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Detroit’s new auxiliary is an archbishop and veteran Vatican diplomat

Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell. / Courtesy of aod.org.

Vatican City, May 23, 2022 / 05:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday named an archbishop who served as an apostolic nuncio in Central Asia as an auxiliary bishop of the Detroit archdiocese.

The Holy See press office said on May 23 that Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, the former apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, would retain the personal title of archbishop of Novi in his new post.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who has led the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2009, said: “We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for appointing Archbishop Russell as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and we are similarly grateful to Archbishop Russell for accepting this new ministry.”

“We are particularly glad to welcome Archbishop Russell home to Michigan, where he grew up and first heard the Lord call him to the priestly vocation. Having served the Church all over the world, Archbishop Russell brings to the Archdiocese of Detroit a valuable perspective of the universal Church and our mission to make joyful missionary disciples of all nations.”

Paul Fitzpatrick Russell was born on May 2, 1959, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, but spent much of his childhood in northern Michigan.

He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987.

He entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.

On March 19, 2016, Pope Francis appointed him titular archbishop of Novi and apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley ordained Russell to the episcopate at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Boston on June 3, 2016. Archbishop Vigneron was a co-consecrator.

Russell, who speaks English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German, was also appointed apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan on April 7, 2018.

According to the website catholic-hierarchy.org, he resigned as nuncio to Turkey on Oct. 22, 2021, and as nuncio to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on Feb. 2 this year.

Russell is related to Blessed Michał Piaszczyński, a Polish priest who died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1940 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.

The Detroit Catholic reported that Russell will become the 31st auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese’s history. He will serve alongside four other auxiliaries: Bishop Donald Hanchon, Bishop Arturo Cepeda, Bishop Gerard Battersby, and Bishop Robert Fisher.

On Oct. 9, Hanchon will turn 75, the age at which bishops must present their resignations to the pope.

The Detroit archdiocese serves 1.1 million self-identifying Catholics via 215 parishes in Michigan’s Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

Russell will be formally welcomed to the archdiocese on July 7 during a liturgy at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

The 63-year-old archbishop said: “I am so happy with Pope Francis’ decision to send me home and look forward to serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit and immersing myself in the mission and ministry of the local Church in southeast Michigan.”

Can robots learn law? Scientists and theologians discuss the future of AI

null / Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2022 / 04:40 am (CNA).

Will robots one day be better at medicine and law than human beings? That was one of the topics discussed by scientists and theologians at a recent gathering in Rome.

The “Topology of Intelligence” conference, hosted by the Templeton World Charity Foundation on May 19, brought together experts in engineering, mathematics, biology, philosophy, and theology.

Scholars from both secular and pontifical universities sought to describe the “connection between science and philosophy” by focusing on “complexity, reality and the research on intelligence.”

Marta Bertolaso, a professor at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome who helped to organize the conference, said: “I think that we are at a good moment to discuss intelligence and specifically artificial intelligence, because there are many questions around these topics.”

She explained that artificial intelligence (AI) is a term dating back to the last century, “coined precisely in order to represent how human beings try to mobilize some aspects, some functions, of our intellectual capabilities.”

Marta Bertolaso, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Human Development at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.
Marta Bertolaso, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Human Development at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.

Bertolaso said that the challenge posed by AI was not so much its technological possibilities, but how humans can use it to build new environments that are still worthy of living in. Overall, she was fairly optimistic that new developments would have a positive impact on humanity’s future.

That optimism was shared by Andrew Serazin, the president of the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

“I think that we were reminded today that within the Christian tradition, within the Catholic tradition, there’s this sense of openness of history, that we are co-creators of the future with the Divine and the Church is a way to achieve this co-creation,” he said.

Andrew Serazin, president of the Templeton World Charity Foundation. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.
Andrew Serazin, president of the Templeton World Charity Foundation. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.

