Vie de l'église

New Mexico public health order’s gun ban not ‘a threat to Constitution,’ says archbishop

A New Mexico archbishop said the state’s temporary ban on openly carrying firearms in and around Albuquerque is not « a threat to the Constitution. »

« I believe Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is correct to point out the crisis we are experiencing in Albuquerque and the County of Bernalillo. The number of gun deaths we witness here is deplorable and tragic, » said Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe in a Sept. 11 statement.

On Sept. 7, Lujan Grisham signed executive order 2023-130, which declared a state of public health emergency due to gun violence. The order, set to remain in effect until Oct. 6, cited a 45% rise in gun deaths from 2009 to 2018 and an increase in mass shootings. The governor also noted that gun violence is the leading cause of death among the state’s children, with three slain in recent weeks.

The following day, Lujan Grisham signed a public health order announcing a statewide enforcement plan for gun violence, as well as a plan for reducing deaths from the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The plan includes a 30-day suspension of concealed and open carrying of firearms in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County.

Lujan Grisham’s orders have evoked backlash from gun rights advocates and fellow lawmakers, several of whom have called the move unconstitutional. New Mexico state representatives John Block and Stefani Lord, both Republicans, have called for the governor, a Democrat, to be impeached.

The National Association for Gun Rights has filed a lawsuit against Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Secretary of Health Patrick Allen, seeking a temporary restraining order as well as the granting of a preliminary and then permanent injunction. New Mexico Republicans are expected to file a similar suit.

The orders also drew criticism from some gun control advocates. March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, took to X (formerly Twitter) Sept. 9 to protest.

« I support gun safety, but there is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution, » said Hogg, repeating verbatim a Sept. 9 tweet by Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California.

Yet Wester said the governor « has been consistent in addressing gun safety through legislation and is not now attacking the Second Amendment. »

« She knows the law, » said Wester. « I believe she is trying to get us to solve what has become a crisis in our state. »

He added that « the focus should be on the sanctity of human life. That is the point. »

The archbishop added he hoped « to hear more of an outcry over an eleven-year-old boy killed by a bullet fired in a road rage incident than over the right to carry a gun, » referencing the death of Froylan Villegas, who was fatally shot Sept. 6 while traveling in a car near Isotopes Park. The child’s 20-year-old aunt was injured in the shooting, which police suspect was due to road rage. Some 17 bullets were fired in the attack.

Five-year-old Galilea Samaniego was killed in her sleep Aug. 13 shots were fired at her residence. Five teens have been arrested for the drive-by shooting.

On July 28, 13-year-old Amber Archuleta was shot by a teen friend in Questa, New Mexico, while listening to music.

« I ask all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, along with all the faithful, to keep the victims of gun violence in your prayers so that we might take steps to solve the tragedy of gun violence in our society, » said Wester.

Vie de l'église

Pope sends prayers after flooding kills thousands in Libya

« His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the immense loss of life and destruction caused by the flooding in the eastern part of Libya, and he sends the assurance of his prayers for the souls of the deceased and all who mourn their loss, » said a telegram sent Sept. 12 to Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the nuncio to Libya.

« His Holiness also expresses heartfelt spiritual closeness to the injured, to those who fear for their missing loved ones and to the emergency personnel providing rescue and relief assistance, » said the telegram signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya, told reporters the death toll is likely to be « huge, » the BBC reported Sept. 12. The number of people reported missing is about 10,000 and the number of people confirmed dead already was 1,500 and expected to rise sharply.

The rains from Storm Daniel, which made landfall in Libya Sept. 10, led to two dams bursting near the city of Derna, unleashing torrents of water that wiped out a huge section of the city.

Vie de l'église

Praying for unity, pope welcomes head of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Pope Francis prayed that Catholics and members of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church would recognize the wounds of division they have inflicted on Christ’s body, the church, and come to celebrate the faith together.

« If we touch these wounds together; if, like the Apostle (Thomas), we proclaim together that Jesus is our Lord and our God; and if, with a humble heart, we entrust ourselves to his amazing grace, we can hasten the much-anticipated day when, with his help, we will celebrate the paschal mystery at the same altar, » Francis said Sept. 11 as he welcomed Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Mathews III to the Vatican.

