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12 keys to using the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 16, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Pius XII said: “The devotion to the Carmelite scapular has brought down on the world a copious rain of spiritual and temporal graces.”

On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, here are 12 keys to explaining the brown scapular and its use:

1. It is not an amulet.

The scapular is not a charm or an automatic guarantee of salvation, nor is it a dispensation from living the demands of the Christian life. St. Claude de la Colombière once said: “You ask, what if I would want to die with my sins? I answer you, then you will die in sin, but you will not die with your scapular.”

2. It was an article of clothing.

The word “scapular” comes from the Latin “scapulae,” which means “shoulders” and was originally an overlapping article of clothing worn over the shoulders by monks at work. The Carmelites adopted it as a sign of special dedication to Our Lady, seeking to imitate her dedication to Christ and neighbor.

3. It is a gift from the Virgin Mary.

According to tradition, the scapular, as it is now known, was given by the Virgin Mary herself to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. Mary told him: “It must be a sign and a privilege for you and for all Carmelites: Whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.” Later, the Church extended the use of the scapular to the laity.

4. It is a mini habit.

The scapular is like a miniature Carmelite habit that all devotees can wear as a sign of their consecration to the Virgin Mary. It consists of a string that is worn around the neck with two small pieces of brown cloth attached. One is placed on the chest and the other on the back, and it is usually worn underneath clothing.

5. It is a service uniform.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, said: “Just as men are proud that others wear their uniform, so Our Lady, Mother Mary, is pleased when her servants wear their scapular as proof that they have dedicated themselves to her service, and they are members of the family of the Mother of God.”

6. It has three meanings.

The scapular stands for the maternal love and protection of Mary, for belonging to Mary, and for the gentle yoke of Christ that she helps us to bear.

7. It is a sacramental.

The brown scapular is recognized by the Church as a sacramental — that is, a sign that helps us to live a holy life and to increase our devotion. The scapular does not impart grace as the sacraments do, but it disposes the person wearing it to the love of the Lord and to repentance if it is received with devotion.

8. It can be given to a non-Catholic.

A dying man was reportedly brought to St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City. A nurse noticed he was wearing the brown scapular and called a priest. As prayers were said over him, the man regained consciousness and told the priest that he wasn’t Catholic but wore the scapular as a promise to his friends. The priest asked the man if he wanted to become Catholic, and before he died the man received baptism and anointing of the sick.

9. It was seen in one of the Fatima apparitions.

Lucia, the visionary of Our Lady of Fatima, reported that in her last apparition (October 1917), Mary appeared with the Carmelite habit, the scapular in her hand, and said that her true children wear it with reverence. Mary also asked that those who consecrate themselves to her wear it as a sign of that consecration.

10. The scapular has been discovered undamaged after burial.

Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried with his scapular and, 600 years later when his tomb was opened, the object was intact. Something similar happened with St. Alphonsus Liguori. St. John Bosco and St. John Paul II also wore the scapular, and St. Peter Claver vested the scapular with those he converted.

11. There’s a preferred way to receive the scapular.

The imposition of the scapular should preferably be done in community, and in the ceremony the spiritual meaning and commitment to the Blessed Virgin should be clearly expressed. The first scapular must be blessed by a priest and placed on the devotee while reciting the following prayer:

“Receive this blessed scapular and ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary, on her merits, that you may wear it without any stain of sin and that she guard you from all adversity and bring you unto everlasting life.”

12. Only the first scapular you receive needs to be blessed.

When the first scapular one receives is blessed, the devotee does not need to ask subsequent scapulars to be blessed. Those that are worn out, if they were blessed, should not be thrown away but should be burned or buried, as is suitable for sacramentals.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Polish lawmakers narrowly defeat effort to decriminalize abortion assistance

Protesters hold a placard depicting an unborn baby as they take part in the March of Life in Warsaw, on April 14, 2024. / Credit: Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Polish lawmakers narrowly voted to maintain the country’s strong pro-life laws by rejecting a bill that would have ended all criminal penalties for people who provide assistance to women who are obtaining illegal abortions.

Under current law, women do not face criminal penalties for seeking or receiving an illegal abortion. However, an abortionist who performs an illegal abortion and any person who assists the woman or the abortionist in the legal abortion could face up to three years in prison for their roles.

The proposed legislation would have eliminated those penalties. However, the Polish Sejm, which is the parliament’s lower chamber, voted 218-215 on July 12 to defeat the legislation and ensure the law stays intact. Two members of the parliament abstained from voting.

