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Pope Francis congratulates Italian soccer team on win against Roma

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis met on Wednesday with players of the northern Italian soccer club Spezia after they eliminated the fourth-seeded A.S. Roma from the country’s annual cup competition.

“First of all, congratulations, because yesterday you were good. Congratulations!” the pope told them at an audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Jan. 20.

Spezia Calcio, a professional soccer club based in the town of La Spezia, joined the top Italian league Serie A for the first time in its history in 2020.

The 13th-seeded Spezia’s 4-2 win on Tuesday in the Coppa Italia against Roma -- one of Rome’s two big clubs -- puts them in next week’s quarter-finals, where they will play against Napoli.

Pope Francis said, “in Argentina, we dance the tango,” pointing out that the music is based on “two-by-four,” or two-quarter time.

Referring to their result against Roma, he added: “Today you are 4 to 2, and that’s good. Congratulations and keep going!”

“And thank you for this visit,” he said, “because I like to see the effort of young men and women in sport, because sport is a wonder, sport ‘brings out’ all the best that we have inside. Continue with this, because it leads you to a great nobility. Thank you for your witness.”

Complimenti e coraggio!
Con queste parole, @Pontifex_it ha accolto lo #SpeziaCalcio al gran completo, ricevuto questa mattina in udienza privata nelle stanze vaticane

➡️ https://t.co/saNErz4HU4 pic.twitter.com/87Rc8jLXWZ

— Spezia Calcio (@acspezia) January 20, 2021 Pope Francis is a well-known soccer fan. His favorite team is San Lorenzo de Almagro in his native Argentina.

In a 2015 interview, Francis said that in 1946 he went to many of San Lorenzo’s games.

Speaking to the Argentine online sports news site TyC Sports, Francis also revealed that he played soccer as a child, but he said he was a “patadura” -- someone who is not good at kicking the ball -- and preferred to play basketball.

In 2008, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he offered Mass for players at the team’s facilities to mark San Lorenzo’s 100th anniversary.

In 2016, Pope Francis spoke at the opening ceremony of a Vatican conference on sports.

He said: “Sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, she is working in the world of sport to bring the joy of the Gospel, the inclusive and unconditional love of God for all human beings.”

Pope Francis prays Biden will respect 'dignity of every person' in inauguration message

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2021 / 11:11 am (CNA).- In a message to Joe Biden on inauguration day, Pope Francis said he is praying the new United States president will make decisions which respect the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor and most vulnerable.

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice,” the pope said Jan. 20.

Biden, a Catholic, was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20.

For the occasion, Pope Francis sent Biden his good wishes and “the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office.”

The pope wished that under Biden’s leadership the American people would draw strength from the “lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding.”

Francis added that he is asking God, “the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good.”

The pope closed his message by invoking blessings upon Biden, his family, and the American people.

Shortly prior, the U.S. bishops’ conference released the full text of a prepared statement on Biden’s inauguration as president, after initially withholding it from publication.

Although it was expected to be released at 9 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, the statement was not published by the bishops’ conference at that time. According to The Pillar, Vatican Secretariat of State officials stepped in to prevent its publication.

The conference published the full statement shortly after noon.

The U.S. bishops’ prepared statement said they planned to engage the new administration on issues including abortion, religious freedom, racism, and poverty.

According to sources at the conference, figures within the conference pushed back on language in the prepared statement that had highlighted areas of concern with the incoming Biden administration on abortion, gender, and religious freedom.

In particular, sources at the conference told CNA that Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago opposed the inclusion of language noting abortion as a problem with the incoming Biden administration. Biden has pledged to support taxpayer-funded abortion, among other pro-abortion policies.

In January 2017, Pope Francis sent a message to then-U.S. President Donald Trump on the occasion of his inauguration.

Archbishop Cordileone prays for Biden, states his support for USCCB president

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 20, 2021 / 10:47 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of San Francisco on Wednesday stated his support for the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) president, who had noted areas of collaboration and concern with incoming President Joe Biden.

 

In a prepared statement that was not released on Wednesday morning as scheduled--but published later in the day after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States--USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles prayed for Biden. He noted areas of both agreement and disagreement between the bishops and Biden, who is Catholic.

 

According to sources at the conference, figures within the conference pushed back on language in the prepared statement that had highlighted areas of concern with the incoming Biden administration on abortion, gender, and religious freedom.

