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Bishops of Lake Charles, Raleigh issue statements on Latin Mass

Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Three months after the release of Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis’ restrictions on traditional liturgies, U.S. bishops are continuing to implement the apostolic letter within their respective dioceses. 

The Bishop of Lake Charles is allowing traditional liturgies to be offered at the cathedral parish and at a second parish in the southwest Louisiana diocese. He granted both parishes a canonical dispensation from the document’s restrictions on traditional liturgies being celebrated at parochial churches.

“As a pastor and a bishop, I am aware of the needs of the flock and address them,” said a letter from Bishop Glen Provost published on the diocesan website on Oct. 19. Provost noted that his diocese has endured several natural disasters within the last year, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that many within his diocese are still displaced from their homes.

“Given these burdens and the emphasis on mercy exhibited by our Holy Father, I am prompted to address this implementation, where appropriate, in a spirit of epikeia and with the application of Canon 87,” he said. 

Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law states, “A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church.”

The diocese already seeks to address the needs of certain groups of Catholics, he said, “such as our University students, the Hispanic community, and the hearing impaired.”

“Our pastoral concern extends as well to those who worship in the usus antiquior, that is, with the Roman Missal of 1962, and who have done so since the establishment of the Diocese,” he wrote. 

The Diocese of Lake Charles was established on Jan. 29, 1980, nearly a decade and a half after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. 

In his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, issued and made effective on July 16, 2021, Pope Francis allowed individual bishops to authorize the celebration of traditional liturgies in their dioceses. Among the document’s provisions, bishops allowing the Traditional Latin Mass are to designate locations for celebration of the Mass; the liturgies cannot be offered at “parochial churches.”

In a letter accompanying the document, Pope Francis cited the need to promote unity in the Church. He said he was “saddened” that the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’.” 

In his letter, Bishop Provost wrote that he was “unaware of anyone in this community who has expressed opposition to the Second Vatican Council, much less denied its legitimacy,” and that “those who have chosen to discuss with me their devotion to the usus antiquior have insisted upon the validity of the reformed liturgy.” 

Restricting the Latin Mass in the diocese, he said, “would be grossly negligent, if not callous” in light of what Catholics in his diocese have endured. 

“In my many years of having the privilege of celebrating the Sacraments in the Diocese of Lake Charles, I have been continually struck by the tender devotion of the faithful,” said Provost. “I am also aware, as well as can be, of the needs of the people as they have expressed them to me. Whether at Masses in newer or older rites, I know the people with their concerns.”

These concerns, he explained, include financial issues, unemployment, deaths, illnesses, and many others. 

“They suffer quietly, not advertising their problems, seeking some solace in the rites of the Church, whether in the vernacular or in Latin,” he said. “If we, as pastors, do not acknowledge these realities and instead continue to engage in arguments that the faithful find incomprehensible, then we truly risk becoming a ‘resounding gong and clashing cymbal’ and just as irrelevant.” 

Earlier in October, Bishop Luis Zarama of Raleigh stated in a letter to priests that the Novus Ordo Mass is to “take priority” in the diocese, which includes the eastern half of North Carolina. 

“It is my expectation that priests serving all parishes, missions, stations and chapels of ease will celebrate Mass using [the 2011 Missal] every Sunday and on weekdays, as the principal celebration(s) of the day,” he wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to the priests of the diocese. 

The monthly Sunday Latin Masses at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh and the Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary in Wilmington will continue, he wrote, as will Sunday Latin Masses at two other parishes in the diocese. However, he restricted the time of day at which the Masses can be offered on Sundays. 

The Masses may begin no earlier than 1 p.m., and the translations for the prescribed scripture readings in the vernacular should be taken either from the Revised Roman Lectionary or the New American Bible, Revised Edition, he said.

The weekday Latin Masses that had previously been offered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Rocky Mount will be suppressed under the implementation of Traditionis custodes

Only priests who have previously received faculties from Zarama are permitted to celebrate the Latin Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, he wrote, “as the faculty to do so is a personal privilege and not one proper to a parish or faith community nor any other group of the faithful.” 

The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, he wrote. 

