Appealing to need for unity, pope restores limits on pre-Vatican II Mass

Father Stephen Saffron, parish administrator, elevates the Eucharist during a traditional Tridentine Mass July 18, 2021, at St. Josaphat Church in the Queens borough of New York City. The Sunday Latin Mass has a dedicated following, drawing more than 150 people from Queens and neighboring counties, in addition to southwestern Connecticut and northern New Jersey. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

VATICAN CITY. Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass. 

“An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16. 

The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy. 

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization. 

Pope Francis also transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the new rules. 

The priests in the Diocese of Nashville currently celebrating the pre-Vatican II Mass in Latin may continue to do so as long as they are working for unity in the Church, said Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding.  

“The pope has concerns about unity in the Church,” said Bishop Spalding. “He is reminding the bishops of their responsibility to maintain and support this key duty of unity within a diocese. 

“Part of that responsibility of unity in the diocese is assuring the liturgy is celebrated well and according to the norms of the Church, especially those teachings that come out of Vatican II,” Bishop Spalding added. “As long as people are respectful of those teachings of the Second Vatican Council and work for unity in the Church, the official Latin Mass may continue.” 

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy. It said any priest of the Latin-rite Church may, without any further permission from the Vatican or from his bishop, celebrate the “extraordinary form” of the Mass according to the rite published in 1962. The Roman Missal based on the revisions of the Second Vatican Council was published in 1969. 

The conditions Pope Benedict set out for use of the old rite were that there was a desire for it, that the priest knows the rite and Latin well enough to celebrate in a worthy manner, and that he ensures that the good of parishioners desiring the extraordinary form “is harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church.” 

The now-retired pope also insisted that Catholics celebrating predominantly according to the old rite acknowledge the validity of the new Mass and accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. 

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis said that responses to a survey of the world’s bishops carried out last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded.” 

“Ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church,’” Pope Francis wrote. 

To promote the unity of the Church, Pope Francis said, bishops should care for those Catholics “who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” while helping them “return in due time” to the celebration of Mass according to the new Missal. 

The pope also indicated he believed that sometimes parishes and communities devoted to the older liturgy were the idea of the priests involved and not the result of a group of Catholic faithful desiring to celebrate that Mass. 

Pope Francis asked bishops “to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy people of God.’” 

However, he also said that many people find nourishment in more solemn celebrations of Mass, so he asked bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.” 

The liturgical life of the Church has changed and developed over the centuries, the pope noted. 

“St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adaptation of the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, had the goal of permitting the Church to raise up, in the variety of languages, ‘a single and identical prayer’ that expressed her unity,” Pope Francis said. “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the Church of the Roman Rite.” 

Andy Telli contributed to this report. 

Pope expresses closeness with Cuban people as unrest continues

People gesture and hold Cuban flags ahead of Pope Francis’ midday recitation of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican July 18, 2021. After speaking about the day’s Gospel reading and leading the prayer, the pope expressed his closeness to the people of Cuba a week after protests erupted on the island nation. CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

VATICAN CITY. Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Cuba a week after protests erupted on the island nation. 

In his first public appearance after his release from Gemelli hospital, the pope told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square July 18 that he was “near to the dear Cuban people in these difficult moments, in particular to those families suffering the most.” 

“I pray that the Lord might help the nation construct a society that is more and more just and fraternal through peace, dialogue and solidarity,” he said, as a large group of pilgrims in the square held Cuban flags. 

The pope encouraged the people of Cuba to entrust themselves to the maternal protection of the island’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity, who “will accompany them on this journey.” 

Thousands of Cubans in Havana and elsewhere took to the streets July 11 to protest economic hardships, lack of basic freedoms, and the Cuban government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, making for what some have described as the most significant unrest in decades. 

Since the protests, the government reportedly has responded by arresting people, including clergy, not only on the streets but also in their homes. There was at least one confirmed death after police shot a man taking part in the anti-government protest. 

Before praying the Angelus, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus shows concern for his disciples and “their physical and interior tiredness” after returning from preaching. 

Jesus does this, the pope said, to make them aware of the danger of being “caught up in the frenzy of doing things, falling into the trap of activism where what is most important are the results that we obtain and the feeling of being absolute protagonists.” 

