Browsing News Entries

Here’s what Pope Francis said on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

Pope Francis on July 12, 2022, said the knee pain he experienced for several months “scared me, in the sense of ‘think a little about what your future is going to be like now.’” / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Press

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 24, 2022 / 07:55 am (CNA).

Aboard his flight to Canada on Sunday, Pope Francis made a point to reflect on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Sunday marked the Catholic Church's second annual observance of this special day, held on the fourth Sunday in July to roughly coincide with the June 26 feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus.

In lieu of his customary Sunday reflection before the recitation of the Angelus at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pope spoke to some 80 journalists aboard the ITA Airways flight to Edmonton in western Canada about grandparents and the elderly.

“There is no Angelus, but let’s do it here, the Angelus,” the pope said, according to an unofficial English translation.

“It’s Grandparents Day: grandparents, grandmothers, who are the ones who have passed on history, traditions, customs, and so many things,” Pope Francis said. 

He went on to urge young people to stay in contact with their grandparents, comparing this practice to a “tree that takes strength from the roots and carries it forward in flowers and fruits.”

“And I would also like to remember, as a religious, the old men and women religious, the ‘grandparents’ of consecrated life: Please do not hide them, they are the wisdom of a religious family; and that the new men and women religious, the novices have contact with them. They will give us all the life experience that will help us so much going forward,” the pope said.

“Each of us has grandfathers and grandmothers, some are gone, some are alive; let us remember them today in a special way,” the pope concluded. “From them we have received so many things, first of all history. Thank you!”

In a tweet earlier in the day, Pope Francis called on grandparents and the elderly “to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness.”

Pope Francis begins ‘penitential pilgrimage’ to Canada

Pope Francis prepares to board an ITA Airlines plane for his approximately 10-hour flight from Rome to Edmonton in western Canada on July 24, 2022. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Jul 24, 2022 / 07:33 am (CNA).

Pope Francis set off on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada Sunday.

During his six-day trip, the pope is expected to meet with and apologize to indigenous Canadians for abuses committed at Church-run residential schools in the 20th century. The pope’s itinerary includes stops in Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. He returns to Rome on Saturday, July 30.

“Dear brothers and sisters of #Canada,” the pope tweeted before his departure, “I come among you to meet the indigenous peoples. I hope, with God's grace, that my penitential pilgrimage might contribute to the journey of reconciliation already undertaken. Please accompany me with #prayer.”

The pope was in a wheelchair when he boarded the ITA Airways plane, but he walked with a cane inside the cabin, personally greeting more than 70 journalists accompanying him on the trip.

The plane took off from Rome at 9:16 a.m. Rome time. After an approximately 10-hour flight, the pope was due to arrive in Edmonton in western Canada at 11:20 a.m. MT (7:20 p.m. Rome time.)

In lieu of his customary Sunday reflection before the recitation of the Angelus at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pope made brief remarks aboard the plane related to Sunday’s observance of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

“There is no Angelus, but let’s do it here, the Angelus,” the pope said, according to an unofficial English translation.

“It’s Grandparents Day: grandparents, grandmothers, who are the ones who have passed on history, traditions, customs, and so many things,” Pope Francis said. 

He went on to urge young people to stay in contact with their grandparents, comparing this practice to a “tree that takes strength from the roots and carries it forward in flowers and fruits.”

“And I would also like to remember, as a religious, the old men and women religious, the ‘grandparents’ of consecrated life: Please do not hide them, they are the wisdom of a religious family; and that the new men and women religious, the novices have contact with them. They will give us all the life experience that will help us so much going forward,” the pope said.

“Each of us has grandfathers and grandmothers, some are gone, some are alive; let us remember them today in a special way,” the pope concluded. “From them we have received so many things, first of all history. Thank you!”

In a tweet earlier in the day, Pope Francis called on grandparents and the elderly “to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness.”

Upon his arrival in Edmonton, Pope Francis is scheduled to receive an official welcome to Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Salma Lakhani. The pope is scheduled to begin his meetings with indigenous peoples on Monday. For more on his trip to Canada, read CNA’s explainer here.

Here’s how to receive a plenary indulgence July 24 on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 23, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

On July 24, the Catholic Church celebrates its second annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

This special observance, held on the fourth Sunday of July each year, is timed to roughly coincide with the July 26 feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim, Mary’s mother and father and Jesus’ grandparents.

By visiting the elderly on July 24, Catholics are eligible to receive a plenary indulgence.

A plenary indulgence, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope's intentions. 

