Critics of new HHS head concerned over abortion, religious liberty
WASHINGTON — Once he is sworn in, Xavier Becerra, California’s former attorney general and a former member of Congress, becomes the first Latino to be secretary of the U.S. Department of health and Human Services. In a narrow vote 50-49 vote March 18, the Senate confirmed him for the post, and he is expected to be sworn in sometime during the week of March 22. His nomination by President Joe Biden brought heavy criticism from national pro-life leaders over his long record of support for legal abortion and for spearheading litigation to revoke the Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in the state of California. Those who supported his nomination to head HHS said he has spent his career “fighting for underserved communities” and his efforts “to protect the welfare of immigrants and migrants.” About 60 pro-life leaders signed a Feb. 23 letter objecting to his nomination and urging the Senate to reject it.
Boulder officer recalled as
‘man of character,’ ‘loving father’
BOULDER, Colo. — Officer Eric Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, was the first to arrive at the scene of a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store the afternoon of March 22. He was shot and killed. A Catholic, Talley often stopped by St. Martin de Porres Church just across the street from the store “and participated in its events, even though he wasn’t a parishioner there,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said March 23. “I have been praying for all those impacted by this senseless act of violence and want to express my spiritual closeness to them.” Police arrested 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colorado, charging him with 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
House passes two immigration bills with citizenship provisions
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives approved two separate immigration bills March 18, clearing an initial hurdle for two groups seeking a path toward citizenship: younger unauthorized immigrants called “Dreamers” and migrant farmworkers. Both measures passed in the House along party lines, for the most part, but will face greater opposition in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. bishops were among those from various faith-based organizations, including Catholic groups such as the Franciscan Action Network and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, voicing support for the bills. The American Dream and Promise Act for unauthorized immigrants has enjoyed strong backing in the past as it seeks to provide young adults brought to the country illegally as children a path toward citizenship. The Farm Modernization Workforce Act would allow farmworkers to earn legal status and later they also can apply for permanent residency by showing prior employment and continued work in agriculture.
Cardinal, imam hold dialogue as follow-up to pope’s meeting
WASHINGTON — With personal warmth paired with the careful phrasing of diplomats, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory and Imam Sayyid M. B. Kashmiri, a representative of Shiite Muslims in North America, held a dialogue on Christian-Muslim relations March 17. It was a follow-up to Pope Francis’ historic meeting in Iraq March 6 with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam’s most authoritative leaders. Imam Kashmiri, a writer, author and lecturer, is the vice chairman and religious affairs director for the Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya, the liaison office in North America for Ayatollah al-Sistani. In the brief dialogue held online and available to be viewed over YouTube, Cardinal Gregory and the imam said the pope’s meeting with the ayatollah has dramatic implications. “This meeting between great spiritual leaders affects all of us,” said Imam Kashmiri.
Cdl. Ferrell: No one excluded
from care, love of the Church
VATICAN CITY — While the Catholic Church cannot bless unions that are not sacramental marriages, the Church will always welcome and accompany everyone, no matter their situation in life, said the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. “Nobody must ever be excluded from the pastoral care and love and concern of the Church,” said the prefect, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, March 18 during an online Vatican news conference, presenting details of the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” which started March 19. The cardinal’s comments were in response to a question about a recent statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said any form of blessing a same-sex union is “illicit.” That statement, released March 15 and approved by Pope Francis, reiterated that homosexual men and women must be respected, but that it was not licit to impart a blessing on relationships or partnerships “that involve sexual activity outside of marriage…” While such unions may not be blessed, people may still receive a blessing as individuals, the statement said.
Abuse report exonerates Cologne cardinal, incriminates two bishops
COLOGNE, Germany — A much-anticipated report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne exonerates Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki but incriminates Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse and Cologne Auxiliary Bishop Dominik Schwaderlapp. The report by the law firm Gercke Wollschläger accuses Cardinal Woelki’s predecessors, the deceased Cardinals Joseph Höffner (1906-1987) and Joachim Meisner (1933-2017), of many breaches of duty in the handling of abuse cases — in terms of state and Church law as well as in terms of the Church’s self-understanding, the German Catholic news agency KNA reported. The report also incriminates the former vicar general, Father Norbert Feldhoff, and the head of the Cologne Church court, Father Günter Assenmacher, who is accused of having given inaccurate legal information in two cases.
Pope elevates Ireland’s national Knock Shrine to international status
DUBLIN — Pope Francis has elevated the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock to the status of an International Shrine of Eucharistic and Marian Devotion. In a message delivered from the Vatican via video link March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, Pope Francis described it as an “important moment in the life of the shrine” and “a great responsibility.” With all churches in Ireland closed to public worship under Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions, the pope’s message was relayed to an empty Apparition Chapel at Knock Shrine, where Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam and Knock’s rector, Father Richard Gibbons.
— Catholic News Service