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Order of Malta’s former chancellor writes letter about Pope Francis, calls for unity in time of crisis 

Rome Newsroom, Oct 6, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

The former grand chancellor of the Order of Malta has written a letter to members calling for unity while also expressing concern over the new constitution  by Pope Francis.

Albrecht von Boeselager asked members not to abandon the Church or the Order of Malta in a letter sent to all the confreres. 

Instead, the former  called for unity at this challenging time for the order.

“Certainly, the foreseeable future will not be easy for the order and for us as members,” Boeselager wrote.

“I cannot imagine that the new Constitution issued by the Holy Father will be helpful for the development of our Order’s charism, the strengthening of our spirituality and the growth of the Order’s works.” 

Boeselager added that he has “received many messages from members of the order who are questioning their continued membership after the recent decisions. I would like to ask everyone to stay. Especially now, it will be important to prove our faithfulness to the charism of the order, to the service of the faith and of those in need. That is why we joined the order. The order will survive this crisis, as it has many others.”

In the missive, dated “September 2022,” Boeselager wrote he was responding to many letters of encouragement he had received. He said he wanted to assure everyone he was well and thank members of the Sovereign Council and other officials. 

Boeselager also noted that “many have also expressed to me their great disappointment in the Holy Father — they could no longer regard him as the father he promised to be for the Order.” 

He also said, “some, from different parts of the world, have even written to me that they are considering leaving the Catholic Church.”

“That cannot be the right reaction either,” the German wrote.

“The Holy Father’s decision may be unjustified and unhelpful to the order. This does not alter the fact that he, as the successor of Peter, is the rock upon which God continues to build the Church, even if individual decisions are wrong.”

Boeselager’s missive came at a difficult moment of transition for the Order of Malta.

On Sept. 3, Pope Francis dismissed the Sovereign Council of the Order of Malta, promulgated the new , and summoned a general chapter for Jan. 25, 2023. 

Boeselager was dismissed from his position of grand chancellor, too. Ironically, some say the crisis of the Order of Malta began with his re-installation as grand chancellor of the Order of Malta. 

In 2016, Fra’ Matthew Festing, then grand master, asked Boeselager to resign in the presence of Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s cardinal patron (the pope’s representative to the order). The request was tied to reports about the alleged distribution of condoms in Burma by Malteser International, the order’s relief agency.

Fra’ John Edward Critien was appointed interim grand chancellor. But several knights appealed against the decision, arguing that the situation in Burma had been resolved and Boeselager was not even grand hospitaller at the time.

The pope decided to establish a commission to clarify the situation. Ultimately, it was suggested that Festing should step down instead. On Jan. 28, 2017, following the , Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then archbishop, as his special delegate to the order.

The order began a reform process after having appointed Fra’ Giacomo dalla Torre as lieutenant of the grand master, who the following year was appointed .

Any progress was interrupted by the death of Dalla Torre on April 29, 2020. Fra’ Giacomo Luzzago was elected lieutenant of the grand master, a post that lasts one year and could be renewed. The pope, however, confirmed the appointment of the lieutenant without such a limit and, in the meantime, gave  to the new delegate, Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi.

Then, on  of Luzzago, the pope personally appointed a lieutenant of the grand master in the person of . With him and Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda on the delegate’s team, this latest reform was carried out, forcing its approval without going through a discussion. 

As seen, the pope has made several personal decisions regarding the order, to the point of abolishing its governing bodies and personally appointing the sovereign council.

The Order of Malta is a state without territory, a sovereign entity with diplomatic ties with 112 states. Pope Paschal II conceded the Order of Malta’s sovereignty almost a thousand years ago, in 1113 A.D.

Although the sovereignty derives from this , it is noteworthy that only the First Class Knights, the so-called Fras, take vows and are comparable to a monastic order under direct obedience to the pope.

A case of Pope Francis intervening in the governance of the Sovereign Order of Malta is, therefore — to some degree, for critics — comparable to interfering with another state’s government.

The pope’s actions also raise further questions. 

If the Order of Malta is a state subject to the Holy See, what is the purpose for other states to maintain diplomatic ties? 

In an interview with the Italian Bishops’ Conference newspaper Avvenire on Sept. 21, Dunlap, lieutenant of the grand master, dismissed the dilution of sovereignty.

“We have always been a religious order and the pope’s authority,” he said. “Nothing has changed from this point of view. Sovereignty is functional to our reality. Nothing has changed under this aspect, either. We have full diplomatic ties with 112 countries, and none of them has broken the ties, and neither did they with the Holy See. The pope has always valued our being a religious order, but he never questioned that we could keep our sovereignty.”

Dunlap, however, admitted that some of the reforms were personally pushed by the pope. One of them is that the grand master is no longer a life-term position but can be elected for a maximum of two 10-year terms. 

“It is a pope’s decision,” Dunlap said, “but the pontiff also told us that this point might be changed in the future if we want. For example, we could establish that the grand master, once he reached a certain age, must, as the bishops do, resign. Resignations will be into effect after the Sovereign Council accepts them.”

Dunlap also said that the provisional government has been “a popes’ decision.” 

However, Dunlap said that the order’s institutional crisis did not harm ordinary activity. Given the Ukraine war relief efforts, he said, the number of employees increased to 52,000, in addition to 90,000 volunteers and 13,000 members of the order. 

“We also kept helping refugees and migrants, especially in Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria, and we have been on the front line and at the poorest’s side to face a pandemic. The order is also very much respected in Muslim countries, where we are the only ones able to [publicly display] the cross,” the lieutenant of grand master said.

Pope Francis to meet Muslim leaders, small Christian community in Bahrain

Rome Newsroom, Oct 6, 2022 / 05:40 am (CNA).

On the first-ever papal visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis will close a forum on dialogue, meet with the grand imam of al-Azhar, and pray at a new Catholic cathedral.

The Vatican released the full itinerary for the pope’s Nov. 3–6 trip to the Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf.

The theme of the visit is “Peace on earth to people of goodwill,” inspired by Luke 2:14. The logo is a stylized image of two hands open toward God: one in the colors of the Vatican flag and one with the flag of Bahrain. An olive branch represents peace, while the text “Pope Francis” is in the color blue to represent the visit’s entrustment to the Virgin Mary.

Pope Francis will land in Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, on Thursday, Nov. 3. After a private meeting with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Francis will address members of the government and civil society.

On the second day of the visit, the pope will give the closing speech at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence. 

Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, is also traveling to Bahrain to participate in the forum with Pope Francis. The religious leaders most recently met in September at an interreligious summit in Kazakhstan.

Francis will meet privately with el-Tayeb before speaking to members of the Muslim Council of Elders at the mosque of Sakhir Royal Palace.

The day will close with an ecumenical meeting and prayer for peace in Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral, consecrated on Dec. 10, 2021. The ark-shaped Catholic cathedral seats 2,300 people and was built as part of a 95,000-square-foot complex.

On Nov. 5, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Bahrain National Stadium and meet with youth. His final morning, Nov. 6, will consist of a prayer meeting and Angelus with local Catholics at Sacred Heart Church in Manama.

Bahrain, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and west of Qatar, has a population of 1.7 million. The population is nearly 70% Muslim, with the majority belonging to the Shiite branch of Islam, the country’s state religion.

Christians, at approximately 210,000 people, make up 14% of the overall population, followed by Hindus at 10%. 

There are an estimated 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India.

Pope Francis: ‘Saints do not come from a parallel universe’

Rome Newsroom, Oct 6, 2022 / 05:07 am (CNA).

What does it look like to be a Catholic saint today? A Vatican conference taking place in Rome this week has been discussing just that. 

Speaking to the “Holiness Today” conference on Oct. 6, Pope Francis underlined that saints are not disconnected from the realities of daily life but faithfully live the Gospel to the fullest within the communities in which they find themselves. 

“Saints do not come from a ‘parallel universe’ but are believers who belong to God’s faithful people and are firmly grounded in a daily existence made up of family ties, study, and work, social, economic, and political life,” Pope Francis said in the Apostolic Palace.

“In all these settings, the saints strive constantly, without fear or hesitation, to carry out God’s will.”

Pope Francis pointed to the example of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died as a high school student in 2006, as “a model of Christian joy for teenagers and young people.”

Holiness “is not primarily a matter of struggle and renunciation,” the pope said. “First and foremost, it is the realization that we are loved by God and freely receive his love and mercy.”

The pope also shared the less contemporary example of St. Francis of Assisi. He emphasized that the witness of the Church’s canonized saints is timeless and never loses its relevance. 

“The saints are precious pearls … they provide a fascinating commentary on the Gospel. Their lives are like a catechism in pictures, an illustration of the Good News that Jesus brought to humanity,” he said.

The pope highlighted how the universal call to holiness was at the heart of the Second Vatican Council.

“Today, too, it is important to appreciate the sanctity present in God’s holy people: in parents who raise their children with love, in men and women who carry out their daily work with dedication, in persons who patiently endure sickness and infirmity, and in the elderly who keep smiling and sharing their wisdom,” he said.

“The witness of a virtuous Christian life given daily by so many of the Lord’s disciples represents for all of us an encouragement to respond personally to our own call to be saints.”

The papal audience concluded the Holiness Today conference, an event organized by the Vatican from Oct. 3–6 to discuss what “heroic virtue” looks like in the 21st century and how devotion to candidates for sainthood has spread via social media. 

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, spoke at the conference’s opening on “the fame of holiness in the digital age.”

The cardinal said that a solid and widespread , or reputation for holiness, has always been a fundamental requirement for initiating a cause for beatification and canonization, but that the issue is especially topical as “the digital age poses new and urgent challenges.”

Pope Francis addressed some of these challenges in his speech to the conference participants. On one hand, he said that media could help more people to learn about the Christian life of individual candidates for beatification or canonization. 

“However, in the use of digital media, and social networks, in particular, there can be a risk of exaggeration or misrepresentation dictated by less than noble interests,” he added.

“Consequently, there is a need for wise discernment on the  part of all those who examine the contours of the reputation of holiness.”

Semeraro noted that this prerequisite for opening a cause for beatification had “taken a back seat” in recent decades. In response, the Vatican’s saints office issued a letter to all of the world’s bishops last year requesting that they verify the consistency and authenticity of a sainthood candidate’s reputation for holiness.

When speaking about the “heroic virtue” required for canonization today, Semeraro : “If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first — Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”

Opus Dei announces an extraordinary general congress to change its statutes

Rome Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 22:00 pm (CNA).

The prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, announced in a letter Oct. 5 that he will convene an extraordinary general congress in the first half of 2023 to adapt the prelature’s statutes to the instructions in the motu proprio

The head of Opus Dei made the announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá.

Ocáriz explained in the letter that the Dicastery for the Clergy has advised the general council and the central advisory of Opus Dei not to limit themselves in this process “to considering what refers to the dependency of the prelature on this dicastery.”

Thus, he encouraged proposing “other possible minor adjustments to the statutes” in light of the motu proprio and to spend “without haste all the necessary time.”

On July 22, the Vatican published (To safeguard the charism), in which Pope Francis ordered a reform of Opus Dei.

Among the pope’s provisions are that the prelate who directs Opus Dei from now on will no longer be a bishop; the institution must adapt its statutes and present an annual report; and it will no longer answer to the dicastery for bishops but to the dicastery for the clergy.

Ocáriz wrote that since the reform is an initiative of the Holy See, convening the general congresses planned for the modification of the statutes is not mandatory.

However, he has decided to convene an extraordinary general congress “with that precise and limited purpose” that will take place in the first half of 2023.

With this objective, Ocáriz announced that guidelines for making contributions will be sent to congress participants sufficiently in advance to allow for their study.

The prelate stressed that “it’s a matter of complying with what the Holy See has indicated, not of proposing any change that might seem interesting to us.”

“Along with the desire to be faithful to the heritage of our founder, it’s important to consider the general good that the juridical stability of the institutions entails,” he said.

Regarding the other suggestions that can be made in light of the motu proprio “to give new impetus to apostolic work,” Ocáriz noted that they will be asked for later “when future Work Weeks are convened,” with a date yet to be set.

Finally, the prelate of Opus Dei entrusted the process to the intercession of St. Josemaría Escrivá and encouraged asking “the Lord to make fruitful with renewed strength in the life of each of us — as Pope Francis has urged us — the charism that God entrusted to our Father in the service of the Church.”

Tourist who ‘wanted to see the pope’ smashes busts at the Vatican Museums

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A man visiting the Vatican museums in Rome on Wednesday flung two ancient Roman busts to the ground, causing moderate damage to the valuable works of art.

According to an article in the newspaper , the middle-aged American tourist asked to see the pope and became enraged when told that would not be possible. He then threw one bust to the ground and knocked the other over while trying to run away.

The man had bought a ticket to the Vatican’s Chiaramonti Museum where the busts were displayed.

After the incident, he was restrained by security guards and taken to the police station for questioning.

“The person who pulled down the statues has been arrested by the gendarmes and handed over to Italian authorities,” Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni told reporters.

The man had been cited for public indecency in the United States in the past, reported .

The damaged marble sculptures were representations of “minor figures” and part of the collection in the Chiaramonti Museum created under Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) that includes more than 1,000 busts, statues, and sarcophagi from ancient Rome.

The Vatican told Corriere Della Sera that damage to the busts “is not significant, the faces have not suffered great damage, perhaps one of the two specimens has detached a piece of the nose.”

The busts have been moved to the marble restoration workshop of the Vatican Museums, the report said.

Elizabeth Lev, an art historian who offers tours of the Vatican Museums, shared the news on Twitter, noting, “Tragically, our first great post-pandemic tourist season has been marred by irresponsible tourists.”

Since Italy reopened tourism, on several occasions visitors have damaged or placed the country’s historic landmarks at risk.

Earlier this year, in Rome and in Pisa, tourists crashed drones into medieval buildings. And in June, two tourists rode their scooters down Rome’s Spanish Steps, causing $27,000 worth of damage.

None of these incidents compares with the time in May 1972 when a man entered St. Peter’s Basilica with a hammer hidden in his coat. He then proceeded to smash Michelangelo’s Pietà, damaging Our Lady’s arm, nose, and eyelids. The sculpture of the body of Jesus held by his mother has since been restored and is now back at St. Peter’s, protected behind a bulletproof acrylic panel.

Public spat between German bishop, Swiss cardinal leads to private meeting in Rome

CNA Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 06:46 am (CNA).

Following demands for an apology and a threat he might “file an official complaint with the Holy Father,” the German Bishops’ Conference president met with a Vatican cardinal in Rome this week.

Bishop Georg Bätzing sat down with Cardinal Kurt Koch on Oct. 4 to apparently clear the air over what the German Bätzing had called a “totally ” by the Vatican cardinal, who is a native of Switzerland and president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The exchange was the result of a disagreement over remarks involving “German Christians,” Nazi ideology, and theological claims of a key document of the German Synodal Way.

“For Cardinal Koch and Bishop Bätzing, it is clear after the conversation that the theological debate, to which the cardinal wanted to contribute in the interview, must continue,” spokesman Matthias Kopp said Wednesday, according to a by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language partner agency.

According to the bishops’ conference , the cardinal had “assured the bishop that he in no way meant the Synodal Way of the Church in Germany or the Synodal Assembly by the comparison he drew between theological debates on the Synodal Way and the events surrounding the so-called ‘German Christians’ during the Nazi era.”

“Expressly Cardinal Koch emphasizes that it is completely far from him to want to impute the terrible ideology of the 1930s to the Synodal Way,” the spokesman continued.

“Cardinal Koch asks for forgiveness from all those who feel hurt by the comparison he made.”

However, this assertion is not new, nor is the apology that Bätzing said he found not to be to his satisfaction.

CNA contacted Koch about his perspective on the encounter but had not received a response at the time of publication.

On Sept. 29, Koch had apologized for any hurt but at the same time defended himself against Bätzing’s claims of an “unacceptable gaffe,” saying, “I cannot retract my essential point, simply because I have in no way compared the Synodal Way to a Nazi ideology, nor will I ever do so.”

At that time, this clarification did not sit well with the German Bishops’ Conference president.

One day after Koch’s rejoinder, on Sept. 30, Bätzing replied he would not accept this apology as “satisfactory,” CNA Deutsch.

So what did the Swiss prelate say that enraged the German bishop and now led to a meeting in Rome?

In an interview with a German newspaper, Koch — an internationally respected theologian — had said he was shocked that, of all places, the German Synodal Way was talking about new sources of revelation.

“This phenomenon already existed during the National Socialist dictatorship, when the so-called ‘German Christians’ saw God’s new revelation in blood and soil and in the rise of Hitler,” Koch told the weekly Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost.

The “German Christians” () were a Nazi-era that wanted to align Protestantism with racist Nazi Ideology.

In contrast, the opposing Barmen Theological Declaration such distortions of Christian teaching.

The 1934 statement said, in its first article: “We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.’”

Following demands by Bishop Bätzing for an apology, Koch said in a response, written Thursday last week: “It was a matter of concern to me to recall the Barmen Theological Declaration in this context, because I still consider it important today, also for ecumenical reasons. In order to make the content understandable to those who read it, I had to briefly note what this declaration responded to.”

“In saying this, I was in no way comparing the Synodal Way with the mentality of the ‘German Christians,’ nor did I want to do so,” the Swiss prelate added.

Koch pointed out he was far from “alone in my criticism of the of the Synodal Way,” adding: “My critical comment, then, cannot simply be an expression of a completely mistaken theology.”

“Just as the so-called ‘German Christians’ — thank God — did not comprise all German Christians, I also, in no way, had all [Synodal Way] participants in mind with my statement, but only those Christians who represent the assertion formulated in the question. And I hope to continue to assume that this assertion is not the opinion of the Synodal Way.”

The Synodal Way — in German, sometimes translated as “Synodal Path” — is a controversial process that has come under sustained criticism from cardinals, bishops, and theologians both internationally and in .

The Vatican intervened in July, warning of a threat of from Germany arising from the process.

Writing about the Synodal Way, Pope Francis warned of disunity in his in 2019.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian considered close to Pope Francis, in June 2022 that the German process is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a “” to Germany’s bishops, that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference raised .

Bishop Bätzing has repeatedly rejected any and all concerns, instead expressing in May. In his first reaction to the criticism by Cardinal Koch, the German prelate said Koch’s words betrayed a fear that “something will change.”

“But I promise you: Something will change and even Cardinal Koch will not be able to stop that — certainly not with such statements,” Bätzing added.

 

Climate change documentary features Pope Francis

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is featured in a documentary film on climate change and the environment that premiered at the Vatican on Tuesday.

