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After Maronite archbishop detained in Lebanon, U.S. bishops voice solidarity

A scene from a papal visit to Lebanon, Sept. 14, 2012. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Maronite Catholic archbishop was bringing aid back to Lebanon when he was wrongly detained by Lebanese authorities at the Israeli border, his supporters say. The U.S. bishops have spoken in his defense, objecting to the confiscation of medical aid and hundreds of thousands of dollars in monetary aid.

“The arbitrary detention and interrogation of Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, the Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, by Lebanese security, is cause for alarm,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said Aug. 12.

“The archbishop was returning from one of his regular visits to the Holy Land and bringing much-needed aid that the Lebanese diaspora in Israel wanted to send to family members in Lebanon,” Malloy said. “All this was confiscated by Lebanese security forces, along with his cell phone and passport.”

The U.S. bishops favorably cited the statement from the Permanent Synod of Maronite Bishops which condemned their fellow bishop's detention. The bishops issued the statement after a July 20 meeting convened by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai.

According to the Maronite bishops, the incident “brought us back to the times of occupation and rulers in the previous centuries, when the invaders and occupiers were trying to undermine the role of the Church in Lebanon and the East and its brotherhood between religions.”

Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the apostolic nuncio to Lebanon, said the detention was “a dangerous precedent,” the U.S. bishops noted.

Cardinal Rai had denounced the detention of the archbishop as a fabrication and said that the confiscated money was intended for charitable purposes.

The Maronite Catholic Church is the largest Christian group in Lebanon, where Christians make up almost 35% of the country’s 7 million people. An estimated 60% of Lebanese are Muslim and are about evenly split between Shiite and Sunni adherents. 

Criticism has intensified between the Maronite Church and Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group, which is backed by Iran, the Associated Press reports. Lebanon’s religious power-sharing constitution means that its president must always be a Maronite. The incumbent president, President Michel Aoun, is an ally of Hezbollah. In the country’s parliament, Hezbollah and its allies are now roughly tied with its foes.

In general, foes of Hezbollah criticize its influence over Lebanese institutions and security agencies and argue it uses this influence to target the Maronite Church. 

Other backers of Archbishop El-Hage include the religious advisory board for the U.S.-based group In Defense of Christians. In a July 20 statement, the board alleged the archbishop’s detention “occurred in flagrant contempt of his pastoral duty” and threatened Lebanon’s tradition of religious freedom. 

The board, which includes the two U.S.-based Maronite bishops, characterized the arrest as “an apparent attempt to intimidate Maronite Patriarch Rai for his opposition to Hezbollah’s political coercion.” It noted the patriarch’s call for full sovereignty and neutrality in Lebanon and the “unconditional enforcement” of U.N. resolutions for the disarmament of Hezbollah.

On July 19 El-Hage was detained by Lebanese border agents. The agents confiscated 20 suitcases filled with medicine and $460,000 in cash, citing laws against normalization with Israel, the Associated Press reports. The archbishop said he was delivering money and aid from Lebanese Christians in northern Israel to their relatives in Lebanon, which is suffering from a major economic crisis.

Israel and Lebanon have been formally at war since 1948, when Israel was founded. In the year 2000, thousands of Lebanese moved to Israel after it ended its occupation of some regions in southern Lebanon. Many of these Lebanese had links to the South Lebanon Army, a pro-Israeli militia which collapsed when the Israelis withdrew.

The Jerusalem Post reported July 22 that Justice Fadi Akiki, who is in charge of the case, told the Lebanese newspaper Annahar that the funds came from Israeli residents, “the majority of whom work in the interest of the enemy.”

The money is subject to laws regulating everything that enters Lebanon from Israel, he added. According to the judge, the archbishop was not arrested but only subject to the same inspection rules for all those crossing the border.

“I respect the church, but there is a law that is the boycott of Israel and it is my duty as a judge to implement it,” the judge said. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference voiced support for the Maronite Church.

