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Cardinal: Danish bill requiring translation of homilies threatens religious freedom

CNA Staff, Jan 22, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).- A cardinal said on Friday that a proposed law in Denmark requiring the translation of all homilies into Danish is a threat to religious freedom. 

In a Jan. 22 statement, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), objected to the bill demanding that all addresses in a liturgical setting are either given in Danish or made accessible in the language.

“De facto, the impact would be of imposing undue hindrance on the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” he said.

The Catholic Church in Denmark has also expressed concern about the bill, which is thought to be directed primarily at the country’s Muslim congregations where sermons are often preached in Arabic. 

Catholics comprise 1.3% of the 5.8 million population of Denmark, a historically Lutheran country neighboring Germany, Norway, and Sweden. 

Roughly a third of Catholics in Denmark are born outside the country, according to the Catholics & Cultures website. Masses in Metropolitan Copenhagen, the area surrounding the capital city, are conducted in Polish, English, Ukrainian, Croatian, Chaldean, French, Spanish, and Italian, as well as Danish.

The Catholic Church believes that, in addition to infringing on religious freedom, the translation requirement would impose an undue financial burden.

Denmark’s parliament is expected to debate the draft legislation, known as the “Law on sermons in languages ​​other than Danish,” in February.

Hollerich, the archbishop of Luxembourg, said that the bill was part of a growing trend among EU member states “and even at the EU Court’s level” of curbing religious freedom.

“COMECE’s concerns on the general state of freedom of religion in the EU had already been expressed in reacting to extremely rigid national measures imposed on churches and religious communities with regard to religious ceremonies, in view of COVID-19,” he said.

“Eroding specific rights in such a way endangers the whole architecture of fundamental rights, based on the idea of universality and interconnectedness of rights.”

He continued: “While we understand that the goal of the proposal is to prevent radicalization and counter incitement to hatred and terrorism, any negative or discriminatory impact should be avoided with regard to churches and religious communities that are averse and alien to such actions, acting in a spirit of peace and integration.”

COMECE, founded in 1980, consists of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the 27 member states of the European Union. A single bishop represents Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, which are all EU members.

Hollerich said: “The recent EU counter-terrorism agenda underlines that freedom of religion is among the foundations of the European Union. This should be taken in consideration by member states when devising anti-radicalization and anti-terrorism policies.” 

“The EU Agenda provides a welcome, strong focus on the fight against radicalization and support to the member states in this sense. We support the EU in its effort to help identifying effective alternatives to invasive and potentially damaging legal solutions.”

He concluded: “COMECE stands in solidarity with the Scandinavian Bishops’ Conference, and with Catholic and other affected communities in Denmark, encouraging an intense and fruitful dialogue of the relevant national public authorities with the impacted churches and religious communities.”

Pope Francis decries men who sustain ‘reprehensible’ trade in preface to trafficking victim’s biography

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has written the preface to a biography of a human trafficking victim in which he decries the men who sustain the “reprehensible” trade by their choices.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that profits off of 25 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization. 

A new book, “Io sono Joy” (“I am Joy”), by Mariapia Bonanate, tells the story of one of these victims: a girl from Nigeria who hopes to go to Italy to find a job but ends up being trafficked.

Pope Francis said that he accepted the invitation to write a preface for the book “with the specific intention of delivering Joy’s testimony to readers as a ‘heritage of humanity.’”

“The crossing of the desert, the months spent in the Libyan detention camps, the journey at sea, during which she was saved from the shipwreck … Joy’s is a story that unites many other people, like her, kidnapped in an infernal chain and struck by the tragedy of the invisibility of trafficking. A story as unknown as it is omnipresent in our globalized societies,” Pope Francis wrote in the book’s preface, published by L’Osservatore Romano on Jan. 21.

The pope said that traffickers were “unscrupulous individuals who thrive on the misfortunes of others [and] take advantage of people’s desperation to subjugate them to their power.” But he also had a message for consumers who sustain human trafficking.

