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How Pope Francis spread devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

Pope Francis speaks at the at the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens on May 31, 2021, against the backdrop of an image of Our Lady, Undoer (or Untier) of Knots. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Of the many devotions Pope Francis has promoted during his pontificate, perhaps none is better known than his devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots (also referred to as Our Lady, Untier of Knots), whose feast day is observed Sept. 28.

The devotion’s origins can be traced back to Augsburg, Germany, in 1612. Husband and wife Wolfgang Langenmantel and Sophia Rentz were on the verge of divorce, and Langenmantel sought help from Jesuit Father Jakob Rem. The priest took the ribbon from the couple’s wedding ritual, and together they prayed to Our Lady to untie the knots of their marital difficulties, asking for the Blessed Mother to smooth out the ribbon that had bound them together. 

The divorce did not happen, and together the couple lived out their married life. Years later, to commemorate the turn of events, their grandson, Father Hieronymus Langenmantel of St. Peter’s Monastery in Augsburg, commissioned Johann Melchior Georg Schmidttner to paint “Untier of Knots” in about the year 1700. It is still housed in St. Peter’s Church in Augsburg today.

While it has been reported that Pope Francis encountered the painting while studying in Germany, the pope pointed out in a 2017 interview with German news outlet Zeit that he has never been to Augsburg. What happened, he explained in the interview, was that a nun whom he had met while in Germany sent him a card at Christmas with the image on it. 

The picture made an impression on the future pope, who noted that Father Langenmantel based his actions on a quote from St. Irenaeus: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith” (“Against Heresies,” 3, 22, 4, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 494).

The pope said he liked the image so much that he started sending postcards of it, too. Replicas of the image were painted in the pope’s home country, Argentina, and devotion there spread. Once Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013, devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots spread throughout the world.

Francis has talked about the devotion throughout his pontificate, even praying specifically to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots from Pray More Novenas:

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

[Mention your request here]

I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope.

O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains.

Hear my plea.

Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.


At second GOP debate, candidates spar over economy, immigration, crime

Republican presidential candidates (L-R), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participate in the Fox Business Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 27, 2023, in Simi Valley, California. / Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 23:58 pm (CNA).

Republican presidential hopefuls on Wednesday night sparred for the second time on the debate stage, arguing over the economy, immigration, and other issues key to the looming presidential contest.

The six candidates — former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott — appeared at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. 

The politicians over two hours traded jabs and touted their records as they labored to distinguish themselves in what is still a crowded GOP primary field. 

Absent again was former President Donald Trump, who has skipped both of the Republican debates held so far, claiming his commanding front-runner status gives him little motivation to appear on stage with his rivals. National polls show DeSantis a distant second.

In contrast to the contentious first debate, Wednesday’s discussion at times seemed to wander across topics as moderators from Fox News and Univision struggled to retain control of the conversation.

Notably missing from much of the discourse were questions on abortion, though DeSantis delivered a highlight late in the debate in defense of pro-life politics, telling the California crowd: “We are better off when everyone counts.”   

Most of the evening was given to policy questions. Asked about the ongoing economic turmoil in the U.S. — including high inflation that continues to drive consumer prices upward — the presidential hopefuls repeatedly blamed the Biden administration for those ills. 

“I really believe what’s driving [these crises] is that Bidenomics has failed,” Pence said, criticizing White House subsidies of green energy technologies and projects. 

Burgum echoed those accusations. “We’re subsidizing the automakers, and subsidizing the cars … and particularly we’re subsidizing electrical vehicles,” he said. Electric vehicles, he argued, depend too much on batteries produced by Chinese supply lines, giving the Chinese Communist Party too much economic power over the U.S. 

The candidates were asked about President Joe Biden’s appearance Tuesday on the picket lines of striking auto workers. Biden is the first sitting U.S. president to have appeared on a strike line.

Pivoting briefly to the immigration crisis at the U.S. border, Scott declared: “Joe Biden should not be on the picket line, he should be on our southern border.” 

Ramaswamy, meanwhile, urged strikers to “go picket in front of the White House” due to what he claimed was the Biden administration’s exacerbation of the country’s economic difficulties. 

Illegal immigration, crime

The candidates were pressed on the ongoing border crisis, which has seen record numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. in recent years. 

