Posted on 03/25/2023 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Orlando, Fla., Mar 25, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
Tens of millions of people visit the Orlando area each year, and while some only frequent the “altars” of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter during their stay, others carve out time to worship the source of all blessings. They are welcomed with open arms at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe — a spiritual oasis nestled amid limitless dining, retail, and entertainment options.
“Let Mary Queen be your spiritual home while you are in Orlando,” said Missionary of Mercy Father Anthony Aarons, the church's rector. Visitors from every continent make up the majority of the congregation and often share where they are from after Mass or during confession. “Our priests are available to speak with you and our gift shop is your one-stop shopping place for religious gifts,” he said.
The large, 2,000-seat shrine commands attention from passersby on I-4, the region’s primary highway, and is situated near major attractions including Disney World, Universal Orlando, and retail outlets. It features many stained-glass windows and side chapels, including one devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The broad main altar and gold-tone organ pipes behind it are bathed in natural sunlight, which bounces off the crystal backing of the crucifix suspended overhead. Marian-themed art on display includes a 17th-century painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the back of the basilica attributed to Spanish painter Bartolomé Murillo. A gift shop offers books, rosaries, statues, and other religious goods.
Outside, the grounds include a rosary garden, chapel, bell tower, and religious statues. Natural amenities include a peaceful pond populated by turtles, fish, and birds with nearby willow trees and other greenery.
Like many vacation destinations, the Orlando area is climbing closer to pre-pandemic levels of tourism. More than 70 million people visited from 2017 to 2019, according to estimates published by Visit Orlando. After the number of visitors plummeted in 2020, approximately 59 million people came in 2021, the most recent data available.
The schedules for Mass and confession reflect the vacation-friendly vibe. Daily Mass is celebrated at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and Saturdays at noon. On weekends, a 6 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass and Sunday Masses at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon are offered.
The wide availability of confession year-round is striking — approximately 24 hours total over six days between Monday and Saturday. Weekdays it is offered 10-11:30 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. On Saturdays, priests are present to counsel penitents for six hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to Father Aarons, this is in keeping with the church’s designation by Pope John Paul II as a shrine, sought out by pilgrims who can gain a plenary indulgence through confession and the usual requirements.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the shrine’s 1993 dedication. Its opening was the culmination of decades of work by local Catholics to address the spiritual needs of their brethren from every corner of the globe, growing in scale along with the entertainment nearby.
Since becoming rector last August, Aarons has expanded offerings for the faithful. He added the weekday morning Mass and a noon Mass on Saturdays in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (unless a feast or obligatory memorial precludes it); a First Saturday speaker series; First Friday eucharistic exposition and Benediction with Divine Mercy Chaplet; and he converted the former gift shop into a conference center.
This story originally appeared in the Arlington Catholic Herald and is published here on CNA with permission.
Posted on 03/25/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Mar 25, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
It is tradition for Catholics around the world to participate in the Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. However, for EWTN foundress Mother Angelica, it was a daily devotion.
EWTN chaplain Father Joseph Mary Wolfe collected Mother Angelica’s spiritual guidance that she shared with him into a book titled “Mother Angelica’s The Way of the Cross,” published by EWTN Publishing.
In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Wolfe discussed the inspiration behind the book, which features actual pictures of the stations then-Rita Rizzo (Mother Angelica’s given name) prayed in front of in her hometown of Canton, Ohio, before entering the monastery.
It was during a visit to St. Anthony’s Church, the church where Rizzo prayed the Stations of the Cross as a teenager in Canton, that Wolfe thought it “would be wonderful if we could take these actual stations that she prayed before and make them available to people.”
The Stations of the Cross were very meaningful to Mother Angelica. Wolfe recalled the advice she gave him when she encouraged him to pray the Stations of the Cross daily, “because she knew that I would find strength in that.”
“Life has troubles. Life has sufferings. It has difficulties,” he said. “So when we go to the Stations of the Cross, we’re reflecting on Our Lord’s sufferings but also his love and something of his strength and his love is imparted to us.”
