A pregnant woman is seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in this 2016 file photo. On Aug. 8, 2023, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, objected to a proposed interpretation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to include accommodations for obtaining an abortion. (OSV News photo/Tyler Orsburn, CNS)

WASHINGTON – On Monday, Aug. 7, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released proposed regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, responded with the following statement:

“We supported the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because it enhanced the protection of pregnant mothers and their preborn children, which is something that we have encouraged Congress to prioritize. The Act is pro-worker, pro-family, and pro-life. It is a total distortion to use this law as a means for advancing abortion, and the complete opposite of needed assistance for pregnant mothers.

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s proposed interpretation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to include accommodations for obtaining an abortion is wrong and contrary to the text, legislative history, and purpose of the Act, which is to help make it possible for working mothers to remain gainfully employed, if desired, while protecting their health and that of their preborn children. We are hopeful that the EEOC will be forced to abandon its untenable position when public comments submitted on this regulation demonstrate that its interpretation would be struck down in court.”

Editor Note: There is currently a 60-day period where the public can submit their public comments on this regulation. You can submit a comment at the following site: https://www.regulations.gov/document/EEOC-2023-0004-0001



Pope Francis listens as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, offers best wishes for Christmas on behalf of the cardinals and top officials of the Roman Curia during a gathering Dec. 22, 2022, in the Vatican’s Hall of Blessings. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Every Christian and every Christian community is called to conversion, a process that lasts a lifetime and is needed even more by people who think they are firmly on the path to holiness, Pope Francis told officials of the Roman Curia.

“The opposite of conversion is ‘immobility,’ the secret belief that we have nothing else to learn from the Gospel,” the pope told the cardinals and other top aides Dec. 22 as he met them for his traditional pre-Christmas speech and review of the past year.

Pope Francis went from the meeting in the Hall of Blessings to the Vatican audience hall where he offered his Christmas greetings and prayers for peace and serenity to Vatican employees and members of their families.

The Gospel calls to conversion and to peacemaking, including in one’s relationship with family members and co-workers, were at the center of the pope’s remarks to the Curia.

In October, the church celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope Francis said was “a great moment of conversion for the entire church.”

“The conversion that the council sparked was an effort to understand the Gospel more fully and to make it relevant, living and effective in our time,” he said, and the process “is far from complete.”

The ongoing reflection on “synodality,” and of ensuring members of the church listen to God and to each other, he said, “is the fruit of our conviction that the process of understanding Christ’s message never ends, but constantly challenges us.”

Conversion, he said, “is not simply about avoiding evil but doing all the good that we can. Where the Gospel is concerned, we are always like children needing to learn. The illusion that we have learned everything makes us fall into spiritual pride.”

Pope Francis said it is an “error” to try “to crystallize the message of Jesus in a single, perennially valid form,” because while the substance of the Gospel remains the same, the forms of expressing and explaining it must deepen over time and must respond to the new needs and challenges of any given age.

“True heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel as St. Paul told us,” he said, “but also in ceasing to translate its message into today’s languages and ways of thinking.”

“‘To preserve’ means to keep alive and not to imprison the message of Christ,” the pope said.

Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ parables, including the parable of the prodigal son, to explain how those who wander far from God often recognize how they have sinned and then turn back, repentant.

But in the parable, the elder son knows he has stayed home, doing his duty, and so he thinks he is righteous and has no need for conversion.

“Those who remain at home,” he said, often fail to realize the errors of their ways, “convinced that they are mere victims, treated unjustly by constituted authority and, in the last analysis, by God himself.”

Pope Francis told the Curia officials that “at this time in our lives, we need to pay greater attention to the fact that, in a formal sense, we are now living ‘at home,’ within the walls of the institution, in the service of the Holy See, at the heart of the church. Precisely for this reason, we could easily fall into the temptation of thinking we are safe, better than others, no longer in need of conversion.”

In fact, he said, that sense of security means “we are in greater danger than all others, because we are beset by the ‘elegant demon,’ who does not make a loud entrance, but comes with flowers in his hand,” trying subtly to convince one that no further conversion is necessary.

