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Pope Francis, Biden commend ‘peacemaker’ Bishop O’Connell as memorial services begin

A memorial Mass for the late Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell was held at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights, California, on March 1, 2023. / Credit: YouTube/St. John Vianney Hacienda Heights

Boston, Mass., Mar 2, 2023 / 13:27 pm (CNA).

As three days of memorial services began Wednesday for the late Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who was murdered in his Hacienda Heights home on Feb. 18, Pope Francis and President Joe Biden commended the man known as a “peacemaker.”

News of O’Connell’s murder and the subsequent arrest of his housekeeper’s husband in connection with the killing came as a shock to Catholics across the nation. Among those mourning the late bishop was Pope Francis, whose message was read at Wednesday’s memorial Mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights, California.

Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez was the main celebrant of a 7 p.m. memorial Mass in which O’Connell’s younger brother attended and shared memories of growing up together in Ireland.

Pope Francis: O’Connell had ‘profound concern for the poor’

In a message from Pope Francis read aloud at the beginning of Mass by Gomez, the Holy Father commended O’Connell, 69, for his efforts to uphold the sanctity of life and his profound concern for the poor.

The pope sent his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness” to all the clergy, religious, and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after the bishop’s “untimely and tragic death.”

Pope Francis remembered the bishop for his “profound concern for the poor, immigrants, and those in need; his efforts to uphold the sanctity and dignity of God’s gift of life; and his zeal for fostering solidarity, cooperation, and peace within the local community.”

“In commending the late bishop’s soul to the love and mercy of Christ the Good Shepherd, His Holiness prays that all who honor his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence and overcome evil with good,” said the message, which was signed by Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“To those gathered for the Mass of Christian burial and to all who mourn Bishop O’Connell’s loss in the sure hope of the resurrection, the Holy Father cordially imparts his blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in the Lord.”

‘Dave got us through tough times’

O’Connell’s younger brother, Kieran O’Connell, thanked the local Catholic community for the outpouring of support and said that his brother had a strong belief in the power of prayer.

“I know he has been a source of solace for myself and my family as well,” he said.

“As my older brother, he was an immense support to me during the passing of our parents and also my brothers and sister. Dave got us through these tough times. He always said it was God’s plan and thanked God for their wonderful lives,” O’Connell said. 

Reflecting on his brother’s ordination, O’Connell said: “It was the proudest moment for our family and for the whole community when he said his first Mass in our local parish church.”

O’Connell noted the many “great memories” he had of visiting his brother in Los Angeles and the active role that the bishop played in the raising of his children.

“He was present at every milestone in our lives, baptism, holy Communion, graduation, weddings,” he said. “We forever cherish those memories.”

“Just thank you most sincerely for taking care of Dave for these 45 years and know that he was happiest here among his people,” he said, fighting back tears.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell's brother, Kieran O'Connell, speaks at the bishop's memorial Mass on March 1, 2023. Credit: YouTube/St. John Vianney Hacienda Heights
Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell's brother, Kieran O'Connell, speaks at the bishop's memorial Mass on March 1, 2023. Credit: YouTube/St. John Vianney Hacienda Heights

‘Christ was looking Dave right in the eyes’

Monsignor Timothy Dyer, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Los Angeles, gave the homily and opened his remarks by recalling Archbishop Gomez’s presence at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Feb. 22 press conference following the arrest of O’Connell’s alleged murderer, Carlos Medina.

The archbishop had fought back tears as he struggled to get through his brief comments during that press conference.

“Before we begin to reflect on the Scripture readings I would like think that I represent each of you when I say to the archbishop that on the day he spoke in the news conference with the officials from the city and the state and the county around him, his inability to put into words his feelings, was the best way to speak for all of us,” Dyer said. 

Dyer said that the Catholic community has been “overwhelmed” at the “pouring out of praise and gratitude” and sympathy from both the Catholic community and the secular community for O’Connell. 

“If ever there was a man of prayer that I’ve known it was Dave,” he said. O’Connell would often begin meetings with the prayer method of lectio divina, he said, joking that “and he didn’t worry about how much time it took.”

