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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Teen helps raise funds for COVID-19 vaccines with no abortion connection

PHILADELPHIA — Luke Luna, a junior at Martin Saints Classical High School in Oreland, Pennsylvania, has issued a video urging support for an online drive benefiting the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Coralville, Iowa. Founded in 2006, the institute focuses on therapies and cures that use adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells — skin or blood cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state. The institute’s core research areas include cancer as well as neurological, chronic and rare diseases. Due to the pandemic, the institute has dedicated its 2021 “Campaign for Cures” to creating COVID-19 vaccines and therapies that do not rely on aborted fetal tissue and cell use in either the development or testing phases. Donations to the campaign can be made online at https://www.jp2mri.org/donate-now. Luna said he was inspired to join the institute’s initiative — which has a goal of $1 million — after receiving a school email explaining the Catholic Church’s position on COVID-19 vaccines and abortion. The three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen — all rely on abortion-derived cell lines, the first two in testing and the J&J vaccine throughout the development, testing and production stages. In a statement in 2020, the U.S. bishops stressed that while the use of current vaccines against COVID-19 can be justified, “all Catholics and men and women of goodwill must continue to do what (they) can” to end the reliance on abortion-derived tissues in COVID-19 vaccines — and that call resonated with Luna. “It made me ask, ‘What work is being done to ensure that we have an ethical vaccine?’” he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “And it didn’t seem like anyone was doing anything.”

Pope Francis names new bishop for Diocese of Gaylord, Mich.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. He succeeds Bishop Steven J. Raica, who was Gaylord’s bishop from 2014 until 2020 when he was installed to head the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama. Since June 2020, Bishop Walter A. Hurley, the retired bishop of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has served as apostolic administrator of the Gaylord Diocese. Bishop-designate Walsh currently serves as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, which are both in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. His appointment was announced Dec. 21 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, in Washington. Bishop-designate Walsh’s episcopal ordination and installation will be March 4 at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord.

WORLD

Cardinal Turkson says he offered to resign at end of his term

VATICAN CITY — After a dozen years as a top Vatican cardinal, Cardinal Peter Turkson said he offered Pope Francis his resignation because he was at the end of his five-year appointment as prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. In a tweet on the cardinal’s verified account Dec. 19, he said it is up to the pope to decide whether to extend or renew his term or assign him another position. Cardinal Turkson, 73, had a private meeting with the pope Dec. 20, but the Vatican press office provided no details. The cardinal led a news conference Dec. 21 for the presentation of the pope’s message for World Peace Day Jan. 1. Cardinal Turkson, who was born in Nsuta-Wassaw, Ghana, is the only African cardinal currently heading a major Vatican office. Pope Francis had announced the creation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in 2016, merging the former pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants and Travelers, and Health Care Ministry. Cardinal Turkson had led the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009.

Human rights groups raise alarm over new atrocities in Western Tigray

NAIROBI, Kenya — International human rights organizations have warned of a new wave of atrocities in the Ethiopian region of Tigray, as Catholic Church leaders continued to express concerns over the detention of priests, nuns and lay members. Amnesty International and the U.S-based Human Rights Watch said the regional Amhara security forces and an allied militia known as Fano were responsible for a surge in mass detentions, killings and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in Western Tigray. Scores have been put in detention, where they are being tortured, starved and denied medical care. Those attempting to flee the violence are being attacked and killed, according to the organizations. “The new onslaught of abuses by Amhara forces against Tigrayan civilians remaining in several towns in Western Tigray should ring alarm bells,” Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s director of crisis response, said in a statement Dec. 16. “Without urgent international action to prevent further atrocities, Tigrayans, particularly those in detention, are at grave risk.” Western Tigray, a disputed administrative territory, has been the scene of some of the worst atrocities — including massacres, indiscriminate shelling and large-scale forced displacement of populations — since the start of the conflict, the organization said. The U.N said Dec. 2 that 1.2 million people had been displaced in the region since the start of the conflict.

Caritas appeals for aid after typhoon claims more than 375 lives in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Super Typhoon Rai has claimed more than 375 lives since making landfall in the Visayas and Mindanao region, Philippine authorities said. Aid distribution was hampered by broken communication and power lines, which would take at least two weeks to be restored, Philippine National Police spokesman Roderick Alba said. Authorities said many of the reported deaths occurred in the island province of Bohol, in central Visayas, a popular tourist destination, ucanews.com reported. Cebu province and Cagayan de Oro city in the central part of the country also were among the most devastated areas. In response to the disaster, Caritas Philippines appealed for cash donations to bolster its efforts to send emergency aid to the region. “May this season of giving offer us more opportunities to do consistent acts of Alay Kapwa (offering of oneself), especially during this time of need,” the Church’s humanitarian aid agency said in a Facebook announcement.

Pope welcomes group of asylum-seekers from Cyprus

VATICAN CITY — With many “thanks” and “best wishes,” a group of 10 asylum-seekers greeted Pope Francis on his birthday Dec. 17. The four women and six men — originally from Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Somalia and Syria — had arrived in Italy a day earlier from Cyprus and will be supported by the pope as they settle in Italy under a special humanitarian visa program. Two others were supposed to be in the group but were required to remain in Cyprus a bit longer as they finish a precautionary isolation period after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Another small group is expected to arrive closer to Christmas and, according to news reports, more will come from Cyprus in January and perhaps February. Going to the Apostolic Palace to meet the pope, the 10 were accompanied by members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which will be assisting them, finding them housing, teaching them Italian and introducing them to Italian culture for the next year.

La Palma priests vow to celebrate Christmas despite volcano devastation

MADRID — Catholic priests on a Spanish island devastated by a volcanic eruption have pledged to celebrate Christmas “with open arms,” despite widespread destruction. “Many stories have been told about this volcano, notably of those who’ve lost everything — but there is another story, concerning action by the church,” Father Domingo Guerra, rector of Holy Family Parish on La Palma in the Canary Islands, told the Spanish Catholic weekly Alfa y Omega Dec. 16. “Although our church lies at the foot of the volcano, it hasn’t closed for a single moment since the eruption began and is now preparing for the birth of Jesus, reflecting the reality we’re living through.” Four days earlier, Bishop Bernardo Álvarez Afonso, a La Palma native, celebrated Mass at Holy Family Parish, and it was broadcast on national TV. Two Nativity scenes made from volcano lava were unveiled Dec. 13 at the church.

— Catholic News Service

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