Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis to discuss climate change with John Kerry at Vatican

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. / Public domain.

Vatican City, May 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis will meet Saturday with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who is also a keynote speaker at a Vatican conference on financial solidarity and climate change.

Kerry, who currently serves as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, is in Europe to meet with government officials and business leaders ahead of the Nov. 1-12 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the State Department said.

Pope Francis is reportedly considering a visit to Glasgow for the climate conference, and local authorities are said to be preparing for the possibility.

Ahead of his meeting with the pope, Kerry was due to deliver a keynote speech at the “Dreaming of a Better Restart” conference, a closed-door meeting in Vatican City on May 14.

The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, has panel discussions on debt relief for developing countries and climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, both spoke at the Vatican event via video link.

Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz came to the Vatican to take part in the one-day event, as did economic ministers from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, France, and Germany.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, and Félix Tshisekedi, head of the African Union, were also featured speakers.

Kerry, a baptized Catholic, previously met Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014 and 2016, when he served as the U.S. Secretary of State during the Obama administration.

He also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, during his last visit.

The 77-year-old diplomat visited St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of May 14, where he was shown Michelangelo’s Pietà up close.

After meeting with Italian and Vatican officials in Rome, the climate envoy will travel to London to meet with U.K. government representatives hosting the COP26 summit and then to Berlin to meet with German officials.

Pope Francis urges scouts to ‘spread light and hope’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Scouts Unitaires de France at the Vatican, May 14, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 14, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis urged scouts Friday to “spread light and hope” wherever they go.

Addressing members of the Scouts Unitaires de France, a Catholic scouting movement founded in 1971, the pope appealed to young people not to become apathetic when confronted with “the selfishness of the world.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He said: “Never lose sight of the fact that the Lord is calling you all to fearlessly carry the missionary message wherever you are, especially among young people, in your neighborhoods, in sports, when you go out with friends, in voluntary work, and at work.”

“Always and everywhere share the joy of the Gospel that makes you live! The Lord wants you to be his disciples and to spread light and hope because he counts on your boldness, courage, and enthusiasm.”

The pope granted the audience to the group as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The worldwide scout movement was founded in 1907 by the retired British Army officer Robert Baden-Powell. Scouting was introduced to the French Catholic milieu by the Jesuit priest Jacques Sevin, who established the Scouts de France in 1920.

According to its website, the Scouts Unitaires de France began with 500 members in 1971 and has almost 30,000 today.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope said that the group was “a sign of encouragement to young people” amid the pandemic and the decline of social ties.

He praised its method of linking younger children with older ones “who protect and accompany the younger ones, patiently helping them to discover and bring to fruition the talents received from the Lord.”

He said: “The scout, with his willingness to serve his neighbor, is also called to work for a more ‘outgoing’ Church and for a more human world.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“To this end, you have the noble mission to witness wherever you are that, with your faith and your commitment, you can enhance the richness of human relationships and make them a common good that helps social renewal. Therefore, I urge you to be both dynamic Christians and faithful scouts!”

He praised the scouts for combining respect for others with care of the environment.

The pope also thanked couples who support the scouts, saying that they offered a witness to the beauty of marriage.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Concluding his address, he said: “I entrust the Scouts Unitaires de France to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. May she turn her merciful gaze upon each one of you and lead you to be faithful disciples of her Son.”

“I bless you all, your families, and the people who accompany you with their spiritual and material support. And I ask you, please, do not forget to pray for me.”

Pope Francis asks society which it values more: Children or money

Pope Francis attends the ‘General State of the Birth Rate’ event in Rome, May 14, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 14, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Europeans on Friday to reflect on what they treasure, and whether they consider children to be the valuable gift they are.

Speaking at “The General State of the Birth Rate” event in Rome May 14, he said, “there is a phrase from the Gospel that can help anyone, even those who do not believe, to guide their choices.”

“Jesus says: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.’”