In Poland, abortion is illegal in most cases. There is no legal elective abortion in Poland, but it is legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. The prohibition on most abortions applies to both surgical and chemical abortions.

Following the vote, the Polish Episcopal Conference posted a March 20 quote from Pope Francis on X, formerly known as Twitter, which affirms life.

“Let Poland be a land that protects life at every moment, from the moment it appears in the mother's womb until its natural end,” Francis told his general audience on March 20. “Do not forget that no one is the master of life, either his own or that of others.”

Rafał Bochenek, a member of the Sejm in the conservative Law and Justice Party, praised the vote in a post on X and criticized Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and others for supporting the bill. 

“Donald Tusk and the coalition seem to have a problem,” Bochenek said. “They promised and wanted to decriminalize criminal activities, but fortunately there is still a spirit in the nation. …Abortion is always evil!”

Tusk leads the centrist Civic Platform Party. His party leads the Civic Coalition, which holds the most seats in the majority coalition in the parliament. The other two parts of the majority coalition are Third Way, which is a center-right group, and New Left, which is a social democratic group. This coalition holds about 54% of the seats in parliament.

Although Tusk campaigned on liberalizing Poland’s abortion laws, including voicing support for legislation to legalize elective abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, a handful of members within the Civic Coalition and Third Way joined with the minority conservative parties to block the decriminalization bill.

The failure to secure enough votes elicited frustration from the New Left, which campaigned strongly on expanding abortion within Poland and introduced the bill. 

Tomasz Trela, a member of the Sejm who is in the New Left, criticized the members of the majority coalition who broke away from their parties and opposed the decriminalization effort in a post on X

“Decriminalization of abortion care is gone,” Trela said. “The whole [Left] was there and we all voted for [the legislation], as the only club in the Sejm. There is one conclusion: more Left in the Sejm — more normality in Poland.”

The New Left has also introduced bills that would legalize elective abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy and Third Way introduced a bill that would expand legal abortion to cases in which the unborn child has a fetal abnormality.

It’s unclear whether any of these bills will have enough support to pass the Sejm.

Donald Trump names Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance as running mate

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, a Catholic, walks out of the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 15:43 pm (CNA).

Donald Trump on Monday announced that Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance will be his running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

"After lengthy deliberation and thought, and considering the tremendous talents of many others, I have decided that the person best suited to assume the position of Vice President of the United States is Senator J.D. Vance of the Great State of Ohio," Trump said on Truth Social on Monday afternoon.

Vance "honorably served our Country in the Marine Corps, graduated from Ohio State University in two years, Summa Cum Laude, and is a Yale Law School Graduate, where he was Editor of The Yale Law Journal, and President of the Yale Law Veterans Association," Trump wrote.

The former president made the announcement days after surviving an assassination attempt at a Pennsylvania rally.

Vance, who was baptized Catholic in 2019, has served as the junior U.S. senator from Ohio since 2023. He first rose to national prominence with the 2016 book "Hillbilly Elegy" in which he examined the economic and social dysfunctions of modern U.S. Appalachia.

The Republican won his Senate seat — the first public office to which he was elected — after securing Trump’s endorsement in 2022.

Vance previously served in the U.S. Marines as a combat correspondent during the Iraq War. He attended the Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

Over the course of his short political career Vance has adopted conservative positions, speaking out against abortion and transgender procedures for minors and taking a hardline stance against illegal immigration. He has advocated for an isolationist foreign policy, opposed foreign aid to Ukraine, and favored protectionist trade policies.

Praising Vance for championing "the hardworking men and women of our country," Trump on Monday said the senator "will be strongly focused on the people he fought so brilliantly for, the American Workers and Farmers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and far beyond."

New Jersey man locates $40,000 in ‘unclaimed funds’ for diocese, parishes

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CNA Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

A New Jersey resident is being hailed for identifying tens of thousands of dollars in “unclaimed funds” from the state government and helping that money get back to the Diocese of Camden and local parishes. 

Philip Britton, who lives in the western part of the state in the township of Pennsville, was searching the website of the state’s Unclaimed Property Administration, which allows New Jerseyites to obtain “abandoned or lost intangible and tangible property” obtained by the government.

While looking, Britton told the Catholic Star Herald that he “found unclaimed property listed for a local parish, which merged in 2010, and a local Catholic school that had closed in 2000,” the Catholic newspaper reported.

