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Saint Bernadette Soubirous

Saint Bernadette Soubirous en 1861 ou 1862
Image: Saint Bernadette Soubirous en 1861 ou 1862 | photo by abbé P. Bernadou

Saint of the Day for April 16

(January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879)
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Saint Bernadette Soubirous’ Story

Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age.

There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette’s initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of “the Lady” brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There, the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig.

According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was.

Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation, Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862.

During her life, Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later, she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame of Nevers. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35.

Bernadette Soubirous was canonized in 1933.


Reflection

Millions of people have come to the spring Bernadette uncovered for healing of body and spirit, but she found no relief from ill health there. Bernadette moved through life, guided only by blind faith in things she did not understand—as we all must do from time to time.


Click here for more on Saint Bernadette!


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Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton to speak at Vatican health conference

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the White House Jan. 21. / Alex Wong / Getty Images

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2021 / 11:39 am (CNA).

Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton, and Deepak Chopra are among the featured speakers at a Vatican conference being held in May on the interplay of mind, body, and soul in healthcare.

The Vatican announced the conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation April 15.

“Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health,” will take place virtually May 6-8.

It will feature the CEOs of large pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, along with celebrities active in medical philanthropy, global health advocates, policymakers, physicians, and religious leaders.

The Vatican conference’s website lists more than 100 speakers including Kerry Kennedy, Cindy Crawford, John Sculley, Brandon Marshall, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for Communications.

“Together, they will focus on advances in medical innovation and seek to catalyze the creation of new, interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships for curing disease and improving health, wellbeing and understanding human uniqueness,” the conference website states.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will co-host the summit with Monsignor Tomasz Trafny and Robin Smith, president of the Cura Foundation and author of “Cells are the New Cure.”

A statement sent out by the Holy See Press Office said that the conference organizers will also promote a roundtable on “Bridging Science and Faith” that will explore “relationship of religion and spirituality to health and wellbeing.”

“The discussion will deal with the deeper meaning of human existence and seek areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences,” it said.

This is the fifth international health conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the CURA Foundation. The fourth conference, “United to Cure,” hosted at the Vatican in 2018 had Katy Perry, Deepak Chopra, and Peter Gabriel as speakers.

The first conference in this series took place in Vatican City in 2011 and focused on advances in adult stem cell research.

This year will be the first time that it is taking place completely online. The Vatican announcement said that priests, pastoral healthcare workers, and students from pontifical and Catholic universities worldwide are invited to participate in the conference.

Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton to speak at Vatican health conference

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the White House Jan. 21. / Alex Wong / Getty Images

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2021 / 11:39 am (CNA).

Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton, and Deepak Chopra are among the featured speakers at a Vatican conference being held in May on the interplay of mind, body, and soul in healthcare.

The Vatican announced the conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation April 15.

“Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health,” will take place virtually May 6-8.

It will feature the CEOs of large pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, along with celebrities active in medical philanthropy, global health advocates, policymakers, physicians, and religious leaders.

The Vatican conference’s website lists more than 100 speakers including Kerry Kennedy, Cindy Crawford, John Sculley, Brandon Marshall, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for Communications.

“Together, they will focus on advances in medical innovation and seek to catalyze the creation of new, interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships for curing disease and improving health, wellbeing and understanding human uniqueness,” the conference website states.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will co-host the summit with Monsignor Tomasz Trafny and Robin Smith, president of the Cura Foundation and author of “Cells are the New Cure.”

A statement sent out by the Holy See Press Office said that the conference organizers will also promote a roundtable on “Bridging Science and Faith” that will explore “relationship of religion and spirituality to health and wellbeing.”

“The discussion will deal with the deeper meaning of human existence and seek areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences,” it said.

This is the fifth international health conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the CURA Foundation. The fourth conference, “United to Cure,” hosted at the Vatican in 2018 had Katy Perry, Deepak Chopra, and Peter Gabriel as speakers.

