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Catholic University of America offers coronavirus tuition adjustments

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- As the coronavirus pandemic limits class schedules and sizes, the Catholic University of America announced its plan to return to some students a portion of their tuition for the upcoming semester.

John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., noted the adjustments for the fall 2020 semester.

“Last May, we committed to fully reopening our campus at the earliest possible opportunity. Since that time we have been carefully gauging the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said July 31.

“I am very sorry to report that developments in public health conditions over the past few weeks have forced us to conclude that it is simply too early to bring everyone back to campus.”

When classes begin in August, the number of students who may reside on campus will be limited to freshman and transfers students with fewer than 30 college credits. As required by the District of Columbia, students arriving on campus from one of the 27 states designated as “high risk” will be required to quarantine for 14 days. The university’s orientation and the first two weeks of classes will then be held online to comply with the requirements.

A majority of sophomore, junior, and senior students are not permitted to live on campus but will instead conduct all of their classes online. Exceptions will be made for some international students, residents assistants, and students who are unable to pursue studies at their permanent address.

“I understand this is disappointing news, because it is disappointing to us. But the large and sustained increase in infections nationwide poses a serious risk that we will be unable to provide the care necessary for a full complement of our student population,” said Garvey.

“We remain confident that we can attend properly to a smaller cohort, while providing our freshmen with the best possible transition to college.”

The CUA president issued a statement Aug. 3 outlining the refunds and tuition decreases that will be provided to those students who will not attend the university as they expected.

Students will receive a 10% refund for this semester’s tuition costs if they planned to attend at least some of their classes in-person and are now forced to attend these classes online. There is no tuition reduction for classes that are traditionally taken online.

Also, those students who planned to stay on campus but are no longer eligible will receive a full refund for on-campus room and board. The students off-campus who purchased a meal plan will have that plan honored and additional dining plans will be available for these students.

The refunds will be processed around the time that the semester begins, Aug. 17. Students who wish to roll over their credit balance for the spring semester should notify Enrollment Services.

Garvey also encouraged students struggling financially under the pandemic to reach out to the school to see about other financial opportunities.

“Finally, undergraduate students who have suffered economic distress specifically related to the pandemic are encouraged to appeal for additional financial assistance. Through the generosity of University benefactors, the Office of Student Financial Assistance continues to make one-time emergency tuition grants to students directly impacted by the pandemic.”

Garvey said the university will continue to monitor the situation of coronavirus at the school and determine when more in-person courses and other activities may begin. He said the university will continue to follow CDC and D.C. guidelines, and applauded the efforts the school has taken to keep everyone safe.

“Let me offer my thanks to each of our students, our faculty and staff, and our community of parents and alumni. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked together to deal with this crisis,” he said.

“It’s worth repeating that this is a disappointment for all of us. But it is only a temporary one. We will continue moving forward through this pandemic together.”

Transcript of EWTN News Nightly interview with President Donald Trump

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- EWTN News Nightly’s lead anchor Tracy Sabol conducted a White House interview with President Donald Trump Aug. 4. Below is a transcript of that interview provided by EWTN News Nightly.

EWTN News Nightly said it has also reached out for an interview to Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News.

 



Tracy Sabol: Thank you so much, Mr. President, for speaking with us today. We appreciate it.

President Trump: Thank you.

Tracy Sabol: We have a lot to get to. But I first want to talk about the economy. Where we are right now, of course, we're starting with another round of stimulus. Can you talk about that and what's needed for Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle?

President Trump: So we had the greatest economy in the history of the world, not only in our country, in every country. We were beating China, beating everybody. They were having the worst economy they've had in over 67 years. So we were doing with the tariffs and all the things that I was doing. And then we had to close it up. It came from China. They should have stopped it. They could have stopped it, but they didn't. They stopped it from going into their country, but they didn't stop it from here, Europe, or the rest of the world. And we had to close it up and we did that. And now we're coming back and we're doing stimulus. We've already done it, as you know, very successfully. And we'll probably have something worked out. We'll see what happens. The problem with the Democrats, as you know, they want bailout money for their states and cities that have done so poorly under Democrat leadership. And I'm not happy with that. It's not appropriate. This is having to do with the corona, I call it the "China-virus." And so I think we're doing very well. We had the best job numbers we've ever had, percentage-wise. You take a look at what happened, [indiscernible] close to seven million jobs over the last two months. New numbers are going to be coming out very soon. We're back. We're doing very well. I think next year is going to be one of the best years we've ever had. And it looks very, very strong.

