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Leading pro-life bishops: Catholic Church must be prepared if Roe overturned

null / liseykina/Shutterstock

Baltimore, Md., Nov 18, 2021 / 18:15 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church must be prepared to act if Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, is overturned, says the incoming chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’  Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“If Roe is overturned, the issue, as I understand it, goes back to the states and the response will be uneven,” Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said Nov. 17, speaking on the issue of abortion. “Regardless, the Church has to be there and it has to continue teaching serenely, firmly, consistently, and lovingly.”

Lori spoke to CNA during the USCCB’s annual fall meeting held in Baltimore. His comments came as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that involves Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. The case challenges two landmark cases: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

If Roe were overturned, Lori envisions that some states would respond by doubling down on “protecting so-called abortion rights,” while others would prohibit abortion.

“Should there be an increase of moms bringing their child to term, the Church has to step up to the plate and be there,” he said. “Our health care institutions have to step up to the plate. Our Catholic charities, our parishes have to do this.”

Regardless of what happens, he said, “The duty to cherish and foster human life is always going to be part of who we are.”

Witnessing with actions

Asked about his plans as the pro-life chair, Lori told CNA that the first priority of any of the bishops’ committees has to be evangelization.

“In this case, it’s the gospel of life. Not that there is anything other than a gospel of life, but it's winning the minds and hearts of as many people as possible,” he said.

He stressed that, for Catholics, “the ways of supporting the culture of life are very, very accessible and many.”

“One important thing, vitally important thing, is prayer,” he said, noting the bishops’ discussion on the Eucharist and Eucharist revival during their assembly. “If we all got down on our knees and asked for the grace to create a culture of life and the civilization of love, as St. John Paul II taught us to do, what a difference that would make.” 

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore delivers a homily at the Mass for the bicentennial of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31, 2021. © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore delivers a homily at the Mass for the bicentennial of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31, 2021. © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

He also encouraged Catholics to “look around and see what's in your community.”

“Is there a pro-life pregnancy center? Can you donate?” he asked. “Can you volunteer? Can you serve on your parish pro-life committee? Can you think about going either to the March for Life in Washington or a local march for life in your own locale?”

He added that even something as small as giving a phone call to someone confined at home because of illness or age helps foster a culture of life.

“The little way, as St. Therese has shown us, is really the big way,” he said, referring to St. Therese of Lisieux’s approach to performing small, everyday acts with great love.

Lori shared why he, personally, identifies as pro-life.

“Not only my Catholic upbringing — and I've been very blessed to have a wonderful Catholic upbringing — but there's a couple of reasons,” he said. 

One is his brother with special needs. 

“I watched my mom and dad take care of him into their 90s, until they died,” he said. “If ever I needed a living example of what it means to cherish vulnerable human life and to resist the throwaway culture, my mom and dad gave me that example in spades and for decades.”

He then pointed to the influence of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization.

“Early in my priesthood I became connected with the Knights of Columbus,” said Lori, who is the supreme chaplain of the fraternal Catholic organization. “If ever there were a staunch pro-life organization, it's the Knights.”

He also encountered the influence of a mentor: the late Cardinal James Hickey.

“I was blessed to serve directly under Cardinal Hickey of Washington for almost 18 years and he taught me a lot about being pro-life and about being consistently pro-life,” he said.

“The humanity of the unborn child, but also loving urban kids that don't have a chance for a good education, helping the poor, the homeless, helping people lacking employment and housing, and then caring for those in the latter stages, he just demonstrated that.”

“He just embraced the Church’s faith and lived it,” he said. “So I saw firsthand what it means to be a pro-life leader in the Church from His Eminence.” 

Walking with moms

Lori applauded the Church’s pro-life work through initiative called Walking with Moms in Need. The project, run by the USCCB, encourages Catholics to support and “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women in difficult situations. During the bishops’ meeting, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, also commended the initiative.