The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary on May 30 said that the indulgence for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is available “to the faithful who devote adequate time to visit, in presence or virtually, through the media, their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty.” The plenary indulgence can also be obtained by attending a solemn commemoration of the annual event by Pope Francis or related celebrations around the world.

Since Pope Francis has said that plenary indulgences can be granted by visiting the elderly either in-person or virtually, this means that a simple phone call can remit the temporal punishment due to your already-forgiven sins, and make beloved grandparents and elderly loved ones smile.

Like Anne and Joachim, grandparents and the elderly sometimes despair of the trials of old age. But faith brought Anne and Joachim the joy of becoming the parents of the Queen of Heaven, which is more than they could have expected. This miracle from God is a reason to honor the faith and perseverance of the elderly on July 24 this year.

Sometimes, elderly people feel despair over the idea that they have become physically frail and unable to do what they once were able to do. In a message, Pope Francis explained that elderly people should not worry or despair, but realize that they have a “new mission” to care for others.

“A long life — so the Bible teaches — is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts to be shunned but living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance.” Pope Francis said.

You can hear the pope's reflections about the elderly in the video below.

It is important to remind grandparents and the elderly that they do have a purpose. By spending time with them and honoring them on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Catholics will be able to show them that they are still important and appreciated.

The theme for this year's celebration is “In old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalm 92:15). “The theme is meant to emphasize how grandparents are a gift both to society and the Church,” the U.S. bishops say on their website.

How to show you care

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website provides a wealth of ideas on how to observe World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The first suggestion is to host or attend a Mass of Thanksgiving on the weekend of July 24. Since the Mass will focus on celebrating grandparents, the U.S. bishops encourage Catholics to invite their elderly loved ones, whether it be virtually or in person. They also suggest sharing the names of deceased elderly loved ones and grandparents in their parish’s Book of Remembrance. 

Other suggestions from the bishops include participating in novenas or holy hours dedicated to the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The USCCB website provides a pastoral kit for parishes to prepare for the celebration of the elderly. It includes infographics, announcements from Pope Francis, a video, and more about the day.

Honoring the patronage of Sts. Anne and Joachim, as well as utilizing forget-me-nots, are other ways to celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Pope Francis in Canada: A papal pilgrimage for healing and reconciliation

Pope Francis meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Vatican on May 29, 2017. / © L'Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Jul 23, 2022 / 08:15 am (CNA).

The 37th Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis, which will take him to Canada from July 24-30, is a "penitential pilgrimage”: The Holy Father will "meet and embrace the indigenous peoples”, and he will apologize for the role of the Church in a system guilty of deadly neglect, suffering and abuse.  

In doing so, the pope may also set in motion another process of healing and reconciliation: a normalization of the Holy See's relationship with the government of Canada.

A key moment, preparing the portentous papal pilgrimage to Canada, took place in the Vatican on May 29, 2017. 

On that day, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country, during which time he could bring the Church's apology for harm done to indigenous people in the mid-19th through 20th centuries. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008-2015, concluded that thousands of children died whilst attending “Indian Residential Schools”, and called for action on 94 points

Of these, four were directed at the Church and published in the section "Church apologies and reconciliation”. 

In it, the commission called on Pope Francis “to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

The commission worked out its suggestions for healing and reconciliation by drawing on voluminous reports about the legacy of the residential schools system. Assessing these, including the question of responsibilities in what was perpetrated in those schools, turned out to be far more complex than many expected.

A government program run by Christian churches

The “Indian residential schools” system was a network of boarding schools created by the Canadian federal government in the 19th century. It was mainly supported by government funds and supervised by government officials

The system existed from 1833 to 1996, when the last of these schools was closed. The schools were run by several Christian denominations, including some Catholic dioceses and religious communities.

These schools did not simply provide education to children of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. In reality, they served to provide a program of assimilation, carried out against a population often mistakenly perceived as an “obstacle” to the nation's “progress”.

The Canadian Bishops' Conference explained on its website that this system had a burdensome human cost: "While many alumni and school staff have spoken positively about their experiences in some schools, many others today say of much more painful memories and legacies, such as the prohibition of Aboriginal languages ​​and cultural practices, as well as cases of emotional abuse, physical and even sexual. "

The involvement of the Catholic Church

About 16 out of 70 Canadian dioceses have been associated with residential schools, in addition to about forty of a hundred or so religious communities in Canada.

The Canadian Bishops' Conference acknowledged in a November 1993 brief for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People that "the various types of abuse experienced in some residential schools have led us to a profound examination of conscience in the Church."

Since the 1990s, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Canada and orders such as the Jesuits offered apology statements such as this one on the bishops' official website

The response also included the establishment of a $30 million national pledge made by Canadian Bishops in September 2021.

