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Pope Francis advances sainthood cause of Filipino bishop known for bilocation

Vatican City, May 21, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtue of a Filipino archbishop with a reputation for having the ability to bilocate.

In a decree promulgated on May 21, the pope recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of a Spanish woman and the heroic virtue of seven holy people, including Filipino .

Camomot, who was ordained a bishop in 1955, was known on the island of Cebu in the Philippines for his spiritual gifts. There have been testimonies of his ability to heal the sick, levitate in prayer, and bilocate, according to the

One of these testimonies comes from an affidavit from the late Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, who said that Camomot was with him on Sept. 27, 1985 at a time when Camomot was also seen giving the Anointing of the Sick to a man in a mountain village about 30 miles away.

Priests were also known to seek out Camomot to hear their final confessions before they died. After he became Coadjutor Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Camomot founded the Tertiaries of the Blessed Eucharist, today known as the Daughters of Saint Teresa.

Carmomot died in a car accident on the feast of St. Vincent de Paul on Sept. 27, 1988.

Pope Francis also approved the canonization of with a dispensation from the requirement for a second miracle, according to Vatican News.

In an audience with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope decided to convene a consistory for the canonizations of Scalabrini and .

Scalabrini, a bishop of Piacenza, Italy, founded the Missionaries of St. Charles (also known as the Scalabrinians) to offer pastoral care to migrants who were emigrating from Italy at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1901, Scalabrini visited his missionaries in the United States and was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt. Pope Pius IX once described Scalabrini as “the apostle of the Catechism.”

The decree authorized by the pope recognized a miracle attributed to , a lay Spanish woman who died of tuberculosis in 1927 in Granada at the age of 21, who will now be able to be beatified.

The pope’s decree also approved the heroic virtue of three Italians: Bishop Luigi Sodo (1811-1895), Fr. Alfredo Morganti (1886-1969), and Fr. Giampietro da Sesto (1886-1913) a Franciscan from Italy who served as a missionary in Brazil.

In addition, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Spanish Fr. Jose Torres Padilla (1811-1878), Polish nurse Janina Woynarowska (1923-1979), and Mother Mariana of the Holy Trinity (1854-1933), who was born in Mexico and co-founded the Trinitarian Sisters of Madrid.

Pope Francis: Catholic schools should not be Christian in name only

Vatican City, May 21, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that Catholic schools should not be Christian in name only, but in fact.

Speaking to the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the pope underlined that Christians educators must first of all be witnesses to the Gospel.

“The Christian educator, in the school of Christ, is first of all a witness, and he is a teacher to the extent that he is a witness,” Pope Francis on May 21.

“And above all I pray for you, that you may be brothers not only in name, but in fact. And for your schools to be Christian not in name, but in fact,” he said.

The pope met with the Christian Brothers as the religious institute is participating in its 46th General Chapter in Rome on the theme: “Building new paths to transform lives.”

“We know that the ‘way,’ the truly new path, is Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said.

“By following him, by walking with him, our lives are transformed, and we in turn become leaven, salt, and light.”

The De La Salle Christian Brothers, formally known as the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, were founded by St. John Baptist de La Salle to provide Christian education to the young, especially the poor.

The brothers live in community and take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service of the poor through education.

Pope Francis read the brothers part of a quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which Paul said he was in labor until “Christ is formed in you.”

“To educate in this way is your apostolate, your specific contribution to evangelization: to make humanity grow according to Christ,” he said.

“In this sense, your schools are 'Christian': not because of an external label, but because they take this path.”

Pope Francis said that Christian teachers are “on the front line” in “educating so as to move from a closed world to an open world; from a throwaway culture to a culture of care; from a culture of rejection to a culture of integration; from the pursuit of vested interests to the pursuit of the common good.”

“As educators, you know very well that this transformation must start from the conscience, or it will only be a façade,” he added.

Pope Francis’ audience with the Christian brothers was one of that he had on May 21. The pope also met with the publishers of the Famiglia Cristiana magazine, participants in an international conference on biodiversity, and young people receiving the sacrament of Confirmation in the Diocese of Genoa this year.

In all of the audiences, the pope spoke from a wheelchair. He has been primarily since May 5 due to an injury to his right knee, although the pope did stand for longer periods while offering Mass for the canonization held in St. Peter’s Square on May 15.

At the end of his speech to the Christian Brothers, Pope Francis thanked them for their service as teachers and reminded them not to forget to pray for him.

“Go forth with the joy of evangelizing by educating and of educating by evangelizing,” he said.

Pope Francis’ health: Here's a timeline of his medical issues in recent years

Vatican City, May 21, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has been speaking about his health in recent weeks, especially a problem with his knee that is forcing him to walk and stand less.

The 85-year-old Francis, who has spent most of his nine years as pope in relatively good health, has dealt with several painful medical conditions over the last few years.

His difficulties have included a stay of more than a week in a hospital after colon surgery in 2021.

Here is a timeline charting Pope Francis’ recent health concerns:

A bout of sciatic pain in the kept Pope Francis from presiding at the Vatican’s liturgies on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Francis has suffered from sciatica for a number of years; he spoke about it during an in-flight press conference returning from a trip to Brazil in July 2013.

“Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone,” he said about the condition, which starts in the lower back and can cause pain running down the back of the thigh and leg to the foot.

Pope Francis was also forced to cancel three more public appearances at the due to sciatic nerve pain.

A problem with his colon landed the pope on July 4, 2021.

According to the Vatican, Francis underwent surgery to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery included a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.

During his 11-day stay in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, the pope made “normal clinical progress” in his recovery, the Vatican said.

At meetings in January, Pope Francis shared that he was having problems with his knee.

“Excuse me if I stay seated, but I have a pain in my leg today ... It hurts me, it hurts if I’m standing,” the pope told journalists from the Jerusalem-based Christian Media Center on Jan. 17.

He explained further at a general audience the following week, saying the reason he would be unable to greet pilgrims as usual was because of a temporary “problem with my right leg,” an inflamed knee ligament.

At the end of February, Pope Francis two public events due to knee pain and doctor’s orders to rest.

In the month that followed, he received help going up and down stairs, but continued to walk and stand without assistance.

During a trip to Malta on the first weekend of April, Pope Francis used a lift to disembark the papal plane. A special lift was also installed at the Basilica of St. Paul in Rabat, so that Francis could visit and pray in the crypt grotto without taking the stairs.

On the return flight on April 3, he that “my health is a bit fickle, I have this knee problem that brings out problems with walking.”

At the Vatican’s Good Friday service, the pope did not lay prostrate before the altar, as he has done in the past.

He also did not preside over the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16, or participate in the Paschal candle procession, but sat in the front of the congregation in a white chair.

On April 22 and April 26, Francis’ agenda was and rest for his knee, the Vatican said. The following day, the pope at his general audience that his knee prevented him from standing for very long.

Pope Francis also started to remain seated in the popemobile while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

On April 30, he said that his doctor had ordered him .

The pope said at the beginning of May that he would undergo a on his knee, “an intervention with infiltrations,” by which he may have meant a therapeutic injection, sometimes used to relieve knee pain caused by ligament tears.

Two days later, he in public for the first time since his July 2021 colon surgery. Throughout May he has continued to use the wheelchair and avoid most standing and walking.

Francis is also undergoing over two hours of rehabilitation for his knee every day, according to an Argentine archbishop close to the pontiff.

The treatment “is giving results,” Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández on Twitter on May 14, after he had a private meeting with Francis.

Other than his knee, “he’s better than ever,” Fernández added.

A few earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister had said that a reported papal visit to the country in June was being postponed .

The pope did stand for longer periods when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico caught a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greeted them from the popemobile.

Someone thanked the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis : “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”

Witness thrown out of courtroom as Cardinal Becciu cross-examination continues

Vatican City, May 20, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Angelo Becciu refused to answer any questions not related to his charges during a continuation of his cross-examination in the Vatican finance trial on Thursday.

The 73-year-old Italian cardinal said on May 19 that he would not respond to questions about the Italian bishops’ conference because it is unconnected to his charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering.

Except for witness tampering, the accusations against Becciu date back to before he was elevated to the College of Cardinals, when he was the Sostituto, or second-ranking official, in the Secretariat of State.

During Thursday’s hearing, Becciu complained of being humiliated by certain lines of questioning , accusing the prosecuting attorney of asking questions that “injured my priestly dignity.”

Judges ruled on May 19 that accusations connected to the Italian bishops’ conference were not part of the trial, but the prosecuting attorney was nevertheless allowed to ask questions about it.

During the cross-examination, the cardinal again pointed to his faith in what he was told about investments by former Secretariat of State officials Monsignor Alberto Perlasca and Fabrizio Tirabassi.

A judge asked Becciu in what way then he exercised his powers as Sostituto, to which he responded: “If I had realized there was something wrong, or had insights to go another way, or better to invest elsewhere, I could have told them differently, I had not had opportunities and they never offered me opportunities to go against their proposals.”

While Becciu was speaking about his lack of suspicion of Perlasca at the time of the at the heart of the trial, the former head of his administrative office entered the courtroom from a side door.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi immediately pointed out that Perlasca’s presence could be a problem, given that he is a witness in the trial. Perlasca is also seeking damages as a victim in the trial over Becciu’s witness tampering charge.

Perlasca was asked to leave the room by court president Giuseppe Pignatone.

Thursday’s hearing also included the filing of a written defense on the part of another defendant, Cecilia Marogna, a self-described “security consultant” who has been of misappropriating 575,000 euros (around $607,000) of Vatican funds she spent on luxury goods.

In the 23-page statement, which judges told Marogna’s defense lawyers could not be read in court, the 40-year-old Sardinian woman provided her own account of her dealings with the Vatican, including claims that she was a go-between for a request for relics of from emissaries of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Marogna also recounted in detail her dealings with Italian intelligence agents and secret service chiefs in Colombia, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

Explaining her role in the operations to free , a missionary abducted in Mali, Marogna said Becciu’s claim that Pope Francis green-lighted to free the nun “does not correspond to the truth.”

She said that in addition to the 575,000 euros paid to her, the Secretariat of State also paid the Inkerman Group, a British intelligence firm, approximately 589,000 euros, for a total of 1.16 million euros (around $1.2 million) — not for Sister Gloria’s ransom, but for “management of the case.”

There is no independent corroboration of Marogna’s claims since, according to the defendant herself, “no contract was signed between the companies and the Secretariat of State.”

Marogna said that “there was never a requirement for accountability and an obligation to manage the funds received by the companies on the part of the sender who, like other institutional structures, simply hired corporate entities to carry out certain operational activities of its interest.”

According to Marogna, these activities “should have remained discreet and shielded even within the Secretariat of State’s own administrative management, according to specific orders given by Pope Francis.”

Becciu confirmed in his cross-examination on Thursday that Marogna was brought in to work with the Secretariat of State after she introduced herself to him via email.

The three days of back-to-back hearings concluded on May 20 with the first part of the interrogation of Fabrizio Tirabassi.

Tirabassi was a senior lay official working in the Secretariat of State’s general affairs section from 1987 until his suspension in 2019. From the 1990s on, Tirabassi oversaw the Secretariat’s financial affairs, including investments and movements of the Vatican’s accounts in Swiss banks.

During a cross-examination on Friday, Tirabassi explained the circumstances around the Secretariat of State’s consideration of a proposal in 2012 and 2013 to invest in oil in Angola, and why the idea was eventually abandoned — including that the investment would have been made at the same time that Pope Francis was writing his 2015 environmental .

The former official underlined that the Secretariat of State had, until a few years ago, its own budget completely separate from the rest of the Roman Curia and not under the supervision of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Tirabassi also provided an explanation for how the Secretariat came to work with Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, Tirabassi’s co-defendant, who was a top client of the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, also involved in the Angola oil proposal.

The ex-Secretariat official said that the Vatican did due diligence on Mincione before purchasing from him the building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, indicating that the Secretariat took about a year to vet the investment manager.

Tirabassi’s defense lawyers issued a brief statement after the hearing in which they praised the “excellent questioning in which our client lucidly explained the reality of the facts: there is no crime behind the Sloane Square affair and there is no rot in the Secretariat of State.”

“The only mystery in this story is why someone wanted to hold a trial in an affair that the Holy See leadership wanted to close with an agreement,” attorneys Massimo Bassi and Cataldo Intrieri said.

Pope Francis sends condolences after death of UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed

Vatican City, May 20, 2022 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent condolences following the death of the United Arab Emirates’ president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“I offer Your Highness my heartfelt recognition and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest. I likewise join the people of the Emirates in mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership in the service of the nation,” Pope Francis wrote in the sent on May 17.

“I am particularly grateful for the solicitude shown by His Highness to the Holy See and to the Catholic communities of the Emirates, and for his commitment to the values ​​of dialogue, understanding, and solidarity between peoples and religious traditions solemnly proclaimed by the historic Abu Dhabi Document and embodied in the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.”

Sheikh Khalifa died on May 13 at the age of 73. He had been in ailing health after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery in 2014.

The pope addressed the message to Khalifa’s successor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who had been the de-facto ruler of the country since Khalifa’s health worsened.

He has led the country’s foreign policy, which has included deploying warplanes in Libya in 2017 and joining the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen before withdrawing its forces in 2020.

Sheikh Mohammed, the Abu Dhabi crown prince often also referred to as MBZ, officially became the president of the UAE on May 14.

In the message, Pope Francis offered his prayers for Sheikh Mohammed in his new official role as ruler.

Pope Francis wrote: “In commending His Highness prayers to the eternal mercies of the Most High God, I assure you also of my prayers as you enter upon the responsibilities of your lofty office.”

“Upon you, the members of your Family, and upon all the beloved people of the United Arab Emirates, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”

The Vatican has maintained close ties with the UAE since the pope’s in 2019.

Cardinals and Roman Curia officials, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, and Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, have made trips to the peninsula in the past year as the Vatican and the UAE collaborated on several events and initiatives, including the .

Vatican officials traveled to the UAE last July to Sheikh Mohammed with the “Man of Humanity” award from the Vatican Congregation for Education at a ceremony held in the Emirates Palace.

This week, a press conference at the Vatican was in light of the president’s death. The , scheduled for May 17, was due to present the “Interfaith Meeting in Abu Dhabi on Religion, Ethics and Artificial Intelligence.”

The UAE has announced a 40-day mourning period following Sheikh Khalifa’s death.

“May his legacy continue to inspire the efforts of men and women of good will everywhere to persevere in weaving bonds of unity and peace between the members of our one human family,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican hosts synod listening session with disabled Catholics

Vatican City, May 20, 2022 / 05:15 am (CNA).

The Vatican hosted a virtual listening session with Catholics with disabilities on Thursday as part of the Synod on Synodality process.

People from more than 20 countries participated in the video call hosted by the Vatican on May 19, with some expressing concerns about experiences of discrimination and exclusion.

A participant from France with Down syndrome shared on the call: “At birth, I could have been aborted. I am happy to live.”

“I love everyone and I thank God for creating me,” she added, according to the dicastery.

Other participants from Mexico, Liberia, Ukraine, and other countries also took part in the discussion of some of the synod’s preparatory questions, including: “How are we walking with Jesus and our brothers and sisters to proclaim Him? For the future, what is the Spirit asking our Church to grow in our journey with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters to proclaim Him?”

Accommodations were made so that people with sensory, physical, or cognitive disabilities could express themselves in their own languages, including sign language.

, the secretary of the dicastery, said that one of the challenges posed by the is to “overcome any prejudice of those who believe that those who have difficulties in expressing themselves do not have a thought of their own, nor anything interesting to communicate.”

According to the Vatican dicastery, the 30 participants in the video call were invited to offer further contributions to a document in the coming months that will be delivered to the of the Synod of Bishops as part of the synodal process.

, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, spoke to the participants at the beginning of the call.

“I’m in debt to people with disabilities. One of them led me on the path of a priestly vocation,” Grech said.

“If the face of the disabled brother or sister is discarded, it is the Church that becomes disabled,” he said.

How does the new Vatican constitution affect the Secretariat of State?

Vatican City, May 19, 2022 / 05:12 am (CNA).

Speaking at a conference on reform of the Roman Curia on May 17, Cardinal Pietro Parolin outlined how the Vatican Secretariat of State will change under the .

But underlying the Vatican Secretary of State’s words was the message that the Curia’s oldest dicastery will remain central when the comes into full force on June 5, the feast of Pentecost.

