Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis invites young people to be ‘God’s answer’ to a hopeless world

Pope Francis smiles while addressing pilgrims at a vigil gathering on Aug. 5, 2023, at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2023 / 11:51 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has invited young people to be a light of hope in a world suffering from war, violence, suffering, and despair.

“When we think of human tragedies, especially the suffering of the innocent, we too can echo some of the Psalms and ask the Lord, ‘Why?’ At the same time, however, we can also be part of God’s answer to the problem,” the pope said in a message to teens and young adults published Nov. 14.

“Created by him in his image and likeness,” he continued, “we can be signs of his love, which gives rise to joy and hope even in situations that appear hopeless.”

Pope Francis’ message on the theme “Rejoicing in Hope” was released ahead of the next diocesan World Youth Day, to be celebrated on Nov. 26, the solemnity of Christ the King.

The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day annually in local dioceses since the event was established by St. John Paul II in 1985.

The next international World Youth Day is planned for Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. Young adults are also invited to attend a Jubilee of Young People in Rome during the 2025 Jubilee Year.

In his message, Pope Francis said we are living at a time when for many people, the young included, “hope seems absent.”

“Sadly, many of your contemporaries who experience wars, violent conflict, bullying, and other kinds of hardship are gripped by despair, fear, and depression,” he said. “They feel as if they are in a dark prison, where the light of the sun cannot enter.”

He pointed to the high suicide rate among teens and young adults in some countries as a dramatic sign of the level of depression in the world.

“In such situations, how can we experience the joy and hope of which St. Paul speaks?” Francis said. “There is a risk that instead we will fall prey to despair, thinking that it is useless to do good, since it would not be appreciated or acknowledged by anyone. We may say to ourselves, with Job: ‘Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?’ (Job 17:15).”

Pope Francis recalled that joy “is not a product of our human efforts, plans, or skills, but of the energy born of an encounter with Christ. Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.”

He also pointed to something Pope Benedict XVI said to the Roman Curia in 2011, reflecting on his experience at World Youth Day in Madrid.

Benedict said: “Where does [joy] come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But ... the crucial one is this certainty based on faith: I am wanted. I have a task in history. I am accepted, I am loved.”

After we have kindled the flame of hope in us, it has to be nourished, Pope Francis said.

“There can be times,” he said, “when it risks being extinguished by the worries, fears and pressures of daily life. A flame needs oxygen to keep burning, in order to grow into a great bonfire of hope.”

The pope gave two pieces of advice for keeping hope alive: to spend time daily in prayer and to make the decision to live in hope.

“When you feel surrounded by the clouds of fear, doubt, and anxiety and you no longer see the sun, take the path of prayer,” he said, recalling Benedict XVI’s words in the encyclical Spe Salvi: “For ‘when no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me.’”

“Let us take some time each day to rest in God, especially when we feel overwhelmed by our problems: ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him (Ps 62:5).’”

“St. Paul’s invitation to rejoice in hope,” the pope said, “calls for concrete choices in our everyday lives. I urge all of you to choose a style of life grounded in hope.”

He pointed to the example of social media, where “it always seems easier to share negative things than things that inspire hope.”

“So my concrete suggestion is this: Each day, try to share a word of hope with others. Try to sow seeds of hope in the lives of your friends and everyone around you,” he said.

After Benedict XVI’s death, Vatican monastery to be home to Benedictine nuns

Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City State, where a group of Benedictine nuns from Argentina will take up residence in January 2024 at the invitation of Pope Francis. / Credit: Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2023 / 07:02 am (CNA).

A group of Benedictine nuns from Argentina will soon take up residence in the Vatican monastery where Pope Benedict XVI lived after resigning the papacy.

The Benedictine Order of the Abbey of St. Scholastica of Victoria, located in the province of Buenos Aires, accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to form a monastic community in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, the Vatican said Nov. 13.

The six nuns will move into the monastery, which is located in the Vatican Gardens in Vatican City State, in early January, according to the press release.

St. John Paul II canonically erected the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery for nuns of contemplative life in 1994. Different groups of cloistered nuns, rotating every three years, lived in the convent until November 2012.

The Vatican said after Benedict XVI’s death on Dec. 31, 2022, Pope Francis decided to restore the monastery to its original purpose as a place where “contemplative orders support the Holy Father in his daily solicitude for the whole Church, through the ministry of prayer, adoration, praise, and reparation, thus being a prayerful presence in silence and solitude.”

The Governorate of Vatican City State will oversee the monastery.