Similarly, the Holy See has increasingly come to terms with this chapter of the Church’s history in Canada. 

Pope John Paul II visited in 1984 and 1987. On both occasions, he met indigenous people, exalting their culture and the renewal brought to them by Christianity.

Benedict XVI met with Phil Fontaine, Great Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Canada, at the end of the general audience on Apr. 29, 2009.

He "recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples." Referring to residential schools, Benedict XVI expressed "his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church, and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity."

An early whistleblower and a recent warning

At the turn of the 20th century, Peter Henderson Bryce, a public health official and physician, was the first to report about unsanitary conditions in residential schools in Canada. He gathered all the information he could and then, in 1907, published his findings — according to which about a quarter of the indigenous children in residential schools had died of tuberculosis.

Bryce also pointed to the wider question of discrimination, noting that health funds for average citizens of Ottawa were about three times higher than those for First Nations peoples.

Government policies, in other words, had caused the deaths of many indigenous children. 

Following attempts by government officials to silence him, Bryce published, at his expense, a small booklet on the issue, titled The Story of a National Crime.

Writing about “myth versus evidence”, Mark DeWolf noted in a 2018 essay — published by public policy think tank FCPP — that "cultural repression, abuse of all kinds, forceful incarceration and even avoidable deaths did happen, and a system that should have done much more to avoid these things should be justly condemned."

He concluded that the residential schools system was bad and “a deeply flawed attempt to accomplish two main objectives: to give native children education and training that would help them survive economically and socially in a white man's world, and to eradicate those aspects of native culture that would hold them back from achieving those goals.”

At the same time, pointing to low attendance numbers and other aspects of the system, DeWolf warned of making the residential schools “a scapegoat for 200 years of land appropriation, cultural invasion, deprivation, marginalization, and demoralization.”

Otherwise, little would be done to stop and reverse bad policies and practices today.

This point is pertinent, irrespective of whether one agrees with DeWolf otherwise: A 2019 Canadian Human Rights Court ruling established that between 2006 and 2017, the government had removed between 40,000 to 80,000 indigenous children from their families and deprived them of social services. In addition, the ruling sentenced Canada to pay $40,000 to each victim for discriminatory conduct. The government appealed the ruling, without success.

To further add to the complexity, critics have raised questions about irresponsible media reporting when the discovery of what was first described as unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential made international news. 

On June 24, 2021, it was first announced that 751 unmarked graves had been discovered at the site of a former school. Leaders emphasized that the discovery was of unmarked graves, and not a “mass grave site.”

Nonetheless, following the news, some Catholic churches in Canada were vandalized or found ablaze.

A gesture with consequences – and an open question 

Pope Francis decided to apologize for the Catholic Church's role and assume responsibility, neither commenting on the issue of sometimes questionable media coverage, nor pursuing the question of just how responsible the Church was within the wider historical context.

In short, this visit is a great act of goodwill by the pope, and one that intends to heal and reconcile.

This may also apply to relations between Canada and the Holy See, as these have been strained for a while. The issue of the “Indian residential schools” system was likely one of the reasons.

 Currently, Canada has not formally appointed an ambassador to the Holy See. There is a chargée d'Affaires, Paul Gibbard. He took the position in the year 2021, after three years of vacancy. The last Canadian ambassador to the Holy See was Dennis Savoie, who was in office from 2014 to 2018.

This Papal trip might help to somewhat normalize relations, and the position of Gibbard might be upgraded to that of an ambassador. However, after the visit, the full reality and extent of the residential schools system still needs to be fully brought to light — and not just with a view to the role of the Church.

‘To guard the charism’: In new decree, Pope Francis makes changes to Opus Dei

Mons. Fernando Ocariz. / Opus Dei Communications Office via Flickr (CC BY NC SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis issued a document on Friday that changed the oversight of Opus Dei. It also decreed that its leader, the prelate, can no longer be a bishop.

In the motu proprio, issued on July 22, the pope confirmed the Catholic organization and urged its members to safeguard its charism in order “to spread the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of one’s work and family and social occupations.”

“It is intended to strengthen the conviction that, for the protection of the particular gift of the Spirit, a form of government based more on the charism than on hierarchical authority is needed,” Pope Francis wrote. 

The motu proprio, known as Ad charisma tuendum (“To guard the charism”), contains six articles that go into effect on Aug. 4.

Among the changes, the prelate of Opus Dei will no longer be ordained a bishop and the prelature will fall under the competence of the Vatican Dicastery for Clergy. 