The catholicos is primate of the India-based Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which traces its origins to the preaching of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Also known informally as the Indian Orthodox Church, it is one of the Oriental Orthodox churches that broke with the rest of Christianity in the fifth century in a dispute over explaining the identity of Christ. Between 1971 and 1996, each of the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Vatican signed statements affirming their differences were a matter of terminology and not substance.

Francis welcomed the catholicos and his delegation in the library of the Apostolic Palace and prayed with them in the nearby Redemptoris Mater Chapel.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church sent observers to the Second Vatican Council and will have a « fraternal delegate » at the upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the pope noted.

The Vatican and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in 1989 established a bilateral theological commission, which has focused primarily on pastoral issues, reaching agreements allowing priests of either church to anoint a sick or dying person when a member of the clergy from one’s own church is not available and setting out rules for allowing parishes to share churches and cemeteries.

« These are wonderful agreements, » Francis said, adding he is thankful that the commission’s work is « focused above all on pastoral life, since pastoral ecumenism is the natural way to full unity. »

« It is by moving forward fraternally in the preaching of the Gospel and the concrete care of the faithful that we acknowledge ourselves to be a single pilgrim flock of Christ, » the pope said.

Thanking the catholicos for accepting to send a delegate to the synod, Francis told him, « I am convinced that we can learn much from the age-old synodal experience of your church. »

« In a certain sense, » he said, « the ecumenical movement is contributing to the ongoing synodal process of the Catholic Church, and it is my hope that the synodal process can, in turn, contribute to the ecumenical movement » since both ecumenism and synodality focus on fostering relationships where people walk together as they seek fuller communion with one another.

With communion, he said, comes « a more effective witness by Christians ‘so that the world may believe.' »

« When the Lord showed him his wounds, St. Thomas passed from disbelief to belief by what he saw, » the pope said. « May our shared contemplation of the crucified and risen Lord lead to the complete healing of our past wounds, so that, before our eyes, transcending all distance and misunderstanding, he may appear, ‘our Lord and our God,’ who calls us to recognize and adore him at a single eucharistic altar. Let us pray that this happens soon. »


The Supreme Law

(Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on September 9 & 10, 2023 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Ezekiel 33:7-9 and Matthew 18:15-20)

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

PLAY « The Supreme Law »

Vie de l'église

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Speak out for creation

On Sept. 22, 2021, Stephen Colbert and six other late-night TV hosts featured climate change in their programs. Among other things, Colbert admitted, « I’m a great hypocrite. I’ll never do anything that’s inconvenient to me. That’s why there has to be systemic change, to make everyone make the right choices, not the easy ones. » 

It’s not often that comedians sound like they just read a papal document, but that night, entertainers were all but citing Pope Francis’ encyclical « Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home. »

Today, we hear God tell Ezekiel to be a « watchman » for Israel. Now, watchmen are supposed to guard those who hire them, but God commissioned this watchman to disturb his clientele. Who but God would think of that? (It doesn’t bode well for long-term employment!)

God tells Ezekiel that if he doesn’t speak out, he’ll be responsible for all the wickedness that he lets pass him by. Now that’s a heavy burden. Ezekiel’s only option is to do like the comedians and warn folks that their behavior is pressing down the accelerator on their impending doom.

Growing up, Jesus surely learned about Ezekiel and his thankless vocation. Perhaps he meditated on Ezekiel’s task as he went about whatever kept him busy before he began his public mission. 

However he came to it, Jesus took the prophetic call to heart and he figured out how to pull it off with memorable humor.

Today’s teaching about fraternal correction concludes a series of Jesus’ wild and witty ideas (Matthew 18:1-14). After telling the disciples that the humble are the greatest in God’s sight, Jesus launched into exaggeration and wordplay. 

He suggested that it would be better to drown with a 200-pound millstone necklace than to set a stumbling block before the simple. As if that weren’t enough, he asserted that people should cut off their hands or pluck out their eyes rather than let those body parts lead them to sin. 

