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

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is being treated with antibiotics intravenously and has postponed some of his meetings this week as he recovers from a “mild flu,” according to the Vatican. 

A CT scan at a Rome hospital over the weekend “ruled out pneumonia, but it showed lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Nov. 27.

Francis, who turns 87 next month, spent much of the past decade as pope in relatively good health but has dealt with several painful medical conditions over the last few years.

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis cancels three more public appearances at the due to sciatic nerve pain.

A problem with his colon lands the pope on July 4.

Pope Francis undergoes surgery to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery includes a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.

The pope spends 11 days in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital recovering from the surgery.

Pope Francis shares that he was having problems with his knee.

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

Francis tells the crowd at his general audience that the reason he is unable to greet pilgrims as usual is because of a temporary “problem with my right leg,” an inflamed knee ligament.

Pope Francis s two public events at the end of February due to knee pain and doctors’ orders to rest.

In the month that follows, he receives help going up and down stairs but continues to walk and stand without assistance.

During a trip to Malta, Pope Francis uses a lift to disembark the papal plane. A special lift is also installed at Malta’s Basilica of St. Paul in Rabat so Francis can visit and pray in the crypt grotto without taking the stairs.

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

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

He also does not celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16 or participate in the paschal candle procession but sits in the front of the congregation in a white chair.

On April 22 and April 26, Francis’ agenda is cleared for medical checkups and rest for his knee. The following day, the pope tells pilgrims at his general audience that his knee prevents him from standing for very long.

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

On April 30, he says that his doctor has ordered him not to walk.

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

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

Francis also undergoes more than two hours of rehabilitation for his knee every day, according to an Argentine archbishop close to the pontiff.

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

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

Earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister says that a reported papal visit to the country in June was postponed .

The pope does stand for long periods of time when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico catches a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greets them from the popemobile. Someone thanks the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis s: “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”

In early June, the Vatican s Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for health reasons. The trip was planned for July 2–7 but is put off “at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee,” according to the Vatican.

Less than a week later, the Vatican s that Pope Francis will not preside over the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass because of his knee problems and “the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”

Pope Francis s on his health and speaks about the effects of old age in general terms during his June 15 general audience.

“When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do,” the pope says. “The vigor of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: Be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life. When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: The body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”

Toward the end of the month, on June 28, Pope Francis walks with a cane to meet bishops from Brazil and ells them: “I have been able to walk for three days.”

On Aug. 4, the Vatican s that Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse, has been appointed as Pope Francis’ “personal health care assistant.”

José María Villalón, the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, is recruited to assist Pope Francis with his knee problems. He says the pope is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want” and that “we have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”

In an published by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, Pope Francis announces that his diverticulitis has returned. He emphasizes that he is in “good health” and that, for his age, he is “normal.”

On Feb. 23 the Vatican s that Pope Francis has a “strong cold.” The pope distributes copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than reading them aloud as usual.

On March 29 the Vatican announces that Pope Francis is expected to remain in a hospital in Rome for “some days” due to a respiratory infection. It had announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.

Pope Francis undergoes a to repair an incisional hernia on June 7.

A team of surgeons removes scar tissue and operates on a hernia in the pope’s abdominal wall at the site of a previous surgical incision in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. 

The pope is discharged on June 16 after an recovering from the operation.

Pope Francis comes down with a according to the Vatican. The pope cancels his scheduled meetings and goes to the hospital on Nov. 25 for precautionary testing.

The CT scan at the hospital rules out pneumonia but shows that the pope has lung inflammation that is “causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni tells journalists on Nov. 27.

The pope is as he recovers. A bandage holding in place a cannula for intravenous treatment can be seen on the pope’s right hand as he gives the , the Casa Santa Marta, rather than from the usual window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square. 

“Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this problem of inflammation of the lungs,” the pope says in the on Nov. 26.

The pope indicates in his Angelus address that he still intends to travel to Dubai Dec. 1–3 to deliver a speech to the United Nations COP28 climate conference. 

Pope Francis with the president of Paraguay the following day. The Vatican releases photos of the pope’s meeting with the Paraguayan president showing the pope smiling and using a cane to walk.

Pope Francis’ health ‘stable’ despite breathing difficulties, Vatican says

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2023 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ lung inflammation has caused him some breathing difficulties, but his condition is stable and “clearly improving,” the Vatican said on Monday.

The 86-year-old pope is being treated with antibiotics intravenously and is in “good and stable” condition without a fever, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on Nov. 27.

A CT scan at a Rome hospital over the weekend “ruled out pneumonia, but it showed lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties,” Bruni said.

Pope Francis felt well enough to keep his scheduled appointment with the president of Paraguay on Monday morning but has postponed some of his other meetings this week as he recovers from what the Vatican has described as a “mild flu.”

The Vatican released photos of the pope’s meeting with Paraguayan President Santiago Peña, which showed the pope smiling and using a cane to walk.

The pope was also expected to meet with a group of French sexual abuse survivors on Monday, according to the French news outlet I.Media, but it appears that this meeting was among those postponed.

“To facilitate the pope’s recovery, some important engagements scheduled for these days have been postponed so that he can devote the desired time and energy to them,” Bruni explained.

“Others, of an institutional nature or easier to support given his current health condition, have been maintained.”

Pope Francis, who turns 87 next month, has experienced a number of medical setbacks in recent years. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion, most recently in June for abdominal surgery.

Part of the pope’s right lung was removed in a surgery in 1957 in Argentina before he began his novitiate with the Jesuits. Earlier this year, the pope was treated for bronchitis for several days, quipping on his April 1 release, “I’m still alive, you know.”

On Sunday, the pope gave the Angelus blessing from his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, rather than from the usual window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this problem of inflammation of the lungs,” the pope said in the Angelus broadcast on Nov. 26.

Pope Francis indicated in his Angelus address that he still intends to travel to Dubai next weekend to deliver a speech to the United Nations COP28 climate conference. The pope is scheduled to be in the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1–3.

Pope adds married couples, Church movement reps to Vatican’s laity and family office

Rome Newsroom, Nov 25, 2023 / 10:07 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has added 11 new members to the Vatican office that focuses on the lay apostolate and family life, with two married couples and four figures affiliated with ecclesial movements highlighting the selections. 

The Vatican announced the pope’s picks to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life on Nov. 25.

New members include the Taiwanese couple Joseph Teyu Chou, a professor of finance, and Clare Jiayann Yeh, the founder and director of the local bishops’ Marriage and Family Pastoral Center.

Another married couple picked for the dicastery comes from France — Benoit and Véronique Rabourdin. The two are the international managers of the Amour and Vérité marriage and family ministry, an initiative of the Emmanuel Community, a French-founded public association of the faithful.

The French and Taiwanese couples join a Polish couple already serving as members of the dicastery for a total of three sets of spouses among the Vatican office’s 28 members.

In addition to the Emmanuel Community-affiliated Rabourdins, Pope Francis also added other members associated with ecclesial movements.

Father Andrea D’Auria directs the international center of the lay movement Communion and Liberation and is a member of the movement’s associated Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo.

Founded in Italy and with about 60,000 enrolled members throughout the world, Communion and Liberation recently came into conflict with the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life over its plan for leadership succession, with prefect Cardinal Kevin Farrell eventually intervening to appoint its president in 2022.

Margaret Karram, president of the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement), a participant in the recent Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican, was also added as a new member to the dicastery, as was Father Luis Felipe Navarro Marfá, the rector of the Opus Dei-run University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life oversees most Catholic movements and maintains the International Associations of the Faithful Directory.

Three laywomen academics are also among the new members: Ana María Celis Brunet, an expert in abuse prevention from Chile; Maria Luisa Di Pietro, who directs the Center for Research and Studies on Procreative Health at University of the Sacred Heart; and Carmen Peña Garcia, a Spanish professor of marriage law.

In total, eight of the Vatican office’s 28 members are now women. In 2018, Pope Francis emphasized that the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life should promote a deeper reflection of the role of women in the Church and society.

The lone prelate added to the dicastery was Archbishop Josep Àngel Saiz Meneses of Seville, Spain. Eleven of the dicastery’s members now belong to the episcopacy, including Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the American cardinals Robert McElroy (San Diego) and Wilton Gregory (Washington, D.C.). 

The Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life was created in 2016 when Pope Francis combined the former pontifical councils for the laity and the family. According to its statutes, the dicastery has the responsibility “for the promotion of life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the young, family and its mission, following God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”

UPDATE: Pope Francis has ‘mild flu,’ went to hospital for precautionary testing

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2023 / 09:32 am (CNA).

Pope Francis went to the hospital this afternoon for precautionary testing after coming down with the flu earlier in the day, according to the Vatican.

“In the early hours of the afternoon, Pope Francis underwent a CT scan at the Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome, to exclude the risk of pulmonary complications,” the Holy See Press Office said in a Nov. 25 communication to journalists.

“The test gave a negative result and the pope returned to Casa Santa Marta,” the message concluded.

The announcement of the pope’s hospital visit followed an earlier communication from the Vatican that the pope would not take part in his scheduled meetings on Saturday morning due to illness.

“The Holy Father’s audiences scheduled for this morning are canceled due to a mild flu,” the Holy See Press Office said.

The Vatican’s daily bulletin, released at noon Rome time, did not note any papal activity for that morning, though the pope had been scheduled to meet with Umaro Issoco Embaló, the president of Guinea-Bissau.  

No additional information has been shared regarding the pope’s ability to participate in scheduled events going forward, such as tomorrow’s Angelus greeting.

The 86-year old Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1–3 to participate in the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The day’s events mark the second time this month that the pope’s activity has been affected by illness.

On , the pope had a cold and did not read his prepared remarks at an audience with Jewish rabbis from Europe, deciding to give attendees copies of the text instead.

“Thank you for this visit that I appreciate very much, but it happens that I am not well in health and that is why I prefer not to read the speech but give it to you,” the pope reportedly said at the time.

Pope Francis, however, was able to continue with his full schedule for the rest of the day, including a meeting with 7,000 children from over 80 countries.

The pope, who turns 87 next month, has experienced a number of medical setbacks in recent years. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion, most recently in June for abdominal surgery. In late March, he was treated for bronchitis for several days, quipping on his April 1 release, “I’m still alive, you know.”

Bishop Barron in ‘frank disagreement’ with Synod on Synodality’s report on ‘development of moral teaching’

Rome Newsroom, Nov 24, 2023 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Bishop Robert Barron has said that he is in “frank disagreement” with the final report of the Synod on Synodality’s claim that advances in the sciences require an evolution in the Church’s moral teaching on human sexuality.

In a published this week, the bishop of Winona–Rochester, Minnesota, said it is “troubling” to see how members of the German bishops’ conference are already “using the language of the synod report to justify major reformulations of the Church’s sexual teaching.”

Barron took particular issue with the suggestion that “advances in our scientific understanding will require a rethinking of our sexual teaching, whose categories are, apparently, inadequate to describe the complexities of human sexuality” in the synthesis document.

He called this language “condescending to the richly articulate tradition of moral reflection in Catholicism,” including the theology of the body developed by St. John Paul II.

“To say that this multilayered, philosophically informed, theologically dense system is incapable of handling the subtleties of human sexuality is just absurd,” Barron said.

“But the deeper problem I have is that this manner of argumentation is based upon a category error— namely, that advances in the sciences, as such, require an evolution in moral teaching,” he added.

“Let us take the example of homosexuality. Evolutionary biology, anthropology, and chemistry might give us fresh insight into the etiology and physical dimension of same-sex attraction, but they will not tell us a thing about whether homosexual behavior is right or wrong. The entertaining of that question belongs to another mode of discourse.”

The bishop also noted that during discussions at the October synod assembly, there was a “perceived tension between love and truth,” particularly around the issue of outreach to the LGBT community.

“Practically everyone at the synod held that those whose sexual lives are outside of the norm should be treated with love and respect, and, again, bravo to the synod for making this pastoral point so emphatically. But many synod participants also felt that the truth of the Church’s moral teaching in regard to sexuality ought never to be set aside,” Barron said.

He added that it would be more accurate to say that there might be “a tension between welcoming and truth” because “when the terms are rightly understood, there is no real tension between love and truth, for love is not a feeling but the act by which one wills the good of another.”

“Therefore, one cannot authentically love someone else unless he has a truthful perception of what is really good for that person,” he said.

Barron was not the only bishop to highlight the Synod on Synodality’s discussion of the relationship between “love and truth” this week.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney published a on the Synod on Synodality on Nov. 20, one day before Barron’s reflection.

“Love and truth, we know, find their perfection not in abstract philosophies or empirical studies but in the concrete person of Jesus Christ. In him, love and truth meet. We know what it is to love when we know the One who is truth,” Fisher said.

“Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was always open to the other. He encountered every kind of person and invited them into the fullness of life (Jn 10:10). But this ever-more inclusive community of faith is also called to an ever-deeper conversion (Mt 4:17). … Being included in his family, the Church requires a response from us. Go, he says, you are forgiven. Your dignity is restored. You are loved from all eternity to all eternity. So go — and sin no more (Jn 8:11).”

The Australian archbishop also noted some of the limits to the Synod on Synodality’s , known as “conversation in the Spirit.”

“Deep listening to each other, expressing feelings, resonating in table groups, will not always help us find what is true and right,” Fisher said.

“As one eminent theologian said to me: Of the many synods he had attended, this one was the humanly best but theologically thinnest.”

He also cited Jesuit Father Anthony Lusvardi’s observation that while the conversation method is great at helping people understand one another better, “it is not well-suited for careful or complex theological or practical reasoning.”

“Doing that requires thinking that is critical, that weighs the pros and cons of what people say. It also requires a degree of objectivity that this method is not well-suited to provide. Sound theology needs to always ask the question, ‘That may sound good, but is it true?’”

Fisher said that “more work needs to be done to ensure a genuinely Catholic understanding of synodality, inclusion, and discernment.”

He called it providential that the nearly monthlong synod assembly coincided with the feast days of so many great saints in the Latin rite’s liturgical calendar, including St. Luke, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Paul II, and St. Faustina Kowalska.

“We were accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses at the synod, reminding us what the Church is for: to call sinners to salvation and all to healing and holiness in Christ, to support each one in living their personal vocations, and to unite us with and as the communion of saints,” Fisher said.

“So one useful criterion for judging every synod proposal is: Is it likely, by God’s grace, to generate more apostles and pastors, evangelists and missionaries, religious and teachers, martyrs and mystics, holy men and women, such as our Church and world so sorely need?”

Vatican draws line on women’s ordination and homosexuality in new letter to German bishops

CNA Newsroom, Nov 24, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican has informed German bishops in writing that the ordination of women and changes in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality cannot be subjects of discussion in the upcoming meetings with delegates of the German Synodal Way in Rome.

The letter, dated Oct. 23, also reminded the bishops of potential disciplinary consequences for anyone defying the teaching of the Church,  CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Written by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, and addressed to the secretary general of the German Bishops’ Conference, Beate Gilles, the letter was shared with all German diocesan bishops.

The document’s authenticity was  by CNA Deutsch with the German Bishops’ Conference on Friday.

The latest in a  regarding the German Synodal Way, the letter was published in full on Nov. 25 by the newspaper .

German bishops and representatives of the Roman Curia met in the Vatican in July for  about the German Synodal Way. These talks will continue in January, April, and July 2024. They are expected to cover ecclesiology, anthropology, morality and liturgy, and texts of the Synodal Way. 

The Vatican’s letter reminded the German bishops of the underway in Rome: “Considering the course of the German Synodal Way so far, one must first realize that a universal Synodal Way is currently taking place, convened by the Holy Father.” 

The letter emphasized that it was “therefore necessary to respect this path of the universal Church and to avoid the impression that parallel initiatives are underway that are indifferent to the effort to ‘journey together.’”

In light of the German Synodal Way resolving to , the letter reminded the German bishops that Pope Francis has repeatedly and “expressly reaffirmed” what St. John Paul II wrote in about the Church having “no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”

While quoting Pope Francis on the importance of recognizing the role and dignity of women — given “a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops,” as the pope said in  — the letter also warned of “disciplinary consequences” for those who contravene doctrine, including potential excommunication for “attempting to ordain a woman,” CNA Deutsch .

Regarding the  on homosexual acts, Parolin’s letter to the German bishops said this was “another issue on which a local Church has no possibility of taking a different view.”

The letter elaborated: “For even if one recognized that from a subjective point of view there may be various factors that call on us not to judge people, this in no way changes the evaluation of the objective morality of these acts.”

The Vatican’s note also referenced Pope Francis’ 2019 . In it, the pope cautioned against “the great sin of worldliness and of the anti-evangelical worldly spirit.” 

In January, Pope Francis was more explicit, decrying the German Synodal Way  and “neither helpful nor serious.”

More recently, in a letter dated Nov. 10, the pope again expressed  about the German Synodal Way. He warned that steps being taken by this local Church segment threaten to diverge from the universal Church’s path, especially the Germans’  a permanent “Synodal Council,” a mix of laity and bishops to govern the Catholic Church in Germany. 

Instead, Pope Francis suggested an alternative approach for the Church in Germany, emphasizing the need for prayer, penance, and adoration.

German reactions to this latest intervention from Rome will show just how much the Synodal Way’s organizers have taken the papal appeals to heart. 

Pope Francis: More sustainable cities can help with population decline

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday one of the ways to address population decline is to make cities more sustainable, increasing the quality of life for those who live there.

“Adopting appropriate criteria for sustainability is an important act of justice and charity, because it aims to meet needs without compromising the safety and survival of those around us and those who will come after us,” he said during a meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Nov. 24.

He noted that the condition in many cities has become “unlivable” due to pollution, chaos, isolation, marginalization, and loneliness.

Addressing these problems, the pope added, “means putting the person back at the center of the city: This is the way forward. It is the way that will be able to help also address the crises of depopulation and population decline by offering the opportunity to live in environments rich in all that the ancestors left behind, enhanced and embellished by a wise management for the community.”

Pope Francis met with representatives, many of them town mayors, from central Italy, which was devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes between August 2016 and January 2017.

He praised those present for their reconstruction efforts, especially the attention to climate change, sustainability, and respect for nature.

Pope Francis will speak on the climate and related issues at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he . It will be Francis’ first time attending and addressing part of the 13-day conference.

Climate issues and the environment have been a priority of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

In October, he released his second major document on the topic, the (“Praise God”), in which he warned of “grave consequences” if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

In his speech on Friday, Francis quoted from , saying “there is no doubt that the impact of climate change will increasingly harm the lives of many people and families. We will feel the effects in terms of health, jobs, access to resources, housing, forced migration, and in other areas.”

This is why, he added, it is important to implement the necessary measures to slow or stop climate change and to provide methods for coping with the changes that have already taken place.

“Here, too, it is a matter of an open gaze, attentive to others and those who will come after us; we should not be discouraged by criticism or discontented people,” he said.

Pope Francis meets with relatives of Palestinians living in Gaza

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis received at the Vatican on Wednesday, separately and privately, a delegation of relatives of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists and another delegation of relatives of Palestinians who live in Gaza.

The delegations consisted of  and 10 Palestinians who met with the Holy Father. In the meetings, each lasting 20 minutes, some of those affected by the war ravaging the Holy Land had the opportunity to tell their stories to the pontiff and express to him their desire for peace.

After the meetings, Pope Francis participated in the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. At the end of his catechism, he referred to these meetings and stated “this is no longer war, this is terrorism.”

He urged “persevering in prayer for all those who are suffering because of wars in so many parts of the world,” especially for Ukraine and for Israel and Palestine.

The Holy Father stated that he “heard how both [sides] suffer: Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond wars, this is not waging war, this is terrorism. Please, let us move forward for peace, let us pray for peace, let us pray a lot for peace.”

“May the Lord put his hand there, may the Lord help us solve the problems and not continue with the passions that in the end kill everyone. We pray for the Palestinian people, we pray for the Israeli people, so that peace may come,” he prayed.

After the audience, both delegations held different press conferences to speak to the media about their meeting with Pope Francis.

The members of the Palestine group talked about how the Israeli bombs had ended the lives of many of their relatives.

They noted that the pontiff had referred to what is happening in Gaza as a “genocide” and that he had pointed out that “terrorism cannot be responded to with terrorism.”

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, however, denied that the pontiff had spoken of “genocide” and stated that he used “the terms with which he has expressed himself during the general audience and words that in any case represent the terrible situation that Gaza is going through.”

When asked by journalists, Shireen Halil, a Palestinian and Christian woman from Bethlehem, reiterated that they met with the Holy Father to “ask for peace and justice” and not to “manipulate the pope’s words.”

Halil noted that at the beginning of the audience they felt “astonished” by the amount of information the Holy Father knew about the conflict.

Mohammed Halalo, who lives in Belgium, said that just a few days ago a bomb from an Israeli air strike fell on the building where his relatives lived. “My entire family has lost their lives in an instant,” he lamented.

Palestinian Yousef Alkhoury conveyed his fear that “we will get used to the blood” of war and said that they asked Pope Francis to visit Gaza.

Halalo stated that the Holy Father responded that that was “a good idea” and that he “promised” to consult through diplomatic channels to study a safe time to go. “We believe that his presence can bring peace to the region,” Halalo said.

In response to a question from one of the journalists about their perception of Hamas, the Palestinian delegation preferred not to make any statement on the matter.

The relatives of those kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza also had time to present their conclusions after the visit to the Holy Father. Of the 12, eight of them were able to speak alone with the pontiff.

During the press conference, Moshe Leimberg said that his wife and 17-year-old daughter were taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7.

“We haven‘t seen or heard anything since then. It‘s been 47 days. And I am alone. Every day I wake up... and wait a minute or two to hear the familiar sounds I‘m used to hearing, and there‘s nothing,” he said. “My family has been taken away from me, and my life is no longer what it was and it will never be again.”

A member of the Israeli delegation disagreed with the term “terrorism” used by Pope Francis to describe the war and stressed that it is a “false equivalence” since it equates Hamas terrorism with Israeli defense operations.

The meetings took place shortly after Israel and Hamas reached an agreement for a temporary four-day cease-fire.

During this time, Hamas has agreed to the release of at least 50 of the kidnapped hostages in exchange for the release of 150 underage Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.

More than 40 days since the war began, nearly 13,300 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza, of which about 5,600 are children. In Israel, the dead are estimated at 1,200. 

Pope Francis meets with families of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2023 / 12:21 pm (CNA).

It’s been 47 days since Moshe Leimberg’s wife and 17-year-old daughter were taken hostage by Hamas.

“We haven’t seen or heard anything since. It’s been 47 days. And I’m alone. Every day I wake up … and I wait a minute or two for the familiar sounds that I’m used to hearing and there’s nothing,” Leimberg said at a press conference in Rome on Nov. 22.

“My family has been taken and my life is not what it was and it never will be again.” 

Leimberg was one of 12 family members of hostages being held in Gaza who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday morning.

In a separate meeting on the same day, the pope also met with 10 Palestinians, some of whom had family members die in airstrikes on Gaza.

Pope Francis’ meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian delegations occurred as news emerged that a four-day cease-fire agreement had been reached in which Hamas agreed to free at least 50 of the roughly 240 hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“I know that my son is not part of this exchange,” Evgeniia Kozlova told journalists after meeting the pope, noting that she does not know how long she will have to wait to hear if her child will ever return home.

Rachel Goldberg, whose only son was kidnapped at the Nova Music Festival on Oct. 7, said that she hopes that the meeting with the pope will help bring more attention to hostages who are still waiting to be freed. 

“I think that the Holy Father has a lot of influence in the entire world. Aside from the 1.3 billion Catholics that certainly revere and respect him, I think he’s very respected in the Muslim world, in the Jewish world, really, irrespective of religious background. And so I think when he speaks, the world really listens,” Goldberg told EWTN News.

“The hostages come from almost 30 different countries. They span in age from 9 months to 87 years old … and so this issue of the hostages is really a global humanitarian catastrophe and needs to be treated as such.”

Goldberg’s son, Hersh, was celebrating his 23rd birthday at the music festival when Hamas fighters attacked and threw a grenade at the roadside bomb shelter where he had taken cover. Video footage shows that his arm was blown off during the attack.

“We have since seen a video … of him and these two other boys being marched out of the bomb shelter and put onto a Hamas pickup truck, which then headed toward Gaza,” she said. “My heart has been buried in Gaza.”

Goldberg said that she felt “embraced” by the pope and believes that “he will do everything he can to help us.”

Other Israelis said that they felt hurt that the pope did not spend more than 20 minutes with the group and did not have time to listen to the stories of each of the 12 family members, hearing only from about seven or eight people in the delegation.

Yehuda Cohen, whose daughter was part of the delegation that met the pope, called the meeting with Pope Francis “disappointing.”

“The meeting should have been long enough for people to speak,” he said. “We came all the way from Israel here to meet him.”

Pope Francis’ meeting with the Palestinian delegation was also only about 20 minutes.

The pope spoke about his experience meeting the two groups during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“This morning I received two delegations, one of Israelis who have relatives as hostages in Gaza and another of Palestinians who have relatives suffering in Gaza. They suffer so much and I heard how they both suffer. Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond wars, this is not warfare, this is terrorism,” Pope Francis said.

“Please, let’s move forward for peace. Pray for peace. Pray hard for peace,” he said. “We pray for the Palestinian people, we pray for the Israeli people, that peace will come.”

The Vatican’s statements on the German Synodal Way: a timeline

Rome Newsroom, Nov 21, 2023 / 09:10 am (CNA).

In a striking personal intervention, Pope Francis has written a letter to four German Catholic laywomen who quit the German Synodal Way earlier this year.

, published in the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21, the pope expressed deep reservations about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany, warning that steps currently being taken “threaten” to undermine unity with the universal Church.

Chief among the pope’s concerns is a push to establish a permanent “Synodal Council,” a mixed body of laity and bishops that would govern the Catholic Church in Germany.

Since , the German Synodal Way has courted controversy. 

Participants calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts, prompting accusations of heresy and fears of schism.

This is not the first time Pope Francis and the Vatican have expressed reservations about the German Synodal Way, also sometimes called . Here is a timeline of their interventions:

Pope Francis responds to a letter from four prominent German women — theology professors Katharina Westerhorstmann and Marianne Schlosser, philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, and journalist Dorothea Schmidt — who announced they were quitting the German Synodal Way in February.

“I, too, share concerns about the numerous concrete steps that large parts of this local Church are now taking that threaten to move further and further away from the common path of the universal Church,” in a letter sent four days after the one he received.

In an published Jan. 25, Pope Francis decries the German Synodal Way as elitist, unhelpful, and running the risk of bringing ideological harm to Church processes.

The pope says the global synod’s aim was to “help this more elitist (German) path so that it does not end badly in some way but so is also integrated into the Church.”

Pope Francis in a conversation with the editors of Jesuit journals published on June 14.

He says he had told the leader of Germany’s Catholic bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing, the country already had “a very good evangelical church” and “we don’t need two.”

“The problem arises when the Synodal Path comes from the intellectual, theological elites and is much influenced by external pressures. There are some dioceses where the Synodal Way is being developed with the faithful, with the people, slowly,” he says.

The Holy See intervenes in the German Synodal Way on July 21, warning of a “threat to the unity of the Church.”

“In order to safeguard the freedom of the people of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it seems necessary to clarify that the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals,” reads that Pope Francis says came from the Secretariat of State.

Cardinal Kurt Koch says that Pope Francis about the Church in Germany.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity the magazine Herder Korrespondenz on Sept. 22 that he believes the pope backed an by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 

According to Bishop Heinz-Josef Algermissen, Pope Francis expressed “dramatic concern” about the Catholic Church in Germany when they spoke after the general audience on Oct. 7.

that the pope told Algermissen that the Synodal Way was too focused on “political questions” such as the position of women in the Church and priestly celibacy.

Pope Francis sends a on June 29 calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.

In his letter, he issues a warning about the German Synodal Way, a process announced by Cardinal Marx the previous March. The pope says: “What this entails in concrete terms and how it unfolds will certainly require further consideration.”

In a letter sent to German bishops, the Vatican says plans for a binding Church synod in Germany were “not ecclesiologically valid.”

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then-prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, also sends Marx of the German bishops’ draft statues, in which are raised a series of concerns about the proposed structure and the participants in the German Synodal Path.

It concludes that the German bishops are not planning a national synod but instead a particular Church council — something they cannot conduct without explicit Vatican approval.

Full Text: Pope Francis’ letter expressing concern about German Synodal Way

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2023 / 08:25 am (CNA).

From the Vatican, Nov. 10, 2023

Dear Professor Westerhorstmann,

Dear Professor Schlosser,

Dear Professor Gerl-Falkovitz,

Dear Mrs. Schmidt,

I extend my gratitude for your kind letter dated Nov. 6. Your concerns regarding the current developments within the Church in Germany have reached me, and I share your concerns. There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church's common path. This doubtlessly includes the establishment of the synodal committee you referenced. This committee aims to set up a consultative and decision-making body. However, as outlined in the corresponding resolution, its proposed structure is not in alignment with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church. Consequently, its formation was forbidden by the Holy See in a letter dated Jan. 16, 2023, which received my specific endorsement.

In my “Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany,” I sought not to find “salvation” in constantly evolving committees, nor to persist in self-absorbed dialogues rehashing the same themes. Rather, I aimed to reemphasize the importance of prayer, penance, and adoration. I urged an openness and a call to action to engage with our brothers and sisters, especially those found at the thresholds of our church doors, in the streets, within prisons, hospitals, public squares, and cities (as mentioned in section 8). I firmly believe that in these places, the Lord will guide us.

I commend your contributions to theology and philosophy and thank you for your witness to the Faith. May the Lord bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin Mary keep you. I kindly ask that you continue to pray for me and for our shared commitment to unity.

United in the Lord,


Pope Francis expresses ‘concerns’ about German Synodal Way, says it threatens Church unity

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has expressed deep reservations about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany, warning that concrete steps currently being taken “threaten” to undermine unity with the universal Church.

The pope made his criticisms in to four German Catholic laywomen that was published in the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21.

“There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path,” the pope wrote.

The letter, dated Nov. 10, was written in German and included the pope’s handwritten signature.

Chief among the pope’s concerns is a push to set up a permanent “Synodal Council,” a mixed body of laity and bishops that would govern the Catholic Church in Germany. Establishing this council is a top priority for the German Synodal Way, a controversial initiative that has demanded significant changes in Church structure and teaching.

In his letter, the pope underscored that this kind of “consultative and decision-making body” as currently proposed “is not in alignment with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church.” He referenced a Jan. 16 letter from high-ranking Vatican officials to German bishops, which he specifically authorized, that explicitly prohibited the establishment of the Synodal Council.

A committee of Synodal Way leadership recently met on Nov. 10-11 in Essen to lay the groundwork for the Synodal Council, which they aim to establish no later than 2026.

Four German bishops voted in June to block funding for the preparatory committee, and a total of eight out of 27 German ordinaries were absent from the Nov. 10-11 meeting.

In his recent letter, Pope Francis proposed a different path forward for the Church in Germany.

Instead of seeking “salvation” in “constantly evolving committees” or “self-absorbed dialogues rehashing the same themes,” the pope underscored the need for the Catholic Church in Germany to be rooted in “prayer, penance, and adoration.”

He also called upon German Catholics to “engage with our brothers and sisters” on the margins, especially the sick, imprisoned, and those “at the thresholds of our church doors.”

“I firmly believe that in these places, the Lord will guide us,” Pope Francis wrote.

The letter was addressed to the theologians Katharina Westerhorstmann and Marianne Schlosser, journalist Dorothea Schmidt, and the religious philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz. The four German laywomen had previously been delegates to the Synodal Way but in protest. They wrote to the pope on Nov. 6 expressing their concerns about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany.

In his response, the pope urged the four women to pray for him and “for our common cause of unity.”

The German theologian Martin Brüske described the pope’s letter as a clear and forceful signal to halt the work of the synodal committee.

“The flagship of Peter has given the German Church a broadside across the bow,” said Brüske in a statement provided by New Beginning, a group of German Catholics critical of the Synodal Way. “Those who do not want to hear and see this will bear full responsibility if they ultimately disappear into the maelstrom of division.”

Leadership of the German Synodal Way has recently framed their push to establish the Synodal Council as consistent with Pope Francis’ emphasis on increased synodality in the Catholic Church, including the recent Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican.

In an Oct. 29 statement, Thomas Söding, vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), described the Vatican assembly as “a confirmation of the Synodal [Way] in Germany.” He added that German plans to establish a permanent Synodal Council were consistent with the October synod report’s call for greater decentralization.

The , a joint effort of the German Bishops Conference and the ZdK, was launched in 2019. The noncanonical process concluded its initial stage in March, passing resolutions to not only move forward with establishing a Synodal Council but also to bless same-sex unions and push for women’s ordination at the level of the universal Church.

The pope’s letter to the four laywomen was not the first time he has commented on the Synodal Way. In January, as “elitist” and “neither helpful nor serious.” Before the start of the Synodal Way, he wrote a June 2019 letter to “the Pilgrim People of Germany,” calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

Pope Francis has emotional meeting with African migrant who lost his wife and daughter

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis had an emotional meeting on Friday with an African migrant whose wife and 6-year-old daughter died while crossing a desert in Tunisia. 

With tears in his eyes, 30-year-old Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin shared his story during a meeting at the pope’s Vatican City residence Casa Santa Marta on Nov. 17.

Crepin, who has come to be known in Italian media by his nickname, “Pato,” is originally from Cameroon but decided to leave his home country after his older sister was killed amid the violence of Cameroon’s

While staying at a migrant camp in Libya in 2016, he met his wife, Matyla, who was from the Ivory Coast. The two of them attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe five times, including while Matyla was pregnant, each time ending up in Libyan detention centers after their attempts failed. 

In July 2023, the couple decided to flee to Tunisia with the hope that their daughter, Marie, would have access to education there, but upon their arrival, they were beaten by Tunisian police who left them in a remote desert without water. 

