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Ukraine: Henry Kissinger urges leaders to strive for peace

Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, says it is crucial for international stability that Ukraine negotiate with Russia “before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome.”

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Spanish priest responds to Whoopi Goldberg on Nancy Pelosi and Communion

Nancy Pelosi (L) Whoopi Goldberg (R) / Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0) / David Shankbone (CC BY 3.0)

Lima, Peru, May 25, 2022 / 17:41 pm (CNA).

Actress Whoopi Goldberg defended what she considers the right to Communion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in wake of the decision of Archbishop  Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to deny her Holy Communion for her obstinate and public support for abortion.

“After numerous attempts to speak with her 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, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in a letter released to the public May 20.

The archbishop explained that for his decision to not take effect, Pelosi must  “publicly repudiate (her)advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”

Goldberg said in a video posted on Twitter that "The abortion rights battle is starting to blur the lines between Church and State."

“The archbishop of San Francisco is calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be denied receiving Communion because of her pro-choice stance,” she said.

Addressing the archbishop, Goldberg exclaimed “This is not your job, dude! That is not up to you to make that decision! It’s kind of amazing. What is the point of Communion? Right? It’s for sinners. It’s the reward of saints but the bread of sinners. How dare you?”

Commenting on Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks, Father Juan Manuel Góngora, a Spanish priest who has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, said that “this lady is confused. Eucharistic communion is not a ‘right.’”

“Any priest can deny it when there are appropriate circumstances and it’s a gift that must be received in a state of grace. But of course, for the unwary, the story of victimization is more interesting,” said Fr. Góngora.

In Lumen gentium, its 1964 dogmatic constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council stated that bishops "govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant ... In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate."

Archbishop Cordileone explained that his decision is in accord with Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

"Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi's position on abortion has become only more extreme over the years, especially in the last few months," the archbishop said in his statement.

The Archbishop of San Francisco also recalled that on Sept. 20, 2013, Pope Francis told a group of Catholic doctors that “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”

Pope: Storytelling is 'fabric' that connects everything and everyone

In the Afterword of “The weaving of the world,” Pope Francis highlights the importance of storytelling as the weaving of a fabric with unbreakable threads that links the past and present, everything and everyone. The new book is published on Thursday by the Vatican Publishing House and Salani Publications.

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Catholic community ministers to Texas shooting victims: 'God's love will prevail'

Parishioners mourn at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. On May 24, 21 people were killed, including 19 children, during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement. / Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The local Catholic community is ministering to the victims of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. The Archbishop of San Antonio, along with priests in that archdiocese, sprang into action as soon as they learned of the tragedy.

“We're inviting people just to pray that love will prevail — that the love of God through us will prevail,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller told CNA.

García-Siller visited the hospital and the civic center in Uvalde, where the families of missing children gathered, on Tuesday. That evening, he celebrated Mass at the city's Catholic church, Sacred Heart.

Several of the victims and their families belonged to the Sacred Heart community, he told CNA, including two adults who were killed. Many involved in responding to the shooting attended the Mass: the person who dialed 911 from the school, the person who drove the children to the hospital, and a person who was tasked with taking photos of the victims’ bodies.

Their response came after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, located about 90 miles west of San Antonio. The incident is reported to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

The two adults have been identified as 4th-grade teachers: 46-year-old Irma Garcia, a mother of four, and 44-year-old Eva Mireles, a mother of one. News outlets such as NBC News reported their relatives as saying that the two died while trying to protect their students.

“I was able to meet the husband of one of the teachers who was killed, and the two daughters and son,” García-Siller said of Irma Garcia’s family.  

He met with them at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, as they waited to hear what had happened to the wife and mother. 

“The husband showed a lot of strength,” he told CNA. The three teenaged children, he said, were devastated. 

García-Siller described the other families at the center as very quiet, with some crying. He called the mood “very somber,” with everyone silently sitting on their own without engaging with one another. 

“So I asked them what we were able to do for them” and what they needed, García-Siller said. The only consistent request he received was for prayers and, in particular, “to pray for my child.” 

García-Siller described Uvalde as a tight-knit community, including a large Catholic community. He credited Sacred Heart for organizing the Tuesday Mass and setting up “the vision for how we can be of use, how we can be of help, to the larger community.”