The first conference in this series took place in Vatican City in 2011 and focused on advances in adult stem cell research.

This year will be the first time that it is taking place completely online. The Vatican announcement said that priests, pastoral healthcare workers, and students from pontifical and Catholic universities worldwide are invited to participate in the conference.

Archbishop Gomez: Gospel is the answer to the 'new religion' of secularism

Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 10:21 am (CNA).

True social justice is rooted in the Gospel and not in a secular materialist vision, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told Catholic activists on Thursday.

“We are followers of Jesus Christ! We are not liberals or conservatives. The Church is not a political party and we are not activists. We are Catholics,” the archbishop told Catholic activists in Minnesota at a virtual conference.

Archbishop Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, delivered his remarks virtually on Thursday for Minnesota’s “Catholics at the Capitol” Day, hosted by the state’s Catholic conference.

Speaking to Catholics who are advocating for public policies at the state capitol, Gomez said that Catholics must present the Gospel as an alternative to an “aggressively secular” culture that replaces religion with politics.

Pope Francis, he said, has warned against “reductive anthropological visions” that diminish human dignity. Gomez added that these visions are manifested in some “critical theories and ideologies” today.

“Even though America has become very secular, the religious impulse has not died. In fact, among our cultural and political leaders and some of our neighbors, politics has become their new religion,” Gomez said.

Subsequently, he said, “our politics have become so cruel and uncompromising, and so lacking in mercy and hope.” Even “well-intentioned” secular policies of social justice cannot lead to true human flourishing, he noted.

“Without God, our politics is reduced to a kind of power struggle among competing interests,” he said. “And sadly, as we know, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are left to suffer at the hands of the powerful and privileged.”

In contrast to this secular vision, the Church cannot act like a non-governmental organization, but must rather be informed by the Gospel with Catholics living lives of faith and prayer.

“Our vision for social justice is distinctive. It is distinctive because we believe that the human person is a child of God, and because we believe that God has beautiful plan of love for every human life,” he said.

“In the Catholic vision, social justice is not about personal identity, or group power, or getting more material goods,” he said.

“True social justice is about building a society where people can be good, a society where people can love one another and take care of one another, where they can find God and know that they are made for heaven. And true social justice can never be obtained without simple human kindness, compassion, and forgiveness,” he said.

Gomez’s address was originally scheduled to be delivered to an in-person gathering. However, Thursday’s event was held virtually due to local unrest following the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year-old Black male, by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday.

Wright was pulled over by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. As the reason for the traffic stop, police claimed he was driving a car with expired tags; officers subsequently tried to arrest him upon discovering he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

After Wright resisted arrest and entered his car, former officer Kim Potter shot him – claiming that she had intended to fire her taser instead. Wright drove several blocks, attempting to evade police, before crashing and dying at the scene of the crash.

The officer, Kim Potter, resigned this week and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Four days of protests ensued after the killing of Wright, with local authorities imposing a curfew and the state deploying the National Guard. Meanwhile, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Addressing Thursday’s gathering, Archbishop Gomez offered his prayers for peace and justice, for the families of those involved in the shooting, and for “the whole Church in Minnesota.” The Church is committed to fighting racism, he said.

“Racism, as we all know, is a grave sin, a spiritual disease, and a social injustice. We need to stand together as one Church to eradicate this evil from our own hearts, from the hearts of our neighbors, and from the structures of our society,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Citing Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Gomez said that the Gospel must be the “wellspring” for Catholics in public life.

“If we believe that God is our Father, then we must believe and act as if all men and women are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “If we believe that Jesus died for the love of every person, then we know that ‘no one is beyond the scope of his universal love,’ as the Pope writes.”

However, today’s “aggressively secular” culture seeks to drive this vision out of the public square, he said, noting the “growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media.”

He exhorted Catholics to pray and frequent the sacraments.

