• on December 5, 2020

Testing Phase 1

Catholic News Agency ACI Prensa’s latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.

  • Pope Francis: Life’s essential ingredient is prayer
    on November 28, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Pope Francis speaks during the Angelus prayer. / Vatican Media Vatican City, Nov 28, 2021 / 06:52 am (CNA). On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded Christians that an essential ingredient for living an alert and joyful life is prayer. “Be awake, guard your heart,” the pope said in his message before the Angelus Nov. 28. “And let’s add an essential ingredient: the secret to being watchful is prayer.” “In fact, Jesus says: ‘Keep awake at all times praying’ (Luke 21:36). It is prayer that keeps the lamp of the heart burning. Especially when we feel that enthusiasm is cooling, prayer rekindles it, because it brings us back to God, to the center of things,” he added. The pope also emphasized that “prayer awakens the soul from sleep and focuses it on what matters, on the end of existence.” “Even on the busiest days, let’s not neglect prayer,” he urged, recommending an easy prayer to say during Advent: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” “Let’s repeat this prayer throughout the day, and the soul will remain alert,” he said. From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis delivered his weekly Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel according to St. Luke, in which Jesus warns his disciples about the end of the world and his second coming. “The Gospel of today’s liturgy, the first Sunday of Advent, that is, the first Sunday of preparation for Christmas, speaks to us of the coming of the Lord at the end of time,” the pope explained. “Jesus announces desolating events and tribulations, but precisely at this point he invites us not to be afraid,” Francis continued. “Why? Because will everything be okay? No, but because he will come. Jesus will come back, Jesus will come, he promised it. He says thus: ‘Rise up and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is near.’” The pope warned people not to become “sleepy Christians,” who let their hearts become lazy and “their spiritual life soften into mediocrity.” “We need to be vigilant so as not to drag the days into routine, so as not to be burdened – says Jesus – by the troubles of life,” he stated. Francis said the beginning of Advent is a good time to ask ourselves what is weighing down our hearts and burdening our spirits: “What are the mediocrities that paralyze me, the vices, what are the vices that crush me to the ground and prevent me from raising my head?” We should also ask ourselves if we are attentive or indifferent to the burdens of our brothers and sisters, he added. “These questions are good for us, because they help guard the heart from acedia.” Acedia, also called sloth, “is a great enemy of the spiritual life,” he said. “Acedia is that laziness that falls, slips into sadness, which takes away the enjoyment of life and the desire to act.” According to Francis, this negative spirit “nails the soul down in numbness, robbing its joy.” He said “precisely in the moments when everything seems over, the Lord comes to save us; await him with joy even in the heart of tribulations, in the crises of life and in the dramas of history. Wait for the Lord.” “Let us pray to Our Lady: may she, who awaited the Lord with a vigilant heart, accompany us on the journey of Advent,” he stated. After praying the Angelus in Latin, the pope noted the presence in St. Peter’s Square of a fraternal association of migrants and non-migrants with whom he met Nov. 27. He reflected on how many lives are lost at the borders, and said he was sad to hear about the migrants, including children, who died recently in the English Channel, in the Mediterranean, and at the border of Belarus: “I have so much pain thinking about them.” Francis also noted that migrants who are forced to return to their home countries sometimes face capture by human traffickers who sell them into slavery. “To migrants who find themselves in these situations of crisis, I assure you of my prayers, and also of my heart: know that I am always close to you,” the pope stated. “Pray and act,” he added. “I thank all the institutions of both the Catholic Church and elsewhere, especially the national Caritas and all those who are committed to alleviating their suffering.” Francis made an appeal to those in a position to help find a solution to the problems which lead to the death and exploitation of immigration and refugees, “so that understanding and dialogue finally prevail over any kind of exploitation and direct the will and efforts towards solutions that respect the humanity of these people.” “Let us think of migrants, of their suffering, and pray in silence,” he said, pausing for prayer.

