Take some time to reflect on these events from 2016 with your spouse, family, prayer group, or friends for a better understanding of how they have affected your lives and faith. (Click on the hyperlinks to see related videos or news articles.)
15 News Stories that Impacted Catholics in 2016
It’s difficult to go a day without hearing about something in the news or conversation about the situation in the Middle East. They remain in our prayers, including those in and evacuating Aleppo. While Syrian refugees flood out of their homeland for their own safety, Pope Francis has often reached out to refugees. How have you been affected by refugees in your community, family, or parish, and what actions do you take to help those around you who need mercy?
Earlier this month (December), the Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo, Nigeria, collapsed due to poor construction, killing over 160 people. Those who were unharmed helped find survivors the best they could in the midst of a traumatic situation.
When tragedies like this happen, we often pray for them at Mass; how do you and your family make an effort to pray for and help others when disaster strikes?
- POLITICAL ELECTIONS: USA AND AUSTRALIA
Whether you’re in America or Australia (or are perhaps just an observer from the outside), these elections likely caught your attention. America’s election year captivated not only its own citizens but the whole world in the debates, media coverage and results (see Donald Trump’s victory speech.) Meanwhile in Australia, Tony Albott, considered a conservative Catholic, was a candidation for prime minister.
Catholics hope Trump and other newly elected leaders around the world commit to the common good, public safety, pro-life causes, religious freedom in issues such as healthcare, and other worthy issues. How are you praying for our leaders and upholding the truth that Christians call to mind during elections, “No matter who is president, Jesus is King”?
- 2016 SUMMER OLYMPICS AND FAITHFUL ATHLETES
The 2016 Summer Olympics 2016 in Brazil provided a stage to glorify God. The Christian faith of many olympians became a recurring story line. From Simone Biles to Usain Bolt, these athletes inspired us to more than just getting fit and cheering for the games—they inspired us to give all the glory to God. Check them out!
Which athlete’s outstanding faith did you notice and find inspiration to share your faith?
- ENDING OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY AND THE POPE’S ABORTION ABSOLUTION MESSAGE
During this Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016), Catholics were called to expand their understanding of mercy and act upon it in their daily lives, especially through the Works of Mercy, both spiritual and corporal. To end the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote the apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera.
How did you celebrate the Year of Mercy and what will you do now that the year has ended to continue to be merciful?
Pope Francis reiterated Church teaching that abortion is a grave sin but he also chose to extend the Year of Mercy’s universal faculty to priests for absolution of abortion. Many individual bishops around the world had previously granted that to their priests, but Pope Francis’ announcement made it universal.
(For information on how abortion, excommunication, and absolution are related, see https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/abortio2.htm)
- THE DIGNITY OF LIFE: MARCH FOR LIFE AND HEARTBEAT BILL
The 43rd March for Life was not stopped by the blizzard in Washington, DC. Beyond braving the weather, Pro-Lifers are accustomed to being dismissed by the mainstream media. The Washington Post used this headline: “As DC shuts down for a blizzard, a small, faithful crowd joins the March for Life,” but Catholic media outlets reported more positively (and accurately) on the turnout. Were you there this year?
Meanwhile, there was good news and bad news in Ohio pro-life legislation. The good news was that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act passed, limiting abortion to 20 weeks, but the bad news was that the Heartbeat Bill did not pass, which would have forbid abortions when a heartbeat is detected. Two other states found the Heartbeat Bill unconstitutional. What laws regarding abortion have affected your community? Would you like to have passed?
- SAINTHOOD: MOTHER TERESA AND HOPEFUL OTHERS
Founding the Missionaries of Charity and defending the life of the unborn and the dignity of the poor, Mother Teresa inspired the entire world. Her canonization was sped up by a special papal dispensation, and a large crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square the witness it this year. How has your life been inspired, changed, or otherwise affected by Mother Teresa?
Or perhaps you may be familiar with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the world’s first televangelist. There has been a petition to move the holy man’s remains to Peoria, IL in order to continue the canonization efforts.
2016 also saw the passing (on Easter Sunday) to eternal life of Mother Angelica, the foundress of EWTN. Her broadcasts were life-changing, and some suggest that she should be a saint. Fr. Jacques Hamel, the devout 85-year old priest who was murdered by Islamic extremists in France, has also been pinpointed as a hopeful candidate for sainthood.
