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Blood of St. Januarius liquefies in Naples

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe views the reliquary with the blood of St. Januarius in 2009. / Paola Migni via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

CNA Staff, May 3, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The blood of St. Januarius, patron of the southern Italian city of Naples, liquefied on Sunday.

Naples archdiocese announced that the miraculous event took place at 5:18 p.m. local time on May 2.

A video posted to YouTube on May 3 showed a monsignor displaying the reliquary and turning it to demonstrate that the blood inside a spherical ampoule had turned from a solid to a liquid state.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disaster.

The liquefaction usually occurs annually on the afternoon of the first Saturday in May. But this year, it happened on the second day of prayer in honor of the third-century bishop of Naples.

The bones and blood of St. Januarius -- San Gennaro in Italian -- are preserved as relics in Naples Cathedral. The bishop is believed to have been martyred during the Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though it is yet to receive official Church recognition. The liquefaction traditionally happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day; the first Saturday of May; and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of the nearby Mount Vesuvius.

The saint’s blood remained solid in December 2020, having liquefied both in May and September that year.

Preaching at Mass in Naples Cathedral on May 1, Archbishop Domenico Battaglia noted that the procession traditionally held on the first Saturday in May was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The procession begins at the cathedral and ends at the Church of Santa Chiara. The reliquary containing the blood and an ornate bust of St. Januarius are carried in the procession, along with statues of other saints.

Battaglia, who was installed as archbishop of Naples on Feb. 2, 2021, succeeding Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, celebrated the Mass in the presence of 200 people due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In his homily, he encouraged people not to be overly “intrigued by the miracle” and “seized by the yearning to read in it good omens or ominous omens for our future.”

Regardless of whether the blood liquefies, he said, the relic should remind Catholics of the blood of Christ “in whose Paschal Mystery we still find ourselves and who is the only one who gives meaning to the great and intense icon of the liquefying blood.”

The 58-year-old archbishop continued: “What in fact is this ampoule? What treasure is it part of? These questions must delve into our hearts every time the martyr Januarius comes to meet us with the sign of his blood.”

“The blood of the martyrs is not a museum piece or a simple relic to be devoutly kept, but a living sign for the today that is given to us, a clear indication for this time that we are called to inhabit, a prophecy of the way in which we must live and a clear reference to what is worth dying for.”

The archbishop, described as a “street priest” before his elevation, recalled by name recent victims of the Camorra mafia and domestic violence, as well as lonely elderly people and the unemployed.

He said: “There is no social sore or communal wound that does not have the right of citizenship in this precious reliquary, the marvelous apex of the entire treasure of St. Januarius.”

“But don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about the precious stones, nor the gems set among golden miters, nor the silver busts of the saints. The real treasure of St. Januarius is his people and, within them, those who sit on the margins of life, the last ones, the most fragile.”

“It is this treasure that, as the Church, together with the institutions and all men and women of goodwill, we are called to guard with fidelity and courage, drawing on the immense patrimony hidden among the shadows and lights that compose it: I am speaking of the patrimony of humanity of this city, of the desire for redemption of its people, of the solidarity of its people. It is from this treasure that St. Januarius asks us to begin again together.”

Major archbishop: ‘Ukraine is expecting the Holy Father to visit’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. / Aid to the Church in Need.

CNA Staff, May 3, 2021 / 03:35 am (CNA).

The people of Ukraine are expecting a papal visit, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said in an interview.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that Pope Francis could visit the Eastern European country despite the obstacles posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Just as [the Pope] recently visited Iraq, just as he will be going to visit different countries in the world in spite of the difficulties presented by COVID, so Ukraine is expecting the Holy Father to visit,” he said.

John Paul II was the first pope of the modern era to visit the country, which borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

In his arrival speech in Kyiv (Kiev) on June 23, 2001, he noted that two early popes were deported to present-day Ukraine.

He said: “History has recorded the names of two Roman Pontiffs who, in the distant past, came this far: St. Clement I at the end of the first century and St. Martin I in the mid-seventh. They were deported to the Crimea, where they died as martyrs.”

During the five-day visit, the Polish pope sought to reach out to Orthodox Christians, who represent roughly two-thirds of the population.

Pope Francis’ March 5-8 visit to Iraq was his first foreign trip since the pandemic broke out. On the flight back to Rome, he confirmed that he would visit Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 12 for the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress. He suggested that he might combine the trip with a visit to the Slovakian capital, Bratislava.

