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New Initiative Strives to Explain the Perennial Question: “What is Love?”

WASHINGTON – “Conversations about love, marriage, sexuality, family, and the human person can be confusing and polarizing”, said Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester. “This is why I am pleased to announce the launch of Love Means More to help bring clarity and compassion to those questions.”

As the month of February brings cultural attention to Valentine’s Day and with it, conflicting notions of love, Bishop Barron noted that “cultural narratives tell us love is mostly about feeling good. True love is deeper than that, calling us to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love so we can live in union with Him forever.”

The Love Means More initiative is an ongoing campaign, based around a new website that takes a deep dive into the meanings of love. It is a versatile resource for Catholic catechists, as well as “seekers” from any religious background, but also welcomes those who profess no religious background at all. Bishop Barron is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which is spearheading the initiative.

Love Means More renews the effort begun by Marriage: Unique for a Reason to promote and defend what Christ has revealed about marriage and family, but also addresses a broader range of topics in the area of human sexuality, organized around the central question, “What is love?” This approach enables learners to see how some difficult discussions can actually be the result of hidden assumptions about more basic questions, such as:

Is love only how someone makes you feel?
Does love mean ‘to will the good’ of the other?
Is unity necessarily the goal of all love?

The Love Means More initiative is the result of wide consultation with bishops, pastors, educators, medical and mental health professionals, and lay Catholic leaders involved with family life ministry. The initiative has also heard, and seeks to address, questions and concerns received from people who are uncomfortable with some Church teachings. These include those who uphold the possibility of divorce and remarriage, LGBT-identifying individuals, and those who defend pornography. As content continues to be added post-launch, this initiative will be a valuable resource for engaging in cultural conversation about love.

The website for Love Means More may be accessed at: https://lovemeansmore.org/

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Vatican announces synod assembly dates; formation of study groups

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The second assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will meet Oct. 2-27 and will be preceded by several formal studies coordinated by the synod general secretariat working with various offices of the Roman Curia.

The Vatican announced the dates for the assembly Feb. 17, indicating that the desire of some synod members to spend less time in Rome was not accepted. The fall assembly will be preceded by a retreat for members Sept. 30-Oct. 1, the Vatican said.

And in response to a formal call by members of the first assembly of the synod, Pope Francis has agreed to the establishment of "study groups that will initiate, with a synodal method, the in-depth study of some of the themes that emerged."

In a chirograph, or brief papal document, released Feb. 17, the pope said that "these study groups are to be established by mutual agreement between the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, which is entrusted with coordination."

However, the papal note did not list the topics to be studied nor the members of the groups. The synod office said it hoped the approved groups and their members could be announced by mid-March.

Pope Francis at synod assembly
Pope Francis smiles as members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops approach the end of their work Oct. 28, 2023, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis' note focused on the obligation of the offices of the Roman Curia to work with the synod since both bodies, though distinct, are established "to promote in a synodal spirit the mutual relations of the bishops and of the particular Churches over which they preside, among themselves and in communion with the Bishop of Rome."

In their synthesis report at the end of the first synod assembly, members voted to ask Pope Francis for several studies before the 2024 assembly, including on "the terminological and conceptual understanding of the notion and practice of synodality" itself; and another study on "the canonical implications of synodality," conducted by "an intercontinental special commission of theological and canonical experts."

Synod members also called for further theological study on the permanent diaconate and said, "theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate should be continued, benefiting from consideration of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father, and from the theological, historical and exegetical research already undertaken."

"If possible," members said, "the results of this research should be presented to the next session of the assembly."

After a request of the women's International Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis established a commission to study the historic identity and role of women deacons. The commission worked from 2016 to 2019, and the pope gave a report on it to the superiors general, but it was not made public. He set up a second commission in 2020 after the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon; its results have not been published either.

The assembly of the synod on synodality also said, "We believe the time has come for a revision of the 1978 document 'Mutuae Relationes,' regarding the relationships between bishops and religious in the Church. We propose that this revision be completed in a synodal manner, consulting all involved."

