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Police arrest suspected mastermind of massacre at Rwandan Catholic parish in 1994 genocide

Fulgence Kayishema, a former Rwandan police officer suspected to have ordered the killing of at least 2,000 Tutsis who were seeking refuge at St. Paul’s Nyange Catholic Parish during the 1994 genocide, was arrested May 24, 2023. / Credit: Courtesy photo

ACI Africa, Jun 1, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Fulgence Kayishema, a former Rwandan police officer who is suspected of having ordered the killing of at least 2,000 Tutsis who were seeking refuge at St. Paul’s Nyange Catholic Parish in the current Nyundo Diocese during the 1994 genocide, has been arrested in South Africa.

Reuters reported May 25 that Kayishema, one of the top suspects in the genocide, which claimed some 800,000 lives, was arrested May 24 on a grape farm in South Africa while using a false name, Donatien Nibashumba.

The suspect has been on the run since 2001 when the now-defunct International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) accused him of genocide for his role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic church.

Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), the U.N. body that took over ICTR’s function, said Kayishema’s arrest “ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes.”

While confirming the arrest, the leadership of Hawks, an elite South African police unit, said the suspect was to be extradited to Rwanda on May 26 after appearing in South Africa’s Bellville Magistrate’s court.

Nyange Catholic Parish has been transformed into a genocide memorial site.

According to an April 2019 report in The Chronicles, a Rwandan news outlet, 48 Catholic parishes became major killing sites during the genocide as innocent Tutsi faithful ran to the churches to seek refuge against attacks from the Hutus.

The Chronicles report says a number of consecrated persons from the Catholic Church have been convicted following their direct or indirect involvement in the genocide.

On May 2, Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was dismissed from clerical duties.

Munyeshyaka, who was serving in the Diocese of Evreux in France, was accused of playing an active role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in different parts of Kigali while he was a parish priest at Holy Family Parish in the Kigali Archdiocese.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

Cardinal Sarah to theology students: ‘The more we know the Lord the more we can love him’

Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. / Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Cardinal Robert Sarah urged students studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas to ask in prayer for “an intimate and profound union with the Lord and with one another.”

Speaking at a Mass to mark the close of the academic year at the university in Rome known as the Angelicum, the Guinean cardinal spoke about the danger of division in the Church and the importance of prayer.

“Jesus asks that each person may live in love and in true unity, a deep communion, in the image of the Trinitarian communion. A union that immerses our lives fully in Jesus, just as Jesus’ life is immersed in the Father,” Sarah said in his homily.

He added: “Such a union is undoubtedly expressed in a Christian life of deep and intense prayer addressed to the Lord, which in daily life is manifested in a gaze of charity toward the brothers and sisters we meet.”

Seminarians, priests, religious, and laypeople studying philosophy and theology at the pontifical university attended the Mass on May 25.

The prefect emeritus of the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments reflected on Jesus’ priestly prayer at the Last Supper in which the Lord prayed: “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).

Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrates Mass for students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum
Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrates Mass for students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

Sarah said: “Jesus calls for them to be a family of God … Jesus knows well that the spirit of division, hatred, or mutual contempt would destroy his Church and mission. It does not matter how the devil is dressed. Everything that divides is still inspired by him.”

“The danger of division, of infighting, of confusion in doctrinal and moral teaching is so grave that Jesus ventures an ambitious, lofty, almost impossible prayer: He asks the Father that his disciples have the same unity that exists between the two of them.”

The 77-year-old cardinal reminded the students that “if theological study does not make us grow in the love of God and neighbor, if we only work hard to pass the exams, then we are killing ourselves for nothing.”

“In our time, it is urgent to restart the missionary commitment to courageously bring the Gospel of Christ everywhere, but preaching must begin with prayer and the concrete witness of that evangelical love expressed with the death of Jesus on the cross and which impels us to look at others before themselves, to spend one’s life for the Gospel and not for one’s own interest or advantages,” he said.

Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum
Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

Sarah is the author of a number of books on the spiritual life, including “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.”