“How many times this happens in the Church: we are busy, we run around, we think that everything depends on us and, in the end, we risk neglecting Jesus and we always make ourselves the center,” he said. 

The Gospel reading, the pope continued, is a reminder that physical rest also implies remaining in silence and in prayer to “return to the heart of things.” 

“Let us beware, brothers and sisters, of efficiency, let us put a halt to the frantic running around dictated by our agendas. Let us learn how to take a break, to turn off the mobile phone, to contemplate nature, to regenerate ourselves in dialogue with God,” the pope said. 

In doing so, he added, Christians can view others with compassion because “only a heart that does not allow itself to be taken over by hastiness is capable of being moved,” and rather than being preoccupied with self, “is aware of others, of their wounds, their needs.” 

“Compassion is born from contemplation,” Pope Francis said. “If we learn to truly rest, we become capable of true compassion.” 

“If we cultivate a contemplative outlook, we will carry out our activities without that rapacious attitude of those who want to possess and consume everything; if we stay in touch with the Lord and do not anesthetize the deepest part of ourselves, the things we need to do will not have the power to take our breath away or devour us,” he said. 

Pope released from hospital, prays at Rome basilica

Pope Francis greets police officers before entering the Vatican after being discharged from Rome’s Gemelli hospital following his recovery from colon surgery in this screengrab taken from a video July 14, 2021. CNS photo/Cristiano Corvino, Reuters TV screengrab

VATICAN CITY. Ten days after undergoing intestinal surgery, Pope Francis was released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital, the Vatican confirmed. 

In a statement released July 14, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that after leaving the hospital midmorning, the pope visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major to say a prayer of gratitude before the icon of “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people). 

The pope thanked Mary “for the success of his surgery and offered a prayer for all the sick, especially those he had met during his stay in hospital,” the statement said. 

After praying at the basilica, the pope returned to his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Bruni said. 

The pope was admitted to Gemelli hospital in the early afternoon July 4 to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.” 

He underwent a three-hour left hemicolectomy, which is the removal of the descending part of the colon, a surgery that can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected. 

Initially expected to remain in the hospital for seven days, the Vatican said July 12 that the pope would “remain hospitalized for a few more days in order to optimize his medical and rehabilitation therapy.” 

During his stay, the pope continued working and spent time visiting patients at the hospital. 

In his Sunday Angelus address July 11 from the 10th floor balcony of his suite of rooms at the hospital, Pope Francis said his time in the hospital gave him the opportunity to experience “once again how important good health care is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit (that) must not be lost.” 

“It needs to be kept,” the pope said. “And for this, everyone needs to be committed because it helps everyone and requires everyone’s contribution.” 

The evening before his release, Pope Francis visited Gemelli’s pediatric oncology ward, which also is on the 10th floor, and greeted the young patients, their families and the staff. 

While Pope Francis usually takes July as his vacation month, he is scheduled to lead the recitation of the Angelus at noon July 18 and to celebrate Mass July 25, the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. 

N.J. cardinal asks Catholics to sign petition to Congress on Hyde Amendment

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., answers questions during a news conference at the fall general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore Nov. 12, 2019. He has written a letter to the faithful of his diocese asking them to sign a petition asking Congress to keep the Hyde Amendment banning federal funding of abortions. CNS photo/Bob Roller 

NEWARK, N.J. Taxpayer-funded abortion “represents a failure to recognize the sanctity of human life and promotes a culture in which human life in its most vulnerable moment is perceived as disposable,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark. 

A federal budget that “would eliminate” the long-standing bipartisan Hyde Amendment is a proposal that “targets poor women as needing an expedient solution to a complex problem,” he said July 6. 

Cardinal Tobin made the comments in a letter to the faithful of the Newark Archdiocese following moves by President Joe Biden and members of Congress to leave the Hyde Amendment out of spending bills. 

“It is crucially important that we send a strong, clear message that the Hyde Amendment has far-reaching public support and should not be repealed,” Cardinal Tobin said. “Members of Congress need to hear from as many of us as possible.” 

