Vatican announces plans for Christmas tree, Nativity scene, stamps

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Nativity scene that will sit under a 98-feet-tall silver fir tree in the middle of St. Peter’s Square this year will feature 19 life-sized figures carved in cedar by artisans in the northeastern Italian town of Sutrio.

The tree comes from Rosello, a village of only 182 residents, in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, said a news release issued Oct. 28 by the office governing Vatican City State. The decorations on the tree are being made by young adults at a residential psychiatric facility in Rosello.

These two Vatican Christmas stamps were painted by Francesco Canale, an artist born without arms or legs who paints holding a brush between his teeth. The Christmas stamps will go on sale at the Vatican post office Nov. 16, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Philatelic Office)

The tree will be lighted, and the traditional Nativity scene unveiled Dec. 3, the office said. The display will remain up until after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 8.
The cedar for the Nativity scene figures, the Vatican said, came from trees selectively cut by gardeners to improve the health of other trees in several public and private gardens. None of the trees were cut specifically for the sculptures.
The Holy Family, the ox and donkey and an angel will be under an arched structure made of larch. The other figures – including the Three Kings, the shepherdess, a carpenter, a family and a “Cramar,” or local wandering salesman – will be on the surrounding platform or ramps leading to it.

The day before the office announced the plans for St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican’s Philatelic Office published a notice about the Vatican’s 2022 Christmas stamps, which were painted by Italian artist and activist Francesco Canale, who was born without arms or legs and paints holding a brush between his teeth.

He painted two stamps – one of an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to a shepherd and one of a shepherd adoring the baby Jesus.

Commission starts planning global report on child protection efforts

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With a renewed membership, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met at the Vatican in late October and laid the groundwork for devising an annual report on child protection efforts by the Catholic Church globally.

Oblate Father Andrew Small, commission secretary, told reporters Oct. 28 that members also looked at the commission’s new relationship to the disciplinary section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued their efforts to promote greater transparency and fuller reporting to victims about the outcome of their cases.

“In our engagement with victim survivors, the acknowledgement of the wrong that was done to them is primary, being listened to, being believed,” Father Small said. “There’s nothing that takes the place of being believed and heard.”

But, he said, “seeing the wrongdoer continue to flourish at times or to appear without sanction is also very painful,” so victims are understandably confused or upset when they are not informed about actions taken by the church against an accused offender.

Because the commission is not involved in individual investigations and disciplinary procedures, Father Small said he could not comment on the case of Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, France. When the Vatican announced in 2021 that the bishop was retiring, the bishop had said it was for health reasons. No one contradicted him publicly until mid-October when the Diocese of Créteil confirmed he had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct and disciplined by the Vatican.

The Vatican still needs to find a way to be more open while respecting local laws that protect the reputation of someone who is not guilty of a civil crime but may have violated church law, Father Small said.
If the church cannot figure that out, he said, not only will it be bad for the institutional church, “but it will be continually painful for the victims, who are the source and summit of the commission’s focus.”

When Pope Francis reorganized the Roman Curia, he linked the commission to the disciplinary section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father Small, writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the move ensures the commission “would maintain its independence as an advisory body to the pope, with access to the bodies that exercise leadership within the church and with the mandate to oversee the adequacy of the church’s policies and procedures in the area of abuse prevention and safeguarding.”

So, Father Small wrote, the commission “will continue to be led by a president delegate, appointed by the pope and reporting directly to the pontiff. And decisions regarding the personnel, the members of the commission, as well as the proposals it produces, will remain independent of the dicastery. Pope Francis has been very clear that the independent voices of the members of the commission and those it serves should not be compromised.”

U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston has been president of the commission since its establishment in 2014.

During the commission’s meeting Oct. 27-29, it also announced the launch of a fund to help finance the establishment of “suitable centers where individuals who have experienced abuse, and their family members, can find acceptance and an attentive hearing, and be accompanied in a process of healing and justice, as indicated in the motu proprio ‘Vos Estis Lux Mundi.’”

Father Small told reporters that he believed 70 to 80 of the 114 bishops’ conferences in the world do not have stable, publicly accessible reporting mechanisms called for in Vos Estis, mainly because they do not have the resources. But with major funding from the Italian bishops’ conference and contributions from others, those listening and reporting posts will be established.

As for the annual report on the church’s child protection efforts worldwide, a report the pope asked the commission in April to develop, Father Small said commission members outlined a design for the report.
The first section, he said, would summarize reports bishops give to the commission while making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican regarding their guidelines and implementation of Vos Estis.

For the second section, commission members will divide into teams to look at the church in specific geographical areas, focusing on giving a broader overview of child protection efforts in Africa, in Asia and Oceania, in Europe and in the Americas.

