Browsing News Entries

Poll: Most Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2021 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- Most Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to fund abortions in the United States or overseas, according to a Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll released on Wednesday. 


“Amidst the harsh political divides in our country, clear bipartisan majorities support abortion restrictions and do not want their tax dollars paying for abortion abroad,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, in a statement on Wednesday. 


“Our polling has shown consistently over the past decade that policies that promote abortion-on-demand paid for by taxpayers are divisive and out of step with American public opinion,” Anderson added. 


According to the new poll, the vast majority of respondents (77%) said they either “oppose” or “strongly oppose” using tax dollars to pay for abortion procedures around the world. Only 19% of respondents supported public funding of abortions overseas.


Additionally, most Americans favor significant abortion restrictions, according to the poll. More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) either wanted abortion banned or limited to the first three months of pregnancy—at most. 


Meanwhile, a smaller majority (58%) of respondents opposed taxpayer-funded abortion in the U.S. 


Many Americans favored these restrictions on overseas abortions despite identifying as “pro-choice.” 


Slightly more than half of overall respondents (53%) said they were pro-choice, yet among this subset, nearly six-in-ten still opposed using tax dollars to fund abortions overseas. And among Democrats, a majority of them (55%) opposed funding abortions internationally with U.S. tax dollars. 


Dr. Barbara Carvalho, director of The Marist Poll, stated that Wednesday’s poll shows “consensus” among Americans on abortion restrictions.


“While the number of people who identify as ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ tends to fluctuate with the public debate, when given a broader choice of policy options, there is a strong consensus among Americans on abortion,” Carvalho said in a statement accompanying the poll’s release.  


“Survey results reveal support for abortion restrictions and an aversion for use of taxpayer funding for abortions abroad,” she said. 


The poll was released two days before a now-virtual March for Life will take place on Friday, the 48th annual March for Life. 


In addition, President Joe Biden is expected to repeal the Mexico City Policy later this week, allowing for federal funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions overseas.


The policy, which was originally approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, has been enacted by every Republican administration and rescinded by every Democratic administration since its beginning. 


During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden also said he would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of elective abortions in the U.S.


Anderson on Wednesday called for “restraint” on pro-abortion policies, in order to more accurately mirror the desires of Americans who want abortion restrictions. 


“The American people show consensus and restraint on this issue, and we hope that our elected officials and policy makers will heed this call for unity when there is far too much that divides us in our politics today,” Anderson said.

Archbishop Cordileone: Catholics must recover ‘idea of worthiness to receive Communion’

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2021 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- In an interview discussing his recent admonition of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco emphasized the need for Catholics to recover the sense of worthiness to receive Holy Communion.


“Catholics no longer understand the idea of worthiness to receive Communion. It’s just seen as a sort of a token gesture of welcome and belonging,” Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in an interview that will air on Thursday night.


The archbishop was addressing the topic of denial of Holy Communion to someone “for the sake of their soul.” He said that Catholics must first understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist in order to grasp the significance of the denial of Holy Communion to a public figure.


“For that kind of action [denial of Communion] to make sense to a lot of people, we need to reclaim this sense of what it means to receive [Communion],” Cordileone said, pointing to a lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist among Catholics.


“What are you really saying when you receive Communion? To me, it goes hand-in-hand with this decline in the belief of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.


Archbishop Cordileone was explaining to EWTN his Jan. 21 statement to Speaker Pelosi, a Catholic who hails from the San Francisco archdiocese.


In that statement, Cordileone had said that “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion,” referring to Pelosi’s public support in Congress for legal abortion.


Pelosi, on a Jan. 18 podcast with former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had referred to the issue of abortion as “a woman’s right to choose” and said that Catholics should “love contraception” for reducing the abortion rate.


In response, Cordileone said that Pelosi “does not speak for the Catholic Church,” and that her phrase “right to choose” to describe legal abortion “is a smokescreen for perpetuating an entire [abortion] industry that profits from one of the most heinous evils imaginable.”


Regarding denial of Holy Communion, Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that Catholics who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”


In a 2004 memo to U.S. bishops, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote that a Catholic politician who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaging in “formal cooperation” in grave sin, cooperation that is “manifest.”


In these cases, Catholic politicians should not receive Communion, Ratzinger wrote, and their pastor must admonish them on the Church’s teaching.


The politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Ratzinger wrote.


If these conversations “have not had their effect,” he added, then “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”


When asked by EWTN under what circumstances Communion can be denied for the sake of the recipient’s soul, Cordileone answered that “private conversations” must first take place “to try to move the person in their conscience.”