The program “helps parishes to identify and help provide the full range of needs for mothers and their unborn children, not only during pregnancy, but for years to come,” according to a statement by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., Lori's predecessor as the USCCB's pro-life committee chairman.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and the outgoing chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, presents pro-life initiative Walking with Moms in Need to the U.S. bishops on Nov. 17, 2021 in Baltimore. Screenshot from USCCB video
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and the outgoing chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, presents pro-life initiative Walking with Moms in Need to the U.S. bishops on Nov. 17, 2021 in Baltimore. Screenshot from USCCB video

Naumann delivered a presentation on Walking with Moms in Need during the bishops’ meeting and recognized the importance of Dobbs’ challenge to Roe.

“We’re at a great moment in our culture’s efforts to restore protection to the unborn — a great moment of opportunity and promise with the Dobbs case being heard in just a few days,” he said of the case that will be heard on Dec. 1 and is expected to be decided next summer. 

The bishops “need to expect increased calls for help and assistance and the Church needs to be prepared to respond,” Naumann said. “This will be coming to all of our dioceses this June with the Dobbs decision.” 

He highlighted Walking with Moms as a solution that would help dioceses “be prepared for the day, God willing, when abortion is no longer the law of our land,” at another point. 

But regardless of how courts or legislators treat abortion, Naumann stressed that “our pastoral response will always remain the same.”

“If the Dobbs decision does allow for states to be able to protect unborn children more by law, some of our states will benefit from that legal protection but it will increase the number of women that we need to be prepared to serve,” he said. “And in states where that won’t happen because the legislature will not take advantage of this opportunity, the only way we can save the lives of these children and protect their mothers from the aftereffects of abortion is not with the law, but with love.”

Lori heartily agreed. “Walking with Moms in Need is a wonderful expression of the Church’s love not only for the unborn baby, but for the mom who finds herself in difficult and often dire straits,” he said.

He stressed that the Church cares for both the unborn child and his or her mother.

“One of the great untruths is that we simply want children to be born and then we forget about them. We don’t,” he said. “Walking with Moms in Need says we're going to continue the walk. It's accompaniment. It’s a real expression of the Church’s love and the Lord's love.”

Christian college argues against co-ed housing requirement in appellate court

Williams Memorial Chapel at the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri. / Nan Fry/Flickr

Denver Newsroom, Nov 18, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Attorneys representing a Christian college in Missouri delivered oral arguments Nov. 17 in federal court, seeking to preserve the school’s longstanding religiously held belief that men and women should be housed separately on campus. 

College of the Ozarks, a Christian liberal arts college in southern Missouri, sued the Biden administration in April, claiming a new housing rule would violate the school’s faith-based standards prohibiting males and females from living together in the same dormitories. 

Under the rule, which the Biden administration introduced during January 2021, a private school that decides to house only men in male dorms and only women in female dorms could be fined for gender identity discrimination, regardless of their religious beliefs. 

In addition, the new rule could force private colleges to allow a transgender person who identifies as a female to live in a female residence hall. 

Jerry C. Davis, the college’s president, said in a Nov. 18 interview with CNA that he has no intention of backing off in the fight to preserve the college’s 115-year history of honoring the Biblical view that there are inherent biological differences between men and women. 

“We never dreamed our own government would be, in essence, trying to play ‘Dean of students,’ or get involved internally with things like this,” Davis told CNA. 

Jerry C. Davis, president of College of the Ozarks in Missouri. Alliance Defending Freedom
Jerry C. Davis, president of College of the Ozarks in Missouri. Alliance Defending Freedom

The rule in question was formalized in February in a memo issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in which HUD interprets federal prohibitions of sex discrimination in housing to also protect sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“The problem with this directive is that it doesn’t make any room for the college to practice its deeply held religious beliefs,” said Ryan Bangert, senior counsel and vice president of legal strategy for Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing the college. 

“When people say this is discrimination, they are really asking the college to change its religious beliefs and its religious views,” Bangert said. “That is quite frankly discriminatory toward the college.” 

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals expedited the college’s appeal in July after a federal court denied the school’s request for a temporary injunction and restraining order. 

