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Pope Francis tosses speech to listen to 200 formerly homeless people

Pope Francis meets with members of Lazare Association from France at the Vatican, Aug. 28, 2021. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday tossed a speech he had prepared to give to a group of formerly homeless people and others who advocate for them, opting instead to listen to his guests before giving a short off-the-cuff message.

“I had written a speech to tell you, so I’m going to give it to you in writing, because I want to talk about what came out here,” he said in Spanish on Aug. 28, after an hour-long dialogue with members of the Association Lazare.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The French organization, known in English as the Lazarus Association, combats homelessness by running homes where young adults or families and homeless people live together.

Around 200 formerly unhoused people were part of the meeting with Pope Francis, according to the French edition of the website Aleteia.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Aleteia reported that during the encounter, Pope Francis extended a personal invitation to those present to share their experience with the Church, with the question: “What do you expect from the Church?”

One person reportedly responded: “What we can give to the Church is who we are. What the Church has given me is life.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

A 62-year-old man named Gilles, who traveled by plane for the first time in his life for the papal visit, said: “I was appointed this morning to introduce the meeting… I, who am not even a good believer.”

The man, who described himself as very shy, lived for 11 years on the streets of Paris.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“For me, the Church is Lazarus [Association]. And there may not be enough Lazarus in the Church,” he said.

A 36-year-old Muslim identified only as Kader also spoke during the encounter.

“I, this morning, thanked the Church for welcoming me; me, a Muslim,” he said, according to Aleteia.

Kader spent 15 years in prison. After his release, he was sleeping on the streets of Lyon, southeastern France, for two years before meeting members of Lazare.

He described a moment when once someone carrying a cross spat on him. “I told myself that Christians are all the same. Lazarus made me understand what the Church was,” he told Aleteia.

Kader said that the pope consoled him and thanked him for coming.

Those in Lazarus Association homes live as a community and have weekly dinners that all residents must attend. Residents refer to one another as “colocs,” or roommates.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The organization, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, seeks to combat homelessness by providing the unhoused not only with shelter, but also friendship, support, and community.

Pope Francis also met members of the association in May.

In a short speech inspired by the conversation on Aug. 28, Pope Francis reflected on the image of the door.

“This experience of the open door, the closed door, the fear that the door will not be opened, the fear that the door will be closed in my face ... This experience that we have just heard from one of you, is the experience of each one of us if we look inside,” he said.

He invited those present to also think about God as a door and to ask themselves what their relationship with God was like by using that metaphor.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“I appropriate the door for myself and I do not let anyone in, or I am afraid of knocking on the door or I wait without knocking for someone to open it for me,” he prompted. “Each of us has different attitudes towards God.”

“Sometimes in life, you have to have the humility to knock on the door,” he added.

Pope Francis encouraged those present to leave the door open behind them for others also to enter into a deeper relationship with God.

The pope pointed out that the Lazarus Association is a small organization facing a great need and reminded members that the “yeast was also a tiny thing and that it was capable of multiplying, that the seed was a tiny thing and that it was capable of growing a large tree.”

“Pray for the Church,” he concluded, “that our Holy Mother, the Church, we men and women of the Church, learn to always open the door, and to have an attentive ear to those who knock on the door, sometimes weakly.”

Pope Francis advances sainthood cause of Italian Catholic priest who saved Jews in WWII

The Franciscan friar Fr. Placido Cortese (1907-1944). / Il Messaggero di Sant’Antonio via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood causes of a Franciscan friar who helped to rescue Jews during the Holocaust and a mother who sacrificed her life to save her unborn child.

Fr. Placido Cortese is remembered for using his confessional in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua to clandestinely communicate with an underground network that helped Jewish people and British prisoners of war escape the Nazi occupation of Italy.

Known locally as “the Italian Fr. Kolbe,” the priest is now considered “venerable” by the Catholic Church after the pope recognized him for living a life that was “heroic in virtue” on Aug. 30.

Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, Cortese was a Franciscan friar who directed a Catholic publication and was tortured and killed by the Nazis.

He was born Nicolò Cortese in 1907 on the island of Cres, which is now part of Croatia. At the age of 13, he entered minor seminary with the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and took the name Placido after taking his vows in 1924.

Cortese studied theology at the St. Bonaventure Theological College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1930 at the age of 23. He offered his first Mass in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

He spent several years serving at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, where he was asked to be the director of the Italian Catholic magazine Il Messaggero di Sant’Antonio (The Messenger of Saint Anthony), whose readership grew by 500,000 under his leadership.