Pope Francis wrote: “At this point, I cannot help but ask the reader a question: since there are countless young women, victims of trafficking, who end up on the streets of our cities, how much does this reprehensible reality derive from the fact that many men, here, require these ‘services’ and show themselves willing to buy another person, annihilating her in her inalienable dignity?”

He continued: “In reading this memorial we are led to discover, page after page, how much Joy’s testimony nails us before the prejudices and responsibilities that make us conniving actors in these events.”

“It will do us good to stand beside Joy and stop with her on her ‘places’ of helpless and innocent pain. After stopping there, it will be impossible to remain indifferent when we hear about the boats adrift, ignored and even rejected from our shores. Joy was on one of them.”

The pope thanked “all the people and organizations who, even at the cost of their safety, help the victims of today’s slavery.”

“With their tireless dedication, they restore self-worth to those who have been deprived of personal dignity; they bring back the trust and hope in the life of those who have been deceived and have experienced the imposition of terror by those who, after having presented themselves as savior, have revealed themselves to be executioners,” he said.

The pope also thanked Joy for sharing the testimony of “her via crucis” (way of the cross) and allowing people to share her “experience of absolute courage that allows us to better understand those who suffer from trafficking.”

He wrote: “‘Your name is Joy,’ you have been the joy of your mother since you were in the womb, and so you received from her this beautiful name which is also one of the proper names of God.”

“Io sono Joy” will be published in Italian by Edizioni San Paolo on Jan. 27.

Amid the pandemic, sainthood cause of nun who served poor hit by epidemics advances

CNA Staff, Jan 22, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).- An English Catholic bishop welcomed on Thursday a step forward in the sainthood cause of a religious sister who served poor communities ravaged by cholera and typhoid. 

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said on Jan. 21 that it was fitting that Elizabeth Prout’s cause was progressing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bishop made the comment on the day that Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of the nun known as the “Mother Teresa of Manchester,” meaning that she can now be called “Venerable.”

“It seems appropriate this announcement came during the pandemic when we can look to Elizabeth's example and ask the help of her prayers as a woman who helped many during the epidemics which swept the industrial communities of Victorian England,” Davies said.

The bishop had appealed for prayers for the advancement of Prout’s cause at a Mass last September, marking the 200th anniversary of her birth.

He recalled that Prout, who was born on Sept. 2, 1820, was “a pioneer of education,” who established day and night schools for the industrial poor and homes of refuge for young women working in factories.

“Together with a handful of companions she confronted the most degrading situations with the confidence of the revolution which flows from Christ’s command: ‘Love one another as I have loved you,’” he said.

Prout was baptized in the Anglican Church. Her father, a lapsed Catholic, worked as a cooper for a local brewery. Her parents disowned her when she decided to join the Catholic Church in her early 20s, at a time when Catholicism was emerging after centuries of persecution in England.

She converted with the help of Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist priest who also received St. John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church.

Prout became a nun at the age of 28, and, a few years after taking her final vows, was given a teaching post in industrial Manchester, where she worked among Irish migrants, women, and factory workers.

During her time as a teacher, Manchester was one of the world’s first industrial cities but workers toiled in abject conditions. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the authors of “The Communist Manifesto,” described working conditions as “hell upon earth.”

Prout founded a religious community inspired by the spirituality of St. Paul of the Cross, the Italian founder of the Passionists. The community was initially called the Institute of the Holy Family, but later renamed the Sisters of the Cross and Passion or Passionist Sisters.

The new institute was criticized for advocating “revolutionary ideas,” because it required religious sisters to earn their own wages to support themselves and taught other women to follow their example.

In 1863, Pope Leo XIII gave the community his approval.  Prout, also known as Mother Mary Joseph, was named the order’s first superior general. Today, the Passionist Sisters work with the poor all over the world, including countries such as Papua New Guinea, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Jamaica.

