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Archbishop Gänswein on Baltic appointment: Ready for ‘the front’

Archbishop Georg Gänswein was the personal secretary of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. / Credit: Bohumil Petrík

CNA Newsroom, Jul 16, 2024 / 09:35 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, former personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, has spoken about his new appointment as apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, describing it as “a new possibility” to carry out his apostolate “in a completely different area.”

In an interview with EWTN News on the sidelines of the “Benedict XVI Forum” in Altötting, Bavaria, the prelate said he was approaching the role “with confidence, with trust in God, but also with great joy.”

“I see the appointment as a new opportunity,” Gänswein, who will turn 68 on July 30, told EWTN. “I gladly accept it, even if the dear God now wants me to be there, which I hadn’t thought of at all.”

The archbishop acknowledged that he had never worked in a nunciature before and did not come from the so-called “diplomatic career” track. However, he noted that in his roles as private secretary and prefect of the Papal Household, he had “a lot of contact with the diplomatic world.”

Regarding potential challenges in his new post, Gänswein said: “The Baltic countries are of course very important geopolitically, also for Europe. I don’t have any concrete ideas yet where my priorities will be. That will emerge, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Baltic states have a rich Catholic history, with Lithuania particularly notable for its strong Catholic identity. However, the region faces significant geopolitical challenges, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

‘If it’s the front, it’s the front’

Speaking to EWTN, Gänswein emphasized a spiritual approach when asked how he was preparing for the assignment: “I take it all into prayer and I’m already trying to read a little about the countries, to inquire. Everything else, I think, will become apparent.”

The archbishop acknowledged the geopolitical situation in the region, particularly its proximity to the ongoing war in Ukraine. NATO has significantly increased its presence, sending thousands of soldiers from Germany and other nations in response to Russia’s heightened threat — despite divergent views on European defense.

While admitting he had no personal experience of the situation, the German prelate said: “If you say that’s where the front is, and our loving God wants me there, then I’ll gladly go there. If it’s the front, it’s the front. In any case, it’s a place where Our Lord will also be active.”

Reflecting on Benedict’s legacy

The interview took place at the first-ever “Benedict XVI Forum” in Altötting, the famous Marian pilgrimage site in Bavaria. The event, which took place from July 10–15 and was visited by Cardinal Kurt Koch and several experts, explored the Apostles’ Creed using Joseph Ratzinger’s 1968 bestseller “Introduction to Christianity,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Gänswein spoke to EWTN of his deep connection to the place, recalling Benedict XVI’s visit there as pope in 2006.

“When I arrived here yesterday, I had the impression it was only the day before yesterday,” he said. “It was also beautiful weather, but it was so full of emotions, so full of the spirit that is palpable here, the spirit of the Mother of God. It’s like flipping a switch.”

The diplomatic posting marks a new chapter for Gänswein, following a period of uncertainty after Benedict XVI’s death. In June 2023, he was ordered to leave the Vatican without a new assignment, which sparked much speculation about his future role in the Church. 

Reflecting on his years of service to Benedict XVI on the weekend, Gänswein described it as “a matter of conscience” to pass on the late pope’s legacy. 

“Because that is a great gift for Catholics, the Church, and people,” he said. “And to cultivate this gift is one of my great inner tasks, which I am happy to continue to do — and I hope — for a long time to come.”

Faith amid bombs: Priests minister to Christians in border towns of Lebanon and Israel

A group of young people from the Apostolic Movement of Jish, led by Father Sandy Habib, during prayer before the meal on July 12, 2024, at the Maronite convent in Jerusalem. The aim is “bringing ourselves closer to Jesus,” Habib explained to CNA. “We try to achieve this through spiritual activities, social activities like trips, and by announcing Jesus Christ.” / Credit: Marinella Bandini

Jerusalem, Jul 16, 2024 / 05:47 am (CNA).

On October 7, 2023, when Hamas militants attacked Israel, hostilities between Hezbollah (a Lebanese Shia Islamist political party and militant group) and Israel resumed, putting Christian communities on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border to the test.

Kiryat Shmona and Safad in Israel, and Deir Mimas and Naqura in Lebanon are a handful of locations known for their history of fighting and violence. But they are also towns where small Christian communities live.

CNA reached out to three priests who tirelessly continue to reach these communities from both sides of the border, bringing them closeness, words of hope, and spiritual and material aid.

Father Rody Noura, 37,  a Maronite priest, drives every day from Acre, where he lives, to visit his parishioners — about 4,000 — in the Jewish towns of northern Israel. Like him, they are all Lebanese, having arrived in May 2000 after the Israeli army withdrew from Lebanon.

“It is possible to move around fairly safely, although sometimes you see missile explosions,” he told CNA. “When I leave, I say to the Lord: ‘Today, too, I am going out to do Your will. Whether I return home depends on You.’”

