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Pope Francis: Jesus in the Eucharist strengthens us in times of trial

Pope Francis delivers a message to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 23, 2024 / 10:26 am (CNA).

Jesus does not spare us from difficulties but strengthens us with the Eucharist to have the courage to face them, Pope Francis said in his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on June 23, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on how they usually deal with times of trial.

“When a storm arrives, do I let myself be overwhelmed by the turmoil or do I cling to him … to find calm and peace, in prayer, silence, listening to the Word, adoration, and fraternal sharing of faith?” the pope asked.

Pope Francis urged people to remember that Jesus is always with us to come to our aid, particularly in the Eucharist.

“In the Eucharist, he gathers us around him, he gives us his word, he nourishes with his body and his blood, and then he invites us to set sail, to transmit everything we have heard and to share what we have received with everyone, in everyday life, even when it is difficult,” the pope said.

“Jesus does not spare us contrarieties but, without ever abandoning us, he helps us face them,” Francis added. 

“So we too, overcoming them with his help, learn more and more to hold onto him, to trust in  his power, which goes far beyond our capacities, to overcome uncertainties and hesitations, closures and preconceptions, and to do this with courage and greatness of heart, to tell everyone that the kingdom of heaven is present, it is here, and that with Jesus at our side we can make it grow together, beyond all barriers.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pointing to the Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus and his disciples being caught in a storm on Lake Tiberias, the pope noted that it was Jesus himself who told the disciples to get on the boat and cross the lake.

“Why does he do this?” Pope Francis asked. “To strengthen the faith of the disciples and to make them more courageous.”

“Indeed, the disciples come out of this experience more aware of the power of Jesus and his presence in their midst, and therefore stronger and readier to face other obstacles and difficulties, including the fear of venturing out to proclaim the Gospel,” he said.

“Having overcome this trial with him, they will know how to face many others, even to the cross and martyrdom, to bring the Gospel to all peoples.”

Pope Francis invoked the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who welcomed God’s will with humility and courage, to provide us with the serenity to surrender to God in difficult moments.

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis greeted the participants in Italy’s March for Life, which drew thousands of people to Rome on Saturday. 

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

As the pope offered greetings to the visiting pilgrim groups, Francis pointed out the group in St. Peter’s Square that was holding up an Israeli flag next to a Vatican flag.

Pope Francis said that the Israeli flag was a reminder to pray for peace in Gaza and other parts of the world that are experiencing war and violence. He repeatedly asked people to pray for peace in Palestine and Israel as well as in Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The pope also remembered a Franciscan priest in Rome who had served as his confessor, Father Manuel Blanco Rodríguez, who died a few days ago.

“Remembering him,” he said, “I would like to remember the many Franciscan brothers, confessors, and preachers who have honored and continue to honor the Church of Rome.”

How principals and Partnership Schools are keeping historic inner-city Catholic schools alive 

Archbishop Lyke students in the school library in 2022. / Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

When historic Catholic schools started closing across the nation, an organization that manages Catholic schools in low-income communities stepped in.

With four schools in Cleveland and seven in New York City, Partnership Schools is helping to manage, support, and fund schools in need while providing scholarships for students to be able to attend their local Catholic schools. 

Initially launched as a fundraising organization, Partnership Schools shifted to a management and operations organization in 2013 to better amplify its impact, making it academically, operationally, and financially responsible for each school it partners with while the schools remain owned by their local dioceses. The group provides curricula, offers professional development for teachers, fundraises, and manages things such as payroll.  

The Partnership Schools model enables dioceses to retain ownership of the schools while the organization takes full responsibility for them.

St. Thomas Aquinas students on the playground in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
St. Thomas Aquinas students on the playground in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

St. Thomas Aquinas: a 125-year legacy 

When a Catholic school that had been in operation more than 100 years needed help staying open, it decided to work with Partnership Schools. But first, it had to get the pope’s permission. 

St. Thomas Aquinas School in Cleveland started by serving Irish and German immigrants in 1899. Scheduled to close in 2020, the school was able to stay open by working with Partnership Schools. Now, nearly 125 years since its founding, St. Thomas is thriving and serves students in the local community. 