This change is in accord with the pope’s reform of the Roman Curia in the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium.

Opus Dei is a personal prelature made up of lay men and women and priests founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá in 1928. Escrivá called the organization Opus Dei to emphasize his belief that its foundation was a “work of God,” — or, in Latin, “Opus Dei.”

Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, the current prelate of Opus Dei, was not ordained a bishop when taking office in 2017, during the current pontificate. Both his predecessors, Javier Echevarría and Álvaro del Portillo, had been made bishops by St. John Paul II. The founder of the movement, St. Josemaría, died before the prelature was established. 

In his response to the changes made by Pope Francis on July 22, Ocariz said: “It is a concretization of the Holy Father’s decision to place the figure of personal prelatures in the Dicastery for the Clergy, which we filially accept.”

“The Holy Father encourages us to fix our attention on the gift that God gave Saint Josemaría, so as to live it fully. … I would like this invitation of the Holy Father to resonate strongly in each and every one of us. It is an opportunity to go more deeply into the spirit that our Lord instilled in our Founder and to share it with many people in our family, work and social environments.”

Ocariz noted that “the episcopal ordination of the Prelate was not and is not necessary for the guidance of Opus Dei.”

He said: “The Pope’s desire to highlight the charismatic dimension of the Work now invites us to reinforce the family atmosphere of affection and trust: the Prelate must be a guide but, above all, a father.”

While the prelate will no longer become a bishop under the changes, he will receive the honorary title of protonotary apostolic.

In his decree, Pope Francis also changed some of the text of Opus Dei’s constitution, Ut sit, which was issued by John Paul II in 1982.

For example, the constitution formerly asked the prelate to submit a report on the apostolic work of Opus Dei directly to the pope every five years. Under the new changes, the prelate will now be required to submit a report to the Dicastery for the Clergy every year.

Article six states that “all questions pending at the Congregation for Bishops relating to the Prelature of Opus Dei will continue to be treated and decided by the Dicastery for the Clergy.”

“The Motu Proprio reminds us that the government of Opus Dei must be at the service of the charism — of which we are administrators, not owners — so that it may grow and bear fruit, confident that it is God who works all things in all people,” the organization states on its website.

The Church must do more for survivors of sexual abuse, Vatican official says

Father Andrew Small, O.M.I. / Photo courtesy of Father Small.

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2022 / 05:25 am (CNA).

The Church must do more for anyone affected by sexual abuse, “even when the Church can appear tarnished because of these scandals,” and no matter what the local conditions are, according to Father Andrew Small. 

The English priest is the interim secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors, which provides recommendations and support to dioceses around the world.

In a speech delivered last week to AMECEA, the Association of Members of the Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, he spoke about what this means for local communities and churches in Africa. 

Dealing with potential cases and safeguarding against sexual violence in the future is a moral obligation and global challenge for the Catholic Church. It spans cultures and continents, jurisdictions and authorities, and in meeting this challenge, the Church should always strive to set standards and lead by example, according to Small. 

The AMECEA plenary session was an occasion to discuss concrete steps for dioceses in that region, irrespective of whether they have dealt with public scandals of sexual abuse.

Speaking with CNA, Small stressed that “in general, the Church needs to do more to put preventive measures in place.”

“As an advocate for the poor and the marginalized in many other areas of society, the Church should not only push for just legal systems, but it should lead by example,” the priest added.

Suggestions to the local Churches in Africa are one expression of the global recommendations provided by the Pontifical Commission for Safeguarding Minors, he explained. 

These are also made in the context of what Pope Francis proposed in his motu proprioVos Estis Lux Mundi”: Local Church authorities were to establish and provide “stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports, even through the institution of a specific ecclesiastical office.”

The meaning of Zero Tolerance

Small said that “Pope Francis has called for zero tolerance, meaning no accusation goes uninvestigated and no abusive priest remains in ministry.”

To that end, he added, leading by example was a good start, in particular where there may be concerns about the situation of local authorities.

“If the civil structures are inadequate, then let the Church structures make sure that justice is done. But more than justice, the Church can be a powerful instrument of prevention so that abuse is not allowed to thrive in the first place. And it can be there boldly and honestly, seeking forgiveness and healing for those harmed by its clergy,” Small said.

In Africa “there are elements of these reporting systems already in place. There are judicial vicars in most places and other Church officials who deal with accusations,” the Vatican official said. 

“Anecdotally, there seem to be very few accusations of abuse, and it is hard to believe that this means there is no sexual abuse going on in the Church,” he added. 

