Posted on 12/5/2023 20:18 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 5, 2023 / 15:18 pm (CNA).
Attorneys for a group of over 300 primarily Catholic, Muslim, and Ethiopian Orthodox parents from Montgomery County, Maryland, argued in federal court today that the parents should be allowed to opt their children out of school reading materials promoting homosexuality and transgenderism.
According to an attorney representing the parents, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, expedited the case and scheduled the hearing promptly, signaling that a ruling in the case, Mahmoud v. McKnight, is a priority.
“Schools have no business pushing instruction on gender and sexuality without even notifying parents,” said attorney Eric Baxter from the law firm Becket in a Dec. 5 statement.
The parents sued the Montgomery County Board of Education on May 24 after it changed its parental notification and opt-out policies.
Under the new rule, which the board adopted on May 1, the school district will not notify parents about reading materials that portray or promote homosexuality, transgenderism, and other aspects of gender ideology and will no longer allow parents to opt out of such coursework.
Today at the Fourth Circuit: a coalition of religious parents sought to restore notice and opt-out rights for storybooks being read to their children that promote one-sided ideology on gender and sexuality. https://t.co/we5I9WJ5ml@BECKETlaw argued on behalf of these Muslim,…— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) December 5, 2023
“Parental involvement is crucial for children, especially in elementary school,” Baxter said. “The court should restore notice and opt-outs so parents can parent and kids can be kids.”
William Haun, a senior counsel at Becket and co-counsel in the Montgomery County parents’ case, told CNA that the appeals court seemed open to the parents’ arguments and that he is hopeful the court will restore their right to opt out.
Haun said that the parents are merely advocating for “the same opt-outs that the school board was giving parents all of last school year without incident.”
Though there have been protests and significant pushback against the school board’s rule change, a federal district judge ruled against the parents on Aug. 24, allowing the policy to go into effect at the beginning of the fall 2023 semester.
“What we have are parents who are being forced to decide, ‘Do I have to withdraw my children from public school or on pain of criminal penalties have my children be taught things that violate their religious beliefs?’” Haun said.
“The most troubling thing the parents told us is that they can’t even get a straight answer from their teachers about whether these books will ever be read or when they’ve been read,” he said.
Haun shared the story of one impacted family, the Morrisons, whose 10-year-old daughter has Down syndrome and attention deficit disorder. Even in her specialized courses, the Morrisons’ daughter has had pro-homosexual and transgender materials read to her, which Haun said has been “deeply confusing to her.”
Despite the ruling in August, Haun said the appeals court appeared open to the parents’ arguments and asked “many questions about the amount of discretion that the board has and its policies, the fact that the board allowed opt-outs through all of last year, and then also with regard to the age of the children.”
According to Haun, homosexual and transgender “pride” storybooks are being read to children in the Montgomery County school district as early as pre-K, to children who are 3 and 4 years old.
“When the board has the discretion to accommodate [religious requests] but refuses to do so, that triggers rigorous judicial review under the free exercise clause, and the board simply has no good response to that rigorous review,” Haun said.
Though this case primarily concerns parents and children in Montgomery County, Maryland, Haun said he believes it also has “tremendous national import.”
“If this is allowed to persist,” he said, “it’s going to send a message nationwide that that long-standing partnership between parents and public schools can be changed in favor of cutting the parents out to pursue an ideological agenda.”
As it stands currently, Haun said that 47 states still require either opt-outs or opt-ins whenever sexuality and gender family issues are being taught to children.
“That is a national consensus that is long-standing in our country,” Haun explained. “Montgomery County goes even further and allows for religious opt-outs to all manner of curriculum: Valentine’s Day, Halloween parties, any kind of reading assignment that offends your religious beliefs. You can work with them to come up with an alternative, but only for these books, for these books only, you won’t even be told when they’re read, and you can’t get an opt-out.”
Haun told CNA that the fact that the 4th Circuit Court expedited the hearing in this case indicates that the judges “see the need for an immediate ruling” and that he expects a ruling in the next couple of months.
Posted on 12/5/2023 19:17 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 5, 2023 / 14:17 pm (CNA).
