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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church in Morocco, pope offer prayers after quake; death toll rises to more than 2,800

By Maria-Pia Negro Chin
(OSV News) – Rescuers continue to search through the rubble in the hopes of finding survivors after a powerful earthquake struck Morocco the night of Sept. 8, killing more than 2,800 people and causing widespread destruction.

Search and rescue teams continue their attempt to reach those in isolated villages closer to the earthquake’s epicenter. Previous attempts to help had been delayed by fallen rocks covering the roads leading to the hard-hit rural communities.

The deadly quake’s epicenter was reported to be in the High Atlas mountains, about 44.7 miles (72 kilometers) southwest of historic Marrakech, a city of about 840,000 people. The villages in these areas were reported to have suffered the worst destruction, with buildings falling and killing many of the villagers while they were asleep.

Even as some aid was starting to reach the villages Sept. 9 and 10, media reports shared that survivors were struggling to find food, water and shelter.

The Sept. 8 earthquake struck shortly after 11 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which said its preliminary magnitude was 6.8 and it lasted several seconds, with a 4.9 aftershock hitting the area minutes later. The quake was the strongest to hit that part of the North African nation in 120 years, according to USGS.

A woman reacts as rescue workers recover a body from the rubble in Ouirgane, Morocco, Sept. 10, 2023, in the aftermath of a deadly magnitude 6.8 earthquake. An aftershock rattled Moroccans that day as they mourned victims of the nation’s strongest earthquake in more than a century Sept. 8, killing more than 2,000 people, a number that is expected to rise. (OSV News photo/Hannah McKay, Reuters)

On Sept. 11, Morocco’s interior ministry confirmed the earthquake’s death toll had risen to 2,862, as of 3:40 p.m. ET. Authorities warned that these numbers are expected to rise. The ministry said there are over 2,500 people injured, with at least 1,404 in critical condition. According to CNN, state media reported that most of the dead – nearly 1,500 – were in the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains.

“The next 2-3 days will be critical for finding people trapped under the rubble,” Caroline Holt, global director of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters.

Soon after news of the devastation spread, the Archdiocese of Rabat – which has churches in Marrakech and Ouarzazate that suffered minor material damage – urged prayers for those affected through a message posted on social media. “Let us pray with Our Lady of Morocco for the victims and their families,” the archdiocese said.

In a Sept. 9 telegram, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow and “deep solidarity” with the people of the North African nation, praying for those who perished, healing for the wounded and consolation for those mourning the loss of their loved ones and homes, Vatican News reported.

The pope continued expressing his proximity to the Moroccan people “stricken by a devastating earthquake” after the Angelus prayer Sept. 10. He also thanked “the rescue workers and those who are working to alleviate the suffering of the people.”

“May concrete help on the part of everyone support the population at this tragic time: Let us be close to the people of Morocco!” he said.

With roads damaged or blocked, rescue teams had difficulty reaching the hardest-hit areas. The Associated Press reported that authorities were working to clear roads in Al Haouz province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to those affected. But large distances between mountain villages meant it will take time to learn the extent of the damage, said Abderrahim Ait Daoud, head of the town of Talat N’Yaaqoub. CNN reported that the Moroccan army cleared a key road from Marrakech to the mountains early Sept. 10.

Ayoub Toudite, from the mountainside village of Moulay Brahim, told AP that his village was inhabitable after the earthquake. “We felt a huge shake like it was doomsday,” he said. In 10 seconds, he said, everything was gone. “We are all terrified that this happens again,” Toudite said.

Social media videos from Sept. 8 showed buildings collapsing and there were reports of people trapped amid the rubble in the city. “People were all in shock and panic. The children were crying and the parents were distraught,” when the deadly earthquake hit, Abdelhak El Amrani told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The BBC reported that many Moroccans “spent the night out in the open as the Moroccan government had warned them not to go back into their homes” in case of severe aftershocks. Those whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake slept outside again Sept. 9, CNN reported.