Prout died from tuberculosis at the age of 43 in Sutton, Lancashire, in 1864. She was buried in the archdiocese of Liverpool, where her cause opened in 1994.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool welcomed the recognition of Prout’s heroic virtues. 

“Her contribution to the Church and people of England and further afield in the education and healthcare through the institutions she founded and the Sisters of the congregation continues to show the care of the Catholic Church for those in need,” he said.

Prout’s body was laid to rest in the shrine of St. Anne’s Church, Sutton, where it lies alongside those of Dominic Barberi and Ignatius Spencer, an aristocratic convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism who served as a Passionist priest.

“My prayer is that the shrine at Sutton will be a place of prayer for her eventual canonization,” McMahon said. 

Prout’s sainthood cause was submitted to the Vatican in 2008. If she is beatified and canonized -- which would require two verified miracles attributed to her intercession -- she would be England’s first female saint who did not suffer martyrdom in almost 800 years.

The last non-martyr English female saint was St. Margaret of Scotland, an Anglo-Saxon princess who became Queen of Scotland after William the Conqueror invaded England. She was canonized in 1250.

Passionist Sister Dominic Savio Hamer, author of the book “Elizabeth Prout: A Religious Life for Industrial England,” said: “This is wonderful news for Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“She loved Our Lord so much and also knew so much suffering in her own life and was conversant with the bad social conditions in which so many people lived in Manchester that she will be an ideal person to pray to in our difficulties today.”

As assisted suicide continues to rise in Ontario, pro-lifers call for government action

CNA Staff, Jan 22, 2021 / 12:06 am (CNA).- As cases of assisted suicide continue to increase annually in Ontario, pro-life advocates have called on the government to implement laws to help stem the tide of medically facilitated death.

“The numbers keep going up, and they will continue going up unless more people speak out about this and demand our politicians step back and reconsider what we are doing as a country,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, according to The Catholic Register.

According to a new statistic from Ontario’s chief coroner, The Catholic Register reported, 2,378 patients participated in medical assistance in dying’s (MAiD) in 2020. Schadenberg said the number increases yearly, noting that 1,789 people were killed in 2019, 1,499 in 2018, 841 in 2017, and 189 in 2016.

About 7,000 Ontario residents have ended their lives through MAiD since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled euthanasia to be legal nationwide in 2016. Ontario residents have made up about half of the 14,000 assisted suicide patients across the country.

In 2019, Quebec’s Supreme Court ruled that requiring death to be “reasonably foreseeable” in assisted suicide cases was unconstitutional. The court said the government must update its laws to reflect this ruling by Feb. 26, 2021.

In response, the federal government introduced Bill C-7, which would remove a reasonably foreseeable death from the criteria necessary to qualify for legal assisted suicide. The law would still prohibit assisted suicide for patients who have only mental illnesses and not physical illnesses.

The bill passed through the House of Commons by a two-to-one margin on December 10. It still needs the approval of the Senate, however the government is required by Feb. 26 to bring federal law on assisted suicide in line with the Quebec Superior Court’s 2019 ruling that requiring death to be “reasonably foreseeable” for assisted suicide is unconstitutional.

“The Canadian government must reject Bill C-7 and begin the promised five-year review of the euthanasia law with an open view to what is actually happening rather than continuing to expand euthanasia, making Canada the most permissive euthanasia regime in the world,” Schadenberg said, according to The Catholic Register.

Other pro-life advocates, such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, have repeatedly challenged the government to upgrade and promote palliative care options instead of assisted suicide laws.

In a Dec. 18 statement, the bishops said it is not too late for the government to reconsider the bill. A study conducted by Angus Reid Group and Cardus, the bishops said, found that a large portion of Canadians are afraid that the “health care system will start to ignore long-term care and chronic disease in the elderly as MAiD becomes more available.”

