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Faith and Politics Clash in Mexican Presidential Debate

Our Lady of Guadalupe took center stage during the presidential debate in Mexico this week after candidate Xochitl Galvez accused her opponent, Claudia Sheinbaum, of "political opportunism" for wearing a skirt with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, "even though you don't believe in her or in God."

St. Rita: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Saint Rita was born Margherita Lotti in Roccaporena, Italy in 1381. The day after her baptism, Rita was surrounded by a swarm of white bees, which went in and out of her infant mouth without hurting her. Rather than being alarmed, her family believed she was marked to be virtuous and devoted to God. At an early age, she begged her parents to allow her to enter a convent but was instead arranged to be married to a cruel man named Paolo Mancini. Young Rita became a wife and mother at only twelve ...

5 Biblical Warnings We All Must Heed

A warning is put in place to alert a person of any possible or impending danger or negative circumstances. A warning can be seen as cautionary advice, and advance notice of something that is coming. However you look at it, warnings are usually important signs to pay attention to.

Philippine cardinal condemns chapel bombing as ‘horrendous sacrilegious act’

Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

A Catholic cardinal condemned the grenade attack on a village chapel during a Bible service that left two wounded in the southern Philippines on Sunday.

The grenade attack happened on Pentecost Sunday at Santo Niño Chapel in Cotabato City at about 10:30 a.m.

Cotabato City is in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, known as “Bangsamoro,” an area that has experienced religious freedom challenges in recent years. 

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the archbishop emeritus of Cotabato, denounced the grenade attack, calling it a “dastardly bombing,” according to the news site of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Of the about 20 people in attendance, the two churchgoers injured in the attack were Maribel Abis, 46, and Aniceta Tobil, a senior citizen. Initial reports revealed the attack was by two men riding a motorcycle. 

Quevedo called the attack a “horrendous sacrilegious act that cries out to heaven.”

“I call upon our security, military, and investigative forces to ferret out the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he added.

A Philippine government official condemned the attack on Tuesday, according to a local report

“This horrendous act of violence, carried out on Pentecost Sunday, a day of religious significance for Catholics, is a direct attack on the Filipino people’s commitment to religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and blatant disregard for human life,” said chief Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity. 

“We stand in solidarity with the Catholic community of Cotabato City and the entire Bangsamoro region during this unforeseen challenge,” he continued. “Rest assured that this act of terror, which has no other aim but to sow fear, animosity, and mistrust, will not slow down or dampen our resolve to achieving lasting peace, mutual understanding, and solidarity in the Bangsamoro.”

“Let us all work together to prevent such tragedies from happening again and to help foster a more peaceful, inclusive, and harmonious environment that respects the diverse faiths within our communities,” Galvez added.

Only about six months ago, a bombing during a Mass on Dec. 3, 2023, at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City killed four churchgoers, most of them students. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

‘Equal Rights Amendment’ that could have expanded abortion fails in Minnesota

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA) at the state capitol in St. Paul. The proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology,” the archdiocese said. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A controversial proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota, which the state’s Catholic bishops had opposed due to concerns it would expand abortion access, failed to advance this week amid partisan deadlock.

The proposed amendment, sponsored by St. Paul Rep. Kaohly Her of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), would have added several protected categories to the state’s constitution, in part saying the state cannot discriminate against a person on the basis of sex.

Within the category of sex, the proposal included “making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy​ or decision whether to become or remain pregnant,” as well as “gender identity or gender expression” and “sexual orientation.”

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis had in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), saying the proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology.”

The ERA in Minnesota failed on Sunday evening after time ran out for the Democratic-controlled Senate to vote on it before the end of the legislative year, leaving the measure tabled. The amendment is dead for now until January 2025 unless a special session is called. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said Monday he will not call a special session to try again to pass the ERA, the AP reported.

The proposed amendment, if the Senate had passed it, would have been submitted to the people at the 2026 general election. If ratified by a simple majority, the amendment would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2027. 

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, speaking in a May 6 video message on behalf of the state’s bishops, warned that the proposal constitutes “an imposition of the sexual revolution on the people of our state.”

The so-called right to abortion, which the Church has always opposed, would become enshrined in Minnesota’s constitution, making it “so fundamental that we can’t even legislate against it,” Barron said. In addition, he noted that the proposal lacks the possibility of conscientious objection, meaning churches, schools, and health care institutions guided by faith could be mandated to endorse practices or speech that violate their beliefs. 

