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These six priorities for our Church’s life and mission are: Evangelization,Ongoing Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship, Building and Sustaining Community, Justice and Peace and Strengthening the Unity of our Diocese.

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100 Words – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Guts”

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 16:59

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

A man with leprosy came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling said to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose”. Be made clean.  – Mark 1:40-41

Mark’s audience is made of there-is-a-knife-in-my-back; Roman-soldier’s-at-my-door; Christian = dead, people.  So why tell them an “if-you-choose” story?

Because they get it.

An “if-you-choose” story is a “jump-out-of-a-plane” story.  You can’t change course if the parachute doesn’t open.

But the core of this story isn’t the “Hello Mr. Teacher, as you can see, I’m a leper, RISK.”  It’s much deeper than that.

It’s a “this-is-going-to-cost-me” / “I believe” / “Jesus Christ = power” story.

In Mark’s world, it takes guts to be a Christian.

Things haven’t changed.

The Church is a sinking ship. It takes courage to stay on board.


ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience (click for more information)


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]


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Senate debate on euthanasia law is underway, with a decision expected by Feb. 17

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 14:08

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Canada’s senators are expected to give their verdict by the end of the day Feb. 17, 2021 on the federal government’s effort to make it easier for Canadians to legally commit suicide with the help of a doctor.

Senators agreed on Feb. 8 to debate the government’s Bill C-7 “according to the following themes”:  mental illness and degenerative illness, safeguards and advance requests, vulnerable and minority groups, healthcare (including palliative care) and access to medical assistance in dying, and conscience rights.

The plan is to address each concern and then move on to the next theme in the order agreed before holding a final vote in the Senate.

The senators agreed that on Feb. 17, 2021,  “the sitting shall not be adjourned before the Senate has decided upon the bill at third reading.”

While MPs representing all parties in the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 by a two-to-one margin on Dec. 10, 2020 – which along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonability foreseeable to qualify for the euthanasia / assisted suicide system, Bill C-7 would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to euthanasia.

The bill also eliminates a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide / euthanasia after consent is given, and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting when they actually use the euthanasia system.

Call to oppose Bill C-7 – LINK

Critics of expanding the medically-assisted death system (known as MAiD), say that hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate show that there is no consensus among Canadians, as the federal government claims, to make significant changes before a promised five-year review of medically-assisted suicide and palliative care options in Canada.

“Throughout the testimonies given at both the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, it became evidently clear there is no consensus in Canada on the proposed expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, despite the Government’s claim to the contrary in order to justify the passing of Bill C-7,” Canada’s bishops said in a statement just before Christmas, when the bill was forwarded to the Senate.

While the Senate is now moving towards its final verdict on Bill C-7, some senators also say the federal government should not be changing the existing law which only took effect in 2016 until a full and promised parliamentary review of medically-assisted death in Canada is first undertaken.

“Colleagues, how did we get to this point, where we are debating an overhaul of our entire regime a few short years after its enactment and before we have even undertaken a parliamentary review?” asked Opposition Senate leader Don Plett on Feb. 8.

“As has been said before, we are here because of a lower court decision made by one judge, in one province, and because the government chose not to defend its own legislation,” he said.

Opponents of euthanasia/ assisted suicide have repeatedly questioned why the federal government did not appeal the Quebec Superior Court decision that prompted the changes that the federal government has put forward in Bill C-7.


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Threat to individual conscience and moral dissent seen in details of Bill C-6 ban on conversion therapy

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 14:00

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The Catholic Church and other religious organizations continue to express concern that a proposed bill that would ban conversion therapy for youth in Canada could expose religious views on human sexuality to criminal sanction. Meanwhile, the Liberal government and even some Conservative Opposition MPs who support the bill dismiss those concerns.

“Bill C-6: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)” would make it illegal to advertise services related to conversion therapy, force someone to undergo conversion therapy, remove a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad and profit from providing conversion therapy.

The definition of conversion therapy according to the federal government is “a practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual’s gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth.”

While Bill C-6 would ban all conversion therapy for youth, “the bill does not criminalize the provision of conversion therapy to a consenting adult if no money or other material benefit is received for providing such therapy” and it “does not make it a criminal offence for a consenting adult to seek or receive conversion therapy,” according to the government.

And while religious organizations – such as the Catholic Church and other mainstream religious organizations such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Christian Charities and the Christian Legal Fellowship among others – do indicate support for some form of control over forced conversion therapy, there are also serious concerns expressed about religious freedom related to the government imposing and legislating a vision and viewpoint on human sexuality.

In a brief submitted to parliament by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, that organization expresses concern, like the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, that the wording of the bill could lead to religious teaching on sexuality being criminalized.

“There is support within the evangelical community for the objective of Bill C-6, which is to protect Canadians from the damaging effects of practices that have been widely discredited,” stated the Fellowship’s brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

“We agree that there is no place in our communities or our country for coercive, involuntary, or abusive practices. At the same time, we have serious concerns with the very broad definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-6,” the brief continued. “The proposed definition goes beyond prohibiting involuntary, abusive or coercive change efforts and lacks critical clarity about what kinds of activities might fall within the bounds of the proposed legislation.”

The Evangelical Fellowship’s brief stated: “We strongly urge amendments to the bill in order to clarify its provisions and ensure it is consistent with fundamental Charter freedoms. If unamended, this legislation would have a significant chilling effect on expression on matters of human sexuality and gender. Interpreted broadly, it could criminalize the expression of deeply held beliefs.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) also raises the same concern.

“The protection of vulnerable Canadians from harmful acts is a necessary and important goal and one which the Bishops irrevocably support,” the CCCB said in a statement Oct. 7, 2020. The CCCB statement goes on to stress that Bill C-6 is “generic in its scope and ambiguous in its language, and thus its application could be overextended and interpreted to include what are and should remain lawful activities.”

RELATED ARTICLE: “Catholic bishops are concerned that ban could stifle religious freedom”

VIDEO: Cardinal Thomas Collins testimony on Bill C-6 before House of Commons standing committee 

Call to oppose Bill C-6: LINK

Most mainstream religious organizations that have issues with how the courts will eventually interpret the wording of Bill C-6 have been careful not to express support for conversion therapy in practice. However, other socially conservative organizations such as the Campaign Life Coalition, have labeled the bill an attack on religious freedom and part of an anti-Christian agenda.

The Campaign Life Coalition has created a “Stop The Ban” website ( that calls Bill C-6 an “unprecedented assault on civil liberties, religious freedom and Christianity itself.”

“If passed, Bill C-6 will jail parents for affirming gender-confused children in the sex they were born, pastors for providing spiritual guidance and therapists for counselling clients who voluntarily ask for help with unwanted sexual feelings,” claims the Stop the Ban website.

Federal Justice Minster David Lametti has repeatedly dismissed that possibility in his public statements about Bill C-6 and in the government’s response to the numerous petitions that have been filed in the House of Commons that ask for the government to change Bill C-6.

