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Pope Francis to sign human fraternity document with Nobel laureates in St. Peter’s Square

Rome Newsroom, Jun 5, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

Nobel laureates, Grammy-winner Andrea Bocelli, and several former heads of state will join Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday night for the World Meeting on Human Fraternity.

The June 10 event, called “#Not Alone,” will culminate with Pope Francis signing a document calling for a commitment to human fraternity drafted by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners together with representatives of former Nobel Prize-winning organizations.

Young people representing different countries will also form “a symbolic embrace” by joining hands in a ring around St. Peter’s Square, according to the , the sponsor of the event.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, described the upcoming meeting as “a great day of celebration and unity inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical transcending a vision that restricts social friendship to ethnic or blood ties.”

Speaking at a Vatican press conference promoting the event, Jesuit Father Francesco Occhetta, the head of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, noted that participants in the event “will be given as a gift a piece of organic soil and seeds to plant and germinate as a symbol of the commitment to guard fraternity.”

Nobel laureates who have confirmed their participation in the World Meeting on Human Fraternity include Iraqi human rights advocate , Congolese gynecologist , and Yemeni Arab Spring leader Tawakkol Karman.

The former presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Poland, and Democratic Republic of East Timor — all peace prize winners — will also participate, as well as representatives of several U.N. organizations that have been past recipients.

will begin with private meetings of five working groups representing Nobel laureates, the poor, environmentalists, students, and associations.

At 4 p.m. local time, Italian TV presenter Carlo Conti, the former host of Italy’s national Eurovision competition, will kick off an Italian television broadcast of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity event in St. Peter’s Square with performances by Bocelli and other Italian musical artists. 

Pope Francis will join the event two hours later to listen to what emerged in the working group discussions, sign the human fraternity document, and join the symbolic embrace. Later, circus performers and street artists will take to the stage in St. Peter’s Square to perform until 10 p.m.

Town squares in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jerusalem; Nagasaki, Japan; Brazzaville, Republic of Congo; and four other locations in the world will connect live to St. Peter’s Square for the event.

The following is a list of Nobel laureates and Nobel laureate representatives who will participate in the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, according to the Vatican:

(Colombia): Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his resolute commitment to ending the civil war that has affected his country for 50 years.

(Costa Rica): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987 for his efforts in promoting peace and stability in Central America, in particular for his efforts to end conflicts in the region and promote dialogue and cooperation between countries.

(Poland): Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his nonviolent struggle for human rights and free trade unions in Poland. As leader of the Solidarność trade union, he played a key role in the rights of workers and in the promotion of democracy in his country.

(East Timor): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1996 for his work in favor of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor. 

(United States): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1997 for work on banning and clearing landmines.

(Iran): Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her commitment to the defense of democracy, human rights, and especially women and children in Iran.

(Bengals): Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in promoting economic and social development through the concept of microcredit. Through the Grameen Bank, he provided affordable finance to the poor and helped improve their living conditions.

(Liberia): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011. As a leader of the Liberian women’s movement, she played a vital role in ending the civil war and promoting reconciliation in her country.

(Yemen): Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. As a journalist and activist, he defended human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression in his country. 

(Democratic Republic of Congo): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for providing medical care and support to women victims of sexual violence in times of war and armed conflict.

(Iraq): Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

(Italy): Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021 for the discovery of the interaction between disorder and fluctuations in physical systems, from the atomic to the planetary scale.

(Philippines): Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.

: Organization Nobel Peace Prize in 1910 for liaising between the peace societies of various countries and helping them organize world meetings of the international peace movement. Represented by , president.

Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1947 for its pioneering work in the international peace movement and compassionate effort to alleviate human suffering, thereby promoting brotherhood among nations. Represented by , deputy secretary general.

: Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the organization in 1954 and 1981 for its commitment to heal the wounds of war by providing aid and protection to refugees from all over the world and for the promotion of the fundamental rights of refugees. Represented by , high commissioner.

: Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1965 for its commitment to strengthening solidarity between nations and narrowing the gap between rich and poor states. The organization is dedicated to promoting and advocating for the rights of children, working to improve their health, education, and well-being around the world. Represented by , special representative.

: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 1969 for having created international legislation that ensures certain standards for working conditions in each country. Represented by ,ILO office director for Italy and San Marino.

: 1985 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization to disseminate authoritative information and create awareness of the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear war. Represented by , co-president, and , co-chair.

: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 1988. Its mission is to prevent armed clashes and create the conditions for negotiations between countries in conflict. Represented by

: Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for its efforts to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in international politics and, in the long term, for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Represented by , general secretary.

: Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its work in banning and clearing landmines. Represented by , ICBL world ambassador, and , RSM, member of the board of directors.

: Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for its efforts to prevent the use of nuclear energy for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used as safely as possible. Represented by , IAEA chief of staff.

: Organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to build and disseminate greater knowledge of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures necessary to counter them. Represented by , president.

: Organization Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2013 for efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. Represented by , vice general manager.

:Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and its pioneering efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. Represented by , interim executive director.

: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 2022. It has been promoting the right of expression and fundamental rights of citizens for many years. It worked hard to document war crimes, violence, and abuses of power. With its work, it demonstrates the importance of civil society for peace and democracy. Represented by .

: Nobel Peace Prize Organization in 2001 for its work for a more inclusive and peaceful world. Represented by , undersecretary-general of the United Nations, who contributed to the creation and launch of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in 2005 and since 2019 has held the position of high representative of the UNAOC.

, representing : Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011 for her nonviolent fight for women’s safety and their right to full participation in peacebuilding.

Pope Francis explains why Catholics make the sign of the cross

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2023 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Each time that a Catholic makes the sign of the cross, it is a reminder that God is a communion of love, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Speaking on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the pope highlighted how the simple gesture that Catholics are taught as children is a sign of the central mystery of Christian faith.

“By tracing the cross on our body, we remind ourselves how much God loved us, to the point of giving his life for us; and we repeat to ourselves that his love envelops us completely, from top to bottom, from left to right, like an embrace that never abandons us,” Pope Francis said June 4.

“Yes, brothers and sisters, our God is a communion of love: This is how Jesus revealed him to us,” he added.

Pope Francis invited the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to make the sign of the cross together.

“God is love. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he gave his life for us, so we make the sign of the cross,” he said.

The pope spoke on , a solemnity celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost that dates to before the 10th century.

The tradition of making the sign of the cross dates back much further. St. Basil (329–379) that the Apostles “taught us to mark with the sign of the cross those who put their hope in the Lord.”

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus recorded in the . Pope Francis noted how Jesus “revealed the heart of the mystery to him, saying that God loved humanity so much that he sent his Son into the world.”

Pope Francis pointed out that one way to picture the Holy Trinity is to think of “the image of a family gathered around the table, where life is shared.”

“But it is not only an image; it is reality,” he said. “It is reality because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that the Father poured into our hearts through Jesus (cf. Gal 4:6), makes us savor God’s presence: a presence that is close, compassionate, and tender. The Holy Spirit does with us what Jesus does with Nicodemus: He introduces us to the mystery of new birth — the birth of faith, of the Christian life — he reveals the heart of the Father to us, and he makes us sharers in the very life of God.”

“The invitation he extends to us, we might say, is to sit at the table with God to share in his love. This is what happens at every Mass, at the altar of the eucharistic table, where Jesus offers himself to the Father and offers himself for us.”

At the end of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a train crash in India that killed more than 280 people.

“I am close to the wounded and their families. May our heavenly Father welcome the souls of the deceased into his kingdom,” he said.

Penitential rite held after naked man stands on St. Peter’s Basilica’s main altar

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Two days after a naked man stood on the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in a shocking security breach, the basilica’s archpriest on Saturday held a penitential rite as required by canon law in cases where sacred places are desecrated.

Vatican News reported that the unidentified man was a Polish national who approached the high altar on June 1 as the basilica was about to close. He quickly undressed and climbed onto the altar. Photos posted online showed the words “Save children of Ukraine” written in marker on his back.

“As officers of the Vatican Gendarmerie approached, the man did not resist but cooperated as they led him to the police station inside the Vatican,” the Vatican News report said. “After ascertaining his identity, the man was handed over to the Italian police, according to the Italy-Holy See Treaty, and was issued an expulsion order and instructed to leave Italian territory.”

The basilica’s main altar, where the pope celebrates Mass, is called the Altar of the Confession. Reached by climbing seven steps, the marble altar is located directly above St. Peter’s Tomb and is crowned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the basilica’s archpriest, led the penitential rite, held at noon Rome time Saturday. Canons of the Chapter of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter’s and several members of the faithful also participated, Vatican News reported.

According to a report by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, during the act of reparation, the cardinal pointed out that “it is the structure of sin that conditions the hearts and minds of people.”

“This structure of sin is the one that feeds the wars, the one that inhabits our society,” he added.

Referring to the desecration carried out on June 1, the cardinal pointed out that it is this “structure of sin” that pushed the man “to make an inappropriate and deplorable gesture,” ACI Prensa reported.

“We are here to tell the Lord that we recognize that this structure of sin conditions the actions of God’s people. Lord, we ask your forgiveness, purify us,” Gambetti said.

Next, after praying the Creed, the cardinal blessed the water and later spread it on the altar as a sign of purification. Later, two nuns dressed the altar with a tablecloth, candles, flowers, and a crucifix.

The Code of Canon Law and the Ceremonial of Bishops .

states: “Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.”

The Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 1070–1092, specifies that crimes that can desecrate a church are those that “do grave dishonor to sacred mysteries, especially to the eucharistic species, and are committed to show contempt for the Church, or are crimes that are serious offenses against the dignity of the person and society.”

A penitential rite, either a Mass or a Liturgy of the Word, should be carried out as soon as possible after such a desecration, the norms state.

Pope Francis to travel to Mongolia on Aug. 31

Rome Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis will visit Mongolia, the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign country.

The pope is set to travel to Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. The trip will make Pope Francis the first pope to visit the Asian country that shares a 2,880-mile border with China, its most significant economic partner.

Mongolia has a population of about 1,300 Catholics in a country of more than 3 million people.

The first modern mission to Mongolia was in 1922 and was entrusted to the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But under a communist government, religious expression was soon thereafter suppressed, until 1992. Mongolia’s first native priest was ordained in 2016.

Last year, Pope Francis named . Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, 48, is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which serves the entire country.

Roughly the size of Alaska, Mongolia has five people per square mile. About 30% of its population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Bordering Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia is also the second-largest landlocked country in the world with the vast Gobi Desert covering one-third of its territory.

Pope Francis will also travel to Lisbon, Portugal, for with a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

The pope is also expected to travel to Marseille to preside over a Mass on Sept. 23 as part of a meeting of Mediterranean bishops in the port city in southern France.

PHOTOS: American seminarians having a ‘ball’ in Rome college’s restored 1960s bowling alley

Rome Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The “mythical bowling alley” — that’s how it was thought of by seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome in recent years.

The narrow room in the basement of the seminary’s main building, with its two 1960s-era wooden lanes and above-ground ball return, had become a glorified closet for at least nine years.

“For years — for decades really — this bowling alley was breaking down,” NAC rector Monsignor Thomas Powers told CNA. “It was hard to find parts for the old pieces, and it was getting more and more expensive [to maintain]. So for the last few years it became more or less a storage room.”

But then the idea by some students to restore the alley scored a strike.

The original bowling alley had been a gift from St. John XXIII to the American seminary, Powers explained. The gift was announced in 1958 and the construction completed in the early 1960s.

“Because [the alley] was possible because of a saint — and because it’s a great way for guys to have fraternity, to spend time together, to take exam breaks, study breaks, build teamwork — we thought it really should be back to what it was intended to be by the pope,” he said.

Washington, D.C., seminarian Benjamin Bralove had also heard of this “mythical bowling alley that once existed.”

He told CNA he talked to the Student Activities Committee at the seminary, which he chairs, and found that the other seminarians were also interested in “trying to bring this bowling alley back to life.”

A generous donation from Norman and Darlene Ferenz last summer meant the students’ dream could finally be realized, and the college got to work restoring the St. John XXIII Lanes to their former glory.

Powers blessed the newly refurbished bowling alley on May 17, and since that day, he said, the sound of bowling balls striking pins has reverberated throughout the college.

Bralove, who led the restoration plan, said the hardest part of the process for him was the patience he had to exercise waiting for the monthslong project to be completed.

But Michele Marconi, the college’s chief financial officer and another leader on the refurbishment, said there were other challenges, too — namely, getting the proper pieces and finding someone with the know-how to restore the original 1960s Brunswick lanes.

The first obstacle, he said, was that there was no longer a Brunswick representative in Italy, so they ended up using a Netherlands-based company for help getting the parts.

Marconi noted that “the gutters at the end were all broken” and that it probably would have been easier to install something new than to fix the old. But, he said, they were committed to keeping the 1960s charm and were able to find a carpenter to do the repair work.

“We had three different companies working on it ... not only delivering the parts, but actually assembling the pieces,” he said, including a Brunswick expert who travels all around Europe.

The financial officer also pointed out the now-rare feature of the lanes with above-ground ball returns rather than underground, something he said is “really typical of the ’60s, ’50s.”

Rector Powers said “part of formation is to teach the men to study hard, to work hard, to be a complete self-gift to God and his Church, but also to have a healthy leisure in his life, and this is a great way to have some leisure with their brother seminarians.”

“And finally it’s something that faculty can actually compete in with these guys,” he added with a chuckle.

Cardinal Sarah to theology students: ‘The more we know the Lord the more we can love him’

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Cardinal Robert Sarah urged students studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas to ask in prayer for “an intimate and profound union with the Lord and with one another.”

Speaking at a Mass to mark the close of the academic year at the university in Rome known as the , the Guinean cardinal spoke about the danger of division in the Church and the importance of prayer.

“Jesus asks that each person may live in love and in true unity, a deep communion, in the image of the Trinitarian communion. A union that immerses our lives fully in Jesus, just as Jesus’ life is immersed in the Father,” Sarah said in his homily.

He added: “Such a union is undoubtedly expressed in a Christian life of deep and intense prayer addressed to the Lord, which in daily life is manifested in a gaze of charity toward the brothers and sisters we meet.”

Seminarians, priests, religious, and laypeople studying philosophy and theology at the pontifical university attended the Mass on May 25.

The prefect emeritus of the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments reflected on at the Last Supper in which the Lord prayed: “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).

Sarah said: “Jesus calls for them to be a family of God … Jesus knows well that the spirit of division, hatred, or mutual contempt would destroy his Church and mission. It does not matter how the devil is dressed. Everything that divides is still inspired by him.”

“The danger of division, of infighting, of confusion in doctrinal and moral teaching is so grave that Jesus ventures an ambitious, lofty, almost impossible prayer: He asks the Father that his disciples have the same unity that exists between the two of them.”

The 77-year-old cardinal reminded the students that “if theological study does not make us grow in the love of God and neighbor, if we only work hard to pass the exams, then we are killing ourselves for nothing.”

“In our time, it is urgent to restart the missionary commitment to courageously bring the Gospel of Christ everywhere, but preaching must begin with prayer and the concrete witness of that evangelical love expressed with the death of Jesus on the cross and which impels us to look at others before themselves, to spend one’s life for the Gospel and not for one’s own interest or advantages,” he said.

Sarah is the author of a number of books on the spiritual life, including “.”

He said: “Jesus tells us that we should always be able to begin our prayer with this attitude of raising our eyes to heaven, detaching our attention, even physically, from our worries, from our earthly worries and turning towards the high, towards heaven, towards the Father who dwells in it.”

“A gaze bowed and closed in on ourselves does not open us up to God, it does not allow us to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with him. Before we begin to pray, we must, like Jesus, lift our eyes, take them away from our thoughts, even the thought of study and exams, so that we can truly and fully immerse ourselves in him, in his divine dimension.”

Sarah told the students that “the more we know the Lord the more we can love him.”

The Angelicum, which is one of seven pontifical universities in Rome, has 1,000 students coming from almost 100 countries around the world.

“We are called, like St. Paul, to have courage and to give our life for the Lord in everything that we are given to live, without fearing the cross, but like Jesus, embracing it tenderly, since that cross is the road to eternity, to fullness of God’s glory,” Sarah said.

“Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to tend through our lives to an intimate and profound union with the Lord and with one another, to become credible witnesses of the Risen One.”