He said: “Jesus tells us that we should always be able to begin our prayer with this attitude of raising our eyes to heaven, detaching our attention, even physically, from our worries, from our earthly worries and turning towards the high, towards heaven, towards the Father who dwells in it.”

“A gaze bowed and closed in on ourselves does not open us up to God, it does not allow us to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with him. Before we begin to pray, we must, like Jesus, lift our eyes, take them away from our thoughts, even the thought of study and exams, so that we can truly and fully immerse ourselves in him, in his divine dimension.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum
Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

Sarah told the students that “the more we know the Lord the more we can love him.”

The Angelicum, which is one of seven pontifical universities in Rome, has 1,000 students coming from almost 100 countries around the world.

Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrates Mass for students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum
Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrates Mass for students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

“We are called, like St. Paul, to have courage and to give our life for the Lord in everything that we are given to live, without fearing the cross, but like Jesus, embracing it tenderly, since that cross is the road to eternity, to fullness of God’s glory,” Sarah said.

“Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to tend through our lives to an intimate and profound union with the Lord and with one another, to become credible witnesses of the Risen One.”

Matthew Santucci contributed to this story.

Vatican looking into $17 million transfer from U.S.-based charity to impact investing fund

Father Andrew Small, OMI. / Photo courtesy of Father Small.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican is looking into the transfer of $17 million from the U.S. arm of a Church mission to an investment fund, according to the Associated Press.

AP reported May 31 that Pope Francis has asked aides to “get to the bottom of how” the money was transferred.

The transfers date mostly to 2021, when the board of directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies U.S.A. (TPMS-US) approved moving at least $17 million to a nonprofit organization and its private equity fund owned by the organization’s then-national director, Father Andrew Small, OMI.

TPMS-US is the U.S.-based branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies, a worldwide network of four societies that provide financial support to the Catholic Church in mission territories, especially in Africa. Most of its funds come from an annual donation taken up in Catholic churches in October.

As a pontifical organization, it is an official instrument of the Holy See and the pope.

While national director of TPMS-US in 2014, Small founded the New York-based nonprofit Missio Corp. and its private equity fund, MISIF LLC, under the umbrella of TPMS-US. They were separately incorporated in 2018.

After 10 years at the helm of TPMS-US, Small has been the temporary secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2021. He also continues to be president and CEO of Missio Corp., which runs Missio Invest, an impact investing fund providing financing to agribusinesses, health and education enterprises, and Church-run financial institutions in Africa.

The mission group’s new national director, Monsignor Kieran E. Harrington, and new board of directors have now written off $10.2 million of the total transferred as a loss since “there is no timeline and no guarantee of investment return,” according to its latest audited financial statement, AP reported.

“Management of the organization is diligently working to redeem the investment, however there is no timeline and no guarantee of investment return,” the financial statement says.

Small, in comments to AP, called the write-off of the investment “shortsighted” and said there is no reason to think there will not be a return on investment after the minimum 10-year commitment.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told AP: “The Holy See is aware of the situation and is currently looking into the details of the events.”

AP spoke to experts who said the transfers were not necessarily illegal, but Small’s leadership of both TPMS-US and Missio Corp. at the time, and the fact that the former distributes donations of the faithful while the latter gives out loans, raises some questions.

AP reported that according to financial statements, TPMS-US asked Missio Corp. for the $10.2 million investment in MISIF back but it was denied by Missio Corp.

Small told AP in email responses to questions that the money transfers from TPMS-US to Missio Corp and MISIF were approved by the board and in the best interest of the Church. Small also shared letters from bishops and religious sisters in Africa who benefited from Missio Corp.’s low-interest loans.

According to AP, TPMS-US changed the membership of its board of directors, which is mostly cardinals and bishops, after Harrington took over in spring 2021.

Harrington also retained a law firm to document the nature of the relationship between TPMS/Missio Invest/Missio Corp. and the transfer of funds to these various entities.

The board of TPMS-US is currently evaluating its governance structures and will recommend new statutes and vote upon the civil corporation bylaws.

