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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full text of the pact is below:

Pope Francis’ chief Vatican prosecutor retires; deputy prosecutor promoted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis asks financial consultants to put people before business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis urges support for Hurricane Fiona victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pope Francis extends a hand to China

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

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

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

However, some developments should not be underestimated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

reigned for 20 days in December 897.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

reigned for 24 days in July and August, 1048.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis: Christians cannot be indifferent to corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pilgrims of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rome Newsroom, Sep 13, 2022 / 04:59 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane Tuesday that he is ready for the first papal trip to China.

In a conversation with reporters on the flight from Rome to Kazakhstan on Sept. 13, the pope said: “I’m always ready to go to China.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Kazakhstan on Sept. 14, midway through Pope Francis’ to the Central Asian country. Reuters reported that the pope said he did not “have any news” about the speculation that he might meet Xi during the trip.

The coinciding visits of Francis and Xi come as the Holy See and China determine the of a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China and a Catholic cardinal is preparing to in Hong Kong for his role in a pro-democracy legal fund.

A source in the Kazakh Parliament told CNA last week that “theoretically it is possible” that the pope and the president could meet during the trip. But such a meeting would be . 

Neighboring Kazakhstan and China have close ties with large-scale Chinese investments in the Central Asian country’s natural resources through its Belt and Road Initiative. Xi announced his plan for a “new silk road” in the Kazakh capital in 2013.

Notably, Kazakhstan borders China’s Xinjiang region, where the United Nations high commissioner has found that the Chinese government has committed

Uyghur Muslims in China have faced torture, detention, and sexual violence, according to the UN’s Sept. 1 report, which found that persecution against the religious minority may be considered “crimes against humanity.” 

Despite this, Kazakhstan has not granted political asylum to Xinjiang refugees. 

Thousands of Kazakhs have family ties to Xinjiang, and more than 200,000 Uyghurs live in Kazakhstan. While Kazakhstan was home to some of the first vocal critics who testified to China’s brutal repression of Uyghurs in 2017, human-rights advocates have considered Kazakhstan a “hostile place for Xinjiang victims.”

Last year Kazakhstan barred Gene Bunin, the founder of the Xinjiang Victims Database, from entering the county. The Chinese foreign ministry also thanked the government of Kazakhstan for its “understanding and support for China’s position” in Xinjiang in 2019.

During his visit to Nur-Sultan, Xi will meet with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Sept. 15, one day after Pope Francis’ audience at the presidential palace.

The Chinese leader is expected to go on to meet with Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan later this week in Xi’s first trip outside of China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opus Dei’s prelate asks for prayers for reform ordered by Pope Francis

Denver Newsroom, Sep 12, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The prelate of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, has asked the members of the Catholic institution for their prayers for the reform process ordered by Pope Francis, which took effect Aug. 4.

“Continue to pray for the work that the pope has entrusted to us to adapt the Statutes of the Work to what is indicated in the motu proprio ‘Ad charisma tuendum,’” the prelate said in a message published Sept. 10.

“We have already started — in the General Council and the Central Advisory — the appropriate studies to carry it out,” he said.

“During the days spent in the Holy Land, I have kept you especially present in my prayer, knowing that I am accompanied by yours at the same time,” Ocáriz wrote.

On July 22, the Vatican published the apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio titled “Ad charisma tuendum” (To safeguard the charism), whereby Pope Francis ordered a reform of Opus Dei.

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

Opus Dei explained that the decision that the prelate may no longer be a bishop is “an initiative and decision of the Holy See” to reinforce “the charismatic dimension” instead of the hierarchical dimension of the institution.

Ocáriz, 77, is not a bishop and, due to the pontifical document, will not be consecrated as such.

In a question-and-answer section of Opus Dei’s website in Spain, it states that this does not “directly introduce changes in the form of government of the prelature, nor in the relations of the prelature’s authorities with the bishops,” which means that it will continue to function as before.

By establishing that an annual report must be presented on the situation of the prelature and the development of its apostolic work, the previous regulation that required it every five years has been changed.

The pontifical document also requires the adjustment of the statutes, which must be proposed by Opus Dei itself and must then be approved by the competent Vatican bodies.

Opus Dei is a personal prelature, the only one in the Catholic Church. It was founded in Spain by St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer in 1928 and is present in 68 countries.

The overall head of the prelature is the prelate, who is appointed by the pope and who governs the institution as a jurisdiction, similar to a bishop who governs his diocese or assigned territory.

Opus Dei means “Work of God” in Latin, which is why its members usually refer to it as “The Work.” Its special emphasis or charism is sanctification through daily work.

In Opus Dei there are priests, celibate lay persons who are called numeraries and associates, and supernumeraries who are married members.

Opus Dei is not a sect.

Arise to serve others, Pope Francis urges in World Youth Day message

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has released his message ahead of the international World Youth Day next year, imploring young people across the globe to join him in Lisbon, Portugal, and “arise,” as Mary did, to the call of service to others.

The theme of Lisbon’s World Youth Day, which will take place Aug. 1–6, 2023, is “Mary arose and went with haste.”

Lisbon’s World Youth Day was originally planned to take place in August but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on the word “arise,” the Holy Father noted that “It is a word that … speaks to us of getting up from our slumber, waking up to the life all around us.”

Pope Francis pointed out that the Blessed Virgin Mary was selfless in her service to her cousin Elizabeth when both women were pregnant. 

“Even though the astonishing message of the angel had caused a seismic shift in her plans, the young Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life,” he reflected. 

“Within herself,” he continued, “Mary already bore the Lamb that was slain and yet lives. She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life.”

Mary is a model for young people “on the move, who refuse to stand in front of a mirror to contemplate themselves or to get caught up in the ‘net,’” he expressed. Pope Francis added that Mary always has an outward focus, toward God, her brothers and sisters, and those most in need.

Pope Francis reflected on the words of St. Ambrose of Milan, who noted that Mary went in “haste” toward the hill country to serve Elizabeth “because she rejoiced in the promise and sought to serve others with the enthusiasm born of her joy.”

“Mary’s haste is thus a sign of her desire to serve, to proclaim her joy, to respond without hesitation to the grace of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis noted.

Mary was motivated to help the elderly Elizabeth, he added. She wasn’t thinking of herself and this selflessness brought “enthusiasm and direction to her life,” Francis continued.

He then implored young people to consider: “How do I react to the needs that I see all around me? Do I think immediately of some reason not to get involved? Or do I show interest and willingness to help?”

Pope Francis noted that when others are in need, “we need to act quickly.”

“What kinds of ‘haste’ do you have, dear young people? What leads you to feel a need to get up and go, lest you end up standing still?” he questioned.

“But the real question in life is instead,” he continued, “for whom am I living?”

Mary is an example of a young person who doesn’t seek attention or others’ approval, Pope Francis remarked, mentioning a certain dependence on “likes” on social media platforms.

“She sets out to find the most genuine of all ‘connections’: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love, and service,” he added.

Pope Francis noted that there are many records of Marian apparitions and testimonies of encountering Mary throughout history.

“There is practically no place on earth that she has not visited,” he pointed out. Pope Francis added that the many devotions to Mary — that are often seen in pilgrimages, festivities, prayers, the enthronement of images in houses — are an example of Mary’s relationship with “her people, who visit one another in turn!”

“A healthy haste,” Pope Francis remarked, “drives us always upwards and towards others.” An unhealthy haste “can drive us to live superficially and to take everything lightly,” he added.

An unhealthy haste lacks commitment, concern, and investment, Pope Francis noted. Unhealthy haste can occur in close relationships like between friends and family members, he added. But it can even happen between couples, he reminded young people.

“We can have the same attitude in school, at work, and in other areas of our daily lives,” he explained. “When things are done in haste, they tend not to be fruitful. They risk remaining barren and lifeless. As we read in the Book of Proverbs: ‘the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.’”

Pope Francis reflected on the humility of Elizabeth, who did not brag to Mary about God’s miraculous intervention of bringing her a child in her old age.

“She would have had every reason to begin by talking about herself, yet she was not ‘full of herself,’ but anxious to welcome her young cousin and the fruit of her womb,” Pope Francis noted.

“As soon as she heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said in his message. “Such surprises and outpourings of the Spirit come about when we show true hospitality, when we put others, not ourselves, at the center.”

Pope Francis remarked that many people have met Christ unexpectedly, which has brought respect for other people. Many people have realized that Christ wants to be close and share his life with all, he added.

“The joy of this experience made us hasten to welcome him, to feel the need to be with him and to get to know him better,” he noted. “Elizabeth and Zechariah welcomed Mary and Jesus into their home. Let us learn from these two elderly persons the meaning of hospitality!” 

Pope Francis called on young people to ask their parents, grandparents, and elderly in their communities about their relationship with God. “You will benefit from hearing the experiences of those who have gone before you,” he added.

“Dear young people, now is the time to set out in haste towards concrete encounters, towards genuine acceptance of those different from ourselves,” he implored.

“Only thus will we bridge distances — between generations, social classes, ethnic and other groups — and even put an end to wars,” he added. “Young people always represent the hope for new unity within our fragmented and divided human family. But only if they can preserve memory, only if they can hear the dramas and dreams of the elderly.”

The Holy Father remarked that his message to young people is “Jesus himself,” while adding Mary is the model who shows how to bring Christ to the world.

Referencing the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, Pope Francis noted that from Fatima, Mary “addressed to people of all ages the powerful and magnificent message of God’s love, which summons us to conversion and to true freedom.”

He then invited young people to travel to Lisbon next August, while noting that local celebrations of World Youth Day will take place Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King.

“Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ Let us carry Jesus within our hearts and bring him to all those whom we meet,” Pope Francis concluded. “In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you! With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey.”

Pope Francis honors nun killed by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis in his Angelus address on Sunday honored an Italian missionary sister who was killed by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 11, the pope said: “In this moment of prayer, it is dear to me to remember Sister Maria de Coppi, Combonian missionary, killed in Chipene, Mozambique, where she served with love for almost 60 years.”

“May her witness give strength and courage to Christians and all the people of Mozambique.”

Sister Maria de Coppi was shot and killed last week as terrorists ransacked and burned the Catholic mission where she served in Mozambique’s Diocese of Nacala.

The Italian priests and sisters who served at the mission were able to evacuate 68 students who were living at the mission before the church, boarding houses, rectory, and school were destroyed in the five-hour attack on the night of Sept. 6.

Sister Maria was about to flee with the other missionaries when she turned back out of concern for the 12 female students who had stayed behind at the mission, according to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The 83-year-old religious sister left a voicemail for her niece, Gabriella Bottani, shortly before her death, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported.

In the voicemail, Sister Maria said that Al-Shabaab insurgents were close to the mission and the situation was “very tense.”

“It appears that they are armed, that they have already kidnapped people, killed someone,” she said.

“Wherever they pass, they carry out massacres.”

Churches have been burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced by in Mozambique in recent years.

A missionary in Mozambique that the local insurgents who have been targeting Christians in the region have ties to the Islamic State.

During Holy Week in 2020, insurgents perpetrated attacks on seven towns and villages in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, burning down a church on Good Friday and killing 52 young people who refused to join the terrorist group, according to the local bishop.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in attacks in Mozambique since 2017, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Some of these attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, while others were carried out by the homegrown Ahlu Sunna Wal, an extremist militant group, locally known as Al-Shabaab, which has been kidnapping men and women.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said that on Sept. 6, “As a result of terrorist attacks, six citizens were beheaded, three kidnapped, six terrorists were captured, and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba, Nampula province.”

Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala said that the attackers “destroyed everything” at the Chipene mission.

“The attackers broke open the tabernacle and vandalized part of the sacristy, looking for whatever they could find — probably money,” he added.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, paid tribute to Sister Maria, saying that her sacrifice “will be a seed of peace and reconciliation” in Mozambique.

“We cry for another sister who with simplicity, dedication, and silence offered her life for the love of the Gospel,” Zuppi said.

Pope Francis: Reach out to a friend who needs to hear that God loves them

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to imitate the Lord’s dedicated search “for the lost sheep” by reaching out to friends and family who have drifted away from the faith.

“The Father asks us to be attentive to the children he misses the most. Let us think of someone we know, who is close to us and has perhaps never heard anyone say, ‘You know, you are important to God,’” Pope Francis said on Sept. 11.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope reflected on Jesus’ in the Gospel of Luke, particularly the parable of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in the desert to search for one who was lost.

