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Who flew migrants to California and dropped them off at Diocese of Sacramento offices?

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California. / Credit: Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jun 5, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

California’s governor and attorney general are accusing the state of Florida of “kidnapping” a group of 16 South American migrants in Texas, flying them to Sacramento, and dropping them off in front of the Diocese of Sacramento’s headquarters.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the migrants were brought by private plane and had “no prior arrangement in place.”

The news comes amid a heated national debate over border security and immigration as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, many of whom are unaccompanied children, have crossed America’s southern border in the past year alone.

It’s unclear if the migrants, who are reportedly from Colombia and Venezuela, are asylum seekers. CNA asked California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Monday but did not immediately receive a response.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office has not responded to CNA’s inquiry about the accusation.

Bonta said in a Saturday statement that the 16 migrants “were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the state of Florida.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the migrants’ documentation says that the Florida Division of Emergency Management arranged the flight, Bonta told the outlet. The documents also say that the flight was a part of a Florida program to relocate migrants in Texas to other states, Bonta added.

Catholics and organizations partnered with the Diocese of Sacramento to offer services and resources to the migrants, according to Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto.

“Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear his call to stand by them,” Soto said.

DeSantis made headlines last year for a similar political maneuver in which his state sent two planes carrying migrant asylum seekers in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in what a spokesperson for the governor told Fox News Digital was “part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state — a term typically referring to a local government’s refusal to work with federal immigration enforcement officials to deport illegal immigrants — but it does have several municipalities branding themselves as sanctuaries for migrants, although Martha’s Vineyard is not one of them, according to the Boston Herald.

The Florida governor, who is now running for president of the United States, received both heated criticism and support from public figures and legislators at the time.

An activist organization called Lawyers for Civil Rights is leading a lawsuit on behalf of the Venezuelan migrants against the Republican governor for the Martha’s Vineyard move.

DeSantis is being sued in Massachusetts federal court for allegedly violating the migrants’ Fourth Amendment rights, 14th Amendment rights, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to The Hill

A spokeswoman for DeSantis said at the time that the migrants were homeless and voluntarily accepted the flight to Martha’s Vineyard through a consent form, according to The Hill.

The case is still pending. 

Although Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state, California is. 

In a tweet on Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” adding “Kidnapping charges? Read the following.” Attached to the tweet is a photo of a California statute that includes a definition of kidnapping.

Newsom said in a statement on Saturday that he and Bonta met with the migrants in Sacramento and added that they were “transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning.”

The California governor said that he was working with local authorities to take care of the migrants and ensure that they “get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases.”

Newsom said that he and the state’s Department of Justice are investigating who orchestrated the trip and whether the organizers broke any laws, “including kidnapping.”

Bonta said in a statement of his own that “state-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting.”

Bishop Soto said that after the migrants were dropped off at the diocese, “The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill.”

“We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned,” he said.

Texas becomes 18th state to ban sex changes for kids

Gov. Abbott of Texas signed a law banning transgender procedures for children. / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2023 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Texas became the 18th state in the country to prohibit doctors from performing sex changes on children after Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation banning such procedures on Friday, June 2.

Under the new law, which will go into effect Sept. 1, neither physicians nor health care providers can perform surgeries on a minor’s genitals or breasts to facilitate a gender transition. The law also prohibits the prescription of puberty blockers, testosterone, or estrogen when used for the purpose of a gender transition.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other groups have vowed to fight the legislation in court. 

“Abbott can’t stop trans youth from thriving in Texas — and we’ll take him to court to make sure of it,” the ACLU of Texas said in a statement on Twitter. “We are doing everything in our power to preserve access to this life-saving, evidence-based health care.”

Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, the primary sponsor of the bill and a medical doctor, said the bill was written to withstand legal challenges.

“Children in Texas are officially protected from harmful, experimental medical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria,” Oliverson said on Twitter. “Thank you for signing SB14 [Gov. Greg Abbott]. We knew there would be court challenges. SB14 was written with that in mind and will prevail.”

