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Pope Francis prays for victims of Gaylord tornado

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his closeness on Tuesday to the victims of a tornado that struck Gaylord last week, killing two people.

“Saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the tornado which struck the Gaylord community in recent days, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all affected by this natural disaster,” a telegram sent May 24 on behalf of the pope stated.

“He also offers the assurance of prayers for the dead, the injured and displaced and those engaged in relief efforts,” the cable continued.

A tornado with winds of 150 mph struck the Michigan town May 20. More than 44 people were hospitalized as a result of the disaster.

Bishop Jeffrey Walsh of Gaylord said May 20, “Our prayerful solidarity is extended to all who have been affected by the afternoon storm. We are grateful to God that our diocesan and Cathedral staff came through the storm safely. Staff was sheltering in the basement as a tornado hit a few hundred yards away.”

He noted the chancery, cathedral, and St. Mary Cathedral school were spared damage.

“There will be much work to rebuild our community in the days, weeks and months ahead. Your prayers are appreciated,” Walsh added.

Parishes of the Diocese of Gaylord will take up a special collection May 28-29 to aid those affected by the tornado.

“As we work to restore and rebuild, the community response has been truly inspirational. Countless volunteers, utility workers, first responders and people from both Gaylord and outside the area have accomplished much already, and it is our hope to do our part as a Catholic community in providing spiritual and material assistance in the ongoing recovery efforts,” Walsh said May 23.

Baby formula shortage: Pro-life pregnancy centers offer aid to moms

Leon is a baby boy cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. / Courtesy of Mary's Shelter

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

Amid a shortage of baby formula in the U.S., experts recommend parents scour smaller drug stores, check online, and join social media groups sharing information.

But here’s another, perhaps lesser-known, option they can also turn to for help: pregnancy resource centers.

Nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers serve millions of people each year in the United States. They offer women and parents in need everything from health care and material assistance to educational classes and job support — at little to no cost. Right now, for many of these centers, their work also includes connecting struggling families to baby formula. 

One center in Michigan, an affiliate of Heartbeat International, a pro-life pregnancy resource center network, revealed to CNA that it has a surplus of formula. 

“At this time, we haven’t heard of formula shortages at the pregnancy centers,” Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing at Heartbeat International, told CNA. “Quite the contrary, actually!”

Trudden recommended families turn to their local pregnancy help organizations for assistance and use OptionLine.org as a tool to find the center closest to them. 

“Since pregnancy centers are equipped to help pregnant women and new families with practical resources such as diapers and formula,” Trudden said, “they have been able to step into that gap during this time.” 

Some pro-life maternity homes in states such as Virginia and North Carolina said mothers are in desperate need and exploring all of their options, including feeding their babies with formula samples. But, these homes tell CNA, they are walking with mothers in their search, every step of the way.

What is this shortage about?

The nationwide baby formula shortage was caused, and then exacerbated, by a series of factors: supply-chain issues, recalls, the closure of a major production plant in February, and even U.S. trade policy. The result, data-firm company Datasembly found, is that more than 40 percent of baby formulas were out of stock in early May.

Babies with special needs and allergies rely on formula, along with babies in general. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 63.3% of infants were exclusively breastfeeding seven days after birth in 2018. Three months after birth, only 46.3% of infants exclusively breastfed. Six months after birth, that percentage changed to 25.8%

The trouble with formula began partially with the Covid-19 pandemic. Parents stockpiled baby formula at the beginning, which increased production, only to later discover that they had a surplus to use up, which decreased production. 

After consuming formula from an Abbott plant in Sturgis, Michigan, four babies became sick, including two who died, from bacterial infections. This led to a recall and the plant shutting down in February.

These incidents exposed the formula market as one not structurally prepared for emergencies, with just four companies largely in control of supply in the United States. U.S. and regulatory trade policy only added to the problem, restricting the exchange of formula internationally, The Atlantic reported. 

Months into the shortage, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reached an agreement with Abbott, one of the largest U.S. baby formula manufacturers, to reopen its Sturgis plant in the coming weeks. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to prioritize the production of formula. And, in the meantime, the U.S. military has begun importing formula from Europe.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for action. Senate Democrats are pushing a bill that would send $28 million in emergency funding to the FDA. Congress passed, and Biden signed into law, a bill to expand access to formula for lower-income families during emergencies.