“It is my hope that this direction may assist us as a Diocesan family to continue to grow in holiness through a renewed relationship with God through our prayer and integrity of life, but also by fostering further formation throughout our Diocese on the beauty, theology and praxis of the sacred liturgy, where we encounter Our Lord most intimately,” said Zarama.

British doctors say they will not participate in assisted suicide if it becomes legal

The House of Parliament in London. / Daniel Gale/Shutterstock.

London, England, Oct 21, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A group of some 1,700 British doctors say they will not participate in assisted suicide, amid a push by some lawmakers to legalize the practice in England and Wales. 

In a letter this week to the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, the doctors write: “As healthcare professionals, we have a legal duty of care for the safety and wellbeing of our patients. We write with great concern regarding the introduction of a Bill to legalise assisted suicide.”

“The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised...Some patients may never consider assisted suicide unless it was suggested to them. The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable,” the letter continues. 

Our Duty Of Care, a group of concerned medical professionals who oppose the legalization of assisted suicide, organized the letter, with thousands of medical professionals signing onto it. 

“This letter emphasises just how much opposition there is within medicine to the legalisation of assisted suicide,” said Dr. David Randall, a medical registrar from London.

“The current law works well, protecting the vulnerable and allowing us to deliver to patients the kind of compassionate, individualised care to which we aspire. A change in the law would distort conversations and priorities around end-of-life care, and would threaten the world-leading hospices and palliative care services that we enjoy in this country. We call on politicians to keep the current law in place, and not to send to vulnerable patients the message that society no longer values their lives.”

The Assisted Dying Bill 2021 is set for its second reading in the House of Lords with a full debate set for this Friday, Oct. 22. It is the latest in a long line of attempts to legalize assisted suicide in England and Wales, and some pro-lifers believe that the bill poses the greatest challenge yet.

The bill would permit assisted suicide for terminally ill adults with fewer than six months to live, subject to the approval of two doctors and a high court judge.

Assisted suicide is presently illegal in England and Wales, and doctors who assist a suicide can be jailed up to 14 years under the Suicide Act 1961. In 2015 the British parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis, by a vote of 330 to 118. Parliament has consistently rejected efforts to change the law.

A similar proposal is currently under consideration in Scotland, where some lawmakers have now suggested that online consultations with doctors could help fulfil purported safeguard requirements. 

The British channel island of Jersey, which has its own government and legal system, is expected to debate the legalization of assisted suicide in November or December. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, along with Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, recently wrote a joint letter to peers “to express our profound disquiet at the provisions of the ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill currently in the House of Lords.”

“We acknowledge that Baroness Meacher is seeking the alleviation of suffering. This motivation we share wholeheartedly, but we disagree on the means advanced to address this very real concern,” they wrote. "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 common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions,” they maintained. "In contrast to the proposals in this Bill, we continue to call for measures to make high-quality palliative care available to all at the end of their lives. We believe that the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide.” 

The trade union for doctors in the United Kingdom, as of September, is no longer officially opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide. The British Medical Association has adopted a “neutral” stance on the issue, following a narrow vote at its annual representative meeting. The body had previously been opposed to assisted suicide since 2006. 

The Catholic Church supports, rather than assisted suicide or euthanasia, palliative care, which means seeking to accompany a patient towards the end of their lives with methods such as pain management. While firmly opposing euthanasia, Catholics do not believe life must always be prolonged with burdensome medical treatment.

Pope Francis has described assisted suicide as part of a "throwaway culture" that offers a "false compassion" and treats a human person as a problem.

The Catholic bishops of the UK have on several occasions affirmed their support for high quality end-of-life care, which includes spiritual and pastoral support for the one who is dying and their family. Lord Rowan Williams, an Anglican and former Archbishop of Canterbury, is another notable opponent of legalized assisted suicide in the UK. 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.

Some English bishops— as well as the signers of the letter— have pointed out that other countries, such as Canada, have shown how assisted suicide “safeguards” could be swept away, extending assisted suicide far beyond the terminally ill.

In March 2021, Canada stripped the requirement that people seeking assisted suicide must have a “reasonably foreseeable” death, and also allowed people to opt for assisted suicide with mental illness as a sole underlying condition.

And this month, in the United States, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law loosening several safeguarding requirements surrounding assisted suicide. The California Catholic Conference had been strongly urging opposition to the legal change.

