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Vatican steps in to help failing Catholic hospital in Rome

The historic Fatebenefratelli Hospital, on Rome’s Tiber Island. / Dguendel via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has stepped in to help a nearly bankrupt Catholic hospital in Rome run by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God.

The historic Fatebenefratelli Hospital, which sits on Rome’s Tiber Island, has been in dire financial straits since 2013, with hundreds of millions of euros in debt pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy.

In June, the hospital was all but sold to the San Donato Group, one of the largest private hospital groups in Italy, which had signed an agreement with the hospital’s creditors.

Now, in a statement on Oct. 21, the Vatican thanked the leadership of the San Donato Group, while saying that Church authorities had started a “recovery plan” to keep the hospital under management by the Catholic religious order.

“A recovery plan has been launched that, in compliance with the regulations in force and in dialogue with the parties involved in various ways, will allow [the hospital] to continue to play the role that has characterized it so far in the field of Catholic healthcare,” the statement from the Holy See press office said.

It added that Church authorities would collaborate with other non-profit institutions “to resolve the economic and management crisis” at the hospital, officially known as the Ospedale San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli.

The Vatican statement pointed to Pope Francis’ comments on July 11, when he gave his Angelus address from Gemelli Hospital, where he had undergone surgery a week prior.

“In the Church too it happens that at times some healthcare institution, due to poor management, does not do well economically, and the first thought that comes to mind is to sell it,” Pope Francis said.

He added: “But the vocation, in the Church, is not to have money; it is to offer service, and service is always freely given. Do not forget this: saving free institutions.”

In the Oct. 21 press release, the Vatican thanked the vice presidents and CEO of the San Donato Group for the agreed-upon intervention, “aimed at preventing a further worsening of the current crisis and finding a definitive solution.”

The Vatican did not elaborate on what the “intervention” consists of.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis created a new foundation offering financial support to Catholic hospitals.

The more than 400-year-old hospital in Rome is well known for its obstetrics ward, where an average of 3,200 births take place each year. This year, during one weekend in July, the hospital made headlines for having had a record 36 births in 30 hours.

The hospital on Tiber Island is one of a number of religious-run healthcare centers facing financial crisis in recent years.

One of the hospitals is the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI) in Rome, which has been plagued by problems for more than decade.

After years of systematic theft and fraud by hospital administrators, the structure was left with 800 million euros (around $930 million) in debt and declared bankrupt in 2012 by Italy.

In 2013, Benedict XVI appointed a Vatican commissioner to look into the hospital’s finances. In 2015, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State stepped in, arranging to purchase the hospital out of state-administered bankruptcy through a for-profit partnership with the religious order that owned and managed the hospital — an arrangement that also ended in financial scandal.

In March this year, the Vatican appointed the former commander general of Italy’s financial police force as president of the foundation overseeing the IDI.

Saverio Capolupo, 70, was named president of the board of directors of the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation.

Capolupo succeeded Fr. Giuseppe Pusceddu, superior of the Italian province of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, who had been appointed interim president of the foundation in 2020.

Pope Francis says he wants to travel to Oceania and Africa

Pope Francis pictured on April 17, 2013. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2021 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said in an interview published Friday that he has several international trips in mind for 2022, as he picks up pace following a slower schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Télam, Argentina’s national news agency, Pope Francis said that he would like to visit “the Congo and Hungary” next year, though he admitted the ideas have not yet reached the planning stages.

Pope Francis made a stop of less than a day in Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, on Sept. 12, for the final Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, before making a longer visit to Slovakia.

In March, he went to Iraq, his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

In the Oct. 22 interview, the pope said that in 2022 he would like to make trips to Papua New Guinea and East Timor, which had been planned for late 2020 before they were canceled because of the pandemic.

For the rest of 2021, Pope Francis confirmed that a trip to Cyprus, which a local official said would take place Dec. 2-3, is still on his program.

“The first weekend in December I am going to go to Greece and Cyprus,” the pope confirmed to Télam, noting that the final agenda of the trip was still being worked out.

The Vatican has not officially announced the trip. But in an interview broadcast on Sept. 1, the pope said he hoped to visit the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, which has a population of around 875,000 people, including approximately 10,000 Catholics.