Parolin was speaking at a at Rome’s . Other speakers included Father Antonio Guerrero Alves, the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and Bishop Marco Mellino, secretary of the Council of Cardinals.

Each of the speakers addressed different aspects of the reform, with Parolin focusing on changes to the Vatican Secretariat of State since Pope Francis’ election.

The 67-year-old cardinal, who helped to draft the new constitution as a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals, said there had been two main changes.

First, the Secretariat of State has lost its oversight of personal administrative management. This has been transferred to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and is controlled by the Secretariat for the Economy.

The second significant development is the in 2017 of the Third Section of the Secretariat of State, to manage the pope’s diplomatic representatives. The section functions alongside the two older departments: the Section for General Affairs and the Section for Relations with States. Parolin emphasized that the Third Section was formed because the pope perceived a need to “take care of what concerns the service relationship of diplomatic staff.”

The cardinal noted that asks the Secretariat of State to converge with the other departments, bodies, and offices in a dynamic of mutual collaboration. It is up to the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest judicial authority, “to resolve any conflicts of competence with the other curial institutions.”

But, Parolin added, “the Secretariat of State retains a particular status in law” due to its “specific task of closely assisting the Supreme Pontiff in the exercise of his mission.”

From 2020, however, it was that the Secretariat for the Economy “would perform the function of the papal secretariat for economic and financial matters.”

Parolin explained that the provision “involved, on the one hand, the transfer to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See of the investments and funds that had previously been entrusted to the management of the Administrative Office of the Secretariat of State and, on the other, to the configuration, as I said, of a second Papal Secretariat, exclusively dedicated to ‘economic and financial matters.’”

Beyond these changes, the Secretariat of State maintains its prerogatives, and everyone is called to coordinate with it.

Parolin gave various examples of this dynamic. He said that the newly formed must collaborate with the Secretariat of State in “promoting religious freedom in every social sphere.”

The newly titled Dicastery for Bishops, meanwhile, is “asked that when it is necessary to negotiate with governments for the modification or provision of particular Churches, it is to proceed after having consulted the Section for Relations with States.”

Parolin said that the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life is also called to respect the Secretariat of State’s competence in approving , while the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity must collaborate with the Secretariat of State, “especially in relations with the Orthodox Churches.”

Vatican departments responsible for the promotion of cultural heritage are also called to work with the Secretariat of State when they have to “collaborate with the representatives of civil society in the promotion of the dignity of the person or the resolution of conflicts, analyze together with civil organizations the adoption of measures for the reception of refugees and, more generally, participate in the delegations of the Holy See in intergovernmental meetings in matters falling within their competence.”

Parolin highlighted how “even if some of these matters are particularly relevant to the Section for Relations with States, it will be necessary for one or the other Section — and sometimes both — to intervene according to their respective specialization to guarantee, as I say, the unity of action of the Holy See in the international sphere.”

The reason for this, he said, is because “all curial institutions are an expression — according to their respective competence — of the only international entity, the Holy See, and that the international representation of this entity, and also of the Vatican City State, is entrusted to the Secretariat of State.”

The cardinal underlined that this is nothing new because the Secretariat of State is maintaining the central coordinating role it was given by Paul VI. Therefore, while recent reforms have affected its autonomy and particularities, they have also left room for renewed independence.

Information management also remains firmly in the Secretariat of State’s hands. Although the Holy See press office is now under the Dicastery of Communication, its are still managed by the Secretariat of State.

“The new discipline of ,” Parolin said, “establishes a situation that has been underway for some time, providing that the publication of the documents of the Holy See through the official bulletin remains reserved to the Section for General Affairs.”

Furthermore, “this Section uses the Dicastery for Communication concerning official communications regarding both the acts of the pope and the activity of the Holy See, providing in this context precise ‘indications’ that the Dicastery will have to carry out.”

It will soon become clear whether the reform has unforeseen, far-reaching consequences or is simply a formal modification that reduces the number of Vatican departments without radically altering the Curia’s established way of doing things.

Cardinal Becciu: Pope Francis responsible for Vatican auditor's ousting

Vatican City, May 18, 2022 / 13:33 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Angelo Becciu said Wednesday that he is blameless in the forced resignation of a Vatican auditor, because it came at Pope Francis’ request.

Becciu was said to be responsible for the sudden firing in 2017 of the Vatican’s first auditor general, Libero Milone, as well as the cancelation of an internal audit.

But during a May 18 hearing in the Vatican’s finance trial, Becciu denied this, stating that in June 2017, Pope Francis called him to a meeting in his Santa Marta residence, where he claimed that he longer had trust in Milone, and therefore wanted Becciu to call the auditor and tell him he must resign.

According to Becciu, the pope also expressed regret for entrusting the then-sostituto of the Secretariat of State with “these thankless tasks.”

At a May 5 hearing, the 73-year-old Becciu had declined to respond to a question from a prosecuting attorney about his involvement in Milone’s firing, claiming “for love of the Holy Father” he could not answer.  

But during Wednesday’s interrogation, Becciu said he had since received Pope Francis’ permission to speak freely about the situation.

The cardinal said the motivation for ousting Milone was the same one cited by the Vatican in a Sept. 24, 2017 press release, which stated that Milone had “illegally commissioned an external firm to carry out investigative activities on the private lives of representatives of the Holy See.”

Milone has maintained that he was falsely accused with “staged” allegations and that Pope Francis was “blocked by the old guard” which “felt threatened” by him in his role as auditor general.

Becciu was questioned by Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi for nearly eight hours on May 18 as part of the Vatican’s trial to prosecute Vatican officials and collaborators for financial malfeasance, mainly in connection with the controversial purchase of a London investment property.

The interrogation, which will be continued on May 19, was characterized by combative questioning from Diddi, who was rebuked by court president Giuseppe Pignatone more than once.

Becciu, the second-ranking official of the Secretariat of State until 2018, frequently said he could not remember the answer to questions the prosecutor posed, once making reference to his age, claiming that the stress of the trial “has influenced my memory greatly.”

President Pignatone called for a five-minute recess after Diddi got aggressive with Becciu, accusing the cardinal of pretending not to remember.

Becciu, who has been charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering, also responded to questions about whether the London building was purchased using money from Peter’s Pence, a fund used to finance the pope's charitable activities and the operations of the Roman Curia.

According to 2019 reports, Peter’s Pence funds, which are donated by Catholics around the world, were used to help finance the Secretariat of State's purchase of the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London — an investment the secretariat now claims was designed by bad actors to defraud the Vatican of money.

Becciu said he was told by the former head of his administrative office, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, that Peter’s Pence funds were not used in the London purchase, only Secretariat of State assets.

The head of the Vatican’s central bank, APSA, has also said Peter’s Pence money was not used.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino also said in 2020 that “independent estimates” put the Vatican’s losses on the property at between 66-150 million pounds ($81-185 million).

Becciu said at the May 5 hearing, however, that it would not be incompatible with their purposes to use Peter’s Pence funds for investments.

Perlasca, once a suspect in the Vatican’s financial investigation, is now a witness for the prosecution. He was also approved on May 18 to join the trial as a civil party seeking damages against his former superior, Becciu, on the witness tampering charge.

Cardinal Becciu said on the stand that while he was at the Secretariat of State, he trusted Perlasca and his honesty, which was the reason why, he said, he never questioned any of the investments.

He said Perlasca never made him aware of any suspicious behavior by Italian businessmen Raffaele Mincione, who sold the Vatican the London building, and Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the deal’s final stage in 2018.

The prosecutor presented to the court evidence of messages from July 2019, the year after the conclusion of the London sale, in which Perlasca relayed information to Becciu about suspicious behavior by Mincione and Torzi.

Pope Francis changes rules for major superiors of religious orders

Vatican City, May 18, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has changed the Church’s regulations to allow religious brothers who are not priests to lead their religious communities with Vatican permission.

In a issued May 18, the pope said that the Vatican congregation overseeing religious orders can, in individual cases and at its own discretion, grant permission for non-priest religious members to assume the role of major superior.

The change includes the derogation of the second paragraph of in the Code of Canon Law, which says that clerical institutes are under the direction of ordained priests.

Pope Francis said that the council of an institute of consecrated life, or a society of apostolic life of pontifical rite, may now nominate or elect a “non-cleric member” as major superior after receiving written permission from the .

The congregation, the rescriptum said, “reserves the right to evaluate the individual case and the reasons given by the Supreme Moderator or the General Chapter.”

A non-cleric member can be nominated as a local superior without the Vatican’s permission.

The change marks a shift from a requirement that only an ordained brother or friar can be the head of a religious community, mirroring a by Pope Francis allowing not just clerics but “any member of the faithful” to lead a dicastery of the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis: St. Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality helped me through a crisis

Vatican City, May 18, 2022 / 06:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that learning about St. Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality helped him during a period of crisis as a theology student.

“I would like to thank St. Charles de Foucauld, because his spirituality did me so much good when I was studying theology, a time of maturation and also of crisis,” the pope on May 18, during a meeting with members of the .

The association’s members were in Rome for the May 15 of the French explorer who became a hermit and missionary in Algeria, where he was killed in 1916.

Pope Francis said he learned about from the Italian priest Father Arturo Paoli and books by , which he said he had read often.

Charles de Foucauld “helped me so much to overcome crises and to find a way of Christian life that was simpler, less Pelagian, closer to the Lord,” the pope said. “I thank the saint and bear witness to this, because he did me so much good.”

During the meeting, held in a room off of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall before his , Francis did not offer more details about the crisis he experienced as a theology student.

The pope studied theology as a seminarian from 1967 to 1969. In 1986, he spent three months at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany, where he began a doctoral dissertation on Romano Guardini, an Italian-born German priest.

His studies were cut short when the Jesuits called him back to Argentina to be a spiritual director in Córdoba and his dissertation was never finished.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Pope Francis called Charles de Foucauld “a prophet of our time, who was able to bring to light the essentiality and universality of faith.”

The Trappist priest condensed the meaning of belief, the pope said, “into two simple words, in which there is everything: ‘Jesus — Caritas.’”

Francis quoted a letter of the martyred saint, who wrote to his cousin Marie de Bondy in 1915, while “in the silence of the hermit life,” that “we are inclined to put first works, whose effects are visible and tangible, God gives first place to love and then to sacrifice inspired by love and obedience resulting from love.”

“As a Church,” the pope said, “we need to return to the essentials, not to get lost in so many secondary things, at the risk of losing sight of the simple purity of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of our prayer of protest’

Vatican City, May 18, 2022 / 04:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Catholics on Wednesday to feel free to protest spontaneously to God when faced with suffering and injustice.

Reflecting on the in his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 18, the pope said that “God is not afraid of our prayer of protest.”

“Sometimes I meet people who approach me and say: ‘But, Father, I protested against God because I have this and that problem…’ But, you know, friend, that protesting is a way to pray when it is done like that,” he said.

“When children, when young people object against their parents, it is a way of attracting their attention and of asking that they take care of them.”

“If you have some wound in your heart, some pain, and you want to object, object even to God. God will listen to you. God is a Father. God is not afraid of our prayer of protest, no! God understands. But be free, be free in your prayer. Don’t imprison your prayer within preconceived paradigms.”

The catechesis was the 10th in a that the 85-year-old pope began in February. He entered St. Peter’s Square in a white jeep, stopping to invite a group of children in red hats to join him for part of his journey past rows of pilgrims.

After touring the square, the jeep pulled up behind a raised platform in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope, who suffers from , was helped to exit the vehicle and walk slowly to the white chair where he gave his address.

The pope described the Book of Job as “a universal literary classic” and meditated on how the prophet Job lost everything but retained his belief in God’s justice, despite being surrounded by spiritually ignorant friends.

He said: “On our catechetical itinerary, we meet Job when he was an old man. We encounter him as a witness of a faith that does not accept a ‘caricature’ of God, but protests loudly in the face of evil until God responds and reveals his face.”

“And in the end, God responds, as always, in a surprising way — He shows Job His glory without crushing him, or better still, with sovereign tenderness, tenderly, just like God always does.”

“The pages of this book need to be read well, without prejudices, without stereotypes, to understand the power of Job’s cry. It would be good for us to put ourselves in his school to overcome the temptation of moralism due to the exasperation and bitterness of the pain of having lost everything.”

The pope noted that Job reached a turning point at the height of his “venting,” when he proclaimed: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth” ().

“This passage is really beautiful,” he commented. “It makes me think of the end of that brilliant oratorio of Handel, the ‘Messiah,’ after the celebrative Hallelujah, the soprano slowly this passage: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives,’ peacefully.”

“And so, after this painful and joyful experience of Job, the voice of the Lord is something else. ‘I know that my Redeemer lives’ — it is truly a beautiful thing. We could interpret it like this: ‘My God, I know You are not a Persecutor. My God will come and do me justice.’”

“It is the simple faith in the resurrection of God, the simple faith in Jesus Christ, the simple faith that the Lord is always waiting for us and will come.”

Pope Francis said that the drama of Job is played out today when “really heavy trials fall on a person, on a family, on a people.” He mentioned parents of children with serious disabilities and people with chronic illnesses.

“These situations are often aggravated by the scarcity of economic resources. At certain junctures in history, the accumulation of burdens gives the impression that they were given a group appointment. This is what has happened in these years with the COVID-19 pandemic, and is happening now with the war in Ukraine,” the pope reflected.

He asked: “Can we justify these ‘excesses’ to the higher intelligence of nature and history? Can we religiously bless them as justified responses to the sins of the victims, as if they deserve it? No, we cannot.”

“There is a kind of right that victims have to protest vis-à-vis the mystery of iniquity, a right that God grants to everyone, that indeed He himself inspires, after all.”

Concluding his address, the pope said that many elderly people walked a similar path to Job, undergoing great suffering but continuing to hold on to God’s promises.

He said: “They have suffered so much in life, they have learned so much in life, they have gone through so much, but in the end, they have this peace, a peace, I would say, that is almost mystical, that is, the peace from an encounter with God to the point they can say, ‘I knew you because I had heard about you, but now I have seen you with my own eyes’ ().”

“These elderly people resemble the peace of the Son of God on the Cross who is abandoned to the Father.”

After the pope’s address, a summary of his catechesis was read out in seven languages.

Addressing English-speaking Catholics, he said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Israel and the Middle East, Canada and the United States of America.”

“In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you!”

After addressing Italian pilgrims, Pope Francis : “Finally, my thoughts go, as usual, to the elderly, the sick, the young, and newlyweds.”

“Dear young people, do not be afraid to put your energies at the service of the Gospel, with the enthusiasm characteristic of your age; and you, dear elderly and dear ill people, be aware that you offer a valuable contribution to society thanks to your wisdom; and you, dear newlyweds, let your families grow as places where you learn to love God and your neighbor in serenity and joy.”

Benedict XVI: 95th birthday wishes from around world ‘made me very happy’

Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 10:40 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said that receiving congratulatory messages from around the world on his 95th birthday made him “very happy.”

The retired German pope received almost 3,000 greetings in 24 languages via the website , CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, .

On the website of the , originally launched by Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus thanked well-wishers.

He “On the occasion of my 95th birthday, I received a great number of messages from around the world wishing me a happy birthday. These many expressions of devotion and solidarity have made me very happy. In my gratitude, I feel united with everyone in prayer.“

The messages were mainly written in German, English, Italian, and Polish.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of the pope emeritus, showed Benedict XVI the messages on a tablet at his residence, the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.

“The pope emeritus has asked me to express his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who wished him a happy birthday on the website,“ Gänswein said.

“He was filled with great joy and deeply touched by the many warm and affectionate messages that were sent to him there.“

The retired pope’s birthday fell this year on Holy Saturday, as it did when he was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, a small Bavarian town not far from Austria.

Looking back to his birth in his , he wrote: “The fact that the birthday was the last day of Holy Week and the eve of Easter was always noted in the family history, because it was connected with the fact that I was baptized right on the morning of my birthday with the water that had just been consecrated in the ‘Easter Vigil’ celebrated at that time in the morning. To be the first baptized with the new water was considered a significant providential event.”

He continued: “The fact that my life was thus immersed in the Paschal Mystery from the beginning in this way has always filled me with gratitude, for this could only be a sign of blessing.”

“Admittedly — it had not been Easter Sunday, but only Holy Saturday. But the longer I think about it, the more it seems to me to be in keeping with the essence of our human life, which is still waiting for Easter, not yet in full light, but nevertheless confidently moving toward it.”

