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Synod on Synodality a learning opportunity for Catholic Church, Archbishop Gomez says

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles at the USCCB's fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 11, 2019. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Oct 20, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The upcoming gatherings of Catholics for a synodal process are important opportunities for outreach, support, and communication, according to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“The Holy Father has called for the local churches to hold inclusive consultations with the People of God as part of the synod,” Gomez said Oct. 20. “We face a challenge after over a year of being physically distanced within our communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This synod is an opportunity to meet the immense and important request of the Holy Father to engage in dialogue to better understand our call to holiness and feel the responsibility to participate in the life of the Church.”

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

“Outreach, communication, support, and encouragement are vital in order to be missionary disciples,” Gomez continued. “As is with the nature of the synod, I hope we will learn as we ‘journey together,’ and I pray that the process will enrich and guide the future path of both the local Church as well as the universal Church over the course of the next two years, and beyond.”

The Synod on Synodality, opened by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their dioceses.

Synodality is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving clerics, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

Father Michael Fuller, interim general secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading efforts to share synod-related information with U.S. bishops, the bishops’ conference said.

The U.S. bishops’ conference’s diocesan liaison is Richard Coll, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

“I welcome the opportunity to be a resource to the diocesan representatives as they engage with their local faithful in this most important phase of the synod,” Coll said.

The bishops’ conference is providing tools and tips for local diocesan synod efforts, as well as sharing the preparatory documents prepared in Rome by the Synod of Bishops.

The U.S. bishops’ conference website will provide highlights from the local-level synod and aim to incorporate synodal experiences into its resources.

The opening phase of the global synod process is a diocesan phase expected to last until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

In Sept. 18 remarks, Pope Francis said the synod is “not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit.” At an Oct. 10 Mass, the pope stressed the importance of using the synod to encounter God and one another. He said he hoped the acts of encountering, listening, and discerning would characterize the synodal path.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

The Vatican documents ask a “fundamental question” for dioceses and bishops to consider: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”

A second, continental-level phase of the synod will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The third, universal phase will begin with the Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Poland commemorates anniversary of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko’s martyrdom

A Mass in honor of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 19. 2021. / Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 20, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics in Poland have commemorated the martyrdom of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, the priest killed for his defiance of the communist authorities.

The focal point of the nationwide observance on Oct. 19 was a Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in the capital, Warsaw, where the blessed’s tomb is located.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

Preaching at the Mass, the former Warsaw auxiliary Bishop Tadeusz Pikus said: “In his teaching, he was guided above all by the argument of faith. He was convinced that he did not have to give way either to the argument of dictatorial ideological violence or to the argument of brute force.”

The anniversary had an added significance this year because it fell shortly after the beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland who led the Church during the most challenging years under communism.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

Wyszyński guided Popiełuszko’s formation as a priest and ordained him on May 28, 1972, when he was 24 years old.

The live-streamed Mass began with a solemn procession to the martyr’s tomb to the sound of the bell “Jerzy,” consecrated in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Popiełuszko family, senior government officials, workers’ groups, members of the uniformed services, and the late priest’s friends.

Oct. 19, the day that Popiełuszko was murdered in 1984 aged 37, is marked in Poland as the National Day of Remembrance for Steadfast Clergy.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

The observance was adopted by the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, in 2018 as a public holiday in honor of “heroes, steadfast defenders of faith and independent Poland.”

Lawmakers chose Oct. 19 for the annual event in honor of Popiełuszko, who was close to the Solidarity movement and was kidnapped and beaten to death by communist Security Service agents.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

On the 37th anniversary of Popiełuszko’s death, a chapel was opened to the public containing relics including his cassock, shirt, and objects that he had with him at the time of his death.

On Oct. 18, an open-air exhibit called “The Decalogue of Fr. Jerzy” was opened on the church premises. The exhibit, previously displayed at Rome’s Pontifical Urban University, consists of 22 panels describing the most important values that guided the blessed’s life.

