Pope, in Congo, calls for an ‘amnesty of the heart’ to build peace

By Cindy Wooden
KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) – In a country where most people are Christian and all are suffering from decades of violence and atrocities, Pope Francis told the Congolese to lay down their weapons and their rancor.

“That is what Christ wants. He wants to anoint us with his forgiveness, to give us peace and the courage to forgive others in turn – the courage to grant others a great amnesty of the heart,” the pope said in his homily Feb. 1 during a Mass on the vast field of Ndolo airport in Kinshasa.

Congolese authorities said more than 1 million people attended the Mass. They arrived as the sun began to rise, dressed up and carrying baskets of food. They sang and danced and prayed as they waited for the pope.

Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at Ndolo airport in Kinshasa, Congo, Feb. 1, 2023. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Many in the crowd, especially the women, wore cotton dresses with fabric printed specifically for the papal visit. One version featured the face of the pope wearing a miter. The other, with a more abstract design, had the logo of the papal trip and the theme – “All reconciled in Jesus Christ” – written in French, Kituba, Lingala and Swahili.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke to the pain and suffering of the Congolese people, but most of the people in the crowd – like Father Slyvain, who was rushing to take his place among the concelebrants – said the joy of the pope visiting their country was all they cared about that morning.

The liturgy itself lent to the sense of joy. For the most part, it followed what commonly is called the Zairean Rite, using the “Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire,” the former name of Congo.

The missal incorporates Congolese music and rhythmic dance, gives an important space to the litany of saints and of faith-filled ancestors, and the penitential rite and the exchange of peace take place together after the homily and before the offertory.

The Gospel at the Mass was St. John’s account of Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and telling them, “Peace be with you.”

Pope Francis pointed out how when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples, he did not pretend that nothing traumatic had happened. In fact, “Jesus showed them his wounds.”

“Forgiveness is born from wounds,” the pope told them “It is born when our wounds do not leave scars of hatred but become the means by which we make room for others and accept their weaknesses.”

Jesus “knows your wounds; he knows the wounds of your country, your people, your land,” the pope said. “They are wounds that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to arrive.”

The first step toward healing, he said, must be asking God for forgiveness and for the strength to forgive others. It’s the only way to lighten the burden of pain and tame the desire for revenge.

To every Congolese Christian who has engaged in violence, “the Lord is telling you: ‘Lay down your weapons, embrace mercy,’” the pope said. “And to all the wounded and oppressed of this people, he is saying: ‘Do not be afraid to bury your wounds in mine.’”

Pope Francis asked people at the Mass to take the crucifixes from their necklaces or from their pockets, “take it between your hands and hold it close to your heart, in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus.”

“Then,” he said, “when you return home, take the crucifix from the wall and embrace it. Give Christ the chance to heal your heart, hand your past over to him, along with all your fears and troubles.”

Another thing, he said, “Why not write those words of his on your walls, wear them on your clothing, and put them as a sign on your houses: ‘Peace be with you!’ Displaying these words will be a prophetic statement to your country, and a blessing of the Lord upon all whom you meet.”

Christians are called to be “missionaries of peace,” Pope Francis said. They are called to be witnesses of God’s love for all people, “not concerned with their own rights, but with those of the Gospel, which are fraternity, love and forgiveness.”


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – “Wonder,” a five-part documentary series from Word on Fire set for release Feb.13-17, shows that “the war between faith and science is untrue,” said Word on Fire founder Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota. Narrated by actor Jonathan Roumie, the episodes explore the nature of light, Trinitarian traces in the cosmos, human and animal language, St. Augustine and evolution, and even theology of salvation suggested by the geometry of Chartres Cathedral’s North Rose Window in Chartres, France. Director Manny Marquez, who said his own faith was deepened by the project, told OSV News the films are “an opportunity to make a difference in the conversation” between faith and science.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington urged “ordinary people of color” to “vastly improve our world with an understanding of the strength of character that resides within the souls of our people.” In his homily during a Feb. 5 Mass in honor of Black History Month, the cardinal said, “We are chosen by none other than the Lord, the light of the world himself; we have no choice but to be an example to the world.” In the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew (5:13-16), Jesus refers to his disciples as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. “Many have suffered martyrdom as the price of their witness and those who do become salt and light may become the subject of ridicule,” Cardinal Gregory said. “But we need ordinary faith-filled people like yourselves to allow your lights to shine – however small … to illuminate the darkness of this world.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis expressed his “spiritual closeness” and “solidarity” with those affected by a pair of powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria Feb. 6. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey hit southern Turkey before dawn Feb. 6 wreaking havoc in large areas of neighboring Syria. It was followed by what the geological survey said was a separate 7.5 magnitude earthquake, less than 12 hours later some 60 miles away. The day after, ABC News was reporting that more than 7,000 people were killed while hundreds remained trapped under the rubble of toppled buildings. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in need said a Catholic priest was among the dead in Syria. Father Imad Daher died in the collapse of the residence of retired Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, who was injured and hospitalized, the charity said. Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” to learn of the “huge loss of life” caused by the disaster and offered his “heartfelt condolences” to those mourning losses, wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, in telegrams to the Vatican’s ambassadors in Turkey and Syria. The pope also prayed that emergency personnel would “be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The principal task of the continental assemblies and the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops in 2023 and 2024 is to learn and strengthen a process of listening as a church to the Holy Spirit and not to address all the issues being debated in the church, top officers of the synod said. The theme that Pope Francis has chosen for the general assembly “is clear: ‘For a synodal church: communion, participation, mission.’ This is therefore the sole theme that we are called to explore in each of the stages within the process,” their letter to bishops said. “Those who claim to impose any one theme on the synod forget the logic that governs the synod process: we are called to chart a ‘common course’ beginning with the contribution of all,” said the letter, published Jan. 29, and signed by Cardinals Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, relator general of the synod. Addressed to the world’s bishops, the letter focused on the current “continental” stage of the synodal process, and the role of the bishop in the synodal process. The bishops, “in your particular churches, are the principle and foundation of unity of the holy people of God,” they said, and “there is no exercise of ecclesial synodality without exercise of episcopal collegiality.”

