Deacon Ed Jayme of St. Ignatius Church dies at 75

Deacon Jayme

Deacon Roberto “Ed” Edgardo Solidarios Jayme of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Nashville died on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. He was 75.

“He did everything” at St. Ignatius, said the church’s pastor, Father Titus Augustine. Deacon Jayme served as the coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program at St. Ignatius, and was a member of the Parish Council and a counselor for parishioners, Father Augustine said.

“He touched many lives,” Father Augustine said. “He was a holy man, a wonderful father, husband, deacon, friend.”

Visitation will be at St. Ignatius 9:30-11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 11, and the praying of the Rosary will follow.

The funeral Mass will be celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding at 11:30 a.m. with burial at Calvary Cemetery.

Deacon Jayme was born to the late Antonio Jayme III and Ana Solidarios in Bacolod City, Philippines, on May 31, 1945. He and his 10 siblings were immersed in a strong Christian Catholic faith at an early age, and from then on, he dedicated his life to serving God and the community.

Throughout his life, Deacon Jayme was a teacher, mentor, coach and counselor. He was a teacher and principal at La Salle Green Hills School in Manila and also coached the soccer and volleyball teams there, where he formed unforgettable and long-lasting friendships with his students and their parents.

He received his master’s degree in religious education from La Salle University in Philadelphia.

He joined the staff of the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Ministry Formation in 1994 and worked there until 2003. He also worked at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville from 2003-2004 and at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Lebanon, where he was the director of religious education, from 2004-2005.

He was ordained as a permanent deacon in 2006 and was assigned to St. Edward Church in Nashville. He later was assigned to St. Ignatius.

Deacon Jayme also worked as a counselor at Behavioral Health Group for more than 10 years, caring for those struggling with substance abuse.

He married his wife Jee Yago on July 28, 1990, and was always proud of his only daughter, Marie. Deacon Jayme “filled the household with patience, love, support, hard work, and kindness,” recalled his family. “He enjoyed traveling around the world, vacations to the beach, photography, playing soccer, and cheering on the Tennessee Titans on Sundays after Mass.”

Deacon Jayme “was also very creative. He brought so much color to our lives with his craft and his friendly smile,” said his family. “Ed was a true follower and messenger of Christ. He is loved and dearly missed by all, who celebrate his union with the Lord.”

Survivors include his wife, Jee; daughter Marie; son-in-law Alex; brothers Antonio IV, Adolfo and Jerome; and his sisters Melinda, Janet, Mabel and Emilia. He is preceded in death by his sister, Mary Ann; his brothers Nelson and Daniel; and his parents.

Memorial contributions can be made to the family for a scholarship fund in his honor for students in the Philippines.

Brentwood-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Virus halts Guadalupe processions, but not other ways to safely celebrate feast

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles pays tribute to a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the 89th procession and Mass 
Dec. 6, 2020, at the Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles honoring
St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is Dec. 12.
CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus

HOUSTON (CNS) — In what would have been its 48th anniversary, the huge procession of drummers and dancers swirling through downtown Houston in honor of the Dec. 12 feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been canceled because of the pandemic, organizers said.

But individual churches will continue their local celebrations with matachines, who are parishioners performing dances dressed in indigenous costumes, said Priscella Marquez, president of the Asociacion Guadalupana.

Rosaries and early morning Masses practicing social distancing and mask-wearing will begin the celebrations. Afterward, participants can feast on tamales and other food, she told the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Marquez, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Harrisburg, said: “We will be performing and singing from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. Then Mass at 6 a.m. and afterward food booths will be available to purchase to go.”

As many churches do, the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be decorated and dozens of flowers, mostly roses, will be given out of respect and love, she said.

The event is expected to last throughout the day so people can visit as their schedules allow.

One event that was not canceled was the Guadalupe Torch Relay, which began in Mexico City, carrying an official image of Our Lady of Guadalupe starting from its official shrine all the way to New York. It is accompanied by a lit torch carried the whole way by runners similar to the Olympic torch.