It is rumored that the trip could also include a stop on the Greek island of Lesbos, which Pope Francis visited in April 2016, bringing back 12 refugees to Rome with him.

Close to the coast of Turkey, Lesbos is affected by the European migrant crisis, and has several large refugee camps. In 2020, fires broke out at the overcrowded Moria camp, causing many migrants to flee.

Francis had also indicated in the Sept. 1 interview with Spain’s COPE radio station that he hoped to travel to Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in early November.

But the Vatican, which had never officially confirmed the visit, indicated earlier this month that the pope will not attend.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See press office, said on Oct. 8 that the Vatican’s delegation to COP26 will be led by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Pope Francis, who will turn 85 on Dec. 17 and underwent colon surgery in July, has visited 54 countries during the eight and a half years of his pontificate.

He visited 11 countries in 2019 before his travels were halted in 2020 due to the pandemic. His four-day trip to Iraq in March 2021 was his first international trip after a pause of 15 months.

Supreme Court to hear challenges to Texas heartbeat law

Texas state capitol building / f11photo/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2021 / 11:40 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider two legal challenges to Texas’ pro-life heartbeat law, just weeks before it hears oral arguments in another major abortion case.

Both the Biden administration and abortion providers had challenged the Texas Heartbeat Act, a law which went into effect Sept. 1 and which restricts most abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. The law is enforced through private civil lawsuits.

On Friday, Oct. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider both challenges to the law and expedited the cases, with oral arguments scheduled for Nov. 1. The court will consider whether the federal government can sue to block implementation of the law by the state, state courts, and private citizens; it will also consider whether lawsuits under the law can move forward, according to the website SCOTUSBlog.

In the meantime, the court is leaving the law in place as it considers both cases.

In her opinion accompanying the court order on Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the court’s refusal to temporarily block the law while considering challenges to it.

“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” Sotomayor wrote. “These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”

The law is unique in that it is enforced through private civil lawsuits against those performing or, in some cases, those assisting in illegal abortions. Successful lawsuits can net at least $10,000 in damages.

Certain parties are barred from filing lawsuits, such as men who impregnate women who then have abortions; women who have illegal abortions also cannot be sued under the law.

The Justice Department challenged the law in court, and on Oct. 6 a federal district judge barred the state from enforcing judgments or awarding damages in successful lawsuits against illegal abortions. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily reversed that decision on Oct. 8, and on Oct. 14 allowed the law to remain in effect.

The Justice Department then appealed its case against the law to the Supreme Court on Oct. 18.

In the second case that the court is taking up, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a coalition of abortion providers, staff, and patients had sued to prevent lawsuits over illegal abortions from going forward in Texas.

The high court is considering the cases ahead of another major abortion case in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Oral arguments in that case, which involves Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, are scheduled for Dec. 1.

Shortly after the law went into effect in September, the Supreme Court declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision.

In its Oct. 21 brief before the Supreme Court, Texas argued that the court should reconsider landmark abortion cases if it took up the Biden administration’s appeal.

“The Court erred in recognizing the right to abortion in Roe and in continuing to preserve it in Casey,” the brief read. “The heartbeat provisions in SB 8 reasonably further Texas’s interest in protecting unborn life, which exists from the outset of pregnancy.”

“If it reaches the merits, the Court should overturn Roe and Casey and hold that SB 8 does not therefore violate the Fourteenth Amendment,” the state argued. 

Texas had accused the Biden Administration of overreach after the Justice Department challenged the law. The brief called the Justice Department’s challenge “extraordinary in its breadth and consequence” and asked the Supreme Court to decline its request. 

This article was updated on Oct. 22.

Vatican issues decree clarifying responsibilities for translation of Latin liturgical texts

Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican issued a decree on Friday guiding bishops’ conferences on the proper protocol for the translation of liturgical texts from Latin into vernacular languages.

Published on Oct. 22, the feast of St. John Paul II, the decree, called Postquam Summus Pontifex, clarifies changes already made by Pope Francis to the process of translating liturgical texts.

The decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship builds on a motu proprio Pope Francis issued in September 2017 shifting responsibility for the revision of liturgical texts toward bishops’ conferences.

