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Knights of Columbus highlight charitable work, faith formation at annual meeting

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, delivers his first Supreme Knight's Report during the organization's 139th Annual Convention, Aug. 3, 2021. Credit: Knights of Columbus/screenshot.

Hartford, Conn., Aug 3, 2021 / 19:55 pm (CNA).

Patrick Kelly, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, highlighted the group’s charitable work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, announced plans to support faith formation initiatives, and lauded the group’s newly-beatified founder in a speech Tuesday. 

“Make no mistake: Now is a time for Knights. The past 18 months have amplified old challenges and given rise to new ones. They face our families, our faith, and our culture as a whole,” Kelly said during the Aug. 3 virtual address. 

Being a Knight means “a life of faith in action, a life of boldness in brotherhood, a life worth living. Catholic men are looking for nothing less. In the Knights of Columbus, they will find it,” Kelly said. 

The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, has over 2 million members in 16,000 councils worldwide. The order was founded in 1882 by a Connecticut parish priest, Blessed Michael McGivney. Initially, the organization was intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. 

Fr. McGivney was beatified Oct. 31, with Pope Francis praising his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel” which “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.” 

“These words are a powerful validation of our Founder’s vision and of our own work. They remind us that Father McGivney’s life is an inspiration to the Church and to the world,” Kelly commented. 

Kelly’s speech follows the opening Mass of the Knights’ 139th annual convention, held at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Blessed McGivney is buried. The Knights normally convene in-person each year, but 2021 marks the second year in a row that the meeting has been held virtually.

Kelly succeeded Carl Anderson as Supreme Knight in March. The new Supreme Knight praised his predecessor’s leadership, noting that in Anderson’s 20 years of leadership, the group gained more than 400,000 members, charitable donations rose by more than 60%, and the order expanded to Europe and mainland Asia.

Kelly pointed to Pope Francis’ declaration of a Year of St. Joseph, and highlighted the pope’s call to imitate the “creative courage” of Christ’s foster father. 

“In St. Joseph, we see our mission and mandate. Guard the family. Guard the truth. He led through service and creative courage. So must we. It is the only way to overcome the hurdles facing our families, the Church and our culture,” he said. 

Kelly announced that the Knights will, this fall, debut on network TV a documentary on St. Joseph, which he said will explore why St. Joseph is the ideal model for Catholic men. 

In particular, Kelly lauded St. Joseph in his role as “Guardian of the Truth”— in his case, guardian of The Truth Himself, Jesus Christ. 

“We, too, must defend this truth,” Kelly said.  

“We live in a time of bigotry and intolerance. Key truths — about life, marriage, the nature of the family, and the meaning of freedom — are increasingly denied and even vilified. Yet, this makes our commitment to truth all the more important. Now is the time to inspire our fellow Catholics to stand for what’s right. St. Joseph is our guide. Let us pray for his intercession. And let us make his creative courage our own, for the sake of the family, and the truth.”

Kelly said the Knights will continue to be a sign of unity by standing for the truth. 

“I have long admired the Order’s impact on men. As a Navy JAG officer for many years, I saw young men who had the courage to serve their country, but who nonetheless made poor decisions and got into trouble. My job was to represent them at courts-martial. Many lacked strong families or strong father figures. And too few had a living and real faith. This made a lasting impression on me and I came to appreciate that one of the best things about the Knights is that we can help fill this void.”

Kelly said that the truth is grounded in the Eucharist, and said the Knights are called to have a special reverence for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Kelly announced that the Knights are and will continue to be major sponsors of the US bishops’ planned Eucharistic revival, set to take place over the next few years. 

“As supreme knight, I will prioritize new initiatives to strengthen the faith of men, and the faith of our families. I firmly believe that, more and more, our success as an Order will be judged by this standard,” he said. 

“Our growth depends on empowering men to be the husbands and fathers that God wants us to be. It is harder than ever, and for that reason, we must push forward as never before. It will require creative courage.”

In the past year, the Knights have provided more than $150 million in donations and more than 47 million hours of hands-on volunteer service, he said. 

Some notable charitable projects include support for Special Olympics, scholarships for seminarians, and funds to rebuild churches in the Middle East and other aid for persecuted Christians both there and in countries like Nigeria. 

In addition to financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have in the past advocated for persecuted Christians before the U.S. government, sending researchers to Iraq in 2016 to compile a 300-page report on the crimes of the Islamic State against Christians in the country.

