WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate voted against advancement of the Women’s Health Protection Act, H.R. 3755. The U.S. Senate vote was 46-48 to block the bill.
This bill would have imposed abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute and would have eliminated pro-life laws at every level of government – including parental notification for minor girls, informed consent, and health or safety protections specific to abortion facilities.
H.R. 3755 also would have compelled all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars and would have also likely forced health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as forced employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following statement:
“The failure to advance this extreme measure today is a tremendous relief. We must respect and support mothers, their unborn children, and the consciences of all Americans. Passing H.R. 3755 would have led to the loss of millions of unborn lives and left countless women to suffer from the physical and emotional trauma of abortion. Rather than providing comprehensive material and social support for a challenging pregnancy, H.R. 3755 fails women and young girls in need by instead offering a free abortion as the ‘solution’ to their difficulty. Women deserve better than this. We implore Congress to promote policies that recognize the value and human dignity of both mother and child.”
A letter from Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan urging the Senate to oppose this bill can be read here.
Prior to Monday night’s vote, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference used its Voter Voice platform to urge Senator Bob Casey to oppose the far-reaching abortion measure. For more information on the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Voter Voice platform, visit pacatholic.org.
February 28, 2022
His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments:
Rev. Helias De Oliveira, to Assistant Pastor, St. John Neumann Parish and St. Paul of the Cross Parish, Scranton, effective February 18, 2022.
Rev.J. Duane Gavitt, to Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes Barre, effective March 8, 2022. Father will remain Pastor at St. Elizabeth Parish, Bear Creek and St. Rita Parish, Gouldsboro.
Rev. Arun Lakra, to Administrator pro tem, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and St. Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, effective February 27, 2022 to March 8, 2022. Father will remain Assistant Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and St. Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale.
Rev. Seth D. Wasnock, from Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes Barre, effective March 8, 2022. Father will remain Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and St. Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, effective March 8, 2022.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said his heart was “broken” by the war in Ukraine, and he pleaded again, “Silence the weapons!”
“Many times, we prayed that this path would not be taken,” he told people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer Feb. 27. But rather than giving up, he said, “we beg God more intensely.”
With many of the people in the square holding Ukrainian flags, Pope Francis greeted them the way they traditionally greet each other, “Slava Isusu Chrystu,” meaning, “Glory to Jesus Christ.”
Pope Francis has continued to personally express his concern about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to appeal for peace. The previous evening, he phoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Vatican press office confirmed the call Feb. 26 but provided no details.
Zelenskyy tweeted that he had thanked Pope Francis “for praying for peace in Ukraine and a cease-fire. The Ukrainian people feel the spiritual support of His Holiness.”
The Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See tweeted, “The Holy Father expressed his deepest sorrow for the tragic events happening in our country.”
The call to Zelenskyy came a day after Pope Francis made the diplomatically unusual gesture of going to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See to express his concern about the war. Usually, a head of state would have an ambassador come to him.
Pope Francis also had phoned Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who remained in Kyiv with his people, taking refuge with others in the basement of Resurrection Cathedral and sending out daily videos of encouragement.
As Feb. 27 dawned with people under a curfew and many still sheltering in basements and subway stations, Archbishop Shevchuk promised that priests would be joining them underground to celebrate the Sunday Divine Liturgy.
“The church is with its people,” he said. “The church of Christ brings the eucharistic Savior to those who are experiencing critical moments in their life, who need the strength and hope of the resurrection.”
And he called on anyone who could to go to confession and receive the Eucharist, remembering those unable to go to services and, especially, the Ukrainian soldiers defending the nation.
But also, he said, make a “sacrifice for those who are wounded, for those who are discouraged, for the refugees who are on the roads” fleeing the war.
Speaking after the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis also remembered the Ukrainians in the bunkers and those fleeing the war, especially “the elderly, those seeking refuge in these hours, mothers fleeing with their children. They are our brothers and sisters for whom humanitarian corridors must be opened as a matter of urgency and who must be welcomed.”
“In these days we’ve been shaken by something tragic: war,” he told the people in the square.
One who wages war, he said, is not and cannot be thinking about people, but is putting “partisan interests and power before everything.”
One who wages war “relies on the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the furthest thing from God’s will, and distances himself from the ordinary people who want peace,” the pope said. In every conflict “the ordinary people are the real victims” and they “pay for the folly of war with their own skin.”
“With a heart broken by what is happening in Ukraine – and let’s not forget the wars in other parts of the world, such as Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia – I repeat: Silence the weapons!” Pope Francis said.
“God is with the peacemakers,” he said, “not with those who use violence.”
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Women religious in Ukraine are facing Russia’s full-scale invasion of that nation with determined faith and a commitment to service.
Two sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great spoke with CatholicPhilly.com directly from Ukraine Feb. 23 and 24 via telephone and the messaging app Viber.
