10 things to know about October’s Synod on Synodality in Rome

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – The eyes of the Catholic world turn to Rome Oct. 4, as the worldwide Synod of Bishops convenes on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi to focus on “synodality” and understanding what it means in terms of “communion, participation and mission” in the church. Here’s what it is, how we got here and what to expect.

– 1. The Synod on Synodality is three years in the making.
Pope Francis announced in March 2020 (at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Italy) that the next Synod of Bishops would be held in October 2022 on the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission,” which quickly became known as the “Synod on Synodality.” In May 2021, he postponed the two-part meeting to 2023 (with a second gathering in 2024), due in part to the pandemic, and announced that it would be preceded by a two-year process.

That decision reflected Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod of Bishops outlined in the 2018 apostolic constitution “Episcopalis Communio,” including what Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, described at the time as “transforming the Synod from an event into a process.” Pope Francis officially opened the “synodal path” with a Mass Oct. 10, 2021, with dioceses around the world following suit.

– 2. Synodality is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”
Despite the long history of synods in the church, the term “synodality” is relatively recent, emerging in church documents about two decades ago. In 2018, the topic was addressed by the International Theological Commission, which defined it as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

Synodality was also a topic of conversation at the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” that took place in 2018.

In the Synod on Synodality’s “vademecum,” an official handbook issued in September 2021, “synodality” is described as “the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the hurch, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel,” adding, “Synodality ought to be expressed in the church’s ordinary way of living and working.”

In his homily for the Mass opening the synod process, Pope Francis said, “Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, walking together.” He said that when meeting others, Jesus would “encounter, listen and discern,” and those verbs “characterize the synod.”

“The Gospels frequently show us Jesus ‘on a journey’; he walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky roads of life.”

He continued: “Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves – all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

– 3. A synod is a meeting of bishops. It has ancient roots in the Catholic Church’s history and continuity in the Eastern Churches, but declined in the Latin Church. The modern Synod of Bishops was instituted near the end of Vatican II.
“Synod” has been historically interchangeable with “council,” such as the churchwide Council of Nicea or the Council of Trent, or more localized meetings, such as the Plenary Councils of Baltimore, which brought the U.S. bishops together in 1852, 1866 and 1884. The late Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley, a theologian at Georgetown University, noted in a February 2022 essay for America magazine that local councils declined in use following the First Vatican Council, which defined papal primacy, but they didn’t die out: “One of the first things that the future Pope John XXIII did when he became patriarch of Venice was to call a diocesan synod,” he wrote.

The idea for a permanent bishops’ council surfaced during the Second Vatican Council, and in 1965 St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops with “the function of providing information and offering advice.” “It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod,” St. Paul VI wrote.

– 4. The Synod on Synodality is the 16th Ordinary Synod since the global Synod of Bishops’ institution.
Three extraordinary general assemblies have also been held, including in 2014 to complete the work of the 2015 ordinary general assembly on the family. An additional 11 special Synods of Bishops have been held to address issues facing a particular region. Among them was a special synod on America in 1997 and one on the Amazon region in 2019. Synods have regularly resulted in the pope, who serves as the synod president, writing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

– 5. Preparations for the Synod on Synodality sought to be the most extensive ever, with an invitation to every Catholic to provide input.
An unprecedented worldwide consultation occurred at the diocesan/national and continental levels. The synod’s two-year preparation process invited all Catholics worldwide to identify areas where the church needed to give greater attention and discernment. That feedback was gathered and synthesized by dioceses and then episcopal conferences, before being brought to the continental level. The syntheses from episcopal conferences and continental-level meetings were shared with the Holy See, and they informed a working document known as an “Instrumentum Laboris” for the general assembly’s first session. The document’s authors describe it as “not a document of the Holy See, but of the whole church.” However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report indicates that only about 700,000 Catholics in the U.S. participated, representing just over 1% of the U.S. Catholic population of 66.8 million.

– 6. The Synod on Synodality’s objective boils down to answering a two-part question.
According to the vademecum, “The current Synodal Process we are undertaking is guided by a fundamental question: How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the church to proclaim the Gospel? and what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?”

The working document released in June to guide general assembly participants includes many other reflection questions; but it particularly asks participants to reflect on these priorities, guided by its focus on communion, participation and mission: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”; “How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”; and “What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

– 7. For the first time ever, non-bishops – including lay men and women – have a vote in the synod.
The synod’s general assembly includes more than 450 participants – 363 of whom are voting members – with leaders from the Vatican curia and episcopal conferences. More than a quarter of synod members are non-bishops, including laypeople, who for the first time will have a vote during synod deliberations. A deliberate effort was made to include women and young adults. As of July 7, when the Vatican released the initial list, the number of voting women was the same as participating cardinals: 54. The list was subject to change ahead of the synod, organizers said.

In previous synods, some non-bishop participants held the non-voting role of “auditor,” which has been eliminated at this assembly, although some attendees will be non-voting observers, called “special envoys,” or non-voting facilitators or advisers.

The presence of “non-bishops,” according to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s general relator, in a letter published at the time the change was announced, “ensures the dialogue between the prophecy of the people of God and the discernment of the pastors.”

– 8. More than 20 Catholics from the United States have been invited to participate.
Participating American bishops chosen by Pope Francis are Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, California.

Additional bishop-delegates selected by the USCCB and confirmed by Pope Francis are Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, and serves as USCCB president.

American prelates Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, formerly the bishop of Dallas, are also delegates by nature of prior papal appointments. Cardinal Tobin is an ordinary member of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Farrell is prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Pope Francis also nominated synod member Jesuit Father James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine and founder of Outreach, a ministry for Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+.

Other U.S. delegates were nominated by the USCCB and confirmed by the pope. They include: Richard Coll, the executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Integral Human Development; Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult faith formation at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis; Father Iván Montelongo of El Paso, Texas; Wyatt Olivas, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; Julia Oseka, a Polish student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; and Sister Leticia Salazar, a member of the Company of Mary, Our Lady and chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.

USCCB-nominated delegates participated in the continental synod, and Coll, Bishop Flores and Sister Salazar were members of the 18-person North American Synod Team that prepared the North American continental synod report for the U.S. and Canada. Bishop Flores has been named one of nine delegate presidents of the assembly.

Sister Maria Cimperman, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and theologian at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and American Jesuit Father David McCallum, executive director of the Discerning Leadership Program in Rome, are among the 57 non-voting experts.

