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Pope at Audience: Budapest & Slovakia visit was ‘pilgrimage of prayer, hope’

At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on last week’s Apostolic Journey to Budapest and Slovakia, calling it a pilgrimage to the roots of prayer and hope.

Diocese, former orphanage residents in Vermont differ in views of recovery process

null / Manfred Antranias Zimmer via Pixabay (public domain)

Burlington, Vt., Sep 21, 2021 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

Some former residents of a long-closed Catholic orphanage in Vermont say they are dissatisfied with the local diocese’s response to their complaints of abuse, while the Diocese of Burlington maintains it has been transparent and helpful. 

St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington was founded in the mid-1800s. It was operated by the Sisters of Providence, and overseen by Vermont Catholic Charities. It closed in 1974.

The Vermont attorney general’s office launched an investigation into allegations of abuses at Catholic institutions after an August 2018 article in BuzzFeed News described allegations of murder and sexual abuse at the orphanage.

The investigation concluded in December 2020, and “sufficient evidence to support a murder charge was not found.”

Alleged abuses at St. Joseph's Orphanage were the subject of lawsuits brought by former residents in the 1990s. Some of the cases were dismissed, and some reached settlements.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington announced in September 2018 that the diocese was waiving nondisclosure agreements for abuse victims, and that the diocese had not required nondisclosure agreements on the part of victims since 2002.

"It is my hope that this past action as well as the present one will allow the truth of what happened to survivors and their families to be heard," Bishop Coyne wrote. "I pledge to you, as the bishop of Burlington, that I will do everything that I can to make sure this never happens again and to work for healing and reconciliation with those who were so badly abused by clergy."

A group of former St. Joseph’s residents, the Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, is involved in efforts to find restitution.

“We want to be known as working for change and justice for children, and to never let anybody that's in a foster home group just be thrown in there and forgotten.” Brenda Hannon, a spokesperson for VSJO, told CNA Sept. 20.

Some of their initiatives include letter writing campaigns to the pope, creating an anthology of their experiences, working to build a memorial, and working to remove statutes of limitations. 

Hannon told CNA one of VSJO’s successes was the passage in May of a law repealing the statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood physical abuse.

One of their requests has been for the diocese to pay for their therapy bills. 

They say their requests to the diocese have been dealt with unsatisfactorily.

The Burlington diocese said in a statement last week that Bishop Coyne, Vermont Catholic Charities, and diocesan representatives “have been meeting with former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage one-on-one as they have requested and will continue to do so.” 

“Each meeting is unique, each person’s story is unique, and the help we offer each former resident is specific to them,” they added. “If the person feels they would be helped through counseling, we will work with them as needed.”

Hannon told CNA that “most of us feel that he [Bishop Coyne] is offering this and the one-on-one stance so that he can control the meeting and the situation.”

She said the members harbor these concerns because Bishop Coyne is “refusing” to meet with the VSJO as a group, the meetings are not recorded, and there is “some type of a counselor person evaluating you as you’re talking.”

She also said that going to the diocese to meet with Bishop Coyne is a “hard trigger” for many of the members.

Hannon said that “if this person that sits in the meetings determines that this person needs counseling, it will be with [diocesan] counselors of their choosing and not with the members current counselor that they have been seeing and paying for years.”

She added that Bishop Coyne has affirmed that he would help members of the group, but said nothing has come to fruition.

Hannon also said that Catholic Charities of Vermont will not release orphanage records to the members. She said that members are only allowed to see their records, which contain redacted information, while they are sitting in a room with a staff member of Catholic Charities. 

The diocese told CNA Sept. 21 that “Bishop Coyne has offered one-on-one meetings to former residents which includes a support person of their choice.” 

“Bishop Coyne has offered to invite the Vermont Catholic Charities’ victim assistance coordinator to the meeting with consent, if the former resident has chosen not to bring a support person,” the statement says.

“An initial screening is completed by the victim assistance coordinator to verify basic information prior to moving forward with a therapy request,” the diocese said. “Thus far, Bishop Coyne has never denied a request for additional therapy.”