Media reported that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the G20 summit Sept. 9 with “heartfelt condolences” to everyone affected by the quake. Other world leaders expressed their condolences and offered support, with many countries – including France, the United States, Germany and Turkey – saying they are ready to assist Morocco following the disaster. Algeria, which severed diplomatic ties with Morocco in 2021, offered to open its airspace to allow humanitarian aid or medical evacuation flights, according to reports.

On Sept. 9, U.S. President Joe Biden shared multiple messages expressing sadness at the loss of life and devastation following the earthquake and stating that “the United States stands by Morocco” during this difficult time. “My Administration is ready to provide any necessary assistance for the Moroccan people,” he said on X, previously known as Twitter.

He also addressed the deadly earthquake as he began his news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he was on a diplomatic visit following his attendance at the G20. “I want to express my sadness by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Morocco,” Biden said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in Morocco,” Biden said, adding that he also is working with Moroccan officials to ensure U.S. citizens in Morocco are safe.

On Sept. 9, the Royal Palace announced three days of national mourning following the disaster. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has mobilized the country’s military for search and rescue missions as well as a surgical field hospital, according to AP. The government also ordered water, food and shelter to be sent to those who lost their homes.

On Sept. 10, AP reported that, according to Rescuers Without Borders, teams totaling 3,500 rescuers registered with a U.N. platform were ready to deploy in Morocco when asked. The news agency added that, even as some international help is arriving, the Moroccan government has not made an international appeal for help as Turkey did after a massive quake devastated the country in February. Other countries like France were waiting for Morocco’s formal request to immediately assist.

It was later reported that the interior ministry said it had accepted search and rescue aid from four countries: Britain, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A Sept. 9 statement from the Archdiocese of Rabat expressed solidarity with the victims, “especially for those Moroccan families who are mourning or who have injured family members,” and urged the faithful to pray and to help those affected.

“We are appealing for emotional and effective solidarity with those in distress at this time,” said the statement posted on the archdiocesan website, adding that Caritas will be working to make aid available to help where the need is most urgent.

The director of Caritas Rabat will visit sites affected, and initial emergency aid is being prepared, according to a Caritas statement posted on the archdiocesan site.

Cardinal Cristóbal López of Rabat planned to preside over a Sept. 10 Mass in Marrakech for all the victims. He also encouraged all communities to pray, express compassion to local authorities and organize solidarity.

“May God help us to draw positive consequences from this painful event, by transforming our hearts into hearts of mercy, solidarity and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters in distress,” the archdiocesan statement said.

(Maria-Pia Negro Chin is Spanish editor for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MariaPiaChin.)

Pope recounts the joy, goodness, humility he saw in Mongolia

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he knows people wonder why he traveled close to 6,000 miles to Mongolia to visit a Catholic community of only 1,450 people.

“Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that we often find the signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances, but at the heart,” he told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience Sept. 6.

Following his usual practice of speaking about a trip at the first audience after his return, the pope said that during his Sept. 1-4 stay the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, he encountered “a humble and joyful church, which is in the heart of God,” but one that was excited to find itself at the center of the universal church’s attention for a few days.

A priest distributes Communion during Pope Francis’ Mass in the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sept. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“I have been to the heart of Asia, and it has done me good,” the pope said.

The missionaries who arrived in Mongolia in 1992 “did not go there to proselytize,” the pope said. “They went to live like the Mongolian people, to speak their language, the language of the people, to learn the values of that people and to preach the Gospel in a Mongolian style, with Mongolian words.”

The universality of the Catholic Church, he said, is not something that “homogenizes” the faith.

“This is catholicity: an embodied universality, which embraces the good where it is found and serves the people with whom it lives,” the pope said. “This is how the church lives: bearing witness to the love of Jesus meekly, with life before words, happy with its true riches, which are service to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters.”

The Catholic Church recognizes God at work in the world and in other people, he said. Its vision, and its heart, is as expansive as the sky over the Mongolian steppe.

The international group of missionaries working in Mongolia have discovered “the beauty already there,” he said. “I, too, was able to discover something of this beauty” by meeting people, listening to their stories and “appreciating their religious quest.”

“Mongolia has a great Buddhist tradition, with many people who live their religiosity in a sincere and radical way, in silence, through altruism and mastery of their own passions,” the pope said. “Just think of how many hidden seeds of goodness make the garden of the world flourish, while we usually only hear about the sound of falling trees!”

People naturally notice the noisy and scandalous, the pope said, but Christians must try to discern and recognize what is good in others and in the world around them.

“Only in this way, starting from the recognition of what is good, can we build a common future,” he said. “Only by valuing others can we help them improve.”

Pope Francis said one thing that was very clear was how the Mongolian people “cherish their roots and traditions, respect the elderly and live in harmony with the environment.”

“Thinking of the boundless and silent expanses of Mongolia, let us be stirred by the need to extend the confines of our gaze – please, extend the confines, look wide and high, look and don’t fall prisoner to little things,” the pope said. That is the only way “to see the good in others and be able to broaden our horizons and also to broaden our hearts to understand and to be close to every people and every civilization.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Eugene Boonie, a member of the Navajo Nation, fills up his water tank at the livestock water spigot in the Bodaway Chapter of the Navajo Nation, in Blue Gap, Ariz., Sept. 17, 2020. After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, 2023, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. (OSV News photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

MELVILLE, La. (OSV News) – Father Stephen Ugwu, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Melville, Louisiana, is stable and recovering following a July 13 attack with a machete. The priest is at a hospital being treated for lacerations to his head and body. According to local media reports, a man wielding a machete attacked the priest at the church’s campus after Father Ugwu declined the man’s request, leaving Father Ugwu with cuts on his head and body. Melville police arrested the attacker and assisted Father Ugwu, a priest from Nigeria serving the Diocese of Lafayette. The suspect, identified as Johnny Dwayne Neely, 58, of Palmetto, is in custody, according to St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. He faces charges of attempted second-degree murder, hate crimes and home invasion and a bench warrant. Based on words used by the suspect, Melville Police Chief Phillip Lucas told local media that he believed the attack was racially motivated. Blue Rolfes, diocesan director of communications, told OSV News July 15 that Father Ugwu’s condition was improving. He has some “serious wounds,” she said, but he is receiving the care he needs, and doctors are optimistic about his recovery. “He feels blessed to be alive and that his God protected him during his time of need,” Rolfes said.

ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. (OSV News) – After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. “People line up at a community well and fill up their water containers to take out to their homesteads to be able to have water for their families for the week, sometimes for days. If it’s an older couple, it might last a little longer,” said Dot Teso, president of St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona – which was founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1902. “You can imagine if you were going on a camping trip and you’re thinking about water for the trip – these people have to think of this every day.” Arizona v. Navajo Nation came before the Supreme Court when the Navajo Nation asked for the courts to require the federal government to identify the former’s water rights and needs and provide a way to meet those needs. Seeking to protect their own interest in access to the Colorado River, the states of Arizona, Colorado and Nevada intervened in the suit. While the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed the Navajos’ complaint, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in their favor. Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley in a statement the ruling “will not deter the Navajo Nation from securing the water that our ancestors sacrificed and fought for – our right to life and the livelihood of future generations.”