Vatican looking into $17 million transfer from U.S.-based charity to impact investing fund

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican is looking into the transfer of $17 million from the U.S. arm of a Church mission to an investment fund, according to the Associated Press.

AP reported May 31 that Pope Francis has asked aides to “get to the bottom of how” the money was transferred.

The transfers date mostly to 2021, when the board of directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies U.S.A. (TPMS-US) approved moving at least $17 million to a nonprofit organization and its private equity fund owned by the organization’s then-national director, Father Andrew Small, OMI.

TPMS-US is the U.S.-based branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies, a worldwide network of four societies that provide financial support to the Catholic Church in mission territories, especially in Africa. Most of its funds come from an annual donation taken up in Catholic churches in October.

As a pontifical organization, it is an official instrument of the Holy See and the pope.

While national director of TPMS-US in 2014, Small founded the New York-based nonprofit Missio Corp. and its private equity fund, MISIF LLC, under the umbrella of TPMS-US. They were separately incorporated in 2018.

After 10 years at the helm of TPMS-US, Small has been the temporary secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2021. He also continues to be president and CEO of Missio Corp., which runs Missio Invest, an impact investing fund providing financing to agribusinesses, health and education enterprises, and Church-run financial institutions in Africa.

The mission group’s new national director, Monsignor Kieran E. Harrington, and new board of directors have now written off $10.2 million of the total transferred as a loss since “there is no timeline and no guarantee of investment return,” according to its latest audited financial statement, AP reported.

“Management of the organization is diligently working to redeem the investment, however there is no timeline and no guarantee of investment return,” the financial statement says.

Small, in comments to AP, called the write-off of the investment “shortsighted” and said there is no reason to think there will not be a return on investment after the minimum 10-year commitment.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told AP: “The Holy See is aware of the situation and is currently looking into the details of the events.”

AP spoke to experts who said the transfers were not necessarily illegal, but Small’s leadership of both TPMS-US and Missio Corp. at the time, and the fact that the former distributes donations of the faithful while the latter gives out loans, raises some questions.

AP reported that according to financial statements, TPMS-US asked Missio Corp. for the $10.2 million investment in MISIF back but it was denied by Missio Corp.

Small told AP in email responses to questions that the money transfers from TPMS-US to Missio Corp and MISIF were approved by the board and in the best interest of the Church. Small also shared letters from bishops and religious sisters in Africa who benefited from Missio Corp.’s low-interest loans.

According to AP, TPMS-US changed the membership of its board of directors, which is mostly cardinals and bishops, after Harrington took over in spring 2021.

Harrington also retained a law firm to document the nature of the relationship between TPMS/Missio Invest/Missio Corp. and the transfer of funds to these various entities.

The board of TPMS-US is currently evaluating its governance structures and will recommend new statutes and vote upon the civil corporation bylaws.

AP reported that some of the money transferred to Missio Corp. and MISIF LLC was earmarked for the renovation of a former monastery in Rome purchased to become a dormitory for women religious studying at pontifical universities.

The monastery, notable for having hidden Jews during World War II, was purchased by the Vatican in 2021 but continues to sit empty.

Small told AP the board of TPMS-US, “for a variety of reasons,” had decided to send the $4.7 million to his Missio Corp. to fund training of sisters in Africa instead of to Rome for the refurbishment of the dormitory.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Indian bishop cleared of rape charge in civil trial

Rome Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 05:36 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Indian bishop cleared in early 2022 of charges of raping a religious sister in his diocese.

The resignation of the 59-year-old Bishop Franco Mulakkal as head of the Diocese of Jalandhar comes more than 16 months after his acquittal by a court in India’s Kerala state in January 2022.

The judge in the case found that “the prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused.”

The Vatican did not indicate whether it carried out its own investigation into the accusations against Mulakkal, who has denied the claims and contends he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities at the accuser’s convent.

A religious sister with the Missionaries of Jesus accused the bishop of raping her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jalandhar Diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal was its patron.

Malukkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation into the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail.

The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. After Malukkal tried to get the charges dropped pretrial, the Kerala High Court found there was enough evidence to proceed.

He was cleared of all charges by the Kottayam court on Jan. 14, 2022.

Malukkal had also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he had acted against the sister’s sexual misconduct. He said the sister was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Mulakkal was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Jalandhar in 1990. In 2009, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Delhi.

He became bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar in June 2013.

Vatican supports Catholic research to improve families and marriages

Rome Newsroom, May 31, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has backed a project aimed at enhancing interdisciplinary research at Catholic universities in the sphere of family, marriage, and childbearing.

“We cannot be indifferent to the future of the family as a community of life and love, a unique and indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, a place where generations meet, a source of hope for society,” the pope said in a message of support released Tuesday.

The project, called the , was presented May 30 by members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) and the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

In a written message read at the presentation, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the family dicastery, said: “The Family Global Compact entrusts Catholic universities with the task of developing more in-depth theological, philosophical, legal, sociological, and economic analyses of marriage and the family to sustain it and place it at the heart of systems of thought and contemporary action.”

The compact includes outlining specific challenges faced by families today, followed by suggested solutions and actions to take. Each challenge also includes guidelines for university research on that topic.

The document notes the challenges caused by low birth rates in many areas of the world and how the widespread practice and legalization of contraception, abortion, and sterilization “have transformed the meaning of procreation: from a natural inclination and gift of God to a project and result of a procreative will that tends to dominate life.”

The Vatican document encourages working to create “favorable conditions for getting married and having children at a young age” and to improve access to Church-approved forms of medical care, such as Naprotechnology, for those struggling with infertility.

The document also discusses the promotion of marriage among young adults, childbearing and adoption, intergenerational dependence, domestic violence, education to faith and the common good, employment, and poverty, among other subjects.

“This project,” the document says, “also challenges all the social actors to whom the Family Global Compact will be able to offer arguments and reflections based on rigorous empirical evidence, investigated and interpreted within an explicit anthropological perspective, relational and personalistic in nature, firmly inscribed in the social doctrine of the Church.”

The Vatican representatives emphasized May 30 that the project is based on the concrete realities of families today.

The president of PASS, Sister Helen Alford, OP, said: “We see that, despite the sense of a crisis in the family, or even of the ‘death’ of the family, it remains a central goal and value in people’s lives.”

“We cannot resign ourselves,” Pope Francis said in his message, “to the decline of the family in the name of uncertainty, individualism, and consumerism, which envision a future of individuals who think only of themselves.”

“The family, it should be recalled, has a positive effect on everyone, since it is a generator of common good,” he continued. “Healthy family relationships represent a unique source of enrichment, not only for spouses and children but for the entire ecclesial and civil community.”

Gabriella Gambino, an undersecretary of the family and life dicastery, pointed to four steps, or goals, of the Family Global Compact, as explained by Pope Francis.

The first is to initiate “a process of dialogue and greater collaboration among university study and research centers dealing with family issues, in order to make their activities more productive, particularly by creating or reviving networks of university institutes inspired by the social doctrine of the Church,” the pope said.

The second and third goals, he added, are to create “greater synergy of content and goals between Christian communities and Catholic universities” and to promote “the culture of family and life in society, so that helpful public policy resolutions and objectives can emerge.”

And finally, Francis said, the compact hopes to harmonize and advance proposals resulting from the research “so that service to the family can be enhanced and sustained in spiritual, pastoral, cultural, legal, political, economic, and social terms.”

Pierpaolo Donati, a sociologist and member of PASS, said in the past “once upon a time if you will,” young people were educated in a healthy family life by the family, but now, this has largely been lost.

“The core of the problem is a relationship culture that is lacking,” he said.

“Studies have revealed a crisis in family relationships,” Pope Francis said, “fueled by both contingent and structural problems, which, in the absence of adequate means of support from society, make it more difficult to create a serene family life.”

“This is one reason why many young people are choosing unstable and informal types of emotional relationships over marriage,” he explained. “At the same time, surveys make it clear that the family continues to be the primary source of social life and point to the existence of good practices that deserve to be shared and promoted globally.”

“Families themselves can and should be witnesses and leaders in this process.”

Pope Francis praises Matteo Ricci for proclaiming the Gospel in China

Vatican City, May 31, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis dedicated his entire general audience on Wednesday to sharing the life of Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary in China.

The pope, who has mentioned China at every Wednesday general audience in the past three weeks, praised Ricci’s “missionary spirit” in witnessing to the Gospel in the heart of the Imperial City of Beijing.

“Matteo Ricci died in Beijing in 1610 at the age of 57, a man who gave his entire life for the mission,” Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on May 31.

“His love for the Chinese people is a model, but what represents a current path is his consistency of life, the witness of his life as a Christian.”

Ricci is known for introducing Christianity to China’s imperial Ming Dynasty. By studying the language and adopting the local clothes and customs, the Jesuit priest gained access to the interior parts of the country that had been closed to outsiders.

“He always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with all the people he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith,” the pope said.

“After Francis Xavier’s attempt, another 25 Jesuits had tried in vain to enter China. But Ricci and one of his confrères prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs,” he said.

After first arriving in Macao in 1582, Ricci persevered in China for 18 years before he was able to enter Beijing’s Imperial City.

Pope Francis described how Ricci engaged in dialogue with Chinese scholars, sharing mathematical and astronomical knowledge that “contributed to a fruitful encounter between the culture and science of the West and the East.”

“However, Ricci’s fame as a man of science must not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: that is, the proclamation of the Gospel,” the pope said.

“With the scientific dialogue, with the scientists, he went forward, but he gave testimony of his own faith, of the Gospel. The credibility obtained through scientific dialogue gave him the authority to propose the truth of Christian faith and morality, of which he spoke in depth in his principle Chinese works, such as ‘The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven.’”

Once Ricci entered Beijing in January 1601, he never left. He is buried in Beijing’s Zhalan Cemetery, the first foreigner to be buried on Chinese soil during the Ming dynasty.

“In the last days of his life, to those who were closest to him and asked him how he felt, Matteo Ricci ‘responded that he was thinking at that moment if the joy he felt inside was greater than the idea that he was close to the end of his journey to go and taste God, or the sadness that could cause him to leave the companions of the whole mission that he loved greatly, and the service he could still do to God Our Lord in this mission,’” the pope said.

Pope Francis underlined that it was prayer that nourished Ricci’s missionary life in which he helped “lead many of his disciples and Chinese friends to accept the Catholic faith.”

He said that missionaries can learn from how Ricci testified with his own life to what he proclaimed. Francis said: “This is the consistency of evangelizers. … I can say the ‘Creed’ by heart, I can say all the things we believe, but if your life is not consistent with what you profess, it’s useless."

“What attracts people is the testimony of coherence; we Christians are called to live what we say, and not pretend to live as Christians but live as worldly.”

Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause for Ricci last December on the pope’s 86th birthday. In the decree promulgated on Dec. 17, the pope declared that Ricci lived a life of heroic virtue, making him “venerable.”

Last week, at the end of his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray that the Gospel can be fully and freely shared in China.

“I invite everyone to lift up prayers to God that the good news of the crucified and risen Christ can be announced in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society,” he said.

Pope Francis meets with young cancer patients: ‘Jesus is always close to you’

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

Pope Francis welcomed pediatric cancer patients from Poland to the Vatican on Monday, telling them “Jesus is always close to you.”

Children being treated at the Wrocław Oncology Clinic and their families prayed a Hail Mary together with the pope, who greeted each child individually and gave them rosaries.

“Dear children, Jesus is always by our side to give us hope. Always, even in the moments of sickness, even in the most painful moments, even in the most difficult moments. The Lord is there,” Pope Francis said.

“God loves you, dear children. You are loved by him: Do you want to be apostles of God’s love in the Church and in the world? Jesus needs you for this witness. He entrusts his plans to you and he asks: Do you want to be my apostles of God’s love? Answer ‘yes’ to him with enthusiasm and bring the joy of God’s love to others.”

“If someone finds himself alone and feels abandoned, let us not forget that Our Lady is always close to us, especially when the burden of illness, with all its problems, makes itself felt: She is there close by, just as she was next to her Son, Jesus, when everyone had abandoned him. Mary is always there, next to us, with her maternal tenderness. Let us think often of Our Lady, reciting a Hail Mary … I bless you from my heart.”

PHOTOS: Discover 8 beautiful images of the Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican offers a special Marian pilgrimage within St. Peter’s Basilica each Saturday afternoon during the month of May.

The Marian itinerary brings pilgrims from Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Pieta to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a 12th-century painting brought into the basilica in 1578 in a solemn procession.

For those unable to travel to the Eternal City, CNA is providing the following “virtual tour” with photos by of eight beautiful images of Our Lady in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

In the basilica’s Chapel of the Choir, a large altarpiece reveals Mary, Virgin Immaculate, in the glory of heaven above angels and saints. The mosaic based on an 18th-century painting by Italian artist Pietro Bianchi depicts St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The chapel is on the left side of the basilica behind an iron gate designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. is buried beneath the altar, which also contains relics of St. Francis and St. Anthony.

When Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 1854, he had a golden crown added to the mosaic of Mary. Pope Pius X later added a larger diamond crown to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration in 1904.

The original painting by Bianchi can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

The basilica contains an icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church.”

The original image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child was painted on a column in old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. It was later transferred to the 16th-century St. Peter’s Basilica. Paul VI honored the icon with the title “Mater Ecclesiae” after the Second Vatican Council.

The icon can still be seen above one of the basilica’s side altars in the , which also contains the remains of (440–461).

A mosaic of the Virgin Mary overlooking St. Peter’s Square was inspired by the original Mater Ecclesiae image. The mosaic was installed after the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II in 1981.

When he blessed the mosaic, John Paul II prayed “that all those who will come to this St. Peter’s Square will lift up their gaze towards you [Mary], to direct, with feelings of filial trust, their greetings and their prayers.”

In 2018, Pope Francis added the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost.

A restored 16th-century painting of Our Lady holding her son can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica above the .

The image is titled “Mater Peregrinorum,” or Mother of Pilgrims. The original artist is not known, but Italians also refer to the painting as the “Madonna di Scossacavalli” because it came from Rome’s Church of San Giacomo Scossacavalli, which was demolished in 1937 to create the current Via della Conciliazione leading to St. Peter’s Basilica.

A titled Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Succor, was transferred to an altar in St. Peter’s on Feb. 12, 1578, with a solemn procession.

The painting was the first artistic restoration completed under Pope Francis’ pontificate during the Year of Faith, according to a book published by the Knights of Columbus.

The remains of the doctor of the Church (d. 390) are preserved in an urn beneath the Altar of Our Lady of Succor in the Gregorian Chapel, found on the right side of the basilica.

A colorful mosaic altarpiece of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple brightens the wall above the tomb of (d. 1914) in the near the left-front entrance of the basilica.

A young Mary is depicted on the steps of the Temple with her parents, , the grandparents of Jesus.

The mosaic completed by Pietro Paolo Cristofari in 1728 is based on a painting by 17th-century artist Giovanni Francesco Romaneli, the original of which can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

The central door leading to the basilica was retained from the old St. Peter’s Basilica and is known as the Filarete Door. Created by a Florentine artist in 1455, the door depicts Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.

According to Father Agnello Stoia, the pastor of the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica, the 15th-century image of Mary on the door is a reminder of Mary’s title “Gate of Heaven.”

Looking up at the , or dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica, one sees mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary next to Christ the Redeemer, along with St. John the Baptist and the apostles.

The mosaic of the Virgin Mary on the Great Dome, completed in 1610 by Orazio Gentileschi, is based on drawings by Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari.

Michelangelo Buonarroti carved the Pieta from a single slab of Carrara marble when he was 24 years old. The sculpture was unveiled in St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500.

The moving sculpture conveys the faith and emotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she cradles in her arms the dead body of her only son after witnessing him crucified.

The sculpture sits above a side altar near the front entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where before . Visitors to the basilica can only see the Pieta behind bulletproof glass after a man attacked the sculpture with a hammer in May 1972.

The Pieta was the only work of art that Michelangelo ever signed.

Vatican releases pastoral reflection on Christian engagement with social media

Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Attention #CatholicTwitter and keyboard warriors: The Vatican has released recommendations for how to better “love your neighbor” on social media.

The 20-page text, published on May 29, addresses the challenges Christians face in using social media.