In the meantime, before the shelves are fully stocked once more, pregnancy centers and maternity homes around the country are helping parents in need.

Michigan

Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center, located in Hillsdale, Michigan, told CNA it has extra baby formula ready and waiting for parents in need.

“I have never seen this much formula. We have an overflow!” Lois Stoll, a volunteer who manages the formula supply at the center, said in a press release. The center, one of Heartbeat International’s 1,857 affiliate locations, accumulated its surplus over the last two years, during the pandemic. 

“It really is the result of an unexpected set of circumstances,” Bryce Asberg, the executive director, added in the release. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of clients fell but donations continued to come in.”

Baby formula is stored on shelves at Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center in Hillsdale, Michigan. Courtesy of Helping Hands
Baby formula is stored on shelves at Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center in Hillsdale, Michigan. Courtesy of Helping Hands

Asberg told CNA that the center has been running a material assistance program for several years where it provides mothers and families with baby clothes, diapers, wipes, and baby food or formula.

“We still offer all those items to clients who come in, but recently we have noticed a surge of interest in formula,” he said. “God has been building our supply of formula for many months, and we didn’t know why we had so much. Now we do!”

Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., Janet Durig, the executive director of Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, said that her center also has baby formula on hand.

“We’ve had some phone calls seeking help and we’ve had formula to give them,” she told CNA. But, she emphasized, the supply is limited because they rely on donations. 

“We have it to help people on a limited basis and are helping people on a limited basis,” she said, adding that the center welcomes donations of unopened bottles or cans of formula as long as they have not expired. 

Connecticut 

Leticia Velasquez, executive director and co-founder of Pathways Pregnancy in Norwich, Connecticut, encouraged moms and families to reach out if they need formula. 

She told CNA that the three-year-old center is there for any woman or mom in need. 

“We just say, ‘How can we fill the need? That’s what we’re here for,’” she said. “We definitely stand with them in any crisis, whether it be a formula shortage or an unplanned pregnancy.”

Parents in eastern Connecticut looking for baby formula can text the center at (860) 222-4505.

North Carolina 

Debbie Capen, the executive director of MiraVia, said that the baby formula shortage is affecting her group’s work in supporting and providing resources to new moms in need. The Catholic nonprofit runs an outreach center in Charlotte and a free college residence at nearby Belmont Abbey College where a pregnant student — from any university or college — can stay until her child turns two years old.

“Yes, the mothers we serve are very concerned about the baby formula shortage,” Capen told CNA. “We always encourage breastfeeding for our expectant mothers, but for those who cannot breastfeed, they usually rely on vouchers for baby formula through the USDA’s WIC program.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s WIC program, also known as the “Special Supplementation Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children,” offers federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, and young children at nutritional risk.

Capen highlighted that WIC only covers one specific brand of formula, which means that moms must pay full price for any other label. Formula is at a premium price right now, she added, which only puts more stress on their limited resources.

In each state, baby formula manufacturers bid for exclusive rights to provide formula to WIC participants in that state. In return, they offer the state discounts, or rebates. For those who rely on WIC, this means that they face limited options.

In response to the scarcity, the mothers at MiraVia are turning to alternatives: food pantries and the MiraVia community.

“They communicate with our staff and each other when they find formula at a certain location, as well as contact stores to find out when shipments are expected,” Capen said. “They substitute with generic brands when possible and reach out to their pediatricians for recommendations and even free samples.”

Capen listed some ways that people can help during this shortage, beginning with communication and the sharing of resources.   

“For example, you can help by searching posts on social media and community apps like NextDoor or OfferUp to find those with formula and suggest where it can be donated,” she said. “Remind friends and family not to stockpile so that the supply of formula can flow to those in most urgent need. If you are pregnant and have received free samples of formula, donate what you won’t use to food pantries or programs for new mothers.”

Virginia

Kathleen Wilson, the executive director of Mary's Shelter, a faith-centered maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, agreed that “our moms have had many difficulties.” 

