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International conference on youth ministry wrapping up in Rome

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2024 / 14:56 pm (CNA).

Nearly 300 delegates hailing from bishops’ conferences in 110 countries are meeting in Rome to participate in the International Youth Ministry Conference. The conference, which began Thursday, concludes on Saturday.

With the theme “For a Synodal Youth Ministry: New Leadership Styles and Strategies” the event is being held in preparation for the 2027 World Youth Day (WYD), scheduled to take place in Seoul, South Korea.

Organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life, the conference is also being held in the context of the fifth anniversary of the publication of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation .

The dicastery is dedicating 2024 to the promotion and dissemination of the exhortation, published after the Synod on Youth in 2018.

Activities include a campaign on the official WYD social media accounts as well as the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of young people with the pope (St. John Paul II) in St. Peter’s Square in 1984.

The dicastery said in a statement that these initiatives, together with numerous diocesan events in various parts of the world, “aim to revitalize youth ministry and inspire spiritual reflection among young people based on the guidelines offered by .”

The International Youth Ministry Conference includes three days of study and reflection on a series of topics such as youth leadership, synodality, formation, and spiritual accompaniment. 

Each topic is discussed based on an introduction by an expert in the field of pastoral care and further explored in exchange groups, following a methodology of spiritual discernment.

Speakers at the event include Gustavo Fabián Cavagnari from Argentina, professor of youth ministry at the Salesian Pontifical University; Father Christopher Ryan, MGL, director of the Areté Center for Missionary Leadership in Australia; and Brenda Noriega, member of the first International Youth Advisory Body with extensive experience in youth faith formation processes. 

The session “From WYD Lisbon 2023 to WYD Seoul 2027” began on the first day of the congress after the introductory greeting by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life. The purpose of the session was to reflect and evaluate the significant events of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023.

This event also served as a bridge to the upcoming WYD celebration in Seoul. Cardinal Américo Alves Aguiar, bishop of Setúbal, Portugal, and Archbishop Peter Soon-Taick Chung of Seoul shared their experiences and offered a preview of the expectations and innovations for the next great global youth encounter. 

Another important event that will be presented during the conference will be the Youth Jubilee 2025, scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 3, 2025. On this special occasion, the Holy Father will invite young people from all over the world to Rome, exhorting them to be “pilgrims of hope.”

To discuss the details of this event, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, was slated to speak and present the initiatives and activities planned for the Youth Jubilee.

The International Conference on Youth Ministry will conclude on May 25 with an audience with the Holy Father in the morning and with an open dialogue with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in particular with the undersecretary, Sister Nathalie Becquart.

Pope Francis paves the way for the canonization of new saints with zeal for mission work

Rome Newsroom, May 24, 2024 / 09:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing miracles attributed to several blesseds, paving the way for their canonization, the Vatican said on Thursday.

The Holy See said in a that Pope Francis met with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, on Thursday and “has decided to convene a consistory, which will also concern the canonization” of four Blesseds: Carlo Actuis (), Giuseppe Allamano (an Italian priest and founder of the Consolata Missionaries), Marie-Léonie Paradis (a Canadian Catholic nun who established the Little Sisters of the Holy Family in 1880), and Elena Guerra (the founder of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit). 

Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, born Jan. 21, 1851, in Castelnuovo Don Bosco, formerly Castelnuovo d’Asti, in the region of Piedmont, founded two religious congregations: the Consolata Missionaries (for men) and the Consolata Missionary Sisters (for women).

Allamano was deeply influenced by the spirituality of the Salesians and St. John Bosco, commonly known as “Don Bosco,” and as well as his uncle, St. Joseph Cafasso, a noted priest and spiritual director who was known as one of Turin’s “social saints.” 

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1873, Allamano dedicated himself to pastoral work and was appointed rector, at the age of 29, of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Consolation in Turin, a position he held for 46 years. 

In 1901, Allamano founded the Consolata Missionaries, focusing on evangelization and serving the poor in mission territories. In 1910, at the request of Pope Pius X, he also established a female branch, the Consolata Missionary Sisters. 

Both congregations continue his mission, working in various countries around the world, with a large presence in South America and Africa. Allamano died in Turin on Feb. 16, 1926.

Allamano was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 7, 1990, and on Sept. 13, 2023, the Vatican deemed one of his attributed miracles to be “a true miracle.”

In the Thursday announcement, Pope Francis also approved a second miracle attributed to Elodia Virginia Paradis, a French-Canadian nun and founder of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. 

Born on May 12, 1840, in Acadia in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, she was aided in her discernment to religious life by Father Camillo Lefebvre, who encouraged her to enter the nascent congregation of the Marianites of Holy Cross, a branch of the Holy Cross Congregation. 

Paradis entered as a postulant among these nuns in 1854 and on Feb. 19, 1855, at the age of 17, she became a novice taking the name of Sister Marie-Léonie. She made her religious profession on Aug. 22, 1857.  

Recognized for her “excellent teaching skills,” Paradis served in various houses in Canada. She was sent to the United States in 1862, where she was made governess of the St. Vincent’s Orphanage in New York. 

After her return to Canada in 1874, Paradis, at the behest of the archbishop of Montreal, founded on May 31, 1880, the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of religious sisters aimed at carrying out work in religious communities, colleges, and seminaries. She was diagnosed with malignant cancer and died on May 3, 1912. 

Paradis was declared a Servant of God by Pope Paul VI on June 13, 1966, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 11, 1984, in Montreal during his apostolic trip to Canada. 

The Holy See press release on Thursday also noted that the pope “approved the favorable votes of the ordinary session of the cardinal fathers and bishops” for the canonization of Blessed Manuel Ruiz and seven companions of the Order of Friars Minor. 

The session also voted in favor of the canonization of three brothers: Francis, Abdel Mohti, and Raphaël Massabki.

Part of the group of the “,” the Massabki brothers were three lay Maronites who were killed “in hatred of the faith” along with eight friars minor in Damascus, Syria, between July 9-10, 1860, during a flurry of sectarian violence. 

Among the other future saints is Blessed Elena Guerra. Born in Lucca, Italy, on June 23, 1835, to a devout family, her life was dedicated to charitable works and in promoting education for young women. 

In 1872, she founded the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, a congregation devoted to education, pastoral work, and the promotion of devotion to the Holy Spirit, where Guerra formed hundreds of young people, including St. Gemma Galgani. 

A prolific writer, Guerra penned numerous works on social problems facing women as well as on the importance of education within the framework of Christian culture.

At the heart of her mission was a special devotion to the Holy Spirit. She was a strong advocate for a renewed focus on the Spirit’s role in the life of the Church. In 1865 she wrote “Pious Union of Prayers to the Holy Spirit,“ and in 1889 she had a novena titled “New Cenacle“ printed to help the faithful in developing a devotion to the Holy Spirit. 

Pope Leo XIII on May 5, 1895, urging “the bishops of the world to make this novena for the return of dissidents to the true Church.” The pope, in his 1897 encyclical inspired by her works, “explicitly recommended devotion to the Holy Spirit to the faithful.“

Guerra died on April 11, 1914, and was beatified by Pope John XXIII on April 26, 1959. 

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints also issued decrees recognizing a miracle attributed to Venerable Servant of God Giovanni Merlini, an Italian priest and missionary and a member of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. 

Thursday’s press release also announced the recognition of the martyrdoms of Servants of God Maria Maddalena Bódi, a laywoman killed in Hungary in 1945, and Stanislao Kostka Streich, a Polish diocesan who was murdered while celebrating Mass in 1938. 

Pope Francis has also recognized “heroic virtues” of Servant of God Guglielmo Gattiani, Ismaele Molinero Novillo, and Enrico Medi, an Italian politician and physicist. 

Cardinal Fernández meets with Coptic Church leader over same-sex blessing rift

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 23, 2024 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who heads the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), met with the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church to discuss a rift caused by the recent Vatican declaration that for same-sex couples.

In March — less than three months after the DDF published the declaration — the Coptic Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church amid concerns about the blessings. In a meeting with Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria on Wednesday, May 22, Fernández sought to ease some of those tensions.

Fernández told Tawadros during the meeting that the Catholic Church remains opposed to marriage blessings for same-sex couples and emphasized that nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples cannot be performed in a way that would confuse the blessing with a marriage, . 

The cardinal further affirmed that the Holy See agrees with the Coptic Orthodox Church’s March 7 statement, which affirmed the “firm position of rejecting all forms of homosexual relationships, because they violate the holy Bible and the law by which God created man as male and female” and added that “the [Coptic] Church considers any blessing of such relations, whatever its type, to be a blessing for sin, and this is unacceptable.”

According to Vatican News, Fernández pointed to issued by the DDF in early January, which emphasized that the declaration did not change Church teaching on marriage or sexuality. He also told Tawadros that the blessings are not provided to the union itself and that they must be spontaneous and brief, without any rite or liturgical vestments.

The cardinal added that these nonliturgical pastoral blessings are available to every person, regardless of the person’s condition, and does not impart “” but does provide “” that push sinners toward conversion and maturation, according to the article.

According to issued by the Coptic Church, Tawadros told Fernández there is a path of love between the two churches and an importance of dialogue. 

Pope Francis in May 2023 to mark the 50-year anniversary of restored relations between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church. However, since March, formal ecumenical dialogue remains suspended.

In May 2023, Francis 21 Coptic martyrs who were killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria into the liturgical book of saints.

The Coptic Church is Oriental Orthodox. The division between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches occurred in the mid-400s after the Council of Chalcedon amid Christological disputes about the .

The Vatican declaration on nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples has elicited controversy from within the Catholic Church as well. Although of the declaration, numerous bishops with the document, particularly .

Pope Francis lambasts the scourge of human trafficking 

ACI Prensa Staff, May 23, 2024 / 17:41 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis today urged the abolition of human trafficking, “one of the most terrible scourges of our time” that disrespects and disregards human dignity and delivers “large profits to people without moral scruples.”

The Holy Father denounced the practice in his message addressed to the participants of the general assembly of Talitha Kum, the organization formed by survivors actively engaged in the fight against human trafficking.

For Pope Francis, trafficking is a “systemic” evil and as such “we can and must eliminate it through a systematic, multilevel approach.”

“Trafficking is reinforced by wars and conflicts,” the pontiff said, “benefits from the effects of climate change and socioeconomic disparities, and takes advantage of the vulnerability of people forced to migrate or the conditions of inequality in which they find themselves, especially women and girls.”

The Holy Father pointed out that trafficking is “a ‘business’ that disrespects and disregards human dignity, delivering large profits to people without moral scruples.”

“Trafficking is constantly evolving and always finding new ways to develop, as it did during the pandemic,” he noted.

However, the pope urged participants “to not be discouraged” because “with the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the dedication of so many, we can succeed in eliminating it.”

To accomplish this, Pope Francis stressed the importance of following the steps taken by Talitha Kum: “Stand by the victims, listen to them, help them get back on their feet and together take action against trafficking.”

“To be truly effective against this odious criminal phenomenon, we need to be a community,” he said.

The pope also pointed out this is not an easy task, but it can be done, and thanked the organization for its work that has become “a reference point for victims, their families, those at risk, and the most vulnerable communities.”

Finally, Pope Francis encouraged Talitha Kum members to “continue on this path, furthering prevention and care, and weaving together many valuable relationships that are indispensable in order to combat and defeat trafficking.”

Carlo Acutis to be first millennial saint: Pope Francis recognizes miracle for canonization

Rome Newsroom, May 23, 2024 / 06:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, paving the way for him to become the first millennial saint.

The Italian computer-coding teenager who died of cancer in 2006 is known for his great devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The recognition of the second miracle attributed to Acutis’ intercession makes it possible that Acutis could be canonized during the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year.

In a decree on May 23, Pope Francis approved the miraculous healing of a 21-year-old girl from Costa Rica named Valeria Valverde who was near death after seriously injuring her head in a bicycle accident while studying in Florence in 2022.

After the girl underwent an emergency craniotomy to reduce intracranial pressure, the family was told that her situation was very critical and that she could die at any moment, according to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

Six days after the accident, Valeria’s mother went on a pilgrimage to Assisi to pray for the healing of her daughter at the tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis, leaving a written note.

On that same day, Valeria began to breathe on her own and on the following day she recovered the use of her upper limbs and partly recovered her speech.

Valeria was discharged from the intensive care unit 10 days after her mother’s pilgrimage and underwent further tests that showed that the hemorrhagic right temporal cortical contusion in her brain had completely disappeared.

Contrary to medical predictions, Valeria spent only one week in physical therapy and on Sept. 2, 2022, two months after her accident, she went on a pilgrimage to Carlo Acutis’ tomb in Assisi with her mother to celebrate her complete healing.

Born in 1991, Acutis is the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church.

Shortly after his first Communion at the age of 7, Carlo told his mother: “To always be united to Jesus: This is my life plan.” To accomplish this, Carlo sought to attend daily Mass as often as possible at the parish church across the street from his elementary school in Milan.

Carlo called the Eucharist “my highway to heaven,” and he did all in his power to make this presence known. His witness inspired his own parents to return to practicing the Catholic faith and his Hindu au pair to convert and be baptized.

Carlo was a tech-savvy kid who loved computers, animals, and video games. His spiritual director has recalled that Carlo was convinced that the evidence of Eucharistic miracles could be persuasive in helping people to realize that Jesus is present at every Mass.

Over the course of two and a half years, Carlo worked with his family to put together an exhibition on Eucharistic miracles that premiered in 2005 during the Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by Pope John Paul II and has since gone on to be displayed at thousands of parishes on five continents.

Many of Carlo’s classmates, friends, and family members have testified how he brought them closer to God. Carlo was a very open person and was not shy to speak with his classmates and anyone he met about the things that he loved: the Mass, the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and heaven.

He is remembered for saying: “People who place themselves before the sun get a tan; people who place themselves before the Eucharist become saints.”

Carlo died at the age of 15 in 2006 shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia. Before he died, Carlo told his mother: “I offer all of my suffering to the Lord for the pope and for the Church in order not to go to purgatory but to go straight to heaven.”

Thousands of people visited Carlo’s tomb in Assisi following his beatification in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 10, 2020.

Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, who is currently in Rome for a meeting of the Italian bishops’ conference, welcomed the news that Acutis will be canonized.

“The Church in Assisi is in celebration,” he said. “I plan to arrive in Assisi this evening to thank the Lord in a Eucharistic celebration. But as of now I join the faithful who are in the shrine for a prayer of praise.”

“May the Lord continue his work through the witness of Blessed Carlo. May he obtain for us from the Lord the grace to love him as he loved him, especially in the holy Eucharist.”

Pontifical Academy for Life is betraying its founder, JPII biographer George Weigel says

ACI Prensa Staff, May 22, 2024 / 15:05 pm (CNA).

George Weigel, biographer of St. John Paul II, lamented that the Pontifical Academy for Life betrayed Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, its founding president, with a book that dissents from the pontiff’s encyclical (The Gospel of Life).

Weigel made the charge last week in his talk titled “St. John Paul II and Jérôme Lejeune: Two Lives at the Service of Life,” given as part of the in Rome from May 17–18 in the Eternal City.

“For decades, the academy and the John Paul II Institute did creative, innovative work in developing a Catholic moral theology and pastoral practice capable of meeting the challenge of 21st-century assaults on the dignity and sanctity of life — and did so in ways that called the various expressions of the culture of death to conversion,” the author and theologian noted.

“Yet now,” Weigel continued, ”the academy has published a book with the ironic title ‘La Gioia della Vita,’ (‘The Joy of Life’) authored by theologians who can only be described honestly as dissenting from the authoritative teaching of .”

“That book not only weakens the Catholic case for a culture of life that rejects the grave crimes against life identified by . It does so in terms of an anti-biblical and anti-metaphysical anthropology that would have been completely foreign, indeed abhorrent, to both Jérôme Lejeune and John Paul II,” he pointed out.

In his presentation, Weigel further charged that “as the Pontifical Academy for Life betrays its founding president, Dr. Lejeune, by publishing and promoting such an ill-informed and poorly-argued book, so does the reconstituted John Paul II Institute, now largely bereft of students, betray the intention of the saint and scholar who founded it, and who called Catholic moral theology to a renewal that would not surrender to the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, but rather convert it to right reason, true compassion, and the noble exercise of freedom.”

“And that is why we must hope that the deconstruction of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and the Family, a painful process that can be observed over the past decade, is halted, and then reversed, in the years ahead,” emphasized the eminent scholar of the life of St. John Paul II.

On Feb. 9, the Vatican Publishing House published ”La Gioia della Vita” (”The Joy of Life”), whose prologue was written by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who sparked controversy in April 2023. The text contains “reflections on the challenges of contemporary theological ethics” by authors such as the priests Carlo Casalone and Maurizio Chiodi.

According to a March in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the book, “without revolutionizing Catholic doctrine, nevertheless outlines important openings on controversial topics such as contraception, medically assisted procreation, and assisted suicide.”

In January 2022, Casalone, a Jesuit priest, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, argued that the euthanasia bill in Italy was not contrary to the common good, .

In August of that year, the academy published an interview with another of its members, Chiodi, who noted that Catholic teaching condemning contraceptives is open to “theological debate within the Church, even with the possibility of dissent.”

In a September 2022 open letter, nine international experts pointed out alleged serious errors disseminated in the Pontifical Academy for Life book titled“” which promotes changing the teaching of the Catholic Church on the use of contraceptives.

Going back more than half a decade, a series of substantial changes has been made to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family as well as to its statutes.

The changes, some of its former directors , not only alienated the students but also are “a danger to maintaining the heritage” of the Polish saint.

Another consequence of the new statutes was “the drastic reduction of moral theology,” they lamented.

Jérôme Lejeune (1926–1994) was the French doctor who discovered in 1958 the trisomy of chromosome pair 21, responsible for Down syndrome.

The discovery was published in the journal Nature in 1959. Since then Lejeune dedicated all his efforts to defending these children against attempts to exploit his discovery to justify the abortion of children with this condition.

This position meant that his candidacy for the 1970 Nobel Prize in Medicine was unsuccessful, despite the significance of his discovery.

Lejeune was the founding president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and his work contributed to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He is now in .

In his presentation, Weigel explained that the truths for the defense of life from conception to natural death do not need the gift of faith to be understood and “are not truths accessible to Catholics only.” 

“That is why the ongoing work of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation is so important,” he stressed in reference to the institution that promotes the principles of the famous French geneticist.

To conclude, Weigel expressed his hope that “Jérôme Lejeune’s heroic virtues will be officially recognized by the Church, so that he may join his friend, John Paul II, among the ranks of the beatified and canonized.”

Bishop of Shanghai defends China’s religious freedom record at Vatican conference

Rome Newsroom, May 22, 2024 / 13:14 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Shanghai defended the Chinese government’s religious freedom record at a Vatican conference on Tuesday in a speech that called for the Church in China to “follow a path of ‘sinicization.’”

One year after Bishop Joseph Shen Bin was unilaterally installed by Chinese authorities as bishop of Shanghai in violation of the Vatican-China deal, the controversial Chinese bishop was a featured speaker at a Vatican conference beside Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Shanghai bishop delivered a 15-minute speech in Mandarin to a packed auditorium at the Pontifical Urban University on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The policy of religious freedom implemented by the Chinese government has no interest in changing the Catholic faith but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers,” Shen Bin said in his speech.

In China, Catholic priests are only allowed to minister in recognized places of worship in which minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter. Religious groups in China have been barred from conducting any religious activities online without first applying and receiving approval from the provincial Department of Religious Affairs.

Since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has mandated the “sinicization” of all religions in China, a move the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’”

The bishop of Shanghai echoed Xi’s call for “sinicization” of Christianity in his speech at the Vatican conference.

“Today the Chinese people are carrying out the great rebirth of the Chinese nation in a global way with Chinese-style modernization, and the Catholic Church in China must move in the same direction, following a path of ‘sinicization’ that is in line with Chinese society and culture today,” the bishop said.

Shen Bin is the president of a group called the Council of Chinese Bishops, a state-sanctioned bishops’ conference not recognized by the Vatican. He previously was the vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association established by the Chinese Communist Party and under the control of the United Front Work Department.

He was consecrated as a Catholic bishop in 2010 with the consent of both the pope and Chinese authorities, according to the Vatican. He served as bishop of the Diocese of Haimen until April 2023, when he was transferred to Shanghai “without the involvement of the Holy See.” Pope Francis confirmed Shen Bin as the bishop of Shanghai three months later.