“For about the last 60 years or so, we have been serving a predominantly Black community, and that still is the case now,” principal Rachael Dengler told CNA in a Zoom interview. “We have 250 students currently enrolled. One hundred percent of them are Black. Actually, zero percent of them are Catholic, but many come from a strong Christian faith and live in the neighborhood, so this is a community school to them.”

Though no Catholic students attend St. Thomas Aquinas, the school fosters community, teaches the faith, and finds commonalities with its largely Protestant students and families.

“When our beliefs and our values are so aligned, it’s not difficult to find a common ground in Christ,” Dengler explained.

“We are surrounded by Cleveland public schools, and so [parents] certainly have their options that aren’t Catholic,” she said. “But I think when parents see an education that’s driven in values and driven in beliefs that are aligned with how they were raised themselves or how they want their children to be raised, I think it really does become a pretty simple decision.”

Unlike most parochial Catholic schools, St. Thomas is no longer affiliated with a local parish and is now under the local bishop. Because he was reassigned before he could officially approve of St. Thomas joining Partnership Schools, then-Bishop Nelson Perez (now archbishop of Philadelphia) needed Pope Francis’ permission to get the program running.

“The pope ended up approving of this collaboration, which was a really different turn,” Dengler recalled. “Then, two weeks later, every school in the nation shut down for COVID, and that was in the midst of becoming a Partnership school. That was also the same year I was hired to be the principal.”

Despite the added challenges, the school’s enrollment increased by about 40% in the last four years since St. Thomas first partnered with Partnership Schools in 2020. 

“We wouldn’t be celebrating our 125th year if it weren’t for being a part of the network,” she explained. 

Dengler said she’s worked with students whose grandparents and parents have attended the school. 

“It’s a beautiful thing to feel like you’re a part of a family in a community that’s been there far longer than you have and will certainly outlast any individual’s time there,” she said. 

Rachael Denglar at St. Thomas Aquinas in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Rachael Denglar at St. Thomas Aquinas in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Though the school has changed over the generations, it has maintained its Catholic identity, especially by keeping its chapel accessible, Dengler explained.

“Because there is no parish, because there are challenges to the creation of community in the neighborhood, it is the school that is intentionally emotionally creating a sense of community,” she said.

“[Families] may not be Catholic, but they love being a part of a Catholic school, and they love and are proud of sharing where they go to school,” Dengler said. “And I think it’s because of the values that we uphold and the love that we have for them, regardless of whatever faith that they practice.”

St. Athanasius students at a play area at St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
St. Athanasius students at a play area at St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

111 years in the Bronx

After 11 years of managing the seven New York Catholic schools in the Partnership Schools organization, the Archdiocese of New York will resume management of them, a spokeswoman for Partnership Schools told CNA on Tuesday.   

Beth Blaufuss, Partnership School vice president for strategic initiatives, said that though they are sad to say goodbye to the schools, they were only ever “stewards.”

St. Athanasius School in the South Bronx is one of the schools that Partnership Schools has helped preserve for the past 11 years. It opened in 1913 and has centered the local community for 111 years, including when it was suffering from rampant arson by landlords in the 1970s.

Jessica Aybar, current principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, said community has been a key part of the school both now and in the troubled past.

“At that time, the school was obviously still standing but serving a population that was really traumatized,” she explained. “It was a very normal occurrence for kids to come to school in their pajamas because their apartment building burned down the night before.”

“At the height of the Bronx’s burning era, the school went from having 16 classrooms to having nine,” she continued. “So in terms of enrollment, it was pretty much demolished.”

Jessica Aybar, principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Jessica Aybar, principal of St. Athanasius in the South Bronx, New York City, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Decades later, the school reached 280 students in 2012. Then, while under Partnership Schools, St. Athanasius nearly doubled, reaching 440 students. 

“There is a ton of growth in terms of enrollment. I would say a rebirth, a renaissance, of Catholic schools in our neighborhood due to the Partnership support,” Aybar explained.

“A lot of times, families in our neighborhood think they can’t afford a quality Catholic school to attend,” she continued. “Partnership Schools has done so much to change the narrative and to make Catholic education accessible to as many students as possible.”