“As Lebanon goes through difficult times and crises, we renew our stand in solidarity with Cardinal Rai and the Synod of Bishops,” Bishop Malloy said Aug. 12. “We also pray for the protection of the Church in Lebanon and its charitable work as it comes under increasing pressure. We further support the call of Patriarch Rai for the ‘active neutrality’ of Lebanon, so that it will remain a place of conviviality between Christians and Muslims and a beacon of hope for all Christians of the Middle East. May Lebanon prosper again and enjoy total sovereignty and lasting peace.”

There are two Maronite eparchies in the U.S. Both Maronite bishops, in a July 29 letter to Cardinal Rai, said they were “deeply saddened” to hear of Archbishop El-Hage’s arrest and detention. 

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles voiced solidarity with the cardinal, the Synod of Bishops, and with “all our brothers and sisters suffering in Lebanon.”

“Lebanon is a beautiful country, where religious beliefs are a bridge, not a hindrance, to conviviality and cooperation,” they said, voicing support for the “active neutrality” of Lebanon.

“If we do not stand united as one people working together for the future of our country, we are liable to fall victim to outside influence,” the two bishops said, voicing prayers for a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous Lebanon. 

In a July 31 statement, Cardinals Wilton Gregory of Washington, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and Timothy Dolan of New York voiced solidarity with the detained Lebanese archbishop, speaking in their roles as honorary chairs of the religious advisory board for In Defense of Christians.

“Archbishop El-Hage is the spiritual shepherd of many peoples and he travels between those lands regularly. His recent arrest, detention and interrogation by Lebanese authorities upon his return from his Episcopal See in Haifa — as well as the confiscation of medical and financial aid intended for the needy in Lebanon — are most disturbing,” they said.

“We applaud Cardinal Rai and the Maronite Synod for their firm support of Archbishop El-Hage. In the interest of regional stability and human rights, we further support calls for positive action to protect Church leadership, their charitable work, and lay Christians in the Middle East,” the three cardinals said.

Doctor says Boston gender clinic mutilates and sterilizes children

null / Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Controversy erupted last week when news of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gender Clinic for kids took over social media, prompting outrage over the hospital’s “first of its kind” program to facilitate sex-changes for children in the form of hormone treatments and irreversible surgeries.  

According to the hospital’s website, Boston Children’s Center for Gender Surgery offers a “full suite of treatment options” for children and teens to “transfer seamlessly” into transition surgeries, including double mastectomies for children as young as 15 and sterilizing genital surgeries for teens. The program has seen over 1,000 patients, as young as 3 years old. 

Pediatricians are condemning the program, which comes on the heels of news that youth gender clinics around the world are closing and changing guidance due to evidence that transition procedures harm, rather than help, children with gender dysphoria.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, a Catholic pediatrician and a member of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), the largest association of Catholic physicians across the U.S., condemned Boston’s gender program in a statement to CNA.

“These surgeries do not treat mental illness nor prevent suicide,” Cretella said in a statement, “[but] they do mutilate and permanently sterilize children who have no capacity to assess let alone consent to such life-changing interventions.”

The procedures Boston Children’s Hospital conducts on transgender children and teens include breast augmentation, chest reconstruction, “facial harmonization,” a surgical procedure that modifies the face to appear more feminine or masculine, and surgical techniques to raise or lower a child’s voice to match how they identify.  

The hospital also performs genital surgeries that are known to carry a high risk of complications for teens. Boston’s initial guidance said these surgeries could be performed on minors 17 years of age, then updated its guidance to say 18, after the story broke. 

These include metoidioplasty and phalloplasty – the surgical creation of a penis using existing genital tissue or flaps of skin  – and vaginoplasty, the surgical creation of a vagina.

These procedures are described by surgeons and physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital in a series of YouTube videos that the hospital put out to market the procedures they offer. 

Phalloplasty, as the hospital describes, is a 12-hour surgery conducted on girls seeking to transition into boys. A girl who undergoes phalloplasty must first have a hysterectomy. Then skin is “harvested” to construct a penis from another place on her body, such as the thigh or forearm. The “vagina may also be removed” and the surgeon grafts the new “penis” into place. On average, it takes a patient 12 to 18 months to heal from a phalloplasty. 