The relay made a stop in Houston’s Holy Ghost Catholic Church Oct. 30 before moving on to Beaumont and points north, said Holy Ghost pastor Father Bill Bueche.

Following COVID-19 protocols, parishioners remained in their cars during a 7 p.m. outdoor Mass that evening and afterward were able to drive by the image and receive a holy card touched to the picture, Father Bueche said.

When informing his parishioners, he said, “Our Blessed Mother is making a special visit once again! Please make plans to come and greet her. Bring your needs and petitions. Bring your thanks and gratitude. Bring your love and devotion!”

Holy Ghost has one of the largest group of local folk dancers of all ages, some wearing elaborate feathered headpieces and traditional Aztec-style dress. They stomp to drumbeats and blowing conch shells.

After the downtown procession would arrive at the George R. Brown Convention Center each year, they would gather for a noon Mass celebrated at noon with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and other priests.

A similarly robust celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day — with a procession that normally draws 40,000 people — also has been canceled in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

But the faithful throughout the archdiocese continue to participate in nine days of virtual prayer and reflection leading up to Dec. 12.

On Dec. 6, they united in prayer and hope for a virtual procession and Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego. It was livestreamed via the archdiocese’s Facebook page so families could honor “La Morenita” safely from home amid increased COVID-19-related public safety measures.

“Today, we ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for those who are sick, for the dying, for the ones that have lost their life and their families, for all those whose lives have been hurt and disrupted,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez during his bilingual homily. “We ask especially ask her intercession to bring us deliverance from this plague of the coronavirus.”

The celebration, themed “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of Healing and Hope,” is the oldest religious procession in Los Angeles. It was established in 1931 by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero War. The theme reflects on the importance of the presence of Mary in our lives, especially during these challenging times.

“In this Advent, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is still praying for us, still bringing her Son to us. So let Jesus come again — into our hearts, into our world,” the archbishop said in his homily. “Let him enter into your lives. Share your burdens and joys with him. Feel his love, listen for his voice.”

The celebration began with a mile-long car procession by members of the Guadalupano groups representing more than 30 parishes that participate annually in the procession and Mass. The cars were decorated by individual households with flowers, images and messages honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego commemorating their feast days.

The procession of cars began at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel and ended at Mission San Gabriel. A special outdoor Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Gomez in the mission’s parking lot to accommodate for social distancing.

All this tradition honors the time starting Dec. 9, 1531, on a hill near a rural village just outside Mexico City, when Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a humble peasant on his way to Mass to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

His native name in Nahuatl was Cuauhtlatoazin (“one who speaks like an eagle”) and in Spanish was named Juan Diego, now a saint canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 2002.

Surrounded by light and speaking in his indigenous tongue of Nahuatl, Mary told Juan Diego that she wanted a church built to manifest the love of Jesus and hear the petitions of the faithful. At her request, he approached Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who doubted the story.

After Juan Diego saw Mary again Dec. 12, she arranged roses within his cloak and told him this would be the sign that he should present to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened the cloak, or tilma, to show the flowers, the bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The name Guadalupe is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl word Coatlaxopeuh, meaning “the one who crushes the serpent.”

The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which displays St. Juan Diego’s cloak, has become one of the world’s most-visited Catholic sites, second only to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Gene Gillespie joins Catholic Charities as Director of Development

Gillespie

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville, which has experienced significant growth in 2020, is pleased to announce that Gene Gillespie will join the organization as Director of Development.

Gillespie, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood and deeply tied to the Catholic community in Middle Tennessee, brings more than four decades of sales and entrepreneurial experience to Catholic Charities, the social service arm of the Diocese of Nashville.

His primary responsibility will be developing major donors to support the many programs and services of Catholic Charities as the organization nears its 60th anniversary in 2022.