At the May 8 rally at the Minnesota State Capitol, Bishop Joseph Williams, then an auxiliary of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spoke against the proposal and said moments like this show that what “unites us as people of faith is much greater than what divides us.” Williams was named coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey, by Pope Francis on May 21. 

From a statutory perspective, abortion is already legal up to birth in Minnesota following the 2023 passage of the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, which enshrined a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

Possible miracle at Lourdes: Almost-blind woman recovers her sight

null / Credit: Célian de La Rochefoucauld via youheritage.com

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The Hospitality of Our Lady of Lourdes of Madrid, an archdiocesan pilgrim service organization, concluded its 101st pilgrimage on May 19, serving 800 participants, one of whom apparently was cured of severe visual impairment. This extraordinary event, however, will have to be studied before it can be qualified as a miracle.

The most recent miracle at Lourdes, No. 70, was officially recognized in February 2018. This case could become No. 71.

The adviser to the archdiocesan association of faithful, Father Guillermo Cruz, sent a statement to the different groups that made up the pilgrimage, calling on them to accept what happened with humility and simplicity, following the example of St. Bernadette.

“The experience of making a pilgrimage and discovering the love of God through our Mother, the Virgin Mary, as St. Bernadette teaches us in simplicity and humility, will always be the greatest grace that is granted at Lourdes, since it is the one that renews life,” he said.

This consideration prefaces the announcement that during the days of the pilgrimage, “an event has occurred that is extraordinary, although it would be misleading people if we call it a miracle,” Cruz explained.

What happened is that “a pilgrim who suffers from several diseases and had very severe visual impairment, after making ‘the water gesture’ recovered her sight. This extraordinary event was immediately verified by the doctors, and the shrine was notified and has already recorded it.”

With the “water gesture” the pilgrims in the area of the baths, in an atmosphere of meditation, prayer, and trust in providence, cup water in their hands and three times wash their face and then take a sip of the water as St. Bernadette Soubirous did when directed by the Immaculate Conception at the Masabielle grotto.

Why can’t it yet be called a miracle?

The priest also explained the reason why it is not proper at this time to speak of a miracle, since this declaration requires “a process of medical and spiritual discernment that must be followed” in which “the following requirements regarding the healing must concur: Immediate. Complete. Lasting. Inexplicable.”

Consequently, the adviser said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. A study has to be done and above all that the healing be maintained over time.” The priest emphasized that “jumping ahead leads to presumption and we have to be humble. Here we have to wait for the study carried out by the Church at the Lourdes shrine, and then for the bishop of Madrid to make a pronouncement, to verify not only that it is inexplicable, but that it is also miraculous.”

Cruz is well aware of the desire of the members of the Hospitality of Lourdes and the pilgrims they accompany to the shrine every year to be able to speak of a miracle, “but that’s not our decision,” he said and noted that “it’s always an undeserved grace that is received.”

He warned that “we can create confusion if we are already talking about a miracle,” while at the same time we could “create false expectations if we reduce the fruits of the pilgrimage to a single event.”

What is the Lourdes Medical Bureau?

The Medical Bureau of the Lourdes Shrine in France was founded in 1883 at the same time that the area of the baths was established. As noted on the shrine’s website, it is the only organization of its kind in the world, including pilgrimage sites of other religions.

To date, more than 70,000 cases of extraordinary events have been presented, of which 70 have been recognized as miraculous by the Catholic Church. In most of them, women are the recipients of this special grace. In 50 of the 70 cases, the miraculous event occurred through contact with the shrine’s water, which has no special properties.

It was Pope Leo XIII who in 1886 gave his approval to the procedures followed by the medical bureau. In 1902, the Holy See ratified these protocols, which have four fundamental stages:

The office director receives the person who claims to have received a miracle. If the director considers the case worthy of being taken seriously, he calls in the doctors on staff that day at the shrine. If they agree that the case should proceed, an investigation begins that can last several years. When completed, the members of the International Scientific Committee of Lourdes vote on whether the extraordinary event is “unexplained in the current state of our knowledge.” This vote is sent to the bishop of the place where the cured person resides, who is the one who has the authority to declare the miracle.

The seven criteria doctors must take into account

The website of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes also specifies the seven criteria that must be observed during the medical investigation of cases. Before healing, the following must be taken into account:

1) The disease must be serious and have an unfavorable prognosis.

2) The disease must be known and cataloged by medicine.

3) The disease must “be organic, lesional,” and be examined by “objective, biological, radiological criteria.” This means that “even today, cures for pathologies will not be recognized without precise objective criteria, such as psychological, psychiatric, functional, and nervous diseases, etc.”