The surgeries on minors prohibited under the new law include castration, vasectomies, the removal of the uterus, the removal of ovaries, the removal of the penis, or any other procedure that would sterilize the child. The new law will also prohibit the removal of healthy female breasts or any otherwise healthy and non-diseased body part or tissue. 

Per the legislation, doctors cannot prescribe puberty blockers or any drug that is intended to stop or delay the normal process of puberty. It also prohibits prescriptions of testosterone or estrogen at levels higher than what would normally be present in the child at his or her age.

The ban only applies when the surgery or the drugs are intended to facilitate a gender transition and includes exceptions for medically necessary procedures. The law also includes exceptions for children who are born with a genetic sex development disorder and children who do not have a normal sex chromosome structure for the male or female sex.

If a child is already receiving gender transition drugs, the doctor is not required to immediately halt the prescription if it could endanger the child’s health. Rather, the doctor will be allowed to wean the child off of the drugs in a safe and medically appropriate manner. 

Medical practitioners who violate the law will have their medical licenses revoked. The law also gives the attorney general’s office the authority to step in and prevent violations if they are occurring. 

The law further prohibits any public money from being used directly or indirectly to pay for these procedures or provide these drugs to minors. It also prohibits Medicaid reimbursements for such procedures and drugs for children.

Several states that have imposed similar restrictions have been taken to court over their rules, and some are still fighting lawsuits in court. 

At the same time, a handful of other states, including Minnesota, Maryland, and California, have passed bills to ensure a legal right for minors to access these medical procedures.

Hong Kong police arrest dozens at memorials for victims of Tiananmen Square massacre

People light candles at a Tiananmen vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2020. / Yan Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2023 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

Hong Kong police apprehended almost two dozen citizens for “seditious” activity on the 34th anniversary of the Chinese communist government’s massacre of citizens at Tiananmen Square, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

The Hong Kong Free Press reported that 11 men and 12 women, ages 20 to 74, were detained in an apparent crackdown on Tiananmen Square memorials over the weekend in Hong Kong.

According to a statement released Saturday by the Hong Kong Police Force, four individuals were arrested and four detained for “displaying protest items loaded with seditious wordings, chanting, and committing unlawful acts.”

The arrests were made near Hong Kong’s Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, where highly attended Tiananmen Square memorials have been held in years past.

The memorials recall how on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government quashed a weekslong protest of Chinese citizens by opening fire and sending tanks into Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China’s capital city. There is no official count, but death toll estimates of the massacre range from 200 to 10,000.

Tiananmen Square memorials have long been illegal in mainland China, but the crackdown in Hong Kong is a more recent development.

As a special administrative region of the Chinese government, Hong Kong formerly enjoyed relative autonomy until the Chinese Communist Party began ramping up its control of the region in recent years.

A 2019 Tiananmen Square candlelight memorial in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, drew more than 100,000 participants, according to the Guardian.

In 2020, Hong Kong passed a national security law that has been used to arrest hundreds of protestors and activists and to crack down on the press, according to the BBC.  

The following year a famous statue depicting the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre known as the “Pillar of Shame” was removed from the University of Hong Kong by officials.

This year, a section of the park where the memorial commemoration has been held was used as a festival ground while the rest of the park was closed off for “maintenance.” According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the festival is being organized by “pro-Beijing groups.”

Video footage taken Sunday shows an elderly woman holding up flowers and a man holding a copy of a play about the Tiananmen Square massacre being escorted away by police.

The woman has been identified by the Hong Kong Free Press as Alexandra Wong, 67, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist also known as “Grandmother Wong.”

Others detained include prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders Tsui Hong-kwong, Leo Tan, and Chan Po-ying.

Also among those apprehended was Lau Ka-yee, a Hong Kong citizen who formerly attended college and graduate school in Taiwan.

The National Taiwan University Graduate Students Association condemned Ka-yee’s detention, saying she had been “arbitrarily” denied her right to peacefully protest.

In response, the Hong Kong Security Bureau strongly denied the Taiwanese association’s claims, accusing it of “disregarding the facts,” “confusing right and wrong,” and “smearing the lawful actions of the police.”