“I want to urge you to keep praying and to keep going deeper into the sources of our faith — the Gospels, the writings and lives of the saints, the Eucharist and the sacraments,” he said.

“These are for us, as the Pope says, the ‘wellspring of human dignity and fraternity.’”

Archbishop Gomez: Gospel is the answer to the 'new religion' of secularism

Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 10:21 am (CNA).

True social justice is rooted in the Gospel and not in a secular materialist vision, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told Catholic activists on Thursday.

“We are followers of Jesus Christ! We are not liberals or conservatives. The Church is not a political party and we are not activists. We are Catholics,” the archbishop told Catholic activists in Minnesota at a virtual conference.

Archbishop Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, delivered his remarks virtually on Thursday for Minnesota’s “Catholics at the Capitol” Day, hosted by the state’s Catholic conference.

Speaking to Catholics who are advocating for public policies at the state capitol, Gomez said that Catholics must present the Gospel as an alternative to an “aggressively secular” culture that replaces religion with politics.

Pope Francis, he said, has warned against “reductive anthropological visions” that diminish human dignity. Gomez added that these visions are manifested in some “critical theories and ideologies” today.

“Even though America has become very secular, the religious impulse has not died. In fact, among our cultural and political leaders and some of our neighbors, politics has become their new religion,” Gomez said.

Subsequently, he said, “our politics have become so cruel and uncompromising, and so lacking in mercy and hope.” Even “well-intentioned” secular policies of social justice cannot lead to true human flourishing, he noted.

“Without God, our politics is reduced to a kind of power struggle among competing interests,” he said. “And sadly, as we know, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are left to suffer at the hands of the powerful and privileged.”

In contrast to this secular vision, the Church cannot act like a non-governmental organization, but must rather be informed by the Gospel with Catholics living lives of faith and prayer.

“Our vision for social justice is distinctive. It is distinctive because we believe that the human person is a child of God, and because we believe that God has beautiful plan of love for every human life,” he said.

“In the Catholic vision, social justice is not about personal identity, or group power, or getting more material goods,” he said.

“True social justice is about building a society where people can be good, a society where people can love one another and take care of one another, where they can find God and know that they are made for heaven. And true social justice can never be obtained without simple human kindness, compassion, and forgiveness,” he said.

Gomez’s address was originally scheduled to be delivered to an in-person gathering. However, Thursday’s event was held virtually due to local unrest following the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year-old Black male, by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday.

Wright was pulled over by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. As the reason for the traffic stop, police claimed he was driving a car with expired tags; officers subsequently tried to arrest him upon discovering he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

After Wright resisted arrest and entered his car, former officer Kim Potter shot him – claiming that she had intended to fire her taser instead. Wright drove several blocks, attempting to evade police, before crashing and dying at the scene of the crash.

The officer, Kim Potter, resigned this week and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Four days of protests ensued after the killing of Wright, with local authorities imposing a curfew and the state deploying the National Guard. Meanwhile, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Addressing Thursday’s gathering, Archbishop Gomez offered his prayers for peace and justice, for the families of those involved in the shooting, and for “the whole Church in Minnesota.” The Church is committed to fighting racism, he said.

“Racism, as we all know, is a grave sin, a spiritual disease, and a social injustice. We need to stand together as one Church to eradicate this evil from our own hearts, from the hearts of our neighbors, and from the structures of our society,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Citing Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Gomez said that the Gospel must be the “wellspring” for Catholics in public life.

“If we believe that God is our Father, then we must believe and act as if all men and women are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “If we believe that Jesus died for the love of every person, then we know that ‘no one is beyond the scope of his universal love,’ as the Pope writes.”

However, today’s “aggressively secular” culture seeks to drive this vision out of the public square, he said, noting the “growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media.”

He exhorted Catholics to pray and frequent the sacraments.

“I want to urge you to keep praying and to keep going deeper into the sources of our faith — the Gospels, the writings and lives of the saints, the Eucharist and the sacraments,” he said.

