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House Democrats ask accountability office to investigate pregnancy center funding

null / Tatiana Vdb via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 12, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Two House Democrats who serve on the Oversight and Accountability Committee are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the funding of pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the committee’s ranking member, and Rep. Maxwell Frost sent a letter to the GAO requesting the government watchdog conduct a study showing how much federal funding pregnancy resource centers receive. The duo sent the letter on Thursday, July 11.

Pro-life pregnancy centers offer a variety of material goods and life-affirming services to women who are pregnant and struggling mothers who have young children. This includes diapers, baby formula, ultrasounds, health care services, and education classes. According to a report from the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, 2,750 pro-life pregnancy centers provided nearly $368 million worth of goods and services in 2022.

The two Democrats wrote to the GAO that they are “concerned” about the pregnancy centers, which they claimed operate with an “ultimate motive, often achieved through deception, misinformation, and intimidation, … to prevent people from accessing abortion care.” The pair accused the centers of providing “biased, limited, and scientifically inaccurate information” to patients.

The letter argues that the pregnancy centers, who do not perform abortions and do not refer women to abortionists, “have been found to delay access to medically legitimate prenatal and abortion care.” 

Pro-life pregnancy centers have been eligible for federal funding since 1996. The Democrats asked the GAO to determine how much federal funding pregnancy centers have received in that time frame and how much funding has changed from year to year.

The lawmakers also requested that the GAO investigate which programs pregnancy resource centers have received funding from. They also asked the GAO to look into how the centers track their spending of federal money and how the funding is audited.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have become the target of pro-abortion politicians in recent years, particularly since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which allowed states to restrict or prohibit abortion.

In May of this year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued pro-life pregnancy centers based on allegations that the organizations misled patients about the abortion pill reversal drug. Lawmakers in some states, including Illinois and Vermont, passed laws that sought to restrict the speech and advertisements of pro-life pregnancy centers. The Illinois law was blocked by a judge and the Vermont law is currently being challenged in court.

Pro-life pregnancy centers and other pro-life organizations have also faced attacks from pro-abortion activists since the Supreme Court decision. This includes vandalism, such as arson, smashed windows, and graffiti. Law enforcement has failed to locate and charge most of the perpetrators.

At Conservatism Conference, panel challenges philosophy of church-state separation

Speakers at the panel discussion "Separation of Church and State Has Failed" at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2024. / Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2024 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

A panel at the annual National Conservatism Conference challenged the efficacy of a strong separation of church and state in the United States — calling into question the conventional wisdom of many thinkers on both the political left and the political right.

“A good society educates the young to look above … and not just below,” R.R. Reno, the editor of the Christian ecumenical journal First Things, said during the July 9 panel at the conference, held in Washington, D.C.

Reno, the only Catholic on the panel, argued the case that Catholics should not fear efforts to dismantle the separation of church and state but should rather “rejoice over … [the] demise of extreme secularism.”

The other panelists were Timon Cline, who is Presbyterian and the editor of the American Reformer; Josh Hammer, who is Jewish and an editor at Newsweek; and Josh Mitchell, who is Protestant and a professor of political theory at Georgetown University.

Panelists, who were speaking at a breakout session titled “Separation of Church and State Has Failed,” discussed some efforts in Republican-led states to peel away at the hard barrier that separates church and state in the country. 

Those efforts include Bible literacy bills proposed in some state legislatures, a new Louisiana law that requires public schools to display the Ten Commandments, and a new Florida law that allows public schools to hire religious chaplains for counseling students.

All of these bills have faced legal challenges from advocacy groups that claim the legislation violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause. That clause reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s ruled on several cases related to the establishment clause. The high court took a hard-line interpretation of the provision as creating a strong barrier between church and state, citing a letter from Thomas Jefferson that called for a “wall of separation” between the two.

Reno argued that Catholics should oppose this interpretation and that it should be revisited by the Supreme Court. “Justice [John] Roberts, tear down that wall,” Reno said in a reference to Ronald Reagan’s famous order to Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the Berlin Wall.

Under the strict interpretation of separation, Reno warned that “even the slightest hint of public support for religion would be a violation.” This, he argued, impedes a state’s duty to promote the general welfare of its population, which includes a duty “to promote religion.” 

According to Reno, “a free society” requires “moral citizenry,” and embracing the ideology of secularism at the federal level “undermines the American tradition of well-ordered liberty.”

“Our duty to honor and serve God is not [simply] a revealed truth,” Reno said, noting that all societies have historically recognized the importance of serving a conception of God or gods.