Then, while everyone was laughing (nervously) at his absurd images, he hit them with a serious challenge: « If your brother sins … » In other words: « You are responsible for one another and must do everything possible to help others find their way. »

What did folks think upon hearing that? Suppose the listener were someone without much social status, perhaps a woman? To what does Jesus call her? 

First, he suggests that she be a whistleblower, telling perpetrators how she views their behavior. 

If she gets no results, she’s supposed to risk sharing her assessment with others — perhaps people with greater social status. This step entails the chance that they could dismiss her or decide that the cost of saying something is too great. 

Still, by the grace of God, they might agree and join her crusade. 

What would lead others to join with her? They, like she, would need a twofold motivation. First, they would need to perceive the wrong in the situation. Secondly, they would need the commitment and hope to believe that something better is possible.

Note: Jesus is not proposing a law-and-order solution. There’s no mention of punishment here. It’s all aimed at a conversion of mind and heart — including the humbling possibility that the confronter herself might change her viewpoint. 

It is also an innately communal activity. If the whistleblower and the perpetrator do not agree, a larger group is responsible to discern and speak out. Finally, if no agreement comes from that, the community simply accepts the fact that the « perpetrator » cannot change enough to be in communion with them. 

There’s no winner or loser, but there is a clarification of values. The ones who see something wrong must continue to practice their convictions — whether or not it is convenient and whether or not others agree with them.

Today? As we enter into the Season of Creation, public figures, including Colbert and Francis, call our attention to climate change as « one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day, » in the words of Laudato Si’. We even recognize it as the primary pro-life issue of our time. 

Like Ezekiel the disturber, Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’, « As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear, » but « this is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them … delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. »

In this second week of the 2023 Season of Creation, we are called to take up our vocation as creation’s caretakers without delay. Like someone who calls out an offender, we must disturb the peace and implement real systemic change. It’s either that or usher in the impending doom.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts!

Vie de l'église

‘Here Lies Love’ musical about Imelda Marcos ignores Philippine Catholicism

Summer is the cruelest season on Broadway, months during which shows grit their teeth, make themselves as attractive as possible to the tourists mobbing TKTS, and pray to survive. Not every show does. This summer, « Camelot, » « New York, New York, » « Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, » « Life of Pi, » « Peter Pan Goes Wrong, » « Once Upon a One More Time » and « Bad Cinderella » all have finished what were meant to be open-ended runs, some just weeks after they began.

But in the midst of such struggles, one musical opening this summer is drawing a lot of interest, both for its style and its subject matter. 

« Here Lies Love » is a disco-inspired musical about Imelda Marcos, wife of Filipino president and later dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Created by American pop icon David Byrne and English DJ Fatboy Slim and developed and directed by Tony-winner Alex Timbers, the show follows Imelda Marcos from her youth in rural Tacloban through her rise to power as first lady and later de facto leader of the country.

The staging of the show is unique: The theater’s orchestra seating and stage have been removed and replaced with a Studio 54-esque dance floor on which those with orchestra tickets stand while the cast performs on movable platforms slightly above them. 

[embedded content]

As Byrne was first imagining the show, he told The Washington Post recently, he learned that Imelda Marcos had loved Studio 54. She even had a disco ball hanging in her New York City townhouse. « What if that’s how the story gets told? » he asked himself. « The play is in a club. We give it that heady, frothy environment. »

Byrne and Timbers really lean into their concept. Not only is the audience on the floor and in the mezzanine invited to dance along at times, but in almost every scene, the characters’ attention is specifically on them. Some moments are fashioned as political rallies, others as presidential visits or parties. 

Whatever the occasion, there are few « private » moments in « Here Lies Love. » Everything is performance.  

That approach is meant to offer the audience a felt sense of what it was like to be in the Philippines under the Marcoses, to experience for themselves the giddy seduction Imelda and Ferdinand offered via their extravagant spending while the poor suffered and the nation went into debt. And it truly is a dazzling experience to be so close to the performance, even interacting with the performers.