The 84-year-old pope told reporters that he had felt more tired during the Iraqi trip than on previous ones and did not know if his travel schedule would slow down in the future.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of possible papal trips to Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea in 2020, Francis kept up a busy travel schedule, making 32 international trips to 51 different countries in seven years.

Pope Francis has repeatedly appealed for peace in Ukraine, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have clashed in the east of the country since February 2014.

In his Regina Coeli address on April 18, he expressed alarm at a troop build-up on the border between the two countries.

“I follow with great concern the events in some areas of eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire have multiplied in recent months, and I observe with great concern the increase in military activities,” he said.

“I strongly hope an increase in tensions will be avoided, and, on the contrary, that gestures be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, which are so much needed and so much desired.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that the Vatican would be the “ideal place” for peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the ACN interview, Shevchuk said he was grateful for Pope Francis’ prayers for Ukraine. He noted that the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had invited the pope to the visit country during a March 25 audience at the Vatican.

The 50-year-old major archbishop said that the meeting was well received in Ukraine.

“It was also a good sign that the relationship between the state of Ukraine and the Holy See would offer a means not only of preventing any form of escalation in the conflict in Ukraine, but also of learning how to foster dialogue and reconciliation,” he said.

Shevchuk has led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -- the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome -- since 2011.

He told ACN, which provides the Church with critical financial support, that the pandemic had imposed severe restrictions on pastoral outreach.

The country, which has a population of 44 million people, has recorded more than two million COVID-19 infections and 46,601 related deaths as of May 3, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

“Many of us have started to broadcast our divine services online to give our parishioners the opportunity to participate in Holy Mass and Sunday Mass online,” Shevchuk said.

He added that the situation reminded him of the Soviet era.

“At that time, the only way to receive some kind of spiritual support was to listen to Vatican Radio. It is almost exactly the same situation all over again,” he explained.

He continued: “We can pray, we can preach online, we can even meditate on Holy Scripture online. But we cannot administer the sacraments online. And that is a major source of suffering at the moment.”

Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who follow the Julian calendar, marked Easter Sunday on May 2.

In his Easter greeting, Shevchuk said: “I greet all Christians who celebrate this great holiday today, and especially the sons and daughters of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine and in the settlements.”

“Wherever the Ukrainian heart beats, let the Easter singing be joyfully heard today. I wish you all a happy Easter.”

“I wish you a delicious Easter egg, merry hayivky [Easter songs], heavenly peace and joy that come to us today through the locked doors of quarantines and lockdowns. They come to revive hope in our human hearts. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

‘Rosary bishop’ says Pope Francis’ May prayer marathon feels like ‘divine confirmation’

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley. / YouTube screenshot.

CNA Staff, May 1, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic bishop known for his energetic promotion of the rosary has said that Pope Francis’ announcement of a global prayer marathon, starting Saturday, felt like a “divine confirmation.”

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, told CNA April 28 that the papal initiative mirrored a rosary campaign that has taken place across Britain since 2018.

“Hearing the pope’s announcement felt like a sort of divine confirmation that we had been doing what the Lord wanted and what Our Lady had inspired in us,” said Keenan, who has been dubbed “the rosary bishop.”

The pope will lead a rosary on May 1 at the start of a month-long prayer marathon for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rosary will be broadcast live from the Gregorian Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica at 6 p.m. Rome time.

“I was delighted and really encouraged with Pope Francis’ request for Catholics around the world to pray the rosary daily in the month of May,” Keenan said.

“This is what we ourselves had been doing, starting three years ago, with our month of May rosary around the British Isles.”

The papal rosary kicks off a month of daily rosaries prayed at Catholic shrines around the world.

Keenan said: “The pope has even got involved 30 Marian shrines around the world to live stream their rosary so that the faithful could pray along from home online which, again, is exactly what we had been doing together with our Marian shrines across England, Wales and Scotland.”

“We had got the idea from Poland, which has passed it onto Ireland, and from there it spread to us in Britain, to the USA, Australia, and Africa.”

The first of the 30 shrines to lead the global rosary will be Walsingham in England.

The shrine will live stream the rosary at 6 p.m local time on May 1, immediately following the pope’s rosary.

Antonia Moffat, the shrine’s outreach coordinator, told CNA that it was a “total joy” that England’s national shrine of Our Lady had been chosen to start the prayer marathon.

“Spiritually speaking, it’s a massive consolation and an encouragement,” she said, following years of promoting nationwide rosary campaigns.