Likewise, vaginoplasty is performed on boys seeking to transition into girls, which requires inverting the penis into a vagina which Boston Children’s acknowledges requires a significant recovery time and a “lifetime” of upkeep. Boys who undergo vaginoplasties initially have to use a catheter to urinate, the webpage states, and will need to dilate their “vagina multiple times a day to keep it open,” for the rest of their life. 

Cretella describes these surgeries as “horrors.”

“It is only a matter of time before the physicians who perform these mutilating surgeries on children, and the hospitals that employ them, are bombarded by patient and whistleblower lawsuits. This is ultimately what shined a light on the horrors of Tavistock and led to its being shut down,” she said.

The Tavistock clinic in the UK was closed as a result of an independent review earlier this year, after  complaints made by whistleblowers, patients, and their families – including 25-year-old Keira Bell, who brought a high court case against the clinic for prescribing her cross-sex hormones and facilitating her sex-transition. 

"It is ironic that Boston Children's Hospital's announcement should come about now. Just 2 weeks ago Tavistock Clinic in the UK, the world's largest children's gender clinic, was shut down due to risk of harm from transgender interventions,” she added.

When CNA reached out to Tavistock, a representative said the clinic was not yet aware of Boston Hospital’s new program and therefore had no comment, but explained that Tavistock clinic was shutting down because there was a need for a new model of gender care that is more “holistic.” 

A public relations representative from Boston Children’s Hospital repeatedly told CNA over the phone that the hospital had “no comment” on its gender program, “no comment” to critics who highlight the dangers of surgical sex-changes on children, and “no comment” about Tavistock closing.

‘The Atlantic’ publishes article on the rosary as symbol of far-right, violent extremism

null / CNA

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2022 / 16:06 pm (CNA).

An article published Sunday in The Atlantic magazine suggests the rosary has become a symbol of violent, right-wing extremism in the United States.

The article set off a frenzy of reactions among Catholics, ranging from amusement to grave concern over what some see as anti-Catholic sentiment.  

The magazine later changed the article’s headline from "How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol" to "How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary." Among other edits to the text, an image of bullet holes forming the shape of a rosary was replaced with a picture of a rosary. 

The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.
The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.

These editorial changes, nonetheless, left the article’s thesis that there is a connection between the rosary and extremism intact. The author's contention was based, in part, on his observations about the use of the rosary on social media and rosaries sold online.

“The rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” writes Daniel Panneton of the sacramental used in prayer by Catholics for centuries. 

“Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company,” writes Panneton, whose article includes three links to Roman Catholic Gear, an online shop that sells rosaries.

He describes photos of rosary beads “made of cartridge casings, and complete with gun-metal-finish crucifixes,” along with warrior-themed memes and content catering to survivalists.

The Catholic reaction

Asked to comment on the article, Robert P. George, professor of political theory at Princeton University and former chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told CNA:

"It looks to me like the guy who is politicizing the rosary and treating it as a weapon in the culture war is … Daniel Panneton. I know nothing about the guy other than what he says in the article. I hadn’t heard of him before. Although it’s hard to miss the classic anti-Catholic tropes in the piece, perhaps he isn’t actually a bigot. Maybe he just overwrought and needs to take an aspirin or two and lie down for a while."

Chad Pecknold, theology professor at Catholic University of America, told CNA the publication of the article points to a "theo-political" conflict in the culture.

"The politically elite core in left-liberal media hate Western civilization and they mean to topple every natural and supernatural sign of it. That’s why it’s not sufficient to simply run a piece on right-wing gun cultures, but they must tie it to something which is theologically central to the civilization they feel most threatens their progressive ziggurat. It’s a sign of the theo-political conflict which now grips us; even still, they severely underestimate the power of Our Lady to reign victorious over evil," Pecknold said.

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, a Dominican priest of the Province of St. Joseph, told CNA, "The article is a long-running stream of inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and distortions."

The author, he said, fails to understand that "the notion of 'spiritual combat' has been with the Church from time immemorial. Recall that a traditional view of Confirmation is that it made one a 'soldier for Christ.'"

"The problem is that The Atlantic does not seem to understand what metaphor means. In no wise, does the notion of rosary as 'combat' imply physical violence," Pietrzyk added.