O’Connell was passionate about standing up for immigrants, standing against racism, and standing up for the unborn and women, Dyer said. 

“You could not pigeonhole him. If you wanted to put him up on your banner and let him be your patron for your particular cause, you could only do it if you embraced all of the things that he embraced, and all of the places he fished because it was an ethic of life from beginning to end,” he said.

Dyer’s recommendation that “it would be wise” for the seminary to hold an annual seminar to study O’Connell’s spirituality and ministry, was received with applause from those gathered at the church.

Dyer said that O’Connell had a “great devotion to Mary” that was “reflected in his respect and his admiration for women in religious life.” 

Speaking briefly abuse the clergy sex abuse crisis, Dyer said that O’Connell would say to his fellow priests: “Wear it like a hairshirt. Let it irritate you so that it will never happen again.”

For O’Connell, becoming a bishop was a cross rather than a promotion, Dyer said, adding that “it almost broke his heart.”

O’Connell did not want to leave the flock that he pastored, Dyer said. “We need to take care of our bishops. It is not an easy life,” he said.

Fighting back tears, Dyer reflected on the last moments of O’Connell’s life.

“When the bullets were being fired, Christ was looking Dave right in the eyes, and he said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You may lay down the nets now Dave. I’ve prepared a place for you in the Father’s house,’” he said.

Dyer continued: “And there’s someone there who’s waiting too, the one you’ve always called the Blessed Mother, as well as your own mother, waiting to fold you in her arms. And Dave, you don’t have to be a bishop anymore. But in front of your dwelling place, there’s a great big lake. And we have a lot of fishing to do on behalf of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles still,” he said.

Biden White House statement

In response to a question from EWTN White House Correspondent Owen Jensen, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said March 1 that “the president and the first lady join Archbishop Gomez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the entire Catholic community in the mourning of Bishop David O’Connell.”

“We also express our sympathy and prayers for the family and friends of the bishop, who will certainly remember his legacy of service to those on the margins of society. And so, again, we offer up our condolences to the community.”

There will be a public viewing on Thursday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The viewing will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.  

A vigil Mass will be held following the public viewing at 7 p.m. and will be livestreamed both here and here.

O’Connell’s funeral Mass will be held on Friday, March 3, at the same Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 11 a.m. local time. The funeral Mass will be livestreamed both here and here.

Merrick Garland grilled on anti-Catholic, pro-abortion bias during Senate hearing

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C. / Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday fielded questions from lawmakers regarding alleged anti-Catholic, anti-pro-life bias within the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In his responses to questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney general called a now-retracted Richmond FBI memo that suggested investigating traditionalist Catholics for possible ties to domestic terrorists “appalling.”

Garland also defended the DOJ and FBI during heated exchanges with Republicans over whether federal agencies are biased against the pro-life movement in their enforcement of federal laws.

The FBI memo and allegations of anti-Catholic bias

In response to questioning from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, Garland denounced a memo from the FBI’s Richmond division, which detailed a strategy to investigate a link between “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” and “the far-right white nationalist movement.”

The now-retracted memo discussed investigating Catholic parishes that offer the Traditional Latin Mass and certain Catholic online communities. The document cited a list from the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which organizations adhere to “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology.”

Hawley asked Garland whether the Department of Justice is “cultivating sources and spies in Latin Mass parishes and other Catholic parishes around the country.”

“The Justice Department does not do that,” Garland said. “It does not do investigations based on religion. I saw the document you have. It’s appalling. It’s appalling. I’m in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and it’s now looking into how this could ever have happened.”

Hawley pressed the issue further, asking Garland how many informants the FBI has in Catholic churches.

“I don’t know and I don’t believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches,” Garland responded. “We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment activity. But I don’t know the specific answer to that question.”

Hawley criticized Garland for not providing a definitive answer to the question.

“You don’t know the specifics of anything it seems, but apparently on your watch, this Justice Department is targeting Catholics, targeting people of faith, specifically for their faith views,” Hawley said. “And Mr. Attorney General, I’ll just say to you, it’s a disgrace.”

