Sunday, April 21, 2024

Historic New York church with link to John Paul II struggles to stay open

The exterior of St. Casimir church in Buffalo, New York. Credit: Michael Shriver/

A historic Polish Catholic church in Buffalo, New York — one with a unique connection to St. John Paul II — is facing tens of thousands of dollars in bills that threaten to close the nearly-century-old structure.

Father Czeslaw Krysa, SLD, the parochial vicar of St. Casimir, said the Buffalo Diocese has given the church a deadline of August to pay its outstanding accounts. Among those is $55,000 in annual insurance costs, up recently from $32,000.

Joe Martone, a spokesman for the Buffalo Diocese, said that the diocesan vicar for renewal and development, Father Bryan Zielenieski, “communicated in February to the pastor of the family of parishes [of which] St. Casimir is a member that the church had entered a one-year evaluation period to determine its financial viability.”

“Our diocese is in a family of parishes model, and the families are currently evaluating all aspects of parish life including financial sustainability,” Martone said.

The Buffalo Diocese in 2020 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of compensation for victims of clergy sex abuse. The diocese in March announced the sale of its headquarters in downtown Buffalo after nearly 40 years at that location. 

Supporters of St. Casimir recently launched a GoFundMe effort to preserve the historic church and its worship community. Krysa said the church itself has “been in the black for nine out of the last 12 years,” in part because it is entirely volunteer-run. The church is also in the process of selling its social center, formerly the parish school, located several blocks away.

Krysa, who was first introduced to the church as a seminarian years ago, said St. Casimir operates “more like a shrine” than a traditional parish. 

“We have a core group that runs the place and worships each Sunday,” he said. “And then we have what we call ‘event liturgies,’ which draw people like they were coming to a shrine.”

“These are liturgies that are not available at other parishes in the diocese,” he said.

‘An exquisite example of old Byzantine architecture’

The cornerstone of Buffalo’s St. Casimir Catholic Church was laid in 1927 and the structure was completed in 1929. It has stood for nearly 100 years, displaying what one local architecture critic calls “an exquisite example of old Byzantine architecture” reminiscent of the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The church’s richly adorned exterior includes multiple cupolas, a towering 65-foot dome, and a large rose window on a facade set off by eight stone millions. Visible on the facade is a terra cotta mural depicting Christ the King, St. Casimir, St. Stanislaus, and St. Hyacinth.

The interior of the church, meanwhile, includes murals by Marion Rzeznik, a Polish native born in 1899. 

Among its architectural features are a fully preserved ambo including the original abat-voix, a barrel-vaulted and coffered ceiling, statuary lining both sides of the pews, and the original ad orientem high altar over which is a rendering of the coronation of Mary, the Mother of God. 

Krysa told CNA that the church offers Masses that employ the “five senses” — sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell.  

“During every single worship, liturgy, or devotion, all the five senses are engaged in praising and experiencing God,” the priest said.

“Our main mission is to continue our heritage, which is an ethnic Roman Catholic heritage,” the priest added. He explained that though the church started out as a Polish parish, “we’re diversifying.”

St. Casimir was first made an oratory in 2009 before receiving its present free-standing designation in 2011, Krysa said.The free-standing designation means that the church “is canonically aligned with the diocese,” Martone told CNA. “Other churches in New York are separately incorporated. So, St. Casimir is a free-standing church under the administrative jurisdiction of the diocese.”

The church’s Polish roots became known around the country in 1976 when St. Casimir was paid a visit by then-Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła. The prelate in two years’ time would go on to be elected Pope John Paul II.

Wojtyła was visiting the United States as part of that year’s International Eucharistic Congress; during his visit he traveled across the country, stopping in Buffalo to visit the city’s large population of Polish immigrants. 

“He was awestruck about this church. He loved it,” David Grzybek, a lifelong member of the parish, told the Buffalo News last month.

Wojtyła stayed two days at the parish. The bedroom in which he stayed has since been preserved as a memorial to the historic pope, its spartan interior remaining identical in appearance to when the cardinal slept there nearly 50 years ago. The room is used by the faithful for prayers, Krysa told CNA.

Vatican offers free cancer screening for homeless women in Rome

Komen mobile clinic

Self-care is a thought that often does not cross the minds of people living on the streets.

It is even worse for women facing financial difficulties who are unable to access healthcare services, sometimes even to wash.