– 9. In the U.S., the meeting has been a source of great expectation and great apprehension.
The synod has inspired both great praise and deep criticism for its approach, including allowing laypeople to vote; its subject matter, which includes controversial topics such as leadership roles for women, ministry to Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+, and the relationship between laypeople and clergy. At least one cardinal expressed concern that the meeting could lead to confusion and error in church teaching.
However, Bishop Flores, speaking recently with OSV News, said the meeting aims to better understand people’s reality so it can better minister to them. “We can’t respond with the Gospel if we don’t know what the reality they’re facing is,” he said of people, especially those on margins and in difficult situations.

– 10. October’s meeting is just the beginning.
In an unusual move, the synod general assembly has been divided into two sessions, with the first Oct. 4-29, and the second planned for October 2024. The decision, announced in October 2022, has parallels to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which met in 2014 for an extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and then continued its work the following year as an ordinary assembly. The work of both meetings culminated in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), released in 2016.

Prior to the synod, Pope Francis presides over an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 30. Synod participants attend a retreat Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Sacrofano, about 16 miles north of Rome. The retreat includes morning meditations – offered by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe of the United Kingdom and the Benedictine Rev. Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini of Italy – afternoon small-groups and Mass.

Meanwhile, the Taizé community and other organizations have organized a meeting in Rome that weekend called “Together – Gathering of the People of God” for young people to pray for the synod.
The synod’s general assembly opens Oct. 4 with a papal Mass that includes the new cardinals created at a Sept. 30 consistory. Among them is expected to be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)

Parish forgives vandal behind beheaded Jesus statue at Louisiana Catholic school

By Gina Christian
A Louisiana Catholic parish and its school are mourning the destruction of a beloved, life-sized statue of Jesus – and extending forgiveness and prayers to the perpetrator – after its decapitation during the overnight hours of Sept. 12-13.

Father James Rome, parochial administrator of Holy Savior Parish in Lockport, Louisiana, told OSV News the statue, located outside Holy Savior School, had been struck sometime after 10:30 p.m. Sept. 12.
“We have not been able to locate the head of the statue,” he said. “It’s missing.”

Father Rome said the statue had possibly been “hit from the back of the head,” since “there were cement marks on the front side” of the figure.

Following vandalism to a beloved life-sized statue of Jesus during the overnight hours of Sept. 12-13, parishioners at Holy Savior Parish in Lockport, La., left a message of forgiveness for the unknown perpetrator, invoking Jesus’ words from Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (OSV News/Father James Rome, Holy Savior Parish)

The statue, which was some 50 years old, had “no rebar (reinforcing bar) in the head” and was “fully attached to the ground,” he said, making it difficult for an attacker to topple the entire figure.

Security cameras have so far not turned up any images of a suspect, he said.

Father Rome said such an incident has “never happened before” at his parish or school.
“We’ve had some cemetery damage, but nothing like this,” he said. “There are no leads.”

Lockport Chief of Police David Harrelson, Jr. has asked for the public’s help in solving the case.
Anyone with knowledge of this incident is asked to contact the department through the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 985-532-2808, or through Facebook Messenger.
In the meantime, Father Rome said the parish and school community will need to replace the statue altogether, since “it will not be able to be fixed.”

He admitted that finding a “comparable” replica will be difficult.
“We’re not even sure where we got it,” said Father Rome.

He and his parishioners intend to pray for the attacker, focusing on the upcoming Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in which Christ tells the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” to highlight the need for forgiveness (Mt 18:21-35).

“We’re just going to use this weekend’s Gospel as an opportunity to reach out with forgiveness, and realize who the real enemy might be working behind this,” said Father Rome. “We hope that person can come to some metanoia, some change.”

Father Rome’s parishioners have already taken that message to heart: the beheaded statue of Christ, with a fresh vase of red and white roses at his feet, now bears a printed sign beneath the etching of the Sacred Heart with Jesus’ words from Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

(Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReinaer)

Our diocese vandalism story: Bishop reconsecrates church, parish community stronger after desecration

‘Jesus and the Eucharist’ series launches nationwide to foster love for holy Eucharist

By SueAnn Howell
(OSV News) – The National Eucharistic Congress, in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Augustine Institute, has released a seven-part video series to help parishes nationwide launch small group communities to grow in faith and love for the holy Eucharist.

The guided series is hosted by Montse Alvarado, president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, and Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. The initial small group series released Sept. 14 titled, “Jesus and the Eucharist,” is the first of seven weekly sessions available on the revival’s online “LEARN” platform.

Each session opens with an exhortation from a different bishop; includes teaching from prominent theologians and influential figures in the church today; and highlights personal testimonies from everyday Catholics who have experienced the transformative power of Eucharistic love in their own lives.

The four pillars that uphold the movement of the National Eucharistic Revival are reinvigorating worship, personal encounter, robust faith formation and missionary sending. The “Jesus and the Eucharist” series was created as a tangible underpinning to the third pillar of formation.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis carries the Eucharist in a monstrance during a procession June 19, 2021. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

“Our hope is that the fire which burned in the hearts of the first Christians begins to burn in our hearts in a new and powerful way, so that we can’t help but share with others what is burning within us,” Bishop Cozzens said in introducing the series. “When that happens, when we become missionaries to the whole of the Good News of our salvation in Christ, then we fulfill in our time the Great Commission which Jesus has given to us: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.’”

Each of the lessons lasts about two hours, and the format consists of both a video and table discussion component with shared testimonials along the way and designated times for prayer.

“This study is a great ‘out-of-the-box’ solution for parishes,” explained Joel Stepanek, chief operating officer for the National Eucharistic Congress. “Parishes simply need to train table facilitators and a core team to implement the study, set up a hall with tables that can seat roughly eight people, and press play.”

Session 1, called “Our Story,” offers initial background with the story of God, creation and our place in it. Sessions 2, 3, and 4 key in on the themes of Jesus, salvation and the church, and explore why God chose to establish the Christian Church. Sessions 5 to 7 focus on the sacraments of the church, specifically the transformative power of the Eucharist and its biblical roots.

“Jesus and the Eucharist” was developed specifically for the revival’s parish year by a team of Catholic experts working closely with the National Eucharistic Revival, and every parish in the country is encouraged to begin using the study. New lessons are now available for download every Thursday through Oct. 26 on the Eucharistic Revival website, eucharisticcongress.org.

