Religious Persecution Worldwide, Swiss Guard in Rome, Same-Sex Unions in Germany

EWTN News In Depth gathers insights from religious freedom experts, White House directors, an escaped Chinese dissident and others.

Chinese Catholics attend Easter Vigil Mass near Beijing on April 3.
Chinese Catholics attend Easter Vigil Mass near Beijing on April 3. (photo: Jade Gao / AFP via Getty Images)

The May 14 episode of News In Depth reveals which countries committed the worst violations against religion in 2020. 

Reports from officials associated with Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Pakistan and Nigeriaindicate that these are countries of high concern for religious minorities. Inside the episode, learn what kind of response from the international community the U.S. State Department recommends.

China also garnered unique attention for ramping up persecution of Catholic clergy and laypeople who don’t bend to the government’s control of their religion. “We can’t turn a blind eye to Beijing’s abhorrent human rights record,” said a senior official in the Office of International Religious Freedom.

EWTN based its comprehensive coverage on the recent release of the U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom violations, which is published with the help of embassy representatives from across the globe.

The State of International Religious Freedom: Key Takeaways 

  • Countries of Particular Concern, such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea, receive this designation because a range of sources have reported the torture and inhumane treatment of religious minorities; denial of life, liberty, or security; and crimes like the prolonged detention of people of faith without charges.  
  • Anti-Semitic violence is on the rise and religious freedom “continues to be out of reach” for millions, said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He pointed to specific examples: Iran continues to harass and intimidate its religious minorities; Russian authorities detain and seize the property of Jehovah’s witnesses; Saudi Arabia remains the only nation in the world without a Christian church, despite the presence of a million Christians.
  • The Chinese Communist party is increasing its violent persecution and suppression of Catholics and other Christians. EWTN correspondent Mark Irons spoke with Chinese dissident, activist and author Chen Guangcheng, who escaped China. He also spoke with William Saunders, the Co-Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Catholic University of America about the dangers of the Chinese Communist party. 

Hear their expert, inside perspective — only on News In Depth:

Organizing a Global Week of Prayer

In March, the president of China’s bishop’s conference called for a day of prayer next week at the last week of May. The website for the effort is

Learn how Nina Shea, senior fellow and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, is helping to lead a worldwide week of prayer for persecuted religious minorities in China in response. Shea also shares about forced abortions of religious minorities and other important violations that cry out for the intercession of the global Christian Church.

Also listen to context about the role of Catholic freedom-fighters in China that was provided to News in Depth by Bill McGurn, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. 

McGurn says that the current Communist party leader is on a mission to restore Maoism, a form of Marxism, and that this may partly be a product of the “catastrophic” Vatican-China deal. He also shares a touching update about the power of prayer for his godson, who is currently imprisoned in China. 

Watch the full panel:

German Clergy ‘Bless’ Same-Sex Unions, Vatican Stalls

Also on EWTN News In Depth: A recent day of blessing for same-sex unions in Germany held by Catholic priests drew no public response from the Vatican and scant outcry from German Catholics. 

AC Wimmer, editor-in-chief of CNA Deutsch, tells EWTN News In Depth that blessings of same-sex unions have been occurring “in secret” for some time. German priests, he says, have expressed confidence in their actions because they say that the local bishops “have their backs.”

Is it normal to hear “crickets” from the Vatican about something so significant? It is more common for offices in Rome to issue statements to help guide the Church when a Catholic body is causing dissension or teaching in error. In this instance, the Vatican’s offices for upholding Catholic doctrine appear to be keeping confidential any subsequent conversations they are having with Germany’s bishops and canon lawyers.

Any idea why? The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might be waiting for Germany’s two-year review process, the “Synodal Path,” to conclude before they or Pope Francis formally weigh in. The German bishops intend to vote later this year on a “binding proposal” for the German Catholic Church that they say is meant to address declining church participation and abuses of ecclesial power. A minority of conservative German bishops and cardinals are concerned that this could lead to schism from the universal Church and the establishment of a national German church.  

What’s in that German proposal? See my overview of the May 4 episode for a detailed refresher. But in general, the document proposes structural and doctrinal reform of longstanding Catholic teachings and practices related to celibacy, the ordination of women deacons, the blessing of homosexual unions, and the authority of bishops. It has garnered both concern and criticism from American Catholic prelates. Pope Francis has allowed Germany’s working group to continue its meetings, but has also spoken about attracting people to Christ by preaching the Gospel message rather than conceding to popular views on cultural or partisan issues. 

Watch the full discussion: 

News In Depth’s White House Check-In 

Also on the May 14 episode, find out how the White House is partnering with churches to strengthen their communities during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Host Montse Alvarado spoke about this with Melissa Rogers, the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

Alvarado also asked Jennie Lichter, the former Deputy Director of former President Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, how that administration’s faith-based outreach compares, Lichter expressed a concern that the priorities of the current administration may shift away from ensuring and protecting the “free exercise” of religion. 


20 Years Old, and ‘Guarding’ the Vatican

Also this week, EWTN Vatican Bureau reporter Colm Flynn gives viewers a rare look at a newly sworn-in Vatican Swiss Guards. “Why did you decide to do this?” he asks.

 “It’s an honor to do your service for the Church. ... I also liked the uniform,” admits 20-year-old Gian Andrea Bossi. You’ll never guess what sort of “outdoor” work Bossi did before coming to Rome. Watch the full show for yourself to find out: