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Europe’s Catholic bishops ask for prayers for peace in Ukraine

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Europe have expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” a Council of European Bishops’ Conferences () communique said.

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, the president of the CCEE, issued the on behalf of the council on Jan. 21. He said that Catholic bishops in Europe wished to express closeness to the people of Ukraine “in this dramatic moment of tension.”

“While the entire international community interprets the actions of the Russian military forces as a real threat to peace throughout the world, we embrace — in this time of fear and uncertainty for the future of the country — our brothers and sisters in the faith and all the people of Ukraine,” Grušas said.

The bishops’ statement called on the international community to “offer its support to the country in the face of the danger of a Russian military offensive.”

“We also, as shepherds of the European continent, want to appeal to the leaders of the nations so that they do not forget the tragic world wars of the last century and so that international law, as well as the independence and territorial sovereignty of each country, will be defended,” Grušas said.

“Together with the Holy Father, we want to call on governments to find ‘acceptable and lasting solutions’ in Ukraine based on dialogue and negotiation and without resorting to arms,” the bishops’ statement said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia.

The conflict between the two countries — known as the Russo-Ukrainian War — began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020.

Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan. 21.

Bliken told journalists after the bilateral meeting that if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, “it will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”

Pope Francis addressed the situation in Ukraine in his annual “state of the world” to diplomats last week.

“Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine,” the pope said on Jan. 10.

The pope also issued an appeal for “beloved Ukraine” in his Angelus last month, calling on world leaders to resolve the crisis through “serious international dialogue and not with weapons.”

“I want to assure you of my prayers for beloved Ukraine, for all its Churches and religious communities, and for all its people so that the tensions it is experiencing might be resolved through a serious international dialogue and not with weapons,” he said on Dec. 12.

Vatican appeal court confirms former IOR officials liable for mismanagement

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

A Vatican appeal court this week fully confirmed an earlier ruling that two former senior managers at the Institute of Works of Religion (IOR) were liable for mismanagement.

The appeal court ordered Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli to compensate the IOR with 40.5 million euros (around $46 million) plus court costs.

Cipriani and Tulli had served until 2013 respectively as the director and deputy director of the IOR, which is often called the “Vatican bank,” though it does not operate as a bank. The IOR derives its acronym from its Italian name, .

This week’s ruling upheld the judgment of the Vatican Court of First Instance in 2018, while reducing the amount of compensation from 47 million euros (approximately $53 million).

Cipriani and Tulli still have a further right of appeal at the Vatican and may then challenge the verdict in the international courts.

The pair were found to have violated statutory obligations, autonomously deciding on investments that would have caused financial damage to the IOR.

An IOR issued on Jan. 21 said that the two men were ordered to pay compensation amounting to “35,740,587 euros by way of emerging damage, as well as 4,799,445 euros by way of loss of profit (therefore for a total of 40,540,032 euros, plus monetary devaluation and legal interest).”

It went on: “The court charged the appellants with court costs, including those relating to the first instance.”

The IOR added that “the judgment concerns Mr. Paolo Cipriani and Mr. Massimo Tulli [mismanagement] arranged with some investments of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione between 2010 and 2013, and which proved to be immediately harmful as problematic and, in several cases, also illegitimate and subject to criminal proceedings.”

The court ruling is based on the losses that would have been caused to the IOR by two consultancy contracts and the opening of the . This fund was used for a real estate operation — the acquisition of the former Budapest stock exchange building — made with a , also now the subject of a complaint by the IOR.

The IOR accuses its Maltese counterpart of having sold higher than the market price, favoring other intermediaries. The Maltese side accuses the IOR of not having kept the agreed commitments, as well as having always rejected the purchase offers that would have settled the debt. There is even an insinuation that the IOR is putting the investment at risk to strengthen allegations against past management.

The same real estate investment is considered by the ruling to be a violation by managers, given that there was a moratorium on real estate investments from 2003.

But as evidenced by some subsequent decisions and acquisitions, the moratorium would no longer be in force. In December 2012, the IOR’s decided to launch a new class of investments of a more speculative nature, effectively circumventing the moratorium.

It should be noted that both the moratorium and regulation of the IOR were missing from the appeal documentation. Their inclusion would have allowed a better understanding of responsibilities. The same Vatican court of appeal judges consider that there is no “dual system” of decisions at the IOR because everything passes through the board of superintendence.

When the defense argued that none of the investment decisions could have been taken without the approval of the board of superintendence, the prosecution replied that the board meetings were “rarefied, unlike what is practiced in similar institutions,” the ruling said. But the verdict admitted that the board members may have studied the papers before the meetings.

Cipriani and Tulli resigned in July 2013. They left the IOR in a healthy situation, but profits dramatically dropped after their exit.

In 2014, the IOR filed a civil suit against the old management, complaining that the investments made by the administration had not managed the IOR’s assets well. In 2018, Cipriani and Tulli were found liable for mismanagement.

The Vatican appeal court’s verdict defends the work of the IOR but leaves some questions open. Some could already be answered by the results of the lawsuit filed by the IOR in Malta.

Pope Francis declares St. Irenaeus ‘Doctor of Unity’

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday officially declared St. Irenaeus of Lyon as the 37th Doctor of the Church, with the title “Doctor Unitatis” (“Doctor of Unity”).

“May the doctrine of such a great Master encourage more and more the path of all the Lord's disciples towards full communion,” the pope wrote in a signed on Jan. 21.

The pope signed the decree mid-way through the , taking place on Jan. 18-25.

“St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West: he was a spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” Pope Francis wrote.

“His name, Irenaeus, expresses that peace which comes from the Lord and which reconciles, restoring unity.”

St. Irenaeus is a 2nd-century bishop and writer revered by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both Christ’s humanity and divinity.

While some of St. Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, the details of his life are not as well preserved. He was born in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, likely in the coastal city of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, around the year 140 A.D.

As a young man, he heard the preaching of the early Christian bishop St. Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John. Irenaeus became a priest, serving the Church in the region of Gaul, in what is now France, during a difficult period in the late 170s.

During this time of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter about the heretical movement known as Montanism.

After returning to Lyon, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor St. Pothinus.

In the course of his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second bishop of Lyon came up against heretical doctrines and movements that insisted that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan.

Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. He rebutted the Gnostic errors in his lengthy book which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights.

A shorter work, the contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the Gospel with a focus on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, though a collection of fragments from them has been compiled and translated.

Irenaeus died in Lyon around 202, when Emperor Septimus Severus ordered the martyrdom of Christians.

The U.S. bishops voted in 2019 in favor of having St. Irenaeus named a Doctor of the Church at the request of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the then archbishop of Lyon, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.

Pope Francis previously declared , a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.

Benedict XVI named Sts. and Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church in 2012.

Seventeen of the 36 figures declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also revered by Orthodox Christians.

St. Irenaeus could be the first martyr to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

His on the website of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints says: “He died in 202, but his martyrdom is not certain. In the 4th century St. Jerome and two centuries later Gregory of Tours stated that Irenaeus ‘ended his life in martyrdom,’ which would have happened during a bloody persecution, most likely that of Septimius Severus, which took place between the years 202-203.”

Pope Francis: The Church is firmly committed to justice for abuse victims

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that the Catholic Church is firmly committed to bringing justice to victims of clerical abuse through the rigorous application of canon law.

In a to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the pope spoke of recent changes he made to the Church’s Code of Canon Law with the goal of making its “legal action more effective.”

“The Church, with God’s help, is vigorously pursuing her commitment to bringing justice to the victims of abuse perpetrated by her members, applying the established canonical legislation with particular attention and rigor,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 21.

The pope highlighted the he made last month to the CDF’s procedural norms for the most serious crimes, including the abuse of minors.

“This alone is not enough to stem the phenomenon, but it is a necessary step toward restoring justice, repairing the scandal, and correcting the offender,” Francis said.

The pope’s comments came a day after the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on the handling of abuse cases that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, generating international headlines.

Pope Francis underlined that discernment is always needed “in the fight against abuses of all kinds.”

He added that discernment is also needed in the Church’s “synodal path.” Last October, the pope of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

In this global consultative process of “listening and dialogue,” the Vatican has asked all Catholic dioceses worldwide to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

“A synodal path without discernment is not a synodal path,” the pope told the CDF.

“In the synodal path, it is necessary to continuously discern opinions, points of view, reflections, but one cannot go in the synodal path without discernment.”

“This discernment is what will make the synod a true synod for which the most important character is the Holy Spirit, and not a parliament with the exchange of opinions that can take place in the media,” he said.

Discernment, the pope added, is key in the Vatican congregation’s work regarding marriage annulment or dissolution cases.

He spoke in particular about the dissolution of marriage (in favor of the faith), which can only be approved on a case-by-case basis and solely by the pope.

“When, by virtue of Petrine power, the Church grants the dissolution of a non-sacramental marriage bond, it is not only a matter of canonically putting an end to a marriage, which has already failed in fact, but, in reality, through this eminently pastoral act I always intend to foster the Catholic faith — in favorem fidei — in the new union and in the family, of which this new marriage will be the nucleus,” the pope said.

Pope Francis told the CDF that there are currently many social and political tensions that threaten human fraternity.

“The temptation is growing to consider the other as a stranger or an enemy, denying him real dignity,” he said.

“Therefore, especially at this time, we are called to repeat, ‘at every convenient or inconvenient occasion’ (), faithfully following the 2,000-year-old Church teaching, that every human being has an intrinsic dignity that is valid from the moment of conception until natural death,” Pope Francis said.

“Precisely the affirmation of such dignity is the essential precondition for the protection of a personal and social existence, and also the necessary condition for fraternity and social friendship to be realized among all the peoples of the earth.”

“Let us not be satisfied with a lukewarm, habitual, textbook faith. Let us collaborate with the Holy Spirit and collaborate among ourselves so that the fire that Jesus came to bring into the world can continue to burn and inflame the hearts of all,” Pope Francis said.

It’s official: St. Irenaeus to be declared a Doctor of the Church

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon is one step closer to being the first martyr to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Francis met with the head of the Vatican on Thursday to discuss the conferral of the title on the saint.

During the meeting, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro informed the pope that the plenary session of the cardinals and bishops from the saints’ congregation had found the 2nd-century bishop worthy of the title, according to a Vatican Jan. 20.

Pope Francis has already made public his intention to declare Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor unitatis,” meaning “Doctor of Unity.”

In a to a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians last October, the pope called St. Irenaeus “a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians.”

St. Irenaeus is a bishop and writer revered by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both Christ’s humanity and divinity.

While some of St. Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, the details of his life are not as well preserved. He was born in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, likely in the coastal city of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, around the year 140 A.D.

As a young man, he heard the preaching of the early Christian bishop St. Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John. Irenaeus became a priest, serving the Church in the region of Gaul, in what is now France, during a difficult period in the late 170s.

During this time of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter about the heretical movement known as Montanism.

After returning to Lyon, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor St. Pothinus.

In the course of his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second bishop of Lyon came up against heretical doctrines and movements that insisted that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan.

Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. He rebutted the Gnostic errors in his lengthy book which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights.

A shorter work, the contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the Gospel with a focus on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, though a collection of fragments from them has been compiled and translated.

Irenaeus died in Lyon around 202, when Emperor Septimus Severus ordered the martyrdom of Christians.

During Pope Francis’ meeting with Semeraro, the pope also authorized a concerning the heroic virtue of three Italians: Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi of Pompeii (1925-2007); Mother Maria Teresa DeVincenti, the founder of the Congregation of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart (1872-1936); and Sister Gabriella Borgarino of the society of the Daughters of Charity (1880-1949).

The U.S. bishops voted in 2019 in favor of having St. Irenaeus named a Doctor of the Church at the , the then archbishop of Lyon, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.

Pope Francis previously declared , a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.

Benedict XVI named Sts. and Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church in 2012.

Seventeen of the 36 figures declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also revered by Orthodox Christians.

“His name, Irenaeus, contains the word ‘peace,’” Pope Francis said on Oct. 7.

“We know that the Lord’s peace is not a ‘negotiated’ peace, the fruit of agreements meant to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings together in unity. That is the peace of Jesus.”

Pope Francis: Human life is the most valuable work asset

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that human life is the most important asset to protect in the workplace, and lamented the many lives lost in work-related accidents or disease every year.

“People are the real wealth: without them, there is no working community, no enterprise, no economy,” the pope said Jan. 20 in an audience with the Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors.

“Workplace safety means safeguarding human resources, which are of inestimable value in the eyes of God and also in the eyes of the true entrepreneur,” he added.

In 2021, 1,404 people died in work accidents in Italy, according to the Independent National Observatory on Work Deaths. Of these, 695 happened in the actual workplace, as opposed to off-site — an 18% increase from 2020. Just over 30% of deaths were in the agricultural sector, while 15% were in construction.

The numbers do not include COVID-19 related deaths.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 2.3 million people lose their lives in work-related accidents or diseases every year worldwide.

“Last year, too many people died at work,” Pope Francis said in his speech to Italian construction workers. “They are not numbers, they are people.”

“Construction sites, too, have seen tragedies that we cannot ignore. Unfortunately, if we look at safety in the workplace as a cost, we are starting from the wrong assumption. People are the real wealth,” he underlined.

Francis stated that people are the highest patrimony, and workplace safety “allows everyone to express the best of themselves while earning their daily bread.”

“The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more certain we are that the quality and beauty of the work carried out will increase,” he said.

In his speech, the pope also shared some teachings of the Gospel which he said could help builders in their work.

In particular, he pointed to Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sandy ground, an unstable foundation.

“Of course, Jesus is not thinking of great buildings, but he points out that these constructions are built by the river, while the good builder knows that at the first flood such a house is destined to be swept away,” Francis said.

The man who builds his house on rock, instead, “not only did the right thing in the present moment; he also defended the house from possible future floods.”

“In Jesus’ preaching, the believer is one who does not limit himself to appearing Christian on the outside, but who actively works as a Christian,” Pope Francis said.

“And it is precisely this ‘operational consistency’ that enables him to build himself up not only in the normal times of life, but to remain so even in difficult moments,” the pope continued. “This also means that faith does not protect us from bad weather, but, accompanied by good works, it strengthens us and makes us capable of resisting it.”

Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI is praying for victims in wake of Munich abuse report

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein said on Thursday that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is praying for abuse victims in the wake of a report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told reporters that the retired pope would read the extensive study in the coming days, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The , issued on Jan. 20, accused the 94-year-old pope emeritus of during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Gänswein : “Benedict XVI did not have access until this afternoon to the report of the law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, which has more than 1,000 pages. In the coming days, he will examine the text with the necessary attention.”

“The pope emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys.”

Lawyer Martin Pusch, an author of the report, said at a press conference on Thursday that investigators had faulted the actions of Benedict XVI, who was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he led the Munich archdiocese.

“In a total of four cases, we concluded that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” he said.

Pusch noted that in two of the cases, clerics committed abuse while Ratzinger was in office. While they were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, he said, and no action was taken against them under canon law.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. Pusch suggested that Ratzinger knew of the priest’s history.

Another case treated in the report relates to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The case of the priest identified in German reports only as “H.” was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and earlier this month.

Gänswein told the German newspaper in early January: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

After leaving the Munich archdiocese in 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.

The new report covers not only the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, but also the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

In addition to criticizing the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.

Marx said that he was at the report’s findings.

The study identified at least 497 victims of abuse, but investigators said that the true figure was likely to be higher. They said that 247 victims were male, 182 female, while the gender of 68 victims could not be determined. They added that they had found 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.

A Vatican spokesman on Jan. 20: “The Holy See considers that appropriate attention should be paid to the document, whose contents are presently unknown. In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination.”

“In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.”

Roman Curia’s annual Lenten retreat changed again due to COVID-19

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

For the third consecutive year, Pope Francis will not be gathering together with the Roman Curia for a spiritual retreat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis has asked members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat from Sunday, March 6 to Friday, March 11.

All papal events will be canceled between these dates, including the general audience that would have taken place on Wednesday, March 9.

The pope usually spends five days on retreat together with members of the Roman Curia participating in Lenten spiritual exercises.

The retreats took place in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia from 2014 to 2020, although the pope was in 2020 due to a cold.

A from the Holy See press office on Jan. 20 said that the retreat would not take place in Ariccia this year due to “the continuing epidemic emergency caused by COVID-19.”

Earlier this week, a Vatican spokesman that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and his substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Parolin has “very mild” symptoms, while Peña Parra is asymptomatic, Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

The practice of the pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in Lent began around 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

Last year, Pope Francis also invited the Roman Curia to make the Lenten retreat due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He gave each member of the Roman Curia a to include in their spiritual reading for their 2021 Lenten retreat.

The book, written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century, was entitled “Abbi a cuore il Signore” (“Keep the Lord in your Heart”). It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo to grow in their spiritual lives.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you have reached the awareness of your limitation.”

“If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”

Pope Francis appoints apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in US and Canada

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor on Wednesday for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.