Among those congratulating Benedict XVI on his 95th birthday was Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, eastern Germany.

He wrote: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given to the Church in your writings. I am sure that you have helped many people to find God and to know and love Christ more deeply. May the Lord reward you for this effort one day in His glory!” said that the birthday wishes would also be presented to the pope emeritus in a printed and bound volume.

Pope Francis praises courage of 23-year-old lay founder of mission society

Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 09:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday praised the courage of Pauline Jaricot, the laywoman who founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith when she was just 23 years old.

Jaricot will be in Lyon, east-central France, on May 22. , prefect of the , will preside over the ceremony.

The is the oldest of four Pontifical Mission Societies (), an umbrella group of Catholic missionary societies under the pope’s authority. The first three bodies were granted the title “Pontifical” 100 years ago.

The PMS is holding its general assembly on May 16-23 in Lyon in a year with several .

“So you are meeting in Lyon because there, 200 years ago, a young woman of 23, Pauline Marie Jaricot, had the courage to found a work to support the missionary activity of the Church,” Pope Francis said in his May 16 .

“A few years later,” he noted, “she started the ‘,’ an organism devoted to prayer and the sharing of offerings.”

“From a wealthy family, she died in poverty: with her beatification, the Church attests that she knew how to accumulate treasures in heaven,” he said.

Jaricot established the Association of the Propagation of the Faith in 1822 as a way for all Catholics to assist the missions through prayer and small donations.

“Pauline Jaricot liked to say that the Church is missionary by nature and that therefore every baptized person has a mission; indeed, is a mission,” the pope said.

He emphasized that the “evangelizing thrust has never waned in the Church and always remains its fundamental dynamism,” explaining that this was why he gave a “special role” to the new Dicastery for Evangelization in the , .

When the constitution comes into full effect on June 5, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the will be merged into the Dicastery for Evangelization, presided over directly by the pope.

Francis pointed out three aspects of the PMS which he said had contributed to the success of the missions over time, together with the action of the Holy Spirit.

“First of all, missionary conversion: the goodness of mission depends on the journey of exit from self, the desire not to center life on self, but on Jesus, on Jesus who came to serve and not to be served,” he said.

“In this sense, Pauline Jaricot saw her existence as a response to God’s compassionate and tender mercy: from her youth she sought identification with her Lord, even through the sufferings she went through, in order to kindle the flame of his love in every man,” he said.

“Therein lies the source of the mission, in the ardor of a faith that is not satisfied and that, through conversion, becomes day by day imitation, in order to channel God’s mercy onto the streets of the world.”

The second aspect, prayer, makes the first aspect possible, the pope said.

“It is not by chance that Pauline placed the Work of the Propagation of the Faith alongside the Living Rosary, as if to reiterate that mission begins with prayer and cannot be accomplished without it,” he said.

“Yes, because it is the Spirit of the Lord that precedes and enables all our good works: the primacy is always of his grace. Otherwise, the mission would become a running in vain.”

The last aspect is charity, Pope Francis said.

“Together with the prayer network, Pauline initiated a collection of offerings on a large scale and in a creative form, accompanying it with information about the missionaries’ lives and activities,” he said.

“The offerings of so many simple people were providential for the history of the missions.”

The year 2022 is also the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, which oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Catholic world following its foundation by . The body is known today as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Pope Francis offers guidance to young Christians in politics

Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday urged young Christians engaged in politics to promote fraternity, while shunning “violent confrontation” and ideology.

The pope outlined his vision for the renewal of politics in a May 16 to members of the , an international group of people aged 18 to 35 who want to “be active in politics according to the heart of God.”

He gave the young people present in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall three watchwords — encounter, reflection, and action — and encouraged them to show “unconditional acceptance and respect” for others.

“Without such a change of heart, politics often risks turning into a violent confrontation, where people try to impose their own ideas and pursue particular interests over the common good, contrary to the principle that ‘unity prevails over conflict,’” he said, referring to a maxim in his 2013 .

The pope, who has been making his public appearances since May 5 due to a in his right knee, invoked the 18th-century statesman .

He recalled that the author of “Reflections on the Revolution in France” told his constituents after his election to the British Parliament that he would not only serve their interest but also “the interest of the entire country, the general good.”

The pope said: “As Christians, we recognize that politics is practiced not only through encounter, but also through shared reflection in the pursuit of this general good, not simply through the clash of differing and often opposed interests.”

He added: “Our own compass for advancing this common project is the Gospel, which brings to the world a profoundly positive vision of humanity as loved by God.”

The Chemin Neuf Politics Fraternity is part of the , which was founded in Lyon, France, in 1973 and describes itself as a Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation.

Members of the Politics Fraternity issued a in Poland in 2016 recalling that Pope Pius XI described politics as “the highest form of charity” and committing themselves to strive “for justice and peace, through our political commitment.”

The pope highlighted the group’s “efforts on behalf of migrants and ecology,” as well as an initiative in which members “have chosen to live together in a working-class quarter of Paris, in order to listen to the voices of the poor.”

“That is a Christian way of engaging in political life,” he commented. “Don’t forget these things, that realities are more important than ideas: politics cannot be practiced with ideology. That the whole is greater than the part, and that unity prevails over conflict. Always seek unity and do not get lost in conflict.”

Full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the canonization Mass of 10 saints

Vatican City, May 15, 2022 / 05:40 am (CNA).

We have heard what Jesus told his disciples before leaving this world and returning to the Father. He told us what it means to be a Christian: “Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). This is the legacy that Christ bequeathed to us, the ultimate criterion for discerning whether or not we are truly his disciples. It is the commandment of love. Let us stop to consider two essential elements of this commandment: Jesus’ love for us —“as I have loved you” — and the love he asks us to show to others — “so you must love one another.”

First, the words “as I have loved you”. How did Jesus love us?  To the very end, to the total gift of himself. It is striking to think that he spoke these words on that night of darkness, when the atmosphere in the Upper Room was one of deep emotion and anxiety: deep emotion, because the Master was about to bid farewell to his disciples; anxiety because he had said that one of them would betray him. We can imagine the sorrow that filled the heart of Jesus, the dark clouds that were gathering in the hearts of the apostles, and their bitterness at seeing Judas who, after receiving the morsel dipped for him by the Master, left the room to enter into the night of betrayal. Yet at the very hour of his betrayal, Jesus reaffirmed his love for his own. For amid the darkness and tempests of life, that is the most important thing of all: God loves us.

Brothers and sisters, may this message be the core of our own faith and all the ways in which we express it: “…not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). Let us never forget this.  Our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God. Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realizing that we are loved, prior to any response on our part. While the world frequently tries to convince us that we are valued only for what we can produce, the Gospel reminds us of the real truth of life: we are loved. A contemporary spiritual writer put it this way: “Long before any human being saw us, we were seen by God’s loving eyes.  Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we were heard by our God, who is all ears for us.  Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we were spoken to by the voice of eternal love” (H. NOUWEN, Life of the Beloved). He loved us first; he waits for us; he keeps loving us. This is our identity: we are God’s loved ones. This is our strength: we are loved by God.

Acknowledging this truth requires a conversion in the way we often think of holiness. At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice to achieve a reward. This can at times appear as an overly “pelagian” way of viewing life and holiness. We have turned holiness into an unattainable goal. We have separated it from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life and, in the words of Teresa of Avila to her Sisters, “among the pots and pans”. Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works.  For we at times give more importance to self, flesh and works. No, the primacy is that of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works.

The love that we receive from the Lord is the force that transforms our lives.  It opens our hearts and enables us to love. For this reason, Jesus says — here is the second element — “as I have loved you, so must you love one another”. That word “as” is not simply an invitation to imitate Jesus’ love; it tells us that we are able to love only because he has loved us, because he pours into our hearts his own Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, love that heals and transforms. As a result, we can make decisions and perform works of love in every situation and for every brother and sister whom we meet, because we ourselves are loved and we have the power to love.  As I myself am loved, so I can love others. The love I give is united to Jesus’ love for me.  “As” he loved me, so I can love others. The Christian life is just that simple. Let’s not make it more complicated with so many things. It is just that simple.

In practice, what does it mean to live this love? Before giving us this commandment, Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet; then, after giving it, he gave himself up to the wood of the cross. To love means this: to serve and to give one’s life. To serve, that is, not to put our own interests first: to clear our systems of the poison of greed and competitiveness; to fight the cancer of indifference and the worm of self-referentiality; to share the charisms and gifts that God has given  us. Specifically, we should ask ourselves, “What do I do for others?” That is what it means to love, to go about our daily lives in a spirit of service, with unassuming love and without seeking any recompense.

Then, to give one’s life. This is about more than simply offering something of ours to others; it is about giving them our very selves. I like to ask people who seek my counsel whether they give alms.  And if they do, whether they touch the hand of the recipient or simply, antiseptically, throw down the alms. Those people usually blush and say no. And I ask whether, in giving alms, they look the person in the eye, or look the other way. They say no. Touching and looking, touching and looking at the flesh of Christ who suffers in our brothers and sisters. This is very important; it is what it means to give one’s life.

Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love. “Are you called to the consecrated life? So many of you are here today! Then be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters, by fighting for justice for your comrades, so that they do not remain without work, so that they always receive a just wage. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Tell me, are you in a position of authority? So many people in authority are here today! Then be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 14). This is the path of holiness, and it is so simple! To see Jesus always in others.

To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, any worldly glory: this is a secret and it is our calling. That was how our fellow travelers canonized today lived their holiness. By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation — as a priest, as a consecrated woman, as a lay person — they devoted their lives to the Gospel. They discovered an incomparable joy and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history. May we strive to do the same. The path of holiness is not barred; it is universal and it starts with Baptism. Let us strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own. Holiness is always “original”, as Blessed Carlo Acutis used to say: it is not a photocopy, but an “original”, mine, yours, all of ours. It is uniquely our own. Truly, the Lord has a plan of love for everyone. He has a dream for your life, for my life, for the life of each of us. What else can I say? Pursue that dream with joy. 

Pope Francis canonizes 10 new saints of the Catholic Church

Vatican City, May 15, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday recognized 10 new saints of the Catholic Church during a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

It was the Church’s first canonization since that of St. John Henry Newman and four others in October 2019.

Religious men and women, priests, and a lay man are among the 10 people who are recognized to be in heaven after living lives of exemplary holiness on earth.

“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” Pope Francis said during his homily on May 15, a sunny, warm day in Rome.

Pope Francis, who has been suffering from knee pain and has used a wheelchair to avoid walking in recent days, was able to stand for a short time and walk short distances during the Mass. He had assistance and walked visibly slower than in the recent past.

The Mass began with the rite of canonization, which included the reading of short biographies of each blessed, read by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A litany of saints was sung before Pope Francis recited the formula of canonization.

He declared: “For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Titus Brandsma, Lazarus known as Devasahayam, Césarde Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, Charles de Foucauld, Marie Rivier, Maria Francesca di Gesu Rubatto, Maria di Gesù Santocanale, and Maria Domenica Mantovani to be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, or any worldly glory: this is our calling. That was how our fellow travelers canonized today lived their holiness,” Pope Francis said.

“By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation — some as a priest, others as a consecrated woman, as a lay person — they devoted their lives to the Gospel,” he said. “They discovered an incomparable joy and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history.”

“May we strive to do the same — the path of holiness is not barred; it is universal and it begins with baptism. It is not barred. May we strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own,” he added.

The new saints are:

: A French soldier and explorer who became a Trappist monk and Catholic missionary to Muslims in Algeria. Known as , he was killed in 1916 at the age of 58.

: A Dutch priest, professor, and journalist who opposed Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. by lethal injection in Dachau in 1942.

: who was tortured and martyred after converting from Hinduism to Catholicism in the 18th century.

: The founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation. The Frenchwoman founded the order in 1796, , during the Reign of Terror.

: founder who crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times by boat to establish an order of Capuchin sisters in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

: The first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, which to serve the poor, orphaned, and the sick in Italy in 1892.

: of the Capuchin Sisters of Immaculate Mary of Lourdes in Sicily in 1910. She spent most of her free moments, day or night, in front of the tabernacle. 

: A French Catholic priest who founded two religious congregations in the 16th century. He was a zealous preacher and catechist, who performed many works of charity.

: An Italian priest who is known for having established the Sisters of the Poor, opened an orphanage, and worked for the poor. 

-: The founder of the religious congregations of the Vocationist Fathers, the Vocationist Sisters and of the Secular Institute of the Apostles of Universal Sanctification in Italy. The priest was devoted to educating young people and cultivating their vocations.

The canonization Mass was attended by an estimated 45,000 people, many of whom traveled from outside Italy.

Among those present in St. Peter’s Square were also Italian President Sergio Mattarella, French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, Dutch Minister of the Exterior Wopke Hoekstra, Indian Minister of Minorities Gingee K. S. Mathan, and Algerian President of the High Islamic Committee Bouabdellah Ghoulamallah.

In remarks at the conclusion of Mass before the Regina Caeli prayers, the pope greeted the official delegations from several countries which had attended the canonizations. He also greeted all the faithful from all around the world who had attended the Mass.

Pope Francis encouraged Catholic Christians to imitate the example of the saints.

“It is good to see that, with their evangelical witness, these Saints have fostered the spiritual and social growth of their respective nations and also of the entire human family,” the pope said. “While sadly in the world distances grow, and tensions and wars increase, may the new saints inspire solutions of togetherness and ways of dialogue, especially in the hearts and minds of those who hold positions of great responsibility and are called upon to be agents of peace, not war.”

“And now, let us turn to the Virgin Mary, so that she may help us joyfully imitate the example of the new saints,” said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis: Anglicans are ‘valued traveling companions’

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that members of the Anglican Communion are “valued traveling companions” as Catholics take part in a worldwide synodal process.

Speaking to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Dialogue Commission () on May 13, the pope said he hoped that Anglicans would contribute to the leading to the in Rome in 2023.

He : “As you know, the Catholic Church has inaugurated a synodal process: for this common journey to be truly such, the contribution of the Anglican Communion cannot be lacking. We look upon you as valued traveling companions.”

The 85-year-old pope noted that in July he is due to with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion.

The pope, who has been making his public appearances since May 5 due to a in his right knee, said: “As part of this concrete journey, I wish to recommend to your prayers an important step. Archbishop Justin Welby and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, two dear brothers, will be my traveling companions when, in a few weeks’ time, we will at last be able to travel to South Sudan.”

“The visit was postponed on account of the troubles in that country. My brother Justin is sending his wife ahead of us for the works of preparation and charity. This is the fine work he is doing with his wife, as a couple, and I thank her very much.”

He added: “Ours will be an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace. Let us pray that it may inspire Christians in South Sudan and everywhere to be promotors of reconciliation, patient weavers of concord, capable of saying no to the perverse and useless spiral of violence and of arms.”

The Anglican Communion is the world’s third-largest Christian communion after the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. It has an estimated 85 million members in more than 165 countries.

ARCIC was founded in 1967 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI. Currently in its third phase, the commission’s most recent document is entitled

Cardinal Parolin hopes Zen arrest will not complicate Vatican-China dialogue

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said that he is “very sorry” about Cardinal Joseph Zen’s arrest earlier this week and hopes it will not complicate the Holy See’s dialogue with China.

“I would like to express my closeness to the cardinal who was freed and treated well,” Parolin said on May 12, according to , the Holy See’s online news portal.

The , a key architect of the Holy See’s provisional agreement with Chinese authorities on the appointment of bishops, added that Zen’s in Hong Kong should not be read as “a disavowal” of the agreement with Beijing, which is up for renewal this fall.

Parolin told journalists that his “most concrete hope is that initiatives like this cannot complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue between the Holy See and the Church in China.”

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, said in an on the same day with an Italian television program, Tg2 Post, that the Vatican’s dialogue with Chinese Communist Party officials was “not always easy” and “the desired results” have not always been seen.

Gallagher also spoke about the war in Ukraine, where he is due to travel next week and expected to meet with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on May 20.

“I believe that great powers like the United States and China, members of the Security Council, have a very important role in this moment, and we must appeal to them to fulfill their responsibilities with a deep sense of morality and urgency,” the 68-year-old English archbishop said.

The Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister said at another point in the interview that “Ukraine has the right to defend itself,” but added that it was essential to avoid an arms race.

Parolin, in his comments to journalists on the sidelines of an event at the on Pope John Paul I, reiterated his desire “to have some clear parameters to address the issue of weapons in the most just and moderate way possible” in the Ukraine war.