The board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame elected as the university’s new president Father Robert A. Dowd, a Congregation of Holy Cross priest and associate professor of political science who serves as a current vice president.
Dowd, who is also an associate provost for interdisciplinary initiatives and a religious superior of the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame, will assume his new leadership role at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 academic year. He will replace the current president, Father John I. Jenkins, who is stepping down after 19 years.
“I am deeply humbled and honored by the board’s decision,” Dowd said in a statement on Monday, Dec. 4, after the election.
“We can all be grateful for Father Jenkins’ selfless and courageous leadership for almost two decades,” Dowd continued. “Working together with others, his efforts have positioned the university extremely well in every way. We will build on those efforts. Informed by our Catholic mission, we will work together so that Notre Dame is an ever-greater engine of insight, innovation, and impact, addressing society’s greatest challenges and helping young people to realize their potential for good.”
The incoming president, a 1987 Notre Dame graduate, began working in the university’s campus ministry in 1994 after taking his final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross, according to a university news release. He earned a master of arts degree in African studies from UCLA in 1998 and received a doctorate in political science in 2003. Since 2004, he has been a member of the political science faculty at Notre Dame with a specialization in comparative politics with a focus on researching how Christian and Islamic communities affect support for democratic institutions.
“We are thrilled that Father Dowd will be Notre Dame’s next leader,” Jack Brennan, the chair of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “His character and intellect, along with his broad academic and administrative experience and his deep commitment to Notre Dame, make him an ideal person to lead the university into the future.”
Dowd also founded the university’s Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. According to the university news release, the program establishes research partnerships in the Global South and is informed by Catholic social teaching.
Current Notre Dame President Jenkins congratulated Dowd after the board elected him as the next president.
“I thank and congratulate our Board of Trustees on selecting Father Dowd as Notre Dame’s next president,” Jenkins said in a statement. “An accomplished scholar, a dedicated teacher and an experienced administrator, Father Bob [Dowd] is also a faithful and generous priest. He will lead the university to being even more powerfully a force for good in the world.”
Dowd will serve as Notre Dame’s 18th president. The university was founded in 1842 by a Congregation of Holy Cross priest. Every president since its founding has been a Congregation of Holy Cross priest.
Posted on 12/5/2023 18:06 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Africa, Dec 5, 2023 / 13:06 pm (CNA).
A priest from the Diocese of Okigwe in Nigeria was kidnapped Nov. 30 while traveling to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to a parishioner.
The diocese announced Dec. 1 that Father Kingsley Eze, who serves as the parish priest of St. Michael’s Umuekebi Catholic Church in Nigeria’s Imo state, was kidnapped at approximately 8 p.m. that evening and his whereabouts are unknown.
In a statement sent to ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, the chancellor of the diocese, Father Princewill Iwuanyanwu, confirmed the kidnapping and asked for prayers for the safe release of Eze.
“We solicit your fervent prayers that he may come back to us safe and sound,” Iwuanyanwu said.
Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, gathered witness accounts of the kidnapping, indicating that gunmen attacked the priest, known locally as “Father Ichie,” along with another person, Uchenna Newman, as they got out of their car at an intersection to do some shopping during a stop while responding to a sick call.
The bandits are said to have first robbed the street vendors, shooting indiscriminately and wounding a passerby, and then forced the priest and his companion to follow them.
St. Michael’s Parish serves parts of Imo state in southern Nigeria, which has been the center of massive attacks that mostly target Christians.
Earlier, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) shared with ACI Africa a report indicating that from January 2021 to May of this year, security forces and “allied militias” killed 900 unarmed citizens, wounded 700, and arrested 3,500 people, most of them innocent Christians in Imo state.
The report compiled in May also indicates that 1,400 people were extorted and 300 others forced to disappear, meaning they were likely abducted and their whereabouts are unknown.
Additionally, 1,200 civilian houses were burned down across the Nigerian state, displacing approximately 30,000 people.
The Intersociety report further indicates that attacks across Imo state also forced 500,000 citizens “in active age brackets” to flee from the state and had sought refuge in neighboring urban residences located in Umuahia, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, and Nnewi.
