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Posted on 11/21/2023 13:25 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2023 / 08:25 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has written a letter to four German Catholic laywomen expressing his “concerns” about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany.
The following is CNA’s English translation of the full text of the German letter, signed by the pope on Nov. 10 and first published by the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21:
From the Vatican, Nov. 10, 2023
Dear Professor Westerhorstmann,
Dear Professor Schlosser,
Dear Professor Gerl-Falkovitz,
Dear Mrs. Schmidt,
I extend my gratitude for your kind letter dated Nov. 6. Your concerns regarding the current developments within the Church in Germany have reached me, and I share your concerns. There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church's common path. This doubtlessly includes the establishment of the synodal committee you referenced. This committee aims to set up a consultative and decision-making body. However, as outlined in the corresponding resolution, its proposed structure is not in alignment with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church. Consequently, its formation was forbidden by the Holy See in a letter dated Jan. 16, 2023, which received my specific endorsement.
In my “Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany,” I sought not to find “salvation” in constantly evolving committees, nor to persist in self-absorbed dialogues rehashing the same themes. Rather, I aimed to reemphasize the importance of prayer, penance, and adoration. I urged an openness and a call to action to engage with our brothers and sisters, especially those found at the thresholds of our church doors, in the streets, within prisons, hospitals, public squares, and cities (as mentioned in section 8). I firmly believe that in these places, the Lord will guide us.
I commend your contributions to theology and philosophy and thank you for your witness to the Faith. May the Lord bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin Mary keep you. I kindly ask that you continue to pray for me and for our shared commitment to unity.
United in the Lord,
Posted on 11/21/2023 09:55 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has expressed deep reservations about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany, warning that concrete steps currently being taken “threaten” to undermine unity with the universal Church.
The pope made his criticisms in a letter to four German Catholic laywomen that was published in the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21.
“There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path,” the pope wrote.
The letter, dated Nov. 10, was written in German and included the pope’s handwritten signature.
Chief among the pope’s concerns is a push to set up a permanent “Synodal Council,” a mixed body of laity and bishops that would govern the Catholic Church in Germany. Establishing this council is a top priority for the German Synodal Way, a controversial initiative that has demanded significant changes in Church structure and teaching.
In his letter, the pope underscored that this kind of “consultative and decision-making body” as currently proposed “is not in alignment with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church.” He referenced a Jan. 16 letter from high-ranking Vatican officials to German bishops, which he specifically authorized, that explicitly prohibited the establishment of the Synodal Council.
A committee of Synodal Way leadership recently met on Nov. 10-11 in Essen to lay the groundwork for the Synodal Council, which they aim to establish no later than 2026.
Four German bishops voted in June to block funding for the preparatory committee, and a total of eight out of 27 German ordinaries were absent from the Nov. 10-11 meeting.
In his recent letter, Pope Francis proposed a different path forward for the Church in Germany.
Instead of seeking “salvation” in “constantly evolving committees” or “self-absorbed dialogues rehashing the same themes,” the pope underscored the need for the Catholic Church in Germany to be rooted in “prayer, penance, and adoration.”
He also called upon German Catholics to “engage with our brothers and sisters” on the margins, especially the sick, imprisoned, and those “at the thresholds of our church doors.”
“I firmly believe that in these places, the Lord will guide us,” Pope Francis wrote.
The letter was addressed to the theologians Katharina Westerhorstmann and Marianne Schlosser, journalist Dorothea Schmidt, and the religious philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz. The four German laywomen had previously been delegates to the Synodal Way but resigned in February in protest. They wrote to the pope on Nov. 6 expressing their concerns about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany.
In his response, the pope urged the four women to pray for him and “for our common cause of unity.”
The German theologian Martin Brüske described the pope’s letter as a clear and forceful signal to halt the work of the synodal committee.
“The flagship of Peter has given the German Church a broadside across the bow,” said Brüske in a statement provided by New Beginning, a group of German Catholics critical of the Synodal Way. “Those who do not want to hear and see this will bear full responsibility if they ultimately disappear into the maelstrom of division.”