Hannon told CNA that “not one person” has chosen to move forward with the process offered by the diocese.

The diocese told CNA that “there is a process for requesting records on the Vermont Catholic Charities website” noting that “Vermont Catholic Charities adheres to all Vermont Adoption laws outlined here.”

Central Europe trip was about honoring roots, moving forward, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –– A living faith draws strength from remembering the past while continuing to grow in love of God and service to others, Pope Francis said.

The pope said he saw that kind of faith on display Sept. 12-15 as he visited Hungary and Slovakia.

Reviewing the trip Sept. 22, Pope Francis told people at his weekly general audience that the roots of identity and faith must be "conserved –– not like museum exhibits, not ideologized and exploited out of interests of prestige and power (or) to consolidate a closed identity" –– but as reminders of what God has done and as inspiration for growing closer to God and to other people.

In Hungary Sept. 12, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress where, he said, participants were "embraced by the cross that stood above the altar, showing the same direction indicated by the Eucharist, namely the path of humble and selfless love, of generous and respectful love toward all, of faith that purifies from worldliness and leads to what is essential.”

With liturgies in the Roman and Eastern rites, ecumenical gatherings, meetings with members of the Jewish community, with Roma and with the homeless, Pope Francis said his trip was "a pilgrimage of prayer in the heart of Europe, beginning with adoration and ending with popular piety.”

"This is what the people of God are called to, above all: to worship, to pray, to journey, to wander, to do penance, and in this to feel the peace and the joy that the Lord gives us. And this is of particular importance on the European continent, where the presence of God is being diluted by consumerism and in the 'vapors' of a unitary way of thinking that is the fruit of the mixture of old and new ideologies," he said. "In this context too, the healing answer comes from prayer, witness and humble love.”

Visiting the two Central European nations, "the heart of Europe," Pope Francis said he kept thinking about how the founders of the European Union had a vision of a continent at peace where different nations, cultures and faiths would thrive without being seen as a threat to one another.

In such a vision, he said, "roots are a guarantee of the future: from them sprout thick branches of hope.”

"Do we remember our roots? Our parents and grandparents?" he asked. A connection with the older generation gives the roots the nourishment they need to continue to grow.

"We don't say, 'Go and take refuge in the roots,' no, no," he said. Instead, the message is, "Go to the roots, get nourishment there and move forward, take your place" in society.

"I will repeat what I've said many times –– the verse that is so beautiful –– 'All that is blooming on the tree comes to it from what it has underground,'" the pope said.

U.K. faith leaders issue common declaration ahead of COP26

ROME (CNS) –– Dozens of leaders from the major faiths present in the United Kingdom urged government leaders to take urgent action to address climate change and promised their congregations would do likewise.

The so-called Glasgow Multifaith Declaration was signed and released Sept. 20, looking ahead to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, which will be in Glasgow, Scotland, in early November. The Scottish Catholic Media Office released a copy of the declaration Sept. 22.

Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian leaders as well as Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and members of other Protestant communities signed the declaration. The Catholic leaders included Scottish Bishop Brian McGee of Argyll and the Isles, president of the Catholic bishops' committee for interreligious dialogue, and Notre Dame Sister Isabel Smyth, secretary of the committee, and Bishop John Arnold of Salford, lead bishop for the environment for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

"Our faith communities are united in caring for human life and the natural world," the leaders said. "We share a belief in a hopeful future, as well as an obligation to be responsible in caring for our common home, the Earth.”

"We recognize the opportunities that COP26 brings in addressing the urgent need for action in limiting the effects of climate change and the critical importance of decisions made in this conference to take forward the agreement made in Paris in 2015," it said.

"People have exploited the planet, causing climate change," they said. "We recognize that the burden of loss and damage falls most heavily on people living in poverty, especially women and children.”

The leaders promised to respond by:

  •  "Reflecting deeply in prayer, meditation and worship to discern how to care for the earth and each other and to encourage our respective communities to do the same.
  • "Making transformational change in our own lives and in the lives of our communities through individual and collective action.
  • "Being advocates for justice by calling on governments, businesses and others who exercise power and influence to put into effect the Paris agreement.
  • "Making the transition to a just and green economy a priority.
  • "Committing to science-based targets that are aligned with a healthy, resilient, zero-emissions future."

