Browsing News Entries

This is Pope Francis' prayer intention for July 2022

Pope Francis visits the San Raffaele Borona assisted living home in Rieti, Italy, Oct. 4, 2016. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked the Catholic Church to pray in a special way for the elderly during the month of July.

The prayer intention follows requests to pray for families in June and for young people in May, and coincides with the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 24.

“We cannot speak about family without talking about the importance of the elderly among us,” Pope Francis said in a video message released June 30.

‘We elderly people often have a special sensitivity for care, for reflection, and affection,” he noted. “We are, or we can become, teachers of tenderness.”

The video is part of a series created by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. 

“We pray for the elderly, who represent the roots and memory of a people, that their experience and wisdom will help those who are younger to look to the future with hope and responsibility,” the pope said.

The video shows images of an elderly man and woman baking a cake together, which they then share with their grandchildren.

“In this world accustomed to war, we need a true revolution of tenderness,” he said. “We have a great responsibility towards new generations about this.”

Pope Francis said: “let us remember: grandparents and the elderly are the bread that nourishes our lives, the hidden wisdom of a people. That is why we must celebrate them, and I have established a day dedicated to them.”

“Let us pray for the elderly, that they may become teachers of tenderness so that their experience and wisdom may help young people to look towards the future with hope and responsibility,” he said. 

In a June 30 press release from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Ciro Intino, director of the Alberto Sordi Foundation, commented on the pope’s July prayer intention.

“Our society is getting older and older, and yet it tends to exclude and isolate elderly people, putting their identity and social role in crisis, especially regarding their relations with younger generations,” he said.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “there is a lack of adequate responses to elderly people’s care requirements and existential needs. There is still a long road ahead in terms of social and sociomedical policies aimed at senior citizens, with the goal of limiting the condition of isolation which constrains too many elderly people today.”

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, said, “the Holy Father invites us to become aware of the relevance of the elderly in the life of society and of our communities, and to do so not sporadically, but structurally, with a regular pastoral outreach.”

“That is to say, it’s not about rushing to deal with an emergency, but laying the foundations for long-term pastoral work that will require our involvement for decades to come. Beyond reaffirming the importance of fighting the throwaway culture, the Pope also seems to want to offer reference points for those who are experiencing the bewilderment of finding themselves getting along in years,” he said.

Pope Francis misses meeting with Jewish delegation due to knee pain

Pope Francis delivers a homily from a wheelchair, June 5, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis missed a meeting with a Jewish delegation on Thursday morning after experiencing a flare-up of knee pain, according to the Vatican.

“Pope Francis was unable to meet this morning on account of aggravated knee pain,” a bulletin from the Holy See Press Office said on June 30.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, represented the pope at the interreligious meeting at the Vatican. Koch delivered a speech that the pope had prepared in advance for the audience with the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.

Pope Francis’ canceled appearance comes after he had recently shown some improvement in his mobility, walking with a cane at the Mass for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29.

The pope opted to walk with a cane during several of his public appearances this week, after primarily using a wheelchair for nearly two months due to the knee injury.

Pope Francis was back in a wheelchair on June 30 and received an Eastern Orthodox delegation at his residence in Casa Santa Marta rather than in the usual Apostolic Palace.

In the pope’s prepared speech for the interreligious meeting, he stressed that “hatred and violence are incompatible with our faith in the God who is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.’”

“In our turbulent times, it is critical that Jews and Christians encounter one another more frequently and work together in an effort to counter certain negative trends found in our western societies: idolatry of self and of money, extreme individualism and the culture of indifference and of waste,” he said.

“We are called to bear witness together to the God of mercy and justice, who loves and cares for all persons. We can do this by drawing upon the spiritual patrimony that we in part share, a patrimony that we are responsible for preserving and understanding ever more profoundly.”

Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to oppose every form of antisemitism and support for preventative action through education within families, parishes, and schools.

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations represents 11 major Jewish organizations in dialogue with the Vatican, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the World Council of Churches. Rabbi David Sandmel currently serves as the chair of its board of governors.

“By strengthening dialogue, we can resist the extremism that, sadly, is a pathology that can appear also in religions. Let us pray that the Lord will continue to guide us on this path of dialogue and fraternity,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogue can promote world peace

Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse, June 30, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).