“One who loves is concerned about the one who is missing, longs for who is absent, seeks who is lost, awaits those who have gone astray. For he wants no one to be lost,” the pope said in his .

“Brothers and sisters, God is like this: he does not “take it easy” if we stray from him, he is grieved, he trembles in his innermost being; and he sets out to look for us until he takes us back into his arms.”

Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect upon whether they imitate the Lord in seeking out those who are missing from their communities or whether they are content to be comfortable and calm within their own groups.

He said: “Let us then reflect on our relationships: do I pray for those who do not believe, who have drifted away?”

“Let us be troubled by these questions, and pray to Our Lady, mother who never tires of searching for and taking care of us, her children,” he added.

At the end of his Angelus address, the pope asked for people to continue to pray for the people of Ukraine that the Lord will be close to them and bring them hope. He announced that , the papal almoner, will soon be heading back to Ukraine again to “give concrete witness of the closeness of the pope and the Church.”

Pope Francis asked for prayers for his upcoming , where he will participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions during his visit to the capital city of Nur-Sultan from Sept. 13–15.

The pope also remembered , Sister Maria De Coppi, who was murdered by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique last week.

“May her witness give strength and courage to Christians and to all the people of Mozambique,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined in his Angelus message that God excludes no one and “loves everyone as his children.” Therefore, he said, the Lord “comes in search of us whenever we are lost.”

“Remember: God always awaits us with open arms, whatever the situation in life in which we are lost may be,” he said.

Pope Francis shares his concern about nuclear war risks in meeting with Vatican diplomats

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The role of the Church in a world shaken by war and other global issues was the subject Pope Francis raised with his diplomatic representatives around the globe on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, Europe and the entire world are shaken by a particularly serious war, due to the violation of international law, the risks of nuclear escalation, and the grave economic and social consequences,” the pope told almost 100 apostolic nuncios and permanent observers of the Holy See. 

The diplomats are gathered in Rome for their triennial meeting from Sept. 7–10.

In his official address, Francis  the diplomats for bringing the pope’s closeness “to peoples and Churches,” saying his representatives had been “points of reference in moments of greatest disorientation and turbulence.”

The pope recalled that “the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic” had forced everyone “to make various restrictions in our daily lives and in our pastoral activity.” 

“Now the worst seems to be over, and thank God we can meet again,” Francis added. 

The pope said that the nuncios had also participated actively in the consultation stages of the Synod on Synodality.

But, unfortunately, he said, not only Europe but also the entire world is shaken by a “war of particular gravity.” 

“It is a ‘piecemeal’ third world war, to which you bear witness in the places where you carry out your mission,” the pope told his representatives.

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of World War III during his pontificate. 

In April, he  in an introduction to an Italian book that the world was moving toward World War III as if it were unavoidable, but that the war was not inevitable. 

“When we allow ourselves to be devoured by this monster represented by war, when we allow this monster to raise its head and guide our actions, everyone loses, we destroy God’s creatures, we commit sacrilege and prepare a future of death for our children and grandchildren,” he wrote.

Encounter with Pope Francis caps formation course for new bishops

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 07:50 am (CNA).

After a COVID-caused hiatus, the Vatican’s new bishop school was back in session this week.

Approximately 150 Catholic bishops attended the first weeklong session of the formation course in Rome, which ended Thursday. A second session, with about 170 bishops, will be held Sept. 12–19.

The seminar, usually held annually, culminated in an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on Sept. 8. The Vatican did not release any information about what was said in the meeting.

Bishop Louis Tylka of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, was among the participants in the course. He said on Twitter that the new bishops also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and venerated the relics of St. Peter.

The theme of the 2022 edition was “to announce the Gospel in the changing epoch and after the pandemic: the service of bishop.”

The week began with Mass, said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

The course, sometimes known by the lighthearted nickname “baby bishop school,” included talks on the topics of crisis management, especially in the context of abuse, social media, and canon law in diocesan administration.

Other themes covered were the meaning of a synodal Church, education for synodal leadership, and the Church after the pandemic.

The formation also addressed the holiness of bishops, family, and universal fraternity.

The course is held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic educational institute directed by the Legionaries of Christ, located about 4.5 miles from the Vatican.

Who is preparing the Synod on Synodality’s key working document?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2022 / 04:56 am (CNA).

In late August, the leadership of the Synod of Bishops announced the next stage in the Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality.

The continental phase follows the diocesan, in which bishops’ conferences collected the thoughts and reflections of Catholics in their countries through listening sessions and surveys.

One of the big tasks of the continental phase will be to create a new document summarizing the summaries sent to the Vatican by the bishops’ conferences, themselves summaries of the individual reports from Catholic dioceses.

According to the leadership of the Synod of Bishops, the working document corresponds to what in past synods was called an and will be the first of two during the entire synodal process.

The purpose of the — or DTC (), as the Synod of Bishops is calling it — will be to guide the continental phase. This stage is set to run until October 2023, when Pope Francis will host the meetings of the universal, and final, phase of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.

The document is expected to be published by late October or early November and is being drafted by the synod’s , advisory committee, and a group of approximately 20 “experts” announced by synod leaders on Aug. 26. 

The advisory committee has five members: Italian Archbishop Erio Castellucci; Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri; Father Giacomo Costa, SJ; Father Dario Vitali, theology professor at Rome’s Gregorian University; and Dutch theologian Myriam Wijlens.

Sequeri is the former dean of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family in Rome and Costa is an Italian Jesuit priest who served as for the Amazon synod in 2019.

Wijlens is a professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt in Germany. She is also a distinguished clerical sexual abuse expert in civilian courts and a policy writer. She was named of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors by Pope Francis in 2018.

The committee of outside experts includes lay people, religious sisters, Catholic priests, and an archbishop. Members come from 17 countries.

According to the Vatican, the document drafters will work in a climate “of listening, prayer, and discernment.”

At least four members of the drafting committee are reading each synod report sent to the Vatican by bishops’ conferences, religious congregations, Vatican dicasteries, and Eastern Catholic Churches.

On Aug. 26, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, said the Vatican had received at least of the first phase of the synod.

On Sept. 21, the experts will gather at a religious house near Frascati, Italy, to draft the working document.

“The methodology that will be adopted,” the Synod of Bishops said, “could be called ‘an accordion’ in that it involves times of silence and prayer, interspersed with presentations and dialogues in plenary or groups.”

After the working document is written, the text will be shared with other members of the synod’s four commissions and submitted to the ordinary council for suggested changes and final approval.

The is made up of 11 cardinals, one Syrian Catholic patriarch, and four bishops. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, is the American representative on the ordinary council.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, the archbishop of Perth, Australia, and president of the Australian bishops’ conference, is among the drafters.

He is joined by compatriots Father Ormond Rush, associate professor of religion and theology at the Catholic University of Australia, and Susan Pascoe, an adjunct professor at the University of Western Australia.

Pascoe is also co-director of the task force for the Synod on Synodality’s continental phase and a member of the methodology commission.

Father David McCallum, SJ, executive director of the U.S.-based Discerning Leadership Program, and Mauricio Lopez, head of pastoral action for CELAM, the bishops’ conference of Latin America, are also part of the methodology commission.

Lopez was the executive secretary of REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, during the 2019 Amazon synod. REPAM, a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Kristin Colberg, an associate professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota, is on the drafting committee. In November 2021, she was the only American named a member of the synod’s theological commission. 

Italian Msgr. Piero Coda, secretary of the Roman Curia’s International Theological Commission; Father Vimal  Tirimanna, CSsR, a Sri Lankan moral theology professor in Rome; and Father Thomas Kollamparampil, CMI, a theology professor at the Pontifical Atheneum Dharmaran Vidiya Ksheteram of Bangalore, India, also join the drafters coming from the theological commission. 

Another expert chosen by the Synod of Bishops for the drafting group is author Austen Ivereigh, a biographer of Pope Francis and coordinator of the U.K.-based project “The Road to a Synodal Church.”

Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, a French theologian and of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, is also a drafter.

The other 11 experts drafting the can be found on pages 6-7 of published by the Synod of Bishops. 

The president of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is Pope Francis. The secretary general is Cardinal Mario Grech, and the undersecretaries are Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, OSA, and Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ.

Within the general secretariat there is also an ordinary council and a group of consultors. The pope also appoints a relator general for every synod. For the Synod on Synodality, is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, archbishop of Luxembourg.

The Synod on Synodality is also assisted by an advisory committee and four commissions on the topics of theology, methodology, spirituality, and communication.

How Eduardo Verástegui’s latest film inspired him to fight human trafficking

Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2022 / 07:29 am (CNA).

Catholic actor Eduardo Verástegui has launched a national campaign in Mexico to combat human trafficking. 

Inspired by his latest film, Verástegui told CNA that the fight against human trafficking is “my number one mission right now."

The producer and actor is currently touring 32 states in Mexico with his organization, , in an effort to partner with local government leaders, educators, law enforcement, and foundations to prevent child exploitation.

In an interview in the Vatican Gardens shortly after the actor met with Pope Francis, Verástegui said that it’s his goal to start a “movement to end child trafficking.”

“I'm convinced that if we all work together, we will end this horrible reality because God's children are not for sale,” he said.

Verástegui served as the producer for “Sound of Freedom,” a movie starring Jim Caviezel, who is best known for playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. 

Directed by Alejandro Monteverde and shot in Cartagena, Colombia, “Sound of Freedom” depicts the rescue of 127 sexually abused children in South America. It is based on the true story of former CIA agent Tim Ballard, who founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat human trafficking.

Working on the film helped Verástegui realize the magnitude of the child trafficking issue in Mexico, which has been ranked second in the world for underage prostitution, according to the Scelles Foundation.

Verástegui spoke about his work to combat human trafficking at a Vatican summit, where actors, directors, and musical artists came together to discuss how the arts and entertainment can inspire hope.

Marcus Mumford, Patricia Heaton, David Oyelowo, J. Balvin, Alessia Cara, Jonathan Roumie, Isaac Chung, and a dozen others attended the summit organized by Vitae Global. Oscar winner Denzel Washington was also registered to attend, but could not make it due to a last-minute change in his filming schedule.

Pope Francis spent two hours in a private conversation with the entertainment artists in the Vatican Gardens on Sept. 1, encouraging them to be “preachers of beauty.”

Alexander Acha, a Latin Grammy-winning singer-songwriter from Mexico, told CNA that Pope Francis encouraged the summit attendees to pursue truth and contemplation in their creative endeavors.

The pope said art “opens doors, touches hearts, and helps us to walk forward.”

For Verástegui, who had met with the pope before starting work on the "Sound of Freedom" to ask for a papal blessing of the project, the meeting with Pope Francis before the film’s release was particularly special. 

“It was a beautiful moment to have the chance to talk with him … here at the Vatican with so many talented people.”

“My faith is the most important part of my life. It's the center of my life. Everything that I do is inspired by my faith,” the actor said.

Verástegui first came to prominence for US audiences for his starring role in the pro-life film “Bella” and has continued to be an active voice in the pro-life movement.

He believes that “many lives will be saved” by the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“I'm very happy that through the work of so many people, the prayers of so many people, finally, we saw a big result,” Verástegui said.

“This is just the beginning. We haven't finished the work yet because now we have to go state by state, and we're moving forward.”

“We have to fight every day … because we love God and we love the most beautiful gift that God gave us, which is life,” he said.

Pope Francis: God can speak to us in the unexpected

Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2022 / 04:24 am (CNA).

God can speak to us in the unexpected moments of our lives if we learn to listen well to what he is telling us in our hearts, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

“I will give you a piece of advice: beware of the unexpected,” the pope said Sept. 7 at his weekly public audience.

“Is it life speaking to you, is it the Lord speaking to you, or is it the devil? Someone,” he continued. “But there is something to discern, how I react when faced with the unexpected.”

Francis’ general audience was again in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday after it was held inside the Vatican’s Paul VI auditorium in August to avoid the worst of the summer heat.

The pope opened and closed his encounter with the public by riding the popemobile around the square. The audience marked his second week of catechesis on the theme of “Discernment.”

As part of discernment, the pope encouraged people to reflect on their reactions to even small, unexpected circumstances, such as the surprise arrival of one’s mother-in-law.