After the German occupation of Padua, Fr. Cortese was part of an underground group linked to the Resistance, using his printing press to make false documents to help Jewish people and Allied soldiers reach safety in Switzerland.

In October 1944, two German SS officers tricked Cortese into leaving the walls of his monastery in Padua, which was protected as an extraterritorial territory of the Holy See, on the false pretext of someone needing his help.

Cortese was immediately arrested and taken to a Gestapo bunker in Trieste, where he was brutally tortured. But he did not give away the names of any of his associates, according to Fr. Giorgio Laggioni, his vice-postulator.

After weeks of torture, he died in Gestapo custody in November 1944 at the age of 37. His confessional in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua continues to be a place of prayer today.

In one of his letters to his family, Cortese wrote: “Religion is a burden that one never tires of carrying, but which more and more enamors the soul toward greater sacrifices, even to the point of giving one’s life for the defense of the faith and the Christian religion, even to the point of dying amid torments like the martyrs of Christianity in distant and foreign lands.”

In the decree from the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints that advanced Cortese’s cause, two laywomen were also recognized for their heroic virtue.

Enrica Beltrame Quattrocchi, an Italian laywoman who died in 2012, is also on her way to sainthood, along with her parents, Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, who were beatified together in October 2001.

Unlike her three older siblings who each followed vocations to religious life, Enrica lived out her Catholic faith as an unmarried lay Catholic who served as a high school teacher, a volunteer helping the poor, and a caretaker for her parents in their old age.

Through illness and economic difficulties, Enrica remained faithful to attending daily Mass and dedicated to serving others. She died at the age of 98 after seeing her parents beatified.

The decree also recognized Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin (1969-1995), a Catholic mother who chose not to undergo cancer chemotherapy while she was pregnant to save the life of her unborn third child.

“You are a gift to us … You are precious and when I look at you I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worthwhile for a child,” Maria Cristina wrote in a letter to her child, which she gave to her husband.

The Italian mother began chemotherapy as soon as her son, Riccardo, was born in 1994, but the cancer spread to her lungs. She died on Oct. 22, 1995, at the age of 26, leaving behind three children.

“I believe that God would not allow pain if he did not want to obtain a secret and mysterious but real good. I believe that I could not accomplish anything greater than saying to the Lord: Thy will be done,” she wrote.

“I believe that one day I will understand the meaning of my suffering and I will thank God for it. I believe that without my pain endured with serenity and dignity, something would be missing in the harmony of the universe.”

Analysis: What's behind rumors that Pope Francis will resign?

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 18, 2021. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Aug 30, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

Despite ongoing rumors, there is no confirmation that Pope Francis is drafting a document that defines the role and tasks of a Pope Emeritus. Nor are there any signs that Pope Francis may soon give up the Petrine ministry, as Benedict XVI did before him. 

Yet, some sources in the Vatican continue to believe that these scenarios are possible, especially since they seem intertwined: The rumors on Pope Francis’ resignation are born of the rumors of a possible document on the status of the Pope Emeritus, which also prompts a discussion on an eventual conclave.

If a document on the role and functions of the Pope Emeritus is under study, it is a closely held secret. A reliable Vatican source says that such an undertaking cannot be ruled out because of the possibility that the Pope is drafting the document personally and that he will submit it to the offices responsible for publication only once the draft is completed.

The pressures to better define the status of a Pope Emeritus began some time ago. At one point, the theologian Andrea Grillo even went as far as to ask for an "institutional death" to be established for a Pope Emeritus, lamenting the continuous declarations of Benedict XVI, which, according to him, were “interference.”

The need to better regulate the figure of a Pope Emeritus has come from circles that believed themselves to be supporters of Pope Francis and were concerned that Benedict XVI's public declaration could create confusion surrounding Francis' authority. This group was especially critical when Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, private secretary of Benedict XVI, described the current situation as “exceptional,” because of what he described as an "active pontificate" and a "contemplative" one.

Benedict XVI decided not to legislate on what his role would be after his resignation. But he decided to continue wearing the white cassock and taking “Pope Emeritus” as a title. This differed from the traditional idea that a Pope would return to being a cardinal once he renounces the pontificate. Pius XII, who left a letter of resignation if the Nazis implemented the plan to kidnap him, thought so. "When they arrive, they will take Cardinal Pacelli, and not Pope Pius XII," he is supposed to have said.