Topics covered in the pastoral reflection include information overload, constant scrolling, not giving others one’s full attention, being an “influencer,” witnessing to Christ, “digital detox,” the need for silence, intentional listening, and building community in a fragmented world.

“One significant cognitive challenge of digital culture is the loss of our ability to think deeply and purposefully,” it warns. “We scan the surface and remain in the shallows, instead of deeply pondering realities.”

The Vatican Dicastery for Communication published the document, which was signed by its lay prefect Paolo Ruffini and its Argentine secretary Monsignor Lucio A. Ruiz, who cite many of Pope Francis’ speeches from past World Communications Days.

The text is “not meant to be precise ‘guidelines’ for pastoral ministry,” the dicastery clarified, but seeks to promote a common reflection on how to foster meaningful and caring relationships on social media.

The Vatican’s pastoral reflection posits that social media’s constant demand for people’s attention “is similar to the process through which any temptation enters into the human heart and draws our attention away from the only word that is really meaningful and life-giving, the Word of God.”

“Different websites, applications, and platforms are programmed to prey on our human desire for acknowledgment, and they are constantly fighting for people’s attention. Attention itself has become the most valuable asset and commodity,” it says.

“Instead of focusing on one issue at a time, our continuous partial attention rapidly passes from one topic to the other. In our ‘always on’ condition, we face the temptation to post instantly since we are physiologically hooked on digital stimulation, always wanting more content in endless scrolling and frustrated by any lack of updates.”

The text highlights the need for silence and for schools, families, and communities to carve out times for people to detach from digital devices.

It warns that space for “deliberate listening, attentiveness, and discernment of the truth is becoming rare.”

“Without silence and the space to think slowly, deeply, and purposefully, we risk losing not only cognitive capacities but also the depth of our interactions, both human and divine.”

The document raises red flags about “pitfalls to avoid” with social media, such as aggressive and negative speech shared under the “cloak of pseudonymity.”

“Along the ‘digital highways’ many people are hurt by division and hatred. We cannot ignore it. We cannot be just silent passersby. In order to humanize digital environments, we must not forget those who are ‘left behind.’ We can only see what is going on if we look from the perspective of the wounded man in the parable of the Good Samaritan,” it says.

The text notes how algorithms’ content personalization can reinforce people’s own opinions without exposure to other ideas, which at times can lead to “encouraging extreme behaviors.”

It also raises concerns about how social media companies treat people as commodities whose “profiles and data are sold.” The text underlines that social media “is not free: We are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data.”

The text adds: “Increasing emphasis on the distribution and trade of knowledge, data, and information has generated a paradox: In a society where information plays such an essential role, it is increasingly difficult to verify sources and the accuracy of the information that circulates digitally.”

The text highlights how “every Christian should be aware of his or her potential influence, no matter how many followers he or she has.”

“Our social media presence usually focuses on spreading information. Along these lines, presenting ideas, teachings, thoughts, spiritual reflections, and the like on social media needs to be faithful to the Christian tradition,” it says.

It recommends that Christians should take care to be “reflective not reactive on social media” to ensure that the way one treats others online is in itself a witness.

“We should all be careful not to fall into the digital traps hidden in content that is intentionally designed to sow conflict among users by causing outrage or emotional reactions,” it says. “We must be mindful of posting and sharing content that can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices.”

One question the text encourages Christians to reflect on is whether their social media posts are pursuing “followers” for themselves or for Christ.

“What does it mean to be a witness? The Greek word for witness is ‘martyr,’ and it is safe to say that some of the most powerful ‘Christian influencers’ have been martyrs,” it says.

It urges people to remember that “there were no ‘likes’ at all and almost no ‘followers’ at the moment of the biggest manifestation of the glory of God! Every human measurement of ‘success’ is relativized by the logic of the Gospel.”

“While martyrdom is the ultimate sign of Christian witness, every Christian is called to sacrifice himself or herself: Christian living is a vocation that consumes our very existence by offering ourselves, soul and body, to become a space for the communication of God’s love, a sign pointing toward the Son of God.”

“It is in this sense that we better understand the words of the great John the Baptist, the first witness of Christ: ‘He must increase; I must decrease’ (Jn 3:30). Like the Forerunner, who urged his disciples to follow Christ, we too are not pursuing ‘followers’ for ourselves, but for Christ. We can spread the Gospel only by forging a communion that unites us in Christ. We do this by following Jesus’ example of interacting with others.”

Pope Francis encourages Marian shrines around the world to pray for Synod on Synodality

Vatican City, May 28, 2023 / 07:15 am (CNA).

From the Philippines to Portugal, Marian shrines around the world will participate in a special day of prayer this Wednesday for the work of the Synod on Synodality.

In his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis announced that the for the will take place on May 31, the last day of the month dedicated to Mary.

“Let us ask the Virgin Mary to accompany this important stage of the synod with her maternal protection,” the pope said.

The shrines of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland, the Knock Shrine in Ireland, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Costa Rica, Our Lady of Fourvière in France, and many other Marian shrines have confirmed their participation.

In the Philippines, 26 Marian shrines and minor basilicas will simultaneously hold prayers for the synod.

Nicaragua has announced that all parishes will take part in a full day of prayer for the synod. All dioceses in India, Malaysia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will participate in the day of prayer.

Pope Francis also spoke about the upcoming Synod of Bishops at earlier in the day. He said: “Let us place the Holy Spirit at the beginning and at the heart of the work of the synod.”

“We walk together, because the Spirit, as at Pentecost, loves to descend while ‘everyone is together,’” he added. “The people of God, to be filled with the Spirit, must therefore walk together, hold a synod.”

After the Mass for the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis appeared in the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to deliver the Regina Caeli address to the crowd gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square.

The pope prayed for people in Myanmar and Bangladesh affected by Cyclone Mocha. He also marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni, the author of one of the pope’s favorite books, “The Betrothed.”

Pope Francis reflected on how the Holy Spirit has the power to free people from “the prisons of fear.”

He said that only once the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they dared to leave the upper room and go into the world to forgive sins and announce the good news of the Gospel.

“Thanks to [the Holy Spirit], fears are overcome and doors open. Because this is what the Spirit does: he makes us feel God’s closeness and so his love drives away fear, illuminates the path, consoles, supports in adversity,” the pope said.

“In the face of fears and closures, then, let us invoke the Holy Spirit for us, for the Church, and for the whole world: Because a new Pentecost can drive away the fears that assail us and rekindle the fire of God’s love.”

“Holy Mary, who was the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit, intercede for us,” Pope Francis said.

On Pentecost, Pope Francis says Holy Spirit can bring harmony to ‘a polarized Church’

Vatican City, May 28, 2023 / 05:15 am (CNA).

On the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis urged Catholics to invoke the Holy Spirit daily to bring harmony to a divided world, a polarized Church, and to broken hearts.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope explained that the role of the Holy Spirit, both at the beginning of the creation of the world and at all times, is to make “created realities pass from disorder to order” and “from confusion to harmony.”

“In our world today, there is so much discord, such great division. We are all ‘connected,’ yet find ourselves disconnected from one another, anesthetized by indifference and overwhelmed by solitude,” Pope Francis said in his homily on May 28.

“If the world is divided, if the Church is polarized, if hearts are broken, let us not waste time in criticizing others and growing angry with one another; instead, let us invoke the Holy Spirit. He is capable of resolving these things,” he said.

The pope added that without the Holy Spirit, “the Church is lifeless, faith is mere doctrine, morality mere duty, pastoral work mere toil. … With him, on the other hand, faith is life, the love of the Lord conquers us, and hope is reborn.”

“Let us put the Holy Spirit back at the center of the Church; otherwise, our hearts will not be consumed by love for Jesus but by love for ourselves,” he said.

Pope Francis added that he sees the Holy Spirit as not only as the “soul of the Church” but also as “the heart of synodality.”

He called for the Synod on Synodality, which will culminate in October with the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to “place the Holy Spirit at the beginning and at the heart of the work of the synod.”

“The synod now taking place is — and should be — a journey in accordance with the Spirit, not a parliament for demanding rights and claiming needs in accordance with the agenda of the world, nor an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to be docile to the breath of the Holy Spirit,” he pope said.

Pope Francis, who canceled all of his audiences on Friday due to a fever, presided over the Mass but was not the main celebrant. The pope sat at the front of the congregation in a white chair to the right of the altar.

Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, the Brazilian prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, served as the main celebrant for the Pentecost Mass.

In his homily, Pope Francis underlined that the Holy Spirit also forgives sins, reconciles souls, and creates harmony in hearts that are “wounded by evil, broken by hurts, torn apart by feelings of guilt.”

“Only the Holy Spirit restores harmony in the heart, for he is the one who creates ‘intimacy with God,’” he said, citing St. Basil.

“Let’s invoke the Holy Spirit every day. Let’s start each day by praying to him. Let’s become docile to him,” Francis said.

During the Mass, the Palestrina Choir from Dublin led the congregation in the traditional for the Mass for Pentecost.

Pope Francis urged Catholics to invoke the Holy Spirit daily upon the whole world to bring unity and peace.

The , which is celebrated 50 days after Easter, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thousands were gathered inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the Mass.

At the end of his homily, Pope Francis prayed: “Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus and of the Father, inexhaustible wellspring of harmony, to you we entrust the world; to you we consecrate the Church and our hearts.”

“Come, Creator Spirit, harmony of humanity, renew the face of the earth. Come, giver of gifts, harmony of the Church, make us united in you. Come, Spirit of forgiveness, harmony of the heart, transform us as only you can, through the intercession of Mary.”

Pope Francis resumes normal schedule one day after fever

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2023 / 07:09 am (CNA).

Pope Francis resumed his normal schedule of appointments on Saturday morning after suffering from a fever the day prior, a Vatican communications official said.

Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, wrote on Twitter on the morning of May 27 that Pope Francis had “resumed his regular audiences.”

A Vatican spokesman confirmed to CNA on Friday that the pope had canceled meetings in the morning May 26 due to a fever.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that “due to a feverish condition, Pope Francis did not receive [anyone] in audience this morning.”

According to the Vatican’s daily news bulletin, Pope Francis had his regular Saturday morning meeting with the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Archbishop Robert Prevost.

He also met with delegations from the Orthodox Church of Athens and Loyola University of Seville, and with Father Wagner Ferreira da Silva, president of the Brazilian Catholic community Canção Nova.

The pope also had an audience with participants in a conference organized by the Jesuit magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica” and Georgetown University on “The Global Aesthetics of the Catholic Imagination.”

Film director Martin Scorsese and his wife Helen Morris attended the conference and took part in the papal audience.

On Friday afternoon, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, spoke briefly with journalists about the pope’s condition.

“The pope was tired. He had a very, very busy day yesterday,” Parolin said, according to the French-language media outlet La Presse. “They were telling me last night that he met with a lot of people, and in the context of this meeting with Scholas Occurrentes, he wanted to greet them all, and probably at some point the stamina fails.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the solemnity of Pentecost on May 28, followed by the recitation of the Regina Caeli antiphon.

The 86-year-old pope was hospitalized for four days at the end of March for a lung infection.

Pope Francis appoints ‘bishop of the peripheries’ as successor in Buenos Aires

Vatican City, May 26, 2023 / 10:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli as the archbishop of Buenos Aires and appointed his successor.

Poli, who turned 75 in November, has led the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Buenos Aires since April 2013. He was appointed just two weeks after the election of then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy.

Diocesan bishops are required to submit a letter of resignation to the pope on their 75th birthday.

Poli’s successor will be 55-year-old Bishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Río Gallegos, a diocese in Santa Cruz Province in the southern part of Argentina.

García Cuerva, who has led the Diocese of Río Gallegos since the beginning of 2019, has a reputation for being a “bishop of the peripheries,” largely for his time spent serving in Argentina’s prisons and poorest neighborhoods.

As a priest, García Cuerva was a prison chaplain in the province of Buenos Aires and both the diocesan and regional delegates for prison ministry. He has also written  in Argentina and the problem of overcrowding.

He was also a member of the Argentinian bishops’ commission on drug dependence and vice president of the charity Cáritas San Isidro. 

García Cuerva has a civil law degree and a licentiate in canon law.

In 2021, Pope Francis named García Cuerva a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops. “I want to contribute to the model of bishop that Francis asks of us: a poor bishop for the poor,” he told the Argentine Catholic Information Agency at the time.

The archbishop-elect was born in Río Gallegos but has lived in several cities in Argentina.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Isidro in 1997. Just over 20 years later, in 2017, he was named an auxiliary bishop of Lomas de Zamora.

The appointment of a priest from the slums to be an auxiliary bishop was considered unprecedented at the time.

Media reports said García Cuerva was inspired by the legacy of Father Carlos Mugica, an Argentine “slum priest” and member of the Movement of Priests for the Third World, who was assassinated by the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance in 1974.

Pope Francis has a fever, Vatican spokesman confirms

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2023 / 07:07 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canceled meetings on Friday morning due to a fever, a Vatican spokesman confirmed.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told CNA that “due to a feverish condition, Pope Francis did not receive [anyone] in audience this morning.”

Later in the day, journalists spoke to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who spoke briefly about the pope's condition.

"The pope was tired. He had a very, very busy day yesterday," Parolin said, according to the French-language media outlet La Presse. "They were telling me last night that he met with a lot of people, and in the context of this meeting with Scholas Occurrentes, he wanted to greet them all, and probably at some point the stamina fails."

As of Friday afternoon, the pope does not have any public appointments scheduled for May 27, according to the Vatican calendar. He is currently scheduled to say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the solemnity of Pentecost on May 28, followed by the recitation of the Regina Caeli antiphon.

Pope Francis, 86, was hospitalized for four days at the end of March for a lung infection.

During his return flight from a three-day trip to Budapest, Hungary, a month later the pope said his “body responded well to the treatment. Thank God.”

This week Pope Francis had both public and closed-door meetings with Italian bishops for their 77th general assembly. He also led his weekly Wednesday morning audience with the public.

On Thursday, May 25, Francis met with a group of religious sisters, with bishops and lay delegates of the synodal journey in Italy, and with participants in a congress hosted by Scholas Occurentes.

Also on May 25, Pope Francis gave an exclusive interview in Spanish to Telemundo News.

‘We don’t have an agenda,’ Synod on Synodality organizer says in new EWTN interview

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Mario Grech, who serves as secretary general of the global Synod on Synodality, says the ongoing process underway in the Church risks missing “a moment of grace” if it focuses on polarizing issues raised during listening sessions, including same-sex marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination.  

In a sit-down interview with EWTN News, the Maltese prelate says that while he believes “a synodal Church is a more spiritual Church,” it is important to remember that the Church “is not a democracy.” He also addresses the involvement of lay men and women and other “non-bishops” in the synod’s assembly of bishops in October, and he draws a distinction between the worldwide synodal process and Germany’s Synodal Path, observing that the latter has “sent negative vibes” throughout the global Church.

The interview below has been edited for clarity.  


These are two different words, synod and synodality. There can be synodality without a synod. But there is no synod without synodality.  

I’m not playing with words. It can happen that we have a synodal assembly without the spirit of synodality. We can and we need to become a more synodal Church, even without having a synod. 

Synods are an important moment in the life of the Church. In the past, the synod was a moment where only bishops were engaged. Pope Francis has introduced a new dimension of this experience that involves all the people of God.  

Everyone is being invited to reflect, to pray, and contribute to help us become more of a Church. After all, if we are talking about synodality, we are talking about the Church itself.  


In simple terms, a synodal Church is a more spiritual Church. There is a temptation that we transform the Church into an NGO [nongovernmental organization], as the Holy Father . The Church is the body of Christ and the anima (soul) of this Church is the Holy Spirit. 

A synodal Church is an invitation to the people of God to receive the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the main player in this synodal process. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of this process. 

To me, an invitation to a synodal Church is an invitation to give more space to the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, a key word in this simple process is discernment: How can we discern what the Holy Spirit is communicating to the Church today? 

One of the methods that really was effective in the continental assemblies is what we call the conversation in the spirit: spiritual conversation or synodal conversation. 

When we meet to discuss and listen in sessions, they are not purely human sessions. We have to invoke the Holy Spirit, we have to listen to the Word of God. Otherwise, the Church would be my project, our project, but the Church is not ours. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. 

The synod is an assembly for bishops and it will remain an episcopal assembly. The nature of the assembly is not going to change. But the Holy Father decided, through listening to the people of God, to also invite non-bishops to the synod.  