The rosary at Walsingham will launch a month of prayer called the Rosary Stronghold. Catholics across Britain will join together online at 8 p.m. each evening in May to pray the rosary.

Speaking of his hopes for the Rosary Stronghold, Keenan said: “Each year we have dedicated our May month of the rosary to praying for faith, love and life and the spread of peace.”

“Our prayer for faith is inspired by the message of Our Lady at Fatima, which is for a spirit of repentance to fall on us so that we can recognize the great refusal of God in our world and face up to the lack of fervor in so much of the Church and, in this way, open ourselves up to an outpouring of God’s mercy.”

“The first preaching of Jesus was to repent so as to really believe and take hold of the power of the Good News. For love and life, we are praying for our world to return and uphold the holiness of marriage and the sanctity of human life.”

He added: “And we see peace as the fruit of this return to God, as promised by Our Lady at Fatima who promised, ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph … and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.’”

For the past few months, the 56-year-old bishop has led the rosary live on his Facebook page at 9 p.m. local time each evening. He is joined by hundreds of people around the world.

“My daily evening rosaries came from a connection I made at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin [in 2018] with the organizers of the Children’s Rosary movement, which is based in the USA but is now worldwide,” he explained.

“The organizer invited me to lead my diocese and her movement in a child consecration to Jesus through Mary, beginning in January and culminating on the Feast of the Visitation.”

“Hundreds took part daily and began to comment online how sad they would be to see our evening rosary gathering coming to an end.”

“Since we are in lockdown and I have no evening appointments, there was no reason for me not to continue and I hope Our Lady can find a way for us to continue indefinitely.”

He added: “There are still hundreds joining every evening from their homes to pray for each other’s intentions which are posted onscreen, as well as for the needs of the Church and world.”

“For me, it is such a consolation as a bishop to be part of this family of Our Lady and it is a lovely way to end the day.”

Finnish MP faces criminal charges after tweeting Bible verse

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015. / Courtesy of ADF International.

CNA Staff, Apr 30, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

An MP in Finland is facing jail over a social media post that included a quotation from the Bible.

ADF International, a Christian legal group, said that Päivi Räsänen could receive a two-year prison sentence for the tweet, after the Finnish Prosecutor General announced April 29 that she would be subject to criminal charges.

The MP, a physician and mother of five, could also face additional jail time if convicted of two other alleged offenses relating to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet and on a 2018 television program, the group said.

The Prosecutor General charged Räsänen with incitement against a minority group, arguing that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, said: “I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering, or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.”

Finland is a country of 5.5 million people bordering Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Around two-thirds of the population belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the country’s two national churches, alongside the Orthodox Church of Finland.

The 61-year-old MP, who was chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

“The purpose [of] my tweet was in no way to insult sexual minorities. My criticism was aimed at the leadership of the church,” she told the journal First Things last year.

Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She underwent several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision.

Paul Coleman, ADF International’s executive director, said: “Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy. The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship.”

“It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”

Räsänen commented: “I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech. I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored.”

“I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”

Safeguarding expert: Guidelines are ‘in vain’ if not upheld by Church powers

Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J. / Rebecski CC 4.0

Rome, Italy, Apr 30, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A safeguarding expert said that the Catholic Church could do more to take responsibility for the failures of the past, and to reform power structures which allow abuse and cover-ups to take place.

Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., a psychologist, theologian, and leading expert on abuse prevention, told CNA April 30 that the Church’s safeguarding procedures would not be effective unless those in power shared the same goals.

“You can have the best guidelines, you can have the best-prepared people for that kind of work or for protection or safeguarding, [but] if the institution as such does not live up to the ideals that are expressed in the guidelines -- for example, if there are power structures that contradict what the guidelines for safeguarding say -- then the same guidelines are put up in vain,” he said.

Zollner, president of Rome’s Center for Child Protection (CCP), told CNA that the prevalence of cover-ups and other institutional failures was “one of the main reasons” why the center is being re-established as a full educational institution.

The CCP, founded in 2012, is located at the Pontifical Gregorian University. On Sept. 1, the CCP will become the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC).

The priest and professor said the change would create an academic entity in its own right, with the ability to have its own faculty members and award degrees, such as a licentiate (similar to a master’s degree) and a doctorate. It will no longer be dependent on other universities to award degrees or lend professors.

“And equally important is that the name has changed,” he said, noting that the center could not continue to have only “child protection” in its name, “because the world and the Church have moved on from child protection only to other forms of abuse which need protection and safeguarding.”

