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PHOTOS: Thousands gather in Times Square for eucharistic procession in New York City

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

New York City, N.Y., May 31, 2023 / 09:05 am (CNA).

In what many are calling the largest eucharistic procession ever held in New York City, thousands of people took to the streets reciting prayers and singing songs of praise on the vigil of Pentecost, May 27.

The NYPD estimated more than 4,000 people took to the streets and processed through Times Square. Led by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat of the Archdiocese of New York, the procession brought together priests, nuns, and laity to pray for the forgiveness of sins in the iconic city and the world.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

The theme of the procession was “¡Esta ciudad pertenece a Jesucristo!” — “This city belongs to Jesus Christ!”

The procession was organized by the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center located in the Bronx, which is part of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. Participants started at Father Duffy Square in Times Square and after two hours, the procession ended at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Mass was celebrated.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

With a bullhorn in hand, Espaillat shared intense words to the faithful, saying: “In the middle of New York is the cross of Jesus Christ!”

“And this is why we rejoice today. We rejoice because this is Pentecost weekend. And we know what happened on Pentecost, right? There was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

“And we would not be standing here if it were not for the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen?”

“So my sisters and my brothers in Christ, we rejoice today for the blessings that God has in store for this great city. I love this city! I love New York! And that’s why I’m here, because I want to pray for our city. Amen?”

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

He exclaimed in Spanish: “¡Esta es mi ciudad! ¡Esta es nuestra ciudad! ¡Esta ciudad es de Jesucristo!” which translates to “This is my city! This is our city! This city is Jesus Christ’s’!” 

Photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno, who happened to be in the city for another assignment and stumbled upon the procession thanks to an Instagram post, said: “I have never seen anything like that before, especially in New York.” 

One particularly moving moment Bruno captured was the crowded street, lined by the skyscrapers of Times Square, filled with the faithful kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament as it was being lifted high into the air.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Father Shane Johnson, administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center, told CNA: “​​To me, the number of people was secondary to the amount of real authentic faith that was so evident in those who were present. It was astonishing.”

“These moments of kneeling on the asphalt in the middle of a city street with our arms raised to God remind us of who we are as his children and how this city really does belong entirely to him,” he added.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Johnson explained that while many view New York City as hostile toward Catholic events, such as protests held during pro-life walks in the city, the vast majority of people are respectful. 

“There is far more faith than might appear at first glance,” he shared. “When the majority is silent and a tiny minority is very loud, we get the impression that faith is moribund, but I’m convinced that our Lord’s victory in the hearts of his children is, almost all of the time, far greater than we realize.” 

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

“Most people like to see expressions of faith, even when they don’t understand them fully, and even in a city that’s often considered more famous for its sinners than for its many saints.” 

The eucharistic procession was organized as part of the Church’s National Eucharistic Revival. The next procession will take place on the feast of Corpus Christi, Sunday, June 11.

Pope Francis praises Matteo Ricci for proclaiming the Gospel in China

Pope Francis at his general audience in St Peter’s Square on May 31, 2023. / Adi Zace/EWTN

Vatican City, May 31, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis dedicated his entire general audience on Wednesday to sharing the life of Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary in China.

The pope, who has mentioned China at every Wednesday general audience in the past three weeks, praised Ricci’s “missionary spirit” in witnessing to the Gospel in the heart of the Imperial City of Beijing.

“Matteo Ricci died in Beijing in 1610 at the age of 57, a man who gave his entire life for the mission,” Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on May 31.

“His love for the Chinese people is a model, but what represents a current path is his consistency of life, the witness of his life as a Christian.”

Ricci is known for introducing Christianity to China’s imperial Ming Dynasty. By studying the language and adopting the local clothes and customs, the Jesuit priest gained access to the interior parts of the country that had been closed to outsiders.

“He always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with all the people he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith,” the pope said.

“After Francis Xavier’s attempt, another 25 Jesuits had tried in vain to enter China. But Ricci and one of his confrères prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs,” he said.

After first arriving in Macao in 1582, Ricci persevered in China for 18 years before he was able to enter Beijing’s Imperial City.

Pope Francis described how Ricci engaged in dialogue with Chinese scholars, sharing mathematical and astronomical knowledge that “contributed to a fruitful encounter between the culture and science of the West and the East.”