Santa Fe archdiocese: Woman's attempted ordination invalid

The Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, N.M., seat of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, which hosted the attempted ordination of Anne Tropeano Oct. 16, 2021. / teofilo via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Santa Fe, N.M., Oct 21, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The supposed ordination of women is invalid, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe reiterated Monday, shortly after a woman claimed to have been ordained a priest in Albuquerque.

“As Pope Saint Paul VI explained, because Jesus freely chose only men for apostles, ‘…in fidelity to the example of the Lord, [the Church] does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.’ Thus, the Roman Catholic Church does not see attempted ordination of women as valid and, indeed, is [sic] an excommunicable action,” Fr. Glennon Jones said Oct. 18.

Anne Tropeano was the recipient of an attempted priestly ordination held Oct. 16 at the Cathedral Church of St. John, an Episcopalian cathedral in Albuquerque. She simulated Mass the following day at St. Paul Lutheran Church, an ELCA community in Albuquerque.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed in 2007 that whoever “shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive holy orders, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” That decree was reflected in a 2010 modification made to the norms regarding more grave delicts, which added the attempted ordination of a woman to the delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The existing Code of Canon Law makes clear that ordination is validly received only by “a baptized male,” and a revision that will enter into force in December codifies the 2007 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In its 1976 declaration Inter insigniores, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it is necessary to recall that the Church “does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.”

St. John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis taught definitively that only men may be ordained priests.

Prior to the promulgation of Inter insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, that holy orders can be validly received by a baptized male only was held to be a theologically certain teaching.

But subsequently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to a dubium regarding whether the apostolic letter's teaching, that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

In a 1995 response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered in the affirmative, writing that “this teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff … has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.”

And in a 1998 doctrinal commentary related to Ad tuendam fidem, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men is to be held definitively, it having “been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

Last year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith required submission to the proposition that only a baptized male can be ordained validly as the condition for the return to ministry of a priest whom it had barred in 2012.

The Irish Times reported in September 2020 that the congregation had written to the Redemptorists that Fr. Tony Flannery “should not return to public ministry prior to submitting a signed statement regarding his positions on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the admission of women to the priesthood.”

According to the Association of Catholic Priests, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked that Fr. Flannery, to return to ministry, sign a proposition that "according to the Tradition and the doctrine of the Church incorporated in the Canon Law (c. 1024), a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."

This proposition regarding the reservation of priesthood to men was supported by excerpts from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and from Pope Francis' 2020 apostolic exhortation La querida Amazonia.

Denver archbishop denounces ‘anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism’ at two schools

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila says Mass for the Transitional Deacon Ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver denounced recent incidents of “anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism” that occurred at two area schools last weekend. 

“I condemn the recent incidents of anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism at George Washington High School, and the property destruction at Denver Academy of the Torah,” Aquila said in an Oct. 20 statement. “These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” 

The Denver Post reported that George Washington High School, a public school, was vandalized with graffiti containing racist and anti-Semitic messages, according to the school’s principal, Kristin Waters. The incident is being investigated by the school district and the Denver Police, and the graffiti has been removed.

At the nearby Denver academy of the Torah, a Jewish day school, a rock was thrown through one of its windows and an electrical box inside was found damaged, the Post reported. According to the Anti Defamation League, a witness confronted the suspect who allegedly made an anti-Semitic statement before leaving the scene. 

Police are investigating the incident, and are in the process of determining if the two incidents were related. 

“These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Aquila said on Wednesday. 

In recent weeks, Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and a Catholic church in nearby Boulder were both vandalized with spray paint. 

The cathedral doors were defaced with the slogan “Satan lives here” on Oct. 10, and the outside walls, sidewalks and a statue on the property were all spray-painted. The parish of Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder was vandalized in September with pro-abortion slogans. 

Aquila thanked the Jewish Community Relations Council and the ADL Mountain States Region for speaking out against recent acts of vandalism against churches in the diocese, and for offering their support. 

“As brothers and sisters in faith,” he said, “I acknowledge our common bonds and desire to be able to worship freely without fear of attack or intimidation in its many forms.”