Tracy Sabol: Looking forward to the third quarter: How do you anticipate that looking?

President Trump: I think the third quarter is going to be good. I think it's going to be good. I think the fourth quarter is going to be very, very good. But we're just coming out of something that we had no choice. We saved millions of lives by closing. If we didn't close it up, you would have lost millions of lives. And by closing it, I mean, we've done a really good job. The ban on China was very important. We banned people coming in, highly infected, and we banned people from coming in from China and then from Europe. We did the ban on Europe, very important. It really, I think, is going to be, I think we're going to have a very special economy in about...for next year. But I think third quarter actually is going to be very good.

Tracy Sabol: A lot of things shut down, including churches. Let's talk about that and the importance of reopening churches. I know you've talked about that.

President Trump: I think they should open the churches. It's up to the governors. But, I think, and I’m recommending it, you open the churches. They'll spread, they'll be socially spread, they'll have masks and they'll do what they have to do, you know, the hygiene and everything else that we know. It's a very simple list, but I think it's very unfair that they have-- I saw Jim Jordan the other day talking about it very well, that they have 50,000 people protesting and they're standing on top of each other practically, and yet you're not allowed to go to church. You don't go to schools. We want to open our churches. We want to open our schools. And everybody wants to be safe. They know what to do. They'll stay away. And, you know, we'll be the same way. Maybe you'll have an extra service or two or three. But they have to let the churches open. They want to put, the Democrats want to put them out of business. They want to put the churches out of business. And it's very unfair. So they don't complain about the protests, which are horrible in many cases. You look at Portland, it's a disaster, but they don't want the churches open, they don't want the schools open, they don't want offices open. So it's a very, very unfair situation to a lot of people.

Tracy Sabol: Mr. President, is there a way to deem churches as essential businesses? How can we do that?

President Trump: I am looking at that because I think it's enough already. You have some states, I think they never want them open. They don't want churches open. Look, the Democrats, frankly, if you look at the radical left, Democrats, which are radical left now, they've gone radical left. Whether you're talking about life or whether you're talking about almost anything, they're not liking it. They're not liking it.

Tracy Sabol: I know that you've heard about the vandalism, the horrific vandalism. Many, many churches have been vandalized over the past recent weeks. When you heard about that, what did you think?

President Trump: I think it's a disgrace. And I think it's partially because they're not allowed to function, they're not allowed to really function. And I think it's disgraceful that it can happen. And, you know, they want to defund the police. They want to stop the police. They want to have them at least to a minimum. And we're just the opposite. I just got endorsed by Texas law enforcement, by Florida, all of the sheriffs and the law enforcement. I think, I can't imagine them ever, I can't imagine law enforcement ever endorsing Biden. He's got a hard time in a lot of ways, let's face it, but I can't imagine that ever happening. So we just about have everybody endorsing us in terms of law enforcement. And, you know, with the churches, you need some law enforcement to help you out also. But it's the fact that they're closed and they you know, bad things happen when they're closed. It's a very terrible situation, what they're doing to churches and these are governors that are radical left or Democrat, it's almost becoming the same thing. And I don't think they want churches open.

Tracy Sabol: What can be done to stop this vandalism? What do you think?

President Trump: Well, what you need is you need the law enforcement. It's areas usually run by radical left Democrats. I mean, where you have Republican leadership, where you have Republican governors and mayors, you don't have this problem. You have this problem where you have radical left Democrats in virtually every instance. So what you have to do is elect Republicans. And if you had a Republican, as an example, if Biden got in, you'd have Portland all over our country. It would be like Portland. These people are agitators. They're anarchists. You'd have that all over our country. You know, we stopped it, we stepped in and a lot of people said we were early. Well, let us let us be early. Better early than late. But we did a good job there. We did a great job in Seattle that would have been burned to the ground, frankly. But with Portland, and we didn't do our big job, we did a much smaller job. We had to protect our building, and our buildings, actually, a number of buildings. But the courthouse would have been burned down. The courthouse would have been destroyed if we didn't step in. People said, "Oh, we went early." Well, if we didn't go then, the courthouse would have been destroyed because Seattle was not protecting it. So you would have that situation all over the United States. And that's unacceptable.

