Texas attorney general files suit against Catholic migrant shelter (Crux) Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he has filed suit against Annunciation House, a Catholic migrant ministry in El Paso.
The attorney general cited “significant public record information strongly suggesting Annunciation House is engaged in legal violations such as facilitating illegal entry to the United States, alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house.”
Paxton “considers it a crime for a Catholic organization to provide shelter to refugees,” Annunciation House said in response. “The attorney general’s illegal, immoral and anti-faith position to shut down Annunciation House is unfounded.”
Russian Orthodox reject Fiducia Supplicans (Russian Orthodox patriarchate (Russian)) Evaluating Fiducia Supplicans at the request of Patriarch Kirill, a panel of Russian Orthodox theologians has concluded that the Vatican directive “reflected a sharp departure from Christian moral teaching.”
The judgment was made by the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission and announced at a February 20 meeting. The commission is chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion, who for more than a decade was the most prominent and visible Russian Orthodox official in relations with the Catholic Church
Australian bishop faces multiple criminal charges (Vatican News) Australian prosecutors have charged Bishop Christopher Saunders with 19 criminal charges, including two charges of rape and fourteen charges of indecent assault.
The retired Bishop of Broome was arrested on February 21, after a long investigation that was given new life when authorities received the results of the Vatican’s inquiry into abuse charges. He was released on bail the next day, but ordered not to leave his home before a hearing in June.
The Australian bishops’ conference promised full cooperation with the prosecution. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, the president of the conference, said: “It is right and proper, and indeed necessary, that all such allegations be thoroughly investigated.”
Leading Vatican cardinals: German vote in favor of synodal council would be null and void (Vatican News) Vatican News, the news agency of the Dicastery for Communication, has published its own account of the Vatican’s request to German bishops not to vote on a proposed synodal council of bishops and laity. The request led a removal of the item from the agenda of this week’s meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference.
The letter, signed by Cardinals Pietro Parolin (Secretary of State), Víctor Manuel Fernández (prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith), and Robert Prevost (prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops), “points out that such a Council is not contemplated by current Canon Law; therefore, a decision adopted by the Bishops’ Conference on such a Council would also be null and void because it would have no authority to approve its Statute,” according to Vatican News.
Even as he postponed the vote on the synodal council, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, dismissed the concerns of the cardinals—and by implication, the concerns of the Pope, who wrote in November that a synodal council “cannot be harmonized with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church.”
“We do not want to limit the authority of the bishop or bishops in any way,” Bishop Bätzing said at a press conference. “We want to place them on new ground because this authority has been undermined by the abuse and scandal we have experienced... And that’s why we need new, binding and transparent advice that really flows into decisions. This is the path we are looking for.”
Ukrainian bishops reject compromise with Russia (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Ukrainian)) The bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church have issued a statement charging that the Russian military campaign in their country “has all the hallmarks of neocolonial war on the European continent with clear signs of genocide.”
Saying that “modern Russian tyranny” is a form of “postmodern totalitarianism,” the Ukrainian bishops reject appeals for a compromise that would end the fighting but concede territory to Russia. Arguing that Russia has a history of suppressing Ukrainian identity—a history marred by racism—they say that Ukraine today has no choice but to defend itself:
This war is a national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian civil nation for the right to its own existence and future, for the independence, freedom and dignity of our citizens.
The Ukrainian bishops’ statement also sharply criticize the Russian Orthodox Church, which they say has “supported and blessed Russia’s criminal war against the Ukrainian people.”
Australian bishop arrested (Pillar) Bishop Christopher Saunders, the focus of sex-abuse investigations by both the Vatican and Australian prosecutors, was taken into custody by police on February 21.
Australian officials had closed an investigation of Bishop Saunders in 2021, citing a lack of evidence of criminal activity. But a subsequent Vatican inquiry, conducted under the terms of Vos Estis, produced a lengthy report of alleged abuses. When Australian officials requested and received a copy of that report, they renewed their inquiry, and in January and again in February raided his residence and questioned him.
Bishop Saunders resigned from the leadership of the Broome diocese in 2021, citing ill health. Following the Vos Estis investigation he was ordered by the Vatican to leave the diocese, but he did not.