“Eventually they will have to find a solution, because geography forces them to live, not together, but close together; they share a border that is many thousands of kilometers in length,” he said.

“It is a pity,“ he added, “that we still have not understood the lesson that instead of doing all this slaughter and producing all this rubble, solutions could be found sooner — what the Holy See has always hoped for.“

The cardinal’s comments on China come as the Holy See’s provisional agreement with Beijing is due to expire in October.

It is unclear what impact Zen’s arrest will have on the discussions between the Holy See and Chinese authorities about the renewal of the agreement, which was first signed in 2018 and in 2020.

Beijing’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said this week that the arrest of the cardinal this week was “completely irrelevant to the occupation or religious background of the persons arrested.”

“The persons concerned are suspected of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security — an act of severe nature,” the government said.

Zen, who has been , was arrested on May 11 with at least four others for his role as a trustee of the , which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

More than 180 people in Hong Kong have been arrested since a sweeping National Security Law came into force in the former British colony, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Pope Francis recorded a for Hong Kong Catholics in March in which he said: “It takes patience to hope.”

“I wish you to be good citizens and that you are courageous in the face of the challenges of the time,” the pope said.

Pope Francis: Family life more tested than ever before

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Family life is more tested today than it has ever been before, Pope Francis told a group of moral theologians on Friday.

“First of all, for some time ‘the family has been going through a profound cultural crisis, like all communities and social bonds,’” the pope on May 13, quoting from his 2013 .

“The very possibility of establishing a family today is often arduous and young people find so many difficulties in getting married and having children,” he said.

“In fact,” Francis went on, “the epochal changes that we are experiencing prompt moral theology to take up the challenges of our time and to speak a language that is understandable to interlocutors — not just ‘insiders’; and thus help ‘overcome adversity and contrasts’ and foster ‘a new creativity to express in the current challenges the values that constitute us as a people in societies and in the Church, the People of God.’”

The pope also noted that many families were suffering from a lack of work and dignified housing, “where they can live in peace in an age of great and rapid change.”

“These difficulties fall on family life, generating relational problems,” he said.

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with participants in an international conference on moral theology, organized by the and the .

The is being held on May 11-14 in Rome, on the theme of “Pastoral practices, life experience, and moral theology: between new opportunities and new paths.”

The family, Pope Francis said, played a decisive role today in the pastoral conversion of communities and the missionary transformation of the Church.

He suggested that different theological approaches should work in dialogue to help answer the question: “How can Christian families bear witness today, in the joy and labors of conjugal, filial, and fraternal love, to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

“At the center of the Christian life is the grace of the Holy Spirit, received in lived faith, which prompts acts of charity,” the pope said.

“Goodness, then,” he continued, “is a call, it is a ‘voice’ that liberates and urges consciences, as the of says: ‘In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience […] Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.’”

Addressing the theologians, he said: “You are all asked to rethink today the categories of moral theology in their mutual connection: the relationship between grace and freedom, between conscience, the good, the virtues, the norm and the Aristotelian , Thomistic and spiritual discernment, the relationship between nature and culture, between the plurality of languages and the oneness of .”

Charles de Foucauld: The miracle that paved the way for his canonization

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 06:44 am (CNA).

Late on Nov. 30, 2016, François Asselin got a call from his construction manager.

“Listen, François, there has been an accident,” he heard on the other end of the line.

One of the entrepreneur’s employees, a carpenter named Charle, had fallen from a ceiling vault in the chapel of St. Louis high school in Saumur, western France.

The 21-year-old man, known publicly only by his first name, had fallen 50 feet onto the armrest of a church pew.

“This piece of wood went through his abdomen and under his heart and out the back. He impaled himself on the wood,” Asselin explained to EWTN News during a sit-down interview in Paris.

Asselin’s wife, Marie-Claire, immediately began praying for the young carpenter. She also sent a text message to the family’s priest at and to the , explaining the situation and asking for prayers.

The accident occurred on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the death of . The French explorer who became a Catholic missionary in Algeria had been in 2005.

Hundreds of people at the parish and in the fraternity prayed for the young man’s healing through the intercession of the Catholic priest and hermit, who was killed in the Sahara in 1916.

After Charle, an alternative spelling of Charles, fell, he remained conscious, and stood and walked to look for help.

He was rushed to the hospital, where he was operated on, but “no vital organ had been touched, [there were] no aftereffects, either of the brain or physical,” his employer said.

The doctors who examined the carpenter agreed that the impaling, together with a fall from such a height, would usually cause the body’s organs to burst.

Asselis said: “Three days later, I tell you, I was in his hospital room, he was talking to me like I am talking to you. The following week, eight days later, he was released from the hospital, and two months later, he was back to work as a carpenter in the company as if nothing had happened.”

When the Catholic entrepreneur learned the details of the incident from Charle, he was amazed to hear the young man tell him that when he began to fall, he “lay flat, put my head in my hands, and abandoned myself.”

To Asselis, Charle’s words echoed the celebrated of Charles de Foucauld beginning “I surrender myself to you.”

“If we look up the Prayer of Abandonment of Charles de Foucauld, you will find these key words,” he said, explaining that what made it even more remarkable to him was that “Charle was not baptized, Charle did not know Charles de Foucauld at all.”

Asselis said that following the recognition of the miraculous healing of Charle, many people have written to Charles de Foucauld Parish in Saumur asking for intercessory prayers in hopes of receiving their own miracle.

“And then sometimes it doesn’t work out there, and that’s complicated to understand,” he admitted.

“I humbly admit that this is the case, but we must not be dismayed,” he said. “We can see that prayer can work miracles and here prayer has worked a beautiful miracle.”

The Vatican and Moneyval: What’s changed?

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 06:18 am (CNA).

After around 10 years and five progress reports, has announced that the Holy See’s financial system will now be subjected to regular checks. The decision was disclosed in the European anti-money-laundering watchdog’s .

Does this upgrade mean that all previous issues have been resolved? There is certainly an attempt to establish a narrative in which the new management of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog () has brought significant benefits. But a closer reading of Moneyval’s assessment offers a contrasting point of view.

First, it is necessary to understand how Moneyval’s evaluation rounds of the Holy See work. The procedures are explained on the organization’s , albeit in somewhat technical language.

There, we read that “states or territories which have received compliant or largely compliant ratings in the six core recommendations in their evaluation report are only required to provide a biennial update of their progress in meeting the deficiencies identified in their mutual evaluation report or in taking other action to enhance their AML/CFT [anti-money laundering/counter financing of terrorism] regime.”

According to the procedures, “when the Plenary [Moneyval’s ] is satisfied with the progress reported, it shall adopt the biennial report. In case concerns are formulated, the Plenary shall adopt the report and place the state or territory in regular follow-up, applying, if appropriate, any of the steps of the compliance enhancing procedures.”

This step takes place when “when an assessed state or territory received partially compliant or non-compliant ratings in any of the six core recommendations or when the Plenary considers appropriate.”

Moneyval’s on the Vatican was , though with some critical issues.

In particular, the general evaluations of the system’s effectiveness were divided into 11 “immediate outcomes.” These have four grading scales: from the lower part, there is “low” and “moderate,” and in the upper part, “substantial” and “high.”

The Holy See did not receive a “low” or a “high.” Of the 11 ratings, six leaned towards the low end (“moderate”) and five toward the high end (“substantial”).

The items tending to the upper part referred, among other things, to the legal framework developed over the years, which certainly cannot be attributed to the current ASIF management. The watchdog in 2020, but it did not make substantial changes to a structure that was already functioning and even doing so well, judging from previous reports.

The latest report contained a critical assessment of the effectiveness of money-laundering probes and strong criticism of the conduct of investigations that led to the over the Secretariat of State’s management of funds.

The investigations led to the seizure of foreign financial intelligence units’ papers, prompting the Holy See’s suspension from the secure information system of the . This was only after a protocol was established between the court and the authorities.

In its annual report, Moneyval dedicates a section to the Vatican.

On the positive side, it says: “The report states that the jurisdiction’s authorities have a generally good high-level understanding of their money laundering and financing of terrorism threats and vulnerabilities. In fact, in a range of areas, there is a detailed understanding of risk.”

But it adds that “domestic cases which have raised a red flag for potential abuse of the internal system by mid-level and senior figures (insiders) for personal or other benefits have not been addressed within the national risk assessment.”

Moneyval also takes note of money-laundering investigations until October 2020, which continued “partly because of late responses from foreign counterparts to requests for assistance and partly because of under-resourcing on both prosecutorial and law enforcement sides, where there has been an insufficient specialization of financial investigators.”

The watchdog believes that the Vatican’s court lacks specialists who should be employed to enable more in-depth investigations. Moneyval observes that “results in court have been modest with only two convictions for self-laundering.” But it says that “recent developments … in this area are encouraging.”

The report “highlights as well the importance given to confiscation as a policy objective, which is illustrated by the adoption in 2018 of a robust framework for non-conviction-based confiscation — which has since been used in a high-profile case.”

Therefore, Moneyval notes, “the Holy See (including the Vatican City State) has a domestic mechanism in place that allows to give effect to United Nations’ sanctions without undue delay.” But it adds that “some delays persist in transposing such designations into national lists.”

The Institute of Works of Religion (the , often called “the Vatican bank”) is described as “the only authorized institution” and is also rated positively. The report says that the IOR “has a sound understanding of its money laundering and financing of terrorism risks.”

Regarding the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, it says: “The supervisor has a good to a very good understanding of the risk profile of the authorized institution and its most recent inspection took place in 2019. Coverage and quality look to be very good, including consideration of risks presented by insiders.”

Finally, “the report compliments the national authorities for efforts invested in rendering constructive and timely international co-operation.” It concludes that “the Holy See (including the Vatican City State) will be subject to Moneyval’s regular follow-up reporting process as a result of the positive report.”

In practice, there is nothing new compared to the progress report. Indeed, there is not much new even when compared to the legal framework set up by the old management of the Vatican’s financial intelligence authority.

The report refers to a period that includes October 2020 and starts from all the reforms carried out under the direction of and the presidency of René Brülhart. It is ironic that, despite international recognition for the work done under them, the two men are now standing trial at the Vatican and the ASIF has joined the proceedings as .

Furthermore, the positive opinion on the IOR came in the wake of the favorable judgment already contained in the first Moneyval report on the Vatican in 2012. The report said that the institute sometimes exceeded the required standards.

Again, there is a narrative that gives much credit to the IOR’s subsequent management. At the same time, , the director and deputy director of an IOR that made large profits, went on trial in the Vatican and were sentenced in two degrees of judgment for mismanagement. (An appeal is ongoing.) At the same time, the two were acquitted of the charges in Italy.

In his 2019 to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis praised the Vatican’s progress toward financial transparency. Broadly speaking, the reform of the Vatican financial system had crystallized by 2020, benefiting from all the work previously done to this end.

Undergoing regular Moneyval follow-up procedures is not a promotion for the Holy See. After years of positive evaluations, it is instead a mild upgrade. Following this change in status, the next Moneyval report only will say whether the Holy See is continuing to build a money-laundering prevention system that adheres to international standards.

Vatican confirms Pope Francis will visit 3 cities in Canada in July

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 04:15 am (CNA).

The Vatican confirmed on Friday that Pope Francis will visit three cities in Canada during the last week of July.

The pope will travel to Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit on July 24-30, the Holy See press office said on May 13.

The pope had last month that he planned to meet indigenous peoples in Canada this summer for the feast of on July 26.

“You have brought the living sense of your communities here in Rome. I will be happy to benefit again from meeting you by visiting your native lands, where your families live,” he said during a meeting with Canadian Indigenous leaders at the Vatican on April 1.

The Canadian bishops said last year that they would welcome Pope Francis’ visit as a “pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”

The pope’s full schedule in Canada will be published in the coming weeks, the Vatican said.

In Canada, Francis is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for the abuses committed against Indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

The Canadian bishops said on May 13 that Pope Francis would leave Canada on July 29, landing in Rome on July 30.

Bishop Raymond Poisson, the bishops’ conference president, : “We are immensely grateful that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation to continue the journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples of this land.”

“In late July, Pope Francis will have the opportunity to visit Indigenous Peoples here in their homeland, as he promised when he met them recently in Rome. We pray for the health of the Holy Father as we undertake the intensive planning for this historic visit.”

‘Everyone was crying’: An eyewitness recalls the attempted assassination of St John Paul II

Vatican City, May 13, 2022 / 03:47 am (CNA).

We were close enough to the assassination attempt for the priest in our group to see the gun itself.

The pope had spent a long time working through the crowd, shaking the hands of all those crowded to the alley barrier. A few minutes later, the vehicle came around to the other side of the alley across from us. As the pope was greeting those people, I heard the sound of firecrackers popping. It was very confusing. At some point, the crowd descended into confusion and grief. Everyone was crying. I was in shock but I could not cry and I felt guilty about that. An annoying voice came on the loudspeaker to pray in Italian. My little sister was scared and wanted Mom. They took all of our camera film as evidence. It took hours to get back on our bus, which came into St. Peter’s Square to get us. The crowd across from us had descended on the gunman. I did not see this, but there are many things I know without having seen them myself because we were all in the same group and saw different things and talked about them later. 


Rose [Hall] was a member of our group. She was not at the front but was standing further back away from the alleyway and the vehicle. Her elbow was resting on the shoulder of the religious sister in our group — that was the elbow that the bullet went through. It was sad to leave her behind. But the L’Osservatore Romano from that time has a photo with her visiting John Paul in his hospital room, so I am glad she got to do that. My father tells me that we had a prayer service in our later stop in Assisi to pray for Rose and the pope. 

One of the rare photos we have is a great side-by-side photo of my older sister Lisa and the Holy Father John Paul from that day. My sister Lisa died last year. We have photos that we bought from L'Osservatore Romano showing each of us in different angles with the pope from that day. I was in the background of a photo in Die Aktuelle from July 1981. The pope is seen slumped in the arms of his attendant, and I am in the background wearing a blue hat. The hat was, sadly, later lost. The headline of the article asked if the shooting of the pope was related to the . The Vatican revealed in May 2000 that it was related and described that relationship.

The secrets of Fatima encompass the children’s vision of hell (and personal promise of heaven), the prayers for Russia and the ending of the war, and finally, the pope struck down, among other disturbing visions. Indeed, when John Paul was in the hospital, he asked to see the Fatima records. He turned to the Blessed Mother, he turned to the Fatima children. I was only nine when the pope was shot. So Jacinta and Francisco and Lucia, the sainted Fatima children, are my special comfort, my special companions. That is the outcome of May 13, 1981.

We were a busload of American tourists from Leighton Barracks in Würzburg, West Germany. My father was the logistics officer for the air defense artillery missile battalion. My mother and two sisters and myself were in St. Peter’s Square. Dad was not in St. Peter’s Square that day because he went to his ancestral village. But he remembers many things that he saw after the shootings, and he also remembers what he heard secondhand about the day itself. 

Only after many decades did I start speaking about what I saw that day. I’ve spent decades processing this, learning how to stay safe and keep others safe, how to recover from trauma. I had no counselors or therapists in the early days back then. Shootings are no longer rare, they are in the news all the time. Children are traumatized and even their own parents and teachers (and counselors) do not know what they are really feeling and what to say to them. The most important thing is to listen to the child and not try to tell the child what to feel.

As a result of that day in 1981, I am a person who sees the action of God in history. I feel the pain that children feel when they are witnesses or victims of violence. I search for the meaning of events. I search for how healing can be obtained. I try to reconcile justice with mercy and forgiveness. As life goes on, there is more to forgive, and it is harder to forgive. It is even harder, as life goes on, to forgive myself too. The example of John Paul is like a ghost that haunts. He forgave his attacker because he felt the hand of God in his affliction, he saw God’s plan. He trusted that plan.


The Blessed Lady of Fatima spoke through these children: she asked us to pray for Russia. The Church and the people have forgotten to do that. Maybe that’s why all this madness is happening. A few years ago, I started to teach myself Russian, to study Russian history, and to meet ordinary Russian people in America. I deepened my understanding of the events I saw that day. On May 13, I will follow Mary’s request. I will pray for Russia. I will pray the rosary and make many other private prayers.

PHOTOS: Pilgrims honor Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 10:02 am (CNA).