During the oral arguments of the appeal yesterday, the attorneys presented evidence that a directive of this nature violates the First Amendment, while also violating the procedural rights of the college under the Administrative Procedures Act and the Fair Housing Act because the college was never given an opportunity to voice concerns, nor to ask the agency to consider religious freedom interests. 

“It's especially egregious to us that such a change or decision was made without even the courtesy of asking religious institutions what would be the impact on them and their sincerely held religious views,” Davis, the school president, said. “We didn’t have a chance to respond.”

The chapel at College of the Ozarks in Missouri. Alliance Defending Freedom
The chapel at College of the Ozarks in Missouri. Alliance Defending Freedom

Bangert, the attorney, said that if the government is allowed to make significant policy changes without involving the public, “that sets us on a very dangerous path toward rule by bureaucrats.”

The Attorneys General of Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia have submitted briefs supporting the College of the Ozarks and asking for a reversal of the lower court’s decision not to block the rule.

College of the Ozarks was founded in 1906 by a Presbyterian minister. Davis says the college “admits only students who have financial need, most of whom would not have a chance at an education if it weren’t for us.”

“Why make that job any harder? Why not just leave us alone to do what we have been doing in the public good, in good faith for over a hundred years?” he said.

Forget RCIA, meet OCIA: U.S. bishops approve big name change

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided to change the name of the process by which individuals enter the Catholic Church. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Nov 18, 2021 / 16:32 pm (CNA).

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA, as it has been more commonly referred to, will have its name changed to Order of Christian Initiation for Adults, or OCIA, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided this week.

The name change applies both to the process by which one enters the Church and the book that contains the ritual text and prayers for those steps.

Following the trend of updating all liturgical texts to reflect greater fidelity to the original Latin, the U.S. bishops, meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, approved on Nov. 17 a revised English edition of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults. The English version passed 215-0 with two abstentions. 

The action still needs the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before it takes effect.

On May 7, 2001, Pope John Paul II published Liturgiam authenticam, a document on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman Liturgy. This document set in motion a translation effort aimed at preserving the closest wording of the Latin liturgy. People in the pews may be most familiar with the way this effort affected the translation of the Mass. 

Book by book, the bishops conferences of each language have translated updated versions of the various rites in the Church, renaming the Rite of Penance to the Order of Penance, for instance, after the Latin “Ordo paenitentiae.” 

This is the latest book to undergo the translation effort. Because RCIA was also the name popularly associated with the process of going through the restored catechumenate, the process also has been renamed, a potentially confusing switch that may leave people wondering if anything else changed within the process.  

In a slight revision, the traditional categorization of those petitioning for full acceptance into the Church has been changed. The new revision includes four groups: catechumens (who are unbaptized adults); unbaptized infants; baptized non-Catholic Christians, and baptized Catholics in need of confirmation.

Additionally, individuals in RCIA were usually referred to as a “candidate.” OCIA will be split depending on where the candidate is in the initiation process. Terms used will be “inquirer,” “catechumen” and “elect.” 

In order to become a Catholic, individuals go through several rites with the final being at the Easter Vigil when they are welcomed into the Catholic Church. The Easter Vigil rites have also been adjusted. They will now focus more on the validity of baptisms received in other Christian denominations. 

The new edition will also include texts for infant baptisms at the Easter Vigil, a feature not widely practiced before this change. 

A Spanish version was also voted on and passed 218-3 with one abstention. It will keep the acronym of RICA, which in Spanish translates as “Ritual de Iniciación Cristiana de Adultos.” 

Oklahoma governor's clemency of Julius Jones took 'tremendous courage,' Archbishop Coakley says

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley preaching during Mass in the cathedral in 2021. / Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 18, 2021 / 12:21 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City praised Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) for his “tremendous courage” in granting convicted murderer Julius Jones clemency hours ahead of his scheduled execution on Nov. 18.