Popiełuszko was born in 1947 in Okopy, a village located more than 120 miles northeast of Warsaw. Inspired by Cardinal Wyszyński’s implacable opposition to communism, he was determined to serve as a priest in the Warsaw archdiocese.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

He entered seminary in 1965 amid heightened tensions between the Church and the communist regime over celebrations of the millennium of Poland’s baptism.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

Wyszyński became known as the “Primate of the Millennium” because he oversaw a nine-year program of preparation culminating in a nationwide celebration of the milestone in 1966.

The cardinal not only ordained Popiełuszko but also played an important role in his priestly life. In his electrifying sermons, which were broadcast by Radio Free Europe, Popiełuszko often cited Wyszyński as well as the Polish pope John Paul II, underlining that he was preaching the same message as them.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

His last journey, on Oct. 19, 1984, was to the Church of Polish Martyr Brothers in Bydgoszcz, northern Poland. Returning home, he was stopped by three agents, beaten, tied up, and placed in the trunk of a car. They later attached a stone to his feet and threw him into the Vistula Water Reservoir, near Włocławek, where his body was recovered on Oct. 30.

A crowd of almost a million people gathered for his funeral on Nov. 3, 1984. Since then, around 23 million people have visited his tomb in Warsaw’s Żoliborz district.

Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.
Muzeum, Ośrodka Dokumentacji Życia i Kultu oraz Sanktuarium, Błogosławionego Ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki.

Popiełuszko was beatified on June 6, 2010. His canonization process was opened in September 2014 in the French diocese of Créteil, following the reported miraculous healing of a man with cancer due to the blessed’s intercession.

The diocesan stage of the process ended in September 2015 and the documents have been forwarded to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Pope Francis officially recognizes Amazon region ecclesial conference

Pope Francis at the opening Mass for the Amazon synod Oct. 6, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has approved the establishment of an ecclesial conference for the Amazon region, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon was created by bishops in Latin America in 2020 at the recommendation of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region.

The new body, which has the task of expressing “the Amazonian face” of the Church, goes by the acronym CEAMA, based on its Spanish title, Conferencia Eclesial de la Amazonía.

“Well disposed to favor such an initiative … Pope Francis instructed the Congregation for Bishops to follow and accompany the process closely, lending whatever help was needed to give the body an adequate form,” the Holy See press office said on Oct. 20.

The pope canonically erected the ecclesial conference as a “public ecclesiastical juridical person” during a meeting on Oct. 9 with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

In giving it official recognition, Pope Francis established its purpose as “promoting common pastoral action by the dioceses of the Amazon and encouraging greater inculturation of the faith in this territory.”

The creation of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon followed a proposal in the final document of the Amazon synod for “a permanent and representative bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region.”

The synod members said in the October 2019 document that having this organism would help “to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon.”

The document described the conference as “a nexus for developing Church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”

Pope Francis responded to the proposal in his own comments at the end of the Amazon synod in 2019, suggesting that the idea of a smaller regional conference could be applied in the Amazon.

The new ecclesial conference will be a functionally autonomous group connected with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

At a virtual meeting in June 2020, the 87-year-old Cardinal Cláudio Hummes was elected president of the ecclesial conference.

Hummes serves as the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), which describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, 51, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was elected vice president.

The executive committee will likely include the presidents of bishops’ conferences, as well as representatives of CELAM, REPAM, Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR), and indigenous peoples.

The official statutes of the new ecclesial conference are still under study and will be sent to Pope Francis for approval at a later date.

Rector Fr. Peter Harman to end term at North American College seminary in Rome

Pope Francis’ with Fr. Peter Harman, rector of the Pontifical North American College, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sept. 29, 2021. / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Oct 20, 2021 / 11:57 am (CNA).

Fr. Peter Harman will end his term as rector of the Pontifical North American College, a seminary for U.S. students in Rome, at the end of January 2022.

The NAC announced the completion of Harman’s term in a press release on Oct. 20. He will return to his diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

Harman was appointed rector of the NAC for a five-year term which started in February 2016. In July 2020, he was asked to stay on as rector for an additional year to maintain consistent leadership through the coronavirus pandemic.