In a June 5 statement, the bureau said it “strongly opposes the unfounded and false accusations made by the National Taiwan University Graduate Students Association against the police’s law enforcement actions on June 4.”

“Hong Kong residents enjoy the rights and freedoms under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, and other relevant laws,” the bureau added. “However, members of the public must abide by the law, not affect social order, and maintain national security when exercising these freedoms.”

The U.S. and European Union consulates in Hong Kong marked the anniversary by placing candles in their windows.

The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong issued a statement June 3, saying: “Tomorrow, we observe the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4, 1989, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to brutally repress peaceful Chinese pro-democracy protesters and bystanders alike.”

“The victims’ bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world,” the statement continued. “The United States will continue advocating for people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world.”

‘National Celebrate Life Day’ rally in Washington, DC, announced for anniversary of Roe reversal

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 5, 2023 / 13:20 pm (CNA).

Leading pro-life organizations will hold a “National Celebrate Life Day” rally and gala in Washington, D.C., on June 24, the first anniversary of the reversal of Roe v. Wade.  

Students for Life of America (SFLA) announced the event in an April press release.

The rally will be held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall from 10:30 a.m. to noon and will be co-hosted by SFLA, 40 Days for Life, Live Action, and Pro-Life Partners Foundation.

SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said in the release that the first anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision marks “both the celebration of a battle won and a moment to rally the troops for our new opportunities.” 

“We are no longer hampered by the 1973 Roe decision in light of the 2022 Dobbs ruling,” Hawkins said. “With Roe gone, we can reaffirm the obvious: Our nation was built on the hope of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, including those not yet born.” 

Tina Whittington, SFLA’s executive vice president, told CNA that the rally will be “laying out a vision of where to go next in the pro-life movement: achieving national protection for preborn Americans under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”

“We are fighting for protections for life in law at the state and federal level,” Whittington said, adding that “as long as Planned Parenthood is funded through our federal government and pro-abortionists fight for life-ending bills in Congress, there’s a fight to be had in Washington.” 

Whittington pointed out that although the 14th Amendment guarantees that no state can deprive any person of life, liberty, or equal protection under the law, abortion denies those rights to unborn children across America.

According to Whittington, thousands are planning to attend the event, which is expected to have a joyful, celebratory atmosphere marking the first full year since the decision that ended Roe v. Wade. 

“Our celebration is a reflection of a momentous day in history,” Whittington said. “We celebrate the fact that half of all states prevent abortions after 12 weeks one year after Roe’s reversal, but we’re just getting started and far more can be done at the federal level to protect innocent lives from the violence of abortion.”

Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA that because the 2022 Dobbs decision occurred on the feast of the Sacred Heart, the event will hold a special significance for Catholics.

“This event is the epitome of how Catholics in America can make history if we trust God, go to work at the grassroots, and unapologetically share the Church’s beautiful teachings on the dignity of the human person,” Carney said.

Carney added that many Catholics have been especially motivated “to charter buses to D.C. to celebrate this ruling in the midst of so much current bigotry toward Catholics we have seen from the media, corporations, and even our DOJ.”

According to Carney the rally “is not a reflection on the past” but rather “a future resolve to end abortion in our nation now that Roe has fallen.”

“Pro-life Americans don’t want to see this historic day pass without celebrating what many thought they would never live to see,” Carney said. “This event is a positive celebration of the Dobbs decision and a firm resolution to end abortion across America.” 

The rally will feature some of the country’s leading Catholic pro-life voices as speakers, including Live Action President Lila Rose, Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles, SFLA president Hawkins, and others. 

A ticketed National Celebrate Life Day gala will also be held in conjunction with the rally on the evening of June 24 at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. 

For more information on both the rally and gala, click here

Pope Francis to sign human fraternity document with Nobel laureates in St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. / Credit: Alexander_Peterson/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 5, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

Nobel laureates, Grammy-winner Andrea Bocelli, and several former heads of state will join Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday night for the World Meeting on Human Fraternity.