“We understand that this is our new mission, to welcome the refugee,” said Basilian Sister Lucia Murashko, whose convent, the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul in Zaporizhzhia, is located about 125 miles from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Earlier Feb. 24, when Russian airstrikes began to impact Ukrainian cities, Sister Murashko and her three fellow women religious welcomed two families, with more expected as residents flee the attacks.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated more than 100,000 people have already left their homes in Ukraine since Russian forces openly entered that nation Feb. 24. The Ukrainian military reports losing at least 40 troops so far, with an unspecified number of civilian casualties.
Yet amid a fast-moving and fluid situation, Sister Murashko said through “a special grace of God” she “feels very calm.”
“We feel peace here,” she said. “We do not want to move from here; we want to help people and stay with them as long and as much as we can.”
Area residents are grateful for that support, she said, especially one neighbor who is eight months pregnant and advised by her doctor not to travel.
Besides, said Sister Murashko, “in the west (of Ukraine), people are not safer than they are here.”
In particular, eastern Ukraine has become all too accustomed to conflict as part of what Archbishop Borys Gudziak and fellow Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. recently called “an eight-year Kremlin-led war,” which began with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The same year, Russian-backed separatists proclaimed “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, together known as the Donbas.
That move came just 23 years after Ukraine gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it had been a part.
Memories of oppression under Soviet communism were close at hand for Basilian Sister Anna Andrusiv, whose monastery is in Lviv, in Western Ukraine.
Although born in 1988, she “felt in her heart” a unity with long-deceased sisters who hid in the same convent basement during the German occupation of Ukraine in World War II.
Her own grandmother had vivid memories of hardship, deprivation and a constant fear of “saying what you were thinking,” which could result in being sent “to Siberia,” she said.
Sister Andrusiv said she and some two dozen fellow religious — some of whom are up to 90 years old — have their emergency bags packed “in case we are bombed,” with at least three days’ supplies of “food, water warm clothes and medicine” as well as important documents.
At the same time, she and her companions said they were unafraid.
“We want you to know we are just waiting. If it’s going to happen, it will be hard, but we can take it,” she said. “We just want you to know that it’s not from us, this war. It’s like somebody came to our home and wanted to take it, and we will fight back, all of us. All of us will.”
A recent pilgrimage of men and women religious, which concluded in eastern Ukraine just hours ahead of the invasion, has provided renewed spiritual energy for the days ahead, said Sister Murashko.
“We were walking on the main street (of the town) and the people were crossing themselves … and making bows to the crucifix,” she said. “They came to us and gave us strength to serve and … to continue our mission here, so we cannot want to go anywhere else.”
Scranton Half Marathon
On February 9, 2022 the Scranton Half Marathon Foundation presented Saint Francis Kitchen with two checks for $13, 691 and $5,000. The first was in connection with the proceeds of the Fall 2021 Half Marathon. This year, the Scranton Half Marathon that will take place on Sunday, April 3rd. The Foundation also presented a $5,000 contribution that will be used in support of the kitchen’s annual Host for a Day Campaign. Thank you very much for continued and generous support of the important mission that we share.
Standing from left to right are the Scranton Half Marathon committee members Tim Rowland, Pat Fricchione, Rob Williams, Executive Director of St Francis Kitchen, Jim Moran, Gary Jones, Dr. Tom Minora, Matt Byrne, Ted Zwiebel, Owen Worozbyt, Melissa Pavlowski, Saint Francis Advisory Board President, Mike McCormick, Matt Hunter and Jason Geadrities.
To find out more about how individuals and organizations may collaborate with us, especially in the next few months during our annual campaign, contact Rob Williams at 570-342-5556 or visit our website at www.stfranciskitchen.org
We had the privilege yesterday of hosting 15 volunteers from the Administrative Staff of State Correctional Institution – Waymart. It was a pleasure meeting you and having you collaborate in the important mission that we share!
Wright Center Mobile Medical Unit
The Wright Center is here at the kitchen and pantries today with the Driving Better Health Mobile Medical Unit. They are conducting a Mobile COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing and will be here until 2 pm today. We thank the staff and leadership at the Wright Center for their ongoing commitment to serving those in need in our community.
SCRANTON (Feb. 24, 2022) – Today, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera released the following statement regarding the invasion of Ukraine:
“Like many of you, I am saddened and heartbroken by the humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold in Ukraine. Our world should be long past the need for anyone to wake up at 5 a.m. to the sound of explosions, rocket attacks and air raid sirens.
“I ask you to join me in praying for peace, an immediate end to the Russian invasion and a respect for international law. I also ask you to join me in praying for the more than 40 million innocent women, men and children currently living in Ukraine, and most especially the victims of this conflict and their families.
“On behalf of the clergy, deacons, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, I express our firm solidarity with Ukrainian Catholics and Ukrainians here in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania and in Ukraine itself.