Pope Francis also used the occasion to call attention again to Russia’s war on Ukraine and to the armed conflicts going on in many parts of the world.

“The culture of peace is not built up solely between peoples and nations,” he said. “It begins in the heart of every one of us” by uprooting any hatred or resentment of another person.

Personal peacemaking begins with self-examination, the pope said, urging the officials to ask: “How much bitterness do we have in our hearts? What is feeding it? What is the source of the indignation that so often creates distance between us and fuels anger and resentment? Why is it that backbiting in all its forms becomes our only way of talking about the things around us?”

Peace can be destroyed by “verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of the abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” he said. “In the presence of the Prince of Peace who comes into the world, let us lay aside all weapons of every kind.”

Participants wearing king costumes ride camels during the Three Kings Cavalcade parade in Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 6, 2022, in celebration of the Epiphany, also known as the 12th and final day of Christmas. (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) – There are birds – lots of birds – gold rings, milking maids, dancing ladies, leaping lords, pipers and drummers, but is there a deeper meaning behind the gifts received in “The Twelve Days of Christmas?”

The song dates to 1714 Newcastle, England, according to the 1864 book “Songs of the Nativity” by William Henry Husk.

It recalls gifts the singer’s “true love” gave them over the course of the 12-day Christmas season, Dec. 25 through Jan. 5, Twelfth Night (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany”), which traditionally marks the end of Christmas celebrations.

For many, the cumulative song is simply a fun Christmas carol.

But in 1979, English teacher and hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar of Canada wrote a short article, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which he theorized the song’s lyrics were intended to help teach the catechism of the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation when Catholicism was outlawed in England from 1558 through 1829, except during the reign of the Catholic James II (1685-88).

According to McKellar, each gift had a correlation to the church:

— The true love refers to God.

— The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

— The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

— The three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

— The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

— The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

— The six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation.

— The seven swans a swimming represented the gifts of the Holy Spirit — prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy.

— The eight maids a milking were the Eight Beatitudes.

— The nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

— The 10 lords a leaping were the Ten Commandments.

— The 11 pipers piping stood for the 11 faithful disciples.

— And the 12 drummers drumming symbolized the 12 points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Three years after McKeller published his article, a Catholic priest, Father Hal Stockert, picked up his idea and used it as the basis for an article he wrote in 1982 and posted online in 1995.

It is an interesting theory, but, unfortunately, McKellar provided no historical evidence to tie his thoughts to the historical record.

In fact, Snopes.com, a website that reviews stories of unknown or questionable origin, said the hypothesis that the song hides the Catholic catechism is incorrect.

David Mikkelson, author of the Snopes article, wrote: “Although Catholics and Anglicans used different English translations of the Bible (Douai-Reims and the King James version, respectively), all of the religious tenets supposedly preserved by the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ (with the possible exception of the number of sacraments) were shared by Catholics and Anglicans alike.

“There was absolutely no reason why any Catholic would have to hide his knowledge of any of the concepts supposedly symbolized in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,’ because these were basic articles of faith common to all denominations of Christianity.”

“None of these items,” he added, “would distinguish a Catholic from a Protestant, and therefor none of them needed to be ‘secretly’ encoded into song.”

Benedictine Father Jerome Kodell, former abbot of Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, agreed.

“The catechism interpretation is preposterous because the scheme wouldn’t work in a Protestant country,” he said. “The song could function as a Christian subterfuge only in a non-Christian context or country, not in Protestant England.

“English Protestants would be teaching their children the same Christian truths as Catholics, so the use of this song would not tell you whether a family were Protestant or Catholic.”

Mikkelson said the carol most likely started in France and cites the 1780 children’s book “Mirth Without Mischief” that says the song was a Twelfth Night “memory-and-forfeits” game in which the song leader recited a verse.

Then each of the players repeated the verse, and the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake and was out of the game or had to give a treat to the other players.

Father Andrew Hart, theological consultant to Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock, said the 12 days of Christmas is more a cultural rather than an ecclesial or liturgical tradition.