The Knights announced a new initiative in mid-2020 to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria, where at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the demographics overall are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

The Knights are also working on a shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Gallup, New Mexico, and in July, Knights in South Dakota led a pilgrimage to the burial site of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, a revered Lakota medicine man and Catholic. 

In discussing the Knights’ charitable work, Kelly focused strongly on the Knights’ response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This was not our first pandemic. Father McGivney died during a pandemic less than a decade after our founding. A century ago, the Knights of Columbus confronted the Spanish Flu and emerged even stronger,” Kelly noted.

“This pandemic will be no different. Our duty was clear from the start. When loss and suffering struck our parishes and communities, the Knights responded, with service and sacrifice.”

In sum, Knights donated nearly $7.7 million to community and parish projects, Kelly said, as well as 1.2 million pounds of food, and almost a quarter million pints of blood. Through the Knights’ life insurance programs, the organization paid more than $524 million in death benefits, of which approximately $35 million was related to COVID. 

Kelly highlighted several projects undertaken by local chapters during the pandemic, including donations to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and donations of truckloads of food worth more than $335,000 to the Acoma, Navajo, and Zuni nations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

He also highlighted the Knights’ pro-life activities, including sponsoring numerous Marches for Life across North America. Kelly also highlighted the Knights’ Ultrasound Initiative, which since 2009 has placed more than 1,400 ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers. 

In terms of policy goals, Kelly reiterated the Knights’ strong support for the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 that prohibits funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid. This summer, the appropriations committee of the US House of Representatives advanced a funding bill without including the usual prohibitions on abortion funding.

At the time, Kelly called the elimination of Hyde “an extreme measure” that “is not what most Americans want and is out of step with our democracy. We urge Congress to preserve provisions like the bipartisan Hyde Amendment that ban the use of taxpayer funding for abortions and affirm the desire of the American public.”

Kelly also urged prayers for a favorable decision in an upcoming Supreme Court case over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which if allowed to come into force could open the door for states to ban abortion before the age of viability.

The Knights’ life insurance program has $116 billion in life insurance in force. Its asset advisors program provides Catholic social teaching-compliant investment services to individuals and institutions and manages over $26 billion in assets.

In 2019, the organization launched the Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund, whereby donors can set aside money to benefit charities aligned with Catholic teaching. Last year, the Charitable Fund enabled donors to grant more than $1.9 million to charities around the world.

Kelly urged all Knights to pray for Blessed McGivney’s intercession. He also urged prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and of the Knights. 

The Knights’ virtual convention continues Wednesday, beginning with an awards session and culminating with a memorial Mass. 

A message from Pope Francis, read during the opening Mass, included the pope’s gratitude for the Knights’ “unfailing support of our Christian brothers and sisters experiencing persecution for the sake of the Gospel,” as well as their “manifold charitable activities” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: Living life as an 'explosion of joy'

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. / Faith on Tap Brisbane (CC BY NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Aug 3, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Few young Catholic Blessed are more popular in the United States than Pier Girogo Frassati. 

Numerous ministries, schools, youth camps and awards bear the name of the handsome and wealthy Italian Catholic activist who was equally known for his social justice concerns, his amiable character, his boisterous laughter and his accomplishments as an avid mountaineer.

Author Christine M. Wohar’s "Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness" is meant to bring all the accomplishments of Frassati's short life into a practical set of principles that can guide anyone, especially younger and restless souls, into reconciling the true joy of life with the straight and narrow way to Heaven.

The book cover of "Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness," by Christine M. Wohar / EWTN Publishing
The book cover of "Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness," by Christine M. Wohar / EWTN Publishing

Wohar is the founder of FrassatiUSA, a Nashville-based organization that works to promote the spirituality of Blessed Frassati and to further his cause for canonization, and she clearly knows her subject intimately, having spent extended periods of time in Pollone with members of the Frassati family, including Pier Giorgio's younger sister and biographer Luciana.  

"His friends called him an explosion of joy. Mountain climbing, music, practical jokes, and political debates were among his many passions,” the book’s editors write. “With film-star looks, commonsense intelligence, and amazing athleticism, Pier Giorgio Frassati had every reason to pursue worldly success. He chose to focus on higher goals instead.”