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has recognized this need, and responded through the Papal Almoner by creating facilities such as showers under the Colonnade of St. Peter’s, accommodations like the “Gift of Mercy” on Via dei Penitenzieri, and the “Mother of Mercy” clinic under the Colonnade.

An important synergy for women

On Thursday, April 18, the Caravan of Prevention was set up in the Vatican Square as the result of a collaboration between the Dicastery for the Service of Charity and Komen Italy.

The association is dedicated to the prevention and fight against breast cancer in synergy with the Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic Foundation IRCCS and Gemelli Isola.

The caravan will be present in the Vatican every two months to assist women in need.

A pink ribbon, the symbol of prevention and research on the most widespread cancer among women, has been placed outside the “Mother of Mercy” clinic.

About forty women lacking healthcare assistance, helped by the clinic and the Santa Marta Dispensary, were able to undergo diagnostic screenings for breast cancer, such as mammography and breast ultrasound.

The service was offered free-of-charge, and represented an act of care for the many women living on the streets of Rome who are the most marginalized, since cancer must be diagnosed at an early stage for effective treatment.

If any of the women were found to have breast cancer, they would be assisted with further examinations and all necessary treatments.

The clinic: a reservoir of generosity

The initiative is just one of many carried out by the “Mother of Mercy” clinic. Opened at the desire of Pope Francis, the clinic has become a functioning reality.

Since January 1, 2024, 4,429 healthcare services have been provided, including 2,054 general medical visits, 1,901 specialist visits, 115 dental visits, 359 laboratory tests conducted, and 4199 boxes of medicines delivered over 91 days of operation.

The clinic operates thanks to the benevolence of 80 doctors, nurses, paramedics, and technicians who voluntarily offer their time and professionalism to serve the most vulnerable.

Bishop Strickland slams ‘crescendo of apostasy’ by Vatican forces against Catholic liturgy, doctrine

The following is the full text of an April 19 letter written by Bishop Joseph Strickland, bishop emeritus of Tyler, Texas, on widespread apostasy among prelates and “powerful forces in the Vatican” and the need for the faithful to “walk close to Christ,” especially in the Eucharist.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus Christ is the fullness of the revelation of supernatural truth that guides humanity to our eternal destiny. He is the cornerstone on which our lives must be built because, as He reveals supernatural truth to us fully and completely, He reveals who we are and that for which we were created. Jesus commissioned His Apostles to share His supernatural truth with the world, and this is also our mission. If we recognize and embrace this mission, bringing this truth to humanity, then we must acknowledge that, after nearly 2,000 years, we have only just begun. When Christ prayed “that all may be one,” He prayed that all humanity might be unified in Him, thus bringing them also into unity with His Father and His Holy Spirit – one God in Three Persons.

The entire Judeo-Christian story (which begins with the supernatural truth revealed and recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament) is the story of God revealing supernatural truth to those created in His image and likeness. The earliest books of the Bible offer numerous theophanies – manifestations of God’s supernatural presence – but Jesus Christ is beyond a theophany. He IS God among us, Emmanuel. It is critical that we note how Jesus came to us: He came in profound humility. The humility of Jesus Christ is not only a profound manifestation of His goodness; His humility is the blueprint for how we who are created by God should embrace the supernatural truth He has revealed to us. Jesus tells us that we must “become like children” if we wish to follow Him and to live the supernatural truth He manifests.

In order to incorporate the supernatural truth that is Jesus Christ into our human reality, He knew that we needed a vehicle, a vessel, that would guide us. Thus, Christ established His Church, which is made manifest in the world as the Catholic Church. Throughout Christian history, many have attempted to return to Christ in a pure and original way, but if in this laudable desire for purification we leave His Church, then we have truly lost our way.

The ultimate purpose of the Church that Jesus Christ established is the salvation of souls. This fulfills the divine mandate with which this letter begins: that it is our mission to bring Jesus Christ, Truth Incarnate, to humanity as the revelation of supernatural truth. We see also that His Church is essential as the instrument that Christ has ordained to guide humanity in the supernatural truth that He reveals.