The June 10 event, called “#Not Alone,” will culminate with Pope Francis signing a document calling for a commitment to human fraternity drafted by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners together with representatives of former Nobel Prize-winning organizations.

Young people representing different countries will also form “a symbolic embrace” by joining hands in a ring around St. Peter’s Square, according to the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, the sponsor of the event.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, described the upcoming meeting as “a great day of celebration and unity inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, transcending a vision that restricts social friendship to ethnic or blood ties.”

Speaking at a Vatican press conference promoting the event, Jesuit Father Francesco Occhetta, the head of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, noted that participants in the event “will be given as a gift a piece of organic soil and seeds to plant and germinate as a symbol of the commitment to guard fraternity.”

Nobel laureates who have confirmed their participation in the World Meeting on Human Fraternity include Iraqi human rights advocate Nadia Murad, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, and Yemeni Arab Spring leader Tawakkol Karman.

The former presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Poland, and Democratic Republic of East Timor — all peace prize winners — will also participate, as well as representatives of several U.N. organizations that have been past recipients.

The World Meeting on Human Fraternity will begin with private meetings of five working groups representing Nobel laureates, the poor, environmentalists, students, and associations.

At 4 p.m. local time, Italian TV presenter Carlo Conti, the former host of Italy’s national Eurovision competition, will kick off an Italian television broadcast of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity event in St. Peter’s Square with performances by Bocelli and other Italian musical artists. 

Pope Francis will join the event two hours later to listen to what emerged in the working group discussions, sign the human fraternity document, and join the symbolic embrace. Later, circus performers and street artists will take to the stage in St. Peter’s Square to perform until 10 p.m.

Town squares in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jerusalem; Nagasaki, Japan; Brazzaville, Republic of Congo; and four other locations in the world will connect live to St. Peter’s Square for the event.

The following is a list of Nobel laureates and Nobel laureate representatives who will participate in the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, according to the Vatican:

Juan Manuel Santos, president of the Republic of Colombia from 2010 to 2018 (Colombia): Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his resolute commitment to ending the civil war that has affected his country for 50 years.

Oscar Arias Sánchez, president of the Republic of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010 (Costa Rica): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987 for his efforts in promoting peace and stability in Central America, in particular for his efforts to end conflicts in the region and promote dialogue and cooperation between countries.

Lech Wałęsa, president of the Republic of Poland from 1990 to 1995 (Poland): Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his nonviolent struggle for human rights and free trade unions in Poland. As leader of the Solidarność trade union, he played a key role in the rights of workers and in the promotion of democracy in his country.

José Ramos-Horta, president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (East Timor): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1996 for his work in favor of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor. 

Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and president of the Nobel Women’s Initiative (United States): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1997 for work on banning and clearing landmines.

Shirin Ebadi, president of the Defenders for Human Rights Centre (Iran): Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her commitment to the defense of democracy, human rights, and especially women and children in Iran.

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank (Bengals): Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in promoting economic and social development through the concept of microcredit. Through the Grameen Bank, he provided affordable finance to the poor and helped improve their living conditions.

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, president of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa (Liberia): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011. As a leader of the Liberian women’s movement, she played a vital role in ending the civil war and promoting reconciliation in her country.

Tawakkol Karman, leader of the Arab Spring (Yemen): Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. As a journalist and activist, he defended human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression in his country. 

Denis Mukwege, gynecologist (Democratic Republic of Congo): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for providing medical care and support to women victims of sexual violence in times of war and armed conflict.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, president and co-founder of Nadia’s Initiative (Iraq): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

Giorgio Parisi, vice president of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy): Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021 for the discovery of the interaction between disorder and fluctuations in physical systems, from the atomic to the planetary scale.

Maria Angelita Ressa, president of Rappler Inc. (Philippines): Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.

