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North Korea's Pyongyang Diocese to be dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima

Korean Cardinal Andrew Soo-jung Yeom, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, announces the dedication of the Diocese of Pyongyang to Our Lady of Fatima on 15 August.

Call for Christians to return home to Iraq

The Iraqi Prime Minister has called on Christians to return home to Iraq after the defeat of the so-called Islamic State.

Analysis: Will anything change on pro-choice politicians and holy communion?

Denver Newsroom, Aug 12, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).-  

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been working from home these last few months, like a lot of people have. Biden has been campaigning from his house in Delaware: livestreaming interviews, appearing on radio shows, and releasing videos.

But now that Biden has selected a running mate, and is less than three months from Election Day, the candidate is expected to hit the road again —  while respecting social distance, of course.

Biden, a Catholic, is in the habit of going to Mass while traveling. If he resumes that habit, it will soon raise questions familiar both to bishops and to pundits: Can pro-choice politicians like Biden receive the Eucharist? And will anyone stop Biden if he approaches the communion line?

The norm of canon 915 itself is clear: Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” But debate over that canon, and its application to pro-choice politicians, has vexed the Church in the U.S. every election year since John Kerry’s presidential campaign, and often in between elections, too.

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Church’s doctrinal office, wrote a memorandum to the U.S. Catholic bishops, explaining the application of canon 915 to the question of pro-choice politicians.

The case of a Catholic politician who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” would constitute “formal cooperation” in grave sin that is “manifest,” the letter explained.

In such cases, “his pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Ratzinger wrote.

If the individual perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

Shortly after Ratzinger wrote that memo, the U.S. bishops agreed the application of those norms should be decided by individual bishops, rather than by the bishops’ conference, largely under the influence of Theodore McCarrick, then-Archbishop of Washington, who paraphrased the letter, which was not yet publicly available, but did not present it in its entirety to the bishops.

Some bishops have prohibited politicians advocating for “permissive abortion laws” from receiving communion, but others have demurred, or said outright they would not deny such politicians the Eucharist.

Asked by a journalist, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in October that he would not deny Biden the Eucharist. Before that, in January 2019, Dolan had said that he would not deny the Eucharist to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed into law one of the most permissive abortion laws in the country’s history.

Biden’s own shepherd, Bishop William Malooly, has said in the past that he does not want to “politicize” the Eucharist by denying communion to politicians. Washington, D.C.’s ordinary, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, has said that the Eucharist should be denied only as a last resort, and is not on record as ever having done so.

But while bishops are circumspect about the issue, many active Catholics are not. Practicing pro-life Catholics have in recent years lambasted bishops for their reticence to withhold the Eucharist from pro-choice politicians. Some have called the bishops’ approach a scandal. Many young priests have echoed those calls. 

In the frustration of not being heard, and in the wake of the McCarrick scandal, those calls intensified last year as several states passed expansive abortion laws. The controversy widened an already broad gap of distrust between many Catholics and their leaders.

Biden, who supports the federal funding of abortion and in 2016 officiated at a same-sex wedding, is likely to prompt similar calls from lay Catholics in the months to come.

So here’s what’s likely to happen:

At some point between now and election day, a young priest will find Joe Biden in his communion line. Because of the priest’s convictions about the unborn and his sacramental theology, he will deny Biden the Eucharist.

Someone will see it, a report will get out. CNA may well break the story (our reporters are the best in the business.)

Biden will say very little himself, and he won’t have to.

The priest will issue a statement explaining himself, and then be roundly criticized. A cardinal will appear on television, and he’ll disagree with the young priest’s decision. Pro-choice or progressive leaning Catholics will on social media call the priest a fundamentalist, and point out, correctly but as a distraction, that Trump also takes positions contrary to the Church’s teaching. The priest’s diocese will say very little. Other priests will wonder whether their bishops will support them, if they too act to follow the Vatican’s guidance on the matter.

After a news cycle or two, the issue will mostly die down, leaving those who continue to raise their concern ever more alone, and looking ever more like zealots.

In their frustration, some will turn to a growing chorus of anti-episcopal conservative media figures who make a living criticizing the Church’s leaders. Bishops will lament the popularity of those figures.

If that prediction sounds quite specific, that’s because it’s what happened in October 2019, the last time Biden was denied the Eucharist.

Some version of that story will happen again because, as things stand, the policy and the practice of the Church on this issue diverge from each other, dramatically.

That leaves priests who put the policy into practice standing often by themselves. It leaves some Catholics confused about how seriously the Church takes its own teaching and its own sacramental discipline. Other Catholics, those who have watched that cycle play out a few times, are less confused than demoralized, and cynical.

But if election pollsters have it right, this issue isn’t going away. Biden, who would be the second Catholic president, has a big lead over Trump. Unless something changes, he’s likely to be the first Catholic president since Roe vs. Wade, and the first to publicly support abortion.

The U.S. bishops decided on a patchwork, diocese by diocese, approach to canon 915 in 2004. In some senses, from an ecclesiological perspective, that localized approach might make sense.