In his speech to the Vatican conference, Shen Bin quoted some of the statutes of the Chinese state-sanctioned bishops’ conference — a noteworthy choice given that Parolin had called for a Chinese bishops’ conference with “statutes appropriate to its ecclesial nature and pastoral mission” in the Vatican’s announcement of the pope’s acceptance of Shen Bin’s transfer last year. 

The Chinese bishop also used Scripture to defend his stance that “the development of the Church in China must follow a Chinese perspective.”

“In dealing with the relationship between church and state, religion and politics, we must return to what the Bible says: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,’” Shen Bin said.

The conference, titled “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’: Between History and the Present,” was held in Chinese and Italian in the Great Hall of the Pontifical Urban University. 

The one-day event marked the 100th anniversary of a Church council that took place in Shanghai in 1924 and brought together 105 Catholic missionaries, bishops, and Chinese Catholics to establish a framework for a native Chinese hierarchy.

The Pastoral Commission for China and Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, organized the conference, which also featured Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and voices from mainland China as speakers. Pope Francis sent a video message to the conference in which he noted that Chinese Catholics have endured “times of patience and trial” in the past century.

None of the speakers at the Vatican conference spoke critically of human rights or religious freedom in China. 

Professor Zheng Xiaojun, the director of the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, assured conference participants that religious freedom is fully guaranteed in China. 

According to the 2024 report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, religious freedom conditions in China deteriorated last year as the government intensified its implementation of its “sinicization” policy, which “requires groups to follow the CCP’s Marxist interpretation of religion, including by altering religious scriptures and doctrines to conform to that interpretation.”

Pope Francis: Humility ‘is the source of peace in the world and in the Church’

Rome Newsroom, May 22, 2024 / 09:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday closed his catechetical series on vices and virtues with a review of humility, a virtue that forms the “the base of Christian life” and is a source of peace for the Church and the world.

“Humility is everything. It is what saves us from the evil one and from the danger of becoming his accomplices. It is the source of peace in the world and in the Church. God has given us an example of this in Jesus and Mary, for our salvation and happiness,” the pope said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning.

The pope’s reflection on humility closes a series on the four cardinal and three theological virtues . While humility is not part of the seven “heavenly virtues,” the pope underscored the importance of humility as forming the “base of Christian life.”

Humility is the “great antagonist of the most mortal of sins, namely arrogance,” the pope said, stressing that it “restores everything to its correct dimension.” 

Francis buttressed this point by looking to the beatitudes, which come from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, with the pope reading aloud the first: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

The pope said the first beatitude serves as a foundation for the others. 

“Meekness, mercy, and purity of heart stem from that inner sense of smallness,” he said. “Humility is the gateway to all the virtues.” 

The Holy Father further developed this point by looking to Mary as a personification of the virtue of humility. 

“The chosen heroine is not a little queen who grew up coddled, but an unknown girl, Mary,” he said. 

“Not even the most sacred truth of her life, being the Mother of God, becomes a reason for her to boast before men,” he continued. “In a world marked by the pursuit of appearance, of showing oneself to be superior to others, Mary walks decisively, by the sole power of God’s grace, in the opposite direction.”

Observing that Mary faced “difficult moments” and “days when her faith advanced in darkness,” the pope implored the faithful to emulate the Blessed Mother as her humility never wavered.

“She is always small, always without self-importance, always free of ambition. This smallness of hers is her invincible strength: It is she who remains at the foot of the cross while the illusion of a triumphant Messiah is shattered.”

At the end of the catechesis the pope renewed his regular appeal for peace, saying: “We need peace; the world is at war.”

“Let’s not forget the tormented Ukraine, which is suffering so much. Let’s not forget Palestine, Israel; may this war stop. Let’s not forget Myanmar and let’s not forget many countries at war.”

Pope Francis praises historic council in China as ‘an authentic synodal journey’

Rome Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 13:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has praised the Catholic Church’s first council in China 100 years ago as “an authentic synodal journey” that opened the way for the Church in China “to increasingly have a Chinese face.”

In a video message to a conference in Rome on the Catholic Church in China, the pope noted that Chinese Catholics have endured “times of patience and trial” in the past century.

“The Lord in China has safeguarded the faith of the people of God along the way. And the faith of God’s people has been the compass that has shown the way throughout this time,” Pope Francis said in the May 21 address.

The pope pointed to a Church council that took place in Shanghai 25 years before the Chinese Communist Revolution as an example of a moment when “the communion between the Holy See and the Church in China manifested its fruits, fruits of good for all the Chinese people.” 

The 1924 council, called the Primum Concilium Sinense, brought together 105 Catholic missionaries, bishops, and Chinese Catholics to establish a framework for a native Chinese hierarchy.

“The Fathers gathered in the Concilium Sinense lived an authentically synodal experience and made important decisions together,” Pope Francis said.

“Remembering the Council of Shanghai can also suggest today new paths to the entire Church and open paths to be undertaken with boldness to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel in the present,” he added. 

Among the crowd listening to the pope’s video message were representatives from the People’s Republic of China, including Bishop Shen Bin of Shanghai, who was unilaterally installed by Chinese authorities as bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 without a papal mandate, thereby breaking the terms of the Vatican-China deal. Pope Francis confirmed his appointment in July 2023.

The Holy See first entered into a provisional two-year agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in 2018, which has since been renewed twice and is again up for renewal this fall. 

Pope Francis opted not to speak of the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts with Beijing or religious freedom in China in his message but said that Chinese Catholics today “bear witness to their faith through works of mercy and charity, and in their witness they give a real contribution to the harmony of social coexistence.”

A large statue of Our Lady of Sheshan stood on the pope’s desk as he spoke. The pope noted that during the month of May many Chinese Catholics usually go on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Sheshan, located near Shanghai.

“I too ideally climb the hill of Sheshan, and let us all together entrust to Mary, Help of Christians, our brothers and sisters in the faith who are in China, all the Chinese people, and all our poor world, asking for her intercession, so that peace may always win everywhere,” Pope Francis said.

Following the pope’s message, Shen Bin delivered a 15-minute speech in Chinese to the packed auditorium of the Pontifical Urban University on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Chinese bishop offered a different interpretation of the 1924 council from the pope in his speech, saying that “the Council of Shanghai did not lead to an immediate and radical change in the Church in China,” adding that by the 1949 Communist Revolution “only 29 of China’s 137 dioceses had Chinese bishops, and only three of 20 archbishops were Chinese.”

“The Catholic Church in China had not really freed itself from foreign powers to become a work led by Chinese Christians and had not yet managed to shed the label of ‘foreign religion,’” he said.

Shen Bin, who has held leadership positions in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association established by the Chinese Communist Party and under the control of the United Front Work Department, went on to defend Beijing’s religious freedom record and underlined the need for the Church in China to “follow a path of sinicization.”

“The policy of religious freedom implemented by the Chinese government has no interest in changing the Catholic faith but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers,” Shen Bin said in his speech.

“Today the Chinese people are carrying out the great rebirth of the Chinese nation in a global way with Chinese-style modernization, and the Catholic Church in China must move in the same direction, following a path of sinicization that is in line with Chinese society and culture today,” the Shanghai bishop added.

The conference, titled “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’: Between History and the Present,” was held in Chinese and Italian in the Great Hall of the Pontifical Urban University. The Pastoral Commission for China and Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, organized the conference, which featured Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as speakers.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Parolin said the Holy See would like to increase and deepen its contacts in China.

“We have been hoping for a long time now to have a stable presence in China, even if initially it may not have the form of a papal representation of an apostolic nunciature,” Parolin said.

Pope expresses ‘spiritual closeness’ to Iran after death of president in helicopter crash

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 11:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday offered prayers to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the country’s president was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was among eight killed in the Iranian Air Force helicopter crash in the country’s East Azerbaijan Province on May 19.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also among those killed. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. 

In , the Holy Father wrote that he sent “condolences upon the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and all who perished” in the disaster.

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and with prayers for those who mourn their loss, especially their families, I send the assurance of spiritual closeness to the nation at this difficult time,” the pope said. 

The letter was addressed to Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic. 

The Holy Father had  about a month after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. In that discussion, the Iranian president reportedly asked the pope to use his influence to bring an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza. 

Raisi reportedly also asked the pope to “correctly explain the position of the oppressor and the oppressed” in the conflict. Iran and Israel have been engaged in a decades-long “proxy war.” 

Amir-Abdollahian, meanwhile,  Vatican foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher in October, with the two diplomats also discussing the Israel-Hamas war. 

Mohammad Mokhber, formerly the vice president of Iran, is currently serving as acting president of the country following Raisi’s death. 

Pope Francis appoints pontifical legate to 2024 International Eucharistic Congress

ACI Prensa Staff, May 20, 2024 / 17:51 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life, as his special envoy for the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which will be held in Quito, Ecuador, from Sept. 8–15.

Farrell, 76, was born on Sept. 2, 1947. He was ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ on Dec. 24, 1978. Six years later, in 1984, he was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he was named auxiliary bishop in December 2001.

He received episcopal consecration on Feb. 11, 2002. On March 6, 2007, Farrell was named bishop of Dallas, where he served until 2016, when he was named prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life.

Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the Nov. 19, 2016, consistory.

Since 2019 Farrell is the “camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church,” the cardinal who presides over the Apostolic Chamber (office) and carries out the task of caring for and administering the temporal goods and rights of the Holy See during the interregnum after the death or resignation of the pope.

The congress, whose theme is “Fraternity to Heal the World,” was presented Monday in the Vatican pressroom.

In the presentation, Archbishop Alfredo Espinoza of Quito noted that this Eucharistic congress coincides with of the consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which made the South American country the first nation consecrated to Christ under this devotion.

After recalling that in 2021 they received the news that Quito would be the venue for the ecclesial event, Espinoza said that “the Eucharistic congress to be held in Quito ought to be a voice, with a Latin American accent, for the Church of the entire world.”

“It will be a voice of hope that is announced from this continent of hope. It will seek to be that prophetic voice that will proclaim to everyone that brotherhood is the only possible way to make and build a new world,” he emphasized.

Father Juan Carlos Garzón, secretary-general of the IEC, went on to discuss for the Eucharistic congress, noting that “we live the urgency of a fraternity that springs from the Eucharistic experience and tends toward it as its end.”

Father Corrado Maggioni, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, reviewed the history of these events in the Church and explained how they are understood now.

“The re-understanding of the Eucharistic mystery that began with the liturgical movement and matured with the Second Vatican Council has also reoriented Eucharistic congresses to promote the inseparable link between the Mass and Eucharistic worship outside of it, paying attention to the lived experience,” the Italian priest highlighted.

In this way, “the Eucharistic congress has then become an opportunity to express the Church of the Eucharist in the light of Vatican II and the liturgical reform that followed.”

Topics to be discussed during the five days of the are: “Wounded World, Fraternity Redeemed in Christ, Eucharist and Transformation of the World, for a Synodal Church” and “Eucharist: Psalm of Fraternity.” 

Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

CNA Newsroom, May 20, 2024 / 14:44 pm (CNA).

In a new interview, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, suggested that the Church’s position on female priests is not set in stone and should be discussed further, at the same time warning of triggering “a huge backlash.” 

Speaking to the official Swiss Catholic on May 17, Hollerich, who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, said the prohibition against ordaining women was “not an infallible doctrinal decision” and could be changed over time with arguments.

“The way I see it, most bishops are in favor of a greater role for women in the Church,” the Jesuit cardinal said. “I am in favor of women feeling fully equal in the Church. And we will also work toward this. I don’t know if that necessarily has to include ordination to the priesthood. You can’t tie everything to the priesthood alone. That would be clericalization.”

When asked whether he thought Pope Francis would introduce female priests, Hollerich replied: “It’s very difficult to say. The pope is sometimes good for surprises.” 

The archbishop of Luxemburg added: “But I would actually say no. Shortly before the synod, there was a ‘dubia’ from a few cardinals. They asked whether John Paul II’s rejection of the priesthood of women was binding for the Church. Francis replied very wisely: It is binding, but not forever. And he also said that theology would have to discuss this further.”

The cardinal, who has previously on doctrinal matters, emphasized the need for ongoing discussion. 

“It means that it is not an infallible doctrinal decision. It can be changed. It needs arguments and time,” Hollerich said. 

At the same time, the Jesuit cautioned against pushing too hard for changes, noting that “if you push too much, you won’t achieve much. You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far.”

The interview was conducted by Jacqueline Straub, who works for the official portal of the Church in Switzerland and herself as “called to be a Roman Catholic priest.” 

Her assertion to Hollerich that women were forced to take a back seat in the Church was “based on a typically European principle of the individual,” the cardinal responded. 

Citing the example of blessing homosexual couples after , Hollerich warned of a potentially “huge backlash” if the Vatican were to introduce the ordination of women to the priesthood. 

“We have to have these discussions with the whole Church; otherwise, we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter : “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Pope Francis to travel to Luxembourg and Belgium in September

Rome Newsroom, May 20, 2024 / 14:06 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis will visit Luxembourg and Belgium at the end of September.

The pope will make a one-day stopover in Luxembourg on Sept. 26 before visiting three cities in Belgium to mark the 600th anniversary of the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve from Sept. 26–29.

According to a launched by the Catholic Church in Belgium, Pope Francis is expected to preside over a Sunday Mass in Brussels on Sept. 29 before heading back to Rome. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope’s full schedule will be released at a later date. 

The pope’s European trip comes less than two weeks after he is scheduled to make an ambitious 12-day journey to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore, the longest international trip since he was elected pope 11 years ago.

In total, Pope Francis is planning to visit six countries in the month of September after nearly a year of no international travel. 

The 87-year-old has slowed down his schedule in recent months as health issues have forced him to cancel some public appearances and travels, including a planned trip to Abu Dhabi in December. Francis, who often uses a wheelchair, has not traveled internationally since September 2023, opting instead to make pastoral visits within Italy to the northern cities of Venice and Verona in the first half of 2024.

Pope Francis first expressed his intention to visit Belgium during an with the Mexican television network Televisa broadcast in December. 

The Church in Belgium is grappling with a profound fallout from public outrage over the handling of clerical sexual abuse scandals. In March, Pope Francis laicized the bishop emeritus of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, the former prelate admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his nephews.

A previous archbishop of Brussels, the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, called on a victim of Vangheluwe’s abuse .

Archbishop Luc Terlinden of Mechelen-Brussels issued to abuse survivors and expressed deep regret over the inclusion of reportedly three perpetrators of sexual abuse on an electoral list for the council of priests earlier this month. 

According to the Church in Belgium’s 2023 annual report, 1,270 Catholics requested for their names to be removed from the baptismal register last year.

The pope received in a formal audience at the  Vatican’s Apostolic Palace last fall. 

Philippe, who ascended the Belgian throne 10 years ago, holds the title “Rex Catholicissimus,” or “(Most) Catholic Majesty,” and the queen is one of only a few women in the world who can wear white, rather than the customary black, when meeting the pope, a papal privilege referred to as the

The confirmation of the pope’s trip to Belgium makes to address the United Nations less likely.

International Jérôme Lejeune bioethics conference highlights crucial life and health issues

Rome, Italy, May 20, 2024 / 11:53 am (CNA).

The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune held its second to reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life.

Jérôme Lejeune, who discovered Trisomony 21 in 1958 (which causes Down syndrome), has been described as a prophetic “father of bioethics” and his legacy continues to steer the direction of bioethical thought within the Catholic Church worldwide.

“Bioethics is an interdisciplinary science,” said Dr. Mónica López Barahona, president of the International Chair of Bioethics Jerome Lejeune. “We have tried to address [bioethics] with different experts from different fields in order to give some light on different subjects. That was the way that Professor Lejeune addressed issues — from science to ethics — and that’s why we decided to organize this meeting in this way of reflection.” 

Approximately 45 international speakers from 16 countries discussed critical issues surrounding scientific practices at the two-day conference including gene editing in humans and across species (CRISPR experiments), sex selection, assisted reproduction techniques, prenatal testing and diagnosis, neonatal care, euthanasia, and gender-affirming surgery.

On the opening day, Professor O. Carter Snead, an American legal scholar and bioethicist from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, shared insights from his book “What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics,” and invited conference participants to first consider the “anthropological question [about human nature, human flourishing, and human identity]” as a framework to examine the conference topics and case studies.

Snead stated that current laws and policies related to abortion, assisted reproduction, and end-of-life decisions in the U.S. and abroad reflect a reductive “expressive individualism” as described by philosopher Charles Taylor and sociologist Robert Bellah, whereby a person’s worth is primarily defined according to “their capacity to choose life pathways” and pursue personal projects.

“Expressive individualism doesn’t take our embodiment or incarnational nature into account. It can’t make sense of our vulnerability, our reciprocal dependence, and our natural limits,” Snead explained. “It leaves entirely out of the field of view the weakest and most vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled, children both born and unborn.” 

More than 400 people from 19 countries across five continents attended the congress in person or online to listen to academics, researchers, medical doctors, health care specialists, as well as family members whose lives had been directly impacted by the work and example of Lejeune.  

“Never in my life would I have thought that a doctor, much less a prominent one, would have the humility to contact the mother of a child from a foreign country to spare them a trip to Paris,” recalled Domitília Antão, a mother of a child with Trisomy 21. “I will never forget his gaze, which immediately infused hope in our discouraged hearts. We were amazed by such simplicity considering his great competence, so much tenderness. We were treated like his family.”  

Thirty years since his death, institutes inspired by Lejeune’s dedicated work and care of his patients have been established around the world, including the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune and the Association des Amis du Pr. Jerome Lejeune in France, and the Asociacion de Medicos Jérôme Lejeune in Spain.  

“My hope is really that, first, the figure of Professor Lejeune will be well known all over the world and that the conclusions of the congress — in the different subjects that we have addressed — may be transmitted and translated into the different fields in the different countries all over the world,” Barahona told CNA.

In 1994, only 33 days after his appointment as the first president of the then-newly established Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope John Paul II, Lejeune died from lung cancer on Easter Sunday. Pope Francis advanced his cause for canonization after declaring Lejeune “venerable” within the Catholic Church in 2021. 

Pope Francis on Pentecost: The Holy Spirit’s work in us is powerful

Vatican City, May 19, 2024 / 08:15 am (CNA).

On the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel to everyone with gentleness and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Speaking in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope explained that the Holy Spirit’s “work in us is powerful, as symbolized by the signs of wind and fire,” but it is also gentle and “welcoming to all.”

“From the ‘upper room’ of this basilica, like the apostles, we too are being sent forth to proclaim the Gospel to all,” Pope Francis said in his homily on May 19.

“Thanks to the Spirit, we can and must do this with his own power and gentleness,” he added.

Pope Francis underlined that this power is not arrogant, calculating, or imposing but is “born of fidelity to the truth that the Spirit teaches us in our hearts.”

“Consequently, we do not give up but tirelessly proclaim peace to those who desire war, forgiveness to those who seek revenge, welcome and solidarity to those who bar their doors and erect barriers, life to those who choose death, respect to those who love to humiliate, insult, and reject, fidelity to those who would sever every bond, thereby confusing freedom with a bleak and empty individualism,” he said.

“Nor are we intimidated by hardship, derision, or opposition, which, today as always, are never lacking in the apostolate.”

Pope Francis presided over the Mass the day after . The 87-year-old pope was not the main celebrant but gave a shortened homily from a white chair at the front of the congregation to the right of the altar.

Cardinal Arthur Roche, the prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, served as the main celebrant for the Pentecost Mass.

In his homily, Pope Francis explained how the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome sinful passions, like impurity or envy, and then gently plants the seeds of virtue and helps them to grow.

“He lovingly protects these virtues, so that they can grow stronger and so that, after the toil of combatting evil, we may taste the sweetness of mercy and communion with God,” he said.

“As a beautiful prayer of the early Church says: ‘Let your gentleness, O Lord, and the fruits of your love abide with me,’” he added.

Thousands were gathered inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the Pentecost Mass. After the Mass, Pope Francis appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace and prayed the “Regina Caeli” in Latin.

The pope told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that listening to the word of God helps to “silence the chatter” and provides space for one to hear the consoling voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit repeats in us “transformative words of love,” he added, that help us to realize the eternal love of God. The pope recommended that people spend time praying in silence in Eucharistic adoration to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. 

Pope Francis also prayed for the Holy Spirit to bring communion between Christians, harmony in families, and an end to the wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land.

The solemnity of Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of his Pentecost homily, Pope Francis prayed: “Come, Creator Spirit, enlighten our minds, fill our hearts with your grace, guide our steps, grant your peace to our world.”

Everything you need to know about Pentecost

Rome, Italy, May 19, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year, which concludes the Easter season and celebrates the birth of the Church. 

Here’s what you need to know about the feast day.

Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.

The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the novena — nine days of prayer — because in Acts 1, Mary and the apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, in the days before Pentecost.

The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word “pentecoste,” meaning “50th.”

There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the “Feast of Weeks,” referring to the seven weeks since Passover.

Originally a harvest feast, Shavu’ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this day.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the upper room.

A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and “tongues as of fire” came to rest on each one of them (Acts 2:13). They were suddenly able to speak in different languages and be understood. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were drunk — but Peter pointed out that it was only “9 in the morning” and said the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts necessary to fulfill the great commission — to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. This fulfilled the New Testament promise from Christ that the apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel (Luke 24:46-49).

It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other nonbelievers, in which he opened the Scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptized. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptized following Peter’s sermon.

For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church — Peter, the first pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.

Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.

However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “Whitsunday,” or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.

An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so, in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called “Pascha Rosatum” (“Easter roses”). One of the most famous locations for the rose petal dropping is the Pantheon.

In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.

In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited.

In Russia, Mass-goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.

Fernández: Vatican’s new apparitions guidelines stress ‘caution’ in discernment process

Rome Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 11:03 am (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández held a press conference on Friday addressing the Vatican’s new guidelines on apparitions, with the prelate noting that the new norms would help introduce greater prudence in the discernment process. 

“The Church has stated that the faithful are never forced to believe in this phenomenon. They are never obliged. There’s no obligation,” said Fernández, the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, during the conference at the Holy See Press Office on Friday. 

“The Church, as a matter of fact, leaves the faithful free to devote their attention to this phenomena or not,” he added. “Revelation that has already happened is the word of God. It contains everything we need for our Christian life.”

The document, titled “Norms for Proceeding in the Discernment of Alleged Supernatural Phenomena” and released on Friday morning, on Marian apparitions, abrogating a issued in 1978 under Pope Paul VI. 

Noting that these new norms establish a set of pragmatic guidelines to assist the local ordinary as well as the dicastery, Fernández said that “some phenomenon that could have a supernatural origin sometimes appear to be related to confused human experiences.” 

Speaking specifically on the role of the bishops in the process, the cardinal observed that there have been instances in which some bishops have issued decrees on apparitions saying these events “should be considered as being true” and that the “faithful must believe, shall believe in this.”

“Quite often the bishop’s decrees have used these words,” Fernández said.

He emphasized that these new norms will help bishops “have a prudential character so that the faithful can accept this in a prudent way.” 

“The pastoral action of the bishops and then situations can be very different and therefore we decided to have six possible conclusions,” he added. “If we look at history, at the different cases, we recognize different kinds of situations that can be basically located within these six possibilities.”

The new norms outline three stages for the discernment process. At the end of the evaluation process, the local bishop and a delegate he appoints to oversee the commission’s work are to prepare a “personal votum” in which the bishop proposes to the dicastery a final judgment. That decision will normally follow one of six formulas, one of which is the “nihil obstat,” a pronouncement that means there are no doctrinal objections.

“Without expressing any certainty about the supernatural authenticity of the phenomenon itself, many signs of the action of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged ‘in the midst’ of a given spiritual experience, and no aspects that are particularly critical or risky have been detected, at least so far,” the document states.

Drawing on biblical examples, Fernández noted that “right from the very beginning of the Church, the Holy Spirit itself, with charisms, promoted the necessary discernment of these manifestations. After 2,000 years, the Church still takes care of the faithful, helping them to be meek to the Holy Spirit.”

“These new norms are in continuity with this task,” he said.

New norms give Vatican greater say on alleged apparitions

Rome Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 06:53 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s top doctrinal office is centralizing its authority over the investigation of alleged Marian apparitions and other religious phenomena under new norms it issued Friday, a break from past protocols that gave local bishops greater autonomy in discerning such cases.

While emphasizing that “discernment in this area remains the task of the diocesan bishop,” the new guidelines state that the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith “must always be consulted and give final approval to what the bishop decides before he announces a determination on an event of alleged supernatural origin.” 

The document spelling out the new procedures, titled “Norms for Proceeding in the Discernment of Alleged Supernatural Phenomena,” explains that the doctrinal office previously played a role in the evaluation process but generally did so behind the scenes.

“While previously the dicastery had intervened but the bishop was asked not to mention it, today, the dicastery openly manifests its involvement and accompanies the bishop in reaching a final determination,” the document states. “Now, when the bishop makes his decision public, it will be stated as ‘in agreement with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.’”

The DDF’s prefect, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who signed the document, held a press briefing for journalists at the Vatican Friday at noon local time.

The new norms take effect on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, abrogating the  established under Pope Paul VI in 1978. 

One key component of the news norms is that only the pope can judge that an alleged apparition or other phenomenon is of "supernatural origin." It is beyond the scope of a local bishop or an episcopal conference to do so, the DDF says.

In the document’s introduction, Fernández observes that under the older norms, “decisions took an excessively long time, sometimes spanning several decades,” delaying “the necessary ecclesiastical discernment.” 

Fernández also highlights that in the past there was greater deference to the local bishop in ascertaining the validity of alleged supernatural events, stating that “some bishops insisted on being able to make a positive declaration of this type.”

“Even recently, some bishops have wanted to make statements such as, ‘I confirm the absolute truth of the facts’ and ‘the faithful must undoubtedly consider as true …’”

“These expressions,” Fernández states, “effectively oriented the faithful to think they had to believe in these phenomena, which sometimes were valued more than the Gospel itself.”

Responding to the “development of modern means of communication” and “the increase in pilgrimages,” the document notes that these alleged events assume a global character “meaning that a decision made in one diocese has consequences also elsewhere.”

The document also emphasized that there have been cases of alleged supernatural events that have been “detrimental to the faithful,” adding that the Church “must respond with utmost pastoral solicitude.”

Some of the issues Fernández outlines included “the possibility of doctrinal errors,” “an oversimplification of the Gospel message,” and “the spread of a sectarian mentality.” 

The new guidelines note that during the discernment process “the diocesan bishop is to refrain from making any public statement in favor of the authenticity or supernatural nature of such phenomena and from having any personal connection with them.”

The document continues: “If forms of devotion emerge in connection with the alleged supernatural event, even without true and proper veneration, the diocesan bishop has the serious obligation of initiating a comprehensive canonical investigation as soon as possible to safeguard the faith and prevent abuses.”

In those cases, the bishop must establish an investigatory commission to include at least one theologian, one canonist, and “one expert chosen based on the nature of the phenomenon.” 

The document also stipulates that an interdiocesan commission must be created to evaluate cases that involve “the competence of multiple diocesan bishops.”

The new norms emphasize that should “alleged supernatural events continue” during the  investigatory process and “the situation suggests prudential measures,” then it is incumbent upon the bishop to “enforce those acts of good governance to avoid uncontrolled or dubious displays of devotion, or the beginning of a veneration based on elements that are as of yet undefined.”

During the evaluation phase, the commission is to look at both the “positive” and “negative” criteria of the alleged apparition, the DDF’s new norms state. 

The document identifies four positive criteria: 

  1. “The credibility and good reputation of the persons who claim to be recipients of supernatural events or to be directly involved in them, as well as the reputation of the witnesses who have been heard.”

  2. “The doctrinal orthodoxy of the phenomenon and any messages related to it.”

  3. “The unpredictable nature of the phenomenon, by which it is evident that it is not the result of the initiative of the people involved.”

  4. “The fruits of the Christian life, including a spirit of prayer, conversions, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, acts of charity, as well as sound devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruits.” 

The new norms also set forth six negative criteria to be considered: 

  1. “The possibility of a manifest error about the event.”

  2. “Potential doctrinal errors.”

  3. “A sectarian spirit that breeds division in the Church.”

  4. “An overt pursuit of profit, power, fame, social recognition, or other personal interest closely linked to the event.”

  5. “Gravely immoral actions committed by the subject or the subject’s followers at or around the time of the event.”

  6. “Psychological alterations or psychopathic tendencies in the person that may have exerted an influence on the alleged supernatural event.” 

At the end of the evaluation process, the bishop and a delegate he appoints to oversee the commission’s work are to prepare a “personal votum” in which the bishop proposes to the dicastery a final judgment. That decision will normally follow one of six formulas:

  1. Nihil obstat: “Without expressing any certainty about the supernatural authenticity of the phenomenon itself, many signs of the action of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged ‘in the midst’ of a given spiritual experience, and no aspects that are particularly critical or risky have been detected, at least so far,” the document states.

  2. Prae oculis habeatur: “Although important positive signs are recognized, some aspects of confusion or potential risks are also perceived that require the diocesan bishop to engage in a careful discernment and dialogue with the recipients of a given spiritual experience.” 

  3. Curatur: “In this situation, a ban that could upset the people of God is not recommended. Nevertheless, the diocesan bishop is asked not to encourage this phenomenon but to seek out alternative expressions of devotion and possibly reorient its spiritual and pastoral aspects.” 

  4. Sub mandato: “In this category, the critical issues are not connected to the phenomenon itself, which is rich in positive elements, but to a person, a family, or a group of people who are misusing it.”

  5. Prohibetur et obstruatur: “While there are legitimate requests and some positive elements, the critical issues and risks associated with this phenomenon appear to be very serious.”

  6. Declaratio de non supernaturalitate: “In this situation, the dicastery authorizes the diocesan bishop to declare that the phenomenon is found to be not supernatural,” the document states.

Following the DDF’s final decision, the diocesan bishop, unless directed otherwise by the dicastery, “will inform the national episcopal conference of the determination approved by the dicastery” and “will clearly make known to the people of God the judgment on the events in question.” 

The document notes that a nihil obstat “allows the pastors of the Church to act confidently and promptly to stand among the people of God in welcoming the Holy Spirit’s gifts that may emerge ‘in the midst of’ these events.” 

The document explains that the phrase “in the midst of” denotes that “even if the event itself is not declared to be of supernatural origin, there is still a recognition of the signs of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural action in the midst of what is occurring.” 

But the norms stress that in cases where a nihil obstat is granted, “such phenomena do not become objects of faith, which means the faithful are not obliged to give an assent of faith to them.” 

As in the case of charisms recognized by the Church, the document states, “they are ‘ways to deepen one’s knowledge of Christ and to give oneself more generously to him, while rooting oneself more and more deeply in communion with the entire Christian people.’” 

In meanwhile, Fernández said the new norms will allow bishops to “have a prudential character so that the faithful can accept this in a prudent way.”

In the new guidance, Fernández said, the Church “leaves the faithful free to devote their attention to this phenomena or not.”

“Revelation that has already happened is the word of God. It contains everything we need for our Christian life,” he said.

Pope Francis: Young people ‘can break the chains of antagonism’ between Catholics, Orthodox

ACI Prensa Staff, May 16, 2024 / 16:18 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has placed in young people his hope that Catholics and Orthodox may be “united in diversity” and “break the chains” of antagonism, misunderstanding, and prejudice that have kept them prisoners for centuries.

In , the Holy Father received the director-general of the Apostolikí Diakonía of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Metropolitan Agathangelos, and a delegation from the Theological College of Athens.

The is the official publishing house and missionary arm of the Orthodox Christian Church of Greece. Since 1936 it has published hundreds of books on Christian theology and tradition, Orthodox spirituality, and biblical studies.

At the beginning of his talk given at the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for the collaboration between Apostolikí Diakonía and the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

He also addressed a particular greeting to the archbishop of Athens and all Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos II, who was present at the audience and whom the pontiff described as “a man of deep faith and a wise pastor.”

Pope Francis highlighted that during these last 20 years, “despite times of difficulty, for example, the economic crisis in Greece and the pandemic, the Apostolikí Diakonía and the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration have worked together in promoting projects of common interest on the cultural and educational level.”

He also stressed the need to provide cultural, theological, and ecumenical formation for new generations.

According to the Holy Father, “it is the young, sustained by the hope founded on faith, who can break the chains of antagonism, misunderstanding, and prejudice that for centuries held Catholics and Orthodox back from acknowledging one another as brothers and sisters, united in diversity and capable of bearing witness to the love of Christ, especially in a world so divided and riven by conflict.”

Pope Francis noted that next summer a group of Catholic students will be welcomed at the Theological College of Athens, where they will be “introduced to knowledge of the modern Greek language and the Orthodox Church.”

“By journeying together, working together, and praying together, we prepare ourselves to receive from God the gift of unity that, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, will be a communion and harmony in legitimate diversity,” the Holy Father concluded.

Italian actor Roberto Benigni to join Pope Francis for World Children’s Day

Rome Newsroom, May 16, 2024 / 11:49 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will be joined by Italian actor Roberto Benigni and soccer star Gianluigi Buffon as the pontiff celebrates World Children’s Day over the last weekend in May.

The Vatican announced on Thursday that will “kick off” on Saturday, May 25, at 3:30 p.m. with a soccer match between kids and professional soccer players in Rome’s Olympic Stadium led by Buffon, the goalie who helped Italy achieve victory in the 2006 World Cup.

On the second day of the event, Benigni, best known for his Oscar-winning film “Life Is Beautiful,” will give a short speech at the end of Pope Francis’ Mass and Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, May 26. 

World Children’s Day is a new initiative by Pope Francis sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education in collaboration with the Catholic community of , the , and the Italian Football Federation. 

The Vatican is expecting children from more than 100 countries to travel to Rome for the weekend event with the pope.

When Pope Francis first announced the establishment of World Children’s Day in December 2023, he said: “Like Jesus, we want to put children at the center and care for them.”

According to Vatican News, Pope Francis was inspired to create World Children’s Day by a 9-year-old boy named Alessandro who proposed the idea to the pope to have an international event like World Youth Day (an international gathering for young people ages 16 to 35) for younger children.

The two-day event will culminate with Mass for the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity with the pope in St. Peter’s Square at 10:30 a.m. on May 26.

Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato is organizing World Children’s Day for the Vatican. He said the goal is to “look at the world through the eyes of children, who are the hope of the people, their future.”

“I publicly thank Roberto Benigni and all those who have decided to work and donate their time and talent to children all over the world,” he added.

Chiara Corbella’s beatification cause to take a step forward in June

Rome Newsroom, May 16, 2024 / 10:08 am (CNA).

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo, the joyful young mother who died of cancer in 2012, will be one step closer next month to being declared a saint.

The Diocese of Rome announced Wednesday that it will hold the closing session of the diocesan phase of her cause for beatification on Friday, June 21, at noon in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Since her death at the age of 28, Corbella has inspired many by her witness to faith and joy amid suffering and loss.

Corbella met her husband, Enrico Petrillo, at the age of 18 while on a pilgrimage to Međugorje. They married six years later in Assisi on Sept. 21, 2008. 

Within the first two years of their marriage, Chiara and Enrico suffered the death of two children, both of whom died less than an hour after birth.

Their first child, Maria Grazia Letizia, was diagnosed in utero with anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain or skull. Chiara chose to carry the baby to term and her daughter lived just long enough to be baptized in the hospital, dying within a half hour of her birth in June 2009.

During her second pregnancy, ultrasounds revealed that her son had no legs or kidneys. Baby Davide Giovanni died in June 2010 after living for 38 minutes. 

The couple chose to about the few minutes that they were able to spend with their children at pro-life events in Italy. They also underwent genetic testing that revealed no pathological risk to their future children.

“The Lord gave us two special children: Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, but he asked us to accompany them only until their birth. He gave us the opportunity to embrace them, have them baptized, and then entrust them into the hands of the Father, all with a peace and joy that we had never experienced before,” Chiara recounted.

Corbella became pregnant for a third time with their son Francesco in 2010 and ultrasounds showed that he was in perfect health. The joyful news was short-lived as Chiara was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors removed a tumor on her tongue that turned out to be cancerous.

Chiara rejected any form of treatment that posed a risk to her unborn son, prioritizing his life over her own. Her healthy baby boy was born on May 30, 2011.

As the cancer metastasized, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see clearly. A photo of her wearing an eye patch with a big smile was taken in April 2012, less than two weeks after she learned that her condition was terminal. She prepared for death by receiving the Blessed Sacrament daily. 

In a letter that Chiara wrote to their son Francesco, she recalled the line from the Gospel: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Her husband, Enrico, has recounted how he asked Chiara about this not long before she died. He shared her response in a speech in St. Peter’s Square in 2016. 

“I asked her: ‘Chiara, is this cross really sweet like the Lord says?’ She smiled at me, and with a frail voice replied: ‘Yes, Enrico. It is very sweet.’”

Chiara died on June 13, 2012, at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends, one year after her son was born.

Corbella’s cause for canonization was announced on June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of her death.

Her parents were invited to tell her story at the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, where they shared that Corbella’s son Francesco is 11 years old and inspired by his mother’s witness.

With the closing of the diocesan investigation into Corbella’s life, virtues, and sanctity, the documented testimonies and other materials for her cause for beatification will be sealed and sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further scrutiny.

The next step in the process will be for the pope to recognize her as someone who lived a life of heroic virtue and declare her venerable. 

Corbella will need two miracles attributed to her intercession to be declared a saint. 

It’s been 100 years since the Catholic Church’s first Council in China

Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2024 / 16:17 pm (CNA).

One hundred years ago, the First Council of the Catholic Church convened in China, gathering together more than 100 bishops, vicar generals, and religious. The majority of the participants were foreign-born, but for the first time, there were also native Chinese who would have a say on the trajectory of the Church in their homeland.

Led by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini, papal legate to China, the primary objective of the council, which opened on May 15, 1924, was to initiate the process of ecclesial inculturation, which was constructed upon the indigenization of the Chinese Church. Secondly, the council set out to decouple the missions from the colonial project.

These two objectives were important in directing the Church’s ecclesiology and diplomatic mission, an objective that was reflected in Costantini’s elevation of Odorico Cheng Hede as the head of the recently created Apostolic Prefecture of Puqi and Melchior Sun Dezhen to the Apostolic Prefecture of Lixian.

“Among you are two Chinese prelates, recently raised to the dignity of prefects apostolic, these venerable brethren, are the fruit of your past labors, the grain of mustard that will grow into a large tree and bring forth abundant fruit in the future,” said Costantini during the solemn high Mass at the opening the council. 

It is against the backdrop of this momentous event that on Tuesday, May 21, the Pontifical Urban University along with Agenzia Fides and the Pastoral Commission for China is holding a  to discuss the implications of the council on the historical legacy of the Church as well as contemporary Sino-Vatican relations. 

Titled the conference will feature a video message by Pope Francis, presentations by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization. 

The conference will also feature voices from the People’s Republic of China, including Bishop Shen Bin of Shanghai, who made waves when he was unilaterally  as bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 without a papal mandate, thereby breaking the terms of the contested 2018 Sino-Vatican Accord. Pope Francis confirmed the appointment in July 2023. 

On Nov. 30, 1919, Pope Benedict XV issued his apostolic letter , a document that has been heralded as a turning point in the Church’s missiology.

At the heart of the letter was the call for the training of local clergy, which Benedict referred to as the “greatest hope of the new churches.” 

“For the local priest, one with his people by birth, by nature, by his sympathies and his aspirations is remarkably effective in appealing to their mentality and thus attracting them to the faith. Far better than anyone else, he knows the kind of argument they will listen to, and as a result, he often has easy access to places where a foreign priest would not be tolerated.”

The letter was not only responding to the postwar political climate but also to the historical legacy of the Catholic missions in China, which had been instrumentalized by the colonial powers (first the Portuguese and later the French) in shoring up their political power on the mainland.

The defeat of the Qing Dynasty by the British in the First Opium War ushered in what is called the  “Century of Humiliation,” a period that denotes a culture nadir and left China politically impotent on the domestic level. 

The 1842 Treaty of Nanjing was the first of the “unequal treaties” granting the British the status of “most favored nation” as well as extraterritorial economic and diplomatic privileges, setting the template by which other treaties were modeled and establishing the playbook for Western international relations with China. 

This was soon replicated by the French in October 1844 with the signing of the Treaty of Whampoa, which allowed for the uninterrupted practice of Catholicism in Chinese port cities (such as Shanghai) as well as granting extraterritorial privileges for foreign nationals, thereby exempting them from local laws and customs. 

H.M. Cole in the “” observed, however, that it wasn’t until the signing of the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858 following the end of the Second Opium War that France became the de jure protector of Catholic missions in China.

Despite an expanding Catholic community, the Holy See did not have any direct diplomatic contact with China as any attempt to do so was thwarted by the French. 

Many missionaries, moreover, still felt an obligation to their country of origin, thus feeding into the idea that they were on a project of nation-building rather than of evangelization. But there were some foreign born-priests in China who were staunch advocates of fundamentally altering the Church’s approach. 

Father Frédéric Vincent Lebbe, a French priest who arrived in China after the Boxer Rebellion, was an early advocate for the indigenization of the Chinese Church, a call that was shared by Father Anthony Cotta, a fellow Vincentian. 

In a  Cotta forwarded to Rome — originally written by Lebbe to Paul-Marie Reynaud, bishop of Ningbo — Lebbe admonished the missionaries for creating “spiritual colonies” instead of living Churches and for “the national [indigenous Chinese priests] priesthood, being always kept down to the assistant level, is as though foreign in its own country.” 

Pope Benedict XV died on Jan. 22, 1922, and his successor, Pius XI, shared his determination to reform missionary work and establish an indigenous hierarchy. One of his most consequential decisions for the Church in China was the appointment of Costantini as his personal apostolic delegate in China. 

In Costantini’s memoir “With the Missionaries in China (1922–1933),” he described the Holy See’s efforts as having a “simple religious, missionary character,” adding: “It must, therefore, have no political aspect or constraints.'' 

He also emphasized that the “Holy See does not do politics … it has no imperialist aim in China,” and that “the missions are at the service of the Church,” an ambition that would materialize following the council.

The Primum Concilium Sinese (the first Plenary Council of China), or the Shanghai Synod of Bishops, was held from May 15 to June 12, 1924, bringing together 105 participants led by Costantini. 

Father Carlo Pioppi, professor of modern and contemporary Church history at the faculty of theology of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, noted in a 2012  that the groundwork for the council was already laid by 1923, when in May Costantini “had established a preparatory commission for the council, composed of 22 members, of which seven were Chinese.”

Pius XI in his 1924 apostolic letter authorized Costantini to convoke and preside over the upcoming council. A few months later Costantini appointed Odorico Cheng Hede as the head of the recently created Apostolic Prefecture of Puqi. He elevated another Chinese priest, Melchior Sun Dezhen, to the Apostolic Prefecture of Lixian. 

By preceding the council with the elevation of two Chinese clerics to head ecclesial territories, Costantini was signaling that the time had come to start erecting a local hierarchy. 

Throughout the monthlong synod, discussions were held on the process of inculturating the Church, in line with the guidelines set forth in , and in establishing the eventual framework for a Chinese hierarchy, which came two years later when six Chinese bishops were consecrated by Pope Pius XI on Oct. 28, 1926.   

“Outside the council hall, you could hear almost all the languages ​​of the earth being spoken: once you crossed the threshold of the council hall, only the language of Rome was spoken,” Costantini recounted in his memoirs. 

“Once the council was over,” he continued, “we sent the Holy Father a telegram in which it was said: ‘With one heart, with one language, although many different languages ​​are spoken, we profess the faith of Rome and fidelity to the Chair of Peter.’” 

Pioppi observed in his paper that immediately following the closing of the synod, Costantini sent the text of the decrees to Rome to be subject to the recognition process, which lasted nearly four years, though it wasn’t until June 12, 1929, that the decrees were officially enacted. 

Some of the major changes to come out of the council included the new division of ecclesiastical territories into 17 new units corresponding with the administrative division of the Chinese state and the opening of parochial positions to Chinese clergy. 

In the second book of the conciliar decrees, the title  explicitly stated: “No office is barred to the native clergy, provided they are fit.” It continued to state that the council’s “desire” to see the day when “Chinese priests will also be elected as bishops.”

This council amounted to a “religious decolonization and greater inculturation” in China, Parolin  in Vatican News in 2021. Costantini returned to Rome in 1933, going on to serve as the secretary of Propaganda Fide, but he made an indelible mark, changing the perception and the structure of the Church in China.

On March 30, 1926, Cardinal Willem van Rossum, prefect of Propaganda Fide, announced Pius XI’s decision to consecrate the first Chinese six bishops, a ceremony that was held in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 28 of that year. 

Twenty years later, on April 11, 1946, Pope Pius XII  the apostolic constitution , officially establishing a Chinese hierarchy, a decision that carried a significant canonical and sociopolitical weight. 

Before 1946, the ecclesiastical administrative units in China were apostolic prefectures or pre-diocesan administrative units in mission territories. Having native-born Chinese bishops and an official diocesan structure elevated the position of the Chinese Church, signaling to the world that it was an equal, not a mission territory governed by foreigners. 

These events, while distant, fundamentally altered the Church’s approach to mission work as well as an understanding of its place in China, a point ever more important within the context of contemporary Sino-Vatican relations. 

Pope Francis at general audience: ‘Love is charity’

Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2024 / 09:10 am (CNA).

During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on charity — what he described as the “culmination” of the theological virtues — observing that it is the highest expression of Christian love, predicated on truth and underscored by forgiveness. 

“Love is charity. We immediately realize that it is a difficult, indeed impossible love to practice if one does not live in God. Our human nature makes us love spontaneously what is good and beautiful,” Pope Francis said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny morning in Rome.

Pointing to the Sermon on the Mount and repeating twice the Christian maxim “love your enemy,” the pope noted that this teaching represents the highest expression of Christian love, as it “embraces what is not lovable; it offers forgiveness.” 

“It is a love so ardent that it seems almost impossible,” the pope continued, “and yet it is the only thing that will remain of us. Love is the ‘narrow gate’ through which we will pass in order to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Looking at the various manifestations of love, the pope noted that Christians “are capable of all the forms of love in the world” such as that expressed toward friends, civic love, and “the universal love for all humanity.” 

But Francis stressed that it is the theological virtue of charity that enables Christians to love “those who are not lovable” and “those who do not care for us and are not grateful.” 

“This comes from God, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us,” he added. 

Pope Francis also centered his catechesis on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, noting that the apostle was speaking to a community divided and “anything but perfect in fraternal love.” 

Francis observed that Paul is urging the Corinthians to embrace “not the love that rises but the one that descends.” 

“Paul,” the pope added, “is concerned that in Corinth — as among us today too — there is confusion and that there is actually no trace of the theological virtue of love.” 

The pope contrasted the theological notions of love and charity with contemporary notions such as the one “on the lips of many ‘influencers’” or heard “in the refrains of many songs.”

At the end of the general audience, the pope stressed the importance of the Holy Spirit in light of the solemnity of Pentecost, which will be celebrated on Sunday.

The pope implored the faithful to “be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit,” which he described as “a source of relief for everyone in their trials.” 

The pope also prayed for those affected by recent in northern Afghanistan, which has left over 300 people dead and injured more than 1,600. 

“I pray for the victims, in particular for the children and their families, and I appeal to the international community to immediately provide the aid and support necessary to protect the most vulnerable,” the pope said. 

As ocean temps hit record, Vatican hosts discussions on climate change, offers resources

CNA Staff, May 14, 2024 / 14:52 pm (CNA).

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service released data showing that April was the hottest month on record for global sea surface temperatures. It was the 13th consecutive month that temperatures hit a record high of 68.97 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The report comes as the Vatican hosts a this week on climate change, bringing together politicians, civic leaders, lawmakers, and researchers from around the world.

The three-day conference from May 15–17 titled “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience” will be held at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens. It will feature a series of roundtable discussions and culminate in the signing of a new international protocol that will be submitted to the United Nations.

Pope Francis has been vocal about the need for Catholics to take responsibility for the health of the environment, releasing two apostolic exhortations regarding the topic: and .

In light of the alarming data about ocean temperatures, “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on May 9 spoke to Dr. Erin Lothes, a Catholic environmental theologian and senior manager of the Laudato Si’ Animators Program with the Laudato Si’ Movement.

“The ocean has now broken temperatures every day for more than a year,” she explained, emphasizing that this is “absolutely a big concern,” as it “causes suffering around the world.”

“It reduces biodiversity and diminishes fisheries and huge numbers of people globally depend on fish for their food, for their protein, and also for their livelihoods,” Lothes added. 

Lothes referenced in which “the pope reminds us that we all have a moral responsibility to care for creation.”

“He says, ‘This is neither optional nor secondary for every Christian,’” she explained. “And in he strongly reminds us that we need to take action. We need to raise our voices and work for change.”

“He describes this in as ‘civic and political love,’ which is a wonderful way of looking at how we enact our love for each other by raising our voices, sharing our values, and calling for the change that we need in our energy systems so that it truly can be healthy for all people.”

She pointed out that Catholics have a “tremendous opportunity to take action” thanks to the . The platform — an initiative of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development — provides resources for the Church to achieve real and lasting solutions to environmental problems. 

The platform offers guides and templates that can be used for churches, institutions, communities, and families to map out a path of action. Users can also take a self-assessment that is customized to their unique situation to help them understand where they stand today in terms of how they’re caring for the environment and actions they can take to start doing more. 

There are also hundreds of resources provided on the platform on different environmental topics that can be useful for spreading awareness. Users can connect with other participants and take part in events around the world.

The full “EWTN News Nightly” interview with Lothes can be viewed below.

What has the Vatican already said about discerning Marian apparitions?

Rome Newsroom, May 14, 2024 / 13:52 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández will unveil guidelines for discerning Marian apparitions and other supernatural phenomena on Friday, but it is not the first time that the Vatican’s doctrine office has issued a directive for how the Church should respond to news of an alleged apparition.

Fifty years ago officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith identified how the emergence of mass media had created an environment in which news of an alleged apparition could spread rapidly and quickly draw larger crowds than in past centuries thanks to the ease of modern travel. 

Officials from the congregation met to discuss problems that could come up in examining apparitions in November 1974 and agreed on a procedure for Church authorities to follow in the case of a reported apparition.

The Vatican’s doctrine office made these norms public with the approval of Pope Paul VI in 1978, just three years before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named the prefect of the congregation.

First, when a Church authority is informed of a new purported apparition or revelation, specific criteria should be used to judge whether or not cult or devotion should be allowed.

Criteria that would lead to a negative judgment on the alleged apparition included:

  1. Doctrinal errors attributed to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the saint during the apparition or revelation

  2. Evidence of a search for profit or gain from the apparition

  3. Gravely immoral acts committed by the recipient of the apparition or their followers

  4. A psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies

  5. Clear errors concerning the facts of the apparition

Criteria that would lend itself to a positive judgment permitting some public devotion included:

  1. A serious investigation into the alleged apparition establishes with “moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the facts.”

  2. The recipient of the apparition exhibits the qualities of honesty, a morally upright life, psychological health, and docility toward Church authority

  3. Revelations include true theological and spiritual doctrines that are immune from error

  4. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit

The 1978 norms identify the local bishop as the competent authority with the responsibility of evaluating an alleged apparition in his jurisdiction. If he finds that it meets the positive criteria, he can permit some public devotion under his oversight, judging it as “pro nunc nihil obstare,” or “for now, nothing stands in the way.”

After years have passed, the bishop at the request of the flock can express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character of an apparition taking into account the spiritual fruit that has been generated from his new devotion.

The doctrine office noted that the regional or national bishops’ conference can also intervene in the case of an alleged apparition with the consent of the local bishop. 

The Holy See can also intervene if asked by the local bishop or by a qualified group of the faithful. The Vatican also has the prerogative to intervene directly due to the universal jurisdiction of the pope and has the responsibility to intervene in “graver cases, especially if the matter affects the larger part of the Church” after consulting the local ordinary.

It is not yet clear how the new norms to be published by Fernández will change the procedures or competent authorities for dealing with an alleged apparition established by the Vatican in the 1970s. It is clear that the media environment has evolved in accelerated and unanticipated ways in the past 50 years, making it possible for a supposed Marian apparition to go viral worldwide in a matter of hours, which could necessitate a change in the way that the Church responds to such phenomena.

Regardless of what the new changes will bring, the Catholic Church will continue to consider Marian apparitions under the category of private revelations. According to paragraph 67 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, private revelations “do not belong … to the deposit of faith.”

“It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the  knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

Pope Francis: Do not abandon grandparents and elderly; remain close to them

CNA Staff, May 14, 2024 / 12:47 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday urged families around the world to remain close to grandparents and elderly family members, imploring loved ones to spend time with older relatives who may be facing “solitude and abandonment.”

The Vatican ahead of the fourth World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, which takes place on July 28 this year. The pope

Francis noted that the Bible contains numerous examples of the “fear of abandonment, particularly in old age and in times of pain.” The is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age,” a reference to Psalm 71. 

“All too often, loneliness is the bleak companion of our lives as elderly persons and grandparents,” the pope said. 

He noted that when serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires he “would visit rest homes and realize how rarely those people received visits. Some had not seen their family members for many months.”

War often leads to high rates of elderly abandonment, the pope said. “How many of the elderly are left alone because men — youths and adults — have been called to battle, and women, above all women with small children, have left the country in order to ensure safety for their children.”

Another prejudice against the old, the Holy Father argued, is the claim that they “rob the young of their future.”

“There is now a widespread conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of the social services that they require, and in this way are diverting resources from the development of the community and thus from the young,” the pope wrote.

“This is a distorted perception of reality. It assumes that the survival of the elderly puts that of the young at risk, that to favor the young, it is necessary to neglect or even suppress the elderly.”

Citing the biblical example of Ruth remaining by Naomi’s side in the latter’s old age, the Holy Father urged families: “Let us show our tender love for the grandparents and the elderly members of our families.” 

“Let us spend time with those who are disheartened and no longer hope in the possibility of a different future,” he wrote. 

“In place of the self-centered attitude that leads to loneliness and abandonment, let us instead show the open heart and the joyful face of men and women who have the courage to say ‘I will not abandon you’ and to set out on a different path.”

In announcing the observance in 2021, Pope Francis said that grandparents and elderly family members “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, to transmit to young people an experience of life and faith.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots,” the pope said at the time.

In 2023 the pope marked the day’s third observance by

“How much we need a new bond between young and old,” Pope Francis said at the time, “so that the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing.”

Israeli embassy blasts Yemeni laureate for ‘genocide’ comments at Vatican event

Rome Newsroom, May 14, 2024 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See on Monday sharply condemned a Yemeni Nobel laureate’s comments on Israel’s alleged “genocide” in Gaza.

“The world is silent in front of the genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist on Saturday during a closing event at a Vatican meeting on global peace.

The activist was among the 30 Nobel laureates invited to the Vatican’s second annual World Meeting on Human Fraternity, a two-day event organized by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, which takes its name from  

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See slammed Karman’s remarks in a Monday , saying that the basilica “was contaminated by a flagrant antisemitic speech.”

“In a context where the aim was, supposedly, to talk about peace to create a more humane world, a propaganda speech full of lies was allowed to take place,” the press release said. 

“Talking about ethnic cleansing in Gaza while Israel allows large amounts of human aid into Gaza on a daily basis is Orwellian. We also regret that such a speech was made without anyone feeling the moral duty to intervene to stop this shame,” the embassy’s letter added. 

Prior to delivering her speech, Karman that she would talk about the “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” in Gaza, writing that “humanity is being slaughtered” there.

Suggesting that the international community has done “nothing” to “stop these massacres,” Karman said in the social media post: “I will also demand that the final statement of the summit condemn these massacres and demand an immediate cease-fire.”

Reuters that the activist’s speech was met with “a loud round of applause” by those in attendance after she mentioned the conflict in Gaza. 

Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, that the remarks “should have no influence on bilateral relations” as the “shameful statement was not made by the Vatican or on behalf of the Vatican.” 

“However,” Schutz continued, “I expect the Vatican to make an effort to prevent its good intentions and hospitality from being abused by others, as happened in this case.”

“I would expect the Vatican to distance itself from them loudly and clearly.”

The Holy See’s and Israel’s bilateral relations have been in recent months amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Last November, Pope Francis spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in an undisclosed where the pontiff reportedly remarked that it is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror.” 

This was followed by comments from the pope in December when outside of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City — the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip — purportedly by an Israeli sniper. Pope Francis the incident an act of “terrorism.” Israeli forces denied having carried out the killing.

On Feb. 13, the Israeli embassy castigated Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, over his comments on the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip. 

Parolin the Holy See’s position that Israel has a right to self-defense, but he added that this defense is conditioned on the principle of proportionality, “and certainly with 30,000 deaths it is not.” 

The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See issued a sharp rebuke of the cardinal’s remarks, calling them “deplorable,” a term the embassy later retracted, stating that the use of the word resulted from a translation error. 

Pope Francis: The devil is threatening the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with division

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 13, 2024 / 16:53 pm (CNA).

In a meeting with Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil and members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis urged unity and obedience amid a long-simmering liturgical conflict that continues to rock the Eastern church.

As some fear an imminent schism in the ancient Eastern-rite church, the pope stressed the importance of unity, saying: “Apart from Peter, apart from the major archbishop, there is no Church.”  

He urged the faithful present at the Vatican’s Consistory Hall to “press forward” in obedience to the Church, saying: “You are obedient, and where obedience is present, there is the Church. Where there is disobedience, there is schism.”

The Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic rite in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the rite are often referred to as “St. Thomas Christians,” as its origins are believed to date back to the missionary preaching of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Today there are more than Syro-Malabar Catholics across the world in dioceses — or eparchies, as they are called — in India, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. 

For decades Catholics in the rite have been bitterly divided over whether priests should face the altar (“ad orientem”) or toward the people (“versus populum”) during the celebration of the Mass, which Syro-Malabar Catholics call “the Holy Qurbana.” 

In 1999 the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Archiepiscopal Church attempted to resolve the conflict by decreeing that all priests in the rite should uniformly face the people during the Liturgy of the Word and then face the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

This decree did not end the dispute, however, as several dioceses have continued refusing to implement the change, preferring to celebrate Mass facing the people.

Finally, the pope himself got involved when he set a hard deadline on eparchies to implement the decree by Christmas Day 2023. 

, most of the parishes in the rite complied with the pope’s deadline, but protests, Mass disruptions, and tensions persist.

Controversy over that question resulted in , caused to defy their bishops, and led to fears of a new schism.

The pope condemned the division emphatically on Monday, saying that such arguments over the Mass are “incompatible with the Christian faith” and show a “grave lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.” 

He called the rampant division within the rite the work of “the devil, the divider,” who he said “creeps in and thwarts the most heartfelt desire that the Lord expressed before dying for us: that we, his disciples, be ‘one,’ without division and without breaking communion.”

“The guiding criterion, the truly spiritual one that derives from the Holy Spirit, is communion: This requires us to do a self-examination of our dedication to unity and our faithful, humble, respectful, and obedient care for the gifts we have received,” he said.

Francis called on Thattil and other bishops and priests in the rite to foster discussion with dissenting forces, saying that “guarding unity is not a pious exhortation but a duty.”

“Let us meet and discuss without fear, that is fine, but above all, let us pray, so that the light of the Spirit, which reconciles differences and brings tensions back into unity, may resolve disputes,” he said, adding that the “dangerous temptation to focus on one detail, and an unwillingness to let it go, even to the detriment of the good of the Church … stems from a self-referentiality, which leads to listening to no other way of thinking but one’s own.”

In the same vein, he condemned previous efforts by “some members of the faith” to Westernize — or Latinize — the Syro-Malabar Church, which he called one of the “indispensable treasures in the life of the Church.” 

“The Christian East allows us to draw from ancient and ever-new sources of spirituality; these become fresh springs that bring vitality to the Church,” he said, urging Syro-Malabar Christians to retain their self-identity as a “sui iuris” — self-autonomous — rite, “so that your great liturgical, theological, spiritual, and cultural heritage may shine ever more brightly.” 

The pope also announced that he is officially granting the rite jurisdiction over Syro-Malabar immigrant Christians living in the Middle East.  

“I wish to help you, not supersede you,” the pope said before going on to add that “because the nature of your Church sui iuris empowers you not only to examine carefully the situations and challenges that you face but also to take appropriate steps to address them, with responsibility and evangelical courage.” 

