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Pope Francis denounces ‘body-shaming,’ admits to bullying overweight friend as a child

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

In a Tuesday video call with university students from South Asia, Pope Francis highlighted the dignity and value of all human persons, denouncing “body-shaming,” and admitting to bullying an overweight boy as a child.

The pope’s comments were given during a livestreamed dialogue with students titled “Building Bridges Across South Asia,” which was hosted by Chicago’s Loyola University and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The full recorded conversation can be accessed . 

Responding to a question raised by Merlin Rosemary, a student at St. Joseph’s University in Bengaluru, India, Francis said that body-shaming is “something artificial” that disrupts the ability to live “in harmony with your hearts.”

“It’s not only a question of measurements or sizes, it’s a harmonic beauty that every woman, every man, has, and we have to cherish that,” Francis said.

“I recall a friend of mine, who was a bit fat, and we would actually mock him, I daresay, bullying him,” the pope confessed to the students.

One day, Francis said that he and his friends “once hit him and he fell down.”

Upon learning of the incident, Francis said his father made him go to the bullied child’s home to apologize.

Years later, the pope said, he reconnected with the friend who had since become an evangelical pastor.

“It was beautiful,” Francis said, “he had overcome all his trauma, all his bullying, all his shame, all his body shame.”

Still responding to the student’s question, the pope also said that plastic surgery “serves no purpose,” because, he said, “this beauty is going to fade eventually.”

“There was a famous actress, Anna Magnani, and when talking about her wrinkles she said: ‘No, I won’t get rid of them. It costs me to get these wrinkles, they are my beauty,’” the pope said. “So, we all have our beauty, and we have to accept it and we have to live in harmony with it.”

“There’s the beauty of the harmony of the individual, regardless of you being fat, thin, short, tall, the important thing is to live in harmony, in harmony in your hearts,” Francis said. “So, beauty makes us grow, in terms of our mental health, every man, every woman have their own beauty. We only have to learn how to see it, how to recognize it.”

During the call with students, Francis also addressed high suicide rates among young people, anxiety, and what he called “digital manipulation” on social media.

“While this is a tragic reality, young people commit suicide because they are faced with closed doors, they were looking for something and they couldn’t find it,” the pope said. “There are countries where the suicide rate is incredibly high among young people because they can’t manage failure, especially when they can’t find a job, so they lose all hope.”

Francis said that failure “is actually a call, it’s an appeal.”

“We’re not angels because angels have fallen only once whereas we fell many times due to our limits. But God always gives us the reliance to stand up again, so he takes us by our hands and helps us stand up,” he went on. “The important thing is not to not fall, but not to stay, or lay, on the ground. That’s wisdom, I fall down but then I stand up again.” 

According to Francis, “digital manipulation” on social media is “altering our understanding of social and political reality.”

By this phrase, the pope explained that messaging young people are exposed to through social media, the media, and entertainment distracts from true beauty and harmony.

“So, what’s really pressing is being educated to a new form of communication to avoid this anxiety of digital manipulation,” Francis said. “So as professionals, as students, I’m asking you to take a critical stance towards the positions expressed by the media, by TV programs, you are university students, you must have some critical thinking.

The pope concluded this portion of his talk with young people by imploring them to “look for the true beauty and the true harmony of an individual.”

“A person that lives in harmony regardless of being fat, thin, skinny, is the most important thing,” Francis said, adding: “Don’t be afraid, don’t lose your sense of humor, because humor means mental health.”

Pope calls for an end to global food waste

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 13:54 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday commended a U.N. agency’s efforts to end what the Holy Father called “the scourge of food loss and waste” across the planet, with the pope calling for a “radical paradigm shift” in how the world deals with wasted food.

Francis in to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told FAO Director Qu Dongyu that the “prevailing culture” has “led to the denaturalization of the value of food, reducing it to a mere commodity to be exchanged.”

The letter was sent on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, established by the FAO in 2020. The U.N. that the day is meant to help “prioritize actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste.”

In his letter on Friday, Pope Francis said the world must “be clear about the urgency of a radical paradigm shift,” because “we can no longer limit ourselves to interpreting reality in terms of economics or insatiable profit.” 

“Food has a spiritual basis and its proper management implies the need to adopt ethical behavior,” he wrote. “When we talk about food, we must consider the good that more than any other ensures the satisfaction of the fundamental right to life and the basis of the dignified sustenance of each person.”

Food waste, Francis said, “shows an arrogant disregard for everything that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.” 

“Throwing food away means failing to value the sacrifice, labor, transport, and energy costs involved in bringing quality food to the table,” he wrote. “It means disregarding all those who work hard every day in the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors to provide food that was lost or wasted and did not achieve its laudable purpose.”

The pope said activists “cannot continue to cite world population growth as the cause of the earth's inability to feed everyone sufficiently.” The problems of global hunger, he claimed, lie with “the lack of concrete political will to redistribute the earth’s goods.”

Beyond investing financial resources and time to solve the food waste problem, Francis said the issue should be addressed by “strengthen[ing] our conviction that wasted food is an affront to the poor.”

“[I] would like to stress this,” Pope Francis added, “that the food we throw away is unjustly taken from the hands of those who lack it. From those who have a right to daily bread because of their inviolable human dignity.”

The Holy Father said he was “deeply grateful” to the U.N. and FAO for its food-related efforts. 

The FAO that the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for “halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.”

Those reductions, the agency said, bring “tangible benefits for people and planet.”

Celibacy is not a direct cause of sexual abuse, Jesuit expert says

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Father Hans Zollner, a German priest and an expert in the fight against sexual abuse in the Church, said in a Sept. 26 interview with Infovaticana that celibacy is not a direct cause of this evil.

The psychologist, who also holds a doctorate in theology, said that “celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse; what can become a risk factor is a ministry poorly lived and not fully accepted.” 

“All scientific reports, including those commissioned by non-Church institutions, conclude that celibacy in itself does not lead to abuse. Therefore, it is wrong to say that with the abolition of celibacy there would no longer be cases of abuse in the Catholic Church,” he emphasized.

The former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, from which he resigned in March, said that “sexual abuse arises above all from an abuse of power that someone takes advantage of.” 

“These reports conclude, and this is what I also maintain, that without a solid human formation or a healthy, integral life and working in community, a celibate life can lead to abuse,” he said. “If the priest does not have human, spiritual, and work equilibrium, inner emptiness and desires that are not well integrated can lead him to commit abuse.”

The priest and director of the Institute of Anthropology at the Gregorian University in Rome noted that “scientific studies indicate that it cannot be considered that there is a monocausal relationship that explains the relationship between homosexuality and abuse.”

“The human person is complex and many factors influence one’s behavior. Additionally, many male child molesters do not identify exclusively as homosexual,” he explained.

“The 2011 John Jay Report in the United States refers to them as ‘occasional abusers,’ that is, they abused those closest to them, who at that time were mostly boys. But the figures from recent years show that since there have been more altar girls and co-ed schools there has been more abuse of girls,” he noted.

In May 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops presented the study “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” conducted by a team of researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice from the City University of New York.

The report concluded that “there was no single cause or predictor of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The report added that situational factors and opportunity to abuse played a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.”

Regarding the profile of the abuser, the Jesuit said that there is not only one “and there can be many different reasons that lead a person to commit abuse. We can say that there are behavioral and psychological patterns that are repeated in the profile of abusers within the Church. I would highlight four: the narcissistic abuser, the obsessive, the insecure, and the true pedophile in the sense of the psychiatric definition.”

Regarding seminary formation, the German priest noted that this “is key. It is necessary that at this very important stage of their lives they not only acquire knowledge but also skills. They must learn everything necessary to lead a healthy life at all levels and develop their future priestly ministry well.”

Regarding the impact of abuse on victims, Zollner commented that “it can have very serious consequences on a person’s faith. Abuse can also be of a spiritual nature and can cause the victim to question his relationship with God and the Church.”

“I believe that victims and survivors should surround themselves with those who listen to them and understand them, people who seek justice and who can put them in contact with professionals from different fields who can help them,” he recommended.

After emphasizing that financial compensation is important for the victims, the Jesuit said that this “is not the main desire. What many, or the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and other types of abuse want, is for Church representatives to listen to them. They want to talk and express what happened to them, their rage and anxiety.”

As for abusers, the expert said that they should be judged in civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and, “as Pope Francis has said in some instances, they should not return to their ministry or have contact with minors.”

“In any case, they must be helped to find a meaningful way of life that does not endanger others. They must be supervised, including psychological evaluation, therapy, and spiritual accompaniment,” he continued.

Zollner also emphasized that “the Church must be willing to do what is necessary to ensure that perpetrators of abuse and those that cover up for them are punished fairly and in a way that prevents further abuse in the future.”

After commenting that the institute he directs offers various programs for training in these issues, the German priest said that some emblematic cases involving Jesuits such as those in Barcelona and Bolivia or the former Jesuit Marko Rupnik “have had an impact on the Society of Jesus and on the credibility of the order, as happens in any case of abuse. I noticed it already in 2010 when the first news broke in Germany at a Jesuit school in Berlin which led to a great flood of news about abuse.”

Catholic Church’s new cardinals explain why they chose their spiritual mottos

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 15:42 pm (CNA).

Each of the new cardinals receiving the red hat at the consistory on Saturday has a chosen a spiritual motto, giving a window into their spirituality and priorities.

Episcopal mottos selected when a Catholic priest is consecrated as a bishop are traditionally found at the base of his coat of arms and often remain unchanged when a cardinal becomes pope.

Pope John Paul II proclaimed his total devotion to the Virgin Mary with the motto “Totus Tuus” (“Totally Yours”), taken from St. Louis Grignion de Montfort’s Marian consecration prayer. Pope Benedict XVI chose “Cooperatores Veritatis” (“Cooperators of the Truth”) from Scripture in 3 John 1:8, and Pope Francis’ motto is taken from a homily by St. Bede on the Gospel account of the call of St. Matthew: “Miserando atque eligendo” (“Having mercy, he chose him”).

Among the 21 cardinals being created on Sept. 30, there are some unique mottos and imagery from a motto in Swahili to a giraffe on the coat of arms of a bishop from Asia.

Here is a look at the spiritual motto and coat of arms for each of the new cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave to elect the next pope:

, 59, Poland: “Virtus in infirmitate” (“Power in weakness”).

Ryś chose his motto from a line in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, noting that it sounds stronger in the original Greek, like “power matures in powerlessness” (2 Cor 12:9). The archbishop of Łódź, Poland, and author of more than 50 books said: “If we stop understanding weakness, the Church will become an organization like any other. The preaching of Christianity is the story of Christ, who was crucified and rose again. Without the cross, there is no Church.”

, 58, patriarch of Jerusalem: “Sufficit tibi Gratia mea” (“My grace is sufficient for you”).

When Pizzaballa became the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, he explained why he chose a line by St. Paul (2 Cor 12:9) as his motto: “The Church in the Holy Land has no means and no power. She only has Christ and his grace.” The Italian Franciscan who served for more than a decade in the Holy Land said that in the face of the seemingly “huge and insurmountable” difficulties facing the region, the “word of God reminds us that it is to grace alone, and nothing else, that we should entrust ourselves.” His coat of arms includes an image of the city of Jerusalem as it was depicted in the Middle Ages on seals of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem.

, 64, Hong Kong: “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (“For the greater glory of God”).

The Jesuit bishop of Hong Kong chose the motto of the Society of Jesus as his episcopal motto. His coat of arms includes a giraffe, which Chow has explained symbolizes being able to see the big picture. Chow also noted that giraffes are known for having big hearts to pump enough blood to their heads and can therefore be considered a symbol of generosity. The coat of arms includes an image of Hong Kong’s Tsing-Ma Bridge, which Chow described as a symbol of the mission of the Church to form a bridge for different parties to meet one another.

, 77, France: “Si Scires Donum Dei” (“If you knew the gift of God”).

The apostolic nuncio to the United States said that he chose his motto from Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in John 4:10: “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘“Give me a drink,”’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” He explained that often people are unaware of what God is offering us and how the Church is a gift from God. “The Church is God’s presence in human reality. And we are God’s presence in the human reality. The Church is a sacrament of God’s presence,” he said. His coat of arms was designed by his younger brother and includes a white ermine, an animal that is a symbol of Pierre’s hometown of Saint-Malo, and the granite rocks of the French region of Brittany.

, 68, United States: “In illo uno unum” (“In the one Christ we are one”).

The current prefect for the Dicastery for Bishops took his episcopal motto from a line in a sermon by St. Augustine: “Nos multi in illo uno unum,” (“Though we are many, in the one Christ we are one”). Prevost served as the prior general of the Augustinian order for 12 years. His coat of arms includes the seal of the Augustinian order and a “fleur de lis” symbolizing the Virgin Mary.

, 58, Spain: “In misericordia Tua, confidere et servire” (“In your mercy, trust and serve”).

When he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Madrid, Cobo explained: “Looking back at my life’s journey … I see two fundamental things, entrusting myself to the mercy of God and service, which is what Assisi awakened in my vocation.” His episcopal coat of arms includes a cross with the five wounds of Christ, a wall symbolizing Our Lady of Almudena, and the basin that priests use to wash their hands. “I believe that kneeling down and washing the feet of others is a place of learning for the disciple, from which the Eucharist and the Church are born,” he said.

, 49, Portugal: “In manus Tuas” (“In Your hands”).

The Portuguese bishop who organized the 2023 World Youth Day chose his spiritual motto in tribute to the late Bishop António Francisco dos Santos of Porto, whose motto came from the last words of Christ as recorded in Luke 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The cardinal-elect recently unveiled a new coat of arms designed by Italian heraldic designer Giuseppe Quattrociocchi. It features the colors of the Portuguese flag as well as symbols from Pope Francis’ coat of arms — the seven-pointed star symbolizing the Virgin Mary and the tuberose symbolizing St. Joseph — to express his gratitude to the Holy Father.

, 63, Tanzania: “Mwanza na mwisho” (“The beginning and the end” in Swahili).

The motto of the current coadjutor archbishop of Tabora, Tanzania, comes from a line in the Book of Revelation 21:6: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Rugambwa chose to have a crucifix completely replace the usual shield in his episcopal coat of arms. The crucifix has the Greek symbols for Alpha and Omega on either side.

, 71, Malaysia: “Fiat voluntas tua” (“Thy will be done”).

The Malaysian bishop chose a line from the Our Father in Latin, “Thy will be done,” as his spiritual motto. His episcopal coat of arms has a paschal lamb holding a white banner with a red cross, symbolizing Christ’s victory over death. Francis has served as the bishop of Penang since 2011 and has been the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei for seven years.

, 67, South Africa: “Veritas in Caritate” (“Truth in Love”).

The archbishop of Cape Town’s motto comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:15. Brislin unveiled a new coat of arms just ahead of the consistory, which includes a red Basotho hat representing Brislin’s root in the Free State and an anchor reflecting Cape Town’s location as the Cape of Good Hope. In reference to Brislin’s episcopal motto, the South African bishops’ conference said that the cardinal-designate “has a rare gift of combining gentleness with firmness” and “presents a good balance between the teaching of the Church and pastoral sensitivity.”

, 65, Argentina: “En todo amar y servir” (“In All Things to Love and Serve” in Spanish).

The Jesuit archbishop of Córdoba, Argentina chose a maxim of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, as his motto. His Ignatian spirituality is further communicated in the IHS monogram at the top of his coat of arms, which is an abbreviation for the name of Jesus in Greek and the seal of the Jesuit order. Rossi is known in Argentina for offering the Ignatius spiritual exercises.

, 54, France: “In ipso vita erat” (“In him was life”).

Bustillo serves as the bishop of the French island of Corsica and his episcopal coat of arms includes the traditional symbol of Corsica, the Moor’s Head. The Spanish-born Conventual Franciscan also incorporated the crossed arms from the Franciscan order’s coat of arms at the top of his episcopal crest. Bustillo served as the custos of the Franciscan’s French province for 12 years. His motto comes from the prologue of the Gospel of John 1:4.

, 61, Argentina: “En medio de tu pueblo” (“Among your people” in Spanish).

The new prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith took his spiritual motto from a line in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings: “I, your servant, among your people,” the words of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:8. When he was the archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, Fernández chose a simple emblem with a cross, a dove, and a shepherd’s crook.

, 67, Italy: “Per orientalem viam” (“By the Eastern road”).

Gugerotti chose the episcopal motto “By the Eastern Road” long before he was named prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches in 2022. He holds a doctorate in eastern ecclesiastical sciences from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, of which he is now the grand chancellor. The Vatican diplomat formerly served as apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

, 59, South Sudan: “Joy in the eternal word made flesh.”

The archbishop of Juba chose to have his episcopal in English, rather than Latin, as have many bishops in South Sudan. His episcopal coat of arms includes African drums, a traditional shield, and a golden cross.

, 76, Switzerland: “Spes mea Christus” (“Christ is my hope”).

The current apostolic nuncio to Italy chose to use the traditional coat of arms of his family, which incorporates a “T” in the center for “Tscherrig.” The Swiss cleric is the first non-Italian to serve as the Vatican’s ambassador to Italy. His motto is similar to the Catholic Church’s Easter Sequence, “Surrexit Christus, spes mea,” (“Christ, my hope, has risen.”)

, 61 Colombia: “Permanezcan en mi amor” (“Remain in my love” in Spanish).

The archbishop of Bogotá took his motto from Jesus’ words to the apostles at the Last Supper in John 15:9: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”

, 63, Spain.

Father Artime will be made a cardinal before he is consecrated as a bishop. He has been the rector major of the Salesian order since 2014 and has come to an agreement with Pope Francis that he will remain in the role for one more year after his creation as a cardinal.

New Hong Kong cardinal: Sharing ‘love of God,’ not conversions, goal of Church in China

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2023 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow said Thursday that evangelization in China today should focus on communicating the love of God “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics.”

In an interview in Rome with CNA on Sept. 28, the bishop of Hong Kong, who will be made a cardinal in the consistory this weekend, spoke about his vision for evangelization in mainland China.

“I think it is important that we say that Pope Francis made a distinction. Evangelization is really to help people to understand the love of God — and the love of God without the agenda of turning them into Catholics — because that shouldn’t be the focus, as that focus would be very restrictive,” Chow said.

The cardinal-elect underlined that evangelization should help “them to come to understand our God means love, means goodwill and a better life.”

“Evangelization should be really coming to know God, who is love,” he said.

In Pope Francis’ travels to countries where Catholics are in the minority, the pope has made a distinction between “proselytism” and “evangelization.”

“Evangelization is essentially witness,” Francis told the Jesuits in Mozambique in 2019. “Proselytizing is convincing, but it is all about membership and takes your freedom away.”

During a Jan. 11. 2023, , Pope Francis emphasized that evangelization and proselytism are not the same.

“And it does not begin by trying to convince others, but by witnessing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up,” he said of evangelization.

Francis recalled a line from a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007: “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction.’”

“Do not forget this,” Pope Francis added, calling Christians who proselytize “pagans dressed as Christians.”

The pope has also praised Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary and scholar, for his “proclamation of the Gospel” in China by proposing “the truth of the Christian faith and morality.”

The Chinese people have faced increased restrictions on religious freedom in the last decade. Catholic priests are only allowed to minister in recognized places of worship, which minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government implemented new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” which ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.

Despite the restrictions, two bishops from mainland China have been permitted to travel to Rome to participate in the Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

Chow is also a synod delegate, personally nominated by Pope Francis to take part in the nearly monthlong assembly. He said that he is “excited that the laypeople, men and women, and religious, are represented as full voting members.”

The cardinal-elect has led the Diocese of Hong Kong since December 2021. Chow said that one of the biggest challenges facing Hong Kong Catholics is how “to provide good moral education … so that we have moral citizens.”

He underlined the importance of formation in the parishes so that laypeople can evangelize outside of the parish.

“Evangelization is to your social community. Each parish is connected to your social community. We need to go out, get out of our parish, and really to connect with the social community and serve them,” he said.