Mother Angelica herself had a variety of sufferings from her family’s breakup, her mother’s depression, the poverty she grew up in, and her own physical problems. Due to this, Wolfe said, “Mother could relate to people because she understood their sufferings.”
“Mother said to me one time that suffering was her companion that kept her dependent on God,” he said.
Wolfe recalled an interaction with a woman who was left debilitated after surgery on a brain tumor. “She said, ‘You know, I think the most important lesson that Mother left me ... is how to suffer, how to suffer well,’” he said.
Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday in 2016. Wolfe was with her during her last moments. He remembered the suffering she was in on the Good Friday before she passed. Together with caregivers and fellow sisters, he and the friars prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet with her at 3 p.m., which seemed to give her peace.
“There’s a crucifix that was in her room. And so I took that crucifix, as I had done many other times on Good Friday, and held it up to Mother and she kissed it for the last time,” he revealed.
“She always wanted to kiss not the feet on the corpus, but the open heart,” he added.
This story was originally published on CNA on March 17, 2022.
Posted on 03/25/2023 06:21 AM (Fides News English)
Posted on 03/25/2023 05:34 AM (Fides News English)
Posted on 03/25/2023 05:09 AM (Fides News English)
Posted on 03/25/2023 00:15 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 17:15 pm (CNA).
House Republicans held a hearing Thursday featuring testimony from parents who said their decision to speak up at school board meetings resulted in a Department of Justice effort to intimidate and silence them.
The witnesses offered their testimony at the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government’s first hearing on “Free Speech: The Biden Administration’s Chilling of Parents’ Fundamental Rights.”
Much of the discussion surrounded the DOJ’s October 2021 memorandum that Attorney General Merrick Garland issued to address an alleged “spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence at school board meetings.”
The memo called for federal intervention and tasked the FBI with investigating parents to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats” against education officials.
Nicole Neily, the founder of Parents Defending Education, told the committee her office worked with parents who became worried about speaking against their school boards following the memo.
“Unsurprisingly, parents were frightened by this escalation,” Neily said. “In the days following the release of [the] DOJ’s memo, we fielded dozens of requests from concerned parents who worried whether they should continue their advocacy work or simply stay home, fearing a knock at the door from federal law enforcement.”
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, who chairs the subcommittee, said during his opening speech that the memo was used to “target concerned parents” and “to intimidate these parents into silence by sicking federal law enforcement on them.”
The congressman alleged that the “ambiguity” of the document helped the administration “silence the critics of its radical education policies.”
Tiffany Justice, the founder of the parental rights organization Moms for Liberty, agreed with Johnson’s assessment and said the FBI “made phone calls to parents” who confronted school board officials.
She cited one mother affiliated with her organization who was allegedly questioned by the FBI about whether she owned guns or had mental health problems because she “disagreed with her school board.”
According to Justice, the memo “sent shockwaves across this country that we still feel today.” She said activists in her organization were frequently mistreated.
“We attended school board meetings, often facing unjust treatment,” Justice said. “Parents were expelled, their mics were cut off, and many were prevented from speaking.”
Several Republican lawmakers expressed empathy with the parents, including Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, who noted that the FBI investigations failed to find any criminal activity.
“According to the FBI, not one of these school-board-related investigations resulted in federal arrests or charges,” Hunt said. “Not a single one.”
Democratic members of the subcommittee disputed some of the testimony and the statements made by Republican subcommittee members.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania, who serves as the subcommittee’s ranking member, said the memo was focused on potential criminal activity, such as threats of violence.
“Any reasonable person can see the difference between threats of political violence and legitimate political discourse,” Scanlon said. “Unfortunately, this hearing is based upon [a] false narrative … designed to promote chaos and division in our communities.”
Scanlon claimed the “real First Amendment threat” comes from “extremists [who] are imposing their beliefs on all students and parents through library book bans, bans on certain subjects in the public school curricula, and censorship of educators all to the detriment of students’ learning.”
PEN America Managing Director Nadine Johnson also testified before the committee about states and school districts that have restricted access to controversial books in school libraries.