It is of the utmost importance that humanity embrace Jesus Christ and His Church. However, the tremendous challenge of this is seen clearly in these times as His chosen vessel, the Church, which is plagued with human weakness and sinfulness, struggles against the One Who has brought her into being: God’s Divine Son. The Church is holy, yet composed of sinful human beings, and although guided by supernatural truth, she often gets bogged down in and even corrupted by things of this natural world. The image of the statue in the Book of Daniel comes to mind; the statue with feet partly of clay and partly of iron is an apt image of the Church. She has the iron of supernatural truth, but she also has the fragile pottery of the world, which often falls to dust. In our time, it appears that the overwhelming presence of fragile clay in the Church threatens to obliterate the supernatural truth that is her heart and soul. Christ has promised us that the Church will not be obliterated by the powers of Hell, but we must make it our daily choice to live the supernatural truth that is Jesus Christ. 

Christ has promised us that the Church will not be obliterated by the powers of Hell, but we must make it our daily choice to live the supernatural truth that is Jesus Christ.

It is imperative that we also acknowledge that this tendency for the Church to be dominated by the fragile clay of this world – to the detriment of her true mission to build supernatural faith – has been gaining momentum for more than a century. More than one papacy is seriously implicated in the lack of supernatural faith necessary in order to push back against the tidal wave of apostasy. The Oath against Modernism promulgated by Pope St. Pius X in 1910 was the best papal attempt to oppose the dominance of “fragile clay,” and since his death, support for this has weakened, until it has now been all but discarded, like so many other aspects of this intention that did not promote a cozier relationship with the world.

As devastating as all of this is to the mission of the Bride of Christ – the salvation of souls – we face an even greater challenge to this mission in our time. Too many prelates not only exhibit a lack of supernatural faith on their part, but they are also “hell-bent” on eliminating every vestige of supernatural faith from the Church. This has been building momentum over many decades, but we must open our eyes to the crescendo of apostasy that we are now witnessing.

Whether in liturgy, doctrine, or simple everyday piety of Catholics, too many prelates and powerful forces in the Vatican are doing their best to dismantle every vestige of supernatural faith, as well as any understanding of the supernatural truth that Jesus Christ has revealed to us.

One indication of the blitzkrieg against supernatural faith that has been evident in this time is that when purportedly supernatural manifestations of God’s presence appear among us, they are ignored or immediately declared false without any real investigation by the shepherds. The Church in the past has acted as a safeguard, as is her sacred responsibility, against any alleged supernatural manifestations that parade as truth but that may instead be the work of Satan and his minions. However, we now find ourselves in a situation where some (if not many) of the shepherds in the Church, upon the occurrence of a possible supernatural work in their diocese, would attempt to immediately shut it down or proclaim it as false with no investigation, in the fear that it might shine a light into the darkness, especially when they themselves are “bottom-dwellers” and, therefore, dwellers in this darkness.

In these times, God has not left us alone. Throughout the history of the Church, He has manifested Himself through supernatural works outside the boundaries of this physical world to remind us that He is present among us, and these supernatural works have not ceased. Furthermore, in the darkness that has now infiltrated His Church, He continues to send, as He did of old, warnings and admonitions through the mouths of “modern-day prophets and saints” to call His people back to Himself. 

We must, however, with due diligence and supernatural faith, pray, discern, and be ever on guard against that which parades as good but is indeed an evil deception. We, of course, have looked, and still look, to the Church and her shepherds to keep us safe from evil deceptions and to point us to what is good, but what do we do in this time when many of the shepherds who are charged with guarding the flock are now in league with the wolves?

In a time such as this, it is of the utmost importance that we walk close to Christ, that we abide in His Sacred Heart, and that we sit often with Him so that we might come to know Him well. Of course, what is most important of all is that we worthily partake of Him as often as possible – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Holy Eucharist. Belief in the real, supernatural presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the heart and soul of our faith.

Of course, what is most important of all is that we worthily partake of Him as often as possible – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Holy Eucharist.

May the greatest manifestation of supernatural truth, the Holy Eucharist, provide us the strength we need for the continuing journey of Christ’s disciples in the twenty-first century. Let us be invigorated by our Eucharistic faith so that supernatural truth is really present among us, and may His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity nourish us and guide us deeper and deeper into His Sacred Heart – the Heart of supernatural truth.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland

Bishop Emeritus of Tyler

Nuns complain about "hostile takeover" of their convent

The Carmelite nuns of Arlington reject the intervention of the order's dicastery in the dispute over their former superior. 