In the report, Intersociety petitioned for the prosecution of more than 30 top government officials in Nigeria for killings of Christians in the West African country’s state.
Among those Intersociety brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague was Gov. Hope Uzodinma and other government officials of Imo state whom the research entity has directly linked to the killings and mass displacements of Christians in the state.
This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/5/2023 16:21 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 5, 2023 / 11:21 am (CNA).
The beatification cause for Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect known as “God’s architect” and designer of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain, just completed an important step on the path to officially declaring him a saint in the Catholic Church.
Gaudí’s cause for beatification has been transferred from a civil association to an ecclesial association and has entered its “final process,” according to the Archdiocese of Barcelona. This means that he may soon be elevated to the status of “venerable,” the precursor to the status of blessed and saint.
The Archdiocese of Barcelona has submitted what is known as the “positio super vita, virtutibus, et fama sanctitatis” (position on the life, virtues, and reputation of holiness), which it said is the fundamental argument in favor of Gaudí’s beatification. The positio was sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, the archdiocese revealed in a Dec. 4 statement.
According to the archdiocese, this puts the cause in its “final process towards beatification.”
The dicastery will now decide whether to further advance the cause of the Catalan architect who is currently considered a “servant of God.”
If the dicastery approves, it will present the positio to the pope, who would then authorize its publication, allowing Gaudí to be called “venerable.”
Though the Church’s canonization process is lengthy and Gaudí’s cause has been open for decades, CNA reported in 2015 that Pope Francis expressed a desire to move the cause forward. In a 2015 meeting with the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudí, Francis called Gaudí “a great mystic,” according to a CNA interview with Jose Manuel Almuzara, head of the association.
The group of primarily lay Catholics first began investigating the possibility of Gaudí’s sainthood in 1992. The cause for his canonization was then officially opened by the Vatican in 2003.
Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona on Dec. 4 further signaled the archdiocese’s support for Gaudí’s canonization cause by transferring the case to a canonical association that will handle the cause from now on. The canonical association consists of Omella as well as several priests and lay faithful.
Gaudí, who died in 1926 at the age of 73, was a modernist and naturalist architect best known for the massive Sagrada Familia Basilica that towers over the city of Barcelona.
Though designed by Gaudí, the church has been under construction for more than 100 years. Its multitude of towering spires and unique architecture have made it one of the most renowned churches in the world.
The church is an active basilica and was dedicated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, 128 years after construction first began. During the dedication, Benedict said that by uniting nature, sacred Scripture, and the liturgy, Gaudí “brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ.”
Gaudí is also known for a wide array of truly unconventional but impressive works, including buildings, palaces, and monuments.
Though not known as a practicing Catholic in his earlier years, Gaudí is said to have had a conversion of heart after he began working on the Sagrada Familia. As the work on the basilica progressed, Gaudí became known for his fasting, asceticism, and devotion to God.
In the decades after starting his work on the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí increasingly devoted himself to prayer and the sacraments along with his work on the basilica.
He was on the way to his daily confession when he was hit by a tram, the accident that resulted in his death three days later.
Nora Heimann, a professor of art history at The Catholic University of America, told CNA that Gaudí’s canonization would bring many architects and artists joy to see one of the most renowned architects included in the canon of saints.
She likened Gaudí to other renowned Catholic artists throughout history such as Michelangelo and Vincent van Gogh, whose faith journeys were complex but whose work was deeply inspired by their Christianity nonetheless.
“These are artists that are really deeply informed by their faith, and the act of creation becomes an expression in certain ways of their spiritual journey,” Heimann said. “Their life’s work as artists is a part of their faith journey. That’s really a part of what they’re working out, is where is God in the world? Where is God in our lives? Where is the transcendent?”
According to Heimann, Gaudí’s works evidence his search for God. For all who view his works, they bring out the longing for beauty and transcendence, she said.
“Faith doesn’t lie flat on the page. It gets up and moves,” Heimann continued. “God is the best artist of all, and I think artists like Gaudí that look to nature to find that beauty and then try and capture that beauty themselves in a completely innovative way. Even if you’re not religious, you feel a kind of sense of transcendence.”