“Gene possesses the many skills needed to elevate Catholic Charities’ development to new heights,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy K. Orr. “In addition to utilizing his sales acumen, I look forward to tapping into his expertise as an entrepreneurial and growth-focused executive in many industries.”

Gillespie was most recently the head of ECG Management Consulting where he helped global entrepreneurial brands with strategic planning, operations, capitalization and marketing. He has held top executive and sales positions with Communispace Corp., Catalina Marketing Corp., Indoor Media Group, Ernest & Julio Gallo, and Procter & Gamble.

“2020 has been a monumental year for Catholic Charities when looking at how much the organization has accomplished serving our neighbors most in need,” Gillespie said. “I am thrilled to join this leadership team and help the organization find new ways and additional partners to expand its mission to serve even more people.”

He currently serves as a Parish Council member for Holy Family and as Marketing Committee chair for Bounty and Soul Homeless Shelter in Asheville, North Carolina. Before moving to Nashville in 2019, Gene was stewardship chairman and a parish council member at Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.

Gillespie is on the Advisory Council Board for the Department of Communication at his alma mater, the University of Missouri, and serves on the ExecRanks Board of Directors.

Catholic Charities, founded in 1962, serves people of every religious, ethnic, cultural, and racial background in 38 Middle Tennessee counties that comprise the Diocese of Nashville. Assisting more than 12,000 people per year, Catholic Charities provides a range of services that help clients through crises and toward self-sufficiency. Services include emergency financial assistance, counseling, job training, housing stability, hunger relief, and more.

Pope proclaims year dedicated to St. Joseph

A statue of St. Joseph is seen at St. Mary Josefa Parish in Rome Feb. 19, 2017. In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus.
CNS photo/Paul Haring

VATICAN CITY. Marking the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal Church, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.

In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), the pope said Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”

“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all,” he said.

“I was excited and pleased to hear about the pope’s announcement of a year to celebrate St. Joseph, both on a personal level and because St. Joseph is a patron saint of the Diocese of Nashville, along with Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding.

St. Joseph is a personal patron saint of the bishop as well. He noted that his initial “J” stands for Joseph.

“St. Joseph’s willingness to accept his role in God’s plan for our salvation is a wonderful example for every Catholic,” he added.

As Mary’s husband and guardian of the son of God, St. Joseph turned “his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home,” Pope Francis said.

Despite being troubled at first by Mary’s pregnancy, he added, St. Joseph was obedient to God’s will “regardless of the hardship involved.”

“In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat,’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” the pope said. “All this makes it clear that St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood and that, in this way, he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.”

St. Joseph’s unconditional acceptance of Mary and his decision to protect her “good name, her dignity and her life” also serves as an example for men today, the pope added.

“Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence toward women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man,” he wrote.

Pope Francis also highlighted St. Joseph’s “creative courage,” not only in finding a stable and making it a “welcoming home for the son of God (who came) into the world,” but also in protecting Christ from the threat posed by King Herod.

“The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today, too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider St. Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty,” the pope said.

As a carpenter who earned “an honest living to provide for his family,” Christ’s earthly guardian is also an example for both workers and those seeking employment and the right to a life of dignity for themselves and their families.

“In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which St. Joseph is an exemplary patron,” he said.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with matters of conscience, also issued a decree Dec. 8 stating that plenary indulgences will be granted to Catholics not only through prayer and penance, but also through acts of justice, charity and piety dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.

Among the conditions for receiving an indulgence are a spirit detached from sin, receiving sacramental confession as soon as possible, receiving Communion as soon as possible and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.

However, the decree also highlighted several ways to obtain the indulgence throughout the year, including to those who “meditate on the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ for at least 30 minutes or take part in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.”

As a “just man,” the document continued, who guarded “the intimate secret that lies at the bottom of the heart and soul,” St. Joseph practiced the virtue of justice in “full adherence to the divine law, which is the law of mercy.”

“Therefore, those who, following the example of St. Joseph, will perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will also be able to obtain the gift of the plenary indulgence,” it said.

