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Indi Gregory remembered as ‘true warrior’ at funeral

Indi Gregory. / Credit: Christian Concern

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 11:55 am (CNA).

The funeral for Indi Gregory, the 8-month-old baby who lost her life last month after an end-of-life legal battle, was held at Nottingham Cathedral in England on Friday, Dec. 1, at 10:15 a.m. local time.

More than 100 people attended the service led by Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham. Ahead of the service, Indi’s white coffin, adorned with white and pink flowers, was carried through the streets in a horse-drawn carriage. Behind the carriage, a procession of eight Rolls-Royce cars transported her family to the funeral. Indi’s parents, Dean Gregory and Claire Staniforth, placed her favorite musical lamb toy inside her coffin with her body.

Canon Paul Newman read a tribute on behalf of Dean Gregory in which he called his daughter a “true warrior.”

“I honestly and truly feel, deep in my heart, that Indi was not only beautiful, strong, and unique. I just knew, from the start, she was very special,” he said. “Nonetheless, I could never have imagined the sort of journey we and Indi would have to go through to fight for her life.”

“She didn’t only have to battle against her health problems, she had to battle against a system that makes it almost impossible to win. Yet, it was her weakest point, her health problems, that distinguished Indi as a true warrior.”

Gregory pointed out that Indi had much to overcome, including “seizures, two operations, sepsis, e-coli, including other infections, that even another child would struggle to beat.”

“But Indi’s determination to fight for a chance of life really inspired me,” he added.

“The strength she had for an 8-month-old child was incredible. And this is one of the reasons I would have done anything for Indi to have the chance to live, which was denied her.”

Gregory and Staniforth promised to make sure Indi’s life is “remembered forever.”

“I have now reached the conclusion that this was indeed Indi’s destiny … but now this chapter of Indi’s destiny is over,” the tribute read. “Her legacy, however, has only just begun. I wanted to make sure Indi would be remembered forever and she will live on in our hearts and through our voices.”

An Italian delegation made up of the Italian government’s minister for families, Eugenia Roccella, and minister for disabilities, Alessandra Locatelli; former Italian senator and lawyer Simone Pillon; and Jacopo Coghe, vice president of Pro Vita e Famiglia, was also in attendance.

The Italian government offered to pay for the funeral after trying to have Indi cared for at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital.

During the service, a book featuring thousands of tributes from Italy was given to Indi’s parents.

“We wish to express the Church’s care and closeness to her grieving family at this difficult time,” read a statement from the bishop of Nottingham and the cathedral dean, Canon Malachy Brett. “As a Church we will continue to contribute to wider discussions on questions of when treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit, the duty of the continuation of basic care, and the rights of parents,” they added.

“Over the coming week, and especially on Friday, we hope you will understand that our sole concern will be supporting Indi’s family as they prepare to lay her to rest. May baby Indi rest in peace, and may all who loved her find consolation in the days ahead,” the statement concluded.

In a papal telegram, Pope Francis expressed his “condolences” and “spiritual closeness” to Indi’s parents as they mourn the loss of their child.

The message, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, read: “Entrusting Indi into the tender and loving hands of our Heavenly Father, His Holiness joins those gathered for her funeral in thanking Almighty God for the gift of her all-too-short life.”

“He likewise prays that the Lord Jesus, who said to his disciples, ‘Let the little children come to me… for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ (Mt 19:14), will grant abiding comfort, strength, and peace to you all,” the letter concluded.

Indi, born in February and baptized in September, suffered from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease. She had been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England.

England’s high court ruled that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support against her parents’ wishes. Indi’s parents repeatedly appealed in U.K. courts to be able to take their baby to Rome for treatment but lost their legal battle, with the second-highest court in the U.K. ruling on Nov. 10 that her life support be removed “immediately.”

Indi died in her mother’s arms in hospice on Nov. 13. 

Pope Francis sends condolences to family of Indi Gregory at British baby’s funeral

Baby Indi Gregory was baptized on Sept. 22, 2023. Despite not being religious, Dean Gregory, her father, expressed that his time in court fighting for his daughter’s life felt like he had been “dragged to hell.” The experience moved him to decide to have his daughter baptized. / Credit: Christian Concern

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 11:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent his condolences on Friday to the family of Indi Gregory, the British baby who died last month after U.K. courts ordered her life support removed. 