ST. PAUL, Minn. (OSV News) – An annual procession to Father Augustus Tolton’s gravesite in Illinois will be joined next year by pilgrims walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage en route to Indianapolis, the Diocese of Springfield’s worship director announced July 9. Father Daren Zehnle shared the news with more than 200 pilgrims who participated in this year’s procession from a parish in Quincy, Illinois, with ties to Father Tolton, to his gravesite almost a mile away. Father Tolton (1854-1897) is the first identifiable Black priest in the United States, and he was renowned not only for his holiness and preaching, but also for the considerable adversity he faced as a Black priest in the late 1800s. Pope Francis declared him “venerable” in 2019. Will Peterson, founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, the Minnesota-based nonprofit organizing the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, said Father Tolton is the first of six Black American Catholics on the path to canonization officially to be linked geographically to the national pilgrimage. He hopes others will be as well, as the national pilgrimage’s four routes will pass through cities where several of these “Saintly Six” lived and ministered, as pilgrims make their way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024.

ROME (OSV News) – Venerable Lucia was only 10 years old when she and her two cousins told their friends and family that they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. Mary first appeared to Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto May 13, and the apparitions continued once a month until October 1917. The church has ruled that the apparitions and the messages from Our Lady of Fatima were worthy of belief. On June 22, Pope Francis declared Sister Lucia “venerable,” with a decree recognizing the Fatima visionary’s heroic virtues. Pope Benedict XVI waived the standard waiting period for Sister Lucia’s cause, opening it in 2008. The Diocese of Coimbra, Portugal, completed its investigation and forwarded documentation to the Holy See’s Congregation (since renamed Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints in 2017, the apparitions’ centennial year.

KYIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – With Russia’s war on Ukraine now approaching its 10th year – and the full-scale invasion surpassing the 500-day mark – OSV News traveled to Kyiv to meet with Bishop Vitalii Kryvytskyi of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, who shared his reflections on the war’s spiritual impact. Air raid sirens, soldiers’ funerals and endless work hours have become routine as Ukraine carries on with daily life while fighting a war for global values and security, said the bishop. Grief and confusion can break “even people really close to God,” he admitted. At the same time, “war takes off all the masks” and ultimately, the persecution inflicted by Russia against Ukrainian faithful mysteriously “crystallizes faith and faithfulness to the Gospel,” said Bishop Kryvytskyi, adding that he has learned to simply be present to those in the depths of wartime suffering. “People sometimes expect priests to have answers to all the questions,” he said. “And now we understand that our greater task is to be with our flock, even if we do not have answers for the questions, even in our hearts.”

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (OSV News) – A group of Brazilian missionaries announced July 3 they have left their post in Nicaragua, becoming the latest community of women religious to leave the country, where some Catholics are facing increasing persecution by the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The Sisters Poor of Jesus Christ posted their statement on Facebook, announcing the community’s departure from Nicaragua and its arrival in El Salvador, along with photos showing sisters getting off a bus carrying a crucifix. “We want through this statement to express our gratitude for the seven years of mission in the lands of Nicaragua, we appreciate the welcome of the church and its people during that time in which our charism remained in the country serving the poor in their multiple facets,” said the statement posted in Spanish and Portuguese on the Fraternidade O Caminho page. The sisters’ announcement, reported by Global Sisters Report, came just ahead of Reuters reporting July 5 that Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua – sentenced in February to 26 years after being accused of treason – had been released from prison late July 4. But Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, Nicaragua, who has been living in exile in Miami for some time, tweeted July 5 that he has received no information about Bishop Álvarez’s reported release. In news reports, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes of Managua denied July 5 that the bishop had been freed.


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Prior to the first anniversary of a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its prior abortion precedent, pro-life activists lauded legislation passed in multiple states while advocating for additional support services for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies. The Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2022, undoing nearly a half-century of its own precedent on abortion as a constitutional right. The case involved a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, in which the state directly challenged the high court’s previous abortion-related precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Jeanne Mancini, March for Life president, told OSV News that the first post-Roe year has been “amazing in so many ways” in reducing abortion, but it also has introduced “an element of confusion.” The way forward, Mancini said, must be to “lean into this and do it with a lot of love” and also “emphasize the truth that pro-life is pro-woman, whether it’s the support of a pregnancy care center or funding support at the state level.”