Tracy Sabol: And, Mr. President, on top of mind for a lot of parents, including myself: the reopening of schools. I know you just tweeted about that. Can you talk about that?

President Trump: I want the schools open. First of all, children are unbelievably strong, right? Their immune system. Something's going on because out of thousands of deaths in New Jersey, thousands, because I just saw the statistics, many thousands of people died, one person under the age of 18. And that was a person I believe had diabetes on top of everything. So children just are, I guess I heard one doctor say, virtually they're immune from it. They have a strong, they have a very strong something, and they are not affected. And we have to open our schools. You know, there's a big danger to keeping people locked in. And they're also finding it's wonderful to use computers, but it's not a great way of learning. They now know that it's much better to be with a teacher on campus or in a school, that's much better than looking at a computer all day long. So we have to get our schools open. We have to get them open soon.

Tracy Sabol: And if there was one message you wanted to say to our viewers, what would it be right now?

President Trump: Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump when it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things, these people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment, because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. So I saved the Second Amendment. If I wasn't here, you wouldn't have a Second Amendment. And pro-life is your big thing and you won't be on that side of the issue, I guarantee, if the radical left, because they're going to take over, they're going to push him around like he was nothing.

Tracy Sabol: Well, thank you so much, Mr. President, for the time today.

 

Maronite Catholic priest concerned by potential shortages after Beirut blast

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Maronite priest from Lebanon has expressed concern that the country may face food shortages in the wake of Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut’s port.

The explosion “happened at the biggest docks in Lebanon and they also have big reservoirs of wheat, the central reservoirs are there, and these have gone, have gone to ashes. That's another tragedy in the making because they will have shortages,” Fr. Maxim Baz, who is serving in Rome, told CNA Aug. 4.

The blast killed at least 50, and injured thousands more. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosions, but investigators believe they may have started with a fire in a warehouse that stored explosive materials. Lebanon’s security service warned against speculations of terrorism before investigators could assess the situation.

Fr. Baz said that “the most important thing is for people to pray for everybody who has been hurt in Lebanon.”

He said his country “has been undergoing for the past decades one tragedy after another, really suffering in silence,” citing a financial crisis, the coronavirus, and the civil war of 1975-90.

“It seems that this country is just trying to come out of the darkness and every time it does it receives another blow,” he lamented.

“A Catholic is always close to those who suffer. That's the distinctive trait of a Catholic and that is a distinctive trait of the Church,” Fr. Baz noted. “Wherever there is suffering, or wherever there is extreme, extreme vulnerability, there the Church is because there God is, actually. So a Catholic can not not be there, at least with their hearts, with their prayers, with their moral support.”

The explosion ignited fires and destroyed buildings in the city’s port area, caused damage across the city, and has flooded hospitals with casualties.

The Custody of the Holy Land tweeted showing damage to its monastery in Beirut, adding that none of its friars were injured and urging prayer for Lebanon.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Footage from our monastery in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Beirut?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Beirut</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lebanon?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Lebanon</a> after the explosion occurred in that area. <br><br>No one of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Franciscans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Franciscans</a> living there were injured. <br><br>Let us pray for Lebanon. <a href="https://t.co/GpFZgM5mUA">pic.twitter.com/GpFZgM5mUA</a></p>&mdash; Custodia Terrae Sanctae (@custodiaTS) <a href="https://twitter.com/custodiaTS/status/1290716481014112264?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 4, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Raymond Nader, a Maronite in Lebanon, told CNA: “I just ask for prayers now from everyone around the world. We badly need prayers.”

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.

Boston archdiocese pushes back after Trump says Boston bomber ‘deserves death’

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 02:35 pm (CNA).-  

After President Donald Trump said Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, perpetrator of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, should be put to death, the Archdiocese of Boston said justice calls for life in prison, not the death penalty.

 “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice,” in Tsarnaev’s case, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said.

“The incomprehensible suffering of so many caused by this heinous crime should appropriately be met with a sentence of imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole,” Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, told CNA Tuesday.

Donilon also acknowledged that the ongoing Tsarnaev appeal “has brought considerable further pain to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Marathon bombing and all the victims of that deliberate attack on innocent people.”