St. Athanasius is a happy place, and that can be seen in its 100% teacher retention rate this year, Aybar noted. She said there’s a variety of veteran, beginners, and in-the-middle teachers who are “a huge source of stability and community within the school.”

“All of those teachers, together, combined make a really diverse staff that has different strengths, different areas of growth,” she said. “That’s one of the things that I’m really proud of. I think there’s a reason that people stick around, and part of it is because of how much they love the community and how respected that they feel within the community.”

Most people find the school through word of mouth, not through the internet or other sources — a testament, Aybar said, to how special the community is.

A St. Athanasius elementary school student works on a craft in class in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
A St. Athanasius elementary school student works on a craft in class in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

Moving forward: NY management returns to the archdiocese 

After an 11-year contract with the New York Archdiocese, Partnership Schools announced on June 18 that the archdiocese will resume management of those Catholic schools.

In a statement to CNA, Partnership Schools said it is celebrating successes of the past decade including a record of $7.7 million in scholarships earned by this year’s New York Partnership graduates alone and a 28% increase in New York schools enrollment since the COVID pandemic began in 2020, as well as doubling achievement scores. 

“When we took on the six original schools that we began to serve, academic performance was unacceptably low,” Blaufuss explained. “For example, 17% of the students met the proficiency standards for the state of New York in math.”

“Flash forward 11 years, we’ve not only increased the number of students who are achieving proficiency — in fact, last year … the percent of partnership eighth graders and graduates scoring proficient on the state test in math was higher than the average for the city as a whole.”

For the future, the network plans to expand its work in Cleveland and beyond. 

An elementary student raises his hand in class at St. Francis School in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
An elementary student raises his hand in class at St. Francis School in Cleveland in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

“Impact has grown in this diocese, and we look forward to continuing our partnership to benefit the increasing number of students and families served by our Catholic schools in the heart of the city,” Frank O’Linn, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Cleveland and a Partnership Schools trustee, said this week in a press release shared with CNA. 

Partnership Schools’ current agreement with the diocese will run through 2028 while it investigates options in other dioceses, particularly those with school choice funding already in place, according to the release.

Elementary students in class at Metro Catholic School, another Partnership School in Cleveland, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools
Elementary students in class at Metro Catholic School, another Partnership School in Cleveland, in 2022. Credit: Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools

“Catholic schools enable students in low-income communities to become excellent students and caring citizens,” the chair of Partnership Schools’ board of trustees, Russ Carson, said in the release. 

Canadian man offered euthanasia ‘multiple times’: ‘I don’t want to give up my life’

Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favourite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project in Canada. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) "several times." / Courtesy of Amanda Achtman

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Amid ongoing efforts to expand euthanasia in Canada under the name of “medical aid in dying” (MAID), one Ottawa man says he has been offered euthanasia “multiple times” as he struggles with lifelong disabilities and chronic pain from a disease called cerebellar ataxia

Roger Foley, 49, shared some of his story in a recent video interview with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project, which was created to “humanize our conversation on suffering, death, meaning, and hope.” The project seeks to “[restore] our cultural health when it comes to our experiences of death and dying” through speaking engagements and video campaigns. 

In the video, the fourth of a series, Foley said he has struggled with subpar medical help in his own home, where he is supposed to be getting quality care. Canada has a nationalized health care system but Foley said that individuals with illnesses are “worked at … not worked with.” He spoke out against being devalued as he fights for the support he needs to live.

In one case, he said, a home worker helped him into his bathtub and then fell asleep in the other room; Foley was left to crawl out of the bathroom on his own. “I reported to the agency, and then he confessed, and the agency, they really didn’t care,” he said.

Asked by Achtman if he has ever been offered euthanasia, Foley said: “Yeah, multiple times.”

“One time, [a doctor] asked me, ‘Do you have any thoughts of self-harm?’ I’m honest with them and tell them I do think about ending my life because of what I’m going through, being prevented from the resources that I need to live safely back at home.” 

“From out of nowhere, he just pulls out, ‘Well, if you don’t get self-directing funding, you can always apply for an assisted.’”

