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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.

Brazil’s bishops document increasing ill-treatment in prisons during pandemic

CNA Staff, Jan 27, 2021 / 12:02 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Brazil are decrying worsening conditions and alleged torture in the country’s prisons during the pandemic, as evidenced by a lengthy report released last week. 

The report, compiled by the Prison Ministry Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil (CNBB) and released Jan. 22, documents alleged torture of inmates including physical aggression with weapons, pepper spray, and tear gas, and various humiliating or degrading conditions such as forced stripping. 

The Church in Brazil has been documenting alleged incidents of torture in the Brazilian prison system since 2014. There have been nearly 400 incidents reported since then, mostly by family members and friends of inmates. 

Incidences of torture could be even higher than reported, as the suspension of family visits in most areas means that evidence of torture is less likely to be detected, the report asserted. 

Brazil is home to over 800,000 inmates, the third highest prison population in the world, after the United States and China. 

The CNBB received 90 complaints from prisoners of ill-treatment between March 15-Oct. 31, 2020. This is up from 53 reports received during the same period in 2019, and 44 in 2018, they said.

Only eight of the 90 reported torture incidents led to an investigation by the Prison Ministry, the report said. 

According to data collected by the National Council of Justice (CNJ) of Brazil, rates of coronavirus infection in Brazilian prisons increased by 800% between May and June 2020, and death rates doubled. 

The bishops have criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic.

The CNJ recommended allowing prisoners suspected of having or diagnosed with COVID-19 to be placed under house arrest rather than remaining in a crowded prison. 

Torture and violence in Brazilian prisons is not a new phenomenon. 

In Oct. 2019, a federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of Pará issued a report stating that members of a security task force had been torturing prisoners by way of “beatings with brooms, daily attacks with rubber bullets and pepper spray, impalement of the anus, and the piercing of feet with nails, among other atrocities,” the Brazilian newspaper El País reported.

President Bolsonaro reportedly rejected the report’s contents. 

Brazil's prisons have long been overcrowded, underfunded, and overwhelmed by gang warfare. According to Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo, 372 inmates were killed inside the nation's prisons in 2016.

Gang-related riots at prisons in northern Brazil killed nearly 100 inmates in early 2017, the deadliest prison riot since 1992.

In March 2019, a prison riot in Pará killed at least 62 prisoners. 

International drug trafficking is a major problem in the northern area of Brazil, and criminal gangs exert significant influence from inside prisons in the region. 

Several states set to consider pro-life, pro-abortion bills

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- Several state legislatures are considering measures in support of and against abortion. 


The South Carolina senate this week is considering a bill that would ban elective abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy. 


Although Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has indicated he would sign the “heartbeat” bill if it reached his desk, it would likely face legal challenges from pro-choice groups should it become law. 


As reported by SCNOW, abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy accounted for around 55% of the overall number of abortions in South Carolina, according to 2019 state data.


Florida lawmakers also recently introduced a version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the state’s house and senate. The bill would prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks “probable gestational age,” the point at which some data suggests an unborn child can feel pain.


State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), who introduced the senate version of the bill, said it was intended as a defense of unborn human life.


“We have an obligation to be the voice of the unborn, who are too often not valued as individuals with the right to chart their own life,” Rodriguez stated.


“It is vital that the state of Florida takes action to protect these innocent lives,” she added. 


On Tuesday, the Montana state house approved four pro-life bills that Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has pledged to sign, all in a 67-33 party-line vote. The measures include a “Pain-Capable” bill, protections for babies born alive during botched abortions, requirements that a mother see an ultrasound of her child before having an abortion, and restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs.


Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Mexico began debate this week on repealing an abortion ban that pre-existed Roe v. Wade. 


The state had passed a law in 1969 that prohibited abortion in most circumstances, but the law was rendered moot in 1973 when Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling struck down state abortion bans nationwide. If Roe were to be overturned by the court, the legality of abortion would return to the states and New Mexico’s ban would again take effect.


The American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico supports the repeal of the 1969 abortion ban, and calls it “unconstitutional” and “outdated.” 


Elisa Martinez, a spokesperson for New Mexico Alliance for Life, told KOB-TV that the group and pro-life legislators are together pushing for the criminalization of abortion to be removed from the 1969 law, but that it should be “replaced with protections for women, for unborn children and for medical professionals.” 


The Archdiocese of Santa Fe led a webcast rosary during the debate over the proposed legislation. 