“I was quiet at home and ‘Boom!’ — my mother-in-law arrives; and how do you react to your mother-in-law? Is it love or something else inside? You must discern,” he said. “I was working well in the office, and a companion comes along to tell me he needs money: how do you react? See what happens when we experience things we were not expecting, and there we can learn to know our heart as it moves.”

Pope Francis said knowing how to really listen to your heart is an important part of discernment in making a judgment or decision about something.

“We listen to the television, the radio, the mobile phone; we are experts at listening, but I ask you: do you know how to listen to your heart?” he asked. “Do you stop to ask: ‘But how is my heart? Is it satisfied, is it sad, is it searching for something?’ To make good decisions, you need to listen to your heart.”

To illustrate his point, the pope recalled the story of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a soldier enamored with stories of knights and chivalry who was forced to confront his future happiness after he was badly injured in battle.

Bored while his leg was healing, Ignatius read stories of the saints and the life of Jesus when other books were not available to him.

Francis quoted from Ignatius’ autobiography, in which the future saint wrote about himself: “‘When he thought of worldly things’ — and of chivalrous things, one understands — ‘it gave him great pleasure, but afterward he found himself dry and sad. But when he thought of journeying to Jerusalem, and of living only on herbs and practicing austerities, he found pleasure not only while thinking of them, but also when he had ceased.’”

“In this experience we note two aspects, above all,” the pope said. “The first is time: that is, the thoughts of the world are attractive at the beginning, but then they lose their luster and leave emptiness and discontent; they leave you that way, empty. Thoughts of God, on the contrary, rouse first a certain resistance — ‘But I’m not going to read this boring thing about saints’ — but when they are welcomed, they bring an unknown peace that lasts for a long time.”

He emphasized that “discernment is not a sort of oracle or fatalism, or something from a laboratory, like casting one’s lot on two possibilities.”

Francis also said that some of life's big questions often arise after “we have already traveled a stretch of the road in life.”

Sometimes, we can get stuck on one idea and end up disappointed, he pointed out, adding that doing something good, such as a work of charity, can get us out of that rut by bringing us joy and happiness, feelings that can lead to thoughts of God.

The pope also shared a piece of wisdom from St. Ignatius: to read the lives of the saints.

“Because they show the style of God in the life of people not very different to us, because the saints were made of flesh and blood like us, in a narrative, comprehensible way. Their actions speak to ours, and they help us to understand their meaning,” he said.

Sometimes, he added, “there is an apparent randomness in the events of life: everything seems to arise from a banal mishap — there were no books about knights, only lives of saints. A mishap that nonetheless holds a possible turning point.”

“God works through unplannable events, and also through mishaps,” he said. “Mishap: What is God saying to you? What is life telling you there?”

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to all mothers, and “in a special way, to those mothers who have children who suffer: those who are sick, those who are marginalized, those who are imprisoned.”

“A special prayer goes to the mothers of young detainees: let hope never be lacking. Unfortunately, in prisons there are many people who take their own life, at times also young people. A mother’s love can save them from this danger. May Our Lady console all mothers distressed by the suffering of their children,” he said.

Artist paints Kazakh Mary and Child for only Marian shrine in Kazakhstan

Rome Newsroom, Sep 6, 2022 / 09:03 am (CNA).

A Kazakh artist is creating possibly the first-ever painting of Mary and the Child Jesus as native Kazakhs; it will be displayed in Kazakhstan’s only Marian shrine.

It is hoped that the icon, in the form of a triptych, will be blessed by Pope Francis during his Sept. 13-15 visit to the Central Asian country, where more than 70% of the population is Muslim.

The artist, Dosbol Kasymov, told EWTN News in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Aug. 5 that his inspiration for the image came from his culture’s love and reverence for mothers.

Mother is “a common image,” uniting mankind, Kasymov said. “We are all born, we all came into this world thanks to our mothers.”

Titled “The Mother of the Great Steppe,” the large icon was commissioned by Archbishop Tomasz Peta, the head of Kazakhstan’s Catholic diocese, Maria Santissima in Astana.

The Kazakh Steppe is a treeless, semi-desert grassland covering the northern part of the country, south of the Ural Mountains.

Peta told EWTN News last month that the image of the Kazakh Mary and Jesus is intended for Kazakhstan’s only Marian shrine, Mary Queen of Peace, in the town of Ozernoe, about 250 miles northwest of Nur-Sultan.

The painting depicts the Virgin Mary as a Kazakh woman dressed in traditional clothing. In her arms, she holds her baby son, the Child Jesus, held in the robe of an adult man, a sign of his future death and the Roman tunic he will wear on his way to the cross.

EWTN News spoke to the artist ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Kazakhstan, while the painting was still a work in progress. Kasymov spoke about some of the traditional Kazakh symbols he incorporated into the icon.

“The Kazakh ornaments, like all the ornaments in the world, have their own symbols. The nimbus, it’s made in the form of a star. On one side is a flower, on the other side is a star, and on the other side is a part of the Kazakh carpet ‘Tuskeiz,’” he explained.

Kasymov said the Child Jesus’ halo is in the form of a shanyrak, the emblem of Kazakhstan and a common cultural symbol based on the shape of a cross.

Ethnic Kazakhs are predominantly Sunni Muslims, the most commonly practiced religion in the country. According to a 2009 national census, the second most practiced religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity, at more than 20%. The country, which has approximately 250,000 Latin-rite Catholics, according to 2008 statistics, is also home to many immigrants.

The nationally-acclaimed painter said he hopes his work will be received by the people of Kazakhstan “with love, with warmth, because, above all, it is the image of the mother.”

“Here is my personal opinion: I think that Kazakhs are very tolerant, they easily accept any culture,” he said.

The finished icon is expected to include a panel on each side depicting an ethnically Kazakh angel playing traditional musical instruments.

After the image is blessed in Nur-Sultan by Pope Francis, who will visit the city for the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, it will be placed in a new prayer chapel at the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine in Ozernoe.

Peta said the new chapel would be built in the shape of a yurt, the traditional round tent used by nomadic groups in Central Asia. The shrine is also getting a new pilgrim welcome center dedicated to St. John Paul II.

The new chapel “is for all people, regardless of faith and nationality; this yurt will be a meeting place with Mary, and through Mary, with Jesus,” Peta said. 

Kasymov said he faced a difficult decision when Peta asked him to create an icon of Mary and the Child Jesus, given that he himself is not Christian, nor even particularly religious.

“When the offer came in to write this work, of course I had my doubts,” he said. “But then I talked to my relatives, brothers, friends and they said, ‘Of course you should write it, it’s our common culture.’”

Kasymov said he is also interested to see how his depiction of Our Lady of the Steppe interacts with the many European images of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“I want to praise our beauty, too, and I want the beauty of our women, the beauty of our mothers to be understandable,” he said.

He explained that Mary is shown looking away because “Kazakhs consider it not quite right or polite for a woman to look directly into the face of her interlocutor.”

“We say in Kazakh, ‘Tygylyp Karama,’ do not stare straight ahead,” he said. “A woman should not look at the spectator directly, she looks a little into the distance. It’s a trait of modesty and part of etiquette.” 

The Virgin Mary’s gaze can also be interpreted to mean that she is thinking about the future, that “she senses what is going to happen to her son,” he said.

The Christ Child, who is looking the other way from his mother, “has a mixture of feelings,” the artist noted. “It is as if on the one hand, he does not want to separate from his mother, but on the other hand … somewhere in his depths, in his young subconsciousness, there is also an understanding that he has a path, as each of us has our own path.”

This story was updated at 10:52am with the correct location of the town of Ozernoe.

Could Pope Francis meet Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan next week?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 6, 2022 / 06:51 am (CNA).

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Kazakhstan on the same day Pope Francis will be in the Central Asian country next week. 

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has announced that Xi will meet Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Sept. 14 during visit to the capital, Nur-Sultan.

The coinciding visits of Francis and Xi come as the Holy See and China are in negotiations over the renewal of a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in an Italian television interview on Sept. 2 that a delegation of Vatican diplomats has returned from China and that he believes that the agreement will be renewed this fall.

It would be the second time the agreement with Beijing has been since the Holy See first signed it in September 2018. 

Beijing severed diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1951 after Mao Zedong came to power in the Chinese Communist Revolution and expelled missionaries from China. 

Without diplomatic relations, a potential encounter between Xi and Pope Francis would be unofficial. There has never been a meeting between a pope and a president of China in the history of the Church. 

A source working in the Kazakh parliament told CNA that “theoretically it is possible” that the pope and the president could meet. 

Pope Francis will participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Kazakhstan on Sept. 13–15. 

The pope is scheduled to hold private meetings with some of the participants in the interreligious summit at noon on Sept. 14, the day of Xi’s visit to the Kazakh capital. 

However, it is unlikely that the Chinese leader will take part in the summit of Muslim, Christian, and other religious leaders. 

Xi has come under mounting international condemnation for China’s brutal persecution of Uyghur  Muslims in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang. 

The United Nations published a report on Sept. 1 that documented in Xinjiang, including patterns of torture, detention, and sexual violence against the religious minority in China. 

Kazakhstan would be Xi’s first official trip outside of China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he oversaw the world’s strictest lockdowns. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Xi’s trip to Central Asia could also include a meeting in Uzbekistan with .

One day before the news of Xi’s upcoming visit to Kazakhstan was made public, the former vice president of Taiwan met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. 

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said that the former VP, Chen Chien-jen, was at the on Sept. 4 as a representative of Taiwan. 

Chen wrote on social media that he was “specially received” by the pope ahead of the beatification and asked Pope Francis “pray for the people of Taiwan.”

The Holy See is one of only 14 states that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), and the only entity in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country. 

Beijing views Taiwan as a rebel province and has pressured countries to end ties with Taiwan, influencing seven countries to shift their diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing since 2016. It is widely believed that Beijing would demand dropping ties with Taiwan as a prerequisite for reestablishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

In the backdrop of any encounter with Chinese officials during the papal trip is the arrest and the upcoming trial in Hong Kong of a Catholic cardinal, who has been an outspoken advocate for religious freedom and democracy.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, is set to along with four other people in Hong Kong Sept. 19–23 in connection to his role as a trustee of a pro-democracy legal fund.

Following a meeting of 197 Catholic cardinals at the Vatican last week, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller expressed disappointment that the cardinals did not use the consistory meeting as “an opportunity to declare full solidarity with Zen on the part of all the College of Cardinals.” 

“From the silence of this consistory on the Zen case I have fears,” the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told Il Messaggero on Sept. 1. 

He added that there was not even a proposal for a collective prayer for Zen. 

“There are obviously political reasons on the part of the Holy See that prevent such initiatives. I am referring to the agreement for the renewal of bishops recently signed with Xi’s government,” Müller said.

“Perhaps the Church should be freer and less bound to power-based, worldly logic, consequently freer to intervene and, if necessary, to criticize those politicians who end up suppressing human rights. In this case, I wonder why not criticize Beijing,” he added.

“Zen is a symbol and he was arrested on a pretext, he did nothing, he is an influential, courageous, and much feared figure by the government,” he said. “He is over 80 years old and we have left him all alone.”

How did Pope Francis change the Order of Malta?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 6, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The decision of Pope Francis to approve the new constitution of the Order of Malta, abolish positions, appoint a transitional government, and convene a general chapter to support the reform but not suddenly. 

For some time, it had become evident that the pope wanted to bypass all resistance and carry out the reform of the order outlined by the men he called to that office — and to do so against any contrary opinion.

At the same time, Pope Francis’ cannot be simply described as a “victory” of the religious side over the secular side, the latter chiefly represented by German protagonists. That would be a reductive view of the situation.

The reform of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a reform in a more spiritual sense, at least in terms of its intentions.

At the same time, the reform had to be careful not to jeopardize the sovereignty of the Order of Malta while recognizing its complex reality and sometimes turbulent history. 

The Order of Malta’s includes priories, sub-priories, and 48 affiliated associations.

The organization also employs some 45,000 staff, assisted by almost 100,000 volunteers. The order’s humanitarian projects budget is said to amount to $2.3 billion. 

At the same time, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta — that is the full official name — has of knights. 

The first class consists of the Knights of Justice or Professed Knights, as well as Professed Conventual Chaplains. The knights of this class take the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are defined as religious.

