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Nigerian Christian villagers claim military helicopter fired on them, not bandits

Photo illustration of Nigerian military uniform. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 4, 2022 / 11:41 am (CNA).

Residents of predominantly Christian villages in north-central Nigeria that came under attack from Fulani bandits on motorcycles June 5 maintain that a government helicopter fired on the villages’ defenders, but authorities have denied the charge, saying the crew targeted the assailants.

The fighting, which lasted for several hours, took place in a group of villages about 30 miles south of Kaduna City, the capital of Kaduna. The raid left 32 villagers dead and 29 others, chiefly women, kidnapped, according to media reports and security authorities.

In its aftermath, authorities have sought to reassure residents that the government is on their side in the bloody conflict with Fulani bandits.

“An air force helicopter (under operation whirl punch) dispatched to the area, intercepted the bandits at the last location (Ungwan Maikori) and engaged them as they retreated, before the arrival of ground troops to the general area,” Samuel Aruwan, the state commissioner for internal security, said in a June 7 statement posted on Facebook.

But eyewitnesses and others who spoke to CNA say perhaps hundreds of villagers saw the helicopter fired on armed locals who were trying to ward off more than 200 invaders.

“The whole village saw the helicopter firing at the residents,” said Jonathan Asake, the head of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) who coordinated a meeting of villagers two days after the attack. 

In addition, Rev. Denis Sani, head of the local Evangelical Church Winning All as well as an elder advisor to volunteer neighborhood watchmen, told the conflict reporter Masara Kim that no ground troops arrived to rescue residents in Makori, one of the villages that came under attack.

Sani told CNA that the helicopter fired with a submachine gun toward him and his fellow civilian guards, forcing him and his assistant, Jonah Greece, to withdraw toward the forest to gain cover. 

“We pulled back to avoid getting killed, allowing the terrorists to enter the village,” Greece told CNA.

Defending their homes

“The attack started as we were ending our church services on Sunday around noon,” said Greece, a community medical practitioner in Maikori. 

Since the village had suffered a massacre by terrorists in March 2019 and an attack earlier this year, the able-bodied men formed a defensive perimeter around the approaches to Maikori.

“There were no military or police in the village, but about 40 to 50 men gathered up their hunting rifles,” Greece explained.

Sani called for the men of the village of Maikori to position themselves behind trees and tall grass. The attackers were mounted on 70 motorbikes, three fighters on each bike.

Greece said the attackers first swarmed through the neighboring village of Dogon Noma, burning houses and firing at villagers fleeing into the forest. Then they mounted their bikes and headed into Maikori where Sani and the defenders ambushed them with their homemade hunting rifles and pump shotguns, Greece said.

At approximately 1 p.m. the villagers noticed a helicopter variously described as white or “silver” hovering over Maikori and firing vertically down at the defenders, Greece said.

Claims denied

Nigerian media have reported that the claim that the helicopter fired on village defenders has been debunked. Villagers, however, are standing by their account.

To clear the air on disputed versions of the incident seven heads of state police agencies met with village leaders on June 20 in Kufana. 

“Aruwan said while the Government had not totally succeeded in its primary assignment, it was however doing its best to ensure that they had come also to clarify some lingering ‘misrepresentations’ being championed by some enemies of progress and of the government,” Stingo Usman, a Christian community leader in Maraban Kajuru who attended the meeting, told CNA.

The service chiefs at the meeting asserted that “it was impossible that the army helicopter had fired on the residents,” Usman said. None of the service chiefs who spoke were present during the attack, he added.

According to Stingo Usman, Ibrahim Usman, the village head of Dogon Noma, contradicted Aruwan’s account. The village head told the authorities at the meeting that “a helicopter arrived and the locals thought relief had come to them until they realized that they were being attacked by both the helicopter and the bandits,” Stingo Usman related to CNA in a text message.

“The youth then had to run for their lives and from that point, the armed Fulani bandits got access to the village and burned the whole village down, and also killed two people there,” Stingo Usman wrote, recounting Ibrahim Usman’s statements at the meeting.