“It’s a truth of natural law,” Reno explained, arguing that the “true nature of that God is revealed in Scripture.”

Reno, along with Mitchell, made that case that federally imposed secularism is not true neutrality in matters of religion. Rather, Mitchell argued, society has embraced “incomplete religion,” which seeks to take the place of Christianity.

The incomplete religion adopted in the United States, Mitchell posited, is “identity politics,” in which there is an “oppressor” class and an “oppressed” class, where the oppressed is “never guilty of anything, no matter how many laws they break” and there is “an unpayable debt of the transgressor [that] must be reckoned with.”

Mitchell contrasted identity politics with Christianity, in which humanity’s sin breaks them from God and Christ’s death on the cross and Resurrection from the dead restores human nature and provides an opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. In the secular religion, he warned, “there is no forgiveness.” 

“We already have an established church,” Mitchell said. “... Politics and religion have become one.”

Mitchell noted that every society that has abandoned Christianity has embraced an “incomplete religion,” such as the Atheistic Cult of Reason following the French revolution, which oversaw widespread atrocities against Christians, and the Soviet Union’s imposition of atheistic communism and its persecution of Christians following the Russian revolution.

“After Christendom does not come secularism,” Mitchell said.

Hammer, meanwhile, argued that the solution is not to get rid of the ruling class but “rather we are trying to replace the ruling class with our people.” He said those efforts include building up competing institutions but also trying to make inroads in established institutions.

According to Hammer, secularism can be fought with good statescrafting. 

Similarly, Cline noted that good laws can affect culture, just like bad laws have. As an example of a bad law affecting culture, he noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s imposition of legalized homosexual civil marriages on every state, noting that now “marriage is a moot point” and “no one talks about it.”

The National Conservatism Conference, which is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation, was held in Washington, D.C., from July 8 through July 10.

Catholic Relief Services mobilizes supplies after hurricane ‘rips through’ Caribbean

An empty street as Hurricane Beryl hit Kingston, Jamaica, on July 3, 2024. Beryl caused widespread damage in several island nations as it crossed the Caribbean and then hit the city of Houston. / Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 16:55 pm (CNA).

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said this week it is mobilizing humanitarian supplies after the extremely powerful Hurricane Beryl blew through the Caribbean, killing numerous people and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings. 

Beryl, which struck in late June, was the earliest-forming Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean. Its wind speeds peaked at about 165 miles per hour and affected areas ranging from Barbados to Canada before dissipating this week. 

A Catholic Charities group in Texas said this week that it was coordinating aid in that state after the hurricane made landfall near Houston. 

CRS, meanwhile, said in a press release that it was partnering with aid workers in the Caribbean to respond to the devastation left in the hurricane’s wake. 

The monster storm “swept a destructive path” through Barbados, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Grenada, and Jamaica, CRS noted, leaving at least 10 dead there and thousands seeking refuge. 

Cristopher Lopez, a technical adviser on CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department, said in the release that homes in the region suffered widespread devastation. 

“The rains and winds have ripped off roofs, cars are under water and many communities have lost power because of all the fallen trees,” he said.

Low-lying areas were swept by flooding and swells, CRS noted, while mountainous areas were hit by high winds. 

Lopez noted that the devastation “has been no impediment for the youth volunteers” in the region “who have been trained in first aid and search and rescue” and who are assisting partners in the area. 

CRS said it was working with Caritas Grenada to address the crisis there; around 1,600 people are in shelters, the organization said, with that number “expected to double” due to widespread building damage. Caritas Antilles is also working at distributing emergency aid. 

The emergency response crews will determine overall emergency needs before coordinating distribution of “shelter supplies; food and cash assistance; hygiene kits and sanitation supplies; and long-term support for home repairs and rebuilding and infrastructure restoration,” CRS said.

Gun found in abandoned suitcase before papal visit to Trieste, Italy

Pope Francis travels between the conference center and Unità d’Italia Square in Trieste, Italy, with a golf cart during his pastoral visit to the northern Italian city on July 7, 2024. In Trieste, the pope addressed around 1,200 participants in a Catholic conference on democracy for the annual Social Week of Catholics. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ security had to be reinforced during his visit to Trieste, Italy, on July 7 due to the discovery of a pistol inside an abandoned suitcase at the city’s train station. The pope traveled to and from the city by helicopter.

