CINCINNATI (CNS) – The Los Angeles Rams may have won Super Bowl LVI over the Cincinnati Bengals, but students in Catholic schools in both archdioceses are winners as well. Donors contributed more than $22,000 – and counting as of Feb. 17 – for tuition assistance scholarships as part of a friendly wager between Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati over the game’s outcome. The donations to each archdiocese’s Catholic Education Foundation came as the archbishops invited supporters to become involved in their good-gesture wager through the Bishops Big Game challenge. In the Feb. 13 game, the Rams were behind in the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter, before scoring the winning touchdown with 1:25 left, beating the Bengals 23-20. With the Rams’ victory, the Los Angeles foundation will receive 60% of the funds raised, while the Cincinnati foundation will received 40% of the money donated.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) – From partaking in the sacrament of reconciliation to fasting to choosing what to give up, Lent is full of traditions that Catholics around the world take part in as they prepare to celebrate Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. But there’s another sacred tradition that dates back to the early days of the Crusades; one that allows them to “walk” the Via Dolorosa with Christ: the Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross are a mini-pilgrimage, taking believers through the steps taken by Jesus on Good Friday, from his condemnation to his burial. The stations are a “way of prayerfully uniting oneself to the sacrifice of the Lord and his love for us,” said Father Eric Fowlkes, pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. “It’s also an invitation for us to place ourselves within that journey.” The Stations of the Cross date back to the Middle Ages during the religious wars between Christians and Muslims, known as the Crusades. “The Crusades awakened an interest in Europe in the places associated with Christ in the Holy Land. For the first time, Europeans were traveling there regularly and wanted to see the holy places where the biblical events took place,” said Father Bede Price, pastor of Church of the Assumption in Nashville.

The Los Angeles Rams celebrate their Feb. 13, 2022, win over the Cincinnati Bengals at the Super Bowl parade at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles Feb. 16. (CNS photo/David Swanson, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Argentine Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, the prelate who organized and oversaw the first six international celebrations of World Youth Day. The pope also approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Capuchin Poor Clare Sister Maria Costanza Panas of the Italian monastery of Fabriano. She was born Jan. 5, 1896, and died May 28, 1963. In addition to recognizing the miracle that clears the way for her beatification, the pope approved decrees recognizing that four candidates for sainthood heroically lived the Christian virtues; the decrees were signed during an audience Feb. 18 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. The four candidates, who are now “venerable,” included Cardinal Pironio, who had served in numerous offices in the Roman Curia from 1975 until his retirement in 1996. St. Paul VI called him to Rome as pro-prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious. When St. John Paul II named him to head the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1984, the late pope instituted the annual celebration of World Youth Day, including huge international gatherings presided over by the pope every two years and organized by the laity council.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As part of ongoing measures to reform the Roman Curia, Pope Francis has approved restructuring the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the oldest of the congregations. Once comprised of a doctrinal office, a discipline office and a marriage office, the new structure will see the doctrinal and discipline offices become their own special sections led by their own secretaries; the marriage office will become part of the doctrinal office. The two secretaries will serve under the congregation’s prefect. Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who has been prefect of the congregation since 2017, will celebrate his 78th birthday April 19. The heads of Vatican offices are required to offer their resignations to the pope when they turn 75. In “Fidem servare” (Preserving the Faith), published “motu proprio,” (on his own initiative) Feb. 14, Pope Francis said the main task of the congregation has been to safeguard or “keep the faith.” The changes went into effect the same day. Over time, the congregation has seen modifications to its areas of responsibilities and how it is configured, and now, Pope Francis said, further change is needed “to give it an approach more suited to the fulfillment of its functions.”

SÃO PAULO (CNS) – The Diocese of Petrópolis and the city’s parishes have opened their doors to assist victims of the torrential rainstorm that flooded the historic city of Petrópolis. Bishop Gregório Paixão Neto asked that priests and parishioners take in people whose houses were affected by the Feb. 15 mudslides and needed shelter. “This moment is one of solidarity, and we of the Catholic Church are deeply united and in solidarity with all families,” Bishop Paixão said in a video message released on social media. “I ask you to welcome your relatives, your friends and those who are in despair, looking for a place to stay. I, myself, already have a family staying in my house,” he added. The mid-February storm is considered one of the worst in city in the past 70 years, with rainfall surpassing 10 inches in six hours, a volume greater than expected for the entire month of February. As of early Feb. 17, 104 deaths had been recorded, and dozens were still missing under the mud and rubble. The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, through Caritas, launched the SOS Petrópolis campaign, asking for donations for families affected by the rains.

IQUITOS, Peru (CNS) – Oil spills on opposite sides of Peru – one near Lima, the coastal capital, and the other in a remote Indigenous village in the Amazon – brought together Catholics in the two regions for simultaneous Masses Feb. 13. They prayed for those suffering from the pollution caused by both spills as they marked the second anniversary of “Querida Amazonia,” (Beloved Amazonia), the papal exhortation issued by Pope Francis after the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. The liturgies, accompanied by video messages exchanged by Bishop Miguel Angel Cadenas of Iquitos and Archbishop Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio of Lima and played at each of the Masses, formed the first such joint initiative between bishops in Lima and the Amazon. In January, similar disasters struck the two regions. A ship offloading oil Jan. 15 at a coastal refinery spilled about 6,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific Ocean, fouling at least 30 miles of shoreline. On Jan. 20, vandals cut an oil pipeline in a small Amazonian village, contaminating the river that people depend on for water for drinking, cooking and bathing. In his homily, Archbishop Castillo said, “We have a commitment – our city of Lima and our entire coast – to our Amazon region.”