Similarly, when public opinion turned against Marcos and he suddenly declared martial law — a situation that would eventually see tens of thousands of Filipinos arrested and tortured, and thousands killed — the audience finds itself in the midst of the chaos that Filipinos experienced. What seemed like a party is revealed to have been a cage from which there is no escape.

But Byrne’s immersive strategy also means that we don’t get many meaningful glimpses at the inner life of the characters. 

Even the show’s « hero, » politician Ninoy Aquino, who speaks out against the Marcoses repeatedly, is only allowed to be more than a stock politician briefly, at the end of his life. Most of his appearances are just as clearly crafted to generate support as the Marcoses’ are, even playing at times on the same natural enthusiasm of the people. Conrad Ricamora gives the role « young Obama » energy.

Imelda’s situation is far different. Over the course of the musical, we watch a young girl become a vicious tyrant. Was she headed down that path from the beginning? Did she know what she was getting into with Marcos? Was she manipulated? Or did she make compromises that eventually transformed her into someone far different than she wanted? It’s hard to say.

In the few private moments the show affords Imelda (played with tremendous vivacity by Arielle Jacobs), there’s a tendency to present her in the most innocent of ways. Perhaps those choices are meant to be a corrective to the context the show creates: If Imelda didn’t have an inspiring princess-like quality — her first song perfectly apes the modern animated Disney songbook — would the audience judge her constant eye toward the crowds as manipulative, as we judge Ferdinand Marcos? But the result is that she comes off quite sympathetic, even as the story turns.

More puzzling is the fact that the show makes no mention of the role of Catholicism in either Imelda’s life or the life of the country. 

Ferdinand Marcos officially ended martial law in 1981 — if in name only — almost entirely so as to convince Pope John Paul II to visit, something Imelda had been trying to make happen for years. (The behind-the-scenes political machinations of that visit are themselves a story worthy of attention.) 

The Catholic Church also served as a key voice of opposition during Marcos’ reign. In 1986, Filipino Cardinal Jaime Sin’s request that Catholics surround a military base in order to protect two military defectors from Marcos’ troops instigated the four-day People Power Revolution that would bring the Marcos government down.

Time Magazine describes those days: « Nuns could be seen in the streets, praying over their rosary beads as they placed flowers in the barrels of soldiers’ guns. Priests mediated between angry protesters and fraught military men. As one of the few media outlets to have survived Marcos’ crackdown on the press, Radio Veritas [the church’s radio station] broadcast minute-by-minute coverage of the uprising. »

The show mentions none of this.  In fact, it presents the People Power Revolution immediately after the assassination of Aquino, and a subsequent rally led by his mother, as though that were what led to the Marcos’ downfall, when those events actually happened three years prior to the end.

The show ends on a country-esque song that stitches together the real-life testimony of different people who were there when the Marcoses’ helicopter flew away. Its pretty but banal refrain is as close as the show gets to religion: « You might think that you are lost / But then you will find / That God draws straight / But with crooked lines. »

Experienced live, performed by the entire cast now performing as themselves rather than their characters, the number is undeniably moving. But « Amazing Grace, » this is not.

And yet even if the creators seem allergic to the Catholicism at the heart of their story, they’re unable to fully suppress the traces of that reality or Imelda Marcos’ ambition. In the lounge in the basement of the theater hang photographs of dioramas that Byrne discovered when he visited the Santo Niño Shrine that Imelda Marcos had built in Tacloban. 

Designed by the shrine’s architect, these dioramas depict scenes from Imelda’s life that she wanted remembered. They clearly follow the storyline of a saint’s life — a childhood in poverty; being crowned a beauty queen, foreshadowing her later role in the country; doing good deeds for the poor as first lady; meeting the pope.

Imelda Marcos had 14 such dioramas built — the same number as there are stations of the Cross. In a country where Catholicism was so fundamental to the language of the people’s imagination, it’s impossible to believe that choice was coincidental. Imelda wanted to be understood as not only a saint but a messianic figure. 