According to the Italian press, less than 24 hours after the arrival of the Holy Father, all the alarms went off after the police discovered a Czech-made semiautomatic pistol inside the suitcase.

The discovered weapon, a 9 mm handgun with a magazine containing 14 bullets, was inside the suitcase along with two pairs of shoes and clothing of Turkish origin still bearing the labels.

The Carabinieri (Italy’s security agency) acted immediately and informed the authorities in charge of Pope Francis’ security during his participation in the 50th Social Week of Catholics so that they could increase protection measures.

The pope made the trip to participate in the annual event organized by the Catholic Church in Italy dedicated to promoting Catholic social doctrine.

In a statement to Il Piccolo — Trieste’s main newspaper — the city’s bishop, Enrico Trevisi, said the pontiff was aware of what happened and “was calm” at all times.

In fact, the prelate was informed about the weapon by the Holy Father himself, who despite the situation decided to continue with the trip.

Trevisi noted that the citizens of Trieste “welcomed the pope’s arrival with great joy, and we don’t want this joy to be disturbed by other thoughts” and invited them to “treasure the pope’s words.”

Pope Francis’ visit to Trieste continued normally and without additional incidents, although the intelligence and anti-terrorism unit continues to investigate a possible connection between the weapon and the Holy Father’s visit.

Although they have not yet determined the identity of the suitcase’s owner, the station cameras show a man 5 feet 9 inches tall with a dark complexion who looked around before leaving the suitcase and exiting.

When consulted by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said this is a matter that concerns “the Italian authorities.”

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

Catholics in Africa want Nigeria withdrawn from ‘pro-LGBT, pro-abortion’ Samoa agreement

A map of Nigeria. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Africa, Jul 12, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

Catholic activists under the umbrella organization CitizenGO Africa are calling on the Nigerian government to withdraw from the Samoa agreement, a contentious document they say seeks to promote abortion and LGBTQ ideologies in the West African nation.

In a petition launched on Tuesday, July 9, the members of CitizenGo Africa — which advocates for the promotion of family values — say there have been widespread debates in Nigeria compelling the government to withdraw from the agreement that is perceived to undermine the fundamental cultural values of Nigerians.

“The calls for Nigeria to withdraw from the agreement reflect a deep-seated concern for protecting the country’s legal framework, cultural integrity, and fundamental values,” the activists say in the petition.

In addition, they say the push for Nigeria to withdraw from the agreement “is grounded in a staunch belief that the terms and provisions of this pact pose a threat to the Nigerian legal system, sovereignty, and values.”

According to CitizenGo, “the provisions within the agreement have been critiqued for their potential to undermine Nigeria’s autonomy and impose foreign ideologies that are incompatible with Nigerian society.”

In the petition, the activists go on to highlight sections within the agreement that they say undermine African cultural values.

“One of the principal contentions against the Samoa agreement revolves around Article 2.5, which mandates that the signatory parties must actively promote a gender perspective and ensure gender equality across all policies,” the activists say.

They further explain: “Critics argue that the term ‘gender equality’ is a guise that conceals a broader agenda that includes the legitimization of practices such as homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism, and abortion.”

CitizenGo Africa says critics further contend that the use of the term “gender” in the agreement “is problematic, as it diverges from the constitutional definition in Nigeria, which explicitly uses the term ‘sex’ instead.”

This deviation, the activists say, “is seen as a deliberate attempt to introduce concepts that are culturally unacceptable and morally repugnant in Nigerian society.”

CitizenGo Africa further refers to Article 29.5 of the agreement, which they say “calls for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, education, and the integration of reproductive health into national programs.”

“Critics argue that the vague language used in this article masks more controversial practices such as abortion, LGBT services, and the promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE),” they explain.

“This ambiguity raises concerns about the potential influence of the Samoa agreement in shaping the socio-cultural landscape of Nigeria, particularly regarding sensitive issues related to sexuality and reproductive health,” they continue.

In addition, CitizenGo Africa says that Article 36.1 on the importance of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and Article 36.2, which commits parties to implement the Beijing Declaration and the International Conference on Population and Development, seek to impose foreign values on citizens of Africa’s most populous nation. 

“Critics view these provisions as a potential gateway for the imposition of foreign ideologies and values that run counter to Nigeria’s cultural norms and sovereignty,” the activists say.

“The reference to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ in these articles is particularly contentious, as it has been associated with promoting LGBT rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity, which are sensitive issues in Nigerian society,” they say.

In their petition, the CitizenGo Africa members also point out that the agreement extensively mentions human rights but needs to offer clear definitions for what these rights entail.