GOWER, Mo. (OSV News) – Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell puts the number of pilgrims who in the past six weeks have flocked to her Benedictine abbey in rural Missouri between 10,000 and 15,000. It’s a conservative estimate, she said, of the droves of people who, at times, have waited hours in line to see the body of the community’s foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles disinterred her remains April 28, four years after her death at age 95, and discovered a surprising lack of decay, leading to claims of her incorruptibility and potential for canonization. Most visitors are locals, or from Kansas City or St. Louis. Some, however, have traveled from Washington state, Maine, California and Florida, but also from as far as Canada, Colombia and India, Mother Cecilia said. “It was her relationship with Christ on the path (to) holiness that led her to greatness before him. She sends a message of the value of vocation, of charity and forgiveness, even through racial barriers, and that holiness is possible in our day. Quite a few people have said, ‘I knew her. This makes me realize that I can be holy too!’” Mother Cecilia said.

ROME (CNS) – Devotion to Marian apparitions should lead people to Jesus and not to a particular individual or community, Pope Francis said. In an interview with the Italian state television network, RAI, broadcast June 4, the pope said Marian apparitions are “an instrument of Marian devotion that is not always true” and may be used to focus on or promote an individual. “There have been true apparitions of Our Lady, but always with her finger like this, to Jesus” he said pointing outward, “never has Our Lady drawn (attention) toward herself when (the apparition) is true, she has always pointed to Jesus.” Pope Francis said that a Marian devotion that becomes “too centered on itself” and lacks guiding people to Jesus “is no good, be it in the person that has the devotion or those who carry it forward.” Through an observatory body overseen by the Pontifical International Marian Academy, the Vatican tracks alleged Marian apparitions around the world and studies their authenticity. During his upcoming trip to Portugal Aug. 2-6, Pope Francis will travel to a shrine honoring the apparitions at Fátima in which Mary appeared to three Portuguese children in 1917. Public devotion to Our Lady of Fátima was approved by the local bishop in 1930 and has since been promoted by the Vatican.

BENIN CITY, Nigeria (OSV News) – The killing of Father Charles Igechi June 7 is further evidence of Christian persecution in Nigeria, church officials in the country say. The priest was on his way to St. Michael College, Ikhueniro, where he was assigned, when unidentified gunmen swooped in and shot him in the back. Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City said in a statement that the body of the priest was found in Ikpoba Hill, not far from Benin City, the capital and largest city of Edo state in southern Nigeria. In a June 8 condolence message, the archbishop reported “with deep sadness and sorrow in our hearts” the death of one of the priests of the archdiocese, Father Charles Onomhoale Igechi, who was ordained Aug. 13, 2022, and at the time of his death was vice principal of St. Michael College in Ikhueniro, Archbishop Akubeze asked for the faithful to pray “for the happy repose of his soul.” Josef Ishu, secretary of the Nigerian bishops’ conference Laity Office, told OSV News the killing of the priest is “the latest evidence of Christian persecution” in Nigeria.

KHERSON, Ukraine (OSV News) – Delivering aid in Ukraine’s flooded Kherson area has become a life-threatening task. Aid workers of Caritas and other organizations told OSV News they cannot go on rescue boats without bulletproof vests and military helmets, as Russian troops have continued to fire on civilian victims and rescuers. In some towns that are still under Russian occupation, sources say the situation is so dire that people die on their own rooftops. On June 6, damage to the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant in Kherson released some 4.3 cubic miles of water (a single cubic mile of water equals 1.1 trillion gallons) from the Kakhovka Reservoir, one of the world’s largest capacity reservoirs. Dozens of towns and villages along the Dnipro River have been flooded so far, with tens of thousands at flood risk, according to Ukrainian government officials. The Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington, has assessed that “the balance of evidence, reasoning, and rhetoric suggests that the Russians deliberately damaged the dam.” Father Piotr Rosochacki, director of Caritas-Spes Ukraine since 2015, told OSV News the flooded terrain is now being “regularly shelled” by Russian troops, lamenting the attacks as “never-ending.” He appealed to Catholics around the globe not to forget about Ukraine and not to become indifferent. “The water will go away and in a month, two, others will live their own lives and forget about the dam. But people here will remain without basics like drinking water,” he said, adding that long-term help is needed “so that those people can live again.”