Benedict XVI spent his retirement in prayer and meditation at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. He was assisted by his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein and four consecrated women.

The pope emeritus moved into the monastery, which was then empty following renovations, on May 2, 2013, and remained there until his death on Dec. 31, 2022.

Pope Francis: Cultivate ‘the inner life’ rather than appearance and image

Pope Francis pray the Angelus before over 20,000 faithful at St. Peter's Square on Nov. 12, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2023 / 10:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel message, urging the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to cultivate the interior life and worry less about making a good impression.

Speaking in his Angelus address on Nov. 12, the pope asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to consider “How is the oil of my soul: Do I nourish it and keep it well?”

The pope turned to the parable of the 10 virgins who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Five of them were wise and had extra lamp oil to provide light until he arrived, but five were foolish, having brought no extra oil.

The difference between those who prepared their lamps with oil and those who did not is the difference between “goodwill” and “preparation,” the Holy Father said. In this way, it reminds us of our own interior life.

“And what is the characteristic of the oil? That it cannot be seen: it is inside the lamps, it is not conspicuous, but without it, the lamps give no light,” the pope said.

The pope also warned that today there are many obstacles to having a genuine moment of inward reflection.

“Let us look at ourselves, and we will see that our life runs the same risk: Today we are very careful about our appearance, the important thing is to take good care of one’s image and make a good impression in front of others.”

“It is the stewardship of the inner life. This means knowing how to stop and listen to one’s heart, to keep watch over one’s own thoughts and feelings,” the pope said.

To engage in the inner reflection and contemplation necessary for a healthy spiritual life requires more than the willingness to listen, he said. “It means knowing how to make room for silence, so as to be capable of listening,” which, he said, often entails making sacrifices.

The faithful gather at St. Peter's Square on Nov. 12, 2023, to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis, who spoke from the window of his study at the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Credit: Vatican Media
The faithful gather at St. Peter's Square on Nov. 12, 2023, to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis, who spoke from the window of his study at the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Credit: Vatican Media

During the appeal, the pope called attention to the grave situation in Sudan. Conflict broke out in the county between two rival factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in April. The fighting, which has left over 10,000 dead, has been concentrated in the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region.

“I am close to the suffering of those dear people of Sudan, and I make a heartfelt appeal to local leaders to encourage access to humanitarian aid and, with the contribution of the international community, to work towards finding peaceful solutions. Let us not forget these brothers of ours who are being tested,” the pope said.

Following his appeal for those in Sudan, the Holy Father spoke again about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Every day our thoughts turn to the very serious situation in Israel and Palestine. I am close to all those who suffer, Palestinians and Israelis. I hug them in this dark moment. And I pray a lot for them.”

“Enough, brothers, enough! In Gaza, the wounded must be helped immediately, civilians must be protected, and much more humanitarian aid must be delivered to that exhausted population. The hostages, among whom there are many elderly people and children, must be freed.”

“Every human being, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people and religion, every human being is sacred, precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace. Let us not lose hope: We pray and work tirelessly so that the sense of humanity prevails over the hardness of hearts,” the pope said.

Pope Francis prays for infant Indi Gregory as life support set to be removed in UK

Indi Gregory, born in February and baptized in September, suffers from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England. / Credit: Christian Concern

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2023 / 11:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for Indi Gregory and her family as the critically ill British infant’s life support is set to be removed this weekend by a U.K. court order.

The pope “embraces the family of little Indi Gregory, her father and mother, prays for them and for her, and turns his thoughts to all the children around the world in these same hours who are living in pain or risking their lives because of disease and war,” a Vatican statement said Nov. 11.

Indi Gregory, born in February and baptized in September, suffers from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England.

After England’s high court ruled that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support against her parents’ wishes, the Italian government granted the critically ill child Italian citizenship on Nov. 6 and agreed to cover the cost of her medical treatment at the Vatican’s pediatric hospital.

Gregory’s parents repeatedly appealed in U.K. courts to be able to take her to Rome for treatment but lost their legal battle, with the second-highest court in the U.K. ruling on Nov. 10 that the baby’s life support be removed “immediately,” an order that is expected to be carried out sometime over the weekend.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lady Justice Eleanor King, and Lord Justice Andrew Moylan made the ruling after a remote hearing in the Court of Appeal. The ruling called the attempted Italian intervention in Gregory’s case “wholly misconceived” and “not in the spirit” of the 1996 Hague Convention, to which both the U.K. and Italy are parties.

The decision came after Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wrote to the U.K.’s lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice on Nov. 10 in an appeal to bring Gregory to Rome for treatment.

