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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Life Fest returns to DC Armory ahead of National March for Life

WASHINGTON — The Sisters of Life and Knights of Columbus announced Dec. 21 that they will be teaming up for a second year to host Life Fest in conjunction with the National March for Life in January. The event will be held Jan. 19 at the 10,000-seat D.C. Armory in southeast Washington prior to the march, which begins around 1 p.m. along Constitution Avenue. The march will be the second following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022 and the return of abortion policymaking to the states. According to organizers, Life Fest will feature “dynamic speakers and testimonies” and music by Sarah Kroger and Damascus Worship. It will also include Mass celebrated by Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston; and Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota; as well as a eucharistic healing procession. Life Fest attendees will also have the opportunity to venerate first-class relics of the Ulma family, who were recently beatified in their native Poland. More information about the event and registration is at www.lifefestrally.com. (OSV News)

Memorial services around country honor fallen homeless

GREEN BAY, Wis. — At least 20 people experiencing homelessness in the United States die every day, according to HomelessDeathsCount.org. To help remember and honor those who have died, the National Coalition for the Homeless began sponsoring memorial services in 1990. Each year, the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is observed on the first day of winter, Dec. 21, which is also the longest night of the year. For people who are homeless, it is a night that represents the harsh realities of living on the streets. Over 200 communities across the United States, including Green Bay, now hold memorial services each year, according to DeBorah Gilbert White, director of education for the National Coalition for the Homeless, based in Washington. “The homeless population is graying,” Gilbert White said, which means more are dying. She works with homeless advocacy groups around the country sponsoring the memorial services and tries to track the number of people who have died each year. “We have over 300 names so far this year. That’s way too many people who are dying without housing,” she said. (OSV News)

WORLD

Pope Francis prays for those affected by earthquake in Japan

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by a devastating earthquake in Japan, offering encouragement to emergency crews who were assisting victims and searching for survivors under the rubble. As the official death toll from the quake reached 48 people, the pope prayed for the people of Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture, expressing his sadness and “blessings of consolation and strength” in a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Jan. 2. “He assures everyone affected by this disaster of his heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness, and prays especially for the dead, those who mourn their loss and for the rescue of any persons still missing,” the telegram said. “The Holy Father offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this tragedy,” it said. Officials said at least 48 people were killed after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 struck Japan’s western coast near the Noto Peninsula Jan. 1 around 4 p.m. local time. Dozens of aftershocks were reported Jan. 2 and could pose additional dangers, according to seismologists. (CNS)

Vatican news agency reports 20 missionaries murdered in 2023

VATICAN CITY — In its annual report on Catholic missionaries murdered during the year, the Vatican-based news agency Fides noted what many of them had in common was living a normal life in areas where violence had become common. “They did not carry out any sensational actions or out-of-the-ordinary deeds that could have attracted attention and put them in someone’s crosshairs,” the report said. “They could have gone elsewhere, moved to safer places, or desisted from their Christian commitments, perhaps reducing them, but they did not do so, even though they were aware of the situation and the dangers they faced every day,” it added. Fides, the news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies which is part of the Dicastery for Evangelization, reported Dec. 30 that 20 pastoral workers were killed in 2023: one bishop, eight priests, two religious brothers, one seminarian, one novice and seven laypeople. The agency said its tally was slightly higher than in 2022 when it counted 18 missionaries who died violently. In the 2023 list, Fides included Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, a native of Ireland who had been a priest and later a bishop in Los Angeles for 45 years. (CNS)

Pope prays for victims of mass shooting in Prague

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis expressed his spiritual closeness to the victims and all those affected by a mass shooting that killed 14 people and injured another 25 at a historic university in Prague, Czech Republic. The pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injuries caused by the shooting at Charles University in Prague,” said a telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. A gunman, believed by Czech authorities to have been a 24-year-old student at the university, opened fire on people on the university campus in central Prague at about 3 p.m. local time Dec. 21. Videos on social media showed students barricading themselves in classrooms and even climbing onto ledges of academic buildings to seek safety. Czech police believe the shooter died by suicide. Pope Francis “expresses his spiritual closeness to all affected by this tragedy,” said the telegram, which was published Dec. 22. “Entrusting those who have died to the loving mercy of almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and consolation upon their grieving families and friends, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this difficult time,” it read. (CNS)

Cardinal says Vatican is not moving toward accepting gay marriage

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s affirmation that a priest can give an informal blessing to a gay couple who asks for one is not a first step toward the Catholic Church recognizing same-sex marriages, said Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Those who say so either have not read the text or have ‘bad blood,’ if you will pardon the expression. The statement clearly and ad nauseam states that these blessings are non-ritualized so that they are not interpreted as a marriage,” the cardinal told the Spanish newspaper ABC in an interview published Dec. 25. The doctrinal dicastery’s document, “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”), which was approved by Pope Francis, said that while the Church “remains firm” in teaching that marriage is only a lifelong union between a man and a woman, in certain circumstances priests can give non-sacramental, non-liturgical blessings to “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.” Several bishops’ conferences in Africa and elsewhere reacted strongly against the document, which was published Dec. 18, and issued statements forbidding their priests from offering such blessings. While Cardinal Fernández insisted the document “upholds with great clarity and simplicity the Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality,” he said bishops have a right and duty to advise their priests on the possible use of such blessings. (CNS)

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