She told CNA about one of their mothers who gave birth to her fourth baby three months ago. At first, she used a formula brand called Enfamil Reguline. After it became unavailable, she began switching between brands and using whatever she can find, Wilson said. The mother has also tried ordering on Amazon and turned to her pediatrician for samples. 

Yaretzi is a baby girl cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Courtesy of Mary's Shelter
Yaretzi is a baby girl cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Courtesy of Mary's Shelter

“This is a mom who is trying to hold down a job, with an infant and other children to tend to,” Wilson stressed the “very difficult” situation.

Wilson said that two of the other mothers spent days driving around at one point to try to find formula for their babies. When necessary, they are also turning to sample packets of baby formula.

"Our staff and volunteers have been assisting with this and picking up and delivering formula when they can get their hands on it,” Wilson said, adding that donors have also pitched in.

“We are blessed with wonderful donors,” she said. “A friend just stopped in this morning with two cans of formula that he was able to find.”

“If donors are willing and can find formula, we would be thrilled to take their donation,” she said, concluding that she is “praying this comes to an end soon.”

Nancy Pelosi doubles down on abortion support in response to Communion ban 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” on May 24, 2022. / Screenshot via MSNBC’s YouTube channel

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 12:13 pm (CNA).

Responding publicly for the first time to her archbishop barring her from Holy Communion in her home diocese, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained defiant Tuesday in her support of abortion.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced May 20 that the California Democrat may no longer receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco after publicly supporting abortion as a Catholic politician. His decision, Cordilenoe said, is a pastoral one and not political.

Over the years, Pelosi has defended abortion while citing her Catholic faith. The Catholic Church considers abortion — the destruction of a human person — a grave evil.

On Tuesday, Pelosi gave no indication that her position on abortion, and how she speaks about it as a Catholic, will change.

“I wonder about the death penalty, which I am opposed to. So is the Church. But they take no action against people who may not share their view,” she said during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.

Pelosi did not say whether she intends to continue to present herself for Communion. Cordileone’s order is only applicable within the San Francisco Archdiocese, and although Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington has not commented publicly about Cordileone’s action, he has not instructed priests to refuse Communion to anyone

Pelosi reportedly took Holy Communion at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass on May 22 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, according to Politico Playbook, but the report did not identify the source of that information. A spokeswoman for the parish on Tuesday referred media questions about the report to the Archdiocese of Washington, which did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.  

In response to Cordileone’s actions, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California — where Pelosi’s Napa vacation home is located — has said that he, too, will bar Pelosi from Holy Communion

During her appearance on “Morning Joe,” Pelosi directly mentioned Cordileone once, to criticize him for being “vehemently against LGBTQ rights.” 

Host Joe Scarborough praised the speaker for living out the Gospel of Matthew by serving the “truly disadvantaged.” 

Jesus does not mention abortion in the Gospels, Scarborough said. Instead, in Matthew 25, Jesus told his disciples “we would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven if we gave water to the thirsty, fed the hungry, clothed the poor, and brought hope to the hopeless,” he said. 

Pelosi claimed, without further explanation, that pro-life people largely reject this Gospel message. 

“Thank you for referencing the Gospel of Matthew, which is sort of the agenda of the Church that is rejected by many who side with them on terminating a pregnancy,” she said. You can watch the interview in the video below.

Pelosi also appeared to refer to the leaked Supreme Court draft in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which signals that justices are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

“This decision taking us to privacy and precedent is very dangerous in the lives of so many of the American people,” she said. “And, again, not consistent with the Gospel of Matthew.”

At another point, the speaker referenced her Catholic background.

“I come from a largely pro-life Italian-American Catholic family, so I respect people’s views about that,” she said, referring to abortion. “But I don’t respect us foisting it onto others.”

Pelosi also claimed that, as a Catholic, she has tried in vain to speak with Republicans in the past about supporting “what the Catholic Church was asking us to do for global family planning, natural family planning, which our law allows to happen.”

“I think it’s very insulting to women to have their ability to make their own decision hampered by politics,” Pelosi commented. “This should never have been politicized.”

Pelosi called abortion a “cover for a lot of other things that the far right wants to accomplish” and concluded that, now, a “woman’s decision” regarding abortion is a “kitchen table issue.”