“The Letter,” which can be streamed for free on YouTube Originals starting Oct. 4, follows a climate activist, an indigenous leader, a climate refugee, and married marine biologists as they travel from their corners of the world to the Vatican to speak to Pope Francis.

The film includes video from the meeting with Pope Francis as well as never-before-seen footage from Francis’ papal inauguration on March 19, 2013.

The inspiration for the documentary’s title was taken from the word “encyclical,” which is used for certain papal messages and literally means “circular letter.” The title refers to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical .

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, preacher of the papal household, also appears in “The Letter” to speak about the Franciscan roots of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

The world premiere of the film took place in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Oct. 4 also marked the Holy See’s formal accession to the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presented the film at a press conference on Tuesday. Czerny’s dicastery was a partner of the film together with the Vatican’s communications office.

“The film ‘The Letter’ highlights the key concept of dialogue,” he said. “Dialogue is central to the Holy Father’s vision for humanity’s peace with the Creator, with all creation, and among us humans.”

Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said at the press conference that the film “is a timely reminder of the urgency and importance of .”

“Both the science community and the faith community are very clear: the planet is in crisis and its life support system [is] in peril. The stakes have never been higher, and we should be the source of the solution to this crisis,” he added.

The film’s writer and director, Nicolas Brown, said the exercise of making the documentary “has been one of getting out of our bubbles and meeting each other across this planet. These voices are important largely because they are the perspectives of those who suffer the most.”

The film’s subjects are Cacique Odair “Chief Dadá,” an indigenous leader of the Novo Lugar community of the Borarí people in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil; Ridhima Pandey, a young climate activist from India; Arouna Kandé, a climate refugee from Senegal; and Robin Martin and Greg Asner, marine biologists who live in Hawaii.

Lorna Gold, president of the Laudato Si’ Movement, is also part of the film.

“The film and the personal stories powerfully show that the ecological crisis has arrived and is happening now,” Cardinal Czerny said. “The time is over for speculation, for skepticism and denial, for irresponsible populism. Apocalyptic floods, mega-droughts, disastrous heatwaves, and catastrophic cyclones and hurricanes have become the new normal in recent years; they continue today; tomorrow, they will get worse.”

The cardinal said: “In his letter ’, Pope Francis says, ‘I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.’ The film ‘The Letter’ provides a pathway into such [an] encounter and dialogue. This beautiful film — a heartbreaking yet hopeful story — is a clarion cry to people everywhere: wake up, get serious, meet, act together, act now.”

Analysis: Amid new testimonies, Vatican corruption trial points to key question

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The hearings at the Vatican’s corruption trial last week and shed light on new aspects of the “” and the broader context of Vatican finances.

Behind every decision and litigation, in the end, one can glimpse a power struggle, whether it is big or small, systemic or personal.

Primarily, the trial revolves around the Secretariat of State’s investment in luxury real estate in London. However, it also explores further criminal allegations.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, for instance, also faces charges for allocating from the Secretariat of State to Caritas in his native region. The Sardinian is furthermore called to answer for the engagement of as a consultant to the Secretariat of State.

However, the big deal at the center of the trial is the luxury property investment.

The Secretariat of State bought shares of the property on London’s Sloane Avenue and repeatedly changed brokers — apparently to make the investment profitable — before deciding to buy the property, only to sell it at a considerable loss.

The court will determine if the businessmen who profited on the Secretariat of State’s investment behaved legally and in accordance with the contracts.

The trial also digs into financial details. However, taking a look at the broader scenario emerging from the investigations is essential to understanding what happened.

After a two-month break, the hearings resumed on Sept. 28 with interrogations of the defendant Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official of the administrative section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and the lawyer Nicola Squillace.

For now, only two witnesses have been heard: Roberto Lolato, who acted as consultant to the Vatican promoter of justice to extricate himself from the terms of the deal, and Alessandro Cassinis Righini, auditor general of the Holy See.

Let’s start with the testimony of Cassinis Righini, made on Sept. 30. 

The auditor not only disclosed a climate of hostility for his work in the Vatican and especially on the part of the Secretariat of State, but he also went so far as to point out that advice on investments was not just about the soundness of investments.

This statement was made with all the competence of an auditor, who is, above all, to ensure that the accounts are in order and compliant with international standards.

Cassinis Righini also stressed that that was not the way to manage the money from , and when asked, he said he was confident that it was indeed Peter’s Pence’s money.

The question of whether this is the case or simply a case of “mistaken identity” has been . The Secretariat of State has had an account since 1939 called the “Conto Obolo,” (Obolo is the Italian for “pence”).

The auditor also contested the operations of the Secretariat of State. He said that the Vatican department’s assets of more than 900 million euros were almost all in Switzerland. He spoke of 516 million euros or 564 million euros on two occasions. 

The Secretariat of State has always had autonomy in the management of funds. So much so that there is a rescript from Pope Francis of Dec. 5, 2016, which reaffirms the independence of the Secretariat of State. 

The rescript ended a dispute in 2016 when accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was tasked with auditing the Vatican accounts.

The Secretariat of State opposed the transparency initiative’s brief and then to play an assisting role, “adaptable to the Holy See’s needs.”

The aftermath of this was reflected in the testimony of Cassinis Righini. He described a clash between those who wanted to defend the Holy See and those who, in reality, wanted to make a company out of the Holy See.

In a climate of tension, it is easy to create enmities. Cassinis Righini also stressed that it would have been better not to pursue the contract with Gianluigi Torzi. 

Torzi had taken over the management of the London Palace real estate fund, keeping the unique 1,000 shares with voting rights for himself. Cassinis Righini said that once he was involved in the analysis of the contracts, he would immediately let it be known that the negotiations would have to be stopped.

But the negotiations were not interrupted. According to the available testimonies and interrogations, this decision was made by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the administration of the Secretariat of State, who also dealt with the negotiations in London without a lawyer from the Holy See.

Yet Perlasca was not on the list of the first 27 witnesses presented by the promoter of justice. The prosecution might have decided that Perlasca’s documented testimony was already sufficient.

The president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, urged to include Perlasca among the witnesses. However, it turned out that Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi wanted to summon him only toward the end of his list of witnesses. Certainly, Perlasca’s absence from the first number of witnesses was striking.

Another aspect is the management of Vatican finances, which has been family-oriented for a long time.

Faced with Tirabassi’s desire to leave the Secretariat of State in 2004, the then director of administration, Monsignor Gianfranco Piovano, gave him the authorization to practice outside the Vatican and a power of attorney for advice with Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). This Swiss bank held part of the funds of the Secretariat of State.

From 2004 to 2009, the year in which the Holy See ended the relationship with UBS, Tirabassi earned 1.36 million euros in dividends. That is to say, he made about 200,000 euros each year.

With the termination of the relationship with UBS, this “bonus” ended.

The question of Tirabassi’s wealth was the subject of much of his interrogation, aimed at ascertaining whether the office of the Secretariat of State took commissions or other amounts of money.

The courtroom heard that everything was legal and above board.

Before starting the phase of listening to the witnesses, Pignatone invited everyone to be precise and concise, reminding witnesses that everything was on record. 

At the same time, he recalled that he had allowed a broad debate, “also admitting questions that would have been inadmissible.”

In this way, Pignatone made it clear that he was aware of procedural flaws but that, at the same time, he would ensure smooth proceedings.

A note about the consultant Lolato: He worked in the office of the auditor general from 2016 to 2019 and was then moved to the Vatican’s Gendarmerie to collaborate in the investigation. He was alongside Cassinis Righini in the auditor’s first appraisals of the property.

Cassinis Righini first said he was sure that the pope did not know anything about the investment but that it was known to the high levels of the Secretariat of State. 

However, he then had to admit that he couldn’t say for sure if the pope knew.

Cassinis Righini testified that decisions were made that required explicit authorization from superiors.

Based on this testimony, it seems unlikely that no one informed Pope Francis, let alone his Secretary of State. 

The pontiff was photographed in Santa Marta with Gianluigi Torzi on Dec. 26, 2018, when Torzi was negotiating his exit from the deal.

These latest testimonies at the trial thus provide a broader scenario that raises numerous questions — even if it helps to understand the climate at the beginning of the investigation.

The key question is just how and why the Secretariat of State’s investments were made — and this question awaits an answer.

'Exciting time to become a saint', says new rector of Pontifical North American College in Rome

CNA Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 07:03 am (CNA).

“It is really an exciting time to become a saint,” Monsignor Thomas Powers, the new rector of the Pontifical North American College Seminary, told EWTN News ahead of the ordination of 23 deacons from his college on Sept. 29.

“We know from history, from Church history in particular, that the saints were risen up in times of persecution, in difficult times, within and outside the Church,” Powers said. Speaking about the men who would be ordained, he praised their readiness “to step up and to be called to heroic virtue, and to become the saints that that we’re all called to be.”

The 23 men from the North American College ordained to the Diaconate on Sept. 29 were joined for the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica by over a thousand family members and friends. They prostrated themselves in front of the altar and dedicated their lives in service to God’s Church and to his people.

Monsignor Powers hopes others will follow the same path as these men and become seminarians. “Pray that young men hear God’s voice and decide to become priests,” he said.

According to a 2021  from Georgetown University, enrollment in seminary programs has been quite steady in the last two decades. Still, Powers believes that the Church needs strong leadership now as much as ever. Speaking of his own students, he explained: “they’re about to embark on a life that’s very joyful. It’s fulfilling, it’s rewarding, but it’s also challenging, because we have challenges within the Church and outside of the Church.”

He praised the faith of his students, saying, “I thank God on my knees every day for the men that are here, because they’re superb, wonderful, joyful men. They want to be good, holy priests, and they want to be formed well in their faith.” 

This formation, Powers believes, is integral to the development of strong Catholic priests. He recounted his own experience studying in Rome, near the residence of the Holy Father and at the center of the Catholic Church. But the formation vital for his development as a priest was the fraternal formation he gained through friendship and community with his fellow seminarians.

“For two years, we stayed here in Rome,” Powers recalled. “Maybe our families visited, maybe they did not. But, we really had to learn to develop a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Ties back home were cut, and we were formed as a men and as Christians who wanted to give our lives as priests,” Powers said. “I have wonderful friendships from my time here that continue to this day and I know the men being ordained today will say the same thing.”

He spoke of the calling received by each priest and each diaconate candidate: “I think it’s amazing that God’s voice still gets through, that these men still hear God’s voice, and they respond generously, and give that that Marian ‘Yes’ to what God is asking them to do, despite our complicated society and the very difficult and challenging times inside and outside of the Church,” he said. 

He said priests and seminarians “come from different backgrounds, experiences, family life, origins, and yet they all hear that same call. That’s an individual call from God, each one of them. And, so, it’s inspiring that they listen to that call.”

Monsignor Powers hopes that watching the ordination of these men will inspire others to become seminarians. “It’s really all the Church asks,” he said, “that a young man leaves his heart open, just as I did and just as these men about to be ordained did. Leave your heart open to the possibility, and let God surprise you.”

 

Video on St. Peter’s facade ‘an encounter between ancient and modern,’ cardinal says

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2022 / 13:02 pm (CNA).

The facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was illuminated on Sunday night with 3-D projection mapping of art from the Vatican Museums in a new light display that seeks to combine new and old.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti described the Vatican’s new light showcase as “an encounter between ancient and modern using 3-D production technologies to enhance masterpieces of the past with a message aimed at the future.”

The cardinal spoke in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 2 at the opening of the light display, which is showing each night on the basilica for the next two weeks.

Thousands gathered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” on the first night as the basilica was lit up with moving images of Renaissance art from the Vatican Museums.

The display featured Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and Pietro Perugino’s “Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter” as an Italian narrator told a basic story of the Church’s first pope.

The 3-D video mapping also highlighted architectural elements of the basilica exterior as it illuminated the Latin inscription “Tu es Petrus” (You are Peter), words from Matthew 16:18.

Andrea Bocelli performed as a special guest for the show’s inauguration. The Italian tenor sang several songs, including “Ave Maria” and “The First Noël,” a song from his new album set to be released at the end of October.

Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said that the video projection on the basilica is part of an initiative to make the Vatican basilica recognized as “the church that holds the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles” rather than as “a museum.”

“Now the pope wants us to insist on promoting St. Peter’s as a shrine and avoid the risk that it might become a museum,” Gambetti told Avennire in an Oct. 2 .

The cardinal noted that 40,000 to 50,000 people visit the basilica each day, often with tourist guides, which he said “inevitably creates an almost museum-like atmosphere.”

Under Gambetti’s leadership, the basilica, formerly reserved for prayer each day before 8 a.m., now allows large tour groups to enter in the early mornings. Private Masses were also from the upper church soon after he became archpriest.

Gambetti acknowledged that there is a serious problem that “those who want to access, come to pray, or participate in liturgies … maybe have to wait more than an hour in line.”

He said that he is planning to make “incremental attempts to make the basilica more easily accessible to the faithful who come to pray with separate fast lanes from the tourists.”

The cardinal hopes to address these issues before the Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year, during which the Vatican expects 30 million people to visit.

“It is important that they see the face of the Mother Church that welcomes everyone. We thought of showing the image of the early Church, founded on Peter and his profession of faith,” Gambetti said when he announced the video-mapping initiative last month.

“We think that people will be guided by the example of Peter to encounter the Lord and their brothers and sisters, to live their experience as pilgrims, and to leave renewed,” he said.

The video display will be projected on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night through Oct. 16.

Pope Francis recognizes the ‘countless acts of kindess and charity’ of Stella Maris, Apostleship of the Sea

CNA Newsroom, Oct 3, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Marking more than 100 years of helping seafarers around the world, Pope Francis has recognized the role of Stella Maris, the Apostleship of the Sea. 

In a message to participants at the 25th World Congress of the Catholic organization, Pope Francis said: “I join you, and all associated with Stella Maris, in giving thanks to Almighty God for the witness of faith and countless acts of kindness and charity shown by so many chaplains and volunteers over the past century to those who toil on our seas and waterways for the benefit of us all.”

The apostleship was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 4, 1920. A congress was to be held there to mark its  in October 2020, but the date could not be fully celebrated due to the outbreak of the pandemic. 

“Now that you have gathered in person for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is my hope that you will be able to celebrate fully the hundredth anniversary of the founding,” Pope Francis said in his message.

In September 2020, the organization  its name from the Apostleship of the Sea to Stella Maris, after one of the Latin titles of veneration of the Virgin Mary.

By its , the apostleship is the largest ship-visiting network in the world.

“Indeed, from small and humble beginnings, Stella Maris has grown into the widespread organization we see today, providing spiritual, psychological, and material assistance, on ships and ashore, for myriads of seafarers and maritime personnel of diverse nationalities and religious traditions,” Pope Francis said.

The pontiff noted that despite technological advances, many maritime workers not only spend large amounts of time separated from their homelands “but also continue to suffer from a variety of unjust working conditions and other deprivations” in a world where more than 90% of goods are transported by ships. 

Stella Maris therefore should not waver in “drawing attention to the issues which deprive many within the maritime community of their God-given human dignity,” Pope Francis said.

He added that the apostleship thereby puts into practice the words of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

The pope concluded with “prayerful good wishes” and a blessing: “Entrusting the chaplains, volunteers, and all associated with Stella Maris to the loving protection of Our Lady Star of the Sea, I impart my blessing as a pledge of fortitude, joy, and peace in Christ the Lord.”

Pope Francis meets Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Vatican

CNA Newsroom, Oct 3, 2022 / 04:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Vatican on Monday morning.

Cook heads up a company whose stock market value hit $3 trillion in June. He spoke privately with Pope Francis on Oct. 3, the eve of the feast day of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi — known for embracing radical poverty.

The technology executive has been in Italy since Sept. 28. He first traveled to Naples, where he launched the first Apple Developer Academy in Europe and received an honorary degree from the University of Naples Federico II.

Cook told students in Naples about his excitement for the future of artificial intelligence technologies,  that it will be a “fundamental, horizontal technology that will touch everything in our lives.”

“I’m super excited about augmented reality. … So I think that if you, and this will happen clearly not too long from now, if you look back at a point in time, you know, zoom out to the future and look back, you’ll wonder how you led your life without augmented reality,” he said.

Pope Francis has also . In November 2020, the pope invited Catholics around the world, as part of his monthly prayer intention, to pray that robotics and artificial intelligence always remain at the service of human beings — rather than the other way around.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has also signed a declaration calling for the .

Pope Francis has often met with tech company executives in recent years. Elon Musk, the head of Tesla and SpaceX,  on Twitter in June.

The pope previously met Cook in 2016, a year in which Pope Francis also hosted the CEO of Google (Eric Schmidt at the time) and Facebook founder .

More than ‘the nuts and bolts’: World’s newest bishops talk synodality in Rome

Rome Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

The world’s newest bishops gathered in Rome last month to learn more about what it means to be a Catholic bishop.

While the week’s presentations spanned a range of topics, three U.S. bishops who attended told CNA that synodality emerged as a key theme.

The Vatican’s annual formation course, sometimes known by the nickname “baby bishop school,” was canceled for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic — making the 2022 edition the largest yet, with approximately 330 participating bishops across two sessions.

“People kind of picture baby bishop school as nuts and bolts, like ‘how to be a bishop.’ It’s not that at all,” Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, told CNA at the end of the course.

“It’s kind of whatever the Church is talking about at that time, bringing that to the bishops that are coming on board,” he said. “The synodal process has been ... a hallmark of conversation for the last couple of years, so now as we’re new bishops ... the reflections revolved around that.”

The seminar’s first session was primarily attended by bishops consecrated in 2019 and 2020, while the second session was mostly those who joined the ranks in 2021 and the first part of 2022.

Thirty-nine U.S. bishops and auxiliary bishops attended, divided between the two weeks.

Pohlmeier was the freshest U.S. bishop to join. He was ordained a bishop on July 22 — just two days after his 51st birthday and seven weeks before arriving in Rome for the Sept. 12–19 course. 

Speaking to CNA in Rome on Sept. 19, Pohlmeier said that as a new bishop, there are many things you do not know, but that’s where one’s fellow bishops come in.

“Every bishop knows other bishops,” he explained, like the bishop of the diocese where they served as a priest. “And they’re always, I mean to a person, helpful.”

Bishop Gregory Gordon, the first-ever auxiliary bishop of Las Vegas, Nevada, told CNA on Sept. 19 that the U.S. bishops’ conference also organizes meetings between bishops of the same ordination year, or “class,” as a way to build fraternity and create a network of support.