The pope Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the of Los Angeles, on Jan. 19 as apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite in the two countries.

The Vatican announced on the same day that the pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, of the , the metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

The move follows the pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and name an in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year.

In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 168,000 members and is based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but also has diaspora communities around the world.

Eritrea is a northeast African country with a population of 6 million that borders Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. In 2019, the government run by the Catholic Church.

Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbor Ethiopia in 1991 following a decades-long war.

The Eritrean Catholic Church traces its roots to apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian Rite, associated with St. Mark the Evangelist.

Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a sui iuris (“of one’s own right”) metropolitan church, with Asmara as its metropolitan see.

Synod of Bishops’ resources website links to women’s ordination group

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 10:15 am (CNA).

A website overseen by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican has linked to a group campaigning for women’s ordination.

In a dated Jan. 15, the website shared information about the Women’s Ordination Conference organization, based in Washington, D.C.

Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, told CNA on Jan. 19 that the website was not promoting the group.

“I would rather speak of ‘sharing,’ as the title of the website,” he said.

Bonaventura pointed out that the section of emphasizes that the website is “a tool for listening and a platform for sharing that does not replace the official website of Synod 2021-2023 ().”

“Rather than vertical, top-down communication, it aims to be horizontal communication,” it says.

The website was previously at the center of controversy after it linked to an LGBT outreach ministry.

Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to New Ways Ministry after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the organization in 2010.

But following an outcry, they restored the link and . also links to the , part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which says that it “brings together groups and their members who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and their families.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, describes itself as “the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops.”

In his 1994 , Pope John Paul II wrote 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.”

During an in 2016, Pope Francis was asked whether there were likely to be women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades.

“As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds,” he replied.

The pope has asked two commissions to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church.

The first, established in 2016, examined the historic issue of the role of deaconesses in the early Church but did not reach a consensus.

He instituted a in 2020, following discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.

Pope Francis in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a permanent institution based at the Vatican and dedicated to serving the Synod, is currently overseeing what has been called one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A , or handbook, released in September 2021 urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

A disclaimer on the of says: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution.”

A pop-up window explains that anyone can send material to the site, but not all contributions will be accepted.

It says: “The current synodal process is addressed to the entire People of God, to all the baptized. In chapter 2.1 of the Vademecum, we urged dioceses to involve people at risk of exclusion (women, migrants, the elderly or Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith).”

“At the same time, in order to participate fully in the act of discernment, it is important for the baptized to listen to the voices of other people in their local context, including those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, people from other faith traditions, people who have no religious beliefs at all.”

“Therefore, anyone is entitled to send material. At the same time, because we firmly believe that the experience of faith is and must be communitarian, we will only accept contributions that express the views of a group clearly identified. We regret that individual submissions will not be considered.”

The Vatican in May 2021 that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October that year.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis offers prayers for the people of Tonga after volcanic eruption and tsunami

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 08:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Tonga on Wednesday as its islands recover from tsunami damage caused by a massive underwater volcanic eruption.

“My thoughts go out to the people of the islands of Tonga, who have been affected in recent days by the eruption of the underwater volcano, which has caused enormous material damage,” Pope Francis said at the end of his on Jan. 19.

“I am spiritually close to all the afflicted people, imploring God for relief for their suffering. I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters.”

Seen in satellite images from space, scientists have called the volcanic blast in the South Pacific on Jan. 15 the largest eruption in the world in three decades.

Some of the archipelago’s outlying islands were hit by 49-foot-high waves which destroyed homes, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 19.

Communications from Tonga were cut off after the eruption. Reuters has reported at least three known deaths from the tsunami waves.

Caritas Australia, a Catholic charity, is working to contact its partners in Tonga to assess the situation on the ground.

“The volcanic ash is hampering emergency flights into the country and the damage to telecommunications infrastructure has made it difficult to get in contact with affected communities,” the charity wrote on its .

“There are fears that the volcanic ash and saltwater inundation from the tsunami waves may contaminate drinking water and threaten the health and safety of vulnerable communities.”

The Polynesian country has a Catholic cardinal. Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 60, was born in Tonga’s largest island and currently lives in its capital city, Nukuʻalofa.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane wrote on social media that he had sent a message of prayerful solidarity to Cardinal Mafi on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“Our congregations will be praying for Tonga today,” Coleridge said on Jan. 16.

Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of our sins’

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has encouraged people to encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with a reminder that the tender forgiveness of God is greater than the “ugliest” sin.

“God is not afraid of our sins, he is greater than our sins,” the pope said in his on Jan. 19.

“God always forgives: put this in your head and heart. God always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the ugliest things,” he said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Speaking about God’s tenderness and mercy, Pope Francis said that the “things of God always reach us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“Tenderness is the best way to touch what is fragile in us. Look how nurses touch the wounds of the sick: with tenderness, so as not to hurt them more. And so the Lord touches our wounds with the same tenderness,” he said.

“This is why it is important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the , in personal prayer with God, having an experience of truth and tenderness.”

The pope said that God’s tenderness is “greater than the logic of the world” and can be “an unexpected way of doing justice.”

“Without this ‘revolution of tenderness’ … we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to get up easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he said.

At the end of his audience, the pope’s thoughts turned to those who are in prison today.

“For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison,” he said.

“It is right that those who have made a mistake pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have made a mistake can redeem themselves from their mistake.”

“There can be no condemnations without windows of hope. … Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and we think of God’s tenderness for them and we pray for them, so that they may find in that window of hope a way out towards a better life.”

This was Pope Francis’ eighth audience in a on St. Joseph that he launched in November 2021.

The pope dedicated this week’s general audience to a reflection on the saint as “a father of tenderness.”

As a part of this theme, he reflected on a Bible verse from the Book of Hosea (11:3-4): “He taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him.”

“It’s beautiful, this description from the Bible that shows God’s relationship with the people of Israel. And it is the same relationship we believe St. Joseph had with Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis offered the following prayer to St. Joseph at the end of the audience:

Judge dismisses ex-seminarian’s lawsuit against Pontifical North American College seminary

Rome Newsroom, Jan 18, 2022 / 12:37 pm (CNA).

A New York judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former seminarian against the Pontifical North American College major seminary and its administrators, stating that the New York court does not have jurisdiction over the Rome-based seminary and its employees.

In a civil lawsuit filed in February 2021, plaintiff Anthony J. Gorgia, a former student at the NAC, had sought $125 million in damages in civil court against the seminary, as well as rector Father Peter Harman, former vice rector Father Adam Park, and NAC lecturer Father John G. McDonald, along with New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York.

Gorgia in the lawsuit that he had been blocked from continuing his studies for the priesthood after he witnessed Park, then the vice rector, give an inappropriate back rub to a subordinate seminarian.

Lawyers for Gorgia and the plaintiffs were not immediately available for comment on Jan. 18 prior to publication.

According to court documents, Judge Lizette Colon of the New York State Supreme Court in Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, granted the defendants’ motions to have the complaints dismissed on Jan. 13, following a virtual hearing held on Jan. 5. 

Gorgia had originally filed suit on 12 causes of action, including defamation, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, interference with prospective economic advantage, and Title VII discrimination.

He later filed a cross-motion to withdraw the Title VII discrimination, sexual harassment, and defamation causes, and the request was granted by the judge. A request to add additional complaints to the suit for breach of implied contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were denied.

Gorgia's request for the court to permit the late service of the complaint was also denied.

According to the court’s decision, the dismissal of the suit against defendants was granted on multiple grounds, including because the plaintiff failed to provide adequate evidence that the New York court has personal jurisdiction over the NAC and its administrators, since the school’s primary place of business is in Rome, Italy.

“The court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the NAC, Harman, Park, and McDonald would also be improper as it would violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Colon wrote in her decision.

Colon also granted the dismissal because, she said, the plaintiff failed to properly serve the defendants with the lawsuit.

The judge granted the dismissal of the complaints against the Archdiocese of New York and Dolan for failure to timely serve the complaint, lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the ministerial exception doctrine, and failure to allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action.

Colon declined to impose sanctions on Gorgia as requested by the Archdiocese of New York and Dolan for filing “a frivolous and harassing lawsuit.”

“The Court finds the Plaintiff’s actions in filing his complaint were not frivolous … and were made with a good faith basis. The imposition of sanctions is not warranted,” the judge wrote.

Gorgia began his seminary studies in 2015 for the Archdiocese of New York. In the summer of 2017, he started at the North American College in Rome, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, he left the NAC in 2018 for a period during the first semester of his second year of formation to undergo an operation on his spine in his home diocese.

In the , Gorgia accused Harman, Park, and McDonald of creating “false accusations'' about him to prevent his planned return to the seminary after an estimated six-week recovery period. Gorgia claims this was done because of his heterosexual orientation and the defendants’ desire “to protect themselves from exposure of their predatory homosexuality at the NAC.”

The lawsuit stated that Gorgia submitted a letter of resignation as a seminarian of the archdiocese of New York in January 2019, “under duress.”

The suit also claimed that Cardinal Dolan did not fulfill his responsibilities toward Gorgia as a seminarian of his archdiocese by refusing to meet with him or hear his side of the story, and by asking him to complete a nine-month parish internship assignment before being considered for a return to the NAC based on, Gorgia claims, three “utterly false” reasons.

The Archdiocese of New York had said the claims in the case “are absurd and have no basis in fact or law. We are prepared to defend against it, and are seeking its dismissal in court.”

Pope Francis to confer new lay ministries for first time in St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will confer the ministries of catechist, lector, and acolyte upon lay men and women for the first time in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

Candidates from three continents will receive the new ministries during the for the on Jan. 23.

Two people from the Amazonian region in Peru will be formally made catechists by the pope, along with other candidates from Brazil, Ghana, Poland, and Spain.

The ministry of lector will be conferred on lay Catholics from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana, and Italy.

Each of these ministries will be conferred through a prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that will be presented for the first time, according to a Vatican communique issued on Jan. 18.

“Before the homily, the candidates will be summoned, called by name and presented to the Church,” it said.

Those called to the ministry of lector will be presented with a Bible, while catechists will be entrusted with a cross.

In this case, it will be a copy of the pastoral cross used by popes St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II.

Pope Francis established the as an instituted, vocational service within the Catholic Church last May.

The newly instituted ministry is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith. The ministry lasts for the entirety of life, regardless of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

According to the , a lay person called to be instituted in the ministry of catechist should have “deep faith and human maturity,” be an active participant in the life of the Christian community, and “capable of welcoming others, being generous and living a life of fraternal communion.”

Among the candidates to be inducted into the ministry by Pope Francis this week is the president of the , which was founded by , who dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the catechetical instruction of children.

The pope in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

In the , the pope modified the Code of Canon Law, which previously limited the ministries to lay men.

A lector is a person who reads Scripture — other than the Gospel, which is only proclaimed by deacons and priests — to the congregation at Mass.

After abolishing the minor orders, Pope Paul VI wrote that an acolyte was a ministry in the Church with the “duty to take care of the service of the altar, to help the deacon and the priest in liturgical actions, especially in the celebration of the Holy Mass.”

Potential responsibilities for an acolyte include distributing Holy Communion as an extraordinary minister if such ministers are not present, publicly exposing the Eucharist for adoration in extraordinary circumstances, and “the instruction of the other faithful, who, on a temporary basis, help the deacon and the priest in liturgical services by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc.”

Due to travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the omicron variant of COVID-19, candidates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda will not be able to take part in the Mass, as originally planned. Attendance in St. Peter’s Basilica will also be limited to only 2,000 people as a precaution.

The Mass will be broadcast live by EWTN at 9:30 a.m. Rome time (1:30 a.m. MDT).

Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Peña Parra test positive for COVID-19

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 07:05 am (CNA).

Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra have tested positive for COVID-19, the Holy See press office confirmed on Tuesday.

Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has “very mild” symptoms, while his Venezuelan substitute, Peña Parra, is asymptomatic, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

Both members of the Roman Curia were fully vaccinated and had received booster shots.

Earlier this week, Parolin, who travels frequently for his diplomatic role, canceled a trip to Erba in northern Italy scheduled for Feb 6. The cardinal turned 67 on Jan. 17.

Parolin issued further coronavirus within Vatican City last month, requiring people to provide either proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or evidence of recovery from it to enter Vatican offices.

Many cardinals have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, including , Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, , and .

Pope Francis sends aid to migrants at Belarus border and victims of typhoon in Philippines

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent 100,000 euros (around $114,000) in aid to migrants at the border between Poland and Belarus, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

The announced on Jan. 18 that the pope had also given the same sum to victims of a devastating storm in the Philippines.

The Vatican department said in a that the pope had earmarked the funds for migrants living in freezing winter conditions along the roughly 250-mile border separating Poland and Belarus.

It said that the money would also help , the country’s biggest charitable organization, “to address the migratory emergency on the border between the two countries.”

The border crisis flared up last summer when thousands of people, largely from Middle Eastern countries, sought to enter the European Union by crossing the Belarus-Poland border.

The Polish government and the EU accused Belarus of helping the migrants to gather at the frontier and enter Poland, an EU member state since 2004. The Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, denied the claim.

Polish officials argued that Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country, fomented the crisis in response to sanctions imposed by the EU after Lukashenko declared victory in a disputed presidential election in August 2020.

The border crisis has also affected Lithuania and Latvia, both EU member states neighboring Belarus.

Poland responded to the crisis by declaring a state of emergency in the area, fortifying the border, and repelling groups seeking to force their way across with tear gas and water cannons.

The Belarusian government appeared to take steps to de-escalate the crisis in November. Almost 4,000 Iraqi citizens have been repatriated from Belarus, Iraq’s foreign minister on Jan. 16.

announced earlier this month that it had withdrawn its teams after Polish authorities repeatedly denied them access to migrants living in a forested border area in sub-zero temperatures.

“We are concerned that the current policy of restricting access to aid organizations and volunteer groups could result in yet more migrants and refugees dying,” it on Jan. 6.

“These policies are yet again another example of the EU deliberately creating unsafe conditions for people to seek asylum at its borders.”

Papal funds will also help relief efforts in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Rai struck the southeast Asian country in December.

The tropical cyclone, known locally as Typhoon Odette, killed more than 400 people and has affected others, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Vatican dicastery said that the funds would be sent to the worst-affected dioceses with help from the apostolic nunciature in the Philippines.

“It is intended to be an immediate expression of the Holy Father’s feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement towards the people and territories affected,” the dicastery said, recalling that the pope prayed for victims at his on Dec. 19.

“This contribution, which accompanies the prayer in support of the beloved Filipino population, is part of the aid that is being activated throughout the Catholic Church and that involves, in addition to various episcopal conferences, numerous charitable organizations,” it said.

Vatican asks bishops to invite local Protestant and Orthodox leaders to participate in synodal path

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 04:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican has issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the , and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the , wrote a letter together asking Catholic dioceses to embrace the “ecumenical dimension” of the synodal process.

“The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey,” said the highlighted by the Vatican on Jan. 17.

“Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together.’”

Offering “some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey,” the cardinals encouraged bishops to reach out to leaders of other Christian communities in their area.

“After identifying the main Christian communities present in the area, [the bishop] should prepare and send a letter to their leaders (or better visit them personally for this purpose),” their letter said.

The bishops should then invite local Christian leaders to send delegates to pre-synodal diocesan meetings and submit written reflections on questions included in the .

National bishops’ conferences are likewise asked to invite representatives from other Christian communities and national councils of churches to participate in the synodal process.

The is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” that in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last until .

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

The letter, signed on Oct. 28, was referred to in a Vatican on Jan. 17 ahead of the , which takes place on Jan. 18-25.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer is “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Cardinal Grech and Cardinal Koch said: “Like the Magi, Christians too journey together (synodos) guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness.”

“They too are called to worship Jesus together and open their treasures. Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these two years and we sincerely pray that Christ will lead us closer to Him and so to one another.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shared a prayer which it said could be added to the other intentions of the Week of Prayer:

Pope Francis looks ahead to the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 2025

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

In an ecumenical meeting with a Lutheran delegation on Monday, Pope Francis pointed to the upcoming 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea as a source of unity between Christians.

“Dear friends, we have set out on a journey led by God’s kindly light that dissipates the darkness of division and directs our journey towards unity,” Pope Francis on Jan. 17.

“We have set out, as brothers and sisters, on the journey towards ever fuller communion.”

Pope Francis received an ecumenical delegation from Finland at the Vatican. The group traveled to Rome on pilgrimage for the feast of Saint Henrik, a 12th century bishop of Finland who is revered by Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans.

In the meeting, the pope pointed to the upcoming anniversaries of two major events in Church history as moments that can help Christians to see the goal of unity more clearly.

“In 2025, we will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. The Trinitarian and Christological confession of that Council, which acknowledges Jesus to be ‘true God from true God’ and ‘consubstantial with the Father,’ unites us with all those who are baptized,” Pope Francis said.