Roberta Drury, a Catholic victim of Buffalo shooting, 'reflected God's love'

Roberta Drury, 32, who was killed in a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 14, 2022. / Drury family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 11:39 am (CNA).

Roberta Drury, one of the victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, was remembered at her funeral Mass on Saturday for her many admirable qualities, including her “smile that could light up a room.”

A White gunman killed 10 Black people on May 14 at a supermarket. Another three persons were injured in the shooting.

According to her obituary, “Robbie” Drury, 32, had been living in Buffalo for 10 years, caring for her brother, who is recovering from leukemia.

During his homily at Drury’s May 21 funeral Mass at Assumption Catholic Church in Syracuse, New York, Father Nicholas Spano, O.F.M. Conv., said Christ’s disciples have the mission of reflecting the light of God, adding that Drury “embraced this mission” and “lived it every day.”

Spano said that Drury “reflected God's love every time she cared for her brother, every time she greeted someone in her neighborhood around her street, every time she talked with friends and family she was that light that shown through whatever darkness might have been present.”

“Roberta had a perseverance and a tenacity that was both inspirational and enviable,” Spano said at the Mass. “Because of what she experienced, she was able to be the instrument of God's peace as she became that light in the darkness.”

Spano said that “There are no words to fully express the depth and breadth of this tragedy.” He added that on the day of the shooting “our corner of the world was changed forever. Lives ended. Dreams shattered. And our state was plunged into mourning.”

Spano said that Drury has “left us a lasting gift,” which is “her example of being light in the darkness.” 

“So, as we go forth from this place we're challenged by our faith and by Roberta's example to be a light in this world,” he said.

The casket of Roberta Drury, the youngest of those killed during the mass shooting at the Buffalo Tops supermarket on May 14th, is brought out following the funeral at Assumption Church on May 21, 2022 in Syracuse, New York. Drury, who was 32, had walked to the Tops market to pick up groceries for her mother when she was gunned down along with nine others in what is being described as an act of white supremacy. 18-year-old Payton Gendron is accused of the mass shooting that killed 10 people at the Tops grocery store on the east side of Buffalo on May 14th and is being investigated as a hate crime. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The casket of Roberta Drury, the youngest of those killed during the mass shooting at the Buffalo Tops supermarket on May 14th, is brought out following the funeral at Assumption Church on May 21, 2022 in Syracuse, New York. Drury, who was 32, had walked to the Tops market to pick up groceries for her mother when she was gunned down along with nine others in what is being described as an act of white supremacy. 18-year-old Payton Gendron is accused of the mass shooting that killed 10 people at the Tops grocery store on the east side of Buffalo on May 14th and is being investigated as a hate crime. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spano noted that some have questioned “in their grief, where was God?”

“My brothers and sisters, as Christians, we believe that God was there. God was present, as he always is with them in their moments of suffering,” he answered. “He himself, suffering, alongside those killed by hate, violence, and evil.”

“Roberta and her companions did not die alone nor in the absence of love,” he said. “But rather in that tragic moment, were ushered into the hands of a loving God. In an instant they moved from this imperfect world, to a place of peace and light.”

“We can say this,” he added, “because we believe in a God who not only took on our humanity at the moment of his incarnation, but ultimately embraced the darkest dimensions of humanity on Good Friday.”

Spano said that “to us our loved ones appear dead, but they are now alive with God.”

Reflecting on the Mass’s scripture reading from the eleventh chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Spano said that “Jesus leaves us with those words of assurance and hope that in him and in him alone, we find our rest.”

He continued: “Rest from our struggles, rest from our pain, rest from our suffering. In that moment when we cross over into the eternal light of Jesus, we enter into a place where love [is] experienced to an unparalleled proportion, hate is forever banished and suffering is no more.”

Spano questioned “As a family, as a church, as New Yorkers, how do we as people of faith respond to the reality of darkness in our world?”

He answered by citing the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who “once wrote: ‘darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’” 

Spano also said that Christ’s call to forgiving others is “echoed in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude.’”

Spano said that for Catholics “memory is a crucial aspect of our faith. For us to remember is not only to keep alive but to make present. We enter into this mystery … every time we celebrate the Eucharist.”

“It's in the Eucharist that we see the power of memory,” he said. “When we celebrate the Lord's meal, and we do it in memory of him, we make present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our midst, the entire Paschal Mystery at once,” he said.

“Each time we think of Roberta remembering her kindness, remembering her love for family and friends, her perseverance, her tenacity, and most of all that smile that could light up a room,” he said, “we make present once again that reality.”

New Catholic archbishop of Paris invokes ‘synodal spirit’ at installation Mass

Archbishop Laurent Ulrich is installed as archbishop of Paris in the Church of Saint-Sulpice on May 23, 2022. / © Yannick Boschat / Diocèse de Paris.

Rome Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 10:40 am (CNA).

Archbishop Laurent Ulrich was installed on Monday as the new Catholic archbishop of Paris.

The installation Mass took place on May 23 in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, the second-largest Catholic church in the French capital, which is serving as a temporary cathedral while Notre-Dame de Paris undergoes restoration.

In his homily, Ulrich spoke about developing “a missionary spirit and a collaborative spirit, which is really the synodal spirit” in the archdiocese.

He said that meant encouraging vocations, offering charity to the most vulnerable, and listening to the cries of abuse survivors.

“This is not a program, it is an attitude that changes us and transforms us, which makes us witnesses of the living Christ in the world in which we ourselves live,” he said.

Originally from Dijon in eastern France, Ulrich is the 142nd archbishop of Paris.

He succeeds Archbishop Michel Aupetit, who resigned in December 2021. Aupetit announced in February this year that he would continue to serve as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, after receiving encouragement from Pope Francis.

Ulrich, who is 70 years old, was the archbishop of Chambéry, southeastern France, from 2000 to 2008. He served as the archbishop of Lille, northern France, from 2008 until his appointment to Paris.

Among the challenges facing the new archbishop will be to heal the divisions exposed in the Paris archdiocese during Aupetit’s tenure from 2017 to 2021.

Before the evening installation Mass, Ulrich presided over vespers in the public square in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral.

As the archbishop of Paris, Ulrich will be responsible for overseeing the restoration of Notre-Dame’s interior following a devastating fire in 2019. The cathedral is expected to reopen for worship on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze.

Speaking about the cathedral fire, Ulrich said: “I greet all the people of Paris who felt this wound with infinite sadness, but also with the immense pride of knowing that they are mysteriously and universally supported.”

The Archdiocese of Paris, which dates back to the third century, serves an estimated 1.3 million Catholics out of a total population of around 2.2 million people.

At the end of his homily, Ulrich invoked the intercession of some of the saints who lived in Paris, including St. Denis, St. Geneviève, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Catherine Labouré, and St. Charles de Foucauld.

“We are not lacking in models or intercessors: they have been courageous witnesses and above all simple servants. … May the grace of the Lord thus make us bear fruit,” he said.

Polish bishops’ leader: Vatican’s approach to Russia ‘naive and utopian’

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki. / Episkopat.pl.

London, England, May 24, 2022 / 09:27 am (CNA).

The president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference has said that the Vatican’s approach to Russia is “naive and utopian.”

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki made the remark in an interview with the Polish Catholic news agency KAI published on May 23, following a May 17-20 visit to Ukraine.

The 72-year-old archbishop was asked about his meeting with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

The interviewer noted that Pope Francis had received a “special memorandum” on the Vatican’s “current Eastern policy.” It is understood that Gądecki presented the document to the pope during a March 28 private audience.

Gądecki told KAI: “In my opinion, the Vatican’s approach to Russia should change to a more mature one, since the past and present approach seems very naive and utopian.”

“Of course, the goal of establishing contacts and dialogue is noble, which is based on the fact that Russia is big and deserves respect. But this is not accompanied by sufficiently serious reflection on the Vatican’s part.”

He went on: “For Russia, the Vatican is an important entity, but at the same time it should be humiliated, as Putin himself has shown several times by being intentionally late by several hours for a scheduled meeting with the pope.”

Gądecki was referring to meetings between the Russian president and the pope at the Vatican in 2013, 2015, and 2019. Putin was reportedly 50 minutes late for the papal audience in 2013, 70 minutes late in 2015, and nearly an hour late in 2019.