“Our laws are being broken every day at the southern border,” Christie said, vowing to send the National Guard to help secure the border states. 

Ramaswamy declared his desire to scrap the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment birthright citizenship clause, which grants citizenship to children born in the U.S. even if their parents entered the country illegally.

“I favor ending birthright citizenship for the kids of illegal immigrants in this country,” he said. Claiming to have “actually read the 14th Amendment,” Ravaswamay said that “the kid of an illegal migrant who broke the law to come here” should not qualify as an American. 

“If you come here illegally,” Scott similarly argued, “you are not [under the jurisdiction of the U.S.].”

The moderators pressed candidates on their response to crime surges in many American cities.

“We can’t be successful as a country if people aren’t even safe to live in places like Los Angeles or San Francisco,” DeSantis said. He said he and his wife met three people in California who had recently been mugged in the streets. He urged support for American police. “In Florida, we back the blue,” he said. 

Haley offered similar support for the police. “You take care of those who take care of you. We have to start taking care of law enforcement,” she said. Citing insufficiently strict criminal policies, she argued: “We have to start prosecuting according to the law.”

Healthcare, education

At times the candidates seemed to struggle to stay on-topic, to the apparent exasperation of the debate’s moderators. 

Asked if the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — would remain as federal healthcare policy, Pence briefly pursued a tangent about mass shootings, leading moderator Dana Perino to humorously ask: “So does that mean Obamacare is here to stay?” 

Pence subsequently vowed to return “all Obamacare funding” to U.S. states.

(L-R) Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former Vice President Mike Pence speak at the same time during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27, 2023. (. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
(L-R) Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former Vice President Mike Pence speak at the same time during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27, 2023. (. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

DeSantis, meanwhile, blamed high healthcare costs in part on the overall economic outlook. “Everything has gotten more expensive. We’ve got to address the underlying problem,” he said. 

Haley vowed to radically transform the U.S. healthcare system, promising to “break” the current healthcare paradigm and “make it all transparent.” She also proposed to address current tort law governing medical lawsuits. 

Circling back to his earlier criticism of electric vehicles, Burgum said: “We talk about, ‘Why do we have the most expensive health care in the world?’ It's because the federal government got involved the same way they did with EVs.”

“Every time the federal government gets involved … things get more expensive and less competitive,” he claimed.

On education, Christie was asked about scoring gaps in New Jersey between minority and white students. “You have to address all students,” he said, arguing that charter schools and school choice policies in New Jersey helped close those gaps. “It can be done when you give people choice,” he said.

Ramaswamy, meanwhile, was pressed about whether parents should have the right to know how their children “identify” at school, an apparent reference to transgender-identifying youth. “Parents have the right to know,” he said, calling transgenderism “a mental health disorder.” 

Church in Mexico launches citizen accord to fight ‘dynamics of violence and destruction’

National Dialogue for Peace in Mexico. / Credit: Ibero Puebla

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 27, 2023 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference (CEM), together with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious of Mexico (CIRM), announced the launch of a Citizen Accord for Peace, which aims to “overcome the dynamics of violence and destruction of the social fabric” in the country.

This accord, as well as the creation of a National Peace Network, came as the National Dialogue for Peace was held Sept. 21–23 in Puebla state, Mexico.

“Peace is a joint effort at different levels and with all social sectors. It implies the joining together of wills, the coordination of efforts, and the generosity of all to overcome the fear that affects us due to the indolence and ineffectiveness of the authorities, who have not attended to their main task of seeking unity, security, justice, and peace in the country,” says a statement signed by representatives of the CEM, the Jesuits, and the CIRM.

According to the statement, this initiative arises from “the pain of the victims, which we make our own,” to those who want to say “that they are not alone, that in Mexico there is enough energy, generosity, and intelligence to transform our reality and overcome this dark stage that has already done enough harm to all of us.”

To this end, the three groups are committed to fostering dialogue and collaboration mechanisms as well as spaces to share experiences. In addition, they announced the creation of a National Peace Agenda, which will be presented to all candidates for public office who will run in the 2024 elections.

The organizers noted that “it is time to act” and “to propose an itinerary of action that brings to life the words of the prophet who proclaims: ‘How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings us peace!’” (Is 52:7).

