Pandemic’s economic toll just starting to show for both nation, church

A restaurant in Glendale, Calif., is seen March 18, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

By Mark Pattison 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After 11 years of U.S. economic growth, the statistics are staggering.

First-time applications for unemployment benefits, which had been hovering in the low 200,000s from week to week, soared to 3.3 million in the March 26 report, then nearly doubled to 6.58 million in the April 2 report. Those two weeks by themselves topped all unemployment benefit filings for the first six months of the “Great Recession” of 2008.

All of the jobs added in the U.S. economy since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017 are now effectively gone. And, depending on whether there’s another round of bad news or some thread of hope to cling to by Wall Street traders, all of the stock market gains since January 2017 are gone, too. And fast.

The March unemployment figures released April 3 go through only March 12 — the day after the National Basketball Association suspended its season, with pro hockey and baseball following suit — at that time the most shocking signal yet that these were new and highly uncertain times.

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Posted in U.S., World

Text: In video, pope greets families at ‘difficult,’ ‘unusual’ time

Dear friends, good evening!

This evening I have the chance to enter your homes in a different way than usual. If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering. I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives. I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes. These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me.

I cannot forget those who are sick with coronavirus, people who are in hospital. I am aware of the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society. So many heroes, every day, at every hour! I also remember how many are in financial straits and are worried about work and the future. A thought also goes out to prison inmates, whose pain is compounded by fear of the epidemic, for themselves and their loved ones; I think of the homeless, who do not have a home to protect them.

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Posted in Vatican, World

Sunday Scripture readings, April 5, 2020: Entering Holy Week

The Catholic News Service column, “Speak to Me Lord,” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

April 5,
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Cycle A
1) Is 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
2) Phil 2:6-11
Gospel: Mt 26:14 — 27:66 or 27:11-54

By Jem Sullivan
Catholic News Service

On this Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we enter the holiest of weeks in the church’s liturgical year. This is the high point of the church’s cycle of feasts and fasts during which the mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection unfold as the pattern of our life as Christians. Continue reading

Posted in "Speak to Me Lord", CNS columns

Googling ‘prayer’ has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread, expert says

Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the increasing cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher. (CNS)

By Carol Glatz 
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher.

The rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global,” wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture.

Using Google Trends data on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, she said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”

The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released online March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data “regularly,” she wrote.

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Posted in Vatican, World

USCCB president calls for national moment of prayer on Good Friday

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will lead the nation in prayer at this time of the coronavirus on Good Friday, April 10, 2020. (CNS photo/Stephen B. Whatley)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has invited U.S. Catholics to join him on Good Friday, April 10, to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart at noon (EDT).

“Praying together as a nation, the archbishop asks that we seek healing for all who are unwell, wisdom for those whose work is halting the spread of coronavirus, and strength for all God’s children,” said a USCCB news release issued late April 2.

A livestream of the Litany of the Sacred Heart with Archbishop Gomez will be available on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ website: and on the USCCB Facebook page: The text of Litany of the Sacred Heart can be found in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

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Posted in U.S.

Pew: Pope’s favorability ratings move up from their 2018 low

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 26, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Mark Pattison 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis’ favorability ratings among Americans of virtually all stripes are up from their low in 2018, according to a report released April 3 by the Pew Research Center.

Among Catholics themselves, 77% have a “very” or “mostly” favorable opinion of the pope, based on responses by 270 Catholics during Pew telephone surveying in January.

That’s five percentage points up from his low of 72% in September 2018, when the U.S. church had been buffeted by revelations of sexual misconduct by then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and the issuance of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed sex abuse by more than 300 priests and other church workers in six of the state’s dioceses over a 70-year period starting in 1947.

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Posted in U.S., World

Prisons’ Passion: Via Crucis meditations reflect on aftermath of crime

An image of the Stations of the Cross at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington shows the sixth station, “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.” (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

By Junno Arocho Esteves 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While Pope Francis’ Way of the Cross service on Good Friday has been transferred to the Vatican because of the coronavirus pandemic, the meditations focus, as always, on those who share the pain, suffering and heartbreak that characterized Christ’s passion and death.

In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in early March, Pope Francis said he chose the Catholic community of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua so that the meditations would reflect on the lives of those involved in the prison system to illustrate how “the resurrection of a person is never the work of an individual, but of a community walking together.”

The result is a set of meditations on the traditional 14 stations written not only by prisoners, but also by people directly affected by crime, including prisoners’ families, victims and even a priest falsely accused of a crime.

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Posted in Vatican