The religious leaders called on governments to "take the urgent action needed to avert the loss, damage and forced migration threatened by climate change" and to work together and with others to create a positive vision for 2050.

"Across our doctrinal and political differences, we know that we must change our ways to ensure a quality of life which all can share, and we need to provide hope for people of all ages, everywhere, including future generations," it said.

"To offer hope in the world," the leaders said, "we need to have confidence that those in power understand the vital role they have to play at the Glasgow COP26.”

Cardinal concerned over plan to help Australia with nuclear-powered subs

ROME (CNS) –– Plans by the United States and Great Britain to give Australia the technology needed for nuclear-powered submarines go counter to global disarmament efforts, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

"The Holy See is against rearmament," he told reporters Sept. 22. "Efforts have been and are being made to eliminate nuclear weapons because they are not the way to maintain peace and security in the world, but they create even more danger for peace and conflict.”

"One cannot but be concerned" by the announcement made in mid-September by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the cardinal said.

Cardinal Parolin, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Union and Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, were speaking Sept. 22 at a conference on "Christian Values and the Future of Europe" sponsored by the European People's Party.

Asked about participating in an event sponsored by a political party, the cardinal said that many members of the party describe themselves and their agendas as Christian, therefore it is important that church representatives have a chance to explain what they see as pressing issues and responsible solutions.

"In Christianity, one does not choose just what one likes or finds comfortable," he said, but "in Christianity, one must accept everything.”

It is not like "going to the supermarket and taking this and that," the cardinal said. Such selection risks manipulating religion "for political purposes.”

Reporters also asked Cardinal Parolin about comments Pope Francis made to Jesuits during his trip to Slovakia; according to a transcript released Sept. 21 by Civilta Cattolica, the pope said that some people had hoped he would die this summer when he underwent colon surgery.

And, the pope continued, "I know there were even meetings between prelates who thought the pope's condition was more serious than the official version. They were preparing for the conclave.”

"Honestly," Cardinal Parolin said, "I have not felt that there was this climate," although someone seems to have told the pope there was.

Downriver parishes come together as one during Family of Parishes commissioning Mass

Fr. Gawronski formally installed as moderator of new Family designed to share priests, resources to advance mission 

TRENTON ─ The game plan may change, but the goal remains the same. 

(Re)claim the world for Jesus.  

That was the message shared by Detroit auxiliary bishop Gerard Battersby during Mass with the Downriver Vicariate Family 3 Family of Parishes, Sept. 14 at St. Timothy Parish in Trenton.  

The six separate parish communities of Sacred Heart in Grosse Ile, St. Cyprian in Riverview, St. Joseph in Trenton, Our Lady of the Woods in Woodhaven, St. Roch in Gibraltar, and St. Timothy together celebrated the commissioning Mass brining the parishes into a family to share staff and resources in mission.  

Bishop Battersby celebrated Mass with the family pastors, preaching to the congregation about why the Archdiocese of Detroit is taking on the Family of Parishes model and what it means for the mission going forward. 

Detroit auxiliary bishop Gerard Battersby gives the homily on why Family of Parishes is being implemented in the Archdiocese of Detroit and how it relates to the church’s mission of preaching the Gospel to the world.

Following the homily and recitation of the Creed, Fr. Marc Gawronski was commissioned as the Moderator of the In Solidum Family of Parishes for southern Downriver, making him the “first among equals” with administrative responsibilities for the parish family. 

The phrase “first among equals” comes from a 2020 instruction from the Holy See which describes the In Soldium -- Latin for “in solid” -- model that some Family of Parishes are choosing to follow. 

“I think it’s important to see what happened before (the commissioning): It was the Creed,” said Fr. Gawronski, who currently primarily celebrates Mass at Sacred Heart, St. Cyprian, and St. Joseph. “What happened after the Creed is related to the Creed. The pastors, the family pastors, are teachers of the faith. As the community prayed the Creed, led by the family pastors, we affirmed our faithfulness as teachers of the faith, because it’s a big part of our role as family pastors.” 