AP reported that some of the money transferred to Missio Corp. and MISIF LLC was earmarked for the renovation of a former monastery in Rome purchased to become a dormitory for women religious studying at pontifical universities.

The monastery, notable for having hidden Jews during World War II, was purchased by the Vatican in 2021 but continues to sit empty.

Small told AP the board of TPMS-US, “for a variety of reasons,” had decided to send the $4.7 million to his Missio Corp. to fund training of sisters in Africa instead of to Rome for the refurbishment of the dormitory.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Indian bishop cleared of rape charge in civil trial

Bishop Franco Mulakkal. / file photo.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 05:36 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Indian bishop cleared in early 2022 of charges of raping a religious sister in his diocese.

The resignation of the 59-year-old Bishop Franco Mulakkal as head of the Diocese of Jalandhar comes more than 16 months after his acquittal by a court in India’s Kerala state in January 2022.

The judge in the case found that “the prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused.”

The Vatican did not indicate whether it carried out its own investigation into the accusations against Mulakkal, who has denied the claims and contends he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities at the accuser’s convent.

A religious sister with the Missionaries of Jesus accused the bishop of raping her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jalandhar Diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal was its patron.

Malukkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation into the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail.

The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. After Malukkal tried to get the charges dropped pretrial, the Kerala High Court found there was enough evidence to proceed.

He was cleared of all charges by the Kottayam court on Jan. 14, 2022.

Malukkal had also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he had acted against the sister’s sexual misconduct. He said the sister was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Mulakkal was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Jalandhar in 1990. In 2009, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Delhi.

He became bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar in June 2013.

Why is June the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Apparition of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Sacred Heart of Jesus / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 02:00 am (CNA).

June is known as the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus most simply because the solemnity of the Sacred Heart is celebrated during this month. This year, the solemnity falls on June 16. The date changes each year because it is celebrated on the Friday after the Corpus Christi octave, or the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.

However, other reasons exist as to why June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

The feast dates back to 1673, when a French nun who belonged to the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) in eastern France began to receive visions about the Sacred Heart.

Jesus appeared to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque and revealed ways to venerate his Sacred Heart and explained the immense love he has for humanity, appearing with his heart visible outside his chest, on fire, and surrounded by a crown of thorns.

These different ways include partaking in a holy hour on Thursdays and the reception of the Eucharist on the first Friday of every month.

Jesus told Sister Margaret Mary: “My Sacred Heart is so intense in its love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able to contain within it the flames of its ardent charity, they must be transmitted through all means.”

These visions continued for 18 months.

On June 16, 1675, Jesus told Sister Margaret Mary to promote a feast that honored his Sacred Heart. He also gave Sister Margaret Mary 12 promises made to all who venerate and promote the devotion of the Sacred Heart.

He said: “I ask of you that the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special feast to honor my heart, by communicating on that day, and making reparation to it by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which it has received during the time it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that my heart shall expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its divine love upon those who shall thus honor it, and cause it to be honored.”

Sister Margaret Mary died in 1690 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV on May 13, 1920.

The Vatican was hesitant to declare a feast to the Sacred Heart, but as the devotion spread throughout France, the Vatican granted the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to France in 1765.

In 1856, Pope Pius IX designated the Friday following the feast of Corpus Christi as the feast of the Sacred Heart for the universal Church. Ever since, the month of June has been devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his immense love for us all.

On the current calendar, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a solemnity, the highest-ranking feast in the liturgical calendar, although it is not a holy day of obligation.

These are the promises the Sacred Heart of Jesus made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

  2. I will give peace in their families.

  3. I will console them in all their troubles.

  4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.

  5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.

  6. Sinners shall find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

  8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.

  9. I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.

  10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

  11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my heart.

  12. In the excess of the mercy of my heart, I promise you that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the first Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

This story was originally published on June 19, 2022, and was updated on May 31, 2023.

Fort Worth Diocese: Vatican says bishop has authority over Carmelite monastery amid investigation

Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. / Credit: CBS News Texas/YouTube

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 31, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Amid an ongoing legal dispute between the Diocese of Fort Worth and a Carmelite monastery, the diocese announced that the Vatican formally recognized Bishop Michael Olson as having authority over the nuns.