Aquila added that even in a “divided and pluralistic society,” committing acts of violence and hate “are never the answer to our differences.” 

“I pray for an end to these attacks, heading for the impacted communities, and that God’s love will be known by anyone who feels compelled to commit these acts,” he said. 

Aquila called on local elected officials to denounce the recent acts of vandalism.

“Finally,” he said, “we are grateful to the police departments that have responded to these incidents, and to the numerous community members who, regardless of their beliefs, have reached out to our parishes and offered support and help in cleaning up after these attacks.”

Other incidents of vandalism and theft have occurred at churches in Northern Colorado in recent months.

St. Louis parish in Louisville, Colorado was vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti in early September. 

In late August, the predominantly African-American parish of Curé d'Ars, located in north Denver, was targeted for burglary. All the church's vessels used for Mass were stolen from the vestry, which the thieves accessed by kicking in a wooden door. The thieves also cut out copper piping, flooding the church basement with water. By late September, some of the stolen items - including the tabernacle and church vessels - were found; stolen consecrated hosts had not yet been recovered and were “obviously dumped,” according to the parish deacon.

In June, Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver was tagged with red graffiti in a possible reference to the ongoing controversy over former Catholic-run schools for Indigenous in Canada, though the exact motive remains unclear. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Oct. 14 reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020. The conference began tracking such attacks on churches in May 2020, and now says that at least 101 incidents have occurred in 29 states since then. 

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.

UK lawmaker proposes adding ‘Amess amendment’ on last rites to bill

Official portrait of Sir David Amess. / Chris McAndrew via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).

London, England, Oct 21, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A U.K. lawmaker has proposed adding an “Amess amendment” to a bill going through Parliament ensuring that Catholic priests can administer the last rites at crime scenes.

Mike Kane, a Labour Member of Parliament, is seeking to add the amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, British media reported on Oct. 21.

The reports emerged before a suspected Islamist extremist was charged with the murder of Sir David Amess, a long-serving Conservative MP, during a meeting with constituents at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Oct. 15.

Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said on Oct. 21: “We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.”

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, who is charged with murder and preparing acts of terrorism, appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Thursday.

The Guardian newspaper quoted a spokesperson for Kane, who is Catholic, as saying that the “Amess amendment” would protect the right of Catholic priests and other ministers of religion to pray alongside the dying.

The newspaper added that sympathetic members of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, were prepared to put forward the amendment to the bill, which is currently at the committee stage in the Lords.

The BBC reported that cross-party discussions were under way.

Kane, the MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, paid tribute to his slain colleague in the House of Commons, the lower house of the U.K. Parliament, on Oct. 18.

In his speech, he referred to the outcry after a priest seeking to administer the last rites to Sir David was reportedly turned away from the crime scene by police.

Kane suggested that lawmakers pass an “Amess amendment” guaranteeing priests access to those requiring last rites.

He said: “[Amess] participated fully in the liturgy of the Church. He participated fully in the sacraments of the Church.”

“While I have the attention of those on the Front Benches [government ministers], Catholics believe that extreme unction helps guide the soul to God after death, so maybe we could come up with an Amess amendment so that no matter where it is, in a care home or at a crime scene, Members, or anybody, can receive that sacrament.”

A member of the House of Lords also raised the issue on the same day.

“Could priests be allowed to attend a crime scene so that they can give the victim their last rites, especially when they are dying?” asked Susan Cunliffe-Lister, Baroness Masham of Ilton.

Fr. Jeff Woolnough, the pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Eastwood, in Leigh-on-Sea, went to Belfairs Methodist Church on Oct. 15 after he heard that Amess had been attacked.

A police officer outside the church reportedly relayed his request to enter the building, but the priest was not permitted to enter. He prayed the rosary outside the police cordon instead.

Paramedics attended to Amess, who was stabbed multiple times, for more than two-and-a-half hours before an air ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.

On Oct. 19, a Catholic bishop called for greater recognition of the last rites as an “emergency service” in the wake of the killing.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, western England, said: “Every believing Catholic desires to hear Christ’s words of pardon and absolution for the last time; to be strengthened by the grace of anointing; accompanied by the assurance of the Church’s prayer and whenever possible to receive Holy Communion.”

