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What have the Jesuits done about Rupnik? A timeline

Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, S.J., with the official image of the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome. / Screenshot from Diocesi di Roma YouTube channel.

Rome Newsroom, Feb 26, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Society of Jesus said Feb. 21 it had received 15 credible accusations of abuse against Father Marko Rupnik and would be taking steps to begin an internal procedure against the Jesuit priest and artist.

The process could result in disciplinary actions up to and including the 68-year-old Rupnik’s expulsion from the Jesuit order.

In the Feb. 21 declaration, Rupnik’s superior, Father Johan Verschueren, said, “I feel it is my duty to deal seriously with this case and others like it that have arisen and are arising, out of respect for, and in protection of, truth and justice for all parties involved.”

To other restrictions on the priest’s public ministry, Verschueren added a ban on public artistic endeavors.

But the Jesuit order has admitted to knowing of abuse accusations against Rupnik for years, not only since alleged victims went public in early December 2022.

Here’s a timeline of known facts about what the Jesuits knew and when they knew it in the Father Rupnik case, and what actions the order has taken so far.


October: Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, Rupnik’s superior, receives allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Rupnik, and an allegation that Rupnik gave absolution in confession to an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment. A preliminary investigation is set up.


May: The 2018 allegations are deemed credible; a file is sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

June: Precautionary restrictions are imposed on Rupnik by his superior, Father Guerrero. What the specific restrictions were is currently unknown.

July: The CDF asks Father Arturo Sosa, the Jesuits’ superior general, to set up a penal administrative process for the Rupnik accusations. Sosa appoints a delegate and two assessors who are not part of the order.


January: The delegate and assessors assembled by Sosa unanimously find that Rupnik did commit the canonical crime of absolution of an accomplice. The order knows that Rupnik had incurred an automatic excommunication for that crime.

May: The CDF also formally declares the excommunicable act (the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment) happened and that Rupnik is in an excommunicated status. The excommunication is lifted by CDF decree later the same month. Rupnik ceases to be director of the art and theological center he founded in Rome, the Centro Aletti, and administrative restrictions are imposed for three years.

October: Bishop Daniele Libanori, SJ, an auxiliary bishop of Rome, is appointed extraordinary commissioner of the Loyola Community following a canonical visit that identified governance problems in the religious institute. 


Libanori, in conversations with current and former members of the Loyola Community in early 2021, uncovers allegations of abuse against Rupnik, who had split from the institute in 1993 after co-founding the community with current head Sister Ivanka Hosta in the late 1980s. Libanori, according to the Associated Press, urges the women to file their complaints with the Vatican.

June: The CDF contacts the Jesuit general curia about allegations concerning Rupnik and some members of the Loyola Community.

July: Sosa asks Father Johan Verschueren, who succeeded Guerrero in January 2020 as Rupnik’s superior, to set up a preliminary investigation into the allegations with a person outside the Jesuits.


January: An investigation concludes that there was enough evidence for a case; the results are sent to the CDF with a recommendation for a penal process. Pope Francis has a meeting with Rupnik at the Vatican on Jan. 3.

February: Verschueren imposes new, unspecified restrictions on Rupnik’s ministry.

October: The CDF (now called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith) says the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged criminal acts and there can be no trial. Rupnik’s ministry continues to be under restrictions.

December: Sometime during this month, Verschueren imposes new restrictions on Rupnik. On Dec. 18, the Jesuits publish a statement asking anyone who has suffered abuse to contact them to lodge a new complaint or to further discuss any complaints that were already made. The statement also includes a basic timeline of when the Jesuits learned of accusations against Rupnik and what actions were taken.