Father Rody Noura, on the left, with Father Giovanni Bovi, a recently ordained priest serving in the Maronite Church, outside the church in Tiberias. Noura was 13 years old when he fled from Lebanon to Israel. “I wondered: why did all this happen to me? I’m just a child. I wanted to escape from this world; I had lost trust in everyone, even myself.” Then came an encounter with the Neocatechumenal Way and the message that “God exists and loves me as I am. It was the answer I was looking for. It restored my hope.”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura
Father Rody Noura, on the left, with Father Giovanni Bovi, a recently ordained priest serving in the Maronite Church, outside the church in Tiberias. Noura was 13 years old when he fled from Lebanon to Israel. “I wondered: why did all this happen to me? I’m just a child. I wanted to escape from this world; I had lost trust in everyone, even myself.” Then came an encounter with the Neocatechumenal Way and the message that “God exists and loves me as I am. It was the answer I was looking for. It restored my hope.”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura

Father Sandy Habib, 45, is the Maronite parish priest of Jish, an Israeli Arab village with a population of 3,000, 60-65% of whom are Christians (Maronites and Melkites). The village is located at the foot of Mount Meron, a few kilometers from the Lebanese border.

“The belief in Jesus Christ gives me the strength to continue doing what I’m doing despite difficulties,” Habib said. “The hope that Jesus Christ gives us enables me to continue living in this place. We need peace, justice, and love, and that’s possible only through Jesus Christ.”

The celebration of Holy Thursday in Tiberias, by Maronite faithful of Lebanese origin. Father Rody Noura, a Maronite priest, visits the sick, families in difficulty, and those evacuated from high-risk areas who are now living in hotels (about 800 people), and he teaches catechism to children. “Only with Christ,” he said “even in the midst of war, there is hope; in the midst of death, there is resurrection.”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura
The celebration of Holy Thursday in Tiberias, by Maronite faithful of Lebanese origin. Father Rody Noura, a Maronite priest, visits the sick, families in difficulty, and those evacuated from high-risk areas who are now living in hotels (about 800 people), and he teaches catechism to children. “Only with Christ,” he said “even in the midst of war, there is hope; in the midst of death, there is resurrection.”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura

On the Lebanon side of the border, Father Toufic Bou Mehri, 55, superior of the Franciscan convent in Tyre, is the “itinerant pastor” for the Latin Rite faithful scattered in the villages of southern Lebanon. Every Sunday he travels 70 kilometers to Deir Mimas, four kilometers from the Israeli border, opposite the town of Metulla. At 11:30, he celebrates Mass for the few remaining faithful. “We have never missed a Sunday,” he said.

An Israeli missile explodes behind the Orthodox convent in Deir Mimas. Every Sunday, Father Toufic Bou Mehri travels to Deir Mimas, a little Lebanese village 4 kilometers from the Israeli border, and celebrates the Mass in the Franciscan church. "There are no bunkers in the village," he recounted. "When missiles start whistling, it’s pointless to interrupt Mass; there’s no safe place.". Courtesy of Father Toufic Bou Mehri
An Israeli missile explodes behind the Orthodox convent in Deir Mimas. Every Sunday, Father Toufic Bou Mehri travels to Deir Mimas, a little Lebanese village 4 kilometers from the Israeli border, and celebrates the Mass in the Franciscan church. "There are no bunkers in the village," he recounted. "When missiles start whistling, it’s pointless to interrupt Mass; there’s no safe place.". Courtesy of Father Toufic Bou Mehri

The situation in northern Israel “is apparently normal,” according to Noura. People work, and children go to school. But not everything is as it was before.

Many have relatives and friends on the other side of the border. Sometimes a wrong number in the phonebook can lead to accusations of collaboration with people “on the other side.” Because of this, he said, “we pray for one another, but we try to avoid direct contact.”

Saint Barbara's celebration in Safed, a Jewish city in the Upper Galilee less than 20 kilometers from the Lebanon border, occasionally targeted by missiles launched by Hezbollah. “It is possible to move around fairly safely, although sometimes you see missile explosions,” Father Rody Noura, a Maronite priest, told CNA. “When I leave, I say to the Lord: ‘Today, too, I am going out to do Your will. Whether I return home depends on You.’”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura
Saint Barbara's celebration in Safed, a Jewish city in the Upper Galilee less than 20 kilometers from the Lebanon border, occasionally targeted by missiles launched by Hezbollah. “It is possible to move around fairly safely, although sometimes you see missile explosions,” Father Rody Noura, a Maronite priest, told CNA. “When I leave, I say to the Lord: ‘Today, too, I am going out to do Your will. Whether I return home depends on You.’”. Courtesy of Father Rody Noura

Noura visits the sick, families in difficulty, and those evacuated from high-risk areas who are now living in hotels (about 800 people), and he teaches catechism to children.

