Catholic Guide

‘No more bloodshed,’ Pope Francis begs South Sudan’s leaders

Pope Francis addresses South Sudan’s government and members of the diplomatic corps Feb. 3, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 11:36 am (CNA).

On the first day of his peace pilgrimage, Pope Francis begged the leaders of South Sudan to work together to put an end to bloody conflict and violence in their country.

“In the name of God, of the God to whom we prayed together in Rome, of the God who is gentle and humble in heart, the God in whom so many people of this beloved country believe, now is the time to say ‘No more of this,’ we say no more, without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts,’” the pope said Feb. 3, addressing South Sudan’s president and vice presidents in the garden of the presidential residence in Juba.

“No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people a thirst for peace,” he said. “No more destruction: It is time to build! Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn!”

Francis addressed South Sudan’s government and members of the diplomatic corps after a 30-minute private meeting with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and a second half-hour private meeting with the three vice presidents.

The trip, a desire of Pope Francis for years, follows a visit of nearly four days in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The pope said “I have come here as a pilgrim, a pilgrim of reconciliation, in the hope of accompanying you on your journey of peace. It is a circuitous journey, yet one that can no longer be postponed.”

He is joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields to visit a country that is 60% Christian.

“We undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced,” Francis said.

“Years of war and conflict seem never to end and, even recently, there have been bitter clashes,” he noted.

A day before Pope Francis’ arrival, at least 27 farmers and herders were killed in a Feb. 2 attack in South Sudan’s Kajo Keji County, a region approximately 96 miles south of Juba on the border with Uganda.

“At the same time,” the pope said, “the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled.”

Before Pope Francis’ speech, President Salva Kiir Mayardit announced his intention to resume peace negotiations with rebel groups in 2023.

South Sudan’s government had pulled out of the Rome peace talks in November 2022.

“In honor of the Holy Father Pope Francis’ historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of peace and reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome peace talks with the holdout groups,” he said.

Mayardit also mentioned the September 2022 Road Map, a transitional period of 24 months for the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

Pope Francis asked that an “understanding be reached and progress be made in moving forward with the Peace Accord and the Road Map!”

“In a world scarred by divisions and conflict, this country is hosting an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, which is something rare; it represents a change of direction, an opportunity for South Sudan to resume sailing in calm waters, taking up dialogue, without duplicity and opportunism,” he said.

“May it be for everyone an occasion to revive hope,” he added.

Pope Francis also condemned violence against women and encouraged their greater inclusion in political positions.

“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do,” he told the country’s leaders. “For just as the Nile leaves its sources to begin its course, so the course of history will leave behind the enemies of peace and bring renown to those who are true peacemakers. Indeed, as Scripture tells us, ‘there is posterity for the man of peace.’”

Youth walk 9 days and 250 miles across South Sudan to see Pope Francis

On Jan. 25, 2023, 60 youth and 24 adults, including Bishop Christian Carlassare (center) and Sister Orla Treacy (right) started on a nine-day, 255-mile pilgrimage from Rumbek to Juba, South Sudan for Pope Francis’ Feb. 3-5 visit. / Credit: Sister Orla Treacy of Loreto Rumbek school

Rome Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 10:18 am (CNA).

A group of 60 young people and 24 adults traveled across South Sudan by foot for nine days to see Pope Francis and to pray for peace in their country.

The peace pilgrimage, an initiative of the Diocese of Rumbek in central South Sudan, began from Holy Family Cathedral on Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

After nine days and approximately 250 miles, the pilgrimage arrived in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, on Feb. 2, one day before Pope Francis’ historic visit to the war-torn country.

A screen shot of the path taken by the walk for peace pilgrimage from Rumbek to Juba Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, 2023.
A screen shot of the path taken by the walk for peace pilgrimage from Rumbek to Juba Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, 2023.

The students on the pilgrimage “showed a lot of energy,” Bishop Christian Carlassare of Rumbek told ACI Africa, CNA’s African partner agency, after their arrival in Juba.

