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New EWTN documentary on Bl. Carlo Acutis available to watch for free

Bl. Carlo Acutis / carloacutis.com

Denver, Colo., May 7, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

A new documentary about Blessed Carlo Acutis, the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church, is available to watch for free this month.

“I Am With You,” an EWTN special documentary about Acutis’ life, is available to watch online throughout the entire month of May. Users who sign up for EWTN’s free on-demand program can also receive two free eBooks: 12 Stations of the Eucharist and 7 Lessons in Holiness from Blessed Carlo Acutis. 

Carlo, who was born in 1991 and grew up in Milan, had an aptitude for computer programming. This led him at age 12 to create a website chronicling Eucharistic miracles. The site is still active to this day. 

The Italian teenager, who also loved soccer and video games, spent time volunteering at a soup kitchen in Milan run by both the Capuchins and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. People who knew him say had a great love for the poor, especially the homeless. 

Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006, would have turned 30 this month. The young man offered up his suffering in his final days for the Pope and for the Church. 

Carlo was designated “Venerable” in 2018. Pope Francis beatified him in Assisi on Oct. 10, 2020.

The documentary on his life commences with extensive reflections on the Real Presence, and covers Acutis’ passionate devotion to the Eucharist that began during his childhood. The film features interviews with Carlo’s mother Antonia Salzano, as well as one of Carlo’s best friends, Mattia Pastorelli.

Antonia recalled her son fondly as her “little savior.” In the documentary, she talks about how Carlo was always a devout child despite not growing up in a devout family. 

Another interviewee, family friend Rajesh Moher, called Carlo his “spiritual master.” Rajesh’s friendship with Carlo led him, a former Hindu, to accept baptism in 1999. 

“I Am With You” contains many striking images of Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis; Acutis was buried in Assisi, a place he loved dearly. 

After his death at age 15, his cause for canonization began in 2013. The documentary also includes information about the first miracle that took place through Carlo’s intercession in Brazil in 2013.

‘There is always the power of prayer’: Why this bishop prays daily for President Biden

Bishop Joseph Coffey / EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Washington D.C., May 7, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

One U.S. bishop has committed to pray daily for President Joe Biden, because of the president’s pro-abortion policies.

Bishop Joseph Coffey, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Military Services, U.S.A., has pledged to pray daily for the president. He told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly why the matter is so important to him, in an interview that aired on Thursday night.

“What I would like to say to him, if I could,” Bishop Coffey said, “is that none of us are promised tomorrow. And each day could be the last day on earth, and he has such power as the most important, most powerful man in the world as president.”

“It’s very, very sad, because he said that he is personally opposed to abortion, but wouldn’t want to impose his values on others,” Coffey said of Biden. “Well that makes no sense.”

Biden, he added, has actually “imposed” pro-abortion policies through executive actions. In January, the president repealed the Mexico City Policy, allowing U.S. global health assistance to go to international pro-abortion groups. He also instructed his administration to begin reviewing the Protect Life Rule – the first step toward allowing federal funding of clinics that refer for abortions through the Title X program. The administration in April followed that order by proposing to repeal the pro-life rule.

“That’s exactly what he’s doing, he’s imposing his values on those orders,” Coffey said of Biden’s executive actions on funding pro-abortion groups.

“So for those two reasons, I am committed to praying for this president, that he would change those views,” he told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

He emphasized the power both of prayer and of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in bringing about conversion.

“I always try to remember that whenever I’m preaching on a homily, that those who have had to make a terrible choice that they regret – there’s always redemption, healing, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, confession. I always stress that,” he said. “And there is always the power of prayer for conversion.”

Bishop Coffey is also episcopal vicar for veterans’ affairs at the archdiocese, and a decorated Navy captain. He told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that the pro-life cause was close to his heart “for many, many years.”

Coffey said he was 12 years old and one of nine children when the Supreme Court in 1973 struck down state abortion bans in its Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion throughout the United States. His father talked about the issue at the family dinner table the night of the ruling. “That’s when I committed to being a pro-lifer,” Coffey recalled.

He was involved with the group Operation Rescue for years. In 2020, Coffey told the National Catholic Register “We were always peaceful and nonviolent,” adding that he would sit in front of abortion clinics to give sidewalk counselors a chance to reach women as they tried to access the clinic. He was arrested “in about a dozen cities,” he said of his time in Operation Rescue – including one arrest with his mother and several siblings on Good Friday in 1989.

Ordained a priest 25 years ago, Coffey said he prays first for the Holy Father and then the president, at the Prayer of the Faithful during Sunday Mass.