“Where is our treasure, the treasure of our society?” he asked. “In children or finances? What draws us, the family or revenue?”

The live-streamed event, held in the Conciliazione Auditorium, close to the Vatican, included presentations from company executives, journalists, actors, athletes, and Italian political leaders, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, reflecting on the problem of Italy’s birth rate, which is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.24.

The country faces a demographic crisis, as experts predict that the already low European fertility rate will be further affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already hit the Italian economy especially hard.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In his address, Pope Francis said that “if families are not at the center of the present, there will be no future; but if families restart, everything restarts.”

He emphasized that the first gift every person has received is the gift of life.

“It is a ‘first’ that in the course of life we forget, always intent on looking at the future, at what we can do and have,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“A child is the greatest gift for everyone, and comes before all else,” the pope reflected. “This word is linked to children, to every child: first. As a child is expected and loved before it is born, so we must put children first if we want to see the light again after the long winter.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Societies, especially the more affluent and consumeristic have forgotten the primacy of this gift, Francis said: “In fact, we see that where there are more things, there is often more indifference and less solidarity, more closure, less generosity.”

“Let us help each other, dear friends, to regain the courage to give, the courage to choose life,” he urged.

The pope spoke about the importance of children for both sustainability and solidarity.

“We will not be able to feed production and protect the environment if we are not attentive to families and children,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Noting the “explosion of births” during the reconstruction periods following World War I and World War II, he said that today too we find ourselves in a period of “restarting” after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot follow short-sighted models of growth, as if only some hasty adjustments were needed to prepare for tomorrow,” he argued. “No, the tragic number of births and the appalling numbers of the pandemic call for change and responsibility.”

He encouraged people to instill in the young a desire to pursue their dreams, to sacrifice themselves for others, and to do good in the world.

Sometimes, he said, the message that is transmitted is that “fulfillment means making money and success, while children seem almost a diversion, which must not hinder their personal aspirations.”

“This mentality is gangrene for society and makes the future unsustainable,” he underlined.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis also urged companies not to exploit their employees with unsustainable work conditions and hours, and to ensure they receive a fair amount of the revenue, as a contribution “to a priceless development, that of families.”

“It is a challenge not only for Italy, but for many countries, often rich in resources, but poor in hope,” he commented.

No shrine from China in the 'rosary marathon' against the pandemic

Credit: FreshStock/Shutterstock

Vatican City, May 13, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

There was some hope that the Marian Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Sheshan, in the People's Republic of China, would be included among the shrines of reference for one of the daily rosaries for the end of pandemic called by Pope Francis during May. 

But the final list did not have that shrine, nor any other one in China. 

The Marian shrine of Sheshan is a reference point for Catholics in China. Every year, during May, the shrine is the destination of pilgrimages from all over the country, especially on her May 24 feast.

The shrine of Sheshan is located in the Diocese of Shanghai, where Bishop Taddeo Ma Daqin has been under house arrest since 2012.

For the second consecutive year, authorities have suspended pilgrimages to Sheshan arguing COVID-related restrictions.

The diocese said that "since the pandemic at home and abroad is not yet under control, and measures for the prevention of the pandemic are still in place in the nation, to comply with the requests and regulations of the municipal government [of Shanghai] … The annual May pilgrimage to Sheshan has been canceled."

This year restrictions, however, appeared to be arbitrary since the massive amusement park in Sheshan has reopened; and since March, places of worship have been reopened in many other provinces, albeit amid strict health measures.

Benedict XVI composed in 2008 a prayer for Our Lady of Sheshan and set the day of prayer for the Church in China on May 24. This decision followed his 2007 letter to the Catholics in China.

Fr. Gianni Criveller, an Italian missionary who lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and the People's Republic of China between 1991 and 2017, stressed with CNA that "since Benedict XVI established the day of prayer for the Church in China and indicated the shrine of Sheshan as a reference point, the Chinese government made the pilgrimages increasingly more difficult."

