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Priests have 'grave responsibility' to bring sacraments to the sick, Argentine bishops say

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 25, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- As Argentina remains under a government-ordered lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the bishops of Buenos Aires have called on priests to “generously” offer their ministry to the sick.

According to ACI Prensa, CNA’s sister news agency, across the country, Argentines have been told not to leave their homes except to buy basic necessities. The lockdown will remain in place at least until the end of the month. As of Tuesday, there were more than 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with at least five deaths. 

The bishops of the capital city, led by Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, issued a letter March 23, titled "Time to bring the consolation of the sacraments." Quoting from the homily given by Pope Francis on March 10, the bishops ask for prayers for priests “that they have the courage to go out to the sick, bringing the strength of the Word of God and the Eucharist and accompanying the healthcare workers and volunteers in this work they are doing.” 

“These words come to us with all that they require and we want to step up to this present hour, generously offering the gift of ministry that we have received,” the bishops said.

The letter recalled similar trials which the country has faced in the past, including a “devastating epidemic” of yellow fever in 1871, during which, the bishops said, there was “an offering of many lives by the bold courage of many doctors, nurses, volunteers and religious.”

They capital’s bishops also offered the life of Saint José Brochero as an example for clergy during the current crisis. Brochero was a priest who cared for the sick during the cholera epidemic that decimated the population of the city of Córdoba in 1868.

“Encouraged by this cloud of witnesses that have gone before us in charity to society, we expect that priests will help us reflect on which is the best way to fulfill our ministry, to take on the present hour in face of the pandemic that has been unleashed in the world and that has begun to show signs of its presence in the population,” the bishops said.

"Let us think about what our contribution will be to the movement of solidarity that has unfolded these days,” the letter said, highlighting the “grave responsibility” of the Church’s ministers “to bring the consolation of the sacraments to those who request them.”

Although the lockdown restricts all but essential travel, the Argentine government has exempted priests and religious ministers from the Preventive and Mandatory Social Isolation order that went into effect last Friday.

The exception was made after a March 20 meeting between the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, and the Executive Committee of the Argentine Conference of Bishops. Priests are now included in a wide-ranging list of workers in essential public and private services. 

Lima parish hosts rooftop Holy Hour for neighbors confined to home

Lima, Peru, Mar 24, 2020 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- With their country under a nationwide stay-at-home order, parishioners at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Lima, Peru, approached their pastor, Fr. Enrique Díaz, with the idea of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from the church’s roof.

The pastor agreed, and preparations were made for rooftop Holy Hours on March 21 and 22. They’d begin after dusk, with Peruvian music, and they’d aim to bring hope to the people confined in the surrounding buildings.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Díaz said that “it was beautiful, and it was very well received by all the people in the neighboring buildings.”

Díaz said a nearby restaurant joined the effort by providing lighting and the necessary equipment so all the neighbors in the high rises could experience an hour of adoration.

A monstrance was brought to the rooftop, and with music and reflections people prayed for the health of those stricken with coronavirus and for all citizens of the country.

Díaz said the neighbors, not all of them Catholic, came to their windows and balconies and many knelt before the Blessed Sacrament.

“You see the need for God in the world, you see the need for all the neighbors who are here to be able to have the presence of Jesus," he said.

The priest noted that amid the pandemic, perseverance in the life of faith “is essential, and it is also a great consolation and a time of hope in order to face everything that comes.”

“For those who have faith, however difficult it may be, you always have the consolation and hope that the world doesn’t slip out of God’s hands, that he is always in control of everything,” he added.


Peruvian bishop rescinds permission for confession by phone

Caraveli, Peru, Mar 20, 2020 / 05:48 pm (CNA).- A Peruvian bishop has rescinded permission for priests of his diocese to hear confessions by telephone, just five days after authorizing them to do so.

Bishop Reinhold Nann of the Diocese of Caravell, Peru said March 15 that priests of his diocese could hear sacramental confessions by telephone, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and obligatory social isolation in Peru. Nann added that no public Masses or religious services could take place in his diocese.

On Friday, however, the bishop announced that the possibility of confessions by telephone “is annulled” in light of Vatican guidance on the subject of confession issued earlier the same day.

That guidance called for “prudent measures to be adopted in the individual celebration of sacramental reconciliation, such as the celebration in a ventilated place outside the confessional, the adoption of a convenient distance, [and] the use of protective masks.”