Individuals also may access the free online series if unable to participate in a parish program.
Kris Frank, chief mission officer for the National Eucharistic Congress, said, “The hope is that the series will provide a renewed sense of formation around the Eucharist and also assist parishes in launching ongoing small group communities and initiatives. We want this to be more than just a series; but, as Bishop Cozzens says, this revival is all about a fire and not so much about a program.”

The National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the USCCB kicked off June 19, 2022, the feast of Corpus Christi. It is a movement in the United States to restore understanding and devotion to the holy Eucharist. The revival includes a cross-country pilgrimage starting in May 2024 and culminates with the first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years, to be held July 17-21, 2024, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

(SueAnn Howell writes for OSV News from North Carolina.)

NOTES: The National Eucharistic Congress website is https://www.eucharisticcongress.org. The LEARN platform, with access to the “Jesus and the Eucharist” video series, is listed under the REVIVAL section.

Excitement about 2024’s National Eucharistic Congress is growing, says congress official

By Natalie Hoefer
INDIANAPOLIS (OSV News) – Local and national organizers of the National Eucharistic Congress – which will take place in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024 – have been meeting virtually for some time.

But for the first time, scores of them met in person in Indianapolis Aug. 30 at Lucas Oil Stadium, where in less than a year tens of thousands Catholics will gather for the closing Mass of the historic event – the first such event in 83 years. The congress will launch the third year of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, an initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops to renew devotion to the Eucharist.

“The Holy Spirit is inviting the United States to find unity and renewal through a grassroots National Eucharistic Revival,” Jaime Reyna, event lead for the National Eucharistic Congress, said, quoting remarks from a letter written by executive director Tim Glemkowski. “This movement – discerned and approved by the bishops of the U.S. – is critical to rekindling a living faith in the hearts of Catholics across America, unleashing a new missionary chapter at this pivotal moment in church history. … The goal is to start a fire, not a program.”

More than 25,000 have already registered for the event, said Reyna.

In addition to general and breakout sessions, the five-day event will be filled with opportunities for prayer, worship and the sacraments, said Father Patrick Beidelman. The pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis is chair of the National Eucharistic Congress liturgy committee.

“We’ll have a large Mass each day, three at the Indiana Convention Center and the closing Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium, … and opportunities for confession all over the place,” he said, adding that St. John the Evangelist Church across from the convention center “will be turned into a place of perpetual adoration starting on Wednesday evening through Sunday.”

The day before the five-day congress opens, Catholics from around the U.S. participating in pilgrimages leading to Indianapolis will converge on the city. Planning is well under way for “Eucharistic caravans.” There will be four, each following a different route and each with its own name: the “Marian Route” the “Juan Diego Route,” the “Seton Route” and the “Junipero Serra Route.” Pilgrims on all four routes will begin their journeys with Pentecost weekend celebrations May 17-18, 2024, leaving May 19. They will all reach Indianapolis July 16, 2024.

The church is diverse, Reyna also noted, and event coordinators are taking that into consideration. In addition to programming in English and Spanish, he said the congress team is working with existing ministries to address other language needs as well. The team also is cognizant of engaging those with special needs.

“We are working with national ministry organizations, like the National Catholic Office for Deaf Ministry,” said Reyna. “We also (are) trying to be as inclusive as possible for all our brothers and sisters, including those who may have some physical disabilities, to make sure that they are able to participate and to see how we can accommodate and serve them.”

Speaking on behalf of Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Christopher Walsh, the archdiocesan chancellor, said it is “a tremendous honor to be the host diocese for this historic event.”

(Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)


LOS ANGELES (OSV News) – A recent court ruling has become another bend in a “rollercoaster” ride for hundreds of thousands of individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children without legal permission, said an immigration expert. On Sept. 13, a federal judge in Texas found the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unlawful. DACA was created in 2012 under the Obama administration. According to a March 2023 report by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 578,680 people are beneficiaries of DACA. Ilissa Mira, a senior attorney with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, said DACA recipients can continue to file renewal applications and their employment authorizations. She added they will do so “with this thing that’s still gonna continue to loom over their heads – this uncertainty about what will happen to DACA in the long run. So it’s still a situation where the clock is ticking for them.” Carlos Alberto Méndez Velázquez told OSV News he knows that anxiety all too well. The 33-year-old Los Angeles resident, a filmmaker, said he wants the government to give DACA recipients like him a path out of their immigration limbo, especially since he and fellow DACA recipients generate jobs and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

Pictured is one bead from a living rosary prayed in memory of Ethan Gerads Sept. 3, 2023, at Seven Dolors Church in Albany, Minn. Ethan, 16, was killed in a car accident July 21, a short time after he helped make the rosary. (OSV News photo/Dianne Towalski, The Central Minnesota Catholic)

ALBANY, Minn. (OSV News) – Earlier this summer, Jeff Gerads volunteered to construct a giant rosary for the Harvest of Hope Area Catholic Community. When he invited his sons Ethan, 16, and Owen, 12, to help, he could never have known how special that rosary would become. Ethan was killed in a car accident July 21. Now that rosary and the community are helping the family, Jeff and his wife, Melissa, Owen and his sister, Emma, to cope with the loss. People from across the Harvest of Hope community, which includes the parishes in Albany, Avon, St. Martin and St. Anthony, in central Minnesota, gathered Sept. 3 at Seven Dolors in Albany to pray a special living rosary to remember Ethan using the rosary he helped make. Ethan was an usher and an altar server and would have been a junior this year at Albany High School. He grew up seeing his dad pray the rosary while they were hunting and had started bringing his own rosary on hunting trips, Jeff said. “The four parishes each have an identity, but then an event like this happens and we discover something that we hold in common,” said Deacon Steven Koop, who is assigned to the Harvest of Hope community. “And that is how much we love family, how much we respect one another.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The American public’s views of the family are “complicated” and becoming “more pessimistic than optimistic about the institution of marriage and the family,” according to a new report from Pew Research Center. Social and legal changes in recent decades have increased the variety of households in the United States, data shows. A growing share of U.S. adults in recent decades have either delayed or foregone marriage, according to Pew’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The survey about the future of the country found that when asked about marriage and family, 40% of Americans said they are very or somewhat pessimistic about the institution of marriage and the family. Just 25% are very or somewhat optimistic. Another 29% said they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Just 23% of Americans called being married as either extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life, while just 26% said the same of having children. Those trends hold across religious groups. Just 22% of Catholics identified marriage as either extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life; 31% said the same about having children. When asked to rank what factors were extremely or very important for a fulfilling life, most Americans pointed to career satisfaction (71%) and having close friends (61%). Most Catholics ranked having a job or career they enjoy (77%) and having close friends (59%) as extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the recommendation of the Catholic bishops of mainland China in consultation with the Chinese government, Pope Francis has named two bishops from the country’s mainland as members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun, who has served as vice president of the government-related Council of Chinese Bishops, and Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining, the first bishop ordained after the Vatican and China signed a provisional agreement on the nomination of bishops in 2018, will be among the 365 synod members, a number which includes the pope, the Vatican said. The Vatican released an updated list Sept. 21 of people expected to participate in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-19. A list released in July included Cardinal-designate Stephen Chow Sau-Yan of Hong Kong, but no bishop from the Chinese mainland. Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told reporters that 464 people are expected to be involved in the synod, including 54 women participating as full members and 27 women joining as experts, facilitators or special guests.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican urged members of the U.N. Security Council to be “creative and courageous artisans of peace and weavers of constructive dialogue” to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine. Addressing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York Sept. 20, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, said today the “entire international community, more than ever, cannot surrender itself and let this issue pass in silence.” He said “all member states of the United Nations, and especially those of the Security Council, are called upon to join efforts in the search for a just and lasting peace for Ukraine as an important element of the global peace of which the world thirsts.” The Security Council meeting included a speech from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who criticized the council’s structure which gives five countries the power to veto any council resolution or decision, saying that Russia’s misuse of the veto power is “to the detriment of all other U.N. members.” Archbishop Gallagher did not discuss the subject of veto power, but said it is “undeniable that the Russian attack on Ukraine has jeopardized the entire global order which arose after World War II.”

