Catholic, pro-life leaders decry petition to protect abortions

LANSING, Mich. | Catholic and pro-life leaders in Michigan expressed disappointment that a coalition of abortion rights supporters are planning a petition drive to protect abortion access in the state constitution. The coalition, which includes Reproductive Freedom for All, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan Voices, was set to file language with the Michigan Board of State Canvassers that would amend the Michigan Constitution to “explicitly affirm” abortion rights. The proposed amendment would override Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortion. Pro-life and pro-choice advocates have given more attention to the state’s law, which has its roots in an 1846 anti-abortion law, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last December in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Dobbs case concerns a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is seen by many as a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which allows states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of fetal viability, which is legally considered after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Pro-choice advocates said they were launching the petition drive in anticipation of an overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Pope offers condolences to NYC fire victims

WASHINGTON | Pope Francis issued condolences to families of those killed in an Jan. 9 apartment building blaze in the Bronx that killed 17 people, including eight children. Initially, city officials said the death toll was 19 people and nine children, but they revised this figure the afternoon of Jan. 10. In a Jan. 10 telegram to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the archdiocese where the apartment building is located, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the recent devastating fire in the Bronx in which a number of children lost their lives. In offering heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy, he entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strength in the Lord,” the telegram said. The five-alarm fire injured more than 60 others, with dozens going to hospitals in critical condition. More than 200 firefighters responded to the blaze in the 19-story building. Cardinal Dolan visited the site Jan. 10 and tweeted: “It doesn’t get worse than what we witnessed in New York yesterday at that tragic fire in the Bronx. I’m visiting the scene with the fire companies that responded so that I might see how the church can assist. Thank God for the @FDNY.”

Neighbors help each other after snowstorm

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. | Frank Crissey trudged through the snow around his elderly mother’s home in Dumfries the evening of Jan. 3, clearing fallen branches as he went. After making sure his mother had food and power, at 7:30 p.m. he headed home driving toward Interstate 95. Taking into account the weather, the Fredericksburg local thought at worst it would take two hours to reach his home 30 miles away. Little did he know, he would soon join thousands of other motorists spending the night in their cars. Some 21 hours and one bottle of water later, he finally exited his vehicle, happy to be home after living through what he described as “a nightmare. Sometimes it takes a challenge to change our perspective on life,” Crissey told the Arlington Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington. The challenge came in the form of a wintry mix of freezing rain followed by more than a foot of snow. The dangerous winter weather caused accidents that blocked both I-95 and Route 1, which runs parallel to the freeway, Jan. 3 and 4, the Virginia Department of Transportation said. Beyond motorists, service personnel, homeowners and homeless people were adversely affected.


Indian government reversal: Order can get foreign funds

NEW DELHI | The Indian government has restored the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act registration of the Missionaries of Charity, clearing the decks for the globally renowned charity to receive and utilize foreign funds, reported “I am delighted that the Indian government has restored our FCRA license,” said Sunita Kumar, spokeswoman for the order founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata. The change of decision comes less than a fortnight after the federal ministry for home affairs declined to renew the order’s FCRA registration, citing “adverse inputs.” “We never expected that our registration could be canceled, but it happened,” Kumar told Jan. 8, a day after the government restored the license of the charity organization. “We are happy that the restoration of our license happened without much delay.” The congregation was finding it difficult to carry forward its charitable works ever since news broke on Christmas Day that its application for renewal had been refused. The ministry issued a statement Dec. 27 saying the charity did not meet “eligibility conditions” under the FCRA and cited “adverse input” for its decision, without further details.

Pope appeals for peace, says prayer is not ‘magic’

VATICAN CITY | With dozens of people reported dead and thousands detained in Kazakhstan, Pope Francis prayed for the victims and for a return of peace in the former Soviet republic. “I have learned with sorrow that there have been victims during the protests that have broken out in recent days in Kazakhstan,” the pope said Jan. 9 after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square. “I pray for them and for their families, and I hope that social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice and the common good.” Bishop Adelio Dell’Oro of Karaganda told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, that because the government declared a state of emergency and banned all public gatherings until Jan. 19, public celebrations of the Mass are not allowed. But he, Auxiliary Bishop Yevgeniy Zinkovskiy and Sister Alma Dzamova, who works with them, had a special Mass Jan. 10 to pray for the victims of the unrest, which began with public protests Jan. 5 over rising fuel costs. In his main talk at the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about the baptism of Jesus, noting how the Gospel of Luke describes Jesus as praying and then the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and a voice comes from heaven, saying, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Prayer, the pope said, “is not an escape route; prayer is not a magic ritual or a repetition of memorized jingles.”

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