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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Jesuit priest will deliver invocation at Biden’s presidential inauguration

WASHINGTON — Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden Jan. 20. The priest, a friend of the Biden family, was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass for Biden’s son Beau in 2015 at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. He confirmed with National Catholic Reporter Jan. 6 that he would be delivering the invocation, saying Biden had personally called him and invited him, which he accepted. This year’s scaled-back public inauguration ceremony, due to the pandemic, will take place on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, a site taken over Jan. 6 by rioters contesting the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

CHA letter to Biden reveals extensive list of health care priorities

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Health Association issued an extensive list of priorities it would like President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to pursue. Those priorities include strengthening the Affordable Care Act, increasing access to affordable health care, making senior citizens a priority, removing barriers to health care access by immigrants, and increased focus on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “It will take a highly coordinated federal response to bring the virus under control and stabilize our nation’s health care delivery system,” said Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, CHA president, in a Jan. 7 letter to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden transition team. The text of the five-page, 2,100-word letter was released Jan. 8 by the CHA. Sister Haddad said she wants to see, among other things, improved supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as well as that of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing kits.

Montgomery executed after Supreme Court reversal

WASHINGTON — After a flurry of court decisions, the Supreme Court reversed a pair of rulings from federal appeals courts that had put death-row inmate Lisa Montgomery’s execution on hold, and it denied two other last-minute requests to postpone the execution. Montgomery was put to death by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, soon after the court’s decision at 1:31 a.m. (EST). She was the first woman to be put to death in federal prison since 1953. After the court’s decision, Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille and longtime death penalty opponent, tweeted: “In yet another after-midnight ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the federal government to proceed with Lisa Montgomery’s execution immediately. This decision will forever be a scarlet letter for the SCOTUS — a complete failure to protect our most vulnerable citizens.” Catholic leaders have been pleading for an end to the death penalty and urging leaders to stop this practice.

WORLD

For Ash Wednesday, Vatican asks priests to ‘sprinkle’ ashes on heads

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments asked priests to take special anti-COVID-19 precautions this year when distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, including sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads. The congregation’s note on the “distribution of ashes in time of pandemic” was published on the congregation’s website Jan. 12 and directs priests to say “the prayer for blessing the ashes” and then sprinkle “the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places,” it said. “The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”

Peace only way to face global crises, Vatican U.N. nuncio says

VATICAN CITY — The crisis facing many countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic requires a united global response that shuns nationalistic interests and creates long-lasting solutions, said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations. Often, in moments of difficulty, there is the temptation “to withdraw from others in order to save oneself,” Archbishop Caccia said in an interview with Vatican News published Jan. 11, the same day he had met privately with Pope Francis. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of finding solutions together “because the world is more and more one big reality,” he said.

— Catholic News Service

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