He urged Catholics to go to and join him in signing this petition before July 16 to send “an urgent message” to Congress to keep the Hyde Amendment. 

The cardinal also pointed Catholics to the “Action Alerts” on the issue posted by the New Jersey Catholic Conference at 

 “I am deeply concerned that the proposed federal budget would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which, for 45 years, has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion,” he said. “The Hyde Amendment is credited with saving the lives of millions of children. 

“Now, the powerful pro-abortion lobby and members of Congress are calling for the elimination of this amendment and the implementation of a policy that would designate billions of taxpayer dollars for elective abortions.” 

Hyde first became law in 1976 to prohibit federal funds appropriated through the Labor Department, the Health and Human Services Department and related agencies from being used to cover abortion or fund health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. 

Hyde has been reenacted in spending bills every year since it was first passed. 

On May 28, Biden unveiled his proposed budget of $6 trillion for fiscal year 2022 and did not include the Hyde Amendment. His proposal would include spending to improve and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, provide free pre-K and community college, and increase domestic programs aimed at boosting public health and helping the poor. 

Hyde also was excluded in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that Biden signed into law March 11. The U.S. bishops called its absence “unconscionable.” 

Biden, a Catholic, who for his years in the Senate strongly supported Hyde, now backs repeal of the amendment as does Vice President Kamala Harris. 

“Pope Francis has said, ‘It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child,’” Cardinal Tobin said. The pope “notes that abortion ‘is not a primarily religious issue but one of human ethics.’” 

When Biden released his proposed budget without the Hyde Amendment, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, Catholic Health Association’s president and CEO, issued separate statements praising his proposal for a number of provisions to help vulnerable Americans but called it remiss in leaving out Hyde, which protects the most vulnerable – the unborn. 

In recent weeks, 22 attorneys general signed a joint letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to retain the Hyde Amendment in any budget measure that passes. House GOP leaders have urged Congress to make Hyde permanent. 

In the meantime, the House Committee on Appropriations was prepared to mark up two appropriations bills without Hyde-related provisions: the Financial Services and General Government bill, which funds the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Executive Office of the President and other federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration; and the State and Foreign Operations bill, which funds the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other international programs and activities. 

Pope makes ‘satisfactory’ recovery; histology report confirms diagnosis

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican July 4, 2021. Afterward, the 84-year-old pope was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital for a prescheduled colon surgery. CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

VATICAN CITY. Recovering from colon surgery, Pope Francis briefly ran a fever late July 7, leading his doctors to perform a CT scan of his abdomen and chest the next morning to check for signs of infection. 

The results of the scan were negative, as were the results of “routine and microbiological examinations,” the Vatican press office said July 8. 

“His Holiness Pope Francis spent a quiet day, eating and moving unassisted,” the press office said in its daily update on how the pope is recovering after undergoing a three-hour surgery July 4 at Rome’s Gemelli hospital. 

As with any operation, but especially intestinal surgery, infection is a major post-op concern. 

Before the passing fever, the press office said, Pope Francis had sent a message of “paternal closeness” to the “young patients in the nearby pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards.” 

“At this particular moment, he looks toward all those who suffer, expressing his closeness to the sick, especially those most in need of care,” the press office said. 

The Vatican’s July 7 midday bulletin, issued before the pope’s temporary temperature, said the doctors had removed his intravenous drip, and that “the post-operative progress of His Holiness Pope Francis continues to be regular and satisfactory.” 

“The Holy Father has continued to eat regularly, and infusion therapy has been suspended,” it added. 

Announcing that the pope had arrived at the Rome hospital July 4, the Vatican had said he was to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.” 

The next morning, the Vatican had said the surgery lasted three hours and included “a left hemicolectomy,” the removal of the descending part of the colon, which can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected. 

Three days after surgery, the Vatican said, “the final histological examination has confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis,” a hardening of the tissue. 

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, a staff surgeon at Gemelli who specializes in surgery of the digestive tract and colon, led the surgery, assisted by a team of surgeons. 