End to celibacy could attract more men to priesthood: Cardinal Hollerich (Katholisch) Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg has suggested that an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy could attract more men to the priesthood.
“There are people who find it difficult to live a celibate life,” the cardinal told the daily L’Essentiel. While he acknowledged that a change might draw only a few more vocations, he said: “In Europe, those ‘few’ could make a difference.”
Cardinal Hollerich—who has been chosen by Pope Francis to fill the key role of relator general at the Synod on Synodality—also told his interviewer that he is “absolutely in line with the Pope” on allowing blessings for same-sex couples.
Pope opposes reform on abuse, victims' advocate charges (Catholic World Report) “I believe that at heart Pope Francis is opposed to reform,” the head of a group advocating for sex-abuse victims has said.
Anne Barrett Doyle, the head of BIshopAccountability.org, made her remark to Catholic World Report after a press conference in which women reported gross abuses by Father Marko Rupnik. She said:
When Pope Francis speaks out in anger, it’s almost always about what he calls the evil of gossip. I have come to believe that he sees victims as accusers, as bearers of gossip, not as the Church’s own wounded deserving of help and compassion and justice.
'Opium' of new ministries erodes credibility of Catholicism, priest tells Nigeria's bishops (Crux) In an address to Nigerian bishops at their February meeting, Father Anthony Akinwale warned that “we have witnessed an explosion of new religious communities, some with little or nothing in terms of spirituality and charism of consecrated life.”
Father Akinwale, a professor at Augustine University Ilara-Epe, said that “the populism of these ministries, the advertisement of un-authenticated miracles and prophecies, the opium these ministries administer on our people, erode the credibility of Christianity, of Catholicism in particular, in our country.”
The priest warned of a future in which people are “unable to see the difference between the Pentecostal pastor and a Catholic priest.”
Philippine bishops deplore Chinese incursions into territorial waters (Rappler) Six Philippine bishops, led by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, have issued a statement deploring Chinese incursions into the Philippines’ territorial waters.
“It is no secret that the aggressive incursions of the Chinese into our maritime zones, resulting in the widespread destruction of coral reefs, marine sanctuaries and the habitat of fish and sea-dwelling animals has wrought havoc on the lives of our fisherfolk,” the bishops wrote.
“A policy of appeasing the Chinese aggressors is worsening the situation of our poor fisherfolk,” the bishops continued, as they called for “all legal means” to be used to counteract the incursions.
“If present diplomatic endeavors do not suffice, then it is permissible—morally necessary even—to have recourse to the friendship of allies who can help us defend what is ours,” they added.
Vatican announces theme for World Day of Migrants (Vatican News) The Vatican has announced the theme for the 110th World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “God walks with His people.”
In a February 22 release, the Dicastery for Integral Human Development explained that Pope Francis, in his message for the occasion—which will be released later this year—will present the understanding of migrants as “a contemporary icon of the journeying Church.”
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is observed annually on the last Sunday in September.
Papal delegate to troubled French lay association resigns (Pillar) Bishop Michel Dubost, 81, has resigned as the pontifical delegate to Les Foyers de Charité, an international lay association founded in 1936 by Ven. Marthe Robin and Father Georges Finet.
26 women alleged they were sexually abused by Father Finet in the confessional when they were adolescents, according to a report published by the association in 2020.
Two years later, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard as pontifical delegate to govern the association. Ricard soon resigned; he admitted that he had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in 1987. Bishop Dubot became pontifical delegate and was assisted by two vice-delegates, Laurent Landete and Sister Christine Foulon.
Bishop Dubot, now 81, has resigned, and Landete and Foulon are now co-pontifical delegates. Foulon said that she and Bishop Dubot “had different methodologies, which could have created awkwardness or even injuries.”
“The Holy See wants to send a signal to the Foyers de Charité with the appointment of a governance based on synodality,” added Foulon. “We are in a particular, new configuration as co-delegates”—a model that may “come from a desire for greater efficiency, with a certain increased transparency, and perhaps a new rigor.”
Canadian Christian leaders issue joint pastoral letter on Ukraine ( Canadian Council of Churches) Christian leaders across Canada, including the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, have signed a joint pastoral letter on Ukraine.
“Not since World War II has Europe experienced the violence and destruction it now experiences as a result of Russia’s invasion,” the signatories wrote, as they called for prayer for peace, support for refugees, and “diplomatic steps toward a just and sustainable peace.”