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

40 countries to participate in Men’s Rosary on Oct. 7

First edition of the Men’s Rosary. / Credit: Men’s Rosary Facebook Page

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 27, 2023 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the date on which the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the fourth edition of the worldwide Men’s Rosary will take place with more than 40 countries uniting in prayer.

The initiative originated in Poland and Ireland in 2018 and in just a few years has spread to other nations on different dates.

In Argentina, a pioneering country in this global crusade, the purpose is for all cities to pray on the same date. A major location will be the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

The first worldwide Men’s Rosary was held on May 28, 2022, and the second on Oct. 8 of the same year, with the participation of more than 150 cities on all five continents. In Buenos Aires about 2,000 people attended.

On May 6, the third time the prayer event was held, men from more than 40 countries prayed for the role of men in society to be valued once again and for the conversion of the entire world.

Segundo Carafí, one of the organizers of the initiative in Buenos Aires, said on that occasion that “the importance of this rosary lies in the fact that it is precisely men who want to bring back faith to the public sphere, praying to recover their own essence in a world that criticizes and attacks them.” 

The purpose is to demonstrate that “faith is not just a woman’s thing and that the man, as a male parent of the family, the priest as such, is ready to fight in the defense of his most absolute essence as a man.”

Carafí shared with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the prayer intentions of this new edition of the Men’s Rosary:

In reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary; following the example of St. Joseph, to reclaim masculinity as a man’s role in God’s plan to protect, guard, and defend the sanctity of our families and loved ones; and to protect and defend our families from human ideas that are anti-Christian.

Argentines will also pray “for our country to recover the Catholic faith and for us to be encouraged to profess it in the public sphere,” the organizer said.

“We pray to Mary for our country and for the Church. We place our country in the hands of Our Mother, especially in this year of profound social and economic crisis, begging her for the conversion of those who govern us,” he concluded.

The event is not limited only to Catholic men but is addressed to all men and people of goodwill.

Why a men’s rosary?

On their website, the Polish originators of the Men’s Rosary state that the objective is to fulfill the will of the Virgin Mary, which is the will of her Son, Jesus Christ.

They note that “the role of men in God’s plan is to protect for eternal life all those whom God has given us here on earth.”

“Just as St. Joseph was the earthly protector of the Holy Family, we also have the task of defending the sanctity of our families and loved ones. We want to do it together, in a community of men. In this unity, we strengthen our male identity and masculine virtues,” the promoters of the prayer movement explained.

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

Iraq archbishop calls for prayers after tragic wedding fire

A mourner holds up an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the funeral on Sept. 27, 2023, of victims who were killed when a fire ripped through a crowded wedding hall in the mainly Christian northern city of Qaraqosh, Iraq, also known as Hamdaniyah. At least 100 people were killed, officials said, pointing to indoor fireworks as the likely cause for the blaze that sparked a panicked stampede for the exits. / Credit: ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 27, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

A fire that ripped through a wedding venue in northern Iraq has killed more than 100 people in a majority-Christian town still rebuilding after years of ISIS occupation. 

The hall in Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plains burned Tuesday night during a Syriac Catholic wedding celebration. Witnesses and civil defense officials told the BBC that the fire was sparked, with hundreds of guests present, by fireworks set off as the bride and groom danced.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, who leads the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, said in a Sept. 27 statement to EWTN News that “patriarchs, bishops, and priests from all faiths gathered today in Qaraqosh to bury those who had perished.”

“No words can adequately describe the mourning of those bringing their loved ones to their final resting places in their ancient land. What was to be a time of joy has now turned into a whole community into mourning and deep shock,” the archbishop, for years an outspoken advocate for the Middle East’s persecuted Christian minority, told EWTN News. 

“I ask for your prayers for those souls we have lost and the severely injured. I ask you to pray for the Syriac community and their families within Iraq and the diaspora.”

One Catholic priest lost 10 of his family members in the fire, Warda said. The injured have reportedly been transferred to hospitals across the Nineveh Plains.

“Many are going from house to house to comfort the mourning. It will sadly not be the first day of funerals as dozens are missing, dozens are severely injured presently receiving hospital treatment for first-degree burns and the inhalation of toxic fumes,” Warda continued. 