ABUJA, Nigeria (OSV News) – In another chapter of an “evil scheme” plaguing Nigeria, the southern Enugu Diocese asked for prayers for Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide, who was kidnapped Sept. 17. The priest was reportedly abducted on his way to St. Mary Amofia-Agu Affa Parish, where he serves as a parish priest. Six other people who were traveling with him were also kidnapped. In a Sept. 18 release sent to OSV News, Father Wilfred Chidi Agubuchie, the diocesan chancellor and secretary confirmed the abductions, and called on the Christian community to pray for the priest’s safe release and “a change of heart on the part of the kidnappers.” Christians in Africa’s largest nation have become prized targets for terrorist groups such as Fulani herdsmen, according to Emeka Umeagbalasi, chairman of Intersociety, a nongovernmental human rights organization. He said 22 communities and villages have been under the siege of the jihadist Fulani herdsmen and other assembled jihadists since 2022, accusing the government of former President, Muhammaru Buhari of using such Fulani attacks to enhance an agenda of “Islamizing Nigeria.” Johan Viljoen, Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute of the South Africa Catholic bishops’ conference told OSV News that “the situation in Enugu is particularly severe. Enugu state shares a border with Benue state, which has been under sustained attack.”

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Dominican Brother Obed Cuellar has seen large numbers of migrants arrive daily in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, where they plan to cross the Rio Grande into neighboring Eagle Pass, Texas. But there’s still space available in the diocesan-run migrant shelter. “They head straight for the river,” he told OSV News. An estimated 2,200 migrants crossed the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, one of the largest massive crossings on record, according to Fox News. It’s a scene playing at other crossings across the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border as migrants arrive in increasingly large numbers, straining the resources of migrant-assistance organizations and U.S. border patrol officials alike. The U.S. Border Patrol recorded more than 177,000 arrests in August, according to the Washington Post – roughly a 30% increase from the 132,652 migrants detained in July. The sharp increase in arrests followed a jump from 99,539 detentions in June – the month following the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era health provision which allowed for the immediate expulsion of migrants to Mexico. A record number of families also were taken into custody by Border Patrol in August, according to the Post. Analysts say the urge to migrate remains strong – with many people coming from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Some migrants are allowed entry into the U.S. and receive notices to appear in court. But many are sent back to Mexico and transported to destinations in southern states far from the United States border.

LAMPEDUSA, Italy (OSV News) – In front of the Church of St. Gerland on the Italian island of Lampedusa, dozens of migrants lined up Sept. 14 in a neat row, one after the other. The queue was long as they waited patiently. More than 130 Red Cross employees and volunteers were working day and night to provide migrants not only with sanitary assistance, but also with a warm meal. They prepared 5,000 portions at noon and a similar amount for dinner. From Sept. 12 to Sept. 13, 7,000 migrants reached Lampedusa, an Italian island once visited by Pope Francis as his first apostolic trip destination in July 2013. On Sept. 13, authorities said a record number of 120 fragile boats arrived on the island within 24 hours. “If you count all of us here on the island we are just 5,000 inhabitants,” former Mayor Totò Martello told journalists, when, together with other people of goodwill, he rolled up his sleeves and offered the outstretched hand of another refugee a plate of pasta al pomodoro. “There haven’t been that many people here ever before probably,” 80-year-old Salvatore, who only gave his first name, told OSV News, but “at least there is a relative order here close to the church.” So far in 2023, nearly 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, almost double the figure by the same time in 2022. Those desperately trying to reach Europe came mainly from Africa’s Guinea, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, but also from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Catholic student center at Washington’s Howard University named for Sister Thea Bowman

By Mark Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (OSV News) – On a day when history was made 60 years earlier with the March on Washington, Father Robert Boxie III, the Catholic chaplain at Howard University in the nation’s capital, noted that the campus ministry program there was making history of its own, with the blessing and dedication of its new Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Student Center.

“Today is an historic day, dedicating this new center,” Father Boxie said Aug. 28. “It’s going to be a place for students to pray, to worship, to study, to meet, to fellowship, to socialize, even to cook – we have a kitchen – (it will be) a place to build community and grow in authentic friendship, and a place where we can be unabashedly young, Black, gifted and Catholic.”

Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory speaks during a ceremony Aug. 28, 2023, where he blessed and dedicated the new Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Student Center at Howard University in the nation’s capital. At left are Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, and Father Robert Boxie III, the Catholic chaplain at Howard University. (OSV News photo/Patrick Ryan, Catholic Standard)

Howard University, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, was founded in 1867, and the Catholic campus ministry at Howard University, named HU Bison Catholic to reflect the nickname of the university’s sports teams, marked its 75th anniversary this past year.

Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory blessed and dedicated the new Catholic student center at Howard University, named for the late Sister Bowman. The Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was a dynamic evangelist and noted educator who died of cancer in 1990. She also is one of six Black Catholics from the United States being considered for sainthood. She has the title “Servant of God.”