According to Italian theologian Giovanni Cavalcoli, Benedict XVI continued to wear white because he considered the papacy a second episcopal ordination. Bishops emeritus, in the end, keep their emblems and titles. The same is with the Pope Emeritus, according to this interpretation.

In this way, Benedict XVI also made sure not to influence the conclave that would have chosen a successor. A cardinal, albeit a former pope, could participate in the pre-conclave meetings of the cardinals and, therefore, direct a successor's choice. Benedict XVI never did that.

What Pope Francis will do remains a mystery. Until now, Pope Francis has never wanted to define the figure of Pope Emeritus from a juridical point of view. However, he had maintained a cordial relationship with Benedict XVI and has always consented when the Pope Emeritus asked for the possibility of expressing himself. In one of his first interviews with him in 2014, he said that "the Pope Emeritus is not a statue and takes part in the life of the Church."

Why, then, is the idea of ​​institutionalizing the figure of Pope Emeritus coming forward now?

There seem to be various reasons. The first concerns the health of Pope Francis. After his surgery July 4, the Pope did appear vigorous and quite active in the general audiences and the August Angelus. Additionally, he is preparing a fairly taxing journey to Budapest and Slovakia. Even so, rumors of the Pope possibly having a "degenerative" and "chronic" disease (in the words of the usually well informed site Il Sismografo) have accelerated discussions about the nature of the next conclave.

The push for a reform of the conclave rules began from pro-Francis authors. First, Alberto Melloni and then Massimo Faggioli argued in favor of a conclave with a prolonged isolation of the cardinals, right from the pre-conclave meetings, which happen semi-publicly for a week before secret proceedings at the Sistine Chapel. Both also argued for a period of time between the pronouncement of the elected and his acceptance so that the elected Pope can be scrutinized for “skeletons in the closet” that could damage his pontificate.

Then there is an ongoing legal discussion regarding what some experts believe to be critical shortcomings. Italian professor of Canon Law at the University of Bologna Geraldina Boni drafted a study on this subject.

Boni, in her study, which has been discussed in Vatican circles, presents “the reasons for the need and urgency of an intervention from the supreme legislator of the Church (the Pope) in order to fill two legal gaps: ”the regulations of the Apostolic See when the Pope cannot exercise, temporarily or permanently, his office because of “an irreversible impediment,” and the regulations of the “juridical status of a Roman pontiff who resigned from his office.”

In short: what to do when a Pope has a disease that affects his intellect and his will? And what is the status of the Pope Emeritus?

Growing conversations about Boni’s essay led to rumors of Pope Francis' resignation. The logic is this: If we have begun to discuss the status of the Pope Emeritus, then it means that the Pope wants to resign.

The fact is that there have never been any signs that Pope Francis wants to give up. Francis told Nelson Castro, in an interview in the book "La Salud de los Papas" ("The Health of the Popes"), that he sees himself dying "as Pope, or in office or emeritus."

According to an Argentine priest who has known Pope Francis since his days in Buenos Aires, "there is only one reason why Pope Francis would resign: so that he can influence the process to choose his successor."

It is a somewhat harsh reading of Pope Francis’ personality. However, if the supposedly new rules establish that the Pope Emeritus falls in the ranks of the cardinals, his presence in the pre-conclave general congregations could certainly influence the choice of his fellow cardinals.

How much of all this is gossip, and how much is true? First, it is true that the Pope's health has suffered a severe blow and that Pope Francis himself has begun to speed up some decisions in case something happens.

Vatican sources told CNA that they now expect a very rapid closure of the seemingly never-ending process of the reform of the Curia, which could happen between the end of September and the beginning of October; a new consistory for the creation of 5 or 6 new cardinals at the beginning of October; and then a “series of decisions with harsh tones,” similar to the publication of Traditionis Custodes.

According to one source, “no one expects the Pope to die or resign anytime soon. But everyone is preparing not to be taken by surprise when it happens.”

Pope Francis: Complaining is ‘poison’ for the heart

Pope Francis gives the Angelus message from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Complaining and blaming others is a waste of time; the way to defeat evil is to conquer it first within our own hearts, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“If we look inside, we will find almost all that we despise outside. And if, sincerely, we ask God to purify our heart, that is when we will start making the world cleaner,” the pope said in his weekly Sunday Angelus message.

“Because there is an infallible way to defeat evil: by starting to conquer it within yourself.”

From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke Aug. 29 about the need to stop blaming others for everything wrong in the world and in our lives.