He added that he was “tremendously optimistic about the application of science and technology,” as well as the development of AI, but only “if we retain our fundamental values of the pursuit of truth and the dignity of the person.”

Max Bonilla, international director of the Expanded Reason Institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria in Spain, initiated the gathering in order to “bridge Church and science.” He also wanted to promote a deeper understanding of intelligence, as well as to deepen the dialogue between the empirical sciences and philosophy and theology.

The conference was organized in three parts around the concepts of expressing, defining, and understanding intelligence.

In the first part, the audience listened to the insights of Andrew Barron, a neuroethologist at Australia’s Macquarie University, who explained how bees display a certain kind of intelligent behavior in their flight patterns and navigation decisions.

The ‘Topology of Intelligence’ conference in Rome on May 19, 2022. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.
The ‘Topology of Intelligence’ conference in Rome on May 19, 2022. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.

In the second, the theologian and physicist Giulio Maspero discussed with theoretical physicist Mario Rasetti why it might prove difficult to ever measure general artificial intelligence, even though scientists are already studying examples of non-human intelligence such as the dance of honey bees.

A third panel highlighted that AI so far lacks the quality of self-awareness. The moment that computers become smart enough to be self-aware is still some way off — if it will ever arrive. But computers will master certain skills or arts such as medicine, law, and mathematics on an equal level and, eventually, better than humans, the conference heard. These developments will have an impact on our view of the human person, our self-understanding, and human rights.

Emphasizing that the conference was interdisciplinary, Serazin said: “The reason why this unique mix of people that we’ve brought together is so important is that something so fundamental to our self-understanding, and our understanding of how human beings flourish, requires all of the disciplines in order to arrive at truth, that truth has a wholeness that is not merely described by mathematics, or by art, or by history, but by taking these different perspectives.”

Templeton World Charity Foundation president Andrew Serazin and EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.
Templeton World Charity Foundation president Andrew Serazin and EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser. EWTN Andreas Thonhauser/Alexey Gotovskiy.

He added that the conference brought together both scientists and faith leaders because “communities of faith and communities of learning are pillars of our civilization.”

“These are hallmarks of the best of humanity,” he said. “And so when we think about trying to solve any problem, whether that’s climate change, or poverty, or applications of artificial intelligence, we must bring all of the resources that humanity can bring.”

Serazin concluded that his foundation’s goal was to “keep humans in the loop.” There are more and more algorithms making decisions for people. For Serazin, this is another reason why philosophers and theologians should engage with computer scientists and developers of new technology.

He said: “I think what’s so important about retaining the human perspective, and also an understanding of the human person that comes from theology and philosophy, is fundamental dignity that is located within humanity — not to outsource those decisions to algorithms or machines and to retain the decision-making authority with people. Because it is people that have, fundamentally, the moral authority to act in the world.”

Charleston bishop 'conquered hearts' ministering to Hispanics in Georgia

Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune of Charleston. / Doug Deas/The Catholic Miscellany

Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The newly consecrated Bishop of Charleston showed a great commitment and love for the Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Atlanta where he previously served, according to a Hispanic leader in Atlanta. 

Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, a Haitian emigrant, became the Charleston diocese’ first Black bishop when he was installed on May 13. 

Fabre-Jeune had previously served as the administrator of the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia, south of Atlanta, a congregation which he himself described at “99% Mexican.”

Jairo Martinez, who is retired today after 16 years serving as Director of the Atlanta Archdiocese’ Hispanic Ministry Office, told CNA that despite not being a member of the Hispanic community, Fabre-Jeune endeared himself to the community with his “sense of commitment” as well as his “love for the people.”

Fabre-Jeune’s commitment to getting a new church building built for the mission, which came to fruition in 2011, “shows really how Father Jacques got to the heart of those Hispanics, because let me tell you, he conquered their hearts," Martinez said. 

