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Eurasian Economic Forum focuses on changing scenarios

The annual Eurasian Economic Forum has taken place in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. This Year’s Forum gained significant international interest and impact as Russia’s pivot to Asia and Supply Chain movements placed Central Asia in the spotlight.

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Holy Land Co-ordination: Christians essential to Jerusalem's identity

At the end of a visit to Israel and Palestine, The Holy Land Co-ordination 2022 upholds the rightful place of the Christian community in Jerusalem’s identity.

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Burkina Faso: Armed assailants kill 50 civilians

Armed assailants kill dozens of civilians in the east of Burkina Faso, a country ravaged by the violent activities of extremist Islamist groups.

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Bishops lament threats facing Jerusalem's Christians

Members of the Holy Land Coordination meet with young people of Jerusalem at St James the Apostle Beit Hanina parish, May 21, 2022. / Mazur/ via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

At the end of a trip to the Holy Land, a group of European bishops lamented the threats to Jerusalem’s Christians, noting in particular the attack on mourners at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“The Christian community is essential to Jerusalem’s identity, both now and for the future. Yet its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice,” read the May 26 final communique of the Holy Land Coordination group.

“Many of those we encountered are facing violence and intimidation by settler groups, restrictions on their freedom of movement, or separation from their families because of the status they are assigned.”

Six bishops from across Europe visited Jerusalem May 21-26. Since 2000, the Holy Land Coordination has taken an annual trip to the Holy Land, promoting awareness, action, and prayer for the region. The group was founded by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

“We share the concerns expressed by the Christian community about unilateral restrictions on freedom of worship during Easter, imposed by the Israeli police,” the bishops stated. “We experienced the deep sorrow and anger felt by local Christians at the killing of Palestinian Catholic journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the shameful attack on mourners at her funeral.”

Abu Akleh was a Melkite Greek Catholic and a Palestinian American who was killed while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank May 11. During her funeral procession May 13, Abu Akleh’s coffin nearly fell as police waded into the crowd brandishing batons and using stun grenades.

The bishops said that Jerusalem is a “common patrimony” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and it must “never become the exclusive monopoly of any one religion.”

“We came to meet and pray with our sisters and brothers, mindful of Patriarch Pizzaballa’s message that it is our right and duty as Christians to uphold the city’s openness and universality.”

They noted that “people of all backgrounds are living in poverty, which has been compounded by the pandemic. The absence of pilgrims during the past two years has devastated livelihoods, including among Jerusalem’s Christian community, leaving some families struggling to afford housing, food, or other essentials.”

The bishops added that there are “signs of hope,” however. “We visited Christian organisations taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and wider society. They are working tirelessly to alleviate hardship and improve lives. We met young people who, despite facing daily violations of their fundamental human rights, refuse to be the last generation of Christians in the city.”

They urged pilgrims “to support Christians in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land,” saying, “It is essential that all pilgrims understand and engage with the reality of life for the Christian community here.”

“All Christians must help preserve the city’s sacred character,” they wrote, “and promote an authentic vision for Jerusalem as a place of dialogue and unity.”

We changed everything in our lives and have never felt closer to God

An Ecuadorian couple experiences the sacrament and blessing of matrimony and their lives truly change. Now they’re raising their children in a way that’s connected to God’s Creation at all times.

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Pope Francis encourages Hispanic ministry in North America

Pope Francis addresses the executive committe of CELAM at the apostolic nunciature in Bogota, Sept. 7, 2017. / Alvaro de Juana/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a video message on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged the Pontifical Commission for Latin America to continue its mission at the service of the Church in Latin American Church and of Hispanic ministry in the United States and Canada.

The pontifical commission is called to "a service, a diakonia, which should mainly show the affection and attention that the Pope has for the region" and explained that this consists in a "service that helps the various dicasteries to act in synergy and better understand the Latin American social and ecclesial reality,” the pope said May 26 to the plenary assembly of the dicastery.

In addition, the Pope urged the members of the pontifical commission to continue promoting “Hispanic pastoral car in the United States and Canada, in communion with the universal Church.”

“I am convinced that … the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean has made 'the path by walking,' that is, it has shown that a correct interpretation of the conciliar teachings implies relearning to walk together,” the pope affirmed.

Likewise, Pope Francis indicated that the Pontifical Commission for Latin America “is not called to be a customs office, which controls things in Latin America or the Hispanic dimension of Canada and the United States, no. Its existence as an instance of service is justified by the peculiar identity and fraternity that the nations of Latin America live.”

The Holy Father underlined the importance of ecclesial communion and stated that the synodal process is called to remember the universal call to holiness because “we are all disciples called to learn and follow the Lord. We are all co-responsible for the common good and for the holiness of the Church.”

“Synodality should lead us to live ecclesial communion more intensely, in which the diversity of charisms, vocations and ministries are harmoniously integrated animated by the same baptism, which makes us all sons in the Son. Let us beware of one-person protagonism and let us bet on sowing and encouraging processes that allow the people of God, who walk in history, to participate more and better in the common responsibility that we all have to be the Church”, the pope stated.

