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Bishops of Panama: Catholics must not attend SSPX Masses

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. / Credit: Antonisse, Marcel/Anefo (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL)

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 18, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Panamanian Bishops’ Conference has published a communiqué stating that the Catholic faithful should not attend the services of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX or SSPX), whose members are known as Lefebvrists.

In the Sept. 14 statement, posted on X Sept. 16 by the Archdiocese of Panama, the bishops wrote: “We notify the people of God that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, so the Catholic faithful must refrain from attending its services.”

“As for the sacraments administered at their services, the faithful are reminded that to administer sacraments the approval of the bishop or the ecclesial authority is required; and by not having it, these are illicit,” the conference added.

Lefebvre died in a state of excommunication in 1991 for consecrating four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II. Lefebvre founded the FSSPX as a response to what he considered to be errors that had infiltrated the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council.

In the context of the dialogue between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre in 1988: Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta.

Despite the Holy See’s efforts at dialogue and the society’s refusal to recognize ecclesiastical documents — especially from the Second Vatican Council — the Lefebvrists do not have a recognized status in the Catholic Church.

Traditionis Custodes and the Traditional Latin Mass

The Panamanian bishops clarified: “As for the celebration of the Mass in Latin, we communicate that it is not prohibited in the Catholic Church, but it must be approved by the bishops (Traditiones Custodes, 2) and the use of the Vetus Ordo [Mass in Latin that was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council] can only be authorized by the Holy See.”

The Vatican published the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”) by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021. The text almost completely restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (extraordinary form) or Tridentine rite of the 1962 Missal.

With this document, the Holy Father changed the provisions given by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, which led to the Traditional Latin Mass becoming more widely available.

Traditionis Custodes establishes that the local bishop is the one who authorizes the celebration of the Eucharist with the 1962 Missal. If the priest asking for permission was ordained after the publication of the motu proprio, then it is the Vatican that must give authorization.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary beginning in 2003, stated in his memoirs that for the late pontiff, Traditionis Custodes was “a mistake” and that he read the text “with pain in his heart.”

In their statement, the bishops of Panama also reminded that “the celebration of sacraments in places not authorized by the bishop is prohibited.”

The prelates also called on “all the Catholic faithful to value the richness of the current liturgy, enriched by the expression of the people of God, through their own language, as requested by the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council and as the universal Church celebrates every day around the world.”

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

Catholic imagery doesn’t belong in pro-abortion Ohio campaign ad, critics say

Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons 4.0

Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).

A campaign ad for Ohio’s pro-abortion ballot measure Issue 1 wrongly used a Catholic image of Jesus Christ, several Catholic commentators say.

The newly released 30-second video ad from Issue 1 backer Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights shows a montage of people in various contexts, including a man kneeling in prayer in what appears to be a Catholic church. A divine mercy image of Jesus Christ hangs on the wall in the background.

“The ad describing Issue 1 dangerously misrepresents the proposed amendment and how the Catholic Church accompanies pregnant women in need,” Michelle Duffey, associate director for communications and outreach at the Ohio Catholic Conference, told CNA Sept. 18.

Issue 1, on the Ohio ballot this November, would amend the state constitution’s Bill of Rights to add a right to “reproductive freedom.” It would create an individual right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”

Critics say the measure will strip all rights from the unborn child, allow abortion throughout pregnancy, eliminate safety regulations for abortion clinics, and end mandatory parental consent for minor children’s abortions or other health decisions.

As the montage changes, the ad says: “When we face personal medical decisions, we depend on our doctors, our faith, our family, and the last thing we want is the government making those decisions for us.”

The ad says the passage of Issue 1 would end “Ohio’s extreme abortion ban,” protect birth control and “emergency care for miscarriages.” The proposal protects freedom and means Ohio families will always have “the freedom to make the most personal of decisions.”

Duffey said the ad “nearly tells the truth” in showing a man in prayer while narrating how people depend on faith when pregnant and dealing with uncertainty.

“A woman can confidently rely on the Catholic Church to walk with her through pregnancy, support her material needs, and accompany her and her child after birth,” Duffey said.

Brian Hickey, executive director of the Ohio Catholic Conference, challenged the assumptions of the ad.

“Ohio cannot accept a definition of freedom that perpetuates a throwaway culture of only cherishing people as long as they are useful,” he said. “The Catholic Church has always advocated for and acted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including the indigent, migrants, and preborn children in the womb.”

“We will continue to do so by explaining the harms Issue 1 pose to women, parents, and babies with Catholics and all people of goodwill across Ohio and encourage a no vote on this egregious proposal,” Hickey said. “Ohioans deserve just laws that provide expansive resources and accompaniment to mothers and young families, not proposals like Issue 1, which does nothing to support women.”

CNA sought comment from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights but did not receive a response by publication.

The group’s website lists dozens of groups that have endorsed Issue 1, including labor unions, LGBT groups, feminist groups, and medical leaders’ groups.