The feeling at St. Timothy was one of optimism, recognizing that the resources and personnel in the church aren’t what they used to be, but the mission is the same.  

“Everyone is quite excited to see how this is going to turn out,” said Emily Campbell, a St. Joseph parishioner. “We like the idea of working together with different groups and bringing different ideas together from different locations. There is a little uncertainty of course, but we are taking it in strides. We have some good leaders, our pastors are working with us, so we have faith that everything is going to turn out for the best.” 

Emily Campbell of St. Joseph Parish in Trenton sees the Family of Parishes concept as a way for individual parishes to use their unique gifts and charisms in collaboration with other parishes to preach the Gospel and fulfill Christ’s mission for the church.

The commissioning Mass at St. Timothy was the culmination of a process parishes throughout the archdiocese have been undertaking to come together in a joint-effort with a focus on evangelization, while maintaining identities as separate, unique parish communities. 

“Catholic means universal; it doesn’t mean parochial, it means universal,” Fr. Gawronski said. “In my experience, people are very open to working together if there is a common mission. For the people I’ve spoken to, the kind of changes Family of Parishes is going to bring, they are excited by it.” 

A few parishioners in the newly formed Downriver Family have already made the effort of going to other parish communities to experience what makes those and their communities unique to discern what each might contribute to the Family.  

It’s all about breaking down barriers and getting off one’s “parochial islands,” said Deborah Stevens, who literally had to get off the island to visit other parishes as a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile.

“One of the assignments of our Encounter groups we had to get ready for this transition was visiting a different parish, and I chose St. Roch’s because that was one of the six parishes I never visited before,” Stevens said. “I introduced myself to someone as a stranger and had a very nice conversation with this lady about the history of the parish.” 

Before the commissioning Mass, parishioners at the various churches in the family had “Encounter” events, where they went to different parishes to learn about the various communities that will make up the new Family of Parishes.

Stevens said conversations and encounters with parishioners from other communities led to a consensus in the community that the transition to Family of Parishes, while like any change is prone to a few rough patches, is a positive step for the Church to take if she is to continue to fulfill her “Great Commission” in preaching the Gospel.  

“We are starting to get that cross-pollination of ideas where we feel we can do this together,” Stevens said. “Because what it boils down to is sharing resources, because we don’t have enough priests. I think this will be successful if we communicate a lot and share a [common] mindset.” 

Breaking down that mindset of “my parishes” in favor of what can be accomplished together is a theme of discussion for parish councils throughout the various Families in the archdiocese.  

In the Downriver Vicariate Family 3, each parish will have two members of its parish pastoral council on the Family pastoral council, including Al Cotto, the current pastoral council president at Our Lady of the Woods in Woodhaven.  

Al Cotto is the current pastoral council president at Our Lady of the Woods in Woodhaven and will serve on the new Family pastoral council for the Downriver Vicariate Family 3. He said his role has been to explain to other parishioners how Our Lady of the Woods will maintain its identity as a parish while working with neighboring parishes under this new structure.

“There has been a lot of reading and understanding what the Family of Parishes means and the necessity for moving forward with this,” Cotto said. “Bishop Battersby said it best in the homily tonight: This is about reclaiming lost land, lost souls for Christ. It’s something new to all of us, but something I’m looking forward to.” 

Bishop Battersby said in his homily that the previous parish structure has done a great service ever since Christianity came to these shores. But in a new era, in a time when there are fewer priests, fewer parishioners, and a society that seems to have moved away from the Gospels, now is the parish communities to work together to share the work and their resources.

Cotto agreed. 

“We know the workers are few, we’re losing so many priests in the next 10 years, so there is a real necessity for us to get involved in order to move forward,” Cotto said. “At Our Lady of the Woods, our pastoral council has been very involved. Fr. Bob (Johnson) has explained this to us and given us all the information.” 