Pope Francis names Steubenville bishop as auxiliary bishop of Detroit

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis transferred Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, to the Archdiocese of Detroit on Thursday to serve as an auxiliary bishop.

Monforton, 60, is originally from Detroit and will assist 74-year-old Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit in the administration of the Michigan archdiocese.

“I offer a heartfelt ‘welcome home’ to Bishop Monforton,” Vigneron said after the appointment was announced. “This is the local Church in which his priestly vocation was nurtured, and we are blessed to have him be with us once again to help lead our efforts to unleash the Gospel.”

Monforton led the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville — home to the Franciscan University of Steubenville — for more than a decade.

The bishop described his transfer to Detroit as “bittersweet.” He said: “I have come to know and to love the good people of the Diocese of Steubenville, from Carrol County in the north to Lawrence County in the south.”

“It has been my distinct pleasure and profound joy to serve the faithful of this diocese for 11 years as their shepherd. The people of the Diocese of Steubenville will always remain in my prayers and have a special place in my heart.”

The retired bishop of Kalamazoo, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, will serve as the apostolic administrator of the Steubenville Diocese, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

As the bishop of Steubenville, Monforton proposed a merger between his diocese and the Diocese of Columbus, which drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within the Steubenville Diocese, causing him to put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

He also ordered an immediate end to the Latin Mass on Franciscan University’s campus earlier this year, saying that the diocese was “seeking to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful in accord with the norms, including the recent rescript, issued by the Holy See.”

Monforton has reportedly been the subject of investigation by the Vatican for his handling of sexual abuse cases, according to a 2022 report by The Pillar.

Auxiliary Bishops Arturo Cepeda, Gerard W. Battersby, and Robert J. Fisher currently serve the Archdiocese of Detroit, which has about 907,000 Catholics in its borders.

The Holy See is investigating an additional Detroit auxiliary who is not in public ministry — Archbishop Paul F. Russell, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor dating to his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, according to Detroit Catholic. Pope Francis appointed Russell as an auxiliary in Detroit in 2022.

Monforton will begin his ministry in Detroit on Nov. 7, where he will join three other active auxiliary bishops and three other retired auxiliary bishops.

He was born in Detroit in 1963 and attended Wayne State University before he entered the seminary. He studied at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the North American College in Rome before he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1994. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in sacred theology.

Monforton served as rector of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary from 2006 to 2012 and was named an apostolic visitor for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s visitation of U.S. seminaries in 2005. He also served as the personal priest secretary to Cardinal Adam Maida from 1998 to 2005.

How Pope Francis spread devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Of the many devotions Pope Francis has promoted during his pontificate, perhaps none is better known than his devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots (also referred to as Our Lady, Untier of Knots), whose feast day is observed Sept. 28.

The devotion’s origins can be traced back to Augsburg, Germany, in 1612. Husband and wife Wolfgang Langenmantel and Sophia Rentz were on the verge of divorce, and Langenmantel sought help from Jesuit Father Jakob Rem. The priest took the ribbon from the couple’s wedding ritual, and together they prayed to Our Lady to untie the knots of their marital difficulties, asking for the Blessed Mother to smooth out the ribbon that had bound them together. 

The divorce did not happen, and together the couple lived out their married life. Years later, to commemorate the turn of events, their grandson, Father Hieronymus Langenmantel of St. Peter’s Monastery in Augsburg, commissioned Johann Melchior Georg Schmidttner to paint “Untier of Knots” in about the year 1700. It is still housed in St. Peter’s Church in Augsburg today.

While it has been reported that Pope Francis encountered the painting while studying in Germany, the pope pointed out in a that he has never been to Augsburg. What happened, he explained in the interview, was that a nun whom he had met while in Germany sent him a card at Christmas with the image on it. 

The picture made an impression on the future pope, who noted that Father Langenmantel based his actions on a quote from St. Irenaeus: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith” (“Against Heresies,” 3, 22, 4, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 494).

The pope said he liked the image so much that he started sending postcards of it, too. Replicas of the image were painted in the pope’s home country, Argentina, and . Once Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013, devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots spread throughout the world.

Francis has talked about the devotion throughout his pontificate, even praying specifically to .

Here is a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots from :

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

[Mention your request here]

I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope.

O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains.

Hear my plea.

Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.


Europe needs hope, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2023 / 06:52 am (CNA).

To deal properly with the crises it faces, Europe must first have hope, Pope Francis said Wednesday at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“Hope needs to be restored to our European societies,” the pope said Sept. 27, “especially to the new generations.”

“Our societies, many times sickened by individualism, by consumerism, and by empty escapism, need to open themselves, their souls, and spirits need to be oxygenized, and then they will be able to read the crisis as an opportunity and deal with it positively,” he continued.

During his Wednesday audience with the public, Pope Francis spoke about his Sept. 22–23 visit to Marseille, France, to participate in the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes,” or Mediterranean Encounter, a meeting of bishops, mayors, and young people to confront issues facing the Mediterranean region, including immigration.

The pope spoke at the meeting on its second-to-last day, Sept. 23.

“What came out of the Marseille event? What came out is an outlook on the Mediterranean that I would call simply human, not ideological, not strategic, not politically correct nor instrumental; no, human, that is, capable of referring everything to the primary value of the human person and his or her inviolable dignity,” he said.

He also noticed, he added, that there was a hopeful and fraternal outlook, even, surprisingly, from those who “have lived through inhuman situations.”

“This hope, this fraternity must not ‘evaporate’; no, rather, it needs to be organized, concretized through long, medium, and short-term actions so that people, in complete dignity, can choose to emigrate or not to emigrate,” he urged.

“In fact, how can we welcome others if we ourselves do not first have a horizon open to the future?” Francis said. “How can young people, who are poor in hope, closed in on their private lives, worried about managing their own precariousness, open themselves to meeting others and to sharing?”

Pope Francis said he saw a lot of passion and enthusiasm during his visit to Marseille, a port city in southern France, including at the Mass he celebrated on Sept. 23.

He encouraged the continent of Europe to also cultivate this passion and enthusiasm so that the Mediterranean region can be “a mosaic of civilization and hope” rather than “a tomb” or a “place of conflict.”

“The Mediterranean Sea,” the pope said, “is the complete opposite of the clash between civilizations, war, human trafficking.”

Francis said the Mediterranean Sea is a channel of communication between Africa, Asia, and Europe, and though “the sea is always an abyss to overcome in some way, and it can even become dangerous,” still, “its waters safeguard treasures of life; its waves and its winds carry vessels of all types.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ even departed from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, he noted.

At the end of his audience, Pope Francis recalled that on Sept. 27, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, a French Catholic priest who co-founded the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians.

“Today’s liturgical memorial of St. Vincent de Paul reminds us of the centrality of love of neighbor,” the pope said. “I urge everyone to cultivate the attitude of caring for others and openness to those who need you.”

Pope Francis’ next environmental document to be called ‘Laudate Deum’

Rome Newsroom, Sep 26, 2023 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ new document on the environment, to be released Oct. 4, will be called .

The pope shared the name of his latest apostolic exhortation during a meeting with Latin American university rectors on Sept. 21, though the speech was only made public by Vatican News in Spanish on Monday afternoon.

According to Vatican News, while speaking about the environment and the “culture of abandonment,” Pope Francis revealed that his new document on the topic will be titled , which means “Praise God” in Latin.

It will be, he said, “a look at what has happened and say what needs to be done,” Vatican News reported.

In the same speech to 200 university personnel, Francis reflected on what he has termed a throwaway culture, saying it reveals “a lack of education to use the things that remain, to remake them, to replace them in the order of the common use of things.”

He encouraged a “good use of nature,” including practical actions that can help the environment, such as the installation of solar panels.

The pope also noted how environmental degradation can lead to another kind of “degradation,” namely, in how we treat others, especially those who are already living with fewer resources.

Pope Francis announced last month he would be releasing a follow-up document to the 2015 encyclical . He later said it would be published on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Oct. 4 is also the first day of a monthlong assembly for the Synod on Synodality and the conclusion of the Season of Creation, a Vatican-supported ecumenical initiative about caring for the environment.

is the second of three encyclicals published in Pope Francis’ pontificate thus far. It was released in June 2015.

The theme of the encyclical, which means “Praise be to you,” is human ecology, a phrase first used by Pope Benedict XVI. The document addresses issues such as climate change, care for the environment, and the defense of human life and dignity.

Pope Francis said Aug. 30 that the second part to would be the kind of papal document known as an “exhortation.”

Francis has so far published five apostolic exhortations during his pontificate, including in 2013 and in 2016.

The feast of St. Francis of Assisi was also the date in 2020 that Pope Francis chose to release his most recent encyclical, , about fraternity and social friendship.

Pro-democracy Catholic Jimmy Lai marks 1,000th day in jail awaiting trial

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2023 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Jimmy Lai, a Catholic pro-democracy activist and former publisher of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, spent his 1,000th day in jail on Tuesday awaiting his long-delayed trial. 

Lai’s son has expressed fear that Lai could die in prison and human rights groups have urged the U.K. government to take immediate action to free the jailed newspaper publisher, who is a British citizen. 

“I don’t want to see my father die in jail. He’s 75, he’s in prison, he does risk just dying. It is very worrying,” Sebastien Lai told the Associated Press.

Jimmy Lai has been jailed awaiting a trial since he was arrested in December 2020 under Hong Kong’s national security law. The Catholic covert could face life in prison if convicted. His trial is set for Dec. 18, nearly one year after it was originally scheduled.

Lai spends about 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in Hong Kong’s Stanley Prison, a maximum-security facility, according to AP, and is allowed outside to exercise for 50 minutes a day in a small enclosure surrounded by barbed wire.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Amnesty International UK, and eight other human rights groups published an open letter on Sept. 24 calling on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to take immediate action to secure Lai’s release.

The letter underlined that the prime minister’s decisive action would be “a fundamental step to safeguard press freedom in Hong Kong.”

“Lai’s crime consists of owning and directing a news organization that was reporting on the concerns and struggles of a pro-democracy movement that has been virtually silenced by the state,” it said.

The jailed media mogul was the owner of the Apple Daily, which was Hong Kong’s most popular Chinese-language newspaper until it was closed in June 2021 after its offices were raided by hundreds of Hong Kong police and its executives detained. The paper was seen as Hong Kong’s most vocal pro-democracy newspaper.

Lai is one of more than 250 pro-democracy activists who have been arrested under the national security law since it was imposed by Beijing in response to Hong Kong’s massive pro-democracy protests in which nearly 2 million people took to the streets in 2019.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention raised “grave concern” over Lai’s detention in a communication sent to the Chinese government earlier this year.

Lai is facing several charges, including collusion with foreign forces, sedition, and conspiring to call for international sanctions against Hong Kong or China. He was also sentenced to five years and nine months in prison in December over fraud charges related to lease violations. 

His trial has been repeatedly delayed since it was first scheduled for December 2022. Hong Kong’s High Court upheld a government decision to bar a British lawyer from defending Lai in his national security trial in May. 

The court also rejected Lai’s request to halt the trial due to concerns that his case would be heard by three government-approved judges rather than a jury as practiced under Hong Kong’s common law tradition.

Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai’s son, has not seen his father in three years and worries for his health as his father suffers from diabetes and was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2021 while in prison.

Lai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with Cardinal Joseph Zen and other Hong Kong democracy advocates by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China in February. 

He was also the recipient of the Christifidelis Laici award at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, the Freedom of Press Award by Reporters without Borders, and an honorary degree from Catholic University of America.

Lai was born in Guangzhou in mainland China in 1947 but came to Hong Kong at age 12 as a penniless stowaway. After working in a factory in Hong Kong, Lai saw a need for affordable, quality clothing for middle-class people and founded a chain of clothing stores called Giordano’s — a venture that would make him rich and allow him to launch pro-democracy magazines and newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He was baptized and received into the Church by Cardinal Zen on July 7, 1997, at the age of 49. Before his conversion, the billionaire entrepreneur attended Mass with his wife, Teresa, whom Lai said had always been a devout Catholic. But in 1997, just before the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, Lai said that he realized that he needed the protection and help of a higher power. 

At a time when many pro-democracy activists fled Hong Kong out of fear of the National Security Law, Lai chose to stay. He urged Hong Kongers on social media: “Let us not be afraid and fight on!”

“The way I look at it, if I suffer for the right cause, it only defines the person I am becoming. It can only be good for me to become a better person. If you believe in the Lord, if you believe that all suffering has a reason, and the Lord is suffering with me ... I’m at peace with it,” Lai said in an interview with the Napa Institute after his arrest in 2020.

Pope Francis: It’s never ‘too late’ to receive God’s love

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that regardless of one’s stage of life, it is never too late to receive God’s love.

Speaking in his on Sept. 24, the pope said that God is seeking us out at every hour of the day and that his “bighearted” love for us is not based on our merits.

“This is how God is: He does not wait for our efforts to come to us,” Francis said. “He does not give up if we are late in responding to him. On the contrary, he himself has taken the initiative and through Jesus came to us to show us his love.”

“And he seeks us at all hours of the day, which, as St. Gregory the Great states, represent the different stages and seasons of our life up to old age (cf. Homilies on the Gospel, 19).”

“For his heart, it is never too late; he is always looking for us and waiting for us.”

The pope spoke from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square one day after he gave a on his return flight from Marseille in southern France, saying there is such a thing as “bad compassion.”

Pope Francis spent two days in the French city, where he spoke at a meeting of young people and bishops called with a message that the deepening migrant crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean is “a reality of our times” that calls for wisdom and a collaborative response from European nations.

“Dear brothers and sisters, today we celebrate World Migrant and Refugee Day, under the theme ‘free to choose whether to migrate or to stay,’ as a reminder that migrating should be a free choice and never the only one possible,” he said on Sunday.

Reflecting on his trip to France, Pope Francis said that the challenge of creating communities that can welcome and integrate migrants was “at the heart” of the Mediterranean Encounter event.

“It is necessary that every man and every woman be guaranteed the opportunity to live a dignified life, in the society in which they find themselves. Unfortunately, misery, wars, and climate crisis force so many people to flee,” he said.

“Therefore, we are all called to create communities ready and open to welcome, promote, accompany, and integrate those who knock on our doors.”

Pope Francis also offered thanks to the Italian bishops’ conference for its efforts to assist migrants in Italy.

In his Angelus message, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ parable in the about a landowner who gives all of his laborers the full daily wage, even those who were employed late in the day and worked only one hour.

The pope noted that the “ultimate meaning of the parable” is that of “God’s superior justice.”

“Human justice says to ‘give to each his own according to what he deserves,’ while God’s justice does not measure love on the scales of our returns, our performance, or our failures: God just loves us, he loves us because we are his children, and he does so with an unconditional and gratuitous love,” Pope Francis said.

“Brothers and sisters, sometimes we risk having a ‘mercantile’ relationship with God, focusing more on our own skill than on the generosity of his grace,” he said. “Sometimes even in the Church, instead of going out at all hours of the day and extending our arms to all, we can feel like the first in our class, judging others far away, without thinking that God loves them too with the same love he has for us.”

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis extended an invitation to all to attend an in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, Sept. 30, to pray for the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly.

“May Our Lady help us to convert to God’s measure: that of a love without measure,” he said.

‘You don’t play with life’: Pope Francis condemns euthanasia, abortion on papal plane

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 23, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned euthanasia and abortion as actions that “play with life” and said there is such a thing as “bad compassion” during a press conference aboard the papal plane from Marseille to Rome on Saturday.

“You don’t play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is not played with!” he told journalists Sept. 23, as he returned from a two-day trip to Marseille, in southern France, to speak at a meeting of young people and bishops called Mediterranean Encounter.

“Whether it is the law not to let the child grow in the mother’s womb or the law of euthanasia in disease and old age,” he said, “I am not saying it is a faith thing, but it is a human thing: There is bad compassion.”

Aboard the plane, Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist whether he had spoken about euthanasia in his private conversation with France’s President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day.

The French government is currently preparing to pass a controversial bill on end-of-life issues that could legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in the country. The vote, which was postponed because of the pope’s visit, will be held Sept. 26–28.

Francis said he did not address the topic of euthanasia with Macron on Saturday but that he had expressed himself “clearly” on the issue when the French president visited him at the Vatican last year.

Macron, who made changing the end-of-life framework one of his campaign promises, his “penchant” for the Belgian model in April 2022.

Pope Francis said it is not just an opinion that life should be safeguarded and warned that it is easy to fall into an idea that pain should always be prevented, even through what some might consider a “humanistic euthanasia.”

Instead, science has made great strides in helping people to control pain with medication, he noted, repeating that “you don’t play with life.”

In his comments, Francis also recommended, as he has on other occasions, that people read the 1907 dystopian science fiction novel “Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson.

The author, he said, “shows how things are going to be in the end, [when] you take away all the differences, and also you take away all the pain, and euthanasia is one of these things... gentle death, selection before birth…”

Pope Francis has condemned euthanasia throughout his papacy, including as “a sin against God.”

On the feast of our Lady of Fátima on May 13, the pope over the legalization of euthanasia in Portugal, which he called “a law to kill.”

He has also been firm about the need to provide the very ill and dying with palliative care, which seeks to improve the quality of life of people suffering from severe illnesses.

“We must accompany people towards death but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide,” .

Pope Francis in Marseille: It’s ‘a duty of humanity’ to save migrants abandoned at sea

Rome Newsroom, Sep 22, 2023 / 14:53 pm (CNA).

In Marseille on Friday, before a memorial to people lost at sea, Pope Francis said humanity is at a crossroads between fraternity and indifference regarding the migrant crisis.

“We can no longer watch the drama of shipwrecks, caused by the cruel trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference,” he said Sept. 22. “People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity; it is a duty of civilization.”

“On the one hand, there is fraternity, which makes the human community flourish with goodness; on the other, indifference, which bloodies the Mediterranean. We find ourselves at a crossroads of civilization.”

The pope spoke during a meeting with local religious leaders at a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea on the first of a two-day visit to Marseille.

“Before us,” he said, “is the sea, a source of life, yet this place evokes the tragedy of shipwrecks, which cause death.”

“We are gathered in memory of those who did not make it, who were not saved. Let us not get used to considering shipwrecks as news stories, and deaths at sea as numbers: No, they are names and surnames, they are faces and stories, they are broken lives and shattered dreams,” he continued.

Francis is in Marseille to participate in the Mediterranean Encounter, the “Rencontres Mediterraneennes” — a gathering of some 120 young people of various creeds with bishops from 30 countries.

The day after the pope’s visit — and the concluding day of the encounter, Sunday, Sept. 24 — is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The first quarter of 2023 was the deadliest since 2017 in the Central Mediterranean, with at least 441 people dying, though that’s considered an undercount. The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) calls it a “persisting humanitarian crisis” that is “intolerable.” More than 20,000 people have died on Central Mediterranean migration routes since 2014.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis marked the 10-year anniversary of his first trip as pope: to Lampedusa, an island between Sicily and Tunisia and Libya, and the center of many migrant disasters.

In personal comments with journalists aboard the papal plane from Rome earlier in the day, Pope Francis lamented the “cruelty, a lack of humanity,” on Lampedusa, where hundreds of migrants have arrived almost every day in recent weeks.

The Italian island, which is smaller than eight square miles and has a population of about 6,400, has declared a state of emergency as it struggles to respond to the situation.

“I hope I have the courage to say everything I want to say,” the pope told Spanish journalist Eva Fernández of COPE Radio.

“After the Libyan concentration camps they throw them into the sea,” he said upon seeing a photo of a migrant child who arrived on Lampedusa.

At the memorial, Pope Francis asked for a moment of silence.

“We need to show some humanity: silence, weeping, compassion, and prayer. I now invite you to spend a moment of silence in memory of these brothers and sisters of ours: Let us be moved by their tragedies,” he said.

“God will bless us,” the pope added, “if on land and at sea we know how to take care of the weakest, if we can overcome the paralysis of fear and the disinterest that, with velvet gloves, condemns others to death.”