“It took tremendous courage in the face of intense pressure for Gov. Stitt to grant clemency in this case,” said Coakley, in a statement released shortly after the governor commuted Jones’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I applaud his commitment to seeking justice while providing the condemned an opportunity for redemption,” the archbishop continued. “To oppose the death penalty is not to be soft on crime. Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.” 

Earlier on Thursday, Coakley tweeted that he “offered Mass this morning for Julis and Gov. Stitt. It’s in the Lord’s hands now.” The Archdiocese of OKlahoma City had planned several simultaneous prayer vigils throughout the archdiocese in the hour before Jones was set to be executed. 

Jones was sentenced to death in 2002 for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. His case drew international attention and he has maintained that he is innocent of the crime. Howell was shot twice in the head in his parents’ driveway, in front of his daughters. Jones, who was 19-years-old, was accused of shooting Howell while in the process of carjacking his SUV. 

Howell’s family believes Jones is responsible for the murder. 

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended on Nov. 1 that Jones be granted clemency. Despite the recommendation, it was up to Stitt to decide whether or not to commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Stitt commuted his sentence shortly after noon Central time on Thursday. Jones was set to be executed at 4 p.m. Central. 

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” said Stitt in a statement released after he decided to commute the sentence. 

In the nearly two decades since Jones was sentenced to death, there has been a growing movement to stop his execution. The Innocence Project, as well as many celebrities, have drawn international attention to his case. 

A petition calling for the state of Oklahoma to stop the execution has been signed by more than six and a half million people. 

Alabama college students to host school’s first Eucharistic procession

Eucharistic procession the evening of Nov. 18, 2021 on the campus of the University of South Alabama. / Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Student Center

Boston, Mass., Nov 18, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

The Catholic student center at the University of South Alabama in Mobile is set to host the school’s first-ever Eucharistic procession the evening of Nov. 18. 

“We are very honored to be a part of the first ever Eucharistic procession on campus,” said Millie Martorana, a junior majoring in Business Management who attends Mass at the student center. 

The event is set to begin with a Mass in front of the school’s Hancock Whitney Stadium at 6 p.m. CST, followed by the Eucharistic procession which will stop in the middle of the campus at the Moulton Tower for prayers, and will finish at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Student Center. Organizers say the event is open to all students and anyone off campus who wishes to participate. 

Martorana told CNA she is most excited about the opportunity to “offer this powerful prayer for all of the students on campus and testify to the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.”

“I hope that this event will allow students to encounter Jesus through reverence, beauty, and prayer wherever they may be,” she added.

Father Norbert Jurek, chaplain at the student center, told CNA that after talking to the chaplains who preceded him, he discovered that this will likely be the first time a Eucharistic procession has ever taken place on the public University of South Alabama campus.

Students of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Student Center at the University of South Alabama with the chaplain, Fr. Norbert Jurek (back row, third from right). Courtesy of Katie Ray
Students of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Student Center at the University of South Alabama with the chaplain, Fr. Norbert Jurek (back row, third from right). Courtesy of Katie Ray

“We are really happy that we were able to put it together this year and hopefully it’s going to be a regular thing,” Jurek said, adding that students are not generally on campus during the Feast of Corpus Christi, a day when Eucharistic processions are widely held across the world. 

Alabama as a whole has a population of almost 5 million, only about 7% of whom are Catholic, with the vast majority of Alabamans identifying as Protestant. 

Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile has declared “The Year of the Eucharist and the Parish,” which ends Nov. 21, 2021. As a result, the Catholic student center was inspired to do a Eucharistic procession to finish out the year, Jurek said. 

Jurek also said that because of “unfortunate” reports of the large percentage of Catholics who do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Center decided the Eucharistic procession would be a great way to demonstrate their belief. 

Current students and alumni have reached out to Jurek sharing their excitement about the procession, he said, giving him “a lot of positive feedback.”

“I have to say the university was also very helpful in organizing it, approving the whole event, so that has been great as well,” he said.

Jurek said he thinks the Mass and procession will take a little more than an hour to complete, after which participants are invited back to the center for free reception.