Foley said the offers from doctors to help end his life have “completely traumatized me.”

“Now it’s this overlying option where in my situation, when I say I’m suicidal, I’m met with, ‘Well, the hospital has a program to help you with that if you want to end your life.’”

“That didn’t exist before [MAID] was legalized, but now it’s there,” he said. “There is not going to be a second within the rest of my life that I’m not going to have flashbacks to [being offered suicide]. The devaluing of me and all that I am.”

Noting that he’s “not religious,” Foley said: “Saying that it’s just religious persons who oppose euthanasia in society is completely wrong.”

“These people who usually say it, they have an ableist mindset,” he said. “And they look at persons with disabilities and see us as just better off dead and a waste of resources.”

Achtman told CNA there is a need for euthanasia-free health care spaces, not only for protecting the integrity of Catholic institutions but also because many patients — including nonreligious patients like Foley — want to be treated in facilities that do not raise euthanasia with patients. 

“Having euthanasia suggested, in a sense, already kills the person. It deflates a person’s sense of confidence that doctors and nurses are going to truly fight for them,” Achtman told CNA. “When euthanasia is suggested ostensibly as one ‘treatment’ option among others, there are all-too-frequently no other real options provided.

She continued: “This is why I always say that a request for euthanasia is not so much an expression of a desire to die as it is an expression of disappointment. Responding to such disappointment with real interventions that are adequate to the person is demanding, but that’s what people deserve. It is wrong to concede or capitulate to a person’s suicidal ideation — instead, every person deserves suicide prevention rather than suicide assistance.”

Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favorite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) "several times.". Courtesy of Amanda Achtman
Roger Foley enjoys taste-testing three different kinds of hummus, his favorite food, on the day of a video shoot with Amanda Achtman of the Dying to Meet You project. The two spoke about Foley's difficulty accessing quality care for his needs and being offered Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) "several times.". Courtesy of Amanda Achtman

Canada has become one of the most permissive countries in the world when it comes to euthanasia. The country first began allowing doctors to help kill terminally ill patients nearing death in 2016; the law was then expanded in 2021 to include patients whose death is not imminent.

In February the country paused a proposal to allow mentally ill individuals access to MAID, with the proposal set to be reconsidered in 2027. Earlier this year, Canadian health researchers alleged that MAID will “save” the Canadian health care system between $34.7 and $136.8 million per year.

A couple in British Columbia is currently suing the provincial government, as well as a Catholic health care provider, after their daughter was denied euthanasia while suffering from a terminal illness. The suit demands that the government remove the religious exemption from the Catholic hospital that protects them from having to offer MAID.

A judge in March, meanwhile, ruled that a woman with autism could be granted her request to die by MAID, overruling efforts by the woman’s father to halt the deadly procedure.

Asked what gives him hope, Foley told Achtman that he aspires one day to “be able to break through [the health care system] and get access to the resources that I need and to live at home with workers who want to work with me and I want to work with them and that we can work as a team.” 

“I have a passion to live,” he said. “I don’t want to give up my life.”

Zoe Romanowsky contributed to this story.

PHOTOS: Thousands take part in Italy’s pro-life march

Thousands of people from across Italy braved the summer heat to join the national Demonstration for Life in Rome on the afternoon of June 22, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2024 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

Thousands of people from across Italy braved the summer heat to join the national Demonstration for Life in Rome on the afternoon of June 22.

“Let’s Choose Life” was the motto of the annual procession, which began at 2 p.m. in Rome’s Piazza della Repubblica, close to the city’s main Termini train station.

"Life begins at conception" reads a sign at Rome's pro-life march June 22, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
"Life begins at conception" reads a sign at Rome's pro-life march June 22, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The slow march continued almost one mile down the Via Nazionale before reaching the area of the ancient Imperial Forum, where a rally with speeches and musical performances was held.

“There is no compromise on human life!” Pope Francis said in a message sent to organizers ahead of the march.

He thanked participants for their “commitment and public witness in defense of human life from conception to natural death” and urged them to “go forward with courage despite every adversity.”

“The stakes, namely the absolute dignity of human life, the gift of God the Creator, are too high to be the object of compromise or mediation,” Francis wrote.