The general manager of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, Dr. Antonio Perno, had also made an urgent application to the U.K. high court the day prior calling for the judge to cede jurisdiction of the case to him.

The Bambino Gesù, which is run by the Vatican, has offered to treat other terminally ill British infants in the past, such as Alfie Evans in 2018 and Charlie Gard in 2017, both of whom were ultimately denied the chance to travel to Italy by U.K. courts and died days after being removed from life support.

Indi Gregory’s treatment at Bambino Gesù would have been done at no cost to U.K. taxpayers.

Catholic bishops in England have commented on the case, with Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster and Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham speaking out in a statement this week noting the Church’s teaching on end-of-life care.

“The tragic situation of baby Indi Gregory is truly heartbreaking, most especially for her devoted parents Claire and Dean, her siblings, wider family, and friends. Those responsible for her medical care at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, believe they have done all they can to help her,” the bishops wrote.

“However, as people of hope, we recognize that her parents want to pursue every possible chance of extending her life, even when they know this carries no guarantee of success and would require transfer to the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, Italy. In this regard, both parties are seeking to act in Indi’s best interests. Parental love will lead to a desire to take every possible step, and we support this.”

In cases when medical treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit, proper palliative care for a sick person must be maintained, the bishops noted.

“The suspension of disproportionate therapies cannot justify the suspension of basic care, which includes treatments that are required to maintain essential physiological functions as long as the body can benefit from them (such as hydration, nutrition, proportionate respiratory support, thermoregulation, and pain management),” they said. “Alongside spiritual care offered for the one who will soon meet God, the Church views these treatments as necessary to accompany these little patients to a dignified natural death.”

“Prolonged terminal illness is, sadly, part of the human condition,” the bishops acknowledged.

“We should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of basic care so that death might be achieved. We do, however, sometimes have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs. We hope and pray that, in the wake of this decision, the family are gradually able to find some peace over the coming days and weeks. Our prayers are with baby Indi and her parents and family, as well as with those caring for her.”

Pope Francis relieves Strickland of his duties as bishop of Tyler

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. / null

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2023 / 07:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has relieved Bishop Joseph Strickland from his duties in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and appointed an apostolic administrator to replace him.

Strickland’s removal on Nov. 11 comes after the Texas bishop refused a Vatican request for him to submit his resignation two days prior, according to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston.

The Vatican Dicastery for Bishops completed a formal investigation in the Diocese of Tyler earlier this year called an apostolic visitation, which, according to a source, looked into the bishop’s social media use and questions related to diocesan management.

The apostolic visitation conducted by Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson made “an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership” of the Texas bishop and recommended that Strickland’s continuation in office was “not feasible,” DiNardo said in a statement on Nov. 11.

“After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested,” he said.

Strickland, 65, served as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler since 2012. The widely popular though polarizing Texas bishop had faced criticism for his firebrand social media posts, including a May 12 tweet that suggested Pope Francis was “undermining the Deposit of Faith.”

The Vatican announcement did not provide a reason for the bishop’s removal. Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin will serve as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Tyler until a new bishop is appointed.

During Strickland’s 10-plus years at the helm of Tyler, the diocese experienced some noteworthy changes, such as the 2018 resignation of three diocesan officials, a move Strickland said at the time would position the diocese to best fulfill its mission.

But Strickland’s tenure has also coincided with positive signs of spiritual and administrative health in Tyler. Currently, 21 men are in priestly formation for the territory of 119,168 Catholics. The diocese is also reportedly in good financial shape, exemplified in part by its ability to raise 99% of its $2.3 million goal for the 2021 bishop’s appeal six months ahead of schedule.

Pope Francis met with American Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, on Saturday morning before Strickland’s removal was announced.

The pope’s decision to relieve Strickland of his pastoral governance of the east Texas diocese comes just two days before the start of the U.S. bishops’ fall plenary meeting, which will be held Nov. 13–16 in Baltimore.

This article was updated at 9 a.m. EST with a statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

Italian Senate launches inquiry into disappearance of Vatican Girl and another missing teen

From the Netflix documentary series, "Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi" / Netflix

Rome Newsroom, Nov 10, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The Italian Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday to launch a new parliamentary inquiry into the 40-year-old cold case of the disappearance of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, who lived in Vatican City, as well as another girl who went missing in Rome the month prior.

The four-year parliamentary commission will have “full investigative powers” and a budget of 50,000 euros per year to shed light on the 1983 disappearance of the two girls. 