But the country may soon find itself with an aggressively pro-abortion president who likes going to Mass, and a piecemeal approach to an important question of sacramental discipline. Practically, that situation is likely to foment further division in the Church, as bishops promulgate dueling policies under a national spotlight.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that any bishop will take up the project of making a nationwide change on this issue, and there are only a few positioned well to do so.

The Archbishop of Washington and the Bishop of Wilmington, both of whom have a platform as Biden’s shepherd, are among those who could.

If either of those bishops took the initiative to say that in his diocese the Church’s canonical discipline on the Eucharist would be applied fairly and consistently to politicians of all parties who break from the Church on grave and clear matters, a precedent would be set, and easily followed across the country.

Failing that possibility, if Cardinal Dolan had a change of heart, and announced that in the Archdiocese of New York the Church’s sacramental discipline would be applied in accord with the Church’s instructions, other bishops would likely follow suit. Church watchers would likely see that as a recovery of Dolan’s once praised legacy on pro-life issues, which was tarnished amid the controversy over Cuomo.

Bishops don’t like to go first, generally, but many are willing to follow the right leader. If a nationally leading Churchman set a change in motion, many would follow suit. Eventually, only a dozen or so bishops staunchly opposed to “politicizing” the Eucharist might be left.

Both Washington and Wilmington are led by bishops rarely characterized as conservative. Washington’s Archbishop Gregory is struggling to gain trust as a reformer, the job for which he was sent to Washington. Insistence on applying the Church’s law, as written, would likely bolster Gregory’s credibility on that front. But the archbishop led the U.S. bishops' conference in 2004, when he and McCarrick were seen to push for a permissive interpretation of Ratzinger's letter, and there is no evidence to suggest he has changed his thinking on the subject.

Bishop Malooly, who is almost 77, is even less likely to change his long-standing policy than Gregory is. But his successor, who could be appointed as early as September, might be of a different mind. And he would have to his advantage the unique window of time in which a new bishop can make a major change before getting bogged down in the myriad reasons he hears not to make any changes.

If he is appointed before the election, it would be all the easier to make his position clear.

There is one other bishop who might be expected to lead a charge on this issue: Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Gomez, who is both pro-life and a strong advocate for the Church’s moral teaching on immigration, has the credibility among a broad swath of bishops to call for a unified approach to a vexing problem. But the conference has not passed major, sweeping policies in recent years, and is still recovering from the shockwaves of McCarrick and 2018. Gomez would have little luck unifying the conference on anything so controversial.

But the L.A. archbishop has personal influence: If he decided to announce a policy for Los Angeles, after lobbying other prominent U.S. bishops to announce the same, a cadre of bishops would probably follow them.

For any of those bishops, the media blowback of such a move would be intense, and difficult to get past. But the support among many practicing Catholics, and among priests, who are looking to the Church for leadership, would also be significant. Such a move would not soon be forgotten.

By many estimates, the result of those bishops taking the lead, however unlikely, is that the integrity of the Church’s moral witness might be strengthened. Catholics might grow in respect for their embattled bishops. And, just maybe, a few Catholic politicians who defy the Gospel, from either party, might be moved to conversion.

Whether any bishop will actually decide to break the cycle, or whether Catholics will watch the ‘Communion Wars’ play on for the next several years, is up to the handful of bishops who could meaningfully change the narrative. It seems unlikely they’ll do so. But as America contemplates a change, the Church’s leaders have the chance to make one too.


This analysis has been updated for clarity.


Venezuelan Bishops appeal for unity ahead of election

The Venezuelan Bishops Conference appeals for unity, inclusion and togetherness in the run up to the December National Assembly Elections.

Gospel Truth: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 16 August 2020

In this week's edition of "Gospel Truth”, the late Jill Bevilacqua and Seán-Patrick Lovett bring us readings and reflections from the Gospel of St. Matthew 15:21-28 of the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Pope Francis meets with bishop newly consecrated to lead Mongolia’s Catholics

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2020 / 03:11 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis met Wednesday with an Italian missionary who was recently consecrated a bishop to lead Mongolia’s apostolic prefecture.

Bishop Giorgio Marengo, 46, served as a Consolata missionary priest in Mongolia for 17 years before Pope Francis appointed him Prefect of Ulaanbaatar April 2.

His episcopal consecration took place in Turin Aug. 8, with Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his principal consecrator.

“I am very grateful to the Pope for this great grace that has granted me to meet him personally and to receive a word of encouragement for this mission,” Marengo told Vatican News after his Aug. 12 meeting with the pope.

Pope Francis is “very interested in the … the Church in Mongolia and of the Mongolian people in general. We know how much the pope cares about the entire Church, even those areas where there are not large numbers, indeed precisely where the Church is more in the minority,” he said.

At the Mass of episcopal consecration, Tagle said: “May your heart, your words, your smiles whisper Jesus to the people, the poor, the suffering, the steppe, the rivers, the eternal blue skies of Mongolia.”

“A bishop can only boast of the compassionate love of Jesus,” Tagle added.

Marengo was born in northern Italy’s Piedmont region and grew up in Turin. He studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and later obtained a license and doctorate from the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

While serving as a Consolata missionary in Mongolia, Marengo established a new catechesis program. He told CNA in 2014 that the program sought to form young adults into future catechists by providing lessons in theology and the Church and its mission.

