Pope: People expect priests to be models, guides

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People have high expectations for priests to be good spiritual and moral guides, to be active in helping the community and families, and to be someone young people can look up to, Pope Francis told bishops and priests from Sicily.

“To be supportive, close by, this is how we are called to live; out of God’s faithfulness, out of his love, we are there for others to the end, up to extreme consequences,” which lead to “justice, reconciliation, honesty and forgiveness,” he said.

“Closeness, compassion and tenderness: this is God’s style, and it is also the style of a priest,” the pope said during an audience at the Vatican June 9 with priests and bishops from the Italian island of Sicily.

The audience was part of the commemorations of the island’s patroness, Our Lady of the Way, whose feast is the Tuesday after Pentecost, as well as the lives of their compatriots, Blesseds Pino Puglisi and Rosario Livatino, two so-called “Mafia martyrs.”

Father Puglisi, Palermo’s most outspoken anti-Mafia priest, was assassinated in 1993, and Livatino, an anti-Mafia judge, was murdered by Mafia hitmen in 1990 when he was 37.

During the audience, the pope brought to light some issues that “worry me quite a bit,” particularly whether priests and bishops in Sicily were implementing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Popular piety needs to be safeguarded, but also informed and guided so that it is free from all “superstitious gestures,” he said.

The liturgy, too, needs attention starting with the homily, which should be under eight minutes and leave people with “a thought, a feeling and an image” that will stick with them “all week,” he said. He asked the priests to consider whether “they preach in such a way that people go out for a cigarette and then come back” because the homily talks “about everything and nothing.”

Liturgical vestments were another issue, he said, particularly the abundance of lace and birettas.

“Where are we? Sixty years after the council! Some updating even in liturgical art, in liturgical ‘fashion'” is needed, he said. “Yes, sometimes wearing some of grandma’s lace works, but only sometimes.”

“It’s nice to pay homage to grandma, but it’s better to celebrate the mother, the holy mother church and in the way the mother church wants to be celebrated,” he said.

Do not let “insularity prevent the true liturgical reform that the council sent forward” and do not be passive, he told his audience.

Pope Francis highlighted the extraordinary beauty, culture and history of the island, as well as its extreme insularity and contradictions, which mean “we witness in Sicily behaviors and gestures marked by great virtues as well as vicious brutality.”

“It is no accident that so much blood has been shed thanks to the hands of the violent,” he said, but it also is no accident that there have been many cases of “the humble and heroic resistance of the saints and the righteous, servants of the church and the state.”

The many challenges in Sicily require the help of everyone, but priests and bishops are especially called to offer their “full, total and exclusive service,” he said. The church, too, faces its own challenges such as the decline in vocations and the increased detachment of young people from the church, he added.

“Young people are finding it hard to see parishes and ecclesial movements as helpful in their search for the meaning of life, and they do not always see any clear distancing from old, erroneous and even immoral ways of behaving that would be decisively taking the path of justice and honesty,” he said.

The pope added that he was “saddened” after receiving “some files” sent to Vatican offices and requiring “some judgment on priests and people of the church. But why? Why did it go along this road of injustice and dishonesty?” he asked without elaborating any further.

Pope Francis praised the numerous priests and lay people who have fully dedicated themselves to others, being faithful to Christ and the people. “How can we ignore the silent, tenacious and loving work of so many priests in the midst of people who are disheartened or jobless, in the midst of children or the increasingly lonely elderly?”

Priests who are good and close to their people are important, he said, “because in Sicily, people still look to priests as spiritual and moral guides, people who can also help improve the civil and social life on the island, support families and be a point of reference for growing young people,” he said.

“Sicilians have high and demanding expectations of priests,” he said, urging them not to be stuck “in the middle of the road!”

“Faced with the awareness of our weaknesses, we know that Christ’s will places us at the heart of this challenge. The key to everything is in his call, upon which we lean to set out to sea and cast our nets again,” the pope said.

Reminding them of the passage in Deuteronomy (4:7), which asks, “What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us,” the pope said their ministry must be one of “closeness, which is compassionate, forgives everything, is tender. It embraces, it caresses.”

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for an audience with bishops and priests from Sicily June 9, 2022, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. The pope told them that Catholics expect their priests to be spiritual and moral guides, advocates for a better world and a reference point for young people. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)


– Cardinal-designate Robert W. McElroy told reporters May 31 that when he learned he is among the 21 new cardinals Pope Francis will create Aug. 27, “I said a big prayer. I said several prayers because I was stunned and so shocked by this,” said the 68-year-old prelate who heads the San Diego Diocese. He is the only American in the group the pope announced May 29. “It was prayer in gratitude for my family and the many people who have helped form me over the years and thanksgiving to God for all their roles in my life,” he said during a 25-minute news conference held outside the diocesan pastoral center. After the consistory, he will be among 132 cardinals under the age of 80, who will be eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of those over 80 will be 97, bringing the total number of cardinals to 229. A native of San Francisco, Bishop McElroy is the sixth bishop of San Diego. He was installed April 15, 2015. Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco April 12, 1980, he was an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese from September 2010 until he was named to head the Diocese of San Diego in 2015. “By naming Bishop Robert McElroy as a cardinal, Pope Francis has shown his pastoral care for the church in the United States,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I have known and have had the privilege of working with Cardinal-designate McElroy for many years.”

