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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Florida House approves measure to ban most abortions after 15 weeks

WASHINGTON — In a 78-39 vote, Florida’s House of Representatives Feb. 17 approved a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A companion measure faces a Senate vote the week of Feb. 21 and could be passed by both chambers by the end of the month. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he supports the legislation and would sign it into law. But the law could face a state court challenge and ultimately end up before the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, has backed the abortion ban bill and urged Catholics in the state to contact their state representatives, and now state senators, to approve it. Christie Arnold, associate for social concerns and respect life with Florida bishops’ conference, testified before a House subcommittee Jan. 19 in support of the bill. She said the state’s bishops support its increased “protections for women and children, specifically unborn children. The Florida measure includes exceptions for the life of the mother and for “fatal fetal anomalies.”

New FDA head criticized for role in expanding availability of abortion pill

WASHINGTON — Pro-life leaders criticized the U.S. Senate’s Feb. 15 confirmation of Dr. Robert Califf as President Joe Biden’s commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, taking issue with Califf’s role in the agency expanding the availability of the drug protocol used for chemical abortions. The FDA head, a cardiologist who also was the agency’s commissioner in 2016 and 2017, faced other criticism over his handling of the nation’s opioid crisis and his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. “Despite the research and science which includes thousands of documented adverse events caused by chemical abortion drugs, Dr. Califf has acted to advance a pro-abortion political agenda,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “Under his leadership in 2016, the FDA recklessly loosened reporting requirements associated with these dangerous drugs at a time when increasing health and safety oversight was needed,” she said in a Feb. 15 statement.

South Carolina bishop retires; pope appoints Scalabrinian priest

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, and named as his successor Scalabrinian Father Jacques E. Fabre, currently administrator of San Filipe de Jesus Catholic Mission in Forest Park, Georgia, in the Atlanta Archdiocese. Bishop Guglielmone, 76, has headed the statewide diocese since March 2009. As required by canon law, he turned in his resignation to the pope when he turned 75 on Dec. 30, 2020. Bishop-designate Fabre, 66, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and immigrated to New York while he was in high school. He was ordained a priest Oct. 10, 1986, for the Scalabrinian order, known formally as the Missionaries of St. Charles. He currently serves as the local superior of Scalabrinian priests in Atlanta. The resignation and appointment were announced in Washington Feb. 22 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio. Bishop-designate Fabre will be the 14th bishop of Charleston and the first Black prelate to head the diocese.

WORLD

Fraternity of St. Peter can continue with pre-Vatican II liturgies

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has confirmed that members of the Fraternity of St. Peter may continue to celebrate the Mass, sacraments and Liturgy of the Hours using the pre-Vatican II texts and forms, the fraternity said. The fraternity, founded in 1988 by traditionalist priests wanting to maintain the old rites while remaining in full communion with the pope, published a copy of the pope’s decree on their website Feb. 21. In an accompanying statement, the fraternity said that Father Benoit Paul-Joseph, superior of the district of France, and Father Vincent Ribeton, rector of St. Peter’s Seminary in Wigratzbad, Germany, had met with Pope Francis Feb. 4 and discussed the pope’s apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), which limited celebrations of the Mass according to the rite used before the Second Vatican Council. “In the course of the audience, the pope made it clear that institutes such as the Fraternity of St. Peter are not affected by the general provisions of the motu proprio ‘Traditionis Custodes,’ since the use of the ancient liturgical books was at the origin of their existence and is provided for in their constitutions,” the fraternity said.

Philippine parish spends 24 hours of ‘silence with the Lord’

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — A Philippine parish has begun a monthly practice of spending an entire day in silence and prayer by unplugging and freeing themselves of their gadgets. Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioners began the 24-hour silence Feb. 23, and organizers said they hope to continue the practice on every last Wednesday of the month, reported ucanews.com. “Let us change our lives within 24 hours through silence. Let us unplug ourselves from social media, television and use of cellphones. Let us also avoid going out and engaging in chitchats. Let us spend our time of silence with the Lord,” the parish said in a recent Facebook post. Instead of their usual routine, parishioners were asked to attend Mass at 7 a.m., midday prayer, a novena to the Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. and the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 5-7 p.m. Ucanews.com said the project was spearheaded by Father Robert Reyes, parish priest and human rights activist. “This day of solitude on the last Wednesday of the month, we will change our old habits by not using our gadgets, no shopping. Once a month we go back to silence for 24 hours … we will say goodbye to our gadgets, we will unplug them,” Father Reyes told ucanews.com.

Vatican statistics show global imbalance in ratio of Catholics per priest

VATICAN CITY — The number of Catholics and of Catholic men and women who devote their lives to serving them continues to grow in Africa and Asia, Vatican statistics show, but pastoral ministry is still much more readily available to Catholics in Europe. At the end of 2020, the number of Catholics in the world reached 1.36 billion, an increase of 16 million over the previous year, according to the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics, which published a brief overview of the global numbers in early February. While Catholics remained about 17.7% of the global population, their numbers grew in Africa by about 2.1% and in Asia by 1.8% while in Europe the increase was just 0.3%, said the summary, which was based on numbers reported Dec. 31, 2020. And while just over 20% of the world’s Catholics live in Europe, 40% of the world’s priests minister there. The Americas have 48% of the world’s Catholics, but only 29.3% of the world’s priests. The Vatican reported that 18.9% of the world’s Catholics live in Africa and are served by 12.3% of the world’s priests; 11% of Catholics live in Asia served by 17.3% of the world’s priests; and just under 1% of the global Catholic population lives in Oceania where 1.1% of the world’s priests live. The Catholic Church also had 5,363 bishops at the end of 2020 with 13.4% of them ministering in Africa.

Pope advances causes of four religious, cardinal who organized first WYDs

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Argentine Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, the prelate who organized and oversaw the first six international celebrations of World Youth Day. The pope also approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Capuchin Poor Clare Sister Maria Costanza Panas of the Italian monastery of Fabriano. She was born Jan. 5, 1896, and died May 28, 1963. In addition to recognizing the miracle that clears the way for her beatification, the pope approved decrees recognizing that four candidates for sainthood heroically lived the Christian virtues; the decrees were signed during an audience Feb. 18 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. The four candidates, who are now “venerable,” included Cardinal Pironio, who had served in numerous offices in the Roman Curia from 1975 until his retirement in 1996. St. Paul VI called him to Rome as pro-prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious. When St. John Paul II named him to head the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1984, the late pope instituted the annual celebration of World Youth Day, including huge international gatherings presided over by the pope every two years and organized by the laity council.

— Catholic News Service

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