“These are for us, as the Pope says, the ‘wellspring of human dignity and fraternity.’”

Cardinal Parolin: ‘War is the antithesis of fraternity’

Cardinal Pietro Parolin's video message to Climate Adaptation Summit Jan. 25, 2021. YouTube Screenshot.

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2021 / 08:08 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s secretary of state on Thursday encouraged nations to pursue arms control and nuclear disarmament as a means to promote peace and fraternity among all people.

In a video message for an online event on fraternity, multilateralism, and peace April 15, Cardinal Pietro Parolin stated that “it is not rhetorical to say that war is the antithesis of fraternity.”

He said the Holy See strongly encourages States to work toward lasting agreements on disarmament and arms control.

“If the affirmation that we are all brothers and sisters is valid, how can nuclear deterrence be the basis of an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples?” Parolin stated.

The high-level online event was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Order of Malta to the United Nations, the International Catholic Migration Commission, the Pontifical Lateran University, the Caritas in Veritate Foundation and the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs.

Other speakers during the online meeting included heads of UN agencies and international organizations, and Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Parolin said in his address at the opening of the event that “the huge sums of money and human resources allocated to armaments make us reflect.”

“The disproportion between material resources and human talents dedicated to the service of death and the resources dedicated to the service of life is a cause for scandal,” he said.

Parolin referenced Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, which is about human fraternity.

“To fully understand the concept of fraternity and its declination in the multilateral diplomatic action of the Holy See, it may be useful to go back to the start of Pope Francis’s pontificate,” he said.

“It will be remembered that fraternity is the first theme to which the pope referred on the day of his election, more than eight years ago, when he expressed this desire: ‘Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.’”

According to Parolin, “all the subsequent actions and activities of the Pontificate were a natural and coherent consequence of a path oriented towards this.”

“In multilateral action, fraternity translates into the courage and generosity to freely establish certain common objectives and to ensure the fulfillment throughout the world of some essential norms, by virtue of the Latin phrase pacta sunt servanda,” he continued.

“Today, unfortunately, there is an urgent need to strengthen the dissemination and promotion of respect for humanitarian law,” the cardinal said, explaining that humanitarian law aims to safeguard “essential principles of humanity” in the context of war, which is “inhumane and dehumanizing.”

Humanitarian laws do this, he said, by “protecting the civilian population and banning weapons which inflict suffering as atrocious as it is useless.”

Cardinal Parolin: ‘War is the antithesis of fraternity’

Cardinal Pietro Parolin's video message to Climate Adaptation Summit Jan. 25, 2021. YouTube Screenshot.

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2021 / 08:08 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s secretary of state on Thursday encouraged nations to pursue arms control and nuclear disarmament as a means to promote peace and fraternity among all people.

In a video message for an online event on fraternity, multilateralism, and peace April 15, Cardinal Pietro Parolin stated that “it is not rhetorical to say that war is the antithesis of fraternity.”

He said the Holy See strongly encourages States to work toward lasting agreements on disarmament and arms control.

“If the affirmation that we are all brothers and sisters is valid, how can nuclear deterrence be the basis of an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples?” Parolin stated.

The high-level online event was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Order of Malta to the United Nations, the International Catholic Migration Commission, the Pontifical Lateran University, the Caritas in Veritate Foundation and the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs.

Other speakers during the online meeting included heads of UN agencies and international organizations, and Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Parolin said in his address at the opening of the event that “the huge sums of money and human resources allocated to armaments make us reflect.”

“The disproportion between material resources and human talents dedicated to the service of death and the resources dedicated to the service of life is a cause for scandal,” he said.

Parolin referenced Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, which is about human fraternity.

“To fully understand the concept of fraternity and its declination in the multilateral diplomatic action of the Holy See, it may be useful to go back to the start of Pope Francis’s pontificate,” he said.

