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VATICAN - Pope Francis proposes again the apostolic passion of Matteo Ricci: mission consists in witnessing with one's life what one proclaims

Rome - The great Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, who left Macerata and arrived in China in 1582 "to free - as he himself wrote - unhappy souls from eternal perdition", still represents "a great example of apostolic zeal". His missionary spirit and method "constitute a living and current model", and his fame as a man of science and culture "should not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: the proclamation of the Gospel". This is how Pope Francis described the figure of the Jesuit of Macerata, whom he has re-proposed today among the figures of exemplary witnesses of apostolic zeal, with simple and essential accents. The Bishop of Rome dedicated to Matteo Ricci the new catechesis of the cycle dedicated to the passion for proclaiming the Gospel, delivered before the multitude gathered in St. Peter's Square to attend today's general audience today, Wednesday, May 31.
In his catechesis, the Pope briefly retraced the Christian adventure of Matteo Ricci, recalling that, as a young Jesuit, "enthused by the reports of missionaries whom he had listened to", like "so many other young people who felt the same, and he asked to be sent to the missions in the Far East. After the attempt by Francis Xavier, another twenty-five Jesuits had tried to enter China, without success. But Ricci and one of his confrères prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs, and in the end, they managed to settle in the south of the country". It took eighteen years, with four stages through four different cities - the Pope recalled - "to arrive in Peking, which was the centre. With perseverance and patience, inspired by unshakeable faith, Matteo Ricci was able to overcome difficulties and dangers, mistrust and opposition".
The path followed by Matteo Ricci - noted the Successor of Peter - was always "the way of dialogue and friendship with all the people he encountered, and this opened many doors to him for the proclamation of the Christian faith". To enter into Chinese culture and life, he first dressed like the Buddhist bonzes, then "he understood that the best way was to assume the lifestyle and robes of the literati". He studied "their classical texts in depth, so that he could present Christianity in positive dialogue with their Confucian wisdom and the customs of Chinese society. And this is called an attitude of inculturation. [In the early centuries of the Church] This missionary was able to “inculturate” the Christian faith, as the ancient fathers had done in dialogue with Greek culture".

The mathematical and astronomical knowledge of Ricci and his missionary followers - Pope Francis recalled - also contributed to a fruitful encounter between the culture and science of the West and the East. However, the Pontiff added – "Ricci’s fame as a man of science should not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: namely, the proclamation of the Gospel. With scientific dialogue, with scientists, he went ahead but he bore witness to his faith, to the Gospel. The credibility obtained through scientific dialogue gave him the authority to propose the truth of Christian faith and morality". And the authority also came from his testimony of religious life, virtue and prayer: "these missionaries" underlined Pope Francis "prayed. They went to preach, they were active, they made political moves, all of that; but they prayed. It is what nourished the missionary life". Furthermore Matteo Ricci and his companions shared "a life of charity, they helped others, humbly, with total disinterest in honours and riches", and this too led "many of his Chinese disciples and friends to accept the Catholic faith. Because they saw a man who was so intelligent, so wise, so astute – in the good sense of the word – in getting things done, and so devout, that they said, ’But what he preaches is true, because it is part of a personality that witnesses, he bears witnesses to what he preaches with his own life’".