On Wednesdays during the month of May, pilgrims can gather in St. Peter’s Basilica for a prayer service honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On May 11, the prayer began at the entrance of the basilica, in front of the holy door, and was followed by a procession through the basilica, stopping at images of the Virgin Mary.

The Marian artistic works in the basilica include Michelangelo’s sculpture of , the ancient image of (Mother of the Church), a small painting of (Pilgrim’s Mother), and large mosaics of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and the .

Mass at the altar of the concluded the prayer service.

Pope Francis: Low birth rate is a ‘social emergency’

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis decried the low birth rate in Western countries on Thursday, describing it as an urgent social emergency and a “new poverty.”

“It is not immediately perceptible, like other problems that occupy the news, but it is very urgent: fewer and fewer children are being born, and this means impoverishing everyone’s future; Italy, Europe, and the West are impoverishing their futures,” Pope Francis said in a to a May 12 event on the birth rate in Italy.

The pope’s message was read during the second edition of the meeting held in Rome on May 12-13. Pope Francis at the meeting in 2021.

“Sorry that I cannot be among you physically this year,” he said. “But I will follow your work closely, because the issue of birth rate represents a real social emergency.”

“The General State of the Birth Rate” brought together political, business, and organization leaders to reflect on Italy’s demographic crisis, caused by one of the in Europe: 1.24 births per woman.

“The data, the forecasts, the numbers are now known to all: we need concreteness,” Pope Francis said in his message.

“It is time to give real answers to families and young people: hope cannot and must not die of waiting.”

Francis said there was an invisible “existential periphery” in the West, consisting of the men and women who want to have children but are unable to achieve it.

Struggling to realize their dream of children, some people settle for “mediocre substitutes,” he added, such as work, cars, travel, and leisure time.

“The beauty of a family full of children is in danger of becoming a utopia, a dream difficult to realize,” he said.

“This is a new poverty that scares me,” the pope commented. “It is the generative poverty of those who discount the desire for happiness in their hearts, of those who resign themselves to watering down their greatest aspirations, of those who settle for little and stop hoping big.”

“Yes,” he continued, “it is a tragic poverty, because it affects human beings in their greatest wealth: bringing lives into the world to care for them, passing on to others the received existence with love.”

Pope Francis: Migrants and refugees have ‘enormous potential’ to help society

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 04:27 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that migrants and refugees have “enormous potential” to help society if they are given a chance.

In his for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, issued May 12, the pope said history showed that new arrivals played a “fundamental role” in social and economic growth.

“This continues to be true in our own day. Their work, their youth, their enthusiasm, and their willingness to sacrifice enrich the communities that receive them,” he wrote.

“Yet this contribution could be all the greater were it optimized and supported by carefully developed programs and initiatives. Enormous potential exists, ready to be harnessed, if only it is given a chance.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September. This year it falls on .

The theme of the 108th World Migrant and Refugee Day is “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees.”

In his 1,200-word message, dated May 9, the pope described the presence of migrants and refugees as both “a great challenge” and “an immense opportunity.”

He noted that migration had enriched Catholic communities around the world.

“As we have seen, the arrival of Catholic migrants and refugees can energize the ecclesial life of the communities that welcome them,” he said. “Often they bring an enthusiasm that can revitalize our communities and enliven our celebrations.”

“Sharing different expressions of faith and devotions offers us a privileged opportunity for experiencing more fully the catholicity of the People of God.”

Pope Francis closed his World Day of Migrants and Refugees message with an appeal to young people to “build the future” together with migrants and refugees.

“We cannot leave to future generations the burden of responsibility for decisions that need to be made now, so that God’s plan for the world may be realized and his Kingdom of justice, fraternity, and peace may come,” he said.

The pope concluded with a prayer:

Pope Francis meets wives of Ukrainian soldiers fighting to defend Mariupol

Vatican City, May 11, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met on Wednesday morning with the wives of two Ukrainian soldiers who are currently fighting to defend the besieged city of Mariupol.

After his on May 11, the pope held the hands of the Ukrainian women, Kateryna Prokopenko, 27, and Yulya Fedosiuk, 29.

Prokopenko is married to Ukrainian Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko, the man currently leading the Ukrainian last stand to defend the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol.

“You are our last hope. We hope that you can save their lives. Please don’t let them die,” Kateryna Prokopenko can be heard telling Pope Francis in a of their five-minute meeting.

After the audience, Prokopenko in St. Peter’s Square: “We hope that this meeting will just give us the chance to save their lives.”

“Now we are ready for the actions from the pope, from his delegation. And our soldiers are ready to be evacuated to a third country. They are ready to lay down their arms in case of evacuation to the third country.”

Fedosiuk, who is married to Ukrainian soldier Sgt. Arseniy Fedosiuk, said in a video interview recorded by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that they told the pope about the severe conditions within the Azovstal steel plant, where their husbands are fighting.

“We told the pope that 700 of our soldiers are injured. They have gangrene, amputations, their flesh is rotting, and many of them are dead. We couldn’t bury them. We couldn’t bury them [according] to Christian tradition and we ask pope to help us,” she said.

The Ukrainian women also handed the pope two letters, according to the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The first letter was signed by , who was elected Orthodox Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine in 2014, in which he reportedly appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to let the Azovstal fighters go.

The second letter was from the women themselves, who asked the pope during their meeting to “come to Ukraine and to speak with Putin.”

“We ask pope to help us. We ask pope to be the third party of this war and to let them go through the green corridor, and he told us that he will pray for us and he is doing everything for that,” Fedosiuk said.

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis also greeted Vietnam War photographer Nick Ut.

The former Associated Press photographer is known for his 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, “The Terror of War,” which is also known as the “Napalm Girl.”

Ut, who is Vietnamese American, met the pope with Phan Thi Kim Phuc, who is the young girl pictured in the photo. She was nine years old at the time the photo was taken in her hometown of Trảng Bàng during the Vietnam War.

Kim Phuc, who is now 59 years old, lives in Toronto with her family.

Vatican News that she said: “That image continues to remind me that I lost my childhood. Only over time, however, did I understand its value.”

Vatican following news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest ‘with concern’

Vatican City, May 11, 2022 / 09:11 am (CNA).

The Vatican said on Wednesday that it was concerned to hear of reports of the of Cardinal Joseph Zen by authorities in Hong Kong.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” said a May 11 statement from the Holy See press office.

The 90-year-old former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong was reportedly detained on May 11 in his role as a trustee of the , which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

The Standard newspaper that the trustees were arrested on Wednesday evening local time, according to sources.

The fund, which was founded in 2019, disbanded last year after the national security police ordered it to share operational details, the newspaper said.

Zen, who stood down as Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop in 2009, is an of the pro-democracy movement.

In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Reuters that Zen and four others — Canadian-Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung, and former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho — were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces.”

Before the law’s implementation, many Catholics, including Zen, warned that it could be used to silence the Church in Hong Kong.

Pope Francis’ advice on retirement: Leave ‘a legacy of good, rather than just goods’

Vatican City, May 11, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered advice on Wednesday about how to live in retirement fruitfully by leaving “a legacy of good, rather than just goods.”

Speaking during his on May 11, the pope said that retirement can be a “time to leave a good legacy of wisdom, tenderness, and gifts for the family and the community.”

“When we think of an inheritance, at times we think of goods, and not of the goodness that is done in old age, and that has been sown. That goodness is the best legacy we can leave,” he said in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope commented that true heroism was not only found in great events of history, but also in the “love poured out in a difficult family and on behalf of a threatened community.”

Pope Francis highlighted the biblical example of Judith, whom he praised for her heroism and her faith.

The in the Old Testament relates how Judith saved the city of Bethulia by cutting off the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes, who was besieging the city.

“After her great adventure, Judith returned to live in her town, Bethulia, where she lived her old age beautifully, until she was 105,” the pope noted.

In her “retirement,” Judith continued to provide a heroic example by dedicating her time to her family and her community, as well as through charitable works, like that of granting “freedom to her favorite handmaid,” the pope said.

Pope Francis pointed to how many retirees can devote themselves to the joy of helping to look after grandchildren, providing them with “irreplaceable lessons.” But he also noted that “today fewer and fewer children are born, and parents are often more far away.”

He said: “Judith was soon widowed and had no children, but, as an old woman, she was able to live a season of fullness and serenity, in the knowledge that she had lived to the fullest the mission the Lord had entrusted to her.”

“When we are old, we lose some of our sight, but our inner gaze becomes more penetrating – one sees with the heart. We become capable of seeing things that previously escaped us … It is true: the Lord does not entrust his talents only to the young and the strong. He has talents for everyone, made to fit each person, the elderly too,” he said.

“The life of our communities must know how to benefit from the talents and charisms of so many elderly people who are already retired, but who are a wealth to be treasured.”

Pope Francis arrived at his general audience sitting in the popemobile and greeted pilgrims while making several laps around St. Peter’s Square.

At one point, the pope asked the popemobile to stop and invited some children to ride on board with him.

After greeting the pilgrims, the pope slowly walked up from the popemobile to his chair, where he remained seated for most of the audience. The pope concluded by leading the crowd in praying the Our Father in Latin.

The 85-year-old for not being able to stand to greet pilgrims during the traditional blessings of newlyweds at the end of the audience due to .

“I would like to apologize because I will not be able to come to you today to greet you because of my knee: it is still hurting. You will have to walk a little to me, but it is all the same and I receive you with my heart in my hand,” Francis said.

The pope also offered a spontaneous prayer for the people of Sri Lanka, where eight people have died and 200 have been injured in violent protests in the past few days, according to the Associated Press.

Two Ukrainian women were in attendance at the pope’s audience: Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Ukrainian Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko, and Arseniy Fedosiuk’s wife, Yulya. Their husbands are currently fighting in the last stand to defend the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine.

Also among those in the crowd were major superiors of women religious from the United States and newly ordained priests with the Legionaries of Christ.

In the pope’s to Polish pilgrims, he asked for the intercession of for vocations.

“May this strenuous defender of the divine moral order, especially in this week of prayer for vocations, obtain for all young people the gift of wise discernment of the path of life, of entrustment to Christ, and fidelity to evangelical values. I bless you from my heart,” he said.

Bishop: New Vatican constitution gives value to Catholic bishops’ conferences

Vatican City, May 10, 2022 / 09:05 am (CNA).

In a speech to dicastery leaders on Monday, a bishop said that the new Vatican constitution gives value to Catholic bishops’ conferences and their potential to foster communion between bishops and the pope.

The preamble of , Bishop Marco Mellino said, affirms that bishops’ conferences “are currently one of the most significant ways of expressing and serving ecclesial communion in the different regions together with the Roman Pontiff.”

Mellino, who is the secretary of Pope Francis’ , said the constitution’s intention is “that of valuing the episcopal conferences ... in their potential for implementing the communion of the bishops among themselves and with the Roman Pontiff.”

He went on to say that this works to the extent that each of the bishops’ conferences “is a valid instrument which contributes, in a manifold and fruitful way, to the realization of the collegial affection among the members of the same episcopate and provides for the common good of the particular Churches.”

Mellino’s speech was on May 9 in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. It included reflections on the role of laity, synodality, and the Roman Curia’s orientation toward service, as outlined in the .

The new Vatican constitution, whose title means “Preach the Gospel,” was on March 19 after nine years in production by the pope’s Council of Cardinals.

It replaces , the on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1988, and later modified by popes Benedict and Francis.

will take effect on June 5, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

In the constitution, Mellino said, bishops’ conferences “are not considered intermediate hierarchical structures, but rather bodies of subsidiarity, which do not interfere with the Petrine office or the governance of particular Churches.”

“They express and foster the exercise of ‘co-responsibility in the ’ for the pastoral benefit and common good of the particular Churches through the joint exercise of certain functions proper to them,” he said.

The bishop also drew attention to the use of the word “jointly” in Church law about bishops’ conferences.

In canon law, says “a conference of bishops, a permanent institution, is a group of bishops of some nation or certain territory who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions for the Christian faithful of their territory in order to promote the greater good which the Church offers to humanity.”

The word “jointly” is used “in order to avoid the idea that in episcopal conferences is exercised the collegial power of the bishops, which can be exercised by them only when the whole College is convoked,” he said.

“Moreover, by making reference to the joint exercise of only ‘some pastoral functions’ and not all, the canon seeks to protect the responsibility that by divine right the bishops have for the Church entrusted to their care and not to affect the proper power that they have in the exercise of their pastoral ministry.”

Who are the 4 women being canonized this weekend?

Vatican City, May 10, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will preside over the first canonizations in more than two years this weekend.

Ten people will be officially recognized as saints by the Catholic Church on May 15. Among them are some relatively well-known figures, like , , and .

Less well known are the four Catholic female leaders who will be canonized alongside them. Each of the women founded religious orders which have grown worldwide and made a lasting impact on the Church.

Here are the stories of these four holy women, who all happen to be named for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As the French Revolution forced convents and monasteries across France to close and priests and nuns were martyred under the , this 28-year-old Frenchwoman founded a religious order in 1796.

founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, dedicated to the education of young girls in the faith. The congregation received official approval in 1801 and expanded across France.

Rivier struggled for much of her childhood from a debilitating disability that caused her joints to swell and her limbs to shrink. She could hardly stand with the help of crutches, according to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Her health problems also hindered her ability to enter religious life, but Rivier persevered and helped to educate unemployed women in her parish before the founding of her congregation.

Within a few decades of Rivier’s death in 1838, the spread to Canada and the United States. Today the sisters are present on five continents.

was a 19th-century missionary foundress who crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times by boat to establish an order of Capuchin sisters in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

The Italian religious sister, originally from the province of Turin, was born Anna Maria Rubatto in 1844. She lost her mother at the age of four and her father when she was 19 years old.

She worked as a servant and cultivated a deep spirituality, visiting a church daily to pray. But she did not discover her vocation until she was 40 years old.

One day when she was leaving a church, she heard the cries of a construction worker who had been injured by a stone that fell from the scaffolding onto his head. Maria helped to wash and treat his wounds. She discovered that the building he had been working on was a convent. The Capuchin friar who was overseeing its construction invited her to join as a founding member and then the first superior of the Institute of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of Loano.

Within just seven years, Mother Maria found herself traveling to South America to found new houses as her religious order grew. Today, the sisters are known as the and are present in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and other countries across South America, Europe, and Africa.

served as the first general superior of the , which she co-founded to serve the poor, orphaned, and the sick.

At the age of 24, she made a vow of virginity on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in her hometown of Castelletto di Brenzone in northern Italy.

She co-founded the Little Sisters of the Holy Family in 1892, at the age of 29, along with , a priest who had been her spiritual guide since she was 15 years old.

Serving as the order’s superior general for more than 40 years, Mantovani wrote the constitutions of the order and oversaw the opening of numerous convents.

By the time she died in 1934, the Little Sisters of the Holy Family had grown to have 1,200 sisters present in 150 convents in Italy and abroad.

founded the in Sicily in 1910.

Born in Palermo in 1852, Carolina Santocanale felt a desire to consecrate herself to God from an early age despite her father’s wishes. Under the spiritual guidance of Father Mauro Venuti, she discerned to devote her life to works of charity for the poor rather than entering the cloister.

At the age of 32, she began to experience significant health problems. Severe pain in her legs led her to be bedridden for more than a year. After her illness, she embraced an even more radical Franciscan spirituality.

After making simple vows at the age of 39, she spent most of her free moments, day or night, in front of the tabernacle. She oversaw the establishment of an orphanage and a nursery school, and nurtured many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Today, Santocanale’s sisters are present in Albania, Brazil, Italy, and Madagascar. She wrote that the mission of her Capuchin sisters was “to be bread broken for the hunger and the life of our brothers and sisters, in the image of Mary Immaculate in the mystery of salvation.”

Pope Francis invites grandparents to join a ‘spiritual and non-violent revolution’

Vatican City, May 10, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis invited grandparents and the elderly on Tuesday to join a “spiritual and non-violent revolution.”

In his for the second , issued on May 10, the pope urged seniors not to despair at their frailty but to embrace “a new mission” of caring for others in a world torn apart by conflict.

“Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future,” he wrote in the 1,600-word text, dated May 3.

“‘The special sensibility that those of us who are elderly have for the concerns, thoughts, and the affections that make us human should once again become the vocation of many. It would be a sign of our love for the younger generations.’”

“This would be our own contribution to the revolution of tenderness, a spiritual and non-violent revolution in which I encourage you, dear grandparents and elderly persons, to take an active role.”