The guidance “did not make mention of confession on the telephone,” Nann said, which is why he had rescinded the possibility.

Earlier this week, Fr. James Bradley, an assistant professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America, criticized the idea that confession could be offered through the telephone. “The nature of confession, like all the sacraments, involves a personal and ecclesial encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the Word made Flesh. A virtual reality can never replace the reality of the incarnation. We can deepen our faith through watching a livestream of Mass, but we all know: it’s not the same as being physically present,” Bradley told CNA.

The canon lawyer also noted secondary concerns which should be considered when discussing new or adapted forms of sacramental ministry.

“There are also practical issues that relate to the nature of the sacrament of confession. A telephone call or online meeting raises serious concerns about privacy, anonymity, and safeguarding,” Bradley said.

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap, a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, also told CNA that “physical presence is absolutely needed for the validity of the enactment of the sacrament.”

“The reason I say that is because the sacrament is the action of Christ performed by the minister, and for that action to take place, the priest and the penitent must be in communion with one another, in a physical manner.”

Weinandy told CNA that confession is an “interpersonal exchange.” The physical presence of confessor and penitent point to the significance of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

“The sacraments flow from the Incarnation, and because of that, there has to be a bodily presence of the one who is enacting the sacrament, and the one who is receiving the sacrament. They’re doing the sacrament together,” Weinandy said.

“The Incarnation sets the framework for the sacramental order. Sacraments by their very nature, are incarnational signs that effect what they symbolize and symbolize what they effect, and one must be a part of that sign and reality to participate in the sacrament,” he said.

In the 17th century, the Church declared that confession by letter would be invalid. More recently, in 2011, papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, responded to the proposition that sacramental confession might one day take place by iPhone app.

"It is essential to understand well that the sacrament of penance requires necessarily the rapport of personal dialogue between penitent and confessor and absolution by the present confessor,” Lombardi said at the time.

One cannot speak in any way of 'confession by iPhone,'” Lombardi added.

Priests in some parts of the world have devised creative ways to offer the sacrament of confession during the pandemic, among them “drive-up” confessionals and confession through a rectory window.

ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner, contributed to this report.


Chilean bishops concerned by political inaction amid anti-government protests

Santiago, Chile, Mar 16, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Standing Committee of the Chilean bishops’ conference has said that the country's government is too slow to respond to the concerns of protesters who have been demonstrating across Chile for nearly six months.

Anti-government demonstrations began in mid-October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares. Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.

A number of churches across Chile have been attacked and looted amid the demonstrations.

Protest marches in Chile often start our peacefully, but end up with clashes between the police and masked protesters, who often turn to attacking churches as well as public and private property.

Police and demonstrators have clashed and the police have used excessive force in  an attempt to restore order, resulting in hundreds of eye injuries due to the use of rubber bullets. At least 36 people have died during the protests.

The protests continue, despite curfews imposed in some parts of the country. Some demonstrators say they will continue until the country’s president steps down.

“Almost five months have gone by and Chile’s awakening has not been addressed with the speed and effectiveness expected in such grave matters as the unjust distribution of income, employment instability, minimum wages and pensions, the urgent need for access to healthcare, the just valuation of women in society and the protection of the most vulnerable groups, among other issues,” the bishops' committee said in a March 12 statement.

“We see that the main demands of society … have been put off in the priorities of those who make the decisions in Chile,” the bishops added.

The bishops said that they share “people’s reasonable discontentment with regard to the role that the authorities, legislators, and political and social leaders are assuming in face of these dramas.”

“We don’t understand why the necessary corrections that are promised aren’t making progress with the desired speed. The level of the political debate is disappointing with partisan squabbling and infighting, special interests or those of certain sectors of society, that are holding back agreements and accomplishments that would help the common good. Chile demands a fruitful dialogue in a context of civic friendship,” they said.

The committee pointed out that the episodes of violence “always harm the poorest people and violate people’s rights, are continuously reoccurring in various parts of the country and create a climate of fear and uncertainty which is doing grave harm.”

“We can’t let ourselves be overcome by this spiral of violence and terror. Democracy is a good that we must all care for,” they said.

