Pope: New life comes from Jesus
Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square March 26.
Posted on 03/28/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus can offer everyone hope and new life, Pope Francis said.
"Let yourself be pulled out" by Jesus during "these bad moments that happen to us all," the pope said before praying the Angelus with some 35,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square March 26.
In his talk, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus weeps and prays at Lazarus' tomb then calls to him to "Come out," bringing him back to life.
"The message is clear: Jesus gives life even when it seems that all hope has gone," the pope said.
Like the stone sealing shut Lazarus' tomb, he said, there are "moments when life seems to be a sealed tomb: everything is dark and around us we see only sorrow and despair."
But Jesus' miracle at the tomb teaches "this is not the end, that in these moments we are not alone; on the contrary, it is precisely in these moments that he comes closer than ever to restore life to us," the pope said.
Even though Jesus wept for his friend's death, the pope said, he also asked that the tomb be opened and that Lazarus, "Come out!" showing that Jesus "invites us not to stop believing and hoping, not to let ourselves be crushed by negative feelings."
"Jesus says this to us, too. Take away the stone: the pain, the mistakes, even the failures, do not hide them inside you, in a dark, lonely, closed room. Take away the stone: draw out everything that is inside" without fear, the pope said.
Jesus "will not be outraged," he said, because he always says, "I am with you, I care about you, and I want you to start living again" by getting back on the right path with renewed confidence.
Posted on 03/27/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' message of hope for humanity will be shot into earth's orbit as a "nanobook" embedded inside a small satellite and his words will also be transmitted back to earth each day for ham radio reception.
The new space mission, called "Spei Satelles," is being promoted by the Dicastery for Communication and coordinated by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The project was unveiled at the Vatican March 27, the anniversary of Pope Francis' prayer service he led in an empty St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz, secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, said at the Vatican news conference that they have found many ways to spread the pope's words and images from that historic evening three years ago: first as a global livestream, then a book "Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?" which gathers together Pope Francis' most significant speeches and comments during the pandemic.
That book was later turned into a palm-sized edition that went to the North Pole and Norway's Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world's largest seed vault, as a symbol of the safeguarding of the planet's biodiversity.
While more than 150,000 copies of the book have now been sold around the world, the monsignor said the next step was to send the book literally around the world in a low earth orbit satellite as a symbolic gesture of extending the pope's loving embrace even farther.
In fact, the Latin name of the mission, "Spes Satelles," can be translated as "satellite of hope" and "guardian of hope," Msgr. Ruiz said, to signify the satellite is also a guardian, keeping the pope's message of hope alive for all of humanity.
About two dozen students at the Polytechnic University of Turin built the mini satellite called a CubeSat, which will house the nano version of the pope's book.
The nanobook was created by Italy's National Research Council (CNR). The lab converted the 150-page book -- about 86 square feet of printed material -- into binary code that fits on a tiny chip, said Andrea Notargiacomo, head researcher in nanotechnology at CNR. The 2 mm-by-2 mm chip is about the size of the tip of a crayon.
Sabrina Corpino, a mechanical and aerospace engineer and professor who helped the polytechnical university students, said the satellite is set up to send radio signals back to earth.
If all goes as planned after its scheduled launch from Vandenberg Base (VSFB) in California June 10, any amateur radio receiver should be able to pick up its radio signals (437.5 MHz) transmitting papal messages of hope and peace in English, Italian and Spanish.
Like some other space missions, people are invited to submit their name to be put on a chip that will go with the satellite. However, this mission will take it one step further, said Father Luca Peyron, who is head of the Archdiocese of Turin's apostolate for the digital world.
To get a "boarding pass" into space, people will be asked to carry out a corporal or spiritual work of mercy or non-Catholics can perform a gesture or deed that fosters human fraternity, he said.
This way, the pope's words will have symbolic significance "up there" in the heavens, he said, and concrete action "down here" on earth.
People can take part by going to speisatelles.org where they can get their virtual boarding pass and follow the mission's progress. Students and teachers at the Salesian University Institute in Venice created the "Spei Satelles" logo, which depicts beads of the rosary circling the earth, which is formed by two "S" letters.
