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  • Court allows Abbott's temporary ban on elective abortion for time being

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters


    AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) -- By allowing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's temporary block on unnecessary medical procedures, including abortion, to remain, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit March 31 was paying "careful attention to the health and safety needs of Texans" amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

    A week earlier, Abbott issued an executive order requiring all health care facilities and professionals in Texas to postpone any unnecessary medical procedures "to preserve desperately needed medical supplies" needed to combat the spread of COVID-19.

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America, along with other organizations that support legal abortion, filed a lawsuit March 25 against Abbott, Paxton and several other state officials over the temporary ban on elective abortion during the pandemic.

    The ban was briefly lifted the evening of March 30 when a lower court ruled suspending abortion services, even temporarily, was unconstitutional and in violation Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The 5th Circuit the next day ruled Abbott's executive order stopping elective abortions temporarily could remain in place, pending an appeal.

    "We are pleased that the court recognized the urgency and necessity of Gov. Abbott's order. All elective surgeries and procedures, including abortions, must cease during this national crisis," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan D. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization.

    "At a time when millions of Americans are making heroic sacrifices to protect the vulnerable, and legitimate health care workers risk their own lives to care for COVID-19 patients with crucial protective equipment in short supply, the abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood demands special treatment and diverts scarce resources," she said in a March 31 statement.

    Dannenfelser thanked Abbott and the governors of other states for temporarily stopping elective abortions amid the virus.

    "We believe the abortion lobby should drop their lawsuits in every state where they are attempting to block similar measures. Abortion is not health care and their obstinacy is worse than a waste of time -- it puts the life and health of countless Americans in jeopardy," she added.

    Iowa, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma also have ordered a temporary stop on elective abortions, and officials in those states are likewise being sued by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and/or the Center for Reproductive Rights.

    Dannenfelser also has strongly criticized Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for stopping all elective surgeries, except abortions, during the pandemic. In his order, Wolf considers cancer, pediatric, cardiac and spinal surgeries to be elective procedures.

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CNS News Briefs

Brief versions on news stories from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  • New '90 Day' online giving effort in Boston will get donations to parishes

    BRAINTREE, Mass. (CNS) -- A newly launched three-month campaign called "90 Days Now -- For Your Parish" is being spearheaded by a lay Catholic to help support parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, because while churches remains remain closed because of COVID-19, the need for parish services continues. Boston Cardinal Sean P. O' Malley "has spoken eloquently about the importance of taking care of one another, especially as we face the unprecedented challenges of this crisis," said John Corcoran, a member of St. Paul Parish in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Corcoran stepped up stepped forward with the idea for the 90-day initiative, the first of its kind for the archdiocese, according to a news release. For its part to support the grassroots effort, the Boston Archdiocese has created an easy-to-use, online payment mechanism at By clicking the "DONATE" button, donors can make a gift directly to the parish of their choice. "Our parishes are always there for us, and most do not have cash reserved sufficient to compensate for the lack of weekly contributions. This is a great way for parishioners to be supportive during this difficult time," said Corcoran, who is the founder of Trinity Life Sciences, a leader in global life sciences solutions.

    Court allows Abbott's temporary ban on elective abortion for time being

    AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) -- By allowing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's temporary block on unnecessary medical procedures, including abortion, to remain, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit March 31 was paying "careful attention to the health and safety needs of Texans" amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A week earlier, Abbott issued an executive order requiring all health care facilities and professionals in Texas to postpone any unnecessary medical procedures "to preserve desperately needed medical supplies" needed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, along with other organizations that support legal abortion, filed a lawsuit March 25 against Abbott, Paxton and several other state officials over the temporary ban on elective abortion during the pandemic. The ban was briefly lifted the evening of March 30 when a lower court ruled suspending abortion services, even temporarily, was unconstitutional and in violation Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The 5th Circuit the next day ruled Abbott's executive order stopping elective abortions temporarily could remain in place, pending an appeal. "We are pleased that the court recognized the urgency and necessity of Gov. Abbott's order. All elective surgeries and procedures, including abortions, must cease during this national crisis," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan D. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization.

    It will be a palmless Sunday at most U.S. parishes

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Don't expect any palms this Passion Sunday. And distribution of palms later in the year might not happen, either, according to Rita Thiron, executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. There has been "a very large discussion" on the issues surrounding palms, Thiron told Catholic News Service, especially since for parishes, "more than likely their palm order has arrived." But the key point, Thiron said, is that "we are under lockdown orders from the government, so we will not be distributing palms and blessing them. Nor will we be putting them out for people to take, because that would be an opportunity to spread germs." One thing that can be done with the palms, she added, is that "you may lay them out and dry them out under lamps. You can't just leave them in the bag. They would just rot." The palms, Thiron said, are "associated with one day": Passion Sunday, colloquially known as Palm Sunday. "The text for the blessing is associated with Christ's entry into Jerusalem. We're simply not going to do the blessing of palms in the United Sates, in most cases."

    Archbishop Sheen's niece recalls happy times with her uncle in new book

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As a child, Joan Sheen Cunningham got to travel with her parents from their Illinois home to visit her uncle, first in Washington, then later in New York City. Her uncle was Archbishop -- then Father -- Fulton Sheen. Now 92 years old, Cunningham has written a book recalling the times she spent with her relative, a candidate for sainthood, called "My Uncle Fulton Sheen." "My children knew I had done various things while I was growing up, and they thought I should write something about it," Cunningham told Catholic News Service in an April 1 phone interview from Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where she's living with her son and daughter-in-law, but she had never gotten around to doing it. Later, though, someone -- she can't remember who -- approached her about writing a book. Cunningham saw a double benefit: "I would do something for my children, and I would do anything to help my uncle," she said. In one sense, it's returning a favor. "I pray for him every day," Cunningham said, laughing. "For different things that I prayed to him and asked him to pray for, I would have gotten." The book, published by Ignatius Press in January, includes lessons she learned from her uncle, whose 20-year nationwide radio broadcast -- followed by a hit five-year television series, "Life Is Worth Living" -- made him the United States' most visible priest.

    Even in perfect weather, sports fields are quiet because of pandemic

    WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) -- On a beautiful sunny spring afternoon in late March, the setting on the softball diamond at Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware, was just about perfect: groomed grass and a pristine infield under blue skies with a complement of fluffy clouds. But the Auks' softball team would not be taking the field that afternoon or any other for the foreseeable future. The novel coronavirus outbreak has closed schools in the state, and that also has meant the absence of spring sports. Softball coach Dan Pisani was looking forward to a season with an experienced roster, including six seniors. "These are kids who have played big roles for us in the past," Pisani told The Dialog, newspaper of the Wilmington Diocese. "At least four of them would be four-year starters this year. Definitely kids who have earned the right to have a memorable senior year." Archmere senior Jack Nielsen, a member of the school's baseball team, was resigned to accepting the unfortunate circumstances for the Auks' squad. "I'm probably going to miss my senior year season. But for as long as I'm stuck at home, it's more time for me to get even better. It's an extended offseason now. It's time to reload and get ready for the next time I'm going to get on the field," said Nielsen, who will continue to play baseball at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania next year.

    Coronavirus draws prayers to saints who cared for plague victims

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Saints can get a bad rap because sometimes people assume they lived in deep piety removed from the burdens of everyday life. But a quick look at the saints known for their ministry to the poor and outcast, the sick and dying, particularly during times of plagues, casts these men and women in a different light. The Catholic Church has numerous saints that fall under this category and a few particularly stand out now during this time of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Topping most lists as a patron saint of plagues is St. Roch, who lived during the Black Death in the 14th century. He was said to have cured plague victims he visited in Italy with his prayers and by marking the sick with the sign of the cross. Eventually, he too was sickened by the plague and is said to have withdrawn to a hut in the forest until he recovered. Legend has it a dog brought him food, which is why statues of St. Roch often include a dog at his side. Although the saint might seem far-removed from modern life, his care for plague victims certainly resonates today. In the U.S., there are several parishes named after him. One, in Oxford, Massachusetts, includes a prayer to the saint on its website asking the saint for "healing during this current health crisis during Lent and throughout the pandemic" and urging him to "intercede for the whole world."

    Australian High Court to announce decision on Cardinal Pell's appeal

    VALLA BEACH, Australia (CNS) -- Australian Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric convicted of child sexual abuse charges, will learn the fate of his final appeal to the country's High Court April 7. The decision will be announced less than a month after a two-day hearing by the seven-judge court, led by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, in the Australian capital, Canberra. The court has three relatively clear options: turn down the appeal; uphold the appeal and set Cardinal Pell free; or send the case back to the Victorian Court of Appeals. which upheld a December 2018 unanimous conviction by a 12-person jury in the state's County Court. The cardinal was convicted of the 1996 sexual assault of two choirboys. If the appeal is denied, Cardinal Pell will stay in near-solitary confinement for at least 31 months, when he could be released after the no-parole period of his six-year prison term. It is a quick decision historically for the High Court of Australia, which has traditionally taken many months to decide cases. But Australian lawyers who spoke to Catholic News Service on the condition of anonymity said that under Kiefel, the court had been quicker to make decisions. "It is not unusual for the High Court to come to a decision in a month these days," the lawyer said.

    During plague, Catholic Church called on saints for help, healing

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has had a long tradition of calling on saints and praying for their intercession in sickness and difficult times. This plea for saintly help for protection from disease and healing was particularly evident when the bubonic plague, or Black Death, spread throughout Europe in the 14th century killing one-third of the population. At the time, in many cities and villages where medical knowledge was limited, cities and villages often adopted a plague saint to protect them. In Florence, Italy, the bishop had an altar built in honor of St. Sebastian as a means to stop the Black Death and after the plague was over, he built a church dedicated to the saint in thanksgiving for his intercession. Artwork depicting the plague shows that St. Sebastian seemed to be the go-to saint at the time. He was martyred around the year 288 during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. He was shot by arrows, which is how he is portrayed in paintings where the arrows are also said to be symbolic of the arrows of the Black Death. But the special appeal of St. Sebastian has a lot of layers. He is said to have converted to Christianity after seeing the bravery of Christian martyrs and he then drew others to become Christian, including a Roman officer who was said to be have been cured of a plague at his conversion. This particular action caught the attention of Diocletian, who sentenced St. Sebastian to death by arrows. But the saint, according to tradition, is said to have survived the arrows and returned to Diocletian to have strong words with him, which caused the emperor to again, and successfully this time, have St. Sebastian executed.

    Asian cardinal says Communist Party to blame for covering up COVID-19

    YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, called the Chinese Communist Party "morally culpable" for initially covering up the full dangers of the COVID-19 virus, which originated in Wuhan, China The cardinal, who made it clear he was not criticizing the Chinese people, said the party's "failure has unleashed a global contagion killing thousands. As we survey the damage done to lives around the world, we must ask who is responsible?" Cardinal Bo said in a statement released to journalists April 1. One government has "primary responsibility for what it has done and what it has failed to do, and that is the CCP regime in Beijing. Let me be clear -- it is the CCP that has been responsible, not the people of China. It is the repression, the lies and the corruption of the CCP that are responsible," he said, before warning against any racial vilification of Chinese people. He also criticized the party's human rights record that has deteriorated significantly since Xi Jinping took over as supreme leader in late 2012.

    School nurses, crafters donate masks to medical professionals in need

    ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- Something extremely valuable was left behind in the nurses' offices of shuttered Virginia schools: personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns and hand sanitizer. Bernadette Berset, a nurse at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, hoped there was a way to get the medical supplies they no longer needed to health care workers who desperately did. "The media is saying how direly in short supply all of this equipment is. So I reached out to Arlington Health Department and they responded," she said. "(They) told me there's a way we can drop off supplies (while) social distancing." With the help of Amber Dise, the Arlington Diocese's school health coordinator, Berset reached out to other diocesan school nurses. Several across the diocese -- including St. Anthony of Padua School in Falls Church, Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Vienna, St. Mary Basilica School in Alexandria, St. Agnes School in Arlington and St. Theresa School in Ashburn -- felt they could spare some of their supplies. Berset estimates together they have about 400 to 500 surgical masks, less than 100 protective gowns as well as gloves and hand sanitizer. "As school nurses, we always try to find a way we can contribute," said Berset. "I know I speak for my colleagues in that we're all very, very sad we're out of the school setting, we miss our students. So I'm just happy to be able to do something in a very small way."

    Update: CELAM calls for act of consecration to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Easter

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Latin American bishops' council announced plans to perform an act of consecration of Latin America and the Caribbean to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Easter, "asking her for health and an end to the pandemic." The consecration will take place at noon April 12 behind closed doors at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but it will be transmitted digitally. Cathedrals and parishes throughout the region will participate by ringing their bells 12 times as a call to prayer. CELAM, as the Latin American and Caribbean bishops' conference is known, said a Mass would be followed by the rosary and act of consecration for an end to COVID-19. The ceremony will include a presentation of a floral wreath in the same place where, in 2016, Pope Francis prayed silently to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the whole world.

    Pope moves Good Friday collection for Holy Land to September

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With Holy Week celebrations closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis postponed the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land to September. The Vatican announced April 2 that the pope approved a proposal to hold the collection in churches worldwide Sept. 13. "The Christian communities in the Holy Land, while exposed to the risk of contagion and often living in very trying circumstances, benefit every year from the generous solidarity of the faithful throughout the world, to be able to continue their evangelical presence, as well as to maintain schools and welfare structures open to all citizens for education, peaceful coexistence and care, especially for the smallest and poorest ones," the Vatican said. The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, an administratively autonomous province of the Franciscan order, uses the collection to carry out its mission of preserving most of the shrines connected with the life of Jesus as well as for providing pastoral care to the region's Catholics, running schools, operating charitable institutions and training future priests and religious. The collection, taken up at the request of the pope, is administered by the Franciscan Custody and the Congregation for Eastern Churches, which uses it for the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the support of the clergy, educational activities, cultural formation and subsidies.

    Amid COVID-19 pandemic, pope prays for homeless, cites newspaper photo

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During his livestreamed daily morning Mass, Pope Francis prayed that the coronavirus pandemic may awaken people's consciences to the plight of homeless men and women suffering in the world. At the start of the April 2 Mass in the chapel at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope said he was struck by a photo in a local newspaper of "homeless people lying in a parking lot under observation" that "highlight so many hidden problems" in the world. The picture that Pope Francis apparently referred to was published April 2 by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero that showed a temporary shelter for the homeless in an outdoor parking lot in Las Vegas. According to an April 1 report in the New York Times, city officials chose to house the homeless in a parking lot despite that fact that thousands of hotel rooms in Las Vegas are empty. The shelter was set up due to the temporary closing of a Catholic Charities shelter after a homeless man tested positive for COVID-19. However, city officials said the Catholic Charities shelter is expected to be reopened April 3, The New York Times reported.

    St. John Paul showed how to face suffering by embracing God, Mary

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Remembering St. John Paul II and the 15th anniversary of his death, Pope Francis encouraged people to pray for his intercession and trust in Divine Mercy, especially during these "difficult days" of the coronavirus pandemic. St. John Paul, who, after a long illness died April 2, 2005, will always be an important figure for the church, but is even more so now at a time when so many people are suffering worldwide, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica. The last years of his pontificate reflected personal trial and suffering, and he showed the world through his witness a life filled with faith and a way of accepting pain as something redeemed by God's love, he said in an interview with Vatican News April 1. "This is one of the reasons why the epidemic is so frightening because, for so many people, faith has died. John Paul II was a believer, a convinced believer, a coherent believer and faith illuminated the path of his life," the cardinal said.

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  • Haddad: Catholic health care committed to 'loving care' of COVID-19 patients

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic touches nearly every corner of the globe, "there are many ethical considerations around resource allocation and the delivery of care for critically ill patients," said Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. "Catholic health care is committed to the healing ministry of Jesus and upholding the inherent dignity of all who seek our care," she said in a March 27 statement. "We are also committed to accompanying and supporting patients through the end of their lives." She warned against health care providers and facilities proposing "a universal, unilateral DNR" -- a "do not resuscitate" policy -- for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. "It is not morally appropriate" to proposed this kind of a policy, Sister Haddad said. "This eliminates clinical decision-making and erodes the patient-professional relationship. There are cases where "if it is shown that the burdens exceed the benefits, it is morally acceptable to withhold CPR," she said. This is in keeping with the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Haddad said. "The clinical indication for decision-making about any intervention does not change for COVID-19 patients," she added.

