Knights of Columbus creating Fr. Michael McGivney pilgrimage center

August 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus announced plans to create a new pilgrimage center for visitors to encounter the spirituality of the order’s founder, Fr. Michael McGivney, who is set to be beatified in October.

The Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center will be created at the current Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said the center will offer pilgrims the opportunity to learn more about the group’s founder.

“While the museum will continue to recount the Knights’ history, it will also broaden its mission by focusing more on the spirituality and charitable vision of our founder and his legacy. A visit to the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center will enhance the formative experience of a pilgrimage to Father McGivney’s tomb at St. Mary’s,” he said.

Anderson made the announcement of the new pilgrimage center on Tuesday, during the Knights of Columbus’ 138th annual Supreme Convention. It is the first annual convention to be held completely virtually, as ongoing limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic have restricted in-person gatherings.

McGivney’s beatification Mass will take place on October 31 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession in May. The miracle involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed in-utero of a life-threatening condition in 2015 after his family prayed to McGivney.

“For members of the Knights of Columbus and many others, the news of the beatification is a time of great joy and celebration. Father McGivney ministered to those on the margins of society in the 19th century, and his example has inspired millions of Knights to follow his example in their own parishes and communities,” said Anderson.

McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with nearly two million members in more than a dozen countries.

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney was ordained a priest in 1877. He served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven.

Amid an anti-Catholic climate, he established the Knights to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help for families that had lost their breadwinner.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared McGivney a Venerable Servant of God. He said McGivney was an “exemplary American priest” whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.

In a recent letter to the Knights, Pope Francis commended McGivney’s contributions to the world and Church. He said the priest’s service to the poor and vulnerable calls the Knights “to deepen their commitment to live as missionary disciples in charity, unity and fraternity.”

“His Holiness is grateful for these and for the many other countless ways in which the Knights of Columbus continue to bear prophetic witness to God’s dream for a more fraternal, just and equitable world in which all are recognized as neighbors and no one is left behind,” the pope said.

Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.



Togolese bishop, supportive of political reform, targeted by spyware

August 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Aug 5, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Researchers based at the University of Toronto announced Monday that Bishop Benoît Alowonou of Kpalimé was among six targets of spyware in Togo last year. The country’s bishops have supported political reform and denounced the government’s injustice.

The spyware, known as Pegasus and which targets WhatsApp users, was made by NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm. It gives its operator access to the target’s mobile device.

Since 2005, Faure Gnassingbé has been president of Togo. His father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, had ruled the country after a 1967 coup until his death in 2005.

Bishop Alowonou is president of the Togolese bishops’ conference, which in 2017 urged constitutional reform, and earlier this year decried the violent arrest of an opposition leader.

In May 2019 WhatsApp found that spyware from NSO Group could be injected on mobiles phones with a missed video call on the app. Some 1,400 of its users were targeted.

Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary lab based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said Aug. 3 that it “volunteered to assist WhatsApp to investigate the 2019 Incident as part of the Citizen Lab’s mandate to study digital threats against civil society.”

“During our investigation we identified multiple targets in Togo. These individuals were targeted between April and May, 2019 … We believe the infection attempts would have led to the infection of most targeted devices with NSO’s spyware,” Citizen Lab wrote.

In addition to Bishop Alowonou, Togolese targets of the spyware included Fr. Pierre Affognon, chaplain of the Association of Catholic Leaders of Togo; Elliott Ohin, a former government minister and an opposition leader; and Raymond Houndjo, a prominent member of the National Alliance for Change, an opposition party.

Fr. Affognon’s group had in late 2018 called for democratic reforms and organized protest marches that were barred by the government.

Bishop Alowonou told The Guardian that Pegasus’ use against dissidents in Togo is “dangerous for our freedoms and for democracy”, while Fr. Affognon said, “it’s a violation of the liberty of the citizens.”

According to Citizen Lab, the sole operator of Pegasus in Togo “appeared to be spying only in Togo,” and so it suspects it “was operated by an agency of the Togolese Government.”

Nevertheless, John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, told The Guardian that “Citizen Lab is not conclusively stating which government is responsible for this attack. But the fact that these individuals are all either opposition party members or otherwise critical of the government is troubling.”

In October 2019 WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in the US against NSO Group , claiming it enabled the Pegasus attacks on its 1,400 users.

Pegasus is marketed to governments for crime fighting, but according to Citizen Lab “there are over 130 cases in which NSO Group’s hacking technology has been used to conduct abusive surveillance against civil society around the globe,” including journalists and human rights advocates.

NSO Group dispute’s WhatsApp’s claims.

