1. North Macedonia, Signaling a New Era, Welcomes Francis.

By Barbara Surk, The New York Times, May 8, 2019, Pg. A11

At a gathering with senior government figures, Pope Francis praised North Macedonia as “a bridge between the East and West,” said that its history of diversity would serve it well in a closer relationship with European nations. He also expressed hope that “integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire Western Balkans.”

The country has added significance for Francis and for many Catholics, however, because its capital, Skopje, was the birthplace of Mother Teresa, the nun beloved for her work with the poor and sick of India. Francis made her a saint in 2016.


2. Georgia Gets Restrictive Abortion Law.

By Cameron McWhirter, The Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2019, Pg. A3

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws over protests from women’s groups, abortion-rights activists and about 80 actors who signed a letter threatening to no longer film in the state.

The new law, which conservative groups and politicians applauded, bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. Current Georgia law allows a woman to get an abortion up to 20 weeks after conception.


3. In raft of abortion laws, Roe is top target Georgia’s ‘heartbeat bill’ is the latest effort to put issue to a friendlier court.

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, May 8, 2019, Pg. A1

Conservative governors and legislators are using new highly restrictive abortion laws to get abortion back in front of what they believe is the most friendly U.S. Supreme Court in decades.

Sixteen states have passed or are scrambling to pass bans on abortion after a doctor can detect what they call “a fetal heartbeat in the womb,” usually at about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. That includes Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “heartbeat bill” into law on Tuesday.

Separately, the Alabama Senate is poised to vote this week on legislation that could become the nation’s strictest abortion law, making it a felony to receive an abortion, with no exception for rape or incest. 


4. Iran’s war on Christianity, Christians are the most prominent targets of religious repression in Iran.

By Ilan Berman, The Washington Times, May 8, 2019, Pg. B2, Opinion

Iran’s radical regime is stepping up its efforts to prevent the spread of Christianity within its borders.

And Christians, who make up nearly 1 percent of the country’s population of 82 million, have become one of the most prominent targets of religious repression within the Islamic Republic. Over the past four decades, scores of Christian leaders have been detained, imprisoned and intimidated by the country’s religious authorities. Back in December, more than 100 Christians were rounded up by regime security forces in one of the biggest crackdowns of its kind to date on charges that they were “proselytizing” the faith in contravention to regime norms.

According to OpenDoors USA, a human rights group dedicated to protecting the rights of persecuted Christians worldwide, the level of religious repression within Iran ranks as “extreme,” entailing systematic discrimination against converts, broad prohibitions on religious practice and a constant threat of arbitrary arrest.

Viewed through this lens, the Iranian government’s deepening campaign of repression against the country’s Christians should be seen for what it is — a sign of terminal weakness on the part of the regime’s governing ideology, and a manifestation of growing fear among its ruling ayatollahs.

Ilan Berman is senior vice president of the Ameri-can Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.


5. Asia Bibi reported to be on her way to Canada.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 8, 2019

Asia Bibi, the illiterate Catholic woman who spent almost a decade on death-row over blasphemy allegations in Pakistan, has finally been allowed to leave for Canada, where she will be reunited with her family.

The information was first shared by the UK’s The Daily Mail, and then confirmed by Paloma Garcia Ovejero the London correspondent for Cope, the Spanish bishops’ radio network.

Church officials in Pakistan told Crux they couldn’t verify the news.


6. Scholars aim to give Christians a kinder, gentler view of Pharisees.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 8, 2019

Perhaps that helps explain why, in 2019, Rome’s prestigious Jesuit-run Pontifical Biblical Institute is sponsoring an international conference on an ancient Jewish religious movement that more or less died out almost 2,000 years ago, with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans under Emperor Titus in 70 C.E.

In its relatively short life span, that movement – known by the somewhat obscure name of “the Pharisees” – managed to become a protagonist in the New Testament story of Christ, and, as a result, the Pharisees are a permanently inescapable point of reference in Christian-Jewish relations.

The conference on the Pharisees, which features scholars from both the Jewish and Christian traditions, will reach a crescendo on Thursday with a private audience with Pope Francis. The event is also intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Biblical Institute by Pope Pius X in 1909.


