Briefs

NATION
OWENSBORO, Ky. (CNS) – Celebrating Mass in a 20-by-25-foot metal outbuilding on Dec. 24, 2021, for the displaced community of Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, the image that came to mind for Owensboro Bishop William F. Medley was “there was no room at the inn.” But parishioners did find room in a structure shared by a couple in the parish for Christmas Eve and Masses in the new year as well. “I felt the gratitude that the congregation could be together again – but that they were still stunned,” Bishop Medley told The Western Kentucky Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Owensboro, of the Christmas Eve Mass. The bishop had driven the 90 minutes to Dawson Springs from Owensboro that day, wanting to open the Christmas season with the Resurrection community. Resurrection Church was among the buildings lost to the historic tornadoes that hit western Kentucky during the night of Dec. 10, 2021. The strong winds had torn out windows and ripped off parts of the roof, exposing the interior of the little church to the elements. In the following days, parishioners Donnie and Rhonda Mills offered the use of their outbuilding, which is used primarily as an exercise room, as a substitute church for the time being. The parish gathered for Mass for the first time since the tornadoes on Sunday, Dec. 19. Their second gathering was that Christmas Eve. “Their doors have always been open to everybody,” said Deacon Mike Marsili.

Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky., celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in a 20-by-25-foot metal outbuilding Dec. 24, 2021, for the displaced community of Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, Ky. (CNS photo/James Kenney, courtesy The Western Kentucky Catholic)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – The 49th annual national March for Life – with a rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court Jan. 21 – will go on as scheduled this year amid a surge in the omicron variant in the nation’s capital. Outdoor events are not affected by the District of Columbia’s vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but participants should expect to wear face masks. Indoor events associated with the annual march will have to comply with city COVID-19 restrictions. The national Pro-Life Summit, sponsored by Students for Life, is also scheduled to take place Jan. 22 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. The March for Life has canceled its three-day Pro-Life Expo and is combining two planned Capitol Hill 101 panel discussions Jan. 20 into a single event. The organization is still holding its annual Rose Dinner Gala. Participants who are 12 and older attending the panel discussion or dinner will have to provide proof of receiving one COVID-19 vaccination by Jan. 15, or, if they are seeking a medical or religious exemption, they must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of the event. The Pro-Life summit is also requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination following the city’s regulations.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At his celebration of Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 23, Pope Francis will formally install new catechists and lectors. The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which coordinates the annual celebration, said the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica will include “the conferral of the ministries of lector and catechist.” Pope Francis’ formally instituted the ministry of catechist in May 2021. He often has spoken of the importance of selecting, training and supporting catechists, who are called to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus, prepare them to receive the sacraments and educate them in the teachings of the church. The Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to encourage among all Catholics interest in knowing the sacred Scriptures and their central role in the life of the church and the Christian faith. The theme for the 2022 celebration is “Blessed are those who hear the word of God,” a verse which comes from the Gospel of St. Luke.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Living out and proclaiming the Gospel are inseparable aspects at the heart of an authentically Christian life and witness, Pope Francis said in his message for World Mission Sunday. “Every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ. And the church, the community of Christ’s disciples, has no other mission than that of bringing the Gospel to the entire world by bearing witness to Christ,” the pope wrote in his message for the celebration, which will be held Oct. 23. The theme chosen for the 2022 celebration is taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “You will be my witnesses.” The Vatican released the pope’s message Jan. 6. In his message, the pope reflected on three key “foundations of the life and mission of every disciple,” beginning with the call to bear witness to Christ. While all who are baptized are called to evangelize, the pope said the mission is carried out in communion with the church and not on “one’s own initiative.”