Identified as “the man of the eight beatitudes” and recognized as one of the most fascinating and relatable saintly examples of the 20th century, he was devoted to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother and led a mostly hidden life of charity that ultimately cost him his life at the age of 24.

When his body was exhumed in 1981, it was found to be perfectly incorrupt. He was beatified in 1990. All three popes since then have commended this dynamic young Italian’s life to the Church - and especially to younger Catholics.

In the words of St. John Paul II: “I, too, in my youth, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his Christian testimony.” 

In short, this is a book every parent should consider as the perfect present for teenage and young Catholic adults.

"Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness"  - EWTN Publishing

Catholic gymnast Simone Biles makes triumphant return to Olympics

Simone Biles at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games / Salty View/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Although the Tokyo Olympics did not go as planned for Simone Biles, the Catholic 24-year-old gymnast made a triumphant return to competition on Tuesday and will leave Japan with two medals.

Biles had been favored to win as many as five gold medals in Tokyo, but withdrew from four events after revealing that she was suffering from “the twisties.” The twisties refers to a disconnect between a gymnast’s brain and body, and essentially amounts to a random loss of muscle memory. 

It was also reported on Tuesday that Biles was dealing with the death of her aunt while in Tokyo.

After returning to competition, Biles won a silver medal in the team competition and a bronze on the balance beam. She is now tied with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals ever by an American gymnast. 

Biles has spoken about her Catholic faith in the past, and she keeps a rosary in her gymnastics bag and prays prior to competitions. She says she lights a candle to St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, prior to competition.

Her mother, Nellie Biles, was unable to join her in Tokyo this year due to the coronavirus protocols. Nellie kept a supportive presence for her daughter on Twitter, telling her to “be the best Simone.” 

On the day of the team final in Rio, Nellie tweeted that she was “wearing out (her) rosary beads.” The day of the vault final, she tweeted that her daughter was “Flying high, even Saint Sebastian is smiling.” 

Biles had told her followers on Instagram that the twisties appeared “randomly” the day after the Olympic qualifying round, and that she “literally can not tell up from down” when twisting in the air. She also shared videos of herself falling on her back while attempting routine uneven bars dismounts. 

While Biles had previously experienced the twisties on the floor and vault, in Tokyo she felt them during all four events. She began training privately in a gym in Tokyo in an attempt to get some of her skills back.

In the qualifying round of the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics competition, Biles performed as expected, qualifying for the event finals for each apparatus and winning first place for the all-around final. 

Then on the day of the team final on July 27, Biles - a gold medalist and two-time world champion on vault - faltered on her signature apparatus. She performed only one-and-a-half twists instead of the expected two-and-a-half, and nearly crashed into the mat on her landing. She left the arena and returned with the shocking announcement that she would withdraw from the remaining three rounds of the team final. 

Biles told reporters that she was not injured, but instead was going to focus on her mental health and would make decisions on the competition day-by-day. This announcement sparked controversy and outcry over her decision to “quit,” but those in the gymnastics community largely rallied behind her. 

Biles explained that after her uncharacteristically poor showing on vault, she withdrew from the competition to preserve the team’s chance at a medal of any color. 

The United States won a silver medal in the team final. Biles withdrew from the individual all-around, vault, uneven bars, and floor finals, but announced on August 2 that she would be competing in the following day’s balance beam final. 

Unlike her other routines, which featured anywhere from two to seven aerial twists, Biles’ balance beam routine did not contain twists aside from the dismount. Instead of competing her usual dismount - either a full-twisting double backward somersault, or a double-twisting double backward somersault, which is known as “The Biles” - she opted for a double backward piked somersault with no twists. 

She stuck the landing, and it was good enough for the bronze medal behind favorites Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing of China. Guan and Tang had qualified for the final in first and second place, respectively, and held those positions. 

This article was updated on August 3 with more information.

Catholic universities in Argentina call on courts to defend the unborn from abortion law 

Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 3, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

An organization of Catholic universities in Argentina has issued a declaration demanding that the legal system protect the unborn from the nation’s abortion law, enacted less than a year ago.

The Argentine Network of Catholic and Catholic Oriented Universities reaffirmed their identity "with the culture of life" and demanded that "the legal order protect human beings from conception to natural death."

The network stressed its “commitment to the exercise of fundamental freedoms, working tirelessly with fidelity and trust for the sacred right to life of all human life.”

