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Guatemalan president demands commission desist from abortion activism

President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, in protocolary session of the Permanent Council of the OAS. / Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

In a June 28 protocol session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei demanded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “respect the sovereignty and freedom of each state” and stop being an “activist” for abortion.

Giammattei criticized the 2021 annual report of the IACHR, which calls out Guatemala in Chapter IV.b. 

The commission noted that Guatemala joined “the ‘Geneva Consensus to Promote Women’s Health and the Promotion of the Family,’” which “expressly excludes abortion as an integral part of women’s right to sexual and reproductive health” and affirms “there is no international obligation of the states to guarantee or facilitate its access.”

In addition, the IACHR criticized Guatemala for “absolutely” prohibiting abortion “except when there is danger to the life of the woman.”

The IACHR demanded that Guatemala adopt “the legislative measures, public policies, and any other measure that may be necessary … to guarantee women’s access to sexual and reproductive health goods and services without any discrimination, including access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in cases of danger to life or health, as well as in cases of rape and incest.”

According to its website, the IACHR presents itself as “a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.” 

For the president of Guatemala, the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights shows a “methodological error that makes evident an agenda in favor of abortion that exceeds its powers, because the IACHR should not be an activist on these issues, but rather respect the sovereignty and freedom of each state to decide on these issues.”

As an example, Giammattei pointed to “the recent ruling that we saw here in the United States regarding this,” referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which declared there is no constitutional “right” to abortion. 

The president of Guatemala noted that his country “has complied with its human rights commitments at all times and has provided the commission with all the information it has requested.”

In addition, he stressed that “it’s necessary that we work together to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System, because the illegality and disrespect for [the country’s] regulations that are perpetrated today against Guatemala may tomorrow occur against any other country that is a member of the organization.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bishop walks on his knees to bid farewell to Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos in Mexico

A procession of the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos in Mexico. / Credit: Courtesy of the Historical Archive of the Cathedral of San Juan de los Lagos

Mexico City Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

In a farewell gesture to Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos and his now former diocese, Bishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe on June 28 walked on his knees from the back of the diocesan basilica to the altar where her miraculous image is kept.

Cavazos headed the diocese of San Juan de los Lagos for six years and was recently appointed Archbishop of San Luis Potosí, succeeding Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero Romero, who last year turned 75, the age at which all bishops must submit their resignation to the Holy Father.

Cavazos will be installed as the Archbishop of San Luis Potosí July 1. 

The miraculous image of the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos is kept in the cathedral basilica of San Juan de los Lagos, the second most visited Marian shrine in Mexico.

According to local accounts, Our Lady, as represented by the image, has worked several miracles over the centuries. 

The first miracle occurred in 1623 when the statue was brought out from the sacristy, where it had been stored away for 80 years due to its poor condition, and placed on the chest of a young girl who had been killed during an acrobatic performance. The girl came back to life, unharmed.

The YouTube channel Médico Historiador (Doctor Historian) by Dr. Everardo López Padilla, who is in charge of the cathedral’s Historical Archive, said Cavazos, “when bidding farewell to Our Blessed Mother of San Juan, wanted to do it like the pilgrims: on his knees.”

“He entered at the cathedral’s front [doors], and covered almost 60 meters (195 feet) on his knees with his eyes fixed on the beloved Virgin of San Juan, ‘la Cihualpilli,’” meaning “the Great Lady” in the local language.

When visiting San Juan de los Lagos on May 8, 1990, Pope John Paul II called the image the “one who was brought back to life (from oblivion in the sacristy) and who brought back life,” (“la resucitada y resucitadora” or “the resurrected and resurrecting”).

Among other important decisions he made during his tenure as bishop in San Juan de los Lagos, Cavazos determined that the Day for the Respect, Promotion, and Care of Life be celebrated on the 25th of each month.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Attacks on churches, pro-life pregnancy centers continue 

Grafitti on a sign for All Saints Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon, June 25, 2022. / All Saints Catholic Church

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision on Friday, attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers have been reported in West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado, California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Indiana. 

Below are the latest recorded attacks since the decision.

St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia was defaced with pro-abortion spray paint June 25.

Father Hyacinth Cordell, O.P., pastor of the church, told CNA that the graffiti, which said "Abort the church," was on a corner on the outside of the church. It is cleaned off, he said.

Vandalism at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia, June 25, 2022. Fr. Hyacinth Cordell, OP
Vandalism at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia, June 25, 2022. Fr. Hyacinth Cordell, OP

A pro-life sign at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, about 50 miles northwest of Wichita, was vandalized over the weekend.

The sign which shows a mother holding a baby says “Vote Yes August 2nd” and “ValueThemBoth.com” below. The sign is encouraging people to vote yes on an amendment to the state constitution that would allow regulations on abortion. 

Matt Vainer, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Wichita, said that the perpetrator was followed by a witness who called the police. The perpetrator was arrested, he said. 

The pastor of St. Teresa of Avila, Fr. Aaron Spexarth, placed the sign underneath a crucifix in the church, as he believed it was most appropriate to place it at Christ’s feet, Vainer confirmed to CNA.

All Saints Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon had its sign defaced with pro-abortion graffiti June 25.

A photo of the vandalism shows the words “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you! -XOXO Jane.” The FBI is investigating, Barbara Custer, a parish secretary at the church, told CNA.

A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California was vandalized June 27.

The clinic had one of its windows smashed by what seems to be one perpetrator according to video footage, the clinic’s executive director Kristen Bird told CNA. 

Video shows the perpetrator throwing three rocks at the window until it broke. Repairs will cost anywhere between $700 and $900. The FBI is investigating, Bird said. 

A window was smashed with a rock at A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California, June 27, 2022. A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic
A window was smashed with a rock at A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California, June 27, 2022. A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic

The mobile clinic of Options Health, a pregnancy center in Concord, California, was vandalized June 25, Blayne Wittig, the clinic’s Executive Director told CNA.

The Pregnancy Resource Center of Salt Lake City was vandalized June 24, within hours of the release of the Dobbs decision.

A receptionist at the clinic told CNA June 30 that a sign was taped to the front door that read “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you,” and on the backside, “Women are fragile, not like a flower, but more like a bomb.”

Stickers were left on the building, one of which that said “Jesus loves abortion” with a heart shape replacing the word “love.” Stickers were placed around that one which said “abortion forever” and “abortion is healthcare.”

Catholic Charities San Antonio aiding survivors and their families after Texas migrant deaths

Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities San Antonio, aids a migrant following the death of dozens of people abandoned in a truck. / Tara Ford

Denver Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 17:11 pm (CNA).

Following the discovery of the bodies of more than 50 migrants who died in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, the local Catholic Charities organization is offering support to the 12 surviving migrants and their families. 

Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities San Antonio, told CNA that they are requesting prayers as they offer shelter and basic necessities to the families of the deceased and surviving migrants. Many of the survivors remain hospitalized and “their health is very weak,” Fernandez said. 

The June 27 incident is thought to be the largest en masse death of migrants from the southern border in modern history, but the manner of their deaths is not without precedent. In 2017, San Antonio was the site of a similar incident in which 10 migrants died in a tractor trailer baking in a hot Wal-Mart parking lot. 

“We deal with immigrants every day, thousands of people every week. This is the fourth truck incident where people have lost their lives,” Fernandez lamented.

The migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer baking in extreme heat in San Antonio, Texas on the evening of June 27. The official death toll has risen to 53, NPR reported, and the dead include 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans, and 2 Hondurans, with the others not yet having been publicly identified.

Fernandez said Catholic Charities has been in touch with the consulates in the countries of origin of the deceased migrants, and hopes to be able to pay for travel expenses for the surviving migrants and for their families. 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, and Auxiliary Bishops Michael Boulette and Gary Janak will preside at a memorial Mass for the migrants June 30, the archdiocese told CNA, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of San Fernando. The liturgy will include a procession from the cathedral’s Main Plaza, a special cross, and candles and flags representing the countries of the deceased as well as the survivors, spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. 

According to experts cited by NPR, it is likely that the people who were in the trailer had crossed the border on foot, before gathering in Laredo to be loaded into a truck. The truck driver as well as three other people involved in smuggling the migrants are reportedly detained. 

Rebecca Solloa, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Laredo, told CNA that the border crossing at Laredo sees the most traffic when other nearby border crossings are overcrowded. She said the migrant shelter that they operate in Laredo has seen increases in the number of migrants needing assistance in the past week, up from around 50 to now as many as 150 a day. 