Among the endorsers is Catholics for Choice, whose claim to Catholic identity has long been rejected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It drew criticism in January 2022 for projecting abortion advocacy messages onto the outside of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., while Catholics attended a pro-life prayer vigil inside. 

Other religious groups endorsing Ohio’s Issue 1 are the United Church of Christ and its regional conference, a Unitarian Universalist group, six Jewish groups, Faith in Public Life, Faith Choice Ohio, and the InterReligious Task Force on Central America.

Ohio currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. The state Supreme Court is set to consider whether to reinstate a heartbeat-based abortion ban that bars abortion after six weeks into pregnancy, which a judge blocked earlier this year, WTVG News reported.

Donald Trump calls 6-week abortion ban a ‘terrible mistake’ 

Former President Trump addresses attendees at CPAC 2020. / Credit: Valerio Pucci/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

Pro-life leaders condemned President Donald Trump for calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake” during a Saturday NBC interview. 

Trump made the comments in reference to Florida’s six-week Heartbeat Protection Act abortion ban signed by his chief opponent in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

During Trump’s more than hourlong interview with Kristen Welker, he said: “DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban” and “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” 

“This is politically stupid,” Shawn Carney, founder and president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA. “No liberal will now vote for Trump because he’s less pro-life.” 

Though Carney said that “Trump is accurately labeled as the most pro-life president ever, by far,” he “continues to alienate those who elected him and shrink his base.” 

Carney, a Catholic, also added that “many pro-life Catholics were hesitant to vote for Trump in 2016 but the death of Justice [Antonin] Scalia and the importance of the court pushed them to give Trump a chance. It paid off greatly with the overturning of Roe but instead of bragging about his record, Trump has treated being pro-life as if it’s something we need to apologize for.”

“This is a loser disposition heading into the 2024 general election,” Carney said. 

Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action and a prominent Catholic and pro-lifer, called Trump’s take “pathetic and unacceptable.”

“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning,” Rose said Sunday on X. 

“Heartbeat [six-week] laws have saved thousands of babies,” she posted. “But Trump wants to compromise on babies’ lives so pro-abort Dems ‘like him.’”

Rose, who has previously expressed support for DeSantis, went so far as to say that “Trump should not be the GOP nominee.”

What did Trump say?

After calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake,” Trump went on to say that he would focus on reaching a consensus between Republicans and Democrats on abortion. 

Asked at what point of pregnancy he would ban abortion, Trump said: “We’ll come up with a number, but at the same time Democrats won’t be able to come in at six months, seven months, eight months and allow an abortion.” 

The interview, which covered a wide range of topics, included a 10-minute segment on abortion. 

During the segment, Welker asked: “How is it acceptable in America that women’s lives are at risk, doctors are being forced to turn away patients in need or risk breaking the law?” 

“I did something that nobody thought was possible and Roe v. Wade was terminated, it was put back to the states. Now, people, pro-lifers have the right to negotiate for the first time, they have no rights at all,” Trump responded. “The radical people on this are really the Democrats that say that after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months, and even after birth, you’re allowed to terminate the baby.” 

When asked whether as president he would sign a national abortion ban, Trump said: “I’m going to come together with all groups and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable.”

Pressed further, Trump refused to say whether or not he would sign a 15-week abortion ban into law. 

“I’m not going to say I would or I wouldn’t,” Trump said. “I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something and we’ll have peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”  

Though saying that “we will agree to a number of weeks where both sides will be happy” and that “we have to bring the country together on this issue,” Trump also said “I frankly do not care” when asked if abortion should be a national or exclusively a states issue. 

“Everybody, including the great legal scholars, love the idea of Roe v. Wade terminated so that it can be brought back to the states,” Trump said. “From a pure standpoint, from a legal standpoint, I believe it is probably much better, but I can live with it either way, the number of weeks is much more important.” 

Trump also noted that abortion bans should include exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother. He did not answer whether he believes an unborn child, referred to during the interview as simply a “fetus,” has constitutional rights. 

Trump’s campaign did not respond to CNA’s request for clarification. 

What do pro-lifers have to say? 

Matt Walsh, a Catholic podcaster with the Daily Wire, said in Monday X post that Trump’s take is an “awful answer from a moral perspective.” 

“There is nothing terrible about stopping the satanic abortion industry from mass murdering human children,” Walsh said. 

“You can’t win over Democrats by going squishy on this issue. Republicans have tried that brilliant strategy for decades and accomplished exactly nothing by it,” he went on. “Defend life clearly and powerfully and unequivocally. That’s the only way.” 

Harry Scherer, a representative for Americans United for Life, told CNA that “we owe protection to preborn Americans at every stage of gestation.”

Scherer categorically said: “Americans United for Life is proud to stand with pro-life governors and legislators enacting lifesaving legislation in their jurisdictions.”

Though many pro-life advocates condemned Trump’s latest abortion take, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told CNA that the former president’s stance is rooted in the difficult political landscape currently surrounding abortion.