In their statement, the universities pointed out that the abortion law passed by the National Congress Dec. 30, 2020 is an "offense to the constitutional legal order" and to the "scientific foundations" of the humanity of the unborn child that were refuted during the legislative debate "with only ideological arguments.”

Argentina’s abortion law regulated the “supposed 'right to abortion'” and was imposed as part of “the public order” throughout the country “not only against the right to life of the unborn child,” but also  contrary to “the constitutional provisions”  that make health and education laws the domain of the provinces, not the national state.

"From the outset, this extremely unjust law has been the subject of numerous legal claims that are being processed in the courts in different provinces, as well as strong calls for immediate repeal," the universities stated in reference to legal challenges to the constitutionality of the law filed in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, and other provinces.

"This law does not pass the necessary tests of constitutionality, conformity to international conventions (signed by Argentina) and legislative consistency within common law," they stressed.

The organization said that pro-life advocates “must be very courageous and trust” that the courts will decide that this “grave and manifest incompatibility with our constitutional order makes this law unfeasible.“

Instead what should prevail is “the objective recognition of the protection of the life of the human being from the conception, the protection of freedom of conscience, respect for the rights of the provinces in matters of health and education and the infeasibility of trying to impose laws like this one with as part of the 'public order.'" 

The universities also criticized that along with the legalization of abortion, the so-called “thousand-day law” was passed, a program to provide support to pregnant women and their children up to three years of age, which experts considered a deceptive strategy.

“That law doesn’t offset," the abortion law because "legalizing abortion also implies recognizing the failure to protect maternity," the Catholic universities pointed out.

Instead of this unjust abortion law, what Argentine society needs is to agree to “formulate proposals that would protect pregnant women in vulnerable situations and the unborn child, before and after birth, without discrimination or valuing one person over the other, inspired by the principle of equal and inviolable dignity of every human being.”

Society could reach that kind of agreement “coming from a culture of life, that we don’t doubt, the vast majority of the Argentine people share, whatever their religious or moral convictions."

“The dignity of all human life” should then become “a meeting point rather than a profound division in our society. We are committed to promoting this,” the Catholic university network concluded.

More than 75 briefs filed supporting Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban at Supreme Court   

U.S. Supreme Court building / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

More than 75 amicus briefs have been filed at the Supreme Court supporting Mississippi’s ban on most elective abortions after 15 weeks, the state’s attorney general said last week. Many of the briefs were filed by Catholic or pro-life organizations. 

In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization - a critical abortion case that will be argued before the court this fall - Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office said hundreds of experts filed 76 amicus briefs, or legal documents requesting a certain outcome in a case. 

The National Catholic Bioethics Center was one of the amici curiae in the case. Its president, Joseph Meaney, told CNA on Tuesday that the case presents “a remarkable opportunity” for the court to substantially alter or overturn its previous rulings that claimed a right to abortion. 

Expressing optimism that the court will reevaluate or possibly overturn its Roe v. Wade decision as a result of the Dobbs case, Meaney said “there’s a real light at the end of the tunnel here.” 

“There’s a growing cultural momentum that people have had enough of abortion-on-demand,” Meaney said, adding the Supreme Court overstepped its authority in the Roe case by imposing legal abortion on the nation. 

“At the NCBC we always cherish the opportunity to talk about the dignity of the human person,” he said, adding, “this is another moment where they [the justices] can do the right thing.” 

Heather Hacker, the former assistant solicitor general of Texas, filed an amicus brief on behalf of law professors Mary Ann Glendon and Carter Snead, as well as one on behalf of The Catholic Association. Hacker told CNA that the high court’s abortion jurisprudence “is not grounded in the text, history, or tradition of the Constitution.” 

Hacker said the brief for the law professors argued that Roe “was a leap when it was created, it’s been criticized by scholars since then ranging the political spectrum.” 

“Every time the court since Roe has tried to fix its abortion jurisprudence, it’s esentially made it worse,” Hacker said.  

On behalf of The Catholic Association, Hacker argued that at the time of the Roe decision in 1973, “our understanding of fetal development was very limited.”

Modern ultrasound technology means “you can really see the baby’s humanity, and that was something really not contemplated by Roe,” Hacker said.   

Dr. Grazie Christie, a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, told CNA there has been “tremendous change and advancement in the science since Roe versus Wade.” 

“There is really no mystery to the fact that at 15 weeks the fetus is very much alive and very human,” Christie said, adding that the understanding of fetal pain has changed as well. 

