1. Pope Francis hails John Paul II as model pastor.

By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, May 18, 2020

One hundred years after the birth of Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis Monday called the Polish Pope a gift to the Church and a model pastor who prays, is close to his people and who exercises both justice and mercy.

Speaking in front of St. John Paul II’s tomb in the Vatican, Francis pointed to the day’s psalm response, “The Lord loves his people,” saying that out of this love God “sent a prophet, a man of God, and the people’s reaction was, ‘The Lord has visited his people, because he loved us.’”

“Today, we can say that 100 years ago, the Lord visited his people. He sent a man, he prepared him to be a bishop, and to guide the Church. Remembering John Paul II, let us remember this: The Lord loved his people, the Lord visited his people, he sent a pastor,” the pope said.


2. Italy opens churches as virus rules dictate how to eat, pray.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 18, 2020, 8:08 AM

Italy and the Vatican opened a new phase in the virus crisis Monday, with churches resuming public Masses after a sharp confrontation between the Italian church and state over limits on worshipping in the era of COVID-19.

It was all part of Italy’s next step in emerging from the West’s first coronavirus lockdown, with commercial shops and restaurants reopening and barbers going back to work for the first time since March 10.

But with several hundred new infections being recorded every day, the reopening is hardly a free-for-all, with strict virus-containing measures regulating everything from how you get your coffee to the way you pray.

The government has published 120 pages of detailed norms for the resumption of work, play, worship and commerce, with some of the most intricate protocols reserved for the resumption of public religious observance in the Roman Catholic country.


3. The Science of Prayer: Many people are praying now, and scientists say the practice may boost mental health.

By Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2020, Pg. A11

Many people are looking to a higher power for comfort these days. In March, the number of Google searches for prayer skyrocketed, according to a not-yet-published analysis of search results for 95 countries by an economist at the University of Copenhagen. A Pew Research Center survey in March also found that more than half of Americans had prayed to end the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Rosmarin says that the research that has been done on prayer shows it may have similar benefits to meditation: It can calm your nervous system, shutting down your fight or flight response. It can make you less reactive to negative emotions and less angry.


4. New edition of Jesuit journal proves Vatican’s ‘all in’ on Chinese courtship.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 17, 2020, Opinion

China, in a sense, has become the third rail of geopolitics, in the sense that anything it touches automatically becomes controversial, from cell phones (“are they spying?”) to the coronavirus (“are they lying?”)

Thus it should be no surprise that even a seemingly innocent gesture such as the Jesuit-edited journal Civiltà Cattolica, which enjoys a semi-official Vatican status, launching a new edition in Chinese last month has been swept up into broader tensions about China, including its human rights record and its role in the world.

The Vatican’s deal with Beijing has been controversial from the beginning, in part because its terms remain secret – on theory, perhaps, that a “provisional agreement” does not violate the Vienna Convention’s ban on secret treaties – and in part because critics believe the Vatican gave away too much for relatively little gain.

In a recent interview with the Italian version of Wired, Jesuit father Antonio Spadaro, the editor of Civiltà Cattolica and one of Francis’s closest confidantes, defended the decision to launch a Chinese edition.

Probably the main take-away is that no matter people may think, the Vatican is moving full-steam ahead in its courtship of Beijing, with the ultimate prize remaining full diplomatic relations, a secure legal standing for the church, and partnerships on the global stage. That’s hardly a policy that began with Pope Francis, but it’s been shared fully by every pontiff since the Communist takeover in 1949.

In terms of why the Vatican is so covetous of a relationship with China, and often apparently willing to stifle objections and give away a great deal, there are four long-standing factors.

First, China is home to one-fifth of the total human population, and you can’t purport to be a global force for good while ignoring 20 percent of the globe. Further, China plays an increasingly critical role in global affairs, and the Vatican’s time-honored belief is that you have to build bridges with the great powers in order to exercise a humanitarian influence on the course of events.

Second, the Vatican is more reticent to push back against China in part because of history – the Chinese Rites controversy, the legacy of colonial adventures such as the Opium Wars, The Boxer Rebellion, and so on. They know that a swath of the Chinese population already looks at Catholicism as “Western” and at Catholics as potentially disloyal, and they don’t want to feed that bias. As a result, Vatican officials generally find it easier to criticize, say, an Italian minister who closes the country’s ports to migrant boats than a Chinese minister who authorizes removing crosses from churches.

Third, China is in some ways the last remaining vast missionary frontier.

Fourth, the Vatican also sees the long-running split in China between an “official” and an “underground” Church as injurious to the Church’s health and has long aspired to heal the split. Ending schism historically always has been at the very top of papal to-do lists, and China is no different.


5. In Ecuador, pro-life groups protest U.N. abortion conditions on coronavirus aid.

By Catholic News Agency, May 17, 2020, 5:00 AM

Pro-life groups in Ecuador say that United Nations aid to combat the coronavirus pandemic should not require access to abortion as a condition for assistance.

On April 30, Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and Human Mobility confirmed it had presented to the United Nations a $46.4 million budget request to implement the U.N.’s “Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19” whose goal is “to support national response efforts and ensure the aid is delivered in an organized manner.”

One objective of the U.N. plan is to “maintain continuity of maternal, neonatal and children’s health and other sexual and reproductive health services during the pandemic.” These terms are understood to include access to abortion.


6. Houses of worship gain audience by going online during virus.

By Andrew Selsky, Associated Press, May 16, 2020, 11:17 AM

From the Vatican, to the village church, to mosques and temples, shuttered places of worship are streaming religious services for a global audience seeking spiritual help and connections with others during the pandemic.

Online viewership of Francis “has grown significantly,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told The Associated Press by email. Francis’ television audience also has increased, including his celebration of Mass every morning to empty pews.

“The numbers indicate that even people who would not have participated in religious services on a daily basis in the past are attending a Mass every morning and listening to the pope’s daily reflection on the gospel,” Bruni said.


7. Federal judge rules that North Carolina governor’s coronavirus restrictions violate religious expression.

By Katie Mettler, Meryl Kornfield, Miriam Berger, Candace Buckner, Samantha Pell and Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post, May 16, 2020, 11:20 PM

Houses of worship in North Carolina can temporarily hold indoor services after Judge James C. Dever III issued a provisional restraining order on Saturday allowing religious groups to assembly for services inside for the next 14 days.

8. Retired pope suggests St. John Paul II be called “the Great”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 15, 2020, 1:46 PM

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has honored St. John Paul II on the centenary of his birth and floated the idea that he should be called “the Great,” as only two other popes have been.

John Paul’s longtime secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, held a press conference in Krakow, Poland, on Friday to present a letter by Benedict, which was released to the media in a half-dozen languages.


9. Almighty cleanup: St. Peter’s in Rome gets coronavirus scrub-down.

By Philip Pullella, Reuters, May 15, 2020, 9:41 AM

Next time you fret about sanitising your desk or kitchen counter because of the coronavirus, spare a thought for the workers whose task on Friday was to wipe down St. Peter’s Basilica.

About a dozen, covered head-to-toe in protective gear, sprayed, sprinkled and swept as they disinfected the largest church in Christendom in preparation for its full reopening, expected soon.

Standing at the base of the massive columns, they resembled white ants as they cleaned the floor, with a surface of more than 15,000 square metres (160,000 square feet), as well as railings and statues close to floor level.


10. New coronavirus relief bill could fund abortions.

By Catholic News Agency, May 15, 2020

As the House on Friday prepares to vote on another coronavirus relief package, pro-lifers warn that it could be used to fund abortions.

The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) is scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.


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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