They say the ambiguity in elaborating on the rights therein “has raised suspicions about the underlying intentions of the agreement and its potential implications for the legal and social landscape of Nigeria.”

“Critics argue that the vague language used in the agreement leaves room for interpretation that could result in the infringement of fundamental rights and values enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution and international human rights instruments,” they say.

CitizenGo Africa says the pressure from European countries on Nigeria to sign the Samoa agreement has been seen as a form of neo-colonialism.

“The attempt to coerce Nigeria into agreeing to terms at odds with its cultural beliefs and legal framework has been met with resistance from those who advocate for the protection of Nigerian identity and autonomy,” the Catholic activists say in their petition.

“The refusal to bow to external pressure and prioritize the preservation of Nigerian sovereignty has emerged as a central argument in favor of withdrawing from the Samoa agreement,” they say.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

Filipino bishops urge nation to ‘take a little more time’ before legalizing civil divorce

Filipino newlyweds dance in the street during a reception in Baleno town, Masbate island province in the central Philippines, April 15, 2007. / Credit: ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 13:40 pm (CNA).

The bishops of the Philippines this week are urging their fellow citizens to move slowly and carefully as the country considers legalizing civil divorce for the first time in its history. 

The country is one of the most Catholic-heavy nations in the world, with nearly 80% of its population practicing Roman Catholicism. It is the only nation in the world, other than the Vatican, where divorce is still outlawed.

Lawmakers there have repeatedly attempted to legalize divorce in recent years. The legislation most recently passed the country’s House of Representatives in May and is currently under consideration in the Senate. 

In a lengthy statement on Thursday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines acknowledged that the nation was “the last country in the world that has not yet legalized civil divorce.” 

The Catholic Church is “in no position to dictate on the state what is best for Filipino families,” the statement claims. “We know that our stubborn assertion that a genuine marriage cannot be dissolved is not necessarily shared by all religions, and we respect that.”

“But before we join the bandwagon, shouldn’t we ask ourselves, on the basis of research and statistics, if the legalization of divorce all over the world has indeed helped in protecting the common good and the welfare of the family?” they wrote. 

In their letter the bishops urged the country to adhere to the principle of “maghunosdili muna tayo at mag-isip-isip,” which in the Filipino language of Tagalog means “Let’s keep our cool and ask ourselves.”

“Think about the many times your parents had gotten into each other’s nerves and were almost tempted to call it quits,” the prelates wrote. “Think about the number of times your father slept ‘outside the kulambo’ or your mother packed up her things and brought you with her to her parents’ home, because of a misunderstanding between the two of them.” 

“Think about what could have long happened to your own family if civil divorce had already been available when you were much younger, and your parents were going through some serious problems in their relationship,” the prelates said. 

The statement acknowledged that “some marriages might indeed be beyond repair,” but they pointed out that marital crises are a regular part of many marriages from time to time. 

Referring to the high rates of divorce in countries where it is legal, they asked: “Are we sure we want our families to become part of [these] grim statistics?”

The bishops stressed repeatedly that they do not seek to dictate laws and rules on marriage, and that “as spiritual and moral leaders of the Church, we can only propose but never impose.”

Yet they implored the nation to “take a little more time and ask — could there be a reason why we are practically the last remaining country in the world that still has not opted to legalize civil divorce?”

The divorce bill up for consideration would, if passed, “give the opportunity to spouses in irremediably failed marriages” to secure “an absolute divorce decree as an alternative mode for the dissolution of an irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage.” 

Divorce would be allowed “under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures,” the bill states; it would further “grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss.”

U.S. military disavows presentation that described National Right to Life as ‘terrorist group’ 

null / Credit: Bumble Dee/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

A U.S. military base has disavowed a presentation in which the major pro-life group National Right to Life was implied to be a “terrorist” organization. 

A photo circulating on social media this week purported to show a PowerPoint slide as part of a presentation delivered at Fort Liberty in North Carolina. Fort Liberty, formally known as Fort Bragg, is one of the largest military installations in the world with over 50,000 military personnel.

The slide purported to list “terrorist groups”; among the listed organizations was National Right to Life (NRLC), a nearly 60-year-old anti-abortion group that helped launch the modern U.S. pro-life movement.

The presentation drew sharp criticism for its equation of a major pro-life group with “terrorism.” 

In a statement Thursday, NRLC President Carol Tobias described the slide as “deeply offensive to pro-life Americans across the nation.”