“This is something well understood in hospitals and care homes, yet the events following the murderous assault on Sir David Amess suggest this is not always comprehended in emergency situations.”

“I hope a better understanding of the eternal significance of the hour of death for Christians and the Church’s ministry as an ‘emergency service’ may result from this terrible tragedy.”

The Church helps to prepare Catholics for death by offering them the sacraments of reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, and viaticum (Holy Communion.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament [of the anointing of the sick] can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the ‘viaticum’ for ‘passing over’ to eternal life.”

A Catholic Memorial Mass for Sir David Amess took place at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament, on Oct. 20.

Irish lawmakers attended a Mass for the pro-life father of five in St. Teresa’s Church, Dublin, on Oct. 22. Ceann Comhairle (speaker of the Dáil) Seán Ó Fearghail read the first reading.

The celebrant Fr. Vincent O’Hara described Sir David as a man of conscience, reported the Irish Times.

“There is a special poignancy in Sir David’s death, that someone who cherished and promoted life at all stages, from its beginning in the womb, should have his life snuffed out in such a barbaric way,” the priest said.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa launches synodal process in Holy Land

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa. / Cristian Gennari/OESSH.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 21, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has announced that the synodal process in the Holy Land will open simultaneously in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Cyprus on Oct. 30.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa has published a letter that describes the synodal process in the Holy Land as an occasion of encounter and listening in which all voices are heard.

“In the Holy Land … we decided that the diocesan phase of the Synod should involve the Catholic Churches as a whole and not separately. In short, we will make a single path of preparation, the same for all our Churches,” Pizzaballa wrote in the letter published Oct. 15.

The patriarch invited parish priests, young people, contemplative monasteries, movements, migrants, and foreign workers to be involved in the local synodal process.

“All those who feel they have a word to speak should be enabled to do so,” Pizzaballa said.

“However, this moment of the synodal journey must not be limited to speaking only of our problems because it would make everything sterile, without perspective. It must be a path illuminated by the Word of God, which is always the bearer of life,” he added.

The synodal process, launched by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local dioceses.

A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

The 56-year-old Church leader, who was appointed Latin Patriarch in October 2020, highlighted the Gospel account of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples on the road to Emmaus as a “methodology” for encounter within the synodal process in the Holy Land.

“Rather than making theoretical speeches, it is helpful to listen and meet experiences from which to learn: it is more beneficial to go to a monastery and listen to the religious life experience than to make a speech on the religious life. It is more incisive to listen to the life experience of the Holy Land parishioners than to elaborate a fantastic theory about the local Church,” he said.

“Moving even physically from one’s parish hall, from one’s familiar center to meet another unknown reality of one’s Church can, I think, make a difference in many cases.”

Piazzaballa noted that the opening of the local phase of the synod in the Holy Land will coincide with the Solemnity of Mary, Queen of Palestine.

The synod will officially open at 11 a.m. across the patriarchate, with gatherings in Deir Rafat, the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Palestine and of the Holy Land, as well as the Church of Our Lady of Nazareth in Swefieh, Jordan, and the Maronite Cathedral of Nicosia in Cyprus.

“We should not expect dramatic changes from all this or extraordinary fruits. The fruits always arrive after a long time and if you have worked in the field,” Pizzaballa said.

“It would already be profitable if the Synod marked the beginning of a new way of finding ourselves as a community, where all feel part of each other’s life, united in the person of Jesus, the heart of our faith, who gives meaning to our being here in the Holy Land and who nourishes and illuminates the love that sustains our lives.”

“In the hope that this journey begun by Pope Francis will rekindle our passion for the Church, with good wishes to all and as I await the opportunity to see you again I invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Palestine, so that She may accompany us on this way,” the patriarch said.

Number of Catholics in Asia and Africa continues to rise

Catholics attend Mass in Ho, Ghana. / James Dalrymple via Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The number of Catholics in Asia and Africa continued to grow in 2019, according to newly released statistics.

The world population grew by 81.3 million in 2019, while members of the Catholic Church increased by 15.4 million for a total of 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide.