While the formal theme of this year’s seminar was how to announce the Gospel in changing times, Pohlmeier, Gordon, and Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria, Illinois, said the unofficial topic of the week was synodality.

“We’re in the midst of the synod,” Tylka, who attended the seminar Sept. 1–8, told CNA by phone from his diocese. So the course, he added, focused on questions such as: “What does it mean to be a synodal Church? What is the ministry of the bishop in relation to that?”

Care for the planet and one’s neighbor, themes important to Pope Francis’ pontificate, were also a major part of the seminar, Tylka said.

The week’s presentations also covered child protection and the sexual abuse crisis.

“That’s one of those things that I think we will take home, saying we will be very, very careful not to neglect,” Gordon said. 

Some talks, Pohlmeier noted, were directly about synodality and what it means. At the same time, those of a more practical nature, such as canon law for bishops, “would always include some comment on the synodal approach.”

“You’re going to get different articulations of what that means depending on who you talk to, but in general, my understanding is that it is more of a listening posture,” the St. Augustine bishop said.

Bishop Gordon said Pope Francis himself modeled this listening attitude in their meeting with him on the final day of formation.

In the nearly two-hour meeting, he said most of the time was spent with the pope answering the bishops’ questions. “So you finished the course, [the pope] said. You’ve heard a lot already... Now I want to hear from you.”

This was Gordon’s big takeaway from the week: “It has to go back to the Holy Father’s words to us as he was answering our own questions, you know, asking us to exercise that episcopal closeness.”

The week also included time for communal prayer, Mass, adoration, and confession. 

Bishop Tylka of Peoria said his personal opinion is that “a big part of synodality is the willingness and openness to create space for people to share their stories, to share their own encounters with Christ, to share their own experiences of how life is going.”

“So I think the role of the bishop clearly is to model that openness and that willingness to engage in dialogue,” he said.

But there is also a lighter side to being a new bishop, as Pohlmeier evidenced with an amusing scene from the end of the week.

“Here we are, brand new and so ... we got instructions on what we’re supposed to wear to meet the pope,” Pohlmeier said.

He explained that bishops in the Latin Church have two main styles of a full-length garment called a cassock. The new bishops were told to meet the pope. They should wear a black cassock with red trim, a purple fascia, and a purple zucchetto. (There is also a purple cassock with red trim for special liturgical events.)

Pohlmeier said it was funny to watch the bishops get ready for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and, afterward, the meeting with Pope Francis. Many of them were helping each other figure out where each piece of the complicated attire went — including the tall headpiece, called a mitre, which bishops wear to denote their office.

“Guys are literally opening up bags that haven’t been opened with miters from right there, from Euroclero,” Pohlmeier said, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of a clerical supply store next to St. Peter’s Square.

“You could see everybody that bought one this morning because they all matched,” he chuckled. “There were several people that were literally opening it up and pulling it out of the package and trying to get it on straight, and get things attached right, and not sure what clips go where and what’s right.”

“Those kinds of things are funny,” Pohlmeier said, “but nobody just tells you, ‘OK, buy this stuff, here’s what you need.’”

Let your beauty shine, Pope Francis tells young people

CNA Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday told young people to let their true beauty shine, the beauty that is a reflection of divine beauty. 

In a message to participants in the Ursuline Global Education Compact, the pope said Sept. 30 that one could not educate “without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty.” 

“The beauty we are talking about is not turned in on itself like that of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and drowned in the lake in which he saw himself mirrored.”

Instead, Pope Francis told students he was speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty. 

“The beauty that Jesus revealed to us is a splendor that communicates itself through action; a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made.” 

Pope Francis told the students he wished them “a healthy restlessness” to be open and courageous like , the “little bear,” who dared to embark on a long journey with her companions and fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom.

Finally, Pope Francis said he hoped to see participants at next year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon, “which promises to be a great sign of hope and beauty for all the young people of the world.”

Prosecution calls witnesses as Vatican finance trial resumes

Rome Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 08:37 am (CNA).

After a break of over two months, the Vatican trial on financial corruption in the Secretariat of State continued this week with the interrogation of witnesses for the prosecution.

The court reconvened Sept. 28, 29, and 30 to begin the questioning of the first of what the prosecution expects to be a total of 41 witnesses it will call.

The witness list includes Vatican gendarme Stefano De Santis, who assisted the Vatican’s now chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi during the trial’s preliminary investigation; he is expected to testify at the next scheduled hearing on Oct. 12. 

A British-Italian architect, Luciano Capaldo, has been called to testify by the prosecution the same week. Capaldo was the registered director of the holding company London 60 SA Ltd, through which the Secretariat of State controlled the London property after its purchase.

The building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London is at the center of the Vatican’s historic corruption trial, which began at the end of July 2021.

The Vatican has charged 10 people with crimes, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State. Becciu in May.

The London investment property was purchased by the secretariat in stages over several years for a reported £350 million pounds.

In July, the Vatican confirmed the London building had been sold to Bain Capital for £186 million ($223.6 million).

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) reported that the losses from the sale were absorbed by the savings of the Secretariat of State and therefore did not touch the pope’s charitable fund, Peter’s Pence.

The hearing on Wednesday consisted of the second half of the of defendant Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official at the Secretariat of State.

Thursday’s audience opened with the questioning of defendant Nicola Squillace, the lawyer of businessman and fellow defendant Gianluigi Torzi.

In the course of the trial, the only defendants who have not taken the stand are Gianluigi Torzi and Cecilia Marogna.

The Sept. 29 hearing then continued with the first witness, Roberto Lolato, who was called to testify for the prosecution as an expert witness.  

Prosecutors asked Lolato to examine the financial operations carried out by the Secretariat of State in relation to the purchase of the London building as a technical consultant.

On Friday, the Vatican’s auditor general, Alessandro Cassinis Righini, testified.

Righini had been acting auditor general since June 2017 and full auditor since May 2021.

He succeeded Libero Milone, who served as auditor general from 2015 until he was dismissed in 2017, just two years into a five-year mandate.

Milone was hired as the Vatican’s first auditor general in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State. 

Three months after stepping down, Milone claimed that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work and accused Cardinal Becciu of targeting him after he launched an investigation into a possible conflict of interest.

A Sept. 30 statement from Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, claimed the suspension of the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit in April 2016 “was not an autonomous choice of the then-sostituto Monsignor Becciu, but a position taken by the Secretariat of State.”

Righini was questioned Sept. 30 about the external audit ordered by Cardinal George Pell, then prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and reportedly opposed by Becciu. 

He also answered questions about meetings he took part in with secretariat officials regarding financial investments.

Righini said he was surprised that the Secretariat of State considered making an investment in an oil company in Angola given its evident conflict with the teachings of Pope Francis in his environmental encyclical (the investment eventually fell through).

Funds originally earmarked for the Angola investment were reportedly rerouted into the London building purchase.

The auditor general said Pope Francis did not know anything about the London investment. But later, under additional questioning, he revised his statement to say he could not be 100% certain the pope knew nothing.

‘Everything is connected’: Cardinal Czerny explains future of Vatican office for integral human development

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s office for integral human development is rethinking its work in light of the implementation of Pope Francis’ curial reform, its prefect and secretary said Thursday.

Following the publication of the constitution , the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has “reorganized” competencies within the office, and “there has been some turnover,” Sister Alessandra Smerilli, the dicastery’s secretary, said at a press conference Sept. 29.

Prefect Cardinal Michael Czerny said the dicastery’s mission is “to help the Church to promote integral human development,” that “development, that growth, that flourishing of each person in the different dimensions of their existence.”

“A few of us,” he added, “cannot be happily or integrally developed if others of us are underdeveloped or mal-developed or simply totally left out.”

The process in the dicastery, the cardinal said, is to think about the issues people are suffering from, “the key injustices that need to be addressed if people are going to be able to flourish,” to reflect on the response and to see its connection to other issues, and to create an effective proposal for action by the local Church.

“The concerns can come in many forms,” he said, naming human rights, health, injustice, the legal system, the prison system, armaments, violence, economy and labor, the environment, and humanitarian emergencies.

“And so on and so on, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t have a closed list. We don’t have a preferred list. We would like to listen and through that to establish the priorities that we need to address,” Czerny said.

What does the word “integral” mean in the context of the dicastery? Czerny told CNA during a press conference the word, applied to “human development,” means authentic and evangelical, and is the opposite of fake, narrow, and exploitative.

“The word integral is ... a hard word for saying what Pope Francis often says much more clearly and simply,” he said, that “everything and everyone is connected. That’s at least one of the important meanings of ‘integral.’”

The cardinal said human beings have the tendency to fixate on things that are important to them while forgetting the needs of others.

“I can become, yes, I would say, obsessed with my personal fulfillment, without realizing that I cannot really be fulfilled, and certainly not from a faith point of view, if it is at the cost of others,” the cardinal said. “If others are deprived in order for me to prosper, then there is something intrinsically and morally wrong with my prosperity. And that is contained, or implicit, in the idea of ‘integral.’”

Following its reorganization, the dicastery describes its workflow as a three-part process: listening-dialogue, research-reflection, and communication-restitution.

The idea behind using the word “restitution,” Czerny told CNA in a brief one-on-one interview, “is an element of justice.”

Restitution “is to restore something that was given,” though not something that was taken away, he emphasized.

There are, he said, “so many situations in which the poor have given their concerns, have shared their concerns with people, and the people have said, oh, that’s too bad, and then they’ve gone away.”

“We feel that … if we ask them what are their anxieties, what are their fears, what are their challenges, that we owe them an answer.”

The role of the dicastery, Czerny said during the press conference, “is not advocacy itself,” nor does the office directly evangelize — an important focus of the new constitution.

“We are ready to help accompany, we are ready to help repair, we are ready to help reflect,” he said.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development plays a supporting role to the local Churches, “the primary agents of evangelization,” Czerny told CNA after the presser.

“We think that promoting integral human development is a very effective and often wordless way of evangelizing, and we hope to help the Church to do that.”

The cardinal said he sees a complementarity with the work of the Dicastery for Evangelization, which merged the former Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

On the topic of practical help for local Churches in need, the dicastery’s secretary, Sister Smerilli, said that if nuncios — the pope’s ambassadors — get in touch, the dicastery can act as a go-between to connect them to aid.

The dicastery exists to support the bishops’ conferences and other local Catholic organizations, the office’s leaders said.

Relationships with multilateral bodies such as the United Nations fall under the purview of the secretariat of state. 

“But asks us to collaborate with the secretariat of state,” Smerilli explained, “and what we can bring is the experience on the ground, the voice of the local churches, to be able to make these voices also matter” to those who work in the diplomatic or political spheres.

Pope Francis says that he tried to help Ukraine, Russia prisoner swap

Rome Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said that he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to Jesuits during his  earlier this month, the pope said a Ukrainian military chief and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s religious adviser came to him with a request for help.

“This time they brought me a list of more than 300 prisoners. They asked me to do something to make an exchange,” Pope Francis said, according to .

“I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”

The pope did not specify when these conversations about a prisoner swap occurred. He spoke about the exchange in a private conversation with 19 Jesuits in Nur Sultan on Sept. 15 — six days before Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine and Russia had conducted a prisoner swap involving nearly 300 people.

Zelenskyy said that the exchange had been under preparation for a long time. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres specifically thanked Turkey and Saudi Arabia for their roles in facilitating the prisoner swap, which involved the return of 215 Ukrainians and 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians. It was the largest prisoner exchange since the war began.

In his meeting with the Jesuits, Pope Francis also recalled how he attempted to call Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “I recall that the day after the start of the war I went to the Russian Embassy. It was an unusual gesture; the pope never goes to an embassy. He receives the ambassadors personally only when they present their credentials, and then at the end of their mission on a farewell visit. I told the ambassador that I would like to speak with President Putin, provided he left me a small window for dialogue.”

The pope underlined, “from the first day of the war until yesterday, I spoke constantly about this conflict, referring to the suffering of Ukraine.” He later added that in his public statements, he has called “the invasion of Ukraine an unacceptable, repugnant, senseless, barbaric, sacrilegious aggression.”

Pope Francis also said that he believes “international factors … contributed to provoking the war.”

“I have already mentioned that a head of state, in December last year, came to tell me that he was very concerned because NATO had gone barking at the gates of Russia without understanding that the Russians are imperial and fear border insecurity. He expressed fear that this would provoke a war, and this broke out two months later,” the pope said.

Among the Jesuits who met with Pope Francis in Kazakhstan were priests who served as missionaries in Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. 

Father Bogusław Steczek, the superior of the Russian Region of the Society of Jesus, told the pope of the Jesuits’ pastoral work in Moscow, Kirov, St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and Siberia. 

“We are working on geographical, cultural, and religious frontiers,” Steczek said. “Now, in order to go forward with courage, we ask your apostolic blessing.”

Pope Francis to visit Kingdom of Bahrain in November

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 04:57 am (CNA).

The Vatican confirmed Wednesday that Pope Francis will travel to the Kingdom of Bahrain, a Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf, from Nov. 3–6.

The possibility of a papal trip to the Islamic monarchy on the pope’s return flight from Kazakhstan on Sept. 15.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed on Sept. 28 that Pope Francis will visit Awali and the capital city of Manama for the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.”

Further details and the full trip schedule will be published at a later date.

Bahrain, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and west of Qatar, has a population of 1.7 million people. The population is nearly 70% Muslim, with the majority belonging to the Shiite branch of Islam, the country’s state religion.

Christians, at approximately 210,000 people, make up 14% of the overall population, followed by Hindus at 10%. 

There are an estimated 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India. 

Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, is the location of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, on Dec. 10, 2021.

The ark-shaped seats 2,300 people and was built as part of a 95,000-square-foot complex. The church was the idea of Bishop Camillo Ballin, the vicar apostolic of Northern Arabia, who died in 2020, shortly before he could see his project completed.

The title of Our Lady of Arabia was approved in 1948. A small chapel in Ahmadi, Kuwait, was dedicated in her honor on Dec. 8 that year.

In 1957, Pius XII issued a decree proclaiming Our Lady of Arabia the main patron saint of the territory and of the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait.

In 2011, the Vatican officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia the patron saint of the vicariates of Kuwait and Arabia.

Later that year, the Holy See reorganized the Vicariate of Kuwait, giving it the new name of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, and including the territories of Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

Pope Francis: The first element of discernment is prayer

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 03:41 am (CNA).

Prayer is the first element of discernment, Pope Francis said in his general audience message on Wednesday.

“To discern we need to be in an environment, in a state of prayer,” he said Sept. 28 in St. Peter’s Square.

“We resume our catecheses on the theme of discernment,” the pope said, “because the theme of discernment is very important to know what is going on inside of us — feelings and ideas — we have to discern where they come from, where they lead me, to what decision.”

Francis emphasized that discernment does not lead to absolute certainty, because “life is not always logical” and humans are not machines, but “prayer is an indispensable aid.”

“It is not enough to be given instructions to carry out,” he said. “We would like to know precisely what should be done, yet even when it happens, we do not always act accordingly. How many times have we, too, had the experience described by the apostle Paul: ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.’”

He pointed out that the first miracle Jesus performs in the Gospel of Mark is an exorcism. In the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus delivers a man from the devil, “freeing him from the false image of God that Satan has been suggesting since the beginning: that of a God who does not want our happiness.”

Pope Francis noted that this is a trap many people, even Christians, can fall into: they may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, “but they doubt that he wants our happiness.”

“Indeed, some fear that taking his proposal seriously means ruining our lives, mortifying our desires, our strongest aspirations. These thoughts sometimes creep up inside us: that God asks too much of us, or wants to take away what we hold most dear. In short, that he doesn’t really love us,” Francis said.

But, he explained, meeting the Lord in prayer should produce joy, not fear or sadness, which are signs of distance from him.

He encouraged people to pray to God with simplicity. Just like they would greet a friend, they can say “hello” to God throughout the day.

Prayer “is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity,” he said, adding that “true prayer is familiarity and confidence with God. It is not reciting prayers like a parrot, blah blah blah, no.”

“To be in prayer,” he said, “is not to say words, words, no; to be in prayer is to open my heart to Jesus, to draw closer to Jesus, to let Jesus come into my heart and let us feel his presence.”

This, the pope continued, is how we can discern when it is Jesus speaking to us and when it is just our own thoughts. 

Francis said familiarity with the Lord also helps us to overcome the fear or doubt that God’s will is not for our good, “a temptation that sometimes runs through our thoughts and makes the heart restless and uncertain.”

“Discerning is not easy, for appearances are deceptive, but familiarity with God can melt doubts and fears in a gentle way, making our lives increasingly receptive to his ‘gentle light,’ according to the beautiful expression of St. John Henry Newman,” he said.

“It is a grace we must ask for each other: to see Jesus as our friend, our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not extort us, who, above all, never abandons us, even when we turn away from him,” he said. “He remains at the door of the heart.”

In his final greeting at the end of the audience, Pope Francis recalled that Thursday, Sept. 29, the Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

These saints “arouse in each one of us a sincere adherence to the divine plans. Know how to recognize and follow the voice of the inner Master, who speaks in the secret of our consciousness,” he said.

What’s behind the ‘woman priest’ Facebook post from the Synod of Bishops?

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A social media stir has greeted the image of a “woman priest,” among several other artistic images, posted to the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page. Though it is unclear whether the Facebook page noticed the figure, the artwork does come from a Philadelphia gathering of college students that said Holy Orders should be open to women.

“In #Frascati22 our experts are working on the syntheses produced during the local consultation phase,” the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page said in a Sept. 24 post, referring to the Italian town of Frascati. These gatherings for the Synod of Synodality included “pages and pages full of stories, insights, but also in some cases real works of art. Look at that!”

The Facebook post includes several cropped artworks with the Latin-language watermark of the Synod of Bishops in the upper-left corner.

One image shows five young people holding hands in front of a church, including a woman in the vestments of a priest. She is next to a person holding a microphone and wearing a yellow shirt that says “pride” in rainbow-colored letters. The person with a microphone appears to say “we are the young people of the future and the future is now.” The uncropped image is subtitled “Chain of Discipleship.”

Comments on the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page zeroed in on the woman in clerical vestments.

“Why is there a woman in a chasuble?” asks one commentator.

“This is epic cringe. Uggh,” says another.

Though the images are unsourced, CNA determined they originate with the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod. The artwork is included, uncropped, in this synod’s May 16 summary report. The images “reflect and precede each of the organizing themes included here,” the report says.

Despite authoritative Catholic teaching that the Church cannot ordain women, the report’s authors recommend that the Church “open doors to women in leadership and Holy Orders.”