Britton told CNA on Monday that he began searching the online database after his housekeeper asked him to look through it.

"I’m old and I don’t move too well," he said via phone. "I do play with the computer since I’ve been retired. And my housekeeper asked me to look up if she had any unclaimed property" on the state website.

"I found a few listings, gave them to her, and helped her process those," he said. "And then I started looking some more. I came across Queen of the Apostles, the parish I used to go to in Pennsville. Then I came across multiple other institutions."

“Everybody has unclaimed money!” he said with a laugh.

He continued reviewing the records, he said, eventually identifying around $40,000 in unclaimed property and informing the Camden diocese of his findings. He has since reached out to the other Catholic dioceses in New Jersey to let them know of the state service.

Diocese of Camden spokesman Michael Walsh told CNA in a statement on Monday that Britton's "initiative to look up unclaimed property for his parish and then the diocese at large was another great example of Christian service."

"Especially since the diocesan Catholic Charities office was one of the largest benefactors of this process," Walsh said. "The monies found for Catholic Charities will be used specifically to help those in need throughout South Jersey."

"His act is also a great reminder to any individual and business to investigate the NJ.gov unclaimed property website," Walsh added.

A CNA review of unclaimed properties associated with Catholic entities and corporations in New Jersey revealed dozens more unclaimed property parcels, including property belonging to “Catholic Charities,” “Catholic Teachers Union” and “Catholic Views Broadcast,” among others. 

Residents of every state are able to search public databases in order to see if they have any unclaimed property being held by the state. 

Each state “maintains a database of unclaimed property for that state, and — by law — attempts to return the property to its rightful owners,” according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Diocesan chief financial officer Laura Montgomery told the Star Herald that she has “sent emails to all of the parishes, schools, and business managers [in the Camden diocese] urging them to visit the Department of the Treasury site to see if there are any claims for their locations.”

The process took roughly a month for the check to arrive, Montgomery said. 

“Do exactly what I did: Go to the site and search by your name, your family’s names and see if there’s anything they are holding for you,” she said. 

Britton, meanwhile, said more people should know about the unclaimed property databases they can access.

“It’s amazing the organizations, societies, doctors, everyone that has money out there that they’re not aware of at all," he told CNA. "I’m kind of on this evangelization kick telling everybody about it I can.”

"It makes me feel good that I did something," he continued. "It’s mentally stimulating. It keeps my brain active. And, hey, nobody else is doing it. So why not me?” 

National Eucharistic Congress to draw more than 50,000 to Indianapolis

Jesus in the Eucharist is processed through downtown Columbia, South Carolina, on April 6, 2024. Over 1,700 traveled to the state’s capital for this procession as part of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress / Credit: The Catholic Miscellany/Carolina Mascarin

CNA Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

More than 50,000 people will gather in Indianapolis this week for the National Eucharistic Congress, which bishops hope will be a culminating moment in the U.S. Catholic Church’s three-year revival to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

The five-day congress in the NFL’s Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center will be the first National Eucharistic Congress held in the United States since World War II. 

U.S. bishops launched the multiyear National Eucharistic Revival in 2022 in response to concern about waning belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist among American Catholics. 

The goal of the revival has been to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.” 

Organizers told CNA that 51,000 people had bought tickets for the congress as of a week before the event. 

“There is a lot of energy and excitement to finally be on the precipice of this moment that we’ve been building up to for so long,” said Tim Glemkowski, the chief executive officer of the congress.

The event is the climax of four Eucharistic pilgrimages that have traversed the United States over the past two months, carrying the Blessed Sacrament across the nation.

Leading up to the congress, more than 100,000 people participated in four pilgrimage routes originating in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Texas, respectively, and traveling a combined total of 6,500 miles. 

The pilgrimage groups will meet in Indianapolis as they process into the Lucas Oil Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Eucharistic congress on Wednesday night, which will feature U.S. nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre, Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, as keynote speakers.

During the opening ceremony, Cozzens will carry the Blessed Sacrament in a massive monstrance created specifically for the congress through the football stadium as tens of thousands of people pray together in Eucharistic adoration. 

The congress will also feature liturgies, service opportunities, Eucharistic adoration, confession, and impact sessions aimed at fostering deep spiritual renewal and unity among attendees. 

Breakout sessions each morning will give clergy, families, young people, and ministry leaders the chance to meet among themselves for formation tailored to their state in life and mission.

EWTN will offer television and livestream coverage of the main events and speakers at the National Eucharistic Congress with Relevant Radio providing live radio broadcast coverage.