Synod members at St. Peter's Basilica
​ Members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops prepare to enter St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in procession as they pray the rosary for peace Oct. 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Paolo Galosi, pool)

On several occasions after his election in 2013, Pope Francis said he had asked the dicastery for religious to revise "Mutuae Relationes," a set of directives issued jointly with the then-Congregation for Bishops in 1978 to provide guidance to bishops and religious in their relationship. Pope Francis has said the norms need revision to ensure religious are not treated simply as employees or human resources for a diocese and to ensure that the orders' autonomy does not lead them to activities in conflict with a local church.

The synod assembly also called for "a thorough review of formation for ordained ministry in view of the missionary and synodal dimensions of the Church." Assembly members said that involves "reviewing the 'Ratio Fundamentalis' that determines how formation is structured."

The "Ratio Fundamentalis" was last updated in late 2016 and provides guidelines for preparing men for the Latin-rite priesthood and ensuring their continuing education, training and support.

 

Vices are 'beasts' of the soul that need taming, pope says at Angelus

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vices, such as vanity and greed, are like "wild beasts" of the soul that risk tearing people apart, Pope Francis said.

Vices "must be tamed and fought, otherwise they will devour our freedom," he said Feb. 18 before reciting the Angelus prayer with about 15,000 visitors in St. Peter's Square. 

angelus crowd
Visitors gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis Feb. 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The period of Lent, he added, helps Christians create moments of silence, prayer and reflection in order to correct those vices and perceive the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

On the first Sunday of Lent, the pope focused his main Angelus address on the day's Gospel reading about Jesus in the desert or "the wilderness." He remained there for 40 days, "tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him," according to the Gospel of St. Mark (1:12-13).

"We too, during Lent, are invited to 'enter the wilderness,' that is, silence, the inner world, listening to the heart, in contact with the truth," the pope said.

By entering into one's inner world, he said, "we can encounter wild beasts and angels there."

The "beasts" of the soul, he said, are "the disordered passions that divide the heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them."

They include various vices, he said, such as coveting wealth, "the vanity of pleasure, which condemns us to restlessness and solitude, and the craving for fame, which gives rise to insecurity and a continuous need for confirmation and prominence."

However, the pope said, angels were also in the desert with Jesus. 

pope angelus
Pope Francis addresses visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis Feb. 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

"These are God's messengers, who help us, who do us good: indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service," he said. "While temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us and let us enter into harmony: they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, 'the flavor of Heaven.'"

"In order to grasp the inspiration of God, one must enter into silence and prayer. And Lent is the time to do this," the pope said, encouraging Christians to dedicate the time and space needed for such reflection each day.

Pope Francis and leaders of the Roman Curia were to dedicate themselves to private prayer and reflection from the afternoon of Feb. 18 to the afternoon of Feb. 23. 

angelus cow
Farmers bring a cow, named Ercolina II, to St. Peter's Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 18, 2024. A man holds up a sign of a black and white image of the first Ercolina who was the mascot of dairy farmers who protested limits imposed by the European Union on milk production in 1997. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

After the Angelus, the pope greeted Italian agricultural and livestock farmers, who had come to St. Peter's Square seeking his blessing as they joined farmers across Europe demonstrating about rising costs, falling incomes and the impact of European Union regulations aimed at mitigating climate change.

The farmers had their mascot, a cow named Ercolina II, with them in the square. The first Ercolina had been the mascot of dairy farmers who protested limits imposed by the European Union on milk production and associated large fines for exceeding quotas in 1997.

Pope: Let prayer defeat war

Pope: Let prayer defeat war

A look at Pope Francis' Angelus Feb. 18.

No Temptation, No Salvation – A Sermon On Mark 1:9-15

Over the last several years I’ve found myself, more often than not, rethinking and working to unlearn much of what I’ve been told and come to believe and understand about God and what it means to be in relationship with the Divine. I’ve encouraged you to do the same. It’s part of my teaching and […]

Pope Francis: Lent is a time to ‘encounter wild beasts and angels’

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis focused his Angelus address on the temptation of Jesus in the desert to highlight that it is an invitation for us to enter the proverbial desert to come “in contact with the truth.”

Observing that during the 40 days in the desert Christ was in the company of both “wild beasts and angels,” the pope reflected that when we enter this symbolic “inner wildness,” we too “encounter wild beasts and angels.”