WORLD
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – For Christians in Chin and Kayah states, there were no Christmas and New Year celebrations due to fighting. They have borne the brunt of a decades-old civil war and faced oppression and persecution at the hands of the military, reported ucanews.com. On Dec. 29, Catholics in Kayah’s Hpruso Township held a funeral for 35 civilians – all Catholic – killed by troops and their bodies set on fire Christmas Eve in Mo So village. Ucanews.com reported local sources said the funeral was led by catechists, because the military would not allow a local priest to officiate. The killings shocked the world and drew swift condemnation from Cardinal Charles Bo, who called it a “heartbreaking and horrific atrocity. The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening. As much of the world celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the people of Mo So village suffered the terrible shock and grief of an outrageous act of inhumanity,” he said. Cardinal Bo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, urged the military “to stop bombing and shelling innocent people, to stop destroying homes and churches, schools and clinics” and to begin “a dialogue.”
DUBLIN (CNS) – After a year at the head of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Archbishop Dermot Farrell said, “Radical change is coming in the church,” which will see a renewal of energy and new forms of ministry. “With a powerful commitment from clergy and lay faithful, across the full range of the life and ministry of parish communities, we are going to experience a renewal of energy and the adoption of new forms of outreach and ministry,” the 67-year-old archbishop told Catholic News Service. He also said he believes change is already happening in the church’s structures all over the Western world. “Pope Francis is offering us a way of being church, the synodal pathway, of walking together more closely and being a church that is hope-filled, despite many challenges.” The leader of the largest Irish diocese, with more than 1 million Catholics and 207 parishes, invited the faithful to “walk this journey together with me – and walk it with hope: a hope that frees us to undertake radical change, a hope that inspires us to be ambitious and a hope encourages us to be brave.” In November, the archdiocese published its “Building Hope Task Force Report,” a strategic plan for pastoral renewal amid major challenges such as a collapse in revenue and priest numbers.
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – As Ethiopia celebrated Christmas Jan. 7, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa called for humility, patience and gentleness, while urging the people to remember those suffering from war. Ethiopia is celebrating the birth of Christ under the shadow of a deadly war in the northern state of Tigray. In less than 14 months, the conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions and ignited an international outcry over human rights abuses. Agencies say a huge humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the region, as food, medicine and basic needs fail to reach the people. “As we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, let us remember those who are suffering in war, those who have suffered a moral breakdown, those who have been displaced from their homes and injured, those who have lost their parents and families, by sharing in their pain and grief,” Cardinal Souraphiel said in a message. The cardinal said people needed to get away from pride, hatred and anger for the sake of peace.

Second chances: Vatican Christmas stamps feature work of homeless artist

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Adam Piekarski, a homeless man from Lódz, Poland, never imagined that the sketches he would draw in his free time while waiting for the public showers near Bernini’s Colonnade would lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.

In November, the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office announced that its 2021 set of commemorative Christmas stamps would feature images of the Magi and the Holy Family painted by Piekarski.

“Art is my passion even though I never studied it,” Piekarski told Catholic News Service Dec. 1 from a quaint studio just across the street from St. Peter’s Square.

An image of the Magi is featured on one of the Vatican’s 2021 Christmas stamps. The images on the stamps were painted by Adam Piekarski, a homeless man from Poland currently living in Rome. (CNS illustration/courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)
Adam Piekarski stands in front of his paintings in his studio at Palazzo Migliori, the Vatican’s homeless shelter, Dec. 1, 2021. Piekarski, a homeless man from Poland currently living in Rome, was commissioned to paint images for the Vatican’s 2021 Christmas stamps. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

“He went to a technical school in Poland and studied gardening in Lódz,” added Redemptorist Father Leszek Pys, known by many as Father Ruben, a fellow Pole who was among the first to realize Piekarski’s talent.

Piekarski left Poland six years ago and, like many migrants, made his way to Rome seeking a better life.

However, upon his arrival, the harsh reality of finding work, coupled with a fondness for Italian wine, led Piekarski down the dark path of alcoholism that he continues to fight each day.
With Father Ruben serving as translator, Piekarski told CNS that his life began to change after meeting the Polish priest while waiting in line for the public showers for the poor at the Vatican.
Father Ruben told CNS that, at the time, he was trying to figure out a low-cost option for a painting of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, co-founder of the Redemptorist congregation, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his death.

Explaining his dilemma to Pallottine Sister Anna, a nun who volunteers helping the poor at the public showers, he was introduced to Piekarski, who would often spend his time sketching while waiting for his turn at the showers.

Father Ruben then provided Piekarski with paints, brushes and found a workspace in the crypt of the Church of Santa Maria in Monterone, where the burgeoning artist honed his artistic abilities.

His work drew the attention of Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, who then introduced Piekarski to Father Francesco Mazzitelli, then-deputy director of the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office.

Father Ruben told CNS that when asked by Father Mazzitelli to design the 2021 Christmas stamps, Piekarski’s answer was an emphatic “no.” However, the Italian priest’s persistence finally moved the Polish artist to finally do it.