– Any Catholic who participates in the celebration July 24 of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly can receive a plenary indulgence, the Vatican announced. “Grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity,” attend Mass or other prayer services for the occasion can receive the indulgence, which “can also be applied as a suffrage for the souls in purgatory,” said the announcement published May 30. Pope Francis celebrated the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021 and decreed that it be observed each year on the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. In his message for this year’s celebration, Pope Francis asked older people like himself to be “artisans of the revolution of tenderness. We grandparents and elderly people have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to regard others with the same understanding and loving gaze with which we regard our own grandchildren,” he had written.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Holy Trinity shows how to be open to others and to be good, generous and gentle, Pope Francis said. “The Trinity teaches us that one can never be without the other. We are not islands, we are in the world to live in God’s image: open, in need of others and in need of helping others,” the pope said June 12 before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He also led prayers for the people of Ukraine, who remain “afflicted by war” and whose situation “remains vivid in my heart.” He urged that the world “not grow accustomed” to the tragedy in Ukraine. “Let us always keep it in our hearts. Let us pray and strive for peace,” he said after reciting the Angelus prayer. In his main address, the pope reflected on the day’s feast of the Most Holy Trinity, which celebrates God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks, not of himself, but “he announces Jesus and reveals the Father. And we also notice that the Father, who possesses everything because he is the origin of all things, gives to the Son everything he possesses,” the pope said. The Holy Trinity “is open generosity, one open to the other.”

Inge Kraegeloh, 69, and Werner Deigendesch, 75, of Germany walk on the Via Dolorosa’s new accessible lane in the Old City of Jerusalem June 3, 2022. The Accessible Jerusalem-Old City makes many streets accessible to wheelchairs, baby strollers, and the vision impaired. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

– After 10 years of systematic work, the Old City of Jerusalem is more accessible to the disabled and the elderly. The pandemic-related shutdown allowed for completion of work of the last, most sensitive mile of the historic stone alleyways of the Via Dolorosa – the Way of the Cross. It took years for the first 2.5 miles of the $6.5 million Accessible Jerusalem-Old City project to be complete because of the complexity of working within a historic area that is less than a half square mile in size. Both the Old City and its walls are designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, requiring planners to carefully consider changes as they accommodated the needs of residents living their daily lives and millions of visitors a year, said Gura Berger, spokeswoman for the East Jerusalem Development Co., which implemented the program. “We worked day and night and we made (1 mile) accessible in two years,” Berger said. “These are the most sentimental (miles) because for the first time in history the Via Dolorosa is accessible. We did something important because people really come here in awe, with respect and hopes to the holy city.”

SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) – Bishops in South Korea have moved ahead to pursue the canonization of 81 Catholics, including priests, religious and laypeople who were martyred by communist forces during the Korean War. The Special Episcopal Commission to Promote Beatification and Canonization held its closing session June 7 for preliminary examination of 81 Servants of God, the title accorded to individuals as the first step toward canonization, according to a notice from the bishops’ conference of Korea. The bishops agreed that the candidates were “witnesses of modern and contemporary faith” of the Korean Church, ucanews.com reported. Sainthood candidates include Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang, 49 priests, seven religious and 23 laymen who were tortured and killed by the communists before and after the Korean War, which was fought from 1950 to 1953. The martyrs include foreign missionaries. One was Msgr. Patrick James Byrne, an American Maryknoll missionary who was the apostolic delegate to Korea. The bishops’ conference said a preliminary examination of data and research materials began Feb. 22, 2017, and 25 sessions were held until May 13 this year. The committee will submit the data and documents it has gathered to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.


WASHINGTON (CNS) – How to make sense of Americans’ attitudes toward abortion? It isn’t easy. In polls, many respondents will give answers that contradict each other. A Gallup poll in 2019 – Gallup has polled regularly on abortion since 1975 – found that 92% of Americans believed that using birth control was “morally acceptable,” but their support for abortion, by contrast, was more mixed. (The Catholic Church teaches that both are morally wrong.) But the year before, Gallup found that 65% of Americans believed abortion should generally be illegal during the second trimester of pregnancy – but in the same survey, 69% said the Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade. FiveThirtyEight, which itself analyzed abortion polls, “found that a large majority of Americans support abortion in the first trimester, but that support tends to drop in the second trimester.” In an ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted in late April, 54% of Americans want the court to uphold Roe, nearly twice as many as the 28% who want to see it struck down. Also, an ABC poll offering only a yes-or-no choice found that 57% of Americans opposed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, while 58% opposed a ban after six weeks.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace praised a May 16 statement announcing the lifting of restrictions against Cuba by the Biden administration, particularly those measures that will help family reunification. The Biden administration said it will increase consular services on the island to help with visa processing “making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels.” The State Department also announced plans to allow more people from the U.S. to engage with Cubans via group travel, allowing U.S. flights beyond Havana, and reinstating a remittance program for families in the U.S. to send up to $1,000 per quarter to family members on the island. The move reverses restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, which had taken a more punitive stance on Cuba. “We commend the administration’s renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba’s punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect,” said Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, who chairs the USCCB’S international policy committee.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Catholics of all ages are called to form strong faith communities, listen to and dialogue with others, reach out to share the Gospel and work to protect the environment, Pope Francis said in a series of speeches May 21. Still using a wheelchair because of ongoing pain in his knee, Pope Francis had a busy day, meeting four separate groups in addition to holding three private meetings. The pope’s public appointments began with an apology to several hundred adolescents preparing for confirmation in the Archdiocese of Genoa; they had gathered in the small square between the pope’s residence and St. Peter’s Basilica. “I’ve made you wait 35 minutes. I am sorry,” the pope told them. “I heard the noise but had not finished the things I had to do first.” Pope Francis pleaded with the youngsters not to make their confirmation a “farewell sacrament” from active parish life, but to treasure the grace they receive, strengthen it with prayer and share it “because in the church we are not ‘me alone,’ or just me and God; no, we are all of us, in community.”