 

 In particular, sources at the conference told CNA that Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago opposed the inclusion of language noting abortion as a problem with the incoming Biden administration. Biden has pledged to support taxpayer-funded abortion, among other pro-abortion policies.

 

On Wednesday, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco welcomed Archbishop Gomez’s “timely call for healing as a country as the new administration assumes office.”

 

“In particular, I am grateful to him for stating clearly once again that opposing the injustice of abortion remains our ‘preeminent priority,’ while acknowledging that ‘preeminent’ does not mean ‘only’,” Cordileone stated.

 

Gomez on Wednesday had praised Biden’s witness of relying upon his faith in difficult times, and his commitment to the poor.  

 

At the same time, Gomez said, “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”

 

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority’,” he said, adding that “preeminent does not mean ‘only’,” and there are a wide variety of challenges and threats to human dignity facing the country today.

 

He added that religious freedom is “[o]f deep concern” to the bishops.

 

Cordileone on Wednesday also said he was praying for new President Biden.

 

“Catholics must and do speak out on many issues affecting the equal dignity of us all, but if life at its most vulnerable beginnings is not protected, then none of us is safe,” he said. “Affirming this equal human dignity at every stage and in every condition is the path to healing and unity.”

 

In a letter accompanying their 2020 document on voting, “Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops’ conference stated that “[t]he threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.”

 

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty,” the letter stated.

UPDATED: US bishops release prepared statement on Biden inauguration

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2021 / 07:04 am (CNA).- After initially withholding from publication a prepared statement on Joe Biden's inauguration as president, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) eventually released the statement early Wednesday afternoon.

Although it was expected to be released at 9 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, the statement was not published by the bishops' conference at that time. According to The Pillar, Vatican Secretariat of State officials stepped in to prevent its publication.

CNA published the prepared remarks when the 9 a.m. embargo lifted. The conference published the full statement shortly after noon.

“Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in the statement.

In the prepared Jan. 20 statement, Gomez said he is praying that God may grant the incoming president wisdom and courage in pursuing unity, healing, liberty, and equality.

Gomez stressed that the role of the Catholic bishops is not to endorse parties or candidates, but to offer principles that can guide consciences.

“Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics,” he said. “We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors.”

The bishops’ conference, he said, has worked for years to address a wide variety of issues, including abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, peace and economic development, racism, immigration, poverty, the environment, and criminal justice reform.

“On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties,” he said.

“On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.”

Gomez noted that the bishops’ conference works with every president and Congress, but added that working with Biden will be unique, since “he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith.”

The archbishop said he finds hope and inspiration in Biden’s personal witness of relying on faith in difficult times and commitment to the poor. 

At the same time, he said, “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

Stressing that the bishops must preach the truth of the Gospel even when doing so is unpopular, Gomez said that the issue of abortion merits special attention as a grave evil in society. 

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority’,” he said, adding that “preeminent does not mean ‘only’,” and there are a wide variety of challenges and threats to human dignity facing the country today.”

“Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family,” he said. “It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”

The U.S. bishops will engage with the president in the hopes of beginning “a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families,” Gomez said.

He voiced hope that Biden will be willing to work with the Church and avoid expanding abortion and contraception.

“My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities,” the archbishop said. “If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.”

Gomez praised Biden’s call for healing and unity in America, saying that such healing is “urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.”

True healing can only come from God, the archbishop said, and requires forgiveness and dialogue.

“Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves,” he added.

The president of the bishops’ conference concluded by entrusting the country’s transition to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country,” he said.

The full text of the USCCB statement on the inauguration of Joe Biden: Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
January 20, 2021 My prayers are with our new President and his family today.

I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.

Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics. We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors. In every community across the country, Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries form an essential culture of compassion and care, serving women, children, and the elderly, the poor and sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the marginalized, no matter what their race or religion.

When we speak on issues in American public life, we try to guide consciences, and we offer principles. These principles are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of his Church. Jesus Christ revealed God’s plan of love for creation and revealed the truth about the human person, who is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.

Based on these truths, which are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak.

For many years now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has tried to help Catholics and others of good will in their reflections on political issues through a publication we call Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The most recent edition addresses a wide range of concerns. Among them: abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.