Pope Francis was scheduled to bless the satellite and the nanobook at the end of his general audience May 29.
Posted on 03/25/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has updated the procedures for investigating allegations of sexual abuse or the cover up of abuse, specifying that the leaders of Vatican-recognized international Catholic lay associations and movements have the same responsibilities over their members that a bishop has over the priests of his diocese.
The updated version of "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" (You are the light of the world), published March 25, also expanded the categories of victims covered by the regulations to include vulnerable adults.
The original text spoke of the crime of "sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person." The updated text read, "a crime against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue committed with a minor, or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason, or with a vulnerable adult."
"Anything that expands the categories of those who should be protected is to be welcomed," Oblate Father Andrew Small, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Catholic News Service March 25.
Father Small also pointed to the updated document's insistence that not only must dioceses and bishops' conferences have a "system" for reporting abuse or its cover up, they also must have "organisms or offices easily accessible to the public" to accept reports.
Making the procedures "well known and publicly accessible is part of justice," he said.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Legislative Texts, told CNS the updated document was based on four years of experience operating under the previous version, but the update also was needed to incorporate changes Pope Francis made in 2021 to the Code of Canon Law's "Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church."
The new rules go into effect April 30.
Boston Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement that with the updated text, "the church's ongoing work of preventing sexual abuse by ministers of the church received a further boost."
Updating the norms, "Pope Francis has reconfirmed the serious responsibilities on bishops and others in leadership positions to ensure robust safeguarding policies and procedures are in place and are effective," the cardinal said.
One thing the updated version did not do, however, was provide mandatory and explicit steps for revealing publicly when a bishop has been asked to or forced to resign because of abuse or covering up abuse allegations.
Many Catholics, including bishops, have called for such public notification after news reports revealed that a bishop who "resigned" had been sanctioned by the Vatican.
In September, the Vatican confirmed it had placed restrictions on the ministry of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, East Timor, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for nonviolent resistance to Indonesia's 24-year occupation of his homeland.
And in November, the French bishops revealed that Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, who announced in 2021 that he was retiring for health reasons, had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct and disciplined by the Vatican.
Archbishop Filippo Iannone, prefect of the Dicastery for Legislative Texts, was asked whether Catholics in general have a right to know when a bishop or priest has been disciplined for abuse or for covering up abuse.
"A distinction must be made between those who have a legitimate interest in the case," specifically the victim, and the public, the archbishop said.
Asked the same question, Bishop Arrieta responded that "it depends on the level of scandal" and how widespread knowledge of the case is. "If the damage is limited to the victim and the victim is informed of the outcome (of the process), then you could argue that justice has been served."
In his statement, Cardinal O'Malley said that "as much as possible, those impacted by abuse should be kept informed about the status and the eventual outcome of any case pursued because of any accusation made. Communicating the process of the church's disciplinary system goes to the heart of its effectiveness. Judgments should be made available to interested parties, especially to those making accusations and the victims of sexual abuse."
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, told Vatican News "one of the strongest changes" the pope made was to add laypeople leading Vatican-recognized organizations or movements and priests leading clerical associations to the list of those covered by "Vos Estis." Like bishops, they must act when allegations of sexual abuse or the abuse of power are made, or they can face a "Vos Estis" process.
Cases of abuse in several Catholic movements have made headlines in the past several years. Perhaps the best known was the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, founded in Peru in 1971. An internal investigation in 2017 found that Luis Fernando Figari, who began the movement and headed it until 2010, and three other high-ranking former members abused 19 minors and 10 adults.
In 2017 the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life banned Figari from living in a Sodalitium community, participating in Sodalitium activities or contacting any Sodalitium member.
Father Small said Pope Francis' update -- declaring "Vos Estis" to be "definitive" and no longer "experimental" -- shows that the church still has work to do in implementing its laws to punish abusers and those who cover up abuse. Expanding its coverage to include leaders of lay movements, he said, is an important part of the church's global safeguarding efforts.