Writing in American Theatre, Filipina American playwright Amanda L. Andrei describes the complicated tradeoff offered by « Here Lies Love. » On the one hand, she describes « feeling uneasy and slightly sick » after seeing the original production of the show at New York’s Public Theater 10 years ago. She wondered « why Imelda seemed to be portrayed as a victim of circumstances and why there was very little mention of the Marcos regime’s human rights violations. »

But on the other hand, Andrei and others have noted the « historic first » that the show offers Broadway, « an all-Filipino cast and majority Filipino creative team. » And that truly is one of the most thrilling elements of the show. The performers are tremendous, and this show represents both a long-overdue opportunity and a claiming of place. Filipino artists have stories of their own to tell, and they belong here.

While more and more of Broadway is populated with tired remakes of movies, « Here Lies Love » is a truly unique and thrilling theatrical experience — a show with fresh and bold aspirations. On its Instagram feed, the show proclaims that it intends to offer « an innovative template on how to stand up to tyrants. »

At the same time, the show’s reluctance to prosecute Imelda Marcos and its total erasure of Catholicism from the story are moves troublingly close to the tactics of the tyrants they denounce.

A musical is not a documentary. But it certainly is a seduction. And « Here Lies Love » is a passionate warning of the dangers of being swept off your feet, in more ways than one.

Vie de l'église

Vatican to offer livestream for small number of Synod sessions

Any limitations and rules regarding media access and communications during the upcoming Synod of Bishops are rooted in the « essence » of a synod and meant to help participants in their process of discernment, said the head of the synod’s communication committee.

« The way in which we are going to share information about the synod is very important for the discernment process and for the entire church, » Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, told reporters at a Vatican news conference Sept. 8.

Some of the « few rules regarding communication » stem from « the essence of the synod, » he said, which Pope Francis has repeatedly underlined is not a « parliament » or convention but a journey of listening and walking together in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

« Maintaining the confidentiality, the privacy, and, I would say, the sacredness of certain places for conversation in the Spirit, is part and parcel of the desire to make these moments a true opportunity for listening, discernment and prayer rooted in communion, » he said.

The news conference with updates about the synod — how it will work and what reporters can expect — came just a few days after Francis had told journalists aboard his flight from Mongolia that the discussions at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-29 will not be open to the public or to reporters to « safeguard the synodal climate. »

However, Ruffini said, some portions of the synod will be livestreamed and open to Vatican accredited reporters:

— Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 4 to open the assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

— The first general congregation, which begins that afternoon with remarks by Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, and Francis.

— The moment of prayer beginning each general congregation to facilitate « communion from around the world of all God’s people. »

— The opening sessions of each of the five segments or « modules » into which the synod will be divided.

The segments will be dedicated to synodality, communion, mission and participation and each will include plenary assembly sessions called general congregations as well as working groups.

A concluding segment will focus on approving a synthesis report that will be discussed in a general congregation, followed by working groups adding their observations and then a summary text will be drafted to « record the points and proposals on which there is substantial agreement, but also those of disagreement, indicating the different positions and their reasons, » Ruffini said.

« Members of the group will be asked to agree on whether the report adequately represents the work done together and not on whether they all agree on every single point, » he said. It will then be submitted to the plenary assembly for approval and then handed over to the general secretariat.

A final document from the synod will not be formulated and presented to the pope until after the second session of the synodal assembly in October 2024.

Working groups will be made up of 10-12 people who will change over the course of the session to encourage greater interaction with more people, Ruffini said.

The groups will also be divided by language, and one reporter noted German was missing as a working group language, while Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese remained.

Ruffini said that was so that German-speakers would not be just « talking amongst themselves » and to get them actively contributing in the other groups « since we know they can speak other languages. »

Each working group will also have an expert for facilitating conversation « in the Spirit, who will accompany the exchange from a methodological point of view, » he said.

The detailed calendar and rules for the synod were still being finalized, Ruffini said.

