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Church and contraception: Experts expose errors in Pontifical Academy for Life book

null / Image credit: Simone van der Koelen / Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 10:07 am (CNA).

Nine international experts have pointed out in an open letter the serious errors contained in a book published a few weeks ago by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which promotes a change in the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of contraceptives.

“It is not possible to take good care, give spiritual advice, counsel, and accompany a married couple by applying a pastoral approach that does not take the experience of medical studies into account,” the experts pointed out to the academy.

Proposing that Catholics be able to resort to contraceptives, as the document published by the academy does, “is, beyond a theoretical intellectual exercise, an affirmation that does not take the reality of the studies on the coaching of married couples nor the experience of so many marriages into account.”

The open letter, titled “Pastoral care that does not take into account experience is no longer pastoral care,” was signed by Spanish doctor Jokin de Irala, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Michèle Barbato of Italy, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Jacques Aimé Bazeboso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, president of the African Federation for Family Action; and Italian physician Maria Boerci, national president of the Italian Confederation of Centers for Natural Fertility Regulation.

Also signing were Italian doctor Paolo Bordin, a specialist in Internal Medicine; Serena Del Zoppo, a gynecologist with experience in natural family planning and infertility, as well as a consultant in Naprotechnology; French physician Isabelle Ecochard, former president of the European Institute for Family Life Education; Belgian doctor Pierre Hernalsteen, a professor with experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Rwanda; and Italian doctor Furio Pesci, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome.

The experts’ open letter is a response to the book “Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges” published this year by the Pontifical Academy for Life by Librería Editora Vaticana, the publishing house of the Holy See.

The book compiles in 528 pages the conferences that were held as part of a theological seminar sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2021 and has an introduction by its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

According to Paglia, the book, which proposes that Catholics may resort to contraceptives, presents a “paradigm shift” in moral theology.

“The text makes a radical change, going, so to speak, from the sphere to the polyhedron,” he said.

The Church’s position on contraceptives ‘hasn’t changed’

The experts in health, fertility, and accompaniment for families lamented that after the publication of the book by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “There has been some confusion in some ecclesial circles and in the media for interpreting this as a change from the Holy See on these issues.”

“But the position of the Catholic Church has not changed,” the experts stressed.

“The proposals in the manuscript are from a group of experts; they do not reflect the position of the academy,” they added.

The experts noted that “St. John Paul II warned against confusing the ‘law of gradualness’ with the ‘gradualness of the law’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.”

“The law of gradualness supposes that we are all invited to fully live the proposals of the Church, even if we manage to reach them little by little, from our personal capacities and circumstances, counting on grace and being accompanied to overcome difficulties,” they explained.

“Pope Francis guides us along these lines, strongly emphasizing the importance of accompaniment and merciful discernment of the spouses: ‘It is necessary to face all these situations in a constructive way, trying to transform them into an opportunity for a journey towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. It is a matter of welcoming and accompanying them with patience and gentleness’ (Amoris Laetitia, 294).”

For the experts, “the gradualism of the law would mean, on the contrary, that there are different laws for different people and in different circumstances.”

After noting that “pastoral care should take medical knowledge into account,” the experts stressed that “some of us have been working and coaching married couples for 40 years. Our work covers responsible parenthood, their marital sexuality, and during their use of modern natural methods (MNM), in reciprocal respect for their fertility and in permanent dialogue, to favor, space, or avoid pregnancies.”

What we know about contraceptives after 60 years

After six decades of contraceptive use, they said, “the proven results” shed light on “the effects that this ‘new’ pastoral approach would have.”

“In the 1960s, couples were taught that the pill would solve the so-called overpopulation problem. After 1968, women were taught that the pill would protect them from ‘unwanted’ pregnancies and prevent abortions. In the 1970s, artificial insemination techniques were developed to help childless couples to get their ‘desired child.’”

“Later, in the 1980s, it was claimed that the condom would prevent infections and also ‘unwanted’ pregnancies,” they added.

