WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a 218-211 vote Sept. 24, the U.S. House passed what opponents consider one of the most extreme abortion bills ever seen in the nation – the Women’s Health Protection Act. “This bill is far outside the American mainstream and goes far beyond Roe v Wade,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the. Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in remarks ahead of the vote. “This bill constitutes an existential threat to unborn children and to the value of life itself.” H.R. 3755 codifies the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. The measure establishes the legal right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states under federal law. “This deceptively-named bill is the most extreme pro-abortion bill our nation has ever seen,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said Sept. 24. If it became law, “it would lead to the deliberate destruction of millions of unborn lives, leaving countless women with physical, emotional and spiritual scars,” he said in a statement. “As a nation built on the recognition that every human being is endowed by its Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this bill is a complete injustice.”

Heidi Crowter, who has Down syndrome, speaks outside the High Court ahead of a case to challenge the Down syndrome abortion laws in London July 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Hannah McKay, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Panelists at one Sept. 27 forum during an online conference on immigration law and policy noted that the asylum process, like much else in the U.S. immigration system, is in need of its own fixes. The percentage of those who fear being returned to their country of origin has leaped in a 12-year period, from 5% in 2007 to 43% in 2019, according to Ted H. Kim, acting associate director of the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate, or RAIO, which is a division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The period from 2016 to 2018, when Kim started working at USCIS, “saw really high numbers at the border, and 46% of those at the border consisted of family units,” he added. That does not take into account “unaccompanied children, trafficking victims, who must be transferred to HHS (Health and Human Services) custody within 72 hours,” Kim said, “or the entire system risks being backed up ,including as recently as this past year.” A statute calling for “expedited removal” of immigrants was passed in 1996, but that was “designed for a different era when we did not see these huge numbers of arrivals at the border like we do today,” Kim said at the forum, sponsored by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Law School and the Migration Policy Institute. “This has led to a backlog which is quickly approaching the program’s all-time high in the late ‘90s.” He added, “Too often, we’re on our heels in a reactive mode.”

CHICAGO (CNS) – Father Stan Jaszek, a missionary priest from Poland who is serving Native Alaskans in the Diocese of Fairbanks, has been named the recipient of Catholic Extension’s 2021-2022 Lumen Christi Award. The Lumen Christi Award, established in 1978, is the highest honor given by Catholic Extension and goes to people “who radiate and reveal the light of Christ present in the communities where they serve.” “Father Stan intuitively understands that the church can be a force of positive transformation having grown up in communist Poland and witnessing the impact of (St.) John Paul II and the Solidarity movement,” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. “That conviction is what took him as a missionary priest from Poland to Peru early in his priesthood, then later from post-apartheid Africa to Alaska, in the

Father Stan Jaszek, a missionary priest from Poland who is serving Native Alaskans in the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. Catholic Extension announced Sept. 28, 2021, that Father Jaszek is the recipient of its 2021-2022 Lumen Christi Award. (CNS photo/Ash Adams, courtesy Catholic Extension)

Diocese of Fairbanks where he has faithfully served nearly two decades,” the priest said in a Sept. 28 statement. Father Jaszek currently serves the Native Alaskan villages of the remote Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, along the coast of the Bering Sea. Out of his 19 years of missionary work in the Diocese of Fairbanks, Father Jaszek has spent 14 of them living among the Yup’ik people. He is one of just a handful of priests ministering in the Fairbanks Diocese, which geographically is the largest U.S. diocese.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will formally launch the process of the Synod of Bishops with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Oct. 10 Mass, which officially open the synodal process, will be preceded by a day of reflection in the synod hall, the Vatican said in a statement published Oct. 1. The Oct. 9 day of reflection, the statement said, will include “representatives of the people God, including delegates of the bishops’ conferences and related bodies, members of the Roman Curia, fraternal delegates, delegates of consecrated life and ecclesial lay movements, the youth council, etc.” According to the schedule released by the Vatican, the day of reflection will begin with a meditation followed by an address by Pope Francis. It will also feature testimonies by people present at the synod hall, including a young woman from South Africa, a bishop from South Korea, and the head of a religious community from France. Participants will also listen to video testimonies from a nun in the United States, a family in Australia and a priest in Brazil.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Death row inmates in Florida’s prisons refer to their 6-foot-by-9-foot cell as their “house,” with some having lived in their “house” for 40 years – longer than one Catholic lay chaplain said he has lived in his family home in Tallahassee. So when Dale Recinella, the lay minister, goes from cell to cell to offer pastoral care, religious education and spiritual accompaniment, “we go house to house, cell to cell, and that’s where we meet them.” These are men and women who cannot come out, “they can’t even come to the chapel,” so the church must go to them. Recinella has been serving as a Catholic correctional chaplain for inmates on death row and in solitary confinement on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Florida for decades. With just a few more months until his 70th birthday, Recinella was at the Vatican to be honored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and receive its first ever Guardian of Life Award during a special evening event Sept. 28. The academy was holding its general assembly onsite in Rome and online Sept. 27-29. Recinella told Catholic News Service Sept. 28 that, as he has moved on to “semi-retirement,” the church in Florida is working to make sure that this ministry continues “in a very vibrant and active way” by finding dedicated people to follow in his footsteps.