“Throughout various administrations, Republican and Democrat, I have committed to pray for our president every Sunday,” he said. “So I am ramping that up now to pray especially every day for this president, for his conversion, so that he will be more pro-life.”

Biden is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history. While he has taken positions contrary to Church teaching on life and sexuality, the president is still Catholic, Coffey maintained – which makes his positions all the more “tragic.”

“I think we all hear sometimes ‘he’s no Catholic.’ Well he is. Everyone who is baptized is Catholic,” Coffey said. “That’s why this is so tragic, and that’s why I am asking all Catholics to pray for him, really, every day.”

Sainthood cause opened for Filipino priest killed by Islamists in 2000

Fr. Rhoel Gallardo (1965-2000). / Courtesy of the Claretian Missionaries.

Rome Newsroom, May 7, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The sainthood cause opened this week of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who died on May 3, 2000, after being held for 43 days by Islamists.

The Claretian missionary was killed at the age of 34, just six years after his ordination as a priest and 11 years after making his first profession as a religious.

On March 20, 2000, Gallardo was kidnapped, together with a school administrator, five teachers, and 22 students from the Claret School of Tumahubong, a village located on the island province of Basilan, in the Philippines.

The majority of the population in Basilan is Muslim; the next largest religious group is Catholic. Gallardo, who was the school’s principal, and the teachers and students, were taken captive by the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf, the East Asia branch of the Islamic State.

Gallardo died when he was shot in the head, shoulder, and back at close range, after repeatedly refusing to renounce his Catholic faith. Three teachers and five children also died when they were caught in a gunfight between the terrorists and the military.

When Gallardo’s body was recovered, it was discovered that the nails on his index fingers and toes had been pulled off before he was shot. There were also other signs of torture.

The Territorial Prelature of Isabela, led by Bishop Leo Dalmao, officially opened Gallardo’s cause for beatification on May 3, 2021, the 21st anniversary of his death.

The ceremony took place at St. Vincent Ferrer’s Church in Tumahubong, the town where Gallardo had volunteered to serve the year before his murder.

According to Claretian Fr. Angel Calvo, quoted in Asia News, “Fr. Gallardo was the first priest kidnapped in Basilan to be killed. Other priests and nuns had been seized, even beaten, but in the end everyone was freed.”

“People already think of him as a martyr, a hero. The other hostages said that he did not want to give up the cross and the rosary, as the Islamists wanted. That's why they tortured him by ripping off his nails,” Calvo said.

“He suffered a lot; yet, as school principal, even in captivity he cared first of all about the teachers and the children entrusted to him. He offered his life for the people around him.”

The priest said that even after Gallardo’s death, the Claretian missionaries stayed in Basilan. In the two decades since Gallardo’s death, Abu Sayyaf has moved its activities more to the island of Jolo.

“Fr. Gallardo’s testimony remains an example that no one has forgotten,” Calvo said.

CBCP News, the news agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, quoted Fr. Elias Ayubon, the provincial superior of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines, who said that Gallardo “stood up for God who was faithful to him until the last drop of his blood.”

Martyrdom “could have occurred to any of us who were the young missionaries then, but it was given to Fr. Rhoel because, in hindsight, he was the most prepared to receive the crown,” Ayubon said.

“We join in fervent prayer that our brother and friend Servant of God Fr. Rhoel Gallardo will, one day, be counted among the martyrs and saints of our Mother Church.”

German Catholic diocese hosts event declaring same-sex blessings a case of ‘not if, but how’

Churches in Germany are flying LGBT pride flags in response to the Vatican’s ‘no’ to same-sex blessings. / Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

CNA Staff, May 7, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

A German Catholic diocese has hosted an online event declaring that same-sex blessings are a matter of “not if, but how.”

The Diocese of Essen, in Germany’s industrial Ruhr area, held the conference, entitled “Blessings for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples,” ahead of a nationwide event on May 10 in defiance of the Vatican’s “no” to same-sex blessings.

The diocese said in a May 3 post on its website that around 100 people took part in the conference. Among them were theologians who, it said, argued that “the Church must move out of the premodern era and embrace the current state of knowledge of science and society.”

The report noted that “currently some dioceses are jointly developing a handout on the topic [of same-sex blessings], which will also include a proposal on how to conduct a blessing celebration.”

One participating professor suggested that blessings of homosexual unions should take the form of comprehensive and festive liturgies, including the proclamation of the word, a prayer of blessing, intercessions, and the exchange of rings.