Martorana said she thinks that the event “will encourage all involved to live out the passage in Luke 8 that says, ‘No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light’: to share and proclaim the gift that is the true presence of Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.”

Cardinal Sarah calls Catholic priests to spiritual renewal in new book

Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Sept. 28, 2019. / Evandro Inetti/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 18, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

In a new book, Cardinal Robert Sarah calls priests to spiritual renewal, saying that it will not come through structural changes, but through rediscovering the priest’s mission and identity as the presence of Christ in the world.

“Christ never created structures. Of course, I’m not saying they aren’t necessary. Organization is useful in society, but it is not first,” Sarah said in a Nov. 16 interview with the Catholic French weekly Famille Chrétienne.

“What is first is the very first word of Christ in the Gospel of Mark: ‘Convert and believe in the Gospel.’”

The Vatican’s former liturgy chief published “Pour l’éternité: Méditations sur la figure du prêtre” (“For Eternity: Meditations on the Figure of the Priest”) in Europe on Nov. 17.

The book, currently available only in French, includes passages from saints and the Church Fathers to encourage meditation on the renewal of the priesthood, which, according to the cardinal, is a necessary step on the way to resolving the crisis in the Catholic Church.

“If priests, if society look to God, then I think things will change,” he told Famille Chrétienne. “If hearts are not changed by the Gospel, politics will not change, the economy will not change, human relationships will not change. It is Christ who is our peace, who will create more fraternal human relations, of collaboration, of cooperation.”

Structures “are also often a danger, because we take refuge behind them,“ he said. “God will not ask accounts of an episcopal conference, of a synod ... It is us, bishops, that he will hold accountable: how did you manage your diocese, how did you love your priests, how did you accompany them spiritually?”

Sarah ended a more than six-year term as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in February.

The 76-year-old from Guinea wrote a book on the priesthood, celibacy, and the crisis of the Catholic Church, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” in 2020. The book attracted controversy centered on whether it was co-authored by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Sarah said that in his new book he wanted to express his affection and encouragement both to priests who are struggling and those who feel strong in their vocation.

“It is about encouraging them not to lose God, to have the courage to follow Christ as they accepted from the beginning, on the day of their ordination,” he explained. “Because the crisis that we are going through today in the Church depends essentially on the priestly crisis.”

The cardinal also commented on the scandal of abuse in the priesthood, saying that the Church “must not be afraid of the truth.”

“We must feel deeply hurt, suffer from it as Christ suffered when Judas betrayed him, when Peter denied him,” he said, adding that the Church and her priests are supposed to be models, and even one case of abuse is too many.

“The discovery of so many sins committed gives us a better understanding of the apparent sterility of our local churches. How could we bear fruit when such cancer was gnawing at us from within? We must rediscover the meaning of penance and contrition,” he said, urging adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament “in reparation for the profanations committed against his image in the souls of children.”

Sarah added that Catholics should not let themselves be overcome by discouragement, however, because the overwhelming majority of priests are faithful, which is a cause for thanksgiving.

“Their daily and hidden fidelity makes no noise, but it silently carries deep seeds of renewal,” he said.

“It is up to us to see how the guilty priests can be punished and, if possible, cared for, healed, accompanied, so that such acts do not happen again,” the cardinal continued. “Above all, it is up to us not to let these horrors turn souls away from Christ and lock up so many innocent victims in suffering.”

Sarah’s book is dedicated to seminarians, and he said he wanted to encourage them too, because they are studying to become priests at a difficult time.

He said that he wanted to tell them that if Christ has called them to the Catholic priesthood, he will also give them the means to really follow him.

“Try to take this call seriously. The Lord who calls you is not going to leave you alone. He will support you with his grace, but you yourself must be a fully realized man, a true, honest, upright man who has all the human qualities,” he said.

Families play an important role in supporting priests, he noted, encouraging people to invite priests into their homes to pray and converse.

A strong prayer life is vital for every priest, he said, citing the example of the saints such as St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars.