Speakers at the congress include Father Mike Schmitz, Bishop Robert Barron, Chris Stefanik, Sister Josephine Garrett, Dr. Scott Hahn, “The Chosen” actor Jonathan Roumie, and musician Matt Maher.

Catholics attending the congress will also have the unique opportunity to pray with the relics of Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Manuel González García, Paschal Baylon, Junípero Serra, Juan Diego, and Blessed Carlo Acutis, as well as part of a relic from Chartres, France, known as “the Veil of Our Lady,” at a specially designated reliquary chapel within the Indiana Convention Center.

Cardinal Luis Tagle, the pro-prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization who was appointed by Pope Francis to serve as the papal envoy for the event, will offer the closing Mass for the congress on July 21.

Pope Francis extended a special blessing to all those attending the National Eucharistic Congress in a letter published by the Vatican in Latin earlier this month. 

The pope expressed his hope that “all participants in this event will be encouraged so that, united with Jesus in the Most Sacred Sacrament of our redemption, they are fully aware of the universal gifts they receive from heavenly food and can impart them to others.”

Is Catholicism dying out among U.S. Hispanics? Latino Catholics weigh in

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio blesses matachine dancers during a celebration on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He believes that Hispanics — immigrants especially — will help bring new life into the Church. / Credit: Archdiocese of San Antonio

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 15, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

It’s Dec. 12 in San Antonio. Despite the cold outside, the inside of San Fernando Cathedral is packed with thousands of people of all ages: young, old, and in between.

By the altar is a brightly lit image of Our Lady of Guadalupe surrounded by roses of all colors. It’s a peaceful scene.

But that peace is suddenly broken by the loud, quick thumping of drums and the rattling of maracas as two lines of brightly colored dancers process in from the back doors. In unison, the dancers approach the image of the Virgin and after dancing before Our Lady for a few moments, the drums cease just as suddenly as they began. All say a silent prayer and then the drums resume as the group exits the church.

Hispanic Catholics of varying ages perform the traditional Mexican "danza de matachines" in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her Dec. 12 feast day at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Credit: Archdiocese of San Antonio
Hispanic Catholics of varying ages perform the traditional Mexican "danza de matachines" in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her Dec. 12 feast day at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Credit: Archdiocese of San Antonio

This is the “danza de matachines,” a Mexican tradition practiced in parishes and cities across Mexico and the U.S. to honor the Blessed Mother’s feast day. The lively matachines performance will often be accompanied by special prayers, Mass, and parties that gather entire parish communities.

Since Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition in 1531, Catholicism has been a mainstay in the life and culture of Hispanics across Latin America and the United States.

But today the future of the Hispanic Catholic Church is being called into question as new reports and data indicate that Latinos, especially those under 30, are leaving the Church in significant numbers, leading some to ask: Is Catholicism dying out in the country's Hispanic communities?

Is the Catholic Church being replaced?

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 43% of Hispanics in America are Catholic, a major decline from 67% in 2010.

Some chalk up this trend to Hispanics converting to evangelicalism or other Protestant denominations. A recent article in The Free Press touted that narrative, claiming: “Latinos are flocking to evangelical Christianity.” But while The Free Press foresees an evangelical boom, available data as well as Hispanic leaders in the Catholic Church paint a different picture.

According to Pew, Christianity in the U.S. across all demographics has been waning. The Catholic decline among Latinos is being led by young Hispanics, ages 18–29, a demographic in which evangelicalism is also declining.

Today, 30% of Hispanics ages 18–29 identify as Catholic. Meanwhile, 11% of Hispanics in this age group identify as evangelical, 6% below the next two older age brackets, 30–49 and 50–64.

The largest religious group — 49% — of Hispanics ages 18–29 is religiously unaffiliated, a category often referred to as the “nones.” Thus, the average young Hispanic in America today is more likely to identify as a “none” than as either a Catholic or an evangelical.

“Young Hispanics are following the same trend as non-Hispanics,” said José Manuel De Urquidi, founder of the Juan Diego Network, a Latino media ministry. “By 25, most are leaving the Church. And contrary to what other people believe, they’re mostly going to the nones. Some are going to other Christian denominations, but most are not.”

Why are they leaving?

In an interview with CNA, De Urquidi explained that since the COVID lockdowns many Hispanics, especially younger Latinos, are neglecting to participate in basic aspects of the life of the Church such as Mass, confession, and other sacraments.