The Italian government inquiry comes after a separate Vatican investigation into the Orlandi case opened in January and shared its findings six months later with Rome prosecutors, who have been further investigating the cold case.

Emanuela Orlandi was the teenage daughter of Ercole Orlandi, an envoy of the Prefecture of the Papal Household and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance on June 22, 1983, after leaving for a music lesson in Rome has dominated headlines in Italy and been the subject of speculation for decades.

In addition to Orlandi, the newly established Italian commission will also look into the case of 15-year-old Mirella Gregori, who went missing in Rome on May 7, 1983, roughly 40 days before Orlandi. 

Gregori was last seen after school at a coffee bar located below her family’s apartment in central Rome. She had told her mother that she was going to quickly meet a friend named Alessandro and never returned. 

While Gregori had no connection to the Vatican, her case has been linked to that of the missing “Vatican Girl” after calls from alleged kidnappers in 1983 claimed that they had taken both girls. 

The commission is tasked with examining the evidence from prior investigations into the two girls’ disappearance, obtaining necessary further documentation from foreign states related to the case and analyzing what might have hindered Italy’s judicial system from “ascertaining facts and responsibility” in past years. A total of 40 commissioners are expected to be nominated by the end of this year.

During the Vatican investigation into the case earlier this year, Vatican City’s chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi conducted interviews with people who worked at the Vatican at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance and said that he had collected “all available evidence.” 

The Vatican said in January the Orlandi case was being reopened at the request of the family.

Public interest in the case was also rekindled last year after the release of “Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” on Netflix.

The true-crime docuseries featured interviews with subjects who proffered numerous theories about Orlandi’s disappearance ranging from the involvement of Italian organized crime to a theory that the Vatican was involved in some way in Orlandi’s disappearance, none of which have been substantiated.

Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing girl, told FQ Magazine that he is hopeful that “this commission will be able to help us understand situations that neither the Vatican nor the Italian Prosecutor’s Office are investigating.”

Mother of Israeli hostage thanks Pope Francis for his efforts to free captives in Gaza

null / Credit: Hostage and Missing Families Forum

CNA Staff, Nov 10, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The mother of a hostage held by the Palestinian terror group Hamas has expressed thanks to Pope Francis for his efforts to free the hundreds of innocent people who were abducted from Israel on Oct. 7. 

In a Nov. 10 video released by Vatican News, Rachel Goldberg Polin, whose 23-year-old son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was kidnapped, said: “Holy Father, thank you for taking the time to try to help us free the 240 human beings who are buried alive under Gaza.”

Polin, whom Religion News Service called “one of the most prominent spokespersons for the hostages,” said that the hostages “are from all different religions: Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. And they are human beings. They are God’s children. And we really appreciate you trying to bring them all home to their families.”

“With much love and respect,” she said before blowing a kiss to the Holy Father.

On Oct. 7, Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, launched thousands of rockets into Israel while its militants breached the border and invaded towns, killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians. 

Some of the hostages have since been released or saved by the Israelis, and the United Nations puts the present number of hostages at 240.

Days after the attack, the Holy Father called for the hostages to be released and has consistently repeated that request. 

“I hope that all avenues will be followed so that the conflict can absolutely be avoided, the wounded can be helped, and aid can reach the population of Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is very serious. Release the hostages immediately. Among them there are also many children; may they return to their families!” the pope said during his Nov. 5 Angelus address.

The Holy Father has since met with several Jewish leaders since the conflict began including the president of the World Jewish Congress and the Conference of European Rabbis.

In his meeting with the rabbis, Pope Francis said he began to feel ill and distributed his prepared remarks to them instead of speaking.

In the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, he wrote his “first thought and prayer goes, above all else, to everything that has happened in the last few weeks.”

“Yet again violence and war have erupted in that land blessed by the Most High, which seems continually assailed by the vileness of hatred and the deadly clash of weapons,” the speech continued. “The spread of antisemitic demonstrations, which I strongly condemn, is also of great concern.”

“In this time in which we are witnessing violence and destruction,” the remarks said, “we believers are called to build fraternity and open paths of reconciliation for all and before all, in the name of the Almighty who, as another prophet says, has ‘plans for welfare and not for evil’ (Jer 29:11). Not weapons, not terrorism, not war, but compassion, justice, and dialogue are the fitting means for building peace.”

Rome to celebrate 1,700th birthday of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

The Basilica of St. John Lateran. / Credit: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome has planned a full year of events to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which was dedicated on Nov. 9, 324.

