White House faith-based partnership office
WASHINGTON— President Joe Biden signed an executive order Feb. 14 reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships as a means to work with religious and secular organizations to help with COVID-19 and economic recovery and confront systemic racism. The office was established 20 years ago by President George W. Bush, who said the government can and should welcome religious and community organizations as partners. The Obama administration continued this initiative with work on preventing foreclosures, increasing the amount of summer meals served to children in need and helping communities with disaster recovery. Under the Trump administration, this office was vacant. President Donald Trump instead created the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, with a focus on “religious liberty in all HHS programs and initiatives.”
CCUSA receives $1 million grant to help communities devastated by fire
CLEVELAND — A $1 million grant will allow 10 Catholic Charities agencies in four wildfire-stricken Western states to provide assistance to people burned out of their homes. The grant to Catholic Charities USA from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will enable aid to be delivered over the next 12 to 18 months in Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington. “It was natural for us to go to Catholic Charities given their expertise in disaster case management and given their multistate presence as well as their deep, deep understanding of local communities and the individuals in those communities,” Regine Webster, center vice president, told Catholic News Service Feb. 11.
House bill recognizes fetal pain, would bar most abortions after 20 weeks
WASHINGTON — Citing leading experts in the field of fetal pain, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said the proposed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would end the “excruciating suffering and physical pain of unborn babies” by barring most abortions after 20 weeks gestation. Smith, a Catholic, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was joined by 142 other members of the U.S. House in introducing the measure Feb. 15.
Victoria Diocese’s vicar general named auxiliary bishop for San Antonio
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Gary W. Janak, vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Victoria, Texas, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Bishop-designate Janak also is the rector of the Cathedral Our Lady of Victory in Victoria. A native of Texas, the bishop-designate, 58, was ordained as a Victoria diocesan priest May 14, 1988. The appointment was announced in Washington Feb. 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio. Bishop-designate Janak, who speaks English and Spanish, has been chancellor since 2012 and vicar general since 2015. He has been cathedral rector since 2013.
European bishops launch network of prayer for COVID-19 victims
VATICAN CITY — The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences announced the launch of a prayer network during Lent to pray for the victims of COVID-19 and for the families of those who died of the coronavirus. The council, known by the acronym CCEE, announced Feb. 16 that throughout the Lenten season, bishops across Europe will celebrate a Mass and create a “eucharistic chain, for the more than 770,000 people in Europe who have died from COVID-19. “It will be like creating a prayer chain, a eucharistic chain,” in memory of so many people.
COVID-19 restrictions may affect pope’s trip
VATICAN CITY — Two days after the Iraqi government announced stringent COVID-19 precautions, including the closure of mosques and churches “until further notice,” the prime minister met with the Vatican nuncio to discuss “the preparation for the scheduled visit of His Holiness,” Pope Francis. The Iraqi government announced the meeting of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the nuncio, in a tweet Feb. 15. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq March 5-8, and he has events planned in churches each day. The Vatican did not comment on how the new restrictions would impact the planned trip — which could be postponed — or the activities of the pope, the small entourage of Vatican officials expected to travel with him.
— Catholic News Service