    Pandemic adds increasing burdens on immigrants without legal status

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- From a darkened room, the immigrant spoke in mid-March via Skype to a reporter from the TV station Guatevision, which focuses on issues pertaining to Guatemalans in and outside of the country. He told her that in Ohio, where he lives, though the community has been generally kind without regard to a person's immigration status, the fear among immigrants without legal permission to be in the U.S. was rampant -- and the coronavirus was just one of many mounting problems. Work in Ohio, as in the rest of the country and the world, has dried up. Having no health insurance, even some experiencing symptoms were seeking to fight the virus in their residences, without receiving any medical care or advice, risking death and exposing others to the virus. Jose Arnulfo Cabrera, director of education and advocacy for migration at the Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network said in an interview March 27 with Catholic News Service that for many immigrants, particularly those without legal documentation, the COVID-19 crisis has added another layer of fear and thrown them into an economic crisis with no safety net. "My mom cleans houses for a living and hasn't worked all week because her clients are in self-quarantine. Many of our friends have lost their job or are day laborers and haven't found work," he told CNS. "Especially since most (immigrants without legal status) live paycheck to paycheck, they're worried they won't make rent this month. The reality of not having health care is also scary right now, especially with public charge." The 2019 Trump administration's "public charge" policy, which is navigating through U.S. courts, seeks to deny legal status to some immigrants who apply for social safety-net programs. If they apply for government help, it could hurt their chances to apply for permanent residency or citizenship and even threatens deportation for those who sign up for public benefits.

    Update: Prelate advises cellphones can't be used to administer sacraments

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Administering the sacrament of reconciliation via cellphone is impermissible under church teaching, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship. In a March 27 memo to his fellow bishops, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, said he was informed by Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican, that using a cellphone for the sacrament poses a threat against the seal of confession. Even the use of a cellphone to help amplify the voices of a confessor and penitent who can see each other is not allowed, the memo said. Archbishop Blair also said in the memo that in regard to anointing of the sick, the duty cannot be delegated to someone else, such as a doctor or nurse. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Blair noted, however, that when it is not possible for a priest to administer the sacrament of reconciliation, it is appropriate for a someone to seek absolution from sin by offering a "perfect contrition, coming from the love of God." Such contrition, the catechism continues, "expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness ... and accompanied by 'votum confessionis', that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones."

    Vermont high school students create virtual Spirit Week to promote unity

    BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- A Vermont Catholic high school student and two of her hometown friends are showing school spirit during mandatory school closings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sydney Adreon, 15, a freshman at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, and her friends, Jasmine, 15, and Kaitlyn Little, 16, a freshman and sophomore, respectively, at Vergennes Union High School, have been quarantining together and are hoping to create unity across Vermont and beyond. "We thought, what about a Spirit Week? Every school does it, and it's fun," Sydney said. "We are all high school students and are going through 'distance learning' and lack of sports and daily interactions with friends and family. We have noticed how much the state needs some light in this darkness." They created a statewide/national "quarantine/distance learning" Spirit Week from March 30 to April 3. "We hope to see people in Zoom classes and posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... using #vtwegotthis," Sydney told Vermont Catholic, the Burlington Diocese's magazine, in an interview ahead of the week. "We want to see young and old participate, not just students and parents. It's time we use social media as the positive force/morale booster it should be."

    Vatican approves special 'Mass in the Time of Pandemic'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has approved a special "Mass in the Time of Pandemic" to plead for God's mercy and gift of strength in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mass opens with a prayer that God would "look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to health care workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love." In a letter dated March 30, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, congregation secretary, said, "In these days, during which the whole world has been gravely stricken by the COVID-19 virus," many bishops and priests have asked "to be able to celebrate a specific Mass to implore God to bring an end to this pandemic." The congregation granted the request and provided special prayers and suggestions for the Scripture readings to be used. The "Mass in the Time of Pandemic," the congregation said, can be celebrated on any day "except solemnities; the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter (season); days within the Octave of Easter; the commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day); Ash Wednesday; and the days of Holy Week."

    Wave of cancellations hits Catholic conferences and conventions

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Is this what they mean by "cancel culture"? "The Church Today" conference at Villanova University -- canceled. The Archdiocese of Atlanta's eucharistic congress -- canceled. The National Catholic Educational Association's annual convention -- canceled. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting's biennial conference -- canceled. The National Association of Catholic Chaplains conference -- canceled. An academic conference on the history of Catholicism in the American South? You guessed it -- canceled. The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with events scheduled far in advance, leaving in its wake a trail of revenue forgone, learning opportunities dashed, and networking and reconnecting with cherished colleagues a more distant memory. The National Association of Church Personnel Administrators canceled its annual convocation, scheduled for May 3-5 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Registration of 250 was expected, and 110 had already signed up when organizers decided March 13 to cancel. "We had worked on the program since July-August, and we were so excited about Albuquerque," said Regina Haney, the organization's executive director. "We had sponsors lined up and exhibitors lined up. ... It was looking too good to be true." NACPA counts on the convocation for about one-third of its annual revenue. "And people loved it to come and network," Haney told Catholic News Service. "They love the educational piece where we give educational credits" for continuing education, she added. "Our program was approved, but they said they also liked the networking, and how do you replicate that? It's hard."

    Catholic family with now-closed food cart relies on faith, positive focus

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Christina and Vinh Nguyen's lives are centered on three things: their two children, their faith and their food cart. Now the couple's Portland mini-kitchen on wheels -- its Vietnamese fare of noodle salads and "banh mi" sandwiches, their sole source of income -- is temporarily shuttered because of the coronavirus. "We've put money into a small savings and that might be able to sustain us for a bit, but I'm not sure how long," said Christina, a parishioners at St. Rose and Our Lady of La Vang churches, both a block up from her food-cart pod. There were a few days when it seemed the virus wouldn't significantly affect the Nguyens' cart, Vivi's Yummy Rolls, but soon orders dwindled. Even under normal conditions, the food cart business can be brutal. Some sunny days they might welcome 100 customers, other days, a mere handful. Despite a tight budget, though, the family often gave food to people in need. The Nguyens learned March 16 that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had ordered bars and restaurants statewide to close for four weeks to stem the spread of COVID-19. No on-site consumption of food is permitted, but drive-through and delivery meals, along with takeout, are allowed. Feeling fortunate they weren't forced to close, they shifted their focus to takeout orders. But they had fewer and fewer customers due to the growing practice of social distancing. The final decision to suspend food-cart operations was not because of a lack of customers, however. It was out of concern for their community.

    Update: Ghana archbishop: Africans in solidarity with cardinal who has COVID-19

    ACCRA, Ghana (CNS) -- Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie assured Burkina Faso Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of the continent's solidarity after the cardinal tested positive for COVID-19. Cardinal Ouedraogo is president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, and Father Terwase Henry Akaabiam, secretary-general, confirmed the test results. The cardinal is archbishop of Ouagadougou, and Auxiliary Bishop Medard Leopold Ouedraogo assured Archbishop Kwofie that the cardinal was responding to treatment and was in a stable condition March 31. Archbishop Kwofie told the cardinal Africa's bishops "join you in the fight against coronavirus that you insisted must be a pastoral priority." In a March 31 statement, Archbishop Kwofie, who serves as treasurer of SECAM, said that, during an early March meeting in Nairobi, the cardinal was worried about the pandemic. Advising Catholics on the African continent, Archbishop Kwofie, said, "We are living in difficult and scary times, especially when we cannot easily identify who is infected with COVID-19." He said living responsibly meant respecting national restrictions and added "We are not to take anything for granted."

    Cardinal Tagle, in new position, looks for lessons learned in lockdown

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Starting a new job always involves a learning curve, but Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle got much more than he bargained for when he moved to Rome in February to begin his duties as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Not only did he have a new position after being the archbishop of Manila for almost nine years, his first month coincided with the start of Italy's lockdown and global travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cardinal Tagle is living the lockdown -- and working mostly from home -- at Rome's Pontifical Filipino College where, he said, "I feel safe and supported by a community of Filipino, Asian and African young priests studying in Rome. I hope my presence among them also makes the CEP (Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) close to them, since their countries and dioceses are served by this dicastery." The cardinal concelebrates Mass each morning with the resident priests and, each Sunday, he serves as the principal celebrant and homilist for a Mass livestreamed on Facebook and followed by thousands of Filipinos around the world. "Coming to Rome for a universal mission at a time when the lockdown occurs -- I am still in awe at the surprises of God," the cardinal said April 1 in an email response to questions. "I bring this paradox to reflection and prayer," he said. "The situation is reeducating me about the dynamic tension between the local and the universal."

    Flush the lies from one's heart to see God, pope says at audience

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Seeing and growing closer to God require purifying one's heart from the sins and prejudices that distort reality and blind people to God's active and real presence, Pope Francis said. This means renouncing evil and opening one's heart to letting the Holy Spirit be one's guide, the pope said April 1 during a live broadcast of his weekly general audience from the library of the Apostolic Palace. The pope greeted people who were watching the broadcast, particularly those who had made arrangements long ago to attend the audience with their particular parish or group. Among those who had been planning to attend was a group of young people from the Archdiocese of Milan, who instead were watching on social media. The pope told them he could "almost sense your joyful and raucous presence" nonetheless, thanks to the "many written messages you have sent me; you have sent so many and they are beautiful," he said, holding in his hand a large number of printed pages. "Thank you for this union with us," he said, reminding them to always live their faith "with enthusiasm and not lose hope in Jesus, a faithful friend who fills our life with happiness, even in difficult times."

    Pope prays for media helping people endure isolation

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With self-isolation becoming more widespread due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis thanked journalists and members of the media who inform people and help them cope with loneliness. "Today, I would like us to pray for all those who work in the media, who work to communicate so that people don't find themselves so isolated, for the education of children, for information to help endure this time of isolation," the pope said April 1 during his livestreamed morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the doctors of law who, while claiming to be sons of Abraham, do not recognize Christ's divinity. "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this," Jesus said to them. Jesus, the pope explained, "puts them in a corner by showing them their contradictions." However, the response by those who were criticized -- "We were not born of fornication. We have one father, God" -- shows that they find no other way out of Christ's argument than to insult him.

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  • Seniors and their families adapt to residences' precautions amid virus

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Doris Hollis, a resident of Caritas House Assisted Living, celebrated her 94th birthday March 27. Her family brought a cake and a homemade banner for the special occasion, but there were no hugs. The family sang to her, but their voices were muffled as they stood behind a picture window outside the Baltimore home for seniors. Caritas House isn't accepting visitors as fears of the novel coronavirus have put senior living centers across the country on high alert. Baltimore Catholic organizations who run senior housing such as Catholic Charities and Mercy Health Services have taken aggressive steps to keep their residents safe because people older than 80 are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Seniors were some of the first victims of COVID-19 in the United States when the disease spread inside a Seattle-area nursing home in late February, killing at least 29 residents. Over the weekend, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that an outbreak had occurred at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Carroll County. Hogan said 66 residents were infected, 11 have been hospitalized and at least one person has died. "You've got some anxiety. You've got some fear. You have some that are thankful that we're doing this. You have some that are still in doubt, asking 'Is this really happening?'" Regina Figueroa, chief administrative officer for Stella Maris in Timonium, said of the mood on her campus.

    On outskirts of Buenos Aires, parishes mobilize for COVID-19

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The soup kitchen at Father Nicolas Angelotti's parish in the rough outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was feeding 1,500 residents daily in recent months, with demand driven by a weak economy and unemployment. But the demand more than doubled to 4,000 people per day after a coronavirus quarantine was imposed March 20, prohibiting residents from leaving the Puerta de Hierro barrio, served by Father Angelotti, known locally as Padre Tano. Father Angelotti and this fellow "curas villeros" -- the priests serving the shanties of Buenos Aires -- work on the front lines of social and economic crises in Argentina, tending to marginalized populations often living without state services. With the coronavirus pandemic threatening the South American country, the "curas villeros" are once again mobilizing parish communities to tend to the needy. The villas where they serve often were founded as informal settlements and populated by immigrants from neighboring countries. Parishes in the villas have expanded soup kitchens, giving people their food to go, and turned their churches and other buildings into shelters for the elderly and homeless to self-isolate. They've also established places for infected individuals to receive care. "The message is: Stay in your home, stay in your barrio," Father Angelotti said. Often, though, "It's impossible that people stay in their homes due to their social situation.

    Antoinette Bosco, retired CNS columnist, death penalty opponent, dies at 91

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Writer Antoinette Bosco used life's lessons, both the difficult and the rewarding, to inspire others to find hope in God throughout her long career as a journalist and columnist. From confronting the tragedy of losing her son and daughter-in-law to murder at the hands of an 18-year-old gunman to the simple joys of parenthood, Bosco also rooted her work in the teachings of the Catholic faith in the hope that her readers would come to know that they are called to persevere. Bosco died March 20 at her Brookfield, Connecticut, home at age 91. A columnist for Catholic News Service for 37 years, Bosco also had her work appear in such other publications as Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Guideposts, Catholic Digest, The New York Times and The Hartford Courant in Connecticut. David Gibson, editor of special projects at CNS before his retirement in 2007, edited Bosco's columns for many years. He described her longevity as remarkable. "I always felt that it was her unique personality, her high level of interest in current issues and the force of her strong personality and presence that made her a natural as a columnist and helped her to remain such a popular one over the years," he said in an email. "In her columns you could feel that you were getting to know her, as well as her topic of the moment. She might write on one of the many compelling issues in the church during the long, post-conciliar period after Vatican Council II. Or she might write about one of her children in a way that made readers realize that she was more than a writer, she was a committed parent," Gibson said.

    A parishioner finds lessons on her way home in the midst of a pandemic

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents were abroad as news of the rapid spread of COVID-19 dispersed almost as fast as the virus that causes it around the world. By late March, the U.S. Department of State said it was trying to track some 50,000 citizens and residents who might be needing help getting back into the country after flights were canceled, and countries driven by panic about what could happen to their health care systems quickly shuttered airports and borders to keep the coronavirus out. One of those stranded was Margie Legowski, a parishioner from Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington who had stayed in El Salvador a few extra days after participating in a delegation's Feb. 13-19 trip to Holy Trinity's sister parish Maria Madre de los Pobres near San Salvador. She stayed to visit friends from throughout El Salvador and to participate in a March 12 pilgrimage to the hometown of Salvadoran Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, recently declared a martyr by the pope. Though the news seemed more urgent in the U.S., El Salvador had at that point only issued an order limiting the number of people who could gather. There had been no reports of infections in the country, but worries were beginning about the virus entering from abroad. "Things had already started shutting down by that point and those over 60 and people with compromised health or who were pregnant had been ordered to stay home. Schools, child care facilities and universities had also closed," Legowski told Catholic News Service in an email.

    Catholic leaders urge governments to protect indigenous during pandemic

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- As the coronavirus spreads through South America, Catholic Church leaders are calling urgently for governments to protect indigenous people. Many indigenous people, especially in the Amazon basin, live in remote areas far from medical facilities or in precarious housing on the edges of urban areas, often without water and sewer service. "We are in a situation that reveals the deep inequalities in the country," said Ismael Vega, director of the Amazonian Center for Anthropology and Applied Practice, a nonprofit organization that supports the Catholic Church in the Peruvian Amazon. Indigenous people are at particular risk because many live in remote communities where travel by river to the nearest hospital could take days, Vega told Catholic News Service. Some villages have small health posts, but they are staffed by nurse technicians who are not prepared for the coronavirus outbreak and often lack basic medicines, he said. Peru's northeastern Loreto region, which has a large indigenous population in the cities of Iquitos and Nauta and in far-flung communities accessible only by river, had registered 58 of Peru's more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases as of March 31. Two patients had died and seven were on ventilators.