When Bill C-6 passed second reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 308-7, including support from Opposition Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, numerous Conservative MPs supported the bill during debate on Bill C-6 in October and sided with the Liberal government in dismissing some of the concerns being raised by opponents.

Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said during debate on the bill that concerns that the bill will infringe on religious freedom are overblown.

“This bill proposes limits that are rationally connected to the goal of protecting LGBTQ2 Canadians,” she said, adding “it does not arbitrarily infringe on religious freedom.”

“In my view, the spirit and value of religious freedoms is to protect individuals so they may practise their faith. Many existing provisions in our Criminal Code, however, already limit what actions might be taken in the name of that. Religious freedom does not extend to harming others,” Rempel said.

“To be clear, this does not mean that Bill C-6 somehow infringes on parents’ rights to talk to their children about sex and sexuality. It does not infringe on parents’ rights to hold the belief that homosexuality is wrong, which is, again, a belief I fully reject. It does not infringe on those parents’ rights to express that belief either.

“It does, as has been stated over and over, prevent any practice, treatment, or service, designed to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Bill C-6 draws the line at turning that belief into a practice designed to change fundamentally who someone is, and in so doing, prevents harm to their person,” Rempel said.


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Pope Francis asks for prayer for every victim of human trafficking

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 15:32

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Rome –CNA] – Pope Francis has asked people to pray for every person who is currently a victim of human trafficking.

“In times of crisis, human trafficking proliferates; therefore, an economy needs to be strengthened so that it may respond to the crisis in a way that is not short-sighted, in a lasting way, in a solid way,” Pope Francis said in the video message published Feb. 8.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us put all this in our prayer, especially today, through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita. … Let us all pray together for every person who is a victim of human trafficking at this moment.”

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that profits off of 25 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization.

The pope sent the video message to a seven-hour global prayer marathon which is being broadcast via live-stream with translations in five languages, including English, to mark the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking Feb. 8.

Pope Francis instituted the annual day of prayer 2015 to take place on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patron saint of human trafficking survivors.

“This day is important because it helps us all to remember this tragedy, and encourages us not to stop praying and fighting together,” the pope said in his video message.

“Prayer touches the heart and impels us to concrete actions, to innovative, courageous actions, able to take risks trusting in the power of God,” he said.

The theme of this year’s virtual prayer marahton is “An Economy without Human Trafficking.” The pope reflected on this topic, noting that the coronavirus pandemic has “exacerbated and worsened the conditions of labor exploitation.”

The pope said: “An economy without human trafficking is an economy with market rules that promote justice, not exclusive special interests.”

“Human trafficking finds fertile ground in the approach of neo-liberal capitalism, in the deregulation of markets aimed at maximising without ethical limits, without social limits, without environmental limits.”

Pope Francis said that it is important to have an economy that takes care of people, promotes the common good, and creates “employment opportunities that do not exploit workers through degrading working conditions and gruelling hours.”

The Holy Father has dedicated the month of February to prayer for women who are victims of violence, including victims of human trafficking.

Pope Francis also recently wrote a preface to a biography of a human trafficking victim. The book, “Io sono Joy,” published in Italian on Jan. 27, tells the story of a girl from Nigeria who hopes to go to Italy to find a job but ends up being trafficked.

In his preface, the pope wrote: “I cannot help but ask the reader a question: since there are countless young women, victims of trafficking, who end up on the streets of our cities, how much does this reprehensible reality derive from the fact that many men, here, require these ‘services’ and show themselves willing to buy another person, annihilating her in her inalienable dignity?”



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Pope Francis to visit Iraqi cathedral burned by Islamic State

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 15:20

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Rome –CNA] – The Great Al-Tahira Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Bakhdida was charred black inside after the Islamic State set it aflame after taking control of the town in 2014. Now the restored cathedral is preparing to welcome Pope Francis during his trip to Iraq next month.

Pope Francis is set to be the first pope to visit Iraq. His four-day trip to the country March 5-8 will include stops in Baghdad, Mosul, and Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh).

The cathedral that the pope will visit in Bakhdida, served a growing Christian community, until the Islamic State turned the cathedral into an indoor shooting range from 2014-2016.

After the town’s liberation from the Islamic State in 2016, Masses resumed in the damaged cathedral as Christians returned to rebuild their community. Aid to the Church in Need committed to restore completely the cathedral’s fire-damaged interior in late 2019.

“I think it is very important to support this town because it is the biggest symbol of Christianity in Iraq. Until now, we kept it as a Christian city, but we do not know what the future will bring for us,” Fr. Georges Jahola, a parish priest from Bakhdida, told CNA in 2019.

A new Marian statue sculpted by a local Christian artist was placed atop the bell tower of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in January.

Pope Francis is slated to pray the Angelus at this cathedral in the schedule for the papal trip to Iraq published by the Vatican Feb. 8.

The schedule released by the Vatican also confirms that the pope will meet with Ali al-Sistani, leader of Shia Muslims in Iraq, during his visit.

Upon his arrival at Baghdad International Airport, the pope is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi before visiting Iraqi President Barham Salih at the presidential palace March 5.

The pope will end his first day at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady
of Salvation in Baghdad, where he will address the local bishops, priests, religious, and other Iraqi Catholics.

On his second day in Iraq, Pope Francis will travel on Iraqi Airways to Najaf to meet with al-Sistani.

The Holy Father will then travel to the plain of Ur in southern Iraq, which the Bible records as the birthplace of Abraham. In Ur, Pope Francis will give a speech at an interreligious gathering March 6 before heading back to Baghdad to offer Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph.

Pope Francis will visit Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain on his third day in Iraq. These communities were ravaged by the Islamic State from 2014 to 2016, causing many Christians to flee the region. The Holy Father has repeatedly expressed his closeness to these persecuted Christians.

The pope will first be welcomed at the Erbil Airport March 7, 2021 by the religious and civil authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan before traveling to Mosul to pray for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa square.

According to the schedule, the pope will then visit the local Christian community in Bakhdida at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where he will pray the Angelus.

On his last evening in Iraq, Pope Francis will offer Mass at a stadium in Erbil March 7 before departing from Baghdad International Airport the following morning.

Pope Francis said Feb. 8 that he is looking forward to resuming his apostolic visits. His visit to Iraq will be the pope’s first international trip in over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These visits are an important sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter for God’s People spread throughout the world and the dialogue of the Holy See with states,” Pope Francis said.




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Sprinkling replaces forehead ashes on Ash Wednesday 2021, due to ongoing COVID pandemic

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 13:28

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Ash Wednesday is going to look a little different in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon this year.

Ashes will be distributed by sprinkling on the heads of the faithful this year, rather than by tracing a cross upon the forehead, as directed by Bishop Mark Hagemoen under the guidance of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The changes are to minimize any risk of spreading COVID-19 and follow guidance from the Vatican that was released Jan. 12, 2021, and signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah.

A Feb. 2 memo from the diocesan Liturgical Commission shared the directions of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments:

“The Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'” (In the past, the words would be said to each person individually).