These wild beats assume a deeply symbolic meaning in our “spiritual life,” and so “we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide our heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them,” the pope said to the nearly 15,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Expanding upon this idea of “disordered passions,” the pope suggested that we can conceive of them also as “the various vices,” such as “the lust for wealth” or “the vanity of pleasure.”

“They must be tamed and fought, otherwise they will devour our freedom,” the pope emphasized. 

In order to confront these vices that afflict each and every one of us, the pope stressed that we need “to go into the wilderness to become aware of their presence and to face them — and Lent is the time to do it.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The setting of the desert has featured prominently in the pope’s catechetical series throughout the year and is the main theme of this 2024 Lenten message, taken from the Book of Exodus: “Through the Desert God Leads Us to Freedom.”

While it is imperative to undertake this journey of self-examination, the pope underscored that we are not alone: We are aided by the angels, who “are God’s messengers, who help us, who do us good.”

“Indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service, the exact opposite of possession, typical of the passions we spoke about earlier,” the pope continued.

Juxtaposing the spirit of possession with the virtue of service, the pope stressed that the angels “recall the good thoughts and sentiments suggested by the Holy Spirit,” adding that “while temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us in harmony, they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, ‘the flavor of heaven.’”

“Thus, order and peace return to the soul, beyond the circumstances of life, whether favorable or unfavorable. Here, too, however, in order to grasp the thoughts and feelings inspired by God, one must be silent and enter into prayer,” the pope continued.

The pope asked the faithful to examine what are these personal “wild beasts” in our own lives, so that we can “recognize them, give them a name, understand their tactics.” In this way we can “permit the voice of God to speak to my heart and to preserve it in goodness.”

On Sunday evening the pope and the members of the Roman Curia will start their private Lenten retreat, which will conclude on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23.

All regularly scheduled papal audiences are suspended for the week.

Pope Francis launches study groups to analyze Synod on Synodality’s key issues

Pope Francis at the Synod on Synodality’s closing Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 17, 2024 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has launched synodal study groups to analyze key issues ahead of October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Pope Francis has issued a chirograph asking the dicasteries of the Roman Curia to collaborate with the General Secretariat of the Synod to establish the study groups for “in-depth analysis” of some of the themes that emerged in the first Synod on Synodality assembly.

The pope did not specify in the chirograph published on Feb. 17 how many groups will be formed, what topics will be studied, or who will participate in the study groups.

The synthesis report published at the end of the first synod assembly lists 75 different “matters for consideration,” including women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy, and “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples. 

These “matters of consideration,” which could not find a consensus in the first synod assembly, are defined as “points on which we have recognized that it is necessary to continue theological, pastoral, and canonical deepening.”

In addition, the synthesis report also calls for the establishment of a “special intercontinental commission of theologians and canonists” to examine the definition and conceptual understanding of the “idea and practice of synodality” and its canonical implications, as well as the establishment of a joint commission of Eastern and Latin theologians, historians, and canonists.

According to Vatican News, the study groups will require a substantial amount of time and will not “directly constitute the material up for discussion in the next session of the synod, which will focus on synodality itself.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod, led by Cardinal Mario Grech, will coordinate the work of the study groups among the dicasteries, which will “involve experts from all continents” following a synodal process, the Vatican’s state media outlet said.

The Vatican also announced on Saturday the dates for the second Synod on Synodality assembly and the appointment of six new consulters to the General Secretariat of the Synod.

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops’ second session will take place from Oct. 2 to Oct. 27. The participants in the assembly will arrive in Rome on Sept. 29 to participate in a two-day spiritual retreat ahead of the start of the assembly.

Among the new synod consulters, Pope Francis chose three female professors.

Dr. Tricia Bruce, a sociology professor at Maryville College in Tennessee and president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and Dr. Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, a theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, are both appointees.

Sister Dr. Birgit Weiler, a German missionary in Peru and theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, was also appointed. Weiler is a member of the Congregation of the Medical Missionary Sisters and has lived for more than 35 years in Peru, where she works with the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM).

The other appointees are Monsignor Alphonse Borras, a Belgian canon lawyer and specialist in the theology of the diaconate; Father Gilles Routhier, a professor of religious studies at Laval University in Quebec; and Father Ormond Rush, a theology professor at Australian Catholic University. Rush addressed the first synod assembly in October with a speech that focused on Vatican II’s discussion of tradition as the authority for the Synod on Synodality.