“The most prudent course going forward is to choose restrictions, which most favor, and then try to persuade the public to opt for further restrictions the next time this issue is put to a vote,” Donohue asserted. 

“It appears that this is what Trump may be getting at,” Donohue said. 

“What makes no sense is to allow the pro-abortion side to appear as though they are not the real extremists,” Donohue went on. 

“Most Americans want some restrictions on abortion, but when they are perceived as being too tight, they reject them,” Donohue said. “Ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned, states that are at least welcome to the pro-life message have drafted laws that have failed with voters in most instances, and that is because they are considered to be too restrictive.”

Erin Hawley, vice president of the Center for Life and Regulatory Practice with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that “we support Florida’s efforts to enact its law protecting unborn babies the moment their hearts begin to beat, as well as numerous state efforts across the country that protect unborn life as much as possible and provide real support for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.” 

“All life is valuable and deserves to be protected,” Hawley said. 

In a Sunday post on X, Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said that “governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked.” 

“Laws protecting the unborn are not a ‘terrible mistake.’ They are the hallmark of a just and moral society,” Waggoner added.

What is the current law? 

Abortion is fully banned in 14 states, according to data collected by Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Currently, all total abortion bans on the state level include exceptions for cases of preserving the life of the mother. 

Additionally, 11 other states have varying levels of restrictions ranging from six-week bans, as in Georgia, to 20-week bans, as in Iowa.

The six-week ban signed by DeSantis and referenced by Trump during his NBC interview is currently blocked. Current active Florida law bans abortion after 15 weeks. 

Pope Francis says ‘no to war,’ urges climate action in livestreamed chat with Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton and Pope Francis have a virtual conversation during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting at the Hilton Midtown on Sept. 18, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

During a conversation with former President Bill Clinton, Pope Francis urged stronger action on climate change, called for diplomacy instead of war, promoted greater health care access for children, and highlighted the crises facing migrants and refugees.

“It is important to spread a culture of encounter, a culture of dialogue, a culture of listening and of understanding,” Pope Francis said on Monday morning, appearing virtually at the Clinton Foundation’s 2023 Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

Pope Francis was the first of several guests to address the audience at the event in New York City, which was focused on various humanitarian efforts taken up by the nonprofit. The foundation played a video that showed the pope’s involvement with Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, which is under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, before the former president asked him to “say what you believe about the obligation of ordinary people to make a difference” in society.

“It is necessary to share thoughts on how to contribute to the common good and how not to leave behind the most vulnerable people, such as children who, through the Bambino Gesù Foundation, are at the root of our meeting,” Pope Francis said.

During the conversation, the pope called for action on what he called “the ecological catastrophe” of climate change “before it’s too late.” He said people must take action “while there’s still time” and explained that this is the reason he is writing a new document to follow up on his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’.

Pope Francis also lamented the “wind of war that blows around the world,” adding that “we are in need of a great and shared assumption of responsibility.”

“It is time for weapons to cease and for us to return to dialogue, to diplomacy,” the pope stressed. “Let the designs of conquest and military aggressions cease. That is why I repeat: no to war; no to war.”

When considering the struggles of refugees and migrants, Pope Francis emphasized the need to talk about them as people, “men, women, and children,” and not simply think about them as numbers. He said people must think of “the eyes of the children we’ve seen in refugee camps.”

Pope Francis also commented on the work of the Bambino Gesù hospital, which he said “cannot solve the problems of all the children in the world; however, it seeks to be a sign, a testimony that it is possible through many struggles to bring together great scientific research geared toward children and the free welcoming of people in need.”

“In these terrible months marked by war, [the hospital] has treated more than 2,000 young patients from Ukraine who fled their country with their parents and relatives,” Pope Francis said.

The pope said that in the field of health, “the first and most concrete form of charity is science, the capacity to heal, which however must be accessible to all.” He referred to the hospital as a “concrete sign of charity and mercy of the Church.”

“There are illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are no children who cannot be cared for,” Pope Francis said.

The pontiff encouraged men and women to help each other when difficulties arise.

“Difficulties are part of life, and the best way to deal with them is to always seek the common good: never alone, always together,” Pope Francis said. “Difficulties can bring out the best or the worst in us. Therein lies our challenge: fighting selfishness, narcissism, division, with generosity and humility: better unity than conflict.”

Clinton thanked Pope Francis for addressing the meeting and “for saying something that I hope will mean something for every person.” He said one of the most difficult things in public life is “to convince every person that he or she has a role to play,”

“I think you make us all feel empowered and perhaps that is your greatest power as the pope,” Clinton said. “That you make everybody, even people who aren’t members of the Roman Catholic Church, feel that they have power and therefore that they have responsibility.”

The Clinton Global Initiative meeting began on Monday, Sept. 18, and will continue through Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Bishop Robert Barron speaks at Harvard University: ‘The glory of God is man fully alive!’

Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron, with Deacon Tim O'Donnell to his left, answers questions from the crowd following his lecture "The Catholic Intellectual Tradition" on Harvard University's campus on Sept. 17, 2023. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sep 18, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Addressing a packed audience of approximately 1,000 on the campus of Harvard University on Sunday, Bishop Robert Barron offered those in attendance a window into the “Catholic intellectual tradition” by emphatically proclaiming: “The glory of God is man fully alive!”

The founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, Barron is one of the most outspoken American prelates against the errors of “secularism” and its ever-increasing presence in Western society. Harvard, the first college established in the American colonies, was originally founded to train and educate Puritan clergy members in the New World and is completely secular today.

Barron said in his lecture that secularism is a reaction to what others perceive as a “threatening God” but said that “the world is most itself when it has found a relationship to the supreme good, which is God.”

Barron, who serves as bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, spoke at the school’s Memorial Church, an interdenominational Protestant church dedicated in 1932.

Deacon Tim O’Donnell, executive director of the Harvard Catholic Forum — which co-sponsored the event along with the Harvard Catholic Center — told CNA that “Harvard’s church” was the chosen destination for the lecture because it would attract “more non-Catholics, seekers, and inquirers” than St. Paul’s Parish, the Catholic church where Barron celebrated Mass and offered a homily earlier in the day.

Memorial Church, he said, is better suited for the spoken word and also has a larger capacity. What’s more, its location was highly symbolic.

“We wanted to place Bishop Barron’s message about the Catholic intellectual tradition right in the center of the secular university, and in the center of Harvard in particular,” O’Donnell said.

Barron began his talk by saying that the “most fundamental claim” of the Catholic intellectual tradition is that “Jesus Christ is epistemically basic.”

In other words, Barron said, Jesus Christ is the “privileged lens through which the whole of reality is read.”

That claim is not “imperialistic,” as some may think, he said. Every intellectual system establishes an idea as epistemically (related to knowledge or the study of knowledge) basic, he added. 

“What I mean is that he’s not presented to us as simply one prophet among many, one religious spokesperson among many,” he said.

“Rather, we hear that he is the Word. He is Logos,” Barron said, adding that “the various sciences and perspectives have to be read from the standpoint of the Logos.”

Looking through the lens of Jesus, some aspects of life are seen “more clearly” such as God, humanity, and creation, he said. 

God is not competing with the world, as was made evident when he took on human form, Barron explained.

“God and a creature come together in such a way that neither one is compromised. How’s that possible? It’s possible only if God is not a competitive being among many,” he said.

“God is the sheer act of ‘to be’ itself,” he proclaimed.

Barron said that the closer God comes to humanity, “the more alive we are, the more ourselves we are.”

Barron pointed to the prophet Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush as an example. 

“How does Moses see God but in this great image of the burning bush, which is on fire but not consumed? The closer God gets to creation, the more luminous and beautiful it becomes without being consumed,” he said.

Offering what he called a “bold claim,” Barron said: “There is no humanism anywhere, East or West, anywhere across the ages, greater than Christian theology.”

Barron said that “divine freedom can come intimately close to human freedom and not compromise it, not crush it.”

Distinguishing between two views of freedom, Barron said the “modern sense” is that “freedom is fundamentally indifference in the face of the yes and the no.”

But in the “biblical sense,” freedom is “the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and then effortless.”

Barron told the crowd that his talk could be summed up in the simple words of one of his heroes, the second-century bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

“That’s a God who glories in our being fully human,” he said.

Speaking on creation, Barron said that anything that exists apart from God has come “fully and utterly from God.”

If everything comes from God, it must “be marked” by “intelligible form,” he said.

He said “this is precisely why the modern physical sciences emerged out of a Christian university matrix.”

“It’s the theological doctrine of creation which teaches this truth that we should expect finite reality in every detail to be marked by intelligibility that makes the sciences possible,” he said. 

Before answering several questions from the crowd, Barron concluded his lecture by saying that the Catholic intellectual tradition “stubbornly looks at God, the world, ourselves, and the way we organize our societies through the lens of Jesus Christ, and it sees them according to a divine light.”

Watch Bishop Barron's lecture at Harvard here:

‘This is the beginning’: Florida university system adopts Classic Learning Test

null / Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Prospective college students in Florida who want an alternative to the long-used SAT exams can now submit to a test that offers what its publishers call “foundational critical thinking skills” from a battery of classical subjects.

The State University System of Florida announced earlier this month that it had “voted to accept the Classic Learning Test (CLT) as a path to admission” in the schools that comprise its system.

“The system is pleased to add the CLT to reach a wider variety of students from different educational backgrounds,” the announcement said. “Not intimidated by controversy or critics, our focus is on the success of our students and the State of Florida.”

The CLT was launched in 2015 by Classic Learning Initiatives. The organization says on the test’s website that its exams “evaluate reading, grammar, and mathematics and provide a comprehensive measure of achievement and aptitude.”

The tests “emphasize foundational critical thinking skills and are accessible to students from a variety of educational backgrounds,” offering students what it calls “a more edifying testing experience” that “reflect a holistic education.”