  • What makes Dobbs the best, and possibly last, chance to overturn Roe? 
    on November 28, 2021 at 7:00 am

    The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 28, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA). Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States. After nearly a half century of legal abortion throughout the United States, that precedent could fall  — or stand  — through one critical case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet what makes it possibly the most significant abortion case in decades? The Supreme Court on Dec. 1 will hear arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerning Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks. The court will take up the question of whether all bans on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional. Legal experts say the case presents an ideal opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider previous rulings that upheld legal abortion nationwide. The 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, Roe v. Wade, said that states could not ban abortion before the “viability” of the fetus — the point at which unborn child can survive outside the womb, determined by the court to be around 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld that ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that states could regulate pre-viability abortions but could not pose an “undue burden” in doing so. Mississippi’s law bans most abortions after 15 weeks — well before the point of “viability” as established in Roe and upheld in Casey. “The Dobbs case presents a square challenge to Roe v. Wade,” said Michael Stokes Paulsen, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, in an email interview with CNA. “So, Mississippi’s law forbids abortions that Roe and Casey say must be permitted,” Paulsen said. “There’s no way around the conflict between the Mississippi law and the court’s precedents on abortion. One or the other has to go!” Steve Aden, chief legal officer and general legal counsel for Americans United for Life, agreed that Roe itself is at the heart of the Dobbs case.  “It is a tremendous historical opportunity for the court to review Roe, and finally throw it on the ash heap of history,” Aden told CNA. While Mississippi’s law directly challenges Roe and Casey, those rulings themselves were already vulnerable and ripe for reconsideration, said O. Carter Snead, a law professor and director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. Both Snead and Aden helped author separate amicus briefs at the Supreme Court in favor of Mississippi’s law. They both explained to CNA why they think Roe and Casey were so poorly decided. “Defenders of Roe and Casey hardly ever argue on the substance of those cases’ reasoning,” Snead said. Rather, defenders of those cases appeal to the legal doctrine of stare decisis which “invites the court  — although it does not require it  — to consider the practical consequences of undoing the prior precedent,” he said. Justice Harry Blackmun, who authored the majority opinion in Roe, grounded the “right” to abortion in the “right to privacy.” He considered it an “unenumerated” right, Snead said, one not listed in the Constitution but nevertheless believed by some to be a right that “we basically discover through our own reflection.” According to Snead, Blackmun traced the “right to privacy” to the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which says that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” However, at the time the amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868, “nobody thought that that [clause] prevented states from protecting unborn children. Nobody thought that,” Snead said. Abortion was outlawed in 30 states at the time, and the remaining states followed common law which also did not allow for abortion, Snead said. Blackmun, influenced by a “novel” legal theory, disputed that abortion was prohibited under common law, Snead said, calling the argument “completely at odds with the historical record” and saying that it “has been debunked, but nonetheless, constantly repeated.” The majority opinion in Roe set up a trimester framework for judging state abortion laws. States could not ban or regulate abortion in the first trimester, while they could regulate second trimester abortions but not ban them, according to the ruling. While states could ban third trimester abortions, they had to make exceptions for cases where an “appropriate medical judgment” deemed abortion necessary for the “life or health” of the mother,” Blackmun noted. This “exception” could be interpreted in a liberal way to allow for many late-term abortions, Snead argued. “Which means, in effect, that we have the most permissive regime of abortion, almost in the world,” Snead said. The United States is one of just seven countries which allow for legal abortion nationwide after 20 weeks. Blackmun’s claims in the Roe ruling have not held up over time, Aden argued, including his skepticism over when life begins. “Roe presumed that abortion would be a decision between a woman and her doctor,” Aden said, but “virtually all” abortions now are performed by doctors who are not a woman’s primary physician. Roe’s assertion that abortion is safe “relied on eight different authorities, which were not peer-reviewed medical authorities,” Aden said. “In fact, abortion is not safer than childbirth,” he said, especially later in a pregnancy. If the court declines to overturn the Roe and Casey rulings, however, it might raise questions as to when — if ever — it would reconsider those rulings. “I would never say this is the last chance to do anything,” Snead said, adding that “no case could be better set up than this one [to repeal Roe.]” If the court does not repeal Roe, “it won’t be the last opportunity,” Aden said. “This court may, in fact, want to take Roe in bite-sized pieces as it were, and not overturn it in one fell swoop, but in significant incremental decisions.” For instance, he said the court could simply answer that not all state pre-viability abortion bans are unconstitutional, and send the matter back to the lower courts without having repealed Roe. When the lower courts then consider the lawfulness of various state abortion bans, those cases would probably be appealed to the Supreme Court. Then the court conceivably could repeal Roe in one of those later cases. In the Dobbs ruling, the court could also set up a new standard recognizing legal abortion, Aden said, adding that this would be unlikely. “That’s the challenge before the court: Can they find a new standard if they junk the Casey ‘undue burden’ standard? Can they find a new standard that’s understandable, predictable, and applicable across the board?” he asked. “My bet is that they can’t, because they haven’t been able to for the 30 years since Casey, and I don’t think anything will change in Dobbs.” Snead also said that the possibility of such a novel legal standard would be unlikely. “To simultaneously uphold the law in Mississippi and retain the court’s authority to be the ultimate arbiter of abortion in America, you’d have to reinvent another false, and untethered-to-the-Constitution, right to abortion,” he said. “And I don’t think that there is an appetite for that among a majority of the justices.” Paulsen emphasized that the Dobbs case is the ideal opportunity to overturn Roe. “There is no way around it. There is no ‘middle solution’ — no ‘compromise’ between right and wrong — that is faithful to the Constitution,” he said. “This is the case. This is the time.” 