For the painting of the three Magi, Piekarski based their likeness on two friends who are also homeless; the third, he explained, was an original image meant to represent all homeless men and women.

Father Ruben noted that installing showers for the homeless at the Vatican was more than just an act of charity for the poor during the 2015 Jubilee Year of Mercy, but a fundamental gesture that gave homeless men and women dignity.

“You can’t give back someone’s dignity by giving them a sandwich or a euro nor even by asking them their name. That is more of a philanthropic gesture that makes us feel good about ourselves,” the Polish priest said.

“But for that person, that sandwich, that euro doesn’t change anything,” he added. “But allowing them to clean themselves means giving them back their dignity.”

While he continues to paint from a small studio at Palazzo Migliori, the Vatican’s homeless shelter, Piekarski now works as an evening security guard at a property owned by the Knights of Malta, who became acquainted with him after he completed a portrait of the late Fra’ Giacomo dalla Torre, the grand knight of the order who died in 2020.

“Life is a mystery and God wanted it this way,” Piekarski told CNS. “What has happened is a dream and I still can’t believe it. God has a great sense of humor.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Briefs

NATION
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Jim Liston believes his idea of emphasizing the true meaning of Christmas is so simple that he wonders why it took him so long to think of it. The idea came to Liston as he traveled through the neighborhoods around his Indianapolis home and saw how many people decorated their houses with brilliant light displays and filled their lawns with large, inflated Santas, reindeer and snowmen. It suddenly hit him that he rarely saw another kind of Christmas display. “It’s almost an anomaly when you see a Nativity scene,” said Liston, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. “We’re in a society where everything about Christmas is glitz and consumerism. The simplicity of the Nativity scene struck me right in the heart. This is what Christmas is all about. I thought, ‘Why don’t I get one?’” Liston not only got one – and loved it – he also had the grand idea to make central Indiana the “Outdoor Nativity Scene Capital of the United States.” He set his plan in motion this year with a two-part approach. He contacted the manufacturer that made his Nativity scene to see if he could negotiate a reduced price for a large order. He also reached out to all the Catholic schools in the Indianapolis deaneries and in nearby Hamilton County to have them ask their families who would be interested in buying a Nativity scene to display in front of their homes.

CLEVELAND (CNS) – As an author and lecturer, Father Donald B. Cozzens, a Cleveland diocesan priest and former seminary rector, shared candid insights on the priesthood, challenging the Catholic Church to confront clericalism and renew its structure. Despite criticism privately and publicly from fellow clergy, Father Cozzens maintained that it was his love of the priesthood that prompted his outspokenness for positive change. Father Cozzens, 82, died Dec. 9 of complications from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. It was Father Cozzens’ book, “The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” published in 2000, that set the course for much of his life after he stepped down as president-rector of St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in the Diocese of Cleveland a year later to focus on teaching and writing. He spent more than 20 years tackling the issues he believed church officials needed to address including transparency in decision-making and welcoming women into a wide role in the church. Other works included “Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church,” “Faith That Dares to Speak,” and “Freeing Celibacy.”

Pope Francis blows out a candle on a 13-foot-long pizza as he celebrates his 81st birthday at the Vatican in this Dec. 17, 2017, file photo. The pope will celebrate his 85th birthday Dec. 17 and, according to his nephew, Jesuit Father José Luis Narvaja, he is still energetic and rarin’ to go. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Although Italy no longer has a 10 p.m. curfew in force as part of its measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, Pope Francis will celebrate the “Christmas Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m., as he did in 2020. On Dec. 13, the Vatican published the list of Pope Francis’ liturgies for the Christmas season. The schedule begins with what many people refer to as “midnight Mass” although the Mass has not been celebrated at midnight at the Vatican since 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI moved it to 10 p.m. Pope Francis moved it to 9:30 p.m. in 2013, his first Christmas as pope, and to 7:30 p.m. in 2020.

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis will turn 85 years old Dec. 17. And according to his nephew, Jesuit Father José Luis Narvaja, he is still rarin’ to go. “I see him doing very well, with so much strength; really, he doesn’t seem to be 85,” the Argentine priest told the Italian Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, for its Dec. 12 issue. Father Narvaja, who is the son of the pope’s youngest sister, the late Marta Regina Bergoglio, said he visited his uncle, the pope, right after his colon surgery in July. Even then, “he was doing well but he was still in a bit of pain, and he told me, ‘Don’t make me laugh, the stitches hurt!’” he said. “He is very active, enthusiastic, he doesn’t stop. He said some people had hoped his illness would make him shut up a little, but it didn’t. He’s doing very well,” said Father Narvaja, who teaches patristics and divides his time between Rome and Cordoba, Argentina. Speaking about his uncle’s approach to his ministry as pontiff, the fellow Jesuit said, “He does what he feels the Spirit is asking of him.”