Jeremy Tate, the founder of the test, told CNA in a phone interview that prior to launching the new testing initiative he worked extensively with standardized testing materials, including the SAT, which is published by the nonprofit College Board.

“My background was running an SAT/ACT prep company and working at a Catholic school,” said Tate, who is Catholic himself. “I really saw the influence of the College Board on this school in not-good ways, in some pretty negative ways.” 

“Most of what we did at the school for marketing — to get new students — almost all of it was connected to the College Board,” he said. “We were marketing on average SAT scores, AP (Advanced Placement) scores, on and on.”

The pervasive influence of standardized course material had a profound effect on student choices, Tate said. “So much so that when the Dominican sisters introduced an introductory course to philosophy, so many kids did not want to take it,” he said.

“The No. 1 explanation why: ‘Because it’s not any AP points.’”

The ‘A-ha!’ moment

Tate described that experience as revelatory. “It was this kind of ‘A-ha!’ moment,” he said. “Catholic kids in a Catholic school aren’t going to take philosophy because of the power and influence of the College Board?”

That dispiriting realization spurred Tate to found the CLT. The company offers a variety of testing levels for students incorporating a wide variety of subjects. Tests for third through sixth graders review “classic children’s literature, fables, poetry, historical nonfiction,” while the higher tests for middle schoolers through upper-level high schoolers focus on “verbal reasoning, grammar and writing, and quantitative reasoning.” 

Tate said that, far from merely measuring what students have learned, tests can play a major role in forming what students do learn. 

“​​We typically think of the SAT/PSAT as evaluative tools,” he said. “We argue that that’s true, but they’re also pedagogical tools. They teach.”

“If every kid knew that on the SAT or PSAT that they were going to see Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas, it would have a dramatic effect on the attention those thinkers get in the classroom as well,” he said. “Testing inevitably drives curriculum. What gets tested inevitably gets taught.”

A practice test on the initiative’s website includes material from Plato, Cicero, Thomas Jefferson, the German-Dutch Catholic priest Thomas à Kempis, and onetime U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, among other thinkers and writers.

After developing the test, the initiative distributed it at select schools in order to start quantifying the material. 

“You can’t have an actual standardized test until you have a ton of data,” Tate said. “We had an initial blueprint of the test and we went to colleges that we thought were missionally aligned and sympathetic. We submitted it to them to add as an additional option.”

Tate was unclear as to the exact details of the test’s acceptance by the Florida university system. “What I’ve been told is that it came directly from Ron DeSantis himself,” he said. “They wanted this to happen.”

For the test’s future, Tate said his team is five years into a 25-year goal “to be more important than the SAT/ACT.” 

“We believe we have better material and better technology,” he said. “I really think this is kind of the beginning of getting there.”

Historic twin marches for life in Germany face disruptions and defiance

Participants at the March for Life in Cologne, Germany, Sept. 16, 2023. / Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch)

CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

For the first time in the history of the German March for Life, pro-life advocates in Germany simultaneously took to the streets of both Cologne and Berlin this past Saturday.

The dual marches, organized by the German pro-life group Bundesverband Lebensrecht, drew thousands and were met with both enthusiasm and confrontation as counterdemonstrators attempted to disrupt the events in one city.

In Cologne, the march on Sept. 16 drew more than 2,800 participants but faced significant disruptions from feminist and Antifa groups, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

In neighboring Switzerland, approximately 1,000 pro-life activists also took part in the March for Life in Zurich on Saturday. Swiss police were on site with a large contingent to protect the peaceful event against left-wing counterdemonstrators, Tagesanzeiger reported.

In Cologne, counterdemonstrators temporarily halted the march, leading to a two-hour standstill. Eventually, the organizers withdrew, escorted by police to the final rally point. The situation escalated when counterprotesters began dismantling pro-life event stands, with one incident resulting in an advocate being assaulted.

Police in Cologne struggle to protect pro-life protesters from counter-demonstrators at the March for Life in Germany on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch
Police in Cologne struggle to protect pro-life protesters from counter-demonstrators at the March for Life in Germany on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch

CNA Deutsch, reporting on the incident, also contacted authorities to provide further information and details after the alleged assault was published on social media.

Meanwhile, the Berlin march proceeded with fewer interruptions, attracting nearly 4,000 participants. Both events were linked via a live feed, amplifying their collective impact.

Catholic television station EWTN Germany provided streaming coverage of the dual marches, which were attended and supported by prominent German bishops.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg was among those present in Berlin, signaling the Church’s commitment to the cause. 

Thousands gather for the March for Life at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch
Thousands gather for the March for Life at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

Earlier in the week, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and participants for their “persistent commitment” to protecting life. Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg echoed these sentiments, stating: “The gift of life is the highest good; we are convinced of that as Christians.” 

Paul Cullen, chairman of the Doctors for Life association and a board member of Bundesverband Lebensrecht, criticized the counterdemonstrators for their “intolerance and narrow-mindedness towards the weakest.” He emphasized the need to “resist and defend medical freedom of conscience.”