LONDON (CNS) – Two women who challenged the U.K. government over a law that allows abortion up to birth for disabled babies have vowed to take their case to appeal after it was dismissed by the High Court. Heidi Crowter, 26, who has Down syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose 2-year-old son Aidan also has the condition, objected to a clause in the 1967 Abortion Act that extended the right to abortion beyond the 24-week upper limit when fetuses have disabilities. They claimed the law breached the European Convention on Human Rights because it discriminated against disabled children, and they sought to have the clause removed from the act. They made their case in a two-day hearing in July and learned Sept. 23 that their attempt had failed when the High Court ruled that the clause was not unlawful. Afterward, Crowter said she would seek permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal. “I am really upset not to win, but the fight is not over,” she said outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

MEXICO CITY (CNS) – The Mexican bishops’ migrant ministry has called on the federal government to return to a policy of “open arms” as the country experiences heavy waves of migration – most visibly with Haitians, who recently traveled the length of Mexico to the U.S. border in large numbers. “As a church, we exhort the Mexican government to abandon the militarized migratory policy and recover our tradition of a country with open arms, welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants,” the ministry said in a letter marking World Day of Migrants and Refugees Sept. 26. “We call on the Mexican church, in communion with the Holy Father, to open our hearts and tear down the walls of discrimination, prejudice and the rejections of those who suffer most. We extend a hand to those walking and transiting our streets, parishes and dioceses, to the migrants fleeing repression and pain, who are in search of love and freedom that they cannot find in their countries of origin.” The church’s call for Mexico to revisit its migration policies followed the arrival of some 14,500 Haitians in Del Rio, Texas, where they camped under a bridge as they waited to be processed by U.S. border officials. Many of the migrants were returned to Mexico, some families were admitted into the United States with citations to appear at immigration offices, while planeloads of Haitians were returned to Haiti – where many had not lived for years. Many of the Haitians traveling toward the United States left after the 2010 earthquake on the island and had been working in Brazil and Chile until encountering difficulties in those countries.

Analysis of church’s diplomatic efforts should be a must-read for many

By Stephen M. Colecchi (CNS)
“God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis, Vatican Diplomacy and America’s Armageddon” by Victor Gaetan. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, Maryland, 2021). 476 pp., $49.

Catholic social teaching has often been called the church’s best-kept secret.

In “God’s Diplomats,” Victor Gaetan illuminates its active application in the church’s international diplomacy and humanitarian work, unveiling another well-kept secret. He argues that the church’s dialogic approach to diplomacy contrasts sharply at many points with our nation’s more power-based and militaristic responses to international crises.
But his critique of U.S. foreign policy applies to many other nations and national leaders.

In Part 1, Gaetan contrasts U.S. and Vatican diplomacy. For me, the most poignant indictment of U.S. policy was the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, which occurred under St. John Paul II. The Holy See had warned that an invasion would stoke the fires of extremism, fan the flames of sectarian strife, contribute to regional instability and endanger the presence of Christians and other minorities in the region. All of this came to pass.

He goes on to describe the church’s diplomatic network, its mission for both the church and the common good of all and the education of formal Vatican diplomats. Gaetan explores the unique nature of the Catholic Church as a “sovereign” entity, describes its historical basis and then outlines its operating principles.

This is the book cover of “God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis, Vatican Diplomacy and America’s Armageddon” by Victor Gaetan. The book is reviewed by Stephen M. Colecchi. (CNS photo/courtesy Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)

Although his focus is often on formal diplomats and seems at times clerical, it is clear from his accounts that the term “diplomats” includes many beyond the Vatican diplomatic corps and hierarchy. Men and women religious, lay men and women and numerous Catholic organizations and institutions are part of the church’s diplomatic network.

Unlike many commentators, Gaetan points out continuities among Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul. Each has unique gifts and styles, but the long history of the Holy See’s diplomatic engagement is a thread that runs through their papacies. Gaetan’s love of the church, embrace of its teachings and respect for its leaders comes through clearly, even when he points out failures.

Gaetan makes a case for the effectiveness of what he calls the political “neutrality” of the church or what I might call its nonpartisan and nonaligned stances. He lifts up the church’s long-term patience, an unrelenting commitment to dialogue and a commitment to serving the common good.

His writing style captures complex diplomatic principles in accessible language. A good example is his diplomatic rules of thumb: 1) “Avoid creating winners and losers”; 2) “Remain impartial in the face of conflict”; 3) “Refrain from partisan conflict”; 4) “Pursue dialogue … with everyone”; and 5) “Walk the talk: Show faith through charity.”

The book’s second part explores specific international crises of recent years. Gaetan devotes a chapter each to Ukraine, Cuba, Kenya, Colombia, the Middle East, China and South Sudan.
I do not entirely agree with his understanding of the roles of Russia in Ukraine and the Middle East, but he is spot-on regarding the church’s various actors. Each international situation is well documented, giving credence to his analysis. I found the chapter on South Sudan particularly moving.

Gaetan has written a sympathetic and sweeping primer on the church’s diplomatic efforts. The author’s journalistic research is reflected in over 100 pages of footnotes that offer supplementary insights and anecdotes, lending credibility to his analysis. His extensive acknowledgments is a “who’s who” of key church diplomats.

“God’s Diplomats” will appeal to many audiences. It is a must read for secular diplomats and church leaders at every level engaged with the church’s diplomatic efforts. It should also be required reading for trained diplomats. In-the-pew Catholics and other people of goodwill will find it affirming of the positive role that religion can play in the public square.

Colecchi served as director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2004 to 2018. In that role, he frequently engaged diplomats at every level of the church in many regions of the world.