“In the liturgical calendar of the Latin Church, the octave of Christmas begins on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, and continues for eight days following,” said the priest, who is adjutant judicial vicar for the diocesan tribunal.

“Octaves are eight-day periods of celebration and rejoicing for the most important feasts of the church, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but there used to be many more,” he added.

The 12-day period that is culturally significant could have its origins in a decree from a meeting of bishops in Tours, France, in 567, which stated the Christmas season was to extend from Dec. 25 until Jan. 6, Father Hart said.

But he noted, the liturgical season of Christmas begins with the feast of the Nativity of the Lord and runs through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, after which Ordinary Time begins.

Father Kodell said Epiphany is the older feast than Christmas, and in the Eastern Church and some parts of the Western Church it is the dominant feast of this season.

The downtown and waterfront areas of Fort Myers, Fla., show damage from the wind and storm surge Oct. 5, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

SCRANTON – As residents of Florida begin the process of rebuilding their homes and livelihoods after devastation from Hurricane Ian, they will be getting assistance from the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has asked all parishes in the diocese to take up a special collection to donate to the victims of recent hurricanes Fiona and Ian. Many will hold that special collection on the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16, 2022.

“In view of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona in the southeast United States starting in Florida, but also Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, many lives have been lost along with severe damage and destruction to properties,” Bishop Bambera wrote in a letter to priests of the diocese asking them to organize a special collection.

Hurricane Fiona brought winds up to 85 mph and more than 20 inches of rain to Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, knocking out water and power on the island.

Over 1,000 people were rescued as the storm flooded streets, caused mudslides and destroyed infrastructure.

On Sept. 23, five days before Fiona dissipated, Hurricane Ian formed, first striking Cuba, and then making landfall in the Ft. Myers, Florida area on Sept. 28, as a Category 4 storm. When Ian plowed into southwest Florida, the top gust recorded by a National Weather Service station was 155 mph at the Punta Gorda airport north of Fort Myers.


Though Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm, it regained strength and regrouped as a hurricane before heading toward South Carolina.

The funds collected in the Diocese of Scranton’s special collection will become part of the USCCB Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund. The money will support the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church as well as the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, the official relief agencies of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Both Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services are already on the ground, assisting local agencies in providing humanitarian relief, supplying food, water and sanitation assistance. Repair and rebuilding of homes will take place as soon as possible.

As he concluded his letter, Bishop Bambera stated, “I thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response to those in need.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio comforts people in Uvalde, Texas, outside the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students had been transported from Robb Elementary School after a shooting May 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Marco Bello, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – When news broke of the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller was in a meeting with about 150 archdiocesan priests.

The meeting was rescheduled and several priests left right away to be with people in the Texas town about 100 miles west of San Antonio and close to Mexico’s border.

The archbishop also went directly to Uvalde where a teenager had killed 19 students and two elementary school teachers at Robb Elementary School before he was shot and killed by police.

Archbishop García-Siller’s first stop was the hospital to meet with families of those wounded in the shooting, followed by a visit to the town’s civic center where families awaited news of their loved ones. He then celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde and spoke with family members and then reporters after Mass before heading home around midnight.

The following day, he spoke to Catholic News Service while in a car riding back to Uvalde to be at Robb Elementary School with other civic and faith leaders before going back to the civic center.

He said it was important to be with the people suffering from this tragedy to remind them they are not alone, give them the support they need and most of all just show them “love, love, love.”

He said those in the congregation during the May 24 evening Mass at Sacred Heart included some who had been directly impacted by the school shooting, including the person who called 911 about the shooter and someone who had brought wounded schoolchildren to the hospital.

The altar server was a 10-year-old girl, around the age of many of the students shot that day.

The archbishop, filling in for the pastor who was out of town, said the congregation was numb. They just couldn’t talk, he said, because they were so shocked by what had happened or still unsure of what this meant for their own families and the community at large.

He urged them to greet one another at the start of Mass as a sign of their shared humanity and to express “what is hard to articulate.”

He hoped the readings, music and Communion would provide a balm for the families there but also help them to “build strength” for what is ahead.