The motu proprio, Magnum Principium, modified Canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law, which addresses the authority of the Vatican and national bishops’ conferences in preparing liturgical texts in vernacular languages.

The decree implementing this change to canon law comes four years after Pope Francis’ motu proprio was first published and a few months after the appointment of Archbishop Arthur Roche as the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, succeeding Cardinal Robert Sarah.

“Fundamentally the aim is to make collaboration between the Holy See and the bishops’ conferences easier and more fruitful,” the 71-year-old English archbishop said in an interview with Vatican News.

“The great task of translation, especially translating into their own languages what we find in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, falls to the bishops.”

Roche, who also published a commentary on the new decree, underlined that the translation of liturgical texts is “a great responsibility” because “the revealed word can be proclaimed and the prayer of the Church can be expressed in a language which the people of God can understand.”

With the 2017 motu proprio, the text of Canon 838 changed to read: “It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books, recognize adaptations approved by the episcopal conference according to the norm of law, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere.”

The text of the following paragraph added that it was the responsibility of bishops’ conferences “to approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See.”

The new decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship presents the norms and procedures to be taken into account when publishing liturgical books.

It says that the Holy See remains responsible for reviewing the adaptations approved by bishops’ conferences and confirming the translations that are made.

“This reform of Pope Francis aims to underline the responsibility and competence of the bishops’ conferences, both in assessing and approving liturgical adaptations for the territory for which they are responsible, and in preparing and approving translations of liturgical texts,” Roche said.

“The bishops, as moderators, promoters, and custodians of liturgical life in their particular church, have a great sensitivity, due to their theological and cultural formation, which enables them to translate the texts of Revelation and the Liturgy into a language that responds to the nature of the People of God entrusted to them,” he said.

Father Bill Atkinson canonization cause completes first phase, moves onto Rome

Father Thomas Dailey, O.S.F.S.; Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez; Msgr. Gerald Mesure, archdiocesan chancellor; and Father Sean Bransfield, vice chancellor, hold the official documents for the canonization cause of Father Bill Atkinson during the closing ceremony on Oct. 19, 2021. / Sarah Webb

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 22, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Father Bill Atkinson, an Augustinian priest from Philadelphia who died in 2006, is one step closer in the cause for canonization. In a ceremony on Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia officially closed the diocesan phase, which is the first step in the process. The archdiocese will now hand over all materials to Rome for further examination.

“He was really a very quiet man, a humble man, but a very dedicated and devout individual in terms of his commitment to religious life, to his Augustinian identity, and to his service working for 30 years with young men in one of our high schools,” said Father Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A., prior provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, of which Father Bill was a member.

Father Bill was the first priest to be ordained who was a quadriplegic. He was paralyzed from the neck down in a sledding accident during his first year in the novitiate for the Order of Saint Augustine, also known as the Augustinians.

“He was always responsive to requests that were made of him to use his ministry on behalf of other people who were in situations that could be identified with his own in terms of his disability,” Father Michael said.

He often visited hospitals and spoke to veterans who had been injured, using his own experience as a paraplegic to minister to those who had disabilities.

“There’s something very ordinary about Father Bill in terms of how he did his work,” Father Michael said. “The extraordinary part was that he did his work, his ministry, exercised his priesthood in the context of great limitation—a physical limitation, but certainly not any limitation in terms of his mental ability or his will and his desire to be of service.” 

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Father Bill entered the novitiate following a year as a postulant at Augustinian Academy in Staten Island, New York. In the accident, it was unclear if Father Bill would survive, so he was given the opportunity to profess first vows from the hospital bed. He began a long and extensive rehabilitation process and continued in the novitiate.

“I really noticed most of all that he was just one of the rest of us,” said Father Michael, who lived with Father Bill during several years of formation. “He was in a wheelchair and needed the assistance of others around him all the time, but he participated in everything that we did. He was always at prayer. He came to meals with us. He fit right in, and never saw himself or wanted others to see him as different from the rest of us.” 

Almost nine years after the accident, Father Bill completed his studies and petitioned St. Paul VI to be ordained a priest. The pope granted a dispensation and on Feb. 2, 1974, Father Bill was ordained a priest. 