How to obtain a plenary indulgence during the 2025 Jubilee

Rome Newsroom, May 13, 2024 / 14:43 pm (CNA).

The Vatican issued a decree on Monday outlining the many ways that Catholics can obtain a plenary indulgence during the 2025 Jubilee Year.

signed on May 13 by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, provides Catholics with the opportunity to gain indulgences by making pilgrimages, prayerful visits to specific churches, or by practicing works of mercy during the holy year.

A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ to remove the temporal punishment due to sin.

The indulgence applies to sins already forgiven. A plenary indulgence cleanses the soul as if the person had just been baptized. Plenary indulgences obtained during the Jubilee Year can also be applied to souls in purgatory with the possibility of obtaining two plenary indulgences for the deceased in one day, according to the Apostolic Penitentiary.

To obtain an indulgence, the usual conditions of detachment from all sin, sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the pope must be met. (See end of article for more on this.)

Here are some of the many ways one can obtain indulgences during the 2025 Jubilee Year:

Catholics who make a pilgrimage to Rome during the 2025 Jubilee Year can obtain a plenary indulgence by visiting at least one of the four major papal basilicas: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, or St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In addition, an indulgence can be obtained by spending time in prayer in several other churches in Rome:

  • Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem  

  • Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls

  • Basilica of St. Sebastian

  • Sanctuary of Divine Love (the “Divino Amore”)

  • Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia

  • Church of St. Paul at Tre Fontane (the site of St. Paul’s martyrdom)

  • The Roman Catacombs 

The Apostolic Penitentiary also grants a plenary indulgences specifically for making pilgrimage to churches in Rome connected to great female saints: 

  • Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (tomb of St. Catherine of Siena)

  • St. Brigid at Campo de’ Fiori (St. Brigid of Sweden)

  • Santa Maria della Vittoria (St. Teresa of Ávila)

  • Trinità dei Monti (St. Thérèse of Liseux)

  • Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere (St. Cecilia)

  • Basilica of Sant’Augustino in Campo Marzio (St. Monica)

The jubilee year is a time when Catholics are especially encouraged to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Apostolic Penitentiary lists visiting prisoners, spending time with lonely elderly people, aiding the sick or disabled, and helping those who are in need as instances to obtain an indulgence. Practicing the works of mercy, it says, is “in a sense making a pilgrimage to Christ present in them.”

Indulgences for works of mercy can be received multiple times throughout the jubilee year, even daily, according to the decree. 

If the indulgence is being applied to the deceased, two plenary indulgences can be obtained on the same day. 

The decree says: “Despite the rule that only one plenary indulgence can be obtained per day, the faithful who have carried out an act of charity on behalf of the souls in purgatory, if they receive holy Communion a second time that day, can obtain the plenary indulgence twice on the same day, applicable only to the deceased.”

Acts of penance can also obtain a plenary indulgence. The Vatican lists several options, including:

  • Abstaining for at least one day a week from “futile distractions,” such as social media or television

  • Fasting

  • Donating “a proportionate sum of money to the poor”

  • Supporting religious or social works, especially in the defense of life in all phases

  • Offering support to migrants, the elderly, the poor, young people in difficulty, and abandoned children 

  • Volunteering in service to your community

“The jubilee plenary indulgence can also be obtained through initiatives that put into practice, in a concrete and generous way, the spirit of penance which is, in a sense, the soul of the jubilee,” the decree states.

Catholics can also gain a plenary indulgence by making a pious pilgrimage to their cathedral or to another church or shrine selected by the local bishop.

The Apostolic Penitentiary asks bishops to “take into account the needs of the faithful as well as the opportunity to reinforce the concept of pilgrimage with all its symbolic significance, so as to manifest the great need for conversion and reconciliation.”

The Vatican decree also says that Catholics can get a jubilee indulgence “if with a devout spirit, they participate in popular missions, spiritual exercises, or formation activities on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, held in a church or other suitable place, according to the mind of the Holy Father.”

In addition to the churches already listed, other sacred places around the world have also been designated as places of pilgrimage where one can obtain a plenary indulgence:

In Italy:

  • Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

  • Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi

  • Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto

  • Basilica of Our Lady of Pompeii

  • Basilica in St. Anthony in Padua

In the Holy Land:

  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

  • Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem

  • Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

The decree further indicates that “any minor basilica, cathedral church, co-cathedral church, Marian sanctuary, any distinguished collegiate church or sanctuary designated by the diocesan bishop or Eparchy for the benefit of the faithful” can be designated. Bishops’ conferences can also indicate national or international sanctuaries as sacred sites for a jubilee indulgence.

In order to obtain any of the plenary indulgences listed above, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

1. Detachment from all sin, even venial.

2. Sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the pope. These three conditions can be fulfilled a few days before or after performing the works to gain the indulgence, but it is appropriate that Communion and the prayer take place on the same day that the work is completed.

A single sacramental confession is sufficient for several plenary indulgences, but frequent sacramental confession is encouraged in order to obtain the grace of deeper conversion and purity of heart.

For each plenary indulgence that is sought, however, a separate holy Communion and a separate prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father are required.

The prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father is left up to the choice of the individual, but an Our Father and Hail Mary are suggested.

Pope Francis on Mother’s Day: Let us pray also for mothers in heaven

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2024 / 10:45 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Pope Francis entrusted all mothers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking everyone to remember to also pray for all the mothers who have gone to heaven.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on May 12, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a round of applause to celebrate all mothers.

“Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries today. We reflect with gratitude on all mothers, and let us also pray for mothers who have gone to heaven. We entrust mothers to the protection of Mary, our heavenly mother,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also asked for the Virgin Mary’s intercession to help in life’s journey toward heaven.

“May Mary, she who has already arrived at the destination, help us to walk together with joy toward the glory of heaven,” he said.

The pope noted that Italy and many other countries celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday. He said that Jesus shows us the way to heaven “step by step,” like a mountaineer ascending a summit, in the Gospels and through the sacraments.

“What are these steps that must be taken?” he asked. “Today’s Gospel says: ‘preach the Gospel, baptize, cast out demons, pick up serpents, lay hands on the sick’ (cf. Mk 16:16-18).”

“In summary, perform the works of love: to give life, bring hope, steer away from any form of wickedness and meanness, respond to evil with good, be close to those who suffer.”

Pope Francis added that the more we do these “works of love,” the more “we let ourselves be transformed by his Spirit.”

“It is he who awakens us and communicates to us, with his Word and with the grace of the sacraments, the beauty of the homeland toward which we are headed,” the pope said.

After praying the in Latin, the pope asked people to pray for peace in Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and Ukraine.

“Dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the ascension of the Lord who sets us free and wants us to be free, I renew my appeal for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” he said.

Pope Francis added that he wanted to assure “the Holy See’s readiness to facilitate every effort in this regard, especially for those seriously wounded and ill.”

The pope extended greetings to pilgrims visiting Rome from Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Austria, and Germany. Pope Francis also gave thanks to a band from Germany who performed in St. Peter’s Square as a tribute to the late Pope Benedict XVI. 

The entirety of today’s Regina Caeli reflection by Pope Francis can be viewed below.

International summit on climate change to bring California, New York governors to the Vatican

Rome Newsroom, May 11, 2024 / 12:38 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s latest bid to tackle climate change will bring together politicians and researchers from around the world for a three-day conference next week featuring a series of roundtable discussions and culminating in the signing of a new international protocol that will be submitted to the United Nations.

The joint summit, “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience,” will be held at the Vatican from May 15–17 at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens.

The conference — organized by the two pontifical academies — brings together policymakers, civic leaders, researchers, and lawmakers from the United States and other countries, including Italy, Kenya, and Sweden.

This year’s U.S. invitees include Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul as well as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

“Massachusetts deeply values our close relationship with Italy and the Vatican City State, and we see this trip as an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties and strategize on future opportunities for collaboration,” Healey said in an official from the Massachusetts governor’s office.

Healey will deliver a keynote address titled “Governing in the Age of Climate Change” on the first day of the summit, while Newsom and Hochul will both deliver addresses on the second day. 

“This year holds unprecedented significance for democracy and the climate, two intertwined issues which will define our future,” Newsom last month. 

“With half the world’s population poised to elect their leaders amidst a backdrop of escalating political extremism, and global temperatures hurtling towards alarming new heights, the stakes could not be higher,” the California governor said. 

“There is no greater authority than moral authority — and the pope’s leadership on the climate crisis inspires us all to push further and faster.”

Pope Francis has made environmental protection and social stewardship one of the defining themes of his pontificate, dedicating two encyclicals to the moral imperative of combatting anthropogenic climate change.

The conference will also include mayors from some of Europe’s largest cities, including the mayors of Rome, Paris, and London, as well lawmakers from Asia and Africa, researchers and academics from the world’s leading universities, and representatives from international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. 

The summit participants will be received in an audience with Pope Francis on Thursday, May 16. 

Each day of the summit is centered on a different conceptual framework and is organized by a series of different panels and roundtable discussions. 

The summit’s program explains that participants will discuss and deliberate policy recommendations geared toward “climate resilience” by utilizing a three-pronged strategy, which includes “mitigation efforts,” “adaptation strategies,” and “societal transformation.” 

“Climate resilience requires cross-disciplinary partnerships among researchers, engineers, and entrepreneurs and trans-disciplinary partnerships between science and community leaders, including faith leaders, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and the public. Mayors and governors form the core of such transdisciplinary partnerships,” the official program of the summit states. 

The program notes that one of the main outcomes of the summit will be the drafting of a “Planetary Climate Resilience” protocol in which all participants will be “cosignatories.” 

The protocol will be “fashioned along the lines of the Montreal Protocol” and will “provide the guidelines for making everyone climate resilient,” the program states. 

Afterward the document will be “submitted to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] to take it forward to all nations.”

Vatican opens photographic exhibition on effects of climate change

ACI Prensa Staff, May 10, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

A photographic exhibition titled “Changes” opened this week in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, showcasing the effects of climate change and the creative work of God.

The Dicastery for Communication explained in a press release that this exhibition makes reference to St. Francis of Assisi’s  ” also known as the “Canticle of the Sun.” The exhibition aims to show “the contrasts of the effects of climate change” as well as “the hope that the emotions engendered by the creative work of God give.”

The exhibition was developed as part of the project “Emotions to Generate Changes” and will be open to the public through May 27.

Taking part in the initiative were the Dicastery for Communication in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Laudato Si’ Higher Education Center.

The words to the “Canticle of the Creatures” accompany the 24 photographs, with a reference to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the climate crisis,

The selected photos, according to the organizers, present a contrast “between the beauty and wonder of creation and the destruction of climate change, both for our environment and for people around the world.” 

The Dicastery for Communication further stated that this initiative “aims to reflect on the actions that must be undertaken to praise God in the same powerful way as St. Francis in a time of socio-ecological crisis.”

The name “Changes” refers “both to climate change and its impacts, which we are experiencing with increasing intensity, and to the challenge of changing our perspective and our actions,” the press release stated.

The photographs come from Borneo, Bangladesh, Togo, Ethiopia, Amazonia, Florida, Greece, Italy, Iceland, Australia, and Turkey and are mounted on supports made from wood recovered after the 2018 Vaia storm that heavily damaged forests in the Italian province of Trento.

Migration helps offset serious problem of low birth rate in rich countries, Pope Francis says

ACI Prensa Staff, May 9, 2024 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

During a May 8 audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said that migration helps fight the crisis caused by low birth rates, especially in “rich countries.”

Addressing participants at an event titled “Care Is Work, Work Is Care,” promoted by the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, the Holy Father reflected on decent work and social justice.

Pope Francis called low birth rates “a very serious problem” and lamented, as he has on previous occasions, that despite the low birth rate “rich countries aren’t having children.”

“Everyone has a dog, a cat, everyone, but they don’t have children,” he lamented, noting that “the migration comes to help the crisis caused by low birth rates.”

The pontiff said that “many people emigrate in search of work, while others are forced to do so to flee their countries of origin, often torn by violence and poverty.”

According to Pope Francis, “these people, also due to prejudices and inaccurate or ideological information, are often seen as a problem and a financial burden on a nation, when in reality, by working, they contribute to the economic and social development of the host country and the country from which they come.”

Pope Francis stressed the need to offer decent work and food security while highlighting the crises suffered by war-torn countries, such as Gaza and Sudan, which have “the largest number of people facing famine.”

Full Text of ‘Spes Non Confundit,’ papal bull for the 2025 Jubilee Year

Vatican City, May 9, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).





1. SPES NON CONFUNDIT. “Hope does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5). In the spirit of hope, the Apostle Paul addressed these words of encouragement to the Christian community of Rome. Hope is also the central message of the coming Jubilee that, in accordance with an ancient tradition, the Pope proclaims every twenty-five years. My thoughts turn to all those pilgrims of hope who will travel to Rome in order to experience the Holy Year and to all those others who, though unable to visit the City of the Apostles Peter and Paul, will celebrate it in their local Churches. For everyone, may the Jubilee be a moment of genuine, personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, the “door” (cf. Jn 10:7.9) of our salvation, whom the Church is charged to proclaim always, everywhere and to all as “our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).

Everyone knows what it is to hope. In the heart of each person, hope dwells as the desire and expectation of good things to come, despite our not knowing what the future may bring. Even so, uncertainty about the future may at times give rise to conflicting feelings, ranging from confident trust to apprehensiveness, from serenity to anxiety, from firm conviction to hesitation and doubt. Often we come across people who are discouraged, pessimistic and cynical about the future, as if nothing could possibly bring them happiness. For all of us, may the Jubilee be an opportunity to be renewed in hope. God’s word helps us find reasons for that hope. Taking it as our guide, let us return to the message that the Apostle Paul wished to communicate to the Christians of Rome.

2. “Since we are justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God… Hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:1-2.5). In this passage, Saint Paul gives us much to reflect upon. We know that the Letter to the Romans marked a decisive turning point in his work of evangelization. Until then, he had carried out his activity in the eastern part of the Empire, but now he turns to Rome and all that Rome meant in the eyes of the world. Before him lay a great challenge, which he took up for the sake of preaching the Gospel, which knows no barriers or confines. The Church of Rome was not founded by Paul, yet he felt impelled to hasten there in order to bring to everyone the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, a message of hope that fulfils the ancient promises, leads to glory and, grounded in love, does not disappoint.

3. Hope is born of love and based on the love springing from the pierced heart of Jesus upon the cross: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:19). That life becomes manifest in our own life of faith, which begins with Baptism, develops in openness to God’s grace and is enlivened by a hope constantly renewed and confirmed by the working of the Holy Spirit.

By his perennial presence in the life of the pilgrim Church, the Holy Spirit illumines all believers with the light of hope. He keeps that light burning, like an ever-burning lamp, to sustain and invigorate our lives. Christian hope does not deceive or disappoint because it is grounded in the certainty that nothing and no one may ever separate us from God’s love: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or the sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35.37-39). Here we see the reason why this hope perseveres in the midst of trials: founded on faith and nurtured by charity, it enables us to press forward in life. As Saint Augustine observes: “Whatever our state of life, we cannot live without these three dispositions of the soul, namely, to believe, to hope and to love.”

4. Saint Paul is a realist. He knows that life has its joys and sorrows, that love is tested amid trials, and that hope can falter in the face of suffering. Even so, he can write: “We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4). For the Apostle, trials and tribulations mark the lives of those who preach the Gospel amid incomprehension and persecution (cf. 2 Cor 6:3-10). Yet in those very contexts, beyond the darkness we glimpse a light: we come to realize that evangelization is sustained by the power flowing from Christ’s cross and resurrection. In this way, we learn to practise a virtue closely linked to hope, namely patience. In our fast-paced world, we are used to wanting everything now. We no longer have time simply to be with others; even families find it hard to get together and enjoy one another’s company. Patience has been put to flight by frenetic haste, and this has proved detrimental, since it leads to impatience, anxiety and even gratuitous violence, resulting in more unhappiness and self-centredness.

Nor is there much place for patience in this age of the Internet, as space and time yield to an ever-present “now.” Were we still able to contemplate creation with a sense of awe, we might better understand the importance of patience. We could appreciate the changes of the seasons and their harvests, observe the life of animals and their cycles of growth, and enjoy the clarity of vision of Saint Francis. In his Canticle of the Creatures, written exactly eight hundred years ago, Francis saw all creation as a great family and could call the sun his “brother” and the moon his “sister.” A renewed appreciation of the value of patience could only prove beneficial for ourselves and for others. Saint Paul often speaks of patience in the context of our need for perseverance and confident trust in God’s promises. Yet, before all else, he testifies to God’s own patience, as “the God of all patience and encouragement” (Rom 15:5). Patience, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, sustains our hope and strengthens it as a virtue and a way of life. May we learn to pray frequently for the grace of patience, which is both the daughter of hope and at the same time its firm foundation.

5. This interplay of hope and patience makes us see clearly that the Christian life is a journey calling for moments of greater intensity to encourage and sustain hope as the constant companion that guides our steps towards the goal of our encounter with the Lord Jesus. I like to think that the proclamation of the first Jubilee, in the year 1300, was preceded by a journey of grace inspired by popular spirituality. How can we fail to recall the various ways by which the grace of forgiveness had been poured out upon God’s holy and faithful People? We are reminded, for example, of the great “Pardon” that Saint Celestine V granted to all those who visited the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in Aquila on the 28th and 29th days of August 1294, six years before Pope Boniface VIII instituted the Holy Year. The Church was already experiencing the grace of the Jubilee as an outpouring of divine mercy. Even earlier, in 1216, Pope Honorius III granted the plea of Saint Francis for an indulgence for all those visiting the Porziuncola on the first two days of August. The same can be said of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela: in 1222, Pope Callistus II allowed the Jubilee to be celebrated there whenever the Feast of the Apostle James fell on a Sunday. It is good that such “dispersed” celebrations of the Jubilee continue, so that the power of God’s forgiveness can support and accompany communities and individuals on their pilgrim way.

Pilgrimage is of course a fundamental element of every Jubilee event. Setting out on a journey is traditionally associated with our human quest for meaning in life. A pilgrimage on foot is a great aid for rediscovering the value of silence, effort and simplicity of life. In the coming year, pilgrims of hope will surely travel the ancient and more modern routes in order to experience the Jubilee to the full. In Rome itself, along with the usual visits to the catacombs and the Seven Churches, other itineraries of faith will be proposed. Journeying from one country to another as if borders no longer mattered, and passing from one city to another in contemplating the beauty of creation and masterpieces of art, we learn to treasure the richness of different experiences and cultures, and are inspired to lift up that beauty, in prayer, to God, in thanksgiving for his wondrous works. The Jubilee Churches along the pilgrimage routes and in the city of Rome can serve as oases of spirituality and places of rest on the pilgrimage of faith, where we can drink from the wellsprings of hope, above all by approaching the sacrament of Reconciliation, the essential starting-point of any true journey of conversion. In the particular Churches, special care should be taken to prepare priests and the faithful to celebrate the sacrament of Confession and to make it readily available in its individual form.

In a particular way, I would like to invite the faithful of the Eastern Churches, particularly those already in full communion with the Successor of Peter, to take part in this pilgrimage. They have suffered greatly, often even unto death, for their fidelity to Christ and the Church, and so they should feel themselves especially welcome in this City of Rome that is also their Mother and cherishes so many memories of their presence. The Catholic Church, enriched by their ancient liturgies and the theology and spirituality of their Fathers, monks and theologians, wants to give symbolic expression to its embrace of them and their Orthodox brothers and sisters in these times when they endure their own Way of the Cross, often forced by violence and instability to leave their homelands, their holy lands, for safer places. For them, the hope born of the knowledge that they are loved by the Church, which does not abandon them but follows them wherever they go, will make the symbolism of the Jubilee all the more powerful.

6. The Holy Year of 2025 is itself in continuity with preceding celebrations of grace. In the last Ordinary Jubilee, we crossed the threshold of two millennia from the birth of Jesus Christ. Then, on 13 March 2015, I proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee for the sake of making known and encouraging an encounter with the “merciful face of God,” the core message of the Gospel for every man and woman of every time and place. Now the time has come for a new Jubilee, when once more the Holy Door will be flung open to invite everyone to an intense experience of the love of God that awakens in hearts the sure hope of salvation in Christ. The Holy Year will also guide our steps towards yet another fundamental celebration for all Christians: 2033 will mark the two thousandth anniversary of the redemption won by the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We are about to make a pilgrimage marked by great events, in which the grace of God precedes and accompanies his people as they press forward firm in faith, active in charity and steadfast in hope (cf. 1 Thess 1:3) .