He added that the difficulties in getting to Sheshan varied according to the state of the Beijing – Holy See relations: when there were fewer tensions, the pilgrimages were more manageable, when tensions escalated, the pilgrimages were incredibly hard.

However, he said, "things were under increasing control of the Chinese government. Before, going from Hong Kong and Shanghai, and from there to Sheshan, was easy, while after establishing the day of prayer for the Church in China, it was not anymore."

In the first draft of the list of shrines involved in the Rosary Marathon, May 24 had no shrine indicated, just a "to be confirmed." This raised hopes that the shrine of Sheshan would be joining others around the world.

A source from China told CNA that there were "informal contacts" to explore if “things could happen” in Sheshan. But at the end, the Chinese shrine was not included. 

"The pandemic – said Fr. Criveller – “is an easy alibi, so the government can keep the shrine closed and at the same time not say that it does not want pilgrimages and prayer to take place."

Yet there is, on May 24, a feeble connection with China. The shrine of the day is that of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nyaunglebin, in Burma. The shrine is almost 160 kilometers from Yangon, whose archbishop is Charles Maung Cardinal Bo. Cardinal Bo, amid a severe crisis in his country, also had the strength to proclaim a week of prayer for the Catholics of China.

China is the "big absentee" in this extraordinary Rosary marathon. The Vatican has shown many signs of goodwill to China, and it renewed last year the agreement ad experimentum for the appointment of bishops. So far, China has not reciprocated.

The measures on religious staff announced by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in February of this year entered into force on May 1 in China.

The new regulations present several restrictions for religions. The UCA News agency stressed that "indirectly, the regulations state that the election of a Catholic bishop will be done by the system approved by the state under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, while Pope Francis or the Holy See will have no role in the process."

Devotion to Mary in China dates back to the time of the mission of Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Received by the emperor Jan. 22, 1601, Matteo Ricci brought 12 gifts, including the copy of the image of Maria Salus Populi Romani, kept in Santa Maria Maggiore in the chapel where St. Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his first Mass.

The Jesuits were also the proponents of the Sheshan devotion. In 1863, Jesuits acquired the shrine's hill, and in 1870 they vowed to build a basilica on that hill if Our Lady saved the diocese from destruction following a bloody revolt.

Our Lady listened to the prayer, and a year later, the first stone of the first Marian Basilica in Asia was laid. In 1874, Bl. Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence to pilgrims who visited the sanctuary, and in 1894 there were so many pilgrimages that it was decided to build a new church.

In 1924, the first Chinese synod, convened in Shanghai by the then apostolic delegate Celso Costantini, established that Our Lady of Sheshan be proclaimed "Queen of China."

Pope Francis meets Argentine president for first time since abortion legalization

Argentine President Alberto Fernández meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 13, 2021 / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 13, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis received Argentine President Alberto Fernández in a private audience Thursday for the first time since his homeland legalized abortion.

The Holy See press office said that the pope received the 62-year-old member of the center-left Justicialist Party in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall, but did not say what the two men discussed.

/ Vatican Media
/ Vatican Media

Fernández, who was elected president in October 2019, championed a bill that legalized abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy. The law went into effect on Jan. 24.

Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina, offered support to opponents of the bill.

The president, a baptized Catholic, said in November 2020 that he hoped the pope wouldn’t be angry about the change, which abortion supporters hailed as historic because Argentina is the largest Latin American country to legalize the practice.

On Jan. 31, 2020, months after he won the presidential election, Fernández traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Francis, who has not visited Argentina since his election in 2013.

The Holy See press office said that after Thursday’s papal audience, Fernández met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

It said: “During the cordial talks with the superiors of the Secretariat of State, appreciation was expressed for the good bilateral relations that exist and the intention to further develop collaboration in areas of mutual interest.”

“They also discussed the situation in the country, with particular reference to some problems such as the management of the pandemic emergency, the economic and financial crisis and the fight against poverty, noting, in this context, the significant contribution that the Catholic Church has offered and continues to ensure.”