“In our over 50-year history, National Right to Life has always, consistently, and unequivocally, condemned violence against anyone,” Tobias said. 

In a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Fort Liberty said it had “[come] to our attention that an anti-terrorism slide was posted on social media.”

“After conducting a commander’s inquiry, we determined that the slides presented on social media were not vetted by the appropriate approval authorities and do not reflect the views of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Liberty, the U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense,” the post said. 

“The slides were developed by a local garrison employee to train soldiers manning access control points at Fort Liberty,” the statement continued.

“These slides will no longer be used, and all future training products will be reviewed to ensure they align with the current DoD anti-terrorism guidance.”

The presentation also drew criticism from Congress, where Indiana Rep. Jim Banks told media that the slide was “a national outrage.”

“Even if this slide deck was unapproved, it still exposes the Biden Pentagon for creating a politicized environment where far-left wack jobs feel they can get away with teaching our troops that conservative Americans are their adversary and legitimate military targets,” Banks said. “We are in dangerous territory.”

The military under the Biden administration has over the course of several years moved to liberalize abortion regulations in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in March said it was making permanent a policy to provide abortions in certain circumstances to service members even in states where abortion is illegal. 

In 2022, meanwhile, the Department of Defense moved to create an allowance to pay for service members to travel to obtain abortions

The department said at the time that the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier in the year were “[interfering] with our ability to recruit, retain, and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force.”

Analysis: NATO summit highlights divergent views on European defense, future

Heads of state pose for a group photo during the NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on July 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jul 12, 2024 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

As the heads of leading nations gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the world’s most powerful military alliance, the unfolding scenes and commentaries — from concern over the U.S. presidential election to the war in Ukraine to claims that “Europe’s oldest band,” the Catholic Habsburg Empire, was making a comeback — were unexpected.

The NATO summit, held July 10–11, was meant to be a secular celebration of the alliance’s enduring strength — and answer, as Owen Jensen reported for EWTN News, U.S. President Joe Biden’s question: “What is next?”

While concerned with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the summit brought into sharp relief the tension that lies at the heart of this question between strategic military considerations and ethical concerns — as well as the need for political leadership that can shoulder these tensions across party-political and ideological divides.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called for such leadership. In 2021, he declared venerable the French statesman Robert Schuman, known as a key “founding father” of the European Union. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, never tired of reminding Catholics that Christianity created the European identity.

However, Catholic perspectives diverge on Europe’s ability to defend itself — a key question for NATO members meeting in D.C. this week.

Pope Francis has appointed a special emissary to assist with peace efforts. He also has consistently spoken out against nuclear weapons, stating in a June 2022 message that “the use of nuclear weapons, as well as their mere possession, is immoral.”

This stance contrasts with the views of some European politicians, such as former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The Catholic aristocrat recently advocated for a comprehensive European protective shield, including nuclear deterrence.

In an interview with Herder Korrespondenz, Guttenberg said: “We need European and German armed forces that are capable — embedded in NATO — of effectively defending against attacks from outside or deterring them in the first place. If necessary, even without the USA.” 

He added: “Any concept must include, in addition to conventional equipment for air, sea, and land, first-class cyber capabilities, state-of-the-art missile defense shields, space presence, and — unfortunately — also sufficient nuclear deterrence potential.”

While the alliance made concrete commitments in the case of Ukraine, including a pledge of 40 billion euros (about $43.6 billion) in security assistance over the next year, the specter of political instability haunted the gathering.

Questions about Biden’s capacity to lead following recent public gaffes and the possibility of Donald Trump’s return to the White House in 2025 created one undercurrent of uncertainty.

As EWTN News reported, Biden’s performance at the summit was closely scrutinized.

The recent European Parliament elections, held just weeks before the NATO summit, saw significant gains for parties across the continent. These results have potential implications for NATO, as some of these parties — both on the left and the right — advocate for more isolationist policies and question the value of multilateral institutions.

Politico magazine reported on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to form a new group in the European Parliament called “Patriots for Europe.”

The article drew parallels between this nascent alliance and the historical Habsburg Empire, noting the inclusion of parties from several former Habsburg territories.

Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See, humorously dismissed the polemical comparison. The staunchly Catholic diplomat, a descendant of the actual Habsburg dynasty, jokingly said on X that the “Habsburg/Hungary master plan” had been “foiled again!”

While more provocative than substantive, the magazine’s descriptions are telling: They point to the complex interplay of history, nationalism, and geopolitics shaping Europe’s future as much as pointing to the existential questions challenging a Western alliance.