ASIA/INDONESIA - The "Marian month" ends with pilgrimages and visits to shrines

Ende - More than 15,000 pilgrims have visited the cave dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Mbay, in the Archdiocese of Ende, on the island of Flores, considered "the Catholic heart of Indonesia", during the last days of May alone. The influx of faithful, from neighboring parishes and even from outside the diocese, testifies to the renewal of pilgrimages and the movement that Marian devotion induces in Indonesian Catholic communities, especially during the months of May and October, traditionally dedicated to the Virgin. The communities of faithful visitors - who returned after the pandemic years - were welcomed by the local population with a traditional ceremony known as the "bhea" tradition and celebrated the Eucharist, with ardent Marian devotion, summed up in the title of the pilgrimage "Together with Mary we serve the Lord". "The pilgrimage, for all communities, is an opportunity to deepen faith, to strengthen ties between parishes and develop mutual love", said Father Aster Aldo, accompanying a group of faithful. Still on the island of Flores, but in the diocese of Maumere, in the village of Wuli Wutik, stands the statue of "Mary Mother of All Peoples", 28 meters high, built by the Passionist missionaries, where pilgrims turned out en masse to conclude the "Marian month".
An intense visit by the faithful has also been recorded at the Marian shrine of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni, in the Indonesian city of Medan, North Sumatra, where the baptized come "to seek peace, comfort and healing from Mary, our Mother" , explained Jesuit Father James Barathaputra. The Marian shrines in the Indonesian dioceses are frequented by the faithful and devotees who pray there with fervor, in particular by reciting the rosary. This was the case in the diocese of Semarang, at the Marian sanctuary of Sendangsono, with the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, the oldest in Indonesia; in Poh Sarang, a small isolated village on the slopes of Mount Klothok, in the Kediri region of West Java; as well as in the Diocese of Bogor, at the Marian Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Canadian Hill, in the Banten region.
Among the ecclesial groups that have coordinated and organized Marian pilgrimages during the month of May, in the various Indonesian islands, there is the "Legion of Mary", a lay Catholic association present in the archipelago since 1951, with a total of approximately 70,000 members in numerous Catholic churches, schools and communities, with the aim of living and spreading devotion to the Immaculate Conception, of deepening the faith and of bringing practical help to other people in spiritual and material need.

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - "Peace is a gift from God, but it is also the fruit of human effort", recalls Cardinal Ouédraogo, in the country devastated by violence

Ouagadougou - At least 40 people died last weekend in jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso. This was announced by the local authorities, according to which 20 members of the voluntary militias supporting the army , were killed on Saturday, May 27 in Bourasso, in the province of Kossi, near the border with Mali, and another 20 people lost their lives in the same region on Sunday, May 28.
During Saturday's attack on the VDP column, the air force intervened and shot down the terrorists, killing about thirty of them, according to a military spokesman.
Since 2015, Burkina Faso has lived in insecurity caused by the violence committed by various armed groups, some of which are affiliated either with Al Qaeda or with the Islamic State. Jihadist groups are transnational, and operate not only in Burkina Faso, but also in Mali and Niger.
The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Kyélem de Tambèla, declared yesterday, May 30, that he has no intention of negotiating with terrorists. "For us, it is not possible to negotiate with immorality. We will never negotiate, neither the territorial integrity of Burkina Faso, nor its sovereignty. We will defend our territory and our people at all costs," said Kyélem de Tambèla in a speech before the Transitional Legislative Assembly in which he also called for the number of VDP to be increased from 50,000 to 100,000.
The Bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa for their part called for peace and prayed for the conversion of the terrorists. "May God touch their hearts" they implored during their meeting held on May 20 in Ouagadougou. "This prayer is not limited to Burkina Faso. It applies to Nigeria, Mali, Niger and all other African countries hidden from the attention of the media, but suffering the violence of evil men." The bishops of Burkina Faso prayed for this particular intention during the mass that marked the end of a national day of fasting and prayer for peace and social cohesion.
The Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, stressed that "peace is a gift from God; peace is also the fruit of human effort", and urged the people of God in Burkina Faso to "unite their voices to ask God for the grace of peace".

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - Nuns who ran an educational center expelled. "the Church is in the hands of the Holy Spirit"

Jinotega - The sisters of the Hijas de Santa Luisa de Marillac Congregation had recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Santa Luisa de Marillac Technical Institute, in Yalí, Jinotega in Nicaragua, who were expelled from the educational center now occupied by the police forces.
The sisters were in charge of the administration of the San Sebastián de Yalí Center. Foreign nuns have been deprived of their residences and have an expulsion order, while the Nicaraguan nuns have been confined to their respective convents.
This is just one of the many episodes that have been heard in recent months regarding serious human rights violations against religious institutes, priests and nuns .
During the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost on May 28, the Archbishop of Managua, Msgr. Leopoldo Brenes, urged "not to be afraid" in difficult situations. The Cardinal took the opportunity to invite people to live the hope that the coming of the Holy Spirit brings in the face of adverse situations.
Regarding the context that the Catholic Church in Nicaragua is experiencing, and which in recent days has led to the capture of three priests, Bishop Brenes also stated that "the Church is in the hands of the Holy Spirit". The Archbishop of Managua urged the faithful and all parishioners not to let themselves be influenced by social networks which very often misinform. "I urge you not to lose your calm and not to listen to so much news, so many publications that exaggerate, claim to be reliable sources and are not. So let's keep calm, without a doubt the Holy Spirit is the one who guides this church", he said at the end of the Eucharist in the cathedral of Managua.