After Mass, parishioners from the various communities gathered in St. Timothy’s social hall for a meal, breaking bread together after praying together.

Fr. Gawronski emphasized Catholic means “universal,” and how this new parish structure is geared towards the church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel in 2021, reclaiming souls for God.  

“Tonight is a great experience, it excites me to talk to all the parishes in the family,” Fr. Gawronski said. “I’m excited by the way the people, the lay ecclesial ministers, the pastors and deacons have begun talking about working together, strengthening the relationships we have from working together in the past.”  

40 Days for Life fall campaign to end abortion begins in over 1,000 cities

BRYAN, Texas (CNS) –– The national 40 Days for Life organization launched its fall campaign Sept. 22, with volunteers in over 1,000 cities across the country planning to pray, fast and hold 24-hour vigils outside abortion clinics.

They also will participate in outreach to the community to promote awareness about abortion and outreach directly to women considering abortion.

"With the changing abortion landscape, as well as things happening legislatively in the states and nationally in the Supreme Court, there has never been a greater time for this coordinated pro-life movement in our nation," said Shawn Carney, president and CEO of the Texas-based organization.

"Great strides are being made to end abortion, and we know these peaceful vigils make a difference," Carney said in a statement.

Regarding this "changing" landscape, he pointed to "the national angst and protests related to abortion, specifically concerning the Texas 'heartbeat bill,'" which bans abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy and allows an exception only in the case of a medical emergency.

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and supporters of the law are urging the court to reexamine its previous abortion rulings, including 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

Carney said the goal of the 40 Days for Life event, which will end Oct. 31, "is threefold.”

The aim is "to empower pregnant women to choose life for their babies, to inspire abortion workers to step away from their industries, and to work toward closing abortion facilities in our country and around the world," he said.

According to 40 Days for Life, about 25% of those leading the campaign are women who previously had abortions "and now want to empower women to choose life.”

"We have heard story after story of women choosing life due to the outpouring of love and truth seen through the 40 Days for Life campaigns," said Carney. "So many lives have been saved through the efforts of our volunteers and the passion and purpose they have to end abortion.”

The organization has a list of participating cities and locations in those cities posted on its website at

Since going national in 2007, 40 Days for Life has carried out more than 6,000 campaigns in 64 countries and "saved 19,198 lives, contributed to the closing of 112 abortion centers and helped 221 workers quit the abortion industry," according to a news release from the organization.

All of this has been accomplished, it said, "by holding community-led peaceful prayer vigils outside local abortion facilities twice a year worldwide.”

In addition to its regular campaigns each spring and fall, the Texas pro-life organization launched its first 40 Days for Life 365 campaign late last year after years of development. It's being rolled out in various locations around the nation.

One of those places is the Denver Archdiocese, where Planned Parenthood operates the nation's second-largest abortion clinic, and the new campaign began this year on Aug. 14.

"We believe this will be a historical day that marks 'the beginning of the end of abortion'" at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver's Stapleton area, said Maria Elisa Olivas, community coordinator for Catholic Charities of Denver.

"This will be the day that the Christian community of Denver pledges to have someone praying for the unborn not just 40 days, but every day" this facility is open, she said in a statement issued as the campaign began.

Doctor sued under Texas abortion law

Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Austin, Texas, Sep 21, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

A Texas abortion doctor who said he performed an abortion in violation of a new state law was sued Monday by two non-Texas residents, in what appears to be the first legal action taken since the law took effect this month. 

A Texas pro-life group has criticized the lawsuits, however, calling them “imprudent” and “self-serving.” 

Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio abortion doctor, took to the opinion page of The Washington Post on Sunday to announce that he had violated Texas’ new law Sept. 6 by performing an abortion on a woman whose unborn baby had a heartbeat, and did so because of “a duty of care to this patient...and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights is reportedly representing Braid. 

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies. The law took effect Sept. 1. 

The law allows for at least $10,000 in damages in successful lawsuits, which can be filed by residents or non-Texas residents against anyone who “aids and abets” an illegal abortion; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. The U.S. Department of Justice, at the direction of President Joe Biden, filed a legal complaint in a federal district court Sept. 9, arguing that Texas acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions.” 

