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Detroit archbishop 'heartbroken' over Michigan school shooting

Stuffed bears sit at a makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 01, 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. Yesterday, four students were killed and seven injured when a gunman opened fire on students at the school. A 15-year-old sophomore, believed to be the only gunman, is in custody, / Scott Olson/Getty Images

Detroit, Mich., Dec 1, 2021 / 14:16 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit said he was “heartbroken” on Tuesday after hearing of the “horrific tragedy” of a school shooting outside the city earlier in the day. 

“I am heartbroken to hear of the horrific tragedy at Oxford High School,” Vigneron said in a Nov. 30 tweet.

“On behalf of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, I offer heartfelt prayers for the victims, their families, and all those affected in our community,” he added. 

In a follow up tweet, the archbishop said: “May our Blessed Mother wrap all those wounded — physically, emotionally, or spiritually — in her loving mantle and offer them consolation in the difficult days ahead.”

The suspect, a 15-year-old student at Oxford High School, opened fire mid-day Nov. 30. The school is located in Oxford, Michigan, about 45 miles north of Detroit. Four students have died as a result of injuries suffered, and six more students and a teacher are gravely injured. 

The suspected shooter has been taken into custody. According to the local sheriff’s department, the boy did not resist arrest. 

The Twitter account for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commented that “We join @DetArchbishop in offering our prayers for the tragedy at #oxfordhighschool.”

According to a tweet from the Michigan Catholic Conference, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion held a Mass for “healing and peace” Nov. 30.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by today's senseless act of violence #oxfordhighschool,” it added.

St. Joseph’s parish is the closest Catholic church to Oxford, Detroit Catholic reported. Father John Carlin, the associate pastor at St. Joseph’s, gave the homily to a crowd of students, parents, and parishioners, according to Detroit Catholic.

Carlin reminded those who filled the church that God hears their prayers and cries and said that nothing is stronger than Christ’s victory over death, Detroit Catholic reported.

Carlin said that “we don't understand” when we experience a loss of friends or loved ones. He said that Christ “wants not only to walk with us in that darkness, but to let us know that He is there.” 

“He’s not going anywhere, and He never will,” he added.

Clergy from St. Joseph counseled those present after Mass, Detroit Catholic reported. Eucharistic adoration was offered afterwards, and confessions were heard as well.

French Catholic academy critiques landmark abuse report

Jean-Marc Sauvé speaks at the launch of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church report in Paris, France, Oct. 5, 2021. / Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.

Paris, France, Dec 1, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Members of a French Catholic academy have criticized the methodology of a landmark abuse report, prompting resignations from the group.

Eight representatives of the prestigious Académie catholique de France, which has around 250 members, questioned the conclusions of the final report published by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) on Oct. 5.

The academy members wrote a 15-page document that acknowledged the need for an independent study of clerical abuse. But they argued that CIASE departed “in a troubling way” from its mandate and cast doubt on its headline figures.

The almost 2,500-page CIASE report said that the number of children who suffered abuse by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020 was estimated to be around 216,000.

It added that when abuse by other Church workers was also considered “the estimated number of child victims rises to 330,000 for the whole of the period.”

The authors of the critique wrote that “one is entitled to question the methodology of the quantitative survey that led to the figure of 330,000 victims, the only figure used by the media.”

The CIASE report suggested there were “between 2,900 and 3,200” abusers out of 115,000 clergy and monks, which, it noted, “would imply a very high number of victims per aggressor.”

The eight academy members argued that the report lacked “scientific rigor.”

“The disproportionate assessment of this scourge feeds the narrative of a ‘systemic’ character and lays the groundwork for proposals to bring down the Church-institution,” they said.

The critique’s signatories included academy president Hugues Portelli, philosopher Pierre Manent, and priests Father Jean-Robert Armogathe and Father Philippe Capelle-Dumont.

The critique prompted a backlash, with several members of the academy, founded in 2008, resigning.