The transfer of leadership to the Carmelite Association, to which the convent in Texas belongs, is a "hostile takeover" of their community, according to a statement published statement published on the Carmelite website on Saturday

The diocese of Fort Worth had previously issued a published a decree from the dicastery of the orderin which the diocesan bishop Michael Olson was relieved of his duties as papal representative over the convent and the leadership was transferred to the association of Carmelite convents.

According to the published documents, the "Christ the King" Association, which includes the Arlington Carmel and five other monasteries that celebrate the pre-conciliar liturgy, had requested this measure from the dicastery for religious orders. 

Olson supported this request. 

The Arlington Carmelites explained that there was no question of accepting this measure. 

"Accepting this would jeopardise the integrity of our monastery as a community and threaten the vocations of individual nuns, our liturgical and spiritual life and the material goods of the monastery," the statement reads. 

For this reason, neither the president of the association, Mother Marie of the Incarnation, nor representatives sent by her are welcome in the convent.

Appeals lodged with the Vatican have not yet been answered

In their statement, the nuns reiterated the accusations against Bishop Olson that they had previously made: The bishop had unlawfully attempted to seize the convent and its property. To this end, he had accused the former prioress of breaking her vow of chastity and tried to substantiate these accusations with unauthorised measures, including a search of the Carmel. 

The bishop had cut the sisters off from the sacraments and tried to sow discord in the community. 

The Vatican had supported Olson's actions and appointed him papal representative with authority over the convent. 

The sisters renewed their criticism of this step. With Olson, the fox had been made the gardener ("putting the fox in charge of the hen house").

The sisters lodged a complaint with the Vatican against Olson's actions, which included dismissing the then prioress, Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, from the order. 

According to the statement issued on Saturday, the convent has so far only received an acknowledgement of receipt from the order's dicastery, announcing a response to the appeal. 

The publication of the decrees by the bishop on Thursday took the sisters by surprise. 

They were grateful that the Holy See was concerned about the spiritual well-being of the community and wanted to make every effort to achieve this. 

"However, we believe that 'every effort' could and should include an active and ongoing dialogue with ourselves, and we are surprised and disappointed that these documents were published without such a dialogue."

No schism, but authority of the bishop rejected

The Carmelites expressly emphasised that they accept the authority of the Pope and the diocesan bishop. 

In August, they had already rejected the rejected the accusation of a schism

"But in accordance with our own rights, for reasons of conscience, for the good of our souls and to protect the integrity of our lives and vocations, in these extraordinary circumstances we have had to suspend our collaboration with regard to the unjust exercise of any authority over us by the current Bishop of Fort Worth." 

Authority without integrity is no authority at all: "Anyone who knows the workings of our diocese will understand only too well the reality we face."

The dispute over the convent and its superior has been smouldering for months. 

The superior is said to have admitted a breach of her vow of chastity, whereupon the bishop had the Carmel searched to secure evidence. 

The dispute came to light in mid-May last year after the sisters the sisters turned to the public to discuss a lawsuitto inform the public about a lawsuit against the search and seizure in their convent. 

In July the state court seized dismissed the complaintthe police launched an investigation based on a a complaint from the diocese about alleged drug abuse in the monastery. in the convent. 

Olson maintained the allegations against the superior despite the nuns' protests continued to maintain

The Discalced Carmelites are a religious order under papal law and are therefore not subject to the diocesan bishop. 

In June, the Vatican appointed Olson as Papal Delegate.

Laying in state of Popes: Francis breaks with tradition

The prayers and readings for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's funeral Mass

"With dignity, like every Christian, but not on pillows" - this is how Pope Francis wants to be buried. The pontiff is therefore in the process of changing the papal burial ritual

Francis explained this in the interview book "El sucesor" ("The Successor") published at the beginning of the month, in which he talks to Spanish journalist Javier Martínez-Brocal primarily about his predecessor Benedict XVI. 

With regard to the funeral of the Pope emeritus, who died on New Year's Eve 2022, the reigning Pope says in the book: "It was the last wake at which the Pope's body was laid out on a catafalque outside the coffin." 

In future, the popes would be buried "like any child of the Church". 

The laying in state of popes - which was previously an integral part of the funeral rites of the head of the Church - is therefore history.

In the course of recent history, the traditional rituals following the death of a pontiff and for his burial have been changed time and again. 