“Finally, a number of regional and international issues were mentioned.”

Vatican abuse trial: Witness testimony gives conflicting view of victim, pre-seminary

View of St. Peter`s Basilica from the roof of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on April 1, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 12, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As the trial for alleged abuse inside a Vatican youth seminary continues, witnesses have given different views on the characters of the victim and the accused, and of the institution’s culture.

In a hearing May 12, the Vatican City State’s criminal court heard testimony from five witnesses, four of whom were students at the pre-seminary at the time the alleged abuse took place.

Located inside Vatican City State, the Pius X pre-seminary is a residence for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.

The alleged victim, a 28-year-old identified only as L.G., has testified that beginning when he was 13 years old, while he was a student at the pre-seminary, he was sexually assaulted over a period of six years by a fellow student, the defendant Fr. Gabriele Martinelli.

Martinelli has defended his innocence of the charges, calling the accusations against him “unfounded” and intended to “strike” at the pre-seminary. Martinelli was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Como in 2017.

The pre-seminary’s former rector, 72-year-old Fr. Enrico Radice, is also on trial on charges of impeding investigations into the abuse allegations against Martinelli, which he denies.

In the latest hearing, which began last year, witnesses who knew both the victim and defendant at the time of the alleged abuse testified to not having directly witnessed any abuse, even though several had at times, for periods of up to two years, shared a room with L.G.

One witness, Andrea Garzola, claimed that Martinelli once strongly touched his genitals when a game they were playing devolved into a fight. But he said that he did not think it was a “sexual advance.”

The same witness described Martinelli as being commanding and very close to the rector. He also said that he heard rumors about sexual actions between students and that one student, Kamil Jarzembowski, told him the rumors were about Martinelli.

Jarzembowski, who is from Poland, was the first to go to the media about the accusations against Martinelli, which were initially reported by the Italian investigative news program “Le Iene” in 2017.

Jarzembowski testified to the Vatican court in a March hearing that when he was roommates with L.G., he had heard Martinelli come into the room and perform non-consensual sexual actions with L.G. “tens of times.”

In his pre-trial testimony, Garzola had declared to have been told by Jarzembowski specifically that Martinelli was abusing L.G. But at the trial, Garzola denied the statement, saying: “I do not recognize those words.”

Another witness, who asked to be identified only by his initials because he will soon be ordained a priest, said he was a friend of the alleged victim, who told him he was abused by Martinelli at night.

“I had a friendship with L.G., it seems hard to me to think that he lied to me,” M.B. said.

M.B. testified that L.G. did not seem afraid of Martinelli and that there was conversation between the two of them.

Thomas Compagnoni, who was several years younger than L.G., said that the alleged victim had strongly encouraged him to attend the pre-seminary and that during his time there, he had never heard of any kind of abuse.

Fr. Francesco Vicini, a former student at the pre-seminary and now its vice-rector, was the fifth witness at the hearing.

He said that he shared a room with L.G. and Martinelli for a year, and for two years in total with L.G.

Vicini claimed that L.G. and Martinelli “fought about everything, L.G. was absolutely not afraid of Martinelli, he was not one to remain silent if he did not agree about something he would make himself heard.”

“I take it for granted that Martinelli did nothing, it seems obvious to me that he never needed to ask for clarification on rumors that were circulating in the pre-seminary,” Vicini said.

In pre-trial testimony given in 2018, Vicini had also claimed that L.G. was calm when he started at the youth seminary but that his demeanor changed as the years progressed.

“He had shown great jealousy towards Martinelli, for the role that Gabriele [Martinelli] held,” he said.

“Martinelli has a dominant character, but I respect him,” Vicini added at the time.

At a hearing in February, three different former students of the Pius X pre-seminary had testified that there was an unhealthy culture of ridicule and abuse of power while they were there.