Two priests spoke during the Mass about their visits to the hospital that day with shooting victims and family members. One said he visited a girl whose face was still bleeding and when he asked her what was on her heart she simply said: “My friends, nothing but my friends.”

Archbishop García-Siller said he mentioned in his homily and has been telling reporters about the different levels of focus right now in the wake of the school shooting.

The first priority is those who were affected. He said they need all possible help on both a practical level and also spiritually in the prayers they have asked for. He also said the local community needs to be strong, “for the journey will be a long road ahead.”

The other key focus right now, he said, is to challenge local, state and federal leadership about gun control, noting that this shooting is “another example that we have failed. We have failed because we don’t have people as the center.” He also stressed that more people need to take responsibility for what happened, emphasizing that it was “not an isolated event.”

Catholic Charities of San Antonio began providing crisis relief at Robb Elementary School May 25 with grief counselors and legal services available as well as emergency financial assistance for family members who need to travel to Uvalde.

In the days ahead, the doors to Sacred Heart Church will be open and its Catholic school also will have counselors on hand.

The archbishop wrote to Pope Francis May 24 about the school shooting, which took place just days before the school’s summer recess, asking for his prayers. The next day he received a telegram from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, expressing the pope’s condolences.

The message said the pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting that took place” and assured those “affected by this attack of his spiritual closeness.” He also commended the souls of those who died to God’s mercy and “implored the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”

The pope prayed that those “tempted to violence will choose instead the path of fraternal solidarity and love.”

Archbishop García-Siller said he had seen many moments of grace in the 24 hours since the attack and noted that many people were trying to do something good in response to the crisis. This outreach, he said, will not be difficult in the current moment.

The challenge, he said, will be how to overcome current divisions. “This will take a long, long time.”

But he added to that a last word of hope that he also has been sharing in Uvalde, emphasizing: “We know in whom we have placed our trust.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he wants LGBT Catholics to know that God is a father who “does not disown any of his children.”

The pope’s comment was among the short answers to three questions posed in a letter by Jesuit Father James Martin, editor at large of America magazine and a driving force behind its new website, outreach.faith, which provides news and resources for LGBT Catholics, their families and the people who minister with them.

Pope Francis’ letter, in Spanish, is dated May 8; it was posted on Outreach the next day. And Vatican Media also published a translation in Italian.

Father Martin asked the pope, “What do you say to an LGBT Catholic who has experienced rejection from the church?”

“I would have them recognize it not as the ‘rejection of the church,’ but instead ‘of people in the church,'” the pope responded.

“The church is mother and calls together all of her children,” he continued. “Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: ‘the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.'”

A church that is “selective,” or makes some pretext about who is “pure,” he said, “is not the Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.”

Asked what the most important thing LGBT people should know about God, Pope Francis responded, “God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And ‘the style’ of God is ‘closeness, mercy and tenderness.’ Along this path you will find God.”

Father Martin also asked the pope what he would like LGBT people to know about the church, to which the pope responded that they should read the Acts of the Apostles. “There they will find the image of the living church.”


Humanitarian aid for evacuees from the separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine is gathered and packed in Simferopol, Ukraine, Feb. 21, 2022. (CNS photo/Alexey Pavlishak, Reuters)

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/.

The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia also has a link: https://ukrarcheparchy.us/donate

Two pontifical agencies also are taking donations for Ukraine: Catholic Near East Welfare Association, https://cnewa.org/campaigns/ukraine/  and Aid to the Church in Need, https://bit.ly/3sgpuNV.

Internationally, Aid to the Church can be reached at https://bit.ly/3vfqCn4.

Catholics can make contributions to Aid to the Church in Need, https://www.churchinneed.org.


A figurine of the baby Jesus is seen as people gather in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus led by Pope Francis at the Vatican Dec. 12, 2021. Children brought their Nativity figurines of baby Jesus to be blessed by the pope. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With Christmas just over a week away, Christians should prepare for Jesus’ birth by serving those in need rather than focusing on what awaits them under the Christmas tree, Pope Francis said.

