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Filipino community in Los Angeles celebrates 500 years of the Santo Niño de Cebú

Attendees at a Mass for the feast of the Santo Niño de Cebú at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 16, 2022. / Victor Alemán/Angelus News

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2022 / 17:42 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles said Mass Sunday in honor of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, celebrating the feast of the Santo Niño de Cebú.

“Today, we especially entrust ourselves to the Divine Infant, Santo Niño, as we continue to give thanks to God for opening the door of faith to the people of the Philippines, five hundred years ago,” the archbishop said during his Jan. 16 homily at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“And of course, we also recall that shortly after the door of faith was opened, the first Filipinos to come to America, arriving at Morro Bay, in 1587. It is beautiful to think about it and to reflect that Filipinos were here, worshipping and working in our country long before our country had a name.”

He added that “we give thanks to God today also for the rich Catholic heritage of the Philippines that has become such a beautiful part of our Catholic life here in Los Angeles, and in America.”

The Santo Niño de Cebú is a statue that was given to Juana, wife of the king of Cebu, after their 1521 baptism. It is widely venerated in the Philippines, and is now housed in the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City.

Preceding the Mass, Filipino traditions were displayed on the cathedral plaza, and images of the Santo Niño were blessed during the Mass.

During his homily, Archbishop Gomez reflected on the wedding at Cana, saying that through the miracle performed there Christ “wanted to show us that the marriage of man and woman is a symbol of how much God loves each one of us.”

“God loves all of us, you and me, without conditions and without exceptions. God delights in you! You are a special treasure to him. This is the amazing truth of our Catholic faith.”

As a result, he said, “God has a mission for your life,” a vocation.

“Each one of us, no matter who we are, has a part to play in building up God’s kingdom of love and life. And it’s also interesting because that’s the meaning of the servants in today’s Gospel.”

“Like those servants, we need to fill the water jars of our lives with the waters of love, with the waters of good works, works of mercy and service. And we do that in simple and ordinary ways. In our daily lives. Jesus wants to work with us, and through us. Through our good works, through our works of love. In our families. In our places of work. In our society,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“And this is the water that he will transform — that he will turn into new wine … But as we know, my dear brothers and sisters, everything starts from our obedience to the word of Jesus. This is especially — as we reflect on today’s passage of the Gospel — what Mary tells us in the Gospel today, when she tells the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ This is the key to the Kingdom. This is the key to holiness, to our vocation. To entering into the divine life — to do the will of God, to do whatever Jesus tells us.”

The day preceding the Mass, a food drive was held at Our Lady of Loretto parish in the city’s Historic Filipinotown. The food drive was organized by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council and the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Community Advisory Council.

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr

We March with Selma. Via Flickr CC BY NC 2.0. / null

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2022 / 12:04 pm (CNA).

Sister Mary Antona Ebo was the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She died Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA Jan. 14, 2018.

Burlington priest asks parishioners to tell bishop of his pastoral care, mental health

Fr. Peter Williams, pastor of Holy Family parish in Springfield, Vt. / Holy Family Parish Springfield Vermont screenshot via Youtube.

Burlington, Vt., Jan 17, 2022 / 09:10 am (CNA).

Father Peter Williams says the Diocese of Burlington is trying to remove him as pastor of his parish because he will neither be tested regularly for COVID-19 nor be masked. He is asking his parishioners to testify on his behalf, because he says the diocese, and his family, are trying to prove that he is physically and mentally unfit for the job.

The priest, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, is pastor of Holy Family parish in Springfield, Vermont, 120 miles southeast of Burlington.

“Being more of the ilk of a patriot and being one who is in support of freedom and personal rights, I balk at any incursion into my rights as a human being, certainly a U.S. citizen, and that was my objection when the bishop started directing matters of my health,” Williams said in a Jan. 5 video.

Williams is referring to Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne’s September 2021 letter to clergy in which he requested that they all be vaccinated. Coyne said that alternately, any cleric who choose to remain unvaccinated must test for COVID-19 every other week and be masked during ministry. Williams, who chose to remain unvaccinated, refused.

Williams said that he then received correspondence from Coyne which stated that he had 14 days to comply, or Coyne would suspend him. 

Williams, who maintained he has canonical rights as a pastor to remain in his post, has since hired a canon lawyer and said he will fight the case until Coyne officially removes him through a canonical process. 

“I have no intention of resigning as pastor because that is my job,” Williams’ said. “That is what I do.”