Solloa said they provide basic necessities to prepare the migrants for travel to their families in other areas of the U.S. interior. Migrants will stay usually between 8-24 hours at their shelter, and the most of the migrants they are serving currently are from Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Venezuela. 

She said their biggest priorities currently are ensuring they have enough food and clothing to give to the migrants, as well as having enough water to provide for them in the sweltering heat. 

Solloa, too, urged prayers for the deceased migrants, many of whom likely had families depending on them in their home countries. She said in her view, the incident is indicative that Title 42 — which during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many migrants being turned away — has caused desperation among migrants, leading them to attempt riskier crossings. 

Although Title 42 remains in place, the Supreme Court ruled June 30 that the Biden administration can end the Trump-era policy known as Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” policy, which since its 2019 implementation has required asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico as their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) had filed an amicus curiae brief in Biden v. Texas, supporting the administration’s decision to terminate the program. Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, welcomed the ruling in a statement Thursday. 

“Today’s decision recognizes and preserves the executive branch’s ability to reverse untenable, illegal, and immoral policies, regardless of who is in office. The implementation of [Migrant Protection Protocols] has obstructed due process and subjected people to the very dangers that forced them to seek refuge in the United States in the first place. With this ruling, we welcome the end of MPP,” Dorsonville wrote. 

 

“Ours is both a nation of laws and a beacon of hope for many throughout the world. This should inspire us to work toward just and humane responses to forced migration, not embrace failed policies of the past. As Pope Francis has warned, we cannot limit ourselves to building ‘walls of fear’ and supporting ‘vetoes dictated by nationalist interests’ if we are to achieve meaningful progress in addressing these challenges.”

 

“While this ruling helps pave the way forward, it does not resolve the ongoing challenges at our country’s southwest border. We remain committed to supporting immigration policies that produce more sustainable solutions, respect the God-given dignity of migrants, and better reflect Christ’s call to welcome the stranger.”

California abortion amendment deserves 'vigorous opposition', bishops say

The California capitol. / Willem van Bergen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 16:47 pm (CNA).

California voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject a strongly pro-abortion amendment to the state constitution in November. The state’s Catholic bishops said the proposal gives a “boundless scope” to ending the lives of the unborn when human lives should instead be protected “at every age in every stage.”

The proposed amendment “looks to enshrine the most extreme forms of abortion into the California Constitution,” the California Catholic Conference warned in a statement signed by the 12 archbishops and bishops leading the state’s 12 dioceses and archdiocese.

“This constitutional amendment, as written, will legalize and protect abortion up to the point just prior to delivery,” the conference said. “It is distressing that so many California legislators would sign their names to legislation that allows the taking of a human life moments before birth.”

The State Assembly voted for the legislation, known as Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, on June 27 by a margin of 58-16. The Senate passed the amendment bill on June 20 by a 29-7 vote. It does not need the governor’s approval. Voters may approve or reject the amendment on the Nov. 8 state ballot.

The proposed amendment reads: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

The California Catholic Conference was strongly critical.

“We believe in protecting life at every age in every stage,” the bishops’ statement said. “We are extremely troubled by the language in Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose. We also fear the boundless scope of this proposed amendment, which asserts a new constitutional right to ‘reproductive freedom’ but does not define what that means.”

The Catholic conference said it “vehemently opposes” the amendment. It will be “actively engaged” in opposing the ballot initiative and in “asking the state’s 12 million Catholics to work to raise awareness and vigorous opposition in our dioceses, parishes, and communities.”

Though abortion is a procedure that ends a human life, Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court precedents required states to legalize abortion. The Dobbs v. Women’s Health decision of 2022 overturned these decisions, allowing individual states to regulate or ban abortion.

California leaders, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, have sought to make California a “sanctuary state” for legal abortion. 

The proposed California amendment would modify Article I of the California Constitution. Article I presently contains more than 30 sections dealing with individual rights, often restating or implementing freedoms found in the U.S. Constitution

The proposal was introduced after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision in May.

California Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon were among the joint co-authors of the bill, which was sponsored by abortion provider Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, among others.

“Abortion is health care, and should be a private discussion between a patient and their health care provider,” Atkins said, according to National Public Radio. “When politicians and judges force themselves into that room, safety goes out the window.”

Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher, a father of four whose twin children were born 10 weeks early, objected that the bill does not restrict late term abortions and would have ignored the unborn twins’ human rights.

“They were alive and they … are people — and our law needs to begin to recognize that,” Gallagher said, according to the Washington Post. 

Backers of the proposed amendment say it does not change current state law on fetal viability. 

A new budget agreement sets aside more than $200 million in funding for reproductive health services. Newsom signed legislation to eliminate copays for abortions and to broaden abortion access.

The California Catholic Conference lamented the abortion push.

“The sad reality is that California already has some of the most accommodating abortion laws and services in the nation,” the Catholic conference said. “And by providing extensive funding for abortion services without any corresponding equitable funding for pregnant women and mothers, the state exercises a destructive, coercive power in favor of ending innocent lives. Enshrining this amendment’s language into the constitution will extend the danger of coercive abortion to babies with unquestioned viability.” 

The California Catholic Conference has put forward on its website a plan for a “Post-Roe” California to oppose abortion and build a “culture that supports and defends every human life.” Its plan, called “We Were Born Ready,” includes advocacy, education, service, and prayer.

The state is already a leading location for abortions. In 2017, about 862,320 abortions were performed in the U.S. as a whole, including 132,680 abortions in California alone, according to the pro-abortion research group the Guttmacher Institute.

This is Pope Francis' prayer intention for July 2022

Pope Francis visits the San Raffaele Borona assisted living home in Rieti, Italy, Oct. 4, 2016. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked the Catholic Church to pray in a special way for the elderly during the month of July.

The prayer intention follows requests to pray for families in June and for young people in May, and coincides with the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 24.

“We cannot speak about family without talking about the importance of the elderly among us,” Pope Francis said in a video message released June 30.

‘We elderly people often have a special sensitivity for care, for reflection, and affection,” he noted. “We are, or we can become, teachers of tenderness.”

The video is part of a series created by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. 

“We pray for the elderly, who represent the roots and memory of a people, that their experience and wisdom will help those who are younger to look to the future with hope and responsibility,” the pope said.

The video shows images of an elderly man and woman baking a cake together, which they then share with their grandchildren.

“In this world accustomed to war, we need a true revolution of tenderness,” he said. “We have a great responsibility towards new generations about this.”

Pope Francis said: “let us remember: grandparents and the elderly are the bread that nourishes our lives, the hidden wisdom of a people. That is why we must celebrate them, and I have established a day dedicated to them.”

“Let us pray for the elderly, that they may become teachers of tenderness so that their experience and wisdom may help young people to look towards the future with hope and responsibility,” he said. 

In a June 30 press release from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Ciro Intino, director of the Alberto Sordi Foundation, commented on the pope’s July prayer intention.

“Our society is getting older and older, and yet it tends to exclude and isolate elderly people, putting their identity and social role in crisis, especially regarding their relations with younger generations,” he said.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “there is a lack of adequate responses to elderly people’s care requirements and existential needs. There is still a long road ahead in terms of social and sociomedical policies aimed at senior citizens, with the goal of limiting the condition of isolation which constrains too many elderly people today.”

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, said, “the Holy Father invites us to become aware of the relevance of the elderly in the life of society and of our communities, and to do so not sporadically, but structurally, with a regular pastoral outreach.”

“That is to say, it’s not about rushing to deal with an emergency, but laying the foundations for long-term pastoral work that will require our involvement for decades to come. Beyond reaffirming the importance of fighting the throwaway culture, the Pope also seems to want to offer reference points for those who are experiencing the bewilderment of finding themselves getting along in years,” he said.

Pope Francis misses meeting with Jewish delegation due to knee pain

Pope Francis delivers a homily from a wheelchair on June 5, 2022. 2 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis missed a meeting with a Jewish delegation on Thursday morning after experiencing a flare-up of knee pain, according to the Vatican.

“Pope Francis was unable to meet this morning on account of aggravated knee pain,” a bulletin from the Holy See Press Office said on June 30.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, represented the pope at the interreligious meeting at the Vatican. Koch delivered a speech that the pope had prepared in advance for the audience with the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.

Pope Francis’ canceled appearance comes after he had recently shown some improvement in his mobility, walking with a cane at the Mass for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29.

The pope opted to walk with a cane during several of his public appearances this week, after primarily using a wheelchair for nearly two months due to the knee injury.