Bolivian bishop on clerical sex abuse: We know asking forgiveness is not enough

Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, Bolivia. / Credit: CEB

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, secretary general of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, pointed out in his homily for Pentecost Sunday on May 28 that although the Church in the country has asked forgiveness of the victims and relatives of clerical sex abuse, he said, “we know that it’s not enough.”

“These weeks we have witnessed that abuse of minors has been committed within the Church. We have asked for forgiveness; we know that it’s not enough, which is why we must all commit ourselves to do everything in our power to prevent such terrible acts from being repeated or from remaining unpunished,” Arana said.

According to the prelate, the bishops “must work together based on what we have to do, to create healthy and safe environments for children, adolescents, young people, and all vulnerable people.”

“And I say ‘work together’ because the fight against sexual abuse entails a profound change in each one of us to always be aware of any danger that children, young people, or vulnerable people may run,” he noted.

At the end of April, an unprecedented sexual abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church in Bolivia following a report in the Spanish newspaper El País that accused Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who died in 2009, of having sexually abused as many as 85 minors during his ministry, according his own diary, and that Jesuits covered it up.

As a result of the investigation, numerous cases of abuse by members of the Society of Jesus and other congregations have come to light. The state attorney general informed the country that as of May 18, there were some 23 priests implicated in cases of abuse in the country.

In his Pentecost homily, Arana said that the bishops have committed themselves to taking “actions to support the victims, listening to them and accompanying them, trying to help them rebuild their lives, knowing that abuse causes very deep wounds.”

“Furthermore, we commit ourselves to report and investigate the incidents and seek that justice is done both within the Church and in civil society with a determined commitment to work for the prevention and protection of minors,” he said.

The prelate explained that the serious crime of sexual abuse is a threat that “we must all face, because also, and we say it with regret, this scourge not only occurs within the Church but also in different areas of our society.”

“These actions are far from the proceeding of the Holy Spirit, who seeks the good of all, the common good, which is why it is also necessary to ask today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.

Arana invited the faithful to ask God “that the coming of the Holy Spirit would mean for all of us as Bolivians to have the courage to defend and accompany the victims of all forms of violence, especially sexual, and to seek justice.”

“The presence of the Holy Spirit allows us to come out of our selfishness and personal interests to think of others, to work for the good of others and not for our own benefit,” he noted.

“It is necessary to pray today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit, which, as we have heard [in the Sequence for Pentecost], we ask: ‘Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray,’” he concluded.

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

MLB player condemns Dodgers’ decision to honor anti-Catholic group; team announces day for Christians

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. / Credit: Kit Leong/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 30, 2023 / 16:28 pm (CNA).

Amid increased boycott calls from prominent Catholics — as well as criticism from MLB pitcher Trevor Williams — for their decision to honor an anti-Catholic drag group, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced they will be hosting a “Christian Faith & Family Day” on July 30. 

In a Friday tweet, the Dodgers invited Christians to “stay after the game to celebrate and be part of a day of worship.” 

Dodgers’ ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw also invited Christians to participate, saying: “We are grateful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus” and adding that the team is “determined to make it bigger and better than it was before COVID.”

The last Christian faith event held by the Dodgers was in 2019. The team’s decision to bring it back comes amid widespread claims that their support for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence amounts to support for anti-Catholicism and anti-Christian hate.

Prominent Catholics across the country, including Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Williams, have rebuked the Dodgers for honoring a group that mocks Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Catholicism. 