“Only with Christ,” he said “even in the midst of war, there is hope; in the midst of death, there is resurrection.”

He brings to his faithful the message of God’s love for humanity, the same love that changed his life as a teenager.

“I was 13 years old when, from one day to the next, we fled from Lebanon and came to Israel,” along with thousands of people, he told CNA. All of them were considered traitors because they belonged to the pro-Israeli militia called the South Lebanon Army, like Noura’s father, or had relations and contacts with Israelis.

“I wondered: why did all this happen to me? I’m just a child. I wanted to escape from this world; I had lost trust in everyone, even myself.” Then came an encounter with the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic community, and the message that “God exists and loves me as I am. It was the answer I was looking for. It restored my hope.”

For this reason, he continued, “In the face of this war, we want to choose the good, that is, Christ. Jesus said, ‘love your enemies.’ Choosing Christ is choosing love, to love everyone.”

Habib, the parish priest of Jish agrees: “The key word in Christianity is love: love God and every human being, even the enemies.” This is the guiding light for him.

A group of young people from the Apostolic Movement of Jish, an Israeli Arab village located at the foot of Mount Meron, a few kilometers from the Lebanese border. In the center is Monseigneur Moussa El-Hage, Maronite archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land. To his right is Father Sandy Habib, the Maronite parish priest of Jish. July 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini
A group of young people from the Apostolic Movement of Jish, an Israeli Arab village located at the foot of Mount Meron, a few kilometers from the Lebanese border. In the center is Monseigneur Moussa El-Hage, Maronite archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land. To his right is Father Sandy Habib, the Maronite parish priest of Jish. July 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini

CNA met Habib in Jerusalem, along with a group of 30 young people from the Apostolic Movement, a group that was founded 25 years ago in the parish of Jish with the aim of “bringing ourselves closer to Jesus,” Habib explained. “We try to achieve this through spiritual activities, social activities like trips, and by announcing Jesus Christ.”

The group was organizing a summer camp for children and adolescents scheduled for the first half of August. Last year, there were about 300 participants, and the same number is expected this year, despite the current situation.

“The first months of the war,” he recounted, “we had to stop all the celebrations inside the church, which is on the second level of the parish building and move everything downstairs. We also stopped almost all activities, especially with the children. We used to hear very loud artillery and sirens from time to time. This caused some panic.”

Since mid-February, the community has returned to the church and restarted the activities in the parish. “Jish is not really targeted, even though we have to take all the precautions. Life is semi-normal… until you hear the sirens or the heavy artillery.”

Habib tries to teach the youngest children “the importance of holding on to our faith, to trust in Jesus, who is the only one who can bring real peace in our hearts and in the hearts of everyone.”

“We pray for everyone because every human being is created in the image of God,” he underlined. “God, who is love, loves every human being, and He wants us to love as He loves.”

The Sunday Mass in the Maronite church of Jish, an Israeli Arab village in northern Israel, a few kilometers from the Lebanese border. “We pray for everyone because every human being is created in the image of God,” Father Sandy Habib, the parish priest, told CNA. “God, who is love, loves every human being, and He wants us to love as He loves.”. Courtesy of Father Sandy Habib
The Sunday Mass in the Maronite church of Jish, an Israeli Arab village in northern Israel, a few kilometers from the Lebanese border. “We pray for everyone because every human being is created in the image of God,” Father Sandy Habib, the parish priest, told CNA. “God, who is love, loves every human being, and He wants us to love as He loves.”. Courtesy of Father Sandy Habib

Father Mehri covers the last kilometers separating him from Deir Mimas as quickly as possible. Israeli drones could mistake him for a Hezbollah militia member and strike him. For this reason, he never stays beyond 3 p.m.; it’s safer to return in daylight.

Of the 40 parish families who once lived in the village, only 18 remain. Some returned after the first few months because they couldn’t afford living expenses. “Near Beirut, rent costs $300 per month, but these people earn $150 at best. They tell me, ‘We prefer to die with dignity at home than to die of hunger elsewhere.’”

Every Sunday, Mehri brings food parcels and fresh vegetables thanks to the support of the Apostolic Vicariate of Beirut and of the association Pro Terra Sancta, affiliated with the Custody of the Holy Land.

“Deir Mimas is famous for its olive oil; people here live off agriculture but now it’s not safe to go out to work in the fields.” Additionally, “sometimes Hezbollah militants use the fields to launch missiles.”