In an Oct. 29, 2019 statement, it said that “the sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists … We consider any other use of our products than to prevent serious crime and terrorism a misuse, which is contractually prohibited. We take action if we detect any misuse.”

There are allegations that Pegasus was used by Saudi officials to monitor Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Togo has seen political instability and widespread poverty in recent years. Protests in 2017 called for Gnassingbé’s resignation, and resulted in harsh crackdowns.

Gnassingbé won re-election for his fourth term in a February 2020 election, with more than 70% of the vote.

Opposition leaders asserted there was widespread fraud on the part of the authorities.

The Archbishop Emeritus of Lomé, Philippe Kpodzro, was briefly placed under house arrest in March for encouraging protests following the election.

In 2019 Gnassingbé secured constitutional changes to term limits that allow him to be able to remain in office until 2030.


Pope Francis prays for victims of ‘tragic’ Beirut explosion as death toll climbs

August 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:48 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked for prayers for Lebanon and for the victims of yesterday’s Beirut explosions, which have killed over a hundred people and caused serious destruction to the city.

Speaking after his general audience address on Wednesday, the pope noted the “massive explosions” which occurred near the port in Beirut Aug. 4.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,” he said via livestream from the Vatican.

The blast, which occurred at a warehouse at Beirut’s port, has killed at least 100 and injured thousands, flooding hospitals. The death toll is expected to climb further as emergency personnel search for an unknown number of people still missing in the rubble.

The explosion ignited fires and most of the city is without electricity. Sections of the city, including the popular waterfront area, were flattened in the blast. Crowded residential neighborhoods in eastern Beirut, which is predominately Christian, also sustained severe damage from the explosion, which was felt as far as 150 miles away in Cyprus.

Officials said it appears the explosion may have been caused when a fire detonated more than 2,700 tons of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a warehouse on the docks since 2014 after being confiscated from a cargo ship, the New York Times reports.

A Lebanese Catholic priest asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country after the blasts.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.



Loyola quiet on Flannery O’Connor residence hall controversy

August 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 02:55 am (CNA).- After controversy surrounding the removal of American Catholic author Flannery O’Connor’s name from a residence hall, Loyola University Maryland has not said whether it will reconsider its decision.

A petition asking the university to reverse the decision came in the form of a letter, written by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a former Loyola professor and a Flannery O’Connor scholar who is the associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University.

Signed by O’Donnell, as well as more than 80 other authors, scholars and leaders, the letter defended O’Connor’s work and asked the university to reconsider its decision. Among the signatories are Alice Walker, a Black author who grew up down the road from the O’Connor farm, and Bishop Robert Barron.

The letter was presented to Fr. Brian Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, on July 31.

“O’Connor believes in the Imago Dei, the fact that every human being is beloved of God and made in God’s image. Her stories champion the despised, the outcast, and the other, demonstrating their humanity, and call to account people who try to deny their God-given sacred nature,” the letter states. “Among the despised in her stories are African Americans, and the primary objects of her satire are most often racist whites.”

“It is no small thing to remove Flannery O’Connor from the pantheon of Catholic writers and intellectuals honored on your campus. We urge you to reconsider this decision,” the letter states.

According to Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic Review, Loyola “is undergoing a larger review of all the names of its buildings and a university committee advised [Linnane] on the renaming proposal” that called for the removal of O’Connor’s name.

When asked, a Loyola University Maryland spokesperson did not say whether the petition was being considered, or whether a different building on campus would be named for O’Connor in the future.

“Our president has received the petition. The residence hall has already been renamed for Sister Thea Bowman. I do not know what work will come out of the presidential renaming committee,” Rita Buettner, director of university communications for Loyola University Maryland, told CNA Aug. 4.

Attention was drawn to apparent racism in O’Connor’s personal writings by “How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?”, a piece that appeared in the New Yorker in June. There, Paul Elie wrote that “letters and postcards she sent home from the North in 1943 were made available to scholars only in 2014, and they show O’Connor as a bigoted young woman.”

O’Connor was a short story writer, novelist, and essayist, as well as a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass. She died of lupus in 1964, at the age of 39.

The residence hall that had borne the name of Flannery O’Connor for more than 10 years was renamed Thea Bowman Hall, after Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister and civil rights activist whose cause for canonization is being considered.

Linnane told the Catholic Review that the decision was made in light of student concerns over some of racist comments written by O’Connor in her personal correspondence.

“A residence hall is supposed to be the students’ home,” Linnane said. “If some of the students who live in that building find it to be unwelcoming and unsettling, that has to be taken seriously.”

Linnane added that this did not mean that the school had banned the study of O’Connor’s work, and that the study of her works would still be assigned by professors if they so choose.