The new statistics compare 2019, the last year for which data is available, with 2018 and therefore do not reflect the effects of the global coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

While news coverage in recent years has highlighted the fall in Catholic priests being ordained in Europe and the Americas, the overall number of priests rose slightly in 2019 — by 271 — mostly due to a rise in priestly vocations in Africa and Asia, which offset decreases elsewhere.

Permanent deacons also continued to rise from the year prior, with all five continents seeing their numbers grow, especially Europe and the Americas.

The number of men and women religious decreased in 2019. Women religious were down by more than 11,500. But lay missionaries increased by over 34,200, with the overwhelming majority of the new lay missionaries located in the Americas.

The Catholic population has stayed steady with population growth. At the end of 2019, Catholics made up 17.74% of the global population — up just .01% from 2018.

The number of Catholics in Africa grew by more than eight million in 2019, for a total of around 19% of the population, while in Asia, which has 4.5 billion people, Catholics make up just 3.31% of the population, at 149.1 million.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

In a press conference on Oct. 21, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle drew attention to the relatively small number of Catholics in Asia, pointing out that around half of the continent’s Catholics are located in the Philippines.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples added that “these past years, we have seen in Asia, in terms of proportion, percentage, an increase in the number of baptisms, and also in entry to seminaries and religious life.”

“In terms of numbers, [it is] still small, but in terms of percentage proportion, [it] is large,” he said. “And we, of course, thank the Lord.”

Tagle, the former archbishop of Manila, spoke during a press conference about World Mission Sunday, which will take place on Oct. 24.

He noted that in 2021, the Church in the Philippines is celebrating 500 years of Christianity.

“Now we have many Filipinos serving as missionaries,” he said, pointing out that they are not only priests and religious, but also laity, some of whom have emigrated to other parts of the world for work and are helping to spread the Christian message.

Cardinal Tagle: Digital evangelization cannot replace personal encounter

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle speaks at a Vatican press conference presenting the 2021 World Mission Day, Oct. 21, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

While the COVID-19 pandemic led many Catholic dioceses and organizations to find creative ways to communicate the Gospel online, digital evangelization is not a replacement for personal encounter, the head of the Vatican’s missionary office has said.

“There are some facts of life that cannot be digitalized and cannot remain digitalized. We are corporeal beings. We need contact,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said at a live-streamed Vatican press conference on Oct. 21.

“As we thank the digital media for its blessings, let us not forget that … there are other intelligences that need to be developed,” he said.

The cardinal stressed that in addition to their digital savvy, young people need to also develop relational and emotional intelligence.

“There is a calling for us in the Church, to develop the other types of intelligences,” he added.

Tagle noted the limitations of some social media platforms. He used Twitter as an example, pointing out that with its character limit, “you don’t have an appreciation anymore of the complexity of context.”

He said that “a certain comportment of mind and heart” and intelligence is needed to generate trust again at a time when there is “a lot of distrust” in the world.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The Filipino cardinal spoke at a press conference for World Mission Sunday, which will be celebrated in Catholic dioceses across the world this weekend on Oct. 24.

“We need living witnesses. Those who, through their … witness of life through their quality of relationships, through their compassion for the poor, would give a living announcement of the Gospel,” Tagle said.

He shared an experience he had when visiting a refugee camp. During his visit, Tagle said that he was approached by the head of the camp, who asked him why Christians were doing so much to help refugees.

“And I felt like he was not only curious, he wanted to really know the secret of our sacrifice, of our love and compassion,” the cardinal said.

“The Holy Spirit used him to open the door, so I said: ‘Our Master Jesus Christ taught us to love everyone.’”

“And you know what he said? ‘I want to get to know your Master, Jesus Christ.’”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Tagle, the former archbishop of Manila, has served as the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since December 2019. He is also the president of Caritas International and the Catholic Biblical Federation.

At the height of lockdown restrictions last year, Tagle said that the requests for Bible formation online through the Catholic Biblical Federation increased.

He expressed gratitude that the internet could be used as a tool to “sustain some sort of relationships” at that time when visits to family and parish activities were restricted.

World Mission Day -- also known as World Mission Sunday -- was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926. It is usually observed on the third Sunday of October.

This year’s theme is: “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Pope Francis released his message for World Mission Day 2021 on Jan. 29. In it, the pope warned Catholics not to succumb to the temptation of justifying indifference on the basis of COVID-19 restrictions.