“Seeking Christian unity is not merely a question internal to the Churches,” he said June 30. “It is an essential condition for the realization of an authentic universal fraternity, manifested in justice and solidarity towards all.”

The pope spoke about the role of ecumenical dialogue in peace-building during a meeting with an Eastern Orthodox delegation at the Vatican.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity, also took part in the meeting, which was held in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives.

The delegation was sent to Rome by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and also participated in the pope’s Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, praying with Pope Francis at the tomb of St. Peter.

Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media

During the June 30 encounter, the pope emphasized that Christ is the source of peace in the world.

“Christ is our peace,” he said. “By his incarnation, death and resurrection for all, he has torn down the walls of enmity and division between people.”

“Let us start anew from him,” he continued, “and recognize that it is no longer the time to order our ecclesial agendas in accordance with the world’s standards of power and expediency, but in accordance with the Gospel’s bold prophetic message of peace.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with about 5.3 million members, most of whom are in Greece. Under Bartholomew I’s leadership, which began in 1991, the Church has emphasized ecumenical initiatives and dialogue between Christians.

Francis said “reconciliation among separated Christians, as a means of contributing to peace between peoples in conflict, is a most timely consideration these days, as our world is disrupted by a cruel and senseless war of aggression in which many, many Christians are fighting one another.”

This moment calls for serious reflection, he said, asking, “what kind of world do we want to emerge in the wake of this terrible outbreak of hostilities and conflict? And what contribution are we prepared to make even now towards a more fraternal humanity?”

“As believers, we must necessarily find the answers to these questions in the Gospel: in Jesus, who calls us to be merciful and never violent, to be perfect as the Father is perfect, and not be conformed to the world,” the pope said.

He said Christians should help each other “not to yield to the temptation to muffle the explosive newness of the Gospel with the seductions of this world.”

“Before the scandal of war, in the first place, our concern must not be for talking and discussing, but for weeping, for helping others and for experiencing conversion ourselves,” he said. “We need to weep for the victims and the overwhelming bloodshed, the deaths of so many innocent people, the trauma inflicted on families, cities and an entire people.”

Pope Francis also noted that Christians are obliged to exercise charity toward Christ present in the poor, wounded, and displaced.

“But we also need to experience conversion, and to recognize that armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism have nothing to do with the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed,” he said.

The pope said it is his hope that theological dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox “will progress by promoting a new mentality that, conscious of the errors of the past, can help us to look together to the present and future.”

“Let us not be content with an ‘ecclesiastical diplomacy’ that would allow us to politely maintain our own points of view, but instead journey together as brothers,” he added.

Pope Francis encourages reconciliation in Colombia at Truth Commission presentation

Pope Francis called on Colombians to “to continue along paths of reconciliation" in his June 28, 2022, message read at the Truth Commission final report in Bogotá. / Polifoto via Shutterstock. Colombia flag. Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis called on Colombia to follow the path of reconciliation in a message read June 28 during the presentation of the final report of the Truth Commission, created in 2016 following the Peace Accord signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Colombia’s civil war. Pope Francis has voiced his support for an end to the violence in the country on several occasions.

The presentation of the report took place at the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Theater in Bogotá and was attended by the president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro; his vice president-elect, Francia Márquez; and Minister of the Interior Daniel Palacios, who represented Colombian President Iván Duque, who excused himself because of an international trip.

Pope Francis’ message was read at the start of the event followed by a video address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The pope encouraged the members of the commission and the national and international authorities who received the report “to continue along paths of reconciliation that help strengthen fraternity, to be artisans of peace, to create processes of re-encounter, and to work together, with boldness, in the search for the good of all.”

“May Jesus bless you and Our Lady of Chiquinquirá accompany you,” the pope said. “And please, I ask you to pray for me.”

The Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition came out of the Havana Peace Accord, signed between the Colombian government and FARC in 2016, in order to determine what took place during 50 years of armed conflict.

The commission has 11 members and is chaired by Jesuit Father Francisco de Roux. It began its work in 2018 and over a four-year period interviewed 27,000 people, including victims, former members of FARC, military personnel, and former Colombian presidents. Twenty-nine centers were also set up throughout the country to collect and disseminate information.