Jean-Marc Sauvé. Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.
Jean-Marc Sauvé. Screenshot from CIASE Facebook page.

The French Catholic daily La Croix reported that among those tendering their resignations were Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, and Sister Véronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious of France, both of whom attended the CIASE report’s launch.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of CIASE, responded to the critique by defending his team’s work.

“Criticism of our report is of course legitimate. I wrote about it in the foreword. But in this case, I feel sadness, and even grief, because I myself am a member of this academy,” the senior civil servant told La Croix.

“The rules of due process and simple confraternity could have justified prior exchanges, if not an adversarial debate. Nothing that happened was elegant or fair, even if I have great respect for some of the signatories.”

Moulins-Beaufort wrote an article on Nov. 29 insisting that the French bishops would not play down the CIASE report.

“It is important to understand that it is not so much in the face of the damning figures established by CIASE and debated by some that the bishops have decided to assume the institutional responsibility of the Church and to speak of a systemic dimension,” he wrote.

He continued: “These figures were an indication for us. It is by listening to the victims, those whose testimonies CIASE has gathered, those whom we have been meeting for years, that we have made progress. It is by placing ourselves before the Lord.”

“Priests have committed acts of violence and sexual aggression against minors, priests have been guilty of acts of spiritual control, in too great a number for us to consider this as a marginal phenomenon.”

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort. Credit: Diocèse de Reims.
Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort. Credit: Diocèse de Reims.

The CIASE report made 45 recommendations, including a request for the Church to reconsider the seal of confession in relation to abuse as well as changes to Church law.

The critique’s authors noted that the report recognized that there was no causal link between celibacy and sexual abuse.

But they said that “recommendation 4 deals with priestly celibacy and invites [the Church] ‘to identify the ethical requirements of consecrated celibacy, in particular with regard to the representation of the priest and the risk incurred of bestowing on him the status of hero, or of placing him in a position of dominance.’”

They argued that “this recommendation falls outside the scope of the commission’s competence.”

Pope Francis prays with French bishops before his general audience, Oct. 6, 2021, in the wake of a devastating abuse report. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis prays with French bishops before his general audience, Oct. 6, 2021, in the wake of a devastating abuse report. Vatican Media.

In conclusion, the academy members underlined that an independent study of clerical abuse was necessary.

But they wrote: “The recommendations of a commission without ecclesial or civil authority can only be indicative to guide the action of the Church and its faithful.”

“Some of them could prove ruinous for the Church. They carry the seeds of a multiplication of procedures initiated by false victims, to the detriment of those who have really been victims of predators.”

The critique has reportedly been sent to the Vatican. According to French media, Pope Francis was due to meet members of CIASE on Dec. 9. But I.Media, a French news agency in Rome, said on Nov. 25 that the meeting had been postponed.

The pope responded to the CIASE report the day after its publication, describing it as “a moment of shame.”

Speaking at his weekly general audience on Oct. 6, he said: “To the victims, I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the center of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers.”

Pro-lifers win right to appeal ruling on German municipality’s prayer vigil ban

Pavica Vojnović, leader of the pro-life prayer vigils in Pforzheim, Germany. / ADF International.

Pforzheim, Germany, Dec 1, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-lifers have won the right to appeal a court ruling upholding a German municipality’s decision to ban a prayer vigil in front of a pre-abortion advisory center.

The Karlsruhe Administrative Court dismissed a challenge to the decision in May, but the administrative court in Mannheim, southwest Germany, has authorized an appeal.

The challenge was spearheaded by Pavica Vojnović, who led the prayer vigils outside the Pro Familia advice center in the city of Pforzheim, organized by the group 40 Days for Life.

Pro Familia is a member organization of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Vojnović said: “This is about more than our group in Pforzheim. It’s about whether prayer-free zones are lawful, or whether one is allowed to represent different opinions in the public square. That is why we will continue fighting for this freedom.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the appeal was granted in the same week that Germany’s new federal government announced plans to target “pavement harassment by anti-abortion activists.”