The 8-month-old baby died in her mother’s arms in a hospice on Nov. 13, having suffered from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease over the course of her short life. England’s high court had ruled that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support against her parents’ wishes.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in a telegram addressed to Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham on Friday that the Holy Father “was saddened to learn of the death of little Indi Gregory.”

The pope “sends condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to her parents, Dean and Claire, and to all who mourn the loss of this precious child of God,” the telegram said. 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said on its website that the Friday message was read aloud at baby Indi’s funeral. The Vatican had said in November that Francis was praying for the baby amid the life support dispute. 

“Entrusting Indi into the tender and loving hands of our Heavenly Father, His Holiness joins those gathered for her funeral in thanking Almighty God for the gift of her all-too-short life,” the Friday telegram said. 

Quoting the Gospel of Matthew, the Vatican said Francis “likewise prays that the Lord Jesus, who said to his disciples, ‘Let the little children come to me… for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ will grant abiding comfort, strength, and peace to you all.”

The decision to remove baby Indi from life support was the culmination of a bitter back-and-forth between her parents and the British courts. British Justice Robert Peel originally ruled in early November, following an “urgent online hearing,” that her life support be discontinued. 

The family appealed the decision, but a panel of judges subsequently ruled that the life support removal continue.  

At one point the Vatican’s pediatric hospital, Bambino Gesù, offered to treat the 8-month-old baby, with the Italian government electing to grant her Italian citizenship and to cover the cost of her medical treatment.

Dean Gregory said the fight over his daughter’s life left him feeling as if he’d been “dragged to hell” and ultimately influenced his decision to have the girl baptized.

In unique governors’ debate, DeSantis and Newsom bicker, trade criticism

Florida governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis (left) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom appear on screen from the press room during a debate held by Fox News in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Nov. 30, 2023. / Credit: CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday sparred at a unique political debate in Georgia, with the 2024 GOP primary candidate and the Democratic governor trading jabs and criticizing each other’s records over the course of 90 minutes.

The event, held in Alpharetta and billed as “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,” was broadcast on Fox News and moderated by network host Sean Hannity, who opened the discussion by saying it would focus on “things that impact [Americans] every single day.”

The matchup — between DeSantis, the distant-second-place Republican primary candidate, and Newsom, who is not running for the presidency in 2024 — was a notable enough spectacle in American politics that even Newsom remarked on it, asking rhetorically at the outset of the event: “What are we actually doing here?” 

The Democrat answered himself by saying he was on the stage to “tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record” and make a “point of contrast” between Democrats and Republicans, including DeSantis. 

The two politicians would spend much of the next hour and a half bickering with each other, accusing each other of lying and ruining their respective states.

Abortion, education, taxes

The debate took the form of topics proposed by Hannity, who struggled many times to keep the candidates from lapsing into shouting matches. 

On abortion, Hannity at one point asked Newsom if there should be “any restrictions on the issue of abortion,” including later in pregnancy. Newsom, who has been an outspoken proponent of abortion, skated around the question several times, eventually stating: “It should be up to the mother and her doctor and her conscience.” 

DeSantis, meanwhile, argued against abortion, saying: “I believe in a culture of life. I think we’re better off when everybody counts, when everybody has an opportunity to do well.” Both candidates are Catholic.

On education, Newsom criticized DeSantis for having signed Florida’s parental rights in education bill, a law that in part forbids teachers from discussing sexuality topics with very young children. 

Newsom alleged that DeSantis has been “using education as a sword for [his] cultural purge,” including what Newsom alleged was a “banning binge” by the Florida governor. 

“The role of the school is to educate kids, not to indoctrinate kids,” DeSantis argued. It’s inappropriate to instruct young children on gender ideology, he said. “It’s also important to respect parental rights to know what curriculum is being used in the classroom. And everything should be age-appropriate,” he said. 

The two governors further sparred over a host of topics related to their respective states, including crime rates, taxes, and other political matters. At one point the conversation delved into what Hannity alleged was President Joe Biden’s “significant cognitive decline.”

“He should not be running. He is not up to the job,” DeSantis said of the president. 

“I will take Joe Biden at 100 versus Ron DeSantis any day of the week at any age,” Newsom fired back.

In what was arguably the only moment of bipartisan unity of the evening, the Democrat and Republican both had sharp words of criticism for the terrorist group Hamas, which launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that led to the present Israel-Hamas war. 