The archbishop did not comment on whether he has had private conversations with Pelosi about her stance on abortion, or whether he is considering publicly prohibiting her from receiving Communion.


In November, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. told a reporter that he would not deny President Joe Biden the reception of Holy Communion, if Biden were to present himself for Communion at Mass. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged his support of taxpayer-funded abortion and promised to codify Roe v. Wade in law.


On EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Cordileone emphasized that worthiness to receive Holy Communion is a much broader problem among Catholics than just Catholic politicians who contradict Church teaching.


“We have a bigger problem too, in that so many Catholics don’t even understand the concept of worthiness to receive Communion, right? To be in the state of grace,” he said. “And before COVID, I often questioned how many people just nonchalantly go up to receive Communion when they’re really not supposed to be.”


The archbishop said that intentionally skipping even one Sunday Mass is an example of a serious sin that requires absolution in the confessional before a Catholic is worthy to receive Communion again.


EWTN Pro-Life Weekly asked Cordileone this week if Pelosi’s support for abortion as a Catholic in public office was scandalous.


Cordileone answered that Pelosi is not only opposing Church teaching, but also is scandalously contradicting “fundamental human rights.”


“But this is contradicting the Church on a matter that is not specifically Catholic doctrine. Again, this is a matter of fundamental human rights,” he said. “So, we have political leaders championing an injustice, and people thinking that’s okay for Catholics to do. But it’s not.”


Amanda Gorman, inaugural poet for Biden, has history of abortion advocacy 

Denver Newsroom, Jan 27, 2021 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- Poet Amanda Gorman made a splash with her performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. But less than two years earlier, she performed a strongly pro-abortion poem that championed abortion access as necessary to secure equality, to escape from poverty, and to achieve the freedom to determine family size. 

Her poem charged that those who advocate abortion bans aim to control women and sustain the “patriarchy.”

Her performance, carried by Now This News in May 2019, took place when Gorman was a 21-year-old undergraduate at Harvard University. She argued against proposed abortion restrictions in Alabama, Georgia, and elsewhere.

“Fight forRoe v. Wadein the United States,” she said, “because this change can’t wait.”

“We are never alone when we fight fire with feminism. We will not be masquerade to the tale of a handmaid. We will not letRoe v. Wadeslowly fade,” she said.

The Alabama legislation passed in 2019 was intended to be a direct challenge toRoe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The legislation made attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense, except in cases of a serious health risk to the mother. Doctors who performed abortion could be charged with a Class A felony and face between 10 years and life in prison.

The penalty applied only to doctors, not to mothers, who would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions. 

The Alabama legislation had the support of then-Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham. He said that the legislation reflected “the strong commitment that the people of Alabama have to life.” He voiced strong support for the bills, hoping that they would eventually “make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is.”

The Georgia legislation of that year banned abortions after the detection of an unborn baby’s heartbeat, usually between six to eight weeks into pregnancy. Exceptions were made for cases of rape, a threat to the life of the mother, or the baby being “diagnosed as medically futile.” 

Federal judges blocked both laws from taking effect. However, changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court have prompted pro-life groups to voice hope that abortion restrictions may be upheld in coming years.

Gorman’s 2019 performance depicted legal abortion as liberating. 

“Through forcing them into motherhood before they’re ready, these bans steadily sustain the patriarchy but also chain families in poverty. And maintain economic inequality,” she said. “Pregnancy is a private and personal decision and should not require the permission of any politician.”

Even if abortion is made a crime, she said, “women have and will always seek their own reproductive destinies.”

“All these penalties do is subdue women’s freedom to get healthy, safe services when they most need them,” she continued.

Gorman depicted abortion as the foundation of equality. 

“If the sexes and all people are to be equal, abortion has to be actually accessible and not just technically legal,” she said. This “isn’t only about women and girls, this fight is about fundamental civil rights. Women are a big part of it but at the heart of it are freedom over how fast our families grow."

Gorman was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. 

In her Inauguration Day performance of the poem “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman described herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother.” She is a Catholic who grew up in a historically Black Los Angeles Catholic church. CNA sought comment from Gorman but did not receive a response by deadline.

Her Jan. 20 inauguration performance and her poem’s lofty sentiments drew praise from many observers.

“And yes we are far from polished. / Far from pristine. /  But that doesn't mean we are / striving to form a union that is perfect. / We are striving to forge a union with purpose, / to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and / conditions of man,” she said.

“But one thing is certain, / If we merge mercy with might, / and might with right, / then love becomes our legacy, / and change our children's birthright,” she continued.

“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed / a nation that isn't broken, / but simply unfinished,” said her poem.

Gorman’s 2019 pro-abortion rights performance appears to link pro-life advocacy with the alternative right, a hardline right-wing movement.

