Nation and world briefs

U.S.

U.S. bishops to meet virtually in November

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops will conduct their annual fall general meeting virtually in November rather than meet in person as has been the bishops’ practice. The move was brought about by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The bishops had canceled a spring meeting set for Detroit in June due to the pandemic. The cancellation was the first time since the formation of the bishops’ conference in 1917 that a meeting of all bishops had been called off. Bishops voted 219-5, with one abstention, to change the format of the meeting from in-person to virtual. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also consulted with the Vatican prior to making the decision. The USCCB’s Administrative Committee, which governs the activities of the bishops’ conference between meetings of the full body of bishops, will continue its practice of setting the agenda for the November meeting when the committee meets in mid-September.

Archbishop Listecki prays for justice during visit to Wisconsin city

CLEVELAND — Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki prayed for peace and healing at several damaged sites during a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the scene of four nights of demonstrations following the police shooting of a Black man. The stops followed an early morning Mass Aug. 27 at St. Mark Church in Kenosha, a city of 100,000, an hour south of Milwaukee. In Kenosha, hundreds of people have been gathering nightly to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, a Black man shot seven times in the back by a police officer Aug. 23. On the first three nights of protests, businesses, buildings and vehicles throughout the city were severely damaged. Two protesters died and another was seriously wounded by gunfire at the demonstrations Aug. 25. The Mass in Kenosha to pray for the city was organized by the pastors of the city’s nine parishes who wanted to express their support for all people of the community, said Jerry Topczewski, the archbishop’s chief of staff. “The priests really brought it together themselves with their vicar general, Father Jim Lobacz, saying we’d like to celebrate a Mass for the people of Kenosha,” Topczewski said.

Flying into a quarantine: U.S. seminarians create a ‘bubble’ in Rome

ROME — Close to 30 masked men got off a bus at the Pontifical North American College Aug. 20, beginning a new student orientation that kept as many traditions as possible in a 14-day quarantine. The seminarians, from 23 U.S. dioceses, were tested for COVID-19 a few days before boarding their flights to Rome and were being monitored each day within the confines of the NAC campus on the Janiculum Hill overlooking the Vatican. The quarantine, mandated by the Italian government, meant that the students were not able to join Pope Francis for the Angelus prayer on their first Sunday in Rome. It also meant the second-year students who volunteered for the orientation team could not take their charges down the hill and into the city in search of the best gelato. But they did experience the traditional arrival “clap in,” being welcomed with applause by the orientation team and staff as they processed into the college chapel.

WORLD

Vatican official: Use mercy to transform those who favor abortion

BOGOTA, Colombia — The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life said Catholic groups need to use mercy and compassion in anti-abortion campaigns as they seek to “transform” those who do not support the rights of unborn children. Archbishop Vicenzo Paglia spoke at the second online meeting of the Pan-American Network for the Right to Life and was asked what the Church could do to counter politicians who say that they are Catholic but support abortion and whether one solution would be excommunicating them. The archbishop replied that while supporting abortion is against Catholic doctrine, it is not enough to simply “condemn the sin. The members of our Christian community must understand that our mandate is to save, more than to condemn,” the archbishop said. “Convert rather than exclude. And transform rather than eliminate.”

Belarus archbishop refused reentry, warns nation faces civil war

WARSAW, Poland — The president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference has been barred from reentering his country from abroad, after warning in a pastoral letter that the nation’s worsening crisis could spill into civil war. “Returning to Minsk, I was not allowed in at the Kuznica-Bialystok border crossing,” Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev told the Catholic Information Agency, KAI, in neighboring Poland Aug. 31. “No explanation was offered whatsoever, even though I’m a citizen of Belarus. I was told I was banned from entering Belarus, nothing more.” Church sources in Minsk confirmed the exclusion of the 74-year-old Church leader, as Belarusian security forces confronted demonstrators protesting the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed to win a disputed presidential election Aug. 9. In a statement Sept. 1, Lukashenko said there was information Archbishop Kondrusiewicz might have citizenship in more than one country.

Christians, others warn Turkey is ‘weaponizing water’ in northeast Syria

AMMAN, Jordan — Parts of Syria’s north where Kurds, Christians and Yazidis have practiced religious freedom in recent years are reportedly again under attack by mainly Turkish military and allied Syrian Islamist fighters. The Syrian Democratic Council, which oversees the autonomous northeast of Syria, condemned Turkey’s cutting off the water supply to the area’s main city, Hassakeh, for nearly four straight weeks. Humanitarian groups have repeatedly accused Turkey of “weaponizing water” since its military takeover of the region in October 2019. The council warned that Turkey is risking hundreds of thousands of lives in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and soaring temperatures. “Turkey has cut off water from reaching the city of Hassakeh and the surrounding countryside, which is home to more than a million people. This is a crime against humanity,” Gabriel Shamoun, the council’s vice president, told Catholic News Service. A Syriac Christian, Shamoun is also Syriac Union Party official. One resident, who only provided his first name, George, said wells on the outskirts of the city required about 12 days to fill up the reservoir, and only then could water be distributed.

— Catholic News Service

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