Stenosis is a narrowing of a passage in the human body. The Vatican’s description of the pope’s condition indicated a partial blockage of the lower intestine. It provided no information about the cause or suspected cause of the blockage nor of the symptoms the pope had been experiencing. 

As soon as the Vatican announced the pope’s hospitalization, get-well messages began being posted on social media. 

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who had just arrived in France when the news broke, sent a telegram, his office said. The president said he and the Italian people were accompanying the pope with “affectionate thoughts” and wishes for a speedy recovery. 

“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the Vatican message said. 

Pope Francis is expected to remain in the hospital at least until July 11. Since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Gemelli hospital, part of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, has maintained a suite of rooms on the 10th floor for use by the pope. 

Pope Francis has been generally healthy since becoming pope in March 2013 except for recurrent bouts of sciatica, which causes sharp pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from the lower back through the hips and down each leg. In late December and early January, he missed several events because the pain was so intense. 

The pope also suffered from a pulmonary condition in 1957 at the age of 21 that required him to undergo surgery to remove the upper right lobe of one of his lungs. 

In an interview for a book published early in March, the pope said that while his recovery was painful, it was “complete, and I never felt any limitation in my activities.” 

“As you have seen, for example, in the various trips I have made and that you have covered, I never had to restrict or cancel any of the scheduled activities. I never experienced fatigue or shortness of breath,” he told Nelson Castro, a physician and Argentina journalist. 

The pope also told Castro that when he was the provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held from 1973 to 1979, he underwent emergency gallbladder surgery.

Pope asks for local events coinciding with World Meeting of Families 2022

Pope Francis blesses a girl as her family presents offertory gifts during the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27, 2015. CNS photo/Paul Haring

VATICAN CITY. Pope Francis has asked dioceses around the world to make it possible for every family to participate in the World Meeting of Families by holding local celebrations during the gathering in Rome June 22-26, 2022.

“After being postponed for a year due to the pandemic, the desire to meet again is great,” the pope said in a video message July 2.

In the past, he said, the World Meeting of Families “was perceived as being something remote, at most followed on television,” but “unknown to the majority of families.”

With questions still present about how the coronavirus pandemic will impact global travel and large international meetings next year, Pope Francis said there is “an opportunity provided by providence to create a worldwide event that can involve all the families that would like to feel part of the ecclesial community.”

The theme of the 2022 gathering is: “Family love: A vocation and a path to holiness.”

Rome will be the main venue, the pope said, and bishops’ conferences and international Catholic organizations will be invited to send delegates involved in family ministry to Rome for “the Festival of Families, the pastoral congress” and the concluding Mass.

At the same time, the pope said, “each diocese can be the focal point for a local meeting for its families and communities. In this way, everyone will be able to participate, even those who cannot come to Rome.”

Pope Francis asked dioceses to be “dynamic, active and creative in organizing this with the families in harmony with what will be taking place in Rome. This is a wonderful opportunity to devote ourselves with enthusiasm to family ministry with spouses, families and pastors together.”

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the World Meeting of Families continues to grow and attract more families from around the world, “bringing enrichment with their languages, cultures and experiences.” The gatherings, he said, “have been an eloquent sign of the beauty of the family for the Church and for all humanity. We need to continue on this path, seeking to involve more and more families in this beautiful initiative.”

When faith, science work together, people come closer to truth, pope says

Pope Francis urges scientists and people of faith to work together in a search for a holistic truth that promotes the common good in a July 2, 2021, video message to a meeting on science and peace. CNS screen grab/Vatican News

VATICAN CITY. When scientists share their data and dialogue with experts in other fields, including religion, they contribute to the search for a holistic truth that promotes the common good and, therefore, promotes peace, Pope Francis said.

With a focus on cross-discipline cooperation, scientists can give witness “to the possibility of building a new social bond, endeavoring to bring scientific research closer to the whole community – from the local to the international – and showing that together it is possible to overcome every conflict,” the pope said in a video message to an international conference on “Science for Peace.”

The meeting July 2-3 was sponsored by the Italian Diocese of Teramo-Atri and the University of Teramo. It brought together physicists, astronomers, biologists, physicians, geologists, mathematicians and theologians to discuss how science could contribute to promoting better health, greater access to nutritious food and to peace.