“The alt-right’s biggest blunder is that most Americans aren’t under their impression that a woman’s body is up to them to decide,” Gorman said.

As CNA reported in August 2017, some alt-right commentators tend to voice strong support for abortion in non-white communities. In a 2016 article for Radix Journal, a alt-right publication started by self-avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, the writer Aylmer Fisher criticized the “pro-life temptation.”

Fisher criticized pro-lifers who oppose abortion because it is racist. Instead, he argued that the pro-life position is “dysgenic” because it does not oppose birth among populations that are more likely to be below the poverty line and more likely to be of African-American or Hispanic heritage.  

“The alt-right is skeptical, to say the least, of concepts like ‘equality’ and ‘human rights,’ especially as bases for policy,” Fisher said. “The unborn fetus has no connection to anyone else in the community.”

The largest abortion provider in the U.S., Planned Parenthood, has long come under criticism for the views of its founder Margaret Sanger. In July 2020, amid debate about historic figures and their views on race, the Greater New York affiliate of Planned Parenthood, announced that it would remove Sanger’s name from its Manhattan building because of her support for eugenics.

Survey: Americans more likely to say that pandemic strengthened their faith

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2021 / 12:37 pm (CNA).- Americans are more likely than people in other developed countries to say their faith has strengthened during the pandemic, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. 


The survey, published on Wednesday, found that while more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) said their faith “has not changed much” during the coronavirus pandemic, almost one-third of Americans (28%) said their faith has grown stronger because of the pandemic. 


Americans were more likely than citizens of other developed countries to say their faith has strengthened.


In Spain, only 16% of respondents said their faith had grown stronger because of the pandemic, while Italy and Canada followed at 15% and 13%, respectively. Only 3% of respondents in Sweden said their faith has grown stronger, and only 2% answered this way in Denmark.


Religious adherence played a role in the answers, Pew noted. Those identifying as religious were more likely to say that their faith has been strengthened than those who did not identify as religious.


Among American Catholics in particular, 35% of those surveyed by Pew said their own faith has grown stronger because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, 30% of Catholics said they believe the faith of fellow Americans has strengthened during the pandemic. 


The survey also found that, despite many people not having access to in-person worship services for much of the pandemic, a mere 4% of American respondents said their faith has weakened. 


Despite “trends toward secularization” in the U.S. and in many European countries, religion “continues to play a stronger role in American life than in many other economically developed countries,” the authors of the report wrote.


“Americans’ greater proclivity to turn to religion amid the pandemic is largely driven by the relatively high share of religious Americans,” they wrote. 


The survey also found that 41% of Americans said that their family bonds have grown stronger during the pandemic, compared to 50% who said their family bond “has not changed much.” 


Pew noted that its new survey followed an October, 2020 survey that found 355 of Americans said the pandemic “carries one or more lessons from God.”


The results of the new survey are comparable to an April, 2020 Pew survey, published as public Masses were suspended throughout the United States. 


At that time, about 24% of American respondents told Pew that their faith had grown stronger amid the pandemic, while 27% of Catholic respondents said the same. 


The April, 2020 survey also found that 55% of American respondents said they have prayed for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, including about 68% of Catholics.

According to the new report, previous studies have found “an uptick in religious observance after people experience a calamity.”


How a Catholic pastor saved hundreds of his Jewish neighbors in the Warsaw Ghetto

CNA Staff, Jan 27, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- All Saints Church in Warsaw is an imposing edifice. Its soaring twin bell towers were inspired by a Renaissance abbey in Italy. In 2017, it became the first building in Poland to be designated a “House of Life.” 

The title was awarded by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, named after the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

At a ceremony marking the designation, Samuel Tenembaum, the son of the foundation’s founder, declared: “This was a place of life, a fortress of life; life had its headquarters here within the walls of this church, and the darkness could not overcome it.” 

The church on Grzybowski Square earned this distinction thanks to the actions of Fr. Marceli Godlewski, its pastor during the Second World War, and those who served alongside him.

Before the Nazi invasion of Poland, Godlewski would have seemed an unlikely candidate to be honored as “Righteous Among the Nations.” His citation on the Yad Vashem website describes him as being “vocally anti-Semitic most of his life.”

He took charge of the downtown parish in 1915 and was of advanced age when the Nazi occupation began in 1939. 

A year before the occupiers arrived, around 370,000 Jews were living in the Polish capital, comprising almost 30% of the population. They formed the largest Jewish community in Europe.

The Nazis ordered the city’s Jewish population to move to a district that was just 1.3 square miles in size. They separated the so-called Warsaw Ghetto from the “Aryan” side of the capital in November 1940. 