Pope Francis the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021. The day takes place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, on or close to the July 26 Feast of , the grandparents of Jesus. This year, it will be celebrated on July 24.

The Vatican in February the theme for the second celebration of the day, which is taken from Psalm : “In old age they will still bear fruit.”

The theme “intends to emphasize how grandparents and the elderly are a value and a gift both for society and for ecclesial communities,” the Vatican’s said.

The dicastery’s prefect, , presented the pope’s message at a on May 10.

The Irish-born American cardinal said: “The pope’s message for the upcoming World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is an alternative to the throwaway culture: it helps all of us, and the elderly themselves, to understand that — far from being something to be thrown away — they have a specific vocation within our communities.”

“In this time of yearning for peace, the Church has a great need for older people who have the ‘gift’ of tenderness, who are capable of caring for and interceding with others.”

In his message, Pope Francis described how the elderly could take part in the “revolution of tenderness.”

He said: “Let us hold in our hearts — like St. Joseph, who was a loving and attentive father — the little ones of Ukraine, of Afghanistan, of South Sudan…”

“Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together.”

“Let us bear witness to this before those who wrongly think that they can find personal fulfilment and success in conflict. Everyone, even the weakest among us, can do this.”

“The very fact that we allow ourselves to be cared for — often by people who come from other countries — is itself a way of saying that living together in peace is not only possible, but necessary.”

He went on: “Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by learning to make ever more frequent and better use of the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age: prayer.”

Pope Francis has highlighted the importance of care and respect for the elderly since his election in 2013.

In February, he a new general audience devoted to old age.

The 85-year-old pope has been making his public appearances since May 5 due to a in his right knee.

Concluding his message, Pope Francis said: “Let us ask Our Lady, Mother of Tender Love, to make all of us artisans of the revolution of tenderness, so that together we can set the world free from the spectre of loneliness and the demon of war.”

Pope Francis to LGBT people: God ‘does not disown any of his children’

Vatican City, May 9, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has underlined that God “does not disown any of his children” in a brief message marking the launch of a new website for LGBT Catholics.

The pope made the comment in a dated May 8 to Father James Martin, S.J., the editor at large of America Media, the company supporting the new website, , launched on May 1.

In the letter, the Jesuit pope replied to questions posed by Martin, the author of “Building a Bridge,” a 2017 book advocating closer ties between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

Critics have Martin of rejecting on the sinfulness of homosexual sexual acts, but he has insisted that he the teaching of the Church.

In June 2021, Pope Francis for Martin’s controversial ministry and encouraged him to “continue this way.”

Asked what he considered the most important thing for LGBT people to know about God, the pope replied in the May 8 letter: “God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And ‘the style’ of God is ‘closeness, mercy, and tenderness.’ Along this path, you will find God.”

The pope also advised LGBT people interested in learning about the Church to read the , the New Testament book describing the growth of the early Christian community.

“There they will find the image of the living Church,” the 85-year-old pope commented.

Pope Francis was also asked what advice he would offer to LGBT Catholics who have experienced rejection from the Church.

Writing in Spanish, he said: “I would have them recognize it not as ‘the rejection of the Church,’ but instead of ‘people in the Church.’”

“The Church is a mother and calls together all her children. Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” [; ].”

“A ‘selective’ church, one of ‘pure blood,’ is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.”

Introducing the Outreach website, described as an “LGBTQ Catholic resource,” Martin that it would serve as “a clearinghouse for information” about LGBT ministries in the worldwide Church.

Outreach will host an at the Fordham Lincoln Center in New York on June 24-25. The keynote address will be given by of Lexington, Kentucky.

The final speech will be delivered by Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, who was subject to a by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999.

Pope Francis sent a to Gramick in December 2021, thanking her for her “closeness, compassion, and tenderness” during 50 years of service.

What’s the future of Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations?

Vatican City, May 9, 2022 / 05:35 am (CNA).

With the granted to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on May 3, Pope Francis seemed to burn the bridges of ecumenical dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church that the Vatican had painstakingly built.

Fortunately, members of the met in Rome that same week, giving a renewed impulse to dialogue between Christian confessions.

Ecumenical dialogue is now strongly influenced by the situation in Ukraine. Before the war, there was an Orthodox schism, with the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (), which led to a breach between the and the .

Moscow continued bilateral relations with Rome but abandoned intra-Orthodox dialogue events chaired by Constantinople and also launched an aggressive ecclesiastical policy which led, shortly before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, to the establishment of an in territories under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox .

The war has transformed the situation. Even the branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate (known as the ) disavowed the line of , who justified Russian aggression.

The only possibility for the Moscow Patriarchate to escape its isolation was the dialogue with Rome. A second meeting between Pope Francis and Kirill in Jerusalem was being explored. But then the Holy See decided to .

Then came the pope’s interview with Corriere della Sera, in which he recounted his with Patriarch Kirill on March 6 and warned the Russian Orthodox leader against becoming

If the second meeting was canceled for , then Pope Francis’ words burned the bridges of dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate.

The patriarchate by saying that Pope Francis had chosen “the wrong tone” to convey the content of the conversation with Kirill, stressing that “such utterances can hardly further constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is so necessary at the current time.”

The Moscow Patriarchate posted a of Kirill’s words to the pope on its official website. The text highlighted a reported massacre of Russian speakers in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa in 2014 and the eastward expansion of NATO, indicating them as two possible causes of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kirill told the pope that the present situation caused him “great pain.”

“My flock is on both sides of the conflict and most of them are Orthodox people,” he said. “Part of the opposing side are also among your flock. I would like therefore, leaving the geopolitical aspect to one side, to pose the question of how we and our Churches can influence the situation. How can we act together to bring peace to the hostile parties with the single aim of establishing peace and justice? It is very important in these conditions to avoid further escalation.”

In practice, the Patriarchate of Moscow asked Rome not to consider political and national events, while reserving the possibility of speaking to them and commenting on them — remaining, in essence, a profoundly national Church. This is a perspective that the pope and Holy See cannot accept: for Pope Francis, the conflict must be faced from a religious perspective, leaving politics aside.

The stance of those on the battlefield is different. A speech delivered last week by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (), shed further light on the situation.

Speaking at the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on May 5, Shevchuk stressed that the war waged by Russia was “ideological” and aimed at “eliminating the Ukrainian people.” He pointed to instructions given to Russian soldiers about how to treat Ukrainians, saying that they amounted to a

Shevchuk emphasized that the war had strengthened the unity among Ukraine’s religious communities. He pointed to the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations ()​​, which includes a of the UOC-MP and “in 70 days was able to prepare 17 documents” concerning the war.

In particular, Shevchuk recalled that on the eve of the Russian attack, UCCRO proposed itself as a mediator, because “if the diplomats and politicians were unable to avoid armed confrontation, we churchmen wanted to be this body that could mediate in some sense and also prevent armed confrontation.”

UCCRO also “a letter to the religious leaders of Belarus” when the Russian government forced Belarus to assist with the conflict.

The work of UCCRO and the active involvement of members of the UOC-MP indicates, according to Shevchuk, that “the primary victim of this Russian offensive was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UOC-MP, condemned the war. At the same time, Shevchuk said, “at least 15 Russian Orthodox eparchies out of 53” in Ukraine stopped commemorating Patriarch Kirill during Divine Liturgies.

The Catholic leader said there was also a “massive transition of parishes from the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate to that of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.” So far, more than 200 parishes have completed the move.

Shevchuk underlined that the ecumenical reaction to the war was unanimous and one of “explicit condemnation.”

In his at the plenary meeting, , the Swiss president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed the ongoing war.

He said: “This year, in an unexpected way, ecumenism has also been exposed to serious tensions. I am thinking above all of Putin’s terrible war in Ukraine, which has not only generated new and deep divisions in the Orthodox world, but has also provoked serious ecumenical irritation.”

“The fact that such a terrible war, with so many refugees and deaths, was also legitimized from a religious point of view must shake an ecumenical soul and deserves the name Pope Francis gave it: blasphemy.”

“If we also consider that in the war in Ukraine Christians fought against Christians and even the Orthodox killed each other, we must recognize the gravity of the ecumenical wounds that have been inflicted and that, to heal, will require not only time but above all conversion.”

Koch added that “Putin’s invasion has pushed Christians and Churches in Ukraine to unite.”

“This too is a sign that God can write straight even on very crooked lines,” he said.

It is not surprising that the pope’s unexpected and not very diplomatic words provoked a reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church had seen in Pope Francis a possible way to overcome its international isolation.

The pope appeared to burn the bridges of dialogue. But the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has somehow re-established them, while making clear that it does not agree with the war in Ukraine or the positions of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Koch’s reference to unity was an invitation to all Christian Churches to overcome internal divisions to help end the war. Time will tell whether his appeal is heeded.

Pope Francis names new auxiliary bishop for Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

Vatican City, May 9, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Francis has named Father Michael Woost as an auxiliary bishop of Cleveland.

Woost, 63, has served as a professor of liturgical and sacramental theology at the in Cleveland, Ohio, for more than 20 years.

The Cleveland-born priest is one of three priests in his immediate family. His two brothers, Father Dave Woost and Father Tom Woost, are also priests of the .

Bishop Edward Malesic, who has led the diocese since September 2020, the of Woost’s appointment on May 9.

“This announcement is great news for the Diocese of Cleveland. I am grateful to the Holy Father Pope Francis for the appointment of Bishop-elect Woost as an auxiliary bishop,” Malesic said.

“He is a highly respected, capable, and faithful man who will be a good helpmate with me in shepherding the wonderful people of our diocese. I look forward to working closely with bishop-elect Woost and ask our people to pray for him as he prepares to be ordained as a bishop of our Church.”

Born in Cleveland on Sept. 17, 1958, Woost studied at St. Ignatius High School and Borromeo Seminary before he was ordained to the priesthood in 1984.

After his ordination, he obtained a master’s degree in theology from Saint Mary Seminary (1986) and a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology from the Catholic University of America (2000).

In his nearly 40 years as a priest, Woost has served as the co-director of the diocesan vocation office and the parochial vicar of the Immaculate Conception parish in Madison. He was recently named the interim director of the Cleveland diocese’s Office for Worship.

His episcopal ordination will take place at the on Aug. 4.

The Diocese of Cleveland serves nearly 700,000 Catholics in 185 parishes in northeast Ohio.

Mother’s Day: Pope Francis sends moms ‘Our prayer, affection, best wishes’

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 8, 2022 / 06:08 am (CNA).

Pope Francis asked the faithful to celebrate their mothers in a special way on Sunday, for Mother’s Day, and urged continued prayers for peace in Ukraine.

“Let us affectionately remember our mothers — a round of applause for our mothers — even those who are no longer with us down here, but who live in our hearts,” he said during his Regina Caeli address. “Our prayer, our affection, and our best wishes for all our mothers.”

The 85-year-old pontiff spoke to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following the Regina Caeli, a Marian prayer said during the Easter season, on May 8. Thousands of faithful brightened the cloudy day with their banners and flags as they gathered to pray with the pontiff.

During his address, Pope Francis also turned to Our Mother, Our Lady of Pompeii, to intervene in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Kneeling in spirit before the image of the Virgin, I entrust to her the ardent desire for peace of the many people in various parts of the world who suffer the senseless calamity of war,” he said. “In particular, I present the sufferings and tears of the Ukrainian people to the Holy Virgin.”

His comments come after he to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in March. 

Speaking from an open window looking out to the square, the pontiff called on Catholics to pray the rosary for peace, as he did during the .

“Before the madness of war, please, let us continue to pray the Rosary for peace each day,” he said. “And let us pray for the leaders of nations, so that they might not lose the ‘pulse of the people’ who want peace and who know well that weapons never achieve it, never.”

Pope Francis, an outspoken advocate for the Ukrainian people, to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, if the Russian president is willing. 

During his address, he greeted the Ukrainian refugees present, as well as the families hosting them. The United Nations that nearly 6 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

The pontiff also asked for prayers for the victims of an explosion at a hotel in Havana, Cuba. According to a , at least 32 people have died and 19 more are missing after an explosion Friday at the Hotel Saratoga. Authorities say the explosion may have been due to a gas leak.

Along with Mother’s Day, Pope Francis recognized Sunday as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

“May the Christian community on every continent pray to the Lord for the gift of vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the choice of being a missionary, and to matrimony,” he said. “This is the day on which, because of our baptism, we all feel called to follow Jesus, to say yes to him, to imitate him so as to discover the joy of giving one’s life, of serving the Gospel joyfully and enthusiastically.”

He recognized one woman who lived out her vocation: Sister María Agustina Rivas Lopez. Pope Francis announced the beatification of the “heroic missionary” and martyr — perhaps better known as “Sister Aguchita” — on Saturday in San Ramon, Peru. A woman religious of the Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, she died for her faith in 1990. 

She “always remained near the poor, especially indigenous women and peasants, witnessing to the Gospel of justice and peace,” the pontiff remembered.

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury say South Sudan trip will be a ‘pilgrimage of peace’

Vatican City, May 7, 2022 / 09:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said that he is looking forward to visiting South Sudan this summer together with the archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Church of Scotland in a “pilgrimage of peace.”

In a joint-statement published by the Vatican on May 7, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, joined the pope in urging leaders in South Sudan to follow the “way of forgiveness and freedom.”

“In this Easter season, we write to share with you our joy as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who shows us that a new way is possible: a way of forgiveness and freedom, which enables us humbly to see God in each other, even in our enemies,” the said.

“This path leads to new life, both for us as individuals and for those we lead. It is our prayer that you will embrace afresh this way, in order to discern new avenues amid the challenges and struggles at this time. We pray too that your people will experience the hope of Easter through your leadership. In anticipation of our Pilgrimage of Peace this coming summer, we look forward to visiting your great country.”

Pope Francis is currently scheduled to travel to South Sudan’s capital city of , following a July 2-5 visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If the trip takes place, Pope Francis will become the first pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest country when it declared independence from the Republic of the Sudan on July 9, 2011.

The nation in east-central Africa has a population of 11 million people, around 37% of whom are Catholic.

In 2019, Pope Francis brought South Sudanese leaders together at the Vatican for a aimed at resolving their differences.

The joint statement from Pope Francis, Welby, and Wallace was published at a time when the pope is due to a torn ligament in his right knee. The 85-year-old pope has canceled his engagements on multiple occasions in recent weeks due to knee pain.

A previously scheduled papal trip to South Sudan with Welby was canceled in 2017 due to security concerns.

Pope Francis: ‘It’s not possible to worship God while making the liturgy a battleground’

Vatican City, May 7, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that the liturgy should not be “a battleground” for “outdated issues.”

“I emphasize again that the liturgical life, and the study of it, should lead to greater Church unity, not division. When the liturgical life is a bit like a banner of division, there is the stench of the devil in there, the deceiver,” Pope Francis at the Vatican on April 7.

“It’s not possible to worship God while making the liturgy a battleground for issues that are not essential, indeed, outdated issues, and to take sides starting with the liturgy, with ideologies that divide the Church.”

Speaking at an audience with the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in the apostolic palace, the pope said that he believes that “every reform creates resistance.”

Pope Francis recalled reforms made when he was a child by Pope Pius XII, particularly when Pius XII reduced the fasting requirement before receiving holy Communion and reintroduced the Easter Vigil.

“All of these things scandalized closed-minded people. It happens also today,” he said.

“Indeed, such closed-minded people use liturgical frameworks to defend their views. Using the liturgy: this is the drama we are experiencing in ecclesial groups that are distancing themselves from the Church, questioning the Council, the authority of the bishops ... in order to preserve tradition. And the liturgy is used for that.”

Pope Francis spoke to the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, an institute in Rome whose school of liturgy has had in liturgical norms coming from the Vatican.

The secretary and undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship were both formed by the institute, which was established in 1961 by Pope John XXIII as part of the Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo.

Andrea Grillo, one of the most prominent theology professors at the Sant'Anselmo, has been a vigorous defender of , the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in 2021 which restricted Masses celebrated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

In the pope’s remarks, Francis further warned of “the temptation of liturgical formalism,” which he said can be seen today “in those movements that try to go back a little and deny the Second Vatican Council itself.”

Pope Francis delivered his speech from a wheelchair. The 85-year-old pope has been making his since May 5 due to in his right knee.