The incoming government is a three-party coalition formed by the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), with the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens as its partners. It is nicknamed the “traffic light coalition” because the parties’ colors are red, yellow, and green respectively.

The coalition agreement contains a section entitled “Reproductive Self-Determination” that promises to strengthen the “right of women to self-determination.” It also describes free abortions as part of “reliable health care,” CNA Deutsch reported.

Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.
Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.

In 2019, the local municipality in Pforzheim, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, denied the prayer group permission to hold vigils near the center.

Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for 40 days for women facing abortion and their unborn children. Vigil participants did not prevent anybody from entering the building or block the pavement in the surrounding area.

When the advisory center asked police to monitor the activists, they found no violations. But the center’s management asked that the vigil be moved some distance away or banned altogether.

The organization 40 Days for Life was founded by David Bereit in 2004 as a local pro-life advocacy group in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The group has grown into an international organization, holding Christian campaigns of prayer and activism to end abortion.

Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International, a Christian legal group supporting Vojnović’s legal challenge, said: “We welcome the court’s decision to hear Pavica Vojnović’s appeal. It’s encouraging that the court sees merit in the case.”

“Hopefully, it will grasp this opportunity to uphold freedom of expression, assembly, and religion. In dismissing the case, the lower court failed to affirm these freedoms which are the foundation of every free and fair democracy.”

“By prohibiting even silent prayer near an abortion organization, the Pforzheim authorities have gone beyond what could be considered reasonable or proportionate. Whether or not people agree with Pavica’s views on the sanctity of life, everyone can support the importance of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and assembly.”

Vojnović added: “Every life is valuable and deserves protection. I am shocked that we are being prevented from supporting vulnerable women and their unborn children in prayer.”

“It’s discouraging to hear that silent prayer vigils in a public place are restricted by local authorities. Our society must offer better support to mothers in difficult situations.”

Dutch Catholic bishops cancel Christmas Midnight Masses due to COVID-19 pandemic

The dome of the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Haarlem, the Netherlands. / Frank de ruyter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the Netherlands have decided to cancel Christmas Midnight Masses once again this year as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Dutch bishops announced on Dec. 1 that no Catholic Masses or other parish functions will be allowed to take place after 5 p.m., with public venues required to close between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. under new government measures lasting until at least Dec. 19.

The Dutch bishops’ conference website explained that the decision, also taken last year, was made to prevent large crowds gathering for evening Masses on Christmas Eve. It added that it is difficult to maintain good ventilation with multiple Masses in one evening.

Other Church gatherings, such as catechesis meetings and parish council sessions, can only take place virtually after 5 p.m. Evening Masses on weekdays and Saturdays will be brought forward to finish at 5 p.m.

Dutch officials announced that researchers had found that there were cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Netherlands before the variant was detected in South Africa, according to NPR.

More than 84% of the population in the Netherlands is fully vaccinated and a total of 587 people with COVID-19 are currently in hospital intensive care units, according to the Dutch government dashboard.

The new restrictions come as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands is struggling financially.

The Dutch newspaper Trouw reported on Nov. 30 that the 640 Catholic parishes in the Netherlands lost 15 million euros (around $17 million) last year due to the pandemic and the aging population.

It said that four out of five Catholic parishes in the Netherlands are in financial difficulty and that some parishes are selling church buildings as a result.

There are 3.7 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but only 4% regularly attend Mass, according to Dutch News.

How to listen to Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs abortion case

The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:59 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would return the issue of abortion to individual states. 

Cameras are not permitted in the chambers, but audio from the arguments will be broadcast on C-SPAN. Arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST. 

You can listen here:

Members of the EWTN News team, including reporters from CNA, will be on the ground in front of the Supreme Court. Follow along with their tweets here: 

Highlights from the Supreme Court's oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health

Groups gathered outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 1, ahead of oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. / Katie Yoder

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

This post will be continuously updated.