Sustained by this great tradition, and certain that the Jubilee Year will be for the entire Church a lively experience of grace and hope, I hereby decree that the Holy Door of the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican will be opened on 24 December 2024, thus inaugurating the Ordinary Jubilee. On the following Sunday, 29 December 2024, I will open the Holy Door of my cathedral, Saint John Lateran, which on 9 November this year will celebrate the 1,700th anniversary of its dedication. Then, on 1 January 2025, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Holy Door of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major will be opened. Finally, Sunday, 5 January 2025, will mark the opening of the Holy Door of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. These last three Holy Doors will be closed on Sunday, 28 December 2025.

I further decree that on Sunday, 29 December 2024, in every cathedral and co-cathedral, diocesan bishops are to celebrate Holy Mass as the solemn opening of the Jubilee Year, using the ritual indications that will be provided for that occasion. For celebrations in co-cathedrals, the bishop’s place can be taken by a suitably designated delegate. A pilgrimage that sets out from a church chosen for the collectio and then proceeds to the cathedral can serve to symbolize the journey of hope that, illumined by the word of God, unites all the faithful. In the course of this pilgrimage, passages from the present Document can be read, along with the announcement of the Jubilee Indulgence to be gained in accordance with the prescriptions found in the ritual indications mentioned above. The Holy Year will conclude in the particular Churches on Sunday, 28 December 2025; in the course of the year, every effort should be made to enable the People of God to participate fully in its proclamation of hope in God’s grace and in the signs that attest to its efficacy.

The Ordinary Jubilee will conclude with the closing of the Holy Door in the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican on 6 January 2026, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. During the Holy Year, may the light of Christian hope illumine every man and woman, as a message of God’s love addressed to all! And may the Church bear faithful witness to this message in every part of the world!

7. In addition to finding hope in God’s grace, we are also called to discover hope in the signs of the times that the Lord gives us. As the Second Vatican Council observed: “In every age, the Church has the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. In this way, in language adapted to every generation, she can respond to people’s persistent questions about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.” We need to recognize the immense goodness present in our world, lest we be tempted to think ourselves overwhelmed by evil and violence. The signs of the times, which include the yearning of human hearts in need of God’s saving presence, ought to become signs of hope.

8. The first sign of hope should be the desire for peace in our world, which once more finds itself immersed in the tragedy of war. Heedless of the horrors of the past, humanity is confronting yet another ordeal, as many peoples are prey to brutality and violence. What does the future hold for those peoples, who have already endured so much? How is it possible that their desperate plea for help is not motivating world leaders to resolve the numerous regional conflicts in view of their possible consequences at the global level? Is it too much to dream that arms can fall silent and cease to rain down destruction and death? May the Jubilee remind us that those who are peacemakers will be called “children of God” (Mt 5:9). The need for peace challenges us all, and demands that concrete steps be taken. May diplomacy be tireless in its commitment to seek, with courage and creativity, every opportunity to undertake negotiations aimed at a lasting peace.

9. Looking to the future with hope also entails having enthusiasm for life and a readiness to share it. Sadly, in many situations this is lacking. A first effect of this is the loss of the desire to transmit life. A number of countries are experiencing an alarming decline in the birthrate as a result of today’s frenetic pace, fears about the future, the lack of job security and adequate social policies, and social models whose agenda is dictated by the quest for profit rather than concern for relationships. In certain quarters, the tendency “to blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the [real] issues.”

Openness to life and responsible parenthood is the design that the Creator has implanted in the hearts and bodies of men and women, a mission that the Lord has entrusted to spouses and to their love. It is urgent that responsible legislation on the part of states be accompanied by the firm support of communities of believers and the entire civil community in all its components. For the desire of young people to give birth to new sons and daughters as a sign of the fruitfulness of their love ensures a future for every society. This is a matter of hope: it is born of hope and it generates hope.

Consequently, the Christian community should be at the forefront in pointing out the need for a social covenant to support and foster hope, one that is inclusive and not ideological, working for a future filled with the laughter of babies and children, in order to fill the empty cradles in so many parts of our world. All of us, however, need to recover the joy of living, since men and women, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26), cannot rest content with getting along one day at a time, settling for the here and now and seeking fulfilment in material realities alone. This leads to a narrow individualism and the loss of hope; it gives rise to a sadness that lodges in the heart and brings forth fruits of discontent and intolerance.

10. During the Holy Year, we are called to be tangible signs of hope for those of our brothers and sisters who experience hardships of any kind. I think of prisoners who, deprived of their freedom, daily feel the harshness of detention and its restrictions, lack of affection and, in more than a few cases, lack of respect for their persons. I propose that in this Jubilee Year governments undertake initiatives aimed at restoring hope; forms of amnesty or pardon meant to help individuals regain confidence in themselves and in society; and programmes of reintegration in the community, including a concrete commitment to respect for law.

This is an ancient appeal, one drawn from the word of God, whose wisdom remains ever timely. It calls for acts of clemency and liberation that enable new beginnings: “You shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev 25:10). This institution of the Mosaic law was later taken up by the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Is 61:1-2). Jesus made those words his own at the beginning of his ministry, presenting himself as the fulfilment of the “year of the Lord’s favour” (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In every part of the world, believers, and their Pastors in particular, should be one in demanding dignified conditions for those in prison, respect for their human rights and above all the abolition of the death penalty, a provision at odds with Christian faith and one that eliminates all hope of forgiveness and rehabilitation. In order to offer prisoners a concrete sign of closeness, I would myself like to open a Holy Door in a prison, as a sign inviting prisoners to look to the future with hope and a renewed sense of confidence.

11. Signs of hope should also be shown to the sick, at home or in hospital. Their sufferings can be allayed by the closeness and affection of those who visit them. Works of mercy are also works of hope that give rise to immense gratitude. Gratitude should likewise be shown to all those healthcare workers who, often in precarious conditions, carry out their mission with constant care and concern for the sick and for those who are most vulnerable.

Inclusive attention should also be given to all those in particularly difficult situations, who experience their own weaknesses and limitations, especially those affected by illnesses or disabilities that severely restrict their personal independence and freedom. Care given to them is a hymn to human dignity, a song of hope that calls for the choral participation of society as a whole.

12. Signs of hope are also needed by those who are the very embodiment of hope, namely, the young. Sadly, they often see their dreams and aspirations frustrated. We must not disappoint them, for the future depends on their enthusiasm. It is gratifying to see the energy they demonstrate, for example, by rolling up their sleeves and volunteering to help when disasters strike and people are in need. Yet it is sad to see young people who are without hope, who face an uncertain and unpromising future, who lack employment or job security, or realistic prospects after finishing school. Without the hope that their dreams can come true, they will inevitably grow discouraged and listless. Escaping into drugs, risk-taking and the pursuit of momentary pleasure does greater harm to them in particular, since it closes them to life’s beauty and richness, and can lead to depression and even self-destructive actions. For this reason, the Jubilee should inspire the Church to make greater efforts to reach out to them. With renewed passion, let us demonstrate care and concern for adolescents, students and young couples, the rising generation. Let us draw close to the young, for they are the joy and hope of the Church and of the world!

13. Signs of hope should also be present for migrants who leave their homelands behind in search of a better life for themselves and for their families. Their expectations must not be frustrated by prejudice and rejection. A spirit of welcome, which embraces everyone with respect for his or her dignity, should be accompanied by a sense of responsibility, lest anyone be denied the right to a dignified existence. Exiles, displaced persons and refugees, whom international tensions force to emigrate in order to avoid war, violence and discrimination, ought to be guaranteed security and access to employment and education, the means they need to find their place in a new social context.

May the Christian community always be prepared to defend the rights of those who are most vulnerable, opening wide its doors to welcome them, lest anyone ever be robbed of the hope of a better future. May the Lord’s words in the great parable of the Last Judgment always find an echo in our hearts: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” for “just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Mt 25:35.40).

14. The elderly, who frequently feel lonely and abandoned, also deserve signs of hope. Esteem for the treasure that they are, their life experiences, their accumulated wisdom and the contribution that they can still make, is incumbent on the Christian community and civil society, which are called to cooperate in strengthening the covenant between generations.

Here I would also mention grandparents, who represent the passing on of faith and wisdom to the younger generation. May they find support in the gratitude of their children and the love of their grandchildren, who discover in them their roots and a source of understanding and encouragement.

15. I ask with all my heart that hope be granted to the billions of the poor, who often lack the essentials of life. Before the constant tide of new forms of impoverishment, we can easily grow inured and resigned. Yet we must not close our eyes to the dramatic situations that we now encounter all around us, not only in certain parts of the world. Each day we meet people who are poor or impoverished; they may even be our next-door neighbors. Often they are homeless or lack sufficient food for the day. They suffer from exclusion and indifference on the part of many. It is scandalous that in a world possessed of immense resources, destined largely to producing weapons, the poor continue to be “the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile.” Let us not forget: the poor are almost always the victims, not the ones to blame.

16. Echoing the age-old message of the prophets, the Jubilee reminds us that the goods of the earth are not destined for a privileged few, but for everyone. The rich must be generous and not avert their eyes from the faces of their brothers and sisters in need. Here I think especially of those who lack water and food: hunger is a scandal, an open wound on the body of our humanity, and it summons all of us to a serious examination of conscience. I renew my appeal that “with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, let us establish a global fund that can finally put an end to hunger and favor development in the most impoverished countries, so that their citizens will not resort to violent or illusory situations, or have to leave their countries in order to seek a more dignified life.”

Another heartfelt appeal that I would make in light of the coming Jubilee is directed to the more affluent nations. I ask that they acknowledge the gravity of so many of their past decisions and determine to forgive the debts of countries that will never be able to repay them. More than a question of generosity, this is a matter of justice. It is made all the more serious today by a new form of injustice which we increasingly recognize, namely, that “a true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global North and South, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.” As sacred Scripture teaches, the earth is the Lord’s and all of us dwell in it as “aliens and tenants” (Lev 25:23). If we really wish to prepare a path to peace in our world, let us commit ourselves to remedying the remote causes of injustice, settling unjust and unpayable debts, and feeding the hungry.

17. The coming Jubilee Year will also coincide with a significant date for all Christians, namely, the 1,700th anniversary of the celebration of the first great Ecumenical Council, that of Nicaea. It is worth noting that, from apostolic times, bishops have gathered on various occasions in order to discuss doctrinal questions and disciplinary matters. In the first centuries of Christianity, synods frequently took place in both East and West, showing the importance of ensuring the unity of God’s People and the faithful proclamation of the Gospel. The Jubilee can serve as an important occasion for giving concrete expression to this form of synodality, which the Christian community today considers increasingly necessary for responding to the urgent need for evangelization. All the baptized, with their respective charisms and ministries, are co-responsible for ensuring that manifold signs of hope bear witness to God’s presence in the world.

The Council of Nicaea sought to preserve the Church’s unity, which was seriously threatened by the denial of the full divinity of Jesus Christ and hence his consubstantiality with the Father. Some three hundred bishops took part, convoked at the behest of the Emperor Constantine; their first meeting took place in the Imperial Palace on 20 May 325. After various debates, by the grace of the Spirit they unanimously approved the Creed that we still recite each Sunday at the celebration of the Eucharist. The Council Fathers chose to begin that Creed by using for the first time the expression “We believe,” as a sign that all the Churches were in communion and that all Christians professed the same faith.

The Council of Nicaea was a milestone in the Church’s history. The celebration of its anniversary invites Christians to join in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity and in particular to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “consubstantial with the Father,” who revealed to us that mystery of love. At the same time, Nicaea represents a summons to all Churches and Ecclesial Communities to persevere on the path to visible unity and in the quest of fitting ways to respond fully to the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).

The Council of Nicaea also discussed the date of Easter. To this day, different approaches to this question prevent celebrating the fundamental event of our faith on the same day. Providentially, a common celebration will take place in the year 2025. May this serve as an appeal to all Christians, East and West, to take a decisive step forward towards unity around a common date for Easter. We do well to remind ourselves that many people, unaware of the controversies of the past, fail to understand how divisions in this regard can continue to exist.

18. Hope, together with faith and charity, makes up the triptych of the “theological virtues” that express the heart of the Christian life (cf. 1 Cor 13:13; 1 Thess 1:3). In their inseparable unity, hope is the virtue that, so to speak, gives inward direction and purpose to the life of believers. For this reason, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer” (Rom 12:12). Surely we need to “abound in hope” (cf. Rom 15:13), so that we may bear credible and attractive witness to the faith and love that dwell in our hearts; that our faith may be joyful and our charity enthusiastic; and that each of us may be able to offer a smile, a small gesture of friendship, a kind look, a ready ear, a good deed, in the knowledge that, in the Spirit of Jesus, these can become, for those who receive them, rich seeds of hope. Yet what is the basis of our hope? To understand this, let us stop and reflect on “the reasons for our hope” (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).

19. “I believe in life everlasting.” So our faith professes. Christian hope finds in these words an essential foundation. For hope is “that theological virtue by which we desire… eternal life as our happiness.” The Second Vatican Council says of hope that, “when people are deprived of this divine support, and lack hope in eternal life, their dignity is deeply impaired, as may so often be seen today. The problems of life and death, of guilt and suffering, remain unsolved, so that people are frequently thrown into despair.” We, however, by virtue of the hope in which we were saved, can view the passage of time with the certainty that the history of humanity and our own individual history are not doomed to a dead end or a dark abyss, but directed to an encounter with the Lord of glory. As a result, we live our lives in expectation of his return and in the hope of living forever in him. In this spirit, we make our own the heartfelt prayer of the first Christians with which sacred Scripture ends: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).

20. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of our faith and the basis of our hope. Saint Paul states this succinctly by the use of four verbs: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5). Christ died, was buried, was raised and appeared. For our sake, Jesus experienced the drama of death. The Father’s love raised him in the power of the Spirit, and made of his humanity the first fruits of our eternal salvation. Christian hope consists precisely in this: that in facing death, which appears to be the end of everything, we have the certainty that, thanks to the grace of Christ imparted to us in Baptism, “life is changed, not ended,” forever. Buried with Christ in Baptism, we receive in his resurrection the gift of a new life that breaks down the walls of death, making it a passage to eternity.

The reality of death, as a painful separation from those dearest to us, cannot be mitigated by empty rhetoric. The Jubilee, however, offers us the opportunity to appreciate anew, and with immense gratitude, the gift of the new life that we have received in Baptism, a life capable of transfiguring death’s drama. It is worth reflecting, in the context of the Jubilee, on how that mystery has been understood from the earliest centuries of the Church’s life. An example would be the tradition of building baptismal fonts in the shape of an octagon, as seen in many ancient baptisteries, like that of Saint John Lateran in Rome. This was intended to symbolize that Baptism is the dawn of the “eighth day,” the day of the resurrection, a day that transcends the normal, weekly passage of time, opening it to the dimension of eternity and to life everlasting: the goal to which we tend on our earthly pilgrimage (cf. Rom 6:22).

The most convincing testimony to this hope is provided by the martyrs. Steadfast in their faith in the risen Christ, they renounced life itself here below, rather than betray their Lord. Martyrs, as confessors of the life that knows no end, are present and numerous in every age, and perhaps even more so in our own day. We need to treasure their testimony, in order to confirm our hope and allow it to bear good fruit.

The martyrs, coming as they do from different Christian traditions, are also seeds of unity, expressions of the ecumenism of blood. I greatly hope that the Jubilee will also include ecumenical celebrations as a way of highlighting the richness of the testimony of these martyrs.

21. What, then, will become of us after death? With Jesus, beyond this threshold we will find eternal life, consisting in full communion with God as we forever contemplate and share in his infinite love. All that we now experience in hope, we shall then see in reality. We are reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: “When I am one with you in all my being, there will be no more pain and toil; my life shall be true life, a life wholly filled by you.” What will characterize this fullness of communion? Being happy. Happiness is our human vocation, a goal to which all aspire.

But what is happiness? What is the happiness that we await and desire? Not some fleeting pleasure, a momentary satisfaction that, once experienced, keeps us longing for more, in a desperate quest that leaves our hearts unsated and increasingly empty. We aspire to a happiness that is definitively found in the one thing that can bring us fulfilment, which is love. Thus, we will be able to say even now: I am loved, therefore I exist; and I will live forever in the love that does not disappoint, the love from which nothing can ever separate me. Let us listen once more to the words of the Apostle: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

22. Another reality having to do with eternal life is God’s judgment, both at the end of our individual lives and at the end of history. Artists have often attempted to portray it — here we can think of Michelangelo’s magnum opus in the Sistine Chapel — in accordance with the theological vision of their times and with the aim of inspiring a sense of awe in the viewer. We should indeed prepare ourselves consciously and soberly for the moment when our lives will be judged, but we must always do this from the standpoint of hope, the theological virtue that sustains our lives and shields them from groundless fear. The judgment of God, who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8.16), will surely be based on love, and in particular on all that we have done or failed to do with regard to those in need, in whose midst Christ, the Judge himself, is present (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Clearly, then, we are speaking of a judgment unlike any handed down by human, earthly tribunals; it should be understood as a rapport of truth with the God who is love and with oneself, within the unfathomable mystery of divine mercy. Sacred Scripture states: “You have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins, so that … when we are judged, we may expect mercy” (Wis 12:19.22). In the words of Benedict XVI: “At the moment of judgment we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.”

Judgment, then, concerns the salvation in which we hope and which Jesus has won for us by his death and resurrection. It is meant to bring us to a definitive encounter with the Lord. The evil we have done cannot remain hidden; it needs to be purified in order to enable this definitive encounter with God’s love. Here we begin to see the need of our prayers for all those who have ended their earthly pilgrimage, our solidarity in an intercession that is effective by virtue of the communion of the saints, and the shared bond that makes us one in Christ, the firstborn of all creation. The Jubilee indulgence, thanks to the power of prayer, is intended in a particular way for those who have gone before us, so that they may obtain full mercy.

23. Indeed, the indulgence is a way of discovering the unlimited nature of God’s mercy. Not by chance, for the ancients, the terms “mercy” and “indulgence” were interchangeable, as expressions of the fullness of God’s forgiveness, which knows no bounds.

The sacrament of Penance assures us that God wipes away our sins. We experience those powerful and comforting words of the Psalm: “It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion… The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy… He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so strong is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins” (Ps 103:3-4.8.10-12). The sacrament of Reconciliation is not only a magnificent spiritual gift, but also a decisive, essential and fundamental step on our journey of faith. There, we allow the Lord to erase our sins, to heal our hearts, to raise us up, to embrace us and to reveal to us his tender and compassionate countenance. There is no better way to know God than to let him reconcile us to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:20) and savour his forgiveness. Let us not neglect Confession, but rediscover the beauty of this sacrament of healing and joy, the beauty of God’s forgiveness of our sins!

Still, as we know from personal experience, every sin “leaves its mark.” Sin has consequences, not only outwardly in the effects of the wrong we do, but also inwardly, inasmuch as “every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death, in the state called Purgatory.” In our humanity, weak and attracted by evil, certain residual effects of sin remain. These are removed by the indulgence, always by the grace of Christ, who, as Saint Paul VI wrote, “is himself our ‘indulgence.’” The Apostolic Penitentiary will issue norms for obtaining and rendering spiritually fruitful the practice of the Jubilee indulgence.

This experience of full forgiveness cannot fail to open our hearts and minds to the need to forgive others in turn. Forgiveness does not change the past; it cannot change what happened in the past, yet it can allow us to change the future and to live different lives, free of anger, animosity and vindictiveness. Forgiveness makes possible a brighter future, which enables us to look at the past with different eyes, now more serene, albeit still bearing the trace of past tears.

For the last Extraordinary Jubilee, I commissioned Missionaries of Mercy, and these continue to carry out an important mission. During the coming Jubilee, may they exercise their ministry by reviving hope and offering forgiveness whenever a sinner comes to them with an open heart and a penitent spirit. May they remain a source of reconciliation and an encouragement to look to the future with heartfelt hope inspired by the Father’s mercy. I encourage bishops to take advantage of their precious ministry, especially by sending them wherever hope is sorely tested: to prisons, hospitals, and places where people’s dignity is violated, poverty abounds and social decay is prevalent. In this Jubilee Year, may no one be deprived of the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness and consolation.