“Now more than ever, our world is in need of healing and hope. I also urge everyone to participate in the call of Pope Francis to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. As Our Holy Father has said, ‘May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.’
“The following prayer is very dear to the Ukrainian people. I suggest that it be offered on their behalf.”
We fly to Your patronage, O Virgin Mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our needs, but deliver us from all dangers, since you alone are pure and blessed. O most glorious ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ our God, accept our prayers and present them to Your Son and our God, that for the sake of you, He enlighten and save our souls.
Editors Note: Various Catholic agencies, including the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the international Caritas confederation, have already started to collect donations to aid with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as people flee to escape Russian bombing and shelling. For a list of agencies, please visit: https://www.dioceseofscranton.org/where-to-give-to-help-ukraine/
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Various Catholic agencies are collecting donations to aid with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as people flee to escape Russian bombing and shelling. Here are some places to donate. This list is not exhaustive.
The international Caritas confederation is collecting funds to help Caritas Ukraine. In the United States, that is through Catholic Relief Services: https://bit.ly/3LWtOKa. Internationally, you can donate through https://www.caritas.org/.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the threat of war loomed over the world, Pope Francis called on people to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday.
Before concluding his general audience Feb. 23, the pope called on believers and nonbelievers to combat the “diabolical insistence, the diabolical senselessness of violence” with prayer and fasting.
“I invite everyone to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace,” he said. “I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace protect the world from the folly of war.”
In his appeal, the pope said he, like many around the world, felt “anguish and concern” after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The pope said that due to the “alarming” developments in the region, “once again, the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests.”
“I would like to appeal to those with political responsibilities to do a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the father of all and not only of some, who wants us to be brothers and sisters and not enemies,” he said.
He also urged world leaders to “refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing the coexistence between nations and discrediting international law.”
Putin’s recognition of the two breakaway regions’ independence was seen by Western leaders as a violation of international law protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and as a move that could pave the way for a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.
In the wake of the Russian president’s actions, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union announced sanctions against several Russian banks and institutions.
In a statement released Feb. 22, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has caused “irreparable damage” to the “logic of international relations.”
He also said the Russian president “destroyed foundational principles for a long-term process of restoring peace in Ukraine” and “created the path for a new wave of military aggression against our state.”
“Today, all of humanity has been placed in danger,” he said, because Putin’s action asserts that “the powerful have a right to impose themselves on whomever they wish, with no regard for the rule of law.”
Archbishop Shevchuk reminded world leaders of their duty and responsibility “to actively work to avert war and protect a just peace.”
“I call upon all people of good will to not ignore the suffering of the Ukrainian people brought on by Russian military aggression,” he said. “We are a people who love peace. And precisely for that reason we are ready to defend it and fight for it.”
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Ukraine is “being crucified before the eyes of the world,” said the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Speaking by telephone from Paris to CatholicPhilly.com Feb. 24 – the day Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine – Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak said the invasion is designed to “destroy Ukrainian statehood and install an authoritarian system in a country of 44 million people.”
After months of amassing up to 190,000 troops at the Ukrainian borders with Russia and Belarus, the invasion from the east, north and south began what Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called “a full-scale war in Europe.”
Airstrikes and explosions near several major cities in Ukraine, including its capital, Kyiv, have caused civilians to flee in panic. The Ukrainian military reports losing at least 40 members so far, with an unspecified number of civilian casualties.
Archbishop Gudziak — who spent several days in Ukraine before traveling to the Vatican and to Paris – met with staff at the Ukrainian Embassy to France early Feb. 24, by which time there had been “an advance across the Ukrainian border in eight places,” he said.
The advance continues what the archbishop and Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. earlier called “an eight-year Kremlin-led war” since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
That same year, Russian-backed separatists proclaimed “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, together known as the Donbas. The move came just 23 years after Ukraine gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it had been a part.
Since 2014, clashes, shelling and sniper attacks have become common in eastern Ukraine.
The United Nations reported almost 1.5 million internally displaced persons in the country as of 2021, and more than 3,300 civilian deaths and more than 7,000 civilian injuries between April 2014 and March 2020. Between 14,000 and 15,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict to date.
Russia’s latest aggression indicates a clear “intention to occupy the capital and overthrow the government,” said Archbishop Gudziak.
Without mentioning his country’s nuclear arsenal, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated countries attempting to intervene would face “consequences you have never seen.”
This “escalated, comprehensive invasion … will lead to the deaths of thousands and the suffering of millions,” said Archbishop Gudziak.
The Ukrainian “resistance is valiant,” he said, but “according to various parameters, whether budgets, military, hardware or soldiers, the Russian armed forces are between five to 10 times as big as those in Ukraine. Their weapons are more sophisticated, and all of that is backed up by a nuclear arsenal.”