While Iraq is predominantly Muslim, the Nineveh Plains are historically Christian and are home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, stretching back more than 1,600 years. The Christian population has shrunk dramatically in recent decades, especially due to the terror wrought by the so-called Islamic State. 

Qaraquosh, some 20 miles southeast of the larger city of Mosul, remains overwhelmingly Catholic despite nearly all Christians being forced to flee under ISIS occupation beginning in 2014; the town was liberated two years later. Pope Francis visited the town of 60,000 during the last full day of his 2021 visit to Iraq. 

Warda said the tragedy has “brought the people of Iraq together again with the [Sunni Muslims] canceling their celebrations of the birth of the Prophet Mohammad.”

“We have statements of condolences and support from the Shia [Muslim] community with the governments of Iraq and Kurdistan announcing three days of mourning,” he noted. 

Iraqi authorities are investigating the disaster. The country’s interior minister said the wedding hall lacked the required “safety and security specifications” and that those responsible would “get their fair punishment,” the BBC reported. 

The U.S. said on Wednesday it was ready to talk to the Iraqi government about any assistance it could offer, Reuters reported. 

This is a developing story.

Names of accused in Maryland AG’s sex abuse report on Baltimore Archdiocese are released

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore. / Credit: Kevin Jones/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

The Maryland attorney general’s office on Tuesday released an unredacted report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that names most of the individuals accused. 

The report outlines a four-year investigation that alleges more than 600 children were abused by 156 people, most of whom have died. The allegations span a period beginning in the 1940s through 2002.

The report was originally issued in April but 46 names were redacted, per an order by Baltimore City Circuit Court. Seven names remain redacted, including five “senior members of the archdiocese,” who were among the Church leadership that the report said helped “cover up” the abuse.

Response from the Archdiocese of Baltimore

In a statement to CNA, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said the report is a “sad and deeply painful history tied to the tremendous harm caused to innocent children and young people by some ministers of the Church.”

The statement called for prayers for all survivors of abuse, especially child sexual abuse. The archdiocese has offered its full cooperation and support throughout the entirety of the legal process, the statement said. 

“At the same time, we believed that those named in the report had a right to be heard as a fundamental matter of fairness,” the statement said. 

“In today’s culture where hasty and errant conclusions are sometimes quickly formed, the mere inclusion of one’s name in a report such as this can wrongly and forever equate anyone named, no matter how innocuously, with those who committed the evilest acts,” the statement continued.

Quoting a court opinion that ordered the release of the names in the attorney general’s report, the statement said: “The fact that an individual’s name was redacted was a function of Maryland law regarding grand jury documents; it was in no way a finding by the court that any of these people engaged in any improper conduct.”  

The statement continued that the court also stated: “While the anger and pain of the victims and their families is entirely justified, an undifferentiated fury aimed at the Church and all of the people in the report is not. Some of the people in the report were simply making difficult decisions under difficult circumstances.” 

The archdiocese said it will continue to respect the legal process and the court’s decisions related to the report. Additionally, the statement said the archdiocese didn’t oppose the report’s release, citing its “longstanding policy” of releasing the names of its personnel who were credibly accused of child sex abuse. 

The archdiocese released its own list of priests and brothers accused of child sexual abuse in 2002.

The list was updated in 2019 to include priests or brothers who were accused after their deaths if more than one allegation had been brought to the archdiocese, if the allegation could be corroborated, or if the priest or brother was named publicly elsewhere.

The statement from the archdiocese said that no one with credible allegations of child sexual abuse is in ministry today, adding that Church policy “continues to forever bar from all ministry anyone who would harm a child.”

The court ruled in August that the identities of all but three of those named in the report be released to the public in September. But more than three names remain redacted because of the appeals.

Some names remain redacted because of appeals that were made to the court, the attorney general’s office said on Tuesday. A further unredacted version of the report may be released pending the outcome of the appeals, the office said. 

Statute of limitations to expire

The newly released report comes as Maryland’s statute of limitations ends on Oct. 1, following a bill that Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed in April allowing lawsuits to be filed at any point alleging misconduct.

The previous statute of limitations prevented lawsuits until victims reached the age of 38.

Several dioceses have declared bankruptcy following similar legislation enacted in the states they are located in. 

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said it is prevented from commenting due to court order. 