Remarks from the archdiocese came after Trump on Sunday tweeted that “rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

“The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand.” the president added.

 

....and ruined. The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand. Also, it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2020 Tsarnaev, 27, was in April 2015 convicted of using pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure nearly 300 more during the 2013 Boston marathon. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, perpetrated the bombing along with him, but was killed by police during the ensuing manhunt.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated by a federal appeals court July 30, because of concerns about juror impartiality. A new sentencing phase, with a new jury, has been ordered.

In his Aug. 2 tweets, the president noted that the court had said the Boston bombing was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the September 11, 2001 bombings, and said “it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!”

During Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, opposed the possibility of Tsarnaev’s execution.

“The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,” the bishops said in a statement.

“The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God. As Pope Francis has recently stated, ‘[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.’”

In a June interview, Trump said that he is “totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is.”

Earlier this summer, the federal government resumed the execution of prisoners condemned to death, after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders said.

On Tuesday, the Boston archdiocese told CNA it would pursue peace after the violence of the Boston bombings.

“We will continue to honor the memory of Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, Lü Lingzi, Sean A. Collier and Dennis Simmonds and the hundreds who suffered devastating injuries by a renewed commitment to root out violence and evil in our society by way of solidarity with Jesus’ call to love one another.”

 

Explosion in Beirut adds suffering to Lebanon's dire situation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters

By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Hospitals in the Lebanese capital are overwhelmed with those suffering injuries from a massive explosion in Beirut's port, causing widespread damage the city and rocking the tiny Mediterranean nation already devastated by the coronavirus and its worst financial crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

"People won't be able to rebuild their homes, businesses, livelihoods. There are reports of hospitals turning away patients because they don't have the capacity," said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher with Human Rights Watch.

"Even before this blast, there have been shortages of medical equipment, protective gear. The health care capacity was already overstretched. I don't know how hospitals are going to be able to handle these additional injuries," she added. Initial reports say the explosion was caused by highly explosive materials seized from a ship stored at the port.

Lebanon's dire economic crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is pushing people into a struggle for survival, Catholic and other humanitarian agencies warn, as growing numbers of families can no longer afford the basic food, electricity, hygiene, water and cooking fuel needed to live. On top of that, power cuts last up to 20 hours a day.

With Lebanon's currency collapse by 80% of its value since last October, spiraling inflation and unemployment running about 55%, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission's Michel Constantin explained that Lebanon does not have a social safety net, but the Catholic Church is reaching out to help the destitute.

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA/Pontifical Mission works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to address pastoral needs and deliver humanitarian aid.

"People have lost their jobs, are stuck at home with no employment and are getting hungry. We are distributing food, life-saving items such as medicines, food and milk for children for families who have lost jobs. Not to fight poverty, but to save lives," Constantin told Catholic News Service by phone from Beirut.

"This crisis hits everybody -- Lebanese families, Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike. We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year," warned Jad Sakr, acting country director of Save the Children in Lebanon.

A recent report by the U.N. World Food Program said 50% of Lebanese citizens -- along with 63 percent of Palestinians and 75 percent of Syrians in the country -- had expressed doubts they would find enough food over the previous month.

For many Lebanese, aspects of the COVID-19 crisis also recall painful memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, said American Emily Redfern volunteering with Fratelli Project, supported by CNEWA/Pontifical Mission and a partner reaching those in need.

"If we offer a choice between hygiene or food boxes the families will all choose food ... every time," Redfern explained. Speaking of the head of a household in one family she said, "He's too proud to accept help, it's a good thing his wife is not, otherwise I don't know how they would be eating."

"CNEWA/Pontifical Mission made an appeal in New York in coordination and partnership with the Oriental Congregation in the name of the pope for the victims of COVID-19 in our area (Mideast)," Constantin said.

He said the agency was choosing to help "the poorest of the poor, not the disadvantaged, but the ones one who cannot make it alone. Our partners have screened those in extreme need of life-saving items," Constantin said of his group's operations, based in Beirut, but covering Syria, Iraq and Egypt in addition to Lebanon.

So far, donations of about $500,000 have been received and are being used in all four countries struggling from coronavirus outbreaks; those countries also have conflict, economic woes, and are housing refugees from regional wars.