He compared the situation to Italy, where “nearly every diocese has a ’Listening Center’ to receive and process accusations, but they seem to collect very few reports of abuse. It’s unwise and irresponsible to think this is because abuse doesn’t exist.”

Small stressed that, in these cases, “the Church does not just need outreach, it also needs to do ’in-reach.’ It needs to proactively promote the value of victim accompaniment and of education so that the silent scream of abuse can be heard and responded to appropriately.”

Good practices in action

Speaking about good practices, the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors said that “we need to have good policies around how we minister in and around children and vulnerable people. And then we need training on those policies to see that they are implemented.”

This means “building in a reporting system that provides transparency to the local community. Personal privacy can be respected while also being open about the problems we face in tackling this evil,” he added.

Small underscored that “a major issue everywhere is the sense of shame and persecution that befalls victims, which is the worst aspect. Those already victimized continue to be harmed by intimidation by the perpetrator, especially if he is a priest or superior in an important position.”

In addition to that, he said, there may be “local pressure to keep quiet for fear of damaging the Church. Reporting and holding bishops and religious superiors accountable for the actions they take — or omit to take — seems to be the most effective way of ensuring abuse is uncovered while justice and healing can take place.”

Comparison to United States

Small noted that “in the United States, the Church spent $25 million on prevention measures last year alone. Imagine what could be done across Africa with those funds in terms of training. And Africa is the fastest-growing part of the Church. We have a moral obligation as a Church to ensure those most vulnerable to abuse are not abandoned through lack of adequate resources.”

Rather than being discouraged by negative comments or inaccurate, biased coverage in some media, Small emphasized the need to focus and keep doing the right thing: “When we do something new to solve a problem, to combat a sickness to an organism or to intervene to prevent something bad from happening, there are always going to be improvised measures and yes, even mistakes.”

However, he noted, “the evil we are trying to stop or overcome is so heinous and its impact so grave on the life of the victims that their well-being should motivate us to be bold and to be courageous, even when our Church can appear tarnished because of these scandals.”

The priest concluded: “We cannot always fear the impact of scandal in being transparent about what has been going on. People know very well at this point that not doing enough to prevent these abuses has been the common practice in our Church in the past, and that is an even greater scandal. Yes, let’s try and get things right so that due process and human rights are respected. But the balance of our institutional concern needs to shift toward the vulnerable and voiceless victims; they should be our priority.”

FULL TEXT: Statement by the Holy See on German 'Synodal Way'

A view of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. / Lauren Cater/CNA.

CNA Newsroom, Jul 22, 2022 / 03:02 am (CNA).

The Holy See intervened in the German “Synodal Way” on July 21, 2022, warning of a “threat to the unity of the Church.”

Below is the full text of the statement in a working translation into English, provided by CNA:

"In order to safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it seems necessary to clarify that the 'Synodal Way' in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals.

It would not be lawful to initiate in the dioceses, prior to an agreed understanding at the level of the universal Church, new official structures or doctrines, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church. In this sense, the Holy Father called to mind in his letter to the pilgrim people of God in Germany: the universal Church lives in and of the particular Churches, just as the particular Churches live and flourish in and from the universal Church. If they find themselves separated from the entire ecclesial body, they weaken, rot and die. Hence the need always to ensure communion with the whole body of the Church."[1] Therefore, it is desirable that the proposals made by the Particular Churches in Germany may be incorporated into the synodal process on which the universal Church is undertaking, in order to contribute to mutual enrichment and to bear witness to the unity with which the Body of the Church manifests its fidelity to Christ the Lord.”

---

1] FRANZISKUS, Schreiben an das pilgernde Volk Gottes in Deutschland, 9.

Vatican warning: Germany's ‘Synodal Way’ poses ‘threat to the unity of the Church’

null / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

The Vatican has issued another warning of a new schism from Germany coming out of the “Synodal Way."

“The ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals,” the Vatican said in an official statement published in Italian and German on Thursday.

The Holy See said it seemed “necessary to clarify” this, in order to “safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry." 

The Vatican warned: “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”

The “Synodal Way” — Synodaler Weg in German, sometimes translated as “Synodal Path” — is a controversial process initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Organized by the German Bishops' Conference together with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), its aim is to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; the priesthood; the role of women, and sexual morality.

Writing about the process, Pope Francis warned of disunity in his letter to German Catholics in 2019.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian considered close to Pope Francis, in June 2022 warned that the German process is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a "fraternal open letter" to Germany's bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops' conference raised serious concerns

The president of the German bishops' conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has repeatedly rejected any and all concerns, instead expressing disappointment in Pope Francis in May 2022.  