HOUSTON (OSV News) – Entering a cavelike entrance, visitors at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston confront a life-size statue lying in the tomb, a replica of the man’s body image from the Shroud of Turin. Sculpted by Italian artist Luigi Enzo Mattei, the body shows some of the suffering endured but in a subdued manner. The dark, bronze-colored resin statue highlights a gaping hole in his side, in each of his wrists, his feet and other wounds. Across on a wall of the compact space, a 14-foot replica of the well-known Shroud of Turin looms as the possible burial cloth of Jesus. The shroud exposition sits adjacent to the museum’s lengthy exhibit on the death of the popes and features two life-size, back-lit screen displays of the shroud’s photonegative scans from official studies. Visitors have room to view the shroud up close, a certified linen reproduction gifted to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston from the Archdiocese of Turin, Italy. The shroud replica is just one of seven authentic reproductions recently made available by Turin officials for public display around the world. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston blessed the new exhibit with holy water, telling those gathered that the shroud “has led many to contemplate more deeply the central mysteries of the Christian faith, principally the historical reality of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.”

A large bronze-colored resin statue is seen April 26, 2023, at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston in a Shroud of Turin exhibit that features a 14-foot replica of the shroud gifted to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston by the Archdiocese of Turin, Italy. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston blessed and dedicated the new exhibit, the only permanent display of an authentic replica of the Shroud of Turin in the United States. (OSV News photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – On May 11, when Title 42 public health order comes to an end, processing of migrants will be full reinstated under Title 8, a measure that experts said would stiffen the consequences for migrants who attempt to cross the border into the United States irregularly. Additionally, the Biden administration announced on May 10 new measures that would further harden the requirements to request asylum in the United States. Troy Miller, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), testified before Congress in recent days that the agency is preparing for up to 10,000 migrants to cross the southern border daily once Title 42 ends. Title 42 is part of the U.S. federal public health law implemented by the Trump administration in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Title 8 has been the standard for migration to the United States for decades. Johanna Kelley, a Washington-based immigration lawyer, said, “What is new are the policies of execution and implementation of Title 8; what is new is what the Biden administration is doing to create these regional centers (to process migrants in places like Guatemala and Colombia), to generate alternative paths to stop irregular migration and these processes or procedures before entry through paroles,” she said. “Sadly, the asylum ban policy that the administration is finalizing raises many barriers to the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers at the border,” said Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Although she died centuries ago, the English mystic Julian of Norwich continues to remind people of the importance of “faith in God’s loving providence and holiness of life expressed in generous service to our brothers and sisters in need,” Pope Francis said. Pope Francis’ message about the ongoing relevance of the medieval mystic was read May 14 at the Anglican cathedral in Norwich, England, during an ecumenical service marking the 650th anniversary of the “shewings” or visions and revelations Julian received in Norwich over several days and nights in May 1373. Noting how Julian of Norwich’s life and writings are “increasingly being acknowledged and celebrated,” Pope Francis said that “her maternal influence, humble anonymity and profound theological insights stand as timely reminders” of the importance of faith in God and assisting one another. The mystic’s real name is not known; she is called Julian because she lived in a cell at the Church of St. Julian, praying and receiving visitors who asked for help.