Mongolia has a population of 1,300 Catholics in a country of more than 3 million people. The Prefecture Apostolic of Ulaanbaatar serves the entire country.

“I believe being a bishop in Mongolia is very similar to the episcopal ministry of the early Church,” Marengo said. “The Church is a very small reality, it is a minority but there is this group of Mongolian faithful who have chosen, with great courage and also a sense of responsibility, to follow the Lord and become part of the Catholic Church.”

The first modern mission to Mongolia was in 1922 and was entrusted to the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But under a communist government, religious expression was soon thereafter suppressed, until 1992.

In 2002, the Ulaanbaatar mission was elevated to the present apostolic prefecture. The mission's superior, the late Fr. Wenceslao Padilla, a priest of the Immaculate Heart congregation, was appointed prefect, and was consecrated a bishop the following year. Padilla died in September 2018. Mongolia’s first native priest was ordained in 2016.

Marengo told Vatican News that because Mongolia’s Catholic community is so small it is especially important to pay attention to interreligious dialogue and the cultural traditions of the Mongolian people.

“It means dedicating time to know and study the language, to refine those tools that allow us to enter into a true dialogue with people, to understand their points of reference, their history, their cultural and religious roots,” he said. “And at the same time, in all this, to be faithful to the Gospel itself … to offer with great humility, with great sincerity this precious pearl we have received which is the Gospel of the Lord.”

The new bishop chose “Respicite ad eum et illuminamini” as his episcopal motto, which means “Look to him and you will be radiant.”

Marengo expects to return to Mongolia in September if coronavirus restrictions allow.

Pope Francis: Human dignity has serious political implications

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that Christian faith demands conversion from individualism and a commitment to defending the inherent dignity of every person.

“While we work for the cure of a virus that affects everyone without distinction, faith urges us to work seriously and actively to fight indifference in the face of violations of human dignity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 12.

“We want to recognize the human dignity in every person, whatever his or her race, language or condition might be,” the pope said at his general audience.

Speaking via livestream from the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, Pope Francis emphasized that this “renewed awareness of the dignity of every human being has serious social, economic and political implications.”

He said that the pandemic has “shed light on broader social ills,” including “a distorted view of the person” that ignores human dignity and “fosters an individualistic and aggressive throw-away culture, which transforms the human being into a consumer good”.

“In the light of faith we know, instead, that God looks at a man and a woman in another manner. He created us not as objects but as people loved and capable of loving; He has created us in His image and likeness. In this way He has given us a unique dignity, calling us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our sisters and our brothers, with respect for all creation,” Pope Francis said.

“The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected we are all. If we do not take care of each other, starting with the least, with those who are most affected, including creation, we cannot heal the world,” he said.

Following the general audience, Pope Francis met with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the Vatican.

In recent months, Bachelet, the former president of Chile, has spoken out about child marriage in Somalia, human rights violations in Yemen, and the Iranian government’s repression of civil society.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ spokesperson has also expressed concern over the application of China’s National Security Law in Hong Kong and Lebanon’s socio-economic crisis. The Vatican has not released further details of the content of the pope’s meeting with Bachelet.

Pope Francis had said at his general audience that humans have “inalienable dignity” because humanity was created in the image of God, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution, Gaudium et Spes. He said that this lies at “the foundation of all social life and determines its operative principles.”

“In modern culture, the closest reference to the principle of the inalienable dignity of the person is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Saint John Paul II defined as a ‘milestone on the long and difficult path of the human race’ and as ‘one of the highest expressions of the human conscience,’” Pope Francis said.

“Rights are not only individual, but also social; they are of peoples, nations. The human being, indeed, in his or her personal dignity, is a social being, created in the image of God, One and Triune,” he said. “We are social beings; we need to live in this social harmony, but when there is selfishness, our outlook does not reach others, the community, but focuses on ourselves, and this makes us ugly, nasty and selfish, destroying harmony.”

The pope’s reflection on human dignity is part of a weekly series of catechesis on Catholic social teaching, which he began last week. Pope Francis said that he wants to “tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases.”

“Let us ask the Lord to give us eyes attentive to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering. As Jesus’s disciples we do not want to be indifferent or individualistic,” he said.

“May the Lord ‘restore our sight’ so as to rediscover what it means to be members of the human family. And may this sight be translated into concrete actions of compassion and respect for every person and of care and safeguarding of our common home.”

Pakistan’s minorities continue to suffer discrimination

Pakistan on August 11 observed the National Minorities Day to honour the services and sacrifices rendered by the country’s religious minorities for the country. However, minorities in the Muslim-majority country continue to face discrimination.

Thousands Detained As Tensions Escalate In Belarus

As many as 6,000 anti-government protestors who disputed the victory of President Alexander Lukashenko in Sunday's election detained. Clashes continued for a third straight night with police violence reported in the capital Minsk and other cities after main opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled the troubled nation.

Covid-19: Indian Catholic transcribes entire Bible by hand during lockdown

Rejin Valson, an employee at Cochin International Airport, has dedicated his effort to the child his pregnant wife is expecting.