On Dec. 17, Verschueren tells the National Catholic Register that Rupnik’s early restrictions were to “avoid private, in-depth spiritual contacts with persons, forbidden to confess women, and to give spiritual direction to women specifically in the context of Centro Aletti. In 2020, these restrictions were widened geographically to include anywhere.” In further comments to the Register on Dec. 20, Verchueren says Rupnik had been able to continue certain public activities while under restrictions because “a few exceptions” were made for him. “The local superior had the right to allow exceptions,” Verschueren said, and “could judge whether they were opportune or not.” He added: “I admit that this did not work well. We made these rules ‘absolute’ after complaints reached my ears.”


January: In statements to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Verschueren says he asked Rupnik to not leave Lazio, the Italian region where Rome is located, during ongoing preliminary investigations. 

February: The Society of Jesus says it will open a new internal procedure on Rupnik after receiving 15 abuse accusations with a “very high” degree of credibility.

A more detailed timeline of the developments in the Rupnik case, including notes on his public activities while under restrictions, can be read here.

Pope Francis: The devil uses ‘three widespread and dangerous temptations’ to divide us

Pope Francis greets the crowd at his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2023 / 06:15 am (CNA).

On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis warned of three “widespread and dangerous temptations” that the devil uses to separate us from God and divide us from each other.

In his Angelus address on Feb. 26, the pope said that the devil uses three “powerful poisons” to attack and divide Christian communities: attachment to material things, mistrust, and the thirst for power.

“[These] are three widespread and dangerous temptations that the devil uses to divide us from the Father and to make us no longer feel like brothers and sisters among ourselves, to lead us to solitude and desperation. This is what he wanted to do to Jesus and what he wants to do to us, to lead us to despair,” Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address on Feb. 26, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address on Feb. 26, 2023. Vatican Media

The pope pointed to the Gospel of Matthew to offer advice for how to overcome the three types of temptations, as Jesus did when he was tempted by the devil after 40 days of fasting in the desert.

“Jesus defeats the temptations. But how does he conquer them? By avoiding discussion with the devil and responding with the Word of God,” he said.

Pope Francis explained that Jesus resisted the devil “by opposing him in faith with the Divine Word.”

To counteract the temptations of attachment to material things, mistrust, and the thirst for power, Jesus quotes three phrases from Scripture that speak of freedom from goods, trust, and service to God.

“In this way, Jesus teaches us to defend unity with God and among ourselves from the attacks of the divider,” he said.

The pope encouraged people to turn to the Word of God in their spiritual struggles and in times of temptation.

“If I have a vice or a recurring temptation, why not obtain help by seeking out a verse of the Word of God that responds to that vice?” he said. “Then, when temptation comes, I recite it, I pray it, trusting in the grace of Christ.”

“May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God and with her humility defeated the pride of the divider, accompany us in the spiritual struggle of Lent,” he said.

After Pope Francis prayed the Angelus in Latin with the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, he asked people to pray for the Holy Land, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, Syria, and Turkey.

Pilgrims at the pope's Angelus address on Feb. 26, 2023. Vatican Media
Pilgrims at the pope's Angelus address on Feb. 26, 2023. Vatican Media

“Dear brothers and sisters, painful news is still coming from the Holy Land, where so many people have been killed, even children,” the pope said.

“How to stop this spiral of violence? I renew my call for dialogue to prevail over hatred and revenge, and I pray to God for the Palestinians and Israelis to find the path of fraternity and peace with the help of the international community.”

The pope also said that he was pained to hear on Sunday morning of a migrant boat shipwreck on the coast of southern Italy. At least 43 people died in the shipwreck on Feb. 26 near Steccato di Cutro in Calabria. Eighty people survived, according to Reuters, and the coast guard is still searching for survivors.

“This morning I learned with sorrow of the shipwreck that occurred on the Calabrian coast near Crotone. Already 40 dead have been recovered, including many children. I pray for each of them, for the missing, and for the other surviving migrants,” the pope said.

“I thank those who have brought relief and those who are giving shelter. May Our Lady support these brothers and sisters of ours.”

This was Pope Francis’ spontaneous prayer for Ukraine on anniversary of war

Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said a spontaneous prayer for peace during a Vatican event for the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Friday.