“He did what he needed to do without any assurance of where it would lead—it had never been done before,” Father Michael said. “He wrote his letter to Pope Paul VI and the answer came back, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’”

“Perseverance was a great hallmark of his life, but it wasn’t guaranteed. It was always a trust that whatever God’s will is here, that’s what will happen,” Father Michael said.

Father Bill died Sept. 15, 2006, at Saint Thomas Monastery at Villanova University. Several years later, the Augustinians decided to examine the possibility of introducing a cause for canonization. The postulator general met with relatives, friars, friends, and caretakers of Father Bill, and asked them to explain to him their reasons for wishing to have Father Bill’s cause introduced.

“Father Joseph, who was the postulator, said, ‘Well, you have convinced me that this is a cause that we should undertake.'” Father Michael said. 

The postulator gathered written material over several months and made an appointment with Archbishop Charles Chaput, then the Archbishop of Philadelphia, who then took it to the USCCB for a confirmation.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive, if not unanimous,” Father Michael said.

In 2015, Archbishop Chaput appointed a tribunal and an historical commission to look at documentation about Father Bill. The tribunal was charged with the task of interviewing people who knew Father Bill and who wanted to offer testimony toward the cause. 

“This is where all the ground work is done in speaking to people, in gathering information,” Father Michael said. 

The closing ceremony, which was held at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church Oct. 19, marked the official end of the first phase of the process. The materials were bound and sealed in preparation for the transfer to Rome, where the cause will go before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to make sure the process was completed correctly.

“Then we need to wait for a miracle—a miracle can happen at any time along the process,” Father Michael said. “There are some favors that have been presented to us that we forwarded to our postulator general.” 

If a miracle happens, it can speed up the process and put someone in a higher priority for review, Father Michael said. 

“From our perspective, what seems to have been given as a great cross became a great opportunity, because he was able to touch and influence the lives of people precisely through his challenge that he might never have had the opportunity to touch otherwise,” Father Michael said.

John Paul II’s mom chose life after her doctor advised an abortion

Karol Wojtyla with his parents. Photo courtesy of the Dicoese of Krakow. / null

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Over one hundred years ago on May 18, Emilia Wojtyla gave birth to her second son, Karol, after a difficult and life-threatening pregnancy. The child would grow up to be St. John Paul II.

In a new book published in Poland, Milena Kindziuk describes how St. John Paul II’s mother was advised to get an abortion.

“She had to choose between her own life and that of the baby she was carrying, but her deep faith did not allow Emilia to choose abortion,” Kindziuk said in an interview with ACI Stampa.

“Deep in her heart she had to be ready to make this sacrifice for the baby she was carrying,” she said.

In her book, “Emilia and Karol Wojtyla. Parents of St. John Paul II,” Kindziuk cites the testimony of a midwife, Tatarowa, and the reports of her two friends, Helena Szczepańska and Maria Kaczorowa, as well as the memories of other Wadowice residents. She said that these showed that Emilia Wojtyla was depressed by the insistence of her first doctor, Dr. Jan Moskała, that she have an abortion.

She said that Emilia and Karol Wojtyla “made a bold decision that, regardless of everything, their conceived baby was to be born. And so they started looking for another doctor.”

They ultimately chose Dr. Samuel Taub, a Jewish doctor from Krakow, who had moved to Wadowice after the First World War.

“Emilia's friends have kept memories of that visit. The doctor confirmed that there was a risk of complications during childbirth, including Emilia's death. However, he did not suggest an abortion,” Kindziuk said.

“Emilia had a bad pregnancy: she spent most of her time lying down and still had less strength than usual,” she said. “In this situation, Dr. Taub recommended the woman to lie down, rest often and feed herself very well.”

On the day of the birth, May 18, 1920, “Emilia lay in her apartment in Kościelna street, in the living room … in the presence of a midwife,” Kindziuk explained.

At the same time Karol Sr. and their 13-year-old son Edmund had gone out around 5 p.m. to participate in the prayer of the Divine Office in the parish church across the street where they sang the Litany of Loreto, she added.

“We know from the messages that Emilia asked the midwife to open the window: she wanted the first sound her son could hear to be a song in honor of Mary. In short, Emilia Wojtyla gave birth to her son, listening to the song of the Litany of Loreto,” she said.

