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Archbishop of Washington prays for COVID victims at Lincoln Memorial

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington prayed for all victims of the COVID-19 pandemic at a national memorial service on Tuesday evening.


“We turn to the Lord of all to receive these, our sisters and brothers, into eternal peace, and to comfort all those who grieve the loss of a loved one,” Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. prayed at the at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., appearing alongside President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.


“We do so not as strangers or disinterested persons, but as fellow citizens who share some limited portion of their grief and sorrow,” Cardinal Gregory said of the prayer.

Gregory delivered the invocation at the Nationwide COVID-19 Memorial service on Tuesday evening, held on the eve of the 2021 Inauguration Day. More than 400,000 Americans have died from the COVID-19 pandemic since it began.


“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” President-elect Joe Biden stated in front of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. “It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”


Tuesday’s service also featured a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Lori Marie Key, a 29 year-old nurse who worked in the COVID-19 unit at her hospital at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System; she appeared in a viral video earlier in 2020 singing “Amazing Grace” while at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan.


Biden’s remarks were followed by a lighting around the Reflecting Pool. According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, cities from around the U.S. joined in unity, lighting up prominent landmarks.


Cardinal Gregory mentioned the special pain of family and friends of COVID victims, who could not have a proper funeral for them due to restrictions on public gatherings.


“We pray for the countless families and relatives who had to surrender their loved ones without the comfort and the consolation of a familiar funeral ritual, according to their religious traditions or selection,” Cardinal Gregory prayed.


“May our prayer this evening serve as a small expression of our national desire to comfort and strengthen those who have endured the loss of a loved one to this pandemic, and may it be a resounding gesture of gratitude for all those who have cared for the victims of this virus, and their loved ones,” he said.


Biden, a Catholic, has reportedly invited congressional leaders to attend a service with him at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in D.C. on Wednesday morning.


Vatican cardinal: Synodality is a vital tool in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Strengthening synodality is “the most important contribution” that the Catholic Church can make to ecumenical dialogue, especially dialogue with the Orthodox, a Vatican cardinal has said.

Writing in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Jan. 18, Cardinal Kurt Koch said: “Theological and pastoral efforts to build a synodal Church have a profound effect on ecumenism, as Pope Francis emphasizes with the basic principle of ecumenical dialogue, which consists in the exchange of gifts, thanks to which we can learn from each other.”

Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that “the synodal tradition of Christianity includes a rich heritage that should be revitalized.” The cardinal’s essay was published at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place on Jan. 18-25.

He welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to hold a Synod of Bishops in 2022 on the theme of synodality.

“This synod will not only be an important event in the Catholic Church, but it will contain a significant ecumenical message, since synodality is an issue that also moves ecumenism, and moves it in depth,” he explained.

He pointed to the 2007 “Declaration of Ravenna,” in which Catholic and Orthodox theologians agreed that the bishop of Rome was the “protos,” or first among patriarchs, before the separation of East and West.

According to the Swiss cardinal, this was an immensely important step in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

“The fact that the two dialogue partners were able to declare together for the first time that the Church is structured synodally at all levels and therefore also at the universal level, and that she needs a protos is an important milestone in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue,” he said.

For this step to bear fruit in the future, Koch argued, it is necessary to deepen the relationship between synodality and primacy.

“It is not about reaching a compromise on the lowest common denominator. Rather, the respective strengths of the two ecclesial communities should be brought in,” he said. 

Koch pointed to a recommendation made by one Orthodox-Catholic working group that “the Churches must strive above all to achieve a better balance between synodality and primacy at all levels of ecclesial life, through the strengthening of synodal structures in the Catholic Church and through the acceptance by the Orthodox Church of a certain type of primacy within the world communion of Churches.”

The cardinal emphasized that “there must be a willingness to learn on both sides.” 

He said that the Catholic Church “must recognize that in her life and in her ecclesial structures she has not yet developed that degree of synodality which would be theologically possible and necessary” and that “a credible link between the hierarchical and the synodal-community principles would favor the advancement of ecumenical dialogue with orthodoxy.”

“The strengthening of synodality must undoubtedly be considered as the most important contribution that the Catholic Church can make to the ecumenical recognition of primacy,” he said.

On the Orthodox side, Koch said, “we can instead expect that, in ecumenical dialogue, they will come to recognize that primacy at the universal level is not only possible and theologically legitimate, but also necessary.”

The cardinal suggested that intra-Orthodox tensions showed the need for a “ministry of unity also at the universal level of the Church” not limited to “a simple honorary primacy” but with legal elements.

“We Catholics consider the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as a gift from the Lord to his Church and, therefore, also as an offering to all of Christianity on the path of rediscovering unity and life in unity,” Koch wrote.