After saying a few words about the war in Ukraine, the pope invited those present to pray with him.

“Holy Father, who art in heaven, look at our miseries, look at our wounds, look our pain. Look also at our selfishness, our petty interests, and the capacity we have to destroy ourselves,” he prayed. “Heal us. Heal our hearts, heal our minds, heal our eyes that they may see the beauty that you have made and not destroy it in selfishness. Sow in us the seed of peace. Amen.”

Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis prayed in front of about 240 people, the guests for a showing of a 2022 documentary by film director Evgeny Afineevsky: “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

The director invited refugees, the poor, and Ukrainians living in Rome to attend the Feb. 24 screening, which took place in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall.

Some of the people featured in the documentary were also present at the showing.

“When God made man, he said to take the earth and make it grow, make it beautiful. The spirit of war is the opposite: destroying, destroying, not letting it grow, destroying everyone — men, women, children, the elderly, everyone,” the pope said in off-the-cuff remarks at the event.

“Today marks a year of this war,” he said. “Let us look at Ukraine, pray for Ukraine and open our hearts to sorrow. Let us not be ashamed to grieve and mourn, for a war is destruction, a war always diminishes us. May God make us understand this.”

Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. Vatican Media

At the end of the event, Pope Francis greeted some of those present before returning to his residence.

In a special appeal at the end of his general audience on Feb. 22, the pope called the conflict in Ukraine an “absurd and cruel war.”

“The toll of dead, wounded, refugees and displaced persons, destruction, economic and social damage speaks for itself. May the Lord forgive so many crimes and so much violence,” he said.

“Let us remain close to the tormented Ukrainian people, who continue to suffer,” he continued, ”and let us ask ourselves: has everything possible been done to stop the war? I appeal to those who have authority over nations to make a concrete commitment to end the conflict, to achieve a cease-fire and to start peace negotiations. What is built on rubble will never be a true victory.”

The Israeli-American filmmaker Afineevsky is also the director of the 2020 documentary ”Francesco,” which was screened at the Vatican in 2021 for about 100 people, including refugees from Afghanistan.

Pope Francis: Conduct by some Church members has made Vatican trials ‘painfully necessary’

Pope Francis spoke at the opening of the 94th judicial year of the Vatican City State tribunal on Feb. 25, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2023 / 06:21 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that Vatican trials for cases of grave financial mismanagement have become unavoidable in recent years.

“The problem is not the trials, but the facts and conduct that determine them and make them painfully necessary,” the pope told a group of Vatican magistrates on Feb. 25.

“In fact,” he added, “such behaviors by members of the Church seriously harm its effectiveness in reflecting divine light.”

Pope Francis addressed the Vatican’s recent legal disputes in a speech to members of the city state’s tribunals for the opening of its 94th judicial year.

The Vatican is in the midst of a trial to prosecute 10 people, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on charges related to the institution’s finances. The trial, which began in July 2021, is expected to conclude before the end of the year.

The trial centers on the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London building, a controversial investment that lost the Vatican hundreds of thousands of euros. It also marks the first time a cardinal has been tried by a Vatican court of lay judges.

In January, a Vatican court also held a preliminary hearing for a lawsuit by former Vatican auditor Libero Milone, who claims he was wrongly forced out of his job in 2017.

The Vatican City State tribunals “play a valuable role for the benefit of the Holy See when it comes to settling disputes of a civil or criminal nature,” Pope Francis said, emphasizing the importance of justice for promoting peace.

He added that in recent years, legal disputes and trials at the Vatican have increased, as has the seriousness of the conduct behind the legal processes, especially in the management of Vatican assets and finances.

The pope also spoke about the virtue of justice.

Justice “is not just the fruit of a set of rules to be applied with technical expertise, but it is the virtue whereby we give each person his due, which is indispensable for the proper functioning of every sphere of common life and for everyone to lead a peaceful life,” he said.

“Any commitment to peace implies and requires a commitment to justice,” he said. “Peace without justice is not true peace; it has no solid foundation or possibility for the future.”