Having spoken with “people in different parts of the country” Feb. 24, Archbishop Gudziak said Ukrainians are “trying to hold strong … but the flood of refugees is beginning at this point. The highways are bumper to bumper.”
The “enormous scale” of the unfolding “humanitarian crisis … was all predicted, all something Ukrainian officials have been speaking about for months and years,” said Archbishop Gudziak.
Despite frantic diplomacy and sanctions from Western officials, “over the last eight years” Russia has “had its hand slapped and not much more,” he said.
He noted that Ukraine had voluntarily forfeited its nuclear arsenal – the third-largest in the world at the time – as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, through which the U.S., Russia and Britain pledged “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against Ukraine.
Now, said Archbishop Gudziak, “one of the signatories (Russia) is the violator of it.”
Western nations need “an examination of conscience,” he said. “How did (they) stand by and watch what was occurring in Ukraine over the past eight years? Did (they) believe the voices coming from the country? Was (the West) swayed by the propaganda, the assurance and the lies of a cynical neo-imperialist leader?”
“(An) attachment to comfort (and) a loss of understanding of human nature and the deep consequences of sin” have all factored into the West’s hesitation to intervene more fully over the years, he added.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Byzantine rite, has historically suffered “every time any Russian regime, whether czarist, communist or Putinish, has occupied Ukrainian territory,” Archbishop Gudziak said. “From 1946 to 1989, under Russian communist rule, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was the biggest illegal church in the world.”
While he does not currently anticipate “any kind of systematic execution of bishops and priests,” Archbishop Gudziak cautioned that “there should be no naivete. There are no rules here; there’s just raw greed and lust for power.”
At the same time, “the power of the truth, the power of the Gospel and the strength of authentic Christian witness prevail,” he said, although it “often entails a way of the cross (since) the resurrection is preceded by a death.”
Ukraine itself attests to that reality, he said.
Although the nation “endured despotic rule in the 20th century,” with some “50 million killed … new life came, and new life will come again,” said Archbishop Gudziak.
“We trust that history is in God’s hands,” he said. “Yesterday … I prayed for President Putin and for Russia, for the conversion of hearts of those who wage war and use violence to subjugate and denigrate others. Blessed are the poor, the suffering, those who are invaded, those who are violated, who in Christ’s name endure this.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In his 2022 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:9-10).
The Holy Father challenges us to reflect upon the urgency of using the time that God has given to us in a productive manner by sowing goodness in our world with a view to a future harvest. And Lent, Pope Francis continues, is the opportune time for us to recollect our thoughts and to move forward with resolve, seeking to fulfill our baptismal promises by making the pattern of Jesus’ life our own through our authentic response to his call to discipleship.
Through his invitation to place our trust in the Lord as the surest means of responding to the apostle Paul’s appeal, Pope Francis provides us with some practical reminders of how we might achieve this noble end:
“Let us not grow tired of praying” … We need to pray because we need God.
“Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives or of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance,” knowing that God never tires of forgiving us.
And “Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors,” the surest means of reflecting the life of Jesus in our own lives.
This year during our Lenten journey, we have all been given a unique opportunity to sow seeds of goodness in our Church to reap a bountiful harvest. The entire People of God, including our own local Church, have been invited to participate in the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops that is being convened by Pope Francis in October 2023, entitled a Synod on Synodality.
A “synodal” Church implies a way of being and of working that engages a more grassroots, collaborative effort among the members of the Christian faithful as we all seek to grow in awareness of the presence of God and engage the mission of evangelization. A “synodal” Church takes the time to discern the path forward that the Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace as together we seek to build a Church where all are welcome, valued and sent forth as ambassadors of Christ. A “synodal” Church highlights the fact that each member of the Body of Christ has been entrusted with gifts for the building up of the Church – “good” that we ought never tire of doing on behalf of one another.
I encourage you to participate in the synodal process through listening sessions in your parishes and through online opportunities that have been generously provided to all of you who desire to share your thoughts, your dreams and where you believe the Holy Spirit is calling the Church at this time in its history. The Diocese of Scranton’s online survey can be found on the “Synod on Synodality” page on the Diocese of Scranton website at dioceseofscranton.org.
As Pope Francis has reminded us, a “synodal Church” is above all a Church that listens: “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The lay faithful, the bishops, the pope: all listening to each other, all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), in order to know what He is saying to the Church” and how best to move forward in faith.
Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist in our response to the Lord’s invitation to do “good” is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we have done for many years, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. Every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, March 7, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, April 4, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
My friends, our resolve to deepen our faith and to do good on behalf of our brothers and sisters is needed today more than ever. May we open our hearts to this blessed season of Lent and all of the opportunities that we are given to deepen our trust in the ever-present grace of God, that alone can sustain us in our journey of faith as his disciples.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton