1. Vatican, China exchange art amid stall in hard diplomacy.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, November 21, 2017, 7:02 AM

The Vatican and China are planning a first-ever exchange of artworks for exhibits in China and the Vatican Museums, as the two states forge ahead with soft diplomacy amid a stalemate in negotiations to heal decades of diplomatic estrangement.

The parallel exhibits announced Tuesday, involving an exchange of 40 works of art from the Vatican’s collection of Chinese bronzes, ceramics, cloisonne and paintings, and 40 works from China, are due to open simultaneously in March in the Forbidden City and the Vatican’s Anima Mundi ethnological museum.

The head of the government’s China Culture Industrial Investment Fund, Zhu Jiancheng, told a Vatican news conference that he hoped the exchanges would reinforce friendship, build mutual trust and “contribute to the normalization of diplomatic relations.”

China cut relations with the Holy See in 1951, after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope’s authority. China has an estimated 12 million Catholics, many of whom worship in non-state sanctioned congregations faithful to the pope that often overlap with the government-sanctioned church.


2. Could Zimbabwe be on brink of a transformative ‘Catholic moment’?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 21, 2017, Opinion

Looking back over the 20th century, there clearly were certain moments when inspired Catholic leadership, either in Rome or in the trenches, and sometimes both, galvanized the Church in ways that triggered the transformation of entire societies.

Trying to figure out where such a transforming “Catholic moment” might erupt today, Zimbabwe doesn’t necessarily seem the most obvious candidate. Although 87 percent of the population is Christian, Catholics are a minority at just around ten percent, so the Church’s social influence is obviously different from places such as Poland where it’s an overwhelming majority.

The complexities of Zimbabwe and the Robert Mugabe regime have defied the best efforts of a couple of generations now of diplomats and activists to help chart a new course, and there’s little reason in the abstract to believe that the Church might succeed where others have failed.

Still, there are intriguing reasons to believe right now that a determined effort by Catholic leaders might actually make a difference.

For one thing, a period of transition obviously seems to be at hand. Although the 93-year-old Mugabe declined to announce his resignation in a national address Sunday night, he’s now facing an impeachment push led by members of his own party, and meanwhile the military appears to have isolated him and taken effective control of the country.

For another thing, Mugabe himself “speaks Catholic.” He was born near the Kutama Jesuit Mission located about 50 miles south of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, and grew up in a practicing Catholic household. He attended schools run by the Marists and the Jesuits, including the country’s prestigious Kutama College.

According to Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Jesuit priest in Zimbabwe who’s been a close friend and adviser of Mugabe for decades, he still takes those Catholic beliefs seriously today.

Whatever one makes of Mugabe’s sincerity in light of his dubious track record, it does indicate that Mugabe is conversant with Catholic thought and argot, and has points of contact within the local Church who, at least theoretically, could serve as intermediaries. At the moment, Mukonori is leading a negotiating team between Mugabe and military officers in an effort to figure out what comes next.

Finally, the bishops of Zimbabwe aren’t exactly shrinking violets, and have a history of outspokenness about the common good and the defects of Mugabe’s regime that suggest they may be poised to play a leadership role in whatever transition comes next.

If the Catholic leadership of Zimbabwe steps up, we may come to remember this as the moment when a long-troubled African nation joined the ranks of great Catholic examples of fostering social change. Whether that will actually happen is anybody’s guess, but the opportunity clearly is there.


3. Respect Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Our laws must protect the helping spirit and integrity of crisis pregnancy centers.

By Grazie Pozo Christie and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves as a senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, U.S. News & World Report, November 20, 2017, 12:00 PM

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will consider whether the state of California can force pro-life, faith-inspired crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion. Rather than supporting and promoting these “neighbor-helping-neighbor” efforts, pro-choice activists would like crisis pregnancy centers closed, or at least their energies hijacked to promote abortion instead.

Americans respond generously and without fanfare to their neighbors’ sudden needs and crises. One crisis that exists across the country each day is the challenge of unexpected pregnancy. The solution most commonly offered is abortion. Every year, state and local governments channel half a billion dollars to Planned Parenthood which in turn performs about half of all surgical abortions in the U.S. and over 80 percent of nonsurgical abortions. While abortion is sold as a quick and easy fix, for many women, it is not the solution they seek. What they want instead is to welcome their child into the world.

Responding to the desire of these women, countless volunteers run to the rescue. Staffed predominantly by women, over 2,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. offer alternatives to abortion such as assistance in enrolling in Medicaid for pregnancy and delivery care, training in basic skills, free diapers, baby food, formula and strollers, even parenting and spousal classes for couples. 

California’s Reproductive FACT Act requires crisis pregnancy centers that are licensed to provide medical services hand out a notice that immediate and free or low-cost abortions are available nearby, with a phone number for inquiries.

The FACT Act is just one example of a troubling trend of states and cities attacking crisis pregnancy centers. Hawaii, for example, recently passed a law requiring medical and non-medical pregnancy centers to post a disclaimer that Hawaii has “family planning” programs, including abortion…. Doctors and nurses working at pregnancy centers in Illinois are being forced to promote abortion to their pregnant patients. And the city of Baltimore has an ordinance that requires pregnancy centers to post signs stating they do not perform abortions.

The one-sided nature of these laws is made clear by the fact that abortion clinics are not required to post signs informing their clients that they do not offer prenatal care, adoption services or other support for women who want to give birth to their children.

Mistakenly labeled as an attack on California’s permissive abortion laws, NIFLA v. Becerrareally involves whether the First Amendment protects the right of Americans to lend a hand to pregnant women in need. All this activism against the generous volunteer efforts of so many good-hearted Americans hinders their work and reduces assistance for pregnant women seeking help. Our laws should respect the different convictions that enlarge the hearts of our citizens and drive them to seek the good of their neighbors – after all, the American instinct to come to the aid of one another is an important part of what makes this country so great.


4. Curia reform: Pope Francis reorganizes Vatican Secretariat of State.

By Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency, November 20, 2017

Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.

That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.

The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States,” is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.”  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.

The pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around the world.

According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.


5. U.S. bishops release Thanksgiving message advocating for migrants and refugees.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 20, 2017

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a special Thanksgiving message, offering a particular plea for the protection of migrants and refugee families.

In a statement released on Monday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB, expressed solidarity with DACA recipients, beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status, and other refugees attempting to escape persecution or danger in their home countries.

DiNardo cited last week’s fall assembly of U.S. bishops in Baltimore and said the conference was “attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance-the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.