“This is a fight between good and evil. Hamas is a terrorist organization. They need to be eliminated,” Newsom said.

Hamas wants a “second Holocaust,” DeSantis said, arguing that the group wants to “destroy Israel and wipe every Jew off the map.”

DeSantis has throughout the early 2024 race remained the only GOP candidate to remotely approach former President Donald Trump in popularity in the primary polls, though even he has lagged very far behind Trump for most of the year, polling at an average of 12% to Trump’s 60% by the last week of November.

Newsom is not running for president in 2024, though commentators have viewed his continued national prominence as a sign of his likely candidacy in 2028 or beyond.

The Democrat has rebuffed suggestions that he has been positioning himself as an emergency candidate in 2024 in case Biden drops out. On Thursday night he confirmed again that he is not running when asked directly by Hannity.

Newsom easily won reelection in California in 2022, with DeSantis similarly coasting to victory in Florida the same year.

Cardinal Parolin will represent Pope Francis at climate conference

Cardinal Pietro Parolin. / Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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

The Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will head the Vatican’s delegation to the COP28 climate conference in place of Pope Francis, who continues to recover from an acute bronchial infection. 

“I can confirm that the cardinal secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, will preside over the Delegation of the Holy See already present in Dubai on the occasion of COP28 to bring, on Saturday, Dec. 2, the contribution that the Holy Father would have liked to make,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement released Friday. 

The conference began on Thursday and will conclude Dec. 12.

In the days leading up the announcement, Parolin hinted that he would be going to the conference, telling journalists gathered at the lower chamber of the Italian Parliament: “I have usually participated in all of them, starting with the COP in Paris and all the COPs, so I think I will go this time, too, but obviously shortening my stay.” 

“There is the delegation that stays for the whole two weeks of the works; I would only participate in the first part of the works,” Parolin said. 

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it was canceling the 86-year-old pontiff’s trip to Dubai at the behest of his doctors. The pope has been struggling since last week with both a mild flu and lingering symptoms from that illness.

Francis said Thursday that he was still struggling with an acute bronchial infection stemming from the flu infection. The Vatican subsequently reported that the pope’s condition was improving, though he was still on an intravenous antibiotic treatment. 

“As you see, I am alive. The doctor didn’t let me go to Dubai. The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from the heat to the air conditioning,” Pope Francis informed participants in a health ethics seminar at the Vatican on Nov. 30.

Pope Francis shared his hopes for the conference in a Thursday post on X.

“May participants in #COP28 be strategists who focus on the common good and the future of their children, rather than the vested interests of certain countries or businesses. May they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame,” he said.

The Conference of the Parties is an annual climate change summit of the United Nations, held since 1995, that brings together states and nonstate actors in order to discuss meeting current benchmarks in the reduction of carbon emissions and to spearhead initiatives.

The participants include the countries that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One of the major achievements of the COP was the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement during COP21 in 2015.

Parolin will deliver the remarks originally prepared for the pope on Saturday. The following day, he will preside over the inauguration of an interfaith pavilion alongside Spanish Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, an expert on Islam and current prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue. 

This is the first time that there will be a faith pavilion at the conference. Hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the COP28 presidency, and an array of other faith-based partners, the venue will feature more than 65 sessions for “religious and other civil society representatives, Indigenous peoples, scientists, youth, and political leaders,” according to the pavilion’s website.

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December

Pope Francis meets on April 29, 2023, with children and adults who are visually impaired and have other disabilities at a Catholic institute in Budapest, Hungary, dedicated to Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann. / Credit: Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December is for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are among the most fragile among us,” Pope Francis said in a video released Nov. 28. 

“Some of them suffer rejection, rooted in either ignorance or prejudice, which then
marginalizes them,” he added.

The Holy Father urged civil institutions to “support their projects through access to education, employment, and places where they can express their creativity.”

“Programs and initiatives are needed that promote their inclusion. Above all else, big hearts are needed who want to accompany.”

The pope encouraged individuals to change “our mentality a little” and open “ourselves to the abilities and talents of these people who are differently abled, both in society as well as in the life of the Church.”

“And so, creating a completely accessible parish does not only mean eliminating physical barriers,” he said. “It also assumes that we stop talking about ‘them’ and start talking about ‘us.’”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that people with disabilities may be at the center of attention in society, and that institutions offer inclusion programs that enhance their active participation.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

Constant thefts in churches plague Mexican archdiocese

The Cathedral of San Luis Potosí in Mexico. / Credit: Saher via Wiki Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí expressed its concern about the constant wave of thefts that is plaguing churches in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí.