Francis said the virtue of justice has to be cultivated through personal conversion and exercised with the other cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance.

He also urged the Vatican magistrates to exercise an attitude of mercy and compassion toward the accused.

The test of being on trial, the pope said, “is sometimes necessary, when it comes to ascertaining conduct that tarnishes the face of the Church and arouses scandal in the community of the faithful.”

“Mercy and justice are not alternatives but walk together, proceeding in balance toward the same end, for mercy is not the suspension of justice but its fulfillment,” he said.

Pope Francis reinforces centralization of Vatican finances

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience on Ash Wednesday Feb. 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 24, 2023 / 08:45 am (CNA).

In an apostolic letter on Thursday, Pope Francis reaffirmed that the property and assets of the Holy See are “ecclesiastical public goods,” not private property.

“The universal destination of the Holy See’s assets gives them an ecclesiastical public nature,” the pope wrote in the Feb. 23 motu proprio.

“The entities of the Holy See acquire and use [the assets] not for themselves, like the private owner,” he continued, “but, in the name and authority of the Roman Pontiff, for the pursuit of their institutional purposes, which are likewise public, and thus for the common good and at the service of the Universal Church.”

The document on the “inherent right” of the Holy See to acquire temporal goods reinforces the pope’s centralization of the Holy See’s finances.

Pope Francis established Thursday that “all property, movable and immovable, including cash and securities, which has been or will be acquired, in whatever manner, by the curial institutions and the institutions connected to the Holy See, are ecclesiastical public goods and as such owned, in title or other real right, by the Holy See.”

Property and other assets of the Holy See are entrusted to entities as “public trustees and not owners,” he said.

“Entrusted with certain goods,” Francis said, “the institutions of the Roman Curia and Holy See must administer them with prudence and good management according to the rules of the apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium.”

Pope Francis approves miracle to pave way to beatification of Elisabetta Martinez

Pope Francis on Feb. 23, 2023, approved a miracle attributed to Servant of God Mother Elisa Martinez / Tele Dehon YouTube

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Today Pope Francis approved a miracle to advance the cause of canonization of Venerable Servant of God Elisabetta Martinez, an Italian nun and founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Santa Maria di Leuca.

The miracle involved the healing of an unborn baby girl in Rimini, Italy.

Ultrasound imagery in 2017 revealed to the child’s mother that her baby was suffering from several severe life-limiting and potentially life-ending conditions.

These conditions included thrombosis, complete calcific occlusion of the left fetal umbilical artery, extensive placental infarction, and severe intrauterine fetal growth retardation associated with brain sparing condition.

A family friend informed the Daughters of Santa Maria di Leuca, whose various congregations began praying novenas for a miraculous healing through the intercession of their founder Elisabetta Martinez.

In January 2018 new ultrasound imagery shocked doctors by revealing regular quantities of amniotic fluid and regular fetal flowmetry, both major improvements to the baby’s condition. Yet, the baby girl was still found to be suffering from thrombosis of an umbilical artery and fetal growth retardation.

On March 19, 2018, the baby girl was born completely healthy.

A Feb. 23 decree by Pope Francis authorized the advancement of Martinez’s canonization cause based on the baby girl’s miraculous healing.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints will now advance Martinez to the status of “blessed,” one step away from being declared a saint in the Catholic Church.

A new religious order

Martinez was born on March 25, 1905, in Galatina, Italy.

In 1930, at the age of 25, Martinez made her first profession of religious vows to the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. She was given the name Sister Maria Lucia.

She was sent to minister to young women in the central Italian town of Chieti. However, while in Chieti she suffered from a serious lung infection and was forced to leave the order and return to her family.

During this difficult period of her life, Martinez is said to have been inspired by the Blessed Virgin Mary to establish a new religious order dedicated to the education of children, the formation of adolescents, and the assistance of single mothers.