The definitive text of "Vos Estis," Father Small said, "is a clear sign that a culture of impunity is over in the church."
Posted on 03/24/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world where "there is no shortage of hotbeds of hatred and revenge," Pope Francis told priests and seminarians that "we confessors must multiply the 'hotbeds of mercy,'" by making it easy for people to access the sacrament of reconciliation.
"We are in a supernatural struggle" with evil, the pope said, "even though we already know the final outcome will be Christ's victory over the powers of evil. This victory truly takes place every time a penitent is absolved. Nothing drives away and defeats evil more than divine mercy."
Pope Francis was speaking March 23 with priests and seminarians attending a course at the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal dealing with matters of conscience, the sacrament of reconciliation and indulgences, and with priests who offer confession at the major basilicas of Rome.
He told them, "If someone doesn't feel like being a giver of the mercy he received from Jesus, don't enter the confessional."
The pope said he had told Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which assigns confessors to the major basilicas of Rome, that one of the confessors "listens and rebukes, rebukes and then gives you a penance that cannot be done. Please, this will not do, no. Mercy. You are there to forgive and to say something so that the person can move forward renewed by forgiveness."
"You are there to forgive: put that in your heart," the pope told them.
While insisting individual confession is "the privileged way to go, because it fosters a personal encounter with divine mercy, which every repentant heart awaits," the pope also encouraged the priests to offer communal celebrations "on some occasions," as occurred around the world during the Coronavirus pandemic.
As ministers of the church, he said, a priest hearing confession must have obvious "evangelical attitudes," including: "First of all, welcoming everyone without prejudice, because only God knows what grace can work in the hearts at any time; then listening to your brother or sister with the ear of the heart, wounded like Christ's heart; absolving penitents, generously dispensing God's forgiveness; and accompanying the penitent's journey without forcing it, keeping the pace of the faithful with constant patience and prayer."
As he often does, Pope Francis pleaded with the priests to be generous with the time they are available for confessions since "the church's evangelizing mission passes in large part through the rediscovery of the gift of confession, also in view of the approaching jubilee of 2025."
Every cathedral, every shrine and every deanery or cluster of parishes should have an ample schedule of confession times, he said.
"If mercy is the mission of the church, we must facilitate the faithful's access to this 'encounter of love' as much as possible," he said, taking great care when preparing children for their first confession and, especially, when ministering to the sick and dying.
"When not much more can be done to restore the body," he said, "much can and always must be done for the health of the soul."
Especially in an individual confession, he said, God can "caress each individual sinner with his mercy. The Shepherd, and he alone, knows and loves his sheep one by one, especially the weakest and most wounded."
Pope Francis told the seminarians and priests that if they felt they had a vocation as a psychologist or psychoanalyst, "exercise it elsewhere."
And, he said, when a penitent does not seem to be sorry for his or her sins, the priest needs to ask questions that can budge open the heart.
"Are you repentant?" the pope imagined a priest saying. "No," was the imagined response. "But doesn't that weigh you down?"
A priest always must look "for the door to enter with forgiveness," he said. "And when one cannot enter by the door, one enters through the window; but one always must try to enter with forgiveness. With magnanimous forgiveness."
Telling the group that he had an appointment for his own confession at 3 p.m. that day, Pope Francis said God is "abundant; he always forgives more, always!"
Posted on 03/23/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine has issued a statement providing principles for evaluating some newer methods and technologies for disposition of the bodies of the deceased. The USCCB’s Administrative Committee approved the issuance of the statement on March 15.
In their statement, the doctrine committee affirms that every human being has been created in the image of God and has an inherent dignity and worth. Furthermore, since “every man and woman is a unity of body and soul, respect for the person necessarily includes respect for the body.” The Church considers burial to be “the most appropriate way of manifesting reverence for the body of the deceased,” as it “clearly expresses our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.” While the Church permits cremation unless it is chosen for reasons contrary to the Catholic faith, the preferred method is burial.