The Franciscan friar Father Toufic Bou Mehri, while bringing food parcels to the families of Deir Mimas, a little Lebanese village 4  kilometers from the Israeli border. The groceries are purchased with the support of the Apostolic Vicariate of Beirut and of the association Pro Terra Sancta, affiliated with the Custody of the Holy Land. Courtesy of Father Toufic Bou Mehri
The Franciscan friar Father Toufic Bou Mehri, while bringing food parcels to the families of Deir Mimas, a little Lebanese village 4 kilometers from the Israeli border. The groceries are purchased with the support of the Apostolic Vicariate of Beirut and of the association Pro Terra Sancta, affiliated with the Custody of the Holy Land. Courtesy of Father Toufic Bou Mehri

Waiting for him every Sunday is a parishioner known as Mrs. Lena, who has always taken care of the church. “Every day she lights a candle in front of the statue of Our Lady and prays for peace. I provide the candles, and she ensures the prayers.”

There are no bunkers in the village. When missiles start whistling, it’s pointless to interrupt Mass; there’s no safe place.

In March, “four missiles fell in our field, just outside the village” Mehri recounted. “One even hit the cemetery: the wall collapsed, and some graves were uncovered. For ten days, I couldn’t approach because Israeli drones were flying over, searching for Hezbollah fighters.”

But even this doesn’t stop him.

“People call me ‘father.’ To live as a parish priest, I can’t lose this bond of fatherhood. They are my children. I can’t leave them without Mass and sacraments; I can’t leave them alone.”

12 keys to using the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

null / Credit: NS Natural Queen/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 16, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Pius XII said: “The devotion to the Carmelite scapular has brought down on the world a copious rain of spiritual and temporal graces.”

On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, here are 12 keys to explaining the brown scapular and its use:

1. It is not an amulet.

The scapular is not a charm or an automatic guarantee of salvation, nor is it a dispensation from living the demands of the Christian life. St. Claude de la Colombière once said: “You ask, what if I would want to die with my sins? I answer you, then you will die in sin, but you will not die with your scapular.”

2. It was an article of clothing.

The word “scapular” comes from the Latin “scapulae,” which means “shoulders” and was originally an overlapping article of clothing worn over the shoulders by monks at work. The Carmelites adopted it as a sign of special dedication to Our Lady, seeking to imitate her dedication to Christ and neighbor.

3. It is a gift from the Virgin Mary.

According to tradition, the scapular, as it is now known, was given by the Virgin Mary herself to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. Mary told him: “It must be a sign and a privilege for you and for all Carmelites: Whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.” Later, the Church extended the use of the scapular to the laity.

4. It is a mini habit.

The scapular is like a miniature Carmelite habit that all devotees can wear as a sign of their consecration to the Virgin Mary. It consists of a string that is worn around the neck with two small pieces of brown cloth attached. One is placed on the chest and the other on the back, and it is usually worn underneath clothing.

5. It is a service uniform.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, said: “Just as men are proud that others wear their uniform, so Our Lady, Mother Mary, is pleased when her servants wear their scapular as proof that they have dedicated themselves to her service, and they are members of the family of the Mother of God.”

6. It has three meanings.

The scapular stands for the maternal love and protection of Mary, for belonging to Mary, and for the gentle yoke of Christ that she helps us to bear.

7. It is a sacramental.

The brown scapular is recognized by the Church as a sacramental — that is, a sign that helps us to live a holy life and to increase our devotion. The scapular does not impart grace as the sacraments do, but it disposes the person wearing it to the love of the Lord and to repentance if it is received with devotion.

8. It can be given to a non-Catholic.

A dying man was reportedly brought to St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City. A nurse noticed he was wearing the brown scapular and called a priest. As prayers were said over him, the man regained consciousness and told the priest that he wasn’t Catholic but wore the scapular as a promise to his friends. The priest asked the man if he wanted to become Catholic, and before he died the man received baptism and anointing of the sick.

9. It was seen in one of the Fatima apparitions.

Lucia, the visionary of Our Lady of Fatima, reported that in her last apparition (October 1917), Mary appeared with the Carmelite habit, the scapular in her hand, and said that her true children wear it with reverence. Mary also asked that those who consecrate themselves to her wear it as a sign of that consecration.

10. The scapular has been discovered undamaged after burial.

Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried with his scapular and, 600 years later when his tomb was opened, the object was intact. Something similar happened with St. Alphonsus Liguori. St. John Bosco and St. John Paul II also wore the scapular, and St. Peter Claver vested the scapular with those he converted.

11. There’s a preferred way to receive the scapular.

The imposition of the scapular should preferably be done in community, and in the ceremony the spiritual meaning and commitment to the Blessed Virgin should be clearly expressed. The first scapular must be blessed by a priest and placed on the devotee while reciting the following prayer:

“Receive this blessed scapular and ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary, on her merits, that you may wear it without any stain of sin and that she guard you from all adversity and bring you unto everlasting life.”

