Kelly to succeed Anderson as Knights CEO

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | Patrick Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is the new leader of the Knights of Columbus, succeeding Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who has headed the international fraternal organization as its CEO for more than two decades. Elected deputy Supreme Knight in 2017, Kelly was elected to the top post by the Knights’ board of directors Feb. 5. He begins his term as the organization’s 14th Supreme Knight March 1. Anderson will retire Feb. 28 upon reaching the organization’s mandatory retirement age of 70. “I am honored, thankful and blessed. I am honored to be called to serve as Supreme Knight,” Kelly said in a Feb. 5 news release. He credited Anderson for his guidance over the last four years. “Carl has long been a friend to me, and while I count myself among our many colleagues who will miss his daily contribution, I know that he will continue to contribute much to the good of the (fraternal) order as past Supreme Knight and a member of the board of directors.” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, supreme chaplain to the Knights, described Kelly as a “brilliant new Supreme Knight.”

Senate again fails to pass Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

WASHINGTON | Failure to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act “shows just how extreme the majority of Senate Democrats are,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. The measure was proposed as an amendment to the 2021 Budget Resolution in the Senate. In a roll call vote Feb. 4 all Senate Republicans, along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Bob Casey Jr., D-Pennsylvania, voted in favor of the amendment. Forty-eight Senate Democrats blocked the amendment, which required 60 votes to pass. The measure requires that, when a baby is born alive following an abortion, health care practitioners must exercise the same degree of professional skill and care that would be offered to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. It also requires that, following appropriate care, health care workers must transport the child immediately to a hospital. Tobias and other supporters of the measure say current federal law does not sufficiently protect a child born following an abortion.

Bishops welcome court’s ruling easing worship restrictions

WASHINGTON | Two California Catholic bishops applauded the Supreme Court’s Feb. 5 ruling easing the state’s restrictions on indoor worship put in place with the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a very significant step forward for basic rights. This decision makes clear we can now return to worshipping safely indoors without risk of harassment from government officials,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone in a Feb. 6 statement. Similarly, Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, called the decision “a victory for religious liberty rights for all Americans.” The high court’s Feb. 5 decision gave California churches the right to resume indoor worship services while still allowing the state to keep its ban on singing and chanting and limiting attendance at 25% of capacity until their appeals against these restrictions are resolved by lower courts. The decision, issued just before 11 p.m., was in response to challenges from South Bay United Pentecostal Church, near San Diego, and Harvest Rock Church, with campuses in different parts of Southern California. The churches argued that the state’s restrictions on indoor worship services violated the Constitution since some businesses are allowed to remain open.

Virginia votes to ban death penalty

ARLINGTON, Va. | Both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate have now passed bills that would abolish the death penalty in the state. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has stated his support, making it highly likely that Virginia will become the first Southern state to outlaw capital punishment. According to Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the commonwealth has executed 1,390 men and women since 1608, more than any other state. A few more things must happen before capital punishment is banned. “The final step will be reconciling any differences between the House and Senate bills and sending a final version for Governor Ralph Northam to sign into law later in the spring,” the group said a news release. In a Feb. 5 statement, Virginia Bishops Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond welcomed the House of Delegates’ 57-41 vote, which followed by two days the Virginia Senate’s 21-17 vote to end the death penalty. “We offer -- and affirm the utmost need for -- prayerful support for the families of victims of horrific crimes,” they said. “We also affirm, with clarity and conviction, the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” which says the “death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”


In Iraq, pope hopes to encourage Christians, build bridges to Muslims

AMMAN, Jordan | On his historic visit to Iraq in March, Pope Francis hopes to encourage his Christian flock, badly bruised by sectarian conflict and brutal Islamic State attacks, while building further bridges to Muslims by extending fraternal peace. The trip’s papal logo reflects this, depicting Pope Francis with Iraq’s notable Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a palm tree and a dove carrying an olive branch over the Vatican and Iraqi flags. The motto: “You are all brothers,” is written in Arabic, Chaldean and Kurdish languages. The first-ever papal visit to the biblical land of Iraq March 5-8 is significant. For years, the pope has expressed his concerns publicly for the plight and persecution of Iraq’s Christians and its mosaic of many religious minorities, including the Yazidis, who have suffered at the hands of Islamic State militants and have been caught in the crosshairs of Sunni and Shiite Muslim violence. Tensions persist between Iraq’s majority Shiite and minority Sunni Muslim communities, with the latter now feeling disenfranchised following the 2003 downfall of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim who marginalized Shiites for 24 years under his minority rule. “I am the pastor of people who are suffering,” Pope Francis told Catholic News Service at the Vatican ahead of his visit.

Pope to celebrate Ash Wednesday at Vatican, skipping ‘station churches’

VATICAN CITY | Pope Francis will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 17 in St. Peter’s Basilica rather than making the traditional walk from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill, the Vatican said. Because of ongoing concerns about drawing a crowd and the potential that could have for spreading the coronavirus, the Mass and distribution of ashes will take place with a congregation of about 100 people at the Altar of the Chair in the basilica as has been the practice for the past several months, the Vatican press office said Feb. 5. Pope Francis will not hold his weekly general audience that day. The “pilgrimage” from the “station church” of St. Anselm to the “station church” Santa Sabina is an ancient Rome tradition revived in the early 1960s by St. John XXIII. A church was designated as a “station church” because of its prominence in early Christianity or because it was constructed on the burial site of a saint or martyr of the early church. In long-ago Lents, popes would gather with the faithful of Rome at a different church each day and then walk together to another church for Mass, making a pilgrimage from one stop or station to another until Easter.

Naming undersecretaries for synod, pope gives a woman a vote

VATICAN CITY | Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart will not be the first woman undersecretary of a major Vatican office, but she will be the first woman with a right to vote at a meeting of the Synod of Bishops. Pope Francis named the French sister one of two undersecretaries of the Synod of Bishops Feb. 6. The other undersecretary is Augustinian Father Luis Marin de San Martin, whom Pope Francis also named a bishop Feb. 6. Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, was asked by Vatican News if Sister Becquart having the right to vote at the synod would open the possibility to other women as well. Although the issue has been raised increasingly in the synod hall, until now only bishops and a few priests and brothers belonging to religious orders have had a vote. Pope Francis, Cardinal Grech responded, has “highlighted several times the importance that women be more involved in the processes of discernment and decision-making in the church,” and in recent synods, the number of women participating as nonvoting experts or and observers has increased. “With the appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart and the opportunity that she will participate with the right to vote, a door has been opened,” Cardinal Grech said. “We will then see what other steps could be taken in the future.”