By non-bishops we mean not only laypeople but [also] priests, deacons, consecrated people, religious, and permanent deacons. The total number of non-bishops is less than 25%.  

Why this percentage? We do not want to change the nature of the assembly. The synod is an assembly of bishops. The presence of other members of the people of God gives expression to the whole people of God, but their presence there is also a presence to guarantee that the process is being respected by the bishops participating in their synodal assembly. 

The people of God that participated from the very start of this process are now also taking part in the final stage of the process. Their presence is there. Bishops are there because they are the shepherds, and there is no flock without a shepherd. And there are no shepherds without a flock. 

During the first phase of consultation or listening phase, various issues were raised, as you are underlining. It was the first time that people were given this opportunity to speak out on these issues. The Church was listening to their needs. And I’m not surprised that certain hot-button issues now came to the fore. But at one point, me and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the general relator for this synod, sent a letter to all bishops, highlighting the fact that the theme of this particular synod is for the synodal Church. 

Other issues will not be discarded. We will put them on the back burner, as they are not issues that should be tackled by this particular synodal assembly. If we enter into those issues at this particular moment, we will miss a golden opportunity, a moment of grace, a reflection on how we can really help the Church to become more synodal and create those spaces where all the members of the people of God, under the leadership and the guidance of their pastors, can really contribute to evangelization.

So, this should be clear. We tried to make it clear. Again, it’s not that we are putting away certain issues raised by the people of God. These issues need to be addressed. But I believe, and this is my personal belief, that once we become more synodal, the theologians become more synodal, then we will be in a better position to explain the Gospel to the people of God, and also address certain issues.  


I really believe that this moment of grace will help us to become more spiritual, because the winds of the world can also blow in the Church and we have to pay attention. We don’t have an agenda. The agenda is already set, set in the Gospel, set by Jesus Christ. We have to do our reflection and listen to the Word of God, in the light of tradition, in the light of the magisterium.  

We are not starting a fresh page today, as if nothing has happened in the past. There’s a continuity. But in order to engage in this spiritual conversation, in this spiritual conversion, because it entails a conversion, we need to make more time for prayer, to be able to kneel down in the presence of the Lord. 


It’s not up to me to pronounce myself on this issue. And I’m being sincere. I would like the synodal assembly to say something about this. But the nature of a synodal assembly, as you’re saying, is consultative, because ultimately it is the Holy Father’s decision. When Paul VI instituted the synod, the aim was to help the Holy Father, to consult with the Holy Father. 

I think there is decision-taking and decision-making. Listening to all the people of God, especially the bishops convened at the synodal assembly, is part of this decision-making, which will enlighten the Holy Father to make his own discernment.

There is this ecclesial discernment going on. I also say, always underlying this, we have the gift of the episcopal ministry in the particular Churches that can guarantee that the people are not going astray in their discernment. And for the whole Church, we have the Holy Father, the Petrine ministry, that really helps and guarantees the whole Church that we are doing God’s will. 


First of all, I understand those who have doubts or fears or different points of view. 

For me, criticism is valuable and it should help us all in our discernment process. Nobody has to be excluded, even if one is critical, or has objections, everyone should be welcome on board. Let us not forget that we are one family. And it takes time until ideas mature, until one really understands what’s going on. 

I have my fears as well. For example, those who are opposing the people of God and the hierarchy now, because in this synodal process everyone was allowed to raise his voice, some might think that we are on a way leading to a sort of a democracy. The Church is not a democracy.  

The Church is hierarchical, constitutively hierarchical. The ministry of bishops, the Petrine ministry, are a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. And we need to treasure that.

So if those who are opposing, for example, the crowd, the people of God with the hierarchy, that really hurts me, because we have to walk together, respecting all the charisms and ministries.  

Ministries are a gift for the Church. And they can give us assurance that we are walking the right path.  


Unfortunately, the Synodal Path in Germany sent negative vibes in all the Church. I was in Africa, I was in Bangkok, and I listened to people who were a bit hesitant and worried about what was taking place in Germany. 

But I always say, do we really know what is taking place in the Church, in our sister Church in Germany? There are two different synodal experiences. 

It is not a synod in Germany. It’s a synodal journey. A synodal way, they call it. Canonically it is neither a diocesan nor a national synod, as far as I know. 

They are two different ecclesial experiences. One in Germany is trying to address issues that are recurrent challenges for the Church in Germany. And the other one is for the whole Church. And the themes are absolutely different. 

Perhaps the global, universal synod will help us, will guide us to avoid other difficulties in the future in our experience of synodality. 

It is true that particular local Churches are very important in the whole frame of ecclesiology. The Church is made up of particular Churches, and this is Vatican II, but no particular Church is autonomous, no particular Church is independent from the other Churches.  

And if synodality is an important element in the Church, also the communion among bishops is a value.  

I’m talking about collegiality now. The bishops in Australia, to give another example, because they had also a plenary council now, the bishops in Ireland, the bishops in Germany, they have their responsibilities and their challenges. And we have to help our brothers to address the difficulties. 

But bishops are not autonomous, bishops form part of a college of bishops, and there are issues that belong to the whole Church that need to be addressed by all the bishops together, together with Peter.

This might give us hope for the experience in Germany. I really have trust in my brother bishops in Germany that they are well-meaning. And I hope they will find the right answer to the issues raised in their synodal experience, and to the issues that the people of God in Germany are putting forth.  


No. They are two different experiences. The synod for the whole Church is about synodality. Now, if there are elements in the German synodal experience that deal with synodality, why not? But not everything that was on board in the synodal way in Germany fits in the synodal experience of the whole Church, because I repeat, they are two different experiences.  


One result from all the continental assemblies was that we realized we need to create more spaces for the young generation. We need to find a new language so we can communicate with them. It’s a challenge. And obviously, World Youth Day will be an opportunity. 

Our secretariat is studying a project for how to be present on the ground so that we can also listen to the young generation. Because they are not only the future, but they are [also] the present. And when we made the invitation for the non-bishops for the synodal assembly of bishops, we indicated to the episcopal conferences to please also send young people. We want young people to be present to participate in this process. 


The idea of mission and synodality started from the Synod for Youth. In fact, in the final document of that synod the youth and the synod members spoke about mission and the synodal Church. Mission and synodality are the two faces of the same coin. We need a synodal Church in order to be more effective in our mission.  

How can we be really effective today? If all the people of God become conscious that we are all subjects of evangelization, that evangelization is not restricted only to a special class, a special group. But all the baptized are subjects and empowered by the Holy Spirit to announce the Gospel today. 

Everybody is invited and must feel duty-bound to announce Jesus to humanity today. This is the main objective of our reflection on a synodal Church.  

A synodal Church is for me mainly a spiritual Church. We need more prayer. We need more prayer to avoid the risk that the Church becomes only a human convention, a human institution.  

This is the reason why a few months ago, we sent an invitation to all bishops, so that during the month of May we organize a prayer at the feet of Mary, in the presence of Mary.  

Because Mary, the mother of the Church, our mother, she will guide us, help us, accompany us in this particular moment of the Church. I invite everyone to take part even with prayer in this moment of grace. 

Watch the full interview with Grech below.

What is incorruptibility? Here’s what you need to know

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2023 / 09:33 am (CNA).

Catholic pilgrims are descending on a Benedictine monastery in rural Missouri after a .

The body of , appears to be in an unexpected state of preservation even four years after she died in 2019 at the age of 95.

When the abbess and sisters of Sister Wilhelmina’s community decided to move her body from the cemetery to a final resting place inside their monastery chapel May 18, they were surprised to find her body apparently intact, even though she had not been embalmed.

The sisters were also amazed to see that their foundress’ habit was also in excellent condition, despite the complete disintegration of the cloth lining of the wooden coffin.

The current abbess of the community, Mother Cecilia, OSB, told EWTN’s ACI Group a few days after the discovery that they believe their foundress could be incorrupt. 

But no investigation has yet been carried out to rule out any natural causes for the presumed phenomenon, and the Catholic Church has not ruled on Sister Wilhelmina’s case. A cause for the foundress’ canonization has also not been approved by the Church.

How does the Church define the incorruptibility of saints, and what does the phenomenon signify?

Incorruptibility is the preservation of the body from normal decay after death.

According to Catholic tradition, incorruptible saints give witness to the truth of the resurrection of the body and the life that is to come.

The Church does not have a cut-and-dried definition of what condition a holy person’s body must be found in to be declared incorrupt, and it does not necessarily require that the body remains permanently in the same condition in which it was found.

Incorruptibility, when proven, is considered a sign, because it cannot be explained by intentional preservation, such as embalming, or by unintentional preservation through natural causes, such as mummification. 

The Catholic author Joan Carroll Cruz, who died in 2012, wrote about the phenomenon in her 1977 book

She identified 102 saints or blesseds who are recognized by the Church to be incorrupt.

She said there were certainly many more, but these 102 are “the great majority, and certainly the most famous.”

Cruz did extensive research for her book and, because she was writing before the internet, corresponded with the shrines holding the bodies to authenticate their incorruptibility and to discover if they had been embalmed.

She noted that at the time she was researching and writing, there were errors, or “false rumors,” about the incorruptibility of some saints.

The poor quality of some photographs of saints’ remains sometimes have lead people to believe that the “simulated figures” holding the relics of saints were really unnaturally preserved corpses, she wrote.

An 18th-century pope gave his definition of incorruptibility in a treatise on the process of beatification and canonization of saints.

Prospero Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV, wrote the lengthy work while serving in the Holy See’s congregation for the promotion of saints’ causes from 1708 to 1728.

Two chapters of the book, titled “De Cadaverum Incorruptione,” outlined the young theologian and lawyer’s position on the phenomenon of incorruptibility.

According to Cruz, Lambertini ruled “that the bodies of saintly persons that are found intact, but disintegrated after a few years, could not be considered miraculous preservation.”

“The only conservations he was willing to consider extraordinary are those that retain their lifelike flexibility, color, and freshness, without deliberate intervention, for many years following their deaths,” she noted.

Cruz’s book documented cases where this has happened, such as for St. John of the Cross, who died in 1591 and whose body, she wrote, “is still perfectly supple.”

More recent saints have also exhibited this phenomenon, such as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Lebanese monk who died in 1898. 

Miracles also occurred around the time of St. Charbel’s exhumation from his dirt grave, a few years after his death. One was the presence of a fragrant scent, a common phenomenon with incorruptibles. A bright light also emanated from St. Charbel’s grave after his death, prompting devotees of the holy monk to ask for his remains to be examined.

A common objection to incorruptibility is the idea that the body either must have been deliberately preserved, a practice since ancient times, or that the conditions of the grave or tomb allowed for natural preservation.

In at least one case, modern scientific examination has found that a saint previously believed to be incorrupt was likely not.

According to a 2001 article by Heather Pringle, a Church-sanctioned investigation by Italian scientists in the 1980s found that the 13th-century Tuscan saint Margaret of Cortona had received extensive embalming and other intervention after death. 

The scientists also uncovered documents that showed embalming had been requested by devotees of the saint, a patron of reformed prostitutes. But after the passage of years, the fact had been forgotten, and her appearance led people to believe it was miraculous.

The evidence had been covered by her clothes, and out of a sense of modesty a full examination of her body had not been carried out for centuries.

The same scientists, however, could find “not a trace of human intervention” on another 13th-century saint and well-known incorruptible in Italy, St. Zita.  

A more recent example of mistaken incorruptibility is that of Blessed Carlo Acutis.

Photos of the holy teen caused some confusion online after his body was displayed for public veneration leading up to his beatification in 2020.

The bishop of Assisi, Italy, Domenico Sorrentino, clarified that though Carlo Acutis’ body appeared intact in photos, that was due to the use of a silicone reconstruction of his face — the blessed’s body had been found in a normal state of decay when exhumed 14 years after his death in 2006.

Cruz argued in her book that some deliberate preservation after death does not exclude the possibility that the cadaver could still exhibit an unexplainable condition many years after death.

She acknowledged that about 1% of the 102 incorruptibles she identified had received some intervention. Many others, however, certainly had not, as they belonged to religious orders that did not allow it.

She also rejected the idea that many cases could be explained by natural mummification, citing the lack of rigidity or hardness of the bodies, the normal condition of mummified corpses.

As evidence, she documented the conditions in which many of the saintly people had been found, such as in dirt graves or wood coffins with significant decay and deterioration. St. Charbel’s body, for example, was found floating in mud. She argued that these were not conditions conducive to mummification. 

At one time, the Church would accept a candidate for sainthood’s incorruptibility as one of the miracles required for canonization. This practice fell out of use because being incorrupt after death is not one of the requirements to be declared a saint in the Catholic Church, nor is it a definitive sign of having lived “a heroic life of virtue.”

And many of the saints and blesseds whose remains have followed the normal process of returning “to dust” have been displayed for public veneration using coverings or silicone masks, as in the case of Carlo Acutis.

The state of Sister Wilhelmina’s body, whether verified to be incorrupt or not, sends a message that “Heaven is real. The resurrection is real,” the abbess of the foundress’ community in Gower, Missouri, said.

“Have faith,” Abbess Cecilia said. “Life does not end when we take our last breath: It begins.”

Pope Francis on care for creation: ‘God wants justice to reign’

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2023 / 08:07 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of the virtue of justice in a message for the upcoming World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

“God wants justice to reign; it is as essential to our life as God’s children, made in his likeness, as water is essential for our physical survival,” he said , released May 25.

“God wants everyone to strive to be just in every situation, to live according to his laws and thus to enable life to flourish,” the pope continued. “When we ‘Seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33), maintaining a right relationship with God, humanity, and nature, then justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.”

Pope Francis established the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2015, to be celebrated every year on Sept. 1.

The ecumenical day of prayer is seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church and launches what is called the Season of Creation, celebrated every year from Sept. 1 through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The theme of the 2023 Season of Creation is “Let Justice and Peace Flow.”

Pope Francis said in his message that the theme is inspired by the words of the prophet Amos: “Let justice flow on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”

The pope’s message for the 2023 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was released during Laudato Si’ Week May 21–28.

Laudato Si’ Week 2023 marks the eighth anniversary of the publication of , Francis’ landmark encyclical on the environment.

In his message on caring for creation, Pope Francis said the first step is the transformation of our hearts.

“This is essential for any other transformation to occur; it is that ‘ecological conversion’ which St. John Paul II encouraged us to embrace: the renewal of our relationship with creation so that we no longer see it as an object to be exploited but cherish it instead as a sacred gift from our Creator,” he said.

“Creation,” Francis continued, “refers both to God’s mysterious, magnificent act of creating this majestic, beautiful planet and universe out of nothing and to the continuing result of that act, which we experience as an inexhaustible gift.”

“During the liturgy and personal prayer in ‘the great cathedral of creation,’ let us recall the great Artist who creates such beauty and reflect on the mystery of that loving decision to create the cosmos,” he said.

Pope Francis also reflected on his visit to Canada in July of last year, especially a stop on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta, which is a place of pilgrimage for indigenous people.

The pope used the imagery of water throughout his message, including the idea of thinking about how to contribute “to the mighty river of justice and peace.”

One step he encouraged people to take is to change their lifestyles and to repent of their “ecological sins,” in the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Francis invited people, with the help of God’s grace, to lower their waste production and consumption, to be mindful about their habits and economic decisions, to use resources with moderation and sobriety, to recycle, and to make greater use of sustainable options.

Regarding public policies, Pope Francis said world leaders participating in COP28, the U.N. climate change conference at the end of the year, “must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel.”

“Let us raise our voices to halt this injustice towards the poor and towards our children, who will bear the worst effects of climate change,” he said.

Vatican auditor to continue to function during sede vacante, Pope Francis rules 

Vatican City, May 24, 2023 / 09:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has established that the auditor general of the Holy See will continue to carry out its tasks during a sede vacante.

A sede vacante is the period between the death or resignation of a pope and the election of his successor. 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.”

Francis ruled that the Office of the Auditor General, which does not have a secretary, may also continue its “ordinary administration” in the case of a vacant papal see.

The auditor general is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

It was also responsible for precipitating the investigation into the Secretariat of State’s controversial investment in a London building — a purchase now at the heart of a major Vatican finance trial.