JERUSALEM (OSV News) – Faith leaders and activists for coexistence from across Israel gathered in prayer in front of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on May 10, in a week that once again saw yet another increase in violence between Israel and the Palestinians. The prayer march came after the May 2 death in prison of prominent hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, a leader and spokesman in the Islamic Jihad militant group. The prayer gathering took on more urgency following an early morning Israeli airstrike into Gaza May 9 that killed three senior Islamic Jihad militants and at least 10 civilians including the militants’ wives, several children, and civilian neighbors in a residential building. Muslim peace activist Ghadir Hani, from the northern Israeli city of Acco, and Rabbi Lana Zilberman Soloway from the Jerusalem area, said their prayers – recited in both Hebrew and Arabic – took on a special urgency now, and that it was important to see Arabs and Jews marching together at these very tense times, with the missile attacks continuing even as they prayed. “Today we are praying for all the children in Gaza and for all the children living along the Gaza border in Israel. We are one, and we are the ones bringing light to all the people of this land,” Hani said. “This march is a very important statement.”

LONDON (OSV News) – Catholic leaders in Britain welcomed the ecumenical and interfaith elements in the May 6 coronation of King Charles III and his consort, Queen Camilla, as well as a pledge by the new monarch “not to be served but to serve.” “The years following the Reformation were a desperately challenging time for Catholics, with priests, religious and laity persecuted and killed for their faith – it is testament to an incredible journey of reconciliation that six Catholic bishops were present at the coronation, including Vatican representatives,” said Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark. The archbishop was preaching at a May 7 thanksgiving Mass at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark following the coronation, which was attended by 2,300 in London’s historic Westminster Abbey, including heads of state and government, and watched live by tens of millions worldwide. Westminster Abbey said the coronation, with its historic elements of recognition, oath-taking, anointing, investiture, crowning, enthronement and homage, had been the 39th in the Gothic building since that of William the Conqueror in 1066. The procession into the abbey included a new Cross of Wales, incorporating fragments of the Cross of Christ donated by Pope Francis, and a book of Latin gospels used in a sixth-century conversion mission to England, and was joined by various Christian denominations, as well as Bahai, Jain, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish leaders.


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The U.S. Supreme Court said April 21 it would block a lower court’s restrictions on an abortion pill, leaving the drug on the market while litigation over the drug proceeds. The court’s order was an apparent 7-2 vote, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito publicly dissenting. The decision froze a lower court’s ruling to stay the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug. The Justice Department and a pharmaceutical company that manufactures the abortion pill mifepristone previously asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the case after an appeals court allowed portions of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to take effect. A coalition of pro-life opponents of mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion, had filed suit in an effort to revoke the FDA’s approval of the drug, arguing the government violated its own safety standards when it first approved the drug in 2000. However, proponents argued mifepristone poses statistically little risk to women using it for abortion early in pregnancy, and claim the drug is being singled out for political reasons. In an April 21 statement, President Joe Biden said he would continue “to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.” On April 22, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the Supreme Court’s interim order “a tremendous disappointment, both for the loss of innocent preborn life from chemical abortion, and for the danger that chemical abortion poses to women.”