The young people “have a lot of positive hopes and desires. I think [the pilgrimage] is just to give a spark to the positivity of the youth and to give a new hope to the country to open a new chapter of peace and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

Sister Orla Treacy, an Irish Loreto sister who runs a boarding school in Rumbek, documented every day of the pilgrimage on Twitter.

Leading up to the departure, Treacy took practice walks with some of her students to prepare for the intense journey.

Bishop Carlassare, 45, has worked as a missionary in South Sudan since 2005. In 2022, he became bishop of Rumbek, a diocese that covers about 23,000 square miles and has approximately 200,000 Catholics.

Though it was just 84 people who walked the more than 255 miles to Juba, Carlassare said he thinks the overall participation in the peace initiative was greater.

“The people we met in the villages, in the parishes, some came to welcome us and they took us in,” he said. “So I think there are hundreds, hundreds, if not thousands of people who, in one way or another, participated in the pilgrimage.”

He said that people they met along the way were “really overjoyed to see youth.”

“And also, I think this welcoming in Juba can show how much this initiative inspired the country, and will also show us the way to continue,” he added.

South Sudan’s civil war resulted in the deaths of an estimated more than 400,000 people. And while the country reached a formal peace agreement nearly three years ago, violent conflicts are rising in certain parts of the country.

The growing violence and four years of unprecedented flooding have contributed to the 2 million people displaced across South Sudan, according to the World Food Program.

The WFP said food insecurity in the country also continues to increase, as South Sudan faces its hungriest year since independence.

Pope Francis lands in South Sudan, fulfilling yearslong dream of visit to war-torn country

Pope Francis landed in South Sudan on Feb. 3, 2023, becoming the first pope to visit the country and fulfilling a yearslong hope to carry out an ecumenical trip to the war-torn country. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 07:37 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday became the first pope to visit South Sudan — fulfilling a yearslong hope to carry out an ecumenical trip to the war-torn country.

The pope has called his Feb. 3-5 visit to Juba, South Sudan’s capital, a “pilgrimage of peace.” His Anglican counterpart, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, along with the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, will visit the newest African nation together.

Pope Francis had spoken about the possibility of the trip as early as 2017, fewer than four years after the outbreak of civil war in 2013.

He has personally intervened to send aid to the country and to encourage South Sudan’s leaders to reach a real and lasting peace agreement — including inviting President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his former rival Vice President Riek Machar for a retreat at the Vatican.

After landing in South Sudan in the afternoon of Feb. 3, Pope Francis was joined by Archbishop Welby and Right Rev. Greenshields.

The three met Mayardit at the president’s residence before Pope Francis and Mayardit separated for a private encounter.

The pope’s first speech in the country will be to authorities, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of civil society.

On Feb. 4 he will meet bishops, priests, and consecrated men and women in St. Theresa Cathedral, the seat of the archbishop of Juba.

Bishops from the country of Sudan, from whom South Sudan separated in 2011, will also be present at the meeting.

There are seven Catholic dioceses in South Sudan, with the number of Catholics estimated to be 7.2 million, according to the Vatican.

The country’s total estimated population in 2022, according to the CIA World Factbook, is 11 million. The country is more than 60% Christian.

Pope Francis will also meet South Sudanese refugees, people who have been internally displaced due to the war, before leading an ecumenical prayer service.

On his final day on Feb. 5, the pope will celebrate Sunday Mass in English at the John Garang Mausoleum. He will then lead the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, before flying back to Rome.

Pope Francis arrived in South Sudan after four days in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He landed in the DRC’s capital city of Kinshasa on Jan. 31. During the visit, Francis met the president and prime minister, local authorities, and bishops, priests, and religious.

He also celebrated Mass for more than 1 million of the DRC’s Catholics and held an energetic event with 65,000 young adults and religious education teachers.

In a moving encounter on Feb. 1, Francis embraced victims of violence in eastern Congo, who shared with him their harrowing stories of rape and torture.