The instructions continue: “The Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”

The diocesan Liturgical Commission memo also affirmed that distribution of ashes is permitted outside of Mass.

The option of a simplified format outside of Mass “may assist in safely and practically facilitating a greater participation of the faithful throughout this day which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Priests may also choose to distribute Ashes as pastorally necessary beyond Ash Wednesday into the initial days of Lent,” notes the diocesan memo.

COVID-19 restrictions in effect until Feb. 19, 2021 in the province of Saskatchewan permit only 30 persons to gather in-person for worship services, with appropriate distancing and other measures in place.

Given those restrictions on attendance, parishes across the diocese are coordinating celebrations on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, which in many cases requires advance registration to attend in person (the faithful are asked to contact their local parishes regarding schedules, registration, and other details). Some parishes in the diocese have announced that ashes will be distributed after celebration of Mass as well.

Live-streaming of Mass by a number of priests in the diocese continues, including on Ash Wednesday, with the videos of Mass posted online at

Bishop Mark Hagemoen will celebrate Mass at 12:15 pm on Ash Wednesday, live-streamed at and on the diocesan YouTube channel: 

Rite of Election

The Rite of Election – which is normally a diocesan celebration on the First Sunday of Lent for catechumens preparing to be baptized, confirmed and welcomed to the Eucharistic table at Easter – will this year be celebrated in individual parishes rather than altogether as a diocese at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, because of the restriction on the size of gatherings for worship.

In a Jan. 20, 2021 message, Bishop Mark Hagemoen explained: “Pastors are hereby delegated to carry out the Rite of Election in the parish,” noting that in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, it states: “the Rite of Election is to be celebrated about six weeks before the sacraments of initiation, so that there is sufficient time for the scrutinies and the presentations.” Catechumens will sign pages from the Book of the Elect in their home parishes this year — with the signed pages sent to the diocese after the local celebrations.

Wording change

Another change is coming to the familiar rites of the Church Feb. 17 due to a recent revision to the English translation of the Roman Missal approved for Canada.

The Canadian Conference of the Catholic Bishops announced in December that the conclusion of the Collect (and similar prayers) will change from saying “one God” to, simply, “God.” For example, the Collect may now end like this: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

The change came after the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments contacted the CCCB to say the English translation of the Latin mistakenly introduced the word “one.”

“The Dicastery informed the conference’s president of the decision that the word ‘one’ is deemed incorrect, could cause doctrinal confusion, and should no longer be used,” wrote CCCB president Archbishop Richard Gagnon Dec. 8, 2020.

Another CCCB document explains the change “is to avoid possible misunderstandings of the Son within the Blessed Trinity, or even the misconception that Our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘one God’ among others.”

With this change – which comes into effect on Ash Wednesday 2021 – the English version will now also be consistent with the Latin text, as well as conform to translations into other languages including French. The new wording, which amends the English-language translations of n. 54 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, will be incorporated into all future editions of liturgical books approved for use in Canada.


With files from Catholic News Agency, The B.C. Catholic, and the CCCB Communications Office.

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CCCB Office for Evangelization and Catechesis offers webinar series during Lent, reflecting on forming missionary disciples

Fri, 02/05/2021 - 15:36

By CCCB Communications staff

The English sector of the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) will offer a four-part webinar series entitled Nurturing Friendship, the Directory for Catechesis in Dialogue with the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, during Lent.

Beginning March 2, 2021, individuals who are responsible for evangelization and catechesis – including, clergy, consecrated persons, laity involved in ministry, directors and coordinators of evangelization and catechesis, and Catholic educators – are invited to participate in the online four-part series.

Following the enthusiastic reception by the 265 participants of an initial webinar series to introduce key orientations of the Directory for Catechesis in October 2020, the new weekly sessions will explore how the themes presented in each of the documents call catechists to be people of hope who promote human dignity and communion with God by building bridges and asking ‘Who is my neighbour?’

Keynote speakers from across the country will offer insight and propose concrete ways to help form communities of missionary disciples within dioceses, eparchies, parishes, and Catholic schools.

Webinars will take place on Tuesdays starting at 12:00 p.m. noon (Saskatchewan time) March 2, March 9, and Tuesdays starting at 11:00 a.m. (Saskatchewan time) March 16 and March 23. Each webinar is 90 minutes in length.

Registration is free of charge, however interested participants are invited to sign up before Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.

When registering directly within the Zoom meeting platform, participants can indicate their preference for one, two, three or all four of the sessions.

For more information about the series, contact Margaret Shea-Lawrence by email at

The program is as follows:

Session 1 | Tuesday 2 March 2021, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm Saskatchewan time (1:00pm-2:30pm EST)
“The Catechist Brings Hope: Navigating the Signs of our Times.”
Keynote: V. Rev. Msgr. Murray J. Kroetsch
Response by: Michelle Dabrowski

Session 2 | Tuesday 9 March 2021, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Saskatchewan time (1:00pm-2:30pm EST)
“The Catechist Asks: “Who is my neighbour?” Parable of the Good Samaritan as a Paradigm for Encounters of Mercy”
Interpretative Drama Presentation: Elisa Lollino
Keynote: Dr. Josephine Lombardi

Session 3 | Tuesday 16 March 2021, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Saskatchewan time (1:00pm-2:30pm EST)
“The Catechist Promotes Human Dignity and Communion with God”
Keynote: Dr. Nick Olkovich
Response by: Anne Walsh, DMin

Session 4 | Tuesday 23 March 2021,11:00 am – 12:30 pm Saskatchewan time (1:00pm-2:30pm EST)
“The Catechist Builds Bridges with Diverse Faith Communities”
Keynote: Julien Hammond
Response by: Charlene Peters


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Bridging the vaccine divide – poor nations are being left behind in race for immunity, WHO warns

Fri, 02/05/2021 - 15:25

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

A small Canadian startup hopes to help to bridge the COVID-19 vaccine divide between rich and poor nations.

“I need to be blunt. The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” World Health Organization director general Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus told his executive board in a Jan. 18 address. “The price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.”

While 49 high-income countries have administered close to 40 million vaccine doses, most African countries have no doses and no prospect of significant vaccine distribution this year. It’s just not fair, Ghebreyesus said.

Vancouver-based Eyam Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics have an mRNA vaccine candidate going into animal trials in the next 30 to 45 days. The company believes it can complete the approval process before the end of this year.

Eyam calls its bio-technology “a 3.0 version of the vaccine,” which can be quickly and cheaply manufactured, easily tweaked to adapt to mutations and scaled up for manufacture anywhere in the world.

“We believe our next generation vaccine platform is certainly part of an integral solution that merits support,” Eyam CEO Ryan Thomas told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

Eyam first caught the attention of Catholics, and an investment from Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller, because its vaccine technology has no connection with cell lines derived from voluntary abortions.

With more than 2.2 million deaths worldwide so far from COVID-19, the pressing moral question now is whether or not rich countries will use their scientific and financial muscle to protect the lives of poor people beyond their borders.