“It will be remembered that fraternity is the first theme to which the pope referred on the day of his election, more than eight years ago, when he expressed this desire: ‘Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.’”

According to Parolin, “all the subsequent actions and activities of the Pontificate were a natural and coherent consequence of a path oriented towards this.”

“In multilateral action, fraternity translates into the courage and generosity to freely establish certain common objectives and to ensure the fulfillment throughout the world of some essential norms, by virtue of the Latin phrase pacta sunt servanda,” he continued.

“Today, unfortunately, there is an urgent need to strengthen the dissemination and promotion of respect for humanitarian law,” the cardinal said, explaining that humanitarian law aims to safeguard “essential principles of humanity” in the context of war, which is “inhumane and dehumanizing.”

Humanitarian laws do this, he said, by “protecting the civilian population and banning weapons which inflict suffering as atrocious as it is useless.”

Members of Congress want a vote to protect abortion survivors – will they get one?

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Members of the House are once again trying to bring up a vote on legislation protecting infant survivors of abortions.

On Wednesday, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; the bill would require infants surviving abortions to receive the same standard of care as other prematurely-born babies.

Not all states publicize data on abortions. According to one data request from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, reported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, 143 babies survived abortion attempts in the United States between 2003 and 2014; the CDC added that the number may have been an underestimate.

For 2019, Florida reported that two babies survived abortion attempts; between the years 2013 and 2019, 23 babies in Florida were reported to have been born alive during abortions.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) supports the “Born-Alive” legislation.

“There should be no bill easier for Congress to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and will not be tolerated,” stated Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications for the USCCB’s pro-life committee.

“Infants who are born alive after an abortion attempt should be given the same degree of care to preserve their life and health as would be given to any other newborn baby,” Talalas stated.

Members sought to bring up a vote on the legislation in the previous Congress, but Democratic leadership stymied the attempts more than 75 times, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) claimed.

The bill introduced on Wednesday, a version of which was introduced last Congress, requires babies surviving abortion attempts to receive the same standard of care that other children born prematurely would receive. Health care staff present for the botched abortion are required to give the care, and report failure to provide the care to law enforcement.

Failure to give the required care or to report a violation is punishable by fines or up to five years imprisonment under the legislation. Mothers of children who survive abortions and are not resuscitated can have a civil cause of action for the failure to provide the care to their child, and are protected from prosecution under the bill.

In order for the discharge petition to successfully bring up a vote on the bill, however, 218 members need to sign it. In the previous Congress, 205 members – including three Democrats and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) who switched party affiliations in 2019 – signed the discharge petition.

A 2002 law that passed both houses of Congress, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, recognized unborn children as persons but did not include provisions requiring care for infant survivors of abortion.

Cammack is a freshman congresswoman endorsed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She recently told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that, while she was in her mother’s womb, doctors advised her mother to have an abortion due to medical risks from the pregnancy.

“She had something inside of her that told her that everything was going to be okay,” Cammack said of her mother’s decision to choose life. “And that, to me, is the most powerful, impactful thing that really has shaped my views on this.”

As of Wednesday evening, 169 members had signed the new discharge petition.

Members of Congress want a vote to protect abortion survivors – will they get one?

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Members of the House are once again trying to bring up a vote on legislation protecting infant survivors of abortions.

On Wednesday, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; the bill would require infants surviving abortions to receive the same standard of care as other prematurely-born babies.

Not all states publicize data on abortions. According to one data request from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, reported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, 143 babies survived abortion attempts in the United States between 2003 and 2014; the CDC added that the number may have been an underestimate.

For 2019, Florida reported that two babies survived abortion attempts; between the years 2013 and 2019, 23 babies in Florida were reported to have been born alive during abortions.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) supports the “Born-Alive” legislation.

“There should be no bill easier for Congress to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and will not be tolerated,” stated Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications for the USCCB’s pro-life committee.