The witnesses also alleged that reports of sexual abuse were ignored or dismissed by authority figures, including the cardinal in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica at the time, Cardinal Angelo Comastri.

At the February hearing, the Pius X pre-seminary was described by the former students as an environment with “psychological pressures,” where it was common to hear “homosexual jokes” and other lewd comments. Martinelli was described as having a “dominant role, very strong,” and a “homosexual demeanor.”

L.G. was described by one witness as “extremely credible,” but a bit delicate because of a difficult family situation.

One witness testified that Martinelli and L.G. seemed to hate each other and never speak, but that Martinelli also gave L.G. and another student special favors, positing that Martinelli was motivated by fear of what they could reveal about him.

The pre-seminary is run by a religious group, the Opera Don Folci, which is overseen by the Diocese of Como in northern Italy.

The next hearing of the abuse trial, which will include testimony from five more witnesses, will take place on June 7.

Pope Francis at the general audience: ‘Prayer works miracles’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 12, 2021 / 05:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that persistent prayer can lead to miracles “because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God.”

Speaking at his first general audience with members of the public for six months, the pope recounted the story of a father of a nine-year-old Argentine girl who was told that his hospitalized daughter would not survive the night.

He said: “He left his wife there with the child in the hospital, he took the train and he traveled 70 kilometers [around 45 miles] towards the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, Patroness of Argentina. And there -- the basilica was already closed, it was almost 10 o’clock at night, in the evening -- he clung to the gates of the basilica and spent all night praying to Our Lady, fighting for his daughter’s health.”

“This is not a figment of the imagination: I saw him! I saw him myself. That man there, fighting.”

He continued: “At the end, at six o’clock in the morning, the church opened, he entered to salute Our Lady, and returned home. And he thought: ‘She has left us. No, Our Lady cannot do this to me.’”

“Then he went to see [his wife], and she was smiling, saying: ‘I don’t know what happened. The doctors said that something changed, and now she is cured.’”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope, who devoted his May 12 address to “spiritual combat,” offered the man as an example of the fruits of tenacious prayer.

He said: “That man, fighting with prayer, received the grace of Our Lady. Our Lady listened to him. And I saw this: prayer works miracles, because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God, who cares for us like a father.”

“And when He does not grant us a grace, He will grant us another which in time we will see. But always, combat in prayer to ask for grace.”

“Yes, at times we ask for grace we are not in need of, but we ask for it without truly wanting it, without fighting… We do not ask for serious things in this way. Prayer is combat, and the Lord is always with us.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope was speaking in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in his first Wednesday audience with the public since Oct. 28, 2020. The elegant courtyard has a capacity of around 500 socially distanced and masked pilgrims.

The address was the 33rd reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

He began by expressing his delight at once again meeting pilgrims “face-to-face.” He explained that it was “not nice to speak in front of nothing, to a camera,” after the Vatican decided to move the audiences behind closed doors last fall as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

He told those taking their seats in the courtyard that “seeing each one of you pleases me as we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, and looking at each other helps us to pray for each other.”

He added: “Thank you for your presence and your visit. Take the pope’s message to everyone. The pope’s message is that I pray for everyone, and I ask you to pray for me, united in prayer.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope acknowledged that Christian prayer was not a “walk in the park.”

“None of the great people of prayer we meet in the Bible and in the history of the Church found prayer “comfortable”. Yes, one can pray like a parrot -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah -- but that is not prayer. Prayer certainly gives great peace, but through inner struggle, at times hard, which can accompany even long periods of life. Praying is not something easy, and this is why we flee from it.”

“Every time we want to pray, we are immediately reminded of many other activities, which at that moment seem more important and more urgent.”

“This happens to me too! It happens to me. I go to pray a little… and no, I must do this and that… We flee from prayer, I don’t know why, but that is how it is. Almost always, after putting off prayer, we realize that those things were not essential at all, and that we may have wasted time. This is how the Enemy deceives us.”