In the 1994 document , St. John Paul II definitively excluded the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood. In 2016 remarks, Pope Francis characterized this as “the final word.”

The Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod drew about 400 participants from 11 Catholic colleges or universities and three non-Catholic universities’ Catholic centers. Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia attended the final plenary session with more than 50 college students and an almost equal number of campus administrators and officers, the report said.

Becky McIntyre, a northwest Philadelphia artist and alumna of St. Joseph’s University, created the images. On her professional website, she said she had been “commissioned as a visual notetaker to facilitate an interactive art installation and create digital synthesized notes of the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod cross-campus listening session event.”

Thierry Bonaventura, a spokesperson of the Synod of Bishops, confirmed to CNA he had seen the reaction to the Facebook post. "This was an example of the contributions we received. Not only [the] texts but also some designs," Bonaventura wrote. "It was an example of what the listening consultation over the world has produced."

CNA also sought comment from McIntyre and the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod.

One of McIntyre’s images summarizes the synod and pictures students against the backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline. One element of local color is included: a small image of Gritty, the mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers.

It appears to be a visual summary of this synod: 48 listening sessions at 14 universities, 28 interracial sessions, and 27 interreligious meetings. Six young people sit in folding chairs. They are labeled as “Muslim,” “first-year education student,” “physics major,” “CLC leader,” “grad student,” and “Queer.”

The image records several statements, though it is unclear if they are direct quotations from synod participants. “Being Catholic is a crucial part of my identity,” says one. “It’s all about encounter with Christ,” reads another comment.

Other comments seem more critical. “I fear labeling myself Catholic because I don’t want to be thought of as ignorant,” says one. “The only woman leader in my church was in the choir,” said another. “I don’t want my future family to be excluded because I’m gay,” one comment says.

Another synod comment suggests more “coffee dates” with priests, religious, and campus ministers.

In another image, McIntyre appears to depict the Church as a refuge from all the tensions, divisions, and broken bonds of life. Yet another image depicts the threads of various identities, including racial, ethnic, and sexual identities, being woven into a single garment by hands captioned “God is Love.”

The synod’s summary report includes various views in tension or conflict.

Some students found joy in “a strong affiliation with a tradition with deep history in the midst of so much change provides comfort and clarity.” Others cited an “inability to be who you truly are in the church, being unhealthy, hurtful, wrong.” There was consensus on some matters like the need to “be animated by a God who loves recklessly and a Church defined by hospitality.”

Church and contraception: Experts expose errors in Pontifical Academy for Life book

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 10:07 am (CNA).

Nine international experts have pointed out in an open letter the serious errors contained in a book published a few weeks ago by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which promotes a change in the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of contraceptives.

“It is not possible to take good care, give spiritual advice, counsel, and accompany a married couple by applying a pastoral approach that does not take the experience of medical studies into account,” the experts pointed out to the academy.

Proposing that Catholics be able to resort to contraceptives, as the document published by the academy does, “is, beyond a theoretical intellectual exercise, an affirmation that does not take the reality of the studies on the coaching of married couples nor the experience of so many marriages into account.”

The open letter, titled “Pastoral care that does not take into account experience is no longer pastoral care,” was signed by Spanish doctor Jokin de Irala, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Michèle Barbato of Italy, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Jacques Aimé Bazeboso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, president of the African Federation for Family Action; and Italian physician Maria Boerci, national president of the Italian Confederation of Centers for Natural Fertility Regulation.

Also signing were Italian doctor Paolo Bordin, a specialist in Internal Medicine; Serena Del Zoppo, a gynecologist with experience in natural family planning and infertility, as well as a consultant in Naprotechnology; French physician Isabelle Ecochard, former president of the European Institute for Family Life Education; Belgian doctor Pierre Hernalsteen, a professor with experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Rwanda; and Italian doctor Furio Pesci, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome.

The experts’ open letter is a response to the book “Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges” published this year by the Pontifical Academy for Life by Librería Editora Vaticana, the publishing house of the Holy See.

The book compiles in 528 pages the conferences that were held as part of a theological seminar sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2021 and has an introduction by its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

According to Paglia, the book, which proposes that Catholics may resort to contraceptives, presents a “paradigm shift” in moral theology.

“The text makes a radical change, going, so to speak, from the sphere to the polyhedron,” he said.

The experts in health, fertility, and accompaniment for families lamented that after the publication of the book by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “There has been some confusion in some ecclesial circles and in the media for interpreting this as a change from the Holy See on these issues.”

“But the position of the Catholic Church has not changed,” the experts stressed.

“The proposals in the manuscript are from a group of experts; they do not reflect the position of the academy,” they added.

The experts noted that “St. John Paul II warned against confusing the ‘law of gradualness’ with the ‘gradualness of the law’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.”

“The law of gradualness supposes that we are all invited to fully live the proposals of the Church, even if we manage to reach them little by little, from our personal capacities and circumstances, counting on grace and being accompanied to overcome difficulties,” they explained.

“Pope Francis guides us along these lines, strongly emphasizing the importance of accompaniment and merciful discernment of the spouses: ‘It is necessary to face all these situations in a constructive way, trying to transform them into an opportunity for a journey towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. It is a matter of welcoming and accompanying them with patience and gentleness’ (, 294).”

For the experts, “the gradualism of the law would mean, on the contrary, that there are different laws for different people and in different circumstances.”

After noting that “pastoral care should take medical knowledge into account,” the experts stressed that “some of us have been working and coaching married couples for 40 years. Our work covers responsible parenthood, their marital sexuality, and during their use of modern natural methods (MNM), in reciprocal respect for their fertility and in permanent dialogue, to favor, space, or avoid pregnancies.”

After six decades of contraceptive use, they said, “the proven results” shed light on “the effects that this ‘new’ pastoral approach would have.”

“In the 1960s, couples were taught that the pill would solve the so-called overpopulation problem. After 1968, women were taught that the pill would protect them from ‘unwanted’ pregnancies and prevent abortions. In the 1970s, artificial insemination techniques were developed to help childless couples to get their ‘desired child.’”

“Later, in the 1980s, it was claimed that the condom would prevent infections and also ‘unwanted’ pregnancies,” they added.

“The result, the breakdown of the family and the coercion of governments, was predicted by the encyclical : in addition to the worsening situation of women who were supposed to be ‘liberated’ by these methods and the increase in marriage failures, we are now suffering a ‘demographic winter’ and epidemics of sexually transmitted infections are on the rise,” they lamented.

In these decades, the experts stressed in their open letter, “we have learned and confirmed” that the natural method known as “symptothermal double-check” is “five times more effective than the condom” in preventing pregnancy.

It’s also known that “the current contraceptive pill has, as one of its mechanisms of action, the early elimination of embryos by preventing their implantation,” they pointed out, noting that “many women would not want to use it if they knew that the destruction of an embryo was possible.”

According to the “best study to date on the relationship between the pill and breast cancer, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,” the experts noted, it’s known that “oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer in an epidemic scale.”

“They reduce some types of cancers, but it is not comparable to the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer,” they stated.

In addition, “oral contraceptives raise the risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke by 60%.”

The use of these substances, they continued, is linked to “an increased risk of depression and suicides and suicide attempts.”

Science has also shown, they added, that methods such as Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology “obtain results similar to those of artificial methods of assisted reproduction, without their bioethical drawbacks and side effects,” including “the problem of all frozen embryos.”

According to the experts, “If only the proposals of had been followed, countless deaths from the causes described above could have been avoided in the last 50 years.”

“To question today the pastoral application of on the grounds of problems in the use of NFP could lead to one of the greatest public health scandals of all times, because it would affect the health of millions of women,” they warned.

“On the other hand, it would be an unprecedented victory for the pharmaceutical industry that seeks to silence the current medical evidence on the contraceptive pill, in order to continue increasing its business at the expense of women’s health,” they said.

The experts said that the use of “modern natural methods promotes marital autonomy; it is effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy,” and they highlighted that over the years their development has presented “increasingly better effectiveness rates, with the help of smartphone applications that include symptom-thermal algorithms with individual teaching and with the support of centers that promote them worldwide with more success and professionalism.”

After noting that those who work in health and family care with natural methods, are accompanying “the grandchildren of the first users of oral contraceptives,” the experts pointed out that “the pastoral approaches proposed by the previously mentioned working group are not new, and have been applied in some places for 60 years, probably because they did not believe in [] or because they did not know how to help married couples in other ways or were overwhelmed by the influence that Big Pharma had on the media and on health workers.”

“Now we hear very different voices in our daily practice. Young women — mostly nonbelievers —- are sad, even angry, because they were never told they could live without contraception. Sometimes they have even had to go through an abortion, simply because they blindly trusted those contraceptives,” they lamented.

After discovering the natural methods, they said, the young women “feel good as women again; they feel truly emancipated for the first time, connected to their bodies and sexuality.”

These young women, they continued, “no longer want a pastor who assumes that the ‘ideal’ is not for them, who approves of contraception, minimizes abortion, and considers divorce inevitable. The pastoral approaches that have been applied in many places over the years [have] lost meaning for them because they have endured their physical and psychological consequences. They want to fulfill the dream that the Church has maintained for centuries.”

“Instead of continuing to live in the tow of false hopes of the 60s that are old and have failed, the Church can embrace with more strength the experience and advances achieved by those who work in this field: to have a renewed pastoral role; be a hopeful sign for a youth hungry for the Truth; and who want to live to the fullest their projects as couples,” they said.

For the experts, applying the law of gradualness to family planning “would mean proposing NFP to those who want to space their pregnancies and, if difficulties arise, accompanying them while they resolve their problems so that they can live like others the good news proclaimed by the Church.”

“On the contrary, the gradualism of the law and these ‘new’ proposals would be tantamount to telling them: ‘This ideal is not for you. In your circumstances, use condoms or other contraceptives,’” they said.

The experts also highlighted the need for “a greater commitment so that lay people, health professionals, and universities with a Christian inspiration do more, much more, to facilitate and improve the care of these couples.”

“It is time to abandon the failed paradigms of the sexual revolution,” they pointed out, and stressed that “it is time for the Church to develop a true and renewed pastoral care that is sustainable, following an integral ecology, centered on free and responsible men and women.”

“The Church’s teaching is healthy and promotes public health,” they said, stressing that natural methods favor “dialogue in marriage and respect for the other, in addition to strengthening the couple’s bonds and goals.”

“When they come from love, they increase true love; when they come from freedom, they increase freedom. Our experience and science confirm that it is possible to follow and apply the teachings of the Catholic Church and accompany couples in their specific situations without departing from the teachings of ,” they concluded.

Andrea Bocelli to sing in St. Peter’s Square this Sunday

Rome Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Andrea Bocelli will sing at the Vatican this Sunday as a special guest for the inauguration of a new light display on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Italian tenor is scheduled to perform on Oct. 2 a song from his new album, set to be released at the end of October.

The performance at 8 p.m. will kick off a two-week nightly video display at the Vatican. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, an eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” will be projected onto the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The video tells the story of the Church’s first pope using video renderings of Renaissance artwork found in the Vatican Museums and inside the basilica. 

It will be shown in Italian with English subtitles on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night during the first two weeks of October.

According to a press release from the Vatican, Bocelli is slated to sing “The First Noël” from his new album  and other songs.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will also speak at the opening night, along with Italian actor Flavio Insinna and TV presenter Milly Carlucci.

It will not be the first time Bocelli has performed at the Vatican. The internationally renowned artist sang “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus” in St. Peter’s Square in July 2015 for an evening of prayer with Pope Francis.

He also led a children’s choir from Haiti in a  at the end of one of the pope’s Wednesday audiences in August 2017.

Bocelli performed the hymn for the Great Jubilee of 2000 for St. John Paul II and joined Benedict XVI and 300,000 young Catholics pilgrims in Loreto, Italy, in 2007.

Pope Francis names new head of Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed a Portuguese cardinal as the head of the newly formed Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The Vatican announced on Sept. 26 that the pope appointed as the prefect of the dicastery.

Mendonça most recently served as the head of the Vatican library and archives, where he oversaw the digitization of historic manuscripts and created a new space for housing temporary exhibitions.

The 56-year-old cardinal, originally from the Portuguese island of Madeira, is an expert in the relationship between literature and theology, according to the Vatican. He has published poetry as well as academic theological articles.

Mendonça has a licentiate from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a doctorate in biblical theology from the Catholic University of Portugal, where he went on to teach theology as a professor for 14 years.

Pope Francis selected Mendonça to serve as the main preacher for the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in 2018. Five months later, the pope appointed him as chief archivist and librarian of the Vatican Apostolic Library with the dignity of archbishop. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal one year later, in 2019.

Mendonça will serve as the first prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The new apostolic constitution merged the Vatican’s former Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education together to form the new dicastery.

Divided into two sections, the Dicastery for Culture and Education works “for the development of human values in people within the horizon of Christian anthropology, contributing to the full realization of Christian discipleship,” according to the constitution.

The dicastery also coordinates the activities of some of the pontifical academies, such as the Pontifical Academy of Archeology and the Pontifical Academy of Theology.

The Vatican’s announcement also stated that Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education from 2012–2022, has been selected by the pope as the new archivist and librarian of the Vatican library.

Zani served within the Vatican’s education congregation since 2002, when Pope John Paul II appointed him as undersecretary, its third-highest official.

Pope Francis has appointed Monsignor Giovanni Cesare Pagazzi as the secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education. Pagazzi is a professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome.

Pope Francis: The Eucharist teaches us to adore God rather than ourselves

Rome Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday traveled to the ancient Italian city of Matera, where he urged thousands of people gathered in a soccer stadium for Sunday Mass to “rediscover” Eucharistic adoration.

“Brothers, sisters, from the city of Matera, this ‘city of bread,’ I would like to tell you: Let us return to Jesus. Let us return to the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said in his homily on Sept. 25.

“Let us return to the taste of bread because while we are hungry for love and hope, or we are broken by the travails and sufferings of life, Jesus becomes food that feeds us and heals us.”

Matera, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world known for its ancient cave dwellings, is also called the “city of bread” due to its traditional sourdough recipe that has been passed down over centuries.

The ancient “city of bread” hosted Italy’s National Eucharist Congress from Sept. 23 to 25. More than 80 bishops and hundreds of delegates from across Italy participated in the congress with the theme “Let us return to the taste of the bread: For a Eucharistic and Synodal Church.”

Pope Francis flew early Sunday morning to the southern Italian city to offer the closing Mass for the congress. He departed by plane rather than by helicopter as scheduled due to stormy weather conditions in Rome and arrived to a warm welcome in Matera as his popemobile passed through a cheering crowd.

In his homily, the pope expressed his dream for “a eucharistic Church” that “kneels before the Eucharist and adores with wonder the Lord present in the bread, but also knows how to bend with compassion and tenderness before the wounds of those who suffer, relieving the poor, drying the tears of those who suffer, making themselves bread of hope and joy for all.”

He said that the Eucharist presents each person with a challenge: “to adore God and not ourselves, putting him at the center rather than the vanity of self.”

“When we adore the Lord Jesus present in the Eucharist, we receive a new outlook on our lives as well: I am not the things I possess or the successes I can achieve. The value of my life does not depend on how much I can show off nor does it diminish when I encounter failures and setbacks. I am a beloved child, each of us is a beloved child. I am blessed by God. He wants to clothe me with beauty and free me from all slavery,” Francis said.

“Let us remember this: whoever worships God does not become a slave to anyone. They are free. Let us rediscover the prayer of adoration, a prayer that is frequently forgotten. Adoration … frees us and restores us to our dignity as children, not slaves.”

Prisoners in Italy helped to make the eucharistic hosts offered during Communion at the Mass as part of an initiative of the Italian prison chaplains’ association. The wine offered at Communion was made from vines cultivated by refugees and migrants who work at the House of Dignity vineyards.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the prayer and recalled that Sept. 25 marks the , celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September.

The pope said: “Let us renew our commitment to building the future in accordance with God’s plan: a future in which every person may find his or her place and be respected; in which migrants, refugees, displaced persons, and the victims of human trafficking may live in peace and with dignity.”

Pope Francis then prayed for peace in Ukraine and in Myanmar, where an air attack on a school earlier this week killed 11 children.

“May the cry of these little ones not go unheard! These tragedies must not happen,” he said.

The pope also appealed for the release of five priests and a religious sister who were kidnapped in Cameroon.

After praying the Angelus, the pope paused in silence in front of an icon of Mary from his wheelchair. The pope, who has struggled with an injury to his knee in recent months, stood up on his own at some points in the liturgy, including to offer the opening prayer.

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi of Bologna, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, served as the primary celebrant for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pope Francis could be seen seated behind him speaking the words of the Eucharistic Prayer with his hand extended.

Pope Francis made back-to-back pastoral visits this weekend to the Italian cities of Assisi and Matera. In Assisi, the pope spoke to participants in the Economy of Francesco conference for young economists, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

After the Mass in Matera, the pope blessed a new soup kitchen for the poor connected with the local parish Church of the Annunciation.

“Today, together, we recognize that the Eucharist is a prophecy of a new world,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“It is the presence of Jesus who asks us to commit ourselves so that an effective conversion occurs: from indifference to compassion, from waste to sharing, from selfishness to love, from individualism to fraternity.”

Pope Francis: Young people are missing the ‘spiritual capital’ that gives life meaning

Rome Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 07:42 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday lamented the loss of spiritual meaning in the lives of many young people today — a lack that is often replaced by an undue focus on material goods, he said.

“Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are seekers of meaning before being seekers of material goods. That is why the first capital of any society is spiritual capital,” he said at an international conference on the economy in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 24.

“Young people especially suffer from this lack of meaning,” the pope said. “Faced with the pain and uncertainties of life, they often find their souls depleted of the spiritual resources needed to process suffering, frustration, disappointment, and grief.”

“Look at the youth suicide rate, how it has gone up,” he added.

“Technology can do much: it teaches us the ‘what’ and the ‘how’: but it does not tell us the ‘why,’” he said, “and so our actions become sterile and do not bring fulfillment to life, not even economic life.”

Pope Francis spoke about the importance of spirituality in an address to participants in , a Sept. 22–24 conference for young economists, entrepreneurs, and researchers from around the world.

The initiative followed to young people to build “a different kind of economy” based on greater care for the poor and the environment.

Francis traveled to Assisi for the final day of the meeting on Sept. 24. Before addressing attendees, the pope watched a skit based on , followed by a meditation on the meaning of the Scripture passage.