Indulgences will also be granted to families and engaged couples who recite the rosary together and thus imitate the “same climate of communion, love and prayer lived in the Holy Family.”

Other acts of devotion include entrusting one’s daily activities and prayers for dignified employment to St. Joseph, reciting the litany or any “legitimately approved” prayer to St. Joseph.

During this time of pandemic, the Apostolic Penitentiary also decreed that special indulgences will be granted to the elderly, the sick and all those who “for legitimate reasons are prevented from leaving their home” by “reciting an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph and committed to fulfilling the conditions as soon as possible.”

Andy Telli of the Tennessee Register contributed to this report.

David Glascoe finds rewards in diverse opportunities to serve others

David Glascoe will retire at the end of December 2020 after working for the Diocese of Nashville for more than 40 years. His last role is as chief executive officer of Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living Facility. He also oversees Villa Maria Manor and other diocesan corporations. Photo by Andy Telli

David Glascoe followed his drive to serve others to the Diocese of Nashville. After more than 40 years of serving refugees, working families, and the elderly, he will retire at the end of December.

“I was always drawn to the helping professions,” said Glascoe, who is the chief executive officer of Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living Facility. “I felt like I would find my way to helping make the world a better place. But I had no idea I would be drawn into the management side of it.”

Throughout his career with the diocese, Glascoe has held a variety of administrative positions, including running the diocesan refugee resettlement program, the St. Mary Villa Child Development Center, Villa Maria Manor, the St. Henry Property Development Corporation, and Mary, Queen of Angels. 

“I initially thought (the passion to serve others) would lead me to help one person at a time. As time went on it became clear that what gifts I had should be used to manage on a larger scale and help a larger group of people at the same time,” Glascoe said.

“It’s clear that you’re given gifts. You’ve got to be able to discern what those gifts are. Mine were managing and … making things work for people,” Glascoe said. “I realized I had a knack for it, and that this was the way I was to make a contribution. And I’ve enjoyed that.”

“Special thanks go to David for his leadership and grace, insight and wisdom throughout his years of servant leadership to the diocese,” Brian Cooper, the chancellor and chief operating officer of the diocese, said in a letter announcing Glascoe’s retirement and the hiring of Richard Borofski as the new chief executive officer of Mary, Queen of Angels and Villa Maria Manor.

A passion for helping

Glascoe grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it was there that he first developed an interest in serving others.

“It came from an experience I had in high school,” Glascoe said. “I did volunteer work and eventually worked in the summer in a facility that really doesn’t exist anymore, a residential treatment facility for people with developmental delays and mental illnesses.”

“That made it clear to me that by hook or by crook I had a passion for helping people,” he added.

After graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in philosophy, Glascoe came to Nashville where he earned a master’s degree in educational psychology at Vanderbilt University.

He worked for a short time with the Tennessee Department of Corrections when a position with the diocese’s refugee resettlement program became open in 1980.

“I was very interested in the plight of Southeast Asian refugees,” who at the time made up the bulk of the refugees the program was helping to resettle, Glascoe said. “This opportunity came my way, so I was attracted to do that.”

Early in that job, Glascoe split his time between some management responsibilities and being directly involved in resettling refugees. But after a year or so, he was named the director of the program.

“Rarely have I had just one job working for the diocese,” Glascoe said. 

After about five years running the refugee resettlement program, he took on the responsibility of managing St. Mary Villa, the diocese’s childcare program. “I did both for a while, then we had the change to expand that program,” Glascoe said.

“We were able to grow that agency quite a bit,” Glascoe said, and with the growth of the child care program, he gave up responsibility for refugee resettlement. He ran St. Mary Villa from 1986 to 1998.

About 1990, he started managing Villa Maria Manor, which provides affordable independent living for the elderly through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 housing program. 