The church is the cathedral of the diocese and the seat of the bishop of Rome, the pope. Until the 14th century, the adjoining palace served as the papal residence.

While St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the archbasilica’s patrons, it is called St. John Lateran because it was built on property donated by the Plautii Laterani family during the Roman Empire.

The date of the basilica’s dedication, Nov. 9, in the year 324 by Pope Sylvester I is a feast day in the Church.

A Latin inscription in the church reads: “Omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” which means in English: “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”

“The cathedral of Rome, Mater et Caput of all the Churches of Rome and the world, is a very special point of reference for our diocese and for the universal Church,” Rome’s vicar, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, said in a post on the Diocese of Rome website.

“In it one breathes the history of 17 centuries, of a basilica built and rebuilt three times, up to the present building of 1700. Five ecumenical councils have taken place in it,” he continued.

“In the See of the Chair of Peter,” De Donatis said, “all Christians of the world feel the bond with the bishop of Rome. In this place we Christians of Rome recognize once again the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, pointed out by [John] the Baptist. Here we feel, like [John] the beloved disciple, the beating heart of Christ, the Savior, consumed with love for all humanity. In the school of the two ‘Johns’ we find the particular vocation of our Church called to preside in charity.”

The Diocese of Rome will open the year of celebrations with a solemn pontifical Mass celebrated by De Donatis in the afternoon on Nov. 9. The Mass will include music written for the occasion by Father Marco Frisina, Italy’s most popular contemporary composer of religious hymns.

Other events planned throughout the year include concerts, Masses, and religious-cultural talks about the history of the archbasilica and the adjoining Lateran Palace.

The anniversary celebrations will close with Mass on Nov. 9, 2024.

Vatican doctrine office: Transgender-identifying people can be baptized, witness marriages

A baptismal font in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. / Bwag via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, Nov 8, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s doctrine office has said an adult who identifies as transgender can receive the sacrament of baptism under the same conditions as any adult, as long as there is no risk of causing scandal or confusion to other Catholics.

The Vatican also said that children or adolescents experiencing transgender identity issues may also receive baptism “if well prepared and willing.”

The document answering these and other sacrament-based questions for those who identify as transgender and people in same-sex relationships was generated in response to questions posed to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) in July by Bishop Giuseppe (José) Negri of Santo Amaro in Brazil. The guidance comes amid ongoing discussions within the Catholic Church about pastoral care for the LGBTQ community in light of Francis’ focus on accompaniment and synodality.

The dicastery’s response is dated Oct. 31 and signed by DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández and Pope Francis. It is available on the Vatican website in Italian.

The Vatican also responded to questions about whether transgender-identifying people or those in homosexual relationships can be godparents or witness a marriage, and whether children adopted or born through assisted reproduction to same-sex couples can be baptized.

To the last question, the DDF cited paragraph 868 of the Code of Canon Law and said “for the child to be baptized there must be a well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”

The Vatican’s explanation

On the question of those who identify as transgender and their reception of the sacrament of baptism, the dicastery gave some notes for consideration, “especially when there is some doubt about the objective moral situation in which a person finds himself, or about his subjective disposition toward grace.”

It went on to explain that the Catholic Church teaches that baptism received without repentance for grave sins, while it gives an indelible sacramental character, does not bestow sanctifying grace.

The Vatican quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine of Hippo to explain that once a person has the right disposition, that is, has repented of any grave sins, the sacramental character of baptism “is an immediate cause which disposes one to receive grace.”

“Thus we can understand why Pope Francis wanted to emphasize that baptism ‘is the door which allows Christ the Lord to dwell in our person and allows us to be immersed in his Mystery,’” the DDF said, quoting an April 11, 2018, general audience by Pope Francis.

“This concretely implies,” it went on, quoting Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “that ‘nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: baptism. ... The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.’”

The DDF concluded that even if there are doubts about a person’s objective moral situation or subjective disposition toward grace, “the faithfulness of God’s unconditional love, capable of generating an irrevocable covenant even with the sinner” should not be forgotten.

“In any case, the Church should always call [someone] to live out fully all the implications of the received baptism, which must always be understood and unfolded within the entire journey of Christian initiation,” it said.

Other related questions

The doctrinal office said a transgender-identifying person who has undergone hormonal treatment or sex-reassignment surgery can fulfill the role of godfather or godmother for a baptism “under certain conditions” but added that such a role is not a right and should not be allowed if there is danger of causing scandal or confusion to the Church community.