When his interviewer pointed out that “the France of the Curé of Ars is not the France of the 21st century,” Sarah responded: “Indeed, but man is the same. Man does not change. He has the same ambitions, he has the same flaws, the same vices from Adam until today.”

“It is only the circumstances that we have created that can confuse us, but man does not change,” he insisted, adding that “the Frenchman of the Curé d’Ars is the Frenchman of today, with the difference that the Frenchman of today has a cell phone ... But in his ambitions, in his vices, and his faults, he is the same. We still need holy priests identified with Christ.”

The cardinal also commented on the way that France and other Western countries have closed themselves off to God.

“If France, if the West, thanks to the ministry of priests, rediscover that God has come among us, that he loves us, that he wants our salvation, that he wants us to discover the truth and that this truth will help us will set free, then the mission will be possible,” he said.

“But there is no need to despair,” he continued. “That is why priests must rediscover their mission, priests must rediscover their identity. They are the presence of Christ in the midst of this world. If they conduct themselves well, if they are the presence of Christ, then France and the West can rediscover him little by little.”

Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master to be buried in Maltese cathedral’s crypt

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, pictured on Feb. 18, 2013, at the order’s headquarters in Rome. / Estefania Aguirre/CNA.

Valletta, Malta, Nov 18, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the 79th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, will be buried in the crypt of a cathedral in Malta’s capital city following his funeral on Dec. 3.

The order announced on Nov. 17 that the funeral will be held at 2 p.m. local time at St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, Pope Francis’ special delegate to the Order of Malta, will celebrate the Requiem Mass and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta will concelebrate.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant of the Grand Master, will attend the ceremony.

Festing, who died in Malta on Nov. 12 at the age of 71, will be buried in the cathedral’s Grand Masters’ Crypt, which was reopened to the public in January 2020 after restoration work.

Television Malta reported that Festing will be the order’s 12th Grand Master to be buried in the crypt and the first for hundreds of years.

The website of St John’s Co-Cathedral says that the crypt, located beneath the high altar, houses the remains of the 11 Grand Masters who led the order from 1522 to 1623.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Máté via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Máté via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Those buried in the crypt include: Fra’ Philippe de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, the 44th Grand Master, who brought the order to Malta in 1530; Fra’ Jean de La Vallette-Parisot, the 49th Grand Master, who led the resistance at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565; and Fra’ Jean l’Evesque de La Cassière, the 51st Grand Master, who commissioned the church that would become St John’s Co-Cathedral.

Festing served as the Grand Master of the lay religious Catholic order, founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century, from 2008 to his resignation in 2017.

The order’s Grand Magistry said on Nov. 12 that the Englishman felt ill after attending a solemn profession of religious vows in St John’s Co-Cathedral on Nov. 4. He was admitted to hospital, where he later died.

“On the day of the funeral, the flags of the Sovereign Order of Malta will fly at half-mast on the buildings of the order’s institutions and works around the world,” the order said in its Nov. 17 statement.

Why was Indy chosen for the Eucharistic Congress? The archbishop explains

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, one of the venues for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress. / Shutterstock

Baltimore, Md., Nov 18, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

Half of America lives within a day’s drive of Indianapolis.

The U.S. bishops hope up to 100,000 of those people show up in the Circle City three years from now for the first national Eucharistic congress since 1976.

“Our people are excited about what it can mean for us as families, as individuals, as parishes, as a diocese, but [also] as a Church throughout the country,” Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis told CNA on Nov. 17.

Earlier in the day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the city as the location of the National Eucharist Congress, scheduled for July 17-21, 2024. The gathering will mark the culmination of a three-year Eucharist revival campaign the U.S. bishops plan to undertake, beginning on June 19, 2022 on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Denver, Atlanta, and Indianapolis all made the short list of possible host cities, Thompson said. 

In the end, he was told, it was the city’s central location, its highly regarded convention facilities, and its experience hosting major events, including the Super Bowl, last year’s NBA playoffs, and the 2022 College Football Championship Game Jan. 10, that tipped the scales.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis at the the 2021 Fall Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Shannon Mullen/CNA
Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis at the the 2021 Fall Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Shannon Mullen/CNA

The city’s convention center, 70,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium, and a network of major hotels are all connected to one another, Thompson noted, making it easy for event goers to move from site to site without going outdoors.