The memorial to those lost at sea is a Camargue cross, which comes from the Camargue area of France. The design of the cross represents the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The three tridents represent faith, the anchor represents hope, and the heart represents charity.

Synod on Synodality: Read the final list of delegates

CNA Newsroom, Sep 22, 2023 / 13:42 pm (CNA).

The Vatican on Sept. 21 released the final list of names of those participating in the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly in October, including laypeople who will be full voting delegates at a Catholic Church synod for the first time.

The delegates are made up of representatives selected by bishops’ conferences and Eastern Catholic Churches, leaders in the Roman Curia, and .

In total, 363 people will be able to vote in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, according to statistics released by the Holy See Press Office on July 7. Among them, 54 of the voting delegates are women.

In addition to the voting members, 75 other participants have been invited to the synod assembly to act as facilitators, experts, or spiritual assistants.

Here is full list of participants:

Pope Francis 

Cardinal Mario Grech of Malta

His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, Patriarch of Alexandria, head of the Synod of The Coptic Catholic Church, Egypt

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico 

Archbishop Gerardo Cabrera Herrera, OFM, of Guayaquil, Ecuador

Archbishop Timothy John Costelloe, SDB, of Perth, Australia

Bishop Daniel Ernest Flores of Brownsville, Texas, USA 

Bishop Lúcio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai, Mozambique

Father Giuseppe Bonfrate, Italy

Sister Maria De Los Dolores Palencia, CSJ, Mexico

Momoko Nishimura, SEMD, Japan

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, archbishop of Luxembourg

Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, Italy, president of Fondazione Culturale San Fedele of Milan, national spiritual companion of the Italian Christian Workers Associations 

Father Riccardo Battocchio, Italy, rector of the Almo Collegio Capranica, president of the Italian Theological Association

President: Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Vatican City 

Secretary: Sheila Leocádia Pires, communications officer, Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Mozambique

His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, Coptic Church Patriarch of Alexandria, head of the Synod of the Coptic Catholic Church

His Beatitude Youssef Absi, patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, head of the Synod of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church

His Beatitude Ignace Youssef Iii Younan, patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, head of the Synod of the Syrian Catholic Church

Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, OMM, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, head of the Synod of the Maronite Church

Bishop Mounir Khairallah of Batrun of the Maronites

Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, head of the Synod of the Chaldean Church

His Beatitude Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian, ICPB, patriarch of Cilicia of Armenians, head of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Kyiv, head of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Bishop Teodor Martynyuk, MSU, Titular Bishop of Mopta, auxiliary bishop of Ternopil-Zboriv

Monsignor Bohdan Dzyurakh, CSSR, Apostolic Exarch of Germany and Scandinavia, titular bishop of Vagada

Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, head of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church

Metropolitan Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of India

Archbishop Joseph Pamplany of Tellicherry, India

His Beatitude Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Synod of the Syro-Malankara Church

Bishop Cristian Dumitru Crişan, titular bishop of Abula, auxiliary bishop of Fagaras Si Alba Iulia Dei Romanians

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, metropolitan archbishop of Addis Abeba, president of the Ethiopian and Eritrean bishops’ conference, president of the Council of the Ethiopian Church

Metropolitan Archbishop William Charles Skurla of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, president of the Council of the Ruthenian Church  

Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, auxiliary bishop of Bratislava, Slovakia

Metropolitan Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, president of the Council of the Eritrean Church 

Metropolitan Archbishop Fülöp Kocsis of Hajdúdorog for the Byzantine Catholics, president of the Council of the Hungarian Church 

Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, SDB, archbishop of Rabat, Morocco

Bishop Joaquim Nhanganga Tyombe of of Uíje, Angola

Archbishop Coffi Roger Anoumou, bishop of Lokossa

Archbishop Anton Dabula Mpako, archbishop of Pretoria, military ordinary of South Africa

Archbishop Gabriel Sayaogo of Koupéla, Burkina Faso

Archbishop Georges Bizimana, bishop of Ngozi

Archbishop Emmanuel Dassi Youfang of Bafia

Bishop Philippe Alain Mbarga of Ebolowa

Bishop Nicolas Nadji Bab of Laï

Bishop Ildevert Mathurin Mouanga of Kinkala

Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani

Bishop Pierre-Célestin Tshitoko Mamba of Luebo

Archbishop Marcellin Kouadio Yao of Daloa

Archbishop Markos Ghebremedhin, CM, apostolic vicar of Jimma-Bonga, titular bishop of Gummi of Proconsulari

Archbishop Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba of Libreville

Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Bishop Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD, of Ho

Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast

Archbishop Vincent Coulibaly of Conarkry

Bishop Juan Domingo-Beka Esono Ayang, CMF, of Mongomo, president of the Episcopal Conference

Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Mombasa, president of the Episcopal Conference

Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri

Bishop John Joale Tlhomola, SCP, of Mohale’s Hoek

Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah of Gbarnga

Auxiliary Bishop Jean Pascal Andriantsoavina of Antananavarivo, titular bishop of Zallata

Archbishop George Desmond Tambala, OCD, of Lilongwe, apostolic administrator of Zomba

Bishop Hassa Florent Koné of San

Archbishop Inácio Saure, IMC, of Nampula

Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, OMI, of Windhoek

Bishop Donatus Aihmiosion Ogun, OSA, of Uromi

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Abuja

Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri

Bishop Alain Harel of Port Victoria

Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia, SMA, of Bossangoa

Bishop Edouard Sinayobye of Cyangugu

Bishop Ildo Augusto Dos Santos Lopes Fortes of Mindelo, Cape Verde

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba, South Sudan

Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa'ichi, OFM Cap, of Dar-Es-Salaam

Bishop Flavian Kassala of Geita

Bishop Dominique Banlène Guigbile of Dapaong

Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok of Lira

Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama

Bishop Raphael Macebo Mabuza Ncube of Hwange

Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon of Porto of Spain

Bishop Óscar Vicente Ojea of San Isidro

Archbishop Marcelo Daniel Colombo of Mendoza

Archbishop Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, OP, of Bahía Blanca

Bishop Pedro Luis Fuentes Valencia, CP, of La Paz, Titular Bishop of Temuniana

Bishop Joel Portella Amado of São Sebastião do Rio De Janeiro, titular bishop of Carmeiano

Bishop Pedro Carlos Cipollini of Santo André

Cardinal Paulo Cezar Costa of Brasília

Archbishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, OFM, of Manaus

Bishop Dirceu De Oliveira Medeiros of Camaçari

Bishop Marc Pelchat of Québec, titular bishop of Lambesi

Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier

Archbishop John Michael Miller, CSB, of Vancouver

Bishop William Terrence Mcgrattan of Calgary

Archbishop Luis Fernando Ramos Pérez of Puerto Montt

Bishop Carlos Alberto Godoy Labraña of Santiago de Chile, titular bishop of Pudenziana

Archbishop Luis José Rueda Aparicio of Bogotá

Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobón Restrepo of Medellín

Archbishop José Miguel Gómez Rodríguez of Manizales

Bishop Javier Gerardo Román Arias of Limón

Bishop Marcos Pirán of Holguín, titular bishop of Boseta

Archbishop Luis Gerardo Cabrera Herrera, OFM, of Guayaquil

Bishop David Israel De La Torre Altamirano, SsCc, of Quito, titular bishop of Bagai

Bishop William Ernesto Iraheta Rivera of Santiago De María

Bishop Juan Manuel Cuá Ajacúm of Los Altos, titular bishop of Rosella

Archbishop Launay Saturné of Cap-Haïtie, president of the episcopal conference

Archbishop José Vicente Nácher Tatay, CM, of Tegucigalpa

Bishop Gerardo Díaz Vázquez of Tacámbaro

Bishop Oscar Efraín Tamez Villarreal of Ciudad Victoria

Archbishop Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez of Durango

Bishop Adolfo Miguel Castaño Fonseca of Azcapotzalco

Bishop Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón of León 

Bishop Edgardo Cedeño Muñoz, SVD, of Penonomé

Bishop Miguel Ángel Cabello Almada of Concepción En Paraguay

Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, OFM, of Trujillo

Bishop Edinson Edgardo Farfán Córdova, OSA, Bishop Prelate of Chuquibambilla

Cardinal Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, SJ, of Huancayo

Bishop Rubén Antonio González Medina, CMF, of Ponce

Bishop Ramón Alfredo De La Cruz Baldera of San Francisco De Macorís

Bishop Timothy Broglio, military ordinary of the United States of America

Bishop Daniel Ernest Flores of Brownsville, Texas

Bishop Robert Emmet Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota

Bishop Kevin Carl Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana

Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York

Bishop Milton Luis Tróccoli Cebedio of Maldonado-Punta Del Este-Minas

Bishop Juan Carlos Bravo Salazar of Petare

Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo

Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, IMC, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Archbishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’cruze, OMI, of Dhaka

Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi, Taiwan

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-Taick, OCD, of Seoul

Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David of Kalookan

Cardinal Archbishop Jose F. Advincula of Manila

Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara of Pasig

Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD, of Tokyo

Cardinal Filipe Neri António Sebastião Do Rosário Ferrão, archbishop of Goa and Damão

Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras and Mylapore

Bishop Alex Joseph Vadakumthala of Kannur

Cardinal Anthony Poola, Archbishop of Hyderabad

Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin, OSC, of Bandung

Bishop Adrianus Sunarko, OFM, of Pangkalpinang

Archbishop Dominique Mathieu, OFM Conv, of Tehran-Ispahan of the Latins

Father Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez, SJ, Apostolic Prefect of Battambang, Cambodia 

Cardinal William Seng Chye Goh, archbishop of Singapore

Bishop John Saw Yaw Han of Kengtung

Monsignor Paolo Martinelli, OFM Cap, apostolic vicar of South Arabia

Monsignor Khalid Rehmat, OFM Cap, apostolic vicar of Quetta

Bishop Raymond Kingsley Wickramasinghe of Galle

Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok

Cardinal Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, SDB, archbishop of Díli

Bishop Joseph Đo Manh Hùng of Phan Thiêt

Bishop Louis Nguyên Anh Tuán of Hà Tinh

Archbishop Arjan Dodaj, FDC, of Tiranë-Durrës

Archbishop Franz Lackner, OFM, of Salzburg

Bishop Koenraad Vanhoutte of Mechelen-Brussels, titular bishop of Tagora

Bishop Aliaksandr Yasheuski, SDB, of Minsk-Mohilev, titular bishop of Fornos Major

Bishop Marko Semren, OFM, of Banja Luka, titular bishop of Abaradira

Bishop Strahil Veselinov Kavalenov of Nicopolis

Bishop Zdenek Wasserbauer of Praha, titular bishop of Butrint

Archbishop Ladislav Nemet, SVD, of Beograd, Serbia, president of the episcopal conference

Bishop Ivan Ćurić, Auxiliary of Ðakovo-Osijek, titular bishop of Tela

Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, FSCB, of Mother of God in Moscow

Bishop Alexandre Joly of Troyes

Bishop Jean-Marc Eychenne of Grenoble-Vienne

Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre

Bishop Benoît Bertrand of Mende

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg

Bishop Bertram Johannes Meier of Augsburg

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, military ordinary for the Federal Republic of Germany

Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark

Bishop Marcus Stock of Leeds

Bishop Brian Mcgee of Argyll and the Isles

Archbishop Georgios Altouvas of Corfu, Zakynthos, and Kefalonia

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick

Bishop Alexander Aloysius McGuckian, SJ, of Raphoe

Archbishop Roberto Repole of Turin, bishop of Susa

Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla of Novara

Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples

Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini of Milan

Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs of Riga

Bishop Algirdas Jurevičius of Telšiai

Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna of Malta

Bishop Theodorus Cornelis Maria Hoogenboom of Utrecht, titular bishop of Bistue

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań

Archbishop Adrian Józef Galbas, SAC, coadjutor archbishop of Katowice

Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków

Bishop Virgílio do Nascimento Antunes of Coimbra

Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho, SCI, of Leiria-Fátima

Archbishop Gergely Kovács of Alba Iulia, apostolic administrator, Ad Nutum Sanctæ Sedis of the Ordinariate for Catholics of the Armenian Rite residing in Romania

Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of København, Denmark

Bishop Marek Forgáč of Košice, Titular Bishop of Seleuciana

Bishop Maksimilijan Matjaž of Celje

Archbishop Vicente Jiménez Zamora, archbishop emeritus of Zaragoza 

Archbishop Luis Javier Argüello García of Valladolid

Bishop Francisco Simón Conesa Ferrer of Solsona


Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel

Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, apostolic administrator Vacant See of the Apostolic Exarchate of Istanbul 

Bishop Oleksandr Yazlovetskiy of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, titular bishop of Tulana

Bishop Gábor Mohos Mohos of Esztergom-Budapest, titular bishop of Iliturgi

Archbishop Patrick Michael O'Regan of Adelaide

Bishop Shane Anthony Mackinlay of Sandhurst

Archbishop Paul Gerard Martin, SM, coadjutor of Wellington

Bishop Paul Patrick Donoghue, SM, of Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Bishop Dariusz Piotr Kałuża, MSF, of Bougainville

Archbishop Selim Jean Sfeir of Cyprus of the Maronites

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, OFM Cap

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, SDB

Bishop Antony Randazzo

Bishop Gintaras Grušas

Bishop Jaime Spengler, OFM

Sister Mary Theresa Barron, OLA, president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)

Sister Elizabeth Mary Davis, RSM

Brother Mark Hilton, SC, superior general of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart

Sister Elysée Izerimana, Op SDN, general councilor of the Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth

Abbot Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O Cist, abbot general of the Cistercian Order

Sister Patricia Murray, IBVM, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)

Sister Nirmala Alex Maria Nazareth, AC, superior general of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel

Brother Ernesto Sánchez, FMS, superior general of the Marist Brothers 

Father Arturo Sosa, SI, superior general of the Society of Jesus

Father Gebresilasie Tadesse Tesfaye, MCCJ, superior general of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, sostituto for the Secretariat of State

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for the Relations with States

Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization 

Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization 

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, future prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches

Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect for the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue

Archbishop Robert Francis Prevost, OSA, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops

Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-Sik, prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy

Cardinal João Braz De Aviz, prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery of the Causes of Saints

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity

Cardinal José Tolentino De Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture And Education

Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development

Archbishop Filippo Iannone, O Carm, prefect of the Dicastery for Legislative Texts

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico

Enrique Alarcón García, president of the Christian Fraternity of People with Disabilities of Spain, Spagna

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa De Chinchetru, secretary of the Dicastery for Legislative Texts, Vatican City

Cardinal Jeans-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, France

Father Riccardo Battocchio, rector of the Almo Collegio Capranica in Rome, president of the Italian Theological Association, Italy

Father Giuseppe Bonfrate, Italy

Bishop Dante Gustavo Braida, bishop of La Rioja, Argentina

Sister Simona Brambilla, superior general of the Consolata Missionaries, Italy

Archbishop Erio Castellucci, archbishop of Modena-Nantola-Carpi, Italy

Father Luis Miguel Castillo Gualda, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Valencia, Spain

Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-Yan of Hong Kong, China

Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, president of the San Fedele Cultural Foundation of Milan; national spiritual companion of the Italian Christian Workers’ Associations, A.C.L.I., Italy

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, archbishop of Perth, Australia

Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, USA

Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium

Archbishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo, archbishop of Korhogo, Ivory Coast

Bishop Lizardo Estrada Herrera, OSA, auxiliary bishop of Cuzco, Peru, titular bishop of Ausuccura, secretary general of the Latin American bishops’ conference (CELAM)

Archbishop Paul Dennis Etienne, archbishop of Seattle, USA

Cardinal Juan De La Caridad García Rodríguez, archbishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana, Cuba

Bishop Felix Genn, bishop of Münster, Germany

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, D.C., USA

Cardinal Jeans-Claude Hollerich, SI, relator general of the Synod on Synodality, archbishop of Luxembourg

Bishop Nicholas Gilbert Hudson, auxiliary bishop of Westminster, Great Britain

Archbishop Dražen Kutleša, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia

Father James Martin, SJ, USA

Cardinal Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, USA

Bishop Marco Mellino, secretary of the Council of Cardinals, Vatican City

Bishop Gjergj Meta, bishop of Rrëshen, Albania

Bishop Lucius Andrew Muandula, bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican City

Bishop Antonello Mura, bishop of Nuoro, Italy

Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu, archbishop of Harare, apostolic administrator of Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Bishop Manuel Nin, OSB, apostolic exarch for Byzantine Rite Catholics in Greece, titular bishop of Carcabia, Greece

Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap, archbishop of Boston, USA

Bishop Stefan Oster, SDB, bishop of Passau, Germany

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, PSS, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Bishops, Vatican City

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican City

Bishop Joseph-Csaba Pál, bishop of Timişoara, Romania

Sister Maria De Los Dolores Palencia, CSJ

Sister Samuela Maria Rigon, SSM, superior general of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, Italy

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, archivist emeritus of Tegucicalpa, Honduras

Archbishop Angel S. Rossi, SJ, archbishop of Córdoba, Argentina

Father Elias Royón, vicar for consecrated life of the Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain

Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, archbishop of Lodz, Polonia

Cristina Inogés Sanz, theologian, Spain

Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of La Civiltà Cattolica, Italy

Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, apostolic nuncio to Mexico, Mexico

Sister Xiskya Lucia Valladares, Nicaragua, co-founder of Imisión, director of the communication department of the Centro De Enseñanza Superior Alberta Giménez (CESAG), Comillas Pontifical University

Sister María De Fátima Vieira Diniz, SSmoS, superior general of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, Venezuela

Bishop Giuseppe Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun in the Shandong Province of China

Bishop Giuseppe Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun in the Shandon Province of China

Bishop Radoslaw Zmitrowicz, OMI, auxiliary bishop of Kamyanets-Podilskyi, Ukraine

Father Vitalis Chinedu Anaehobi

Father Michel Jean-Paul Guillaud

Sister Ester Maria Lucas, FC

Sister Josée Ngalula, RSA

Norha Kofognotera Nonterah

Father Agbonkhianmeghe Emmanuel Orobator, SI

Sheila Leocádia Pires

Sister Marie Solange Randrianirin, FSP

Sister Solange Sahon Sia, NDC

Father Rafael Simbine Junior

Sami Aoun

Cynthia Bailey Manns

Catherine Clifford

Richard Coll

Chantal Desmarais

Father Ivan Montelongo

Wyatt Olivas

Julia Osęka

Sister Leticia Salazar

Linda Staudt

Erika Sally Aldunate Loza

Jesus Alberto Briceño Cherubini

Sister Rosmery Castañeda Montoya

José Manuel De Urquidi Gonzalez

María Cristina Dos Anjos Da Conceição

Sister Gloria Liliana Franco Echeverri, ODN

Sônia Gomes De Oliveira

Father Francisco Gerardo Hernández Rojas

Valeria Karina López

Néstor Esaú Velásquez Téllez

Vanessa Cheng Siu Wai

Rosalia Minus Cho Cho Tin

Father Joel Casimiro Da Costa Pinto, OFM

Father Clarence Devadass

Father William La Rousse, MM

Father Momoko Nishimura, SEMD

Estela Padilla

Anna Teresa Peter Amandus

Sister Lalitha Thomas, SJT

Father Vimal Tirimanna

Adel Abolouh

Father Khalil Alwan, ML

Saad Antti

Sister Houda Fadoul

Sister Caroline Jarjis

Rita Kouroumilian

Caroline Rafaat Awd Narouz

Claire Said

Lina Taschmann

Matthew Thomas

Aleksander Banka

Geert De Cubber

Giuseppina De Simone

Sister Anne Ferrand

Helena Jeppesen-Spuhler

Sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner, CPS

Father Jan Nowotnik

Oksana Pimenova

Father Luis Manuel Romero Sanchez

Maria Sabov

Manuel Beazley

Trudy Dantis

Renée Köhler-Ryan

John Lochowiak

Father Denis Nacorda

Kelly Paget

Sister Mary Angela Perez, RSM

Father Sijeesh Pullenkunnel

Susan Sela

Grace Wrackia

Bishop Luis Marín De San Martín, OSA, Titular Bishop of Suliana

Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, SDB, archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Bishop Jaime Calderón Calderón of Tapachula, Mexico

