1. Ahead of Pope visit, survivor recalls Iraq church massacre, By Samya Kullab, Associated Press, March 4, 2021
It began like any other Sunday in the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad for worshipper Louis Climis. That day nearly 11 years ago would end with blood-stained pews, anguish and lives lost.
Six al-Qaeda-linked militants stormed and seized the church, killing dozens inside. At the time, the Oct. 31, 2010 attack was the bloodiest in a drumbeat of violence that Iraq’s Christians suffered during the brutal sectarian warfare following the 2003 U.S. invasion. More than a decade later, it still stands as perhaps the deadliest single attack against the community.
The carnage prompted many Christians to flee Iraq and deepened the mistrust between the community and its Muslim neighbors, a chasm that endures to this day.
Some are now counting on a much anticipated visit to the church by Pope Francis on Friday to help mend the wounds. Our Lady of Salvation, which belongs to the Syriac Catholic Church, is one of the pontiff’s first stops in a historic visit to Iraq that Christians hope will secure their tenuous place in the country.
2. In Iraq, Pope can deepen ties with Church’s natural Islamic partners, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 4, 2021, Opinion
Tomorrow Pope Francis leaves for Iraq, and in most of the Christian world it’ll be seen as a trip to honor the memory of a martyred Christian population that suffered unimaginable horrors under an ISIS occupation of the Nineveh Plains region of the country between 2014 and 2017.
For Muslims, however, it’ll be seen more a gesture of outreach to the Shi’a branch of Islam, especially on Saturday when the pontiff is scheduled to travel to Najaf to meet Grand Ayatollan Ali al-Sistani, widely considered the most authoritative leader for Shi’ite Muslims. The Shi’ites represent somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of the Islamic world, roughly 200 million believers, concentrated in the Persian Gulf region of the Middle East.
Most importantly, Shi’ites dominate Iran, a country that’s absolutely decisive for global security and the future of the Middle East, and they’re a majority in Iraq, the country the pope is visiting this weekend.

Over the years, Catholic-Muslim relations have tended to focus on Sunnis. Yet in some ways it’s an odd match; with their low-church view of clergy, congregationalist models of community life, and sola scriptura approach to the Qur’an, Sunnis often resemble Calvinists more than Catholics.
On the other hand, Iranian author Vali Nasr in his 2006 book The Shia Revival ticks off an impressive string of parallels between Shi’a and Catholicism.

All this creates fertile ground for Catholic-Shi’a exchange. Catholicism also has a presence in Shi’a societies that predates the rise of either Islam or the West; Maronite Catholics in Lebanon, for example, Chaldean Catholics in Iraq, as well as Armenian and Chaldean Catholics in Iran. These Catholics speak the languages and know the cultures.
Of course, nothing any pope ever does, or doesn’t do, will be the fundamental force in deciding the future course of Islam, which is a decision that Muslims — Sunnis and Shiites alike — must decide for themselves.
Still, history seems to have created a special opportunity for Catholicism to forge ties with the Shi’a tradition, and this weekend gives Pope Francis an historically unparalleled opportunity to exploit those possibilities.
3. U.S. bishops splinter on the morality of taking coronavirus vaccines, By
Jaclyn Peiser and Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, March 3, 2021, 9:28 PM
More Catholic bishops weighed in Wednesday on the morality of coronavirus vaccines, offering at times conflicting guidance to the nation’s 50 million Catholics. Some have urged them to take any available vaccine, while others said they should avoid the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot because it was made using abortion-derived cells. One bishop said the vaccine was “morally compromised and forbidden.”

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Johnson & Johnson shot for emergency use. Then, on Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — which represents hundreds of active and retired bishops — also said Catholics should avoid taking the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine if possible and choose alternatives from Pfizer or Moderna.
That was followed by much more unequivocal guidance from the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., which issued an unsigned statement that said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “is morally compromised and therefore unacceptable for any Catholic physician or health care worker to dispense and for any Catholic to receive due to its direct connection to the intrinsically evil act of abortion.”
On Wednesday, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy wrote that the world is complicated and Catholic moral teaching is complex and nuanced. However, “on the concrete moral and pastoral question of receiving” the three FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines, “I want to make clear to the Catholic communities of San Diego and Imperial Counties that in the current pandemic moment, with limited vaccine options available to achieve healing for our nation and our world, it is entirely morally legitimate to receive any of these four vaccines, and to recognize, as Pope Francis has noted, that in receiving them we are truly showing love for our neighbor and our God.”

The competing statements from Catholic officials mark the latest iteration of a long-standing debate in the church over accepting vaccines and treatments that are in any way connected to the use of fetal tissue.
4. Pro Choice Caucus calls on Biden to end Hyde Amendment, By Kate Scanlon, Catholic News Agency, March 3, 2021, 4:00 PM
Congressional Democrats called on President Joe Biden this week to remove pro-life protections from the 2022 federal budget. 
The Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus leaders, and other members of the House and Senate sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday asking him to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, the Weldon Amendment, and the Helms Amendment from the budget.
The Hyde and Helms amendments restrict the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions in the U.S. and abroad, respectively. The Weldon Amendment restricts funding of states that discriminate against health care entities opposed to abortion.
5. Leading German Catholic Bishop Cautions Priests Against Intercommunion, In the four-page letter, the president of the German bishops’ conference told priests that there could be “no general, inter-denominational reception of the Eucharist” or “new forms of Eucharistic celebration.”, By Catholic News Agency, March 3, 2021
A leading German Catholic bishop has cautioned priests against intercommunion with Protestants during an ecumenical event in May.
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said in a March 1 letter to clergy that they should only give Holy Communion to non-Catholic individuals if they requested it after examining their consciences.
CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Bishop Bätzing issued the letter ahead of the third Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt on May 13-16.
In the four-page letter, the president of the German bishops’ conference told priests that there could be “no general, inter-denominational reception of the Eucharist” or “new forms of Eucharistic celebration.”
6. Washington archdiocese allocates $2m for Cardinal Wuerl’s ‘continuing ministry’, By The Pillar, March 3, 2021
The Archdiocese of Washington has allocated more than $2 million for the “ministry activities” of retired Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
The archdiocese, which has pledged in recent years a commitment to financial transparency, has not responded to questions about the details of Wuerl’s continued ministry, the costs associated with it, or the source of the funds allocated for Wuerl.
According to financial records of the Archdiocese of Washington, $2,012,639 was designated for “continuing ministry activities for [the] Archbishop Emeritus” during the 2020 fiscal year.
The amount is a 35% increase from the $1,488,059 allocated to Wuerl’s ministry in the 2019 fiscal year reports.

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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