“It used to be thought that a baby couldn’t feel pain until the third trimester,” Christie said. “Now, we know it could be as early as 12 weeks.” 

Another brief was filed on behalf of pro-life feminists, including the group New Wave Feminists. The group’s founder, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, said in a statement to CNA, “For far too long feminists have been fighting for a piece of the pie while settling for the crumbs.” 

“We’re here to demand a future where women are able to participate in society without having to sacrifice their children on the altar of ‘equality,’” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “We are able to do something men cannot – bring new life into this world. Patriarchy gained its power by using violence against the vulnerable, and we refuse to replicate that model as it has no place in a truly equitable future for every member of the human family.”

In her statement last week, Attorney General Fitch said, “As evident by the compelling briefs filed here by legal experts, medical providers, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, there are countless reasons why the Court should return the abortion discussion to the legislative branch.” 

“Science and society have changed dramatically in the 50 years since Roe, and it will only continue to march forward,” Fitch said. “It is time to release states from these outdated standards and allow lawmakers who are accountable to the people to decide how best to promote dignity and support for mothers and children.”

Burmese bishops launch interreligious prayer effort amid Covid surge

St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon. / Ronald Woan via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Naypyitaw, Burma, Aug 3, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

The Catholic bishops of Burma on Monday launched a national prayer campaign as coronavirus cases in the country continue to surge.

"I call upon all people to enter into a campaign of prayer, raising our hands and hearts to the  Almighty, for healing. Let us come together as one community, let compassion become the common religion in these dark days. Transcending our  various religious and faith identities, let us come together for inter religious prayer meetings on line.  Let us support one another through continuous prayer," read an Aug. 2 message to the people of Burma signed by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, president of the Burmese bishops’ conference.

The message said the country needs “to get ready to face (the) extraordinary challenge” of the new wave of COVID-19 infections.

Infections in Burma, also known as Myanmar, have surged since June, with about 6,000 cases and 300 deaths reported daily in the past weeks, according to the health ministry.

Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.

“These are very threatening times for the dignity and survival of our people,” read the bishops’ statement.

“Once again, we plead, unity is needed. No conflict, no displacement. The only war we need to wage is against the virus,” it added.

Britain’s UN ambassador warned last week that half of Burma’s 54 million people could be infected with COVID-19 in the next two weeks.

Burma has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in February, with protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias.

The United States, Great Britain, and others have imposed sanctions on the military rulers over the coup and repression of pro-democracy protests in which hundreds have been killed.

“The coup has resulted in a near total collapse of the healthcare system, and health care workers are being attacked and arrested,” said British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward.

“The virus is spreading through the population, very fast indeed. By some estimates, in the next two weeks, half of the population of Myanmar could be infected with COVID,” she said.

In his statement, Cardinal Bo urged the people to support each other and to help all health workers “reach out to the suffering people.” He urged everyone to “raise our hands and hearts to the Almighty, for healing.”

“Let us support one another through continuous prayer,” read the cardinal’s statement. “I urge the Catholic Church to have continuous prayers, adorations, Rosary chains in the families and communities,” he added.

“Let us knock at the divine doors, to melt the hearts of all people, to bring healing, peace and reconciliation,” said Cardinal Bo.

“Our people’s destiny is more and more in the hands of God as we sail through these stormy seas of fear, despair, anxiety and pandemic,” he said.

“Let the divine hand reach out and bless our country and protect our people from the pandemic and all other calamities,” added the cardinal.

“Our problems press us like mountains. But let us use faith. Let us become prayer warriors; heal ourselves. Let God’s healing hand touch everyone and bring health to all our people,” said Cardinal Bo.

Archbishop Cordileone named prior of historic order of Catholic knights  

Members of the U.S. delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George / U.S. Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George.

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2021 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco was recently named the new prior of a historic order of knighthood.

Cordileone will serve as principal chaplain to the U.S. delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George. The Order is an organization of Catholics who prioritize the propagation of the faith and support Catholic education, vocations, the restoration of churches, and various charitable projects.

Noting Cordileone’s “southern Italian heritage and his humble orthodoxy,” Brendan Young, executive director of the order, told CNA on August 2 that the archbishop “is a natural choice for assuming the priorate of the Constantinian Order's American Delegation which he will lead spiritually for years to come.”

Young said the order's origins date to the Roman Emperor Constantine's vision of the Holy Cross at Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D.; the order received papal approval in the 1500's. 