Moral obligation of rich nations

That kind of innovation can’t come fast enough for Africa, said Fr. Charlie Chilufya, co-ordinator of the Africa Task Force of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission. The moral obligation of rich nations is clear, he said.

“Medical care is a right defined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Chilufya wrote in an e-mail. “As the Holy Father has emphasized, health is not a privilege for some, but it is a right for everyone.”

It’s not a subtle moral question, said Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute executive director Moira McQueen.

“If we have five times more than we need, then for sure it’s a moral obligation,” she said.
Canada has signed contracts that secure a potential 414 million doses of vaccine, five times more than it needs for its population of about 38 million. But it’s not just a moral problem. There’s a practical dimension to global vaccine coverage, said Chilufya.

“This is not just a local problem, as we all know. It’s a public health problem of global proportions,” the Jesuit said. “If Africa or other countries of the global south remain unvaccinated, coronavirus will still remain a global threat.”

Canada’s answer has been massive support for the COVAX facility and GAVI, the global vaccine alliance that works with the United Nations and the WHO. Ottawa has put up $250 million to help COVAX buy COVID-19 vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries. Another $75 million was committed to support vaccine distribution and delivery.

Meanwhile, Canada is also struggling to speed up the delivery within its own population. However, at least 80 million doses are committed for delivery this year and the government still plans to inoculate every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated by end of September.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” Global Affairs spokesperson Patricia Skinner told The Catholic Register. “COVID-19 poses a unique and truly global challenge
. … It is in our common interest to work together to defeat it.”

Catholic health care providers in Africa

But rather than just dealing with the big established players in international development and health, Chilufya wishes countries and vaccine manufacturers would start talking directly to Catholic health care providers in Africa.

“In terms of distribution to poorer populations, an opportunity exists here,” he said. “Depending on the country, the Catholic Church and other faith-based groups sponsor and even directly operate anywhere from 30 to 60 per cent of health care on the continent. Northern governments, international governmental organizations and even local governments should enter into partnership with groups like the Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations with a vast array of health facilities in rural and peri-urban areas where local government health services are not available.”

Direct distribution agreements with faith-based health care would help ensure the poor aren’t at the back of the line, Chilufya said.

“Take advantage of the existing Church-run health facilities and networks and empower them so that more people, especially the poorer populations, are reached and fast enough,” he urged.

Part of the reason Catholic health care in Africa would be such an effective channel for vaccine delivery is that, unlike government hospitals, they’re not concentrated in the capital cities or dependent on political patronage.

“Many ordinary Africans, especially rural Africans, trust these hospitals and clinics over government-sponsored institutions because they are more efficient,” Chilufya said.
Eyam is in talks with Health Canada, hoping to be part of a global solution.

Getting vaccines to remote areas

“Eyam’s vaccine platform is really designed to respond to the specific challenges of a pandemic,” said Eyam CEO Thomas. “We aim to be able to scale our production in various parts of the world so as to better respond to the challenge of getting vaccines to remote areas. … The vaccination effort worldwide is one of global public health. It is our hope that international organizations and developed countries will step up to intervene just like in other catastrophes, like famines.”

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Disability advocates find support from UN experts in opposition to proposed expansion of euthanasia in Canada

Fri, 02/05/2021 - 12:21

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Disabled Canadians are fighting for their lives and against legislation that paves the way for clean, quiet, anonymous suicides at the hands of medical professionals.

In the first round of hearings before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Feb. 1, Jonathan Marchand told Senators how Bill C-7 will only increase pressure that already exists for disabled people to take the first exit ramp, an argument backed up by three United Nations human rights experts.

Advocacy resources related to euthanasia/ assisted suicide: LINK

“Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life, directly or indirectly,” said a statement from special rapporteurs Gerard Quinn, Olivier De Schutter and Claudia Mahler, who have been investigating Canada’s euthanasia/assisted suicide / medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council. The three disability and legal scholars also testified before the Senate committee Feb. 1.

Bill C-7 will expand access to euthanasia in response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court decision to make it possible for disabled people who are not facing imminent death to request a doctor’s help in killing themselves. It will also remove the requirement that patients be capable of consenting to the procedure at the moment lethal drugs are administered.

The bill, which has already passed in the House of Commons, violates Canada’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the special rapporteurs said.

“Canada talks a big game when it comes to human rights, but we’re not even compliant with the Convention,” said Marchand. “What they’re proposing to do (in Bill C-7) is incredibly discriminatory. It only enshrines into the law that our lives are not worth living, that it’s OK to offer people with disabilities assistance to kill themselves while the rest of the population, we’re helping them to live.”

The law presumes that the lives of disabled people are not worth living, Marchand said.

“Canada takes very seriously its international human rights obligations, including those under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” justice department spokesman Ian McLeod told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

“It is Canada’s position that Bill C-7 is consistent with these obligations. The proposed expansion of eligibility for MAiD is not based on negative stereotypes equating disability with loss of dignity of quality of life, but on the respect for the autonomy of all persons with a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability to choose MAiD as a response to intolerable suffering that cannot be alleviated by means acceptable to them.”

The problem is that the choice is not between death and full participation in society. Rather it’s either death or a life limited by poverty and a slim menu of services offered by provincial health systems, said King’s University College disability studies professor Jeff Preston.

“It ignores or it minimizes the brutal reality of ableism that is experienced by disabled people,” Preston said. “You are constantly being told that your life is hard, that your life is tough, that it sucks to be you, while at the same time having systems, government systems, support systems that also essentially make this a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Living on the bare minimum provided by the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) while having to beg for personal support workers, prosthetics and basic technology would seem designed to push people into opting for medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia, he said.

“You can’t say that you’re going to provide people with a choice and then rig the system to get the outcome that you want. Not only is it not fair, but quite frankly, in this instance, I would say that it’s akin to murder.”

For eight years Marchand has been asking for supports that would allow him to live with muscular dystrophy, relying on a ventilator to breathe. So far, the Quebec government says it can only provide such support inside a long-term care institution.

“I was pressured to accept euthanasia before,” Marchand said. “This so-called choice I had was either death, assisted dying or to be trapped into the system for the rest of my life.” The 44-year-old refused the offer.

Canada’s existing euthanasia / medically-assisted suicide laws already violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a 2010 UN treaty which Canada signed, said Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet founder Amy Hasbrouck.

“It creates a situation where people without disabilities who say they want to die end up with suicide prevention services, whereas disabled people who want to die are given state assistance to kill themselves. That’s discriminatory (and) deprives people of the right to life,” said Hasbrouk.

At the very least, Hasbrouck wants the Senate to send C-7 back to the Commons with amendments that address the vulnerabilities of disabled people.


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Parents fighting forced marriage and conversion of 14-year-old in Pakistan

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 08:27

By Rubina Bhatti,  Canadian Aid to Persecuted Christians

The parents of a 14-year-old in Pakistan say their daughter was abducted by a Muslim man, who forced her to marry him and to convert to Islam.