She received approval from the local bishop of Ugento, Monsignor Giuseppe Ruotolo, and in 1943 the Daughters of Santa Maria di Leuca received formal papal approval.  

The daughters ministered to those suffering during World War II, giving special care to the poor.

Despite her continued illness and frail condition, Martinez worked diligently to spread the congregation’s good work throughout Italy and even to Switzerland, Belgium, and the United States.

Martinez had a great dedication to adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, which gave her the strength to abandon herself to God’s hands and trust in Divine Providence, according to the Dicastery of the Causes of Saints’ website.

“She lived in the presence of God, and this was reflected in everything she did,” says the dicastery’s website. “Heroic hope took the form of the ability to wait, without complaining and without breaking down, trusting in the Lord’s timing to complete his projects.”

Martinez died in Rome on Feb. 8, 1991. She was declared a venerable servant of God by Pope Francis on Oct. 13, 2021.

With the approval of the miracle attributed to her intercession, Martinez can now be advanced to the level of beatification, one step away from sainthood.

Pope Francis also recognized the heroic virtues of five other individuals today: Italian Franciscan friar and priest Giuseppe di Sant’Elpidio (1885–1974), Brazilian priest Aloisio Sebastiao Boeing (1913–2006), Italian nun Margherita Lussana (1852–1935), Spanish lay faithful Francisca Ana Maria Alcover Morell (1912–1954), and Italian mother Albertina Violin Zirondoli (1901–1972). These individuals’ causes for canonization will now advance to the level of venerable servant of God.

Holy See and the Sultanate of Oman establish diplomatic ties

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations (left), and Mohammed Al-Hassan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations, at a signing ceremony establishing diplomatic relations between Oman and the Holy See. The ceremony took place at the Permanent Mission of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations in New York City. / Courtesy of Holy See Mission to the United Nations

Rome Newsroom, Feb 23, 2023 / 12:50 pm (CNA).

The Holy See and Oman have established full diplomatic relations, leaving only six countries worldwide without any diplomatic connection to the Vatican.

The announcement on Feb. 23 did not come as a surprise because in November, during Pope Francis’ trip to Bahrain, there had been contact between the Vatican and Oman’s Foreign Ministry. 

The agreement was signed on behalf of the Holy See by Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, and for the Sultanate of Oman by H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al-Hassan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations.

The signing ceremony took place at the Permanent Mission of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations in New York City.

The joint communiqué of the Holy See and the Sultanate of Oman said the action is aimed at “promoting mutual understanding and further strengthening friendship and cooperation” following “the principles of sovereign equality, independence, territorial integrity, and noninterference.”

Establishing an apostolic nunciature in Oman means that diplomatic relations will be conducted at the highest levels.

A map of Oman. Shutterstock
A map of Oman. Shutterstock

Oman is a sultanate in the Arabian Peninsula. The sultan is both head of state and the absolute ruler of the government. There are no official figures about the religious composition of the population, though an estimated 75% of its people are Muslim. There are four Catholic parishes and a dozen priests in the country, according to Vatican News.

Other religions are tolerated there; Catholics in the country can worship, manage schools, and give themselves an organization. The Oman territory is under the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia. 

Including Oman, the Holy See now has diplomatic relations with 184 nations worldwide. The latest to be added to the list was Myanmar in 2017, a move that made Pope Francis’ trip to the nation possible that same year.

The opening of a contact channel with the Sultanate of Oman happened in 2017, after Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian priest abducted in Yemen in 2016, was released after 18 months of imprisonment.

Oman’s role was crucial in his liberation. Indeed, Oman has maintained balanced relations with all parties to the conflict in Yemen and already has secured the release of several people abducted or missing from the war-torn country.

On the occasion of the priest’s release, the Holy See issued a brief statement thanking “those who worked to find him, in particular, His Majesty the Sultan of Oman and the competent authorities of the Sultanate.”

That situation resulted in a phone call on Nov. 4, 2022, between Oman Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Hamad al Usaidi and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican minister for relations with states.