Cardinal Zen publishes new critique of Synod on Synodality

Cardinal Joseph Zen is bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. / Credit: The World Over with Raymond Arroyo

Rome Newsroom, Feb 16, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has released another critique of the Synod on Synodality, arguing that the ongoing discussion and discernment process offers “two opposing visions” of the nature, organization, and role of the Church. 

“On the one hand, the Church is presented as founded by Jesus on the apostles and their successors, with a hierarchy of ordained ministers who guide the faithful on the journey toward the heavenly Jerusalem,” the 92-year-old cardinal observes in a nearly 3,600-word commentary posted on Feb. 15 titled “How will the Synod continue and end?”

“On the other hand, there is talk of an undefined synodality, a ‘democracy of the baptized,’” he continues, interjecting “Which baptized people? Do they at least go to church regularly? Do they draw faith from the Bible and strength from the sacraments?”

“This other vision, if legitimized,” he warns, “can change everything, the doctrine of faith and the discipline of moral life.”

Going into a deeper examination of these visions of ecclesiology, the cardinal writes that “in order not to see a contradiction in it, we must understand this invitation to synodality not as having to do something completely new but as giving a new impulse to something that has always existed in the Church.”

Zen acknowledges that synods have been a “historic reality” of the Church. Yet while earlier synods took place within the framework of the apostolic tradition and were guided by the “hierarchy of ordained ministers who guide the faithful on the journey toward the heavenly Jerusalem,” the current synod is characterized by an “undefined synodality” and a “democracy of the baptized,” he argues.

“They tell us that synodality is a fundamental constitutive element of the life of the Church, but at the same time they emphasize that synodality is what the Lord expects of us today. Participation and communion are obviously permanent characteristics of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. But doesn’t saying that synodality is ‘the thing that the Lord expects of us today’ mean that it is something new?” he writes.

“In order not to see a contradiction in it, we must understand this invitation to synodality not as having to do something completely new but as giving a new impulse to something that has always existed in the Church.”

One of the cardinal’s main concerns is how the Synod on Synodality is being conducted at the universal level, beginning with the initial assembly at the Vatican in October 2023 and culminating later this year with a final assembly in October.

Referring to the Synod on Synodality’s call to “walk together,” he asks: “What is the goal of this journey? Is there a guide that ensures the right direction?” 

In his essay the cardinal also takes issue with the synod’s incorporation of the “conversation in the Spirit,” a dialogic process he says was initiated by the Jesuits in Canada. “Imposing this method on the synod proceedings is a manipulation aiming at avoiding discussions,” he argues. “It is all psychology and sociology, no faith and no theology.”

The cardinal has already expressed his concern over the trajectory of the Synod on Synodality in a letter addressed to bishops that was sent out just days before the start of the first session of the synod in October.

Chalices and chasubles: Fair displays industries revolving around religion

BOLOGNA, Italy (CNS) -- Incense slowly drifted upward, not below the vaulted ceiling of Bologna's Basilica of San Petronio, but toward the fluorescent lighting and steel beams in the city's convention center, which for three days bore the trappings of a temple rather than those of a corporate meeting place.

From Feb. 11-13, the Italian city hosted more than 200 vendors of religious art, liturgical attire and services for churches, who showcased their offerings at the Devotio International Religious Products and Services Exhibition, sponsored in part by the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

Retailers, owners of religious shops, wholesalers and manufacturers of religious goods were the primary buyers at the convention, though priests and religious sisters also represented a sizable portion of the crowd wandering through Bologna's convention center. Organizers said more than 3,000 people attended.

A priest shops for a chasuble.
A priest shops for a chasuble with the help of his father at the International Religious Products and Services Exhibition in Bologna, Italy, Feb. 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

The rows of booths displayed items ranging from liturgical supplies and garments to wine and unleavened bread for consecration; a booth dedicated to promoting the Camino de Santiago, a popular pilgrimage route in northern Spain, also made a splash.

One day a group of Franciscan friars could be seen assessing chalices and patens, while religious sisters browsed wall art featuring the faces of saints painted onto hand-carved wooden shapes. One young priest shopped for a new chasuble in the company of his parents.

Solvari garments, a liturgical vestment producer from Bergamo, Italy, prominently displayed a Roman chasuble, predominantly used in the celebration of Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council. A company representative told Catholic News Service he had not seen increased sales of Roman chasubles in recent years, but he put it at the front of his display "because everyone can appreciate beauty."

Blessed Carlo Acutis statue.
A statue of Blessed Carlo Acutis is seen on display at the International Religious Products and Services Exhibition in Bologna, Italy, Feb. 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Enzo Gandolfo of Gandolfo wines from Sicily had bottles of Mass wine available for sampling. Although wine used for consecration is not necessarily intended to optimize taste, "it's important for priests to have something they like" when celebrating Mass, he told CNS.

Reappearing constantly among the rows of devotional items was the face of Blessed Carlo Acutis -- the Italian website designer who catalogued Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions online before dying from leukemia at 15. Many hoping for his canonization are calling for him to be declared patron saint of the internet.

Elisabetta Bertelli, founder of Stringila religious art, displayed a cross-shaped pillow with Blessed Carlo's face. She said the pillows are not designed to be slept on but to hold onto during prayer, putting the person praying in physical contact with the cross.

Bertelli told CNS she wanted to put Blessed Carlo's face on the pillow with the hopes of spreading the beauty of prayer to young people. "He's a young person that has inspired so many," she said.

Holy Year 2025 official backpack.
The official backpack for the Holy Year 2025 is seen on display at the International Religious Products and Services Exhibition in Bologna, Italy, Feb. 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Another booth was dedicated to official gear for the Holy Year 2025, including the pilgrim's kit and backpack which was presented at the expo. The kit includes items necessary for any pilgrim: a hat, rain poncho, water bottle, scarf and, of course, a rosary.

“I know well how useful a backpack can be during a pilgrimage and how important it is to preserve it, with the signs of time and wear, as a witness full of memories of those days of prayer and reflection, full of emotions and therefore unforgettable,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the Vatican official in charge of coordinating plans for the Holy Year, in a statement. The Holy Year office will begin distributing the pilgrim kits to individuals online and at an official Holy Year shop in Rome in March and also will distribute them in partnership with dioceses and pilgrimage groups.

Beyond religious products, vendors at the expo also offered services such as designing and installing audio systems or lighting structures for churches.

Thomas Nell, senior partner at Spotlight -- a professional lighting services firm for the performing arts -- said that while his company does not specialize in lighting for religious spaces, churches are a performative as well as contemplative structures, and proper lighting "can help lift someone upward spiritually."

Yet churches often "go for what is cheap" and buy harsh fluorescent lights, he said, even though good lighting "can change the look of an entire space."

Stained-glass artist.
Sofia Malavasi, a stained-glass artist, works on a design at the International Religious Products and Services Exhibition in Bologna, Italy, Feb. 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

In one of the most engaging booth displays, Sofia Malavasi was scraping and shaping stained glass to form a floral decal. An apprentice at a local stained-glass workshop in Bologna, Malavasi told CNS that as a young person she hoped to advance the rich legacy of stained-glass work even as interest in churches and religious art wanes. She said that when she started her training, she was surprised and encouraged to learn how many people have stained glass in their homes.

But Malavasi was most proud of her workshop's coordination of the massive restoration of the windows in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna.

"It was incredible to see the difference," she said, recalling how volunteers in the basilica were struck by how much natural light entered the space "just by restoring the glass to how it was intended to look."

Israeli embassy criticizes Cardinal Parolin’s remarks on civilian death toll in Gaza

Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz meets with Pope Francis on Feb. 2, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 16:05 pm (CNA).

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See issued a sharp rebuke of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s recent remarks on the civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war.

In Feb. 13 comments made to the press — which were posted in full on La Repubblica’s website — Parolin said that Israel’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023, attack has not been “proportionate,” with the prelate arguing that “we cannot continue like this” and “we must find other ways to solve the problem of Gaza, the problem of Palestine.”

The Vatican’s secretary of state also observed that since the outbreak of the war, the Holy See has issued “a clear and unreserved condemnation of what happened on Oct. 7” as well as “a clear and unreserved condemnation of every type of antisemitism.” 

