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Tennessee governor signs law allowing potential officiants to refuse to solemnize a marriage (Religion Clause)

Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee signed legislation that stating that wedding officiants, such as civil officials and clergy, “shall not be required to solemnize a marriage.”

The legislation, criticized by an LGBT advocacy organization, passed the state house (74-22) and senate (27-5) by wide margins.

In 2015, Kim Davis, a county clerk in neighboring Kentucky, was jailed after she declined to sign marriage licenses for homosexual couples.

Pontiff, Curial officials conclude retreat (Vatican Press Office)

On February 23, Pope Francis and officials of the Roman Curia concluded their five-day spiritual retreats, made individually rather than collectively this year.

As is customary, the Pope held no audiences during his retreat.

Theme of 1st Lenten sermon to Curia: 'I am the bread of life' (Cantalamessa.org)

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, the preacher of the papal household since 1980, preached on Christ’s words, “I am the bread of life,” in his first Lenten sermon to the Roman Curia.

The overarching theme of Cardinal Cantalamessa’s 2024 Lenten sermons is “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). In each Friday sermon, the prelate will preach on a different “I am” statement made by Christ.

Cardinal Cantalamessa customarily preaches sermons to the Pope and members of the Roman Curia on Fridays during Advent and Lent, as well as the Good Friday homily in St. Peter’s Basilica. On Friday of the First Week of Lent in 2020, however, Father Marko Rupnik substituted for Cantalamessa, even though judges in a canonical proceeding, just two months earlier, had unanimously found Rupnik guilty of absolving an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment.

Pope cancels meeting with Rome's deacons due to mild flu, Vatican says (AP)

Pope Francis canceled a scheduled February 24 meeting with the transitional deacons of the Diocese of Rome.

The Vatican press office said that the Pope was suffering from a “mild flu.”

The press office published the full text of the address the Pope had planned to give and said that the address is “to be considered as delivered.”

In his address, the Pope reflected on “three essential elements in the ministry” of deacons: “first of all being faithful fellow workers, then being in the service of the people of God, and finally being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

Angelus address: 'Never direct your eyes away from the light of Jesus' (Vatican Press Office)

A day after canceling an audience for health reasons, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address on February 25 to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Reflecting on Mark 9:2-10, the Gospel reading of the day, the Pope emphasized, “This is today’s message: never direct your eyes away from the light of Jesus.”

“So let us ask ourselves: do I keep my eyes fixed on Christ who accompanies me?” he said. “And in order to do so, do I make space for silence, prayer, adoration? Finally, do I seek out every little ray of Jesus’ light, which is reflected in me and in every brother and sister I encounter? And do I remember to thank him for this?”

“May Mary, who shines with the light of God, help us to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus and to look at each other with trust and love,” the Pope concluded.

India's bishops urge voters to keep country secular (National Catholic Reporter)

As voters in India, the world’s most populous nation, prepare for the 2024 general election, the nation’s bishops warned of “unprecedented religious polarization which is harming the cherished social harmony in our country and endangering democracy itself.”

Narendra Modi, head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been prime minister since 2014.

“Divisive attitudes, hate speeches, and fundamentalist movements are eroding the pluralistic, secular ethos” of India, the bishops warned, as they declared March 22 to be a day of prayer and fasting for “peace and harmony in our country.”

Papal prayer for Valencia fire victims (Vatican News)

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, has sent a telegram of condolence in the Pontiff’s name to Archbishop Enrique Benavent Vidal of Valencia, Spain, following a deadly fire there.

“While commending the souls of the deceased to divine mercy,” the Pope assures “the people of Valencia and all the families of those affected of his spiritual closeness, and prays to the Lord to give them strength in this moment of pain,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

More than 1,000 children take part in Via Crucis for peace in Jerusalem (Custody of the Holy Land)

More than 1,000 children who attend Christian schools in Jerusalem took part in a Via Crucis [Way of the Cross] for peace in Gaza. The Franciscan Custos (Holy Land provincial), Father Francesco Patton, and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, also took part in the procession.

“We trod on the same stones that Jesus trod on 2,000 years ago as he carried the cross and went up to Calvary,” said Father Patton. “We did it to invoke the end of the war and the gift of reconciliation and peace.”

“These children and young people,” added Ibrahim Faltas, the vicar of the Custos, “are here to pray for all their brothers and sisters who are in Gaza and who are suffering, and imploring that this terrible war ends.”

Malawi president's leadership has failed, bishops say (BBC)

The bishops of Malawi have issued “The Sad Story of Malawi,” a 16-page pastoral letter denouncing nepotism, corruption, and other failures under the leadership of President Lazarus Chakwera.

Chakwera is the former national leader of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination.

Malawi, a southeastern African nation of 21.3 million (map), is 80% Christian (32% Catholic), 15% Muslim, and 5% ethnic religionist.

Vatican diplomat advocates for women (Vatican News (Spanish))

Msgr. Juan Antonio Cruz Serrano, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Organization of American States, called upon member states to “become aware of the gift and value of women and encourage best practices to promote their role within society, as well as to prevent any type of violence and exclusion in the Americas.”

The Holy See, he said, values womanhood “not only for being a source of life, a vocation without which humanity could not fulfill itself, but also for the unique contribution that it makes ... enriching and enlarging our society and all the institutions where women participate.”

The Vatican diplomat made his remarks as the organization commemorated the Day of Women of the Americas.