“What a wonderful thing we do today to set aside this place as another house for God,” the cardinal said.
As he dedicated the center, he prayed, “We ask that the life of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman may inspire these young people to share their God-given gifts, rooted in the African- American and African traditions, with the church and on this campus.”

The new center is located in a semi-detached row house in Washington’s LeDroit Park neighborhood. According to Father Boxie, the home once belonged to Gen. William Birney, a Southern abolitionist who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, Birney moved to Washington to establish a law practice.

Father Boxie opened the ceremony noting that “no event that involves Sister Thea Bowman is without music, is without singing a song,” and in homage to the woman religious who was known for her soaring singing voice, he led the students, alumni and guests in singing the spiritual “We Have Come This Far by Faith.”

To applause from attendees, he introduced Cardinal Gregory, noting he is “the first African American cardinal in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.'” Pope Francis made him a cardinal in 2020.

Also attending the ceremony was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, who was thanked by Cardinal Gregory for helping to find financial support for the purchase of the building now housing the Catholic student center; and Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr., who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, a suburb of Washington.

Bishop Campbell, who also is president of the National Black Catholic Congress, offered a closing prayer at the ceremony. He is an alumnus of Howard University and studied zoology there.

The guests also included Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt, the author of the book “Thea Bowman: Faithful and Free.” A consultant to the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, for her canonization cause, he was her student at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, the nation’s only historically Black Catholic university. Father Nutt donated a large portrait of Sister Thea to the center, a print of a painting by Vernon Adams, a young Black Catholic artist from her home state of Mississippi.
Also attending the ceremony were several pastors of Washington parishes and members of the Knights of Peter Claver and that group’s Ladies Auxiliary. Representing Howard University was Leelannee Malin, its associate dean for community engagement and strategic partnerships.

Father Boxie acknowledged the presence of many Catholic students from Howard University, saying, “This is a day to celebrate you, and what God will be doing through you in this center.”

Offering an opening prayer, Elei Nkata, a Howard University junior from Nigeria who is majoring in computer science and is a co-president of the Catholic campus ministry at the university, asked God to “unite the hearts of every one of us that passes through here with your love and joy, and lead us to become the sons and daughters of faith you have called us to be.”

Another co-president of HU Bison Catholic, Loren Otoo – a junior from Ghana majoring in electrical engineering – noted that when he came to the university he sought a group where he could be connected to his Catholic faith, and he had found friends and “grown a lot in my spiritual journey” in the campus ministry program. Another Howard University student, Cameron Humes, a junior from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in political science, read a Scripture reading at the ceremony. He serves as the liturgy chair for the campus ministry program.

Ali Mumbach, campus minister for HU Bison Catholic, spoke on Sister Thea’s life and legacy.

“Sister Thea was a radiant disciple of Jesus Christ. People Catholic and not, Christian and not, were attracted to her exuberant spirit,” said Mumbach, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in sociology at Howard University and is also working toward a master’s degree in theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies.

She quoted part of a dramatic address that Sister Thea gave to the nation’s Catholic bishops in 1989, in which she said that as a Black Catholic, “I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility – as gifts to the church.”

Mumbach pointed out Sister Thea’s special connection to Howard University: She spoke at the school after the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Naming the university’s new Catholic student center after Sister Thea honors her role as a Black Catholic leader, she said.

“We as Black people have gifts to share with the church. This is a part of our ministry at Howard,” Mumbach said. “In HU Bison Catholic, we are raising up and equipping the next Black Catholic leaders. We hope that this is the first of many Bowman Centers on HBCU campuses – that in the same way there are Newman Centers to remember and honor the great work of (St.) John Newman, we can celebrate, commemorate and carry on the legacy of Sister Thea Bowman.”

After the ceremony, Father Nutt, who wrote Sister Thea’s biography, said he was very moved that Howard University’s new Catholic student center was named for her.

“She was my teacher, my mentor and my spiritual mother,” he told the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper. “It was hard to hold back the tears, because I know how much this would mean to Sister Thea Bowman. She loved her time in Washington, D.C. It was here she became greatly aware of her identity of being Black and Catholic. She was inspired by the large number of Black Catholics in the archdiocese, and they welcomed her with open arms.”

He added, “I know she will inspire them (the students here) to share their gifts of Blackness, not only with Howard University, but with the whole church.”

In Washington, Sister Thea Bowman earned a master’s and a doctorate degree in English from The Catholic University of America, and in 2022, a street at the campus was renamed as Sister Thea Bowman Drive. That same spring, Georgetown University renamed its chapel in Copley Hall after her.

(Mark Zimmerman writes for the Catholic Standard.)


HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (OSV News) – For an Archdiocese of Newark deacon who survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the real battle – a search for God – began after reaching the ground. Now-Deacon Paul Carris was a 46-year-old civil engineer working in the World Trade Center’s North Tower when al-Qaida hijackers slammed American Airlines Flight 11 into the building. The deacon, who described himself as a rather indifferent Catholic layman at the time, accompanied a fellow floormate with severe health issues down 71 flights of steps to safety, even as the building burned and the South Tower was struck by a second plane. The pair were among the last to safely exit the building before it collapsed. In the following days and weeks after the terrorist attacks, he wrestled with anger and frustration that pointed to an unfulfilled hunger for a deeper relationship with God. Over the years, he immersed himself in faith formation and social outreach, eventually discerning a call to the permanent diaconate. Now assigned to Corpus Christi Parish in Hasbrouck Heights, he told OSV News that surviving 9/11 gave him “a rock of a foundation, knowing that God is here. I have no questions about the reality of God and the reality of God in everybody’s life. But unfortunately, we sometimes have to go through tragedy to wake us up to open that door.”