Leadership of the German Synodal Way has recently framed their push to establish the Synodal Council as consistent with Pope Francis’ emphasis on increased synodality in the Catholic Church, including the recent Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican.
In an Oct. 29 statement, Thomas Söding, vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), described the Vatican assembly as “a confirmation of the Synodal [Way] in Germany.” He added that German plans to establish a permanent Synodal Council were consistent with the October synod report’s call for greater decentralization.
The German Synodal Way, a joint effort of the German Bishops Conference and the ZdK, was launched in 2019. The noncanonical process concluded its initial stage in March, passing resolutions to not only move forward with establishing a Synodal Council but also to bless same-sex unions and push for women’s ordination at the level of the universal Church.
The pope’s letter to the four laywomen was not the first time he has commented on the Synodal Way. In January, he criticized the process as “elitist” and “neither helpful nor serious.” Before the start of the Synodal Way, he wrote a June 2019 letter to “the Pilgrim People of Germany,” calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”
This article was updated at 7:55 a.m. EST with a statements from New Beginning and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).
Posted on 11/19/2023 17:42 PM (Interrupting the Silence)
Posted on 11/18/2023 17:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis had an emotional meeting on Friday with an African migrant whose wife and 6-year-old daughter died while crossing a desert in Tunisia.
With tears in his eyes, 30-year-old Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin shared his story during a meeting at the pope’s Vatican City residence Casa Santa Marta on Nov. 17.
Crepin, who has come to be known in Italian media by his nickname, “Pato,” is originally from Cameroon but decided to leave his home country after his older sister was killed amid the violence of Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis.
While staying at a migrant camp in Libya in 2016, he met his wife, Matyla, who was from the Ivory Coast. The two of them attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe five times, including while Matyla was pregnant, each time ending up in Libyan detention centers after their attempts failed.
In July 2023, the couple decided to flee to Tunisia with the hope that their daughter, Marie, would have access to education there, but upon their arrival, they were beaten by Tunisian police who left them in a remote desert without water.
“We walked for at least one hour before I lost consciousness, my wife and my daughter started to cry. I asked them to leave and leave me because if they stay they will die with me so the best it was to catch up with the others and enter Libya,” Crepin told the organization Refugees in Libya.
During the night, Sudanese strangers happened upon Crepin lying in the desert, gave him water, and brought him back to Libya. But upon his return, he learned that his wife and daughter had not made it but had died in the desert.
Pope Francis told Crepin that he had prayed a lot for his wife and daughter after hearing their tragic story and offered his blessing.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Service of Integral Human Development; Father Mattia Ferrari, a chaplain for Mediterranea Saving Humans; and representatives from other organizations that had helped facilitate Crepin’s arrival in Italy this year were also present at the meeting.
According to a Vatican communique, Pope Francis “thanked those present for their efforts and recalled the privilege of being born in places where one can study and work.”
“This privilege is a debt,” the pope said. “What you do is not something extra, it is a duty.”
Posted on 11/18/2023 14:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis will meet with the families of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas at his next Wednesday general audience, and he will also meet separately with a group of Palestinians with relatives suffering in Gaza.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has confirmed that the pope will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian delegations separately on Nov. 22 on the sidelines of his public audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“With these meetings, which are exclusively humanitarian in nature, Pope Francis wants to show his spiritual closeness to the suffering of each person,” Bruni told journalists.
Pope Francis has frequently prayed for peace in the Holy Land in his public audiences since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month. He has also repeatedly called for the hostages being held by Hamas to be freed and for the protection and humanitarian support of civilians in Gaza.
In his Angelus address on Nov. 12, he said: “I am close to all those who are suffering, Palestinians and Israelis. I embrace them in this dark moment. And I pray for them a lot.”
“In Gaza, let the wounded be rescued immediately, let civilians be protected, let far more humanitarian aid be allowed to reach that stricken population. May the hostages be freed, including the elderly and children,” Pope Francis said.
“Every human being, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people or religion, every human being is sacred, is precious in the eyes of God, and has the right to live in peace.”