Cardinal Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan

Archbishop Anthony Colin Fisher, OP, of Sydney, Australia

Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda, Cameroon

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, ISPX, archbishop of Québec, Canada

Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, CSSp, of Lubango, Angola

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, CSSp, archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic

Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, OP, archbishop of Wien, Austria, president of the Episcopal Conference of Austria

Cardinal Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, SDB, Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay

Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, CSsR, archbishop of Newark, USA

His Beatitude Ignace Youssef Iii Younan, Syrian Patriarch of Antioch, head of the Synod of the Syrian Catholic Church, Lebanon

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, Italy

Father Alois, prior of the Taizé Community, France

Luca Casarini, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Italy

Sister Nadia Coppa, ASC, former president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)

Monsignor Severino Dianich, theologian, Italy

Eva Fernández Mateo, Catholic Action

Margaret Karram, Work of Mary-Focolare Movement

Father Hervé Legrand, OP, theologian, France

Monsignor Armando Matteo, secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican City

Father Thomas Schwartz, Germany

Father Timothy Peter Joseph Radcliffe, OP, Oxford Monastery, Great Britain

Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini, OSB, Monastery of Viboldone, Italy

Father Matteo Ferrari, OSB Cam, Della Comunità Di Camaldoli

Father Dario Vitali, Italy, coordinator of theological experts

Wissam Abdo, Lebanon

Father Adelson Araújo Dos Santos, SI, Brazil

Father Mario Antonelli from Italy

Father Paul Béré, SJ, Burkina Faso

Sister María Luisa Berzosa González, FI, Spain

Monsignor Philippe Bordeyne, France

Monsignor Alphonse Borras, Belgium

Father Andrea Bozzolo, SDB, Italy

Father Pedro Manuel Brassesco, Argentina

Father Agenor Brighenti, Brazil

loy Bueno De La Fuente, Spain

Monsignor Valentino Bulgarelli, Italy

Father Juan Jorge Bytton Arellano, SJ, Peru

Sister Daniela Adriana Cannavina, CMR, Colombia

Sister María Suyapa Cacho Álvarez, Honduras

Father Carlo Casalone, SJ, Italy

Sandra Chaoul, Lebanon

Sister Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, USA

Monsignor Piero Coda, Italy

Professor Eamon Conway, Ireland

Sandie Cornish, Australia

Father Ian Cribb, SJ, Australia

Professor Klára Antonia Csiszár, Romania

Sister Christina Danel, superior general of the Congregation of Xavières, from France

Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, France

Sister Anne Béatrice Faye, CIC, Ivory Coast

Paolo Foglizzo, Italy

Father Carlos Maria Galli, Argentina

Iris Gonzales, Dominican Republic

Eva Gullo from Italy

Father Gaby Alfred Hachem, Lebanon

Sister Philomena Shizue Hirota, MMB, Japan

Austen Ivereigh, Great Britain

Claire Jonard, Belgium

Sister Jolanta Maria Kafka, RMI, Poland

Christina Kheng, Singapore

Leonardo Lima Gorosito, Uruguay

Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, Ecuador

Sister Laurence Loubières, XMCJ, Canada

Professor Rafael Luciani, Venezuela

Father Anthony Makunde, Tanzania

Father Miguel Martin, SJ, Brazil

Father David Mc Callum, SJ, USA

Father Vito Mignozzi, Italy

Sister Paola Nelemta Ngarndiguimal, SPC, Chad

Susan Pascoe, Australia

Father Asaeli Raass, SVD, Fiji Islands

Sister Yvonne Reungoat, FMA, France

Father Gilles Routhier, Canada

Anna Rowlands, Great Britain

Father Ormond Rush, Australia

Father José San Jose Prisco, Spain

Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri, Italy

Thomas Söding, Germany

Andrew Spiteri from Australia

Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati, ASC, Italy

Péter Szabó from Hungary

Father Christoph Theobald, SI, France

Erica Tossani, Italy

Monsignor Juan Fernando Usma Gómez, Colombia

Myriam Wijlens, Holland

Father Justo Ariel Beramendi Orellana

Thierry Bonaventura, Communication Manager

Father Pasquale Bua

Pietro Camilli

Alfonso Salvatore Cauteruccio

Andrea Cimino

Karina Fujisawa Simonetti

Tanyja George, MId

Father Ambrogio Ivan Samus

Noemi Sanches

Monsignor Tomasz Trafny

Federica Vivian

Paola Volterra Toppano

Pedro Paulo Oliveira Weizenmann

Sister Marie-Kolbe Zamora, OSF

Who are the Chinese bishops attending the Synod on Synodality?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2023 / 09:54 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Thursday that two bishops from mainland China have been added as official delegates in the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly.

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun will travel from China to Rome to participate as full members of the Oct. 4–28 Synod of Bishops on the topic of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

The bishops join Taiwan Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi and Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow, the bishop of Hong Kong, who were already announced as synod delegates in July.

The Vatican publicized the addition of the two mainland Chinese bishops during a press conference on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Vatican-China deal, the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops between the Holy See and Beijing on Sept. 22, 2018.

It is not the first time that Beijing has approved bishops from the mainland to participate in a Synod of Bishops. Chinese Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai and Bishop Yang Xiaoting of Yan’an attended the first half of the youth synod in 2018 before suddenly leaving the synod early without explanation. Both bishops had  and stayed in Vatican City’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis resides.

One of the bishops attending this year’s assembly was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Vatican-China agreement. 

Here is what we know about the two Chinese bishops who will come to the Vatican for the 2023 Synod on Synodality assembly: 

was ordained as a bishop with Vatican approval in 2010 and has served as the bishop of Zhoucun in mainland China’s Shandong Province since August 2013.

Yongqiang, 53, participated in the 2023 National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body that is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s united front system, where it was decided that the Catholic Church should integrate its thought with the party and unite more closely to Xi Jinping, according to the official website of the Catholic Patriotic Association. 

He is the vice president of the Chinese-government-sanctioned Catholic bishops’ conference and was elected as a leader of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016. At his episcopal ordination, Yongqiang told UCA News that he saw the potential to increase dialogue with the underground Catholic community.

Last year, Yongqiang led a meeting presenting how Catholics must study the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Yongqiang was born into a Catholic family in Shandong’s Boxing County in 1970 and studied for the priesthood in Shanghai’s Sheshan seminary before he was ordained in 1995.

He worked for the provincial Catholic Patriotic Association and Chinese Church Affairs Committee in 2005 while he taught at the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Jinan.

Earlier this month, Yongqiang attended a study session on how to implement the new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” government restrictions that ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.

was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. He is the bishop of Jining in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. 

Before his appointment, Yao, now 58, had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as vicar general.

Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

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

However, Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.

“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism, told the New York Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”

Synod 2023: Participants to include two bishops from mainland China, Archbishop Paglia

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Two bishops from mainland China and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Academy for Life are among several additions to who will participate in the Synod on Synodality assembly next month.

The leadership of the synod on Thursday released the final list of participants for the first session of the assembly, which will begin Oct. 4 and end Oct. 28.

Bishop Giuseppe Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun in Shandon Province and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government, Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists Sept. 21.

The two bishops from mainland China are late additions and will participate together with Archbishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong and Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi, Taiwan, who were already on a list of synod members published by the Vatican

also took part in the 2018 youth synod.

Archbishop Paglia, who leads the Vatican academy on life issues, was also added to the list of synod members as a pontifical nomination.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who recently concluded his term as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will no longer participate in the synodal assembly, San Martín said, noting that Ladaria had asked Pope Francis directly to withdraw.

The Vatican also published Thursday a general schedule for the October assembly, which will begin with an opening Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 4 and close with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29.

Each week’s work will include a day off for participants on Sunday, as well as Masses and other times of prayer, including a half-day pilgrimage, praying the rosary in the Vatican Gardens, and a prayer service dedicated to migrants and refugees.

On Oct. 28, members with voting rights will express their approval or disapproval of a document summarizing the three and a half weeks of proceedings.

  • Cardinal Paulo Cezar Costa of Brasilia from the episcopal conference of Brazil

  • Sister Mary Theresa Barron, OLA, president of the International Union of Superiors General

  • Sister Maria Nirmalini, AC, superior general of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel

  • Margaret Karram, president of the Focolare Movement

  • Andrew Spiteri from Australia

  • Sister Christina Danel, superior general of the Congregation of Xavières, from France

  • Péter Szabó from Hungary

  • Eva Gullo from Italy

  • Father Mario Antonelli from Italy

Vatican cardinal to make charity mission to Ukraine city hit by Russian drones

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 12:29 pm (CNA).

The head of the Vatican’s charity office is traveling to Ukraine to inaugurate a new home for displaced mothers and children in Lviv days after a warehouse containing aid burned to the ground following a Russian strike.

According to a Sept. 20 press release from the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski is in Ukraine this week to open the House of Refuge “in the name of Pope Francis, as a sign of support and closeness to the many people who were forced to flee because of the conflict, bringing the apostolic blessing.”

The shelter was built during the conflict with Russia and financed in part by the Vatican. It will provide temporary housing to women who have fled the bombing in other parts of Ukraine.

The visit follows Russian attacks in Ukraine that killed nine people Sept. 19, according to Reuters. In Lviv, a drone strike set on fire several industrial warehouses, including a warehouse used by the Catholic charity Caritas-Spes to store humanitarian aid.

The secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, Alistair Dutton,  destroyed more than 330 tons of humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.

“The mission’s employees were unharmed,” the head of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, Father Vyacheslav Grynevych, said, “but the warehouse with everything inside burned to the ground including food, hygiene kits, generators, and clothes.” 

“We will be able to calculate the final details of the losses later, as special services are currently working at the scene. We already know that 33 pallets of food packages, 10 pallets of hygiene kits and canned food, 10 pallets of generators and clothes were destroyed,” the priest said, according to a press release from Caritas Internationalis.

Dutton is in New York this week to attend the U.N. General Assembly at which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke Tuesday.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse served as a place to store aid from other countries, including Caritas Poland, before it was transported to families in eastern Ukraine.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse has also been used as a deposit for supplies, including generators, donated to Ukraine by Pope Francis through the Vatican’s charity office.

“I am sorrowful for what happened in Lviv with the attack on the warehouse of Caritas-Spes,” Krajewski said. “They struck to destroy the possibility of helping people who are suffering.”

 to Cardinal Peter Turkson on Sept. 19, Pope Francis denounced “the use in contemporary warfare of so-called ‘conventional weapons,’ which should be used for defensive purposes only and not directed to civilian targets.”

The pope’s message, dated Sept. 12, was sent to the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the occasion of a Sept. 19-20 conference on , St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical on peace.

“It is my hope that sustained reflection on this issue will lead to a consensus that such weapons, with their immense destructive power, will not be employed in a way that foreseeably causes ‘superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering,’ to use the words of the St. Petersburg Declaration,” Francis said.

Pope Francis lauds Catholic saint who fought to end slavery in Africa

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 10:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis extolled Wednesday the “apostolic zeal” of St. Daniele Comboni, an Italian missionary priest and bishop who fought to end slavery in Africa.

Comboni witnessed “the horror of slavery” as a missionary in the mid-19th century in what is now Sudan. In his writings, he spoke of slavery more than 450 times and decried how the slave trade “degrades humankind and turns human beings, endowed like all of us with the light of intelligence, a ray of divinity and image of the most holy Trinity, to the dismal condition of animals.”

Pope Francis shared the “energetic and prophetic” life story of the founder of the Comboni missionary orders during his general audience on Sept. 20.

“Comboni’s dream was that of a Church who makes common cause with those who are crucified in history, so as to experience the resurrection with them,” Pope Francis said.

Speaking to an estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, the pope pointed to Comboni as an example of how Christians are “called to fight every form of slavery.”

“Slavery, like colonialism, is not something from the past, unfortunately,” he added.

“In Africa … political exploitation gave way to an ‘economic colonialism’ that was equally enslaving,” he said, quoting a speech he gave in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year.

Comboni summed up his vision for evangelization in Africa with the words “Save Africa with Africa,” a mindset that Pope Francis called “a powerful insight devoid of colonialism.”

“St. Daniel Comboni wanted every Christian to participate in the evangelizing enterprise,” he said. “With this spirit, he integrated his thoughts and actions, involving the local clergy and promoting the lay service of catechists.”

Comboni was born in 1831 into a poor family in a town on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. After discovering his vocation to the priesthood, he was inspired by the stories he heard from missionary priests returning from Africa.

At the age of 26, he joined a missionary expedition bound for Khartoum, Sudan, in 1857, three years after he was ordained to the priesthood.

After two years in Africa, three of the five other missionaries Comboni had traveled with had died, and Comboni also became ill.

Comboni wrote to his parents: “We will have to toil, sweat, die, but the thought that we sweat and die for the love of Jesus Christ and the health of the most abandoned souls in the world is too sweet to make us give up on the great undertaking.”

The Italian missionary priest later wrote that the African people “have taken possession of my heart that lives for them alone.”

Pope Francis highlighted how “Comboni’s great missionary passion” came from “the joy of the Gospel, drawn from Christ’s love, which then led to Christ’s love.”

The priest wrote: “The Eucharistic Jesus is my strength.”

Comboni was appointed apostolic vicar of Central Africa and ordained a bishop in 1877. He died in Sudan in 1881 amid a cholera epidemic. His legacy lives on in the religious orders he founded, which are now known as the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters, and are present in 42 countries on five continents.

“St. Daniele testifies to the love of the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the one who is lost and gives his life for the flock. His zeal was energetic and prophetic in being opposed to indifference and exclusion,” Pope Francis said.

“In his letters, he earnestly called out his beloved Church who had forgotten Africa for too long. … His witness seems to want to repeat to all of us, men and women of the Church: ‘Do not forget the poor — love them — for Jesus crucified is present in them, waiting to rise again.’”

Pope Francis appeals for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh: ‘Silence the weapons’

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 05:50 am (CNA).

One day after Azerbaijan launched a new military operation against Nagorno-Karabakh, Pope Francis made a public appeal for both sides to “silence the weapons.”

Speaking to more than 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 20, the pope said that he was troubled by the news he received Tuesday from Nagorno Karabakh, where “the already critical humanitarian situation is now aggravated by further armed clashes.”

“I make my heartfelt appeal to all the parties involved and to the international community to silence the weapons and make every effort to find peaceful solutions for the good of the people and respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said at the end of his Wednesday general audience.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region in Azerbaijan that is home to about 120,000 Armenian Christians. Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh deny Azeri control of the region and claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the “Republic of Artsakh.”

The South Caucasus region has been a flashpoint since Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union, sparking a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the 1990s.

In 2020, with the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan reignited the long-simmering conflict by invading Nagorno-Karabakh. The six-week conflict ended in Azerbaijan seizing control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A critical humanitarian situation developed in Nagorno-Karabakh this year after Azerbaijan began to restrict access to the Lachin Corridor, the sole road connecting the breakaway region to Armenia, in December 2022, cutting off access to food and medical aid.

The Azeri government on Tuesday called the strikes “anti-terror measures” against “illegal Armenian military formations.” Azerbaijan said the attacks will not stop until the ethnic Armenians completely surrender.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s “Artsakh Defense Forces” reported 23 civilian injuries and two deaths on Tuesday after the Azeri military unleashed artillery and mortar strikes on both military and civilian positions.

The military escalation marks the first indication of a large-scale outright military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020.

Ruben Vardenyan, an Armenian politician who served as the state minister of the unrecognized state of Artsakh, has appealed to the international community to demand action in defense of the Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The Christian world needs to realize this is unacceptable,” Vardenyan said in a video message to EWTN News. “I believe that only together we can stop this war.”

Rupnik’s victims say Diocese of Rome’s statement ‘ridicules’ their pain

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Victims of Father Marko Rupnik’s alleged spiritual and sexual abuse on Tuesday expressed “bewilderment” with the Diocese of Rome’s recent statement praising the art and theology center founded by the former Jesuit artist, saying that it “ridicules victims’ pain” and shows little care for those seeking justice.

In an open letter published on Sept. 19, former members of the Slovenian religious community Rupnik is accused of abusing said they were “left speechless” by the diocese’s concluding report on its canonical investigation of the Aletti Center, an art and theology school in Rome where Rupnik lived and served as the director from 1995 to 2020.

The diocese described the Aletti Center — where Rupnik has been accused of engaging in sex acts with consecrated women — as currently having “a healthy community life … that is free of particular serious issues” and added that the investigation raised “doubts” about the procedures that led to Rupnik’s excommunication.

“This report …. which exonerates Rupnik of any responsibility, ridicules the pain of the victims, but also of the whole Church, mortally wounded by such blatant hubris,” the open letter said.

The was signed by Fabrizia Raguso and other former sisters of the Loyola Community, a Slovenian community co-founded by Rupnik and Sister Ivanka Hosta. The letter was posted to the website Italy Church Too, an online platform for victims of clerical abuse.

The women said that Pope Francis’  with Maria Campatelli, the current director of the Aletti Center and a close collaborator of Rupnik, further caused them pain because the pope never responded to letters from members and former members of the Loyola Community. 

“That meeting granted by the pope to Campatelli in such a friendly atmosphere was thrown in the faces of the victims (these and all victims of abuse); a meeting that the pope denied them,” the open letter said.

“The victims are left with a voiceless cry of new abuse,” it added.

Rupnik was dismissed by the Jesuits in June after having been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse spanning more than three decades.  

The Diocese of Rome announced on Sept. 18 that a canonical investigation into the Aletti Center conducted by Monsignor Giacomo Incitti, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, had concluded and cleared the community of having any serious problems.

Last year, a woman claimed in an  with the Italian newspaper Domani that Rupnik had previously abused her in his room at the Aletti Center in Rome when she was a religious sister.

The  released by the diocese said that the visitation was “able to ascertain that the members of the Aletti Center, although saddened by the accusations received and the ways in which they were handled, chose to maintain silence — despite the vehemence of the media — to guard their hearts and not claim some blamelessness with which to stand as judge of others.”

It said that the investigation also had examined the main accusations against Rupnik and the procedures behind his excommunication.

Rupnik previously received an automatic, or “latae sententiae,” excommunication for hearing the confession and then attempting to grant absolution to a woman with whom he had sexual relations. The Jesuits’ internal investigation confirmed Rupnik’s excommunication in January 2020, which was lifted in May 2020 after Rupnik repented of the canonical crime.

According to the Diocese of Rome, the visitation identified “gravely irregular procedures” that “generated well-founded doubts about even the request for excommunication itself.”

In light of these “doubts,” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of the Diocese of Rome, submitted the report to Church authorities.

The announcement from the Rome Diocese came days after Pope Francis met with Campatelli, the director of the Aletti Center, who published a letter in June defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations” and claiming the Jesuits had withheld documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

In the letter posted to the Aletti Center website on June 17, two days after the public announcement of Rupnik’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus, Campatelli accused the Jesuit order of withholding information from the media, including documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

She said that Rupnik had in January requested to leave the Jesuits after losing trust in his superiors for favoring “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Father Rupnik and the Aletti Center to forms of lynching).” She also said other Jesuits who are part of the Aletti Center had put in requests to leave the religious order.

The canonical visitation of the Aletti Center took place between Jan.16 and June 23, and included community meetings and interviews with members of the center. 

Pope Francis accepts resignation of two Chicago auxiliary bishops

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of two auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Chicago: Andrew P. Wypych and Joseph N. Perry.

Bishop Perry turned 75 in April. At age 75, Catholic bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope, who chooses whether and when to accept it.

The reason for 68-year-old Wypych’s early resignation was not given. The Polish-born priest moved to Chicago in 1983 to be close to his mother, who had immigrated to the United States nine years prior after the death of Wypych’s father.

In a 2011 interview with Catholic New World, Wypych said the first years of his priesthood he couldn’t speak with his mother except by letter “because telephone connections between Poland and the United States were prohibited by the communist government.”