CHICAGO (OSV News) – St. Jude may be best known in the United States for being the patron saint of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a cancer treatment center founded by Lebanese-American entertainer Danny Thomas. Thomas credited St. Jude – also well known among Catholics as the patron saint of hopeless causes and desperate situations – with reviving his career during a particularly low moment. He founded the hospital in gratitude. Now more Catholics are going to learn about this faithful apostle, martyr and saint as his relic – bone fragments from an arm believed to be his – leaves Italy for the first time in centuries, sponsored by the Treasures of the Church ministry, for a tour that extends into May 2024. The tour begins in Chicago on Sept. 9 at St. John Cantius Church. Scheduled stops for the remainder of 2023 include parishes in Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, followed by Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, Indiana and Michigan. The relic’s tour then veers east to parishes in Ohio and central Pennsylvania – some 45 parishes. There are to be 100 stops in all. The 2024 stops into May have not yet been announced. At each parish, there will be public veneration and special Masses. The detailed St. Jude relic tour schedule is available at apostleoftheimpossible.com.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – Archbishop William E. Lori told Catholics Sept. 5 that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as one option to deal with lawsuits expected to be filed when the state’s Child Victims Act takes effect Oct. 1. The law, passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year, removed any statute of limitations for civil suits involving child sexual abuse. It caps suits against public institutions such as government schools at $890,000, and for private individuals or institutions such as churches at $1.5 million. The previous law allowed such suits for people up to age 38, an increase from the previous age limit of 25. At the time, the Maryland Catholic Conference – which includes the Archdiocese of Baltimore as well as the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, which both include Maryland counties – supported the increase to age 38. In his Sept. 5 letter, the archbishop said he has two overarching goals as the archdiocese considers its response: “the healing of victim-survivors who have suffered so profoundly from the actions of some ministers of the church” and “the continuation and furtherance of the many ministries of the Archdiocese that provide for the spiritual, educational, and social needs of countless people – Catholic and non-Catholic – across the state.” The archbishop said he plans to prioritize both goals.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – If people can learn how to inflict suffering on others with ever more deadly weapons, they also can learn to stop doing so, Pope Francis said. “If we can hurt someone, a relative or friend, with harsh words and vindictive gestures, we can also choose not to do so,” he added. “Learning the lexicon of peace means restoring the value of dialogue, the practice of kindness and respect for others.” Marking International Literacy Day, Pope Francis sent a message to Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, encouraging efforts to teach reading and writing to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who do not have basic literacy skills, but he also focused on the education needed to help all people contribute to building sustainable and peaceful societies. The papal message, was published by the Vatican Sept. 8, International Literacy Day.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Any limitations and rules regarding media access and communications during the upcoming Synod of Bishops are rooted in the “essence” of a synod and meant to help participants in their process of discernment, said the head of the synod’s communication committee. “The way in which we are going to share information about the synod is very important for the discernment process and for the entire church,” Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, told reporters at a Vatican news conference Sept. 8. Some of the “few rules regarding communication” stem from “the essence of the synod,” he said, which Pope Francis has repeatedly underlined is not a “parliament” or convention but a journey of listening and walking together in accordance with the Holy Spirit. However, Ruffini said, some portions of the synod will be livestreamed and open to Vatican accredited reporters: – Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 4 to open the assembly of the Synod of Bishops. – The first general congregation, which begins that afternoon with remarks by Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, and Pope Francis. – The moment of prayer beginning each general congregation. – The opening sessions of each of the five segments or “modules” into which the synod will be divided.

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Mexico’s Supreme Court has removed abortion restrictions on national level – a decision expanding access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy across the country. The high court granted an injunction Sept. 6, requiring federally operated hospitals and health facilities to provide abortion services. The decision also scrapped criminal penalties for physicians and health professionals performing abortions. One of the litigants, the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (known by its Spanish acronym GIRE), called the unanimous court decision “a historic milestone,” as more than 70% percent of Mexican women have access to Mexico’s federal health system. That health system includes the Mexican Social Security Institute – the largest in Latin America which covers salaried workers, along with systems for public employees and the poor. Pro-life groups decried the decision. “It is an attack on the lives of the most defenseless, innocent and vulnerable,” The National Front for the Family said via X, previously known as Twitter, calling the decision “supreme injustice.”

SÃO PAULO (OSV News) – Church activists in the Amazon are worried about the Brazilian government’s plan to exploit oil in a marine area close to the mouth of the Amazon River. Oil drilling, an issue discussed in different meetings over the past months by ecclesial movements and environmentalists, has been a problem in several regions of the Amazon. While there was relevant progress recently in the struggle to restrain the oil companies’ operations in the rainforest, the pressure from those corporations is immense, and it will take much effort from Catholics inspired by Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’” encyclical to secure the protection ‘ of their “common home” in the Amazon, activists say. The project of exploiting oil about 300 miles northeast from Amazon River’s mouth has put top government officials on opposite sides: On one side is Environment Minister Marina Silva, who argues that technical studies showed that the operation would have a huge impact on the environment and local communities, and on the other is most of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s cabinet. Lula is himself among the ones who think that it is possible to go on with the project without harming the environment. The plan was among the topics discussed by Lula and the presidents of the other nations of the Pan-Amazon region during an Aug. 8-9 summit in Belem, in Brazil. The region consists of nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Guiana and French Guiana. “The summit’s final document failed to address key elements concerning extractivism in the Amazon. All decisions should be unanimous and there was no consensus on those issues,” explained Father Dario Bossi, a member of the Integral Ecology and Mining Commission of the bishops’ conference.


MOBILE, Ala. (OSV News) – An Alabama priest disgraced after abandoning his parish to travel to Italy with an 18-year-old woman described himself as “married” to her in a Valentine’s Day letter. Father Alex Crow, 30, and the unnamed woman are believed to have left Mobile unannounced July 24 and have been located in Italy. In a separate letter, Father Crow indicated he believed that Jesus had told him and the young women to leave, and planned to remain a priest. Father Crow had been a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Mobile and left behind a letter to the Archdiocese of Mobile stating that he would never return to the United States, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office has been investigating whether a crime has occurred. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said that there are currently no criminal charges against Father Crow, but the office is investigating the nature of the relationship and whether the woman has been manipulated or coerced. The office is also clarifying the nature of Father Crow’s involvement at the young woman’s former high school. Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi has told Father Crow that “he may no longer exercise ministry as a priest, nor to tell people he is a priest, nor to dress as a priest.” In July, the archdiocese reported the situation to the Mobile County District Attorney, who opened the investigation. In its Aug. 14 statement, the Mobile Archdiocese said that it “has and will continue to cooperate fully with all requests for information from law enforcement.”