Huma Younus is a 14-year-old  who was taken from her home in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in October 2019. According to her mother Nagina Younas, Huma was abducted by Abdul Jabbar and two accomplices. At the time, Nagina was working as a nanny caring for a baby in a nearby bungalow.

In a video statement uploaded on social media, Huma denied being abducted, saying she went with Jabbar of her own free will. In a police complaint, Huma’s parents said their daughter was kidnapped and forced by Jabbar to marry him.

The parents were later told by police that Huma had converted to Islam after being taken to Dera Ghazi Khan, a town in the Punjab Province.

Nagina told Canadian Aid to Persecuted Christians that Huma’s cell phone is powered off. Nagina tried to talk to her politely as per police directions, but she felt that Huma was not speaking of her own free will. Huma kept questioning as to what she will do after returning home and who will marry her. “It has been a tough year for the family. We were threatened in video calls. Still, we trust God for her freedom from others.” Nagina said.

According to Nagina, the courts ignored school and Church certificates related to Huma. Police officials have told Huma’s family to accept the marriage and stop proceeding with the case.

Pakistan’s Child Brides

The Sindh High Court recently ordered another teenage Catholic child bride Arzoo Raja of Karachi to remain in a state-run shelter home until she reaches the age of 18. Raja was allegedly abducted in October 2019, converted to Islam, and married to a 44-year-old Muslim neighbour. Her parents are now fighting a complex legal battle seeking her custody and a marriage annulment of what they consider was a forced child marriage and religious conversion.

Police in the City of Faisalabad recently freed Farah Shaheen, a 12-year-old Christian girl who was abducted by Muslim men, forcibly converted to Islam, and forced her to marry. Shaheen was released by the district court of Faisalabad, but was sent to a shelter house instead of returning to the family.

“The court order left me lifeless. Christian girls are suffering in shelter houses,” said Nagina.

Church officials often blame law enforcement agencies for facilitating such crimes. Christians are demonstrating across Pakistan against the abduction and forced conversion of minor girls.

According to a recently published Center for Social Justice CSJ study (2013-20), 162 questionable conversions were reported in the media between 2013 and November 2020. The highest number of cases (49) were reported in 2019.

According to CSJ research, the Bahawalpur district of Punjab province topped the list of forced conversions with 21 reported cases last year followed by Karachi and Lahore.

Around 52 percent of alleged forced conversions occurred in the Punjab province and 44 percent in Sindh. More than 54 per cent of victims (girls and women) belonged to the Hindu community and 44 per cent were Christians. More than 46 per cent of victims were minors (with nearly 33 per cent aged 11-15 years), and 17 per cent of victims were above 18 years.

Most of the minors are married against their will. Even those who fall in love with their Muslim spouses generally fail to win respect from the spouses’ family. Despite converting to Islam, they are often referred to as “churha” (low caste) — a derogatory term in Pakistan which is often hurled at Christians who do menial jobs like sweeping the streets.

State Response

In October, Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, head of the Parliamentary Committee on Forced Conversions, claimed that a fact-finding team could not find any proof of forced conversions among religious minorities in Muslim-majority Pakistan. He further told reporters in Islamabad that most cases of forced conversions had some degree of willingness on the part of minor girls. Kaka also rejected the validity of minority groups’ complaints saying that marriages were “contracts involving willing girls” and related to “economic circumstances.”

His statement came after his fact-finding team visited Sindh, where most of the country’s Hindus live and where most complaints originated.

In November 2020, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, ordered an investigation on a case-by-case basis of minor girls’ forced conversions and marriage.

Pakistan’s National Commission on the Rights of Child issued a policy brief in December 2020, stressing the need for a new law to curb increasing incidents of abduction, conversion, and forced marriage of Hindu and Christian girls.

The laws

According to Section 498 B of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, 2011, the punishment for forced marriages is a jail term of 3-10 years and a fine of 500,000 rupees ($3,140 US).

The Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, passed in 2014 in the southern province, prohibits the marriage of any child under the age of 18 and provides penalties for a male contracting party, the person who solemnizes the marriage and the parent or guardian concerned. However, in the Punjab province, the age limit is 16.

A bill against forced conversions introduced in 2016 in the Sindh Provincial Assembly has not yet passed. The Sindh government bowed to pressure from Islamic religious parties which had objected to the bill.


Pastors in Pakistan suggest a day of prayer and fasting; drafting a law on forced conversions; separate shelter homes for minority victims of forced conversions; mandatory Bible classes for all Christians; writing a petition to the Supreme Court for authentic ossification process; and including Christian heroes in the school curriculum.

An online appeal by Center for Social Justice recommends:

  • The Federal Ministry of Human Rights in Pakistan should carry out a comprehensive study and analysis of the issue, including under-trial cases, and the remedies, if any, provided by the concerned departments and institutions.
  • The Parliamentary Committee established in November 2019 should only make statements based on factual inquiries and comprehensive data analysis and disclose the progress made by the committee on the issue.
  • Police all over Pakistan must investigate all pending cases and future cases under Section 498 B of the penal code, prohibiting forced marriage. Whoever coerces or in any manner whatsoever compels a woman to enter into marriage shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to seven years or for a term which shall not be less than three years and shall also be liable to a fine of 500,000 rupees ($3,140 US).
  • An amendment bill in the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan should be introduced to ensure that all religious conversions be acknowledged, verified and validated by a senior civil judge to ascertain the presence of free will, consent, in addition to the appropriateness of age and marital status of the parties.
  • The Majority Act of Pakistan be amended to bring it into conformity with the NADRA Act (National Database and Registration Authority) and other laws.
  • An autonomous, empowered and statutory National Commission for Minorities Rights be immediately established in Pakistan.
  • The chief justice of Pakistan is respectfully urged to consider sensitization of the judiciary and judicial officers on the issue of forced conversions and the above-mentioned recommendations.


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100 Words – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “God’s Heart”

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 15:11

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.Mark 1:31

Today’s gospel is an ECG of God’s beating heart, an indivisible this-is-love, lub-dub:

  1. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (lub)
  2. Jesus receives hospitality from Peter’s mother-in-law (dub)
  3. Jesus heals and casts out demons from everyone in the city (lub)
  4. Jesus prays in a deserted place (dub)

That is what God’s heartbeat looks like. It’s together-making: Jesus gives; Jesus receives; Jesus gives; Jesus receives.

Jesus didn’t launch a fix-you-up church. He gave life to a body that’s called to be “heart of God” in the world – giving to those in need; being in need (i.e., vulnerable) and receiving.

ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience (click for more information)


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]


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“Brainy Stasis” – a poem about adaptation

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 11:08

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Ministry

This week the ReStart separation and divorce resilience group will be working through adaptation from the book Rebuilding when your relationship ends. Registration is ongoing. Click ReStart for more information.

Brainy Stasis by Peter Oliver

Analysis paralysis

a mall-a-lysis I hate.