SB10 (Repeal Abortion Ban) will be heard
today at 2pm in the Senate Health & Public Affairs
Committee. You can watch at and click on
"Webcast." Please call your legislators and join us in
praying the rosary at 2pm.

— Archdiocese Santa Fe (@ASFOfficial) January 25, 2021  


Cardinal says Italy is seeing a surge of ‘new poor’ amid the pandemic

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2021 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- An Italian cardinal said Tuesday the country is seeing a surge of “new poor” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that the situation is putting many at risk of becoming victims of usury.

“The fracture of the new forms of poverty is becoming more and more pressing,” Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti said in a video press conference Jan. 26.

The president of the Italian bishops’ conference said “the socio-economic situation in which our country finds itself is a source of growing concern: it is clear that a series of problems of a structural nature that have been known for a long time, and have been underestimated for a long time, must be addressed in an indelible way.”

Speaking at the start of the winter working session of the conference, the cardinal highlighted the “fractures” in society, which the coronavirus pandemic has transformed from “isolated to associated.”

The gift of reconciliation, he said, commits us “as Christians and citizens, to a response of communion and co-responsibility.”

Bassetti noted that the John Paul II National Anti-Usury Council has identified that in Italy, 3 million households, including families and family businesses -- about 7.5 million individuals -- are insolvent, and that 350,000 families are at risk of usury.

Bassetti also said that the Catholic charity Caritas has seen an increase in the number of people who turn to them for material assistance, and that it found the number of “new poor” to have increased from 31% to 45% in the summer of 2020 compared with 2019.

Experts have warned that criminal organizations are taking advantage of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

One way these groups are benefiting is by taking over bankrupted businesses. Mafia organizations offer usurious loans to desperate owners, who, when they cannot repay, get forced into being front men for a Mafia-controlled business laundering dirty money.

In his speech, the cardinal called for action at the governmental level to quickly address the country’s financial situation, before the problems get worse.

“It is clear that the generous solidarity of many must be accompanied by the political will to go beyond the logic of emergency measures and temporary relief to develop a strategy that is truly systematic, also in order to make the best use of the incoming resources,” he stated.

“It is necessary to design new sustainable and innovative tools and solutions from a social point of view and to implement actions that are close to situations of economic and financial fragility,” he said, “through which to intercept those in difficulty, listen to them and help them make the right choices at the first signs of alarm without waiting inert for the worsening of the situation.”

Bassetti also encouraged action through local institutions, including parishes and anti-usury foundations, “so that no one is left alone in the face of the psychological, economic and spiritual upheaval that all this causes and to prevent criminal organizations from getting close.”

Members of Congress push for end to the federal death penalty

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Dozens of members of Congress are urging the Attorney General-designate to stop use of the federal death penalty.

In a letter to Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland on Tuesday, 45 members of the House—led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Adriano Espillat (D-N.Y.)—asked Garland to work with Congress on legislation to end the federal death penalty, once he is confirmed.


In addition, they asked Garland to take specific steps to halt or end use of the death penalty nationwide, including by revoking the Trump administration’s 2019 resumption of federal executions.

“The death penalty is a stain on the United States’ commitment to advancing justice and human rights,” the letter signed by 45 members stated. “We ask that upon confirmation you partner with Congress to enact legislation to end the federal death penalty and resentence those currently on federal death row,” the members stated.


In 2019, Attorney General William Barr—a Catholic—announced a resumption of federal executions after a nearly two-decade moratorium.


Beginning in July, a total of 13 federal death row inmates were executed by the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20. In December and January alone, five of the inmates were executed.


The U.S. bishops’ conference condemned the executions, and in a Jan. 11 statement asked Congress and the Biden administration to stop federal executions and abolish the federal death penalty.


In one of the cases, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark sent a letter to President Trump asking for clemency for Dustin Honken. Tobin noted that, while previously Archbishop of Indianapolis, he visited Honken at Terre Haute federal prison several times a year. Honken was executed in July.


The next chair of the USCCB's doctrine committee, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, called the death penalty part of the "throwaway culture" in a Jan. 8 online panel.


While campaigning for president, Biden promised to end the federal death penalty. As a senator, however, he sponsored a 1994 criminal justice bill that expanded the number of federal offenses eligible for the death penalty.


White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Biden was “opposed” to the federal death penalty, but offered no details on a possible stoppage of its use.


Among the members’ requests of Garland on Tuesday are that he “[w]ithdraw authorization for all pending death penalty trial cases” and stop seeking the death penalty in any federal cases.