He emphasized that the institute’s primary focus would still be the protection of children from sexual abuse within the institutions of the Catholic Church, but choosing anthropology as the basis of the program offered “the broadest possible scope.”

“We have seen over the years that sexual abuse, sexual violence, is a human problem,” he said.

Anthropology provides a good interdisciplinary basis “and it helps us also to understand the different dimensions that come in when we talk about abuse and also about sexual abuse,” he said, noting that “sexual abuse is not only about sexuality, there are other dynamics. For example, power dynamics, emotions, psychological conditions.”

He added that “we have seen over the years that there is some interaction between the personality of people who abuse and those who cover up, and the institutions they represent.”

Zollner also said that the institute wanted “to learn from victims of abuse, so that we are helped to understand how they experienced the abuse, and how, in hindsight, they also decipher the reality of the institutions in which they have been abused and what structures, what policies, what actions or inactions of those institutions brought about the possibility of abuse and its cover-up.”

The president of the Institute of Anthropology is expected to be appointed between late May and early June. Zollner said that he planned to be involved in the new project as a professor, “and for the rest, we need to see what happens.”

The institute’s English diploma and English licentiate programs are already filling up for the fall semester.

The priest said it was difficult to generalize about the state of child protection in the Church, since the situation in each country is so different. But he commented that the Church in most countries “does a lot and is really forward in prevention and safeguarding work.”

Where it is most difficult to make progress is in countries that do not have the juridical systems in place to properly investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual abuse, he explained.

But in some areas, the expert said, the Church has a lot of room to improve.

“The Church unfortunately has lagged behind in really owning its responsibility for the crimes of the past,” he observed. “And there we really need to accept this responsibility and to own it, because otherwise all the efforts for safeguarding will be jeopardized.”

He said that the Institute of Anthropology’s educational and research program “is not something that is supposed to immediately change everything in every country in this world.” But he said that “any kind of education aims at preparing people who then take responsibility and grow into professional roles and do what they’re supposed to do in the field over time.”

“Our effort has been since the beginning -- almost 10 years ago, the beginning of the CCP -- to help the local churches and the religious congregations to learn that [safeguarding] is part and parcel of the Church’s mission and that it is not something that you can sort of have or don’t have. It is something essential for the mission,” he said.

Zollner added that “more and more people in the Church, especially from the bottom up, understand that you cannot deny the reality of the abuse that has happened, and that we need to invest consistently in safeguarding, because the Church is supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ, who identifies with the most vulnerable ones: the poor and the sick and also those who have been abused or are in danger of being abused.”

The Catholic Church does a lot of good work with migrants and with the poor and homeless, he said, “and I don’t see the same engagement also on a natural, normal, and -- let’s say -- emotionally engaged level with the abused and with those we need to protect.”

“And this is something we aim at, a change of mentality,” he said.

Ukraine’s president: Vatican would be the ideal place for meeting with Putin

Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Ternopil region of Ukraine on Sept. 18, 2020. / Адміністрація Президента України (CC BY 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that the Vatican would be the “ideal place” for peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Vatican would truly be the ideal place to dialogue on peace,” Zelensky told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“The Holy See is a moral authority on a global level which has always effectively played the role of mediator because it is impartial and reliable for all parties in conflict.”

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia began to rise earlier this year with clashes in the Donbas region and a build-up of Russian troops close to the Ukrainian border.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian foreign minister, said April 22 that some of the troops had been ordered to pull back from its border, and Russian media reported that Putin said Zelensky was welcome to come to Moscow “any time.”

In the April 28 interview, Zelensky underlined that the Holy See has often been called upon to mediate conflicts between states.

“The pope by his vocation is a prophet of peace. It is in this that the Vatican distinguishes itself from other international actors because it remains exclusively a moral power, it intervenes in a disinterested way without political-military or economic interests,” he said.

“A mediator with such authority could bring the confidence that has been lacking so far in our attempts to reach an agreement. Certainly, the meeting place should inspire confidence on both sides. Only then will this dialogue be effective and we can variously speak of substance.”

In response, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said on April 29 that the Holy See could provide support within the Minsk Group, founded in 1992 by the group now known as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“There exists already the Minsk Group that is working on mediation,” the cardinal told La Repubblica the following day.

“I believe that eventual support from the Holy See can take place within that work.”

Sandri said that perhaps Pope Francis could make a “contribution, as he has already done in past situations. I am thinking, for example, of the meeting he had with al-Sistani in Iraq and other similar meetings.”