In 1995, Glascoe added to his duties managing the St. Henry Property Development Corporation, which had earlier developed the Cloisters condominiums and the West Meade Place nursing home behind St. Henry Church on Harding Road in Nashville. The corporation does not operate West Meade Place but only serves as a landlord, Glascoe explained.

In 1998, “since I still had the Manor responsibility and St. Henry Property responsibility, I left my responsibility with childcare so I could concentrate my time on senior living in the diocese,” Glascoe said. 

A need for assisted living care

It was through his involvement with senior living programs that “I imagined this thing called Mary, Queen of Angels,” Glascoe said. “It became clear the community needed an affordable option for assisted living care,” which provides more services than independent living facilities like Villa Maria Manor. but a lower level of care than a nursing home, he said.

“We talked to Bishop (Edward) Kmiec about that for several years,” Glascoe said of the former Bishop of Nashville, who eventually gave the go-ahead for the project, which opened on White Bridge Road in 2001.

“We were able to develop the property without taking on a lot of debt,” Glascoe said, in large part because the diocese already owned the land. The savings from a smaller debt in building the facility has been passed along to the residents in the form of lower rents and a modified sliding fee model, he explained. 

“Some pay the market rate and some pay half the market rate,” Glascoe said of the residents at the facility. “It all depends on their ability to pay.”

Villa Maria Manor, with 214 apartments, and Mary, Queen of Angels, with 98 apartments, “have both been very successful,” Glascoe said. But the past 10 months have been among the most challenging in his career as both facilities have worked hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep safe their residents, who are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

“We established very rigorous safety protocols,” Glascoe said, and administered significant restrictions on people moving in and out of the building. That has included restricting the activities of residents and visits from their families, Glascoe said.

“We’ve tried to maintain a connection between residents and families using technology and outdoor visitations,” Glascoe said. “It’s hard on them, it’s hard on their families, and frankly it’s hard on the people charged with their care. … It’s a tough deal right now.”

‘A wonderful opportunity’

Besides his official duties, Glascoe has served the diocese in other ways as well. He’s on the board of trustees for Father Ryan High School and is a former board member of St. Bernard Academy.

“I’m a total believer in Catholic education,” said Glascoe, whose son Austin graduated from St. Bernard and Father Ryan and daughter Olivia graduated from St. Bernard and St. Cecilia Academy. “I try to be an advocate of Catholic education. … We feel those experiences have been wonderful for our kids.”

Glascoe has also served on the diocese Finance Board and Properties Board, among his other activities.

He has no big plans for his retirement. “I want to take some time for myself, take some time to decompress a little bit,” Glascoe said. “I’ll continue to volunteer on the boards that I serve. Three or six months from now we’ll take another look at where we are.”

He does hope he and his wife, Tracy, who are parishioners at St. Henry Church in Nashville, will be able to travel more after he is retired. “I want to spend more time with my kids, neither of whom live in Nashville.”

“I haven’t had a lot of extra time in the last 10 months to think about it,” Glascoe said. “We’ve been laser focused on keeping people safe.”

The 40 years Glascoe has worked for the diocese has given him a wide variety of opportunities to serve, he said. “Every opportunity to serve whether it was refugees, working families or seniors have brought their own special rewards. I feel good about all of them.”

“I’ve been privileged to work with the professionals I’ve been fortunate to work with,” he said. “They are really the ones who deserve the credit wherever there is credit.”

“I’ve found working for the diocese has provided me diverse and interesting opportunities to serve people. I’m grateful for that,” Glascoe said. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to serve in different ways.”

Say ‘no’ to sin, ‘yes’ to grace, pope says on Immaculate Conception feast

A firefighter gestures as he places a wreath on a tall Marian statue overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, 2020, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis prayed at the statue shortly before the Rome firefighters’ traditional early morning event in honor of the Immaculate Conception. CNS photo/Paul Haring

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Mary’s Immaculate Conception offers a glimpse to the promised life for all Christians who open their hearts to God and his grace, Pope Francis said.