CHICAGO (CNS) – Father Andrew Liaugminas of the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been appointed to serve as an official for the doctrinal section of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The 37-year-old priest will serve with the congregation for five years and will support the congregation’s work promoting the church’s teachings on faith and morals. The oldest of the Roman Curia’s nine congregations, the CDF was founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III to promote and safeguard the church’s teachings throughout the world. Today, the CDF is responsible for fostering a greater understanding of the faith, aiding bishops in their role as teachers of the faith and answering difficult questions that arise on faith and morals.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick pleaded not guilty Sept. 3 in a Massachusetts court, where he is facing three counts of sexually assaulting a teenager in the 1970s. He was not taken under custody but was ordered to post $5,000 bail and have no contact with the alleged victim or children. The former high-ranking, globe-trotting church official also was ordered not to leave the country and surrendered his passport. His next court appearance is Oct. 28. The day before the arraignment, a former employee and a former priest of the Archdiocese of Newark filed lawsuits alleging unpermitted sexual contact by McCarrick for incidents in 1991. The Massachusetts case is the first time, however, that McCarrick has faced criminal charges for assault of a minor, which is alleged to first have taken place at a wedding reception in 1974 and continued over the years in different states.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The “present ills of our economy” invite Catholics to reflect on ways to propose new and creative responses to vital human needs in a post-pandemic world, said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in the U.S. bishops’ annual Labor Day statement. Acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of recovery despite the continuing pandemic, Archbishop Coakley said the current time presents an opportunity to “build a consensus around human dignity and the common good.” But despite signs of an economic recovery, he said in the statement released Sept. 2, millions of Americans continue to struggle financially because of unemployment, poverty and hunger made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. “There are still many uncertainties around this pandemic; however, we do know that our society and our world will never be the same,” the archbishop said. Archbishop Coakley credited and thanked the many workers “who have kept our country functioning during these trying times and worked under difficult and often underappreciated conditions.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While financial reforms in the Vatican are progressing steadily, cases involving corruption and malfeasance in the Eternal City are “a disease that we relapse into,” Pope Francis said. In a wide-ranging interview broadcast Sept. 1 by COPE, the Spanish radio station owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, Pope Francis said changes made in the Vatican’s financial laws have allowed prosecutors to “become more independent” in their investigations. “Let’s hope that these steps we are taking … will help to make these events happen less and less,” he said. During the interview, the pope was asked about the Vatican trial against 10 individuals and entities, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on charges ranging from embezzlement to money laundering and abuse of office. The charges stemmed from a Vatican investigation into how the Secretariat of State used $200 million to finance a property development project in London’s posh Chelsea district and incurred millions of dollars in debt. At the time, then-Archbishop Becciu served as “sostituto,” the No. 3 position in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Cardinal Becciu was forced to offer his resignation to the pope in September 2020, after he was accused of embezzling an estimated 100,000 euros of Vatican funds and redirecting them to Spes, a Caritas organization run by his brother, Tonino Becciu, in his home Diocese of Ozieri, Sardinia.

Father Andrew Liaugminas, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is seen in this undated photo. He has been appointed to serve as an official for the doctrinal section of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (CNS photo/Handout, courtesy Chicago Catholic)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis offered prayers to the victims and families affected by Hurricane Ida, which devastated the southern and northeastern United States. Pope Francis also offered prayers for countless refugees fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s Aug. 15 takeover of Kabul and expressed his hope that “many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life.” “I assure my prayers for the people of the United States of America who have been hit by a strong hurricane in recent days,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 5 during his Sunday Angelus address. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall Sept. 1, carrying 150-mph winds in Louisiana and knocking out power, water and cellphone service. The remnants of Hurricane Ida later struck the northeastern United States, causing an estimated 41 deaths and flooding roads in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut. Speaking about Afghanistan, Pope Francis said he prayer “for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” he said. “May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”

BERLIN (CNS) – German bishops are concerned that a decision guaranteeing German health insurers will pay for pregnant women’s blood tests to detect Down syndrome will lead to abortion. Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops, said that already about 90% of cases in which an embryo has an extra chromosome result in termination of pregnancy, reported the German church news agency KNA. He expressed concern that the prenatal test eventually would be applied on a routine basis. “We as a church are observing with concern that the new, noninvasive prenatal diagnostical test procedure very often does not follow therapeutic aims,” Kopp said. “On the contrary, in the view of the church, these tests promote an alarming trend in the direction of a regular selection.” What was needed was early information, counseling and support in which the issue of termination of pregnancy was not the focal point, he said. A joint federal parliamentary committee gave the approval for the change, which is expected to take effect in the spring of 2022, KNA reported.

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) – The Catholic bishops of Nigeria have called on the priests and the lay faithful to make the Eucharist central to the life of the church rather than placing a premium on money or other transient things. In a statement at the end of their weeklong plenary meeting, they also advised priests to always ensure that “monetary matters do not distract the faithful or detract from the solemnity of the celebration.” Priests are to “celebrate the Eucharist as ‘servants’ of the mystery and not ‘masters’ of it,” the bishops said. In their Aug. 27 statement, the bishops also condemned the increasing insecurity and violence in Nigeria and called on the government to show respect for the sanctity of human life with a more strategic commitment to the fight against insecurity. The bishops urged government officials to take full responsibility for the prevailing culture of violence and impunity in Nigeria. “We recognize the efforts being made by government to fight insecurity in the land,” they added, appealing to the citizens to be law-abiding, vigilant, live by sound moral principles and shun violence and crime.

SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) – The mortal remains of the first three Korean Catholic martyrs have been recovered more than two centuries after their deaths, announced the Diocese of Jeonju. reported that following historical research and DNA tests, it has been confirmed that the remains are of Paul Yun Ji-chung and James Kwon Sang-yeon, both beheaded in 1791, and Yun’s brother, Francis Yun Ji-heon, who was martyred in 1801. Bishop John Kim Son-tae of Jeonju made the announcement during a news conference Sept. 1. During his visit to South Korea in 2014, Pope Francis beatified the three along with 121 other martyrs persecuted and killed during the rule of the Joseon dynasty in Korea. Bishop Kim said the remains were recovered in March in Wanju, on the outskirts of Jeonju, near the burial ground of family members of another beatified person that was being converted to a shrine. “The discovery of the remains is a truly amazing and monumental event,” the bishop said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

A painting depicts 103 Korean martyrs canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1984, seen in this Aug. 19, 2008, photo. The remains of the first three of 124 other Korean martyrs, beatified in 2014, were recently identified. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Seoul)


Olympic briefs

SCOTCH PLAINS (CNS) – When U.S. runner Sydney McLaughlin crossed the finish line to win the gold in the 400-meter hurdles Aug. 3 in Tokyo, she had the cheers of fans supporting her from the New Jersey Catholic high school where she graduated four years ago. Fans at the watch party at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains jumped up and down and cheered for their fellow alumnae who broke her own world record in the event and narrowly beat fellow U.S. teammate Dalilah Muhammad, who was the defending title-winner in this event. Another local watch party was taking place in McLaughlin’s hometown of Dunellen, New Jersey. McLaughlin began her quest to win the gold medal in the event at the Summer Games when she smashed the world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. McLaughlin, who turns 22 Aug. 7, stunned the track and field world as a 16-year-old student at Union Catholic when she made the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On July 27, the last night of the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. She became the first woman to run the 400 hurdles in under 52 seconds – she set a new world record of 51.90.