On Twitter, Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, responded to the article with a photo of two white-robed friars wearing their traditional rosary beads around their waists. “ WARNING: The image below contains rosaries,” read the caption.

Novelist and essayist Walter Kirn commented that The Atlantic article itself serves as an example of “extremism.”

Eduard Habsburg, Hungary's Ambassador to the Holy See, responded by conceding the rosary is indeed a weapon — used for centuries against evil:

Catholic beliefs seen as extreme

Panneton makes it clear in his article that it’s not just about the rosary.

In the course of his argument, he refers to Catholic beliefs as evidence of “extremism.”

He sees extreme views on masculinity in the Catholic faith. He writes: “The militarism also glorifies a warrior mentality and notions of manliness and male strength. This conflation of the masculine and the military is rooted in wider anxieties about Catholic manhood.”

“But among radical-traditional Catholic men, such concerns take an extremist turn, rooted in fantasies of violently defending one’s family and church from marauders,” he continues.

The Church’s defense of the right to life of the unborn is also evidence of ties to right-wing extremists, according to Panneton.

 “The convergence within Christian nationalism is cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates,” he writes.

Pietrzyk, the Dominican priest interviewed by CNA said, "The author takes what are basic Catholic positions on the nature of the Church, Christian morality, and the like, and posit that they are somehow 'extremist.' This is classic misdirection."

The rosary, a “weapon” of choice for centuries 

The rosary, first promoted by the Dominican Order in the 16th century, is a form of prayer based on meditations on the life of Christ. The beads are a tool to help keep track of prayers that are recited before and after the meditations.

Since 1571, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary. In doing so they have often employed military terms for these prayer “weapons.”  In 1893, Pope Leo XIII saw the rosary as an antidote to the evils of inequality born of the Industrial Revolution, and during World War II Pius XI urged the faithful to pray it in hopes that “the enemies of the divine name (...) may be finally bent and led to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.”

More recently, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have recommended the rosary as a powerful spiritual tool.

Who are the Coptic Christians? Tragic church fire a blow to a persecuted group

Tawadros II, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, presides over a funeral liturgy for victims of the Dec. 11, 2016 bomb attack on his cathedral. / Aid to the Church in Need.

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 15, 2022 / 14:38 pm (CNA).

A massive fire at a Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt claimed the lives of 41 people on Sunday — a devastating blow for a Christian community long beset by persecution and hardship. 

Though there is no evidence of foul play in this case, with an electrical fault so far being blamed for the fire, Egypt’s Christian minority has long been regarded as a second-class group among the Muslim majority populace, and in recent years several major terrorist attacks have targeted the Coptic Christian community. 

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the Coptic Church?

Because it rejected the Council of Chalcedon of 451, the Coptic Orthodox Church does not recognize the Catholic pope and instead has its own pope, who is the bishop of Alexandria and claims apostolic succession from St. Mark.

Its highest form of worship, akin to the Catholic Mass, is the Divine Liturgy. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church, is not to be confused with the Coptic Catholic Church, which is an Eastern rite Church in full communion with Rome. Most of Egypt’s Christian minority of about 10% of the total population are Coptic Orthodox Christians, along with a few Maronite and Latin rite Catholics. 

Why are they persecuted?

Coptic Christians have been a frequent target of terrorism in Egypt, especially since the rise of the Islamic State. Beyond a general anti-Christian sentiment among Muslims, Egypt’s Copts have been accused by their Muslim neighbors of aiding the rise to power of the President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who came to rule after the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted in a 2013 military coup and who has enjoyed the public support of Coptic leaders. 

In Feb. 2015, the Islamic State released a video online showing masked fighters beheading 21 men as they knelt on a Libyan beach wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits. The Egyptian government and the Coptic Orthodox Church later confirmed the video's authenticity, and the men are now honored as saints in the Coptic church. 

Twenty-nine people were killed in a bombing at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December 2016. The Islamic State took credit for the bombing and released a video threatening to target Christian "crusaders" in Egypt. And on Palm Sunday in 2017, two Islamic State suicide bombings at Coptic churches in Egypt claimed the lives of 47 people. 