St. John Paul II also told his personal secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz that he was born to the litany in honor of the Mother of God, she said, adding that he was elected pope at the same time of day that he was born.

The sainthood causes of St. John Paul II’s parents were formally opened in Poland in May. Karol, a Polish Army lieutenant, and Emilia, a school teacher, were married in Krakow Feb. 10, 1906. The Catholic couple gave birth to three children: Edmund in 1906; Olga, who died shortly after her birth; and Karol in 1920.

Before she died of a heart attack and liver failure in 1929, Emilia was a staple of faith for the household. At the time of her death, the young Karol Wojtyla was a month away from his ninth birthday.

This article was originally published on CNA on May 18, 2020.

Catholic, Anglican, and Jewish leaders urge UK Parliament to reject assisted suicide bill

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attend a vigil in London, England, March 24, 2017. / AFP via Getty Images.

London, England, Oct 22, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Catholic, Anglican, and Jewish leaders have issued a joint appeal to U.K. lawmakers to reject a bill that would legalize assisted suicide.

In a letter issued on Oct. 19, they expressed “profound disquiet” over the Assisted Dying Bill, which has its second reading in the upper house of the U.K. Parliament on Friday.

The private members’ bill, introduced in the House of Lords in May by Molly Meacher, seeks to “enable adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life.”

“As leaders of faith communities, we wish to express our profound disquiet at the provisions of the ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill currently in the House of Lords,” said the religious leaders in the letter sent to members of the Lords.

The text was signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

The trio noted that Meacher introduced the bill with the stated aim of alleviating suffering.

“This motivation we share wholeheartedly, but we disagree on the means advanced to address this very real concern,” they said.

“In particular, we are conscious of the risks and dangers entailed in the provisions of the bill and the ‘real-life’ practical inadequacies of the proposed safeguards.”

The bill is the latest in a long line of attempts to legalize assisted suicide in the U.K.

The proposed legislation would authorize people in England and Wales who have signed a declaration expressing “a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish,” countersigned by two “suitably qualified” registered medical practitioners, to seek consent for assisted suicide from the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The bill is facing opposition from medical professionals, as well as Catholic leaders such as Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham, and Westminster auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington.

Nichols, Welby, and Mirvis said that their opposition to the bill was rooted in a conviction that every human life is sacred.

“By the faiths we profess, we hold every human life to be a precious gift of the Creator, to be upheld and protected. All people of faith, and those of none, can share our concern that the common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions,” they wrote.

“We appeal to people of whatever faith or belief to join us through our common bond of humanity in caring for the most vulnerable people within our society.”

The three men called for “high-quality palliative care” to be made available to everyone nearing death.

“We believe that the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide,” they said.

In September 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Since then, supporters of the practices have made gains in several European countries.

In March, Spain’s legislature approved a bill legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, making Spain the fourth country in Europe to endorse the practice, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Pope Francis thanks God for ‘profound personal bond’ with Orthodox leader

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a letter Friday to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressing gratitude for the “profound personal bond” between them.

“It is with gratitude to God that I reflect on our own profound personal bond, from the time of the inauguration of my papal ministry, when you honored me with your presence in Rome,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter on Oct. 22.

“Over time, this bond has become a fraternal friendship nurtured in many meetings not only in Rome, but also at the Phanar, in Jerusalem, Assisi, Cairo, Lesvos, Bari, and Budapest.”

Pope Francis sent the letter to the 81-year-old Orthodox leader to mark the 30th anniversary of his election as Ecumenical Patriarch.

Bartholomew I has served as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople -- considered the “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Church -- since 1991.

The pope reflected on their shared dedication to working to safeguard creation, confronting the social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and fostering unity between Christians.

“I sincerely thank you for ceaselessly indicating the way of dialogue, in charity and in truth, as the only possible way for reconciliation between believers in Christ and for the reestablishment of their full communion,” Pope Francis said.

“With God’s help, this is the path along which we will most certainly continue to walk together, for the closeness and solidarity between our Churches are an indispensable contribution to universal brotherhood and social justice, of which humanity is so urgently in need.”

Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Leronymos look at the sea from Lesbos on April 16, 2016. .  L'Osservatore Romano.
Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Leronymos look at the sea from Lesbos on April 16, 2016. . L'Osservatore Romano.