Despite the law’s intentions, neither of the two men filing lawsuits against Braid appear to have done so because of anti-abortion convictions. 

One of the lawsuits was brought by Oscar Stilley, an Arkansas man and self-described “disbarred and disgraced” lawyer currently serving a 15-year house arrest sentence for tax evasion. Stilley told the New York Times that he is “not pro-life” and filed the lawsuit in an attempt both to “vindicate” the Texas law and to collect the up to $10,000 he could be awarded if he wins the suit. 

The second lawsuit was filed by an Illinois man, Felipe Gomez, who in the complaint described himself as “pro-choice” and opined that the Texas law is “illegal.” He said if he is awarded money, he would likely donate it to an “abortion rights group” or to the patients of the doctor he sued, NPR reported. 

Texas Right to Life criticized the two lawsuits as “self-serving legal stunts.”

“Neither of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives,” John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, told the New York Times. 

Braid claimed the law had “shut down about 80 percent of the abortion services we provide.” 

“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” he wrote. 

Catholic bishops around the country reacted with praise to the law, and noted that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have resources available, instead of abortion.

The bishops of Texas have said that opponents of the law, who have described a fetal heartbeat as “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue” or “embryonic cardiac activity,” are making a “disturbing” effort to “dehumanize the unborn.”

“Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life,” said the Texas bishops Sept. 3. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”

Pro-life leaders pointed out that the state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.

“Texas is further leading in compassion for women and families with its $100 million Alternatives to Abortion state program and ten times as many pro-life pregnancy centers as abortion facilities,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a ban on the use of abortion-inducing drugs in the state seven weeks into a pregnancy. The measure is set to take effect in December.

Diocesan administrator: Spanish bishop's resignation 'perplexing', but his person must be respected

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. / Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Solsona, Spain, Sep 21, 2021 / 14:10 pm (CNA).

The apostolic administrator of Solsona, Bishop Romà Casanova i Casanova of Vic, has addressed in his weekly letter the “anomalous” situation following the resignation of Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà as Bishop of Solsona.

Bishop Casanova said that "perplexity invaded our hearts" upon learning of the resignation of Bishop Novell. 

“To our pain over the loss of the one who courageously and with apostolic zeal led the diocese of Solsona for ten years, was added the avalanche of information” that indicated that “the personal reasons underlying the resignation were romantic. And that made the loss even more painful, because feelings of intense sorrow arose in our hearts,” Bishop Casanova said.

Bishop Casanova said some of the feelings people were experiencing were of "truncated fidelity," "abandoned fatherhood" and "shaken fraternity", because a bishop’s relationship with his diocese is "much more than the cold reality of a captain who makes things go as best as possible."

However, he stressed that "neither the perplexity nor the pain as a result of this resignation and his reasons cannot make us lose respect for his person, who, like everyone else, has his inalienable dignity."

The administrator said that the "media circus" surrounding Bishop Novell’s resignation "turned into a trash heap of information lacking respect for people’s privacy and personal history and that produces suffering in the closest circles, such as the family, and the diocese itself."

Bishop Casanova called for respect and asked the faithful "to flee from vain speculation," and said that “now is the hour of faith and trust in Him. The Lord never abandons his people. To come out of this we have to live out the communion that leads us to fraternity and trusting prayer. We need to hear the voice of the Lord and experience the strength of his hand that does not allow us to perish.”

Bishop Novell, 52, resigned Aug. 23 citing “strictly personal reasons.” The diocese announced that the decision was made freely and in accord with a canon which asks that a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause … present his resignation from office.”

Various media broke the news Sept. 5 that Bishop Novell moved to Manresa to live with Silvia Caballol, 38, a psychologist and author of erotic novels with satanic overtones, some of them restricted to those 18 or older. 

Caballol is separated from her husband, and the mother of two. 

Bishop Novell was born in 1969 in Spain’s Lérida province.