The march for life makes its way through Rome's city streets. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
The march for life makes its way through Rome's city streets. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The pope also invited families to bear witness to “the beauty of life and of the family that welcomes it” in order to build “a society that rejects the culture of waste at every stage of existence: from the most fragile unborn child to the suffering elderly, passing through the victims of trafficking, slavery, and every war.”

Rome's pro-life march drew people from all across Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Rome's pro-life march drew people from all across Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Massimo Gandolfini, one of the spokespersons for the annual protest against abortion, said earlier this year that the organization is calling on Italy’s political leaders to create “structural public reforms to encourage the marriage of young couples, incentivize the birth rate and support parenting by mothers and fathers by reshaping taxation and social services to be family-friendly.”

Priests and religious were among the marchers. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Priests and religious were among the marchers. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
The march arrives at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs in Rome. Credit: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs
The march arrives at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs in Rome. Credit: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs
Many young families joined the march for life in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Many young families joined the march for life in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Pope Francis names Chinese bishop who attended Synod to Archdiocese of Hangzhou

Bishop Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun (right) of the People's Republic of China at the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican in October 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang to lead the Archdiocese of Hangzhou in China, transferring him from the Diocese of Zhoucun, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The June 12 nomination took place “within the framework of dialogue concerning the implementation of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican’s June 22 press release said.

The new archbishop was one of two bishops from mainland China to participate in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

He has led the Zhoucun Diocese in Shandong Province since 2013.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists last year that Yang and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated to attend the synod by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government.

Yang was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995. He was named a bishop by papal mandate in November 2010, and his consecration as bishop took place a little over two years later, in February 2013. 

He was elected vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016.

The Archdiocese of Hangzhou is located in the province of Zhejiang on the eastern coast of China. The province’s capital city of Hangzhou has an estimated population of nearly 12 million people, according to a 2020 census.

The archdiocese did not have a bishop with a papal mandate from 1956 to 2008. It was previously led by Archbishop Matthew Cao Xiangde, who was appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained without Vatican permission in 2000. In 2008, at his request, the Holy See recognized the bishop’s episcopal consecration but not his jurisdiction over the archdiocese.

Matthew Cao Xiangde died in July 2021 at the age of 93.

Statistics from the 1950s estimated the number of Catholics in the archdiocese to be only .4% of the total population.

March for Life president Mancini urges advocates for unborn to continue fight

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, attends the 50th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2023. / Credit: Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini opened the Celebrate Life Conference on Friday with an impassioned speech calling for pro-life advocates to embrace a new season of fighting for the unborn.

At the event held at the Westin Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., Mancini shared her recollection of the moment she first discovered that Roe v. Wade had been overturned.

“I was interviewing on CBS the moment the decision came down, and I’ll never forget how my interviewer was not pro-life,” she shared as the crowd laughed. “She was shocked as I was bustling and so happy, thinking of all of the marchers over the years, the collective millions that have made this moment possible.”

Mancini then became choked up as she recalled the second the news truly sunk in later that same day, stating: “I don’t think in my lifetime I thought Roe would be overturned, and to consider that it was overturned in our lifetime is just unbelievable. It is so easy to forget what a massive victory that was.”

Mancini acknowledged on the eve of the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade that the pro-life movement has since faced some setbacks amid a climate of “cultural confusion.”

Calling the enshrinement of abortion “rights” in Michigan and Ohio “tragic,” Mancini urged those attending to keep up the fight for the unborn.

“While we have had some losses, it is not an option for us to abandon this fight. It is absolutely essential for pro-life leaders, for lawmakers and citizens, to educate their neighbors on the harms of these ballot initiatives and what they do,” Mancini continued. “We are in the single-most significant human rights battle of our time, and we’ve got to dig in.”

The March for Life organization has implemented state capital marches in 17 different states since 2019.

Sharing her experience of attending a Mass at the 2023 Michigan March for Life, Mancini repeated the words that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, shared in his homily: “On a day like today, you want to fight like hell. But you have to fight like heaven… we are called to fight with love at the heart of [the movement].”

She called on audience members to “pray and ask God for what he wants from you in this new season” and to “embrace your given pro-life mission.”

