Supreme Court lifts ban on indoor worship in California county

WASHINGTON | A Supreme Court decision allowing indoor worship services in Santa Clara county, California, was praised by Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose, located in the county where the ban had been in effect. “I join all Catholics and people of faith in Santa Clara County in expressing our satisfaction in tonight’s U.S. Supreme Court decision,” the bishop said in a Feb. 26 statement just after the court issued its brief order allowing the pandemic-related worship restrictions to be lifted while these limits are challenged in federal court. The bishop’s statement pointed out that Santa Clara was the only county in the country with a ban on indoor worship. “Banning indoor worship and yet allowing people to gather at airports, personal services establishments and retail shopping is unconstitutional -- and the Supreme Court has said so several times,” he added. The court’s 6-3 vote was in response to a lawsuit brought against Gov. Gavin Newsom, Santa Clara County and County Health Officer Sara Cody by a group of five county churches.

Gomez: U.S. bishops’ working group set up last November completes work

WASHINGTON | A special working group of the U.S. bishops formed last November to deal with conflicts that could arise between the policies of President Joe Biden, a Catholic, and church teaching has completed its work, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a March 1 memo to all the U.S. bishops. Catholic News Service obtained a copy of the memo from Archbishop Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a follow-up to a February memo he sent to the bishops explaining the working group’s two recommendations given to him in its final report. The March 1 memo confirms the actions taken on them. The first recommendation made by the working group, he said, was to write a letter to Biden “conveying the USCCB’s eagerness to work with him on issues where we will undoubtedly express strong support, while acknowledging a lack of support on other issues where we cannot agree with anticipated policies.” Archbishop Gomez sent the letter Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. The second recommendation to develop “a document addressed to all of the Catholic faithful on eucharistic coherence” has been “forwarded to the Committee on Doctrine,” the archbishop said.

Biden begins talks with Mexico on immigration, Guadalupe

CHALATENANGO, El Salvador | U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador began bilateral cooperation talks March 1 with humor, a focus on limiting immigration to the U.S. and talk about Our Lady of Guadalupe. “In Mexico we had a president who dominated the country for 34 years, his name was Porfirio Díaz, who said ‘poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States,’” López Obrador told Biden during the meeting conducted by videoconference. “Now I can say that it is wonderful for Mexico to be close to God and not so far from the United States.” Smiling at the comment and setting a neighborly tone, Biden reportedly told López Obrador that while the two nations have not always been the best of friends, under his administration the U.S. would treat Mexico as its equal. Mexico is an important player in the administration’s plan for Latin America, which seeks to deal with limiting the flow of migrants from Mexico and neighboring countries to the south by promoting a better way of life in the region. In an earlier readout of a January call between the two leaders, the White House said Biden and López Obrador had “agreed to work closely to stem the flow of irregular migration to Mexico and the United States, as well as to promote development in the Northern Triangle of Central America.”

Bill OK’d without Hyde language to prevent funding of abortion

WASHINGTON | Over a dozen nonprofit organizations, including Catholic Charities USA, praised the American Rescue Plan passed by the U.S. House early Feb. 27 for including “several provisions of importance to the charitable nonprofit sector.” The $1.9 trillion relief package, which now goes to the Senate for a vote, “would provide much-needed relief to many nonprofits on the front lines of helping people in communities across this country as we continue to deal with the challenges created by the pandemic and economic downturn,” said a joint statement from the National Council of Nonprofits. After the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the measure would be “transformative” in mitigating poverty amid the pandemic. “We are putting money in workers’ pockets,” she said in a statement. “As President (Joe) Biden has said, help is on the way.” However, on the House floor ahead of the vote -- which came at 2 in the morning (EST) -- Rep. Chris Smith, N.J., criticized Pelosi and the House Rules Committee for refusing to allow a vote on an amendment to add language to the bill “to ensure that taxpayers aren’t forced to subsidize abortion,” as provided by the long-standing Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment, reenacted every year for 45 years, outlaws federal tax dollars from directly funding abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. The McMorris Rodgers-Foxx-Walorski Amendment -- co-sponsored by 206 members -- would have added Hyde language to the American Rescue Plan.


Vatican announces theme for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

VATICAN CITY | For the next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis wants Catholics to focus on greater communion and unity among all people. The Vatican celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021 will be Sept. 26 and the pope’s choice for a theme is: “Toward an ever wider ‘we,’” said a Feb. 27 statement from the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The dicastery said the theme will be divided into six sub-themes and emphasizes “the importance of being attentive to the entire human family through an inclusive church that reaches out and is capable of creating communion in diversity.” The world day will also focus on the “care of our common home, which translates into care of our common family” and becoming more open and welcoming to others, the Vatican said.

In interview, pope says he will remain in Rome until death

VATICAN CITY | Pope Francis said he believes he will die in Rome, either in office or retired, and will not be buried in his native Argentina. In an interview published in the Argentine newspaper La Nación Feb. 27, the pope said that while he thinks about death, he is not afraid of it. “How do you imagine your death?” the pope was asked by Argentine journalist and doctor Nelson Castro. “As pope, either in office or emeritus. And in Rome. I will not return to Argentina,” he replied. The interview was an excerpt from Castro’s new book, titled “La Salud de Los Papas” (“The Health of the Popes”), which details the health of the pontiffs from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis. According to Castro, Pope Francis encouraged him to write the book and agreed to be interviewed. The conversation took place in February 2019.

With Lebanon on verge of collapse, thousands rally to support cardinal

BEIRUT | Thousands of Lebanese rallied Feb. 27 to show their support for the positions of Cardinal Bechara Rai as the country teeters on the verge of collapse from multiple crises. The rally was at Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Catholic Church, north of Beirut. Speaking from a window of the patriarchate, Cardinal Rai, Maronite patriarch, told the crowd: “You have come from all over Lebanon, of all ages, despite the dangers of the coronavirus, to support two proposals, that of neutrality and that of an international conference for Lebanon under the auspices of the U.N. You have come to ask for the salvation of Lebanon. “Long live Lebanon, united and unified, actively and positively neutral, sovereign and independent, free and strong, advocating coexistence and tolerance,” Cardinal Rai said. Muslims and Druze were among those who attended, including Sunni, Shiite and Druze sheikhs. “Failure to respect neutrality is the sole cause of all the crises and wars that the country has gone through,” Cardinal Rai stressed.