Parolin went on to say that “at the same time” the Holy See has requested “that Israel’s right to defense, that was invoked to justify this operation, be proportionate … and certainly with 30,000 deaths it is not.” 

In response to the cardinal’s remarks, the Embassy of Israel to the Holy See issued a press release posted on X in which it stated that “judging the legitimacy of a war without taking into account ALL relevant circumstances and data inevitably leads to erroneous conclusions.” 

“Gaza has been transformed by Hamas into the largest terrorist base ever seen,” the embassy argued. “There is almost no civilian infrastructure that has not been used by Hamas for its criminal plans, including hospitals, schools, places of worship, and many others.”

“Gaza civilians also actively participated in the Oct. 7 unprovoked invasion of Israeli territory, killing, raping, and taking civilians hostage,” the statement continued. “All these acts are defined as war crimes.” 

The embassy argued that “in stark contrast” to the Hamas assault, “IDF operations are conducted in full compliance with international law.”

The embassy’s press release also addressed the issue of civilian deaths, indicating that in the case of the IDF, “for every Hamas militant killed, three civilians lost their lives,” which contrasts favorably with “past wars and operations of NATO forces or Western forces in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan … the proportion was nine or 10 civilians for every terrorist.” 

“Any objective observer,” the embassy said, “cannot help but come to the conclusion that the responsibility for the death and destruction in Gaza lies with Hamas and Hamas alone.” 

However, a Feb. 15 Vatican Media editorial affirmed Parolin’s “realistic view” of the ongoing tragedy in the Gaza Strip. “The Holy See is always on the side of the victims,” the editorial stated, pointing to the high number of “innocent civilians, one-third of whom are children,” killed by bombings in Gaza.

“Israel’s right to bring the perpetrators of the October massacre to justice cannot justify this carnage,” the editorial emphasized.

The Associated Press has reported that the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry is the only official source for Gaza casualties and does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Parolin made his remarks before a bilateral meeting with officials from the Italian state, including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, to mark the 95th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pact. 

The Lateran Pact, signed in 1929 — and renegotiated in 1985 — was a formal accord between the Holy See and the then-Kingdom of Italy that recognized the territorial sovereignty of the present-day Vatican City State, the extraterritorial sovereignty of the papal basilicas, the full independence of the pope, and a slew of other privileges for the Church in Italy.

World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly highlights ‘loneliness,’ ‘throwaway culture’

Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 12:22 pm (CNA).

The theme for the fourth World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated on July 28, has been chosen by Pope Francis. 

According to the Holy See Press Office, this year’s theme is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age,” which comes from Psalm 71. The Feb. 15 press release noted that in choosing this verse it was the Holy Father’s desire “to call attention to the fact that, sadly, loneliness is the bitter lot in life of many elderly persons, so often the victims of the throwaway culture.”

The press release said that “by cherishing the charisms of grandparents and the elderly, and the contribution they make to the life of the Church, the World Day seeks to support the efforts of every ecclesial community to forge bonds between the generations and to combat loneliness.”

It also noted that the day will also be an opportunity for the whole Church to prepare for the upcoming jubilee year of 2025. 

Reflecting on the theme chosen by the pope, Cardinal Kevin Farrell — the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life — stressed the Holy Father’s call to bring awareness to the isolation that many elderly people face, saying that it is “a widespread reality” and that “many elderly people [are] often victims of the throwaway culture and considered a burden to society.” 

In the Feb. 15 press release issued by the dicastery, the cardinal also noted that while “loneliness, certainly, is also an unavoidable condition of human existence,” it is incumbent upon “families and the ecclesial community … to be at the forefront in promoting a culture of encounter, to create spaces for sharing, listening, to offer support and affection: thus the love of Gospel becomes concrete.” 

The cardinal also noted that the celebration of the fourth World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in July will be an opportunity for intergenerational dialogue, which will help build “the broader ‘we’ of ecclesial communion.”  

“It is precisely this familiarity, rooted in the love of God, that overcomes every form of throwaway culture and loneliness.”

The press release also noted that in the coming months a pastoral kit will be made available on the family dicastery’s website to help individuals and communities prepare for the event.

Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021. It is held on the fourth Sunday of July, which falls near the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.