“Infants who are born alive after an abortion attempt should be given the same degree of care to preserve their life and health as would be given to any other newborn baby,” Talalas stated.

Members sought to bring up a vote on the legislation in the previous Congress, but Democratic leadership stymied the attempts more than 75 times, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) claimed.

The bill introduced on Wednesday, a version of which was introduced last Congress, requires babies surviving abortion attempts to receive the same standard of care that other children born prematurely would receive. Health care staff present for the botched abortion are required to give the care, and report failure to provide the care to law enforcement.

Failure to give the required care or to report a violation is punishable by fines or up to five years imprisonment under the legislation. Mothers of children who survive abortions and are not resuscitated can have a civil cause of action for the failure to provide the care to their child, and are protected from prosecution under the bill.

In order for the discharge petition to successfully bring up a vote on the bill, however, 218 members need to sign it. In the previous Congress, 205 members – including three Democrats and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) who switched party affiliations in 2019 – signed the discharge petition.

A 2002 law that passed both houses of Congress, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, recognized unborn children as persons but did not include provisions requiring care for infant survivors of abortion.

Cammack is a freshman congresswoman endorsed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She recently told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that, while she was in her mother’s womb, doctors advised her mother to have an abortion due to medical risks from the pregnancy.

“She had something inside of her that told her that everything was going to be okay,” Cammack said of her mother’s decision to choose life. “And that, to me, is the most powerful, impactful thing that really has shaped my views on this.”

As of Wednesday evening, 169 members had signed the new discharge petition.

'What I can do is love': This Catholic sister is a missionary to refugees in Greece

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk with a refugee girl in Athens, Greece in April 2021. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk wanted to be a missionary in South America, but God had other plans for the Catholic convert from Crimea, who is now helping the refugee population in Greece.

“My dream was Brazil,” she said in an interview with EWTN News in Athens. “I didn’t go to Brazil and I think now it will not be [a] big problem if I will not go there because I really fell in love with Greece.”

“And this is the best place for this time which God gave me,” she said. “This is the place where he speaks to me through the country and through the people that I am working [with] every day.”

A Holy Spirit Missionary sister, 38-year-old Kovalchuk and other members of her community serve the refugee and migrant community in Athens together with employees and volunteers of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

She said she has no power to change the physical and political situation of asylum seekers in Greece, “but what I can do is love.”

“I tell them: I came here to be with you in your situation. When you cry, I will be with you. When you laugh, I will be with you. I can show you a little bit of love that I have.”

The sister said she also tries to teach people about the origin of her love, that “Jesus is the one who brought me here, who put this love inside me and [allows] me to leave my family and my country…”

During the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, Greece saw the arrival of over 1 million refugees.

While the number of people entering the country in 2020 was drastically lower, there were still over 15,000 new arrivals, mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of 2019, Greece was hosting over 186,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors. Most of these are on the country's eastern islands off the coast of Turkey.

In 2020, fires at camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos displaced thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom escaped to Athens, taking up refuge in Victoria Square, Sr. Kovalchuk said.

Refugee children play in a square in Athens. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA
<p>Refugee children play in a square in Athens. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA</p>

The square is often called Afghani Park now, after the Afghan refugees who live there. The sister said it is a meeting place for women and children.

“Mostly we are working with the Afghani people, who are Muslims. And of course, also, we have Christians and we have Catholics from Cameroon,” she said.

She does not call them refugees and migrants, she stated. “These are my friends and these are ... the people of God, of my God who created them, who loved them and, of course, I would like them to know him.”

From Crimea to Greece

Kovalchuk was born in Crimea in the 1980s and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Though her family did not practice the faith, she said there were always signs of God’s presence in her life.

She recalled a specific moment from her childhood, when she borrowed a children’s Bible from the library. She did not want to return it, but knowing she would have to, she started to copy out the Bible stories in a notebook.