Applying the basic principles found in the Instruction regarding Burial of the Deceased and the Conservation of the Ashes in the Case of Cremation (Ad resurgendum cum Christo) issued by the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2016, the committee evaluates the two most prominent newer methods for disposition of bodily remains that are proposed as alternatives to burial and cremation -- alkaline hydrolysis and human composting -- and concludes that they fail to satisfy the Church’s requirements for proper respect for the bodies of the dead. After the alkaline hydrolysis process, there are about 100 gallons of liquid into which the greater part of the body has been dissolved and this liquid is treated as wastewater. At the end of the human composting process, the body has completely decomposed along with accompanying plant matter to yield a single mass of compost, with nothing distinguishably left of the body to be laid to rest in a sacred place.
The doctrine committee concludes their statement by recalling that the Catholic faith teaches us that our ultimate destiny as human beings includes our bodiliness: “We are therefore obliged to respect our bodily existence throughout our lives and to respect the bodies of the deceased when their earthly lives have come to an end. The way that we treat the bodies of our beloved dead must always bear witness to our faith in and our hope for what God has promised us.”
The committee’s full statement may be read here: https://www.usccb.org/resources/On Proper Disposition 2023-03-20.pdf.
Posted on 03/23/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The people behind chatbots are asking questions of priests and ethicists rather than turning to their artificially intelligent creations. They want to know: What is consciousness? What is the nature of humanity? What is the purpose of life?
According to Father Phillip Larrey, dean of the philosophy department at the Rome's Pontifical Lateran University, Silicon Valley techies are posing those questions to ethicists and religious leaders as artificial intelligence develops rapidly and is used in myriad ways impacting people's daily lives.
In a conversation with Catholic News Service March 21, Father Larrey, a native of Mountain View, California, and author of two books on the rise of AI, reflected on how society should engage with AI as it becomes increasingly embedded in the lives of ordinary people through accessible technologies.
AI-operated programs such as ChatGPT, a popular software created by the software company OpenAI, "can access data to an enormous extent that for human beings is no longer possible," said Father Larrey. "That is why as a species we tend to look at AI with a certain fear, because we fear the unknown."
An artificially intelligent chatbot, ChatGPT uses learning algorithms to consume, produce and infer information for human users. The software is intended to mimic human conversation and can instantaneously produce essays and articles, write programming code and give people advice based on information input by users.
It's most sophisticated model, GPT4, was released for public use March 14.
Father Larrey said there are several "catastrophic risks" to unchecked and widespread AI use, such as its potential for spreading disinformation and creating code that can be used by hackers.
He also identified potential adverse effects of AI for everyday users, noting that minors can ask chatbots for advice in committing illicit activities and students can use them to complete their assignments without performing the work of learning.
A major downside of AI, he said, is that "we become dependent on the software, and we become lazy. We no longer think things out for ourselves, we turn to the machine."
Yet Father Larrey said that rejecting AI technology is a mistake. In particular, he pointed to the decision of some universities to ban the use of ChatGPT, noting that educators "are going to have to learn how to incorporate this into how they teach, what they test for, and how we can use these tools to our advantage."
"I don't think you can put the genie back in the bottle," he said. "The market motivation is so strong that you're not going to stop it."
In January, Microsoft announced a multiyear investment in OpenAI, which the New York Times and other media reported would total $10 billion. Other tech companies, including Google and Amazon, are testing their own AI-powered products to compete with existing software on the market.
That's why Father Larrey said conversations on AI must shift to what Pope Francis calls "person-centered AI." The pope, he said, "is insisting that you need to put the human person at the center of this technology."
In January, Pope Francis addressed tech-industry leaders from companies such as Microsoft and IBM as well as members of the Jewish and Muslim communities during a conference on ethics in AI at the Vatican.
The pope urged them to "ensure that the discriminatory use of these instruments does not take root at the expense of the most fragile and excluded" and gave an example of AI making visa decisions for asylum-seekers based on generalized data.
"It is not acceptable that the decision about someone's life and future be entrusted to an algorithm," said the pope.
At the end of the conference, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim representatives signed a declaration calling on AI researchers to engage with ethicists and religious leaders to develop a framework for the ethical use of AI.