The protests have put pressure on the administration of President Sebastián Piñera to introduce reforms, in addition to calling for the drafting of a constitution to replace that adopted in 1980 under Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship.

This demand was accepted by the country’s politicians in November 2019. The first step toward a new constitution will be a citizen plebiscite, to be held April 26.

Voters will have to decide whether they want a new constitution, and if so, what kind of body should work on it: a Mixed Constitutional Convention composed of an equal number of legislators and representatives of the citizens, or a “Constitutional Convention” comprised only of people chosen by the citizenry.

The bishops asked people to “calmly and confidently prepare” for that vote and that “for our vote be informed, it’s necessary to know (the problems), to reflect and discern on a personal, family, and communitarian level.”

The bishops encouraged people to work in community on the resources posted on the their website which will help them “understand how worthwhile it is to be present and participate in all the country’s important decisions.”

The bishops encouraged people to “not be afraid and to renew our hope in Jesus in this time of Lent which looks to the Resurrection of the Lord.”

“We can’t let ourselves be carried away with despair and fatalism. Let us continue to pray to Our Lady of Mount Carmel for Chile, for peace and justice, which are the pillars of a society that puts at the center the life and dignity of the person and the promotion of the common good,” they concluded.

Venezuelan bishops' conference backs pro-democracy marches, calls for change

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 11, 2020 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets March 10 in Caracas and other cities to demand democratic change, amid the ongoing economic, political and social crises in the country under the regime of President Nicholas Maduro.

“Today, March 10, the Venezuelan people have returned to the streets demanding their rights and manifesting their desire for a change of direction in the economy and the political order to permit democracy,” the president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, Archbishop José Luis Azuaje of Maracaibo, said in a statement

“The deterioration in the quality of life, which has led us to get by as best we can, without electricity, without water, without just compensation for our work, without gasoline, without peace, without family” has created “social instability and greater poverty,” the bishop added.

The march was led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, and organized to present to the National Assembly a call for free and fair presidential elections.

As  Guaidó led the marchers toward the National Assembly building, they were blocked by security forces.

Police used teargas to turn back the marchers before they reached the National Assembly. Opposition party lawmakers held an impromptu, but legally valid, outdoor session of the legislative assembly in a nearby city square.

In January 2019, Guaidó, as president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself interim president of the country, after president Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, having won a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Guaidó and the Venezuelan bishops held Maduro's second term to be invalid, and the presidency vacant.

Much of the international community consider Maduro's re-election illegitimate. Nearly 60 nations led by the United States have recognized Guaidó as the country's acting president, but with the backing of the military, Maduro is firmly entrenched and Guaidó has no practical power other than the popular support he can muster.

The communications office of the interim president described a statement of demands passed during the impromptu legislative session, the National Conflict Statement, as “a legal instrument,” which following its passage, creates laws “to provide a response to the country's social needs.”

The document has a legal character and compliance would be obligatory should a transitional government actually be constituted.

Azuaje said that the country can't continue to go down the spiral of deterioration. Therefore “structural changes are needed in politics, the economy and the leadership that go beyond ideological interests or to holding on to power at all costs,” he pointed out.

“Hence the challenge to continue to build a citizenry that facilitates a more just and free society, which permits the promotion and protection of the dignity of the human person and encourages  integral human development,” Azuaje noted.

The bishop also expressed his dismay that an unnamed member of Maduro's government called for a "countermarch," and he criticized the people "who have had to bow to official purposes for different interests."

"Sent by their superiors, the military establishment has been present on a large scale since March 9, on different streets and avenues in the cities that belong to civil society, but are blocked by those who should be the servants of the people," the bishop lamented, urging the country’s military forces "to fulfill their mission to safeguard and protect the people."

The president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference added that “we're all Venezuelans and we have to respect each other, find ways to understand each other, and meet each other as brothers.”

“Violence leads us to the destruction of what's left of the social fabric,” he stressed.

Venezuela has been torn by violence, upheaval, shortages of basic necessities and food stuffs, widespread hunger, power and water supply outages and hyperinflation under the Nicolas Maduro regime. According to the Organization of American States (OAS), the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country is expected to total 6 million by the end of the year.


A version of this story was first published by Aci Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

OAS Secretary General backs 'essential' right to life

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates praised the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Tuesday for stating that the right to life should be protected from conception.