“We have, already since [Tuesday], deacons, permanent deacons, priests, nuns, lay people, available for prayer, for counseling,” he told CNA, “which was the main thing the families directly affected asked for.”

“It's a lot of pain,” García-Siller described. “It’s just hard to communicate, or articulate the situation.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio

Next steps

“Today we're going back,” García-Siller told CNA on Wednesday. “We're driving back to Uvalde to be at the school where the shooting took place, at the civic center, at the hospital, and the parish.”

He will be present to say Mass and “to be all day with the people.”

Catholic Charities, García-Siller added, is providing counseling. And, he added, “We are opening an account to invite people to provide funds for all the funerals” and whatever the victims’ families need, including traveling expenses, lodging, food, and legal assistance. The archdiocese's Catholic Charities has opened an Uvalde Relief fund to aid those affected by the shooting.

The Bishop of Piedras Negras, located in Mexico near the border, will also travel to Uvalde. The two cities are connected, García-Siller said, since many of the people in Uvalde originally came from that city. 

The archbishop has also engaged teams of prayer. Before he drove Uvalde on Tuesday, he contacted prayer teams in San Antonio — teams that he calls from his office any time he has a need.

He revealed to CNA how he, personally, is dealing with the response. 

“You know that you are tired, but you don't recognize it because you're on the move,” he described. “I feel OK. As I said, this is a very community effort and so I don't feel in any way alone.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.

A meaningful Mass

The archbishop told CNA that Catholics and leaders of other religions attended the Tuesday evening Mass at Sacred Heart. The Gospel, he said, told the story of when the disciples discouraged little children from approaching Christ. 

Christ responded by saying, “Let the children come to me,” García-Siller recalled, as the Kingdom of God belongs to them and people like them. 

He stressed the importance of the Mass and “to at least to know what we're doing, why we are doing it, having very clearly the presence of these families before us and knowing that our God will intervene and that God is present.”

Catholic priests take action

Father Jaime Paniagua from Del Rio and Father Matthew De León from Sabinal concelebrated the Mass at Sacred Heart, Aleteia reported. Like García-Siller, both Paniagua and De León traveled to a hospital in Uvalde and the civic center. 

They stayed at the hospital for hours, Paniagua said in a video shared by reporter Ashlee Burns of and USA Today.

“We talked to the authorities, we talked to the staff, doctors, nurses. And we were able to visit at the ER with some of the wounded, with the families, with the kids,” he said. “In some of the cases, the parents hadn’t arrived yet. So we were there in the ER rooms with the doctor and the kid, and praying with them.” 

“We were present there as well when several families received the news of their kids being deceased,” he added, “being able to pray there for them.”

The victims Paniagua met with included a Border Patrol agent grazed by a bullet, a girl with a gunshot wound, and a girl whose face was injured from fragments, the Washington Post reported.

“She was very talkative, describing what happened, step by step,” Paniagua said. “When the shooting was happening, she held another girl’s hand, and they were screaming. Their teacher protected them, and they saw the teacher get shot.”

The priest said that he asked each injured child he enountered how they were doing and if they wanted to pray with him. 

“I experienced powerlessness, being there for six hours,” he said. “But God is almighty.”

Read Cardinal Sarah's commencement address at Christendom College

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, delivers the commencement address at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., May 14, 2022. / Christendom College

Denver Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Addressing the graduates of Christendom College this month, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, focused on the virtue of practical wisdom, or prudence, "the crown of the virtues."

We are called "to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us," the cardinal said May 14 on the campus in Front Royal, Virginia.

"Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not."

During the commencement ceremony, Sarah was given an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Find below the full text of Cardinal Sarah's commencement address:

I. Introduction

"Christendom." The name of a Catholic college that unabashedly places Christ as its center. With a distinct mission to restore all things in Christ — instaurare omnia in Christo (Ephesians 1:10) —and to rebuild Christendom, so that our culture may be inspired again by Jesus Christ and what He left us. Today, I am honored to graduate from such a College. I am proud to be a member of the Class of 2022!