This is the logo for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, which takes place Aug. 1-6, 2023. One issue surrounding every WYD perpetually makes headlines months before the event: that of costs. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Holy See Press Office)

LISBON, Portugal (OSV News) – One issue involving World Youth Day perpetually makes headlines months before the event: that of costs. The event taking place Aug. 1-6, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal. As reported by Reuters, Lisbon’s mayor, Carlos Moedas, was sharply criticized on Portuguese social media after it was revealed his office would spend over over $5.4 million (5 million euros) to build a 54,000-square foot altar for the final Mass of the August event. The expensive altar is not the only aspect that created controversy. In October, the Portuguese government announced that public institutions would spend around $190 million in WYD. On Jan. 31, after the uproar about the altar, the government led by socialist prime minister António Costa announced a reduction of the initial figure. But these costs may not be as astronomical as they seem? WYD is a major international event of the Catholic Church – one that brings together millions of young people from around the world to pray, learn and meet with the current pope for a handful of days every few years – and major events necessarily come with a significant price tag.

Nicaragua deporta a 222 presos políticos a EE.UU.; incluidos sacerdotes católicos, estudiantes, opositores al régimen

Por David Agren

Nicaragua ha liberado a más de 200 presos políticos, entre ellos sacerdotes católicos, estudiantes y opositores al régimen, quienes fueron sacados de prisiones que estaban en condiciones deplorables y enviados a Estados Unidos.

Los medios de los países centroamericanos informaron que 222 presos políticos abordaron un vuelo el 9 de febrero a Estados Unidos, donde se les otorgaría refugio.

The New York Times informó que el régimen del presidente Daniel Ortega no pidió nada a cambio de la liberación de los presos políticos, pero citó a un funcionario de la administración de Biden que dijo que Nicaragua esperaba mejorar las relaciones entre los dos países.

Juan Sebastián Chamorro, uno de los más de 200 presos políticos liberados de Nicaragua, habla con los periodistas después de llegar a los Estados Unidos en el Aeropuerto Internacional Dulles en Virginia el 9 de febrero de 2023. (Foto OSV News/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“La liberación de estos individuos, uno de los cuales es ciudadano estadounidense, por parte del Gobierno de Nicaragua marca un paso constructivo para abordar los abusos contra los derechos humanos en el país y abre la puerta a un mayor diálogo entre los Estados Unidos y Nicaragua sobre ciertos temas”, dijo el secretario de Estado de EE.UU., Anthony Blinken, en un comunicado del 9 de febrero.

“El desarrollo de hoy es producto de la diplomacia estadounidense concertada, y continuaremos apoyando al pueblo nicaragüense”.

El avión con los prisioneros liberados aterrizó en Washington al mediodía, hora del Este.

En una declaración en video emitida a principios del 9 de febrero, el juez nicaragüense Octavio Rothschuh ordenó la “deportación” de los presos políticos de Nicaragua.

“Los deportados fueron declarados traidores a la patria y sancionados por diferentes delitos graves e inhabilitados de forma perpetua para ejercer la función pública en nombre del servicio del estado de Nicaragua, así como ejercer cargos de elección popular, quedando suspensos sus derechos ciudadanos de forma perpetua, a esta hora los deportados ya están en Estados Unidos de América, damos por concluida la sentencia de deportación”, dijo Rothschuh.

La Asamblea Nacional despojó rápidamente a los presos políticos exiliados de su ciudadanía nicaragüense.

Los nombres de los prisioneros no fueron revelados de inmediato, pero medios nicaragüenses y sacerdotes en el exilio dijeron que la lista incluía a eclesiásticos condenados en juicios falsos por conspiración y difusión de información falsa. La lista también incluía candidatos de la oposición descalificados por Ortega antes de las elecciones de 2021, cuyos resultados los funcionarios estadounidenses y europeos se negaron a reconocer.

Juan Lorenzo Holmann, uno de los más de 200 presos políticos liberados de Nicaragua, habla por teléfono celular afuera de un hotel después de llegar a los Estados Unidos en el Aeropuerto Internacional Dulles en Virginia el 9 de febrero de 2023. (Foto OSV News/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters )

La organización independiente de noticias nicaragüense Confidencial informó que seis eclesiásticos y un comunicador diocesano, condenados a 10 años de prisión por cargos de conspiración por un tribunal nicaragüense el 6 de febrero, viajaban en el vuelo a Estados Unidos.

La lista incluye a los padres Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Díaz y Sadiel Eugarrios; el diácono Raúl Antonio Vega; los seminaristas Darvin Leiva y Melkin Centeno; y el camarógrafo Sergio Cárdenas, todos de la Diócesis de Matagalpa. Otro sacerdote, el padre Óscar Danilo Benavidez, párroco de la comunidad de Mulukuku, quien fue arrestado el 14 de agosto y sentenciado el 5 de febrero por cargos similares de conspiración y difusión de información falsa, también se encontraba en el vuelo.

Se desconoce el estado del Obispo Rolando Álvarez de Matagalpa. El obispo, un crítico implacable del régimen de Ortega, ha estado bajo arresto domiciliario desde agosto de 2021. El obispo se negó con anterioridad a huir del país, a pesar de la creciente persecución.

Una fuente nicaragüense le dijo a Inés San Martín, vicepresidenta de comunicaciones de las Obras Misionales Pontificias de EE.UU., que el Obispo Álvarez no firmó su orden de deportación. Otra fuente en Nicaragua le dijo a OSV News lo mismo.

La liberación de los presos políticos ofreció un raro momento de alivio para los católicos en Nicaragua, pero cierta consternación ya que los expulsados fueron despojados de su ciudadanía.

El Obispo Auxiliar Silvio José Báez tuiteó el 9 de febrero: “Me alegro profundamente de que los presos políticos de Nicaragua estén fuera de la cárcel. ¡Doy gracias a Dios por ellos! Nunca debieron ser apresados. Desterrándolos, la dictadura de Nicaragua comete otro crimen, mostrando que son ellos (el gobierno) quienes no merecen ser nicaragüenses”.

El Obispo Báez sirve en la Arquidiócesis de Managua en Nicaragua pero ahora vive en el exilio en Miami. Huyó del país en 2019 después de enfrentar amenazas de muerte por criticar al gobierno totalitario del país.

La Iglesia Católica de Nicaragua ha provocado la ira del régimen de Ortega por brindar refugio a los manifestantes después de que estallaron las manifestaciones en 2018 y, posteriormente, acompañar a las familias de los presos políticos.

“La iglesia es importante porque sigue siendo una de las instituciones con mayor confianza entre la población”, dijo a OSV News Tiziano Breda, investigador del Instituto Italiano de Asuntos Internacionales.