A diocesan statement said that the Vatican appointed the bishop as the pontifical commissary, which makes him “the pope’s representative in this matter.” The statement said the May 31 decree was issued through the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The dispute began in late April when the diocese launched an investigation into whether the Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach had an affair with a priest. The reverend mother and the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas, filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the diocese, which accused the bishop of confiscating the reverend mother’s computer, cellphone, and laptop and subjecting nuns to lengthy questioning.

According to the diocesan statement, the Holy See’s decree recognizes the bishop’s authority in the investigation and over the monastery.

“The Dicastery recognized and acknowledged that Bishop Olson has been, and continues to be, entrusted with full governing responsibility for the Monastery,” the statement reads. “This decree is in response to the challenge to Bishop Olson’s authority to conduct an investigation into the admitted-to violations of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue and the vow of chastity by the Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes (Gerlach).”

A spokesperson for the diocese declined to comment further on the matter.

The decree comes four days after Olson sent a letter to the Carmelite monastery, which accuses the nuns of inciting “hatred and animosity” toward him and the diocese. He also refused to reinstate daily Mass and regular confession at the monastery.

Amid the investigation, the bishop banned the monastery from celebrating daily Mass and blocked access to regular confessions. He has also prohibited lay participation in the Mass. The nuns now only have access to Mass on Sundays and are only guaranteed the right to access confession once per year.

The monastery requested that its access to daily Mass, lay participation in the Mass, and regular confession be reinstated, but Olson sent them a letter in which he denied the request and accused them of hindering his investigation.

Olson said neither daily Mass nor confessions can be “conveniently provided for the members of the monastery” and Mass participation cannot be “extended to the lay faithful” because the monastery “lodged a civil lawsuit, together with a request for a protection order, against me and the Diocese of Fort Worth, containing a false narrative to the pending investigation.”

“[This] has led to local, national, and international media coverage and has incited hatred and animosity against me because of my initiation of the investigation and has hindered the freedom of my ecclesiastical power to conduct that investigation,” Olson continued. “Further obstruction of the investigation has occurred since you and certain members of the Monastery have refused to cooperate with the investigation.”

Olson told the monastery that these restrictions will stay in place until the nuns “cease this behavior which is contrary to and unbecoming of their religious state and demonstrate love for and obedience to [the] Holy Church and to her holy Pastors … and until completion of the pending civil lawsuit or its withdrawal.”

The monastery accuses the bishop and the diocese of violating both civil and canon law through his conduct related to the investigation. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in civil damages and asks the court to block the bishop’s and the diocese’s access to any records obtained by confiscating the reverend mother’s property. The diocese argued that the dispute is an ecclesiastical matter and should not be heard in a civil court.

Matthew Bobo, a civil lawyer representing the monastery and Mother Gerlach, said the bishop’s restrictions are a display of vengeance.

“This latest salvo from Bishop Olson is an unbelievably extreme display of arrogance, vengeance and hard-heartedness directed toward Sister Francis Therese and the other cloistered sisters whose religious order, daily since the 1950s, have joyfully and tirelessly prayed the Divine Office (universal prayer of the Catholic Church) for the Church and the world,” Bobo said in a statement.

Although the diocese contends that the reverend mother admitted to violating the Sixth Commandment, which prohibits adultery, with a priest, Bobo has said that she was under the influence of pain medication related to a surgery and “has not admitted to any grave misconduct that would warrant his extreme and emotionally damaging measures.”

“I cannot imagine the heartbreak and psychological suffering these prayerful women — set apart from the world to pray for it — are experiencing at the hands of their God-given shepherd,” Bobo said.

After the monastery filed the lawsuit, Olson also denied Gerlach’s ability to choose her own canon lawyer to represent her in the ecclesiastical investigation. Instead, he appointed a canon lawyer to represent her. Although the canon lawyer has already filed paperwork on her behalf, the reverend mother rejects the legitimacy of his claim that he represents her in these matters.