About 240 people are being held hostage by Hamas, according to the United Nations. Four hostages have been released so far and another was freed by Israeli forces in October. The Israeli military said on Nov. 16 that troops had recovered two bodies of hostages, Yehudit Weiss, 65, and Noa Marciano, 19.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has underlined that the Holy See views the release of the hostages and a cease-fire as fundamental steps in the resolution of the conflict.
“The release of the hostages is one of the fundamental points for the solution of the current situation, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects of those who are being held — men, women, children, newborns, pregnant women,” Parolin said on Nov. 17, according to Reuters.
“The other [fundamental point] is a cease-fire, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects that come with it — the arrival of aid, curing the injured, and other aspects,” he said.
Posted on 11/17/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).
Members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica from Nov. 12–13 to celebrate the end of the jubilee year marking the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Josaphat Kuncewycz.
St. Josaphat was born around 1580 in the village of Volodymyr (now part of Ukraine) in the Volhynia region of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during a time of tension between Catholics and the Orthodox Churches.
In 1595 some bishops in the Commonwealth signed the Union of Brest, placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the Holy See — and establishing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Ordained a Catholic priest in 1609, Josaphat devoted his ministry to service and efforts to bring the local population back into communion with Rome.
The Union of Brest, however, continued to be a contentious topic in the region and ignited intense political and religious struggle. Josaphat was killed on Nov. 12, 1623, by a mob of people during a visit to Vitebsk, a city in modern Belarus. He was hacked to death and his body was dumped in a river, to only be recovered later.
He was declared blessed in 1643 and canonized in 1867 by Pius XI. On the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom, Pope Pius XI declared St. Josaphat the patron of reunion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Reflecting his broader desire for greater union between East and West, Pope John XXIII ordered the incorrupt body of the saint to be moved to St. Peter’s Basilica, which was done on Nov. 22, 1963, under Pope Paul VI.
The Nov. 12–13 event included the celebration of vespers at the tomb of the saint, located beneath the altar in St. Basil Chapel, on Saturday and culminated with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), presided over vespers on Saturday and concelebrated the divine liturgy with the Latin-rite Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, president of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe.
During the Saturday evening vespers, Father Robert Lyseyko, protoarchimandrite of the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat, reflected on the saint’s role in forging unity between East and West.
“We call him the ‘Apostle of Unity’ for a reason. He is an apostle of unity from the moment he begins to seek unity with God in a life marked by deep prayer and renunciation, seeking not his own but what is God’s,” Lyseyko said.
Lyseyko also spoke about the importance of the saint’s life especially against the backdrop of the unabated war in Ukraine.
“The example of St. Josaphat is particularly relevant in our time, amidst the evils and violence surrounding us, with our people enduring the hardships of war. It encourages us to care for one another, prioritize salvation, and foster a spirit of conversion,” he said.
On Sunday, Shevchuk thanked those present for commemorating the saint, calling it an opportunity to heal “the contemporary wounds of Europe and Ukraine.”
During his homily, Grušas highlighted the saint’s life as a model for Christian unity.
“His life touched many peoples and nations, seeking to bring all into unity in Christ. During the present difficulties we face in today‘s world, in Ukraine and elsewhere, of war, migrations, and many other crises, Josaphat‘s life gives us hope that the Lord can use each of us as instruments to establish his kingdom here on earth, starting from our own hearts and taking action in the world around us,” the archbishop said.
“St. Josaphat was a man who took up this invitation from God to be a collaborator in the establishment of this unity and peace. He chose his episcopal motto and mission ‘Ut unum sint,’ ‘that all may be one,’ taken from the Lord‘s prayer for his disciples during the Last Supper. He took it also as his mission in his ministry,” he continued.
In 2013, in an address to Ukrainian Greek Catholics on the 50th anniversary of the transfer of St. Josaphat’s body, Pope Francis said: “The best way to celebrate St. Josaphat is to love one another, and to love and serve the unity of the Church.”
Posted on 11/17/2023 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
The Vatican announced this week that it was partnering with the auto manufacturer Volkswagen as part of its broader initiative “Ecological Conversion 2030” to introduce an all-electric, zero-impact car fleet in the Vatican by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal established by the pontiff in 2020.
