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Pope Francis: The seeds of the Gospel take time to bloom

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2024 / 08:23 am (CNA).

In Pope Francis’ reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, the pope encouraged people to trust that God the Father often works in hidden ways under the surface before bringing the seeds of the Gospel to full bloom.

Reflecting on Jesus’ parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed in the Gospel of Mark, the pope said Christians should have an attitude of “confident expectation” in the Lord.

“In sowing, no matter how good or abundant the seed the farmer scatters or how well he prepares the land, the plants do not sprout immediately: It takes time,” Pope Francis said in his on June 16.

“Underground the miracle is already in progress,” he added. “There is enormous development, but it is invisible, it takes patience, and in the meantime it is necessary to to keep tending the turf, watering it and keeping it clean, despite the fact that on the surface nothing seems to be happening.”

Pope Francis explained that the kingdom of God likewise requires patience, to “wait confidently” as it takes time to grow.

“The Lord places in us the seeds of his word and his grace, good and abundant seeds, and then, without ever ceasing to accompany us, he waits patiently. He continues to take care of us, with the confidence of a Father, but he gives us time, so that the seeds open, grow, and develop to the point of bearing the fruits of good works,” he said.

The pope added that the Lord teaches us by his example “to sow the Gospel  confidently wherever we are and then to wait for the seed that has been sown to grow and bear fruit in us and in others.”

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis encouraged the Catholic pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square below to not become discouraged if they do not see immediate results from their efforts.

“In fact, often even among us, beyond appearances, the miracle is already underway, and in due course it will bear abundant fruit,” he said.

“May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed and made the seed of the Word grow within her, help us to be generous and confident sowers of the Gospel.”

After praying the Angelus in Latin with the crowd, the pope urged people not to stop praying for peace in Ukraine, the Holy Land, Sudan, Myanmar, and wherever people are suffering from war.

Pope Francis said he was pained to hear of the “massacres carried out in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo” and appealed to the government and international authorities to “do everything possible to stop the violence and to safeguard the lives of civilians.”

“Among the victims, many are Christians killed in hatred of the faith. They are martyrs. Their sacrifice is a seed that germinates and bears fruit, and teaches us to witness to the Gospel with courage and consistency,” he said.

Pope Francis greeted pilgrims visiting the Vatican from Lebanon, Egypt, and Spain, England, Poland, Hungary, and many parts of Italy.

The pope also expressed great joy at the news of the beatification of , a Catholic priest who was killed by communist authorities in Poland in 1946.

Pope Francis praised Rapacz as a “pastor after the heart of Christ” who witnessed to the Gospel amid both Nazi and Soviet persecution “and responded with the gift of his life.”

Approximately 1,800 people attended the Polish priest’s beatification Mass on June 15 in Krakow’s Divine Mercy Shrine.

Theologians conclude evaluation of synod reports after Rome meeting

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

A group of 20 theologians concluded an evaluation of 107 synod reports from national bishops’ conferences and Eastern Catholic Churches following nearly two weeks of meetings in Rome, according to from the general secretariat of the synod.

The theologians, who met from June 4 through June 14, an analysis of the reports, which will help synod officials draft the Synod on Synodality’s “ ” — the document that will guide the work of the second session of the synod in October. The analysis from the theologians has not been made public.

The ongoing is focused on studying various questions about how the Church should operate. Some of the questions focus on the role of women, inclusion, women deacons, and outreach to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Parishes held this past Lent that were consolidated into the analyzed by the theologians.

According to the news release, the themes most frequently mentioned are the formation of synodality, the functioning of participatory bodies, the role of women, outreach to young people, attention to the poor, inculturation, transparency, and a culture of accountability. Additional themes are catechesis, Christian initiation, and collaboration among churches.

“The reports often recount the experience of people who have made a real personal conversion,” Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod Cardinal Mario Grech said in a statement following the conclusion of the theologians’ analysis. 

“Others, however, are of people who continue to experience confusion, worry, or anxiety,” the cardinal continued. “In particular, there is a fear that what is sent is not taken seriously or that ideologies and lobbies of the faithful may exploit the synodal path to impose their own agenda.”

Grech said the October session will not be “about this or that issue” but focused on “synodality” and “about how to be a missionary Church on the way.” The session, he added, “will invoke the help of the Holy Spirit and that of his brothers and sisters to discern God’s will for his Church and not an opportunity to impose one’s own vision of Church."

The group of theologians included bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and laypeople. Eight of the theologians were European, including five Italians. There were three theologians from Africa and three from South America. Two theologians were from North America, including one from the United States; two were from Asia; and two were from Australia. 

“The holy people of God has been set in motion for mission thanks to the synodal experience,” Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, who is the general rapporteur of the synod, said in a statement.

“In the reports there were enthusiastic and creative responses offered as well as some with resistance and concern,” the cardinal said. “Most reports, however, show the joy of the journey that has given new life to many local communities and also provoked significant changes on their way of living and being Church. The seeds of the synodal Church are already sprouting!"

After the ordinal council evaluates the analysis from the theologians, the members will draft the document itself and provide the draft to Pope Francis for final approval.

Monsignor Riccardo Battocchio, the special secretary of the assembly, said in a statement that the document “will look different from ,” which guided the prior synod meeting, because it will be more focused. 

“If for the first session it was important to bring out the wide-ranging themes to be addressed; the working document for the October session intends instead to highlight some knots to be unraveled in order to answer the question ‘How to be a synodal Church in mission,’ taking in the path made so far and proposing theologically grounded arguments together with some concrete proposals to help the discernment entrusted to the members of the assembly,” Battocchio said.

Pope Francis at G7: AI must not replace human decision-making

Rome Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings as he participated for the first time in a G7 summit on Friday.

“Faced with the marvels of machines, which seem to know how to choose independently, we should be very clear that decision-making, even when we are confronted with its sometimes dramatic and urgent aspects, must always be left to the human person,” he said in front of world leaders June 14.

“We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” the pope added. “We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs: human dignity itself depends on it.”

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations summit is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Pope Francis participated in the June 14 “outreach” session, which also included invited nations and international organizations and was on the topics of artificial intelligence, energy, and the Africa and Mediterranean regions.

The pope held with several notable leaders before the session, including Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After the session he will hold a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and others.

Calling AI “an exciting and fearsome tool,” the pontiff said artificial intelligence must be used for good and for building a better tomorrow, and aimed at the good of people.

“It is up to everyone to make good use of [AI technology], but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful,” he underlined.

Copies of the pope’s full speech, which were read in a slightly abridged version, were handed out to attendees, the Vatican said.

Francis drew attention to the complexity of artificial intelligence as a tool, warning that “if in the past, men and women who fashioned simple tools saw their lives shaped by them — the knife enabled them to survive the cold but also to develop the art of warfare — now that human beings have fashioned complex tools they will see their lives shaped by them all the more.”

He also urged leaders to reconsider the development of so-called “lethal autonomous weapons” and to ban their use.

“This starts,” he said, “from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control. No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.”

He warned that the good use of advanced forms of artificial intelligence will not remain fully under the control of its users or original designers, given that in the future, AI programs will even be able to communicate directly with one another to improve performance.

After an already full morning, including audiences with the president of Cape Verde and more than 100 comedians from around the world, Pope Francis flew by helicopter to Borgo Egnazia, the luxury resort where the G7 meeting is being held.

Pope Francis will arrive back at the Vatican around 9 p.m. local time after a helicopter ride of about an hour and a half.

The Vatican has been heavily involved in the conversation on artificial intelligence ethics, hosting high-level discussions with scientists and tech executives on the ethics of artificial intelligence in 2016 and 2020.

In his remarks at the G7 on Friday, Francis also highlighted some specific limitations of AI, including the ability to predict human behavior.

He described the use of artificial intelligence in the judicial system to analyze data about a prisoner’s ethnicity, type of offense, behavior in prison, and more to judge their suitability for house arrest over imprisonment.

“Human beings are always developing and are capable of surprising us by their actions. This is something that a machine cannot take into account,” he said.

He criticized “generative artificial intelligence,” which he said can be especially appealing to students today, who may even use it to compose papers.

“Yet they forget that, strictly speaking, so-called generative artificial intelligence is not really ‘generative.’ Instead, it searches big data for information and puts it together in the style required of it. It does not develop new analyses or concepts but repeats those that it finds, giving them an appealing form,” the pontiff said.

“Then, the more it finds a repeated notion or hypothesis, the more it considers it legitimate and valid. Rather than being ‘generative,’ then, it is instead ‘reinforcing’ in the sense that it rearranges existing content, helping to consolidate it, often without checking whether it contains errors or preconceptions.”

This runs the risk of undermining culture and the educational process by reinforcing “fake news” or a dominant narrative, he continued, noting that “education should provide students with the possibility of authentic reflection, yet it runs the risk of being reduced to a repetition of notions, which will increasingly be evaluated as unobjectionable, simply because of their constant repetition.”

He also pointed out the increasing use of AI programs, like chatbots, that interact directly with people in ways that can even be pleasant and reassuring, since they are designed to respond to the psychological needs of human beings.

“It is a frequent and serious mistake to forget that artificial intelligence is not another human being,” he underlined.

Pope Francis gets laughs at meeting with big-name comedians

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2024 / 07:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis got a chuckle from an audience of comedians on Friday morning after he suggested throwing away his prepared remarks for simply making people laugh with a silly gesture.

Following the advice of St. Thomas Aquinas, who said, “Those who lack playfulness are sinful,” the pope joked that instead of reading his prepared speech, “I’ll do this, and we will all laugh,” as he held his thumb to his head and wiggled his fingers.

Pope Francis took the stage in front of over 100 comics, stand-up comedians, and humorists, including Americans Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O’Brien, on June 14 in the largest — and possibly only — gathering of comics in the Vatican since Pope Pius V eliminated the role of the papal jester in the 1500s.

U.S. comedians Jim Gaffigan, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, Mike Birbiglia, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kathleen Madigan, and Whoopi Goldberg also took part, as well as American humorist writer David Sedaris and British TV writer and comedian Stephen Merchant.

Improvising, the pontiff said he had been told that morning that there is an Italian saying that “smiling brings good health.” The phrase in Italian, “il sorriso fa buon sangue,” is a variation of an Italian proverb: “Il vino fa buon sangue”; in English, “wine brings good health.”

The June 14 meeting, organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and Dicastery for Communication, included 107 comics and humorists from 15 countries.

Pope Francis had high praise for their ability to bring people together through humor.

“In the midst of so much gloomy news, immersed as we are in many social and even personal emergencies, you have the power to spread peace and smiles,” he said.

He called the ability to make people smile amid their problems a “miracle,” praising their ability to “denounce abuses of power” and inappropriate behavior, and to give voice to forgotten situations.

Humor, he added, “does not offend, humiliate, or put people down according to their flaws.”

Stephen Colbert told EWTN News after shaking hands with the pope that the connection between faith and humor is “in the back of my mind all the time.”

“I mean, not in the front of my mind, in the front of my mind is what the joke is. But at a certain point in the back of the mind you have to say, ‘Do I want to tell that joke? And does that go with everything else that you are besides a comedian?’”

“Especially doing political satire, you’re kind of dancing around with a knife in your hand a lot and you want to be careful who and what you cut,” the host of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” added. “So it was lovely to hear the pope acknowledge that there’s a value in that for people’s hearts, and it made me think a little bit harder about how I want to use it.”

Colbert also said he occasionally watches Mass on EWTN.

Jim Gaffigan came to the Vatican with his wife, Jeannie, and 11- and 12-year-old sons, Patrick and Michael, who asked the pope to bless their rosaries.

“I’m going to brag about meeting the pope. That’s so cool,” Michael told CNA.

“And now you have to become a priest!” Gaffigan said to Patrick after he had received a pat on the cheek and candy from Pope Francis.

“I know that [Pope Francis] has always liked comedy,” Gaffigan said in comments to CNA. “If I was like Stephen Colbert, educated about Catholicism, I’d be able to reference St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Thomas More and all that stuff, but I can’t. I’m just a dumb guy that went to church and tried to listen. But I pay attention more now.”

The comedian, who performed stand-up at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, joked after the papal meeting Friday that assembling a group of comedians is “like the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’” for the world’s ills. “[The pope’s] like, ‘What if we just call in all the clowns? What if we just get the court jesters …’” he told CNA. 

In his remarks, Pope Francis referenced a prayer, mistakenly attributed to St. Thomas More, to “give me a sense of humor, Lord,” saying he has prayed it every day for more than 40 years.

The full version of the prayer, which can be found in Chester Cathedral, was read aloud by Italian comedian and television host Luciana Littizzetto at the end of the audience.

The last stanza of the anonymously-authored poem says: “Give me a sense of humor, Lord, give me the grace to see a joke; to get some happiness from life, and pass it on to other folk.”

For World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis urges Christians to ‘be friends of the poor’

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Ahead of the eighth observance of the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis this week urged Christians around the world to share in the suffering of the poor and to commune with them through the act of prayer. 

The Holy Father established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the feast of Christ the King. This year the observance will fall on Nov. 17.

In a letter to the faithful on Thursday, the pope pointed toward the Book of Sirach. The author of that book, Ben Sira, discovered through prayer that “the poor hold a privileged place in God’s heart,” according to the pope. 

“God knows the sufferings of his children because he is an attentive and caring father,” Francis wrote. “As a father, he takes care of those who are most in need: the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, and the forgotten.”

Drawing on familiar themes of his pontificate, Francis warned against pursuing worldly goods and fame at the cost of the dignity of others. 

“The mentality of the world demands that we become somebody, that we make a name for ourselves at any cost, breaking social norms in order to accumulate wealth,” he said. “How sad of an illusion this is!”

In January, Pope Francis in preparation for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year. The yearlong observance, he said on Thursday, underscores the need “to make the prayer of the poor our own and pray together with them.”

“The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments, and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith,” the pope said. 

The poor are markedly disposed to receiving God’s grace, Francis noted; having nothing else, they “receive strength from God and place all their trust in him.”

The Holy Father further highlighted the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life working for the poor and who described herself as “only a poor sister who prays.”

“By praying, Jesus puts his love in my heart, and I go to give it to all the poor I meet along the way,” the nun told the United Nations in 1985. “Pray too!”