In Nov. 2018, Islamic militants ambushed a bus carrying Coptic Christian pilgrims to a desert monastery south of Cairo, killing seven and leaving 19 injured.

During the pandemic, Coptic Christian women and girls have reportedly been abducted and forcefully converted to Islam, and some Christian communities have experienced deprivation of resources. 

Will it get better?

The current Egyptian government under President el-Sissi has condemned the attacks and in the past has pledged to protect embattled Christian minorities in the country, but Christians still suffer most in rural areas outside the capital of Cairo where the national government has less oversight. This sometimes occurs in the form of government regulations that target Christians. For example, Egyptian law for decades retained strict Ottoman-era rules on building or repairing churches. While many of the older restrictions were repealed in 2016, critics still say that most applications to build or repair churches are rejected, especially requests from poor or rural areas or areas where Christians are a small minority.

In a June 24, 2021 report to the Catholic charity foundation Aid to the Church in Need United States, Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of the Coptic Eparchy of Assiut said that Christians remain underrepresented in many sectors and are sidelined in administrative positions.

Pope Francis on the Assumption: ‘Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power?’

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address at St. Peter's Square, Aug. 15, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

Reflecting on the Visitation during his Angelus address on Monday, Pope Francis reflected on the raising up to heaven of the humble handmaid of the Lord, and how that attitude is to repeated in our lives.

In the Magnificat Mary intends “to tell us … that God, through her, has inaugurated a historical turning point, he has definitively established a new order of things. She, small and humble, has been raised up and – we celebrate this today – brought to the glory of Heaven, while the powerful of the world are destined to remain empty-handed,” the pope said Aug. 15 in Saint Peter’s Square for the feast of the Assumption.

“Let us look at ourselves, and let us ask ourselves: will this prophetic reversal announced by Mary affect my life? Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power?”

Pope Francis continued: “Do I believe that the purpose of my life is Heaven, it is paradise? To spend it well here. Or am I concerned only with worldly, material things? Again, as I observe world events, do I let myself be entrapped by pessimism or, like the Virgin, am I able to discern the work of God who, through gentleness and smallness, achieves great things?”

The Magnificat, he said, is the “canticle of hope.” He reflected on the description of the Lord who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”

“As we listen to these words, we might ask ourselves: is the Virgin not exaggerating a little, perhaps, describing a world that does not exist? Indeed, what she says does not seem to correspond to reality; while she speaks, the powerful of the time have not been brought down: the fearsome Herod, for example, is still firmly on his throne. And the poor and hungry remain so, while the rich continue to prosper.”

But the meaning of the Blessed Virgin’s canticle is not a historical description, but a prophecy, the pope said.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Dives ends up “empty-handed” after his death, he reflected.

“Our Lady … announces a radical change, an overturning of values. While she speaks with Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb, she anticipates what her Son will say, when he will proclaim blessed the poor and humble, and warn the rich and those who base themselves on their own self-sufficiency.”

“The Virgin, then, prophesies with this canticle, with this prayer: she prophesies that it will not be power, success and money that will prevail, but rather service, humility and love will prevail. And as we look at her, in glory, we understand that the true power is service – let us not forget this: the true power is service – and to reign means to love. And that this is the road to Heaven.”

In the Magnificat, Mary “sings of hope and rekindles hope in us. Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us: in her, we see the destination of our journey,” Pope Francis said.

“She is the first creature who, with her whole self, body and soul, victoriously crosses the finish line of Heaven. She shows us that Heaven is within reach.”

He affirmed that heaven is attainable “if we too do not give in to sin, if we praise God in humility and serve others generously. Do not give in to sin.”

God is close to us, with compassion and tenderness, he added. 

“Our Mother takes us by the hand, she accompanies us to glory, she invites us to rejoice as we think of heaven,” he concluded. “Let us bless Mary with our prayer, and let us ask her to be capable of glimpsing Heaven on earth.”

Ortega regime continues attacks on the Church in Nicaragua

A brief procession of the Virgin of Fatima in the atrium of the Cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua, was held on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, to close a Marian congress. A larger procession was scheduled but prohibited by the regime of President Daniel Ortega. / Photo credit: San Judas Tadeo Mga Parish

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 13:58 pm (CNA).

