1. The AP Interview: Pope Francis: Homosexuality not a crime, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 25, 2023 Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. “Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.  “Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.” “It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added. https://apnews.com/article/pope-francis-gay-rights-ap-interview-1359756ae22f27f87c1d4d6b9c8ce212__________________________________________________________ 2. The AP Interview: Pope warns of elitist German synod process, By Associated Press, January 25, 2023, 7:25 AM Pope Francis has warned there’s a risk that a reform process in the German Catholic Church over calls for married priests and other possible liberalizing reforms might become harmfully “ideological.” In an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican on Tuesday, Francis was asked about the process in Germany, where Catholic bishops and representatives of an influential lay organization are addressing what would be revolutionary reforms for the church if they were to be realized. Under consideration in the process are married priests, female deacons, and church blessings for same-sex couples. In the interview, the pope said that while dialogue is good, “the German experience does not help.” He said the process to date has been led by the “elite” because it doesn’t involve “all the people of God.” Francis says the goal must always be unity. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the-ap-interview-pope-warns-of-elitist-german-synod-process/2023/01/25/be207fa2-9ca0-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. The AP Interview: Pope on health, critics and future papacy, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 25, 2023, 4:46 AM Pope Francis says he hasn’t even considered issuing norms to regulate future papal resignations and plans to continue for as long as he can as bishop of Rome, despite a wave of attacks by some top-ranking cardinals and bishops.  Some cardinals and canon lawyers have said the Vatican must issue norms to regulate future papal retirements to prevent the few hiccups that occurred during Benedict’s unexpectedly long retirement, during which he remained a point of reference for some conservatives and traditionalists who refused to recognize Francis’ legitimacy.  Francis said issuing such norms hadn’t even occurred to him. “I’m telling you the truth,” he said, adding that the Vatican needed more experience with papal retirements before setting out to “regularize or regulate” them. Francis has said Benedict “opened the door” to future resignations, and that he too would consider stepping down. He repeated Tuesday that if he were to resign he’d be called the bishop emeritus of Rome and would live in the residence for retired priests in the diocese of Rome. Francis said Benedict’s decision to live in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens was a “good intermediate solution,” but that future retired popes might want to do things differently. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the-ap-interview-pope-on-health-critics-and-future-papacy/2023/01/25/85b911aa-9c7e-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. The AP Interview takeaways: Pope decries expanding gun use, By Associated Press, January 25, 2023, 6:07 AM Pope Francis lamented that the use of guns by civilians to defend themselves is becoming a “habit.” In an exclusive interview on Tuesday with The Associated Press, the pontiff, who has frequently criticized the arms industry, was asked about the large number of guns in civilian hands and frequent massacres in the United States. Francis expressed concern about how recourse to guns has become “habit.” “I say when you have to defend yourself, all that’s left is to have the elements to defend yourself. Another thing is how that need to defend oneself lengthens, lengthens, and becomes a habit,’’ Francis said. “Instead of making the effort to help us live, we make the effort to help us kill.” Francis has denounced the arms industry as trafficking in death. Francis said he wants to draw attention to the problem by saying: “Please, let’s say something that will stop this.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the-ap-interview-takeaways-the-pope-on-patience-in-china/2023/01/25/13d531ba-9c81-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Running the numbers, Africa isn’t the Catholic future – it’s the present, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 25, 2023, Opinion While news agencies and Catholic social media denizens these days gorge themselves on the Vatican’s mounting “Battle of the Books,” seeing who can craft the most sensational headlines or tweets about several controversial new volumes making the rounds, other outfits are, thankfully, still concerned with things that actually matter. Such is the case, for instance, with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, which, since 1964, has been committed to crunching the numbers about global religion, especially Catholicism.  In Nigeria, a reported 94 percent of Catholics say they attend Mass at least weekly, followed by Kenya at 73 percent. Lebanon clocks in at a robust 69 percent and the Philippines at 56. By way of contrast, the highest percentage anywhere in Europe is in Poland, at 52 percent, and in western Europe, the best performer is Italy at 34 percent.  While Catholicism officially numbers around 1.3 billion adherents worldwide, a good share of that total is fairly nominal. In terms of setting the tone within the church, those who are more active generally punch far above their weight – generating a greater share of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, for instance, as well as various lay roles. In much Catholic parlance, it’s long been said that Africa is the future of the church. Looking at the numbers in terms of who actually shows up, however, Africa isn’t the future. It’s the present, and it has been for a while. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2023/01/running-the-numbers-africa-isnt-the-catholic-future-its-the-present__________________________________________________________ 6. US watchdog urges special attention to anti-Christian carnage in Nigeria, By John Lavenburg, Crux, January 25, 2023 As the persecution of Christians in Nigeria continues, a member of the U.S. government’s international religious freedom watchdog has urged the State Department to designate Nigeria a “Country of Particular Concern,” and recommended the appointment of a Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Frederick Davie told Crux the moves would center religious freedom progress as a key priority in the U.S-Nigeria relationship.  The State Department put Nigeria on the list in 2020, but chose not to redesignate it in 2021. USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel in December said there is no justification for Nigeria’s lack of designation, saying the commission is “tremendously disappointed that the Secretary of State did not implement our recommendations and recognize the severity of the religious freedom violations” in Nigeria. The State Department did not respond to Crux requests for an interview or statement on Nigeria. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2023/01/us-watchdog-urges-special-attention-to-anti-christian-carnage-in-nigeria__________________________________________________________ 7. 15-week abortion ban set to go before Florida Supreme Court, By Associated Press, January 24, 2023, 1:23 PM Florida’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy will be allowed to stand until a hearing before the state Supreme Court. The court said late Monday it will hear the case, which has been part of a legal fight since the law took effect last July. The law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exemptions in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/15-week-abortion-ban-set-to-go-before-florida-supreme-court/2023/01/24/2f6e428a-9c14-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 8. NY pols OK vote on constitution change to protect abortion, By Maysoon Khan, Associated Press, January 24, 2023, 5:47 PM New York’s legislature took a critical step Tuesday toward changing the state’s constitution to bar discrimination based on “pregnancy outcomes” or “gender expression” — provisions intended to protect abortion rights and a person’s right to seek gender-affirming care. In a pair of afternoon votes, the state’s Senate and Assembly approved an expansion of the constitution’s Equal Protection Amendment, clearing the way for it to go before voters in a statewide ratification referendum in 2024. While the amendment wouldn’t explicitly preserve a woman’s right to have an abortion, supporters say it would have the practical effect of protecting reproductive rights. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ny-legislature-poised-to-protect-reproductive-gender-rights/2023/01/24/b9100c96-9c0d-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 9. South Dakota Gov. Noem threatens charges for abortion pills, By Associated Press, January 24, 2023, 5:03 PM South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, along with the state’s Republican attorney general, said Tuesday the state will prosecute pharmacists who dispense abortion-inducing pills following a recent Food and Drug Administration rule change that broadens access to the pills. The Republican governor and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley released a letter to South Dakota pharmacists saying they are “subject to felony prosecution” if they procure or dispense abortion-inducing drugs. The state bans all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant person. “South Dakota will continue to enforce all laws including those that respect and protect the lives of the unborn,” Noem and Jackley said in the letter. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/south-dakota-gov-noem-threatens-charges-for-abortion-pills/2023/01/24/3c56b216-9c14-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 10. Taiwan President Writes to Pope Francis About ‘Preserving Regional Security’ With China, Vatican City State is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country., By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, January 24, 2023 Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has written a letter to Pope Francis underlining the importance of maintaining peace with China and a commitment to the island’s sovereign democracy. “The war that erupted between Russia and Ukraine last February has brought home to humanity just how valuable peace is,” Tsai wrote in a letter to the Pope published by her office on Jan. 23. “Preserving regional security has become a key consensus shared by national leaders.” Tsai sent the letter in response to Pope Francis’ message for the 2023 World Day of Peace, the Pope’s annual letter sent to all foreign governments around the world to mark the new year. The president of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China (ROC), cited a speech that she gave last October following a dramatic rise in tensions between Beijing and Taipei over the summer.  Tsai, the first female president of Taiwan, noted that last year marked the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China and the Holy See. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,”  she said. “Taiwan aspires to serve as a light in the world and will work closely with the Holy See to create a society of greater justice and peace for humanity.” https://www.ncregister.com/cna/taiwan-president-writes-to-pope-francis-about-preserving-regional-security-with-china__________________________________________________________ 11. Seattle archdiocese says parishes must merge due to decline in number of Catholics, By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, January 24, 2023, 12:15 PM A decline in Catholic religious practice and other changes in western Washington state means parishes will have to merge so that parish life can sustain itself, the Archdiocese of Seattle said Sunday. “The mission of the Catholic Church is at the heart of strategic pastoral planning,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said Jan. 22. “To achieve our mission, we must reinvigorate the faith of our people and re-envision how we live our faith in our parish communities, which includes adapting to our current reality so that we can strengthen our relationship with Jesus, accompany one another in faith, and credibly proclaim the Gospel.” Despite a growing overall population in western Washington, the number of practicing Catholics continues to decline, the archdiocese said in a statement. There are fewer households registered with a parish and fewer people attend Mass, receive the sacraments, and take part in parish life. From 2010 to 2019, the archdiocese said, Mass attendance fell by 11%, baptismal numbers declined by 30%, and weddings declined by 18%. “With all of the changes that we’re facing today — globally, culturally, and within the Church — it’s very clear the status quo is no longer an option,” Etienne said. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253444/seattle-archdiocese-says-parishes-must-merge-due-to-decline-in-number-of-catholics__________________________________________________________ 12. The White-Martyr Cardinals’ Dinner, Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the evening came when the conversation turned to those times when the Lord seems to be deaf to the pleas of his people — times not unlike what many Catholics experience today., By George Weigel, National Catholic Register, January 25, 2023, Opinion On the night of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral, Cardinal George Pell hosted a dinner in his apartment for a group of like-minded mourners, and all present were delighted that the heroic Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who had been permitted to attend the requiem by Hong’s Kong’s thugocracy, agreed to join the party. The company assembled at #1, Piazza della Città Leonina, could thus marvel at being in the presence of two contemporary “white-martyrs:” men who had suffered greatly for the faith but had remained unbroken and full of the joy of the Lord. As Providence would have it, Cardinal Pell, in hosting that dinner, “provided his own Irish wake” (as one of those present remarked after Pell’s unexpected death five days later). It was an apt description of a magical evening, in which the predominant mood of profound gratitude for Benedict XVI animated hours of robust conversation, full of wit and laughter. And as Cardinal Pell remarked afterwards, “Cardinal Zen really was the star tonight, wasn’t he?” Indeed, he was. At 91 years old and suffering irritating physical disabilities, the Shanghai-born Salesian cardinal remains incredibly energetic, and eagerly spoke about his work in the Hong Kong jail where the great Jimmy Lai and other political prisoners are held. The wardens, it seems, behave decently with Cardinal Zen, allow him to stay as long as he likes, and don’t (overtly) monitor his conversations with the prisoners. The cardinal told of making several converts in the prison and was asked what he used for catechetical materials. The answers were striking: the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, of course, but also Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. But perhaps the most remarkable moment of the evening came when, after Cardinal Pell offered a moving toast to his brother cardinal, the conversation turned to those times when the Lord seems to be deaf to the pleas of his people — times not unlike what many Catholics experience today. Cardinal Zen reminded the group of the appropriate verses of Psalm 44 (“Rouse thyself! Why sleepest thou, O Lord?/Awake! Do not cast us off forever!”); remembered that those verses had been part of the Introit for Sexagesima Sunday in the old Roman liturgical calendar — and then proceeded to chant, from memory and in impeccable Latin, that entire Introit! Not unexpectedly, the conversation eventually touched on current Vatican China policy, of which Cardinal Zen has been a vocal and persistent critic. The issue, the Hong Kong prelate insisted, was the character of the Beijing regime, which lived in a different ethical universe, lied in negotiations, and could never be counted on to keep agreements it made. This, of course, was precisely what had turned the Vatican’s Ostpolitik in East-Central Europe in the 1970s into a fiasco: the Vatican negotiators’ refusing to concede the totalitarian “regime factor” involved, and therefore negotiating with communist governments as if they were run-of-the-mill authoritarians rather than mortal enemies of biblical religion. Confirmation of Cardinal Zen’s analysis of the built-in perfidy of the Chinese communist regime came at virtually the same time as that dinner, when the British publisher Allen Lane released The Hong Kong Diaries of Chris Patten, which the last British governor of the Crown Colony had kept from his arrival in 1992 until the British withdrawal in 1997. The leading China policy mandarin in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in those days, Sir Percy Cradock, had told Patten that, while the Chinese leaders “may be thuggish dictators,” they were also “men of their word and would stick by what they had promised to do.” To which Chris Patten, strongly suspecting otherwise, replied “I hope that’s true.” That brisk exchange raises a question: Is Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, taking his cues from the late Percy Cradock? If so, Cardinal Parolin would better serve the Church’s cause in China if he paid attention to the far more realistic Chris Patten (himself a Catholic), who noted in his diaries that “One of the [Chinese negotiators’] more surreal tactics is to decline to explain what something means unless we offer a concession on our side. In other words, openness, accuracy and transparency are themselves regarded as Chinese concessions.” Cradock and other career British diplomats assumed that, as Patten puts it, “you have to go along with Beijing rather than risk arguments.” That spinelessness was bad enough for Her Majesty’s government in the mid-1990s. It is shameful for the Vatican today. And it ought to raise serious issues for those who imagine Cardinal Parolin as Pope Francis’ successor. https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/the-white-martyr-cardinals-dinner__________________________________________________________

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