Alleged targeting of pro-life activists

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, asked Garland to account for a disparity in the number of prosecutions of pro-life activists and pro-abortion activists under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The FACE Act made it a federal crime to impede access to a pro-life pregnancy center or abortion clinic.

Lee noted that there have been 81 reported attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers “and only two individuals have been charged” with violating the FACE Act. Meanwhile, he said, 34 pro-life activists have been charged for blocking access to or vandalizing abortion clinics.

Garland acknowledged the disparity in prosecutions and attributed it to pro-life activists’ tendency to operate openly, in the light of day.

“There are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the abortion centers, but that is generally because those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Garland responded.

“Those who are attacking the pregnancy resource centers, which is a horrid thing to do, are doing this at night in the dark. We have put full resources on this. We have put rewards out for this,” he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, contrasted the lack of prosecutions involving crimes against pro-life pregnancy centers with the FBI’s arrest of Mark Houck, a pro-life activist charged by the FBI for allegedly violating the FACE Act but acquitted on all counts.

“Two dozen agents clad in body armor and ballistic helmets and shields and a battering ram showed up at his house pointing rifles at his family,” Cruz said.

Garland responded by stating “the decisions about how to do that are made at the level of the FBI agents on scene” and “my understanding is the FBI disagrees with that description.”

Despite ‘no’ from Vatican, German bishops moves forward with plans for synodal council

Bishop Georg Bätzing at the closing press conference of the spring plenary meeting of the German bishops’ conference. / Martin Rothweiler/EWTN.TV.

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Despite repeated warnings from the Vatican, a letter by the president of the German Bishops’ Conference published Wednesday confirms that plans for a German synodal council are progressing. 

In the letter— dated Feb. 23 and published March 1 — Bishop Georg Bätzing writes that the German bishops take the Vatican’s “concerns” about a German synodal council seriously. 

The message is addressed to Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and to the prefects of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and the Dicastery for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, PSS.

The German bishop tells the cardinals a German “synodal committee” would prepare a synodal council over three years. This move, Bätzing writes, is “a sign that there is still a great need for clarification regarding future synodal cooperation.”

In a four-page letter in January, the Vatican wrote “that neither the Synodal Way nor a body appointed by it nor a bishops’ conference have the competence to establish the ‘synodal council’ at the national, diocesan, or parish level.”

Bätzing’s response says that the German side now wants to delve into the theological issues raised by Rome.

“Therefore, I ask for your understanding if I do not address individual aspects of your remarks in this letter, but gladly and gratefully take up the offer of conversation you have proposed.”

The conversation, Bätzing adds, should continue in Rome “as soon as possible” — but after the final meeting of the German Synodal Way in Frankfurt.

The German bishops are meeting this week in the East German town of Dresden for their plenary assembly. 

At the outset of this meeting, the papal nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, said he had been “commissioned ex officio” to “specify that, according to a correct interpretation of the content of this letter, not even a diocesan bishop can establish a synodal council at the diocesan or parish level.”

The nuncio also stated, CNA Deutsch reported, that synodality did not mean creating “new institutions with the risk of a further increase in bureaucracy.” 

Instead, he warned the German bishops, “what is needed is to revitalize the already existing diocesan bodies in a synodal spirit.” 

Synodality was “more a question of spirit and style than of structures,” he said.

Pope Francis and other Church leaders have expressed serious concerns about plans to create a permanent synodal council for the German Church. 

Such a body would function “as a consultative and decision-making body on essential developments in the Church and society,” according to a Synodal Way proposal.

More importantly, it would “make fundamental decisions of supra-diocesan significance on pastoral planning, questions of the future, and budgetary matters of the Church that are not decided at the diocesan level.”

In response to warnings from Rome about taking such a step, Bätzing in January already suggested he would pursue a “fallback option.”

“We in Germany are looking for a way of truly deliberating and deciding together without overriding the canonical regulations that affect the authority of the bishop,” the German prelate said.

As to the objections raised at the meetings in the Vatican — and confirmed in a letter approved by Pope Francis — Bätzing in January repeated his public dismissal of these concerns — and vowed the Synodal Way would continue pursuing its controversial agenda in the face of them.