“In general, when help is asked to foster peace and reconciliation, the Holy See never backs down,” he added.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told Aid to the Church in Need that Ukrainians were hoping that Pope Francis would visit their country.

He said: “Just as [the pope] recently visited Iraq, just as he will be going to visit different countries in the world in spite of the difficulties presented by COVID, so Ukraine is expecting the Holy Father to visit.”

The archbishop noted that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal invited Pope Francis to visit the country during a meeting at the Vatican in March.

“I recall how one old woman recently approached me to say, ‘When the Holy Father comes and touches Ukrainian soil, then the war will come to an end,’” Shevchuk said.

Ukraine and Russia have observed a fragile ceasefire since the 2015 Minsk II Accords. The conflict began after the November 2013 demonstrations, known as “Euromaidan”, against then Ukrainian President Víktor Yanukovych for his pro-Russian policies. The protests led to Yanukovych’s departure.

This was followed in 2014 by the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and the proclamation of independence of the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region.

Archbishop Shevchuk told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that Catholics in Ukraine had been “praying incessantly for peace” since the conflict began and wanted the international community to be more involved in its resolution.

Pope Francis prayed for reconciliation between Ukraine and Russia in his Regina Coeli address on April 18.

“I follow with great concern the events in some areas of eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire have multiplied in recent months, and I observe with great concern the increase in military activities,” he said.

“I strongly hope an increase in tensions will be avoided, and, on the contrary, that gestures be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, which are so much needed and so much desired.”

Public Masses to resume in Ireland from May 10 with 50-person limit

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Ireland. / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

CNA Staff, Apr 30, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Irish Catholics’ long wait to return to public Masses will end on May 10, Ireland’s prime minister announced on Thursday.

In a televised address to the nation April 29, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that on that date “religious services can resume with a limit of 50 people attending.”

The cap of 50 people will apply regardless of church size.

The Irish government’s website confirmed that May 10 would mark the “recommencement of in-person religious services.”

But it said: “It is advised that other religious ceremonies such as Communions and Confirmations should not take place at this time.”

Public Masses have remained suspended in Ireland for months despite restrictions being lifted in neighboring countries.

Public Masses have continued in England throughout a stringent lockdown that began on Jan. 4. A landmark legal ruling led to the resumption of public Masses in Scotland on March 24. Public worship resumed in Northern Ireland on March 26.

Irish bishops expressed dismay earlier this month when the government introduced measures effectively criminalizing Mass with a congregation.

The new regulations, contained in a document known as statutory instrument 171 of 2021, currently forbid most large gatherings, with a narrow list of exceptions, including for priests celebrating Mass via live stream, as well as wedding receptions and funerals.

A statutory instrument is a form of secondary legislation allowing government ministers to legislate on day-to-day matters.

After the Church became aware of the regulations, days after they were approved, Archbishop Eamon Martin requested an urgent meeting with Ireland’s health minister.

Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, expressed his objections to the statutory instrument when he met with Stephen Donnelly on April 19.

A statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference on the same day said that the Church would continue to seek “clarification and legal advice regarding the extent and implications of the statutory instrument.”

Swiss campaigners secure same-sex marriage referendum

Same-sex wedding cake. / Sara Valenti/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Campaigners in Switzerland have gathered enough signatures to secure a referendum on same-sex marriage, after the country’s parliament passed a bill last December called “Marriage for All.”

More than 61,000 valid signatures were submitted in favor of giving the country’s 8.5 million population a final say on the law.

The country, officially known as the Swiss Confederation, is a federal republic with a tradition of direct democracy. Members of the public can force a referendum on new laws if they collect 50,000 signatures within 100 days of the official publication of the act of parliament.

Switzerland has recognized civil unions for same-sex couples since 2007, following a 2005 referendum. In December 2020, parliament approved the legalization of same-sex marriage and introduced it into the Swiss Civil Code.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the Federal Chancellery in Bern, Switzerland’s de facto capital, announced April 27 that a non-partisan committee had submitted the necessary signatures to hold a referendum under the slogan “Yes to Marriage and Family, No to Marriage for All.”

A rival petition, organized by the political movement Operation Libero, has gathered more than 100,000 signatures in favor of the new law.

Switzerland’s Catholic bishops have yet to comment on the referendum. But in December they said that legalizing same-sex marriage was “fraught with numerous administrative, legal and ethical difficulties.”