The second class comprises Knights and Dames in Obedience, who promise to obey their superiors and strive for Christian perfection in the spirit of the order.

The third class comprises lay members who make neither vows nor promises but are committed to living a fully Catholic life according to the order’s principles.

So what has changed with the new constitution of the Order of Malta? CNA spoke with various knights and members of the associations and was able to view the text of the constitution, as well as deliberations formally approved by the pope but never officially presented.

The in many places reflects the 1961 Constitution, a document still on the order’s official website.

At the same time, there are substantial additions, both to the text of the constitution and the code.

These additions suggest radical changes, not only to the Order of Malta but also to the life of the associations.

The Holy See and the pope are pervasive. According to articles 6 and 14, the pope is a co-regulator. All members of the Order of Malta are directly subject to him. Under the old constitution, the members of the order enjoyed a certain autonomy.

This crucial difference is expressed in the paragraph dedicated to the oath of the grand master. 

The old constitution, in force until Sept. 4, underlined that whoever would be elected as grand master took their oath “after having communicated the election to the Holy Father.”

The new constitution, approved by Pope Francis, establishes that “there is a need for confirmation of the election by the Holy Father.”

Grand masters are no longer elected for life but for a maximum of two five-year terms, or until they turn 85.

The requirement for professed knights to come from no longer exists. A path of spiritual formation is to be the hallmark of those living the religious vocation.

Under the old constitution, “the Knights and Chaplains belonging to the first class make the Profession of the Vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to the norm of the Code, thus tending to evangelical perfection. They are religious in all respects of Canon Law and abide by the particular norms that concern them.”

In the new constitution, among the duties of the members, we read that “the professed, mindful of their vocation and the obligations freely assumed before the Church and the Order, must conform their lives to the spirit of the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church according to the Charter Constitutional Code, strive for religious perfection and dedicate oneself to the apostolic activities of the Order, bearing witness to Faith and Charity.”

In the Grand Magisterium, all the organs are dominated by the professed. According to article 49, the professed knights are the “essential nucleus of the Order.” 

The grand master becomes sole sovereign: His authority, according to article 15, extends to all members, legal persons, and goods of the order; article 184 of the code establishes that the grand master directs the work of the associations and then also admits lay members and can suspend the president from an association.

But what about the Order of Malta’s third class, the lay members who make neither vows nor promises but are committed to living a fully Catholic life according to the order’s principles?

In the new constitution, they are recognized as “faithful linked to the Order” (article 82 of the code) and can be personally appointed by the grand master (article 87 of the code). 

Another significant change pertains to the national associations.

Previously, these were erected by decree of the grand master. Their statutes were drawn up to reflect the respective states’ internal legislation and requirements. 

Now, however, they are called to conform not only to their respective states’ laws but also to canon law. Article 196 requires the president of the associations to deliver an account statement to the Grand Master. 

According to article 49 of the new constitution, all offices in the associations, including the council, must be exercised by knights of the first or second class of the order.

What is more, the council of the association will transform itself from a governing body elected by the members to a group under the direct influence of the grand master, who will have to confirm all the members of the council and of an association.

Furthermore, the grand master can direct an association using a commissioner; the grand hospitaller supervises the work of the associations, including the implementation of pastoral directives issued by the Council of the Professed; the treasurer of the grand master oversees all the work of the Associations and draws up a consolidated balance sheet.

Another novelty is the three evangelical counsels for poverty, chastity, and obedience established by the code, which evaluate religious life.

In practice, the general idea of ​​the reform is to make the Order of Malta more spiritual. For this reason, many paragraphs recall religious life. The grand master is almost equivalent to a congregation’s superior, and the pope refers to the knights as if they were friars.

At first glance, it would seem one emphasis crowds out another: Membership is diluted in the sense that some 13,500 members are now considered merely collaborators of the 37 professed, who are the only members. There is also a shift in responsibility from the laity to the religious. 

Yet the Order of Malta is also a secular institution, a state without territory. The Holy See grants sovereignty, but the form of government, which allows for diplomatic relations with 112 states, must be independent. And this is where the sovereignty of the Order of Malta is called into question.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, the lieutenant of the grand master who suddenly passed away this year, had raised the alarm about possible in his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Order of Malta in January. 

He also stressed that “an extraordinary general chapter will be convened to approve the reform when as much consensus as possible has been reached on all the main issues.”

At the time, it seemed that there was still scope for an entire discussion, despite the fact that in October 2021, the pope gave Tomasi sweeping new powers to carry forward reform of the almost 1,000-year-old institution.

The crisis began in 2014 when the Chapter of the Order of Malta decided not to re-elect Jean-Pierre Mazery as the order’s grand chancellor. Albrecht von Boeselager, previously the order’s grand hospitaller, was elected to the position as part of a reshuffle that saw none of the Italian members once in critical roles re-elected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were moments of tension with the appointment of another committee for reforms, but then even the contribution of this committee was reduced to nothing.

On the eve of the pope’s , a group of associations representing about 90% of the Order of Malta’s work sent a public appeal to the pope, also arousing the resentment of the lieutenant of the grand master, who instead invoked the obedience to the pope.

The problem, according to critics, no longer concerns the reform’s quality but whether the pope’s actions represent abuse or not. The interpretation given by the cardinal delegate’s team is that the Order of Malta must be considered a religious order in all respects and, therefore, under the authority of the pope.

In general, however, the order is monastic only on the part of the professed knights. At the same time, its sovereignty remains independent from the Holy See and has allowed diplomatic relations with 133 states and humanitarian activities recognized worldwide.

To what extent will a state with bilateral relations with the Holy See be interested in maintaining ties with the Order of Malta?

But, above all, even if the issue is formally resolved, will it be possible to go beyond papal interference in matters of governance of the order, or will the order’s autonomy be permanently affected?

It is a matter of principle, which goes beyond the question at the basis of everything. As regards the Order of Malta, issues of corruption and financial management have been talked about, rightly or wrongly, and this has been traced back to secular tendencies. 

The need, therefore, is to return to a spiritual vision, breaking the existing blocks of power and recreating a more “religious” style in the works of the Order of Malta.

Suppose these are the reasons behind the pope’s decision. In that case, it must be considered that a reform of the professed knights was necessary but did not necessarily have to touch the sovereign prerogatives of the order.

The reform concerned, first of all, the vow of poverty, for which there was a pardon, also because the knights had to support themselves, and the times were no longer those in which their noble families could have afforded them a livelihood.

Thus, to maintain the vow of poverty, it was necessary for the order to put the professed in a position where they could dedicate themselves entirely to the poor and sick within the charism of the order.

Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre’s idea was to include the professed as employed of the order in a way most suitable to their talents and education. He would receive a salary and enjoy social and old age security as an employee. There was to be a generously endowed fund to provide the necessary means.

“Such a scenario must come as a threat to any rich lawyer, architect, teacher, who while formally professing poverty, in fact up to date can remain in his old circumstances ad indefinitum,” a source within the order said.

The formal approach of newly created cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda influenced the order’s reform, putting everything under the umbrella of canon law. But is this a fundamental change, or is it a way of stopping any real difference? Will the new order be representative of all instances, even those of , or does it remain a purely religious organization in the hands of a few professed?

It is evident, at this point, that the situation in the order cannot be considered a struggle between the religious wing or the secular wing and that there is much more to consider. For example, Riccardo Paternò, president of the of the Order of Malta, was present on Jan. 25 at the enlarged working group meeting to define the order's reform. However, he had not been appointed part of the group.

His presence was contested by Kristóf Szabadhegÿ, president of the , in addressed to all the order's top officials. 

Paternò was appointed by Pope Francis to the position of grand chancellor of the order, pending the meeting on Jan. 25.

Similarly, another working group member, Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, was appointed grand hospitaller. Their appointment to the transitional government suggests they also played a role in drafting the new constitution.

On Jan. 25, the general chapter must elect the new sovereign council. From there, all the offices of the order will be reconstituted. 

The risk, however, remains that associations will decide to disengage from the order, maintaining their autonomy to run their charitable work while avoiding being treated in the same way as religious organizations.

Pope Francis jokes that either he or John XXIV will attend World Youth Day next year

Rome Newsroom, Sep 5, 2022 / 07:59 am (CNA).

With the next World Youth Day less than a year away, Pope Francis has promised that a pope will be in attendance, but joked that it may be “Pope John XXIV.”

Pope Francis told CNN Portugal in a television interview that aired on Sept. 4 that he plans to attend the , the largest international Catholic youth gathering scheduled to take place in Lisbon next August.

“I plan to go. The pope is going to go — either Francis or John XXIV — but the pope is going,” he joked.

The quip was made after months of speculation in the media that the 85-year-old pope could be close to retirement. Pope Francis told journalists on his return from Canada in July that he is “open” to the if he discerns that it is God’s will.

Pope Francis did not explain why he guessed his successor could be named Pope John XXIV. He has made this joke several times since he canonized , the last pope who took the name John, who reigned from 1958 to 1963.

The pope said in the interview that next year’s World Youth Day presents a great opportunity “for the youth from different parts of the world to connect.”

The multi-day gathering, established by St. John Paul II in 1985, is typically held on a different continent every three years with the presence of the pope. At some past World Youth Days, attendance has reached into the millions.

The meeting in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon is scheduled for Aug. 1–6, 2023. 

Speaking about World Youth Day, Pope Francis said: “When you go to a meeting with young people, you have to be prepared to listen to another language. Young people have their own language. And that comes from their own culture because there is a youth culture. And that also comes from their own creativity.”

He added: “We must speak with the youth language … They have their culture and a progressive language that goes forward, right? So, you have to listen to them in their way of interpreting things and answer to them in ways that they can understand. I cannot answer to a young person facing a difficulty with an old theology book… They won’t understand … you have to answer them in a language that they understand and according to the experiences they are living, right?”

The CNN Portugal interview, recorded on Aug. 11, also touched on clerical abuse and the war in Ukraine. The second half of the interview is scheduled to air on the night of Sept. 5.

How this Mother Teresa documentary sheds new light on a beloved saint

Rome Newsroom, Sep 5, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The so-called “definitive movie” about Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be in theaters in October. It sheds new light on — and delivers powerful images of — the life of this venerated Albanian-Kosovar nun.

Sept. 5 is of the St. Teresa of Kolkata. She died on Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II only six years later, on Oct. 19, 2003.

Her life inspired thousands of books. Her life, witness, and legacy have been studied and written about in depth.

Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on Sept. 4, 2016. 

For this reason, it doesn’t seem easy to add anything to the many biographies and stories about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But the film “No Greater Love,” produced by the Knights of Columbus, achieves this feat. 

The film premiere took place in Rome on Aug. 29, while on Aug. 31, there was a press conference about the movie. Tickets for the documentary's U.S. showings can be purchased .

Divided into chapters that tell the salient moments of Mother Teresa’s life, the film is fragmented with interviews with missionaries, members of the order she founded, and biographers of Mother Teresa. 

“Mother Teresa” is not only a reflection on the life of the saint but also gives a general perspective of the great work that the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa do all over the world, in Brazil, in the fields on the border between Mexico and the United States, in the Philippines.

The story of Mother Teresa is well-documented. Born in Skopje to an Albanian-Kosovar family, a minority of the minorities in the Balkan region, she soon felt the missionary impulse, entered the Missionary Nuns of Our Lady of Loreto, and left for India, where she began to work as a teacher. 

After witnessing the shocking impact of local suffering in the streets of Calcutta after some riots, she realized her mission was, first and foremost, to be with the poor. 

Indeed, with the poorest of the poor.

From this vocation was born a work that has touched the entire world. It spread from the slums of Calcutta (Kolkata) to the Bronx, helping those stricken with another kind of poverty: marginalized AIDS patients, who, at the end of the previous century, were at first treated like lepers at the time of Jesus.

Eventually, her vital work was recognized by the world. In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, and in Oslo, she delivered in which she labeled the nations that legalize abortion as “the poorest nations.” 

Mother Teresa’s friendship with St. John Paul II bore many fruits, including a house of the Missionaries of Charity right in the Vatican, where they are today. 

Part of this saint’s enduring legacy is her spirituality, her struggle with the “.” 

What is powerful in is, above all, the images. The producers had full access to the Missionaries of Charity’s archive, finding unpublished or little-known footage, including that of Mother Teresa acting as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

Patrick Kelly, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, emphasized that the film was born “thanks to the relationship of trust between the Knights of Columbus and the Missionaries of Charity.”