“Blessing celebrations are high forms of Christian liturgy, comparable to baptism,” Benedikt Kranemann said.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Essen’s Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck said in an interview last month that he would “not suspend a priest in his diocese or impose other Church penalties on him” if the cleric blesses same-sex couples.

Essen diocese noted that its vicar general, Fr. Klaus Pfeffer, addressed the virtual conference.

It said: “Deeply hurtful, wounding, overshadowing entire life stories: according to the impression of Essen’s vicar general Klaus Pfeffer, this is how the Church acts when it judges the lives of homosexual couples, refuses to bless them and dares to declare the binding, faithful love of two people a sin.”

“This finally needs to end: Not if, but how blessing celebrations for homosexual couples can be conducted in the church was the focus of the digital symposium ‘Blessing for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples’ on Friday, April 30, in the Diocese of Essen.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. A number of bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Catholic pastoral workers are organizing a day of protest on May 10. The event is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” The organizers, who are using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”), hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.

Several German bishops have previously spoken in favor of blessings for same-sex couples, including Overbeck, bishops’ conference chairman Georg Bätzing (Limburg), Helmut Dieser (Aachen), Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück), Peter Kohlgraf (Mainz), and Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meissen).

But other bishops have welcomed the CDF’s intervention. Among them are Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne), Stephan Burger (Freiburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg).

Bätzing said last week that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”

The bishops’ conference chairman said that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”

Cardinals’ council discusses pandemic recovery, curial reform with Pope Francis

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from within the Vatican. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 7, 2021 / 04:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals met online Thursday to discuss the Church’s response to the economic and social fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in different parts of the world, according to a Vatican statement.

Each of the seven cardinals described the situation in their respective regions and “the commitment of the Church in favor of health, economic recovery and the support offered to the most needy,” the statement from the Holy See Press Office said.

Pope Francis also participated in the May 6 meeting, connecting virtually from his residence in Vatican City.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the ongoing revision of the draft of the new constitution to govern the Roman Curia, known as Praedicate evangelium.

According to the Vatican, the Council of Cardinals discussed “the working methodology that will have to be implemented for the revision and correction of some normative texts following the future entry into force of the next apostolic constitution, as well as the further perspectives opened by the text in preparation.”

The group of cardinal advisers, sometimes referred to as the C9 because it previously had nine members, was established by Pope Francis in 2013, to “assist him in the governance of the universal Church,” as well as to revise the text of the 1988 apostolic constitution Pastor bonus.

At one of the council’s first meetings, it was decided that projected revisions to Pastor bonus would be substantial enough to warrant an entirely new constitution.

The cardinals have been working on drafting and revising the text since 2014, soliciting feedback from bishops’ conferences last year. An updated draft was presented to Pope Francis last summer and suggestions from Vatican departments are being evaluated. But the Vatican has given no projected date for the constitution’s publication.

The cardinal members of the council are Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay; Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising; Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

The Council of Cardinal’s next meeting is scheduled for June.

Biden's National Day of Prayer proclamation lacks mention of God

President Biden addresses the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast . Credit: National Prayer Breakfast

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 23:01 pm (CNA).

US President Joe Biden issued on Wednesday the annual proclamation of a National Day of Prayer, without mentioning any deity in it.

The May 5 statement says that "throughout our history, Americans of many religions and belief systems have turned to prayer for strength, hope, and guidance. Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements — including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans."

This year the National Day of Prayer is observed May 6.

In the proclamation Biden wrote that "today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation. As we continue to confront the crises and challenges of our time — from a deadly pandemic, to the loss of lives and livelihoods in its wake, to a reckoning on racial justice, to the existential threat of climate change — Americans of faith can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead."

"On this National Day of Prayer,” his statement continued, “we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days. We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely — no matter our faith or beliefs. Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history."

The National Day of Prayer was designated by Congress in 1952, and scheduled in 1988 to be observed annually on the first Thursday in May.

Biden's proclamation, which also invites "citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection” is the first in memory to exclude any reference to the name of God or the concept of a deity, excepting a reference to the year of our Lord 2021.

Baton Rouge diocese to celebrate 60th anniversary by celebrating St Joseph

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni. / Public Domain

Baton Rouge, La., May 6, 2021 / 22:01 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Baton Rouge plans to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph in conjunction with its 60th anniversary. 

The diocese, which has St. Joseph as its patron, announced that it will celebrate “60 Years in the Year of St. Joseph” starting May 1, 2021 and going until March 19, 2022. 