He succeeded Bishop James Checchio, who was rector of the college for 11 years.

Commenting on the announcement, Fr. Harman said he felt both blessed and humbled to have been asked to serve on the faculty and as rector of the NAC.

“We have been blessed to be able to make many improvements to our facilities and our community life,” he said. “Now I am excited that God’s never-failing providence has called me to return home to the presbyterate and faithful, family and friends in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois."

“I am profoundly grateful for all who have assisted me and supported me in this role during the last six years, and who help make the college such a special place for the life of the Church. I leave very edified and confident that the important work going on here will continue to bear fruit in the years to come,” Harman said.

Harman’s bishop, Thomas Paprocki, said that the diocese had been pleased to share the priest’s gifts in the service of the universal Church, but they “have missed him here in his home diocese and we look forward to his return to resume pastoral ministry among the People of God in Central Illinois.”

The next rector has not yet been announced. The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy will appoint Harman’s successor in consultation with the NAC’s board of governors, the press release said.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, the chairman of the board of governors, said: “Fr. Harman has provided exceptional leadership as a stable and careful caretaker of the seminary, its seminarians, faculty, and staff.”

“The entire board is grateful for his years of outstanding service to the college — as well as for his willingness to extend his term during the pandemic. He has been a blessing to the Church and to our community.”

Installation Mass of Reverend Peter Harman at the NAC, Feb. 28, 2016. .  PNAC Photo Service.
Installation Mass of Reverend Peter Harman at the NAC, Feb. 28, 2016. . PNAC Photo Service.

Harman was the NAC’s 23rd rector since it was established in 1859. Past rectors include American Church figures such as Archbishop Martin John O’Connor, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

More than 200 seminarians and graduate priests from the United States and Australia are currently studying at the college.

On Oct. 14, Fr. Joshua J. Rodrigue, the NAC’s director of spiritual formation, was named rector and president of the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He will begin on July 1, 2022.

Fr. Peter Harman was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, in July 1999. He was a student at the NAC from 1995 to 2000, and received a licentiate in moral theology from the Alphonsianum in Rome.

As a young priest, Harman served at the Diocese of Springfield’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where he eventually went on to be pastor for five years.

In 2010, Harman earned a doctorate in sacred theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He started as a faculty member at the NAC in 2013, and also served in the roles of director of media relations and an adjunct instructor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Pro-life groups must 'wake up' in support of pro-life Democrats, former congressman says

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) testifies before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 20, 2007 / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pro-life Americans must do more to support embattled pro-life Democrats, said a Catholic former Democratic congressman.

Dan Lipinski is a Catholic eight-term congressman from Illinois who was ousted in a 2020 primary challenge by pro-abortion Marie Newman. He told CNA this week that support from pro-life groups in his primary fight was no match for an avalanche of pro-abortion spending against him.

“I was happy to see some support from pro-life groups, but the amount of money that came in from the other side certainly dwarfed anything that came in, support-wise, from pro-life groups,” Lipinski told CNA in an interview.

Pro-abortion political groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood Votes, and WOMEN VOTE! all predictably teamed up against Lipinski in the primary race, highlighting his pro-life voting record.

These groups “have a lot of power within the Democratic Party,” he noted. “I was one vote out of 435 in the U.S. House, and the pro-choice groups found that I was so important to spend easily over $5 million against me to get rid of me,” he said, “because they didn't want even one pro-life voice in the party, and they saw a danger in that.” 

“I think that the pro-life groups need to wake up and do more to support pro-life Democrats," he said.

Lipinski was recognized as one of the last consistently pro-life Democrats in the House before he was defeated in 2020. He told CNA that pro-life Democrats still exist in state legislatures, and that he knows pro-life candidates who are running for the U.S. Congress as Democrats. Lipinski himself is reportedly considering a rematch with Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), according to a Crain’s Chicago Business report from last week.

CNA spoke with Lipinski about the current political situation, including how Catholics ought to approach politics, the possibility of a post-Roe America, and threat of increased taxpayer funding of abortion.