There was also a musical performance, presentations, a video of the first two days of the conference, and participant testimonies from economists, as well as activists for the environment, women’s rights, and social issues from Italy, Benin, Argentina, Thailand, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Poland.

Throughout his speech, Pope Francis emphasized the need for young adults to put their energy and creativity to good, practical, use to build a more just economy.

“You young people, with the help of God, know what to do, you can do it,” he said.

“According to Scripture, young people are the bearers of a spirit of knowledge and intelligence. It was the young David who humbled the arrogance of the giant Goliath,” he pointed out.

“Indeed,” he continued, “when civil society and businesses lack the skills of the young, the whole of society withers and the life of everyone is extinguished. There is a lack of creativity, optimism, enthusiasm. A society and an economy without young people is sad, pessimistic and cynical.”

“I say this with seriousness: I am counting on you. Please don’t leave us undisturbed, and lead by example.”

The pope also reflected on the example of St. Francis of Assisi and what it means to help the marginalized. “Developing an economy inspired by [St. Francis] means committing ourselves to putting the poor at the center,” he said.

“Starting with them, we look at the economy; starting with them, we look at the world,” he noted. “There is no ‘Economy of Francesco’ without respect, care, and love for the poor, for every poor person, for every fragile and vulnerable person — from conception in the womb to the sick person with disabilities, to the elderly person in difficulty.”

“As long as our system ‘produces’ discarded people, and we operate according to this system, we will be accomplices of an economy that kills,” he underlined, challenging young economists to ask themselves if they are doing enough to change structures, or if they are content with just slapping a coat of paint on the house.

“Perhaps our response should not be based on how much we can do but on how we are able to open new paths so that the poor themselves can become protagonists of change,” he said.

He closed his address with a prayer to God the Father, asking his “forgiveness for having damaged the earth, for not having respected indigenous cultures, for not having valued and loved the poorest of the poor, for having created wealth without communion.”

“Living God, who with your Spirit have inspired the hearts, hands, and minds of these young people and sent them on the way to a promised land, look kindly on their generosity, love, and desire to spend their lives for a great ideal. Bless them in their undertakings, studies, and dreams; accompany them in their difficulties and sufferings, help them to transform their difficulties and sufferings into virtue and wisdom,” he prayed.

At the end of the encounter, Pope Francis joined participants in signing a pact promoting “an economy of the Gospel.”

The full text of the pact is below:

Pope Francis’ chief Vatican prosecutor retires; deputy prosecutor promoted

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of the chief prosecutor of the Vatican City State court, Gian Piero Milano, and named a new prosecutor.

Milano, who will turn 75 in November, has been the Vatican tribunal’s prosecutor, also known as the promoter of justice, since October 2013.

As Vatican promoter of justice, Milano oversaw the investigations that led to the two “Vatileaks” trials and the prosecution of a priest and former Holy See diplomat for the possession and distribution of child pornography, among other cases. He was formerly a professor of canon and ecclesiastical law.

The pope on Friday appointed Alessandro Diddi as new head prosecutor. An adjunct prosecutor for the Vatican since 2015, Diddi is lead investigator for the Vatican’s major finance trial against defendant Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others. He also has a background as a criminal defense lawyer in Rome.

To fill the spot left by Diddi’s promotion, Pope Francis on Sept. 23 named Settimio Carmignani Caridi adjunct prosecutor. Caridi, 68, is a professor of canon and ecclesiastical law at Rome’s Tor Vergata University. He also teaches Vatican law at the private Catholic LUMSA University in Rome.

Benedict XVI writes about ‘inner drama of being a Christian’ in new letter

Rome Newsroom, Sep 23, 2022 / 05:29 am (CNA).

In a new letter, Benedict XVI praised the story of a woman who lived “the inner drama of being a Christian” and dedicated her life to the spiritual encounter with Christ in eucharistic adoration and other practices. 

The pope emeritus wrote that his own personal experience was similar to what Mother Julia Verhaeghe went through in a letter to the author of a new biography. 

The writer, Father Hermann Geissler, is a former official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the Spiritual Family “The Work” that Mother Julia founded and Pope John Paul II designated as a family of consecrated life in 2001.

In his letter to Geissler, made available to CNA, Benedict did not hide the fact that he had “the fear that her life could be of little interest as a whole because it lacks any external drama.”

Benedict praised the author for making “the inner drama of being a Christian visible, writing a genuinely fascinating biography. The external path of this life, which leads from Belgium through Austria and Hungary to Rome, with a focal point in Austria, becomes a reflection of the interior path through which this woman was led.”

“In this way, the true drama of life becomes visible, which is found above all in the encounter with Paul and, through him, with Christ himself, allowing others to retrace it,” Benedict added. 

“All the external and internal drama of faith is present in her life. The tension described here is particularly captivating because it is similar to what I have experienced since the 1940s.”

The biography, titled “She Served the Church: Mother Julia Verhaeghe and the Development of The Spiritual Family The Work,” explores the period from 1950 to 2001, from the second postwar period to the recognition of the Family, four years after the founder’s death in 1997.

The book is divided into four parts and includes testimonies, excerpts from Mother Julia’s letters, and other archival documents. Furthermore, the book contextualizes the life and choices of Mother Julia, connecting them to the situations of the time, of which Mother Julia was a careful observer.

In the introduction, Father Thomas Felder and Sister Margarete Binder wrote that “the following pages tell of a woman who had neither a particular culture, nor good health, nor any economic means.” Yet, they added, “a fire burned in her heart.”

This fire is the basis of the encounters that formed her life: first of all, the one with St. Paul; then the one with Pope Pius XII, who appeared to her in a dream and who predicted the Second Vatican Council; finally, the encounter with Cardinal John Henry Newman, to whom “The Work” has a particular relationship.

These meetings and relationships are part of a spiritual path to encountering Christ. Geissler’s book tells of these encounters with delicacy, without sensationalism, demonstrating that prophecy comes only when one is open to listening.

From the meeting with Pius XII, a great intuition was born: the human and humanizing element of the Second Vatican Council will try to take over, going beyond what must be the center of the Church, namely the sacred.

In the face of growing secularization, the Spiritual Family “The Work,” guided by Mother Julia, emphasized eucharistic adoration. It is a daily habit in every house of “The Work.”

The book also describes how Mother Julia felt the same enthusiasm and concern for a unified Europe, just as Brussels was preparing to host the 1958 Expo. Her view was always one of spiritual renewal, of a return to Christ.

Perhaps there was no external drama, but the restlessness of Mother Julia’s soul that Benedict refers to is good, open to reflecting on the issues of the time. 

In Geissler’s book, one perceives the constant amazement before the mystery of Christ, which leads her, already elderly, to visit the Holy Land and experience the desert.

The life of Mother Julia told in this book is of a woman who could look at her times with the concreteness that comes only from contact with God.

Benedict XVI, who turned 95 in April, often about the for with God and the encounter with Jesus was the answer to the world’s challenges.

Leading theologian sees a ‘rise in interest in Aquinas’ among young Catholics

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2022 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

A new generation of young people are deeply invested in the study of St. Thomas Aquinas, according to Father Thomas Joseph White.

The Dominican theologian and rector of the Angelicum in Rome said that he has witnessed both a new academic emphasis on historical accuracy regarding the 13th-century saint and attention to his potential contemporary relevance.

“We’re seeing a modest renaissance of Thomism in the Church, particularly in the English-speaking world,” White told CNA on Sept. 22.

“And this is something that people are now paying more attention to in the academic world because we’re seeing that there is a rise in interest in Aquinas that is not related to past ideas of magisterial homogeneity. It’s really more about people on the grassroots level, trying to think through the doctrine of the faith and bring theology to their local communities and to the broader Church through rigorous investigation and responsible reflection.”

White spoke as the is taking place in Rome Sept. 19–24.

“I think it’s the most important Thomistic conference internationally to take place in decades,” he commented.

Featuring more than 130 speakers, including Father Simon Gaine, Father Wojciech Giertych, and Father Gilles Emery, the congress has covered a wide range of topics from historical reflections on St. Thomas Aquinas to contemporary philosophical topics in metaphysics and ethics.

“It’s been an amazing last few days because we have had speakers from all over the world, from the Far East, from the United States, a healthy representation from Central and South America, Africa, India, and of course, Europe. It shows the kind of catholicity of engagement in Aquinas as a common doctor for Catholic thought,” White said.

Pope Francis received participants from the International Thomistic Congress in an audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 22.

Speaking entirely off the cuff, the pope underscored the importance of contemplation in intellectual life.

“Before talking about St. Thomas, before talking about Thomism, before teaching, we must contemplate,” Pope Francis told the Thomists.

In a distributed to the congress participants, Pope Francis wrote that St. Thomas Aquinas’ “search for the truth about God was impelled and permeated by love.”

Ahead of the papal audience, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, offered Mass for the congress participants in St. Peter’s Basilica. A schola made up of students from the pontifical university sang for the liturgy.

The 11th International Thomistic Congress, jointly organized by the Thomistic Institute and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, is the first congress of its kind to be hosted by the pontifical university in Rome in nearly 20 years.

Father Dominic Holtz, the vice dean of philosophy at the university, told CNA that the congress has addressed new questions on “Thomistic engagement with neo-Confucian philosophers and transhumanism — sorts of things that we probably would not have even thought of asking 20 years ago.”

Holtz added that “a hallmark of Thomism is that it remains both able to engage new situations and retains a life in the classic perennial questions that every generation has to wrestle with.”

“For instance,” he continued, “there was a talk yesterday about how we understand Revelation. What does Revelation mean and how does it work when we engage the Sacred Scriptures? … And philosophical questions, like just what is the state of the human soul after death?”

“Those sorts of questions will always remain with us and they are being asked with new and interesting perspectives in light of what has been looked at before,” he said.

Pope Francis asks financial consultants to put people before business

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has encouraged financial advisers and consultants to make decisions that put the good of individuals and communities before that of businesses.

The pope spoke about the role of integral human development in the financial sector during a Sept. 22 meeting at the Vatican with consultants for Deloitte, a global auditing firm.

Deloitte provides services including auditing, consulting, financial advising, and risk advisory to nearly 90% of the Fortune Global 500® companies and thousands of other private companies. It employs approximately 350,000 people around the world.

During his encounter with the firm, Pope Francis suggested three ways financial professionals can make the world more humane, just, and fraternal.

The first was to be aware of the power they hold and the ways they can encourage the entrepreneurs, bankers, managers, and public administrators they advise to make decisions that will have a positive impact and grow integral human development.

The pope’s second suggestion was that the financial professionals fulfill their responsibility by ensuring adequate professional, anthropological, and ethical standards “consistent with an evangelical vision of the economy and society; in other words, with Catholic social doctrine.”

To do this, he said, requires assessing both the direct and indirect effect of decisions and considering a decision’s impact on communities, people, and the environment before its impact on businesses.

Francis also encouraged Deloitte Global to enhance diversity, saying “entrepreneurial biodiversity” is “a guarantee of freedom of enterprise and freedom of choice for customers, consumers, savers, and investors” and “an indispensable condition of stability, equilibrium, and human prosperity.”

The pope drew attention to worsening environmental conditions and the undignified living conditions of many people who lack access to nutrition, health care, and education.

“While our human family is globalized and interconnected, poverty, injustice, and inequalities remain,” he said, pointing out that consultants and managers are in a position to if not reverse the situation, at least to help correct it.

“Today’s consultants, aware of their role, are called to propose and discuss new directions for new challenges,” he underlined. “The old schemes worked only partially, in different contexts. I would call this new generation of consultants ‘integral consultants’: experts and professionals who take into account the connections between problems and their respective solutions and who embrace the concept of relational anthropology.”

“Such an anthropology,” he said, quoting a : “‘helps the human person to recognize the validity of economic strategies that aim above all to promote the global quality of life that, before the indiscriminate expansion of profits, leads the way toward the integral well-being of the entire person and of every person. No profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor,’ and, we can add, the care of our common home.”

‘Full members of the Church’: Catholics with disabilities contribute to Synod on Synodality

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

Catholics with disabilities delivered to Pope Francis on Wednesday a report they prepared for the Synod on Synodality.

The document was a synthesis of an held in May with 35 people with disabilities, coming from 20 countries and spanning five continents.

“I think the big message, which I think is being heard now, is that people who are disabled are actually full members of the Church,” Father Justin Glyn, a Jesuit priest from Australia, told CNA Sept. 21.

Glyn, who is blind, said there is a history in the Catholic Church of seeing people with disabilities as “recipients of charity, objects of pity.”

“Whereas I think now the message is very much that we are full participants in the Church, we are people who are part of a Church that walks together synodally,” he added. 

The report from people with disabilities was hand-delivered to Pope Francis after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 21 by Giulia Cirillo, an Italian woman who uses a wheelchair.

Cirillo told CNA afterward that she thanked Pope Francis “because he gave all of us the opportunity to speak, that is, even us, persons who live firsthand with disabilities.”

Sister Marie Claire Rolland, a French religious sister with Down syndrome, also participated in the listening session and the drafting of the synthesis. After hugging Pope Francis — the third pope she has met during her life — Rolland blessed him, making a sign of the cross on his forehead.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life organized the virtual listening session in May and the preparation of the final report on what was shared.

Vittorio Scelzo, who oversees the dicastery’s area on the care of people with disabilities, told CNA the synthesis was delivered Sept. 20 to the committee the synod’s first working document for the continental phase. The committee begins its work at a religious house near Frascati, Italy, on Sept. 21.

The laity, family, and life dicastery wanted the disabled to be “taken seriously,” Scelzo said. “The synod was perfect,” he noted, “the right moment, a kairos,” for hosting a listening session.

Father Glyn from Australia said his experience in the Church as a disabled man has been varied, but his experience as a priest with a disability is “hugely advantageous actually.”

He pointed to the problem of clericalism, explaining that “if you are a priest who knows that you are vulnerable, knows that you are weak, knows that you have the need of support of others, the temptation towards [clericalism] is not as strong because we know that we need each other.”

Cirillo, the woman who uses a wheelchair, said, “as a believer, I think each of us has a vocation that we need to discover; none of us is useless.”

“We can thus make a contribution for a more and more inclusive Church, also for people with disabilities,” she said.

“We all need help. Asking for help is not an embarrassment, it is our mission,” she continued. “Even when the condition of disability brings us extra difficulties, we have to remember that Jesus wants us to be joyful, and when we are sick, he is also sick for us. However our mission is to be joyful.”

Glyn said there are ways the Church still needs to improve accessibility to the sacraments and church buildings for the disabled. Still, it is also about people with disabilities being seen as full members of the Church, not as outsiders or a “them.”

“I think sometimes there’s been this view of disability as either a hangover of original sin [that] someday it’ll be made better — or on the other side, people privileged to suffer,” he said. “Whereas for most of us our lives are not suffering and our lives are joy. Our lives are made of the same things, made of the same fabric and stuff.”

Pope Francis urges support for Hurricane Fiona victims

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 07:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has called on Christians to support communities in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Fiona.

The pope expressed his solidarity with all affected by the category 3 hurricane in a telegram sent on Sept. 21 to bishops in the Caribbean countries.

The telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that Pope Francis “asks the entire Christian community and all people of good will to increase solidarity to help those affected by this disaster.”

More than 1.3 million homes and businesses were left without power in Puerto Rico after the storm dumped 30 inches of rain, causing surging floodwaters, submerged homes, and damaged roads.

Authorities have reported four deaths in Puerto Rico and 2 deaths in the Dominican Republic, where more than 1.15 households were left without potable water after the storm hit on Sept. 19.

is currently coordinating distributions of food, water, and other essential items.

Kim Burgo, vice president of Catholic Charities USA’s disaster operations, that many families are still recovering from Hurricane Maria, the 2017 storm that the government says caused $90 billion in damage in Puerto Rico.

Pope Francis’ telegram to Bishop Rubén Antonio González Medina of Ponce, Puerto Rico said that he is praying fervently “to the most merciful Father, begging him to grant His consolidation to the beloved Puerto Rican people who are suffering grave misfortunes.”

In the telegram to Dominican Archbishop Freddy Antonio de Jesús Bretón Martínez of Santiago de los Caballeros, said that the pope was entrusting the local community to Our Lady of Altagracia, the patroness of the Dominican Republic.

 

Pope Francis: ‘The cross of Christ remains the anchor of salvation’

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 04:05 am (CNA).

Reflecting on his recent trip to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis on Wednesday said that offering Mass for the feast of the Holy Cross surrounded by the capital city of Nur-Sultan’s “ultra-modern architecture” led him to think about the meaning of the cross today. 

“In a world in which progress and regression are intertwined, the cross of Christ remains the anchor of salvation,” Pope Francis  in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 21.

Speaking at his Wednesday general audience, the pope underlined that the cross is “a sign of hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the love of God, merciful and faithful.”

Pope Francis said his  to the Central Asian country reminded him of Kazakhstan’s many martyrs who “suffered so much for the faith during the long period of persecution: murdered, tortured, imprisoned for the faith.”

“And credit … must be given to the Kazakh government, which, having freed itself from the yoke of the atheistic regime, now proposes a path of civilization clearly condemning fundamentalism and extremism,” he said.

The primary purpose of the pope’s trip to Kazakhstan was to take part in an , the Seventh Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

On the final day of the congress, delegates representing the world’s major religions voted to adopt  calling religious pluralism an expression “of the wisdom of God’s will in creation.”

Pope Francis said that the congress aimed to put “religions at the center of efforts to build a world where we listen to each other and respect each other in diversity.”

“And this is not relativism,” he added. “It is listening and respecting.”

Throughout his trip last week, the pope  in the “senseless and tragic war” in Ukraine. At the end of his general audience, the pope repeated his appeal, expressing solidarity with the “noble and martyred” Ukrainian people.

The pope said this envoy in Ukraine, , called him yesterday and described “the pain of the people, the savage actions, the monstrosities, and the tortured corpses that had been found.”

He was likely referring to Krajewski’s recent visit to a , where 146 bodies, mostly civilians, have been exhumed so far. 

Pope Francis also highlighted , noting that the disease “affects so many people who, because of this condition, are often placed on the margins of society.”

“We pray for Alzheimer’s patients, their families, and their loving caregivers, that they will be increasingly supported and helped,” he said.

St. Peter’s Basilica to light up with video projection telling the story of first pope

Rome Newsroom, Sep 20, 2022 / 08:34 am (CNA).

Visitors to the Vatican in October will be able to see the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica illuminated with a video display telling the story of the Church’s first pope. 

An eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” will be projected onto the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every night from Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, starting at 9 p.m.