Born in Kazimierza Wielka, Poland, Wypych grew up as an only child after the death of his younger brother, Robert, in infancy.

He was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1989 to help minister to the Polish Catholic community in the city.

Wypych had been ordained a deacon by Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow just before the latter became Pope John Paul II. He was ordained a priest in 1979.

In 2011, Wypych was named an auxiliary bishop of Chicago. He served as episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s Vicariate V. He was also national executive director of the Catholic League for Religious Assistance to Poland and Polonia since 2011.

Perry, episcopal vicar of Chicago’s Vicariate VI, was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1998.

Born in Chicago, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1975.

Perry has a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. From 2004, he was vice president of the board of the Black Catholic Congress and chairman of the USCCB committee on African American Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Chicago serves approximately 2.2 million Catholics. It is led by Cardinal Blase Cupich assisted by six auxiliary bishops.

Pope Francis meets with new Russian ambassador to the Vatican

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 18, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis  met with the newly appointed Russian ambassador to the Holy See, .

The meeting, during which Soltanovsky presented his credential letters to the pontiff, comes days after papal envoy  visited Beijing to discuss efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. 

The “atmosphere of the meeting was friendly” and the two men “discussed, in particular, the mission of the papal special envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at solving a number of humanitarian issues,” Soltanovsky told Russia’s official .

“We agreed to continue an honest and open dialogue with the Holy See, traditionally based on mutual respect,” Soltanovsky told Tass.

While serving as Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Zuppi has made several diplomatic visits across the world to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine, including stops in   and  Zuppi has strong ties to Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association that has been  Zuppi’s mission , however, the Vatican has said. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept. 15 that “the Vatican envoy [Zuppi] is going to come again” and Moscow will “welcome him.” The Vatican has not yet confirmed Zuppi’s trip. 

Pope Francis met with outgoing Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev when the pontiff  on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion began. The Vatican said the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war.” 

Later, in September 2022, Pope Francis  which involved calling Avdeyev “to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”

Pope Francis has condemned the war and called for peace in Ukraine on numerous occasions, but has also occasionally   for the way he has expressed himself. Most recently, in August, the Vatican  that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25. 

In the speech, Francis referenced “Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.” President Vladimir Putin had previously compared himself to the 18th-century czar Peter the Great in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church responded with alarm, saying: “We hope that these words of the Holy Father were spoken spontaneously, without any attempt at historical evaluations, let alone support of Russia’s imperialist ambitions.”

The Vatican nunciature in Kyiv clarified that the words of the Roman pontiff are to be understood in the context of Pope Francis being “a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism across all peoples and situations.” 

Russia and the Holy See  in 2010 after maintaining limited diplomatic relations since 1990. 

Synod 2023: What has Pope Francis said about synodality?

Rome Newsroom, Sep 17, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The  the first of two assemblies on Oct. 4.

The global meetings in Rome are the culmination of two years of preparation, and during that time, much has been said about synodality, including by the pope.

In some of his , Pope Francis said, “speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public,” but it is “something truly important for the Church.”

“Precisely at this time, when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening, the Church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word together,” he said to media representatives on Aug. 26. 

“Walk together. Question together. Take responsibility together for community discernment, which for us is prayer, as the first Apostles did: This is synodality, which we would like to make a daily habit in all its expressions,” he added.

Here are some of the other things Pope Francis has said about synodality during his papacy:

“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.

“Synodality, as a constitutive element of the Church, offers us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the hierarchical ministry itself. If we understand, as St. John Chrysostom says, that ‘Church and Synod are synonymous,’ inasmuch as the Church is nothing other than the ‘journeying together’ of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord, then we understand too that, within the Church, no one can be ‘raised up’ higher than others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person ‘lower’ himself or herself, so as to serve our brothers and sisters along the way.

“In a synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.”

“In the last five years you have produced two relevant texts.  offers a theological clarification on synodality in the life and mission of the Church. 

“You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation, in the history of the People of God on their journey, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of Trinitarian communion. As you know, this theme is very close to my heart ...

“And for this I thank you for your document, because today one thinks that synodality is taking each other by the hand and setting out on a journey, celebrating with the young, or carrying out an opinion poll: ‘What do you think about the priesthood for women?’ That is mostly what is done, isn’t it? Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality.” 

“Synodality is not a chapter in an ecclesiology textbook, much less a fad or a slogan to be bandied about in our meetings. Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style, and mission. We can talk about the Church as being ‘synodal,’ without reducing that word to yet another description or definition of the Church. I say this not as a theological opinion or even my own thinking, but based on what can be considered the first and most important ‘manual’ of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.”

“The synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.

“The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside. If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means, and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.

“A second risk is intellectualism. Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction. This would turn the synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

“Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’ (, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression — ‘We have always done it that way’ — is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.”

“There is no place for ideology in the synod. It’s another dynamic. The synod is dialogue between baptized people in the name of the Church, on the life of the Church, on dialogue with the world, on the problems that affect humanity today. But when you think along an ideological path, the synod ends.

“There is one thing we must safeguard: the synodal climate. This is not a TV program where everything is talked about. There is a religious moment, there is a moment of religious exchange. Consider that in the synod sessions they speak for 3-4 minutes each, three [people], and then there are 3-4 minutes of silence for prayer ... Without this spirit of prayer there is no synodality, there is politics, there is parliamentarianism.

“In the synod, religiosity must be safeguarded and the integrity of the people who speak must be safeguarded.”

Pope Francis: Forgiveness is the cure that heals ‘the poisons of resentment’

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2023 / 07:41 am (CNA).

Think of someone who has hurt you and ask God for the strength to forgive that person, Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Speaking from a window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sept. 17, the pope underlined that forgiveness can heal “the poisons of resentment” and “restore peace to our hearts.”

In his , the pope said that forgiving is “not a good deed that we can choose to do or not do” but “a fundamental condition for those who are Christians.”

“Every one of us, in fact, is ‘forgiven,’” he said. “God gave his life for us and in no way can we compensate for his mercy, which he never withdraws from his heart. However, by corresponding to his gratuitousness, that is, by forgiving one another, we can bear witness to him, sowing new life around us.”

“For outside of forgiveness, there is no hope; outside of forgiveness there is no peace.”

The pope compared forgiveness to “oxygen that purifies the air polluted by hatred” and heals the “many diseases of the heart that contaminate society.”

He reflected on Jesus’ response to Peter, who had asked: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

“Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times ().’”

Pope Francis added: “Jesus’ message is clear: God forgives incalculably, exceeding all measure. This is how he is; he acts out of love, and gratuitously. … We cannot repay him but, when we forgive a brother or a sister, we imitate him.”

“May Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to receive the grace of God and to forgive each other,” he said.

After praying the in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis noted that he will travel to Marseille, France, on Friday to attend a meeting of bishops from the Mediterranean region that will have a special focus on the issue of migration.

He said that migration is a “challenge” that must be faced together, adding that the future will only be prosperous if “it is built on fraternity, putting human dignity first … especially for those most in need.”

Pope Francis said that Marseille is called to be “a port of hope” and asked people to pray for his upcoming journey to the French city Sept. 22–23.

Pope Francis: Catholics in Korea called ‘to a burning faith’

Rome Newsroom, Sep 16, 2023 / 12:31 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday invited Catholics in Korea to emulate the zeal of their patron saint, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, as his statue was blessed at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“[St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn’s] figure invites us to discover the vocation entrusted to the Korean Church, to all of you: You are called to a young faith, to a burning faith that, animated by love of God and neighbor, becomes a gift,” he said Sept. 16.

The pope met with a delegation of 300 members of the Catholic Church in Korea several hours before a permanent installation of was unveiled in a niche on the outside of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Born in 1821, Kim was the first native Korean priest and one of the country’s earliest martyrs. He was tortured and beheaded by the Korean Joseon Dynasty at only 25 years old.

“With the prophecy of martyrdom, the Korean Church reminds us that we cannot follow Jesus without embracing his cross and that we cannot proclaim ourselves Christians without being willing to follow the way of love to the end,” Pope Francis said.

Looking at this saint, he continued, “how can we not feel exhorted to cultivate apostolic zeal in our hearts, to be a sign of a Church that goes out of itself to joyfully spread the seed of the Gospel, including through a life spent for others, in peace and with love?”

The blessing of the 6-ton, 12-foot-tall marble statue of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn took place on Sept. 16, the anniversary of his martyrdom.

The statue depicts the Korean martyr with his arms outstretched and wearing a traditional Korean dopo and a flat hat.

Korean Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the delegation before the statue was blessed by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“When I think of the intense life of this great saint, Jesus’ words come back to my heart, ‘If the grain of wheat, when it falls into the earth, does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,’” the pope said.

“These are words that help us to read with spiritual intelligence the beautiful story of your faith, of which St. Andrew Kim is a precious seed: he, Korea’s first martyr priest, killed at a young age shortly after receiving ordination.”

Pope Francis also pointed out the large number of priestly vocations in Korea and asked that some of them be “kicked out” of the country to be missionaries in other lands.

“I have had the experience of seeing them in Argentina and your missionaries do so much good,” he said.

He also invited Korean Catholics to be “apostles of peace” in every area of their life.

The pope recalled that World Youth Day 2027 will be in Seoul, South Korea, and asked that part of the preparations be a zealous devotion to spreading the Word of God.

“In particular, I would like to entrust the Korean Church specifically to the youth,” he said. “In spite of your wonderful history of faith and the great pastoral work you enthusiastically carry out, so many young people, even among you, are seduced by the false myths of efficiency and consumerism, and enthralled by the illusion of hedonism.”

“But the hearts of young people seek something else,” he continued. “They are made for much broader horizons: take care of them, seek them out, approach them, listen to them, proclaim to them the beauty of the Gospel so that, inwardly free, they may become joyful witnesses of truth and fraternity.”

Cardinal Grech shares blessing for Synod on Synodality to be given after Sunday Mass

Rome Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 12:50 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Mario Grech has asked Catholics around the world to pray a blessing and special intercessory prayers for the Synod on Synodality.

Grech, general secretary of the synod, sent a letter Sept. 12 asking bishops to help facilitate prayers for those participating in the first session of the 16th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place Oct. 4–29 at the Vatican on the topic of synodality.

The letter included a blessing to say at the end of Sunday Masses on Oct. 1 and intercessory prayers to be used during weekday or Sunday Masses or as intercessions during Vespers, also called Evening Prayer.

Grech’s letter quoted Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of October 2022, that “without prayer, there will be no synod.”

“The synod is first and foremost an event of prayer and listening that involves not only the members of the synod assembly but every baptized person, every particular Church,” Grech wrote. “All of us, in fact, are called at this time to unite in the communion of prayer and in the insistent invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning what the Lord is asking of his Church today.”

The cardinal asked bishops to seek “unanimous and unceasing prayer” for the synod assembly from Catholics in their dioceses, especially the members of monastic communities.

“The first step of prayer,” he said, “is listening to the Word of God, listening to the Spirit. Therefore, the first contribution of every baptized person to the proceedings of the synodal assembly will be listening to the Word of God and the Spirit in the knowledge that the voice of the Spirit is ‘sine qua non’ for the Church body.”

The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021, is a multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

The Church’s synodal process has already undergone diocesan, national, and continental stages. It will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican. The first will take place Oct. 4–29 and the second in October 2024 to advise the pope on the topic: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

Pope Francis meets close collaborator of Rupnik

Rome Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis had a private meeting on Friday with the theologian Maria Campatelli, a close collaborator of Father Marko Rupnik, who was dismissed from the Jesuits in June for failing to obey the directions of his superiors.

Campatelli, 61, has been the director of the Aletti Center — an art and theology school founded by Rupnik in Rome — since 2020.

In June, Campatelli published defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations” and claiming the Jesuits had withheld documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

The Vatican did not provide any information on the meeting between Pope Francis and Campatelli other than to state it had taken place.

The Jesuits dismissed Rupnik on June 9 after the priest and artist had been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience, spanning more than three decades.

Father Johan Verschueren, SJ, Rupnik’s former superior, wrote posted to the Jesuit website on June 24 stating that Rupnik was officially no longer a Jesuit after the 30-day window to appeal the decision had closed.

Campatelli defended Rupnik in a letter posted to the Aletti Center website June 17, two days after the public announcement of the priest’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus.

The theologian said Rupnik had in January requested to leave the Jesuits after losing trust in his superiors for favoring “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Father Rupnik and the Aletti Center to forms of lynching).”

She also accused the Jesuit order of withholding information from the media, including documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

Campatelli went on to say that the Jesuits had asked Rupnik to transfer to a Jesuit community in northern Italy in March. She claimed the transfer request was “purely instrumental” and used as a “presupposition for an act of disobedience.”

She also said other Jesuits who are part of the Aletti Center have put in requests to leave the religious order.

Four Jesuit priests, other than Rupnik, are currently listed on the as belonging to the leadership team.

In February, the Jesuits said they had opened a new internal procedure against Rupnik after receiving accusations against him spanning from 1985 to 2018. The “highly credible” accusations, they said, included claims of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience.

A June statement said the team investigating the accusations delivered its dossier the same month.

Rupnik’s superiors imposed certain restrictions on his ministry at the recommendation of the investigators.

According to media reports in recent months, Rupnik defied these orders and others, such as the direction to remain in central Italy and to not participate in public artistic activities.

Rupnik was also briefly excommunicated in 2019 for absolving in confession an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment.

Ordination of women should not be focal point of synod, Scandinavian cardinal says

Rome Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

Scandinavia’s top Church leader hopes the role of women in the Church’s mission is a focal point at the upcoming synodal assembly on synodality — and, therefore, that the conversation isn’t bogged down on the settled question of whether the Church can ordain women. 

“It would be very frustrating if the discussion was limited to this issue that cannot lead further, as priestly ministry is reserved to men in Catholic and Orthodox doctrine,” Cardinal Anders Arborelius, ordinary of the Archdiocese of Stockholm, told the National Catholic Reporter in an interview published Sept. 13.

Arborelius, who became the first cardinal ever from Scandinavia in 2017 and was made a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops in 2022, will be one of the 360-plus voting participants at the October synod. The gathering, which will be held from Oct. 4–29 and followed by a second assembly in October 2024, is focused on how the Church can better incorporate its members into its life and mission.

Although synod organizers have insisted the event is not about changing doctrine, the event’s, or working document, explicitly asks whether “it is possible to envisage” “the question of women’s inclusion in the diaconate.” Some participants, such as San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy, have actively pushed for women’s ordination to be a focal point of the proceedings, as have outside initiatives such as the Synodal Way in the Catholic Church in Germany. 

The Church’s inability to sacramentally ordain women — which is often falsely portrayed as a “ban” in some media accounts — was confirmed in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, who wrote in that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” 

Pope Francis has also repeatedly affirmed this truth, stating in November 2016 that John Paul’s teaching was the More recently, Pope Francis told America magazine in 2022 that the fact that women cannot enter ordained ministry and that the Church should continue to develop a “theology of women” and expand women’s participation in ecclesial life.

Arborelius made similar comments in his interview with the National Catholic Reporter, which was conducted during his August visit to the United States to participate in an ecumenical dialogue on St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

“It is of the utmost importance to find more possibilities for women to take part in the work of evangelization on various levels,” Arborelius said. “At the same time, it is important to see that there are other ways than ordained ministry.”

The Vatican says a newborn martyr had a ‘baptism of blood.’ What does that mean?

CNA Staff, Sep 14, 2023 / 12:22 pm (CNA).

All nine members of the Ulma family, who were murdered by the Nazi regime for sheltering two Jewish families in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, were beatified on Sunday, marking the first time an entire family was beatified at once.

In December 2022, Pope Francis declared the family martyrs, including the youngest of the seven children, an unnamed baby who was born at the moment of its mother Wiktoria’s execution by Nazi officers. 

Some news reports incorrectly reported that the baby was the first unborn child to be beatified. The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints clarified Sept. 5 that the child was a newborn, adding that it received a “baptism of blood” and was therefore included among the martyrs.

So, what exactly is a “baptism of blood?” And what exactly is a martyr?

CNA spoke with two theologians, Father Anthony R. Lusvardi, SJ, professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and Father Thomas Petri, OP, president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., to shed some light on the topics.

Following the Nazi regime’s occupation of Poland during World War II, it sought mass extermination of the Jewish people, including those in the Ulma family’s small town of Markowa in southeastern Poland, which, today, is near the border of Ukraine.

In 1941, the Nazis made harboring Jews a crime punishable by death in occupied Poland. Despite the danger, the Ulmas hid two Jewish families on its farm. In the middle of the night of March 23-24, 1944, the Ulmas’ tiny home was surrounded by the Nazi patrol.

The German officers discovered and killed the eight Jews: Saul Goldman and his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, and Moses, along with the Ulmas’ neighbors, Gołda Grünfeld and Lea Didner, and their young daughter, Reszla.

Then the Nazis forced 44-year-old Józef and 31-year-old Wiktoria Ulma out in front of their home and shot and killed the entire family.

Along with the unnamed newborn baby, the children’s names are Stanisława, 7; Barbara, 6; Władysław, 5; Franciszek, almost 4; Antoni, 2; and Maria, 1.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that martyrdom “is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: It means bearing witness even unto death.” 

If a person is martyred, it means he or she is among the saints in heaven, Father Petri told CNA. 

Why is the Ulma family considered martyrs if they weren’t told to deny their faith?

Father Lusvardi said someone is considered a martyr when killed out of hatred for the faith. It is not necessary that the perpetrator demand that a martyr deny the faith at the time of his or her death.

“Other martyrs, like St. Thomas Becket or St. Oscar Romero, come to mind who were ambushed by assassins and not asked to deny the faith; but they were killed out of hatred for the faith and they continued to be faithful right up until the end, to bear witness up to the moment of death,” he said.

At the Ulmas’ beatification Mass in Markowa on Sunday, Father Witold Burda, postulator of the cause of beatification, said the family’s martyrdom resulted from the Nazis’ motive.

Those who called for the massacre, the commander Eilert Dieken and the gendarme Józef Kokott, “were moved — we read in the postulation — by anti-Semitic hatred and an even prevalent anti-Christian aversion,” Burda said.

The Vatican’s note said that the child received a “baptism of blood” as a result of being murdered.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that although baptism is necessary for salvation, God is not “bound” by the sacrament of baptism.

Baptism of blood is a term used when referring to the martyrdom of a Christian who has not yet been baptized, according to Lusvardi.

The catechism says: “The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament” (No. 1258).

Petri said that St. Augustine taught in his book “City of God” that “anyone who dies for Christ without baptism is freed from their sins just as if they had been baptized in water.”

Petri pointed to the Holy Innocents as an example, when King Herod the Great of Judea attempted to kill the newborn baby Jesus by ordering the slaughter of “all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under,” as Matthew 2:16 .

“The Holy Innocents are revered as martyrs for the infant Jesus,” he added.

Lusvardi said that both the Ulma newborn and the Holy Innocents are “very special cases” because “most of the time when we talk about bearing witness, we think of someone who professes belief explicitly and sticks to that belief even in the face of violence.” 

“But I think that by recognizing such little ones as martyrs, we’re recognizing that even if they didn’t give testimony to Christ with their words, their brief lives in some way still pointed the way to him,” he added.

Why the Queen of Belgium can wear white when meeting the pope

Rome Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Queen Mathilde of Belgium is one of only a few women in the world who can wear white, rather than the customary black, when meeting the pope for an official private audience at the Vatican.

As a Catholic queen, she has the “privilège du blanc,” a papal privilege currently granted only to the Catholic royalty from Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Monaco, as well as the House of Savoy.

The traditional Vatican protocol required women to wear a black mantilla and a black dress with long sleeves for official papal audiences, although this custom has been made optional in recent decades.

Queen Mathilde arrived at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with her husband, King Philippe of the Belgians, on Thursday morning wearing a white mantilla veil and a white dress.

Philippe, who ascended the Belgian throne 10 years ago, holds the title “Rex Catholicissimus,” or “(Most) Catholic Majesty.”