Not only pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood opposed Lipinski on the life issue in 2020, but also groups focused on other issues such as education, labor, and the environment.

Just weeks before the primary election in 2020, SEIU and the Illinois Federation of Teachers joined Planned Parenthood Votes, NARAL, and other groups to invest $1.4 million in direct mail and digital media campaigns highlighting Lipinski’s opposition to abortion.

Lipinski had a 91% lifetime rating with the pro-environment League of Conservation Voters, yet he said the group supported Newman because of his own pro-life record.

“And because I'm pro-life, they not only endorsed my opponent, but they spent some money sending mailers out to Democratic voters in the district for her,” he said.

“These groups are becoming very intertwined,” he said of various issue groups uniting in support of pro-abortion candidates. “Look, these groups aren't really honest sometimes in what they really do care about."

Although Lipinski’s race with Newman focused on the abortion issue, Newman also attacked him for not supporting policies championed by progressive activists, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Lipinski had previously opposed the Equality Act, a pro-LGBT bill opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference, before he voted for a version of it in 2019. Newman, who has a child identifying as transgender, had attacked Lipinski for his previous opposition to the legislation.

In an April 2021 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Lipinski called on Catholic public officials – including President Joe Biden – to “be different. We shouldn’t just be Democrats, Republicans, and follow the party line.”

This applies to Catholic and pro-life voters, too, he told CNA. He warned of the trap of “sectarian partisanship,” where voters choose a political party and take all the policy positions supported by that party – whether or not they have fully considered them.

“And this is really dangerous for Catholics, because Catholics don't fit neatly into either [political] side,” he said.

"It's a problem for the Catholic Church right now, this divide," he said, noting that political divisions among Catholics intensified after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“We can't demonize others, we cannot view others as evil. That goes against everything that Jesus taught us,” he said.

Many pro-life groups support Republicans, arguing that they are “the pro-life party,” he noted.

“I understand that, that general feeling, but I think it's important to be able to look out for the pro-life Democratic candidates and support them, and understand the importance of having pro-life voices in the Democratic Party.”

A current priority of pro-abortion groups is the repeal of the Hyde amendment and similar policies, which prohibit federal funding of abortion in a number of programs including Medicaid. Appropriations bills that passed the House this summer excluded the Hyde amendment, and a bill introduced Monday in a Senate committee also excluded the policy.

“The Hyde amendment is an acknowledgement that even people who consider themselves to be pro-choice, many of them have a problem with abortion,” Lipinski said of bans on taxpayer-funded abortion.

Pro-abortion groups “just want to get rid of that idea," he said, pointing to the development of the Democratic Party platforms as an example. While the 1996, 2000, and 2004 platforms called for abortion to be “rare” or “more rare,” the platforms subsequently dropped that language. The 2016 and 2020 platforms called for taxpayer-funded abortion.

The Supreme Court this fall will hear arguments in a major abortion case that legal experts say could result in the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Pro-life advocates must prepare for a society where Roe is overturned, Lipinski emphasized, as “there's going to be a lot more work for people who are pro-life for them to do, and we need to be preparing for that right now.”

Catholic leader says his archdiocese won’t take part in global synodal process, citing ‘ideological’ risk

Archbishop Wolfgang Haas of Vaduz, Liechtenstein. / Monegasque2 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vaduz, Liechtenstein, Oct 20, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic leader has said that his archdiocese won’t take part in the two-year global synodal process, saying that it would run “the risk of becoming ideological.”

Archbishop Wolfgang Haas of Vaduz, Liechtenstein, announced his decision on Oct. 15, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I am of the opinion that in our small archdiocese it is possible for good reasons to refrain from carrying out such a complex and sometimes even complicated procedure, which in our parts runs the risk of becoming ideological,” the 73-year-old archbishop wrote.

The archdiocese is based in the capital of Liechtenstein, a German-speaking microstate located in the Alps between Austria and Switzerland. The wealthy tax haven, which is smaller than Washington, D.C., has a population of 38,000 people, around 73% of whom are Catholic.