“We walked for at least one hour before I lost consciousness, my wife and my daughter started to cry. I asked them to leave and leave me because if they stay they will die with me so the best it was to catch up with the others and enter Libya,” Crepin told the organization Refugees in Libya.

During the night, Sudanese strangers happened upon Crepin lying in the desert, gave him water, and brought him back to Libya. But upon his return, he learned that his wife and daughter had not made it but had died in the desert. 

Pope Francis told Crepin that he had prayed a lot for his wife and daughter after hearing their tragic story and offered his blessing.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Service of Integral Human Development; Father Mattia Ferrari, a chaplain for Mediterranea Saving Humans; and representatives from other organizations that had helped facilitate Crepin’s arrival in Italy this year were also present at the meeting.

According to a Vatican communique, Pope Francis “thanked those present for their efforts and recalled the privilege of being born in places where one can study and work.”

“This privilege is a debt,” the pope said. “What you do is not something extra, it is a duty.”

Pope Francis to meet with families of Israeli hostages and Palestinians with relatives in Gaza

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will meet with the families of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas at his next Wednesday general audience, and he will also meet separately with a group of Palestinians with relatives suffering in Gaza.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has confirmed that the pope will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian delegations separately on Nov. 22 on the sidelines of his public audience in St. Peter’s Square. 

“With these meetings, which are exclusively humanitarian in nature, Pope Francis wants to show his spiritual closeness to the suffering of each person,” Bruni told journalists.

Pope Francis has frequently prayed for peace in the Holy Land in his public audiences since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month. He has also repeatedly called for the hostages being held by Hamas to be freed and for the protection and humanitarian support of civilians in Gaza. 

In his Angelus address on Nov. 12, he said: “I am close to all those who are suffering, Palestinians and Israelis. I embrace them in this dark moment. And I pray for them a lot.”

“In Gaza, let the wounded be rescued immediately, let civilians be protected, let far more humanitarian aid be allowed to reach that stricken population. May the hostages be freed, including the elderly and children,” Pope Francis said.

“Every human being, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people or religion, every human being is sacred, is precious in the eyes of God, and has the right to live in peace.”

About 240 people are being held hostage by Hamas, according to the United Nations. Four hostages have been released so far and another was freed by Israeli forces in October. The Israeli military said on Nov. 16 that troops had recovered two bodies of hostages, Yehudit Weiss, 65, and Noa Marciano, 19.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has underlined that the Holy See views the release of the hostages and a cease-fire as fundamental steps in the resolution of the conflict. 

“The release of the hostages is one of the fundamental points for the solution of the current situation, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects of those who are being held — men, women, children, newborns, pregnant women,” Parolin said on Nov. 17, according to Reuters.

“The other [fundamental point] is a cease-fire, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects that come with it — the arrival of aid, curing the injured, and other aspects,” he said.

Ukrainian Greek Catholics observe 400th anniversary of St. Josaphat Kuncewycz’s martyrdom

Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica from Nov. 12–13 to celebrate the end of the jubilee year marking the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Josaphat Kuncewycz. 

St. Josaphat was born around 1580 in the village of Volodymyr (now part of Ukraine) in the Volhynia region of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during a time of tension between Catholics and the Orthodox Churches.

In 1595 some bishops in the Commonwealth signed the Union of Brest, placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the Holy See — and establishing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Ordained a Catholic priest in 1609, Josaphat devoted his ministry to service and efforts to bring the local population back into communion with Rome.

The Union of Brest, however, continued to be a contentious topic in the region and ignited intense political and religious struggle. Josaphat was killed on Nov. 12, 1623, by a mob of people during a visit to Vitebsk, a city in modern Belarus. He was hacked to death and his body was dumped in a river, to only be recovered later.

He was declared blessed in 1643 and canonized in 1867 by Pius XI. On the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom, Pope Pius XI declared St. Josaphat the patron of reunion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Reflecting his broader desire for greater union between East and West, Pope John XXIII ordered the incorrupt body of the saint to be moved to St. Peter’s Basilica, which was done on Nov. 22, 1963, under Pope Paul VI.

The Nov. 12–13 event included the celebration of vespers at the tomb of the saint, located beneath the altar in St. Basil Chapel, on Saturday and culminated with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), presided over vespers on Saturday and concelebrated the divine liturgy with the Latin-rite Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, president of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. 

During the Saturday evening vespers, Father Robert Lyseyko, protoarchimandrite of the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat,  on the saint’s role in forging unity between East and West. 

“We call him the ‘Apostle of Unity’ for a reason. He is an apostle of unity from the moment he begins to seek unity with God in a life marked by deep prayer and renunciation, seeking not his own but what is God’s,” Lyseyko said.

Lyseyko also spoke about the importance of the saint’s life especially against the backdrop of the unabated war in Ukraine. 

“The example of St. Josaphat is particularly relevant in our time, amidst the evils and violence surrounding us, with our people enduring the hardships of war. It encourages us to care for one another, prioritize salvation, and foster a spirit of conversion,” he said.

On Sunday, Shevchuk thanked those present for commemorating the saint, calling it an opportunity to heal “the contemporary wounds of Europe and Ukraine.” 

During his  Grušas highlighted the saint’s life as a model for Christian unity. 

“His life touched many peoples and nations, seeking to bring all into unity in Christ. During the present difficulties we face in today‘s world, in Ukraine and elsewhere, of war, migrations, and many other crises, Josaphat‘s life gives us hope that the Lord can use each of us as instruments to establish his kingdom here on earth, starting from our own hearts and taking action in the world around us,” the archbishop said. 

“St. Josaphat was a man who took up this invitation from God to be a collaborator in the establishment of this unity and peace. He chose his episcopal motto and mission ‘Ut unum sint,’ ‘that all may be one,’ taken from the Lord‘s prayer for his disciples during the Last Supper. He took it also as his mission in his ministry,” he continued. 

In 2013, in an address to Ukrainian Greek Catholics on the 50th anniversary of the transfer of St. Josaphat’s body, Pope Francis : “The best way to celebrate St. Josaphat is to love one another, and to love and serve the unity of the Church.” 

Vatican signs deal with Volkswagen for an all-electric car fleet

Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced this week that it was partnering with the auto manufacturer Volkswagen as part of its broader initiative “Ecological Conversion 2030” to introduce an all-electric, zero-impact car fleet in the Vatican by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal established by the pontiff in 2020. 

“The Volkswagen Group, which aims to become a zero-carbon company by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of its vehicles by 30% by 2030, is the first strategic partner for the project to renew the car fleet of the state with Volkswagen and Škoda brand cars through the medium and long-term rental formula,” according to the official press release of the governorate of Vatican City State. 

The Vatican’s efforts are not limited to overhauling its fleet but will also include the construction of its own network of charging stations for electric vehicles, both in Vatican City State as well as in the extraterritorial areas, a reforestation program, and the importation of energy coming exclusively from renewable sources — the last of which was achieved in 2019, to Vatican News. 

Pope Francis has made ecological conservation one of the defining themes of his pontificate. But the pope has often lamented the tepid response from developed countries in implementing measures to curb the most dramatic effects of anthropogenic climate change, despite the actions called for by international treaties such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. 

In October of this year the Holy Father released the second installment to his seminal 2015 climate encyclical . In the October apostolic exhortation , the pope criticized climate change skeptics and that “the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.”

In October the pope Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of the United Nations’ COP28 UAE, at the Vatican to discuss the role that faith leaders and faith-based organizations can play in promoting the U.N.’s climate objectives. 

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual meeting among U.N. member states and nonstate organizations to discuss common goals and measures to help reduce global carbon output and make the transition to renewable energy sources. 

Earlier this month the pope that he would be attending COP28, making history as the first pope to do so since the conference began in 1995. 

COP28 will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, though the pope will only be there for three days, from Dec. 1–3.

Chinese bishop reflects on his experience at the Synod on Synodality

Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 11:56 am (CNA).

A Chinese bishop who attended the Synod on Synodality assembly has spoken out about his experience, saying he was cheered to meet Catholics from all over the world and to discover that many showed great interest in and were praying for the Church in China.

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement. He was one of two bishops from mainland China who participated in the first half of the synod assembly in October before without explanation. 

In an interview with the Pontifical Mission Societies’ information service, Agenzia Fides, published on Nov. 16, Yao said that he was very grateful to Pope Francis for inviting him and to attend the synod.

“We were very happy to meet all these bishops, priests, men and women of different religious and lay orders from all over the world during the synod. Everyone was friendly and cheerful. They welcomed us and showed us their consideration,” Yao said.

“They all showed interest in the development of the Church in China, eager to know more and to pray for us.”

Yao is the bishop of Jining, located in China’s northern Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. Born in Ulanqab in 1965, he is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. 

In the interview, the Chinese bishop shared a little bit about his Catholic roots and vocation story.

“I was born into a Catholic family. My parents and grandparents were very devout and faithful. It is with them that I began to walk in faith and received many graces from God,” he said.

Yao described how the greatest influence on his vocation came from an elderly priest. “His virtues and his selfless dedication to the Church inspired me,” he said.

“Meanwhile, my parents’ encouragement and support further strengthened my will and determination to pursue the path of the priesthood.”

After his ordination in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

He went on to serve as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops, returning to the Diocese of Jining to serve as vicar general in 2010.

The New York Times reported in 2019 that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89. 

Yao said that it is his impression that the “prevailing opinion” in China is that the provisional agreement signed by Beijing and the Holy See in 2018, often referred to as the Vatican-China deal, was “very significant” and “paves the way for promoting integration and unity between the Church in China and the universal Church.”

He said that he has seen a slight decrease in the number of baptisms in his diocese but still has young people and adults coming forward to ask for and receive baptism, something he attributes to “the good example set by the parishioners and the kindness, encouragement, and comfort that the local Church shows towards them.”

“In my opinion, the first mission of us Chinese Catholics is to show God’s mercy and love to all other Chinese,” Yao said. “We really care about the needs of society, especially those of the poor and the suffering, and we try to help them in every way.”

Pope Francis: Complaining Christians do not give a credible witness to the Gospel

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2023 / 11:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Christians who are always resentful and full of complaints are not credible witnesses to the Gospel because joy is an essential ingredient for evangelization.

“Humanity abounds with brothers and sisters waiting for a word of hope,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 15.

The pope explained that people today, like people of all times, need the Gospel and need Jesus, especially living in a society with “institutionalized secularity” that “leaves the spaces of religious meaning deserted.”

“This is the right moment to proclaim Jesus,” Pope Francis underlined.

“Immersed in today’s fast-paced and confused environment, we too indeed may find ourselves living our faith with a subtle sense of resignation, persuaded that the Gospel is no longer heard and no longer worth striving to proclaim. We might even be tempted by the idea of letting ‘others’ go their own way,” he added.

“Yet this is precisely the time to return to the Gospel to discover that Christ is always young and a constant source of newness.”

Pope Francis marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of his apostolic exhortation (The Joy of the Gospel) at his on Wednesday.

“The Gospel is a proclamation of joy,” he said. “The Gospel is a smile, it makes you smile because it touches the soul with the good news.”

Francis explained: “This is why a Christian who is discontented, a sad Christian, a dissatisfied, or worse still, resentful or rancorous Christian, is not credible. This person will talk about Jesus but no one will believe him!”

The pope advised Christians to “keep watch over one’s sentiments” and to remember “the joy of having the risen Jesus.”

Quoting , Pope Francis said: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Pope Francis has led a series of nearly weekly reflections on “the passion for evangelization” since January at his Wednesday general audiences.

In the evangelization series, the pope has shared the stories of saints whom he views as some of the best models for spreading the Gospel, including , , , and .

The series also featured the stories of lesser-known witnesses to the faith such as , , , , , and .

At the end of his general audience, the pope encouraged people to remember to pray for peace every day.

“Let us pray, brothers and sisters, for peace, especially for the battered Ukraine that suffers so much, and then in the Holy Land, in Palestine and Israel, and let us not forget Sudan that suffers so much, and think wherever there is war, there are so many wars! Let’s pray for peace — every day take some time to pray for peace. We want peace,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican doctrine office reaffirms that Catholics cannot be Freemasons

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2023 / 05:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) released a document on Wednesday reaffirming that Catholics are forbidden from becoming Freemasons.

The signed by Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández was written in response to a bishop from the Philippines who had expressed concern at the growing number of Catholics in his diocese who are taking part in Freemasonry and asked for suggestions for how to respond pastorally.

The dicastery’s response, dated Nov. 13, calls for “a coordinated strategy” involving all of the bishops in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to promote catechesis “in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry.”

The Freemasons are the largest worldwide oath-bound secret society. Freemasonry promotes ideas and rituals incompatible with the Catholic faith, including indifferentism, or the position that a person can be equally pleasing to God while remaining in any religion, and a deistic concept of a “Great Architect of the Universe.”

The Vatican document reaffirms that “those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges and have embraced Masonic principles” fall under the provisions of the Catholic Church’s 1983

The 1983 declaration, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declares that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations “are in a state of grave sin and may not receive holy Communion.”

The new DDF document further clarifies that these measures “also apply to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.”

The dicastery invites bishops in the Philippines to consider making a public statement on the Church’s teaching on Freemasonry.

“Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges,” the DDF document says.

“On the doctrinal level, it should be remembered that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” it adds.

The Catholic Church’s prohibition on Freemasonry dates back to Pope Clement XII, who formally condemned it in a papal bull in 1738.

Earlier this year, UCA News reported that Catholics in the Philippines had that some of the participants in the diocesan and national Synod on Synodality consultations were members of the Freemasons, which some reported had created confusion regarding Church’s teaching on the matter.

The Filipino Catholic bishops’ conference issued a in March declaring that bishops in the Philippines have “always maintained and defended the official Catholic (magisterial) position on the unacceptability of Masonry, given its serious errors both in doctrine (philosophical tenets) and practices.”

Fernández addressed the DDF note to Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Philippines. In it, he also points to the published by the Filipino bishops’ conference in 2003.

Pope Francis approved the document on Freemasonry in a meeting with Fernández on Nov. 13. It is available on the Vatican website in and .

Pope Francis invites young people to be ‘God’s answer’ to a hopeless world

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2023 / 11:51 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has invited young people to be a light of hope in a world suffering from war, violence, suffering, and despair.

“When we think of human tragedies, especially the suffering of the innocent, we too can echo some of the Psalms and ask the Lord, ‘Why?’ At the same time, however, we can also be part of God’s answer to the problem,” the pope said in a published Nov. 14.

“Created by him in his image and likeness,” he continued, “we can be signs of his love, which gives rise to joy and hope even in situations that appear hopeless.”

Pope Francis’ message on the theme “Rejoicing in Hope” was released ahead of the next diocesan World Youth Day, to be celebrated on Nov. 26, the solemnity of Christ the King.

The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day annually in local dioceses since the event was established by St. John Paul II in 1985.

The next international World Youth Day is planned for . Young adults are also invited to attend a Jubilee of Young People in Rome during the 2025 Jubilee Year.

In his message, Pope Francis said we are living at a time when for many people, the young included, “hope seems absent.”

“Sadly, many of your contemporaries who experience wars, violent conflict, bullying, and other kinds of hardship are gripped by despair, fear, and depression,” he said. “They feel as if they are in a dark prison, where the light of the sun cannot enter.”

He pointed to the high suicide rate among teens and young adults in some countries as a dramatic sign of the level of depression in the world.

“In such situations, how can we experience the joy and hope of which St. Paul speaks?” Francis said. “There is a risk that instead we will fall prey to despair, thinking that it is useless to do good, since it would not be appreciated or acknowledged by anyone. We may say to ourselves, with Job: ‘Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?’ (Job 17:15).”

Pope Francis recalled that joy “is not a product of our human efforts, plans, or skills, but of the energy born of an encounter with Christ. Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.”

He also pointed to something Pope Benedict XVI said , reflecting on his experience at World Youth Day in Madrid.

Benedict said: “Where does [joy] come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But ... the crucial one is this certainty based on faith: I am wanted. I have a task in history. I am accepted, I am loved.”

After we have kindled the flame of hope in us, it has to be nourished, Pope Francis said.

“There can be times,” he said, “when it risks being extinguished by the worries, fears and pressures of daily life. A flame needs oxygen to keep burning, in order to grow into a great bonfire of hope.”

The pope gave two pieces of advice for keeping hope alive: to spend time daily in prayer and to make the decision to live in hope.

“When you feel surrounded by the clouds of fear, doubt, and anxiety and you no longer see the sun, take the path of prayer,” he said, recalling Benedict XVI’s words in the : “For ‘when no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me.’”

“Let us take some time each day to rest in God, especially when we feel overwhelmed by our problems: ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him (Ps 62:5).’”

“St. Paul’s invitation to rejoice in hope,” the pope said, “calls for concrete choices in our everyday lives. I urge all of you to choose a style of life grounded in hope.”

He pointed to the example of social media, where “it always seems easier to share negative things than things that inspire hope.”

“So my concrete suggestion is this: Each day, try to share a word of hope with others. Try to sow seeds of hope in the lives of your friends and everyone around you,” he said.

After Benedict XVI’s death, Vatican monastery to be home to Benedictine nuns

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2023 / 07:02 am (CNA).