Kovalchuk never finished writing down the stories, and, she confessed, she never returned the Bible to the library.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Bibles again appeared on store shelves and in shops and her grandmother bought one.

“And I remember I was so impressed by this book that I used to bring it to the kitchen to open the very first page and start reading,” she recalled.

“I could not understand anything,” she continued. “I closed the book and I said, ‘one day I will read it.’ ... And thanks to God, I have read it and continue to read it. But even through this experience I can see God was somehow close and was already acting in my life.”

The missionary sister discovered the Catholic Church through her love of the French language and culture. When she read French novels, she was introduced to the features and vocabulary of Catholicism.

“So I just wanted to see how the French people pray and what was the Mass and remembering one of the books, even of Alexandre Dumas, I was reading about [the] ‘Te Deum’ and I felt I want[ed] to know what is this ‘Te Deum?’”

Polish girls at her university brought her to their Catholic chapel, where she attended her first Mass on July 8, 2001.

She said she wanted to stay forever. But knowing she had been baptized Orthodox, she at first had doubts about whether it was right to join the Catholic Church.

Kovalchuk came to realize converting was not so much a change -- she still believed in the same God -- as a discovery of something, a deepening of God’s presence in her life through the sacraments.

Soon after becoming Catholic at the age of 18, she began to feel a desire to enter religious life, which she did after finishing university. Before Kovalchuk’s superior asked her to come to Greece, she was serving in Ukraine.

English lessons and rag dolls

When refugees fled the Moria camp on Lesbos after the fires last year, some of them were living for days or weeks in Victoria Square, Kovalchuk said.

She and other volunteers would go there every day to play with the children and to tell the women about the center they run which has showers and a place to wash clothes.

The center also has a shop with free second-hand clothing and a social worker who answers questions and shares other resources for refugees and migrants.

The volunteers and sisters give language lessons in Greek, French, and English. During the COVID-19 pandemic the lessons have been done via video call.

They also offer activities and classes for children, many of whom are not in school, and otherwise do not have things to occupy them.

Sr. Kovalchuk also took up a Ukrainian tradition: making rag dolls called motanka.

“Our refugee kids do not have any toys and nothing to play with. This is actually the best place for my dolls,” she said, estimating that she has made and given out around 500.

The sister recycles leftover donated clothes, those in too poor a condition to be worn, to make her dolls.

She said the kids like to sit with her and watch her make the dolls, or even learn to make them alongside her.

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk shows off some of the Ukrainian rag dolls she made from old clothes in Athens, Greece. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA
Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk shows off some of the Ukrainian rag dolls she made from old clothes in Athens, Greece. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

“They choose different color of the dress, of hair. And I think this is also very important and a little bit, like, therapeutic,” she said, because the children do not have opportunities to make choices in their day-to-day life, even about small things like what they want to wear.

She said, “So for them, it brings a lot of joy even if they can choose their own way, their own style.”

“And when I see the smiles, the happiness of these children who actually have nothing,” she said, “who sometimes are hungry, who cannot come to the shop and can ask, ‘mommy, buy me this doll or mommy, buy me this car. Or give me this or give me that,’ but they are happy with the simple stuff.”

Despite differences in language, culture, and religion, Kovalchuk said she feels respected and appreciated by those she helps

Families she visits will set a table and bake bread or make tea to serve her.

The children, unprompted, will bring her water when the weather is hot, or share their cookies with her. When sitting on the ground, they will bring her a paper bag to sit on.

“And this is very touching and this helps me to see how God takes care of me also through them, although they are different nationalities and different religions,” she described.

“But these kids, they are just satisfied and then they will hug me and then they will kiss me. And this is the best [thing that] I can get as a reward, these signs of love as a response.”

“My journey here started maybe first of all from my need, my personal need to meet and rediscover God again in my life and in my vocation,” the sister said. “And those people they helped me here. So this is mutual: I try to help them in the way that I can, just being with them and then, they help me a lot.”