A third section will look at how dicasteries of the Roman Curia are including safeguarding in their activities; for example, how the Dicastery for Clergy promotes safeguarding awareness in seminaries, he said.

The final section will look at broader church efforts to protect children in the world by, for example, rescuing child soldiers, protecting migrant and refugee children, ensuring their safety in orphanages and foster care homes.

While Father Small said the commission should have something to give the pope in 2023, he does not expect to collect enough “actionable data” to begin doing a full annual report until 2024.

Vatican II and the synod: Openness to Spirit brings harmony, official says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY – Growth toward becoming a “synodal church,” one in which all the baptized accept and share responsibility for their unity and mission, can get messy, and that should not frighten people, said one of the undersecretaries of the Synod of Bishops.

“What we see with the synod is that the church is learning to face, to name and to be with the tensions, the polarities, the diversity” found among Catholics within parishes and across the globe, “and not just sweep them under the carpet,” said Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart.

The process for the Synod of Bishops, like the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, is marked by theological, cultural and practical differences, she said, but she is confident that by listening to the Holy Spirit, listening to each other and being patient, consensus will prevail as it did at Vatican II.

Sister Becquart spoke to Catholic News Service Oct. 14, just before she and the synod’s top leadership had a private meeting with Pope Francis.

The meeting came three days after the pope celebrated a Mass marking the 60th anniversary of the opening of the council and pleaded with Catholics to resist the temptations of division, “quarrels, gossip and disputes.”

Synodality is the way forward, Sister Becquart said, pointing to Pope Francis’ explanation in the book “Let Us Dream”:

“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas. The aim is not to reach agreement by means of a contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God’s will, allowing differences to harmonize. Most important of all is the synodal spirit: to meet each other with respect and trust, to believe in our shared unity and to receive the new thing that the Spirit wishes to reveal to us.”

Before the end of October, the synod office will release its “Document for the Continental Phase” of the synod, echoing the themes that emerged from all the national syntheses of synod listening sessions and the contributions of religious orders, Catholic movements, Vatican dicasteries and nuncios from around the world.

“It’s a working document,” Sister Becquart said. People who participated in the listening sessions will be asked to read it, pray about it and share their reactions with their national synod coordinators. Then bishops, priests, religious and laity representing the church in their country will meet with representatives from other countries in their region to discuss what “resonates” with them or what they believe is missing.
The idea, she said, is that the synod is not just a one-way process from the grassroots up to the “top.” Rather, the process is “circular,” because a key part of “synodal ecclesiology that comes from Vatican II” sees an “intrinsic link between the local churches and the universal churches” and aims to deepen that relationship.

In the document for the continental phase, the synod office is returning results to the local level, checking that they were heard and asking them to broaden their reflection with people in neighboring countries.
The Synod of Bishops and, especially, the vision of “synodality” is one of “the fruits of Vatican II,” she said, but they are also paths that can help the church and its members receive and experience some of the key insights of the council.

Sister Becquart pointed particularly to how, with all the Catholic bishops of the entire world gathered in Rome in four sessions from 1962 to 1965, the council was the most concrete experience ever of the church being universal. And its focus on the church as “the people of God” rather than primarily as an institution and its emphasis on the dignity and responsibility of all the baptized are being rediscovered in the synod process, she said.

And, she said, while the 16 documents approved by the council are essential reading, people should not forget that for the participants, the Second Vatican Council was “a human, spiritual and ecclesial experience.” The national reports indicate something similar was happening to many of the people participating in the local listening sessions, she said.

As the process continues, bumps in the road are expected, she said, because “it’s a new way to relate to each other, a new kind of communication and relationship dynamic in the church,” particularly between bishops and laity.

“It is, as we say, a work in progress.”

Pope announces a second session for Synod of Bishops assembly

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY – Saying he did not want to rush the process of discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling the church to grow in “synodality,” Pope Francis announced that the next assembly of the Synod of Bishops would take place in two sessions.

The synod assembly, with mostly bishops as voting members, will meet Oct. 4-29, 2023, as previously announced, the pope said, but the assembly will have a second session in October 2024 as well.

Pope Francis made the announcement Oct. 16 at the end of his Angelus address. He had met Oct. 14 with the synod leadership.

Pope Francis meets with leaders of the Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Oct. 14, 2022. Pictured with the pontiff are Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary; Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary; Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, relator general; Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general and Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, consultant. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope and local bishops kicked off the listening and discernment process for the “synod on synodality” in October 2021, and by November the synod secretariat is expected to release a working document for continental assemblies.

With 112 of the 114 bishops’ conference in the world having sent in a synthesis of what emerged in the listening sessions in their countries, Pope Francis said that “the fruits of the synodal process underway are many, but so that they might come to full maturity, it is necessary not to be in a rush.”

“To have a more relaxed period of discernment,” the pope announced, “I have established that this synodal assembly will take place in two sessions” rather than the one originally planned.