Addressing pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, the pope said the grace “to be totally free from sin” is a gift from God and the “fullness of holiness” given to Mary from the beginning.

“And what Mary had from the beginning will be ours in the end, after we have passed through the purifying ‘bath’ of God’s grace. What opens the gates of paradise to us is God’s grace, received by us with faithfulness,” he said.

In the early morning, the pope visited the Spanish Steps privately to pay homage to the Immaculate Conception at a Marian statue atop a tall column. Customarily, the pope, accompanied by hundreds of people, would pray before the statue every year.

However, the Vatican announced Nov. 30 that the pope would “make an act of private devotion” due to the coronavirus pandemic and avoid the risk of infection that would be caused by a large gathering.

The pope prayed silently before the famed statue, which was erected in 1857 to commemorate Pope Pius IX’s declaration three years earlier of the dogma that Mary was conceived without sin. After he departed, Rome firefighters used a truck and tall ladder to hang a ring of flowers and a rosary from the statue’s outstretched arm.

In a statement released Dec. 8, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that after leaving the Spanish Steps, the pope visited in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (“health of the Roman people”) and celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Nativity.

After praying the Angelus prayer, the pope said that although the public could not be present for the laying of flowers at the statue of Mary, it “does not impede us from offering our mother the flowers that please her most: prayer, penance and a heart open to grace.”

In his main talk, the pope reflected on the Marian feast day that “celebrates one of the wonders of the story of salvation.”

“Even she was saved by Christ, but in an extraordinary way,” the pope said, because God wanted the mother of his son to “not be touched by the misery of sin from the moment of her conception.” 

The pope said Christians must remember that to pass “through the narrow door” that leads to paradise, they must first be mindful of their faults and open their hearts to God.

“Do you know who is the first person we are sure entered paradise? Do you know who? A ‘ruffian;’ one of the two who was crucified with Jesus,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, God’s grace is offered to everyone; and many who are the least on this earth will be the first in heaven.”

He warned the faithful not to take advantage of the Lord’s patience by continually postponing “a serious evaluation of one’s own life” and thus, be unable to obtain God’s grace.

“We may be able to deceive people, but not God,” the pope said. “He knows our hearts better than we ourselves do. Let us take advantage of the present moment!”

Pope Francis urged the faithful to “seize the day” by saying “‘no’ to evil and ‘yes’ to God” and “to once and for all stop thinking of ourselves, dragging ourselves into hypocrisy and to face our own reality as we are.”

“And this, for us, is the path for becoming ‘holy and immaculate,'” the pope said. “The uncontaminated beauty of our mother is incomparable, but at the same time it attracts us. Let us entrust ourselves to her and say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to grace once and for all.”

Pope plans to visit Iraq in March

Pope Francis greets Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Vatican Jan. 25, 2020. The Vatican has confirmed Pope Francis will visit Iraq March 5-8. CNS photo/Vatican Media

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Barring any obstacles caused by the global pandemic, Pope Francis is set to begin international travel again in 2021 by visiting Iraq in March, which would make him the first pope to visit this nation.

“Pope Francis, accepting the invitation of the Republic of Iraq and of the local Catholic Church,” will visit Iraq March 5-8, said Matteo Bruni, head of the Vatican press office.

“He will visit Baghdad, the plain of Ur, linked to the memory of Abraham, the city of Irbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Ninevah,” Bruni wrote Dec. 7.

Details about the trip “will be made known in due course and will take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency,” he added.

It would be the pope’s first international trip since his journey to Thailand and Japan in November 2019.

From Baghdad, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, told Catholic News Service that news of the papal visit was a “huge hope.”

“We are so thirsty for hope,” he said of the Iraqi people.

“People are suffering, dying, because of conflicts and also because of the pandemic. So this visit is a big source of joy for all the population of this region,” Cardinal Sako said.

In a June 2019 meeting with a Vatican coalition of funding agencies, known by its Italian acronym ROACO, the pope told them he had hoped to go to Iraq in 2020.