As the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, activists both opposed and in favor of abortion rights gathered outside the court in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

CNA is outside the court and will be providing on-the-ground updates. (All times EST.)

11:55 a.m. The Supreme Court adjourns.

11:54 a.m. In his closing rebuttal, Stewart compared Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health to Brown v. Board of Education.

"In closing, I would say that in the dissent of Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice Harlan emphasized that there is no caste system here; and the humblest in our country is the peer of the most powerful. Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerate distinctions on the basis of race," he said.

"It took 58 years for this court to recognize the truth of those realities in a decision. And that was the greatest decision that this court ever reached. We're we're running on 50 years of Roe. It is an egregiously wrong decision that has inflicted tremendous damage on our country, and will continue to do so and take innumerable human lives," until it is overruled.

11:48 a.m. Prelogar states that she does not think "there's any line that could be more principled than viability."

"I think the factors the court would have to think about are what is most consistent with precedent, what would be clear and workable, and what would preserve the essential components of the liberty interest," she said. "Viability checks all of those boxes, and has the advantage as well as being a rule of law for 50 years."

11:45 a.m. Scenes outside the Supreme Court

11:33 a.m. "Shout Your Abortion" shares a video of women allegedly taking Mifepristone, the first drug in a two-drug abortion regimen, to cheers in front of the Supreme Court.

Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone from reaching the unborn child, and is used to terminate pregnancies under 10 weeks gestation.

11:26 a.m. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar begins her arguments in support of Jackson Women's Health.

11:25 a.m. Rikelman has ended her arguments.

11:20 a.m. Justice Brett Kavanaugh notes that "when you really dig into it, history tells a somewhat different story" regarding stare decisis.

"I think that is sometimes assumed if you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent," said Kavanaugh, singling out Brown v. Board of Education, Lawrence v. Texas, and Miranda v. Arizona as examples.

11:15 a.m. Alito questions Rikelman about the historical precedent in Roe/Casey. He asked if states had recognized abortion at the time of the 14th Amendment--there were none, said Rikelman, but says there was "common law."

Rikelman could not provide a case recognizing abortion as a right.

11:06 a.m. Alito calls the viability line "arbitrary," and says that it does not make sense.

"If a woman wants to be free of the burdens of pregnancy, that interest does not disappear the moment the viability line is crossed," said Alito. "The fetus has an interest in having life, and that doesn't change."

10:56 a.m. Justice Amy Coney Barrett questions Rikelman about "safe haven" laws, which permit a woman to terminate parental rights by placing the child for adoption shortly after they are born.

Rikelman notes that this case is not just about parenthood, and says pregnancy is potentially dangerous.

10:53 a.m. Chief Justice John Roberts asked Rikelman if a 15-week line could be more workable as a legal standard than viability.

"It seems to me that (viability) doesn't have anything to do with choice," said Roberts. "If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?"

Rickelman said it would not, as enacting a pre-viability line would result in states moving to ban abortions earlier and earlier in a pregnancy.

10:46 a.m. Julie Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive rights, begins her arguments before the court.

"Casey and Roe were correct," she says. She added that there is an “an especially high bar here” as the Supreme Court rejected “every possible reason” for overturning Roe when it decided Casey.

"Mississippi's ban on abortion two months before viability is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent, " said Rikelman. "Mississippi asks for the court to dismantle this precedent and allow states to force women to remain pregnant and give birth against their will."

10:31 a.m. Justice Samuel Alito questions Stewart regarding the idea that being pro-life is a religious view only, and asks if any secular bioethicists believe life exists prior to viability.

"It's not tied to a religious view," says Stewart, who said that there are a host of secular people who have differing views on when life begins.

10:12 a.m. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are pressing Stewart on the issue of stare decisis.

Here's a breakdown about why this legal concept is so pivotal in the Dobbs case.