The 463-page report from the attorney general’s office is not a criminal charging document but a statement of alleged facts for informational purposes.

Those whose names were originally redacted in the report had the chance to appeal the court’s order, which many did during two hearings in July, according to the memorandum opinion and order issued by the court Aug. 16.

“These names are being released because the key to understanding the report is understanding that this did not happen because of anything ‘the archdiocese’ did or did not do. It happened because of the choices made by specific individuals at specific times,” Judge Robert Taylor wrote in the court’s opinion.

“There is a strong public policy interest in bringing these choices and actions into public view. The interest is not in putting anyone in jail, at this point; the events at issue occurred so long ago that this does not seem plausible,” Taylor wrote.

“But there is an interest in exposing what happened, to help ensure that it does not happen again. There is an interest in exposing how it happened, so that the public in general and public policy makers in particular can decide what, if any, actions need to be taken to prevent similar occurrences in the archdiocese and other institutions accustomed to a culture of respect, deference, hierarchy, and the lack of accountability that is often a part of such institutions,” he wrote.

Former Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian leader arrested as over 50,000 refugees flee region

Ruben Vardanyan, a former high-ranking official in the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, was arrested by Azerbaijan authorities on Sept. 27, 2023, as he attempted to flee the region along with over 50,000 other ethnic Armenian refugees. / Credit: Aleksey Chalabyan a.k.a Xelgen|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

CNA Staff, Sep 27, 2023 / 14:43 pm (CNA).

Ruben Vardanyan, a former high-ranking official in the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, was arrested by Azerbaijan authorities on Sept. 27 as he attempted to flee the region along with over 50,000 other ethnic Armenian refugees.

The Azeri Press Agency (APA), an Azeri state media outlet, published a photo showing Vardanyan, 55, in handcuffs and reported that authorities had taken him to Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.

“He was brought to the city of Baku accompanied by the employees of the State Border Service’s Agile Movement Forces,” APA reported, adding that “the detained person was handed over to the relevant state authorities to make an appropriate decision.” 

Vardanyan is a former state minister of the Republic of Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian separatist government that was defeated by a short but intense Azeri military offensive on Sept. 19.

Born in 1968 in the city of Yerevan in what was Soviet Armenia, Vardanyan attended university in Moscow and became a successful businessman before returning to Armenia.

The reason behind the arrest has not been made clear by Azeri authorities. However, the BBC reported that Azeri authorities, while agreeing to grant amnesty to Armenian fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh, are looking to arrest those who they say have committed war crimes.

Veronika Zonabend, Vardanyan’s wife, issued a statement from her husband’s X account Wednesday in which she confirmed his arrest and asked for support.

“This morning, my husband, Ruben Vardanyan, philanthropist, businessman, and former minister of state of the Republic of Artsakh, was arrested and captured by Azerbaijani authorities at the border while attempting to leave Artsakh along with thousands of other Armenians fleeing Azerbaijani occupation,” Zonabend said.

Calling attention to the 10-month Azeri blockade of the Lachin Corridor that cut off all food and supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh, Zonabend said that “Ruben stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Artsakh, endured hardships and fought for survival with them.”

“I pray that my husband will be released unharmed and ask for your support,” Zonabend added.  

The Azeri Times, a pro-Azeri government news source, reported on Wednesday that another Artsakh official has been arrested by Azeri authorities. The identity of this individual, however, has not yet been revealed, according to The Azeri Times. The news source said that there is speculation the arrested individual could be either Arayik Harutyunyan, former Artsakh president, or Vitaly Balasanyan, former head of the Artsakh National Security Council.

This comes amid a mass exodus of tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh over widespread fears of ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Azeri government. 

On Wednesday the Armenian government announced that 50,243 “forcibly displaced persons from Nagorno-Karabakh” have crossed into Armenia. This is more than 40% of the total ethnic Armenian population of 120,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The U.S. has expressed its support for Armenians displaced by the conflict. 

Adrienne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokesperson, announced additional humanitarian aid would be sent to the region on Tuesday. 

Samantha Power, chief administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim landed in Armenia Monday to meet with Armenian and Azeri officials regarding the crisis. 

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met with Power and Kim on Wednesday to urge the humane treatment of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a report by APA. 