7. Pope: Commission on female deacons disagrees on ordination.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, May 7, 2019, 4:46 PM

Pope Francis said Tuesday that an international commission of scholars has failed to reach a definitive conclusion about whether women were ordained as deacons in the early Christian church in the same way men were.

Francis told reporters returning home from the Balkans that the commission found evidence that female deacons performed functions that included immersion baptisms for women. But he said there was no agreement on whether these women underwent the same sacramental ordination as male deacons.


8. Pope Francis called Jean Vanier to thank him before his death.

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, May 7, 2019, 3:06 PM

Pope Francis told reporters May 7 he had been kept informed about Jean Vanier’s failing health and had phoned him a week before his death.

“He listened to me, but he could barely speak. I wanted to express my gratitude for his witness,” Pope Francis said May 7, the day Vanier died in Paris.

“He was a man who was able to read the Christian call in the mystery of death, of the cross, of illness, the mystery of those who are despised and discarded,” the pope said.

But, also, Pope Francis said, Vanier stood up for those “who risk being condemned to death even before being born.”


9. Iraq’s Christians Grapple With New Threat From Iran-Backed Militias, New challenges faced as they attempt to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland.

By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, May 7, 2019

After surviving the genocidal campaign of Islamic State militants, Iraq’s Christians are facing new challenges as they attempt to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland.

Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, returned from a recent visit to the Nineveh province in northern Iraq, warning that Iranian-backed militias, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have “made life nearly unbearable for Christians attempting to return to towns” where they “have stripped Christian family homes of plumbing, wiring and other metal” and are also credibly accused of violent crimes.

“Locals, Church leaders, and American and Kurdish government officials warn that the Iranian-backed groups have extorted Christian families and seized their property,” he wrote in an April 11 commentary for The Wall Street Journal. “Iranian proxies now are conducting a program of colonization in the Iraqi sector — building homes and centers for the use of Iraq’s Shiite majority in historically Christian towns.”


10. Benedict’s Essay Broadens Conversation on Causes of Crisis.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, May 7, 2019

The recent essay of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” was an apt summary of a long life of ecclesial and theological service, as I commented previously. At the same time, it significantly advances the Church’s handling of the sexual-abuse crisis.

Since the first sexual-abuse cases emerged into public knowledge in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Church’s response has focused on dealing with allegations in a timely and effective manner and on implementing safe-environment protocols. Any deeper analysis of the ecclesial culture that gave rise to the crisis was largely avoided. That is beginning to change, and Benedict’s essay is a welcome contribution to that development.

The essay correctly identifies the increase in sexual-abuse cases as something that occurred in the late 1960s. Every serious study of priestly sexual abuse has confirmed that there was a remarkable spike in cases in the late 1960s, which peaked in the 1970s, and then dramatically declined. Obviously, there were some cases before and after, but there was a dramatic spike and decline. The decline came before any significant reform measures were taken.

Indeed, sexual abuse is now one of the few areas of ecclesial life where canon law robustly functions. Benedict’s reflections on how weak the Church’s legal culture had become are the most conversation-expanding of his essay, as few other authorities speak of it. Benedict’s essay expresses and contributes toward a new moment in the life the Church, where it is possible to speak broadly and deeply about the sexual-abuse crisis.

For the Church, the urgency of reform came first; now it the time for a better understanding.


11. Protecting the true transition to womanhood.

Grazie Pozo Christie, Angelus News, May 7, 2019

These days, the phrase “becoming a woman” brings up a whole range of ideas absolutely brand new in the history of the human imagination. I’m referring, of course, to the idea that a man can “become a woman” simply by denying his male nature and bodily reality. 

But this very phrase has been much on my mind lately. For the past few months, I’ve been watching someone I love become a woman — and this in the very real, biological sense.  

My youngest daughter is growing up. She is no longer, physically, a child. In times past and in most cultures, she’d be readying for her own adult life: wife and mother of her own family.

“Becoming a woman” is hard to do, and for a mother who knows just what is in store, hard to watch. But, unlike the false “becoming” of a man who denies his very real self, it is a natural process that takes the girl-child to graceful womanhood with all its beautiful possibilities. 

My daughter and I are getting used to living in this time of transformation, and I, for one, am starting to look forward with great eagerness to the woman she is becoming.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.


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