10:03 a.m.
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey "have no basis in the Constitution," said Stewart. "They have no home in our history or traditions. They've damaged the democratic process. They poison the law. They've choked off compromise for 50 years."

Stewart said those cases have "kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve."

"Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life," he said.

10 a.m. Oral arguments will be starting momentarily. Video is not available, but an audio recording is provided by C-SPAN. Listen live here.

9:50 a.m. Arguments are set to begin in 10 minutes, and are scheduled to last 70 minutes. Normally, reporters and members of the public would be permitted to observe arguments, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to this practice.

Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, will have 35 minutes to represent the state.

For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will have 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will also have 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The crowd outside the court continues to swell as the "Empower Women, Promote Life" rally goes on.

9:02 a.m. This is Marion, from Mississippi. She told CNA that she remembers Roe v. Wade, and says that her generation allowed it to happen. That’s why, she said, her generation must also work to reverse it.

The Supreme Court first heard arguments in Roe v. Wade on Dec. 13, 1971, almost exactly 50 years ago. The case was then re-argued in front of the court on Oct. 11, 1972, and the court announced their decision in the case on Jan. 22, 1973.

8:33 a.m. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said today is a "new chapter in American history, leaving behind the false premise that abortion levels and the playing field for women."

8:00 a.m.: It's a chilly 36 degrees, but people have assembled in front of the Supreme Court. A fence serves as a physical barrier between the two opposing groups.

Vatican archbishop ‘ultimately very optimistic’ about Catholic-Serbian Orthodox relations

Vatican Archbishop Paul Gallagher in 2018. / Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Belgrade, Serbia, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s “foreign minister” has said that he is “ultimately very optimistic” about relations between Catholics and Serbian Orthodox Christians.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher made the remark during a visit to Serbia, a landlocked southeastern European country with a population of almost 7 million, around 85% of whom are Orthodox Christians.

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States met with Porfirije, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on Nov. 23.

“That obviously is a good sign and we believe that there is a dialog that needs to go on and needs to go forward,” he told Ivan Tašev in an interview published on Nov. 25 in the Croatian Catholic weekly Glas Koncila (“Voice of the Council”).

“There is a history that needs to be challenged and confronted and I’m ultimately very optimistic. We view very positively the signs and the comments of the new patriarch and also I can say that the Holy Father has great respect and esteem for him and considers him already a brother within the universal Christian Church.”

Porfirije was elected leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church, in February during an assembly of bishops in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

In an interview after his election, he raised concerns about the canonization cause of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac, who is considered a hero by Catholics in neighboring Croatia.

Gallagher, who also visited Russia earlier this month, told Glas Koncila: “I think obviously there is a path to take, and that is the path of reconciliation. We need to obviously look at the shared history of the region.”

“We need to reinforce our identity above all as Christians and interpret history, the present, and the future in the light of the will of Christ. That is the thing that really matters.”

The 67-year-old English archbishop added: “There are a lot of other things such as wounds, there is contested history, and there are many other problems. In the end, what matters for the disciples of Christ is to do His will.”

No pope has visited Serbia, but Porfirije’s election raised hopes in Rome that Pope Francis might one day be invited to the country, where approximately 5% of the population is Catholic.

During a visit to Serbia in 2018, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that a papal visit could only take place “under the right conditions and when everyone agrees.”

In Advent, we get ready ‘for whatever God wishes’ for us, says cardinal

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Advent “is about being ready for whatever God wishes to do with...

Pope Francis: St. Joseph shows engaged couples what real love looks like

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared advice for engaged and married couples based on the example provided by the Holy Family at his Wednesday audience.

The pope highlighted how St. Joseph witnessed to what real, “mature love” looks like, particularly when life throws a couple unexpected challenges.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He asked the crowd gathered in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 1 to imagine that when Mary and Joseph were engaged to one another, “they had probably cultivated dreams and expectations regarding their life and their future,” when “out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives.”