“We are so busy with all the preparations, with gifts and things that pass,” the pope said Dec. 12 during his Sunday Angelus address. “But let’s ask ourselves what we should do for Jesus and for others! What should we do?”

Many children along with their families came to St. Peter’s Square with their baby Jesus figurines for a traditional blessing by the pope.

Assuring them that he would bless their statues after praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted the little ones and asked them to take “my Christmas greetings to your grandparents and all your dear ones.”

In his main address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke which recalled the crowds of people who, after being moved by St. John the Baptist’s preaching, asked him, “What should we do?”

Their question “does not stem from a sense of duty” but from their hearts being “touched by the Lord,” and their being enthusiastic for his coming.

Just like the preparations people make to welcome a guest to their home by cleaning and preparing “the best dinner possible,” Christians must do “the same with the Lord,” he said.

St. Luke’s Gospel, the pope added, also encourages one to ask, “What should I do with my life? What am I called to? What will I become?”

“By suggesting this question, the Gospel reminds us of something important: Life has a task for us. Life is not meaningless; it is not left up to chance. No! It is a gift the Lord grants us, saying to us: Discover who you are, and work hard to make the dream that is your life come true!”

The pope encouraged Christians to prepare for Christmas by continuously asking God what should they do for themselves and others in order to contribute to the good of the church and society.

St. John the Baptist’s answers, he said, responded to each individual in a way that fit his or her situation in life, a reminder from the Gospel that “life is incarnated” in concrete situations.

“Faith is not an abstract theory, a generalized theory; no!” he said. “Faith touches us personally and transforms each of our lives. Let us think about the concreteness of our faith. Is my faith abstract, something abstract or concrete? Does it lead me to serve others, to help out?”

Pope Francis said there are several ways people can serve others during Advent, including by doing “something concrete, even if it is small” to help others,” especially by visiting the lonely, the elderly, the sick or someone in need.

Then the pope added to the list: “Maybe I need to ask forgiveness, grant forgiveness, clarify a situation, pay a debt. Perhaps I have neglected prayer and after so much time has elapsed, it’s time to ask the Lord for forgiveness.”

“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “let’s find something concrete and do it!”


Pope Francis is greeted by young people as he arrives at the international airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. The pope was beginning a five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (CNS) – The Catholic Church is a mosaic of different rites and cultures and must show the world the beauty of welcoming all people as brothers and sisters, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Cyprus.

Beginning his Dec. 2-4 visit to the island with a meeting with bishops, priests and religious rather than with government officials, the pope highlighted the religious value of welcoming and diversity in a nation struggling with migration.

Located on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and just south of Turkey, Cyrus has a large Orthodox majority, but also centuries-old communities of Maronite and Latin-rite Catholics, whose numbers have grown because of foreign workers, especially from the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India.

On the flight from Rome to Larnaca, a city on the sea about 30 miles from Nicosia, Pope Francis told reporters, “It will be a beautiful trip, but we will touch some wounds.”

One of those wounds — the fact that for more than 40 years the island has been divided between the mostly Greek Cypriot south and the mostly Turkish Cypriot north — explained why the pope landed in Larnaca. The Nicosia airport is now mainly the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping force that patrols the “green line” between the north and south.

The other wound – migration – was the center of the pope’s attention even before he left his residence Dec. 2. He met with 12 refugees from Syria, Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan now living in Italy. Some of them, the Vatican said, came to Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos with the pope in 2016. The pope is scheduled to make his second visit to Lesbos Dec. 5.

And, before arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, he stopped at the nearby parish of St. Mary of the Angels and greeted the 15 refugees the parish is supporting.

On the plane, a French reporter gave the pope a gift from a Catholic parish in Calais, France: a kite made from the tattered tents of asylum-seekers stuck in Calais but hoping to get to England. It included the name, Aleksandra Hazhar, of a baby girl born prematurely on the Calais beach in 2020; she died a few days later.