After the phone call, Oman’s foreign ministry announced that the archbishop and the foreign minister had “agreed to establish diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Holy See.”

With this decision, there remain six states without any official ties to the Holy See: Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, China, North Korea, the Maldives, and Tuvalu. There are apostolic delegates in four countries: Comoros and Somalia in Africa and Brunei and Laos in Asia.

Negotiations formally began with Vietnam to establish full diplomatic relations, which led at the end of 2011 to the appointment of a nonresidential Vatican representative to the government in Hanoi. The last meeting of the committee, in April 2022, decided to continue to progress in diplomatic relations, to now go from a nonresident representative of the Holy See to a resident representative in Hanoi.

The Holy See has established some informal ties with Saudi Arabia, first participating as an observer country in the Constitution of KAICIID (the center for interreligious dialogue sponsored by the Saudis, based in Vienna until this year and now in Lisbon). In April 2018, there was a historic trip to Saudi Arabia by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He even managed to celebrate a Mass in the country, whose territory is considered sacred by Islam.

Catholic priest from Ukraine gives Pope Francis cross made out of war rubble

Father Vyacheslav Grynevych gave Pope Francis with a cross made out of broken glass and rubble from destroyed buildings in Kyiv on Feb. 21, 2023. / Photo courtesy of Father Vyacheslav Grynevych

Rome Newsroom, Feb 23, 2023 / 04:45 am (CNA).

Father Vyacheslav Grynevych vividly remembers the first day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine one year ago.

The Catholic priest woke up to a phone call: “Father, wake up because the war has started.”

“I understood that my life would never be the same as before,” Grynevych said.

As the executive director of the Catholic charity Caritas-Spes, Grynevych soon found himself coordinating humanitarian efforts from a basement bomb shelter in Kyiv, also taking in 36 other people, mostly children, and their pets within the first week of the war.

In the past year, Grynevych and his team at Caritas Internationalis have worked tirelessly to provide food, shelter, protection, and health and psychological support to 3 million people within war-torn Ukraine.

A few days ahead of the Ukraine war anniversary, the Catholic priest was able to speak one on one with Pope Francis at his Vatican residence to share with the pope updates on the Church’s humanitarian efforts on the ground.

Grynevych presented Pope Francis with a cross made out of broken glass and rubble from destroyed buildings in Kyiv in an emotional moment during their meeting.

“I wanted to share with him the stories, the places that we see, the eyes of people,” Grynevych said.

In an interview with CNA in Rome on Feb. 22, the priest shared that he saw how much the pope was pained to hear about the experience of Ukrainians during the last year of war.

Father Vyacheslav Grynevych gave Pope Francis with a cross made out of broken glass and rubble from destroyed buildings in Kyiv on Feb. 21, 2023. Photo courtesy of Father Vyacheslav Grynevych
Father Vyacheslav Grynevych gave Pope Francis with a cross made out of broken glass and rubble from destroyed buildings in Kyiv on Feb. 21, 2023. Photo courtesy of Father Vyacheslav Grynevych

“He [Pope Francis] listened and then he said, ‘Please tell everybody that I try to do everything that I can do, everything that I can do.’ And he repeated this a few times.”

Grynevych also gave the pope a copy of meditations on the Way of the Cross written by Ukrainians who tell their personal stories of victims of war as they relate to Christ’s passion. The Stations of the Cross will be livestreamed from a bomb shelter in Kyiv on Feb. 24.

“Every day has become a station of the holy cross,” the priest said.

Sewing broken hearts back together

Caritas-Spes, operated by Ukraine’s Latin rite Catholic Church, is one of two organizations affiliated with Caritas Internationalis in Ukraine. The other, Caritas Ukraine, is overseen by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to which the majority of Ukrainian Catholics belong.

Tetiana Stawnychy, the president of Caritas Ukraine, told CNA that the anniversary of the invasion marks a moment when “the lives of millions of people just changed overnight.”

Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine, delivering humanitarian aid in Lviv, Ukraine. Credit: Caritas Ukraine
Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine, delivering humanitarian aid in Lviv, Ukraine. Credit: Caritas Ukraine

Stawnychy shared the story of a woman who was displaced twice by the war: “She said, ‘The second time my heart just broke apart.’”

The woman initially came to Caritas to receive help and humanitarian assistance. Later she returned and began to volunteer, eventually becoming a part of the staff.

While sharing her story, the woman told Stawnychy: “‘You know, every time I help somebody, it’s like another piece of my heart gets sewn back together.’”

Caritas workers bring aid to people near Kyiv, Ukraine.
Caritas workers bring aid to people near Kyiv, Ukraine.

Together Caritas Spes and Caritas Ukraine have provided 3.7 million food and nonfood items; 1.5 million water, sanitation, and hygiene items; and 192,000 health services, as well as cash assistance to 107,600 people and shelter to 637,000 in the past year.

Stawnychy, who made an effort to personally visit nearly all of Caritas Ukraine’s 42 aid centers across the country, said that she has seen how creating pathways for solidarity between people has been “a healing and transformative process.”

Caritas Spes workers bring aid to people near Kyiv, Ukraine.
Caritas Spes workers bring aid to people near Kyiv, Ukraine.

“It’s hard in Ukraine to be constantly living in the trauma,” she said. “You have to find a way to stay faithful, to be responding to what you see. And at the same time, find that it doesn’t also destroy you. So how do you find that resilience? Again, the way we found it is by continuing to help people and that’s really what gives us life. And I see that everywhere. It’s this continuing to act in love in the midst of war and destruction,” Stawnychy said.

“War rips at the core of what it means to be human because it rips at relationships and it creates distrust because it is an attack,” she said. “And then I feel like the work that the Church does and the work that humanitarian aid is doing or can do has the possibility to repair that, to heal it, to touch that which was created by war and to give somebody a sense out of that inner safe place, of that security by reestablishing love and relationship.”

Vatican: Pope Francis has ‘strong cold’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims before his general audience Feb. 26, 2020. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2023 / 02:45 am (CNA).

The Vatican said Thursday that Pope Francis is suffering from a heavy cold.

The Feb. 23 message said that due to a “strong cold,” the pope distributed copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than read them aloud as usual.

Francis still took part in the two audiences: the first with young priests and monks from Eastern Orthodox Churches and the second with a delegation from the German NGO and nonprofit Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science.

The Vatican did not indicate in the morning whether there would be further changes to Pope Francis’ Feb. 23 schedule due to being under the weather.

The Vatican later said at noon Rome time that Pope Francis’ last appointment of the day, a meeting with the YMCA Italy, had been canceled.

It also confirmed that other meetings went forward as planned.

The pope met with the former president of the Communion and Liberation movement, Father Julián Carrón; the director of the World Food Program, David M. Beasley; and Father Pasquale Spinoso.

Pope Francis also had a meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of the Saints, to approve the advancement of the beatification causes of five servants of God and a miracle attributed to the intercession of one venerable.

Pope Francis in an audience with young priests and monks of the Eastern Orthodox Churches on Feb. 23, 2023. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis in an audience with young priests and monks of the Eastern Orthodox Churches on Feb. 23, 2023. Vatican Media.

On the afternoon of Feb. 22, the pope celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the fifth-century Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

It was his first time returning to the basilica since the start of Lent in February 2020.

Pope Francis’ schedule was also impacted by a cold in late February and early March 2020.

He was seen coughing and blowing his nose during his general audience and Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 26, 2020.

Francis later canceled several appointments in favor of working from the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta guesthouse, where he lives.

The Vatican said a few days later that the pope had tested negative for COVID-19 and was suffering from a “common cold.”

This story is developing.

Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday: Free yourself ‘from the dictatorship of full schedules’ 

Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience on Ash Wednesday Feb. 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Lent is a good time to examine ourselves in the light of truth, to let go of distractions like overbooked calendars, and to improve our relationships with God and others.

