1. Pope makes final bid for peace, forgiveness in South Sudan, By Nicole Winfield and Deng Machol, Associated Press, February 6, 2023 Pope Francis made a final appeal for peace in South Sudan on Sunday as he celebrated Mass before tens of thousands of people to close out an unusual mission by Christian religious leaders to nudge forward the country’s recovery from civil war. On the last day of his African pilgrimage, Francis begged South Sudanese people to lay down their weapons and forgive one another, presiding over Mass at the country’s monument to independence hero John Garang before an estimated 100,000 people, including the country’s political leadership. “Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil,” Francis said. “Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us.” His message aimed to revive hopes in the world’s youngest country, which gained independence from the majority Muslim Sudan in 2011 but has been beset by civil war and conflict.  In a bid to spur the process along, Francis was joined on the novel ecumenical peace mission by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields. The aim of the Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian leaders was to push Kiir and Machar to recommit themselves to the 2018 deal. https://apnews.com/article/pope-francis-sudan-government-john-garang-south-b007e4fde6e23e4882096cb64aed24dd__________________________________________________________ 2. Pope, Anglican, Presbyterian leaders denounce anti-gay laws, By Nicole Winfield , Associated Press, February 6, 2023, 5:22 AM Pope Francis was backed by the ceremonial head of the Anglican Communion and top Presbyterian minister in calling for gays to be welcomed by their churches as he again decried laws that criminalize homosexuality as unjust. The three Christian leaders spoke on LGBTQ rights during an unprecedented joint airborne news conference Sunday while returning home from South Sudan, where they took part in a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage to try to nudge forward the young country’s peace process. They were asked about Francis’ recent comments to The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws that criminalize gay people were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime.” South Sudan is one of 67 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, 11 of them with the death penalty. LGBTQ advocates say even where such laws are not applied, they contribute to a climate of harassment, discrimination and violence.  “To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he said. “Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pope-anglican-presbyterian-minister-denounce-anti-gay-laws/2023/02/05/ecc66edc-a576-11ed-b2a3-edb05ee0e313_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Pope accuses critics of exploiting Pope Benedict XVI’s death, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 5, 2023, 2:18 PM Pope Francis accused some of his critics Sunday of taking advantage of retired Pope Benedict XVI’s death to score ideological points in the latest salvo in the partisan divide of the Catholic Church. During an airborne news conference returning from South Sudan, Francis was asked about the criticism that accelerated after the Dec. 31 death of Benedict, who lived in the Vatican as an emeritus pope alongside Francis for the first 10 years of his pontificate. In the days and weeks after his death, Benedict’s longtime secretary and some conservative cardinals came out with books, interviews and memos criticizing Francis’ papacy. The commentary had the effect of pitting the recently departed former pope, who remained a point of reference for conservatives and traditionalists, against the current pope. Francis insisted that rumors of differences with Benedict, or that Benedict was bitter about some decisions he had taken, were false and that the two consulted frequently and were in agreement. “I think Benedict’s death was instrumentalized,” Francis said. “People wanted to score points for their own side. And the people who instrumentalize such a good person, so close to God, I would almost say … those people don’t have ethics, they are people who belong to a party, not to the church.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pope-hits-back-at-critics-who-used-pope-benedict-xvi/2023/02/05/08e99560-a579-11ed-b2a3-edb05ee0e313_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. US states take control of abortion debate with funding focus, By John Hanna and Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press, February 5, 2023, 5:21 PM Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigorated battle in the nation’s culture wars, the only hint of its faith-based mission to dissuade people from getting abortions is the jazzy, piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room. The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering allocating millions of dollars in state funds to similar anti-abortion centers that persuade people to bring their pregnancies to term by offering free pregnancy tests and sonograms, as well as counseling and parenting classes taught by volunteers. They’re also considering offering millions more in income tax credits for donors supporting what they call “crisis pregnancy centers.”  Increasingly, liberal cities and states are funding access to abortion, including telemedicine, which has seen a notable rise with more than half of U.S. abortions now done with pills rather than surgery. Meanwhile, states with GOP legislatures and governors are looking to put more taxpayer money into organizations that talk people out of ending their pregnancies.  It’s similar to a longstanding Missouri law that provides income tax credits to donors supporting anti-abortion centers. Arizona has such a law, and Mississippi’s Republican House speaker is trying to expand a cap on tax credits to $10 million from the $3.5 million authorized last year. Arkansas and Oklahoma are considering adding similar tax credits, according to the National Right to Life Committee. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-states-take-control-of-abortion-debate-with-funding-focus/2023/02/05/ad52c328-a51b-11ed-8b47-9863fda8e494_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Investigation into FBI, fed agencies’ targeting of Christians and pro-lifers to begin next week, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, February 4, 2023, 10:00 AM Congress will begin investigating what Republicans call the “weaponization” of the federal government against pro-life advocates and Christians next Thursday, according to announcements from leading House members. After a House vote authorized the creation of the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, Republicans have said they are committed to providing “oversight” and “accountability” to federal agencies that have been targeting parents, anti-abortion protesters, and Christians. The investigation will operate under the House Judiciary Committee and be chaired by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. A primary focus of the investigation will be the Biden administration’s targeting of pro-lifers through the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, according to CNA communications with Russell Dye, Jordan’s communications director. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253555/investigation-into-fbi-fed-agencies-targeting-of-pro-lifers-parents-to-begin-next-week__________________________________________________________ 6. Pope in Africa hails Christian unity as force for peace, antidote to tribalism, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, February 4, 2023 In one of his final events in South Sudan this week, Pope Francis led an ecumenical prayer service with other Christian leaders Saturday, stressing joining forces in promoting peace as well as solutions to the country’s other crippling problems. Speaking to faithful from different Christian denominations, the pope said that, “From this beloved land, wracked by violence, many prayers have now been raised to heaven.” https://cruxnow.com/pope-in-south-sudan-congo/2023/02/pope-in-africa-hails-christian-unity-as-force-for-peace-antidote-to-tribalism__________________________________________________________ 7. New York debates whether clergy should be required to report abuse, The Child Abuse Reporting Expansion Act, a bill making its way through the New York legislature, would make clergy mandated reporters, By Kathryn Post, The Washington Post, February 3, 2023, 4:17 PM If a member of the clergy suspects that a child in the congregation has been abused, is the clergyperson legally required to report it? In New York state, the answer is no. But some advocates, clergy members and lawmakers think that should change. The issue is at the heart of the Child Abuse Reporting Expansion Act, a bill making its way through the state legislature that, if passed, would make clergy mandated reporters.  New York state law currently requires doctors, dentists, teachers, day-care workers, police officers and several other types of professionals to report it if they suspect a child is abused. Mandated reporters who fail in their duty are guilty of a misdemeanor and are “civilly liable for the damages proximately caused by such failure,” state law says. Twenty-eight other states already include clergy on their list of mandated reporters, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Most of these states also include exemptions for clergy who learn about suspected abuse via “pastoral communications,” such as in the context of confession.  The bill was originally introduced in 2019 and then amended in 2020 to include an exception for any “confession or confidence” made to clergy in their “professional character as spiritual advisor.” The bill clarifies that clergy who learn about potential abuse in any other context would be subject to the mandatory reporting requirements, even if they also learned about the abuse in a confessional setting. https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2023/02/03/new-york-debates-whether-clergy-should-be-required-report-abuse/__________________________________________________________8. In America, you have to opt out of religion in public life. That’s backward., By Kate Cohen, The Washington Post, February 3, 2023, 8:01 AM, Opinion If you are a defendant in the state of New York and a judge requires you to attend an addiction recovery program, you have the right to request a secular program — one that does not center on God. Many recovery programs do have religious underpinnings; six of Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 steps to sobriety refer to a higher “Power” or “God.” But the state must provide a nonreligious option if you ask for one.  That’s because, despite the promise of our Constitution, we don’t really live in a secular nation. In a secular nation, nonreligious recovery would be the default option, and a citizen who felt the need to seek God’s help would have the right to ask for AA instead.  In a secular nation, a legislator who thought abortion was a sin would absolutely have the right not to have one. In our nation, by contrast, after that religious belief is enshrined into law, someone has to make the legal argument that Missourians “have the absolute right to live free from the religious dictates of others.” They do — they have that right. We all have that right. It’s right there in the establishment clause of the First Amendment. But as long as this country’s default setting is religious — both culturally and politically — we have to fight for it. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/02/03/religion-god-nonbelievers-opt-out/__________________________________________________________ 9. Senate bill would expand restrictions on foreign aid for abortions, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, February 3, 2023, 12:15 PM Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand and make permanent current laws that are designed to prevent the federal government from funding abortions in other countries through foreign aid.  The bill, known as the American Values Act, would bolster existing prohibitions on foreign aid for abortions. It would specifically ban aid for abortion as a method of family planning and would prohibit aid money from being used to encourage or coerce abortions or for involuntary sterilization. The bill would also make permanent a ban on the use of funds for the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.  The bill would also establish a long-standing restriction on funds to lobby for or against abortion, funds for any organization that supports or participates in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, and funds to the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253545/senate-bill-would-expand-restrictions-on-foreign-aid-for-abortions__________________________________________________________ 10. Cardinal Zen and Jimmy Lai among Hong Kongers nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, February 3, 2023, 2:15 PM A bipartisan congressional commission chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, announced Thursday the nomination of six Hong Kongers, including Cardinal Joseph Zen and jailed Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai, for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in the cause of human rights. “Jimmy Lai, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, Gwyneth Ho, Lee Cheuk-Yan, and Joshua Wong were nominated because they are ardent champions of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights, and the rule of law as guaranteed under the Sino-British Declaration and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the announcement from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China reads. “The nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China. Through the nomination, the members of Congress seek to honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253548/cardinal-zen-and-jimmy-lai-among-hong-kongers-nominated-for-nobel-peace-prize__________________________________________________________ 11. Charges dropped, for now, against woman arrested for praying silently outside UK abortion clinic, By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, February 3, 2023, 3:45 PM Authorities in the U.K. have dropped charges against a woman arrested for silent prayer in a “buffer zone” that bans pro-life advocacy outside an English abortion clinic. However, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce says the charges still could be revived, leaving her in an ambitious legal situation. “It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street,” Vaughan-Spruce said in a Feb. 3 statement. “So-called ‘buffer zone legislation’ will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court,” she added. Vaughan-Spruce was arrested Dec. 6, 2022, in Birmingham, England, outside an abortion facility that was closed at the time. Video footage of her arrest shows an officer asking her if she was praying, to which she answers: “I might be praying in my head.” You can watch the exchange in the video below. She was charged Dec. 15 with four counts of breaking Birmingham’s Public Space Protection Order around the abortion facility. The order is intended to stop antisocial behavior. The terms of the order include prayer under “protest,” which is banned within the “buffer zone” around the clinic. For standing still and praying silently inside a buffer zone, she was accused of “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253551/charges-dropped-for-now-against-woman-arrested-for-praying-silently-outside-uk-abortion-clinic__________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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