A short of the video at a Vatican press conference on Sept. 20 revealed that it will showcase video renderings of Renaissance artwork found in the Vatican Museums and inside the basilica. 

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, has said that this is the first of several pastoral initiatives to help welcome pilgrims to the tomb of St. Peter ahead of the Church’s

According to the cardinal, the Vatican expects 30 million people to visit during the Jubilee Year. 

“It is important that they see the face of the Mother Church that welcomes everyone. We thought of showing the image of the early Church, founded on Peter and his profession of faith,” Gambetti said.

“We think that people will be guided by the example of Peter to encounter the Lord and their brothers and sisters, to live their experience as pilgrims, and to leave renewed. It is an integrated pastoral action,” he added.

The display will be projected on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. during the first two weeks of October.

 

Pope Francis extends a hand to China

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2022 / 08:33 am (CNA).

While a trial against Cardinal Joseph Zen is getting , the Holy See continues to work toward the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement for the appointment of bishops.

There appear to be no substantial changes to the deal, which seems to likely be renewed for another two years despite .

However, some developments should not be underestimated.

The first development is the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, under Cardinal Pietro Parolin, moving toward establishing a mission of the Holy See in Beijing.

In an interview with during Pope Francis’ trip to Kazakhstan, Parolin said that moving the Holy See’s “study mission” from Hong Kong to Beijing was not a novel concept and that the Holy See was ready to do so.

“I don’t think it’s a new idea. We have always made it present. We are waiting for a signal from Beijing, which has not yet arrived.”

The Hong Kong “study mission” has been crucial regarding relations between China and the Holy See and was an alleged target of a in 2020.

The mission is traditionally linked to the nunciature in Manila, Philippines. The head of the mission is Monsignor José Luis Diaz Mariblanca Sanchez, who has worked in Indonesia, Algeria, and the Secretariat of State. Since two diplomats have been assigned since 2007, it also includes Monsignor Alvaro Ernesto Izurieta y Sea, from Buenos Aires, who has been in Hong Kong since 2020.

What signal would a possible move of a study mission to Beijing send? It could mean opening a diplomatic channel with the People’s Republic of China for the first time since diplomatic ties were severed in 1951.

At the same time, since a study mission is not a nunciature, it carries less weight.

To open a nunciature in Beijing, the Holy See would have to close the Nunciature of China, which has its seat in Taipei, thereby cutting ties with Taiwan, as China considers Taiwan a rebellious province.

The Holy See is one of the 14 nation-states maintaining ties with Taiwan. “For now,” Parolin said, “things remain like this.”

However, the Vatican Secretariat of State says it has also worked toward changing some agreement terms. Parolin, speaking with CNA, related such an opportunity, though it is unknown which terms of the agreement , given the deal is secret and its terms remain unknown to the public.

For now, Pope Francis says he is to pursue dialogue. A source in the Kazakh Parliament told CNA that “theoretically,” it was possible that the pope and the president in Kazakhstan.

Such a meeting would have been , though Reuters on Sept. 15 that the pope had made his “willingness” to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan known.

The Reuters report was confirmed to CNA by other sources, citing a series of contacts with the Chinese embassy in Italy, historically a channel of communications between the Holy See in China and the entourage of Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan.

While Xi appears to have snubbed the pope, and no encounter took place, the pope’s approach did not go unnoticed in China. Mao Ning, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Beijing, according to Il Messaggero, the “benevolence and cordiality” of Pope Francis’ words.

The spokeswoman also said “China and the Vatican maintain good communication” and that they were ready to “maintain dialogue and cooperation with the Vatican and carry out the process of improving relations.”

One earlier development was the between Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Feb. 14, 2020.

A further development was the location chosen for the latest round of negotiations for the renewal of the agreement this year: the coastal metropolis of Tianjin in Northern China.

The location was symbolically important, considering it has been one of the many vacant dioceses in China since 2005 — that is to say, without a state-recognized bishop.

The meetings were held from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, and the Vatican delegation, according to a report by , also visited the underground bishop Melchior Shi Hongzhen.

The 93-year-old was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of the diocese with another cleric on June 15, 1982, by Bishop Stephano Li Side of the underground Church.

He succeeded Bishop Li Side in becoming the Bishop of Tianjin on June 8, 2019. He was living under house arrest and has been under pressure to join the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), according to a “Bitter Winter” .

In a world where everything must be read in symbols, it was a strong signal from the Holy See: The delegation wanted to demonstrate that despite the desire to carry on a dialogue, the situation of Catholics in China had not been forgotten.

The latest development is the election of Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing as president of the CPCA.

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, founded in 1957, is the governmental body controlling the Church. Catholic priests and bishops are forced to show goodwill and abide by the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party.

The appointment of Li Shan seems a further sign of a rapprochement: He was consecrated bishop in 2007, with the consent of the Holy See, before the Sino-Vatican agreement of 2018.

It was a move suggesting improved relations following the seminal letter of Benedict XVI . Li Shan, who has recently spoken publicly in support of the Chinese government's of religion, also experienced hard times, having hoped for a visit by Benedict XVI to China.

These developments suggest the renewal of the agreement is moving forward quickly.

According to missionary sources, the deal will be continued without changes. Therefore, the pope will persevere in his attempt to dialogue with China, and, at the same time, China will continue, unhindered, to pressure religions, including Catholicism.

As one of the people involved in the negotiations told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian partner agency: “The Holy See extends a hand, but it knows that on the other side there is a knife, and the blade is directed toward our hand. Every time we reach out our hand, our hand bleeds. And yet, we must continue to extend our hand.”

The shortest papacies of all time? Pope John Paul I barely makes the list

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Blessed John Paul I did not serve as Roman Pontiff for long, but 10 other popes had shorter pontificates than he did. Their stories are a microcosm of the history of the papacy. Some were friends of saints and worked for the good of the Church, while the qualifications of others might be a bit questionable. Through all these more or less flawed men who sat in the Chair of Peter, the Catholic Church teaches that the connection to St. Peter and his profession of faith in Christ endures.

was pope for 13 days, Sept. 15–27, 1590.

He was born Giambattista Castagna at Rome, the home city of his mother. His father was of Genoan nobility. His uncle was a cardinal, whom he served at points during his long career in the Church. He held doctorates in civil and canon law.

Castagna worked in government and diplomacy on behalf of the papacy, which at the time held civil power over parts of Italy. He led several commissions during the Council of Trent and helped organize the military alliance against the Ottoman Empire, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. He was appointed archbishop in 1553 and became a cardinal in 1583.

He had a reputation for genuine piety, intelligence, and ability to govern.

After his election as pope, he made sure to address the needs of the poor in Rome. His initial plans included expanded public works to employ the poor.

As God’s providence allowed, he did not have time to do much more than plan. He died of malaria at the age of 69. In his will, he left his personal fortune to support poor girls.

reigned for 15 days, Oct. 25–Nov. 10, 1241.

The future pope was born Goffredo da Castiglione in Milan. He spent time with the Cistercian religious order and was a cardinal bishop of Sabina. He was a nephew of Pope Urban III. He was already in poor health when he was elected, at a time when the papacy was a center of political conflict between backers and opponents of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

reigned for 16 days, April 11–26, 896. 

He was born in Rome. Not much is known about this pope, though records indicate that during his life he was canonically deprived of holy orders on two occasions: the first time as a subdeacon, and the second as a priest. His irregular past caused controversy over his election, the New Catholic Encyclopedia says. 

reigned for 20 days in December 897.

Another little-known pope, it is said that his clergy loved him, that he loved peace, and that he lived a life of chastity and charity to the poor. He came to power soon after a low point of the papacy. Pope Theodore annulled the acts of the “Cadaver Synod,” which had put on trial the corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus. He recovered the dead Roman Pontiff’s body from the River Tiber and gave it a proper burial. He also reinstated clergy who had been forced to resign.

was pope for 21 days, Jan. 15–Feb. 4, 708.

This pope was born in Syria. His health troubles included disabling arthritis, and he was unable to feed himself. The papacy was responsible for the military defense of Rome at this time, with Lombards invading from the north of Italy and Muslim armies advancing from the south. Sisinnius ordered the walls of Rome to be reinforced as his first act, the New Catholic Encyclopedia says. Before he died, Pope Sisinnius ordained one priest and consecrated a bishop for Corsica.

was pope for about 22 days in April and May, 1555. 

He was born Marcello Cervini, at Montefano in Tuscany. Like the sainted Pope Marcellus of the fourth century, he kept his baptismal name as his papal name. 

His father worked under several pontificates as a scribe and secretary. 

Before Cervini was elected pope he served various roles as a secretary to popes and cardinals, including work to correct the Julian calendar. He was actively engaged with the “New Learning” of Renaissance humanism. He served as protector of the Vatican Library and helped improve and expand its collection. Cervini served the Vatican at the time of its response to the Protestant Reformation. He was a president at the Council of Trent, which continued through his short pontificate.

He gained a reputation as a Church reformer and had hoped to pursue this path during his papacy. He was not consecrated a bishop until the day after he was elected pope.

Pope Marcellus reputedly became sick from overwork during the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter, and the illness turned fatal.

The Missa Papae Marcelli of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was composed in his honor.

reigned for 24 days in July and August, 1048.

This pontiff was named Poppo. He was born in Bavaria and was of German extraction. He served as Bishop of Brixen in Tyrol, in what is now western Austria. 

Popes at the time could be nominated in an unusual manner. Pope Damasus II was named by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III. The pope, however, soon died of malaria.

was pope for 27 calendar days, Sept. 22–Oct. 18, 1503.

He was born Francesco Todeschini in Siena. He was the nephew of Pope Pius II, a famous Renaissance-era pope. His uncle took him into his household and became his patron, allowing the young man to add the pontiff’s family name Piccolomini to his own last name.

Francesco studied canon law. His uncle named him to become administrator of the Archdiocese of Siena and later made him a cardinal-deacon.  

The future Roman Pontiff had a reputation of living an upright life as a cultured, gentle man, the New Catholic Encyclopedia reports. He took part in several conclaves of his time, including that which elected Alexander VI.

His service to the papacy included several diplomatic appointments to Germany, France, and Perugia.

Francesco’s own papal election took place amid ruling Italian families’ disputes over control of Rome and included an unsuccessful power play by the Borgia family. 

Pius III was known to be in poor health. At the time of the papal coronation he was already suffering from a diseased leg, which developed into a septic ulcer. He died at the age of 64.

was pope for 27 days, from April 1–27, 1605.

The Florentine-born Alessandro de Medici was a member of the famous Medici family. He was grand-nephew to Pope Leo X. He sought to become a priest from an early age, but because his mother objected he was not ordained until after she died, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. He served as an ambassador to Rome on behalf of Tuscany, before he began to advance in the Church. He would eventually become a bishop, then archbishop of Florence, before being named a cardinal.

He served as a papal legate to France and was head of the Congregation of Bishops.

Among his great friends was St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorians.

He was elected pope at the age of 69 and became sick almost immediately. 

served as pope for 33 days, May 22–June 23, 964. 

He was born in Rome and had a reputation for great learning.

He reigned at a time of great turmoil in the Church. Holy Roman Emperor Otto I had interfered with the pontificates of his predecessors. The emperor had forcibly deposed a pope and installed his own nominee on the See of Peter. There were rival claimants to the papacy under Benedict V and Otto again interfered, laying siege to Rome and taking the pope away from Rome by force. Benedict either renounced the papacy or was forcibly deposed. He lived in exile in Hamburg for another year.

served as Roman Pontiff from Aug. 26–Sept. 28, 1978, 33 calendar days.

His beatification on Sept. 4 renewed attention to his life. He had a reputation for humility and for teaching the faith in an understandable way.

The future John Paul I took part in the Second Vatican Council and was named patriarch of Venice.

As a cardinal, Luciani published a collection of “open letters” to historic figures, saints, famous writers, and fictional characters. The book, “Illustrissimi,” included letters to Jesus, King David, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe, as well as Pinocchio and Figaro, the barber of Seville.

He was the first pope to have two names. He took his papal name from his immediate predecessors, Sts. John XXIII and Paul VI.

Pope Francis: Christians cannot be indifferent to corruption

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2022 / 04:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that Christians should not become discouraged or remain indifferent to stories of corruption but instead “be creative in doing good with prudence.”

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope said in his on Sept. 18 that people can “start to complain and play the victim” in times of crisis, even in the Church.

“Brothers and sisters … in our world today there are stories of corruption like in the Gospel: dishonest conduct, unfair policies, selfishness that dominates the choices of individuals and institutions, and many other murky situations. But we Christians are not allowed to become discouraged, or worse, to let go of things, remaining indifferent,” Pope Francis said.

“On the contrary, we are called to be creative in doing good with prudence and the cleverness of the Gospel, using the goods of this world, not only material but all the gifts we have received from the Lord, not to enrich ourselves, but to generate fraternal love and social fellowship.”

The pope’s comments on corruption were inspired by a parable in Sunday’s Gospel in the Church’s liturgical calendar, , a reading that the pope admitted can be difficult to understand at first glance.

Pope Francis said: “Jesus tells the story about corruption: a dishonest manager who steals and then after being discovered by his master, acts shrewdly to get out of the situation. We ask ourselves: what is this shrewdness about ... and what does Jesus want to tell us?”

“Jesus uses this story as a way to put before us a provocation when he says: ‘The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.’”

Pope Francis commented that those who live by “certain worldly standards” today seem to know how to get by even when in trouble, while Christians can sometimes be “naive, not knowing how to take the initiative to find ways out of difficulties.”

“I am thinking of times of personal or social crisis, but also Church crisis: sometimes we give in to discouragement or we start to complain and play the victim. Instead, Jesus says we can also be clever according to the Gospel, awake and alert to discern reality and be creative to find good solutions for us and others,” he said.

Before praying the Angelus prayer with the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis encouraged people to remember: “To inherit eternal life then, there is no need to accumulate goods in this world, but what matters is the charity we have lived in our fraternal relationships.”

The pope prayed for people in Ukraine and all victims of war. He said that he was sorry to hear about the fighting in Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan and is praying for a ceasefire.

“Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary so that she may help us be like herself, poor in spirit and rich in mutual love,” he said.

Pope Francis: Saint Pius V teaches us to seek truth, pray the rosary

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2022 / 08:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday recalled the legacy of the 16th century pope Saint Pius V, a Church reformer who standardized the Mass and opposed heresy.

The teachings of Pius V “invite us to be seekers of the truth,” Francis said Sept. 17 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to Catholics from northern and central Italy.

“Jesus is the Truth, in a sense that is not only universal but also communal and personal,” he said, “and the challenge is to live the search for truth in the daily life of the Church today, of Christian communities.”

The search for truth, Pope Francis said, “can only take place through personal and community discernment, starting from the Word of God.”

He explained that the Word of God comes alive in a particular way in the Mass, in both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “where we somehow touch the flesh of Christ.”

Saint Pius V, he said, reformed the liturgy of the Church, which was then further reformed four centuries later at the Second Vatican Council.

“In these years much has been said about the Liturgy, especially its external forms. But the greatest commitment must be placed so that the Eucharistic celebration actually becomes the source of community life,” Francis said.

He also recalled Saint Pius V’s commitment to recommending prayer, especially the rosary.

Saint Pius V was born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco Marengo, Piedmont. The year 2022 marks the 450th anniversary of his death on May 1, 1572. His papacy began in 1566.

Pius V “faced many pastoral and governance challenges in just six years of his pontificate,” Pope Francis said. “He was a reformer of the Church who made courageous choices. Since then, the style of Church government has changed, and it would be an anachronistic mistake to evaluate certain works of Saint Pius V with today’s mentality.”

“So too, we must be careful,” he added, “not to reduce him to a nostalgic, stuffed memory, but to grasp his teaching and witness. With this insight, we can note that the backbone of his entire life was faith.”

Pope Francis also addressed young people who recently received or will receive the sacrament of confirmation. He reminded them of the importance of their baptism, and said if they do not know the date of their baptism, they should ask their parents, grandparents, or godparents.

He blessed a stone from the ancient Abbey of Saint Eutizio which will be used in the building’s reconstruction. The abbey, one of Italy’s oldest, was damaged in an earthquake in 2016.

“Boys and girls, today I bless each one of you to become a living stone to build the Christian community: living stone in the family, living stone in the parish, living stone in the company of friends, living stone in the sports environment... and so on,” the pope said.

Vatican holds contest to choose music for official hymn of 2025 Jubilee Year

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2022 / 05:12 am (CNA).

The Vatican will hold a contest to choose the original musical composition for the official hymn of the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year.

The Dicastery for Evangelization announced the sacred music writing competition Sept. 17. The contest will open for submissions early next year.

Entries, the dicastery said, should set to music a text in Italian by the theologian Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri. After the winning music is chosen next year, the evangelization office will translate the text into other major languages.

The text is titled “Pilgrims of Hope,” after the theme of the 2025 Jubilee. The refrain, translated into English by CNA, is: “Living flame of my hope, / May this song reach up to Thee! Eternal womb of infinite life, / On my way I trust in Thee.”

According to the regulations set out by the Vatican, the musical composition should include a score for voice and organ, and be able to be sung both by church congregations and by four-part church choirs.

The competition will be open for submissions from Jan. 16 to March 25, 2023, and the winner will be chosen by a judging committee in collaboration with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. Full regulations can be found on the webpage of the 2025 Jubilee.

The logo for the 2025 Jubilee Year was also chosen after a worldwide competition and

A Jubilee is a special Holy Year of grace and pilgrimage in the Catholic Church. An ordinary Jubilee typically takes place every 25 years, though a pope may call for additional Jubilees, as Pope Francis did with the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from 2015–2016.

The last ordinary Jubilee was the Great Jubilee of 2000, which was held under St. John Paul II and had the theme “Christ Yesterday, Today, Forever.”

In its announcement of the hymn-writing competition Saturday, the Dicastery for Evangelization said that “the Sacred Scriptures are steeped in song, and the Psalms are a striking example: the prayers of the people of Israel were written to be sung, and it was in song that the most human events were presented before the Lord.”

“The tradition of the Church has continued this, making music and song one of the lungs of its liturgy,” the dicastery said.

The evangelization office, which is responsible for organizing the Jubilee, said “many themes of the Holy Year are woven into the text” of the hymn prepared by Sequeri, who is the former dean of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family in Rome.

“The motto, ‘Pilgrims of Hope,’” it said, “is best echoed biblically in some pages from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 60). The themes of creation, fraternity, God’s tenderness and hope in our destination resonate in a language, which although not ‘technically’ theological, is in substance and in the allusions, so that it rings eloquently in the ears of our time.”