The pope said he urged the faithful to “become pilgrims of hope” ahead of the holy year. 

“We are called in every circumstance to be friends of the poor, following in the footsteps of Jesus who always began by showing solidarity when dealing with the least among us,” the pope said. 

The pontiff reminded readers of the example of the Blessed Mother, who during an appearance in Banneux in 1933 declared herself to be “the Virgin of the Poor.”

To her “we entrust our prayers, convinced that they will rise to heaven and be heard,” the pope said. 

Pope Francis: Synodality moves us to share in others’ suffering

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2024 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday a synodal spirit asks us to react with empathy to the suffering and painful experiences of others.

Synodality “asks us to let ourselves be moved, even ‘hurt,’ by the voice, the experience, and suffering of others: of our fellow believers and all those around us. Be open, with an open heart,” the pope said at the Vatican on June 13 to approximately 200 leaders of international Catholic movements and communities.

The pope made his remarks on synodality during an annual meeting for moderators of international associations of the faithful, ecclesial movements, and new communities, organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

“The Challenge of Synodality for the Mission” was the theme of the 2024 meeting.

“Synodality,” Pope Francis said in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, “asks us to look beyond the barriers with magnanimity, to see the presence of God and his actions even in people we do not know, in new pastoral approaches, in uncharted mission territories.”

He also warned against “the fear of losing our sense of belonging and identity by opening up to other people and differing viewpoints, which stems from failing to recognize diversity as an opportunity rather than a threat.”

Do not enclose yourselves in your own groups, he stressed.

“These are ‘enclosures’ in which we all risk imprisonment,” the pontiff said. “Let us be attentive: Our own group, our own spirituality are realities that help us journey with the people of God, but they are not privileges, for there is the danger of ending up imprisoned in these enclosures.”

He said some of the challenges within ecclesial movements and communities are the temptation to be limited to what the “circle” thinks or “being convinced that what we do is right for everyone, defending, perhaps inadvertently, positions, prerogatives, or the prestige of the ‘group.’”

Pope Francis also underscored the importance of spiritual conversion in the synodal journey.

“I have often emphasized that the synodal journey requires a spiritual conversion because without an interior transformation, lasting results cannot be achieved,” he said. “My hope is that following this Synod [on Synodality], synodality may endure as a permanent mode of working within the Church, at all levels, permeating the hearts of all, pastors and faithful alike, until it becomes a shared ‘ecclesial style.’”

These goals, however, require a change within each of us, he added.

As part of this spiritual conversion, he also encouraged the meeting participants to foster humility — “the gateway to all virtues.”

“It saddens me when I encounter Christians who boast: because I am a priest from this place, or because they are laypeople from that place, because I am from this institution... This is a bad thing. Humility is the door, the beginning,” he said.

Vatican publishes papal primacy document aimed at ‘a reunited Church’

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2024 / 09:42 am (CNA).

The Vatican published a 130-page study on papal primacy on Thursday containing suggestions from Orthodox and Protestant Christian communities for how the role of the bishop of Rome might look in a future “reunited Church.”

The , titled “The Bishop of Rome: Primacy and Synodality in Ecumenical Dialogue and Responses to the Encyclical ,” is the first Vatican text since the Second Vatican Council to outline the entire ecumenical debate on papal primacy.

In addition to identifying the theological questions surrounding papal primacy in ecumenical dialogue, the document goes a step further to provide suggestions “for a ministry of unity in a reunited Church,” including “a differentiated exercise of the primacy of the bishop of Rome.”

The end of the text published on June 13 includes a section of proposals from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity on “the exercise of primacy in the 21st century,” including recommendations for “a synodal exercise” of papal primacy.

The dicastery concludes that “growing synodality is required within the Catholic Church” and that “many synodal institutions and practices of the Eastern Catholic Churches could inspire the Latin Church.”

It adds that “a synodality ” could include regular meetings among Christian representatives at the worldwide level in a “conciliar fellowship” to deepen communion.

This builds off of dialogue with some Orthodox representatives who have asserted that “any restoration of full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will require, on both sides, a strengthening of synodal structures and a renewed understanding of a universal primacy — both serving communion among the churches.”

At a Vatican press conference on June 13, Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the General Secretariat of the Synod, said that this study document is being released at a very “convenient time” as the Church prepares for the second session of the Synod on Synodality in the fall. 

A representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who joined the press conference via video link, underlined that “the synodality of the Catholic Church is an important criterion for the Oriental Orthodox churches on our way to full communion.”

The Catholic Church holds that Jesus made Peter the “rock” of his Church, giving him the keys to the kingdom and instituting him as the shepherd of the whole flock. The pope as Peter’s successor is the “perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful,” as described in one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council,

The new study document proposes “a clearer distinction be made between the different responsibilities of the pope, especially between his ministry as head of the Catholic Church and his ministry of unity among all Christians, or more specifically between his patriarchal ministry in the Latin Church and his primatial ministry in the communion of Churches.”

It notes the possibility of “extending this idea to consider how other Western Churches might relate to the bishop of Rome as primate while having a certain autonomy themselves.”

The text notes that Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches emphasized the importance of regional leadership in the Church and advocated “a balance between primacy and primacies.” It adds that some ecumenical dialogues with Western Christian communities also applied this to the Catholic Church by calling for “a strengthening of Catholic episcopal conferences, including at the continental level, and for a continuing ‘decentralization’ inspired by the model of the ancient patriarchal Churches.”

Invoking the principle of subsidiarity, which means that no matter that can properly be dealt with at a lower level should be taken to a higher one, the text describes how some ecumenical dialogues argued that “the power of the bishop of Rome should not exceed that required for the exercise of his ministry of unity at the universal level and suggest a voluntary limitation in the exercise of his power.”

“In a reconciled Christianity, such communion presupposes that the bishop of Rome’s relationship to the Eastern Churches and their bishops … would have to be substantially different from the relationship now accepted in the Latin Church,” it says.

Another concrete proposal put forward by the dicastery is “a Catholic ‘re-reception,’ ‘re-interpretation,’ ‘official interpretation,’ ‘updated commentary,’ or even ‘rewording’ of the teachings of Vatican I,” particularly with regard to definitions on primacy of jurisdiction and papal infallibility.

The First Vatican Council, which took place between 1869 and 1870 under Pope Pius IX, dogmatically defined papal infallibility in the constitution , which said that when the Roman pontiff speaks “ex cathedra,” that is, when he officially teaches in his capacity of the universal shepherd of the Church on a doctrine on a matter of faith or morals and addresses it to the entire world, the defined doctrine is irreformable.

An Anglican representative who spoke at the Vatican press conference highlighted how certain aspects of Vatican I have been a particular “stumbling block” for Angelicans. 

The study document released by the Vatican pointed to how arguments have been made in ecumenical dialogue that some of the teachings of Vatican I “were deeply conditioned by their historical context” and suggested that “the Catholic Church should look for new expressions and vocabulary faithful to the original intention but integrated into a ‘communio’ ecclesiology and adapted to the current cultural and ecumenical context.”

It describes how some ecumenical dialogues “were able to clarify the wording of the dogma of infallibility and even to agree on certain aspects of its purpose, recognizing the need, in some circumstances, for a personal exercise of the teaching ministry, given that Christian unity is a unity in truth and love.”

“In spite of these clarifications, the dialogues still express concerns regarding the relation of infallibility to the primacy of the Gospel, the indefectibility of the whole Church, the exercise of episcopal collegiality and the necessity of reception,” it adds.

The document summarizes responses by different Christian communities to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on Christian unity, (“That They All May Be One”).

In particular to the Polish pope’s invitation in the encyclical for Christian leaders and theologians to engage in a patient and fraternal dialogue on papal primacy.

“It is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry. I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek — together, of course — the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned,” John Paul II wrote.

says that the bishop of Rome as the successor of the Apostle Peter has a “specific duty” to work for the cause of Christian unity.

The study document published by the Vatican is the result of more than three years of work summarizing some 30 responses to and 50 ecumenical dialogue documents on the subject.

Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic experts were consulted in collaboration with the Institute for Ecumenical Studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, noted at the press conference that one of the fruits of the ecumenical theological dialogue in the past three decades has been “a renewed reading of the ‘Petrine texts,’” in which dialogue partners were invited to “consider afresh the role of Peter among the apostles.”

The Vatican notes that the “the concerns, emphases, and conclusions of the different dialogues varied according to the confessional traditions involved.”

As a study document, its goal is only to offer “an objective synthesis of the ecumenical discussions” on papal primacy and “does not claim to exhaust the subject nor summarize the entire Catholic magisterium on the subject.”

Koch explained that Pope Francis gave his approval for the dicastery to publish the document, but this does not mean that the pope approved every sentence.

Ian Ernest, the director of the Anglican Center in Rome, thanked Catholic leaders for publishing the new document, which he said “opens up new perspectives for ecumenical relations on the much-debated question of the relationship between primacy and synodality.”

“As the personal representative of the archbishop of Canterbury, I am delighted that one of the most comprehensive and detailed responses to St. John Paul II’s invitation in was given by the house of bishops of the Church of England in 1997,” he said.

Ernest described the Anglican Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting as examples of “synodality at work,” which enable the Anglican communion “to prayerfully understand the ecumenical dialogues and new perspectives which touch on … important doctrinal aspects.”

In response to questions from journalists, Grech acknowledged that different Christian churches have different ways of conceiving synodality.

Grech noted that the synthesis report from the 2023 assembly of the Synod on Synodality asked theologians to examine “the way in which a renewed understanding of the episcopate within a synodal Church affects the ministry of the bishop of Rome and the role of the Roman Curia.” 

He added that “the debate is still open” as the Church continues the synodal process with the second assembly in the fall.

G7 summit: Pope Francis to meet U.S. President Joe Biden in Italy

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2024 / 09:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will hold bilateral meetings on Friday with nine world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, at the G7 summit in southern Italy, the Vatican confirmed Thursday.

The pontiff will also hold bilateral meetings with other notable leaders, including presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine as well as the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.

The Vatican said June 13 that Pope Francis will attend and speak at Session VI on the second day of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations summit, which is happening in the southern Italian region of Puglia from June 13–15.

The “outreach” session, which will also include invited nations and international organizations, will be on the topics of artificial intelligence, energy, and the Africa and Mediterranean regions.

Pope Francis and Biden last met at the Vatican at the end of October 2021.

Francis’ conversation with Biden will take place after the session. In the two hours allotted for bilateral meetings, the pope will also sit down with Modi and the presidents of Kenya, Algeria, Brazil, and Turkey.

Earlier in the day, the pope will hold bilateral talks with Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Francis will also meet the general director of the International Monetary Fund.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni first announced in the G7 in a video message in April.

“This is the first time in history that a pontiff will participate in the work of a G7,” Meloni said.

“I am convinced that the presence of His Holiness will make a decisive contribution to the definition of a regulatory, ethical, and cultural framework for artificial intelligence,” she added.

After an already-full morning, including audiences with the president of Cape Verde and over 100 comedians from around the world, Pope Francis will fly by helicopter to Borgo Egnazia, the luxury resort where the G7 meeting is being held, in the town of Savelletri.

Pope Francis will arrive back at the Vatican around 9 p.m. local time after a helicopter ride of about an hour and a half.

The Vatican has been heavily involved in the conversation of artificial intelligence ethics, hosting high-level discussions with scientists and tech executives on the ethics of artificial intelligence in 2016 and 2020.

Pope Francis also chose artificial intelligence as the theme of his , which recommended that global leaders adopt an international treaty to regulate the development and use of AI.

Armenian Church leader, Pope Francis meet at Vatican

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 12, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

For the first time in 10 years, Pope Francis met Wednesday with His Holiness Aram I, the leader of the Armenian Church of Cilicia with jurisdiction over some 800,000 Armenian Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Iran, and Greece.

The meeting took place behind closed doors in the Holy Father’s personal office and the Vatican has not offered any further details. Pope Francis last met with Aram I at the Vatican in June 2014. On that occasion, the Holy Father thanked him for his commitment to achieving Christian unity and affirmed that the suffering of the Armenian martyrs must be venerated “like the wounds of the very body of Christ.”

The Armenian Church of Cilicia is in with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has over 5 million members worldwide. In addition to its presence in the referenced region, the Armenian Church of Cilicia has two dioceses and 34 parishes in the United States, along with six parishes in Canada.

While in full communion, the Armenian Church of Cilicia is administratively independent of the Apostolic Church in Armenia. 

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion when King Tiridates III was converted to the Christian faith by St. Gregory the Illuminator at the beginning of the fourth century. In 506, an Armenian synod rejected the Christological teachings of the Council of Chalcedon (451), which no Armenian bishop attended.

From that time on, the Armenian Church proclaimed itself autonomous, under the jurisdiction of a patriarch who took the name Catholicós, a title that was originally attributed to the head of a Christian community outside the confines of the Roman Empire.

In December 1996, St. John Paul II and His Holiness the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II signed a joint declaration affirming the common origin of the Armenian Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

His Holiness Aram I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and studied at the Armenian Theological Seminary of Antelias and at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey (Geneva). He has been a Catholicos of the Armenian Church of Cilicia since 1995. 

In addition to specializing in philosophy and history of the Church in the Middle East, he is the founder of the Middle East Council of Churches and also the founder of the theological dialogue between the Byzantine Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox.

Vatican commemorates 80th anniversary of Pius XII’s meeting with Allied troops

Rome Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Bagpipers solemnly marched through St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday to mark the 80th anniversary of a historic meeting between Pope Pius XII and Allied troops who liberated Rome from Nazi occupation.

On June 12, 1944, Pius XII gave an enthusiastic speech in English thanking the members of the 38th (Irish) Brigade as he welcomed them to the Vatican.

To commemorate the historic moment, the Royal Irish Regiment and 38th (Irish) Brigade performed for Pope Francis during his general audience on June 12.

Ambassador Chris Trott, the British ambassador to the Holy See, pointed out that the brigade’s pipe band played the same tune at the exact same time as their forebears did in St. Peter’s Square 80 years ago.

In an interview with CNA, the U.K. ambassador described the significance of the commemoration in the wake of the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.