Additionally, Mancini cited a 2023 Charlotte Lozier study that found among women who had had abortions, 60% would have preferred to give birth if they had received either more emotional or financial support.

“I feel like this season is about addressing that 60%,” Mancini shared before emphasizing the importance of promoting pregnancy care centers and maternity homes throughout the country.

In closing, Mancini called on pro-life advocates to “persevere, persevere, persevere.” 

“Dig your heels in as change takes time. We are in this for the long game, so persevere. You were made for such a time as this; now get out there and keep doing it,” she urged.

The Celebrate Life Conference is sponsored by the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, the National Sidewalk Advocacy Center, and Students for Life among other organizations. The event will continue through the weekend with various other keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and the Celebrate Life Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 22.

Mother Angelica’s shrine fills to capacity as National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passes through

Hundreds of faithful filled the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, site of Mother Angelica's tomb, beyond capacity as the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage St. Juan Diego Route passed through on June 20, 2024. / Credit: EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 22, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

“I live because of the Eucharist,” Mother Angelica once said.

The foundress of EWTN and member of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, Mother Angelica made no secret of her love and devotion to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

On Thursday, more than eight years after her death, the legacy of Mother Angelica’s Eucharistic love was on full display as pilgrims along the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage stopped at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, which she founded and where she is buried.

The shrine was filled beyond capacity by hundreds of religious and lay faithful of all ages, including many families.

Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

Those attending participated in a Eucharistic procession despite temperatures in the 90s. The procession began at the shrine’s Marian grotto and ended at the main church, where there was a healing service that included a reflection by Father John Eckert of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the role of shame in the Christian life.

Eckert said that shame serves as a guardrail helping Christians to differentiate good from evil and stay on the right path. This guardrail, however, can become distorted when Christians fall short and the devil twists shame, telling us: “How dare you miss this guardrail!” in attempts to further separate them from God.

But God comes to remind us not to believe the devil’s lies but to release us from those lies, Eckert said.

Built in 1999 and on 400 acres of land, the shrine serves as the chapel for the cloistered Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which houses the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.

The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

The shrine, renowned for its tranquil beauty and as the resting place of Mother Angelica, attracts pilgrims from around the globe. Located in northern Alabama, the shrine marked the halfway point for the Juan Diego Route and served as a place of much-needed respite, with the pilgrims spending several days in private prayer and retreat before Thursday’s event.

The eight Juan Diego “Perpetual Pilgrims” — five young men and women, two seminarians, and a religious brother — began their journey at the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, on May 19. Since then, they have trekked over 1,000 miles, passing through four states and 12 dioceses.

The Juan Diego pilgrims will finish their journey on July 16 in Indianapolis, where they will join pilgrims from the three other routes and thousands of faithful for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

The Catholic Church in France will have 105 new priests in 2024

Priests concelebrate a Mass in Rome. / Credit: Martha Calderón/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 22, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) reported that, in 2024, 105 new priests will be ordained, 17 more priests than in 2023, when 88 new priests were ordained in the European country.

An article published on the CEF website said the vast majority of priestly ordinations are celebrated during the month of June, particularly on the Sunday before the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, which the Catholic Church celebrates every year on June 29.

Of the 105 new priests, 73 are diocesan, 16 belong to religious orders, 10 are members of communities, two belong to societies of apostolic life, while the remaining four “were ordained in the institutes under the former Ecclesia Dei commission, celebrating according to the Roman Missal of 1962 [before the reform of Vatican II].”

At a press conference, Bertrand Lacombe, the archbishop of Auch and a member of the council for ordained ministers and laypeople in ecclesial mission, highlighted two aspects to be considered regarding the new priests: “the essential mission of the priest in the Church and the meaning of this mission today within an increasingly secularized French society” and “the ongoing reflections of the bishops as well as the initiatives launched in the dioceses to raise up vocations.”

The French prelate wished a “beautiful ministry to the priests who are responding to the spiritual expectations of our time: The adventure is worth the effort and gives light to the world!”

The CEF article also noted that according to its 2024 Catéchuménat survey, every year there are more young people and not so young people who want to receive baptism, the Eucharist, and confirmation. 