Haas, who was born in Vaduz, previously served as bishop of the Swiss diocese of Chur. Amid internal tensions, he was appointed in 1997 as the first archbishop of Vaduz, which was previously part of the Chur diocese.

The archdiocese, which emcompasses the whole Principality of Liechtenstein and whose website lists just 12 parishes, does not belong to a national bishops’ conference and has no suffragan sees.

Explaining why he felt that the archdiocese did not need to take part in the global process, Haas said: “On the one hand, the close relationships in our parishes allow for quick and uncomplicated mutual contact between pastors and laity, so that an intellectual and spiritual exchange has always been, and still is, possible.”

“All those who wish to do so can enter into dialogue with one another, listen to one another, and maintain personal communication about suggestions, wishes, and ideas in everyday Church life.”

“In parish and church councils, as well as in school, social, and charitable institutions and in educational establishments, there are constant relationships among interested people in which a responsible, tactful, sensitive interaction can take place.”

He went on: “On the other hand, it is true anyway that consultations take place on different levels, namely also on the diocesan level, although at present — due to the pandemic — not everything is possible through personal encounters.”

“Those who wish to express in writing their wishes, concerns, and suggestions for the shaping of ecclesial life in our diocese can still do so by contacting the archbishop or the vicar general’s office directly.”

The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis formally launched the process at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 10 with a call to “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.”

Referring to a handbook released by the Vatican last month to help guide the process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality, the archbishop said: “In the vademecum for the synod on synodality as an official manual for the deliberations in the local churches, the main task of the bishop is seen in listening, not in great discussions and long debates. It is about listening to what the Holy Spirit wants to tell us.”

“This listening presupposes our prayer for the spiritual gift of discernment. Above all, I would like to encourage prayer for this special gift and ask God’s blessing on everyone.”

Pope Francis wants seminarians to read this letter from a clerical abuse survivor

null / alphaspirit via Shutterstock.com.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has shared a letter written by a clerical sexual abuse survivor with candidates preparing for the Catholic priesthood.

“For years I was mistreated by a priest who I should have called ‘little brother,’ and I was his ‘little sister,’” the letter writer said. “If we want to live the truth, we cannot close our eyes!”

Addressing priests, the abuse survivor wrote: “Please realize that you have received a huge gift. The gift of being an ‘alter Christus,’ of being the incarnation of Christ here in the world. People, and especially children, do not see a person in you, but Christ Jesus, in whom they trust without limits.”

“It is something HUGE and STRONG, but also very FRAGILE and VULNERABLE. PLEASE BE A GOOD PRIEST!” she said.

The letter, with the survivor's name removed, was published on the website of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) on Oct. 18.

In a brief introduction to the letter, PCPM president Cardinal Seán O’Malley said that “in this time of renewal and pastoral conversion, when the Church faces the scandal and wounds of sexual abuse inflicted on so many of God’s children everywhere, our Holy Father has received a courageous witness offered to all priests by a survivor.”

By sharing this testimony from a victim of abuse, he continued, Pope Francis “wants to welcome the voice of all wounded people and show all priests who announce the Gospel the way that leads to authentic service of God for the benefit of all the vulnerable.”

The abuse victim wrote that she was sharing her story because she would like to see “loving truth” win out.

She said that she spoke in the name of victims, “of children who have been deeply hurt, who have had their childhood, purity, and respect stolen from them... who were betrayed and had their boundless trust taken advantage of... the children whose hearts beat, who breathe, live, but were killed once (twice, more times)... their souls made into little bloody pieces.”

“I am here because the Church is my Mother and it hurts me so much when she is hurt, when she is dirty,” the survivor said.

She wrote that adults who experienced this kind of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church as children can never erase it. They may try to forget and live a full life, but the scars remain.

The author of the letter described some of her experiences after being sexually abused by a priest. She said that she has dissociative identity disorder, severe complex post-traumatic disorder, depression, and anxiety. She added that she has difficulty sleeping and when she does, she has nightmares.