“The result, the breakdown of the family and the coercion of governments, was predicted by the encyclical Humanae Vitae: in addition to the worsening situation of women who were supposed to be ‘liberated’ by these methods and the increase in marriage failures, we are now suffering a ‘demographic winter’ and epidemics of sexually transmitted infections are on the rise,” they lamented.

In these decades, the experts stressed in their open letter, “we have learned and confirmed” that the natural method known as “symptothermal double-check” is “five times more effective than the condom” in preventing pregnancy.

It’s also known that “the current contraceptive pill has, as one of its mechanisms of action, the early elimination of embryos by preventing their implantation,” they pointed out, noting that “many women would not want to use it if they knew that the destruction of an embryo was possible.”

According to the “best study to date on the relationship between the pill and breast cancer, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,” the experts noted, it’s known that “oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer in an epidemic scale.”

“They reduce some types of cancers, but it is not comparable to the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer,” they stated.

In addition, “oral contraceptives raise the risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke by 60%.”

The use of these substances, they continued, is linked to “an increased risk of depression and suicides and suicide attempts.”

Science has also shown, they added, that methods such as Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology “obtain results similar to those of artificial methods of assisted reproduction, without their bioethical drawbacks and side effects,” including “the problem of all frozen embryos.”

According to the experts, “If only the proposals of Humanae Vitae had been followed, countless deaths from the causes described above could have been avoided in the last 50 years.”

“To question today the pastoral application of Humanae Vitae on the grounds of problems in the use of NFP could lead to one of the greatest public health scandals of all times, because it would affect the health of millions of women,” they warned.

“On the other hand, it would be an unprecedented victory for the pharmaceutical industry that seeks to silence the current medical evidence on the contraceptive pill, in order to continue increasing its business at the expense of women’s health,” they said.

The success of natural methods

The experts said that the use of “modern natural methods promotes marital autonomy; it is effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy,” and they highlighted that over the years their development has presented “increasingly better effectiveness rates, with the help of smartphone applications that include symptom-thermal algorithms with individual teaching and with the support of centers that promote them worldwide with more success and professionalism.”

After noting that those who work in health and family care with natural methods, are accompanying “the grandchildren of the first users of oral contraceptives,” the experts pointed out that “the pastoral approaches proposed by the previously mentioned working group are not new, and have been applied in some places for 60 years, probably because they did not believe in [Humanae Vitae] or because they did not know how to help married couples in other ways or were overwhelmed by the influence that Big Pharma had on the media and on health workers.”

“Now we hear very different voices in our daily practice. Young women — mostly nonbelievers —- are sad, even angry, because they were never told they could live without contraception. Sometimes they have even had to go through an abortion, simply because they blindly trusted those contraceptives,” they lamented.

After discovering the natural methods, they said, the young women “feel good as women again; they feel truly emancipated for the first time, connected to their bodies and sexuality.”

These young women, they continued, “no longer want a pastor who assumes that the ‘ideal’ is not for them, who approves of contraception, minimizes abortion, and considers divorce inevitable. The pastoral approaches that have been applied in many places over the years [have] lost meaning for them because they have endured their physical and psychological consequences. They want to fulfill the dream that the Church has maintained for centuries.”

“Instead of continuing to live in the tow of false hopes of the 60s that are old and have failed, the Church can embrace with more strength the experience and advances achieved by those who work in this field: to have a renewed pastoral role; be a hopeful sign for a youth hungry for the Truth; and who want to live to the fullest their projects as couples,” they said.

For the experts, applying the law of gradualness to family planning “would mean proposing NFP to those who want to space their pregnancies and, if difficulties arise, accompanying them while they resolve their problems so that they can live like others the good news proclaimed by the Church.”

“On the contrary, the gradualism of the law and these ‘new’ proposals would be tantamount to telling them: ‘This ideal is not for you. In your circumstances, use condoms or other contraceptives,’” they said.

The experts also highlighted the need for “a greater commitment so that lay people, health professionals, and universities with a Christian inspiration do more, much more, to facilitate and improve the care of these couples.”