Meeting with the bishops, priests, religious and seminarians in the Maronite Cathedral, which is located on the “green line” and has the blue-bereted peacekeepers patrolling out front, Pope Francis described Cyprus as “a land of golden fields, an island caressed by the waves of the sea, but above all else a history of intertwined peoples, a mosaic of encounters.”

“The church, as catholic, universal, is an open space in which all are welcomed and gathered together by God’s mercy and invitation to love,” the pope said. “Walls do not and should not exist in the Catholic Church. For the church is a common home, a place of relationships and of coexistence in diversity.”

“Who is the source of unity in the church?” the pope asked. “The Holy Spirit. And who is the source of diversity in the church? The Holy Spirit.”

And, encouraging the bishops and priests to be patient with their people and sensitive to their cultural differences, Pope Francis said “proselytism within the church” can be just as harmful as proselytism outside. Guiding and correcting people is one thing, he said, but must be done gently and with great mercy.

“We need a patient church,” he said, “a church that does not allow itself to be upset and troubled by change, but calmly welcomes newness and discerns situations in the light of the Gospel.”

“The work you are carrying out on this island, as you welcome new brothers and sisters arriving from other shores of the world, is precious,” he said. Like the apostle Barnabas, described in the Acts of the Apostles as a Cypriot, “you, too, are called to foster a patient and attentive outlook, to be visible and credible signs of the patience of God, who never leaves anyone outside the home, bereft of his loving embrace.”

“The church of Cyprus has these same open arms: It welcomes, integrates and accompanies,” the pope said, after listening to St. Joseph Sister Perpetua Nyein Nyein Loo speak on behalf of the four women’s congregations that work on the island.

In addition to running schools, she said, “much of our work consists in defending the basic human rights of those in need and of migrant workers, who frequently must bear the burden of disproportionate debts as well as harsh and unfair treatment, including unpaid wages, excessively long working hours, verbal and physical abuse and other forms of discrimination.”

Pope Francis also encouraged the Catholics to show “respect and kindness” for the nation’s other Christian communities.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Lebanon-based patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, welcomed the pope to the cathedral and told him that the main Christian communities on the island — Cypriot Orthodox, Maronite and Latin-rite Catholic and Armenian Orthodox — have “optimal relations.”

But Pope Francis said that same kind of patience and acceptance is needed within the church as well.

“We are brothers and sisters loved by a single Father,” he told them.

Arguing is normal, the pope said, adding as an aside that he and his four siblings argued almost every day when he was growing up, but they still came together as a family around the dinner table.

“This is what fraternity in the church means: We can argue about visions, sensibilities and differing ideas,” he said. “Yet let us always remember: We argue not for the sake of fighting or imposing our own ideas, but in order to express and live the vitality of the Spirit, who is love and communion.”


A pro-life activist holding a crucifix joins a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Dec. 1, 2021, ahead of the court hearing oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee Dec. 1 urged Catholics, people of other faiths and all people of goodwill to unite in prayer that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in its eventual ruling on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

His statement was issued the same day the court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal from Mississippi. Its ban was struck down by a federal District Court in Mississippi in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The Mississippi law is being challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It’s the first major abortion case the court has heard in decades.

“In the United States, abortion takes the lives of over 600,000 babies every year,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could change that.”

“We pray that the court will do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion, and in doing so protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act,” he added. “We invite all people of goodwill to uphold the dignity of human life by joining us in prayer and fasting for this important case.”

If the court’s ruling, expected in July, upholds the ban, it possibly also could overturn Roe and send the abortion issue back to the states to decide laws on it.

Archbishop Lori directed people to www.prayfordobbs.com for Catholic and ecumenical prayers and resources for community engagement and action “as we await the court’s decision in this case.”

Pro-life advocates and supporters of keeping abortion legal gathered outside the Supreme Court rallying for their respective positions on the issue as the justices heard oral arguments in the case inside the court.

Beyond the court building’s steps, statements about the Mississippi law and predictions about the outcome of the case came from all quarters.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., predicted there would be “a revolution” if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Shaheen, who is on record as a supporter of widespread access to abortion, said that young people in particular would find it unacceptable if the court strikes down the legal precedent set by Roe in 1973 legalizing abortion nationwide.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called on the Senate to Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The measure, passed by the House Sept. 24, codifies Roe and establishes the legal right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states under federal law.

