Browsing News Entries

Massachusetts bishop: Clergy can support individuals' own vaccine exemption requests

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts / Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Mass., Sep 20, 2021 / 11:28 am (CNA).

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts said Tuesday that clerics in the diocese should support Catholics who themselves seek conscientious exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandates by attesting to their baptism and practice of the faith.

“It is important for us to recognize and encourage the well-formed consciences of those who both desire the vaccine for themselves and the common good, as well as those who for health concerns or other reasons, may desire not to receive the vaccine,” Bishop Byrne wrote Sept. 14 to clerics of the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.

“In charity as priests and deacons, we should help to support the conscience rights of our Catholic faithful on this and all matters. We can do this by attesting to their Sacramental Baptism and the ‘practicing’ of their Catholic faith, as a separate letter or statement, to support their letter or request for religious exemption, but not to compose or sign a letter or form ourselves.”

The bishop wrote his letter to assist his clerics who are receiving requests from parishioners seeking “religious exemption” from mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.

He cited documents from the US bishops' conference, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which indicate that the vaccines may be taken, but that their reception is not a moral obligation and must therefore be voluntary.

“Many organizations and institutions are beginning to require the vaccine, and so in understanding conscience rights objections, we as leaders of our congregations, may be asked to assist Catholics in our parishes to pursue an exemption,” Bishop Byrne wrote.

The bishop said that “on the basis of conscience, it is not possible for anyone to act or speak on behalf of another person seeking an exemption.”

“Such a conscience right’s request for exemption must come from the individual themselves by way of

their own letter or the completion of an organization's form applying for exemption,” he noted.

However, he directed his clerics to provide accompanying letters that support individuals' own requests for religious or conscientious exemption.

“I hope the clarification of these points on what we can do, and what is beyond our scope of responsibility, is helpful to you as these requests may arise among our good people in the future,” Bishop Byrne concluded.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected. Therefore, vaccine participation must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that some persons may have conscientious objections to the taking of the COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious convictions ought to be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

The bishops of South Dakota and Colorado have both issued statements supporting Catholics wishing to seek conscience exemptions. The Colorado Catholic Conference issued a template for Catholics and their pastors to send to employers for religious exemption based on conscience.

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly have both stated that any Catholic seeking an exemption places the burden on the individual’s conscience rather than on Church approval, and thus priests of their dioceses are not allowed to vouch for the conscience of another person in seeking an exemption from a vaccine mandate.

The five bishops in Wisconsin in late August issued a statement encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, while maintaining that people ought not be forced to accept a COVID vaccine. The bishops added that, in the cases of Catholics conscientiously objecting to receiving a vaccine, clergy should not be intervening on their behalf.

Many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago and Philadelphia, have instructed clergy not to assist parishioners seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, stating that there is no basis in Catholic moral teaching for rejecting vaccine mandates on religious grounds.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.

Vatican requires vaccine pass for visitors, employees

People use hand sanitizer before entering St. Peter's Basilica. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

The Vatican will require all visitors and personnel to show a COVID-19 pass proving they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus, or have tested negative for the disease in order to enter the city state beginning Oct. 1.

To enter Vatican territory, tourists and other visitors, employees, and officials will be required to show a digital or paper Covid Certificate issued by the Vatican or another country, according to an ordinance published Sept. 20.

A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The president of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, issued the ordinance at the request of Pope Francis, who asked “to take all appropriate measures to prevent, control and combat the ongoing public health emergency in the Vatican City State.”

Under the new order, Catholics attending liturgical celebrations at the Vatican will be an exception to the vaccine rule. People will be allowed to access a liturgy “for the time strictly necessary for the conduct of the rite,” while also following distancing and masking rules.

Italy’s vaccine passport, called the “Green Pass,” requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19, proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous six months, or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

On Sept. 17, the Italian government approved an expansion to the Green Pass, making it a requirement for all private and public workplaces beginning Oct. 15.

Employees who do not have the pass could be suspended without pay or be forced to pay a fine of up to roughly $1,800.

Since Aug. 1, Italy has required the vaccine pass to enter certain indoor venues, such as restaurants and museums, and in September the pass also became necessary for travel within the country. The vaccine pass was already required for certain workplaces, such as hospitals and schools.

The ordinance mandating COVID-19 vaccination for visitors and employees of Vatican City State was signed Sept. 18, the day after Italy’s government expanded its vaccination mandate to the public and private sectors.

Vatican gendarmes will be responsible for checking vaccine passes at entrances to Vatican territory, according to the ordinance.