During the meeting, children laid down the machetes and knives used to kill their families at the foot of the cross to symbolize their forgiveness.

He praised the African country’s enthusiasm, joy, and missionary zeal in his encounter with Catholic bishops on Feb. 3.

The trip is the 40th international journey of Francis’ pontificate. South Sudan is the 10th country Pope Francis has visited on the African continent.

Pope Francis: Congolese Catholics are ‘a lung’ for the universal Church

Pope Francis met the Catholic bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo on his final day in Kinshasa on Feb. 3, 2023 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 03:20 am (CNA).

The enthusiasm, joy, and missionary zeal of Congolese Catholics give oxygen to the whole Church, Pope Francis said during his final meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday.

“As a Church we need to breathe the pure air of the Gospel, to dispel the tainted air of worldliness, to safeguard the young heart of faith. That is how I imagine the African Church and that is how I see this Congolese Church,” he said during an encounter with the country’s bishops.

Pope Francis met 57 of the 74 current and retired bishops of the DRC at the headquarters of the national bishops’ conference of Congo (CENCO) before heading to the country’s N’djili International Airport for a more than three-hour flight to South Sudan, which he will visit Feb. 3-5.

The pope said during his Jan. 31-Feb. 3 visit he saw the Church in the DRC as “a young, dynamic and joyful Church, motivated by missionary zeal, by the good news that God loves us and that Jesus is Lord.”

“Yours is a Church present in the lived history of this people, deeply rooted in its daily life, and in the forefront of charity,” he told the bishops. “It is a community capable of attracting others, filled with infectious enthusiasm and therefore, like your forests, with plenty of ‘oxygen.’ Thank you, because you are a lung that helps the universal Church breathe!”

According to the Vatican, there are more than 52 million Catholics in the DRC, almost half of the country’s total population of over 105 million people. The country, which covers 905,600 square miles, is divided into 48 Catholic dioceses.

After praising the beautiful features of the Church in the DRC, Pope Francis said he was sorry to have to speak of another side to the bishops’ country.

“Sadly, I know that the Christian community of this land also has another face,” he said. “It is the face of a Church that suffers for its people, a heart in which the life of the people, with its joys and trials, beats anxiously. A Church that is a visible sign of Christ, who even today is rejected, condemned and reviled in the many crucified people of our world; a Church that weeps with their tears, and like Jesus, a Church that also wants to dry those tears.”

He encouraged the bishops to be close to the Lord in prayer in order to be prophets for their people.

Being a bishop, he said, is not about self-sufficiency or exercising a worldly power.

“Above all else, may we never open the door to the spirit of worldliness, for this makes us interpret ministry according to the criteria of our own advantage,” Francis said. “It makes us become cold and detached in administering what is entrusted to us. It leads us to use our role to serve ourselves instead of serving others, and to neglect the one relationship that matters, that of humble and daily prayer.”

“Don’t forget that worldliness is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, the worst thing,” he added.

Bishops, Pope Francis said, “are called, then, to pluck up the poisonous plants of hatred and selfishness, anger, resentment, and violence; to break down the altars erected to money and corruption; to build a coexistence based on justice, truth, and peace; and finally, to plant the seeds of rebirth, so that tomorrow’s Congo will truly be what the Lord dreams of: a blessed and happy land, no longer exploited, oppressed, and drenched in blood.”

The pope urged the Catholic bishops to console their people, and above all, to be “shepherds and servants of the people, not entrepreneurs, not moneymakers.”

“Be witnesses of mercy and reconciliation amid the violence unleashed not only by the exploitation of resources and by ethnic and tribal conflicts, but also and above all by the dark power of the evil one, the enemy of God and humanity,” he said.

Thousands mourn Cardinal Pell at Sydney funeral: ‘Be not afraid’ was his motto 

Cardinal George Pell’s funeral Mass drew thousands of mourners to Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 2, 2023. / Credit: Giovanni Portelli/The Catholic Weekly

Denver, Colo., Feb 2, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The late Cardinal George Pell’s funeral Mass drew thousands of mourners, filling Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral to capacity. 