Godlewski’s parish was now located inside the ghetto, where overcrowding, meager rations, and Nazi oppression quickly took their toll.

The priest busied himself serving an estimated 2,000 Catholics of Jewish origin. But he realized that, in conscience, he had to do more. He obtained his bishop’s permission to minister more widely. 

Together with another priest, Fr. Antoni Czarnecki, he housed 100 Jewish people in the church’s presbytery. The parish’s communal kitchen fed around the same number. Everyone was entitled to help, regardless of whether they were baptized.

To help as many people as possible, the parish had to rely on subterfuge: providing hundreds of false baptismal certificates to the presbytery’s residents, children, and those seeking to escape the ghetto.  

As Czarnecki later explained, “To make the certificate, it was necessary to search through the death register for a death certificate, most often of a child or infant, whose year of birth coincided with that of the person wanting to ‘break out’ of the ghetto.” 

The ghetto resident then received a baptismal certificate bearing the name, date of birth, and date of baptism of their “double” as recorded in the parish’s baptismal register.

“I have personally known many of them and, to this day, they still use the assumed surname,” Czarnecki recalled after the war.

If the Nazis had discovered this ruse, Godlewski and Czarnecki would have faced the death penalty. In 1941, Hans Frank, governor-general of the occupied Polish territories, decreed that Jews who left their designated area would be executed. Those who sheltered them would face the same punishment.

Godlewski and Czarnecki were obliged to leave the ghetto in July 1942, the same month that the Nazis launched the “Grossaktion Warschau” (pictured below), in which more than a quarter of a million Jews were deported and murdered at the Treblinka extermination camp.

Following an uprising which lasted nearly a month, the Nazis liquidated the ghetto in the spring of 1943. General Jürgen Stroop, who oversaw the suppression of the revolt, sent a triumphant report to SS chief Heinrich Himmler entitled “The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More!”

Estimates vary for how many people Godlewski saved, from 1,000 to as many as 3,000. The priest died at his home near Warsaw on Christmas Day, 1945.

Ludwik Hirszfeld, a pioneering scientist who was jointly responsible for naming the blood groups A, B, AB, and O, credited Godlewski with helping him to survive the Holocaust.

“When I recall his name, I am overcome by emotion,” he wrote. “Passion and love within one soul. Once a militant anti-Semite, a priest fighting with his words and writings. But when fate made him see people living in extreme poverty, he rejected his former attitude and devoted his whole passion to Jews.”

The Polish bishops’ conference highlighted Godlewski’s life on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

In a statement marking the day, bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki noted that Jan. 27 is the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The official Auschwitz Memorial commemoration event, held online due to the pandemic, focused on the more than 200,000 children murdered in the concentration camp.

The commemoration included prayers by the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, Catholic Bishop Roman Pindel, Orthodox Bishop Atanazy and Evangelical-Augsburg Bishop Adrian Korczago.

Gądecki said: “This anniversary obliges us to loudly express opposition to all manifestations that trample human dignity: racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. On this anniversary, we appeal to the modern world for reconciliation and peace, for respect for the right of every nation to exist and to freedom, independence, and the preservation of its own culture.”

“Let us pray for the victims of World War II. Let us also pray that, in each person, love for one’s neighbor may always be victorious!”

Leading soccer goalkeeper in Italy faces penalty for blaspheming

Rome Newsroom, Jan 27, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A leading Italian soccer player is facing a possible ban after allegedly blaspheming last month.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is alleged to have used a blasphemous expression when speaking to a teammate during a match against Parma on Dec. 19.

The 42-year-old is alleged to have used profanity which compares God to an animal.

Buffon, recently voted the best goalkeeper of all time in a poll of his peers, holds the record for most appearances as captain of the Italian national team.

Blasphemy in public is an “administrative offense” under Italian penal law, punishable with a fine ranging from 51.65 to 309.87 euros (around $60-$375).

Blasphemous language is also against the rules of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), which require proper behavior in the sports arena, and is punishable by a minimum of a one-match ban. Referees may give out red cards to players they hear blaspheming.

Blasphemy was a crime in Italian law from 1930, when it was introduced by Benito Mussolini, until it was decriminalized in 1999 to unlawful conduct.

The FIGC opened an investigation into Buffon’s alleged blasphemous expression after the match in December. It confirmed on Jan. 26 that the case had been passed to the federal court, according to ESPN.

Buffon is likely to be banned from one match if found guilty. A number of soccer players and coaches in Italy have received one-match bans for blaspheming in recent years.  

Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante received a one-match ban for blasphemy during a match against Bologna in December 2020.