Concerns by German bishops

The bishops of Cologne, Regensburg, Passau, Eichstätt, and Augsburg wrote to the Vatican on Dec. 21, 2022. They raised what Bätzing acknowledged were “justified and necessary questions” — particularly whether bishops could be compelled to abide by such a council’s authority.

This was not the case, the Vatican’s letter noted. The message, written in German, reminded Bätzing that according to Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches “that episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college.”

Running to four pages, the latest Vatican letter to Germany said it was approved by Pope Francis. It was signed by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria; and the former prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Warning of a threat of a new schism from Germany, the Vatican already intervened in July 2022 against a German synodal council. 

Ukrainian soldier saved by praying the rosary, priest recounts

null / Credit: Günther Simmermacher/pixabay

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

One year from the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, a Catholic priest recounted how a Ukrainian soldier was spared from being killed by praying the rosary.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Father Josafat Boyko, a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and pastor of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, explained that part of his ministry is to provide spiritual direction to soldiers fighting the Russian invasion, which began Feb. 24, 2022.

On one occasion, a soldier told him that after leaving the place where he was in order to pray the rosary, “a bomb fell” on it.

“Thus by praying the rosary, he was saved from death,” the priest related.

‘The voice of the Church is very important’

Boyko stressed that in the face of the drama in Ukraine, “the voice of the Church is very important to tell the truth.”

“The Church has to raise its voice. She has to shout the truth to the world about the war in Ukraine,” he said.

“Many people are dying” in Ukraine, he said, and Ukrainians are known for defending “their people and their land.”

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia’s armed attack against Ukraine began, until Feb. 12 of this year there have been 18,955 civilian casualties recorded in the country with 7,199 killed and 11,756 injured.

However, Boyko pointed out that the crisis dates back several years. “Ukraine since 2014 has been in a state of undeclared war. Russia began to attack Ukraine by attacking some territories of the province of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea,” he said.

Faced with the current humanitarian crisis, the priest said, “the churches in many places have become refuges for people who had to leave their homes because of the war.”

“So the Church as an institution began to be like an organization that helped obtain food from various countries of the world for the poor and needy.”

In addition, Boyko said that “we broadcast online the Josaft Boyko channel on YouTube and we pray for peace.”

It’s also possible for people “who don’t have a church” to be able to access the prayers “through the internet,” he explained.

The Ukrainian priest stressed that “we continue to preach the Gospel and continue to pray for the conversion of Russia, as well as what Our Lady of Fatima said in 1917, when she asked to pray for Russia.”

“We want to promote peace and not rancor,” he stressed.

Since the beginning of the war, they have dedicated themselves at the parish to distributing food and clothing to the poor and to the soldiers.

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

Spokesman for Russian Catholic bishops: ‘There is no foreseeable solution’ to Ukraine war

null / Credit: Vlad Vasnetsov/pixabay

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Father Kirill Gorbunov, who is also vicar general of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow, said that “the majority of the people are suffering” and that “after a year of war [with Ukraine], there is no foreseeable solution.”

“It seems that the only proposed solution is to make the conflict even worse,” he lamented.

According to the priest, those who come to him “in search of spiritual guidance speak of fear of an uncertain future, disillusionment and anger towards those they believe to be responsible for the current situation; sometimes also towards God and the Church.”

In addition, he said that there is “suffering because of conflicts between colleagues, friends, and relatives due to different political points of view.”

Gorbunov noted that “there are very many Russian-Ukrainian mixed families, even more so in the Catholic Church, and in many of them people have found themselves on opposite sides of the front.”

“This causes a lot of suffering,” he stressed.

The priest also explained that the generation of Russians who grew up when the Soviet Union, which was dismantled in the 1990s, still existed “in general tends to feel absolutely powerless in the face of the State and doesn’t believe that any type of social action can contribute to a peaceful solution.”

Fasting and prayer for peace

Gorbunov stressed that the bishops “have invited our faithful to pray and fast for peace.”

“We continue to include petitions for an end to the violence and the restoration of peace in the prayers of the faithful. Some prayer groups are also doing special prayers for this intention,” he noted.