Civic leaders, friends, and members of Pell’s family remembered the Australian cardinal’s dedication to the Church and the Gospel and his courage in the face of many obstacles, including more than a year in prison before his exoneration.

“George Pell was my brother. He was a prince of the Church. A good and holy man, and a proud Australian,” David Pell said at the cardinal’s funeral Mass Thursday, according to The Catholic Weekly newspaper.

“’Be not afraid’ was George’s motto. These words are mentioned in the Bible 365 times,” Pell’s brother continued. “They are powerful words and need to be remembered by us as we continue the daily struggle.”

Addressing the cardinal, he added: “You have fought the good fight. Help us to accept the battle. Rest in peace.” 

The cardinal died Jan. 10 in Rome at the age of 81 from cardiac arrest following complications during hip surgery.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney celebrated the Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. The four-hour liturgy included a specially composed offertory motet by Sir James MacMillan based on the cardinal’s motto “Be Not Afraid” and the text of Wisdom 3:1–4.

Attending the funeral were 30 bishops, 220 priests, and dozens of seminarians. The congregation included women religious, theologians, Catholic school teachers, and families. Representatives of Catholic agencies and ethnic communities were at the Mass, as were the residents of David’s Place, a community for the homeless and marginalized in Sydney.

Fisher in his homily described his predecessor Pell as a “lion of the Church” who proclaimed the Gospel “shamelessly, vehemently, courageously to the end.”

“He had a big heart, too, strong enough to fight for the faith and endure persecution but soft enough to care for priests, youth, the homeless, prisoners, and imperfect Christians,” the archbishop said.

David Pell described his brother as a “passionate” player of Australian Rules football. 

“He believed in the rule of law, a fair go to all, and in Aussie Rules parlance, he ‘played the ball, and not the man,’” he said. “He may have disagreed with your opinion, but he didn’t disagree with you as a person.”

Pell was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances. His work there won praise and admiration, especially his apparent discovery of $1.5 billion in assets in previously unreported Vatican accounts.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of charges that he had sexually abused two 13-year-old boys after Sunday Mass in Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was convicted in 2018. After 404 days in prison, the cardinal was acquitted in 2020, when Australia’s High Court unanimously overturned Pell’s conviction. 

That same year a Royal Commission report on sexual abuse made public its findings on Pell, including claims that he was aware of sexual abuse by clerics in the 1970s and 80s, and failed to act. Pell rejected the claims as “not supported by evidence.”

He returned to live in Rome later in 2020.

Fisher said the cardinal marked “404 days spent in prison for a crime he did not commit” despite “media, police, and political campaign to punish him whether guilty or no.”

Pell’s brother David said the family “knew that it was not true.”

“We had to be stoic against the relentless campaign to smear George’s life, especially with the youngest members of our family,” he said. 

At the same time, Pell’s brother noted the cardinal’s “magnificent” prison diaries that resulted from his imprisonment. He thanked Catholic and non-Catholic supporters of Pell, including those who had sent more than 4,000 letters of support. Some letters came from Pell’s former fellow prisoners.

“We sympathize with the legitimate victims and are in complete abhorrence of the criminals. Our own family has not been immune to this evil,” David Pell said. It is “simply untrue” to say he lacked sympathy for victims, said Pell’s brother, contending the cardinal was “unjustly convicted for his predecessors’ failings.”

Pell’s brother said he and his family had “no idea of the evil curse that was perpetrated upon the innocent children of unaware parents, by secretive, deviant, and manipulative criminals.” 

He also recalled his brother’s happiness to serve as archbishop of Sydney.

“He was at home here. He loved Sydney, and gauging by the outpouring of love as he laid in state and today, Sydney loved him.”

About 2,000 people arrived at the cathedral’s forecourt to secure a seat inside. Many stayed and took part in Mass even though they could not enter the cathedral.

Leading dignitaries in attendance included former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbot and Peter Dutton, leader of the opposition Liberal Party. Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet both sent representatives.