Susanne Wenzel, the national chair of Christian Democrats for Life, warned of deteriorating legal conditions and urged attendees to engage with politicians. Sandra Sinder of Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle spoke about the emotional and financial insecurities that often lead women to consider abortion.

Nuns attend the March for Life in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch
Nuns attend the March for Life in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

The events also featured international pro-life activists from the Netherlands and Canada. Alex Schadenberg, founder and director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, highlighted that people usually opt for assisted suicide or euthanasia due to social isolation, poverty, and hopelessness rather than physical pain.

Despite the disruptions by radicals in Cologne, the twin marches marked a significant moment for the pro-life movement in Germany, demonstrating resilience and unity in the face of opposition. 

As the German Doctors for Life chairman Cullen said: “In Cologne, we want to send a signal for the fundamental human right to life, which precedes all other human rights and is therefore the most important of all.”

Franciscan friar in Syria becomes bishop of Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo 

The new Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syrian, after his episcopal ordination, Sept. 17, 2023. / Credit: Photo courtesy of TAWK CENTRE

Jerusalem, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:23 pm (CNA).

A new chapter has begun in the history of the Catholic Church in Syria. For the first time, one of its own sons has become bishop of the Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, in a country where “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). 

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, was ordained a bishop and took on the role of apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins. The apostolic vicar performs the same functions as a diocesan bishop but governs in a territory that, for specific reasons, has not yet been established as a diocese. 

Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, stands before the bishop as he is presented as a candidate for the episcopate, prior to being named apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, stands before the bishop as he is presented as a candidate for the episcopate, prior to being named apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

“I was not expecting this appointment,” the new bishop told CNA. “I was totally absorbed by all the commitments and difficulties we were facing after the earthquake. But the Lord decided to call me for another mission. I was hesitant to accept; it was hard for me to leave my people. I prayed, and I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘This people is my people, this flock is my flock, it is not yours. And I want you for another mission.’ So, after praying, I accepted my appointment.”

Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, lies prostrate during the Mass of episcopal ordination while the litany of saints is sung Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, lies prostrate during the Mass of episcopal ordination while the litany of saints is sung Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

Jallouf was born 71 years ago in Knayeh, a Christian village in the northwest part of Syria, in the province of Idlib, the last stronghold of anti-government Islamist rebels who have controlled the area since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. This land, already scarred by conflict, was one of the areas hardest hit by the violent earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey in February. It was here that Jallouf’s vocation was born. 

“In Syria, almost all the parishes are entrusted to the Franciscans. I grew up with them,” Jallouf told CNA. “In the third grade, I met Father Ibrahim Younes. I went with him to visit the sick, and I saw with how much love, courage, and tenderness he attended to their needs. So I said to myself: Why don’t I become a Franciscan as well?”

Jallouf joined the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, holding various positions before returning to Knayeh in 2001 as a parish priest. Since then, he has stayed put, becoming a point of reference for his people — not only for their immediate problems but also for keeping alive a faith and hope that war has sorely put to the test. He witnessed the outbreak of the conflict and the arrival of various groups of anti-government militants.

“At the beginning, it was a very bloody uprising. Many Christians were killed,” he said. “But our testimony as Christians changed everything. The Lord said, ‘Love your enemies.’ When the rebels saw that we didn‘t confront them with weapons, that we loved them despite everything they had done, then their behavior changed. In 2014, I was kidnapped and imprisoned. Today, they send a delegation to congratulate me on my appointment.”

The holy Mass for Jallouf’s episcopal ordination was celebrated at the Latin Church of San Francesco in Aleppo and was presided over by Cardinal-elect Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Vatican‘s Dicastery for the Eastern Churches. Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, as well as the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who will be made a cardinal in the upcoming consistory, concelebrated the Mass, both laying their hands on the new bishop for his consecration. Jallouf has a special relationship with Pizzaballa, who was his direct superior during his long tenure as custodian of the Holy Land (2004–2016). 

The central moment of the ordination rite: the laying on of hands on the head of the elect by the bishops and the solemn prayer of ordination, by which the gift of the Holy Spirit for episcopal ministry is conferred on the elect. The bishop-elect is on his knees and two deacons hold the book of the Gospels open over his head. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
The central moment of the ordination rite: the laying on of hands on the head of the elect by the bishops and the solemn prayer of ordination, by which the gift of the Holy Spirit for episcopal ministry is conferred on the elect. The bishop-elect is on his knees and two deacons hold the book of the Gospels open over his head. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

The current custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, and the vicar, Father Ibrahim Faltas, as well as Bishop César Essayan, the apostolic vicar of Beirut, Lebanon, were also at the Mass.

“Dear Father Hanna,” Gugerotti said in his homily, “it is for these people, for these concrete faces, that you are ordained a bishop today. You have shown yourself to be a good shepherd. You have not left your flock alone, even when it meant to put your life in danger. God has made you a symbol for the entire Syrian people. It is really possible to spend our lives for the men and women whom the Lord places beside us.”