Williams, who pitches for the Washington Nationals, condemned the Dodgers’ decision in a Tuesday tweet: “To invite and honor a group that makes a blatant and deeply offensive mockery of my religion, and the religion of over 4 million people in Los Angeles county alone, undermines the values of respect and inclusivity that should be upheld by any organization.” 

“I believe it is essential for the Dodgers to reconsider their association with this group and strive to create an inclusive environment that does not demean or disrespect the religious beliefs of any fan or employee,” Williams said. “I also encourage my fellow Catholics to reconsider their support of an organization that allows this type of mockery of its fans to occur.” 

The controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor “the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group known for mocking Catholicism, during their “Pride Night at Dodger Stadium” event on June 16.

The national drag group uses Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes. The performers call themselves nuns and regularly use the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and women religious.

The Dodgers will be honoring the L.A. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” before the June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants.

The archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, condemned the Dodgers’ decision to give the group an award, saying: “Our Catholic sisters devote themselves to serving others selflessly. Decent people would not mock & blaspheme them. So we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships. Open desecration & anti-Catholicism is not disqualifying. Disappointing but not surprising.”

After initially receiving backlash over the announcement, the Dodgers disinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, only to reinvite them — this time with an apology — days later.

In response, Bishop Robert Barron of the Winona-Rochester Diocese called for a boycott against the Dodgers. 

“Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in America, and we shouldn’t tolerate it,” Barron said in a tweet. “I’m a big baseball fan. I’ve even thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. But I’d encourage my friends in L.A. to boycott the Dodgers. Let’s not just pray, but make our voices heard in defense of our Catholic faith.” 

In an official statement released May 24, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles condemned the Dodgers’ decision “to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”

Adrian Alarcon, director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that Dodgers’ faith and family day announcement has not changed their position. 

In the archdiocese’s statement last week, they called on “all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form and to stand for respect for one another and for the religious beliefs of our communities of faith.” 

As of today, Alarcon said: “Our position is the same.”

Liz Wheeler, a conservative political commentator and Catholic, responded to the Dodgers’ faith and family announcement tweet, saying: “How dare you try to pander to Christians because you need us as consumers while at the same time you HONOR an anti-Christian hate group that blasphemes Jesus with ‘Jesus and Mary striptease’ and ‘dildo dipped in drugs blessings’ & ‘semen’ filled chalices? You are grotesque.”

CatholicVote announced on Friday that it would spend $1 million on a television, digital, and billboard ad campaign to encourage Los Angeles residents to boycott the Dodgers. 

“Creating a ‘faith and family’ event does not balance the decision to honor a perverted, fake ‘nun’ group that exists to mock the Catholic religion,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch said in a press release. “The Dodgers have one path forward: apologize and stop honoring hateful anti-Catholic organizations.”

Two elderly pro-life activists beaten outside of Baltimore Planned Parenthood

null / Credit: pixelaway/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 15:50 pm (CNA).

Baltimore police are searching for a man who is accused of attacking and beating two elderly pro-life activists who were praying outside of a Baltimore Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on May 26.

According to witnesses cited in the police report, the unidentified suspect attacked a 73-year-old man and an 80-year-old man after engaging in a "debate" with one of the pro-life activists about abortion. 

The report, citing video surveillance of the alleged assault, states that the suspect was talking to the 80-year-old man, turned away from him and then turned back and tackled him over a large flower pot.

The report states that a second elderly pro-life activist ran over to help the victim. At that point the suspect shoved the second man onto the ground and struck his face with a closed fist while the man’s back was to the ground. The report adds that the suspect stood up and kicked the second man in the face “with extreme force” and then walked away from the scene.

Although the report provided to CNA by the Baltimore County Police Department redacted the names of the victims, Baltimore County Right to Life President Jay Walton identified the second man as 73-year-old Mark Crosby. 

“Mark [Crosby] is currently in the hospital being treated for the serious injuries he sustained,” Walton said in a Facebook post. “Please pray that Mark makes a full recovery and that the thug that did this to him is found and dealt with swiftly.”

The police report states that he was diagnosed with a large hematoma, hyphema, and head and neck pain but is in stable condition. An update provided by Walton on Facebook on Monday stated that Crosby returned to the emergency room because he is “bleeding from somewhere behind his right eye.”