Abbot spoke at the funeral about Pell’s place in Australia, calling him “one of our greatest sons.” He suggested the late cardinal was “made a scapegoat for the Church itself,” the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported. On Jan. 14. Pope Francis presided over the rite of Final Commendation and Farewell.

About 150 protesters critical of Cardinal Pell and Catholicism gathered outside. Some bore banners saying the cardinal should “burn in hell.” Four or five mourners objected strongly to some protesters and police intervened and arrested one man carrying a rainbow umbrella, The Catholic Weekly reported. 

David Pell said the cardinal was a friend of Pope Francis and was greeted by the pope in the Apostolic Palace after he returned to Rome from prison.

“When he arrived, he was stunned, as he was afforded the complement of a cohort of Swiss guards, something only reserved for visiting heads of state.”

Pope Francis, in a Jan. 11 condolence message, praised Pell’s “dedication to the Gospel and the Church” and noted his work on economic reform of the Holy See.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated a Requiem Mass in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Here’s what Pope Francis said about exploitative mining in the Congo

An artisanal miner carries a sack of ore at the Shabara artisanal mine near Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Oct.12, 2022. / Photo by JUNIOR KANNAH/AFP via Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 2, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

As part of his visit to Africa this week, Pope Francis met Tuesday with civil leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the largest and poorest countries on the continent. Speaking with authorities including President Félix Tshisekedi, the pope denounced the practice of child labor in the country’s many mines, a widespread problem exacerbated by an ever-increasing global demand for cobalt, a vital component of rechargeable batteries. 

“It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation,” Pope Francis said. 

“Situated in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is host to one of the great green lungs of the world, which must be preserved,” he continued. “As with peace and development, also in this area there needs to be an ample and fruitful cooperation that can permit an effective intervention without imposing external models” that are more useful to those who are helping than to those who are being helped.

The rich natural resources of the DRC, including diamonds, have been exploited for centuries, particularly while the Congo was a Belgian colony from 1908 to 1960. In the past few decades, however, the resource in the spotlight has been cobalt, an element that has risen from relative obscurity to global necessity as a vital component of lithium-ion batteries, which today power devices as small as smartphones and as large as electric cars. 

Demand for cobalt has surged as countries in Europe and elsewhere make policy shifts away from fossil fuels and toward the use of electric vehicles. Some electric car makers, such as Tesla and General Motors, have in recent years announced research into the recycling of existing batteries, as well as moves away from lithium-ion batteries toward more environmentally friendly solid-state batteries. But progress has been slow, and the DRC still exports billions of dollars worth of cobalt a year, as well as vast quantities of other metals such as copper. 

Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testifying on July 14, 2022, at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the use of child labor in China-backed cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Screenshot from YouTube video
Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testifying on July 14, 2022, at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the use of child labor in China-backed cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Screenshot from YouTube video

Congolese civil rights attorney Hervé Diakiese Kyungu testified at a July 2022 congressional hearing that children in DRC are often trafficked and exploited because of their small size and mine the cobalt with primitive tools or more often with their bare hands. An estimated 40,000 children work in these mines in DRC. 

The DRC supplies more than 70% of the world’s demand for cobalt. Of that, 15% to 30% is extracted in artisanal mines, meaning they are small-scale operations that use dangerous, primitive methods. Almost all of the cobalt mines in DRC are owned by Chinese companies, and China, which manufactures myriad electronic goods, is the world’s largest importer of cobalt. Even in larger mines with marginally better working conditions, the salaries are small and the work is dangerous.

Father Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, a Catholic priest who has worked to expose child labor and human rights violations in the DRC’s mining sector, testified last year to the dangerous working conditions at the mines. 

“They work seven days a week and more than 12 hours a day,” he said. Using tools like hammers, chisels, and spades, their working conditions are like that of slavery, he said. Injuries are common, and for those who are hurt or become sick, the lack of medical care means “the majority will die due to various untreated illnesses,” he said.

