1. Pope Francis to engage Europe’s future post-Brexit.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 24, 2017

Pope Francis is meeting the leaders of 22 European Union nations and the heads of three major EU institutions on Friday, who’ll be gathering in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that led to the creation of the bloc.

Francis is expected to deliver hard-hitting speech to the group, the first of its kind in the post-Brexit era.

Based on what he’s said in the last four years in interviews, speeches, and press conferences, the Argentine pope believes Europe has lost its foundational values, and also has become “indifferent” to the thousands of migrants arriving on its shores fleeing war, persecution and poverty.

Europe has become old, wary and “infertile,” the pontiff has charged, incapable of finding creative ways out of its current economic, cultural, political and moral crisis.

On Nov. 25, 2014, history’s first pope from the global south traveled to the heart of secular Europe to deliver a sharp wake-up call, warning European leaders that the continent risks irrelevance if it doesn’t recover its founding values, drawing in part on its Christian legacy.

The president of the European Parliament, Italian Antonio Tajani, and the host of Saturday’s gathering, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentilioni, are scheduled to deliver their own remarks at the Vatican.


2. Fatima, the Rosary, and the Path to Peace. 

By Fr. Roger J. Landry, The Anchor, March 24, 2017

One of my favorite stories from the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima a century ago this year is how Our Lady was compelled gently to correct the three shepherd children for “cheating” on how they were praying the Rosary.

Learning how to pray this Christocentric Marian prayer not just correctly but well was central to the revelations of Fatima. In each of Mary’s six appearances in 1917, she insisted on the children’s praying the Rosary each day.

In May, Mary appeared to them the first time holding Rosary beads in her hand and asked the three kids to “recite the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.” One month later, as they were praying the Rosary, Mary appeared and asked them to “say the Rosary every day.” In July, she stated, “Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world” and, “When you recite the Rosary, say at the end of each decade: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.’” The following month she expressed her wish that they “continue to say the Rosary every day.” In September, she reiterated, “I want you … to continue to recite the Rosary to obtain the end of the war.” Finally, in October, she revealed her identity as “the Lady of the Rosary” and said, “I desire … that people continue to recite the Rosary every day.”

Could she have been more emphatic about the importance of praying the Rosary daily? Or about relating to her precisely through the Rosary?

Mary… recommended something basically everyone could do, from young children to popes.

And she asked that it be done daily and well.

And she said that the peace of the world depended on it.

Why? St. John Paul II attempted to answer that question in 2002, in his apostolic exhortation The Rosary of the Virgin Mary.

“In a word,” he concluded, “by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. By its nature as an insistent choral petition in harmony with Christ’s invitation to ‘pray ceaselessly’ (Lk 18:1), the Rosary allows us to hope that, even today, the difficult ‘battle’ for peace can be won.”

In his Centenary, the woman who wants us to relate to her as the “Lady of the Rosary,” is reiterating her call for us to take up the Rosary each day almost as a “weapon of peace,” praying it correctly, slowly, and meditatively, so that we might become more like the blessed Fruit of her womb, the Prince of Peace, and allow him to forgive us, save us, and lead us and others to heaven.


3. Why Abortion Doesn’t Resonate in European Politics: The continent’s history with the issue is very different from the U.S., and newly resurgent populist movements have largely downplayed it. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2017, 11:30 AM

The election of Donald Trump has boosted the profile and prospects of the U.S. antiabortion movement. A wave of right-wing populism is also hitting Europe, but on the continent, abortion is almost invisible as a political issue. No major party in the coming elections in France and Germany, or in last week’s vote in the Netherlands, has proposed more restrictive abortion laws.

The disparity between the U.S. and Europe reflects sharply different popular attitudes toward abortion. A 2015 BuzzFeed News/Ipsos poll found that two-thirds of French and British respondents thought abortion should be permitted “whenever a woman says she wants one”—compared with only 40% of Americans. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 19% and 14% of German and French respondents, respectively, saw abortion as morally unacceptable—compared with nearly half of Americans.

The more religious character of American society, particularly the greater presence of evangelical Protestants, is part of the explanation, says Drew Halfmann, a sociology professor at the University of California, Davis. A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 69% of white evangelical Protestants in the U.S. thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared with 20% of those without any religious affiliation. According to a 2011 Pew study, only about a fifth of Spaniards and Germans and just 13% of the French deem religion very important in their lives, compared with half of Americans.