On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress.

On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.

I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.

Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.

At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable. For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.

Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families. My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.

President Biden’s call for national healing and unity is welcome on all levels. It is urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.

As believers, we understand that healing is a gift that we can only receive from the hand of God.

We know, too, that real reconciliation requires patient listening to those who disagree with us and a willingness to forgive and move beyond desires for reprisal. Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves.

We are all under the watchful eye of God, who alone knows and can judge the intentions of our hearts. I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.

I entrust all our hopes and anxieties in this new moment to the tender heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ and the patroness of this exceptional nation. May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country.

Pandemic forces changes to Roman Curia’s annual Lenten retreat

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private retreat at the beginning of Lent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The pope typically spends five days on retreat together with members of the Roman Curia participating in Lenten spiritual exercises. For the past seven years, the retreat has taken place in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome, although the pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

A statement from the Holy See Press Office on Jan. 20 said that the retreat would not take place in Ariccia this year due to “the current health emergency.”

In its place, the pope has invited all cardinals residing in Rome to spend time in prayer from Sunday, Feb. 21, to Friday, Feb. 26. All papal events will be canceled between the two dates, including the general audience on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Last year, Pope Francis participated in the Lenten retreat “from home,” following along with the spiritual exercises and reflections from his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

The practice of the pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in Lent began around 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

According to the Pauline priest who runs the Casa Divin Maestro retreat center, where the papal retreat has taken place since 2014, a typical day during the retreat begins with Mass. After breakfast, the bishops and cardinals listen to the first meditation in the chapel. 

The second meditation is heard after lunch, Fr. Olinto Crespi told CNA in 2017. Other time is devoted to prayer. The retreat house also offers internet access, so dicastery heads who need to answer emails or do some work during the week may do so.

Pope Francis: Ask God for unity to ‘overcome scandal of division’ among Christians

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis urged Christians to pray for “the gift of unity” on Wednesday, saying that the devil always seeks to sow division and discord.

“During this time of serious hardship, this prayer is even more necessary so that unity might prevail over conflicts. It is urgent that we set aside preferences to promote the common good, and so our good example is fundamental: it is essential that Christians pursue the path toward full visible unity,” Pope Francis said in his general audience address on Jan. 20.

“The world will not believe because we will have convinced it with good arguments, but because we will have borne witness to that love that unites us and draws us near to everyone,” the pope said.

The Church dedicates one week each January to prayer for unity among all Christians. Pope Francis said that this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held on Jan. 18-25, is “dedicated specifically to this: to ask God for the gift of unity to overcome the scandal of division between believers in Jesus.”

The pope stressed that prayer for unity involves a spiritual battle both with the divisions within oneself and with the temptation of the devil.

“To pray means to fight for unity. Yes, fight, because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides, as the word itself says. He is the divider. Jesus asks for unity through the Holy Spirit, to create unity. The devil always divides … He fosters division everywhere and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity,” Pope Francis said.

“In general, the devil does not tempt us with high theology, but with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. He is cunning: he magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions.”

“God has another way: He takes us as we are, he loves us so much … he takes us as different, as sinners, and always nudges us towards unity.”

In his virtual Wednesday audience, broadcast live from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope encouraged people to “evaluate ourselves and ask ourselves if, in the places in which we live, we nurture conflict or fight for an increase of unity with the tools that God has given us: prayer and love.”

Pope Francis insisted that “unity can only be achieved as a fruit of prayer,” saying that “we are not able to obtain unity with our own strength.”

"In fact, we know that we are not capable of preserving unity even within ourselves. Even the Apostle Paul felt a painful conflict within himself: wanting the good but inclined toward evil (see Romans 7:19). He had thus grasped the root of so many divisions that surround us -- between people, in families, in society, between nations and even between believers -- and inside us,” he said.

“The Second Vatican Council stated, ‘the imbalances under which the world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. For in man himself many elements wrestle with one another. […] Hence he suffers from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society’ (Gaudium et spes, 10).”

“Therefore, the solution to these divisions is not to oppose someone, because discord generates more discord. The true remedy begins by asking God for peace, reconciliation, unity.”

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”

“The root of communion and love is Christ who makes us overcome our prejudices to see in others a brother or sister to be loved always,” Pope Francis said.