In addition to the toll on the workers in the country’s vast mining operations — which can include illnesses and birth defects — environmental concerns, such as water pollution from the mines, also threaten the Congolese people. 

In his address to Congolese authorities, Pope Francis encouraged those present to undertake a “courageous and inclusive social renewal” to change the mining conditions in the country. 

“The most precious diamonds of these lands are the sons and daughters of this nation; they need to have access to an education that enables them to make their innate talents shine brightly. Education is fundamental: It is the path to the future, the road to take for achieving the complete freedom of this country and of the African continent ... yet many children receive no schooling,” the pope lamented. 

“How many of them, instead of receiving a good education, are exploited! All too many of them die, subjected to servile labor in the mines. No effort should be spared to denounce and finally end the scourge of child labor.”

The topic of mining and exploitation was raised again on Thursday during the pope’s meeting with priests and religious in the Kinshasa Cathedral. A Congolese religious sister, offering testimony to the pope, described her country as “a land of martyrs, murders, and wars entertained and financed from outside.”

The sister told the pope: “Most Blessed Father, despite this picture of multiple injustices, the Congo remains a land blessed by God, a generous, prayer-loving people, filled with vitality and hope, as Your Holiness has surely observed. That is why we are not discouraged, because we believe in the risen Christ.”

Responding to her testimony, Pope Francis said he was reminded “how difficult it is to carry out your mission in a land rich in natural beauty and resources but wounded by exploitation, corruption, violence, and injustice.”

20 attorneys general warn CVS, Walgreens against abortion pills in their states

null / Ken Wolter/Shutterstock and Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

As CVS and Walgreens continue to seek federal approval to sell an abortion drug, 20 attorneys general whose states restrict abortion warned the pharmacy chains against fulfilling mail orders within their states. 

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of mifepristone through pharmacies if the companies receive FDA certification. The drug can be used to abort a preborn child up to 10 weeks of gestation, according to the FDA; however, the World Health Organization has stated it can be used up to 12 weeks of gestation. Walgreens and CVS are both seeking certification to sell the drug but have not yet received approval or begun to sell it.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, several states enacted abortion laws that outright ban abortion in most cases or impose a cutoff earlier than 10 weeks. In these states, the bans often apply to surgical abortion and abortion-inducing drugs. Some states also specifically ban the sale of abortion-inducing drugs through the mail. After CVS and Walgreens expressed their intent to distribute the abortion drug through mail orders, a coalition of 20 attorneys general sent letters to the companies, warning them they cannot sell the drug in their states. 

“As attorney general, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws as written, and that includes enforcing the very laws that protect Missouri’s women and unborn children,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who led the coalition, said in a statement. “My office is doing everything in its power to inform these companies of the law, with the promise that we will use every tool at our disposal to uphold the law if broken.”

The letter states that companies must “keep apprised not only of federal law but also of the laws of the various states.” It adds that these laws reflect a commitment to “protect the lives and dignity of children” and women.

Explaining their concern, the state officials cite research published in 2015 that found that abortion-inducing drugs are nearly six times more likely to cause complications for women than surgical abortions. They also note that abortions performed away from medical professionals carry an added risk. 

In the letter, the attorneys general also caution that mail orders of abortion-inducing drugs “invite the horror of an increase in coerced abortions” because there is no medical oversight and “a person can obtain an abortion pill quite easily and then coerce a woman into taking it.” The attorneys general also expressed the opinion that mailing abortion drugs violates federal law, which is contrary to a Department of Justice opinion issued earlier this year. 

A spokesman for Walgreens told CNA that the company is aware that it may be unable to provide the drug in every location. 

“We are not dispensing mifepristone at this time,” a Walgreens spokesman said. “We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program; however, we fully understand that we may not be able to dispense mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program.”

CNA reached out to CVS for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

Some pro-life groups praised the attorneys general for defending preborn children against the abortion drug within their respective states.

“Ohio Right to Life is thankful for Attorney General Dave Yost and the 19 other attorneys general who united to not only uphold and protect our state laws but also federal law,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a statement. 