“In this new era of censorship, we have tracked 303 bills, which we term educational gag orders, in 44 states,” Johnson said. “These government restrictions forbid the teaching of specific curricula or ban certain concepts from the classroom.”
Several Republican committee members, including Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, countered that they believe the books being removed from school libraries are inappropriate for children.
Roy referred to the book “Gender Queer,” which he said contained “graphic pictures that are being put in front of our kids in schools,” such as “two men engaged in a sexual position” and “two men engaged in oral sex.”
Rep. Mike Johnson indicated there would be additional hearings from the subcommittee to address these matters further.
Posted on 03/24/2023 23:42 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 16:42 pm (CNA).
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a “Parents Bill of Rights” designed to ensure that parents can have a stronger role in the public education system, which included last-minute amendments to bolster transparency on schools’ transgender policies.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Louisiana, passed the House in a 213-208 vote, with the support of most Republicans and no Democrats.
“As a mom of two and a former educator, I believe for children to succeed, they need families and schools to work together as partners throughout the learning process,” Letlow said in a statement. “After spending nearly a year and a half working to pass this bill, I’m grateful that we’re finally able to advance this critical legislation.”
The resolution would set new federal standards for the public education system that would mandate greater transparency over the school curriculum and budget, set up more opportunities for parents to voice their opinion on school matters, and establish stronger privacy rights and security protocols for students.
To bolster transparency, the resolution would require school districts to publicly post their school curriculum and provide a list of library books and other library reading materials to parents. It would require states to provide parents with timely notice if gifted and talented programs are to be eliminated and publicize all changes to academic standards and learning benchmarks. The resolution would further mandate that school district budgets, individual school budgets, and all revenues and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
In addition, the resolution would seek to ensure greater cooperation between the schools and the parents by requiring school boards to provide opportunities for parents to address the board and mandating that teachers offer parents at least two in-person meetings every year.
To ensure students’ privacy, the resolution would require that schools receive parental permission before sharing student data with technology companies and would ban the sale of student data for any commercial purposes. It would also require that schools get parental consent prior to any medical exams of students.
As a way to improve student safety and transparency, the resolution would require schools to inform parents of violent activity on school grounds and at school-sponsored events. The schools would be required to maintain the privacy of students involved in the violence when notifying parents.
Lawmakers also approved some last-minute amendments to the resolution, which included two proposed by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado. Her amendments would require that schools notify parents if they allow biological males who identify as female to participate in girls’ sports or use the girls’ restrooms.
“We have seen public schools promote extremely divisive content like critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and even drag shows to impressionable young children,” Boebert said in a statement. “Speaking as a mother of four boys, enough is enough. I send my boys to school to receive an education, not indoctrination. Parents have a right to know what’s happening at their child’s school, and my amendments will ensure just that.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, issued a statement that accused Republicans of putting “politics over parents” by passing the resolution and claimed they were intent on banning books.
“Rather than actually invest in empowering parents, making sure parents have the opportunity to be engaged and involved in the education of their children, extreme MAGA Republicans want to jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of students, teachers, and parents throughout America,” Jeffries said.
The resolution now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it faces an uphill battle.
Posted on 03/24/2023 23:12 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 16:12 pm (CNA).
Speaking at a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice on Thursday, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops over their opposition to abortion and transgender treatments for children.
“They [the bishops] are willing to abandon the bulk of [Catholic social teaching] because of one thing [abortion],” Pelosi said. “And that’s the fight that we have.”
As an outspoken abortion advocate as well as a supporter of the LGBTQ+ movement, Pelosi regularly cites her Catholic faith as the reason behind her policy positions.
During her time as speaker of the House, first in 2007–2011 and then again in 2019–2023, Pelosi backed legislation opposed by the U.S. bishops, including the Affordable Care Act and the Respect for Marriage Act.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called abortion a “grave evil” and LGBTQ+ legislation “deeply concerning.”
In May 2022, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the city Pelosi represents, announced in an open letter that he would begin forbidding the priests in his diocese from distributing holy Communion to Pelosi because of her stance on abortion.
