||100th anniversary of Fatima
A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd May 13 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Pope Francis will visit the shrine in a pilgrimage that will mark the anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917, when three shepherd children reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The pope, who accepted the invitation made by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the bishops of Portugal, "will go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima from May 12-13," the Vatican announced Dec. 17. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church. Following the announcement, Father Carlos Cabecinhas, rector of the Fatima shrine told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops' conference, that the visit was a "cause for joy" for the shrine. "For the shrine of Fatima, it is a great joy to receive this confirmation of Pope Francis' visit," he said.
Paulo Chunho/EPA, cns
Father Tolton's remains exhumed
Funeral director P.J. Staab and Father Christopher House, chancellor of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., place vestments on the remains of Father Augustus Tolton Dec. 10 as they are exhumed and verified at St. Peter Cemetery in Quincy, Ill. It was a further step in the canonization process for Father Tolton, a former slave, who is the first recognized American diocesan priest of African descent. In 2011, the Archdiocese of Chicago officially opened his cause for sainthood.
Karen Callaway/Catholic New World, cns
This image of Julia Greeley, a former slave who lived in Colorado, was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Denver by iconographer Vivian Imbruglia. During their fall general assembly Nov. 14-16 in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops in a voice vote approved Greeley's sainthood cause moving forward. Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila Dec. 18 formally opened the sainthood cause of Greeley, who spent her days caring for the poor. Born into slavery in Missouri in the 1840s, Greeley gained her freedom after the Civil War and worked as a nanny. She moved to Denver, where she was employed to care for the children of William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado. Known for her love of children and the poor, Greeley also was known for her piety, often passing out prayer card devotions to the Sacred Heart. She was a convert to Catholicism.
Vivian Imbruglia/Archdiocese of Denver, cns
WASHINGTON (CNS) — New York's Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan will take part in the upcoming presidential inauguration of Republican Donald Trump. "I am honored to have been asked to offer a reading from Scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration, and look forward to asking almighty God to inspire and guide our new president and to continue to bless our great nation," Cardinal Dolan said in an email to Catholic News Service. Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Jan. 20.
WASHINGTON - The Catholic Benefits Association, which is made up of Catholic employers nationwide, has come out against a federal regulation scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 that redefines "sex" for anti-discrimination purposes to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services requires that coverage in group health plans "include coverage for gender transition services, hormonal treatments, counseling and a host of surgeries that would remove or transforms the sexual organs of men or women transitioning to the other gender," said Martin Nussbaum, general counsel for the association, who called it an "extreme rule."
WASHINGTON — A new study showing the disparity of education levels among religious groups ranks Jews as the faith group with the most formal education and Muslims and Hindus with the least years of formal schooling. Christians are the second-highest educated religious group in the world, followed by the religiously unaffiliated and Buddhists, according to the global demographic study by the Pew Research Center, released Dec. 13. The report also showed differences in educational levels among religious groups in the same region. In sub-Saharan Africa, Christians tend to have higher average levels of education than Muslims — in part because of historical factors that include the work of missionaries. The study's findings do not match the U.S. picture where Muslims and Hindus are often better educated than the Christian majority. Ninety-six percent of Hindus and 54 percent of Muslims in the U.S. have college degrees, compared to 36 percent of Christians. The gaps in education in religious groups around the world are partly the result of where these groups live. For example, the majority of the world's Jews live in the United States and Israel — economically developed countries with high levels of education — while 98 percent of Hindu adults live in developing countries of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Cleveland bishop resigns
CLEVELAND — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland. He has headed the diocese since 2006. Bishop Lennon, who turns 70 in March, said during a news conference at diocesan offices Dec. 28 that he had developed vascular dementia, leading to his decision to submit his resignation for health reasons to the pope in November.
National Migration Week
WASHINGTON — "Creating a Culture of Encounter" is the theme of 2017's National Migration Week, an annual observance the U.S. Catholic bishops began over 25 years ago. Taking place Jan. 8-14, the week "is an excellent opportunity to highlight biblical tradition and our mission to welcome the newcomer," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.
WASHINGTON — At a Mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington expressed thanks to God for his vocation, and he encouraged Catholics to open their hearts to hearing and responding to God's call in their lives. At the Dec. 18 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Cardinal Wuerl said that just as the angel told Joseph in a dream not to be afraid, people today need to take that promise from God to heart.
Judge blocks transgender law
AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) — A federal judge in Texas Dec. 31 blocked a regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring Catholic hospitals and health care providers to perform or provide gender transition services, saying it would place "substantial pressure" on the plaintiffs — a coalition of religious medical organizations who said the ruling was contrary to their religious beliefs.
"Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies, which seem to be in direct conflict with the rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement," U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor wrote.
— Catholic News Service
Catholics in Congress: one-third of House, one-quarter of Senate
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 3. Ryan, who is Catholic, was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives earlier in the day.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS, cns
WASHINGTON — The religious makeup of the 115th Congress is significantly Christian — 91 percent — with Catholics comprising one-third of the House of Representatives and about a quarter of the Senate.
Overall, there are six fewer Christians in the new Congress, at 485 members. But there are four more Catholics, who now total 168.
The high percentage of Christians in Congress is similar to the 87th Congress in 1961, when such information was first collected. At the time, 95 percent of Congress members were Christian.
The data on the religious makeup of the current senators and representatives was collected by Pew Research Center and announced Jan. 3.
The Pew report notes that the large number of Christians in Congress has shifted in recent years with a decline in the number of Protestants. In 1961, Protestants made up 87 percent of Congress, compared with 56 percent today. Catholics, conversely, made up 19 percent of the 87th Congress, and now are 31 percent of the legislative body.
Looking at each party, two-thirds, or 67 percent, of Republicans in the new Congress are Protestant and 27 percent of Republicans are Catholic. The breakdown between Protestants and Catholics is more evenly divided among the Democrats: 42 percent are Protestant and 37 percent are Catholic.
Of the 293 Republicans in the new Congress, all but two, who are Jewish, are Christian. Democrats in Congress also are predominantly Christian — 80 percent — but they have more religious diversity among non-Christians.
The 242 Democrat Congress members include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist in addition to one religiously unaffiliated member and 10 who declined to state their religious affiliation.
Overall, the new Congress has seven fewer Protestants than the last Congress. Baptists had the biggest losses — down seven seats — followed by Anglicans and Episcopalians — down six seats.
Among non-Christian religious groups, Jews and Hindus had the biggest gains — an increase of two seats each. Jews now hold 30 seats in Congress. The number of Hindus rose from one to three and the number of Buddhists increased from two to three.
The number of Muslims in Congress — two — remained unchanged.
The new legislative group also has the smallest freshman class of any Congress in the past 10 years with 62 new members joining the 473 returnees. Of the new members, half are Protestant and roughly a third are Catholic.
The Pew report points out that some religious groups, including Protestants, Catholics and Jews, have greater representation in Congress than in the general population. Jews, for example, make up 2 percent of the U.S. adult population but account for 6 percent of Congress. Other groups — including Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims and Orthodox Christians — are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their numbers in the U.S. public.
Another significant finding is that the most notably underrepresented group in Congress is the religiously unaffiliated. This group — also known as religious "nones" — account for 23 percent of the general public but makes up just 0.2 percent of the 115th Congress.
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