“It is time to abandon the failed paradigms of the sexual revolution,” they pointed out, and stressed that “it is time for the Church to develop a true and renewed pastoral care that is sustainable, following an integral ecology, centered on free and responsible men and women.”

“The Church’s teaching is healthy and promotes public health,” they said, stressing that natural methods favor “dialogue in marriage and respect for the other, in addition to strengthening the couple’s bonds and goals.”

“When they come from love, they increase true love; when they come from freedom, they increase freedom. Our experience and science confirm that it is possible to follow and apply the teachings of the Catholic Church and accompany couples in their specific situations without departing from the teachings of Humanae Vitae,” they concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Andrea Bocelli to sing in St. Peter’s Square this Sunday

Andrea Bocelli / Jakub Janecki / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rome Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Andrea Bocelli will sing at the Vatican this Sunday as a special guest for the inauguration of a new light display on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Italian tenor is scheduled to perform on Oct. 2 a song from his new album, set to be released at the end of October.

The performance at 8 p.m. will kick off a two-week nightly video display at the Vatican. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, an eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” will be projected onto the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The video tells the story of the Church’s first pope using video renderings of Renaissance artwork found in the Vatican Museums and inside the basilica. 

It will be shown in Italian with English subtitles on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night during the first two weeks of October.

According to a press release from the Vatican, Bocelli is slated to sing “The First Noël” from his new album A Family Christmas and other songs.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will also speak at the opening night, along with Italian actor Flavio Insinna and TV presenter Milly Carlucci.

It will not be the first time Bocelli has performed at the Vatican. The internationally renowned artist sang “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus” in St. Peter’s Square in July 2015 for an evening of prayer with Pope Francis.

He also led a children’s choir from Haiti in a surprise performance at the end of one of the pope’s Wednesday audiences in August 2017.

Bocelli performed the hymn for the Great Jubilee of 2000 for St. John Paul II and joined Benedict XVI and 300,000 young Catholics pilgrims in Loreto, Italy, in 2007.

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul

Feast date: Sep 27

On Sept. 27, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Vincent de Paul, the French, 17th century priest known as the patron of Catholic charities for his apostolic work among the poor and marginalized.
 
During a September 2010 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI noted that St. Vincent “keenly perceived the strong contrast between the richest and the poorest of people,” and was “encouraged by the love of Christ” to “organize permanent forms of service” to provide for those in need.
 
The exact year of Vincent’s birth is not definitively known, but it has been placed between 1576 and 1581. Born to a poor family in the southwest of France, he showed his intellectual gifts from a young age, studying theology from around age 15. He received ordination as a priest in the year 1600, and worked as a tutor to students in Toulouse.
 
During a sea voyage in 1605, Vincent was seized by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery. His ordeal of captivity lasted until 1607, during which time the priest converted his owner to the Christian faith and escaped with him from Tunisia. Afterward, he spent time studying in Rome, and – in a striking reversal of fortune – served as an educator and spiritual guide to members of an upper-class French family.
 
Although Vincent had initially begun his priesthood with the intention of securing a life of leisure for himself, he underwent a change of heart after hearing the confession of a dying peasant. Moved with compassion for the poor, he began undertaking missions and founding institutions to help them both materially and spiritually. The one-time slave also ministered to convicts forced to serve in squalid conditions as rowers aboard galley ships.
 
Vincent established the Congregation of Priests of the Mission in 1625, as part of an effort to evangelize rural populations and foster vocations to remedy a priest shortage. Not long after this, he worked with the future Saint Louise de Marillac to organize the Daughters of Charity, the first congregation of women religious whose consecrated life involved an extensive apostolate among the poor, the sick, and prisoners.
 
Under Louise’s direction, the order collected donations which Vincent distributed widely among the needy. These contributions went toward homes for abandoned children, a hospice for the elderly, and an immense complex where 40,000 poor people were given lodging and work. Vincent was involved in various ways with all of these works, as well as with efforts to help refugees and to free those sold into slavery in foreign lands.
 