“The Mississippi case brought before the Supreme Court is a product of Republican attacks on reproductive rights spanning decades,” said DeLauro, a Catholic. If Roe is overturned, the court will be “depriving individuals across the country of their right to choose to have an abortion,” she said.

Many pro-lifers hoping Roe will be overturned emphasized how many scientific advances have been made in the nearly 50 years since that decision was handed down, advances they argued that have led to unprecedented information on the developmental stages of the unborn child from conception to birth.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, pointed to what he called the “utterly weak and time-worn arguments” that he said were made by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, considered the liberal members of the court.

Among their comments was Sotomayor’s claim that only “fringe” doctors believe in the existence of fetal pain as a reason to restrict abortion.

“They do not acknowledge that the changes in science are real, or that the confusion thrust upon judges and legislators by the court’s approach to abortion is also real,” Father Pavone said in a statement.

“These and other objective reasons have led us to the day when Mississippi, and other states, believe it is time to enact stronger protections for the unborn, and for unelected judges to stop imposing policies that the legislatures should be responsible for instead,” he said.

At the rally outside the court, Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiologist and a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, similarly commented that “incredible advances in science and fetal medicine have rendered viability a totally incoherent legal standard.”

“Science and common sense tell us children in the womb are as undeniably human as the rest of us,” remarked Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, an independent political advocacy group. “We know for instance that by 15 weeks they already have beating hearts, can suck their thumbs, and even feel pain.”

“It is time to overturn Roe and allow Americans to once again pass laws that reflect these basic values,” he said in a statement.

He added that “millions of faithful Catholics across the nation are hopeful after today’s oral arguments that the Supreme Court of the United States will restore sanity to its abortion jurisprudence which has enabled over 62 million American children to be aborted since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided.”

“Protecting innocent life is the preeminent moral issue for Catholics but it is also the condition of any just society, and abortion robs our most vulnerable citizens of that most basic human right,” Burch said.

Not all eyes on the court were in the nation’s capital.

In Illinois, Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said the country has “the first real legal opportunity in over a decade to topple” Roe, which “has left a tragic trail of human carnage: more than 62 million dead children and countless broken families and wounded souls.”

He said the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, has assisted thousands of clients, including some of the nation’s leading pro-life figures, “all of whom have either spoken to the opportunity now facing the Supreme Court or are actively engaged in the cry to ‘Overturn Roe.'”

Louisiana Right to Life associate director Angie Thomas said that while no one can predict the outcome of a Supreme Court case on the basis of oral arguments, she was heartened that at least six of the nine justices asked questions that seemed to support Mississippi’s ban.

In a news conference outside the pro-life organization’s New Orleans headquarters, Thomas noted that Justice Brett Kavanaugh stressed the court should remain “scrupulously neutral” on issues “that are just this complicated and this divisive,” allowing those issues to be decided by individual states and their elected representatives.

In addition, Thomas said, Justice Samuel Alito interjected during the nearly two hours of oral arguments that the rights of the unborn child had to be considered along with the rights of the mother.

“Alito mentioned that the fetus has an interest in life, too, when the other side was talking about the women’s interest,” she said. “He mentioned how there are two interests there that actually are difficult to hold together.”

“These justices are really digging into the difficult issues of where there is an objective line of protection (for the unborn child) and how do you truly balance these interests, and should the court even be doing that?” Thomas said after the news conference. “It’s more important that the Supreme Court just remain neutral and allow the states to work this out.”

“New York is going to be very different than Louisiana, but it is the power of the people to make that decision,” she told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Thomas said advances in science have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt about the humanity of the unborn child from its earliest stages.

“At 15 weeks, the child is moving, the child has a beating heart and the child’s organs are formed,” she said.

“We have the chance to protect that child. … We could have a significant change in abortion law in America today,” Thomas added. “And, if that change happened, in Louisiana we are ready to be a post-Roe, abortion-free community where women are truly helped and babies are protected.”