“However, Ricci’s fame as a man of science must not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: that is, the proclamation of the Gospel,” the pope said.

“With the scientific dialogue, with the scientists, he went forward, but he gave testimony of his own faith, of the Gospel. The credibility obtained through scientific dialogue gave him the authority to propose the truth of Christian faith and morality, of which he spoke in depth in his principle Chinese works, such as ‘The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven.’”

Once Ricci entered Beijing in January 1601, he never left. He is buried in Beijing’s Zhalan Cemetery, the first foreigner to be buried on Chinese soil during the Ming dynasty.

“In the last days of his life, to those who were closest to him and asked him how he felt, Matteo Ricci ‘responded that he was thinking at that moment if the joy he felt inside was greater than the idea that he was close to the end of his journey to go and taste God, or the sadness that could cause him to leave the companions of the whole mission that he loved greatly, and the service he could still do to God Our Lord in this mission,’” the pope said.

Pope Francis underlined that it was prayer that nourished Ricci’s missionary life in which he helped “lead many of his disciples and Chinese friends to accept the Catholic faith.”

He said that missionaries can learn from how Ricci testified with his own life to what he proclaimed. Francis said: “This is the consistency of evangelizers. … I can say the ‘Creed’ by heart, I can say all the things we believe, but if your life is not consistent with what you profess, it’s useless."

“What attracts people is the testimony of coherence; we Christians are called to live what we say, and not pretend to live as Christians but live as worldly.”

Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause for Ricci last December on the pope’s 86th birthday. In the decree promulgated on Dec. 17, the pope declared that Ricci lived a life of heroic virtue, making him “venerable.”

Last week, at the end of his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray that the Gospel can be fully and freely shared in China.

“I invite everyone to lift up prayers to God that the good news of the crucified and risen Christ can be announced in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society,” he said.

Bolivian bishop on clerical sex abuse: We know asking forgiveness is not enough

Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, Bolivia. / Credit: CEB

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, secretary general of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, pointed out in his homily for Pentecost Sunday on May 28 that although the Church in the country has asked forgiveness of the victims and relatives of clerical sex abuse, he said, “we know that it’s not enough.”

“These weeks we have witnessed that abuse of minors has been committed within the Church. We have asked for forgiveness; we know that it’s not enough, which is why we must all commit ourselves to do everything in our power to prevent such terrible acts from being repeated or from remaining unpunished,” Arana said.

According to the prelate, the bishops “must work together based on what we have to do, to create healthy and safe environments for children, adolescents, young people, and all vulnerable people.”

“And I say ‘work together’ because the fight against sexual abuse entails a profound change in each one of us to always be aware of any danger that children, young people, or vulnerable people may run,” he noted.

At the end of April, an unprecedented sexual abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church in Bolivia following a report in the Spanish newspaper El País that accused Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who died in 2009, of having sexually abused as many as 85 minors during his ministry, according his own diary, and that Jesuits covered it up.

As a result of the investigation, numerous cases of abuse by members of the Society of Jesus and other congregations have come to light. The state attorney general informed the country that as of May 18, there were some 23 priests implicated in cases of abuse in the country.

In his Pentecost homily, Arana said that the bishops have committed themselves to taking “actions to support the victims, listening to them and accompanying them, trying to help them rebuild their lives, knowing that abuse causes very deep wounds.”

“Furthermore, we commit ourselves to report and investigate the incidents and seek that justice is done both within the Church and in civil society with a determined commitment to work for the prevention and protection of minors,” he said.

The prelate explained that the serious crime of sexual abuse is a threat that “we must all face, because also, and we say it with regret, this scourge not only occurs within the Church but also in different areas of our society.”

“These actions are far from the proceeding of the Holy Spirit, who seeks the good of all, the common good, which is why it is also necessary to ask today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.

Arana invited the faithful to ask God “that the coming of the Holy Spirit would mean for all of us as Bolivians to have the courage to defend and accompany the victims of all forms of violence, especially sexual, and to seek justice.”

“The presence of the Holy Spirit allows us to come out of our selfishness and personal interests to think of others, to work for the good of others and not for our own benefit,” he noted.

“It is necessary to pray today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit, which, as we have heard [in the Sequence for Pentecost], we ask: ‘Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray,’” he concluded.

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

MLB player condemns Dodgers’ decision to honor anti-Catholic group; team announces day for Christians

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. / Credit: Kit Leong/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 30, 2023 / 16:28 pm (CNA).

Amid increased boycott calls from prominent Catholics — as well as criticism from MLB pitcher Trevor Williams — for their decision to honor an anti-Catholic drag group, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced they will be hosting a “Christian Faith & Family Day” on July 30. 

In a Friday tweet, the Dodgers invited Christians to “stay after the game to celebrate and be part of a day of worship.” 

Dodgers’ ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw also invited Christians to participate, saying: “We are grateful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus” and adding that the team is “determined to make it bigger and better than it was before COVID.”

The last Christian faith event held by the Dodgers was in 2019. The team’s decision to bring it back comes amid widespread claims that their support for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence amounts to support for anti-Catholicism and anti-Christian hate.

Prominent Catholics across the country, including Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Williams, have rebuked the Dodgers for honoring a group that mocks Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Catholicism. 

Williams, who pitches for the Washington Nationals, condemned the Dodgers’ decision in a Tuesday tweet: “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.” 

“I believe it is essential for the Dodgers to reconsider their association with this group and strive to create an inclusive environment that does not demean or disrespect the religious beliefs of any fan or employee,” 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.” 

The controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor “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 Virgin Mary, and women religious.

The Dodgers will be honoring the L.A. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” before the June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants.

The archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, condemned the Dodgers’ decision to give the group an award, saying: “Our Catholic sisters devote themselves to serving others selflessly. Decent people would not mock & blaspheme them. So we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships. Open desecration & anti-Catholicism is not disqualifying. Disappointing but not surprising.”

After initially receiving backlash over the announcement, the Dodgers disinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, only to reinvite them — this time with an apology — days later.

In response, Bishop Robert Barron of the Winona-Rochester Diocese called for a boycott against the Dodgers. 

“Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in America, and we shouldn’t tolerate it,” Barron said in a tweet. “I’m a big baseball fan. I’ve even thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. But I’d encourage my friends in L.A. to boycott the Dodgers. Let’s not just pray, but make our voices heard in defense of our Catholic faith.” 

In an official statement released May 24, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles condemned the Dodgers’ decision “to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”

Adrian Alarcon, director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that Dodgers’ faith and family day announcement has not changed their position. 

In the archdiocese’s statement last week, they called on “all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form and to stand for respect for one another and for the religious beliefs of our communities of faith.” 

As of today, Alarcon said: “Our position is the same.”

Liz Wheeler, a conservative political commentator and Catholic, responded to the Dodgers’ faith and family announcement tweet, saying: “How dare you try to pander to Christians because you need us as consumers while at the same time you HONOR an anti-Christian hate group that blasphemes Jesus with ‘Jesus and Mary striptease’ and ‘dildo dipped in drugs blessings’ & ‘semen’ filled chalices? You are grotesque.”

CatholicVote announced on Friday that it would spend $1 million on a television, digital, and billboard ad campaign to encourage Los Angeles residents to boycott the Dodgers. 

“Creating a ‘faith and family’ event does not balance the decision to honor a perverted, fake ‘nun’ group that exists to mock the Catholic religion,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch said in a press release. “The Dodgers have one path forward: apologize and stop honoring hateful anti-Catholic organizations.”

Two elderly pro-life activists beaten outside of Baltimore Planned Parenthood

null / Credit: pixelaway/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 15:50 pm (CNA).

Baltimore police are searching for a man who is accused of attacking and beating two elderly pro-life activists who were praying outside of a Baltimore Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on May 26.

According to witnesses cited in the police report, the unidentified suspect attacked a 73-year-old man and an 80-year-old man after engaging in a "debate" with one of the pro-life activists about abortion. 

The report, citing video surveillance of the alleged assault, states that the suspect was talking to the 80-year-old man, turned away from him and then turned back and tackled him over a large flower pot.

The report states that a second elderly pro-life activist ran over to help the victim. At that point the suspect shoved the second man onto the ground and struck his face with a closed fist while the man’s back was to the ground. The report adds that the suspect stood up and kicked the second man in the face “with extreme force” and then walked away from the scene.

Although the report provided to CNA by the Baltimore County Police Department redacted the names of the victims, Baltimore County Right to Life President Jay Walton identified the second man as 73-year-old Mark Crosby. 

“Mark [Crosby] is currently in the hospital being treated for the serious injuries he sustained,” Walton said in a Facebook post. “Please pray that Mark makes a full recovery and that the thug that did this to him is found and dealt with swiftly.”

The police report states that he was diagnosed with a large hematoma, hyphema, and head and neck pain but is in stable condition. An update provided by Walton on Facebook on Monday stated that Crosby returned to the emergency room because he is “bleeding from somewhere behind his right eye.”

Walton set up a GoFundMe for Crosby’s medical expenses for “the serious injuries he sustained,” which asks people “to help Mark [Crosby] recover financially from this terrible experience.” 

“For years, Mark has prayed in front of the Planned Parenthood in Baltimore City to let the scared, young abortion-minded women know that they are loved, that their baby is loved,” the GoFundMe states. “Please donate to show Mark how much HE is loved.”

As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., the GoFundMe has raised more than $9,000 of the stated $10,000 goal. 

The police report said the suspect is a white male who was wearing a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes at the time of the alleged assault. The report states that the man had brown hair and a full beard.

St. Louis Archdiocese reorganization will cut parishes from 178 to 134

Parishioners at Sacred Heart parish in Valley Park, Missouri, part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, listen to a presentation about parish mergers at an October 2022 listening session. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

A new plan approved in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will reduce the number of parishes from 178 to 134 amid concerns about a lack of priests and shrinking Mass attendance, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski announced over the weekend.

The plan, called “All Things New,” closes 35 churches, merges their parishes into neighboring parishes, and merges 15 other parishes into five new parishes. The plan also creates a new parish for the Spanish-speaking community in St. Charles County. In the end, this leaves the archdiocese with 44 fewer parishes than it has now.

Some of these changes will be implemented as soon as August, but the plan will not be completed until 2026.

“As your archbishop, I have the duty to provide for the pastoral care of all people in the archdiocese,” Rozanski said in a video announcing the changes. “‘All Things New’ has called us to ask ourselves what our parishes, ministries, and institutions need to look like in order to effectively share the faith that is sustainable for our children and generations to come.”

The archdiocese covers the City of St. Louis and 10 surrounding counties.

One of the reasons for reducing the number of parishes is poor Mass attendance. The archbishop said that about 5,000 Catholics are either leaving or not reengaging with the Church after high school or college annually.

“Over the past decade, we’ve also seen fewer people attending Mass,” Rozanski said. “Our numbers should be growing. We have more baptisms than funerals. Nearly 1,000 people enter the Church each year. But in 2021, the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis dipped below 500,000 for the first time since the 1960s.”

Rozanski also noted that many Catholics have moved out of the city and into the surrounding counties, but the parish lines have yet been changed to reflect that. He noted that in one example, there are 10 priests for about 18,000 Catholics in North County, but there are only three priests serving 18,000 Catholics in one parish in St. Charles County. The changes seek to make these ratios more proportional.

“We find ourselves with too few priests in large parishes and a disproportionate number of priests in small parishes,” the archbishop said.

Another problem Rozanski noted was the priest shortage. According to projections from the archdiocese, there would be more parishes than priests by 2025 if the archdiocese failed to make any changes. He said that 41% of active or retired priests are older than 70.

Before making the changes, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the 178 current parishes. It also considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. The archdiocese also held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski said the feedback helped structure the final plan, which was approved by the All Things New Planning Committee. The committee included priests, deacons, parish life coordinators, lay leaders, and religious within the archdiocese. In addition to considering the feedback, they also looked into financial data and other information.

The plan makes changes to how the archdiocese uses resources, which the archbishop said puts pastoral services closer to the people and parishes to foster collaboration across parish boundaries. He said the changes will help the archdiocese more effectively go into the community and bring Christ to people.

“I pray this first phase of work will equip us to build new, creative models of ministry together,” Rozanski said.

Some Catholics in the archdiocese have been critical of the changes because of the extent to which they will shake up parishes. More than 3,000 Catholics in the archdiocese signed a petition that asked the archbishop to halt the plan about two months ago.

The petition criticized the structure of the survey and claimed it only allowed the faithful to answer predetermined questions without being allowed to address specific situations in their own parish. It also claimed the process would cause mistrust in Church leadership, which could drive Catholics away.

In his announcement, Rozanski acknowledged “the profound impact a parish community can have on us and how these good and faithful institutions have formed our families.” He said he wished the changes were not necessary but also maintained optimism.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua accuses Catholic Church of money laundering

Daniel Ortega. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan National Police, controlled by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, published a statement May 27 accusing the Catholic Church of various crimes such as money laundering, a baseless charge according to human rights defenders.

The statement says that the police conducted “investigations that led to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of dollars hidden in bags located in facilities belonging to the dioceses in the country,” such as Matagalpa and Estelí.

The text also indicates that the investigations “confirmed the illegal withdrawal of funds from bank accounts that had been ordered by law to be frozen, as well as other illegal acts that are still being investigated as part of a money laundering network that has been discovered in dioceses of different departments [administrative districts].”

The day before, according to what was reported by various media outlets, the regime had ordered the accounts of the country’s dioceses and parishes to be frozen.

The government communiqué states that the attorney general’s office, the Superintendency of Banks, and the financial analysis unit — organizations controlled by the regime — “have confirmed the criminal movement of funds that, for the dioceses, have entered the country irregularly and which are being investigated and proceedings have been opened for all these crimes.”

The text also indicates that the Superintendency of Banks has requested that the bishops’ conference and the archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, present the documents that show the bank account transactions of the dioceses “so that at all times the laws of the country are complied with, avoiding the illegal acts that have been committed.”

‘It’s ridiculous’

In a May 29 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Félix Maradiaga, former presidential candidate and exiled human rights defender, stated that “it’s impossible for the police to have found this alleged illicit money in the Diocese of Matagalpa, because that diocese has been, both the chancery and many of the parishes, under police intervention during the last six months.”

“That’s absolutely unacceptable, but it is also Orwellian. It’s ridiculous that the same chancery from which Bishop Rolando Álvarez was taken away is now designated as the locus of illegal acts,” said Maradiaga, who was deported to the United States on Feb. 9 along with more than 200 other former political prisoners.

Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, was held under house arrest by the regime for months before being unjustly sentenced Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison.

Maradiaga stressed that with the accusations of the police against the Church, “the regime is using totally disproportionate arguments to dismantle the presence of the dioceses, especially that of Matagalpa and Estelí.”

“The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua continues. The dictatorship is not letting up in its attempt to silence the prophetic and pastoral voice of the Church,” he lamented.

‘A war against the whole Church’

Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher and author of the report “Nicaragua, A Persecuted Church?”, told ACI Prensa that with the police statement “the dictatorship confirms its war against the entire Nicaraguan Church and more so by choosing to freeze the bank accounts of the different dioceses of the country, of parishes and also of parochial schools.”

“The dictatorship makes use of the judiciary, of the Nicaraguan justice system, which does not adhere to the political constitution nor the laws of the land, but only follows orders given by the Nicaraguan presidential couple,” she explained.

“Without any doubt, this is a process that is full of arbitrariness from beginning to end. I think they have already prepared the verdict that they are going to deliver to the Nicaraguan Catholic Church, noting that Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, and his wife, the vice president, have on multiple occasions referred to the Catholic Church as an organized terrorist and criminal mafia,” continued the expert, who now lives in exile.

On Feb. 21 at a public event, Ortega said that Christ “lives in the Christian peoples, not because of the example that priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes may give, who are a mafia.”

Molina told ACI Prensa that in the investigation against the Church, “the principle of innocence is going to be obviated; i.e., they are already seeing the Catholic Church as guilty.”

Chaotic situation

Molina also pointed out that “there is a chaotic situation at the moment, because, also at the end of the month all the parishes have to fulfill their obligations and also the parochial school by paying for basic services such as electricity, water, the telephone, and the staff.”

“Many families are losing their right to work. The teachers who teach in the parishes are going to run out of money without their salary. When you violate one human right, you violate the rest,” the specialist pointed out.

“Once the dictatorship freezes the accounts, the next step that it usually takes is the confiscation of the assets, and in this case they are possibly going to do that. I believe that the dictatorship is trying to financially suffocate the Church, thinking that in this way it will no longer raise that prophetic voice. But the Church is much more than bank accounts,” she assured.

Molina said that in Nicaragua, “anti-laundering laws are being used solely to criminalize people and institutions that think differently than the government, institutions that are demanding peace, justice, and the establishment of democratic order,” such as the Catholic Church.

“Countries also have to condemn this very unjust action that is being carried out at this time against the clergy,” she stressed.

Cardinal Brenes speaks out

In his homily for Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 28 at the Managua cathedral, Cardinal Brenes alluded to what the parishes are going through.

The cardinal encouraged the faithful to remain calm and not “to listen to a lot of news, a lot of publications that exaggerate.”

“They say ‘reliable sources,’ but the reliable source is never revealed, so let’s remain calm, peaceful, and without a doubt the Holy Spirit is the one who is leading this Church, and we will soon have the respective solutions,” he continued.

“Our parishes continue to work. We have experienced difficult crises, such as the time of the pandemic, but the Spirit sustains the parishes and also the generosity of all of you,” the cardinal stressed.

“So I invite you to always remain calm and not be influenced by networks and news that truly exaggerate. I rarely read them, but sometimes they send them to me and it makes me laugh to see everything they say, because I don’t find any basis for it,” the archbishop of Managua commented.

As of press time, neither Brenes nor the bishops of Nicaragua have issued a statement on the dictatorship’s decision to freeze bank accounts nor the accusations of crimes such as money laundering.

Regarding what Brenes said, Molina told ACI Prensa that logically the media are not going to reveal their sources “at any time, because their identity must be protected” because if the name is made known, “immediately the dictatorship is going to start criminal proceedings.”

According to Maradiaga, what the cardinal said is due to the fact that “the Church in Nicaragua has been forced to keep quiet so as not to compromise the safety of other religious and other members of the clergy.”

“It’s up to us, therefore, the Nicaraguan laity and the world to denounce what is happening in Nicaragua: a persecution of the Church, unprecedented in Latin America,” he stressed.

In the last five years there have been at least 529 attacks by the Ortega regime against the Church, 90 so far in 2023, according to Molina’s report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?”

The report includes the unjust imprisonment of Álvarez, 32 nuns expelled from the country, seven Church buildings confiscated by the regime, and various media outlets shut down.

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

State judge blocks South Carolina’s 6-week abortion ban 

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

A South Carolina judge temporarily blocked the state’s recently passed six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban on May 26.

South Carolina’s heartbeat law, which bans abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, which is often around six weeks, was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, on May 25. The bill was set to take effect immediately.

The day after being signed into law, State Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman of Richland County, South Carolina, granted Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s request for an injunction, temporarily blocking the heartbeat law.

For the time being then, abortion will remain legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.  

The South Carolina heartbeat law will remain blocked until the state’s Supreme Court reviews the case and issues a final ruling on whether the law violates the state constitution.

McMaster on Friday announced he had filed an emergency motion with the state Supreme Court, requesting the court to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“Moments ago, before 5 p.m., we filed an emergency motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve this issue quickly. The life of every South Carolinian — born or unborn — is precious and it’s His gift to us,” McMaster said in a tweet.

Planned Parenthood argues in its suit that the South Carolina heartbeat law is unconstitutional because it “violates the South Carolina Constitution’s right to privacy and its guarantees of equal protection and due process.”

“In particular, the act is an attack on families with low incomes, South Carolinians of color, and rural South Carolinians, who already face inequities in access to medical care and who will bear the brunt of the act’s cruelties,” Planned Parenthood argues.

A similar heartbeat law passed in South Carolina was permanently blocked by the state Supreme Court in a 3-2 January ruling.

In its January decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the former heartbeat law “violates our state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy” because “six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time.”

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told CNA that the temporary blockage of the South Carolina pro-life law “allows painful, late-term abortions to continue in South Carolina and delays the heartbeat protection from saving lives.”

According to Pritchard, the new South Carolina heartbeat law was specifically designed to withstand legal scrutiny. 

“Sponsors of South Carolina’s heartbeat protection crafted the measure to withstand a legal challenge and satisfy the majority of state Supreme Court justices,” Pritchard said. 

Additionally, the makeup of the state Supreme Court has changed slightly since January, with former state Justice Kaye Hearn retiring and David Hill replacing her on the five-person court.

