Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Bishops support Biden’s racial equity orders related to housing, prisons

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees welcomed recent executive actions by President Joe Biden to address racial equity in housing and the use of private prisons by the federal government. The orders will reduce discrimination in federal policies, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, head of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said in a Feb. 1 statement. One order directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to review the Trump administration’s repeal of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, a plan to tackle housing discrimination and segregation. The second order directs the Department of Justice to phase out the use of private prisons, which hold about 14,000 of the 2 million people incarcerated in the U.S.

Archbishop welcomes federal actions on housing, hunger

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee welcomed the extension of the federal eviction moratorium and an increase in nutrition assistance to families struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said Jan. 27 that the steps by the incoming President Joe Biden administration were necessary for anyone experiencing hardship as the pandemic continues. The Centers for Disease Control announced Jan. 20 that it was extending its order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31. On Jan. 22, the Department of Agriculture announced a 15% increase in food stamp benefits at least through June under the coronavirus aid package passed by Congress in late December.

Parishioners show support for Father Pfleger, who faces second allegation

WASHINGTON — Father Michael Pfleger, senior pastor of St. Sabina Church in Chicago, faces a second sexual abuse allegation, from the brother of the first alleged victim who came forward in early January. The popular Chicago priest and outspoken advocate against gun violence has denied these allegations and his parishioners rallied outside the parish in support of him Jan. 25, hours after the allegation was reported by Chicago media outlets. Over 50 people gathered outside the church denouncing accusations that, beginning more than five decades ago, the priest had abused the two brothers, who now live in Texas. Parishioners spoke from a microphone of the priest’s 45 years at the parish and his nonstop dedication and activism. The Chicago Tribune daily newspaper and the CBS Chicago affiliate, WBBM, reported separately on interviews with the two brothers who claimed the priest had molested them when they were in their teens and the priest was serving at Precious Blood Parish on Chicago’s West Side.

WORLD

Prayers needed for Myanmar, says Yangon’s auxiliary bishop

VATICAN CITY — After a military coup and the detention of top government leaders in Myanmar, the auxiliary bishop of Yangon, the nation’s largest city and former capital, called for prayers, caution and stocking up on provisions for the people. “We must live in a spirit of vigilance and prayer,” Auxiliary Bishop John Saw Yaw Han of Yangon told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Concerned that the situation could become critical, Bishop Saw Yaw Han also called on the Church to “provide food reserves to avoid shortages,” Fides reported Feb. 1. The military in Myanmar staged a coup Feb. 1 and detained top political leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, according to the Associated Press. The military declared a state of emergency and said Gen. Min Aung Hlaing would be in charge of the country for one year because the government had not acted on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections and because it allowed for an election despite the COVID-19 pandemic, reported AP.

Pope adds Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Church doctors to universal calendar

VATICAN CITY — Recognizing their welcome of and witness to Christ, Pope Francis has approved changing the liturgical feast of St. Martha to include her sister and brother, Mary and Lazarus, on the Church’s universal calendar of feast days. The names of Mary and Lazarus will be added to the July 29 feast on the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. The Vatican Feb. 2 published the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments’ decree ordering the change in calendars. Signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the congregation’s prefect, the decree said Pope Francis approved the memorial for Martha, Mary and Lazarus after “considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to Him attentively, (and) in believing that He is the resurrection and the life,” it said.

Pope establishes World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations. During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25. “It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people — taking strength from their grandparents — will go forward and prophesy,” he said.

Beatification for Venezuela’s ‘doctor of the poor’ set for April

VATICAN CITY — The Archdiocese of Caracas announced that Jose Gregorio Hernandez, known affectionately as the “doctor of the poor,” will be beatified in April. In a video posted to the archdiocese’s Twitter account Jan. 24, Father Honegger Molina, spokesman for the archdiocese, said Hernandez will be beatified “at the end of April this year” and that the event will be a symbol of encouragement for the people of Venezuela. “This year, Venezuela opens the door of hope and joy with the example of Jose Gregorio Hernandez,” he said. Born in 1864 in the Andean village of Isnotu, about 460 miles west of Caracas, Hernandez studied medicine in Venezuela and at the famed Pasteur Institute in Paris. Upon his return to Venezuela, he practiced medicine and would often visit sick patients without asking for payment for his services. His generosity led to locals calling him “the doctor of the poor.”

— Catholic News Service

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