The archbishop added: “The Holy See should understand that in its relations with Russia it should be more cautious, to say the least, because from the experience of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it seems that lying is second nature to Russian diplomacy.”

The archbishop of Poznań, west-central Poland, suggested that Vatican diplomacy had historically “underestimated” the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Referring to Blessed Stefan Wyszyński, who led the Polish Church under communism, he said: “Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński tried to change this, but I do not think he succeeded. It was rather Providence, his efforts and determination, and not the efforts of the diplomacy of the Apostolic See that saved the Church in Poland. A radical change was brought only by the pontificate of John Paul II, but now we seem to be returning to the old line.”

Gądecki acknowledged that the Holy See is committed to neutrality in international affairs.

“Vatican diplomacy — being aware that Christians often fight on both sides — does not point to one aggressor but tries to do everything possible to reach a peaceful conclusion through diplomatic efforts,” he said.

“But today, in the situation of war, [the Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader] Major Archbishop Shevchuk stresses, the most important thing is that the Holy See supports Ukraine at all levels and does not follow utopian ideas taken from liberation theology.”

In the interview, Gądecki described his solidarity visit to Ukraine as part of a delegation that included Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, and Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Lublin, eastern Poland.

The Polish bishops met with Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, the chairman of Ukraine’s Latin Rite bishops’ conference, in Lviv, western Ukraine, as well as Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk in Kyiv. They also visited the liberated cities of Irpin and Bucha to pray for Ukrainians killed under Russian occupation.

Gądecki also told KAI that he had discussed his recent letter expressing “fraternal concern” over the direction of Germany’s “Synodal Way” with Archbishop Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister.

In his letter to German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing, Gądecki questioned whether the initiative bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople was rooted in the Gospel.

“Archbishop Gallagher informed me that [Vatican Secretary of State] Cardinal Parolin was grateful for the letter to Georg Bätzing, the president of the German episcopate, in which I took up a critique of the German synodal path,” the Polish archbishop said in the interview.

‘Bicycling cardinal’ is new leader of Italy’s Catholic bishops’ conference

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy, in St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 5, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, May 24, 2022 / 07:37 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has chosen Cardinal Matteo Zuppi as the next president of the Italian bishops’ conference following a vote on Tuesday.

Zuppi, 66, has a reputation as the “bicycling cardinal” for his propensity to cycle around the northern Italian city of Bologna, which he has led as archbishop since 2015.

He also has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

The cardinal was chosen to lead the Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI) during the group’s 76th general assembly, taking place in Rome on May 23-27.

Pope Francis had previously asked the Italian bishops to adopt a new statute that would allow them to elect the president themselves, but the bishops preferred to leave the choice to the pope, who as Bishop of Rome is also the Primate of Italy.

Under a compromise arrangement, the bishops presented a list of the three candidates with the most votes to the pope, who could then choose between the three or opt for a different candidate.

Zuppi succeeds 80-year-old Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who led the bishops’ conference for a five-year term beginning in 2017.

Pope Francis made Zuppi a cardinal in 2019. For years, the Rome native has been listed among the “papabili” — possible future popes — but has made light of the speculation.

Before being transferred to Bologna, Zuppi was an auxiliary bishop of Rome for three years. He was responsible for the city’s historic center area, which includes the Trastevere neighborhood, where the headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community is located.

Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that aids migrants and promotes ecumenism. It has also helped negotiate reconciliation, including by holding peace talks in countries like Mozambique and South Sudan.

German bishops’ leader expresses disappointment in Pope Francis

Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Cologne, Germany, May 24, 2022 / 06:45 am (CNA).

The chairman of Germany’s bishops’ conference on Sunday expressed his disappointment with Pope Francis, insisting that “the teaching of the Catholic Church” must be “changed,” especially concerning homosexuality and the role of women.

In a May 22 interview, Bishop Georg Bätzing expressed his “disappointment” in the pope, adding: “But in the sense of a deception,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bätzing used the close-sounding German words Enttäuschung (“disappointment”) and Täuschung (“deception”).