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the synod, told reporters about the ecumenical prayer vigil for the synod to be held Sept. 30 in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis has emphasized there can be no synodality without ecumenism and no ecumenism without synodality, she said. Young people, members and leaders of different Christian communities and churches will be present, she said. The leaders include Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and William Wilson, chair of the Pentecostal World Fellowship and president of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

St. Peter’s Square will also be decorated with shrubs, trees and flowers to feel like a large garden and symbolize creation and with the San Damiano crucifix of Assisi. It was in front of this crucifix that St. Francis felt called by God to « go and repair my house. »

Vie de l'église

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Catholic champion for unjustly detained, dies at 75

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, an influential figure in Democratic politics who also was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, died Sept. 1, according to a statement from the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.

Richardson, 75, who was Catholic, died in his sleep at his summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts, according to multiple reports. He is survived by Barbara, his wife of more than 50 years, and their daughter, Heather.

Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center, said in a statement that Richardson « lived his entire life in the service of others — including both his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. »

« There was no person that Governor Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom, » Bergman said, adding Richardson was a « champion for those held unjustly abroad » as well as a « mentor and a dear friend. »

A lying-in-state at the New Mexico Capitol Rotunda will be held Sept. 13, with a funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the following day, according to local media. Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe is scheduled to celebrate the Mass.

« The Archdiocese of Santa Fe extends its deepest sympathy to Governor Bill Richardson’s wife, Barbara, and his family as we mourn the loss of this great statesman, » Wester said in a Sept. 7 statement provided to OSV News. The archbishop noted Richardson’s life was « clearly focused on public service » and that in addition to being a « tireless advocate for the freedom of those unjustly detained, » Richardson « was especially instrumental in ending the death penalty in 2010 here in New Mexico. »

« St. Irenaeus famously said the glory of God is a human being fully alive, » Wester said, adding that Richardson « certainly … fit that description as he lived life fully. He enjoyed his many roles of service, and he enjoyed being with the people he served. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on for many, many years. »

Born in Pasadena, California, but raised in Mexico City, the Catholic Church was an important element of Richardson’s childhood. « My mother was a very strong Catholic, » he once said in an interview with Catholic News Service some years ago. « My father was very religious, too, but he was a Protestant. My grandmother, especially, was very devout. She would teach me the prayers in Spanish, ‘Padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo.’ … I remember all those in Spanish. I still say them. »

Richardson had been a fixture in New Mexico politics since 1983, when he became the first representative elected to New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District established that year. He held that seat until 1997, when he was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He was then appointed in 1998 as U.S. secretary of energy by then-President Bill Clinton.

Richardson returned to New Mexico and was elected as its governor in the 2002 gubernatorial election, serving two terms. He later ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said Richardson « wore many weighty titles in his life — Congressman, Governor, Ambassador, Secretary. He seized every chance to serve and met every new challenge with joy, determined to do the most good for his country, his beloved New Mexico, and Americans around the world. »

« Few have served our nation in as many capacities or with as much relentlessness, creativity, and good cheer, » Biden, a Democrat who is the nation’s second Catholic president, said. « He will be deeply missed. »

Biden listed Richardson’s accomplishments, but said his most lasting legacy will likely be « the work Bill did to free Americans held in some of the most dangerous places on Earth. »

« American pilots captured by North Korea, American workers held by Saddam Hussein, Red Cross workers imprisoned by Sudanese rebels — these are just some of the dozens of people that Bill helped bring home, » Biden said. « He’d meet with anyone, fly anywhere, do whatever it took. »

Biden noted Richardson received multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Richardson’s most recent nomination took place in August; he most recently had helped negotiate the release of Brittney Griner, an American professional women’s basketball player who had been imprisoned by Russia in a remote penal colony over illegal possession of cannabis oil.

« The multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations he received are a testament to his ceaseless pursuit of freedom for Americans, » Biden said. « So is the profound gratitude that countless families feel today for the former governor who helped reunite them with their loved ones. »

Biden said he came to know Richards during Biden’s time in the Senate when Richardson was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

« Over the years, I saw firsthand his passion for politics, love for America, and unflagging belief that, with respect and good faith, people can come together across any difference, no matter how vast, » Biden said. « He was a patriot and true original, and will not be forgotten. »

Vie de l'église

Catholic student center at Washington’s Howard University named for Sister Thea Bowman

On a day when history was made 60 years earlier with the March on Washington, Fr. Robert Boxie III, the Catholic chaplain at Howard University in the nation’s capital, noted that the campus ministry program there was making history of its own, with the blessing and dedication of its new Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Student Center.