Posted on 12/5/2023 15:41 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Dec 5, 2023 / 10:41 am (CNA).
Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin celebrated Mass on Friday at the prison housing Texas’ seven female death row inmates, five of whom have converted to Catholicism during their time awaiting execution.
The Mass, which took place at the Mountain View Unit prison in Gatesville, Texas, was part of a three-day conference on prison ministry put on by the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (CPMC), a group that began as a project of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
In his homily before the women in the prison, preaching on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, Vasquez reflected on the son’s betrayal of his father’s love, his repentance, and the unexpected, overwhelming forgiveness and celebration of the son by his father.
He emphasized the mercy of God in calling sinners back into his family, no matter what they may have done in the past.
“You belong to the Church just as much as anybody else. The walls may separate us, but the walls can never keep Christ down,” Vasquez said to the women.
“There’s a lot of things we can’t do for you, but we can be present, we can accompany. We want to keep on bringing the message of hope.”
Karen Clifton, CPMC’s executive coordinator, told CNA that the group’s goal is to provide a baseline of formation for Catholics wanting to minister to the incarcerated, responding to a lack of resources to train Catholics to do prison ministry in many dioceses across the country.
Clifton had previously ministered to several of the women on Texas’ death row — many of whom have been there for decades — back in the 1990s. Over the course of those decades, she said, five of the women converted to Catholicism, thanks in large part to the efforts of Deacon Ronnie Lastovica, the Diocese of Austin’s pastoral care coordinator for the region where the prison is located.
In addition, Clifton said, six of the current prisoners are lay oblates with the Sisters of Mary Morning Star, a Catholic order of nuns located near Waco that has made ministry to the women on death row part of their mission as religious sisters. Clifton said all six of those women have committed to praying for the same intentions as the sisters, viewing their incarcerated state as something akin to a “monastic life.”
Clifton said she believes at least two of the women on death row would “almost certainly” join the order officially as nuns if they were released.
“I’ve seen the transformation of these women, having met them in the ’90s and then seeing them now. These are prayerful women … their prayer life is so deep. Just being in the units and seeing the transformation … they’re participating in [the nuns’] charism and in their prayer,” Clifton said.
In his homily, Vasquez further reflected on the importance of Catholics practicing the corporal works of mercy.
“This ministry of being with prisoners and accompanying them is so important. It’s one of the essential things … Christ is going to ask on the last day, ‘Were you there? Did you visit me?’ That’s what we’re going to be judged on,” he concluded.
“He didn’t even say how many times you’ve gone to church, how many times did we pray. How did you take care of the other person? Did you give some water to the thirsty? Did you clothe the naked? Did you visit the sick? Did you come and visit those in prison?’” he said.
Texas has carried out nearly 600 state executions and six federal executions since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. According to the same group, Texas has executed more women — six — than any other.
None of the women on Texas’ death row currently have scheduled execution dates.
Posted on 12/4/2023 23:40 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 4, 2023 / 18:40 pm (CNA).
The bishop of Saltillo in the Mexican border state of Coahuila, Hilario González García, has announced the automatic excommunication (“latae sententiae”) of the one or more thieves who broke into a Catholic church and stole and desecrated the Eucharist.
The incident occurred the morning of Nov. 25 at Sacred Heart of Jesus chapel, part of Our Lady of Schoenstatt Parish located on the outskirts of the city.
“As the front door was forced open, and also the tabernacle, the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was wrongfully stolen,” read the statement signed by González.
The prelate declared the act as “a violation of the sacred place [the chapel] and a sacrilege against the sacred Eucharistic species, therefore, whoever perpetrated it, if he is Catholic, has committed a crime against the sacraments.”
“For the very serious offense committed against Our Lord,” González invited all the faithful to join in prayer, “performing acts of reparation and promoting love for Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” For now, he explained, Mass will not be possible until reparation is made for the offense.
Canon 1211 of the Code of Canon Law establishes: “Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.”
Given the situation, the bishop invited the faithful, and particularly the parish priests, “to take great care for the security of sacred places.” He asked the people in the surrounding area that “if anyone finds the sacred hosts or the ciborium, he should inform Our Lady of Schohnstatt Parish.”