Bartholomew was recently in Rome, joining Pope Francis at an interreligious prayer gathering for peace in front of the Colosseum and signing a joint appeal at the Vatican asking countries to “achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.”

The Orthodox leader was also present in Budapest for the International Eucharistic Congress in September, including the closing Mass offered by Pope Francis.

The two leaders could soon meet again. Unconfirmed reports have indicated that Pope Francis may visit Greece, including a stop at the Greek island of Lesbos (also known as Lesvos), before the end of 2021.

The pope made his previous visit to Lesbos in 2016, in partnership with the Orthodox patriarch, to draw attention to the plight of migrants on the island.

“On the joyful occasion of the 30th anniversary of your election as Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, I express my fervent best wishes: Χρόνια πολλά! Ad multos annos,” Pope Francis wrote.

“I join you in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many blessings bestowed upon your life and ministry over these years, and pray that God, from whom all gifts come, will grant you health, spiritual joy and abundant grace to sustain every aspect of your lofty service.”

Pope Francis asks Catholics to be ‘more courageous’ in tackling crisis exposed by COVID-19

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Oct. 20, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Catholics on Thursday to be “more courageous” in tackling the crisis exposed by COVID-19.

In a message to participants in the 49th Social Week of Italian Catholics issued on Oct. 21, the pope underlined the importance of face-to-face meetings as the world struggles to emerge from the pandemic.

“This is all the more necessary in the context of the crisis generated by COVID, a crisis that is both health-related and social,” he wrote.

“In order to emerge from this crisis, Italian Catholics too must be more courageous. We cannot resign ourselves and sit back and watch, we cannot remain indifferent or apathetic without taking responsibility for others and for society. We are called to be the yeast that leavens the dough.”

The pope’s message — dated Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi — was addressed to Catholics gathering in Taranto, southern Italy, for an Oct. 21-24 meeting with the theme “The planet we hope for: Environment, work, future. Everything is connected.”

“The pandemic has shattered the illusion of our time that we can consider ourselves omnipotent, trampling on the land we inhabit and the environment we live in,” he said.

“To get back on our feet, we must convert to God and learn to make good use of his gifts, first and foremost creation. Let us not lack the courage for ecological conversion, but above all let us not lack the ardor of community conversion.”

The pope offered participants what he called three “road signs” as they walked “boldly along the road to hope.” He named them as “mindfulness of people at crossings,” “no parking,” and “the obligation to turn.”

Addressing the first sign, he said: “We encounter too many people who pass through our existences in conditions of despair: young people forced to leave their countries of origin to emigrate elsewhere, unemployed or exploited in an endless precariousness; women who have lost their jobs in the pandemic or who are forced to choose between motherhood or their profession; workers left at home without opportunities; poor people and migrants who are not welcomed and not integrated; elderly people abandoned to their loneliness; families who are victims of usury, gambling, and corruption; businesspeople in difficulty and subject to the abuse of the mafia; communities destroyed by fires…”

“But there are also so many sick people, adults and children, workers forced to do arduous or immoral work, often in conditions of precarious safety.”

“These are faces and stories that challenge us: we cannot remain indifferent. These brothers and sisters of ours are crucified and awaiting resurrection. May the imagination of the Spirit help us leave no stone unturned to ensure that their legitimate hopes are realized.”

Explaining the second sign, “no parking,” he said: “When we see dioceses, parishes, communities, associations, movements, ecclesial groups that are tired and discouraged, sometimes resigned in the face of complex situations, we see a Gospel that tends to fade away.”

“On the contrary, God’s love is never static or renunciatory, ‘love believes all things, hopes all things’ (1 Corinthians 13:7): it drives us on and forbids us to stop.”

He went on: “Let us not stay in sacristies, let us not form elitist groups that isolate themselves and close themselves off. Hope is always on the move and also passes through Christian communities, daughters of the resurrection, who go out, announce, share, endure and fight to build the Kingdom of God.”

“How wonderful it would be if, in the areas most marked by pollution and degradation, Christians did not limit themselves to denouncing, but took on the responsibility of creating networks of redemption.”

Referring to his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, he emphasized that half measures would “simply delay the inevitable disaster.”