12. Only the first scapular you receive needs to be blessed.

When the first scapular one receives is blessed, the devotee does not need to ask subsequent scapulars to be blessed. Those that are worn out, if they were blessed, should not be thrown away but should be burned or buried, as is suitable for sacramentals.

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

12 keys to using the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

null / Credit: NS Natural Queen/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 16, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Pius XII said: “The devotion to the Carmelite scapular has brought down on the world a copious rain of spiritual and temporal graces.”

On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, here are 12 keys to explaining the brown scapular and its use:

1. It is not an amulet.

The scapular is not a charm or an automatic guarantee of salvation, nor is it a dispensation from living the demands of the Christian life. St. Claude de la Colombière once said: “You ask, what if I would want to die with my sins? I answer you, then you will die in sin, but you will not die with your scapular.”

2. It was an article of clothing.

The word “scapular” comes from the Latin “scapulae,” which means “shoulders” and was originally an overlapping article of clothing worn over the shoulders by monks at work. The Carmelites adopted it as a sign of special dedication to Our Lady, seeking to imitate her dedication to Christ and neighbor.

3. It is a gift from the Virgin Mary.

According to tradition, the scapular, as it is now known, was given by the Virgin Mary herself to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. Mary told him: “It must be a sign and a privilege for you and for all Carmelites: Whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.” Later, the Church extended the use of the scapular to the laity.

4. It is a mini habit.

The scapular is like a miniature Carmelite habit that all devotees can wear as a sign of their consecration to the Virgin Mary. It consists of a string that is worn around the neck with two small pieces of brown cloth attached. One is placed on the chest and the other on the back, and it is usually worn underneath clothing.

5. It is a service uniform.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, said: “Just as men are proud that others wear their uniform, so Our Lady, Mother Mary, is pleased when her servants wear their scapular as proof that they have dedicated themselves to her service, and they are members of the family of the Mother of God.”

6. It has three meanings.

The scapular stands for the maternal love and protection of Mary, for belonging to Mary, and for the gentle yoke of Christ that she helps us to bear.

7. It is a sacramental.

The brown scapular is recognized by the Church as a sacramental — that is, a sign that helps us to live a holy life and to increase our devotion. The scapular does not impart grace as the sacraments do, but it disposes the person wearing it to the love of the Lord and to repentance if it is received with devotion.

8. It can be given to a non-Catholic.

A dying man was reportedly brought to St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City. A nurse noticed he was wearing the brown scapular and called a priest. As prayers were said over him, the man regained consciousness and told the priest that he wasn’t Catholic but wore the scapular as a promise to his friends. The priest asked the man if he wanted to become Catholic, and before he died the man received baptism and anointing of the sick.

9. It was seen in one of the Fatima apparitions.

Lucia, the visionary of Our Lady of Fatima, reported that in her last apparition (October 1917), Mary appeared with the Carmelite habit, the scapular in her hand, and said that her true children wear it with reverence. Mary also asked that those who consecrate themselves to her wear it as a sign of that consecration.

10. The scapular has been discovered undamaged after burial.

Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried with his scapular and, 600 years later when his tomb was opened, the object was intact. Something similar happened with St. Alphonsus Liguori. St. John Bosco and St. John Paul II also wore the scapular, and St. Peter Claver vested the scapular with those he converted.

11. There’s a preferred way to receive the scapular.

The imposition of the scapular should preferably be done in community, and in the ceremony the spiritual meaning and commitment to the Blessed Virgin should be clearly expressed. The first scapular must be blessed by a priest and placed on the devotee while reciting the following prayer:

“Receive this blessed scapular and ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary, on her merits, that you may wear it without any stain of sin and that she guard you from all adversity and bring you unto everlasting life.”

12. Only the first scapular you receive needs to be blessed.

When the first scapular one receives is blessed, the devotee does not need to ask subsequent scapulars to be blessed. Those that are worn out, if they were blessed, should not be thrown away but should be burned or buried, as is suitable for sacramentals.

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

Polish lawmakers narrowly defeat effort to decriminalize abortion assistance

Protesters hold a placard depicting an unborn baby as they take part in the March of Life in Warsaw, on April 14, 2024. / Credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Polish lawmakers narrowly voted to maintain the country’s strong pro-life laws by rejecting a bill that would have ended all criminal penalties for people who provide assistance to women who are obtaining illegal abortions.

Under current law, women do not face criminal penalties for seeking or receiving an illegal abortion. However, an abortionist who performs an illegal abortion and any person who assists the woman or the abortionist in the illegal abortion could face up to three years in prison for their roles.

The proposed legislation would have eliminated those penalties. However, the Polish Sejm, which is the Parliament’s lower chamber, voted 218-215 on July 12 to defeat the legislation and ensure the law stays intact. Two members of the Parliament abstained from voting.