After his ordination Sept. 17, 2023, Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, embraces the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who as custos of the Holy Land (2004-2016) was his direct superior. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTER
After his ordination Sept. 17, 2023, Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, embraces the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who as custos of the Holy Land (2004-2016) was his direct superior. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTER

Jallouf was ordained on an important day for the Franciscans — the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. On Sept. 17, 1224, while praying on Mount La Verna in Italy, St. Francis saw a seraphim and received the same wounds as Jesus crucified in his body. “I chose this date for my ordination because it is the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis,” Jallouf told CNA. “I pray that the blood of Christ heals war-torn Syria, giving it a holy and just peace and salvation.”

The motto and coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. He chose "Sicut qui ministrat": "As one who serves" (Lk 22:27) for his motto. Credit: Courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM
The motto and coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. He chose "Sicut qui ministrat": "As one who serves" (Lk 22:27) for his motto. Credit: Courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM

The new bishop’s words convey his love for his land, a love he wanted to express in the motto and coat of arms he chose, as every bishop does. These two elements of heraldic tradition identify the spirit with which the bishop undertakes his mission and visually recall the origins and territory from which he comes. 

“As my motto, I chose ‘Sicut qui ministrat’: ‘As one who serves’ (Lk 22:27). These are the words the Lord spoke to his disciples during the Last Supper.” The coat of arms is surmounted by the cross “because the cross is our glory.” 

The coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023.  The shield is divided into four fields, with symbols indicating the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land, and the bishop's homeland of Syria, as well as the emblem of Mary "to place everything under her protection." Credit: courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM
The coat of arms chosen by the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Jallouf as he begins his new role as apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins, Sept. 17, 2023. The shield is divided into four fields, with symbols indicating the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land, and the bishop's homeland of Syria, as well as the emblem of Mary "to place everything under her protection." Credit: courtesy of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM

The shield is divided into four fields. In the upper part, there are symbols indicating Jallouf’s belonging to the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land. In the lower part are references to his homeland: on the right, a map of Syria in red, the color of blood, with a dove in the center, a symbol of peace; on the left, an olive tree, a symbol of the province of Idlib. In the center, at the intersection of the four fields, is the emblem of Mary (the M in a blue field) “to place everything under her protection.”

“Perhaps the Lord chose me because I am one of the few respected by both sides still fighting in Syria today: on one side, the official government, on the other, the rebels,” he said. “Perhaps I can help with the process of reconciliation. But it is not just my personal mission; it is also my mission as a Franciscan.” He recalled the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt, more than 800 years ago. “Since then, the Franciscans have safeguarded both the holy places and the people who visit them and those who live there. This is the first challenge: to give courage to our ‘children.’”

The second challenge, he said, is to refocus on priestly and religious vocations after years of living each day “in emergency mode.” 

“I want our religious and priests not to forget that their responsibility is not just social but above all spiritual,” he said. “The first thing I will do is visit all the parishes and congregations working in the area, to learn about their needs and see how we can move forward.” 

Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syria, after his episcopal ordination Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE
Bishop Hanna Jallouf, OFM, walks down the center aisle of St. Francis Church in Aleppo, Syria, after his episcopal ordination Sept. 17, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of TEWK CENTRE

Work and prayer are two dimensions that Jallouf draws from Franciscan spirituality. “St. Francis always had in mind the unity between the dimension of work and that of prayer. These are two things that must go hand in hand. This is the way to save Syria and bear witness to our faith in the world,” Jallouf told CNA.

The war has radically transformed the face of the Church in Syria. Before 2011, “Christians made up almost 17% of the Syrian population. Today, perhaps, they constitute only 3%-4%.” It is a wounded Church, but still alive, with no shortage of surprises. 

“Always, in the mud, there is a little gold,” the new bishop said. “Even in war, the Lord sends vocations. From Knayeh alone, there are five young people preparing for the priesthood in the Franciscan community. We thank the Lord that in the midst of war, with all its evil, he has brought forth vocations.”

These new vocations are small seeds of hope for Syria. They’re also an answer to a prayer that Jallouf loves and prayed in the weeks before his ordination: “O Lord of mercy, who are with us in our tribulations, we pray to you to save us.”

Pope Francis meets with new Russian ambassador to the Vatican

Pope Francis meets with Russia’s new ambassador to the Vatican Ivan Soltanovsky on Sept. 18, 2023, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 18, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday met with the newly appointed Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Ivan Soltanovsky.

The meeting, during which Soltanovsky presented his credential letters to the pontiff, comes days after papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi visited Beijing to discuss efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. 

The “atmosphere of the meeting was friendly” and the two men “discussed, in particular, the mission of the papal special envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at solving a number of humanitarian issues,” Soltanovsky told Russia’s official Tass News Agency.

“We agreed to continue an honest and open dialogue with the Holy See, traditionally based on mutual respect,” Soltanovsky told Tass.