International Peace Bureau (IPB): Organization Nobel Peace Prize in 1910 for liaising between the peace societies of various countries and helping them organize world meetings of the international peace movement. Represented by Philip James Jennings, president.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC): Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1947 for its pioneering work in the international peace movement and compassionate effort to alleviate human suffering, thereby promoting brotherhood among nations. Represented by Hector Manuel Cortez, deputy secretary general.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the organization in 1954 and 1981 for its commitment to heal the wounds of war by providing aid and protection to refugees from all over the world and for the promotion of the fundamental rights of refugees. Represented by Filippo Grandi, high commissioner.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF): Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1965 for its commitment to strengthening solidarity between nations and narrowing the gap between rich and poor states. The organization is dedicated to promoting and advocating for the rights of children, working to improve their health, education, and well-being around the world. Represented by Bo Viktor Nylund, special representative.

International Labour Organization (ILO): Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 1969 for having created international legislation that ensures certain standards for working conditions in each country. Represented by Gianni Rosas, ILO office director for Italy and San Marino.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW): 1985 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization to disseminate authoritative information and create awareness of the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear war. Represented by Kati Riitta Maria Juva, co-president, and Onazi David, co-chair.

Peace Operations, United Nations Peacekeeping Forces: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 1988. Its mission is to prevent armed clashes and create the conditions for negotiations between countries in conflict. Represented by Aroldo Lazaro Saenz.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs: Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for its efforts to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in international politics and, in the long term, for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Represented by Paolo Cotta Ramusino, general secretary.

International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL): Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its work in banning and clearing landmines. Represented by Tun Channareth, ICBL world ambassador, and Denise Coghlan, RSM, member of the board of directors.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for its efforts to prevent the use of nuclear energy for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used as safely as possible. Represented by Jacek Andrzej Bylica, IAEA chief of staff.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to build and disseminate greater knowledge of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures necessary to counter them. Represented by Hoesung Lee, president.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2013 for efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. Represented by Odette Melon, vice general manager.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and its pioneering efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. Represented by Daniel Högsta, interim executive director.

Center for Civil Liberties: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 2022. It has been promoting the right of expression and fundamental rights of citizens for many years. It worked hard to document war crimes, violence, and abuses of power. With its work, it demonstrates the importance of civil society for peace and democracy. Represented by Oleksandra Matvijchuk.

United Nations: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 2001 for its work for a more inclusive and peaceful world. Represented by Miguel Angel Moratinos, undersecretary-general of the United Nations, who contributed to the creation and launch of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in 2005 and since 2019 has held the position of high representative of the UNAOC.

Oley Back Road, representing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011 for her nonviolent fight for women’s safety and their right to full participation in peacebuilding.

Cardinal Zuppi arrives in Ukraine to begin work as Vatican peace envoy

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Italy. / Francesco Pierantoni from Bologna, Italy - Premio Colombe d’oro per la pace via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 5, 2023 / 07:55 am (CNA).

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi arrived in Kyiv on Monday to carry out the peace mission entrusted to him by Pope Francis.

The Vatican announced June 5 that Zuppi will spend two days in the Ukraine capital “to listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities about possible ways to achieve a just peace and support humanitarian gestures that may help ease tensions.”

During the June 5–6 visit, Zuppi is expected to meet with Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kulebas, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and possibly President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, although the Vatican did not release any details about the cardinal’s schedule.

Pope Francis asked the Italian cardinal last month to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine.

Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, has strong ties to the influential peace-building community Sant’Egidio.

Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries, including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

The Vatican announced Zuppi’s role as papal peace envoy one week after Pope Francis met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has since clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal.

“Kyiv would not be prepared at present for mediation in the strict sense of the term,” Parolin told journalists. “However, this mission is not for the immediate purpose of mediation but rather to create this climate and help move toward a peaceful solution.”

‘A unifying moment’: Sister Wilhelmina’s nuns share their story in exclusive TV interview

Sister Scholastica Radel (left) and Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, discuss the recent exhumation of the order's foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, in an interview with EWTN News In Depth on May 30, 2023, at their abbey in Gower, Missouri. / EWTN News

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Her flashlight was dim, so when Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell first peered inside the cracked coffin lid and saw a human foot inside a black sock where one would expect to find only bone and dust, she didn’t say anything.

Instead, she took a step back, collected herself, and leaned in for another look, just to be sure. Then she screamed for joy.