The First Council of Nicaea held in 325 A.D. was called by emperor Constantine to confront the Arian heresy, which denied Christ’s divinity. The council promulgated the Nicene Creed, which is still accepted by Orthodox, Anglican, and other Protestant denominations.

“In view of this great anniversary, let us renew our enthusiasm for journeying together in the way of Christ, in the way that is Christ. For we need him and the newness and incomparable joy that he brings. Only by clinging to him will we reach the end of the path leading to full unity,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also highlighted that 2030 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.

The Augsburg Confession included 28 articles presented by Lutheran princes in 1530 for approval by the Catholic Church. The Church responded with a Confutation that accepted 9 articles, approved 6 with qualifications, and condemned 13 articles.

“At a time when Christians were about to set out on different paths, that Confession attempted to preserve unity,” Pope Francis said.

“We know that it did not succeed in preventing division, but the forthcoming anniversary can serve as a fruitful occasion to encourage and confirm us on our journey of communion, so that we can become more docile to God’s will, and less to human strategies, more disposed to prefer to earthly aims the route pointed out by Heaven.”

The delegation from Finland included Jukka Keskitalo, the bishop of Oulu in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and Bishop Teemu Sippo, the retired Catholic bishop of Helsinki.

Sippo was the first Finnish-born Catholic bishop to be appointed since the 16th century. More than 68% of Finland’s population is Lutheran, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Representatives from the Sámi, Finland’s indigenous people – the only indigenous people of the European Union – were also present for the papal meeting.

“It is with particular joy that I welcome and greet the Sámi representatives,” Pope Francis said.

“May God accompany you on the journey towards reconciliation and healing of memory, and make all Christians free and determined in the earnest search for truth.”

The ecumenical meeting occurred one day ahead of the official start of the January 18-25.

Pope Francis has asked Catholics to offer up their “difficulties and sufferings” during this week for the unity of Christians.

“When will unity be achieved? One wonders, isn't that right? A great Orthodox theologian who is a specialist in eschatology said, ‘Unity will be in the eschaton.’ But the path to unity is important. It is very good that theologians study, discuss,” the pope told the Finnish delegation.

“But it is also good that we, God's faithful people, go together on the journey. Together. And we make unity through prayer, through works of charity, through working together. I know you are going down that path, and I thank you so much,” he said.

“Let us keep our gaze ever fixed on Jesus (cf. Heb 12:2) and remain close to one another in prayer,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis asks Catholics to offer their sufferings for Christian unity

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2022 / 05:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked Catholics to offer up their sufferings this week for Christian unity.

During his Sunday Angelus address, the pope called on people to participate in the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity taking place January 18-25.

“We Christians, in the diversity of our confessions and traditions, are also pilgrims on our way to full unity, and we come closer to our goal the more we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, our only Lord,” Pope Francis said from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Jan. 16.

“During this week of prayer, we offer our difficulties and sufferings for the unity of Christians,” he told the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity dates back to the 19th century when Pope Leo XIII encouraged the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity. The Vatican and the World Council of Churches came together in 1966 to jointly prepare prayer materials for what has become an annual event.

During the week, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal and other Protestant denominations are invited to pray in a particular way for unity among Christians.

This year the Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon has prepared the for the ecumenical prayers, which will take place each day of the week in Rome with the theme: “We saw a star in the East, and we came to worship him.”

The pope will mark the end of the week with the praying of vespers for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 25.

In his Angelus message, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel of John’s account of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus transformed water into wine.

“We notice that the evangelist John does not speak of a miracle, that is, of a powerful and extraordinary deed that provokes wonder. He writes that a sign took place at Cana, a sign that sparked the faith of his disciples,” the pope said.

“A sign is a clue that reveals the love of God, which does not call attention to the power of the gesture, but to the love that caused it. It teaches us something about the love of God, which is always close, tender and compassionate,” he said.

Pope Francis highlighted how Jesus quietly intervened after Our Lady discreetly brought the situation to his attention.

“Everything took place ‘behind the scenes,’” the pope noted.

“This is how God acts, with closeness and with discretion. … This is Jesus. He helps us, he serves us in a hidden way,” he said.

With this Gospel passage in mind, the pope recommended that people take time to think about “the signs” that God has manifested in their lives.

“Let each of us say: in my life, what are the signs the Lord has accomplished? What are the hints of his presence, the signs he has done to show that he loves us?” he said.

“Let us think about that difficult moment in which God allowed me to experience his love. And let us ask ourselves: what are the discrete and loving signs through which he has allowed me to feel his tenderness?”

The pope recommended asking for the Virgin Mary’s intercession to contemplate these moments.

“May she, the Mother who is always attentive as at Cana, help us treasure the signs of God’s presence in our lives,” he said.

Pope Francis: The Holy Spirit reforms the Church through the saints

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that it takes saints to reform the Church and for this each Catholic is called to a deeper “second conversion.”

“It is the Holy Spirit who forms and reforms the Church and does so through the Word of God and through the saints, who put the Word into practice in their lives,” Pope Francis said Jan. 15.

In an audience with the religious order founded by Saint Cajetan, the pope underlined that “reform must begin with oneself.”

A 16th century contemporary of Martin Luther, Cajetan sought to reform the Catholic Church, especially the clergy, but from within the Church itself.

Pope Francis said that when Saint Cajetan “came to Rome to work in the papal curia, he noticed the unfortunately widespread spiritual and moral degradation.”

“And while he carried out his office work, he frequented the oratory of Divine Love, cultivating prayer and spiritual formation; and then he went to a hospital to assist the sick. This is the way: to begin with oneself to live the Gospel more deeply and coherently,” the pope said.

“All the saints show us this way. They are the true reformers of the Church,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined that every saint is “a plan of the Father to reflect and incarnate, at a specific moment in history, an aspect of the Gospel.”

Cajetan and a small group of like-minded priests founded the Congregation of Clerics Regular, which became known as the Theatines, in 1524.

The community of priests sought to save souls primarily through living moral lives, through sacred studies, through preaching, and through tending to the sick and the poor.

Like many saints, Cajetan had a “vocation without a vocation,” or what could also be called “a second conversion,” the pope said.

“It is about the passage from an already good and esteemed life to a holy life, full of that ‘more’ that comes from the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said.

“This breakthrough is what makes not only the personal life of that man or woman grow, but also the life of the Church. This is what, in a certain sense, reforms it by purifying it and bringing out its evangelical beauty.”

The Theatine order became known as strong Catholic reformers even before the Protestant Reformation had fully taken hold.

“Saint Cajetan evangelized Rome, Venice, Naples, and he did so above all through the witness of life and the works of mercy, practicing the great ‘protocol’ that Jesus left us with the parable of the final judgment, Matthew 25,” Pope Francis said.

In 1527, the house of the Theatine order in Rome was sacked by troops of Emperor Charles V, and the members fled to Venice.

At the age of 42, Cajetan founded a hospital for "incurables" in Venice, and worked to comfort and heal the sick during times of plague.

In 1533, the pope sent Cajetan to Naples, where he founded another oratory. The corresponding church, San Paolo Maggiore, became an important hub of Catholic reformation.

While in Naples, Cajetan also founded a charitable nonprofit bank designed to protect the poor from usury - or lending money at exorbitant rates of interest. Eventually, the bank became the Bank of Naples.

Cajetan became dangerously sick and offered his sufferings for the conversion of the people of Naples. He died on August 6th 1547, the feast of the Transfiguration, and is buried in the San Paolo Maggiore Basilica in Naples.

Today the Theatines are present in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, the United States, Mexico, Spain, and Italy. The order met with the pope at the Apostolic Palace as it conducts its 164th General Chapter.

“I encourage you to move forward ... with docility to the Holy Spirit, without rigid schemes … but firmly established in the essential things: prayer, adoration, common life, fraternal charity, poverty and service to the poor,” Pope Francis said.

“All this with an apostolic heart, with the good evangelical eagerness to seek first of all the Kingdom of God.”

'We must not lose our sense of humor': Pope writes to journalist who caught him leaving record store

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 14, 2022 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

After a journalist reported on Pope Francis’ surprise visit to a record store, the pope surprised him back — by writing him a letter.

Javier Martínez-Brocal, director of the Rome-based news agency Rome Reports, tweeted a black-and-white photo on Jan. 11 of . The photo went viral as people wanted to know, “What did he buy?” The journalist also captured video of the encounter.

But while the pope left the shop with a disc, he came for another purpose: to visit the owner, an old friend of his, and to bless the newly-renovated store.

Following the incident, Martínez-Brocal apologized to the pope for intruding on the moment.

“I'm sorry that the Pope, who loves freedom, has to stay in his residence, because every move he makes is caught on camera,” Martínez-Brocal says in a video released on Jan. 14. “I wrote to him to apologize and to say that, on the other hand, a story like this, which can make people smile, is important in a time when we only hear about tragedies.”

To his surprise, the pontiff responded. Pope Francis confirmed that he saw the photo and even thanked Martínez-Brocal for his “noble” post, reported.

Pope Francis revealed that he had attempted to keep his visit secret, joking that, “one cannot deny that it was a ‘terrible fate’ that, after taking all precautions, there was a journalist waiting for someone at the cab stop.”

He continued, “We must not lose our sense of humor,” and thanked the journalist “for fulfilling your vocation, even if it means giving the Pope a hard time.”

On a more serious note, he added that he missed freely roaming city streets.

“What I miss most in this Diocese is not being able to ‘wander the streets,’ as I did in Buenos Aires, walking from one parish to another,” he wrote.

Martínez-Brocal reacted to the pope’s letter.

“I think the Pope recognizes the importance of a journalist's job, even if it's sometimes uncomfortable for him or causes him problems,” he said. “But he is grateful for this service of honestly recounting events as they happen.”

The pope did not reveal the genre of music the shopkeepers gifted him with. That part of his visit, it seems, he kept a mystery.

Pope Francis is a music-enthusiast. His music library, curated by the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, houses nearly 2,000 CDs and 19 vinyl records, reported. The recordings include music from the pope’s personal collection as well as music the pope has received as gifts.

Most of the library is classical, but it also includes Édith Piaf, Argentine tango tunes, and a 25-disc collection of Elvis Presley’s Gospel songs.

10 things to know about Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

Denver Newsroom, Jan 14, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI served as pope from 2005 to 2013. He was born Joseph Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, at Marktl in the German state of Bavaria. He turns 95 soon.

There is lots to know about this man who became a priest, archbishop, a cardinal, and even a former pope.

When he was a cardinal living in Rome, he would prepare plates of . If friendly cats near his Vatican offices were hurt, he would bandage their wounds.

As of 2005, the year he became pope, Benedict had a black-and-white short-haired cat living at his home in Bavaria.

When he moved to live in the Vatican apartments, he still had to follow the rules: no cats or dogs allowed.

His other interests include the piano, which he played for years. The composer Mozart is a favorite.

“His music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep,” he told interviewer Peter Seewald in the 1996 book “Salt of the Earth.” “His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence.”

His brother Georg, who also became a priest, made a career of music: he became at St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Bavarian city of Regensburg.

The future Benedict XVI grew up in the small village of Traunstein in southern Germany at a time when the Nazis came to dominate the country.

Ratzinger’s family was . His father, a policeman, subscribed to an anti-Nazi newspaper whose editor, Fritz Gerlich, was murdered by the Nazis. A 14-year-old cousin of Ratzinger’s who had Down syndrome was taken away by the Nazis and soon died. He was presumably murdered in their inhuman campaign against those they considered defective.

Young Joseph Ratzinger bristled against mandatory Hitler Youth activities and managed to dodge some, as he later recounted in his memoir “Milestones.” His older sister refused to become a teacher rather than be forced to teach a Nazi-friendly curriculum.

During the Second World War, Ratzinger was conscripted into military service. He and his brother Georg both wanted to be seminarians. When an SS recruiter gathered Ratzinger and other soldiers to a recruitment meeting, his desire to be a priest won him mockery and insults — but also escape from service in the hardline Nazi military group.

In the last months of the war, he deserted, an action punishable by death.

During his April 2008 visit to St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York, Benedict called Nazi Germany “a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers.”

“Its influence grew — infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion — before it was fully recognized for the monster that it was,” he . “It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good.”

Though Nazism was defeated, he warned his listeners that there is still a “power to destroy.” But Jesus Christ saves us from this: “The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life.”

He warned Americans against darkness of the heart, “a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being.” There is also a “particularly sinister” darkness of the mind, he said, which manipulates truth, distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations.

“But what purpose has a ‘freedom’ which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong?” he asked. “How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life?”

“Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others.”

In a Wednesday general audience soon after his election in April 2005, he explained that he chose the name Benedict as who “guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War.” He said the name also evoked the sixth-century monastic leader St. Benedict of Nursia and his place in forming the “irrefutable Christian roots of European culture and civilization.”

As pope, Benedict often spoke of the need to evangelize. “There is no greater priority than this: to enable the people of our time once more to encounter God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance,” he said in his 2010 .

Hundreds of priests who had committed sex abuse were . This was a continuation of his previous work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which acquired increased authority over clergy sex abuse cases in 2002.

Two months into his papacy, Benedict disciplined Father Marcial Maciel, the charismatic and influential founder of the Legionaries of Christ who had long been accused of sexually abusing seminarians and was later revealed to have led a deeply scandalous .

At times, has arisen over the claim that Benedict XVI, as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982, mishandled or covered up for a sexual abuser. These claims surrounding serial sex abuser Father Peter Hullermann have been firmly rejected by the Vatican and Benedict’s close aide Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

The vicar general at the time has taken full responsibility for a decision to assign the priest from outside the diocese to a parish without any pastoral restrictions, where Hullermann was able to abuse again.

On Jan. 20, 2022, the Munich archdiocese on its handling of abuse claims from 1945 to 2019. The investigative faulted Benedict for his handling of three other cases, in addition to the one involving Hullermann.

In two of the three new cases, clerics committed abuse while the future pope was in office. While the priests were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, and no action was taken against them under canon law, according to the report.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. In a briefing to the media, one of he report's authors suggested the future Benedict XVI knew of the priest's history, but the pope emeritus strongly denies the allegations.

According to , Benedict sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

On Feb. 11, 2013, the 85-year-old Benedict shocked the world with a Latin-language announcement of his retirement. He cited his advanced age and lack of strength as reasons he was unsuitable to exercise his office.

On Feb. 28, the day his resignation took effect, Benedict traveled from Vatican City to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter.

“I’m simply a pilgrim who is starting the last stage of his pilgrimage on Earth,” he said in his . “Let’s go ahead together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world.”

The unusual situation of a former pope meant that Benedict effectively “co-authored” an encyclical with his successor.

Pope Francis incorporated Benedict’s unfinished text in his 2013 , declaring it a “work of four hands.”

Benedict XVI’s are (2005), (2007), and (2009) about the Christian virtues of love and hope.

Benedict is the as far as Pope Francis is concerned.

“I have said many times that it gives me great pleasure that he lives here in the Vatican, because it is like having a wise grandfather at home. Thank you!”

Those were the words of the current pope to his predecessor on Sept. 28, 2014, at a meeting between Pope Francis and elderly people from around the world — including Benedict.

In his ahead of the 2005 conclave that elected him to the papacy, Ratzinger spoke of a “dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

He stressed that Jesus Christ is “the measure of true humanism” and a mature faith and friendship with God serves as a criterion to distinguish “the true from the false, and deceit from truth.”

His books include “Introduction to Christianity,” a compilation of his university lectures, and “Jesus of Nazareth,” an effort to explain Jesus Christ to the modern world. Before his election as pope, he gave two popular interviews with the German journalist Peter Seewald, published under the titles “The Ratzinger Report” and “Salt of the Earth.”

Benedict’s papacy was marked by efforts at cultural, intellectual, and spiritual renewal, including liturgical reform. He also helped strengthen the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council’s reform efforts. Benedict himself had been at the 1960s ecumenical council, where he served as an expert for Cardinal Joseph Frings, the Archbishop of Cologne.

Benedict rejected interpretations of the council that stressed “discontinuity and rupture.” Rather, he said, the momentous council should be seen in the spirit of “continuity” and “reform.”

His efforts to establish a sound interpretation of Vatican II lasted through the end of his papacy. On Feb. 14, 2013, he that the council was at first wrongly interpreted “through the eyes of the media” which depicted it as a “political struggle” between different currents within the Church.

This created “many calamities” and “so much misery,” with the result that seminaries and convents closed and the liturgy was “trivialized.”

The then Cardinal Ratzinger served St. John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he held for more than 20 years.

“I was at his side and came to revere him all the more,” Benedict would recount. “My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me.”

Benedict was involved in the preparation of the and the clarification of Catholic doctrine. At times, his work countered influential heterodox Catholics in the United States and Western Europe, actions which would later provoke negative reaction to his election to the papacy.

As pope, Benedict XVI presided at the May 1, 2011, .

“John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous, and apostolic faith,” Benedict XVI said at the time. “By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel.”