He acknowledged that throughout the ages saintly people have described prayer not only as joyful but also as tedious and tiring. Nevertheless, they persisted in prayer despite not finding satisfaction in it.

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

He said: “Silence, prayer, and concentration are difficult exercises, and sometimes human nature rebels. We would rather be anywhere else in the world, but not there, in that church pew, praying.”

“Those who want to pray must remember that faith is not easy, and sometimes it moves forward in almost total darkness, without points of reference.”

“There are moments in the life of faith that are dark, and therefore some saints call this ‘the dark night,’ because we hear nothing. But I continue to pray.”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope observed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the “enemies of prayer.” The worst enemies, he said, were “found within us.”

He advised people afflicted by these internal enemies to turn to “the masters of the soul” who personally discovered ways to overcome them.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, recommended reading the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola,” which he described as “a short book of great wisdom that teaches how to put one’s life in order.”

He explained: “It makes us understand that the Christian vocation is militancy, it is the decision to stand beneath the standard of Jesus Christ and not under that of the devil, trying to do good even when it becomes difficult.”

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

Above all, he said, we should remember in times of trouble that we are not alone.

He told a story from the life of St. Anthony the Great, who helped to spread Christian monasticism in the fourth century.

He said: “His biographer, St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, recounts one of the worst episodes in the life of the hermit saint when he was about the age of 35, a time of middle age that for many people involves a crisis.”

“Anthony was disturbed by the ordeal, but resisted. When he finally became serene again, he turned to his Lord with an almost reproachful tone: ‘But Lord, where were you? Why did you not come immediately to put an end to my suffering?’ And Jesus answered: ‘Anthony, I was there. But I was waiting to see you fight.’”

Concluding his address, the pope said: “If in a moment of blindness we cannot see His presence, we will in the future. We will also end up repeating the same sentence that the patriarch Jacob said one day: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it’ (Genesis 28:16).”

“At the end of our lives, looking back, we too will be able to say: ‘I thought I was alone, but no, I was not: Jesus was with me.’ We will all be able to say this.”

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in several languages. After the summaries, he offered a greeting to members of the various language groups.

Addressing Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, he noted that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Tomorrow let us remember Our Lady of Fatima with great veneration! Let us place ourselves with confidence under her maternal protection, especially when we find difficulties in our prayer life,” he said.

To Polish-speaking pilgrims, he said: “Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima and the 40th anniversary of the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II.”

“He himself emphasized with conviction that he owed his life to the Lady of Fatima. This event makes us aware that our lives and the history of the world are in God’s hands.”

“To the Immaculate Heart of Mary we entrust the Church, ourselves, and the whole world. We ask in prayer for peace, an end to the pandemic, a spirit of penance, and our conversion.”

Speaking to Italian pilgrims, he said: ”During this month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, I invoke Our Lady’s heavenly protection on each one of you and on your respective families.”

He added: “Have frequent recourse to Mary, Mother of believers! The various forms of Marian devotion, and especially the recitation of the holy rosary, will help you to live out your journey of faith and Christian witness.”

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

Vatican responds to bishops’ call to amend Church law on crimes against minors

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica. / Luxerendering/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, May 11, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican has told the bishops of England and Wales that it is amending the Code of Canon Law so that “crimes against minors are considered under a different title than crimes against the obligations of celibacy on the part of clerics.”

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts shared the information in a letter dated April 19, responding to the English and Welsh bishops’ request for adjustments to canon law concerning clerical sexual abuse.

In the letter, addressed to bishops’ conference president Cardinal Vincent Nichols, it said: “After review of the information and recommendation Your Eminence submitted to this Pontifical Council, I am pleased to inform you that the concerns you have expressed have already been taken into consideration in the revision of Book VI of the 1983 CIC [Code of Canon Law], which is currently in process.”

“In the revised Book VI of the 1983 CIC, crimes against minors are considered under a different title than crimes against the obligations of celibacy on the part of clerics. The revised title will be ‘Crimes against the life, dignity and freedom of man’ and will include a canon that is specific to crimes against minors.”