Dodgers pitcher denounces team’s decision to honor anti-Catholic group: ‘God cannot be mocked’

Dodger Stadium with downtown Los Angeles in the background. / Credit: Emma_Griffiths/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 31, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

A Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher became the latest Major League Baseball player to publicly condemn the Dodgers’ decision to honor an anti-Catholic drag group known as the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”

Blake Treinen issued a statement Monday night in which he said: “I am disappointed to see the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence being honored as heroes at Dodger Stadium. Many of their performances are blasphemous, and their work only displays hate and mockery of Catholics and the Christian faith.”

Treinen released his statement via a friend’s Twitter account.

“This group openly mocks Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of my faith, and I want to make it clear that I do not agree with nor support the decision,” Treinen wrote.

“I understand that playing baseball is a privilege, and not a right,” he said, noting “my convictions in Jesus Christ will always come first.”

“Inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to perform disenfranchises a large community and promotes hate of Christians and people of faith. This single event alienates the fans and supporters of the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and professional sports,” Treinen said. 

“I believe the word of God is true, and in Galatians 6:7 it says, ‘do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked; a man reaps what he sows,’” Treinen said.

The controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group known for mocking Catholicism, during their Pride Night at Dodger Stadium event on June 16.

The national drag group uses Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes. The performers call themselves nuns and regularly use the images of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and women religious.

The Dodgers will be giving the group a “Community Hero Award” before the June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants. 

After initially receiving blowback from the Christian community, the Dodgers revoked their invitation to the drag group, only to reinstate it with an apology days later.  

Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, one of the MLB’s most successful pitchers, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that he disagreed but did not go so far as to condemn the team’s decision.

“I don’t agree with making fun of other people’s religions,” Kershaw told the L.A. Times. “It has nothing to do with anything other than that. I just don’t think that no matter what religion you are, you should make fun of somebody else’s religion. So that’s something that I definitely don’t agree with.”

Kershaw said that a Dodgers Christian Faith & Family Day event to take place the month after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are honored was the right response.  

“For us, we felt like the best thing to do in response was, instead of maybe making a statement condemning or anything like that, would be just to instead try to show what we do support, as opposed to maybe what we don’t,” Kershaw said. “And that was Jesus. So to make Christian Faith Day our response is what we felt like was the best decision.”

According to the L.A. Times, Kershaw said watching video of the group’s portrayal of Christianity was “tough,” but he is not planning on boycotting the event honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Another Catholics MLB player, Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams, also condemned the Dodgers’ decision and called for a boycott of the team Tuesday.

“To invite and honor a group that makes a blatant and deeply offensive mockery of my religion, and the religion of over 4 million people in Los Angeles county alone, undermines the values of respect and inclusivity that should be upheld by any organization,” Williams said. “I also encourage my fellow Catholics to reconsider their support of an organization that allows this type of mockery of its fans to occur.” 

In a Tuesday press release, Williams’ press manager Zach Morley said that “his Catholic faith is the most important part of his life.” 

“This is why he chose to post on his social media accounts Tuesday, while the Nationals were in Los Angeles, that he was upset by the Los Angeles Dodgers decision to re-invite and honor a fringe group calling themselves, ‘The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,’” the release said. 

On Tuesday, Anthony Bass, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and a Christian, issued a public apology just a day after sharing a video to his social media that advocated for boycotts of Target and Bud Light for their support of transgender ideology.

“I recognize yesterday that I made a post that was hurtful to the Pride community, which includes friends of mine and close family members of mine, and I am truly sorry for that,” Bass said. “I just spoke with my teammates and shared with them my actions yesterday. I apologized with them and, as of right now, I am using the Blue Jays’ resources to better educate myself to make better decisions moving forward. The ballpark is for everybody. We include all fans at the ballpark, and we want to welcome everybody.”

The video shared by Bass was of Christian preacher Ryan Miller, who goes by the social media moniker “dude with good news,” advocating on a biblical basis for a boycott of Target and Bud Light. 

Despite his apology, Bass has continued to take heavy criticism on social media for his biblical stance against LGBTQ+ ideology. 