“We’ve spent the last 10 days focused on the 80th anniversary of what happened in northern France, but it’s easy to forget … that there was an army fighting its way through Italy trying to liberate the peninsula,” Trott said.

“The commemoration this morning was to mark a moment in time when Rome and then the Vatican were liberated by the Allied armies in 1944.”

The 38th (Irish) brigade formed in 1942 and was made up of Irish-born and second- and third-generation Irish born in Britain. The brigade had fought in Tunisia and the landings in Sicily before joining the campaign to liberate the Italian peninsula from German occupation. 

Pope Pius XII said after the liberation of Rome that he wanted to say thank you to the Irish regiment who had been the first ones to come into Rome, Trott explained, so he invited them to come back from the front for the day for an audience at the Vatican.

Historic news footage from 1944 published by Pathé shows Pius XII encouraging Allied troops visiting the Vatican to always remain “close to God” before giving them a papal blessing.

Father Dan Kelleher, the brigade’s Catholic chaplain, helped to arrange the papal audience, which included 150 servicemen, mostly Catholics.

Pius XII told the Irish brigade that they belonged “to the nation which has ever belonged to God’s church since St. Patrick,” according to The Irish Times.

“We are well aware of the good which the Irish have done in spreading the faith from the shores of their green isle into the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, and many other nations,” Pius said.

Although there are no longer any living members of the 38th (Irish) Brigade who met with Pope Pius XII, their family members and descendents traveled to Rome for the anniversary. 

The delegation included a Chelsea Pensioner, whose uncle played in the pipe band for Pope Pius XII on June 12, 1944. Three World War II veterans from the Chelsea Pensioners were also present to greet Pope Francis.

Following the audience, the Royal Irish Regiment led a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Lives of All who Fought for the Liberation of Italy (1943-1945) at the Basilica of San Silvestro in Rome.

The ambassador, whose grandfather fought in the campaign to liberate Italy, also recalled the heroic witness of Ireland’s , who worked with Trott’s predecessor, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, the British envoy to the Holy See, to protect the vulnerable from within the walls of Vatican City during World War II.

“For me, this is the sort of thing that I will always remember,” Trott said.

“My grandfather fought in Italy and so for me to be able to facilitate this commemoration is hugely important both officially and personally,” he said.

Pope Francis: Keep your homilies short or ‘people will fall asleep’

Rome Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 09:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has once again appealed to Catholic priests to keep their homilies short, this time warning that homilies should be no longer than eight minutes or “people will fall asleep.”

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday catechesis on June 12, the pope explained that the goal of a homily is to “help move the Word of God from the book to life.”

“But the homily for this must be short: an image, a thought, a feeling. The homily should not go beyond eight minutes because after that time you lose attention and people fall asleep,” he said.

It is not the first time that Francis has stressed the importance of short homilies. In 2018, the pope and ensure that their homilies are “no more than 10 minutes.” 

The pope’s words echo the made by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic in his 2010 book on the 2008 Synod on the Word of God, which advised prelates to keep their homilies to eight minutes or shorter and to avoid “improvisations” from the pulpit.

Pope Francis often exceeds this time limit in his own homilies. On Holy Thursday this year, for the chrism Mass was more than 20 minutes long. 

The pope made the comments on homily length off the cuff during a reflection on how the Bible is “inspired by God and authoritative.”

Francis added that “the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures … also makes them perennially living and active.”

“It can happen that in a certain passage of the Scripture, that we have read many times without particular emotion, one day we read it in an atmosphere of faith and prayer, and then that text is unexpectedly illuminated, it speaks to us, it sheds light on a problem we are living, it makes God’s will for us clear in a certain situation,” the pope said.

“The words of the Scripture, under the action of the Spirit, become luminous; and in those cases, we touch with our own hands how true is the statement in the Letter to the Hebrews: ‘The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword’ (Heb 4:12).”

Pope Francis urged Catholics to take time every day to read and reflect on a passage from Scripture, recommending that Christians carry “a pocket Gospel” with them to read during spare moments throughout the day. 

“But the quintessential spiritual reading of the Scripture is the community reading in the liturgy in the Mass,” he said. “There, we see how an event or a teaching, given by the Old Testament, finds its full expression in the Gospel of Christ.”

“Among the many words of God that we listen to every day in Mass or in the Liturgy of the Hours, there is always one that is meant specially for us. Something that touches the heart. Welcomed into the heart, it can illuminate our day and inspire our prayer. It is a question of not letting it fall on deaf ears,” Pope Francis said.

“‘The whole Bible,’ observes St. Augustine, ‘does nothing but tell of God’s love,’” he added.

At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis asked people to continue to pray for peace in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and the many countries that are at war today.

The pope extended greetings to pilgrim groups visiting from China, India, Indonesia, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and the United States.

Also in St. Peter’s Square were bagpipers from the the Royal Irish Regiment and 38 Irish Brigade who performed in commemoration of 80th anniversary of the liberation of Rome and Irish brigade’s historic meeting with Pope Pius XII at the Vatican on June 12, 1944.

Pope Francis also encouraged devotion to St. Anthony of Padua ahead of his feast day on June 13.

“Tomorrow we will celebrate the liturgical memory of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church,” he said. “May the example of this distinguished preacher, protector of the poor and the suffering, arouse in everyone the desire to pursue the path of faith and imitate his life, thus becoming credible witnesses of the Gospel.”

Vatican: Pope Francis speaks again about the admission of homosexuals to seminaries

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 11, 2024 / 19:15 pm (CNA).

During a meeting Tuesday with some 160 priests at the Salesian Pontifical University, Pope Francis again discussed the issue of the admission of homosexuals to seminaries. 

The Vatican Press Office that during the closed-door meeting, the pope returned to the topic of the admission of men “with homosexual tendencies to seminaries, reiterating the need to welcome them and accompany them in the Church and the prudential indication of the Dicastery for the Clergy regarding their entry into the seminary.”

The statement did not specify which indication from the Dicastery for the Clergy the Holy Father was referring to.

According to the published in 2005 by the then-Congregation for Catholic Education — the current Dicastery for Culture and Education — the Church “cannot admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

The subject has surfaced repeatedly in recent weeks. 

At the beginning of , the Italian newspaper Il Messagero published a letter from the Holy Father addressed to a young man excluded from the seminary for being homosexual, whom he encouraged to “move forward” with his vocation.

On May 20, during another closed-door meeting with Italian bishops, Pope Francis was reported to have used derisive language about the presence of homosexuality in seminaries. 

In response to press reports on the pope’s alleged language, on the Vatican issued a statement indicating that Pope Francis “never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others.”

According to the , at the June 11 meeting, after a greeting by Bishop Michele di Tolve and a moment of prayer, Pope Francis engaged in dialogue with the priests in attendance.

Among the topics discussed, the Holy Father referred to the identity of the priest and the beauty of being priests. The pope cited the model of as “a great, a light for the Italian priest.”

The wide-ranging discussion also included the importance of accompanying those who suffer, particularly the elderly.

Other topics discussed included the current situation in Europe, the Holy Land, Ukraine, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others.

It was the third meeting Pope Francis has held with the priests of Rome in less than a month. On May 14 he met with the oldest priests and at the end of the month he visited the youngest.

Vatican to publish new document on papal primacy

Rome Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The Vatican will publish a study document on papal primacy and ecumenism on Thursday that will contain proposals “for a renewed exercise of the bishop of Rome’s ministry of unity” recognized by all Christians.

The document, titled “The Bishop of Rome: Primacy and Synodality in Ecumenical Dialogue and Responses to the Encyclical ,” will be released on June 13 with the approval of Pope Francis. 

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity put together the study document to summarize the ecumenical dialogue that has occurred on the question of papal primacy and synodality in the past 30 years.

In particular, the document includes responses by different Christian communities to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on Christian unity, (“That They All May Be One”).

According to the Holy See Press Office, the document “concludes with a proposal from the dicastery identifying the most significant suggestions put forward for a renewed exercise of the bishop of Rome’s ministry of unity ‘recognized by one and all.’”

says that the bishop of Rome as the successor of the Apostle Peter has a “specific duty” to work for the cause of Christian unity. 

The encyclical acknowledges that “the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the apostolic tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections.” 

It notes that the “primacy of the bishop of Rome has now become a subject of study” in the Church’s dialogue with other Christian communities.

In his encyclical John Paul II wrote: “As bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as I have reaffirmed in the present encyclical letter, that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells.”

“I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation,” the pontiff said.

“It is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry. I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek — together, of course — the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned,” he added.

The Polish pope invited Christian leaders and theologians to “to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject.”

Notably absent from the 1995 encyclical is the word “synodality,” which appears to be one of the novelties in the Vatican’s new study document.

The Vatican will hold a press conference featuring Anglican and Armenian representatives to discuss the new papal primacy document on June 13.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the General Secretariat of the Synod, will join Cardinal Kurt Koch, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, in presenting the study document at the press conference.

Ian Ernest, the director of the Anglican Center in Rome and personal representative of the archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See, will join the conference remotely via video link as will Khajag Barsamian, the Armenian Apostolic Church’s representative to the Holy See.

From the Big Bang to black holes: Vatican, scientists to explore questions of the universe

Rome Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

In 1931, when astrophysicist Father Georges Lemaître proposed the Big Bang theory — the idea that the universe expanded from the massive explosion of a “primordial atom” — some scientists “hated it, because it was too religious,” according to Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno.

“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to reproduce Genesis,” Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, said in comments to EWTN News on June 11.

In of a 1964 interview, Lemaître explains that the theory of the expansion of the universe was not accepted at first because it made the idea of a creation necessary.

Consolmagno added that “[Lemaître] was very careful to say [the Big Bang] is not the same thing as the creation in Scripture. It’s our best description of what happens after that creation.”

Dozens of astrophysicists and cosmologists will explore the Big Bang and other topics of the universe next week at a conference hosted by the in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.

Titled “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and Space-Time Singularities,” the June 17–21 workshop is the second international conference in celebration of the legacy of Lemaître, who is called the father of the Big Bang theory.

“The Big Bang is our best understanding today of what happened once the universe had been created,” Consolmagno said at a June 11 press conference at the Vatican.

“But perhaps the result of meetings like this [will be that] next year, or in a hundred years, or in a thousands years’ time, we may find a theory better than that.”

“What the creation point in Genesis describes is the creation of the laws of physics themselves, the laws we are still attempting to discover,” he added.

While the Big Bang theory was originally received with skepticism by the scientific community, there was no great opposition from the Church, Consolmagno said.

“Ironically, the pope was too enthusiastic,” he continued. “In 1951, [Pope Pius XII] had an audience with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and, in passing, said, essentially, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that scientists are talking about the beginning of the universe? But we could have told them that.’ And when Lemaître heard that he said, ‘No, you can’t make that conflation.’”

Emphasizing that science and religious belief are not opposed, Consolmagno and conference organizer Jesuit Father Gabriele Gionti said there is a very good “accord” between scientists and those who work at the Vatican Observatory.

“They feel more able to speak freely at the Vatican Observatory,” Gionti said.

A practical reason for the respect, Consolmagno said, is because “we do not compete with them for positions or for money ... This, as Father Gionti said, makes us a ‘neutral ground,’ where they can come, in a beautiful setting in Castel Gandolfo, and know that we don’t have an agenda.”

According to organizers, 40 scientists will participate in the conference in person, and another 150 will join online. Conference attendees expect to have an audience with Pope Francis during the week if the pontiff’s schedule allows.

Fabio Scardigli, a theoretical physicist from Italy who helped organize the conference in Castel Gandolfo, said they have assembled a “dream team” of scientists and thinkers from two different communities: cosmology and astrophysics.

Hopefully, he said, through open discussion and debate, there can be “a small step forward” in bringing these two groups into dialogue.

Father Matteo Galaverni, a cosmologist of the Vatican Observatory, said they want the conference “to bring forth new points of view” and to create a “healthy optimism for those who believe in research.”

Consolmagno referenced the opening of St. John Paul II’s encyclical (Faith and Reason), in which the pope says that “faith and reason are the two wings that bring us to the truth.”

“That image,” the brother said, “reminds us that faith is not the goal, reason is not the goal, the Church is not the goal, science is not the goal. Truth is the goal. And for those of us who believe that God is truth, then exploring the truth brings us closer to God.”

Cosmologists, he added, “are so aware of how much we do not know that there is a great openness to the need to accept a way of addressing the fundamental question from [the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm] Leibniz: Why is there something instead of nothing?”

Pope Francis: Money, power, pleasure can enslave us

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2024 / 09:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged people to reflect on Sunday on whether they are sacrificing their serenity and freedom to be enslaved by money, power, and pleasure.

Speaking in his Angelus address on June 9, the pope asked people to contemplate the temptations that can imprison us and the freedom found in Christ.

“If we let ourselves be conditioned by the quest for pleasure, power, money, or consensus, we become slaves to these things,” he said.

“If instead we allow God’s freely-given love to fill us and expand our heart, and if we let it overflow spontaneously by giving it back to others with our whole selves without fear, calculation, or conditioning, then we grow in freedom and spread its good fragrance around us in our homes, in our families, and in our communities.”

In his speech from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope highlighted the many ways in which “Jesus was a free man.”

Jesus was not enslaved by wealth but embraced “a poor life full of uncertainties, freely taking care of the sick and whoever came to ask him for help, without ever asking for anything in return.”

“He was free with regard to power,” Francis added. “Indeed, despite calling many to follow him, he never obliged anyone to do so, nor did he ever seek out the support of the powerful but always took the side of the least, teaching his disciples to do likewise.”

The Lord was also free from the need “for fame and approval, and for this reason, he never gave up speaking the truth,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined that Jesus never gave up speaking the truth “even at the cost of not being understood or becoming unpopular — even to the point of dying on the cross.” The pope added that Jesus did not allow himself “to be intimidated, bought, or corrupted by anything or anyone.”

Pope Francis asked people to spend some time reflecting on “this freedom of Jesus” and then to examine their consciences as to whether there are any areas in life where they are “imprisoned by the myths of money, power, and success.”

After leading the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Angelus prayer in Latin, the pope made a passionate appeal for peace in the Holy Land, asking people to pray for the cease-fire negotiations and urging the international community to ensure that humanitarian aid arrives for those who are most in need.