« Today is an historic day, dedicating this new center, » Boxie said Aug. 28. « It’s going to be a place for students to pray, to worship, to study, to meet, to fellowship, to socialize, even to cook — we have a kitchen — (it will be) a place to build community and grow in authentic friendship, and a place where we can be unabashedly young, Black, gifted and Catholic. »

Howard University, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, was founded in 1867, and the Catholic campus ministry at Howard University, named HU Bison Catholic to reflect the nickname of the university’s sports teams, marked its 75th anniversary this past year.

Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory blessed and dedicated the new Catholic student center at Howard University, named for the late Bowman. The Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was a dynamic evangelist and noted educator who died of cancer in 1990. She also is one of six Black Catholics from the United States being considered for sainthood. She has the title « Servant of God. »

« What a wonderful thing we do today to set aside this place as another house for God, » the cardinal said.

As he dedicated the center, he prayed, « We ask that the life of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman may inspire these young people to share their God-given gifts, rooted in the African- American and African traditions, with the church and on this campus. »

The new center is located in a semi-detached row house in Washington’s LeDroit Park neighborhood. According to Boxie, the home once belonged to Gen. William Birney, a Southern abolitionist who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, Birney moved to Washington to establish a law practice.

Boxie opened the ceremony noting that « no event that involves Sister Thea Bowman is without music, is without singing a song, » and in homage to the woman religious who was known for her soaring singing voice, he led the students, alumni and guests in singing the spiritual « We Have Come This Far by Faith. »

To applause from attendees, he introduced Gregory, noting he is « the first African American cardinal in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.' » Pope Francis made him a cardinal in 2020.

Also attending the ceremony was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, who was thanked by Gregory for helping to find financial support for the purchase of the building now housing the Catholic student center; and Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr., who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, a suburb of Washington.

Campbell, who also is president of the National Black Catholic Congress, offered a closing prayer at the ceremony. He is an alumnus of Howard University and studied zoology there.

The guests also included Redemptorist Fr. Maurice Nutt, the author of the book « Thea Bowman: Faithful and Free. » A consultant to the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, for her canonization cause, he was her student at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, the nation’s only historically Black Catholic university. Nutt donated a large portrait of Bowman to the center, a print of a painting by Vernon Adams, a young Black Catholic artist from her home state of Mississippi.

Also attending the ceremony were several pastors of Washington parishes and members of the Knights of Peter Claver and that group’s Ladies Auxiliary. Representing Howard University was Leelannee Malin, its associate dean for community engagement and strategic partnerships.

Boxie acknowledged the presence of many Catholic students from Howard University, saying, « This is a day to celebrate you, and what God will be doing through you in this center. »

Offering an opening prayer, Elei Nkata, a Howard University junior from Nigeria who is majoring in computer science and is a co-president of the Catholic campus ministry at the university, asked God to « unite the hearts of every one of us that passes through here with your love and joy, and lead us to become the sons and daughters of faith you have called us to be. »

Another co-president of HU Bison Catholic, Loren Otoo — a junior from Ghana majoring in electrical engineering — noted that when he came to the university he sought a group where he could be connected to his Catholic faith, and he had found friends and « grown a lot in my spiritual journey » in the campus ministry program. Another Howard University student, Cameron Humes, a junior from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in political science, read a Scripture reading at the ceremony. He serves as the liturgy chair for the campus ministry program.

Ali Mumbach, campus minister for HU Bison Catholic, spoke on Bowman’s life and legacy.

« Sister Thea was a radiant disciple of Jesus Christ. People Catholic and not, Christian and not, were attracted to her exuberant spirit, » said Mumbach, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in sociology at Howard University and is also working toward a master’s degree in theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies.

She quoted part of a dramatic address that Bowman gave to the nation’s Catholic bishops in 1989, in which she said that as a Black Catholic, « I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility — as gifts to the church. »

Mumbach pointed out Bowman’s special connection to Howard University: She spoke at the school after the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Naming the university’s new Catholic student center after Bowman honors her role as a Black Catholic leader, she said.