Father Tomás Cruz Perales, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí, said in a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that although thefts from churches are a constant, most of them have so far been insignificant, primarily thieves looking for money in the poor box.

“It’s a situation that we’re going through, but it’s very identified with people seeking to satisfy needs, perhaps related to [drugs and alcohol], or who live from day to day,” Cruz commented. He also lamented that in some cases, when confronted, the offenders “have even attacked the sacristans.”

However, he noted that on a couple of occasions more serious sacrileges have been committed where sacred objects have been destroyed. In a particularly serious incident at St. Philip of Jesus Church located on the outskirts, eight chalices and six ciboriums with gilded relief (and adorned with) precious stones, patens, microphones, wiring, and video cameras were stolen.

“Even the altar wine was [desecrated]. That day there was a true sacrilege, especially because the consecrated hosts were left on the ground,” the priest added.

Although thefts from churches “are a constant,” Cruz noted that insecurity goes beyond simply stealing money from poor boxes: “It’s a situation that we experience throughout the country, unfortunately,” he noted, alluding to the widespread problem of thefts from homes, businesses, and on the streets.

The spokesman said that most churches, particularly in the state capital, have taken security measures, “such as the installation of cameras and alarms, especially when the churches have already been closed.”

He also thanked the local authorities for the measures implemented so far but called on the population to remain alert in the face of growing insecurity.

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

Opus Dei priest dies from heart attack while preaching at retreat

Father Fadi Sarraf, 51, was a recently ordained Opus Dei priest. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Opus Dei

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

Father Fadi Sarraf, a recently ordained priest of Opus Dei, reportedly died of a heart attack while preaching at a facility near Montreal, Canada, where the personal prelature often holds retreats.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Fadi Sarraf, 51, who passed away today suddenly of an apparent heart attack while preaching a retreat at the Manoir de Beaujeu. May he rest in peace,” Opus Dei’s information office in Canada said on X Tuesday.

Prior to being a priest, Sarraf, an immigrant from Damascus, Syria, was an engineer in Canada. He came to that country at 17 years old, according to a June 2021 article on Opus Dei’s website.

German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was the personal secretary of the late Pope Benedict XVI, ordained Sarraf in Rome along with 26 other members of Opus Dei on May 22, 2021.

Sarraf, who joined Opus Dei in 1990, first encountered the personal prelature in 1989 when one of his classmates at McGill University in Montreal invited him to visit the Riverview Study Centre, a formation center for young men run by Opus Dei.

“I really enjoyed the different activities that they had, the conferences, the times of prayer in the chapel and especially the study weekends and the hikes,” he said.

Sarraf described leaving his homeland for Canada as “not easy” but said that “by overcoming my fear of the unknown I learned that beauty and goodness can express themselves in different ways.”

“This led me to be curious about discovering it in everyone I meet and in every situation,” he said.

After graduating as a mechanical engineer, Sarraf earned his master’s in business administration at Laval University in Quebec City. 

Following his graduate degree, he became the director of Ernescliff College, a student residence run by Opus Dei that offers Christian formation on the University of Toronto campus.

Sarraf also worked part time leading a formation program at Northmount, a Catholic boys’ elementary school in Toronto.

Moving to Montreal in 1997, Sarraf then worked for the Foundation for Culture and Education as a project manager and fundraiser. The foundation is an institute for the formation of men and women in Canada.

Able to communicate in five languages, Sarraf said that his goal in life was “to do God’s will in whichever way it manifested itself.”

“In the early years that meant doing different projects, taking care of different apostolic activities and construction projects for facilities that would be used for Opus Dei’s apostolates,” he said.

“Over the last four or five years there was more focus on preparing for the priesthood, even though I continued with many of the tasks I had before,” he added.

Sarraf said his decision to become a priest became “crystallized” in 2017, and he moved to Spain to pursue a master’s degree in theology at the University of Navarre.

He then pursued his doctorate in spiritual theology in Rome in 2020. 

“The decision to become a priest is in continuation with my decision to serve God in Opus Dei. Obviously I will serve God in a different way because you change your profession: as a priest you become a priest 100%, so you leave behind your other activities. During the years that I have been in Opus Dei, God has been preparing me for this transition,” he said at the time.

