, our way of life. In the process some pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Broglio said in a March 31 statement.

The nine soldiers were in the U.S. Army’s 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The accident occurred in Trigg County, Kentucky, which is about a 38-minute drive away from Fort Campbell.

“We pray for the repose of the souls of the nine soldiers who died. May Almighty God welcome them to life eternal, and may their devotion to service, God, and country stand always as an example for us all,” Broglio said.

He also offered prayers for the families of the soldiers “in this time of extreme grief.”

“May our Blessed Mother of Sorrows comfort them in this painful hour,” Broglio added.

The 101st Airborne Division said in a March 30 press release that the two helicopters were Blackhawks, the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter. The helicopter “provide[s] air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat, stability, and support operations,” according to the U.S. Army.

The accident occurred at about 10 p.m., the press release said. An investigation into the crash is being conducted by an aviation safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama, the release said.

“This is a truly tragic loss for these families, our division, and Fort Campbell. Our No. 1 priority is caring for the families and the soldiers within our combat aviation brigade,” Brig. Gen. John Lubas, the 101st Airborne Division deputy commanding general for operations, said in the release.

“Our entire Fort Campbell community is surging resources in support. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and soldiers during this difficult time,” he added.

The identities of the nine soldiers have not been released.

Speaking at a press conference on the accident, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that the nine soldiers are “children of God.”

“We are blessed to live in the freest country in the history of planet Earth. We must remember that freedom relies on those who are willing to serve, some of whom pay the ultimate price,” he said.

“My faith teaches me that while the body is mortal, the soul is eternal, and we will see them again,” Beshear said.

Kentucky bans sex changes for kids, blocks schools from pushing trans ideology

null / itakdalee/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 10:05 am (CNA).

Kentucky lawmakers passed a comprehensive bill that prohibits doctors from providing sex changes for children, prevents schools from pushing transgender ideology onto students, and grants parents more authority and oversight over their children in the public education system.

Following Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the legislation, Republican lawmakers successfully overrode his veto with a 29-6 vote in the House and a 76-23 vote in the Senate. The new rules regarding health care will go into effect 90 days after the veto was overridden Wednesday, but many of the new education rules went into effect immediately. 

“It should come as no surprise that Gov. Beshear put his party’s politics over the people of Kentucky, as he has done his whole political career,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement.

“The goal of SB 150 is to strengthen parental engagement and communication in their children’s education,” Wise added. “This bill, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support, reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distractions, like woke ideology and mandating use of specific pronouns in our schools.”

Medical providers will be barred from performing sterilizing surgery on patients under the age of 18 or performing surgery to remove a child’s genitals or altering the minor’s genitals to make them appear like the genitals of the opposite sex. 

The rules prohibit doctors from removing any healthy or nondiseased body tissue. Additionally, medical providers cannot prescribe any drugs that would delay or halt normal puberty or prescribe estrogen or testosterone at levels greater than what would normally be found in a child of that sex and age. 

The legislation provides exceptions for children who have sex development disorders, such as children born with ambiguous biological sex characteristics. The legislation also specifies that the rules do not prevent surgeries or drugs necessary to treat an infection, injury, disease, or disorder. 

If a health care provider has already prescribed these drugs to a child, the law states that doctors can systematically reduce the drugs over a period of time if immediately halting the use of the drugs would be detrimental to the child’s health. 

The legislation also prohibits schools from promoting transgender ideology through lessons that encourage the student to study or explore his or her gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. It also bans schools from providing lessons on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases for students in the fifth grade or lower. Schools must receive written consent from parents before providing a student with lessons on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases in higher grades.

Per the legislation, schools must also ensure that bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, and showers are reserved for students based on the student’s biological sex. This prevents a student from using a facility that is not consistent with his or her biological sex, even if that student self-identifies with the opposite gender. The legislation notes that schools can accommodate transgender students in other ways, such as by providing single-stall restrooms. 

“Parents have a reasonable expectation that schools will not allow minor children to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite biological sex, nor allow minor children to view members of the opposite sex in various states of undress,” the legislation states. 

When a student enrolls in a school, the school district must provide parents with a written list of all health services and mental health services they provide concerning human sexuality, family planning, and contraception. Parents will be allowed to withhold consent for or decline any of those services. If parents allow the school to provide those services, they do not waive their rights to access education and medical records. 

Neither the Board of Education nor the local school district will be allowed to compel teachers or students to use a student’s preferred pronoun when it differs from the student’s biological sex, under these rules.

“Denying the truth that we are either male or female causes real harm to people, especially vulnerable children,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement.

“The Kentucky Legislature enacted vital protections for young children and parents to ensure they can’t be pressured into agreeing to life-altering, so-called ‘gender transition’ procedures,” Sharp added. “Young people deserve to live in a society that doesn’t subject them to risky experiments to which they cannot effectively consent.”