“(El Obispo) Álvarez fue una de las voces que se expresó abiertamente y… tenía capacidad para convocar a la gente. (Su encarcelamiento) desincentiva a cualquier otra voz en la Iglesia Católica a expresar puntos de vista o reunir a la gente y criticar al gobierno”, dijo.

La persecución de los católicos nicaragüenses ha causado consternación internacional y expresiones de solidaridad de conferencias episcopales de todo el mundo.

“Seguimos con tristeza y preocupación la situación en Nicaragua, y la persecución a la que está siendo sometida nuestra iglesia”, dijo el Cardenal Jean-Claude Hollerich de Luxemburgo, presidente de la Comisión de las Conferencias Episcopales de la Unión Europea (conocida como COMECE) en una carta del 6 de febrero al Obispo Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez de Jinotega, presidente de la conferencia episcopal de Nicaragua.

“Como obispos de COMECE, estamos comprometidos a promover la libertad, la democracia y la justicia en Nicaragua a través de nuestro diálogo regular con los representantes de las instituciones de la UE”, agregó el Cardenal Hollerich.

“No duden que como COMECE haremos todo lo que esté a nuestro alcance con las instituciones europeas para (la liberación del obispo) y para promover la libertad, el estado de derecho, la justicia y la democracia en su amado país”, dijo.

El Papa Francisco ha hablado relativamente poco sobre Nicaragua, donde el régimen expulsó al nuncio apostólico, el Arzobispo Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, en marzo de 2022.

El papa ha expresado públicamente su preocupación por la situación en Nicaragua y ha llamado al diálogo. Dijo a los periodistas en septiembre: “Hay diálogo. Eso no significa que aprobemos o desaprobemos todo lo que hace el gobierno”.

Breda dijo que los objetivos de los diálogos que involucran a funcionarios nicaragüenses se han reducido de tratar de encontrar una solución a la crisis política, incluidas elecciones libres, que permitan a Ortega dejar el poder pacíficamente, “a tratar de persuadir al gobierno para que brinde las condiciones más mínimas y humanas para los prisioneros políticos”.

La Iglesia Católica ha promovido anteriormente el diálogo en Nicaragua para encontrar una solución pacífica a las protestas, pero interrumpió las conversaciones luego de que el régimen mostrara mala fe. Ortega y su esposa, la vicepresidenta Rosario Murillo, posteriormente clasificaron a los líderes de la Iglesia como “golpistas” y “terroristas”..


WASHINGTON (OSV News) – A songwriting competition aims to inspire new Catholic music as a part of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival initiative. The Eucharistic Revival Musical Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, seeks entries from Catholic composers, poets and songwriters for Catholic music, with a particular emphasis on the church’s teachings on the real presence of the Eucharist and the church’s unity as the body of Christ. Marilyn Santos, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, said music is a beautiful way of “expressing our faith” and that she hoped the contest would “discover these new evangelists who use music as their medium of conveying the message.” Submissions are due April 21 with winners announced June 9.

DEDHAM, Mass. (OSV News) – Lawyers for Theodore McCarrick want the criminal sex abuse case against the disgraced cleric dismissed, claiming the 92-year-old former cardinal is incompetent to stand trial. In a motion filed in the Dedham District Court Jan. 13, lawyers for McCarrick claimed an independent evaluation shows the laicized cleric in steep mental and physical decline. Prosecutors are expected to seek their own evaluation, and a Massachusetts judge will ultimately decide if McCarrick can stand trial. He is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. The outcome of the competency hearing will not stop the many civil cases now pending against McCarrick, who was removed from ministry in 2018 following a credible allegation of abuse of a minor, as well as wide-spread reports that he abused young men, going back decades. He was laicized in 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis asked Cubans “to make present in their hearts” the actions and words of St. John Paul II during his visit to their nation 25 years ago to “give a new push to building the country’s future with hope and determination.” In a letter to the Cuban people, released at the Vatican Jan. 14, the pope marked the anniversary of St. John Paul becoming the first pope to visit the island nation. The visit began with Cuban President Fidel Castro welcoming the pope Jan. 21, 1998, to begin a five-day visit. Upon landing in Havana, St. John Paul called for Cuba to “open itself up to the world” and for the world to “open itself up to Cuba.” Pope Francis reminded Cubans that St. John Paul had asked them to return to their “Cuban and Christian roots” to face the country’s challenges while remembering that each person “is primarily defined by their obligation to others and to history.” Twenty-five years later, the pope said those roots of the Cuban people have grown and flourished through “work and sacrifice each day, not only for your families, but also for your neighbors and friends, for the whole people, and in a special way for those most in need.” Pope Francis told them, “Thank you for this example of collaboration and of mutual assistance that unites you and reveals the spirit that characterizes you: open, welcoming and supportive.”

Sister André, a French Daughter of Charity who was the world’s oldest known person, is pictured in an undated photo. Sister André died Jan. 17, 2023, at age 118 in a nursing home in Toulon, France. (OSV News photo/courtesy EHPAD Sainte Catherine Labouré)

TOULON, France (OSV News) – Sister Andre, a Daughter of Charity and the world’s oldest known person, died at age 118, a spokesman of the nursing home where she died told AFP agency on Tuesday. “There is great sadness but … it was her desire to join her beloved brother. For her, it’s a liberation,” David Tavella, speaking for the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home, told AFP. Sister Andre, a Catholic convert raised in a Protestant family, was born Lucile Randon Feb. 11, 1904. It was 10 years before World War I, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States, New York opened its first subway line and U.S. Army engineers began work on the Panama Canal. She also lived through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and through 10 pontificates. Sister Andre died Jan. 17 in her sleep at her nursing home in Toulon, on France’s Mediterranean coast, Tavella said. An avid listener of Vatican Radio, the French nun sent well wishes to the radio operation on the occasion of its 90th anniversary in 2021. Sister Andre, who was blind, was a “dedicated listener of the radio that offers her a window of the world” and supports her prayer life, Vatican News reported Feb. 11, 2021.