He noted recent lay appointments to the commission, which he made “to help us all to generate new dynamics and uninstall us a little bit of some of our clerical uses and customs, both here in the Curia and in all places where there are Latin American communities.”

The pontifical commission, “through all its members, must promote true synodality as widely as possible,” he said. “Communion without synodality can easily lend itself to a certain undesirable fixity and centralism. Synodality without communion can become ecclesiastical populism.”

The Church asks Colombia, Venezuela to resume diplomatic relations to address migration

Migrant child has lunch at the Casa de Paso "Divina Providencia" in Cucuta. / David Ramos/ACI Prensa.

Lima, Peru, May 26, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Church has asked the governments of Colombia and Venezuela to resume their “truncated binational relations” in order to respond effectively to the challenges involved in serving migrants.

The call to restore diplomatic relations was made during a May 24 press conference in the Diocese of Cúcuta, where a meeting of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry was held with the border dioceses of Tibú, Ocaña, Cúcuta, Nueva Pamplona, Arauca, and Riohacha, as well as Jesuit Refugee Service, in order to address the situation of Venezuelan emigration.

Reading from a statement,  Father Rafael Castillo Torres, director of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry in Colombia, said that "there have been not a few signs of concern … that challenge our humanitarian and pastoral action.”

Among these are "human trafficking, the recruitment of minors into armed gangs, the exploitation of workers, illegal economies, widespread violence, people disappearing, the absence of government institutions abandoning our borders and the ongoing presence of organized crime, capable of controling people and organizations.”

Therefore, he said, "from this city of Cúcuta, so historically united with our sister nations, we call on our governments to resume the truncated binational relations.”

The breaking of diplomatic relations goes back to when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president in January 2019 after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or were imprisoned. Venezuela's bishops called his new term illegitimate, and opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country's interim president.

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.

Guaidó set Feb. 23, 2019 as the date to try to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela overland from Brazil and Colombia and by sea from Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. However, the Maduro regime forcibly blocked the aid from coming in, sparking clashes at border crossings.

The same day Maduro announced he was breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia and gave Colombian diplomatic personnel 24 hours to leave the country.

However, the Colombian Foreign Minister at the time, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, pointed out that since Colombia no longer recognized the Maduro regime and was supporting Guaidó as interim president, diplomatic relations could not be broken.

Nevertheless, in practice there have been no bilateral relations between the states since then.

Fr. Castillo said it is necessary for the two nations “to be able to rebuild their binational relations with all that that means and involves.”

“Not only because of border traffic, but because we believe that two sister nations that have grown together, that have progressed together historically, have to rebuild their relations as sister peoples. Especially in the face of this migratory challenge that we have on our border that must put the life and dignity of our migrant brothers in first place,” the priest said.

According to a World Bank article from November 2021, some 5.6 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, and of these, 1.7 million are in Colombia.

The director of the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral Ministry of Colombia expressed his desire that it be possible to “have a joint strategy of Church and nation to be able to respond to these pastoral challenges” with migrants.

"Regardless of who the Colombians elect as president," the priest said, "we believe that it’s imperative to be able to reestablish those bilateral relations because we need it.”

"It’s almost a moral imperative to do so, because our peoples are suffering and because of the need we have to rebuild these relationships with a sense of fraternity, solidarity and hope, because that is what we want as a Church.”

Texas shooting victim's husband dies of heart attack; archbishop prays for Catholic family

People arrive to drop off flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Robb Elementary School on May 26, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. - Grief at the massacre of 19 children at the elementary school in Texas spilled into confrontation on May 25, as angry questions mounted over gun control -- and whether this latest tragedy could have been prevented. The tight-knit Latino community of Uvalde on May 24 became the site of the worst school shooting in a decade, committed by a disturbed 18-year-old armed with a legally bought assault rifle. / Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

The husband of one of the nearly two dozen victims of a mass shooter in Texas died Thursday, reportedly of a heart attack as he was preparing for his wife’s funeral. 

50-year-old Joe Garcia dropped off flowers at his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning, the New York Times reported. His nephew said that when he returned home, he collapsed.

Joe’s wife, 46-year-old Irma Garcia, was a 4th-grade teacher and one of the two adults killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old shooter May 24. The shooter also killed 19 children. 

Garcia reportedly died while trying to protect her students. 

Irma and Joe Garcia.
Irma and Joe Garcia.

Joe and Irma — reportedly high school sweethearts married for 24 years — leave behind four children: 23-year-old Cristian and three teenagers, Jose, Lyliana, and Alysandra.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, who told CNA he met with Joe the day of the shooting, offered his condolences and prayers. He said a memorial Mass is set to take place at 6 p.m. CT at Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde, a four-minute drive from the elementary school. 

“We hold in prayer the three children of Irma Garcia, teacher killed in Uvalde,” García-Siller wrote

“Her husband Jose died today of a massive heart attack. Today, Mass at 6pm Sacred Heart Church, Uvalde. We pray for his soul and for their beautiful children. Pain increases so [does] love. Jose, Rest In Peace.”