Transgender activists opposed the legislation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has announced it intends to file a lawsuit to block the enforcement of these new rules. 

“[The bill] was rushed through the Legislature in a deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour,” a Kentucky ACLU statement read. “Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals, and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the General Assembly passed the bill in a matter of hours.”

Several states have enacted legislation over the past two years to block sex changes on children and to change education guidelines or grant parents more control. In some cases, the laws are being fought through the court system.

Pope Francis visits pediatric oncology ward at hospital, baptizes newborn baby

Pope Francis baptizes a baby at Gemelli Hospital in Rome on March 31, 2023. / Credit: Screen shot of Vatican Media video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 31, 2023 / 09:32 am (CNA).

While staying at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital where he is undergoing treatment for bronchitis, Pope Francis paid a visit Friday to the pediatric oncology ward and baptized a newborn patient.

The Holy See reported that the Holy Father spent about half an hour in the ward, where he distributed “rosaries, chocolate eggs, and copies of the book ‘Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem of Judah.’”

Pope Francis visits the pediatric oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital during his own hospital stay on March 31, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis visits the pediatric oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital during his own hospital stay on March 31, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

Photos released by Vatican Media show the pope speaking with mothers accompanying their babies, writing a message, and baptizing a newborn baby.

“During the visit, which lasted about half an hour, the pope imparted the sacrament of baptism to a baby named Miguel Angel, who was only a few weeks old. At the end he returned to his department,” the Vatican press office said.

When Pope Francis underwent surgery for diverticulitis in July 2021, he visited the pediatric oncology ward. And in his first outing after that surgery, young cancer patients joined him as he led the Sunday Angelus from a balcony on the 10th floor of the hospital. 

The Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis may be discharged from the hospital on Saturday after responding well to treatments yesterday.

Pope Francis visits the pediatric oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital during his own hospital stay on March 31, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis visits the pediatric oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital during his own hospital stay on March 31, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

In two brief statements in the early afternoon of March 31, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni also said Pope Francis is scheduled to be present at the Vatican’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 2.

Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Wednesday afternoon with difficulty breathing. He was later diagnosed with bronchitis.

“Yesterday passed well, with a normal clinical progression,” Bruni said around 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

“In the evening Pope Francis had dinner, eating pizza together with those assisting him during his hospital stay,” the Holy See Press Office director said. “With the Holy Father were the doctors, nurses, assistants and Gendarmerie personnel.”

On the morning of March 31, the pope had breakfast, read the newspapers, and resumed work, he said, adding that “His Holiness is expected to return to his Santa Marta home tomorrow, upon the outcome of the results of the last tests this morning.”

Board game marketed as ‘Christian’ is actually demonic, exorcist warns

An exorcist is warning about the dangers of a Ouija-board-like product promising users that they will be able to "communicate directly with Jesus Christ." / Holy Spirit Games YouTube

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 08:37 am (CNA).

Catholic exorcist Father Ernesto Caro is warning that what is being marketed on Amazon as a Christian “Holy Spirit” board game is “not a game” at all but instead “a trap from the devil.”

On a March 28 segment of EWTN News Nightly, Caro, an exorcist in the Diocese of Monterey, Mexico, said that “the devil is always looking for different ways that he can trap all the victims that he can take for him, and this is one.”

The board game’s packaging claims it allows people to “communicate directly with Jesus Christ” and its online advertising says it’s “perfect for churches, prayer groups, or just getting together with friends.”

The game’s layout is very similar to that of a Ouija board, but it features Christian imagery including images of God, the crucifixion, angels, and a dove. Whereas a Ouija board normally has a triangle pendant that is moved for users to communicate with spirits, the Holy Spirit Board has a golden-colored cross.

The game’s description says, “GET THE ANSWERS YOU NEED! — The Holy Spirit Board can answer all of life’s most important questions, straight from the man himself!” and assures potential buyers that “unlike other spirit boards, this one will NEVER contact evil ghosts or demons, so you can ask your questions with an assured sense of safety.”

Despite the Christian imagery, Caro says the so-called Holy Spirit Board is just a Ouija board repackaged to trick Christians into using it.

As an exorcist, Caro warns Christians to not be fooled and that using the board would be “opening a door that could be dangerous for you.”

The Catholic Church firmly condemns the use of Ouija boards as a form of occult participation and divination.

No. 2116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “all forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all … contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Based on the board’s advertising, “you would probably think that it is God that is talking with you,” Caro said, “but it’s not.”

“If the [Ouija board] triangle is moving by itself, be careful, it’s not God who is moving, it’s the devil,” Caro said. “Ouija games and all this are forbidden in the Bible.”

Calling the game “disturbing” and “deceptive,” EWTN News Nightly host Tracy Sabol asked Caro what Christians who were tricked into buying the game should do.

Besides getting rid of the board immediately, Caro encouraged Christians who have bought the game to “repent and ask God for liberation” by going to confession and asking the priest to give an extra blessing for protection.