“In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is ‘Redemptor hominis,’ the Redeemer of man.”

Vatican unveils motto for 2025 Jubilee Year

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 10:27 am (CNA).

Preparations are already underway in Rome for the 2025 Jubilee, a special year of grace and pilgrimage in the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella met with Pope Francis this month to discuss the motto for the jubilee. 

In , Fisichella revealed that the motto approved by the pope “can be summed up in two words: ."

The 2025 Jubilee will be the Church’s first ordinary jubilee since St. John Paul II led The Great Jubilee of 2000. The Jubilee of Mercy opened by Pope Francis in 2015 was an extraordinary jubilee.

Archbishop Fisichella leads the Vatican dicastery entrusted with the event’s organization, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

“There is so much work to be done,” he said.

The 2025 Jubilee will include the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pilgrims who pass through the door – which is only opened during Jubilee years, ordinarily every 25 years or when a pope calls for an extraordinary Jubilee – can receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

The four major basilicas in Rome all have Holy Doors. During the Extraordinary Jubilee of 2015, Pope Francis also granted cathedral churches around the world permission to establish and open a Holy Door.

Jubilees have biblical roots, as the Mosaic era established jubilee years to be held every 50 years for the freeing of slaves and forgiveness of debts as manifestations of God's mercy.

The practice was re-established in 1300 by Boniface VIII. Pilgrims to Rome were granted a plenary indulgence. Between 1300 and 2000, 29 jubilee years were held in Rome.

“To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us,” Pope Francis said as he opened the jubilee Holy Door on St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 8, 2015.

“In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things,” he said.

Pope Francis: There is an urgent need for ‘spiritual fatherhood’ today

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 07:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said in a new interview that there is a great need for “spiritual fatherhood” today.

“The faith we have received is always found through a relationship with someone,” the pope said in an published in the Vatican newspaper, , on Jan. 13.

“There is a great urgency, in this historical moment, for meaningful relationships that we could define as spiritual fatherhood,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined that a “spiritual relationship is one of those relationships that we have to rediscover with renewed effort,” noting that it is distinct from a “psychological or therapeutic” program.

The pope said that at this time in history, many young people have “the inability to make big life decisions” and are “afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk.”

He added that it is not only up to priests to provide much-needed spiritual accompaniment, but that there are many good lay men and women with valuable experiences to share.

“Christian faith is not something that can be learned from books or by simple reasoning. Instead, it is an existential journey that passes through our relationships. Our experience of faith thus always arises from somebody’s witness,” the pope said.

Pointing to St. Joseph as a model for fatherhood, Pope Francis reflected that Joseph had a remarkable “ability to know how to listen to God speaking to his heart.”

“I am convinced that the fatherly relationship that Joseph had with Jesus influenced his life so much that Jesus’ future preaching is filled with images and references taken precisely from paternal imagery,” the pope said.

“For example, Jesus says that God is Father and this statement cannot leave us indifferent, especially when we think about his personal human experience of fatherhood.”

“This means that Joseph was such a good father that Jesus found in this man’s love and paternity the most beautiful reference he could give to God,” he said.

Pope Francis, who began his pontificate on the feast of St. Joseph in 2013, said that he was always “nurtured a special devotion to St. Joseph” because he “represents what Christian faith should be for each of us, in a beautiful and simple way.”

“I always considered it a kindness from heaven to be able to begin my Petrine Ministry on March 19,” he reflected.

“I think that in some way St. Joseph wanted to tell me that he would continue to help me, to be beside me, and I would be able to continue to think of him as a friend I could turn to, whom I could trust, whom I could ask to intercede and pray for me.”

In November 2021, the pope began a new at his Wednesday general audiences dedicated to Jesus’ foster father. He presented the in the series on Jan. 12.

The declared by Pope Francis officially came to an end last month. The pope said he hoped that the year helped “many Christians rediscover the profound value of the communion of saints which is not an abstract communion, but a concrete communion that expresses itself in a concrete relationship and has concrete consequences.”

“The time in which we are living is a difficult time, marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are suffering, many families are facing difficulties, many people are hounded by the anxiety of death, of an uncertain future,” he said.

“I felt that precisely in this time that is so difficult, we needed someone who could encourage us, help us, inspire us, in order to understand which is the right way to know how to face these dark moments. Joseph is a bright witness in dark times. This is why it was right to make room for him at this time, in order to find our way again.”

Pope Francis: Synodality is not a ‘search for majority consensus’

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Thursday that synodality is not a “search for majority consensus,” but rather a “style” guided by the Holy Spirit.

The pope made the remark in an to a delegation of French Catholic Action groups at the Vatican on Jan. 13.

“The Church as a whole is also engaged in a synodal process, and I count on your contribution,” he said.

“Let us remember, in this regard, that synodality is not a simple discussion. It is not an ‘adjective.’ Never ‘adjectivize’ the substantiality of life.”

“Synodality is not even the search for majority consensus, this is done by a parliament, as is done in politics. It is not a plan, a program to be implemented.”

“No. It is a style to be adopted, in which the main protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself above all in the Word of God, read, meditated upon, and shared together.”

Pope Francis formally a two-year global consultation process, leading to the 2023 synod on synodality, last October.

Members of the French Catholic Action movement are taking part in a Jan. 11-16 to the Vatican to raise awareness of their work, accompanied by Archbishop François Fonlupt of Avignon.

France’s include bodies such as , for children, , focused on workers, and the , for young people living in the countryside.

ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner, that the pilgrimage includes not only an audience with the pope, but also meetings with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, as well as other senior curial officials.

The pilgrimage’s theme is “Being apostles today,” the title of a describing the groups’ activities.

In his address in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Pope Francis spoke about “our call to be effective apostles today.”

He drew on the method formulated by the Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and incorporated into Catholic social teaching by Pope John XXIII in his 1961 .

“This first stage is fundamental; it consists in stopping to observe the events that shape our lives, what constitutes our history, our family, cultural, and Christian roots,” Pope Francis said.

He went on: “The second stage is judging or, one might say, discerning. It is the moment in which we allow ourselves to be questioned and challenged. The key to this stage is the reference to Sacred Scripture.”

He urged Catholic Action groups to “always leave an important place to the Word of God in the life of your groups,” while giving “space to prayer, interiority, and adoration.”

The pope said that the third stage, acting, was concerned with “God’s initiative.”

“Our role, then, is to support and foster God’s action in our hearts, adapting to the ever-changing reality,” he said.

He noted that Europe had experienced significant cultural changes in recent years.

“The people your movements reach — I am thinking in particular of young people — are not the same as they were a few years ago,” he said.

“Today, especially in Europe, those who frequent Christian movements are more skeptical of institutions, they seek less demanding and more ephemeral relationships. They are more sensitive to affectivity, and therefore more vulnerable, more fragile than previous generations, less rooted in faith, but nevertheless in search of meaning and truth, and no less generous.”

“It is your mission, as Catholic Action, to reach out to them as they are, to make them grow in the love of Christ and their neighbor, and to lead them to a greater concrete commitment, so that they may be protagonists of their lives and the life of the Church, so that the world may change.”

New COVID-19 rules for visitors to Vatican Museums

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Visitors to the Vatican Museums must show a pass certifying full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 and wear medical-grade masks under new measures announced on Wednesday.

A issued on Jan. 5 by Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, said that every visitor to the museum must present a and wear an FFP2 mask, the European equivalent of an N95.

The rules, introduced in light of “the worsening of the emergency health situation,” went into effect on Jan. 10 and are due to expire on Feb. 28.

The ordinance, also signed by Sister Raffaella Petrini, of the Vatican’s governorate, brings the Vatican City State’s norms into line with those of Italy.

The Italian government passed a in December requiring citizens to be either vaccinated or show proof of recovery from COVID-19 to visit museums or other tourist sites.

The new restrictions, which came into force in the country this week, ban citizens without a Super Green Pass from entering restaurants, public transportation, gyms, hotels, theaters, and sports events.

The number of visitors to the Vatican Museums from 2019 to 2020 due to nearly five months of closure amid Italy’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

The loss in ticket sales — a major source of revenue for the Holy See — continued into 2021 as the museums were closed on and off for the first half of the year.

The attraction, which is among the most-visited museums in the world and offers access to the , presents a to admission rules on its website.

All visitors to the museums must undergo a temperature check, wear an FFP2 mask both indoors and outdoors, and maintain a distance of more than three feet from others.

The Jan. 5 decree applies to everyone working in Vatican City State, the sovereign city-state located within the city of Rome.

The ordinance permits only essential work trips and underlines that governorate staff without a Super Green Pass will be considered unjustifiably absent and their pay suspended. If they remain absent, they will face disciplinary action.

The decree says that exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin issued a on Dec. 23 stating that people seeking to enter the offices of the Roman Curia must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or evidence of recovery from it.

The decree extends not only to curial officials, but also to and all other visitors.

Parolin told the National Catholic Register on Jan. 9 that granting an exemption to Vatican employees concerned about the vaccine’s links to cell lines from aborted fetuses

Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic’s first wave, has recorded 7,971,068 COVID-19 cases and 139,872 related deaths as of Jan. 13, according to the .

Pope Francis prays for workers ‘crushed by an unbearable burden’ in COVID-19 recession

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2022 / 02:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed on Wednesday for workers “crushed by an unbearable burden” amid the COVID-19 recession.

At his Jan. 12 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope asked for a moment’s silence for workers who took their lives after losing their jobs amid the pandemic.

“Many young people, many fathers and mothers, experience the ordeal of not having a job that allows them to live tranquilly, they live from day to day. And how often the search for work becomes so desperate that it drives them to the point of losing all hope and the desire to live,” he said.

“In these times of pandemic, many people have lost their jobs — we know this — and some, crushed by an unbearable burden, reached the point of taking their own lives. I would like to remember each of them and their families today.”

“Let us take a moment of silence, remembering these men, these women, who are desperate because they cannot find work.”

The pope dedicated his general audience, which was sparsely attended, to St. Joseph the carpenter. It was in the seventh installment in his on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November.

He noted that the Gospel writers Matthew and Mark described Joseph as a “carpenter” or “joiner.”

He said: “The Greek term ‘tekton,’ used to specify Joseph’s work, has been translated in various ways. The Latin Fathers of the Church rendered it as ‘carpenter.’”

“But let us bear in mind that in the Palestine of Jesus’ time, wood was used not only to make plows and various pieces of furniture, but also to build houses, which had wooden frames and terraced roofs made of beams connected with branches and earth.”

“Therefore, ‘carpenter’ or ‘joiner’ was a generic qualification, indicating both woodworkers and craftsmen engaged in activities related to construction.”

The pope explained that Joseph’s trade, which he passed on to Jesus, did not provide the Holy Family with “great earnings.”

He said: “This biographical fact about Joseph and Jesus makes me think of all the workers in the world, especially those who do grueling work in mines and certain factories; those who are exploited through undocumented work; the victims of labor — we have seen a lot of this in Italy recently; the children who are forced to work and those who rummage among the trash in search of something useful to trade…”

The pope said it was a social injustice when men and women were unable to earn money to feed their families, stressing that labor is connected to human dignity.

He explained that work was not only a way of earning a living, but also “an essential component of human life, and even of the path of sanctification.”

“Unfortunately, however, labor is often a hostage to social injustice and, rather than being a means of humanization, it becomes an existential periphery. I often ask myself: With what spirit do we do our daily work? How do we deal with fatigue? Do we see our activity as linked only to our own destiny or also to the destiny of others?” he asked.

He added: “It is good to think about the fact that Jesus himself worked and had learned this craft from St. Joseph. Today, we should ask ourselves what we can do to recover the value of work; and what contribution we can make, as the Church, so that work can be redeemed from the logic of mere profit and can be experienced as a fundamental right and duty of the person, which expresses and increases his or her dignity.”

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

The audience concluded with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

The pope ended his address by reciting a prayer offered by his predecessor Paul VI on :

Why did Pope Francis visit a record store in Rome?

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 11, 2022 / 14:28 pm (CNA).

A photo showing Pope Francis exiting a record store gained traction on social media Tuesday as people asked the question: What did the pontiff purchase?

Javier Martínez-Brocal, director of international news agency Rome Reports, tweeted the black-and-white photo reminiscent of an album cover along with a caption in Spanish that translates to read, “The Pope, in a record store in Rome.”

The photo shows the masked pontiff leaving a store with a sign reading “Stereosound” above the door. Another nearby sign reads “dischi” or “discs.” Inside the store window, the photo reveals a Christmas tree decorated with records as ornaments.

, Pope Francis visited the newly-renovated store to bless it. During his 12 minutes inside the shop near the Pantheon, he received a disc of classical music from the shopkeepers. The paper reported that the owner, named Letizia, together with her daughter and son-in-law, are old friends with the pontiff, who was a customer long before he became pope. He promised to return one day and visit them as pope, according to the report. On Tuesday, he appeared to do just that.

the owner as saying: “He already came when he was a cardinal. It was very emotional. We gave him a classical music record as a gift.”

According to CNN's Delia Gallagher, that Pope Francis blessed the shop.

In addition to the photo, Martínez-Brocal also shared of Pope Francis’ departure, as he exits the store and climbs into a white Fiat 500L.

In 2016, that the pope enjoys classical music including from composers Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.

Is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undergoing a general overhaul?

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2022 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

On Jan. 10, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, who had served as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2017, as bishop of the diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla.

The move has given rise to various speculations about why the pope made this decision. However, more than an ideological choice, Pope Francis' decision should be framed in the context of a generational change in the Congregation, in view of the eventual finalization of the reform of the Curia.

According to various speculations, Morandi’s transfer was due to his stance against the restrictive application of the motu proprio , which effectively nullifies the liberalization granted to the celebration of Mass according to the ancient rite. Other speculations underline that Morandi was the author of the document, approved by the pope, which stressed that priests could not bless homosexual unions. The paper was a , a response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made public because many questions on the subject had reached the Congregation.

However, sources within the Congregation deny that Morandi has ever shown himself in any way opposing the line of Pope Francis. On the contrary, one of his collaborators called him “humble, silent, and doctrinally well-grounded.”

According to a person who worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “in the choice to move Archbishop Morandi, some gossip about his conservative positions may have weighed, too. I doubt it, however. Morandi has never been confrontational, and he has always kept a low profile. And he has never been disloyal to the pope.”

This observation suggests there are other reasons for the transfer.

The first reason: Morandi had finished his five-year term as secretary of the Congregation, which he had entered seven years ago as undersecretary. He, therefore, went beyond the five-year mandate, and Pope Francis decided not to keep him in the post to give the Congregation a new profile. One of the reforms advocated by the pope is to have no high-profile Vatican officials in office for more than two five-year terms. The Pope has been applying this unwritten norm for some time now. The norm should formally appear in the upcoming Curia reform.

The second reason lies in the very nature of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation was called “the Supreme” and considered the most important of the Congregations. Established in 1542 as the “Sacred Universal Congregation of the Holy Inquisition,” it was reorganized in 1908 as the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office by Pius X. Paul VI, in 1965, changed its name to the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Until 1968, the prefect of the Congregation was the pope. From that date on, the prefect is the cardinal placed at the head of the Congregation.

There is a reasonably widespread rumor in the Vatican that Pope Francis would like to formally resume the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that this decision to return to the past will be contained in the draft reform of the Curia now under discussion.

The reform should also contain a reform of the competencies of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Already in , considered by the pope to be his programmatic manifesto, Pope Francis made reference to the chaos of transferring some competencies of the Congregation to the Episcopal Conferences.

Pope Francis will change all the names at the top of the dicastery to carry out the reform. Therefore, the appointment of Morandi as bishop of Reggio Emilia is only the first in a series of moves. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation, has already passed 75, the age at which a bishop submits his resignation, and will turn 78 in April. However, he could remain at the helm of the Congregation until next June, when the planned mergers of the Vatican dicasteries will be finalized. His departure will coincide with the new structure of the Congregation.

Morandi's exit leaves the game open on his succession as No. 2 in the Congregation. Until now, the pope has been conducting internal promotions. Ladaria himself was first the secretary of the Congregation, and Morandi rose in level when he became a prefect.

Currently, the Congregation has an adjunct secretary, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, who continues to be archbishop of Malta. There also are two undersecretaries: Monsignor Armando Matteo, highly esteemed by Pope Francis, who spoke of him in flattering terms at the end of his greeting speech to the Curia last Dec. 23; and Father Matteo Visioli. The first entered as undersecretary in 2021, while Visioli replaced Morandi as undersecretary in 2017.

If the pope takes over as the formal head of the Congregation, then it is very likely that Scicluna will be appointed secretary and called to a full-time job in Rome. But there is also the possibility that Scicluna will become president of the Congregation. In that case, either Matteo and Visioli would become the new secretary. A Vatican source, in this regard, underlines that Matteo has made it known that he does not favor any promotion.