In Poland, abortion is illegal in most cases. There is no legal elective abortion in Poland, but it is legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. The prohibition on most abortions applies to both surgical and chemical abortions.

Following the vote, the Polish Episcopal Conference posted a March 20 quote from Pope Francis on X, formerly known as Twitter, which affirms life.

“Let Poland be a land that protects life at every moment, from the moment it appears in the mother’s womb until its natural end,” Francis told his general audience on March 20. “Do not forget that no one is the master of life, either his own or that of others.”

Rafał Bochenek, a member of the Sejm in the conservative Law and Justice Party, praised the vote in a post on X and criticized Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and others for supporting the bill. 

“Donald Tusk and the coalition seem to have a problem,” Bochenek said. “They promised and wanted to decriminalize criminal activities, but fortunately there is still a spirit in the nation. … Abortion is always evil!”

Tusk leads the centrist Civic Platform Party. His party leads the Civic Coalition, which holds the most seats in the majority coalition in the Parliament. The other two parts of the majority coalition are Third Way, which is a center-right group, and New Left, which is a social democratic group. This coalition holds about 54% of the seats in Parliament.

Although Tusk campaigned on liberalizing Poland’s abortion laws, including voicing support for legislation to legalize elective abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, a handful of members within the Civic Coalition and Third Way joined with the minority conservative parties to block the decriminalization bill.

The failure to secure enough votes elicited frustration from the New Left, which campaigned strongly on expanding abortion within Poland and introduced the bill. 

Tomasz Trela, a member of the Sejm who is in the New Left, criticized the members of the majority coalition who broke away from their parties and opposed the decriminalization effort in a post on X

“Decriminalization of abortion care is gone,” Trela said. “The whole [Left] was there and we all voted for [the legislation], as the only club in the Sejm. There is one conclusion: more Left in the Sejm — more normality in Poland.”

The New Left has also introduced bills that would legalize elective abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy, and Third Way introduced a bill that would expand legal abortion to cases in which the unborn child has a fetal abnormality.

It’s unclear whether any of these bills will have enough support to pass the Sejm.

Polish lawmakers narrowly defeat effort to decriminalize abortion assistance

Protesters hold a placard depicting an unborn baby as they take part in the March of Life in Warsaw, on April 14, 2024. / Credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Polish lawmakers narrowly voted to maintain the country’s strong pro-life laws by rejecting a bill that would have ended all criminal penalties for people who provide assistance to women who are obtaining illegal abortions.

Under current law, women do not face criminal penalties for seeking or receiving an illegal abortion. However, an abortionist who performs an illegal abortion and any person who assists the woman or the abortionist in the illegal abortion could face up to three years in prison for their roles.

The proposed legislation would have eliminated those penalties. However, the Polish Sejm, which is the Parliament’s lower chamber, voted 218-215 on July 12 to defeat the legislation and ensure the law stays intact. Two members of the Parliament abstained from voting.

In Poland, abortion is illegal in most cases. There is no legal elective abortion in Poland, but it is legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. The prohibition on most abortions applies to both surgical and chemical abortions.

Following the vote, the Polish Episcopal Conference posted a March 20 quote from Pope Francis on X, formerly known as Twitter, which affirms life.

“Let Poland be a land that protects life at every moment, from the moment it appears in the mother’s womb until its natural end,” Francis told his general audience on March 20. “Do not forget that no one is the master of life, either his own or that of others.”

Rafał Bochenek, a member of the Sejm in the conservative Law and Justice Party, praised the vote in a post on X and criticized Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and others for supporting the bill. 

“Donald Tusk and the coalition seem to have a problem,” Bochenek said. “They promised and wanted to decriminalize criminal activities, but fortunately there is still a spirit in the nation. … Abortion is always evil!”

Tusk leads the centrist Civic Platform Party. His party leads the Civic Coalition, which holds the most seats in the majority coalition in the Parliament. The other two parts of the majority coalition are Third Way, which is a center-right group, and New Left, which is a social democratic group. This coalition holds about 54% of the seats in Parliament.

Although Tusk campaigned on liberalizing Poland’s abortion laws, including voicing support for legislation to legalize elective abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, a handful of members within the Civic Coalition and Third Way joined with the minority conservative parties to block the decriminalization bill.

The failure to secure enough votes elicited frustration from the New Left, which campaigned strongly on expanding abortion within Poland and introduced the bill. 

Tomasz Trela, a member of the Sejm who is in the New Left, criticized the members of the majority coalition who broke away from their parties and opposed the decriminalization effort in a post on X

“Decriminalization of abortion care is gone,” Trela said. “The whole [Left] was there and we all voted for [the legislation], as the only club in the Sejm. There is one conclusion: more Left in the Sejm — more normality in Poland.”

The New Left has also introduced bills that would legalize elective abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy, and Third Way introduced a bill that would expand legal abortion to cases in which the unborn child has a fetal abnormality.