I’m stuck in my head,

my feeling forgot,

around and around,

an impossible knot,

ideas, ideas, ideas,

I’ve got!


My theories astound,

my mind’s a wiz,

solving this thing,

the get-it-right-biz.

Fixing you up,

nailing it down,

un-mystifying me,

unjumbling frowns.


Gosh I’m amazing!

I’ve picked it apart.


Now, where are we at?



Back at the start.


ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience (click for more information)


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Pope Francis dedicates February to prayer for women suffering from violence

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 15:42

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

{Vatican City – CNA]- Pope Francis has dedicated the month of February to prayer for women who are victims of violence.

In a video released on Feb. 1, the pope said: “It is shocking how many women are beaten, insulted, and raped … We must not look the other way.”

The pope has invited people to pray for women who suffer from psychological violence, verbal violence, physical violence, and sexual violence.

“The various forms of ill-treatment that many women suffer are acts of cowardice and a degradation of all humanity. Of men and of all humanity. The testimonies of the victims who dare to break their silence are a cry for help that we cannot ignore,” Pope Francis said.

One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point, according to a 2013 study by the World Health Organization.

The study found that women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners were twice as likely to have an abortion and almost twice as likely to experience depression.

Fr. Frédéric Fornos, S.J., the international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the organization that promotes his monthly prayer intentions, said: “The Holy Father’s call is very clear: ‘We must not look the other way.’ That is to say, we cannot stand by with our arms crossed in the face of so many cases of violence against women, which takes many forms, from the most visible and reprehensible to the most insidious and unconscious.”

“Violence against women in all its forms cries out to heaven. Francis has said this several times: ‘Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body.’”

The video produced by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network for this month was created with the art of Hermes Mangialardo, an internationally acclaimed Italian filmmaker.

“Let us pray for women who are victims of violence, that they may be protected by society and have their sufferings considered and heeded by all,” Pope Francis said.





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Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program connects with White Buffalo Youth Lodge to help families in need

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 15:24

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Hundreds of winter coats have been distributed to children in Saskatchewan through the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program, including a recent delivery underway in conjunction with the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon.

“The Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus continue to promote its Leave No Neighbor Behind program in all communities across Saskatchewan while demonstrating our faith in action,” said Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus State Deputy Joseph Riffel.

“As Tribal Chief, I would like to thank Knights of Columbus for providing an opportunity to partner with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and White Buffalo Youth Lodge in a unique opportunity to support children and families with coats during a difficult time for families,” said Chief Mark Arcand.

“This ensures that youth will be a little warmer during the winter months. A special thanks to everyone involved that have stepped up to make a difference in children and families lives, during Covid- 19. We look forward to continuing this opportunity in the future to keep supporting vulnerable children and families,” Arcand said.

K of C State Chaplain Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saskatoon, and Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon joined members of the Knights of Columbus at White Buffalo Youth Lodge Jan. 29, as hampers with the new coats included were being prepared.

“It really is an honour to participate with the Knights of Columbus in partnering with the White Buffalo Youth Lodge to meet the needs of youth and families in our community during this difficult time of the pandemic,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “It is also great to see the team at the Youth Lodge who work with their leadership to be a tremendous service and support in Saskatoon.  A project like this provides inspiration and hope in many ways – again, it is an honour to be involved in some small way.”

Project description

K of C State Deputy Riffel described how in December 2020 the supreme office of the men’s fraternal organization created an opportunity for state councils to purchase cases of Coats for Kids with a second case added for free.

“The Saskatchewan State Board, working with the Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus Charitable Foundation put out feelers and ordered additional cases, he said. “Saskatchewan has historically distributed many coats prior to Christmas, but due to the offer, we could not refuse knowing they would be distributed by early fall at the latest.”

A little after Christmas, 100 boxes of new coats were delivered to three locations (two major urban centres and one rural), Riffel said.

“Approximately one third of the cases were quickly distributed to various communities via the councils within a couple days of receiving the case lots. Some went to schools and others to some parish communities for distribution.” However, demand for the remaining cases had dropped, given that individual council funds are low because of COVID-19, and some areas were already saturated from past years’ distribution efforts, Riffel noted.

Knights of Columbus State “Coats for Kids” Chairman Shawn Scherr, knew there was a need to get these coats out in his local community, Riffel said. “He did not want these coats sitting in storage when we all know there is a need in our community. He approached the Saskatoon Tribal Council and met with Chief Mark Arcand.”

The Knights learned that an effort was underway to collect, bundle and distribute some 1,500 food hampers to First Nations peoples in the Saskatoon area with the assistance of a third party – and that there was also a need for winter coats for the children in some of the households receiving these care packages.

Scherr contacted State Deputy Joseph Riffel and Saskatchewan K of C Charitable Foundation President Harvey Granatier to discuss the project.

“We knew these coats were needed now, and instead of saving for the councils to use in the fall, they were best served helping the youth today” Sask K of C Foundation Chair Granatier said.  “The Foundation Board of Directors met and unanimously approved the release and delivery of 50 cases to the White Buffalo Youth Lodge.  Some coats were immediately put into circulation.”

State Deputy Joseph Riffel and State Treasurer Marte Clemente Marquez Nogot stand amongst the coats, and piles of various food hamper items at White Buffalo Youth Lodge. (Submitted photo – Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus)

The White Buffalo Youth Lodge had many volunteers working to support those in the region (in the city of Saskatoon and reserves in the surrounding area) by creating hampers specific to the needs of each family.

“The Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus State Team, the Sask K of C Charitable Foundation and the Saskatoon Tribal Council will continue to work in partnership to order another 70 cases as the need continues, to help serve the needs of the communities in the surrounding areas,” added Riffel.


Saskatchewan Coats for Kids Chairman Shawn Scherr and State Treasurer Marte Clemente Marquez Nogot with the new Coats for Kids and other materials to be distributed through White Buffalo Youth Lodge. (Submitted photo – Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus)


Founded in 1882 to assist working-class and immigrant Catholics in the United States, the Knights of Columbus includes approximately two million members who put their faith into action through a broad range of charitable causes locally, nationally and internationally with financial contributions and hands-on service.

The Knights of Columbus launched the Coats for Kids program to ensure that children in need would have access to a warm winter coat. Since the program started in 2009, councils have purchased and distributed more than 500,000 new winter coats to children throughout North America.

Trucks deliver goods for the hampers. Piles of each item were stacked to help with the creation of hampers just prior to delivery from the White Buffalo Youth Lodge. The coats were sorted to size. (Submitted photo – Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus)



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Pope Francis adds feast of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus to Church calendar

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 12:37

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis has added the memorial of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to the General Roman Calendar, giving the siblings the combined feast day of July 29.

decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship Feb. 2 said that Pope Francis had included the three saints in the General Roman Calendar “considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, in believing that he is the resurrection and the life.”

The General Roman Calendar is the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, which denotes the dates of holy days and the feast days of saints commemorated annually.

The memorial of St. Martha was already included on Jan. 29 in the General Roman Calendar before the Second Vatican Council, but St. Lazarus and St. Mary were originally left off due to uncertainty about the identity of Mary of Bethany / Mary Magdalene.

The decree explained that these uncertainties “have been resolved in recent studies and times,” and pointed out that Mary and Lazarus are already commemorated on July 29 in the Roman Martyrology, the Church’s official catalog of martyrs and saints.

Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were three siblings living in the town of Bethany outside of Jerusalem during the time of Christ.

Signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Divine Worship congregation, the pope’s decree said that “in the household of Bethany the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and for this reason, the Gospel of John states that he loved them.”

“Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the One who humiliated death,” the decree continued.

The July 29 feast day of Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus will now appear in the Church’s calendars and liturgical texts as a memorial.

Memorials rank third in the classification of feast days on the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar. The memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus will be an obligatory memorial, which means it must be observed.

Pope Francis also added three other saints and Doctors of the Church as optional memorials on the General Roman Calendar.

Three other saints commemorated

According to a Feb. 2 decree, St. Hildegard of Bingen will be commemorated on Sept. 17, St. Gregory of Narek on Feb. 27, and St. John of Ávila on May 10. With the insertion of their feast days in the General Roman Calendar as optional memorials, the three saints may now be commemorated at Mass and other liturgies.

“The combination of holiness with knowledge in the experience of the mystery of Jesus Christ is inextricably linked to the mystery of the Church,” Cardinal Sarah wrote in the decree.

“This link between holiness and understanding things divine and also human shines out in a very special way in those who have been given the title ‘Doctor of the Church,’” he said.

“Indeed, the wisdom that characterizes these men and women is not solely theirs, since by becoming disciples of divine Wisdom they have themselves become teachers of wisdom for the entire ecclesial community. It is in this light that the holy ‘Doctors’ are inscribed in the General Roman Calendar,” Sarah explained.

During the 12th century, the German St. Hildegard of Bingen was a Benedictine abbess, writer, philosopher, Christian mystic, and visionary.

She was also one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, meaning songs with a single tune or melody, usually performed by a single voice or instrument.

St. Gregory of Narek was a 10th-century priest, monk, mystic, and poet beloved among Armenian Christians.

He is venerated as a saint both in the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is not in full communion with Rome.

St. John of Ávila lived in Spain in the 1500s and is sometimes called the “Apostle of Andalusia” because of his extensive ministry to that area.

He was a priest, author, and mystic, and is known to have corresponded with, and influenced, Spanish saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of God, and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Doctors of the Church

Sts. John of Ávila and Hildegard of Bingen were named Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and St. Gregory of Narek was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis in 2015.

“Doctor of the Church” is a title given to some saints in recognition of their extraordinary contribution and universal importance to the Catholic Church through their learning and writings. At present, the Church has given this title to 36 saints.




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Pope Francis to participate in first International Day of Human Fraternity

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 12:06

News release from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

[Vatican City ] – Pope Francis will celebrate the International Day of Human Fraternity on Thursday, Feb. 4 in a virtual event hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, with the participation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb; Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations; and other dignitaries.

During the event, the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, which is inspired by the Human Fraternity Document, will be awarded.

The meeting and the award ceremony will be streamed by Vatican News, the multimedia information portal of the Holy See, and broadcast by Vatican Media in several languages starting at 7:30 a.m. CST Feb. 4, 2021.

LINK to video marking the first International Day of Human Fraternity

“This celebration responds to a clear call that Pope Francis has been making to all humanity to build a present of peace in the encounter with the other,” stressed Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot MCCJ, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“In October 2020, that invitation became even more vivid with the encyclical Fratelli tutti. These meetings are a way to achieve true social friendship, as the Holy Father asks of us,” he added.

The date is no coincidence. On Feb. 4, 2019, during an apostolic journey Pope Francis made to the United Arab Emirates, together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (Cairo), Ahmad Al- Tayyeb, they signed the document Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. The Pope and the Grand Imam spent almost half a year drafting this document before they announced it together during the historic visit.

A few months later, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was established to translate the aspirations of the Human Fraternity Document into sustained engagements and concrete actions to foster fraternity, solidarity, respect and mutual understanding.

The Higher Committee is planning an Abrahamic Family House, with a synagogue, a church and a mosque, on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. It established an independent jury to receive nominations for the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity and choose winners whose work demonstrates a lifelong commitment to human fraternity. The 2021 prize will be awarded Feb. 4.

On Dec. 21, 2020, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared Feb. 4 as International Day of Human Fraternity.

“In this decisive phase of human history, we are at a crossroads: on the one hand, universal fraternity in which humanity rejoices, and on the other, an acute misery that will increase the suffering and deprivation of people,”  Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, secretary general of the High Committee of Human Fraternity, underlined during his presentation of the encyclical Fratelli tutti Oct. 4, 2020.

Pope Francis has encouraged the Holy See to join in the celebration of International Human Fraternity Day under the leadership of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In the January edition of the Pope’s Video, “At the service of human fraternity,” the Holy Father highlights the importance of focusing on what is essential to the faith of all faiths: worship of God and love of neighbour.

“Fraternity leads us to open ourselves to the Father of all and to see in the other a brother, a sister, to share life, or to support one another, to love, to know,” Pope Francis emphasises in the video.


About the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was instituted in 1964 by Pope Paul VI with the aim of working on relations and dialogue between the Catholic Church and the faithful of other religions.

It is currently chaired by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ. Among its main activities, it collaborates with bishops and episcopal conferences on matters related to interreligious dialogue; it holds meetings, visits and conferences with leaders of other religions; and it publishes various materials to promote dialogue between different faiths.

About the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity is made up of different international religious leaders, scholars and cultural leaders who were inspired by the 2019 Document on human fraternity for world peace and living together and are dedicated to sharing its message of mutual understanding and peace. Their main work is to act concretely according to the aspirations of the Document on Human Fraternity and to spread the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

The Secretary General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity is Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam.


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Pope Francis establishes “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” to be marked at the end of July

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 10:54
By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency [Vatican City – CNA) – Pope Francis has announced the establishment of an international day to honor grandparents and the elderly to take place each year in July.

“The Holy Spirit … arouses thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today: their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and guards the roots of peoples. They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, to transmit to young people an experience of life and faith,” Pope Francis said in the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Jan. 31, 2021.

“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots. For this reason, I have decided to establish the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly,” the pope said.

The World Day for the Grandparents and the Elderly will take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Joachim and Anne.

This year it will take place on Sunday, July 25, and Pope Francis will offer a special Mass to mark the occasion, according to the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

In his Angelus address — offered via a live video broadcast due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the pope recalled the upcoming liturgical celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph.

“The day after tomorrow, Feb. 2, we will celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon and Anna, both elderly, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognized Jesus as the Messiah,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also pointed to the example of the Virgin Mary who “always kept Jesus’ words and gestures in her heart and followed Him with total willingness and faithfulness.”

“May she help us too to listen to Him and follow Him, to experience the signs of His salvation in our life,” he prayed.