In any case, the exit of Morandi from the Roman Curia is the prelude to a general shake-up of the Curia, which does not only concern the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The conflicting rumors and different narratives on the pope’s decision somehow testify to the general confusion experienced while awaiting the finalization of the reform of the Curia. Each year, the date of its eventual publication is speculated, but this is constantly postponed. 

At the same time, Pope Francis has already initiated, in practice, several reforms contained in the draft Constitution. These include the merging of the dicasteries and the expiring appointments in the Curia, to be held for no more than two five-year terms to send the bishops back to the diocese. In the end, Morandi was among those who had finished their mandate, and therefore eligible to be sent to pastoral work.

Pope Francis prays for victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in decades

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2022 / 05:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in decades, the Vatican said on Monday.

A Jan. 10 to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said that the pope offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the 19 people, including nine children, killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx on Sunday.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the recent devastating fire in the Bronx in which a number of children lost their lives,” said the message sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“In offering heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy, he entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of Almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strength in the Lord.”

The blaze, believed to have been caused by a malfunctioning space heater, started shortly before 11 a.m. on Dec. 9 at a 19-story, 120-unit building on East 181st Street.

In addition to the 19 people who died in the fire at the Twin Parks North West complex, 32 people were hospitalized, several in critical condition.

New York Mayor Eric Adams said: “This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times.”

Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, appealed for prayers in a Jan. 9 to members of the Jesuit university of New York.

He said: “This is obviously a terrible tragedy for our Bronx neighbors. In the coming days we will decide how best to support the victims, their families, and the community. In the interim, I know you join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.”

The the official public policy voice of the state’s Catholic bishops, issued a similar appeal on Sunday.

A on its Twitter account said: “Please pray for the victims of this horrific fire in the Bronx and for their families and survivors, as well as for the firefighters who risked their lives to save as many as possible. Lord have mercy.”

Pope Francis laments ‘cancel culture’ in annual address to diplomats

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2022 / 04:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis lamented “cancel culture” in an address to diplomats at the Vatican on Monday.

Delivering his annual “state of the world” on Jan. 10, the pope said that international organizations were increasingly pursuing “divisive” agendas at odds with the longstanding values of many countries.

“Not infrequently, the center of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization,” he said.

“As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.”

“As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”

While the pope delivered his address in Italian, he said the phrase “cancel culture” in English.

Speaking in the Apostolic Palace’s Hall of Blessings, the pope told representatives of the 183 states that have with the Holy See that the “mindset” currently prevailing in international institutions ended up “canceling all sense of identity” while claiming to defend diversity.

He said: “A kind of dangerous ‘one-track thinking’ is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in accordance with a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today.”

He went on: “Multilateral diplomacy is thus called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various peoples.”

“In this way, it will regain credibility and effectiveness in facing the challenges to come, which will require humanity to join together as one great family that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common solutions for the good of all.”

The pope did not offer any examples of the mindset he was deploring. But last month, he a withdrawn document discouraging staff at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, from using the word “Christmas.”

“The European Union must take in hand the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonization,” the pope told reporters as he flew home from Greece in December.

During the same in-flight , he said it was vital to interpret a on abuse in the French Catholic Church over the past 70 years “with the hermeneutic of the time and not with ours.”

In his wide-ranging address, which lasted around 40 minutes, the pope reviewed his diplomatic activities in 2021 and touched on major global themes such as the coronavirus pandemic, immigration, climate change, and nuclear arms.

The event in the gilded Hall of Blessings began with an address to Pope Francis by George Poulides, Cyprus’ ambassador to the Holy See and dean of the diplomatic corps.

“Thank you, Holy Father, for your untiring work, which is a source of hope for many peoples, for many men and women,” he said.

Speaking beneath a large tapestry depicting the nativity of Christ, the pope strongly endorsed COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

“Sadly, we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides,” he said. “Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts.”

“Every ideological statement severs the bond of human reason with the objective reality of things. The pandemic, on the other hand, urges us to adopt a sort of ‘reality therapy’ that makes us confront the problem head-on and adopt suitable remedies to resolve it.”

“Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.”

The pope criticized what he called a “lack of resolute decision-making and clear communication” by the authorities amid the pandemic, which he said had created “a ‘social relativism’ detrimental to harmony and unity.”

He told the diplomats, who wore formal uniforms and face coverings, that he hoped to see renewed efforts so that “the entire world population can have equal access to essential medical care and vaccines.”

After recalling his 2021 trips to , , and , the pope highlighted his on the Greek island of Lesbos on Dec. 5.

“I am aware of the difficulties that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people. No one can be asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely,” he said.

He added that international indifference made migrants easy prey for traffickers.

“Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of ‘bargaining commodity’ that deprives them of their dignity,” he said.

The pope did not mention any countries by name, but the European Union recently Belarus of trying to help thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to enter the EU via the country’s border with Poland.

The 85-year-old pontiff also spoke about what he called “massive migration movements” in the Americas, concentrated on the border between Mexico and the United States.

“Many of those migrants are Haitians fleeing the tragedies that have struck their country in recent years,” he noted, underlining the need for international cooperation on migration.

Turning to the environment, the pope expressed some disappointment at the outcome of the in Scotland.

“At the recent COP26 in Glasgow, several steps were made in the right direction, even though they were rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem to be faced,” he said.

“The road to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is complex and appears to be long, while the time at our disposal is shorter and shorter.”

“Much still remains to be done, and so 2022 will be another fundamental year for verifying to what extent and in what ways the decisions taken in Glasgow can and should be further consolidated in view of COP27, planned for Egypt next November.”

The pope then gave a brief overview of the world’s hotspots, beginning with Syria, where he said that the general population should not be penalized by sanctions as poverty stalks the country after more than of war.

He described the , which has claimed an estimated 377,000 lives since 2014, as “a human tragedy that has gone on for years, silently, far from the spotlight of the media and with a certain indifference on the part of the international community.”

“In the past year, no steps forward were made in the peace process between Israel and Palestine,” he noted, calling for direct talks.

He added: “Profound situations of inequality and injustice, endemic corruption and various forms of poverty that offend the dignity of persons also continue to fuel social conflicts on the American continent, where growing polarization is not helping to resolve the real and pressing problems of its people, especially those who are most poor and vulnerable.”

The pope also appealed for dialogue in Burma, the Southeast Asian country officially known as Myanmar that witnessed a on Feb. 1, 2021.

“Its streets, once places of encounter, are now the scene of fighting that does not spare even houses of prayer,” he said, referring to the by security forces.

He encouraged new international efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms.

“The Holy See continues steadfastly to maintain that in the 21st-century nuclear arms are an inadequate and inappropriate means of responding to security threats, and that possession of them is immoral,” he said.

He added that he hoped to see positive results from the resumption of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, over the nuclear accord with Iran.

In a possible allusion to the outcry in Canada following the of Indigenous children’s graves at a former Catholic-run residential school, the pope acknowledged child abuse in Catholic institutions.

He said: “The Catholic Church has always recognized and valued the role of education in the spiritual, moral and social growth of the young. It pains me, then, to acknowledge that in different educational settings — parishes and schools — the abuse of minors has occurred, resulting in serious psychological and spiritual consequences for those who experienced them.”

“These are crimes, and they call for a firm resolve to investigate them fully, examining each case to ascertain responsibility, to ensure justice to the victims, and to prevent similar atrocities from taking place in the future.”

Concluding his address, which was followed by a group photograph with diplomats in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis quoted the prophet Jeremiah’s words that God has “plans for [our] welfare and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” ().

He said: “We should be unafraid, then, to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another. The gift of peace is ‘contagious’; it radiates from the hearts of those who long for it and aspire to share it, and spreads throughout the whole world.”

“To each of you, your families, and the peoples you represent, I renew my blessing and offer my heartfelt good wishes for a year of serenity and peace.”

Pope Francis appeals for end to violence in Kazakhstan

Vatican City, Jan 9, 2022 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appealed on Sunday for an end to violence that has claimed dozens of lives in Kazakhstan.

Speaking after reciting the Angelus on Jan. 9, he prayed for peace in the Central Asian country following unprecedented unrest.

“I have learned with sorrow that there have been victims during the protests which broke out in recent days in Kazakhstan,” he .

“I pray for them and for their families, and I hope that social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice, and the common good.”

“I entrust the Kazakh people to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace of Oziornoje.”

Oziornoje, a village in northern Kazakhstan, is home to Kazakhstan’s .

Protests broke out in the country on Jan. 2 after a sharp rise in gas prices.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev responded by declaring a nationwide state of emergency and inviting troops from an alliance comprising Russia and allied states. Tokayev ordered security forces to “fire without warning,” the BBC on Jan. 7.

The death toll among protesters is currently unclear, but the Kazakhstan Interior Ministry has reported the deaths of at least .

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, on Jan. 8 that the country’s estimated 250,000 Catholics were safe.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, , which recounts Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River at the start of his public ministry.

He said: “Let us reflect on an important point: at the moment in which Jesus receives Baptism, the text says that he ‘was praying’ (Luke 3:21).”

“It is good for us to contemplate this: Jesus prays. But why? He, the Lord, the Son of God, prays like us? Yes, Jesus – the Gospels repeat this many times — spends a lot of time in prayer: at the beginning of every day, often at night, before making important decisions… His prayer is a living dialogue, an intimate relationship with the Father.”

He said that Jesus’ baptism showed a twofold “movement” in Christ’s life: his descent into the Jordan River and his raising of his heart in prayer.

“It is a tremendous lesson for us: we are all immersed in the problems of life and in many complicated situations, called upon to face difficult moments and choices that get us down,” the pope said.

“But, if we do not want to be crushed, we need to raise everything upwards. And this is exactly what prayer does; it is not an escape route, it is not a magic ritual or a repetition of memorized jingles.”

“No, prayer is the way we allow God to act in us, to understand what he wants to communicate to us even in the most difficult situations, praying to have the strength to go forward.”

Referring to the text of the day’s Gospel, the pope said that prayer “opens the heavens.”

“Above all, it enables us to have the same experience of Jesus by the Jordan River: it makes us feel like beloved children of the Father. When we pray, the Father says to us too, as he does to Jesus in the Gospel: ‘You are my beloved child,’” he said.

He encouraged Catholics to review their prayer lives.

“Do I pray out of habit, unwillingly, just reciting formulas, or is my prayer an encounter with God?” he asked.

“Am I a sinner, always among God’s people, never isolated? Do I cultivate intimacy with God, dialogue with Him, listen to His Word?”

“Among the many things we do, let us not neglect prayer: let us dedicate time to it, let us use short invocations to be repeated often, let us read the Gospel every day.”

After reciting the , Pope Francis greeted pilgrims gathered in a rainswept St. Peter’s Square.

He noted that earlier on Sunday he had in the Sistine Chapel.

“This morning, as is customary on the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord, I baptized a number of babies, children of Vatican employees,” he said.

“I now wish to extend my prayer and blessing to all the infants who have received or will receive baptism during this time. May the Lord bless them and may Our Lady protect them.”

“And to all of you, I urge: learn the date of your baptism. When was I baptized? … This you must not forget, and remember that day as a day of celebration.”

Pope Francis baptizes babies in Sistine Chapel for 1st time since COVID-19 declared a pandemic

Vatican City, Jan 9, 2022 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis baptized babies in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday for the first time since the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope baptized 16 babies — seven boys and nine girls — on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, a year after he was forced to cancel the annual event due to COVID-19.

In a brief, off-the-cuff homily beneath Michelangelo’s depiction of the Last Judgment, the pope said that in baptism children received their Christian identity.

“And you, parents and godparents, must guard this identity,” he . “This is your task throughout your lives: to guard the Christian identity of your children. It is a daily commitment: to make them grow with the light that they will receive today.”

On Jan. 12, 2020, Pope Francis baptized — 17 boys and 15 girls. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11 that year.

In 2021, newborns eligible to be baptized in the Sistine Chapel received the sacrament in their instead.

The pope concelebrated the Mass on Sunday with the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

In 2020, the pope celebrated the liturgy or facing east, at the Sistine Chapel’s original altar directly beneath the “Last Judgment.” But this year, he offered the Mass “versus populum,” or facing the congregation, at an altar a few steps in front of the older one.

Throughout the Mass, the singing of the Sistine Chapel choir vied with the babies’ cries.

As in , the pope told parents not to worry if their babies made loud noises during the ceremony.

He said: “This ceremony is a bit long, the children then feel strange here in an environment they do not know. Please, they are the protagonists: make sure that they are not too hot, that they feel comfortable...”

“And if they are hungry, feed them quietly here, in front of the Lord, no problem. And if they cry out, let them cry out, because they have a community spirit, let’s say a ‘band spirit,’ a spirit of ensemble, and all it takes is for one to start — because everyone is musical — and immediately the orchestra comes!”

“Let them cry quietly, let them feel free. But let them not feel too hot, and if they are hungry, don’t let them remain hungry.”

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church baptism as the “basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit ... and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.”

St. John Paul II began the papal tradition of baptizing children in the on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 11, 1981.

The ceremony initially took place in the of the Apostolic Palace but was moved to the Sistine Chapel in 1983.

The event was reserved at first to babies of Swiss Guards but later expanded to include the children of Vatican employees.

To qualify, children have to be under one year of age and their parents must be married in the Church. Each child is accompanied in the Sistine Chapel by its parents, siblings, godfather, and godmother.

The family groups attend a rehearsal before the ceremony. During the event, the Vatican provides baby-changing tables in a nearby room in the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis: Let’s ‘begin again with more humanity’ amid pandemic

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2022 / 06:38 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged members of a Vatican-based lay association on Saturday to “begin again with more humanity” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope made the appeal in a Jan. 8 in the Paul VI Hall to representatives of the as they marked the group’s .

He said: “I would like to leave you with some indications for the future, so that your precious service may continue to be a witness to those you meet, in a context that will still feel the effects of the pandemic.”

“I summarize them in this exhortation: ‘Let us begin anew with more humanity, looking to Jesus, with hope in our hearts.’”

The Sts Peter and Paul Association emerged from the Palatine Guard, a military unit established by Pope Pius IX in 1850.

The unit was in 1970. A year later, Pope Paul VI founded the association to enable former guards to continue serving the Holy See on a voluntary basis inspired by the Palatine Guard’s ideals.

According to the association’s , members are Catholics living in Rome who seek to offer “a particular witness of Christian life, apostolate and fidelity to the Apostolic See” through cultural, liturgical, and charitable activities.

Members offer their services, including hospitality and stewarding, in St. Peter’s Basilica and at papal liturgical celebrations.

“Through your daily services you become artisans of encounter, bringing the warmth of Jesus’ kindness to those who enter St. Peter’s Basilica, to those who need direction, to those who need a smile to feel at home,” the pope said.

The association, which answers to the Vatican Secretariat of State, is based in the Apostolic Palace, where the Palatine Guard was formerly located.

The organization’s motto, inherited from the Palatine Guard, is (“Let us firmly persevere in keeping with the fidelity of our fathers.”)

In his address, the pope broke down the elements of his exhortation to the group.

Regarding the phrase “let us begin anew,” he said that the association’s motto should guide it in changing times.

He said that restarting “with more humanity” meant focusing on the importance of human relationships.

He added that by “looking to Jesus,” members would be “called more and more to a daily service of welcoming, sharing, fraternal listening, human closeness.”

Finally, he explained, it was essential for believers to have hope in their hearts.

“Let us walk with joy and hope, knowing that the Lord will never cease to support our commitment to good,” he told members of the association, which established a youth section, the , in 2010.

“I say this in a special way to young people: I encourage you to give your energies to those in need, and to become people capable of true and sincere encounters.”

Before giving his blessing, the pope recited the association’s official prayer with members:

Pope Francis’ advice to Christian business executives

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday offered advice to business leaders who want to live out the Gospel in the workplace, where he said “the Church needs your witness.”

In a meeting at the Vatican with French Catholic entrepreneurs on Jan. 7, the pope that he wanted to share some teachings to help “carry out your role as leaders according to the heart of God.”

“I realize how demanding and difficult it can be to implement the Gospel in a competitive professional world,” Pope Francis said.

“Nonetheless, I invite you to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ through your prayer life and the offering of your daily work. He had the experience on the cross of loving to the end, of fulfilling his mission to the point of giving his life.”

The pope said that Christian business leaders had their own crosses to bear, but encouraged them to endure them with the grace and confidence of knowing that Jesus has “promised to accompany us ‘to the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20).”

“Do not hesitate to invoke the Holy Spirit to guide your choices,” Francis added.

The pope met with entrepreneurs participating in a conference entitled, which brought 200 people together in Rome for discussions on “how to transform your company to put it at the service of the Common Good.”

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, and French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort attended the conference, along with a number of other French bishops, including Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon.

Pope Francis outlined pairs of concepts that he said appeared to be in tension but can help bring unity to the life of a Christian. One example he gave was “authority and service.”