« We as Black people have gifts to share with the church. This is a part of our ministry at Howard, » Mumbach said. « In HU Bison Catholic, we are raising up and equipping the next Black Catholic leaders. We hope that this is the first of many Bowman Centers on HBCU campuses – that in the same way there are Newman Centers to remember and honor the great work of (St.) John Newman, we can celebrate, commemorate and carry on the legacy of Sister Thea Bowman. »

After the ceremony, Nutt, who wrote Bowman’s biography, said he was very moved that Howard University’s new Catholic student center was named for her.

« She was my teacher, my mentor and my spiritual mother, » he told the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper. « It was hard to hold back the tears, because I know how much this would mean to Sister Thea Bowman. She loved her time in Washington, D.C. It was here she became greatly aware of her identity of being Black and Catholic. She was inspired by the large number of Black Catholics in the archdiocese, and they welcomed her with open arms. »

He added, « I know she will inspire [the students here] to share their gifts of Blackness, not only with Howard University, but with the whole church. »

In Washington, Bowman earned a master’s and a doctorate degree in English from The Catholic University of America, and in 2022, a street at the campus was renamed as Sister Thea Bowman Drive. That same spring, Georgetown University renamed its chapel in Copley Hall after her.

Vie de l'église

Mexico’s high court overturns state’s abortion ban

Mexico’s Supreme Court overturned a state-level abortion ban, a decision observers say could hasten the removal of restrictions on the procedure nationwide.

The first bench of the Supreme Court ruled Aug. 30 against a law banning abortions in the western state of Aguascalientes, instructing the local congress to revise its legislation. The bench, or panel of justices, also ordered the state government to guarantee access to abortion in its hospitals.

« The court’s argumentation sets a binding precedent for all local and federal judges, who will have to resolve any similar matters based on the court’s decision, which was approved by four votes (out of five), » the Information Group on Reproductive Choice, one of the litigants, said in a statement.

« This achievement brings us closer to the decriminalization of abortion throughout the country, » said the group, known as GIRE for its Spanish acronym.

GIRE director Rebeca Ramos told OSV News, « We are presenting injunctions in other states where (abortion) is criminalized. So we’re now expecting that they’re resolved in accordance with what the court decided. » She described the expected resolution of future cases as a « domino effect. »

The decision continued the trend of the Mexican high court in striking down restrictions on abortion. It followed a 2021 decision, which decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in the northern state of Coahuila and established jurisprudence for future cases.

« It was Mexico’s Roe v. Wade, » Luis Martínez, Human Life International’s representative at the Organization of American States, told OSV News.

« The Supreme Court established general criteria of unconstitutionality and with (that) in any state of the republic, even if the constitution was pro-life, abortions could be done, but after (the woman) filed and won an amparo, » Martínez said. An « amparo, » he explained, is a Mexican legal concept comparable to an injunction, but usually for individuals, not groups.

Martínez continued: « Normally, the Supreme Court has shaped abortion policy through rulings on the constitutionality of the laws regulating abortion or jurisprudence. In Aguascalientes, it was through an amparo. »

The decision means 12 of Mexico’s 32 states have decriminalized abortion since Mexico City approved the first law doing so in 2007.

« This first bench cannot be indifferent to the situation in which women and pregnant persons in Aguascalientes are and have been subjected to in an unjust manner, » Justice Juan Luis González Alcántara Carrancá, author of the decision, said in his ruling.

« (It is) imperative that the constitutional courts break the cycle of discrimination and take the necessary measures to repair the damage caused that society and the justice system itself could cause or has caused, ensuring that the causes that originated such damage are not perpetuated, » the justice said.

Martínez said the strategy of many pro-life groups to influence policy on the state level is likely to prove ineffective as the Supreme Court quickly assumes cases — and rules against local laws.

« I see a very complicated situation here in Mexico, » Martínez said. « The only way to reverse the situation would be explicitly putting the right to life from conception in the constitution. »