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Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Felipe Estévez of Diocese of Saint Augustine; Appoints Rev. Erik Pohlmeier as Successor

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, 76, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Saint Augustine, and has appointed Reverend Erik T. Pohlmeier, as Bishop-elect of Saint Augustine. Bishop-elect Pohlmeier is a priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, and currently serves as pastor at Christ the King parish in Little Rock, and as director of the diocese’s continuing education for clergy, the permanent diaconate formation program, and the office of faith formation. The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 24, 2022, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father Pohlmeier was born July 20, 1971, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He studied at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (1989-1991) and received a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana (1994); and at the Pontifical North American College and received Bachelor of Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1995-1997). He received a Master’s degree in spirituality from the Saint Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University (Angelicum) in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 25, 1998.

Bishop-elect Pohlmeier’s assignments after ordination include: associate pastor at Christ the King parish in Little Rock (1998-2001); pastor at Our Lady of the Lake parish in Lake Village, St. Mary Church mission in McGehee, and Holy Child of Jesus parish in Dumas (2001-2005); pastor at Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg (2004-2005); pastor at Church of Saint John the Baptist parish in Hot Springs (2005-2010); pastor at Our Lady of the Holy Souls parish in Little Rock (2010-2016). Father Pohlmeier’s ministry also includes serving at the diocesan level as director of the permanent diaconate formation program (since 2015), director of the diocese’s office of faith formation (since 2016), and director of continuing education of the clergy (since 2019). Since 2020, he has also served as pastor at Christ the King parish in Little Rock.

Bishop-elect Pohlmeier has also served as a member of the Diocese of Little Rock’s presbyteral council (2003-2006, 2011-2014, and 2021-present); the clergy personnel board (2011-2014, and 2020-present); college of consultors (2014-2019); and the clergy welfare advisory board (2015-2017, and 2019-present).

The Diocese of Saint Augustine is comprised of 11,032 square miles in the state of Florida and has a total population of 2,277,463 of which 163,525 are Catholic.

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Media Contact:
Chieko Noguchi
202-541-3200

Statement of USCCB on School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas

WASHINGTON - In response to the news of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas reported this afternoon, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offered the following statement from its spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs.

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent. Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others, and we join our prayers along with the community in Uvalde and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller. As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

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Media Contact:
USCCB Public Affairs
202-541-3200

 

Archbishop Cordileone responds to criticism that he's 'politicizing the Eucharist'

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone / EWTN News Nightly Screenshot

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 19:47 pm (CNA).

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Monday responded to criticism that he is “politicizing” the Eucharist by denying Nancy Pelosi Holy Communion, saying he would prefer the Democratic House Speaker remain in office “and become an advocate for life in the womb."

"What does it mean to politicize the Holy Eucharist if one is following Church teaching and applying Church teaching?” Cordileone said in an interview with EWTN News’ Erik Rosales that aired May 23 on “EWTN News Nightly.”

“One would have to demonstrate that one is doing that for a political purpose,” the archbishop said.

“I've been very clear all along, my purpose is pastoral, not political,” he added. “I am not campaigning for anyone for office. As a matter of fact, my preference would be for Speaker Pelosi to remain in office and become an advocate for life in the womb."

On Friday, Cordileone announced that he had notified Pelosi, who describes herself as a devout Catholic, that until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion, she should not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, nor should she present herself for Communion. 

Cordileone told Rosales that he has not received any response from Pelosi so far. Nor has the 82-year-old speaker issued any public statements about the Communion ban as of yet. You can watch Cordileone’s interview in the video below.

As of May 23, at least a dozen U.S. bishops have publicly supported Cordileone’s action, which only applies within the San Francisco Archdiocese. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila called Cordileone “a shepherd with the heart and mind of Christ, who truly desires to lead others towards Christ’s love, mercy, and promise of eternal salvation.”  

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where Pelosi spends much of her time, has not commented publicly on Cordileone's action, but has indicated in the past that he does not intend to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who actively promote abortion and other policies at odds with Church teaching.

Cordileone told Rosales that politicizing the Eucharist can even occur “in reverse.” One could “receive Communion as a means to furthering a political agenda, when one is motivated for that reason,” he said. “So it cuts both ways.”

Cordileone noted that many Catholics don’t understand Church teaching on the Eucharist, “what it is, who it is, and what the proper disposition is to receive it, what it means to receive the most Holy Eucharist.”

He added that he wanted to help Catholics understand “the grave evil of abortion and what it means to cooperate with evil on the different levels.”

“I wanted to be clear in laying out that teaching,” he said.