ROME (CNS) – Celebrating the launch of the Scholas International Educational Movement and its environmental project, Pope Francis encouraged young people, especially women, to lead the charge in fighting climate change. “Defending nature means defending the poetry of creation, it means defending harmony. It is a fight for harmony. And women know more about harmony than us men,” the pope said May 19 during an event at Rome’s Pontifical Urban University. U2 frontman Bono, who joined the pope for the launch, said he had been a supporter of Scholas for the past four years and was “drawn to this idea of a ‘culture of encounter.’” Scholas began in Pope Francis’ Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, supporting education in poor neighborhoods by pairing their schools with private schools and institutions in wealthier neighborhoods. The organization has spread to other countries and supports a variety of exchange programs aimed at promoting education, encouraging creativity and teaching young people about respect, tolerance and peace.

Pope Francis greets U2 singer Bono before a meeting of Scholas Occurentes in Rome May 19, 2022. The event was for the launch of the “Laudato Si’ School,” a yearlong project of Scholas young people to develop projects to promote protection of the environment. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

MEXICO CITY (CNS) – A Nicaraguan bishop and priest accused police of harassing them – the latest attempt by the government to impede the work of the Catholic Church. Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, started a hunger strike May 19. He said he would have only water and electrolytes until police stop the harassment – including harassment of his parents and family. In a video posted to the Facebook account of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Bishop Álvarez said police followed him all day and, when he asked to speak with the chief of police, officers entered the house where he was with his family. “I have been persecuted throughout the day by the Sandinista police, from morning until late at night, at all times, during all my movements of the day,” Bishop Álvarez said. “They came to my private, family, paternal, maternal home, putting the safety of my family at risk.” The Nicaraguan bishops’ conference issued a statement supporting Bishop Álvarez May 21. “We are experiencing difficult moments as a nation and our duty as a church is to announce the truth of the Gospel,” the statement said.

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (CNS) – Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation and Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, have been walking together for some time now – including through the work of ground-penetrating radar and finding 751 hits near a former Catholic-run residential school last summer. “It took the validation of unmarked graves (to) put us in this moment,” Delorme said at a recent “Walking With Your Neighbor” event in Saskatoon. He described how the discoveries of unmarked graves has led to millions of Canadians putting down their “shields” and admitting they did not know the truth about Indigenous peoples and Canada. “We are truly at a moment where all of us – Indigenous and not – must all reset our compass just a little bit – because our children and children yet unborn depend upon this moment. We could look the other way and stay with the status quo … but the status quo doesn’t work,” said Delorme. “Walking Together” is the theme of Pope Francis’ July 24-29 visit to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. In the presentation at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Archbishop Bolen stressed the importance of finding a new way of walking together and coming to a new understanding of the truth of Canadian history. “The conversation starts to open up between the church and Indigenous peoples when we acknowledge the profound suffering, the waves of suffering that so many Indigenous peoples have experienced in the context of residential schools, and more broadly in the context of the Indian Act and colonization,” said Archbishop Bolen. “We need to acknowledge our responsibility as church for our involvement in these schools, that took away language and culture and spirituality and suppressed so many good things.”


NEW YORK (CNS) – New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he was surprised and inspired by Ukrainians he met when he made a brief visit to Lviv, Ukraine. “I thought I would come to Ukraine and see great depression,” he told the Religious Information Service of Ukraine. “Yes, I see sadness and pain, but I am impressed by the vitality, hope and solidarity of Ukrainians.” On May 2, the cardinal and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Latin-rite archbishop of Lviv, met with the leadership of the Ukrainian Catholic University, families of displaced Ukrainians who found refuge during the war and student volunteers. The visit was part of a trip by a New York church delegation to visit and express solidarity with Ukrainian refugees, including those in the bordering countries of Poland and Slovakia. “I see Ukrainians welcoming internally displaced persons. I see Ukrainians giving their rooms and houses to those who have lost their homes, such as here at the Ukrainian Catholic University. I see Ukrainians volunteering and working on water, medicine and food supplies,” Cardinal Dolan told RISU. “I see people who are patriots. I see Ukrainians who do not allow evil to say the last word. Life will overcome darkness. Life will defeat death. There is no depression in Ukraine, there is hope. I feel encouraged to be here in Ukraine.” The cardinal told RISU he would pass on Ukrainians’ messages of gratitude for all the help they received from Americans. Nearly 12 million Ukrainians have fled their own country or been displaced from their homes in Ukraine since the Russian military invasion of their homeland began Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – After the Supreme Court ruled that Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group to fly its flag at City Hall, another group, The Satanic Temple, has requested permission to fly a flag outside the city building. The mayor’s office of the Boston has not commented on the group’s request except to say that is has been reviewing the court’s decision and also evaluating its flag-raising program. On May 2, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of the city flying the flag of a Christian group. It said the city couldn’t deny the group the right to raise its flag along with other flags reflecting the city’s diversity. “Boston’s flag-raising program does not express government speech,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in the court’s opinion. “As a result, the city’s refusal to let (the group) fly their flag based on its religious viewpoint violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” “This case is so much more significant than a flag,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group that represented Camp Constitution that owns the flag in question. “Boston openly discriminated against viewpoints it disfavored when it opened the flagpoles to all applicants and then excluded Christian viewpoints,” he added in a statement.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Meeting with superiors general of women’s religious orders, Pope Francis arrived in a wheelchair – the first time he has used one publicly at the Vatican. The 85-year-old pope has been experiencing severe knee pain for months and told an Italian newspaper May 3 that his doctor had advised rest and “injections” into the knee; the Vatican has not clarified whether the injections would be cortisone, hyaluronic acid or another therapy typically used to treat joint pain or deterioration. When the pope met May 5 with members of the women’s International Union of Superiors General, he arrived in a wheelchair pushed by his personal aide, Sandro Mariotti. The women superiors were holding their plenary assembly in Rome May 2-6, focusing on the theme, “Embracing Vulnerability on the Synodal Journey.” Pope Francis handed the UISG leaders his prepared text but responded to questions rather than reading the speech. According to the UISG communications office, the discussion included the war in Ukraine, the need to offer long-term help to Ukraine and Ukrainians, the importance of discernment within religious communities, colonialism and the importance of being faithful to the founding charism of one’s order without being “rigid.” One of the tweets from the office said the pope told them not to be “frozen nuns.”