Then-Father Jacque Fabre-Jeune speaks at the opening of the new church building at the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia, south of Atlanta. Michael Alexander/Georgia Bulletin
Then-Father Jacque Fabre-Jeune speaks at the opening of the new church building at the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia, south of Atlanta. Michael Alexander/Georgia Bulletin

Fabre-Jeune, a Haitian native and immigrant New Yorker who was ordained a priest in 1986, arrived at the San Felipe mission in 2008. After graduating college, Fabre-Jeune had joined the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, also known as the Scalabrinians. The Scalabrinians were originally founded to support the spiritual needs of missionaries going to South and North America, and today its members do much to serve refugees and immigrants. 

Fabre-Jeune’s novitiate took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he learned to speak Spanish fluently — one of the five languages he speaks today. 

Martinez said finding clergy to minister to Georgia’s large Hispanic population is one of the biggest challenges the Hispanic Catholic community faces in the state. It is difficult, he said, to find men who are not merely bilingual, but also are willing to understand the culture. 

Many Hispanic Catholics, though they may be bilingual and speak English in most of their interactions in society, will still prefer to attend Mass and practice their faith in Spanish, he said. 

Their formation has often been done in Spanish in their native country, and they pray in Spanish. Even children of Hispanic immigrants who are native English speakers will often prefer to worship with their parents in Spanish, he said. 

"So it is important to give them an opportunity to live their spiritual life in their own language," Martinez noted. 

The San Felipe mission itself symbolizes the progress that the Hispanic community has made in Atlanta, Martinez said. When Martinez first saw the mission, it was located in a very poor area, in a run-down building, with tarps over the roof to keep out the rain. Later, in 2002, the archdiocese purchased a former Protestant church to house the Catholic congregation, and eventually under Fabre-Jeune’s leadership the community built and opened the new church building still in use today. 

San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia. Facebook
San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia. Facebook

During his time at the mission, Fabre-Jeune also served as the director of the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal and a member of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s finance council. Noting Fabre-Jeune’s skills as an administrator as well as his love for his flock, Martinez said if someone had asked him a few years ago for recommendations of priests who would make good bishops, he would have suggested Father Fabre-Jeune.

In terms of the broader Hispanic Catholic community in the United States, which is growing rapidly, Martinez said Catholics in the U.S. can learn from the “simplicity” of the faith of Hispanic Catholics. Martinez also said he greatly admires the strong sense of local community and family that is present in Hispanic culture. He says he has seen the Archdiocese of Atlanta make a "huge effort" to serve the Hispanic community, and he hopes other dioceses and archdioceses will do the same. 

Not over the rainbow, yet: Lawsuit blocks Catholic University's auction of 'Wizard of Oz' dress

Yellow brick road. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

A dress worn by Judy Garland in her classic role as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" is now the main character in a surprise drama. Supporting characters are the Catholic University of America and some relatives of a priest and former professor who, they say, would have wanted his relatives to own the rare collectible, not the university.

The university had planned to auction the dress to fund its drama school. These plans were delayed by a legal challenge from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, a niece of Father Gilbert Hartke, O.P., the founder and head of the university’s drama school. She says that the dress should be hers because she is the priest’s closest living relative.

Barbra Ann Hartke’s attorney, Anthony Scordo, told WTOP that there has been “absolutely no legal documentation of such a gift to the university” in any of its court filings. Her lawsuit also objects that the university did not contact her when the dress was rediscovered.

“I was just surprised after all this time, here it had been found, and here it is being rushed off to the auction house,” Barbara Ann Hartke told the New York Post earlier this month. Tony Lehman, a grand-nephew of Father Hartke, also supports the lawsuit.

The university contends the objecting relatives have no case. The university’s attorneys argue the dress was given to the priest in his capacity as a drama professor at the university. The university further notes that Father Hartke, as a vowed Dominican, was not allowed to keep personal possessions.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence, including a statement from another family member, supporting Catholic University’s ownership of the dress to the court next week,” a Catholic University of America spokesperson told CNA May 17.