He earned a degree in agricultural technical engineering from the University of Lleida, a bachelor's in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1997, and a doctorate in 2004.

He was ordained a priest of the Solsona diocese in 1997, and in 2010 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed ordinary of the same diocese.

As Biden looks to raise refugee cap, Catholics argue he can do more

President-elect Joe Biden addresses a virtual 40th anniversary celebration of Jesuit Refugee Services on Nov. 12, 2020. / Jesuit Refugee Services/Vimeo

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

Catholic refugee advocates on Tuesday praised President Joe Biden for pushing to raise the refugee cap in the coming fiscal year, and urged even more refugee admissions.

On Monday, President Biden recommended that the United States double its limit on refugee resettlement in the coming fiscal year, to 125,000 refugees from 62,500. The U.S. bishops’ conference has also pushed for an increase in the refugee cap to 125,000.

"The number announced today is a step in the right direction and signals the President's commitment to return to our nation's moral leadership and track record of welcoming refugees,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA in a statement on Tuesday.

"However, we would have hoped that this number was higher,” Rosenhauer said, pointing to the recent refugee crisis in Afghanistan and arguing for a total cap of 200,000. Saying the United States “has a moral and legal duty” to help refugees, she noted that “[t]he Afghan refugee crisis only made the need to increase this number more pressing.”

Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission and mobilization at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), told CNA on Tuesday that he welcomed Biden's announcement.

“It is very good to see the United States increase its welcoming of these very vulnerable people fleeing conflict, and CRS sees in so many parts of the world – Afghanistan is top of mind – how innocent people get caught in situations of violence, and need to flee for safety,” O'Keefe said.

“The Church calls us to welcome the stranger, and this year, more than in recent years I can remember, we need to do that."

Each year, the President makes a report to Congress recommending a limit on the number of refugees the United States will accept in the coming fiscal year.

While outgoing President Obama had set the refugee cap at 110,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, President Donald Trump several months later lowered it to 50,000 for that year; the United States still resettled more than 53,000 refugees during that fiscal year. Trump progressively lowered the refugee cap during his presidency, setting it at just 15,000 refugees for the 2021 fiscal year.

Biden in May acted to raise the refugee admissions cap for the 2021 fiscal year to 62,500. However, he admitted that the goal of 62,500 admissions would not be achievable by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The United States has only resettled a fraction of that number, as of Aug. 31; only 7,637 refugees had been admitted at that point in the 2021 fiscal year, according to U.S. State Department data.

“We’re in a moment of history when displaced people need our help more than ever. More than 80 million people have been forced to flee their homes, the highest levels in recent history,” Rosenhauer said on Monday. “Far less than 1% have successfully resettled in the United States so far this fiscal year.”

“Raising the number to 200,000 would have allowed for the accommodation of a significantly higher total number of refugees from Afghanistan and around the world,” she said.

As the last U.S. military forces left Afghanistan in August, thousands of Afghan civilians were still reportedly seeking to evacuate as the Taliban took control of the country.  

The Biden administration says it will prioritize resettlement of certain classes of refugees, including those from Central America, those identifying as LGBTQI+, “at-risk Uyghurs,” Hong Kong refugees, and Burmese dissidents and Rohingyas. In addition, the administration says it will expand access to the refugee admissions program “for Afghans at risk due to their affiliation with the United States.”

The chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also praised Biden’s announcement on Tuesday.

USCIRF vice chair Nury Turkel called on the administration “to expand its P-2 designation granting access to the refugee program for certain Afghan nationals to include members of religious groups at extreme risk of persecution by the Taliban."

In November 2020, Biden had promised to increase the refugee cap to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year, in remarks to the 40th anniversary celebration of Jesuit Refugee Services. However, several months into his administration, he had not taken executive action to do so for the 2021 fiscal year.

In April, the White House said that the refugee cap would remain at 15,000, before reversing that stance on the same day that it was widely reported. The executive director of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) migration committee had told CNA on April 14 that he was “absolutely” disappointed with refugee admissions, which had at that point “effectively been halted."

This article was updated on Sept. 21 with comment from Catholic Relief Services.