CNEWA/Pontifical Mission's Constantin said he and nine others are also serving on a crisis cell team under the leadership of Lebanon's top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch. Team members help the church to better "identify and prioritize needs," while appealing for assistance from Lebanese in the diaspora, foreign governments as well as Catholic and international nongovernmental organizations.

"We have created a network in Lebanon to help families in need and keep any family from dying of hunger," Cardinal Rai told Vatican Radio recently. "Half of the Lebanese population lives without the food they need, and many are out of work."

Caritas Lebanon, St. Vincent de Paul and other institutions as well as parishes are part of this cooperative network.

Rita Rhayem, who directs Caritas Lebanon, warned that the international community has largely remained silent as organizations struggle to aid not only Lebanese, but also Syrian refugees and migrant workers.

Caritas helps provide housing assistance and food to refugees and shelter to foreign domestic workers evicted by employers who can no longer afford their services, but the Catholic humanitarian agency also must seek resources for this aid.

"The last couple of months have been really challenging for Caritas Lebanon: The number of beneficiaries has tripled while the people who used to support us can no longer do so," Rhayem told a July news conference presenting Caritas Internationalis' annual report in Rome.

 

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Chinese bishop denies government has plans to demolish cathedral

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- A Catholic bishop in China has denied that the government plans to tear down his cathedral, after local Catholics expressed concern at Communist authorities taking over land belonging to the diocese.

Bishop Anthony Dang Minyan of the Diocese of Xi’an, which is located in the province of Shaanxi, reassured local Catholics this week that there are no plans to demolish St. Francis Cathedral, and that the building is in fact a “provincial heritage.”

The cathedral dates back to the early 18th century, when it was constructed by Italian missionaries. 

Reports of plans to destroy the historic church circulated on Chinese social media after it emerged that local government officials intend to seize Church lands on either side of the cathedral. Houses rented on the land, purchased by the previous bishop, Anthony Li Du'an, are key source of income for the local Church. The houses are set to be demolished to create a public park.

UCA News reported August 4 that Bishop Dang issued the clarification to stop Catholics protesting against a non-existent plan to demolish the cathedral.

"We are in contact with the government. They want to beautify the streets to upgrade the city's image. We are negotiating with the government to see how we can cooperate with the move," the bishop told UCA.

In response to the rumors, some Catholics had gathered to protest in front of the cathedral with signs begging the government not tear the building down. 

Bishop Dang has led the Diocese of Xi'an since 2006. He previously served as auxiliary bishop in the diocese, having been consecrated a bishop in 2005 with both Communist and Vatican approval.

Throughout China, churches have been instructed to remove crosses and other religious symbols from both the inside and outside of the buildings. Other churches have been seized by the government and transformed into secular community centers. 

The expected seizure of Church lands in Xi’an come as the Holy See continues talks with the Chinese government to renew the controversial 2018 provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China. More than 50 mainland dioceses are currently without a leader.

Last week, a congressional hearing in Washington highlighted the unknown fate of another Catholic bishop in China: Bishop James Su Zhimin of the Diocese of Baoding, in China’s Hebei province, who was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.

According to Bishop Su’s nephew, Chinese officials have reportedly asked the Vatican to appoint a new bishop of Baoding, fueling fears that Su may have died in government custody. 

The government’s preferred candidate is the diocesan coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxi, a member of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned church.

Lebanese priest: 'We need your prayers' after Beirut explosions

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A Lebanese Catholic priest has asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country, after two explosions in Beirut injured hundreds of people and are reported to have left at least 10 people dead.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.
 
“We are currently going through a difficult phase in Lebanon, as you can see on TV and on the news,” the priest added.

Raymond Nader, a Maronite Catholic living in Lebanon, echoed the priest's call.

"I just ask for prayers now from everyone around the world. We badly need prayers," Nader told CNA Tuesday.

Explosions in the port area of Lebanon’s capital overturned cars, shattered windows, set fires, and damaged buildings across Beirut, a city of more than 350,000, with a metro area of more than 2 million people.

“It was a huge disaster over here and the whole city was almost ruined because of this explosion and they're saying it's kind of a combination of elements that made this explosion,” Antoine Tannous, a Lebanese journalist, told CNA Tuesday.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosions, but investigators believe they may have started with a fire in a warehouse that stored explosive materials. Lebanon’s security service warned against speculations of terrorism before investigators could assess the situation.