The spokesman for the Russian Roman Catholic archdiocese also recognized the importance of Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 2022.

“We are very grateful to the Holy Father for the consecration. This act has sent a very powerful message that in the eyes of God and Mary we are equally their children.”

“Pope Francis’ insistence that the conflict can only be resolved through dialogue and not military power gives us great hope,” he added.

Gorbunov explained that “Catholics are a small minority in Russia, less than 1%,” which limits the Church’s ability to respond to the drama of war.

However, “our parishes, especially in southern Russia, are trying to find a way to help everyone who comes to us and asks for help.”

The spokesman for the Russian Roman Catholic bishops also expressed his “deep gratitude to people around the world, especially Catholics, of course, who feel the need to pray for the people of Russia, understanding that lasting peace can only be achieved through the conversion of hearts and not by force.”

“It seems very disheartening that 2,000 years after the birth and resurrection of Christ, people who profess to be Christians can find no other way to resolve political tensions than by killing each other,” he said.

“Pope Francis reminds us that, as Catholics, we are called to be ‘peacemakers,’ people who strive to master the ability to unite people and help them resolve conflicts through the conversion of hearts,” the priest noted.

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

Spanish government reproached for lack of response to jihadist attack on churches that left one dead

Minister of the Interior of Spain Fernando Grande-Marlaska. / Credit: Spain Ministry of the Interior

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).

The Observatory for Religious and Conscience Freedom (OLRC) has reproached the Spanish government for its “silence and inaction” in the face of a jihadist attack perpetrated last month in Algeciras, a town on the southern end of the Iberian peninsula near the Strait of Gibraltar.

The president of the OLRC, María García, sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, reproaching the lack of reaction to the direct attack on Catholics.

García considers the “the silence and inaction” of the executive branch of government to be inexplicable in this case in which an individual of Moroccan origin, Yassin Kanjaa, attacked several churches in Algeciras in the Diocese of Cádiz and Ceuta.

In the course of the attack, sacristan Diego Valencia was murdered and Father Antonio Rodríguez, a Salesian priest, was wounded.

At the time of the attack, the bishop of Cádiz-Ceuta, Rafael Zornoza, was close by in Algeciras making a pastoral visit but was not in any immediate danger.

In the letter, to which ACI Prensa had first access, García points out that “there is no doubt” that the terrorist’s objective was directed at “the Catholic faithful and, in particular, priests.”

The ORLC consequently questioned why the government “hasn’t convened the Monitoring Commission of the Action Plan against Hate Crimes” for the purpose of reporting on the attack and “the actions that are taken to prevent criminal acts like this.”

The OLRC is making its inquiry in its capacity as an advisory body to the Commission, which is under the Ministry of the Interior.

‘Disparate’ assessment of hate crimes

The letter also reproaches the head of the Ministry of the Interior for his fickle criteria: “It is surprising that the government of which you are a part values so differently ‘potential’ cases of hate crimes.”

For example, the OLRC notes that in September 2021 the Monitoring Commission was urgently convened “due to an alleged homophobic attack” that occurred in Madrid.

This case turned out to be a false report. A few hours later, the alleged victim acknowledged that he lied when he claimed that eight masked men assaulted him.

In comparison, the OLRC said the attacks against Christians perpetrated in Algeciras “barely deserved a quick visit from you to this town, in addition to a Twitter message from the president of the government.”

Before being appointed minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska was a judge on the National Court. His move into politics was preceded by LGBT activism.

In 2006, he became the first judge of any relevance to openly express his sexual orientation in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País.

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

Citizens’ convention endorses legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in France

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock. / null

CNA Newsroom, Feb 27, 2023 / 10:56 am (CNA).

A citizens’ convention made up of randomly selected members of the French public voted Feb. 19 in favor of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, including for minors, preparing the way for the drafting of new “end of life” legislation.

The 184-member council was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to debate “end of life” issues after the government’s National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) issued an opinion Sept. 13, 2022, favorable to legalizing assisted suicide.