González also reported that whoever broke into the chapel also took two folding tables and a speaker.
In response to an inquiry by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the diocesan communications office ruled out that it was an act against the faith and described it as an act of vandalism and theft.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/4/2023 23:20 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 4, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).
Eduardo Verástegui, filmmaker and aspiring presidential candidate in Mexico, published a “manifesto” against gender ideology, pledging to eliminate gender ideology indoctrination from schools if he is elected president of the nation.
Verástegui, producer of the box office hit “Sound of Freedom,” which exposes child sex trafficking, must gather almost 1 million signatures by early January to get on the 2024 ballot.
Gender ideology holds that biological sex does not determine one’s gender and that people can define their sexual orientation and identity according to their preferences and even contrary to biological reality.
“Let it be very clear. If they give me the opportunity to be president of Mexico, I will not allow the entire LGBT+ alphabet to continue contaminating our nation. I don’t want Mexican children sexualized and indoctrinated in schools with books that promote gender ideology,” the Mexican actor wrote.
Verástegui wrote on X on Dec. 3 that if he becomes president he will not allow “propaganda in public places nor adoptions that deprive children from having a dad and a mom. There is no right to adopt, there is the right of children to be adopted.”
“All Mexicans will have the same opportunities, without privileges. And there will be no men usurping a woman’s spot in sports competitions, reducing them to mere spectators as athletes with a physical advantage win,” he continued.
The pro-life activist also noted: “In Mexico we have a beautiful flag and that is the only flag that represents us, and there’s room for all of us there. We are not going to allow vocal minority groups to come and define public policies that affect the vast majority of our nation.”
“Long live the family!” he concluded.
Verástegui filed Sept. 7 as an independent candidate for president in the 2024 elections.
According to electoral regulations, after filing his intention to run for president with the National Electoral Institute, Verástegui must gather by Jan. 6, 2024, the number of signatures equivalent to 1% of registered voters in the country, distributed over at least 17 states (out of 31 plus Mexico City) with the same percentage in each of them. This is equivalent to approximately 1 million signatures.
This story was first publishedby ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/4/2023 23:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 4, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
Marie Stopes International opened a clinic Nov. 23 in Cancun in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, raising concerns among pro-life leaders about what has been locally called “death tourism.”
Marie Stopes International offers “sexual and reproductive health services, including legal interruption of pregnancy,” i.e., abortions.
According to its website, the presence of the Marie Stopes clinic network in Mexico dates back to 1999. Currently the organization has a presence in the states of Coahuila, Quintana Roo, Mexico City, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Baja California North and South.
The organization’s website also notably features women of color.
Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Alison González, operations manager for the pro-life platform ConParticipación (short for Conscience and Participation) and national coordinator of Un Día Por Todos (a day for everyone), expressed her concern about the possible exploitation of women in a crisis pregnancy.
“It’s unfortunate that instead of addressing the crises that many pregnant women are going through, companies seek to profit from the pain and desperation of many women,” she noted.
Data from the Mexican government’s Ministry of Tourism shows that Cancun attracted 46.6% of the 14.88 million international travelers to the country during the first eight months of the year.
González suggested that opening abortion clinics in tourist destinations like Cancun could become an option for American women, especially after Roe v. Wade was overturned and some states subsequently restricted or practically banned abortion.
“It’s easy to imagine that Cancun could be an ‘ideal place’ to receive American women where, for a cost similar to what they would pay to travel to another U.S. state, they can travel to Cancun, romanticizing a terrible deed such as an abortion procedure,” the pro-life leader warned.
González also pointed out that “if their model works,” this could open the possibility of replicating it in other states and cities in Mexico, “especially those noted for being tourist destinations.”
The pro-life leader said that the decriminalization of abortion on Oct. 26, 2022, in Quintana Roo state, where Cancun is located, opened the door to “death tourism.”
“The idea of paying a few hundred dollars for a round-trip flight, a few days of lodging in an all-inclusive hotel in addition to the procedure to have the abortion is extremely attractive,” González commented.
Aarón Lara Sánchez, president of Citizens’ Initiative for Life and Family, an organization with a presence in Quintana Roo, pointed out to ACI Prensa that there is a connection between abortion and sex tourism as “a multimillion-dollar business.”