Irrespective of who the next U.S. president will be, the potential emergence of new political blocs within Europe, not to mention new governments in the U.K. and France, could challenge the consensus-driven approach that has long characterized NATO decision-making.

As the Washington summit concluded, these questions remained largely unresolved. However, a pragmatic answer came in the commentary on threats to the alliance, according to NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg’s official summit statement: “We face a more dangerous world, with Moscow and Beijing drawing closer, and autocracy on the rise. In these uncertain times, our alliance is more important than ever.”

Pope Francis to attend ‘Miracle of the Snow’ commemoration in Rome

Rose petals fall in St. Mary Major Basilica Aug. 5, 2017 to commemorate the "miracle of the snow." / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2024 / 11:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will join Rome’s celebrations this year of the fourth-century Marian miracle that inspired the construction of St. Mary Major Basilica.

Each year white rose petals fall from the ceiling of the papal Marian basilica in commemoration of a miraculous snowfall in Rome on Aug. 5 in the year 358 A.D.

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will witness this unique Roman tradition marking the anniversary of the “Miracle of the Snow” during vespers at St. Mary Major Basilica on the evening of Aug. 5.

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to both a nobleman named John and to Pope Liberius (352–366) in a dream foretelling the August snow and asking for a church to be built in her honor on the site of the snowfall. The church was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III (432–440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 declared Mary to be the mother of God.

The Basilica of St. Mary Major has a special significance for Pope Francis, who recently revealed that he wishes to be buried in this basilica and that a “place is already prepared.”

Pope Francis visited the Marian basilica on the first day of his pontificate to entrust his ministry to the Mother of God before the icon of Mary known as the “Salus Populi Romani,” or “Mary, Protector of the Roman People.”

The pope has returned to pray before the Marian icon each time he has departed for an international trip.

Among the four major papal basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major is the only one that has maintained its original structure. Mosaics dating back to the fifth century can be seen in the central nave of the basilica, which also houses the relic of the holy crib from the birth of Christ.

Rome will prepare for the anniversary of its papal Marian basilica with a triduum of prayer Aug. 2–4.

Celebrations on Aug. 5 will begin with a Mass at 10 a.m. presided over by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the archpriest of the St. Mary Major. Monsignor Emilio Nappa, the president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, will close the festivities with another Mass at 7 p.m. 

To attend the vespers with Pope Francis at the basilica at 5:30 p.m., free tickets from the Vatican will need to be reserved in advance.

Pope Francis to attend ‘Miracle of the Snow’ commemoration in Rome

Rose petals fall in St. Mary Major Basilica Aug. 5, 2017 to commemorate the "miracle of the snow." / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2024 / 11:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will join Rome’s celebrations this year of the fourth-century Marian miracle that inspired the construction of St. Mary Major Basilica.

Each year white rose petals fall from the ceiling of the papal Marian basilica in commemoration of a miraculous snowfall in Rome on Aug. 5 in the year 358 A.D.

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will witness this unique Roman tradition marking the anniversary of the “Miracle of the Snow” during vespers at St. Mary Major Basilica on the evening of Aug. 5.

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to both a nobleman named John and to Pope Liberius (352–366) in a dream foretelling the August snow and asking for a church to be built in her honor on the site of the snowfall. The church was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III (432–440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 declared Mary to be the mother of God.

The Basilica of St. Mary Major has a special significance for Pope Francis, who recently revealed that he wishes to be buried in this basilica and that a “place is already prepared.”

Pope Francis visited the Marian basilica on the first day of his pontificate to entrust his ministry to the Mother of God before the icon of Mary known as the “Salus Populi Romani,” or “Mary, Protector of the Roman People.”

The pope has returned to pray before the Marian icon each time he has departed for an international trip.

Among the four major papal basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major is the only one that has maintained its original structure. Mosaics dating back to the fifth century can be seen in the central nave of the basilica, which also houses the relic of the holy crib from the birth of Christ.

Rome will prepare for the anniversary of its papal Marian basilica with a triduum of prayer Aug. 2–4.

Celebrations on Aug. 5 will begin with a Mass at 10 a.m. presided over by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the archpriest of the St. Mary Major. Monsignor Emilio Nappa, the president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, will close the festivities with another Mass at 7 p.m. 

To attend the vespers with Pope Francis at the basilica at 5:30 p.m., free tickets from the Vatican will need to be reserved in advance.