WORLD
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) – When restoration on the Church of the Nativity’s wooden beams and leaking roof began in 2013 with the blessing of the three custodial churches, everyone involved was aware of the historic significance of the venture. It was the first time in 540 years that any repair work was done on the church on the site where Jesus was born. But what the team of workers – including local Palestinian committees and engineers and international restoration experts – did not know was the true impact of the initial ecumenical cooperation. Historically the Franciscans, Greek Orthodox and Armenians jealously guarded their rights in the church, under the 1852 Status Quo agreement that regulates the ownership of spaces in various holy sites as well as the times and duration of religious liturgies. As recently as 2011, Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks came to blows over cleaning rights in a certain area in the church. But with the leaking of the roof endangering the ancient structure, all agreed to undertake the necessary work. And a new era began. “Along the way the three churches noticed the good results that were coming from the cooperation and that it would be good to continue,” said Khouloud Daibes, the new executive director of the Bethlehem Development Foundation.

SOMERSET, England (CNS) – Through the heavy oak door of a 15th-century mansion set in a sweeping, frosty valley comes the sound of singing, backed by a mix of violins, concertinas and woodwinds. “Almighty God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon him – at this time born of a pure virgin.” When Thomas Clark, a cobbler, composed his Christmas Day liturgical music around 1830, he probably never expected it would still be performed two centuries later. Halsway Manor, in Somerset’s Quantock Hills, has been a center for English folk arts since the 1960s and includes “West Gallery” music by Clark and others on its annual Christmas program. “Although long neglected and forgotten, this music has an intrinsic quality,” explained Dave Townsend, co-founder of Britain’s West Gallery Music Association. “Beneath the surface simplicity of some West Gallery settings, there’s a depth of feeling not found in more expansive music from the period. It was central to people’s lives and deserves historical recognition.”

Briefs

NATION
BALTIMORE (CNS) – A funeral Mass was offered Nov. 23 at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore for Beverly A. Carroll, a social justice advocate who spent her life raising her voice for African American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the United States and the world. Carroll, the founding director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Black Catholics, died Nov. 13. She was 75. Bishop John H. Ricard, a former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and current superior general of the Baltimore-based Josephites, celebrated the Mass for his friend. Carroll worked for many years with Bishop Ricard, who also is the retired bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. “She was a great advocate for the community, for the church, for African Americans in the church,” said Josephite Father Ray P. Bomberger, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish, to which Carroll belonged her whole life. “She was interested in the church, the people of the church, what was going on, (and) how we could do it better,” he said. Father Bomberger praised Carroll’s devotion to her church, both in her home community and around the country, as well as her interest in education and social justice. Carroll was a lifelong parishioner of St. Peter Claver, where she served as a corporator and parish council member.

Alex Lindbergh, left, a freshman at Bishop Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, arm wrestles Asia Carmon of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis Nov. 20, 2021, during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – “Follow me to arm-wrestle a seminarian! See if you can beat a man who receives Communion every day!” Holding a chalk board with “Arm Wrestle a Seminarian” written on it, seminarian Samuel Hansen barked his invitation while walking through the halls of the Indiana Convention Center Nov. 20, the final day of the National Catholic Youth Conference. “It was incredibly fun,” said Hansen, a senior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and a member of St. Roch Parish, both in Indianapolis. “Just walking with the sign made a lot of people laugh. I felt like a ballpark food salesman. But it energized the convention center quite a bit.” In response to Hansen’s hawking, a steady group of challengers gathered around a table promoting vocations to the diocesan priesthood that had earlier attracted fewer visitors when the seminarians manning it waited for NCYC participants to come to them on their own. As lighthearted and winsome as his strategy to attract attention was, Hansen saw it as following in the tradition of the saints. St. John Bosco, for example, did sleight-of-hand tricks and juggling acts for kids in his village to get them to listen to his catechesis lesson. The NCYC always includes a thematic area made up of villages, or venues, in the convention hall that have traditional exhibits as well as interactive educational and recreational activities for attendees. “The saints stepped out of line and took extraordinary actions to inspire others,” Hansen told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Titus Brandsma, clearing the way for the canonization of the 20th-century martyr murdered at the Dachau concentration camp. The Dutch Carmelite friar was sent to Dachau for treason – after defending Jews and press freedom – and was killed with a lethal injection. The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision in his case and a number of other sainthood causes Nov. 25. Dachau, the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Germany most associated with the genocide of thousands of Jews during World War II, also held more than 2,700 clergy – 2,400 of them Catholic priests. Blessed Brandsma was sent there after urging editors of the Dutch Catholic press to violate a new law of the Third Reich and not print any Nazi propaganda. He also denounced Nazism as “a sewer of falsehood that must not be tolerated,” said Dianne Traflet, an assistant professor of pastoral theology and the associate dean of graduate studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, during a talk at the national World War II Museum in 2018. Pope Francis also recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of 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. The Vatican did not immediately announce dates for the canonization ceremonies.