“The Volkswagen Group, which aims to become a zero-carbon company by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of its vehicles by 30% by 2030, is the first strategic partner for the project to renew the car fleet of the state with Volkswagen and Škoda brand cars through the medium and long-term rental formula,” according to the official press release of the governorate of Vatican City State.
The Vatican’s efforts are not limited to overhauling its fleet but will also include the construction of its own network of charging stations for electric vehicles, both in Vatican City State as well as in the extraterritorial areas, a reforestation program, and the importation of energy coming exclusively from renewable sources — the last of which was achieved in 2019, according to Vatican News.
Pope Francis has made ecological conservation one of the defining themes of his pontificate. But the pope has often lamented the tepid response from developed countries in implementing measures to curb the most dramatic effects of anthropogenic climate change, despite the actions called for by international treaties such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.
In October of this year the Holy Father released the second installment to his seminal 2015 climate encyclical Laudato Si’. In the October apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, the pope criticized climate change skeptics and warned that “the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.”
In October the pope received Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of the United Nations’ COP28 UAE, at the Vatican to discuss the role that faith leaders and faith-based organizations can play in promoting the U.N.’s climate objectives.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual meeting among U.N. member states and nonstate organizations to discuss common goals and measures to help reduce global carbon output and make the transition to renewable energy sources.
Earlier this month the pope announced that he would be attending COP28, making history as the first pope to do so since the conference began in 1995.
COP28 will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, though the pope will only be there for three days, from Dec. 1–3.
Posted on 11/17/2023 16:56 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 11:56 am (CNA).
A Chinese bishop who attended the Synod on Synodality assembly has spoken out about his experience, saying he was cheered to meet Catholics from all over the world and to discover that many showed great interest in and were praying for the Church in China.
Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement. He was one of two bishops from mainland China who participated in the first half of the synod assembly in October before suddenly departing early without explanation.
In an interview with the Pontifical Mission Societies’ information service, Agenzia Fides, published on Nov. 16, Yao said that he was very grateful to Pope Francis for inviting him and Bishop Joseph Yang to attend the synod.
“We were very happy to meet all these bishops, priests, men and women of different religious and lay orders from all over the world during the synod. Everyone was friendly and cheerful. They welcomed us and showed us their consideration,” Yao said.
“They all showed interest in the development of the Church in China, eager to know more and to pray for us.”
Yao is the bishop of Jining, located in China’s northern Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. Born in Ulanqab in 1965, he is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing.
In the interview, the Chinese bishop shared a little bit about his Catholic roots and vocation story.
“I was born into a Catholic family. My parents and grandparents were very devout and faithful. It is with them that I began to walk in faith and received many graces from God,” he said.
Yao described how the greatest influence on his vocation came from an elderly priest. “His virtues and his selfless dedication to the Church inspired me,” he said.
“Meanwhile, my parents’ encouragement and support further strengthened my will and determination to pursue the path of the priesthood.”
After his ordination in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.
He went on to serve as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops, returning to the Diocese of Jining to serve as vicar general in 2010.
The New York Times reported in 2019 that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89.
Yao said that it is his impression that the “prevailing opinion” in China is that the provisional agreement signed by Beijing and the Holy See in 2018, often referred to as the Vatican-China deal, was “very significant” and “paves the way for promoting integration and unity between the Church in China and the universal Church.”
He said that he has seen a slight decrease in the number of baptisms in his diocese but still has young people and adults coming forward to ask for and receive baptism, something he attributes to “the good example set by the parishioners and the kindness, encouragement, and comfort that the local Church shows towards them.”
“In my opinion, the first mission of us Chinese Catholics is to show God’s mercy and love to all other Chinese,” Yao said. “We really care about the needs of society, especially those of the poor and the suffering, and we try to help them in every way.”
Posted on 11/15/2023 16:03 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2023 / 11:03 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said Wednesday that Christians who are always resentful and full of complaints are not credible witnesses to the Gospel because joy is an essential ingredient for evangelization.