“St. Joseph has played a prominent role in our diocese since its inception in 1961, and as we began planning for the 60th anniversary celebration this year, it seemed only natural to celebrate not only the rich history of our diocese but its beloved patron,” Bishop Michael Duca said May 4. 

Pope Francis in December 2020 announced a Year of St. Joseph, concluding Dec. 8, 2021, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the universal Church.

Bishop Duca said a planning committee will be arranging various liturgical celebrations throughout the year for the faithful of the Baton Rouge diocese to take part in. The bishop says the goal is to support Pope Francis’ desire for “the faithful across the world to rediscover St. Joseph and imitate his life of heroic virtue.”

The diocesan committee is working to create prayer cards, coloring books, videos and a diocesan-wide pilgrimage guide, in the hopes of creating “opportunities for the lay faithful to learn more about the history of the local church while also celebrating its patron.”

The history of Catholicism in Baton Rouge goes back nearly 300 years. French missionaries brought Catholicism to the area, celebrating the first Mass in Baton Rouge in 1722 on the site of what would become the Louisiana capitol building. 

The Diocese of New Orleans was established in 1793, and in 1961, St. John XXIII established the Diocese of Baton Rouge, taking territory from the New Orleans diocese. The pope named St. Joseph Church as the diocese’s cathedral. 

Then-Bishop Alfred Hughes declared St. Joseph the patron of the Baton Rouge diocese in the 1990s.

Catholic bioethicist laments HHS removal of restrictions on fetal tissue research

Sign outside National Institute of Health, Department for Health and human Services, Washington DC. Via Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 21:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bioethicist has repeated his objection to the Biden administration’s decision that the National Institutes of Health no longer needs an ethics board’s approval before awarding funding to researchers who will use fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.


“The current administration offers the pretense of acting ethically when they stress that the requirement for obtaining consent still stands, meaningless as it is, even as they adroitly eliminate any substantive ethical review by outside entities,” Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced May 5 the elimination of the requirement for approval by an ethics advisory board for research proposing use of human fetal tissue from abortion.


The announcement is an official notice to researchers who are looking for grants in the area of human fetal tissue projects.


“Even when the mother of an aborted child signs the dotted line granting permission to utilize fetal cells and organs, that consent is necessarily void,” Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA. “The mother has disqualified herself from being able to give valid informed consent because she has already renounced her child's best interests by arranging to end her baby's life through abortion.”


The announcement highlights an April 16 reversal of the Trump administration’s requirement that an ethics advisory board must review and approve all research grant applications and contract proposals that include the use of fetal tissue used from abortion in order to get funding from the NIH. 


“Effective immediately, HHS no longer requires review and approval by an ethics advisory board for research proposing use of human fetal tissue,” the announcement said. “Accordingly, HHS will no longer convene the NIH Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board.”


Fr Pacholczyk told CNA: “This pro-abortion administration is operating in a very troubling moral vacuum, eager to bypass even the most basic ethical standards that should govern taxpayer-funded biomedical research. The foxes are seeking complete control of the henhouse.”


The priest, a former member of the fetal tissue advisory board, recently told the National Catholic Register that “The decision to reinstate NIH support for research involving fetal tissue from abortions reveals a kind of moral vacuum in the world of scientific research.”


Fr. Pacholczyk lauded the ethics board’s previous work in his interview with the Register: “The board acted with moral clarity and ethical resolve as it carried out its mandate.” 


“Very regrettably, the current administration is jettisoning serious ethical review to safeguard abortion and to assure the continued exploitation of vulnerable unborn Americans. Outside ethical review is essential,” he said.


The board had voted to withhold federal funding from 13 fetal tissue research proposals, and permitted funding for one.


In Dignitas personae, its 2008 instruction on certain bioethical questions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that researchers have a duty to refuse to use biological material of illicit origin, a duty which “springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one’s own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life.”

State Department allowing U.S. embassies to fly LGBT 'Pride' flags

U.S. embassy in Moscow displays LGBT "Pride" flag. Embassies will be allowed to fly the rainbow flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag. / hodim/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is allowing U.S. diplomatic posts around the world to fly the LGBT “Pride” flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag during “Pride season.”

In a cable first reported by Foreign Policy magazine on April 22, Blinken granted U.S. diplomatic outposts “blanket written authorization ... to display the Pride flag on the external-facing flagpole, for the duration of the 2021 Pride season.”

The authorization was given to fly the flag before May 17, which is observed as the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, Foreign Policy reported. June, during which embassies can also fly the “Pride” flag on the external flagpole, is celebrated as “Pride” month by people identifying as LGBT.