“[T]he Catholic Church is primarily entrusted with the sacrament of marriage. She celebrates before God the union of man and woman as a common, stable, and reproductive life laid out in love,” the Swiss bishops’ conference said in a Dec. 4 statement.

“This is why [we are] convinced, also with regard to civil marriage, that the use of the term ‘marriage’ should not be extended to any connection between two people regardless of their gender. Such a use of the term would bring about an equality that, in [our] opinion, cannot exist.”

German bishops’ leader: Day of same-sex blessings not ‘helpful’

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. / Bistum Limburg.

CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference said Wednesday that a planned day of protest against the Vatican’s “no” to blessings for same-sex couples is not a “helpful sign.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing said in an April 28 statement on the bishops’ conference website that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the bishop was responding to an appeal to Catholics to take part in a nationwide event on May 10 in defiance of the Vatican ruling, which was issued in March with the approval of Pope Francis.

The event, organized by Catholic pastoral workers, is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” Organizers hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The Vatican statement sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. A number of bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

In his statement, Bätzing said: “After the permanent council of the German bishops’ conference exchanged views a few days ago, I would like to state emphatically: Of course, people with a homosexual orientation, including those who live in same-sex partnerships, have a place in the Church. They are welcome.”

“It is part of the pastoral ministry of the Church to do justice to all these people in the respective concrete situations on their path through life and to accompany them pastorally.”

“In this context, however, I do not consider public actions, such as those planned for May 10, to be a helpful sign and a way forward.”

“Blessing services have their own theological dignity and pastoral significance. They are not suitable as an instrument for church-political manifestations or protest actions.”

Bätzing, the 60-year-old bishop of Limburg, noted that in Germany and other parts of the worldwide Church discussions have taken place for years about Catholic teaching on sexual morality, including homosexuality.

He said that these discussions focused on how Church teaching “can be further developed with viable arguments -- on the basis of fundamental truths of faith and morality, progressive theological reflection, and also in openness to newer results in the human sciences and the life situations of people today.”

He continued: “This includes an appropriate discussion of the question of blessing services.”

As chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Bätzing is a central figure in the “Synodal Way,” a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

Bätzing, who has previously expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, said that the “Synodal Way” was an appropriate forum for the debate about blessings.

“In the current situation, the Synodal Way is a central place to discuss the issue of successful relationships in a comprehensive way,” he said.

Vatican accused of investing in companies making ‘morning-after pill’

The banner at the entrance of the APSA office in the Vatican. / Vatican News

Rome Newsroom, Apr 29, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

An Italian investigative news program has accused the Vatican’s treasury of investing 20 million euros (around $24 million) in several pharmaceutical companies involved in making the “morning-after pill.”

The program “Report,” aired on the channel Rai 3, interviewed the former auditor general of the Vatican, Libero Milone, who said that his office alerted superiors at the Vatican to the “risky” character of the investments.

He also told the program he considered the investments a risk “because they did not correspond to the social doctrine of the Church.”

Milone was the Vatican’s first auditor general, appointed in 2015 by Pope Francis. In 2017, he and his deputy, Ferruccio Pannicco, were forced to resign by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, then sostituto of the Secretariat of State, who accused them of spying.

According to an investigation by “Report,” in 2016, APSA, which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City, invested 20 million euros in two Swiss pharmaceutical companies.

One of these companies, Novartis, produces and sells the “morning-after pill” through its subsidiary Sandoz.

In the television report, Milone confirmed that Sandoz was one of the pharmaceutical companies. “Report” claimed that Milone alerted APSA and other Vatican superiors about the bad investment and the Novartis shares were sold “immediately.”

The “morning-after pill” is an emergency contraceptive taken after sexual activity to prevent a pregnancy. Use of the pill has been condemned by the Catholic Church because it can also act as a chemical abortifacient, if the woman’s egg has already been fertilized by the sperm and implanted in the uterus by the time the drug is taken.

In the interview, Milone also claimed to have discovered the Secretary of State’s investments in two London buildings, including the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, now at the center of Vatican financial investigations.

In reference to another suspect transaction the auditor’s office communicated to Pope Francis, Milone said: “I alerted the pope to everything I discovered.”

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, APSA president since 2018, told the Italian newspaper il Fatto Quotidiano that, although he was not working at APSA at the time of the reported investment, he was that certain that “ethical criteria are followed for investments” today.

Pope Francis issued a new anti-corruption law on April 29, requiring Vatican money managers to declare that they do not hold shareholdings or interests in companies that operate “with purposes and in sectors contrary to the Social Doctrine of the Church.”