Pope Francis was back in a wheelchair on June 30 and received an Eastern Orthodox delegation at his residence in Casa Santa Marta rather than in the usual Apostolic Palace.

In the pope’s prepared speech for the interreligious meeting, he stressed that “hatred and violence are incompatible with our faith in the God who is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.’”

“In our turbulent times, it is critical that Jews and Christians encounter one another more frequently and work together in an effort to counter certain negative trends found in our western societies: idolatry of self and of money, extreme individualism and the culture of indifference and of waste,” he said.

“We are called to bear witness together to the God of mercy and justice, who loves and cares for all persons. We can do this by drawing upon the spiritual patrimony that we in part share, a patrimony that we are responsible for preserving and understanding ever more profoundly.”

Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to oppose every form of antisemitism and support for preventative action through education within families, parishes, and schools.

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations represents 11 major Jewish organizations in dialogue with the Vatican, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the World Council of Churches. Rabbi David Sandmel currently serves as the chair of its board of governors.

“By strengthening dialogue, we can resist the extremism that, sadly, is a pathology that can appear also in religions. Let us pray that the Lord will continue to guide us on this path of dialogue and fraternity,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogue can promote world peace

Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse, June 30, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).

“Seeking Christian unity is not merely a question internal to the Churches,” he said June 30. “It is an essential condition for the realization of an authentic universal fraternity, manifested in justice and solidarity towards all.”

The pope spoke about the role of ecumenical dialogue in peace-building during a meeting with an Eastern Orthodox delegation at the Vatican.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity, also took part in the meeting, which was held in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives.

The delegation was sent to Rome by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and also participated in the pope’s Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, praying with Pope Francis at the tomb of St. Peter.

Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media

During the June 30 encounter, the pope emphasized that Christ is the source of peace in the world.

“Christ is our peace,” he said. “By his incarnation, death and resurrection for all, he has torn down the walls of enmity and division between people.”

“Let us start anew from him,” he continued, “and recognize that it is no longer the time to order our ecclesial agendas in accordance with the world’s standards of power and expediency, but in accordance with the Gospel’s bold prophetic message of peace.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with about 5.3 million members, most of whom are in Greece. Under Bartholomew I’s leadership, which began in 1991, the Church has emphasized ecumenical initiatives and dialogue between Christians.

Francis said “reconciliation among separated Christians, as a means of contributing to peace between peoples in conflict, is a most timely consideration these days, as our world is disrupted by a cruel and senseless war of aggression in which many, many Christians are fighting one another.”

This moment calls for serious reflection, he said, asking, “what kind of world do we want to emerge in the wake of this terrible outbreak of hostilities and conflict? And what contribution are we prepared to make even now towards a more fraternal humanity?”

“As believers, we must necessarily find the answers to these questions in the Gospel: in Jesus, who calls us to be merciful and never violent, to be perfect as the Father is perfect, and not be conformed to the world,” the pope said.

He said Christians should help each other “not to yield to the temptation to muffle the explosive newness of the Gospel with the seductions of this world.”

“Before the scandal of war, in the first place, our concern must not be for talking and discussing, but for weeping, for helping others and for experiencing conversion ourselves,” he said. “We need to weep for the victims and the overwhelming bloodshed, the deaths of so many innocent people, the trauma inflicted on families, cities and an entire people.”

Pope Francis also noted that Christians are obliged to exercise charity toward Christ present in the poor, wounded, and displaced.

“But we also need to experience conversion, and to recognize that armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism have nothing to do with the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed,” he said.

The pope said it is his hope that theological dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox “will progress by promoting a new mentality that, conscious of the errors of the past, can help us to look together to the present and future.”

“Let us not be content with an ‘ecclesiastical diplomacy’ that would allow us to politely maintain our own points of view, but instead journey together as brothers,” he added.

Pope Francis encourages reconciliation in Colombia at Truth Commission presentation

Pope Francis called on Colombians to “to continue along paths of reconciliation" in his June 28, 2022, message read at the Truth Commission final report in Bogotá. / Polifoto via Shutterstock. Colombia flag. Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis called on Colombia to follow the path of reconciliation in a message read June 28 during the presentation of the final report of the Truth Commission, created in 2016 following the Peace Accord signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Colombia’s civil war. Pope Francis has voiced his support for an end to the violence in the country on several occasions.