The letter, received by Nichols on April 23, was signed by the Pontifical Council’s president Archbishop Filippo Iannone and secretary Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta.

The English and Welsh bishops made their request to the Vatican in a letter dated March 15.

The correspondence between the bishops and the Vatican was published on the bishops’ website on May 9. It was included in a 21-page document detailing how the Catholic Church has responded to the seven recommendations of a highly critical independent report on child abuse within the Church in England and Wales.

In the report, published on Nov. 10, 2020, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) urged the bishops to “request that the Holy See redraft the canonical crimes relating to child sexual abuse as crimes against the child.”

The recommendation related to Canon 1395 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Under the subheading “Delicts against special obligations,” the second part of the canon says: “A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”

The English and Welsh bishops raised detailed concerns about the phrase “against the sixth commandment” -- “contra sextum” in Latin -- in their letter to the Vatican.

The letter, signed by Cardinal Nichols and bishops’ conference general secretary Canon Christopher Thomas, said that while the term “contra sextum” was part of canonical tradition, “it is no longer adequate to meet the demands of a contemporary canonical approach to sexual offenses against minors and their equivalent in law.”

The bishops suggested that the term was difficult to reconcile with other aspects of canon law, was only recently used by the Eastern Catholic Churches, and was a source of confusion for civil authorities.

Referring to a vademecum “on certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics,” issued by the Vatican last year, the letter said: “It seems reasonable that the categories delineated in Section I of the Vademecum of 16 July 2020 could be used to formulate a delict [a crime in canon law] without making use of the term ‘contra sextum.’”

“The Bishops’ Conference feels that this would be a significant step to rectifying the very real problems and consequent misunderstandings that its officers are faced with when engaging with colleagues in the civil authorities.”

The English and Welsh bishops also asked that the “reformulated delict” be placed “into a discrete category of offenses against minors, and their equivalents in law, and their dignity.”

In the 21-page document, the Catholic Church in England and Wales also outlined how it was responding to IICSA’s six other recommendations, which included mandatory safeguarding training for those working with children or abuse victims and the publication of a national complaints policy related to safeguarding cases.

The document, dated April 30, was prepared by the Catholic Council for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

In an introduction to the text, council chair Nuala O’Loan, wrote: “The Catholic Church is committed to this work and will continue to develop its structures and processes so that the Church is a safe place for all who worship in, or engage in any way with, it.”

“This report marks a significant step on the continuous journey of improvement.”

What is the new ministry of catechist? A CNA explainer

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst and Archbishop Rino Fisichella present the apostolic letter 'Antiquum ministerium' at the Vatican, May 11, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, May 11, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday instituted the new lay ministry of catechist, with the apostolic letter Antiquum ministerium (“Ancient ministry”).

You might have questions about what this ministry is and who it is for. In this explainer, CNA answers your burning questions about this new (or is it?) ministry in the Church.

What is the instituted ministry of catechist?

An instituted ministry is a type of formal, vocational service within the Catholic Church. It can be either lay, such as lector or acolyte, or ordained, such as deacon or priest.

The newly instituted ministry of catechist is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith.

The ministry is “stable,” meaning it lasts for the entirety of life, independent of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

But catechists already exist. How is this different?

Many catechists today serve the Church at the parish level, but the instituted ministry of catechist will be tied to the diocese and be at the disposal of the diocesan bishop.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella explained at a Vatican press conference May 11 that “the institution of a ministry by the Church is confirmation that the person invested with that charism is performing an authentic ecclesial service to the community.”

Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which oversees the Church’s instituted ministries.

The institution of this ministry, together with the lay ministries of lector and acolyte, “will make it possible to have a laity that is better prepared in the transmission of the faith,” the archbishop said.

He also emphasized that the instituted catechist is dedicated to the transmission of the faith through proclamation and instruction -- he or she does not have any kind of liturgical responsibility.