ABUJA, Nigeria (CNS) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told West African bishops he appreciated Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” for proposing some of the boldest and most radical ideas on securing human unity, peace and security. “Peace cannot reign in our region if it does not first reign in our communities and countries. Which is why I think that the theme of this summit is especially apt,” the president said in a message read by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The president’s message was delivered May 3 at the opening of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, meeting on the theme “Fratelli Tutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa.” Buhari said the basis of the encyclical – “the idea that fraternity and social friendship are the ways to build a better, more just and peaceful world with the commitment of all people and institutions” – was especially needed in today’s times. He said people of faith should look upon diversity as a gift, not as a cause of conflict. “By offering concrete prescriptions on building brotherhood and sustainable peace anywhere, the encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ rightly takes the position that this is not merely the business of governments and political institutions; it must also be anchored on our civil societies, of which the faith communities are an important constituency.”

LIMA, Peru (CNS) – Good Shepherd Sister María Agustina Rivas Lopez, who was murdered by terrorists during Peru’s political violence, was beatified May 7 during a liturgy in the same plaza where she was shot to death in 1990. The altar, adorned with local tropical plants and flowers, was set up outside the simple, red-roofed Catholic church in La Florida, a small town in the central Amazonian Vicariate of San Ramon. A reliquary, adorned with leaves fashioned from silver and containing relics of Sister Rivas, who was known affectionately as “Sor Aguchita,” was placed on a table before the altar. The offertory gifts included a basket of bread, a coffee plant, cassava tubers, cacao pods and fruit, all crops typical of the area. With her life and her death, Sister Rivas put her faith in peace, not in violence, Bishop Gerardo Zerdin of San Ramon told Catholic News Service. She also leaves an example of an “option for the Amazon, nature, the environment,” he said, and “a great urge to serve others. with a complete absence of economic interest.” In his homily at the beatification Mass, Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, who represented Pope Francis at the ceremony, highlighted Sister Rivas’ humility and willingness to serve others, her preferential option for the poor and her devotion to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph from an early age. Her martyrdom, he said, highlighted “the senselessness of violence, crime, injustice, and the evil of ideologies in which human life means nothing. The indiscriminate use of weapons leaves only death and desolation; it does not solve real problems of human coexistence.”

Pope tells Russian patriarch they are not ‘clerics of the state’

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Warning that the Russian Orthodox patriarch should not “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” Pope Francis also said he would like to go to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin in an attempt to end the conflict in Ukraine.

The pope reiterated that he would not be going to Kyiv “for now,” but “I first must go to Moscow, I must first meet Putin,” he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, published May 3. Vatican News also published most of the interview.

Pope Francis said he sent a message through Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, “20 days after the war” started, to be delivered to Putin telling him, “I was ready to go to Moscow.”

“We still have not had a response, and we are still being persistent, even though I am afraid Putin may not be able to and may not want to have this meeting right now,” the pope said. “I am doing what I can. If Putin were to open the door. …”

“But so much brutality, how do you not try to stop it? We saw the same thing with Rwanda,” he said, referring to the genocide against members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group in 1994, when at least 500,000 people were killed in about 100 days.

Pope Francis also provided more details about a video call he had with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in mid-March. “I spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes via Zoom. He spent the first 20 minutes holding a piece of paper reading all the reasons for the war.”

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis pose for photos at the beginning of their meeting at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana in this Feb. 12, 2016, file photo. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published May 3, 2022, Pope Francis warned that the Russian Orthodox patriarch should not “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy.” He also said he would like to go to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin in an attempt to end the conflict in Ukraine. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I listened to him, and I told him, ‘I don’t know anything about this. Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we cannot use the language of politics, but of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy people of God. That is why we must seek the path of peace, to cease the blast of weapons,’” he said.
“The patriarch cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” he said.

The meeting that had been planned between the pope and patriarch in Jerusalem June 14, and has since been canceled, had nothing to do with the conflict in Ukraine, the pope said. But even the patriarch now sees that any kind of meeting of theirs could send “an ambiguous sign.”

Patriarch Kirill has been an outspoken supporter of Putin’s war on Ukraine, and the Vatican’s diplomatic team believed such a meeting could lead to “much confusion,” Pope Francis had told La Nación, the Argentine newspaper, in an April 21 interview.

When Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, the pope called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he told Corriere della Sera.

“Instead, I didn’t call Putin. I had heard from him in December for my birthday, but this time, no, I didn’t call him,” he said. He explained that he preferred to make a more “clear gesture that the whole world could see and that is why I went to the Russian ambassador” to the Holy See, Aleksandr Avdeyev, Feb. 25.

He said he asked the ambassador “that they explain, (and) I told him, ‘Please, stop this.’”
The pope said the conflict is not just affecting the Donbas region, but there is also “Crimea, it is Odesa – it is taking away the port of the Black Sea from Ukraine, it is everything. I am a pessimist, but we must do everything possible so that the war can end.”