The 2016 Peace Agreement stated that the Truth Commission is “a temporary and extrajudicial body, which seeks to know the truth of what happened and contribute to the clarification of violations and infractions and offer a wide-ranging explanation to the entire society of the complexity of the conflict; promote recognition of the victims and of the responsibilities of those who participated directly and indirectly in the armed conflict; and promote coexistence in the territories to guarantee non-repetition.”

The results of the commission’s work were presented June 28, but only the first of the 10 chapters, which deals with the findings and recommendations, has been published. Over the next two months the rest of the 24 volumes, which contain approximately 8,000 pages, will be made available.

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

VIDEO: Watch violent vandalism attack on Catholic church in Washington state

Windows were smashed at St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, on June 28, 2022. / Courtesy of Bellevue Police

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 29, 2022 / 18:53 pm (CNA).

A woman was praying alone in the perpetual adoration chapel early Tuesday morning when the wave of anti-Catholic vandalism and violence sweeping the U.S. struck St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington.

Hearing a commotion outside, the woman ventured into the hallway. There, she confronted a masked intruder standing outside the parish center, smashing the glass front door.

The person screamed profanities at the woman, who ran back into the chapel. Terrified, she locked the door behind her and called the pastor, Father Gary Zender, while hiding behind a piano.

“She called me on my office number just pleading for help to come and get her and rescue her,” Zender told CNA. “She was scared to death.”

A surveillance camera captured the frightening incident on video.

The footage shows a masked person with long hair striding up to the door carrying a large rock and pink backpack. The person hurls the rock at the front door, three times, then kicks the door four times, shattering the glass.

The person then removes a can of black spray paint from the backpack and begins to write graffiti on the building’s exterior. Next, the assailant makes obscene gestures toward the door, smashes the glass again with the can of spray paint and pushes the door. Then the person appears to scream at someone inside the building before continuing to spray-paint the building’s exterior and sidewalk.

Graffiti legible in photos provided by the police reads “woman haters,” “groomers rapists,” and “the church is child abuse,” among other words. You can watch the surveillance footage in the video below.

The attacker, who entered the church property around 9:30 a.m., also smashed a different glass door at the parish hall and defaced a statue of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Zender said. He estimated the damage at $10,000.

Zender said that the assailant spray-painted the parish administrator, Jonathan Taasan, on his right cheek and “quite a bit” into his ear. He is not injured, Zender said. 

The Bellevue Police Department tweeted Tuesday that they had arrested a 31-year-old Bellevue resident on suspicion of a hate crime and assault. Police said the suspect was arrested “without incident.” Police called the graffiti “anti-Catholic.”

A police spokesperson declined to provide the suspect’s name, referring a CNA reporter to the Kings County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office did not respond to CNA’s request for information about the incident before publication time.

Zender led a procession to the vandalized places and blessed them as part of the Tuesday night Mass. The parish also prayed for the person responsible for the vandalism. While the parish was attacked with a rock “Christ is a rock for us," Zender noted.

“I think it comes up as a bit of a shock that it would happen here. I think there's the reality that, you know, things have changed,” he said. “We're not quite as safe as we once thought we were and we have to take more precautions."

English courts to reconsider life support for Archie Battersbee, severely brain-injured boy

The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. / Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

England’s High Court must hold another hearing to determine whether ending the life support of a severely injured 12-year-old boy, Archie Battersbee, is indeed in the boy’s best interest, an appeals court has said.

“The ruling shows the critical importance of never giving up,” Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said June 29. “In these difficult moments, nerves and principles are important. This judgment upholds life and will protect many more people from a slippery slope in which the legal definition of death is expanded.”

"Where there's life, there's hope. We keep praying that Archie will be able to recover, given more time," Williams said June 29, according to the London-based public engagement group Christian Concern.

The Christian Legal Centre, a specialist ministry of Christian Concern, has been supporting the Battersbee family.

Archie has not been conscious since he was injured in April at his Essex home in what is believed to have been an accident. The boy’s parents found him unconscious with a ligature around his neck. His mother has said the boy might have been imitating an online social media “challenge,” BBC News reports. 

His parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, have asked hospital leaders and the courts for more time and more medical tests to assess whether their son’s condition improves. They note that Archie’s heart continues to beat.