'Under bombs and without food': Vatican newspaper laments Gaza suffering (L'Osservatore Romano (Italian)) With the headline “Sotto le bombe e senza cibo” [Under bombs and without food], the Vatican newspaper devoted the most prominent front-page coverage in its February 21 edition to the situation in Gaza following the World Food Programme’s decision to suspend food aid in the northern part of the Strip.
“The population of Gaza in the grip of war and hunger,” L’Osservatore Romano reported. “Added to the atrocities and suffering due to the bloody conflict between Hamas and Israel is now the anxiety” over the UN program’s decision.
Citing a report from the Global Nutrition Cluster, the newspaper stated that “one in six children under the age of two in the [Gaza] Strip suffers from acute malnutrition.”
German bishops back off confrontation with Vatican (CNA) Following a new warning from the Vatican, the Catholic bishops of Germany have stepped away from plans to approve formation of a new “Synodal Council” to include lay people in forming Church policies.
At their meeting this week, the German bishops’ conference was scheduled to vote on statutes for the Synodal Council, despite clear statements from Rome that the step would violate the Church’s teaching that bishops alone have authority to set diocesan policies. But after receiving a letter from Rome urging against the vote, the episcopal conference announced that the measure would be removed from this week’s agenda.
The Central Committee of German Catholics, which has partnered with the German bishops in promoting the Synodal Council, expressed dismay at the bishops’ concession; the group had urged the bishops to defy Rome and proceed with the vote. Irme Stetter-Karp, the president of the lay group, said: “The Catholic Church in Germany will not have a second chance if it stops the synodal path now.”
India's Cardinal Ferrão elected head of Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Matters India) Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrão, 71, has been elected president of the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). He will succeed Cardinal Charles Muang Bo of Myanmar in January.
Pope St. John Paul II appointed Ferrão the archbishop of Goa and Damão, India (and thus the Latin-rite Patriarch of the East Indies) in 2003. In 2019, Ferrão was elected president of the Latin-rite Conference of Catholic Bishops of India. In 2022, Pope Francis named him a cardinal.
Continental episcopal assemblies (such as the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) have assumed greater importance under Pope Francis. In addition to the FABC, the continental assemblies include CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Council), the CCEE (Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe), the FCBCO (Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania), and SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).
DR Congo bishops plead for prayers for peace as jihadist violence intensifies (ACI Africa) The bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (map) called for prayers for peace in the eastern part of the nation.
“Episodes of violence are increasing day by day in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a war between the army and armed groups has been ongoing for years,” the Vatican newspaper reported on February 21. “In North Kivu, at least 10 people were killed in a raid by suspected jihadists of the Allied Democratic Forces.”
US State Department official has 'whirlwind day' at Vatican (@USinHolySee) Sara Minkara, the US State Department’s Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, had a “whirlwind day” of Vatican meetings on February 21, the US Embassy to the Holy See tweeted.
Minkara, according to the embassy, discussed “policy and interfaith communities” with Msgr. Daniel Pacho, the Holy See’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs. Minkara, who is blind, also discussed accessibility for the disabled within the Vatican with Sister Raffaella Petrini, Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
The State Department official then met with members of Athletica Vaticana, the Vatican’s athletics team, and praised Pope Francis’s commitment to inclusion.
Vandalism at Philadelphia shrine causes $20,000 damage (Our Sunday Visitor) The National Shrine of St. John Neumann suffered an estimated $20,000 in damage when an unknown vandal threw a brick and stones through three stained-glass windows.
Police are reviewing security-camera footage in hopes of identifying the perpetrator. Three other nearby buildings—a Protestant church, a theater, and a law office—suffered similar vandalism damage the same night.
Dicastery for Evangelization publishes resource for Year of Prayer (Vatican News) The Dicastery for Evangelization has published Insegnaci a pregare [Teach Us to Pray], a free 75-page resource for the Year of Prayer.
The Dicastery announced that the resource, based on the teaching of Pope Francis, will soon be translated into five other languages, including English.
Pope Francis has declared 2024 to be a Year of Prayer in preparation for the 2025 Jubilee Year. Since the 15th century, it has been customary for the Church to celebrate a jubilee every 25 years.