‘Aggressive’ abortion stance

Rosales said that Cordileone told him his decision is not related to the recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that shows the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide. 

However, Rosales said that Cordileone was “motivated by Speaker Pelosi's reaction to the Texas Heartbeat Law,” which bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks gestation.

“That's when Speaker Pelosi became very outspoken and aggressive — I'll use that word — in vowing to codify the Roe vs Wade decision into federal law,” Cordileone told Rosales, referring to her ardent support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives but failed to garner enough votes in the Senate

“So it would guarantee open, unqualified access to abortion for all 9 months, all through out the country,” Cordileone said. “This was very alarming, very disturbing.”

It was at this time that Cordileone began the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign, asking Catholics to pray and fast to soften her heart for the unborn.

Cordileone said that Pelosi frequently speaks fondly of her five grown children.

“I think she has a maternal heart, there is a real sensitivity there,” he said.

“So I asked people to pray and fast for her and I've been trying to meet with her. Ever since then I've made several attempts to speak with her. I've either been denied or just received no response.”

Cordileone added that Pelosi “knew in advance that I would make this announcement if she did not repudiate her position on abortion or at least not refer to her Catholic faith and not go to Communion.”

Rosales brought up Pelosi’s recent October meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican and asked whether the pope should take a greater stance on the issue.

“I think Pope Francis has taken a very strong stance on this,” Cordileone said. “He's been very outspoken about the evil of abortion. He sees how everything is interconnected.”

 Citing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, Cordileone said the pope “talks about the interconnectedness of it all. He brings up this issue that care for the environment, care for our common home also includes care for the poor and the vulnerable, including life in the womb, and he compares it to hiring a hitman to solve the problem.”

Judge blocks auction of Dorothy's Wizard of Oz dress, over Catholic University's objections

The Dorothy dress at the center of the dispute. / Bonhams

Denver Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 18:50 pm (CNA).

The Catholic University of America cannot auction a dress from the Wizard of Oz until a court resolves a legal challenge about its ownership, a federal judge has said.

The university had scheduled an auction of the dress worn by Judy Garland for the classic movie in hopes of raising more than $1 million for its drama department. The legal challenge comes from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, a niece of a Dominican priest and drama professor at the university. She says that the dress should be hers because she is the priest’s closest living relative.

Judge Paul Gardephe, in a May 23 temporary injunction, ruled that the niece’s lawsuit had enough merit to proceed. He blocked the planned auction until the lawsuit challenging ownership of the dress is legally settled through proceedings in Manhattan federal court. He has set another hearing in June. The ruling could postpone the sale of the dress for months or years, the Washington Post reports.

Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, had given the dress to Father Gilbert Hartke, O.P., the founder and head of the university’s drama school. In the late 1980s, the dress went missing and the costume became the subject of rumor. Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the university’s drama department, happened upon a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021. He opened the bag to find a shoebox, inside of which was the dress.

Barbara Ann Hartke’s lawsuit has support from at least one other relative of Hartke, who was one of six siblings. However, the university filed affidavits from other relatives who say Hartke told them the dress belonged to the university.

The university also filed an affidavit from Father Kenneth R. Letoile, O.P., the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, who explained that the Dominican priest had made a vow of poverty and not allowed to possess anything as personal property. Any gifts to him should have proceeded to the province, and the province did not claim ownership of the Wizard of Oz dress.

Fr. Gilbert Hartke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America.
Fr. Gilbert Hartke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America.

Shawn Brenhouse, an attorney for Catholic University, said the university will continue to defend its right to sell the dress, the proceeds of which are planned to support the drama school.

“The Court’s decision to preserve the status quo was preliminary and did not get to the merits of Barbara Hartke’s claim to the dress,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “We look forward to presenting our position, and the overwhelming evidence contradicting Ms. Hartke’s claim, to the Court in the course of this litigation.”

In court papers, Barbara Ann Hartke’s attorney Anthony Scordo III argued that his client could show that Father Hartke’s estate was the rightful owner of the dress. McCambridge had “specifically and publicly” given the dress to the priest and the dress is “therefore an asset of decedent’s estate.”

Gardephe rejected the university’s argument that the dress must be sold urgently so that potential buyers would not lose interest. He cited the enduring popularity of the film and said that controversy over the dress has generated more interest.

According to the auction company Bonhams, Judy Garland wore the gingham dress while filming a scene in which her character Dorothy Gale faces the Wicked Witch of the West in the witch’s castle.

The dress from the 1939 movie is one of only two existing dresses that retains its white blouse. It is now valued at an estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million, Bonhams said. Another surviving dress was auctioned for $1.5 million in 2015.