The full lyrics of what will become the official hymn of the 2025 Jubilee can be found below. It has been translated into English from the Italian original by CNA.

Pilgrims of Hope

Living flame of my hope
may this song reach up to Thee!
Eternal womb of infinite life
on the way I trust in Thee.

Every tongue, people, and nation
finds light in your Word.
Sons and daughters scattered and fragile
are embraced in your beloved Son.

Living flame of my hope
may this song reach up to Thee!
Eternal womb of infinite life
on the way I trust in Thee.

God watches us, tender and patient:
the dawn of a new future rises.
New Heavens Earth made new:
the Spirit of Life moves walls.

Living flame of my hope
may this song reach up to Thee!
Eternal womb of infinite life
on the way I trust in Thee.

Lift up your eyes, move with the wind,
speed up your step: God comes, in time.
See the Son who became Man:
thousands upon thousands find the way.

Living flame of my hope
may this song reach up to Thee!
Eternal womb of infinite life
on the way I trust in Thee.

Pope Francis: ‘The West has taken the wrong paths’

CNA Staff, Sep 15, 2022 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

Discussing on the flight from Kazakhstan to Italy on Thursday the moral degradation of the West, particularly concerning the advance of legal euthanasia, Pope Francis said the region has taken the wrong path and that killing should be left “to the animals.”

“It is true that the West degenerates,” the pope said during his Sept. 15 in-flight press conference in response to a question about the loss of values in the West, and in particular to the push for legal euthanasia in France, Italy, and Belgium.

“It is not, at this moment, at the highest level of exemplariness … The West has taken the wrong paths,” the pope said.

Pressed on the problem of euthanasia, Pope Francis said: “To kill is not human, period. If you kill — with motivation yes — in the end you will kill more. It’s not human. Let’s leave killing to the animals.”

Pope Francis visited Kazakhstan Sept. 13–15, participating in the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, an interreligious summit, and visiting the Catholics and public officials of the Central Asian state.

In the course of the in-flight press conference, the pope also addressed the Russo-Ukrainian War and Ukraine’s right to defend itself, relations between the Holy See and China, and critiques that participation in the Kazakh interreligious congress risks indifferentism.

Regarding religious freedom concerns in China, and especially Hong Kong, Pope Francis said: “To understand China takes a century. And we don’t live in centuries. The Chinese mentality is a rich mentality, and when it becomes a little sick, it loses its richness. To understand, we have chosen the path of dialogue.”

“There is a bilateral Vatican-Chinese commission that,” he said, “is going well.”

“It’s slow because the Chinese pace is slow. They have an eternity to move forward. A people of infinite patience. But of the experiences we had before we think of the Italian missionaries who went there and were respected as scientists. We also think today of the many priests or believers called to Chinese universities because they value culture,” he said.

“It is not easy to understand the Chinese mentality but it should be respected. I always respect. And here in the Vatican there is a dialogue commission that is going well, Cardinal Parolin is chairing it and he, right now, is the man who knows most about China and the dialogue with the Chinese. It’s a slow thing but always steps are moving forward.”

The pope cautioned against “classifying” China in a democracy-antidemocracy binary, “because it is such a complex country with its rhythms.”

“And it is true that there are things that seem to us to be undemocratic, that is true,” he added.

“More than classifying, I try to support the way of dialogue,” the pope said. “In the way of dialogue so many things are clarified. And not only of the Church but of other areas; but for example the extent of China, the governors of the provinces are all different, also there are different cultures inside of China, which is a giant. Understanding China is a huge thing, but don’t lose patience, it takes a lot. But we have to go with dialogue.”

Turning to Ukraine, the Holy Father said that arming the country “can be morally acceptable,” recalling that “to defend oneself is not only lawful but also an expression of love of country.” He affirmed the right of a nation to defend itself when necessary.

Discussing dialogue with Russia, Pope Francis said that “it is always difficult to understand dialogue with the states which have started the war … It is difficult, but we should not dismiss it, to give the opportunity for dialogue to everyone, to everyone. Because there is always the possibility that with dialogue things can change, even offering another point of view, another point of consideration.”

He continued: “But I do not exclude dialogue with any power that is at war, even if it is the aggressor. Sometimes dialogue should be done like this, but it has to be done. It stinks, but it has to be done. Always one step forward. The hand outstretched, always, because with the opposite we close the only reasonable door for peace. Sometimes they do not accept dialogue — it’s a shame — but dialogue always goes forward, it’s at least offered. And this is good for he who offers.”

On the risk of indifferentism, Pope Francis said that “if there is no dialogue there is either ignorance or war. Better to live as brothers; we have one thing in common, we are all human. Let’s live as humans, with good manners: What do you think, what do I think? Let’s agree, let’s talk, let’s get to know each other.”

Elaborating on his discussion of the degeneracy of the West, Pope Francis asked, “What has the West lost, to forget to welcome?” He noted its need for population growth, considering “the demographic winter which we have. We need people, both in Spain, in Spain especially, but also in Italy.”

To this end, he emphasized the need to welcome, promote, and integrate immigrants.

The pope cautioned against populism and said the West “may be … expiring a little bit.”

“But we have to take the values back. Europe should take the values of the fathers who founded the European Union — those great ones,” he said, having referred earlier to Ven. Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, and Alcide De Gasperi.

Pope Francis on papal plane: ‘I’m always ready to go to China’

Rome Newsroom, Sep 13, 2022 / 04:59 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane Tuesday that he is ready for the first papal trip to China.

In a conversation with reporters on the flight from Rome to Kazakhstan on Sept. 13, the pope said: “I’m always ready to go to China.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Kazakhstan on Sept. 14, midway through Pope Francis’ to the Central Asian country. Reuters reported that the pope said he did not “have any news” about the speculation that he might meet Xi during the trip.

The coinciding visits of Francis and Xi come as the Holy See and China determine the of a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China and a Catholic cardinal is preparing to in Hong Kong for his role in a pro-democracy legal fund.

A source in the Kazakh Parliament told CNA last week that “theoretically it is possible” that the pope and the president could meet during the trip. But such a meeting would be . 

Neighboring Kazakhstan and China have close ties with large-scale Chinese investments in the Central Asian country’s natural resources through its Belt and Road Initiative. Xi announced his plan for a “new silk road” in the Kazakh capital in 2013.

Notably, Kazakhstan borders China’s Xinjiang region, where the United Nations high commissioner has found that the Chinese government has committed

Uyghur Muslims in China have faced torture, detention, and sexual violence, according to the UN’s Sept. 1 report, which found that persecution against the religious minority may be considered “crimes against humanity.” 

Despite this, Kazakhstan has not granted political asylum to Xinjiang refugees. 

Thousands of Kazakhs have family ties to Xinjiang, and more than 200,000 Uyghurs live in Kazakhstan. While Kazakhstan was home to some of the first vocal critics who testified to China’s brutal repression of Uyghurs in 2017, human-rights advocates have considered Kazakhstan a “hostile place for Xinjiang victims.”

Last year Kazakhstan barred Gene Bunin, the founder of the Xinjiang Victims Database, from entering the county. The Chinese foreign ministry also thanked the government of Kazakhstan for its “understanding and support for China’s position” in Xinjiang in 2019.

During his visit to Nur-Sultan, Xi will meet with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Sept. 15, one day after Pope Francis’ audience at the presidential palace.

The Chinese leader is expected to go on to meet with Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan later this week in Xi’s first trip outside of China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opus Dei’s prelate asks for prayers for reform ordered by Pope Francis

Denver Newsroom, Sep 12, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The prelate of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, has asked the members of the Catholic institution for their prayers for the reform process ordered by Pope Francis, which took effect Aug. 4.

“Continue to pray for the work that the pope has entrusted to us to adapt the Statutes of the Work to what is indicated in the motu proprio ‘Ad charisma tuendum,’” the prelate said in a message published Sept. 10.

“We have already started — in the General Council and the Central Advisory — the appropriate studies to carry it out,” he said.

“During the days spent in the Holy Land, I have kept you especially present in my prayer, knowing that I am accompanied by yours at the same time,” Ocáriz wrote.

On July 22, the Vatican published the apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio titled “Ad charisma tuendum” (To safeguard the charism), whereby Pope Francis ordered a reform of Opus Dei.

Among the pope’s provisions are that the prelate who directs Opus Dei from now on will no longer be a bishop; the institution must adapt its statutes and present an annual report; and it will no longer answer to the dicastery for bishops but to the dicastery for the clergy.

Opus Dei explained that the decision that the prelate may no longer be a bishop is “an initiative and decision of the Holy See” to reinforce “the charismatic dimension” instead of the hierarchical dimension of the institution.

Ocáriz, 77, is not a bishop and, due to the pontifical document, will not be consecrated as such.

In a question-and-answer section of Opus Dei’s website in Spain, it states that this does not “directly introduce changes in the form of government of the prelature, nor in the relations of the prelature’s authorities with the bishops,” which means that it will continue to function as before.

By establishing that an annual report must be presented on the situation of the prelature and the development of its apostolic work, the previous regulation that required it every five years has been changed.

The pontifical document also requires the adjustment of the statutes, which must be proposed by Opus Dei itself and must then be approved by the competent Vatican bodies.

Opus Dei is a personal prelature, the only one in the Catholic Church. It was founded in Spain by St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer in 1928 and is present in 68 countries.

The overall head of the prelature is the prelate, who is appointed by the pope and who governs the institution as a jurisdiction, similar to a bishop who governs his diocese or assigned territory.

Opus Dei means “Work of God” in Latin, which is why its members usually refer to it as “The Work.” Its special emphasis or charism is sanctification through daily work.

In Opus Dei there are priests, celibate lay persons who are called numeraries and associates, and supernumeraries who are married members.

Opus Dei is not a sect.

Arise to serve others, Pope Francis urges in World Youth Day message

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has released his message ahead of the international World Youth Day next year, imploring young people across the globe to join him in Lisbon, Portugal, and “arise,” as Mary did, to the call of service to others.

The theme of Lisbon’s World Youth Day, which will take place Aug. 1–6, 2023, is “Mary arose and went with haste.”

Lisbon’s World Youth Day was originally planned to take place in August but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on the word “arise,” the Holy Father noted that “It is a word that … speaks to us of getting up from our slumber, waking up to the life all around us.”

Pope Francis pointed out that the Blessed Virgin Mary was selfless in her service to her cousin Elizabeth when both women were pregnant. 

“Even though the astonishing message of the angel had caused a seismic shift in her plans, the young Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life,” he reflected. 

“Within herself,” he continued, “Mary already bore the Lamb that was slain and yet lives. She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life.”

Mary is a model for young people “on the move, who refuse to stand in front of a mirror to contemplate themselves or to get caught up in the ‘net,’” he expressed. Pope Francis added that Mary always has an outward focus, toward God, her brothers and sisters, and those most in need.

Pope Francis reflected on the words of St. Ambrose of Milan, who noted that Mary went in “haste” toward the hill country to serve Elizabeth “because she rejoiced in the promise and sought to serve others with the enthusiasm born of her joy.”

“Mary’s haste is thus a sign of her desire to serve, to proclaim her joy, to respond without hesitation to the grace of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis noted.

Mary was motivated to help the elderly Elizabeth, he added. She wasn’t thinking of herself and this selflessness brought “enthusiasm and direction to her life,” Francis continued.

He then implored young people to consider: “How do I react to the needs that I see all around me? Do I think immediately of some reason not to get involved? Or do I show interest and willingness to help?”

Pope Francis noted that when others are in need, “we need to act quickly.”

“What kinds of ‘haste’ do you have, dear young people? What leads you to feel a need to get up and go, lest you end up standing still?” he questioned.

“But the real question in life is instead,” he continued, “for whom am I living?”

Mary is an example of a young person who doesn’t seek attention or others’ approval, Pope Francis remarked, mentioning a certain dependence on “likes” on social media platforms.

“She sets out to find the most genuine of all ‘connections’: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love, and service,” he added.

Pope Francis noted that there are many records of Marian apparitions and testimonies of encountering Mary throughout history.

“There is practically no place on earth that she has not visited,” he pointed out. Pope Francis added that the many devotions to Mary — that are often seen in pilgrimages, festivities, prayers, the enthronement of images in houses — are an example of Mary’s relationship with “her people, who visit one another in turn!”

“A healthy haste,” Pope Francis remarked, “drives us always upwards and towards others.” An unhealthy haste “can drive us to live superficially and to take everything lightly,” he added.

An unhealthy haste lacks commitment, concern, and investment, Pope Francis noted. Unhealthy haste can occur in close relationships like between friends and family members, he added. But it can even happen between couples, he reminded young people.

“We can have the same attitude in school, at work, and in other areas of our daily lives,” he explained. “When things are done in haste, they tend not to be fruitful. They risk remaining barren and lifeless. As we read in the Book of Proverbs: ‘the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.’”

Pope Francis reflected on the humility of Elizabeth, who did not brag to Mary about God’s miraculous intervention of bringing her a child in her old age.

“She would have had every reason to begin by talking about herself, yet she was not ‘full of herself,’ but anxious to welcome her young cousin and the fruit of her womb,” Pope Francis noted.

“As soon as she heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said in his message. “Such surprises and outpourings of the Spirit come about when we show true hospitality, when we put others, not ourselves, at the center.”

Pope Francis remarked that many people have met Christ unexpectedly, which has brought respect for other people. Many people have realized that Christ wants to be close and share his life with all, he added.

“The joy of this experience made us hasten to welcome him, to feel the need to be with him and to get to know him better,” he noted. “Elizabeth and Zechariah welcomed Mary and Jesus into their home. Let us learn from these two elderly persons the meaning of hospitality!” 

Pope Francis called on young people to ask their parents, grandparents, and elderly in their communities about their relationship with God. “You will benefit from hearing the experiences of those who have gone before you,” he added.

“Dear young people, now is the time to set out in haste towards concrete encounters, towards genuine acceptance of those different from ourselves,” he implored.

“Only thus will we bridge distances — between generations, social classes, ethnic and other groups — and even put an end to wars,” he added. “Young people always represent the hope for new unity within our fragmented and divided human family. But only if they can preserve memory, only if they can hear the dramas and dreams of the elderly.”

The Holy Father remarked that his message to young people is “Jesus himself,” while adding Mary is the model who shows how to bring Christ to the world.

Referencing the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, Pope Francis noted that from Fatima, Mary “addressed to people of all ages the powerful and magnificent message of God’s love, which summons us to conversion and to true freedom.”

He then invited young people to travel to Lisbon next August, while noting that local celebrations of World Youth Day will take place Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King.

“Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ Let us carry Jesus within our hearts and bring him to all those whom we meet,” Pope Francis concluded. “In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you! With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey.”

Pope Francis honors nun killed by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis in his Angelus address on Sunday honored an Italian missionary sister who was killed by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 11, the pope said: “In this moment of prayer, it is dear to me to remember Sister Maria de Coppi, Combonian missionary, killed in Chipene, Mozambique, where she served with love for almost 60 years.”

“May her witness give strength and courage to Christians and all the people of Mozambique.”

Sister Maria de Coppi was shot and killed last week as terrorists ransacked and burned the Catholic mission where she served in Mozambique’s Diocese of Nacala.

The Italian priests and sisters who served at the mission were able to evacuate 68 students who were living at the mission before the church, boarding houses, rectory, and school were destroyed in the five-hour attack on the night of Sept. 6.

Sister Maria was about to flee with the other missionaries when she turned back out of concern for the 12 female students who had stayed behind at the mission, according to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The 83-year-old religious sister left a voicemail for her niece, Gabriella Bottani, shortly before her death, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported.

In the voicemail, Sister Maria said that Al-Shabaab insurgents were close to the mission and the situation was “very tense.”

“It appears that they are armed, that they have already kidnapped people, killed someone,” she said.

“Wherever they pass, they carry out massacres.”

Churches have been burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced by in Mozambique in recent years.

A missionary in Mozambique that the local insurgents who have been targeting Christians in the region have ties to the Islamic State.

During Holy Week in 2020, insurgents perpetrated attacks on seven towns and villages in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, burning down a church on Good Friday and killing 52 young people who refused to join the terrorist group, according to the local bishop.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in attacks in Mozambique since 2017, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Some of these attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, while others were carried out by the homegrown Ahlu Sunna Wal, an extremist militant group, locally known as Al-Shabaab, which has been kidnapping men and women.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said that on Sept. 6, “As a result of terrorist attacks, six citizens were beheaded, three kidnapped, six terrorists were captured, and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba, Nampula province.”

Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala said that the attackers “destroyed everything” at the Chipene mission.

“The attackers broke open the tabernacle and vandalized part of the sacristy, looking for whatever they could find — probably money,” he added.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, paid tribute to Sister Maria, saying that her sacrifice “will be a seed of peace and reconciliation” in Mozambique.

“We cry for another sister who with simplicity, dedication, and silence offered her life for the love of the Gospel,” Zuppi said.

Pope Francis: Reach out to a friend who needs to hear that God loves them

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to imitate the Lord’s dedicated search “for the lost sheep” by reaching out to friends and family who have drifted away from the faith.

“The Father asks us to be attentive to the children he misses the most. Let us think of someone we know, who is close to us and has perhaps never heard anyone say, ‘You know, you are important to God,’” Pope Francis said on Sept. 11.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope reflected on Jesus’ in the Gospel of Luke, particularly the parable of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in the desert to search for one who was lost.

“One who loves is concerned about the one who is missing, longs for who is absent, seeks who is lost, awaits those who have gone astray. For he wants no one to be lost,” the pope said in his .

“Brothers and sisters, God is like this: he does not “take it easy” if we stray from him, he is grieved, he trembles in his innermost being; and he sets out to look for us until he takes us back into his arms.”

Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect upon whether they imitate the Lord in seeking out those who are missing from their communities or whether they are content to be comfortable and calm within their own groups.

He said: “Let us then reflect on our relationships: do I pray for those who do not believe, who have drifted away?”

“Let us be troubled by these questions, and pray to Our Lady, mother who never tires of searching for and taking care of us, her children,” he added.

At the end of his Angelus address, the pope asked for people to continue to pray for the people of Ukraine that the Lord will be close to them and bring them hope. He announced that , the papal almoner, will soon be heading back to Ukraine again to “give concrete witness of the closeness of the pope and the Church.”

Pope Francis asked for prayers for his upcoming , where he will participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions during his visit to the capital city of Nur-Sultan from Sept. 13–15.

The pope also remembered , Sister Maria De Coppi, who was murdered by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique last week.