SAN FRANCISCO (OSV News) – On the very day Elon Musk launched SpaceX rocket Starship on its ill-fated maiden voyage toward space, that final frontier, Musk’s company Twitter did boldly go purging blue verification check marks from users who had not signed up for its paid Twitter Blue service on April 20, including Pope Francis’ Twitter accounts. The nine papal Twitter accounts, first set up under Benedict XVI in 2012, tweet a daily message from the Holy Father in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, French, Polish, Arabic and German. The Vatican press office, noting that the nine @Pontifex accounts have a total of more than 53 million followers, told CNS Rome April 21 it understood Twitter was changing some of its policies. But it added, “the Holy See trusts that they will include certification of the authenticity of accounts.” That same day, following the loss of its blue checkmark, each papal account received a new gray verification checkmark designating “a government or multilateral organization account.” Other religious entities and organizations that have lost their blue checkmark include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service Rome and Protestant televangelist Joel Osteen. There is now a triad of checkmark colors on Twitter. Blue marks mean an account has an active subscription to Twitter Blue, gold indicates an official business account through Twitter Verified Organizations, and gray indicates a government or multilateral organization. There also are affiliate account badges for each, as well as automated account labels for bots.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – For every Dorothy Day – or St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Oscar Romero or St. Pope John Paul II – there may be hundreds, even thousands, of anonymous potential saints who are not raised to the altars for a very simple reason: Their advocates just can not afford it. The sainthood process entails expenses for research, travel, translation and, if the cause progresses, beatification and canonization ceremonies. On average, costs total about $250,000 – with high-profile causes potentially topping $1 million. While ultimately conducted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, causes are typically initiated by a diocese, religious order or nonprofit lay group. The intricacies of the canonization process – with stages marked by the titles servant of God, venerable, blessed and saint – also poses a challenge for under-resourced dioceses. In addition to undisputed holiness, there is intense research, reams of paperwork, continuous fundraising, potential discrimination – and sometimes, a few unanticipated roadblocks. Ralph E. Moore Jr., a lifelong Catholic and African-American parishioner of St. Ann Catholic Church in Baltimore and a member of its Social Justice Committee, has organized a canonization letter writing campaign to Pope Francis, urging him to advance the sainthood causes of six African Americans, noting that a lack of finances has played a role in denying Black Catholics their own recognized saints.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At least three dozen women will be voting members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, Pope Francis has decided. In a decision formalized April 17, “the Holy Father approved the extension of participation in the synodal assembly to ‘non-bishops’ – priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, lay men and women,” the synod office said in a statement April 26. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, told reporters that about 21% of the synod’s 370 members would not be bishops and at least half of that group would be women. Adding women and young people to the membership will make sure “the church is well represented” in the prayer and discussions scheduled for Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican, the cardinal said. “It will be a joy to have the whole church represented in Rome for the synod.” “As you can see, the space in the tent is being enlarged,” Cardinal Mario Grech, synod secretary-general, told reporters. “The Synod of Bishops will remain a synod of bishops,” Cardinal Grech said, but it will be “enriched” by representatives of the whole church.

The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Berdyansk, Ukraine, is seen in this undated photo. Ukrainian officials reported April 22, 2023, that Russian forces seized the church in occupied Berdyansk, part of what the Institute for the Study of War calls an ongoing persecution of Catholics. (OSV News photo/courtesy Primorka City)

BERDYANSK, Ukraine (OSV News) – Russian forces have reportedly seized a Roman Catholic church in Ukraine, according to published accounts. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War (ISW) released an April 22 assessment stating that Viktoria Halitsina, head of the Ukrainian military administration of the port city of Berdyansk, wrote on her agency’s Telegram channel April 22 that Russian troops had seized the city’s Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her post, Halitsina said that the church “was not only a religious community,” but a place where “the needy could receive support.” In November 2022, two priests based at the church, who served both Latin-rite Catholics and Ukrainian Catholics, were abducted, and their fates remain unknown. ISW noted April 9 that Russia has engaged in widespread religious persecution in Ukraine, targeting a number of Catholic, Christian and Islamic communities.

NAIROBI, Kenya (OSV News) – Catholic bishops in Kenya have expressed shock and strongly condemned the mass “starvation suicide” in Shakahola, a remote forest-ranch area in eastern Kenya, where a pastor led congregants to fast to death. Kenyan authorities still continue to retrieve bodies from shallow graves in the 800-acre ranch in Kilifi County near the town of Malindi. On April 27 the official death toll was 95. All victims were followers of the Good News International Church Pastor Paul Mackenzie. He told his followers to pray and fast to meet Jesus and that the world would end April 15. As families arrived in the town of Malindi in search of their relatives following the Shakahola tragedy, the Kenyan Red Cross Society in Kilifi County said April 26 that officials had recorded 322 missing persons. Some of the devastated families that arrived in Malindi had lost several relatives to the cult. “We condemn in the strongest terms possible, the cultic preaching orchestrated by (the) pastor … which induced his followers to fast to death,” said Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Mombasa, president of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, in a statement April 24.