“It was founded as a military religious order, but developed into a dynastic order, always fully Catholic and with papal approval,” Young told CNA, “but never under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See like the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre or the Order of Malta.”

“Membership in the Order goes much deeper than attending events, or a matter of philanthropy for its own sake,” he said. “They [members] feel drawn to do more for Christ and His Church by participating in the Order’s unique mission.”

Cordileone was named prior by the order’s Grand Master, Prince Carlo of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro, as well as the Grand Prior, Cardinal Renato Martino. The order’s website officially announced his appointment in a Aug. 2 press release.

Archbishop Cordileone will oversee clerical members of the order. Cordileone, who has not had a public investiture as of yet, became prior on Aug. 1.

Young stated that the American delegation’s support of Catholic education is “near and dear to the Archbishop’s heart,” as is a serious support of evangelization. Cordileone shares a vision with the organization on the sanctification of the family through Catholic education, Young said. 

The order’s national delegate, John Viola, said it was an “incomparable honor” to have Cordileone as the prior. 

“For centuries, the Constantinian Order has been dedicated to the glorification of the Cross, the propagation of the Faith, and the defense of Holy Mother Church,” Viola said in a statement provided to CNA. “I can think of few prelates who have lived this vocation more actively and passionately than Archbishop Cordileone."

The Order has been in the U.S. since 1979, and was officially incorporated there in 1989. Currently, its main outreach is in support of Catholic education, vocations and the restoration of churches, as well as financial and practical assistance to the poor. 

Young told CNA the delegation helps support a school in Lahore, Pakistan run by the Religious of Jesus and Mary. Last year, he said, the delegation also raised $50,000 as part of a worldwide fundraiser to help Italian hospitals at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic; the global fundraiser brought in a total of over 230,000 euros. 

The order runs events around the country, but Young said that Cordileone will most likely preside at the annual or biannual investiture ceremony, and attend the annual council meetings. “But the day to day is handled by the Delegation’s Subprior, Fr. Edmund Luciano of the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ,” he said.

The order’s principal feast days are Sept. 14, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and Apr. 23, the feast of St. George. 

This article was updated on August 3.

Young told CNA that the order is open to adult Catholics, both men and women, “in good standing” with the Church. 

Cuban priest decries summary trials of protesters without a defense lawyer

Protests in Havana, July 11, 2021. / Domitille P/Shutterstock

Havana, Cuba, Aug 3, 2021 / 11:19 am (CNA).

Participants in last month’s protests of Cuba’s communist government are facing summary trials without adequate legal aid, a Jesuit priest serving in Havana said last week.

Following last month’s protests summary trials continue to be held in Cuba, which are legal and “fall under  Criminal Law Procedures," but "leave the accused without a defense,” Fr. Eduardo Llorens, a lawyer by profession, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, July 30.

Fr. Llorens, 57, is a Jesuit serving in Havana. 

“The lawyer can appear in person and see the file a few moments before the trial, if the relatives manage to raise the money and find a lawyer who wants to defend the case. It’s practically impossible for the defense in such a short time to seek other evidence that exonerates his client. The witnesses (make the case against the defendant) and the police who made the arrest, many of whom don’t remember the faces of the accused, as they say they detained a lot of people,” Fr. Llorens stated.

“If we add to the above that the official discourse in the only existing press, the government’s, is about the application of the 'weight of the law' all the time, the result is maximum prison sentences for crimes that, if proven, include fines,” he said.

Protests took place across Cuba July 11-12. Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and hundreds were arrested.

Fr. Llorens is also a member of the support services of the Cuban Conference of Religious Men and Women, which focuses on providing advice for filing habeas corpus appeals, assistance in locating detainees, guidance on the facts to be determined, and the spiritual/psychological accompaniment of relatives following the events of July 11.

"We especially dedicate ourselves to the spiritual and psychological accompaniment of relatives and detainees if they are released, since the way and manner in which they are arrested and their stay in detention centers causes psychological problems in many cases," he commented.

The international press reported that 12 Cubans arrested in the protests were sentenced July 21 to 10 months to one year in prison after a summary trial in which most of them did not have a lawyer.

The BBC reported July 24 that Gabriela Zequeira, 17, had been sentenced, along with 11 other defendants, to eight months in prison in one of the summary trials after being found guilty of "public disorder."