Thompson himself was flying home Nov. 18 to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference, being held in Indianapolis Nov. 18-20.

Because it’s been 45 years since the last U.S. Eucharistic congress, in Philadelphia, American Catholics might need a refresher about what such a happening actually is.

In short, it’s a concentrated celebration of the Eucharist as the centerpiece of Catholic life, and typically features Masses, adoration, processions, and inspirational speakers, among other events. The 52nd International Eucharist Congress took place in Budapest, Hungary on Sept. 5-12.

The city’s selection as host of the 2024 congress will mean more work for the archdiocese, but Thompson told CNA he’s confident his staff is up for the challenge.

He thinks Indianapolis is a fitting choice, for many reasons.

“Indiana is known as the crossroads of America,” he said. 

“When I think of crossroads I think of the cross. And without the cross, there would be no Eucharist. Jesus on Holy Thursday night gives a great model of service, but he also gives us his body and blood.”

Catholic teenager suspended for saying there are only two genders sues school district

Exeter High School in Exeter, New Hampshire. / Austin Blake Grant via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Denver Newsroom, Nov 17, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic teenager who was reportedly suspended for saying there are only two genders is suing his New Hampshire public school district.

The lawsuit, filed in a state court Nov. 4, said that the teen’s suspension from a football game in September breached the teen’s constitutional right to free speech, as well as the New Hampshire Bill of Rights, reported The Portsmouth Herald.

The teen, identified only as M.P., is a freshman at Exeter High School, a public high school in Exeter, New Hampshire.

The lawsuit, filed in Rockingham Superior Court through an attorney with the Christian organization Cornerstone, describes M.P. as “a believing Catholic, holding to the historic Christian doctrine that God created human beings male and female.” 

Citing the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them,” the suit says: “The Catholic Church’s formal teachings explicitly reject all ‘attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature.’”

The lawsuit challenges the school district’s “Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” policy, which states that “A student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity.”

Cornerstone argues that the policy penalizes students who, out of religious conviction, decline to address students by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex.

The policy adds: “The intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of this policy.”

The lawsuit traces the suspension back to a Spanish class on Sept. 9 in which a teacher asked students to introduce themselves. A student reportedly expressed a preference for being addressed as “they.”

M.P. had no interaction with the student, the lawsuit said, but spoke with two friends on a school bus about the use of third-person pronouns in Spanish. 

The lawsuit asserts that a female student overheard the conversation and interjected: “There’s more than two genders!” 

M.P. reportedly replied: “No there isn’t: there’s only two genders.”

The young man is said to have received a text message later from the female student seeking to continue the discussion.

“The two then had a contentious exchange of texts on the issue,” the lawsuit said, which took place “outside of school hours and off school grounds.” 

The texts were given to the school administration and resulted in M.P.’s suspension, the suit says.

Exeter Superintendent David Ryan said that he was aware of the lawsuit, which seeks nominal damages and an injunction prohibiting the school district from applying the policy “to penalize, through athletic suspension or other means, mere expression of the belief that there are only two genders.”

“We are in the process of reviewing this complaint with legal counsel and will be able to share a statement once we have completed that review,” Ryan said.

The lawsuit argues that the school district policy and the chain of events leading to the suspension are not neutral towards religion.

“Instead, they compel M. P. to deny the historic tenets of his faith by affirming non-binary gender identities and/or using ideologically loaded terms such as the singular pronoun ‘they,’ it said. 

“Defendants’ policies and actions disfavor the expression of beliefs held by tens of millions of believing Catholics in the United States, as well as by countless other traditional Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews.”

Everything you need to know about the National Eucharistic Congress

Bishop-designate Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., speaks to the general assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 17, 2021, in Baltimore. / Screenshot from USCCB video

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2021 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

Seeking to rekindle devotion to the Eucharist, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Nov. 17 to launch an ambitious, three-year revival initiative, culminating with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024.