U.S. runner and gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin celebrates Aug. 4, 2021, after breaking the world record to win the women’ 400-meter hurdles final at Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

TOKYO (CNS) – Hidilyn Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner, set an Olympic record – and thanked her friends who prayed the Miraculous Medal novena. In a virtual news conference, the 30-year-old said she also prayed the novena and wore the medal. After winning July 26, the four-time Olympian praised God and lifted up Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal from around her neck while repeatedly shouting “Thank You, Lord,” reported the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines News. That gesture by Diaz went viral, CBCP News reported. After her win in the women’s 55-kg weightlifting – she had an overall lift of 224 kilograms – more than 493 pounds – she told the virtual news conference about the Miraculous Medal. “It is a sign of … my faith to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” she said. In a statement, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao congratulated Diaz on behalf of the Philippine bishops. “Her victory was captured through many lenses, and in one of those photos was her holding the gold medal and wearing a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady on her chest. We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God. Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and a deep Catholic faith,” the archbishop said. “Congratulations, Hidilyn! May the Lord continue to bless you with perseverance.”

Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines poses with her gold medal and Miraculous Medal after winning the gold in women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics July 26, 2021. Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner and set an Olympic record. (CNS photo/Hidilyn Diaz, Instagram, via CBCP News) Editors: best quality available from source.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – After a week of historic and electrifying swimming events at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, two Catholic Olympians will return to their hometown of Bethesda having proudly represented their parish community, their schools and the USA. Katie Ledecky won two gold and two silver medals, and Phoebe Bacon had a strong fifth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke. Both Olympic athletes attended Little Flower School in Bethesda, in the Washington Archdiocese, and are alumnae of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, also in Bethesda. Three-time Olympian Ledecky, 24, now a 10-time Olympic medalist, is one of the most decorated female U.S. Olympians ever and also one of the most dominant female swimmers in history. One gold in Tokyo was for coming in first in what was a first: the Olympics inaugural women’s 1,500-meter freestyle swim July 28. Her other gold was her seventh gold in what is her signature event: the 800-meter freestyle race. “What a thrill it has been to watch Katie and Phoebe compete this week. Stone Ridge is incredibly proud of these alumnae athletes, not only for what they accomplish in the sport of swimming, but for the values and character they represent,” said Catherine Ronan Karrels, head of Stone Ridge School. “I am so proud of how they both swam in these Olympic games and how they represented the USA,” she said.

Katie Ledecky of the United States gets ready enter the pool for the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle final during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics July 28, 2021. The 2015 graduate of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., won the gold medal in the Olympic debut of the event. (CNS photo/Marko Djurica, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As indoor mask mandates are returning in areas of the country hard hit by a new wave of the coronavirus, U.S. bishops have been informing their dioceses of this new policy impacting Masses, Catholic schools and church events. This is particularly true in Louisiana where bishops have been announcing this change in letters to their respective dioceses or public announcements the first week of August. Their announcements followed the Aug. 2 statewide mask mandate issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards requiring anyone age 5 and up to wear a mask indoors in K-12 schools, businesses, universities and churches as the state tries to bring down the rising number of COVID-19 infections. The mandate is in effect until at least Sept. 1. Louisiana is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also is having record hospitalizations due to the impact of the Delta variant of the coronavirus particularly affecting the state’s unvaccinated. Despite a recent surge in vaccinations, only 37.2% of its residents were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 4. The state mask mandate also impacts Catholic schools that have already begun opening in some parts of the state.
ST. MICHAEL, Minn (CNS) – It’s doubtful anyone matched Daniel Markham’s driving distance for the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass June 13 at St. Michael in St. Michael. He came all the way from Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, on a journey that began two days earlier, winding through Wichita, Kansas, and heading north through Iowa to the Twin Cities – all because of a phone conversation with the parish business administrator at St. Michael, Dave Ferry. Five years ago, Markham decided he wanted to attend Mass in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. After several years of waiting, dreaming, and planning, he got going the weekend of June 5 and 6 when he visited two states on the East Coast, Connecticut and New Hampshire. After coming back to his home in Tinley Park, he went to Wichita for a Mass June 12 and hopped in his car the next morning to drive to St. Michael. The day after Mass there, he went even farther north to visit Extreme Faith Camp near Pine River, about two hours north of the Twin Cities. Markham plans to write a book after finishing all 52 visits, with the last one taking place in July 2022. It will recount his visits not just to parishes but to ministries and organizations that intrigue him.