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond are pushing back at a newspaper’s investigative report claiming they mishandled several claims of clerical abuse. The Guardian published an Aug. 8 investigative feature concluding that the “archbishop on six different occasions disregarded findings of credibility” for accused priests, allegedly overriding the archdiocesan review board, a consultative body required for each diocese or eparchy by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” also known as the Dallas Charter. The newspaper article cited a confidential 48-page attorney’s memorandum it had obtained, claiming the document revealed the archdiocese was keeping several priests from being named as credibly accused while the archbishop approved a number of settlements. Allegations against the deceased or retired priests named in The Guardian’s report ranged from inappropriate touching to rape. “We adamantly deny the assertions made in The Guardian that allegations of sexual abuse were mishandled by Archbishop Aymond and the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, archdiocesan communications director, said in an Aug. 8 email to OSV News. “Each allegation is complex and unique. A finding of credibility by the Internal Review Board is not a determination of guilt in either canon law or civil law,” she said. McDonald provided the archbishop’s statement to The Guardian where he said, “In each instance … decisions were made and actions were taken based upon the information and in consultation with lay professionals and experts as well as church leadership.” He said, “Each situation is complex and decisions were not made with a careless disregard for survivors nor a desire to protect the church and the priests.”

PETERSBURG, Va. (OSV News) – Father Brian Capuano has worn many hats during his tenure as a priest: pastor, mentor, director of worship and vicar for vocations, just to name a few. He also can count brewmaster among them. This spring Trapezium Brewing Co. in Petersburg launched the second release of his signature “Father Brian’s Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale,” where hundreds of family, friends and past parishioners toasted the beloved priest. For nine years Father Capuano was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Petersburg, which is in the Richmond Diocese. To learn more about the community, its people and its culture, he would walk the streets, often dressed in his full priest cassock, and interact with those he met along the way. He ventured to local restaurants and events, believing it was important to be seen outside of church, which eventually led him to Trapezium. It became a place where he could get some paperwork done and engage with the community. Since 2019 he has been Richmond’s diocesan vicar for vocations in 2019, and despite an ever-busy schedule he still tries to frequent Trapezium and other venues. He sees this as an important part of his mission and the greater mission of the church. “We can’t expect people to simply ‘come to church’ to be evangelized,” he said. “From the beginning, the Lord sent the 12 and then the 72 to bring the good news to people who need salvation. That has to continue today; we cannot be limited as priests, and Catholics in general, to simply serving the needs of those who cross the threshold of our churches.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Thanking a group of European lawyers for their attention to environmental protection laws, Pope Francis said he was preparing another document on the subject. “I am writing a second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems,” the pope told the lawyers Aug. 21 during a meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace. He provided no further information. “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” was the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on the need for an “integral ecology” that respects the dignity and value of the human person, helps the poor and safeguards the planet. The pope made his remark in the context of thanking the lawyers for their “willingness to work for the development of a normative framework aimed at protecting the environment.” He told them, “It must never be forgotten that future generations are entitled to receive from our hands a beautiful and habitable world, and that this entails grave responsibilities toward the natural world that we have received from the benevolent hands of God.”

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – The Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua suspended operations Aug. 16 after Nicaraguan authorities branded the school a “center of terrorism” the previous day and froze its assets for confiscation – actions marking an escalation in the regime’s repression of the Catholic Church and its charitable and educational projects. The Jesuit province in Central America immediately rebuked the terrorism accusations as “false and unfounded,” saying in an Aug. 16 statement, “The de facto confiscation of the (university) is the price to pay for seeking a more just society, protecting life, truth and freedom for the Nicaraguan people in accordance with the (school) slogan, ‘The truth will set you free.’” The accusations against the school, known locally as UCA, “form part of a series of unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions of civil society – and are generating a climate of violence and insecurity and worsening the country’s social-political crisis.” UCA confirmed in a statement to the university community that the country’s 10th district court – which accused the school of “organizing criminal groups” – had ordered its assets seized and handed over to “the State of Nicaragua, which will guarantee the continuity of all educational programs.” Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, currently exiled in Miami, called the “confiscation” of the UCA “unjust,” “illegal” and “outrageous.”

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (OSV News) – The Colombian bishops’ conference has welcomed the beginning of a six-month ceasefire between the nation’s military and the largest remaining rebel group and began to train dozens of priests and lay workers from different parts of the country on how to help monitor the truce. In a statement published on Aug. 10, the bishop’s conference said that 31 representatives from 18 different dioceses were briefed on details of the ceasefire and on international humanitarian law. The group also discussed methods that would be suitable to report breaches of the ceasefire. “We will take this knowledge to our territories,” said Father Jairo Alberto Rave, from the Diocese of Barrancabermeja, “so that we can make an important contribution” to the peace process. The truce started on Aug. 3, and seeks to facilitate peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army – known as ELN by its Spanish acronym – a Marxist-oriented rebel group that is particularly influential in the west of Colombia and along its eastern border with Venezuela. It is the longest ceasefire ever between Colombia’s government and the ELN and is part of President Gustavo Petro’s plans to pacify rural areas of the country that are still affected by violence waged by rebel groups and cartels, that were not part of a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group.

St. Augustine, Fla., celebration unites cultures, continents and launches Camino de la Unidad

By Jessica Larson
AUGUSTINE, Fla. (OSV News) – The newly unveiled sculpture of the Apostle Santiago at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in the heart of downtown St. Augustine is a tangible link to its counterpart at the entrance of the Santiago Cathedral in Spain.

Placement of the statue came on the feast of St. James (Santiago), July 25, during an event marking the convergence of spiritual connections between cultures and continents. It included the opening ceremony of Camino de la Unidad, a network of pilgrimage routes in the Americas.

The evening commenced with a solemn procession, as the revered statue of St. James was carried from the Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish-built masonry fort dating to the late 1600s, to its new home in the cathedral basilica a few blocks away.

Pilgrims join in a procession in downtown St. Augustine, Fla., taking a statute of St. James (the Apostle Santiago) from the Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish-built masonry fort dating to the late 1600s, to its new home in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine a few blocks away July 25, 2023. (OSV News photo/Brandon Forschino, St. Augustine Catholic)

The statue, crafted by the skilled hands of Juan Vega, is fashioned after one found at Spain’s
Santiago Cathedral. It returned with a local Florida delegation that visited Spain in 2022 to solidify St. Augustine’s connection to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St James) and will reside permanently in the west courtyard of the cathedral basilica.

Jesus counted St. James among his three closest apostles, and he earned the title of Apostle of Spain for his unwavering evangelical zeal and his missionary endeavors in A.D. 40. After he was martyred in A.D. 44, his remains were laid to rest in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, the destination of the renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.

The newly unveiled sculpture of the Apostle Santiago in St. Augustine invites pilgrims and visitors alike to embark on a spiritual journey, embracing the values and teachings of the Camino de Santiago. Its presence in St. Augustine is a powerful symbol of harmony and continuity, bridging the spiritual connection between the Camino in Spain and its expansion to the Americas through the Camino de la Unidad.