Walton set up a GoFundMe for Crosby’s medical expenses for “the serious injuries he sustained,” which asks people “to help Mark [Crosby] recover financially from this terrible experience.” 

“For years, Mark has prayed in front of the Planned Parenthood in Baltimore City to let the scared, young abortion-minded women know that they are loved, that their baby is loved,” the GoFundMe states. “Please donate to show Mark how much HE is loved.”

As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., the GoFundMe has raised more than $9,000 of the stated $10,000 goal. 

The police report said the suspect is a white male who was wearing a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes at the time of the alleged assault. The report states that the man had brown hair and a full beard.

St. Louis Archdiocese reorganization will cut parishes from 178 to 134

Parishioners at Sacred Heart parish in Valley Park, Missouri, part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, listen to a presentation about parish mergers at an October 2022 listening session. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

A new plan approved in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will reduce the number of parishes from 178 to 134 amid concerns about a lack of priests and shrinking Mass attendance, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski announced over the weekend.

The plan, called “All Things New,” closes 35 churches, merges their parishes into neighboring parishes, and merges 15 other parishes into five new parishes. The plan also creates a new parish for the Spanish-speaking community in St. Charles County. In the end, this leaves the archdiocese with 44 fewer parishes than it has now.

Some of these changes will be implemented as soon as August, but the plan will not be completed until 2026.

“As your archbishop, I have the duty to provide for the pastoral care of all people in the archdiocese,” Rozanski said in a video announcing the changes. “‘All Things New’ has called us to ask ourselves what our parishes, ministries, and institutions need to look like in order to effectively share the faith that is sustainable for our children and generations to come.”

The archdiocese covers the City of St. Louis and 10 surrounding counties.

One of the reasons for reducing the number of parishes is poor Mass attendance. The archbishop said that about 5,000 Catholics are either leaving or not reengaging with the Church after high school or college annually.

“Over the past decade, we’ve also seen fewer people attending Mass,” Rozanski said. “Our numbers should be growing. We have more baptisms than funerals. Nearly 1,000 people enter the Church each year. But in 2021, the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis dipped below 500,000 for the first time since the 1960s.”

Rozanski also noted that many Catholics have moved out of the city and into the surrounding counties, but the parish lines have yet been changed to reflect that. He noted that in one example, there are 10 priests for about 18,000 Catholics in North County, but there are only three priests serving 18,000 Catholics in one parish in St. Charles County. The changes seek to make these ratios more proportional.

“We find ourselves with too few priests in large parishes and a disproportionate number of priests in small parishes,” the archbishop said.

Another problem Rozanski noted was the priest shortage. According to projections from the archdiocese, there would be more parishes than priests by 2025 if the archdiocese failed to make any changes. He said that 41% of active or retired priests are older than 70.

Before making the changes, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the 178 current parishes. It also considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. The archdiocese also held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski said the feedback helped structure the final plan, which was approved by the All Things New Planning Committee. The committee included priests, deacons, parish life coordinators, lay leaders, and religious within the archdiocese. In addition to considering the feedback, they also looked into financial data and other information.

The plan makes changes to how the archdiocese uses resources, which the archbishop said puts pastoral services closer to the people and parishes to foster collaboration across parish boundaries. He said the changes will help the archdiocese more effectively go into the community and bring Christ to people.

“I pray this first phase of work will equip us to build new, creative models of ministry together,” Rozanski said.

Some Catholics in the archdiocese have been critical of the changes because of the extent to which they will shake up parishes. More than 3,000 Catholics in the archdiocese signed a petition that asked the archbishop to halt the plan about two months ago.

The petition criticized the structure of the survey and claimed it only allowed the faithful to answer predetermined questions without being allowed to address specific situations in their own parish. It also claimed the process would cause mistrust in Church leadership, which could drive Catholics away.

In his announcement, Rozanski acknowledged “the profound impact a parish community can have on us and how these good and faithful institutions have formed our families.” He said he wished the changes were not necessary but also maintained optimism.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua accuses Catholic Church of money laundering

Daniel Ortega. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan National Police, controlled by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, published a statement May 27 accusing the Catholic Church of various crimes such as money laundering, a baseless charge according to human rights defenders.