Now, he said, his family and the diocese are trying to prove that he is physically and mentally unhealthy. But he maintains he’s as healthy as ever. 

“Now, I’m not aware of how my family members made that assessment,” he said. “All they needed to do was to watch the videos of Mass that we have ongoing or give me a call, none of which happened.”

Now, he said, “the case seems to be revolving around my health and my mental health.”

Williams said that for the sake of maintaining normalcy in his parish, he chose to keep his correspondences with the bishop to himself. But the pressure became too much of a burden. He added that it broke his heart when his family got involved.

Williams said that his canon lawyer suggested that he gather some names of people who would be willing to testify on his behalf to Coyne.

“So I'm asking all of my parishioners, if you are inspired or if you are interested, to write a letter on my behalf stating how you think I’m doing as a pastor and how you would evaluate my mental health,” he said. 

In the diocese’s statement issued to CNA, Coyne declined to speak on the contents of the video “in order to protect the good name and reputation of all involved.”

“The present pastoral situation in Springfield is a sad and difficult situation that Bishop Coyne is addressing with care for all concerned, most especially the people of Holy Family Parish,” the statement said.

“The number one priority of the Diocese of Burlington is to offer the Sacraments and the fullness of parish life to the Catholic community in a safe environment that protects the health and well-being of our priests and parishioners,” the diocese said.

When asked if Williams’ claims are true, the diocese told CNA it is not commenting on the content of Williams’ video and added that personnel issues are confidential and it cannot discuss any details.

Blessed Mother statues still stand at Colorado family home destroyed by wildfire

A concrete statue of Mary stands near the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. / Bob and Tina McLaren

Denver, Colo., Jan 16, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

As Bob and Tina McLaren fled the Superior, Colorado neighborhood they had called home since 1992, Tina looked back and saw flames at the end of their street. 

As the Catholic couple, their daughter and two grandchildren made their way to safety, driving through clouds of ash and smoke, Tina hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe, their house would be spared. 

But a few days later, after the authorities permitted them to return, their fears were confirmed. Their house was ash. 

And yet, amid the rubble, two concrete statues of Mary that had stood on their property remained. 

A statue of St. Jude, who holds special significance for the family, also survived. Bob said when they were first building their house, their original plan for financing the build fell through. He said he credits the intercession of St. Jude — the patron of impossible causes— with helping them get a new financing plan to build their family home. 

The burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren
The burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren

The McLarens, like nearly 1,000 of their neighbors, lost their home in the Marshall Fire, a fast-moving wildfire that consumed hundreds of buildings and businesses in Boulder County, Colorado during the last days of 2021. The towns of Louisville and Superior, roughly halfway between the larger cities of Denver and Boulder, were hardest hit. 

At least one person is confirmed dead as a result of the fires, the most destructive in state history. The initial cause of the fire, which spread rapidly due to high winds and an exceptional drought, remains under investigation. 

The McLarens are currently staying with relatives in Northglenn, Colorado. Bob says they built their Superior home in 1992 and raised their four daughters there— there are “many hearts broken by its loss,” he said. 

A burned-out car sits at the parking lot of the Oerman-Roche Trailhead, overlooking Superior, Colorado, on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire burned some 6,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Boulder County beginning on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
A burned-out car sits at the parking lot of the Oerman-Roche Trailhead, overlooking Superior, Colorado, on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire burned some 6,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Boulder County beginning on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Despite the tragedy, the family has been able to find some respite from their local Catholic parish, which set up a donation center to help those in need in the wake of the fire. 

The McClarens have been active parishioners at St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville for nearly 40 years. Tina said they have received a tremendous amount of help from their local faith community; they’ve been almost overwhelmed by donations of basic necessities like clothes, she said. 

And while the monetary and material donations are “incredible,” Tina said the prayers they have received have been even more so. She said old friends that they haven’t spoken to in years, some that they never thought they would hear from again, have reached out to ask how they’re doing, and to offer prayers. 

Sign outside St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The parish has been operating an emergency center to distribute supplies to people in need since the Marshall Fire, which destroyed some 1,000 homes, began on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
Sign outside St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The parish has been operating an emergency center to distribute supplies to people in need since the Marshall Fire, which destroyed some 1,000 homes, began on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Tina said many family members, some of whom have fallen away from the Catholic faith, have also reached out to offer prayers. 