Report: Joe Biden set to promptly reverse pro-life policies

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President-elect Joe Biden is expected to promptly roll back pro-life policies the Trump administration put in place, NBC News reported on Monday. 


Biden, who will become the second Roman Catholic president when he is sworn in to office on Jan. 20, is believed to be seeking to repeal the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule and the expanded Mexico City Policy.


The Protect Life Rule prevents organizations which perform or refer for abortions from receiving Title X family planning funds. It effectively stripped Planned Parenthood of approximately $60 million annually in federal funding. 


The Mexico City Policy prohibits federal funding of international non-governmental organizations which promote abortion as a method of family planning.


Biden is also expected to address the contraceptive mandate, and he has previously pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment and codify Roe v. Wade into law; the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for elective abortions in Medicaid. 


Those actions, however, would depend upon Congress passing legislation.


Biden had previously supported the Hyde Amendment during his time in the Senate. Over the course of a 24-hour period in June 2019, however, he changed course amid pressure from pro-abortion groups and announced that he favored repealing the policy.


Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took credit for Biden’s abrupt about-face on the Hyde Amendment. 


Newly sworn-in presidents traditionally either rescind or reinstate some form of the Mexico City Policy. The first iteration of the policy was in 1984. It was rescinded in Jan., 1993 by President Bill Clinton, reinstated in Jan., 2001 by President George W. Bush, rescinded again in Jan., 2009 by President Barack Obama, and reinstated by President Donald Trump in 2017. 


Shortly after he reinstated the policy, the Trump administration expanded it to encompass more than $8 billion in global health assistance and not just funds earmarked for family planning programs. 


Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, said it was “tremendously exciting” that her organization has “champions (in the administration) who understand what needs to happen in the first 100 days.” 


Biden, who invited leaders in Congress to church on the morning of his inauguration, expressed dismay when the Supreme Court sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their court battle against the contraceptive mandate. 


He pledged to reinstate Obama-era policies requiring the sisters to ensure access to birth control in their employee health plans, in violation of their religious beliefs.

Pope Francis to Venezuelan clergy: Serve with ‘joy and determination’ amid pandemic

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2021 / 08:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message on Tuesday encouraging priests and bishops in their ministry during the coronavirus pandemic and reminding them of two principles which he said would “guarantee the growth of the Church.”

“I would like to point out to you two principles that should never be lost sight of and which guarantee the growth of the Church, if we are faithful: love of neighbor and service to one another,” Pope Francis said in a video message to a meeting of priests and bishops in Venezuela on Jan. 19.

“These two principles are anchored in two sacraments that Jesus institutes at the Last Supper, and which are the foundation, so to speak, of his message: the Eucharist, to teach love, and the washing of the feet, to teach service. Love and service together, otherwise it won’t work.”

In the video, sent to the virtual two-day meeting focused on priestly ministry during the coronavirus crisis, the pope encouraged priests and bishops to minister to “renew the gift of yourselves to the Lord and to his holy people” during the pandemic.

The meeting, organized by the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, is taking place a week and a half after Venezuelan Bishop Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje of Trujillo died of COVID-19 at the age of 69.

Pope Francis said that the virtual meeting was an opportunity for priests and bishops “to share, in a spirit of fraternal ministry, your priestly experiences, your labors, your uncertainties, as well as your yearnings and your conviction to carry on the work of the Church, which is the work of the Lord.”

“In these difficult moments, the passage from the Gospel of Mark comes to mind (Mark 6: 30-31), which tells how the Apostles, on their return from the mission to which Jesus had sent them, gathered around him. They told him all they had done, everything they had taught and then Jesus invited them to go, alone with Him, to a deserted place to rest for a while.”

He commented: “It is essential that we always return to Jesus, with whom we gather in sacramental fraternity to tell him and to tell each other ‘all that we have done and taught’ with the conviction that it is not our work, but that of God. It is he who saves us; we are only instruments in his hands.”

The pope invited priests to continue their ministry during the pandemic with “joy and determination.”

“This is what the Lord wants: experts in the task of loving others and capable of showing them, in the simplicity of small daily gestures of affection and attention, the caress of divine tenderness,” he said.

“Do not be divided, brothers,” he urged the priests and bishops, warning them against the temptation of having “an attitude of a sectarian heart, outside the unity of the Church” amid the isolation caused by the pandemic.

Pope Francis asked the Venezuelan clergy to revive their “desire to imitate the Good Shepherd, and to learn to be servants of all, in particular of the less fortunate and often discarded brothers and sisters, and to ensure that, in this time of crisis, all feel accompanied, supported, loved.”

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the archbishop emeritus of Caracas, said earlier this month that the pandemic had exacerbated Venezuela’s already severe economic, social, and political problems.