In addition, the members are asking that “the federal Bureau of Prisons dismantle the federal death chamber at Terre Haute prison in Indiana.”


"As the Trump Administration has undertaken an appalling rush to execute a historic number of Americans this year, it is incumbent upon the Biden Administration to reverse course and work to make America a more just society," the letter stated.


Rep. Espillat is a Dominican-American and Catholic. He introduced legislation, H.R. 97, on Jan. 4 to abolish the death penalty under federal law.


Pressley, meanwhile, introduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Jan. 11, to end federal use of the death penalty and provide for the re-sentencing of federal inmates currently on death row.

Canadian student journalist fired for Catholic views charges discrimination

Toronto, Canada, Jan 26, 2021 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic student who said his university’s newspaper wrongly fired him for his critical views of homosexuality and transgenderism has filed a claim in a Canadian human rights tribunal, saying he was wrongly discriminated against.
Jonathan Bradley, a 21-year-old fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, was cut from The Eyeopener in June 2020 after a former student posted to Twitter a three-year-old private discussion on religion, homosexuality, and transgender people in the military.

The Eyeopener is an independent student newspaper, owned and operated by a non-profit company itself operated by the students of Ryerson University. The university has about 44,000 undergraduates, and most of its students pay a levy to cover the newspaper’s operation and costs.

Bradley’s lawyer Carol Crosson said the case’s outcome could affect all employees at risk of employer action for social media posts. Canadian law treats volunteers the same as employees. She voiced hope that the legal authorities will rule against employers that punish individuals for their comments both in and outside of the workplace, Canadian Catholic News reports.
“If we in society are punished for conversation between individuals in our workplace, that’s a slippery slope that we dare not approach,” Crosson said. “The right to free speech in society, and to disseminate our beliefs, is crucial. It’s crucial for a functioning democracy. Should it be that individuals are punished for their conversations, that really goes against the foundational freedoms that we have in society. It puts a chill on speech, even past speech.”

Crosson voiced hope that the legal authorities would not “agree with the punishment of individuals who are having conversations outside their workplace.”
Bradley has filed a legal claim with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal seeking $20,000 in general damages, reinstatement as a contributing writer, and a mandate for the paper to “develop and implement non-discriminatory policies and procedures,” Canadian Catholic News reports.
The Eyeopener denied Bradley’s charges of discrimination.
“We strongly refute the applicant’s allegations of discrimination. Nonetheless, we will honor the (human rights tribunal) processes at this time and not comment further,” the newspaper said in a statement.
Bradley had previously drawn a rebuke from an Eyeopener editor after he criticized diversity, inclusion, and equity offices and events at universities, including a Ryerson University event, in a March 2, 2020 opinion piece at another outlet, the conservative news and commentary outlet Post Millennial
On June 3 of last year a former classmate of Bradley, who also objected to the opinion piece, posted to Twitter screenshots of private messages with Bradley from 2017. In that discussion, the classmate objected to Bradley’s views on homosexuality and transgenderism and asked him to delete his public Twitter post.
The classmate published the exchange and tagged the newspaper and Bradley on Twitter. The classmate said Bradley was a “bigot” who has “tweeted blatantly homophobic and transphobic things.”
“In 2017, he point blank said that homosexuality is a sin. I called him out publicly and messaged him privately and this was what happened. You need to do better!” the classmate told the Eyeopener on Twitter.
Screenshots of the 2017 private exchange show Bradley’s responses in a discussion that included religion, sexual ethics, and free speech.
“I don’t see how my comments are homophobic or transphobic, as that is what the Bible teaches,” said Bradley, who said he has family members in the LGBT community.  “I hate that people freak out when someone says something that the Bible made clear. I want people to remember that they can be forgiven for any sin, no matter how serious, as long as they repent. Do you get what I’m saying?”
His correspondent said it was “homophobic” to publicize his belief, adding, “the world we live in is secular, especially living in Canada, and that needs to be respected. You can worship God and believe being LGBTQ+ is a sin all you want, just don’t publicly say it.”
“We’ve come to the point where we think we have to accept everything,” Bradley replied. “Freedom of speech is being suppressed, as different opinions are shut down… I was expressing my opinion that’s tied up with my religion. People are afraid to express their views for being told that they are ‘offensive.’ We’re heading towards a dictatorship because people can’t express the religion of the majority of the population without being told it’s wrong.
When the discussion was re-posted publicly in June 2020, Bradley commented on Twitter:

“Was this a gotcha moment or arising out of extreme boredom?” he asked. “If you read my messages correctly, you would see I’m quoting what the Bible says. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, including the Bible.”
On June 9 Catherine Abes, editor-in-chief of Eyeopener, sent Bradley an email saying the contributing journalist was fired, the Canadian news site True North News reports.