For three months the convention debated the question, “Is the framework for end-of-life support adapted to the different situations encountered or should changes be introduced?” At the end of debate, 84% of the members of the citizens’ council agreed that the current legal framework does not respond to the “different situations encountered.” A full 66% of them felt that active assistance in dying in the form of euthanasia should be accessible, and 72% approved of assisted suicide.

In France, euthanasia refers to the administration of a lethal agent by medical personnel, while assisted suicide is the self-administration of a lethal substance with the prior consent of a physician.

For opponents of changes to the current end-of-life law, the most worrying aspect of these discussions is the very high percentage of citizens in favor of active assistance in dying for minors. Indeed, 56% of them voted in favor of extending assisted suicide to minors under the age of 18, and 67% approve of euthanasia for minors.

The outcome of the consultation was judged “appalling” by the pro-life association Alliance Vita. In a Feb. 20 press release, the organization said that “despite the opposition of strong minorities, these votes show to what extent any legislative shift towards the so-called ‘active assistance in dying’ would involve assisted suicide and euthanasia, even for people unable to ask for it in conscience ... starting with children!”

A clear majority of the council of citizens, however, considered that access to active assistance in dying should in all cases be subject to conditions, although the report did not provide more details about such conditions. 

Calling it a “turning point” in this particularly sensitive societal debate, Claire Thoury, president of the Citizens’ Convention Governance Committee, said in the introduction to the report that this first phase of deliberation was only intended to outline the broad directions of the consultation.

She said that the group would reconvene in March for a “harmonization phase,” during which more detailed proposals will be formulated and included in the final document to be submitted to the government March 19. This document should serve as the basis for the development of a new end-of-life bill.

In January 2021, a bill sponsored by the Socialist Party to expand access to euthanasia failed to pass the French Parliament due to the number of amendments from the legislation’s opposition. This citizen consultation was seen as a way to legitimize the introduction of a new bill, this time by the party of the majority presidential party, known as Renaissance or RE.

The positions adopted by the citizens’ convention confirmed the fears of those who, following the first opinion of the CCNE, feared that France would follow in the footsteps of its Belgian neighbor, whose permissive approach to end-of-life has already given rise to numerous cases of abuse. In recent years, Belgium has also approved euthanasia for several minors, the youngest of whom was 9 years old.

Macron, who made changing the end-of-life framework one of his campaign promises, declared his “penchant” for the Belgian model in April of last year. 

But voices have already begun to be raised in the French political world following the publication of the conclusions of the citizens’ convention. This is the case of MEP François-Xavier Bellamy, a leading member of the center-right party Les Républicains and a self-declared Catholic, who said that this convention “represented only itself” and was not democratic.

For her part, the philosopher Chantal Delsol considered — in an opinion column published on Le Figaro — that this societal change observed in France and among its European neighbors is a symptom of a deeper cultural mutation in the West, dating back to the last half-century, and which she attributes to the erasure of the Judeo-Christian culture, to the benefit of a return to the pagan ideal.

“The ancient Greeks and Romans justified and even glorified personal or accompanied suicide,” she wrote. 

Recalling that it was Judaism and then Christianity that affected a radical change in the conception of the dignity of every human life, she claimed that “the demand for active euthanasia represents a return to the situation of our distant ancestors: It is justified by the fact that our contemporaries no longer believe in substantial dignity, which used to respond to a transcendence.” 

“This is a profound rupture in our cultural anthropology, which is reflected and declined in all areas of life, of which assisted suicide is one aspect,” she wrote.

The gradual cultural shift that is now affecting France is also raising concerns in the Vatican. During an audience with a group of French elected officials on the eve of the start of the national debate last October, Pope Francis urged them to oppose euthanasia and its main corollary, the “throwaway culture.”

Shipwreck leaves more than 50 migrants dead in Italy: The Church expresses pain

The beach at Steccato di Cutro in Calabria / Public Domain

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 26, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis and leaders of the Church in Italy expressed their pain and sent their prayers for the eternal rest of at least 59 migrants who died in a shipwreck this Sunday off the southern coast of Italy.