Explaining what he meant by this, the bishop said: “The pope, even in the Catholic Church, even with all the powers vested in him, is not someone who could turn the Church from its head onto its feet, which is what we would like.”

Bätzing added: “He is doing what he can. Namely, he is initiating a process where all these questions are put on the table. For the 2023 world synod and for questions, so to speak, like ‘Are groups allowed to participate, are LGBTQ allowed to participate?’ he always says: everyone.”

In the wide-ranging interview with national state broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, the bishop of the Limburg, western Germany, said: “I believe that in the final realization of what our image of God and man is, discrimination against homosexuals, people living in relationships, for example, should not be framed as a prohibition, but as a possibility that is encountered in an appreciative way.”

Bätzing also said that on the matter of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood, he wanted to “maintain a balancing act in such a way” that he could say what the Church’s teaching is, but at the same time recognize that “this teaching no longer finds acceptance among the faithful, not only in a social context, among the faithful.”

“The sensus fidelium, that is, the sense of the faithful, has moved on,” Bätzing said. “This is a sign that we must take up theologically and that leads to change. And that’s what I’m committed to. So, I don’t sit in the armchair and say ‘this is the way it is now,’ but I really give a lot of my strength to achieving this. And I believe that change is going to happen.”

Bätzing acknowledged that he personally knew another prominent prelate whose public departure from the Catholic Church last week made headlines around the world.

The former priest Andreas Sturm, who was vicar general of the Diocese of Speyer, had also called for a change of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Announcing his departure from the Church, Sturm cited frustration over a lack of changes to Church teaching in a number of areas, especially sexuality and the ordination of women.

Asked whether he would contemplate a similar step, Bätzing replied that he would also consider turning his back on the Church altogether if he “got the impression that nothing would ever change.”

“However, I have the impression that a lot is changing at the moment,” the 61-year-old bishop said.

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Pope Francis names Arkansas priest to lead Diocese of St. Augustine

Bishop-elect Erik Pohlmeier. / Courtesy of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Vatican City, May 24, 2022 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Arkansas priest Father Erik Pohlmeier as the next bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida.

Bishop-elect Pohlmeier, 50, will succeed Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, 76, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis on May 24.

Pohlmeier’s consecration as bishop and installation in the diocese will take place on July 22.

“I am grateful for every way I have been called to serve the Church and am humbled by this opportunity to serve in the place where Mass was first celebrated in the United States. May God be praised for any good work I am able to do,” Pohlmeier said in a statement on May 24.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock said that Pohlmeier “is one of the most capable, beloved, and admired priests of the Diocese of Little Rock, and he will be sorely missed.”

Taylor noted that Pohlmeier “is fluent in Spanish and brings to the Diocese of St. Augustine a personal experience of the full spectrum of Catholic life acquired over the course of 24 years of priestly ministry in every apostolate imaginable: urban, rural, and suburban, in which he has served people of every ethnicity, income level, and culture, both in parish life and in diocesan apostolates, most recently as the director of faith formation.”

“We are all one Church, so while we in Arkansas are proud of Bishop-elect Pohlmeier and sending him to Florida will be a great sacrifice for us, we rejoice in the good fortune of the Diocese of St. Augustine and know that the Lord must love them very much to give them such a fine man to be their next bishop,” he said.

The Diocese of St. Augustine covers 17 counties in Northeast and North Central Florida, and serves more than 153,000 Catholics.

Pohlmeier is currently pastor of Little Rock’s largest Catholic parish, Christ the King, and has served as director of the office of faith formation and office of deacon formation since 2016.

He was born in Colorado Springs on July 20, 1971, but grew up in Paris, Arkansas, with three brothers and one sister.

He entered seminary in 1992, after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas in 1991.

The bishop-elect studied undergraduate theology at Rome’s Gregorian University. He also received a master’s in spiritual theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome while attending the North American College seminary.

In 1998, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Little Rock, which encompasses all of Arkansas.

Since 2003, he has been a theological consultant for the Arkansas Catholic newspaper.

From 2007 to 2016, Pohlmeier was on the national board of directors of Couple to Couple League, a non-profit organization that provides instruction in fertility awareness and Natural Family Planning.

The bishop-elect has been director of continuing education for clergy since 2019.