    Service agencies find workarounds for virus-mandated restrictions

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With so much Catholic charitable work being direct, face-to-face service, those efforts would be stymied in the face of such coronavirus-mandated restrictions as group-size limits and social distancing, right? One would think so. But one would think wrong. Outreach efforts continue in large part, but with creative twists, according to Catholic Charities affiliates and other church-run social service agencies throughout the United States. In the Seattle Archdiocese, the first U.S. region where the COVID-19 pandemic hit with brute force, ingenuity has been the hallmark. Erin Maguire, who does regional network building for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, also supervises the "Prepares" program, which started four years ago amid reports there were no diapers in stores, putting poor families at a disadvantage. Again, diapers are in short supply. Working with the 71 parishes in King County, which includes Seattle, the call went out March 28 to buy diapers. "We're buying all the diapers that we can so far. There aren't enough diapers to buy," Maguire told Catholic News Service. "We're going in asking if we can take all their stock." Following the purchases, she said, "we're dropping off diapers at the stoops of parents' homes." Working with trained parish volunteers called "companions," "we're doing a lot of virtual visits with people," she added. "Instead of doing visits, they're doing it on the phone."

    Update: Second resident dies at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark, Del.

    NEWARK, Del. (CNS) -- A second resident has died as a result of coronavirus at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark, others with the illness are improving and all of the 40 residents who live in nursing units are being treated with the greatest precaution. This update on current conditions at the residence was provided by Sister Constance Veit, a Little Sister of the Poor, who is U.S. director of communications for her religious congregation. She reported the update in a March 30 email to The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington. "There are several more residents who are showing symptoms of the virus," said Sister Constance. "At this point, everyone in the two nursing units is being taken care of as if they have it, with the highest level of precautions. Obviously, the situation is constantly evolving." The Delaware Department of Health and Human Services a week earlier responded to a report of the death of Jeanne Jugan's first resident, an 86-year-old male. He had underlying medical conditions, according to the state and Mother Margaret Regina Halloran, the residence's local superior. At that time, six residents of the Newark nursing home tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Division of Public Health. The state agency said it was actively working with the facility to ensure resident and staff safety.

    Retired Nairobi Archbishop Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki, 88, dies

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenyan Catholics are mourning the death of Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki, 88, the retired Nairobi archbishop who died March 30 after a long illness. Cardinal John Njue announced his predecessor's death and asked for prayers for the late archbishop, who invested heavily in education. "Besides his role as a religious leader, the late archbishop dedicated himself to the protection of the weak and the fight for justice and never shied away from doing the right thing, and in doing so, he distinguished himself as a servant leader and role model," President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a message of condolence to the family and the church. The archbishop fought for political reforms in Kenya in 1990s. With election-related ethnic clashes in 1992 killing hundreds in the Rift Valley, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki told then-President Daniel arap Moi to his face to stop "the evil deeds of his government." The archbishop was born Dec. 25, 1931, in Machakos County. He studied at a seminary in Tanzania and was ordained a priest of Nairobi Archdiocese in 1961.

    Father Joseph O'Hare, 89, led rebirth of Fordham University as president

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Joseph A. O'Hare, Fordham University's longest serving president under whose tenure enrollment climbed, student academic achievement advanced and the institution conducted its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, died March 29 at age 89. A native of the Bronx, Father O'Hare also was editor-in-chief of America magazine from 1975 to 1984 and won several Catholic Press Association awards as a columnist. Father O'Hare became Fordham's 31st president in 1984 and held the position for 19 years until retiring in 2003, the university said in a post on its website. "Having served as Fordham's president for some time -- though not as long as Father O'Hare -- I have some insight into, and a deep appreciation for, how gifted he was as a leader, a communicator and a pastor," said Jesuit Father Joseph M. McShane, who succeeded Father O'Hare as university president. "He placed all of his considerable intellect, integrity and vision in service of the university, and in doing so transformed Fordham into a powerhouse of Jesuit education. We will miss his wisdom, steady counsel and warm wit," Father McShane said in the website post.

    Mexican bishops: Avoid layoffs, 'We're all in the same boat'

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference has urged employers to avoid laying off workers as the coronavirus crisis escalates in a country with an already stagnating economy and a weak social safety net. In a March 30 statement, the bishops also called for solidarity, saying, "We're all in the same boat and no one saves themselves," and reminded the wealthy that their accumulated riches "must be at the service of others. Brothers and sisters, we need each other. It's time to join forces with brotherhood and solidarity, with the will to see the best in everyone," said the statement, signed by Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez of Monterrey, conference president, and Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, secretary-general. "We urge all believers in Christ ... but especially Catholic businessmen and businesswomen to be aware that, as members of the divine family ... we are responsible to our brothers and sisters." God expects people "to take the path of truth, justice, service, dedication (and) solidarity," the letter continued. "(We) especially urge all Catholic businessmen and businesswomen, along with people of goodwill, to do everything possible to keep their workers employed, because it is in moments of crisis where true faith, true humanity, responsibility and social commitment shine through."

    Student Knights bring peers together for virtual fish fry using Zoom

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- The university students who belong to the Knights of Columbus council at University Catholic in Nashville decided that if their fellow students couldn't come to their Lenten fish fry, they would bring the fish fry to them. Council 15020 of the Diocese of Nashville's campus ministry to college students in the city held a virtual fish fry March 27 to bring together their friends who have dispersed across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It was actually a suggestion from a friend of mine," said Jake Edwards, the Grand Knight of the council. The friend is Elizabeth Lansden, a junior at Vanderbilt University from Atlanta, who is the president of University Catholic. "She was a little bummed we weren't going to have the fish fry," Edwards told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper. Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and other colleges in Nashville moved their classes online and sent their students home earlier in March in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. "One day, we're going along like nothing happened and the next we were off campus," said Edwards, who has been back home with his family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for the last two weeks.

    Three African countries show varied preparations for COVID pandemic

    ACCRA, Ghana (CNS) -- Caritas Ghana has put in place a nine-month emergency response plan with the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference to ensure that the poor and vulnerable receive critical and basic services in the two archdioceses most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Parishes in the archdioceses of Accra and Kumasi will be asked to help in setting up shelter and feeding centers for those "hardest hit by the lockdown," Samuel Zan Akologo, executive secretary of Caritas Ghana, said March 28. A two-week lockdown of cities identified as hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 began March 30. Ghana has recorded more than 150 confirmed cases of the disease and five deaths. Working from their respective homes, Caritas Ghana's staff will arrange with the West African country's security agencies "to ensure access to the poor to provide them with critical services for their survival," Zan Akologo said. The church initiative will contribute to national efforts to manage the coronavirus outbreak, support Catholic health facilities, and provide people with spiritual and psychological support, he said.

    Archbishop Hebda blesses, prays for the sick and suffering, city and state

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda held the Eucharist high over the city of St. Paul March 27 on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul overlooking the state Capitol. He blessed and prayed for the sick and suffering, those who care for them, lawmakers and others as the coronavirus hits Minnesota hard. The shepherd of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Hebda prayed on the same day health officials announced that up to that point four people in Minnesota had died of complications from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus that began in Wuhan, China, in late December. The disease has claimed more than 27,000 lives across the world, sickened more than 500,000 and been declared a global pandemic. He prayed the same day Gov. Tim Walz's "shelter-in-place" order took effect across the state for at least two weeks, limiting business and other activities to essential services such as pharmacies and grocery stores, medical services and public safety, faith leaders and workers, hardware stores and banks. About 25% of the business done in Minnesota is affected by the order to stay home. The archbishop's blessing and prayer also came the same day Pope Francis delivered a special "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing in an empty St. Peter's Square.

    Update: Priest who died from virus called 'great missionary among us'

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn March 28 announced the death of Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, 49, who died the evening before from COVID-19. He was pastor of St. Brigid's Church in the Wyckoff Heights area of the New York borough of Brooklyn and he also was diocesan coordinator of the ministry to Mexican immigrants. He died at Wyckoff Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn from complications related to the coronavirus and is believed to be the first Catholic priest in the United States to die as a result of COVID-19. "This is a sad day and a tremendous loss for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Father Jorge was a great priest, beloved by the Mexican people and a tireless worker for all of the faithful in Brooklyn and Queens," said Bishop DiMarzio, who issued a video statement in English and Spanish. He said Father Jorge, as he was called, had "underlying complications" which made him more vulnerable to the coronavirus. The bishop called the late priest "a great missionary among us," especially in establishing the diocese's Mexican apostolate. Father Jorge was born Oct. 16, 1970, in Mexico City. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, as a member of the Neocatechumenal Way May 29, 2004. He began his began ministry in the Brooklyn Diocese in 2009. He was incardinated into the diocese Dec, 10, 2019, and had recently become a naturalized citizen.

    Bishops shocked that U.K. to allow abortion pills at home during pandemic

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The English bishops have expressed their shock at an emergency policy to allow "do-it-yourself abortions" during the coronavirus pandemic. Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster said a change in the rules to allow the distribution of abortion pills in homes would "further endanger women" during a time of national crisis. Under temporary measures announced March 28 to slow the spread of COVID-19, the government is waiving a legal requirement for women seeking abortions to visit two doctors before the procedure can go ahead. Instead, women in the early stages of pregnancy are permitted to obtain abortions by taking two pills at home after consulting one doctor or other medical professional by "telemedicine," using such applications as Skype or Facetime. But Bishop Sherrington, lead bishop for life issues for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said in a March 30 statement that the policy was dangerous and should be rescinded. "We recognize that the NHS (National Health Service) is under unique pressure," he said. "We understand why the government wishes to keep women away from hospital at this time, but are shocked to hear that the Secretary of State for Health plans to introduce temporary measures to allow telemedicine and early DIY abortion at home without any medical supervision present."

    Update: Pandemic fosters creativity as dioceses move toward Holy Week

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- As Catholics dutifully sit at home, doing their part to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19, the Holy Spirit has been busy inspiring creative ways to minister in the Archdiocese of Louisville and around the world. Pastors are offering drive-through adoration and confession as well as livestreaming and on-demand liturgies online. Some parishes are ringing their church bells at 10 a.m. daily at Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's invitation. The bell ringing is meant to be a reminder that people are not alone. Parishioners are taking part in phone trees, calling to check on vulnerable members of the parish. Others are donating grocery store gift cards to help families in need. It's a time of sacrifice as well. The consequences of social distancing have led to canceled public liturgies and prayer services throughout Lent, and upcoming Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter observances, leaving priests to pray these liturgies in solitude, or with just one or two attendants. Catholics are participating as best they can from home through online livestreams in many dioceses around the world, including the U.S. Clergy suggested there are at least two important things that Catholics can to do spiritually during their confinement, in addition to regular prayer: First, engage in spiritual Communion, a simple prayer expressing one's ardent desire to be in communion with Christ; and second, make a perfect act of contrition. This act involves an examination of conscience, as well as a desire for forgiveness and the intention to make a confession when it's safe to do so.

    As people are ordered to stay home, pope calls for help for homeless

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As national and local governments have been issuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis asked people to pray for and assist those who are homeless. He offered his morning Mass March 31 for those who are homeless "at a time when people are asked to stay at home." At the start of a livestreamed Mass from the chapel of his residence, the pope prayed that people become aware of all those who lack shelter and housing and help them and that the church would "welcome them." In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading and the Gospel reading, which, together, he said, are an invitation to contemplate Jesus on the cross and comprehend how he allowed himself to bear the sin of many and give his life for people's salvation. The first reading from the Book of Numbers (21:4-9) recalled how God's people, who had been led out of Egypt, became impatient and disgusted with their difficult life in the desert. As punishment, God sent forth poisonous snakes that bit and killed many of them.

    Vatican publishes document on right to water access

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Access to clean water is an essential human right that must be defended and protected, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said in a new document. Defending the right to clean water is part of the Catholic Church's promotion of the common good, "not some particular national agenda," the dicastery said, calling for "a management of water so as to ensure universal and sustainable access to it for the future of life, the planet and the human community." The 46-page document, titled "Aqua Fons Vitae: Orientations on Water, Symbol of the Cry of the Poor and the Cry of the Earth," was released by the Vatican March 30. The preface, signed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, dicastery prefect, and Msgr. Bruno Marie Duffe, secretary of the dicastery, stated that the current coronavirus pandemic has shed a light on "the interconnectedness of everything, be it ecological, economic, political and social. The consideration of water, in this sense, clearly appears to be one of the elements that heavily impacts 'integral' and 'human' development," the preface stated. Water, the preface said, "may be abused, rendered unusable and unsafe, polluted and dissipated, but the sheer necessity of it for life -- human, animal and plant -- requires us, in our different capacities as religious leaders, policymakers and legislators, economic actors and businessmen, rural subsistent farmers and industrial farmers etc., to jointly show responsibility and exercise care for our common home."

    Cardinal vicar of Rome hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19

    ROME (CNS) -- Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar for Rome, was hospitalized after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, the Diocese of Rome announced. "After showing some symptoms" March 30, the 66-year-old cardinal was tested, the diocese said; when the test came back positive, he was hospitalized at the church-owned Gemelli hospital. "He has a fever, but his general condition is good, and he has begun anti-viral therapy," the diocesan statement said. Those who have been working in close contact with Cardinal De Donatis are in preventive self-isolation, it added. According to Vatican News, the cardinal had very few meetings in recent days and "declared that he had not been at the Vatican" since the coronavirus outbreak began; instead, he has maintained "only telephone contact with the pontiff." While the pope is the bishop of the Diocese of Rome, the papal vicar exercises most of the powers of a local bishop and presides over a vicariate with most of the usual offices found in the chancery of a large archdiocese, including a diocesan Caritas and offices for personnel, religious education and ecumenism.

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  • Update: McChesney, advocate for abuse victims, to receive Laetare Medal

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director and the first person to lead the U.S. bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, will receive the 2020 Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame. "It is often the church's darkest moments that call forth great faith and courage," said Notre Dame's president, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, announcing the award.He said the university was recognizing McChesney's efforts in response to the church's abuse crisis and honoring her "courage, tenacity and love for the church in a tireless pursuit of justice for victims, accountability for abusers and measures that prevent this crisis from continuing."When she heard she was to receive the award, McChesney said it would further challenge her. "I think there is a significant responsibility with such an honor that one has to live up to every day forward. The Laetare Medal will inspire me to work harder, more effectively and with greater compassion on behalf of those who have been wounded by persons in Catholic ministries," she said in a statement. The announcement was made March 22, Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday of Lent. The medal, which is given to Catholic leaders since 1883, is presented during graduation ceremonies, a date which is currently in question due to coronavirus shutdowns.

    Stranded migrants, lack of food: in Indian lockdown, poor suffer

    NEW DELHI (CNS) -- The three-week COVID-19 lockdown of India's 1.37 billion people has stranded millions of domestic migrant workers and left people scrambling for food and other basics amid the ensuing harsh and often violent crackdown by police. "Especially when I look at my poor brothers and sisters, I definitely feel that they must be thinking, what kind of prime minister is this who has placed us in this difficulty?" Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his weekly broadcast address to the nation March 29. He ordered the lockdown five days earlier. "I especially seek their forgiveness. I understand your troubles, but there was no other way to wage war against (the) coronavirus. ... It is a battle of life and death, and we have to win it." Clive Fernandes, a Catholic who manages a hotel in the western coastal state of Goa, saidthe home delivery system is a complete failure in most villages in the area, and no arrangements were made to feed migrant laborers, who often sleep where they work. "This will lead to spreading the virus, as they are out on the streets in search of food. As well, there is no proper infrastructure in the hospitals, God forbid this virus spreads," he said.