The boat that was transporting them crashed into the rocks a few meters from the coast of the village of Steccato di Cutro in Calabria. Italian authorities continue to search with boats for dozens still missing at sea.

According to some witnesses, the ship carried about 250 people on board. Some 80 migrants have been rescued so far.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed on Feb. 26 “her deep regret for the numerous human lives cut short by human traffickers.”

She described as “criminal” having left “a boat of just 20 meters in length with up to 200 people on board and with adverse weather forecasts.”

“It is inhumane to change the lives of men, women, and children for the price of the ‘ticket’ paid by them from the false perspective of a safe trip,” she said.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, also spoke about the tragedy.

“The country feels profound sadness and acute pain for the umpteenth shipwreck that has occurred on our coasts. The victims belong to everyone and we feel them [as] ours,” he said in a statement.

He also assured that the Church in Italy has joined “the prayer of the Holy Father for each of them, for those who are still missing and for the survivors.”

“We entrust them to God with a thought for their families,” he added.

According to the cardinal, the tragedy reminds us that “the issue of migrants and refugees must be faced with responsibility and humanity.”

“The Mediterranean has become a large cemetery in 20 years. National and European options and policies are needed, with a new determination and with the awareness that not doing so allows similar situations to be repeated,” he said.

Finally, he stressed the need for “European and international awareness” that translates into a “structural, shared, and supportive response between institutions and countries.”

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

Ukrainian priest: ‘It’s in these times when heroes and saints are born’

Pope Francis looking at images from Ukraine at the general audience, Dec. 21, 2022 / Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 24, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

On the first anniversary of the war in his homeland, Ukrainian priest Father Jurij Blazejewski highlighted the faith of the Ukrainian people and assured that “it is Christ who is winning there” in a conflict where “saints and heroes are born.”

Feb. 24 marks one year since the Russian army invaded Ukrainian territory. It was the beginning of a cruel and bloody war in which, despite the numerous victims and the pain, what remains — according to Blazejewski — is “a faith that moves mountains.”

A priest of the Don Orione Congregation, Blazejewski was born in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and is currently studying communications at Holy Cross University in Rome.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the Ukrainian priest said that “the pope, the Vatican and the Church are doing a lot” to put an end to this war.

For Blazejewski, the voice of Pope Francis calling for peace and justice “are not just words; they have their power and stimulate processes to end the madness of the invasion, find justice and rebuild the future. Who knows how many stories of his intervention not revealed to the public will be discovered only years after the war,” he stressed.

The Don Orione priest, who also directs the Catholic magazine “Skynia,” said that “the pope is really doing a lot, but we see little. I thank him for his effort and humility because he is aware that he will be criticized, he does more than he speaks about his help.”

“It’s the opposite logic of the world of politics, where there's often a lot of talk but little done,” he added.

Blazejewski said that Pope Francis' line is clear: "He wants the Vatican to be an effective platform for negotiations when the time comes."

"Of course," he clarified, "it’s still too early to talk about this."

“I think that when Russia is close to defeat, a consensus can be reached to negotiate and withdraw. And it’s then that the role of the Holy See will be truly crucial and historic, it will be able to become an effective moderator, saving the death and destruction to come,” he said.

‘Christ was buried there’

Speaking from Rome, Blazejewski said that “Christ not only walked the streets of Ukrainian cities carrying the cross, he was also buried there, in Bucha, Mariupol, and Izium, along with old women, children, and soldiers.”

He also noted that in Ukraine “there is hardly a person who doubts victory” and that he is convinced that “an even more splendid victory is taking place in the hearts of so many people: Christ is winning there.”

Regarding the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary that Pope Francis carried out on March 25 last year, the Ukrainian priest said that this event “was not by chance.”

“It’s in these times when heroes and saints are born,” he said.

A faith that moves mountains

Asked how Christians are living out their faith under the continuous bombardments, he said that, for example, the parochial vicar in Kharkiv has housed more than a dozen people who lost their homes.

“They live together, as in the early days of the Church. They eat together, they pray together, during bombardments they attend Mass together in the basement of the church.”