Pope Francis also asked people to pray for the people who are suffering in Myanmar and Ukraine, giving a special shoutout to some Ukrainians who were in the crowd waving flags. 

“May the Virgin Mary help us live and love like Jesus taught us, in the freedom of the children of  God,” Pope Francis said.

Music is a universal language: Pope Francis sings praises of Catholic choirs

Rome Newsroom, Jun 8, 2024 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis praised Catholic choir members of all ages on Saturday, calling music “a universal and immediate language.”

Choir members and musicians provide a “precious service” to the Church, he said on the morning of June 8 in an audience with parish and diocesan choirs, scholæ cantorum, directors, and musicians.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope said: “Music creates harmony, thereby reaching everyone, consoling those who suffer, rekindling enthusiasm in the downhearted, and bringing forth wonderful values such as beauty and poetry, which reflect God’s harmonious light.

“Music, indeed,” he added, “is a universal and immediate language that requires no translation or elaborate explanation.”

Approximately 300 singers and 80 musicians are taking part this weekend in the Fourth International Meeting of Choirs at the Vatican.

In addition to the meeting with Pope Francis, participants in the June 7–9 gathering will put on a free concert in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on the evening of June 8 and sing at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of June 9. The event also had two days of talks on topics such as sacred music and the history of Gregorian chant with practical workshops for musicians and choristers.

“You have come together in the Vatican to explore more deeply the significance of music in service to the liturgy,” the pope said. “It is very good to see you here, coming as you do from many different places yet all united by faith and a passion for music.”

Francis encouraged the musicians and choir members to spend time in prayer and meditation on God’s word “to maintain the lofty spiritual tenor” of their vocation to enrich the Mass and other liturgies with music.

You enrich and add beauty to the Mass “not only with your voices but also with your minds and hearts,” he said, “and by enthusiastically living your daily lives accordingly, so that your music may increasingly be a joyful self-offering to God, who with his love attracts, enlightens, and transforms everything.”

The weekend was organized by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, which is celebrating 40 years since its foundation. The choir’s director is Monsignor Marco Frisina, a composer whose works have been hugely influential in the Church both in Italy and on the world stage — particularly at World Youth Days.

Frisina’s “Jesus Christ You Are My Life” gained international recognition in the Catholic world after it was the anthem of World Youth Day during the Great Jubilee in 2000.

The music director and composer told EWTN News this week that he has written a new song for young people titled “Christ Is My Hope” for the 2025 Jubilee Year.

Frisina said he was thinking about “how important it is to sing about the joy of hope.”

“Because everyone thinks with sadness about the things that happen — war, violence, hatred, enmity — but it’s good to sing instead to counter all that, [to sing] that Christ is our joy and our hope,” he said. “And Christ is risen.”

During his speech on Saturday, Pope Francis said the singers “are custodians of a centuries-old treasure of art, beauty, and spirituality,” and he encouraged them to “not let the mentality of the world taint it with self-interest, ambition, jealousy, or division.”

The pontiff also praised the spontaneity and innocence of children, which he said “speaks louder than the best of speeches.”

“We must take care of children because they are the future, they are hope,” he added. “Children are the privileged ones. For this reason, Jesus said: ‘It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’”

Pope Francis to meet Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, other top comedians at Vatican

Rome Newsroom, Jun 8, 2024 / 08:11 am (CNA).

It’s no joke: Pope Francis will take the mic in front of over 100 comics, stand-up comedians, and humorists, including Americans Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, at the Vatican next Friday.

Jim Gaffigan, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Whoopi Goldberg are the other U.S. comedians expected to take part.

The June 14 meeting was organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and Dicastery for Communication and “aims to establish a link between the Catholic Church and comic artists,” according to a June 8 press release.

As of June 8, a list of 105 comics and humorists from 15 countries had confirmed their participation in the papal audience. 

The Vatican said the encounter intends “to celebrate the beauty of human diversity and promote a message of peace, love, and solidarity, and promises to be a meaningful moment of intercultural dialogue and sharing of joy and hope.”

Most of the comedians and humorists slated to participate — 67 — are from Italy, while six are from the South American countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, and 22 from European countries other than Italy. Two comedians from Mexico — Florinda Meza García and Chumel Torres — will also take part. The only Asian country represented is East Timor.

Jesuit Father James Martin is also slated to attend. Martin is the former chaplain of “The Colbert Report” and appears to be the only clergy member listed among participants in the June 14 encounter.

The audience, which will take place in the Apostolic Palace, occurs almost exactly one year after Pope Francis addressed a group of approximately 200 prominent artists in the Sistine Chapel — an event also organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The 2023 meeting notably included figures such as U.S. film director Abel Ferrara and U.S. photographer Andres Serrano, creator of the controversial 1987 “Piss Christ” image, a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in urine.

Pope Francis previously met actress and daytime talk-show host Whoopi Goldberg .

Another notable attendee is the Roman street artist Mauro Pallotta, who goes by the name “Maupal,” and is known for his 2014 depiction of Pope Francis as superman, “Super Pope.”

In its announcement of the papal meeting with comedians, the Vatican highlighted the words of Pope Francis in a 2016 interview with the Italian Catholic television channel TV2000.

On that occasion, : “A sense of humor is a grace that I ask for every day, and I pray that beautiful prayer of St. Thomas More: ‘Give me, Lord, a sense of humor,’ that I know how to laugh at a joke … it’s beautiful, that prayer, isn’t it? Because a sense of humor lifts you up, makes you see the temporariness of life and take things with a spirit of a redeemed soul. It is a human attitude, but it is the closest to God’s grace.”

Pope Francis recalls 2014 embrace of Palestine and Israel presidents at prayer for peace

Vatican City, Jun 8, 2024 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday evening recalled the “significant, historic gesture of dialogue and peace” made by the presidents of Israel and Palestine 10 years ago in the Vatican Gardens.

An interreligious prayer service was held in the Vatican Gardens June 7 to mark the 10th anniversary of the June 8, 2014, at which Israel’s then-President Shimon Peres and Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas .

“I carry in my heart much gratitude to the Lord for that day, while I cherish the memory of that emotional embrace that the two presidents exchanged,” Francis said June 7 in the presence of 23 cardinals, ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, and representatives of the Jewish and Islamic communities of Rome.

“Today, remembering that event is important, especially in light of what is unfortunately happening in Palestine and Israel,” he said. “Every day I pray that this war will finally come to an end.”

Pope Francis, who arrived at the prayer in a golf cart, remained for around 30 minutes. The ambassadors of Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, and Russia were among those present as well as Rabbi Alberto Funaro and Abdellah Redouane, secretary general of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy-Grand Mosque of Rome.

, the pontiff said he thinks “of all those who are suffering, in Israel and Palestine: the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims.”

“I think of how urgent it is that from the rubble of Gaza there is finally a decision to stop the weapons and, therefore, I ask that there be a cease-fire; I think of the Israeli family members and hostages and ask that they be freed as soon as possible; I think of the Palestinian population and ask that they be protected and receive all the humanitarian aid they need; I think of the many people displaced by the fighting, and I ask that soon their homes be rebuilt so that they can return to them in peace,” he said.

Francis said he is also thinking of all the Palestinians and Israelis of goodwill who, amid tears and suffering, are waiting in hope for peace.

“We must all work and strive so that a lasting peace is achieved, where the State of Palestine and the State of Israel can live side by side, breaking down the walls of enmity and hatred; and we must all cherish Jerusalem, so that it becomes the city of fraternal encounter between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, protected by a special internationally guaranteed status,” he urged.

The 2014 prayer for peace in the Vatican Gardens took place two weeks after Pope Francis’ May 24–26. On that occasion, he had invited the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to come to the Vatican “to implore God for the gift of peace.” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was also present at the 2014 prayer service, which included the symbolic gesture of the planting of an olive tree.

In his speech on Friday, Pope Francis warned against an ideology that says “war can solve problems and lead to peace.”

“At stake are always power struggles between different social groups, partisan economic interests, and international political balancing acts that aim for an apparent peace while running away from the real problems,” he underlined.

Francis also noted the “growing trail of hostility” between Israel and Palestine, which has made the world witnesses to the deaths of so many innocent people.

“All of this suffering, the brutality of war, the violence it unleashes, and the hatred it sows even in future generations should convince us that ‘every war leaves the world worse off than it found it. War is a failure of politics and humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil,’” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical .

“We are here today to invoke peace. We ask God for it as a gift of his mercy. For peace is not made only on paper agreements or on the tables of human and political compromises. It comes from transformed hearts, it arises when each of us is reached and touched by God’s love,” he said.

“There can be no peace unless we first let God himself disarm our hearts, to make them hospitable, compassionate, and merciful.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks with the same he invoked at the 2014 meeting.

“Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: ‘Never again war!’” he prayed.

Vatican official: Hundreds of millions of Christians ‘face high levels of persecution’

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 7, 2024 / 11:47 am (CNA).

“More than 365 million Christians, approximately 1 in 7, face high levels of persecution for their faith,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, said at a conference on religious freedom held in Rome this week.

The conference, titled “Religious Freedom and Integral Human Development: A New Global Platform,” was jointly organized by the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Atlantic Council, and several universities, including the Pontifical Urban University of Rome and the University of Notre Dame.

In his speech, Gallagher said attacks on churches and Christian properties “increased significantly in 2023, with more Christians than ever before reporting violent attacks.”

The prelate went on to describe his concern that “according to some estimates, almost 4.9 billion people live in countries with serious or very serious violations of religious freedom.” 

The Vatican diplomat underscored that religious freedom, “although not the only aspect of human rights, is probably the most fundamental,” adding that “the violation of the right to religious freedom has the effect of undermining not only one right but also the entire category of human rights,” he added.

“Religious freedom plays a decisive role in achieving integral human development,” Gallagher continued. For this reason, he added, “the state should exercise a detached neutrality and grant religious groups and all individuals an equal right to the public manifestation of their religious convictions.”

Gallagaher spoke as part of the conference’s opening panel analyzing the global crisis of religious freedom. The conference attracted participants from some 19 countries and included the participation of the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Pope Francis warns of ‘cold war’ in families, encourages living forgiveness

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 6, 2024 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis warned of “the cold war” in families and encouraged them to live peace and forgiveness. He delved into the subject during a Thursday visit to a condominium in the western area of ​​Rome, within the context of the “School of Prayer” initiative.

“Let us defend the family, which is oxygen to help children grow, although there are also storms within it,” the Holy Father said during a meeting with about 30 families from the parish of St. Brigid of Sweden in the Roman neighborhood of Palmarola.

“If parents fight it is normal, but we have the possibility of making peace before the end of the day, because the cold war that comes the day after is terrible,” Pope Francis warned.

At the meeting, which he attended accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, the pope spoke and answered questions from parents, the elderly, children, and young people.

Pope Francis then encouraged the young people present to bear witness to the faith and reminded them that they have “the responsibility to move forward with history. One of the beautiful things about young people is that they get back up. We all fall in life, but the important thing is not to stay down.” 

After pointing out that the Church “begins to take shape in the community,” the Holy Father indicated that “a parish where children are not listened to and the elderly are canceled is not a true Christian community. Do not forget that the elderly are the memory and the children are the promise.”

When asked by two parents about how to maintain the faith of children, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of parents loving each other, because children must be able to “feel that mom and dad love each other very much. If you fight, don’t do it in front of the children."

The Holy Father also highlighted the importance of talking to your children: “Never stop talking to them. Education is done through dialogue; never leave them alone. Make them understand that they can talk about anything.”

Before leaving, Pope Francis gave away some rosaries and an image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

This was the Holy Father’s third event with the “School of Prayer,” an initiative promoted by the Vatican within the framework of this Year of Prayer and in preparation for the Jubilee 2025.

Through this project, Pope Francis will hold different meetings with various groups of people to pray together.

As Fisichella explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, in January, these prayer meetings “will depend on the commitments of Pope Francis and will possibly include people and families from the Diocese of Rome.”

Vatican arrests ex-employee for attempted extortion using allegedly stolen Bernini manuscript

Rome Newsroom, Jun 6, 2024 / 11:52 am (CNA).

The Vatican arrested a former employee in late May for attempted extortion after he sold an allegedly stolen 17th-century manuscript to the Vatican for hundreds of thousands of euros.

According to the Italian newspaper Domani, which broke the news June 6, the art historian and former Vatican employee was questioned and arrested by Vatican gendarmes on May 27 after being handed a check by Vatican Cardinal Mauro Gambetti for 120,000 euros (about $130,000) for the sale of the manuscript.

Alfio Maria Daniele Pergolizzi, who was head of communications for the Fabbrica di San Pietro from 1995–2011, is currently sitting in a Vatican jail after being charged with extortion, fraud, and possession of stolen goods.

The manuscript Pergolizzi attempted to sell to the Vatican dates to 1633 and was written by collaborators of the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The document, which has 36 sheets and 49 drawings, details the amount of gold Bernini needed to decorate the baldachin of St. Peter’s Basilica, according to Domani.

The manuscript was reproduced in a book published in 2021 by a scholar of the baldachin.

Domani reported that the provenance of the allegedly stolen manuscript is currently contested. Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, says it was taken from the archives of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, while Pergolizzi maintains it was given to him from a private collection.

The author of the 2021 book, Maria Grazia D’Amelio, a professor of architectural history at Tor Vergata University in Rome, also claims the manuscript was not in the Fabbrica archives when she was preparing her volume and that she had only ever seen a scanned copy, given to her by Pergolizzi, and never the original.

According to Vatican News, the Vatican prosecutor’s office announced the arrest after it was made public by Domani.

Pope Francis to take 8-week break in liturgical schedule this summer

Rome Newsroom, Jun 5, 2024 / 15:27 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is slowing down his liturgical schedule a bit this summer as he prepares to head out on the longest international trip of his pontificate in September.

The 87-year-old pope does not have any public Masses on his schedule for eight weeks in July and August, according to the master of papal liturgical ceremonies’ published this week.

The pope’s current calendar has him taking a break from public liturgies from July 8 to Sept. 1. Prior to that, he is expected to preside over at least three events on his liturgical schedule.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has opted for a busier summer schedule than his predecessors, , , , and famously forgoing the to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo.