“I trust that this decision will promote the understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the church and help everyone to live it as the journey of brothers and sisters who proclaim the joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus prayer.

The website of the synod secretariat describes synodality as a style seen in the church’s life and mission that reflects its nature as “the people of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel.”

While it does not imply everyone has a vote on issues facing the church, it does mean that all the members of the church – ordained or lay – have a responsibility to contribute to the church’s mission and to pray, offer suggestions and join in discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit.

A statement from the synod secretariat Oct. 16 said Pope Francis’ decision to add a second assembly “stems from the desire that the theme of a ‘synodal church,’ because of its breadth and importance, might be the subject of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the synodal assembly, but by the whole church.”

Although it did not feature the same widespread, grassroots listening sessions, the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops on challenges and joys facing families also met in two sessions. First, Pope Francis convoked in 2014 an “extraordinary general assembly” on “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Then, using the 2014 gathering’s final report as an outline, the ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops met in 2015 to look at “the vocation and mission of the family in the church and contemporary world.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, then secretary-general of the synod, wrote to bishops’ conferences at the time explaining that, “the two synodal assemblies, sharing the same topic of the family, become part of a single synodal process, which includes not only the two celebrative phases but also the intervening time between synods, a time to reflect on the reaction to the first synod and to make a thorough theological examination of the church’s pastoral activity in light of the succeeding one.”


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Pope Francis has appointed Father John-Nhan Tran, a priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and pastor of Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville, Louisiana, as auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Tran, 56, was born in Vietnam and escaped with his family to the United States after the Vietnam War as a refugee when he was 9. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1992. His appointment was announced Oct. 25 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States. The bishop-designate attended Don Bosco College in Newton, New Jersey, and St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana. He earned a master of divinity in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He has served at eight parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Father Michael Pfleger, a popular Chicago priest and outspoken advocate against gun violence, gangs, poverty and racism, has stepped aside from his ministry after the Chicago Archdiocese said it received an allegation that the priest had sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago. Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich announced the decision in an Oct. 15 letter to Father Pfleger’s parishioners at the Faith Community of St. Sabina in Chicago. The 73-year-old priest has led the historically African American parish since 1981 and is currently its senior pastor. The priest strongly denied the accusation, which comes on the heels of a similar accusation against him in January 2021 where he also temporarily stepped aside from his ministry until an archdiocesan review found “insufficient reason” to suspect the priest was guilty of abuse allegations said to have taken place 40 years ago. Father Pfleger was reinstated at his parish in June of that year. In a current letter to parishioners, posted on the parish website, Father Pfleger said: “The process of the archdiocese today is that a priest is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Priests are vulnerable targets to anyone at any time. So once again, I have been removed from all public ministry while they investigate again.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNS) – The world still has not learned “the essential lesson” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that “the only way to eliminate the nuclear danger is through careful, universal, verifiable steps to eliminate nuclear weapons,” said Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It is the very nature of these weapons that the possession of any nuclear weapons is an existential danger to all,” he said. “And Pope Francis has been explicitly clear that ‘the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.’” He renewed his call “for dialogue on the existential issue of eliminating nuclear weapons” and said New Mexico’s congressional delegation should help lead this dialogue,” given that the federal government spends billions in the state on weapons production while New Mexico “remains mired at the bottom of numerous socioeconomic indicators.” Archbishop Wester made the comments in an Oct. 14 reflection on the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “regarded as the closest that humanity has ever come to global nuclear annihilation,” he said. A month earlier, he took his summons to begin meaningful conversations to achieve full nuclear disarmament to the annual United Nations prayer service in New York. In August, he apologized for the atomic bombings of Japan in 1945 and to Indigenous New Mexicans, uranium miners and scientists suffering from ill health related to the nuclear weapons industry in the state.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Completing a project to repatriate human remains held in the Vatican Museums’ ethnological collection, the Vatican and the government of Peru signed an agreement Oct. 17 to return to Peru three mummies sent to the Vatican in 1925. Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, and César Landa Arroyo, foreign minister of Peru, signed an agreement Oct. 17 in the Vatican Museums for the return of the mummies. The three human remains are thought to be several centuries old, but their exact age will not be known until after thorough studies are conducted in Peru. They were found at an altitude of more than 9,800 feet in the Peruvian Andes along the Ucayali River. The mummies are assumed to be Incan. The mummies were part of the Vatican Museums’ Anima Mundi ethnological collection, which features thousands of pieces of Indigenous art and artifacts from around the world. The mummies, like many of the pieces of art and cultural artifacts from the peoples of Australia and Oceania, the Americas, Africa and Asia, were sent to the Vatican for the 1925 Holy Year opened by Pope Pius XI. The celebration included a major exposition on Catholic missionary activity around the world. With a conviction that human remains are not works of art or collectibles, in 2010 the Vatican Museums began a project to return human remains in its collection to their countries of origin. The first remains, a mummy from Ecuador, were returned in 2014. Three years later, the museums returned to Ecuador a tsantsa, a specially treated head used in ceremonies.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Reviewing one’s life is an essential step in discerning God’s call because it helps one see places where God was at work, even in small things, and also helps one recognize “toxic” thoughts of self-doubt, Pope Francis said. A daily review of one’s actions and feelings is not mainly about acknowledging one’s sins – “we sin a lot, don’t we,” the pope said. Instead, regularly reviewing the day educates one’s perspective and helps one recognize “the small miracles that the good God works for us every day.” At his weekly general audience Oct. 19 in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks explaining the key steps in spiritual discernment, focusing on how a daily practice of review and introspection trains a person how to look at the bigger picture of his or her life in order to discern God’s call. Learning to see that God was at work even in small things, “we notice other possible directions” that can be taken and that “strengthen our inner enthusiasm, peace and creativity,” the pope said. “Above all, it makes us freer from toxic stereotypes,” such as thinking, “I am worthless” or “I will never achieve anything worthwhile.”