Colorado’s housing market, spurred by years of high demand as well as by the pandemic, was extremely tight even before the fire displaced 1,000 or so families. Bob says they plan to stay in Superior, in the community they have come to love so much. In the meantime, the family is looking for temporary housing. 

Tina McLaren surveys the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren
Tina McLaren surveys the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren

Tina describes herself as a giving person by nature, but she said being on the receiving end of such an outpouring of support from her fellow Catholics has been an extremely humbling experience. 

She also noted that despite the terrifying ordeal and the loss of their home, the love and memories associated with their happy home of 30 years “can't be burned up.”

She also said she has seen God’s hand working amid the chaos. 

"No matter how bad the situation is, there's always good. He's promised that something better will come from something bad that you're going through,” Tina said. 

The brick archway of a ruined home near the corner of N McCaslin Blvd and Via Appia Way in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire consumed some 6,000 acres of land and 1,000 homes in Boulder County starting on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
The brick archway of a ruined home near the corner of N McCaslin Blvd and Via Appia Way in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire consumed some 6,000 acres of land and 1,000 homes in Boulder County starting on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

March for Life: What about bathrooms? Food? We’ve got answers here

Pro-life poster / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 16, 2022 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Americans from across the country are planning to attend the March for Life on Friday, Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.

Most years, the No. 1 question marchers have ahead of the event is, “What’s the weather forecast?”

This year, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those thinking about coming have a host of other pressing questions. That’s because the District of Columbia recently enacted new COVID-19 access rules for businesses in response to a current surge in cases.

There’s a lot you need to know. So let’s get right to it.

What about bathrooms?

The short answer is that accessing bathrooms should not be a problem, whether you are vaccinated or not.

A key reason we can say this is that the district’s rules specify that proof of vaccination is not required to use a restaurant restroom, or to pick up take-out food (more on that in a moment.)

This means that marchers can access their usual bathroom stops, including Union Station, which is conveniently located near the U.S. Supreme Court, where the march concludes. Likewise, national museums along the National Mall, such as the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art, do not require proof of vaccination for admission.

Will I be able to find food?

Yes. Having said that, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Proof of vaccination or a documented exemption (we’re getting to that next) is required to sit down and eat inside a restaurant within the district. That includes museum cafes and restaurants inside hotels where marchers may be staying.

But as we just mentioned, take-out food does not require proof of vaccination. Also, the restrictions don’t apply to grocery stores and pharmacies, where you can buy drinks and snacks.

Finally, most food delivery apps (Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, etc.) operate in D.C. and do not require proof of vaccination. 

Bottom line: You won’t go hungry or thirsty.

What do the rules actually say?

Having addressed the basic necessities of life, let’s take a closer look at what the new rules say.

Beginning Jan. 15, the District of Columbia is requiring all those 12 and older to show proof of receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot to enter most businesses. The rules apply to indoor food and drink establishments such as nightclubs, taverns, banquet halls, convention centers, food halls and food courts, breweries, wineries, seated dining halls, restaurants, and cafes in museums, libraries, and hotels.

Wait, didn’t you just say the food court at Union Station wouldn’t be an issue?

Ah, you’re paying attention. Good! Yes, you can get take out food and use the bathrooms at Union Station, but if you want to sit down and eat there, those 12 and up need proof of vaccination.

What about churches?

No vaccination proof is required.

And public transportation?

No vaccination proof is required.

Hotels?

No vaccination proof is required, unless you plan to sit down to eat in a hotel cafe or restaurant, or if plan to enter meeting rooms or hotel ballrooms.

What about exemptions?

If a person has a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine, he or she must show proof of the exemption along with a negative COVID test within the last 24 hours. Businesses must also verify vaccination with photo identification for those 18 and older.

What proof of vaccination is acceptable?

Vaccinated marchers can prove their vaccination status with vaccination cards, photos of vaccination cards, immunization records, COVID-19 verification apps, or a World Health Organization Vaccination Record.

What are the masking rules?

Masks are required in all public indoor areas, regardless of one’s vaccination status. Masks are also required outdoors if one is unable to social distance, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Mall property. Organizers of the March for Life say marchers should wear masks unless they are eating or drinking.

“Because the protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as all of those who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life, we encourage anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to remain at home and participate virtually,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said.

“Face masks for those who need them will be available at the rally site, as well as hand sanitizer,” she added.

The rally will be live streamed on the March for Life website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, beginning at 12 noon EST.

Finally, what’s the weather forecast?

Partly sunny with a high of 29, according to the National Weather Service’s extended forecast for Jan. 21. So dress warmly!

'Prayers answered. All hostages are out.': Texas synagogue standoff ends

A police car sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles west of Dallas, Jan. 16, 2022. - All four people taken hostage in a more than 10-hour standoff at the Texas synagogue have been freed unharmed, police said late Jan. 15, and their suspected captor is dead. / Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 16, 2022 / 08:25 am (CNA).

An FBI team on Saturday shot and killed a man who had taken hostages during a live streamed service at a Texas synagogue, authorities said.

At 9:30 PM local time, a loud bang followed by a short blast of rapid gunfire was heard, according to media reports from the scene. Shortly afterward, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Prayers answered.  All hostages are out alive and safe."

The FBI’s action culminated an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The unidentified man interrupted a service at the synagogue that was being live streamed on Facebook and took four hostages. Among them was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, according to media reports.

According to media reports, the man claimed to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman now serving a prison sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.

During the standoff, Saddiqui’s lawyer, Marwa Elbially, released a statement saying that "We want to verify that the perpetrator is NOT Dr. Aafia's brother who is a respected architect and member of the community. Whoever the assailant is, we want him to know that his actions are condemned by Dr. Aafia and her family," calling the suspect's actions "heinous and wrong."  

During the standoff Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth made an urgent request to Catholics to pray for those involved in a hostage situation.

"Please pray for the safety of the hostages, their families, this congregation, for the members of law enforcement, and for the peaceful surrender of the perpetrator(s) of this crime," Olson said in a message posted on Twitter.

A nearby parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, provided first responders and members of the media access to warm shelter, restrooms, coffee, and food, during the standoff.

In a follow-up tweet, Olson said “thanks be to God for their safety. Thank you to the parishioners of @goodshepherd_tx and their pastor Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR, for their assistance and charitable support for first responders and families of hostages.”

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller also thanked the Catholic parish for its support during the crisis. "I am Christian, I am a believer and I immediately activated a prayer network," Miller told the press.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lived in the Boston area before returning to Pakistan, was detained in July 2008 by Afghan police.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Afghan authorities “found a number of items in her possession, including handwritten notes that referred to a ‘mass casualty attack’ and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.”

During a subsequent interrogation at an Afghan police compound, Siddiqui “grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of U.S. interview team,” the Justice Department said. She was convicted in September 2010 of trying to kill U.S. soldiers and F.B.I. agents and sentenced to 86 years in federal prison.

The Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has asserted Siddiqui's innocence, announced in July 2021 that she had been attacked by another inmate and was in solitary confinement.

CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell issued a statement Saturday condemning the hostage-taking at the  synagogue.

“This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages,” the statement said. “No cause can justify or excuse this crime.”

Use ‘preferred pronouns’ or else, university’s gender inclusion plan warns

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jan 16, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The bishops of Fargo and Bismarck are speaking out against a proposed “gender inclusion” policy that would require everyone at the University of North Dakota — even visitors — to use preferred pronouns and affirm individuals’ chosen gender identities, or face the consequences.

Under the proposed rules, violators risk being expelled, fired, or kicked off campus, as spelled out under the University’s existing discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct policies. 

A draft of the policy also obliges the school to provide students with on-campus housing “consistent with their gender identity and expression,” and it applies the same gender identity rules to locker rooms and restrooms.

Located in Grand Forks, the state university has about 13,780 students and some 2,500 employees.

Christopher Dodson, the executive director and general counsel of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, representing the two dioceses, says the proposal as written is unconstitutional.

“We recognize that everyone should be treated with respect and that the university has a role in facilitating a respectful learning environment,” Dodson states in an Oct. 21 letter to Jennifer Rogers, the university’s policy officer.

“However, this proposal goes beyond setting mere rules for administrative tasks. Indeed, it embraces and demands acceptance of a particular ideology about gender and language that infringes upon free speech and religious rights,” Dodson states.

“We are particularly concerned about the proposal’s lack of any exemption for student organizations,” the letter continues.

“Fraternities and sororities are provided a limited exemption, but not student organizations. This means that UND would require student organizations to use preferred pronouns, accept expressed genders, and reject binary understandings of gender even if doing so conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Dodson states.

“Students and faculty do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the doors of a state university. This is well-established constitutional law,” the letter continues. “The proposed policy by UND amounts to unconstitutionally compelling speech and a particular viewpoint.”