Yet Francis has continued the tradition of taking the month of July off from his public audiences (with the exception of the Sunday Angelus), something that in recent years has given him the chance to recover from medical surgeries in and .

Pope Francis has yet to make any international trips so far in 2024, but he has two on his schedule in the fall — including an ambitious two-week tour of Southeast Asia and Oceania with stops in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore.

Pope Francis will preside over Mass for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the co-patrons of the city of Rome, in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29 during which he will bless the traditional pallia, or woolen stoles, given to new metropolitan archbishops installed in the past year.

On July 1, the pope will convene a consistory of cardinals concerning the upcoming canonization of new saints. According to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, the canonizations to be discussed include that of , , , and as well as the killed in hatred of the faith in 1860.

The Vatican has revealed that the pope will also make another pastoral visit within Italy before taking a bit of a break from travel. This time the pope will travel to the northern Italian city of Trieste for a day trip on July 7.

The pope is also expected to participate in the G7 Summit in June to speak about the ethics of artificial intelligence, though the Vatican has not released any details as to the nature of the pope’s participation in the event, which is set to take place in the southern Italian region of Puglia from June 13–15.

Pope Francis will not hold his usual Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square throughout the month of July, but visitors to Rome hoping to catch a glimpse of the pope will still be able to spot him each Sunday at noon as he appears in the window of the Apostolic Palace for the Angelus prayer.

UPDATE: Theologians hold closed-door meeting in Rome on guidance document for October synod

Rome Newsroom, Jun 5, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Approximately 20 theologians are in Rome for 10 days of preparatory work preceding the drafting of the guiding document for the next assembly of the Synod on Synodality.

The June 4–13 closed-door gathering of experts in theology, ecclesiology, and canon law is being held at the Jesuit general curia down the street from the Vatican. The Secretariat of the Synod expects to release a document on the June meeting in early July.

This initial text will “prepare the way” for the drafting of the document — dubbed the “Instrumentum Laboris 2” — that will guide the work of the second session of the Synod on Synodality in October, Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, said in a June 5 press release.

Costa, the special secretary for the Synod on Synodality, said the group of theologians is meeting to carry out “an initial analysis” of reports from local communities and to discern on their “questions and theological reflections.”

The October synod assembly is a continuation of the multiyear Synod on Synodality, which began in October 2021 and has included stages of discernment and discussion at various levels of the Church. The first session of the Vatican assembly on synodality took place in October 2023. 

Theologians and other Church experts at the June meeting are reading and discussing new reports from local Churches reflecting on the 41-page released at the end of the October 2023 gathering. Participants are also considering the question “How to be a synodal Church in mission.”

The international experts are also reading and reflecting on material shared by women’s religious orders, university faculties, religious associations, and others, as well as reports from with held near Rome in the town of Sacrofano from April 28–May 2.

“The material received often adds real testimonies on how the particular Churches not only understand synodality but also how they are already putting this style into practice,” synod secretary general Cardinal Mario Grech said in a press release.

“We are not leaving anything to chance,” Grech said. “Each document is to be carefully read with the aim that at the end of this meeting, the group will present a text that reflects the work, questions, and insights received from the grassroots.”

The gathering of theologians began with a half-day spiritual retreat and also includes daily Mass and time for personal prayer, the synod office said.

The names of participants will be published toward the end of the meeting, the synod’s communications manager, Thierry Bonaventura, told CNA on Thursday.

He shared that some of those participating are members of the Synod on Synodality’s theological commission, while others, instead, are “new people,” who have been involved in the synodal process in their local dioceses.

At general audience, Pope Francis explains the correct use of Christian freedom

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2024 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday the Holy Spirit gives us the freedom to do good and to serve others — and not to do whatever we want or to exploit the weak.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly public audience, the pope gave the second lesson in a series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church.

The June 5 encounter was centered on the Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

“A free person, a free Christian, is the one who has the Spirit of the Lord,” Francis explained. “This is a very special freedom, quite different from what is commonly understood. It is not freedom to do what one wants, but the freedom to freely do what God wants. Not freedom to do good or evil, but freedom to do good and do it freely, that is, by attraction, not compulsion.”

“In other words,” he continued, it is “the freedom of children, not slaves.”

The pontiff also reflected on the name by which the Holy Spirit is called in the Bible, because, he said, a name is an important part of a person and how we address, distinguish, and remember him or her.

We know the third person of the Trinity by the name “Holy Spirit,” he explained, but the prophets, psalmists, Mary, Jesus, and the apostles invoked the Spirit with the name “‘Ruach,’ which means breath, wind, a puff of air.”

Pope Francis said names are very important in the Bible and that they say something about the person and his origin or mission.

The name Ruachcan also tell us something about the Holy Spirit, he said. “The image of the wind serves first of all to express the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus, the pontiff said, also associates the Spirit with freedom. “To Nicodemus, who visits him at night, Jesus solemnly says: ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit’ (Jn 3:8).”

A characteristic of the wind is that it cannot be bottled up or put in a box, he said. “It is free.”

Francis warned against the temptation “to enclose the Holy Spirit in canons, institutions, definitions.”

“The Spirit creates and animates institutions, but he himself cannot be ‘institutionalized,’ ‘objectified.’ The wind blows ‘where it wills,’ so the Spirit distributes its gifts ‘as it wills,’ he said, quoting from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

The pope noted that there is also the possibility to misuse or abuse freedom, as St. Paul was aware, and wrote about in his letter to the Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as a pretext for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal 5:13).”

“We know well when this freedom becomes a ‘pretext for the flesh,’ the pontiff continued. “Paul gives an ever relevant list: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.’”

Pope Francis said the exploitation of the poor, the weak, and the environment by those richer and stronger is also a misuse of freedom and not the freedom of the Spirit.

“Where do we draw this freedom of the Spirit, so contrary to the freedom of selfishness?” he said. “The answer is in the words Jesus addressed one day to his listeners: ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (Jn 8:36). [This is] the freedom that Jesus gives us. Let us ask Jesus to make us, through his Holy Spirit, truly free men and women. Free to serve, in love and joy.”

Pope Francis to write reflection on Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2024 / 05:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will prepare a reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus for a world “that seems to have lost its heart,” he announced Wednesday.

“I am happy to prepare a document that brings together the valuable reflections of previous magisterial texts and a long history going back to the sacred Scriptures to re-propose today to the whole Church this devotion, full of spiritual beauty,” he said at the end of his weekly audience with the public June 5.

The pontiff said he intends to publish the document in September and asked for prayers as he prepares the reflection.

“I believe it will do us much good to meditate on various aspects of the Lord’s love, which can illuminate the path of ecclesial renewal, which says something meaningful to a world that seems to have lost its heart,” he said.

The pope noted that the Church dedicates the month of June to the Sacred Heart and pointed out that last Dec. 27 was the 350th anniversary of the first appearance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The December anniversary began a period of celebration that will extend to June 27, 2025, he explained.

The solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be celebrated this year on June 7, the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost. The following day, the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

After his announcement, Pope Francis added a heartfelt appeal to pray for Mary’s intercession for peace in the world.

“The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which the Church is preparing to celebrate in the coming days, reminds us of the need to respond to the redemptive love of Christ and invites us to entrust ourselves with confidence to the intercession of the mother of the Lord,” he said.

“We ask the Lord, through the intercession of his mother, for peace,” the pope prayed, pausing before adding: “peace in the tormented Ukraine, peace in Palestine, Israel, peace in Myanmar.”

“We pray that the Lord will give us peace and that the world will not suffer so much from war. May the Lord bless everyone. Amen,” he concluded.

Pope Francis tells gay man rejected from seminary to ‘go ahead with your vocation’

Rome Newsroom, Jun 4, 2024 / 13:52 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has reportedly encouraged a 22-year-old gay man to continue to pursue a vocation to the priesthood after he was not accepted into a Catholic seminary.

According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the pope responded to an email from Lorenzo Michele Noè Caruso, telling him to “go ahead” with his vocation, just days after the Vatican  for the pontiff’s use of a slur in reference to seminarians who identify as gay.

The pope’s handwritten note was sent June 1 as an email attachment. According to news reports, it condemned clericalism and worldliness and said: “Jesus calls all, all.”

According to Il Messaggero, Pope Francis told the 22-year-old that “some people think of the Church as a customs house, and this is terrible. The Church should be open to everyone. Brother, go ahead with your vocation.”

Caruso told Il Messaggero that he had sent a lengthy email to Pope Francis on May 28 in which he wrote that he wanted to draw attention to his story and the stories of many who, “like me, live at the margins of the Church, often forced to hide themselves to be included by the community or forced to pay the high price of refusal for being sincere.”

The 22-year-old from La Spezia in northern Italy reportedly told the pope about his belief he has a calling to the Catholic priesthood and how he was not accepted into seminary after revealing his sexual identity. He also asked the Church to reconsider its prohibition on admitting homosexual people to the seminary as stated in a  from the Congregation for Catholic Education.

“This letter gave me hope,” Caruso said. “Now the seminary remains a not-dismissed dream.”

The pope, in his note, also said he was struck by an expression Caruso used in his own email: “toxic and elective clericalism.”

“It’s true!” Francis continued. “You know that clericalism is a scourge? It’s an ugly ‘worldliness.’”

He added that “worldliness is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, worse even than the era of concubine popes,” attributing the quote to “a great theologian,” by whom he likely meant Jesuit Father Henri de Lubac.

The pontiff has frequently quoted or paraphrased de Lubac on spiritual worldliness.

“My whole story,” Caruso said, “has been studded with these responses, when a religious person discovered my sexuality, no matter how much he had appreciated my person and my faith up to a minute before, he would retreat, saying things like, ‘There are so many ways to decline a vocation.’ I was effectively denied the possibility of having a priestly vocation. ‘Continue,’ urges Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis appoints new members to Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith

Rome Newsroom, Jun 4, 2024 / 13:22 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed two cardinals and an archbishop as new members of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new appointments come as the Vatican office continues to grapple with the ecumenical fallout from , the dicastery’s declaration permitting nonliturgical same-sex blessings for same-sex couples. 

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who has led the dicastery since September 2023, recently traveled to Egypt in an attempt to ease tensions after the Coptic Orthodox Church suspended its dialogue with the Catholic Church amid concerns over the blessings declaration.

Here is a look at the new members of the dicastery, which oversees matters of doctrinal orthodoxy throughout the global Catholic Church as well as the investigation and processing of sex abuse allegations against clergy.

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça is the head of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education. The 58-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. He was the archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church from 2018 to 2022.

Before coming to Rome, Mendonça was a professor in Portugal and Brazil and spent one year at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at New York University. 

Mendonça also served as the rector of the Capela do Rato, a private chapel in Lisbon known prior to the cardinal’s arrival for its with people with same-sex attractions. 

When asked about this ministry in an interview in 2015, he : “I don’t choose the people with whom I have to walk. Since I don’t choose, I don’t judge. The attitude of the Church has to be one of welcome, of a normal accompaniment of what people live and are.”

Mendonça wrote a preface to a book on feminist theology by , a Benedictine sister who has advocated for that is “compatible with the Gospel,” which praised the sister for “courageously pointing out contradictions and looking for alternatives of interpretation that support a break in meaning and civilization.”

The Benedictine sister also spoke at Mendonça’s book launch in 2016, the same year that the sister published her book “We Are All Diverse! In Favor of a Queer Theology.”

Pope Francis chose Mendonça to preach the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia in 2018 and made him a cardinal in 2019. He has been a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic .

“Whether remarried Christians, those wounded by the experience of marital breakdown, or the reality of new [irregular] families, or homosexual people, the Church must find a space for listening,” Mendonça in 2016.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro is the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. The 76-year-old cardinal from southern Italy previously served as bishop of Albano, a suburbicarian diocese located about 10 miles from Rome. He holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Prior to being made a cardinal in 2020, Semeraro acted as the secretary for Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisers for seven years.

Semeraro wrote the preface to Father Aristide Fumagalli’s book “Possible Love: Homosexual Persons and Christian Morality” in 2020. 

In an Corriere della Sera in 2016, Semeraro said that he had “no objection” to the legal recognition of civil same-sex unions as long as they “were not equated with the reality of marriage.”

The cardinal has also spoken publicly about his views on divorce and remarriage, telling the Quotidiano di Puglia in 2018: “I say that if divorced people want to remarry this is even a good thing: It means that they have not lost faith in marriage. And today the Church is very attentive to the subjective aspect of the issues, so it must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Times change. … The parent who always punishes is as ineffective as the parent who never punishes.”

Archbishop Bruno Forte is a theologian who has served as the archbishop of Chieti-Vasto on Italy’s eastern coast since 2004. The 74-year-old archbishop is the author of numerous publications on theology, philosophy, and spirituality. 

John Paul II asked him to preach the spiritual exercises at the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in 2004 after Forte helped to oversee the preparation of the Vatican document “Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past,” which preceded Pope John Paul II’s apology for historical sins by the Church in 2000.

Forte was also responsible for sections on homosexuality in the interim document for the first session of the Synod on the Family in 2014, according to National Catholic Register correspondent Edward Pentin, who wrote a book about the synod. 

“The Church does not believe that the term ‘family’ can be used to refer both to a union between a man and a woman that is open to procreation and a same-sex union. Having said this, it seems obvious to me that humans have different experiences and have rights that must all be protected. The issue here, therefore, is not equating the two in all senses, including in terminological terms,” Forte during the synod in 2014, according to La Stampa.

“Naturally, this does not mean that we should rule out looking for a way to describe the rights of people living in same-sex unions. It is a question — I think — of being civilized and respecting people’s dignity.”

In 2023, Forte made headlines when he issued a on a local gay pride event, saying: “We pray that anyone involved in the event … will check their conscience on the goodness of their choices and, if they are believers, do so before God, with a sense of responsibility toward the entire ecclesial and civil community.”

Pope Francis’ message for migrants and refugees

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2024 / 15:31 pm (CNA).

The Holy See Press Office on Monday released Pope Francis’ message for the 110th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on Sept. 24 with the theme “God Walks with His People.” 