Catholic priest in Nigeria freed on Pentecost Sunday after three days in captivity

Father Matthias Opara was freed May 28, 2023, after spending three days in captivity in Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri. / Credit: Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri

ACI Africa, May 30, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Father Matthias Opara, a Nigerian Catholic priest who was abducted on May 26 while returning from a funeral, has been released.

The parish priest of Holy Ghost Obosima Catholic Parish of Owerri Archdiocese in Nigeria regained his freedom on Pentecost Sunday, May 28, the chancellor of the Nigerian Metropolitan See, Father Patrick Mbarah, announced in a statement. 

“We thank God almighty for his infinite mercy and for answering our prayers,” said Mbarah, who also thanked the people of God for their “fraternal solidarity and prayers.”

“To God be the glory,” Mbarah added.

In an earlier statement following the abduction of Opara, Mbarah said the local ordinary of Owerri, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, had directed him to appeal for prayers for the release of Opara, who has been a priest since 1990.

The May 26 abduction of Opara was the latest in a series of kidnappings that have targeted members of the clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

On May 19, Father Jude Kingsley Maduka, a Nigerian priest serving in the Okigwe Diocese, was kidnapped and freed after three days of captivity.

Father Chochos Kunav and Father Raphael Ogigba, who had been abducted on April 29 from Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Warri, were released on May 4.

On April 15, Father Michael Ifeanyi Asomugha, the curate of St. Paul’s Parish, Osu, in the Okigwe Diocese, was kidnapped and later released.

The West African nation has faced a surge of violence orchestrated by gangs whose members carry out indiscriminate attacks, kidnap for ransom, and in some cases, commit murder.

Since 2009, Nigeria has experienced an insurgency of Boko Haram, a group that allegedly aims to turn it into an Islamic nation.

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

From Hinduism to Catholicism: How Blessed Carlo Acutis inspired a man to convert

Rajesh Mohur pictured with Carlo Acutis on the day of his Confirmation / Photo courtesy of Ignatius Press

Rome Newsroom, May 30, 2023 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book “Blessed Carlo Acutis: A Saint in Sneakers” by CNA Rome Correspondent Courtney Mares.

Blessed Carlo Acutis inspired the son of a Brahman Hindu priest to be baptized as a Catholic through the young boy’s joyful witness to Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and his love for the poor.

In an interview, Rajesh Mohur shared the story of his spiritual journey and how he came to know Acutis, the computer-coding teen who was the first millennial beatified in the Catholic Church and a patron of the upcoming World Youth Day.

Mohur grew up on a small island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, about 500 miles east of Madagascar. Like most of Mauritius’ population, Mohur was a Hindu. He grew up speaking Creole and studying Sanskrit, the ancient language used in Hindu scriptures.

The Mohur family was of the Brahman priestly caste, the highest of the four castes in Hindu society. Mohur’s father was a Hindu priest who served as the president of the Hindu Association in Mauritius. 

Mohur recalled: ‘‘[My father] used to teach me from the early beginning about all of their prayers ... about the scriptures, Indian scriptures.”

At the age of 16, Mohur’s father sent him to India to continue his education in Gujarat, the city where Mahatma Gandhi was born. During his time in India, Mohur was even more fully immersed in Hindu culture and religious practice.

‘‘I’ve been to so many temples. I met so many gurus in the meditation center, and I met swamis,” Mohur said. 

‘‘I witnessed all of those places. It was peaceful, you know. Nice. But your life doesn’t change. ... I was in search of a living God.’’

‘‘My journey was always to find something that ... from myself, deep down, I could not fulfill.”

After he was accepted to a university in Rajasthan, Mohur ended up staying in India, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in physics. He was planning to enroll in a master’s degree program in England when he received news that his father had died. Because his family was having financial problems, he felt compelled to go back to Mauritius to help his family.

Mohur increased his devotion to his Hindu prayers after the death of his father. He prayed every day, often with a sense of anger and bitterness. ‘‘I always prayed: ‘Why am I in such a situation?’’’ he said. 

At that time, work was hard to find in Mauritius. Mohur had heard that Italy was not as strict as some other countries with work visas at the time, so he immigrated there to find work in the mid-1980s. After more than a decade of living and working in Italy, Mohur was employed by the Acutis family in December 1995 to help take care of Carlo.

‘‘And I met Carlo, such a small child,’’ Mohur remembered.