Children dressed as the Three Kings carry offertory gifts as Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2023. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills in the United States for the first time, the agency announced Jan. 3, prompting criticism from Catholic and pro-life groups. The Biden administration’s rule change comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that struck down its previous ruling in Roe v. Wade, prompting many states to either attempt to restrict or expand access to abortion. The regulatory change will permit the retail sale of mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion. The drug could previously only be dispensed only by some mail-order pharmacies, doctors, or clinics. The new FDA rules will still require a prescription, but will permit a wider range of pharmacies to sell the drugs. Dr. Marie Hilliard, co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association’s ethics committee, and Dr. Lester Ruppersberger, former CMA president, told OSV News in a statement the new rule will “put the health of women, and their true informed consent, at risk.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – After a report dubbed 2022 “the year of the botched execution,” Catholic activists renewed their calls for an end to the practice. Despite declining public support for the practice, and a campaign promise from President Joe Biden, a Catholic Democrat, to repeal the federal death penalty, a bill to do so gained little traction last Congress, when Democrats still controlled both chambers. The Catholic church opposes the death penalty as morally “inadmissible” in the modern era – a teaching Pope Francis changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 and expounded on the change in the 2020 encyclical “Fratelli tutti.” The Catholic church is committed to death penalty abolition worldwide.

EL PASO, Texas (OSV News) – In this first trip to the border since he took office, Biden, who is Catholic, sought to “assess border enforcement operations” and talk to those helping to manage “the historic number of migrants fleeing political oppression and gang violence in Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba,” according to the White House. Biden’s visit – which lasted a few hours – came amid criticism over how he is handling the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. During his nearly four-hour visit to El Paso, Biden did not meet with migrants or deliver public remarks. Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso shared his concerns, as did other migrant advocates, with the president and his aides. At a news briefing, Sister Norma Pimentel of the Missionaries of Jesus, who heads Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, said the president’s presence at the border was significant. The sister stressed the need to come together as a community – including the city government, Border Patrol and faith-based communities – to safeguard people’s dignity while creating policies to face the issue of migration. After the short visit, Biden traveled to Mexico City, where he and the presidents of Mexico and Canada gathered for a Jan. 9-10 North American leaders’ summit.

ROME (OSV News) – In what looks like a continuation of pontifical legacy, Pope Benedict XVI was buried in the crypt where his Polish predecessor, St. John Paul II, was first buried. St. John XXIII also was buried there prior to his beatification. The place of burial is unique for many that knew the fond relationship of St. John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger. The two popes had a unique intellectual friendship throughout John Paul’s papacy. And even if their characters seemed a world away, Cardinal Ratzinger was similar to St. John Paul II in many aspects as pontiff. The Holy See Press Office predicted the crypt where Pope Benedict was laid to rest will be ready for the faithful to visit after Jan. 8.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The disappearance 40 years ago of Emanuela Orlandi has haunted her family, fueled conspiracy theories and provided grist for a recent Netflix series. Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said Jan. 9 that Alessandro Diddi, Vatican City’s chief prosecutor, was opening a new file on the case, although he provided no details about the direction the investigation was expected to take. The Italian news agency ANSA said Diddi’s decision was in response to requests by Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother. Vatican investigators will begin by “analyzing the acts and documents related to prior investigations,” of which there have been many, ANSA said. Pietro Orlandi told the television RaiNews24 that he had received copies of WhatsApp messages exchanged in 2014 by “two persons very close to Pope Francis that talk about documents” related to the case that never have been published. He said he was certain someone in the Vatican knew more about what happened to his sister. Pietro and Emanuela are the children of a Vatican employee and grew up in an apartment inside the Vatican. Emanuela disappeared in Rome June 22, 1983, when she was 15.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The way individual Catholics and their parishes care for the sick offers a precise measure of just how much they either are part of or are fighting the “throwaway culture” that ignores or discards anyone seen as flawed or weak, Pope Francis said in his message for the World Day of the Sick. The care of those who are ill shows “whether we are truly companions on the journey or merely individuals on the same path, looking after our own interests and leaving others to ‘make do,’” the pope said in the message, which was released by the Vatican Jan. 10. The Catholic Church celebrates the world day Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. “Experiences of bewilderment, sickness and weakness are part of the human journey,” the 86-year-old pope wrote. But, he said, the Bible makes clear that “far from excluding us from God’s people,” those situations of vulnerability “bring us to the center of the Lord’s attention, for he is our Father and does not want to lose even one of his children along the way.” Those who profess belief in God, he said, should do likewise, placing the sick at the center of their attention.

SÃO PAULO (OSV News) – The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops is said to be “perplexed by the serious and violent occurrences” that erupted Jan. 8 in Brasilia, the nation’s capital. Thousands of protesters invaded the country’s Congress, Supreme Court building and the presidential palace, enraged about newly sworn-in president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The protesters are supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated by Lula, as the new president is popularly known. They demand the removal of the new president, stating that the October elections were illegitimate and are asking Brazil’s military to take over. Bishops’ conference officials called for the immediate cessation of “criminal attacks on the democratic rule of law.” “These attacks must be immediately contained and their organizers and participants held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Citizens and democracy must be protected,” said the message in the conference’s social media accounts. Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo also condemned the events stating that what happened in Brasília “was unacceptable.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Catholic immigration advocates are hailing the extension of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to war-torn Yemen, where more than 23 million face what the United Nations has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The decision, announced Jan. 3 and set to begin March 4, will safeguard protections for TPS program participants through Sept. 3, 2024. With Yemen deemed by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the extension “will provide real relief for many,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “This decision duly recognizes the needs of Yemenis in the U.S. who cannot return home.”

TIONKUY, Burkino Faso (OSV News) – Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo, 67, Malian-born Catholic priest, was laid to rest Jan. 5 at the Cemetery of Pastoral Agents in Tionkuy, 150 miles west of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The priest was killed Jan. 2 by unidentified armed men in what his bishop, Bishop Prosper Bonaventure Ky, who heads the Diocese of Dédougou, called “cold-blood murder.” Father Zerbo was on his way to Tona to accomplish a mission for his bishop when he was intercepted by unidentified armed men in the village of Soro in Gassan township found in the northwestern region of Boucle du Mouhon – one of Burkina Faso’s 13 administrative regions and a flashpoint of jihadist extremism. After killing the priest, the killers escaped with his car, leaving his lifeless body by the roadside. Bishop Ky expressed “profound sorrow” at the killing of the priest and hoped he would find peace in the Lord. The killing added to a long list of persecution of Christians and other civilians and underscored the continued spread of terrorism in Burkina Faso and across the Sahel region.