KOCHI, India (CNS) – Laypeople in an archdiocese of India’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church have begun a round-the-clock vigil to stop the Vatican-appointed administrator from gaining entry into the archbishop’s house. Lay leaders in the Kochi-based Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese say Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the apostolic administrator, unilaterally revoked the dispensation that had allowed priests to celebrate Mass facing the people, reported The protesting groups want to continue with the traditional Mass in which the priest faces the congregation throughout, despite a rule that took effect in 2021. Under that rule, devised as a compromise, the Syro-Malabar synod ruled that the priest “will face the congregation until the eucharistic prayer, and then again from Communion to the end of the Mass. From eucharistic prayers until Communion, the priest will face the altar.” The vigil at the Kochi residence was launched Oct. 16, and teams of laypeople from different parishes were assigned to ensure a 24-hour watch, reported. “We no longer want the apostolic administrator to get inside our archbishop’s house,” Riju Kanjookaran, spokesman for the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency, told Oct. 17.

LVIV, UKRAINE (CNS) – After Ukrainian women were released in a prisoner swap with Russia, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said their stories “simply break the heart, make the blood run cold in your veins. This war will go down in history as one in which Russia uses sexual violence as a weapon against Ukraine,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych. On Oct. 17, more than 100 Ukrainian women were released from Russian captivity. Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said it was the first female-only exchange, and he called it “especially emotional and truly special. Mothers and daughters, whose relatives were waiting for them, were held captive,” Yermak said. On Oct. 18, Archbishop Shevchuk thanked God that the women were able to return to their families. “Let us wrap these women together today with our attention, love and prayer, and warm them up with our national warmth,” he said.

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – Eritrean authorities are continuing to detain Catholic Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of Segheneity, who was arrested at the Asmara International Airport Oct. 15. After the Catholic Church queried about the situation and his whereabouts, government authorities confirmed the bishop, who turns 52 Oct. 23, is in their custody. Bishop Tsalim was picked up soon after returning from a trip to Europe, but as of Oct. 18, government authorities had not given any reasons for his detention. Fides, news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said Bishop Tsalim and two other priests were being held at Adi Abeto prison. “We have received this ominous news (of the arrest) with immense pain and bewilderment at what is happening in our country,” Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest of Eritrean origin who works with migrants, told Catholic News Service. “Our hope (is) that all priests and the bishop currently in custody will be released as soon as possible.” On Oct. 11, security agents arrested Father Mihratab Stefanos, the priest in charge of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in the diocese. Another Catholic priest, identified as Capuchin Abbot Abraham, was detained in the western town of Teseney.

Museos Vaticanos repatrian momias a Perú

Por Cindy Wooden
CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – Completando un proyecto para repatriar los restos humanos que se encuentran en la colección etnológica de los Museos Vaticanos, el Vaticano y el gobierno de Perú firmaron un acuerdo el 17 de octubre para devolver a Perú tres momias enviadas al Vaticano en 1925. Cardenal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, presidente de la Comisión Pontificia para el Estado de la Ciudad del Vaticano, y César Landa Arroyo, canciller de Perú, firmaron el 17 de octubre en los Museos Vaticanos un convenio para la devolución de las momias. Se cree que los tres restos humanos tienen varios siglos de antigüedad, pero su edad exacta no se sabrá hasta que se realicen estudios exhaustivos en Perú. Fueron encontrados a una altura de más de 9,800 pies en los Andes peruanos a lo largo del río Ucayali.