    Daily devotional booklets meet an immediate, and enduring, need

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If they could work from home, they would. But for the production staff of the "Little Books" series in the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, customer demand is running the show. And the customer is always right. For Leona Jones, operations manager at Little Books, a partial crew is putting in 12-hour days to meet the demand. It's not a full crew, she told Catholic News Service on one of her own days off. "There's somebody in the front handling the billing, and there's somebody in the back handling the shipping," Jones said. And don't worry about social distancing: "There's 20 feet between where I work and where the shipping department works." Jones said she wouldn't do anything herself that she wouldn't ask "my girls" to do. By this, Jones, 82, doesn't mean her daughters, but her Little Books colleagues. So two go in every other weekday to tackle the orders. Jones has been with Little Books since it started in 2001. The books offer daily reflections for different liturgical seasons with a guide to that day's Scripture readings. The website for Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw is

    Elderly Catholic couple in self-quarantine stay hopeful, keep faith strong

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) -- Lovebirds Jo Ann Thweatt, 84, and Charlie Feraci, 89, have been on a self-imposed quarantine for over 17 days now, due to their age and the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the United States. The Catholic couple lives in Memphis, and they wanted to honor President Donald Trump's request that Americans stay inside. The two are in the high-risk population, but both live a healthy lifestyle spending their days, exercising, eating right and praying. They keep up with daily Mass on TV and say their rosary together and pray for their four grandchildren, who are fighting the virus on the front lines in the medical field. Two of their grandchildren have been confirmed as having been exposed to the virus and one of those is due with a baby this summer. Thweatt and Feraci fell in love and married after both lost their spouses within the same period of time just a few years ago. They had known each other through a tai chi class they took together at the YMCA. They are both still physically active. Normally, when not quarantined, Jo Ann walks four miles a day. The couple never seem to grow tired of each other, even after days on end cooped up in the house together. joked about there not being much need to change out of their pajama's most days and that they like to stay comfortable.

    As COVID-19 cases increase, Kenyans flee cities, seeking safety

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- As the coronavirus cases rise in Kenya, many city residents are fleeing to their rural homes, despite a warning from clerics and government officials. Weeks after COVID-19 was first reported, panicking Kenyans -- including Catholics -- left cities and towns and traveled to the rural villages, where they believe their families are safer from COVID-19. "They are not safe in the villages either. It is just an assumption. In the event of an outbreak in the village, it would be difficult to control the virus," said Father Joachim Omolo Ouko, an Apostle of Jesus priest in the Kisumu Archdiocese. The exodus has parallels to Italy, where thousands moved south in early March amid reports of government plans to quarantine regions in the north. Many boarded trains and buses ahead of the shutdown of Lombardy, a region that includes Milan and nearby provinces. A similar migration occurred in the U.S., when panicking residents fled alleged containment of New York City and other large urban areas. The residents believed they would be safer in their weekend homes away from crowded cities. The movements did not stop the advancing pandemic in the two developed nations, which now have highest cases of the virus.

    Update: Via phone, priest helps dying man through act of contrition, prayer

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Because of hospital coronavirus restrictions, a suburban Portland priest March 22 was not allowed to meet with a Catholic patient dying of COVID-19. Msgr. John Cihak, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, did make telephone contact and because of a provision in church law was able to lead him through the process of an act of contrition and a prayer for forgiveness. "This may become a common occurrence given restrictions placed by hospitals," said a March 23 memo to western Oregon priests from Msgr. Gerard O'Connor, director of the Office of Divine Worship of the Archdiocese of Portland. The sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick cannot be administered over the telephone. On March 27, the Archdiocese of Portland's Office of Divine Worship issued guidelines on forgiveness of sins when a priest is not available. The church recognizes sins are forgiven when a penitent expresses true sorrow and detestation of sins with sincere love of God (a "perfect contrition"); makes a sincere request of God for forgiveness; and resolves to go to confession at the first opportunity. The archdiocese's guidelines, really a reminder of established church law, said the current health crisis means it may be impossible to go to a sacramental confession.

    Father John Langan, writer, speaker on just-war tradition, dies at 79

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Father John P. Langan, who became a respected expert on the Catholic Church's teaching on the just-war tradition and Christian ethics throughout nearly 40 years as a professor, died March 20 at age 79. The longtime professor of philosophy and Christian ethics at Georgetown University often was the go-to person to offer insights as a speaker and panelist on how the moral and religious commitments of the Catholic community could be understood and lived in a pluralistic world. Father Langan's research and writing widely explored the just-war theory and its application to questions surrounding issues such as nuclear armaments, terrorism, the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the Syrian civil war. He also studied business ethics, human rights theory, capital punishment, Catholic social teaching, the place of religion in liberal political thought, and the ethical theories of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. He wrote pieces for various journals, including Peacemaking, Theological Studies, The Thomist and contributed reflections to various books and publications. He also edited "Catholic Universities in Church and Society" and "A Moral Vision for America, a collection of the addresses of Cardinal Bernardin on public policy and the consistent ethic of life.

    Amid coronavirus sacrifices, some bishops allow Friday meat in Lent

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the U.S., this Lent started out with some people discussing if it was acceptable to eat plant-based burgers on Fridays in Lent. But fast forward a few weeks and that discussion is very dated as burgers as well as other foods are not available in many of the still-bare grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Twitter, where some had previously discussed their Lenten practices of giving something up for Lent, many questioned if they even had to keep up this practice when suddenly the whole nation was giving up life as they had known it as Lent began. And by late March, just a few weeks before the end of Lent, several bishops across the country gave local Catholics the go-ahead to eat meat on Fridays, except on Good Friday, acknowledging that Catholics in their dioceses were coping with whatever food they had and certainly making their own sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to two days of fasting in Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics 14 and older are obligated to abstain from eating meat during Fridays in Lent. Two of the first bishops to announce a dispensation from this practice on March 20 were Bishops David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh and Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York. Bishop DiMarzio said in statement that he was granting the faithful a dispensation from the Friday abstinence from meat to "assist people who may have difficulties in shopping for food or other reasons which would make this practice difficult at this time." But he stressed that Fridays of Lent should "remain days of penance and prayer, which is needed now more than ever."

    Dr. Fauci is dedicated to public service, formed at Jesuit high school

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has emerged for many as the voice of reason and integrity as the nation confronts the novel coronavirus pandemic. Much of that he learned at Regis High School, a no-tuition, Jesuit-run boys college-prep school in New York City that is renowned as an academic haven. Fauci, a member of the class of 1958, told a group of alumni last May that attending the school "was the best educational period I could ever have imagined having." Fauci also is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, another Jesuit institution, and Weill Cornell Medicine, then called Cornell University Medical College. The alumni address was part of a return to Regis by Fauci, now 79 and known for his power walking, who, while not a household name at the time, was apparently nearing the end of a long career in government service working for six presidents. "I take great comfort in knowing that when he speaks that he is speaking the truth and nothing but the truth," Jesuit Father Daniel Lahart, Regis' president, told National Catholic Reporter. Father Lahart now supervises a school, like most across the country, confined to online classes as COVID-19 disrupts normal life. The priest said the most famous Regis alumnus has exuded integrity throughout a career, which, before this latest outbreak, was best known for raising the alarm about HIV/AIDS at the highest levels of government in the 1980s. Fauci has emerged as a no-nonsense truth-teller in the latest crisis. While President Donald Trump has been prone to what have been criticized as overly optimistic daily briefings, it's been Fauci, frequently standing behind the president, who has tempered the optimism, whether it has been about the possibility of miracle cures or the hope of returning to business as usual.

    Papal academy says solidarity among ethical responses needed in pandemic

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has caught entire communities and nations off guard, and the best way to tackle this global crisis is together as a global family, the Pontifical Academy for Life said. "An emergency like that of COVID-19 is overcome with, above all, the antibodies of solidarity," the academy said in a seven-page "note" published March 30 on its website, With experts in the field of science and ethics, the papal academy wished to "contribute its own reflections" in order to foster "a renewed spirit that must nourish social relations and care for the person" during this pandemic, it said. All 163 papal academicians were asked to take part, and the "Note on the COVID-19 Emergency" was the result of that consultation, the academy said in a news release. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, academy president, gave Pope Francis a copy of the text during a private meeting in the Apostolic Palace March 30. "The pope confided in me two of his concerns: how to help right now, especially the weakest; and for the future, how to come out of this (crisis) strengthened in solidarity," including on a global level, the archbishop said in the written statement.

    Update: Virus may produce misery beyond disease to migrants, home countries

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Lack of jobs and economic disparity in Central America were already driving large numbers of migrants north before the coronavirus became a household word. And now those who long have worked with migrants worry about the effects COVID-19 will cause on the already fragile economic systems of the migrants' home countries. They also worry about the environment the pandemic is creating for those migrants on the move and in new lands. Father Mauro Verzeletti, a Catholic priest who has for decades helped feed and shelter migrants in Central America, said he has received scant news about what migrants are currently facing after the government of Guatemala ordered a quarantine and he had to close the doors of the Casa del Migrante, one of the shelters he runs in Guatemala City. "We're not receiving any news, we don't know how people are faring," he said in a March 26 telephone interview with Catholic News Service. In Guatemala, there's a scarcity of items in the stores. The priest worries about those who've lost their jobs, including those whose only means of making a living was by selling household items or produce on the streets in the "informal economy" that stocks the popular markets of Latin America.

    Site crashes as half million-plus watch England's rededication to Mary

    WALSINGHAM, England (CNS) -- English Catholics rededicated their country as Mary's Dowry "in the eye of the storm" of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of restrictions on movement and assembly to slow down the transmission of COVID-19, an estimated 530,000 people attempted to join the rededication by watching livestreaming services from parishes, churches and the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk. The volume of traffic volume was so high by the rededication time of noon March 29 that it caused the website of the Walsingham shrine to crash, along with the livestreams in cathedrals and parishes provided by, a technology firm offering media platforms within churches. Viewers were redirected to watch the event over YouTube instead. The first dedication of England as Mary's Dowry was carried out in 1381 by King Richard II amid great domestic turmoil, with the intention that the country was set aside for the guidance and protection of Mary. In his homily during the rededication, Msgr. John Armitage, rector of the Walsingham shrine, said when the English bishops decided in 2017 to rededicate England, "they could never have foreseen the extent of our need at this time. Today we undertake this dedication in the eye of the storm," he said. "In the face of the peril that we find ourselves in today, in addition to the physical resilience we need to protect ourselves, a stronger spiritual resilience will be needed to survive the ordeal ahead and to rebuild our society in the coming days.

    Investors urge corporations to act prudently as financial crisis looms

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Dozens of institutional investors, including Catholic religious congregations, labor unions, public pensions and faith-based asset management firms, called on companies to support workers through policies to prevent severe economic hardship brought on by the new coronavirus. The growing coalition of investors said steps such as providing emergency paid leave to all employees, prioritizing health and safety, and avoiding layoffs would protect workers. The call came in a statement released March 26 by three leaders in the responsible investing community: Domini Impact Investments, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Scott M. Stringer, New York City's comptroller. At its release, 195 institutional investors representing more than $4.7 trillion in assets had signed the statement, but supporters have continued to be added since, reported the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The call for emergency leave should encompass part-time, temporary and subcontracted employees, the investors said. "Without paid leave, social distancing and self-isolation are not broadly possible," they said.

    Archbishop Coakley, CRS welcome $2.2 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Citing provisions of the $2.2 trillion federal relief package that will aid poor and vulnerable people as well as workers, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City thanked Congress and President Donald Trump for putting the law in place. Expenditures mandated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, also will help people with immediate relief who have been laid off and will have difficulty in finding a new job, the archbishop, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a March 28 statement. Congress negotiated the relief measure under a relatively quick timeframe as the U.S. economy has ground to a halt in recent weeks as the new coronavirus has swept through the country. The Senate passed the measure late March 25 and the House of Representatives followed March 27. Trump signed the law soon after the House vote. Archbishop Coakley also pointed to other provisions of the CARES Act, such as the $1,200 in cash assistance to low- and middle-income people and aid to hospitals and charitable agencies, "which will be asked to do more than ever during this crisis."

    Update: Across Europe, churches offer empty facilities to help fight COVID-19

    ROME (CNS) -- In addition to expanding shelters for the homeless during Italy's COVID-19 lockdown, Catholic dioceses and parishes are offering rooms to medical personnel exhausted by long hours at work or who will not go home to avoid the danger of spreading the virus to their loved ones. The Italian bishops' conference is posting, and updating daily, a list of actions and activities carried out by diocesan Caritas organizations. The Diocese of Crema, in Italy's devastated Lombardy region, said March 28 it was preparing to host "35 Chinese doctors who will come to assist at the Crema hospital and a field hospital that will be built over the next five or six days" on the grounds of a former convent now owned by the diocese. The diocese also has offered "25 places for health workers who cannot return to their families after work so as to not place their relatives at risk." The Diocese of Bergamo, also in Lombardy, has set aside 50 single rooms with bathrooms in the diocesan seminary for doctors and nurses coming to help from outside the region.

    Pope offers Mass for those living in fear of pandemic

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his daily morning Mass for those who find themselves living in fear of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. "Let us pray today for the many people who cannot cope, who remain frightened by this pandemic. May the Lord help them to stand up, to react for the good of all society and the entire community," the pope said March 30 at the start of his livestreamed Mass. In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading and Gospel, which recalled the stories of two women -- one falsely accused and the other caught in the act of sin -- who faced death sentences. The first reading from the Book of Daniel, recounted the story of Susanna, a just woman falsely accused of adultery by two corrupt judges. The Gospel reading from St. John, however, recalled a woman caught in the act of adultery and sentenced to be stoned by the doctors of the law who "were not corrupt, but hypocrites," the pope said. "These women, one fell into the hands of hypocrites and the other into the hands of the corrupt; there was no way out," he said. "The first explicitly trusts God and the Lord intervened. The second, poor thing, knows that she is guilty, exposed before all the people. The Gospel doesn't say it, but surely she was praying inside, asking for some kind of help."

    Pope joins U.N. call for immediate global cease-fire

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saying conflicts can never be resolved with war, Pope Francis added his support to a U.N. appeal for a global cease-fire amid the worldwide threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. "May our joint effort against the pandemic lead everyone to recognize our need to strengthen our brotherly and sisterly ties as members of one human family," the pope said March 29, after praying the Angelus in the library of the Apostolic Palace. "In particular, may it inspire national leaders and other concerned parties to a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries. Conflicts are not resolved through war. It is necessary to overcome antagonism and differences through dialogue and a constructive search for peace," he said. The pope said he was adding his voice to support the appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an immediate global cease-fire amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The pope said he was inviting everyone to take part by "ceasing all forms of military hostilities, promoting the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, being open to diplomacy and offering attention to those who find themselves in situations of great vulnerability."

    Pope calls for heartfelt compassion for those impacted by COVID-19

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With so much suffering associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis asked people to reflect on whether they were feeling real compassion and sorrow for what was happening. It is one thing to be actively trying to help or do some good, but people also must be capable of opening their hearts and being moved to tears for others, he said in his homily March 29. Celebrating morning Mass in the chapel at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope first prayed for the "many people who are crying: people who are isolated, in quarantine; the elderly who are alone; people who have recovered; people undergoing treatment; parents who, because there is no income, are not able to feed their kids. So many people weep and we, too, from our heart, we accompany them. It wouldn't hurt us to weep a little as our Lord wept for his people," the pope said at the start of Mass, which the Vatican has been livestreaming online the past three weeks. In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John, which talked about Jesus' reaction to the death of his friend, Lazarus, and the sorrow he and his friend's family experienced.

    Priority on economy over people may lead to 'viral genocide,' pope warns

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Countries fighting the coronavirus pandemic could face deadly consequences if they focus on protecting their economies more than their own people, Pope Francis said. In a handwritten letter sent March 28 to Argentine Judge Roberto Andres Gallardo, president of the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, the pope said that some governments that have imposed lockdown measures "show the priority of their decisions: people first. This is important because we all know that defending the people implies an economic setback," he said in the letter, which was published March 29 by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion. "It would be sad if they opted for the opposite, which would lead to the death of many people, something like a viral genocide," the pope wrote. In his letter, the pope said that while he was concerned about the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, he also was "edified by the reaction of so many people -- doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious men and women and priests -- who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from contagion."