“There is not enough will for peace. The war is terrible, and we have to shout out” against it, he said.

Faith, fortitude, martyrdom, miracles: Pope will recognize 10 new saints

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After a long pandemic pause, Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate a Mass May 15 for the canonization of 10 men and women: five from Italy, three from France, one from India and one from the Netherlands.

The 10, listed in the order the Congregation for Saints’ Causes lists them, are:
– Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, an Indian layman and father who was born to an upper-caste Hindu family in 1712 and converted to Christianity in 1745. The Vatican said his refusal to participate in Hindu ceremonies and his preaching about “the equality of all people,” denying the Hindu caste system, led to his arrest, torture and his death in 1752.

– Blessed César de Bus, the France-born founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, a religious congregation dedicated to education, pastoral ministry and catechesis. Born in 1544, he enjoyed life and parties until he had a conversion experience in his early 30s and began dedicating his life to prayer and helping the poor. Ordained to the priesthood in 1582, he was a pioneer in educating the laity in the faith, using illustrations he painted himself and songs and poetry he wrote. He died in 1607.

– Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor. Born in 1827, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1850. The Vatican biography said, “At that time there was an abundance of clergy and, like the majority of priests from wealthy families who stayed at home and generously dedicated themselves to good works, Don Luigi chose to devote himself to young people” at an oratory in a poor neighborhood. He opened a school that offered evening classes in reading and writing to men and boys before opening a separate oratory for girls and founding the Sisters of the Poor to run it.

– Blessed Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian who, on the day of his ordination to the priesthood in 1913, vowed to establish a religious order dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but his first attempt was stopped by his bishop. Eventually, though, he founded the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters.

– Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1858. He strayed from the faith during his adolescence, but during a trip to Morocco, he saw how devoted Muslims were to their faith, which inspired him to return to the church and, eventually, to join the Trappists. After living in monasteries in France and in Syria, he sought an even more austere life as a hermit. Ordained to the priesthood in 1901, he lived among the poor and finally settled in Tamanrasset, Algeria. In 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders. His writings inspired the foundation, after his death, of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus.

– Blessed Anna Maria Rubatto, founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto, was born in Carmagnola, Italy, in 1844 and died in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1904.
The miracle accepted in her cause involved the healing in March 2000 in Colonia, Uruguay, of a young man suffering from “cranio-encephalic trauma with severe subarachnoid hemorrhage, severe coma, endocranial hypertension and diffuse axonal damage,” the Congregation for Saints’ Causes said.

– Blessed Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first superior general of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. Born in 1862 in Castelletto di Brenzone, Italy, she dedicated her life to serving the poor and needy as well as assisting the sick and the elderly. She died in 1934.

The miracle in her case involved the healing in 2011 of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina who, during a medical procedure, suffered convulsions, cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. Touched with a relic of Blessed Mantovani and supported by the prayers of her family, the girl was extubated two days later and went on to recover, the Vatican said.

– Blessed Titus Brandsma was born in Oegeklooster, Netherlands, in 1881 and entered the Carmelites in 1898. Ordained in 1905, he was sent to Rome for further studies and, while there, became a correspondent for several Dutch newspapers and magazines. When he returned home, he founded the magazine Karmelrozen and, in 1935, was named chaplain to the Dutch Catholic journalists’ association. During World War II, he was arrested and sent to Dachau for treason after defending Jews and encouraging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was killed with a lethal injection in 1942 at the age of 61 and cremated at the camp.

The miracle in his cause involved Carmelite Father Michael Driscoll, former pastor of St. Jude Church in Boca Raton, Florida, who is now 80 years old. In 2004 he had been diagnosed with severe, stage 4, metastatic melanoma and began praying to Blessed Titus and putting a relic of the martyr’s clothing on his head and neck. When the medical board of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes looked at the case, the Vatican said, “of the disease, which was particularly malignant and invasive, there was no longer any trace, even after more than 15 years.”

– Blessed Marie Rivier, a Frenchwoman who founded the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in 1796 during the time of the French Revolution, when many Catholic convents were closed and religious activities were outlawed. She was born in 1768 and died in 1838.

– Blessed Carolina Santocanale, also known as Blessed Mary of Jesus, an Italian nun born in 1852, who founded the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes. She died in Palermo in 1923.

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden


FLAT ROCK, Mich. (CNS) – In the year 1300, a priest was celebrating Mass in the convent of O Cebreiro, Spain. Lacking faith in the true presence of Jesus in the sacrament, the priest nevertheless recited the consecration prayers. Suddenly, the host he held in his hand turned into human flesh. Turning to the cup, the priest, incredulous, noticed not wine, but actual human blood. He fell in adoration. The incident, recognized by Pope Innocent VIII as the “Miracle of O Cebreiro,” is one of hundreds of eucharistic miracles in the Catholic Church’s history – incidents in which the supernatural reality of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist became powerfully and physically apparent. The church teaches that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, although a 2019 Pew study found that only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The Real Presence Apostolate of Michigan has been educating Catholics on the Real Presence since 2007 by offering a traveling exhibit about eucharistic miracles – instances in which the literal presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist have become physically manifest. The exhibit has 170 panels and all were on display in the vestibule of St. Roch Parish in Flat Rock at the start of Holy Week. Several parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit hosted the exhibit recently, and its next stop was Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 22-29.