After all, Virgil Dechant, the predecessor of Kelly’s predecessor as supreme knight, was a personal friend of Mother Teresa. They collaborated, sharing the mutual value of charity, at the foundations of the Knight of Columbus, considering that “charity is the fundamental principle of the Knights of Columbus.”

In a letter sent to Kelly, Pope Francis that “help, in a creative way, to make zeal for evangelization accessible especially to the younger generations.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, talked about his friendship with Mother Teresa. Although he asked her to send nuns to his diocese on two different occasions “to bring healing and consolation,” Mother Teresa always fulfilled the requests.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator of the cause of the canonization of Mother Teresa, stressed that the film helps to remember the great work and vocation of the saint. 

The movie’s message is that “Calcutta is everywhere” — because there are those in need everywhere: “There is a work of charity yet to be done.”

Sister Myriam Therese, regional superior of the , said it was “nice to see people who changed their lives because they were affected by God’s love” and that Mother Teresa was “a carrier of that love.”

Finally, David Naglieri, the movie’s director, underlined that “they did not want only a biography; we wanted to show her radical call, but also to show how the mission of Mother Teresa continues.”

Pope Francis beatifies John Paul I, pope for 33 days

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2022 / 06:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis beatified John Paul I, who reigned as pope for only 33 days, amid a thunderstorm in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

In his for the rainy beatification Mass on Sept. 4, Pope Francis said that John Paul I “embodied the poverty of a disciple” through his “victory over the temptation to put oneself at the center, to seek one’s own glory.”

Often called “the smiling pope,” died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, 1978, a month after the conclave that elected him.

In one of the shortest pontificates in papal history, John Paul I gained a reputation for his humility and his dedication to teaching the faith in an understandable manner.

Cardinals stood in the rain under yellow and white umbrellas as Pope Francis read out the declaration that Pope John Paul I can now be venerated locally on his feast day on Aug. 26.

“With a smile, Pope John Paul I managed to communicate the goodness of the Lord,” Francis said.

“How beautiful is a Church with a happy, serene and smiling face, that never closes doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbors resentment, does not grow angry or impatient, does not look dour or suffer nostalgia for the past. Let us pray to him, our father and our brother, and ask him to obtain for us ‘the smile of the soul.’”

During the beatification, a large banner on St. Peter’s Basilica unveiled a portrait of Blessed Pope John Paul I as the pope’s postulator processed through the square with a relic—a handwritten note by the blessed pope on the theological virtues.

John Paul I presided over only four general audiences as pope, offering catecheses on poverty, faith, hope, and charity. Pope Francis quoted these throughout his homily.

“As Pope John Paul I said, if you want to kiss Jesus crucified, ‘you cannot help bending over the cross and letting yourself be pricked by a few thorns of the crown on the Lord’s head’ (General Audience, 27 September 1978). A love that perseveres to the end, thorns and all: no leaving things half done, no cutting corners, no fleeing difficulties,” Pope Francis said.

John Paul I was the first pope to be born in the 20th century and the most recent pope to be born in Italy. Born Albino Luciani on Oct. 17, 1912, the future John Paul I grew up in relative poverty in Italy's northern Veneto region.

At the age of 22, he was ordained a priest for the Italian diocese of Belluno e Feltre in 1935. He served as the rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years and taught courses on moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

He participated in all of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) as the bishop of Vittorio Veneto and he worked to implement the guidelines council in the following decade as the Patriarch of Venice.

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

He made history in 1978 when he became the first pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. His episcopal motto was simply: “Humilitas.”

Shortly before his death at the age of 65, John Paul I prayed: “Lord take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become what you want me to be.”

As the rain clouds cleared by the end of the beatification ceremony, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus in Latin. He that he was offering the prayer for peace in “martyred Ukraine.”

From his wheelchair, Pope Francis offered personal greetings at the end of the Mass to some of the cardinals, including . He also greeted the crowd in the popemobile.

“In the words of Pope John Paul I, ‘we are the objects of undying love on the part of God’ (Angelus, 10 September 1978). An undying love: it never sinks beneath the horizon of our lives; it constantly shines upon us and illuminates even our darkest nights,” Pope Francis said.

“When we gaze upon the Crucified Lord, we are called to the heights of that love, to be purified of our distorted ideas of God and our self-absorption, and to love God and others, in Church and society, including those who do not see things as we do, to love even our enemies.”

John Paul I expected to return to Venice before he was elected pope, letter shows

Denver Newsroom, Sep 3, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

A letter written on the eve of the conclave that elected him Bishop of Rome shows that Albino Luciani expected to return to Venice as its patriarch.

“Fortunately, I am absolutely out of danger,” Luciani wrote from Rome Aug. 24, 1978, to Bishop Giuseppe Carraro, who had recently retired as Bishop of Verona.

“As soon as possible I will come to see you,” Luciani, who was elected pope Aug. 26, added.

Luciani took the name John Paul I. He will be beatified Sept. 4.

In his letter to Carraro, who had been his suffragan and is a Venerable, Luciani wrote of the “journalistic inferences and deductions” regarding the conclave’s outcome, but adding that he will maintain the required secrecy surrounding it.

He mentioned his “serious commitment more than ever to pray and work for the Church” and to pray “for him whom the cardinals will elect to succeed the late Paul VI,” noting that he would “have an even more difficult task” than did Montini.

The letter was given by Venerable Carraro to Father Guido Todeschini, founder of Telepace, a Catholic broadcasting network based in the Province of Verona. Todeschini presented the document on a program of the network Sept. 2.

Todeschini plans to give it in turn to the John Paul I Vatican Foundation.

John Paul I reigned for 33 days, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 28, 1978.

He was born in Italy’s Belluno province in 1912, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre in 1935, at age 22.

In 1958 he was consecrated a bishop, and appointed Bishop of Vittorio Veneto. He was appointed Patriarch of Venice in 1969, and made a cardinal in 1973.

John Paul I miracle recipient to miss beatification due to broken foot

Rome Newsroom, Sep 3, 2022 / 07:45 am (CNA).

The young woman who was miraculously healed through the intercession of Pope John Paul I will not attend his beatification in Rome Sunday as planned.

The 22-year-old Candela Giarda explained in a video recorded from Argentina that she had broken her foot and was unable to travel to Italy.

“Unfortunately we can’t go because my foot is broken, but surely at some point we will be able to go to the tomb of John Paul I,” Giarda said in the video, which was shared with CNA’s Spanish language news partner, ACI Prensa.

Giarda was close to death in July 2011 when her mother and local Catholic priest Father José Dabusti prayed for her healing through the intercession of Servant of God Pope John Paul I.

Soon afterward, the 11-year-old Candela began to show signs of improvement, and around six weeks later she was discharged from the hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After the Vatican investigation into Candela’s healing concluded, Pope Francis recognized the event obtained through the intercession of John Paul I on Oct. 13, 2021, paving the way for his beatification.

Giarda thanked “Pope John Paul I for this second chance at life that he gave me; and to Pope Francis for inviting us to his beatification.”

Pope Francis will beatify Venerable John Paul I during Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Sept. 4.

Sometimes called John Paul I reigned for only 33 days, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 28, 1978.

Roxana Sosa, Candela Giarda’s mother, said in the video that they are “very excited, because it is something very important that they beatify the pope thanks to Cande’s miracle.”

“What happened with Cande may help other people to have a little more faith, of hope in the face of difficult times like the ones we are experiencing,” she said. “We appreciate the prayers offered and we entrust ourselves to the prayers of Pope Francis and we are going to continue praying for him.”

The priest who prayed with Roxana Sosa the night the doctors said there was nothing else they could do for Candela will attend John Paul I’s beatification Sept. 4.

At a press conference in Rome Sept. 2 Father José Dabusti said he has often been asked why he suggested the woman entrust her daughter to John Paul I’s intercession.

“That evening of July 22, 2011, when I was called by a mother, Roxana, to go to the bedside of her dying daughter, and looking at her in that condition I was inspired to turn to John Paul I to ask for the healing of her little girl, and together with her, and with some nurses present, I prayed to him,” he said.

“Until that moment I had never prayed to John Paul I for healing,” the priest said, but he explained that the pope had inspired him at his election, which happened when Dabusti was just 13 years old.

“I was really struck by the election and the person of Pope Luciani: I saw that he was very simple and very happy,” he said. “These two traits had caught my attention and aroused my admiration, above all, my spontaneous affection for him.”

After that day, Father Dabusti said he kept a portrait of Pope John Paul I in his room: “Growing up, I begged him to help me discern which vocation to follow.”

“And I am certain that Albino Luciani was a mysterious spiritual father and a silent but effective intercessor for me in deciding to embrace the priestly vocation,” he said.

Pope Francis replaces Order of Malta governing body, high offices

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has revoked the titles of the Order of Malta’s four High Offices, established a provisional government, and convened an extraordinary general chapter for January 2023.

The is the latest step in the reform of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, ordered by Pope Francis in 2017.

Among the new mandates, the pope also approved the order’s new constitutional charter and regulations. The changes go into immediate effect.

“After listening and dialoguing with various representatives of the Order, the time has come to complete the renewal process that has been initiated, in fidelity to the original charism,” Francis said in the decree’s preamble.

He said during the reform of the Order of Malta, “many steps have been taken, but just as many impediments and difficulties encountered along the way.”

Francis’ decree revokes the titles of the Order of Malta’s members in the High Offices, giving them to other members and reconstituting the Sovereign Council, which is the government of the order.

To these four, he also appointed an additional nine new members of the Sovereign Council, forming a provisional government.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta has four High Offices: Grand Commander, Grand Chancellor, Grand Hospitaller, and Receiver of the Common Treasure.

The Lieutenant Grand Master of the Order of Malta remains Fra’ John Dunlap, who was appointed by Pope Francis after the sudden death of his predecessor Fra’ Marco Luzzago, in a move which sidestepped the order’s electoral process.

Pope Francis also convoked an Extraordinary General Chapter for Jan. 25, 2023, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

Francis stated that next year’s meeting will be held in compliance with the new regulations and will be prepared by his special delegate Cardinal Silvano Tomasi and Lieutenant Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap, with assistance from the interim Sovereign Council.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is both a lay religious order of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state subject to international law. In 2017, Pope Francis ordered reforms of both the order’s religious life and its constitution.

Concerns have been raised throughout the reform process that some of Pope Francis’ actions threaten the Order of Malta’s sovereignty.

Pope Francis’ Sept. 3 decree was issued following a meeting with a delegation of the Order of Malta at the Vatican.

The decree also follows crucial of the order held in August.

Nine things to know about John Paul I

Denver Newsroom, Sep 2, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Venerable John Paul I was born Albino Luciani on Oct. 17, 1912 in the town of Canale d'Argordo in northern Italy’s Belluno province. He was the most recent pope to be born in Italy and the first pope to be born in the twentieth century. 

He was elected to the papacy on Aug. 26, 1978. He would be dead just a month later. Though his time as Roman Pontiff was brief, he had such an impact that some Catholics have sought his intercession as a saint. The Vatican has recognized a miraculous healing attributed to the first Pope John Paul and he will be beatified this Sunday.

Here’s more to know:

The photogenic smile of the pope helped cement his reputation and his nickname.

His reputation echoed his pastoral style: he drew praise for his ability to be close to ordinary people. He could present Christianity and Catholic teaching in a way that was accessible. 

For example, he spoke to Italy’s children before their first day of school in remarks after the Sunday Angelus on Sept 17. 

For them, he invoked the example of the folk tale figure Pinocchio: “not the boy who one day skipped school to go and see puppets; but that other boy, Pinocchio who took a liking to school. So much so that during the entire school year, every day, in class, he was the first to enter and the last to leave.”

When a massive congregation gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his inaugural Mass as Pope, he pledged a spirit of service. 

“Let all here, great or small, be assured of our readiness to serve them according to the Spirit of the Lord,” he said.

He approached being pope with humility. In a Sept. 23 homily at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, he said: “Although already for twenty years I have been Bishop at Vittorio Veneto and at Venice, I admit that I have not yet ‘learned the job’ well.”

“It is God’s law that one cannot do good to anyone if one does not first of all wish him well… I can assure you that I love you, that I desire only to enter into your service and to place the poor powers that I have, however little they are, at the disposal of all.”

