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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Pope names Boston cardinal, others to Vatican congregations

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis named Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to be a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican announced his and other papal appointments Jan. 14. The 72-year-old archbishop of Boston is one of the eight members of the Council of Cardinals who has been assisting Pope Francis with the reform of the administration of the Roman Curia, and now he joins 26 other cardinal and bishop members, and 28 consulting theologians, in advising the doctrinal congregation. The congregation deals with doctrinal questions as well as the application of Catholic moral teaching. But it also is charged with coordinating efforts to rid the Church of sexual abuse and with monitoring or conducting cases against individual abusers.

WORLD

Bishops of Malta issue norms for ministry to divorced, civilly remarried

VATICAN CITY — Under certain circumstances and after long prayer and a profound examination of conscience, some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may return to the sacraments, said the bishops of Malta. With "an informed and enlightened conscience," a separated or divorced person living in a new relationship who is able "to acknowledge and believe that he or she is at peace with God," the bishops said, "cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist." The Maltese "Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of 'Amoris Laetitia,'" Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the family, was published Jan. 13 after being sent to all of the country's priests by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo. The bishops urged their priests to recognize how "couples and families who find themselves in complex situations, especially those involving separated or divorced persons who have entered a new union" may have "'lost' their first marriage," but not their hope in Jesus. "Some of these earnestly desire to live in harmony with God and with the Church, so much so, that they are asking us what they can do in order to be able to celebrate the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist," the bishops wrote. The first step, they stated always must be to affirm Church teaching that marriage is indissoluble.

Pope baptizes babies born in Italian earthquake zone

VATICAN CITY — In a gesture of closeness to those who lost loved ones and homes following several devastating earthquakes, Pope Francis baptized 13 babies from central Italy. The pope celebrated the sacrament of baptism Jan. 14 in a private ceremony in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. The Vatican said that all of the babies baptized by the pope were born after last year's earthquakes and that "the youngest of the babies was 5 days old." The central Italian region — particularly the towns of Amatrice, Rieti, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto — were rocked by a 6.2 magnitude quake Aug. 24, 2016. Amatrice was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths, according to the Italian Civil Protection office.

Opus Dei to begin process to choose new prelate

ROME — The three-step process to elect a new prelate for Opus Dei, the predominantly lay organization, will begin Jan. 21 with a consultation involving more than three dozen women leaders. The 38 women members of the Central Advisory will be asked to submit a list with the name or names of those priests in the Opus Dei electoral congress they believe are best suited for the position of prelate. Opus Dei is a personal prelature, which in some ways is like a diocese without territorial boundaries. St. John Paul II named as bishops the two prelates elected after the death of St. Josemaria Escriva: first Blessed Alvaro del Portillo and then Bishop Javier Echevarria. Bishop Echevarria, who was elected in 1994, died in Rome Dec. 12, 2016.

Vatican backs papal commission investigating Order of Malta

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican confirmed its trust in the papal commission investigating the forced resignation of the Order of Malta's former grand chancellor following a letter by the order's grand master to discredit the group. In a statement released Jan. 17, the Vatican said it "reaffirms its confidence" in the five-member group established by Pope Francis "to inform him about the present crisis of the central direction of the order." The Vatican also rejected "any attempt to discredit these members of the group," led by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva. Other members of the commission are: Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a canon lawyer and former rector of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University; Jacques de Liedekerke, former chancellor of the Order of Malta; Marc Odendall, counselor of the order; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

— Catholic News Service 

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