"Pope Paul VI reformed the papal funeral rituals in the sense of a simplicity in keeping with the Gospel," says Ulrich Nersinger about the biggest innovations in the funeral ceremonies of the popes in recent decades. 

The theologian and Vatican expert points to the impressive difference between the funeral of John XXIII in 1963, who was the last pope to be laid to rest "cum maxima pompa", i.e. with full splendour, and the comparatively simple funeral of his successor Paul VI in 1978. 

However, the Montini pope's funeral was also very dignified in its simpler form, says Nersinger.

According to the Augsburg church historian Jörg Ernesti, the abolition of the laying out of dead popes by Francis is clearly in the tradition of Paul VI's reforms. 

"The public presentation of the body on a catafalque could have been abolished as early as 1978," says the theology professor. 

"It is a last relic from the time of overloaded papal funerals."  

Paul VI's funeral in a simple cypress wood coffin, for example, showed that simplicity and dignity can go together. 

"The impressive image of the coffin with the open book of the Gospels, its leaves moving in the wind, has also become a model for subsequent papal funerals," says Ernesti.

Previously, there were also many rites after the death of a pope: "To determine the death of the pontiff, his forehead was struck with a small hammer, he was called by his baptismal name several times and a feather was held over his face to check whether he was still breathing." 

These customs were long outdated in the 20th century due to medical advances, says Ernesti. 

"And today, public lying in state is generally no longer customary, so it can also be abolished for popes." 

This doesn't just apply to the head of the Catholic Church: even after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022, there was no public laying in state with the coffin open.

"Privatisation of the papacy"

However, laying out the bodies of important deceased people is not a thing of the past per se. For example, the exceptional Brazilian footballer Pelé was displayed with his coffin open before his funeral in early January 2023 so that the legend's many fans could say goodbye to their idol. 

However, large parts of his body were covered in white flowers and a white veil lay over the entire coffin. 

A few years ago, bodybuilder, actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger also announced his wish to be laid out in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna after his death. 

Especially after the death of celebrities and important personalities, there seems to be a public desire to see the deceased once again. 

During the discussion about the public laying out of Benedict XVI's body last year, funeral director Sarah Benz told WDR that such rituals could make it easier to say goodbye. 

"I have found that it is very, very helpful for a great many people," said Benz, who complained at the time that laying in state was no longer common in Germany.

Vatican expert Nersinger also believes that a laying in state is still appropriate for popes. 

"The Pope is not like any other believer," says the theologian. The faithful have the need to look at the deceased pope and say goodbye to him, which will no longer be possible in future. 

"I wonder whether Francis lacks empathy with the Catholics at this point, who would like to do this," says Nersinger. He also sees the long tradition of laying popes to rest as another reason for retaining this custom. Even in ancient times, the Romans used the catafalque, a special frame, to lay out their dead. 

Later, aristocrats and church dignitaries were displayed there after their death until their burial. In modern times, the bourgeoisie also adopted this custom. 

According to Nersinger, when popes are laid to rest, the focus of mourning is not on the respective private person, but on the deceased as pope. 

"This emphasises respect for the office." 

Referring to the judgement of an Italian Vaticanist, the theologian therefore sees the abolition of the laying out of the papal body as a "privatisation of the papacy". 

Francis emphasises his own preferences too much and pays too little attention to tradition.

Without being laid out on a catafalque, another aspect of saying goodbye to popes will also be a thing of the past: the exhibition of transience. 

"When Benedict XVI was laid out, we saw that his body no longer exists in an ideal state," says Nersinger. 

Showing the decay of the human body is a reference to the finite nature of human life. 

Art historian Katharina Sykora told Monopol magazine last year that the Ratzinger pope was initially shown in his function as pope and not primarily as a human being during his laying in state. 

"Under the regalia, only the face and hands are visible, which have been waxily remodelled by the preparations," said the Brunswick professor. "This brings him close to sculpture, which also serves to immortalise him, as has long been the tradition on the marble sarcophagi of popes."

The interview book "El sucesor" also shows that exaggerating his person as Pope would not be in Francis' favour and that this is probably why he has abolished the laying in state. 

There, Francis explains that everything has already been prepared for his burial in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore

He wants to be buried in the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary because he has had a great devotion to the image of the Mother of God in this church since before his pontificate. 

"Just behind the sculpture of the Queen of Peace, there is a small area, a door that leads to a room that was used to store the candlesticks," said the Pope. "I saw it and thought: 'This is the place'." 