WORLD
ANKAWA, Iraq (CNS) – Walking through this mainly Christian town outside of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, it’s easy to see many changes since the victims of Islamic State militants fled here for safety seven years ago. Gone are the tents and caravans that dotted church yards and open fields to house those escaping forced conversion to Islam or death at the hands of the Islamic State militants in 2014. Colorful laundry once hung from balconies, while some people slept on church pews. The cavernous concrete skeleton of a shopping mall then sheltered 2,500 displaced people. Support from Catholic and other churches built and cordoned off rooms on three-stories; each room housed a single family, and all shared basic cooking and bathroom facilities. The unfinished structure has given way to the Ankawa Mall, where people can food shop at the French Carrefour supermarket, eat in a Turkish restaurant or buy Hello Kitty accessories at a Japanese import shop. In 2017, the Iraqi military and U.S.-led coalition troops forced out Islamic State fighters. Since then, Catholic churches and organizations have been working hard to address challenges faced by Iraq’s historic Christian community and other religious minorities. “People have faced tremendous difficulties and wounding by the Islamic State. We are still experiencing the practical effects of loss and trauma,” said Fadi, an Armenian Christian worshipping at a local church. Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil stewarded the building of four schools, a university and a hospital, providing local people with badly needed employment, with assistance from Stephen Rasche, who is counsel to the Chaldean Archdiocese of Irbil.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) – When Father Francis Galvan left Sacred Heart Church in Delta Nov. 15, he did not expect to find himself at the center of a catastrophic flood and what is being called the storm of the century. But within hours, the Augustinian priest was at ground zero of rescue efforts and witnessing humanity at its best, joining with Agassiz residents in responding to the needs of stranded travelers. “There I saw and realized how the human heart in the worst situations comes out its best – eyes looking only at those in need of help,” he told The B.C. Catholic, newspaper of the Vancouver Archdiocese, by email. Father Galvan arrived in Harrison Hot Springs only to find the study week canceled due to torrential rains, so he headed over to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Agassiz to check in with pastor Father Dennis Flores. There, the two priests saw rescue helicopters flying overhead and decided to head to the town’s community center. They found themselves in the middle of a massive rescue and relief effort. “Strong winds were blowing along with heavy rains, and I watched rescue helicopters landing, one after another,” Father Galvan said. Evacuees who had been stranded by highway mudslides emerged from the helicopters.

Change bad habits, protect the earth, help others, pope says in new book

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Despite the disappointing outcome of the COP26 summit on climate change, Pope Francis said he knows it is not too late for humanity to act to combat environment destruction and increasing poverty.

The ecological crisis, the social crisis of poverty and exclusion and the health care crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic are calling out “for us to change gear, to change bad habits in order to be able to dream, co-create, and act together to realize just and equitable futures,” the pope wrote in the preface to the “Laudato Si’ Reader.”

The book, available in print and as a free e-book from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, includes the preface from Pope Francis, a message from António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, and reflections by dozens of people involved in Catholic environmental, peace or charitable agencies, ambassadors, scientists, academics, young people, farmers and Indigenous people.