A group of Benedictine nuns from Argentina will soon take up residence in the Vatican monastery where Pope Benedict XVI lived after resigning the papacy.

The Benedictine Order of the , located in the province of Buenos Aires, accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to form a monastic community in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, the Vatican said Nov. 13.

The six nuns will move into the monastery, which is located in the Vatican Gardens in Vatican City State, in early January, according to the press release.

St. John Paul II canonically erected the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery for nuns of contemplative life in 1994. Different groups of cloistered nuns, rotating every three years, lived in the convent until November 2012.

The Vatican said after Benedict XVI’s death on Dec. 31, 2022, Pope Francis decided to restore the monastery to its original purpose as a place where “contemplative orders support the Holy Father in his daily solicitude for the whole Church, through the ministry of prayer, adoration, praise, and reparation, thus being a prayerful presence in silence and solitude.”

The Governorate of Vatican City State will oversee the monastery.

Benedict XVI spent his retirement in prayer and meditation at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. He was assisted by his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein and four consecrated women.

The pope emeritus moved into the monastery, which was then empty following renovations, on May 2, 2013, and remained there until his death on Dec. 31, 2022.

Pope Francis: Cultivate ‘the inner life’ rather than appearance and image

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2023 / 10:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel message, urging the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to cultivate the interior life and worry less about making a good impression.

Speaking in his Angelus address on Nov. 12, the pope asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to consider “How is the oil of my soul: Do I nourish it and keep it well?”

The pope turned to the parable of the 10 virgins who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Five of them were wise and had extra lamp oil to provide light until he arrived, but five were foolish, having brought no extra oil.

The difference between those who prepared their lamps with oil and those who did not is the difference between “goodwill” and “preparation,” the Holy Father said. In this way, it reminds us of our own interior life.

“And what is the characteristic of the oil? That it cannot be seen: it is inside the lamps, it is not conspicuous, but without it, the lamps give no light,” the pope said.

The pope also warned that today there are many obstacles to having a genuine moment of inward reflection.

“Let us look at ourselves, and we will see that our life runs the same risk: Today we are very careful about our appearance, the important thing is to take good care of one’s image and make a good impression in front of others.”

“It is the stewardship of the inner life. This means knowing how to stop and listen to one’s heart, to keep watch over one’s own thoughts and feelings,” the pope said.

To engage in the inner reflection and contemplation necessary for a healthy spiritual life requires more than the willingness to listen, he said. “It means knowing how to make room for silence, so as to be capable of listening,” which, he said, often entails making sacrifices.

During the appeal, the pope called attention to the grave situation in Sudan. Conflict broke out in the county between two rival factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in April. The fighting, which has left over 10,000 dead, has been concentrated in the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region.

“I am close to the suffering of those dear people of Sudan, and I make a heartfelt appeal to local leaders to encourage access to humanitarian aid and, with the contribution of the international community, to work towards finding peaceful solutions. Let us not forget these brothers of ours who are being tested,” the pope said.

Following his appeal for those in Sudan, the Holy Father spoke again about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Every day our thoughts turn to the very serious situation in Israel and Palestine. I am close to all those who suffer, Palestinians and Israelis. I hug them in this dark moment. And I pray a lot for them.”

“Enough, brothers, enough! In Gaza, the wounded must be helped immediately, civilians must be protected, and much more humanitarian aid must be delivered to that exhausted population. The hostages, among whom there are many elderly people and children, must be freed.”

“Every human being, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people and religion, every human being is sacred, precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace. Let us not lose hope: We pray and work tirelessly so that the sense of humanity prevails over the hardness of hearts,” the pope said.

Pope Francis prays for infant Indi Gregory as life support set to be removed in UK

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2023 / 11:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for Indi Gregory and her family as the critically ill British infant’s life support is set to be removed this weekend by a U.K. court order.

The pope “embraces the family of little Indi Gregory, her father and mother, prays for them and for her, and turns his thoughts to all the children around the world in these same hours who are living in pain or risking their lives because of disease and war,” a Vatican statement said Nov. 11.

Indi Gregory, born in February and baptized in September, suffers from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England.

After England’s high court ruled that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support against her parents’ wishes, the Italian government granted the critically ill child Italian citizenship on Nov. 6 and agreed to cover the cost of her medical treatment at the Vatican’s pediatric hospital.

Gregory’s parents repeatedly appealed in U.K. courts to be able to take her to Rome for treatment but lost their legal battle, with the second-highest court in the U.K. ruling on Nov. 10 that the baby’s life support be removed “immediately,” an order that is expected to be carried out sometime over the weekend.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lady Justice Eleanor King, and Lord Justice Andrew Moylan made the ruling after a remote hearing in the Court of Appeal. The ruling called the attempted Italian intervention in Gregory’s case “wholly misconceived” and “not in the spirit” of the 1996 Hague Convention, to which both the U.K. and Italy are parties.

The decision came after Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wrote to the U.K.’s lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice on Nov. 10 in an appeal to bring Gregory to Rome for treatment.

The general manager of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, Dr. Antonio Perno, had also made an urgent application to the U.K. high court the day prior calling for the judge to cede jurisdiction of the case to him.

The Bambino Gesù, which is run by the Vatican, has offered to treat other terminally ill British infants in the past, such as Alfie Evans in 2018 and Charlie Gard in 2017, both of whom were ultimately denied the chance to travel to Italy by U.K. courts and died days after being removed from life support.

Indi Gregory’s treatment at Bambino Gesù would have been done at no cost to U.K. taxpayers.

Catholic bishops in England have commented on the case, with Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster and Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham speaking out in a statement this week noting the Church’s teaching on end-of-life care.

“The tragic situation of baby Indi Gregory is truly heartbreaking, most especially for her devoted parents Claire and Dean, her siblings, wider family, and friends. Those responsible for her medical care at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, believe they have done all they can to help her,” the bishops wrote.

“However, as people of hope, we recognize that her parents want to pursue every possible chance of extending her life, even when they know this carries no guarantee of success and would require transfer to the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, Italy. In this regard, both parties are seeking to act in Indi’s best interests. Parental love will lead to a desire to take every possible step, and we support this.”

In cases when medical treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit, proper palliative care for a sick person must be maintained, the bishops noted.

“The suspension of disproportionate therapies cannot justify the suspension of basic care, which includes treatments that are required to maintain essential physiological functions as long as the body can benefit from them (such as hydration, nutrition, proportionate respiratory support, thermoregulation, and pain management),” they said. “Alongside spiritual care offered for the one who will soon meet God, the Church views these treatments as necessary to accompany these little patients to a dignified natural death.”

“Prolonged terminal illness is, sadly, part of the human condition,” the bishops acknowledged.

“We should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of basic care so that death might be achieved. We do, however, sometimes have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs. We hope and pray that, in the wake of this decision, the family are gradually able to find some peace over the coming days and weeks. Our prayers are with baby Indi and her parents and family, as well as with those caring for her.”

Pope Francis relieves Strickland of his duties as bishop of Tyler

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2023 / 07:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has relieved Bishop Joseph Strickland from his duties in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and appointed an apostolic administrator to replace him.

Strickland’s removal on Nov. 11 comes after the Texas bishop refused a Vatican request for him to submit his resignation two days prior, according to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston.

The Vatican Dicastery for Bishops completed a formal investigation in the Diocese of Tyler earlier this year called an apostolic visitation, which, according to a source, looked into the bishop’s social media use and questions related to diocesan management.

The apostolic visitation conducted by Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson made “an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership” of the Texas bishop and recommended that Strickland’s continuation in office was “not feasible,” DiNardo said in a statement on Nov. 11.

“After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested,” he said.

Strickland, 65, served as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler since 2012. The widely popular though polarizing Texas bishop had faced criticism for his firebrand social media posts, including a May 12 tweet that suggested Pope Francis was “undermining the Deposit of Faith.”

The Vatican announcement did not provide a reason for the bishop’s removal. Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin will serve as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Tyler until a new bishop is appointed.

During Strickland’s 10-plus years at the helm of Tyler, the diocese experienced some noteworthy changes, such as the 2018 resignation of three diocesan officials, a move Strickland said at the time would position the diocese to best fulfill its mission.

But Strickland’s tenure has also coincided with positive signs of spiritual and administrative health in Tyler. Currently, 21 men are in priestly formation for the territory of 119,168 Catholics. The diocese is also reportedly in good financial shape, exemplified in part by its ability to raise 99% of its $2.3 million goal for the 2021 bishop’s appeal six months ahead of schedule.

Pope Francis met with American Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, on Saturday morning before Strickland’s removal was announced.

The pope’s decision to relieve Strickland of his pastoral governance of the east Texas diocese comes just two days before the start of the U.S. bishops’ fall plenary meeting, which will be held Nov. 13–16 in Baltimore.

Italian Senate launches inquiry into disappearance of Vatican Girl and another missing teen

Rome Newsroom, Nov 10, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The Italian Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday to launch a new parliamentary inquiry into the 40-year-old cold case of the disappearance of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, who lived in Vatican City, as well as another girl who went missing in Rome the month prior.

The four-year parliamentary commission will have “full investigative powers” and a budget of 50,000 euros per year to shed light on the 1983 disappearance of the two girls. 

The Italian government inquiry comes after a separate Vatican investigation into the Orlandi case opened in January and shared its findings six months later with Rome prosecutors, who have been further investigating the cold case.

Emanuela Orlandi was the teenage daughter of Ercole Orlandi, an envoy of the Prefecture of the Papal Household and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance on June 22, 1983, after leaving for a music lesson in Rome has dominated headlines in Italy and been the subject of speculation for decades.

In addition to Orlandi, the newly established Italian commission will also look into the case of 15-year-old Mirella Gregori, who went missing in Rome on May 7, 1983, roughly 40 days before Orlandi. 

Gregori was last seen after school at a coffee bar located below her family’s apartment in central Rome. She had told her mother that she was going to quickly meet a friend named Alessandro and never returned. 

While Gregori had no connection to the Vatican, her case has been linked to that of the missing “Vatican Girl” after calls from alleged kidnappers in 1983 claimed that they had taken both girls. 

The commission is tasked with examining the evidence from prior investigations into the two girls’ disappearance, obtaining necessary further documentation from foreign states related to the case and analyzing what might have hindered Italy’s judicial system from “ascertaining facts and responsibility” in past years. A total of 40 commissioners are expected to be nominated by the end of this year.

During the Vatican investigation into the case earlier this year, Vatican City’s chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi conducted interviews with people who worked at the Vatican at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance and said that he had collected “all available evidence.” 

The Vatican said in January the Orlandi case was being reopened at the request of the family.

Public interest in the case was also rekindled last year after the release of “Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” on Netflix.

The true-crime docuseries featured interviews with subjects who proffered numerous theories about Orlandi’s disappearance ranging from the involvement of Italian organized crime to a theory that the Vatican was involved in some way in Orlandi’s disappearance, none of which have been substantiated.

Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing girl, told FQ Magazine that he is hopeful that “this commission will be able to help us understand situations that neither the Vatican nor the Italian Prosecutor’s Office are investigating.”

Mother of Israeli hostage thanks Pope Francis for his efforts to free captives in Gaza

CNA Staff, Nov 10, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The mother of a hostage held by the Palestinian terror group Hamas has expressed thanks to Pope Francis for his efforts to free the hundreds of innocent people who were abducted from Israel on Oct. 7. 

In a Nov. 10  released by Vatican News, Rachel Goldberg Polin, whose 23-year-old son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was kidnapped, said: “Holy Father, thank you for taking the time to try to help us free the 240 human beings who are buried alive under Gaza.”

Polin, whom Religion News Service  “one of the most prominent spokespersons for the hostages,” said that the hostages “are from all different religions: Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. And they are human beings. They are God’s children. And we really appreciate you trying to bring them all home to their families.”

“With much love and respect,” she said before blowing a kiss to the Holy Father.

On Oct. 7, Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, launched thousands of rockets into Israel while its militants breached the border and invaded towns, killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians. 

Some of the hostages have since been released or saved by the Israelis, and the United Nations puts the present number of hostages at 240.

Days after the attack, the Holy Father  for the hostages to be released and has consistently repeated that request. 

“I hope that all avenues will be followed so that the conflict can absolutely be avoided, the wounded can be helped, and aid can reach the population of Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is very serious. Release the hostages immediately. Among them there are also many children; may they return to their families!” the pope said during his Nov. 5 Angelus .

The Holy Father has since met with several Jewish leaders since the conflict began including the  and the .

In his meeting with the rabbis, Pope Francis said he began to feel ill and distributed his prepared remarks to them instead of speaking.

In the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, he wrote his “first thought and prayer goes, above all else, to everything that has happened in the last few weeks.”

“Yet again violence and war have erupted in that land blessed by the Most High, which seems continually assailed by the vileness of hatred and the deadly clash of weapons,” the speech continued. “The spread of antisemitic demonstrations, which I strongly condemn, is also of great concern.”

“In this time in which we are witnessing violence and destruction,” the remarks said, “we believers are called to build fraternity and open paths of reconciliation for all and before all, in the name of the Almighty who, as another prophet says, has ‘plans for welfare and not for evil’ (Jer 29:11). Not weapons, not terrorism, not war, but compassion, justice, and dialogue are the fitting means for building peace.”

Rome to celebrate 1,700th birthday of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome has planned a full year of events to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which was dedicated on Nov. 9, 324.

The church is the cathedral of the diocese and the seat of the bishop of Rome, the pope. Until the 14th century, the adjoining palace served as the papal residence.

While St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the archbasilica’s patrons, it is called St. John Lateran because it was built on property donated by the Plautii Laterani family during the Roman Empire.

The date of the basilica’s dedication, Nov. 9, in the year 324 by Pope Sylvester I in the Church.

A Latin inscription in the church reads: “Omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” which means in English: “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”

“The cathedral of Rome, Mater et Caput of all the Churches of Rome and the world, is a very special point of reference for our diocese and for the universal Church,” Rome’s vicar, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, said in a post on the Diocese of Rome website.

“In it one breathes the history of 17 centuries, of a basilica built and rebuilt three times, up to the present building of 1700. Five ecumenical councils have taken place in it,” he continued.

“In the See of the Chair of Peter,” De Donatis said, “all Christians of the world feel the bond with the bishop of Rome. In this place we Christians of Rome recognize once again the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, pointed out by [John] the Baptist. Here we feel, like [John] the beloved disciple, the beating heart of Christ, the Savior, consumed with love for all humanity. In the school of the two ‘Johns’ we find the particular vocation of our Church called to preside in charity.”

The Diocese of Rome will open the year of celebrations with a solemn pontifical Mass celebrated by De Donatis in the afternoon on Nov. 9. The Mass will include music written for the occasion by Father Marco Frisina, Italy’s most popular contemporary composer of religious hymns.

Other events planned throughout the year include concerts, Masses, and religious-cultural talks about the history of the archbasilica and the adjoining Lateran Palace.

The anniversary celebrations will close with Mass on Nov. 9, 2024.

Vatican doctrine office: Transgender-identifying people can be baptized, witness marriages

Rome Newsroom, Nov 8, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s doctrine office has said an adult who identifies as transgender can receive the sacrament of baptism under the same conditions as any adult, as long as there is no risk of causing scandal or confusion to other Catholics.

The Vatican also said that children or adolescents experiencing transgender identity issues may also receive baptism “if well prepared and willing.”

The document answering these and other sacrament-based questions for those who identify as transgender and people in same-sex relationships was generated in response to questions posed to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) in July by Bishop Giuseppe (José) Negri of Santo Amaro in Brazil. The guidance comes amid ongoing discussions within the Catholic Church about pastoral care for the LGBTQ community in light of Francis’ focus on accompaniment and synodality.

The dicastery’s response is dated Oct. 31 and signed by DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández and Pope Francis. It is available  in Italian.

The Vatican also responded to questions about whether transgender-identifying people or those in homosexual relationships can be godparents or witness a marriage, and whether children adopted or born through assisted reproduction to same-sex couples can be baptized.

To the last question, the DDF cited  and said “for the child to be baptized there must be a well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”

On the question of those who identify as transgender and their reception of the sacrament of baptism, the dicastery gave some notes for consideration, “especially when there is some doubt about the objective moral situation in which a person finds himself, or about his subjective disposition toward grace.”

It went on to explain that the Catholic Church teaches that baptism received without repentance for grave sins, while it gives an indelible sacramental character, does not bestow sanctifying grace.

The Vatican quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine of Hippo to explain that once a person has the right disposition, that is, has repented of any grave sins, the sacramental character of baptism “is an immediate cause which disposes one to receive grace.”

“Thus we can understand why Pope Francis wanted to emphasize that baptism ‘is the door which allows Christ the Lord to dwell in our person and allows us to be immersed in his Mystery,’” the DDF said, quoting an  by Pope Francis.

“This concretely implies,” it went on, quoting Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation , “that ‘nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: baptism. ... The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.’”

The DDF concluded that even if there are doubts about a person’s objective moral situation or subjective disposition toward grace, “the faithfulness of God’s unconditional love, capable of generating an irrevocable covenant even with the sinner” should not be forgotten.

“In any case, the Church should always call [someone] to live out fully all the implications of the received baptism, which must always be understood and unfolded within the entire journey of Christian initiation,” it said.

The doctrinal office said a transgender-identifying person who has undergone hormonal treatment or sex-reassignment surgery can fulfill the role of godfather or godmother for a baptism “under certain conditions” but added that such a role is not a right and should not be allowed if there is danger of causing scandal or confusion to the Church community.

It also said there was nothing in current Church law that prohibits people who identify as transgender or cohabiting homosexual people from acting as witnesses of a marriage.

In answer to a question about whether a cohabiting homosexual person can be a godparent, the document cited the Church’s Code of Canon Law, , to say a godparent can be anyone who possesses the aptitude and “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.”

It stated that a homosexual person living not a “simple cohabitation” but a “stable and declared ‘more uxorio’” in the manner of a husband and wife“well recognized by the community” is “a different case.”

Every case requires “pastoral prudence,” it went on to say, in order to safeguard the sacrament of baptism, and “it is necessary to consider the real value that the ecclesial community confers on the duties of godfather and godmother, the role they play in the community, and the consideration they show toward the teaching of the Church.”

The DDF also said it can be taken into account whether there are other people in the extended family who can guarantee the proper transmission of the Catholic faith to the baptized person without holding the role of godparent.

Pope Francis: Secularized world is ‘invitation to communicate the joy of the Gospel’

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

In his ongoing catechetical series on apostolic zeal, Pope Francis on Wednesday drew upon the example of Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl as a testament to conversion and service in a secularized world. 

The pope’s Nov. 8 general audience opened up with the “similes of salt and light” passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which Christ tells a crowd: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its flavor be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot.” 

“You are the light of the world,” Christ continues in the passage. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do we light a lamp and then put it under a bushel, but on a stand, so it gives light to everyone in the house.” 

The pope drew upon the example of Delbrêl as a testament to this evangelical imperative. Delbrêl lived her life on the margins with the poor, exemplifying the imperative of announcing the Gospel in a world that is adrift from the Gospel message. 

Born in 1904 in southwestern France, Delbrêl was a prolific writer, poet, essaysist, social worker, and mystic. 

Growing up in a nonreligious household, Delbrêl passed her adolescence as an agnostic, but struck “by the witness of some friends,” she went on “in search of God, giving voice to a profound thirst that she felt within, and came to learn that the ‘emptiness that cried out her anguish in her’ was God who sought her,” the pope said.

She later moved with family to the peripheries of Paris. It was there, against the backdrop of the French worker’s movement and an entrenched Communist Party, where she encountered the poor and developed a social consciousness.  

Amid the social turbulence following the end of the First World War and her father’s own frail health, she had an intense conversion in 1924 and her life assumed a new meaning. 

She dedicated herself to a life of prayer. While she had wanted to enter the Carmelites, her father’s health precluded her from doing so. Instead, she dedicated herself to meeting “street people,” and her evangelizing mission thus was centered on the care of the urban poor and socially marginalized, especially in secularized spaces.

She wrote several books including “Marxist City,” “Land Of Mission,” “We, the Ordinary People of the Streets,” and “The Joy of Believing.” In 2018 Pope Francis signed a decree that Delbrêl had lived a life of heroic virtue.

The pope quoted Delbrêl in which she likened faith to riding a bicycle: “You have chosen us to stay in a strange balance, a balance that can be achieved and maintained only in movement, only in momentum. A bit like a bicycle, which does not stay upright unless its wheels turn. … We can stay upright only by going forward, moving, in a surge of charity.” 

The pope noted that Debrêl is an example of evangelization as a reciprocal process where “by evangelizing one is evangelized.” 

“Looking at this witness of the Gospel, we too learn that in every personal or social situation or circumstance of our life, the Lord is present and calls to us to inhabit our own time, to share our life with others, to mingle with the joys and sorrows of the world,” the pope said. 

This is a powerful witness and moment of dialogue where in “secularized environments” the “contact with nonbelievers prompts the believer to a continual revision of his or her way of believing and rediscovering faith in its essentiality.” 

In his greeting to French pilgrims the Holy Father repeated this notion, saying: “Faced with our secularized world, let us not complain, but see in it a call to test our faith and an invitation to communicate the joy of the Gospel.” 

At the end of the general audience the pope once again implored the world to pray for peace and for an end of war, repeating his refrain that war is always a defeat.

“Let us think and pray for the people who suffer from war. Let us not forget the tormented Ukraine and think of the Palestinian and Israeli people: May the Lord lead us to a just peace,” the pope said. “We suffer a lot: Children suffer, the sick, the old suffer, and many young people die. War is always a defeat: Let’s not forget. It’s always a defeat.” 

Pope Francis to release an autobiography in the spring

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2023 / 06:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will publish an autobiography next year in which he recounts memories of historical events from the outbreak of World War II to the collapse of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

HarperCollins Publishers announced Tuesday that it will publish the pope’s book, “Life, My Story Through History,” in the spring of 2024 in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.

“In this book we tell a story, the story of my life, through the most important and dramatic events that humanity has experienced over the past 80 years,” Pope Francis said in a statement released by the publisher on Nov. 7.

“This book was written so that people, especially younger people, can listen to the voice of an elderly person and reflect on what our planet has experienced, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

The book was co-written by Vatican journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona, who interviewed Pope Francis for Italian television specials in 2021 and 2022 and recently published featuring anecdotes from the pope.

According to HarperCollins, the book will feature the pope’s recollections of the start of World War II, the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the collapse of the Twin Towers, the great economic recession of 2008, the resignation of Benedict XVI, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Born in 1936 in Argentina, Pope Francis was only 2 years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, launching World War II, and 8 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in February 2001, just months before the Sept. 11 attacks, and served as president of the Argentine bishops’ conference in 2008. He was 76 years old when he was elected pope following the historic resignation of Benedict XVI.

The pope’s book, which is not classified as a memoir, will also touch on current global issues, including abortion, racial discrimination, climate change, atomic weapons, war, and social inequalities.

Pope Francis has authored numerous books, including a book-length interview with a Spanish missionary titled “The Strength of Vocation” in 2018, “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” in 2020, and an interview with an Italian psychologist called “Fear as a Gift” in 2023.

The pope’s first book, “The Name of God is Mercy: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli,” became a New York Times bestseller in 2016.

Vatican hospital offers to treat critically ill baby denied life support in Britain

Rome Newsroom, Nov 7, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s pediatric hospital has offered to treat 8-month-old baby Indi Gregory after a British court ruled that she be removed from life support against her parents’ wishes.

Gregory, who was born in February, suffers from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England.

After England’s high court ruled that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support, Gregory’s parents appealed to take her to Rome for treatment, an appeal that was denied by a British judge over the weekend.

The Italian government decided in an emergency meeting on Monday to grant the critically ill child Italian citizenship and to cover the cost of her medical treatment at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù hospital.

“They say there isn’t much hope for little Indi, but until the very end, I’ll do what I can to defend her life,” Italian President Giorgia Meloni wrote on social media on Nov. 6. “And to defend the right of her mamma and papa to do all that they can for her.”

The Bambino Gesù hospital has previously offered medical treatment to other critically ill children, including Alfie Evans in 2018 and Charlie Gard in 2017, both of whom were ultimately denied the chance to travel to Italy by U.K. courts and died days after being removed from life support.

Christian Concern has published a letter from the president of the Bambino Gesù hospital outlining “a detailed treatment plan” for the child, which includes “life-sustaining treatment and palliative care to ensure Indi’s survival and comfort while the treatments take effect.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre supporting the Gregorys’ case, has noted that this is believed to be the first time that a parent’s appeal against an order to withdraw life-sustaining treatment has been rejected by the Court of Appeal without a hearing.

“The law is there to protect life and the most vulnerable in our society. What is happening in this case sets a very worrying precedent with regard to that principle,” Williams said.

“It is very concerning that a child can be held against the parents’ wishes when they have alternative treatment available.”

With the newly granted Italian citizenship, the child’s parents, Dean Gregory and Claire Staniforth, can appeal to the Italian consulate in Britain to request that their daughter be airlifted to Italy for treatment, according to Reuters.

Simone Pillon, an Italian lawyer assisting the Gregory family, wrote on Nov. 7: “We are working to find an agreement between the two countries to satisfy the family’s request and treat Indi in Rome.”

In response to the Italian government’s decision, Dean Gregory, Indi’s father, said: “My heart fills up with joy that the Italians have given Claire and I hope and faith back in humanity. The Italians have shown us care and loving support and I wish the U.K. authorities were the same.”

Pope Francis speaks with president of Iran about Israel-Hamas war

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 6, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is continuing his efforts for peace in the Holy Land. As confirmed by the Holy See, on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 5, the Holy Father had a conversation with the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi.

The Vatican has limited itself to confirming that the call took place at the request of Raisi, who, according to a statement from the Iranian president’s office, thanked the Holy Father for his calls for peace and said that it is duty of followers of all Abrahamic religions to "support the oppressed people of Palestine."

Raisi asked the Holy Father to exert his influence in the West to end the attacks in Gaza, which he called “the greatest genocide of the century.”

He also urged Pope Francis to “correctly explain the position of the oppressor and the oppressed” in the conflict.

In his Nov. 5 Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for a cease-fire and said he hoped that “avenues will be pursued so that an escalation of the conflict might be absolutely avoided, so that the wounded can be rescued and help might get to the population of Gaza where the humanitarian situation is extremely serious.”

He also called for the immediate release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, especially children.

The phone call was in addition to the different conversations the pontiff has had with various leaders since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

On Oct. 22, Pope Francis and focused on “the need to identify paths of peace.”

The Holy Father also received a phone call on Oct. 26 from the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with whom he discussed the situation in the Holy Land.

In addition, on Oct. 27, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin asked that an escalation in the war between Israel and Hamas be avoided and announced the possibility of a meeting between Pope Francis and the families of the hostages that the terrorist group is holding in Gaza.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for relations with states, , Iran’s minister of foreign affairs, on Oct. 30.

In the conversation, proposed by the Iranian president, Gallagher expressed “the serious concern of the Holy See about what is happening in Israel and Palestine.”

On Nov. 3, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis had a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine.

Canon lawyer denies involvement in papal election reform, calling reports ‘a pure lie’

Rome Newsroom, Nov 6, 2023 / 08:55 am (CNA).

A cardinal and canon lawyer has denied reports that he is involved in changing the papal election process to make it more synodal.

The Pillar and The Remnant websites reported Nov. 4 that Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, an expert in Church law closely associated with the Vatican, had been tasked by Pope Francis with drafting revisions to conclaves.

The changes being considered, they reported, include changing pre-conclave meetings, called general congregations, to employ Synod on Synodality-style small-group discussions and limiting participation in those meetings to cardinals eligible to vote — that is, cardinals under 80.

“I do not know anything about it and any implication I have in it is a pure lie,” Ghirlanda told EWTN News via email on Monday morning.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni also denied knowledge of such a document in a statement to CNA Nov. 6.

The Remnant also reported Nov. 4 that Pope Francis is considering a proposal by Ghirlanda to allow laypeople to participate in the conclave, including the vote for a new pope.

The Pillar, citing “a senior canon lawyer close to the Vatican,” reported that knowledge of the process to reform conclaves “is widespread in Vatican canonical circles, as is the role of Cardinal Ghirlanda.”

General congregations are preparatory meetings of the College of Cardinals held every day before the start of the election. They are a time for cardinals to familiarize themselves with the regulations concerning conclaves and, in force, to “express their views on possible problems, ask for explanations in case of doubt, and make suggestions.”

During general congregations, cardinals can address the entire college. But one of the proposed changes, according to The Pillar, is to make these exchanges into of smaller groups of cardinals, similar to the small-group discussions at the Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

The papal election process and the sede vacante, the period between a pope’s death or resignation and the election of his successor, are regulated by St. John Paul II’s 1996 apostolic constitution and Pope Francis’ 2022 apostolic constitution .

Pope Benedict XVI made two revisions to during his papacy, stipulating that in case of a deadlock, the election must be decided by a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority and that a conclave can start sooner or later than 15 days after a pope’s death.

Conclaves, which take place in the Sistine Chapel, are held under strict secrecy. The cardinals who participate take an oath to “observe absolute and perpetual secrecy” about the ballots and their scrutiny from anyone outside the College of Cardinals under penalty of automatic excommunication.

According to , during a sede vacante, “all heads of curial institutions and members cease from their office,” though secretaries “attend to the ordinary governance of curial institutions, taking care of ordinary business only.”

Pope Francis ruled earlier this year that the office of the auditor general, which is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, and which does not have a secretary, may also in the case of a vacant papal see.

The other positions that remain in place during a sede vacante are the major penitentiary, who deals with issues relating to the sacrament of confession and indulgences; the camerlengo, who oversees the preparations for a papal conclave and manages the administration of the Holy See during the interregnum; and the papal almoner.

Pope Francis: Like Benedict XVI, be ‘humble laborers’ for the Church

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2023 / 07:05 am (CNA).

At a Mass for Pope Benedict XVI and deceased cardinals and bishops on Friday, Pope Francis urged Christians, especially pastors, to be the humble servants of others.

“I like to recall the very first words with which Pope Benedict described himself following his election: ‘a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,’” the pope said in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 3.

“Indeed, Christians, especially the pope, the cardinals, and the bishops, are called to be humble laborers: to serve, not to be served and to put the fruits of the Lord’s vineyard before their advantage,” he added. “What a fine thing it is to renounce ourselves for the Church of Jesus!”

Pope Francis presided on Friday morning at a Mass of intercession for the repose of the souls of Pope Benedict XVI and the six cardinals and 147 bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church who died since November 2022.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re was the celebrant of the Mass, which took place at the Altar of the Chair, and cardinals and bishops concelebrated.

“Let us pray for our beloved deceased brethren,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their hearts were pastoral, compassionate, and humble, for the Lord was the center of their lives. In him may they find eternal peace.”

The Mass for deceased cardinals and bishops is celebrated every year at the Vatican during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

“Benedict XVI, whom we remember today, together with the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year, wrote in his first encyclical that the program of Jesus is ‘a heart that sees,’” Francis said, quoting from (“God is Love”).

“How many times did he keep reminding us that faith is not primarily an idea to be understood or a moral precept to be followed but a person to be encountered,” he said. “That person is Jesus Christ, whose heart beats with love for us, whose eyes look with pity upon our suffering.”

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected at length on the virtue of Christian humility, which he said “is not simply one virtue among others, but the basic disposition of life: believing ourselves to be in need of God, making room for him and putting all our trust in him.”

“It is the humble, the poor in spirit, who reveal to us the ‘littleness’ so pleasing to the Lord, the path that leads to heaven. God seeks the humble, those who hope in him and not in themselves and their own plans,” the pope said.

“God loves humility,” he added, “because it permits him to interact with us. Even more, God loves humility because he himself is humble. He comes down to us; he lowers himself; he does not impose himself; he makes room for us.”

Pope Francis also reflected on compassion as demonstrated by Jesus in St. Luke’s Gospel, proclaimed at Mass.

In Luke 7:11–17, Jesus encounters a widow following behind her only son who had died as he was being carried out of the city: “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

“Jesus, as today’s Gospel shows, halts before the tragedy of death,” the pope explained. “Here we see our God, whose divinity shines forth in contact with our sorrow and grief, for his is a heart full of compassion.”

“The raising of that young man, the gift of life that overcomes death, has its source precisely there, in the compassion of the Lord, who is moved by death, the greatest cause of our suffering. How important it is to communicate that same look of compassion to all those who grieve for the death of their loved ones,” he said.

Pope Francis talks Synod on Synodality and homosexuality in new interview

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2023 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis answered two questions about the Synod on Synodality, including on the topic of homosexuality, in an interview with Italian state television RAI on Wednesday.

Asked about the synod assembly’s discussion of homosexuality, Pope Francis said: “When I say ‘everyone, everyone, everyone,’ [I’m speaking about] people. The Church receives people. Everyone. And it does not ask how you are. Then, inside, everyone grows, but from a Christian belonging.”

“It’s true that today it’s a bit ‘fashionable’ to talk about [homosexuality],” he continued. “The Church receives everyone. Another thing is when there are organizations that want to enter. The principle is this: The Church receives all those who can be baptized. Organizations cannot be baptized. People can.”

The pope’s comments were aired in a 40-minute special on the “Tg1” news program Nov. 1.

Francis said the result of the first part of the Synod on Synodality, which met at the Vatican Oct. 4–29, “is positive.”

“Everything was talked about with total freedom — and that’s a good thing,” he said. The pope also said the synthesis report issued at the end of the monthlong gathering “needs to be studied” before the next synod meeting in October 2024.

“I believe that we have arrived precisely at that exercise of synodality that St. Paul VI wanted at the end of the [Second Vatican] Council because he realized that the Western Church had lost the synodal dimension that the Eastern Church has instead,” Francis added.

The latest papal interview also included Pope Francis’ confirmation that , during the start of the COP28 climate change conference.

He also spoke about war, immigration, women deacons, and his health.

On the topic of priestly celibacy, the pope reaffirmed that the discipline can be changed but said he does not think eliminating mandatory priestly celibacy in the Latin Church would do anything to help solve priest shortages.

Pope Francis also praised Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts to combat clerical sexual abuse.

“A lot of cleaning was done in this,” he said. “Pope Ratzinger was courageous in this. He took that problem into his own hands and took many steps and then handed it over to me to finish. This goes on.”

Pope Francis prays for peace and hope on All Souls’ Day

Rome Newsroom, Nov 2, 2023 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed for peace, hope, and mercy at a Mass to mark All Souls’ Day on a rainy morning at the Rome War Cemetery.

“Today, thinking of the dead, cherishing the memory of the dead and cherishing hope, we ask the Lord for peace, so that people will no longer kill each other in wars,” the pope said in an improvised homily on Nov. 2.

Pope Francis presided at a Mass at the war cemetery amid scattered rain showers on a breezy, cool morning.

He lamented the loss of the lives of so many people, especially the young, in war, and said there can never be a real victory because of the price that is paid to reach it.

“We pray to the Lord for our dead, for all, for all: that the Lord will receive them all,” Francis said. “And we pray also that the Lord will have mercy on us and give us hope: hope that we can go forward and that we can find them all together with him when he calls us. So be it.”

The cemetery Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Diego Ravelli, the papal master of ceremonies.

The small cemetery, which contains the graves of 426 soldiers from Commonwealth countries who died in World War II, is located near the Pyramid of Cestius, a Roman-era pyramid in the Ostiense neighborhood south of the historic center of Rome.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the day’s commemoration of the faithful departed made him think of memory and hope.

“Memory,” he explained, “of those who have gone before us, who have spent their lives, who have concluded this life” — both those who have done good and those who have failed in doing good, “but were received into the memory of God.”

The pope said All Souls’ Day is also a good moment to dwell on the theological virtue of hope, which he called an “everyday” virtue.

“I will call it the theological virtue of ‘the kitchen,’ because it is at hand and always comes to our aid,” he said. “We live in this tension between memory and hope.”

Before the Mass, Pope Francis passed through the cemetery in prayer, pushed in a wheelchair. He also placed white roses on some of the graves, including before the headstone of 28-year-old W. Perkins.

After Mass and before returning to the Vatican, the pope also stopped for a brief moment of prayer in front of Rome’s historic Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners, also known as the Protestant Cemetery.

Pope Francis has made it a recent custom to hold a Mass at a cemetery on Nov. 2 to pray for the dead.

From 2016 to 2021, he celebrated Mass at five different cemeteries in or near Rome. For All Souls’ Day in 2019, he celebrated Mass at the Catacombs of Priscilla, while in 2022 he did not visit a cemetery but offered Mass for deceased bishops and cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica — another papal custom during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

Update: Pope Francis to attend COP28 climate change conference in Dubai in December

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2023 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said in an Italian television interview on Wednesday that he intends to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the COP28 climate change conference in early December.

“I believe I depart on the 1st [of December] and stay until the 3rd. I’ll be there three days,” the pope said on the Italian state television network RAI in an interview broadcast on the evening of Nov. 1.

Francis did not provide further details on the schedule of the trip, which was officially announced by the Vatican on Nov. 3.

The pope , Sultan Al Jaber, at the Vatican in mid-October. The climate change summit will take place at the Expo City Dubai Nov. 30–Dec. 12.

The United Nations annual climate change conference, known as the “Conference of the Parties” (COP), includes governments that have signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and/or the Paris Agreement.

The summit, held in a different country every year, is an opportunity for world leaders, representing state and nonstate actors, to meet and discuss policy goals that seek to establish common — and often ambitious — goals for climate change mitigation.

It will be Pope Francis’ second time traveling to the Middle Eastern country. , to promote interreligious dialogue and support the small Christian minority.

During the Feb. 3–5, 2019, trip, he signed the with the grand imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb.

Francis was the first pope to ever visit the Arabian peninsula.

Climate issues and the environment have been a priority of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

On Oct. 4, he released his second major document on the topic, the apostolic exhortation , in which he warned of if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

In the Nov. 1 interview with RAI, Pope Francis recalled how he had decided to write his first document on the topic, the 2015 encyclical ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris.

“The Paris meeting was the best meeting of all,” he said, because “after Paris everyone went backwards and it takes courage to move forward in this.”

Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage draws Traditional Latin Mass devotees to Rome

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2023 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

More than 1,000 pilgrims gathered in Rome for an annual three-day pilgrimage for those devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass held Oct. 27–29.

The Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage takes its name from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter , which granted near universal permission for any priest of the Latin rite to celebrate the Mass and the other sacraments according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

In an explanatory note to the motu proprio, Pope Benedict wrote: “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us, too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.” 

 was, however, abrogated on July 16, 2021, when Pope Francis issued the motu proprio , which imposed severe restrictions on the celebration of the Mass. The document reversed key points of , affirming instead that it was the right of the diocesan bishop to grant permission to individual priests for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.

Earlier this year, — another pilgrimage orientated toward the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass — recorded its highest-ever turnout, with event organizers having to turn people away due to the influx of registrations. Over 16,000 predominantly young Catholics marched 86 miles from Paris to Chartres over three days. 

For this year’s Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage there was one major change to the program. This was the first time since the pilgrimage began that the pilgrims were denied permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday. This decision was issued by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, who in 2021 imposed a strict limitation on the celebration of private Tridentine Masses as well a severe curtailment of the use of Latin in other liturgies. 

The pilgrimage opened on Friday with a pontifical vespers service presided over by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, at the Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs (Pantheon) in Rome.

During the service, Schneider was joined by priests from the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and an array of diocesean priests and religious.

On Saturday morning, pilgrims started their day with Eucharistic adoration at the Basilica of Sts. Celso and Giuliano, from where they processed into the streets of Rome, across Ponte Sant’Angelo, making their way along Via della Conciliazione. 

This was a moment of deep prayer and reflection as well as a moment of gratitude to those present to join in their common love of the old liturgy. This sight of popular devotion caught the attention of many onlooking tourists who curiously recorded videos and snapped photos of the procession.

It also reflected the intentional character of the event. As the chain of pilgrims processed along Via della Conciliazione, they held banners and waved flags from well over 20 countries including Finland, Japan, Australia, Spain, and Germany — with the United States, France, Germany, and Brazil having the largest representation. As they processed toward St. Peter’s Basilica, pilgrims sang traditional hymns and prayed the Litany of the Saints.

The procession entered St. Peter’s Basilica and concluded with prayers and adoration at the foot of the altar of the Chair of St. Peter.

On Sunday — the feast of Christ the King according to the 1962 missal — the pilgrimage closed with a pontifical high Mass celebrated by Italian Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the FSSP’s parish of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini.

The 16th-century baroque church was overflowing with faithful, many arriving well over an hour before the Mass started to secure a seat. The liturgy was set to Palestrina’s arrangement for the Mass “Tu es Petrus,” or “You are Peter,” which comes from Matthew 16:18: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Pope Francis calls for ‘paradigm shift’ in theology for world of today

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2023 / 15:36 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has called for a “paradigm shift” in Catholic theology that takes widespread engagement with contemporary science, culture, and people’s lived experience as an essential starting point. 

Citing the need to deal with “profound cultural transformations,” the pope presented his dramatic vision for the future of Catholic theology in a new motu proprio issued earlier today.

Titled , or “to promote theology,” the document revises the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology (PATH) “to make them more suitable for the mission that our time imposes on theology.”

“Theology can only develop in a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian confessions and different religions, openly engaging with everyone, believers and nonbelievers,” the pope wrote in the apostolic letter. 

Pope Francis wrote that Catholic theology must experience a “courageous cultural revolution” in order to become a “fundamentally contextual theology.” Guided by Christ’s incarnation into time and space, this approach to theology must be capable of reading and interpreting “the Gospel in the conditions in which men and women live daily, in different geographical, social, and cultural environments,” the pope wrote.

The pope contrasted this approach with a theology that is limited to “abstractly re-proposing formulas and schemes from the past” and repeated his long-standing criticism of “desk bound theology.” Instead, he emphasized that theological studies must be open to the world, not as a “‘tactical’ attitude” but as a profound “turning point” in their method, which he said must be “inductive.”

Pope Francis emphasized that this bottom-up reenvisioning of theology is necessary to better aid the Church’s evangelizing mission. 

“A synodal, missionary, and ‘outgoing’ Church can only correspond to an ‘outgoing’ theology,” the pope wrote. 

Relatedly, the pope said, this dialogical approach can allow theology to “broaden the boundaries” of scientific reasoning, allowing it to overcome dehumanizing tendencies. 

To achieve this “‘outgoing’ theology,” Pope Francis wrote that theology must become “transdisciplinary,” part of a “web of relationships, first of all with other disciplines and other knowledge.” This engagement, he wrote, leads to “the arduous task” of theologians making use of “new categories developed by other knowledge” in order to “penetrate and communicate the truths of faith and transmit the teaching of Jesus in today’s languages, with originality and critical awareness.” 

Pope Francis also wrote that priority must be given to “the knowledge of people’s ‘common sense,’” which he described as a “theological source in which many images of God live, often not corresponding to the Christian face of God, only and always love.” 

The pope said that this “pastoral stamp” must be placed upon all of Catholic theology. Described as “popular theology,” by starting from “the different contexts and concrete situations in which people are inserted” and allowing itself “to be seriously challenged by reality,” theological reflection can aid in the discernment of the “signs of the times,” the pope wrote. 

“Theology places itself at the service of the evangelization of the Church and the transmission of faith, so that faith becomes culture; that is, the wise ethos of the people of God, a proposal of human and humanizing beauty for all,” the pope wrote. 

The pope’s shift in emphasis in Catholic theology was reflected in the new statutes issued for the Pontifical Academy of Theology. shifted the 200-year-old institute’s focus from “promoting the dialogue between reason and faith” to promoting “transdisciplinary dialogue with philosophies, sciences, arts, and all other knowledge.” The new statutes place PATH “at the service of academic institutions dedicated to theology and other cultural and knowledge development centers interested in reaching the human person in his context of life and thought.” 

The change was welcomed by PATH’s president, Bishop Antonio Staglianò. 

“Pope Francis entrusts our Pontifical Academy with a new mission: that of promoting, in every area of knowledge, discussion, and dialogue in order to reach and involve all of the people of God in theological research so that the life of the people becomes theological life,” the Italian prelate said in a press release.

The new statutes call for PATH to facilitate collaboration between Catholic theologians and “those of other Christian confessions or religions.” The academy will also “‘network’ with universities and centers of production of culture and thought” and explore “culturally qualified” ways to propose the Gospel as a life guide to even atheists, a process described in the PATH press release as “wisdom dissemination.”

In harmony with “the magisterium of Pope Francis,” under the new statutes PATH will also exercise a commitment to “intellectual charity” by focusing on the questions and needs of those “on the existential peripheries.”

On All Saints’ Day, Pope Francis says holiness is ‘a gift and a journey’

CNA Staff, Nov 1, 2023 / 10:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that holiness is both a “gift” from God and a “journey” to which we must “commit” ourselves after we’ve received it. 

The Holy Father delivered the remarks from the Apostolic Palace prior to a special recitation of the Angelus for the Nov. 1 solemnity of All Saints. The pope asked attendees to consider holiness in light of the feast day.

Holiness is “a gift, you can’t buy it,” Francis said. “And at the same time, it’s a journey. A gift and a journey.”

“Holiness is a gift of God, which we’ve received at baptism. And if we let it grow, it can completely change our lives,” he said.

The saints, the pope noted, “are not heroes who are unreachable or distant. They’re people like us, our friends, whose starting point is the same gift that we’ve received: baptism.”

“Holiness is a gift offered to everyone for a happy life,” the pope said. “After all, when we receive a gift, what’s our first reaction? It’s precisely that we’re happy, because it means that someone loves us. A gift of holiness makes us happy. It shows us how God loves us.”

But “every gift must be accepted, welcomed,” the pope said. And a gift “carries with it the responsibility of a response.” Holiness is “an invitation to commit ourselves,” Francis said, so that we do not squander the gift from God. 

Holiness, the pope argued, is also “a journey. A journey to be made together, helping each other, united with those great companions, who are the saints.” 

“They’re our elder brothers and sisters on whom we can always count,” he said. “The saints support us, and when we take a wrong turn along the way, with their silent presence, they never fail to correct us.”

The pope urged visitors to ask themselves several questions regarding receiving the gift of holiness: “Do I remember having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls me to holiness and helps me to arrive there? Do I thank the Holy Spirit for this gift? Do I feel that the saints are close to me? Do I turn to them? Do I know the history of some of them?”

“May Mary, Queen of All Saints, help us feel the joy of the gift received and increase in us the desire for our eternal destination,” he said. 

After the recitation of the Angelus, the pope noted that  he would be celebrating Mass at the nearby commonwealth war cemetery in Rome, in which are buried numerous soldiers who died in World War II.  

“Let’s continue to pray for all those suffering from the wars of today,” Francis said. “We remember suffering Ukraine, suffering Palestine, suffering Israel. Let’s remember all the other parts of the world where war is happening.”

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of November

CNA Staff, Oct 31, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention of the month of November is for himself — the pope.

“Pray to the Lord that he will bless me,” Pope Francis said in a video released Oct. 31. “Your prayer gives me strength and helps me to discern and to accompany the Church, listening to the Holy Spirit.”

“The fact that someone is pope doesn’t mean they lose their humanity,” he added. “On the contrary, my humanity grows each day with God’s holy and faithful people.”

The Holy Father called his role as pope “a process.”

He explained that throughout the process, a pope “learns how to be more charitable, more merciful, and, above all, more patient, like God Our Father, who is so patient.”

“I can imagine that at the beginning of their pontificate, all the popes had this feeling of trepidation, apprehension, knowing that he will be judged harshly,” he said. “For the Lord will ask us bishops to give a serious account.”

Pope Francis asked the faithful to “judge benevolently” and to “pray that the pope, whoever he might be — today it is my turn — may receive the help of the Holy Spirit, that he may be docile to that help.”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray for the pope, so that in the exercise of his mission, he may continue to accompany in the faith the flock entrusted to him by Jesus, always with the help of the Holy Spirit. And pray for me! Favorably!”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the , which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

How to bring peace to the world? Start with sacramental confession, cardinal says

Rome Newsroom, Oct 31, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Peacemaking begins in our own hearts by reconciling with ourselves and God through the sacrament of confession, a Vatican cardinal said this week.

As we remember the innocent people who are dying in war during these days, we can take hope in the reconciliation, mercy, and peace of Christ in confession, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza said published ahead of the solemnity of All Saints.

Piacenza is the head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, the office of the Roman Curia responsible for issues related to the sacrament of confession, indulgences, and the internal forum, which is an extra-sacramental form of secrecy, or confidentiality, applied to spiritual direction.

“These are days, for the whole Church, of fond remembrance of those who have gone before us, and especially, in these tragic times of war, of all the innocents who still, without knowing why, continue to die,” the 79-year-old cardinal wrote.

“At the same time, however, may they be days illuminated by hope,” he encouraged, “indeed by the certainty that Christ’s arms, opened wide on the cross, powerfully invite all humanity to reconciliation, mercy, and peace.”

Piacenza recalled Christ’s words on the Mount of Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

“[This is] a peace that is God-given and that demands to be built by people, beginning with the peace in their own hearts, because only those who are reconciled with God and with themselves can truly be peacemakers,” he said.

The cardinal also invited priests to practice “great generosity” in listening to confessions, “for in them is strengthened, and in the case of grave sin, recreated, that indispensable bond with Christ.”

The sacrament of confession — also known as penance or reconciliation — strengthens the body of Christ through the miracle of forgiveness, he continued, noting that as the “all” of the Church becomes fortified through forgiveness, this forgiveness can open to the whole world.

Reflecting on the Church’s celebration of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days on Nov. 1 and 2, Piacenza recalled that “the Church is not only the one visible before our eyes, but it is also the ‘triumphant’ one in heaven, according to the communion of saints, and the ‘purgative’ one, on its way to full communion with God, for which we pray in the commemoration of the faithful departed.”

It is good to remember that the invisible Church is the majority, while the visible part is the minority, he said.

“The total body of Christ has a head, which is Christ himself, while his body, visible, tangible and audible, is made up of the concrete, sometimes shocking, brothers and sisters, who are next to us and who live the same membership in the mystery,” the cardinal added.

“The cross of Christ, which is sacramentally re-presented in the Eucharist and whose fruits extend to the sacrament of reconciliation, is for all,” Piacenza said, “and its gifts are poured into hearts through the Spirit. The Church offers all people the opportunity to be embraced by the mystery. The Church is for all, all, all, because she is Catholic, universal, and because she is one.”

Here is what Pope Francis is doing for the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days

Vatican City, Oct 31, 2023 / 08:50 am (CNA).

In the Catholic Church, the first days of November are an important time for remembering those who have come and gone before us — both the holy men and women who are canonized saints in heaven and our departed loved ones we hope and pray are also partaking in the beatific vision.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis will mark this holy and significant season with prayer and two liturgies.