Lara lamented that “if only a percentage of that amount could be channeled to care for vulnerable women or to true sex education, we could see substantial changes in society.”
Both leaders agreed that genuine support for pregnant women involves understanding their various crises and being a comprehensive support network, addressing needs such as education, decent employment, health services, and public policies that allow women to be mothers and develop personally and professionally.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/4/2023 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Jerusalem, Dec 4, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).
On Dec. 2, like every evening before Advent, the city where Jesus was born welcomed the custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, and the Franciscan friars for their annual procession into the city of Bethlehem.
This year, however, due to the ongoing conflict, the solemnity of the event has taken on a more sober tone, in line with the directives of the patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem, to “forego any unnecessarily festive activities” and “focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas.”
The procession of scouts — usually consisting of several hundred men, women, and children from all over Palestine who process in with the custos — was reduced to a small group, the music of drums and bagpipes gave way to a religious silence, and the flag-throwers lowered their flags. Even the streets and Manger Square — typically crowded with local believers and pilgrims — were empty. The only note of joy came from the children of Terra Sancta College in Bethlehem, which is under the custody of the Holy Land, who welcomed the small procession with cheers and applause.
Earlier that Saturday morning, a procession of vehicles with the custos of the Holy Land left Jerusalem and before entering Bethlehem made a stop at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Elias (Mar Elias), built in the sixth century at the site where the prophet Elijah is said to have taken refuge in his flight (see 1 Kings 19:1–7).
This piece of land still belongs today to the Palestinian municipality of Beit Jala and, until the Six-Day War in 1967, was located on the so-called Green Line, which marked the border between Israel and Palestine and served as the entry point from Jerusalem into the Palestinian Territories.
For the first time, the civil and religious authorities of Beit Jala were not present to greet the custos, signaling a protest against the war and an expression of solidarity with the people of Gaza. Instead, the custos briefly greeted the military personnel of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), including some Christians.
The procession of vehicles entered Bethlehem through a gateway that was opened for the occasion and then passed through an entrance in the separation wall at the location of the Tomb of Rachel. Here, the Jews venerate the burial place of the matriarch of the Jewish people. This is a small strip of land inside Bethlehem, under Israeli control, completely surrounded by the wall.
The Christian churches of the Holy Land maintain the right to pass through this route during the solemn entrances to Bethlehem by the custos of the Holy Land and the Latin, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian patriarchs.
In an interview the evening before with a few media outlets, including CNA, the custos of the Holy Land emphasized the significance of this passage.
“For me, it is the most meaningful gesture, even more so than when everything proceeds smoothly and with the utmost solemnity. It means continuing to affirm that even a wall can be crossed. It is a sign that sooner or later, there will be no more walls, and in a context like the one we are experiencing, marked by conflict and confrontation between the two populations, it takes on an even greater significance,” he said.
The custos and the Franciscan friars were welcomed by the scouts at the beginning of Star Street, winding through the heart of Bethlehem — the route traditionally believed to have been taken by the Magi. The custos then walked the short distance to Manger Square, where he was greeted by local authorities — the mayor, the governor, the chief of police, and the military commander.
At the entrance of the Basilica of the Nativity, the custos was then welcomed by Greek Orthodox and Armenians representatives. After entering the basilica, he proceeded to the Latin part of the complex, the Church of St. Catherine, where he venerated the relic of the holy cradle of the Child Jesus, donated to the Custody of the Holy Land by Pope Francis in 2019.
The following day, with the celebration of the first vespers of Sunday, Dec. 3, the Advent season and a new liturgical year for the Catholic Church officially began. The custos and the Franciscan friars processed into the Grotto of the Nativity, where they venerated the place where the Son of God was born as a man, now marked by a silver star.
A few steps away is the manger where Jesus was laid immediately after birth. Here, the custos lit the first candle of the Advent wreath.
The Church of St. Catherine was filled with local worshippers for the celebration of the solemn Mass of the first Sunday of Advent.
“Thank you for being the Christian presence in Bethlehem,” Patton said at the beginning of the Mass, greeting those in attendance. “We hope to see pilgrims again soon, but you are the Church of Bethlehem, the living stones.”
Two baby girls made their entrance into the Church for the first time, approximately 40 days after their birth — a tradition still observed in this land. One of them was welcomed by the custos during the offertory.
The theme of hope was the focus of the custos’ reflection during his homily.
“We need hope because the reality in which we find ourselves makes us fear for the future of our community and our families,” he said. He then referenced the word of God that had just been proclaimed:
“The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God continues to come to meet us because he loves us with all the strength and tenderness of a father. The second reading also nourishes our Christian hope because it makes us look beyond the difficulties of the present and reminds us of the ultimate destination of our arduous earthly pilgrimage, the ‘manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’”
Posted on 12/4/2023 21:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 4, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).
The doors at the entrance to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., will function as a Holy Door throughout the Jubilee Year of 2025 — but what does that mean for pilgrims who walk through them?
Holy Doors are doors that are normally located at the entrance to a cathedral or basilica that have been officially sanctioned by the Vatican as a place of pilgrimage at which one can receive special graces during a year of jubilee.
The doors are sealed prior to the jubilee but are ceremoniously reopened by the pope or a bishop around the start of the jubilee for pilgrims to walk through.
As St. John Paul II explained in his papal bull Incarnationis Mysterium ahead of the 2000 Jubilee Year, to pass through a Holy Door “means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [and] it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us.”
“Through the Holy Door … Christ will lead us more deeply into the Church, his body and his bride,” St. John Paul II said.
“In this way we see how rich in meaning are the words of the apostle Peter when he writes that, united to Christ, we too are built, like living stones, ‘into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God,’” he said, citing 1 Peter 2:5.
Another function of entering through the Holy Door is to obtain a plenary indulgence if all other conditions for such an indulgence are met.
A plenary indulgence eliminates all temporal punishments for one’s sins but can only be obtained through true repentance and must be accompanied by confession and other conditions.
One can receive a plenary indulgence if one walks through the Holy Door during the jubilee when that person has an interior disposition of complete detachment from both mortal and venial sin.
The person must also obtain absolution through a sacramental confession, receive the holy Eucharist, and pray for the intentions of the pope within 20 days before or after engaging in a pilgrimage through a Holy Door.
A person can obtain a plenary indulgence for himself or herself, or for a soul in purgatory, but a person cannot obtain a plenary indulgence for another living person.
A person who is unable to complete a pilgrimage can obtain a plenary indulgence through other means, and a person who is unable to complete a work associated with an indulgence because of some impediment can have that requirement commuted by a confessor.
A jubilee is a special year of grace and pilgrimage in the Catholic Church that is rooted in the Mosaic tradition of jubilee years, which were held every 50 years for the freeing of slaves and forgiveness of debts as manifestations of God’s mercy.
Pope Boniface VIII reintroduced the jubilee celebration in the 1300s. Under the current practice, jubilees recur every 25 years on a regular basis, but the pope can declare an extraordinary year of jubilee that occurs before the 25-year mark. The 2025 Jubilee Year, which is focused on the theological virtue of hope, is an ordinary jubilee year, but Pope Francis had previously declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which was in 2016.
Pilgrims will have the opportunity to walk through the Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the 2025 Jubilee Year. The basilica is one of the locations designated by Pope Francis.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, at the start of Advent, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, blessed and sealed two large doors at the entrance of the basilica. No one will be permitted to walk through the doors until the archbishop reopens them once the 2025 Jubilee Year has begun.
The basilica had also received the designation for the use of Holy Doors during the 2000 and 2016 Jubilee Years.
“To host the National Holy Year Door has been a great privilege for this National Shrine, first granted to us by St. John Paul II and again by Pope Francis,” Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the basilica, said in a statement.
“While it may seem unremarkable on the surface, to walk through a Holy Door is a moment of grace, and the opportunity to do so while entering Mary’s house is a special spiritual experience.”
The 2025 Jubilee Year will begin on Dec. 24, 2024 (Christmas Eve), and conclude on Jan. 6, 2026, lasting slightly more than a year.