“Let us set out on the path of fasting and use these 40 days to take stock of ourselves, to free ourselves from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas, and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter,” the pope said on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22.

“This,” he said, “is the favorable time to be converted, to stop looking at ourselves and to start looking into ourselves.”

Pope Francis marked the start of the season of Lent, the penitential period before Easter, with Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

Unlike years prior, Francis did not take part in a penitential procession from the nearby Church of St. Anselm before the Mass. The pope entered Santa Sabina in a wheelchair, which he has used regularly for almost one year since developing a problem with a ligament in his knee.

Cardinals, bishops, priests, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican friars of Santa Sabina, and laypeople took part in the procession, which began with a brief moment of prayer at St. Anselm church. Catholics inside and outside the churches sang the Litany of the Saints as the procession prayerfully walked the roughly 1,000 feet between the two churches.

Pope Francis said at Mass that we should ask ourselves: “How many distractions and trifles distract us from the things that really count? How often do we get caught up in our own wants and needs, lose sight of the heart of the matter, and fail to embrace the true meaning of our lives in this world?”

“Lent is a time of truth, a time to drop the masks we put on each day to appear perfect in the eyes of the world. Lent is a time, as Jesus said in the Gospel, to reject lies and hypocrisy: not those of others, but of ourselves. Look them in the face and grapple [with them],” he said.

The Mass marked Pope Francis’ first time returning to the fifth-century Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina since February 2020.

In 2021, Francis celebrated the Ash Wednesday Mass for a small group of people in St. Peter’s Basilica because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrated the Mass in place of Francis, whose knee problem had worsened in that period.

The Ash Wednesday custom of the pope visiting the Church of St. Anselm before walking in procession to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for Mass was started in 1961 by St. John XXIII.

The Basilica of Santa Sabina is the mother church of the Dominicans and the first of the Lenten station churches. It is also Rome’s oldest church to still have its original architecture. The basilica’s large wooden door, which dates to the fifth century, has the oldest known depiction of the Crucifixion.

“Lent, then,” Pope Francis said in his homily, “is a season of grace when we can rebuild our relationship with God and with others, opening our hearts in the silence of prayer and emerging from the fortress of our self-sufficiency.”

“Lent is the favorable time when we can break the chains of our individualism and rediscover, through encounter and listening ― not solitude but through encounter and listening ― our companions along the journey of each day. And to learn once more to love them as brothers and sisters.”

Quoting from the 2006 Ash Wednesday homily of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis said: “Jesus gives ‘advice that still retains its salutary value for us: external gestures must always be matched by a sincere heart and consistent behavior. Indeed, the inspired author wonders, what use is it to tear our garments if our hearts remain distant from the Lord, that is, from goodness and justice?’”

Pope Francis said Wednesday that there are many times our gestures and rituals do not reflect life and truth.

“Perhaps we perform them only to gain the admiration or esteem of others many times,” he said. “Let us remember this: in our personal life, as in the life of the Church, outward displays, human judgments, and the world’s approval count for nothing; the only thing that truly matters is the truth and love that God himself sees.”

He reflected on the Church’s call to strengthen one’s commitment to prayer, almsgiving, and fasting during the approximately 40 days of Lent.

“Let us set out on the path of charity,” he said. “We have been given 40 days, a ‘favorable time’ to remind ourselves that the world is bigger than our narrow personal needs and to rediscover the joy, not of accumulating material goods, but of caring for those who are poor and afflicted.”

“Let us set out, then, on the path of prayer and use these 40 days to restore God’s primacy in our lives and to dialogue with him from the heart, and not only in spare moments,” he continued.

“Let us not neglect the grace of this holy season but fix our gaze on the cross and set out, responding generously to the powerful promptings of Lent,” he said. “At the end of the journey, we will encounter with greater joy the Lord of life ― we will encounter him ― who alone can raise us up from our ashes.”