Despite these differences, abortion rates in North America and Western Europe are similar, at 17 and 18 abortions per 1,000 live births, respectively.

Low support for rolling back abortion helps to explain why Europe’s right-wing populists have avoided the issue in favor of socioeconomic and cultural concerns.

Another important reason for the trans-Atlantic differences over abortion is the less polarizing way the practice was legalized in Europe. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion, a move that even some supporters say short-circuited necessary political debate.

By contrast, European countries permitted abortion through legislative processes that helped to shape a broad consensus. Abortion is also more restricted in Europe, which, according to many observers, makes the practice less provocative to those with moral qualms about it. On most of the continent, abortion on demand is available only up to the 12th week of pregnancy. (No U.S. court has upheld such a limit.)

Joseph Meaney, an antiabortion activist with Human Life International in Paris, says that Catholic bishops across the continent are generally “more skittish” about overt political involvement on abortion than their counterparts in the U.S. This reflects, he says, a “more deferential and less confrontational” approach by church leaders toward government authority in Europe, where churches often receive large public subsidies.

That approach is unlikely to change under Pope Francis, who has played down church teachings on sexual and medical ethics in favor of political and economic questions. Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Vatican’s bioethics office, said that the current pontificate makes it a priority to avoid polarization and encourage dialogue with those who disagree with church teachings.


4. Pope Francis to proclaim Fatima visionaries saints during Portugal trip. 

By Crux Staff, Crux, March 23, 2017

Two of the visionaries of the Marian apparitions of Fatima – young shepherds Jacinta and Francisco Marto – will be canonized by Pope Francis when he visits the Portuguese shrine in May.

The Vatican announced the pontiff approved the miracle attributed to their intercession on Thursday, the final step necessary before they could be made saints.

Francis had already been scheduled to be in Fatima for a two-day trip from May 12-13.

Italian media reports say he will canonize them at the Mass already scheduled for May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the 100th anniversary of the date when the two children – along with their cousin Lúcia Santos – said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them.

Francis will be the fourth pope to visit the shrine, following Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI.


5. Pope OKs sainthood for Fatima siblings, Mexico child martyrs. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 23, 2017, 12:47 PM

Pope Francis is making five more child saints: Two Portuguese shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in Fatima 100 years ago, and three Mexican adolescents who were killed for their Catholic faith in the 16th century.

Francis signed the decrees Thursday, raising the likelihood that he might canonize the Portuguese siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto during his upcoming trip to the Fatima shrine.

In the case of the Mexicans, Francis declared the three Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala worthy of sainthood without having a miracle attributed to their intercession, once again sidestepping the Vatican’s typical saint-making process.

The boys, Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, were converted to Catholicism by missionaries in the early 1500s and were killed by their countrymen. St. John Paul II beatified them in 1990 during his second visit to Mexico.

Francis followed the rules in approving a miracle for the Marto siblings, who died at age 9 and 11 of pneumonia. Church officials declined to detail the miracle in question other than to say it involved the medically inexplicable cure of a Brazilian child.

Just last month, Portuguese church officials wrapped up their saint-making investigation into the Martos’ cousin, Sister Lucia, the third shepherd child who reported having visions of Mary. The case now goes to the Vatican’s saint-making office, which must decide on whether to declare Sister Lucia lived a life of heroic virtue, the first step in the canonization process.

Francis has followed in his predecessors’ footsteps by declaring hundreds of saints and blessed. He has been particularly fond of holding up martyrs and missionaries as models for today’s faithful.


6. Europe’s Soulless Liberalism: A dour, self-righteous and conformist version has come to define the liberal idea across much of the Continent. 

By Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2017, 3:50 PM

A weather report on the France 2 television channel broke broadcasting records last week. Some 5.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Mélanie Ségard, a 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome, take a turn as guest meteorologist on the network. Wearing TV makeup and an irrepressible smile, she forecast clouds and rain for most of the country and lots of sunshine for Marseilles.

Ms. Ségard fulfilled a lifelong dream to show that “I can do a lot of things,” as she put it on Facebook. But for French society, this was a fraught moment. It clashed with a strand of cultural liberalism that treats the existence of people like Ms. Ségard as an affront to reason and good taste.

Her appearance was facilitated by a disability-rights group ahead of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. It was all the more heartening because previous efforts to bring visibility to people with disabilities in France have run afoul of broadcast regulations that restrict images of happy people with Down syndrome. Such images are undesirable, regulators argue, since they could give second thoughts to women who have sought abortions