The presentation of the report took place at the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Theater in Bogotá and was attended by the president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro; his vice president-elect, Francia Márquez; and Minister of the Interior Daniel Palacios, who represented Colombian President Iván Duque, who excused himself because of an international trip.

Pope Francis’ message was read at the start of the event followed by a video address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The pope encouraged the members of the commission and the national and international authorities who received the report “to continue along paths of reconciliation that help strengthen fraternity, to be artisans of peace, to create processes of re-encounter, and to work together, with boldness, in the search for the good of all.”

“May Jesus bless you and Our Lady of Chiquinquirá accompany you,” the pope said. “And please, I ask you to pray for me.”

The Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition came out of the Havana Peace Accord, signed between the Colombian government and FARC in 2016, in order to determine what took place during 50 years of armed conflict.

The commission has 11 members and is chaired by Jesuit Father Francisco de Roux. It began its work in 2018 and over a four-year period interviewed 27,000 people, including victims, former members of FARC, military personnel, and former Colombian presidents. Twenty-nine centers were also set up throughout the country to collect and disseminate information.

The 2016 Peace Agreement stated that the Truth Commission is “a temporary and extrajudicial body, which seeks to know the truth of what happened and contribute to the clarification of violations and infractions and offer a wide-ranging explanation to the entire society of the complexity of the conflict; promote recognition of the victims and of the responsibilities of those who participated directly and indirectly in the armed conflict; and promote coexistence in the territories to guarantee non-repetition.”

The results of the commission’s work were presented June 28, but only the first of the 10 chapters, which deals with the findings and recommendations, has been published. Over the next two months the rest of the 24 volumes, which contain approximately 8,000 pages, will be made available.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

VIDEO: Watch violent vandalism attack on Catholic church in Washington state

Windows were smashed at St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, on June 28, 2022. / Courtesy of Bellevue Police

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 29, 2022 / 18:53 pm (CNA).

A woman was praying alone in the perpetual adoration chapel early Tuesday morning when the wave of anti-Catholic vandalism and violence sweeping the U.S. struck St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington.

Hearing a commotion outside, the woman ventured into the hallway. There, she confronted a masked intruder standing outside the parish center, smashing the glass front door.

The person screamed profanities at the woman, who ran back into the chapel. Terrified, she locked the door behind her and called the pastor, Father Gary Zender, while hiding behind a piano.

“She called me on my office number just pleading for help to come and get her and rescue her,” Zender told CNA. “She was scared to death.”

A surveillance camera captured the frightening incident on video.

The footage shows a masked person with long hair striding up to the door carrying a large rock and pink backpack. The person hurls the rock at the front door, three times, then kicks the door four times, shattering the glass.

The person then removes a can of black spray paint from the backpack and begins to write graffiti on the building’s exterior. Next, the assailant makes obscene gestures toward the door, smashes the glass again with the can of spray paint and pushes the door. Then the person appears to scream at someone inside the building before continuing to spray-paint the building’s exterior and sidewalk.

Graffiti legible in photos provided by the police reads “woman haters,” “groomers rapists,” and “the church is child abuse,” among other words. You can watch the surveillance footage in the video below.

The attacker, who entered the church property around 9:30 a.m., also smashed a different glass door at the parish hall and defaced a statue of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Zender said. He estimated the damage at $10,000.

Zender said that the assailant spray-painted the parish administrator, Jonathan Taasan, on his right cheek and “quite a bit” into his ear. He is not injured, Zender said. 

The Bellevue Police Department tweeted Tuesday that they had arrested a 31-year-old Bellevue resident on suspicion of a hate crime and assault. Police said the suspect was arrested “without incident.” Police called the graffiti “anti-Catholic.”

A police spokesperson declined to provide the suspect’s name, referring a CNA reporter to the Kings County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office did not respond to CNA’s request for information about the incident before publication time.

Zender led a procession to the vandalized places and blessed them as part of the Tuesday night Mass. The parish also prayed for the person responsible for the vandalism. While the parish was attacked with a rock “Christ is a rock for us," Zender noted.

“I think it comes up as a bit of a shock that it would happen here. I think there's the reality that, you know, things have changed,” he said. “We're not quite as safe as we once thought we were and we have to take more precautions."