The Belgian royals and the pope discussed the war in Ukraine and a shared commitment to peace during the 20-minute meeting, according to a statement released by the Vatican.

It was the monarch’s second visit to the Vatican this year, as King Philippe and Queen Mathilde also traveled to Rome for the funeral of Benedict XVI in January.

Nearly 50% of Belgians identify as Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center. The members of the Belgian Royal Family are Catholic but do not have an official role within the Catholic Church in the country.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde were married in 1999 in Belgium’s 11th-century Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels and have four children. Their eldest daughter, Princess Elisabeth, is first in the line of succession.

Pope Francis, former President Clinton to have ‘special conversation’ at foundation meeting

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 09:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis and former President Bill Clinton will discuss pressing issues facing the world next week at the annual meeting of the Clinton Foundation’s global humanitarian effort, the Clinton Foundation revealed on Thursday. 

The foundation  that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2023 meeting would open on Monday, Sept. 18, with “a special conversation between President Clinton and His Holiness Pope Francis” via remote link.

The discussion is expected to focus on “what it takes to keep going on the most pressing global challenges of our time,” the release said, including “climate change, the refugee crisis, the welfare of children, and the mission and projects of the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital.”

Bambino Gesù is a Vatican-owned pediatric hospital located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Holy See. Pope Francis has visited the hospital several times and  calling it a “family” that offers “human witness” through its medical services.

The hospital  that representatives of the facility would also be “tak[ing] part” in the symposium. The hospital said it requires “great financial support” to run its medical undertakings; it said it would “bring these needs to the attention of the international audience” at the initiative meeting.

Francis already  at the Casa Santa Marta papal residence, though details of that meeting have not been released.

Two years ago Chelsea Clinton — the vice chair of the Clinton Foundation —  a virtual Vatican symposium on health.

On its website, the Clinton Foundation touts its global initiative as “creating a community of doers who are taking action on the world’s most pressing challenges, together.”

Among the other guests at the symposium next week will be U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

The Clinton Foundation says the Global Initiative has helped “more than 9,000 organizations [launch] more than 3,900 Commitments to Action,” which it described as “new, specific, and measurable projects and programs.”

Pope Francis appoints Father Spadaro to culture and education post

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 09:36 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday announced the appointment of Father Antonio Spadaro as the undersecretary for the Dicastery for Culture and Education, a position the Jesuit priest will take after over a decade leading an influential Catholic journal in Rome. 

Spadaro will assume office on Jan. 1, 2024, the Vatican  The priest had previously served as the editor of the Jesuit-run La Civiltà Cattolica for 12 years. 

Spadaro, known popularly as “the pope’s mouthpiece” for his regular outspoken defense of the Holy Father, had  that he was leaving La Civiltà, a decision he said came about from his “Jesuit superiors” that had been “agreed upon one year ago.”

As editor, the priest has sometimes generated controversy such as with his co-authorship of  in which the writers criticized so-called “value voters” in the United States who traffic in an “ecumenism of hate.”

The Dicastery for Culture and Education was formed last year after the merger of two other departments, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The Vatican  that the cultural wing of the dicastery is “dedicated to the promotion of culture, pastoral activity, and the enhancement of cultural heritage.”

The educational division, meanwhile, works worldwide with bishops and Church authorities to ensure that “the fundamental principles of education, especially Catholic education, may be welcomed and better understood, enabling them to be implemented contextually and culturally.”

The dicastery as a whole “works for the development of people’s human values in the context of Christian anthropology, contributing to the full realization of Christian discipleship,” the Holy See says.

The Italian-born priest said his tenure at the magazine “has been a challenging responsibility that I have lived with enthusiasm since 2011.”

He thanked the Jesuit leaders and contributors to the periodical who “have collaborated to build the network of a magazine that is now fully international.” He described them as “a solid foundation for the future.”

The Vatican in its announcement noted that Spadaro was already a “consultor” of the dicastery as well as “an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Letters of the Virtuosi al Pantheon.”

Spadaro in his resignation announcement indicated he was ready to leave his long-held post at the magazine. “Twelve years is the right time to give the best without repeating yourself,” he said. 

Vatican allows a peek at historic palazzo in heart of Rome

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican this week invited journalists to a special tour of the Palace of the Chancellery, a centuries-old building that the Holy See refers to as “one of the most prestigious palaces in Rome.”

The Administration of the Heritage of the Apostolic See (APSA) opened the building to journalists for a special tour, , in part in order to offer what APSA president Bishop Nunzio Galantino described as “a less commercial look at the realities that belong to the Apostolic See.”

The palace was built over a roughly 25-year period at the end of the 15th century and into the 16th. It was originally home to Cardinal Raffaele Riario, a prelate known for having invited Michaelangelo to Rome after being impressed by the latter’s artistic abilities. 

Claudia Conforti, a professor of history of architecture at the University of Tor Vergata, told Vatican News that the palazzo is home to “some centuries of the most vivid history of Roman art, painting, and architecture.”

The home was built atop ancient ruins. Conforti told Vatican News that the basement houses “an artificial canal that served the thermal baths of Agrippa” as well as the tomb of Aulus Irtius, “one of the commanders of the Roman army in Gaul of Julius Caesar.”

Engineer Mauro Tomassini, meanwhile, said the structure “is still being studied today” because it “is not fully known.”

Describing the building as “an apparent fortress, with four corner towers,” Tomassini said that it “has so many things to offer to those who visit it,” though he claimed that “unfortunately probably the Romans themselves do not attend it and do not know it as they should.”

At the opening, Galantino indicated the special presentation was motivated by Pope Francis’ repeated calls for a more transparent Church.

“But transparency does not consist only in the publication of the budget,” Galantino said. “It does not stop at the ‘quantity’ but also shows the quality of what is kept. This is a step forward.”

The Vatican  the building as housing the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which the Holy See says “ensures that justice in the Church is correctly administered.”

Among its artistic and archeological collections is a 1544 mural by the artist Giorgio Vasari depicting “an episode from the life of Paul III;” also found underneath the structure was a series of reliefs that the Vatican Museums  were “part of the decoration of a public monument which can be dated to the reign of Domitian” in the first century.

Controversial Iraqi Christian didn’t meet with Pope Francis privately, Vatican confirms

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 17:46 pm (CNA).

An Iraqi Christian figure involved in a dispute with the leader of the Catholic Church in the country was not, as he has implied online, granted a private audience with Pope Francis, the Vatican clarified on Tuesday. 

Rayan Al-Kildani, whose name means “Rayan the Chaldean,” is a Christian lawmaker and leader of the paramilitary group the “Babylon Brigades.” He has previously been for alleged human rights abuses, including the cutting off of a detainee’s ear. 

In addition, Al-Kildani has with the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Cardinal Louis Sako, over allegations by Sako that Kildani has been extorting Christians in the Nineveh Plains, a historically Christian but embattled region. Sako also has faulted Al-Kildani for his apparent desire to take over control of the Chaldean Church’s properties in Iraq. 

On social media Sept. 7, Al-Kildani shared photos and videos that seemed, to imply that he had a private meeting with Pope Francis. Al-Kildani after his visit to the Vatican along with photos of the encounter, had been edited to blur the crowds in the background.

“At the end of the prayer, al-Kildani met His Holiness the pope... and conveyed to him the greetings of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people, asking him for his prayers for Iraq. In turn, His Holiness the pope granted Kildani his apostolic blessing and gave him a special gift, which is the rosary, blessed by His Holiness,” Al-Kildani

The Vatican in a brief Tuesday statement said Pope Francis’ meeting with Al-Kildani was during the weekly general audience. 

“During the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 6 September last, His Holiness Pope Francis greeted some of the people present, as is customary. Among them was a group of Iraqis, which included Mr. Rayan Al-Kildani, with whom some brief words were exchanged,” the Vatican Press Office said.

Pope Francis’ general audiences are held in St. Peter’s Square and attract thousands of pilgrims from around the world, many of whom get the chance to greet the pope and take pictures with him. Al-Kildani previously asked for a personal meeting with the pope in 2021 when Francis visited the country, and again in April and was refused both times, the

But in a Wednesday Al-Kildani said the Vatican’s statement served to confirm “its prior knowledge of the presence of Mr. Ryan Al-Kaldani among the Iraqi delegation in the interview with His Holiness the pope.”

Al-Kildani is a controversial figure not only because of his alleged crimes but also because of his public disputes with his Church’s hierarchy.

In July, Cardinal Sako announced his withdrawal from his seat in Baghdad after Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid revoked a decree recognizing him as head of the Christian Church in Iraq, which the government had done since 2013. The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern-rite church in full communion with the Holy See, with about 300,000 members in the country and thousands more around the world. Once a nation with more than a million Christians, Iraq has seen its highly diverse Iraqi Christian community decimated by the Islamic State and other conflicts since 2003. 

Sako said in July that he will be taking up residence in a monastery in Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, where he will continue to lead the Chaldean Church. Al-Kildani’s militant group engaged in a “deliberate and humiliating campaign” against his office, which included “incorrect” legal advice to Rashid that helped lead to the president’s decision, Sako charged in

According to reporting by ACI Mena, CNA’s Middle East and North Africa news partner, Sako has also accused Al-Kildani of seizing Christian seats in the Iraqi Parliament without real representation for Christians. As a result, Al-Kildani has taken Sako to court for slander. The proceedings are ongoing.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Al-Kildani because he was engaged in “serious human rights abuses” in his capacity as head of a paramilitary group. The group Al-Kildani leads in purportedly “the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninevah Plain,” the department said. 

According to the Treasury Department, Al-Kildani’s group “illegally seized and sold agricultural land” and “the local population has accused the group of intimidation, extortion, and harassment of women.” A video was circulated among human rights groups showing Al-Kildani cutting off the ear of a handcuffed detainee, the Treasury Department’s report said.

What you need to know about the Synod on Synodality

Rome Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 12:54 pm (CNA).

The first Vatican assembly for the global Synod on Synodality will kick off in October bringing together clerics and laity alike for nearly one month of discussions. Here is what you need to know:

The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021, is a multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

The Catholic Church’s massive synodal process has already undergone diocesan, national, and continental stages. It will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican. The first will take place Oct. 4–28 and the second in October 2024 to advise the pope on the topic “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

Synodality was defined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s International Theological Commission in 2018 as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the people of God.”

The 2021 synod preparatory document described synodality as “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church.”

The latest document published by the Vatican adds that synodality can also be understood as something that “does not derive from the enunciation of a principle, a theory, or a formula but develops from a readiness to enter into a dynamic of constructive, respectful, and prayerful speaking, listening, and dialogue.”

“At the root of this process is the acceptance, both personal and communal, of something that is both a gift and a challenge: to be a Church of sisters and brothers in Christ who listen to one another and who, in so doing, are gradually transformed by the Spirit,” it says.

Pope Francis has said that he envisions the Synod on Synodality as “a journey in accordance with the Spirit, not a parliament for demanding rights and claiming needs in accordance with the agenda of the world, nor an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to be docile to the breath of the Holy Spirit.”

There are three overarching questions for the upcoming synod assembly as defined by the 2023 synod assembly’s guiding document called the :

  1. How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?

  2. How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?

  3. What processes, structures, and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal Church?

The main objective of the first session in October will be to design a plan of study in a “synodal style” and to indicate who will be involved in those discussions, according to the . Discernment will be “completed” in the 2024 session of the synod.

The document guiding the discussions at the October synod assembly suggests discernment on questions regarding some hot-button topics, including women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach. 

The document also highlights a desire for new institutional bodies to allow for greater participation in decision-making by the “people of God.” One of the proposed questions for discernment for the synod of bishops asks: “What can we learn about the exercise of authority and responsibility from other Churches and ecclesial communities?”

A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

For the first time, the Synod of Bishops in 2023 will include voting delegates who are not bishops. Nearly a third of the 364 voting delegates were chosen directly by the pope, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons. Fifty-four voting members are women. 

The October assembly will be held in the Paul VI Hall, instead of the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, with delegates sitting at round tables of about 10 people each. The latter part of the October gathering will focus on deciding the Church’s next steps and “the necessary in-depth theological and canonical studies in preparation” for a second assembly in October 2024.

The 2023 Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican will begin with a three-day retreat for the Catholic bishops and participants Oct. 1–3 led by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe, who has drawn criticism from some for his statements on homosexuality.

Pope Francis has also announced an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square as part of the Synod on Synodality on Sept. 30. The prayer vigil, organized by the Taizé Community, will entrust to God the work of the October synod assembly.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has reported that the initial diocesan listening phase concluded with the participation of 112 out of 114 of the world’s Catholic bishops’ conferences.

According to a report from the U.S. bishops’ conference, about 700,000 people participated in the diocesan phase of the synod in the U.S. out of 66.8 million Catholics in the country, or about 1%.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the 64-year-old archbishop of Luxembourg, is one of the leading organizers of the ongoing Synod on Synodality as the relator general. The Jesuit was recently added to Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisers. Hollerich said in an interview in March that he believes that a future pope could allow women priests and that he finds “the part of the teaching calling homosexuality ‘intrinsically disordered’ a bit dubious.”

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general for the Synod of Bishops, is the former bishop of Gozo, Malta. He was one of two authors of the Maltese bishops’ controversial pastoral guidelines on , which stated that divorced and remarried Catholics, in certain cases and after “honest discernment,” could receive Communion. Last year, Grech decried the public criticism of the German “Synodal Way” as “denunciation.”

The vade mecum for the synod published the following “Prayer for the Synod on Synodality”:

“We stand before you, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in your name. With you alone to guide us, make yourself at home in our hearts; teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it. We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder. Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. Let us find in you our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right. All this we ask of you, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.”

Pope Francis highlights life of service of Venezuelan blessed at general audience

Rome Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

During his Sept. 13 general audience, Pope Francis presented the life of Blessed José Gregorio Hernández Cisneros as an example of the Gospel in action and service to the greater good.

The general audience was the latest installment of the pope’s ongoing series on apostolic zeal, which is an opportunity for the faithful to “meet passionate witnesses to the proclamation of the Gospel,” individuals who embodied “the will and also the inner passion to carry the Gospel forward,” according to the pope.

Wednesday’s catechism focused on the Venezuelan Hernández, the “people’s doctor,” and was the 20th installment in the series, which opened Jan. 11 with the life of the Apostle Matthew.

Hernández was born Oct. 26, 1864, in Trujillo state, Venezuela. Though he wanted to pursue the priesthood, he was unable to due to ill health. Nevertheless, his faith was at the center of his life; he was a daily communicant, had a rich prayer life, and was a Third Order Franciscan layman.

After completing his studies in Caracas, he went to Paris, where he took advanced coursework in bacteriology. Hernández was, the Holy Father said, “a doctor close to the weak.” He was someone who often gave medical assistance to the poor and needy, often without asking for any compensation. Instead of the “wealth of money he preferred that of the Gospel,” the pope remarked. This life of service was predicated upon charity and mercy and underscored by his willingness to listen to the will of God.

The Holy Father said this apostolic zeal derived from “a certainty and a strength. The certainty was the grace of God.” Hernández died in 1919 at the age of 54 after being struck by a car on his way to deliver medicine to a sick patient. He died “while carrying out a work of mercy,” Pope Francis noted. Following his death, Hernández went on to gain a massive following in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.

Hernández was the first Venezuelan layperson to be beatified. On the eve of his beatification in 2021, Pope Francis in a released by the Vatican said: “He is a model of holiness committed to the defense of life, in the challenges of history and, in particular, as a paradigm of service to his neighbor, like a good Samaritan, without excluding anyone. He is a man of universal service.”

The Holy Father tied the life of Hernández to the larger theme of today’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy (1 Tim 2:1-4), which not only underscores the importance of prayer but also juxtaposes it with gossip. Christians are called “to pray,” the pope said, and “to engage not in chatter — chatter, it is a plague — but to promote good and to build peace and justice in truth.” The critique of chatter or gossip has been a recurring theme of the pope’s messages, one that is the antithesis of promoting “good” and building “peace and justice in truth,” he said.

Pope Francis also took a moment to speak about the importance Hernández’s mother played in passing down the faith. The pope recalled the words of Hernández: “My mother taught me virtue from the cradle; she made me grow in the knowledge of God and gave me charity as a guide.”

The Holy Father went on to emphasize the important role all mothers play in transmitting faith to their children: “It is mothers who pass on the faith. Faith is transmitted in dialect; that is, with the language of mothers, that dialect that mothers know how to speak with their children. And to you mothers: Be careful when transmitting the faith in that maternal dialect.”

This emphasis on motherhood and a life of service to those in need is also seen in the recent beautification of the Ulma family.

“​​Wiktoria [Ulma] also learned, especially from her parents, how important it is to be open to the needs and requirements of other people” Father Witold Burda, postulator of the Ulma family’s cause for beatification, on the occasion of the Sept. 10 beatification.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Francis acknowledged Polish Archbishop Adam Szal of the Archdiocese of Przemyśl for bringing to Rome the relics of the Ulma family, who are, the pope said, a “model of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The pope then met with Szal and Burda in St. Peter’s Square, where they presented the official portrait of the Ulma family to the pontiff. In turn, the pope blessed the portrait and prayed before the relic.

The Ulma family — parents Josef and Wiktoria as well as their seven children — . They were killed in 1944 by the Nazis after giving refuge to Jews in their home. It was an unprecedented beatification as it was the first time in the history of the Church that an entire family was beatified together. The beatification liturgy was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and was attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The pope closed his audience by making an appeal of prayer for the people of Libya, who , reportedly leaving more than 10,000 people dead in the country.

“I invite you to join my prayer for those who have lost their lives, for their families and for the displaced. May our solidarity not be lacking towards these brothers and sisters, tried by such a devastating calamity,” the pope said. This comes only a few days after a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco, leaving an estimated 3,000 dead there.

Cardinal Zuppi heading to Beijing to discuss peace efforts in Ukraine

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

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is traveling to Beijing this week to continue the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts to help bring peace in Ukraine.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed on Tuesday that the cardinal will be in the Chinese capital as the pope’s peace envoy from Sept. 13–15.

“The visit constitutes a further step in the mission desired by the pope to support humanitarian initiatives and the search for paths that can lead to a just peace,” Bruni told journalists on Sept. 12.

Pope Francis has asked the Italian cardinal to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine.

During his time in China, Zuppi is expected to meet Chinese Premier Li Qiang, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The Vatican did not release details about the cardinal’s scheduled meetings.

Pope Francis has described Zuppi’s scheduled stop in Beijing as part of the Vatican’s “peace offensive,” which has already included visits to Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. The pope said in an interview last month that he has also considered appointing a permanent representative to serve as a bridge between Russia and Ukraine.

The Vatican’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine hit a road bump recently when Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called Pope Francis “pro-Russian” and “not credible” in comments to Ukrainian media on Sept. 8 following the pope’s invocation of imperial czars and “great Mother Russia” during a video conference with Russian youth in August.

The Vatican responded to Podolyak’s comments the following day, strongly refuting the Ukrainian’s claims that the Vatican Bank, or IOR, receives or invests money from Russia.

“In addition to being untrue, such an activity would also be impossible,” given the international sanctions and internal “stringent policies” of the bank, it said, including limiting its clientele to institutions or individuals who have close ties to the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis also acknowledged in his press conference with reporters on his return flight from Mongolia that his prior comments about “great Russia” were not appropriate and that he only intended them in a cultural sense to describe the country’s great literary and musical traditions, not imperial ambitions.

The Vatican also issued a clarification that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism after the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said the pope’s comments had caused “great pain and concern” among Ukrainian Catholics.

Zuppi told reporters on Monday that he does not think that the recent criticism of the pope by the Ukrainian presidential aide threatens his peace mission.

“I think that if there are any doubts they have obviously already been cleared up or will be cleared up: They are understandable in such a tense situation,” the cardinal said, according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.

“I think the Ukrainian government and people are aware of the support that they have always had from the Church and Pope Francis in their suffering,” he added.