Cardinal Pell highlights 'somewhat incomplete' account given by Cardinal Becciu at Vatican finance trial

Denver Newsroom, May 6, 2022 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell said Friday that the recent testimony of Cardinal Angelo Becciu at the Vatican finance trial “was somewhat incomplete.”

He drew particular attention to a lack of evidence regarding payments of more than $1.6 million made to Neustar Australia, an information services firm, in 2017 and 2018.

Becciu, who was the second-ranking official in the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, was questioned May 5 about investments during a hearing in the Vatican trial. The cardinal has been charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering.

In a May 6 statement, Pell said Becciu had given “a spirited defence of his blameless subordinate role in the Vatican finances” during his testimony.

As prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Pell led an effort called for by Pope Francis to bring order and accountability to the Vatican's finances, which have long lacked centralized procedures, controls, and oversight. 

Pell clashed in that role with Becciu, who as sostituto of the Secretariat of State served effectively as the pope's chief of staff. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

Reflecting on Becciu’s statement at the trial, Pell said he wanted to focus “on Cardinal Becciu’s final remarks on the AUD 2.3 million [$1.6m] paid to Neustar for the internet domain ‘.catholic’ on 4/9/2015. Was the payment from the Council for Social Communications or from the Secretariat of State? The introduction of this claim only deepens the mystery.”

Pell added that Becciu’s statement to the court differed from what he had told him in December 2020, “that the destination of the funds from the Secretariat of State to Australia was none of my business, but was known to the Holy Father.”

It is undisputed, Pell said, that the Pontifical Council for Social Communications made large payments to Neustar Australia and a domain name registry “for the reservation of the title “Catholic” in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.”

“Doubts, of course, are removed by facts, by evidence, not assertions. Unfortunately, I do not have information on payments to Neustar Australia in 2015 beyond USD 150,000 the Council for Social Communications paid as a deposit. It was not my usual practice to sign off on payments from the Secretariat of State,” Pell wrote.

Pell stated: “My interest is focussed on four payments with a value of AUD 2.3 million made by the Secretariat of State in 2017 and 2018 to Neustar Australia.”

He said two of these, with a value of $874,000, “were authorised by Monsignor Becciu on 17/5/2017 and 6/6/2018.”

“Obviously,” Pell wrote, “these are different payments from those of 11/9/2015 which I allegedly authorised. What was the purpose? Where did the money go after Neustar?”

At the time those payments were sent, Pell was being investigated and and was then on trial for sex abuse in Australia. The coincidence has led to suggestions that the funds were related to Pell’s trial in some way. Pell was convicted, but was subsequently acquitted by a unanimous judgement of the High Court of Australia.

Pell also noted in his statement that Becciu’s testimony failed to “explain the Secretariat of State’s rejection of the papally approved supervisory role of the new Council and Secretariat for the Economy.”

“He did not explain his role in the sacking of the auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and in the resignation of the Auditor, Libero Milone; both mandated to investigate Secretariat of State finances. His bizarre account of how the Secretariat of State spent the entire amount of Peter’s Pence (“Cosa mai restava quindi dell’Obolo? Niente!”) is at odds with the official publicity for the fund, the Catholic people’s understanding and the annual Vatican financial reports,” the Australian cardinal stated.

He added that discussion of APSA is “irrelevant,” as it “never had a supervisory role with the Secretariat of State finances.”

Pell concluded his statement suggesting that knowledge of the nature of Vatican finances under Becciu will come eventually: “Let us see. Truth is the daughter of time.”

Pope Francis encourages new Swiss Guard recruits ‘to grow as Christians’

Vatican City, May 6, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday encouraged 36 new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard to “grow as Christians” during their service in Rome.

The pope, who currently due to a knee condition, met with the new candidates for the world’s smallest but oldest standing army on May 6, the day of their swearing-in ceremony.

He : “Dear Swiss Guards, I encourage you to always place the proper emphasis on formation. The efforts devoted to it are indispensable for acquiring adequate skills and professional competence.”

“But first of all, the time spent in Rome should be valued in order to grow as Christians. I am thinking of the spiritual life, which allows us to discover God’s plan for each of us.”

The — known for their colorful striped Renaissance-era uniforms — are responsible for Vatican security together with the Vatican gendarmes.

Candidates must meet strict requirements. Each recruit must be a Catholic unmarried male at least 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and between the ages of 19 and 30. Swiss citizenship is required, as is a letter of good standing from the candidate’s pastor.

The pope spoke to the recruits and their families on the anniversary of the , a battle in 1527 in which 147 Swiss Guards died defending Pope Clement VII from mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire.

He said: “Since the institution of the Swiss Guards, many young men have fulfilled the singular function assigned to it, which continues to this day.”

“Through a generous and faithful commitment, over the centuries some have not shirked the hardest trials, going so far as to shed their blood to defend the pope and enable him to carry out his mission in full independence.”

“With this supreme dedication, they have fulfilled what is provided for by the Regulations still in force: the security of the person of the pope and his residence.”

On May 4, the Vatican and the foundation overseeing the renovation of the Swiss Guards’ barracks signed a memorandum of understanding.

The Vatican said that the non-legally binding document expressed both parties’ will to ensure that the Guards have “better and environmentally friendly housing conditions.”

The roughly $60 million includes plans to expand the living quarters for guardsmen, some of whom currently sleep in shared rooms or housing outside the Vatican. The new barracks will allow each guard to have a private room with a private bathroom.

The plans have prompted speculation that the new design could , which would require a change to the corps’ admission requirements.

The memorandum of understanding was related to the fundraising and planning phases of the renovation, Vatican News, the Holy See’s online news portal. A second agreement concerning the construction phase will be signed at a later date.

, the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, offered Mass with the Swiss Guards in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis received the Swiss President Ignazio Cassis in a .

The new guards were due to be sworn in at 5 p.m. local time on May 6 in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.

The corps said that the ceremony would take place in the presence of the recruits’ families.

During the ceremony, each recruit approaches the flag of the Swiss Guard as his name is called out. Firmly grasping the banner with his left hand, the new guard raises his right hand and opens three fingers as a sign of his faith in the Holy Trinity.

While holding up his fingers, the guard says: “I, (name), swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his saints.”

In his address, Pope Francis asked Swiss Guards to pray for one of their colleagues who , according to Vatican News.

He said: “I would like to pause for a moment in pain and sadness. And I would wish that your colleague Silvan Wolf were here present. Unfortunately, he has died, a good, joyful young man. An accident took him away from us. In silence, let us recall Silvan and pray for him.”

Pope Francis: ‘Barbarity of war’ should inspire new push for Christian unity

Vatican City, May 6, 2022 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that the “barbarity of war” should inspire a new push for Christian unity.

The pope made the comment in an to members of the on May 6, the 72nd day of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The conflict between the two predominantly Orthodox Christian nations has between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as .

In his speech, Pope Francis said that Christian communities needed to recognize they were on a journey of faith together with the members of other confessions.

When a community tried to go it alone, he said, it ran the risk of “self-sufficiency and self-referentiality, which are grave obstacles to ecumenism.”

“And we see it,” he commented. “In some countries, there are certain egocentric revivals — so to speak — of some Christian communities that are a turning back and unable to advance. Today, either we all walk together or we cannot walk. This awareness is a truth and a grace of God.”

The pope, who currently due to a knee condition, recalled that he had 21st-century conflicts as “a piecemeal World War III.”

“However, this war, as cruel and senseless as any war, has a greater dimension and threatens the entire world, and cannot fail to challenge the conscience of every Christian and every Church,” he said.

Quoting from his 2020 , the pontiff went on: “We must ask ourselves: what have the Churches done and what can they do to contribute to the ‘development of a global community of fraternity based on the practice of social friendship on the part of peoples and nations’? It’s a question we need to think about together.”

The pope suggested that efforts to improve relations between Christians in the 20th century were motivated partly by the horror of two world wars.

“Today, in the face of the barbarity of war, this longing for unity must be nourished anew,” he commented.

“To ignore divisions among Christians, whether out of habit or out of resignation, is to tolerate that pollution of hearts which makes fertile ground for conflicts.”

“The proclamation of the gospel of peace, that gospel which disarms hearts even before armies, will be more credible only if proclaimed by Christians finally reconciled in Jesus, Prince of Peace.”

Members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were in Rome to attend a May 3-6 on the theme “Towards an Ecumenical Celebration of the 1,700th Anniversary of Nicaea I (325-2025).”

Among the speakers was Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who addressed plenary participants remotely about the ecumenical situation in Ukraine amid the war.

In his speech, the pope said that members of the pontifical council were making a “valuable contribution” by reflecting on how to celebrate the anniversary of the “in an ecumenical manner” .

The council, held in 325 A.D., was called by the emperor Constantine to confront the , which denied Christ’s divinity. The council promulgated the , which is still accepted by Orthodox, Anglican, and other Protestant denominations.

“Despite the troubled events of its preparation and especially of the subsequent long period of reception, the first ecumenical council was an event of reconciliation for the Church, which in a synodal way reaffirmed its unity around the profession of its faith,” the pope said.

“The style and decisions of the Council of Nicaea must enlighten the present ecumenical journey and lead to new concrete steps towards the goal of fully restoring Christian unity.”

“Since the 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicea coincides with the , I hope that the celebration of the next Jubilee will have a significant ecumenical dimension.”

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led by the Swiss , traces its roots back to 1960, when Pope John XXIII the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. It was given its current title by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

The pontifical council — located on the Via della Conciliazione, the road leading from St. Peter’s Square to the Castel Sant’Angelo — will be the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity when the new Vatican constitution comes into force on June 5.

Pope Francis permitted spending $1m to free nun kidnapped in Mali, cardinal says

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 16:05 pm (CNA).

At the Vatican’s finance trial on Thursday, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said that Pope Francis had allowed spending up to 1 million euros ($1.05 million) toward the liberation of a missionary abducted in Mali. 

Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti was kidnapped in February 2017 and held until her Oct. 9, 2021 release. 

Cardinal Becciu, who was the second-ranking official in the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, was questioned May 5 about investments during a hearing in the Vatican trial. The cardinal has been charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering.

In his testimony he discussed his dealings with Cecilia Marogna, a self-described “security consultant” accused of misappropriating Secretariat of State funds.

The 40-year-old from Sardinia is also a defendant in the trial. She has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the Secretariat in connection with Becciu, and then reportedly spending the money earmarked for charity on luxury goods and vacations — which she denies.

Cardinal Becciu said that he sought Marogna’s help to secure Sister Gloria’s release. 

that the cardinal said Marogna “advised him that she could work with a British intelligence firm, The Inkerman Group, to secure the nun’s release.”

After securing Francis’ approval to proceed with Inkerman, Cardinal Becciu said he and Marogna met in London in January 2018 with three representatives of the firm, who said total costs could be 1 million euros.

For the sake of confidentiality and “to impede the association of Vatican institutions with similar events,” he said, it was agreed that Marogna would act as an intermediary between the Vatican and Inkerman, receiving payments from the Secretariat of State for the operation.

Cardinal Becciu testified: “In a subsequent meeting with the Holy Father, once in Rome, I spoke to him in more detail about the conversation we had with the Inkermans and the sum that we should have estimated in broad terms: about 1 million euros, part to pay for the creation of a network of contacts, and part for the effective liberation of the nun. I pointed out that we shouldn't have gone beyond that figure. He approved.”

The AP reported that Vatican prosecutors say they have evidence that the Secretariat of State sent 575,000 euros to Marogna, as well as “an equivalent amount directly to a British bank account held by Inkerman.” 

Shortly after her release, Sister Gloria posted on Twitter thanking God and all those who made possible her liberation.

"My thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis, to the Italian government, to the Italian intelligence agencies, to the Malian authorities, to Cardinal Zerbo," the nun said in her Oct. 17, 2021 tweet.

After she was released, Jean Cardinal Zerbo of Bamako told AFP, "We  prayed a lot for her release. I thank the Malian authorities and the people of goodwill which made this release possible." 

Sister Gloria, a Colombian national, also thanked “Dr. Iván Duque, President of Colombia, and the entire Colombian government, the Colombian ambassador to Italy, Dr. Jorge Mario, GAULA, the Bishops’ Conference, the bishops and priests, the mean and women religious, parish groups, committed laity, prayer groups."

The nun also thanked “the educational institutions, teaching and administrative staff, students and alumni, the congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, my family, all those people who prayed for me and made my liberation possible.’”

Armed men kidnapped Sister Gloria, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, in Karangasso, about 90 miles south of San, Feb. 7, 2017. The men forced her to hand over the keys to the community's ambulance. The vehicle was later found abandoned. Three other sisters were present at their house but escaped.

According to the AP, a judge in the country charged four individuals in relation to the kidnapping in April 2017.

In July 201 Sister Gloria identified the group then holding her as Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, a militant Islamist group in West Africa and the Maghreb.

Cardinal Becciu questioned on investments as his former deputy seeks damages

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Angelo Becciu was questioned about investments during a hearing in the Vatican’s ongoing finance trial on Thursday, while his former deputy, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, is seeking damages as a civil plaintiff.

From 2011 to 2018, Becciu was the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, a powerful curial department that is one of four civil plaintiffs in a trial to prosecute Vatican officials and collaborators in connection with the controversial deal to purchase a London investment property.

The Secretariat of State is currently one of the injured parties, along with the Vatican’s two financial bodies, and the , and internal financial watchdog authority .

A lawyer for Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a suspect turned key witness for the prosecution, said at the start of the May 5 hearing that the former head of administration at the Secretariat should also be awarded damages as a civil plaintiff.

In a 50-page declaration on May 5, Becciu argued his innocence against charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering.

In his personal statement, which he took almost two and half hours to read, the 73-year-old cardinal responded to accusations against him and explained details of his position as Sostituto (Substitute) of the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, including that it relied on him having total faith in his collaborators, while at the same time total autonomy.

The declaration was followed by several hours of intense and heated questioning, during which Becciu responded to requests from a prosecutor for more information about certain investments made by the Secretariat of State.

Responding to questions, the cardinal denied that the Secretariat used funds from , the pope’s charitable fund, for the investment in the London building.

Becciu was also asked whether Pope Francis was informed of the Secretariat of State’s investments, to which the cardinal said he would submit occasional reports to the pope, but there were no specific authorizations.

Becciu added that he is “old school — ,” explaining the Latin phrase as meaning that “one tries to preserve the moral authority of the pope without involving him in earthly things. That does not mean not informing him, but not giving him the responsibility.”

In September 2020, Becciu as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights and privileges of the College of Cardinals. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

Throughout Becciu’s questioning, which will continue at a May 18 hearing, court president Giuseppe Pignatone did not allow a number of the prosecutor’s questions. At one point, the judge also called for a five-minute break to allow the attorney and defendant to cool down.

Becciu was questioned in the May 5 hearing after Pope Francis the cardinal from the obligation of the pontifical secret, a rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information regarding the governance of the universal Church.

The cardinal had previously invoked the pontifical secret to argue that he could not speak about his dealings with Cecilia Marogna, a self-described “security consultant” accused of misappropriating Secretariat of State funds.

The 40-year-old from Sardinia is also a defendant in the trial. She has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the Secretariat in connection with Becciu, and then reportedly spending the money earmarked for charity on luxury goods and vacations — which she denies.

Pope Francis encourages religious orders to ‘make their synodal journey’

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 09:56 am (CNA).

After for a meeting with religious sisters at the Vatican on Thursday, Pope Francis delivered a message about how important he believes it is for religious congregations to “make their synodal journey.”

The pope spoke off the cuff at his audience with the International Union of Superiors General () in the Paul VI Hall on May 5 and then took time to answer some of the sisters’ questions in a closed-door meeting.

In his , which were handed out to the religious sisters, the pope wrote that the synodal process provides an opportunity for “young and old to exchange their wisdom and visions of consecrated life.”

“In addition to actively participating in the synodal process at the local Church level, it is very important that communities, congregations, make their own synodal journey,” the pope said.

“I am counting on you so that the synodal process that we are experiencing in the Church may also take place within your institutes,” he added.

Pope Francis said that a synodal process within a religious congregation can also be a chance to “let uncomfortable questions emerge.”

The is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” in the Catholic Church that began in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last .

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

Religious communities, lay movements, associations of the faithful, and other ecclesial groups are encouraged to participate in the synodal process in this local context. But it is also possible for them to contribute directly to the , according to the synod’s .

Many religious orders have already been participating in the first stage of the Synod on Synodality through their local dioceses.