The Camino de Santiago in Spain draws pilgrims from diverse backgrounds, and it is hoped that St. Augustine will soon become another cherished destination for spiritual seekers from around the world.

During the celebration of evening Mass July 25, Deacon Mike Elison highlighted the diverse motivations of those who undertake the Camino de Santiago. Whether mourning the loss of a loved one, seeking direction at a crossroads in life, pursuing adventure and meaningful connections or simply yearning for solitude with God, the Camino can be a transformative experience.

In his homily, Deacon Elison urged attendees to step out of their comfort zones, carrying with them only what truly matters.

The deacon shared 10 life lessons gleaned from the Camino experience, and one in particular – “Pack light and throw stuff out” – resonated deeply with Timothy Johnson, who was part of the Florida delegation that went to Spain in 2022.

Johnson, who is the Craig and Audrey Thorn distinguished professor of religion at Flagler College in St. Augustine, was among representatives of St. Augustine’s academic, cultural, historical, government and religious sectors that took the trip to solidify their membership in the Alliance of Cathedrals and strengthen the city’s connection to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
According to the St. Augustine diocesan website, the alliance “is an association formed by historic and culturally rich cathedrals from different parts of the world. Its main objective is to strengthen the importance of these cathedrals as tourist destinations and as centers of spirituality and culture, enriching the experience of visitors and promoting intercultural understanding and dialogue.”

Johnson told the St. Augustine Catholic, the diocesan magazine, he was delighted to see the project come full circle.

During the Mass, Father John Tetlow, pastor and rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, officially signed the proclamation joining the Alliance of Cathedrals. The alliance is dedicated to promoting faith, research, knowledge exchange and cooperation in areas such as theology, sociology, heritage conservation, cultural and religious tourism promotion, and the organization of joint events and activities.

The cathedral basilica, a founding member of the alliance, now officially becomes the anchor for the new Camino de la Unidad network of pilgrimage routes in the Americas, offering another way for people to experience the transformative power of pilgrimages.

Father Tetlow also unveiled the new stamp for the local Camino, which will serve as an official record of a pilgrim’s “Certificate of Distance.” This certificate, issued by the Chapter of the Cathedral of Santiago, certifies the number of kilometers pilgrims have traveled, provided they have covered at least 100 km (about 62 miles) on foot.

(Jessica Larson writes for the St. Augustine Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of St. Augustine.
NOTES: For more information about the Camino de la Unidad or Camino is the Way, visit https://caminoistheway.com/quienes-somos. A video of the July 25 feast day celebration can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/yw2fv3fy.)

Spanish teen says she has regained sight after praying to Our Lady of the Snows

By Paulina Guzik
LISBON, Portugal (OSV News) – World Youth Day is known as an event that can and does change lives, but when a teenager said she has regained her sight during the Portuguese youth fair, it electrified both Portugal and Spain on Aug. 6.

Two and a half years ago, Jimena, a 14-year-old girl from Madrid, lost 95% of her sight due to a problem related to her myopia. Being a teenager, she was still using her cell phone, but only for audio messages. Over the course of her disease, she had begun to learn Braille to read with her hands.

Last week, she traveled to World Youth Day in Lisbon with her Opus Dei youth club, El Vado, from the popular Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas. Because of her visual impairment, she was registered as a handicapped pilgrim. On Aug. 5 – the first Saturday of the month and the day when Pope Francis prayed the rosary with sick young people in Fatima – Jimena got up like every day, with blurred vision.

After praying to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day it was, and after having completed the novena to Our Lady with her classmates, Jimena went to Mass. When she returned to her seat after receiving Communion, she realized she had recovered her sight.

“When I opened my eyes I saw perfectly!” she said in a WhatsApp audio message that she sent to her family and friends, that has since gone viral.

Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fátima before beginning his celebration of the closing Mass for World Youth Day at Tejo Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“After Communion I sat on the bench, I started crying a lot because it was the last day of the novena and I wanted to … I asked God very much (for this), and when I opened my eyes, I saw perfectly,” she said.

The healing was so instantaneous that at the end of that same Mass, Jimena got up and read the last prayer of the novena clearly and aloud, to the astonishment and joy of her friends present at the church.

The audio continues with her being surprised at seeing her “older” classmates (she had not seen them for more than two years), and then asking for a mirror to see herself, after which she admitted: “I am a little changed, too.”

Jimena asked all her friends to accompany her to thank God for that “gift,” and commented that she will call all her daughters “Nieves” – “Snow” – because Aug. 5 is her “new birthday.”

In an interview with the Spanish radio network COPE, Jimena explained that she convinced all the young people with her group at WYD to pray for her healing. “And today after Communion … I see perfectly! Well, I don’t know how to explain it,” she said.

Jimena’s mother, whose name was not revealed, was quoted by Spanish blog Camino Catolico saying that “Faith moves mountains,” and that the miracle happened precisely at noon “after (Jimena received) Communion and in front of her entire WYD group.”

“Jimena saw again,” the mother said.

“She has called us crying and with all her friends like crazy. We don’t know much else at the moment. They are going to try to see the pope to tell him. Today everything begins again, and Our Lady of the Snows is already an active part of our faith,” she was quoted as saying.

A nun friend of the family contacted Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, to tell him what happened and the cardinal called the girl to hear the story directly from her. Jimena, in the words of the cardinal, “was very enthusiastic.”

Asked at a press conference in the WYD media center Aug. 6 about the case, the cardinal considered it a “grace of God,” nevertheless counseling those present to wait for medical assessments before proclaiming the event as miraculous.

“I think that there we have a piece of information that is beautiful and a girl who has recovered her sight,” the cardinal said. “Doctors will now have to assess whether or not it was incurable,” the first process in the official declaration of a miracle.

At one of the WYD sessions with young pilgrims from Spain, Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of Orihuela-Alicante, Spain, commented: “What happened with Jimena is a sign, which is how miracles are called in the Gospel of St. John. We need the light to see God and to see everything with the eyes of God. It is a sign,” he clarified, “and a call from Our Lady to open our eyes, to grow in our faith.”

The healing appeared to happen a few hours after Pope Francis was praying in the famous Marian shrine on Aug. 5.

“We are very happy and rejoice with her, and we pray with her,” Carmo Rodeia, spokesperson of the Shrine of Fatima, told OSV News.

(Paulina Guzik is international editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @Guzik_Paulina)