The conference on Jan. 10 sent a second letter outlining its concerns to parents of students in Catholic high schools and, in some cases, other Catholic parishioners with high school students. 

The school's proposal also drew fire from Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, who said in a Facebook post that it "spits in the face of everything we believe in" and called it a "sad day for my alma mater," the Star Tribune reported.

In a 45-minute press conference on Jan. 14, University President Andrew Armacost called Dodson’s input “useful.” He said he is taking his time to slowly draft the next revision of the policy because Dodson brought up important constitutional issues that need to be addressed “the proper way.”

But Armacost, a former brigadier general and retired dean at the Air Force Academy, defended the intent of the proposed policy.

"The draft policy is intended to state our support to our LGBTQ members and, in particular, to our transgender and nonbinary members, with that same guarantee of access to education and fair employment without fear of discrimination or harassment," Armacost said.

Addressing the Catholic conference’s concern about housing arrangements for students, Armacost said students are able to request a roommate change for any reason.

In an interview with CNA, Dodson said he appreciated “clarification on the housing issue,” and said that “future iterations of the proposal, if any, should clearly address this issue.”

“Students should not, however, have to rely on receiving an exemption to the on-campus housing policy or requesting a roommate change to ensure that the student is placed with someone of the same sex,” he added.

Dodson said the conference shares the university’s desire to create a learning environment free of harassment but he called the policy proposal “overbroad.”

Bishop John T. Folda is the leader of the Diocese of Fargo. The Diocese of Bismarck is led by Bishop David D. Kagan.

Bishop of Fort Worth asks for prayers for Synagogue hostage situation involving alleged Al Qaeda terrorist

Breaking News / CNA

Fort Worth, Texas, Jan 15, 2022 / 20:53 pm (CNA).

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, made an urgent request to Catholics to pray for those involved in a hostage situation that was developing at a synagogue in nearby Colleyville on Saturday.

"Please pray for the safety of the hostages, their families, this congregation, for the members of law enforcement, and for the peaceful surrender of the perpetrator(s) of this crime," said Bishop Olson in a brief message posted on his Twitter account while the hostage situation was still developing. 

A man took hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas during a service that was being live streamed on Facebook on Saturday, Jan. 15. The ranting man, claiming to be Aafia Siddiqui's brother, interrupted the ceremony and took four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, demanding either to release Siddiqui or allow him to talk to her. 

At 5:00 PM local time, the man released one hostage, and after more than eleven hours of tense negotiations, an FBI rescue team flown from Quantico freed the remaining hostages unharmed and killed the kidnaper.

At 9:30 PM local time, a loud bang followed by a short blast of rapid gunfire was heard. Three minutes later, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted: “Prayers answered.  All hostages are out alive and safe."    

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lived in the Boston area before returning to Pakistan, is a controversial figure. She is regarded by U.S. intelligence as a dangerous terrorist with deep Al Qaeda connections who plotted against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan; but she is seen as a national hero by Pakistan, who has repeatedly requested her release.

A mother of three and the only woman sentenced for terrorists actions in connection with 9/11, Siddiqui has been jailed at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell prison in Fort Worth since 2008 when she was convicted and sentenced on charges involving assault and firing of a weapon at U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan. The Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who defends Siddiqui's innocence, announced in July 2021 that she had been attacked by another inmate and was in solitary confinement.

During the standoff, Saddiqui’s lawyer, Marwa Elbially, had released a statement saying that "We want to verify that the perpetrator is NOT Dr. Aafia's brother who is a respected architect and member of the community. Whoever the assailant is, we want him to know that his actions are condemned by Dr. Aafia and her family," calling the suspect's actions "heinous and wrong."  

Aafia has one brother and one sister.

The press covering the live negotiations involving the FBI, local police, and a SWAT team were operating from Good Shepherd Catholic Church, which provided access to a warm area, restrooms, coffee and food.

In a follow-up tweet, Bishop Olson said “thanks be to God for their safety. Thank you to the parishioners of @goodshepherd_tx and their pastor Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR, for their assistance and charitable support for first responders and families of hostages”.

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller also thanked the Catholic parish for its support during the crisis. "I am Christian, I am a believer and I immediately activated a prayer network," Miller told the press.

Cardinal Dolan laments attacks on houses of worship in Religious Freedom Day message

Remains of statues vandalized at Our Lady of Mercy parish in New York City, July17, 2021. Credit: Diocese of Brooklyn.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 15, 2022 / 12:47 pm (CNA).