His first impression of Acutis, with his brown curly hair, was that he looked like the little cherubs seen in paintings and sculptures around Milan. On his second day working for the family, Mohur remembered that little Carlo approached him with a big smile and a gift — a piece of chewing gum.

On rainy days, Acutis would sometimes watch videotapes of cartoons based on the Bible and the lives of the saints together with Mohur, who watched with some interest because he had not had much exposure to Catholicism.

After Acutis made his first Communion at the age of 7, Mohur would walk with him to the church around the corner from his house for Mass or to pray on his way to and from school. 

Mohur observed how young Acutis’ behavior changed when he entered a church. While Acutis prayed in front of the tabernacle, Mohur would quietly sit in the back and watch the young boy as he prayed earnestly.

‘‘His behavior changed when he was inside the church, with all respect. He knew that there was something different where Jesus lives. ... That touched my heart ... when I saw Carlo’s behavior,’’ he said.

Acutis was eager to talk to Mohur about the things that he loved: heaven, the Mass, and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He explained everything with ‘‘such a sweetness,” Mohur said. 

‘‘He talked always about the Eucharist, Jesus, how he suffered for us ... sacrificed his life for us,’’ Mohur said. ‘‘Carlo, he told me that ... wherever you go, you may find Jesus present in Flesh, Soul, and Blood [in the tabernacle].’’

Mohur also observed Acutis’ care and concern for others. He said that young Carlo once gathered up his toys, including some nice Christmas presents from his grandparents and parents, and asked Mohur to accompany him to the park to sell his toys to give the money to the poor. 

‘‘He collected the money, and there were some poor people lying there in front of the church. They were sleeping on the floor during winter. It was quite cold. ... He said that they were suffering, you know. They needed help,” Mohur said. 

‘‘When I saw Carlo’s acts, you know, of such a small child, then I got converted.’’

Acutis helped Mohur learn how to pray the rosary and invited him to pray it together with him and his parents. 

“He had formed the habit ... of reciting the holy rosary every night before going to bed,’’ Mohur remembered. 

Acutis told Mohur that a person can pray the rosary without being baptized, but only practicing Catholics can receive the holy Eucharist. Acutis explained that the Eucharist is the culmination of charity and that the virtues are acquired through a sacramental life. 

‘‘He knew the Catechism of the Catholic Church almost by heart and explained it so brilliantly that he managed to excite me about the importance of the sacraments,” Mohur said.

‘‘So, slowly, slowly ... he used to tell me the importance of baptism and so many other things also,’’ he added. ‘‘All those experiences changed my life. And I could see the living God.’’

Four years after first meeting Acutis, Mohur was baptized. He was in his late 30s at the time, and as an adult entering the Catholic Church, he received at once all the Catholic sacraments of initiation: baptism, first Communion, and confirmation in a Mass at Acutis’ parish in 1999.  

The Acutis family threw a party afterward for Mohur and his friends, sharing sweets and snacks at their apartment. Mohur let Carlo pick where to go out for dinner. He said that Carlo proposed: ‘‘Let’s go to the Chinese restaurant today because it’s a special day.’’ 

Mohur joked in reply: ‘‘It’s special for me, but it’s more special for you because you like Chinese food.’’ Joking aside, Acutis later told his parents: ‘‘There are many people who do not realize what an infinite gift it is to receive baptism.’’

After his baptism and first Communion, Mohur joined Acutis in attending daily Mass, but as a full participant in Communion rather than as an observer.

When Mohur’s mother came from Mauritius to visit her son in Milan a few years later, Acutis invited Mohur’s mom to come with them to Mass; she said afterward that she did not understand anything. Besides having little familiarity with the Catholic faith, Mohur’s mom did not speak Italian, so Acutis would speak with her in English.

He would sit in the kitchen with Mohur’s mother and tell her in English about Jesus and the Catholic faith. He told her the story of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France, in such a compelling way that she wanted to visit the pilgrimage site. With the help of the Acutis family, Mohur’s mother stayed in Lourdes for a week. 

When she returned to Mauritius, she asked to be baptized. After her baptism, Mohur’s mother visited the sick in Mauritius and prayed with them, using some of the holy water from Lourdes. 

‘‘That was Carlo’s magic,’’ Mohur said. ‘‘He could convert me and my mom, too.’’