However, doctors at the Royal London Hospital have argued that it is “highly likely” he is medically brain dead. They asked the Family Division of the High Court to rule it is in Archie’s best interests to die by the removal of life support.

The High Court ruled that on the balance of probabilities, the boy had already died and his life support should be removed. 

The parents’ attorneys argued that the High Court judge had made errors and had not given enough weight to the family and to Archie’s beliefs.

Lawyers for Barts Health Trust, which owns the hospital, had argued that previous hearings and the judge’s ruling had addressed whether removing life support is in Archie’s best interest.

Alan Shewmon, a pediatric neurologist, spoke against this argument. He told a court hearing that there is “absolutely not” enough evidence to diagnose death in the case of Archie. Shewmon cited many cases where people diagnosed as brain dead went on to recover, Christian Concern reports. 

The three judges on the appeals court sided with the family. They set the next hearing for July 11, and said they would give reasons for their decisions at a later date, BBC News reports. 

Edward Devereux, who is leading the parents’ legal team, told appellate court judges it would be “unconscionable” not to use a standard of certainty beyond a reasonable doubt in “matters of life and death.”

“Medical practitioners, when certifying death, do not do so on the balance of probabilities,” he said, according to the U.K. newspaper The Independent. He also argued that the High Court judge had not made a “comprehensive” analysis of evidence concerning whether life support should continue.

Bruno Quintavalle, who had filed a submission while acting on behalf of the boy’s parents, said the circumstances of the case had never been considered by an English court. 

Quintavalle said it is “extremely serious” that the court “should declare, in the absence of any certainty, that death has occurred.”

"If he is declared dead but actually isn't dead, the consequences couldn't be more grave,” he said, according to Christian Concern.

To declare death without a brain stem test to confirm the claim would expand the legal definition of death and trespass on the authority of Parliament, he said. Quintavalle said the criminal standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a better standard for such cases.

Archie’s sister Lauren has created an Instagram page under the name “SpreadThePurpleWave” to follow his situation. Over 89,000 people have signed a petition in support of giving him more time in medical care, and supporters have given over $24,000 in donations which could be used to help fund any treatment abroad.  

Before his injury, Archie was a boxer and gymnast. Celebrity boxers and gymnast gold medalists have sent him videos of support.

Ortega government orders dissolution of Missionaries of Charity in Nicaragua

Missionaries of Charity / Credit: Willuconquer (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior has ordered the closure of 101 nongovernmental organizations, including the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta that is dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.

The order to shut down the 101 NGOs was requested by Sandinista legislator Filiberto Rodríguez in a June 22 letter presented to the National Assembly, the country’s legislature.

The document submitted by Rodríguez and released by the Nicaraguan media outlet Confidencial is titled “The Legislative Decree Initiative for the Cancellation of the Legal Personality of Various Associations/Foundations, requested by the National Directorate of Registration and Control of Non-Profit Organizations following due process of law.”

The text, which could be debated by the National Assembly in the coming days, states that the Missionaries of Charity “has failed to comply with its obligations” according to the law that regulates nonprofit organizations, the money-laundering law, the financing of terrorism, and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

According to the government of Daniel Ortega, the missionaries are not accredited “by the Ministry for the Family to function as a nursery-center for childhood development, home for girls, and home for the elderly,” nor “do they have an operating permit from the Ministry of Education to provide remedial education for students” and their “financial statements reported to the Ministry of the Interior don’t agree” with other documents presented for review.

The list of organizations the government has ordered to shut down also includes the Catholic Foundation for Human Development Assistance for Nicaraguans, the Spirituality Foundation for Children of Nicaragua, the My Childhood Mothers Foundation, and the Diriomito Children’s Care Home Association, among others.

According to the EFE news agency, the Missionaries of Charity Association was created Aug. 16, 1988, and opened following the visit Mother Teresa made to Nicaragua during the first term of Daniel Ortega (1985–1990). The Sandinista regime had already been in power since 1979 when President Anastasio Somoza was overthrown.

The Missionaries of Charity run the Immaculate Heart of Mary Home in the city of Granada, where they take in abandoned adolescents or victims of abuse.

In addition to spiritual and psychological help, minors receive regular classes in music, theater, sewing, beauty, and other trades.

In the capital, Managua, the nuns run a nursing home, which provides the elderly with food, clothing, and other care.