The pope met with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Vatican Jan. 25, 2020.

According to the Vatican, the private talks between the president and the pope, and a separate meeting with other top Vatican officials, underlined the need for promoting stability, reconstruction, national sovereignty and dialogue in the country as well as guaranteeing security for Christians.

Cardinal Sako told CNS he hopes Pope Francis will address “tolerance, human solidarity, to respect each other, to respect life” and that “wars and conflicts are not the answer.”

“If there are problems, we should go through dialogue. Not with weapons.”

He said he expects the visit to give Christians “a big support” to stay in their homeland and “to persevere, to hope and not to leave.”

“We have a vocation and also we have a mission” in Iraq, he said. “We have many problems, but our fathers (ancestors) had the same problems. Still, they resisted and they continued to witness the values of the Gospel.”

He said the church would work with the Iraqi government and a committee of churches to coordinate the visit. They are preparing a theme related to the evangelical verse, “You are brothers.”

“That means we are all brothers. We belong to the same family. We have to live together,” Cardinal Sako stressed, in reference to Christians and Muslims.

Cardinal Sako noted that in visiting the biblical site of Ur, the pontiff is likely to stress a message that “Abraham is the father of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and that we should all live together in peace and harmony.”

Regarding the announcement of a visit to Iraq following the pope’s curtailed travels due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cardinal Sako said, “This is very courageous.” But the cardinal expressed his trust that God will protect the pope.

“He doesn’t belong to himself, he belongs to the church. Also, he belongs to God, and God will take care of him,” the cardinal said.

There were at least 1.4 million Christians estimated to have been living in Iraq before the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion in 2003.

With the ensuing chaos and violence of war, then the occupation and violence of Islamic State forces in the Ninevah plain, it is estimated there are less than 400,000 Christians in the country, according to Vatican News Dec. 7.

There are some 1.7 million people displaced within Iraq, and UNICEF estimates more than 4 million people — half of them children — need humanitarian assistance.

Pro-life physician-led groups weigh in on development of COVID-19 vaccines

A dose of the COVID-19 vaccination made by Pfizer and BioNTech is administered in this undated handout photo. CNS photo/BioNTech SE 2020 handout via Reuters

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Medical Association and three other physician-led organizations said Dec. 2 the “expeditious availability of effective vaccines” to fight COVID-19 is laudable.

However, they called for “assurances of safety, efficacy and a full commitment to uncompromised ethical development” of vaccines by pharmaceutical companies. The four groups expressed concern about the use of “abortion-derived fetal cells” in the development of some vaccines.

The statement was issued by the Catholic Medical Association, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

The statement follows recent announcements by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, and by Moderna that their respective COVID-19 vaccines are 95% and 94.5% effective against the disease. The vaccines — which are both administered in two shots — are in production but the companies are waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the data and issue a hoped-for emergency use authorization so the vaccines can be widely distributed.

The four physician-led organizations acknowledged in their statement that while “it is true that the animal-phase testing for these vaccines used abortion-derived fetal cells, commendably, it does not appear that production methods utilized such cells,” they said.

Shortly after the Pfizer and Moderna announcements Nov. 11 and Nov. 16, respectively, critics claimed the vaccines have been produced using cells from aborted fetuses, leading to confusion over “the moral permissibility” of using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

But several Catholic leaders, including the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine and pro-life committees and an official at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, have said it is not immoral to be vaccinated with them because any connection they have to aborted fetus cell lines is extremely remote. Such cells were used only in a testing phase but not in the production phase.

In the case of AstraZeneca and Oxford University, they are working together to produce a COVID-19 vaccine that is sourced from cell lines that were originally abortion-derived, according to the Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization based in the U.S., which studied a range of vaccines under development.

“Fortunately, there are alternatives that do not violate this basic ethical and moral standard,” said the Catholic Medical Association and the other physician-led groups in their joint statement.