The cardinal explained that the Vatican is not seeking to act as the mediator of the peace process in Ukraine in an official capacity.

“No one has ever talked about mediation,” Zuppi said.

“It has always been a mission; the pope explained this at the outset and has repeated what his expectation of this mission is and said precisely that it was not and is not ‘mediation,’ but rather to help.”

Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, has strong ties to the influential peace-building community Sant’Egidio.

Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries, including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Sant’Egidio conference in Berlin on Monday, Zuppi said that “clearly China is one of perhaps the most important factors” in achieving peace in Ukraine.

Zuppi told Italian television station TV2000: “We need the commitment of everyone, especially those with greater importance such as China. Peace requires the effort of everyone; it is never something that can be imposed by anyone.”

“The paths of peace are sometimes unpredictable; they need everyone’s commitment. We need a great alliance for peace and [to] push everyone in the same direction,” the cardinal said.

New doctrine chief welcomes debate but warns bishops about ‘schism’ risks

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 11, 2023 / 17:13 pm (CNA).

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández, who is poised to take up his position as the head of the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office in the coming days, has signaled an openness to theological debates, saying they help deepen the Church’s understanding of the Gospel.

“True doctrine can only be a light, a guide for our steps, a sure path and a joy for the heart. But it is clear that even the Church does not yet fully grasp the full richness of the Gospel,” Fernández told veteran Vatican journalist Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news outlet, in an exclusive interview conducted by email on Sept. 8.

“The doctrine does not change, the Gospel will always be the same, Revelation is already settled,” said the incoming prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. “But there is no doubt that the Church will always be tiny in the midst of such an immensity of truth and beauty and will always need to continue to grow in her understanding.”

The 61-year-old Argentine theologian also criticized bishops — both “progressive” and those from “traditionalist groups” — who think they have a “special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father,” warning that are on a road to “heresy” and “schism.”

“Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church,” Fernández said.

Fernández, a close confidante and purported ghostwriter of Pope Francis who has been the archbishop of La Plata since 2018, has expressed an openness to consider Church blessings of same-sex unions, provided they don’t result in “confusion.” But in the interview with Pentin he chafed at media implications that his views align with the German Church’s so-called Synodal Way, which has called for dramatic changes to the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and other issues.

The cardinal-elect said the German Church “has serious problems and obviously has to think about a new evangelization,” but he professed to know “little about it” and instead highlighted what he calls his own “formula for dealing with the religious indifference of society” in the way he evangelized as a priest and bishop in Argentina.

“Look, my most famous book is called ‘Los Cinco Minutos del Espiritu Santo’ (‘The 5 Minutes of the Holy Spirit’) and contains a daily meditation on the Holy Spirit that has sold 150,000 copies. Did you know that?” Fernández asked.

“On the other hand, I was a parish priest and I was also a diocesan bishop. Go and ask the faithful in my parish what I did when I was parish priest, and you will see: Eucharistic adoration, catechism courses, Bible courses, home missions with Our Lady and a prayer to bless the home. I had 10 prayer groups and 130 young people,” he continued.

“As diocesan bishop I used to ask people about what I’d discuss in my homilies in the cathedral and in my visits to the parishes: about Christ, about prayer, about the Holy Spirit, about Mary, about sanctification. And last year I proposed to the whole archdiocese to concentrate on ‘growing together towards holiness.’”

Pope Francis on July 1 named Fernández to succeed Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, 79, who has been prefect of the dicastery since 2017.

“As the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, I entrust to you a task that I consider very valuable,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to Fernández, published with the announcement of his appointment.

The pope said the dicastery at times has promoted pursuing “doctrinal errors” over “promoting theological knowledge.”

“What I expect from you is certainly something very different,” Francis said. “I ask you as prefect to dedicate your personal commitment in a more direct way to the main purpose of the dicastery, which is ‘guarding the faith.’”

Fernández struck a similar chord in discussing his new role in his interview with Pentin.

“I believe that this dicastery can be a space that can welcome these debates and frame them in the secure doctrine of the Church, thus avoiding for the faithful some of the more aggressive, confusing, and even scandalous media debates,” he said.

But he had more pointed things to say about bishops who judge the “doctrine of the Holy Father.”

The pope not only has a duty to guard and preserve the “static” deposit of faith, Fernández said, but also a second, unique charism, only given to Peter and his successors, which is “a living and active gift.”

“I do not have this charism, nor do you, nor does Cardinal [Raymond] Burke. Today only Pope Francis has it,” he said, an apparent reference to a preface that Burke wrote for a book that is critical of next month’s Synod on Synodality.

“Now, if you tell me that some bishops have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and result in schism,” he said.

“Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church. Unfortunately, today, not only do some progressives fall into this error but also, paradoxically, do some traditionalist groups.”

You can read Pentin’s full interview with Fernández .

Statue of Korea’s patron saint to be permanently installed at St. Peter’s Basilica

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 11, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The Vatican will dedicate a new statue of the patron saint of Korea, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, at St. Peter’s Basilica this Saturday.

Born in 1821, Kim was the first native Korean priest and one of the country’s earliest martyrs.

The statue of the Korean martyr was proposed by Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, a Korean prelate and prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, and approved by Pope Francis, according to the Holy See’s news arm, Vatican News.

The pope has pointed to Kim’s missionary zeal as a model for all Christians to follow.

“The Christian is by nature a witness of Jesus,” Vatican News reported Francis saying in a May 24 homily. “St. Andrew Kim and the other Korean faithful have demonstrated that the testimony of the Gospel given in times of persecution can bear many fruits for the faith.”

The statue’s dedication will take place on Sept. 16, the anniversary of Kim’s beheading by the Korean Joseon Dynasty.

Pope Francis will welcome a delegation of 300 clergy and lay members of the Korean Church who will be coming for the dedication of the statue in a private audience on Saturday.

Cardinal You will then celebrate a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Korean at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The 6-ton marble statue of the Korean martyr, which will be permanently installed in a niche outside St. Peter’s Basilica, will then be blessed by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, at 4:30 p.m.

Speaking to Rome’s Agenzia Fides, You said that the statue’s dedication at the Vatican has brought great joy to the Church in Korea.

“We were very happy that Pope Francis wanted to accept our proposal,” You said. “It is a great honor for our Korean Church, which is very linked to the figure of this saint.”

“We believe and hope that he can be increasingly loved and his intercession invoked by the faithful from all over the world,” You added.

After converting to Catholicism at the age of 15, Kim trained for the priesthood in Macao and was ordained in 1836 by French Bishop Jean Joseph Jean-Baptiste Ferréol, the first bishop of Seoul.

Despite an ongoing vicious persecution, Kim returned to Korea to evangelize his homeland. He was only 25 years old when he was tortured and ultimately beheaded during the persecution by the Joseon Dynasty for the crime of being a Catholic.

Writing to his fellow Christians shortly before his death, Kim encouraged them to stay true to the faith. He said: “We have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?”

In Kim’s last words before his execution, according to research by Macao News, he gave a final exhortation for his compatriots to convert to the one true faith.

“This is the last hour of my life,” Kim reportedly said. “Listen to me attentively. If I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal punishments in store for those who have refused to know him.”

Along with 102 other Korean martyrs, whose executions were documented, Kim was canonized as a saint on May 6, 1984, by Pope John Paul II during a visit to Korea.

Though most executions were not well documented, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 Korean Christians were martyred for the faith before Christianity became tolerated in 1884.

The more than 12-foot-tall statue depicts Kim with his arms outstretched and wearing traditional Korean dopo and a flat hat.

Created by Korean Catholic artist Han Jin-seop, the statue is made entirely of Carrara marble and weighs about 6 tons.

Speaking to a reporter for the Catholic Korean news source Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation, Jin-seop said: “More than anything, I sincerely pray that Father Kim Dae-geon’s [Tae-gŏn’s] bold, merciful, benevolent, yet Korean-like image will be expressed well in formative ways, so that his meaning and spirit will be known to the world.”

Asia has been a major focus for the pope recently. Francis just completed a four-day trip to Mongolia after which he said: “I have been to the heart of Asia, and it did me good.”

At the conclusion of this year’s World Youth Day, in Lisbon, Portugal, Francis announced that the next event would take place in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027.

There are currently more than 5 million Catholics in South Korea, making up about 11.3% of the country’s total population, according to Agenzia Fides.

Though widely practiced in the southern portion of the peninsula, Christianity remains brutally repressed in North Korea under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Un.

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom: “Anyone caught practicing religion or even suspected of harboring religious views in private [in North Korea] is subject to severe punishment, including arrest, torture, imprisonment, and execution.”

Pope Francis urges faithful to ‘be close to the people of Morocco’ in wake of earthquake

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 11, 2023 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed solidarity with the people of Morocco on Sunday in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake and offered his prayers for material help in response to the tragedy and the charity group pledging to help distribute it.

The country was  overnight on Friday, with the death toll rapidly climbing to upward of 2,500 fatalities amid major building collapses there.

Pope Francis last week had offered “prayerful communion in the face of this natural disaster.” In the pope’s  after his regular Sunday recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father reiterated his “proximity to the dear people of Morocco” in the wake of the disaster. 

“I pray for the injured, for those who have lost their lives — so many! — and for their relatives,” Francis said. 

“I thank the rescue workers and those who are working to alleviate the suffering of the people,” he continued, praying for “concrete help on the part of everyone” to “support the population at this tragic time” and urging Catholics to “be close to the people of Morocco.”

The global Catholic charity group Caritas Internationalis, meanwhile,  on Sunday that it “joins hands with Pope Francis and extends its condolences and support to the victims of the devastating earthquake that has struck Morocco.”

“Caritas Internationalis is working to provide immediate relief and support to those affected by this tragedy,” the group said. “Our organization is in continuous communication with Caritas Morocco, and we are actively collaborating with Caritas Middle East and other .” 

The charity group said its network was “dedicated to conducting assessments and coordinating a comprehensive response in the hours and days ahead.” 

“As we stand united in our prayers for the victims and their families, Caritas Internationalis reaffirms its commitment to alleviating the suffering caused by this devastating earthquake,” the statement said. 

“Our mission is to extend a helping hand to those in need and to embody the message of love, compassion, and solidarity that Pope Francis exemplifies.”

Rescue workers and emergency responders in Morocco were working on Monday to free survivors from the rubble left by the earthquake. The disaster has become the deadliest quake in Morocco in several decades. 

Particularly hard-hit was the historic town of Marrakesh, a cultural and economic center of the region. Significant portions of the city were left in ruins after the tremor.

The epicenter of the quake was located a little over 40 miles outside of Marrakesh.

To help the victims of the earthquake visit Caritas’ website .

Ukrainian Catholic leader offers Divine Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome Newsroom, Sep 11, 2023 / 09:30 am (CNA).

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church presided over a Divine Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday where he prayed for peace in the Ukraine war at the tomb of the first pope.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on Sept. 10 that he wanted to express gratitude to the pope and Catholics around the world for not abandoning Ukraine and “for the fact that we can say to Rome, Ukraine, and the world from the tomb of St. Peter: Ukraine stands! Ukraine is fighting! Ukraine is praying.”

“Amidst the pain and darkness of the great war, the Lord God gives us a sense of deep joy and true light that never fails. Today, here, to us, gathered at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the Lord God sends his message: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,’” Shevchuk in his homily.

The liturgy was part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s annual Synod of Bishops, taking place in Rome Sept. 3–13.

Last week, Pope Francis met for nearly two hours with the 45 bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church taking part in the synod.

About 2,500 Ukrainians attended the liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The former prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Catholic Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, also participated.

Shevchuk told the Ukrainian Catholics in the basilica: “I look at you and cry because your Ukraine is crying for you! But I know that God loves us, and we will all return home one day. With the power of love for our homeland, for our people, we will win.”

The liturgy commemorated the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of , a 17th-century Ruthenian Catholic monk and bishop whose example of faith inspired many Eastern Orthodox Christians to return to full communion with the Catholic Church.

Shevchuk noted that St. Josaphat is the only Ukrainian saint whose relics are held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Today, Josaphat speaks to us: Children of Ukraine, never listen to the voices of those who tell you to renounce this unity. Our Church has survived in all historical epochs. It has withstood those who wanted to liquidate it because it was in unity with the broad, universal family of the Catholic Church,” the major archbishop said.

“In the same way, Ukraine today will not be able to survive that war without broad international assistance and support at all levels,” he said. “Ecumenical Catholic Christian solidarity is a necessary condition for the sustainability and survival of our Church and people — a prerequisite for Ukraine’s victory in the struggle between good and evil that our people are waging today.”

The synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is taking place in Rome just one month ahead of an assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Latin Catholic Church, often referred to as the Synod on Synodality.

The Ukrainian gathering in Rome is being held at the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josaphat on the theme “Pastoral Support for Victims of War.”

Shevchuk told the Ukrainian bishops praying together in St. Peter’s Basilica: “You and I are in communion with the successor of the Apostle Peter of our days not for political or diplomatic grounds … We are sons and daughters of the universal Church, for we believe that it was on the rock of the Apostle Peter that Christ founded his Church.”

“And this Peter continues to live, act, and serve through his successors, manifesting the divine and timeless origin of the Church as the Body of Christ.”

Pope Francis: Addressing others’ wrongs ‘without rancor’ requires kindness, courage

Rome Newsroom, Sep 10, 2023 / 07:05 am (CNA).

To dialogue with someone who has wronged us is a process that requires “real courage,” Pope Francis said Sunday, reflecting on the theme of “fraternal correction.”

In Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 18:15-20) Jesus says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.”

Fraternal correction is “one of the highest expressions of love, and also the most demanding, because it is not easy to correct others,” the Holy Father observed, speaking on Sept. 10 from a window at the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “When a brother in the faith commits a fault against you, you, without rancor, help him, correct him: Help by correcting.”

The pope went on to condemn gossip, or “chattering,” which is “not right” and is “not pleasing to God.” He called gossip “a plague on the lives of people and communities because it brings division, it brings suffering, it brings scandal, and it never helps to improve, it never helps to grow.”

Fraternal correction, on the other hand, is a process that allows us to help the other person “understand where he is wrong. And do this for his good, overcoming shame and finding true courage, which is not to speak badly, but to say things to his face with meekness and kindness,” Pope Francis said. But he warned that “pointing the finger” at the other’s fault “is not good, in fact, it often makes it more difficult for those who made a mistake to recognize their mistake.”

“But we might ask, what if this is not enough? What if he does not understand?” the pope asked.

“Then we must look for help. Beware, though: not from the group that gossips! Jesus says: ‘Take one or two others along with you,’ meaning people who genuinely want to lend a hand to this misguided brother,” Francis urged.

“And if he still does not understand? Then, Jesus says, involve the community. But here, too, this does not mean to pillory a person, putting him to shame publicly, but rather to unite the efforts of everyone to help him change,” the pope said.

“And so, let us ask ourselves: How should I behave with a person who wrongs me? Do I keep it inside and accumulate resentment?” Pope Francis asked. “Do I talk about it behind their backs? ‘Do you know what he did?’ and so on. Or am I brave, courageous, and do I try to talk about it to him or her? Do I pray for him or her, ask for help to do good? And do our communities take care of those who fall so that they can get back up and start a new life? Do they point their fingers or open their arms?”

The pope asked again: “What do you do: Do you point the finger or open your arms?”

Following his reflection, the Holy Father expressed his “closeness to the dear people of Morocco” in the aftermath of a devastating 6.8-magnitude earthquake on the evening of Sept. 8 that has left more than 2,000 people dead and more than 2,000 injured as of Sept. 10.

Pope Francis also spoke briefly about the in Markowa, Poland. The Nazis brutally executed the devoutly Catholic family of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children in 1944 for hiding eight Jews in their home outside the village of Markowa in southeast Poland. This is the first time an entire family has been beatified together.

The pope highlighted the family’s courage and evangelical love, for they “represent a ray of light in the darkness of the Second World War, be a model for all of us to imitate in our desire for good and in the service of those in need.“

Pope Francis used the example of the Ulma family to call for acts of charity to counter violence, as well as prayer; especially “for many countries that suffer from war; in a special way,” he said, “let us intensify our prayers for the tormented Ukraine.”

Pope Francis meets ‘Rocky’ actor Sylvester Stallone at Vatican

Rome Newsroom, Sep 8, 2023 / 09:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis received U.S. actor and director Sylvester “Sly” Stallone at the Vatican on Friday morning.

The “Rocky” actor met the pope in the Apostolic Palace together with his brother, actor and musician Frank Stallone; his wife, Jennifer Flavin; and their three daughters: Sophie, Sistine, and Scarlet.

The Vatican released photos of the meeting but did not provide details of the encounter.

A video shared by Vatican News showed Pope Francis meeting Stallone and telling him, “We grew up with your films.” Stallone, jokingly making fists, responded: “Ready, we box!”

The 77-year-old actor and director was also seen in the Vatican Museums on Sept. 8.

Stallone visited the town of Gioia del Colle in the southern Italian region of Puglia with his brother Frank and other members of his family on Sept. 7.

The brothers were granted honorary citizenship of Gioia del Colle because of their ties to the town: Their father was born there before immigrating to the United States as an adolescent in the early 1930s.

According to local media, Stallone visited his paternal grandfather’s home and greeted residents of the town.

From a stage, he held up an old key. “This was the key of [my grandfather’s] shop; he was the barber,” Stallone said, according to TG24.

“As Rocky would say: I love you, and keep fighting,” Stallone said to close his speech.

 with the National Catholic Register in 2007, Stallone said the birth of his daughter in the late 1990s was an important crossroad for his Catholic faith.

“When my daughter was born sick, and I realized I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God’s hands, his omnipotence, his all-forgivingness,” he said.

The Register reported at the time that Stallone had been raised Catholic, but after years in which he stopped going to church, he had begun to consider himself a churchgoing Catholic again.

“[This] puts me where I should be,” the “Rambo” director said, noting that before his return to the faith, “I was alone in the world. I thought I would have to handle things my own way.”

Catholics in Vietnam ask Pope Francis to visit their country next

Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

A delegation of 90 Vietnamese Catholics and seven bishops traveled to Mongolia last weekend for the chance to see Pope Francis and deliver a special message.

“We came to Mongolia to ask the pope to visit Vietnam,” Father Huynh The Vinh from Vietnam’s Diocese of Phu Coung told CNA on Sept. 3.

Unlike Mongolia, which has one of the smallest Catholic populations in the world, Vietnam is home to millions of Catholics, yet no pope has ever visited the southeast Asian country. 

Vietnam and the Holy See have never had full diplomatic relations, a usual prerequisite for a papal trip, but Vietnamese Catholics remain convinced that a papal visit could have a positive impact on the situation facing Christians in the socialist country. 

“I really hope that someday the pope can come to Vietnam, because if the pope comes to Vietnam it will change a lot [of] the religious freedom in our country,” Kimviet Ngo told CNA. 

Speaking at the papal Mass in Ulaanbaatar, Ngo described how she had seen Pope Francis’ visit bring hope to the Mongolian people and said she believed a similar trip to Vietnam would “be very meaningful to both overseas Vietnamese people and to people in Vietnam.”

Hung Nguyen, a 20-year-old Vietnamese-American from Houston who came to see the pope in Mongolia, told CNA that a papal visit could help to “strengthen the faith of the younger generations of Vietnamese Catholics.”

Vietnam has the fifth-largest Catholic population in Asia with an estimated 7 million Catholics. An additional , many of whom are refugees or descendents of refugees who fled by boat during the Vietnam War.

The Catholic Church in Vietnam has also seen in recent years. More than 2,800 seminarians were studying for the priesthood across Vietnam in 2020, 100 times more than in Ireland. 

Pope Francis was asked about the possibility of a papal trip to Vietnam during his on his return from Mongolia. 

The pope said that he was “very positive about relations with Vietnam,” despite the problems in the past in the Holy See’s “slow” dialogue with the country’s socialist government, adding that he thinks that any future problems can be overcome.

Pope Francis joked: “If I do not go [to Vietnam], I’m sure that [a future Pope] John XXIV will go!”