More recently, another organizer of the German process said the “Synodal Way” wanted to change the Church’s teaching on homosexuality by proposing “a conscious statement against the current Catholic catechism."

He pointed to a text which not only contained comments about changing views on homosexuality but also about masturbation, marriage, sexual lust, and other related topics pertinent to Catholic doctrine.

In the statement published Thursday, the Vatican repeated a passage from the pope’s letter published in 2019, wherein Francis had warned — in German — of particular Churches being “separated from the entire ecclesial body," adding that in such instances “they would weaken, rot and die.”

The Holy See said proposals from Germany should rather “flow into the synodal process of the universal Church, in order to contribute to mutual enrichment and to give witness to the unity with which the Body of the Church manifests its fidelity to Christ the Lord.”

Pope Francis: The poor suffer the most from heat waves, drought

Pope Francis speaking in St. Peter's Basilica on June 5, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jul 21, 2022 / 07:13 am (CNA).

As Europe faces record high temperatures and summer wildfires, Pope Francis has pointed out that the poor suffer the most from heat waves, drought, and other environmental extremes.

In a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the pope said that it is “the poorest among us who are crying out.”

“Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes, and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent,” Pope Francis said in the message published on July 21.

“Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems. … The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars,” he said.

Pope Francis signed the message urging care for creation on July 16, one day after new temperature records were set in Spain and Portugal. There were 1,063 heat-related deaths in Portugal between July 7 and July 18, according to the country’s director-general of health.

Since then, the heat wave has spread to France and the U.K., which broke its national record for the highest temperature ever recorded on July 19. 

In his message, Pope Francis explained that he authorized the Holy See on behalf of the Vatican City State to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement “in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.”

He said that achieving the demanding goals of the Paris agreement of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero requires cooperation between all nations.

“This means ‘converting’ models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles, in a way more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all peoples, present and future, a  development grounded in responsibility, prudence/precaution, solidarity, concern for the poor and for future generations,” the pope added.

The pope called for economically richer countries, “who have polluted most in the last two centuries,” to provide financial and technical support for economically poorer nations that are “already experiencing the most of the burden of climate change.”

Pope Francis established Sept. 1 as the annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation following the publication of the encyclical Laudato si' in 2015. The pope has also recommended that the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 -- the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi --  be celebrated as a "Season of Creation."

The theme of this year’s Season of Creation will be “listen to the voice of creation.” The pope expressed hope that the season will be “a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.”

Pope Francis said: “Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our ‘ecological conversion,’ a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the ‘ecological catastrophe’ predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970.”

“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished  plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.”

Beauty, truth, and unity: Why Pope Francis is so concerned with the liturgy

Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 4, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Jul 21, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, issued a letter to Catholics on the liturgy and the celebration of the Mass. 

The letter was published just before the July 16 anniversary of his controversial motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, which introduced new rules restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

In Desiderio Desideravi, Pope Francis did not change Church law, but said he wanted “to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration.”

“I want,” he wrote, “the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue.”

Why is this topic so important to Pope Francis? In a word, because he is concerned about unity, a liturgy expert said.

The pope is the guardian of unity in the Church, something which is threatened by liturgical in-fighting, Father Dominik Jurczak, a Dominican and expert in sacred liturgy, told CNA.

Jurczak is a lecturer at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Liturgy, “the Anselmianum,” and at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, “the Angelicum,” in Rome. He is also chairman of the International Liturgical Commission of the Dominican Order.

Father Dominik Jurczak, OP. Courtesy of Father Dominik Jurczak, OP.
Father Dominik Jurczak, OP. Courtesy of Father Dominik Jurczak, OP.

“Here is the reaction of Pope Francis,” the Polish priest explained. “We cannot use liturgy as a weapon. … We can organize debates on the liturgy, we can discuss which part of the liturgical renewal was done better or not. But we cannot disobey and we cannot use the liturgy to show that somebody else in the Church is not a part of the Church actually.”

Jurczak noted that, in some places, the celebration of the liturgy is subject to abuses which keep the reality of the celebration far from what it could and should be.

The focus should be on trying to celebrate the Mass well, according to the rubrics in place, he said.

Father Giovanni Zaccaria, secretary of the Liturgy Institute at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said it is not wrong to have an attraction to the Mass as celebrated with one Roman Missal over another, as long as it does not become an idol.

“Because otherwise we risk creating division in the Church. And that is what the devil wants, that we become divided,” said Zaccaria, a priest of Opus Dei and author of the Italian language book “The Mass Explained to Teens (and Not Only to Them).”