Daniel Markham prays during Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minn., June 13, 2021. Markham is traveling around the U.S. on what he calls a “52 Masses” tour. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass. “An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16. The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy. Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus wants to nourish the souls of those who are spiritually famished from the loneliness and anguish that come from life’s difficulties, Pope Francis said. “What does he not want? To be relegated to being considered a side dish – he who is bread – to be overlooked and set aside, or called on only when we need him,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 8 during his Sunday Angelus address. The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus responded to those who doubted that he was the “bread that came down from heaven.” “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die,” Jesus said. Commenting on the passage, Pope Francis said bread is a basic necessity needed for survival, especially by the hungry who “do not ask for refined and expensive food, they ask for bread.” “Jesus reveals himself as bread, that is, the essential, what is necessary for everyday life; without him nothing works,” the pope said. “He is not one bread among many others, but the bread of life,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Hours before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, Pope Francis expressed his hope for the peace and safety of the country’s citizens. “I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace, so that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue,” the pope said Aug. 15 during his Angelus address. Only through dialogue, he added, “can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.” The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, began taking over large swaths of the country as U.S. forces withdrew. According to The Associated Press, Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

SYDNEY (CNS) – Sydney catechist Caroline Fisher says writing a successful book for Catholic children has helped her spread a message of true love “too good” to keep to herself. The mother of three said her picture book, “Jesus Had a Body Like Me: A Theology of the Body for Babies and Little Ones,” is aimed not just at children but at those who read to them. She is passionate about sharing with readers that each of them is a gift, every soul is sacred and, to truly nourish the body, one must also nourish the spirit within. “God doesn’t make mistakes, and each of us matters to God and has been ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made in his image and likeness for a purpose only we can fulfill, and nobody else,” Fisher told The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney. “If only people knew this and understood the reasons behind what the Catholic Church tells us what to do and what not to do, we would not see the levels of suicide, despair and hopelessness we are seeing in our society. “Teenagers in particular need to know this, but it’s never too early to connect the dots.” Illustrated by Kama Towcik, the book is based on the theology of the body teachings of St. John Paul II and aims to communicate the message of God’s self-sacrificing love to babies and the very youngest of readers.blessings of the Holy Family. … “We resort to the Holy Family and place under their feet our pain, anxiety, weakness and hopes.”

LES CAYES, Haiti (CNS) – The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti collapsed the bishop’s residence in Les Cayes, killing one priest, leaving one missing and injuring Cardinal Chibly Langlois. Father Emile Beldor died of his injuries after the Aug. 14 quake. Father Jean-Antoine Coulanges is reported missing. Cardinal Langlois sustained arm and leg injuries; church sources say his life is not in danger. Voice of America reported that 18 people, assembled for a baptism, were killed in Immaculate Conception Parish church of Les Anglais. The Haitian civil protection service reported late Aug. 15 that nearly 1,300 people had been killed, more than 5,700 were injured and more than 30,250 families needed shelter. Those numbers were expected to rise as a tropical depression headed toward the island. The civil protection agency warned people to expect strong winds, landslides and flooding in addition to heavy rain and rough seas. At the Vatican Aug. 15, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and closeness to the Haitian people. “While I lift up my prayer to the Lord for the victims, I extend my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the interest of the international community to help might move toward them,” the pope said during his Angelus address.

An injured woman is assisted in Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug. 15, 2021, following magnitude 7.2 earthquake the previous day. (CNS photo/Estailove St-Val, Reuters)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House June 8 “would invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion,” said Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life. “This legislation would also prohibit states from adopting new protective laws in the future, including various types of laws specifically upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said in a June 9 statement. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and in the House by Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Blumenthal first introduced the measure in 2013 and has reintroduced it off and on over the years. The current measure has 48 Democrats as co-sponsors in the Senate; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., are not co-sponsoring it. In the House, there are 176 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said the measure “would essentially remove all legal protections for unborn children on the federal and state level. The Women’s Health Protection Act is, in effect, a no-limits-on-abortion-until-birth bill. Tragically, the only ones to benefit from such a law would be abortionists and abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood,” she added.
HOUSTON (CNS) – The founder of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s program Angela House addressed a national webinar recently about what is needed most to help imprisoned women successfully transition back to their community and families. First is to understand “these are really just human beings and not evil-doers,” said Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, a social worker by training who also spent 13 years as a Chicago police officer and chaplain. Speaking during the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition webinar in May, she explained how other dioceses and community groups can provide similar guidance for the women, 85% of whom have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives. “It all started for me when I was a volunteer chaplain in Gatesville (women’s prison in Texas) and realized that the women who had been incarcerated two or three times basically needed a safe place to live when they left prison to get away from negative people, places and things,” Sister O’Connell said. Since 2002, she has developed a program of interventions focused on trauma-informed counseling, addiction recovery, employment readiness, and personal and spiritual growth including residential living at Angela House in southeast Houston, free for women recently released from incarceration.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Agreeing with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Catholic leaders cannot adopt an “ostrich policy” in the face of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis still told the cardinal that he would not accept his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. “If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this bishop of Rome – your brother who loves you – does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’ And listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep,'” the pope wrote to Cardinal Marx. The German cardinal, who is only 67, announced June 4 that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis because he believed bishops must begin to accept responsibility for the institutional failures of the church in handling the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis wrote a long reply to the cardinal June 10, and the Vatican press office published the letter the same day. “I agree with you in describing as a catastrophe the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the church dealt with it until recently,” the pope wrote. “To realize this hypocrisy in our way of living the faith is a grace; it is a first step that we must take.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Seminarians can learn more from the way their bishops, rectors, spiritual directors and formators live than from what they say, Pope Francis said. Noting the yearlong celebration underway dedicated to St. Joseph, the pope said all those responsible for the formation of new priests – primarily their bishops, but also staff at their seminaries and schools – need to have St. Joseph as their inspiration and model, caring for and protecting priestly vocations. During an audience at the Vatican June 10 with members of the Pontifical Regional Seminary Pius XI of the Marche Region in Ancona, Italy, the pope said that seminarians “can learn more from your life than from your words.” Therefore, he said, “may they learn docility from your obedience; diligence from your dedication; generosity toward the poor from the witness of your sobriety and helpfulness; paternity from your deep and chaste affection.” The pope also urged seminarians to seek out and visit elderly priests, who are “the church’s treasure,” but are often forgotten or isolated in care facilities. They possess wisdom and knowledge that has matured like “fine wine” and can help new ministers in solving their pastoral problems.