According to Lebanon’s state-run media, hundreds of injured people have flooded hospital emergency rooms in the city.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning. The country is almost evenly divided between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians, most of whom are Maronite Catholics. Lebanon also has a small Jewish population, as well as Druze and other religious communities.

Knights of Columbus prepare for first-ever virtual annual convention

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- The 138th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus begins today— the first in the  organization’s history to not be held in-person.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based fraternal and charitable organization is encouraging its members to tune in to the convention online. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the gathering is being held virtually. Last year’s convention took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The convention comes a few months after the Vatican announced that Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified following Pope Francis’ approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Founded in New Haven in 1882, the Knights of Columbus was originally intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members.

Fr. McGivney, the Knights’ founder, will be beatified on October 31, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced in late July.

During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities, including millions of dollars for persecuted Christians around the world, the organization says.

The 2020 convention will begin with an opening Mass at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, celebrated by Archbishop Leonard Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford. This will be followed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s annual report, highlighting the group’s achievements and announcing new initiatives, at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The Mass is set to feature a message from Pope Francis, which the Vatican Secretariat of State delivered to the Knights in mid-July.

"His Holiness is grateful for these and for the many other countless ways in which the Knights of Columbus continue to bear prophetic witness to God's dream for a more fraternal, just and equitable world in which all are recognized as neighbors and no one is left behind,” the letter reads in part.

An annual memorial Mass will be offered for all deceased Knights of Columbus and their families on August 5 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Among the Knights who died in the past year was former Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, who passed away on Feb. 15, 2020, and was the Order's longest-serving supreme knight, holding office from 1977 to 2000, the organization said.

After the memorial Mass, the Knights will hold an awards ceremony to honor the members’ service. This will take place at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on August 5.

 

After Beirut explosion, Lebanon turns to St. Charbel

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:08 pm (CNA).-  

At least one massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut Tuesday afternoon, which ignited fires and destroyed buildings in the city’s port area, caused damage across the city, and has reportedly flooded hospitals with casualties.

Some local news sources are reporting that at least 10 people are dead, and videos have emerged online showing cars overturned in city streets and buildings with shattered windows and crumbled balconies.

The cause of the explosion is not yet clear, but Christian leaders in Lebanon and around the world have called for prayer, and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced that Wednesday will be a day of mourning across the country.

Sixty percent of Lebanon’s people are Muslim, evenly split among Sunni and Shia, and nearly 35% of the country’s population is Christian, most of whom are Maronite Catholic Christians. In the wake of the explosion, Christians will likely turn to St. Charbel, Lebanon’s patron saint, who is also revered by many of Lebanon’s Muslims.

Raymond Nader, a Maronite Catholic and a fierce devotee of St. Charbel, told CNA Tuesday he would turn to the saint’s intercession, adding that ”the situation is catastrophic in Beirut.  Hundreds of people killed and wounded and buildings destroyed.”

St. Charbel Makhlouf lived from 1828 to 1898, spending much of his life as a monk and hermit. He is known in Lebanon for the miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

“St. Charbel has no geographic or confessional limits. Nothing is impossible for [his intercession] and when people ask [for something], he answers,” Fr. Louis Matar, coordinator of the Shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya, Lebanon, told CNA in 2018.

Speaking in Arabic with the help of an interpreter, Matar said the shrine, which encompasses the monastery where the Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit lived for nearly 20 years, receives around 4 million visitors a year, including both Christians and Muslims.

Matar, who is responsible for archiving the thousands of medically-verified healings attributed to the intercession of the Maronite priest-monk, said that many miraculous cures have been obtained by Muslims.

Since 1950, the year the monastery began to formally record the miraculous healings, they have archived more than 29,000 miracles, Matar said. Prior to 1950, miracles were verified only through the witness of a priest. Now, with more advanced medical technology available, alleged miracles require medical documents demonstrating the person’s initial illness and later, their unexplainable good health.

One of the miracles documented by Matar in December 2018, when he spoke to CNA, was that of a 45-year-old Italian woman. Suffering from a neurological disease, she was hospitalized after it was discovered she had tried to commit suicide by consuming acid.

In the hospital, the doctors discovered that the damage to her esophagus and intestines was so extensive, “the last way possible to cure her was believing in God and praying,” Matar commented.