The representative of Kajuru County in the Nigerian House of Representatives, Yakubu Umar Barde, has called for an investigation of possible complicity between the Nigerian military and the terrorists.  

In addition, calls for an internationally led forensic investigation of complicity between Muslim terrorists and rogue military units have come from Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, and Gregory Stanton, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and the founder of Genocide Watch.

Security officials drew criticism for failing to stop the blasphemy murder of college student Deborah Emmanuel on the campus of Shehu Shegari teachers’ college in Sokoto on May 12.

There have been additional complaints lodged against the lax response by the military and police to other attacks blamed on radicalized Fulani Islamists, including a massacre Jan. 11 in Te’Egbe, in Plateau State, and on March 20 in Kagoro in southern Kaduna.

The inactivity and in some cases complicity of the military in terrorist attacks in the past has been noted by the human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.

"Amnesty International found evidence showing that security forces received information about impending attacks and in some cases, came in contact with attackers but did nothing to stop or prevent the attacks,” the organization said in a 2018 report

“Many attacks lasted for hours, in some cases days, even in communities where security forces were not far away,” the report said.

Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes dies at 87

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes arrives for the afternoon session of the Amazon Synod, October 8, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jul 4, 2022 / 09:24 am (CNA).

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, Brazil, died on Monday after a long illness.

The cardinal, who had a significant role in the 2019 Amazon Synod, was just over a month away from his 88th birthday. He died of lung cancer, according to Brazilian journalist Mirticeli Medeiros.

His death was announced July 4 by Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, current archbishop of São Paulo, who said Hummes’ body will be present for mourning and prayers in the Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo.

Hummes, a member of the Order of Friars Minor, was president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and the newly created Ecclesial Conference of Amazonia (CEAMA).

Pope Francis appointed Hummes relator general of the Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region and a member of the pre-synodal council. As relator general, Hummes was responsible for writing the synod’s final report.

Hummes was also prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy from 2006-2010, after being made a cardinal in 2001.

He was known for his social activism, including in the areas of climate change, poverty, and protection of indigenous peoples.

A close friend of Pope Francis, after his election, Hummes reportedly embraced him and said, “don’t forget the poor.”

The cardinal was born in Montenegro, Brazil, on Aug. 8, 1934, to a German-Brazilian father and German mother.

He took the name Cláudio when he joined the Franciscans, and was ordained a priest in 1958.

Before becoming a bishop, he taught philosophy in seminaries and a Catholic university. He was provincial superior of the Franciscans of Rio Grande do Sul from 1972-1975 and president of the Union of Latin American Conferences of Franciscans.

Hummes studied at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Geneva, Switzerland, and later became an advisor for ecumenical affairs to the bishops’ conference of Brazil.

In March 1975, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Santo André, and the following December succeeded Jorge de Oliveira as bishop.

He became archbishop of Fortaleza in 1996 and archbishop of São Paulo in 1998.

A personal way to govern: Why Pope Francis uses Apostolic Letters the way he does

Pope Francis / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 4, 2022 / 09:06 am (CNA).

It is no coincidence that Pope Francis chose the form of an apostolic letter to write about liturgy. Nor that he chose to write it one year after the publication of the Traditionis custodes, the motu proprio with which he abolished the liberalization of the Traditional Latin Mass by Benedict XVI.

Published on June 29 and entitled Desiderio desideravi, the document not only drives home his concerns with the liturgy. It also shines a light on the thought — and the modus operandi — of Pope Francis. 

In the 15-page apostolic letter, the pope said he wanted “to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration.”

Pope Francis also said, after writing a letter to bishops to accompany Traditionis custodes, he wished to address all Catholics with some reflections on liturgical formation, the theological importance of the Mass, and acceptance of the liturgical documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Notably, this is the 83rd time that Pope Francis has used the form of the apostolic letter to convey an authoritative opinion. 