"We're not doing enough to welcome young Hispanics, so they feel it is their abuelita’s [grandmother’s] Church or their parents' Church, but not theirs,” says José Manuel De Urquidi of the Juan Diego Network. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth:/Screenshot
"We're not doing enough to welcome young Hispanics, so they feel it is their abuelita’s [grandmother’s] Church or their parents' Church, but not theirs,” says José Manuel De Urquidi of the Juan Diego Network. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth:/Screenshot

For De Urquidi and others who are deeply engaged in Hispanic ministry, it comes down to a crisis of communion and community. Oftentimes young people simply feel that they don’t belong in the pews.

“We’re not doing enough to welcome young Hispanics, so they feel it is their abuelita’s [grandmother’s] Church or their parents’ Church, but not theirs,” De Urquidi said.

Father Allen Deck, a professor of theology who also works in campus ministry at Los Angeles’ Loyola Marymount University, said that the trend among Hispanics is also “part of a much bigger phenomenon within a growing secular environment.”

“It’s not only about what is happening in the Hispanic-Latino context, but it’s what’s happening with institutional religions across the board,” he explained.

Though worrying, Deck said that the Church should use this as an opportunity to take young people’s concerns to heart, especially when it comes to their need for community and a sense of belonging.

“We need to be part of a living group of faith, whether that be family, parish, diocese, or society,” he explained. “So liturgical prayer that stresses active participation, particularly in the Eucharist, is very important for people to develop a sense of belonging to something bigger.”

What do America’s bishops have to say?

In 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reported that the country’s Hispanic Catholic population, estimated at 30 million, comprises 40% of all U.S. Catholics.

Even dioceses in cities that are not traditionally associated with Hispanics are now seeing the fruits of the Latino Church. 

“Faith is alive in the Hispanic communities,” Edmundo Reyes of the Archdiocese of Detroit told CNA.

“Yes, there are some challenges, especially among Latinos born in the United States, as part of the larger secularization of the American people,” he admitted. “However, faith is still a significant part of Latinos’ lives and worldview.” 

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia told CNA the country’s leading bishops understand the Church has been losing young Hispanics in significant numbers and is aware of the danger this reality poses.

Addressing the problem was the subject of extensive discussion at a national “encuentro” (encounter) organized by the USCCB in 2018. The event saw extensive discussions on how the Church can better minister to Hispanics and involved the input and participation of some 300,000 Latino Catholics from more than 3,000 parishes.

From these discussions, the country’s bishops drew up a National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry that was released in 2023. Titled “Missionary Disciples Going Forth With Joy,” the document outlines the bishops’ recommendations and priorities for U.S. dioceses, parishes, and Catholic institutions ministering to Hispanic Catholics.

"Where Hispanic ministry is present it's strong and vibrant," says Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth"/Screenshot
"Where Hispanic ministry is present it's strong and vibrant," says Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth"/Screenshot

Perez, who was lead bishop for the 2018 Encuentro, shared that one of the most powerful fruits of the initiative was that Hispanic lay leaders have begun to “take their place in the Church.”

This development, Perez believes, will be a boon to the Catholic Church in the U.S. “I find that Hispanics are very much within their comfort zones to reach out with their faith. Their faith is worn on their sleeve,” he said, adding: “Where Hispanic ministry is present it’s strong and vibrant.”

Pointing to his Philadelphia Archdiocese where he has seen previously emptying parishes now being filled with Hispanics, he concluded: “I don’t just think Hispanics are the future. They’re the present.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, who first came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1980, told CNA that despite the challenges and losses, “in many ways there has been change for the better” because the Hispanic population in the Catholic Church “has been more organized and has mobilized more and in that sense they’re more prepared for ministry in the Church.” 

He believes that Hispanics, immigrants especially, will help bring new life into the Church. 

“The newcomers nowadays, they bring with them their faith, which here we have been losing,” he said.

New life for the Church

Cristofer Pereyra, an immigrant from Peru who founded the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative, told CNA “the influence that Latinos have in the Church and society is only going to continue to increase.”

Phoenix-based Cristofer Pereyra is CEO at Tepeyac Leadership, Inc. Credit: "The Hour of the Laity"/EWTN Screenshot
Phoenix-based Cristofer Pereyra is CEO at Tepeyac Leadership, Inc. Credit: "The Hour of the Laity"/EWTN Screenshot

“Yes, we’re losing so many,” he granted. “But what I find is that the ones that stick around are more committed. They are very secure in who they are and in their faith.”