A pope's tomb in the former storeroom.

In view of this humility and simplicity, which Francis desires with regard to his own funeral, the question arises as to how the Church will deal with the burial of bishops in future. 

After all, the public display of the bodies of deceased church dignitaries is still common in Germany today. 

In 2017, for example, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne was laid out in the church of St Gereon for several days after his death. 

A year later, the faithful were able to bid farewell to Cardinal Karl Lehmann for a week in the seminary church in Mainz, where he was also embalmed and laid in state. 

At that time, many thousands of people paid their last respects to the cardinals and wanted to catch a glimpse of their bodies as a farewell. 

This need will have to be satisfied differently for popes in future. 

Will the bishops also take this as an example?

Cardinal retired: Simple parish priest becomes new archbishop

The Pope has appointed the parish priest Gherardo Gambelli (54) as the new Archbishop of Florence. 

As the Vatican announced on Thursday, Francis also accepted the resignation of the previous head of the diocese, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori (77), due to his age. 

The Italian has headed the archdiocese since 2008 and has also held various positions in the Italian Bishops' Conference, including Secretary General. 

His successor Gambelli comes from the Tuscan coastal town of Viareggio and has been a priest in the Archdiocese of Florence since 1996. 

Most recently, he headed the parish of "Madonna della Tosse" (Our Lady of the Cough). 

According to popular belief, the image of the Virgin Mary there was said to have healing powers for children suffering from whooping cough, hence the name. 

Gambelli previously worked as a priest for eleven years in Chad in Central Africa, among other places.

Because of Jesus picture: Controversial exhibition in church closes early

The blasphemous exhibition in Carpi closes. But the Rosaries continue

Premature end to a controversial art exhibition: following protests and an ass ault, the artists and diocese closed the "Gratia plena" exhibition in the church of Sant'Ignazio in Carpi on Wednesday. 

Originally, the paintings by Andrea Saltini were to be on display until 2 June, as the newspaper "Avvenire" reported. 

However, neither the artist's state of health nor the increased costs for security measures would allow this, Saltini explained.

An allegedly offensive depiction of Jesus has been causing protests in Italy for weeks, with artists and the diocese facing accusations of blasphemy. 

At the end of March, a man then damaged one of the exhibited artworks with spray paint and a knife. 

In the ensuing scuffle with the artist present, he was injured.

The bone of contention is a painting by Saltini that shows the naked body of Jesus after the crucifixion. His private parts are covered by the head of another man, so that the scene seems to suggest oral sex. 

According to the exhibition organisers, however, it is not the head but the man's left hand that is pressing against Jesus' ribcage. 

It is the Roman centurion Longinus. According to legend, he stabbed Jesus in the side with a spear after his death. 

According to the curators, Longinus is breaking one of Jesus' ribs in this painting.

Cardinal Müller draws Nazi comparison after dissolution of conference

A two-day "National Conservatism" conference (NatCon) in Brussels was broken up by the police on Tuesday. 

Despite the police blockade at the entrances, the organisers initially allowed the speeches and discussions to continue. 

According to the internet portal "Catholic Herald", the planned appearance by German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller was also able to take place. 

The cardinal is said to have been shocked by the police presence. 

"This is like Nazi Germany," Müller said according to a blog post by author Rod Dreher.

According to the conference website, participants included Brexit supporter Nigel Farage, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, former French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, Gloria von Thurn und Taxis and former German head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maaßen. 

The National Conservatism Conference is organised by a conservative think tank. The aim of the conference is to bring together "public figures, journalists, academics and students". 

According to the organisers, around 600 participants were expected to attend the event.

"Extreme right is not welcome"

The mayor of the Saint-Josse district of Brussels, Emir Kir, confirmed on the platform "X" (formerly Twitter) that he had issued the order in order to "ensure public safety". 

According to the BBC, Kir is said to have said in a message to the organisers that some participants at the conference held racist and homophobic views. 

"Among these personalities are several participants, particularly from the right-wing conservative, religious right and the European far right," his statement reads. And: "The extreme right is not welcome".

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also commented on the conference on the "X" platform. 

Such a dissolution is unacceptable, as the "ban on political assemblies is unconstitutional", said De Croo. 

"Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy, but it can never override the Belgian constitution, which has guaranteed freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly since 1830," concluded De Croo.