“I will never forget that scream for as long as I live,” recalled Sister Scholastica Radel, the prioress, who was among the members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, who were present to exhume the remains of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster.

“It was a very different scream than any other scream,” the abbess agreed. “Nothing like seeing a mouse or something. It was just pure joy. ‘I see her foot!’”

What the sisters discovered that day would cause a worldwide sensation: Roughly four years after her burial in a simple wooden coffin, Sister Wilhelmina’s unembalmed body appeared very much intact.

In an exclusive TV interview with EWTN News In Depth, the two sisters shared details of their remarkable discovery — revealing, among other things, that Sister Wilhelmina’s body doesn’t exhibit the muscular stiffness of rigor mortis — and reflected on the deeper significance of the drama still unfolding at their Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in rural Gower, Missouri.

They also clarified that Sister Wilhelmina’s coffin was exhumed on April 28, nearly three weeks earlier than CNA had understood. The sisters explained that it took about two weeks to remove dirt, mold, and mildew before they moved her body to the church. You can hear excerpts from the interview and other commentaries in the video at the end of this story.

Pilgrims visit the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, the foundress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri. EWTN News
Pilgrims visit the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, the foundress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri. EWTN News

Of particular significance to the members of the contemplative order, known for their popular recordings of Gregorian chants and devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass, is that the traditional habit of their African American foundress also is surprisingly well-preserved.

“It’s in better condition than most of our habits,” Mother Cecilia told EWTN’s Catherine Hadro.

“This is not possible. Four years in a wet coffin, broken in with all the dirt, all the bacteria, all the mildew, all the mold — completely intact, every thread.”

For the sisters, the symbolism is profound. A St. Louis native, Sister Wilhelmina spent 50 years in another religious order but left after it dispensed with the requirement of wearing its conventional habit and altered other long-established practices. She founded the Benedictines of Mary in 1995 when she was 70 years old.

“It’s so appropriate, because that’s what Sister Wilhelmina fought for her whole religious life,” Mother Cecilia said of the habit.

“And now,” Sister Scholastica said, “that’s what’s standing out. That’s what she took on to show the world that she belonged to Christ, and that is what she still shows the world. Even in her state, even after death, four years after the death, she’s still showing the world that this is who she is. She’s a bride of Christ, and nothing else matters.”

‘I did a double take’

The Benedictine community exhumed Sister Wilhelmina after deciding to move her remains to a new St. Joseph’s Shrine inside the abbey’s church, a common custom to honor the founders of religious orders, the sisters said.

Members of the community did the digging themselves, “a little bit each day,” Mother Cecilia said. The process began on April 26 and culminated with a half-dozen or so sisters using straps to haul the coffin out of the ground on April 28.

The abbess revealed that there was a feeling of anticipation among the sisters to see what was inside the coffin.

“There was a sense that maybe God would do something special because she was so special and so pure of heart,” Mother Cecilia said.

It was the abbess who looked through the cracked lid first, shining her flashlight into the dark coffin.

“So I looked and I kind of did a double take and I kind of stepped back. ‘Did I just see what I think I saw? Because I think I just saw a completely full foot with a black sock still on it,’” she recalled saying to herself.

Members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, lead a procession with the body of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, at their abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, lead a procession with the body of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, at their abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Sister Wilhelmina’s features were clearly recognizable; even her eyebrows and eyelashes were still there, the sisters discovered. Not only that, but her Hanes-brand socks, her brown scapular, Miraculous Medal, rosary beads, profession candle, and the ribbon around the candle — none of it had deteriorated.

The crown of flowers placed on her head for her burial had survived, too, dried in place but still visible. Yet the coffin’s fabric lining, the sisters noted, had disintegrated. So had a strap of new linen the sisters said they used to keep Sister Wilhelmina’s mouth closed.

“So I think everything that was left to us was a sign of her life,” Sister Scholastica reflected, “whereas everything pertaining to her death was gone.”

