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Nation and world briefs


Bishops: Medically changing person’s sex characteristics ‘not morally justified’

WASHINGTON — Surgical, chemical or other interventions that aim “to exchange” a person’s “sex characteristics” for those of the opposite sex “are not morally justified,” said the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee in a statement released March 20. “What is of great concern, is the range of technological interventions advocated by many in our society as treatments for what is termed ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender incongruence,’” it said. The statement urged “particular care” be taken “to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent” for surgical procedures or treatments such as chemical puberty blockers, which arrest the natural course of puberty and prevent the development of some sex characteristics in the first place. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee March 15 approved release of the 14-page statement by the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, chaired by Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas. (OSV News)

US extends stay for thousands of Ukrainians as war enters second year

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Ukrainians who fled their nation in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion can now apply to extend their stay in the U.S. by one year. On March 13, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would begin considering extensions, on a case-by-case basis, for Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members who entered the U.S. prior to the federal government’s Uniting for Ukraine program, which grants a two-year stay. The move aligns both groups of Ukrainian refugees in the U.S., who continue to face challenges due to family separation, trauma, lack of employment and language barriers while remaining grateful for U.S. aid. Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S., welcomed the extension. “Most refugees do indeed want to return to Ukraine. They love their country, their people, their culture,” he said. “(But) some people don’t have anything to go back to.” (OSV News)

‘New pro-life agenda’ sees wins in state battles to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms

JACKSON, Miss. — The pro-life movement in post-Dobbs America requires robust support for healthcare and social service programs to accompany parents who choose life, some clergy, legislators and advocates said — including efforts to expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers. After a two-year clash of political wills, Mississippi’s House March 7 finally passed 88-29 a Medicaid postpartum coverage extension already approved by the state senate, after the governor said this legislation was part of the “new pro-life agenda.” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a similar expansion into law March 3 calling it a “signature piece of pro-life legislation” that is expected to help as many as 2,000 low-income Wyoming mothers. The 2021 American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to extend Medicaid pregnancy coverage from 60 days to one year postpartum — however, the law’s provision expires in May. (OSV News)


Pope calls for renewal of consecration of world to Mary every March 25

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has invited Catholics worldwide to renew the act of consecrating the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to Mary every March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. At the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 22, the pope recalled last year’s service “when, in union with all the bishops of the world, the Church and humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” “Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace,” he said, asking that people not forget “troubled Ukraine, which is suffering so much.” The pope invited “every believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the Act of Consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is mother, may preserve us all in unity and peace.” (CNS)

Church calls for ‘international protection of holy sites’ after attack on church in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — The Greek Orthodox Church March 19 denounced what it called a “heinous terrorist attack” on a church at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem. As reported by AFP, Israeli police said that earlier that same day a 27-year-old resident of southern Israel was arrested over “a violent incident” at the church in annexed East Jerusalem. While the police said the apprehended suspect entered the church with an iron bar and that there were no injuries, a witness told AFP that a priest had been injured in the forehead. The attack on the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem is one of many attacks on Christian sites in Jerusalem in recent months. (OSV News)

Pope Francis praised for efforts to combat anti-Muslim prejudice

UNITED NATIONS — Pope Francis and his efforts to promote interreligious harmony featured prominently in United Nations discussions focused on what could be done about rising hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims. The world’s nearly two billion Muslims “are Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians” and yet “often face bigotry and prejudice for no other reason than their faith,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in his March 10 address at the discussions at the U.N.’s New York headquarters in advance of the March 15 International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Guterres thanked “religious leaders across the world who are joining hands to promote dialogue and interfaith harmony,” and highlighted a 2019 document co-written by Pope Francis and the grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, one of Sunni Islam’s highest authorities, as “a model for compassion and solidarity” for the world to follow. (OSV News)

Welcoming migrants, refugees is first step toward peace, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Safe, organized, legal and sustainable migration is in the interest of all countries, Pope Francis wrote. “If this is not recognized, there is a risk that fear will erase people’s future and justify those barriers against which lives are shattered,” he said in a written address to refugees and to the volunteers and organizations who helped welcome and integrate them in Europe. Speaking to the refugees and those who have helped them, the pope said, “Thank you for promoting this work of welcoming which is a concrete commitment to peace. Welcoming is the first step toward peace.” The Vatican audience hall March 18 was filled with individuals and families who came to Italy and other European countries thanks to an initiative started in 2016 to create “humanitarian corridors” in which volunteers and organizations on the ground in areas of conflict identify people who are especially vulnerable and arrange for their safe and legal passage to communities prepared to take them in. The Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio established the project together with other groups. (CNS)

Church in Ireland aims to boost priestly vocations with new program

DUBLIN — The Church in Ireland is launching a Year for Vocations as it grapples with a steep fall off in seminary numbers and aging priests. Focused on diocesan priesthood, the Year for Vocations opens April 30, on the 60th anniversary of St. Paul VI’s launching of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations in 1963. It will last until April 2024. “Take the Risk for Christ” is the theme of the initiative, which was unveiled at the national seminary in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, March 7 by the Irish Bishops’ Council for Vocations. “There are vocations in Ireland. God is constantly calling; it’s just that in the midst of the loudness of the alternative voices, God is being drowned out a bit at present,” Bishop Lawrence Duffy of the Irish bishops’ Council for Vocations, said. “People really do value their local priest,” Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the Council for Vocations highlighted in Maynooth March 7. The new vocations drive aims to tap into that goodwill. (OSV News)

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