The Roman Missal is the book containing the text and instructions for the celebration of the Mass. In the Roman rite, Mass is most often celebrated according to the 1970 Roman Missal, which was promulgated after the Second Vatican Council, though some communities use the 1962 or an earlier Missal.

“The most effective celebration is that which brings me to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the most important thing,” Zaccaria underlined. “Then, certainly the relationship must be taken care of, that is, where one realizes what one is doing and that this is heaven on earth.” 

Pope Francis also emphasized the importance of understanding what one is partaking in at Mass and other liturgical celebrations.

“We owe to the Council — and to the liturgical movement that preceded it — the rediscovery of a theological understanding of the Liturgy and of its importance in the life of the Church,” he wrote in Desiderio Desideravi.

The pope praised the study of liturgy in a scholarly setting. “Nonetheless,” he added, “it is important now to spread this knowledge beyond the academic environment, in an accessible way, so that each one of the faithful might grow in a knowledge of the theological sense of the Liturgy.”

Zaccaria and Jurczak both said that while liturgical formation can include formal study, it is not merely an intellectual act, but rather a deepened participation in the mystery of the celebration.

Valentina Angelucci, a doctoral candidate in sacred liturgy at the Anselmianum, agreed.

“To participate in the one mystery is to understand, that is, to be aware of the mystery that is going on,” she told CNA. The pope’s apostolic letter on the liturgy is also a good opportunity to refine the Church’s way of defining “participation” at Mass, she added.

“That participation,” she clarified, “does not mean making [people] do things,” such as taking on a role as lector or usher. “Participatory means that the people are present and realize that their presence at Mass is fundamental.”

Valentina Angelucci. Courtesy of Valentina Angelucci.
Valentina Angelucci. Courtesy of Valentina Angelucci.

Jurczak, the Dominican priest, said when discussing liturgical formation, “one of the mistakes is to treat the liturgy as an intellectual act.”

The answer to abuses within the liturgy after Vatican II, he said, is not “to adjust in an intellectual way, or to memorize, for example, the definition of the liturgy.”

“We need spaces for good liturgy, and that’s a huge desire in the Church, in different parishes, in different dioceses, the cathedrals, [spaces] where we can really taste good liturgy.”

What is the liturgy for?

“It struck me in that letter of Pope Francis,” Jurczak said, “that very often he is trying to remind us that in the liturgy is Jesus Christ, liturgy is about Jesus Christ, who is the priest and who is celebrating, and we are participating.”

Zaccaria, the Opus Dei priest, explained that through divine worship, Catholics “participate in the heavenly liturgy, where God is praised, eternally glorified by saints, by angels, by the whole of heaven.”

“The Mass, but also the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, any liturgical action, any sacrament,” he told CNA, “puts us in communion with God, obviously eminently in the Eucharist.”

Angelucci, the doctoral candidate, emphasized that the liturgy is "a living thing."

“The liturgy is not at the whim of the individual ever, because it is not ours. The liturgy is a gift, and above all ... the work of the Trinity,” she said.

But the Church’s manner of celebrating the liturgy has and does change, she noted.

Angelucci told CNA that to think of “immobilizing [the celebration of] the liturgy is against the very nature of the liturgy, because the liturgy is a living thing.”

“For as long as it has existed, [the celebration] has been living with the people who celebrate it. And so it is a living thing that changes,” she said.

The councils and the missals

Zaccaria explained that before the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, there was considerable variation in the liturgical books used throughout the Church.

Father Giovanni Zaccaria. Courtesy of Father Giovanni Zaccaria.
Father Giovanni Zaccaria. Courtesy of Father Giovanni Zaccaria.

The Council of Trent decided that the churches of the Roman rite should all use the same books, unless a local church could prove it had a tradition dating back more than 200 years.

A few years after the council concluded, St. Pope Pius V, on the directions of the council, issued a new missal. Because this form of the Mass came out of the Council of Trent, it is often called the Tridentine Mass (Tridentum is Latin for Trent).

Pius V’s Missal was the primary form of the Mass in the Roman rite for 400 years.

In 1962, before the opening of the Second Vatican Council, St. Pope John XXIII issued a revised version of the Roman Missal, including the reforms of Venerable Pope Pius XII, his predecessor.

But the 1962 missal, Jurczak explained, was intended to be “transitory.” It was “not the final product.”

After Vatican II, the missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 came into force in the Catholic Church. Still today, it is sometimes called the Novus Ordo, or “New Order,” of the Mass.

In the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers took “the liturgy as the first argument,” and issued Sacrosanctum Concilium, a constitution on the sacred liturgy, as the ecumenical council’s first document, Jurczak said.