24. Hope finds its supreme witness in the Mother of God. In the Blessed Virgin, we see that hope is not naive optimism but a gift of grace amid the realities of life. Like every mother, whenever Mary looked at her Son, she thought of his future. Surely she kept pondering in her heart the words spoken to her in the Temple by the elderly Simeon: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2:34-35). At the foot of the cross, she witnessed the passion and death of Jesus, her innocent son. Overwhelmed with grief, she nonetheless renewed her “fiat,” never abandoning her hope and trust in God. In this way, Mary cooperated for our sake in the fulfilment of all that her Son had foretold in announcing that he would have to “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mk 8:31). In the travail of that sorrow, offered in love, Mary became our Mother, the Mother of Hope. It is not by chance that popular piety continues to invoke the Blessed Virgin as Stella Maris, a title that bespeaks the sure hope that, amid the tempests of this life, the Mother of God comes to our aid, sustains us and encourages us to persevere in hope and trust.

In this regard, I would note that the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is preparing to celebrate, in 2031, the fifth centenary of Our Lady’s first apparition. Through Juan Diego, the Mother of God brought a revolutionary message of hope that she continues to bring to every pilgrim and all the faithful: “Am I not here, who am your Mother?” That message continues to touch hearts in the many Marian shrines throughout the world, where countless pilgrims commend to the holy Mother of God their cares, their sorrows and their hopes. During the Jubilee Year, may these shrines be sacred places of welcome and privileged spaces for the rebirth of hope. I encourage all pilgrims to Rome to spend time in prayer in the Marian shrines of the City, in order to venerate the Blessed Mother and to implore her protection. I am confident that everyone, especially the suffering and those most in need, will come to know the closeness of Mary, the most affectionate of mothers, who never abandons her children and who, for the holy people of God, is “a sign of certain hope and comfort.”

25. In our journey towards the Jubilee, let us return to Scripture and realize that it speaks to us in these words: “May we who have taken refuge in him be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered” (Heb 6:18-20). Those words are a forceful encouragement for us never to lose the hope we have been given, to hold fast to that hope and to find in God our refuge and our strength.

The image of the anchor is eloquent; it helps us to recognize the stability and security that is ours amid the troubled waters of this life, provided we entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus. The storms that buffet us will never prevail, for we are firmly anchored in the hope born of grace, which enables us to live in Christ and to overcome sin, fear and death. This hope, which transcends life’s fleeting pleasures and the achievement of our immediate goals, makes us rise above our trials and difficulties, and inspires us to keep pressing forward, never losing sight of the grandeur of the heavenly goal to which we have been called.

The coming Jubilee will thus be a Holy Year marked by the hope that does not fade, our hope in God. May it help us to recover the confident trust that we require, in the Church and in society, in our interpersonal relationships, in international relations, and in our task of promoting the dignity of all persons and respect for God’s gift of creation. May the witness of believers be for our world a leaven of authentic hope, a harbinger of new heavens and a new earth (cf. 2 Pet 3:13), where men and women will dwell in justice and harmony, in joyful expectation of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promises.

Let us even now be drawn to this hope! Through our witness, may hope spread to all those who anxiously seek it. May the way we live our lives say to them in so many words: “Hope in the Lord! Hold firm, take heart and hope in the Lord!” (Ps 27:14). May the power of hope fill our days, as we await with confidence the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and glory, now and forever.

Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 9 May, the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year 2024, the twelfth of my Pontificate.

Pope Francis proclaims 2025 Jubilee papal bull: ‘Hope does not disappoint’

Vatican City, May 9, 2024 / 13:54 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee was officially proclaimed on Thursday by Pope Francis, who presided over a formal reading of the Jubilee’s papal bull of indiction.

The papal bull, meaning “Hope Does Not Disappoint,” declares that the Jubilee Year will officially begin with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve 2024.

The pope further decreed that every Catholic cathedral around the world should offer Mass on Dec. 29, 2024, as the solemn opening of the Jubilee Year for their local communities. Pope Francis encouraged dioceses to organize pilgrimages to the cathedrals for the occasion.

The 2025 Jubilee will officially conclude with the closing of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6, 2026, on the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. 

“May the Jubilee be a moment of genuine, personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, the ‘door’ (cf. Jn 10:7,9) of our salvation, whom the Church is charged to proclaim always, everywhere, and to all as ‘our hope’ (1 Tim 1:1),” Pope Francis wrote in the papal bull.

A jubilee is a special holy year of grace and pilgrimage in the Catholic Church. It typically takes place once every 25 years, though the pope can call for extraordinary jubilee years more often, such as in the case of the 2016 Year of Mercy or the 2013 Year of Faith.

Tradition dictates that each jubilee is proclaimed through a papal bull of indiction, a document written in Latin that bears the seal of the pope. Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 with the bull , meaning “The Mystery of the Incarnation.”

At the beginning of the ceremony, Pope Francis formally delivered copies of the papal bull to cardinals and bishops from different parts of the world, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle representing all of the bishops of Asia and representing all of the bishops of Africa. 

Excerpts of the papal bull were then read aloud by a prelate in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

“During the Holy Year, we are called to be tangible signs of hope for those of our brothers and sisters who experience hardships of any kind,” Pope Francis wrote.

Pope Francis revealed that he would like to open a Holy Door within a prison during the 2025 Jubilee “as a sign inviting prisoners to look to the future with hope and a renewed sense of confidence.”

The pope also encouraged governments around the world to bring hope to prisoners through forms of amnesty or pardon, as well as reintegration programs to help prisoners return to the community with a greater respect for the law.

Historically, jubilee years included the freeing of slaves and prisoners, as well as the forgiveness of debts as manifestations of God’s mercy, as called for in the in the Old Testament. Pope Boniface VIII reestablished the jubilee tradition in 1300 with a Christian focus on the forgiveness of sins. 

Holy Doors are a central part of any jubilee. These doors, found at St. Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s other major basilicas, are sealed from the inside and opened during a jubilee year.

The opening of the Holy Door symbolizes the offering of an “extraordinary path” toward salvation for Catholics during a jubilee. Pilgrims who walk through a Holy Door can receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

During the 2025 Jubilee Year, pilgrims who visit Rome will also be able to walk through Holy Doors at the other papal basilicas in the Eternal City. Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran on Dec. 29, 2024, the Holy Door in the St. Mary Major Basilica on the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1, 2025, and the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 5, 2025. These three Holy Doors will be closed on Dec. 28, 2025.

In the papal bull, Pope Francis urged the need for peace in the world, which he said is “immersed in the tragedy of war.”

“May the Jubilee remind us that those who are peacemakers will be called ‘children of God’ (Mt 5:9),” the pope said. “The need for peace challenges us all and demands that concrete steps be taken. May diplomacy be tireless in its commitment to seek, with courage and creativity, every opportunity to undertake negotiations aimed at a lasting peace.” 

The pope has called for 2024 to be a leading up to the 2025 Jubilee.

Following the proclamation of the papal bull, Pope Francis presided over vespers inside the basilica for the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord in the presence of 48 cardinals, 40 bishops, and members of the public.

“Dear brothers and sisters, in this Year of Prayer, as we prepare for the celebration of the  Jubilee, let us lift up our hearts to Christ and become singers of hope in a world marked by too much despair,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“By our actions, our words, the decisions we make each day, our patient efforts to sow seeds of beauty and kindness wherever we find ourselves, we want to sing of hope, so that its melody can  touch the heartstrings of humanity and reawaken in every heart the joy and the courage to embrace life to the full.”

Why did Pope Francis invoke St. Stanislaus for peace in Ukraine and Israel?

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 8, 2024 / 16:53 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis during his Wednesday general audience invoked the intercession of St. Stanislaus, patron saint of Poland, for peace in Ukraine and Israel.

Addressing Polish pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the pope : “Today you celebrate the solemnity of St. Stanislaus, bishop and martyr, patron of your homeland.”

“St. John Paul II wrote of him,” Francis went on, “that from high in heaven, he shared in the sufferings and hopes of your nation, sustaining its survival, especially during the Second World War.”

Francis prayed that the intercession of St. Stanislaus “obtain, even today, the gift of peace in Europe and throughout the world, especially in Ukraine and the Middle East.”

This comes as the wars in Ukraine and Israel continue to drag on, currently with no end in sight. With both wars raging in highly populated areas, civilians, including children, have had to suffer the effects of bombings, drone strikes, and starvation. 

The Polish people, meanwhile, have been instrumental in bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine as well as in helping to feed, clothe, and shelter the nearly who have crossed the Polish border since the start of the war. 

Francis has previously praised Poland as an example of charity in response to tragedies for their efforts to help the Ukrainian people.

“You were the first to support Ukraine, opening your borders, your hearts, and the doors of your homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war,” the pope told Polish pilgrims in a . “You are generously offering them everything they need to live in dignity, despite the current tragic situation. I am deeply grateful to you, and I bless you!”

Poland, a country that is known for its religious fervor (it is ), has a deep devotion to St. Stanislaus.

St. Stanislaus was born Stanislaus Szczepanowski near Krakow in 1030. After his parents’ deaths, Stanislaus gave away his wealth to the poor and became a priest. 

As a priest and then bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus became known as a vigorous preacher against immorality at all levels of society. He was an early spreader of the faith in Poland, encouraging Polish King Boleslaus to establish more monasteries throughout the country. 

Eventually, he incurred the wrath of Boleslaus for speaking out against his sexual immorality and occasional cruelty toward his people. Enraged, the king is said to have personally killed Stanislaus, striking him down while he was celebrating Mass. Stanislaus was proclaimed a martyr and canonized in 1253, becoming the first native-born Pole to be made a saint. 

Before becoming pope, then-Archbishop Karol Wojtyla filled the “See of Stanislaus” as head of the Archdiocese of Krakow. St. John Paul II often praised Stanislaus and hailed him as a “champion of true freedom” and a saint for “turbulent times.” 

“There is a deep spiritual bond between the figure of this great patron of Poland and the multitude of saints and blesseds who made an immense contribution of goodness and holiness in the history of our homeland,” John Paul II said. 

In a to the people of the Archdiocese of Krakow on the 750th anniversary of Stanislaus’ canonization, John Paul II said: “At the dawn of our history God, Father of peoples and nations, showed us through this holy patron that the moral order, respect for the law of God and the just rights of every person, are fundamental conditions for the existence and development of every society.”

Today, Stanislaus continues to be an inspiration of bravery in pursuit of human rights and service to God. His burial site, within the in Krakow, is a popular pilgrimage site and a symbol of Polish identity.

Vatican prepares for summer Olympics with conference on faith and sports

Rome Newsroom, May 8, 2024 / 11:52 am (CNA).

As 206 countries prepare to send their top athletes to participate in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, the Vatican is organizing an event to look at the relationship between the Catholic Church and sports, through both a spiritual and anthropological lens.

“In the current context of wars tearing our world apart, Olympism is first and foremost a message of peace, and the commitment of the universal Church, like that of France, is essential. The role of the Church in promoting Olympism is well known,” said Florence Mangin, the ambassador of France to the Holy See, during a press conference held on Monday at the Vatican. 

The three-day international conference on sport and spirituality, titled “Putting Our Lives on the Line,” is a joint effort between the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and the Embassy of France to the Holy See. It will be held May 16-18 at the Institut Français Centre Saint Louis (the French cultural institute of Rome), which sits adjacent to the Piazza Navona.

“At first glance, observing a conference on sport organized by a Dicastery of the Holy See seems a bit eccentric,” said Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, during the press conference. 

“But starting from the words of Pope Francis, when he compares sport to holiness, we realize the many points of connection that exist between sport and spirituality.” 

Mendonça noted that the conference will look at sports today in order to “understand why it is so popular,” as well as to “identify its risks” and “assess its relevance for building a more fraternal, tolerant, and equitable society.” 

The conference will bring together some 200 participants, including representatives from the Vatican, athletes, sports club managers, journalists, academics, pastoral representatives from different European dioceses, and philosophers for a series of roundtable discussions. 

“In essence, there are two fundamental questions that we want to answer with this conference: What does sport have to say to the Church? What does the Church have to say to sport?” Mendonça said. 

The first day, based on the theme “Church and Sport: A Relationship We Need to Deepen,” will include a series of discussions on these fundamental questions, including: “The Church at the Olympic Games,” “Sport in the Parish,” and “Catholic Schools and Sport.” 

“If we look at the history of sport in parallel with the history of the Church, there have been many moments in which sport has been an inspiration and a metaphor for the life of Christians, or Christianity itself has enriched sport with its humanistic vision,” Mendonça said. 

The second day will take a philosophical and anthropological approach, aimed at understanding the connection between mind, body, and sport through a different panel discussions such as “Sport: A Challenge for Humanization,” “Resurrection of the Body through Sport,” and “Disappearance of the Self and the Body.” 

“We will address the implications of a certain technicalization of sports practice, brought forward by the constant search for performance if not for records,” Mangin said.  

“The dazzling progress of Paralympic athletes, increasingly better equipped, provides an exceptional vision of the evolution of the human body, which some already wish to increase,” she said.  

The event will close on Saturday, May 18, with “The Relay Race of Solidarity” held at Rome’s iconic Circus Maximus at 4 p.m.

Pope Francis: Hope ‘is a gift that comes directly from God’

Rome Newsroom, May 8, 2024 / 09:13 am (CNA).

During the papal general audience on Wednesday Pope Francis focused on the importance of the theological virtue of hope, noting that it is both a fundamental building block of the Christian life, orienting believers toward the future, as well as a powerful antidote to nihilism. 

“Christians have hope not through their own merit. If they believe in the future, it is because Christ died and rose again and gave us his Spirit,” the pope said to thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. 

“We say that hope is a theological virtue. It does not emanate from us, it is not an obstinacy we want to convince ourselves of, but it is a gift that comes directly from God,” he continued.

Looking to St. Paul as an example, Francis observed that the apostle established a “new logic of the Christian experience” for many “doubting Christians” when he explained that the “resurrection of Christ” is a bedrock upon which a new life is born, and that “no defeat and no death is forever.” 

The pope reflected on the central role hope plays in the daily lives of Christians, noting that it is an “answer offered to our heart,” thereby enabling Christians to confront pressing existential questions such as: “What will become of me? What is the purpose of the journey? What is the destiny of the world?”

The pope cautioned that the absence of hope “produces sadness,” which, in turn, could impress a nihilistic attitude where one falls into the belief that there is “no meaning to the journey of life,” a tendency the pope sharply rebuked as antithetical to Christian life. 

“If hope is missing, all the other virtues risk crumbling and ending up as ashes,” Francis warned. 

He added that the sins against hope can manifest in “bad nostalgia,” “in our melancholy,” “when we think that the happiness of the past is buried forever,” or when “we become despondent.” 

Looking up from his prepared remarks, the Holy Father repeated twice the affirmation: “God forgives everything; God always forgives.” 

“The world today is in great need of this Christian virtue,” Francis declared, noting that the virtue of hope is closely linked with patience, which, when both are taken together, form the fundamental attributes of those seeking peace. 

“Patient men are weavers of goodness. They stubbornly desire peace,” the pope said. “Those who are inspired by hope and are patient are able to get through the darkest of nights.”

Pope Francis welcomes Vatican’s new Swiss Guard recruits

ACI Prensa Staff, May 7, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis received the Vatican’s Swiss Guard Corps on the occasion of the swearing-in of the new guards on May 6.

After participating in a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, 34 new recruits and their families were received by Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. At 5 p.m. local time, the young men pledged their loyalty and absolute resolve to serve the successor of Peter.

Addressing the new recruits and their families, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for their presence and their “daily service, always generous and diligent.”

The pope especially greeted Commander Christoph Graf, as well as the guard chaplain, whom he referred to as “an excellent Benedictine.”

After expressing his gratitude, the pontiff noted that among the guards there is “a positive and respectful atmosphere in the barracks, a courteous behavior with your superiors and guests, despite the sometimes long periods of intense and exhausting service.”

“You demonstrate a high level of motivation and willingness to serve, and also — this pleases me greatly — good relations among yourselves: You go on excursions together, you spend holidays together, you go out together often. And that’s very good,” he remarked.

Pope Francis  pointed out that “relationship is the key experience for us Christians: Jesus revealed and witnessed to us that God is love, he is in himself a relationship, and in this mystery we find the goal and the fullness of our existence.”

For Pope Francis, “good relationships are the path to our human and Christian growth and maturation.”

He reiterated that much of what characterizes our personality we have learned through relationships with our loved ones and noted that “life in the great family of the Swiss Guard, for at least two years of service, is such an important and formative period.”

The Holy Father assured them that “it is not just a period of work but a time of life and relationship” and highlighted that “this diversity and intensity of community and relationships among you in your daily barracks environment is an essential and qualifying aspect.”

The pope encouraged the new Swiss Guards to “actively cultivate community life.”

He lamented that many young people spend their free time alone with their cellphone or computer and therefore urged them to go “against the flow.”

“It’s better to use your free time for common activities, to get to know Rome, for moments of fraternity in which to relate and share, to play sports... these experiences build your inner self and will accompany you throughout your life,” the Holy Father said. 

Following an ancient tradition, on the afternoon of May 6, 34 new recruits of the Swiss Guard took their oath to serve the pope and the Church at the St. Damasus Cloister in the Vatican. 

The ceremony takes place on the day that commemorates the death of 189 Swiss soldiers in defense of Pope Clement VII in 1527 during the Sack of Rome.

Through their oath, the new Swiss Guards expressed their loyalty and absolute resolve to serve Peter’s successor.

Why Tom Brady and Garth Brooks will be at the Vatican this weekend

Rome Newsroom, May 7, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Garth Brooks may have friends in low places, but this Saturday he will perform at a high-level Vatican event with Nobel Peace Prize winners, business leaders, and professional athletes, including former NFL quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady, Brooks, and other celebrity guests will meet Pope Francis in an audience at the Apostolic Palace on the morning of May 11 as participants in the Vatican’s World Meeting on Human Fraternity.

It will be the second time that the longtime quarterback for the New England Patriots has met a pope. Brady met John Paul II in 2004 after winning the Super Bowl.

Brady will speak at a Vatican roundtable on sports titled “Competing in Mutual Esteem” on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Italian National Olympic Committee’s Hall of Honor. 

It is one of 12 roundtables organized throughout Rome at the second annual World Meeting on Human Fraternity — called #BeHuman — on topics ranging from education to peace-building, with economist Jeffrey Sachs and New York Mayor Eric Adams among its speakers.

On Saturday night, Brooks will sing some of his country hits in St. Peter’s Square starting at 9:30 p.m. as the culminating concert of the two-day human fraternity event organized by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation.

When asked why Brooks was chosen to perform at the Vatican, Father Francesco Occhetta, the secretary general for the Fratelli Tutti Foundation organizing the event, told CNA that the foundation has built relationships in the United States, adding: “We did not have a lot of time to invite more artists.”

Last year, Grammy winner Andrea Bocelli performed at the World Meeting on Human Fraternity during which Pope Francis signed a document drafted by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners together with representatives of former Nobel Prize-winning organizations calling for a commitment to human fraternity.

Nobel Prize winners will return to the Vatican this year for a roundtable on peace on Friday, May 10. Cardinal Pietro Parolin will give the opening speech for the roundtable, which will include Russian journalist Dmitrji Muratov, American human rights activist Jody Williams, Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, Liberian pacifist Leymah Gbowee, Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchù Tum, and Bangladeshi economist and banker Muhammad Yunus.

Other participants in the peace roundtable include the former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Mayaki, and Graça Machel Mandela, the widow of the late Nelson Mandela.

Vatican to publish new document on Marian apparitions next week

Rome Newsroom, May 7, 2024 / 09:02 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s doctrine office will publish a new document next week on discerning Marian apparitions and other supernatural events.

The Holy See Press Office announced on Tuesday that Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), will unveil new norms for discernment regarding “apparitions and other supernatural phenomena” on Friday, May 17.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, last month, that the document will provide “clear guidelines and norms” for discernment.

The new norms will be the first time that the Vatican’s doctrinal office has issued a general document on apparitions in four decades. on “the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations” in 1978.

Fernandez will speak at a livestreamed Vatican press conference at noon on the day of the document’s publication, along with Monsignor Armando Matteo, the secretary for the DDF’s doctrinal section.