The university had said that proceeds from the sale of the dress would endow a faculty chair, a position that will support the current bachelor of fine arts degree in acting for theater, film, and television, as well as the development of a new formal film acting program at the university’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art.

Dr. Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, Dean of the School of Music, Drama and Art of The Catholic University of America, is the wife of Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, Catholic News Agency’s parent network.

DC archdiocese mistakenly gives candid response on Pelosi Communion denial

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington takes possession of Immacolata Concezione di Maria a Grottarossa in Rome, Sept. 27, 2021 / Courtney Mares.

Denver Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 17:43 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Washington’s communications office erroneously told a reporter Monday that media requests related to Nancy Pelosi’s denial of Holy Communion by her bishop “will be ignored.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the local ordinary of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, announced Friday that Pelosi may not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, nor should she present herself to receive the Eucharist, until she publicly repudiates her longstanding support for abortion. 

Since Cordileone’s announcement, numerous bishops have publicly made their support for Cordileone’s action known. Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa — which includes a vacation home of Pelosi’s in Napa — has said that he, too, will uphold Cordileone’s decision not to admit her to communion and has instructed his priests as such.  

A reporter writing for the Washington Examiner had contacted the Archdiocese of Washington, led by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, for a comment on the matter, since Pelosi spends much of her time in the nation’s capital. The reporter received an emailed response from the communications office, apparently sent in error. 

“Just sharing for you to know what comes in,” the email reads. “Email since Saturday, when I last checked the comms inbox has just been a couple of random people wanting to tell the Cardinal to bring down the hammer on Pelosi. Aside from Jack Jenkins at [Religion News Service], this is the only new media inquiry. It will be ignored, too.”

When the Examiner requested clarification, archdiocese spokesperson Patricia Zapor told the reporter that Cardinal Gregory would not be commenting publicly on the matter. 

“I apologize for the mistaken email. We have not been responding to inquiries on this topic because Cardinal Gregory's position has not changed from what he has said in the past,” the followup email reads. 

“Cardinal Gregory has no new comment about the issue of Catholic politicians receiving Communion. The actions of Archbishop Cordileone are his decision to make in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Cardinal Gregory has not instructed the priests of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to refuse Communion to anyone.”

Pelosi has long advocated for the legalization of abortion and announced in September 2021 that she would seek to codify Roe. v. Wade into U.S. law. Despite the ban on her receiving in San Francisco and Santa Rosa, Pelosi reportedly received Communion May 22 during Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, in the Archdiocese of Washington. 

Cardinal Gregory told a reporter — Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service — in 2020 that he would not deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. 

During the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in June 2021, Gregory cautioned against drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist that would include language on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholic public figures. Some bishops critical of the motion warned that it would be interpreted as a partisan denunciation of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, especially President Joe Biden.

In a May 20 letter addressed to lay Catholics, Cordileone explained that he issued the instruction in accordance with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in the letter.

This is the prayer that Catholics are asked to say for the Church in China on May 24

St. Francis Xavier statue in front St. Joseph Cathedral in Beijing, China, February 25, 2016. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 17:03 pm (CNA).

In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed May 24, the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which venerates the Blessed Virgin Mary under that title as the country's patroness.

This year, Pope Francis has asked Catholics to join him in praying for the faithful in China.

“This coming Tuesday is the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Help of Christians, particularly dear to Catholics in China who venerate Mary, Help of Christians as their Patroness in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai, in many churches throughout the country, and in their homes,” Pope Francis said on May 22.

National Shrine and Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan, also known as Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, in Shanghai, China. lobia, Wikimedia.
National Shrine and Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan, also known as Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, in Shanghai, China. lobia, Wikimedia.

“This happy occasion offers me the opportunity to assure them once again of my spiritual closeness. I am attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them,” he said.

The pope continued, “I invite all of you to unite yourselves in this prayer so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquility, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, and thus offer a positive contribution to the spiritual and material progress of society, as well.”

In response, the Catholic humanitarian organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and other human rights groups have also called for prayer. Adding to the urgency for prayer this year are reports that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the 90-year-old retired bishop of Hong Kong who is an outspoken support of the pro-democracy movement there, is expected to return to court on Tuesday in connection with his May 11 arrest for allegedly violating China’s national security law. 

"The wish of Benedict XVI was to promote unity in a community that had become divided into 'official' and 'underground,' but at the same time, to foster communion between the entire Catholic Church and Chinese Catholics. Therefore, on this day, all Catholics are called to express their solidarity with Christians in China," ACN said in a statement released on May 23.

"Furthermore," the statement continued, "the prayer aims at strengthening Catholics in their faith, especially at a time when public witness and practice of faith or even the explicit proclamation of the Gospel are increasingly restricted by the Chinese communist government."

Here is the prayer Benedict XVI asked Catholics to pray on this occasion:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians," the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.

We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously cooperated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.

Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence. Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.

Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Oklahoma passes extensive abortion ban bill, as country awaits Supreme Court ruling

null / Aykut Erdogdu/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

The Oklahoma legislature has passed another law limiting abortion, ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could allow many more restrictions on abortion. The Oklahoma legislation follows a Texas model in allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers, but expands its scope to ban almost all direct abortions from the moment of conception.

House Bill 4327 bars all abortions except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the unborn child was conceived in rape or incest reported to law enforcement. The legislation passed by 76-16, generally on a party-line vote, on May 19.

“Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?” bill sponsor Republican State Rep. Wendi Stearman asked legislators before the bill passed.

State Rep. Cyndi Munson, a Democrat, had questioned Stearman about the fact that many women, especially young girls, do not report rape or incest to law enforcement.

“Can you explain to me why you’re okay with a person carrying on a pregnancy after they have been raped or there has been instances of incest?” Munson asked.

“I am okay with preserving the life of the child,” Stearman responded. “The child was not part of that decision.”

Like a novel Texas law, it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” illegal abortions. The Texas law, however, bars abortion six weeks into pregnancy. The proposed Oklahoma law is the first of its kind to allow civilian enforcement of an abortion ban beginning at conception.

The legislation defines an unborn child as a human fetus or embryo at any stage of development. It specifically allows doctors to remove the body of a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, the Associated Press reports. The bill’s provisions do not apply to abortion-inducing drugs or contraception.

Dr. Eli Reshef, an Oklahoma City fertility specialist, told the Associated Press that the legislation is not expected to apply to in-vitro fertilization, when embryos are conceived in a lab by fertilizing eggs before transferring them into a woman’s womb.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he will sign any pro-life legislation the legislature sends to him.

Earlier this month, Stitt had signed into law a bill which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy. That law, too, relies on citizens’ private lawsuits to enforce the ban.

Plaintiffs who successfully sue those who perform or aid and abet abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected could have a legal reward of at least $10,000.

Oklahoma’s two Catholic bishops had praised that bill as a protective measure for human life in the state, and also encouraged help for the women considering abortion.

Planned Parenthood’s two abortion clinics in Oklahoma stopped performing abortions after the governor signed the six-week ban. Once the latest bill is signed into law, the state’s two other abortion clinics will close, their attorney has said, according to the Associated Press.

“At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions,” Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told the Associated Press. “It’s the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma.”

Abortion restrictions in Texas reduced the number of abortions in the state by perhaps 46%. However, some pregnant women are seeking abortions in bordering states like Oklahoma or ordering abortion pills by mail.

The numbers of abortions performed in Oklahoma fell from 6,200 in 2002 to 3,736 in 2020, the lowest in more than 20 years. About 9% of Oklahoma abortions in 2020 were performed on women from Texas.

In late April Oklahoma legislators passed a law banning abortions entirely unless the procedure is done to save the life of the pregnant woman. That law, which would likely be struck down as unconstitutional unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, is set to go into effect in August.

The U.S. Supreme Court could very well overturn Roe v. Wade and related precedents requiring all U.S. states to legalize abortion. Overturning the decision would return control of abortion legislation to the states.

In October 2021, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City issued a call to prayer for the abolition of the death penalty and for the end to abortion in Oklahoma

“We must pray for a renewed focus on the precious gift of life - all life from conception until natural death,” he said.

English bishop urges Catholics to oppose Jersey assisted suicide proposal

oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

The Catholic bishop overseeing the island of Jersey has called on clergy and parishioners to “speak out” and mobilize against proposals to legalize assisted suicide there.

Bishops call for peace, prayer after gunmen kill boy in Mexican church

null / Daniel Ibañez/ACI Prensa

Lima, Peru, May 23, 2022 / 14:53 pm (CNA).

A three-year-old boy was killed by gang members who opened fire inside a church in Fresnillo in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.

Prince Charles marks 100 years of society supporting Catholic archbishops of Westminster

Prince Charles attends the Society of St. Augustine of Canterbury centenary reception at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, England, May 10, 2022. / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

London, England, May 23, 2022 / 12:35 pm (CNA).

The Society of St. Augustine of Canterbury was founded in 1922.