John Martinez, the 21-year-old nephew of Joe and Irma Garcia, tweeted, “EXTREMELY heartbreaking and come with deep sorrow to say that my Tia Irma’s husband Joe Garcia has passed away due to grief, i truly am at a loss for words for how we are all feeling, PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR FAMILY, God have mercy on us, this isn’t easy.”

García-Siller told CNA on Wednesday that he met with the husband and the couple’s three teenaged children the day of the shooting. The family belonged to the community of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, he said.

“I was able to meet the husband of one of the teachers who was killed, and the two daughters and son,” García-Siller said of Irma Garcia’s family.  

He met with them at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, as they waited to hear what had happened to the wife and mother. 

“The husband showed a lot of strength,” he told CNA. The three teenage children, he said at the time, were devastated. 

The Uvalde shooting comes fewer than two weeks after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and another shooter killed one person and wounded five others on May 15 at a church in Laguna Woods, California.

Bishops across the country have responded with prayer and heartbrokenness as did Pope Francis. The U.S. bishops conference released a statement the day of the Uvalde shooting calling for prayer for the victims and wounded, as well as for the Uvalde community.

The incident is believed to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

Oklahoma City archbishop encourages 'culture of life' after governor signs abortion ban

Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) attends a roundtable at the White House in Washington, DC June 18, 2020. / Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead (public domain)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 14:14 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City thanked state leaders Wednesday “for supporting pro-life measures” after the governor signed into law the strictest abortion ban in the country.

The Oklahoma law, prohibiting abortion from the moment of conception with few exceptions, comes ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could leave abortion legislation solely up to the states. 

“Building a culture of life in Oklahoma that recognizes the inherent dignity of every person requires the protections afforded by pro-life legislation and a profound change of heart,” Coakley said May 25.

“I encourage Oklahomans to pray for women in crisis pregnancy situations, for their families and loved ones, for families waiting to adopt, for fathers, and for the many pregnancy resource centers serving these brave parents. Thank you to Oklahoma’s legislative leaders and to Gov. Stitt for supporting pro-life measures,” he added.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, said after signing H.B. 4327: “From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother. If other states want to pass different laws, that is their right, but in Oklahoma we will always stand up for life.”

The law makes exceptions for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman as well as for cases of rape or incest reported to law enforcement. 

The legislation also specifies that an act is not defined as an abortion if it is performed with the purpose of saving the life or preserve the health of an unborn child; removing the body of a dead unborn child after miscarriage; or removing an ectopic pregnancy.

Lila Rose, the head of pro-life group Live Action, applauded Stitt for signing “one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country.”

“As of tomorrow,” she tweeted Wednesday night, “every abortion facility in the great state of Oklahoma will be shut down. Thousands of children’s lives will be saved.”

The Oklahoma legislature sent the bill to the governor’s desk following a vote that fell generally along party lines on May 19.

Like the Texas abortion law, this legislation relies on enforcement by private citizens through civil lawsuits that can be brought against anyone who provides abortion or who helps a woman obtain one. 

The law forbids civil action against a pregnant woman seeking an abortion and by anyone who impregnated a woman seeking an abortion through rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by state law.

It does not apply to morning-after pills or emergency contraception.

The law comes as a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that justices are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. If that happens, abortion legislation could be left up to each individual state.

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability — the point at which a baby can survive outside the womb — which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability and directly challenges both Roe and Casey.

San Antonio Catholic Charities accepting donations to aid those affected by Texas shooting

Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. / Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio is offering financial, legal, and counseling services to people affected by the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The services, which became available May 25, are all being offered for free, according to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Anyone who is in need of these services should go to or contact Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde.

The Catholic Charities donation page says that “emergency financial assistance” will be provided for “family members who need to travel to Uvalde.” The page says that “all donations will go toward supporting these services.”

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio told CNA Wednesday that Catholic Charities is also planning to use any fundraising to “provide funds for all the funerals.” 

Catholic Charities is accepting donations for its Uvalde Relief fund “to support the many families and individuals affected by this tragedy.” They are also accepting prayer intentions.

In addition, the archdiocese says that a team of priests is available to serve those in need of assistance. 

A gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, located about 90 miles west of San Antonio, on Tuesday.

In his message announcing the Catholic Charities initiative, Garcia-Siller said that “There are no words to adequately convey the deep sadness, sorrow, and overwhelming shock of the incomprehensible loss of life of 19 children and two adults.” 

“We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable. They must know that we are with them and for them,” Garcia-Siller said. “May the Lord have mercy on us all.”

Garcia-Siller told CNA that multiple victims were parishioners at Sacred Heart. He also said that many that responded to the shooting are Mass-goers.

The shooting has shaken the country and the world and many have responded with grief and sorrow, including Pope Francis, who said that his heart is “broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas.” He added that “I am praying for the children and the adults killed and their families.”

The tragedy comes fewer than two weeks after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and another shooter killed one person and wounded five others on May 15 at a church in Laguna Woods, California.

The recent shootings have also reignited debates about gun control in the United States, with some U.S. bishops chiming in

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted May 25, "Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them."

The spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chieko Noguchi, said in a statement the day of the shooting that “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," she said, "and implore our elected officials to help us take action."