Speaking at the press conference, Tagle said: “A deep experience of Jesus leads to a state of mission.”

“It is not a mission that is just functional or pragmatic. It is an expression of joy and gratitude to the one who has done marvels for us and for the poor,” he added.

Each year on World Mission Sunday, a worldwide collection is taken in support of the Pontifical Mission Societies, an umbrella group of Catholic missionary societies under the jurisdiction of the pope.

They include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, the Holy Childhood Association, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.

“We have to share the Lord. We have to share the Lord that we have experienced. Yes, we have our personal experience of the Lord, but it is not for us to keep, to own. It is given to us as a gift to be shared with others,” Tagle said.

“The more we share the gift of Jesus, the deeper our faith grows. If we keep the faith to ourselves, the faith will become weak. And if we keep the faith only among a small group, it might become an elite group.”

The cardinal pointed to the example of many missionaries who were “inspired by their experience of the Lord to go out, to go out of themselves, to get out of their fears, to reach all the nations whether geographical or existential spaces” to bear witness as an act of gratitude to the Lord.

“So we are reminded this Sunday, this World Mission Sunday, that spirituality and encounter with the Lord is always missionary,” he said.

“And mission is always also spiritually grounded in an experience of Jesus, an experience that moves us out of ourselves, to share Jesus to all the nations.”

When will Bl. Charles de Foucauld be canonized?

A statue of Bl. Charles de Foucauld in Strasbourg, France. / PhotoFires/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Oct 21, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

A canonization Mass is a global event, drawing thousands of people to the Vatican — the heart of the Catholic Church — to celebrate the pope’s declaration that a holy man or woman is a saint in heaven.

Like other large meetings around the world, canonizations have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel and gatherings. And it remains unclear when the ceremonies can again safely take place.

One of the canonizations on hold is that of Bl. Charles de Foucauld, a dissolute French soldier who became a Trappist monk and Catholic missionary to Muslims in Algeria. “Brother Charles,” as he was known to many, was killed in 1916 at the age of 58.

Pope Francis approved a miracle obtained through Foucauld’s intercession in May 2020, and the Church’s cardinals signed off on his and six other canonizations during a Vatican consistory a year later.

“Only the date is missing. It is the only thing missing,” Fr. Bernard Ardura, the postulator of Foucauld’s cause, told CNA last week about the canonization’s delay.

The Vatican is waiting for the global situation with COVID-19 to improve before it schedules the event, Ardura explained, noting that thousands of people from countries such as the United States, Canada, France, and Algeria traveled to Rome for Foucauld’s beatification in 2005.

Ardura, who is president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, said that both he and Pope Francis hope the canonization can be held soon.

“Most recently we were thinking [the canonization would take place] around Christmas,” he said. “I told the pope, ‘So, we are waiting for this canonization?’ and he told me, ‘I want to do it! But…’”

Charles de Foucauld as a boy. Public domain.
Charles de Foucauld as a boy. Public domain.

“Canonizations are not for the saints, they are for us,” the priest said. “Because for them it changes nothing. It changes nothing for them. It is for us. It is a great ecclesial act.”

He suggested that the canonization would probably take place next year.

Foucauld was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1858. He was raised by his wealthy and aristocratic grandfather after being orphaned at the age of six.

He joined the French military, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Having already lost his belief in the Catholic faith, as a young man he lived a life of indulgence and was known to have an immature sense of humor.

Charles de Foucauld, pictured in 1886. Public domain.
Charles de Foucauld, pictured in 1886. Public domain.

Foucauld resigned from the military at age 23, setting off on a dangerous exploration of Morocco. Contact with strong Muslim believers there challenged him, and he began to pray: “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”

He returned to France and, with the guidance of a priest, came back to his Catholic faith in 1886, at the age of 28.

Fr. Ardura said that after his reversion, Foucauld understood that “all of his life should be an imitation of the life of Jesus.”

“At the beginning, he thought he should imitate Jesus even materially. So he went to the Holy Land, and spent two years as a gardener in the convent of the Claretians in Jerusalem,” the postulator explained.