He was the first pope to take two names. “John” and “Paul” honored his two immediate predecessors, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. 

John XXIII, the former Patriarch of Venice, had made him a bishop. Paul VI had named him the Patriarch of Venice and a cardinal.

Luciani explained why he chose to be the first “Pope John Paul” in , the day after he was elected Roman Pontiff: 

“Pope John had decided to consecrate me himself in St. Peter’s Basilica. Then, however unworthy, I succeeded him in Venice on the Chair of St. Mark, in that Venice which is still full of Pope John. He is remembered by the gondoliers, the Sisters, everyone.”

“Then Pope Paul not only made me a cardinal, but some months earlier, on the wide footbridge in St Mark’s Square, he made me blush to the roots of my hair in the presence of 20,000 people, because he removed his stole and placed it on my shoulders,” he continued. “Never have I blushed so much!”

Pope Paul VI was pope for 15 years. Pope John Paul said that his predecessor showed “not only to me but to the whole world, how to love, how to serve, how to labor and to suffer for the Church of Christ.”

“I have neither the ‘wisdom of the heart’ of Pope John, nor the preparation and culture of Pope Paul, but I am in their place,” he told those gathered for the Angelus. “I must seek to serve the Church. I hope that you will help me with your prayers.”

Though he didn’t know it, John Paul’s was his last. He reflected on a prayer taught him by his mother.

“My God, with all my heart above all things I love You, infinite good and our eternal happiness, and for your sake I love my neighbor as myself and forgive offenses received,” the prayer said. “Oh Lord, may I love you more and more.”

“This is a very well-known prayer, embellished with biblical phrases,” the pope commented. “My mother taught it to me. I recite it several times a day even now, and I will try to explain it to you, word by word, as a parish catechist would do.”

Reflecting on the prayer’s last words, “,” John Paul I explained that we should love God “so much.” We must not stop at our current point, “but with his help, progress in love.”

John Paul I was pope for 33 days, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 28, 1978. His 33-day pontificate was the 10th shortest. The last pope to have such a brief pontificate was Leo XI, whose pontificate lasted 27 days in April 1605.  

The death of a pope so soon after his election caused such great shock that it continues to attract attention. 

Vatican reporter Stefania Falasca’s 2017 book “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” is a recent effort that thoroughly discusses his last days. Her work draws on medical reports, witness testimonies, and Vatican documents.

She recounts that the evening before his death, the pope suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem. This took place before dinner while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Monsignor John Magee.

When the pain subsided, the pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor. Renato Buzzonetti, his doctor, was only informed of this episode after the pope died.

The specific cause of his death will likely never be ascertained with certainty because no autopsy was performed, in keeping with Vatican protocol. Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, the former postulator for John Paul I's sainthood cause, has said medical records collected as part of the process also support the conclusion that the pope died of natural causes.

There are various rumors about John Paul’s death, including sensational speculations about an assassination plot by nefarious groups with an interest in the Vatican’s role in religion, politics, or finance.  

His 1976 book Illustrissimi is a collection of imaginative fiction: “open letters” to historic figures, saints, famous writers and imaginary characters. Some are playful in style, while others engage in social commentary, personal advice, or spiritual reflection. 

Several are matters of religious devotion. One collection of these letters closes with John Paul’s letter he wrote “with trepidation” to Christ. 

“With You I try to maintain a constant conversation. But to translate it into letters is difficult: these are personal things… And besides, what can I write to You, about You, after all the books that have been written on You?” the letter said.

Expressing dissatisfaction with his open letter to Christ, the future pope concluded: “the important thing is not that one person should write about Christ, but that many should love and imitate Christ.”

Despite his “pastoral” reputation, the future John Paul I never served as a pastor leading a parish! He was a curate for his hometown church in Canale d'Agordo only for the six months after his ordination in July 1935. During his life, he was a seminary professor and seminary rector. He held several leading roles in the chancery of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre before he was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto in northern Italy. From there, he would become Patriarch of Venice, cardinal, and pope.

Candela Giarda, an 11-year-old girl from Paraná in northeastern Argentina, suffered brain dysfunction and septic shock amid uncontrollable seizures. She was later diagnosed with Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome.

The girl’s mother, Roxana Sosa, went to pray in the Catholic church next to the Buenos Aires hospital and met a priest, Father José Dabusti.

Candela’s health became worse and worse, a Vatican investigation later reported. 

On July 22, 2011, doctors said Candela was facing “imminent death,” When Dabusti came to pray with the girl’s mother, he suggested they pray for healing through the intercession of John Paul I.

Though Sosa did not know much about the deceased pope, she prayed to him exclusively. The priest and the nursing staff of the intensive care unit joined their prayers to hers. 

Candela showed improvement overnight. Two weeks later, her doctors removed her breathing tube. Her epilepsy was cured a month later, and she was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 5. 

The young girl is now a young woman in her early 20s. As of last year, she was pursuing veterinary studies.

Dabusti reported the apparent miracle to Vatican officials and followed their instructions to record everything that had happened. 

By coincidence, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires at the time was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis. After the proper investigation by Church officials, Francis on Oct. 21, 2021 recognized Pope John Paul’s miracle.

UPDATE: Pope Francis praises Knights of Columbus’ Mother Teresa documentary

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 1, 2022 / 13:33 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent the Knights of Columbus a letter thanking the fraternal order for its new documentary about Mother Teresa.

“Thank you for all the efforts made to capture the life of this saint whose life and testimony have borne much fruit," the Holy Father wrote in the letter, addressed to Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly. Pope Francis added that he hoped the documentary "will do much good to all those who watch it and arouse the desire for holiness.”

The film, "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love," had its world premiere this week at the North American College seminary in Rome on Aug. 29 and the Vatican Film Library on Aug. 31.

David Naglieri, the film’s director, told CNA’s sister agency ACI Prensa in an interview Wednesday that there is a generation of young people who don’t know much about Mother Teresa, not having had the benefit of seeing the saint in real life.

“I felt like this film was very, very necessary today to remind people of this incredible life and also the incredible work that continues to be done by the Missionaries of Charity,” Naglieri said. The Missionaries of Charity are the religious community that Mother Teresa founded in 1950.

Kelly also spoke with ACI Prensa about the film’s ability to teach young people about St. Teresa of Calcutta.

“Our first principle is charity,” Kelly said, speaking about why he supported the film. “So, it's natural that we would look to Mother Teresa as an example.”

“But I think the most important reason is that this film will introduce Mother Teresa to a whole new generation of young people who don't really know her,” he said. “They've heard of her, but they have no living memory of her.”

Kelly said that the Knights offered a showing of  to seminarians earlier in the week. The seminarians were under 10 years old when Mother Teresa died, he noted.

“So they really don't know who Mother Teresa was, and I think that's the real reason why we're doing this, because she had such a profound impact on all of us who remember her and we want to convey that, pass that, to a new generation,” he said. You can watch the film's official trailer below.

The film's premiere was held at the Vatican Film Library. Attending the showing was Kelly; Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, postulator of the cause of canonization for Mother Teresa; Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals; Cardinal James Michael Harvey, Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, and Joe Donnelly, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Pope Francis was not present at the showing. However, Kelly said he gave a copy of the film to Pope Francis in a private meeting with him the morning of the premiere. 

“His eyes lit up about the film,” Kelly told ACI Prensa. Pope Francis told Kelly that he, also, hoped the film could reach a younger audience.

In theaters Oct. 3-4, “Mother Teresa: No Greater Love” is airing in more than 960 locations across the United States. Featuring footage from five different continents, the film displays the life of the 20th-century saint and the impact both she and her Missionaries of Charity have had on the people they have served throughout the world. 

“The Missionaries of Charity are not publicity seekers,” Naglieri told CNA in an interview Aug. 23. “So, to have the opportunity to highlight the incredible work they do and the way that they live the Gospel, I think this story can positively impact people’s lives and draw them closer to their faith.”

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for September: ‘Abolition of the death penalty’

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to pray in September for an end to the death penalty.

He made the appeal in his September prayer intention, shared with an accompanying video on Aug. 31.

“We pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country,” reads the prayer intention, promoted by the .

In the video explaining his prayer intention, Pope Francis said that “the death penalty is morally inadmissible as it destroys the most important gift we have received: life.”

“Let us not forget that, up to the very last moment, a person can convert and change,” the pope said.

“And in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable. The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ refers to both the innocent and the guilty.”

More people were executed by the death penalty in 2021 than the year prior, with 579 executions recorded in 18 countries, according to Amnesty International.

The most known executions took place in China, followed by Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

In the United States, 11 people were executed by lethal injection last year in the states of Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. 

Catholic bishops in the US, notably Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and of Brownsville, have advocated for individual prisoners on death row this year.

While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.

Pope Francis revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to state that the death penalty is “inadmissible.” 

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.

In the pope’s video message, he urged “all people of goodwill to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.”

“Society can effectively repress crime without definitively depriving the offenders of the possibility of redeeming themselves,” Pope Francis said.

“Always, in every legal sentence, there must be a window of hope.”

New cardinal from Ghana to undergo heart surgery in Rome

Rome Newsroom, Aug 31, 2022 / 08:08 am (CNA).

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr is expected to undergo heart surgery in Rome by the end of this week, according to the spokesman for the Ghana Catholic bishops' conference.

The African cardinal in the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome last week shortly before the Vatican ceremony in which a red biretta from Pope Francis.

Father Dieu-Donne Kofi Davor, the communications director for the Ghana Catholic bishops’ conference, told CNA on Aug. 31 that the “surgery will take place before the week ends.”

“We are praying for his speedy recovery and return to Ghana soon,” Davor said.

Baawobr’s absence from the consistory presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica did not prevent him from being elevated to the College of Cardinals on Aug. 27.

The 63-year-old received the title of cardinal while being treated in the Roman hospital. Pope Francis asked people to pray for Baawobr at the end of his homily for the consistory.

Baawobr was recently elected head of the African bishops’ conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), at the end of July.

He has led the Diocese of Wa, in northwest Ghana, since 2016, and is known locally for his charity and care for people with mental disabilities in a country where the stigmatization of mental illness is still high.

Six years ago he launched a diocesan street ministry that brings together parish volunteers and health care professionals to provide care and medical assistance for people with mental disabilities who have been abandoned by their families.

“I think each one of us, wherever we are, we are called to serve, and that is what will make us great, not the title,” Baawobr said in an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s Nairobi-based news partner, before traveling to Rome for the consistory.

Before he became Bishop of Wa, Baawobr was the first African to serve as the superior general of the Missionaries of Africa, commonly called the "White Fathers" for their distinctive white cassocks.

The current superior of the Missionaries of Africa is one of the only people who has been allowed to visit Baawobr while he has been hospitalized in Rome, according to Davor.

A delegation from the diocese of Wa, who accompanied Baawobr to Italy for the consistory, has been able to continue with its scheduled pilgrimages to basilicas in Rome and Assisi despite the cardinal’s medical problems.

Baawobr was one of two newly created cardinals from Africa, along with Cardinal Peter Okpaleke from Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese, in Saturday’s ceremony.

“I do not want to end without recalling Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, who yesterday, upon his arrival in Rome, felt bad and was hospitalized with a heart problem,” Pope Francis said at the consistory.

“Let us pray for this brother who ought to have been here and is hospitalized,” he said.

New cardinal and clergy chief: ‘My role is to encourage priests’

Rome Newsroom, Aug 31, 2022 / 04:24 am (CNA).

A new cardinal and the Vatican’s prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy said his role is to encourage priests and help them live lives based on the Word of God.

“My role is to encourage priests — to give them hope, strength,” Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik told CNA in a brief interview before the .

The 70-year-old cardinal is the first Korean to lead an office of the Roman Curia. He was appointed by Pope Francis last year and took up his post on Aug. 2, 2021.

“It is important for us that there are many good, heroic priests in the world, who carry out their activity like good shepherds,” You said. 

The Dicastery for Clergy was formerly called the Congregation for Clergy. It was renamed earlier this year as part of Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, as laid out in the constitution .

The clergy office is responsible for overseeing the world’s approximately 50,000 diocesan priests and 50,000 permanent deacons. Seminaries for training new priests are also under the dicastery’s jurisdiction.

Seminary formation and ongoing formation for priests are under the purview of the Dicastery for Clergy, as well as dispensation from ministry.