Though a painful process, Pereyra believes the result will be an even stronger Hispanic presence in the Church that will eventually lead to a resurgence of the faith.

“The ones who are staying are staying to lead, to lead within the Church and to lead outside,” he said.

Natalia Ramírez, a 23-year-old Hispanic Catholic who attends San Francisco de Asís Parish in Chicago and is a member of the Hispanic young adult ministry “Iskali,” put it simply: The Hispanic Church is facing a crisis because many Latinos were not taught the “beautiful gifts” of their Catholic faith.

Iskali, a ministry that serves young Hispanic Catholics in the United States, seeks to form active missionary disciples. Credit: Iskali
Iskali, a ministry that serves young Hispanic Catholics in the United States, seeks to form active missionary disciples. Credit: Iskali

Born in Mexico City and raised in a heavily Catholic Hispanic community in Chicago, Ramírez said that many of her family members and childhood friends no longer practice any faith at all.

But this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. She knows this from personal experience.

“The more I’m learning about the faith, the more I fall in love with it,” she said. “Before I had no idea of what the Holy Eucharist was. But after learning about the Holy Eucharist, I realized that Jesus is closer to me than I ever thought before.”

Devout Christian dad killed in Trump assassination attempt was ‘the very best of us’

Trump supporters are seen covered with blood in the stands in aftermath of assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump in Butler, Pennsylvania, July 13, 2024. / Credit: Photo by REBECCA DROKE/AFP via Getty Images

Boston, Mass., Jul 14, 2024 / 15:46 pm (CNA).

The 50-year-old husband and father who was fatally shot Saturday at former president Donald Trump’s campaign rally outside of Pittsburgh was a devoted Christian and “the very best of us,” according to his family and the state’s governor.

Corey Comperatore “went to church every Sunday. Corey loved his community. Most especially, Corey loved his family,” Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a press conference Sunday.

Speaking to reporters north of Pittsburgh, the Democratic governor said that he spoke to Comperatore’s wife and two daughters. 

Comperatore was a “girl dad” who worked as a firefighter, Shapiro said.

“I asked Corey’s wife if it would be okay for me to share that we spoke. And she said yes,” Shapiro said on Sunday. 

“She also asked that I share with all of you that Corey died a hero. That Corey dove on his family to protect them last night at this rally. Corey was the very best of us. May his memory be a blessing.”

Comperatore was “an avid supporter of the former president and was so excited to be there last night with him in the community,” the governor added.

Flags will be flying at half staff in the state after the tragedy, Shapiro said. 

Comperatore was a chief at the Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Department. That township is about a 30-minute drive northeast of Pittsburgh.

Comperatore’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles say that he was a project and tooling engineer at JSP, a manufacturing company.

A Saturday Facebook post from Comperatore’s wife, Helen — posted prior to the shooting — said that the family wasn’t originally sitting in the bleachers behind the former president.

It wasn’t until a campaign official approached the family and asked if they wanted to be seated in the bleachers behind Trump that they were moved, she wrote.

Dawn Comperatore Schafer, who identified herself as Corey’s sister, said on Facebook Sunday that the firefighter “was a hero that shielded his daughters. His wife and girls just lived through the unthinkable and unimaginable. My baby brother just turned 50 and had so much life left to experience.”

“The hatred for one man took the life of the one man we loved the most,” she said. “Hatred has no limits and love has no bounds. Pray for my sister-in-law, nieces, my mother, sister, me, and his nieces and nephews as this feels like a terrible nightmare but we know it is our painful reality.”

A Facebook post by Comperatore’s daughter Allyson was circulating the internet on Sunday; in it she called the event “a real-life nightmare.”

“What was supposed to be an exciting day that we had all looked forward to (ESPECIALLY my dad), turned into the most traumatizing experiences someone could imagine,” she wrote.

Allyson called her father “the best dad a girl could ever ask for,” adding that he “was a man of God, loved Jesus fiercely, and also looked after our church and our members as family.”

“The media will not tell you that he died a real-life superhero. They are not going to tell you how quickly he threw my mom and I to the ground,” she said. 

“They are not going to tell you that he shielded my body from the bullet that came at us. He loved his family. He truly loved us enough to take a real bullet for us. And I want nothing more than to cry on him and tell him thank you. I want nothing more than to wake up and for this to not be reality for me and my family,” she said.