With a preface by Pope Francis and a message from the U.N.’s António Guterres, the Vatican has published this “Laudato Si’ Reader,” with a wide range of reflections on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical. (CNS screenshot/Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

The reader, published Nov. 23, comes just over six years after the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

In his preface, Pope Francis wrote that the pandemic makes it clearer than ever that “it is time to develop a new form of universal solidarity that is grounded in fraternity, love and mutual understanding: one that values people over profit, one that seeks new ways to understand development and progress. And so, it is my hope and prayer that we do not come out of this crisis the same way we entered it!”

With so many young people so committed to fighting climate change and advocating for a more human way of organizing social and economic life, he said, “we must listen to them with open hearts. We must follow their lead, for they are wise beyond their years.”

“This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and re-plan our future, committing to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of,” the pope wrote. “The time to act, and to act together, is now!”
In his message, Guterres wrote that people tend to overlook “the spiritual dimensions of the work of the United Nations,” but the values that it promotes – “peace, justice, equality, the dignity and worth of the human person – echo the teachings of the world’s religious traditions and summon us all to reduce human suffering.”

The message of Pope Francis’ encyclical is even more compelling today, he said. “Climate change has accelerated, giving the world a new normal of fires, floods and storms of epic proportions. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a grievous blow, upending lives, damaging economies and plunging families and communities into suffering and sorrow.”

“Humanity is waging war on nature,” he said, but “nature always strikes back – and is doing so with gathering fury and force.”

“Making peace with nature must be a priority for the 21st century,” Guterres wrote, and while that is an “epic policy test,” it is even more “a moral test.”

“This is a moment of truth,” he said. “If we persist with the old ways of inequality, injustice, hatred and heedless dominion over the Earth, we face disaster.”

Briefs

NATION
BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. church today is called more than ever to carry out its centuries-long evangelizing mission at a time of spiritual awakening rising from “under the clouds of the pandemic” and the country’s uncertain future, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told his fellow prelates. “People are starting to examine what they truly believe and what they value most deeply in their lives,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, who spoke Nov. 16 during the opening public session of the USCCB’s Nov. 15-18 general assembly in Baltimore. The questions people have allow the church to continue its mission, even in an increasingly secularized society, the archbishop said. The challenge, he said, is “to understand how the church should carry out her mission.” Archbishop Gomez acknowledged that differences among members of the church exist because of the differing views people hold on how to move forward. Still, he said, “there are also many signs of hope” that present new opportunities to bring the Gospel to others. The archbishop turned to a 19th-century prelate to find inspiration for the path ahead. Archbishop John Ireland, who as a young priest served as a chaplain in the Union Army, was a “powerful advocate for African Americans and for the rights of immigrants,” he explained.

Attendees are seen Nov. 12, 2018, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore. The Nov. 15-18, 2021, assembly in Baltimore is the first time the bishops gathered in person for a national meeting since the pandemic began. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A billboard will go up in New York’s Times Square during Christmas and New Year’s to promote and celebrate the evermore popular podcast “The Bible in a Year,” but more is in store for the program that topped the charts shortly after its debut in January. The creators of the daily podcast that leads listeners through the Bible’s narrative have announced several new initiatives designed to highlight the show’s success and attract even more listeners. An all-new Spanish-language version of the podcast – La Biblia en un año – with original commentary and a new, native-Spanish speaking host, will be launched Jan. 1. “The Bible in a Year Retreat” virtual event for listeners will take place Feb 18-20. It will have a limited capacity for participants but is “designed to help Catholics cultivate a lifelong relationship with the word of God – one that extends far beyond the podcast.” The planned billboard will be unveiled Dec. 19 in Times Square and will stay up through Jan. 9. “Through distraction and distress, our culture has lost a hopeful, historical biblical worldview – but by the grace of God this podcast has helped thousands rediscover it,” said Father Mike Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, and popular Catholic speaker and author, who hosts the podcast.

BANGOR, Maine (CNS) – “I hope he knows how awesome he is!” said a seventh grader at All Saints Catholic School when students sprang into action to honor Roy Ward of Bangor, a World War II veteran who celebrated his 102nd birthday on Veterans Day itself. All Saints students, who have a special appreciation for veterans, decided to create 102 birthday cards to celebrate Ward’s birthday and honor his service in the process. Ward served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a machinist mate first class from 1941 to 1947, serving on three different vessels – USS Mizpah, USS Shenandoah and USS Yosemite. “It was too much of an opportunity for community service to pass up,” said Matthew Houghton, principal of All Saints in Bangor. “The cards are warm and creative and showcase the appreciation our students have for those who have fought for our freedom,” Houghton said.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Lasting peace in the world can be achieved only by responding to the needs of current and future generations, the Vatican said as it announced the theme Pope Francis chose for his 2022 World Peace Day message. “Education, work and dialogue between generations: tools for building lasting peace” will be the theme for the Jan. 1 commemoration and for the message Pope Francis will write for the occasion, said a Vatican communique published Nov. 13. The Vatican said education, work and dialogue are consistently evolving and that Pope Francis’ message will “propose an innovative reading that responds to the needs of current and future times.” The pope’s message, the communique said, will be an invitation “to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, so that the direction of this change awakens new and old questions with which it is right and necessary to be confronted.” Pope Francis will seek to answer questions about education and how it contributes to lasting peace, the Vatican said. He will also address how work can “respond more or less to the vital needs of human beings on justice and freedom.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Visiting Cyprus and Greece in early December, Pope Francis will have several meetings with the countries’ Orthodox leaders and with the migrants and refugees their nations host. While Catholics account for only a small percentage of the Christians in both countries, the pope will hold meetings in both Nicosia and Athens with priests, religious and seminarians and will celebrate public Masses in both cities. The Vatican Nov. 13 released the detailed schedule of the pope’s visit Dec. 2-4 to Cyprus and Dec. 4-6 to Greece, including a return visit to migrants and refugees on the island of Lesbos awaiting resettlement.

WORLD
HONG KONG (CNS) – A Chinese bishop who was allegedly kidnapped by authorities in late October has returned to his diocese, media reports say. Ucanews.com reported Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou has resurfaced, with church officials and the faithful offering thanksgiving prayers for his return. It is still unknown when the 58-year-old bishop was released following his arrest Oct. 25. The authorities reportedly said the bishop was taken for “tourism.” Bishop Shao, ordained with a papal mandate as a coadjutor bishop in 2011, fell out of favor with the government as his appointment was not approved by the state-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. His refusal to join and collaborate with state-run bodies led to a series of arrests and detentions. Before this detention, he had been arrested six times, including for seven months in 2017. The whereabouts of Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang remain unknown, ucanews.com reported. Bishop Zhang was arrested in May with 10 priests and an unspecified number of seminarians.

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – With a mix of awe and excitement, pilgrims from many parts of Europe conquered the exhaustion of a long road trip and prepared to celebrate the World Day of the Poor with Pope Francis. Lukasz Baczkowski from Poland was a bit incredulous but proud that other members of his community supported by the Barka Foundation for Mutual Help elected him as one of their 10 representatives to the pope’s meeting with the poor in Assisi Nov. 12. They drove 24 hours in a Volkswagen bus to get to the hilltop town in central Italy. Baczkowski said St. Francis of Assisi is an “inspiration” for him. With his renunciation of his family’s wealth and his total devotion to serving God and God’s poor, the Assisi saint proved that “everyone can change. No one was a saint from the beginning,” Baczkowski told Catholic News Service Nov. 11 at a pilgrim hostel in Assisi. That is a message he clings to as he continues his journey of sobriety and of living in a community rather than on the streets. The faith aspect of the Barka community and of the pilgrimage is a key part of what Baczkowski sees as his redemption. “The most important thing is the soul of a man,” he said. Faith and a helping hand from other Catholics are what helped him move from sleeping on the street, drinking, stealing – and especially from having contemplated suicide, he said.

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico (CNS) – Thirteen-hundred miles from home, a group from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, on a border immersion trip encountered a young woman with two kids and a car with a flat tire in Ciudad Juárez. The group, which included five deacon candidates, their formation director, diocesan bishop and immersion experience leaders, stopped to change the tire. The unexpected encounter reinforced the purpose of the Iowans’ journey: to witness life on the border, to learn about the experience of migrants, and to better minister to migrants back home. “It is one thing to hear their stories, but it is quite another to see and be at one of the main crossing points from Mexico to the U.S.,” said Davenport Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula. “It is important to talk to and learn from people who are ministering to forcibly displaced persons at the border and to the migrants themselves,” he told The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Davenport Diocese. Their journey began Nov. 2 with a 20-hour drive in a van from Davenport to El Paso, Texas, where they took up residence at the Encuentro Project retreat house. The Encuentro Project provides a faith-based, multifaceted immersion program in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border region to give participants a deeper understanding of the complex migration reality and of the community. “Encuentro” is Spanish for “encounter.”