The 86-year-old pope added: “To tell the truth, travel is not as easy for me as it was in the beginning.” He added that he has some physical limitations with walking that can make traveling more difficult, but he is looking into the possibility of visiting a small country in Europe.

The Vatican has been engaged in formal bilateral discussions with Vietnam since 2009 and earlier this year, during the visit of Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong to the Vatican, the Vietnamese government agreed to allow a permanent papal representative in the country.

A resident papal representative is considered an intermediary step in diplomatic relations, below an apostolic nuncio.

The Vietnamese Constitution guarantees individual freedom of belief and individual religious freedom. However, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises branches of the U.S. government, in recommended that Vietnam be designated a “country of particular concern” due to worsening religious freedom conditions.

The report cited government persecution of religious groups, especially unregistered independent communities, including Protestant and Buddhist communities. Local authorities have also pressured some attendees of state-controlled Protestant churches to renounce their faith.

Harassment of Catholic communities also increased in 2022, according to the USCIRF report. In Hoa Binh province, local officials disrupted a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi. There are also continuing land disputes between Catholics and local governments.

Pope Francis said he believes that Vietnam “merits” a papal trip someday and that it is “a land that deserves to go forward.”

The next step forward in building upon the bilateral relationship could be the first high-level visit of a Vatican diplomatic official to Vietnam.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod tells Pope Francis he has made ‘painful’ statements

Vatican City, Sep 6, 2023 / 11:23 am (CNA).

During a meeting in Rome Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod of bishops told Pope Francis some of his gestures and statements have been “painful and difficult for the Ukrainian people.”

According to a Sept. 6 statement, the bishops said misunderstandings between the Vatican and Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war are used as propaganda by Russia, and so “the faithful of our Church are sensitive to every word of Your Holiness as the universal voice of truth and justice.”

The meeting between the pope and 45 bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church lasted nearly two hours in a room off of the Paul VI Hall.

The encounter was part of the annual Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, taking place in Rome Sept. 3–13.

Pope Francis and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod of bishops shared a “frank and sincere dialogue” on Wednesday morning, according to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

During the meeting, the pope explained his recent controversial comments to young Russian Catholics by referring to the explanation he gave to journalists on the plane returning from Mongolia.

Asked about his comments on “great Mother Russia” on the plane from Ulaanbaatar to Rome Sept. 4,  he meant to praise Russia’s culture and encourage young people to take responsibility for the country’s legacy.

“Russian culture is of a great beauty and depth, and should not be canceled for political issues. There have been dark years in Russia, but its legacy has always remained intact,” he told journalists during the in-flight press conference.

Francis added that it is ideology, not culture, “that is the poison.”

“When ideology gains strength and becomes political, it usually becomes dictatorship, it becomes incapable of dialogue, of moving forward with cultures. And imperialisms do this,” he said.

According to the Vatican, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops, who had traveled to Rome from around the world, spoke Wednesday about the suffering experienced by the Ukrainian people. 

“Pope Francis listened attentively to the words addressed to him, expressing with some brief speeches his feelings of closeness and participation in the tragedy being experienced by Ukrainians, with a ‘dimension of martyrdom’ that is not talked about enough, subjected to cruelty and criminality,” the Vatican statement said.

The pope “expressed his sorrow for the sense of helplessness experienced in the face of war, ‘a thing of the devil, who wants to destroy,’ with a special thought for the Ukrainian children he has met during audiences. ‘They look at you and have forgotten their smiles,’ he said, and added, ‘This is one of the fruits of war: to take the smile away from children.’”

Shevchuk said in a press release: “This meeting was a time of mutual listening and an opportunity for frank and sincere dialogue.”

“We expressed to the pope everything that our faithful in Ukraine and throughout the world entrusted us to convey to His Holiness,” he said. 

The synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is taking place in Rome just one month ahead of an assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Latin Catholic Church.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod is a meeting of only bishops. All but 11 of the synod’s 56 bishops were able to participate.

The Rome gathering is being held at the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josaphat on the theme “Pastoral Support for Victims of War.”

At the synod’s opening Divine Liturgy in the Basilica of St. Sophia in Rome on Sept. 3, Major Archbishop Shevchuk noted that 56 bishops is a record for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

“Interestingly, while going through the materials yesterday, I noticed that almost half of them are younger than me,” he said. “It means that our synod is not getting older but younger every year. Therefore, we call our synod the Synod of Hope for our Church and the Ukrainian people.”

The prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Catholic Churches, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, also participated in the liturgy.

The synod will hold a Divine Liturgy open to all Catholics on the morning of Sept. 10 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

On Sept. 5, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.

Parolin agreed to a proposal from Shevchuk to hold a meeting of the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe.

“We will meet with representatives of this Church ‘sui iuris’ and of the Latin Church, as well as some experts, to explore issues related to war and its origin, keeping in mind that war is always an evil and, even when it responds to the right of self-defense, it is our duty as Christians and pastors to limit its effects as much as possible, with words and actions,” Parolin said.

The pope’s encounter with Ukrainian bishops Wednesday opened with the praying of an Our Father together for Ukraine and its people and closed with a prayer for the intercession of the Virgin Mary before an icon of the Theotokos, or Mother of God.

“The pope confided that every day he remembers Ukrainians in his prayers before the icon of the Virgin given to him by the Major Archbishop [Shevchuk] before he left Buenos Aires,” the Vatican said.

The Ukrainian bishops also asked for prayers , Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Haleta, who remain in captivity after they were captured by Russian troops in late November 2022.

Shevchuk gave Pope Francis a prayer book, rosary, and missionary cross belonging to the priests.

“These things, Your Holiness, testify to the suffering of our Church together with its people amid the horrors of the war caused by Russian aggression. As a priceless treasure, we hand them over to you with the hope that soon a just peace will come to Ukraine,” he said.

Pope Francis: Don’t overlook goodness because of scandal

Vatican City, Sep 6, 2023 / 03:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged people to look for the quiet goodness in the world, even when the tendency is to pay more attention to failure and scandal.

“Just think how many hidden seeds of goodness make the garden of the world flourish, while we usually only hear about the sound of falling trees,” he said during his weekly public audience on Sept. 6.

“People, we too like scandal. ‘Look at what barbarity, a tree fell, the noise it made!’ But you don’t see the forest that is growing every day. Because the growth is in silence,” the pope added.

He urged people to look “toward the light of the good” in the world and to fight the tendency to only appreciate others to the extent that they share our ideas.

Francis addressed pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square two days after his return from a trip to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

Mongolia, a country sandwiched between China and Russia, is sparsely populated with around 3 million people across nearly 604,000 square miles.

The population, which is historically Buddhist, includes fewer than 1,500 Catholics.

“One might ask: Why did the pope go so far to visit a small flock of the faithful?” Pope Francis said at the general audience. “Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that we often find the signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances, but at the heart.”

“The Lord,” he explained, “does not look for the center stage but the simple heart of those who desire him and love him without ostentation, without wanting to tower above others. And I had the grace of meeting, in Mongolia, a humble Church and a joyful Church, which is in the heart of God, and I can testify to their joy of finding themselves also at the center of the Church for a few days.”

The pope recounted what he called the “touching history” of the Christian community in Mongolia.

“It came about, by the grace of God, from apostolic zeal — on which we are reflecting at the moment — of a few missionaries who, impassioned by the Gospel, went about 30 years ago to that country they did not know,” he said.

Francis added that despite the difficulty, the missionaries learned the language and the way of life of the Mongolian people.

He praised the inculturated Catholic community the missionaries formed, saying they did not rely on proselytism to convert people to Christianity but showed how to live the Gospel within the Mongolian culture.

“This is catholicity: an embodied universality, which embraces the good where it is found and serves the people with whom it lives,” he said. “This is how the Church lives: bearing witness to the love of Jesus meekly, with life before words, happy with its true riches — service to the Lord and to brethren.”

Pope Francis was the first pope in history to travel to Mongolia.

During his four days in the large, landlocked Asian country Sept. 1–4, he met with government leaders, engaged in interreligious dialogue with Buddhists and people of other Eastern religions, and presided over the first ever papal Mass for the country’s small Catholic population.

“I was in the heart of Asia, and this did me good. It is good to enter into dialogue with that vast continent, to glean its messages, to know its wisdom, its way of looking at things, to embrace time and space,” Francis said.

“Thinking of the boundless and silent expanses of Mongolia,” he added, “let us be stirred by the need to extend the confines of our gaze, so that we may be able to see the good in others and be capable of broadening our horizons.”

Pope Francis thanks Cardinal Ladaria for years heading Dicastery for Doctrine of the Faith

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2023 / 09:33 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Cardinal Luis Ladaria on Tuesday morning to thank him for his six years as head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pope visited the dicastery shortly after 9 a.m. on Sept. 5, the Vatican said in a brief statement. Francis also greeted other officials of the dicastery after his meeting with the 79-year-old Ladaria.

On July 1 Pope Francis appointed Argentine Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández as Ladaria’s successor as doctrine chief.

Fernández, 61, will take up the post on Sept. 11.

Ladaria was appointed prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, then called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on July 1, 2017. He succeeded German Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

The Spanish theologian had served as secretary of the Vatican’s doctrine office since 2008.

A member of the Jesuits since 1966, Ladaria received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1975. 

He went on to become a professor of dogmatic theology at the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid and later at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Ladaria was also vice rector of the Gregorian from 1986–1994.

As head of the DDF, Ladaria was also president of the International Theological Commission and the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Those roles will now be filled by Fernández.

Ladaria was made a cardinal in a June 2018 consistory.

Fernández, a prolific writer and close collaborator of Pope Francis, was archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, from 2018 until his appointment as head of the DDF on July 1.

The theologian also served as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina from 2009–2018.

“As the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, I entrust to you a task that I consider very valuable,” Pope Francis wrote published with the announcement of his appointment.

The pope said the dicastery at times has promoted pursuing “doctrinal errors” over “promoting theological knowledge.”

“What I expect from you is certainly something very different,” Francis said. “I ask you as prefect to dedicate your personal commitment in a more direct way to the main purpose of the dicastery, which is ‘guarding the faith.’”

What Pope Francis had to say about the Synod on Synodality in the in-flight press conference

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 4, 2023 / 09:07 am (CNA).

In his in-flight press conference returning from Mongolia on Monday, Pope Francis outlined his vision for the upcoming synodal assembly in October, which he said should be a prayerful exercise in dialogue free from ideology, not full of “political chatter” like a television talk show.

Pope Francis was peppered with multiple questions about the Synod on Synodality from journalists traveling with him on the 10-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar to Rome on Sept. 4.

“In the synod, there is no place for ideology,” Pope Francis told journalists on the chartered ITA Airways plane.

“There is no place for ideology, but there is room for dialogue, for an exchange between brothers and sisters,” he added.

Pope Francis emphasized the unique spiritual dimension of the first global Synod on Synodality assembly taking place at the Vatican Oct. 4–28. He said that he wants it to be “a religious moment.”

He highlighted how the synodal assembly should have three to four minutes of silent prayer between discussions, noting that this prayerful atmosphere should be what distinguishes a synodal assembly from “parliamentarianism.”

“Without this spirit of prayer, there is no synodality,” the pope said.

“There is one thing that we have to keep — ‘the synodal atmosphere,’” Francis added.

The synod should not be like a television talk show where everything is discussed, the pope explained, but a “dialogue between the baptized.”

“The synod is the dialogue between the baptized, who in the name of the Church [discuss] the life of the Church [and] dialogue with the world on the problems that affect humanity today,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the tradition of synods in Eastern Churches as an example.

“The Eastern Church knows how to live out synodality. It is living it as Christians … without falling into ideologies,” he said.

Pope Francis was asked about a recently published book with a preface by U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke that compared the Synod on Synodality to opening “Pandora’s box.”

In response, Francis recalled how some religious sisters had also expressed to him their fears about the synod, telling him that they feared changes to Church doctrine.

Pope Francis said that at the root of these types of ideas about synodality, one always finds “ideologies,” adding that it is ideologies that are responsible for dividing the faithful.

He explained that “a ‘doctrine’ in quotation marks” is a doctrine that is like “distilled water,” without any taste and is not true Catholic doctrine.

“Many times true Catholic doctrine scandalizes — how scandalous is the idea that God became flesh, that God became man, that Our Lady preserved her virginity. This scandalizes,” the pope said.

“Catholic doctrine sometimes scandalizes. Ideologies are all ‘distilled’ and never scandalize.”

When asked why synod discussions will be taking place behind closed doors without access for journalists and how the synod can maintain transparency with this format, Pope Francis responded that the synod will be “very open.”

Pope Francis explained that there is a Commission for Information under the leadership of layman Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, that “will make press releases on how the proceedings of the synod are going” and “provide information on the progress of the synod.”

“In the synod, the religiosity and the loyalty of the people who speak must be guarded, and this is why there is the commission led by Ruffini,” he said.

“The commission does not have an easy task,” he added, noting that the synod’s commission will need to be respectful of each delegate’s interventions and provide updates on the synod proceedings that are “constructive for the Church” and “not gossip.”

The pope told journalists that the news about the synod should not read like “political chatter,” adding that the information commission is tasked with transmitting “the Christian spirit, not the political spirit.”

“Do not forget that the protagonist of the synod is the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis underlined.

The Commission for Information is not a novelty to the Synod on Synodality but has been a regular feature of Synod of Bishops assemblies in past years.

What is unique about the upcoming synod is that for the first time, the assembly will include voting delegates who are not bishops, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons selected by the leadership of this year’s continental synod meetings or, in some cases, directly by the pope.

The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021, has been a multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

The Catholic Church’s massive synodal process has already undergone diocesan, national, and continental stages. It will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican.

The , or working document, guiding the assembly discussions suggests discernment of questions regarding some hot-button topics, including women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach.

The first October assembly will be held in the Paul VI Hall instead of the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, with delegates sitting at round tables of about 10 people each to discuss how to advise the pope on the topic: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.” The second assembly is set for October 2024.

Pope Francis has a busy month ahead leading up to the first October synod assembly. The 86-year-old has another international trip planned not long after returning from his four-day trip in Mongolia.

The pope will travel to Marseilles, France, publish an update to , preside over an ecumenical prayer vigil, and create 21 new cardinals at a consistory at the end of the month.

During the 40-minute in-flight press conference, Pope Francis spoke about Vatican-China relations, the possibility of a papal trip to Vietnam, and further clarified his recent comments on Russian imperialism.

Pope Francis gives a glimpse into Vatican-China deal on appointment of Chinese bishops

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 4, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis revealed the existence of a joint China-Vatican commission on the appointment of bishops during an in-flight press conference on Monday — giving the clearest explanation to date as to what could be in the secret Vatican-China deal.

Speaking during his 10-hour return flight from Mongolia on Sept. 4, the pope said there is a joint commission between the Chinese government and the Holy See on the appointment of Catholic bishops in China presided over by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“There is a commission working for the appointment of bishops — Chinese government and the Vatican — and there has been dialogue for some time,” Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane.

The pope described the Vatican’s relations with the People’s Republic of China as “very respectful.”

“I think that we need to advance further into the religious aspect to understand each other more. The Chinese must not think that the Church does not accept their culture and their values and that the Church is dependent on a foreign power,” he added.

The “friendly” commission presided over by Parolin is doing well, he said.

“They are doing a fine job. Relations are like this, let’s say that they are underway. And I have great respect for the Chinese people.”

The pope’s comments on the papal plane give a glimpse into what could be in the Holy See’s confidential provisional agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, the contents of which have not been made public since it was first signed in September 2018.

Prior to this, the Vatican Secretary of State had only disclosed that the provisional agreement had to do with “consensual decisions” on the appointment of Chinese bishops and that China had violated the agreement by unilaterally appointing Catholic bishops in Shanghai and the “diocese of Jiangxi,” a large diocese created by the Chinese government that is not recognized by the Vatican.

Pope Francis also told the journalists that the Vatican and China have engaged in foreign exchanges with Catholic priests and intellectuals teaching at a university in China, describing this as an example of “openness” on the part of the Chinese.

The Vatican’s diplomatic relationship with China was a topic of focus during the pope’s four-day trip to Mongolia, which shares a nearly 3,000-mile border with China.

Chinese Catholics, including self-described “underground Catholics,” attended the first-ever papal Mass in Mongolia and other events with some choosing to shield their identities using face masks and sunglasses at the official welcome ceremony for fear of potential retribution from the government. Others enthusiastically waved Chinese flags at papal events when Pope Francis passed by.

During the 40-minute in-flight press conference, Pope Francis was asked about the upcoming Synod on Synodality, the update to his environmental encyclical , and further clarified his recent comments on Russian imperialism.

The pope also responded to a question about the possibility of a papal trip to Vietnam, saying that he was “very positive about relations with Vietnam,” despite the problems in the past in the Holy See’s “slow” dialogue with the country’s socialist government, adding that he thinks that any future problems can be overcome.

Pope Francis joked: “If I do not go [to Vietnam], I’m sure that [a future Pope] John XXIV will go!”

The 86-year-old pope added: “To tell the truth, travel is not as easy for me as it was in the beginning.” He added that he has some physical limitations with walking that can make traveling more difficult, but that he is looking into the possibility of visiting a small country in Europe.

Vietnam is home to an estimated 8 million Catholics but has never had full diplomatic relations with the Holy See or a papal trip. The Vatican has been engaged in formal bilateral discussions with Vietnam since 2009 and earlier this year, during the visit of Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong to the Vatican, the Vietnamese government agreed to allow a permanent papal representative in the country.

Pope Francis said that he believes that Vietnam “merits” a papal trip someday and that it is “a land that deserves to go forward.”

The pope’s trip to Mongolia was a historic first for the Catholic Church as no pope had ever traveled to the large landlocked Asian country sandwiched between Russia and China.

During his four days in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, Pope Francis met with government leaders, engaged in interreligious dialogue with Buddhists or other Eastern religions, and presided over the first papal Mass for the country’s small Catholic population of only 1,450 Catholics.

In the press conference, Pope Francis described Mongolia as a land that “lives between two great powers, Russia and China,” and praised the country’s pursuit of ongoing dialogue, including with “third neighbors.”

The pope has a busy schedule in the month ahead leading up to the first global Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

Pope Francis is scheduled to make another international trip to Marseilles, France, to participate in a meeting of Catholic bishops from the Mediterranean region, publish an update to his environmental encyclical , preside over an ecumenical prayer vigil, and create 21 new cardinals at a consistory at the end of September.

Pope Francis to publish apostolic letter on St. Thérèse of Lisieux Oct. 15

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 1, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

On board the plane taking him to Mongolia, Pope Francis announced Aug. 31 that he is preparing an apostolic letter on St. Thérèse of Lisieux to be published Oct. 15.

The pontiff made his statement while greeting the 70 journalists who are accompanying him for a four-day visit to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, including Andrea Gagliarducci of ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian- language news partner.

During a general audience on June 7, Pope Francis announced that he was writing an apostolic letter on the patron saint of missions. “She was born 150 years ago and on this anniversary I intend to dedicate an apostolic letter to her,” he said.

That day in the morning, in St. Peter’s Square before the relics of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. That afternoon he left for Gemelli Hospital in Rome to undergo a “laparotomy” operation. 

The bishop of Rome stressed that St. Thérèse “lived devoted to God, forgetting about herself, loving and consoling Jesus, and interceding for the salvation of all.” The 150th anniversary of her birth and the 100th anniversary of her beatification are celebrated this year.

For the occasion, the Holy Father has granted a Jubilee Year in honor of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus that will last until Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, and has the theme “For trust and love,” the last words of her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.”

Along the same lines, on Dec. 28, 2022, Pope Francis had published the apostolic letter (“Everything Pertains to Love”) on the fourth centenary of the death of St. Francis de Sales.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, also known as the Little Flower, was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She was born in the city of Alençon on Jan. 2, 1873. She was declared a saint in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and proclaimed a doctor of the Church on Oct. 19, 1997, by St. John Paul II. St. Pius X considered her “the greatest saint of modern times.”