In 2019, U.S. embassies were reportedly prohibited from flying the “Pride” flag on embassy flagpoles, and had to obtain permission to do so. They were allowed to display the flag inside buildings. In his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken had promised to change that policy.

Earlier this week, the White House said that President Joe Biden has used “the bully pulpit” to promote “transgender rights.”

At last week’s address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden had told “transgender Americans” that “your President has your back.” When on May 4 asked how Biden might act on that promise in the future, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded that he has already acted on it.

“He's also used the power of the bully pulpit in his presidency to convey that transgender rights are human rights,” Psaki said, noting that Biden also “has signed executive orders.”

In January, Biden signed an executive order interpreting sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. He said his administration’s “policy” would be to extend federal civil rights protections to these two classes.

Legal experts said the order was far-reaching and would affect the privacy of single-sex spaces such as women’s locker rooms and shelters, and could result in legal action against religious Americans who oppose the redefinition of marriage and transgender ideology.

Psaki added that Biden “expects” this policy in his order to be put into practice by his administration, “ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to play sports, and to be treated equally in states across the country.”

Blinken’s cable on “Pride” flags also advised diplomatic posts in certain countries to avoid flying the rainbow flag if doing so would create a backlash.

“Posts should support efforts to repeal [criminalization] legislation, while ensuring that ‘do no harm’ remains our overarching principle so U.S. efforts do not inadvertently result in backlash or further marginalization of the LGBTQI+ community,” the cable read.

At his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken also said that appointing a top diplomatic official on LGBT issues, the LGBTI Special Envoy, is “a matter, I think, of some real urgency.” The position currently remains vacant.

On May 4, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden’s picks for ambassador roles should represent the whole country, including people identifying as LGBTQ.

She noted that “the President looks to ensuring that the people representing him -- not just in the United States, but around the world -- represent the diversity of the country, and that certainly includes people who are LGBTQ, members of the transgender community.” 

Legislators urge Biden to address global religious persecution

mdgn/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A bipartisan group of members of Congress asked President Biden this week to prioritize responding to global religious persecution.

“Religious freedom, one of the most basic human rights for all people, has historically been an area of sincere bipartisan support and agreement in American foreign policy,” stated a May 4 letter by members of both the House and Senate to President Biden.

The May 4 letter was led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.). The members were joined by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), as well as Reps. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

“The United States is a beacon of hope and freedom, and we must continue to be a leader in calling attention and responding to religious persecution wherever it occurs,” they stated.

Citing the Pew Research Center’s annual study of global religious restrictions and persecution, the legislators called the current state of international religious persecution a “crisis.” 

They noted persecution of “the Rohingya in Burma, mass imprisonment and exploitation of Uyghurs and other faith groups by the Chinese government, and the ISIS genocide against Yazidis and Christians in Syria and Iraq” to emphasize the urgency of promoting religious freedom abroad.

The members called on Biden to fill vacant positions in his administration that are charged with promoting international religious freedom. 

In particular, they urged Biden to appoint an “experienced, well-qualified Ambassador-at-Large leading the International Religious Freedom office within the State Department.” 

Such an appointment, they said, “is vital” to the agency’s “success” in promoting international religious freedom, countering religious persecution, and engaging with governments, religious leaders, NGOs, and civil society.

The coalition of legislators also asked Biden to appoint a Director of International Religious Freedom within the National Security Council. 

“Having a designated point person to coordinate among all components of the U.S. Government that work to advance religious freedom abroad is vital to the success of these initiatives,” they stated. 

In addition to filling the new positions, the legislators recommended the Biden administration pursue initiatives and actions to work with global allies on issues on religious freedom.

The members urged the administration to lead coalitions of actors in government, civil society, and foreign nations to create initiatives that protect religious freedom. 

The letter said that because of China’s hostility towards religious groups in particular, the U.S. has an obligation to respond. 

“China’s hostility toward religion and people of faith extends to Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and Christians, some of whom are unjustly imprisoned for their faith, such as Pastor John Cao,” the letter said.

The members argued that U.S. engagement was integral to the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned in Turkey for more than two years. The legislators added that because of the prioritization of religious freedom, the U.S. has been able to “defend Coptic Christians in Egypt, denounce anti-conversion laws in India, and draw attention to the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in Europe.”

The coalition of legislators said they hope the administration “will work on a bipartisan basis with Congress to advance these policy items and prioritize the right of all people to have a faith, live their faith, change their faith or have no faith at all.”