    Italian government clarifies lockdown rules for churches

    ROME (CNS) -- While many churches in Italy remain open, visiting a church to pray is not a valid excuse for leaving one's home during Italy's COVID-19 lockdown, said a note from the Ministry for Internal Affairs. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia, president of the Italian bishops' conference, had asked the government to clarify the lockdown rules and how they apply to the church and church services. People who want to pray in a church may do so only if "the church is situated along one's way" to or from a government-approved reason for leaving one's home: going to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor's office or to work when it is necessary and cannot be done from home, said the ministry's response, which was posted on its website March 28. Law enforcement officials can stop anyone who is out in public; when they leave their houses, people are required to carry with them a "self-certification" swearing they are not under quarantine and have not tested positive for COVID-19 and stating the reason for which they are outside. The government can fine or even jail those who lie on the form. On March 28 alone, the ministry said, police demanded the forms from more than 203,000 people and fined close to 5,000 of them. The figures do not include the number of people the police simply advised to go home.

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  • Update: Vatican confirms pope does not have COVID-19

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Neither Pope Francis nor any of his closest collaborators have the COVID-19 virus, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office. In a note March 28, Bruni confirmed that a monsignor, who works in the Vatican Secretariat of State and lives in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, did test positive for the coronavirus and, "as a precaution," was hospitalized. The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero and the Jesuit-run America magazine published reports March 25 about the monsignor testing positive. Bruni said that as of March 28, the Vatican health service had conducted more than 170 tests for the virus. No one else who lives at the Domus Sanctae Marthae tested positive, Bruni said. As soon as the monsignor tested positive, he said, his room and office were sanitized and all the people he had come into contact with over the preceding days were contacted.

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  • Update: Catholic entities expect to receive aid under emergency relief bill

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Catholic hospitals, parish schools and charitable agencies are among the entities hoping to receive partial relief under a massive $2.2 trillion emergency aid package unanimously approved by Congress in response to the crippling new coronavirus. They are just not sure when the aid will begin to flow, however. President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law soon after he received it from Congress March 27. "At this point everyone is trying to figure out what got in and how it's going to help out," said Lisa Smith, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the Catholic Health Association of the United States. Senators approved the 880-page Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, during a late-night vote March 25. The House approved the measure by an overwhelming voice vote March 27 after members were forced to return to Washington by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, who insisted that a quorum be present. Despite such a large expenditure, about half of the federal fiscal year 2020 budget, leaders of Catholic organizations said they expect another package will be needed before the coronavirus runs its course.

    Knights of Columbus offers short-term loans to help dioceses meet needs

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) -- The Knights of Columbus announced a new program March 27 to assist U.S. dioceses with short-term financing to help them and their parishes "weather the financial impact of the pandemic." "It is critical for us to support the Catholic Church in the United States at this time, so that the church can continue to provide irreplaceable spiritual and charitable support, and can keep the staff supporting its mission and outreach employed," Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, said in a statement. The Knights has established a $100 million fund, with up to a $1 million secured line of credit per Catholic diocese. The program will be available for 60 days beginning March 30. "Our fund is designed specifically to help dioceses and their parishes weather this pandemic financially so that they can continue their important work -- now and after the pandemic," Anderson said. According to a Knights news release, the lines of credit for dioceses "will have a very competitive interest rate equivalent to that of the one-year Treasury bill, plus 225 basis points (2.25%)." The website of the Knights of Columbus is

    Some tout DACA recipients as key in COVID-19 fight

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The video begins with a nurse named Sol, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, who was brought to the United States at age 9. Today, she is a registered nurse, and one of 27,000 beneficiaries of the program that allows young adults who were brought into the United States illegally as children the opportunity to work in the U.S., and exempts them from deportation, if they meet certain criteria. That significant population, serving in U.S. hospitals, including emergencies wards as Sol does, is key in fighting the current coronavirus pandemic, argue supporters of DACA beneficiaries known as "Dreamers." Some ask that an imminent Supreme Court decision that will determine whether the program can continue be delayed or side with the recipients who don't just work as nurses or doctors but are vital in the daily operations needed in U.S. hospitals and other places that are keeping the U.S. going in the middle of a pandemic. "We are stronger and safer thanks to the contributions of Dreamers and other immigrants providing essential services to our communities and the economy at this difficult moment," said Candy Marshall, president of the organization TheDream.US.

    Forum puts Catholic social teaching perspective on pandemic

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Casting the coronavirus pandemic as a moral issue, a Georgetown University forum explored how Catholic social teaching could be brought to bear. Because classes had been suspended at Georgetown, the forum was billed as an "online public dialogue. This crisis forces us to make lots of decisions, personal ones and civic ones," said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is a onetime nurse and former president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. "Catholic social teaching is based on the belief of the God-given dignity of each person and the Gospel admonition to love our neighbor as ourselves." Sister Keehan added those mandates are "echoed in the founding documents of our country," particularly that "all are created equal" and "entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They provide a touchstone to evaluate critical decisions and perhaps avoid dangerous mistakes," she said. "All will benefit greatly from using the principles of Catholic social teaching" during the pandemic, Sister Keehan said, especially in making sure that no one is "left out or last in line during this pandemic. We look to Catholic social teaching and those founding documents" to make decisions. "Everyone deserves protection, the unborn to the elderly, the richest to the destitute, those born here and those who just arrived."

    Catholic nurses often only spiritual connection to hospitalized patients

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- A tightening of some hospital visitor restrictions on religious ministers and patient family members has begun as the coronavirus pandemic ramps up around the U.S. "It has been about two weeks -- it started out with a limit on the times ministers or family members could come in, then a week later they completely stopped it," said Maria Arvonio, a night-shift nursing supervisor for a large community hospital near Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and the lower Northeastern regional director of the Chicago-based National Association of Catholic Nurses. Catholic nurses, Arvonio noted, are now often the only spiritual connection for those in their care. "The patients can make phone calls, but eucharistic ministers, volunteers and family are not allowed to visit at this time, so Catholic nurses are the only Catholic lifeline to their spirituality," Arvonio said, adding that historically the church has encouraged strong collegial associations of Catholic nurses. The Joint Commission, an organization that accredits and certifies over 22,000 health care organizations in the U.S., likewise acknowledges that offering spiritual care to patients is vital toward supporting their health. "In my opinion, we are the hands and feet of Christ ministering God's love and healing to our patients, especially now more than ever since patients are unable to receive the Eucharist and spiritual care" offered by extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, Arvonio said, adding the patient disconnect with family members can lead to anxiety and fear of the virus.

    Catholic organizations urge communities to respond to U.S. census

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A baker's dozen of Catholic organizations, from dioceses to religious orders to Catholic Charities affiliates, have signed on to a joint statement urging all to take part in the 2020 U.S. census. "We affirm the right of all people to participate in the 2020 census and remain committed to helping our neighbors be counted," said the statement, issued March 26 by the group Faith in Public Life. "All people, regardless of race, religion or immigration status have God-given dignity and it is imperative that our government counts every person living in this country." The Catholic signatories were part of a larger multifaith effort to encourage participation in the decennial census, which is a constitutional mandate. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, one of the signatories, has long been part of Faith in Public Life's "Faithful Census" initiative, said Sister Ann Scholz, a School Sister of Notre Dame, who is LCWR's associate director of social mission. LCWR also has signed on to the Census Bureau's National Partnership Program, she added. "We've been spreading the word about the critical importance of the 2020 census count," Sister Scholz told Catholic News Service. In messages being sent before Census Day, April 1, to LCWR members, Sister Scholz said LCWR wants to make the point that "we know that in past censuses, millions of people of color, children and immigrants have gone uncounted." "We believe this undercount," she continued, "has resulted in systemic injustice resulting in underfunding of resources that we all use, like schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure and -- a new twist that's going out in my emails ... we think that it's even resulted in the underpreparation for critical health emergencies like COVID-19."

    COVID-19 is not God's judgment, but a call to live differently, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on, Pope Francis said. Addressing God, the pope said that "it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others." Pope Francis offered his meditation on the meaning of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for humanity March 27 before raising a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament and giving an extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world). Popes usually give their blessing "urbi et orbi" only immediately after their election and on Christmas and Easter. Pope Francis opened the service -- in a rain-drenched, empty St. Peter's Square -- praying that the "almighty and merciful God" would see how people are suffering and give them comfort. He asked to care for the sick and dying, for medical workers exhausted by caring for the sick and for political leaders who bear the burden of making decisions to protect their people. The service included the reading of the Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus calming the stormy sea.

    Update: Coronavirus means quiet times for maritime ministers in U.S., Canada

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Cargo ships from around the world may be docking at the port of Charleston, South Carolina, but for Deacon Paul Rosenblum, the days are pretty quiet. As the lone port minister for the Diocese of Charleston's Apostleship of the Sea ministry, Deacon Rosenblum, 66, has opted for staying off the ships so he doesn't accidentally bring any illness -- the new coronavirus or otherwise -- to seafarers. "I'm not going on ships unless they make a request for me to come onboard," he said. "That's an oddity right now. Most of the foreign crews are self-isolating. The American crews are not so diligent about things." Deacon Rosenblum works with the Charleston Port and Seafarers' Society to serve the crews of oceangoing vessels. He works alongside an Episcopal priest and an administrator. The ministry involves talking with crew members, offering rides for shopping, staffing a seafarer center and simply being present. Not personally meeting seafarers makes it difficult to minister to their personal and spiritual needs. But all involved know that it's for the better for the time being, he said. Deacon Rosenblum understands the seafarers, almost exclusively young men, must keep themselves safe from illness.

    Website now receiving donations for U.S. parishes, schools, ministries

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- With the global spread of COVID-19 financially impacting the ministry of the U.S. Catholic Church, the bishop-led board of the annual 24-hour #iGiveCatholic online giving platform activated its national website March 26. It has begun accepting donations from individuals and businesses in support of parishes, schools and ministries of 39 dioceses across the country. Cory Howat, executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which launched the 24-hour online giving campaign in 2015, said the website -- -- would be activated indefinitely to address "the looming financial crisis to our parishes, dioceses and other Catholic institutions." The campaign will be branded as #iGiveCatholicTogether. Howat said about 25 "mission" dioceses represented by Catholic Extension would benefit from the online funding, and he projected "another 25 dioceses would come aboard" once word of the expanded giving platform was disseminated more broadly. Catholic Extension is a Chicago-based mission organization that supports the nation's mission dioceses.

    During pandemic, priests work to bridge distance between deceased, family

    ROME (CNS) -- When Father Mario Carminati went to bless the remains of one of his parishioners, he called the deceased man's daughter on WhatsApp so they could pray together. "One of his daughters is in Turin and couldn't take part," he said, the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana reported March 26. "It was very emotional," as she was able to pray with them through the messaging service, said the parish priest from Seriate, near Bergamo. Capuchin Father Aquilino Apassiti, an 84-year-old hospital chaplain in Bergamo, said he sets his mobile phone near the deceased so the loved one on the other end can pray with him, the magazine said. They are some of the many priests and religious trying to bridge the forced distance between those who have died from COVID-19 and the people they leave behind. The Diocese of Bergamo has set up a special service, "A Heart That Listens," where people can call or email for spiritual, emotional or psychological support from trained professionals. With funerals forbidden nationwide, these ministers are also offering blessings and a dignified temporary place of rest before the departed's ultimate burial.

    Tennessee priest brings Mass to homebound students from school parking lot

    HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Under blue skies and a canopy of blossoming cherry trees in the parking lot of Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Father Andrew Forsythe set up his portable altar and cameras to record a private Mass March 26. He was saying the Mass for the students while they are confined to their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Mass is the highest form of prayer," said Father Forsythe, who is the chaplain and a theology teacher at the Catholic high school. "It's our lifeline. It's where community comes from. We've been talking about how to maintain community" while the school is closed because of the pandemic, he said. "We make community like we always have, through Christ, through his church." Father Forsythe began celebrating a private Mass daily for the school community from what he calls his mobile chapel in the parking lot of the school to record his celebration of a private Mass March 23, the first day the high school started online classes. He celebrates the Masses at 7:30 a.m. "I'm trying to get here before school starts," he told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville. The Masses are livestreamed on his Facebook page -- Frandrew Forsythe -- and posted on the school's

    Despite opposition, abortion is now legal in Northern Ireland

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The British government has pressed ahead with the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland. A right of access to abortion was included in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, which passed into law last October, and a legal framework for abortion provision was announced March 25. It allows abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, abortions up to 24 weeks for undefined mental or physical health reasons, and abortion up to birth if the fetus is considered to be disabled. The law permits abortions to be performed outside of hospitals and abortion clinics and limits the conscientious objection rights of medical staff. Nurses and midwives are allowed to carry out abortions along with doctors. The regulations, which were opposed by 79% of respondents during a consultation with the public on how they should be framed, will take effect March 31. Dawn McAvoy of Both Lives Matter, a pro-life group based in Northern Ireland, said: "The ground is moving beneath us. We are a nation in the midst of a pandemic, grieving for what is to come -- the loss of life, security and the futures we imagined."

    Vatican releases pope's pandemic-influenced plan for Holy Week, Easter

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With public gatherings, including Masses, banned in Italy to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Vatican published an updated version of Pope Francis' schedule for Holy Week and Easter. In a March 27 statement, the Vatican said that all Holy Week celebrations will be celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica "without the participation of the people." The Vatican also said the release of the updated schedule takes into account the provisions made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation, said in a decree dated March 20 that because the chrism Mass is not formally part of the Triduum, a bishop can decide to postpone its celebration. For the first time, the pope's schedule for Holy Week does not include the chrism Mass, which is usually celebrated the morning of Holy Thursday. During the liturgy, priests renew their promises and the oils used for the sacraments are blessed. This year also will be the first time Pope Francis will celebrate the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper in the Vatican instead of at a prison, hospital or other institution. The Congregation for Divine Worship said that "the washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted" when there are no faithful present.

    Pope thanks those who help, pray for vulnerable during pandemic

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the many men and women who have been inspired to help the poor and accompany the sick and the elderly during the coronavirus pandemic. "These days, news has arrived of how many people are beginning to have a general concern for others -- caring about the families who do not have enough to get by, the elderly who are alone, the sick in the hospitals -- and who pray and try to give them some help," the pope said March 27 at the beginning of his livestreamed morning Mass. "This is a good sign," he said. "Let us thank the Lord for stirring up these feelings in the hearts of his faithful." The papal almoner's office announced March 26 that the pope was donating 30 ventilators to "hospitals in the areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic." The hospitals that will receive the new ventilators "will be identified in the coming days," the papal almoner's office said. In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which describes the criticism of the wicked toward the righteous person who "reproaches us for transgressions of the law."

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  • Guam archbishop urges perseverance amid pandemic

    HAGATNA, Guam (CNS) -- Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agana urged people in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to persevere in kindness. In a video message posted March 26 on the Facebook page of the archdiocesan newspaper, Umatuna Si Yu'os, he said: "We're going through a Lent that is extraordinary, but it's a Lent that God has given us." The archbishop pointed out that people are looking at the world differently than they did three weeks ago, focusing on what's important in their lives. He also said he has seen more expressions of kindness, care and courage in recent days. Recounting his own experience as a marathon runner, he said the secret in facing any challenge is perseverance, going one step at a time. "The challenge is to persevere," he said, adding that when the world resumes its normal routines, he hopes people show the same kindness and compassion. God's grace is "there for us; let's receive it," he added. In a March 16 pastoral letter to archdiocesan Catholics, the archbishop urged them to continue to hold fast to prayer and penance this Lent as they dealt with the coronavirus pandemic which he described as an "unprecedented threat of worldwide concern" that people must work together to overcome.

    On Annunciation, dozens of bishops dedicate their nations to Mary

    FATIMA, Portugal (CNS) -- Church leaders around the world used the feast of the Annunciation March 25 to entrust their nations to Mary and Jesus. Catholic leaders from 24 states sought divine help in ending the COVID-19 pandemic by consecrating their countries to Jesus and Mary during a March 25 ceremony in Fatima, Portugal. "We wish to entrust our supplications to the Virgin's maternal heart, so she may present them to God and intercede for us," said Cardinal Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima. "Through the rosary, we will keep in mind both direct and indirect victims of this pandemic, as well as health professionals tireless in their efforts to help the sick and the authorities seeking to find solutions." In Harissa, north of Beirut, the towering white statue of Our Lady of Lebanon was illuminated the night of March 25 in the colors of the Lebanese flag. The lighting of the statue in red and white with a cedar tree was followed by the rosary, in the presence of a few priests, as Lebanese were confined to their homes due to COVID-19. "We asked Our Lady of Lebanon to bless Lebanon and bless the whole world," Maronite Father Fadi Tabet, rector of the Harissa shrine, told Catholic News Service.