Turning to the final sign, “the obligation to turn,” he said that the world’s poor and the Earth itself were crying out for change.

He quoted the Italian Bishop Antonio Bello (1935-1993), who he described as “a prophet in the land of Puglia,” the region at the southeastern tip of the Italian Peninsula.

He recalled that Bello often repeated that “We cannot limit ourselves to hope. We must organize hope!”

“A profound conversion awaits us, which touches the human ecology, the ecology of the heart, even before environmental ecology,” the pope commented.

“The turning point will only come if we know how to train consciences not to look for easy solutions to protect those who are already secure, but to propose lasting processes of change for the benefit of the younger generations.”

“Such a conversion, aimed at a social ecology, can nourish this time that has been called one ‘of ecological transition,’ where the choices to be made cannot only be the result of new technological discoveries, but also of renewed social models.”

He added: “The epochal change we are going through demands a turning point. Let us look, in this sense, to many signs of hope, to many people whom I wish to thank because, often in industrious obscurity, they are working to promote a different economic model that is fairer and more attentive to people.”

The pope also sent a short video message encouraging young people taking part in the four-day event.

He said: “You are the present, you are the planet’s today, never feel on the margins of projects or reflections. Your dreams must be the dreams of all, and you have much to teach us about the environment.”

Could St. John Paul II be declared a Doctor of the Church?

Pope John Paul II in 1996. / Vatican Media

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 22, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).

Could St. John Paul II, whose feast day is celebrated on Oct. 22, one day be declared a Doctor of the Church?

That is the hope of the Polish bishops’ conference, which called in 2019 for the Polish pope to be granted the title so far held by just 36 figures in Church history.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the bishops’ conference, formally requested the designation on Oct. 22 of that year.

The request’s supporters included Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, the longtime personal secretary to John Paul II, who served as pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.

“Doctor of the Church” is a title bestowed by popes on saints who have made a universally significant contribution to theology.

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

Pope Francis has already proclaimed one new Doctor of the Church, the 10th-century Armenian monk St. Gregory of Narek.

The pope announced earlier this month that he would add another: the second-century bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who he intends to declare “Doctor unitatis” (“Doctor of Unity”).

John Paul II himself proclaimed just one Doctor of the Church: St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

In a 1997 apostolic letter explaining the decision, he noted that the 19th-century French Carmelite nun is “not only the youngest Doctor of the Church, but is also the closest to us in time.”

He also outlined some of the characteristics associated with Doctors of the Church. These included “eminent doctrine,” which he described as a fundamental requirement, being an “authentic teacher of faith and the Christian life,” helping to “extend the kingdom of God,” and possessing “universality.”

John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyła on May 18, 1920, survived the Nazi occupation of Poland and helped to lead the Church’s resistance to the oppressive communist regime that followed.

The first non-Italian pope in 455 years, he made more foreign trips than all previous popes combined and played a role in the collapse of the Communist Bloc.

During his almost 27-year pontificate, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, and 45 apostolic letters, as well as giving hundreds of catechetical addresses at his weekly general audiences.

The Polish bishops did not make the case for John Paul II as a Doctor of the Church solely on his writings. They also emphasized his historical significance, as they were asking Pope Francis at the same time to declare his predecessor a patron of Europe.

In a letter to the pope, Gądecki wrote: “The richness of the pontificate of St. John Paul II — called John Paul II the Great by many historians and theologians — flowed from the richness of his personality — a poet, philosopher, theologian, and mystic, realizing himself in many dimensions, from pastoral ministry and teaching, through his leadership of the universal Church, to his personal testimony of holiness of life.”

The archbishop wrote in February 2020 to the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, asking them to support the proclamation.

Gadecki offered an update on the movement to declare St. John Paul II a Doctor of the Church and patron of Europe in October 2020.

In an address to a conference in Warsaw, he said that the Vatican Secretariat of State noted that there were already six patron saints of Europe and that the pope did not wish to add to their number at present.

The Secretariat added that “it is not generally envisaged at this time to confer the title of Doctor of the Church even on such authors who have had a significant influence on the teaching and development of doctrine.”

Summing up the situation, the Polish archbishop said: “This does not mean that the cause is lost. The seed has been sown, it just needs some patience and time for it to bear fruit.”