It’s unclear whether any of these bills will have enough support to pass the Sejm.

Euro 2024: Bishops highlight the faith of the coach of Spain’s victorious soccer team

Luis de la Fuente, Spanish national soccer coach. / Credit: Royal Spanish Football Federation

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 15, 2024 / 17:20 pm (CNA).

Following Spain’s 2-1 victory over England yesterday to clinch its fourth European Championship, several Spanish bishops have congratulated the country’s national soccer team and highlighted the Catholic faith of its coach, Luis de la Fuente.

The archbishop of Seville, José Ángel Saiz Meneses, extended his congratulations to the national team on X after it won the final Sunday in Berlin.

Saiz noted that the national coach is “a deeply believing man, without complexes about publicly manifesting his faith and devotion to the Holy Christ of the Expiration,” a large crucifix in Seville that depicts Christ’s last breath as he dies on the cross.

For the archbishop, the coach “has known how to communicate faith, humility, the value of the team above individuality, the spirit of sacrifice, effort, trust.”

Also on X, the bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, shared the coach’s witness to the faith when questioned at a press conference by an atheist journalist about the role that God would play in the final match.

De la Fuente responded by pointing out that “faith is something personal and transferable” before explaining his case in particular: “Since I am free and I can choose what I believe I have to do, based on my intelligence and my experiences … well, they induce me to believe in God and give me a lot of assurance and a lot of strength.”

This public declaration of faith led the prelate to recall the words of Leo Messi after winning the soccer World Cup, who acknowledged: “I didn’t do anything, it was God who made me play like this.”

In reference to both testimonies of faith, Munilla added: “How can we not recall those words of Jesus?: ‘Whoever confesses me before men, I will also confess before the Father’ (Mt 10:32).”

In a post on X, the bishop of Vitoria, Juan Carlos Elizalde, congratulated the Spanish team along with the winner of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, Carlos Alcaraz, wishing “that many young people will follow you in the example of using free time for sports, teamwork, healthy competitiveness, and effort and improvement to be better every day. You have given us an unforgettable afternoon!”

Other Catholic aspects of the Spanish team

Among the players that make up the winning Spanish national soccer team is longtime veteran Jesús Navas, 38, whose family connection to the Neocatechumenal Way is known.

In 2010, when the Spanish national soccer team became world champion, Navas had written “God is love” on his cleats.

Among the youngest players selected by De la Fuente is Nico Williams, whose parents, coming from Ghana, arrived in Spain in 1994 after crossing the Sahara and managing to make it undetected into Melilla, a Spanish enclave on Morroco’s Mediterranean coast. His mother was pregnant with his brother Iñaki, also a soccer player.

Finally they were sent to Bilbao in northern Spain, where Caritas helped them get established and the eldest of the Williams brothers, both players for Bilbao’s Athletic Club, was born. 

According to Iñaki Mardones, the volunteer who had the closest relationship with them from the beginning, the Williamses “have lived their faith very intensely. First, the parents have entrusted, lived, and given the gift of baptism and Communion to their children. Thus they have lived it. Furthermore, they hold their faith close and it accompanies them in their lives.”

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

Donald Trump names Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance as running mate

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, a Catholic, walks out of the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2024 / 15:43 pm (CNA).

Donald Trump on Monday announced that Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance will be his running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

“After lengthy deliberation and thought, and considering the tremendous talents of many others, I have decided that the person best suited to assume the position of vice president of the United States is Sen. J.D. Vance of the great state of Ohio,” Trump said on Truth Social on Monday afternoon.

Vance “honorably served our country in the Marine Corps, graduated from Ohio State University in two years, summa cum laude, and is a Yale Law School graduate, where he was editor of The Yale Law Journal and president of the Yale Law Veterans Association,” Trump wrote.

The former president made the announcement days after surviving an assassination attempt at a Pennsylvania rally.

Vance, who was baptized Catholic in 2019, has served as the junior U.S. senator from Ohio since 2023. He first rose to national prominence with the 2016 book “Hillbilly Elegy” in which he examined the economic and social dysfunctions of modern U.S. Appalachia.

The Republican won his Senate seat — the first public office to which he was elected — after securing Trump’s endorsement in 2022.

Vance previously served in the U.S. Marines as a combat correspondent during the Iraq War. He attended the Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

Over the course of his short political career Vance has adopted conservative positions, speaking out against abortion and transgender procedures for minors and taking a hardline stance against illegal immigration. He has advocated for an isolationist foreign policy, opposed foreign aid to Ukraine, and favored protectionist trade policies.

Praising Vance for championing “the hardworking men and women of our country,” Trump on Monday said the senator “will be strongly focused on the people he fought so brilliantly for, the American workers and farmers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and far beyond.”