They noted that over the past several decades, many of the more than 50 approved viral vaccines “have not utilized abortion-derived fetal cell lines for their production,” but have been developed with viruses “grown in the laboratory and harvested, then weakened or inactivated to serve as a safe vaccine.”

Others such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute use umbilical-cord and adult stem cells. “These and other ethical approaches provide encouragement for the future, where no vaccine will violate the dignity of human life in their production,” the groups said.

“It is profoundly important to recognize the vaccines that may have been developed with the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines,” the physician-led groups said in their Dec. 2 statement. “This awareness is necessary from the perspective of both the health care professional and the patient, and every participant in this process deserves to know the source of the vaccine used to allow them to follow their moral conscience.”

In a Nov. 21 statement, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad said CHA ethicists, “in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists,” have found “nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.”

She said they made this determination using the guidelines released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017 on the origin of vaccines.

CHA encouraged Catholic health organizations “to distribute the vaccines developed by these companies.”

In a Nov. 23 memo to their brother bishops, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, addressed the moral suitability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Neither one, they said, “involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production. They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.

“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” they continued. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines, then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”

Like Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann, John Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said a recent interview on the “Current News” show on NET TV, the cable channel of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not themselves produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue.

On Dec. 3, the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said it “affirms” the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines “are morally acceptable.” It said it is committed to working closely with Catholic health care ministries and Catholic Charities as well as local government and other entities to promote and encourage people get vaccinated and to “advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations to ensure that they have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

The conference also said it would “provide regular and accurate information to parishioners and the community in support of morally acceptable, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

Nations must work together to address pandemic’s challenges, cardinal says

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is pictured in a screenshot from video addressing a special session of U.N. General Assembly on COVID-19 response. CNS screenshot/YouTube

VATICAN CITY. The world must respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with greater attention to the poor and vulnerable and with increased cooperation for fairly distributing ethical vaccines, the Vatican’s secretary of state told the U.N. General Assembly Dec. 3.

“The challenges of this crisis must be met with a spirit of co-responsibility and with the contribution of everyone,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in a pre-recorded video message for a special session of the U.N.

Presidents, prime ministers and other top government leaders representing 141 nations contributed via video to the general debate Dec. 3. The assembly began by observing a minute of silence for all victims of the pandemic. More than 1.5 million lives are estimated to have been lost to COVID-19.

In his remarks, Cardinal Parolin said that in facing this “worldwide challenge, the United Nations must live up to the hope that peoples have placed in it.”

“No state is able to resolve the pandemic on its own.”

One area requiring global solidarity, he said, is in seeking to guarantee “that proper medical care and effective vaccines – free from ethical concerns – are affordable and promptly available in sufficient quantities” for everyone, including those in developing countries.

Another key concern that must be part of the world’s response to the pandemic is giving greater priority to the poor, the ill, migrants, children and other vulnerable people, the cardinal said, especially because the pandemic has only made social problems worse and those on the margins are bearing the brunt of the crisis.

The cardinal listed many chronic problems that risk worsening because of the pandemic: hunger, abuse, exploitation, child marriage and heightened poverty and isolation for the elderly and people with disabilities. Children and young people are a priority with so many schools closed, he said.

“COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. It threatens safe resettlement pathways and the health security of those in overcrowded and underresourced camps,” he added.

Cardinal Parolin said the pandemic has offered an opportunity to recreate the economy.

“It is high time for the international community to reject an economic model based primarily or exclusively on profits and on the assumption that workers are exploitable or disposable means to that end.”

“Is this not the opportune time to reconsider seriously whether funds spent on the stockpiling and modernization of weapons would not be more wisely invested in the advancement of integral human development?” he asked.

The second and last day of the U.N. special session Dec. 4 was to feature online panel discussions focusing on the U.N.’s health and humanitarian response to the pandemic, issues surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine, the socio-economic impact of the crisis and potential roads to recovery.