On one occasion, the faithful and the parochial vicar went down to the basement of the church to say the rosary in the middle of the bombardments. "At the fourth mystery came the great silence: the Russian artillery stopped firing," Blazejewski told ACI Prensa.

"It seems to me that this faith is truly capable of moving mountains."

The value of freedom

The priest also stressed the importance of freedom, noting that despite the number of deaths, injuries, emigrants, destroyed elements of infrastructure and culture, Ukrainians have not lost their values. “And that heritage is wonderful, it’s a victory made in people’s minds and hearts,” he said.

“Today we talk about freedom. Not only as a concept but also as one of the pillars of the dignity of every human person.”

He also pointed to solidarity and compassion “which are revealed in each Ukrainian towards his neighbor, as well as those that have been received by so many people of goodwill from all continents.”

“It seems that under fire no one is really an atheist anymore,” he added.


Blazejewski also noted that “experts in the field of communications at scenes of violence say that 50 years is the time necessary for forgiveness and reconciliation to mature after a conflict on such a large scale as this one.”

Along these lines, he hoped that “at least those who are today's children can one day think seriously about forgiveness.”

The role of the media

For Blazejewski, “the first task of the communications media is to seek and spread the truth.”

“Therefore,” he continued, “I consider it very positive that the number of materials aimed mainly at eliciting tears has decreased and the block of materials that provide information and make an analysis has remained more or less at the same level.”

“Justice does not come from weeping and an emotional display, but from the truth communicated. Yes, pain is part of the truth of war, but it’s not all of it: There is also endurance, mutual aid, love, even dreams for the future! I hope the European media will talk about this more.”

An invitation for Lent

The Ukrainian priest explained that “Lent is always a time to take care of the weak and vulnerable beside us.”

He therefore invited Christians “to choose an initiative or a parish, or a family from there that you can help this time. If someone has the opportunity and wants to, they can donate, there are many beautiful initiatives of the Church.”

“For example, there is the project of the Catholic Press Association in Ukraine that raises money to support Ukrainian Catholic journalists during the war and thus save the voice of the Church. But the aid does not necessarily have to be material.”

Blazejewki said that “all Ukrainians need your prayers and the spiritual fruits of your Lenten abstinence. It would be a nice gesture of brotherhood,” he concluded.

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

Ukrainian Catholic leader on anniversary of war: We need spiritual strength

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on April 8, 2022. /

Rome Newsroom, Feb 24, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said Ukrainians need spiritual strength as much as ever as they mark one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country.

“A year passes: a year of pain, of suffering, a year of great crimes against God and man, crimes against humanity, war crimes that the world must recognize and condemn,” he said in a Feb. 23 video message.

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has shared a video message every single day since Feb. 24, 2022.

“On this 365th day of war, we thank the Lord God that we can continue to fight against the evil of war,” he said.

Shevchuk noted that some military experts believe that the escalation of the conflict, especially in the Donbass region, reached its peak on Feb. 23.

In the last day alone, 90 ground and 10 missile attacks were carried out against Ukrainian army positions in towns and villages, he said.

According to the archbishop, approximately 700 medical centers, clinics, and hospitals were attacked by the Russians in the past year, while an estimated 500 churches, chapels, mosques, and synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of people lost their lives.

To mark the sad anniversary of Feb. 24, the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has declared a special day of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

The Church also organized a 12-hour prayer marathon on Friday, which began at noon local time in Kyiv.

“We feel that when we join together in prayer, fasting, and good deeds, we win. We so much need spiritual strength to bring our victory closer,” Shevchuk said.

The prayer marathon began in Kyiv at the Patriarchal Cathedral. It then passed on to the Ukrainian cities of Zaporizhzhia, Odessa, Kherson, and Irpin before moving: Melbourne, Australia, will then pick up the prayer chain, followed by Przemyśl, Poland, and Rome, Italy.

Winnipeg, Canada will be the first stop in North America, followed by Philadelphia. The prayer marathon will conclude in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“Our whole Church, both in Ukraine and in the settlements, will stand before the face of God in a prayer vigil,” Shevchuk said.

The prayer will be, he added, a time of “unity and solidarity of Ukrainians around the world.”