Donald Trump names Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance as running mate

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, a Catholic, walks out of the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2024 / 15:43 pm (CNA).

Donald Trump on Monday announced that Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance will be his running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

“After lengthy deliberation and thought, and considering the tremendous talents of many others, I have decided that the person best suited to assume the position of vice president of the United States is Sen. J.D. Vance of the great state of Ohio,” Trump said on Truth Social on Monday afternoon.

Vance “honorably served our country in the Marine Corps, graduated from Ohio State University in two years, summa cum laude, and is a Yale Law School graduate, where he was editor of The Yale Law Journal and president of the Yale Law Veterans Association,” Trump wrote.

The former president made the announcement days after surviving an assassination attempt at a Pennsylvania rally.

Vance, who was baptized Catholic in 2019, has served as the junior U.S. senator from Ohio since 2023. He first rose to national prominence with the 2016 book “Hillbilly Elegy” in which he examined the economic and social dysfunctions of modern U.S. Appalachia.

The Republican won his Senate seat — the first public office to which he was elected — after securing Trump’s endorsement in 2022.

Vance previously served in the U.S. Marines as a combat correspondent during the Iraq War. He attended the Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

Over the course of his short political career Vance has adopted conservative positions, speaking out against abortion and transgender procedures for minors and taking a hardline stance against illegal immigration. He has advocated for an isolationist foreign policy, opposed foreign aid to Ukraine, and favored protectionist trade policies.

Praising Vance for championing “the hardworking men and women of our country,” Trump on Monday said the senator “will be strongly focused on the people he fought so brilliantly for, the American workers and farmers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and far beyond.”

New Jersey man locates $40,000 in ‘unclaimed funds’ for diocese, parishes

Credit: ElenaR/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2024 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

A New Jersey resident is being hailed for identifying tens of thousands of dollars in “unclaimed funds” from the state government and helping that money get back to the Diocese of Camden and local parishes. 

Philip Britton, who lives in the western part of the state in the township of Pennsville, was searching the website of the state’s Unclaimed Property Administration, which allows New Jerseyites to obtain “abandoned or lost intangible and tangible property” obtained by the government.

While looking, Britton told the Catholic Star Herald that he “found unclaimed property listed for a local parish, which merged in 2010, and a local Catholic school that had closed in 2000,” the Catholic newspaper reported.

Britton told CNA on Monday that he began searching the online database after his housekeeper asked him to look through it.

“I’m old and I don’t move too well,” he said via phone. “I do play with the computer since I’ve been retired. And my housekeeper asked me to look up if she had any unclaimed property” on the state website.

“I found a few listings, gave them to her, and helped her process those,” he said. “And then I started looking some more. I came across Queen of the Apostles, the parish I used to go to in Pennsville. Then I came across multiple other institutions.”

“Everybody has unclaimed money!” he said with a laugh.

He continued reviewing the records, he said, eventually identifying about $40,000 in unclaimed property and informing the Camden Diocese of his findings. He has since reached out to the other Catholic dioceses in New Jersey to let them know of the state service.

Diocese of Camden spokesman Michael Walsh told CNA in a statement on Monday that Britton’s “initiative to look up unclaimed property for his parish and then the diocese at large was another great example of Christian service.”

“Especially since the diocesan Catholic Charities office was one of the largest benefactors of this process,” Walsh said. “The monies found for Catholic Charities will be used specifically to help those in need throughout South Jersey.”

“His act is also a great reminder to any individual and business to investigate the NJ.gov unclaimed property website,” Walsh added.

A CNA review of unclaimed properties associated with Catholic entities and corporations in New Jersey revealed dozens more unclaimed property parcels, including property belonging to “Catholic Charities,” “Catholic Teachers Union,” and “Catholic Views Broadcast,” among others.

Residents of every state are able to search public databases in order to see if they have any unclaimed property being held by the state.

Each state “maintains a database of unclaimed property for that state, and — by law — attempts to return the property to its rightful owners,” according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Diocesan chief financial officer Laura Montgomery told the Star Herald that she has “sent emails to all of the parishes, schools, and business managers [in the Camden Diocese] urging them to visit the Department of the Treasury site to see if there are any claims for their locations.”

The process took roughly a month for the check to arrive, Montgomery said. 

“Do exactly what I did: Go to the site and search by your name, your family’s names and see if there’s anything they are holding for you,” she said. 

Britton, meanwhile, said more people should know about the unclaimed property databases they can access.

“It’s amazing the organizations, societies, doctors, everyone that has money out there that they’re not aware of at all,” he told CNA. “I’m kind of on this evangelization kick telling everybody about it I can.”

“It makes me feel good that I did something,” he continued. “It’s mentally stimulating. It keeps my brain active. And, hey, nobody else is doing it. So why not me?”