The woman’s parents began to pray, inviting others to pray with them. A religious sister of the Maronite Catholic Church heard about the prayer request and gave them holy oil from St. Charbel's shrine. After her parents spread the oil on the suffering woman’s stomach, chest, and head, the woman was cured.

This was just one of seven miracles archived in December, Matar said, calling each one “a phenomenon.”

“St. Charbel is a tool to reach God,” he said.

The Shrine of St. Charbel consists of the Monastery of St. Maron, where the saint lived for 19 years with great devotion to prayer, manual labor, and contemplative silence; and the nearby hermitage where he lived a rigorous asceticism and profound union with God for the last 23 years of his life.

At the monastery, pilgrims can visit a church built in 1840, a small museum with artifacts and relics from the saint, and the site of his first grave. St. Charbel’s tomb, since 1952, is located inside a special cave-like chapel built into the property.

Even while he was alive, Charbel’s superiors observed God’s “supernatural power” at work in his life, and even some Muslims knew him as a wonder-worker.

Deeply devoted to God’s Eucharistic presence, he suffered a stroke while celebrating the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Catholic Church on December 16, 1898, dying on Christmas Eve of that year. He was canonized in 1977 by St. Pope Paul VI.

 

Researchers reverse: Gender surgery offers 'no advantage' to mental health

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The authors of a 2019 study which claimed so-called gender-transition surgery may improve the long-term mental health of recipients have issued a correction, nearly a year after publication. The authors now say they found “no advantage” to the mental health of those who received gender-transition surgery.

In October of 2019, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a report on the rates of mental health treatment among recipients of gender-transition surgery and hormone therapy. The report was entitled “Reduction in Mental Health Treatment Utilization Among Transgender Individuals After Gender-Affirming Surgeries.”

On Saturday, the authors of the study—Richard Bränström, Ph.D., and John E. Pachankis, Ph.D., issued a correction, saying that “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”

The 2019 AJP report had originally claimed that, among persons who had received gender-transition surgery, the number of mental health treatment visits declined over time. Persons diagnosed with gender incongruence are at higher risk of mental health disorders, the report said; around six times more likely to seek treatment for a “mood and anxiety disorder” than members of the general population, and “more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt.”

However, the study had claimed that among those who had received gender-transition surgery, the “increased time since last gender-affirming surgery was associated with reduced mental health treatment.”

This, the 2019 report concluded, “lends support to the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them.”

That conclusion has now been reversed. 

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, wrote on Monday that the correction was needed.

“So, the bottom line: The largest dataset on sex-reassignment procedures—both hormonal and surgical—reveals that such procedures do not bring the promised mental health benefits,” he said.

Additionally, Anderson pointed out, the authors’ correction revealed that recipients of gender-transition surgery were actually more likely to seek treatment for anxiety disorders:

“Individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had received gender-affirming surgery were more likely to be treated for anxiety disorders compared with individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had not received gender-affirming surgery.”

After the study was first published in the fall of 2019, some claimed that the study’s sample size was too small to make any conclusions.

Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas critiqued the report’s findings, writing in the journal Public Discourse that the sample size of people who had experienced the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery was too small, as most of the cases of surgery were relatively recent.

He noted that the study was based on a survey of nearly 10 million Swedes, 2,679 of those surveyed had reported experiencing gender incongruence, and 1,018 had undergone gender-transition surgery.

However, of this population, only 19 people reported their last surgery as having occurred 10 or more years prior. So, Regnerus concluded, the report’s claim that the rate of people undergoing gender-transition surgery and subsequently seeking mental health treatment had declined over time was based on a sample of 19 people in a survey of nearly 10 million.

Regnerus wrote that “if a mere three additional cases among these 19 had sought mental health treatment in 2015, there would appear to be no discernible overall effect of surgery on subsequent mental health.”

The data in the study revealed the limitations of finding the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery, he told CNA, as its use is a recent phenomenon.

“There is a declining number with each passing year, meaning simply that the practice of such surgery is far more common recently than it was several years ago,” Regnerus said in a written statement to CNA in November, noting that the small sample size was not the fault of the authors, but simply reflected the “reality” of what remain historically untested procedures.

“It’s important to keep some perspective here—how national debates and discourses are being driven by quite small shares of the population,” Regnerus told CNA.