Sarraf said that “to serve others is the primary goal of the priest, to bring them closer to God, to help them discover God’s love in their daily life.”

“Ever since I announced that I was going to be ordained a priest, many people have been writing to me asking me for prayers, assuring me of their prayers too. I actually keep a list of the different requests so that I don’t forget anyone,” he said.

“My primary intention is that more people in the world discover God’s love for them, and that all of us being ordained together be precisely that instrument of God’s love, a bridge between man and God, to help people discover peace and love in their lives,” he said.

Sarraf said that a priest is supposed to help “everyone,” not just Catholics or Christians.

“It’s the example we see of Our Lord in the Gospel. Even though his main mission was to the Jews, he was open to everyone, and the message of the priest, the Christian message, is not only for a few but for everyone,” he said.

“The priest should welcome everyone and try to bring anyone he comes in touch with to discover God’s love and how he or she can correspond to that love,” he added.

NET Ministries launches outreach to U.S. Hispanic youth

YDisciple is a streaming project aimed at providing training resources for adults and teaching materials for youth. It announced in November 2023 it is partnering with the Juan Diego Network to adapt the YDisciple project to the Spanish language and the needs of Latino culture. / Credit: Screenshot of YDisciple

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

In an effort to better serve young people, NET Ministries is collaborating with the Juan Diego Network through its founder, José Manuel De Urquidi, to adapt the YDisciple project to the Spanish language and the needs of Latino culture.

Based in Minnesota and with a national outreach, NET’s mission and vision is “to challenge young Catholics, through relational ministry, to follow Christ and embrace a life of community in the Church in this new Apostolic Age, engaging 1 million young Catholics with the good news through well-formed missionary leaders,” its website explains. 

YDisciple is a streaming project aimed at providing training resources for adults and teaching materials for youth, focused on the creation of small groups that encourage discussions and reflections on faith. Its resource library includes videos, guides for participants and leaders, and resources for parents.

According to a Pew Research study, 60% of Catholics under the age of 18 in the United States are Hispanic.

Annie Grandell, director of YDisciple, explained that in the project, “we are not limiting ourselves to a simple translation, we are ‘transliterating.’ That is, we are working closely with the Juan Diego Network, an organization passionate about involving all the young people of our Church.”

“Not only have they translated the videos, but they have adapted them so that they resonate authentically with the Hispanic community,” she pointed out.

Juan Diego Network is a leading Catholic podcast producer and intercultural marketing and communications agency with a clear focus: evangelize, form, and entertain the Latino community in today’s world.

On Sept. 14, two series, “Dios es” and “La invitación” (“God Is” and “The Invitation”), were launched on YDisciple.tv. The first is a collection of videos based on questions asked by today’s youth.

“La invitación” is a four-part series for small-group study that invites young people to reflect on important questions such as: What does it mean to follow Jesus? What is the Gospel? Why do I need community?

The Spanish collection with these new releases and other introductory videos is available here.

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

New York diocese offers $200 million to abuse victims in largest-ever settlement offer

St. Agnes Cathedral, Diocese of Rockville Centre / Italianfreak00|Wikipedia|CC0 1.0 DEED

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Nov 30, 2023 / 16:55 pm (CNA).

In what it called its “best and final” offer to survivors of abuse, the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York on Monday proposed a plan that offers $200 million to approximately 600 survivors of abuse, the largest-ever settlement offer made in diocesan bankruptcy history.

The new plan includes an immediate cash payout of a minimum of $100,000 to claimants with a lawsuit and a $50,000 minimum to claimants without a qualifying lawsuit.

In a statement released Monday, the Long Island diocese called the plan “the best, most efficient, and most effective means to immediately begin compensating all eligible survivors equitably while allowing the diocese to emerge from bankruptcy and continue its charitable mission.”

The settlement offer includes a diocesan contribution of $50 million as well as a $150 million contribution from “parishes, co-insured parties, and other Catholic ministries,” according to the statement.

“The diocese agrees with Bankruptcy Court Judge Martin Glenn, who is overseeing the case, that survivors have waited too long for compensation and that any alternative to a global settlement plan creates chaos that puts both survivor compensation and the futures of parishes at risk,” the statement continued.

In July, Manhattan-based Glenn, the chief bankruptcy judge for the Southern District of New York, threatened to end bankruptcy proceedings if the diocese and abuse survivors could not reach an agreement, which would then send the cases back to state court for civil trials, Newsday reported at the time.