Luis Almagro, formerly the Uruguayan foreign minister, has previously drawn criticism for the organization's apparent support for abortion.

Last week, at a forum for candidates for OAS Secretary General, the current OAS head, Almagro, said that “definitely, the principles of religious freedom that I have mentioned and the principles of the right to life are fundamental principles and rights.” Almagro is running for re-election as secretary general.

Almagro also said that it is “essential” that Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights be fully applied.

That article states that “Every person has the right to have his life respected,” and that “[t]his right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception.”

In response, two pro-life leaders—who opposed Almagro’s re-election last year in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—offered praise of the secretary general’s statements.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, praised Almagro’s remarks March 10, expressing her hope that “they are heard throughout the region and the world.”

“He could not have been clearer: the right to life is a fundamental principle and right,” Dannenfelser said.

Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, also applauded Almagro’s remarks on Tuesday, calling them a significant step toward respecting the decisions of OAS member states to uphold the sanctity of life.

Almagro “fully understands that multilateral organizations like the OAS should respect the sovereignty of members states on matters of their internal jurisdiction such as the issue of abortion,” Aguilar said.

In his remarks at the candidate forum, Almagro—who is running for a second term as secretary general—also defended the ability of pro-life groups to make human rights claims to the body.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is made up of 35 member states from the Western Hemisphere, and promotes cooperation and solidarity among member countries as well as sovereignty and independence.

It has attracted criticism in recent years for alleged abortion advocacy. In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would be reduce funding to the OAS under the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits U.S. funding of pro-abortion lobbying. The U.S. cited “recent evidence of abortion-related advocacy” at the OAS for the decision.

“Our reduction equals the estimated U.S. share of possible OAS expenditures on these abortion-related activities,” Pompeo said.

Dannenfelser and Aguilar were two of more than two dozen pro-life leaders who called for the Trump administration to oppose Almagro’s re-election in October.

In a letter to Secretary Pompeo in October, the leaders pointed to Almagro’s alleged abortion advocacy and called it “gravely inappropriate.” The secretary general had met with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as well as the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Upon assuming the leadership of the OAS, Mr. Almagro made good on his promise to promote abortion as a human right,” they said at the time.

However, according to SBA List on Tuesday, the Trump administration subsequently reached out to Almagro, who assured them that he had no intention of promoting a right to abortion in member states.

Argentine bishops hold pro-life Mass as president plans to legalize abortion

Lujan, Argentina, Mar 9, 2020 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- As the Argentine president prepares to send a bill to the legislature legalizing abortion, thousands attended a pro-life Mass March 8 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan.

The Mas Vida Foundation estimated  the attendance at more than 100,000 people.

The Argentine bishops' conference organized the Mass with the theme “Yes to women, yes to life.” The main celebrant was Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea Quintana of San Isidro, who is president of the conference.

The purpose of the event was to oppose the bill to legalize abortion to be sent by President Alberto Fernandez to the Congress, which was announced last week.

Argentine law allows abortion in cases when the mother's life or health is in danger, or in cases of rape.

In his homily, Bishop Ojea said that “in this Eucharist we have come to celebrate and express our gratitude for the lives of so many women united in the sentiment of so many people in the world on this international women's day.”

“We value your irreplaceable presence in families and and we celebrate the increasingly greater place you have in our society,” the prelate said, and that added that all have come to Luján to “pray for all women so their lives, their safety and their rights are respected, overcoming every kind of exclusion.”

“But in a special way, we want to celebrate and appreciate women's closeness and commitment to life,” he said, and especially those “intelligent and brave women who commit their lives day after day, that life that sometimes makes it presence known with an unplanned pregnancy, which perhaps doesn't come at the best time, but they are completely committed to care for this new being they have received.”

The bishop underscored that “there are millions of Argentine men and women, believers and non-believers” who “have the profound conviction that there is life from conception and that a different person than the mother is developing in her womb.” In addition he emphasized that “it is unfair and distressing to call them anti-rights or hypocrites.”  

“In reality, we value and defend the rights of each and every life, of every woman and every unborn child,” the president of the bishops' conference said.

He stressed that “It's not right to eliminate any human life, as our National Constitution affirms,”
and that “violence and death are the exact opposite of Jesus' plan.”