LGBTQ+ group “It Gets Better Canada” said in a tweet Tuesday that the organization was receiving donations “in recognition of Anthony Bass’ anti 2SLGBTQ+ stance.”

“Keep them coming! To our caring community — thank you for reminding us that hate has no space in baseball or in any other sport,” the group said. 

Cuban priest: 64 years is enough to prove the Cuban revolution didn’t work

Havana, Cuba. / Credit: Eduardo Berdejo ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, May 31, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

Father Alberto Reyes of the Archdiocese of Camagüey in Cuba said the 64 years that have elapsed since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 “is more than enough time to realize that the project called the ‘Cuban Revolution’ didn’t work, because it didn’t bring progress, nor did it achieve its ideal of the ‘new man.’”

In a May 26 post on Facebook, Reyes pointed out that during these decades what has happened in Cuba is a precariousness of life and an increase in “the desire to escape.”

In addition, he pointed out, the six decades that have elapsed are “more than enough time to prove that, in reality, power over this people has been maintained through fear, mistrust ... repression that knows no limits and that is capable of going beyond what’s human.”

The priest asked those who run the country and “all those who, in one way or another, are involved in the mechanisms that maintain the power structures” if they don’t see what’s happening in Cuba.

“Is it that you’re not suffering? Is it that you don’t have family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances ... who tell you over and over again ‘I can’t take it anymore’ or ‘How long is this going to be?’” he asked.

Reyes, who reflects on the reality in Cuba on social media, also noted that in the Caribbean country, “any area of citizens’ lives falls into the category of being ‘a problem,’” whether it’s getting food or medicine, transportation, an education, or care for the elderly.

“Is it that you don’t see how the precarious situation has been breaking up that ‘basic cell of society’ called the family, continually split up by emigration, by ‘international (medical) missions,’ by the wars we have waged and which it seems we will continue to wage in geographic locations totally unrelated?” he challenged.

Cuba intervened militarily in Algeria (1963), Syria (1973), Angola (1975),  and Ethiopia (1977), and other countries.

“If you don’t see it,” Reyes asked, “it’s time for you to wake up and look at the reality in front of you. And if you see it, but you think that we are like this through no fault of our own, it’s time for you to decide to face the truth.”

“And if you see it and don’t question yourself, and don’t do anything, or don’t even begin to ask yourself what you could do to bring about real change, then you’ve not just chosen the condition of being a slave, but you’ve decided to build your life on the painful suffering of your own people,” the Cuban priest concluded.

The situation in Cuba is far from improving. One example is the constant power outages throughout the island, such as the one on May 28, despite the promises of the minister of energy and mines, Vicente de la O Levy, to have “better conditions.”

According to the report published in April by DatoWorld, Cuba leads the “Poverty Index in Latin America,” with approximately 72% of its population below the extreme poverty line, established by the World Bank at a daily income of less than $1.90.

Because the communist regime does not publish figures on the level of poverty, DatoWorld took the October 2022 report of the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights as a reference.

This means that thousands of Cubans continue to see emigration as a way out of poverty. According to the United States Customs and Border Protection Office, in the month of April, 9,008 people from the island tried to enter the country, totaling 143,926 Cubans since October 2022.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of June

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on May 17, 2023. / Vatican Media

Denver, Colo., May 31, 2023 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of June is for the abolition of torture. 

“Torture is not past history. Unfortunately, it’s part of our history today,” Pope Francis said in a video released May 30.

“How is it possible that the human capacity for cruelty is so huge?” he questioned. 

“There are extremely violent forms of torture. Others are more sophisticated, such as degrading someone, dulling the senses, or mass detentions in conditions so inhumane that they take away the dignity of the person.”

The pope reminded the faithful that this is not something new. He urged everyone to “think of how Jesus himself was tortured and crucified.”

He added: “Let us put a stop to this horror of torture. It is essential to put the dignity of the person above all else. Otherwise, the victims are not persons, they are ‘things’ and can be mistreated mercilessly, causing death or permanent psychological and physical harm lasting a lifetime.”

