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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Human composting, alkaline hydrolysis not acceptable for burial, say U.S. bishops

WASHINGTON, DC — Two new alternatives to burial and cremation fail to comply with the Catholic Church’s teaching on respect for the bodies of the dead, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine said. In a March 23 statement, the committee said it had evaluated human composting and alkaline hydrolysis, and concluded that both “fail to satisfy the Church’s requirements for proper respect for the bodies of the dead.” The methods, which rapidly accelerate decomposition, have gained support in recent years as “eco-friendly” forms of treating human remains. However, both techniques — unlike flame-based cremation — do not yield remains that can be interred in a sacred place. Church teaching requires proper care of the human body in death as recognition of the human person’s unity of soul and body, and the hope of the resurrection when Jesus Christ returns in glory. (OSV News)

Salvadorans in Washington, D.C., celebrate St. Oscar Romero’s ‘faith, courage’

WASHINGTON — With great enthusiasm and devotion, hundreds of Salvadoran families gathered for a March 24 Mass at the Sacred Heart Shrine in Washington to celebrate the feast of St. Oscar Romero, bishop and martyr from El Salvador. During the Mass, the faithful thanked Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington for the support that he provides to the Hispanic community. Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjívar, believed to be the first Salvadoran bishop appointed in the United States, was officially received by the parishioners. Bishop Oswaldo Escobar of Chalatenango, El Salvador, also concelebrated the Mass. By his example, St. Romero “showed us the way to holiness, to live in community and not be indifferent to the pain of others. He was brave as our immigrant community in the United States is now, who always raises his arms to ask God to show him the path to justice, love and truth,” Bishop Menjívar said in his homily. (OSV News)

Pope accepts resignation of ‘ailing’ Guam archbishop

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of 64-year-old Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agaña, Guam, who, the archdiocese said, has been “on extended leave due to illness.” Announcing the archbishop’s resignation March 28, the Vatican provided no explanation. A statement from the archdiocese noted that “the Vatican has announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of ailing Archbishop Michael Byrnes as archbishop of Agaña while concurrently appointing vicar general Father Romeo Convocar as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.” In the statement, Father Convocar thanked Archbishop Byrnes “for the tremendous courage, faith and obedience he demonstrated seven years ago when he answered the call from the Holy Father to travel many miles away to lead the faithful in a place he knew little about.” The statement said the people of the archdiocese “have much sadness about his departure but our prayers continue to be with him as he contends with his life-changing illness.” (CNS)

World

Pope hospitalized for respiratory infection, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY — After having difficulty breathing, Pope Francis went to Rome’s Gemelli hospital March 29 where he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection that will be treated in the hospital for several days, the Vatican press office said. In the past few days, the statement said, “Pope Francis complained of some respiratory difficulties and this afternoon he went to Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic for some medical tests. The outcome of these showed a respiratory infection — a COVID-19 infection was excluded —that will require several days of appropriate medical treatment in the hospital.” “Pope Francis is touched by the many messages he’s received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the press office said. About six hours earlier the press office had said the pope was at the hospital for “previously planned tests.” Several Italian media outlets and the Rome correspondent for the Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported, however, that Pope Francis was taken to Gemelli by ambulance. The Gemelli hospital, part of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, keeps a suite of rooms reserved for the pope on its 10th floor. (CNS)

Memorial to modern Christian martyrs opens in Rome

ROME — Amid the remains of a pagan temple on an island in the Tiber River hangs a red chasuble worn by St. Oscar Romero of San Salvador. Nearby there is a relic of Blessed Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest shot in Guatemala in 1981, and a jagged rock used by the Polish security police officers who murdered Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko in 1984. In 2002 St. John Paul II recognized the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome as a shrine to the “new martyrs” of the 20th century. Shortly afterward, the Italian government began an archaeological exploration of the crypt under the church and discovered the remains of a temple dated to the third century before Christ and dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. The Community of Sant’Egidio, which cares for the basilica and the shrine, hosted an event March 23 to dedicate a new exposition space among the ruins in the crypt as a museum and memorial to the new martyrs of both the 20th and 21st centuries. The inauguration took place on the eve of St. Romero’s feast day, a day the Diocese of Rome and many others around the world remember the “new martyrs” of Nazism, communism, totalitarianism and anti-Christian persecution. (CNS)

Pope advances sainthood causes of six candidates

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood causes of five women and a priest. The pope March 23 signed decrees recognizing that each of the six candidates heroically lived the Christian virtues. Beatification will require a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession, and canonization — a declaration of sainthood — will require an additional miracle. Among the causes that were advanced were those of two laywomen: Maria Domenica Lazzeri, an Italian who lived 1815-1848; and Teresa Enríquez de Alvarado, a Spaniard, who was born sometime around 1456 and died in 1529. (CNS)

Malawi and Mozambique caught in dire consequences of cyclone

LILONGWE, Malawi — Malawi is reeling from the consequences of Cyclone Freddy that hit the southeastern African country March 12. The passage of the cyclone caused flooding and mudslides that have resulted in the deaths of at least 476 people as of March 19, according to Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs. Malawian bishops urged Catholics and people of goodwill “to stand and feel with the victims of this devastating cyclone and immediately start to donate whatever they can, in form of money and in kind, to help the victims who have been affected and are suffering from the effects of the cyclone,” they wrote in a March 14 statement. The Church has already been responding. Chimwemwe Sakunda, National Coordinator of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi, said that the Catholic Church has been providing “relief items such as blankets, buckets, chlorine and support to the search and rescue teams through volunteers.” (OSV News)

Pope Francis calls for ‘ethical and responsible’ AI development

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked tech leaders to measure the value of their innovations not in processing power or profit potential, but in their capacity to promote human dignity. In a meeting at the Vatican March 27 with scientists, engineers, businesspeople and lawyers working across the tech industry, the pope reflected on the social and cultural impact of artificial intelligence. The benefits of artificial intelligence and automated learning for humanity will be realized only if developers act in an “ethical and responsible way” that respects the intrinsic dignity of each person, the pope said. But he expressed concern that such respect is missing when, for instance, artificially intelligent software is used in producing legal sentences by analyzing an individual’s criminal record and generalized data. “An individual’s past behavior should not be used to deny him or her the opportunity to change, grow and contribute to society,” he said. “We cannot allow algorithms to limit or condition respect for human dignity, nor can we allow them to exclude compassion, mercy, forgiveness and, above all, an openness to hope for personal change.” (CNS)

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