Though admired for these accomplishments during his lifetime, the priest maintained great personal humility, using his reputation and connections to help the poor and strengthen the Church. Doctrinally, Vincent was a strong opponent of Jansenism, a theological heresy that denied the universality of God’s love and discouraged reception of the Eucharist. He was also involved in the reform of several religious orders within France.
 
St. Vincent de Paul died on Sept. 27, 1660, only months after the death of St. Louise de Marillac in March of the same year. Pope Clement XII canonized him in 1737. In 1835, the French scholar Blessed Frederic Ozanam took him as the inspiration and namesake for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a lay Catholic organization working for the relief of the poor.

Pope Francis names new head of Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça celebrates Mass at Fatima, Portugal, May 13, 2021. / Courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed a Portuguese cardinal as the head of the newly formed Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The Vatican announced on Sept. 26 that the pope appointed Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça as the prefect of the dicastery.

Mendonça most recently served as the head of the Vatican library and archives, where he oversaw the digitization of historic manuscripts and created a new space for housing temporary exhibitions.

The 56-year-old cardinal, originally from the Portuguese island of Madeira, is an expert in the relationship between literature and theology, according to the Vatican. He has published poetry as well as academic theological articles.

Mendonça has a licentiate from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a doctorate in biblical theology from the Catholic University of Portugal, where he went on to teach theology as a professor for 14 years.

Pope Francis selected Mendonça to serve as the main preacher for the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in 2018. Five months later, the pope appointed him as chief archivist and librarian of the Vatican Apostolic Library with the dignity of archbishop. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal one year later, in 2019.

Mendonça will serve as the first prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The new apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium merged the Vatican’s former Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education together to form the new dicastery.

Divided into two sections, the Dicastery for Culture and Education works “for the development of human values in people within the horizon of Christian anthropology, contributing to the full realization of Christian discipleship,” according to the constitution.

The dicastery also coordinates the activities of some of the pontifical academies, such as the Pontifical Academy of Archeology and the Pontifical Academy of Theology.

The Vatican’s announcement also stated that Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education from 2012–2022, has been selected by the pope as the new archivist and librarian of the Vatican library.

Zani served within the Vatican’s education congregation since 2002, when Pope John Paul II appointed him as undersecretary, its third-highest official.

Pope Francis has appointed Monsignor Giovanni Cesare Pagazzi as the secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education. Pagazzi is a professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome.

Lazarus Is Knocking – A Sermon On Luke 16:19-31

Exclusive communities, membership dues, railroad tracks, border walls, the other side of town; it seems there is always a gate between the rich and the poor. And so it is in today’s gospel (Luke 16:19-31). On one side of the…

Pope Francis: The Eucharist teaches us to adore God rather than ourselves

Pope Francis prays at Italy’s National Eucharistic Congress in Matera, Italy on Sept. 25, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday traveled to the ancient Italian city of Matera, where he urged thousands of people gathered in a soccer stadium for Sunday Mass to “rediscover” Eucharistic adoration.

“Brothers, sisters, from the city of Matera, this ‘city of bread,’ I would like to tell you: Let us return to Jesus. Let us return to the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said in his homily on Sept. 25.

“Let us return to the taste of bread because while we are hungry for love and hope, or we are broken by the travails and sufferings of life, Jesus becomes food that feeds us and heals us.”

Matera, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world known for its ancient cave dwellings, is also called the “city of bread” due to its traditional sourdough recipe that has been passed down over centuries.

The ancient “city of bread” hosted Italy’s National Eucharist Congress from Sept. 23 to 25. More than 80 bishops and hundreds of delegates from across Italy participated in the congress with the theme “Let us return to the taste of the bread: For a Eucharistic and Synodal Church.”

Pope Francis flew early Sunday morning to the southern Italian city to offer the closing Mass for the congress. He departed by plane rather than by helicopter as scheduled due to stormy weather conditions in Rome and arrived to a warm welcome in Matera as his popemobile passed through a cheering crowd.

In his homily, the pope expressed his dream for “a eucharistic Church” that “kneels before the Eucharist and adores with wonder the Lord present in the bread, but also knows how to bend with compassion and tenderness before the wounds of those who suffer, relieving the poor, drying the tears of those who suffer, making themselves bread of hope and joy for all.”

