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Nation and world briefs


FBI director testifies about memo on ‘radical traditionalist Catholics’

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray sparred with Republicans during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 5 about a leaked and withdrawn memo from the bureau’s Richmond, Virginia, field office about political extremism in some Catholic groups. During an oversight hearing by the committee, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., had tense exchanges with Wray about the memo, alleging the bureau targeted Catholics. Wray denied that allegation, arguing they “do not and will not conduct investigations based on anybody’s exercise of their constitutionally protected religious expression.” Hawley asked Wray if Catholic churches are “breeding grounds for domestic terrorism,” and if there is “systemic bigotry against Catholics in the FBI?” Wray rejected both claims. The FBI faced scrutiny earlier in 2023 after a leaked memo suggested some “radical traditionalist” Catholics — as opposed to traditionalist Catholics or Catholics more generally — pose threats of racial or ethnically motivated violence. The memo was later retracted by the bureau, a spokesperson said at the time. (OSV News)

Baltimore group visits Vatican officials to advocate for canonization of Black Catholics

BALTIMORE — When three members of St. Ann Parish in East Baltimore sat down with leaders of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican in late October to advocate for sainthood for six Black potential saints from the United States, they shared their personal experiences of being Black and Catholic. “One of the things that we wanted to make clear, you know, just looking at the three of us, is that we’re the last generation to have openly experienced the personal side of the white supremacy that existed in the Catholic Church in those days,” said Ralph Moore, a member of St. Ann who has been spearheading an effort to get “the saintly six” canonized quickly. The potential saints include four declared “venerable”: Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, the world’s first sustained religious community for Black women; Mother Henriette Delille, founder of the New Orleans-based Sisters of the Holy Family; Father Augustus Tolton, the first Catholic priest in the U.S. known publicly to be Black; and Pierre Toussaint, a noted philanthropist. The other two are Sister Thea Bowman, the first African American to be a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and Julia Greeley, known as Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” both of whom have the title “servant of God.” (OSV News)


Explosion at university in southern Philippines kills four people during morning Mass

MARAWI, Philippines — A bomb that exploded during a Mass Dec. 3 killed at least four people and injured dozens at a university in a predominantly Muslim city in southern Philippines. Media reports that the explosion caused panic among dozens of students and teachers in a gymnasium, where Mass was taking place, at Mindanao State University in Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur province. The explosion took place at around 7 a.m. local time. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the deadly blast, according to Reuters and The New York Times. Nearly 80% of the Philippines’ population of 114.6 million people is Catholic. After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis assured the victims of his prayers. A telegram, addressed to Bishop Edwin de la Peña of Marawi, assured the people of the Holy Father’s spiritual closeness amid this tragedy, and that he commended the souls of those who died to God’s mercy . (OSV News)

No one can change the nature of the priesthood, cardinal says

VATICAN CITY — The only way to carry out the new evangelization called for by Pope Francis is to adopt the pastoral style of a compassionate, humble, patient and simple priest who walks at the same pace as his people, Cardinal Pietro Parolin told seminarians. “This is how the priest will touch the hearts of his faithful, win their trust and bring them face to face with Christ,” the cardinal wrote in a message sent on behalf of Pope Francis to seminarians in France. The Vatican published the written message from the Vatican secretary of state Dec. 1. “No one has the power to change the nature of the priesthood and no one ever will, even if the ways in which it is exercised must necessarily take account of changes in today’s society and the serious vocational crisis we are experiencing,” he wrote. At the very heart of the priestly identity is celibacy, the cardinal wrote. “Priests are celibate — and they wish to be — simply because Jesus was celibate. The requirement of celibacy is not primarily theological, but mystical: may this be understood by he who is able,” he wrote. (CNS)

Pope, Council of Cardinals discuss the role of women in the Church

VATICAN CITY — With the input of two women and a priest, Pope Francis and members of his international Council of Cardinals discussed the role of women in the Catholic Church. “The council agreed on the need to listen, also and above all in individual Christian communities, to the feminine aspect of the Church, so that the processes of reflection and decision-making can benefit from the irreplaceable contribution of women,” the Vatican press office said at the end of the council’s meeting Dec. 4-5. The conversation about the role of women in the Church included input from Salesian Sister Linda Pocher, a professor of Christology and Mariology at Rome’s Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium”; Lucia Vantini, a professor of theology and philosophy at the Institute of Religious Sciences in Verona, Italy; and Father Luca Castiglioni, a professor of fundamental theology at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Milan, the press office said in a written communiqué Dec. 6. (CNS)

Mexican Catholics condemn euthanasia initiative

BUENOS AIRES — Catholics in Mexico have condemned an initiative to legalize euthanasia, accusing lawmakers of simply wanting to “save money,” while presenting their proposal “under the guise of false piety.” A proposed law presented in the lower house of Congress is expected to be debated by its health commission and proposes allowing euthanasia for certain patients so long as they receive medical and psychological evaluations and their written request is reviewed by a notary. Those circumstances include terminal illness, irreversible conditions and “being in agony.” The proposal sparked disquiet among Church leaders and pro-life groups in Mexico, which recalled that the lower house hosted “National Euthanasia Week” in June 2022 and talked about palliative care for terminal patients being costly. “The regulation of euthanasia in Mexico, if approved by the legislative branch, could mean, in terms of investment in health, a ‘savings’ for the state,” Emmanuel Reyes Carmona, the health commission’s president, said at the event. The Mexican bishops’ conference released a statement, dated Nov. 27, opposing the euthanasia initiative, saying that “more than an act of compassion, taking the life of another person is a gesture of abandonment, which is why euthanasia is always an attack against the dignity of the person.” (OSV News)

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