Pope appeals for peace in Holy Land, says death of children ‘unacceptable’

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The injury and death of so many innocent people, especially children, caused by escalating violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip is “terrible and unacceptable,” putting the area at risk of sinking into “a spiral of death and destruction,” Pope Francis said.
The pope launched an appeal for calm and asked leaders of both sides “to put a stop to the roar of weapons and to follow the paths of peace, even with the help of the international community,” he said May 16 after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them are even children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it,” he said.
The growing hatred and violence in different cities in Israel “is a serious wound to fraternity and to peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if we do not open immediately to dialogue,” the pope said, asking, “Where will hatred and vengeance lead? Do we really think we can build peace by destroying the other?”
The pope appealed for calm, a cease-fire and constant prayers so that “Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers and sisters.”

Palestinian Suzy Eshkuntana, 6, is treated by a medic at a hospital after being pulled from the rubble of a building during Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City May 16, 2021. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

He then led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims, the children and for peace.
Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican’s press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Pope Francis spoke over the telephone May 17 with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While the Vatican did not comment on the content of the conversation, the Turkish communications department said the two leaders discussed the ongoing attacks.
According to a written statement reported by Andalou Agency, Erdogan said Israel’s attacks were an atrocity and that the latest violations were putting regional security in danger.  
Pope Francis’ appeal May 16 came as Israel escalated its assault on Gaza and it also faced growing civil unrest in its mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
Jewish mobs had destroyed Arab property, and Arab mobs attacked Jewish businesses and burned synagogues, with attempted lynchings on both sides over the past week.
The violence between Israel and Hamas was at its worst since the 2014 Gaza War with Israeli airstrikes and hundreds of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip killing at least 145 Palestinians and 10 Israelis, according to Reuters May 16. Efforts by the international community were underway to broker a cease-fire.

Accountability, transparency, due process still needed, abuse experts say

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – To help foster a wider discussion on work that still must be done to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church, a canon law journal published a series of talks by experts regarding accountability, transparency and confidentiality in the handling of abuse allegations.
The talks were part of a seminar in December 2019 sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to address the topics as well as the seal of confession and the pontifical secret.
The “Periodica” journal of the faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University published the talks at the end of 2020.

Carmel Rafferty and Ian Liwther protest clergy sexual abuse outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in this July 18, 2008, file photo. Safeguarding experts have published proposals in the “Periodica” faculty canon law journal of the Pontifical Gregorian University to help foster more analysis and wider discussion on work still needed to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the suggestions for improvements, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said more could be done in supporting the rights of victims.
Pope Francis’ “Vos estis lux mundi” provides for the first time “a universal law that states that the victim has a right to be advised of the outcome of the investigation” concerning crimes allegedly committed by people in leadership, he wrote.
But “I would suggest that we also use this law by analogy for all other situations” by giving the same right to victims of people who are not just leaders but are members of the clergy or of religious orders, he wrote.
Another suggestion, he said, is to appoint “a safeguarding officer or other suitable person that keeps contact with the victim and informs the victim of the progress of the procedures,” including the outcomes of investigations, trials or extrajudicial processes, especially now that the “pontifical secret” has been removed.
Archbishop Scicluna said there should be a “procurator for the person aggrieved,” that is, a person designated to represent the victim in the church’s penal processes and share information with the victim.
Father John P. Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said in his talk that past abuse scandals in the U.S. showed “how lack of transparency in church governance allowed these lapses in accountability to go unrecognized and unaddressed for decades.”
Restoring a sense of legitimacy to ecclesial governance will be ineffective, he wrote, “as long as the church’s accountability structures are judged inadequate by the faithful, and they will continue to be judged inadequate as long as they remain almost totally lacking in transparency.”
The “almost total lack of transparency that enshrouds the canonical penal process” and the administrative penal process, he said, makes it difficult to know if the accused and victims have been dealt with fairly.
This absence of transparency “is often justified by concern for the reputations of the accused and the victim. While there may be good reason to withhold from the public record the names of accusers and victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are still minors,” the name of those found guilty of abuse should be made public, he wrote.
Clear and public procedures would also help restore the reputation of those who have been wrongly accused instead of letting rumors fill the vacuum when investigations are not transparent or conclusive, he added.
“We in the United States have learned with much pain that efforts to ‘hush up’ unpleasant ecclesiastical business will ultimately fail,” Father Beal wrote.
The pope’s removal of the “pontifical secret” in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics allows bishops and other church authorities to provide “timely information to victims and affected communities of the faithful about the status, progress and outcomes of cases, while maintaining due confidentiality about matters that might jeopardize reputations or the progress of process,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, he wrote, more robust accountability for how diocesan bishops and other church authorities handle abuse cases “is still almost exclusively vertical, toward higher authorities, and not downward to the faithful.”
Until accountability is complemented by “a serious commitment to transparency on the part of all involved, they will do little to dispel the pervasive anger and cynicism among the faithful about the bishops’ handling of complaints of misconduct.”
Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, professor of canon law at the Gregorian University, wrote that transparency does not mean universal or public access to sensitive or confidential information, but it is sharing information with those who have a right to see it.
Total and inappropriate public disclosure of certain information is often driven by a sense of guilt and a hope that “selling” a better image of the church will bring credibility, he said. The focus should be on justice for the entire community of faithful, fidelity to the Gospel value of truth and on professionalism rather than on what people think.
Authorities in charge of investigating and acting on accusations must seek the truth and follow the principles of real justice, which guarantees due process, the right of defense and presumption of innocence for the accused, he said.
Neville Owen, a retired supreme court judge from western Australia and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said equality before the law and the right to a fair trial would be better guaranteed by providing the reasons for how a case was decided.
Providing reasons for a decision is part of fairness, due process and justice, he said. It would let the parties know why they have won or lost; let them see whether their arguments were understood and accepted; facilitate accountability because decisions could be scrutinized; and help build a basis upon which similar cases will be decided in the future.

Vatican says no blessing gay unions, no negative judgment on gay people

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While homosexual men and women must be respected, any form of blessing a same-sex union is “illicit,” said the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The negative judgment is on the blessing of unions, not the people who may still receive a blessing as individuals, it said in a statement published March 15.
The statement was a response to a question or “dubium” that came from priests and lay faithful “who require clarification and guidance concerning a controversial issue,” said an official commentary accompanying the statement.

A same-sex couple is pictured in a file photo exchanging rings during a ceremony in Salt Lake City. The Vatican’s doctrinal office says in a new note that any form of blessing of same-sex unions is “illicit,” but that the negative judgment is on the blessing of unions, not the people, who must be respected. (CNS photo/Jim Urquhar, Reuters)

The response to the question, “Does the church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” was “Negative.”
“It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage – i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life – as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” the doctrinal office said in an explanatory note accompanying the statement. Pope Francis approved both the statement and the note for publication.
“The Christian community and its pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness,” the explanatory note said.
The clarification “does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by church teaching.”
“Rather, it declares illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such. In this case, in fact, the blessing would manifest not the intention to entrust such individual persons to the protection and help of God, in the sense mentioned above, but to approve and encourage a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God,” said the doctrinal office.
The statement came days before the launch March 19 of a yearlong reflection on “Amoris Laetitia” that will focus on the family and conjugal love.
The date marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), which affirmed church teaching on family life and marriage, but also underlined the importance of the church meeting people where they are in order to help guide them on a path of discernment and making moral decisions.
The doctrinal congregation said in its note that some church communities had promoted “plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex.”
“Such projects are not infrequently motivated by a sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons, to whom are proposed paths of growth in faith,” it said.
In fact, the question of blessing same-sex unions arose from this “sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons” as indicated by Pope Francis at the conclusion of the two synodal assemblies on the family, it said.
That invitation, it added, was for communities “to evaluate, with appropriate discernment, projects and pastoral proposals directed to this end,” and in some cases, those proposals included blessings given to the unions of persons of the same sex.
The doctrinal congregation said the church does not and cannot have the power to impart her blessing on such unions and, therefore, “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such” is illicit.
That is because a blessing “would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of matrimony,” it said, citing paragraph 251 of “Amoris Laetitia,” which reiterated the synod members’ conclusion that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
“Only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the church,” it said. As such, it is illicit to bless any relationship or partnership that is outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life, it added.
Declaring “the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the church understands them,” the doctrinal office said.
The church teaches that “men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'”
As such, the doctrinal note makes a “fundamental and decisive distinction between persons and the union. This is so that the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons,” it said.
Such blessings are illicit for three reasons, it said:
– In addition to such a blessing implying “a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing” imparted to a man and a woman united in the sacrament of matrimony, there is the nature and value of blessings.
– Blessings belong to “sacramentals, which are ‘liturgical actions of the church’ that require consonance of life with what they signify and generate,” so “a blessing on a human relationship requires that it be ordered to both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing.”
– And, “the order that makes one fit to receive the gift is given by the ‘designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.'” The church does not have power over God’s designs nor is she “the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness.”
“God himself never ceases to bless each of his pilgrim children in this world, because for him ‘we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit,'” the congregation said. “But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.'”

Returning from Iraq, pope talks about ‘risks’ taken on trip

By Cindy Wooden
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM IRAQ (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue with other churches and with other religions flows from the Gospel, but Pope Francis said he knows some Catholics disagree.
“Often you must take a risk” to promote harmony, he told reporters March 8 as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad. “There are some criticisms: ‘The pope isn’t courageous, he’s reckless.’ He’s doing things against Catholic doctrine. He’s a step away from heresy.’”
Still, he said, through prayer and listening to the advice of experts and aides, he has become convinced that God wants the church – and all humanity, for that matter – to continue promoting a sense of belonging to one human family.
And, he said, it does not matter if some religions, sects or groups seem further from sharing that vision.
“The rule of Jesus is love and charity,” the pope said. “But how many centuries did it take us to put that into practice?”
Preaching and living “human fraternity” – recognizing that all men and women, created by God, are members of the same human family and brothers and sisters to one another – is a process that requires effort, emphasis and repetition.
“You are human. You are a child of God. You are my brother or sister,” the pope said.

With sporadic violence continuing in Iraq, the pope’s trip March 5-8 involved a massive security operation with the deployment of thousands of police and military officers. Even the Vatican police and Swiss Guards wore bulletproof vests under their dark suits, an unusual practice on a papal trip.
But the other danger was posed by COVID-19 and the risk that people gathering to see the pope, who has been vaccinated, would create a surge in the already-rising number of cases in Iraq.
Pope Francis said the pandemic – not the security issue – was what made him repeatedly think, “maybe, maybe not” about the visit.
Decisions about foreign trips are “stewed over time,” the pope said. “I thought so much, prayed so much” about the Iraq trip because of the coronavirus pandemic, “and in the end I made the decision freely, but it came from within. And I said to myself the one who helped me decide this will take care of the people.”
And even though many experts do not expect the pandemic to be resolved by the fall, Pope Francis said he has promised to go to Budapest, Hungary, for a day in September to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, which was postponed from 2020.
The other trip he would like to make soon, he said, is a visit to Lebanon.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, even asked him to stop in Lebanon on the way to or from Iraq, the pope said, but doing that would seem like giving the Lebanese people “crumbs” given how they are suffering.
Asked about his meeting March 6 in Najaf with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an authority figure for Shiite Muslims in Iraq and around the world, Pope Francis described him as “a great man, a wise man, a man of God.”
The meeting, he said, “was good for my soul” and was another step on the path of promoting greater understanding and cooperation with Muslims.
The day after meeting the ayatollah, Pope Francis traveled to Mosul, a city terrorized and left largely in ruin by Islamic State militants who controlled the area from 2014 to 2017.
Even though he said he had seen photos of the ruined churches of Mosul, Pope Francis said standing amid the rubble was “unbelievable, unbelievable.”
But even more touching, he said, was the testimony of survivors, including of a mother who lost a son, who spoke about the importance of forgiveness and of rebuilding.
“We are so great at insulting people and condemning them,” he said, but too many people have forgotten the power of forgiving others.
Asked when, if ever, he will make a trip to Argentina, Pope Francis repeated that he imagined either dying or resigning and remaining in Rome, “my diocese.”
He joked that he had spent 76 years in Argentina and didn’t see why people wanted him to spend more time there.
But, denying he had what he termed “patrio-phobia,” he told reporters that he had planned a trip to Argentina, along with Chile, in November 2017. However, the trip was pushed back to January 2018 because of elections in Chile. And January in Argentina would have been just too warm.
“I don’t know if the trips will slow down now, but I can tell you that on this trip, I’ve felt more tired,” he said, adding that being 84 comes with some baggage.
However, he said, he does enjoy being with people, especially “after these months of imprisonment” because of the pandemic and the lockdown in Italy.
“I feel different when I am far from the people,” he said, adding that he would continue to follow the recommendations of government health authorities as far as holding general audiences or other events that could attract a large public.
“Closeness to the people of God” is an essential part of being a priest, the pope said. “The only ones who save us from pride are the holy people of God,” otherwise priests run the risk of acting like “an elite caste.”

Three new books explain pope’s approach to facing world’s tribulations

By Jan Kilby Catholic News Service
“Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh. Simon and Schuster (New York, 2020). 160 pp., $26.
“Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment” by Pope Francis. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2020). 103 pp., $16.95.
“Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Antonio Spadaro, SJ, and Diego Fares, SJ. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2020). 144 pp., $20.
New books by Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of over 1 billion Catholics and a worldwide leader, provide guidance and encouragement for readers.
“Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh offers hope to readers coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises of our time. The authors suggest how to view crises, discern how to deal with them and then take action.
In their prologue, Pope Francis and Ivereigh identify some contemporary crises. They assure readers, however, that God’s mercy will always help them cope. They state that “times of trial” are opportunities for “purification.” They say that these can help people mature and change their priorities. 
Early in the book, they urge people facing a crisis in what they call a culture of “individualism and self-obsession” to “commit to the small, concrete, positive actions.” They assert this is better than responding selfishly or despairing.
They cite recent events signaling a societal call for change. These include the #MeToo movement, the protests over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd while in police custody and the anti-racist protests resulting in the removal of statues. The pope also shares three of his own personal crises.
In the second part, the authors encourage readers to discern the best actions to take in a challenging time. This requires openness, prayer and reflection, and valuing “fraternity over individualism.”
Finally, they suggest how to act on one’s beliefs. This involves respecting universal human rights and values.
The authors’ epilogue contains their advice to readers to let themselves be transformed by the current crises and be of service. They also include an inspiring poem. Ivereigh in a postscript describes how and why the book was written. “Let Us Dream” offers profound, practical and timely advice about surviving turbulent times.

These are the covers of “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh; “Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment” by Pope Francis; and “Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Jesuit Fathers Antonio Spadaro and Diego Fares. They are reviewed by Jan Kilby. (CNS photo/Simon and Schuster; Our Sunday Visitor; Orbis Books)

In “Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment,” Pope Francis calls everyone to honor God’s gift of nature. He says that this can reduce pollution, climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the exploitation of resources.
The book includes a preface by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, two opening essays on the pope’s theology of ecology, ideas from 12 of his past encyclicals, audiences and homilies on the subject and a final new essay.
In his first two essays, Pope Francis calls for “global cooperation” to protect nature. He says new policies, programs and habits can help do this. 
In his collection of past works, the pope reminds readers that “the future of all nations is interconnected.” He also says the earth’s resources are gifts and not simply to be used for greed, consumption and profit. He calls Christians to an “ecological conversion,” quoting his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
In his final essay, the pope suggests what can give readers hope for a better future – technology, a commitment to conversion, the liturgy and “a universal brotherhood.”
“Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Jesuit Fathers Antonio Spadaro and Diego Fares, is a new version of the pope’s 1987 book of the same title.
In the original book, the pope – then a Jesuit priest in Argentina – shared a spiritual approach to dealing with difficulties, based on letters that 18th-century Jesuit superiors general had sent to their bishops coping with persecution. This had led to the Vatican’s suppression of their order in several countries from 1758 to 1831.
The pope’s expanded 2020 book includes a modern tribulation – the sexual abuse of minors and the abuse of power by priests and others in church leadership roles. 
In it, he includes letters that he sent to the bishops and the church and the people of God in Chile in 2018. He had been prompted to write these after reading a Vatican report of 2018 on the problems of clerical sexual abuse there. These showed his desire to restore public trust in the church and church leaders’ integrity with themselves and to heal abuse victims.
The book reveals the spiritual discernment needed by those facing persecution from “cultural and historic events.” The pope says this can help people avoid temptations to “argue over ideas, to not give to the matter the importance that it should be given, to concentrate too much on the persecutors and to keep going over the desolation of one’s mind.” Instead, he says to “move toward virtue and spiritual perfection” and suggests ways to do so.
This excellent book shows Pope Francis’ spiritual and moral maturity and insight about people and the nature of sin and conflict. He offers wise counsel to readers.
Also of interest: “Christ in the Storm: An Extraordinary Blessing for a Suffering World” by Pope Francis. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2020). 104 pp., $19.95.

(Kilby is a writer in San Antonio.)