“Life is the first right and without it no others can be given.  We claim it for everyone  at any age or in any situation that life finds itself in, and especially those who are weak, unprotected and defenseless,” he said.

At the same time Bishop Ojea said that the members of the Church “wholeheartedly deplore the cruelty of femicide and every kind of violence and discrimination against women” such as “ abuse in all its forms whether sexual, psychological or the abuse of power, whatever the environment where it occurs, the family, work, school, the street, and painfully we must also say in the Church.”

“Let us renew at this Eucharist our commitment to banish from us a culture that can foster cover up and any kind of complicit silence in face of this crime,” the bishop said.

He also called for civility in debating public policy and spoke against silencing or stigmatizing people which can only deepen the divisions in Argentine society.

The bishop asked  the clergy to support “the implementation of sex education that is truly integral” and “policies that recognize the equal dignity of men and women in society.”

Bishop Ojea expressed support for public policies to assist pregnant women, especially those in situations where there is conflict or extreme vulnerability and noted “we're already doing it in a lot of our communities.”

A bill to legalize abortion through the first 14 weeks of gestation narrowly passed the Chamber of Deputies in 2018, but was rejected by the Senate.

Peruvian cardinal calls for suppression of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae

Lima, Peru, Mar 9, 2020 / 06:10 pm (CNA).- A Peruvian cardinal has said that the Vatican has been asked to dissolve the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Peruvian religious community whose founder sexually and psychologically abused members, and committed other abuses of power.

“I personally think, when a religious organization has committed a crime, and it must be said that way, from the point of view of sexual abuse and the financial matters, that there are problems and it must be dissolved; and that is the point where we are on this road, and I know that the Holy See is on that road,” Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno said March 10 during an interview with Peru’s Radio Santa Rosa.

“There are good people within the Sodalitium, so we cannot put them all in the same bag. The underlying problem is that the founder is, not only seriously questioned, but I repeat, with much regret, he is a perverted person and such a person cannot transmit and encourage the sanctity of life that Pope Francis himself in an apostolic exhortation manifested.”

The cardinal said that other bishops in Peru, including the president of the country’s episcopal conference are in agreement with him about the Sodalitium. He said that dicasteries of the Holy See, while not disagreeing with their conclusion, have not yet found a definitive way to move forward on suppression of the religious congregation.

“My personal position is that this religious community should be dissolved, and those within it can be helped, so that they can live authentic lives, and I believe that many people share this view. This is a proposal that many of us are talking about, and it is not that Pope Francis or the dicasteries of the Holy See disagree, but we are on a path,” he added.

The cardinal, a member of the Society of Jesus, was appointed to lead the Peruvian Archdiocese of Huancayo in 2004. He was made a cardinal in 2018.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae declined to comment on the cardinal’s remarks.

The group is a society of apostolic life founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, stepped down as superior general in 2010, after allegations surfaced that he had committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Other former leaders of the community have since faced related abuse allegations, and several remain subject to law enforcement investigations.

In February 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

Figari was subsequently forbidden from the group’s community life, from any contact with the religious community, and from him from returning to Peru. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

In January 2018, Pope Francis appointed Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the society, tasking him with overseeing an ongoing process of reform that began after allegations against Figari came to light. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was tasked in 2016 with assisting the community’s reform process and its internal investigations of alleged misconduct.
In 2019, the community elected Colombian José David Correa González as its new superior general.

Prosecutors in Peru are believed to be deliberating about the possibility of criminal charges in connection to acts of abuse which took place with the Sodalitium.


ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner, contributed to this report.


Mexico City women's march erupts into violence outside cathedral

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 9, 2020 / 11:53 am (CNA).- A Mexico City march organized for International Women’s Day turned violent Sunday, when some demonstrators vandalized public structures and monuments, Church buildings, and businesses amid the march.

Considerable violence took place outside the city’s cathedral, where some feminist demonstrators, many of whom wore masks, threw paint and flammable liquids at the church. A group of Catholics had gathered outside the cathedral to safeguard it during the demonstration, and a contingent of female police officers was assigned to the site. Both fell under attack.