The order says Pope Francis, in a Sept. 7 meeting with Vatican City President Bertello, “affirmed that it is necessary to ensure the health and wellness of the work Community in respect of the dignity, rights, and fundamental liberty of every member.”

Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

From Oct. 1, it will be required to have the Green Pass to enter St. Peter’s Basilica as a tourist.

In Italy, many historic Catholic churches which charge tourists ticket fares to enter had already required the Green Pass.

Since August, proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test has been required for tourists who wish to visit the Duomo in Florence, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and many of Italy’s most famous Catholic cathedrals.

Among the hundreds of churches in Rome, only the Pantheon has required the Green Pass for tourists. And the Pantheon, which was transformed into the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres in the 7th century, does not require the pass for entrance to its Masses.

Poland’s March for Life and the Family draws 5,000 people

A family participates in Poland's March for Life and the Family in Warsaw on Sept. 19, 2021. / Family News Service

Rome Newsroom, Sep 20, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Poland’s March for Life and the Family drew 5,000 people this year, according to the event’s organizers.

The annual march took place in Warsaw on Sunday, Sept. 19. Thousands of participants took to the streets in the Polish capital brandishing the country’s red and white flag and posters with pro-life slogans.

Family News Service
Family News Service

It was Poland’s first March for Life since a landmark decision on abortion by Poland’s constitutional court came into effect earlier this year.

The Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw ruled on Oct. 22, 2020, that abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, is expected to lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country.

Abortion remains legal in Poland in cases of rape or incest and in cases of risk to the mother’s life after the ruling.

Polish President Andrzej Duda met with the organizers of the march, who are affiliated with the Center for Life and the Family and the Christian Social Congress, on Sept. 19.

Duda welcomed the constitutional court's ruling last year saying that “abortion for so-called eugenic reasons should not be allowed in Poland.”

Family News Service
Family News Service

The March for Life and the Family, which usually takes place in 140 Polish cities, was limited to Warsaw this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The organizers of this year’s scaled-down march selected “fatherhood” as a key theme of the event.

“We want to send a signal not only to the whole of Poland, but also to the whole world that there are men in Poland who take responsibility, that they do not run away from it,” Pawel Ozdoba, one of the event’s organizers said at the opening of the March for Life and the Family.

Family News Service
Family News Service

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, expressed good wishes to the participants of the march in a social media post.

The archbishop invoked two recently beatified Polish Catholic figures as examples of supporting the right to life.

Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland who led the Church’s resistance to communism, and Blessed Elżbieta Róża Czacka, a blind nun who revolutionized care for the visually impaired, were beatified the weekend prior in Warsaw.

“May Blessed Cardinal Wyszynski and Blessed Mother Czacka support you in showing that everyone has the right to life, and the family is the most precious good of humanity,” Gądecki wrote on Twitter.

A Mass was offered at the conclusion of the March in Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross.

Family News Service
Family News Service

“The Primate of the Millennium was so often called the ‘Father of the Nation,’ hence the connection. We wanted to show that Polish fathers are responsible,” Ozdoba said.

“A responsible and strong father and a strong man are needed not only by the family, but also by the whole society,” he said.

Catechism teaches marijuana use should be avoided, says moral theologian

DETROIT (CNS) — In Michigan, the signs are everywhere. Driving down Interstate 94 in either...

Greatness is measured by service, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In God’s view, human greatness is measured by how one serves...

Catholic foster parents open door, hearts to over 100 babies in 43 years

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (CNS) — When Travis and Rhonda Kitch met Ron and Jane Brown...

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Reading I Ezr 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,
in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah,
the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,
both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
‘All the kingdoms of the earth
the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem,
which is in Judah.
Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!
Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt,
be assisted by the people of that place
with silver, gold, goods, and cattle,
together with free-will offerings
for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin
and the priests and Levites–
everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so– 
prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.
All their neighbors gave them help in every way,
with silver, gold, goods, and cattle,
and with many precious gifts
besides all their free-will offerings.

Responsorial Psalm 126:1b-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

R.    (3) The Lord has done marvels for us.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
    we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with rejoicing.
R.    The Lord has done marvels for us.
Then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad indeed.
R.    The Lord has done marvels for us.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
    like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
    shall reap rejoicing.
R.    The Lord has done marvels for us.
Although they go forth weeping,
    carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
    carrying their sheaves.
R.    The Lord has done marvels for us.

Alleluia Mt 5:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Biden administration reopens, expands immigration program for minors

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Biden administration in mid-September reinitiated and expanded an immigration program aimed...