He said that the Eucharist presents each person with a challenge: “to adore God and not ourselves, putting him at the center rather than the vanity of self.”

“When we adore the Lord Jesus present in the Eucharist, we receive a new outlook on our lives as well: I am not the things I possess or the successes I can achieve. The value of my life does not depend on how much I can show off nor does it diminish when I encounter failures and setbacks. I am a beloved child, each of us is a beloved child. I am blessed by God. He wants to clothe me with beauty and free me from all slavery,” Francis said.

“Let us remember this: whoever worships God does not become a slave to anyone. They are free. Let us rediscover the prayer of adoration, a prayer that is frequently forgotten. Adoration … frees us and restores us to our dignity as children, not slaves.”

Prisoners in Italy helped to make the eucharistic hosts offered during Communion at the Mass as part of an initiative of the Italian prison chaplains’ association. The wine offered at Communion was made from vines cultivated by refugees and migrants who work at the House of Dignity vineyards.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus prayer and recalled that Sept. 25 marks the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September.

The pope said: “Let us renew our commitment to building the future in accordance with God’s plan: a future in which every person may find his or her place and be respected; in which migrants, refugees, displaced persons, and the victims of human trafficking may live in peace and with dignity.”

Pope Francis then prayed for peace in Ukraine and in Myanmar, where an air attack on a school earlier this week killed 11 children.

“May the cry of these little ones not go unheard! These tragedies must not happen,” he said.

The pope also appealed for the release of five priests and a religious sister who were kidnapped in Cameroon.

After praying the Angelus, the pope paused in silence in front of an icon of Mary from his wheelchair. The pope, who has struggled with an injury to his knee in recent months, stood up on his own at some points in the liturgy, including to offer the opening prayer.

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi of Bologna, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, served as the primary celebrant for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pope Francis could be seen seated behind him speaking the words of the Eucharistic Prayer with his hand extended.

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi of Bologna consecrates the host at Mass in Matera, Italy on Sept. 25, 2022. Vatican Media.
Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi of Bologna consecrates the host at Mass in Matera, Italy on Sept. 25, 2022. Vatican Media.

Pope Francis made back-to-back pastoral visits this weekend to the Italian cities of Assisi and Matera. In Assisi, the pope spoke to participants in the Economy of Francesco conference for young economists, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

After the Mass in Matera, the pope blessed a new soup kitchen for the poor connected with the local parish Church of the Annunciation.

“Today, together, we recognize that the Eucharist is a prophecy of a new world,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“It is the presence of Jesus who asks us to commit ourselves so that an effective conversion occurs: from indifference to compassion, from waste to sharing, from selfishness to love, from individualism to fraternity.”

Pope Francis: Young people are missing the ‘spiritual capital’ that gives life meaning

Pope Francis at the Economy of Francesco conference for young economists, researchers, and activists in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 24, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 07:42 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday lamented the loss of spiritual meaning in the lives of many young people today — a lack that is often replaced by an undue focus on material goods, he said.

“Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are seekers of meaning before being seekers of material goods. That is why the first capital of any society is spiritual capital,” he said at an international conference on the economy in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 24.

“Young people especially suffer from this lack of meaning,” the pope said. “Faced with the pain and uncertainties of life, they often find their souls depleted of the spiritual resources needed to process suffering, frustration, disappointment, and grief.”

“Look at the youth suicide rate, how it has gone up,” he added.

Pope Francis attended the final day of a Sept. 22-24 conference, The Economy of Francesco, in Assisi, Italy. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis attended the final day of a Sept. 22-24 conference, The Economy of Francesco, in Assisi, Italy. Vatican Media.

“Technology can do much: it teaches us the ‘what’ and the ‘how’: but it does not tell us the ‘why,’” he said, “and so our actions become sterile and do not bring fulfillment to life, not even economic life.”

Pope Francis spoke about the importance of spirituality in an address to participants in The Economy of Francesco, a Sept. 22–24 conference for young economists, entrepreneurs, and researchers from around the world.