“The university’s position is that the allegations in the lawsuit have no basis in law or fact because Catholic University is the rightful owner of the dress and Father Hartke’s estate does not have a property interest in it,” the spokesperson said.

Fr. Gilbert Hatke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America.
Fr. Gilbert Hatke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America.

Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, had given the dress to Father Hartke, who died in 1986. In the late 1980s, the dress went missing and the costume became the subject of rumor. Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the university’s drama department, happened upon a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021. He opened the bag to find a shoebox, inside of which was the dress.

The university had scheduled an auction of the dress in hopes of raising more than $1 million for its drama department.

New York U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe placed a temporary restraining order on the auction pending a hearing the day before the dress was scheduled to be auctioned through the auctioneer company Bonhams.

According to Bonhams, the actress Judy Garland wore the gingham dress while filming a scene in which her character Dorothy Gale faces the Wicked Witch of the West in the witch’s castle.

The dress from the 1939 classic movie is one of only two existing dresses that retains its white blouse. It is now valued at an estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million, Bonhams said. Another surviving dress was auctioned for $1.5 million in 2015.

Father Hartke was one of six siblings. Catholic University of America has gathered the testimony of other relatives to support its case that it is the owner of the dress.

Thomas Kuipers, a grand-nephew of Hartke, said the priest told him “that I could not have it as the dress belonged to Catholic University.” He said he and other descendants of Father Hartke’s sister Inez Mercedes Hartke support the auction of the dress donated to the university.

Margo Carper, granddaughter of Father Hartke’s brother Joseph, also backed the university.

William Largess, who was an undergraduate student in Catholic University’s drama department from 1972 to 1976, said he was with the priest “multiple times” when he took out a dress to show to students that Largess understood was a dress from "The Wizard of Oz."

“I specifically recall Father Gilbert V. Hartke saying that Ms. Mercedes McCambridge gave the dress to the Department of Drama at Catholic University,” said Largess, who is now an adjunct theater professor at George Washington University.

Father Kenneth R. Letoile, O.P., the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, described the Dominican approach to the vow of poverty.

“Based on my knowledge of the Dominican Order, and my understanding that Father Hartke made a vow of poverty, as is required for membership in the Dominican Order, Father Hartke was not permitted to possess anything by right of personal ownership,” Letoile said.

If anything was given to him in his personal capacity, he would have been required to donate to his province “in accordance with his vows and solemn profession.”

Letoile said that the Dominican province does not assert any right to the dress.

“I hereby affirm on behalf of the province the Catholic University of America’s full ownership of the dress,” he said.

When the auction of the dress was announced in April, the Catholic University of America said it had documentation which indicates that the dress was gifted to Hartke with the intention it be used to support the drama department.

If the auction goes forward, proceeds from the sale will endow a faculty chair, a position that will support the current bachelor of fine arts degree in acting for theater, film, and television, as well as the development of a new formal film acting program at the university’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art.

Jackie Leary-Warsaw, dean of the drama school, is the wife of Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, Catholic News Agency’s parent network.

Without mentioning Zen's arrest, Pope Francis says he is praying for the Church in China

Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Yung Chi Wai Derek/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 11:08 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday said he is praying for the Church in China and “attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors” there.

In brief remarks to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli prayer on May 22, the pope did not specifically mention the recent arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun in Hong Kong.

The 90-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong was arrested May 11 under China’s national security law with at least four others for his role as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong pay their legal fees. He was released on bail later that day.

Pope Francis did draw special attention to the fact that Tuesday, May 24 — when Zen is reportedly due back in court — is the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians. Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI decreed in 2007 that the date be observed worldwide as “a day of prayer for the Church in China.” 

National Shrine and Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan, also known as Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, in Shanghai, China. lobia, Wikimedia.
National Shrine and Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan, also known as Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, in Shanghai, China. lobia, Wikimedia.