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada remain steadfastly opposed to all forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We are especially concerned by the accelerated and reckless pace in which the Government is attempting to pass Bill C-7. Despite the numerous warnings by disability organizations and physicians about the devastating consequences of Bill C-7,” they said.

“We are encouraging the Catholic faithful of Canada, other religious communities, and all people of goodwill to become better informed on the content and grave moral implications of Bill C-7, and to address their objections and concerns directly to their local member of Parliament and the members of the Senate.”


In far-reaching executive order, Biden redefines 'sex'

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- In one of his first acts in office, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to interpret sex discrimination in federal law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The move could impact high school sports, the privacy of single-sex bathrooms, faith-based organizations that are government grantees or contractors, and whether employees may face retaliation for voicing “discriminatory” religious beliefs.
“This executive order is a massive overreach,” John Bursch, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, told CNA Jan. 21. “It essentially has the effect of taking the word ‘sex’ and ‘sex discrimination’, anywhere those words appear in federal law, and converting them to include sexual orientation and gender identity.”
He warned that the executive order’s redefinition of sex will result in “a destructive effort to re-invent reality and destroy long-standing protections for women and girls,” even if this is not immediately evident.
“Redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ isn’t equality, and it isn’t progress,” he said. “The reason for that is that biology is not bigotry. When the law does not respect biological differences between men and women, it creates chaos and it hurts women and girls.”
Saying the Catholic Church has recognized such differences for millennia, Bursch added, “it’s unfortunate that the government is now choosing this to be the very first act it is going to engage in to ‘unify the country’.
The executive order, titled “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” declares Biden administration policy “to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The order, which Biden signed on the day of inauguration, discusses children’s access to restrooms, locker rooms, and school sports; access to health care; and workers whose dress “does not conform to sex-based stereotypes,” among other topics.
The order drew comment on social media, where some critics used the hashtag #BidenErasedWomen.
Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA the order means, “Boys who identify as girls must be allowed to compete in the girls’ athletic competitions, men who identify as women must be allowed in women-only spaces, healthcare plans must pay for gender-transition procedures, and doctors and hospitals must perform them.”
“It spells the end of girls’ and women’s sports as we know them,” he said. “And, of course, no child should be told the lie that they’re ‘trapped in the wrong body,’ and adults should not pump them full of puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones,” said Anderson, author of the 2018 book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.
Bursch said that the executive order would also redefine “sex” in Title IX, which governs education and sports. One client of Alliance Defending Freedom was affected by a similar effort to redefine gender, allowing biological boys to compete against girls in girls’ sports.
“This isn’t something theoretical, it’s already happened,” he said. In Connecticut, two males who identify as females have won 15 girls state track and field titles since 2017.
“One of our clients, Chelsea Mitchell, has lost four state championships to one of those males competing in the girls’ division,” he said. “In that respect, this is not equality, this is not progress, this is anti-women.”
That case led to vigorous protests and a successful legal injunction.
The redefinition of sex has also led to problems for women’s shelters.
“In Alaska, the City of Anchorage insisted that a women’s overnight shelter, allow a man identifying as a woman to sleep mere feet away from women who had been raped, trafficked and abused,” Bursch said. “We had to go to court to protect the overnight shelter’s ability to not have biological men in the space with those abused women.”
Biden’s executive order claims to build on the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination in employment also includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The ruling, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, was deliberately narrow in scope, but Biden’s executive order adds: “Under Bostock‘s reasoning, laws that prohibit sex discrimination — including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, the Fair Housing Act, as amended, and section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended,  along with their respective implementing regulations — prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, so long as the laws do not contain sufficient indications to the contrary.”