Inflation in Venezuela surpassed 10 million percent in 2020, and many Venezuelans’ monthly salaries cannot cover the cost of a gallon of milk. More than three million Venezuelans have left the country in the last three years, many of them on foot.

“The political, economic and social situation continues to be very bad, with runaway inflation and extremely high devaluation, which make us all increasingly poor,” Urosa wrote on Jan. 4. 

“The outlook is bleak because this government has not been able to solve the problems of ordinary administration, nor guarantee the fundamental rights of the people, especially to life, food, health, and transportation.” 

But the Venezuelan cardinal also stressed that “even in the midst of the pandemic, of economic, social and political problems, in the midst of negative personal circumstances that some of us may suffer, God is with us.”

Pope Francis thanked the Venezuelan priests and bishops for their service during the pandemic.

“With gratitude, I assure my closeness and my prayers to all of you who carry out the mission of the Church in Venezuela, in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the numerous initiatives of charity towards brothers exhausted by poverty and the health crisis. I entrust you all to the intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto and of St. Joseph,” the pope said.

Pope Francis praises Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘timely’ message of peace

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2021 / 10:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said on Monday that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream “of harmony and equality for all people” is still relevant today.

“In today’s world, which increasingly faces the challenges of social injustice, division and conflict that hinder the realization of the common good, Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains ever timely,” the pope said on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In a message addressed to King’s daughter, Bernice A. King, Francis said that it was imperative to see people “in the truth of our shared dignity as children of Almighty God.”

“Only by striving daily to put this vision into practice can we work together to create a community built upon justice and fraternal love,” he said, praying for “divine blessings of wisdom and peace” upon participants in the Beloved Community Commemorative Service, marking MLK Day.

Hosted by The King Center, the streamed service on Jan. 18 featured as a keynote speaker T.D. Jakes, bishop of The Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas, Texas.

Quoting his 2020 encyclicalFratelli tutti,” the pope said that “each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths of dialogue.”


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On Dr. King's birthday, @Pontifex blessed our 20-21 MLK Nike City Edition jersey to honor our shared commitment to making positive change in social equality, economic empowerment and love.


— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 15, 2021  

Last week, Pope Francis blessed a special MLK jersey of the NBA basketball team the Atlanta Hawks. The uniform features the initials “MLK” across the front in honor of King, who was born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929.

The Hawks will wear the special edition uniform when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 18.

The jersey sent to the pope had a number one and “Francis” written across the back. After blessing the shirt, the pope also signed it.

The Atlanta Hawks wrote on Twitter that the jersey was in honor of their “commitment to making positive change in social equality, economic empowerment and love.”

Bernice King told Vatican News in June 2020 that she felt a strong sense of harmony between her father and Pope Francis, whom she met twice in 2018.

She said that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he “would be guided by his philosophy of nonviolence, which corresponded with his following of Jesus Christ.”

“He would, as he often did while he was living, share that we cannot cure violence with violence, which he said is a descending spiral. Of course, I believe he would compel us to embrace nonviolence, which is strategic, courageous, love-centered and organized,” she said.

Volunteering With Farmer to Farmer—A Family Affair

by Ryan Ringuette Volunteering has (accidentally) become my family’s tradition. Both my father and mother are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (Morocco and Nepal), and both my sister and I are current Peace Corps Volunteers (Paraguay and Uganda). Additionally, my recently retired father volunteers with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program (F2F). F2F leverages the expertise of US […]

Prayers for Peru

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Peru as they endure hardships brought about by heavy rains, flooding and mudslides. Light a candle and join us in prayer at the CRS Virtual Votive Chapel.         There are significant needs in the Diocese of Chulucanas (Province of Piura)—made worse by the continuing rain. A […]

The Visual Aids of Salvation

By The Most Rev. Thomas Wenski Editor’s Note: At the recent meeting of the CRS Board of Directors—the USCCB-appointed group of bishops, religious, and laity tasked with governing and supporting the work of CRS—Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Miami) celebrated mass for his fellow bishops, board members and CRS staff.  What follows is his homily.  The “Charmaine” he […]

A Critical and Sacred Mission

Friends, Never has the Catholic Relief Services mission been more critical to Americans and, particularly, to American Catholics. As I assume the leadership of CRS, it is a time of great uncertainty in our country and around the world. More families than ever are displaced from their homes; there is greater and greater inequality in […]

May Blessings Overflow

Dear Friend, It was 5 years ago that we began this conversation, and now, this marks my last letter to you as president of Catholic Relief Services. Thank you for joining CRS to rebuild livelihoods, restore hope and make God’s promises real for many who have lost much. You have given me energy and inspiration […]