“This is what true pro-life leadership looks like, and we are proud to stand behind them,” Gonidakis added.

“Not only is the lackadaisical distribution of mifepristone via the mail illegal per federal law, but it is also extremely dangerous for women,” he said. “We have stated since the very beginning that this FDA approval is nothing short of anti-women and prioritizes a political agenda over medical safety. It is time for the Biden administration to prioritize the health and safety of women and children.”

The Utah-based Sutherland Institute, which promotes religious freedom and family values, also approved of the attorneys general’s actions. Bill Duncan, a religious freedom policy fellow with the institute, told CNA that the letter is an “appropriate exercise of their responsibility.” 

Duncan said Utah’s Legislature passed a bill to prohibit abortions in most circumstances, but the law is currently facing a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood, which he said is claiming “that the Utah Constitution contains an unwritten right to abortion.”

“It seems likely the court will recognize that there is nothing in the Utah Constitution that would preclude the state from enforcing its law,” he said. 

“If these companies provide drugs used to end the lives of unborn children, they would be in violation of the law,” Duncan added. “Each attorney general has responsibility to enforce the laws of the state as well as to prevent violations. This letter is a welcome example of state officials discharging that responsibility.”

In addition to the attorneys general of Missouri, Ohio, and Utah, the other states whose attorneys general signed the letter were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

American tourist desecrates statue of Christ in Catholic church in Jerusalem

On Feb. 2, 2023, a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus at the Church of the Flagellation located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the route that Christ walked to Mount Calvary, where he was crucified. / Youtube post by Father José de Jesús Aguilar

CNA Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

On Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and the Virgin of Candlemas, a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.

The Associated Press reported that the attack occurred at the Church of the Flagellation located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the route that Christ walked to Mount Calvary, where he was crucified.

The suspect in the attack is an American tourist who was detained by Israeli police officers after throwing the image of Christ to the ground. The authorities did not immediately release the man’s name.

As he was arrested, the man shouted, “You can’t have idols in Jerusalem, this is the Holy City!” According to police, he is undergoing psychological evaluation.

Father José de Jesús Aguilar, deputy director of radio and television for the Archdiocese of Mexico, posted a video showing the man’s arrest and deploring what happened.

“Unfortunately today, Brother Francisco Benito, a great friend of the custodians in Jerusalem, sent me an image in which a fanatic threw down a sculpture of Christ in one of the chapels on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem,” the priest explained.

“All the different religious communities seek peace in Jerusalem. On this day, when we remember that Christ is the light of the world, let us pray for his light to shine in Jerusalem and let’s pray for peace there,” the priest said.

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

Bishop Barron says Minnesota’s new abortion law is ‘the worst kind of barbarism’

Bishop Robert Barron spoke out against Minnesota's new abortion law after it passed Jan. 31, 2023. / Credit: Bishop Robert Barron/YouTube

Boston, Mass., Feb 2, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron called a newly passed Minnesota abortion bill that enshrines abortion rights into law “the worst kind of barbarism.”

“I want to share with you my anger, my frustration over this terrible law that was just signed by the governor in Minnesota — the most really extreme abortion law that’s on the books in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” Barron said in a Jan. 31 video on social media following Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s signing of the bill on Tuesday.

The bill, titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrines a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason, as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

“Basically, it eliminates any kind of parental notifications so a 12-year-old child can get an abortion without even telling her parents about it,” Barron said. 

“But the worst thing,” he added, “is it basically permits abortion all the way through pregnancy up to the very end. And indeed, indeed if a child somehow survives a botched abortion, the law now prohibits an attempt to save that child’s life.”

Protection for abortion in the state had preexisted the new law because the state’s Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 decision Doe v. Gomez that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. Several restrictions to abortion in the state have also been ruled unconstitutional in the courts in prior years, the AP reported. Sponsors of the bill supported it because they wanted abortion protections in law, despite the political leaning of future appointed justices, the AP reported.