The Missionaries of Charity also provide remedial education for minors at risk and run a nursery for poor children, mostly children of single mothers and street vendors.

The National Assembly still has to approve the order. However, President Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front political party holds 75 out of the 90 seats, so it is expected to be approved.

Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez, who has been living in exile at the request of Pope Francis since April 2019 due to numerous death threats, deplored the decision of the Ortega government to expel the Missionaries of Charity from the country.

Bishop Báez wrote on Twitter from Miami: “It makes me very sad that the dictatorship has forced the Missionaries of Charity of Teresa of Calcutta to leave the country. Nothing justifies depriving the poor of charitable care.”

In fewer than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests under the Ortega government.

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

INTERACTIVE MAP: Check the status of abortion trigger laws across the U.S.

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, returning the regulation of abortion to the states.

More than a dozen states had passed "trigger laws" intended to outlaw abortion as soon as the federal right to abortion that Roe established was struck down.

Some of those laws took effect immediately after the ruling, with no further action needed. In several states, however, the trigger law required certification by the state attorney general, governor, or legislature. 

A few trigger laws — so far in Louisiana, Texas, and Utah — have been temporarily blocked in court and will now be subject to judicial review. 

Take a look at the interactive map below to see how this process is unfolding.

San Antonio archbishop to preside at memorial Mass after Texas migrant deaths

In this aerial view, members of law enforcement investigate a tractor trailer on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. According to reports, at least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer. Over a dozen victims were found alive, suffering from heat stroke and taken to local hospitals. / Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Following the discovery of dozens of migrants who died in an abandoned tractor-trailer in Texas — thought to be the largest en masse death of migrants from the southern border in modern history — the Archbishop of San Antonio is set to hold a memorial Mass on Thursday. 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, and Auxiliary Bishops Michael Boulette and Gary Janak will preside at a memorial Mass for the migrants June 30, the archdiocese told CNA, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of San Fernando. The liturgy will include a procession from the cathedral’s Main Plaza, a special cross, and candles and flags representing the countries of the deceased as well as the survivors, spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. 

García-Siller said in a tweet that he had met with a young girl named Serenidad who was in the trailer and had survived. He urged prayers for the survivors and urged leaders to take action on immigration reform. 

“Our people inside the truck are innocent. They were the result of corruption in their place of origin as well as in the Unites States. May we take [steps] to change and experience conversion for the better of the human person. Pray about it!” he wrote June 28. 

The migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer baking in extreme heat in San Antonio, Texas on the evening of June 27. The official death toll has risen to 53, NPR reported, and the dead include 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans, and 2 Hondurans, with the others not yet having been identified.

San Antonio, about 150 miles from the national border at Laredo, is a regional hub for transportation, as well as for human trafficking and smuggling. San Antonio was also the site of a similar incident in 2017 in which 10 migrants died in a tractor trailer. 

According to experts cited by NPR, it is likely that the people who were in the trailer had crossed the border on foot, before gathering in Laredo to be loaded into a truck. The truck driver is reportedly detained. 

Marie Kenyon, who leads the Justice and Peace commission at the Archdiocese of St. Louis, told CNA that she was in Laredo last week with a volunteer group assisting at a Catholic Charities migrant shelter. She said as a mission diocese, Laredo’s migrant shelter does not receive as much attention or donations as some others along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as Brownsville and El Paso. 

She shuddered at the thought that her volunteer group may have unwittingly passed the truck full of migrants going the opposite way on the highway from San Antonio to Laredo. 

“On Saturday in Laredo it was 107 degrees,” she noted. “So even if you’re in that trailer for 3-4 hours, that’s the end of you.” 

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, lamented the deaths in a June 29 statement and called the incident a “harrowing depiction of the extreme risks assumed by migrants out of sheer desperation.”

“Unfortunately, this disregard for the sanctity of human life is all too common in the context of migration,” Dorsonville wrote. 

“As a Church called to build a culture of life, we cannot tolerate this injustice. Instead, we must recognize that we are brothers and sisters, each imbued with God-given dignity. To prevent further loss of life, we urge governments and civil society to promote access to protection, including asylum, develop new pathways for those compelled to migrate, and combat human trafficking in all its forms.”

Pope Francis has also urged prayers for the migrants. 