The leftist regime of President Daniel Ortega continued its persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua with several acts of repression over the weekend.

On Saturday, a large procession with the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima was to precede the closing Mass at the Managua cathedral for the Marian Congress titled “Mary, Mother of Hope,” but the regime prohibited the event. Instead, a smaller procession was held in the atrium of the cathedral. Thousands were in attendance, many waving Nicaraguan and Vatican flags and crying out, “Mary is from Nicaragua and Nicaragua belongs to Mary!”

In his homily, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the archbishop of Managua, the country’s capital, stressed that “nothing and no one can take away our love for the Virgin of Fatima because her image is engraved in the mind and heart of each one of us Nicaraguans.”

A delegation from each diocese in the country was to receive a replica statue of Our Lady of Fatima, but on Sunday, Father Erick Diaz, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker parish, and Father Fernando Calero from Our Lady of Fatima parish, both from the town of El Tuma, were prevented by police from leaving for the cathedral in Managua. 

The pickup truck in which Calero was riding was stopped and searched by the police, who confiscated the registration and insurance documents for the truck as well as the driver’s license.

The same day, Father Oscar Benevidez, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in the town of Mulukukú, was arbitrarily arrested. In a Facebook post, the Diocese of Siuna said that Benevidez’s “sole mission is and has been to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ who is the word of life and salvation for everyone” and prayed for Mary’s intercession.

Meanwhile, since Aug. 4, the regime has not allowed the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to leave the chancery, with police officers stationed at the door and around the premises. The prelate remains inside with 10 other people, including priests, seminarians, and laity.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and in particular Álvarez — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicarguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power.

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

'Missionary Friends' play a major role in EWTN's success in Latin America

A group of Amigos Misioneros in Barranquilla, Colombia participating in a 40 Days for Life pro-life prayer rally in March 2021. / Amigos Misioneros

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 09:49 am (CNA).

EWTN is continuing to grow in Latin America, buoyed by the support of thousands of volunteers who pray and work to promote the work of the Catholic media network. 

EWTN is the largest religious media organization in the world, with its television content alone reaching some 400 million households. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

After its founding in Alabama in 1981 by Mother Angelica, EWTN began its Hispanic outreach on Feb. 1, 1989 with a three-hour block of programming. The network’s round-the-clock Spanish-language television and radio has been available in Latin America and Spain since 1996, and in the U.S. since 1999. 

Ximena Izquierdo, manager of Amigos Misioneros (“Missionary Friends”) of EWTN for Latin America and Spain, told ACI Prensa that throughout the years "many lives have been touched by its programming and content."

"The quality and production of EWTN is of the utmost importance for the Hispanic world, not only because of its correct doctrine but also because of the veracity of the news, and the quality of the people who work there," she said. 

Today, EWTN's Missionary Friends number more than 14,000 in Latin America and more than 2,500 Hispanics in the United States. Claudio Ramirez, EWTN’s director of Marketing for Latin America, told CNA that the purpose of the missionaries is primarily to pray for EWTN’s mission of sharing the Catholic faith, and to “encourage those who do not know [EWTN’s] programming to see and enjoy it.”

A group of Amigos Misioneros in Guatemala in April 2021. Amigos Misioneros
A group of Amigos Misioneros in Guatemala in April 2021. Amigos Misioneros

In addition to promoting the work of EWTN, the volunteers organize pro-life marches and prayer campaigns, book fairs, rosary rallies, and other events in their communities. 

The Amigos Misioneros have made their presence known by assisting at Catholic events in Latin America in recent years, such as Pope Francis’ 2017 visit to Colombia and 2019’s World Youth Day in Panama. 

They have also successfully prevented the network from being taken down from cable operators, by showing both the numbers and commitment of EWTN viewers.

Amigos Misioneros recently led a campaign to deter a Latin American cable provider from eliminating EWTN en Español from their programming. A few days before the July 31 deadline, the cable operator announced that in consideration of its fan base, EWTN would remain on the airwaves.

According to Chris Wegemer, Vice President of Marketing for EWTN, more than 100 new EWTN television affiliates have been added in Latin America since Jan. 1.

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