Below is the complete message from the Holy Father:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Last Oct. 29 marked the conclusion of the First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This session allowed us to deepen our understanding of synodality as part of the Church’s fundamental vocation. “Synodality is mainly presented as a joint journey of the people of God and as a fruitful dialogue between the charisms and ministries at the service of the coming of the kingdom” (Introduction).

Emphasizing the synodal dimension allows the Church to rediscover its itinerant nature, as the people of God journeying through history on pilgrimage, “migrating,” we could say, toward the kingdom of heaven (cf. , 49). The biblical narrative of Exodus, depicting the Israelites on their way to the promised land, naturally comes to mind: a long journey from slavery to freedom prefiguring the Church’s journey toward her final encounter with the Lord.

Likewise, it is possible to see in the migrants of our time, as in those of every age, a living image of God’s people on their way to the eternal homeland. Their journeys of hope remind us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).

The images of the biblical exodus and of migrants share several similarities. Like the people of Israel in the time of Moses, migrants often flee from oppression, abuse, insecurity, discrimination, and lack of opportunities for development. Similar to the Jews in the desert, migrants encounter many obstacles in their path: They are tried by thirst and hunger; they are exhausted by toil and disease; they are tempted by despair.

Yet the fundamental reality of the Exodus, of every exodus, is that God precedes and accompanies his people and all his children in every time and place. God’s presence in the midst of the people is a certainty of salvation history: “The Lord your God goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Dt 31:6). For the people who came out of Egypt, this presence manifested itself in different forms: a pillar of cloud and fire showing and illuminating the way (cf. Ex 13:21), the meeting tent that protected the ark of the covenant, making God’s closeness tangible (cf. Ex 33:7), the pole with the bronze serpent assuring divine protection (cf. Nm 21:8-9), manna and water (cf. Ex 16-17) as God’s gifts to the hungry and thirsty people. The tent is a form of presence especially dear to the Lord. During David’s reign, God chose to dwell in a tent, not a temple, so that he could walk with his people, “from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling” (1 Chr 17:5).

Many migrants experience God as their traveling companion, guide, and anchor of salvation. They entrust themselves to him before setting out and seek him in times of need. In him, they find consolation in moments of discouragement. Thanks to him, there are good Samaritans along the way. In prayer, they confide their hopes to him. How many Bibles, copies of the Gospels, prayer books and rosaries accompany migrants on their journeys across deserts, rivers, seas and the borders of every continent!

God not only walks his people, but also them, in the sense that he identifies himself with men and women on their journey through history, particularly with the least, the poor, and the marginalized. In this we see an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation.

For this reason, the encounter with the migrant, as with every brother and sister in need, “is also an encounter with Christ. He himself said so. It is he who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, an outsider, naked, sick, and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted” (Homily, Mass with Participants in the “Free from Fear” Meeting, Sacrofano, Feb. 15, 2019). The final judgment in Matthew 25 leaves no doubt: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (v. 35); and again “truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (v. 40). Every encounter along the way represents an opportunity to meet the Lord; it is an occasion charged with salvation, because Jesus is present in the sister or brother in need of our help. In this sense, the poor save us, because they enable us to encounter the face of the Lord (cf. “Message for the Third World Day of the Poor,” Nov. 17, 2019).

Dear brothers and sisters, on this day dedicated to migrants and refugees, let us unite in prayer for all those who have had to leave their land in search of dignified living conditions. May we journey together with them, be “synodal” together, and entrust them, as well as the forthcoming synod assembly, “to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sign of sure hope and consolation to the faithful people of God as they continue their journey” (“XVI Ordinary General Assembly Synthesis Report: Proceeding Along the Journey”).

God, Almighty Father,

we are your pilgrim Church

journeying toward the kingdom of heaven.

We live in our homeland,

but as if we were foreigners.

Every foreign place is our home,

yet every native land is foreign to us.

Though we live on earth,

our true citizenship is in heaven.

Do not let us become possessive

of the portion of the world

you have given us as a temporary home.

Help us to keep walking,

together with our migrant brothers and sisters,

toward the eternal dwelling you have prepared for us.

Open our eyes and our hearts

so that every encounter with those in need

becomes an encounter with Jesus, your Son and Our Lord.

Amen.

Rome, St. John Lateran, May 24, 2024, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians

FRANCIS

Pope Francis joins in Corpus Christi celebration in Rome for first time in years

Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2024 / 16:44 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis gave a solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament from the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Sunday in the culmination of a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Rome.

Holding the monstrance in his hands, the pope offered the blessing on the solemnity of Corpus Christi on June 2 following prayers of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. 

Crowds lined the streets as the Eucharist was carried under a canopy from the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major along the Via Merulana following the historic route Pope Gregory XIII created for religious processions between the two basilicas during the Jubilee of 1575.

Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious sisters, and families walked together in the one-hour procession singing hymns and reciting prayers. Curious tourists stopped to ask what was happening and onlookers leaned out their windows to watch as the real presence of Christ passed by.

“Beginning from the altar, we will carry the Consecrated Host among the homes of our city,” Pope Francis told the congregation in his homily for the Corpus Christi Mass before the procession. 

“We are not doing this to show off or to flaunt our faith but to invite everyone to participate in the bread of the Eucharist, in the new life that Jesus has given us,” he said. 

It was the first time that Pope Francis participated in Corpus Christi celebrations in Rome in years. 

Health issues prevented the pope from participating in a public Corpus Christi Mass in Rome in 2023 and 2022, and COVID-19 restrictions limited his celebration to Vatican City in 2021 and 2020.

This year Pope Francis did not walk in the Eucharistic procession but joined at the end for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to offer the Eucharistic blessing to the crowd.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, served as the primary celebrant at the altar for the Mass at the Lateran basilica. Bishop Baldassare Reina, the vicegerent of the Diocese of Rome, carried the Eucharist in the procession. 

The last time that the pope led the Corpus Christi procession along the traditional Roman route from the Lateran basilica to St. Mary Major was seven years ago in 2017. 

“The Eucharistic bread is the real presence,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “This speaks to us of a God who is not distant and jealous but close and in solidarity with humanity; a God who does not abandon us but always seeks, waits for, and accompanies us, even to the point of placing himself, helpless, into our hands, subjecting himself to our acceptance or rejection.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, how much need there is in our world for this bread,” Francis said. 

“It is urgent to bring back to the world the good and fresh aroma of the bread of love, to continue to hope and rebuild without ever growing weary of what hatred destroys.”

Pope Francis: In the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself for the world

Rome Newsroom, Jun 2, 2024 / 08:59 am (CNA).

In the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself for the life of the world, Pope Francis proclaimed from the window of the Apostolic Palace on the solemnity of Corpus Christi. 

Speaking to a crowd huddled together under colorful umbrellas on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Rome, the pope underlined that the body and blood of Christ offered at every Mass is a gift from God. 

“It is he who gives himself for all humanity and offers himself for the life of the world,” Pope Francis said on June 2.

“Let us remember this: Jesus made a gift of all his life,” he added.

Pope Francis explained that just as Jesus “did not keep his life for himself but gave it to us,” so too are Christians called to make their lives a gift for others.

Quoting St. Leo the Great, he said: “‘Our participation in the body and blood of Christ has no other end than to make us become that which we eat.’”

Pope Francis added that “to become what we eat, to become ‘Eucharistic,’” means to become “people who no longer live for themselves, in the logic of possession and consumption, but who know how to make their lives a gift for others.”

“Let us understand, then, that celebrating the Eucharist and eating this Bread, as we do especially on Sundays, is not an act of worship detached from life or a mere moment of personal consolation; we must always remember that Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them and, therefore, communion with him makes us capable of also becoming bread broken for others, of sharing what we are and what we have,” he said.

After giving a blessing to the crowd, Pope Francis asked people to continue to pray for those who are suffering in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, and Myanmar, appealing to leaders to “stop the escalation and to make every effort for dialogue and negotiation.”

The pope also asked for prayers for the African country of Sudan, where a civil war has displaced millions of people since the conflict broke out last year.

“May the weapons be silenced and, with the commitment of the local authorities and the international community, help be brought to the population and the many displaced people; may the Sudanese refugees find welcome and protection in neighboring countries,” he said.

Following the Angelus address, Pope Francis is scheduled to preside over a Corpus Christi Mass in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran at 5 p.m. local time followed by a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The solemnity of Corpus Christi, meaning the “Body of Christ” in Latin, is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday or, in some countries including the United States and Italy, on the Sunday following that feast. The feast provides an opportunity for the Church to focus on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed Jesus, bread descended from heaven, and gave herself entirely together with him, help us too to become a gift of love, united with Jesus in the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said.

Pilgrims of hope amid crisis: Archbishop Fisichella on the 2025 Jubilee

National Catholic Register, Jun 2, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Archbishop Rino Fisichella is the pro-prefect for the Section of New Evangelization of the Dicastery for Evangelization.

He recently discussed in an interview with Andreas Thonhauser, EWTN’s Rome bureau chief, the preparations for and why it is important to prepare for the jubilee in prayer as a pilgrim of hope.

Fisichella, 72, also explained the challenges amid a decline of Christianity and a crisis of faith in the West and the hope that is springing from the Catholic Church in Africa and Asia.

Fisichella: Things are well. We have a few weeks to wait for the first official event of the jubilee, but I should say that the preparation is at a good stage. It’s complicated because I would like for more people to be engaged, that it not be just something coming from the dicastery since the jubilee is a popular event, something of the people. It is our people who love to have a spiritual experience like this. For this reason, my desire is to have people of different associations, movements, parishes, priests, bishops, laypeople all engaged in the preparation.

Yes, you don’t have to tell me that, because this is a very involved moment. I can say that almost every day, I contact the Italian government and the city of Rome. That is important because we are expecting about 32 million pilgrims in Rome. And then, first of all, you should be able to give the possibility of a welcome in the city guaranteeing security.

We know that this is a special moment throughout the world, but Rome is perceived as a safe city because it really is a very complex machine that is able in the organization to provide a safe city. And then with transportation, this is a big problem for the city of Rome. We are studying the best way to facilitate transportation from one side of the city to the other. Then health, the assurance for health. There are so many things when you think about the welcome of pilgrims for an entire year. Just imagining how the organization can be makes you more or less crazy.

This is not my study, so when the Italian government asked me how many people would be able to come for the jubilee I was not able to answer. It was also, for me, a question without an answer. I asked the faculty of sociology in the city of Rome to prepare a projection of how many people should come.

They said 32 million. Also from the U.S., we are expecting about 2.5 million people to come for the jubilee.

No, I absolutely disagree with this comment. Rome will be ready and will also be a safe city. That is for sure. As the one responsible for the Holy See in this regard and as the one responsible for participating in all the meetings with the government and the city of Rome, I can assure you that from the moment of the beginning of the jubilee, and throughout the Holy Year, the city will be ready to give the best welcome to everybody.

I think that Pope Francis has a really good insight into this. In two words you can put a matter that is very important for everybody, not just believers: “pilgrims”and“hope.” Pilgrim, because this is the symbol of our life. We are walking, and from the beginning to our end, it is a walk. We should understand how and where we are going because the pilgrim knows where he is going. Otherwise, it’s not a pilgrimage; it’s something else. He’s someone walking on the street, but he’s not a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim, you should walk and you should know the goal of your walk.

And, then, hope. People today need hope. We are used to speaking about faith and charity. In our catechesis and our homilies, our proclamation is essentially about faith and charity. And we forget hope. And this is really a risk for evangelization. 

There is a very interesting story written in the last century by a French author, Charles Péguy. And Charles Péguy wrote about the two major sisters: faith and charity.

It seems that people, Christians, are just looking at faith and charity. They don’t observe that there is another child, the third sister who is hidden, because no one is looking for her. She’s the most important because she takes the hand of faith and charity and allows us to go to God. I think that a reflection on hope is very important, because we have many questions we are unable to answer if we don’t have hope.

For instance, there is life after this one. What does eternal life mean, if we don’t hope? I think we also do not have enough love to explain our faith. The challenge today for me is to speak about faith, to announce the content of faith, but with the language of hope.

It’s not only a spiritual event, but first and foremost, it is a spiritual event. In a period like ours where technology enters forcefully in our life, even if we don’t want it: when you need to call someone, when you open the door. Everything in our life is determined by technology, everything. 

When there is such a strong presence of technology, everybody needs to have a different experience: an experience of humanity, experience of brotherhood, experience of spirituality. To enter inside in the deepest parts of yourself and to understand who you are and where you are going. The answer comes only if you have a deeper spiritual experience, and this means an experience of conversion.

The jubilee is conversion. The most important thing in the jubilee we cannot forget is one word: indulgence. Indulgence is a very strange word we don’t use anymore, but it is the most important. From the beginning, already in the sixth and seventh centuries, mercy, pardon, indulgence were the same; they were synonymous. For this reason, when the Holy Father opens the Holy Door and gives the jubilee indulgence to our people, it means that this is a spiritual experience of mercy, of pardon.

But it needs your conversion, recognizing that you are a sinner and that you have the possibility to come closer to God, nearer to God, and to understand how his love is so great that it can forget everything of your past life.

Since the jubilee is a spiritual experience, we need to find a coherent method in order to prepare for it. What other method is there than prayer? For this reason, the Holy Father, in January, officially opened this year of preparation as a year of prayer.

You mentioned some books. These are just instruments, but they are written with very simple language so that everybody might understand them, whether priest, bishop, catechist; they are for everybody. But they are just instruments. We need to once again understand what prayer is and how we can pray.

Usually, we think that prayer is participating in the holy Eucharist on Sunday, and this is true, but this is the summit of your prayer because it is with the community. There is also your personal prayer; there is your capacity to understand that in every moment of your life, in every moment of your day, you can be in the presence of the Lord.

This is the most important thing: To pray is to recognize that you are in the presence of God. And in each moment, God is beside you. He’s inside you. He’s right there in front of you. You should not have any problems; you should not be afraid to understand how beautiful a moment of silence is for you, for your life. A moment in which you listen to the voice of God speaking to you; and this is prayer. It’s not just that we multiply our words to God. He knows already what we need, but it is to listen to his voice, to listen to his word, and to perceive that we are in his presence.