In a video message played at the opening of the conference, Pope Francis applauded the organizers and participants for seeing how important research in all branches is for meeting “challenges of contemporary society,” and he thanked the diocese for being a co-sponsor of the gathering, “thus testifying that there cannot and must not be any opposition between faith and science.”

People need to have scientific facts and understand how the physical world works in order to solve problems together, he said. And both science and religion need to recognize the desire for knowledge “present in the heart of every man and woman.”

Pope Francis asked the scientists to promote a love of learning and a passion for research among young generations.

Seeking the truth, the whole truth about life, includes questions of faith, the pope said, and Jesus “instills in everyone the certainty that when one searches honestly one encounters the truth.”

Cardinal Dolan: Religious freedom is an ‘essential’ human right

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, presents the keynote address June 28, 2021, during the Religious Liberty Summit at the University of Notre Dame Law School. CNS photo/Peter Ringenberg, courtesy University of Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. Religious freedom is a human right, “essential to the dignity of the human person and the flourishing of all that is noble in us,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in his keynote address for the Religious Liberty Summit at the University of Notre Dame. 

The summit featured ecumenical leaders and scholars from around the nation to discuss the various challenges to religious liberty. It was held as part of the observance of Religious Freedom Week in the U.S., sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Defending religious freedom used to be “a nonconfrontational no-brainer,” as American as “mom, apple pie, the flag and Knute Rockne,” noted Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty. 

Now, he continued, defense of religious liberty has become “caricatured” as an “oppressive, partisan, unenlightened, right-wing crusade,” even considered by some to be discrimination. 

This false narrative must be corrected, Cardinal Dolan stressed, and he proceeded to do so by discussing the concept of religious freedom enshrined in the founding documents of the United States. He made four major points in his keynote, titled “Correcting the Narrative.” 

First, he said that we advocate for religious freedom not primarily because we are believers, but because we are “Americans, patriots, rational human beings.” Religious freedom is a fact of the American experiment that has been cherished and defended by people of all faiths. 

Second, religious liberty is not a conservative issue, but historically considered part of a movement that is “progressive and reforming.” Cardinal Dolan, who has a doctorate in American church history, observed that freedom of religion is “the first line of defense of/and protection of all human rights.” 

Further, religious liberty has been “the driving force of almost every enlightening, unshackling, noble cause in American history,” he said, including movements such as abolition of slavery and the campaigns for voting rights and civil rights. 

Third, “religious freedom is enshrined not to protect the government from religion, but religion from the government,” Cardinal Dolan explained. 

The various religious groups who first settled in this country did not want special treatment from the government, but rather just wanted to be left alone to practice their faith, worship in their tradition and follow their consciences in the public square. Thus, freedom for religion became a keystone in the country’s founding documents. 

Fourth, throughout most of our history, American culture welcomed religious voices in the public square, Cardinal Dolan said. Then the culture moved to neutrality before arriving at the present moment, in which believers face “downright antagonism,” he said, and the message that we must leave our conscience behind when we enter the public square. 

Panelists of various faiths who spoke at the conference stressed the necessity for all people of faith to work together to defend and promote religious liberty in this country and abroad. 

In a panel on “Overcoming Polarization of Religious Liberty,” Asma Uddin, a Muslim attorney and scholar, said that people of various faiths have to stop berating each other if believers are to move forward in obtaining and preserving religious freedom. 

The author of “The Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in a Post-Christian America” (Pegasus Books, 2021), Uddin said that people will feel less threatened if we stop emphasizing our differences and focus on our common status as human beings. 

A panel on “International Threats to Religious Liberty” featured international speakers, including a representative of the Aid to the Church in Need, Marcela Szymanski. She reported that 62 countries present a danger to their citizens when it comes to religious liberty, even though most of those countries have signed the International Treaty on Human Rights. 

Suppressing religious freedom is always part of a “power-grabbing strategy” with no consequences to the perpetrators, she said. 

A panel on “Religious Liberty and the Press” included representatives of the secular media and one Catholic spokesperson. Gretchen Crowe, editorial director for Our Sunday Visitor periodicals, explained that the Catholic press seeks to form and inform its readers to advance the mission of the Church. That can include filling in gaps, correcting misinformation from the secular media, and providing clarity on significant issues, she said. 