"On social media and other technologies that came very quickly, we were trying to catch up and we weren't exactly sure how to do this," said Father Larrey.
But with AI, he said, the tech companies themselves are "beginning to think about how to structure some guidelines and some concerns so that this technology will be used for human well-being and human flourishing."
Tech companies such as Microsoft are "looking for philosophers and theologians" to respond to those questions, he said. "They are looking for people who know how to think."
"These people, who are really changing the future of humanity, they want to talk with us, they want to talk with priests, they especially want to talk with Pope Francis," he said. "They're looking for guidance and they're looking for support. They're looking for some way to make this help people and not harm people."
Some of those guidelines, he noted, include adding parental controls to technology so that parents can monitor how their children are using AI-powered devices, or establishing structures so that human decision-making is not cut out of the equation when AI is also used, such as when making a legal decision using generalized data.
Aware of the challenges AI poses to society, Father Larrey said he is still optimistic people can use AI responsibly and for the betterment of humanity if it is developed properly.
"I think that people will win over the technology," he said. "It's not without perils, it's not without difficulties."
And within the church, Father Larrey said he thinks "priests will be one of the last to be substituted (by AI), even though they have AI's that will hear your confession and celebrate Mass."
"People want to talk with a priest or a sister, they want the experience of the religious person that they can't get in an AI," he said.
- - -
Contributing to this story was Robert Duncan in Rome.
- - -
Follow McLellan on Twitter: @McLellan_Js
Posted on 03/22/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To evangelize well, the faithful need to dialogue with God, let the Holy Spirit renew their hearts and lives, and then dialogue with today's world, Pope Francis said.
The Holy Spirit is "the protagonist of evangelization. Without the Holy Spirit we will only be advertising the church," he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square March 22.
The church, too, always must be "evangelizing herself" or else "it remains a museum piece," he said.
The pope continued his series of talks about "the passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer" by reflecting on St. Paul VI's apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" (On Evangelization in the Modern World) and its emphasis on witnessing to Christ.
"You cannot evangelize without witness -- the witness of the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word in which salvation is fulfilled," he said.
"Witness also includes professed faith, that is, convinced and manifest adherence to God the father, son and Holy Spirit, who created and redeemed us out of love," he said.
And, he said, it is a faith "that transforms us, that transforms our relationships, the criteria and the values that determine our choices. Witness, therefore, cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes and what one proclaims."
"A person is credible if there is harmony between what they believe and live, how they believe and live," the pope said. Anything else is hypocrisy.
"Every one of us is required to respond to three fundamental questions, posed in this way by St. Paul VI: 'Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?'" the pope said.
"We cannot be satisfied with easy, pre-packaged answers," he said. "We are called upon to accept the risk, albeit destabilized, of the search, trusting fully in the action of the Holy Spirit who works in each one of us, driving us ever further: beyond our boundaries, beyond our barriers, beyond our limits, of any type."
St. Paul VI, he said, "teaches that the zeal for evangelization springs from holiness which springs from a heart filled with God. Nourished by prayer and, above all, by love for the Eucharist, evangelization in turn increases holiness in the people who carry it out."
"Without holiness, the word of the evangelizer 'will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man' and 'risks being vain and sterile'" because it is just a string of empty words, he said, quoting St. Paul's exhortation.
Evangelization is addressed not only to others "but also ourselves, believers in Christ and active members of the people of God," Pope Francis said. "We have to convert every day, receive the word of God and change our life each day, this is how you evangelize the heart."
The Catholic Church, "which is the people of God immersed in the world," is often tempted by many idols, therefore, "she always needs to hear the proclamation of the mighty works of God," to pray and feel the power of the Holy Spirit, which changes people's hearts, he said.
"A church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path of conversion and renewal," he said.
This includes "the ability to change the ways of understanding and living its evangelizing presence in history, avoiding taking refuge in the protected zones of the logic of 'it has always been done this way' (which) are shelters that make the church fall ill," he said.
"The church must always go forward, it must continually grow," he added. "This way it stays young."