While serving as Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Zuppi has made several diplomatic visits across the world to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine, including stops in Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Zuppi has strong ties to Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries. Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal, however, the Vatican has said. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept. 15 that “the Vatican envoy [Zuppi] is going to come again” and Moscow will “welcome him.” The Vatican has not yet confirmed Zuppi’s trip. 

Pope Francis met with outgoing Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev when the pontiff paid an unusual visit to the Russian embassy on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion began. The Vatican said the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war.” 

Later, in September 2022, Pope Francis said he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which involved calling Avdeyev “to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”

Pope Francis has condemned the war and called for peace in Ukraine on numerous occasions, but has also occasionally received criticism from Ukrainians for the way he has expressed himself. Most recently, in August, the Vatican clarified that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25. 

In the speech, Francis referenced “Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.” President Vladimir Putin had previously compared himself to the 18th-century czar Peter the Great in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church responded with alarm, saying: “We hope that these words of the Holy Father were spoken spontaneously, without any attempt at historical evaluations, let alone support of Russia’s imperialist ambitions.”

The Vatican nunciature in Kyiv clarified that the words of the Roman pontiff are to be understood in the context of Pope Francis being “a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism across all peoples and situations.” 

Russia and the Holy See restored full diplomatic relations in 2010 after maintaining limited diplomatic relations since 1990. 

Sports anchor Sage Steele: ‘I wouldn’t be standing today without my faith’

Former ESPN sportscaster Sage Steele talks with “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on Sept. 6, 2023. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”/YouTube

CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

After former ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Sage Steele settled a lawsuit with the network over comments she made regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, she announced her departure in August after 16 years at the network.

“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my First Amendment rights more freely,” the former sports anchor wrote on her X account.

Steele sued the network and its parent company in 2022 for violating her free speech rights after she was taken off the air and several high-profile assignments for criticizing ESPN’s and Disney’s vaccine mandate, the Associated Press reported

Although Steele complied with the mandate in order to keep her job, according to her lawsuit, she told former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his podcast that “while she ‘respect[ed] everyone’s decision’ to get vaccinated, she believed that a corporate mandate was ‘sick’ and ‘scary to me in many ways.’ She also indicated that she ‘didn’t want to’ get the vaccine but still complied in order to keep her job and support her family.”

Following these and other comments on Cutler’s September 2021 podcast, Steele was suspended from ESPN in October 2021 and forced to apologize for her remarks.

Steele recently opened up about the ordeal and about how her Catholic faith got her through it on “EWTN News Nightly,” hosted by Tracy Sabol.

“I’ve said this a lot recently — I wouldn’t be standing today without my faith, which has become stronger than ever before,” Steele, 50, began.

“This was a huge low point in my life when all of this happened,” she continued. “[The] last couple years I had just gotten divorced after marrying my college sweetheart — only boyfriend I ever had, married for 20 years, together for 27 years. … COVID hit like a couple months right after that was final.”

To add to the problems, many things were shut down due to the pandemic, and it was a difficult time for Steele and her three children. 

“It was brutal,” Steele recalled. “And then I happened to speak up [about the vaccine mandate] and got crushed for it. [I] thought my career was over.”

To top it off, despite having received the vaccine, the single mother came down with severe COVID. “I was in trouble health-wise with it,” she told Sabol. “At that moment, I just prayed.” 

One night during the illness her heart was racing so fast it woke her up. She was all alone — her kids were at their father’s house so they wouldn’t get sick. Her parents couldn’t help because her father was undergoing cancer treatments. She tried to get ready to drive herself to the hospital but fell over. She realized if she fell again and hit her head, no one would find her.

“That was such a scary moment,” she said. “I just got back in bed and prayed and prayed that I would wake up the next morning.”

She did wake up, but she was still alone, and it took her more than a week to finally start feeling better. 

“All I had was God,” she recalled. “Fortunately, I knew that he had brought me through so much … what am I going to do, not trust him now? So I literally felt him pull me up and say, ‘You got this, girl.’”

When she was finally well enough to return to work, her father — a former football player — mother, and best friend were there with her.

“Right as I walk out the door to go to work for the first time after the apology and being suspended and embarrassed and vilified, my dad said, ‘We’re gonna say the St. Michael the Archangel [prayer] … you know, having God protect us from the wickedness and snares of the devil and rebuke them we humbly pray… that moment changed me and changed our family,” she said.

Now that Steele has left ESPN, Sabol asked what the future might hold for the broadcaster.

“I don’t know, but I’m having some really fun conversations right now with all kinds of different people that work in the industry in different ways,” she said. “I would love to interview some Hollywood celebrities, a lot of people who have been canceled and it’s like, ‘Oh wait we’re still here.’”

Steele said she hoped to announce more of her plans in the coming weeks.

“I’ve been so flattered by so many people reaching out, but it’s a blessing to be able to finally be me,” she said.

Watch the full “EWTN News Nightly” interview with Steele below. Watch part one of her interview with Sabol here.