On Thursday, Pelosi said, “I figure that’s his problem, not mine.”
“He made it very clear, maybe we’re not all God’s children. Maybe we do not have a free will,” Pelosi said of Cordileone, whom she also criticized for opposing LGBTQ+ ideology.
“We have had very negative, anti-LGBTQ stuff coming from our archbishop and others,” Pelosi said, criticizing in particular the bishops’ stance against transgender surgeries on children.
“Right now our challenge is trans kids, that in certain states they will arrest you if you try to meet the health needs of your trans child. They will call that child abuse. So, yeah some of it is stirred up by some of the more conservative leaders in the Church. It’s sad to say — not His Holiness.”
When it comes to her pro-abortion stance, Pelosi said she considers herself pro-life because she had five children in just over six years and because she cares about children.
“I was raised in a family that you would describe probably as ‘pro-life,’ although I think I’m pro-life because I care about children,” Pelosi said. “Because I had five children in six years and one week … so I keep saying to my members, you got five kids in six years? You want to talk about this subject?”
According to Pelosi, she and the bishops are “pretty much in sync” with most Catholic social teaching except for the abortion issue.
Pelosi also touted her role in passing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2010.
The USCCB opposed Obamacare on the grounds that it would result in taxpayer dollars being used to pay for abortions as well as force employers to cover abortions and include contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance plans. Congress eventually passed the legislation by overcoming opposition from pro-life Democrats with the inclusion of restrictions to abortion in ACA insurance plans.
Pelosi claimed that the U.S. bishops “were mischaracterizing what was in that bill,” adding that she believes that “their purpose was to destroy Roe v. Wade, right in that bill.”
“Today is the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, something that I’m very, very proud of,” Pelosi said. “But all I can say about how we passed that is, thank God for the nuns, thank God for the nuns because they offset the bishops.”
Though the USCCB opposed the Affordable Care Act, the bill was endorsed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Vatican has investigated the organization and censured it for embracing a political agenda in contrast with the teaching of the Church.
Jim Wallis, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice, also chimed in, saying that “Catholic women religious were central” in passing Obamacare, “because they thought the Affordable Care Act was pro-life.”
Wallis called this a “consistent ethic of life” based on Catholic social teaching that is “not just focus[ed] on one issue.”
Instead, she asserted that “because we had the nuns, we were able to prevail … So, when we pushed open that gate, the nuns were right there with us, pushing open the gate.”
According to Pelosi, her style of faith and politics is something she shares with President Joe Biden.
“Justice is something that means a great deal to President Biden, in his Catholicism, justice in how we meet the needs of the people, justice in listening to how they want their needs,” she said. “When you’re in [politics], you have to be prepared to take a punch, and you have to be prepared to throw a punch, for the children, always for the children.”
“My ‘why’ is one in five children lives in poverty, goes to sleep hungry at night,” Pelosi added. “That’s what took me from the kitchen to the Congress, from housewife to House speaker.”
During the discussion at the Jesuit Catholic university, Pelosi also called for the Church to start allowing women to become priests, saying that her mother had wanted her to be a nun, but she would have preferred to be a priest.
“Every day [priests] have the power … of turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, that is real power, now we’re talking power, and that’s why I was more attracted to that than being a nun,” Pelosi said. “On the other hand, maybe women will be able to do that as well, that’s something to think about, something I was hoping the pope would do.”
Posted on 03/24/2023 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 24, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
As in past years, a special collection will be taken in Catholic churches throughout the world on Good Friday to support Christians in the Holy Land.
The Vatican has overseen the annual Holy Land — “Pro Terra Sancta” — collection since 1974, when St. Paul VI established Good Friday as the day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world. This year, Good Friday falls on April 7. U.S. Catholics can donate to the collection online as well as at churches.
The collection is traditionally split, with 65% going to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has maintained the Holy Places of Christianity in the region for more than 800 years. The remaining 35% is given to the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches to support seminarians and priests as well as educational and cultural activities. Last year the collection brought in over $9 million.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, wrote in a March 24 appeal letter that Pope Francis asked him to extend an invitation to “solidarity with the Christian community of the Holy Land,” keeping alive the memory of Christianity’s origins.