The announcement comes after Fernández and Matteo met privately with Pope Francis on May 4, a meeting in which the pope likely reviewed the forthcoming document.

The Catholic Church calls for “great prudence” in examining the facts related to presumed apparitions of revelations. According to the 1978 norms, it is the Church’s responsibility to first judge the facts before permitting public devotion in the case of an alleged apparition.

Under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a lengthy on popular piety in 2001 that reiterated the Church’s teaching that private revelations do not belong to the deposit of faith.

“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called private revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith,” paragraph 67 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

Armed priest arrested as he tried to enter the Vatican for Pope Francis’ Regina Caeli

ACI Prensa Staff, May 6, 2024 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

A priest armed with several weapons and dressed in a cassock tried to enter St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to participate in the Regina Caeli prayer with Pope Francis on Sunday, May 5.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, the priest, who is from the Czech Republic, tried to pass through the metal detector carrying an air pistol, two knives, a cutter, and a screwdriver.

After being arrested, the priest was reported to the authorities for illegal possession of weapons. When questioned, the priest said he carried the weapons for personal defense.

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the priest is 59-year-old Father Milan Palkovic.

According to , the weapons were in a bag that belonged to another man, a 60-year-old Czech who accompanied the priest and who was also detained.

Neither has a criminal record and both came to Rome on a pilgrimage from the Czech Republic.

Could Edith Stein be declared the next doctor of the Church?

Rome Newsroom, May 6, 2024 / 11:12 am (CNA).

Edith Stein could be declared a doctor of the Church with the title “doctor veritatis,” or “doctor of truth,” following a petition from the Discalced Carmelites.

Pope Francis received an official request from the superior general of the Discalced Carmelites, Father Miguel Márquez Calle, on April 18 in a private audience at the Vatican to recognize the theological legacy of the saint who was martyred in Auschwitz.

If accepted, Stein, also known by her religious name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, could become the fifth woman to be declared a doctor of the Church, a title that recognizes a substantial contribution to the Church’s theology and moral life.

With the petition, the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints can officially begin the required process to grant Stein the title.

The Carmelites first launched an international commission to gather the necessary documentation required by the Vatican in 2022, a year that marked both the 100th anniversary of Stein’s baptism and the 80th anniversary of her martyrdom.

A title that was proposed for her at the time was “doctor veritatis” because of her relentless intellectual pursuit of truth, which after her conversion she recognized in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stein was born in 1891 into a Jewish family in what is now Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The city was then known as Breslau and located in the German Empire.

After declaring herself to be an atheist at the age of 20, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy.

She decided to convert to Catholicism after spending a night reading the autobiography of the 16th-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila while staying at a friend’s house in 1921.

“When I had finished the book,” she later recalled, “I said to myself: This is the truth.”

Stein was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922, at the age of 30. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross when she became a novice Carmelite nun 12 years later.

Ten years after Stein entered the Carmelite convent, she was arrested along with her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic, and the members of her religious community.

She had just finished writing a study of St. John of the Cross titled “The Science of the Cross.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on Aug. 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998 and proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe the following year.

“God is truth,” Stein wrote after her conversion. “Anyone who seeks truth seeks God, whether or not he is aware of it.”

An afternoon with the new Swiss Guards: Preparing for a mission of faith and service 

Vatican City, May 5, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

For the newest class of 34 Swiss Guards who will be sworn in on Monday, their service is based on faith and a love for the Church and the pope as storied as the uniform itself. 

“For me it was something, first and foremost, to give something to the Church, because the Catholic Church gave us a lot when I was a child and with this service, I can give something back,” explained Nicolas Hirt, one of the new guards who hails from the Swiss canton of Fribourg. 

The cadets, joined by their instructors, gathered for a media event on April 30 in the courtyard behind the barracks adjacent to the Sant’Anna entrance, which was adorned with the flags from each of the Swiss cantons. 

The Swiss Guard’s annual swearing-in ceremony will take place on Monday, May 6, in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. There, the new guards will solemnly raise their right hands, with three fingers extended, representing the Holy Trinity, and proclaim their oath: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally, and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff and his legitimate successors and I dedicate myself to them with all my strength. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the Apostolic See is vacant.”

There was a palpable sense of pride, perhaps even a hint of nervousness, as the young men marched last week in the storied corridors, perfecting the ancient rites ahead of a day that will mark a milestone in their lives. 

Renato Peter, who comes from a small village near St. Gallen (the first from his village to enter the guards), said he first developed a desire to enter into the service of the papal guards after a trip to Rome in 2012 with his diocese. 

“When you work in the Vatican, you have to feel like you go back in history because a lot of European history has been made here,” said Peter, who is mindful that those who wear the iconic tricolor uniform bear a great responsibility and represent a connection to the history of the Church. 

“We are the smallest military in the world,” Peter continued, emphasizing that service in the Swiss Guards is like no other. “But, we are not training to make war. We are like the military, yes, but we’re for the security of the pope.” 

The Swiss Guard is indeed the smallest standing army in the world, numbering only 135 members (Pope Francis increased its ranks from 110 in 2018), protecting not only the smallest sovereign territory in the world, Vatican City State, but also acting as the personal security force of the Holy Father. 

This year the Swiss Guard celebrated 518 years of service to the Apostolic See. Its history dates back to Jan. 22, 1506, when 150 Swiss mercenaries, led by Captain Kasper von Silenen from the central Swiss canton of Uri, arrived in Rome at the request of Pope Julius II.

But the swearing-in ceremony takes place on May 6, marking the anniversary of the Sack of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V when 147 guards died protecting Pope Clement VII. 

The Swiss Guards form an integral part of the history of the papacy and a core component of the security apparatus of the Vatican, but they also occupy a special palace in the popular imagination, one underscored by a profound spirituality. 

“It’s another world, another culture, and above all doing a fairly unique job, that is to say, there is the protection of the Holy Father,” said Vice-Corporal Eliah Cinotti, spokesman for the guards. 

“I don’t think there are many of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to serve the Holy Father in that way, therefore the Swiss Guard is a quite unique institution.”

Cinotti observed that for many of the pilgrims coming to Rome, which is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the guards act as a point of encounter between the people and the Church, shedding light on an evangelical dimension of their mission. 

“Since we are Swiss Guards and represent the pope, we are also there to be Christians, to listen to these people. There is no specific training for this because it already comes from our Christian character to help others.”

Service in the Swiss Guards is both physically and psychologically demanding, and the entry requirements are strict, even though the guards do not face deployment to active war zones like conventional soldiers.

A prospective guard must hold Swiss citizenship, be Catholic, single, and male (after five years in service the guards are allowed to marry), and be at least 1.74 meters tall (approximately 5’8”). They are required to have completed secondary school (or the equivalent) and have completed mandatory military service. 

Despite what some may consider prohibitive entry restrictions, Cinotti noted, during the annual call for applications there are anywhere from 45-50 applicants, and there has not been a problem with recruitment. 

During the first round, prospective candidates go through a preliminary screening and, if selected, they will sit with a recruitment officer in Switzerland for an initial interview, which generally lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. Candidates also have to undergo an intensive psychological test to assess whether they can withstand the demands of the job. 

Should their candidacy proceed, they are then sent to Rome where, for the first two months, they are exposed to the working environment of the Vatican and receive approximately 56 hours of intensive instruction in Italian. Their instruction also includes an emphasis on their cultural and spiritual formation.

The cadets are then sent to the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in Switzerland, where they are instructed in self-defense and the use of firearms by local police. While the guards carry medieval halberds — an ax blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft — during official papal events, each is equipped with a 9mm GLOCK 19 Gen4 pistol, taser, and pepper spray. 

There is also a two-year minimum service requirement after which they can decide to remain or return to Switzerland. 

“About 80% return to Switzerland and 20% stay,” Cinotti said. “And the 80% who return to Switzerland go to the police or the army or return to their basic profession or go to study at university.” 

He also noted there have been some years where a guard will discern a vocation to the priesthood. “And we also had a certain point, people who entered the seminary at the time, one per year more or less.” 

He added: “We haven’t had anyone for two years, but I think they will arrive, or rather it’s a question of vocations.”

Cinotti spoke on the myriad security challenges that a guard will have to face in his day-to-day work, which can last anywhere from six to 12 hours of continuous duty, noting that there has been an uptick in the number of people coming to the Vatican for help. 

Cinotti also noted that for all of the guards, there has been the additional learning curve of adapting to Pope Francis’ pastoral style, which has brought him in close proximity to the faithful during his audiences in Rome and his travels abroad.  

“Pope Francis is like every pope,” Cinotti remarked. “He has his own style, and we must adapt to the pope.” 

“If he wants to go to contact the people of God, we must guarantee that, of course, everything is fine, but we cannot prevent it. He does what he wants, he is the pope,” he added. 

While this can raise some logistical problems, Cinotti reassured that the guards have been trained to respond to possible threats. He said they have developed a symbiotic, and always professional, relationship with Francis. 

“He transmits a certain serenity and a certain awareness that we are there next to him, we are there, like the gendarmerie, which allows us to operate in complete tranquility on the ground without being disturbed,” he said. 

“He likes to change plans and will change plans throughout the day,” Cinotti added, “but it suits us very well because we adapt to him and we do this service and for us, it is still important to guarantee his safety.” 

Pope Francis: Let us thank the Lord for our friends

Vatican City, May 5, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis asked for a moment of silence as he spoke from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sunday for people to thank the Lord for their friends. 

The pope reflected on the gift of friendship during his Regina Caeli address on May 5.

“Since childhood, we learn how beautiful this experience is: We offer friends our toys and the most beautiful gifts; then, growing up, as teenagers, we confide our first secrets to them; as young people we offer loyalty; as adults, we share satisfactions and worries; as seniors, the memories, considerations, and silences of long days,” the 87-year-old pope said.

“The word of God, in the Book of Proverbs, tells us that ‘Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel’ (Prv 27:9). Let us think a moment of our friends and thank the Lord for them.”

Speaking to the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny Sunday in Rome, the pope remarked that Jesus desires to share in this great gift of friendship with us.

“Today the Gospel tells us about Jesus’ words to the apostles: ‘I do not call you servants any longer, but friends,’” he said.

“And today Jesus, in the Bible, tells us that for him we are precisely this, friends: dear people beyond all merit and expectation, to whom he extends his hand and offers his love, his grace, his Word; with whom he shares what is dearest to him, all that he has heard from the Father (cf. Jn 15:15),” he added.

Pope Francis asked people to reflect on whether they feel loved by the Lord as a beloved friend or if Jesus seems like more of a stranger.

“May Mary help us to grow in friendship with her Son and to spread it around us,” the pope said as he began to pray the  in Latin.

At the end of his address, the pope prayed for peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land and offered his solidarity to people affected by the heavy flooding in southern Brazil that has killed at least 60 people.

Pope Francis gave a shoutout to pilgrims visiting Rome from Texas, Chicago, Berlin, and Paris, as well as to the Pontifical Swiss Guards, who will celebrate their swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

The pope also wished a happy Easter to Orthodox Christians and Eastern-rite Catholics who are celebrating Easter this weekend according to the Julian calendar.

“May the risen Lord fill all communities with joy and peace and comfort those who are in trial,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis tells world’s parish priests: The Church could not go on without you

Rome Newsroom, May 2, 2024 / 12:41 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis published a letter on Thursday addressed to all parish priests in the world with his advice for building a missionary Church in which all the baptized share in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Parish communities increasingly need to become places from which the baptized set out as missionary disciples and to which they return, full of joy, in order to share the wonders worked by the Lord through their witness,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter published on May 2.

The pope presented to 300 priests participating in the Synod on Synodality’s “World Meeting of Parish Priests” during an audience at the Vatican, saying that their meeting is “an opportunity to remember in my prayers all of the parish priests in the world to whom I address these words with great affection.”

“Before all else, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the generous work that you do each day, sowing seeds of the Gospel in every kind of soil,” Pope Francis wrote.

“It is so obvious as to sound almost banal, but that does not make it less true: the Church could  not go on without your dedication and your pastoral service,” he added.

In the letter, Pope Francis offered three suggestions to parish priests for building “a synodal and missionary Church.”

The first is for priests to live out their “specific ministerial charism in ever greater service to the varied gifts that the Spirit sows in the people of God.” 

He said that by nurturing the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, priests will “feel less alone in the demanding task of evangelization” and “will experience the joy of being true fathers, who do not dominate others but rather bring out in them, men and women alike, great and precious possibilities.”

The second suggestion is to “learn to practice the art of communal discernment” by using the “conversation in the Spirit” practiced during last October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Lastly, Pope Francis encouraged priests to base everything they do “in a spirit of sharing and fraternity” both among themselves and with their bishops.

“We cannot be authentic fathers unless we are first sons and brothers. And we cannot foster communion and participation in the communities entrusted to our care unless, before all else,  we live out those realities among ourselves,” the pope explained.

The audience with the pope concluded the four-day World Meeting of Parish Priests, which took place from April 29 to May 2 at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, Italy, just north of Rome.

The was jointly organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy and by the General Secretariat of the Synod in response to the first synod assembly’s synthesis report, which identified a need to “develop ways for a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synodal process during the coming year.”

Father Clinton Ressler, a priest from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was who traveled to Rome for the meeting.

Ressler told EWTN that a highlight from the meeting was “the experience of being together with brother priests from around the world.”

He said that he has learned that despite the diverse realities in which priests in different parts of the world find themselves, “the experience of being a priest on the front lines and in the trenches is kind of a universal experience — the joy, the sorrow, the hope.”

Pope Francis to speak at event on Italy’s record-low birth rate

Rome Newsroom, May 2, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis will speak at an event on Italy’s demographic crisis as the country’s birth rate sits at a historic low.

Pope Francis will address “The General State of the Birth Rate” conference on May 10 at the close to the Vatican.

The organized by the and the Foundation for Births seeks to address the 50 years of steady decline in births across Europe, and especially in Italy, and what can be done to reverse it. 

Births in Italy dropped to a historic low in 2023. Italy’s national statistics bureau recorded 379,000 births last year, a 3.6% decline from 2022 and a 34.2% drop from 2008.

Italy’s overall population has been falling since 2014 with 282,000 more deaths than births in Italy in 2023. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe: 1.2 births per woman.

Pope Francis has described the low number of births as “a figure that reveals a great concern for tomorrow.” He lamented last year the “social climate in which starting a family has turned into a titanic effort, instead of being a shared value that everyone recognizes and supports.”

“The General State of the Birth Rate” will feature Italian government ministers, business leaders, and media personalities who will give talks on the family, including Eugenia Roccella, Italy’s family minister.

It will be the third time that Pope Francis has participated in the conference, which is supported by the Italian Ministry for Family, Birth, and Equal Opportunity. 

Last year, Pope Francis shared the stage with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“The birth of children, in fact, is the main indicator for measuring the hope of a people,” Pope Francis said at the conference in 2023.

“If few are born it means there is little hope. And this not only has repercussions from an economic and social point of view but also undermines confidence in the future.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last week that the U.S. birth rate also hit a record low in 2023 and that the total number of births was the lowest it’s been in decades. 

, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through 44. This was a 2% decline in total births and a 3% decline in births per 1,000 women when compared with the previous year.

“The birth rate challenge is a matter of hope,” Pope Francis said.

Hope, the pope said, “is not an illusion or an emotion that you feel, no; it is a concrete virtue, a life attitude. And it has to do with concrete choices. Hope is nourished by each person’s commitment to the good, it grows when we feel we are participating and involved in making meaning of our own and others’ lives.”

Pope Francis: We need to ‘welcome God into our daily lives’ and pray for ‘real peace’

Vatican City, May 1, 2024 / 09:45 am (CNA).

On Wednesday, May 1, Pope Francis addressed an international audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican and reiterated the importance of faith in the Christian life as well as the need to continually pray for “real peace” for the whole world.

The Holy Father also deplored war profiteering, decrying the actions of those “making money off death” through huge investments in the production of weapons.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered inside Vatican City on an overcast morning on the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, the Holy Father spoke about the three theological virtues, beginning with faith, as part of his ongoing catechesis series on vices and virtues.

“What is faith?” Pope Francis asked his listeners. “Faith is the act by which the human being freely commits himself to God.”

Speaking of men and women who are role models of faith, such as Abraham, Moses, and the Virgin Mary, the pope urged his listeners to also welcome God into their daily lives — freely and completely — in spite of life’s difficulties, uncertainties, and tribulations. 

“Faith is the first gift to welcome in Christian life: a gift that must be welcomed and asked for daily so that it may be renewed in us. It is seemingly a small gift, yet it is the essential one,” he said.  

The Holy Father also added that “the great enemy of faith” is fear and not intelligence or reason as many people believe. 

Following his catechesis, Pope Francis greeted parish and religious groups from around the world packed into the crowded hall, many of whom brought flags and banners, and asked them to join him in prayer for peace in the world, particularly for those suffering due to natural disasters and conflict.

“Severe flooding has tragically taken the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, injured others, and caused widespread destruction,” he said about the severe flooding affecting the people of Kenya. “Even amid adversity we remember the joy of the risen Christ, and I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.”

The Holy Father also reminded his audience to pray for those who are “victims of wars” in Ukraine, Palestine, and Israel, and to not forget the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees and to pray for peace in Myanmar.

“We cannot forget to pray for peace. War is always a defeat. Always,” he said. “We ask for real peace for these peoples and for the whole world. Unfortunately, today, the investments that earn the most income are weapons factories. Terrible. Making money off death. We ask for peace.”

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May

CNA Staff, May 1, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May is for the formation of men and women religious and for seminarians.

“Every vocation is a ‘diamond in the rough’ that needs to be polished, worked, shaped on every side,” the pope said in a video released April 30.

“A good priest, sister, or nun must above all else be a man, a woman who is formed, shaped by the Lord’s grace, people who are aware of their own limitations and willing to lead a life of prayer, of dedicated witness to the Gospel,” he said, adding: “Beginning in the seminary and the novitiate, their preparation must be developed integrally, in direct contact with the lives of other people. This is essential.”

The Holy Father pointed out that “formation does not end at a certain moment but continues throughout life, integrating the person intellectually, humanly, affectively, spiritually.”

“There’s also preparation to live in community — life in community is so enriching, even though it can be difficult at times. Living together is not the same as living in community.”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that men and women religious, and seminarians, grow in their own vocational journey through human, pastoral, spiritual, and community formation that leads them to be credible witnesses of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the , which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

The story behind the feast of St. Joseph the Worker

CNA Staff, May 1, 2024 / 04:50 am (CNA).

St. Joseph, the beloved spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is celebrated twice by the Catholic Church every year — first on March 19 for the feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, and again on May 1 for the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

While the saint’s March feast dates back to the 10th century, his May feast wasn’t instituted until 1955. What was behind it?

Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, 1955, so that it would coincide with International Workers Day, also known as May Day — a secular celebration of labor and workers’ rights. During this time, the Soviet Union proclaimed themselves as the defender of workers and utilized May Day as an opportunity to exalt communism and parade its military prowess. Pope Pius XII chose the date specifically to ensure that workers did not lose the Christian understanding of work.

In his to the Catholic Association of Italian Workers on that day in 1955, Pius XII said: “There could not be a better protector to help you penetrate the spirit of the Gospel into your life … From the heart of the Man-God, Savior of the world, this spirit flows into you and into all men; but it is certain that no worker has ever been as perfectly and deeply penetrated by it as the putative father of Jesus, who lived with him in the closest intimacy and commonality of family and work.”

He added: “So, if you want to be close to Christ, we also today repeat to you ‘Ite ad Ioseph’: Go to Joseph!”

The Catholic Church has long placed an importance on the dignity of human work. By working, we fulfill the commands found in the Book of Genesis to care for the earth and be productive in our labors.

In his encyclical , Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society.”

St. Joseph is considered a role model of this as he worked tirelessly to protect and provide for his family as he strove to listen to and obey God.

Even before the institution of this feast, many popes were beginning to spread a devotion to St. Joseph the Worker. One of these was Pope Leo XIII, who wrote on the subject in his encyclical in 1889.

He wrote: “Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus.”

In addition to being the patron of the universal Church and workers in general, St. Joseph is also the patron saint of several professions including craftsmen, carpenters, accountants, attorneys, bursars, cabinetmakers, cemetery workers, civil engineers, confectioners, educators, furniture makers, wheelwrights, and lawyers.