You said priests need ongoing formation, and when it is done well, it can help contribute to happy, good priests.

“It is important to have continuous formation ... based on the Word,” he said.

A priest who bases his life on the Word of God is like the house built on the rock, while a priest who does not is like the house built on sand, the cardinal said, referencing Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7, that the house set on the rock of God’s Word “did not collapse” in the storm, while the house built on sand “was completely ruined.”

The cardinal also emphasized the importance of reciprocal love, as expressed by Christ’s New Commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” 

“This is what God wants,” he said, noting that when we learn to love more, Jesus is in our midst. “This is the synodal Church,” he added. 

“So how important it is to live the Word myself too, I must live it, then form the community so the Church will go forward,” You said. “I will strive for this for priests, for seminarians.”

According to the prefect, “theology does not convert people,” and preaching can convert a little. “But where there really is a good example, it can change people,” he said, especially the example of priests.

You was born in the city of Nonsan on Nov. 17, 1951. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Daejeon in 1979.

Before Pope Francis appointed him head of the Dicastery for Clergy, You led the Diocese of Daejeon in South Korea for over 16 years, taking up the post in 2005, after he was appointed coadjutor bishop in 2003.

In August 2014, You hosted Pope Francis in his diocese for the Sixth Asian Youth Day, when the pope celebrated Mass in Daejeon World Cup Stadium.

He made multiple trips to North Korea on behalf of the South Korean bishops’ conference and participated in the youth synod in Rome in 2018.

Pope Francis elevated You to the College of Cardinals in a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica on Aug. 27, 2022.

You is the second Asian now leading one of the Vatican’s 16 dicasteries, alongside Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and former archbishop of Manila in the Philippines.

Discernment is ‘indispensable for living’: Pope Francis launches new catechesis series

Rome Newsroom, Aug 31, 2022 / 03:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has launched a new catechesis series on spiritual discernment.

The pope announced on Aug. 31 that he will provide reflections in his upcoming Wednesday general audiences on the “demanding” work of making sound judgments, which he said requires “knowledge, experience, emotion, and the will.”

“God invites us to evaluate and choose: He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. For this reason, discernment is demanding,” Pope Francis said in on the new topic in Paul VI Hall.

“We have often had this experience: choosing something that seemed good to us and yet was not. Or knowing what our true good was and not choosing it.”

The pope explained that humans, unlike animals, can be unwilling to make the right choices.

“The Bible shows this from its very first pages,” he said. “God gives man a precise instruction: if you want to live, if you want to enjoy life, remember that you are a creature, that you are not the criterion of good and evil, and that the choices you make will have a consequence, for you, for others and for the world (cf. Genesis 2:16–17); you can make the earth a magnificent garden or you can make it a desert of death.”

Pope Francis underlined that discernment is “indispensable for living.” He said that it requires both self-knowledge and a filial relationship with God. 

“Discernment is an important act that concerns everyone, because choices are an essential part of life. Discerning choices. One chooses food, clothing, a course of study, a job, a relationship. In all of these, a life project is realized, and so is our relationship with God.”

The pope noted that “great choices can arise from circumstances that at first sight seem secondary, but turn out to be decisive.”

He pointed to the example of when Andrew and John first met Jesus and responded to his call, “Come and see.” 

“Years later, the Evangelist will continue to remember that encounter that changed him forever, and he will even remember the time: ‘It was about four o’clock in the afternoon’ (John 1:39). It is the hour when time and the eternal met in his life,” Francis said.

Pope Francis’ spiritual education as a Jesuit priest before he became pope formed him in St. Ignatius’ writing on discernment of spirits and examination of conscience. 

Throughout his pontificate, Francis has often spoken about discerning God’s will and listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice in homilies and speeches — recently with regard to

At the end of the audience, the pope prayed for Iraq, where there has been an uptick in violence this week. He also noted that Sept. 1 will mark the anniversary of the start of World War II.

In his greeting to Polish pilgrims, he said: “Tomorrow you will remember the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, which so painfully marked the Polish nation — and today we are living through the third. May the memory of past experiences push you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in families, in social and international life. We pray for the people of Ukraine.”

The new topic on discernment replaces the pope’s 18-week-long cycle of catechesis on old age. The pope has used the combination of a wheelchair and a cane when greeting the crowd during his general audiences since last May.

“God is Father and he does not leave us alone, he is always willing to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us. But he never imposes his will. Why? Because he wants to be loved and not feared. And also, God wants children, not slaves: free children,” he said.

“And love can only be lived in freedom. To learn to live one must learn to love, and for this it is necessary to discern. … May the Holy  Spirit guide us! Let us invoke him every day, especially when we have choices to make.”

Pope Francis to cardinals: We are jointly responsible for the Church

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

We have the same mission to evangelize the world as did the apostles 2,000 years ago, a fact that should fill us with wonder at our position of responsibility, Pope Francis said at Mass with the College of Cardinals Tuesday.

“We continue to marvel at the unfathomable divine decision to evangelize the whole world starting with that ragtag group of disciples, some of whom — as the evangelist tells us — still doubted,” Pope Francis said during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Aug. 30.

“Yet, if we think about it, we should marvel no less if we look at ourselves, gathered here today, to whom the Lord has spoken those same words, given that same mandate.”

Wonder is a way to salvation, the pope continued. “May God keep it ever alive in our hearts, for it sets us free from the temptation of thinking that we can ‘manage things.’ Or from the false security of thinking that today is somehow different, no longer like the origins.”

Francis said: “Today the Church is big, solid, and we occupy eminent positions in its hierarchy… There is some truth in this, but there is also much deception, whereby the Father of Lies seeks to make Christ’s followers first worldly, then innocuous.”

The Mass with the College of Cardinals was offered for the Church. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, led the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pope Francis preached at the Mass, in a cope.

In his homily, the pope decried a “cancer of spiritual worldliness.”

A minister of the Church, he said, is “one who experiences wonder before God’s plan and, in that spirit, passionately loves the Church and stands at the service of her mission wherever and however the Holy Spirit may choose.”

He said Catholics should marvel not only at God’s plan of salvation, but at the “even more amazing fact” that God calls them to participate in this plan.

For Catholics, there is a “double mystery of our being blessed in Christ and of going forth with Christ into the world.”

“This wonder,” he said, addressing the new cardinals, “does not diminish with the passing of the years; it does not weaken with our increasing responsibilities in the Church. No, thanks be to God. It grows stronger and deeper.”

The Mass with new cardinals followed two days of with the College of Cardinals to discuss Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, as laid out in the constitution .

197 cardinals participated in the extraordinary consistory, the first of its kind in seven years.

In his homily, Pope Francis pointed to Saint Pope Paul VI and his 1964 encyclical on the Church, .

Saint Paul VI loved the Church with “a love which is first and foremost gratitude, grateful wonder at her mystery and at the gift of our being not only members of the Church, but involved in her life, sharing in and, indeed, jointly responsible for her,” he said.

“At the beginning of his programmatic encyclical , written during the [Second Vatican] Council,” Francis said, “the first thought that came to the pope’s mind was that ‘the Church needs to cultivate a deeper awareness of her identity… her origin and her mission.’”

“In this regard, he made explicit reference to the Letter to the Ephesians, to ‘the providential plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God… so that through the Church… it may be made known.’”

“This was the case with the Apostle Saint Paul, as we see from his letters. His apostolic zeal and the concern for the community was always accompanied, and indeed preceded, by words of blessing filled with wonder and gratitude: ‘Blessed be God…’” Pope Francis said.

“May it also be the case with us,” he concluded. “May it be the case with each of you, dear brother Cardinals. May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain this grace for each and every one of us.”

Vatican: Pope Francis’ Ukraine War comments not a ‘political stance’

Rome Newsroom, Aug 30, 2022 / 05:51 am (CNA).

The Holy See said Pope Francis’ recent comments on a car bombing that killed the daughter of an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be interpreted as a “political stance.”

In a statement released Aug. 30, the Vatican also called the Russia-Ukraine conflict a “large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of Pope Francis’ comments have come under criticism, including a statement he made in an interview in June that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “perhaps somehow provoked.”

He was also by Ukraine’s Vatican Ambassador last week for his characterization of the Aug. 20 death of Darya Dugina, a 29-year-old journalist and political commentator known for her support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dugina was the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political thinker believed to be close to Putin.

The Holy See’s unsigned communication said Pope Francis has made “numerous speeches” on the Ukraine War “mostly aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of goodwill to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace.”

“It is reiterated that the Holy Father’s words on this tragic issue should be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values attached to it, and not as taking a political stance,” the Holy See said.

The Vatican’s statement appeared to refer in part to criticism over Pope Francis’ Aug. 24 appeal for an end to the war in Ukraine, in which he referenced Dugina’s death.

“I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness,” Francis said at the end of his general audience.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, criticized Francis’ remarks on Twitter, writing that the speech “was disappointing” and conflated the categories of “aggressor and victim.”

The Holy See’s statement said, “on more than one occasion, as well as in recent days, public discussions have arisen on the political significance to be attached to [Pope Francis’] speeches” on the war in Ukraine.

“As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, Holy Father Francis’ speeches are clear and unambiguous in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant, and sacrilegious,” the statement continued.

Pope Francis’ most recent mention of Ukraine was during his Aug. 28 trip to the central Italian town of .

After leading the Angelus, he said: “Let us pray for the people of Ukraine and for all those who suffer because of war. May the God of peace revive a human and Christian sense of pity and mercy in the hearts of the leaders of nations. Mary, Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace, pray for us.”

197 cardinals meet behind closed doors — but what is being discussed?

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2022 / 11:22 am (CNA).

The cardinals of the Catholic Church have been called to Rome for an . It is the first of its kind in seven years — and only the second of the pontificate of Pope Francis. 

197 cardinals have followed the call. But what are they discussing, behind closed doors, this Monday and Tuesday? 

So far, information is hard to come by. Vatican watchers know that the meetings are dedicated to discussing the new of the Roman Curia,. The cardinals are broken up into language groups for the first round of debates. Then they reconvene and discuss their findings in a plenary session — much like was done in recent . 

We also know that the debates form the third consistory within only a few days: The first, on Aug. 27, was dedicated to creating . A second, immediately after, to approve the canonization of two blesseds: an Italian bishop and founder of the Missionaries of St. Charles, and an Italian immigrant to Argentina who was a nurse and Salesian Brother.

While this context is significant — as is the historic backdrop of the papal on Sunday — the communication from the Holy See today was sparse indeed, one vaticanist, among others: “The entirety of the information we have from the #Vatican as to the meeting today between #PopeFrancis and the world's Catholic cardinals. One sentence: ‘Taking place today at the Vatican, in the presence of the Holy Father Francis, is the meeting of the cardinals…'”

One cardinal offered a glimpse, at least, of the atmosphere of today’s gathering. The first meeting with the Pope took place in a very fraternal atmosphere, Cardinal Enrico Feroci, pastor of Santa Maria del Divino Amore in Castel di Leva near Rome, told .

After the opening prayer, he said, Francis opened the meeting by inviting everyone present to contribute to these two days of reflection on . 

Cardinal Feroci also said, according to the Vatican’s own reporting, that two reflections had been shared so far: One on Communion, the witness of mutual love among Christians, and one on the challenges of today's society to open itself to the message of the Gospel. 

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, in a subsequent conversation with Vatican News, again highlighted the great participation of the cardinals in the meeting, where an open and intense dialogue was maintained. 

Tomorrow, these “open and intense” debates will take place in a plenary meeting before this extraordinary consistory concludes: In the afternoon of Aug. 30, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with entire College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

'Taken out of context': Pontifical Academy defends Archbishop Paglia's abortion law remarks

Rome Newsroom, Aug 29, 2022 / 06:49 am (CNA).

The Pontifical Academy for Life on Monday clarified remarks of the Academy's president on Italian television that the law legalizing abortion in Italy was a "pillar of society". 

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia had been taken out of context, a spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNA on request.

"The intention of this statement was not to make a value judgment about the law, but to state that it is practically impossible to abolish Law 194, since it is now a structural part of the relevant legislation," Fabrizio Mastrofini explained. 

"So there is much to say about the quality of the 'pillar.’"

In his interview with Italian state television Rai Tre, Paglia said, “I believe that at this point Law 194 is a pillar of our society.” 