She cited “screenshots of a conversation in which you defended the notion that homosexuality as well as being transgender is considered a sin.”
“I see that you have tweeted this sentiment in the past and also defended it in the present day,” she said.
Abes said the publication has a responsibility to ensure that its community, including sources, contributors, readers, and editors, “feel safe and comfortable in working with The Eyeopener and coming into our space.”
“I fear that since you’ve made your opinion public, members of our community, especially queer, trans and non-binary folks, would no longer feel safe if you are associated with the publication,” she said in a June 9 email.
“It’s for these reasons that I’ve come to the decision that you can no longer contribute to The Eyeopener.”
Bradley’s use of the term “homosexuality” has also drawn some comment. In common usage, it can describe sexual orientation, sexual acts, or both.
Moral theologian Doris Kieser of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta told Canadian Catholic News that in Catholic thought “homosexual behaviors are considered sinful but the orientation itself is not.”
Crosson said courts or tribunals do not determine the accuracy or completeness of Bradley’s understanding of the Catholic faith. Crosson said Bradley needs to demonstrate “sincerity of belief.”
“The test for sincerity of belief from the Supreme Court (of Canada) is a very wide test that grants deference to the adherent,” she said. “There’s an assumption that sincerity of belief is valid. I don’t foresee that as being a problem in his claim.”
In a similar controversy Jack Denton, a Florida State University student was removed from his role as student senate president after comments in a private chat group for Catholic students which were subsequently circulated to a member of the senate. The comments expressed concerns that policy positions of certain groups, such as the ACLU and, contradicted Church teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and policing. He cautioned students to be aware of those positions before they donated to the groups.
He was subsequently accused of transphobia and racism by fellow students and, after a first vote of no-confidence failed, he was removed in another vote of the student senate in June 2020.
Denton filed suit against the student senate’s decision in both the university court and in federal court.

A federal court ruled that Denton’s claim of a violation of his free speech rights had a likelihood of success, and ordered the university to pay Denton for six hours of work a week, for the remainder of what would have been his term as student senate president. The court did not order his reinstatement.

The student court reinstated him in October, agreeing the action was unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements in the Catholic Student Union group chat, expressing his religious beliefs, actions protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Denton’s federal case is ongoing. University officials have not disputed the facts of the case, but have challenged whether they are legally liable.

Pope Francis attends Vatican funeral of his personal physician

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Tuesday afternoon attended the Vatican funeral of his personal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, who died earlier this month.

Soccorsi, 78, had been receiving treatment for cancer at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. He died from complications related to the coronavirus Jan. 9.

Pope Francis had named Soccorsi, an expert in hepatology, the digestive system, and immunology, his personal physician in August 2015.

The funeral Mass for the doctor took place in the Mary Queen of the Family Chapel, located inside the Governorate building at the Vatican. The Mass was said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State.

Soccorsi trained in medicine and surgery at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In addition to being the papal doctor, he did consulting for the health and hygiene office of the Vatican City State and was part of the council of medical experts at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

As Francis’ personal physician, Soccorsi traveled with the pope on his international trips. During the papal visit to Fatima, Portugal in May 2017, Pope Francis laid two bunches of white roses before the statue of the Virgin Mary for Soccorsi’s daughter, who was critically ill, and died the following month.

Pro-abortion, pro-LGBT groups applaud confirmation of new Secretary of State

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- Pro-abortion and pro-LGBT groups applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken on Tuesday.


Blinken, nominated to be the next Secretary of State by President Joe Biden, was confirmed to the position by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, by a vote of 67-22. He served as deputy secretary of state under President Obama, from 2015-2017.


In response to Blinken’s confirmation, the groups Planned Parenthood Global and the Human Rights Campaign stated their approval on Tuesday.


On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Global stated its expectation that Blinken’s State Department would be “supporting SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights] across foreign policy.”


The term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” has been used by the United Nations’ human rights office to refer to a variety of issue areas that include abortion, contraception, and gender ideology.


“We are ready to work together to advance global health & human rights,” Planned Parenthood Global stated of Blinken.


Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated that the organization would work with Blinken “in the days, weeks, and years ahead to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world!”


The Human Rights Campaign also gave its approval of Blinken’s confirmation on Tuesday.


“Antony Blinken will ensure the rights of all LGBTQ people, from every background, are once again a top priority in America’s foreign policy — and that when LGBTQ people abroad are under threat, they can count on the State Department as an ally,” the group stated.


During his confirmation hearings last week before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken said he would allow U.S. embassies to fly rainbow “Pride” flags and would appoint a Special Envoy for LGBTI issues at the agency.


Planned Parenthood Global said on Tuesday that it anticipates “strong leadership” under Blinken at the State Department, “including undoing the harm of the #GlobalGagRule.” The “Global Gag Rule” is a term used by pro-abortion groups to refer to the Mexico City Policy, which bars foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortions from receiving U.S. family planning funding.


Incoming presidents normally repeal or reinstate the policy among their first actions in office. President Biden will reportedly repeal the Mexico City Policy on Thursday in an executive action.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor on COVID-19, told board members of the World Health Organization (WHO) last week that the administration would be reversing the policy in the “coming days,” and reiterated the administration’s commitment to upholding “reproductive health” abroad.


The Trump administration expanded upon the Mexico City Policy, which normally just applies to family planning funding. The administration extended the policy to include more than $8 billion in global health assistance, requiring partner groups not to promote abortion as a condition of receiving the assistance.


The International Planned Parenthood Federation was one of the groups outspoken against the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy in 2017, claiming it could lose $100 million in annual funding for non-abortion services.


During his confirmation hearings last week, Blinken also affirmed his “judgement” that that China is committing “genocide” against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province—in agreement with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made the genocide designation on Jan. 19.


Cardinal expresses concern about preteens using social media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 26, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- An Italian cardinal expressed concern this week about the use of social media by children, encouraging the Church to do its part to give young people hope for the future amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, spoke about kids and social media use on Jan. 24, after the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, which some have tied to use of the video platform TikTok. 

“You have to pay close attention to kids. At the very least, they can approach certain [social media] programs when they are older -- 14-15 years old -- but at 8-10 years old it is harmful,” Bassetti told journalists after Sunday Mass at the cathedral of the archdiocese of Perugia.

The cardinal was responding to a question about the accidental death of a 10-year-old child in Palermo last week. The child’s father told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that, according to their other daughter, the girl had been playing a TikTok “game” before her death. The “game,” reportedly called the “blackout challenge,” involves restricting oxygen to the brain to induce a high.

“Certainly there is also a responsibility of the media,” Bassetti said, declining to comment on the specific situation of the family in Palermo, which he said he did not know.

He added that with young children, “the sense of imitation is very strong, and if you create a hero figure, or even the sense of competition, we can have tragic results, as has happened.”

The coronavirus pandemic has created “a sad moment and a difficult moment, especially for kids and young people,” he said, “and therefore, we need to be close to them also as a Church. We must do more.”

The girl died in a hospital after being found with her cell phone in the bathroom on Jan. 20 by her five-year-old sister. The child’s phone was taken by police.

After the accident, the Italian Data Protection Authority blocked access to TikTok users whose ages cannot be proven, at least through February 15. TikTok’s terms and conditions state that users must be at least 13 years old.

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the death, which has been widely reported as being caused by the video-making platform.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is cooperating with authorities in the investigation into possible “incitement to suicide.”

The company responded on Jan. 22 that it had not identified any content on its platform which could have induced the child to participate in something such as the “blackout challenge.”

Bassetti also commented on the need for hope during the coronavirus emergency -- and the role young people can have in communicating hope to the elderly and disabled.

“If hope is not brought by young people and we are unable to communicate hope to young people, who should transmit it?” he said.

In his homily at Mass, the cardinal addressed young people specifically, especially “adolescents, who live in an age of transition, of delicate and fundamental personal growth for their life, but who are forced to live it indoors, without being able to establish normal social relationships.”

“There is too much silence about these boys and girls who are inadvertently taking on the heaviest social burden of this pandemic: these young people are giving up their youth, their carefreeness, their energy,” Bassetti said.

He encouraged young people to make sense of their sacrifices, even if mandatory, by making them “a gesture of love for the weakest, the most fragile, the old.”

“You are making a great effort,” he stated, “but have faith in God as the disciples did. Follow Jesus and you will do great things in your life.”