Violentas feministas atacan a los que defienden la Catedral de México y a las pocas agentes policiales que la defienden #8M #MujeresPorLaPaz #TodaVidaVale #UnDiaPorTodas #MujerEsVida

— David Ramos (@YoDash) March 8, 2020  

Some media reports mentioned counter-protesters making Nazi salutes outside the cathedral. Three such persons were observed by journalists from ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, all of whom apparently left the site once the melee began. Those counter-protesters did not appear to be affiliated with the cathedral parishioners outside the church. 

Demonstrators also threw Molotov cocktails at Mexico’s National Palace, the country’s official presidential residence, leaving some at the demonstration with burns and other injuries, smashed car windshields, and burnt the doors of some buildings.

Así dejaron las violentas feministas un vehículo de los bomberos @Bomberos_CDMX, a pocos metros de la Catedral de México y sin que las autoridades hagan algo #8M #DiaDeLaMujer #DiaInternacionaldelasMujeres

— David Ramos (@YoDash) March 8, 2020 Official government numbers said 80,000 people participated in the march. Demonstrators said the march was intended to address the problem of femicide in the country, although protestors also mentioned support for abortion rights among reasons for the demonstrations, and many wore the green bandanas that symbolize “abortion rights” support in Mexico.

#Viral| ?? En la cobertura de la marcha feminista, la fotógrafa de El Universal, Berenice Fregoso, resultó lesionada por una bomba molotov.

Fue traslada al hospital con quemaduras de segundo grado.

Más información. ⬇

— EL UNIVERSAL Qro (@universalqro) March 9, 2020 Some pro-life groups distributed signs and posted banners describing abortion as femicide, though demonstrators could be seen tearing them down and setting them on fire.

Churches and public buildings were also vandalized in other Mexican city by feminist groups and demonstrators. By Monday, March 9th, serious damage was reported to Catholic churches in Xalapa, Campeche and Hermosillo.

In Hermosillo, Catholics attending Mass were attacked by a group of masked marchers, The Massgoers barricaded themselves inside the church by pushing pews against the main door, in order to prevent the group from damaging the interior of the cathedral.

After the violence unfolded, an Archdiocese of Mexico spokesman told ACI Prensa that "I think it is important to say that the crisis of values ​​and violence against women is an issue that should unite us to work together in search of the gift of peace. Acting divided and in confrontation will only thwart efforts to stop violence."

The Mexican bishops' conference had expressed support for March 9 demonstrations across the country, which had mostly been organized by groups calling for expanded legal protection for abortion in Mexico. The conference has not yet issued a statement on Sunday’s violence.


A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner.

Charity turns down donated bikes from KofC over 'anti-LGBTQ' beliefs

Vancouver, Canada, Mar 6, 2020 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- A Vancouver-based bicycling charity broke a long-standing partnership with a local Knights of Columbus group this week and rejected their donations of bikes over the Knight’s “anti-LGBTQ+” beliefs, The B.C. Catholic reported.

“I’m sad that religious intolerance seems to be getting in the way of getting bikes to poor people,” Graham Darling, the spokesman for the local Knights council, told The B.C. Catholic.

The PEDAL Society is a non-profit that recycles and refurbishes used bicycles, and also provides education in bike mechanics to the community. Darling said the society called to let him know that the organization would no longer accept bikes donated by the Knights because the group is “anti-LGBTQ+”.

The Knights had been donating bicycles in partnership with the organization since 2006, and Darling said that “no issues have ever arisen” in that time.

The donation section of the charity’s website does not mention a required ideological alignment in order for donations to be accepted. The group’s community agreement states that: “We believe that everyone deserves respect. While using the resources of Our Community Bikes, we ask that you respect the diversity of folks who use the space and treat each other with care and dignity.”

Darling told The B.C. Catholic that “(t)he first principle of the Knights of Columbus is charity, and I’m sure that’s been a priority for PEDAL Society/Our Community Bikes. It’s a shame when people with moral differences elsewhere can’t still work together in a common cause.”

According to The B.C. Catholic, the Knights council partnered with the PEDAL Society and other groups to donate 67 bikes to the community during a bike drive last May. Darling said he is now not sure what the council will do with the bikes they have collected thus far this year.

Cara Fisher, chair of the board of directors for PEDAL, told The B.C. Catholic that “we have decided to no longer participate in the Knights of Columbus bike drive event,” but did not comment on why the decision was made.

CNA reached out to PEDAL Society for comment March 6 but did not hear back from the group by press time.