MENDOTA, Minn. (CNS) – A small article in a Christian magazine caught Bob O’Connell’s eye in 1982. It described a national program that provides Christmas presents to children who have a parent in prison. O’Connell was looking for a way to apply the Gospel message by serving the poor and suffering. “I had been in the charismatic movement … for seven, eight years,” said O’Connell, 78, a member of the Church of St. Peter in Mendota. “I was restless. I was itchy for doing something. I was just kind of bored. ‘OK, I’ve got a full-time job, but when it comes to doing some ministry, something for the Lord, I’m not doing anything.’ So, I thought, ‘What can I do?’” The article described a ministry called Project Angel Tree. It was started by a woman who had been incarcerated herself: Mary Kay Beard of Alabama. She had been hired by an organization called Prison Fellowship and was asked to come up with a Christmas project. She decided to erect Christmas trees at two local shopping malls and attach paper angels with the names of boys and girls who had a parent in prison. On the angels were gift ideas, and Beard coordinated a team of people to deliver gifts to these children of inmates. O’Connell started doing this in the Twin Cities that same year. He has done it every year since, coordinating the program from his Burnsville home. It has expanded to include northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota. This year, Missouri was added to the list.

LANSING, Mich. (CNS) – A Catholic parish in the Diocese of Lansing has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to protect its right to hire parish employees and staff for its grade school who uphold the tenets of the Catholic faith. The filing follows a July 28 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court that reinterpreted a state civil rights statute’s definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation without any exemption for religious organizations. Filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan-Southern Division, the suit names state Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Department of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Commission. Becket, a Washington-based religious liberty law firm, is representing the plaintiff, St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Johns, Michigan. Founded in 1857, it is the only Catholic parish in town. Its elementary school opened in 1924. The state Supreme Court’s “new understanding” of the civil rights statute “would make it illegal for St. Joseph to operate in accordance with the 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexuality,” Becket said in a statement. “This threatens the school’s right to hire staff who will faithfully pass on the tenets of the faith to the next generation,” it said.

Bishop Jacinto Vera of Montevideo, Uruguay, who lived in the 1800s, will be beatified, Pope Francis announced in a series of decrees for sainthood causes released Dec. 17, 2022. (CNS photo/Archdiocese of Montevideo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Decrying what he described as “hostile times” when antisemitism and violence against Christians are on the rise, Pope Francis said a renewed commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue is needed. “The path we have traveled together is considerable,” but the work clearly is not done, the pope told members of the Amitié Judéo-Chrétienne de France, a dialogue and education group founded in 1948 by Jules Isaac, a French historian who worked to improve Christian-Jewish relations after World War II and met with Popes Pius XII and John XXIII. “We must give thanks to God” for the progress, the pope said, especially “given the weight of mutual prejudices and the sometimes-painful history that must be acknowledged. The task is not finished, and I encourage you to persevere on the path of dialogue, fraternity and joint initiatives. This beautiful work, which consists in creating bonds, is fragile, always to be resumed and consolidated, especially in these hostile times in which attitudes of closure and rejection of the other are becoming more numerous, including with the worrying reappearance of antisemitism, particularly in Europe, and of violence against Christians.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Celebrating Christmas is important and beautiful, Pope Francis said, but he asked people to spend less on their celebrations this year and donate the savings to help the people of Ukraine. As he has done at his general audiences since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the pope asked pilgrims and visitors Dec. 14 to express their “closeness to the martyred Ukrainian people, persevering in fervent prayer for these brothers and sisters of ours who are suffering so much. Brothers and sisters, I tell you, they are suffering so very, very much in Ukraine,” the pope said. “I want to draw your attention to Christmas, which is coming, and to the festivities,” he said. “It’s beautiful to celebrate Christmas and have parties, but let’s reduce the level of Christmas spending a bit; let’s have a simpler Christmas with more modest gifts.” And, the pope said, “let’s send what we save to the people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much.” People in the country are hungry and cold, he said.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (CNS) – Uruguay, South America’s most secular country, is poised to get its first homegrown saint. Bishop Jacinto Vera, the first bishop of Montevideo, was declared venerable in 2015 and on Dec. 17 the Vatican announced that he would be beatified, after Pope Francis formally signed off on a miracle attributed to the future saint. Bishop Vera’s path to sainthood not only reflects the country’s history, but also the new path for the church in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay under the stewardship of Pope Francis, an Argentine. “The image of a saint like Jacinto Vera, someone with such important meaning for our country and our history, is of great benefit for Catholics. He walked our country. There is not a place you go where he has not been,” said Father Gabriel González, a professor at the Catholic University of Uruguay who has written extensively about the life and work of Bishop Vera. Jacinto Vera was born at sea in 1813 to parents who set sail from Spain’s Canary Islands with the goal of reaching farmland in Uruguay, which was still a Spanish colony. He gravitated to the church early in life and studied with the Jesuits in neighboring Argentina until his ordination in 1841 as a diocesan priest. As bishop of Montevideo, he invited the Jesuits to return to Uruguay and brought in several congregations of women religious to reestablish order to a church on the fringes of the continent. González said the local church was in disarray, but that changed with Bishop Vera.

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – A Christmas of darkness, silence and fear awaits thousands of Christians in camps for internally displaced persons in Myanmar, where carols, decorations and illuminations are banned because of ongoing conflicts. The sounds of gunfire, fighter jets and artillery shelling have replaced those of carols and celebrations in predominantly Christian Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin states, reported ucanews.com. Thousands of Christians have been forced to take refuge in churches, makeshift camps and in forests following military attacks against civilians. Ucanews.com talked to some people in the camps, but, at their request, changed their names to protect their identities. Ucanews.com reported that Josephine Pho Mu, 42, said this is the second time since 1988 she has had to flee her home in Kayah state. “I thought we would be temporarily displaced and go back home. But we have been away from home and sheltering at this camp for 19 months,” said Pho Mu, who has taken refuge at a church-run camp in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, after leaving her village in Demodo township in May 2021. The mother of three said this will be her second Christmas in the camp. “It is a mix of joy and sorrow when Christmas approaches. We are joyful about welcoming Jesus Christ’s birthday, but we are sorrowful as we are in the camp due to the conflict and don’t know when we will be able to return home.”