Bursch said that the Bostock decision was narrowly phrased to hold that an employee could not be fired solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It deliberately avoided questions about dress codes, privacy in restrooms, and women’s sports.
In his view, however, Biden’s executive order “dramatically expands it” by “applying it in all kinds of areas where the court never said (to), where the court said the exact opposite.”
Describing the consequences, he said “a ‘tidal wave’ is the phrase that comes to mind.”
Anderson said the executive order was “radically divisive transgender policy.” He characterized Gorsuch’s decision as showing “simplistic logic.”
“Privacy and safety at a shelter, equality on an athletic field, and good medicine are at stake for everyone,” said Anderson. “We can—and should—defend commonsense policies that take seriously the bodily differences that provide valid bases in some areas of life (locker and shower rooms, athletics, women’s shelters, healthcare) for treating males and females differently (yet still equally).”
Biden’s executive order said “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said the order. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.  Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.  People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.”
Bursch said the rule change could affect religious organizations that are government contractors or grant recipients.
“For a Catholic charity that does human development work and has a contract with the government to do that, it’s entirely possible that the government will require the Catholic charity, in the government’s view, not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. This means “forcing Catholic and other religious entities to give up their most deeply held beliefs about marriage and the human body.”
While the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could provide some protections, “it’s not going to be a one-sized-fits-all solution to the enormous problems that this executive order creates,” Bursch said.
The rule could also cause problems for employees in government or the private sector. A Catholic worker’s statement supporting the Catholic view of marriage as a union of one man or one woman could be considered discriminatory or harassment, he said.
“It essentially says to religious employees: ‘You’re not welcome to express your views in public anymore,” said Bursch. He considered this a twofold First Amendment violation, affecting both free speech and free exercise of religion.
At the same time, he noted that objectors like women high school athletes might not have a religious objection to competing against men who identify as women. Rather, their objections are sex-based or based on a desire for fair competition.
CNA sought comment from the U.S. Conference of Bishops but did not receive a response by deadline. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, in his role as the bishops’ conference president, issued a prepared statement on Biden’s inauguration.
The archbishop said he finds hope and inspiration in Biden’s personal witness of relying on faith in difficult times and commitment to the poor. He stressed the wide variety of issues on which the U.S. bishops advocate in ways that do not “align neatly” with political party platforms. He added: “our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”
“Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area,” he said, are “guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.”
Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, criticized the executive order ahead of its release, focusing on how it equates sex discrimination with discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
The text of the order is “based on a lie,” Hasson said, “that ‘gender identity’ enables a male person to ‘be’ a woman.”
She contrasted this with Biden’s comments in his inaugural address, in which he emphasized the need for truth and quoted St. Augustine to underline the need for unity in truth.
In January 2017, the U.S. bishops had voiced criticism of the Trump administration’s decision to maintain what they said was a “troubling” Obama-era executive order that could demand federal contractors violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender ideology.
Signed by President Barack Obama in 2014, the order prohibited federal government contractors from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and forbids gender identity discrimination in the employment of federal employees.
That executive order immediately drew criticism for its lack of religious exemptions.
A different Biden executive order on “Advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities in the federal government” indicated that “LGBTQ+ Americans” would be included in the underserved categories alongside people of color, Americans with disabilities, religious minorities, and “rural and urban communities facing persistent poverty.”
This executive order aims to embed this vision of equity “across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programs and institutions,” the Biden-Harris Transition Team said.