New Catholic Lectionary for British churches arriving this Advent following approval by Vatican

A new Lectionary will come into use in parishes in England, Wales and Scotland from Advent 2024.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments gave its seal of approval on a new Lectionary proposed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in July of last year.

Published by the Catholic Truth Society (CTS), changes to the new lectionary, which includes the scripture readings for Mass and the sacraments, will see the English Standard Version: Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) of the Bible and the Abbey Psalter replacing the Jerusalem Bible with the Grail Psalms.

Other changes, according to Liturgy Office, will include the provision for Saints who have been inserted into the Universal Calendar since the last Lectionary was published in 1981. There will also be the readings for the National Calendars. In addition, some of the revised liturgical rites, such as Marriage, have additional readings.

The Lectionary is changing as part of the continuing process of revising liturgical translations, notes CTS. The process began with the Roman Missal in 2011 and has continued to work through all the other liturgical rites.

The changes are intended to make the biblical translations more faithful to the original languages, using better and more up-to-date biblical scholarship and to use a text which is “more proclaimable”, CTS says.

The new Lectionary will come into force on the first Sunday of Advent 2024. Parishes will not be able to keep using the old Lectionary and will need to change over to the new one by 1 December 2024.

The Lectionary will have a fully up-to-date Proper of Saints, including the new universal and national feasts that have been instituted since the publication of the last Lectionary, and is currently set to consist of 4 volumes:

  1. Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts of the Lord.

  2. Weekdays: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time (weeks 1-9), Lent, Easter. Proper of Saints: December – May, Commons.

  3. Weekdays: Ordinary Time (6-34). Proper of Saints: June – November, Commons.

  4. Ritual Masses, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead.

There will be three different sizes of the Lectionary: a full-size Ambo edition (the same size as the Altar Missal), a smaller chapel edition (the same size as the Chapel Missal), and a study edition for liturgy preparation (the same size as the Study Missal).

The new Lectionary will soon be available in the next few weeks for pre-ordering (on the CTS website it is possible to sign up to be notified when the Lectionary is available to pre-order) and is due to be in stock in October 2024. A full set is likely to cost several hundred pounds, notes CTS.

To accompany the roll out of the new Lectionary, CTS and other publishers will be producing people’s Missals in due course including Sunday, Weekday and Daily Missals.

Finnish MP to stand trial for third time for tweeting Bible verse

Former government minister and sitting Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen will stand trial a third time for her Bible-verse tweet, the Supreme Court of Finland has confirmed.

The State prosecutor appealed the case despite the Christian grandmother of 11 being acquitted unanimously of “hate speech” charges before both the Helsinki District Court, and the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear that appeal on a date to be set in the future.

Räsänen, who previously served as Finland’s Minister of the Interior, stands criminally charged for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, and in a 2004 pamphlet which she wrote for her church, centred on the Biblical text, “male and female he created them”.

The prosecutor has not appealed a third charge based on her appearance on a radio show, making her Court of Appeal acquittal on that charge final. Only the two remaining charges are subject to this latest appeal.

Räsänen said she had a “peaceful mind” and is “ready to continue to defend free speech and freedom of religion before the Supreme Court, and if need be, also before the European Court of Human Rights”.

She said: “In my case the investigation has lasted almost five years, has involved untrue accusations, several long police interrogations totalling more than 13 hours, preparations for court hearings, the District Court hearing, and a hearing in the Court of Appeal.

“This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression. I hope that with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others would not have to undergo the same ordeal.

“I have considered it a privilege and an honour to defend freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democratic state.”

The prosecution is demanding tens of thousands of Euros in fines and insisting that Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s publications be censored. 

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, supporting Räsänen’s legal defence said: “This is a watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship.

“In a democratic Western nation in 2024, nobody should be on trial for their faith – yet throughout the prosecution of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a ‘heresy’ trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day.

“The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution after almost five long years, despite such clear and unanimous rulings from the lower courts is alarming.

“The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing.

“ADF International will continue to stand alongside Räsänen and Pohjola every step of the way as they face their next day in court. Their right to speak freely is everyone’s right to speak freely.”

Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019.

As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she had addressed the leadership of her church on Twitter/X and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event Pride 2019, accompanied by an image of Bible verses from the New Testament book of Romans.

Following this tweet, further investigations against Räsänen were launched, going back to a church pamphlet Räsänen wrote 20 years ago. 