When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis underlined that “love is not the pretension that the other person, or life, should correspond to our imagination.”

“Rather, it means to choose in full freedom to take responsibility for one’s life as it comes,” he said. “This is why Joseph gives us an important lesson. He chooses Mary with ‘his eyes open.’ We can say ‘with all the risks.’”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“And Joseph’s risk gives us this lesson: to take life as it comes,” the pope said at the live-streamed audience.

In his address, Pope Francis urged Christian couples to remember that they are “called to witness to a love like this that has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to that of mature love.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He said that this requires making “a demanding choice” that “can fortify love so that it endures when faced with the trials of time.”

“Dear brothers and dear sisters, our lives are very often not what we imagine them to be. Especially in loving and affectionate relationships, it is difficult to move from the logic of falling in love to the logic of a mature love,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“We need to move from infatuation to mature love — you newlyweds, think about this. The first phase is always marked by a certain enchantment that makes us live immersed in the imaginary that is often not based on reality and facts, the falling in love phase.”

“But precisely when falling in love with its expectations seems to come to an end, that is where true love begins or true love enters in there.”

Pope Francis said that it is normal for married couples to quarrel sometimes, but advised couples to “make peace before going to bed.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“That spouses fight is our daily bread, eh … ‘And there are even times plates fly.’ It happens. But what can be done so that this does not damage the life of the marriage? Listen to me well: never finish the day without making peace,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Remember always: never finish the day without making peace. And this will help you in your married life,” he added.

This was Pope Francis’ third reflection in a catechetical series on St. Joseph during his Wednesday general audiences.

Before ending this week’s audience, the pope made an appeal marking World AIDS Day.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Today is World AIDS Day. It is an important occasion to remember the many people who are affected by this virus. For many of them, in some areas of the world, access to the necessary treatment is not available. My hope is that there might be a renewed commitment in solidarity to guarantee fair and effective health care,” Francis said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope also asked for prayers on the day before he departs for his trip to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.

Among the crowd at the audience were newly married couples who came to the Vatican to receive the pope’s blessing for their marriages.

At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis shared a prayer to St. Joseph for Christian couples:

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“St. Joseph,
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and chose to renounce your fantasies to give way to reality,
help each of us to allow ourselves to be surprised by God
and to accept life not as something unforeseen from which to defend ourselves,
but as a mystery that hides the secret of true joy.
Obtain joy and radicality for all engaged Christians,
while always being aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.”

EU Catholic bishops lament ‘anti-religious bias’ in guide discouraging word ‘Christmas’

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 1, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Europe’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word “Christmas” was marred by “anti-religious bias.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal on Nov. 30 of the 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication.”

“While respecting the right of the  European Commission to model  its  written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document,” the bishops’ commission said.

The guide urged officials at the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states — to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.

The guide encouraged staff based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., said: “Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality.” 

“Respecting religious diversity cannot lead to the paradoxical consequence of suppressing the religious element from public discourse.”

The archbishop of Luxembourg and relator general of the upcoming Synod on Synodality added: “While the Catholic  Church in the EU fully supports equality and countering discrimination, it is also clear that these two goals cannot lead to distortions or self-censorship. The valuable premise of inclusiveness should not cause the opposite effect of exclusion.”

The document discouraged staff from using the terms “Ms.” or “Mr.,” saying: “In case of doubt, use ‘Mx.’” It also called for forms to “include non-binary options (beyond male and female).”

Shortly before the guide was withdrawn, the Vatican’s Secretary of State sharply criticized the document.

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the text was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, launched the guidelines on Oct. 26 but announced on Nov. 30 that she was recalling them.

She said: “It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”

COMECE, which is based in Brussels, expressed concern that the document may have caused “damage” to “the image of the EU institutions and to the support  for  the European project in the member states.”

“It is to be hoped that a revised version of the document  will  take into account  these concerns,” it said.