Saint Vincent of Zaragossa

Saint Vincent of Zaragossa

Saint of the Day for January 22

(d. c. 304)
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Saint Vincent of Zaragossa’s Story

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius. His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler. But Saint Augustine, in one of his sermons on Saint Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him. We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have, the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life. Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend Saint Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain. The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia. Hunger and torture failed to break them. Like the youths in the fiery furnace, they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound very modern were tried. But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself. He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict? He would not. Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself. Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer. Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.

Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest. When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.


The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do. It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful. But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering. God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments. God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.

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Missing priest in Burkina Faso found dead

CNA Staff, Jan 21, 2021 / 04:54 pm (CNA).- A Catholic priest in Burkina Faso who went missing Tuesday has been found dead in a forest, the local bishop announced Thursday.

“It is with deep sorrow that I bring to everyone's attention that the lifeless body of Fr. Rodrigue Sanon was found on January 21, 2021 in the protected forest of Toumousseni, about 20 kilometres from Banfora,” Bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanou said in a statement, according to ACI Africa.

He called for prayers and said more information would be available at a later time.

“By the Mercy of God, may the soul of his servant Rodrigue Sanon rest in peace!” the bishop said.

Fr. Sanon, a priest of Notre Dame de Soubaganyedougou, disappeared Tuesday on his way to Banfora to meet with Bishop Sanou. The priest never arrived, and his car was found abandoned.

Over the last five years, Burkina Faso has been a hub for religious violence and Islamist militias, especially in the northeastern territories. The militants include the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Ansarul Islam.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S. State Department, 61% of Burkina Faso residents identify as Muslim and 23% identify as Christian. The extremist attacks, which target both Christians and Muslims, have left over 1 million people displaced and almost 1,100 dead since 2015.

The bishops in Burkina Faso issued a statement in June, calling the situation “more worrying than ever.” They raised concerns about the increase in religious violence and called for more support from the authorities.

“The role of the Defense and Security Forces remains paramount,” said the bishops, adding that security forces in the country “must produce and guarantee a secure environment conducive to the conduct of the electoral process with the full participation of all citizens.”

In the June statement, the bishops said they are worried that the low levels of security are preventing priests from reaching their parishioners and asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for their efforts.

“For the Pastors in this part of Burkina Faso as elsewhere in the regions ... it is a great suffering to no longer be able to reach the faithful in some places, or to see them fleeing from terrorist attacks without any guarantee of security,” they said.

“May Mary, Queen of Peace, accompany us on the path to true peace, a gift of God and the fruit of human efforts.”

Two 20th century Italians advance on the path to sainthood

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2021 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- Two Italian contemporaries, a young priest who resisted the Nazis and was shot dead, and a seminarian who died at age 15 from tuberculosis, are both closer to being declared saints.

Pope Francis advanced the beatification causes of Fr. Giovanni Fornasini and Pasquale Canzii Jan. 21, together with six other men and women.

Pope Francis declared Giovanni Fornasini, who was assasinated by a Nazi officer at age 29, a martyr killed in hatred of the faith.

Fornasini was born near Bologna, Italy, in 1915, and had one older brother. He is reported to have been a poor student, and after leaving school to have worked for a time as a lift boy at the Grand Hotel, Bologna.

He eventually entered the seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1942, at the age of 27. In his homily at his first Mass, Fornasini said, “The Lord has chosen me, rascal among the rascals.”

Despite beginning his priestly ministry among the difficulties of the Second World War, Fornasini gained a reputation as a go-getter.

He opened a school for boys at his parish outside the city of Bologna in the town of Sperticano, and a fellow seminary classmate, Fr. Lino Cattoi, described the young priest as seeming “always to be running. He was always around trying to free people from their difficulties, and to solve their problems. He had no fear. He was a man of great faith, and was never shaken.”

When the Italian dictator Mussolini was overthrown in July 1943, Fornasini ordered the church bells to be rung.

The Kingdom of Italy signed an armistice with the Allies in September 1943, but north Italy, including Bologna, was still under the control of Nazi Germany. Sources on Fornasini and his activities during this period are incomplete, but he is described as being “everywhere,” and is known to have at least on one occasion provided shelter in his rectory to survivors of one of three bombings of the city by the Allied powers.

Fr. Angelo Serra, another parish priest in Bologna, recalled that “on the sad day of Nov. 27, 1943, when 46 of my parishioners were killed in Lama di Reno by Allied bombs, I remember Fr. Giovanni working as hard in the rubble with his pickaxe as if he had been trying to rescue his own mother.”

Some sources claim the young priest was working with Italian partisans fighting the Nazis, though accounts differ about the degree of his connection to the brigade.