El canciller peruano, César Landa Arroyo, en el centro, y el cardenal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, presidente de la Comisión Pontificia para el Estado de la Ciudad del Vaticano, observan las momias que serán repatriadas a Perú. Los dos firmaron un acuerdo formal para la repatriación de las momias el 17 de octubre de 2022 en los Museos Vaticanos. (Foto CNS/Vatican Media)

Se supone que las momias son incas. Las momias formaban parte de la colección etnológica Anima Mundi de los Museos Vaticanos, que presenta miles de piezas de arte y artefactos indígenas de todo el mundo. Las momias, como muchas de las obras de arte y artefactos culturales de los pueblos de Australia y Oceanía, las Américas, África y Asia, fueron enviadas al Vaticano para el Año Santo de 1925 inaugurado por el Papa Pío XI. La celebración incluyó una importante exposición sobre la actividad misionera católica en todo el mundo. Con la convicción de que los restos humanos no son obras de arte ni objetos de colección, los Museos Vaticanos iniciaron en 2010 un proyecto para devolver los restos humanos de su colección a sus países de origen. Los primeros restos, una momia de Ecuador, fueron devueltos en 2014. Tres años después, los museos devolvieron a Ecuador una tsantsa, una cabeza especialmente tratada que se usa en ceremonias. En ese momento, los museos dijeron que las tres momias peruanas eran los únicos restos humanos que quedaban en la colección.

Pope meets group that prepared text for next phase of synod

By Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis personally expressed his thanks to the four dozen people who read through hundreds of reports about the listening phase of the Synod of Bishops and, after 12 days of prayer, reflection and discussion, drafted a working document for the continental stage of the synod process.
The pope welcomed the cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay participants to the Vatican Oct. 2, the last day of their work.

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)

At the heart of the work were the 112 syntheses submitted by national bishops’ conferences from around the world, as well as syntheses from the Eastern Catholic churches, religious orders, church organizations and movements, offices of the Roman Curia and individuals. Each of the 25 people appointed to the drafting committee read a dozen reports before joining the others in Frascati, outside of Rome, Sept. 21.

“We come to you at the end of a unique and extraordinary ecclesial experience that has made us aware of the richness of the fruits that the Spirit is awakening in the holy people of God,” Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, told Pope Francis, according to the synod office.

“We truly feel a sense of awe at the wonders God is working in his church,” the cardinal said. And, returning home, members of the drafting group “will be able to say that the church offers itself as a home for all, because the experience of synodality that we are living leads us to ‘widen the space of the tent’ to truly welcome everyone.”

Neither the Vatican press office nor the synod office said whether the pope made any remarks to the group.

Prior to writing the first draft, participants met in a succession of small groups ordered, for example, by geographic region or ecclesial status. They even spent time in all-male or all-female working groups, identifying key themes in the national reports, praying about voices that seemed to be missing and noticing tensions or suggestions.

After reading, discussing and correcting the draft, they were joined by the bishops who are members of the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops. The council approved the document, which will be published in late October, according to the synod general secretariat.

The document will be the subject of prayer and discussion at continental assemblies, which are scheduled to be held between January and March 2023.

According to the synod office, “The intent of the continental stage is to deepen our discernment on what has emerged from the previous stage of local and national listening, with the aim of formulating open questions more accurately and to better substantiate and flesh out the insights coming from the local churches.”

Although they are being called “continental assemblies,” the gatherings are more aligned with regional bishops’ conferences. Six assemblies – which are to include bishops, priests, religious and laypeople – are planned: Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Africa and Madagascar; Asia; Canada and the United States; and the Middle East, including the Eastern Catholic churches.


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholic immigration advocates are emphasizing that the Oct. 5 ruling by a federal appeals court – finding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is unlawful – sends another signal that permanent legislation is needed to protect young immigrants from deportation and put them on a path to U.S. citizenship. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed a lower court’s ruling last year that said the Obama administration did not have the legal authority in 2012 to create DACA in the first place. This appeals court decision, similar to the ruling last summer from a federal judge in Texas, prevents the Biden administration from enrolling new participants in the program. The new court decision continues to leave DACA in limbo. It did not say the program had to completely shut down or stop processing renewal applications, but it leaves in place last year’s order from U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen that said DACA could continue only for current recipients with no new participants. The 5th Circuit also returned the case to the lower court asking the judge to review new DACA regulations the Biden administration announced in August and set to go into effect Oct. 31. “DACA, like asylum, the border – immigration policy writ large – doesn’t belong in the courts,” Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, tweeted after the ruling was announced. “Congress and the White House need to pass legislation that honors our values, the rights and dignity of those who migrate, and the contributions of those who make America home.”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A federal court in Indiana sided with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and one of its Catholic high schools in a lawsuit filed by a former guidance counselor who said her contract was not renewed because of her same-sex union. The Sept. 30 ruling in Fitzgerald v. Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, relied on previous Supreme Court rulings that have emphasized a ministerial exception protecting a religious school’s hiring and firing practices from government intrusion. The recent decision echoes a nearly identical ruling from a year ago based on a lawsuit filed against the same school and archdiocese from another school counselor whose contract was similarly not extended due to her same-sex union. The decisions in both cases were issued by U.S. District Judge Richard Young for the Southern District of Indiana. Young said the Indianapolis Archdiocese and its schools can select, retain or dismiss faculty according to their religious standards, something he also stressed a year ago. The current case involved Shelly Fitzgerald, former co-director of guidance at Roncalli High School for 15 years. Her employment was terminated in 2018 after she confirmed to the school that she was in a same-sex union and the school declined to renew her contract for the following year. School officials said her conduct was prohibited by the agreement she signed with the school.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The refusal to help desperate migrants “is revolting, it’s sinful, it’s criminal,” Pope Francis said as he canonized a bishop dedicated to assisting migrants and a Salesian brother who had immigrated with his family to Argentina. “The exclusion of migrants is criminal. It makes them die in front of us,” the pope said Oct. 9, referring to the deaths of migrants and refugees crossing dangerous seas in search of freedom and a dignified life. At the beginning of the liturgy in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis formally recognized the holiness of St. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, an Italian who founded the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo to care for migrants, and St. Artemide Zatti, an Italian immigrant in Argentina who became a Salesian brother, pharmacist and nurse. The prayers at the Mass included one for “those forced to leave their homeland,” and asking God to teach people to share “his welcoming gaze toward all people” and “heal the throwaway culture of indifference.” Pope Francis focused much of his homily on the day’s Gospel reading about the 10 lepers healed by Jesus and, therefore, allowed back into society. “When we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we are all sick at heart, all sinners in need of the Father’s mercy,” the pope said. “Then we stop creating divisions on the basis of merit, social position or some other superficial criterion; our interior barriers and prejudices likewise fall. In the end, we realize once more that we are brothers and sisters.” Pope Francis asked the estimated 50,000 people at the Mass to think about whether in their families, at work and in their parishes, they are willing to walk with others and listen to them, “resisting the temptation to lock ourselves up in self-absorption and to think only of our own needs.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As thousands of people sat in the dark in St. Peter’s Square, they watched fish jump from the facade of the basilica, saw the word “no” form and dissolve three times and heard an actor reciting the part of St. Peter speak about the overwhelming love and mercy of Jesus. They also heard tenor Andrea Bocelli sing four songs, including “The First Noel” from the soon-to-be released Christmas album he made with his children Matteo and Virginia. The nighttime event Oct. 2 was the premiere of “Follow Me,” an eight-minute film about the life and faith of St. Peter. Using “video mapping,” images of St. Peter from the basilica’s collection and that of the Vatican Museums were turned into 3D video clips and projected onto the facade of the basilica, which is built over the presumed tomb of the apostle. The film was to be shown every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. until Oct. 16.

Projected images detailing the life of St. Peter the Apostle are seen on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 2, 2022. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sang for thousands in St. Peter’s Square as the Vatican inaugurated a two-week showing of a short film about the life of St. Peter. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

FULDA, Germany (CNS) – The president of the German bishops’ conference demanded an apology from a Swiss cardinal at the Vatican over comments that brought up Germany’s Nazi past. Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, demanded an apology from Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, who seemed to compare what is underlying the German bishops’ Synodal Path process with a mistaken Christian ideology that underpinned the rise of Nazism. Cardinal Koch said he had been misunderstood. At the end of the German bishops’ plenary assembly Sept. 29, Bishop Bätzing said that, with his remarks, Cardinal Koch had “disqualified himself from the theological debate” about the Synodal Path. “If a public apology does not happen immediately, I will file an official complaint with the Holy Father,” Bishop Bätzing said. Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch apologized for offending people and said he never intended to imply that supporters of the German church’s Synodal Path were doing something similar to what a group of Christian supporters of the Nazis did in the 1930s. At a meeting Oct. 4 in Rome with Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, “Cardinal Koch expressly emphasized that it was completely far from him to want to impute the terrible ideology of the 1930s to the Synodal Path,” said a statement published the next day by the bishops’ conference. “Cardinal Koch asks for forgiveness from all those who feel hurt by the comparison he made,” the statement continued.