  • Bishops of Puerto Rico express their solidarity with Cuban bishops’ ‘desire for freedom’
    on November 28, 2021 at 7:00 am

    Fernando Medina/Shutterstock ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 28, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA). The Puerto Rican Bishops’ Conference expressed its solidarity with the desire of the Cuban bishops “to be heard, for peace, freedom, sincere dialogue and freedom of speech to address the major problems” confronting the island nation. “From Puerto Rico we join in their hopes for a Cuba that, in peace and brotherhood, will achieve the desired changes for a more decent and happy life,” the Puerto Rican bishops wrote in a statement published earlier this month. The message of the Puerto Rican bishops was published as a show of support for their Cuban counterparts, who three days before the planned Nov. 15 nationwide demonstrations supported the people’s right to publicly express “their discontentment over the deterioration of the economic and social situation” on the island. In their Nov. 12 message, the Cuban bishops also pointed out that the solution will not be reached with “impositions, nor by calling for confrontation.” The Cuban bishops implored “that the paths of understanding, reconciliation and peace be paved so that the various proposals on the present and future destiny of Cuba find an area of common sense, tolerance, fraternity and harmony; and a harmonious and civilized dialogue be established in which the best solutions to the challenges that concern them can be found” in a Cuba in great distress. Recently, activists and priests in various places in Cuba have denounced the persecution, harassment, and the militarization of the streets to prevent the peaceful marches for freedom in Cuba called for Nov. 15. The protests were also intended to repeat the massive and historic demonstrations of July 11. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets and raised their voices that day for the first time in decades to demand the end of the communist dictatorship established by the late Fidel Castro 62 years ago and today led by his successor Miguel Díaz-Canel. According to the Center for Incident Reports of the Foundation for Pan-American Democracy (FDP), part of a Florida-based NGO whose mission is to publicize cases of abuse and persecution in Cuba, since Nov. 15, there have been 108 people arrested and 131 under surveillance in various cities on the island. Given the situation, the bishops of Puerto Rico urged the faithful to also pray for their brother bishops’ desire for “a gesture of clemency” for “the imprisoned” to be fulfilled. “We echo their call for non-violence and non-confrontation. We pray for all the Cuban people so that, in these moments of so much anguish, upheaval, pain, and material scarcity as well as a lack of rights and freedoms, they know how to embrace the Christian discourse of peace, love and hope in a Provident and attentive God,” they wrote. Finally, they asked Our Lady of Charity for her intercession and sent a “strong fraternal and supportive embrace.” “Together with you, we pray to Our Lady of Charity who has also made herself known in our homeland due to the devotion of so many dear Cuban brothers and sisters who live in our midst. May she accompany you in your concerns as pastors and intercede for a Cuba, joined together in brotherhood, unified and clothed with true hope,” the Puerto Rican bishops concluded.  This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