The initiative followed a call from Pope Francis to young people to build “a different kind of economy” based on greater care for the poor and the environment.

Francis traveled to Assisi for the final day of the meeting on Sept. 24. Before addressing attendees, the pope watched a skit based on Isaiah 21:1–12, followed by a meditation on the meaning of the Scripture passage.

There was also a musical performance, presentations, a video of the first two days of the conference, and participant testimonies from economists, as well as activists for the environment, women’s rights, and social issues from Italy, Benin, Argentina, Thailand, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Poland.

‘I am counting on you’

Throughout his speech, Pope Francis emphasized the need for young adults to put their energy and creativity to good, practical, use to build a more just economy.

“You young people, with the help of God, know what to do, you can do it,” he said.

“According to Scripture, young people are the bearers of a spirit of knowledge and intelligence. It was the young David who humbled the arrogance of the giant Goliath,” he pointed out.

Pope Francis speaks at The Economy of Francesco conference in Assisi, Italy, on Sept. 24, 2022. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis speaks at The Economy of Francesco conference in Assisi, Italy, on Sept. 24, 2022. Vatican Media.

“Indeed,” he continued, “when civil society and businesses lack the skills of the young, the whole of society withers and the life of everyone is extinguished. There is a lack of creativity, optimism, enthusiasm. A society and an economy without young people is sad, pessimistic and cynical.”

“I say this with seriousness: I am counting on you. Please don’t leave us undisturbed, and lead by example.”

‘Poor at the center’

The pope also reflected on the example of St. Francis of Assisi and what it means to help the marginalized. “Developing an economy inspired by [St. Francis] means committing ourselves to putting the poor at the center,” he said.

“Starting with them, we look at the economy; starting with them, we look at the world,” he noted. “There is no ‘Economy of Francesco’ without respect, care, and love for the poor, for every poor person, for every fragile and vulnerable person — from conception in the womb to the sick person with disabilities, to the elderly person in difficulty.”

“As long as our system ‘produces’ discarded people, and we operate according to this system, we will be accomplices of an economy that kills,” he underlined, challenging young economists to ask themselves if they are doing enough to change structures, or if they are content with just slapping a coat of paint on the house.

“Perhaps our response should not be based on how much we can do but on how we are able to open new paths so that the poor themselves can become protagonists of change,” he said.

He closed his address with a prayer to God the Father, asking his “forgiveness for having damaged the earth, for not having respected indigenous cultures, for not having valued and loved the poorest of the poor, for having created wealth without communion.”

“Living God, who with your Spirit have inspired the hearts, hands, and minds of these young people and sent them on the way to a promised land, look kindly on their generosity, love, and desire to spend their lives for a great ideal. Bless them in their undertakings, studies, and dreams; accompany them in their difficulties and sufferings, help them to transform their difficulties and sufferings into virtue and wisdom,” he prayed.

Pope Francis joins Economy of Francesco participants in signing a pact promoting an "economy of the Gospel" in Assisi, Italy, on Sept. 24, 2022. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis joins Economy of Francesco participants in signing a pact promoting an "economy of the Gospel" in Assisi, Italy, on Sept. 24, 2022. Vatican Media.

Economy of Francesco Pact

At the end of the encounter, Pope Francis joined participants in signing a pact promoting “an economy of the Gospel.”

The full text of the pact is below:

We, young economists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers, called here to Assisi from every part of the world, aware of the responsibility that rests on our generation, commit ourselves today, individually and all collectively to spending our lives so that the economy of today and tomorrow becomes an economy of the Gospel, and therefore:

an economy of peace and not of war, an economy that opposes the proliferation of arms, especially the most destructive, an economy that cares for creation and does not misuse it, an economy at the service of the human person, the family and life, respectful of every woman, man, and child, the elderly, and especially those most frail and vulnerable, an economy where care replaces rejection and indifference, an economy that leaves no one behind, in order to build a society in which the stones rejected by the dominant mentality become cornerstones, an economy that recognizes and protects secure and dignified work for everyone, an economy where finance is a friend and ally of the real economy and of labor and not against them, an economy that values and safeguards the cultures and traditions of peoples, all living things and the natural resources of the Earth, an economy that fights poverty in all its forms, reduces inequality and knows how to say with Jesus and Francis, “Blessed are the poor,” an economy guided by an ethics of the human person and open to transcendence, an economy that creates wealth for all, that engenders joy and not just riches, because happiness that is not shared is incomplete.

We believe in this economy. It is not a utopia, because we are already building it. And some of us, on particularly bright mornings, have already glimpsed the beginning of the promised land.

Pope Francis’ chief Vatican prosecutor retires; deputy prosecutor promoted

Alessandro Diddi addresses Pope Francis during the opening of the Vatican City State court's 93rd judicial year on March 12, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of the chief prosecutor of the Vatican City State court, Gian Piero Milano, and named a new prosecutor.

Milano, who will turn 75 in November, has been the Vatican tribunal’s prosecutor, also known as the promoter of justice, since October 2013.

As Vatican promoter of justice, Milano oversaw the investigations that led to the two “Vatileaks” trials and the prosecution of a priest and former Holy See diplomat for the possession and distribution of child pornography, among other cases. He was formerly a professor of canon and ecclesiastical law.

The pope on Friday appointed Alessandro Diddi as new head prosecutor. An adjunct prosecutor for the Vatican since 2015, Diddi is lead investigator for the Vatican’s major finance trial against defendant Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others. He also has a background as a criminal defense lawyer in Rome.

To fill the spot left by Diddi’s promotion, Pope Francis on Sept. 23 named Settimio Carmignani Caridi adjunct prosecutor. Caridi, 68, is a professor of canon and ecclesiastical law at Rome’s Tor Vergata University. He also teaches Vatican law at the private Catholic LUMSA University in Rome.

Benedict XVI writes about ‘inner drama of being a Christian’ in new letter

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Sep 23, 2022 / 05:29 am (CNA).

In a new letter, Benedict XVI praised the story of a woman who lived “the inner drama of being a Christian” and dedicated her life to the spiritual encounter with Christ in eucharistic adoration and other practices. 

The pope emeritus wrote that his own personal experience was similar to what Mother Julia Verhaeghe went through in a letter to the author of a new biography. 

The writer, Father Hermann Geissler, is a former official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the Spiritual Family “The Work” that Mother Julia founded and Pope John Paul II designated as a family of consecrated life in 2001.

In his letter to Geissler, made available to CNA, Benedict did not hide the fact that he had “the fear that her life could be of little interest as a whole because it lacks any external drama.”

Benedict praised the author for making “the inner drama of being a Christian visible, writing a genuinely fascinating biography. The external path of this life, which leads from Belgium through Austria and Hungary to Rome, with a focal point in Austria, becomes a reflection of the interior path through which this woman was led.”

“In this way, the true drama of life becomes visible, which is found above all in the encounter with Paul and, through him, with Christ himself, allowing others to retrace it,” Benedict added. 

“All the external and internal drama of faith is present in her life. The tension described here is particularly captivating because it is similar to what I have experienced since the 1940s.”

The biography, titled “She Served the Church: Mother Julia Verhaeghe and the Development of The Spiritual Family The Work,” explores the period from 1950 to 2001, from the second postwar period to the recognition of the Family, four years after the founder’s death in 1997.

The book is divided into four parts and includes testimonies, excerpts from Mother Julia’s letters, and other archival documents. Furthermore, the book contextualizes the life and choices of Mother Julia, connecting them to the situations of the time, of which Mother Julia was a careful observer.

In the introduction, Father Thomas Felder and Sister Margarete Binder wrote that “the following pages tell of a woman who had neither a particular culture, nor good health, nor any economic means.” Yet, they added, “a fire burned in her heart.”

This fire is the basis of the encounters that formed her life: first of all, the one with St. Paul; then the one with Pope Pius XII, who appeared to her in a dream and who predicted the Second Vatican Council; finally, the encounter with Cardinal John Henry Newman, to whom “The Work” has a particular relationship.

These meetings and relationships are part of a spiritual path to encountering Christ. Geissler’s book tells of these encounters with delicacy, without sensationalism, demonstrating that prophecy comes only when one is open to listening.

From the meeting with Pius XII, a great intuition was born: the human and humanizing element of the Second Vatican Council will try to take over, going beyond what must be the center of the Church, namely the sacred.

In the face of growing secularization, the Spiritual Family “The Work,” guided by Mother Julia, emphasized eucharistic adoration. It is a daily habit in every house of “The Work.”

The book also describes how Mother Julia felt the same enthusiasm and concern for a unified Europe, just as Brussels was preparing to host the 1958 Expo. Her view was always one of spiritual renewal, of a return to Christ.

Perhaps there was no external drama, but the restlessness of Mother Julia’s soul that Benedict refers to is good, open to reflecting on the issues of the time. 

In Geissler’s book, one perceives the constant amazement before the mystery of Christ, which leads her, already elderly, to visit the Holy Land and experience the desert.

The life of Mother Julia told in this book is of a woman who could look at her times with the concreteness that comes only from contact with God.

Benedict XVI, who turned 95 in April, often spoke about the need for contact with God and said that the encounter with Jesus was the answer to the world’s challenges.

Representatives from Catholic and Pentecostal Churches Meet for Ecumenical Dialogue

WASHINGTON - Delegations representing the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Charismatic Movement met September 14-16, 2022, for ecumenical dialogue. The meeting, hosted by Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was attended by representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA), and was a continuation of a theological exchange that began last year between the two faith groups.

The three-day meeting carried the theme of “healing,” which had been developed by the co-chairs for the meeting, Rev. Dr. Harold Hunter of the PCCNA and Fr. Walt Kedjierski of the USCCB with the intent to engage in exploratory dialogue on issues related to ritual, liturgy, and sacraments. The dialogue included the offering of two papers, the first by Dr. Andrew Prevot of the Department of Theology at Boston College on “Varieties of Healing: A Catholic Perspective,” and Rev. Dr. David Han, dean, Pentecostal School of Theology on “Healing in the Pentecostal Tradition.” Both papers explored aspects of Catholic and Pentecostal healing rituals and the call to healing in the lives of individuals and wider communities.

In addition to having an opportunity to gather and pray in the Oral Roberts University chapel, the theme of the meeting was enhanced with visits to Greenwood Rising, a museum of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that destroyed what was considered the wealthiest African American community in the country and known as “Black Wall Street,” and to the Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. Participants of the dialogue also had the opportunity to meet with Rev. Dr. Billy Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University over lunch, and with Dr. Hal Reed, head of the Global Environmental Sustainability Program at ORU, who offered further insights Pentecostal engagement for climate justice.

Participants attending the meeting included:

  • Dr. Kimberly Belcher, University of Notre Dame
  • Rev. Dr. Tammy Dunahoo, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
  • Dr. Martin Mittelstadt, Evangel University
  • Rev. Dr. Leonardo Gajardo, St. Paul Catholic Community (Indiana)
  • Rev. Dr. Andrew Menke, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Rev. Dr. Frederick L. Ware, Associate Dean of the Howard University School of Divinity

Observers at the meeting included:

  • Rev. Mike Donaldson, Ph.D. student at Oral Roberts University
  • Rev. Allison Jones and Mr. Wesley Samuel of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church
  • Mr. Nathan Smith of Glenmary Missioners

The next meeting will be hosted by the USCCB at the University of Notre Dame in September 2023.

The PCCNA represents 40 million Christians through its member denominations and organizations serving in Canada, the United States, and Mexico (www.pccna.org). The USCCB is the assembly of the hierarchy of Catholic bishops who jointly exercise pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (www.usccb.org). The provisional dialogue is sponsored by the PCCNA’s Christian Unity Commission and the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

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Chieko Noguchi
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
(202) 541-3200, @email 

and 

Barbara Gray, Executive Director
Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America
(973) 592-3411, [email protected]