“Exercising authority as a service requires sharing it. Here too, Jesus is our teacher, when he sends his disciples on mission endowing them with his own authority,” he said.

“You are invited to put into practice the subsidiarity which enhances the autonomy and the capacity for initiative of all, especially of the least. … Thus, the Christian executive is called to carefully consider the place allotted to all people in his company, including those whose duties may appear to be of minor importance, because each is important in God’s eyes.”

The pope also encouraged Christian executives to be close to their employees, “to take an interest in their lives, to become aware of their difficulties, sufferings, anxieties, but also their joys, projects, hopes.”

“The mission of the Christian leader resembles, in many respects, that of the shepherd, of whom Jesus is the model, and who knows how to go before the flock to show the way, knows how to stand in the middle to see what is happening there, and also knows how to stay behind, to make sure no one loses contact,” he said.

“I have often urged priests and bishops to have ‘the smell of sheep,’ to immerse themselves in the reality of those entrusted to them, to get to know them, to be close to them. I believe this advice also applies to you.”

Last April, Pope Francis the heroic virtue of Venerable , an Argentine businessman with a cause for sainthood.

Shaw was born in Paris, France, in 1921, and emigrated to Argentina, where he established himself as a businessman of outstanding integrity. He founded the Christian Association of Business Executives in 1952 and sought to apply Catholic social teaching in the workplace.

The businessman had nine children, including one who became a priest. He wrote numerous books and articles, and established a pension fund and a healthcare plan to provide 3,400 workers with financial support in the case of illness, and loans for important life events such as marriage, birth, and death.

Pope Francis oversaw the diocesan phase of Shaw’s cause while he was serving as archbishop of the Argentine capital.

“I find it very beautiful and courageous that, in today’s world often marked by individualism, indifference and even the marginalization of the most vulnerable people, some entrepreneurs and business leaders have at heart the service of everyone and not just private interests or inner circles,” Pope Francis told the entrepreneurs.

On this day 400 years ago, the Vatican founded Propaganda Fide

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

On the feast of the Epiphany 400 years ago, Pope Gregory XV founded a Vatican congregation dedicated to spreading the Gospel: Propaganda Fide.

Today, the founding of the Vatican’s missionary arm, now known as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is commemorated by a special chapel inside its office by the Spanish Steps: the .

The chapel was first built in the 17th century by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the sculptor who created the in St. Peter’s Basilica and the embracing St. Peter’s Square. But the chapel was later enlarged and reconstructed by the architect Francesco Borromini.

This is the chapel where the future saint John Henry Newman was a Catholic priest in 1847.

The Chapel of the Magi can be viewed during a tour of the congregation’s , located by the Spanish Steps, along with the Borgia Collection of antiquities from missions around the world.

The chapel still contains its original paintings of the Conversion of St. Paul by Carlo Pellegrini (1635), the Adoration of the Magi by Giacinto Gimignani (1634), and The Mission of the Apostles by Lazzaro Baldi.

After founding Propaganda Fide on Jan. 6, 1622, Pope Gregory XV went on to canonize Saints Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Loyola, Isidore the Laborer, Philip Neri, and Teresa of Avila three months later.

With these missionary saint intercessors, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith set about its mission of disseminating the faith throughout the world.

Five years after its founding, Pope Urban VIII established the Urbanum, a pontifical college dedicated to the formation of candidates for the priesthood from mission countries.

The congregation sent instructions to all missionaries to China in 1659 encouraging the promotion of local clergy.

Propaganda Fide set up its own printing press, Polyglotta, for the production of religious books in the languages of mission territories in 1926.

Today, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is one of the largest curial departments, with a size and scope exceeding almost any other. Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle serves as its prefect, and there are 1,117 ecclesiastical circumscriptions dependent on the congregation throughout the world.

The long-awaited new Vatican constitution, expected to be called , is said to contain a reform that would combine Propaganda Fide with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to create an even larger “Dicastery for Evangelization.”

With this potential change, perhaps the next chapter in the Propaganda Fide’s long history will be written in the new year.

Pope Francis the congregation’s 400th anniversary in a published on Jan. 6.

“The establishment of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide in 1622 was motivated by the desire to promote the missionary mandate in new territories,” Pope Francis said.

“A providential insight! The Congregation proved to be crucial for setting the Church’s evangelizing mission truly free from interference by worldly powers, in order to establish those local Churches which today display such great vigor.”

“It is our hope that, as in its past four centuries, the Congregation, with the light and strength of the Spirit, will continue and intensify its work of coordinating, organizing, and promoting the Church’s missionary activities.”

Pope Francis at Epiphany Mass: Let us adore Christ like the Magi

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

On the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis encouraged people to spend time in the presence of Christ in adoration, like the Magi.

“Let us never forget this: the journey of faith finds renewed strength and fulfillment only when it is made in the presence of God,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6.

“For this reason, let us not forget adoration, the prayer of adoration, which is not so common among us: to adore, in silence … There, like the Magi, we will have the certitude that even in the darkest nights a star continues to shine,” the pope said in his .

The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Magi — also known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings — who came with gifts to worship the Child Jesus shortly after his birth.

The solemnity is traditionally celebrated on Jan. 6, but Catholic dioceses in the United States mark the feast on the Sunday that falls between Jan. 2-8. U.S. Catholics celebrated the Epiphany this year on .

In his homily, Pope Francis said that the feast of the Epiphany is a moment to ask: “Where are we on our journey of faith?”

“Have we been stuck all too long, nestled inside a conventional, external, and formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives?” he asked.

“Do our words and our liturgies ignite in people’s hearts a desire to move towards God, or are they a ‘dead language’ that speaks only of itself and to itself?”

Pope Francis added that it is “sad when a community of believers loses its desire and is content with ‘maintenance’ rather than allowing itself to be startled by Jesus and by the explosive and unsettling joy of the Gospel.”

“It is sad when a priest has closed the door of desire, sad to fall into clerical functionalism, very sad.”

The pope attributed “the crisis of faith” in societies to “the eclipse of desire for God,” which he said is related to “a kind of slumbering of the spirit, to the habit of being content to live from day to day, without ever asking what God really wants from us.”

“We are sated with plenty of things, but fail to hunger for our absent desire for God … we find ourselves living in communities that crave everything, have everything, yet all too often feel nothing but emptiness in their hearts: closed communities of individuals, bishops, priests or consecrated men and women,” he said.

Pope Francis suggested that the way to increase desire for God is to place oneself in his presence.

He said that “Jesus alone heals our desires” from the “tyranny of needs” that make hearts grow sickly.

“God … elevates our desires; He purifies them and heals them of selfishness, opening them to love for him and for our brothers and sisters. … please let us not forget adoration,” the pope said.

Pope Francis added that the pilgrimage of the Magi is an example for all who are called to journey towards Jesus.

“The journey of life and faith demands a deep desire and inner zeal. Sometimes we live in a spirit of a ‘parking lot’; we stay parked, without the impulse of desire that carries us forward,” he said.

“The Magi teach us that we need to set out anew each day, in life as in faith, for faith is not a suit of armor that encases us; instead, it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God, always discerning our way forward,” the pope said.

Highlighting how the Magi defied Herod, Pope Francis said that the Magi are models of “a courageous faith” that is unafraid to challenge the sinister logic of power, “where in our day modern Herods continue to sow death and slaughter the poor and innocent, amid general indifference.”

“The Magi return ‘by another way.’ They challenge us to take new paths. Here we see the creativity of the Spirit who always brings out new things,” he said.

“That is also one of the tasks of the we are currently undertaking: to journey together and to listen to one another, so that the Spirit can suggest to us new ways and paths to bring the Gospel to the hearts of those who are distant, indifferent or without hope, yet continue to seek what the Magi found: ‘a great joy.’ We must always move forward.”

After offering Mass for the Epiphany, Pope Francis prayed the from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking pilgrims gathered around the nativity scene and Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square.

In his Angelus , the pope invited the crowd to think about how rich, wise, educated men prostrated themselves to bow in humility on the ground before a baby.

“It is not easy to adore this God, whose divinity remains hidden and who does not appear triumphant,” he said.

“The Magi humbled themselves before the unheard-of logic of God … Their prostration is the sign of those who place their own ideas aside and make room for God. It takes humility to do this.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, if we always remain at the center of everything with our ideas, and if we presume to have something to boast of before God, we will never fully encounter him, we will never end up worshipping him,” Pope Francis said.

“If our pretensions, vanity, stubbornness, competitiveness do not fall by the wayside, we may well end up worshipping someone or something in life, but it will not be the Lord.”

“If instead, we abandon our pretense of self-sufficiency, if we make ourselves little inside, we will then rediscover the wonder of worshipping Jesus because adoration comes from humility of heart: those who are obsessed with winning will never be aware of the Lord’s presence.”

“Jesus passes nearby and is ignored, as happened to many at that time, but not to the Magi.”

At the end of the Angelus, Pope Francis wished a merry Christmas to Orthodox Christians and Catholics in Eastern Rite churches that celebrate the Nativity of the Lord on Jan. 7.

“May the Virgin Mary, the servant of the Lord, teach us to rediscover our vital need for humility and the vibrant desire to worship,” the pope prayed.

Pope Francis: ‘I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church’

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said that he continued to “dream of a completely missionary Church” in a message published on Thursday.

Writing in his World Mission Day , released on Jan. 6, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the pope called for renewed efforts to spread the Gospel.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities,” he wrote.

World Mission Day — also known as World Mission Sunday — was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926. It is usually observed on the third Sunday of October and will be celebrated this year on Sunday, Oct. 23.

This year’s theme is “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The pope described Christ’s words in the Acts of the Apostles as “the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples.”

In his message, Pope Francis emphasized that every member of the Church has a shared responsibility to witness to Christ.

He drew on Pope Paul VI’s 1975 document , which sought to give a new momentum to evangelization.

Describing the as “a document dear to my heart,” he cited its much-quoted line that “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Pope Francis wrote: “In evangelization, then, the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other. They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary.”

“This kind of complete, consistent, and joyful witness to Christ will surely be a force of attraction also for the growth of the Church in the third millennium.”

He recalled that St. Paul VI underlined the responsibility of immigrants to evangelize the countries that receive them.

“More and more, we are seeing how the presence of faithful of various nationalities enriches the face of parishes and makes them more universal, more Catholic,” Pope Francis said.

“Consequently, the pastoral care of migrants should be valued as an important missionary activity that can also help the local faithful to rediscover the joy of the Christian faith they have received.”

The pope noted that 2022 marks several significant missionary anniversaries. It is the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, which oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Catholic world following its foundation by Pope Gregory XV.

The body is known today as the and is led by the Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

“The establishment of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide in 1622 was motivated by the desire to promote the missionary mandate in new territories,” Francis wrote.

“A providential insight! The Congregation proved to be crucial for setting the Church’s evangelizing mission truly free from interference by worldly powers, in order to establish those local Churches which today display such great vigor.”

“It is our hope that, as in its past four centuries, the Congregation, with the light and strength of the Spirit, will continue and intensify its work of coordinating, organizing, and promoting the Church’s missionary activities.”

It is also the second centenary of the , founded in 1822 by the French laywoman , who will be on May 22.

The body is the oldest of four Pontifical Mission Societies (), an umbrella group of Catholic missionary societies under the pope’s jurisdiction.

A worldwide collection is held each year on World Mission Day for the PMS, which consists of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the , the , and the .

The first three bodies were granted the title “Pontifical” 100 years ago, the pope observed in his message.

A Vatican agency announced shortly before the New Year that were killed in 2021, half of them in Africa.

“The Church must constantly keep pressing forward, beyond her own confines, in order to testify to all the love of Christ,” the pope wrote.

“Here I would like to remember and express my gratitude for all those many missionaries who gave their lives in order to ‘press on’ in incarnating Christ’s love towards all the brothers and sisters whom they met.”

Pope Francis remembers late Spanish cardinal as a ‘devoted pastor’

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his condolences on Wednesday following the death of Spanish Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez at the age of 96.

In a released by the Vatican on Jan. 5, the pope paid tribute to the former archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain who died at 6:45 a.m. local time on Wednesday at a hospital in the capital, Madrid.

“Upon receiving the news of the death of Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez, archbishop emeritus of Toledo, I express to Your Excellency my deepest sympathy, asking you to be good enough to convey it also to the relatives of the deceased prelate and to all those who form part of that ecclesial community,” the pope said in the telegram sent to Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves, the current head of Toledo archdiocese, Spain’s primatial see.

“Likewise, remembering this devoted pastor who, for years and with fidelity, gave his life to the service of God and the Church, I offer prayers of suffrage for the eternal repose of his soul, so that the Lord Jesus may grant him the crown of glory that does not wither, and as a sign of Christian hope in the Risen Lord, I impart to all the apostolic blessing.”

Archbishop Cerro Chaves announced the cardinal’s death in a Jan. 5 to local Catholics.

He wrote: “I reiterate to all of you the invitation to pray for his eternal rest, while we thank the Lord for all the gifts received in our archdiocese of Toledo, in all the dioceses in which, with ‘obedience and peace,’ as his episcopal motto stated, he left his testimony of service in charity, and in the whole Church.”

was born on July 14, 1925, in Santa Eulalia de Ferroñes, northwest Spain.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Oviedo on June 11, 1950.

He served as personal secretary to Archbishop Francisco Javier Lauzurica y Torralba of Oviedo and worked in a parish in the city’s Corredoría neighborhood.

In 1973, he was named bishop of Tarazona, in northeastern Spain. Three years later, he was appointed bishop of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño. In 1989, he was chosen to lead the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante, in southeastern Spain.

Pope John Paul II selected Martínez as archbishop of Toledo on June 23, 1995.

He served as a member of the standing commission and executive committee of the Spanish bishops’ conference.

He received the cardinal’s red hat from John Paul II on Feb. 21, 2001, on the as the future Pope Francis.

Martínez retired as archbishop of Toledo in 2002 at the age of 77. He took part in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI shortly before he turned 80 and lost the right to vote.

Following his death, there remain eligible to participate in a conclave and 94 who are ineligible, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who the rights extended to cardinals in 2020.

The of Cardinal Martínez will be held on Jan. 7 at the Primatial Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo.

Which countries will Pope Francis visit in 2022?

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As the new year begins amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in many parts of the world, Pope Francis has no official international trips confirmed for 2022. But he has expressed an interest in visiting several countries in the new year.

At the age of 85, however, it is unlikely that the pope will resume the grueling travel schedule that characterized his pre-pandemic papacy.

Pope Francis has already traveled to more than 50 countries during his almost nine-year pontificate, 11 of which he visited in 2019.

After the outbreak of COVID-19 put his papal travel schedule on hold for more than a year, Francis made history as the first pope to when he resumed international travel in March 2021.

This was followed by apostolic journeys to , , , and for the International Eucharistic Congress.

However, there are still some canceled papal trips originally planned for 2020 that could be rescheduled for this year.

The following are places Pope Francis has expressed interest in visiting at some point during his pontificate.

The Vatican announced last fall that Pope Francis is willing to as part of the local Catholic bishops’ “pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

This potential papal trip to North America will likely occur sometime after the pope receives a delegation of Indigenous leaders from Canada at the Vatican. Their visit was originally scheduled for December 2021 but for “the earliest opportunity in 2022” due to concerns about the omicron variant.

In an with Télam, Argentina’s national news agency, published last October, Pope Francis said that he would like to make trips to Papua New Guinea and East Timor, which had been planned for late 2020 before they were canceled because of the pandemic.

The canceled 2020 trip (never confirmed by the Vatican) was also expected to include a visit to Indonesia. Vatican sources have told , CNA’s Italian-language news partner, that a papal stop in Singapore could also be added on to the Oceania trip.

Both Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, the Latin Rite archbishop of Lviv, western Ukraine, have made it known that the pope promised them a visit in 2022.

Nothing has been confirmed, but the trip could take place in May, according to ACI Stampa. Shevchuk said in December that “this has not yet been announced, but we are already living in anticipation and preparation.”

On his return flight from Iraq, Pope Francis reaffirmed his desire to visit Lebanon. A few months later, a Vatican official said that the pope intended to travel to Lebanon once it successfully formed a government.

The formation of a Lebanese government last September after 13 months of political stalemate therefore paved the way for a potential papal visit. Pope Francis Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the new leader of the country in crisis, on Nov. 25, but no further details about a papal trip to the country have been released yet.

Pope Francis has repeatedly said that he plans to go back to Hungary after his visit to Budapest in 2021 lasted for only seven hours.

The apostolic journey to Hungary is expected to take place in September, according to ACI Stampa, which has reported that the pope has already told the abbot of Pannonhalma Archabbey that he intends to visit the 1,000-year-old Benedictine abbey.

Hungary could also serve as a potential neutral meeting point for a papal meeting with Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, ACI Stampa reported.

Kazakhstan is another country that could serve as a location for the second meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. There is already an interreligious meeting scheduled to take place on Sept. 14-15, 2022. The Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in which Kirill is expected to participate, will be held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan.

The ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Holy See told EWTN in 2020 that there were that Pope Francis would visit Kazakhstan to take part in the interreligious congress.

The pope could visit Santiago de Compostela as the Spanish pilgrimage site, the end of the famed Camino de Santiago, continues to celebrate a Holy Year throughout 2022. Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Compostela during its last Holy Year in 2010.

Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela told journalists in December that he believes that “the pope is interested in coming to Santiago,” but it may not be possible due to the pandemic, according to .

The Vatican had in February 2020 that Pope Francis would visit Malta for the feast of Pentecost before the Mediterranean island nation went into lockdown and the trip was canceled. The visit could be rescheduled for sometime after Easter, according to ACI Stampa.

A papal trip to the Balkan country of Montenegro was also planned for 2020 and canceled. The Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović traveled to the Vatican and reinvited the pope to visit Montenegro at the end of the general audience on Dec. 29.

Pope Francis said in an interview published this fall that he hoped to visit the Congo in 2022. He told Télam in October: “For the moment I have in my mind two trips that I have not started yet, and those are the Congo and Hungary.”

This would be the pope’s first visit to the African continent since 2019. According to ACI Stampa, the potential trip to the DRC could be a stop during a long-awaited papal trip to neighboring South Sudan, which has been postponed repeatedly due to security concerns.

The only officially confirmed papal trip for 2022 so far is that Pope Francis will to the Italian city of Florence on Feb. 27 to speak at a meeting of bishops and mayors of the Mediterranean region.

Given the pope’s age and ongoing pandemic situation, perhaps there will be more shorter trips like this in the new year.

Why 2022 could be a year of major changes in the Roman Curia

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Last year ended with a major change in the Roman Curia: the departure of Cardinal Peter Turkson as prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Pope Francis decided the mandate of the 73-year-old Ghanaian cardinal, although he is two years away from the customary retirement age.

The pope appointed Cardinal Michael Czerny to replace Turkson on an interim basis. The Canadian Jesuit, who has overseen the dicastery’s Migrants and Refugees Section since 2016, is 75 years old, the age when curial officials are expected to submit their resignations to the pope.

Turkson’s departure means that the Vatican no longer has a single African leading a curial department.

The curia has had at least one African departmental leader since 1977, except for a brief period from December 2008 to October 2009.

Among the prominent African figures serving in the Catholic Church’s central bureaucracy was Cardinal Bernardin Gantin from Benin, whose curial career from 1977 to 1998 included leadership positions at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and the Congregation for Bishops.

Another notable leader was the Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who served between 1984 and 2008 as president of the Secretariat for Non-Christians (the forerunner of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue) and prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, from Guinea, was president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship from 2010 to 2021.

Cardinal Turkson began serving in the curia in 2009, when Benedict XVI named him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which was merged into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in 2016.

With his departure, the most senior African prelate in the curia is now the Tanzanian Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Meanwhile, the geographic region of Oceania remains unrepresented at the top of the curia following the departure of Cardinal George Pell. The Australian cardinal served as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from its creation in 2014 to 2019.

This year could see sweeping changes at the top of the curia, even without the publication of the long-awaited new Vatican constitution expected to be called .

The five-year mandate of the 77-year-old Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will expire in July.

Other leaders over the age of 75 include Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (78), prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Marc Ouellet (77), prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi (78), prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

They are joined by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza (77), Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who will be 80 years old in October.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, will be 77 in March.

A number of curial leaders are currently under the age of 75:

  • Cardinal Pietro Parolin (66), Vatican Secretary of State;

  • Cardinal Marcello Semeraro (74), prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints;

  • Archbishop Arthur Roche (71), prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments;

  • Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (64), prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples;

  • Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik (70), prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy;

  • Cardinal João Braz de Aviz (74), prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life;

  • Cardinal Kevin Farrell (74), prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, and Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church;

  • Cardinal Dominique Mamberti (69), prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura;

  • Cardinal Kurt Koch (71), president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;

  • Archbishop Filippo Iannone (64), president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;

  • Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot (69), president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue;

  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella (70), president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization;

  • Bishop Nunzio Galantino (73), president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA);

  • Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves (62), prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy;

  • and Paolo Ruffini (65), prefect of the Dicastery for Communication.

The Roman Curia has 16 Europeans in senior positions, comprising nine officials from Italy, four from Spain, and one each from England, France, and Switzerland.

There are also three North Americans, two from Canada (Ouellet and Czerny) and one from the U.S. (Cardinal Kevin Farrell), though Czerny was born in Czechoslovakia and Farrell in Ireland.

In addition, there are two South Americans, one from Argentina and one from Brazil, and two Asians, from the Philippines and South Korea.

Pope Francis receives manifesto challenging German ‘Synodal Way’

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday received a manifesto, backed by almost 6,000 Catholics, challenging the German “Synodal Way.”

The pope was presented with the document, after his general audience on Jan. 5.

The manifesto offers a nine-point alternative plan for the Catholic Church in Germany, arguing that the Synodal Way will fail to produce genuine reform, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The is a controversial multi-year process bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople to discuss the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

As of Jan. 5, the manifesto, published in , has attracted the support of 5,832 from Germany and other European countries.

The document says: “In its fixation on external structure, the Synodal Way misses the heart of the crisis; it violates the peace in congregations, abandons the path of unity with the universal Church, damages the church in the substance of its faith, and paves the way towards schism.”

The text was published on the website of the (Christian Anthropology Working Group), which held a study day last November during which German Cardinal Walter Kasper the Synodal Way’s organizers of downplaying the need for evangelization.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelizing in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

The manifesto, which says that the pope’s letter was “simply ignored” by Synodal Way organizers, was presented to the pope on Wednesday by representatives of the “New Beginning” initiative during a pilgrimage to Rome. A of the presentation was posted on the initiative’s Facebook page.

The pilgrimage includes Masses celebrated by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Koch said in 2020 that the pope had about the direction of the German Church.

The “New Beginning” manifesto acknowledges the need for “foundational reform” of the Church in Germany, which is facing an exodus of Catholics in the wake of a clerical abuse crisis.

More than 220,000 people the Church in 2020. Only 5.9% of Germany’s Catholics attended Mass that year, compared to 9.1% in 2019.

The manifesto questions the legitimacy of the Synodal Way, pointing out that it does not qualify as a synod in Church law.

“We reject its claim to speak for all Catholics in Germany and to make binding decisions for them,” it says. “The lay people involved in the Synodal Way are representatives of associations, societies, and committees with the addition of arbitrarily consulted third parties.”

“The proposals and claims of this movement, which is legitimized neither by vocation nor representation, testify to a fundamental distrust of the sacramental Church, constituted, as it is, by apostolic authority; their proposals will, once implemented, ultimately effect a committee‐oriented, outward and permanent ‘lay’ redistribution of power and secularization within the Church.”

The text argues that, despite its rhetoric of sweeping change, the Synodal Way is seeking to maintain the “status quo” in the German Church, which receives billions of dollars a year through a and is the country’s second-biggest employer after the state.

“While the Synodal Way takes up genuine concerns for the church, its strategy remains structurally conservative and evidently uninterested in processes of repentance and spiritual renewal,” it says.

“With regard to the basic social form of the church, representatives of the Synodal Way busy themselves with the preservation of the status quo: they wish to maintain and conserve the model of a highly institutionalized church that is ‘serving its clientele’ through adaptation and modernization.”

The text also claims that the Synodal Way has “instrumentalized” the abuse crisis, ignored Church teaching on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, and downplayed the importance of marriage.

The German bishops’ conference initially announced that the Synodal Way would end with a series of “binding” votes — at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

and have expressed alarm at the process, but German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing has it.

The most recent gathering of the Synodal Way took place in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2021.

The event was the second meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the Synodal Way. The assembly of the German bishops, 69 members of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (), and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

The meeting following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

The Synodal Way was originally expected to end in October 2021, but was extended to February 2022 due to the pandemic. Organizers announced in the fall that the initiative would be extended again to 2023.

The authors of the “New Beginning” manifesto argue that the Synodal Way overlooks Pope Francis’ appeal in his 2013 for all the baptized to recognize that they are “missionary disciples” called to engage in evangelization.

“Only a church that makes spiritual maturity and independence a central goal is able to respond substantially and sustainably to the experience of abuse and cover‐up in all its variants,” the text says.

“We are grateful that Pope Francis has scheduled a world synod at which precisely this topic will be dealt with, and where generally binding resolutions can be made and expected.”

In October, the pope the first phase of a two-year global consultative process leading to the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on synodality.

It is currently unclear what impact the global synodal process will have on the German Synodal Way. Bätzing said in May 2020 that the global initiative would be by the process in Germany.

Pope Francis addressed fears about the trajectory of the German Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired last September.

Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter that expressed “everything I feel about the German synod.”

Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he : “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”

“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”

Pope Francis: Society loses when ‘dogs and cats take the place of children’

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2022 / 04:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that it is a civilizational loss when dogs and cats replace children in society, encouraging couples to “take the risk” to become parents.

“The other day, I was talking about the demographic winter that we have today … many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats,” Pope Francis said at his on Jan. 5.

“Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality, and this denial of fatherhood and motherhood diminishes us, takes away humanity.”

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope said that with this “selfishness” on the part of some couples, “civilization becomes older” as the “richness of fatherhood and motherhood is lost.”

“I ask St. Joseph for the grace to awaken consciences and think about this: about having children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of a person’s life. Think about this,” he said.

The pope’s first general audience of 2022 was marked by some changes. The Vatican announced on Jan. 5 that from now on religious and lay Vatican employees would read the greetings in different languages at the Wednesday audience.

For the first time, lay men and women read the language greetings. Sister Andrea Lorena Chacón, a member of the , read the Spanish-language greeting, while Christopher Wells, an employee of , was the English reader.

At the audience, the pope continued his on the life of St. Joseph by focusing on the saint’s role as the foster father of Jesus.

“This particular aspect of Joseph allows us today to reflect on fatherhood and motherhood. And this, I believe, is very important: to think about fatherhood today because we live in an era of notorious orphanhood,” Pope Francis said.

The pope said that one can sense a feeling of orphanhood among many people.

“May St. Joseph, who took the place of the real father, God, help us to understand how to resolve this sense of orphanhood that is so harmful to us today,” the pope said.

Pope Francis spent much of his audience speaking about “accepting life through the path of adoption,” which he called “a generous and beautiful” act.

“Joseph shows us that this type of bond is not secondary, it is not an afterthought. This kind of choice is among the highest forms of love and fatherhood and motherhood,” he said.

“How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them. And how many spouses wish to be fathers and mothers, but fail for biological reasons; or, although they already have children, they want to share family affection with those who have been deprived of it. We must not be afraid to choose the path of adoption, to take the ‘risk’ of acceptance.”

Pope Francis underlined that “having a child is always a risk, both natural and adopted.” But he added that “it is more risky not to have any.”

“It is more risky to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it physical and the spiritual. A man and a woman who voluntarily do not develop a sense of fatherhood and motherhood are missing something fundamental, important. Think about this, please,” he said.

“I hope that the institutions will always be ready to help regarding adoption by seriously monitoring, but also simplifying the process necessary for the dream of many little ones who need a family to come true, and of many spouses who wish to give of themselves in love.”

A group of circus performers from the in Rome came on stage with loud music and flaming batons just before the pope led pilgrims in the Our Father at the end of the audience.

The 10-minute performance included a trombone and saxophone rendition of “It’s Now or Never” by people dressed as clowns.

A young man in a black mesh shirt embellished with pink flames and rhinestones juggled batons while shaking his hips to techno music, and a woman in a leotard took to the stage lying on her back while juggling soccer balls between her legs above her.

“I thank the boys and girls of the circus who performed this show. It is a performance that puts us in touch with beauty, and beauty lifts us up, … and beauty is a way to go to the Lord,” Pope Francis the circus artists at the end of the spectacle.

The pope offered a prayer at the end of his meditation that “no one will feel deprived of a bond of fatherly love,” and asked St. Joseph to intercede for couples who wish to have a child:

Pope Francis’ January 2022 prayer intention is for victims of religious persecution

Vatican City, Jan 4, 2022 / 09:03 am (CNA).

For the first month of 2022, Pope Francis has asked Catholics to pray for those facing religious discrimination and persecution.

In a released Jan. 4, the pope called religious persecution “inhuman” and “insane.”

“Let us pray that those who suffer discrimination and suffer religious persecution may find in the societies in which they live the rights and dignity that comes from being brothers and sisters,” he said.

The video, which shows scenes of destroyed churches and clips from Pope Francis’ March 2021 , is promoted by the , which raises awareness of monthly papal .

Pope Francis’ appeal came amid reports of rising persecution of Christians around the world.

The advocacy group Open Doors listed North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Nigeria among the 10 worst countries for Christian oppression on its annual last year.

Iraq and Syria, described as having “extreme” levels of Christian persecution, are numbers 11 and 12 on the list respectively.

Overall, an estimated 340 million Christians worldwide face persecution, according to Open Doors’ 2021 report, an increase of 30 million from the previous year.

Agenzia Fides reported last month that were killed in 2021, half of them in Africa.

“How can we allow that in this society, which is so civilized, there are people who are persecuted simply because they publicly profess their faith? Not only is it unacceptable; it’s inhuman, it’s insane,” Pope Francis said.

The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken was last year after Nigeria was removed from a persecution watchlist.

Violence against Christians in Nigeria has reached the level of genocide, according to some Christian leaders, as Christians are threatened by Fulani militants, the militant group Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

An average of are killed in the West African country. Attacks on villages and atrocities against women and children are often committed with impunity.

The pope’s prayer video for January is by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted Christians in worldwide.

In the video, Pope Francis emphasized that religious freedom does not mean simply the freedom to hold a worship service on a particular day of the week, but also appreciating others’ differences and accepting them as true brothers and sisters.

“As human beings, we have so many things in common that we can live alongside each other, welcoming our differences with the joy of being brothers and sisters,” he said.

He prayed that even large differences, such as religion, would not obscure unity.

“Let us choose the path of fraternity. Because either we are brothers and sisters, or we all lose,” the pope said.

Pope Francis: Visiting the sick is a Christian imperative

Vatican City, Jan 4, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

In a message ahead of the World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that caring for the ill and infirm is not the calling of a few, but part of every Christian’s mission to show mercy.

“I would like to remind everyone that closeness to the sick and their pastoral care is not only the task of certain specifically designated ministers; visiting the sick is an invitation that Christ addresses to all his disciples,” the pope .

“How many sick and elderly people are living at home and waiting for a visit,” he added. “The ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the words of Jesus: ‘I was sick and you visited me.’”

The Catholic Church will mark the 30th annual World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The in southwestern France is associated with the sick because of the presence of a miraculous spring from which many people have obtained physical healing.

Pope Francis said that his predecessor John Paul II instituted the World Day of the Sick in 1992 as a way “to encourage the people of God, Catholic health institutions, and civil society to be increasingly attentive to the sick and to those who care for them.”

In his message, Francis focused on mercy in light of this year’s theme: “‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36): Standing beside those who suffer on a path of charity.”

God’s mercy “combines strength and tenderness,” he said, and “the supreme witness of the Father’s merciful love for the sick is his only-begotten Son.”

Pope Francis, who spent last July after colon surgery, pointed out Jesus’ great concern for the sick and suffering during his earthly ministry. Jesus encountered many people suffering from disease and he performed miracles of healing.

It is a good idea for us to ask ourselves why Jesus showed such concern, the pope said, noting that one reason may be the loneliness that people can feel when they are sick or in pain.

Quoting the 20th-century French philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas, the pope said: “Pain isolates in an absolute way, and absolute isolation gives rise to the need to appeal to the other, to call out to the other.”

Jesus, Francis said, invites everyone — from physicians and nurses to laboratory technicians, support staff, and other caretakers — to show mercy toward those who are unwell.

While we thank God for the wonderful advances in medical science and technology, we must never forget “the uniqueness of each patient, his or her dignity and frailties,” he urged.

“Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can prescind from listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears,” he wrote.

The pope also emphasized the importance of protecting and preserving Catholic healthcare institutions.

“Their presence has distinguished the history of the Church, showing her closeness to the sick and the poor, and to situations overlooked by others,” he wrote.

Pope Francis in October offering financial support to Catholic hospitals in difficulty. The foundation, known in Italian as the Fondazione per la Sanità Cattolica, was established in response to requests for “direct intervention” by the Vatican to help Catholic institutions.

On Dec. 24, it was that the new Vatican foundation had joined together with the Leonardo Del Vecchio Foundation to save and relaunch Rome’s historic Fatebenefratelli Hospital, which has been in since 2013.

The nearly bankrupt Catholic hospital on Rome’s Tiber Island is run by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.

Catholic healthcare is important both in poor countries, where people lack access to adequate care, and in the most developed countries, Pope Francis said, where, “in addition to caring for the body with all necessary expertise, they can always offer the gift of charity, which focuses on the sick themselves and their families.”