Briefs

NATION
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will have an audience with Pope Francis Oct. 29, the day before the G20 Leaders’ Summit starts in Rome, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Oct. 14. “They will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis and caring for the poor,” she said in a statement. Biden and Pope Francis previously met in 2016, when Biden was vice president, after they both spoke at a conference on adult stem-cell research at the Vatican. In recent weeks, there has been speculation that the two leaders would likely meet since Biden would be in Rome. In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said he was helping the Holy See prepare for Biden’s first presidential visit to the Vatican, sometime during an Oct. 30-31 Rome summit of leading rich and developed nations. “It would be an anomaly if he did not meet the pope while in Rome,” especially since Biden is the first Catholic to be U.S. president in 58 years, the nuncio said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) – In his welcoming remarks to open the diocesan eucharistic congress, Memphis Bishop David P. Talley told attendees that “we are all the living body of Christ, in that we are what we receive” – the Eucharist. Christ’s mission “is our mission, for we are members of his body,” he said. “Our work is with our parishes, our parishioners and all of those who have not heard the words of Jesus Christ,” emphasized the bishop, who was installed as the sixth bishop of Memphis in April 2019. Guided by the theme, “That All May Be One” from John 17:21, the Memphis Diocese celebrated its 50th anniversary with its first eucharistic congress, held at the city’s downtown Renasant Convention Center the evening of Oct. 8 and all day Oct. 9. The congress – and the anniversary celebration – was delayed a full year by the arrival of COVID-19, and the havoc it caused. Passion and a sense of purpose were evident nonetheless – and in great abundance. The diocese in western Tennessee was established June 20, 1970, and has a Catholic population of 70,000. The “Opening Mass for All” was celebrated Oct. 8 by retired Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib, who was the diocese’s fourth bishop, and was its first African American shepherd. He headed the diocese for 23 years, retiring in 2016.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I, clearing the way for his beatification. The Italian pope served only 33 days as pontiff; he died in the papal apartments Sept. 28, 1978, at the age of 65, shocking the world and a church that had just mourned the death of St. Paul VI. The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision along with a number of other sainthood decrees Oct. 13. In the sainthood cause of Pope John Paul I, the approved miracle involved a young girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who developed a severe case of acute encephalitis and uncontrollable and life-threatening brain seizures, and eventually entered septic shock. After doctors told family members her death was “imminent,” the local priest encouraged the family, nurses and others to pray to the late pope for his intercession, according to the website of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. A panel of experts studying the cause determined there was no scientific explanation for her complete recovery in 2011 and that it could be attributed to the late pope’s intercession. The Vatican did not immediately announce a date for the beatification ceremony.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christian freedom means respecting other cultures and traditions rather than finding ways to impose “one’s own model of life as though it were the most evolved and the most appealing,” Pope Francis said. “How many errors have been made in the history of evangelization by seeking to impose a single cultural model,” the pope said Oct. 13 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall. “At times, even violence was not spared to make a single point of view prevail. In this way, the church has been deprived of the richness of many local expressions that the cultural traditions of entire peoples bring with them. But this is the exact opposite of Christian freedom,” he said. The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians by reflecting on the freedom from slavery to sin and death that comes from Christ’s death and resurrection. St. Paul’s assertion is that freedom, given to humanity through grace and love, is “the supreme and new law of Christian life,” which “opens us up to welcoming every people and culture, and at the same time opens every people and culture to a greater freedom,” Pope Francis said.

WORLD
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines congratulated veteran journalist Maria Ressa on being the first Filipino to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulating Ressa Oct. 10, the bishops highlighted the importance of media freedom in the Catholic faith, reported ucanews.com. The Nobel Prize Committee announced Oct. 8 that Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov would share this year’s prize for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said in his message to Ressa: “Recent popes have, on occasion, highlighted the important role that the press plays in gauging the health of a healthy democratic society. “For journalists, their work has become more and more difficult because of the level of disinformation and fake news that continue to spread through social communications. The vocation and mission, therefore, of members of the press (as envisioned by our popes) is to contribute not only for the search for truth but, more importantly, to help build a culture of dialogue,” said the message on behalf of the bishops.

Briefs

NATION
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
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.


WORLD
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.

Briefs

NATION
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
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.”

WORLD
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. Ucanews.com 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)