“My sense, from speaking with you, is that the Holy Spirit is leading us together to fulfill a great need for the Church,” Bishop-designate Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., one of the architects of the multi-faceted campaign, said Wednesday during the USCCB’s annual fall assembly in Baltimore.

The revival initiative will include the development of new teaching materials, training for diocesan and parish leaders, the launch of a dedicated revival website, and the deployment of a special team of 50 priests who will travel the country to preach about the Eucharist.

The campaign will officially launch on June 19, 2022 on the feast of Corpus Christi. Dioceses will be encouraged to hold Eucharistic processions on that day, Cozzens said. He said Blessed Carlo Acutis, the young Italian Catholic who used his computer skills to share online content about Eucharistic miracles, will be the patron of the revival’s first year.

Perhaps the revival’s most ambitious component is a National Eucharistic Congress planned for July 17-21, 2024 in Indianapolis, Cozzens announced Wednesday. In an interview with CNA, Cozzens said the congress would be the first of its kind in the United States in nearly 50 years. He told the bishops during his presentation that the last large U.S. Eucharistic congress took place in Philadelphia in 1976. Previously, Cozzens said, such national eucharistic events were held once a decade.

The bishops voted 201 to 17 in favor of the revival campaign, with five abstentions. The voting was anonymous and conducted electronically.

“I am very hopeful that it will produce the great fruits that all my brother bishops are praying for and hoping for during these days, including helping people in the course of the revival to rediscover the beauty of the Mass and return to Mass,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City said prior to the vote.

“I think we're on the cusp and on the verge of something truly impactful and wonderful for the Church in the United States,” Coakley said. “I think this might be just what we need.” 

“Let the revival begin, brothers,” Cozzens said after the vote.

Currently an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Cozzens serves as chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. In an interview with CNA, he said the initiative is a comprehensive effort to spark a greater love and devotion to the Eucharist.

“Our goal is to lead people to a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist so that their lives can be transformed,” Cozzens said.

“And the reason it's three years is because we want to affect the Church at every level,” with different initiatives geared for parishes, dioceses, and the country as a whole, he said.

“We want the depth. We don't just want to have a couple of nice celebrations that say the Eucharist is great,” Cozzens told CNA.

“The bishops are asking for a deep and sustained focus on the Eucharist. And my hope is that … this will become a long-lasting movement,” Cozzens said.

Other highlights of the revival plan include the following:

  • The distribution of a “how-to” handbook to diocesan leaders in December.

  • The launch of a dedicated website,, expected in January, providing a wealth of catechetical resources in both English and Spanish, including the new document on the Eucharist the bishops approved Nov. 17. Cozzens said the website is being funded by FORMED, an online provider of Catholic faith formation resources, amounting to an in-kind gift of $1.2 million.

  • The commission of a new study on Catholic belief in the Eucharist by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. Cozzens said the study will be funded by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. The new study stems in part from concerns among U.S. Catholic leaders about the validity of a widely referenced Pew Research Center survey in 2019 that found that just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

  • The development of a national advertising campaign about the revival effort, funded by a grant from the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is also partnering with the USCCB to provide dioceses with a “tool kit” for holding Corpus Christi processions.

During the discussion about the revival initiative Wednesday, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, said that while he supported the idea of holding a Eucharistic Congress, he questions the estimated $28 million cost associated with holding the event, which Cozzens said he hopes can draw between 80,000 and 100,000 people to Indianapolis.

“I think this is a wonderful proposal. I’m a little concerned, though, and I've mentioned this to you once before, the $28 million price tag on this gathering, I think, might appear to be a bit scandalous, if you think about all of the things that the Church needs and asks money for."

“We're talking about a lot of people, that's the real issue,” Cozzens responded. “That's why it costs so much. I do think the spiritual fruits of the event will be worth the investment.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Archbishop Coakley's statements on the Eucharistic Revival initiative to another speaker.