A GoFundMe fundraiser had raised nearly $500,000 for the Comperatore family by Sunday evening.

World leaders unite in support of democracy after attack on Trump; shooter identified

Law enforcement agents stand near the stage of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pennsylvania, after an assassination attempt on the former president. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jul 14, 2024 / 07:15 am (CNA).

Political leaders from around the globe have spoken out against political violence and in support of democracy after an assassination attempt on former president Donald Trump at a rally in western Pennsylvania on Saturday evening.

Leaders have also wished the former president a quick recovery after he was injured in a shooting at about 6:20 p.m. ET in Butler, Pennsylvania, shortly after the campaign rally began.

In a statement posted to Truth Social on July 13, Trump said a bullet pierced the upper part of his right ear. After receiving treatment at a nearby hospital, the former president flew to New Jersey under Secret Service protection late Saturday night.

Shooter identified

The FBI has identified the Trump rally shooter as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Crooks, who carried no ID and was identified with DNA analysis, was killed by a Secret Service sniper at the rally, according to officials.

In a statement, the FBI said the event “remains an active and ongoing investigation” and encouraged anyone with information to call or submit photos or videos online.

Kevin Rojek, FBI Pittsburgh special agent in charge, said at a Saturday night briefing they have not yet identified a motive for the shooting, which left one attendee dead and two in critical condition. Police said all three victims were men.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer announced that Congress will hold a hearing over the assassination attempt, with Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle invited to attend.

Leaders react

French president Emmanuel Macron called the assassination attempt “a tragedy for our democracies.” He wished the former president a speedy recovery, adding that “France shares the shock and indignation of the American people.”

Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, said he was “sickened” by the shooting. “It cannot be overstated — political violence is never acceptable. My thoughts are with former President Trump, those at the event, and all Americans,” he said.

In a post on X, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We must stand firm against any form of violence that challenges democracy,” and Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te said: “Political violence of any form is never acceptable in our democracies.”

French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting with Governor of Spain at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, France on March 21, 2022. Credit: Victor Velter|Shutterstock
French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting with Governor of Spain at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, France on March 21, 2022. Credit: Victor Velter|Shutterstock

Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, wished Trump a quick recovery “with the hope that the coming months of campaigning will see dialogue and responsibility prevail over hatred and violence.”

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the shooting and called it an “act of political violence.”

British prime minister Keir Starmer said he was “appalled by the shocking scenes” at the rally. “Political violence in any form has no place in our societies and my thoughts are with all the victims of this attack,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife, Sara, “were shocked by the apparent attack on President Trump.”

“Together with all democracy-loving peoples around the world, we condemn all forms of political violence,” the president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said on X, adding: “The voice of the people must always remain supreme.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese echoed Marcos’ sentiments. “The incident at former President Trump’s campaign event in Pennsylvania today is concerning and confronting,” he said. “There is no place for violence in the democratic process.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who met Trump last week while visiting the U.S. for a NATO summit, said his prayers were with the former president “in these dark hours.”

In a post on X, President of Argentina Javier Milei wrote that Trump has all his “support and solidarity,” calling the former president the “victim of a cowardly assassination attempt that put his life and that of hundreds of people at risk.”

The Argentine president used the opportunity to call out “the desperation of the international left,” accusing it of “harmful ideology” and a willingness “to destabilize democracies and promote violence to screw itself into power.”

“In fear of losing at the polls, they resort to terrorism to impose their retrograde and authoritarian agenda,” he said, closing by wishing a quick recovery to Trump and saying that the elections in the United States will be held “fairly, peacefully, and democratically.”

U.S. bishops’ Solidarity Fund reminds Catholic to ‘stand with Africa’

Bishops gathered at the19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar in Accra, Ghana, July 2022. / Credit: Courtesy of SECAM

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 14, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops’ Solidarity Fund for the Church of Africa is bolstering the needs of faithful Catholic communities across the African continent and helping them to meet their challenges.

In a recent statement from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Public Affairs, the bishops said: “Catholics across the United States can answer this call to ‘Stand with Africa’ by participating in their diocese’s annual collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.”

Though plagued with various difficulties such as poverty, lack of resources, and political conflicts, Africa’s growth and vitality in Catholicism has made the continent a focal point in the Church’s expansion and future aspirations.

According to an October 2023 Vatican report covering the year 2021, the Catholic population of Africa consisted of 265 million, or 18%, of the continent’s population. Whereas Europe has seen declines in its Catholic population, Africa’s Catholic population continues to expand in many places.

