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For the Year of St. Joseph, a look at the relic of his holy cloak in Rome

The relic of the holy cloak of St. Joseph at the Basilica of St. Joseph al Trionfale in Rome. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Dec 7, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

Tradition holds that St. Jerome brought the mantle from the Holy Land.

Workers in NYC face COVID vaccine mandate, causing 'worry' at some Catholic schools

null / oasisamuel/Shutterstock

New York City, N.Y., Dec 6, 2021 / 17:18 pm (CNA).

Catholic and other private school employees in New York City are speaking out against a city mandate that says they have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Mitch Schwartz, First Deputy Press Secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that staff at private businesses and private schools need one dose of the vaccine by Dec. 27

The Dec. 6 announcement was anticipated, as de Blasio had said Dec. 2 that private school employees were going to need to be vaccinated in the near future, the AP reported.

On Dec. 2, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said that while they have “placed great emphasis on getting the COVID-19 vaccine,” they respect each individual's choice to make their own decision, adding that “we have and continue to remain opposed to any such mandate.”

Chadzutko wrote that on Dec. 2, Catholic schools and academies throughout Brooklyn and Queens joined a “coalition of religious and independent schools throughout New York City asking the Mayor and Health Commissioner to reconsider plans to implement a vaccine mandate.”

That coalition, the New York State Coalition for Independent and Religious schools, sent a letter to de Blasio and to Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi asking them to reconsider the mandate.

“While we support and generally encourage Covid vaccination in our schools, and while in fact most of our schools’ employees are so vaccinated, none of our schools insist upon such vaccination as a condition of employment,” the letter, authored by Rabbi David Zwiebel, chairman of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials, said.

Vaccination is a choice “most appropriately” left to the individual, the letter said, adding that vaccination “is an area where government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce.”

The letter said that imposing a mandate could be “devastating” to schools and children. Only a small percentage of staff at these schools, for individual circumstances or personal values, have chosen to forgo vaccination, the letter said. 

Many of those who have chosen to forgo vaccination will be sure to resist vaccination, even if a mandate comes, which will cause them to be terminated from their jobs, the letter said.

“As a result,” the letter said, schools will be put in a difficult position of filling vacancies with high quality teachers and staff, which could be “impossible” in the middle of the school year.

Recognizing the danger of the Omicron variant, the letter acknowledged the mandate’s goal of hampering the spread of COVID-19.

“However, there are ways to try to move toward that goal short of a mandate, ways that will not interfere with the value of personal choice and will not risk the wholesale loss of teachers and other school employees,” the letter concluded. “The religious and independent school community respectfully urges you to reconsider.”

The Office of the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA in a Dec. 8 statement they are aware of de Blasio's mandate.

The statement, says that an "increasing majority" of archdiocesan teachers and school staffs have received the vaccine and added that "we continue to urge others to do so," while noting that those who are unvaccinated are tested weekly.

"Once we receive formal notification from the City," the statement says, "we will review the mandate to determine this order’s relevance and applicability to our Catholic schools, and any potential response."

"However, our students, families, teachers, and administrators should be assured that our schools in New York City and beyond will remain open for safe, in-person instruction, as we have done for the past year, with a rate of nearly zero COVID transmission in our buildings," the statement concludes.

The New York Times reported that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York spoke to de Blasio on the phone before the mayor’s announcement of the mandate.

John Quaglione, the Deputy Press Secretary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, told CNA on Monday that the diocese received no official notification from the mayor prior to his announcement and has yet to be sent the Executive Order directly from the health department or the mayor's office.

“We were able to download the Executive Order from the mayor's website, otherwise, we still would not know what it says or entails,” Quaglione added.

De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, said that he is “confident” the mandate will withstand any legal challenges that might come its way. 

Alexandra Sullivan, a parent with children in New York archdiocesan schools, told CNA on Monday that de Blasio’s mandate is “alarming.”

“Catholic teaching holds that vaccination must be voluntary and that no one should be coerced into a decision against their informed conscience,” Sullivan said. “Teachers employed by the Catholic Church should be afforded the freedom to exercise their conscience.”

Sullivan said that the mandate causes “worry” for parents who are concerned that there will be a future mandate for children to be vaccinated to attend school.

“That would be a grave and dangerous overstepping of government authority,” she added. “It is imperative that our bishops fight against such government overreach to protect their employees and to protect the children under their care in Catholic schools.”

The AP reported that there are about 56,000 employees at 938 schools in New York City to whom the mandate applies.

Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops' conference have said that reception of the vaccines is morally permissible when recipients have no other ethical option due to the gravity of the pandemic. Pope Francis has encouraged COVID-19 vaccination, calling it an "act of love." In December 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a note stating that reception of the vaccines is morally permissible but "must be voluntary"; the note recognized "reasons of conscience" for refusing vaccines.

Cincinnati archdiocese announces parish 'family' groups amid massive consolidation effort

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati, Ohio. / Mitchell Chabot/Shutterstock

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec 6, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati this week announced plans for groupings of parishes, called “families,” which will greatly reduce the number of parishes in the archdiocese during a multi-year consolidation process.

The announcement follows a period of public comment on the plan, during which the archdiocese says it fielded some 8,000 comments.

In a Dec. 5 letter, ​​Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said the consolidation process, dubbed “Beacons of Light”, is an effort to “ensure that all our resources – human, physical and financial –are properly ordered to missionary discipleship.”