Mundo en Fotos

Un fragmento del Partenón que representa la cabeza de un niño, que se encuentra en los Museos Vaticanos, se encuentra entre los tres fragmentos antiguos que el papa Francisco entregará al arzobispo Ieronymos II de Atenas y de toda Grecia. Según el sitio web de los Museos Vaticanos, los fragmentos llegaron a su posesión en el siglo XIX. (Foto CNS/Museos Vaticanos)
Los jugadores de fútbol se ayudan mutuamente durante un partido amistoso en el Estadio Al Thumama en Doha, Qatar, el 12 de diciembre de 2022. La experta en civismo Christine Porath, profesora asociada de la Escuela de Negocios McDonough de la Universidad de Georgetown, dice que los pequeños gestos de amabilidad pueden ayudar a revertir la creciente tendencia a la falta de civismo en el lugar de trabajo y en la sociedad en su conjunto. (Foto del CNS/Ibraheem Al Omari, Reuters)
Una mujer en Kenosha, Wisconsin, entrega flores a un miembro de la Guardia Nacional de Wisconsin el 28 de agosto de 2020. La experta en civismo Christine Porath, profesora asociada de la Escuela de Negocios McDonough de la Universidad de Georgetown, dice que los pequeños gestos de amabilidad pueden ayudar a revertir la creciente tendencia a la falta de civismo en el lugar de trabajo y en la sociedad en su conjunto. (Foto del CNS/Brendan McDermid, Reuters)
Una monaguilla cerca de Managua, Nicaragua, balancea un incienso antes de la misa en esta foto de archivo de 2008. Durante una audiencia en la Cámara de Representantes de los EE. UU. sobre la represión de Nicaragua contra los trabajadores de la iglesia y los católicos, el copresidente de la comisión de derechos humanos de la Cámara llamó al Papa Francisco el 15 de diciembre de 2022 a “hablar enérgicamente” contra la situación. (Foto CNS/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters)
Un árbol de Navidad se encuentra en la Plaza del Pesebre frente a la Iglesia de la Natividad en Belén, Cisjordania, el 15 de diciembre de 2022. La iglesia está construida en lo que se cree que es el lugar donde nació Jesús. (Foto del SNC/Debbie Hill)


This is a meditation with a St. Joseph candle from the “Advent Box” booklet by Banafsaj Christian Designs in Lebanon. The booklet comes with an accompanying set of the Holy Family figurine candles. (CNS photo/courtesy Banafsaj Christian Designs)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) – In the past several years, an increasing number of Providence College graduates have pursued a vocation with the Dominican order that runs the Rhode Island university. “During the five years I was in Providence, we had at least one student enter the novitiate at the end of each year,” said Dominican Father Michael Weibley, whose first assignment after ordination was as a chaplain and professor at Providence College. “An average of a novice a year like that is a tremendous blessing for the order,” said the priest, who this year was named pastor of SS. Phillip and James Parish in Baltimore. The increased number of vocations coming from the college emerges in a climate of declining rates of new vocations, particularly for religious orders: In the past 60 years, the total number of active religious priests in the United States has been reduced by more than half. In the past 20 years, the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, which comprises the Northeastern corner of the United States, has been reporting steadily increasing vocations, with many of the new recruits being drawn directly from Providence College. For the novices currently emerging from Providence College, the call to preaching seems to be coming at a much younger age. Seeing “younger and younger friars on campus or students your own age going directly into the novitiate after graduating” makes it “easier to envision yourself actually pursuing that lifestyle,” said Dominican Brother Nicodemus Thomas, a 2018 graduate.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis told Italian students to “dream big” like St. John XXIII and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about the world of peace and justice they would like to see. And at the same time, he wished them a good Advent journey “made up of many small gestures of peace each day: gestures of acceptance, encounter, understanding, closeness, forgiveness and service. Gestures that come from the heart and are steps toward Bethlehem, toward Jesus, who is the prince of peace.” Pope Francis met Nov. 28 with some 6,000 Italian schoolchildren, teens and their teachers, who have been participating in the program of the National Network of Schools for Peace. The program is focusing on the theme, “For Peace. With Care,” and Pope Francis told them that the second part is essential. “Usually, we talk about peace when we feel directly threatened, as in the case of a possible nuclear attack or a war being fought on our doorstep,” the pope said. And “we care about the rights of migrants when we have some relative or friend who has migrated.” But even when war is not near or threatening someone known, “peace is always, always about us! Just as it always concerns another, our brother or sister, and he or she must be taken care of,” the pope told the students.

BEIRUT (CNS) – Violette Yammine aims to illuminate Advent and Christmas hope for Lebanese facing tough times. The graphic designer has launched an “Advent Box” that includes a “Meditations for Advent with the Holy Family” booklet, with an accompanying set of Holy Family figurine candles. Separately, there is also a children’s Christmas story. The two Christmas season family participation projects are the first offerings of Yammine’s Catholic design firm “Banafsaj,” which is how Violette is pronounced in Arabic. Yammine, a Maronite Catholic, considers her enterprise – Banafsaj Christian Designs – a way “to offer beautiful violets, and scents, to the Lord.” In Lebanon, she noticed, most Christian family-oriented publications are produced by evangelical churches. So, she decided “to put all my talent in the service of Christ.” The Advent booklet and accompanying Holy Family candles are intended for the three Sundays preceding Christmas. Yammine said she hopes it will spark “an Advent well spent in prayer.” The first Sunday reading concerns the Annunciation, intended for the Mary candle. The second Sunday reading is the revelation to Joseph, and thus the Joseph candle. The birth of Jesus is the third and final Sunday reading, with the candle of baby Jesus in the manger.

ACCRA, Ghana (CNS) – As Ghana’s national soccer team, the Black Stars, joins other national teams for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, some Ghanaian citizens have been talking about Iñaki Williams, who was named after a Catholic priest. His parents, Ghanaians Felix Williams and Maria (Mary) Arthuer, crossed the Sahara and, when they got to Morocco, jumped the border fence to Melilla, one of two Spanish cities in North Africa. The Guardian reported that, on the advice of a lawyer, they said they were from Liberia to apply for political asylum. They ended up in Bilbao, Spain. A Caritas volunteer, then-Deacon Iñaki Mardones, was instrumental in helping them when they arrived in Bilbao. “I went to pick them up at Abando (railway) station,” Father Mardones told La Provincia, a Spanish magazine. At the time, Maria was seven months pregnant. “I remember them with the suitcase and the uncertainty on their faces,” Father Mardones told La Provincia. The report on them said they understood Spanish, “but when I started to speak they looked at me without understanding anything. When I switched to English they sighed in relief.” He helped them to an apartment used by Caritas, and even helped them get to the hospital for their child’s birth.


BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S bishops were encouraged to send participants to the African National Eucharistic Congress, slated for July 21-23 in Washington, and to come themselves. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, in a Nov. 16 address to the bishops, told them the congress, known as ANEC, would be “more engaging” beyond the workshops that are part and parcel of the multiday gathering. He said there would be Masses, a eucharistic procession, a rosary procession and cultural celebrations on the congress schedule. “The ANEC is the right ground for the new evangelization, an opportunity for all of us to engage – dioceses, parishes, religious congregations, associations and others – to address the pastoral needs of African Catholics in the United States,” he said. “Your presence will be a tremendous inspiration for those who will attend, and make the ANEC a success.” Next year’s African National Eucharistic Congress will be the fourth such gathering. It will be held on the grounds of The Catholic University of America in Washington. The congress is held every five years.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Latinos may be changing American politics more than politics is changing Latinos. To hear speakers at a Nov. 16 Georgetown online forum, politics is trying harder to bring Latinos into the fold. Jens Manuel Krogstad of the Pew Research Center, in his work studying Latino demographics and politics, noted that Latinos do not identify as strongly with either the Democratic or Republican parties as do other Americans. “Latinos support for the two parties has ebbed and flowed over the decades,” Krogstad said during a forum sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life on: “How Are Latinos Changing Politics and How Are Politics Changing Latinos?”

Democratic support peaked at 70% during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while GOP support got as high as 40% for George W. Bush and 38% for Donald Trump. “Latinos are not a monolith,” declared Olivia Perez-Cubas of the Winning for Women Action Fund, which recruits and gives financial backing to Republican women candidates. “The GOP depends on its ability to build a tent to diversify the party – which we’re not very good at but I think we’re working on – to speak to a diverse group of voters, and Latinos are very much a big part of that equation.” The upshot of the Nov. 8 midterm elections for Latinos is that “ the community is consequential – it is very consequential – in which party will control Congress, in which party will prevail in presidential elections,” said Julián Castro, a former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development.

Pope Francis poses for a group photo with his cousins and their families after Mass and a luncheon in Asti, Italy, Nov. 20, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

ASTI, Italy (CNS) – With several of his cousins and their children and grandchildren present, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Asti cathedral, giving a nod to his family roots and drawing people’s attention to the root of Christian faith: the cross of Jesus. The Mass Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King and World Youth Day, was the only public event during the pope’s weekend visit to the region from which his grandparents, Giovanni Angelo Bergoglio and Rosa Vassallo, and his father Mario immigrated to Argentina in 1929. The visit was timed to coincide with the 90th birthday of Carla Rabezzana, the pope’s second cousin. And, after landing in Portacomaro near Asti Nov. 19 and stopping for a prayer in a village church, Pope Francis headed straight to Rabezzana’s house for lunch. After lunch, the pope visited a nearby home for the aged and then headed to the little village of Tigliole to visit another second cousin, Delia Gai. The cousins and their families joined an estimated 4,000 people for Mass with the pope the next day in the Asti cathedral. In his homily, sprinkled with words in the Piedmont dialect his grandmother taught him, Pope Francis focused on how the kingship of Christ is different from any idea people usually have of a king. “He is not comfortably enthroned but hanging on a gibbet,” the pope said. “The God who ‘casts down the mighty from their thrones’ appears as a slave executed by those in power.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican is willing to do whatever it takes to broker a cease-fire and bring an end to the war on Ukraine, Pope Francis said. “We are continually watching as the situation evolves” concerning ways the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts could help, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Vatican News published the interview Nov. 18. The Vatican Secretariat of State is working diligently every day, looking at every possibility and “giving weight to every opening that could lead to a real cease-fire and real negotiations,” he said. “The Holy See is willing to do everything possible to mediate and end the conflict in Ukraine. We are trying to develop a network of relationships that will foster a rapprochement between the parties, to find solutions. Also, the Holy See does what it must to help the prisoners,” he said, as well as provide humanitarian support “for the people of tormented Ukraine, whom I carry in my heart along with their suffering.” Asked about the prospects for reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine, the pope said, “I have hope. Let’s not resign ourselves, peace is possible. But we must all strive to demilitarize hearts, starting with our own, and then defuse, disarm violence. We must all be pacifists,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The centuries’ old silver fir tree that had been destined to become the centerpiece Christmas decoration in St. Peter’s Square will now live, perhaps to see another century. Forest service rangers arrived at the scene – a mountain grove in central Italy’s Monte Castel Barone – Nov. 14 to alert workers to halt preparations for felling the tree. When it emerged back in 2019 that the small village of Rosello in Italy’s central Abruzzo region was donating the tree to the Vatican for 2022, local activists started flagging problems, such as the lack of transparency concerning the donation and the failure to carry out an environmental impact study. Dario Rapino, a lawyer and nature photographer, even wrote to Pope Francis in 2020, pointing to his encyclical “Laudato Si’ on Care for Our Common Home” and the importance of avoiding any unnecessary human impact on the environment, according to local media reports. Even the World Wildlife Fund had put out a statement Nov. 7 saying, “cutting a tree of this size in the midst of a climate crisis is a debatable decision,” which required “greater transparency.” However, it wasn’t until Rapino recently tracked down the 98-foot-tree, that he discovered it was not located in Rosello, much less in the region of Abruzzo, but was, in fact, in a protected area in the nearby region of Molise in the township of Agnone, according to a report Nov. 12 by ChietiToday. The tree’s size, he said, also put it at around 200 years old.

SÃO PAULO (CNS) – The Vatican has advanced the sainthood cause of the late Archbishop Hélder Câmara of Olinda and Recife, who may soon be called “venerable.” Archbishop Fernando Saburido of Olinda and Recife made the announcement during the closing ceremony of the 18th National Eucharistic Congress. Archbishop Camara, one of the founders of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, was named to Olinda and Recife in 1964, three weeks before the beginning of the military coup that started the 20-year dictatorship in Brazil. Days after the coup, the archbishop released a manifesto supporting the Catholic workers’ action in Recife. The new military government accused him of being a demagogue and a communist, and he was forbidden to speak publicly. “If I give bread to the poor, everyone calls me a saint. If I show why the poor have no bread, they call me a communist and a subversive,” the archbishop is said to have said during that time. Dom Hélder, as he was known, remained a strong critic of the regime, denouncing human rights violations committed by police authorities.