    Zubik: Take all precautions amid virus but also seek Mary's intercession

    PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- As the coronavirus touches everyone's life "with uncertainty, confusion, fear and suffering," Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik urged Catholics to "to reflect on a hope-filled definition of the word 'corona' from the perspective of our faith." This is "truly," he said, "The Other Side of Corona," the title of a pastoral letter dated March 20 addressing the pandemic. "For us Catholics, the word 'corona' traditionally means the crown of Mary, who is praying for us always," Bishop Zubik said. "Corona is a sign that God is with us through everything we experience in life, wherever we are, whatever we do, whoever we are! We are never alone. We have an everlasting hope. Every time we think of this virus -- as we must do in order to protect others and ourselves -- the name corona can call you and me to prayer," he said. Because "God works in all things to draw us closer to him," this crisis is a time when "God deeply desires to be closer to us," the bishop said. "But He will never force himself on us. We need to respond." Everyone is being affected dramatically right now by the pandemic, he noted, from business and school closures to the loss of jobs to the suspension of public Masses to lockdowns in various communities, but this is "an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus."

    Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., reports a parishioner has died of COVID-19

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Brooklyn announced March 25 that an elderly parishioner from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica in the New York borough of Queens has died of COVID-19. "Our hearts and prayers are with this parish family during this difficult time," the diocese said, adding that this parishioner was last at the church March 15 at the 1 p.m. Mass. The diocese also announced five additional confirmed cases of coronavirus within several of its parish communities. The affected individuals include a woman religious. This follows an announcement a week earlier it had learned of at least 12 confirmed cases, including two priests who tested positive for COVID-19.

    Thousands watch, but only dozens attend episcopal ordinations in England

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- An English cardinal said he has thanked God for "the wonders of the internet" after two episcopal installations were able to be livestreamed from cathedrals shut to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the internet meant that the two ceremonies were watched by tens of thousands, even though there were no congregations present. The cardinal presided over the March 21 enthronement of Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family, London. Two days earlier, Bishop David Oakley of Northampton, England, was consecrated at a ceremony held in private because of restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly, which have meant the suspension of public liturgies throughout Britain. Since March 23, all U.K. churches have been closed, even to private prayer, as the country tries to halt the spread of COVID-19. "Both ceremonies took place in order that those newly appointed could take up their new mission and so that their people would not be deprived of a pastor," Cardinal Nichols told Catholic News Service in an email. "Both ceremonies were deeply prayerful and (participants were) keenly aware of the wider, and large, congregation that was taking part over the internet," he said. "The beginnings of these two ministries will be celebrated more fully when circumstances permit."

    Older Catholics reflect on pandemic's effect on faith life, how they cope

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Early in the coronavirus pandemic, even before Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland canceled public Masses, the advice came that Catholics 60 and older should stay away from liturgies. Their age put them in a high-risk category for suffering serious consequences from COVID-19. Though sensible, the measure came as a hard spiritual knock for older Catholics. Retired and reflective, they count parishes as the very hub of life. At the same time, they form the very foundation of their faith communities. Jean Mitchell, who turns 89 in May, usually sits near the front at The Madeleine Church in Northeast Portland. "With the Pharisees," she joked. Mitchell misses Mass and all that is part of it: friends, "wonderful music," youngsters plodding up for a blessing before children's liturgy, thought-provoking humor from Father Mike Biewend, the pastor. Then comes the pinnacle. "When our celebrant lifts the host and the wine to be consecrated, I recall what Jesus said: 'This is my body; this is my blood,'" Mitchell told the Catholic Sentinel, Portland's archdiocesan newspaper. "He made that plain to his disciples and all his followers that he was serious; the host and the wine become his body and blood. God can do anything." Mitchell imagines seeing long lines of parishioners and guests going to Communion. She loves knowing that she is one of millions who can receive Jesus. "I will miss those times," she said, "and look forward to having them again."

    Texas Catholic family's quarantine dancing video goes viral

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- When health officials recommended self-isolation to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Ali Hoffman and her parents, Michael and Michele, found themselves quarantined in their Fort Worth-area home. In their boredom, they donned their "party pants" and filmed a short video of themselves dancing in the kitchen to "Hold My Hand" by Jess Glynne. There's no formal choreography. But lip syncing, slow motion, air drums, and piano and trumpet -- as well as floor slides a la Tom Cruise's "Risky Business" dance -- all abound. At one point, jazz hands beckon Ali's mother into the frame for her cameo. Within 72 hours of Ali's March 21 Facebook post, the video went viral, racking up nearly 5 million views and more than 183,000 shares. But this isn't the first time the Hoffman family went viral online. Five years ago, a winter storm froze the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Icy roads kept Ali and her parents inside. Perhaps in an effort to warm up in the frigid temperatures, an impromptu dance party broke out in the family's kitchen. The third youngest in the family of six, Ali recorded and posted a video of the one-take performance to her Facebook account. Since its February 2015 posting, the video, which featured Ali and her parents dancing to "Uptown Funk" by popstar Bruno Mars, has been viewed more than 13 million times. The irony of their new video's song choice wasn't lost on Ali or Michael. "It's a fun song to dance to," 29-year-old Ali told the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, in a phone interview from their family's Carrollton, Texas, home.

    Pandemic casts spotlight on a nearly forgotten martyr: St. Corona

    BONN, Germany (CNS) -- She had become nearly forgotten. Little is known about the young woman who was killed for her Christian faith, presumably in the second century A.D. But now, a pandemic is shedding light on her: St. Corona. The German Catholic news agency KNA reports the church's martyr records put the year of her death at 177 A.D. It is not certain where she lived. A Greek account put it in Syria, while a Latin one said it was Marseilles, France, and Sicily. What is proven is that she began to be honored starting in the sixth century in northern and central Italy. All the rest is the stuff of legend -- propagated above all by monks in the Alpine region. "This has nothing to do with the real history of Corona, but instead with stories aimed at deepening the faith," said Manfred Becker-Huberti, a German theologian known in the Rhineland as an expert on folklore and customs. The St. Corona legends are bloody. One account is that, as a 16-year-old, she was forced to watch her husband, St. Victor, being murdered because of his faith. She died in a gruesome manner: Her persecutors tied her between two palm trees that had been bent to the ground. Her body was then torn apart when the trees were set loose to snap back into standing position. She is above all revered in Germany's southern state of Bavaria and in Austria, KNA reports. A chapel is dedicated to her in Sauerlach, near Munich. In the Bavarian Diocese of Passau, two churches recall her name, while in the province of Lower Austria and outside of Vienna there are two towns named "Sankt Corona." In the cathedral of Munster in northwestern Germany, there is a St. Corona statue, currently decorated with flowers placed at its base. Some relics of the martyr were taken to the Prague cathedral in the 14th century.

    Pope prays that world may overcome fear

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his early morning Mass for vulnerable people and health care workers who live in fear that they or their loved ones may fall ill to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. "In these days of so much suffering, there is so much fear," the pope said March 26 at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed from the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Pope Francis spoke specifically of "the fear of the elderly who are alone in retirement homes or in hospitals or in their own homes and do not know what could happen; the fear of workers without a steady job who think about how they will feed their children and see hunger coming; the fear of many social servants who in these moments help society move forward and could get sick." But he also acknowledged "the fear -- the fears -- of each one of us," and prayed that God "would help us to have trust and to tolerate and overcome fear."

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  • USCCB website now offering resources for Catholics amid COVID-19 pandemic

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a special link on its website to a page offering various resources for the nation's Catholics as they weather the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Under the heading "Together in Christ: Responding to Coronavirus," the page also has a link to for all Catholics and other Christians to participate in Pope Francis' special "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It takes place at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27. Among the many resources on the USCCB page are lists of websites for Mass being livestreamed by various outlets, such as Catholic TV and EWTN, and on various internet platforms; links to prayers for an end to COVID-19, including from the pope and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB president; and daily reflections "to help us all during this trying time." There are Eastern Catholic Church resources and several Catholic publishers have made their resources available. Lists on the page will be updated as more resources become available.

    Ethicists, lawyers see dangers in rationing of scarce health resources

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Catholic ethicists and legal experts are sounding the alarm that the scarcity of resources such as ventilators and hospital beds during the current coronavirus pandemic could prompt health care decisions based only on age and disability -- and in some cases already is. Decisions on life-saving care based solely on those criteria are unjust, discriminatory and a violation of federal civil rights law, they say. One of the strongest and most persistent voices has been that of Charles Camosy, an associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York, one of the hardest-hit U.S. cities. "It should not be up to physicians to decide whose subjective quality of life deserves to be prolonged," he wrote in a March 19 opinion piece in the New York Post. "If rationing arrives, we must stand up unambiguously for the marginalized and vulnerable." He was especially critical of the Italian government for reportedly recommending that health care resources be rationed by age and limited to those who "could enjoy the largest number of life-years saved." Italy has had nearly 70,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,800 deaths as of March 25. Camosy also joined with Robert P. George, a law professor at Princeton University, and Harvard sociologist Jacqueline Cooke-Rivers in asking the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society to provide legal guidance on possible health care rationing during the pandemic.

    Relevant Radio is broadcasting litany of coronavirus prayers daily

    MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- JunFen Freihammer, a senior at DeLaSalle Catholic High School in Minneapolis, seems a perfect fit to record a prayer to lift hardships caused by the coronavirus. Freihammer, 18, was born in Wuhan, China, considered by many researchers as the origin of the virus that has infected tens of thousands of people and disrupted lives worldwide. She also stayed with a family in northern Italy last summer during an exchange program through her school in Minneapolis. Freihammer enjoyed her host family's hospitality and helped teach English to children. More recently, northern Italy was hit hard as the coronavirus spread. The entire country has been quarantined. The teenager recently recorded a five-minute "Litany in Time of Need" with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis. On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, the litany started airing daily on Relevant Radio. The recording will air locally at 11 a.m. seven days a week indefinitely until the pandemic subsides, said Karin Freihammer, who is JunFen's mother and senior development director for Relevant Radio. Those who want to tune in can use the Relevant Radio app or go to the radio network's website for programming information,

    Update: Latin American governments weigh pandemic shutdown vs. economic hardship

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- On day nine of the state of emergency that Peru imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Antonio Palomino Quispe got home just after the nightly curfew began. He had been delivering food baskets that day, March 24, to 30 of the 100 low-income senior citizens who usually receive breakfast and lunch three days a week at St. Martin of Charity Parish in Villa El Salvador, a sprawling low-income neighborhood on the southern edge of Peru's capital city. Since March 16, when the government ordered people to stay home except to buy food or medicine or to go to the doctor in an emergency, the "Martincitos," as the seniors call their group, after St. Martin of Porres, have been confined to their homes. Many live alone, so they miss the meals, exercise and activities, and companionship that their meetings used to provide. "Senior citizens are the most forgotten people" in Peru and the most vulnerable to the disease, said Palomino, 59, who founded the group three decades ago. Although the seniors cannot meet, he continues to be their lifeline. The next morning, he delivered 70 more baskets cobbled together with food and other items donated to the parish. The coronavirus pandemic swept much of the world before reaching Latin America, giving leaders time to learn from the high death rates in countries like Spain and Italy.

    Catholic universities, and a high school, donate medical supplies to hospitals

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- It was a scene of hope and humanity as boxes and boxes of medical equipment at St. John's University were packed up and driven over to New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital. The New York university has been on lockdown for two weeks -- classrooms are empty and students are learning from home. Still, a small group of staff -- including Brian Browne, director of the school's office of university relations, worked March 24 to donate supplies as part of a fight against the coronavirus. "They were very happy, as you know this is a growing issue across the country," he said. "Here's the need for these medical supplies and PPEs (personal protective equipment) and we have the capability to give back. They're happy to take it." Currently there are equipment shortages across New York as hospitals continue to fight the pandemic and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said public hospitals only have about a week's worth of equipment and supplies left. "We have excess classroom medical supplies, our students have now gone home, they're learning remotely and virtually, so we want to give these extra supplies to our neighborhoods down the street," Browne told Current News, part of NET TV, the cable network of the Dioceses of Brooklyn. The donations from St. John's include 186,000 medical gloves, 500 lab coats, 100 protective face masks and 20 face shields.

    Quebec dioceses start layoffs as anti-COVID-19 measures get stricter

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- As the Quebec government tightens measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows only essential services, the Catholic dioceses of the province have started temporary layoffs affecting hundreds of Catholic employees and priests. The Quebec government has ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses through April 13. Churches and other institutions of a religious or spiritual nature are not on the government's list of essential services. The Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe announced March 23 that it is laying off all staff at its diocesan center. It recommended parishes do the same. "Unless there is a real need, I recommend to the parishes of the diocese to temporarily lay off, as of Friday, March 27, all personnel, including priests, so that they can benefit from employment insurance," said Bishop Christian Rodembourg. He called the provisions "heartbreaking. I do so, however, in the hope that they will help us get back on track as soon as possible," he added.

    Goal of Lenten postcard, online campaign is an end to labor trafficking

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A coalition of Catholic groups led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the middle of a postcard and online petition campaign to convince one of the United States' largest food service distributors to ensure its fish supply is not tainted by labor trafficking. The problem of forced labor, and even slave labor, on huge fishing vessels has long been a cause for concern, leading to this year's "Labeling for Lent" campaign by the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking. This year's target is Sysco, which supplies food to many Catholic institutions. "So many Catholic institutions, hospitals and school systems, and even some congregations and motherhouses, are supplied by Sysco," said Jennifer Reyes Lay, executive director of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a coalition member. "We make up a significant percentage of their business. With the Lenten season, there's some groups that use Sysco for the fish fries for their main source of seafood. That's something that's prevalent within the diocese," said Christine Commerce, coordinator of the human trafficking task force in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, another coalition member. Commerce added, "Greater Orlando ranks third in the nation in calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. We see cases of both labor and sex trafficking here in central Florida." Sysco is not some unrepentant outlier when it comes to human trafficking.

    Update: Birmingham, Ala., bishop retires; pope names Michigan bishop as successor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert J. Baker, head of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, and has named as his successor Bishop Steven J. Raica of Gaylord, Michigan. Bishop Baker turned 75 on June 4, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. He has headed the Birmingham Diocese since 2007. Bishop Raica, 67, was named bishop of Gaylord in 2014. Birmingham's new shepherd will be welcomed with solemn vespers June 22, the night before his installation. Both the vespers and his June 23 installation Mass as the fifth bishop of Birmingham will take place at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. Until then, Bishop Baker will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese. In a statement, Bishop Baker welcomed his successor and pledged his "support, prayer and collaboration" to the diocese's new bishop. "While this is a loss for the Diocese of Gaylord, we rejoice with the people of Birmingham. Our prayers accompany Bishop Raica during this time of transition for him as well as for both dioceses," said Deacon Kevin Endres, chancellor of the Michigan diocese.

    Doctrinal congregation adds saints, new prefaces to 1962 Roman Missal

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican doctrinal office announced the optional use of seven eucharistic prefaces as well as the celebration of the feast days of recently canonized saints in the "extraordinary" form of the Mass. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published two decrees March 25 that complete "the mandate given by Pope Benedict XVI" to the former Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," the Vatican said. St. John Paul II had established the commission in 1988 to facilitate the "full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals" attached to the pre-Vatican II Mass. However, Pope Francis closed the commission in 2019 and transferred their tasks to a new section of the doctrinal congregation. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI allowed for the celebration of the "extraordinary" form of the Mass, that is, Mass according to the Roman Missal published in 1962 before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. One decree allowed the use of seven new eucharistic prefaces that could be optionally used for the feasts of saints, votive Masses or "ad hoc" celebrations.