Pro-life advocates fiercely opposed the bill, as it gained national attention and underwent several hours of debate in the state Senate. The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the legislation “the most extreme bill in the country.” 

Barron said that “I don’t know why this is really debated anymore in our country, but this strikes me as just the worst kind of barbarism. And in the name of, I don’t know, subjectivity, and freedom, and choice and all this, we’re accepting this kind of brutality.”

Barron’s condemnation of the law echoes that of the Minnesota bishops who raised their voices against it before its passage. 

The states’ bishops wrote in a Jan. 26 statement: “To assert such unlimited autonomy is to usurp a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Authorizing a general license to make and take life at our whim will unleash a host of social and spiritual consequences with which we as a community will have to reckon.”

In his video, Barron added: “What strikes me is this: If a child is born and now a day old, or two days old and resting peacefully in his bassinet and someone broke into the house and with a knife killed the child and dismembered him, well, the whole country would rise up in righteous indignation.”

“But yet, that same thing can happen with complete impunity as the child is in his mother’s womb about to be born. Again, I just think this is so beyond the pale and that we’ve so lost our way on this issue,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was no possibility of blocking the now-enacted legislation, but said that “we can certainly keep raising our voices in protest.”

“We can keep praying for an end to this barbaric regime in our country,” he said.

Pope Francis on World Day for Consecrated Life: Religious have ‘special role’ in the Church

Pope Francis greets the crowd at his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 12:23 pm (CNA).

On the 27th World Day for Consecrated Life, Pope Francis recalled the special role religious brothers and sisters have in the Catholic Church.

“In the People of God, sent to bring the Gospel to all people, you consecrated men and women have a special role,” the pope said in a written message for Feb. 2.

This special role, he continued, stems “from the special gift you have received: a gift that gives your witness a special character and value, by the very fact that you are wholly dedicated to God and his kingdom, in poverty, virginity, and obedience.”

Pope Francis’ message was read at the beginning of a Mass for consecrated men and women in Rome’s St. Mary Major Basilica on Feb. 2.

Pope Francis usually celebrates a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the World Day for Consecrated Life but was unable to do so this year because the day fell in the middle of his Jan. 31–Feb. 5 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

The Feb. 2 Mass in St. Mary Major was celebrated by the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Consecrated Life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, who read the pope’s message to those present.

“When you hear this message from me, I will be on mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I know that I will be accompanied by your prayers,” the pope said. “In turn, I want to assure you of mine for the mission of each of you and your communities.”

“All of us together are members of the Church,” he continued, “and the Church is in mission from the first day, sent by the Risen Lord, and will be so until the last, by the power of his Spirit.”

The theme of the 2023 World Day for Consecrated Life is “Brothers and Sisters in Mission.”

The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day for Consecrated Life every year on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas or the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The day of prayer was established by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

In his message, Pope Francis said the mission of consecrated men and women is enriched by the unique charisms of their communities, in addition to the fundamental gift they have each received.

“In their stupendous variety, [charisms] are all given for the edification of the Church and for its mission,” he said. “All charisms are for mission, and they are precisely so with the incalculable richness of their variety; so that the Church can witness and proclaim the Gospel to all and in every situation.”

He prayed that the Virgin Mary would obtain for consecrated men and women the grace to bring the light of Christ’s love to all people. He also entrusted them to Mary “Salus Populi Romani,” the title of a Byzantine Marian icon housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Carballo, who is a religious in the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, said “we want, especially on this day, to say our thanks to the Lord and, using the words of Mary, the consecrated woman par excellence, sing our Magnificat to him who is the Good, the All Good, the Supreme Good.”

God, he said, “has made us sharers in a beautiful inheritance and a mission no less beautiful: that of representing in us the historical form of the obedient, poor, and chaste Jesus.”

“Let a song of thanksgiving rise from our lips and from our hearts, today and always, because Jesus has bent over our littleness and has given us the grace to follow him in the various forms of consecrated life, despite our littleness,” he said.