4) There should be no treatment to which the cure can be attributed.

5) The healing must be sudden, abrupt, instantaneous, immediate, and without convalescence.

After healing, two more criteria must be considered:

6) It should not be a simple regression of symptoms but rather a return to all vital functions.

7) It should not be a simple remission but rather a cure, that is, lasting and definitive.

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

Keeping Our Spiritual Edge

The Rocky movies tell the story of a raw boxer, fueled by never-say-die determination, who overcomes improbable odds to become heavyweight champion. In Rocky III, a now successful Rocky becomes impressed with his own achievements. Television commercials disrupt his time in the gym. The champ grows soft, and he’s knocked out by a challenger. The rest of the movie is Rocky’s attempt to regain his fighting edge.

In a spiritual sense, King Asa of Judah lost his fighting edge. Early in his reign, he relied on God in the face of daunting odds. As the mighty Cushites prepared to attack, Asa prayed, “Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army” (2 Chronicles 14:11). God answered his prayer, and Judah struck down and scattered their enemies (vv. 12-15).

Years later, Judah was threatened again. This time a complacent Asa ignored God and instead asked the king of Aram for help (16:2). It seemed to work. But God wasn’t pleased. The prophet Hanani told Asa that he’d stopped trusting God (vv. 7–8). Why hadn’t he relied on God now as he had then?

Our God is unfailingly reliable. His eyes “range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (v. 9). When we keep our spiritual edge—fully depending on God—we’ll experience His power.

UK plans to end gender ideology in schools, set age-based sex education rules

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

The United Kingdom’s Department of Education intends to prohibit the promotion of gender ideology within public schools, set age-based guidelines for sex education, and protect parental rights, according to proposed guidance for schools.

A proposed update to Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lesson guidance, which is now undergoing an eight-week public comment period, would prohibit schools from teaching that “gender is a spectrum.” Rather, if asked about gender identity, schools would need to “teach the facts about biological sex” and could not present alternative views about gender as being facts. 

“Material suggesting that someone’s gender is determined by their interests or clothing choices should not be used as it risks leading pupils who do not comply with sex stereotypes to question their gender when they might not have done so otherwise,” the proposed guidance reads. 

The proposal states that “schools should not teach about the broader concept of gender identity” and calls the concept “a highly contested and complex subject.” The proposal adds that schools “should be clear that an individual must be 18 before they can legally reassign their gender.” For students under the age of 18, it states “a child’s legal sex will always be the same as their biological sex and, at school, boys cannot be legally classified as girls or vice versa.”

When using “external resources,” the proposed guidance would instruct schools to “avoid materials that use cartoons or diagrams that oversimplify this complex concept or that could be interpreted as being aimed at younger children.” It also states that “schools should consult parents on the content of external resources on this topic in advance and make all materials available to them on request.”

The guidance also states that schools should teach students about laws related to protected groups, which includes those facing discrimination for gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion, sex, and other characteristics. 

Per the proposed guidance, schools would not provide any sex education until Year 5, when the students are usually 9 or 10 years old. The proposal also sets age-based guidelines for the type of sex education students receive. 

However, parents can opt their children out of all or some sex education lessons, except for lessons that are part of the science curriculum (which teach about topics such as puberty and sexual reproduction) — this is already part of existing guidance. A student who is at least 16 years old can opt themselves back into the sex education lessons with or without parental approval, which is also part of existing guidance.

The guidelines would establish new protections for parental rights. Per the proposal, schools would need to make all sex education material available for parents to review.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said in a statement that the proposal “puts protecting children at its heart, and enshrines parents’ right to know what their children are being taught.”

“It will support schools with how and when to teach often difficult and sensitive topics, leaving no doubt about what is appropriate to teach pupils at every stage of school,” Keegan said. “Parents can be reassured once and for all their children will only learn age-appropriate content.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that he was “horrified” to hear reports last year that schools were providing sex education to students that was inappropriate for their ages.

“I will always act swiftly to protect our children and this new guidance will do exactly that, while supporting teachers to teach these important topics sensitively and giving parents access to curriculum content if they wish,” Sunak said.

Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is a nonprofit based in London, expressed support for the proposed guidelines. 

“We are glad and relieved that primary school children will now be protected from such lessons,” CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. “But this must only be a beginning. So much harm has been done and so much confusion sown. Schools must return to their Christian roots and the biblical beliefs on identity and sexual ethics, which set children and stable families up for life.”

