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Nation and world briefs

Report: Vocations to religious life in U.S. decline, but factors can positively impact numbers

WASHINGTON — A new report shows a continued decrease in the number of permanent vocations to consecrated life in the U.S. — but key factors such as family life, devotional practices, Catholic education and personal encouragement can positively impact those numbers. “Women and Men Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2023” was released Jan. 26 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, ahead of the Church’s World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life on Feb. 2. The study — annually commissioned since 2010 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations — found that of the participating religious superiors, 87% reported their orders had no member profess perpetual vows in 2023, up from the 82% noted in last year’s report. Two-parent married Catholic families, Catholic education, involvement in parish life, eucharistic adoration and the Rosary all helped to foster survey participants’ vocations, as did discernment events and personal encouragement from priests, family and friends. (OSV News)

Catholic priest and his sister killed in Florida shooting spree

PALM BAY, Fla. — A retired Florida Catholic priest and his sister were killed in a multi-location rampage that also took the life of another man, left two police officers injured and ended with the death of the suspect. Father Robert Hoeffner and his sister, Sally Hoeffner, were found slain at their Palm Bay, Florida, residence on the evening of Jan. 28, as police were investigating a domestic disturbance at another area home that turned deadly. Their car had apparently been stolen by 24-year-old suspect Brandon William Kapas, who loaded the car with a cache of weapons and drove it to a family gathering nearby. Kapas killed his grandfather and injured two police officers before he himself was shot and killed. No motive for the shootings has been given. (OSV News)

Joliet bishop announces parish mergers, building closures to strengthen diocese’s mission

JOLIET, Ill. — Sixteen parishes in the Diocese of Joliet will be reconfigured into seven parishes, with five churches closing, to optimize the diocese’s resources for its future and evangelization, the diocese announced Jan. 25. The decision impacts parishes in and around the city of Joliet. Joliet Bishop Ronald A. Hicks, in a Jan. 25 statement on the diocese’s website, attributed the decision to changes over the past half-century, including fewer and aging priests and aging church buildings, as well as lower Mass attendance. The restructuring includes three groups of parishes, each of which are expected to see parishes “extinguished,” or ceasing to exist. Two schools also are to close and be replaced with a new parish school. (OSV News)

Children from Gaza arrive in Rome for treatment

VATICAN CITY — Ten children from Gaza in need of medical attention arrived in Rome on a military plane late Jan. 29, the first group of young patients who will receive treatment in Italy thanks to the lobbying of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and negotiations involving the governments of Italy, Israel, Palestine and Egypt. The 10 children and a young man, described as being just over 18 years old, were taken from Rome’s Ciampino military airport to the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital for an initial assessment, Vatican News reported. The patients include children seriously injured in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas as well as chronically ill children who can no longer receive the necessary treatment in Gaza because of the war. Four of the patients will stay at Bambino Gesù while the young man will be treated at St. Camillus Hospital in Rome and the other children will be cared for at hospitals in Genoa, Bologna and Florence. (CNS)

Cdl. Lacroix of Québec accused of abuse

QUÉBEC CITY — Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix of Québec has announced he will temporarily step aside from his duties, after he was named in court documents Jan. 25 in connection with a class-action sex abuse lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Québec in 2022. A Jan. 26 statement from the archdiocese, issued in French, said that the cardinal would be “temporarily withdrawing from his activities until the situation is clarified.” According to court documents, two incidents allegedly involving him reportedly occurred in 1987 and 1988 in Quebec City, when he was a religious brother. He is accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl on two occasions. The woman has not been identified. The archdiocesan statement said Cardinal Lacroix denies the allegations against him. In total, 147 alleged victims have joined the lawsuit against the archdiocese; abuse claims date back to 1940. Fifteen other people associated with the archdiocese have been named in the court documents. (OSV News)

Three bishops, approved by pope and government, ordained in China

VATICAN CITY — In less than a week, three Chinese bishops were ordained with the approval of both Pope Francis and the Chinese government. The ordination Mass for Bishop Peter Wu Yishun, 59, was celebrated Jan. 31 after Pope Francis named him head of the Apostolic Prefecture of Shaowu in the Chinese province of Fujian Dec. 16 “within the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican announced Jan. 31. The apostolic prefecture had been without a bishop since 1964. The Vatican said Father Anthony Sun Wenjun, 53, was ordained to the episcopacy Jan. 29 in Weifang, about 320 miles south of Beijing, and Bishop Thaddeus Wang Yuesheng was ordained the bishop of Zhengzhou Jan. 25, also in accordance with the accordance with the Vatican-China agreement, which was originally signed in 2018 and has been renewed every two years since. (CNS)

France’s Catholic bishops strongly back farmers in their massive protest

PARIS — Several French bishops issued statements of solidarity with farmers protesting across the country. After days of protests in the local provinces, farmers blocked the main roads leading to Paris with spectacular traffic jams of tractors and farm vehicles across the French capital Jan. 29. Protesting farmers aim to pressure the government over the future of their industry, which has been shaken by repercussions of the Ukraine war. A global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion on Ukraine — called “the world’s food storage” for its fertile land — has made prices for fertilizer, energy and other inputs for growing crops and feeding livestock much higher, and consumed the farmers’ income. Bishop Jean-Marc Micas of Tarbes and Lourdes, the diocese of the famous Marian shrine, in the Pyrenees, personally visited the roads blocked by tractors to greet the protesters. “The farmers we know are responsible people, sensitive to issues linked to climate and the environment,” Bishop Micas said in his Jan. 24 statement. The bishop expressed his “compassion,” “solidarity” and “commitment alongside those who suffer.” The bishops of the Montpellier province, led by Montpellier Archbishop Norbert Turini, said Jan. 25, “Faced with rising costs that are crushing you, ever more restrictive standards imposed on you, constant controls, excessive administrative procedures, you are suffering to the point of crying out in despair.” (OSV News)

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