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Nation and world briefs


Archbishop Gregory calls abuse a ‘spiritual felony,’ prays for victims

WASHINGTON — Calling the abuse of children a “spiritual felony,” Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory offered prayers April 3 for victims of such abuse and prayed that God would “help us respect the dignity of all the young, vulnerable and those who need protection.” Archbishop Gregory made the prayer during a Mass he celebrated for National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. The Mass was offered in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. While not opened to the public because of shelter-in-place measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, the Mass was streamed live via the Archdiocese of Washington’s Facebook page.

National moment of prayer planned for Good Friday

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, invited U.S. Catholics to join him on Good Friday, April 10, to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. St. Louis time. “Praying together as a nation, the archbishop asks that we seek healing for all who are unwell, wisdom for those whose work is halting the spread of coronavirus, and strength for all God’s children,” according to a USCCB news release issued late April 2. A livestream of the Litany of the Sacred Heart with Archbishop Gomez is available on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ website: www.lacatholics.org and on the USCCB Facebook page: www.facebook.com/usccb. The text of Litany of the Sacred Heart can be found in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

Experts say googling ‘prayer’ has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread

ROME — Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher. The rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global,” wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture. Using Google Trends data on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, she said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.” The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released online March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data “regularly,” she wrote.


Pope sets new commission to study women deacons

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has established a new “Study Commission on the Female Diaconate” as a follow-up to a previous group that studied the history of women deacons in the New Testament and the early Christian communities. Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi of Aquila will serve as president of the new commission and Father Denis Dupont-Fauville, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will serve as secretary, the Vatican said April 8. Pope Francis named 10 other members of the commission — five women and five men, including two permanent deacons from the United States: Deacon Dominic Cerrato, director of deacon formation for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois; and Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. The members also include: Catherine Brown Tkacz, a U.S.-born professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, who focuses on women in the Bible and in Christian tradition; Caroline Farey, a theologian and catechist educator who serves as “Diocesan Mission Catechist” for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, England. None of the 12 were part of the commission Pope Francis established in 2016 to study the historical facts about the women referred to as deaconesses in the New Testament and about the role of women deacons in the early Church.

Cardinal Pell released from prison after court overturns conviction

VALLA BEACH, Australia — Cardinal George Pell has been released from prison after 405 days behind bars after the seven judges of the High Court of Australia unanimously overturned the original December 2018 jury verdict that found him guilty on five counts of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996. The court’s decision, read April 7, concluded there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.” A few hours later, the 78-year-old Cardinal Pell was driven from Barwon prison to a Carmelite monastery in Melbourne. Cardinal Pell said in a statement that he has consistently maintained his innocence, adding that he holds “no ill will toward my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” he said.

Archdiocese to livestream display Shroud of Turin on Holy Saturday

VATICAN CITY — With people forced to stay home, even during Holy Week, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop of Turin has announced a special online exposition of the Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus. On Holy Saturday, April 11, as Christians contemplate Jesus lying in the tomb, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia will lead a liturgy of prayer and contemplation before the shroud at 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. St. Louis time). The prayer service will be live-streamed along with live images of the 14-foot-by-4-foot shroud, which has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in His passion and death. As of April 5, the Archdiocese of Turin said it was finalizing the plans and would publish a list of participating television stations and links to the livestream later in the week.

— Catholic News Service

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