OXFORD, England (CNS) – European church leaders have urged awareness of human rights issues during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, amid continued criticism that the Gulf state was allowed to host the tournament. “Women continue to be held back in Qatar, while non-Islamic religions, including Christianity, are only granted limited freedom, and sexual minorities subjected to criminal prosecution. All of this expresses, not just from a Western viewpoint, a repressive state and social order,” said Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, who heads Germany’s Catholic DJK Sportjugend sports association. He said questions were still asked about the 2010 decision by FIFA, the international soccer governing body, to award the tournament to Qatar, which has no soccer tradition. The bishop issued the statement Nov. 17 as final preparations were made for the 2022 World Cup, Nov. 20-Dec. 18. “Like other states on the Arabian peninsula, the Emirate of Qatar has been catapulted into a new era thanks to oil and gas wealth – today, a conservative-traditional Islamic society and economic hypermodern society coexist with each other,” Bishop Oster said. “Although it would be unfair to ignore this special situation when criticizing questionable conditions, it would also be inappropriate to keep silent about human rights restrictions.” The bishop said Qatar’s mostly foreign population was subject to “strict regulations,” while female domestic workers were often isolated and had trouble “upholding their rights against employers.” The situation had worsened, Bishop Oster said, during construction of stadiums and other sites for the World Cup. He said health and safety standards had been “catastrophic,” with “countless accidents and far too many deaths” among low-wage laborers.


INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – It was a time of Scripture, prayer, music and fellowship. It also was a night to honor the late co-founder of the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference. But for those teenagers and adults from across the United States in attendance, Franciscan Father Agustino Torres’ message Oct. 13 was simple, yet powerful: “The Lord has sent me to bless you.” Father Agustino, who ministers for his order in the New York borough of the Bronx and is founder of the Hispanic youth ministry Corazon Puro, was the keynote speaker on the first night of the four-day conference at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis. The gathering drew about 300 people. It was the first in-person gathering since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The priest said he ministers to people in the inner city, and the heart of his mission is trying to bring them hope. With that hope he also delivers his blessing, much like the blessing he offered to the attendees. “This blessing is meant to be shared, this blessing is meant to be given, this blessing brings joy,” he said. “This blessing brings life, this blessing heals. … And I love sharing the blessing because someone has shared the blessing with me.”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – For the world-renowned emblems of the Catholic faith, such as St. Teresa of Kolkata, elevation to sainthood comes fairly quickly following their deaths. For many others, the sainthood cause is a slow process that sometimes lurches to a stop. One example is Venerable Nelson Baker, the Buffalo, New York, priest who died in 1936 and is the only Civil War veteran with a sainthood cause. Father Baker, who served at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo after his ordination in 1876, was beloved in his lifetime for his charitable efforts for the poor, including serving thousands of meals during the depths of the Great Depression. Dubbed by local newspapers as “the padre of the poor,” he built the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, New York, an orphanage, a maternity hospital, a trade school and a home for infant care. The charitable work he began exists today as OLV Charities. Our Lady of Victory institutions include Homes of Charity, Baker Victory Services and Our Lady of Victory Elementary School. Born in 1842, Father Baker entered the priesthood after operating a successful feed and grain business with a partner. Before that, he served in the 74th Infantry of the New York State Militia, a unit that organized in the summer of 1863 and was stationed in Central Pennsylvania, although it didn’t see combat.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – During the month of November, Pope Francis is asking people to pray for children who are suffering because of poverty, war and exploitation. “Let us pray for children who are suffering, especially for those who are homeless, orphans and victims of war. May they be guaranteed access to education, and may they have the opportunity to experience family affection,” the pope said in a video released Oct. 31. In the video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the pope explained his November prayer intention: “For children who suffer.” “An abandoned child is our fault,” the pope said in the message. “Each marginalized child, abandoned by his or her family, without schooling, without health care, is a cry! A cry that rises up to God and shames the system that we adults have built,” he insisted. Pope Francis noted that there are millions of boys and girls around the world living “in conditions very similar to slavery.”

Catholics and members of a Peruvian community living in Chile attend the procession of El Señor de los Milagros (The Lord of the Miracles), Peru’s most revered Catholic religious icon, in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 30, 2022. (CNS photo/Ivan Alvarado, Reuters)

LIMA, Peru (CNS) – The church in Latin America and the Caribbean is called to be a missionary church that heeds the cry of the poor and excluded; a synodal church where women, young people and laypeople have greater roles; and a church that is evangelized even as it evangelizes, according to the final document of the church’s First Ecclesial Assembly held a year ago in Mexico. The document of reflections and pastoral challenges resulting from the assembly was released by leaders of the Latin American bishops’ council, CELAM, Oct. 31 during a news conference at the Vatican. The conference was livestreamed on various platforms. The publication reflects a desire for a church that “goes out to the periphery … a Samaritan church … a church that builds fraternity, which is grounded in love, in the encounter with those who suffer most,” Archbishop José Luis Azuaje of Maracaibo, Venezuela, president of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a video message at the presentation. The document is the fruit of a monthslong process that included a “listening” period from April to August 2021, during which some 70,000 people throughout the region provided input, followed by the weeklong assembly Nov. 21-28. That process, which echoed the methodology used for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in October 2019, made the ecclesial assembly “a practical laboratory” for the Synod of Bishops on synodality, which began with listening sessions this year, to be followed by meetings in Rome in 2023 and 2024, said Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos of Trujillo, Peru, CELAM president.

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNS) – Catholic bishops in Asia have committed themselves to engage with governments, nongovernmental agencies and civil organizations to respond to issues affecting the church and society in their work for a better Asia. “We believe that peace and reconciliation is the only way forward. We have envisaged new pathways for our ministry based on mutual listening and genuine discernment,” the bishops said in a statement issued Oct. 30, at the end of a two-week general conference. Ucanews.com reported the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences organized its first general conference as a part of its golden jubilee celebrations that brought together 20 cardinals, 120 bishops, 37 priests, eight nuns, and 41 laypeople. The conference, with the theme “Journeying Together as Peoples of Asia,” sought to reaffirm the federation’s work of the past 50 years aiming to “revitalize the church and envision new pathways of service.” One of the paths they identified was “bridge-building” among religions and traditions and also “principled engagement with governments” and nongovernmental agencies on issues of human rights, eradication of poverty, human trafficking, care of the earth, and other common concerns. “The escalating violence and conflicts” in Asia call “for dialogue and reconciliation,” the bishops said without naming any issue or any nation.