The pope said that Jesus “speaks not with human authority, but with divine authority, because he has the power to be the definitive prophet, that is, the Son of God who saves us, heals us all.”

He asked: “Do we listen to the words of Jesus which are authoritative?”

“Always, do not forget, carry a small Gospel in your pocket or bag, to read it during the day, to listen to that authoritative word of Jesus,” he said.

The pope explained that Jesus’ ministry of healing, exorcisms, and “preaching with authority” show that Christ “aimed at defeating the evil present in humankind and in the world.”

“Jesus’ teaching has the same authority as God speaking; in fact, with a single command he easily frees the possessed from the evil one and heals him,” he said.

“His word points directly at the kingdom of Satan: it puts him in crisis and makes him retreat, forcing him to leave,” Francis said.

After the Angelus prayer, children from the diocese of Rome joined the pope in the Apostolic Palace to read a letter about the importance of peace. The children are participants in the virtual “Caravan of Peace” organized by Catholic Action.

Pope Francis also highlighted World Leprosy Day, which occurs each year on the last Sunday of January. He appealed to world leaders to join efforts to treat those suffering from leprosy – officially called Hansen’s Disease – and to work for their social inclusion.

“I express my closeness to those who suffer from this disease, and I encourage missionaries, health workers and volunteers committed to their service,” the pope said.

“The pandemic has confirmed how necessary it is to protect the right to health for the most vulnerable people.”


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Community mourns death of Fr. Paul Paproski, OSB, of St. Peter’s Abbey

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 13:18

By Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, St. Peter’s Abbey

A life in full bloom at St.Peter’s Abbey was struck down suddenly at the age of 57. Without warning, Fr. Paul Paproski was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease Nov. 27, 2019. It cleared up the mystery of why he was limping that summer with his left leg and unable to get up when he fell.

A socially-distanced public visitation will take place Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Schuler-Lefebvre Funeral Chapel in Humboldt, SK. The private funeral Mass for Fr. Paul Paproski, OSB, will be live-streamed at at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3

Fr. Paul was pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Muenster for five years. Ordained on Aug. 12, 2006 at the same Muenster cathedral, Fr. Paul lived at St. Peter’s Abbey and served in a number of surrounding parishes as pastor or assistant.

Muenster was his last assignment.

Born in Lanigan to Ardel and Freda Paproski in 1963, he moved with his family to Hudson Bay, SK, in 1971. He grew up there with his brother Perry and his sisters Gwen and Glenda.

Fr. Paul earned a degree in journalism after high school. He then worked as editor of the Hudson Bay Review for 12 years before joining St. Peter’s Abbey in 1998.

He was the first St. Peter’s monk to study philosophy and theology at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, USA. St. Vincent’s is the mother abbey of the St. Peter’s community that was first founded in 1892 near Wetaug, Ill. and transferred to Muenster in 1903.

In his studies, Fr. Paul specialized in monastic history.

At St. Peter’s Abbey, Fr. Paul put his talents to work in a variety of ways. His artistic photographs adorn many rooms and hallways. He taught in the formation program and served as junior master for many years. He became involved with engaged encounter weekends at the abbey.

Fr. Paul earned his master’s degree in Canadian history from the University of Saskatchewan. He headed the abbey Oblate program and published a newsletter for them and also edited the abbey newsletter. He worked as campus minister in the Men in Black program for the students at St. Peter’s College.

Fr. Paul had a quiet and shy personality which attracted many people to his ministry. He died in the Humboldt Hospital on Jan. 28, 2021.

Memorial donations can be sent directly to Abbey Elder Care, St. Peter’s Abbey, Box. 10, Muenster, SK S0K 2Y0.


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100 Words – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Un-shamed”

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 12:42

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. Mark 1:22

The nobody from Nazareth does a shameful thing today – “have you heard, the carpenter’s teaching in the synagogue!?!”

But just so it’s clear that Jesus can do this, Mark depicts Jesus dealing, handily, with a demon-shrieking-man and the faithful are impressed.

“He teaches with authority!”

This authority of Jesus is “teaching = actions” authority. What he does and what he says are seamlessly united. And what he does is restore a marginalized person to the community.

That frightens us because it shatters our outsider-insider worldview and favours uncompromising actions that declare, “by God’s power you are restored to this community.”

ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]


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Churches demand Canada join treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 07:55

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – The Canadian Council of Churches has again called on Canada to sign and ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the treaty became officially part of international law on Jan. 22.

“Nuclear weapons are evil and they present a unique, existential threat to humanity,” CCC Justice and Peace Commission chair Sr. Donna Geernaert wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau.

But Global Affairs Canada isn’t biting.

“Substantive progress on non-proliferation and disarmament can only come via initiatives that engage all states, including those which possess nuclear weapons,” Global Affairs spokesperson Grantly Franklin said in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

Ever since groups began organizing and pushing for the new nuclear weapons’ treaty in 2010, Canada has stood with the 29 other NATO member states in refusing to engage in treaty negotiations, to vote on the treaty or to acknowledge it has now been ratified by 52 UN member states, surpassing the 50 states necessary to bring it into force under international law. The Vatican signed and ratified the treaty as soon as it was opened for signatures Sept. 20, 2017.

NATO policy retains a right of first use of nuclear weapons to defend against possible attack by an enemy. Current policy also envisions the possibility of a limited, strategic nuclear exchange. The NATO director of nuclear policy has stated that “NATO will remain a nuclear alliance as long as nuclear weapons exist.”

All 26 member churches of the Canadian Council of Churches urged Ottawa to sign and ratify the treaty in 2018, a few months after it passed in a 122-to-one vote at the UN. This time the churches are hoping the lessons of the COVID pandemic might persuade the government to think globally and act on the treaty, Geernaert said.

Whether it’s health, the environment or the threat of war, the COVID crisis demonstrates how any global challenge must be confronted with a decisive and co-ordinated response, she said.

If only one per cent of the world’s 13,400 nuclear weapons were to be used, they would likely kill millions in the immediate blast, but the effects would wash over the entire globe, causing nuclear winter, famine and the death of billions.

“There’s no way that could be restrained,” Geernaert said. “We saw with Chernobyl that it goes across the globe. That’s what COVID has done — we’re all connected.”

Geernaert believes Pope Francis has summed up common sense on nuclear weapons.

“According to Pope Francis, and I think he’s right, if you’ve got them there’s always the possibility you’re going to use them,” she said.

While the churches demand signing and ratification of the nuclear treaty, a coalition of 110 peace, faith, women’s and environmental groups is asking Parliament to take some intermediate steps to inch Canada toward joining the treaty. In an appeal to legislators, the coalition has asked for public hearings into the treaty before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Global Affairs claims “Canada has long been an important player in global nuclear disarmament and remains committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.”

By keeping communications open with NATO and “all stakeholders,” Canada can play a role in reducing the threat of nuclear war, said Franklin.

“Canada will continue to act as a bridge-builder, working to unite states in taking concrete steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said.


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