“May her witness give strength and courage to Christians and to all the people of Mozambique,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined in his Angelus message that God excludes no one and “loves everyone as his children.” Therefore, he said, the Lord “comes in search of us whenever we are lost.”

“Remember: God always awaits us with open arms, whatever the situation in life in which we are lost may be,” he said.

Pope Francis shares his concern about nuclear war risks in meeting with Vatican diplomats

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The role of the Church in a world shaken by war and other global issues was the subject Pope Francis raised with his diplomatic representatives around the globe on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, Europe and the entire world are shaken by a particularly serious war, due to the violation of international law, the risks of nuclear escalation, and the grave economic and social consequences,” the pope told almost 100 apostolic nuncios and permanent observers of the Holy See. 

The diplomats are gathered in Rome for their triennial meeting from Sept. 7–10.

In his official address, Francis  the diplomats for bringing the pope’s closeness “to peoples and Churches,” saying his representatives had been “points of reference in moments of greatest disorientation and turbulence.”

The pope recalled that “the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic” had forced everyone “to make various restrictions in our daily lives and in our pastoral activity.” 

“Now the worst seems to be over, and thank God we can meet again,” Francis added. 

The pope said that the nuncios had also participated actively in the consultation stages of the Synod on Synodality.

But, unfortunately, he said, not only Europe but also the entire world is shaken by a “war of particular gravity.” 

“It is a ‘piecemeal’ third world war, to which you bear witness in the places where you carry out your mission,” the pope told his representatives.

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of World War III during his pontificate. 

In April, he  in an introduction to an Italian book that the world was moving toward World War III as if it were unavoidable, but that the war was not inevitable. 

“When we allow ourselves to be devoured by this monster represented by war, when we allow this monster to raise its head and guide our actions, everyone loses, we destroy God’s creatures, we commit sacrilege and prepare a future of death for our children and grandchildren,” he wrote.

Encounter with Pope Francis caps formation course for new bishops

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 07:50 am (CNA).

After a COVID-caused hiatus, the Vatican’s new bishop school was back in session this week.

Approximately 150 Catholic bishops attended the first weeklong session of the formation course in Rome, which ended Thursday. A second session, with about 170 bishops, will be held Sept. 12–19.

The seminar, usually held annually, culminated in an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on Sept. 8. The Vatican did not release any information about what was said in the meeting.

Bishop Louis Tylka of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, was among the participants in the course. He said on Twitter that the new bishops also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and venerated the relics of St. Peter.

The theme of the 2022 edition was “to announce the Gospel in the changing epoch and after the pandemic: the service of bishop.”

The week began with Mass, said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

The course, sometimes known by the lighthearted nickname “baby bishop school,” included talks on the topics of crisis management, especially in the context of abuse, social media, and canon law in diocesan administration.

Other themes covered were the meaning of a synodal Church, education for synodal leadership, and the Church after the pandemic.

The formation also addressed the holiness of bishops, family, and universal fraternity.

The course is held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic educational institute directed by the Legionaries of Christ, located about 4.5 miles from the Vatican.

Who is preparing the Synod on Synodality’s key working document?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 04:56 am (CNA).

In late August, the leadership of the Synod of Bishops announced the next stage in the Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality.

The continental phase follows the diocesan, in which bishops’ conferences collected the thoughts and reflections of Catholics in their countries through listening sessions and surveys.

One of the big tasks of the continental phase will be to create a new document summarizing the summaries sent to the Vatican by the bishops’ conferences, themselves summaries of the individual reports from Catholic dioceses.

According to the leadership of the Synod of Bishops, the working document corresponds to what in past synods was called an and will be the first of two during the entire synodal process.

The purpose of the — or DTC (), as the Synod of Bishops is calling it — will be to guide the continental phase. This stage is set to run until October 2023, when Pope Francis will host the meetings of the universal, and final, phase of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.

The document is expected to be published by late October or early November and is being drafted by the synod’s , advisory committee, and a group of approximately 20 “experts” announced by synod leaders on Aug. 26. 

The advisory committee has five members: Italian Archbishop Erio Castellucci; Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri; Father Giacomo Costa, SJ; Father Dario Vitali, theology professor at Rome’s Gregorian University; and Dutch theologian Myriam Wijlens.

Sequeri is the former dean of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family in Rome and Costa is an Italian Jesuit priest who served as for the Amazon synod in 2019.

Wijlens is a professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt in Germany. She is also a distinguished clerical sexual abuse expert in civilian courts and a policy writer. She was named of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors by Pope Francis in 2018.

The committee of outside experts includes lay people, religious sisters, Catholic priests, and an archbishop. Members come from 17 countries.

According to the Vatican, the document drafters will work in a climate “of listening, prayer, and discernment.”

At least four members of the drafting committee are reading each synod report sent to the Vatican by bishops’ conferences, religious congregations, Vatican dicasteries, and Eastern Catholic Churches.

On Aug. 26, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, said the Vatican had received at least of the first phase of the synod.

On Sept. 21, the experts will gather at a religious house near Frascati, Italy, to draft the working document.

“The methodology that will be adopted,” the Synod of Bishops said, “could be called ‘an accordion’ in that it involves times of silence and prayer, interspersed with presentations and dialogues in plenary or groups.”

After the working document is written, the text will be shared with other members of the synod’s four commissions and submitted to the ordinary council for suggested changes and final approval.

The is made up of 11 cardinals, one Syrian Catholic patriarch, and four bishops. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, is the American representative on the ordinary council.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, the archbishop of Perth, Australia, and president of the Australian bishops’ conference, is among the drafters.

He is joined by compatriots Father Ormond Rush, associate professor of religion and theology at the Catholic University of Australia, and Susan Pascoe, an adjunct professor at the University of Western Australia.

Pascoe is also co-director of the task force for the Synod on Synodality’s continental phase and a member of the methodology commission.

Father David McCallum, SJ, executive director of the U.S.-based Discerning Leadership Program, and Mauricio Lopez, head of pastoral action for CELAM, the bishops’ conference of Latin America, are also part of the methodology commission.

Lopez was the executive secretary of REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, during the 2019 Amazon synod. REPAM, a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Kristin Colberg, an associate professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota, is on the drafting committee. In November 2021, she was the only American named a member of the synod’s theological commission. 

Italian Msgr. Piero Coda, secretary of the Roman Curia’s International Theological Commission; Father Vimal  Tirimanna, CSsR, a Sri Lankan moral theology professor in Rome; and Father Thomas Kollamparampil, CMI, a theology professor at the Pontifical Atheneum Dharmaran Vidiya Ksheteram of Bangalore, India, also join the drafters coming from the theological commission. 

Another expert chosen by the Synod of Bishops for the drafting group is author Austen Ivereigh, a biographer of Pope Francis and coordinator of the U.K.-based project “The Road to a Synodal Church.”

Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, a French theologian and of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, is also a drafter.

The other 11 experts drafting the can be found on pages 6-7 of published by the Synod of Bishops. 

The president of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is Pope Francis. The secretary general is Cardinal Mario Grech, and the undersecretaries are Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, OSA, and Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ.

Within the general secretariat there is also an ordinary council and a group of consultors. The pope also appoints a relator general for every synod. For the Synod on Synodality, is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, archbishop of Luxembourg.

The Synod on Synodality is also assisted by an advisory committee and four commissions on the topics of theology, methodology, spirituality, and communication.

How Eduardo Verástegui’s latest film inspired him to fight human trafficking

Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2022 / 07:29 am (CNA).

Catholic actor Eduardo Verástegui has launched a national campaign in Mexico to combat human trafficking. 

Inspired by his latest film, Verástegui told CNA that the fight against human trafficking is “my number one mission right now."

The producer and actor is currently touring 32 states in Mexico with his organization, , in an effort to partner with local government leaders, educators, law enforcement, and foundations to prevent child exploitation.

In an interview in the Vatican Gardens shortly after the actor met with Pope Francis, Verástegui said that it’s his goal to start a “movement to end child trafficking.”

“I'm convinced that if we all work together, we will end this horrible reality because God's children are not for sale,” he said.

Verástegui served as the producer for “Sound of Freedom,” a movie starring Jim Caviezel, who is best known for playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. 

Directed by Alejandro Monteverde and shot in Cartagena, Colombia, “Sound of Freedom” depicts the rescue of 127 sexually abused children in South America. It is based on the true story of former CIA agent Tim Ballard, who founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat human trafficking.

Working on the film helped Verástegui realize the magnitude of the child trafficking issue in Mexico, which has been ranked second in the world for underage prostitution, according to the Scelles Foundation.

Verástegui spoke about his work to combat human trafficking at a Vatican summit, where actors, directors, and musical artists came together to discuss how the arts and entertainment can inspire hope.

Marcus Mumford, Patricia Heaton, David Oyelowo, J. Balvin, Alessia Cara, Jonathan Roumie, Isaac Chung, and a dozen others attended the summit organized by Vitae Global. Oscar winner Denzel Washington was also registered to attend, but could not make it due to a last-minute change in his filming schedule.

Pope Francis spent two hours in a private conversation with the entertainment artists in the Vatican Gardens on Sept. 1, encouraging them to be “preachers of beauty.”

Alexander Acha, a Latin Grammy-winning singer-songwriter from Mexico, told CNA that Pope Francis encouraged the summit attendees to pursue truth and contemplation in their creative endeavors.

The pope said art “opens doors, touches hearts, and helps us to walk forward.”

For Verástegui, who had met with the pope before starting work on the "Sound of Freedom" to ask for a papal blessing of the project, the meeting with Pope Francis before the film’s release was particularly special. 

“It was a beautiful moment to have the chance to talk with him … here at the Vatican with so many talented people.”

“My faith is the most important part of my life. It's the center of my life. Everything that I do is inspired by my faith,” the actor said.

Verástegui first came to prominence for US audiences for his starring role in the pro-life film “Bella” and has continued to be an active voice in the pro-life movement.

He believes that “many lives will be saved” by the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“I'm very happy that through the work of so many people, the prayers of so many people, finally, we saw a big result,” Verástegui said.

“This is just the beginning. We haven't finished the work yet because now we have to go state by state, and we're moving forward.”

“We have to fight every day … because we love God and we love the most beautiful gift that God gave us, which is life,” he said.

Pope Francis: God can speak to us in the unexpected

Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2022 / 04:24 am (CNA).

God can speak to us in the unexpected moments of our lives if we learn to listen well to what he is telling us in our hearts, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

“I will give you a piece of advice: beware of the unexpected,” the pope said Sept. 7 at his weekly public audience.

“Is it life speaking to you, is it the Lord speaking to you, or is it the devil? Someone,” he continued. “But there is something to discern, how I react when faced with the unexpected.”

Francis’ general audience was again in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday after it was held inside the Vatican’s Paul VI auditorium in August to avoid the worst of the summer heat.

The pope opened and closed his encounter with the public by riding the popemobile around the square. The audience marked his second week of catechesis on the theme of “Discernment.”

As part of discernment, the pope encouraged people to reflect on their reactions to even small, unexpected circumstances, such as the surprise arrival of one’s mother-in-law.

“I was quiet at home and ‘Boom!’ — my mother-in-law arrives; and how do you react to your mother-in-law? Is it love or something else inside? You must discern,” he said. “I was working well in the office, and a companion comes along to tell me he needs money: how do you react? See what happens when we experience things we were not expecting, and there we can learn to know our heart as it moves.”

Pope Francis said knowing how to really listen to your heart is an important part of discernment in making a judgment or decision about something.

“We listen to the television, the radio, the mobile phone; we are experts at listening, but I ask you: do you know how to listen to your heart?” he asked. “Do you stop to ask: ‘But how is my heart? Is it satisfied, is it sad, is it searching for something?’ To make good decisions, you need to listen to your heart.”

To illustrate his point, the pope recalled the story of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a soldier enamored with stories of knights and chivalry who was forced to confront his future happiness after he was badly injured in battle.

Bored while his leg was healing, Ignatius read stories of the saints and the life of Jesus when other books were not available to him.

Francis quoted from Ignatius’ autobiography, in which the future saint wrote about himself: “‘When he thought of worldly things’ — and of chivalrous things, one understands — ‘it gave him great pleasure, but afterward he found himself dry and sad. But when he thought of journeying to Jerusalem, and of living only on herbs and practicing austerities, he found pleasure not only while thinking of them, but also when he had ceased.’”

“In this experience we note two aspects, above all,” the pope said. “The first is time: that is, the thoughts of the world are attractive at the beginning, but then they lose their luster and leave emptiness and discontent; they leave you that way, empty. Thoughts of God, on the contrary, rouse first a certain resistance — ‘But I’m not going to read this boring thing about saints’ — but when they are welcomed, they bring an unknown peace that lasts for a long time.”

He emphasized that “discernment is not a sort of oracle or fatalism, or something from a laboratory, like casting one’s lot on two possibilities.”

Francis also said that some of life's big questions often arise after “we have already traveled a stretch of the road in life.”

Sometimes, we can get stuck on one idea and end up disappointed, he pointed out, adding that doing something good, such as a work of charity, can get us out of that rut by bringing us joy and happiness, feelings that can lead to thoughts of God.

The pope also shared a piece of wisdom from St. Ignatius: to read the lives of the saints.

“Because they show the style of God in the life of people not very different to us, because the saints were made of flesh and blood like us, in a narrative, comprehensible way. Their actions speak to ours, and they help us to understand their meaning,” he said.

Sometimes, he added, “there is an apparent randomness in the events of life: everything seems to arise from a banal mishap — there were no books about knights, only lives of saints. A mishap that nonetheless holds a possible turning point.”

“God works through unplannable events, and also through mishaps,” he said. “Mishap: What is God saying to you? What is life telling you there?”

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to all mothers, and “in a special way, to those mothers who have children who suffer: those who are sick, those who are marginalized, those who are imprisoned.”

“A special prayer goes to the mothers of young detainees: let hope never be lacking. Unfortunately, in prisons there are many people who take their own life, at times also young people. A mother’s love can save them from this danger. May Our Lady console all mothers distressed by the suffering of their children,” he said.

Artist paints Kazakh Mary and Child for only Marian shrine in Kazakhstan

Rome Newsroom, Sep 6, 2022 / 09:03 am (CNA).

A Kazakh artist is creating possibly the first-ever painting of Mary and the Child Jesus as native Kazakhs; it will be displayed in Kazakhstan’s only Marian shrine.

It is hoped that the icon, in the form of a triptych, will be blessed by Pope Francis during his Sept. 13-15 visit to the Central Asian country, where more than 70% of the population is Muslim.

The artist, Dosbol Kasymov, told EWTN News in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Aug. 5 that his inspiration for the image came from his culture’s love and reverence for mothers.

Mother is “a common image,” uniting mankind, Kasymov said. “We are all born, we all came into this world thanks to our mothers.”

Titled “The Mother of the Great Steppe,” the large icon was commissioned by Archbishop Tomasz Peta, the head of Kazakhstan’s Catholic diocese, Maria Santissima in Astana.

The Kazakh Steppe is a treeless, semi-desert grassland covering the northern part of the country, south of the Ural Mountains.

Peta told EWTN News last month that the image of the Kazakh Mary and Jesus is intended for Kazakhstan’s only Marian shrine, Mary Queen of Peace, in the town of Ozernoe, about 250 miles northwest of Nur-Sultan.

The painting depicts the Virgin Mary as a Kazakh woman dressed in traditional clothing. In her arms, she holds her baby son, the Child Jesus, held in the robe of an adult man, a sign of his future death and the Roman tunic he will wear on his way to the cross.

EWTN News spoke to the artist ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Kazakhstan, while the painting was still a work in progress. Kasymov spoke about some of the traditional Kazakh symbols he incorporated into the icon.

“The Kazakh ornaments, like all the ornaments in the world, have their own symbols. The nimbus, it’s made in the form of a star. On one side is a flower, on the other side is a star, and on the other side is a part of the Kazakh carpet ‘Tuskeiz,’” he explained.

Kasymov said the Child Jesus’ halo is in the form of a shanyrak, the emblem of Kazakhstan and a common cultural symbol based on the shape of a cross.

Ethnic Kazakhs are predominantly Sunni Muslims, the most commonly practiced religion in the country. According to a 2009 national census, the second most practiced religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity, at more than 20%. The country, which has approximately 250,000 Latin-rite Catholics, according to 2008 statistics, is also home to many immigrants.

The nationally-acclaimed painter said he hopes his work will be received by the people of Kazakhstan “with love, with warmth, because, above all, it is the image of the mother.”

“Here is my personal opinion: I think that Kazakhs are very tolerant, they easily accept any culture,” he said.

The finished icon is expected to include a panel on each side depicting an ethnically Kazakh angel playing traditional musical instruments.

After the image is blessed in Nur-Sultan by Pope Francis, who will visit the city for the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, it will be placed in a new prayer chapel at the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine in Ozernoe.

Peta said the new chapel would be built in the shape of a yurt, the traditional round tent used by nomadic groups in Central Asia. The shrine is also getting a new pilgrim welcome center dedicated to St. John Paul II.

The new chapel “is for all people, regardless of faith and nationality; this yurt will be a meeting place with Mary, and through Mary, with Jesus,” Peta said. 

Kasymov said he faced a difficult decision when Peta asked him to create an icon of Mary and the Child Jesus, given that he himself is not Christian, nor even particularly religious.

“When the offer came in to write this work, of course I had my doubts,” he said. “But then I talked to my relatives, brothers, friends and they said, ‘Of course you should write it, it’s our common culture.’”

Kasymov said he is also interested to see how his depiction of Our Lady of the Steppe interacts with the many European images of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“I want to praise our beauty, too, and I want the beauty of our women, the beauty of our mothers to be understandable,” he said.

He explained that Mary is shown looking away because “Kazakhs consider it not quite right or polite for a woman to look directly into the face of her interlocutor.”

“We say in Kazakh, ‘Tygylyp Karama,’ do not stare straight ahead,” he said. “A woman should not look at the spectator directly, she looks a little into the distance. It’s a trait of modesty and part of etiquette.” 

The Virgin Mary’s gaze can also be interpreted to mean that she is thinking about the future, that “she senses what is going to happen to her son,” he said.

The Christ Child, who is looking the other way from his mother, “has a mixture of feelings,” the artist noted. “It is as if on the one hand, he does not want to separate from his mother, but on the other hand … somewhere in his depths, in his young subconsciousness, there is also an understanding that he has a path, as each of us has our own path.”

This story was updated at 10:52am with the correct location of the town of Ozernoe.