As a spiritual event, spirituality is not just prayer; spirituality is also an experience of the contemplation of beauty. This is very important for me. The way of beauty is one of the privileged ways to announce the Gospel today. I am convinced that this is possible even through the beauty of a concert or the beauty of an exhibition. Contemplation of this beauty becomes a spiritual experience.

To give you an example, last September, we had an exhibition of three pieces of El Greco’s art in a beautiful church, not in a museum, because to enter a museum one has to pay. We shouldn’t have to pay in order to contemplate beauty. Beauty should be free, beauty should be immediate. In the beautiful Church of St. Agnes in Piazza Navona, we had an exhibition of three pieces of El Greco’s art.

Never had these three pieces of art come to Rome. In one month, in just the 30 days of September, there were about 300,000 people coming to contemplate the face and the expression of Christ in the painting of El Greco.

We are in touch with another museum in the U.S. to bring a very important piece of art to Rome for the first time, to express once again that music, painting, literature, everything can be an expression of faith and they can challenge you to a spiritual experience.

Media is important for communication.

I continue to be convinced that the most important communication is a personal communication. We need to look one another in the eyes, and that is the best way of communicating. But we also need to understand how the world is today, communication is coming from technology, from the internet, from television, from everything.

How can we express a spiritual event if, first of all, we who are called to communicate do not have a personal, spiritual experience? For this reason, we wanted to dedicate at the beginning of the jubilee a moment for the world of communications, so that the men and women of the vast world of communications can personally have a spiritual experience of .

Then, from that experience they will be able to communicate and give others a coherent and profound sense of this experience.

Independent of my desire, I think the jubilee has a goal to reach, that is, to give an experience of the mercy and love of God. I hope that all pilgrims coming to Rome or celebrating the jubilee in their own local Churches can have this kind of experience: God loves me. Because this is the heart of the Gospel.

This is the Gospel! The Gospel is not a book; the Gospel is the person of Jesus Christ, revealing to you the love of God. Nothing else. Everything within the Church should be this experience. The jubilee is an extraordinary moment because we have a jubilee every 25 years. If a jubilee will be able to challenge us to understand more and more that we are in the presence of God who loves us and never abandons us, even in those moments in which we are suffering, or lacking something, or when we feel alone, God never, never abandons us.

Asia is like a spring, because if you look to Korea, every year, there are thousands of baptisms of all those people coming to the Catholic Church. If you look to the Philippines, they have a very strong Catholic-Christian tradition; it’s their soul. It’s emotional to see how people are present in the Church.

They are proud of their own faith, and then they share it with everybody. This is the way of evangelization. If you look to our Western countries, in our own countries, in Europe, the USA, Canada, and also in Latin America, we can say that there is a big crisis of faith.

We can touch this reality every day. There are also beautiful experiences and positive experiences, but we cannot look away when there is something that isn’t working, like a crisis of faith. Our churches aren’t empty, but they aren’t full.

We have several difficulties. We can see how the kingdom of God is not just the West, the kingdom of God is around the world. Looking to Africa, looking to Asia, we can see the enthusiasm of the new generation growing in faith and enthusiastic in sharing the faith, resulting in new baptisms. This gives us concrete hope, a sign of hope.

Thank you.

Pope Francis: Building peace requires ‘taking a risk’

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Being peacemakers in the style of Jesus Christ, while necessary and valuable, can also be risky, Pope Francis said on Saturday as multiple conflicts continue to rage around the world.

Speaking to members of Italian Christian Workers’ Associations (ACLI) at the Vatican on June 1, the pontiff said: “Interceding for peace is something that goes far beyond mere political compromise because it requires putting oneself on the line and taking a risk.”

“Our world, we know, is marked by conflict and division, and your witness as peacemakers, as intercessors for peace, is as necessary and valuable as ever,” he underlined.

Pope Francis’ remarks about a world “bloodied by many wars” came as Israel and Hamas consider proposals for an exchange of hostages and a cease-fire.

“This is truly a decisive moment,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at the White House on Friday as he unveiled Israel’s three-phase proposal for ending the war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will not end the war in Gaza until its aims have been achieved.

The Israeli military also confirmed Friday it is carrying out an operation in the center of the southern Gazan city of Rafah, which the United Nations said has been reduced to “apocalyptic conditions.”

Last month, Russia began a surprise offensive on Ukraine’s northern border in the northeastern region of Kharkiv. The assault has forced Ukraine to move already thinly spread resources away from other front lines as it attempts to prevent Russia’s capture of Kharkiv city, Ukraine’s second largest.

In Sudan, millions of people are fleeing the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces as civil war continues to bring devastation more than one year later.

The U.N. has called the conflict “a humanitarian nightmare” as the country experiences a massive hunger crisis and other human rights atrocities, with the dead numbering approximately 15,000.

In his speech June 1, Pope Francis recalled the words of the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini spoken at a prayer vigil for peace on Jan. 29, 1991.

The cardinal “laid emphasis on the ability to ‘intercede,’ that is, to situate oneself between the contending parties, putting a hand on the shoulder of both and accepting the risk that this entails,” the pope said.

The person who builds peace is the one, he continued, “who knows how to take a clear position, but at the same time strives to build bridges, to listen, and to understand the different parties involved, promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

Francis also emphasized that the model par excellence of a peacemaker is Jesus Christ. “Where can we find inspiration and strength to welcome everyone if not in the life of Jesus?” he said.

It is good to take time for prayer at association meetings, he told the group, but living out the Christian life goes further.

“Assuming a Christian style means growing in familiarity with the Lord and in the spirit of the Gospel,” the pope said, “so that it may permeate everything we do and our action have the style of Christ and make him present in the world.”

“In the face of cultural visions that threaten to nullify the beauty of human dignity and tear society apart, I invite you to cultivate ‘a new dream of fraternity and social friendship that is not limited to words,’” he emphasized, quoting his 2020 encyclical .

Pope Francis also praised the association for promoting democracy.

A democratic society, he said, is one “in which there really is a place for everyone, in factual reality and not just in declarations and on paper.”

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

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of June is for those fleeing their homelands.

“Dear brothers and sisters, this month I would like us to pray for people fleeing their own countries,” Pope Francis said in a video released May 28.

“The feeling of uprootedness or not knowing where they belong often accompanies the trauma experienced by people who are forced to flee their homeland because of war or poverty,” he said. “What is more, in some destination countries, migrants are viewed as threats, with fear. Then the specter of walls appears — walls on the earth separating families, and walls in hearts.”

The Holy Father pointed out that “Christians cannot share this vision. Whoever welcomes a migrant welcomes Christ.”

“We must promote a social and political culture that protects the rights and dignity of migrants, a culture that promotes the possibility that they can achieve their full potential and integrates them.”

Pope Francis explained that a migrant “needs to be accompanied, promoted, and integrated.”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that migrants fleeing from war or hunger, forced to undertake journeys fraught with danger and violence, may find welcome and new living opportunities.”

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

Pope Francis hails ‘immense gift’ of vocation to the consecrated life

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday addressed a message to participants in a conference on consecrated religious life currently taking place in Brazil.

In his message, he expressed his gratitude for “the immense gift of the vocation to consecrated life which, in its most diverse charisms, enriches ecclesial communion and contributes greatly to the mission of the Church throughout the world.”

The pontiff noted that in many places “the first proclamation of the Gospel is made by consecrated men and women, who take up with great commitment and with the dedication of their lives the mandate of the Lord.”

The Holy Father also said that “the gift of vocation must be safeguarded and cultivated every day, so that it produces good fruits in the life of each religious.”

Pope Francis expressed his joy for the theme chosen for the conference, which is the exhortation that Jesus made to the apostles at the Last Supper: “Remain in my love.”

According to Pope Francis, “to live the divine call well, it is necessary to remain in his love, through constant dialogue with Jesus in daily prayer and fidelity to the vows that so beautifully express our consecration.”

The pope also said that “the consecrated life, if it remains firm in the love of the Lord, sees beauty. It sees that poverty is not a titanic effort but rather a much greater freedom, which gives us God and others as true riches.”

The consecrated life “sees that chastity is not austere sterility but the way to love without possessing. It sees that obedience is not discipline but victory over our unruliness,” he said, recalling his homily of Feb. 1, 2020, on the occasion of

Finally, he encouraged the attendees to live the present “sustained by the mysticism of the specific charisms of each religious family and [by being] prophetically committed to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

He also invited them to “look to the future with hope” and not to forget “to pray for me.”

Pope Francis: The Eucharist is God’s response to the deepest hunger of the heart

ACI Prensa Staff, May 30, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

On the occasion of the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis on Thursday said “the Eucharist is God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart, the true hunger.”

The is celebrated on the Thursday following the solemnity of the Holy Trinity. However, for pastoral reasons, in many countries, including the United States, the celebration will not take place until this Sunday, June 2.

On this day on which the Eucharist — the real presence of Christ — is given public and solemn adoration, love, and gratitude, the Holy Father on his X account said in the Eucharist “Christ himself is truly in our midst to nourish us, console us, and sustain us along the way.”

As part of the celebration, the procession of the body and blood of Christ takes place after the main Mass.

The Holy Father himself will offer the Mass and lead the traditional Eucharistic procession from St. John Lateran Basilica to St. Mary Major Basilica this Sunday, June 2, which has not happened since 2018.

Pope Francis opens new catechetical cycle on Holy Spirit’s role in salvation

Rome Newsroom, May 29, 2024 / 09:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday opened a new catechetical series during his weekly general audience, focusing on the theme of creation across history and the role of the Holy Spirit in the story of salvation. 

Titled “The Spirit and the Bride: The Holy Spirit Guides God’s People Toward Jesus Our Hope,” the new cycle will unfold across three main themes: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and “the time of the Church.” 

“The Spirit of God, who in the beginning transformed chaos into cosmos, is at work to bring about this transformation in every person,” the pope said during the general audience held May 29 in St. Peter’s Square.

The first part of the series will begin with an overview of creation according to the Old Testament, but it will not be “biblical archaeology.” The pope explained that it will instead focus on how the promise given in the Old Testament “has been fully realized in Christ.”

“It will be like following the path of the sun from dawn to noon,” he added. 

Quoting from the first two verses from the Book of Genesis, Francis observed that “the Spirit of God appears to us here as the mysterious power that moves the world from its initial formless, deserted, and gloomy state to its ordered and harmonious state.” 

Referencing the division between the “confused” and the “beautiful and ordered,” Pope Francis observed that it is God who “makes the world pass from chaos to the cosmos.” 

The pope underscored the Holy Spirit’s role in creation and as a protagonist in the story of salvation by pointing to the Psalms and the New Testament. 

“The Apostle Paul introduces a new element into this relationship between the Holy Spirit and creation,” the pope said. “He speaks of a universe that ‘groans and suffers as in labor pains.’”

The pope emphasized that St. Paul understands the “cause of the suffering of creation in the corruption and sin of humanity,” which has alienated man from God and is a theme still present today. 

“We see the havoc that humanity has wrought and continues to wreak upon creation, especially that part of it that has greater capacity to exploit its resources,” the pope said.

The pope built upon this reflection by noting that there is both an internal as well as an external “chaos” inherent in man. 

“Around us we can say that there is external chaos, social chaos, political chaos,” the pope said. “We think of wars, we think of many boys and girls who don’t have anything to eat, of many social injustices — this is external chaos.” 

At the end of the general audience Pope Francis renewed his regular appeal for peace and spoke for a moment on his emotional encounter with Ukrainian children last Saturday. 

“The other day I received boys and girls who suffered burns and lost their legs in the war,” the pope recalled in a somber tone. 

“War is always cruel. These boys and girls must start walking, moving with artificial arms ... they have lost their smile. It’s very bad, very sad when a child loses his smile. We pray for Ukrainian children.”

Vatican apologizes after pope’s derogatory remark on gay men in Catholic seminaries

Rome Newsroom, May 28, 2024 / 12:35 pm (CNA).

The Vatican on Tuesday issued an apology after Pope Francis’ use of an offensive word in Italian regarding seminarians who identify as gay.

Matteo Bruni, the Holy See spokesman, said in Tuesday’s press statement that the Holy Father was “aware of the articles recently published about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops” of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

Italian media reported that Pope Francis had met with the CEI on May 20 in the Vatican’s Synodal Hall. At that meeting the pope was asked about the admission of declared gay men to the seminary. 

Telling the bishops that gay men should not be admitted to priestly formation, the pope argued “there is too much ‘frociaggine’ in seminaries,” a slur translated as “faggotry” or “faggotness.” 

Bruni told journalists that the pope “never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologizes to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

The remarks were first reported by the Italian tabloid website and later confirmed by major Italian newspapers and .

Quoting several unnamed bishops, Corriere della Sera suggested that the pope did not understand the gravity of the term in Italian.

The Vatican nearly two decades ago addressed the topic of gay-identified men entering Catholic seminaries. In 2005 the Congregation for Catholic Education issued an titled “Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.” 

The document stated that “it is necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” 

The instruction went on to note the difference between those who display “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” and those “dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem.” 

Pope Francis upheld the ruling in 2016. In 2018 he again told Italian bishops to carefully vet candidates. 

La Repubblica noted the Italian bishops during their meeting in Assisi last November approved a new , a document detailing the admission criteria and standards for men in Italy’s seminaries.

The Italian paper added that the document “has been under consideration by the Vatican Dicastery for the Clergy for final approval.”

Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh that the pope’s “concern is with gay men seeing the priesthood as a way of living out their sexuality, and the gay subculture in many seminaries.”

The pope has at times been hailed for his outreach to the LGBT-identified community.

During an in-flight press conference in 2013, the pope responded to a question from a journalist on his experience as a confessor to homosexual persons by asking rhetorically: “Who am I to judge that person?”

The pope in a 2016 book-length interview titled “The Name of God Is Mercy,” where he said he was “paraphrasing by heart” the Catechism of the Church, which states that “these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

“I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people,’” the pope continued, “because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity.” 

In December of last year, meanwhile, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith , a declaration allowing for nonliturgical blessings for couples in “irregular” situations, including same-sex couples. 

Responding to the strong criticism the document received, Pope Francis that to be “scandalized” by gay couple blessings is “hypocrisy.” 

“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and this is a very serious sin,” the pope said in the interview to the Italian weekly print periodical Credere. 

“Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual … This is hypocrisy! We must all respect each other. Everyone,” the Holy Father said.

World Children’s Day: Pope Francis instills key lesson on Holy Spirit at Mass with children

Vatican City, May 26, 2024 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

After an exuberant kickoff event on Saturday for the first World Children’s Day, Pope Francis gathered with tens of thousands of children in St. Peter’s Square for Mass on this feast of the Holy Trinity on Sunday, May 26. A piercing early summer sun moved everyone — from nuns to the boys’ choir — to shade their heads with colorful hats.

The creation of a World Children’s Day was announced by the pope on Dec. 8, 2023, at the midday Angelus. The idea for it was suggested to the pope by a 9-year-old boy in an exchange shortly before World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, last August. 

Among the special guests at the Mass was Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who together with her daughter Ginevra met the pope briefly before the Mass.

With this first event complete, Francis announced at the end of the festivities today that the next World Children’s Day will be held in September 2026.

The Holy Father, smiling and clearly happy to be surrounded by children, completely improvised his homily, making it a brief and memorable lesson on the Holy Trinity.

“Dear boys and girls, we are here to pray together to God,” he began. But then counting on his fingers and enumerating, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he asked: “But how many gods are there?”As the crowd answered “one,” the pope praised them and started talking about each of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

He began with God the Father — “who created us all, who loves us so much” — asking the children how we pray to him. They quickly answered “with the Our Father.”

Pope Francis went on to speak of the second person of the Trinity, after the children called out his name — Jesus — as the one who forgives all of our sins.

When he got to the Holy Spirit, the pope admitted that envisioning this person of the Trinity is more difficult.

“Who is the Holy Spirit? Eh, it is not easy,” he said.

“Because the Holy Spirit is God, he is within us. We receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, we receive him in the sacraments. The Holy Spirit is the one who accompanies us in life.”

Using this last phrase, the pope invited the children to repeat the idea a number of times: “He is the one accompanies us in life.”

“He is the one who tells us in our hearts the good things we need to do,” the pope said, having the kids repeat the phrase again: “He is the one who when we do something wrong rebukes us inside.”

The pope ended the homily thanking the children and also reminding them that “we also have a mother,” asking them how we pray to her. They answered “with the Hail Mary.” The pope encouraged them to pray for parents, for grandparents, and for sick children. 

“There are so many sick children beside me,” he said, as he indicated the children in wheelchairs near the altar. “Always pray, and especially pray for peace, for there to be no wars.”

The pope frequently urges young people to seek out their grandparents, and the give-and-take of his homily gave the impression of a beloved grandpa surrounded by his grandkids. He insisted that the kids quiet down for the time of prayer.

When the Mass concluded, and after praying the midday Angelus, the pope summarized the lessons of the homily: “Dear children, Mass is over. And today, we’ve talked about God: God the Father who created the world, God the Son, who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit … what did we say about the Holy Spirit? I don’t remember!”

The children needed no further invitation to answer loudly that “the Holy Spirit accompanies us in life.” Joking that he couldn’t hear well, the pope had them say it again even louder and then prayed the Glory Be with them.

The pope also asked for a round of applause for all the grandparents, noting that at the Presentation of the Gifts, a grandfather had accompanied a group of children who brought forward the bread and wine.

After the closing procession, took the stage for a lively and inspirational monologue that combined good humor and life lessons. 

While Benigni is known especially to the English-speaking world for his role in the Oscar-winning film “Life Is Beautiful,” in Italy he’s also known for his commentaries on important issues combined with his exuberant humor.

“When I was a boy, I wanted to be pope,” he told the audience.

Urging the children to read — “Kids need to read everything!” — he paraphrased G.K. Chesterton, who insisted that fairy tales are important: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed,” Chesterton said.

“Dream!” Benigni urged the children. “It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. But I want to tell you a secret. You’ll tell me you know how to dream; you’ll say you just have to close your eyes, sleep, and dream. … No, no. I’ll tell you a secret — to dream, you don’t have to close your eyes. You have to open them! You have to open your eyes, read, write, invent.”

The actor emphasized the need to be peacemakers, saying that the Sermon on the Mount contains “the only good idea” that’s ever been expressed. War is the “most stupid sin,” he lamented.

“War must end,” Benigni insisted, going on to quote a famous author of children’s literature. “You will tell me: That is a dream, it is a fairy tale. Yes, it is, but as Gianni Rodari said, ‘Fairy tales can become reality, they can become true!’”

Meet the modern-day ‘devil’s advocate’ in the process of canonization

ACI Prensa Staff, May 26, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Monsignor Alberto Royo Mejía is the promoter of the faith in the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. His current function is, in fact, the same one that was formerly performed by the so-called “devil’s advocate” in the canonization processes. 

When and why was this name changed? Who exactly is, in effect, the “devil’s advocate”?

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, was able to speak in Rome with Royo, who holds a doctorate in canon law and is a priest of the Diocese of Getafe in Spain, where he has been judicial vicar, episcopal delegate for the causes of saints, and pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in the town of Parla, south of Madrid.

Royo explained to ACI Prensa that the name “devil’s advocate” is actually a popular designation, since Sixtus V did not establish this function using this term but rather “he was called that because he had to be the ‘bad guy in the movie,’ after all.” The role of the “devil’s advocate,” now the promoter of the faith, is to prepare in writing all possible arguments against the canonization of the individual.

“In a civil or criminal proceedings it would be what we more or less know as the prosecutor: the one who has to search for the truth in a special way, because here the only thing we are looking for is the truth, as in every proceeding, as in every investigation,” he emphasized.

The Spanish priest thus defined the canonization processes as “an investigation” whose objective is “to discern the will of God about a candidate for the altars.”

The priest explained that in this discernment “it’s essential that someone help search for the truth, because sometimes due to excessive affection, devotion, distraction, or other types of reasons, the [candidate] can be presented in an inappropriate way, because research or historical documentation are missing.” And it’s because “all people have defects; there is no saint who does not have any defects.” 

For these “defects” to come to light and be investigated, the “promoter of the faith,” the ancient “devil’s advocate” whose figure “emerged when Sixtus V established the Roman Curia,” is indispensable, he said.

However, the Spanish priest said that “today he is no longer called ‘devil’s advocate’ but rather the ‘prelate theologian.’ He continues to call himself a promoter of the faith, but the popular designation is no longer that of devil’s advocate — although the idea is the same.”

In 1984, Pope John Paul II introduced a series of reforms to facilitate the canonization process and bring the system more in line with modern times.

According to the promoter of the faith, this was done “by a natural evolution of the process,” since, over the centuries, “the process had become increasingly legal and, nonetheless, the need was seen to also make it historic, since it was very similar to what the marriage annulment process or any process in the Church was like.”

“In fact,” he noted, “for centuries the work that the relators do today [which is a new figure that John Paul II established], was done by the auditors of the Rota, with which, between a process of canonization and a process of the Roman Rota [a tribunal] there was very little difference.”

Royo further explained that with the development of historical sciences, the need was seen to delve into the historical context of the causes.

“The development of psychological sciences also had a lot of influence. The psychology of a servant of God, of a candidate for the altars, influences the person... all of this was not taken into account before,” the priest explained.

For this reason, “a series of figures came into play who are today, for example, the relators,” he said.

“The relator is an intermediate figure between the diocesan phase, the material that arrives in Rome and the study done by the promoter of the faith.”

“The very valuable work of the relators is to prepare the cause,” he continued. “They already see the difficulties, the problems, and what must also be highlighted in each servant of God.” 

According to Royo, the relators “systematize the work and, when it reaches the promoter of the faith, and therefore the theological consultants, the cause is already very refined and very prepared.”

“This has greatly expedited the causes,” he pointed out, since without this figure the process “was like a very tight funnel” in which the causes “were stuck ... because only the promoter of the faith was in charge of studying them all.” 

Pope Francis meets with 50,000 for World Children’s Day in Rome’s Olympic Stadium

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2024 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the first World Children’s Day, a gathering with children from around the globe, where he spoke on the importance of building a future based on peace, hope, and dialogue.

“In you, children, everything speaks of life and the future. The Church, as a mother, welcomes you and accompanies you with tenderness and hope,” the pope said to the estimated 50,000 in attendance at Rome’s Olympic Stadium on May 25.

Recalling his meeting with nearly 7,000 children — an event sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education dedicated to the theme “Let Us Learn from Boys and Girls” — the pope explained that the meeting “left a lasting impression in my heart” and was the catalyst for World Children’s Day.

“I prayed and realized that our conversation had to continue and expand to reach more children and young people,” the pope said. “That is why we are here today: to keep the dialogue going, to ask questions and seek answers together.”

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

The event commenced at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, transformed into the “Children’s Village,” at 3:30 p.m. local time. Italian professional soccer players engaged in a friendly soccer match with some of the children clad in uniforms.

Pope Francis arrived at the stadium in the white “popemobile” at approximately 4:40 p.m. against the backdrop of thunderous cheers from the crowd, who represented more than 100 nationalities.

The pope took a seat in the arena, where he was surrounded by children, where he opened his speech addressing some of the issues children face but encouraged them to have faith.

Speaking on the theme of war and peace, the pope asked the children: “Are you sad about the wars?” To which they answered in unison: “Yes!”

“You are saddened because many of your peers cannot go to school. There are girls and boys who cannot go to school. They are realities that I also carry in my heart, and I pray for them,” the pope said.

“We pray for the children who cannot go to school, for the children who suffer from wars, for the children who have nothing to eat, for the children who are sick and no one cares for them,” he said.

But striking an optimistic note, the pope asked the children if they knew the motto of the event, telling them that it is taken from the Bible: “Behold, I Make All Things New.”

“This is the motto. It’s beautiful,” Pope Francis said. “Think: God wants this, everything that is not new passes away. God is new. The Lord always gives us news.”

“Let’s move forward and have joy,” the pope said in his closing remarks. “Joy is health for the soul.”

At the end of the address, the pope asked the attendees to join him in praying the Hail Mary. “Let’s pray to the Mother, to the Mother of Heaven. ”

Earlier in the morning, Pope Francis met with a group of Palestinian and Ukrainian children at the Vatican. Some of the children had lost their parents, while others lost limbs or had other visible injuries.

Vatican news that the encounter was organized by Father Marcin Schmidt, who introduced the children and spoke on the struggles they’ve faced.

On Sunday morning the children will join Pope Francis for Mass in St. Peter’s Square at 10:30 a.m. Afterward the pope will deliver the Angelus address at noon from the window of the Apostolic Palace, .

Carbon dating reveals true age of purported tunics of St. Peter and St. John

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2024 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The Vatican Museums on Thursday announced the new permanent exhibition of two relics purportedly belonging to St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist, shedding light on their origin and age.

The conference titled “The Tunics of St. Peter and St. John, Two Extraordinary Relics of the Sancta Sanctorum,” presented a historic overview of the two relics — a tunic of St. Peter and a dalmatic belonging to St. John the Evangelist — as well as presentations on the intensive restoration process concluded by the Tapestries and Textiles Restoration Laboratory of the Vatican Museums and the report analysis performed by the museums’ Cabinet of Scientific Research.

“The tunic with narrow sleeves, in particular, dates back to the sixth/seventh century, while the dalmatic dates back to between the end of the first and the beginning of the third century,” said Alessandro Vella, expert of Christian antiquity at the Vatican Museums, on the museum’s carbon dating analysis.

“If the tunic with narrow sleeves dates from the next years of the pontificate of Gregory the Great,” he continued, “it evidently cannot have belonged either to St. John the Evangelist nor to St. Peter, nor to any of the apostles. It would therefore be a false relic.”

But Vella noted the garments can still hold devotional value, a claim he made referencing a letter from Pope Pelagius from the middle of the sixth century on a practice “used to obtain secondary relics.”

“Any commonly used garment could be placed in contact with the venerated tomb of a saint,” he said. “At that point the robe, a tunic, specifically, left for three days at the tomb of St. Peter, would have absorbed the sanctifying virtues ‘ex contactu,’ by contact, and would in turn have become a relic if our only one was truly identifiable with the relic of St. John.”

The garments were held in the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), a chapel located at the top of the Scala Santa (the Holy Stairs) on the inside of the original Lateran Palace, which sits adjacent to the archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the official seat of the pope as the bishop of Rome.

The Sancta Sanctorum was used to store objects of inestimable artistic and devotional values, going back to at least the middle of the eighth century, and became the private oratory of the popes. The collection included items such as the jeweled cross of Pope Sergius, relics belonging to St. Praxedes and St. Agnes, as well as the Uronica icon, an image of Christ as ruler of the universe, attributed to St. Luke.

In 1903 Pope Leo XIII allowed for scholars to enter the site to open up an investigation of the relics. But it wasn’t until 1905 that a blacksmith was able to open the two 13th-century bronze doors that enclosed the iron vault under the altar.

“The reliquaries, as well as the textiles, were transferred to the Christian Museum of the Vatican Library in 1906, then to the Vatican Museums in accordance with the rescriptum of Pope John Paul II in 1999,” the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, a group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the museums’ extensive collection of artwork.

Vella shed light on the origin of the items in the collection, noting that they are not only of great devotional value but also represent the extensive diplomatic exchange that cut across the Mediterranean world.

“The composition analyzed by scholars reveals that it was not a random collection of objects collected by pilgrims during their travels but rather diplomatic gifts exchanged between the heads of the ecclesiastical hierarchies and particularly between the popes and patriarchs of Jerusalem.”

“So these movements, these journeys, of the relics,” Vella continued, “followed official diplomatic channels, which are also attested by various other examples.”

Chronicling this historical development is important, Vella emphasized, as it offers an explanation on how the tunics arrived in the collection.

“If our tunic were truly identifiable with the relic of St. John — and there are clearly doubts that remain — this would be the origin we should attribute to it,” Vella said. “That is, it would be a garment dating back to the end of the sixth century, ritually sanctified thanks to contact with the tomb of the Evangelist John in the basilica dedicated to the saint in the city of Ephesus, Turkey, which then reached Rome and the Lateran, possibly passing through Syracuse.” 

International conference on youth ministry wrapping up in Rome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis lambasts the scourge of human trafficking 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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