The Fathers’ idea was to renew the liturgy, Jurczak said. “And obviously the renewal process is not easy. Nobody knew how to do that and how to proceed.”

Popes since the Second Vatican Council — John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis — “are trying to implement what Vatican II said” about the liturgy, he said.

Climate change

The experts made a distinction between the theological ideas the Council Fathers had for the Church’s liturgical renewal and what actually took place.

Zaccaria said one of the problems is that “in the years immediately following the Council, so basically the ... late ‘60s, early ‘70s, and early ‘80s ... the ecclesial climate was a climate of ‘everything is changing.’”

“Which was not true,” he went on. “However, there is a misunderstanding that is related to this idea of the ‘Spirit of the Council,' that the 'Spirit of the Council' means that everybody does whatever they like. But the Council never said that. Nobody ever said that; I mean the documents, the liturgical books, they don’t say that.”

Zaccaria said the idea that everyone could do whatever they wanted was “in violent contrast to what was there before.”

“Because before, for example, to celebrate Mass there were pages and pages where you were told everything you have to do, how you had to hold your hands, how you had to move your feet, that is, everything was absolutely prescribed down to the last comma,” he said.

According to Zaccaria, the new liturgical books themselves are not the problem. Instead, “It’s the way the reform has been received” and implemented, he said.

When a priest does not celebrate the Mass according to the rubrics, when he freely changes things, the Mass appears to “have nothing to do with the divine,” to look more like a show, he said, adding that it is a natural reaction, in this situation, to take refuge in “the sure thing.”

This is where the reform, Jurczak said, “has created a huge tension inside the Church.”

“But the tension is not the most important thing. The most important thing is also the obedience and the reform or the renewal of the liturgy, which goes forward, and we are part of this movement.”

“What we can see,” the Polish priest said, “is that the liturgy, its missal, is very often used to force my position in the Church. That’s something improper, if not diabolical, in the entire discussion on the liturgy, because we are talking about the most holy, most secret spaces in the Church. And at the same time we are fighting against each other using the liturgy.”

This is precisely why Pope Francis reacted the way he did, Jurczak said.

Priest celebrating the traditional Latin Mass at the church of St Pancratius, Rome. Thoom/Shutterstock
Priest celebrating the traditional Latin Mass at the church of St Pancratius, Rome. Thoom/Shutterstock

Zaccaria said “there is nothing wrong with celebrating according to the liturgical Books of the Council of Trent. There is no problem, that is, in the sense subject to the indications that the pope recently gave in Traditionis Custodes.”

Zaccaria emphasized that one form of the liturgy must not become an ideology. “This applies to one camp as well as the other … those who are fans of the Missal of Paul VI and those who are fans of the Missal of Pius V.”

If someone decides, “after studying, thinking, praying, etc., that for me and for my community these liturgical books are more suitable, wonderful,” the priest said. “This is not a problem. As long as this is not an ideological position, that is, taken in opposition to the Second Vatican Council.”

He pointed to another constitution from the Council, Lumen Gentium.

Lumen Gentium said all members of the Church have the same dignity, all members of the Church are equally called to holiness, regardless of whether they are the pope or the last of the baptized. All members of the Church are priests according to the common priesthood of the faithful, so participation in the liturgy is an exercise of the common priesthood,” Zaccaria said.

“The reform of the Second Vatican Council,” he added, “stems from this vision of the Church, that is, the Church sees itself in this way and therefore celebrates according to this way of seeing itself.”

The 1962 Roman Missal puts the priest at the center, he said. “And in Paul VI’s Missal, the center is the Church, present, the whole Church, head and members, Body of Christ, present at that time in that place, in its different articulations," he explained.

“Even there, if there is no priest, there is no Mass. He is not the center, though. It is a different vision of the Church,” he added, but “both are true.”

According to Jurczak, Pope Francis in Desiderio Desideravi is trying to make the liturgy “much more approachable to people, to make it much more understandable for people.”

While the pope is not offering anything “new,” so-to-speak, “we don’t need to have something new to go forward,” he said.

“The Liturgy,” the pope wrote, “does not leave us alone to search out an individual supposed knowledge of the mystery of God. Rather, it takes us by the hand, together, as an assembly, to lead us deep within the mystery that the Word and the sacramental signs reveal to us.”

“I think that Pope Francis tries to remind us that … even if I’m pro the ‘62 Missal or ‘70 Missal, if I’m in the former liturgy or renewed liturgy, we have to start again thinking about the liturgy itself, to stop fighting about rules. They are important, but we have to move back to the nature of the liturgy,” the priest said.