The IOR, commonly called the Vatican bank, first agreed to give a loan to the Secretariat of State for the mortgage on the London property. But the IOR suddenly changed course and made a report to the auditor general, who investigated.

The pronouncement was part of a May 24  signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state. The rescript was issued following an April 24 meeting between Parolin and Pope Francis.

The pope said in light of the provisions of the Church’s apostolic constitution , “the ordinary administration, in case of a vacant Apostolic See, would not be interrupted and that the function of control would continue to be exercised by the Office of the Auditor General under the supervision of the Cardinal Camerlengo.”

The camerlengo is responsible for overseeing the preparations for a papal conclave and managing the administration of the Holy See during the sede vacante.

Pope Francis has also decided to change part of an article in the statutes of the Office of Auditor General.

According to the rescript, after analyzing suspicious activity reports, the auditor general will no longer present them to a special commission of the councilor for general affairs of the Secretariat of State, the secretary prelate of the Council for the Economy, and the secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy. 

Instead, using the wording of  , the auditor will present a report of the suspicious activity notifications to the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and if he deems it necessary, to the cardinal coordinator of the Council for the Economy.

This change means the Secretariat of State does not receive a report from the auditor on the suspicious activity notifications the office has received.

Suspicious activity reports that have been substantiated should continue to be transmitted to the proper judicial authorities, the rescript added.

The pope’s rescript on the function of the Office of Auditor General comes as a former Holy See auditor and his deputy sue the Secretariat of State for wrongful dismissal.

Libero Milone and Ferruccio Panicco ; after several roadblocks, the case has had court dates this year.

The two are seeking compensation for loss of earnings, damage to their reputations, and emotional suffering, which they claim they bore after being forced from their jobs in 2017.

Milone said soon after stepping down in the middle of his five-year mandate that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then second-in-command at the Secretariat of State, has been said to be responsible for the firing of Milone.

Becciu told Reuters in 2017 that Milone “went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.” 

The cardinal , claiming the pope told him he no longer had trust in Milone and wanted Becciu to tell the auditor he should resign. 

Pope Francis: St. Andrew Kim Taegon teaches us ‘we must not give up’

Vatican City, May 24, 2023 / 05:26 am (CNA).

St. Andrew Kim Taegon and the other Korean martyrs teach us to have courage when sharing the Gospel, even in the face of difficult situations, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

At his weekly public audience May 24, the pope spoke about the first Korean-born Catholic priest, who was tortured and beheaded near Seoul, South Korea, in 1846 at the age of 25.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was canonized in 1984 with 102 other Korean martyrs.

Pope Francis pointed out that about 200 years ago in Korea, Christianity was severely persecuted.

“At that time, believing in Jesus Christ in Korea meant being ready to bear witness even unto death,” he said.

“No matter how difficult the situation may be — and indeed, at times it may seem to leave no room for the Gospel message — we must not give up and we must not forsake pursuing what is essential in our Christian life, namely evangelization,” the pope said.

He recalled an event from St. Andrew Kim’s life that illustrates the quality of never giving up.

When the Korean Catholic was a seminarian, he needed to find a way to secretly welcome foreign missionary priests to Korea, since foreigners were forbidden from entering the country.

“One time,” Francis said, the saint “walked as the snow was falling, without eating, for so long that he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing.”

“At that point, he suddenly heard a voice, ‘Get up, walk!’ Hearing that voice, Andrew came to his senses, catching a glimpse of something like a shadow of someone guiding him.”

Pope Francis said “this experience of the great Korean witness makes us understand a very important aspect of apostolic zeal; namely, the courage to get back up when one falls.”

The pope shared another example of St. Andrew’s courage in evangelization.

Given the situation at the time, to confirm the Christian identity of others, they would agree ahead of time upon a sign of recognition.

“Then the saint would surreptitiously ask the question, but all quietly: ‘Are you a disciple of Jesus?’” Francis explained. “Since other people were watching the conversation, the saint had to speak in a low voice, saying only a few words, the most essential ones. So, for Andrew Kim, the expression that summed up the whole identity of the Christian was ‘disciple of Christ.’”

As the example of St. Andrew Kim Taegon shows, the pope said, being a disciple of the Lord “means to follow him, to follow his way, and this involves giving one’s life for the Gospel.”

“The Christian is by nature a missionary and a witness, just as Jesus was a missionary and witness to the Father. Every Christian community receives this identity from the Holy Spirit, and so does the whole Church, since the day of Pentecost,” he said.

Pope Francis said seeing the example of these great saints, we might wonder to ourselves how we can evangelize in our own lives.

We can do this in our own, small way, he said, “evangelizing family, evangelizing friends, talking about Jesus, but talking about Jesus and evangelizing with a heart full of joy, full of strength.”

“Let us prepare ourselves,” he added, “to receive the Holy Spirit in the coming Pentecost and ask him for that grace, the grace of apostolic courage, the grace to evangelize, to always carry on the message of Jesus.”

The pope’s catechesis on St. Andrew Kim Taegon was part of a series on apostolic zeal.

The week prior, he highlighted the example .

Pope Francis: Pray that the Gospel can be freely shared in China

Vatican City, May 24, 2023 / 03:12 am (CNA).

Pope Francis asked Catholics Wednesday to pray that the Gospel can be fully and freely shared in China.

At the end of his general audience on May 24, the pope recalled the Church’s celebration of “the World Day of Prayer for China, which coincides with the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, venerated and invoked in the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.”

He said he wanted to use that occasion to remember and express his closeness to Catholics in China, “sharing their joys and their hopes.”

“A special thought,” Pope Francis said, “to all those who suffer, pastors and faithful, so that in the communion and solidarity of the universal Church, they can experience consolation and encouragement.”

“I invite everyone to lift up prayers to God that the good news of the crucified and risen Christ can be announced in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society,” he concluded.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed May 24, the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be a , which venerates the Blessed Virgin Mary under that title as the country’s patroness.

Benedict XVI asked Catholics to pray this prayer on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for China:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians,” the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.

We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously cooperated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.

Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence. Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.

Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and forever. Amen!

PHOTOS: Rosary procession in St. Peter’s Square honors the Blessed Virgin Mary

Rome Newsroom, May 22, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

St. Peter’s Square was illuminated by candlelight Saturday night as pilgrims prayed the rosary in a procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The rosary procession was part of a Vatican initiative for the month of May, a special time of devotion in the Catholic Church honoring Mary as Mother of God.

St. Peter’s Basilica is hosting the candlelight procession at 9 p.m. every Saturday in May. Amid Rome’s spring thunderstorms, pilgrims have faithfully come to join the processions, rain or shine.

Father Michael Kong, a priest from Australia currently residing in Rome, attended the most recent procession and came prepared for bad weather.

“I walked to St. Peter’s with my umbrella under the rain. But the funny thing was that just before the procession began, the rain stopped,” Kong told CNA.

The priest said the public procession was a beautiful reminder that there are “plenty of people who still pray the rosary and have a devotion to Mary.”

“This was something that assures me that I’m not walking by myself, but [that] there are many faithful who pray the rosary and walk this way with the same intentions,” he said.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, led the procession on May 20. Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the substitute (Sostituto) of the Vatican Secretariat of State, will preside over the final procession on May 27.

After each mystery, Grech provided a short reflection and mentioned a prayer intention, including a prayer for peace.

The rosary procession is one of several new public devotions taking place at the Vatican. St. Peter’s Basilica is also offering a walking pilgrimage bringing pilgrims to pray at the most important Marian images within the basilica each Saturday in May at 4 p.m.

Throughout the summer, St. Peter’s Basilica will also continue to offer outdoor eucharistic adoration on the first Tuesday of each month.

During the rosary procession, pilgrims carried a large framed icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church,” a copy of the original image found inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

The original Mater Ecclesiae image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child was painted on a column in old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. It was later transferred to the 16th-century St. Peter’s Basilica, where it can still be seen above one of the side altars.

A mosaic of the Virgin Mary overlooking St. Peter’s Square was inspired by the original Mater Ecclesiae image. The mosaic was installed after the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II in 1981.

When he blessed the mosaic, John Paul II prayed “that all those who will come to this St. Peter’s Square will lift up their gaze towards you [Mary], to direct, with feelings of filial trust, their greetings and their prayers.”

In 2018, Pope Francis added the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church” to the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost.

A surfing saint? Pope Francis recognizes the heroic virtue of Guido Schäffer

Vatican City, May 22, 2023 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church is one step closer to canonizing a surfing saint. Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Brazil’s “Surfer Angel” Guido Schäffer in a decree issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Saturday. 

Schäffer was a seminarian, a doctor, and a surfer who drowned while surfing in 2009 off the coast of Rio de Janeiro at the age of 34 before he could fulfill his desire of being ordained to the priesthood.

The Brazilian seminarian, known locally as the “Anjo Surfista” or “Surfer Angel,” used to begin each of his surfing lessons with a prayer and was known for his work with the poor, providing medical care to Rio’s “favelas” (poor, working-class neighborhoods) alongside the Missionaries of Charity.

With the decree, Pope Francis declared Schäffer “venerable.” The Church will now need to approve a miracle attributed to his intercession before he can be beatified.

Born in Brazil on May 22, 1974, Schäffer grew up near the sandy beaches of Rio’s Copacabana neighborhood. His father was a physician and his mother was very active in a charismatic renewal movement in their Catholic parish, Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, and instilled in him a love of Scripture and prayer.

As a student, Schäffer was an active member of a charismatic prayer group called Canção Nova (New Song), founded by Father Jonas Abib. Schäffer later co-founded, together with his girlfriend and a priest known as Father Jorjão, the prayer group “Fire of the Holy Spirit” at a parish in Ipanema the year he graduated from medical school.

During his medical residency from 1999 to 2001, Schäffer worked as a general practitioner at the Hospital Santa Casa de Misericórdia. He also began volunteering with a Catholic group that provided pastoral ministry to the sick at the hospital.

While on a retreat, Schäffer was moved by a line in the Bible: “Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you” (Tobit 4:7). He asked for God’s forgiveness and prayed: “Jesus, help me to care for the poor.”

One week later, he met Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and soon began working with them to offer medical care in some of Rio’s poorest neighborhoods. He invited other doctors from his hospital to join him and also brought young people from his prayer group and hospital ministry to volunteer.

Sister Caritas with the Missionaries of Charity recalled how Schäffer talked to each of the people he served about Christ, taking care of “both their body and their soul.”

“He used to pray with and for each of them, always inviting them to receive the sacraments as a source of grace and communion with God,” she . 

“His only concern was to save souls to God — guiding as many people as he could to a personal experience with Christ.”

While he was volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, Schäffer read “Brother Francis of Assisi” by Ignacio Larrañaga, which became a great inspiration for him. 

St. John Paul II’s visit to Rio de Janeiro in 1997 and Schäffer’s pilgrimage to Europe for the beatification of Brazil’s protomartyrs in 2000 also played a decisive role in his life-changing decision to leave his profession as a doctor and leave his girlfriend to respond to a call to enter the priesthood.

Schäffer began studying philosophy at the São Bento Monastery in 2002. In between seminary classes, he volunteered at a local hospital. He moved to the Archdiocesan Seminary of São José in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, where he devoted himself to evangelization while continuing his medical volunteering and surfing. 

Big wave surfer Rodrigo Resende was impressed by Schäffer’s love for the poor and inner peace. He told the Brazilian publication Veja Rio: “I have never seen someone treat the marginalized with such respect. The inner peace that he radiated was impressive.”

While surfing with friends off of Rio’s Recreio dos Bandeirantes beach on May 1, 2009, Schäffer hit his head on his surfboard and drowned. 

In 2019, the beach where he suffered his fatal accident was officially renamed in his honor: Praia do Guido.

Father Jorjão, who has since written a  in Portuguese about his life, reflected: “I have never seen someone with so much faith and at the same time so normal. Anyone who knew him was sure they were dealing with someone from God.”

It's official: Pope Francis will travel to World Youth Day, visit Fatima

Rome Newsroom, May 22, 2023 / 04:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day this August with a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

Pope Francis is set to participate in from Aug. 2–6 and is scheduled to visit Fatima on Aug. 5.

The Lisbon trip will mark the 86-year-old pope’s fourth World Youth Day after taking part in the international Catholic gatherings in Panama, Poland, and Brazil.

World Youth Day was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong celebration usually attracts hundreds of thousands of young people.

The event is typically held on a different continent every three years, with the presence of the pope. The Vatican previously announced that World Youth Day would be postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisbon, the capital and largest city in Portugal, is about 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world where the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.

The theme of Lisbon’s World Youth Day, which will take place Aug. 1–6 is “Mary arose and went with haste.”

Pope Francis sent a to the teens and young adults preparing to attend this year’s World Youth Day earlier this month.

“To participate in WYD is something beautiful,” the pope said. “Prepare yourselves with that enthusiasm. Put hope in that. Have hope... because one grows a lot at an event like WYD.”

Pope Francis on G7 Summit: Nuclear deterrence offers ‘only an illusion of peace’

Rome Newsroom, May 21, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

In a letter marking the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Pope Francis asserted that the mere possession of nuclear weapons creates “a climate of fear and suspicion” and offers “only an illusion of peace.”

The Vatican released a on May 20 that the pope wrote to Bishop Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama of Hiroshima assuring his prayers as “the G7 Summit meets in Hiroshima to discuss urgent issues currently facing the global community.”

“The choice of Hiroshima as the site of this meeting is particularly significant, in light of the continuing threat of recourse to nuclear weapons,” Pope Francis said.

Hiroshima is the site of the world’s first atomic attack. On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city that resulted in the deaths of about 70,000 immediately after the blast and 140,000 people by the end of the year.

President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited together the Hiroshima Peace Memorial at the atomic bombing site at the start of the summit on May 19.

“Hiroshima, as ‘a symbol of memory,’ forcefully proclaims the inadequacy of nuclear arms to respond effectively to today’s great threats to peace and to ensure national and international security,” Pope Francis said.

The pope added that “nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction represent a multiplier of risk that offers only an illusion of peace.”

“We need but consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impact that will result from the use of nuclear weapons, as well as the waste and poor allocation of human and economic resources involved in their development. Nor should we underestimate the effects of the continuing climate of fear and suspicion generated by their mere possession, which compromises the growth of a climate of mutual trust and dialogue,” he said.

Pope Francis recalled the “overwhelming impression” left by his visit to the same peace memorial recently visited by G7 leaders during the pope’s 2019 visit to Japan.

“Standing there in silent prayer and thinking of the innocent victims of the nuclear attack decades ago, I wished to reiterate the firm conviction of the Holy See that ‘the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is, today more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home,’” he said.

On Friday, G7 leaders issued their first-ever statement on nuclear disarmament, with a special focus on Russia.

“Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are dangerous and unacceptable,” in the statement released by the White House. “We reiterate our position that threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use, let alone any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, in the context of its aggression against Ukraine are inadmissible.”

They also criticized efforts from North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear weapons and warned that China’s nuclear arsenal expansion poses a threat to regional and global stability.

Russia was formerly part of the G7 Group — then known as the G8. Its membership was suspended over its military annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In his letter, Pope Francis underlined that “global security needs to be integral, capable of embracing issues including access to food and water, respect for the environment, health care, energy sources and the equitable distribution of the world’s goods.”

“Indeed, it has become increasingly evident that in the multipolar world of the 21st century, the pursuit of peace is closely related to the need for security and reflection on the most efficient means for guaranteeing it,” he said.

Pope Francis: ‘We must not get used to war!’

Vatican City, May 21, 2023 / 06:40 am (CNA).

One week after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Pope Francis urged that “we must not get used to war” as he prayed for peace in Ukraine and Sudan.

In his Regina Caeli address on May 21, the pope entreated people to “continue to stand by the battered people of Ukraine” more than one year after Russia’s invasion.

The day prior, Pope Francis entrusted Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi with on behalf of the Vatican to try to help end the war in Ukraine.

Pope Francis also prayed for peace in Sudan, where fighting between the country’s military and a coalition of paramilitary forces has killed hundreds and displaced nearly 1 million people.

“It is sad, but one month after the outbreak of violence in Sudan, the situation continues to be grave,” he said.

The pope welcomed the “partial agreements” that have been made between the country’s warring parties one day after they signed a seven-day cease-fire.

“I renew a heartfelt call for the laying down of arms and call on the international community to spare no effort to make dialogue prevail and alleviate the suffering of the people,” Pope Francis said.

