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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

‘Walking with Moms in Need’ helps expectant, new moms ‘where they’re at’

WASHINGTON — Dioceses and parish volunteers who have embraced the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative are still in the early stages of assessing its effectiveness. Statistics — counting the numbers who have been helped — are an inconclusive means of measuring how well the initiative is working. But anecdotes so far give an encouraging picture. This initiative of the U.S. bishops aims to connect pregnant women and their families with parishes and to a growing network of resources with the help of volunteers. The rollout of the program was slowed because it was launched March 25, 2020, just as the pandemic began to take hold, but it is underway. “It’s not an abortion alternative,” Cindy Ketcherside, a coordinator at St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix, said in an interview with Catholic News Service. She calls the women “abortion vulnerable,” but “what we’ve found are more working moms who already have children.” Seldom do the women have to be dissuaded from an abortion. By the time “Walking with Moms in Need” is involved, that decision usually has already been made not to have an abortion.

Youth want community, safe spaces in Church, council members tell pope

VATICAN CITY — Young people in the United States are looking for a sense of community and a safe space in the Church to express themselves freely, two representatives of Catholic youth told Pope Francis. Olivia Marcoux, 16, of Providence, Rhode Island, and Destiny Morris, 16, of Louisville, Kentucky, gave Pope Francis a quick snapshot of what young people want him to know during an encounter after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 12. They were part of a delegation representing the National Youth Advisory Council, which is made up of 12 young people from different cultural backgrounds and parts of the United States. As a consultative body, the council is tasked with bringing the voices and gifts of young people into the work and ministry of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. Accompanying the group was Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, the federation’s episcopal adviser. Marcoux told Catholic News Service that they told the pope how young people “want community and they want a safe space in the Church and that there are barriers in society which kind of hold us back from seeking out that community in the Church.”

Chicago’s Father Pfleger is removed from ministry over abuse allegation

WASHINGTON — Father Michael Pfleger, a popular Chicago priest and outspoken advocate against gun violence, gangs, poverty and racism, has stepped aside from his ministry after the Chicago Archdiocese said it received an allegation that the priest had sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago. Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich announced the decision in an Oct. 15 letter to Father Pfleger’s parishioners at the Faith Community of St. Sabina in Chicago. The 73-year-old priest has led the historically African American parish since 1981 and is currently its senior pastor. The priest strongly denied the accusation, which comes on the heels of a similar accusation against him in January 2021 where he also temporarily stepped aside from his ministry until an archdiocesan review found “insufficient reason” to suspect the priest was guilty of abuse allegations said to have taken place 40 years ago. Father Pfleger was reinstated at his parish in June of that year.

WORLD

Eritrean authorities detain Catholic bishop, but won’t say why

NAIROBI, Kenya — Eritrean authorities are continuing to detain Catholic Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of Segheneity, who was arrested at the Asmara International Airport Oct. 15. After the Catholic Church queried about the situation and his whereabouts, government authorities confirmed the bishop, who turns 52 Oct. 23, is in their custody. Bishop Tsalim was picked up soon after returning from a trip to Europe, but as of Oct. 18, government authorities had not given any reasons for his detention. Fides, news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said Bishop Tsalim and two other priests were being held at Adi Abeto prison. “We have received this ominous news (of the arrest) with immense pain and bewilderment at what is happening in our country,” Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest of Eritrean origin who works with migrants, told Catholic News Service. “Our hope (is) that all priests and the bishop currently in custody will be released as soon as possible.” On Oct. 11, security agents arrested Father Mihratab Stefanos, the priest in charge of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in the diocese. Another Catholic priest, identified as Capuchin Abbot Abraham, was detained in the western town of Teseney.

Love, solidarity must be part of plan to end hunger, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Success in eradicating hunger will require acts of love and solidarity, not just carefully planned and executed international programs, Pope Francis said. “This requires, first of all, that we see others as our brothers and sisters, as members of the same human family, whose sufferings and needs affect us all,” the pope said in a message Oct. 14 to a ceremony in Rome ahead of the U.N. celebration of World Food Day Oct. 16. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s latest estimate puts the global hunger figure for 2021 at between 702 million and 828 million people. “These estimates imply that, since 2015, the increase in the number of undernourished people in the world has practically eroded all progress that had been made during the preceding decade, bringing the world back to hunger levels that prevailed in 2005,” the organization said. The theme chosen for the 2022 World Food Day was “Leave no one behind,” and official events looked at ways to ensure that by promoting “better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.”

Dissidents, Catholic leaders want famous Minsk church reopened after fire

WARSAW, Poland — Christian dissidents in Belarus accused officials of intimidation after one of the country’s best-known Catholic churches was ordered to close following a suspicious fire. Belarus’ Emergencies Commission said it was terminating the parish’s permit to use the Church of Sts. Simon and Helena, popularly dubbed the Red Church, following the Sept. 26 fire, pending repairs and safety checks. The commission ordered the removal of all religious objects by Oct. 12. Archbishop Iosif Staneuski of Minsk-Mohilev urged the return of the church and its rectory, noting, “Many residents of our capital are greatly concerned about having no opportunity to pray or simply visit this church, while Minsk itself has been, in a certain sense, orphaned.” In an Oct. 13 pastoral letter, Archbishop Staneuski encouraged Catholics “to pray for restoration of parish activities as soon as possible.” The opposition-linked Christian Vision organization said an “immediate public investigation” should be launched into the fire, which was blamed officially on faulty wiring. The organization said Catholic representatives should also be allowed access to assess the church’s current condition.

— Catholic News Service

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