In its Nov. 27 statement, the diocese said it “has already made it clear that it is at the end of its resources. … Continuing to prolong the case, or dismissing the case, will ensure that payments to survivors only go down from the current settlement offer contained in the plan.”

On Tuesday, however, Glenn said he would not approve a bankruptcy plan without detailed information from the diocese’s parishes, as abuse claimants who would vote on the plan need to be able to weigh the value of their claim against the available resources at the parish where their abuse occurred, Reuters reported Nov. 28.

According to Reuters, James Stang, a representative of the official committee of abuse survivors in the case, said claimants would not vote for the new plan because it would eliminate legal claims against individual parishes.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre filed for bankruptcy in October 2020 after the passage of the Child Victims Act in New York in 2019 allowed for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in past cases where survivors had not yet taken action, long after the statute of limitations had expired.

The diocese is one of six in the state of New York to have declared bankruptcy; only the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have not filed for bankruptcy. 

German bishop says divisions within local Church are a ‘disaster for the faithful’

Bishop Stefan Oster. / Credit: Diocese of Passau

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2023 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

A prominent German bishop and steadfast opponent of the controversial Synodal Way has leveled his harshest criticism yet of the state of the Catholic Church in his own country, describing the German episcopacy as deeply “divided”— and warned of potentially catastrophic consequences for Catholic believers.

In the latest in a series of high-profile critiques of the German Synodal Way, Bishop Stefan Oster of the Diocese of Passau did not shy away from identifying profound theological disagreements as the source of division within the Catholic Church in Germany.

“It is a tragedy that we, German bishops, have so little agreement on key issues of anthropology and ecclesiology,” Oster told the Polish Catholic publication Gosc Niedzielny in an interview published Nov. 30.

The divided episcopacy “is obviously a disaster for the faithful in Germany,” said the 58-year-old Oster, who was tapped by Pope Francis to participate in the Vatican’s recent Synod on Synodality assembly after he was not selected as a delegate by the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK).

Divisions in the German episcopacy recently came to the forefront when Oster and three other bishops — Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstatt — boycotted a Nov. 10-11 meeting of a committee of Synodal Way leadership. 

The committee was created with the intent of establishing a permanent synodal council of laity and bishops to govern the Church in Germany — something explicitly forbidden in a January letter from top Vatican officials to the DBK specifically approved by Pope Francis.

While his decision to not participate highlighted divisions in Germany, Oster explained his choice was “aimed precisely at maintaining unity with Rome.”

“I was faced with a choice: to clearly highlight the existing polarization among bishops or to highlight my path of unity with the universal Church,” said the Bavarian bishop, whose diocese is in the southeast corner of Germany and has the highest rate of Catholics per capita.

Growing criticism

The Synodal Way, which began in December 2019 as an initiative of the DBK and the Central Committee for German Catholics (ZdK), a lobby of lay Church employees, has come under criticism in recent weeks as its proponents push forward with efforts to change Church teaching and practice related to human sexuality, sacramental ordination, and Church governance.

In a Nov. 11 letter to four German laywomen who had written Pope Francis to express their concerns about the Catholic Church in Germany, Pope Francis wrote that “numerous steps” being taken by some in the local Church — including the work of the synodal committee — “threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path.”

One of the Vatican’s top officials, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also informed the German bishops in an Oct. 23 letter that changes in the Church’s teaching on same-sex sexual relations and male-only holy orders were not on the table in meetings between Rome and Synodal Way delegates moving forward.

In addition, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, wrote to Pope Francis in early October criticizing the Synodal Way, calling many of its resolutions “extremely unacceptable and un-Catholic.”

The leadership of the Synodal Way has largely decried or deflected these criticisms and has shown no sign of backing down from its controversial aims.

A synodal solution

The ratcheting up of tensions between German Synodal Way leadership and other Catholic leaders — especially Pope Francis — has led many to express concerns about the possibility of schism.

But in his recent interview, Bishop Oster was not without hope that a solution could be found.

He suggested that a “way out of the impasse” between Germany and the universal Church could be reached if the German Synodal Way “could now submit” and integrate with the Vatican’s Synod on Synodality — “with a clear acceptance of its content and decisions.”

“This would require great humility and would perhaps even mean withdrawing decisions already made in the Synodal Way,” such as the resolution to bless same-sex sexual unions.