She also said that she has out-of-body experiences in which she loses awareness of the reality around her, that her body remembers experiencing the abuse, and that she is afraid to be near priests.

“I haven’t been able to go to Holy Mass lately. It hurts me a lot... Church, that sacred space, was my second home... and he took it away from me. I have a great desire to feel safe in church, to be able to not be afraid, but my body, emotions react in a completely different way,” she wrote.

She asked priests and seminarians “to protect the Church, the body of Christ.”

“God has called you to be his instrument among men. You have a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY! A responsibility that is not a burden, but a GIFT! Please treat it according to the example of Jesus... with HUMILITY and LOVE!” she urged.

The woman said that problems cannot be swept under the carpet and left to smell and rot. Hiding these facts makes one a cooperator, she underlined.

“Living in the truth is living according to Jesus, seeing things through his eyes,” she said. “And he did not close his eyes before sin, before sin and the sinner, but lived the TRUTH with LOVE... With the loving truth, he revealed the sin and the sinner.”

Godfather ban: Sicilian Catholic diocese suspends naming of godparents at baptism for 3 years

Baptism. / Josh Applegate via Unsplash.com.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 20, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

There will be no godfathers named in the Sicilian archdiocese of Catania for the next three years due to a decree issued by the archbishop that came into full effect this month.

Archbishop Salvatore Gristina of Catania has said that he decided to temporarily suspend the naming of godparents and Confirmation sponsors because the tradition had become a “social custom in which the dimension of faith is hardly visible.”

Catania is the Italian island of Sicily’s second-largest city, located on the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna. The city has a long Catholic history, tracing its first bishop back to the first-century St. Birillus, whom local tradition holds was ordained by St. Peter himself.

But the archbishop said that in today’s “socio-ecclesial context” in Catania, particularly with “the irregular family situation of so many people,” often those who were selected by families to be the godparents or Confirmation sponsors do not meet the canonical requirements for the role.

“The centuries-old tradition of the Church has it that the godfather or godmother accompany the person being baptized or confirmed, so that they can help him or her on the journey of faith,” Gristina wrote in the decree issued “ad experimentum e ad triennium” (for an experimental three-year period.)

Gristina said that what is more important than the presence of godparents at the baptism itself is that they fulfill their “true ecclesial function.”

According to Book IV of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, baptismal sponsors, or godparents, are required to be a fully initiated Catholic in good standing “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.”

The role of a godparent is to help “the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.”

The law does not stipulate that godparents are required for the sacrament, only that “insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor.”

A Confirmation sponsor is also not absolutely required by canon law, but should be given “insofar as possible” to fulfill the role of taking care that “the confirmed person behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in this sacrament.”

The decree, which was first issued in March, came into full effect on Oct. 1 after an interim period from May 25 to Sept. 30 which allowed already scheduled baptisms with selected godparents — many postponed due to prior COVID-19 lockdown restrictions — to take place.

Gristina said that his decision to issue the decree was made in consultation with members of the diocesan presbyteral council, the majority of whom expressed a favorable opinion of the action in 2019.

Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, Catania’s vicar general, expressed hope in an interview with the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana that the three-year temporary suspension on baptismal sponsors would be an occasion of renewal in which Catholics come to a better understanding of the Church’s expectations of godparents.

“We hope that things will change, and whoever is about to become godfather or godmother will really do so because they intend to be a witness of a journey of faith,” Genchi said.

The godfather ban was featured in a New York Times article on Oct. 16, which said that Italian prosecutors have used baptisms as a metric to map out the influence of mafia bosses.

It cited a priest in Catania who said that in some instances “threats against the parish priest” had been made to pressure the cleric into allowing some “spiritually questionable characters” to be named as godfathers.

The Vatican created a working group earlier this year to study how best to separate criminal organizations like the mafia from Catholic traditions.

The eight-member group dedicated to study the “excommunication of the mafia” is an initiative of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

During a visit to southern Italy in September 2020, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that Marian devotion in particular must be safeguarded from mafia exploitation.

“Popular piety is a great treasure that the Church cannot do without precisely because it supports faith in all situations. But it also needs to be purified from some elements that are not appropriate, all the more so if they are underworld or criminal elements,” Parolin said at a Mass in Calabria, the region that is home to the ’Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate, one of the most powerful mafia groups in Italy.

“There is a lot of work to be done to which pastors dedicate themselves with great attention ... We must be careful not to throw away the baby with the bathwater,” the cardinal said.

Vatican launches prayer website ‘to accompany’ Synod on Synodality

A website and smartphone app to help Catholics pray for the synod on synodality was launched Oct. 19, 2021. / Click to Pray 2.0.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 05:03 am (CNA).

The Vatican on Tuesday launched a website and smartphone app to help Catholics pray for the success of the two-year process culminating in the 2023 synod on synodality.

At prayforthesynod.va, Catholics can find information in English, Spanish, and other languages about how to support the synod through prayer.

“This website, together with the app Click To Pray, aims to accompany the synodal way for prayer,” the website says on its “About us” page.

“In order to ‘walk together’ and listen to the Holy Spirit we need to pray. There can be no synodal way without personal and community prayer. Prayer prepares our hearts to listen carefully to others and helps us to discern the action of the Holy Spirit throughout the world.”

One way the Vatican has suggested that Catholics and their communities can pray for the synod is by reciting a prayer to the Holy Spirit, a simplified version of the “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus.”

The “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus,” according to the “Pray for the Synod” website, was prayed at the beginning of every session during the Second Vatican Council.

The prayer was revised “so that any group or liturgical assembly can pray more easily,” the website states.

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 Vatican has also unveiled version 2.0 of the Click To Pray app, first launched in 2019.

The app connects Catholics to a global network to share prayer intentions via their smartphones — and will be another way to pray with others during the synodal process.

Speaking at a presentation on Oct. 19, Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz, an official of the Vatican communications dicastery, said: “The novelties of the new platform propose a greater interaction with various networks and ecclesial communities, a new possibility for accompanying each other in a personalized way in our spiritual life.”

The Click To Pray network also has a website and is present on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Using media and technology to live stream Masses and other prayers during the coronavirus pandemic showed us it can be a tool for unity, Ruiz added. “It’s a good and opportune instrument for this communion, because it offers a space of community and support in and for prayer.”

“It’s a great joy to be able to present on this day not only the new version of Click To Pray, but its dynamic opening to the process that the Church has begun to follow with the synod,” he said.

Bettina Raed, the international coordinator of Click To Pray, said on Oct. 19 that “Click To Pray is a community of prayer which helps us pray for the challenges of the world.”

“Click To Pray accompanies users in their personal and community prayer proposing a daily rhythm of prayer in three moments of the day: morning, afternoon, and evening,” she said.

Raed is also the regional director in Argentina and Uruguay of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which is a sponsor of the app and prayer website for the synod, together with the International Union of Superiors General.

“The proposals are simple, concrete, and well adapted to daily life, in a way that people can pray for the necessities of the world in the middle of their everyday activities,” she said.

She added: “To help pray for the intentions of the Holy Father does not mean to only pray for his monthly intentions, but for all of the requests for which the Holy Father asks us to pray, and which are presented in his profile of prayer.”

Pope Francis thanks child for impromptu ‘lesson’ at general audience

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

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 03:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis thanked a child on Wednesday for giving an impromptu “lesson” at his general audience.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Oct. 20, the pope paid tribute to the boy who walked up to him at the beginning of the audience.

“In these days we are talking about the freedom of faith, listening to the Letter to the Galatians,” he said. “But I was reminded of what Jesus was saying about the spontaneity and freedom of children, when this child had the freedom to approach and move as if he were at home... And Jesus tells us: ‘You too, if you do not behave like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”

“The courage to approach the Lord, to be open to the Lord, not to be afraid of the Lord: I thank this child for the lesson he has given us all. And may the Lord help him in his limitation, in his growth because he has given this testimony that came from his heart. Children do not have an automatic translator from the heart to life: the heart takes the lead.”

The unexpected encounter took place early in the audience as clergy read out Galatians 5:13-14 in various languages, a passage in which the Apostle urges Christians not to abuse their freedom but instead to “become slaves to one another” through love.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

As the verses were read in German, the boy, who was wearing a black tracksuit, spectacles, and a face mask, approached Pope Francis, who smiled and clasped his hand.

Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, the regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, who sits to the pope’s right at general audiences, rose and gave his seat to the boy.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The child sat briefly, then stood and pointed at the pope’s zucchetto. He led the priest giving the Portuguese reading over to the pope to show him the white papal skullcap. Eventually, the boy walked back down from the platform proudly wearing his own zucchetto.

The pope’s live-streamed address, dedicated to the theme “Freedom is realized in love,” was the 12th in his cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

In his catechesis, Pope Francis explained that in his letter, St. Paul revealed “the great novelty of faith.”

“It is truly a great novelty, because it does not merely renew a few aspects of life, but rather it leads us into that ‘new life’ that we have received with baptism,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“There the greatest gift, that of being children of God, has been poured out upon us. Reborn in Christ, we have passed from a religiosity made up of precepts — we have moved on from a religiosity made up of precepts — to a living faith, which has its center in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters, that is, in love. We have passed from the slavery of fear and sin to the freedom of God’s children.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He noted that Paul defined freedom as an opportunity to serve others, rather than to follow selfish impulses.

“Yet again, we find ourselves faced with the paradox of the Gospel: we are freed by serving, not in doing whatever we want. We are free in serving, and freedom comes from there; we find ourselves fully to the extent to which we give ourselves,” he said, describing this insight as “pure Gospel.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He contrasted Paul’s vision with the idea of liberty as “doing what you want and what you like.”

“This type of freedom, without a goal and without points of reference, would be an empty freedom, a freedom of the circus: it is not good,” he said.

“And indeed, it leaves emptiness within: how often, after following instinct alone, do we realize that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom, the beauty of being able to choose true goodness for ourselves and for others?”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He observed that St. Paul always connected freedom with seeking the good of our neighbor, describing this as a “rule for unmasking any type of selfish freedom.”

“Freedom guided by love is the only one that sets others and ourselves free, that knows how to listen without imposing, that knows how to love without coercing, that builds and does not destroy, that does not exploit others for its own convenience and does good without seeking its own benefit,” he said.

“In short, if freedom is not at the service — this is the test — if freedom is not in the service of good, it runs the risk of being barren and not bearing fruit. If freedom is not in the service of good, it does not bear fruit.”

“On the other hand, freedom inspired by love leads towards the poor, recognizing the face of Christ in their faces.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Concluding his address, the pope said: “We know ... that one of the most widespread modern conceptions of freedom is this: ‘My freedom ends where yours begins.’ But here the relationship is missing! It is an individualistic vision.”

“On the other hand, those who have received the gift of freedom brought about by Jesus cannot think that freedom consists in keeping away from others, as if they were a nuisance; the human being cannot be regarded as cooped up alone, but always part of a community. The social dimension is fundamental for Christians, and it enables them to look to the common good and not to private interest.”

He went on: “Especially in this historic moment, we need to rediscover the communitarian, not individualistic, dimension of freedom. The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this; we need to choose it in a tangible way, to decide on that path, every day.”

“Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather they are the possibility to fully realize it. Because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of the respective language group.

Addressing Polish speakers, he noted that Oct. 22 is the feast day of St. John Paul II, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005. He quoted from a homily given by the Polish pope during a 1997 visit to his homeland.

Pope Francis said: “To his protection, I entrust you, your families, and the entire Polish nation. Always remember what he said to you: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … Be vigilant, so that nothing may separate you from this love: no false slogan, no mistaken ideology, no yielding to the temptation of compromise with what is not from God or with the quest of self-advantage. Reject everything that destroys and weakens communion with Christ. Be faithful to God’s commandments and to the commitments of your baptism.’ I bless you from my heart!”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his remarks to English-speaking pilgrims, the pope made special mention of visitors from the United States.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!”

The audience concluded with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.