The catechist collaborates with the local bishop and priests in the teaching of the faith to the local community. And it can be a benefit in places where priests are scarce.

Pope Francis “is well aware of how many areas of Latin America and Africa today still have catechists at the head of the community,” Fisichella said. He stressed the unique nature of each ministry, noting that they are not interchangeable.

“At stake here is much of what is new in this ministry,” he said. “Men and women are called to express their baptismal vocation in the best possible way, not as substitutes for priests or consecrated persons, but as authentic laymen and laywomen who, in the distinctive nature of their ministry, are able to experience the full of extent of their baptismal vocation of witness and effective service in the community and the world.”

Who is qualified to be instituted into the ministry of catechist?

Pope Francis’ letter said that 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.”

Bishops’ conferences will be responsible for deciding the “necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission” to the new ministry.

Individual bishops are tasked with determining appropriate candidates in their own territories, and ensuring they have been properly prepared through “suitable biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation.”

Prior experience of catechesis is also a prerequisite.

Archbishop Fisichella said that “it is obvious that not everyone who is a catechist today will have access to the ministry of Catechist.”

“Of primary importance is the vocational dimension which implies a willingness to serve the Church where the bishop considers it most beneficial,” he explained. “Ministries are not conferred for personal gratification, but for service to be rendered to the local Church where the bishop deems the presence of the catechist necessary.”

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will publish a Rite of Institution of the new lay ministry of catechist. It will be ready “in a short time,” according to Fisichella.

Where did the idea of the lay catechist come from?

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis emphasized the history of the catechist, beginning with the New Testament’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which refers to “teachers” within the early Christian community.

He said that catechists played a critical role in the Church’s missionary expansion in the following centuries and noted the renewed appreciation for lay catechists in the work of evangelization following the Second Vatican Council.

Fisichella said his pontifical council, at the request of Pope Francis, has been studying the institution of the lay ministry of catechist for more than five years in collaboration with bishops’ conferences and experts.

Vatican fixes website glitch showing two versions of Catechism

The Good Shepherd image used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. / Public domain.

Vatican City, May 11, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican has corrected a problem on its website that meant it displayed at least two different editions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English.

When using an online search engine, internet users could land on two different editions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English, one of which was an earlier edition.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told CNA last week that “it is one of those cases where the system updates are incompletely coordinated, so one page had the older version and the other the more recent one.”

Bruni explained that after being alerted, Vatican staff realigned the pages of the Catechism in English and were checking the website for similar problems in other languages.

Before it was corrected, the Vatican website showed two versions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sometimes not reflecting recent significant changes to the document.

In one version, for example, Pope Francis’ 2018 update to paragraph 2267 on the death penalty was not present, while nothing on the page indicated that it was an older edition of the Catechism.

In one version, Paragraph 2358, on homosexuality, showed wording from a previous draft of the Catechism, which left out the phrase, “which is objectively disordered,” after the words “this inclination,” except when “concordant links” were turned off.

After fixing the website, the full paragraph, as published in the Catechism, is visible whether concordant links are on or off.

Following the update, when website users use a search engine to find the Vatican website’s publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church some links may lead to an error message which says “Forbidden” and that access to the page is not permitted.

This issue can be solved by clicking on the correct link, or by going to the English-language version of the Vatican website directly and clicking on “Resource Library” at the foot of the homepage, which leads to a section called “Archive” containing a link to the Catechism.

The fix to a part of the website comes after cyber security experts urged the Vatican to strengthen its defenses against hackers.

Andrew Jenkinson​, group CEO of Cybersec Innovation Partners (CIP) in London, told CNA in November last year that he had contacted the Vatican in July to express concern about its vulnerability to cyber attacks.

The British cybersecurity consultancy approached the Vatican following reports in July 2020 that suspected Chinese state-sponsored hackers had targeted Vatican computer networks.