The archbishop told the new priests that this new generation of young people drawn to the Church is also their generation that “they grew up with and matured” in and that in administering the sacraments to them they both will be nourished.

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

Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More: following God’s law above all else

Details from St John Fisher by Jacobus Houbraken (c. 1760), and St Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527). / Credit: Public domain

London, England, Jun 22, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More is observed as an optional memorial June 22. So that readers don’t have to fish for more information (pun intended), CNA has compiled a question-and-answer lowdown on their lives and legacies:

Who was St. Thomas More?

St. Thomas More (1478–1535) was a humanist and intellectual — he worked as a lawyer and explored theology through his written works, many of which were defenses of the Catholic faith against heresy. He studied at Oxford and briefly considered religious life, but he eventually followed a vocation to marriage and fatherhood.

More was appointed by King Henry VIII to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.

What does “lord chancellor” mean?

The “lord chancellor” was the highest-ranking member of the king’s cabinet. This role was commonly filled by a clergyman. Historically, the role entailed great judicial responsibility — its influence has evolved to scale back on this particular front.

How did he manage to get on Henry VIII’s bad side?

St. Thomas More stood firmly in his Catholic faith when Henry VIII began to pull away from the Church.

The king wanted a declaration of nullity for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Church, upon examination, could not find his marriage to Catherine invalid. More refused in 1530 to sign a letter asking the pope to declare the marriage null, and he would not sign an oath acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church in England.

In May 1532, Henry pressured the English synod, the Convocation of Canterbury, to submit the clergy’s authority to his own. The day after the convocation agreed to Henry’s terms, More resigned as lord chancellor.

More wished to retire from public life, but when he refused to assent to the Act of Supremacy 1534, which repudiated the pope’s authority over the Church in England, he was imprisoned on charges of treason.

He was sentenced to execution, which took place July 6, 1535.

Why is he a saint?

More’s persistence to remain with the Church rather than the king, ending in martyrdom, was a testament to his tireless devotion to God’s law. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and was named patron of statesmen and politicians by Pope John Paul II.

I’ve heard something about his beard…?

Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.

The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.

His last words were, “This hath not offended the king,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.

Who was St. John Fisher?

St. John Fisher (1469–1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22 and was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.

His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time traveling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defenses in response to Martin Luther.

What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?

St. John Fisher studied Henry’s request for a declaration of nullity but could not find grounds for such a declaration.

He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognized the king’s supremacy over the Church in England, and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.

Fisher was jailed, starved, and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.

Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535 in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.

Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…

It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.

However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honor of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.

Why is Fisher a saint?

Same deal as More — he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonized with More in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

But he’s not nearly as well known as St. Thomas More.

No, he’s not. St. John Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.

This article was first published on June 22, 2018, and has been updated.

UPDATE: Tennessee priest indicted on additional sex crime charges

Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin. / Credit: Courtesy of the Franklin Police Department

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

A priest in Tennessee already facing multiple sexual abuse charges has been served with two additional battery charges this month, police have revealed. 

A grand jury earlier this month returned a superseding indictment against Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza, charging him with two additional counts of sexual battery, according to a press release from the Franklin, Tennessee, Police Department. 

In February, Garcia was indicted on eight other charges, including continuous abuse of a child, aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and two counts of sexual battery.

The priest is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin.

The Diocese of Nashville had said in a press release in January that it first learned of accusations against Garcia in November 2023 when “a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching” involving the priest. 

The diocese made a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; it also contracted with a former FBI agent to oversee the diocesan investigation into the claims.

A spokesman for the diocese told CNA on Friday that Garcia had been removed from active ministry in November after the first report was made regarding the priest. 

Earlier reports had suggested the diocese delayed for several weeks in removing the priest from active ministry; the spokesman denied those reports. 

“The diocese has kept the Holy See informed throughout this matter and the canonical process is ongoing separate from the criminal proceedings,” the spokesman told CNA.

Garcia was ordained in 2020 and served at several parishes in the Nashville Diocese before his indictment. 

This story was updated on Friday, June 21, at 4:30 p.m. with additional comments from the Nashville diocesan spokesman.