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who is a member of the bishops’ religious liberty committee, welcomed participants to the diocese and praised the Notre Dame Law School for establishing the Religious Liberty Initiative. 

That initiative, begun by Dean G. Marcus Cole of the law school, will assemble international scholars to study the issue, train law students to defend religious freedom by pursuing claims in the courts, and organize events like the June summit. Two future summits are planned for Rome in 2022 and Jerusalem in 2023. 

Bishop Rhoades told the conference that not only was the initiative a great service to the Catholic Church and to all communities of faith, but also a service to our nation at a time when not just freedom to worship is threatened, but so too is the freedom to live out our faith and bear witness to its moral truths in social services, schools and other institutions that serve the common good. 

“Religious freedom allows the Church and all religious communities to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all,” Bishop Rhoades said. 

‘No more war’: Pope continues his teaching on Gospel nonviolence

Pope Francis releases a dove as a sign of peace outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas after meeting with the leaders of Christian churches in Bari, Italy, July 7, 2018. Pope Francis has written another chapter in his teaching against all war and against the manufacturing and sale of weapons. CNS photo/Paul Haring

VATICAN CITY. Modern popes have been clear voices for peace, but Pope Francis is moving closer to a broad embrace of nonviolence and a declaration that modern warfare is so deadly and sophisticated that the traditional “just war” theories cannot apply.

And, in a new book, he has urged each and every person to recognize that there is, in fact, something they can do to promote peace.

“Indifference is an accomplice of war,” Pope Francis wrote.

The Vatican publishing house June 28 released “Peace on Earth: Fraternity is Possible,” a collection of Pope Francis’ words and speeches on the importance of praying and working for peace.

The volume closes with a chapter he wrote specifically for the book, highlighting the role each person can play in promoting peace, but also moving closer to adopting a stance of total nonviolence.

Already in “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” he questioned whether in modern warfare any conflict could be judged a “just war” because proportionality and the protection of civilians seem to be difficult if not impossible to guarantee.

“We can no longer think of war as a solution because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits,” one of the main criteria of just-war theory, he wrote in the document. “In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war.’ Never again war!”

In the new book, Pope Francis said nations and groups too easily turn to war, using “any kind of excuse,” including claiming they are attacking another as a humanitarian, defensive or preventative measure, “even resorting to the manipulation of information” to support their argument.

On the issue of nonviolence, Pope Francis noted that when Jesus was about to be arrested, he did not claim a right to self-defense and even told the disciple who drew a sword to defend him, “Put your sword back into its sheath.”

“The words of Jesus resound clearly today, too,” he wrote. “Life and goodness cannot be defended with the ‘sword.’”

In the Gospel of Luke’s version of the story, Jesus tells his disciples, “Stop, no more of this!”

“Jesus’ sorrowful and strong, ‘No more,’ goes beyond the centuries and reaches us. It is a commandment we cannot avoid,” Pope Francis wrote. “‘No more’ swords, weapons, violence, war. In that ‘No more’ there is an echo of the ancient commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill.’”

“How can there be Christians with a sword in their hand?” he asked. “How can there be Christians who manufacture ‘swords’ that others will use to kill?”

“Listening to the passionate plea of the Lord means to stop selling weapons and considering only one’s own economic interests,” the pope said. “There are no justifications for this, even if jobs will be lost with the end of arms sales.”

Another major obstacle on the road to peace, he wrote, is living “with wars as if they were inevitable.”

Especially in countries that are not at war, people’s awareness of armed conflict and its brutality can grow dim, he said. The only time they seem to notice is with the arrival of refugees, who he called “witnesses of war, painful ‘ambassadors’ of the unheard demand for peace.”

Limiting the suffering caused by war, he wrote, means welcoming refugees and listening to their pain-filled stories.

Pope Francis recalled how, when India was facing widespread famine in 1966, St. Paul VI said, “No one today can say, ‘I didn’t know.’”