The statement says that the police conducted “investigations that led to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of dollars hidden in bags located in facilities belonging to the dioceses in the country,” such as Matagalpa and Estelí.

The text also indicates that the investigations “confirmed the illegal withdrawal of funds from bank accounts that had been ordered by law to be frozen, as well as other illegal acts that are still being investigated as part of a money laundering network that has been discovered in dioceses of different departments [administrative districts].”

The day before, according to what was reported by various media outlets, the regime had ordered the accounts of the country’s dioceses and parishes to be frozen.

The government communiqué states that the attorney general’s office, the Superintendency of Banks, and the financial analysis unit — organizations controlled by the regime — “have confirmed the criminal movement of funds that, for the dioceses, have entered the country irregularly and which are being investigated and proceedings have been opened for all these crimes.”

The text also indicates that the Superintendency of Banks has requested that the bishops’ conference and the archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, present the documents that show the bank account transactions of the dioceses “so that at all times the laws of the country are complied with, avoiding the illegal acts that have been committed.”

‘It’s ridiculous’

In a May 29 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Félix Maradiaga, former presidential candidate and exiled human rights defender, stated that “it’s impossible for the police to have found this alleged illicit money in the Diocese of Matagalpa, because that diocese has been, both the chancery and many of the parishes, under police intervention during the last six months.”

“That’s absolutely unacceptable, but it is also Orwellian. It’s ridiculous that the same chancery from which Bishop Rolando Álvarez was taken away is now designated as the locus of illegal acts,” said Maradiaga, who was deported to the United States on Feb. 9 along with more than 200 other former political prisoners.

Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, was held under house arrest by the regime for months before being unjustly sentenced Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison.

Maradiaga stressed that with the accusations of the police against the Church, “the regime is using totally disproportionate arguments to dismantle the presence of the dioceses, especially that of Matagalpa and Estelí.”

“The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua continues. The dictatorship is not letting up in its attempt to silence the prophetic and pastoral voice of the Church,” he lamented.

‘A war against the whole Church’

Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher and author of the report “Nicaragua, A Persecuted Church?”, told ACI Prensa that with the police statement “the dictatorship confirms its war against the entire Nicaraguan Church and more so by choosing to freeze the bank accounts of the different dioceses of the country, of parishes and also of parochial schools.”

“The dictatorship makes use of the judiciary, of the Nicaraguan justice system, which does not adhere to the political constitution nor the laws of the land, but only follows orders given by the Nicaraguan presidential couple,” she explained.

“Without any doubt, this is a process that is full of arbitrariness from beginning to end. I think they have already prepared the verdict that they are going to deliver to the Nicaraguan Catholic Church, noting that Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, and his wife, the vice president, have on multiple occasions referred to the Catholic Church as an organized terrorist and criminal mafia,” continued the expert, who now lives in exile.

On Feb. 21 at a public event, Ortega said that Christ “lives in the Christian peoples, not because of the example that priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes may give, who are a mafia.”

Molina told ACI Prensa that in the investigation against the Church, “the principle of innocence is going to be obviated; i.e., they are already seeing the Catholic Church as guilty.”

Chaotic situation

Molina also pointed out that “there is a chaotic situation at the moment, because, also at the end of the month all the parishes have to fulfill their obligations and also the parochial school by paying for basic services such as electricity, water, the telephone, and the staff.”

“Many families are losing their right to work. The teachers who teach in the parishes are going to run out of money without their salary. When you violate one human right, you violate the rest,” the specialist pointed out.

“Once the dictatorship freezes the accounts, the next step that it usually takes is the confiscation of the assets, and in this case they are possibly going to do that. I believe that the dictatorship is trying to financially suffocate the Church, thinking that in this way it will no longer raise that prophetic voice. But the Church is much more than bank accounts,” she assured.

Molina said that in Nicaragua, “anti-laundering laws are being used solely to criminalize people and institutions that think differently than the government, institutions that are demanding peace, justice, and the establishment of democratic order,” such as the Catholic Church.