    Vatican asks bishops to help faithful celebrate Holy Week, Easter at home

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has asked Catholic bishops around the world, both in the Latin rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches, to provide their faithful with resources to support personal and family prayer during Holy Week and at Easter, especially where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from going to church. The Congregation for Eastern Churches, publishing "indications" March 25 for the Paschal celebrations in the churches it supports, urged the heads of the churches to issue concrete, specific norms for the celebrations "in accordance with the measures established by the civil authorities for the containment of the contagion." The statement was signed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, congregation prefect, and asked the Eastern churches to "arrange, and distribute through the means of social communication, aids that allow an adult of the family to explain to the little ones the 'mystagogy' (religious meaning) of the rites that under normal conditions would be celebrated in the church with the assembly present." The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, updating a note originally published March 20, also asked that bishops' conferences and dioceses "see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer" during Holy Week and Easter where they cannot go to Mass.

    Chicago Archdiocese has new site for parish donations, emergency fund

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has caused financial disruptions not only to households and businesses, but also to local parishes, who have suspended public Masses at which they can take up offertory collections. To help Catholics support their local parishes, the Archdiocese of Chicago has created a website that donors can use to make a one-time or recurring gift to any parish they choose. The site, along with a donation site for the archdiocese's Coronavirus Emergency Fund, can be accessed at Both funds accept credit card payments or electronic payments directly from a bank account. "About 70% of our parishes have an online giving program," said Brendan Keating, chief development officer in the Office of Stewardship and Development. "Of course, that means 30% don't." All parishes still have bills to pay even if they are not holding public Masses, Keating said. "With the suspension of Masses, it's critically important that parishioners support their parishes with online giving. The parishes absolutely need this income more than they ever have."

    Italian doctors: Staff overwhelmed during pandemic; model must change

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Doctors working in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy have launched an appeal in a major medical journal warning the outbreak in their province is out of control. The medical and humanitarian emergency unfolding before their eyes has made it clear that the Western health care system of centralized hospital care cannot handle this and future epidemics and needs to shift toward more community-focused care. The present emergency, in fact, is laying bare a number of problems or weaknesses that need attention, Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life and expert in bioethics, told Catholic News Service March 25 in a request for a response to the medical article. The doctors' plea was published in the New England Journal of Medicine's March-April 2020 edition of its online journal, "Catalyst: Innovations in Care Delivery." The article was jointly written and signed by a dozen doctors working at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, a small northern city near where the pope saint was born. The hospital, located in one of Italy's wealthiest regions, is one of the most advanced in Europe. But despite its modern structure and equipment, according to the doctors, they are operating "well below our normal standard of care."

    Catholic agencies: Move refugees from Greece to avoid pandemic disaster

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Catholic aid agencies have urged the evacuation of Syrian war refugees from camps in Greece to "avert a catastrophe" from the coronavirus. "More than 42,000 people are trapped in hopelessly overcrowded camps and horrific conditions -- there is no hope of containing any outbreak," Caritas Europe, Jesuit Refugees Service and more 200 other organizations said in a March 24 appeal. "Time is of the essence. We urge emergency action to guarantee the health and safety of the asylum-seekers, local population and humanitarian aid workers on the islands." The statement, addressed to heads of European Union institutions and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said recommended measures such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing were "simply impossible" in the camps. It urged EU leaders to ensure member-states continued accepting asylum-seekers. It added that it was "well within the EU's capacity" to cope with the crisis, but said obligations to help were being "circumvented by illegal pushbacks. We urge immediate evacuation of the refugee camps and hotspots on the Greek islands to avert a catastrophe," said the appeal, co-signed by Protestant, Jewish and Muslim aid groups.

    Update: Retired Cincinnati archbishop, former USCCB president, dies at 85

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, an educator and author whose work focused on explaining the Catholic faith to wider audiences, died March 22 at age 85. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Archbishop Pilarczyk, had been in declining health in recent years. He led the Cincinnati Archdiocese for 27 years until his retirement Dec. 21, 2009, the day after the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Prior to his appointment as archbishop in 1982, he was auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati for eight years, also serving as director of educational services for the archdiocese. "Among his brother bishops, Archbishop Pilarczyk was recognized as one of the outstanding churchmen of his time," Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, his successor, said in a statement. "They elected him not only president of what was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops but also chair of every significant committee of the bishops' conference. His accomplishments on the local level in his tenure as archbishop of Cincinnati were equally outstanding. He unselfishly devoted is entire priesthood to this archdiocese." He was vice president of the bishops' conference from 1986 to 1989 and president from 1989 to 1992. Funeral services will be private.

    Vatican statistics show decline in number of consecrated men, women

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The decrease in the number of religious brothers and of women in religious orders is "worrying," according to the Vatican statistics office. While the number of religious brothers in Africa and Asia continues to increase, the number of religious brothers worldwide experienced an 8% drop between 2013 and 2018, while the number of women religious fell 7.5% globally in the same period, the Vatican Central Office for Church Statistics reported. However, the number of baptized Catholics increased by 6% between 2013 and 2018, reaching 1.33 billion or almost 18% of the global population, the statistics office reported March 25. The figures are presented in the "Annuario Pontificio 2020," the Vatican yearbook, and will appear in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which gives detailed figures on the church's workforce, sacramental life, dioceses and parishes. The statistics are based on figures valid as of Dec. 31, 2018. The region with the highest proportion of Catholics, the yearbook reported, is in North and South America with "63.7 Catholics per 100 inhabitants," followed by Europe with 39.7 Catholics, Oceania with 26.3 and Africa with 19.4 Catholics for every 100 inhabitants.

    Pope pays tribute to women religious caring for the sick

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Early in the morning, in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of the Annunciation and paid tribute to women religious, especially those caring for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining the pope for the Mass March 25 were a few members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who work at the papal residence and, more importantly for the pope, run the Santa Marta free pediatric clinic at the Vatican. The Daughters of Charity around the world renew their vows every year on the feast of the Annunciation, so the pope had the sisters renew theirs during his Mass. "I want to offer the Mass today for them, for their congregation, which always has worked with the sick, the poorest -- as they have done here (at the Vatican clinic) for 98 years -- and for all the sisters who are working now to care for the sick, and even risking and giving their lives," the pope said at the beginning of the liturgy.

    'Gospel of life' needed now more than ever, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Defending life is not an abstract concept but a duty for all Christians and it means protecting the unborn, the poor, the sick, the unemployed and migrants, Pope Francis said. Even though humanity is living in "the age of universal human rights," it continues to face "new threats and new slaveries" as well as legislation that "is not always in place to protect the weakest and most vulnerable human life," the pope said March 25 during a live broadcast of his weekly general audience from the library of the Apostolic Palace. "Every human being is called by God to enjoy the fullness of life," he said. And because all human beings are "entrusted to the maternal care of the church, every threat to human dignity and life cannot fail to be felt in her heart, in her maternal 'womb.'" In his main talk, the pope reflected on the feast of the Annunciation as well as the 25th anniversary of "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), St. John Paul's 1995 encyclical on the dignity and sacredness of all human life.

    Pope, Christian leaders around the globe join in prayer for pandemic's end

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Joined by Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant church leaders and faithful from around the world, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, imploring God's mercy on humanity amid the coronavirus pandemic. "As trusting sons and daughters, we turn to the Lord. We do it every day, several times a day, but at this moment we want to implore mercy for all of humanity so harshly tried by the coronavirus pandemic," the pope said March 25 as he introduced the prayer. "We will do so together, Christians of every church and community, of every age, language and nation," he said. "We pray for the sick and their families, for health workers and those who help them, for civic leaders, police and volunteers and for the ministers of our communities," the pope said. Holding the prayer on the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel told Mary she would bear God's son, Pope Francis said that "with full confidence we, too, place ourselves in God's hands, and with one heart and soul, we pray."

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  • Parishes step up their social media efforts by posting online Masses

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When U.S. dioceses first announced they were not offering public Masses in an effort to curb the coronavirus, many dioceses promoted TV Masses broadcast in their areas or arranged to tape their own Masses and post them online. But by the second weekend without public Masses, parishes around the country stepped up to the digital platform and were opening their churches, virtually, to their parish communities and the world. Some videotaped Masses in small chapels, others taped in parish churches and some placed pictures of parishioners on the pews. Some Masses included lectors and music; others simply involved a parish priest. Some parishes seemed to just tape the Mass on a smartphone while others were more high-tech with a camera on a tripod. Masses were available in one language or multiple languages. For many parishes, this effort meant setting up a parish YouTube channel for the first time or dusting off their Facebook page for online streaming. Some parishes tapped into their younger members with sudden time on their hands and online skills to make this happen. Father Paul Keller, a Claretian Missionary priest, serving at St. Paul Catholic Newman Center Parish in Fresno, California, said once the coronavirus restrictions were in place the parish made plans to livestream Sunday and daily Masses. During the past year, he said, the parish had asked some of its young adults to refine all of the parish's social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and its YouTube channel. He said the parish had a "brain trust of social media staff" setting up these platforms which are so key right now.

    Coronavirus claims the Pittsburgh Catholic as diocese suspends publication

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- The new coronavirus has claimed the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper as a victim. Diocese of Pittsburgh officials informed the newspaper's 11 staff members in a conference call March 19 that they had decided to immediately suspend publication in large part because of the effects of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Ellen Mady, diocesan chancellor, told Catholic News Service March 24 that church officials felt that the suspension became necessary because the newspaper could not be distributed through parishes while public liturgies were on temporary hiatus in response to the illness that is sweeping the country. "It's (the paper's suspension) a direct reaction to the coronavirus concerns, and mostly that the absolute main source of distribution was through parishes at Sunday Masses and the suspension of all Masses announcement," Mady said. Bishop David A. Zubik announced March 15 that all weekday and weekend Masses were canceled effective the next day. The decision to suspend publication shocked the newspaper staff, said Carmella Weismantle, operations manager and director of advertising for the 165-year-old weekly, successor to the original paper that started publishing in 1844.

    Religious find inventive techniques of caring for community in isolation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As people throughout the U.S. self-isolate and retreat from daily life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, priests and women religious have become beacons of hope globally as they mobilize in unconventional ways. From church parking lots to hospitals, the digital space and even from the sky, Catholic religious are making their presence known to an anxious global populace. "Jesus Christ created a community during his time on earth and it is the priests, the religious women and men, who are called in a special way to give of themselves to their community," said Father Mark M. Morozowich, dean of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington and a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio. "In times like today, when we have this deadly pandemic that threatens the world, we are called as Christians to engage in ways we hadn't considered before, but we're still called to engage," he said. This call is what inspired Father Anthony J. Manuppella, pastor of St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield, New Jersey, to board a small plane at the Atlantic City International Airport March 15 with a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of the Blessed Mother and fly the perimeter of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, blessing the people below who are facing the pandemic. Father Manuppella was following the example of past papal processions of the Blessed Sacrament during plagues that ravaged world populations in past centuries. "Popes would process in the streets with the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament," he said. "In fact, one of the popes ordered that the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed in every church in Rome for 40 hours and after that time the plague seemed to subside.

    Priests: Celebrating Mass online with no congregants 'odd,' 'weird'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Here is the church, and here is the steeple; Father says Mass, but where are the people? Imagine if you gave a Mass and nobody came. That's an emerging reality for priests as the phenomenon of livestreamed, YouTubed and other online Masses grows amid the pandemic. That's doesn't make it any easier, though. "It's odd, it's definitely a new experience," said Father Scott Mower, a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, since 1997. "It's nothing I learned in seminary, that's for sure." As for celebrating a St. Patrick's Day Mass online for the Ancient Order of Hibernians, "it was a little on the weird side to say the least," said Father James Gardiner, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement and a priest for 51 years. "The church was empty. On a Sunday morning when you're preaching, you think they're paying rapt attention," he said. If a priest's congregation consists of a camera operator and a lector, it becomes the liturgical equivalent of "if a tree falls in the forest and there's nobody to hear it, does it make a sound?" Servite Father Mike Pontarelli, pastor of St. Juliana Parish in Fullerton, California, has been celebrating Mass online for a week. "Well, I'm getting used to it," he told Catholic News Service. "I preach into TV land. It's like Lucy in the Vitametavegamin commercial: 'Hi, everybody in TV land.' I taught high school," he added. Given his students' low attention levels. "I would teach to nobody, and now I preach to nobody," he chuckled. Father Pontarelli's solution: "I imagine the people sitting where they used to be. That's kind of the truth."

    India exemplifies problems facing Southeast Asia as COVID-19 spreads

    MUDGEE, Australia (CNS) -- South and Southeast Asia have a combined population of over 2 billion people, and India could be an example of the whole region at large. Like India, many countries are characterized by huge cities containing neighborhoods that contain millions of people living close together in often highly unhygienic conditions. Even the most basic protocols for warding off COVID-19, such as hand-washing and social distancing, are all but impossible to practice. "India is a hugely populous country. The future of this pandemic will be determined by what happens to densely populated countries. It's important that India takes aggressive action at the public health level and at the level of society to control and suppress this disease," Mike Ryan, World Health Organization emergencies program director, said March 23. In India, the world's second-most populous nation, churches across the country finally closed their doors March 23, more than a week after the Vatican decided to have Holy Week services behind closed doors. On March 24, the Indian government ordered people not to leave their houses for three weeks. Yet already, many have chosen to ignore government directives, underscoring the task Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ahead of him. Assuming the World Health Organization's 3.4% fatality rate compared to confirmed infections, India could have almost a million confirmed cases by the end of May, with more than 30,000 deaths. Some estimates are as much as double those numbers.

    This year it's a new kind of Laetare Sunday with different kind of joy

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- It was supposed to be Laetare Sunday -- a day of joy in the midst of Lent. But that joy took on a different meaning March 22, as Catholics across western North Carolina lived through their second Sunday without Masses. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shut down nearly all public Masses since March 14, as people maintain a safe physical distance from each other to avoid spreading the novel virus. As a replacement, Diocese of Charlotte pastors rushed to the web and to social media to livestream liturgies from inside empty churches to their parishioners sheltering at home. A few experimented March 22 with drive-through Masses, offering holy Communion to people in their cars. More than 30 churches posted live or recorded Masses on their website, YouTube channel or Facebook page for Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Many of the pastors acknowledged the discomfort they felt at offering Mass to an empty church while their people remained at a distance, either at home or outside in their cars. But many of them also connected the day's Gospel reading of the blind man being cured by Jesus as an apt metaphor for the times in which everyone finds themselves. At St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte, Father Christopher Roux offered Mass through Facebook, joking that it was a penance for his parishioners to have to watch him recorded on video. In his homily, Father Roux noted, "Here in the middle of Lent, we're called to rejoice. We're in the darkness of the penitential season and we're called to rejoice. ... We are also in our world seeing a little bit of darkness ourselves, a darkness which has paralyzed us in many ways and caused fear in many ways."

    Catholic Charities of Tennessee balances tornado recovery, virus response

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- As Catholic Charities of Tennessee executive director Judy Orr leads her agency's response to the deadly March 3 tornado, every plan must be vetted to comply with the latest precautions against the coronavirus pandemic. One of the chief concerns is how to provide counseling services to those who experienced the trauma of the tornado, followed by the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, when people are practicing social distancing and staying apart as much as possible. "There might be someone whose house got destroyed by the tornado, then their restaurant closed (to follow CDC guidelines) and they can't go to work, and you can't even give them a hug," Orr told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper. Her counseling staff is adapting the best they can to the circumstances. Many counselors will be moving to offering services over the phone or through online video chat. Those methods "are not fully embraced" by counselors, said Orr, a licensed master social worker, "but in this crisis we have to do it." Since the tornado, Catholic Charities has added two new staff members, disaster recovery manager Vickie York and trauma counselor Kamrie Reed. York, who has responded to disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, will be looking at "the whole constellation of needs" that clients have right now, according to Orr, while Reed will be offering one-on-one remote counseling. "I love meeting directly with people," said York. "That's where my heart is. This is a little overwhelming, but God willing, we'll get through it."