“I am convinced that Beacons of Light, born of great hope, will enable us to form stronger parishes, centered on the Eucharist, that radiate the love of Christ and joy of the Gospel in a world that is frequently indifferent or even hostile,” Shnurr wrote.

Under the plan, existing parishes in the Cincinnati archdiocese— of which there are currently more than 200— have been grouped together into 53 “families”, of between 5 to 7 on average. The archdiocese serves some 440,000 Catholics in 19 counties.

The next stage in the process will be the implementation of the new Families of Parishes, set to be completed by July 1, 2022. The consolidation process could eliminate more than 70% of active parishes.

“Our life in Christ is always a response to God’s initiative. As we continue this challenging but exciting endeavor, may we stay attentive to all that the Lord is doing in our midst,” Schnurr concluded.

“God has abundantly blessed our first two centuries and will certainly bless the next. He has promised to never leave us. May God bless and keep all of us as we journey together toward the celebration of the birth of our Lord with certainty in our hearts that Christ remains with us always.”

In explaining the reasons for the initiative, the archdiocesan website cites problems the diocese and Church at large is facing. The website says that “religious practice is declining nationwide,” also citing “the average Sunday Mass in our archdiocese is only one-third full,” as well as an estimation that by 2026 the archdiocese will have at least 20% fewer priests than it currently does.

The number of Catholics as a percentage of the population has also decreased. The site says that the number of registered Catholic households in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has declined at a rate of 2.72 per day for the past decade.

“[M]ost of our church buildings are grossly underutilized, our resources are spread too thin, and many of our parishes are not the vibrant communities of faith Catholics need them to be,” the site reads.

Pius VII established the Diocese of Cincinnati in June 1821. The ninth diocese in the United States, it originally encompassed the entirety of Ohio and the present-day state of Michigan, as well as parts of present-day Wisconsin. It was elevated to an archdiocese in 1850.

As three more hostages released in Haiti, Christian group thanks God and asks for more prayers

Rebuilding project in Haiti / Christian Aid Ministries

Denver Newsroom, Dec 6, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

Three more hostages from an Ohio-based Christian group were released in Haiti, leaving 12 captives of the 400 Mawozo gang. The gang previously kidnapped and released a group of 10 Catholics, including priests and religious.

Scientists reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas – here’s what they found

photo: TierneyMJ / Shutterstock.com

Liverpool, England, Dec 6, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Scientists at a university in Liverpool unveiled what they say is the most realistic portrait ever created of St. Nicholas of Myra, the popular 4th century bishop best known as the inspiration for the modern-day figure of Santa Claus.

Religious leaders warn Build Back Better threatens faith-based child care, education

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Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2021 / 13:47 pm (CNA).

Two U.S. Catholic bishops signed a letter with other religious leaders expressing concern that the child care and universal pre-kindergarten provisions in the Build Back Better Act could exclude faith-based providers.

“The current Build Back Better Act provisions would severely limit the options for parents, suffocate the mixed delivery system for child care and pre-kindergarten, and greatly restrict the number of providers available for a successful national program,” the Dec. 1 letter, signed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, chair of the Committee on Catholic Education, read.

Organizations representing Christians, Muslims, and Jews also signed the letter as the U.S. Senate considers the bill pushed by the Biden administration. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation in November, approving nearly $2 trillion for social programs including universal pre-kindergarten, increased child-care subsidies, and initiatives intended to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels.

Faith leaders addressed the letter to two Senate leaders on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

“While language in the BBBA does not preclude parents from selecting sectarian providers, the subsequent provisions in the bill text make it virtually impossible for many religious providers to participate,” the letter read, referring to providers of child care and pre-kindergarten.

A statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cautioned that the legislation deviates from current federal child-care policy.

The bill’s provisions attach “new compliance obligations that would interfere with providers’ protected rights under Title VII and Title IX regarding curricula or teaching, sex-specific programs (such as separate boys or girls schools or classes), and preferences for employing individuals who share the providers’ religious beliefs,” the USCCB stated.

In their letter, the religious leaders said they have no intention of preventing anyone from receiving early learning rooted in faith.

“Faith-based providers strive to serve everyone, especially the less fortunate, whom the BBBA’s child care and UPK [universal pre-kindergarten] programs are specifically intended to benefit,” the letter read. “We simply ask to be allowed to continue our good work in caring for our nation’s children in a manner consistent with our beliefs.”

The following day, Dec. 2, the White House Press Office announced that President Joe Biden spoke with Murray on the phone about the Build Back Better Act in the Senate.

Murray and the president discussed the “unprecedented steps this legislation would take to help middle class families afford child care and to create the first-ever universal pre-k program across the United States,” the press office said.

Full text: Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Greece

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference on the journey from Athens to Rome, Dec. 6, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Aboard the papal plane, Dec 6, 2021 / 10:41 am (CNA).

The pope spoke at the end of his five-day journey to Cyprus and Greece.

Pope Francis says he accepted Paris archbishop’s resignation ‘on the altar of hypocrisy’

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference on the journey from Athens to Rome, Dec. 6, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 6, 2021 / 07:21 am (CNA).

The pope accepted Archbishop Michel Aupetit’s resignation on Dec. 2.

Pope Francis says he will meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill again

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference on the journey from Athens to Rome, Dec. 6, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 6, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

The pope and the patriarch had a historic first meeting in 2016.

5 things to know and share about St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas, by Jaroslav Čermák (1831-1878). / Galerie Art Praha via Wikimedia (Public Domain).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 6, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

How much do you know about the man whose feast falls on Dec. 6?