As March for Life goes virtual, U.S. bishops call Catholics to prayer instead

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- After the national March for Life announced last week it would be taking place virtually, the U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair has exhorted Catholics to prayer instead.

“Peaceful prayer and witness must and will continue this year—just in a different format,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, stated on Tuesday.

The archbishop encouraged Catholics who originally planned to attend the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 29, to instead unite in prayer beginning on Thursday, Jan. 21, the eve of the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The 9 Days for Life novena will continue until Jan. 29.

The March for Life is an annual peaceful pro-life gathering in Washington, D.C. in protest of abortion. It has occurred every year since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Annually attended by pro-life advocates from all over the U.S., the march is the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, according to organizers.

It is scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, but last Friday organizers for the event decided to confine attendance to a small group of pro-life leaders, citing safety precautions. The leaders will leave roses in front of the Supreme Court in mourning for the lives lost to abortion.

Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, cited the safety of participants as a key reason for the change in plans. The march was originally intended to continue albeit with health precautions for attendees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different,” Mancini said.

Through the fall and into the winter, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 soared; the total number of deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 has now surpassed 400,000.

Security in Washington, D.C. has also intensified following the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol by thousands of rioters. Now, large portions of downtown Washington, D.C. are locked to the public in advance of the Jan. 20 Inauguration.

More than 25,000 National Guard troops are currently stationed in D.C., according to NBC News 4 Washington, and the National Mall has been closed to the public.

“The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually,” Mancini said.

Archbishop Naumann praised the decision by the march to move to a virtual format.

“As long-time participants in the annual March for Life, my brother bishops and I commend the march organizers for their concern for the lives and safety of all participants,” he said. “The countless, peaceful, pro-life marchers who would normally gather each year should not be put at risk.”

Archbishop of Washington prays for COVID victims at Lincoln Memorial

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington prayed for all victims of the COVID-19 pandemic at a national memorial service on Tuesday evening.

 

“We turn to the Lord of all to receive these, our sisters and brothers, into eternal peace, and to comfort all those who grieve the loss of a loved one,” Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. prayed at the at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., appearing alongside President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

 

“We do so not as strangers or disinterested persons, but as fellow citizens who share some limited portion of their grief and sorrow,” Cardinal Gregory said of the prayer.

Gregory delivered the invocation at the Nationwide COVID-19 Memorial service on Tuesday evening, held on the eve of the 2021 Inauguration Day. More than 400,000 Americans have died from the COVID-19 pandemic since it began.

 

“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” President-elect Joe Biden stated in front of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. “It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”

 

Tuesday’s service also featured a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Lori Marie Key, a 29 year-old nurse who worked in the COVID-19 unit at her hospital at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System; she appeared in a viral video earlier in 2020 singing “Amazing Grace” while at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan.

 

Biden’s remarks were followed by a lighting around the Reflecting Pool. According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, cities from around the U.S. joined in unity, lighting up prominent landmarks.

 

Cardinal Gregory mentioned the special pain of family and friends of COVID victims, who could not have a proper funeral for them due to restrictions on public gatherings.

 

“We pray for the countless families and relatives who had to surrender their loved ones without the comfort and the consolation of a familiar funeral ritual, according to their religious traditions or selection,” Cardinal Gregory prayed.

 

“May our prayer this evening serve as a small expression of our national desire to comfort and strengthen those who have endured the loss of a loved one to this pandemic, and may it be a resounding gesture of gratitude for all those who have cared for the victims of this virus, and their loved ones,” he said.

 

Biden, a Catholic, has reportedly invited congressional leaders to attend a service with him at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in D.C. on Wednesday morning.

 

Vatican cardinal: Synodality is a vital tool in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Strengthening synodality is “the most important contribution” that the Catholic Church can make to ecumenical dialogue, especially dialogue with the Orthodox, a Vatican cardinal has said.

Writing in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Jan. 18, Cardinal Kurt Koch said: “Theological and pastoral efforts to build a synodal Church have a profound effect on ecumenism, as Pope Francis emphasizes with the basic principle of ecumenical dialogue, which consists in the exchange of gifts, thanks to which we can learn from each other.”

Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that “the synodal tradition of Christianity includes a rich heritage that should be revitalized.” The cardinal’s essay was published at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place on Jan. 18-25.

He welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to hold a Synod of Bishops in 2022 on the theme of synodality.

“This synod will not only be an important event in the Catholic Church, but it will contain a significant ecumenical message, since synodality is an issue that also moves ecumenism, and moves it in depth,” he explained.

He pointed to the 2007 “Declaration of Ravenna,” in which Catholic and Orthodox theologians agreed that the bishop of Rome was the “protos,” or first among patriarchs, before the separation of East and West.

According to the Swiss cardinal, this was an immensely important step in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

“The fact that the two dialogue partners were able to declare together for the first time that the Church is structured synodally at all levels and therefore also at the universal level, and that she needs a protos is an important milestone in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue,” he said.

For this step to bear fruit in the future, Koch argued, it is necessary to deepen the relationship between synodality and primacy.

“It is not about reaching a compromise on the lowest common denominator. Rather, the respective strengths of the two ecclesial communities should be brought in,” he said. 

Koch pointed to a recommendation made by one Orthodox-Catholic working group that “the Churches must strive above all to achieve a better balance between synodality and primacy at all levels of ecclesial life, through the strengthening of synodal structures in the Catholic Church and through the acceptance by the Orthodox Church of a certain type of primacy within the world communion of Churches.”

The cardinal emphasized that “there must be a willingness to learn on both sides.” 

He said that the Catholic Church “must recognize that in her life and in her ecclesial structures she has not yet developed that degree of synodality which would be theologically possible and necessary” and that “a credible link between the hierarchical and the synodal-community principles would favor the advancement of ecumenical dialogue with orthodoxy.”

“The strengthening of synodality must undoubtedly be considered as the most important contribution that the Catholic Church can make to the ecumenical recognition of primacy,” he said.

On the Orthodox side, Koch said, “we can instead expect that, in ecumenical dialogue, they will come to recognize that primacy at the universal level is not only possible and theologically legitimate, but also necessary.”

The cardinal suggested that intra-Orthodox tensions showed the need for a “ministry of unity also at the universal level of the Church” not limited to “a simple honorary primacy” but with legal elements.

“We Catholics consider the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as a gift from the Lord to his Church and, therefore, also as an offering to all of Christianity on the path of rediscovering unity and life in unity,” Koch wrote.

Report: Joe Biden set to promptly reverse pro-life policies

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President-elect Joe Biden is expected to promptly roll back pro-life policies the Trump administration put in place, NBC News reported on Monday. 

 

Biden, who will become the second Roman Catholic president when he is sworn in to office on Jan. 20, is believed to be seeking to repeal the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule and the expanded Mexico City Policy.

 

The Protect Life Rule prevents organizations which perform or refer for abortions from receiving Title X family planning funds. It effectively stripped Planned Parenthood of approximately $60 million annually in federal funding. 

 

The Mexico City Policy prohibits federal funding of international non-governmental organizations which promote abortion as a method of family planning.

 

Biden is also expected to address the contraceptive mandate, and he has previously pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment and codify Roe v. Wade into law; the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for elective abortions in Medicaid. 

 

Those actions, however, would depend upon Congress passing legislation.

 

Biden had previously supported the Hyde Amendment during his time in the Senate. Over the course of a 24-hour period in June 2019, however, he changed course amid pressure from pro-abortion groups and announced that he favored repealing the policy.

 

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took credit for Biden’s abrupt about-face on the Hyde Amendment. 

 

Newly sworn-in presidents traditionally either rescind or reinstate some form of the Mexico City Policy. The first iteration of the policy was in 1984. It was rescinded in Jan., 1993 by President Bill Clinton, reinstated in Jan., 2001 by President George W. Bush, rescinded again in Jan., 2009 by President Barack Obama, and reinstated by President Donald Trump in 2017. 

 

Shortly after he reinstated the policy, the Trump administration expanded it to encompass more than $8 billion in global health assistance and not just funds earmarked for family planning programs. 

 

Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, said it was “tremendously exciting” that her organization has “champions (in the administration) who understand what needs to happen in the first 100 days.” 

 

Biden, who invited leaders in Congress to church on the morning of his inauguration, expressed dismay when the Supreme Court sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their court battle against the contraceptive mandate. 

 

He pledged to reinstate Obama-era policies requiring the sisters to ensure access to birth control in their employee health plans, in violation of their religious beliefs.