Another revelation from the interview: Contrary to what one would expect in the case of a four-year-old corpse, Sister Wilhelmina’s body is “really flexible,” according to Sister Scholastica.

“I mean, you can take her leg and lift it,” Mother Cecilia observed.

EWTN News In Depth also spoke with Shannen Dee Williams, an author and scholar who is an expert on the history of Black Catholicism. Sister Wilhelmina’s story, she said, is an important reminder of “the great diversity and beauty of the Black Catholic experience across the spectrum.”

‘A unifying moment’

There has been no formal declaration by Church authorities that Sister Wilhelmina’s body is incorrupt, nor has an independent analysis been conducted of her remains, the condition of which has puzzled even some experienced morticians. Neither is there any official process yet underway to put the African American nun on a possible path to sainthood.

But that hasn’t stopped thousands of pilgrims from making the trek to northwest Missouri to see Sister Wilhelmina’s body, which was moved to a glass display case in the abbey church on May 29. And within the abbey’s walls, there is a pervasive sense of joy, gratitude, and wonder.

Pilgrims visit the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri. EWTN News
Pilgrims visit the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri. EWTN News

In the interview, Mother Cecilia called what’s happening at the abbey “a unifying moment for everybody” in a time of discord.

“There’s so much division, and it’s crazy,” she said. “We’re children of God the Father, every single one of us. And so you see, Sister Wilhelmina is bringing everyone together ... I mean, this is God’s love pouring forth through people of every race, color,” she said.

“They come and they’re blown away, and it makes them think,” the abbess said. “It makes them think about God, about, ‘OK, why are we here? Is there more than just my phone, and my job, and my next vacation?’”

As for what comes next, no one can say. “We love God so much, his sense of humor, the irony, this humble little black nun hidden away in a monastery is a catalyst for this. It’s like a spark to send fire to the world,” Mother Cecilia said.

“It’s just remarkable,” she said. “But this is the kind of thing that God does when we need a wake-up call.”

Pope Francis prays for victims of train crash in India that killed 275 people

Pope Francis prays at his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 12, 2023. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2023 / 06:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for the victims of a train crash in India that killed at least 275 people.

“I am close to the injured and their families. May our heavenly Father welcome the souls of the deceased into his kingdom,” he said in his Angelus address on June 4.

Hundreds of people were injured in the crash in the Balasore district of Odisha state, India’s worst rail crash in over two decades, according to Reuters.

The crash was caused by an error in a passenger train’s electronic signaling system, which led it to change tracks and hit another train, which derailed. The two trains were carrying 2,296 people in total when they collided.

The pope also sent a condolence telegram to India’s apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli the day after the accident.

The telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the immense loss of life caused by the train crash in Odisha State, and he assures all affected by this tragedy of his spiritual closeness.”

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the loving mercy of the Almighty, he sends heartfelt condolences to those who mourn their loss. His Holiness likewise offers prayers for the many injured and for the efforts of the emergency service personnel, and he invokes upon them the divine gifts of courage and consolation.”

Pope Francis explains why Catholics make the sign of the cross

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address on June 4, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2023 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Each time that a Catholic makes the sign of the cross, it is a reminder that God is a communion of love, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Speaking on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the pope highlighted how the simple gesture that Catholics are taught as children is a sign of the central mystery of Christian faith.

“By tracing the cross on our body, we remind ourselves how much God loved us, to the point of giving his life for us; and we repeat to ourselves that his love envelops us completely, from top to bottom, from left to right, like an embrace that never abandons us,” Pope Francis said June 4.

“Yes, brothers and sisters, our God is a communion of love: This is how Jesus revealed him to us,” he added.

Pope Francis invited the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to make the sign of the cross together.

“God is love. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he gave his life for us, so we make the sign of the cross,” he said.

The pope spoke on Trinity Sunday, a solemnity celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost that dates to before the 10th century.

The tradition of making the sign of the cross dates back much further. St. Basil (329–379) wrote that the Apostles “taught us to mark with the sign of the cross those who put their hope in the Lord.”