“Humanity abounds with brothers and sisters waiting for a word of hope,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 15.
The pope explained that people today, like people of all times, need the Gospel and need Jesus, especially living in a society with “institutionalized secularity” that “leaves the spaces of religious meaning deserted.”
“This is the right moment to proclaim Jesus,” Pope Francis underlined.
“Immersed in today’s fast-paced and confused environment, we too indeed may find ourselves living our faith with a subtle sense of resignation, persuaded that the Gospel is no longer heard and no longer worth striving to proclaim. We might even be tempted by the idea of letting ‘others’ go their own way,” he added.
“Yet this is precisely the time to return to the Gospel to discover that Christ is always young and a constant source of newness.”
“The Gospel is a proclamation of joy,” he said. “The Gospel is a smile, it makes you smile because it touches the soul with the good news.”
Francis explained: “This is why a Christian who is discontented, a sad Christian, a dissatisfied, or worse still, resentful or rancorous Christian, is not credible. This person will talk about Jesus but no one will believe him!”
The pope advised Christians to “keep watch over one’s sentiments” and to remember “the joy of having the risen Jesus.”
Quoting Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
Pope Francis has led a series of nearly weekly reflections on “the passion for evangelization” since January at his Wednesday general audiences.
In the evangelization series, the pope has shared the stories of saints whom he views as some of the best models for spreading the Gospel, including St. Paul, St. Francis Xavier, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Juan Diego.
The series also featured the stories of lesser-known witnesses to the faith such as Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl, Blessed José Gregorio Hernández, Venerable Matteo Ricci, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Mary MacKillop, and St. Daniele Comboni.
At the end of his general audience, the pope encouraged people to remember to pray for peace every day.
“Let us pray, brothers and sisters, for peace, especially for the battered Ukraine that suffers so much, and then in the Holy Land, in Palestine and Israel, and let us not forget Sudan that suffers so much, and think wherever there is war, there are so many wars! Let’s pray for peace — every day take some time to pray for peace. We want peace,” Pope Francis said.
Posted on 11/15/2023 10:40 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2023 / 05:40 am (CNA).
The Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) released a document on Wednesday reaffirming that Catholics are forbidden from becoming Freemasons.
The new document signed by Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández was written in response to a bishop from the Philippines who had expressed concern at the growing number of Catholics in his diocese who are taking part in Freemasonry and asked for suggestions for how to respond pastorally.
The dicastery’s response, dated Nov. 13, calls for “a coordinated strategy” involving all of the bishops in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to promote catechesis “in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry.”
The Freemasons are the largest worldwide oath-bound secret society. Freemasonry promotes ideas and rituals incompatible with the Catholic faith, including indifferentism, or the position that a person can be equally pleasing to God while remaining in any religion, and a deistic concept of a “Great Architect of the Universe.”
The Vatican document reaffirms that “those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges and have embraced Masonic principles” fall under the provisions of the Catholic Church’s 1983 “Declaration on Masonic Associations.”
The 1983 declaration, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declares that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations “are in a state of grave sin and may not receive holy Communion.”
The new DDF document further clarifies that these measures “also apply to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.”
The dicastery invites bishops in the Philippines to consider making a public statement on the Church’s teaching on Freemasonry.
“Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges,” the DDF document says.
“On the doctrinal level, it should be remembered that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” it adds.
The Catholic Church’s prohibition on Freemasonry dates back to Pope Clement XII, who formally condemned it in a papal bull in 1738.
Earlier this year, UCA News reported that Catholics in the Philippines had raised concerns that some of the participants in the diocesan and national Synod on Synodality consultations were members of the Freemasons, which some reported had created confusion regarding Church’s teaching on the matter.
The Filipino Catholic bishops’ conference issued a clarification in March declaring that bishops in the Philippines have “always maintained and defended the official Catholic (magisterial) position on the unacceptability of Masonry, given its serious errors both in doctrine (philosophical tenets) and practices.”
Fernández addressed the DDF note to Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Philippines. In it, he also points to the pastoral guidelines published by the Filipino bishops’ conference in 2003.