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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

National Prayer Vigil for Life will be virtual this year

WASHINGTON — Each year on the night before the annual March for Life, at least 10,000 people have filled the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. This year, due to local restrictions on attendance sizes because of the pandemic, the prayer vigil will be virtual. Catholics across the country are instead being are encouraged to take part in a nationwide prayer vigil from Jan. 28 through Jan. 29, marking the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion. The vigil will begin with a live broadcast at 7 p.m. CST on Thursday, Jan. 28, from the basilica, starting with praying the Rosary followed by Mass. Bishops from across the country will lead Holy Hours throughout the night in the livestreamed vigil. The service can be viewed on EWTN or livestreams from the basilica or from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pro-life leaders call on Senate to reject Biden’s nominee to head HHS

WASHINGTON — Over 40 prominent pro-life leaders called on the U.S. Senate Dec. 21 to reject President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Mr. Becerra carries a national reputation for his vehement, unwavering support for abortion, including in the ninth month, his staunch convictions in opposition to conscience rights for medical professionals, and his hostile opinions regarding the freedoms of religious organizations, among other issues that are of major concern to us,” the leaders said in a letter to senators. Becerra, who was nominated by Biden Dec. 7, must be confirmed by the Senate. Pro-life leaders who signed the letter included the heads of March for Life, Students for Life Action, Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life, Live Action, Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, Center for Medical Progress, And Then There were None and National Institute of Family & Life Advocates.

Coadjutor Bishop Rojas succeeds retiring Bishop Barnes of San Bernardino

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, California, and Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas immediately succeeds him. Bishop Barnes has headed the diocese since 1996. In June, he turned 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn their resignation into the pope. Bishop Rojas had been an auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese since 2011 when Pope Francis named him as coadjutor for San Bernardino Dec. 3, 2019. Bishop Barnes’ resignation was announced in Washington Dec. 28 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Rojas was born Jan. 5, 1965, in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He studied for the priesthood at St. Maria de Guadalupe Seminary in Aguascalientes and then moved to Chicago and continued seminary studies. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1997.

WORLD

Like the Magi, look to the heavens for hope, pope says on Epiphany

VATICAN CITY — In times of doubt and suffering, Christians must not focus on their problems, but instead lift up their eyes to God, who leads them toward the hopeful promise of great things to come, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Epiphany. “This does not mean denying reality, or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. Rather, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed,” the pope said. The pope celebrated Mass with a little over 100 people, all wearing masks and seated socially distanced from each other, at the Altar of the Chair St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6.

With land mines gone, Mass to be celebrated at West Bank baptismal site

QASR AL-YAHUD, West Bank — For the first time in 54 years, a Mass will be celebrated Jan. 10, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at St. John the Baptist Chapel on the banks of the Jordan River. “It will be a very special day,” said Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, chancellor of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which cares for holy sites. “After all this time, we have come back. This gives us hope for peace. For us, this is a sign not to lose hope, not to lose hope for peace.” The almost 100-year-old church and monastery were vacated in 1967 at the outbreak of war between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, including Jordan, just across the Jordan River. After Israel took control of the area from Jordan, the area was laid out with land mines by both the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen who battled in the area in the 1960s and 1970s. It became a fenced military zone, off limits to pilgrims. Today, the round, second-floor open-air chapel, with its two stairways curving around either side, is still riddled with bullet holes, as are the rooms in the small monastery underneath.

Everyone has task of being peacemakers, pope says

VATICAN CITY — As the Catholic Church celebrated World Peace Day Jan. 1, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of war-torn Yemen, especially the nation’s children left without education and often without food by years of civil war. Reciting the Angelus from the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope made no mention of the sciatica pain that had forced him to miss an evening prayer service Dec. 31 and the morning Mass Jan. 1 for the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Highlighting the connection between the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day, Pope Francis prayed that Mary, “who gave birth to the Prince of Peace and cuddled Him with such tenderness in her arms, obtain for us from heaven the precious gift of peace, which cannot be fully pursued with human strength alone.”

Pope prays for victims of earthquake in Croatia

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis offered condolences and prayers for the victims of an earthquake that rocked central Croatia. “I express my closeness to the injured and to those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and for their families,” the pope said Dec. 30 before concluding his weekly general audience. According to the Reuters news agency, the magnitude 6.4 quake struck Dec. 29 and caused widespread damage. It destroyed at least two villages about 30 miles from Zagreb, the Croatian capital. As of Dec. 30, seven people were known to have died; dozens were injured and many more people remained missing. The powerful quake, which was felt as far as Austria, was the second to strike the country in two days. A magnitude 5.2 earthquake hit central Croatia Dec. 28.

Management of finances, property removed from Secretariat of State

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis approved a new set of laws that formally transfer the management of all bank accounts and financial investments belonging to the Vatican Secretariat of State. Issued “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own accord, and published Dec. 28, the pope’s decree orders the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, also known as APSA, to manage the accounts. APSA handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio and real estate holdings. Supervision of APSA’s management of the assets will be handled by the Secretariat for the Economy, “which from now on will also carry out the function of papal secretariat for economic and financial matters,” the pope decreed. The Vatican said in a Dec. 28 that the measures formalized provisions set out by the pope in an Aug. 25 letter to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Pope announces yearlong reflection on family, ‘Amoris Laetitia’

VATICAN CITY — As the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” approaches, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church will dedicate more than a year to focusing on the family and conjugal love. During his Sunday Angelus address Dec. 27, the pope commemorated the feast of the Holy Family and said that it served as a reminder “of the example of evangelizing with the family” as highlighted in his exhortation. Beginning March 19, he said, the year of reflection on “Amoris Laetitia” will be an opportunity “to focus more closely on the contents of the document.” “I invite everyone to take part in the initiatives that will be promoted during the year and that will be coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life,” he added. “Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St. Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”

— Catholic News Service


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