At the end of the audience, the pope underlined the sanctity of all human life. He greeted the faithful from Poland, which celebrates the Day for the Sanctity of Life March 25.
"As a sign of the need to protect human life from conception to its natural end, the Yes to Life Foundation is giving to Zambia the 'Voice of the Unborn' bell, which I blessed this morning," he said.
"May its sound carry the message that every life is sacred and inviolable," he added.
Posted on 03/21/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Safe, organized, legal and sustainable migration is in the interest of all countries, Pope Francis wrote.
"If this is not recognized, there is a risk that fear will erase people's future and justify those barriers against which lives are shattered," he said in a written address to refugees and to the volunteers and organizations who helped welcome and integrate them in Europe.
Speaking to the refugees and those who have helped them, the pope said, "Thank you for promoting this work of welcoming which is a concrete commitment to peace. Welcoming is the first step toward peace."
The Vatican audience hall March 18 was filled with individuals and families from many countries at war or affected by severe humanitarian emergencies, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Libya and Ukraine.
The pope only read a few passages from his prepared text, but spent about 25 minutes making his way, seated in a wheelchair, through the hall greeting guests and exchanging many hugs with enthusiastic children. One small boy insisted the pope accept his gift of a stuffed Spider-Man doll.
The migrants and refugees came to Italy and other European countries thanks to an initiative started in 2016 to create "humanitarian corridors" in which volunteers and organizations on the ground in areas of conflict identify people who are especially vulnerable and arrange for their safe and legal passage to communities prepared to take them in. They also help with housing, education and other forms of assistance.
The Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio established the project together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches, the Waldensian church of Italy, the Italian branch of Caritas and the Italian bishops' conference.
The project was started to help people avoid dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels, to prevent exploitation by human traffickers and to give priority to those in especially precarious conditions. More than 6,000 people have been offered legal passage and integration through the project since 2016.
In his spoken remarks, the pope thanked the organizations for their generosity and creativity and the commitment shown by governments for welcoming newcomers.
In his written address, the pope mentioned the recent shipwreck near Cutro, Italy, in which nearly 90 migrants, including children, died. "That disaster should never have happened and everything possible needs to be done to ensure that it will not be repeated," he wrote.
"Humanitarian corridors build bridges that many children, women, men and older persons fleeing from unstable and gravely dangerous situations cross in order to arrive safely, legally and with dignity, in their host countries," he wrote.
"Still, much effort is needed to expand this work and to open even more legal migration routes," he wrote. "Where political will is lacking, effective models like yours offer new and viable avenues."
"Safe, orderly, regular and sustainable migration is in the interest of all countries," he added.
This approach, he wrote, "points a way forward for Europe, to avoid its remaining frozen, fearful and lacking vision for the future."
The pope praised the project's emphasis on properly integrating people in host communities, and he thanked those who generously offer their homes, resources and help, writing that "you represent a beautiful face of Europe, one that is open, not without some sacrifice, to the future."
Addressing those who left their homelands, he underlined his own history as a son of a family of immigrants and wrote, "Your good example and industriousness help to dispel fear and apprehension about foreigners."
Jesus showed the way when he said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," the pope wrote. It is a path everyone must take "together and with perseverance."
In his written text, the pope also told those who have fled Ukraine that "the pope does not give up seeking peace, hoping for peace and praying for peace. I do this for your gravely afflicted country and for other countries affected by war."
Posted on 03/20/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine has issued a statement providing moral criteria to Catholic health care institutions for discerning which medical interventions promote the authentic good of the human person and which are in fact injurious. The USCCB’s Administrative Committee approved the issuance of the Committee on Doctrine’s statement on March 15.
In their statement, the doctrine committee acknowledges that modern technology offers chemical, surgical, and genetic interventions for the functioning of the human body, as well as for modifying its appearance. While these developments have led to the cure of many maladies and promises for more, modern technology also produces interventions that are injurious to the true flourishing of the human person. As an example of immediate concern, the committee cites the interventions advocated by many in society as treatments for what is termed “gender dysphoria” or “gender incongruence.” These interventions involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient’s body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof. As such interventions “do not respect the fundamental order of the human person as an intrinsic unity of body and soul, with a body that is sexually differentiated,” the committee states that Catholic health care services must not perform them.