Chinese Catholics have a special devotion to Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated under that title at a Marian shrine in Shanghai, China.

“This coming Tuesday is the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Help of Christians, particularly dear to Catholics in China who venerate Mary, Help of Christians as their Patroness in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai, in many churches throughout the country, and in their homes,” Pope Francis said Sunday.

“This happy occasion offers me the opportunity to assure them once again of my spiritual closeness. I am attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them,” he said.

The pope continued, “I invite all of you to unite yourselves in this prayer so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquility, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, and thus offer a positive contribution to the spiritual and material progress of society, as well.”

Zen, who has been critical of a provisional diplomatic agreement between the Holy See and China’s communist government, is an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement.

In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Here are two basic requirements Catholics must meet to receive Holy Communion

Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. / Sidney de Almeida/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 08:24 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments. Of these, the Eucharist stands apart. St. Thomas Aquinas called it the “Sacrament of Sacraments.”

The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is also referred to as “Holy Communion.” 

“Communion” comes from the Latin communio, which means “to be in union with.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Church refers to the Eucharist by this name “because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body” (CCC 1331).

The Church teaches that anyone who receives Jesus in the Eucharist also receives “the pledge of glory with him” (CCC 1419). The Catechism says that participating in the Eucharist “identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints” (CCC 1419).

The Church also teaches that receiving the Eucharist “increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins, (CCC 1416).”

Receiving the Eucharist can transform one’s spiritual life. That’s why Pope Francis said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

At the same time, the Church draws on the words of Scripture in setting forth requirements for receiving Holy Communion. For as St. Paul tells us, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Cor 11:27-28).

The Church teaches that there are two basic requirements Catholics must meet in order to receive Holy Communion worthily.

First, one must be in a state of grace.

To be in a “state of grace” means to be free from mortal sin. As the Catechism states, “Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415).

What is a mortal sin? The Catechism explains that a mortal sin “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God” (CCC 1855).

For a sin to be mortal, or deadly, one must be aware that the act is sinful and conscientiously commit it anyway.

Examples of mortal sins include: murder, adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, theft, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and taking advantage of the poor. The Church teaches that intentionally skipping Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation when one is able to attend also is a mortal sin.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) emphasizes this requirement for receiving Holy Communion when it states: “A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to … receive the body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible” (CIC 916).

The U.S. bishops, in the document they adopted in November 2021 titled, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” elaborate on this important point.

“To receive the Body and Blood of Christ while in a state of mortal sin represents a contradiction,” the document states. “The person who, by his or her own action, has broken communion with Christ and his Church but receives the Blessed Sacrament, acts incoherently, both claiming and rejecting communion at the same time. It is thus a counter sign, a lie — it expresses a communion that in fact has been broken.”

The bishops' document goes on to say that the sacrament of penance "provides us with the opportunity to recover the gift of sanctifying grace and to be restored to full communion with God and the Church. All the sacrament requires of us as penitents is that we have contrition for our sins, resolve not to sin again, confess our sins, receive sacramental absolution, and do the assigned penance.”

The second requirement for receiving Holy Communion is to observe the Eucharistic fast.

Canon law states, “One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion” (CIC 919). 

Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (CIC 89).

Life ‘is always sacred and inviolable’ Pope Francis says

Participants in Italy's pro-life demonstration in Rome on May 21, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, May 22, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis praised a pro-life event in Rome and offered comments defending the dignity of life on Sunday. 

According to the website for the national Scegliamo la vita (Let’s Choose Life) event, the May 21 gathering intended to affirm the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. Videos and photos on the event’s Facebook page shows crowds marching and singing with signs and music. 

The pope greeted participants in the event after praying the Regina Caeli in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

“I thank you for your dedication in promoting life and defending conscientious objection, which there are often attempts to limit,” he said. 

“Sadly,” the pope continued, “in these last years, there has been a change in the common mentality, and today we are more and more led to think that life is a good at our complete disposal, that we can choose to manipulate, to give birth or take life as we please, as if it were the exclusive consequence of individual choice.”

