Nation/World news briefs: Jan. 16, 2023


“People keep saying, ‘Where’s the next Martin Luther King?’ We’re all called, I think. We’re called by our citizenship, by our membership in the human race. We’re all called to free ourselves and to free one another.”
— Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, one of six Black Catholic women and men proposed for sainthood, as quoted by Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Chosen’s Jonathan Roumie, other Catholics to speak at March for Life

Jonathan Roumie, known for his role as “Jesus” in the television series The Chosen, and other Catholic speakers are in the lineup for this year’s 50th annual national March for Life on Jan. 20. The March for Life is a non-partisan, non-sectarian pro-life event, but the 50th annual event will include other Catholics speaking besides Roumie at the pre-March rally on the national mall: both Sister Mary Casey of the Sisters of Life and Gina Tomes, program director of the Bethlehem House maternity home, will address the crowd. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, will lead the opening prayer.

Biden administration permits first death penalty trial despite campaign pledge

The terrorism trial of Sayfullo Saipov, who is accused of fatally striking eight people with a truck in New York City in 2017, began Jan. 9 and marks the first federal death penalty case heard under President Joe Biden, who pledged as a candidate to end the practice at the federal level. Then-President Donald J. Trump wrote in a 2017 tweet that Saipov should be executed if convicted, and his administration had instructed prosecutors to seek capital punishment in the event of that conviction. But when Saipov’s lawyers requested in 2022 that Biden’s Justice Department withdraw that directive, Attorney General Merrick Garland denied their request, prompting the administration’s first federal death penalty trial despite the campaign pledge made by Biden, who is the nation’s second Catholic president.

Biden issues proclamation declaring U.S. must protect religious freedom

Like his five most recent predecessors, President Joe Biden has issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 16 Religious Freedom Day and calling for the protection of religious freedom in the U.S. and around the globe. “In the United States, we are facing a rising tide of antisemitism and renewed attacks against certain religious groups,” he said. “Across the world, minority communities — including Uyghurs, Rohingya, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Jews, Christians, Bahá’ís, Yezidis, atheists and humanists — continue to face intimidation, violence and unequal protection under the law. This hate is harmful to our communities and countries, and it is on all of us to speak out and stop it.” First celebrated in 1993, National Religious Freedom Day has been proclaimed by U.S. presidents as a day commemorating the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom Jan. 16, 1786. The legislation helped form the basis for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protecting freedom of religion.

Catholics oppose attorney general’s suggestion of prosecuting women over abortion pills

Days after the federal government signaled it would allow abortion pills to be distributed through the postal service even in states that have banned or restricted the procedure, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall indicated that women who undergo medication abortions in the state could still be subject to prosecution. The remarks prompted some pro-life leaders to renew their objections to lawmakers seeking to criminalize women who obtain an abortion as incompatible with their life-affirming mission. Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act criminalizes abortion providers but specifically states that women who undergo abortions are exempt from prosecution. However, Marshall revealed Jan. 10 that women who use abortion drugs could be prosecuted under a different state law, which has been used to prosecute women for using illicit drugs during pregnancy.

Papal condemnations of nuclear war ‘indispensable,’ says U.N. official

Pope Francis’ condemnations of the threat of nuclear war are “indispensable,” said the head of the U.N. nuclear energy agency. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Jan. 12. He also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister. Speaking with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the Argentine diplomat said that the Holy See’s support in finding a multilateral approach to avoid nuclear disaster in Ukraine is “fundamental,” and that the pope’s voice is particularly important in this conflict that is based in Europe and involves Christians around the world.

Court rules bishop charged with conspiracy will stand trial

A court ruled at a Jan. 10 hearing that a Nicaraguan bishop, who has been detained since August, will stand trial on the charges of spreading false information and conspiracy. Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, who has been accused of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “to spread fake news” appeared wearing a white shirt and looking gaunt, according to a photo shared by the court in Managua. A statement released by the court’s press office stated that “the initial hearing of the penal process where Rolando José Álvarez Lagos appeared as the accused took place” on that day. Bishop Álvarez has been a vocal critic of the Nicaraguan government and was forcefully put under house arrest in August, an act widely criticized by human rights defenders worldwide.


Catholic leaders in Illinois are hailing the state’s newly enacted ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and switches. “The Catholic Conference of Illinois would like to commend the Illinois General Assembly and Governor J.B. Pritzker on banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines with the passage of House Bill 5471,” the state’s Catholic bishops said in an undated message posted to the conference’s website. The bishops said that the state had “too many times … witnessed the horror of mass shootings,” adding they hoped the legislation would “help to provide some peace in our communities going forward.” On Jan. 10, Gov. Pritzker signed into law the Protect Illinois Communities Act (H.B. 5471), banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons, or semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols designed for military use; high-capacity magazines, ammunition devices capable of feeding 10 or more rounds into a gun chamber; and switches (also known as auto sears), small attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to function as fully automatic firearms.” Under the new law, which went into immediate effect, existing owners of semi-automatic rifles must register their ownership.

Photo: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is seen in Washington Jan. 17, 2020. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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