Some sources also report that he intervened on several occasions to save civilians, especially women, from mistreatment or being taken by German soldiers.

Sources also provide different accounts about the last few months of Fornasini’s life and the circumstances of his death. Fr. Amadeo Girotti, a close friend of Fornasini, wrote that the young priest had been given permission to bury the dead at San Martino del Sole, Marzabotto. Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, 1944, Nazi troops had carried out a mass killing of at least 770 Italian civilians in the village.

According to Girotti, after giving Fornasini permission to bury the dead, the officer killed the priest at the same site on Oct. 13, 1944. His body, shot in the chest, was identified the next day.

In 1950, the president of Italy posthumously conferred upon Fornasini the country’s Gold Medal of Military Valour. His cause for beatification was opened in 1998.

Just one year before Fornasini, another boy was born several regions to the south. Pasquale Canzii was the first son born to devout parents who had struggled to have children for many years. He was known by the affectionate name of “Pasqualino,” and even from a young age he had a calm temperament and an inclination toward the things of God.

His parents taught him prayers and to think of God as his Father. And when his mother would bring him to church with her, he would listen and take in everything that was happening.

Twice before his sixth birthday, Canzii had accidents with fire which burned his face, and both times, his eyes and sight were miraculously unharmed. Despite sustaining severe injuries, in both cases, his burns eventually completely healed.

Canzii’s parents had a second son, and because he was struggling to financially provide for the family, the boy’s father decided to immigrate to the United States for work. Canzii would exchange letters with his father, though they never met again.

Canzii was a model student and started to serve at the altar at the local parish. He always participated in the religious life of the parish, from Mass to novenas, to the rosary, to the Via Crucis.

Convinced he had a vocation to the priesthood, Canzii entered the diocesan seminary at the age of 12. Once questioned contemptuously about why he was studying for the priesthood, the boy answered, “because, when I am ordained a priest, I will be able to save many souls and I will have saved my own. The Lord wills, and I obey. I bless the Lord a thousand times who called me to know and love him.”

In seminary, as in his early childhood, those around Canzii noticed his uncommon level of holiness and humility. He would often write: “Jesus, I want to become a saint, soon and great.”

One fellow student described him as “always easy to laugh, simple, good, like a child.” The same student said the young seminarian “burned in his heart with lively love for Jesus and also had a tender devotion to Our Lady.”

In his last letter to his father, on Dec. 26, 1929, Canzii wrote, “yes, you do well to submit to the Holy Will of God, who always arranges things for our good. It doesn’t matter if we have to suffer in this life, because if we have offered our pains to God in consideration of our and others sins, we will acquire merit for that Heavenly Fatherland where we all yearn.”

Despite obstacles to his vocation, including his weak health and his father’s desire that he become a lawyer or physician, Canzii did not waver in following what he knew to be God’s will for his life.

At the start of 1930, the young seminarian became ill with tuberculosis, and on Jan. 24 he died at the age of 15.

His cause for beatification was opened in 1999, and on Jan. 21, Pope Francis declared the boy “venerable,” having lived a life of “heroic virtue.”

Canzii’s younger brother, Pietro, moved to the U.S. in 1941 and worked as a tailor. Before his death in 2013 at the age of 90, he spoke in 2012 to the Catholic Review, of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, about his extraordinary older brother.

“He was a good, good boy,” he said. “I know he was a saint. I know his day will come.”

Pietro Canzi, who was 12 when his brother died, said Pasqualino “always gave me good advice.”

Secretary of State nominee agrees with ‘genocide’ determination for Uyghurs

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State agrees with his predecessor’s declaration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.


“That would be my judgment as well,” said Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday if he agreed with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s genocide designation.


Blinken appeared before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday for a hearing considering his nomination to Biden’s cabinet. He also said he was “very much in agreement” with the Trump administration’s view of the situation in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.


On January 19, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he had “determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.”


Pompeo stated, “[t]he People’s Republic of China and the CCP must be held to account.” 