Pope Francis flatly rejected that view.

“Let us remember that life is a gift from God!” he said. “It is always sacred and inviolable, and we cannot silence the voice of conscience.” 

Pope Francis’ pro-life comments came after he offered a reflection on Jesus’ words to the disciples at the Last Supper in Sunday's Gospel reading from John, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” The Holy Father said that “no one can leave others peace if they do not have it within themselves, emphasizing that the peace that Jesus is referring to comes from the Holy Spirit and is a “gift of God."

Pope Francis’ comments defending life come at a time when the highest court in the United States nears the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide. 

In early May, a draft of a Supreme Court opinion that showed the court was poised to overturn Roe was leaked by the news outlet Politico.

Shortly after the leak, pro-abortion advocates began protesting at the court, in front of justices' homes, and even in Catholic churches around the country. Additional security measures have been taken to protect the justices and the court itself, as a fence has recently been built surrounding the court.

However, if Roe is overturned, abortion will not be outlawed nationwide. The Mississippi abortion case in consideration, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would give states the exclusive right to legislate on abortion. 

Still, some states have “trigger laws” which automatically outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. You can learn more about which states have those laws here

Pope Francis: Ask the Lord for the gift of peace

Pope Francis greets a crowd of an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome for his Regina Caeli address on May 22, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, May 22, 2022 / 07:33 am (CNA).

In his Sunday Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ words to the disciples at the Last Supper in the Gospel reading from John: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

Speaking to an estimated 25,000 pilgrims gathered on a bright day in St. Peter's Square in Rome, the pope noted that Jesus also makes a point to add, "Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (John 14:27).

"What is this peace that the world does not know and the Lord gives us?" Pope Francis asked.

"This peace is the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit of Jesus. It is the presence of God in us, it is God’s 'power of peace,'" he explained. "It is He, the Holy Spirit, who disarms the heart and fills it with serenity. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who loosens rigidity and extinguishes the temptations to attack others. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who reminds us that there are brothers and sisters beside us, not obstacles or adversaries.

"It is He, the Holy Spirit, who gives us the strength to forgive, to begin again, to set out anew because we cannot do this with our own strength. And it is with Him, with the Holy Spirit, that we become men and women of peace," Pope Francis said.

“This is the source of the peace Jesus gives us,” he added. “For no one can leave others peace if they do not have it within themselves. No one can give peace unless that person is at peace.”

Pilgrims at St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 22, 2022. In his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis spoke about the peace of Christ. Vatican Media
Pilgrims at St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 22, 2022. In his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis spoke about the peace of Christ. Vatican Media

Pope Francis said, “Let us learn to say every day: ‘Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit.’ This is a beautiful prayer. Shall we say it together? ‘Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit.'”

Again encouraging the crowd to pray with him, he said, “I didn’t hear it well. One more time: ‘Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit.’”

Focusing on the context of Gospel reading, Pope Francis observed that Jesus' words to his apostles are "a sort of testament."

The pope said, “Jesus bids farewell with words expressing affection and serenity. But he does so in a moment that is anything but serene," referring to Judas' unfolding betrayal and Peter's imminent denial that he even knows Jesus.

“The Lord knows this, and yet, he does not rebuke, he does not use severe words, he does not give harsh speeches,” Pope Francis said. “Rather than demonstrate agitation, he remains kind till the end.”

He continued, “There is a proverb that says you die the way you have lived. In effect, the last hours of Jesus’ life are like the essence of his entire life. He feels fear and pain, but does not give way to resentment or protesting. He does not allow himself to become bitter, he does not vent, he is not impatient. He is at peace, a peace that comes from his meek heart accustomed to trust.”

In so doing, “Jesus demonstrates that meekness is possible," the pope observed.