“We often think that evil comes mainly from the outside: from other people’s conduct, from those who think badly of us, from society,” he said. “How often we blame others, society, the world, for everything that happens to us! It is always the fault of ‘others’: it is the fault of people, of those who govern, of misfortune, and so on.”

According to Pope Francis, it is easy to spend time assigning blame, “but spending time blaming others is wasting time.”

“We become angry, bitter and keep God away from our heart,” he explained, pointing to the Pharisees, as described in the day's Gospel from St. Mark, who are scandalized that Jesus and his disciples “eat without purifying themselves.”

“Complaining poisons, it leads you to anger, to resentment and to sadness, that of the heart, which closes the door to God,” the pope stressed.

“Let us ask in prayer for the grace not to waste time polluting the world with complaints,” he said, “because this is not Christian. Jesus instead invites us to look at life and the world starting from our heart.”

He urged people to ask the Lord to free them from blaming others today and he recalled a message of the Fathers of the Church, who said the first step on the path to holiness is to “blame yourself.”

“How many of us, during the day, in a moment during the day or a moment during the week, area able to blame ourselves within?” Francis said. “Try to do it, it will do you good. It does me good, when I manage to do so, but it is good for us, it is good for everyone.”

“May the Virgin Mary, who changed history through the purity of her heart, help us to purify our own, by overcoming first and foremost the vice of blaming others and complaining about everything,” he concluded.

Pope Francis urges Catholics to pray and fast for Afghanistan

Pope Francis speaks during the Angelus prayer. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians to intensify their prayer, penance, and fasting for the situation in Afghanistan, as he entrusted the souls of those who have died to God’s mercy.

“In historical moments like this we cannot remain indifferent, the history of the Church teaches us this,” the pope said Aug. 29, after leading the Angelus, a Marian prayer.

“As Christians, this situation commits us,” he continued. “That is why I appeal to everyone to intensify their prayer and to practice fasting. Prayer and fasting, prayer and penance.”

“This is the time to do it. I am speaking seriously: intensify prayer and practice fasting, asking the Lord for mercy and forgiveness,” Francis underlined.

Militants with the Taliban, an Islamic extremist group, seized control of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Aug. 15. The group’s rapid advance came as many Afghan civilians and U.S. citizens sought to leave the country before the complete withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.

At least tens of thousands of people are still reportedly looking to leave Kabul in the coming days.

Pope Francis said he is following the situation “with great concern” and he participates “in the suffering of those mourning for the people who lost their lives in the suicide attacks.”

He also said he is praying for those seeking help and protection.

Amid the chaos, 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans have been killed in two suicide bombings carried out by ISIS in Khorasan outside Kabul’s airport, the Pentagon confirmed. The death toll of the bombings according to the Afghan health ministry is at least 170 people, CBS News reported.

“I entrust the dead to the mercy of Almighty God and I thank those who are working to help that people so tested, especially the women and children,” the pope said.

“I ask everyone to continue to assist the needy and to pray that dialogue and solidarity will lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence and offer hope for the future of the country.”

Pope Francis spoke after leading the traditional Angelus prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, as he does every Sunday.

He also said he is close to the people of Mérida, in Venezuela, who were hit in recent days by floods and landslides. At least 20 people have died in the disaster. “I pray for the deceased and for their families and for those who suffer from this calamity,” Francis said.

Pope Francis appoints Vatican Master of Ceremonies Msgr. Guido Marini to Italian diocese

Bishop-elect Guido Marini walks beside Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday 2021 in St. Peter's Basilica / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2021 / 04:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday appointed the Vatican’s papal master of ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, bishop of a northern Italian diocese.

Marini, who has been in charge of papal liturgies since his appointment by Benedict XVI in 2007, was Aug. 29 named Bishop of Tortona, a diocese of around 280,000 people.

Marini, 56, grew up near Tortona in the city of Genoa, where he served as chief liturgist for four years. The bishop-elect has degrees in canon and civil law. Prior to his appointment to the Vatican he was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Genoa and a spiritual director in the seminary.

Since 2019, Marini has also been responsible for the Sistine Chapel Choir. According to a biography by the Vatican, “from his priestly ordination to today, he has also carried out his ministry in the field of preaching spiritual exercises, spiritual direction, accompaniment of some youth groups, and as a spiritual assistant of some religious communities.”

There are eight papal masters of ceremonies, of which Marini was the head. They are responsible for organizing and overseeing all liturgical celebrations of the pope. Since 2007, with few exceptions, Msgr. Marini could be seen at the side of Pope Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis during papal Masses and other liturgies both at the Vatican and abroad.