Italy's “Law 194,” established in 1978, made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for specific reasons with a physician's referral.

Paglia said on Italian television: “In my opinion, and I have written as much, I would like to see more emphasis on the part that is hardly spoken of, namely the right to motherhood, to see our country grow, in the face of the drama of a generational imbalance that is quite dramatic.”

The prelate added he would “exhort to look with trust upon a country that wishes to live in liberty, development, and progress, and I think that the crisis in natality is a problem on which we have unfortunately not reflected and it is already late.”

Paglia’s words sparked strong criticism, with one Italian commentator in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana: “We have hit rock bottom. We are at a point of no return, at ground zero of morality, faith, reasonableness and consistency. We have the president of an academy founded to protect life protecting a law that destroys life.”

One pro-life spokesman also criticized Paglia’s choice of words. 

“We do not understand how a law that suppresses defenseless and innocent human lives can be a ‘pillar’ of society,” Jacob Coghe of Pro Vita & Famiglia . 

The Pontifical Academy for Life’s spokesman called some of the reactions to Paglia's remarks "more than specious, even insulting." Mastrofini also said the word "pillar" had been taken out of context.

"Archbishop Paglia, in the same interview, strongly emphasized the urgent need to promote the part of the law that is concerned with the protection and promotion of motherhood," the academy’s statement continued.

"That then the law can, indeed must, be improved in the direction of more comprehensive protection of the unborn child is more than desirable, taking care to avoid the risk of aggravating the situation, as has unfortunately happened in some cases."

In the past, the academy’s statement said, Paglia had spoken "about the protection and promotion of life at all stages of development (from conception to death) and in all situations," such as "children, women, prisoners, people sentenced to death, migrants, the elderly." 

The has recently courted controversy over and statements made on social media. 

In late June, the academy's began promoting a Vatican-published book synthesizing a 2021 seminar on ethics, in which a participant discussed "the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases."

The pontifical academy said in an that the seminar discussed "all the issues related to the ethics of life … including contraception and sexual matrimonial morality." was also a topic of the seminar.

Some of the promotional for the seminar and subsequent book received in media reports and from Catholic Twitter users who said they presented wrong or confusing information about the Church's teachings.

The Pontifical Academy for Life was founded by Pope St. John Paul II and professor Jerome Lejeune in 1994. Pope Francis named Archbishop Paglia president of the academy in 2016. The institution is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic. 

In November 2016, the academy came under controversy after Paglia a requirement that academy members sign a statement promising to defend life in conformity with the Church’s magisterium.  

Since abortion's legalization in Italy, it is estimated more than 6 million children have been aborted.

Pope Francis becomes first pope in more than 700 years to open the Holy Door in L’Aquila

Rome Newsroom, Aug 28, 2022 / 04:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis became the first pope in 728 years to open the Holy Door of a 13th-century basilica in L’Aquila, Italy, on Sunday.

During a visit to the Italian city located about 70 miles northeast of Rome on Aug. 28, the pope participated in a centuries-old tradition, the Celestinian Forgiveness, known in Italian as the .

The opening of the Holy Door marked a key moment in the annual celebration established by Pope Celestine V in 1294.

“For centuries L’Aquila has kept alive the gift that Pope Celestine V left it. It is the privilege of reminding everyone that with mercy, and only with it, the life of every man and woman can be lived with joy,” Pope Francis said in his during Mass at L’Aquila’s Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio.

“To be forgiven is to experience here and now what comes closest to the resurrection. Forgiveness is passing from death to life, from the experience of anguish and guilt to that of freedom and joy. May this church always be a place where we can be reconciled, and experience that grace that puts us back on our feet and gives us another chance,” he said.

Pope Francis began the day trip at 7:50 a.m. traveling by helicopter from the Vatican to L’Aquila. He visited the city’s cathedral, which is still being rebuilt after it was badly damaged during a 2009 earthquake in which more than 300 people died.

The pope wore a hard hat while touring the reconstruction area of the damaged church. He spoke to family members of earthquake victims in the town square in front of the cathedral, where local prisoners were also present in the crowd. People cheered and waved Vatican flags as Pope Francis greeted them from a wheelchair.

Pope Francis said: “First of all I thank you for your witness of faith: despite the pain and loss, which belong to our faith as pilgrims, you have fixed your gaze on Christ, crucified and risen, who with his love redeemed the nonsense of pain and death.”

“And Jesus has placed you back in the arms of the Father, who does not let a tear fall in vain, not even one, but gathers them all in his merciful heart,” he added.

After speaking to the families of the victims, Pope Francis traveled in the popemobile to L’Aquila’s Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, where he celebrated an outdoor Mass, recited the Angelus, and opened the Holy Door.

In his brief , the pope offered a prayer for the people of Pakistan, where flash floods have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced thousands more.

Pope Francis also asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary to obtain “forgiveness and peace for the whole world,” mentioning Ukraine and all other places suffering from war.

During his visit to L’Aquila, the pope said that he wanted the central Italian city to become a “capital of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation.”

“This is how peace is built through forgiveness received and given,” he said.

L’Aquila is the burial place of , who led the Catholic Church for just five months before his resignation on Dec. 13, 1294. The pope, who was canonized in 1313, is buried in L’Aquila’s .

In the spring, the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis would visit L’Aquila prompted unsourced speculation that the trip could be the prelude to the 85-year-old pope’s resignation.

When Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years in 2013, Vatican-watchers recalled that he had visited the tomb of Celestine V years earlier. During his trip on April 28, 2009, he — the white wool vestment given to metropolitan archbishops — on the tomb. In hindsight, commentators suggested that Benedict was indicating his intention to resign.

In his homily in L’Aquila, Pope Francis praised Pope Celestine V for his humility and courage.

Mentioning Dante Alighieri’s description of Celestine as the man of “the great refusal,” Pope Francis underlined that Celestine should not be remembered as a man of “no” — for resigning the papacy — but as a man of “yes.”

Pope Francis said: “Indeed, there is no other way to accomplish God’s will than by assuming the strength of the humble, there is no other way. Precisely because they are so, the humble appear weak and losers in the eyes of men, but in reality they are the true winners, for they are the only ones who trust completely in the Lord and know his will.”

At the end of the Mass, the crowd prayed the Litany of Saints and watched as Pope Francis made history when he opened the basilica’s Holy Door. According to of L’Aquila, Pope Francis is the to open the Holy Door in 728 years.

Visiting cardinals have opened the Holy Door for the Celestinian Forgiveness in past years, after a reading of the bull of forgiveness by the local mayor. Celestine donated the papal bull to L’Aquila, where it is kept in an armored chapel in the tower of the town hall.

The drawn up by Celestine V offered a plenary indulgence to all who, having confessed and repented of their sins, go to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio from Vespers on Aug. 28 to sunset on Aug. 29. A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary, and all the saints to remove the temporal punishment due to sin.

Celestine’s indulgence was exceptional at the time, given it was available to anyone, regardless of status or wealth, and cost nothing except personal repentance at a time when indulgences were often tied to almsgiving.

After opening the Holy Door, Pope Francis was wheeled through the basilica to the tomb of Pope Celestine V, where he spent a moment in silent prayer before the relics of his papal predecessor who was declared a saint in 1313.

“In the spirit of the world, which is dominated by pride, today’s Word of God invites us to be humble and meek. Humility does not consist in the devaluation of self, but rather in that healthy realism that makes us recognize our potential and also our miseries,” Pope Francis said.

“Starting precisely from our miseries, humility causes us to look away from ourselves and turn our gaze to God, the One who can do everything and also obtains for us what we cannot have on our own. 'Everything is possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23).’”

One new cardinal did not attend the consistory due to heart problems — Here is what Pope Francis said:

CNA Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 13:46 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis ended his homily during the Aug. 27 consistory that one cardinal-elect, Richard Kuuia Baawobr of Wa (Ghana), was not present. Francis asked for prayers for the African prelate, explaining Baawobr had been taken ill.

The Holy Father said Cardinal Baawobr had been hospitalized and, therefore, unable to attend the ceremony. 

“I do not want to end without recalling Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, who yesterday, upon his arrival in Rome, felt bad and was hospitalized with a heart problem and I think they did some type of operation,” said Pope Francis after his homily for the day’s festivities. 

“Let us pray for this brother who ought to have been here and is hospitalized,” said the Holy Father. “Thank you.”

Elected President of the (SECAM) on July 30, the 63-year-old Baawobr is known in Ghana for “many acts of charity, key among them, his love for people suffering from mental challenges and who have been neglected by their families,” CNA’s sister agency ACI Africa in July.

Baawobr also serves as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a post he has held since July 2020. 

He is one of two newly created cardinals from Africa, the other – Cardinal Peter Okpaleke – hails from Nigeria's Ekwulobia Diocese. Another Ghanaian cardinal, Peter Turkson, currently serves as chancellor of the and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The hospitalization reveals how swiftly numbers for the conclave can change. With the cardinal, today’s consistory brings the total number of cardinal electors from Africa to 17 or 12.8% of the total cardinal electors. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world's fastest-growing regions of Catholicism, according to statistics published by the Vatican in the Annuario Pontificio and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.

In a July 28 interview with ACI Africa, Baawobr reflected on his mission as cardinal, saying, “It is an occasion to renew our commitment to serve and to serve in collaboration with the Holy Father.”

“It comes down very strongly that we are not alone in this mission. And the Holy Father is inviting us to share, to collaborate with him,” he said and added, “I think from there also I draw the message that wherever we are, if people are needing our collaboration in order to attain a specific goal, we should offer that with joy and humility and simplicity.”

New cardinals and Pope Francis pay visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

 Pope Francis and the new cardinals visited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after the consistory held Saturday at St. Peter's Basilica.

In the brief but emotional meeting, Pope Francis greeted Benedict XVI with great affection and made the sign of the cross on his forehead. Then the new cardinals introduced themselves one by one to exchange brief messages.

The Holy See Press Office reported that “after having received their blessing, together with that of Pope Francis and having prayed the Salve Regina together, the new Cardinals went to the Apostolic Palace or the Paul VI Hall for courtesy visits. ”.

Benedict XVI, 95, personally participated in two of the eight consistories called by Pope Francis: February 22, 2014 and February 15, 2015. 

Since 2015, after participating in the opening of the Holy Door for the Extraordinary Holy Year of Divine Mercy, the public presence of Benedict XVI has noticeably decreased and since the 2016 consistory, the new cardinals have always visited the Pope Emeritus at the Monastery. Mater Ecclesiae.

Pope Francis has a custom of visiting Benedict XVI at Easter and Christmas. His last visit was on April 13, 2022, on the eve of Easter and three days after the 95th birthday of the Pontiff Emeritus.

The date is set: 'Apostle of the Catechism' to be declared a saint of the Catholic Church

Rome Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 08:34 am (CNA).

A renowned Italian priest and bishop dedicated to evangelization and teaching the Catechism will be declared a saint of the Catholic Church on Oct. 9.

At the on Saturday, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, announced that the pope set Oct. 9 as the date for the canonization of  together with Blessed Artemide Zatti.

Pope Francis previously approved the canonizations in a degree on May 21, 2022, with a dispensation from the requirement for a second miracle in the case of Scalabrini.

A native of the Italian region of Lombardy, Scalabrini (1839-1905) was ordained a priest in 1863 and made bishop of Piacenza in 1876.

As bishop, he founded the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo (also known as the Scalabrinians). He also created the "Saint Raphael Association", which, like the order he founded, was dedicated to offering pastoral care to migrants leaving Italy at the turn of the 20th century.

Scalabrini was convinced of the need for institutions to accompany the journey of migrants in all its stages, taking care not to abruptly sever cultural ties with the homeland, maintaining the mother tongue as a bond of unity with the other compatriots.

According to a by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language partner agency, he also believed that migration could lead to an imbalance between the countries of origin and destination.

Scalabrini is also remembered for founding a diocesan newspaper, for caring for the poor and elderly, for being a promoter of Eucharistic adoration and a protector of correct liturgical chant.

In 1901, he visited his missionaries in the United States and was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Pope Pius IX once described Scalabrini as “the apostle of the Catechism.”

Speaking to members of the Congregation founded by Scalabrini in October 2018, Pope Francis to walk with migrants, following the charism of their founder, by paying attention to the "dignity of the human person, especially where it is most wounded and threatened."