MEXICO CITY (CNS) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega blasted Catholic leaders as a “gang of murderers,” in comments amping up persecution of the church and scorning Pope Francis’ call for dialogue in the Central American country. In a fiery address, Ortega took aim at Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops for promoting democracy as an exit from the country’s political crisis, alleging without proof that they called on protesters to kill him during the 2018 protests – which his regime violently repressed. He called the bishops and Pope Francis “the perfect dictatorship,” then asked, accusatorially, “Who elected the bishops, the pope, the cardinals?” He continued in the Sept. 28 speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the National Police: “With what moral authority do they speak of democracy? Let them start with the Catholic vote. … Everything is imposed. It’s a dictatorship, the perfect dictatorship. It’s a tyranny, the perfect tyranny.” Catholic clergy in Nicaragua have remained mostly silent as Ortega – who won elections in 2021 after disqualifying and imprisoning opposition candidates – has persecuted priests and bishops speaking out on issues of human rights and democratic deterioration. The government also has closed church-run charitable and education initiatives, along with Catholic radio stations, and expelled priests and nuns, including the Missionaries of Charity. Ortega claimed in his comments that he was Catholic, but did not feel “represented,” partly because, “We hear talk of democracy, and they don’t practice democracy.”

Mundo en Fotos

Cardenales y obispos hacen fila para la procesión de salida en la Basílica de San Pedro después de que el papa Francisco celebrara una misa el 11 de octubre de 2022 para conmemorar el 60 aniversario de la apertura del Concilio Vaticano II. (Foto CNS/Vatican Media)
Se ve un grafiti en una casa en Matlacha, Florida, el 2 de octubre de 2022, después de que el huracán Ian causara una destrucción generalizada en el Estado del Sol. (Foto del CNS/Marco Bello, Reuters)
El artista católico canadiense Tim Schmalz, nativo de St. Jacobs, Ontario, esculpe una figura de Jesús abrazando a una persona sin hogar el 27 de septiembre de 2022, durante la reunión nacional anual de agencias de Caridades Católicas en el Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor del 27 al 29 de septiembre . (Foto de CNS/Kevin J. Parks, Revisión Católica)
Una peluquera local aparece en una foto de archivo trabajando con los restos de su casa, destruida por el gobierno de Camerún, en un barrio pobre de Yaundé. (Foto del CNS/Finbarr O’Reilly, Reuters)
Silvia “Niky” Quezada se ve en esta foto sin fecha. Le da crédito a Dios por ayudarla a encontrar un hogar en Marian University en Indianápolis, donde persigue sus objetivos de jugar fútbol y obtener un título en ingeniería. (Foto de CNS/John Shaughnessy, El criterio)
Elizabeth Reyes de Fort Myers, Florida, inspecciona los recuerdos de su boda rescatados de su casa el 5 de octubre de 2022, después de que el huracán Ian trajera al menos 3 pulgadas de lluvia a la residencia de la familia Reyes en Fort Myers el 28 de septiembre y provocara la caída de un árbol y una línea eléctrica de la casa. Reyes y su esposo han estado viviendo en una propiedad de alquiler en Naples después de que Ian aterrizó en la costa suroeste de Florida el 28 de septiembre como una fuerte tormenta de categoría 4. (Foto del SNC/Tom Tracy)
Una mujer de la comunidad de pastores de Turkana afectada por el empeoramiento de la sequía se sienta junto a su perro en una clínica médica en Kakimat, Kenia, el 27 de septiembre de 2022. La clínica está a cargo del Fondo de las Naciones Unidas para la Infancia y la Cruz Roja de Kenia. (Foto del CNS/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)
En esta foto de archivo de 2015, José Cándido Hernández Orellana de El Salvador muestra la última reserva de su propia cosecha de maíz que perdió al comienzo de la temporada de lluvias debido a una sequía. (CNS photo/Oscar Leiva, courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
El presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, observa el lanzamiento de un misil durante los ejercicios navales en el norte del Ártico de Rusia a bordo del crucero de misiles nucleares Pyotr Veliky (Pedro el Grande) el 17 de agosto de 2005. (Foto CNS/Itar Tass, Servicio de prensa presidencial a través de Reuters)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – House sponsors of a new bill to protect pregnancy centers said the measure would require the Biden administration to publicly disclose how it is handling the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of violent attacks on pregnancy resource centers around the country. “My goal is to foster an environment where no woman feels like their only option is abortion, and I am committed to supporting women and children at every stage of life,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. “The violent attacks on pregnancy centers in Washington state and across the country are reprehensible and only endanger and intimidate the women who depend on them for critical medical care, education and other resources,” Rodgers said in a statement Sept. 20, the day she and Smith introduced the bill. The Protect Pregnancy Care Centers Act of 2022 quickly garnered 28 co-sponsors. “I believe all extreme and hateful acts of violence should be condemned, which is why I’m helping lead this legislation to hold President (Joe) Biden accountable for his failure to respond to this threat with the urgency it deserves,” Rodgers said. Nearly 70 acts of violence against such centers have been recorded since May, when a draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case was leaked.

NEW YORK (CNS) – “Little Amal,” a giant puppet that is on a worldwide pilgrimage to raise awareness about the plight of unaccompanied refugee minors, made a stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sept. 18. The 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl met migrant families who recently arrived in New York City from Ecuador, Afghanistan and Myanmar; Father Enrique Salvo, the cathedral’s rector; and representatives from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “For immigrants and refugees around the world, New York is seen as a place of opportunity and promise – but there’s a tension running through U.S. history that suggests not everyone is welcome here,” said playwright/director Amir Nizar Zuabi, the artistic director of this “public art project” called “The Walk” and starring Amal, whose name means “hope.” “Amal will experience the wonder of New York and also the apprehension of arriving in a strange new place,” Zuabi said in a statement issued in advance of several New York events featuring the puppet. “This is a crucial moment to explore these themes. How will she be welcomed here? Who will do the welcoming?” The cathedral stop was one of 55 New York events welcoming the puppet over a three-week period that began Sept. 14 and ends Oct. 2 and is titled “Little Amal Walks NYC.”

“Little Amal,” a 12-foot-tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl, greets migrant families who have recently arrived in New York City from Ecuador, Afghanistan and Burma at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York Sept. 18, 2022. “Little Amal” has become a globally recognized symbol of human rights, especially for immigrants, refugees and other marginalized people. (CNS photo/courtesy DKC)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the October deadline approaches for the extension of the Vatican’s agreement with the Chinese government, the newly appointed editor of the news agency of the Dicastery for Evangelization said the deal has been instrumental in allowing Catholics to practice their faith openly and in communion with the church. In an editorial published Sept. 22, Gianni Valente, who was appointed earlier in the month as editor of Fides news agency, also said recent statements by Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, “hinted at a positive intention on the part of the Holy See to continue the process of negotiation.” The agreement, he wrote, has allowed for Chinese Catholics to “experience the adventure of confession of faith in Christ in today’s China as it is, without privileges, without being pointed at and perceived as a foreign body, as exotic guests or representatives of distant cultures.” First signed in Beijing Sept. 22, 2018, the Vatican and the Chinese government agreed in 2020 “to extend the experimental implementation phase of the provisional agreement for another two years.” The provisional agreement, the text of which has never been made public, outlines procedures for ensuring Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China and approved by the pope before their ordinations and installations, according to news reports at the time.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Marking World Alzheimer’s Day Sept. 21, Pope Francis asked people to pray for all those affected by the illness, including families and caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease “affects so many people, who are often pushed to the margins of society because of this condition,” the pope said at the end of his general audience talk in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 21. “Let us pray for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, for their families, and for those who lovingly care for them, that they may be increasingly supported and helped,” he said. He also asked that people pray for men and women facing hemodialysis, dialysis or an organ transplant. September is also World Alzheimer’s Month, which is an initiative by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to raise awareness, challenge the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and garner more support for those affected. Dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory, and Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that is the most common cause of dementia.

DUBLIN (CNS) – More people in Northern Ireland now identify as Catholic than Protestant for the first time in the history of the jurisdiction, new census figures reveal. The data has led to calls for a referendum for voters to decide whether to remain part of Britain or join with the rest of Ireland and form a new country. It comes 101 years after Northern Ireland was established in the six northeastern counties on the island of Ireland, remaining part of Britain when the 26 southern counties won independence from British rule. The founders of Northern Ireland drew the boundaries of the state along lines that they hoped would guarantee a permanent Protestant majority. Traditionally, Protestants have supported being part of Britain, whereas the Catholic community has traditionally supported unity with the rest of the island to form a single independent Ireland. The first prime minister of Northern Ireland, Sir James Craig, famously addressed the legislature describing it as a “Protestant parliament for a Protestant people,” and the Catholic minority complained of discrimination in terms of jobs, housing and voting rights. The proportion of the resident population that is either Catholic or brought up Catholic is 45.7%, compared to 43.5% Protestant.

MOSCOW (CNS) – A senior Russian priest dismissed President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear war as “just words,” but said many young Catholics now fear being forcibly conscripted with their priests to join the war against Ukraine. “Although I’m not a military person, I don’t think the Russian army could even use nuclear weapons – and if it did, this would be much more dangerous for Russia itself than anyone else,” said the priest, who asked not to be named. “People are certainly frightened here, particularly since Catholic parishioners and clergy could now be called up, beginning with those who’ve done military service. But I don’t think there’s much to fear from Putin, who’s just coming out with words.” Street protests erupted in Russia after Putin’s Sept. 21 order for a nationwide call-up of 300,000 reservists after setbacks in the Ukraine war. The priest told Catholic News Service Sept. 21 students and young people had “reacted very emotionally” to the mobilization order, with many debating its practical consequences. He added that there had been “no consultation” with Russia’s minority churches and said he had consulted lawyers about the order’s implications for church personnel. “Some young Catholics have already left the country, and more are doing so now,” the priest told CNS.