The number of Christian martyrs has tripled in two years.

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2016 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2013, there were some 2,100 Christians killed for faith-related reasons across the globe. Last year, that number rose to at least 7,100, according to a recent report from an advocacy group. … Read more

Undercover investigators dismiss Planned Parenthood lawsuit as ‘frivolous’

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2016 / 03:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Planned Parenthood is suing the pro-life group that released a series of undercover videos exposing its role in offering fetal tissue from aborted babies to harvesters for compensation. The gr… Read more

Pope Francis kicks off monthly works of mercy with surprise visits

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2016 / 01:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- True to form, the pope of the surprise papal visit dropped by two different nursing homes in Rome unannounced on Friday. The visits kicked off the Pope’s monthly works of mercy, which he plans to do on Fridays during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Pope’s first visit on Friday, Jan. 15 was to the Bruno Buozzi Retirement Home on Via di Torre Spaccata, on the outskirts of Rome, which houses 33 elderly people. Pope Francis was able to speak briefly with each person during his visit. He was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Before returning to the Vatican, the pope made a second surprise stop at the “Casa Irde,” a home where six persons in a vegetative state live with their families and are provided assistance. According to a Vatican statement, with these visits, Pope Francis wanted to emphasize the great importance of elderly persons, of grandparents, and the value and dignity of life in every situation. In December, Pope Francis said in an interview with the official website for the Jubilee of Mercy that he would be making “different gestures” of mercy once a month on Fridays during the Holy Year. “The revolution of tenderness is that which, today, we must cultivate as a fruit of this year of mercy: the tenderness of God toward each one of us,” the Pope told the official Jubilee publication ‘Credere’. That the first of his Friday visits were a surprise should not be, well, surprising, to anyone who’s been following Francis’ pontificate. From early on in his pontificate, Francis has been surprising the people of Rome by showing up in unexpected places – to pay his hotel bill, to get some new glasses – to the delight of many. In July 2014, the Pope showed up unannounced at a Vatican cafeteria to lunch with some blue-collar employees of the Holy See. In February of last year, Francis surprised residents of the Arcobaleno shantytown with a visit before making his way to say Mass at the Roman Parish of San Michele Arcangelo. In Oct. 2015, Pope Francis paid an inaugural – and, yes, surprise – visit to the “Gift of Mercy” house, a newly built Vatican shelter for homeless men. The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that began December 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – and will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = “//”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));Surprise! It’s Pope Francis.Watch: Residents at two nursing homes in Rome got the surprise of a lifetime.Posted by Catholic News Agency on Friday, January 15, 2016 Read more

In Ghana, a broken bone can mean starvation. This doctor wants to change that.

Accra, Ghana, Sep 7, 2016 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. Joseph Marotta, an orthopedic surgeon from Albany, New York, had always intended to use his medical skills to help people in developing countries. But the final inspiration didn’t come un… Read more

These three Catholic inmates in Milan are making Eucharistic Hosts

Milan, Italy, Jan 15, 2016 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The penitential path for three convicted murderers in Italy includes a unique role at Mass: they make the Eucharistic hosts to be consecrated by prison chaplains, a cardinal, and perhaps one day the Pope. Cristiano Vallanzano, Giuseppe Ferlitto and Ciro D’Amora are among 1,300 inmates at the Opera maximum security prison in Milan, They are taking part in the “Meaning of Bread” program, which aims to create a process of reconciliation for the prisoners, the Italian television station TG2000 reports. Vallanzano, the youngest of the three, is serving a 23-year sentence. “Above everything else, I hope to be forgiven by God for what I’ve done,” he said. He recounted the process of making the hosts: “In the morning, we say a short prayer, a Hail Mary, an Our Father, we make the dough, have some coffee, smoke a cigarette and begin.” Vallanzano hopes to leave prison while he is still young, saying, “When I get out of prison I hope to get married, have children, a family.” D’Amora said it was “very touching” to start their work with a prayer. “We think about the people who are suffering, those we’ve made suffer and we pray.” With this work, he said, “we’re sending a message to young people not to do what we ourselves have done.” Ferlitto said it is “a really beautiful thing” to make with his own hands the hosts that he and others receive in Holy Communion. “When I’m working on making the hosts I always ask Jesus, God, for forgiveness for what I’ve done,” he said. He hopes that this work “will give me the possibility to one day personally ask forgiveness of the relatives of the victims.” Arnoldo Mosca Mondadori, the project’s creator, said the program shows “that the need to be saved by the love of Christ is for everyone.” It is “not just for those who are serving a sentence in prison, who are often conscious of the mistakes they made.” Mondadori is co-founder of the Milan-based Casa dello Spirito e delle Arti, a social, spiritual and cultural center. The three prisoners want to present the hosts they have made to Pope Francis in person. In a letter to the Pope, the three said they hope that “we ourselves, with our hands once stained with blood, can place in his blessed hands the hosts we’ve made, on the occasion of the Jubilee (Year of Mercy).” “With the hope that our dream can be realized, we greet you with great affection and devotion,” the letter concludes. The prisoners signed the letter with their first names: Cristiano, Giuseppe and Ciro. Some of the hosts that these three prisoners make will be consecrated Jan. 17 by Cardinal Antonio Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, as part of the Year of Mercy. The date marks the 102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis has chosen as its theme “Migrants and refugees challenge us: the response of the Gospel of Mercy.” Read more

