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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Bishops: Senate rejection of abortion bill is ‘tremendous relief’

WASHINGTON — The failure of the U.S. Senate Feb. 28 to advance an “extreme measure” to establish a legal right to abortion at any stage of pregnancy nationwide “is a tremendous relief,” said the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life and religious freedom committees. “We must respect and support mothers, their unborn children and the consciences of all Americans,” the committee chairmen said in a joint statement, noting a provision in the bill likely would not have protected the conscience rights of health care providers who object to abortion. Passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, also known as H.R. 3755, “would have led to the loss of millions of unborn lives and left countless women to suffer from the physical and emotional trauma of abortion,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty. In addition to codifying Roe v. Wade, the bill would have eliminated pro-life laws at every level of government.

Researchers estimate 5.2 million children orphaned in pandemic

CLEVELAND — An estimated 5.2 million children in 21 countries, including the United States, lost at least one parent, a custodial grandparent or a primary caregiver to COVID-19 during the first 20 months of the pandemic, social researchers and child well-being advocates said in a new study. Notably, the researchers estimated that the number of children orphaned because of the pandemic nearly doubled during the six-month period ending Oct. 31, 2021, a period corresponding largely with the surge in the delta variant of the coronavirus. The total number of orphaned children during the study period parallels the roughly 5 million COVID-19-caused deaths during the same time frame, the study said. “This finding means that, globally, for every one reported COVID-19 death, at least one child experienced orphanhood or caregiver death,” the researchers concluded. The study was published online Feb. 24 by the British medical journal The Lancet. The study defined orphanhood as the death of one or both parents, one or both custodial grandparents, or a primary caregiver.

WORLD

Vatican court rejects dismissal request; Cdl. Becciu to testify

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court rejected defense lawyers’ request to dismiss charges against 10 defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, after prosecutors said the Vatican lost millions of euros in a controversial property deal that is at the heart of a massive Vatican trial for financial malfeasance. Reading a 40-page court order March 1, Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican City State criminal court, rejected the motions defense lawyers had made over the previous seven months calling for the charges against their clients to be dismissed and complaining about procedures used in investigating and charging their clients.

El Salvador charges former president in 1989 murders

MEXICO CITY — Prosecutors in El Salvador have brought charges against a former president for the murders of six Jesuits in 1989, a crime carried out by soldiers during a brutal civil war in the Central American country. Former President Alfredo Cristiani and 12 others — mostly former soldiers — were charged with involvement in the slayings of the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and the housekeeper’s teenage daughter at their residence on the campus of the Jesuit-run José Simeón Cañas Central American University in San Salvador. Salvadoran Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado announced the charges Feb. 25, saying his office “is determined to bring to court those responsible for this unfortunate and tragic event that occurred during the armed conflict.”

Cologne cardinal offers to resign; pope to decide ‘in due course’

COLOGNE, Germany — Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has ended his five-month sabbatical and resumed work as archbishop of Cologne. However the cardinal, criticized for his handling of sex abuse cases in the archdiocese, says he has submitted his resignation to Pope Francis, reports the German Catholic news agency KNA. In a statement published March 2, Cardinal Woelki said Pope Francis would decide on this “in due course” and had ordered him to resume his ministry. For months, the largest diocese in the German-speaking world has been shaken by a crisis of trust and a wave of people quitting the Church as a result of how sexual abuse issues have been handled. Following an independent investigation, Pope Francis granted Cardinal Woelki a leave of absence, beginning last October.

Spanish bishops commission investigation into sex abuse

ROME — In an about-face, the Spanish bishops’ conference announced that it has hired a law firm to conduct a yearlong investigation into clerical sexual abuse in the country. At a news conference in Madrid Feb. 24, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said the conference hired the law offices of Cremades and Calvo-Sotelo “to carry out an independent investigation that will audit” the Church’s handling of abuse cases. “The Spanish bishops’ conference wants to take a step forward in its obligation of social transparency, of help and reparation to victims, and of collaboration with authorities regarding the cases of sexual abuse within the Spanish Church,” Cardinal Omella told journalists. In January, Cardinal Omella, who was in Rome with several bishops for their “ad limina” visits, told journalists that the bishops’ conference had no plans to establish a single independent commission as in Germany, France or neighboring Portugal to conduct a nationwide investigation of the handling of cases past and present.

— Catholic News Service

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