The changes come just months after England ended the prescription of sex-change drugs to minors back in March. Scotland soon followed, ending such prescriptions in April. The policy changes stem from an independent review from Dr. Hilary Cass, which found insufficient evidence to support the efficacy and safety of providing these drugs to children. 

Pope Francis praises historic council in China as ‘an authentic synodal journey’

Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’” at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. / Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN

Rome Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 13:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has praised the Catholic Church’s first council in China 100 years ago as “an authentic synodal journey” that opened the way for the Church in China “to increasingly have a Chinese face.”

In a video message to a conference in Rome on the Catholic Church in China, the pope noted that Chinese Catholics have endured “times of patience and trial” in the past century.

“The Lord in China has safeguarded the faith of the people of God along the way. And the faith of God’s people has been the compass that has shown the way throughout this time,” Pope Francis said in the May 21 address.

Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’" at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN
Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’" at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN

The pope pointed to a Church council that took place in Shanghai 25 years before the Chinese Communist Revolution as an example of a moment when “the communion between the Holy See and the Church in China manifested its fruits, fruits of good for all the Chinese people.” 

The 1924 council, called the Primum Concilium Sinense, brought together 105 Catholic missionaries, bishops, and Chinese Catholics to establish a framework for a native Chinese hierarchy.

“The Fathers gathered in the Concilium Sinense lived an authentically synodal experience and made important decisions together,” Pope Francis said.

“Remembering the Council of Shanghai can also suggest today new paths to the entire Church and open paths to be undertaken with boldness to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel in the present,” he added. 

Among the crowd listening to the pope’s video message were representatives from the People’s Republic of China, including Bishop Shen Bin of Shanghai, who was unilaterally installed by Chinese authorities as bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 without a papal mandate, thereby breaking the terms of the Vatican-China deal. Pope Francis confirmed his appointment in July 2023.

The Holy See first entered into a provisional two-year agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in 2018, which has since been renewed twice and is again up for renewal this fall. 

Pope Francis opted not to speak of the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts with Beijing or religious freedom in China in his message but said that Chinese Catholics today “bear witness to their faith through works of mercy and charity, and in their witness they give a real contribution to the harmony of social coexistence.”

A large statue of Our Lady of Sheshan stood on the pope’s desk as he spoke. The pope noted that during the month of May many Chinese Catholics usually go on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Sheshan, located near Shanghai.

“I too ideally climb the hill of Sheshan, and let us all together entrust to Mary, Help of Christians, our brothers and sisters in the faith who are in China, all the Chinese people, and all our poor world, asking for her intercession, so that peace may always win everywhere,” Pope Francis said.

Following the pope’s message, Shen Bin delivered a 15-minute speech in Chinese to the packed auditorium of the Pontifical Urban University on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Chinese bishop offered a different interpretation of the 1924 council from the pope in his speech, saying that “the Council of Shanghai did not lead to an immediate and radical change in the Church in China,” adding that by the 1949 Communist Revolution “only 29 of China’s 137 dioceses had Chinese bishops, and only three of 20 archbishops were Chinese.”

“The Catholic Church in China had not really freed itself from foreign powers to become a work led by Chinese Christians and had not yet managed to shed the label of ‘foreign religion,’” he said.

Shen Bin, who has held leadership positions in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association established by the Chinese Communist Party and under the control of the United Front Work Department, went on to defend Beijing’s religious freedom record and underlined the need for the Church in China to “follow a path of sinicization.”

“The policy of religious freedom implemented by the Chinese government has no interest in changing the Catholic faith but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers,” Shen Bin said in his speech.

“Today the Chinese people are carrying out the great rebirth of the Chinese nation in a global way with Chinese-style modernization, and the Catholic Church in China must move in the same direction, following a path of sinicization that is in line with Chinese society and culture today,” the Shanghai bishop added.

The conference, titled “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’: Between History and the Present,” was held in Chinese and Italian in the Great Hall of the Pontifical Urban University. The Pastoral Commission for China and Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, organized the conference, which featured Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as speakers.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Parolin said the Holy See would like to increase and deepen its contacts in China.

“We have been hoping for a long time now to have a stable presence in China, even if initially it may not have the form of a papal representation of an apostolic nunciature,” Parolin said.

St. Eugene de Mazenod: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Eugene de Mazenod was born on August 1, 1782, at Aix-en-Provence in France. Early in life he experienced the upheaval of the French Revolution. None the less, he entered the seminary, and following ordination he returned to labor in Aix-en-Provence. That area had suffered greatly during the Revolution and was not really a safe place for a priest. Eugene directed his ministry toward the poorest of the poor. Others joined his labors, and became the nucleus of a religious community, the ...