Attacking houses of worship and religious art is akin to attacking the community who prays there, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York ahead of Religious Freedom Day, observed Jan. 16. 

“For nearly two years, the U.S. bishops have noticed a disturbing trend of Catholic churches being vandalized and statues being smashed,” said Dolan in a statement released Jan. 14 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan is the chairman of the USCCB’s religious liberty committee. 

“We are not alone. Our friends from other faith groups experience these outbursts too, and for some communities, they occur far more frequently,” he said. 

“An attack on a house of worship is certainly an assault on the particular community that gathers there. It is also an attack on the founding principle of America as a place where all people can practice their faith freely,” said Dolan. “And it is an attack on the human spirit, which yearns to know the truth about God and how to act in light of the truth.”

Dolan praised the “great tradition of religious freedom” in the United States, which has “allowed beauty to flourish,” for the benefit of all.  

Religious Freedom Day commemorates the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, "to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church."

Dolan said in his statement that “Diverse religious communities have built beautiful houses of worship, adorned with stained glass, statues, and symbols of faith, in earthly reflection of the glory and majesty of God.” 

“In the midst of a popular culture that too often caters to our basest appetites, sacred art and architecture calls all of us to think about ultimate things. All Americans benefit from these religious displays.” 

Religious art, said Dolan, “reminds us that we live most fully when we direct our lives toward our Creator and our neighbors.” The destruction of this art and other sacred things, he explained, “degrades our life together and harms the common good.”

Recently, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, was defaced by a vandal. In response to the vandalism, and in honor of National Religious Freedom Day, the shrine will be hosting a rosary on Jan. 16. In the statement, Dolan  encouraged all Catholics to join in and pray the rosary on Sunday, “as we pray that all religious communities would be free to worship without fear and to continue to bless this great country.” 

“On this National Religious Freedom Day, let us resolve to promote religious freedom for all people, and to honor the place of the sacred both in our lives and our landscapes,” he said.

Pro-life congressional leaders praise pledge to oppose federal abortion funding

The US Capitol / Nicholas Haro/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

One hundred and eighty one members of the House of Representatives signed a letter praising the pro-life leadership of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as promising to vote against any appropriations bill that does not include a prohibition of the use of federal funds for abortion. 

“Thank you for the consistent pro-life leadership you have shown even as House and Senate Democrats have demonstrated their plan to use Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Appropriations legislation to strip out longstanding pro-life protections that have been in place for decades,” the House members wrote in a letter. The letter was led by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and Jim Banks (R-IN), who leads the Republican Study Committee.  

“For decades, federal appropriations legislation has included language to protect taxpayer money from funding and facilitating the killing of children alive but not yet born,” they said. “The most famous of these protections, the Hyde Amendment, prevents direct taxpayer funding of abortion through programs like Medicaid.” 

The Hyde Amendment is a rider to appropriations bills. It has received consistent bipartisan support since it was first written in 1976. 


“Abortion is not health care unless one construes the precious life of an unborn child to be analogous to a tumor to be excised or a disease to be vanquished—pregnancy is not a disease,” said Smith. “Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize abortion nor should anyone or any entity be coerced against their conscience to perform or facilitate the killing of an unborn child.”

Banks concurred, saying that removing the Hyde Amendment would be both “wrong and unpopular.”

“But today’s Democrat party only caters to their far-left base who demand the government provide taxpayer-funded abortions up until the point of birth,” he said. “Pro-life conservatives stand united against their radical agenda.”

In 2016, the Democratic National Committee’s official party platform called, for the first time, for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. 

“Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortion domestically or internationally,” said the letter. 

“The consciences of health care providers who do not want to participate in abortion should be respected. Funding should not go to international organizations that are complicit in forced abortion and involuntary sterilization,” referring to what is commonly known as the “Mexico City Policy.”

As president, Donald Trump (R) expanded the Mexico City Policy. When President Joe Biden (D) was inaugurated, he repealed the policy in the first days of his presidency, similar to what his Democratic predecessors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did during their presidencies. 

The letter called for “all longstanding pro-life provisions to be retained” in the appropriation bills, noting that the majority of Americans are opposed to the use of taxpayer funding to pay for abortions. 

The lawmakers quoted then-Senator Biden, who, in a 1994 letter to one of his constituents, wrote “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.” 

Biden repeatedly voted for and voiced public support for the Hyde Amendment throughout his time serving as a member of the Senate. In 2019, over a 24-hour period, Biden announced that he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment.