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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Supreme Court: Abortion drugs must be obtained in person, not by mail

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court Jan. 12 reinstated a federal requirement that women who are seeking abortion-inducing drugs must do so in person, not by mail, as a federal judge had allowed last year due to the pandemic and the high court had let stand. In its 6-3 order, the justices said women must follow previous Food and Drug Administration requirements that they had to visit a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic in person to obtain Mifeprex, the brand name for mifepristone, also called RU-486, which is used to end pregnancies during the first 10 weeks. FDA regulations initially required patients to receive the drug in person after signing a form acknowledging risks associated with it. “We welcome the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the FDA’s ability to enforce important and long-standing health and safety requirements related to chemical abortion drugs,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.”

Trump signs anti-Semitism bill into law, creating ambassadorial post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, a week before leaving office, signed into law a bill that elevates to a full ambassadorship the rank of a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, also prevents the ambassador-at-large from being saddled with duties irrelevant to combating anti-Semitism, or being conferred with other positions or responsibilities that distract from the central focus of anti-Semitism. In a Jan. 14 statement, Smith said the ambassador-at-large will report directly to the secretary of state. “The official rank of ambassador comes with greater seniority and diplomatic access not only here in Washington, but equally important, overseas in dealing with foreign governments,” he added. “In short, it gives the special envoy the clout required do the job more effectively.” A bipartisan, bicameral team of lawmakers voted for the bill. Final approval came Dec. 16 in the Senate.

Bishop Malloy urges extension of last remaining U.S.-Russia arms pact

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace urged an extension of the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, said in a Jan. 15 statement that extending the bilateral treaty known as New START “is essential to maintaining limits on the most dangerous nuclear weapons and is an existing mean for needed progress toward nuclear disarmament.” Set to expire Feb. 5, the 10-year-old New START caps the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs by each country at 1,550. “I renew our call to extend the New START treaty, for a full five years, and urge President-elect (Joe) Biden to make negotiations for nuclear disarmament a top priority,” Bishop Malloy said. The transition to the Biden administration presents another opportunity for the world’s nuclear powers to adhere to the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the bishop added. That treaty requires the nuclear powers to work toward reducing their arsenals while other nations pledged not to develop such destructive weapons.

Bishops applaud HHS rule change that aids adoption, foster care providers

WASHINGTON — A Department of Health and Human Services modified rule that helps ensure that faith-based social service providers will not be excluded from certain federally funded programs was met with approval by the chairmen of three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committees. The rule modification affects agencies that provide adoption and foster care services in particular. It will allow faith-based social service providers “to continue partnering with the government to assist children in need,” the chairmen said in a Jan. 15 statement. Welcoming the change were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, Oklahoma, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. The rule modification affects a 2016 regulation put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration. The change would allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to continue receiving federal funding for their work that follows their religious beliefs.

WORLD

Popes Francis, Benedict receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

VATICAN CITY — Both Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI have received the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 after the Vatican started vaccinating its employees and residents Jan. 13. Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, confirmed the news Jan. 14. While it was reported widely that Pope Francis received the vaccine Jan. 13, the retired pope’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told Vatican News that Pope Benedict received his shot the morning of Jan. 14. The archbishop had told the German Catholic news agency KNA Jan. 11 that the 93-year-old pope, who lives in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens, and his entire household staff wanted to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available in Vatican City State. He told Vatican News that the retired pope has been following the news “on television, and he shares our concerns about the pandemic, about what is happening in the world, about the many people who have lost their life because of the virus. ...There have been people he knows who have died because of COVID-19.” Archbishop Ganswein said the retired pope is still very sharp mentally but that his voice and physical strength have weakened.

— Catholic News Service

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