Pope Francis: The true measure of success is what you give, not what you have

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that in God’s eyes, success is measured “not on what someone has, but on what someone gives.”

In his Angelus address on Sept. 19, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 9:30-37, in which Jesus declares that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The pope said: “Through this shocking phrase, the Lord inaugurates a reversal: he overturns the criteria about what truly matters. The value of a person does not depend anymore on the role they have, the work they do, the money they have in the bank.”

“No, no, no, it does not depend on this. Greatness and success in God’s eyes are measured differently: they are measured by service. Not on what someone has, but on what someone gives. Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way.”

Giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that those who wish to follow Jesus must take “the path of service.”

“Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because ‘it tastes like a cross.’ But, as our care and availability toward others grow, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve, the more we are aware of God’s presence,” he explained.

“Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion: and we in turn discover God’s love and embrace there.”

He noted that after making his declaration about service, Jesus brought a child before his disciples, saying: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The pope said: “In the Gospel, the child does not symbolize innocence so much as littleness. For the little ones, like children, depend on others, on adults, they need to receive. Jesus embraces those children and says that those who welcome a little one, welcome him.”

“The ones who are to be served above all are those in need of receiving who cannot give anything in return. In welcoming those on the margins, the neglected, we welcome Jesus because He is there. And in the little one, in the poor person we serve, we also receive God’s tender embrace.”

Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope urged pilgrims gathered in the square below to ask themselves whether they were truly committed to serving the neglected or simply sought “personal gratification” like Jesus’ disciples on that occasion.

“Do I understand life in terms of competing to make room for myself at others’ expense, or do I believe that being first means serving?” he asked.

“And, concretely: do I dedicate time to a ‘little one,’ to a person who has no means to pay me back? Am I concerned about someone who cannot give me anything in return, or only with my relatives and friends? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to victims of flooding in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

He highlighted the deaths of at least 17 patients after a river burst its banks and water inundated a hospital in the town of Tula.

He also referred -- without mentioning any countries by name -- to those held unjustly in detention outside their homelands.

“I want to assure my prayer for the people who have been unjustly detained in foreign countries: unfortunately, there are several cases, for different, and sometimes, complex causes. I hope that, in the due fulfillment of justice, these people might return as soon as possible to their homeland,” he said.

He then greeted pilgrims gathered for his address, singling out those from Poland, Slovakia, and Honduras.

Finally, he acknowledged the 175th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, southeastern France.

He noted that Mary appeared in tears to two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, in 1846.

“Mary’s tears make us think of Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem and of his anguish in Gethsemane: they are a reflection of Christ’s suffering for our sins and an appeal that is always contemporary, to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy,” he said.

St. Januarius’ blood liquefies for the second time in 2021

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia holds a reliquary containing St. Januarius’ liquefied blood in Naples Cathedral, Italy, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:25 am (CNA).

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

The miraculous event took place in the city’s Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary during morning Mass on Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day.

Before the Mass, Naples Archbishop Domenico Battaglia went to the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of St. Januarius with Msgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, the chapel’s abbot, and city mayor Luigi De Magistris.

Battaglia opened the safe containing a reliquary with a circular sealed vial filled with the third-century bishop’s blood.

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

At 10 a.m. local time, the 58-year-old archbishop brought the reliquary to the cathedral’s high altar.

Battaglia moved the reliquary from side to side to show its changed state.

“The blood has liquefied,” he said.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

After making the Sign of the Cross, signaling the start of the live-streamed Mass, he said: “We thank the Lord for this gift, for this sign that is so important for our community.”

In his homily, Battaglia, who was installed as archbishop of Naples on Feb. 2, urged Catholics to avoid superstition and to see in the saint’s blood a sign that points to the blood shed by Jesus to redeem humanity.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

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

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

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The saint’s blood also liquefied earlier this year.

Preaching at Mass in Naples Cathedral on May 1, Battaglia urged people not to be overly “intrigued by the miracle” and “seized by the yearning to read in it good omens or ominous omens for our future.”

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

The archbishop, who was known as a “street priest” who was close to the poor before his elevation, recalled victims of the Camorra mafia and domestic violence, as well as lonely elderly people and the unemployed.

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

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

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The archbishop, known locally as Don Mimmo Battaglia, will receive the pallium on Sept. 27 from Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, apostolic nuncio to Italy.

Before the final blessing at Sunday’s Mass, Battaglia walked down the cathedral’s nave and through its doors, where he held up the reliquary, blessing those gathered outside.