“Please, let us not get used to conflict and violence. We must not get used to war!”

In his brief spiritual meditation, Pope Francis spoke about the power of intercessory prayer with a reminder that Jesus himself is in heaven interceding on our behalf before the Father.

The pope noted that many countries, including Italy and , celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord on Sunday.

“Why are we celebrating? Because with the Ascension, something new and beautiful happened: Jesus brought our humanity into heaven … that is, in God,” he said.

Quoting the fourth-century bishop St. Gregory of Nyssa, he said: “‘What splendid news! He who became man for us … to make us his brothers, presents himself as man before the Father to bear with himself all those who are joined with him.’”

Pope Francis added: “What does Jesus do in heaven? He is there for us before the Father, continually showing our humanity to him, showing his wounds. I like to think that Jesus, before the Father, prays like this, showing him his wounds. … He shows him the price of redemption and the Father is moved. This is something I like to think about.”

At the end of his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis marked by thanking journalists and encouraging them to always work in “the service of truth and the common good.”

The pope also greeted pro-life groups one day after and highlighted the beginning of May 21–28. Pope Francis asked people to use their skills and creativity to do something to “care for our common home.”

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square from Mali, Argentina, Malta, and many other countries received from the Vatican, which were printed in collaboration with the Stockholm Environmental Institute.

A marching band from Puerto Rico played music in St. Peter’s Square at the end of the audience and a large group of young people wearing red baseball caps from the Archdiocese of Genoa cheered loudly as the pope mentioned .

“I wish you all a good Sunday. Please don’t forget to pray for me. Please do not forget,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican: Italian cardinal entrusted with Ukraine peace mission

Rome Newsroom, May 20, 2023 / 11:46 am (CNA).

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has been asked by Pope Francis to head a peace mission between Russia and Ukraine on behalf of the Vatican, the Holy See press office director said Saturday.

“The timing of such a mission, and its modes, are currently being studied,” Matteo Bruni said in a brief statement to journalists May 20.

Bruni said Pope Francis hopes the operation, which will be carried out in agreement with the Secretariat of State, “can initiate paths of peace.”

Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna and , has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that aids migrants and promotes ecumenism. It has also helped negotiate reconciliation, including by holding peace talks in countries like Mozambique and South Sudan.

Pope Francis said at the end of April that the Vatican was involved to end the conflict in Ukraine.

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials were quick to deny that negotiations were taking place, but a close papal aide confirmed the pope’s statement in an interview with an Italian news outlet published earlier this month.

On Saturday, Pope Francis told a group of religious with a strong devotion to Mary that he consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2022, because the world needs to learn to love with tenderness and “without making calculations.”

“And to you, who are the Company of Mary, I ask you to renew this act of entrustment and this supplication,” the pope told the Montfort Missionaries at the end of their general chapter. “May our Heavenly Mother help us all to courageously and creatively seek paths of forgiveness, dialogue, acceptance, and peace for all humanity.”

Alleged Marian apparitions the subject of new observatory

Rome Newsroom, May 20, 2023 / 08:42 am (CNA).

An institution has been formed in Rome to study alleged Marian apparitions and other supernatural phenomena in the Catholic Church.

The International Observatory on Marian Apparitions and Mystical Phenomenon (OISA) was established in April and is part of the .

The objective of the observatory is to research alleged Marian apparitions and other phenomena, such as the apparent crying or bleeding of Marian statues and images, whose authenticity have not yet been declared by the competent authority.

Sister Daniela del Gaudio, a Franciscan sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is the director of the observatory.

The task of the observatory is not “to judge or intervene in alleged apparitions or phenomena, but to study how these events take place and to give information and support to the bishops of the various dioceses who need to conduct investigations in this field,” she said in a press conference earlier this month, as reported by Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana.

A diocesan bishop is responsible for giving official recognition to an apparition that took place or is taking place in his diocese according to a specific process and criteria outlined by the Vatican. A diocesan commission will also be involved.

One of the most important criteria for approving an apparition, Del Gaudio said, according to Famiglia Cristiana, is “the consistency of the message transmitted by the visionary or visionaries with that of the public divine revelation contained in Sacred Scripture.”

She explained Marian apparitions do not introduce new revelation; they bring “a spiritually fruitful actualization of the Gospel in human history.”

The new observatory will take a multidisciplinary approach to the study of Marian apparitions with scholars from the areas of sociology, culture, psychology, medicine, and theology, Del Gaudio said.

The observatory began its activities on April 15 and is headquartered in the offices of the Pontifical International Marian Academy in Rome.

The head of the academy, Father Stefano Cecchin, OFM, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that “it is important to provide clarity, because often the alleged messages [from alleged Marian apparitions] generate confusion, spread anxious apocalyptic scenarios or even accusations against the pope and the Church.”

“How could Mary, Mother of the Church, undermine its integrity or sow fears and opposition,” he said.

One goal of the group is to form national commissions, or branches, of the observatory in different places around the world, he said.

The observatory also has plans to provide training to media and to dioceses on how to handle alleged apparitions or other phenomena.

Pope Francis approves beatification of priest martyred in World War II

Rome Newsroom, May 20, 2023 / 05:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday approved the beatification of a young Italian priest martyred by Nazis during World War II and advanced the beatification causes of eight other men and women.

Father Giuseppe Beotti was one month shy of his 32nd birthday when he was shot by the Germans after refusing to leave his parish despite threats to his life. “As long as there is a soul to care for, I stay in my place,” he is recorded as saying.

Beotti was born in a small town just south of Naples in 1912. Three years later, his father, a farm laborer, was forced to leave his wife and five children to fight in World War I.

As a young man, Beotti felt called to the priesthood and, despite his family’s lack of financial resources, managed to attend seminary in northern Italy.

He was ordained a priest in 1938 at the age of 25, and two years later he became pastor of the parish church in Sidolo, a tiny town in the Apennine Mountains in northwestern Italy.

As a priest, Beotti always gave away any money or extra clothing he had to the poor. During World War II, he also opened his home to anyone in need, including Jews, wounded soldiers, and partisans.

In the summer of 1944, Sidolo was the site of Operation Wallenstein, a series of partisan roundups by Nazi-Fascist forces. Beotti was killed on July 20, 1944, along with another priest and six others.

He died while holding his breviary and making the sign of the cross.

The pope also gave his approval May 20 for the causes of eight servants of God to proceed on the path to beatification, including 16-year-old Lorena D’Alessandro, who died from a metastasized lung tumor in Rome in 1981.

D’Alessandro became disabled at age 12, when her left leg was amputated after two years of fighting a tumor in her tibia. She was an active participant in her parish and became a youth catechist as a teen. She enjoyed singing and playing guitar at Mass and had a strong spirituality.

In the summer of 1980, D’Alessandro made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes with other catechists from Rome. There, in prayer, she received a message that she would soon die. She wrote a spiritual testament in which she said goodbye to her family and gave indications for her funeral.

In January 1981, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and given three months to live. She died on April 3, 1981.

Maria Cristina Ogier is another laywoman who was declared venerable by Pope Francis on Saturday. Ogier was born in Florence, Italy, in 1955.

At age 4 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Despite her own nearly lifelong illness, Ogier devoted herself to helping the sick.

As a teenager in the 1970s, she felt called to involve herself in the fierce debates happening over abortion in Italy. Together with her father, who was the head of obstetrics and gynecology at a local hospital, they hosted talks in support of unborn life.

These meetings later became the source of Italy’s first “Aid to Life” Center in 1978, which was the inspiration for the national pro-life organization Movement for Life.

Ogieri died in Rome in 1974 at the age of 19.

Brazilian seminarian Guido Vidal França Schäffer is a third layperson who has taken a step forward on the path to beatification.

Schäffer was a lifelong member of the Catholic charismatic movement Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo. He would use his love for surfing as an opportunity to befriend other young adults and share the Gospel with them.

He had graduated as a doctor specialized in general medicine when he felt the call to be a priest. Schäffer began seminary studies at the age of 28 while continuing to serve as a voluntary doctor in a medical clinic.

On May 1, 2009, about a year before the 34-year-old expected to be ordained a priest, he hit his head and drowned while surfing off the coast of Brazil not far from Rio de Janeiro.

The priests and religious sisters who will now be called “venerable” by the Church are Father Simon Mpeke, also called Baba Simon, a Cameroonian priest (1906–1975); Father Pedro Díez Gil, a Spanish priest of the Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (1913–1983); Italian Sister Edda Roda of the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto (1940–1996); and Brazilian Sister Tereza Margarida do Coração de Maria, a cloistered nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (1915–2005).

Cardinal Ladaria: Truth about humanity and sexuality doesn’t change because of changes in ideology

Rome Newsroom, May 19, 2023 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

The truth about the human person and sexuality does not change even as prevailing ideology exalts “freedom without relation to truth,” the Vatican’s doctrine chief said at a conference on Friday.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the opening remarks at a May 19–20 congress on , the 1968 landmark encyclical from St. Paul VI.

“The truth expressed in humanity does not change; even more precisely in the light of new scientific discoveries, its doctrine becomes more current,” Ladaria said. It prompts us to reflect on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation (“The Joy of Love”) to rediscover the message of Paul VI’s encyclical, he said.

“The encyclical addressed issues related to sexuality, love, and life, which are intimately interconnected,” the cardinal said. “These are issues that affect all human beings in every age. For this reason, his message remains relevant today. Pope Benedict XVI expressed it in these words: What was true yesterday remains true today.”

The international conference “: The audacity of an encyclical on sexuality and procreation” was organized by The Jérôme Lejeune International Chair in Bioethics. It was held at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum, a small conference center close to the Vatican.

Ladaria’s opening remarks gave an overview of the anthropology of man as presented by , contrasting it with the prevailing anthropologies in Western society today.

“The encyclical,” he said, “bases its doctrine on the truth of the act of conjugal love, the inseparable connection that God has willed and that man cannot break on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act.”

“If man is capable of recognizing and interpreting the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal act, he will fulfill his own existence correctly and bring it to its fullness.”

Like the voice of the Church, he said, “we, too, in the midst of our world, are called to be a sign of contradiction, proclaiming with unity and firmness the truth of the human being, of love, of sexuality, and of life.”

The cardinal explained that rejecting the teaching of is not only a rejection of the immorality of contraception but also an acceptance of a “dualistic anthropology that sees in nature a threat to freedom and that considers that by manipulating the body the conditions of truth of the conjugal act can be changed.”

“For the encyclical, nature is not in tension with freedom, but gives freedom the meanings that make possible the truth of the act of conjugal love and allow its full realization,” he said.

The separation of sex from procreation has, he continued, both trivialized human sexuality and transformed society’s understanding of sexual identity and what sexual relations are, creating an inability to recognize the moral differences between the sexual union of a man and a woman and sex between two men or two women.

The cardinal said the idea that “my body belongs to me” reflects an instrumentalization and materialization of the body, thus making it an object to manipulate.

He called this a “reification” of the body and said it has led to a decrease in births and an increase in abortions.

Life has become manufactured, leading it to no longer be viewed as a gift but as a product, valued in terms of its utility, he said. “Quality of life thus becomes a discriminating concept between lives worthy of being lived and lives unworthy of being lived.”

The manipulation of the body is also present in gender ideology and transhumanism, which “both start from the premise that there is no truth that can limit the implementation of their ideological postulates,” Ladaria said.

The cardinal highlighted that this “contraceptive anthropology” present in gender ideology again places freedom in opposition to nature.

“This exaltation of freedom without relation to truth makes both ideologies present desire and will as the ultimate guarantors of human decisions,” he said. “Therefore, the continuation of the phrase ‘my body belongs to me, I will do with it what I want’ is the expression of desire alone as the guarantor of moral decision. But it is precisely the human body itself that appears as an obstacle, as a limit to the realization of desire.”

Someone’s “personal identity is now based on his orientation, i.e., without connection to his own body and without relation to the body of the other, without relation to the opposite sex,” Ladaria continued. “It is an anthropology that has separated the vocation to love from the vocation to fecundity.”

, instead, “proposes an anthropology of the whole person, an anthropology capable of uniting freedom with nature,” he said.

“Man is truly himself, when body and soul form an intimate unity.”

Speakers at the congress included physicians, theologians, academics, and priests from around the world. Catholic couples also gave testimonies about the joys and challenges of married love and openness to life.

Among the presenters were U.S.-based moral theologian Pia de Solenni; the president of Culture of Life Africa, biologist Obianuju Ekeocha; and the president emeritus of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, John Haas.

Haas is also an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL). Other ordinary and corresponding members of PAL who participated in the meeting were Jean-Marie Le Méné, president of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation; Mounir Farag, founder and president of the St. Joseph Institute for the Family, Bioethics, and Pro Vita; Elena Postigo Solana, director of the Institute of Bioethics at Francisco de Vitoria University of Madrid; and Pilar Vigil Portales, OB-GYN.

Judge orders psychiatric treatment for man who forcibly entered Vatican

Rome Newsroom, May 19, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

A Vatican magistrate has sentenced the unidentified man who forcibly entered Vatican City on Thursday night to mandatory psychiatric treatment, according to the Holy See press office.

The man was taken into Vatican custody on the night of May 18 after driving a car at high speed through a gate at the Vatican, bypassing the checkpoints of both the Swiss Guard and Gendarmes.

After being questioned in the presence of his lawyer on Friday afternoon, the man “was taken to the psychiatric ward of Santo Spirito in Sassia Hospital for mandatory medical treatment,” the Holy See press office said in a brief statement May 19.

The incident leading to the man’s arrest happened after 8 p.m. on May 18 at one of the main entrances to Vatican City by car.

The entrance at Sant’Anna Gate is located north of St. Peter’s Square and next to the Swiss Guard barracks. The press office said the man, estimated to be in his 40s, initially approached the gate in his vehicle and was turned away because he lacked the proper authorization to enter.

After leaving, he turned his car around and drove at high speed, forcing his way through the gates manned by the Swiss Guard and the Gendarmes, according to a statement issued Thursday night by the press office.

A gendarme stationed at the Sant’Anna entrance fired his weapon in the direction of the vehicle’s front tires, hitting the left front fender, the statement said, but the vehicle proceeded onto Vatican territory until the driver got out of his car at the San Damaso Courtyard, the central courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where he was placed under arrest.

He was checked out by doctors from the Vatican’s health and hygiene office and found to be in “a serious state of psychophysical alteration,” the press office said.

The man was held overnight in a Vatican prison cell.

Guard opens fire as man drives car into Vatican; suspect in custody

CNA Newsroom, May 18, 2023 / 15:13 pm (CNA).

An unidentified man is in custody after driving a car at high speed through a gate at the Vatican Thursday, the Holy See press office said.

A guard stationed at the Santa Anna entrance fired his weapon in the direction of the vehicle’s front tires, hitting the left front fender, but the vehicle proceeded onto the Vatican grounds until the driver got out at the San Damaso Courtyard, the main courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, the press office said. There the man was blocked and placed under arrest by the Gendarmerie Corps, the press office said.

The incident happened after 8 p.m. at one of the main entrances to Vatican City by car. It is located north of St. Peter’s Square and next to the Swiss Guard barracks. The press office said the man initially approached the entrance in his vehicle and was turned away because he lacked the proper authorization.

“Regardless of the indications provided to him by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which prevented him from entering the State without the relative authorizations, he temporarily left the entrance and, after having maneuvered, returned at high speed, forcing the two control gates, of the Swiss Guard and of the Gendarmerie of the Vatican City State,” the press office said.

“The man, aged about 40, was immediately subjected to a visit by the doctors of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene of the Vatican City State, who found a serious state of psychophysical alteration,” the statement said.

“Currently the person is in a prison cell in the new premises of the Gendarmerie Barracks, at the disposal of the Judicial Authority,” the statement added.

Analysis: What does Pope Francis’ new ‘Fundamental Law’ mean for Vatican City State?

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2023 / 09:10 am (CNA).

Is the new Fundamental Law issued by Pope Francis last week simply a modernization of Vatican City’s civil constitution or something much more — perhaps even a Copernican revolution in how the city-state functions and understands itself?

Pope Francis said he issued the new law “to respond to the needs of our times.” And Professor Vincenzo Buonomo, a councilor of the Vatican City State and rector of the Lateran University, stressed this week that this reform, the first in 23 years, merely aims at emphasizing and valuing some of the aspects of the state, while at the same time giving it what he called a renewed “missionary push.”