The UISG, for women religious, and the Union of Superiors General (), for male religious, have also been collecting responses from the consultative phase.

The two bodies were given the task of synthesizing the responses from religious orders for the General Secretariat and the .

According to the UISG, if every religious congregation in the world participates, there will be more than 2,000 responses, which will need to be distilled into one 10-page document to be submitted by August.

At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

Many other themes were in Pope Francis’ unscripted discussion with the UISG, including the war in Ukraine, discernment within religious communities, and colonialism.

Members of the UISG are meeting in Rome on May 2-6 for a plenary assembly on the theme

“I know that there are many concerns that probably keep you awake at night — the lack of vocations, the constantly rising average age, the abandonment of the consecrated life, among others — but I hope that your main concern is how to proceed so as not to abandon the missionary vision,” the pope said.

Pope Francis merges 4 foundations into new Vatican hospitality body

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 07:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis issued a decree on Thursday merging four foundations into a new Vatican institution dedicated to hospitality.

The , known as a chirograph, united the foundations under a new body known as the Domus Vaticanae. The pope said that he was taking the step “considering the new situation that has matured over time.”

The May 5 decree merged the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Domus Romana Sacerdotalis, Domus Internationalis Paulus VI, and Casa San Benedetto foundations into the new institution, which the pope established as a public based in the Vatican City State.

The text said that the new body would pursue the hospitality goals of the merged foundations in line with the provisions of the , “which reserves the building of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, during the conclave for the election of the Supreme Pontiff, for the exclusive use of the cardinal electors.”

, issued by Pope John Paul II in 1996, sets out the rules governing the process of electing a new pope.

Section 43 of the apostolic constitution says that “From the beginning of the electoral process until the public announcement that the election of the Supreme Pontiff has taken place … the rooms of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and in particular the Sistine Chapel and the areas reserved for liturgical celebrations are to be closed to unauthorized persons.”

The Domus Sanctae Marthae, also known as the Casa Santa Marta or St. Martha’s House, is a guest house adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica. It was opened in 1996 to accommodate clergy visiting the Vatican, as well as cardinals taking part in papal conclaves. Pope Francis chose to live in the building, rather than the Apostolic Palace, after his election in 2013.

In 1999, John Paul II established the foundations and , offering hospitality to clergy assigned to the diplomatic service of the Holy See or working in the Roman Curia, as well as priests, bishops, and cardinals visiting Rome.

Benedict XVI established the Casa San Benedetto foundation in 2008 to provide accommodation for retired Vatican diplomatic personnel.

The decree said that the four foundations “are to be considered suppressed” and their “patrimony will be transferred” to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (), which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets.

The pope also approved the statutes that will govern the Domus Vaticanae.

Pope Francis issued a on May 5, creating an interdicasterial commission for the revision of in light of the .

The decree, dated April 12, said that the commission would be chaired by Archbishop Filippo Iannone, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Its members will include Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute (Sostituto) of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the president of APSA, and Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

Pope Francis uses wheelchair in public for first time since colon surgery

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis used a wheelchair during a public meeting on Thursday, the first time he has done so publicly since leaving the hospital after colon surgery in July 2021.

The 85-year-old pope has had difficulty walking due to a painful torn ligament in his knee.

He was pushed in a wheelchair onto the stage of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on May 5, at the start of a meeting with participants in the plenary meeting of the International Union of Superiors General ().

During his recent public appearances, he has for being unable to stand and walk to greet participants.

He also needed assistance when standing up from his chair after the May 4 general audience.

Pope Francis said in an interview this week that he would be undergoing a , “an intervention with infiltrations,” to provide some relief.

Therapeutic injections are sometimes used to relieve knee pain caused by ligament tears.

The pope’s movements have been visibly more limited for months.

During an April 2-3 , extra measures were taken to ensure that the pope would not have to take stairs, due to his knee problem.

In the course of his hospital stay after colon surgery last year, Pope Francis greeted medical staff .

World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2022: Pope Francis says ‘Church must become increasingly synodal’

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Thursday that “the Church must become increasingly synodal.”

The pope made the comment in his annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations , published May 5, as Catholics worldwide participate in a leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

In the message, he emphasized that vocations have a communal as well as a personal dimension.

He wrote: “Each of us shines like a star in the heart of God and in the firmament of the universe. At the same time, though, we are called to form constellations that can guide and light up the path of humanity, beginning with the places in which we live.”

“This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign, and instrument of all that humanity is called to be.”

“For this reason, the Church must become increasingly synodal: capable of walking together, united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”

The will take place on May 8, the , also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The annual event was by Pope St. Paul VI in 1964.

In the 1,600-word message titled “Called to Build the Human Family,” the pope reflected “on the broader meaning of ‘vocation’ within the context of a synodal Church, a Church that listens to God and to the world.”

He underlined that the word “vocation” should not be understood as referring only to priests and religious.

“All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God,” he said.

“Each man and woman, even before encountering Christ and embracing the Christian faith, receives with the gift of life a fundamental calling: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God.”

“At every moment of our lives, we are called to foster this divine spark, present in the heart of every man and woman, and thus contribute to the growth of a humanity inspired by love and mutual acceptance.”

He said that Christian history showed that God has a vision for each person’s life.

“Michelangelo Buonarroti is said to have maintained that every block of stone contains a statue within it, and it is up to the sculptor to uncover it,” he wrote.

“If that is true of an artist, how much more is it true of God! In the young woman of Nazareth, he saw the Mother of God. In Simon the fisherman, he saw Peter, the rock on which he would build his Church.”

“In the publican Levi, he recognized the apostle and evangelist Matthew, and in Saul, a harsh persecutor of Christians, he saw Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles.”

“God’s loving gaze always meets us, touches us, sets us free, and transforms us, making us into new persons. That is what happens in every vocation: we are met by the gaze of God, who calls us.”

Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to welcome God’s gaze and enter into a “vocational dialogue” with the Lord and others. He said that this dialogue “makes us become ever more who we are.”

“In the vocation to the ordained priesthood, to be instruments of Christ’s grace and mercy,” he wrote. “In the vocation to the consecrated life, to be the praise of God and the prophecy of a new humanity. In the vocation to marriage, to be mutual gift and givers and teachers of life. In every ecclesial vocation and ministry that calls us to see others and the world through God’s eyes, to serve goodness and to spread love with our works and words.”

The pope highlighted the example of , a medical doctor who died in 1919.

“While working as a physician in Caracas, Venezuela, he wanted to become a Third Order Franciscan. Later, he thought of becoming a monk and a priest, but his health did not allow it,” the pope noted.

“He came to understand that his calling was the medical profession, in which he spent himself above all in service to the poor. He devoted himself unreservedly to those who had contracted the worldwide epidemic known as the ‘Spanish flu.’”

“He died, hit by a car, as he was leaving a pharmacy after purchasing medicine for one of his elderly patients. An exemplary witness of what it means to accept the call of the Lord and embrace it fully, he was beatified a year ago.”

The is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” that began in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last until .

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

The story of Sister Lucindis, the nun who made St. Peter’s Square her home

Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

It’s likely that many of the priests, cardinals, and bishops working inside the Vatican knew her face, although no one knew the real story of the Pallottine Missionary sister who had made St. Peter’s Square her home.

They would have walked by the unknown woman often, passing by her perch on the base of a Vatican column, her rosy, wind-chapped cheeks peeking out from her puffy blue coat and pilling hat.

“I can’t say that she was a saint. Only the Lord knows this,” Father Hans-Peter Fischer, the only priest in Rome she spoke to, said in April. He told CNA the story of Sister Maria Lucindis Stock a month after her death on March 11.

The 82-year-old Sister Lucindis, as she was called, was buried inside the Vatican in the cemetery of the Campo Santo Teutonico, a place she knew well. It was there, in the chapel just off the cemetery, that Fischer first encountered her more than a decade ago.

In 2011, the German religious sister started to attend the 7 a.m. daily Mass at Santa Maria della Pietà, celebrated by Fischer, the rector of the church and adjoining German seminary.

At first, Fischer thought the elderly woman was an ex-religious. “She was a bit particular,” he said, pointing to his head. He noted that “she always lived in the square.”

Fischer recalled that Lucindis spoke only German. She knew very little Italian, but “she spoke with the heart.”

Day after day, “she was alone in the square watching the people,” the priest recalled. “She roamed from morning to night. I don’t know if she prayed.”

Lucindis was not homeless herself, but she was esteemed by the men and women who spend the day in and around St. Peter’s Square and sleep along its edges at night, Fischer said.

Most nights, Lucindis slept at the general house of her order, the Pallottine Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate, which is a 10-minute walk from the Vatican.

Other nights, she found an open bed in one of the nearby shelters for the homeless.

“She was a very great challenge for her community,” Fischer explained. He said the other sisters always treated her well, even while she made things difficult by her unusual behavior.

“I have always obeyed,” Lucindis used to say, according to Fischer. “But I must obey the Lord.”

The priest said that the Pallottine sisters tried to get psychiatric help for their community member. She was admitted first to a hospital in Italy, and later in Germany, but she protested both times and eventually ran away.

Lucindis told Fischer that after her escape from the German hospital she lived in Israel for two months, followed by Hong Kong for another month.

In Hong Kong, Lucindis slept in train stations and in the home of a friend she had made, she told the priest. She said that in February 2013 the news reached her that Benedict XVI had resigned as pope, which prompted her to make her way back to Rome to be present at his final Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Fischer knew nothing about this story for years, until Lucindis confided in him in an hour-long conversation on her deathbed, after she received the last rites.

He was called to her room in the convent on March 4, as the only priest from whom she would agree to receive the sacraments.

Lucindis had developed an infection in her legs. It was treatable with an antibiotic, but after a short stay in the hospital, she asked to leave and did not continue to take the medication. The infection spread to her blood.

Despite developing blood poisoning, the 82-year-old continued to go to the place she knew best, St. Peter’s Square, until about a week before her death, the priest said.

When Fischer brought her the sacraments, “it was a celebration,” he recalled. She was “very awake” and “very pious,” and that time helped her to reconcile with her community.

After several hours of intense lucidity, Lucindis slowly faded, like the dying wick of a candle.

The religious association that owns the Campo Santo Teutonico offered to bury Lucindis in its cemetery in Vatican City, out of respect for her own request.

“It was clear that [Sister Lucindis] would not have accepted to return home to Germany, because she never accepted this in life,” Fischer said.

The association, the Archconfraternity to the Sorrowful Mother of God of the Germans and Flemings, had in 2014 and 2015 overseen the burial of two homeless men in their cemetery, which is usually reserved for the association’s members.

There, Lucindis was laid to rest, close to the place she had spent her days, in relative obscurity.

Fischer said that he expected her funeral in Santa Maria della Pietà to be attended by the small group of sisters of her order and her two brothers, who traveled from Germany. But the church was packed. He has no idea how so many people heard about her death.

People thought Lucindis was homeless, he said, recalling one Holy Thursday Mass she attended in his church, pushing, as always, her little wheeled cart: a humble woman surrounded by bishops and cardinals of the Vatican.

Japan’s PM tells Vatican of concern about human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang

Vatican City, May 4, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and told Vatican officials of his deep concern about China’s actions in the South China Sea and the human rights situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

According to a statement from the Japanese Embassy to the Holy See on May 4, Kishida had “a fruitful exchange of views” with Pope Francis, “addressing issues such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, East Asia, North Korea.”

In particular, the Japanese leader told the pope about North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan and “expressed concern about North Korea’s activities in the field of missile and nuclear weapons tests.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists that Pope Francis condemned the use and possession of nuclear weapons during the 25-minute meeting as “inconceivable.”

Following his meeting with the pope, the prime minister met with Vatican Secretary of State for 55 minutes.

“Prime Minister Kishida expressed deep concern over unilateral attempts to subvert the status quo by force in the East China Sea and South China Sea, as well as the human rights situation in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region, expressing apprehension over the nuclear and missile issue of North Korea, which also executed a ballistic missile launch today,” the embassy statement said about the meeting with Parolin.

As prime minister, Kishida has often criticized China’s actions in the South China Sea, where the Chinese Communist Party claims nearly all the territory, causing disputes with Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei, which have competing territorial claims.

Cardinal Parolin, who is a key architect of the Holy See’s with China, has remained mostly silent on the human rights situation in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang region, where Uyghur Muslims face .

A brief issued by the Holy See Press Office did not specifically mention Hong Kong or Xinjiang.

It said: “Attention then turned to issues of an international nature, with particular attention to the war in Ukraine, stressing the urgency of dialogue and peace and expressing the hope, to this end, for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The Japanese government does not have its own nuclear weapons and is the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack.

Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, suggested that Japan should consider “nuclear sharing” after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

According to the Japanese embassy statement, Kishida, however, “expressed his intention to collaborate with the Holy See to create a ‘world without nuclear weapons,’” and thanked Pope Francis for , Hiroshima, which was hit by an atomic bomb in 1945.

The meeting between the pope and the prime minister marked the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Holy See.

“Having learned that in the past he had a in Japan, following the example of the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, Prime Minister Kishida thanked Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, for his particular consideration towards his country,” the Japanese embassy said.

Pope Francis: Faith is not something only ‘for old people’

Vatican City, May 4, 2022 / 07:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that having faith is not something only “for old people,” but an essential element of life.

“In many trends in our society and culture, the practice of faith suffers from a negative portrayal, sometimes in the form of cultural irony, sometimes with covert marginalization,” Pope Francis said at his on May 4.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that having faith is, instead, something to be proud of because “it has changed our lives, it has purified our minds, it has taught us the worship of God and the love of our neighbor.”

“The practice of faith is not the symbol of our weakness, but rather the sign of its strength,” he said.

The pope spoke at the general audience about the witness that the elderly can offer to younger generations by remaining faithful until the end, like the biblical figure of Eleazar, whose story is described in the .

Pope Francis encouraged the elderly to be like Eleazar in showing young people a consistent witness to the faith.

“We will show, in all humility and firmness, precisely in our old age, that believing is not something ‘for old people.’ No. It’s a matter of life,” he said at audience.

The pope compared the tendency in modern society for people to claim to “have an interior spirituality,” and then do whatever they please, to “the first heresy of the Gnostics.”

The , named for the Greek word “gnosis,” meaning “knowledge,” exaggerated the importance of knowledge over faith and considered the body and matter to be evil. The result was a denial of the Incarnation of Christ and a focus more on thinking rather than living a good Christian life.

Pope Francis said: “The practice of faith for these Gnostics, who were already around at the time of Jesus, is regarded as a useless and even harmful external, as an antiquated residue, as a disguised superstition. In short, something for old men.”

“The pressure that this indiscriminate criticism exerts on the younger generations is strong,” he added.

The pope said that the “seductive trap” of Gnosticism is the proposal that “that faith is a spirituality, not a practice.”

“Faithfulness and the honor of faith, according to this heresy, have nothing to do with the behaviors of life, the institutions of the community, the symbols of the body. Nothing to do with it,” he said.

Pope Francis highlighted the commendable example of Eleazar, who “lived the coherence of his faith for a whole lifetime.”

He said: “The biblical story … tells of the episode of the Jews being forced by a king’s decree to eat meat sacrificed to idols. When it’s the turn of Eleazar, an elderly man highly respected by everyone, in his 90s … the king’s officials advised him to resort to a pretense, that is, to pretend to eat the meat without actually doing so. Hypocrisy … These people tell him, ‘Be a little bit of a hypocrite, no one will notice.’”

“It is a little thing, but Eleazar’s calm and firm response is based on an argument that strikes us. The central point is this: dishonoring the faith in old age, in order to gain a handful of days, cannot be compared with the legacy it must leave to the young, for entire generations to come,” the pope said.

Pope Francis throughout the general audience. He required assistance as he slowly hobbled up a ramp to reach his chair in St. Peter’s Square. The pope is reportedly receiving therapeutic injections for his knee injury this week.

In his greetings to pilgrims from different parts of the world, the pope encouraged people to pray the rosary every day during the month of May. He encouraged , in particular, to “entrust the fate of your homeland and peace in Europe to the Holy Virgin.”

Addressing French-speaking pilgrims, he members of (the Roman Way), an association supporting a group of mothers of priests walking from Paris to Rome to ask the pope to lift restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass.

The mothers left the French capital on March 6 and arrived in Rome on April 30. They were to meet the pope at the end of the general audience, presenting him with thousands of messages from Catholics who say they were adversely affected by the .