How Christians in remote India came together to celebrate Christmas

Miao, India, Jan 14, 2016 / 09:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the remote foothills of India’s Patkai-Bum mountains, a Catholic parish joined Christians of various denominations to share the joy of Christmas and forge friendships to serve a common vis… Read more

Anglican leaders smack Episcopal Church over gay marriage

London, England, Jan 14, 2016 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A meeting of national leaders of the Anglican Communion on Thursday issued a statement reprimanding the Episcopal Church, its American branch, for having allowed its clergy to perform same-sex marriages. “Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage,” a Jan. 14 statement from the meeting reads. As a result the Anglican Communion is “requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.” The Jan. 11-16 meeting in Canterbury, known as Primates 2016, gathers the heads of 37 national Anglican churches from around the world “to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Anglican Communion.” The Anglican Communion has been in tension in recent years over the issues of same-sex marriage. Since 2003, the Episcopal Church has made moves to be more tolerant of or even welcoming to homosexual acts and relationships. These moves have drawn sharp criticism from Anglican communities elsewhere, particularly in Africa. In July 2015 the Episcopal Church’s general convention voted to accept gay marriage, and approved liturgies for their celebration. The Primates 2016 statement notes that “We gathered as Anglican Primates to pray and consider how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.” “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.” The statement called the Episcopal Church’s decision “unilateral” and lacking “Catholic unity,” and added that it “is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.” It went on to say that such actions “further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us.” The decision to suspend the Episcopal Church from decision making within the wider Anglican community was a formal acknowledgement of the distance between the United States branch and the rest of the Anglican Communion. The three-year suspension will be revisited in 2018, when the Episcopal Church’s next general convention is scheduled. The primates’ statement added that they had asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a task group to help restore trust and to explore the differences between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion. When he announced Primates 2016 last September, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, had acknowledged the challenges facing the Anglican Communion over the issue of same-sex marriage. “The way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces,” he stated. “We each live in a different context. “The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity. A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together.” The Episcopal Church’s changing perspective on homosexuality had already heightened tensions within the Anglican Communion. In 2009, former members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, disaffected by those communities’ liberalization on homosexuality, formed the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, yet it is in communion with three African provinces of the Anglican Communion. And even though the ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, Welby invited its head, Foley Beach, to be present at Primates 2016. The primates’ statement was to have been released Jan. 15, but their decision had been leaked earlier on Thursday. As a result they decided to release their agreed-upon document in full, “in order to avoid speculation.” Read more

Child labor, sexual abuse, death – the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2016 / 04:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The life of a refugee is rarely easy. But it is particularly difficult for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, most of whom cannot obtain legal status and are vulnerable to exploitation, says a new rep… Read more

Pope Francis invites 2,000 homeless, migrants to circus

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2016 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday afternoon the office for papal charities offered a unique charity event for Rome’s marginalized: an entire circus organized especially for them. The poor, homeless, refugees and a group of prisoners were treated to the special entertainment, which was offered to them free of charge at the Rony Roller Circus. The company had made all of its 2,000 seats available for the occasion. An initiative of the Office of the Papal Almoner, headed by Bishop Konrad Krajewski, the event was announced in a Jan. 14 communique from the office. The opening act of the show was a song written by a Spanish singer-songwriter who used to be homeless himself, and who dedicated the song to Pope Francis and wrote it to be “an opening prayer and expression of gratitude to the Holy Father for this new act of closeness to each one of them.” In one of his general audience addresses last January, Pope Francis said that those who put on circus shows “are creators of beauty.” In light of the Pope’s comments, the Almoner’s Office said that Thursday’s “gift,” offered by circus artists “who with perseverance, commitment and many sacrifices are able to create and give beauty to themselves and to others,” is also a source of renewal for the most needy. “(It is) an encouragement to overcome the harshness and difficulties of life which many times seem too great and insurmountable.” The communique also noted that medical personnel from the Vatican Health Services would be on site, and would give free treatment to any of the attendees who might need it. A small snack was also provided after the event. In addition to the circus announcement, the Holy See Press office also made known the identity of the second family of refugees being hosted by the Vatican, assisted by St. Peter’s basilica. A Jan. 14 communique from the Vatican announced that St. Peter’s has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family, consisting of a mother and her five children. While three of the children are already in Italy, the other two are still in an Ethiopian refugee camp. They are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, the Vatican said, and explained that the youngest child, only a few months, was born in Norway, where the family had fled. After the child’s birth, the family was sent back to Italy by the Dublin Convention, though the reasons for this were not given. The family’s presence is a response to Pope Francis’ Sept. 6, 2015 appeal for all European parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines to house one refugee family. At the time, the Pope said the two Vatican parishes – St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Anne’s parish – would also be hosting one family each. The family hosted by St. Anne’s parish is a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children. They fled from the Syrian capital of Damascus, and are now living in a Vatican-owned apartment just outside the Vatican walls. They arrived in Italy the same day Pope Francis made his appeal. Pope Francis greeted the Syrian family himself just before he set off for his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States in September. Both of the Vatican’s parishes have been assisted in welcoming the families by the Papal Almoner, Bishop Konrad Krajewski, and the Sant’Egidio Community. Read more

Mexican bishop: ‘El Chapo’ blood money should be returned to community

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 14, 2016 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Benjamin Castillo Plascencia of Celaya, Mexico praised the capture of the notorious drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as “El Chapo,” saying that he hop… Read more