On the solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1, Pope Francis will give a short address and lead the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square at noon Rome time.

It is the pope’s custom to lead an Angelus on holy days of obligation. 

Since All Saints’ Day falls on a Wednesday this year, Francis will not hold his usual weekly general audience.

For All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, he will continue his recent custom of holding a Mass at a cemetery to pray for the dead.

Since 2016, Pope Francis has celebrated a Mass at five different cemeteries in or near Rome. For All Souls’ Day in 2019, he celebrated Mass at the Catacombs of Priscilla, while in 2022 he did not visit a cemetery but offered Mass for deceased bishops and cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica — another papal custom during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

For 2023, Francis will again return to a cemetery to mark All Souls’ Day. He will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. at the Rome War Cemetery, which contains 426 Commonwealth burials from the Second World War.

The small cemetery is near the Pyramid of Cestius, a Roman-era pyramid in the Ostiense neighborhood south of the historic center of Rome.

The following morning, on Nov. 3, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops and cardinals who have died in the previous year. It is the pope’s practice to offer this Mass sometime during the first week of November.

Synod on Synodality 2023: A look at the key discussions and decisions

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Now that the Synod on Synodality has drawn to a close, all eyes are on  emanating from the monthlong ecclesiastical gathering.

The acronym LGBTQ is notably absent, the question of a female diaconate received the lowest vote, and even the somewhat broad paragraph on controversial topics equating sexual identity and euthanasia lacks substantial consensus. Although all the paragraphs of the summary document from the first stage of the 2023 synod were approved with a two-thirds majority, it’s evident that the points lacking consensus stand out.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the synod, highlighted in a press conference on Oct. 28 that “some issues were expected to encounter more opposition. The surprising part is that many voted in favor, indicating the resistance wasn’t as significant as anticipated.” The cardinal’s words reveal a robust and unyielding debate, hinting at a desire for change, especially when the narrative throughout the synod revolved around “seeking communion.”

Those words also resonate with the fears of Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, who, after having signed the last letter of the , also sent  highlighting the risk of pressure for a change in doctrine and above all denouncing the general secretariat of the synod as “very effective in the art of manipulation.”

Zen’s letter and the publication of the dubia of the five cardinals fell on fertile ground. From the final document, ultimately called to balance all positions, it emerges that the concerns raised are the concerns of many bishops. Many voted yes with the thought of being able to fix things in the final document, wanting to avoid debate. Those who voted no did so with the awareness of facing a tough cultural battle in the coming months.

The news, however, is that there will be no new continental stages, as previously thought.  does not provide for further meetings of continents and documents, and this perhaps helps the general secretariat of the synod, which risks finding new documents with new dubia given the next leg of the synod, which promises to be heated.

The 1,251 proposed amendments to the 40-page text essentially meant a call for a complete rewrite from the synod fathers.  The reference to LGBTQ vanished, initially replaced by “sexual identity” and eventually by “gender identity” as a compromise.

Also scrapped was the suggestion for accountability of pontifical representatives by local bishops, which could have significantly altered roles, placing the pope under bishops’ oversight. Instead, the text mentions renewing the procedures for bishop selection with greater engagement and listening — a practice already in place, albeit with varying emphasis depending on the nuncios and their operations.

The suggestion for a synod council to assist the pope in Church governance also disappeared, supplanted by a proposal to reform the Council of Cardinals synodally. Likely, someone observed the redundancy in adding structures atop existing ones.

The stress on ecumenical dialogue remains unchanged, though not without differing opinions. The idea of a new way to exercise the Petrine ministry, previously touched upon by St. John Paul II, continues to hold a place in the discourse.

’ on Oct. 18, commemorating St. Luke, was well-received during the synod.

Grušas, head of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, stressed: “While discussing necessary processes, structures, and institutions for a missionary synodal Church, we must ensure they aid the mission of spreading the good news to those in need of salvation. Synodality, including its structures and gatherings, must serve the Church’s evangelization mission and not become an end unto itself.”

This sentiment about not making synodality an end in itself was a recurring thread in discussions both outside and inside the synod hall. How do we harmonize bishops’ authority with synodality? How do we find a balance between listening and teaching, mercy and doctrine?

The first Synod on Synodality assembly is over. What comes next?

Rome Newsroom, Oct 30, 2023 / 11:45 am (CNA).

The first part of the Synod on Synodality’s two-part assembly concluded Sunday leaving many unanswered questions about the next steps in the process.

The synod synthesis document published over the weekend calls for bishops’ conferences to “play an important role” in encouraging theological and pastoral reflection “on the most relevant and urgent issues and proposals” outlined in the document.

It says that the bishops’ conferences and hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches are to “act as a link” between their local Catholic Churches and the general secretariat of the synod in this “development of the reflection” in the coming months.

Yet much remains unclear about what concretely will take place in the year leading up to the second and final synod assembly in October 2024.

According to the the working document for the first synod assembly that took place Oct. 4–29 at the Vatican: “The main objective of the first session will be to outline paths of in-depth study to be carried out in a synodal style, indicating the relevant actors to be involved and ways to ensure a fruitful process in service to the discernment to be completed in the second session in October 2024.”

While the calls for further study on multiple issues, as well as the establishment of commissions of theologians and canonists, nowhere in the document is it specified how these new “commissions” would be composed, who would choose the members, or how or when they would meet.

In particular, the report calls for the establishment of a “special intercontinental commission of theologians and canonists” to examine the definition and conceptual understanding of the “idea and practice of synodality” and its canonical implications. 

The proposals also include the formation of “a joint commission of Eastern and Latin theologians, historians, and canonists to study the issues that require further study and make proposals for pursuing the path.”

In addition to these commissions, the document also defines the as “points on which we have recognized that it is necessary to continue theological, pastoral, and canonical deepening.”

Among these “matters of consideration,” which could not find a consensus in the first synod assembly, are women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy, “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples, ways to make the sacrament of confirmation “more fruitful,” and assigning the handling of abuse cases to another body instead of the bishops.

The 365 synod delegates who participated in this year’s assembly have been told that they are invited back to Rome for the 2024 assembly, but the synthesis document also calls for the inclusion of more new participants in 2024.

The majority of synod delegates voted in favor of a proposal “to involve Christians of other denominations in the synodical Catholic processes at all levels and to invite more fraternal delegates to the next session of the assembly in 2024” with 25 delegates objecting to the proposal in Saturday’s vote.

The document also calls for “ways to be developed” to achieve “a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synod process during the coming year.”

“A synodal Church cannot do without their voices, experiences, and contributions. We need to understand the reasons for the resistance to synodality by some of them,” it adds.

Rather than focusing on concrete steps, synod organizers in the last days of the assembly encouraged synod participants to “bear witness” to their experience at the synod assembly after leaving Rome.

“After a month of work, now the Lord is calling us to return to our Churches to pass on to all of you the fruits of our work and to continue the journey together,” the synthesis document says.

“Our personal accounts will enrich this synthesis with the tone of lived experience, which no page can restore. We will thus be able to bear witness to how rich the moments of silence and listening, of sharing and prayer have been,” it adds.

Father Timothy Radcliffe, the spiritual adviser for the synod assembly, told delegates in the last week of the assembly that “the most fertile time” of the Synod on Synodality will be the months of “active waiting” leading up to the final 2024 synod assembly.

Radcliffe also warned delegates not to speak negatively or sow conflict when they return home from Rome, quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths’” (Eph 4:29). 

Synod organizers have said that the synthesis report voted on at the end of this month’s assembly will not serve as the working document for the 2024 synod assembly. Instead, a second  will be written and released next year to guide the second assembly’s discussions. 

It is expected that the synod assembly in October 2024 will produce and vote on a final document to advise the pope on the topic of the synod’s official theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, that the current synod synthesis report had already been delivered to Pope Francis and will now be “entrusted to the bishops’ conferences so that they may promote its return to the people of God living in the local Churches.”

“The process starts, really starts, at the end of the [whole] synod,” Hollerich told journalists. “So even next year, I hope there will be a document that is a real document, where also some theological questions of synodality get considered and so on.”

Pope at Angelus: By loving others, ‘we reflect the Father’s love like mirrors’

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2023 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

During his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis expressed that the love of God and the love of neighbor are inextricably bound together.

“Love of God and neighbor are inseparable from each other,” the pope said Oct. 29 in front of nearly 20,000 faithful, according to an official estimate of the Vatican Gendarmerie.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel (Mt 22:34-40), the Holy Father stressed that in it we find the “greatest of the commandments”: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … and … your neighbor as yourself.’”

This commandment is constructed upon two central pillars. Love, the pope explained, stems first and foremost from God.

“The fact that love for the Lord comes first reminds us that God always precedes us, he anticipates us with his infinite tenderness, with his closeness, with his mercy, for he is always near, tender, and merciful,” the pope said.

The capacity to love God is the starting point and underscores all of our other relations and actions, he said.

“Everything originates in him. You cannot truly love others if you do not have this root, which is love of God, love for Jesus,” the pope explained.

The Holy Father also said this love for God is the source for charity and a font of mercy. He also said we should feel in God’s arms the way children feel in their parents’ arms.

“There [in God’s arms], we absorb the Lord’s affection; there, we encounter the love that impels us to give ourselves generously,” the pope said.

The second component of this commandment of love is fraternal love.

“It means that by loving our brothers and sisters, we reflect the Father’s love like mirrors. To reflect God’s love, this is the point — to love him whom we do not see through the brother[s]/sisters whom we do see,” Pope Francis said.

At the end of the Angelus the Holy Father took a moment to thank those who observed the international day of prayer and fasting on Friday, Oct. 27, for peace in the Israel-Hamas war.

“I thank all those who — in so many places and in various ways — united themselves to the day of fasting, prayer, and penance that we lived last Friday, imploring peace for the world,” he said. “Let us not stop.”

The pope called for continued prayers for Ukraine and placed a special emphasis on the humanitarian crisis that has been unfolding in Gaza over the past three weeks.

“Particularly, in Gaza, may space be opened to guarantee humanitarian aid, and may the hostages be released right away. Let no one abandon the possibility that the weapons might be silenced — let there be a cease-fire,” the pope said.

The pope then quoted Father Ibrahim Faltas, an Egyptian Franciscan priest who in 2022 was elected custodian of the Holy Land, whom the pope heard on a recent television program. “‘Let the arms cease! Let the arms cease!’” the pope implored.

“War is always a defeat, always!” the pope said in his often-repeated refrain.

The pope concluded his appeal with a special prayer intention for those affected by Hurricane Otis in Acapulco, Mexico.

“I am praying for the victims, for their families, and for those who have suffered serious harm. May the Virgin of Guadalupe sustain her children in this hardship.”

Hurricane Otis made landfall in the southwestern region of Guerrero on Wednesday evening as a category 5 hurricane. Currently, efforts are underway to deliver immediate emergency relief to the area. The government deployed some 17,000 soldiers and police to combat widespread looting in the city of Apulcuao, the BBC .

Pope Francis at Synod closing Mass: To reform the Church, adore God and love others

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

At the Synod on Synodality’s closing Mass, Pope Francis said that God’s love cannot be confined “to our own agenda” and that those who truly want to reform the Catholic Church should follow Jesus’ greatest commandment: to adore God and love others with his love.

“We may have plenty of good ideas on how to reform the Church, but let us remember: to adore God and to love our brothers and sisters with his love, that is the great and perennial reform,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29.

“We are always at risk of thinking that we can ‘control God,’ that we can confine his love to our own agenda. Instead, the way he acts is always unpredictable, it goes beyond, and consequently, this action of God demands amazement and adoration,” he added.

The pope underlined that worship of Jesus in the tabernacle “in every diocese, in every parish, in every community” is necessary in the “struggle against all types of idolatry” in today’s world.

“Let us be vigilant, lest we find that we are putting ourselves at the center rather than him. And let us return to worship. May worship be central for those of us who are pastors: Let us devote time every day to intimacy with Jesus the Good Shepherd in the tabernacle. Adoration,” he said.

“Only in this way will we turn to Jesus and not to ourselves. For only through silent adoration will the word of God live in our words; only in his presence will we be purified, transformed, and renewed by the fire of his Spirit. Brothers and sisters, let us adore the Lord Jesus!”

The pope’s homily marked the closing of the monthlong , where 365 delegates discussed and for

“Brothers and sisters, the general assembly of the synod has now concluded,” he said. “In this ‘conversation of the Spirit,’ we have experienced the loving presence of the Lord and discovered the beauty of fraternity.”

“Today we do not see the full fruit of this process, but with farsightedness, we look to the horizon opening up before us. The Lord will guide us and help us to be a more synodal and more missionary Church, a Church that adores God and serves the women and men of our time, going forth to bring to everyone the consoling joy of the Gospel,” Francis added.

In his homily, Pope Francis said he believed that at the conclusion of this stage in the synod “it is important to look at the ‘principle and foundation’ from which everything begins ever anew: loving God with our whole life and loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

“Not our strategies, our human calculations, the ways of the world, but love of God and neighbor: that is the heart of everything,” he said.

Pope Francis emphasized that adoration and worship are “essential in the life of the Church.”

“To adore God means to acknowledge in faith that he alone is Lord and that our individual lives, the Church’s pilgrim way, and the ultimate outcome of history all depend on the tenderness of his love. He gives meaning to our lives,” he said.

“Those who worship God reject idols because whereas God liberates, idols enslave,” he added.

“We must constantly struggle against all types of idolatry; not only the worldly kinds, which often stem from vainglory, such as lust for success, self-centeredness, greed for money — the devil enters through our pockets let us not forget — the enticements of careerism; but also those forms of idolatry disguised as spirituality: my own spirituality, my religious ideas, my pastoral skills.”

Pope Francis said that being “a worshipping Church and a Church of service” entails “washing the feet of wounded humanity, accompanying those who are frail, weak, and cast aside, going out lovingly to encounter the poor.”

Quoting St. John Chrysostom, he said: “The merciful man is as a harbor to those who are in need; and the harbor receives all who are escaping shipwreck, and frees them from danger, whether they be evil or good; whatsoever kind of men they be that are in peril, it receives them into its shelter. You also, when you see a man suffering shipwreck on land through poverty, do not sit in judgment on him, nor require explanations, but relieve his distress.”

About 5,000 people attended the closing Mass for the Synod on Synodality’s 2023 assembly, according to the Vatican. The Mass concluded with the congregation singing the Marian hymn “Salve Regina.”

Pope Francis thanked all of the cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and laypeople from around the world who traveled to Rome to participate in the synod. Next year, the delegates will return to the Vatican in October 2024 to take part in the second assembly to advise the pope on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

“In expressing my gratitude, I would also like to offer a prayer for all of us: May we grow in our worship of God and in our service to our neighbor. Worship and service. May the Lord accompany us. Let us go forward with joy,” Pope Francis said.

Synod on Synodality 2023: Summary report calls for greater ‘co-responsibility’ in Church

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2023 / 19:04 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s nearly monthlong Synod on Synodality assembly, convened by Pope Francis, concluded this evening with members approving an ambitious text calling for greater “co-responsibility” among all believers in the evangelizing mission of the Church — and proposing concrete reforms to achieve it.

Titled “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the included notable proposals to establish new ministries for the laity, increase lay involvement in decision-making, create processes to evaluate bishops’ performance of their ministry, change the way the Church discerns “controversial” issues, and expand the footprint of synodal assemblies going forward. 

“The exercise of co-responsibility is essential for synodality and is necessary at all levels of the Church,” the final report stated. “Every Christian is a mission in the world.” 

The document also repeatedly sought to ground synodality in Scripture, tradition, and the teaching of Vatican II while also affirming the need to further develop the often misunderstood concept itself and apply it more deeply to the Church’s theology and canon law.

The final report itself provided a comprehensive definition of the term.

“Synodality can be understood as the walk of Christians with Christ and toward the kingdom, together with all humanity; mission-oriented, it involves coming together in assembly at the different ecclesial levels of life, listening to one another, dialogue, communal discernment, consensus-building as an expression of Christ’s making himself present alive in the Spirit, and decision-making in differentiated co-responsibility,” it stated.

Many of these themes ran throughout the document’s treatment of 20 different issues, including everything from “Christian initiation” to “missionaries in the digital environment.” The summary report noted areas of convergence, divergence, and concrete proposals that had emerged during the 365 synod members’ discussions on communion, participation, and mission from Oct. 4–28.

“This is the approach of Jesus, to create spaces for everyone so that no one feels excluded,” said Cardinal Mario Grech, head of the secretariat for the synod, during the document’s presentation to media after its publication.

The synod’s report also noted fears that have emerged around the process. 

“Some fear that they will be forced to change; others fear that nothing will change and there will be too little courage to move in the rhythm of the living tradition. Some perplexity and opposition also hide the fear of losing power and the privileges that come with it,” the document said. 

The assembly also identified the need to determine why some Catholics did not participate in the synodal process, which was initiated by Pope Francis in 2021, and has included consultation at diocesan, national, and continental levels. Only 1% of Catholics worldwide took part. 

The final document was provided to members earlier today after writers attempted to incorporate more than 1,150 proposed amendments into the text. The 344 voting members present approved the text on the evening of Oct. 28, voting to include each paragraph proposed with the required two-thirds majority. 