Serie A, Italy’s top professional soccer league, issued a statement saying that Cristante “was clearly framed by the television footage while uttering a blasphemous expression that is identifiable and audible without margin of reasonable doubt.”

A young Italian priest who has become popular for his videos on YouTube addressed the topic of blaspheming in 2020.

In a video with nearly 300,000 views, entitled “Why blaspheming is problematic,” Fr. Alberto Ravagnani noted that, except on the soccer field or on reality TV shows, profanity, including blasphemy, “is no longer taboo” in Italian culture.

He offered four reasons not to blaspheme, summarizing his message by saying that blaspheming, especially for those who do not believe in God, “only shows that you don’t know how to give [the proper] weight to words, you’ve got problems following rules, and managing your anger.”

The priest referenced Wad, a well-known Italian radio personality,  who was quoted as criticizing the use of blasphemous words in rap music, saying that when the artist blasphemes or alludes to blasphemous phrases, “his music dies a little because it loses artistic value. It reduces its cultural weight.” 

Ravagnani said: “Maybe Wad was a little right. If life is a rap song, when you blaspheme, or allude to blasphemy, its meaning dies a little because it loses value. It has nothing to do with being sanctimonious or well-educated, but it means respecting with your words the meaning of life.”

How one diocese's schools remain open for in-person learning

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2021 / 08:35 am (CNA).- Catholic schools around the United States adjusted to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Halfway through the school year, one diocese explained to CNA how it has remained open for in-person learning while local public schools maintain distance learning.


“Our schools have not been sources of community transmission,” Dr. Joseph Vorbach, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Arlington, told CNA on Tuesday. Vorbach said that of the nearly 17,000 students enrolled in the diocese’s 41 schools, fewer than 200 students have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 


More importantly, Vorbach told CNA that to his knowledge, no student or teacher for the Diocese of Arlington has been hospitalized from the virus. 


Vorbach credited the precautions taken by the diocese’s 37 elementary schools and four high schools for keeping their students and staff largely safe from the spread of the virus. 


These measures include requiring students and staff to wear masks, instituting hallway traffic patterns, repurposing large rooms like the gym and cafeteria as classrooms to facilitate social distancing, and keeping groups of students separate from other groups. 


All four of the high schools have implemented some sort of hybrid model of learning, where different cohorts of students alternate between in-person and virtual education each week. Meanwhile, around two-thirds of the diocesan elementary schools are meeting in person every day and the remaining third use a hybrid model. 


And while the hybrid model is not ideal--Vorbach noted that “half the freshmen class hasn't met the other half of the freshman class, which is strange”--it serves a purpose of “getting them [students] back in the building.”


“And, it facilitates in-person instruction, which makes the home (learning) time stronger,” he said.  


Vorbach spoke with CNA ahead of Catholic Schools Week, an annual week-long celebration of Catholic education in the United States. The 2021 celebration will be held from Jan. 31 through Feb. 6.


As CNA reported last summer, Catholic dioceses scrambled to plan for the 2020-21 academic year during the pandemic. Some dioceses required parents to sign a waiver of liability for their child to return to in-person learning at schools; others offered remote learning options, or petitioned local authorities to reopen for in-person learning. 


On Jan. 26, three members of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), claiming that schools could safely reopen for in-person learning during COVID-19 provided that they took certain precautions.


In addition to masks and social distancing, Vorbach said that diocesan schools took proactive steps to stop the spread of the virus ahead of the traditional flu season. After Thanksgiving and Christmas, many schools opted to go entirely virtual for one week “out of an abundance of caution,” in case any students or staff contracted the virus over the holidays. 


“Things have gone really well,” Vorbach told CNA. “It has to be said that it's going well because of the great planning that went into these mitigation plans, and the following of the mitigation plans.” 


One school did temporarily stop in-person learning before Christmas, due to a virus outbreak. 


“Out of an abundance of caution coming out of the holiday, they remained in e-learning,” Vorbach said. “But they're back in business again with their in-person models.”


Over time, schools have improved at handling cases of the virus, he said. 


“Each time a school went through its first instance of having a teacher or a student test positive, there was that nervousness and anxiety about exactly how to handle it,” he said. But as the months went on, Vorbach said the schools “started to develop a lot of great collaborative sharing going on among those who had gone through it.”


“And honestly, the public health folks in all the counties have been really great,” he said. “The nurses in our schools have been great.”


Meanwhile, in Arlington Public Schools, Alexandria City Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools--all of which are in the territory of the Arlington Diocese--in-person learning of any form is not occurring for the vast majority of students. Many kindergarteners have yet to go to a classroom. 