NEW YORK (CNS) – Ukrainian Catholics in New York celebrated Easter with prayers that Christ’s triumph over death will also signify victory over everything evil happening in their home country. Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut, was the main celebrant for the Easter Divine Liturgies April 24 at St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The parish celebrates services according to the Julian calendar. On the 60th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bishop Chomnycky said the situation there is coloring the whole Easter feast, as a cloud hanging over everything, but there is reason for hope. “In the resurrection, not only did Christ defeat death, but he also defeated violence, evil and mistruth,” he said. He said all Ukrainians are “putting our trust in the resurrected Christ that he will defeat evil in our country.” He also read passages from the Easter message of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Writing from Kyiv, Archbishop Shevchuk compared the passion of Christ to the war in Ukraine. “We have become aware of how human nature remains fallen, how the devil continues to control human beings who have no God in their hearts. He who sows hatred and instigates war against one’s neighbor opposes the almighty.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In war, especially the current conflict in Ukraine, no one can claim victory, because all of humanity loses, Pope Francis said. During an April 23 meeting with a group of Italian pilgrims commemorating a miraculous image of Mary that wept, the pope said her tears are a sign of God’s compassion as well as his sorrow for humankind’s sins. Mary’s tears are “a sign of God’s weeping for the victims of the war that is destroying not only Ukraine – let’s be brave and tell the truth – it is destroying all the countries involved in the war. All of them.” War, he explained, “not only destroys the people who have been defeated. No, it also destroys the victor. It also destroys those who look at it as superficial news to see who is the winner, who is the loser. War destroys everyone.” More than 3,000 pilgrims took part in the pilgrimage, which coincided with the 500th anniversary of a miracle in which an image depicting Mary at Jesus’ side during the crucifixion shed tears of blood. The tears that Mary shed, as well as the miracles attributed to the image over the centuries, are not only a sign of God’s love for his children but also “Christ’s pain for our sins, for the evil that afflicts humanity.”

KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) – A Catholic priest in Congo said Pope Francis will be visiting the country not only to reconcile it, but also to tell the world “about the conflicts that are tearing this country apart.” The announcement of the pope’s July 2-5 visit “sounded like the voice of the angel of the Lord to the poor shepherds in the region of Bethlehem: ‘I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people,’” said Father Georges Kalenga, a member of the planning committee who is also second deputy secretary-general of the Congolese bishops’ conference. Father Kalenga told Catholic News Service that the pope will be visiting to reconcile a people blighted by the evils of “tribalism, regionalism and clientelism, the exclusion of political opponents, practices and discourses that weaken social ties, compromise national cohesion on several levels, particularly on the socio-political level.” Pope Francis will visit Kinshasa, the country’s capital, but he also will travel to Goma, in the east. Father Kalenga said Goma is “the place chosen symbolically for the pope’s meeting with the people who live in the eastern part of the country, bloodied for more than two decades by wars, rapes, massacres and all the other violations of human dignity.”

Smoke rises as residents walk near homes destroyed by lava deposited by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, Congo, June 6, 2021. Pope Francis will visit Goma during is July 2-5 trip to Congo. (CNS photo/Djaffar Al Katanty, Reuters)

Pope promulgates Curia reform, emphasizing
church’s missionary nature

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Nine years after taking office, Pope Francis promulgated his constitution reforming the Roman Curia, a project he began with his international College of Cardinals shortly after taking office in 2013.

“Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), which was published only in Italian by the Vatican March 19, will go into effect June 5, the feast of Pentecost.

Merging some congregations and pontifical councils and raising the status of others – particularly the charitable office of the papal almoner – Pope Francis said he hoped the constitution would ensure that the offices of the Vatican fulfill their mission in helping promote the church as a community of missionary disciples, sharing the Gospel and caring for all those in need.

Part of that effort, he wrote, requires including more laypeople in Curia leadership positions.

“This new apostolic constitution proposes to better harmonize the present exercise of the Curia’s service with the path of evangelization that the church, especially in this season, is living,” the pope wrote in the document.

Pope Francis leads a meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 21, 2022. On March 19, 2022, Pope Francis promulgated the long-awaited constitution reorganizing the Roman Curia. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

To emphasize the importance of the church’s missionary nature, in the new constitution Pope Francis specified that he is the prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization; he will be assisted by a “pro-prefect” for “basic questions regarding evangelization in the world” and a “pro-prefect” for “the first evangelization and the new particular churches,” those previously supported by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

In a similar way, until 1968, the popes were prefects of what became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Pastor Bonus” began its description of the doctrinal congregation’s responsibility saying, “The proper duty of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so, it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way.”

The new constitution begins its description by saying, “The task of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is to assist the Roman pontiff and the bishops-eparchs in the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world, promoting and safeguarding the integrity of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals, drawing on the deposit of faith and also seeking an ever deeper understanding of it in the face of new questions.”

The new constitution does away with the previous distinctions between “congregations” and “pontifical councils,” referring to all of them simply as “dicasteries.”

In addition to creating the Dicastery for the Service of Charity in place of the almoner’s office, the constitution merges the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization into the new Dicastery for Evangelization, and it merges the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture into the new Dicastery for Culture and Education.

“Praedicate Evangelium” replaces St. John Paul II’s 1988 constitution, “Pastor Bonus,” but, unlike it, does not reserve the leadership of certain offices only to cardinals and bishops, although the individual statutes of those offices may make such a specification.

However, Pope Francis wrote in the document that offices that have “their own statutes and laws shall observe them only insofar as they are not opposed to the present apostolic constitution and shall propose their adaptation for the approval of the Roman pontiff as soon as possible.”

Insisting that every Christian is “a missionary disciple,” the constitution said, the reform of the Curia also needed to “provide for the involvement of laymen and women, including in roles of governance and responsibility.”

The participation of laypeople “is indispensable, because they cooperate for the good of the whole church and, because of their family life, their knowledge of social realities and their faith that leads them to discover God’s paths in the world, they can make valid contributions, especially when it comes to the promotion of the family and respect for the values of life and creation, the Gospel as leaven for temporal realities and the discernment of the signs of the times.”

Describing the personnel of the offices, the constitution said the leadership, “as far as possible, shall come from the different regions of the world so that the Roman Curia may reflect the universality of the church.”

They can be clergy, religious or laypeople “who are distinguished by appropriate experience, knowledge confirmed by suitable qualifications, virtue and prudence. They should be chosen according to objective and transparent criteria and have an adequate number of years of experience in pastoral activities.”

Pope Francis described the reform of the Curia as part of the “missionary conversion” of the church, a renewal movement aimed at making it reflect more “the image of Christ’s own mission of love.”

He also linked it to the ongoing process of promoting “synodality,” a sense of the shared responsibility of all baptized Catholics for the life and mission of the church.

True communion among all Catholics, he said, “gives the church the face of synodality; a church, that is, of mutual listening in which each one has something to learn: the faithful people, the College of Bishops (and) the bishop of Rome listening to the other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth.”

Addressing one of the main concerns expressed by bishops around the world in the past, the constitution said, “The Roman Curia does not stand between the pope and the bishops, but rather places itself at the service of both in ways that are proper to the nature of each.”

Pope Francis wrote that in reorganizing the Curia, he wanted to promote a “healthy decentralization” that would, at the same time, promote “co-responsibility” and communion with the bishops and among the Vatican offices.

The Curia, he said, should support individual bishops in their mission as pastors as well as the work of bishops’ conferences and synods of Eastern Catholic bishops.

Because “the face of Christ” is reflected in the faces of his disciples, the document said, members of the Roman Curia should be “distinguished by their spiritual life, good pastoral experience, sobriety of life and love for the poor, spirit of communion and service, competence in the matters entrusted to them, and the ability to discern the signs of the times.”

In the ordering of the Roman Curia, the Secretariat of State maintains its position of leadership and coordination, but the new Dicastery for Evangelization is placed above the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The description of the organization of the doctrinal dicastery includes changes announced by Pope Francis in February, creating separate doctrinal and disciplinary sections, reflecting the growing importance of the office that investigates allegations of clerical sexual abuse and the abuse of office by bishops or religious superiors.

The constitution places the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “within the dicastery” and says “its task is to provide the Roman pontiff with advice and consultancy and to propose the most appropriate initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable people.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the commission and a member of the Council of Cardinals that drafted the constitution, said, “For the first time, Pope Francis has made safeguarding and the protection of minors a fundamental part of the structure of the church’s central government.”

“Linking the commission more closely with the work of the new Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith represents a significant move forward in upgrading the place and mandate of the commission, which can only lead to a stronger culture of safeguarding throughout the Curia and the entire church,” he said in a statement March 19.


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Two members of a group called Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising said April 5 that five fetuses taken by the police a week earlier from the Capitol Hill residence of one of the activists were “proof of illegal abortions” being performed at a Washington abortion clinic. Activists Lauren Handy, 28, and Terrisa Bukovinac, 41, made the comments at a news conference. The same day, a group of 23 congressional Republicans wrote a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert J. Contee III asking for a thorough investigation of the remains “of five preborn children” and urging they not assume – “without conducting any medical evaluations” – that “each child died as the result of a legal abortion.” Handy and Bukovinac said the fetuses are from a box of medical waste they got from the driver of a medical waste truck at an abortion clinic, and they claimed the fetuses looked like they were from late-stage abortions. According to a Washington Post story and other news accounts, the two women described walking up to a Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services truck outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic, one of a few U.S. abortion clinics that does late-term abortions. They said they asked the driver if he had picked up anything from the clinic. The driver told them yes, they said, so they asked for a box. “The driver asked what they would do with the remains inside,” The Washington Post reported. “After they told him they would give the (fetal) remains a funeral and bury them … the driver gave them a box.”

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – The attack in which Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson, 83, was abducted from her convent in Yalgo, Burkina Faso, the morning of April 5 was conducted by at least 10 armed men, the Marianites of Holy Cross said in an electronic newsletter. The congregation said Sister Tennyson, the former international congregational leader for order and a native of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, was sleeping when the men burst into the convent, ransacked the living quarters and kidnapped her, leaving behind two other Marianite sisters and two young women who also live in the convent. “There were about 10 men who came during the night while the sisters were sleeping,” Marianite Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader, said in the e-bulletin April 6. “They destroyed almost everything in the house, shot holes in the new truck and tried to burn it. The house itself is OK, but its contents are ruined.” Sister Lacour, who currently is attending a congregational meeting in Le Mans, France, said the Marianites have contacted both the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso and the U.S. State Department, and “they have assured us that this is a high priority case for them.” The congregation also has contacted the apostolic nuncios to the U.S., Burkina Faso and France as well as the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the U.S. The other two Marianites at the convent – Sister Pauline Drouin, a Canadian, and Sister Pascaline Tougma, a Burkinabé – were not abducted and did not see many of the details. “They think there were more men on the road. They have heard nothing from or about Suellen since she was taken.”

Sulpician Father Peter W. Gray of Reisterstown, Md., displays a portrait he did of Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, at his home office in Reisterstown, Md., March 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Artémides Zatti, a Salesian brother who was a pharmacist in Argentina and known for his care for the sick; the miracle clears the way for his canonization. During a meeting April 9 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope also signed decrees advancing the sainthood causes of four other men and five women. Born in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia in 1880, Blessed Zatti’s family immigrated to Bahía Blanca, Argentina, in 1897. At the age of 19, he was accepted by the Salesians to study for the priesthood. However, he was forced to abandon his studies after falling ill with tuberculosis. According to his biography published by the Vatican, he moved to the Andean city of Viedma to recover and, during that time, he made a vow to Mary to serve the sick and the poor for the rest of his life if he was healed. After his recovery, he made good on his promise and, after professing his vows as a Salesian brother in 1908, he worked at a Salesian-run hospital where he served for more than 40 years as a trained pharmacist, nurse and operating-room assistant as well as handling the hospitals budget and personnel. Blessed Zatti was diagnosed with liver cancer and died in 1951.

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – The Nigerian bishops said lack of arrests in widespread attacks gives credibility to the idea that the government is either complacent or compromised. “Nigerians are sick of flimsy excuses and bogus promises from the government to deal with terrorists,” wrote Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, newly elected president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, on behalf of the bishops. “Considering the billions of naira appropriated for security and the fight against terrorism in recent times, it is difficult to imagine that a large number of terrorists, who unleashed terror on unarmed and law-abiding citizens can disappear in broad daylight without a trace. “It is indeed very hard to believe that our security apparatus lacks intelligence or the ability to fight and defeat terrorists in our nation,” the archbishop said. His April 4 statement came as the country was still dealing with a March 28 attack on a commuter train. Gunmen detonated a bomb on the tracks and opened fire on the train; when Archbishop Ugorji issued his statement, more than 150 people were still missing.

Three Marianite Sisters: Suellen Tennyson, Pascaline Tougma and Pauline Drouin, are pictured in an undated photo near the clinic where they serve in Yago, Burkina Faso. Sister Tennyson, 83, an American, was kidnapped late April 4 or early April 5 after armed attackers broke into the convent on the parish compound. (CNS photo/courtesy Marianites of the Holy Cross)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – The church’s charitable outreach to people fleeing war, political instability, poverty and other threats is a requirement for followers of Jesus, the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a March 17 statement. “Some may question why and how the church supports refugees and migrants, regardless of race, creed or color, but the simple truth is that Christ identifies with those in need: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,’” the committee said, citing Matthew 25:35. Led by Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez as USCCB president, the committee said various challenges have forced people to flee in search of safety and security and that their plight requires a Christian response. “This means that when people are hungry and knock at our door, we feed them. When they come to our door cold, we clothe them. And when someone who is a stranger comes, we welcome him or her. The church does this everywhere she exists,” it said. The statement comes as the efforts of U.S.-based church agencies in ministering to migrants and refugees have faced rising challenges from those who say doing so encourages more people to come to the United States, especially from along the southern border.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican published Pope Francis’ calendar for Holy Week and Easter, which includes the Way of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum for the first time in two years. The annual commemoration of Christ’s passion at the Colosseum was canceled in 2020 due to restrictions on outdoor gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And in 2021, there was a pared-down Way of the Cross service in St. Peter’s Square.

As is customary when first publishing the pope’s calendar for Holy Week, the Vatican did not provide the time or place for his celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 14. Before the pandemic, Pope Francis had made it a tradition to celebrate the Mass and foot-washing ritual at a prison or detention center, refugee center or rehabilitation facility.

Here is the schedule of papal liturgical ceremonies and events for April released by the Vatican March 21:
– April 2-3, Apostolic visit to Malta.
– April 10, Palm Sunday, Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
– April 14, Holy Thursday, morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
– April 15, Good Friday, afternoon liturgy of the Lord’s passion in St. Peter’s Basilica.
– April 15, Way of the Cross at night in the Colosseum.
– April 16, Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
– April 17, Easter morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square, followed at noon by the pope’s blessing “urbi et orbi” (the city and the world).
– April 24, Divine Mercy Sunday, Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The real battles people should be fighting and funding are the ones against hunger, thirst, poverty, disease and slavery, Pope Francis said. Instead, vast sums of money are spent on arms for waging war, which is “a scandal” that just drags civilization backward, he said in an address to a group of Italian volunteers. “What is the point of all of us solemnly committing ourselves together at international level to campaigns against poverty, against hunger, against the degradation of the planet, if we then fall back into the old vice of war, into the old strategy of the power of armaments, which takes everything and everyone backward?” he asked. The pope made his remarks in an audience at the Vatican March 21 with volunteers representing the Italian organization “I Was Thirsty.” Founded in 2012, the group sets up projects that provide clean drinking water to communities in need around the world.

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – A Ukrainian priest described escaping from his bombed-out parish in Mariupol and said he still hopes some Catholics will survive the relentless Russian onslaught. Pauline Father Pavlo Tomaszewski said the decision to leave was not easy, “but when they started shelling the whole city, we realized we’d have to go.” “They bombed and shelled us without any break for four days – since our monastery had no cellar for hiding in, we could see tall apartments blocks exploding in front of us,” said the priest, who comes from the western city of Kamenets-Podolsky but studied in neighboring Poland. “Although there’d been water, food and gas and electricity supplies at the beginning, these were deliberately hit to cut off what people needed for daily survival. By the end, with no sense of time, we’d lost any contact with parishioners or with the outside world.” The priest spoke at a March 18 virtual news meeting organized by the pontifical agency Aid to the Church in Need, as Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed its forces were “tightening the noose” around Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov. Up to 90% of all buildings in the city were reported damaged. Father Tomaszewski said Russian forces had targeted civilians from the outset, bombing and shelling Mariupol’s eastern districts, but had intensified “atrocities against the innocent population” in retaliation for Ukrainian resistance.