On Tuesday, Blinken said that the gravity and scope of the atrocities committed in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and others has risen to the level of genocide.


“The forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps; trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide,” he said. 


Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest nearly three times the size of France, is home to 23 million Turkic people including Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities. 


China has escalated its control over the region in recent decades, citing national security as the reason for its crackdowns on public assemblies and freedom of movement.


Beginning in 2017, China constructed a system of around 1,300 detention camps where up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are estimated to have been imprisoned. Detainees have reportedly been subject to forced labor, indoctrination, beatings, and torture.


Uyghurs outside the camps are also subject to mass surveillance, including DNA sampling, facial recognition technology, and predictive policing platforms.


The largely-Muslim population has also been subject to repression of religious practice, such as men growing beards or women wearing veils; children have reportedly been separated from their families and forced to denounce Islam.


In addition, the AP reported in June that many Uyghur women were subject to forced abortions, sterilizations and implantations of IUDs as part of China’s coercive family planning limits of two children per family.


In August, two Asian cardinals joined 74 other religious leaders in a joint statement decrying the treatment of the Uyghurs as “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”


Pompeo on Jan. 19 said he believes “this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”


“The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image,” he said.


If confirmed as secretary of state, Blinken said that he would look to possibly banning imports of products suspected to be made by Uyghurs in forced labor situations, and would also seek to ban exports to China that could be used to repress the Uyghur population and other ethnic minorities.


In August, Joe Biden’s campaign referred to the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang as “genocide.”


“The unspeakable oppression that Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.

Trump admin proposal a last-ditch effort to offer religious groups SBA loans

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 02:34 pm (CNA).- A proposal made on the last day of the Trump administration would make religious businesses eligible to receive loans from the Small Business Administration, removing previous restrictions.

The U.S. Small Business Administration published a proposal Jan 19. that would remove five restrictions that “run afoul of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. All five provisions make certain faith-based organizations ineligible to participate in certain SBA business loan and disaster assistance programs because of their religious status,” the proposal’s summary states.

“Because the provisions exclude a class of potential participants based solely on their religious status, the provisions violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. SBA now proposes to remove the provisions to ensure in its business loan and disaster assistance programs the equal treatment for faith-based organizations that the Constitution requires,” the summary adds.

If passed, the proposal would allow religious businesses to qualify for SBA loans, though it is unclear if it would also allow churches and other houses of worship also to be eligible, the Washington Post reported.

The SBA proposal cites two Supreme Court cases as precedent for removing the religious exclusions from SBA loan qualification criteria.

In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer the Supreme Court ruled that a playground resurfacing grant that excluded churches and religious organizations was unconstitutional. The court said the grant violated the Free Exercise Clause, which “`protect[s] religious observers against unequal treatment' and subjects to the strictest scrutiny laws that target the religious for `special disabilities' based on their `religious status.' ”

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court repealed a state court decision to block religious schools from a scholarship program. While the state argued that it had an interest in preventing the religious use of the funds, the Supreme Court ruled that “Status-based discrimination remains status based even if one of its goals or effects is preventing religious organizations from putting aid to religious uses.” The SBA also noted that its proposal also follows the 2017 executive order from President Trump entitled Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty. The order stated that “Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government” and added that the executive branch would enforce such protections. Furthermore, the removal of religious restrictions also follows a decision by the Trump administration to allow religious organizations to apply for the Payment Protection Program, a coronavirus relief program that provided billions of dollars in pandemic relief to businesses and non-profits, including thousands of Catholic parishes, schools, and other religious organizations.

The proposal is likely to spark a heated debate about religious freedom under the Biden administration. While the Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment ensures the free practice of religion, the Establishment Clause prohibits the US Congress establishing a religion by law.

The SBA is collecting public comment on the proposal until Feb. 18. Afterward, the Washington Post reports, the determination of the proposal’s future falls to Biden-appointed administrator Isabel Guzman.