“Countries also have to condemn this very unjust action that is being carried out at this time against the clergy,” she stressed.

Cardinal Brenes speaks out

In his homily for Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 28 at the Managua cathedral, Cardinal Brenes alluded to what the parishes are going through.

The cardinal encouraged the faithful to remain calm and not “to listen to a lot of news, a lot of publications that exaggerate.”

“They say ‘reliable sources,’ but the reliable source is never revealed, so let’s remain calm, peaceful, and without a doubt the Holy Spirit is the one who is leading this Church, and we will soon have the respective solutions,” he continued.

“Our parishes continue to work. We have experienced difficult crises, such as the time of the pandemic, but the Spirit sustains the parishes and also the generosity of all of you,” the cardinal stressed.

“So I invite you to always remain calm and not be influenced by networks and news that truly exaggerate. I rarely read them, but sometimes they send them to me and it makes me laugh to see everything they say, because I don’t find any basis for it,” the archbishop of Managua commented.

As of press time, neither Brenes nor the bishops of Nicaragua have issued a statement on the dictatorship’s decision to freeze bank accounts nor the accusations of crimes such as money laundering.

Regarding what Brenes said, Molina told ACI Prensa that logically the media are not going to reveal their sources “at any time, because their identity must be protected” because if the name is made known, “immediately the dictatorship is going to start criminal proceedings.”

According to Maradiaga, what the cardinal said is due to the fact that “the Church in Nicaragua has been forced to keep quiet so as not to compromise the safety of other religious and other members of the clergy.”

“It’s up to us, therefore, the Nicaraguan laity and the world to denounce what is happening in Nicaragua: a persecution of the Church, unprecedented in Latin America,” he stressed.

In the last five years there have been at least 529 attacks by the Ortega regime against the Church, 90 so far in 2023, according to Molina’s report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?”

The report includes the unjust imprisonment of Álvarez, 32 nuns expelled from the country, seven Church buildings confiscated by the regime, and various media outlets shut down.

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

State judge blocks South Carolina’s 6-week abortion ban 

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

A South Carolina judge temporarily blocked the state’s recently passed six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban on May 26.

South Carolina’s heartbeat law, which bans abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, which is often around six weeks, was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, on May 25. The bill was set to take effect immediately.

The day after being signed into law, State Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman of Richland County, South Carolina, granted Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s request for an injunction, temporarily blocking the heartbeat law.

For the time being then, abortion will remain legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.  

The South Carolina heartbeat law will remain blocked until the state’s Supreme Court reviews the case and issues a final ruling on whether the law violates the state constitution.

McMaster on Friday announced he had filed an emergency motion with the state Supreme Court, requesting the court to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“Moments ago, before 5 p.m., we filed an emergency motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve this issue quickly. The life of every South Carolinian — born or unborn — is precious and it’s His gift to us,” McMaster said in a tweet.

Planned Parenthood argues in its suit that the South Carolina heartbeat law is unconstitutional because it “violates the South Carolina Constitution’s right to privacy and its guarantees of equal protection and due process.”

“In particular, the act is an attack on families with low incomes, South Carolinians of color, and rural South Carolinians, who already face inequities in access to medical care and who will bear the brunt of the act’s cruelties,” Planned Parenthood argues.

A similar heartbeat law passed in South Carolina was permanently blocked by the state Supreme Court in a 3-2 January ruling.

In its January decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the former heartbeat law “violates our state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy” because “six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time.”

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told CNA that the temporary blockage of the South Carolina pro-life law “allows painful, late-term abortions to continue in South Carolina and delays the heartbeat protection from saving lives.”

According to Pritchard, the new South Carolina heartbeat law was specifically designed to withstand legal scrutiny. 

“Sponsors of South Carolina’s heartbeat protection crafted the measure to withstand a legal challenge and satisfy the majority of state Supreme Court justices,” Pritchard said. 

Additionally, the makeup of the state Supreme Court has changed slightly since January, with former state Justice Kaye Hearn retiring and David Hill replacing her on the five-person court.