“Then little by little his faith matured,” Ardura continued. “And he understood that, yes, he should be an imitator of Jesus, but above all in that which Jesus is, in his actions; it is not necessary to go where Jesus lived geographically.”

Charles de Foucauld. Public domain.
Charles de Foucauld. Public domain.

At this point, Foucauld decided to join a Trappist monastery. Remembering his experience in Morocco before he returned to his Catholic faith, he desired, the priest said, “to be close to those who are poorest, the most disenfranchised.”

This is what led him to live among the Muslim Tuareg people, a nomadic ethnic group, in the desert of French-occupied Algeria.

“He decided to be an isolated, silent missionary, offering the witness of his life, of his presence, of his commitment to their service,” Adura said.

During his 13 years in the Sahara, Foucauld learned about Tuareg culture and language and compiled a Tuareg-French dictionary. The Tuareg people felt so loved by Brother Charles that when he was sick they cared for him in return.

The postulator explained that in Algeria, Foucauld found himself living between “two very different realities.” On one side, there were the French soldiers living in forts, many of whom were Catholic by birth but no longer believed in or practiced the faith. On the other side were Muslims, who were ritualistic but nonetheless an example of believers who took their religion seriously.

Foucauld’s approach, he said, was to speak “the language of charity.”

“He wanted to be the brother of everyone: beyond differences, even differences of religion, of culture, of language, etc., even differences in social situations,” Ardura noted. “Even if they do not know Him or they call Him by different names, there is one Father.”

“This is the essential lesson left to us today by Charles de Foucauld.”

Foucauld was assassinated by a band of men at his hermitage in the Sahara on Dec. 1, 1916.

Commenting on Foucauld’s great popularity among many Catholics and even some non-Christians, Ardura said he thought that people find the blessed attractive “because he presents himself as he is, without any particular decorum. He doesn’t pretend to play a role.”

The postulator pointed to some of the last photos taken of Foucauld before he died, when he was not even 60 years old, noting how he looks much older and even a bit rough around the edges.

Charles de Foucauld, pictured c. 1915. Public domain.
Charles de Foucauld, pictured c. 1915. Public domain.

“You no longer recognize the gentleman who once had so much success. It is as if his body lost some of its consistency, some of its beauty, and only his heart remains,” he said. “In him, we see Jesus, whom he wanted to imitate throughout his life.”

He continued: “‘Who is my neighbor?’ the young man asked Jesus. And Jesus responded by recounting the parable of the Good Samaritan. This illustrates the life of Charles de Foucauld: love your neighbor, be close to those around you. He did this by becoming the universal brother. He teaches us this, I think.”

Benedict XVI is ‘full of zest for life,’ says Archbishop Gänswein

Archbishop Gänswein and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. / EWTN/Paul Badde, Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2021 / 04:40 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that Benedict XVI is “full of zest for life” after the pope emeritus expressed the hope that he would join his friends in heaven in a condolence message.

Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, spoke to Germany’s Bild newspaper on Oct. 20 after media reports suggested that the 94-year-old retired pope had a “longing for death,” said CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“The art of dying well, that is, ars moriendi, is part of the Christian life. Pope Benedict has been doing that for many years,” Gänswein said.

“Yet he is absolutely full of zest for life. He is stable in his physical weakness, crystal clear in his head, and blessed with his typical Bavarian humor.”

In a letter dated Oct. 2 and released by Wilhering Abbey in Austria, the retired German pope said that the death of the Austrian Cistercian priest Fr. Gerhard Winkler had touched him profoundly.

“The news of the passing of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Winkler O.Cist., which you have conveyed to me, has affected me deeply. Among all colleagues and friends, he was the closest to me. His cheerfulness and deep faith always attracted me,” wrote Benedict XVI, who was pope from 2005 to 2013.

“Now he has arrived in the next world, where I am sure many friends are already waiting for him. I hope that I can join them soon.”

Gänswein said that the letter was “lovingly intended” and came from the heart, but did not mean that Benedict XVI “no longer has any desire to live.”

“On the contrary,” the German archbishop said.

Benedict XVI’s older brother, Georg, died in July 2020 at the age of 96. The pope emeritus made a four-day visit to Germany to say goodbye to his brother shortly before his death.