Over several months, Räsänen endured a total of thirteen hours of police interrogations about her Christian beliefs – including being frequently asked by the police to explain her understanding of the Bible.  

In April 2021, Finland’s Prosecutor General brought three charges of “agitation against a minority group” against Räsänen.

They fall under the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” section in the Finnish criminal code.

Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola faced two days of trial at the Helsinki District Court on 24 January and 14 February 2022. The Bible was front and centre at the trial as the prosecutor began the day by presenting Bible verses, she took issue with.

On 30 March 2022, the Helsinki District Court unanimously acquitted them, stating that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”.

The prosecution then appealed the “not guilty” ruling in April 2022. The case was then heard by the Helsinki Court of Appeal on 31 Aug‐1 Sep 2023. On 14 Nov 2023, the court confirmed Räsänen and Pohjola’s acquittal.  

Räsänen has served as a Finnish Member of Parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior. During this time, she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland. 

7 major Italian sees no longer led by a cardinal

Seven major Italian sees—Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Turin, and Venice—are now no longer led by a cardinal, Vatican reporter Franca Giansoldati notes in an analysis for Il Messaggero.

Pope Francis appointed archbishops of six of these sees: Archbishop Corrado Lorefice (Palermo) in 2015, Archbishop Mario Delpini (Milan) in 2017, Archbishops Domenico Battaglia (Naples) and Marco Tasca (Genoa) in 2020, Archbishop Roberto Repole (Turin) in 2022, and Archbishop-elect Gherardo Gambelli (Florence) in 2024. Patriarch Francesco Moraglia has led the Patriarchate of Venice since 2012.

Pope Francis has named bishops of less prominent Italian dioceses as cardinals, including Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli (Ancona-Osimo), Archbishop Francesco Montenegro (Agrigento), Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi (L’Aquila), Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice (Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino), and Bishop Oscar Cantoni (Como).

As has been customary, the Pontiff named the (now former) vicar general of Rome (Angelo De Donatis) and Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna as cardinals.

More abuse charges against retired Australian bishop

Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders - one of Australia's most senior  Catholic figures - is arrested at his home over alleged historical sex  offences | Daily Mail Online

The former Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders is facing two new indecent assault charges after his home in Western Australia's north was raided on Wednesday morning.

The 74-year-old is already facing 26 charges, including two counts of sexual penetration without consent, three counts of indecent dealing with a child and 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault.

WA Police confirmed on Wednesday a 74-year-old Broome man is facing two charges of indecent and unlawful assault.

While police have not named the man, the ABC has confirmed he is the former Broome Bishop.

It will be alleged Bishop Saunders sexually assaulted a man who was 21 or 22 years old in 2016.

The new charges mean two complainants have come forward to police. 

The former Bishop is set to reappear in Broome Magistrate's Court on June 17.

Not guilty pleas likely

Last month in the Broome Magistrate's Court his lawyer Seamus Rafferty indicated the former Catholic church figurehead would plead not guilty to all charges.

A suppression order restricting publication and media coverage of proceedings was also requested, but Magistrate Deen Potter later ruled it was not required.

"The interests of justice do not require a suppression order," he told the court on March 1, after the culmination of a temporary suppression order.

"Going forward, in my view, there are sufficient safeguards in place [that will] ensure the interests of open justice and a fair trial."

The ABC reported in March that the first swathe of charges related to one complainant, who was aged 16 or 17 at the time of the first alleged offending in 2008.

Police allege the offending took place at several locations throughout the Kimberley over a five-year period, the court heard.

Bishop Saunders has also been charged with holding a firearm without a licence and inadequate storage of a firearm.

Magistrate Potter confirmed in February the firearms included a shotgun and rounds of ammunition numbering in the hundreds.

Bishop Saunders was granted bail on a $10,000 surety, with his next court appearance scheduled for June 17.

Sizeable footprint in the Kimberley

Both supporters and critics of the former Bishop attended court, with tense scenes as the 74-year-old was granted bail.

Bishop Saunders was first ordained as a priest in Broome in 1976 before being named as Bishop in 1996.

During his time in the Kimberley, he has held positions across the region, including undertaking stints in the remote communities of Kalumburu in the far north and Lombadina on the Dampier Peninsula.

Bishop Saunders has always denied any wrongdoing and maintained his innocence.