- ZIKA VIRUS AND CONTRACEPTION
Amidst the concerning outbreak of this virus, which reportedly causes severe birth defects, pregnant parents in affected areas went to great lengths to avoid it. Media outlet The Huffington Post sensationalized comments from Pope Francis with the following headline: Zika Virus Alters Catholic Church Policy on Contraception?, suggesting that Church teaching would change, which was not the case. Were you or someone you know affected by Zika?
Fifty people died when a terrorist opened fire inside the Pulse night club in Orlando; Catholic News Service called it “the worst mass shooting in U.S. history” and multiple church leaders spoke in the aftermath, asking for prayers and reminding us of the value of human life. We continue to pray for all victims of terrorism and conversion of those misled by terrorist ideals. On a more positive note, hundreds donated blood for the victims, and businesses such as Chic-fil-a stepped in to provide resources such as food to donors in support of their community.
More recently, the Ohio State University campus was attacked by a student who is said to have been inspired by ISIS. He critically injured eleven people before a policeman shot him. How do you pray for the conversion of terrorists, for victims, and for healing in communities? What specifically would you like to see a change in 2017 involving terrorism or other violence?
This year the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Britain’s new Prime Minister disagrees with the outcome but respects the people’s vote. Negotiations for the separation from the EU are now underway (a process which could take up to six years). Travel, immigration, and finances will all be affected by Brexit. Catholic leaders, including the pope, stressed the importance of being good neighbors and ensuring peace among nations.
This September, the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police officer Brentley Vinson led to protests which turned violent. The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, was declared in a state of emergency. Despite both Scott and Vinson being black, racial anger heated up the city, and the shooting has been considered by some to be part of the “Ferguson Effect,” referring to the 2014 protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked when a white police officer fatally shot a black citizen.
How did racial tension impact you this year, and what does your parish do (or what might they do) to help relieve this social tension?
- ITALY SHAKEN BY EARTHQUAKES
In August, an earthquake in Italy killed nearly 250 people. After another earthquake later in October, approximately 20 people were injured in the town of Norcia. That quake was felt all the way in Rome, and priests were advised to celebrate Masses outside due to the danger of collapsing buildings. The Basilica of St. Benedict was destroyed. People and nations reached out with prayers and support.
- TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS
Transgender issues made headlines with Bruce/Cate Jenner’s transformation, but this year, the Supreme Court of the United States of America heard the case of transgender bathrooms. Now a balance between public safety and sex discrimination is sought while many try to constitutionally define gender equality. (For more on Church teaching on this topic, see Fr. Mike Schmitz’s video.)
How has this news story impacted your community? What has your parish done in 2016 (or what should you do in 2017) to be Christ-like to those struggling with transgender issues?
Fidel Castro died this November. Under his leadership, religious persecution was widespread, but Pope John Paul II’s visit may have been the impetus behind partial improvements. Last year, permission was granted for the construction of a new Catholic Church on the island, for the first time in over five decades. While condolences from world leaders (including Pope Francis) flood Cuba, many wonder what the future brings. Fidel Castro’s ashes will rest in St. Ifigenia Cemetery. In Miami – home to many Cuban exiles – Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski prayed for peace for the Cuban people.
With the passing of this incredibly influential leader, what do you find yourself asking God for in 2017 for other countries?
- CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION AND HOPE
In Cairo, Egypt, a suicide bomber attacked St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, killing approximately 40 people. War and violence have often made headlines this year while heroism and positive news tends to miss the spotlight. In Cameroon, Christians guard mosques on Friday and Muslims guard churches on Sunday, according to Terry Turner of the Good News Network. This is not an isolated incident, either! Now, that’s good news. What good deed would you do (or do you already practice) in tough situations to help others see Christ’s love for them despite surrounding peril?
This list does not include every watershed event in 2016. Most recently, a disaster in Mexico involving fireworks killed 29 people, and the truck attack Berlin suffered at a Christmas market on December 19. What other events impacted your life as a Catholic this year that are not captured on this list? What headlines do you hope to see for 2017?
We wish you a Happy New Year! May it be blessed with the Good News more and more every day!