Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Maryland bishops urge stop to planned federal execution

WASHINGTON — Eight Catholic bishops serving Maryland dioceses urged President Donald Trump Dec. 22 to stop the planned federal execution of Dustin Higgs, a Maryland man on death row in Indiana. The bishops, including Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, also wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan seeking his support in fighting this execution, which is scheduled to take place Jan. 15. In their letter to Trump, the bishops wrote: “Alternative sentences, such as life without parole, are punishments through which society can be kept safe. The death penalty does not create a path to justice. Rather, it contributes to the growing disrespect for human life and perpetuates a cycle of violence in our society.”

Pope Francis appoints administrator of Greensburg, Pa., to head the diocese

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Larry J. Kulick, diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to head the diocese. Bishop-designate Kulick, 54, was elected administrator in September to oversee governance of the diocese after Bishop Edward C. Malesic was installed Sept. 14 to head the Diocese of Cleveland. Since 2012, the bishop-designate, 54, has been vicar general, moderator of the curia, acting chancellor and pastor of St. James Parish in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. The appointment was announced in Washington Dec. 18 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.

WORLD

Italy’s lockdown forces changes to pope’s Christmas events

VATICAN CITY — With Italy returning to a COVID-19 lockdown over the Christmas holidays, the Vatican has announced that most of Pope Francis’ usual appointments will be livestreamed with few or no members of the public present. The pope’s midday blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) Dec. 25 has been moved to the Hall of Blessings above the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica with no members of the public present. Usually the pope delivers the blessing from the central balcony of the basilica, overlooking St. Peter’s Square packed with people. This year, however, it will resemble what happened at Easter when Italy was in its first lockdown and St. Peter’s Square was closed to the public. About 100 faithful will be present for the pope’s Christmas “Mass during the Night” Dec. 24. The Vatican already had announced that the Mass was moved to 7:30 p.m. local time so that the people attending could return home before Italy’s 10 p.m. curfew, one of the country’s measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Congressman: Genocide in Nigeria ‘happening before our eyes

WASHINGTON — The Catholic bishop of Gboko, Nigeria, and the Knights of Columbus added their voices to a Dec. 17 congressional hearing spotlighting sectarian violence in Nigeria in which thousands of Christians have been killed simply for their faith identity. The hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was spurred by recent developments: the fatal shooting of 51 peaceful protesters in Lagos Oct. 20; the kidnapping of over 300 schoolboys in Kankara, which government officials there said was instigated by bandits masquerading as the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram; and the Dec. 7 State Department designation of Nigeria as “a country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The boys were rescued Dec. 18, and while the hearing included discussion of a congressional resolution of condemnation plus the imposition of sanctions, it didn’t get into the specifics of either response. Sanctions would become a decision of the incoming Biden administration. “This is a genocide that’s happening right before our eyes,” said Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, the commission’s co-chair.

Pope advances sainthood cause of Italian judge killed by Mafia

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of one woman and seven men, including an Italian judge who was murdered by the infamous Sicilian Mafia. During a meeting Dec. 21 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Rosario Livatino, who was murdered by four members of the Mafia organization, commonly known as Cosa Nostra, in 1990. The Vatican published the decrees Dec. 22. Born in Sicily in 1952, Livatino worked as a prosecutor and often took on cases involving Mafia criminal activity. In 1989, he was appointed as an assistant judge. One year later, he was murdered by four Mafia assassins as he was heading to court.

Vatican allows priests to celebrate four Masses on Christmas, feast days

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican decreed that priests can celebrate as many as four Masses on several important feast days, including Christmas, to accommodate the participation of the faithful. In a decree published in Latin Dec. 16, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the decision was made “in view of the situation brought about by the worldwide spread of the pandemic.... we willingly grant to the local ordinary permission to celebrate four Masses on Christmas Day (Dec. 25); the feast of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1) and the feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6),” Cardinal Sarah wrote. The concession, he wrote, can be given by bishops whenever deemed “necessary for the benefit of the faithful.”

— Catholic News Service

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