“He incarnated it specifically in the most difficult moment, and he wants us to behave that way too, since we too are heirs of his peace,” he said. “He wants us to be meek, open, available to listen, capable of defusing tensions and weaving harmony. This is witnessing to Jesus and is worth more than a thousand words and many sermons. The witness of peace.”

Pope Francis invited all disciples of Jesus to reflect on whether they behave in this way.

"Do we ease tensions, and defuse conflicts? Are we too at odds with someone, always ready to react, explode, or do we know how to respond nonviolently, do we know how to respond with peaceful actions? How do I react?” he asked.

“Certainly, this meekness is not easy,” while adding ,“How difficult it is, at every level, to defuse conflicts!” 

Jesus understands this. He knows "that we need help, that we need a gift," the pope explained.

“Peace, which is our obligation, is first of all a gift of God.”

Pope Francis said that “no sin, no failure, no grudge should discourage us from insistently asking for this gift from the Holy Spirit who gives us peace.”

“The more we feel our hearts are agitated, the more we sense we are nervous, impatient, angry inside, the more we need to ask the Lord for the Spirit of peace,” he said. 

Pilgrims gather at St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 22, 2022, for Pope Francis' Regina Caeli address. Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather at St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 22, 2022, for Pope Francis' Regina Caeli address. Vatican Media

Pope Francis invited the crowd to pray with him, “Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit.” He added, “And let us also ask this for those who live next to us, for those we meet each day, and for the leaders of nations.”

After praying the Regina Caeli at noon, Pope Francis commented on the beatification in Lyon, France, later on Sunday of Pauline Marie Jericot, who founded the Society of the Propagation of the Faith for the support of the missions in the early 19th century. The pope called her “a courageous woman, attentive to the changes taking place at the time, and had a universal vision regarding the Church’s mission.”

Pope Francis continued: “May her example enkindle in everyone the desire to participate through prayer and charity in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.”

Pope Francis also noted that Sunday marked the beginning of "Laudato Si' Week," a weeklong reflection inspired by his 2015 encyclical on the environment. He called the observance an opportunity “to listen ever more attentively to the cry of the Earth which urges us to act together in taking care of our common home.”

Pope Francis also mentioned that May 24 marks the Feast day of Mary Help of Christians, who is “particularly dear to Catholics in China.”

He added that Mary Help of Christians is the patroness for Chinese Catholics and is located in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai in addition to many churches and homes throughout the country. 

“This happy occasion offers me the opportunity to assure them once again of my spiritual closeness" to believers in China, he said.

“I am attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them,” he said.

“I invite all of you to unite yourselves in this prayer so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquility, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, and thus offer a positive contribution to the spiritual and material progress of society as well.”

Pope Francis also greeted participants in Italy's annual pro-life demonstration, titled Scegliamo la vita, or in English, "Let’s Choose Life."

“I thank you for your dedication in promoting life and defending conscientious objection, which there are often attempts to limit,” Pope Francis said.

“Sadly, in these last years, there has been a change in the common mentality, and today we are more and more led to think that life is a good at our complete disposal, that we can choose to manipulate, to give birth or take life as we please, as if it were the exclusive consequence of individual choice," the pope said.

“Let us remember that life is a gift from God! It is always sacred and inviolable, and we cannot silence the voice of conscience,” he concluded.

UPDATE: These Catholic bishops support Nancy Pelosi ban on Holy Communion

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 21, 2022 / 11:15 am (CNA).

So far only a small minority of U.S. bishops have come out publicly in support of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s May 20 announcement that he is barring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, until she repudiates her longstanding advocacy of abortion.

There are 194 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. Here is a list of those bishops who have spoken in favor of Cordileone’s action, as of May 21. Please send updates, with links to online statements if available, to [email protected]

California

Diocese of Oakland

Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he spoke to the pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in St.Helena, a parish that Pelosi reportedly attends on occasion. 

Vasa said, “I have visited with the pastor at St Helena and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it.”