When it comes to expressing the pope’s teaching authority, his magisterium, an apostolic letter ranks fourth in the hierarchy of pontifical documents. The most important would be an apostolic constitution, followed by a papal encyclical, and then an apostolic exhortation.

Pope Francis, however, has always favored "light" legislative instruments, which require less effort in drafting – and do not undergo a longer approval process.

An apostolic constitution, for example, must be consistent with canon law and other prescriptions of the Church. For this reason, Praedicate evangelium, which regulates the functions and offices of the Curia, has had a long gestation period and still awaits full implementation.

The same is true of a papal encyclical, which is concerned with expressing the magisterium – and cannot be linked only to contingent moments. 

The third most important kind of document, an apostolic exhortation, is a more particular and personal instrument of the pope. In the case of a post-synodal exhortation, it will draw on the fruits of a Synod of Bishops.

It is worth noting that Pope Francis' governmental program takes the form of an apostolic exhortation: Evangelii gaudium replaced the post-synodal apostolic exhortation expected after the Synod on the Word of God in 2012.

Of that synod — the last of the pontificate of Benedict XVI — no trace remains.

When Pope Francis had to legislate, he mainly used the form of a motu proprio (the Vatican website lists 49 of them) and rescripts. These are officially called rescripta ex audientia sanctissimi, i. e. orders of the Pope, written following a personal audience.

Neither of these types of decisions require approval by the Roman Curia.

The use of the apostolic letter, like an executive order, also demonstrates a development of this pontificate: Pope Francis did not initially use these as a form of government. Ultimately, however, that is how he most of all expressed his thoughts and decisions.

Beyond apostolic letters in the form of a motu proprio, which have a legal purpose and effect, the letters of Pope Francis are also instruments for addressing the people of God. 

The document Desiderio desideravi serves a variety of purposes:

  1. It is a personal letter with which Pope Francis addresses a specific theme – the liturgy.

  2. It is a letter that carries legal clout because Pope Francis reaffirms what was decided in Traditionis Custodes – and denies any possibility of liberalization of the Traditional Latin Mass.

  3. It is a letter that never mentions his predecessor Benedict XVI, whose decision he subverts, establishing a clear rupture between the before and after.

In other words, Pope Francis is using this apostolic letter in a very particular way to reinforce a personal decision.

The government of Pope Francis is deeply personal, so much so that his own point of view is expressed as magisterium.  Pope Francis thus shows himself to be a particular kind of centralizer: Faced with the various expressions of the Church, Pope Francis does not fail to enforce unity, making choices that exclude, in fact, a plurality of forms. Whoever celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass, for Pope Francis, uses a different rite, and is outside the tradition of continuity of the Church.

We might say that whenever the Pope finds resistance, he gets around it using whatever instrument is available to him. Hence, even the use of "lighter" documents ultimately constitute a form of legislation. In the end, they are the quickest means available to the Pope to govern effectively without consulting too much.

'For the moment, no. Really!' – Pope Francis dismisses resignation rumors, says health is improving

Pope Francis / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 4, 2022 / 06:12 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said he has no plans to resign soon and that his knee injury is healing.

Reports of Francis resigning began to spread last month in light of three events to happen in late August, including the creation of new cardinals and a day trip to the Italian city of L’Aquila, which Benedict XVI visited in 2009, four years before announcing his own resignation. 

Pope Francis told Reuters in an interview published July 4 that “all of these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen. But it never entered my mind. For the moment no, for the moment, no. Really!”

The pope did say, as in the past, that he would consider resigning one day if he could no longer run the Church due to poor health, but only “God will say” when that might be.

The 90-minute interview with Reuters took place on July 2 in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives. He frequently holds meetings in a reception room on the building’s ground floor.

According to Reuters, the pope arrived for the interview using a cane.

He joked, “I’m still alive!” when asked how he was doing. He also explained that he had suffered “a small fracture” in his right knee after stepping wrongly with an inflamed ligament.