Dr. Francisco Duran, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, declined to give a date as to when classrooms and schools would re-open and said “no decisions have been made.”  


“My commitment to the health and safety of students and staff remains and I will not announce dates until we are ready and confident in mitigation and operational readiness for larger groups of our staff and students," said Duran in a statement released Jan. 23. 


Vorbach admitted that, as the local public schools were not re-opening back in September and August, there was a “level of uncertainty” associated with the diocesan schools opening for in-person learning. 


“I think you’d have to say [things went] better than expected,” he said. Enrollment has remained stable, with waiting lists at some schools, and while there has been learning loss associated with the pandemic, overall “the loss is less in Catholic schools than the larger dataset,” said Vorbach. 


Students at Diocese of Arlington schools recently took standardized tests, he noted, which will help schools strategize how best to respond to students falling behind in learning.


But most of all, Vorbach is quick to credit the “effort of the principals and teachers,” plus other school staff, “who worked so hard to make this possible.”  


“It's taken a lot,” he said. “I salute the teachers and the principals who have done so much to make it work, because they believe in the value of having them there.”


Vatican official: Catholics can add value to ‘Green New Deal’ debate

Rome Newsroom, Jan 27, 2021 / 07:04 am (CNA).- A Vatican official has encouraged Catholics to apply the Church’s social teaching to evaluate proposals for a “Green New Deal.”

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, reflected on topic in a Jan. 23 guest lecture for a course organized by the Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice Foundation on “The Church’s Social Doctrine for a Green New Deal.”

He pointed out that the philosophical underpinnings of some Green New Deal proposals contained a modern assumption that technological progress inevitably yields good results.

He said: “The Green New Deal and similar plans do not question either the industrial system, which historically is at the origin of pollution or the financial system of international stock exchanges, but are rather programs that tend to respond to economic dynamics that deal with the environmental problem, directly and indirectly, with electric and autonomous vehicles, various other forms of ecological industry, information technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and 5G technology, just to name some particularly relevant examples.” 

He continued: “We are well aware that it is difficult, if not impossible, to go back to pre-industrial times; we also understand that improvements in science and technology are helping us to reduce the very serious environmental problems facing the world. However, we can never be credible ecologists without a critical eye on the modern idea of progress, understood as the reassuring linear development of human possibilities through unlimited technological evolution.”

“The tragic irony is that such a culture, which imagines the product of man as the supreme, saving and definitive instance, then inexorably ends up destroying man and his environment.”

In his lecture, the archbishop encouraged Catholics to commit themselves to “a constructive dialogue” with advocates of a Green New Deal, saying that a Christian perspective would introduce “precious added value” into the discussion.

To illustrate this, he quoted Pope Francis: “Freeing others from their slavery certainly implies taking care of the environment and protecting it, but even more helping the human heart to open itself with trust to that God who not only created everything that exists but also gave us given himself in Jesus Christ. The Lord, who first takes care of us, teaches us to take care of our brothers and sisters and of the environment that he gives us every day.”

The Vatican official said that “the defense and care of culture” were fundamental to the search for the human good.

“I consider it useful to point out a risk present in today’s political dialectic: the most critical of the logic of profit unwittingly end up supporting it, while its defenders delude themselves that it can preserve those good values ​​to which they declare themselves linked,” he said.

Gallagher pointed out that the term “Green New Deal” today is used by political bodies on different continents to refer to different policy proposals. There was the first proposal in the United States House of Representatives in 2019 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was rejected. But the United Nations also promotes a Global Green New Deal and the European Union uses the term European Green Deal.

He noted that U.S. President Joe Biden did not support Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal in all its points during his electoral campaign, but promised to “undertake new environmental policies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, invest in renewable energy, improve the state of national construction, and promote the spread of electric cars.”

“For its importance and for its purposes, the Green New Deal is for us a subject worthy of the utmost attention, and it is good to think of it not as a proposal with defined and assessable contents, but as a framework idea within which we can recognize distinct units between them, today and tomorrow, and which therefore will require the rigor of specific assessments,” Gallagher said.

“Nonetheless, the main Green New Deals currently under development tend to represent on the one hand the hope of a historic turning point for the future of the world and on the other an insistence on certain issues that seem to restrict rather than broaden ecological reflection, at the risk of giving it a uniform and aligned look of environmentalism.”

Gallagher noted that the Church, on the other hand, sees that “nature has its own sacredness that needs protection and respect” and that “the norm of the relationship between man and nature is therefore not the pursuit of the useful, but the search for the common good through the reasons of faith.”

“What is commonly called ‘nature’ is creation for us Christians, the work of God which bears within itself the signs of transcendence and reveals the glory of its creator: as Psalm 19 reminds us, in verse 2, ‘I heavens tell the glory of God and the work of his hands announces the firmament,’” he said.