And while most people are not government leaders or diplomats with the power to stop a war, neither can they just act as if they did not know something horrible was going on, he said. They must exert pressure on their governments to intervene, to stop arms sales and “demand a policy of peace.”

On a smaller, but more concrete level, Pope Francis said, “conflicts are prevented with the daily search for fraternity,” which everyone can and should be involved in forging.

Such kinship is not simply a feeling, he wrote, but a practice, one that works to make sure that everyone in a community, city, region, nation and continent feels welcomed, valued and involved in building society.

“Peace starts with not hating, not excluding, not discriminating against, not leaving anyone on their own,” he said.

But prayer also is essential, he wrote. “To pray is to protest war in front of God. Never stop asking the Lord with faith and insistence for the end of conflict. Our prayer gives voice to the lament of the people” impacted by every war.

“We cannot accept resignation to wars being a daily companion of humanity,” he said. “We cannot accept that so many children grow up under the shadow of conflict. We must say ‘No more’ to war.”

Pandemic’s economic fallout must not stop Catholics’ generosity, pope says

Pope Francis meets June 10, 2019, with a Vatican coalition of funding agencies, known by its Italian acronym ROACO. This year he told the group Catholics’ continued generosity is needed to help war-torn countries.
CNS photo/Vatican Media handout via Reuters

VATICAN CITY. International solidarity in funding the rebuilding of schools, hospitals and churches destroyed by war is important, Pope Francis said, but “we need to be concerned above all for the living stones who have been wounded and dispersed.”

From Georgia south through Iraq and Syria, then from the Holy Land through North Africa to the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the needs of Christian communities are pressing, Pope Francis said June 24 as he met with representatives of a Vatican coalition of funding agencies, known by its Italian acronym, ROACO.

Coordinated by the Congregation for Eastern Churches, ROACO assists Eastern-rite churches around the world as well as the Latin-rite church in North Africa and the Middle East. The agencies include the U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Catholic Relief Services, as well as Aid to the Church in Need, Caritas Internationalis and Catholic charities in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Through the representatives, Pope Francis extended his “gratitude to all those who support and make possible your projects: ordinary members of the faithful, families, parishes and volunteers who understand what it means to be ‘brothers and sisters all’ and who devote a portion of their time and resources to assisting you in the services you provide.”

“I have been told that the income from the 2020 collection for the Holy Land was only about half of that received in previous years,” the pope said. The collection, usually taken on Good Friday, was moved to September in 2020 because most countries were under a mandatory COVID-19 lockdown, including prohibitions or severe limits on church services.

Pope Francis said he knew that restrictions on Mass attendance as well as “the economic crisis generated by the pandemic” explain the drop in donations.

However, he said, “while the crisis may have encouraged us to focus on what is essential, we cannot remain indifferent when we think of the deserted streets of Jerusalem and the loss of those pilgrims who go there to strengthen their faith, but also to express concrete solidarity with the local churches and their people.”

He urged Catholics to understand the importance of their giving.

Christians in the Holy Land have experienced hardship over the past year not only because of the pandemic, but also because of renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians, “peoples who we hope and pray will see the bow of peace that God showed to Noah as a sign of the covenant between heaven and earth, and of peace among peoples.”

“All too often, even lately, those skies have been darkened by missiles bringing destruction, death and fear,” the pope said.

“The pleas for help rising from Syria are never far from God’s heart, yet do not seem to have touched the hearts of leaders in a position to affect the destiny of peoples,” he said. After 10 years of conflict and millions of people displaced or forced to migrate, the victims and the need for reconstruction are “all held hostage to partisan thinking and the lack of courageous decisions for the good of that war-torn nation.”

Pope Francis also expressed his “apprehension” over the continuing violence in Tigray, where the Ethiopian army and its allies are reportedly committing massacres, raping women, destroying churches and mosques and using famine as a tool to put down any civilian support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

In discussing needs for funding at ROACO’s annual meeting June 21-24, the agencies’ representatives heard from: Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, nuncio to Ethiopia; Archbishop José Bettencourt, nuncio to Georgia and Armenia; Cardinal Mario Zenari, nuncio to Syria; Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, nuncio to Lebanon; and Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, nuncio to Iraq.