Yet in some respects, Francis’ May 13 promulgation moves the state closer to the model of a modern, secular state.

To be sure, the new law leaves no doubt that the civil government remains very much an absolute monarchy, with the supreme pontiff possessing all “legislative, executive, and judicial powers.”

But the new law gives Vatican City’s civil entities a more central role, even in international relations, and it now emphatically makes the city-state the guarantor of the Holy See’s sovereignty.

Other notable changes include allowing for lay appointees to its legislative body, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State; restructuring the state councilors who advise the commission as a “college”; and modernizing and tightening fiscal oversight.

In addition, the role of the secretary of state is de-emphasized while the pope’s powers are centralized, as has been manifested in other reforms during Francis’ pontificate.

Francis’ new constitution is the third Fundamental Law since 1929, the year in which the Vatican City State was founded with the Lateran Treaty.

The treaty put an end to the so-called “Roman question.” After Rome and the Papal States had been annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1871, the problem arose of how to guarantee the independence of the Holy See, which was by then in Italian territory.

It was not just an Italian question because the material and moral independence of the pope and of the bodies through which he carries out his service to the universal Church is in the interest of all Catholics and all states.

From the birth of modern states, the Holy See had understood that the only guarantee of independence would be to manage its own state. And so, the solution to the Roman question involved the creation of a territory so small as to seem almost symbolic but with all the constituent elements of a state: territory, population, sovereignty, and legal system.

Today, the civil government provides security, public order, civil protection, health protection, health care, general hygiene, the environment and ecology, economic activities, postal, philatelic, customs services, connectivity and network infrastructures, construction activities, technical systems, plumbing, and electricity.

It also is responsible for the Vatican Museums’ conservation, enhancement, and use, as well as “superintendence over the assets of the entire artistic, historical, archaeological, and ethnographic heritage.”

After 1929 there were, over time, various adjustments to the state constitution, but it was only under John Paul II that a new Fundamental Law was promulgated, on Nov. 26, 2000.

In 1929, it was envisaged that the legislative power would be exercised directly by the pope, with the possibility of “delegating the legislative power for certain matters or individual objects to the governor of the state.”

The 2000 law instead established that the Pontifical Commission directly exercised legislative power, except for cases in which the pontiff reserved it for himself. The state remained an absolute monarchy, but John Paul II handed over the management of power and administration, making concrete the fact that the pope, despite being king, did not act like a king.

The Secretariat of State was mentioned four times in the law of 2000 and, in all cases, acted as an intermediary for presenting draft laws or the state budget to the pope.

However, with Pope Francis’ new Fundamental Law, the pope returns to the center of everything.

The Secretariat of State is mentioned only once — in Article 2, which underlines that “the representation of the Vatican City State in relations with States and with other subjects of international law, in diplomatic relations and for the conclusion of treaties, are reserved to the Supreme Pontiff who exercises them through the Secretariat of State.”

This article remains practically unchanged from the previous law, except that it sets forth a more decisive role of the civil administration, which “participates in the international institutions of which the Holy See is a member in the name and on behalf of the State” and which “maintains relations and subscribes, with bodies and foreign bodies, acts necessary to ensure supplies, connections, facilities, and public services.” In this way, the state takes on a more critical role.

But the centralization of the pope’s authority is highlighted in the new constitution by the fact that power is reserved to the pope while other entities are assigned only functions. For this reason, the new law does not refer to the “powers” of the Secretariat of State, the administration, and the Pontifical Commission. Instead, the various bodies have legislative, executive, and judicial functions.

The new law also confirms the legislative function of the Pontifical Commission, until now composed of a cardinal president and other cardinals appointed by the pope. But now there is this novelty: “other members” may also be designated in the commission, including lay men and women.

Yet another change is a requirement for more robust fiscal management.

Under the new law, a three-year financial plan approved by the commission is to be submitted “directly for the approval of the Supreme Pontiff” without going through the Vatican economic bodies or the Secretariat of State, as the old law required. In addition, the budget of the Vatican City State administration is to be “subjected to the control and auditing of a Board, made up of three members, appointed for a three-year term by the Pontifical Commission, to which it reports.”

How this new constitution will affect the Holy See is yet to be understood.

The Vatican City State remains, in the end, the pope’s domain. Nonetheless, the new law suggests that the city-state is no longer merely considered a support to the Holy See but an entity closer to the secular and modern states, as it has never been in the past. It might be a necessary and welcome update to the state’s structure, but could it also undermine the institution of the Holy See?

Rome prepares for 35 million pilgrims during 2025 Jubilee Year

Vatican City, May 18, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

As Rome and the Vatican prepare for an influx of millions of people for a special year focused on hope, one experienced jubilee attendee is offering her advice for a fruitful pilgrimage.

“A pilgrimage as massive as that of a jubilee year should be a wonderful, unique, spiritual experience,” Joan Lewis, author of “,” told CNA. 

“Watching people from all over the world praying... it’s an experience of the universal Church. For me, it reinforces my faith.”

The Vatican and the city of Rome are expecting an estimated 35 million people to flock to the Eternal City for the 2025 Jubilee Year of Hope — the first ordinary jubilee since the Great Jubilee of 2000.

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

A central part of any jubilee are the Holy Doors. These doors, found at St. Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s other major basilicas, are sealed from the inside and only opened during a jubilee year. In 2016, Catholic dioceses also had their own Holy Doors.

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

Jubilees have biblical roots, as the Mosaic era established jubilee years to be held every 50 years for the freeing of slaves and forgiveness of debts as manifestations of God’s mercy. The practice was reestablished by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300.

Jubilees are planned years in advance, with the 2025 Year of Hope being no exception. The theme was announced in January 2022. Now, the city of Rome is preparing to launch a number of infrastructure projects to make the experience better for pilgrims.

The Vatican said an estimated 20.4 million people attended Year of Mercy events at the Vatican over the course of 2016.

Lewis, who participated in the Jubilees of 1983, 1987, 2000, and 2016, noted that if people can plan their visit in nonpeak times it could be helpful but to be prepared for throngs regardless.

“If they can choose ‘the road less traveled’ that will probably augment their appreciation,” she said, noting that the busiest times will probably be the summer, holidays, and the opening and closing of the Holy Door.

“Be prepared for crowds. Bring patience along with your comfiest walking shoes,” Lewis added.

For the 2025 Jubilee, Rome has allocated approximately $2.5 billion to go into 87 public works projects, though this may increase to $4.3 billion.

The city is planning to improve its public transport and public bathroom facilities, repave roads, build underground parking and pedestrian underpassages, and clean up the area around the central Termini train station.

For the Jubilee Year in 2000, Rome built a large parking garage for tour buses under the nearby Janiculum Hill. Lewis said they also worked hard to make the ancient city a little bit more accessible for people in wheelchairs by adding sidewalk ramps and ramps at church entrances.

“The Vatican does a lot of work with the city — anything that can make the trip easier for a pilgrim,” she said. The Vatican and Rome “want to help make the trip enjoyable.”

Sometime early next year the pope will publish the official bull declaring the Jubilee and establishing the date for the opening of the Holy Door, which will likely be in December 2024.

Registrations for the Jubilee will open in September, the Vatican said.

Lewis said much of the practical tips she would offer individuals or families hoping to come to Rome for the Jubilee would be similar to the typical advice for any tourist to the Eternal City.

 created by the Vatican, will be a useful tool, facilitating access to the most important sites connected to the Holy Year. An additional “service card” will also be available for a small price and will offer additional discounts to museums, transportation, and other services.

The Vatican also recently published  of themed Jubilee celebrations that will happen throughout 2025, such as the jubilees of families, artists, and seminarians.

Lewis recommended that families traveling with young children make sure that part of every day there is something for them and pointed out that Rome has greenspaces, parks, and playgrounds, good for a picnic or letting kids run around.

She also said it is important to emphasize the “spiritual celebration of pilgrimage” and the “difference between a pilgrimage experience versus being a tourist.”

Pope Francis offers condolences after 9 die in northern Italy floods

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his condolences Thursday after at least nine people died in devastating floods in northeastern Italy.

The pope sent a condolence telegram to Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna, on May 18 after intense rainfall across the Italian region of Emilia Romagna caused severe flooding and landslides.

Thousands have been evacuated from the worst-hit areas, which include Ravenna, a city famous for its Catholic churches’ sixth-century Byzantine mosaics.

Images from the towns of Faenza and Cesena show cars almost entirely submerged in muddy water. Rescue workers used helicopters and dinghies to help people escape from flooded buildings.

According to local officials, some parts of the region received nearly 20 inches of rain in 36 hours. The heavy rains caused 23 rivers across the region to burst their banks and 120 landslides.

Catholic bishops in Emilia-Romagna have called for the region to remain united in the face of the emergency and committed to doing everything necessary to collaborate with relief efforts to aid those in need. Zuppi has asked for priests to notify Caritas of emergency situations that need to be addressed.

The telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute (Sostituto) of the Vatican Secretariat of State, said: “While assuring fervent prayers of repose for the deceased and expressing condolences to their families, the Supreme Pontiff invokes from God comfort for the wounded and consolation for those suffering consequences from the grave calamity.”

“Pope Francis thanks all those who in these hours of particular difficulty are working to bring relief and alleviate all suffering, as well as the diocesan communities for their expressions of communion and fraternal closeness to the most afflicted populations. The Supreme Pontiff sends apostolic blessing to all as a sign of his spiritual closeness.”

Pope Francis receives phone call during general audience

Vatican City, May 17, 2023 / 09:18 am (CNA).

To the surprise of the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis briefly interrupted his Wednesday general audience to take a phone call. 

After the pope greeted English-speaking pilgrims at his public audience on May 17, one of his assistants walked over to where Pope Francis was seated and handed him a cellphone. 

The pope spoke quietly on the phone for about one minute while the crowd waited in silence. 

After the phone call, the general audience resumed as usual with a Vatican employee reading the German translation of the pope’s catechesis.

While it is a rare occurrence to see the pope using a cellphone, it is not the first time that he has taken a call during his Wednesday audience. 

This was at least the fourth phone call Pope Francis has taken during a general audience in the last two years. 

Pope Francis answered the phone during general audiences in August and December 2021. He was also spotted speaking on the phone from the popemobile at the beginning of an audience in March. 

During , the pope shared the story of St. Francis Xavier, who he said is considered “the greatest missionary of modern times.”

“May St. Francis Xavier, who did great things in such poverty and with such courage, give us some of this zeal, this zeal to live the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

Abuse victims share ‘wounded heart’ with Pope Francis after bike trek from Germany

Rome Newsroom, May 17, 2023 / 07:33 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday met briefly with a group of abuse victims who undertook a bicycle pilgrimage from Germany to Rome this month to ask the pope to do everything in his power to heal and prevent abuses in the Catholic Church.

The group, from the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, also delivered a letter to the Holy Father following his weekly general audience and presented him a gift: a sculpture of a heart by artist Michael Pendry.

“The work does not show a usual, romantic heart,” the group explained in its letter to the pope. “The heart has many open parts, allows introspection, it is angular and wounded. We as people who have been abused can easily find ourselves in this depiction. It is also so in our inner selves, in the center of our being, in the center of our heart!”

In all, 15 abuse victims arrived in Rome this week after setting off on bicycles on May 6 from Munich, the capital of Bavaria in southern Germany.

The bicyclists made several stops along their journey to Rome, including in Bolzano, in northern Italy, on May 8, where they were greeted by Bishop Ivo Muser of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, and by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising.

The authors of the letter said they were all, as children or young people, the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests or male or female religious.

“The message of the Gospel has been perverted by the perpetrators of the crimes. The victims still suffer the consequences today and their lives are still affected and limited in different ways and intensities,” the victims said.

“What they have in common is the wounded heart, the great wound of life that hurts day after day,” they added, noting that every time there is a new report of abuse in the Church, or of cover-up and failure by her leaders, “scars reopen and wounds begin to bleed again.”

The letter said there are victims of abuse who cannot and do not want to leave the Church and their faith, “who continue to hope and expect that those in charge of the Catholic Church will consistently and decisively address the abuses of the past and do everything to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children and young people, where they can experience the beauty and liberation of the message of Jesus Christ.”

They quoted Psalm 147:3, which says the Lord is “healing the brokenhearted, and binding up their wounds.”

“This expresses the deepest desire of many victims of sexualized violence in the church context: the healing of the great wound of life!”

They wrote in their letter that while the first steps toward the prevention of abuse have been taken, they still see the need for “a strong and clear commitment” from the hierarchy in the Roman Curia and in all the dioceses of the Church.

They also asked that a clear signal be sent to perpetrators of abuse and the bishops who have not fulfilled their responsibilities in this area.

“If today we approach you, Holy Father — and thus the Church — they come to you women and men who have been wounded, humiliated, and scarred all their lives. But at the same time, women and men who are not resigned to what has happened. People with their heads held high, upright and with a strong will to live and survive. We want to meet you by looking into your eyes.”

Pope Francis: Share the Gospel with zeal like St. Francis Xavier

Vatican City, May 17, 2023 / 04:35 am (CNA).

In a world in which there are “so many people who need Jesus,” St. Francis Xavier is an exemplary model of how to live and share the Gospel with zeal, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

The pope dedicated his entire on May 17 to sharing the story of the daring 16th-century saint who risked his life to travel to what was then considered the “unknown ends of the world.”

Pope Francis said that St. Francis Xavier is considered “the greatest missionary of modern times.”

One of the first Jesuit priests, Xavier brought the message of Christ to India, the distant islands of the Indonesian archipelago, and Japan.

“The love of Christ was the strength that drove him to the furthest frontiers, with constant toil and danger, overcoming setbacks, disappointments, and discouragement; indeed, giving him consolation and joy in following and serving him to the end,” Pope Francis said.

“May St. Francis Xavier, who did great things in such poverty and with such courage, give us some of this zeal, this zeal to live the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel,” he added.

“To the many young people today who have some restlessness and do not know what to do with that restlessness, I say, look to Francis Xavier, look at the horizon of the world, look at so many people in need, look at so many people who are suffering, so many people who need Jesus.”

Pope Francis noted that Xavier’s dream was to evangelize China, but he died while on the way to realize his dream.

“In Japan, Xavier, the great dreamer, understood that the decisive country for the mission in Asia was another one: China. With its culture, its history, its size, it exercised de facto dominance over that part of the world,” he said.

“Even today, China is really a cultural hub with a great history, a beautiful history,” the pope added.

However, Xavier died “in total abandonment” on the small island of Shangchuan off the coast of mainland China near Macao on Dec. 3, 1552, as “only a Chinese man stood beside him to watch over him.”

At the time of his death at only 46 years old, the missionary priest’s hair was already white and “his strength was consumed, given unsparingly to the service of the Gospel,” Francis said.

“His very intense activity was always joined with prayer, the union with God, mystical and contemplative. He never left prayer, because he knew there was strength there,” he said.

Pope Francis reflected on the great testimony of St. Francis Xavier as part of a series of catechesis on “the passion for evangelization,” which he began in January.

Midway through his general audience, Pope Francis interrupted the proceedings to answer a phone call.

While it is a rare occurrence to see the , it is not the first time that he has taken a call during his general audience. Pope Francis also answered the phone during a weekly Wednesday audience in August 2021.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis reminded the crowd that the Church will celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord on Thursday, May 18.

“The Ascension of the Lord, which we will celebrate tomorrow, invites us to look at the moment in which Jesus, before ascending to heaven, entrusts to the Apostles the mandate to bring his message of salvation to the ends of the earth,” the pope said.

“Dear young people … accept Christ’s missionary mandate and commit yourselves to put your enthusiasm at the service of the Gospel. You, dear sick and elderly, live united with the Lord in the certainty that you are making a valuable contribution to the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world. And you, dear newlyweds, make sure that your families are places where you learn to love God and be his witnesses in joy.”

Caritas Internationalis elects Alistair Dutton as its new secretary general

Rome Newsroom, May 16, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

Six months after Pope Francis dismissed its top administrators, Caritas Internationalis’ new leadership team elected Alistair Dutton, who also serves on the board of Stop Climate Chaos and Jesuit Refugee Services, as its new secretary general Monday night.