  • Everything you need to know about the Advent wreath
    on November 27, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Advent wreath / Shutterstock Denver Newsroom, Nov 27, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA). During the holidays, nativity scenes and Christmas trees decorate most Catholic homes, but what about Advent wreaths?  Advent wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen branches and have four candles. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent—three candles are purple, and one is a rose color.  The purple represents prayer, penance, and preparation for the coming of Christ. Historically, Advent was known as a “little Lent,” which is why the penitential color of purple is used. During Lent, we prepare for the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Similarly, during Advent, we prepare for the coming of Christ, both on Christmas and at the second coming.  The rose candle is illuminated on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. At Mass on the third Sunday, the priest will also wear rose colored vestments. Gaudete Sunday is a day for rejoicing and joy as the faithful draw near to the birth of Jesus, and it marks the midpoint of Advent.  “The progressive lighting of the candles represents the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead,” says the USCCB. During the Advent season, the faithful will also notice a common theme in the Gospel readings. The readings focus on preparation or “making straight the path of the Lord,” penance, and fasting. All of these things remind us of the importance of preparing our hearts for the Lord and making room for his presence in our lives.  Did you know? The Advent wreath originated from a pagan European tradition, which consisted of lighting candles during the winter to ask the sun god to return with his light and warmth. The first missionaries took advantage of this tradition to evangelize to people and taught them that they should use the Advent wreath as a way of preparing for Christ’s birth, and to celebrate his nativity and beg Jesus to infuse his light in their souls. The circle of the Advent wreath is a geometric figure that has neither a beginning nor an end. It reminds us that God does not have a beginning or an end either, which reflects his unity and eternity. It is a sign of the unending love that the faithful should show the Lord and their neighbors, which must be constantly renewed and never stop. The green color of the wreath represents hope and life. The Advent wreath reminds us that Christ is alive among us, and that we must cultivate a life of grace, spiritual growth, and hope during Advent.  Bless your Advent wreath The blessing of an Advent wreath takes place on the First Sunday of Advent or on the evening before the First Sunday of Advent. When the blessing of the Advent wreath is celebrated in the home, it is appropriate that it be blessed by a parent or another member of the family.To bless your Advent wreath at home, follow our guide, “How to bless your Advent wreath at home.”

  • Pope Francis to visit Greece and Cyprus ‘in the name of the Gospel’
    on November 27, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus on Dec. 2-4, 2021. / Vatican Media. Vatican City, Nov 27, 2021 / 08:20 am (CNA). Pope Francis released a video message on Saturday about bringing the joy of the Gospel to Greece and Cyprus, where he will travel Dec. 2-6. “I am preparing to come as a pilgrim to your magnificent lands, blessed by history, culture and the Gospel,” the pope said in the message published Nov. 27. “I come with joy, precisely in the name of the Gospel, in the footsteps of the first great missionaries, especially the Apostles Paul and Barnabas,” he added. “It is good to return to the origins and it is important for the Church to rediscover the joy of the Gospel.” Pope Francis asked for prayers as he prepares for the five-day journey to the cities of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus; and Athens, the Greek capital; as well as the Greek island of Lesbos. He will first travel to Cyprus, where on Dec. 2 he will meet Catholic clergy and lay people at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace. He will also visit the president and other political authorities. On Dec. 3, the pope will visit His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, and meet the Orthodox Holy Synod of bishops. The same day, he will celebrate Mass and hold an ecumenical prayer service with migrants. In Athens on Dec. 4, Francis will meet Greece’s political leaders, Catholic clergy, a group of Jesuits, and another Orthodox leader: His Beatitude Ieronymos II, archbishop of Athens and All Greece. Before offering Mass in Athens on Dec. 5, the pope will fly to the island of Lesbos, where he will visit refugees at a reception and identification center in Mytilene. His trip will conclude with a gathering of young Catholics, before flying back to Rome on Dec. 6. It will be Pope Francis’ second visit to Lesbos, also known as Lesvos, home to the infamous Moria refugee camp that was damaged in a fire last year. In his message ahead of the trip, the pope reflected on the Mediterranean Sea, which has both welcomed many people at its ports, but also become the unintentional cemetery of the many migrants and refugees who died while trying to reach a new life in Europe. “As a pilgrim to the wellsprings of humanity, I will go to Lesvos again, convinced that the sources of common life will only flourish again in fraternity and integration: together. There is no other way and with this vision I go to you,” he stated. Francis said he is looking forward to meeting all the people of Cyprus and Greece, not only Catholics, and highlighted his meetings with the two Orthodox leaders as fostering “an apostolic fraternity that I desire a lot.” “As a brother in the faith, I will have the grace to be received by you and to meet you in the name of the Lord of Peace,” he said. Both Cyprus and Greece have populations that are majority Greek Orthodox. Around 72% of people in Cyprus are Christians and 25% of the population is Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center. Cyprus has about 11,000 Catholics, according to its national statistical service, and Greece is home to about 50,000 Catholics (0.5% of the population). Addressing the countries’ small Catholic populations, Pope Francis said: “I come to you, dear Catholic sisters and brothers, gathered in those lands in small flocks which the Father loves so tenderly and to which Jesus the Good Shepherd repeats: ‘Fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12:32). I come with affection to bring you the encouragement of the whole Catholic Church.” The countries of Cyprus and Greece are also linked through the Apostle Paul, who traveled to both areas. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

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