The fracture is healing, he said, with the help of laser and magnet therapy. “I am well, I am slowly getting better.”

Pope Francis expressed regret that, due to the knee injury, he had to cancel a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, scheduled for July 2-7, saying the decision caused him “much suffering.”

The decision came after doctors said he needs 20 more days of therapy and rest for his knee before he travels to Canada July 24-30.

The pope also brushed off rumors that he has cancer.

Some reports have claimed Francis is suffering from colon cancer after he underwent an operation to remove part of his large intestine due to diverticulitis one year ago.

“[The operation] was a great success,” he told Reuters, adding with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he dismissed as “court gossip.”

He added that he does not want to have surgery on his knee because of the negative side-effects of general anesthetic.

In the interview, Pope Francis also addressed the U.S Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision, and answered a question about pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion.

He also spoke about the war in Ukraine and reiterated his desire to visit Kyiv and Moscow.

No pope has ever visited Moscow, but Francis hinted that there may now be an opening, even if Russian authorities told the Vatican several months ago it was not the right time.

“I would like to go [to Ukraine], and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the Russian president gave me a small window to serve the cause of peace,” he said.

“And now it is possible,” he said, “after I come back from Canada, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

The pope said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has been in contact with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip to the Russian capital.

Pope Francis condemns abortion in new comments about Roe v. Wade decision, responds to question on Communion

Pope Francis speaks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi after Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on June 29, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 4, 2022 / 03:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned abortion in new comments about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

When asked whether a Catholic politician who supports the right to choose abortion can receive the sacrament of Communion, he warned of bishops losing their “pastoral nature.”

Speaking to Reuters over the weekend, the pope said he respected the ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, though he did not know enough to speak about the juridical aspects.

The interview, published July 4, said Francis compared abortion to “hiring a hit man.”

“I ask: Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?” Pope Francis said.

He was also asked about the debate over whether Catholic politicians who promote legal abortion should be admitted to Holy Communion.

In May, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was barred from receiving Communion in her home diocese of San Francisco by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone because of her advocacy of abortion.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly received Holy Communion at a Mass with Pope Francis at the Vatican on June 29. It is not clear if the pope was aware that Pelosi attended, though the Vatican issued a photo showing the two greeting each other in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis told Reuters: “When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem. That’s all I can say.”

The 90-minute interview in Italian took place on July 2 in a reception room on the ground floor of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where the pope lives.

In addition to the abortion topic, the interview covered the pope’s health, resignation rumors, and the possibility of trips to Kyiv and Moscow.

This leadership expert is guiding faithful Catholics from the pew to the boardroom

Cristofer Pereyra is the CEO of Tepeyac Leadership, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona. / Courtesy of TLI

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 3, 2022 / 11:18 am (CNA).

Many people assume “Catholic leadership” stops at the pulpit, the principal’s office, or the doors to the parish center. Cristofer Pereyra wants to broaden that mindset.

A former television reporter with Univision, Pereyra led the Hispanic Mission Office for the Diocese of Phoenix under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. But an experience in a civic leadership training program opened his eyes to another mission: Teaching faithful lay Catholics how to be effective leaders in society.

Pereyra discovered that these types of programs are shaping leaders in small towns and large cities across the U.S. While they provide practical guidance and excellent networking opportunities, they also tend to advance a secular agenda that’s at odds with the Catholic faith, he found.

That revelation motivated him to launch the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative, which offers a five-month-long training program designed specifically for lay Catholics. As the initiative explains on its website, the goal is to educate participants “in the core teachings of the Church and their concrete application to the career world.” 

Now Pereyra has a book out that distills the program’s key principles: Catholic Leadership for Civil Society: A Practical Guide on Authentic Lay Leadership,” co-written with Erin Monnin. Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles wrote the introduction.

CNA spoke with Pereyra recently about the book and his belief that all Catholics are called to be leaders. Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Why did you start the Tepeyac Leadership program and write the book?

What we're trying to do, what we've been trying to do for the past six years, is to show lay Catholics what it means to be a leader out in civil society. Moreover, we have been extending them an invitation to realize that this is just no longer an option. Our true vocation is to seek to become influential leaders in society so that we can influence others for Christ to bring us closer to Christ. This is particularly for professionals, people who have been blessed by God with a college education and a professional career. The leadership initiative is the flagship program for my organization, Tepeyac Leadership. In our five-month, 18-week program we are trying to change the minds of lay Catholics, and we're forming them. Then, we're sending them out with a very concrete mindset and a very concrete mission, and that is to insert themselves into the secular institutions of society.

What led you to want to make a difference in Catholic leadership?

I was working for Bishop Olmsted as the director of the Hispanic Mission Office. A representative of the diocese sent me to a local secular civic leadership development program in Phoenix, Arizona. Going through that experience opened my eyes to the world and the reality of civic leadership development in the United States. It is in every major city in the United States, as I discovered. They have been placing and catapulting people into local leadership positions in their community. So their aims and goals are for service, philanthropy, even politics. Most of our public elected officials in the United States get their feet wet through this program. I had mixed feelings going through the program because in most of the sessions and discussions, I tended to be the lone conservative or religious voice in the room. Most of these programs around the United States form leaders with values that directly counter Catholic teaching.  

I spoke to the bishop, and said, “I think this is not a bad idea. It's a noble concept. Who could be against forming leaders? It is just not being oriented right, the way they're doing it. I think we can do it better.” We borrowed a template from the secular world, and that's how Tepeyac Leadership got started. We named this project simply because we were inspired by the story of St. Juan Diego (who had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary on a hill by that name.) We wanted to ask Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego to intercede for the future of the program, which they've done, tremendously. 

What is the objective, specifically?

For us, the preeminent field for leadership, for Catholic leaders and civil society, is board service (on the board of a business or other organization.) Our question is, “Where are the Catholics when big decisions are being made?” If there were any Catholics at all, they either lack the information or the courage to speak up for truth. So our objective as an organization is ultimately to form and prepare to send out and encourage committed Catholics to seek out seats at those tables where decisions are being made. Those are decisions that impact the culture. We simply want to help bring about the decisions, the right decisions, that will bring about the common good, guided by our Catholic faith. To do that, we need to be well-formed and have a seat at the table. 

Is the program restricted to top-level executives?

We have broadened the definition of “board service.” We definitely are referring to actual boards — governance boards, advisory boards, fundraising boards, nonprofits, for-profits, pay-based, non-pay based, all of it. We definitely want more Catholics on those boards. But we're expanding the definition. We are also talking about your local homeowner's association, your teacher association, boards for your local public school district, local municipality. Ultimately, we just need more people, well-formed and committed Catholics, in all those areas where decisions are being made. 

What does Jesus say about leadership?

I don't know that the word “leadership” itself is in the (Gospels). Jesus points us toward the type of leadership that we must become in many instances, like when he asks us to be perfect, like his Father is perfect. What is Jesus truly saying? We are human beings; we're not going to be perfect. What he's inviting us to do is to try to become the best versions of ourselves every single day. Strive to grow in virtue, all of the virtues that he modeled for us. If every day we enter into a lifelong commitment to shape and grow and build our character by growing in virtue, then we are striving to be perfect, like God the Father is perfect.

The Tepeyac Leadership Initiative (TLI) program, which costs $2,000 per person, consists of weekly, virtual, online sessions from February through June. Participants also attend an all-day retreat, either virtually or in person. The program has three tracks, grouped by time zone. For more information, visit TLI’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Pope Francis: Evangelization is not ‘personal activism’ but a witness of love

Pope Francis prays the Angelus from the window of the Apostolic Palace on July 3, 2022. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that evangelization should not be seen as “personal activism,” but a witness of love in relationship with others.

In his Angelus address on July 3, the pope posed a question: “How do we bring the good news of the Gospel to others?

“Do we do it with a fraternal spirit and style or in the manner of the world with prominence, competitiveness, and efficiency?” he asked.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pope encouraged Catholics to work in collaboration with “the witness of fraternity.”

“It is possible to develop perfect pastoral plans, implement well-made projects, organize down to the smallest details. You can summon crowds and have many means, but if there is no availability for one's brothers and sisters, the evangelical mission does not advance,” the pope said.

Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus sent his disciples “two by two” in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-9).

“The disciples were sent two by two, not individually. Going on a mission two by two, from a practical point of view, would seem to have more disadvantages than advantages. There is a risk that the two do not get along, that they have a different pace, that one gets tired or gets sick along the way, forcing the other to stop too. On the other hand, when you are alone, it seems that the journey becomes faster and smoother. However, Jesus does not think so: in front of him he does not send lonely people, but disciples who go two by two,” the pope said.

“Let us ask ourselves if we have the ability to collaborate, if we know how to make decisions together, sincerely respecting those around us and taking into account their point of view, if we do it in community, not alone. In fact, it is above all in this way that the life of the disciple reveals that of the Master, really announcing him to others,” he said.

After praying the Angelus with the crowd, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine.

“I appeal to the leaders of nations and international organizations to react to the tendency to accentuate conflict and confrontation,” he said.

The pope underlined that the world needs to move from focusing on political, economic, and military power strategies to a “global peace project,” which says “no to a world divided among conflicting powers” and “yes to a world united among peoples and civilizations that respect each other.”

He said: “The world needs peace — not a peace based on the balance of arms, on mutual fear. No, this will not do. This is turning history back seventy years.”

“The Ukrainian crisis should have been, but — if you want it to be — can still become a challenge for wise statesmen, capable of building in dialogue a better world for new generations. With God's help, this is always possible!”

PHOTOS: Heated abortion confrontation in NYC

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. / Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

New York City, N.Y., Jul 3, 2022 / 05:56 am (CNA).

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a New York City Planned Parenthood abortion clinic Saturday, setting off a tense, hours’ long confrontation in Lower Manhattan.

With NYPD officers slowly pushing against the crowd, the marchers eventually reached the clinic. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

A counter-demonstration organized by NYC for Abortion Rights began Saturday morning outside the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street, where a monthly Witness for Life Mass is held at 8 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month. The Mass is followed by the recitation of the Rosary outside the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic, then benediction back at the basilica before a social with the Sisters of Life.

On Saturday, counter-demonstrators tried to stop participants from leaving the basilica, though marchers managed to slip out a back door, AMNY reported.

The marchers’ path to the clinic was blocked by pro-abortion protesters who pushed back against police trying to clear the way.

Kathryn Jean Lopez,  senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review, tweeted from the scene that it took marchers more than an hour to reach the clinic, which is just a block from the basilica. Marchers were “praying all the way,” she said.

Outside the basilica, demonstrators chanted, “Thank God for abortion,” and “F---- the Church,” among other slogans.

The demonstration comes a little over a week since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide. With Roe no longer in effect, the issue of abortion is left up to the states to legislate.

Photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno captured the march and counter-demonstration for CNA.

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Congolese rite: ‘Peace begins with us’

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter's Basilica on July 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Amid singing, clapping, and dancing to traditional Congolese music, Pope Francis celebrated the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

The pope began his homily on July 3 with the word, “esengo,” which means “joy” in Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and by millions of speakers across Central Africa.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass for Rome’s Congolese community on the day that he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa before his trip to Africa was canceled at the request of the pope’s doctors.

The pope, whose mobility has been limited due to a knee injury, remained seated throughout the Mass. Francis presided over the Liturgy of the Word and gave the homily. Archbishop Richard Gallagher offered the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace and reconciliation in your homeland, in the wounded and exploited Democratic Republic of Congo,” Pope Francis said.

“We join the Masses celebrated in the country according to this intention and pray that Christians may be witnesses of peace, capable of overcoming any feeling of resentment, any feeling of vengeance, overcoming the temptation that reconciliation is not possible, any unhealthy attachment to their own group that leads to despising others.”

The pope underlined that the Lord calls all Christians to be “ambassadors of peace.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a wave of violence in recent years. Dozens of armed groups are believed to operate in the eastern region of DR Congo despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers. Local Catholic bishops have repeatedly appealed for an end to the bloodshed.

“Brother, sister, peace begins with us,” Pope Francis said.

"If you live in his peace, Jesus arrives and your family, your society changes. They change if your heart is not at war in the first place, it is not armed with resentment and anger, it is not divided, it is not double, it is not false. Putting peace and order in one's heart, defusing greed, extinguishing hatred and resentment, fleeing corruption, fleeing cheating and cunning: this is where peace begins.”

Peace was expected to be a key theme of the pope’s canceled Africa trip. Pope Francis was planning to spend July 2-5 in the Congolese cities of Kinshasa and Goma, and July 5-7 in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

After the Vatican announced that the trip was postponed due to the ongoing medical treatment for the pope’s knee pain, Pope Francis said on June 13: “We will bring Kinshasa to St. Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Congolese in Rome, of which there are many.”

About 2,000 people were present in the inculturated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the first Sunday of July.

Women in brightly colored traditional dresses sang and danced as they prayed the Gloria. People clapped and shouted as Archbishop Richard Gallagher incensed the main altar.

The gifts were brought up to the altar in a dancing procession. Religious sisters in the pews stepped from side to side together to the music.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis greeted some members of the local Congolese community from his wheelchair.

“May the Lord help us to be missionaries today, going in the company of brother and sister; having on his lips the peace and closeness of God; carrying in the heart the meekness and goodness of Jesus, Lamb who takes away the sins of the world,” the pope said.

The Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is an inculturated Mass formally approved in 1988 for the dioceses of what was then known as the Republic of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The only inculturated Eucharistic celebration approved after the Second Vatican Council, it was developed following a call for adaptation of the liturgy in "Sacrosanctum concilium," Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

In a video message in 2020, Pope Francis said: "The experience of the Congolese rite of the celebration of Mass can serve as an example and model for other cultures.”

Father Mike Schmitz's next podcast, 'Catechism in a Year,' starts Jan. 1

Father Mike Schmitz is the host of the podcast "the Bible in a Year," produced by Ascension. / Courtesy of Ascension

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 2, 2022 / 09:38 am (CNA).

Father Mike Schmitz, the voice behind the “Bible in a Year” podcast, will launch a new “Catechism in a Year” podcast on Jan. 1, 2023. 

For the 365 days of 2023, Schmitz will read through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church, while “providing explanation, insight, and encouragement along the way,” according to a press release. The new podcast will be free on all streaming platforms, as well as on the Hallow prayer app.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compilation of fundamental Christian truths and the essential teachings of the Church. The official U.S. version of the text is more than 900 pages long.

Ascension, the podcast’s publisher, reports that the “Bible in a Year” podcast has garnered 6.8 billion total listening minutes, as well as 300 million downloads to date.

In an announcement video, Schmitz said, “If your experience with the ‘Bible in a year’ was it took your life and started moving it and started bringing you closer and closer to the Lord, the ‘Catechism in a Year,’ I’m telling you, is going to put your prayer life and your relationship with the Lord into hyperdrive.”

In preparation for “Catechism in a Year,” Ascension will publish a new version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that podcast listeners can follow along.

The podcast’s webpage says, “If you have ever wanted to understand what it means to be Catholic and allow those truths to shape your life — this podcast is for you!” The page also includes a list of the goals of the podcast.

Ascension also includes some resources for keeping up to date with the “Catechism in a Year” news, including a Facebook group that listeners can join while awaiting the January launch.

Schmitz is the director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth as well as the chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). Fr. Mike attended St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was ordained for the Diocese of Duluth in 2003.