Marini’s replacement was not announced Aug. 29, though there are three candidates for the position, according to sources who spoke to CNA earlier this summer.

One is Msgr. Diego Ravelli, a 56-year-old priest from northern Italy who has been head of the office of papal almoner since 2013 and also serves as one of the masters of ceremonies.

Another candidate for the role is Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the liturgical office of the Vicariate of Rome, and the third is Msgr. Pietro Moroni, dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urban University and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The change in papal master of ceremonies is one of a number of recent personnel changes to Vatican offices and dicasteries, part of Pope Francis’ continued reform of the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis makes changes to the Vatican’s Chapter of St. Peter

St. Peter's Basilica / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2021 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday made several temporary changes to the Vatican’s Chapter of St. Peter, a group of retired priests who pray and assist in the liturgical activities of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The new norms cut the chapter’s expenses and move its financial management under the Fabric of St. Peter, the office which manages St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope issued the changes to the Chapter of St. Peter Aug. 28. They go into effect Oct. 1 and have a duration of one year while the chapter’s juridical statutes are under revision.

Pope Francis said the changes have been made “in order to facilitate the start of the reform of the Chapter of St. Peter in the Vatican.”

The Chapter of St. Peter was established in 1043 by St. Leo IX to guarantee regular prayer in St. Peter's Basilica and, in the earlier years, to assist the pope in managing patrimonial goods donated to the papacy, including real estate.

The group is chaired by the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, currently Cardinal Mauro Gambetti. It has a vicar and 34 members. The members are chosen from among the most remarkable personalities in the Catholic Church when they retire.

Many of them come from the Roman Curia and receive a Vatican pension in addition to the fee paid to chapter members for their service. One of Pope Francis’ Aug. 28 reforms was to state that members can only receive the emolument from the chapter if they are not also receiving another commission, pension, or salary from the Vatican.

The priests will be appointed by Pope Francis for two roles: canon or coadjutor, according to the new norms. Canons will “provide the service of liturgical and pastoral animation at St. Peter’s Basilica.”

Coadjutors will “work in liturgical celebrations, in pastoral works and in other tasks that can be entrusted to them by the Archpriest together with the Chapter.”

Pope Francis also transferred some of the economic activities of the chapter, the Treasury Museum and sale of religious objects, to the management of the Fabric of St. Peter.

The chapter will continue to administer the real estate and financial assets already under its management, though a large part of the patrimony had already been transferred under the Administration of the Apostolic See (APSA), according to a former member of the chapter.

Priests of the Chapter of St. Peter are “professionals of prayer,” Benedict XVI said in a private audience with the group in 2007.

The commitment to prayer is central to their activity. Until the middle of the 20th century, the chapter members had to be in the basilica on a daily basis to pray the hours, be in adoration, and serve in the liturgical celebrations.

The chapter is now mainly involved on Sundays and feast days, or in celebrations with the pope.

The reform of the Chapter of St. Peter is happening alongside a reform of the organization and schedule of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis forbid private Masses in the upper part of the basilica earlier this year. Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the new archpriest, wants to go further and have only two Masses per day, in Italian, broadcast by the Vatican communications service.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Australian bishop investigated for sexual abuse

Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral in Broome, Australia. / null

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2021 / 05:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of Australian Bishop Christopher Alan Saunders, who had been on administrative leave from the Diocese of Broome while under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct.

Australia’s ABC News reported in June that the 71-year-old Saunders had been under investigation by both police and the Vatican.

Police said in late May they would not be pressing charges against Saunders, who has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Saunders was first accused of historical sexual abuse in 2018. The bishop told a reporter for Australia's Channel Seven TV in March 2020 that, “Without any reservation, without any doubt whatsoever, that has never happened, and it never would happen.”

Saunders was also subjected in early 2020 to a Vatican-ordered internal review for management of staff and finances.

Pope Francis on Aug. 28 accepted Saunders’ resignation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Broome, which Saunders had led since February 1996.

The pope also appointed Bishop Michael Henry Morrissey of Australia’s Diocese of Geraldton apostolic administrator “sede vacante” of the Diocese of Broome.

Saunders has been living outside the Diocese of Broome since November 2020, when he was asked to take a leave of six months.

The bishop had already voluntarily stood aside from the leadership of his diocese beginning in March 2020 after the police investigation into him first emerged.

The Vatican had appointed Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong to lead an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Broome in 2020.

Saunders was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Broome in 1976. He was born in Melbourne. In 1989, he became the diocesan administrator, and was consecrated as the bishop of Broome in 1996.