“I sorrowfully heard the news of the tragedy of the #migrants in Texas and #Melilla,” the pope said in a social media post on June 28.

“Let us #PrayTogether for these brothers and sisters who died following their hope of a better life; and for ourselves, may the Lord might open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.”

Amid Burma conflict, diocese bans two priests from political involvement

A protest of the coup d'etat in Hpa-An, the capital of Karen State, Burma, on Feb. 9, 2021. Credit: Ninjastrikers (CC BY-SA 4.0). / null

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 11:26 am (CNA).

A Catholic diocese in Burma has ordered two priests to stop participating in politics and posting on social media against the country’s power structure and Church officials. The priests are staunch critics of the junta whose 2021 coup launched an insurgency that the Catholic bishops hope to end. 

Father Dominic Wun Kyaw Htwe and Father Clement Angelo Ate both faced rebukes from the Diocese of Kengtung for openly opposing the junta. The two priests are living in exiled communities across the border with Thailand.

“Your active involvement in politics and your posts on social media not only cause great perplexity,” said a June 22 letter to Htwe, charging that his actions divide “public opinion and our Christian community itself.”

The June 22 letter to Htwe from Father Peter Anwe, administrator of the Diocese of Kengtung, cited his active participation in politics through being present at protest movements and through social media posts against political authorities and Church leaders “despite several warnings.”

The Kengtung diocese is in the Shan state of Burma, also known as Myanmar, and is heavily affected by the ongoing civil war, Asia News reports.  A junta overthrew the country’s government on Feb. 1, 2021. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's elected civilian leader, was detained along with the country’s President, Win Myint. Many supporters of the government took to the streets in protest, and some took up arms and formed rebel groups.

Htwe responded to the diocese’s letter, saying, “This situation has been thought of since the beginning of the revolution. You can kick me out at once.” He said he is “proud of being far… from a society that is dominated by fear and enjoys the pursuit of financial riches rather than justice and truth.”

“I have a very strong love of my mother religion,” the priest said, saying the present is a time “when there is a clear distinction between right and wrong.” The warning to him has strengthened his resolve to “fight harder” 

Ate, the other priest rebuked by his diocese, said he would continue “fighting and standing with our suffering people” and “do as much as I can for them.”

Some Church leaders have been outspoken. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has strongly objected to the military’s death sentences for some activists.

“As cardinal of Myanmar I plead — from the very depths of my heart — with the junta, not to hang these men, and I appeal to the world to act,” he said at an international conference last Monday. “If the regime goes through with this, it marks a new low for this already brutal, barbaric, inhumane and criminal junta.”

In January, Bo told Vatican Radio his country suffers from “spiraling chaos, confusion, conflict, and human agony.” The country’s bishops are trying to accompany the people, advocate for humanitarian access, and urge all parties in the conflict to make peace.

Catholics make up only 1% of the country’s population, which is majority Buddhist.

Some 1,900 people have died and another 1 million have been displaced under the junta's repressive control of the country, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this month. Thousands more have been arrested, she said, and an estimated 14 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

In the Diocese of Loikaw in eastern Burma, almost half of the parishes have been abandoned because of intense fighting. At least nine churches in the diocese have been hit by government military shelling and airstrikes, according to the report.

Htwe, 34, joined the protests immediately after the coup. After receiving warnings from backers of the coup, he was warned he would be arrested. He fled his parish of St. Anthony of Padua in February 2021 and hid in a border town for six months before crossing into Thailand, disguised as a plantation coffee worker, according to Asia News.

He began to help a Thai priest at a parish in the Diocese of Chiang Rai that mainly serves Akha people, the same ethnicity as Htwe. He ministered the sacraments and gave catechism lessons, but also collected donations of money, food, and clothing for refugees from Burma.

“Our dreams, our hopes and our future have been taken away from us. Our lives were destroyed by terrorist and murderous soldiers,” he told AsiaNews in April. 

He denounced the Burmese army and said people in Burma are “tortured, raped and burned alive.” 

“We want to see at least the right to life as human beings recognized. Myanmar's should not only be an internal problem, it should be an international issue because these are crimes against humanity,” he said.

The priest accused the Chinese government of backing the junta in Burma over the democratically elected government.

In an April letter on Holy Thursday 2022, Htwe called for “concrete actions” from the international community.