It also said there was nothing in current Church law that prohibits people who identify as transgender or cohabiting homosexual people from acting as witnesses of a marriage.

In answer to a question about whether a cohabiting homosexual person can be a godparent, the document cited the Church’s Code of Canon Law, paragraph 874, to say a godparent can be anyone who possesses the aptitude and “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.”

It stated that a homosexual person living not a “simple cohabitation” but a “stable and declared ‘more uxorio’” in the manner of a husband and wife “well recognized by the community” is “a different case.”

Every case requires “pastoral prudence,” it went on to say, in order to safeguard the sacrament of baptism, and “it is necessary to consider the real value that the ecclesial community confers on the duties of godfather and godmother, the role they play in the community, and the consideration they show toward the teaching of the Church.”

The DDF also said it can be taken into account whether there are other people in the extended family who can guarantee the proper transmission of the Catholic faith to the baptized person without holding the role of godparent.

Pope Francis: Secularized world is ‘invitation to communicate the joy of the Gospel’

Pope Francis waves to the crowds at his general audience on Nov. 8, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

In his ongoing catechetical series on apostolic zeal, Pope Francis on Wednesday drew upon the example of Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl as a testament to conversion and service in a secularized world. 

The pope’s Nov. 8 general audience opened up with the “similes of salt and light” passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which Christ tells a crowd: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its flavor be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot.” 

“You are the light of the world,” Christ continues in the passage. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do we light a lamp and then put it under a bushel, but on a stand, so it gives light to everyone in the house.” 

The pope drew upon the example of Delbrêl as a testament to this evangelical imperative. Delbrêl lived her life on the margins with the poor, exemplifying the imperative of announcing the Gospel in a world that is adrift from the Gospel message. 

Pope Francis arrives at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Nov. 8, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis arrives at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Nov. 8, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Born in 1904 in southwestern France, Delbrêl was a prolific writer, poet, essaysist, social worker, and mystic. 

Growing up in a nonreligious household, Delbrêl passed her adolescence as an agnostic, but struck “by the witness of some friends,” she went on “in search of God, giving voice to a profound thirst that she felt within, and came to learn that the ‘emptiness that cried out her anguish in her’ was God who sought her,” the pope said.

She later moved with family to the peripheries of Paris. It was there, against the backdrop of the French worker’s movement and an entrenched Communist Party, where she encountered the poor and developed a social consciousness.  

Amid the social turbulence following the end of the First World War and her father’s own frail health, she had an intense conversion in 1924 and her life assumed a new meaning. 

She dedicated herself to a life of prayer. While she had wanted to enter the Carmelites, her father’s health precluded her from doing so. Instead, she dedicated herself to meeting “street people,” and her evangelizing mission thus was centered on the care of the urban poor and socially marginalized, especially in secularized spaces.

She wrote several books including “Marxist City,” “Land Of Mission,” “We, the Ordinary People of the Streets,” and “The Joy of Believing.” In 2018 Pope Francis signed a decree that Delbrêl had lived a life of heroic virtue.

Women religious attend Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience on Nov. 8, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Women religious attend Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience on Nov. 8, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The pope quoted Delbrêl in which she likened faith to riding a bicycle: “You have chosen us to stay in a strange balance, a balance that can be achieved and maintained only in movement, only in momentum. A bit like a bicycle, which does not stay upright unless its wheels turn. … We can stay upright only by going forward, moving, in a surge of charity.” 

The pope noted that Debrêl is an example of evangelization as a reciprocal process where “by evangelizing one is evangelized.” 

“Looking at this witness of the Gospel, we too learn that in every personal or social situation or circumstance of our life, the Lord is present and calls to us to inhabit our own time, to share our life with others, to mingle with the joys and sorrows of the world,” the pope said. 

This is a powerful witness and moment of dialogue where in “secularized environments” the “contact with nonbelievers prompts the believer to a continual revision of his or her way of believing and rediscovering faith in its essentiality.” 

In his greeting to French pilgrims the Holy Father repeated this notion, saying: “Faced with our secularized world, let us not complain, but see in it a call to test our faith and an invitation to communicate the joy of the Gospel.” 

At the end of the general audience the pope once again implored the world to pray for peace and for an end of war, repeating his refrain that war is always a defeat.

“Let us think and pray for the people who suffer from war. Let us not forget the tormented Ukraine and think of the Palestinian and Israeli people: May the Lord lead us to a just peace,” the pope said. “We suffer a lot: Children suffer, the sick, the old suffer, and many young people die. War is always a defeat: Let’s not forget. It’s always a defeat.”