Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Meet elected officials as ‘missionary disciples,’ Archbishop Gomez says

WASHINGTON — “When we speak to our elected officials, we speak as missionary disciples, as followers of Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a Feb. 9 closing message to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. “We speak as citizens of faith,” Archbishop Gomez said in his message, delivered online — as was the entirety of the annual meeting for social ministers in the Church. “And as faithful citizens, we are here to call our nation to true justice, to respect the sanctity and dignity of every human life, to never close our hearts or turn our back on people in need,” added the prelate, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Thank you for your witness. It is so important what you are doing,” Archbishop Gomez told Catholic Social Ministry Gathering participants.

Catholic school enrollment, hit by pandemic, is at its lowest in 50 years

WASHINGTON — Catholic school enrollment figures for the current school year — significantly impacted by the pandemic — dropped 6.4% or more than 111,000 students from the previous school year, which is the largest single year decline in almost 50 years. The National Catholic Educational Association issued highlights from its annual report on school enrollment Feb. 8. The full report, titled “United States Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools 2020-2021,” will be available Feb. 17. The annual figures show the number of Catholic elementary school students declined by 8.1% from the previous academic year while the decline for Catholic secondary schools was only 2.5%. The sharpest enrollment decline was for prekindergarten enrollment at Catholic schools, which went down 26.6% this year from last year. Current Catholic school enrollment is 1,626,291 in 5,981 Catholic schools. There are 4,812 elementary schools and 1,169 secondary schools. The NCEA report points out that of the 209 Catholic schools that closed or consolidated at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, elementary schools made up most of this figure — 186.

Biden’s orders restore humane treatment of immigrants, says bishop

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s executive orders aimed at rebuilding the U.S. immigration system, restoring due process and recognizing the dignity of newcomers illustrate his “commitment to prioritize assisting our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters,” said the head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee. These orders “will help to ensure that immigrants and refugees are treated humanely and in accordance with their God-given dignity,” said Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. The bishop’s Feb. 3 statement addressed the actions Biden took the previous day. The president signed orders to address root causes of migration from Central America and expand opportunities for legal migration; create a task force to reunify families separated by policies of the Trump administration; and strengthen integration and inclusion efforts for new Americans.

California bishops welcome court’s ruling easing worship restrictions

WASHINGTON — Two California Catholic bishops applauded the Supreme Court’s Feb. 5 ruling easing the state’s restrictions on indoor worship put in place with the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a very significant step forward for basic rights. This decision makes clear we can now return to worshipping safely indoors without risk of harassment from government officials,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone in a Feb. 6 statement. Similarly, Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, called the decision “a victory for religious liberty rights for all Americans.” The high court’s Feb. 5 decision gave California churches the right to resume indoor worship services while still allowing the state to keep its ban on singing and chanting and limiting attendance at 25% of capacity until their appeals against these restrictions are resolved by lower courts.

Kelly to succeed Anderson as Knights of Columbus CEO

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Patrick Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is the new leader of the Knights of Columbus, succeeding Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who has headed the international fraternal organization as its CEO for more than two decades. Elected deputy Supreme Knight in 2017, Kelly was elected to the top post by the Knights’ board of directors Feb. 5. He begins his term as the organization’s 14th Supreme Knight March 1. Anderson will retire Feb. 28 upon reaching the organization’s mandatory retirement age of 70. “I am honored, thankful and blessed. I am honored to be called to serve as Supreme Knight,” Kelly said in a Feb. 5 news release. He credited Anderson for his guidance over the last four years.

Kansas bishop steps aside from duties as abuse allegation is investigated

DODGE CITY, Kan. — Denying any wrongdoing, Bishop John B. Brungardt of Dodge City has stepped away from his duties and pledged to cooperate with authorities investigating an allegation of abuse of a minor made against him. The diocese said in a statement Feb. 8 that the accusation is being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The bureau recently notified the diocese of the accusation. The agency confirmed to The Associated Press that it is investigating the allegation. A spokeswoman said no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed but declined to release any other information. As required, Bishop Brungardt informed his metropolitan archbishop, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, of the allegation, the diocese said. The Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican has appointed Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of Salina, Kansas, as apostolic administrator while the investigation continues. Citing the investigation, the diocese said it could share no other details.

WORLD

Pope to celebrate Ash Wednesday at Vatican, skipping ‘station churches’

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 17 in St. Peter’s Basilica rather than making the traditional walk from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill, the Vatican said. Because of ongoing concerns about drawing a crowd and the potential that could have for spreading the coronavirus, the Mass and distribution of ashes will take place with a congregation of about 100 people at the Altar of the Chair in the basilica as has been the practice for the past several months, the Vatican press office said Feb. 5. Pope Francis will not hold his weekly general audience that day. The “pilgrimage” from the “station church” of St. Anselm to the “station church” Santa Sabina is an ancient Rome tradition revived in the early 1960s by St. John XXIII. A church was designated as a “station church” because of its prominence in early Christianity or because it was constructed on the burial site of a saint or martyr of the early church.

— Catholic News Service

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