“As the prophet Isaiah recalls: ‘Consider the rock from which you were hewn’ (Is 51:1),” the archbishop wrote.
“The Church spread throughout the world with the preaching of the apostles, and each of us through baptism has become a stone called to remain united to the foundation, which is Christ the Lord, in order to construct a spiritual building. In Jerusalem are our wellsprings, and we want to remain united with the brothers and sisters who continue to testify to the Gospel there.”
Gugerotti said the massive February earthquake in Syria and Turkey — which was felt in Jerusalem — has led to a renewed need for the charity that Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land provide. Christians in the Holy Land “remain sources of hope by caring for the littlest ones, educating school children and youth, accompanying mothers in difficulty, attending to the elderly and the sick, as well as offering housing projects for new families and creating jobs, so that it is worthwhile continuing to stay in the Places of Salvation.”
Apart from the recent difficulties caused by war and the earthquake, Gugerotti also recalled an incident last month whereby a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.
“That mutilated crucifix invites us to recognize the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters who have seen the bodies of their loved ones tortured under the rubble or hit by bombs,” Gugerotti wrote.
“The precious presence of the Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land not only guarantees the maintenance of the sanctuaries but also safeguards the life of the Christian communities, often tempted to lose their vocation to be Easter people in the lands blessed by the presence of the Redeemer.”
In past years, the collection has been used to finance numerous projects in the Holy Land including renovations of historic buildings, scholarships for students, housing for the needy and young couples, and emergency assistance for victims of war. The territories benefitting from the donations include Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
In a report on its activities in 2021, the Custody of the Holy Land noted the strain on its finances caused, in part, by a precipitous drop in tourism numbers due to the pandemic.
It said: “Ever since the end of February 2020 we have found ourselves without pilgrims, and this means serious economic difficulties for the local Christian communities, for the Christian families, and also for the Custody.
“In the meantime, we are trying to continue the mission that has been entrusted to us, knowing that divine providence, which has willed our presence here, will continue to take care of us.”
Posted on 03/24/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 24, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).
The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain, José Ignacio Munilla, criticized the Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold the country’s euthanasia law.
The court stated that the law “recognizes a right of self-determination to decide in a free, informed, and conscious manner.”
Munilla countered on Twitter: “Doesn’t suicide put an end, precisely, to self-determination?”
The prelate added to his criticism by quoting the proverb “all mushrooms are edible, but some only once,” and charged that this was a decision “in which ideology supersedes reason and law.”
The majority on the Constitutional Court considered that the euthanasia law supports the “free, informed, and conscious decision as to how and when to die” in cases of terminal illnesses or severe disability.
The court’s ruling rejected “considering solely and in isolation the fundamental right to life.”
The resolution states that the constitutional concept of life as a fundamental or legal right to be protected is not “disconnected from the will of the person who holds that right” nor is it “indifferent to their decisions on how and when to die.”
The court also said that the government has “the duty to provide the necessary means to enable the help of third parties” and thus administer euthanasia.
In addition, the court stated that palliative care “does not constitute an alternative in all situations of suffering” entailed in the law.
Two judges dissented from the ruling: Enrique Arnaldo and Concepción Espejel, who pointed out that the decision exceeds “the scope and limits of the jurisdiction that corresponds to the Court.”
In their opinion, the ruling once again creates an alleged fundamental right “to which the nature of the right to public services is tied.”
These members of the Constitutional Court maintained that the ruling imposes this law “as the only possible constitutional model” in this matter, “so that it closes off any other legislative option.”
The Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers filed a complaint against the court’s president, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, for crimes against the administration of justice for not recusing himself and not allowing judges Juan Carlos Campo and Laura Díez to recuse themselves.
When the euthanasia law was passed, Campo was Minister of Justice and Díez served as a high-ranking official within the Ministry of the Presidency.
Last February, the Christian Lawyers Association filed another complaint for the same reasons in relation to the ruling of the Constitutional Court on the abortion law approved in 2010.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.