Dutton is the chief executive of Caritas Scotland, which works to build “a green and just world” by putting faith into action, according to its website.

He is now tasked with leading the second-largest humanitarian aid organization in the world until 2027. Caritas Internationalis is the Church’s main charitable arm, made up of a confederation of more than 160 Catholic charities operating in 200 countries and territories.

Speaking to the more than 400 delegates taking part in Caritas Internationalis’ 22nd General Assembly in Rome this week, Dutton reflected: “My journey with Caritas has taken me all over the world.”

“From the war in Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq, Liberia, and Syria; to tsunamis in Asia, earthquakes in Haiti, India, Indonesia, and Chile; conflicts born of greed and the exploitation of wealth in Africa; waves of displacement in the Middle East; and the devastation caused by the climate emergency and extreme weather: cyclones and floods in Pakistan, Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh; food crises in so many countries in Africa from the Sahel to Somalia, the Sudan to Zimbabwe; and the frightening reality of sinking island states in the Pacific.”

“We are an amazing confederation, one united by our mission in service to the world’s poor,” Robertson said.

“As a woman it is a particularly important day for us in the confederation. By every measure possible, women are disproportionately affected by poverty. As a confederation we are committed to serving women in villages, parishes, and communities, but also in leadership. My appointment today reflects that commitment.”

Dutton first worked with Caritas in 1996 and spent five years as Caritas Internationalis’ humanitarian director from 2009 to 2014. He was a former novice with the Jesuits and holds a master’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from the University of Oxford.

His election as president comes as Caritas Internationalis is going through a , six months after Pope Francis dismissed its top leaders.

Caritas Internationalis holds elections every four years during its general assembly. During the assembly, of the organization.

Tokyo archbishop elected new president of Caritas Internationalis

Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi has been elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis, the second-largest humanitarian aid organization in the world after the Red Cross.

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo was Japan’s first missionary priest in Africa, where he first volunteered at a Caritas refugee camp, the start of 30 years of service with the Catholic charitable organization.

More than 400 delegates taking part in Caritas Internationalis’ 22nd General Assembly in Rome May 11–16 elected Kikuchi to serve a four-year term. The body must still elect a secretary general.

“Caritas must be on the front lines to welcome, accompany, serve, and defend the poor and vulnerable,” Kikuchi, 64, said in his speech to the assembly.

“This mission must be sustained and be the focus of the members of the Confederation, and I would like to be the one, together with the secretary general, to lead the entire organization to fulfill this important mission of the Church. We are all invited to walk together."

As president of Caritas Internationalis, Kikuchi will lead a confederation of more than 160 Catholic charities operating in 200 countries and territories. He succeeds Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who has served as Caritas’ president since 2019.

After he was ordained a priest in 1986 with the Society of the Divine Word, also known as the Divine Word Missionaries, Kikuchi was sent to serve as a missionary priest in rural Ghana for eight years. 

“I was sent to a ‘bush’ parish, deep in the bush, without electricity, without water. … And that was really an important experience for me and that helped create my identity, I suppose,” Kikuchi said in an interview with Vatican Radio on May 14.

He witnessed extreme poverty with “many people … dying without proper medication” and the spread of HIV-AIDS, but he was struck by how people supported each other and how that created hope.

After his work in Ghana, Kikuchi returned to Africa in 1995 as a Caritas volunteer at a refugee camp in Bukavu, Zaire, which took in hundreds of thousands of refugees during the Rwandan genocide.

Kikuchi recalls that the Rwandan refugees “had no food, no clothing, no shelter, and people were in need of everything.”

He said: “The second time I went to the camp, I met some of the leaders and asked them what they needed. And I was expecting the leader to tell me that ‘we need food, we need education, we need medication, we need shelter’ — or something like that. … But rather than that, he said, ‘Father, you come from Japan. So, when you go back to Japan, tell them that we are still here: We are all forgotten.’ And that really shocked me.”

“After that experience, I met so many people in different areas, in different countries struck by disaster, or people in war-torn or conflict areas. I heard the same story and the same cry again and again, that ‘we are forgotten; we are forgotten.’ So, this is the real mission of Caritas: to help people know they are not forgotten. We want to be with them.”

Kikuchi became the executive director of Caritas Japan in 1999 and was appointed as a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 2004. 

He went on to serve as the president of Caritas Japan from 2007 to 2022, also participating as a member of the Caritas Internationalis Executive Committee from 1999 to 2004 and leading Caritas Asia as its president from 2011 to 2019.

Pope Francis appointed Kikuchi as archbishop of Tokyo in 2017, and he currently serves as the president of the Japanese bishops’ conference and the secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The Japanese archbishop takes the helm of the Church’s charitable arm as it is going through a , six months after Pope Francis dismissed its top leaders.

Pope Francis issued a decree in November that removed the organization’s administration and stated that Caritas would undergo a review “to improve its management rules and procedures — even if financial matters were managed well and fundraising objectives regularly achieved — and thereby better serve its member charities around the world.”

A press release issued at the time said there was no finding of any misappropriation of funds or sexual abuse but cited deficiencies in Caritas’ “management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team spirit and staff morale.”

A provisional administration, led by a former Bain Capital management expert, has run the global organization ever since.

“It is not only that we are an NGO, but we are much more than that. We are a Catholic Church organization, and the institute of the service of the Church,” Kikuchi said.

“So, that means that Caritas is supposed to be a witness of the love of God. What we do is not only provide food or materials or any kind of assistance, but rather we want to be witnesses of the love of God to show people that this is how God loves all people.”

Pope Francis prays for cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians

Vatican City, May 14, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Sunday that the recently signed cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians will be maintained and that “the weapons will be silenced.”

“In the past few days, we have once again witnessed armed conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians in which innocent people have lost their lives, including women and children,” the pope said in his Regina Caeli address on May 14.

“I hope that the cease-fire that was recently reached will become stable, that the weapons be silenced because security and stability are never obtained through the use of arms, but rather, every hope of peace will continue to be destroyed.”

The pope spoke hours after a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants in Gaza went into effect on Saturday night.

The Egyptian-mediated cease-fire aims to end a recent surge of violence in Gaza this week that left at least 33 Palestinians and at least two people in Israel dead, according to the Associated Press.

In his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis asked the Virgin Mary to intercede for all nations suffering from violence.

“Let us turn to her asking her to alleviate the suffering of battered Ukraine and of all the nations wounded by war and violence,” he said.

Pope Francis entrusts all mothers to Blessed Virgin Mary on Mother’s Day

Vatican City, May 14, 2023 / 05:15 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Pope Francis entrusted all mothers, including those in heaven, to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on May 14, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a round of applause to celebrate all mothers.

“Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries today. Let us gratefully and affectionately remember all mothers, those who are still with us and those who have gone to heaven. We entrust them to Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” the pope said.

Pope Francis added that he was also turning to the Virgin Mary to ask her to “alleviate the suffering of battered Ukraine and of all the nations wounded by war and violence.”

He prayed in particular for an effective cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians. He said: “Security and stability are never obtained through the use of arms, but rather, every hope of peace will continue to be destroyed.”

In his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that the Holy Spirit should be thought of as a constant “companion for life,” who is always there to bring God’s consolation, mercy, and strength.

“The Holy Spirit wants to stay with us: He is not a passing guest who comes to pay us a courtesy visit. He is a companion for life, a stable presence. He is the Spirit and desires to dwell in our spirits. He is patient and stays with us even when we fall. He remains because he truly loves us,” he said.

Pope Francis asked people to reflect on how often they call upon the Holy Spirit and urged them not to forget that the Holy Spirit is always within us and never abandons us.

“If we find ourselves in a moment of trial, the Holy Spirit consoles us, bringing us God’s pardon and strength,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that we can ask the Virgin Mary for the grace to be more “docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit and sensitive to his presence.”

“If we call on the Spirit, we will learn to welcome and recall the most important truth of life that protects us from the accusations of the evil one. And what is the most important truth in life? That we are beloved children of God,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis issues new constitution for Vatican City State

Vatican City, May 13, 2023 / 11:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday issued a new constitution of the Vatican City State that further emphasizes the power of the pope over the sovereign state.

The new constitution, called “the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State,” is the third in history and replaces a law promulgated by St. John Paul II in 2000.

The first constitution was issued in 1929 following the signing of the Lateran Pacts, which founded the city state of the Vatican and guaranteed its sovereignty.

The new law will go into effect June 7.

In an interview with Vatican News published Saturday, Vincenzo Buonomo, a jurist and rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, noted that the new law now uses the words “power” and “powers” to refer only to the pope, while other bodies of the state exercise “legislative, executive, and judicial functions.”

Pope Francis said he issued the new fundamental law “to meet the needs of our day.”

The law, he added, which is “the foundation and reference of all other legislation and regulations in the State, confirms the singular peculiarity and autonomy of the Vatican legal system.”

The Governorate of Vatican City State oversees the administration and government of Vatican City. Pope Francis said this body, “with its own organizational structure, contributes to the proper mission of the State and is at the service of the Successor of Peter, to whom it is directly accountable.”

Pope Francis and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy meet at Vatican

Vatican City, May 13, 2023 / 09:52 am (CNA).

Pope Francis and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, met at the Vatican on Saturday.

The May 13 encounter — their first since Russia initiated a full-scale war in Ukraine over 14 months ago — was around 40 minutes long.

The two met in a small office off of the Paul VI Hall, which is close to Pope Francis’ Vatican residence.

Pope Francis greeted Zelenskyy at the door of the building. The two shook hands and the Ukrainian president placed his hand on his heart and said, in English, “great honor.”

The Holy See Press Office said Francis and Zelenskyy spoke about the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine amid the conflict.

“The pope assured of his constant prayers, evidenced by his many public appeals and continuous invocations to the Lord for peace since February last year,” the press office said. “The pope particularly stressed the urgent need for ‘gestures of humanity’ toward the most fragile people, the innocent victims of the conflict.”

Zelenskyy’s gifts to Francis were a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child titled “Loss 2022-58,” about the death of children in the conflict, and a collage made of bulletproof plate, wood, and paint from a series called “Protect the Defender.” The collage also features an image of the Virgin Mary.

The Ukrainian president spent in total about one hour at the Vatican.

He also spoke with the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Richard Gallagher. They conversed in English in the presence of Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash.

On Saturday morning, Zelenskyy met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and later with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni and Zelenskyy gave a nearly 30-minute joint press conference in the afternoon before the Ukrainian president proceeded to the Vatican for his meeting with Pope Francis.

“We are betting on Ukraine’s victory,” Meloni said at the press conference. “We will continue to provide support, including military support, so that Ukraine can arrive at the negotiations with a solid position.”

Zelenskyy thanked Meloni for welcoming him to Italy and for giving shelter to Ukrainian citizens during the war.

Meloni said Italy was Zelenskyy’s first stop in a tour of Europe this month.

The Ukrainian president is scheduled to appear live on one of Italy’s state television channels, Rai1, during a special edition of the program “Porta a Porta” on Saturday evening.

Pope Francis laments new euthanasia law in Portugal on feast of Our Lady of Fatima

Vatican City, May 13, 2023 / 07:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday expressed his sorrow over the legalization of euthanasia in Portugal.

“Today when we celebrate the memory of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the little shepherds of Fatima, I am very sad, because in the country where Our Lady appeared, a law to kill has been enacted,” the pope said May 13 at the Vatican.

“It is one more step in the long list of countries with euthanasia,” he added.

Portugal’s Parliament voted May 12 to allow medically-assisted suicide in limited cases. The legislation states that a person requesting assisted death should be “in a situation of great intensity of suffering, with definitive injury of extreme gravity or serious and incurable disease.”

A doctor can also euthanize a patient when “medically assisted suicide is impossible due to a physical disability of the patient.” Assisted suicide is the providing of lethal drugs so patients can take their own lives, while euthanasia is the direct killing of patients by doctors.

Portugal’s new law, which was passed by a strong majority on Friday, overturns earlier vetoes from Catholic President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Pope Francis made an impromptu comment on Portuguese legislation during a meeting in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall with participants in the general assembly of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

On May 13, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared six times to three shepherd children in a field in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. She brought with her requests for the recitation of the rosary, for sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a secret regarding the fate of the world.

Pope Francis canonized two of the Fatima visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, in 2017. Sister Lucia dos Santos, the eldest child to witness the Fatima apparitions, is on the path to beatification. She died in 2005 at the age of 97.

The apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima are some of the most well-known Marian apparitions in the world.

Pope Francis visited the shrine at the site of the apparitions in 2017. He is expected to visit again during a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, at the beginning of August for World Youth Day 2023.

New EWTN film about Catholic priest in hiding receives blessing from Pope Francis

Denver Newsroom, May 13, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A new film from EWTN Ireland was shown at the Vatican earlier this month. “Faith of our Fathers” tells the story of a Catholic priest in hiding during the 16th and 17th centuries. The film depicts the community’s efforts to protect him as he ministered to the faithful and celebrated outdoor Masses during the penal times in Ireland when civil disabilities were imposed on Catholics.

Aidan Gallagher, director of EWTN Ireland, recently spoke with EWTN News Nightly about the release of the film.

Gallagher explained that during the penal times Catholic education and doctrine was banned, it was forbidden to celebrate Mass, and the Irish language (Gaelic) was outlawed. Additionally, Catholics were barred from public office. Although this took place hundreds of years ago, Gallagher said he sees many modern-day comparisons.

“We decided to create this particular piece because it has so many contemporary correlations and relationships to the modern day,” he said during the interview. 

The film was shown at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome on May 2. Participants — who hailed from many parts of the world including India, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates — gave feedback and offered testimonies of similar experiences in their countries.

“It was almost like a proof of concept, if you like, because so many people stepped forward to say, ‘This movie may be set in the penal times many hundred years ago in Ireland but we are still experiencing this in our country today,’” Gallagher explained.

He added that the film left the audience inspired because it showed that “even though evil tries to root out the manifestation of Christ, in his Church, through the holy sacrament of the Mass, that as the Lord said, ‘Peter you are the rock and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the underworld cannot hold out against it.’”

“And that’s what happened in Ireland and that’s why I suppose there were so many people who came to us, particularly from those countries, and voiced those very positive sentiments.”

One month before the film was to be shown in Rome, Gallagher sent the Holy Father a letter in which he asked for a blessing upon the film. His letter explained the relevance of the film today, in that even though it takes place during the penal times, Christians around the world continue to be persecuted for their faith. The letter also expressed that a papal blessing would help the film’s success and the propagation of the faith worldwide.

Gallagher received a blessing from Pope Francis after his general audience on May 3.     

“It was a very blessed occasion for me personally, and for the whole mission of EWTN Ireland,” he expressed.

“The Holy Spirit is what we need to propagate this message of truth, propagate this message of commitment to the Catholic faith, particularly in these modern times, so that was a very very strong thing for us and thanks be to God for it,” Gallagher concluded.

Watch the full EWTN News Nightly interview below.

Will Pope Francis meet Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy this weekend?

Vatican City, May 12, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis may meet the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this weekend during a visit to Rome, media reports say.

The meeting would be the first in-person encounter between the two since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Italian media reports also say Zelenskyy will meet Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on May 13.

Reuters, citing , said the pope and Zelenskyy are expected to meet in the Vatican on Saturday. Italian news agency ANSA was the first to report on Zelenskyy’s visit to Rome.

The Vatican has not confirmed Pope Francis and Zelenskyy will meet and Ukraine, according to protocol, does not share the president’s travels for security reasons.

Both the Vatican and Ukraine’s government have not issued any official statements about the reported trip and meetings.

The Ukrainian president is scheduled to appear live on one of Italy’s state television channels, Rai1, during a special edition of the program “Porta a Porta” on Saturday evening, Friday. 

Pope Francis has been frank about his openness to helping broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.

On his return flight from Budapest April 30, he also said the Holy See was involved in to bring peace to the warring countries. 

Pope Francis and Zelenskyy spoke several times over the phone last year.

In August 2022, Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet that he had spoken with Francis and briefed him on Russia’s “horrible crimes” and aggression toward Ukraine.

Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, reported that it was the third time that Pope Francis had spoken with Zelenskyy since the end of February 2022.

Pope Francis met Zelenskyy, who was elected president of Ukraine in 2019, with his wife, Olena Zelenska, in a formal audience in the beginning of 2020.