“At a time in which the culture of waste is widespread and life is not always acknowledged as worthy of being welcomed and lived, these structures, like ‘houses of mercy,’ can be exemplary in protecting and caring for all life, even the most fragile, from its beginning until its natural end,” he said.

Francis closed his message by entrusting all of the sick and their families to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, under the title Health of the Infirm.

“United with Christ, who bears the pain of the world, may they find meaning, consolation, and trust. I pray for healthcare workers everywhere, that, rich in mercy, they may offer patients, together with suitable care, their fraternal closeness,” he said.

Why the pope prays the Angelus publicly on Sundays

Vatican City, Jan 4, 2022 / 04:30 am (CNA).

It all started more than 67 years ago with Luigi Gedda, an Italian Catholic doctor, political activist, and influential lay leader.

In a Marian Year, Gedda, then president of the association (Catholic Action), convinced his friend Pope Pius XII to recite the midday Angelus publicly from the window of his private study.

So, on Aug. 15, 1954, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Pius XII in Rome and around the world over Vatican Radio, inviting them to join him “in the pious greeting to the Mother of God.”

This was the beginning of a papal custom that takes place every Sunday and Marian solemnity, when the pope appears at the window of his library in the Apostolic Palace at noon to lead the faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Angelus in Latin.

The has its roots in a medieval practice of praying the Hail Mary three times in a row, as recommended by St. Anthony of Padua.

In the 1200s, a group of Franciscans proposed that the practice be done in the evening after praying Compline (Night Prayer), as a way of meditating on the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation. A bell would be rung to remind the friars and others that it was time to pray the Hail Marys.

Over the centuries, the three Hail Marys began to be prayed also in the morning and at midday.

Today, the prayer also includes words from the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God, and a closing prayer.

Evidence of the modern iteration is found as early as the 1500s, in a book called the which was printed in Rome during the reign of Pope Pius V, and a handbook for Catholics published in Antwerp in 1588.

At the Vatican, many offices have the custom of pausing work every day to pray the Angelus together at noon.

During the Easter season, the Angelus is replaced with the (“O Queen of Heaven”), a Marian antiphon prayed or sung during Easter.

Over the years, popes have used the moment before the recitation of the Marian prayer to give a short catechesis, message, or appeal.

Pope Francis does not visit the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, located outside Rome, but the popes who did would recite the Angelus from the palace during their period of rest.

At certain points during the COVID-19 pandemic, to avoid crowds of people gathering in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said the prayer from inside his study.

The Angelus is broadcast live around the world and streamed on the internet. The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica always ring at noon, right before the pope appears at the palace window for this custom honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

3 Rome events to look forward to in 2022

Vatican City, Jan 3, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Although the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect many people around the world, the beginning of a new calendar year is also a good time to look forward to joyful events to come.

In Rome, the Vatican is planning three important international occasions with Christian hope.

Though crowd sizes may have to be controlled, modern technology and the ability to connect remotely or through live streaming mean that participation can be unlimited.

As the new year kicks off, here are three Rome events that Catholics can look forward to in 2022.

The of Bl. Charles de Foucauld and six other blesseds on May 15 will end a stretch of two years and seven months since the canonizations, those of St. John Henry Newman and four others in October 2019.

A canonization — when the pope recognizes that a holy man or woman is in heaven — is always a blessed occasion for the Church, and many Catholics are likely to rejoice as the French soldier and adventurer, who later became a Trappist monk and Catholic missionary to Muslims in Algeria, is declared a saint.

After his reversion to the Catholic faith, Foucauld wanted to . He spent his last 13 years living among the Muslim Tuareg people, a nomadic ethnic group, in the desert of French-occupied Algeria. Also known as Brother Charles of Jesus, Foucauld was killed in 1916 at the age of 58.

On May 15, Pope Francis will also canonize Devasahayam Pillai, a layman from India who was martyred after converting from Hinduism to Catholicism in the 18th century.

Pillai, who is also known by his baptismal name, Lazarus, was beatified in 2012 in southern India. He will be the first lay Catholic from India to be declared a saint.

Seven years after his conversion, Pillai was killed at the age of 40 by gunshot, after he had been falsely accused of treason, arrested, and tortured for three years.

Two religious sisters will also be canonized on May 15: Bl. Maria Francesca di Gesù, the foundress of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of Loano, and Bl. Maria Domenica Mantovani, the co-foundress and first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family.

Bl. César de Bus, Bl. Luigi Maria Palazzolo, and Bl. Giustino Maria Russolillo — three priests who founded religious congregations and institutes — will also be declared saints.

Though the continued spread of COVID-19 means physical attendance in Rome will be limited, the , on June 22-26, will offer ways for any Catholic family to participate.

Organizers have planned hybrid in-person and online meetings, and bishops have been encouraged to hold in their dioceses.

This will be Rome’s third time hosting the international gathering, which started in 1994. Around 2,000 people will attend the 2022 edition, which is on the theme of “Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness.”

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of Rome, said: “Choosing the city that holds the memories of the Apostles Peter and Paul as the main venue for the meeting highlights the original vocation of the Church of Rome which ‘presides over the communion of the Churches.’”

The World Meeting of Families will also mark the end of the .

Venerable John Paul I will be beatified on Sept. 4 by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Often called John Paul I died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, 1978, after just 33 days in office. A priority of his short pontificate was carrying forward the work of the Second Vatican Council.

But even before he was elected pope, Albino Luciani was known for his humility, emphasis on spiritual poverty, and dedication to teaching the faith in an understandable manner.

In October, Pope Francis a miracle obtained through John Paul I’s intercession and gave approval for him to be declared “blessed.”

Though beatification ceremonies usually take place in the country most associated with the life of the new blessed, John Paul I will be beatified at the Vatican because he served as a pope.

The miracle attributed to John Paul I’s intercession is the 2011 of a girl in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, from a severe form of encephalopathy, a disease affecting the brain.

Pope Francis at the Angelus: God wants to live with us and in us

Vatican City, Jan 2, 2022 / 05:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christ’s Incarnation shows that God wants to live with us and in us.

Speaking at the Angelus on Jan. 2, he described Christmas as an invitation to see the world from God’s perspective.

“Dear brothers and sisters, often we keep our distance from God because we think we are not worthy of him for other reasons. And it is true. But Christmas invites us to see things from his point of view,” he .

“God wishes to be incarnate. If your heart seems too contaminated by evil, if it seems disordered, please, do not close yourself up, do not be afraid: he will come. Think of the stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was born there, in that poverty, to tell us that he is certainly not afraid of visiting your heart, of dwelling in a shabby life.”

In his address, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, , which proclaims that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

He said: “And this is the word: to dwell. To dwell is the verb used in today’s Gospel to signify this reality: it expresses a total sharing, a great intimacy. And this is what God wants: he wants to dwell with us, he wants to dwell in us, not to remain distant.”

The pope looked tired but spoke vigorously as he delivered his first Sunday Angelus address of the new year, departing frequently from his prepared text to drive home his points.

He was speaking after a busy liturgical period that began with at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 24 and included his address on Christmas Day, as well as an on Dec. 26 and a on Dec. 29.

He preached but did not preside at a on New Year’s Eve. His of 2022 was to offer Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, followed by the .

Speaking on Sunday, the pope suggested that the famous words from the opening of St. John’s Gospel contained a paradox.

“They bring together two opposites: the Word and the flesh,” he said.

“‘Word’ indicates that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father, infinite, existing from all time, before all created things; ‘flesh,’ on the other hand, indicates precisely our created reality, fragile, limited, mortal.”

The pope said that these “two separate worlds” were united in Jesus.

“Faced with our frailties, the Lord does not withdraw. He does not remain in his blessed eternity and in his infinite light, but rather he draws close, he makes himself incarnate, he descends into the darkness, he dwells in lands that are foreign to him,” he commented.

“And why does God do this? Why does he come down to us? He does this because he does not resign himself to the fact that we can go astray by going far from him, far from eternity, far from the light. This is God’s work: to come among us.”

“If we consider ourselves unworthy, that does not stop him: he comes. If we reject him, He does not tire of seeking us out. If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits.”

“He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right where we are: in our problems, in our suffering… He comes there.”

The pope challenged pilgrims to allow God to enter into “inner spaces” habitually denied to him.

“Today I invite you to be specific,” he said. “What are the inner things that I believe God does not like? What is the space that I believe is only for me, where I do not want God to come?”

He added: “Everyone has their own sin — let us call it by name. And He is not afraid of our sins: He came to heal us. Let us at least let Him see it, let Him see the sin. Let us be brave, let us say: ‘But, Lord, I am in this situation but I do not want to change. But you, please, don’t go too far away.’ That’s a good prayer.”

He also urged people to stop in front of nativity scenes during the Christmas period and “talk to Jesus about our real situations.”

“Let us invite him officially into our lives, especially in the dark areas,” he said.

After praying the , Pope Francis greeted pilgrims from Rome and further afield. He pointed out flags in the square below from Poland, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, and Venezuela.

He also acknowledged pilgrim groups from around Italy, including young people who stand each Sunday in the square holding a pale blue banner with black text proclaiming “The Immaculate will triumph.”

The group, inspired by the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe, has brought the banner to St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus .

Concluding his address, the pope said: ”On this first Sunday of the year, I renew to you all the Lord’s blessings of peace and good.”

“In joyful moments and in sad ones, let us entrust ourselves to him, he who is our strength and our hope.”

“And do not forget: let us invite the Lord to come within us, to come to our real life, ugly as it may be, as if it were a stable: ‘But, well, Lord, I would not like you to enter, but look, and stay close.’ Let’s do this.”

Pope Francis: Let us place the new year under the protection of Mary

Vatican City, Jan 1, 2022 / 09:35 am (CNA).

On New Year’s Day, Pope Francis encouraged people to place their lives under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

“The new year begins under the sign of the Holy Mother of God, under the sign of the Mother. A mother’s gaze is the path to rebirth and growth. We need mothers, women who look at the world not to exploit it, but so that it can have life,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1.

“At the beginning of the New Year, then, let us place ourselves under the protection of this woman, the Mother of God, who is also our mother. May she help us to keep and ponder all things, unafraid of trials and with the joyful certainty that the Lord is faithful and can transform every cross into a resurrection,” the pope said.

Pope Francis’ first public act of 2022 was to offer Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.

In his homily, the pope said that the Virgin Mary teaches us how to “keep and to ponder,” to reflect upon and accept life as it comes, in times of both joy and suffering.

“Mary’s pensiveness … is the expression of a mature, adult faith, not a faith of beginners. Not a newborn faith, it is rather a faith that now gives birth,” he said.

“For spiritual fruitfulness is born of trials and testing. From the quiet of Nazareth and from the triumphant promises received by the Angel – the beginnings – Mary now finds herself in the dark stable of Bethlehem. Yet that is where she gives God to the world.”

The pope asked people to reflect on how Mary had to endure “the scandal of the manger.”

“How can she hold together the throne of a king and the lowly manger? How can she reconcile the glory of the Most High and the bitter poverty of a stable? Let us think of the distress of the Mother of God. What can be more painful for a mother than to see her child suffering poverty? It is troubling indeed,” he said.

“We would not blame Mary, were she to complain of those unexpected troubles. Yet she does not lose heart. She does not complain, but keeps silent. Rather than complain, she chooses a different part: For her part, the Gospel tells us, Mary ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.’”

Pope Francis encouraged people to have the same attitude of Mary when faced with unexpected problems or troubling situations.

“She shows us that it is necessary: it is the narrow path to achieve the goal, the cross, without which there can be no resurrection. Like the pangs of childbirth, it begets a more mature faith,” he said.

After offering Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus at noon from the window of the Apostolic Palace with a crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.

“Happy New Year! Let us begin the new year by entrusting it to Mary, the Mother of God,” he said.

“The new year begins with God who, in the arms of his mother and lying in a manger, gives us courage with tenderness. We need this encouragement. We are still living in uncertain and difficult times due to the pandemic,” the pope said.

“Many are frightened about the future and burdened by social problems, personal problems, dangers stemming from the ecological crisis, injustices and by global economic imbalances. Looking at Mary with her Son in her arms, I think of young mothers and their children fleeing wars and famine, or waiting in refugee camps. There are so many of them.”

Pope Francis said that the thought of Mary holding Jesus in the stable is a reminder that “the world can change and everyone’s life can improve only if we make ourselves available to others.”

He recalled that January 1 marks the World Day of Peace, instituted by St. Paul VI in 1968.

“We can truly build peace only if we have peace in our hearts, only if we receive it from the Prince of peace. But peace is also our commitment: it asks us to take the first step, it demands concrete actions. It is built by being attentive to the least, by promoting justice, with the courage to forgive thus extinguishing the fire of hatred,” he said.

“At the beginning of this year, may the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, obtain harmony in our hearts and in the entire world,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis on New Year’s Eve: Jesus Christ gives meaning to our lives in joy and sorrow

Vatican City, Dec 31, 2021 / 10:50 am (CNA).

On New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis invited everyone to trust in Jesus Christ, the person who can give meaning to the ups and downs of daily life.

The Child Jesus “does not disappoint,” the pope said on Dec. 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Let us follow him on our daily journey: he brings time to its fullness, he gives meaning to what we do and to the days we live. Let us trust in joyful times and in sorrowful times: the hope he gives us is a hope that never disappoints.”

Speaking during First Vespers, Francis said today Mother Church and Mother Mary show us the Baby Jesus, and smiling at us, Mary says: “He is the Way. Follow him, trust.”

First Vespers was prayed at the Vatican in anticipation of the Jan. 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The prayer service also included Eucharistic adoration and benediction, and the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.

Pope Francis attended and delivered the homily, but the liturgy was presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, deacon of the College of Cardinals. Re also presided over First Vespers in 2020, when Pope Francis canceled his attendance due to a flare-up of sciatic pain.

In his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the wonder and amazement of Christmas, a season which extends until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2022.

This amazement, the pope said, is not a “superficial sentiment,” nor is it connected to the external aspects of the feast day, such as consumerism.

“If Christmas is reduced to this, nothing changes: tomorrow will be just like yesterday, next year will be like last year, and so on,” he said. “That is like warming ourselves for a few seconds by a straw fire rather than exposing our entire beings to the power of the Event, not grasping the heart of the mystery of Christ’s birth.”

Francis explained that the heart of the mystery of Christ’s birth is that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” These words, repeated several times during First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, remind us that Mary is the first witness of the mystery of the incarnation, he said.

“She is the first witness, the first and the greatest, and at the same time, the humblest – the greatest because she is the humblest,” he stated. “Her heart is filled with amazement without the shadow of romanticism, of sweeteners, of spiritualization.”

“The Mother brings us back to reality, to the truth of Christmas contained in the few words Saint Paul uses: ‘born of a woman,’” he said, emphasizing that Christian amazement is the result of “the mystery of reality.”

“There is nothing more amazing and stupefying than reality. A flower, a clod of earth, a life story, an encounter, the wrinkled face of an elderly person or the blooming face of a newborn baby, a mamma who nurses a baby in her arms. The mystery shines there,” he said.

In his homily, Pope Francis also addressed the “sense of being lost” many people have felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the responsibility everyone is called to show toward others, a grace which can only come from God, he said.

He also reflected on the city of Rome, where, he noted, many people feel like they are part of a family.

Rome’s new mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, was present at the Vatican’s prayer service on Friday. Pope Francis had greeted Gualtieri, who was elected in October 2021, before the start of the liturgy.

“Everyone feels at home because this city preserves a universal openness within it. I dare say: it is the universal city,” Francis said. “It comes from its history, from its culture. It comes primarily from the Gospel of Christ that laid down deep roots here, made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs, beginning with Peter and Paul.”

The pope warned that a fraternal city is not created by “beautiful speeches” or “bombastic events,” however, but “by the daily, weekday attentions paid to those who struggle the most, to those families who feel the weight of the crisis most, to those persons with serious disabilities and their families, to all those who need to use public transportation to go to work, to all who live on the outskirts, to those who have been overwhelmed by some failure in life and need social services, and so forth.”

“It is the city that watches each of its children, each of its inhabitants, indeed each of its guests. Rome is a wonderful city, that never ceases to enchant. But for those who live here, it is also a difficult city, unfortunately not always dignified for those who live here or its visitors, a city that sometimes rejects,” he continued.

“The hope, then, is that everyone who lives and works here, or are pilgrims or tourists, that everyone might appreciate Rome more and more for its welcoming care for the dignity of life, for our common home, for the weakest and most vulnerable,” Francis stated. “May everyone be amazed, discovering a beauty in this city that is, I would say, ‘consistent,’ and that evokes gratitude. This is my wish for this year.”

It is Pope Francis’ custom to visit the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square following First Vespers on New Year’s Eve, but this year his visit was canceled to prevent crowds from gathering during the pandemic.