While affirming that Catholic health care services “must employ all appropriate resources to mitigate the suffering of those who struggle with gender incongruence,” the committee asserts that the means used “must respect the fundamental order of the human body” or else the human person will not be helped, but rather harmed. The committee’s statement, which was developed in consultation with numerous parties, including medical ethicists, physicians, psychologists, and moral theologians, emphasized that “Catholic health care services are called to provide a model of promoting the authentic good of the human person. To fulfill this duty, all who collaborate in Catholic health care ministry must make every effort, using all appropriate means at their disposal, to provide the best medical care, as well as Christ’s compassionate accompaniment, to all patients, no matter who they may be or from what condition they may be suffering,” the statement says.
The committee’s full statement may be read here.
Posted on 03/18/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The faithful must set aside their egos and sense of superiority over others to make room for God and his tender mercy, Pope Francis said at a Lenten penance service.
"Only those who are poor in spirit and who are conscious of their need of salvation and forgiveness come into the presence of God," he said March 17.
And those whose hearts are filled with haughty, self-righteous comparisons and judgment, "you will go to hell," he said in his homily.
The pope led the penance service in a Rome parish, rather than St. Peter's Basilica, to mark the start of the worldwide celebration of "24 Hours for the Lord," a period when at least one church in every diocese was invited to be open all night -- or at least for extended hours -- for confession and eucharistic adoration.
The Rome parish the pope visited was St. Mary of Graces at Trionfale, the titular church of U.S. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. It also was the first parish in Rome he has visited since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
After delivering his homily at the service, there was a moment of eucharistic adoration during which the congregation knelt and the pope stood, head bowed, leaning on his cane.
Customarily, the pope would have then gone to a confessional in St. Peter's Basilica and kneel in front of a priest to confess his sins. However, this year with increased difficulty with his knee, he went to a quiet corner of the Rome parish church where there were two chairs, put on a purple stole and waited for each penitent to approach. He heard confessions for almost one hour.
Other priests were stationed in confessionals or elsewhere in the small church to hear confessions.
In his homily, the pope talked about the danger of being proud of one's "religious accomplishments" and believing oneself better than others.
"They feel comfortable, but they have no room for God because they feel no need for him," he said. Their prayer is more a series of "monologues" rather than sincere dialogue and prayer.
Such people may do good works, join church groups or help the parish and then expect a kind of "payback," that is, a sense of righteousness or expectation of a "prize" that elevates them above those who don't meet the same standards, he said.
"Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego," the pope said.
He asked everyone to look in their hearts and reflect: "Am I presumptuous? Do I think I am better than others?"
After listing self-righteous thoughts such as: "I go to church, I go to Mass, I am married, married in the church, and these people are divorced, sinners," he asked, "Is your heart like this? (If so,) you will go to hell."
"In order to get close to God," he said, each Catholic should tell the Lord they are the biggest sinner of all, and the only reason they have not fallen into worse sin is because God's mercy "took me by the hand."
"God can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him. He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are 'hitting rock bottom' and we turn back to him with a sincere heart," the pope said.
God is not afraid to "descend to the depths" and "take the lowliest place so he can be the servant of all," he said.
"There God waits for us there," at the bottom, the pope said, pointing downward, "not there," pointing up. God always waits for his children, especially when they participate, with great humility, in the sacrament of penance.
Pope Francis asked that everyone reflect on their lives and choose to stop hiding behind false masks and "the hypocrisy of appearances."
The faithful must "entrust to the Lord's mercy our darkness, our mistakes, our wretchedness," he said, and "acknowledge the distance between God’s dream for our lives and the reality of who we are each day -- the wretched."
The sacrament of reconciliation is meant to be an encounter that "heals the heart and leaves us with inner peace. Not a human tribunal to approach with dread, but a divine embrace in which to find consolation," he said.
He asked his brother priests who hear confession, "please forgive everything, forgive always."