After the final vote, Pope Francis spoke briefly to the assembly, thanking its members and organizers, and telling those gathered that the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of synodal process. 

Two sections that received some of the most opposition concerned proposals related to the possible inclusion of women in the diaconate. 

Sixty-seven members voted against the proposal that “theological and pastoral research on women’s access to the diaconate should be continued,” taking into account the results of two commissions Pope Francis established to study the topic. “If possible, the results should be presented at the next session of the assembly,” the report proposed.  

Sixty-one members opposed a proposal that said a “deeper reflection” on the diaconate’s status as “a proper and permanent degree of the hierarchy” would “also illuminate the issue of women’s access to the diaconate.”

Notably, the final text did not include the term “LGBTQ+ people” after the phrase was included in the working document that guided assembly discussions. The summary report did, however, emphasize the assembly’s “closeness and support to all those who experience a condition of loneliness” as result of “fidelity to the Church’s tradition and magisterium in marriage and sexual ethics” and called upon Christian communities to listen and accompany those in these situations.

Regarding resistance to certain proposals, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the Synod on Synodality, said that if the results were considered in the context of parliamentary voting in a democratic state, “we would be very happy indeed” with the outcome.

Perhaps the synod’s most significant concrete proposals came in the form of calls for changes in ecclesial decision-making and the expansion of synodal assemblies and bodies in the life of the Church. 

The report called for continental assemblies to be canonically recognized and for the implementation of “the exercise of synodality” at regional, national, and continental levels.

One “issue to be addressed” was the revision of local Church councils to “realize through them a greater participation of the people of God.” The recent plenary council in Australia, which included bishop and non-bishop participation, was highlighted as an example to follow.

The synod assembly also proposed formally reconsidering the composition of the Synod of Bishops itself.

In the section on “The Synod of Bishops and Ecclesial Assemblies,” the document said that changes to this year’s synod — most notably, the full participation of non-bishop members, including laymen and women — “were generally welcomed” by the assembly. While “preserving its eminently episcopal character,” the 2023 synod also reportedly “made tangible” the link between the participation of all the faithful, episcopal collegiality, and the primacy of the pope.

“The synodal process was and is a time of grace through which God is offering us the opportunity to experience a new culture of synodality, capable of guiding the life and mission of the Church.” 

The text did note, however, that some members raised concerns that the equal participation of non-bishops in an episcopal body could lead to the “specific task of the bishops” not being “adequately understood.” 

“The question remains open about the impact of [non-bishops’] presence as full members on the episcopal character of the assembly,” the synod document noted. 

The report suggested three options for the arrangement of future global synods: bishops-only, both bishops and non-bishops, or an assembly of non-bishops followed by an episcopal assembly. 

The “urgent need to ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry” was also cited. The document referenced Pope Francis’ recent appointment of several women to positions of responsibility in the Roman Curia and stressed that “the same should happen at other levels” of the Church and that canon law be adapted accordingly. 

The document called for bishops to exercise their mandate to teach, govern, and sanctify through greater engagement with members of their local community. Concrete proposals included establishing “structures and processes for the verification of the bishop’s work” and making diocesan pastoral councils canonically mandatory.

The assembly also called for a review of the criteria used to pick new bishops, incorporating broader consultation in the process, including greater input from laymen and women. And the importance of forming seminarians in a more synodal strain of pastoral engagement was also emphasized. 

The assembly also proposed reconsidering the way the Church discerns “controversial” issues and “open questions,” a loaded topic that may raise concerns about the diminishment of the episcopacy’s charism for authoritatively teaching. 

“Some issues, such as those related to gender identity and sexual orientation, the end of life, difficult marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, are controversial not only in society but in the Church because they raise new questions,” the document stated. 

The report went on to suggest that the Church’s anthropological categories are sometimes “not sufficient to grasp” complexities that emerge through personal experience and scientific inquiry. 

As a response, the document called for the promotion of “initiatives that allow for shared discernment on doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues that are controversial” in “light of the word of God, Church teaching, theological reflection, and valuing the synod experience.” The text proposed that a confidential meeting of experts on these controversial issues, possibly with the inclusion of those who directly experience them, should be initiated, with an eye toward next October’s assembly. 

Relatedly, the document also said that “synodal processes” can verify when the faithful are in consensus (the “consensus fidelium”) on a given issue, which “is a sure criterion for determining whether a particular doctrine or practice belongs to the apostolic faith.” 

While Catholic teaching affirms that the faithful cannot err in matters of belief when they manifest universal consent, many theologians and bishops warn about the inadequacy of attempting to gauge this through formalized consultation. 

In a move signaling openness to decentralizing the Church’s teaching authority, the document proposed further exploration of “the doctrinal and juridical nature” of bishops’ conferences, recognizing the possibility of doctrinal decision-making “in the local sphere.” The synod also proposed giving episcopal conferences more authority over liturgy. 

The assembly’s other proposals applied the concept of synodality across a host of Church issues and activities. 

For instance, on the topic of the Church’s engagement with the poor, the document proposed that “the experience of encounter, sharing a common life and serving those living in poverty and the marginalized” should be “integral” in Christian formation. 

“It is a requirement of faith, not an optional extra,” the text read, also recommending that diaconal ministry be “more evidently oriented” toward serving the poor. 

Regarding Christian unity, the text included proposals to establish a common date for the celebration of Easter for all Christians and to “compile an ecumenical martyrology.”  

Enhancing the formation and support of “digital missionaries” was also highlighted as a way of reaching young people distant from the Church. The assembly also recommended implementing the “conversation in the Spirit” method, which involves intentional, prayerful group listening and was used at the synod, into other areas of Church life. 

The synod report included the recommendation to establish new Church ministries or the expansion of existing ones. The ministry of lector, the document says, could become “a true ministry of the word of God,” which, “in appropriate contexts, could also include preaching.” The document also proposed a ministry “assigned to married couples” that would assist family life and those preparing for marriage.

A “baptismal ministry of listening and accompanying” is also suggested at the end of a section emphasizing the importance of listening to groups that have been harmed by or excluded from the Church, including victims and survivors clerical sex abuse.

“Authentic listening is a fundamental element of the journey toward healing, repentance, justice, and reconciliation.”

According to its introduction, the 2023 assembly’s summary report “is in no way a final document” but will be used as the basis of the Synod on Synodality’s final stage — another Vatican assembly in October 2024. That assembly is expected to produce a final text that will be presented to the pope for his consideration.

“This is an experience that does not finish today but will continue,” Grech said. 

Hollerich noted that he hopes next year’s document makes more concrete proposals but said that “even that document will be a step of a Church on the move.”

“And that’s the important thing, I think. That we move.”

In the meantime, synod members will return to their respective dioceses, where they have been tasked to get feedback on the summary report and to foster a synodal culture.

“I think people will leave tomorrow or the day after tomorrow going home with a heart full of hope, with a lot of ideas, and I’m looking forward to seeing them back next year,” Hollerich said.

Vatican releases Synod on Synodality report proposing larger role for laity in Church

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2023 / 15:28 pm (CNA).

The Vatican released the Synod on Synodality’s “synthesis report” on Saturday night outlining key proposals discussed during the nearly monthlong assembly’s confidential conversations.

The highly anticipated text was approved paragraph by paragraph on Oct. 28 by a vote of 344 synod delegates, which for the first time included women and other non-bishops as voting members.

The document, the synthesis of the assembly’s work from Oct. 4–29, proposes a “synodal Church” that implements synodality throughout Church governance, theology, mission, and discernment of doctrine and pastoral issues.

The 42-page text, , covers 20 topics from “the dignity of women” to “the bishop of Rome in the College of Bishops.” For each topic, “convergences,” “matters for consideration,” and “proposals” are outlined.

More than 80 proposals were approved in the synod vote, including establishing a new “baptismal ministry of listening and accompaniment,” initiating discernment processes regarding the decentralization of the Church, and strengthening the Council of Cardinals into a “synodal council at the service of the Petrine ministry.” 

Other proposals include giving lectors a preaching ministry “in appropriate contexts,” implementing structures and processes to increase the accountability of bishops in matters of economic administration, supporting “digital missionaries,” and promoting “initiatives that enable shared discernment of controversial, doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues in the light of the word of God, Church teaching, theological reflection, and valuing synodal experience.”

The document also encourages churches to experiment with “conversation in the spirit”— the listening-and-reflection method the synod’s delegates have used in their deliberations this month — and forms of discernment in the life of the Church. It calls for the implementation of “the exercise of synodality at regional, national, and continental levels.”

Absent from the summary report are definitive conclusions on same-sex blessings, women’s ordination, and a handful of other hot-button topics that have drawn the lion’s share of media attention during this year’s assembly.

Throughout the document, areas of disagreement among the synod participants are listed as “matters of consideration.” Among them are women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy, “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples, and assigning the handling of abuse cases to another body instead of the bishops.

Written by “experts” invited to attend the synod and of 13 synod delegates, the text says it aims to be “a tool at the service of ongoing discernment.” It is divided into three main sections on the elements of a synodal Church, participation in mission, and processes that enable dialogue with the world.

Vatican spokesman Paolo Ruffini said that more than 1,000 amendments were submitted by synod delegates to the original draft of the report after it was presented to the assembly on Wednesday.

Voting on the text took place on Saturday night with each paragraph requiring the approval of two-thirds of the members present for inclusion in the final report. 

Every paragraph was approved in the voting process. A paragraph describing “uncertainties surrounding the theology of the diaconal ministry” and calling for more reflection on women’s access to the diaconate received the most negative votes.

“Rather than saying that the Church has a mission, we affirm that the Church is mission,” the document says.

“The exercise of co-responsibility is essential for synodality and is necessary at all levels of the Church,” it adds.

The text is the culmination of days of discussion by 365 synod delegates during the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops after years of consultation at local, national, and regional levels since the global synod process was launched in 2021. It lays the foundation for the second Synod on Synodality assembly that will take place in October 2024.

The 2023 synod assembly will come to its formal conclusion on Oct. 29 when Pope Francis offers the closing Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

We can’t subvert tradition to please the world, Synod on Synodality cardinal says

ACI Digital, Oct 28, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality convened by Pope Francis has once again brought to the fore the clash between internal currents of the Church in dispute since the Second Vatican Council.

The accusations of manipulation in the name of a worldly agenda on the one hand and the pressure for the ordination of women, the end of mandatory priestly celibacy, and the alteration of Catholic sexual morality to accept homosexuality on the other came to light as soon as the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops convened at the beginning of October.

“Certainly we cannot ignore the world, and that’s why it’s a mistake to entrench ourselves in the past. However, we must never forget that we are in the world, but we are not of the world,” Cardinal Agostino Marchetto explained to ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news partner. 

“We cannot subvert the doctrinal and moral tradition of the Church to please the world. We look at the cross of Christ — glorious, yes, but a cross nonetheless,” he noted.

Created a cardinal by Pope Francis on Sept. 30, the Italian cardinal is, according to the Holy Father himself, “the best interpreter of the Second Vatican Council.” For the cardinal, “it is necessary to reinforce the internal dialogue in the Church between the different positions, between those who exalt exclusive fidelity to tradition and those, on the contrary, who seek to adapt to the world.”

ACI Digital recently had an opportunity to interview the cardinal to gain his perspective on the synod in light of Vatican II.

Marchetto: The judgment on the suspension of the exercise of collegial ministry in the Church is easily dismantled if we think of all the Synods of Bishops held during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In his famous Dec. 22, 2005, address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI noted that, in fact, the Second Vatican Council represented continuity and not discontinuity with Catholic tradition. And all the conciliar and postconciliar pontiffs have echoed this.

Regarding the two poles of continuity and discontinuity, I prefer to go further, pointing out that the first alternative proposed by Pope Benedict XVI is between rupture in discontinuity and the reform-renewal in the continuity of the Church as a single subject. It is precisely this combination of continuity and discontinuity, but not rupture, at different levels, that constitutes the true nature of authentic reform.

Continuity then refers to tradition with a capital T, which, together with holy Scripture and the magisterium, form the “genius” of Catholicism, as the Protestant [theologian Oscar] Cullmann said. Fidelity in this sense is a source of fruitfulness that is renewed, taking into account the signs of the times, God’s today, the time in which we live, the “Sitz im Leben” (position in life), which is not a new revelation. I, therefore, see the current synod from this perspective.

I believe that whoever reads me is convinced of the importance of the Second Vatican Council and its doctrinal, spiritual, and pastoral value, so much so that it can be said that it is an “icon” of the Catholic Church itself; that is, of what in a special way, Catholicism is constitutively: communion. Communion also with the past, with the origins, identity in evolution, fidelity in renewal.

What was an extreme position at the Second Vatican Council, in its so-called “majority,” increasingly eager to impose its own point of view, deaf to the “calls” and the “sewing” work of Paul VI, has achieved, after the council, to monopolize, at least for a certain time, the interpretation of the “event,” rejecting any different interpretation as anti-conciliar.

But to answer correctly, let us return to the initial thought, the one that considers the Church, like any living organism, in continuous growth, internally and externally, while remaining itself. Now, such a development certainly involves multiple problems, which concern doctrine, worship, morality, discipline, and the apostolate. Generally — as we know — its solution is provided by the ordinary magisterium of pastors, assisted by theologians united to the entire people of God, in communion with it. Sometimes, however, the complexity of the matter or the seriousness of historical circumstances suggest extraordinary interventions.

Among these must be considered the councils, which promote, in fidelity to tradition, doctrinal development, liturgical and disciplinary reforms, and apostolic options, also taking into account the needs of the times (the famous “signs of the times” that do not constitute a new revelation). The synods appear, from this perspective, as milestones on the journey of the Church through history.

Well, now the idea arises that synodality is not only the expression of an episodic event in the life of the Church but that it permeates it all, transforming it into synodality, asking the people of God to “walk together,” in synodal consensus as an expression of the “catholic,” for us the “incarnation” of the combination between tradition and renewal as it occurred in the Great Vatican Synod [as Marchetto calls the Second Vatican Council].

The soul of the truth of the opportunity and the importance of consensus remains as the correct way to proceed conciliarly and synodally. Their absence or inability is, in fact, something that is paid for dearly, as history teaches. In fact, the example of many important councils — from Chalcedon to Vatican II, passing through Trent — that worked laboriously to reach consensus is a testimony to its great importance and its character as a sign, especially in the sense that the truth is not decided through voting but is attested through consensus.

I don’t think there are many in this synod who consciously adhere to such a distorted view of the Great Synod, as I have always called the Second Vatican Council, or the one that is ongoing. If the Holy Spirit speaks, I am at peace, especially because it is Pope Francis, successor of Peter, who holds the keys.

Knowing the riches and contradictions of modern culture, the aspirations, hopes, joys, and sorrows, the disappointments and difficulties of contemporary man, Paul VI, following the inner impulse of charity, tried to immerse himself in them. He was an assiduous evangelizer and promoter of dialogue with all men of goodwill: with separated Christians, with non-Christians, with nonbelievers.

“The Church must dialogue with the world in which it lives; the Church becomes a word; the Church becomes a message; the Church becomes a conversation,” Paul VI testified. Later he expressly stated: “It is especially up to us, pastors of the Church, to seek with boldness and wisdom, in full fidelity to its content, the most appropriate and effective ways of communicating the Gospel message to the men of our time.”

This is the dialogue of salvation, which finds its transcendent origin in the very intention of God and has as its characteristics clarity, meekness, trust, and prudence. “In dialogue, conducted in this way, the union of truth with charity, intelligence, and love is realized.”

Paul VI strongly affirmed that dialogue must remain immune to relativism, which undermines the immutable doctrine of faith and morals: “The concern to draw closer to our brothers and sisters must not translate into an attenuation, a diminution of the truth”; “our dialogue cannot be a weakness in the face of commitment to our faith”; “we cannot compromise the theoretical and practical principles of our Christian profession.”

Anyone who reads us can perceive the links that exist here, speaking of synodality, with Vatican II, with its progress, with primacy, with collegiality, with the search for dialogue within the Catholic Church, with what provides constant and fervent consensus, with the continually renewed and fulfilled desire that renewal and tradition dialogue with each other, and that there is a connection between the old and the new, between synodality, collegiality, and the primacy [of the pope]. 

Vatican II saw itself sanctioning the theological development that had occurred and translating it into pastoral action, in response to the needs of the times, in continuity with doctrine. And now this synodal enterprise, which I have tried to present in its context.

The council was not a rupture in history but a renewal in the continuity of the one Catholic Church. All the popes accepted this interpretation. However, we Catholics, as it often seems, are easily up in arms against each other in this regard, and that’s not right, it’s not Christian. On the other hand, it is necessary to reinforce the internal dialogue in the Church between the different positions, between those who exalt exclusive fidelity to tradition and those, on the contrary, who seek to adapt to the world.

We certainly cannot ignore the world — and that is why it is a mistake to entrench ourselves in the past — but we must never forget that we are in the world and we are not of the world. We certainly cannot subvert the doctrinal and moral tradition of the Church to please the world. We look at the cross of Christ, glorious yes, but a cross nonetheless.