According to Fr. Llorens,the exact numbers of arrests have not been reported by the government, but independent organizations mention between 700 and 1,000 detainees.

“What’s certain is that a lot of people were arrested. Some are at home under house arrest awaiting trial, others out on bail and the large majority are being held in custody awaiting trials,” the priest said.

Fr. Llorens also noted that last week "about 50 people were tried," and of these, "some due to international pressure and after filing an appeal with the Provincial Court, have been placed under house arrest pending an appeals trial. These have been especially high-profile or well-known cases.”

“If to all of the above we add the convolutedness of Cuban laws (especially on criminal procedure), the lack of a legal culture in the Cuban population, and the ignorance of the vast majority of the families of those detained in criminal proceedings, the final result is a cocktail of ignorance of the law, which the authorities take advantage of,” the priest explained.

Fr. Llorens said that the protests continued July 12, “but then there were no more, at least not as large as those on July 11."

"It’s logical that when the streets are militarized and the entire repressive apparatus is mobilized, there’s no chance to peacefully demonstrate," he emphasized.

He also denounced paramilitaries “willing to go out to beat and suppress those who are demonstrating peacefully."

The Cuban priest also charged that “the Cuban state stole the narrative of the events of July 11 by cutting off the internet throughout the island” and “at the same time it rolled out a campaign of verbal and physical violence against the participants, labeling them CIA agents, annexationists, traitors to the homeland.”

He commented that Cuba “is a completely failed state in crisis and has not been able to minimally manage not only the difficulties of previous years, but the accumulation of problems that is making the minimum functioning of a country unsustainable."

“This will continue to create dissatisfaction in the population, maintaining the conditions for new peaceful demonstrations. The Cuban people in the last 62 years had not demonstrated in this way against the regime, now they have lost their fear,” he said.

Finally, the Jesuit priest said that "a large part of Cuban society spoke out loud and clear on July 11: Freedom, this is the great need of the Cuban people … To achieve freedom is not going to be an easy task, but in faith many will continue what was unleashed on July 11.”

"Meanwhile we continue to stand up for the dignity of all people, for the right to demonstrate peacefully and not be imprisoned for doing so," the priest concluded.

Communist rule in Cuba was established soon after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which ousted the authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista.

Catholic exorcist says Converse pentagram shoes ‘create a fascination with evil’

Converse Pentagram Sneakers / Image via screenshot. Instagram @Converse

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2021 / 10:32 am (CNA).

A Catholic exorcist said on Tuesday that a recently-unveiled Converse shoe with a pentagram design could lead to a fascination with the occult.

“The danger with these types of things,” Fr. Vincent Lampert told CNA, “is that they create a fascination with evil.”

Warning: the photos shown below may be disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

The shoe, which became available for purchase Jul. 27, is currently sold out. Named the TURBODRK Chuck 70, it was designed by the famous fashion icon Rick Owens in partnership with Converse. The design contains an upside-down pentagram on both the sole and the heel of the shoe, with an exaggerated downward-facing point of the symbol. 

“The aesthetic is all about disrupting formality—embracing traditional structure and then blowing it up,” the Instagram account of Converse wrote in a post revealing the shoe design. 

Converse shared a picture, in a following Instagram post, of two people dressed in black holding complimentary poses to create the exaggerated shape of an upside-down pentagram. 

The pentagram is a historic symbol used in many contexts, including by Freemasons, on national flags such as those of Morocco and Ethiopia, and in modern occult practices by Wiccans. The upside-down pentagram with a goat’s head inside is the official symbol of the Church of Satan.

In the post, Owens is quoted as saying he had used the pentagram in fashion “for a long time because obviously, it has adolescent occult associations.” Owens said the pentagram refers to an “alternate system,” and suggests a “pursuit of sensation” and the “pursuit of pleasure.”

“But one of the main things that I think it suggests,” he said, “is empathy and a consideration of systems of living that might not be standard. So that leads us to be more accepting and tolerant of other systems, which I think is a good thing.” 

Fr. Lampert told CNA that while use of such a symbol might simply be “entertainment,” it could foster a harmful introduction to the occult.

“At first glance one might think that a pentagram on a sneaker may seem to be nothing but harmless fun,” Fr. Lampert said. “We may think of it as nothing more than some form of entertainment but the devil can use this interest in things associated with the occult as an entry point to enter a person’s life.”