“Globalization, climate change, and poverty deeply affect the lives of African men and women every day. But amidst rapid societal change, the Catholic Church remains constant, proclaiming the timeless and hopeful message of the Gospel,” stated Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith of Portland, Oregon, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

“The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa enables the Church to support those who are in dire need of pastoral care and to inspire those whose faith and hope may be flagging,” Smith said.

Building upon the U.S. bishops’ 2001 statement “A Call to Solidarity with Africa,” the fund’s initiative seeks to “provide a serious, sustained response that will meet genuine needs, strengthen the capacity of the Church in Africa, and provide for effective and transparent accountability.”

The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa awarded over $2.1 million in 2023 to 75 projects put forward by the bishops of Africa, including:

— Grants helping Kenyans and Ugandans recover spiritually from the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the disintegration of marriages and family violence.

— In Cameroon, cited by human rights groups for appalling prison conditions, Catholic prison chaplains have learned to document abuses and advocate for reform.

— The Sisters of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa received theological and practical training to apply Catholic social teaching to a broad range of threats to human life, from human trafficking to environmental degradation.

— In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the public sector is plagued by rampant financial corruption, diocesan and parish staff studied proper Church administration and financial stewardship.

— In South Africa and Namibia, ethnic groups received hymnals in the Xhosa and Rumanyo languages and a Bible in the language of the Rukwangali people.

Those who wish to support similar efforts and the Church of Africa can either donate year-round to #iGiveCatholicTogether or annually through their parish collection/e-offertory program on their diocese’s scheduled date of appeal.

“The Church helps people to praise God in their own language because God came to us speaking our languages,” Smith said.

“He wants to walk with everyone through whatever hardships or heartaches we suffer,” he concluded in the statement. “That is the purpose of the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. Gifts to this fund make God’s love tangible.”

Catholic priest prayed for Trump’s safety at Pennsylvania rally moments before shooting

Father Jason Charron. / Credit: YouTube screenshot/HolyProtectionsShrine.org

CNA Newsroom, Jul 14, 2024 / 06:40 am (CNA).

A Catholic priest who gave a benediction during former president Donald Trump’s rally Saturday told people they needed to pray for Trump moments before Trump was shot and wounded.

Father Jason Charron, a Ukrainian Catholic pastor, told CNA a group of about 15 to 20 people called him over to a barricade within the rally site as he was trying to leave shortly before Trump began speaking.

“I said to them: I prayed for him and his safety, but that they have to pray, as well, because there are people who want to kill him,” Charron said in a telephone interview with CNA late Saturday night. “And little did I think — literally a few minutes later there was this kind of indistinct sound, and people began leaving, and at that point I heard someone saying that that was a gunshot.”

A gunman trying to kill Trump fired several times at the former president, hitting the top of his right ear while killing a spectator and wounding two more, authorities said.

Charron said he met briefly with Trump before the former president went out to address the crowd at the rally, which took place in an outdoor venue at Butler Farm Show in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

“I spoke with him regarding the situation in Ukraine and shook his hand. It wasn’t a very in-depth conversation,” Charron said.

The priest told CNA that the Trump campaign contacted him a few days ago and asked him to offer a benediction at the rally. In an interview that aired on the “Pints with Aquinas” podcast Saturday night, Charron recounted the prayer he offered at the event.

“My prayer was one of protection. My prayer there was for the restoration of right relationships in our society — relationships at the individual level, at the familial level, at the societal level, such that our nation would be made great again in God’s sight. And our nation be made great again, I said, that our world be made great again, in God’s sight,” Charron said.

“All of this presupposes that people, first of all, begin to live their daily lives in accordance with God’s will,” the priest added.

Charron said he is aware of Trump’s policy pronouncements that conflict with Catholic teaching, including Trump’s recent statements saying he favors the availability of abortion pills. But he alluded to Trump’s pro-life actions, which include while he was president appointing three U.S. Supreme Court justices who helped form a majority that overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, which enabled states to ban abortion.

“If people are going to wonder why I was at a Trump rally, it wasn’t to canonize him or absolve him from his many imperfections,” Charron told CNA.

“His recent shyness on championing pro-life legislation is undesirable, and it’s not for that that I’m there, but to encourage him to build on the pro-life victories of his first administration,” he said.

Charron was ordained to the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Church for the Diocese of St. Josaphat in 2008. He has served in parishes in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania and is currently pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Wheeling, West Virginia.