“The new Canon (1379 §4) makes it clear that providing sacraments to someone prohibited from receiving them [has] its own possible penalties,” he said.

Colorado

Archdiocese of Denver

Illinois

Diocese of Springfield

Kansas

Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann issued the following statement on May 20:

"I applaud Archbishop Cordileone’s patient and persevering efforts to
enlighten Speaker Pelosi about the moral gravity of her extreme efforts to
promote, to advocate and to initiate legislation to enshrine legalized abortion into
federal law. I fully support the both pastoral and courageous actions that
Archbishop Cordileone has now taken in an effort to awaken Speaker Pelosi’s
conscience and at the same time to protect Catholics in the Archdiocese of San
Francisco and throughout the country from being confused by Speaker Pelosi’s
radical support for abortion, while claiming to be a faithful Catholic. I pray that
Speaker Pelosi will have a change of heart."

Nebraska

Diocese of Lincoln

Oklahoma

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Texas

Diocese of Tyler

Washington State

Diocese of Spokane

Wisconsin

Diocese of Green Bay

Diocese of Madison

Bishop Donald Hying supported Cordileone, saying: “I fully support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s prudent decision to recognize that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, has persistently taken public positions in support of legal abortion, contrary to her professed Catholic faith, choosing to separate herself from full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore is not to present herself for the reception of Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

Hying said that “Cordileone’s public statement made it clear that this serious measure is ‘purely pastoral, not political’ in a further attempt ‘to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking…’”

Pope Francis advances sainthood cause of Filipino bishop known for bilocation

Archbishop Teofilo Camomot / Public domain

Vatican City, May 21, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtue of a Filipino archbishop with a reputation for having the ability to bilocate.

In a decree promulgated on May 21, the pope recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of a Spanish woman and the heroic virtue of seven holy people, including Filipino Archbishop Teofilo Camomot.

Camomot, who was ordained a bishop in 1955, was known on the island of Cebu in the Philippines for his spiritual gifts. There have been testimonies of his ability to heal the sick, levitate in prayer, and bilocate, according to the Archbishop Camomot Committee in Cebu.

One of these testimonies comes from an affidavit from the late Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, who said that Camomot was with him on Sept. 27, 1985 at a time when Camomot was also seen giving the Anointing of the Sick to a man in a mountain village about 30 miles away.

Priests were also known to seek out Camomot to hear their final confessions before they died. After he became Coadjutor Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Camomot founded the Tertiaries of the Blessed Eucharist, today known as the Daughters of Saint Teresa.

Carmomot died in a car accident on the feast of St. Vincent de Paul on Sept. 27, 1988.

Pope Francis also approved the canonization of Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini with a dispensation from the requirement for a second miracle, according to Vatican News.

In an audience with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope decided to convene a consistory for the canonizations of Scalabrini and Blessed Artemide Zatti.

Scalabrini, a bishop of Piacenza, Italy, founded the Missionaries of St. Charles (also known as the Scalabrinians) to offer pastoral care to migrants who were emigrating from Italy at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1901, Scalabrini visited his missionaries in the United States and was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt. Pope Pius IX once described Scalabrini as “the apostle of the Catechism.”

The decree authorized by the pope recognized a miracle attributed to Venerable Maria de la Concepción Barrecheguren y García, a lay Spanish woman who died of tuberculosis in 1927 in Granada at the age of 21, who will now be able to be beatified.

The pope’s decree also approved the heroic virtue of three Italians: Bishop Luigi Sodo (1811-1895), Fr. Alfredo Morganti (1886-1969), and Fr. Giampietro da Sesto (1886-1913) a Franciscan from Italy who served as a missionary in Brazil.

In addition, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Spanish Fr. Jose Torres Padilla (1811-1878), Polish nurse Janina Woynarowska (1923-1979), and Mother Mariana of the Holy Trinity (1854-1933), who was born in Mexico and co-founded the Trinitarian Sisters of Madrid.