He argued that “the environment that surrounds us must not be reduced to a place to generate profits, an alternative resource to seek new forms of investment, or a commercial opportunity to increase profits.”

“In fact, nature is a common good that cannot become the prerogative of private companies, nor can it be managed as a state property entrusted exclusively to the action of governments. It is therefore important to think of new economic models that safeguard the environment and guarantee the dignity of every human person,” he said.

Theme song unveiled for next World Youth Day in Lisbon

CNA Staff, Jan 27, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).- The organizers of World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon on Wednesday unveiled the event’s official theme song.

They said that the song, entitled “Há Pressa no Ar” in Portuguese (“There’s a rush in the air”) and issued on Jan. 27, invites young people to identify themselves with the Virgin Mary. 

The song was revealed in a presentation by Teresa Oliveira, a radio announcer in Portugal. (The song can be heard here.)

The composition is inspired by the theme of WYD Lisbon 2023,  “Mary arose and went with haste,” a verse taken from St. Luke’s Gospel describing Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation. 

The music was composed by teacher Pedro Ferreira and the lyrics written by Fr. João Paulo Vaz, a priest who uses music as a means of evangelization. Both men are from the diocese of Coimbra, in central Portugal.

Organizers are releasing two versions of the song. One is solely in Portuguese. The other, an international version, incorporates five languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, and Italian.

A literal translation of the song’s chorus, provided by organizers, reads: “Everyone will hear our voice, / Let us lift our arms, There’s a rush in the air. / Jesus lives and does not leave us alone: / We will not cease to love.”

“When singing this theme song, the young people from all over the world are invited to identify themselves with Mary, disposing themselves to serve, to the mission and to the transformation of the world,” the Local Organization Committee said in a press release on Jan. 27. 

“The lyrics also evoke the party of the WYD and the joy that comes from Jesus.”

The song was selected by a panel of artists after a nationwide contest with more than 100 entrants.

Competition organizers challenged participants to create a song that reflected the WYD 2023 theme, the aims of World Youth Day, especially evangelization, and Portuguese culture. They said they were looking for “a popular song, cheerful, young, easy to learn and easy to translate and to adapt.”

Pedro Ferreira (pictured above right, with Fr. João Paulo Vaz) explained that the melody came before the lyrics. He recalled composing the music in a “small room, alone, by the piano,” searching for a tune that helped “to congregate, to gather a community.” 

The 41-year-old and other members of his music group, known as the “Parish Band,” approached Fr. João Paulo Vaz to write the lyrics.

“Not changing the melody, and with the guitar in my hands, I started writing, just like I usually do,” the 51-year-old priest said.

“The theme of the Portuguese edition [of World Youth Day] made me revise my relationship with the Mother and, then, the lyrics creative process became, for me, a very deep time of praying,” he explained.

World Youth Day, which is typically held on a different continent every three years, was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The week-long gathering usually attracts hundreds of thousands of young people. 

The coronavirus crisis has thrown up obstacles for the organizers of the next event in Lisbon. The meeting was initially scheduled for August 2022, but the Vatican said in April 2020 that it would be postponed to August 2023.

Organizers invited young Portuguese Catholics last November to prepare for World Youth Day by taking part in a two-day mission.

They invited young people across the country to dedicate Nov. 28-29, the weekend marking the start of Advent, to the countrywide mission. 

"We challenge each young person to do a mission wherever they are, thus giving expression to the theme proposed by Pope Francis for WYD Lisbon 2023,” they said. 

In light of the pandemic, organizers suggested that youngsters could take part in the mission by calling someone who lives alone, speaking to distant family members via the internet, volunteering with local charities, or undertaking acts of service in their parishes. 

They encouraged youngsters to wear WYD Lisbon 2023 T-shirts while taking part, to “give visibility to this great movement of hope.”

Organizers launched the WYD Lisbon 2023 website and official logo in October.

The logo, featuring the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of a cross, in the colors of Portugal’s flag, was selected in an international contest with hundreds of participants from 30 countries by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

It was designed by Beatriz Roque Antunes, a 24-year-old who works at a communication agency in Lisbon. 

The pope announced that the Portuguese capital would host the global Catholic gathering of young people at the closing Mass of the last international World Youth Day in Panama City in January 2019.

Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is around 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most popular Marian pilgrimage sites in the world. 

The 2018 report “European Young Adults and Religion” found that Portugal has one of the highest levels of weekly Mass attendance among young people in Europe.

Pedro Ferreira, who is also the founder of the Portuguese band Anaquim, praised arrangements of the new theme song created by musician Carlos Garcia.