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus recorded in the Gospel of John 3:16–18. Pope Francis noted how Jesus “revealed the heart of the mystery to him, saying that God loved humanity so much that he sent his Son into the world.”

Pope Francis pointed out that one way to picture the Holy Trinity is to think of “the image of a family gathered around the table, where life is shared.”

“But it is not only an image; it is reality,” he said. “It is reality because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that the Father poured into our hearts through Jesus (cf. Gal 4:6), makes us savor God’s presence: a presence that is close, compassionate, and tender. The Holy Spirit does with us what Jesus does with Nicodemus: He introduces us to the mystery of new birth — the birth of faith, of the Christian life — he reveals the heart of the Father to us, and he makes us sharers in the very life of God.”

“The invitation he extends to us, we might say, is to sit at the table with God to share in his love. This is what happens at every Mass, at the altar of the eucharistic table, where Jesus offers himself to the Father and offers himself for us.”

At the end of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a train crash in India that killed more than 280 people.

“I am close to the wounded and their families. May our heavenly Father welcome the souls of the deceased into his kingdom,” he said.

Trinity Sunday 2023: 10 illuminating quotes from the saints about the Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity, detail of Iconostasis in Greek Catholic Co-cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Zagreb, Croatia. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2023 / 02:00 am (CNA).

The solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, also known as Trinity Sunday, is observed on the Sunday following Pentecost. This year’s feast falls on June 4 and draws our attention to the mystery of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Saints over time have commented on the importance of the Holy Trinity, speaking on its greatness, simplicity, and power to transform the souls of believers.

To pay tribute to the Holy Trinity, here are 10 illuminating quotes from the mouths, minds, and hearts of 10 different saints:

  1. St. Augustine: “For to have the fruition of God the Trinity, after whose image we are made, is indeed the fullness of our joy, than which there is no greater.”

  2. St. Teresa of Ávila: “The three Persons are distinct from one another; a sublime knowledge is infused into the soul, imbuing it with a certainty of the truth that the Three are of one substance, power, and knowledge and are one God.”

  3. St. Seraphim of Sarov: “In spite of our sinfulness, in spite of the darkness surrounding our souls, the grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred by baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, still shines in our hearts with the inextinguishable light of Christ ... and when the sinner turns to the way of repentance the light smooths away every trace of the sins committed, clothing the former sinner in the garments of incorruption, spun of the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is this acquisition of the Holy Spirit about which I have been speaking.”

  4. St. Patrick (from “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” prayer): “Today I put on a terrible strength invoking the Trinity, confessing the Three with faith in the One as I face my Maker.”

  5. St. Catherine of Siena: “O Trinity, eternal Trinity! Fire, abyss of love ... Was it necessary that you should give even the Holy Trinity as food for souls? You gave us not only your Word through the Redemption and in the Eucharist, but you also gave yourself in the fullness of love for your creature.

A statue of the Holy Trinity in Budapest, Hungary. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
A statue of the Holy Trinity in Budapest, Hungary. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
  1. St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Father loves not only the Son but also himself and us, by the Holy Ghost.”

  2. St. Ambrose: “Rise, you who were lying fast asleep … Rise and hurry to the Church: Here is the Father, here is the Son, here is the Holy Spirit.”

  3. St. John Paul II: “A great mystery, a mystery of love, an ineffable mystery, before which words must give way to the silence of wonder and worship. A divine mystery that challenges and involves us, because a share in the Trinitarian life was given to us through grace, through the redemptive Incarnation of the Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

  4. St. Faustina: “When One of the Three Persons communicates with a soul, by the power of that one will, it finds itself united with the Three Persons and is inundated in the happiness flowing from the Most Holy Trinity, the same happiness that nourishes the saints. This same happiness that streams from the Most Holy Trinity makes all creation happy; from it springs that life which vivifies and bestows all life which takes its beginning from him.”

  5. St. Francis de Sales (from a consecration prayer to the Trinity): “I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: My memory and my actions to God the Father; My understanding and my words to God the Son; My will and my thoughts to God the Holy Spirit.”

This article was originally published June 11, 2022, and was updated June 2, 2023.