    Bishop tests negative, urges all to care for physical and spiritual health

    RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- Acknowledging the "extraordinary measures" people need to take to remain physically healthy during the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond told the people of his diocese they need to be mindful of their spiritual health. "We also confront a spiritual danger -- one of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration and possibly even despair. This danger is caused by our interior response to an external threat to our life, culture, work and home," he said during his homily at a private Mass livestreamed from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart March 22. "As we confront this threat to our well-being, it is important to remember that we must attend to our spiritual as well as our physical health," he added. "Both are interrelated and one affects the other." The day after the Mass the bishop learned he had tested negative for the coronavirus. On March 14, he went into self-isolation "out of care and caution" because he had a minor cold after returning from two weeks of traveling around the diocese. On his doctor's recommendation, Bishop Knestout visited a health care facility March 19 to be tested for the flu and COVID-19. At the time of the livestreamed Mass, Bishop Knestout had not yet received the negative test result, so he did not celebrate the Mass but delivered his homily from a side chapel in the cathedral The Mass was concelebrated by the diocese's vicar general, Father Michael Boehling, and the cathedral rector, Father Anthony Marques.

    Update: Catholic leaders praise Colorado's repeal of death penalty

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders praised Colorado Gov. Jared Polis for signing a death penalty repeal bill into law March 23, making Colorado the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty. He also commuted the sentences of the state's three death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole. "We thank Gov. Jared Polis for signing this historic piece of legislation, and we commend the many state senators and representatives who worked hard to make this important change to our state law," the Colorado Catholic Conference said in a March 23 statement. The conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, said that for many years it has supported efforts to repeal the death penalty and it was "grateful for the determination and commitment it took for the state legislature to pass this bill." "By outlawing the death penalty, Colorado has taken a critical step toward respecting the dignity of human life," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. "Colorado joins the growing ranks of repeal states, affirming our nation's desire for more restorative responses to crime and harm and adding to the continued momentum toward death penalty abolition across the U.S.," she added in a March 23 statement.

    Complaining, inertia are seeds of the devil, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Many Christians are caught in a trap of complaining about everything and doing nothing about it, Pope Francis said in his morning Mass. The sin of sloth, marked by careless indifference, apathy and self-pity, is a "poison, a fog that envelops the soul and doesn't let it live," he said in his homily at Mass that was livestreamed March 24. The pope began the Mass by praying for deceased health care workers and priests who were infected with the coronavirus after caring for patients ill with COVID-19. He thanked God for their "heroic example" of caring for the sick. In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus goes to the healing waters of the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem and sees an ill man sitting helplessly by the pool. It was apparent to Jesus that this man had been ill for decades, and he asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man's response "is interesting," the pope said, because he doesn't enthusiastically or decisively answer, "Yes," he just complains.

    Marriage, priesthood, religious life take courage, pope says in message

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Discovering one's vocation to marriage, priesthood or religious life and making the decision to embrace it takes courage, Pope Francis said. The Lord knows "the questions, doubts and difficulties that toss the boat of our heart, and so he reassures us, 'Take heart, it is I; have no fear!'" the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated May 3 in most dioceses. Using the story from the Gospel of Matthew of the disciples in the boat on a stormy Sea of Galilee, Pope Francis said Jesus calls people to a specific vocation "because he wants to enable us, like Peter, to 'walk on water,' in other words, to take charge of our lives and place them at the service of the Gospel in the concrete and everyday ways that he shows us, and specifically in the different forms of lay, priestly and consecrated vocation." For most people, he said, hearing that call and being excited by it almost always is mixed with fear and worries about one's weaknesses. "If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us -- whether in married life or priestly ministry -- or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink," he wrote. But the gift of faith enables people to keep walking toward Jesus.

    Pope: Personnel, priests caring for COVID-19 patients are heroes

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the number of priests and religious dying from coronavirus-related illnesses rising, Pope Francis offered his prayers for those who died after being infected helping COVID-19 patients and their communities. At least 50 priests, four nuns and at least 24 doctors have lost their lives and 5,000 health care workers in Italy were known to be infected as of March 24 because of the pandemic. At the start of his morning Mass March 24, the pope said he was aware of the growing number of doctors, nurses and priests who have died after becoming infected while being "at the service of the sick. Let us pray for them and their families. I thank God for the heroic example that they have given us in their care for the sick," he said. Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin told his priests in a letter they are called to a ministry in some ways similar to that of doctors, nurses and psychologists. "The people turn to you with trust and hope, seeking help or even just a word of support, of accompaniment," he wrote.

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  • Naumann: Mark anniversary of 'Gospel of Life' with commitment to moms

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- St. John Paul II's "prophetic encyclical" on the value and inviolability of human life, "The Gospel of Life" ("Evangelium Vitae") provides "a clear challenge" to Catholics, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee. "With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth," the pope said in his 1995 encyclical. With these words, the pope "invites each of us to ask ourselves how we are assisting women in need who are pregnant or have young children," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "He challenges us to open our hearts even wider, and to improve our responses where needed ... to truly accompany each pregnant or parenting woman in need," the archbishop said in a March 23 statement, issued to mark the 25th anniversary of "The Gospel of Life." The encyclical's March 25 anniversary also is the launch of an initiative of the U.S. bishops called "Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service,"

    Amid pandemic, health care professionals find support, strength in faith

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- The tsunami of fear around the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it caught the world's medical community often lacking resources, testing and protective equipment is now testing the faith of U.S. medical professionals. "Priorities have changed significantly since the pandemic," said Dr. Greg Burke, a Pennsylvania-based physician of internal medicine and co-chair of Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee. Demonstrating a sense of calm is critical for health care professionals who are rightly viewed as being willing to take risks to maintain the health of all, Burke told Catholic News Service, adding that confusion and misinformation are to be expected during a period of significant anxiety. But health care professionals must stay informed on the most relevant clinical facts. "Also, a great degree of flexibility in work is now required: Can patients be managed by phone or telehealth? What meetings are essential? Will I be redeployed to a different unit or care setting?" Burke said. "Professionalism, particularly in our Catholic tradition, requires that we make our skills available where most needed," he added.

    N.J. archdiocese launches online site for parish donations during crisis

    NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin has announced a Parishes in Need fundraising initiative specifically aimed at supporting continued outreach and archdiocesan parish communities during the coronavirus pandemic. The effort, coordinated with GoFundMe, a global online fundraising platform, will enable parishioners to provide direct support to local churches at a time when public celebration of Mass at churches in the Archdiocese of Newark and dioceses around the country has been suspended for the foreseeable future. The website was established for online donations. "The first place people often go in time of need is the local parish," Cardinal Tobin said in a March 22 statement. "Under the current conditions brought on by the coronavirus epidemic, parishes are limited in the services they can offer to the faithful and those in need." He urged the faithful of the archdiocese to "please consider a tax-deductible contribution to our special Parishes in Need fund, which will be used to support those communities struggling to pay their employees, conduct outreach, and cover church utility bills through this crisis." Parishes also provide services beyond their parishioners, including counseling and meeting spaces.

    First U.S. clergy fatality from COVID-19 a deacon in Washington

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Franciscan friar who was on his way to join a new religious community in New York became Washington's first COVID-19 fatality March 20 and the first known U.S. Catholic cleric to die after contracting the coronavirus. Brother John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, 59, was soon to join the Franciscan friars of the Immaculate Conception Province in New York. Until last fall, he had served as the secretariat to the Commissariat of the Holy Land USA and Franciscan Monastery. He also was a permanent deacon who came into contact with lay Franciscans such as Michele Thiec of Washington. "Such a kind soul and an amazing example of Franciscan joy," she said on Facebook after finding out about his death. In a March 23 message to Catholic News Service, Thiec said the friar, known to many as Brother Sebastian, served not only the visitors to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, a facility that seeks to educate the public about the land of Christ, but he also was an advocate for lay employees. Some who knew him said he had received treatment for leukemia. Brother Sebastian's cremains will be interred in his home state of Indiana, according to the Franciscan Monastery.

    Catholic agencies seek stimulus funding to meet expected surge in clients

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Several Catholic charitable agencies are among more than 200 nonprofits urging Congress to include $60 billion in aid to help them meet an expected surge in requests for services from unemployed people. The coming wave of clients seeking food assistance, housing, health care and clothing is expected as a result of massive layoffs across the U.S. economy and a corresponding dive in financial contributions as the new coronavirus sweeps through communities nationwide. Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Medical Mission and St. Francis Ministries are among dozens of agencies asking Congress to bolster support for their services. Debate on a $2 trillion stimulus package continued in the Senate March 23. Democrats have twice blocked passage to a bill since March 22, saying it too strongly favored corporations over health care workers and people who had lost their jobs. Exasperated Republicans contend Democrats are seeking unnecessary provisions at the behest of special interests and organized labor. Anthony Granado, vice president of government relations at Catholic Charities USA, said the country's nonprofit sector will need federal assistance if the economy enters a deep recession because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Coronavirus restrictions throw weddings, funeral plans in disarray

    FULTON, Md. (CNS) -- As events large and small have been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland bride-to-be Lauren Fischetti had to make a decision. She was not waiting until mid-April. She was getting married right now."We didn't want to risk there being a mandatory lockdown for everyone in Maryland or everywhere. So, we just wanted to go ahead and get married," said Fischetti, a high school teacher who wed her fiance Bobby Jones March 20. Granted, it was a small ceremony. In keeping with the orders from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the ceremony was just 10 people, including Father Peter Gevera, the associate pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Fulton. The ring bearer and the flower girl had to watch the livestream, Fischetti said. "The most important thing to us wasn't the reception. It wasn't the party, the pictures or anything like that. It was just the sacrament," Fischetti told the Catholic Review, the media outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. From weddings to baptisms to funerals, the coronavirus pandemic and the social-distancing precautions that go with it have thrown solemn and celebratory Catholic services into disarray. Following the advice of Maryland's governor and health experts, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori decided March 14 that the archdiocese would no longer celebrate Masses in the physical presence of the faithful. Instead, the archdiocese is broadcasting Masses through a variety of media.

    Brazilian church agency demands prisoners' release to contain COVID-19

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- The Prison Pastoral, an organization linked to the Brazilian bishops' conference, has demanded the release of prisoners as part of efforts to contain the expansion of COVID-19 among incarcerated Brazilians. "If the virus spreads through Brazilian prisons, the consequences will be disastrous. Eighty percent of coronavirus cases have mild symptoms, such as the flu; however, prisoners and inmates have very low immunity due to the degrading conditions in prison," pastoral officials wrote in an open letter in mid-March. Pastoral officials said they fear COVID-19 among prisoners would be similar to rates of tuberculosis, which, they said, is 30 times higher in prisons than in the general population. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, 62 percent of deaths of inmates in Brazilian prisons are caused by diseases such as HIV, syphilis and tuberculosis.

    New Orleans archbishop tests positive, asks prayers for all amid pandemic

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond announced midday March 23 he has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. "Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I have been feeling fine. Recently, I had very mild symptoms, which included fever only. Out of an abundance of caution, I took the coronavirus test which came back positive," the archbishop said in a statement. "I have notified those with whom I have been in close proximity. Needless to say, I have self-quarantined in order to be responsible and not affect others," he said. Archbishop Aymond said he will use "this quiet time for additional prayer and sacrifice for all those seriously affected by the virus." "I pray to get well soon and continue ministry. In the meantime, I will be present through Facebook and the archdiocesan website with reflection on this crisis and God's healing power," said Archbishop Aymond, who has headed the archdiocese since 2009. The archdiocesan website is Due to the coronavirus, all archdiocesan offices will be closed for 10 days, from March 17-27.

    St. Vincent de Paul launches initiative to help returning citizens

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Society of St. Vincent de Paul expects to spread throughout the country a nationwide initiative it calls Immersion, which helps recently released prisoners reenter society. The idea has been percolating since 2007, when the society received a grant from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to explore the issue, according to Barbara McPherson, director of prison reentry services for the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA. "We have an anonymous donor who has funded us for three years just as a startup," McPherson said. The immersion initiative has a pilot program in which hundreds of released prisoners -- often known as "returning citizens" -- are seen and given some aid by society representatives. McPherson said the immersion initiative is now at the implementation stage. St. Vincent de Paul representatives also have had conversations with members of Congress on funding returning-citizen efforts -- which could come more to the fore as prisons and jails are seeking to release those awaiting trial for minor offenses and those convicted of nonviolent offenses to keep a COVID-19 pandemic from plaguing a prison population.

    North American College decides to send all its seminarians home

    ROME (CNS) -- With more than half of its seminarians already back in the United States, the Pontifical North American College in Rome is sending its students home. "In consultation with our board of governors and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, we have asked all students at our two campuses to return to their home dioceses in the United States," said a notice posted on the seminary's Facebook page March 23, the day after students were informed. The post said students "will undergo a 14-day quarantine once they arrive home and will continue to pursue formation via the online courses that have been in place for the last few weeks." As of March 16, only 92 of the 192 seminarians remained on the campus on the Janiculum Hill, Father Peter Harman, the rector, had told Catholic News Service. He did not say how many priests, doing graduate studies, were still living at the college's separate facility, the Casa Santa Maria. The notice said one of the factors influencing the decision to send all students home was Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's announcement March 21 closing all "nonessential" business throughout the country.

    Iranian cleric pleads with pope to help end U.S. sanctions

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Citing the increasing loss of lives to COVID-19 and a lack of medical resources, an Iranian cleric has urged Pope Francis to do what he can to help get U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted. "Without judging the root causes of these inhuman sanctions imposed by the United States, as an Iranian Islamic scholar, I humbly ask you, as a beloved world leader of Catholics, to intervene so that those sanctions are eliminated," wrote Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi. Promoting the end to the sanctions is a humanitarian act befitting those who believe in Jesus, who "for the whole world is a universal symbol of peace and love," he said in a letter addressed to Pope Francis. The text of the letter was also sent to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency, and was published on their website March 20. Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad is a scholar and dean of the department of Islamic Studies at the Academy of Sciences of Iran and a professor of law and Islamic philosophy at Tehran University. Pope Benedict XVI invited him to attend and address the 2010 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East at the Vatican.

    Passing the time in lockdown: Sisters sew face masks

    ROME (CNS) -- While most of the work at a religious order's general headquarters continues in lockdown, a group of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit found an additional activity where they could use their hands, do something together and be useful. The sisters took to sewing face masks. "We cannot send them to hospitals, because those masks must have filters," Sister Eleonora Cichon, a member of the sewing team, told Catholic News Service March 23. The sisters also are not distributing them to the general public because there is no way to certify their effectiveness at stopping the spread of germs and of the coronavirus, she said. But the 50, triple-layer masks they have made already are in use. The generalate community includes 40 sisters, eight novices, a priest and two refugee families -- one a family of three, the other a family of seven. "We are all well here in the generalate," she said, "but if we have to go out, we want to protect ourselves and the people we encounter on the street."

    'Every man for himself' is not a solution to pandemic, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As more and more countries start to feel the economic pinch due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis urged business leaders to seek solutions that will not hurt employees and their families. "Each (country) must find concrete solutions depending on their situation, but of course, 'every man for himself,' is not a solution," the pope said in an interview via Skype that aired in Spain March 22. "A business that lays off employees to save itself is not a solution. In this moment, instead of laying off, we must welcome and make everyone feel that there is a society of solidarity." When told by Spanish journalist Jordi Evole that business leaders could argue that he may not be knowledgeable business management and the struggles of maintaining a business with staggering production losses, the pope said they were right in their assertion. But, he continued: "I do know the hardships that will face the employee, the workers and their families. And there are certain realities appearing, and we are being asked to take care of those realities."

    Pope prays for people in financial difficulty because of pandemic

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered prayers for everyone, particularly families, facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic. "Let us pray today for people who are beginning to experience economic problems because they cannot work due to the pandemic, and all of this falls on the family," he said at the start of Mass March 23. Nearly 25 million jobs may be lost worldwide due to COVID-19, the International Labor Organization estimated in a preliminary assessment report released March 18. However, the impact on employment could be lower if there is an internationally coordinated policy response, similar to what happened during the global financial crisis of 2008, it said.

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