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Nation and world briefs


Pro-life advocates continue fight to make abortion unthinkable

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — “The battle continues, and we will continue until the word abortion is unthinkable,” pro-life advocates said during the National Hispanic Pro-Life Congress held in January at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Falls Church. Neydy Casillas, an attorney working at the Global Center for Human Rights, told attendees that overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022 had been a great triumph, but the fight remains to end abortion at any stage of pregnancy and until abortion is unthinkable. “We need a new perspective” to bring about change in society, said Omar Aguilar, the father of five children and director of religious education at St. Cecilia Parish in Dallas. “Catholics must have conviction and get involved, they must no longer be afraid to speak out, to raise their voices, and they must be intentional in the defense of life,” Aguilar said. The Jan. 20 pro-life event was organized by Alianza por la Vida, a local nonprofit that first organized this annual congress five years ago to share Spanish-language resources with the Hispanic community. (OSV News)

Social media CEOs grilled over child exploitation: ‘You have a product that’s killing people’

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 31 grilled the CEOs of major social media companies on how they respond to child sexual exploitation on their platforms. Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, X Corp.’s Linda Yaccarino, Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Discord’s Jason Citron testified before the committee about child abuse material on their platforms. The hearing, although tense at times, was a rare moment of bipartisanship, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee noting senators from “every spot on the political spectrum” had tough questions for them. The CEOs argued their companies have gone to great effort and expense to combat sexually exploitative materials on their platforms, particularly in regards to young people. But senators from both parties characterized the companies’ efforts as insufficient, noting the presence in the hearing room of abuse victims as well as family members of victims who have died by suicide. “You and the companies before us — I know you don’t mean it to be so — but you have blood on your hands,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said to Zuckerberg, whose Meta owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. “You have a product that’s killing people.” The U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference has called on Congress to take action, with several committee chairs calling last year for lawmakers to enact “legislation to protect children online.” (OSV News)


Wave of arrests continue for Belarus Catholics as they face new restrictions

MINSK, Belarus — Priests and lay Catholics from Belarus say they still hope their Church’s situation will improve, despite the continued arrest of clergy and new religious restrictions that are imminent. “Priests are being targeted on various pretexts, and many Catholics feel pressured and harassed,” explained Father Dzmitry Prystupa, from Baranavichy in Belarus’s southern Diocese of Pinsk. “It’s painful that there’s no free speech in our Church — and that the Good News, so strongly linked with truth and justice, has to be announced selectively, subject to official surveillance and verification.” The priest spoke amid the country’s plans to enforce a new Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations law, signed Dec. 30 by President Alexander Lukashenko and published Jan. 5, which will restrict educational and missionary activity by churches and require all parishes to reapply for legal status. Dozens of clergy from various denominations have faced arrest. In a Jan. 10 statement, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need said Belarus now ranked second in the world, after Nicaragua, for the number of arrested Catholic priests, with 10 detained on extremism and treason charges in 2023, along with many lay Catholics. (OSV News)

Pope tells seminarians to put the Eucharist at center of formation

VATICAN CITY — If seminarians want to advance in their discernment and practice of religious life they must place the Eucharist at the center of their formation, Pope Francis wrote. Making God the “cornerstone” of one’s life “can only be achieved through adoration,” the pope said in a message to seminarians from the Archdiocese of Madrid. Instead of reading his prepared remarks to the seminarians Feb. 3, he opted to field questions from them for more than an hour, reported COPE, the radio station owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference. COPE’s Vatican correspondent reported that among other things, the pope warned them against falling into ideology, “which prevents us from looking at people as brothers and sisters.” For seminarians studying how to transmit Jesus to others, “there is no other example but Himself,” the pope said in his written message. Jesus “will be our teacher, patient, severe, gentle or firm as we need in our discernment, because He knows us better than we know ourselves,” he wrote. The pope encouraged the seminarians to come face to face with the Eucharist each morning, a practice which “makes us reflect on the futility of our worldly ideas, of our desires to ascend, to appear, to stand out.” (CNS)

Pope, cardinals continue discussion of role of women in the Church

VATICAN CITY — With the help of a woman Anglican bishop, a Salesian sister and a consecrated virgin, Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals devoted the first morning of their February meeting “to deepening their reflection, begun last December, on the role of women in the Church,” the Vatican press office said. Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said Feb. 5 the pope and cardinals heard from Bishop Jo Bailey Wells, deputy secretary-general of the Anglican Communion; Salesian Sister Linda Pocher, a professor of Christology and Mariology at Rome’s Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium,” and Giuliva Di Berardino, a consecrated virgin and liturgist from the Diocese of Verona, Italy. The Vatican has not shared details about the discussions on the role of women in the Church nor the texts of presentations made at the meeting. (CNS)

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