Aliyev has said that the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh will be integrated and that their rights will be respected.

The Azeri State Security Service echoed Aliyev’s promises, saying in a Monday statement that “full protection of the rights and freedoms of persons of Armenian nationality who have handed over weapons and comply with the requirements of the relevant legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan is provided.”

Both former Soviet territories, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. Both sides have accused each other of committing war crimes and genocide against civilians in the region.

With the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan asserted its military dominance over Armenia in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended in November 2020.

Canadian bishops address protection of minors and vulnerable adults at meeting

The 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is being held Sept. 25-28, 2023, outside of Toronto, Ontario. / Credit: CCCB/CECC

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

On the second day of the 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), a bishops’ committee provided recommendations on diocesan policies that are focused on protecting minors and vulnerable adults to all the bishops in attendance. 

The Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry and the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons has studied the issue of “vulnerable persons” over the past year, looking at how to define vulnerability, how to reduce risks, and what behaviors should be encouraged on the part of those in ministry, according to the CCCB. 

During a Tuesday news conference, Richard Fréchette, who serves on the committee, said “many dioceses already have a code of conduct for priests” but that much of the previous work had been solely focused on protecting minors. He said the committee presented a code of conduct template that incorporated protections on all vulnerable persons, noting the “importance of having that as part of the code of conduct.”

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of the Archdiocese of Gatineau, who also serves on the committee, said the protections for vulnerable persons are meant to prevent people from “using positions of authority to impose themselves and demand various kinds of [sexual] favors … of people who are under their care.” 

The archbishop said the committee was motivated, in part, by the “Me Too” movement, which he said showed this problem in the sports world, the artistic world, the media world, “and unfortunately the Church world, also.” 

Durocher added that all of the Canadian bishops engaged in a study session that looked into three case studies and provided recommendations on how to address these issues if they arise. 

Fréchette noted that the committee discussed a variety of issues related to conduct, such as harassment, violence, sexual conduct, information technology, and financial issues. 

The bishops began their annual four-day meeting on Monday, and it comes to a close on Thursday. They have gathered in King City, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. 

On the first day, the bishops prepared for the Synod on Synodality, which begins in Rome in about a week. Four Canadian bishops and four Canadian non-bishop participants will take part in the global synod. They also discussed humanitarian efforts in Honduras. 

The bishops also plan to address the growing practice of euthanasia in Canada and the recent expansion of eligibility to include those suffering from mental health conditions. They plan to discuss the importance of promoting palliative care rather than euthanasia.

California governor signs bills that would penalize schools that refuse to teach LGBT content

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that would reduce funding to schools that restrict LGBT content from their classrooms.

The bill would centralize state authority over school curricula by fining schools that restrict books that cover homosexuality and gender ideology. Some school boards have done so out of concerns that the content is too sexually explicit for young children.

This is just one of 10 bills focused on homosexuality and transgenderism that Newsom signed this week.

The new law, which took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, grants the state superintendent the authority to reduce a school’s funding if it does not provide “sufficient textbooks or instructional materials” in line with the state’s standards for diversity and inclusion, which includes books available in the school’s library.

Under this law, the state superintendent will also have the authority to purchase textbooks for students within a school district and recoup the costs from the school if it refuses to provide textbooks in line with the state’s diversity and inclusion standards.

The bill was signed amid a feud between the state and the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which rejected a controversial state-approved social studies textbook over its inclusion of pro-homosexual and pro-transgender themes. Newsom criticized the school district when he signed the bill.

“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools,” Newsom said in a statement. “With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond also spoke positively of the new law and indicated his intent to use his new authority.

“This law will serve as a model for the nation that California recognizes and understands the moment we are in — and while some want to roll back the clock on progress, we are doubling down on forward motion,” Thurmond said. “Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education, because that’s the California way.”

Other LGBT bills signed by Newsom

Newsom signed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which expresses legislative intent to require teachers and other certificated employees of schools to receive training on meeting the needs of “LGBTQ+ pupils.” It also expresses an intent to specify a timeline for cultural competency training.

The governor also signed legislation to require that K-12 public schools provide all-gender restrooms by 2026. Another bill requires that business license applicants affirm that single-user toilets will be labeled as all-gender restrooms.