Lampert told CNA that seeing the pentagram on the sneaker could lead to greater curiosity about the demonic world, “and the person’s life begins to spiral downwards.”

“Fascination with the evil one” is not what should be fostered, Lampert told CNA. Instead, society should be promoting that the human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has the innate desire for God, he said. 

Owens, the Converse post said, had “emerged from the glam-rock and grunge underground to become one of fashion’s essential iconoclasts,” noting that his “DRKSHDW diffusion line, launched in 2005, blends punk edge with couture-like sophistication.”

In a 2019 interview with Nathan Heller for Vogue Magazine, Owens revealed he was once a Catholic who then “fell off.”

During the interview at Owen’s 2019 residence in Paris, he and Heller visited the nearby historic Sainte-Clotilde Basilica church. Owens said that he enjoyed the “space” of the church being part of his life. “When I was growing up, religion was my first example of the connection between exoticism and the morality of behavior. There was glamour, but there was also a sense of higher purpose,” Owens said.

Owens had previously visited the church with his parents to discuss “serious matters,” Heller wrote.

Heller reported that in 2018 Owens considered having a fashion show in the basilica. Owens did not find the idea irreverent, “because it had become his church-a deeply personal, sacred place- and he felt duly protective of it.”

Converse is a subsidiary of its parent company, Nike Inc. Earlier this year, famous rapper Lil Nas X began selling Nike-branded “Satan Shoes” that supposedly contained one drop of human blood, a pentagram, and had “Luke 10:18” stitched on them. The shoes cost $1,018 per pair and sold out in less than one minute. The verse of Luke 10:18 states, “Jesus said, ‘I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.’”

The New York Times reported in April that the shoe line was recalled because Nike did not authorize sale of its design. After Nike sued the subsidiary company, MSCHF, the shoes became available for return. 

The Times reported that Nike said it had nothing to do with the shoe line. Nike announced the release of Rick Owens’ pentagram shoes on its website in July. 

Pope Francis asks Catholics to pray in August for Church reform ‘in the light of the Gospel’

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month that the Church receives the grace “to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”

He made the appeal in his prayer intention for August, released on Tuesday.

“Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel,” reads the prayer intention, issued Aug. 3 by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “The specific vocation of the Church is evangelization, which isn’t proselytism, no. Its vocation is evangelization; even more, the Church’s identity is evangelization.”

“We can only renew the Church by discerning God’s will in our daily life and embarking on a transformation guided by the Holy Spirit.”

“Our own reform as persons is that transformation. Allowing the Holy Spirit, the gift of God in our hearts, to remind us what Jesus taught and help us put it into practice.”

He continued: “Let us begin reforming the Church with a reform of ourselves, without prefabricated ideas, without ideological prejudices, without rigidity, but rather by moving forward based on spiritual experience -- an experience of prayer, an experience of charity, an experience of service.”

“I dream of an even more missionary option: one that goes out to meet others without proselytism and that transforms all its structures for the evangelization of today’s world.”

At the end of 2020, Pope Francis established the global network that promotes his monthly prayer intentions as a Vatican body.

The pope decreed that the network, founded in France in 1844 and focused on the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, would now be a papal institution based at the Vatican. It is now known as the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network” Vatican Foundation.

Commenting on the pope’s August prayer intention, Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “At the end of last year, a few days before Christmas, Francis had already wanted to delve into the difference between conflict and crisis so as to make clear that the latter can always leave us with something positive.”

“It’s a propitious time for the Gospel and for Church reform. As the Holy Father says, ‘we must have the courage to be completely open. We need to stop seeing the reform of the Church as putting a patch on an old garment.’”

“In the face of a crisis, the first thing we can do is accept it, as a propitious time to seek and recognize God’s will. This means not tiring of prayer, as the Pope insists so much; not tiring of following Jesus’ example of service, of charity, of encounter with others, with those who suffer, with the most vulnerable, and with those who most need it.”

Concluding his video address, the pope spoke of the challenges facing the Church. While he did not name any specific events, the Vatican is currently struggling with economic difficulties intensified by the pandemic and is conducting a trial of 10 people related to a financial scandal.

Declining the resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx in June, Francis wrote that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and the only fruitful path was “to assume the crisis, personally and communally.”

Speaking in the new video, he said: “Let us remember that the Church always has difficulties, always is in crisis, because she’s alive. Living things go through crises. Only the dead don’t have crises.”

“Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”