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Court leans toward allowing flag with cross to fly at Boston City Hall

Supreme Court justices Jan. 18 seemed to side with a Christian group that was excluded from flying its flag with an image of a cross on it outside of Boston's City Hall.

In priest's abuse trial, German archbishop says he mishandled situation

Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse admitted having made mistakes in the case of an offending priest on trial in the Cologne regional court.

Pope Francis Appoints Apostolic Visitor for Eritrean Catholics in U.S. and Canada

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Pope on prisons: No inmate should ever be deprived of hope

Pope Francis issued a plea on behalf of prison inmates, saying they should never be deprived of hope and always be given the opportunity to redeem themselves.

Emmanuel Macron calls for abortion to be added to EU rights charter

Emmanuel Macron. / Frederic Legrand COMEO/Shutterstock.

Strasbourg, France, Jan 19, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Jan. 19, Macron said that the rights charter, ratified in the year 2000, needed to be revised.

“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which notably enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union, I hope that we can update this charter, notably to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.

He added: “Let us open this debate freely with our fellow citizens of great European conscience to give new life to our set of rights that forges this Europe strong in its values, the only future of our common political project.”

The French news channel BFM TV reported that Macron’s reference to abortion was applauded by lawmakers.

His appeal came the day after the European Union’s law-making body elected the pro-life Maltese politician Roberta Metsola as its new president.

Metsola succeeds David Sassoli, who died on Jan. 11 at the age of 65. Her election was welcomed by both EU bishops and Maltese Church leaders.

But Metsola — at 43, the youngest-ever president of the European Parliament — told Euronews after her election that she would respect the assembly’s majority view in favor of abortion during her renewable term of two and a half years.

“The position of the parliament is unambiguous and unequivocal, and that is also my position,” she said on Jan. 18.

“That is exactly what I will do throughout my mandate as president on this issue.”

The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

Members of the assembly voted by 378 votes in favor, 255 against, and 42 abstentions to adopt the text, known as the Matić Report, at a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium.

The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”

Most of the EU’s 27 member states permit abortion on demand or broad social grounds, except Malta and Poland, which have strong pro-life laws.

On Jan. 1, France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which negotiates and adopts EU laws with the European Parliament.

Macron, who is expected to run for re-election in April, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in November 2021.

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Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of our sins’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 19, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has encouraged people to encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with a reminder that the tender forgiveness of God is greater than the “ugliest” sin.

“God is not afraid of our sins, he is greater than our sins,” the pope said in his general audience on Jan. 19.

“God always forgives: put this in your head and heart. God always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the ugliest things,” he said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Speaking about God’s tenderness and mercy, Pope Francis said that the “things of God always reach us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“Tenderness is the best way to touch what is fragile in us. Look how nurses touch the wounds of the sick: with tenderness, so as not to hurt them more. And so the Lord touches our wounds with the same tenderness,” he said.

“This is why it is important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in personal prayer with God, having an experience of truth and tenderness.”

The pope said that God’s tenderness is “greater than the logic of the world” and can be “an unexpected way of doing justice.”

“Without this ‘revolution of tenderness’ … we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to get up easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he said.

At the end of his live-streamed audience, the pope’s thoughts turned to those who are in prison today.

“For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison,” he said.

“It is right that those who have made a mistake pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have made a mistake can redeem themselves from their mistake.”

“There can be no condemnations without windows of hope. … Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and we think of God’s tenderness for them and we pray for them, so that they may find in that window of hope a way out towards a better life.”

This was Pope Francis’ eighth audience in a cycle of catechesis on St. Joseph that he launched in November 2021.

The pope dedicated this week’s general audience to a reflection on the saint as “a father of tenderness.”

As a part of this theme, he reflected on a Bible verse from the Book of Hosea (11:3-4): “He taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him.”

“It’s beautiful, this description from the Bible that shows God’s relationship with the people of Israel. And it is the same relationship we believe St. Joseph had with Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis offered the following prayer to St. Joseph at the end of the audience:

St Joseph, father in tenderness,
teach us to accept that we are loved precisely in that which is weakest in us.
Grant that we may place no obstacle
between our poverty and the greatness of God's love.
Stir in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving tenderly
our brothers and sisters in their poverty.
Be close to those who have done wrong and are paying the price for it;
Help them to find not only justice but also tenderness so that they can start again.
And teach them that the first way to begin again
is to sincerely ask for forgiveness, to feel the Father’s caress.
Amen.