LAS VEGAS (OSV News) – In a sign of the growing Catholic community of southern Nevada and the Western United States, the Archdiocese of Las Vegas has become the newest archdiocese in America. A solemn Mass Oct. 16 at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer in Las Vegas formally celebrated the designation of the archdiocese and the appointment of Archbishop George Leo Thomas by Pope Francis May 30. The new metropolitan archdiocese and province of Las Vegas includes Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City as suffragan dioceses of the province. During the Mass, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the pope’s representative as apostolic nuncio to the United States, placed the pallium – a woolen liturgical garment worn by a metropolitan archbishop – upon Archbishop Thomas’ shoulders. The pallium represents a pastor’s care of his flock and his unity with the pope. Pope Francis gave the archbishop the pallium in June at the Vatican. The growth in the presence of Catholics in Las Vegas and southern Nevada was a key factor in its elevation to an archdiocese. The 350,000 Catholics among a total regional population of more than 1 million in 1995 has ballooned to an estimated 750,000 Catholics among more than 2 million residents today, according to the archdiocese. This growth was “a result of the dynamism and the vitality of the church here,” Cardinal Pierre told Massgoers.

Members of a tour group explore the catacombs of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City Oct. 15, 2023. Tours of the historic basilica, its catacombs and cemetery have proven to be popular with New Yorkers and out-of-towners. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – “Catacombs by Candlelight” perhaps conjures images of a subterranean tour in Rome led by a guide wearing a headlamp. In New York, it’s the name of a revenue-generating history lesson told while exploring the cemetery and burial vaults of one of the city’s oldest Catholic churches. At the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, the tour’s tone is respectful and the candles are battery-operated LED models. Frank Alfieri, the basilica’s director of cemetery and columbaria, said the tours were established in 2017 to communicate and monetize the historical significance of the property, which has been an active mainstay of the lower Manhattan area for more than 200 years. When it opened in 1815, St. Patrick’s served as New York’s first cathedral until the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was dedicated in 1879. The Old Cathedral was named a basilica in 2010. The catacombs were developed before the church was built above them and consist of 37 hermetically sealed family and group vaults arrayed along three 120-foot corridors. Most of the vaults have marble facades and bear the now-unfamiliar names of prominent 19th-century New York Catholics of Irish, German, French and Spanish heritage. Eight 80-minute tours are offered five days a week for groups as large as 40.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will celebrate a memorial Mass Nov. 3 for Pope Benedict XVI and cardinals and bishops who have died in the past year. The Mass will take place at the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica at 11 a.m., the Vatican announced. Pope Benedict died Dec. 31 at the age of 95. The previous day, the Nov. 2 feast of All Souls, the pope will celebrate Mass at the Rome War Cemetery, the burial place of members of the military forces of the Commonwealth who died during and immediately after World War II. The 426 men buried there died between November 1942 and February 1947. They came from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. Also on the pope’s liturgical calendar for November is his celebration of Mass for the World Day of the Poor. He will preside over the liturgy Nov. 19 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said a trip to his native Argentina remains on his schedule and that he has been encouraged to travel through Oceania. Asked by an Argentine reporter what important trips remain pending in his pontificate, the pope said “I would like to go” to Argentina in an interview released Oct. 16. “Talking a bit farther away, Papua New Guinea is still left.” He added that someone had told him, “Since I’m going to Argentina, to have a layover in Río Gallegos (Argentina), then the South Pole, land in Melbourne and visit New Zealand and Australia.” Though the 86-year-old pope said, “It would be a bit long.” In the wide-spanning interview recorded in September with the Argentine state news agency Télam, Pope Francis said that while he receives many invitations to visit countries and there is a list of possible papal trips, ideas for trips also originate from the Vatican, such as his Aug. 31-Sept. 4 trip to Mongolia. Pope Francis also spoke about the synod on synodality, relating it to the vision of St. John XXIII at the start of the Second Vatican Council. “It is not only about changing style, it is about a change of growth in favor of people’s dignity,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Huddled in a stairwell at the Catholic parish and school in Gaza, Rosary Sister Nabila Saleh, another sister and Father Youssef Asaad filmed themselves speaking to Pope Francis on the phone and begging for his continued prayers. Pope Francis phoned Holy Family parish – the only Catholic parish in Gaza – the evening of Oct. 15, Vatican News reported. Sister Saleh said Father Asaad passed her the phone because he doesn’t speak Italian as well as she does. After Hamas launched attacks on Israel Oct. 7 and Israel responded by bombing targets in Gaza, “the Holy Father wanted to know how many people we are hosting in the parish facilities,” Sister Saleh told Vatican News. There are about 500 people, including “the sick, families, children, the disabled, people who have lost their homes and every belonging.” Sister Saleh said, it was “a great blessing” to speak with the pope. “He gave us courage and the support of prayer.”

NAIROBI, Kenya (OSV News) – On the day the world celebrates efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity, a bishop in Ethiopia was warning that his people were still dying of hunger, a year after a ceasefire ended a deadly conflict in the northern region of Tigray. Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin of Adigrat said he wanted the world to know the situation in the region was still critical, and deaths were occurring due to serious food shortages and malnutrition. “The situation is very bad. Many parts of the region experienced failed harvests due to drought, and food aid distribution had also stopped,” Bishop Medhin told OSV News in an interview ahead of the World Food Day. “People are dying of hunger. The hospitals are also reporting increased cases of malnutrition. It is very frustrating.” More than 20 million people need food assistance in Africa’s second most populous nation after the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades and a two-year conflict in the Tigray region on top of it. On Oct. 16, the globe rallied to mark the World Food Day, an annual awareness and action day against hunger and malnutrition, reminding of the importance of food security and access to nutritious food for all. It also addresses the importance of sustainable agriculture and food production.

OSLO, Norway (OSV News) – Church leaders in Norway have welcomed the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Jon Fosse, a Catholic convert, predicting the honor could raise Catholicism’s profile in the traditionally Protestant country. “Fosse gives voice, with elegance and beauty, to the mystery of faith. … I think our country is blessed to have a poet of his stature,” said Bishop Erik Varden of Trondheim. “A Catholic writer is someone who assimilated the grace of belonging to the church in such a way that it’s perfectly innate and natural to their self-expression. In that sense, Fosse is very much a Catholic writer.” The novelist and playwright will receive the 2023 prize in Stockholm Dec. 10. Born in 1959 at Haugesund on Norway’s west coast, Fosse has published over 30 novels, as well as poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations. His theater works, performed worldwide, have made him Norway’s most performed playwright since Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). Fosse was received into the Catholic Church at St. Dominic’s Monastery, Oslo, in 2012. His multivolume work, “Septology,” centering on a Catholic convert-painter, was shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize and National Books Critics Award. In a November 2022 interview with The New Yorker, Fosse described his style as “slow prose” and “mystical realism,” adding that he had turned to religious faith while struggling with alcoholism and other problems.