Cardinal asks monastic communities to pray for the 2023 synod on synodality

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops / Diocese of Gozo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2021 / 04:22 am (CNA).

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, has asked men and women in monastic and contemplative religious life to pray for the Church as a two-year synodal process begins in October.

“Our Holy Father Pope Francis often repeats: ‘pray for me!’ Today I, as interpreter of the meaning that the Pope wants to give to the synodal path, ask you: ‘pray for the Synod!’” Grech wrote in an Aug. 28 letter.

On Oct. 9-10, the Catholic Church will begin the first phase of a synodal process culminating in the 2023 meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

The theme of the gathering will be “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

Grech wrote that “if the synodal path is not, above all, an ecclesial journey of love to the Father through Christ in the Spirit, it will surely not bear the hoped for fruit.”

“Prayer is the dynamic encounter of love in the Trinitarian God, in the pluriform unity that urges us on to be living witnesses of this love,” he said.

The cardinal said religious brothers and sisters, especially those in contemplative orders, “have the task within the community of carrying out the ministry of prayer, intercession and blessing.”

“In this phase of the synodal process I do not ask you to pray in the place of other brothers and sisters, but to keep everyone’s attention on the spiritual dimension of the journey we are undertaking to know how to discern the action of God in the life of the universal Church and of each local Church,” he said.

“You are for everyone, as were the Levites and the priests in the Psalm [134], ‘ministers of prayer’ who, through praise and intercession, remind everyone that without communion with God there can be no communion among ourselves.”

The synod on synodality will open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis will “inaugurate the synodal path” over the weekend of Oct. 9-10 with an opening session and a Mass. All dioceses are invited also to offer an opening Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17.

During the diocesan phase, each bishop is asked to undertake a consultation process with the local Church from Oct. 17, 2021, to April 2022.

The Vatican will then release an instrumentum laboris (working document) in September 2022 for a period of “pre-synodal discernment in continental assemblies,” which will influence a second draft of the working document to be published before June 2023.

In his letter, Cardinal Grech said he was moved to write to monastic and contemplative religious before the opening of the synodal process because prayer “belongs to the deepest chords of your vocation.”

Besides “listening, conversion, communion,” he said, “there is a ministry of praise and prayer of which you are the living sign in the Church.”

Grech said there will surely be other ways in which religious men and women in monasteries will contribute to the synodal journey, “however, your vocation helps us,” he continued, “even if only by your presence, to be a Church which listens to the Word, capable of permitting the Spirit to convert her heart, persevering in ‘the communal life, [...] and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42).”

Pope Francis on adoption: ‘Every child that arrives is God’s gift’

Pope Francis greets a child at a general audience at the Vatican, April 20, 2016. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has released a video with an encouraging message for pregnant mothers that also asks Catholics to be open to life through adoption.

“I want to say to every woman expecting a child: you are God’s awesome instrument to welcome and offer new life to the world,” Pope Francis said in the video issued on Aug. 25.

“Every child that arrives is God’s gift. Every baby, in every case, and in whatever situation is to be welcomed,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that to adopt and give someone a family is an act of love by which a man and a woman become mediators of God’s love.

“Adoption is a Christian choice,” the pope said.

The video features an Italian family with seven children who serve as missionaries in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“When we were first married, after two miscarriages, and two gynecological surgeries, the doctors told us that I was sterile,” Francesca, the mother featured in the video, said.

“Thanks to those seven years of terrible suffering, in which we felt sustained by the Church by the Neocatechumenal community and our catechists, we felt God was calling us to be fruitful, to open ourselves to life, to his plan for us. And so, we adopted our first son, Emmanuele, in Russia.”

“What happened after is pure grace,” Francesca said. “A few months after the adoption, I became pregnant and Giosuè was born, then Miriam, Benedetto, Israel, Simon, Pietro, and Natanaele, along with five others I miscarried. They are … waiting for us in heaven.”

The video, produced by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, is the sixth in a video series published this year aimed at deepening the Church’s pastoral accompaniment of families, as outlined in Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia (“The Joy of Love”).

The Amoris Laetitia Family Year began on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, and will end on June 26, 2022, with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Rome.

The Vatican plans to publish a total of 10 videos to help people rediscover the value and beauty of the family.

“Love always gives life,” Pope Francis said.

“Spousal love is not completely consumed by the couple alone, but generates a family. Parents’ love is the means by which God shows His love. He awaits the birth of every baby. He accepts and welcomes each child as they are.”