Another K-12-focused bill instructs the superintendent of public instruction to convene an “advisory task force to identify the statewide needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and plus (LGBTQ+) pupils and to make recommendations to assist in implementing supportive policies and initiatives to address LGBTQ+ pupil education, education, and well-being.”

Newsom signed another education-focused bill focused on higher education. It will require that public institutions of higher education update records to reflect a person’s self-proclaimed gender identity and name. It requires that campus systems be capable of affirming the person’s preferred name and gender.

Another bill signed by Newsom requires that courts keep information confidential when a person younger than 18 files a petition for a change of gender or sex identifier and limits access to the records.

Discipline of sister who led community co-founded by Rupnik raises questions

Father Marko Rupnik. / Credit: Screen shot/ACI Prensa

Rome Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 11:28 am (CNA).

A religious sister who co-founded a community with the ex-Jesuit and accused abuser Father Marko Rupnik three decades ago was quietly removed in June from the governance of the community, banned from contacting current or former sisters for three years, and ordered to make monthly pilgrimages to pray for Rupnik’s victims.

Sister Ivanka Hosta, the superior general of the Loyola Community since 1994, is staying in a monastery in Braga, in northern Portugal, following the conclusion of an investigation into her leadership of the religious community by the Diocese of Rome, according to the Portuguese religious news outlet Sete Margens.

Hosta founded the community of women religious together with Rupnik in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in the early 1990s, though the two dramatically split ways in 1993.

According to a June 21 decree sent by Rome auxiliary bishop Daniele Libanori, SJ, to Hosta, and obtained by Sete Margens, Hosta was prohibited from holding any position or function of government or from carrying out any spiritual direction in the community.

Libanori issued a “formal reprimand” against Hosta for “exercising a style of government detrimental to the dignity and rights of each of the religious who make up the community,” Sete Margens reported Sept. 24.

The former religious superior was also ordered not to have any contact with current or past members of the Loyola Community for three years and, as an “external penance,” to make a monthly pilgrimage for one year to a Marian shrine to pray “for the victims of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik’s behavior and for all the religious of the Loyola Community,” whom she is accused of harming.

In a cropped excerpt of the decree, shared by Sete Margens, Libanori says that in his investigation of the Loyola Community, he discovered “anomalies” in the government of the institute.

A source inside the community confirmed to CNA the existence of the decree. The source also questioned whether the decree is being fully implemented given the possibility that Hosta could have appealed the measures to the Vatican.

The unusual disciplinary measures leveled against Hosta raise questions about the conclusions of the investigation of the Loyola Community by the Diocese of Rome, including why Hosta would be ordered to do penance for Rupnik’s victims, and stand in stark contrast to a recent statement from the Diocese of Rome exonerating Rupnik’s art center.

Libanori first uncovered allegations of Rupnik’s sexual and spiritual abuse of religious sisters in 2019, when he was sent to investigate the Loyola Community in Slovenia amid complaints about Hosta.

The Rome auxiliary bishop said in a letter he sent to Italian priests in December 2022, obtained by the Associated Press, that the claims about Rupnik were true.

Rupnik, formerly a friend and collaborator of Hosta, acted as the Loyola Community’s chaplain until he broke from the religious community in September 1993.

Several sisters left the community with Rupnik, following him to Rome, where he subsequently opened his art and theology school, the Aletti Center.

While Libanori’s investigation of the Loyola Community appears to have found serious problems meriting strict disciplinary measures against its now-former religious superior, a recent canonical investigation by the Diocese of Rome into Rupnik’s Aletti Center found it to have “a healthy community life … that is free of particular serious issues.”

Rupnik, who was removed from the Jesuits in June after having been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse spanning more than three decades, lived at and served as the director of the Aletti Center from 1995 to 2020.

The priest artist has been accused of engaging in sex acts with consecrated women at the center.

In an open letter published Sept. 19, former members of the Loyola Community said they were “left speechless” by the diocese’s concluding report on its canonical investigation of the Aletti Center.

“All [victims] have received and continue to receive is silence,” the letter says. “The victims of Ivanka Hosta’s abuse of power (who for 30 years covered up Rupnik’s nefarious deeds, and spiritually enslaved those who opposed his designs of revenge) especially have been waiting for a definitive, clear, maternal answer for more than a year.”