“When listening to the song, Carlos ends up by making the melody of his own and, by doing a remarkable work -- does not change its structure or its form -- enriches it uniquely,” he said. 

Pope Francis on Holocaust Remembrance Day: ‘These things can happen again’

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2021 / 03:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said on Wednesday that commemorating the Holocaust means to be aware that “these things can happen again.” 

Speaking at the end of his general audience, the pope noted that Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He said: “We commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and all those persecuted and deported by the Nazi regime. To remember is an expression of humanity. Remembrance is a sign of civilization. To remember is a condition for a better future of peace and fraternity.” 

“Remembrance also means being careful because these things can happen again, starting with ideological proposals that are intended to save a people and end up destroying a people and humanity. Be aware of how this road of death, extermination, and brutality began.”

In his general audience address, Pope Francis continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

He dedicated Wednesday’s audience -- held in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions -- to the prayerful reading of the Bible.

“The words of Sacred Scripture were not written to remain imprisoned on papyrus, parchment or paper, but to be received by a person who prays, making them blossom in his or her heart,” he said.

Although a particular Bible verse was set down centuries ago, we should remember that it was also written for us. 

“This experience happens to all believers: a passage from the Scripture, heard many times already, unexpectedly speaks to me one day, and enlightens a situation that I am living,” he said. 

“But it is necessary that I, that day, be present for that appointment with that Word, be there, listening to the Word.”

The pope said that God sows seeds in us every day, but whether they take root depends on how prayerful and open our hearts are as we approach the Scriptures.

“Through prayer a new incarnation of the Word takes place. And we are the ‘tabernacles’ where the words of God want to be welcomed and preserved, so that they may visit the world,” he said. 

“This is why we must approach the Bible without ulterior motives, without exploiting it. The believer does not turn to the Holy Scriptures to support his or her own philosophical and moral view, but because he or she hopes for an encounter; the believer knows that they were written in the Holy Spirit, and that therefore in that same Spirit they must be welcomed and understood, so that the encounter can occur.”

The pope said that it annoyed him when he heard Christians reciting Bible verses “like parrots.” He stressed that it was important not only to quote verses but also to have encountered Jesus in them. 

He said that as we read the Scriptures, we should allow them to “read us.” 

“And it is a grace to be able to recognize oneself in this passage or that character, in this or that situation,” he commented. 

“The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, men and women in flesh and blood, men and women who have first and last names, like me, like you. And the Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, when it is received with an open heart, does not leave things as they were before. And that is the grace and the power of the Word of God.”

The pope then reflected on the method of praying with the Bible known as “lectio divina,” which originated in monasteries but is now used by lay Catholics the world over.

Explaining the method, he said: “It is first of all a matter of reading the biblical passage attentively, I would say with ‘obedience’ to the text, to understand what it means in and of itself.” 

“One then enters into dialogue with Scripture, so that those words become a cause for meditation and prayer: while remaining faithful to the text, I begin to ask myself what it ‘says to me.’” 

He described this as a “delicate step” in the process because there is a danger of falling into a purely subjective interpretation of Bible verses. He said that Christians could avoid this trap by relying on “the living way of Tradition” to interpret passages. 

“The last step of lectio divina is contemplation. Words and thoughts give way here to love, as between lovers who sometimes look at each other in silence. The biblical text remains, but like a mirror, like an icon to be contemplated. And in this way, there is dialogue,” he said.

The pope underlined the benefits of prayerfully reading the Bible

“Through prayer, the Word of God comes to abide in us and we abide in it. The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace,” he said. 

“On ‘weird’ and confusing days, it guarantees to the heart a core of confidence and of love that protects it from the attacks of the evil one.”

In conclusion, the pope said that Christian life was at once “a work of obedience and creativity.” 

“The Holy Scriptures are an inexhaustible treasure. May the Lord grant to all of us to draw ever more from them, through prayer,” he said.

In his greeting to Polish speakers, the pope recalled that Jan. 27 is the feast day of St. Angela Merici, who founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535.

He said: “From her spirituality, numerous Ursuline congregations have blossomed, also present in Poland. Inspired by the Word of God, St. Angela wished that the sisters, unreservedly dedicated to God and the poor, would courageously take on the work of educating children and young people. She counseled: ‘Hold fast to the ancient path (...) and make new life!’”

Greeting Italian-speakers, the pope observed that Jan. 28 is the liturgical memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of Catholic schools.

“May his example encourage everyone, especially students, to see Jesus as the only teacher of life; and may his teaching encourage you to entrust yourselves to the wisdom of the heart in order to fulfill your mission,” he said.