Pope Francis concluded his message with a prayer: “Let us pray that the international community commit itself concretely to abolish torture, guaranteeing support to victims and their families.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

Vatican supports Catholic research to improve families and marriages

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Rome Newsroom, May 31, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has backed a project aimed at enhancing interdisciplinary research at Catholic universities in the sphere of family, marriage, and childbearing.

“We cannot be indifferent to the future of the family as a community of life and love, a unique and indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, a place where generations meet, a source of hope for society,” the pope said in a message of support released Tuesday.

The project, called the Family Global Compact, was presented May 30 by members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) and the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

In a written message read at the presentation, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the family dicastery, said: “The Family Global Compact entrusts Catholic universities with the task of developing more in-depth theological, philosophical, legal, sociological, and economic analyses of marriage and the family to sustain it and place it at the heart of systems of thought and contemporary action.”

The compact includes a 50-page document outlining specific challenges faced by families today, followed by suggested solutions and actions to take. Each challenge also includes guidelines for university research on that topic.

The document notes the challenges caused by low birth rates in many areas of the world and how the widespread practice and legalization of contraception, abortion, and sterilization “have transformed the meaning of procreation: from a natural inclination and gift of God to a project and result of a procreative will that tends to dominate life.”

The Vatican document encourages working to create “favorable conditions for getting married and having children at a young age” and to improve access to Church-approved forms of medical care, such as Naprotechnology, for those struggling with infertility.

The document also discusses the promotion of marriage among young adults, childbearing and adoption, intergenerational dependence, domestic violence, education to faith and the common good, employment, and poverty, among other subjects.

“This project,” the document says, “also challenges all the social actors to whom the Family Global Compact will be able to offer arguments and reflections based on rigorous empirical evidence, investigated and interpreted within an explicit anthropological perspective, relational and personalistic in nature, firmly inscribed in the social doctrine of the Church.”

The Vatican representatives emphasized May 30 that the project is based on the concrete realities of families today.

The president of PASS, Sister Helen Alford, OP, said: “We see that, despite the sense of a crisis in the family, or even of the ‘death’ of the family, it remains a central goal and value in people’s lives.”

“We cannot resign ourselves,” Pope Francis said in his message, “to the decline of the family in the name of uncertainty, individualism, and consumerism, which envision a future of individuals who think only of themselves.”

“The family, it should be recalled, has a positive effect on everyone, since it is a generator of common good,” he continued. “Healthy family relationships represent a unique source of enrichment, not only for spouses and children but for the entire ecclesial and civil community.”

Gabriella Gambino, an undersecretary of the family and life dicastery, pointed to four steps, or goals, of the Family Global Compact, as explained by Pope Francis.

The first is to initiate “a process of dialogue and greater collaboration among university study and research centers dealing with family issues, in order to make their activities more productive, particularly by creating or reviving networks of university institutes inspired by the social doctrine of the Church,” the pope said.

The second and third goals, he added, are to create “greater synergy of content and goals between Christian communities and Catholic universities” and to promote “the culture of family and life in society, so that helpful public policy resolutions and objectives can emerge.”

And finally, Francis said, the compact hopes to harmonize and advance proposals resulting from the research “so that service to the family can be enhanced and sustained in spiritual, pastoral, cultural, legal, political, economic, and social terms.”

Pierpaolo Donati, a sociologist and member of PASS, said in the past “once upon a time if you will,” young people were educated in a healthy family life by the family, but now, this has largely been lost.

“The core of the problem is a relationship culture that is lacking,” he said.

“Studies have revealed a crisis in family relationships,” Pope Francis said, “fueled by both contingent and structural problems, which, in the absence of adequate means of support from society, make it more difficult to create a serene family life.”

“This is one reason why many young people are choosing unstable and informal types of emotional relationships over marriage,” he explained. “At the same time, surveys make it clear that the family continues to be the primary source of social life and point to the existence of good practices that deserve to be shared and promoted globally.”

“Families themselves can and should be witnesses and leaders in this process.”