Fellow graduates: you leave today from Christendom College as confident and courageous disciples of Jesus Christ, having been equipped with a solid Catholic formation in an extraordinary time. Thank you to your parents, benefactors, the President, Faculty and staff of the College, who have made your formation possible. Formation that is open to the True, the Good and the Beautiful, wherever that is found, as enlightened by the truths of Divine Revelation as found in Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. For those of you who have been here for at least four years, your formation at Christendom has been marked by a global pandemic, by the most divisive national election in the living memory of this country, and by the ongoing threat of major war in Europe for the first time since World War II. All along, the liquidation of God and moral relativism with the creation of false moral norms become ever more widespread. The Evil One is at work to sow confusion even in terms of our most basic identity as men and women, created in the divine image and likeness from the very first moment of conception in the womb of the mother — a demonic, spiritual revolt against what we have received from God, the gift of grace.

Every university exists to form its students for the challenges that they will face. For a Catholic college, like Christendom, that means having the courage to adhere to the faith of the Church, even if that contradicts the scheme of the modern world. If it recognizes what is in its nature to do, every university seeks to cultivate in its students the good habits of virtue, which fortify them for all the years ahead. The mission of Christendom College is precisely this. I quote: "The chief goal of the academic program is to form intellectual virtues in the students. Man is called not only to know the truth, but to love it, and to make it the formative principle of his life."

I hope that the extraordinary events of the last years have impressed upon your minds and hearts all the more deeply the beauty of virtue, the perennial value of firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good. You and I — all of us here — will need it. In the years ahead, we will all lean on the habits that we have formed, on the formation that we have received. It is the foundation of virtue, aided by grace, that allows us to perceive clearly and to respond generously to the persons and situations and opportunities that God places before us.

II.    Practical Wisdom

In the few minutes that I have to speak with you, there are two aspects of virtue on which I would like to reflect. Both concern the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom. I have deliberately chosen this topic as the focus of this Commencement Address, since the motto of Christendom College - instaurare omnia in Christo — entails precisely this: to sum up every aspect of creation in Christ, who is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). I expect that most of you will have spent some time while at Christendom getting to know the work of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to the Aristotelian and Thomistic tradition, practical wisdom is the crown of the virtues, which we attain supernaturally by grace, but naturally only after we have formed all the other moral virtues. These other virtues enable us to perceive clearly and to respond rightly to specific goods, such as wealth or health or honor. Practical wisdom, by contrast, enables us to integrate these goods, to discern how they fit together within each of our lives and in accord with each of the vocations given to us by God.

Practical wisdom, therefore, is key to our moral development. In the order of nature, the attainment of the natural virtue of practical wisdom is the culmination of our journey to moral maturity. In the order of grace, its perfection helps us to imitate Christ, to fulfill His command: "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). I pray that God bless every one of you with the wisdom that you will need in the journeys that commence today.

III. Taking Time for Deliberation

I said that I would reflect on two aspects of practical wisdom. The first is this: Practical wisdom enables us to make decisions. In the next weeks, months and years, you will be making decisions that change your lives and can change the world. Not just any decisions, but difficult decisions, decisions that draw upon multiple perspectives and multiple virtues, decisions that involve competing goods or conflicts of interest. When faced with such a decision, it is a virtue unto itself — or an aspect of practical wisdom — to understand how quickly or how slowly to arrive at a conclusion.

Noting this is of great help: You need not rush. Nor should you delay. How we arrive at the right balance, the right speed, is something that we learn through practice. We get better at making decisions, and at pacing our decisions, through practice and through listening carefully to the advice of our elders. For those of you who face great decisions on the horizon, and perhaps feel anxiety or stress about them, this advice might bring little consolation. But I shall not leave it there.

We can extract from Aristotle some more detail. He suggests that taking time for deliberation before we make a decision is itself a good, a good which we ought not overvalue or undervalue. He recommends that we deliberate slowly in most cases. First, he recommends that we give more time to more grave choices and less time to less grave choices. In other words, we ought not distract ourselves over lesser things, and fail to give adequate attention to what matters more and to what matters most.

Second, he recommends that we seek further clarity in a situation only to the degree that the field under consideration allows for it. For example, there was no way for any of you to guarantee ahead of time that the choice of Christendom would be the best choice of school for you. The process of choosing a school does not admit of such a guarantee. The choice of a school always involves a risk. Likewise, in any domain, we should respect the degrees to which we may attain certainty, on the one hand, or to which we must admit uncertainty, on the other. This point too saves us time and protects us from needless worry. It sharpens our deliberation and discernment.

Finally, Aristotle acknowledges that we do not always have the time that we might like for deliberation and discernment. Sometimes situations demand that we make decisions, even momentous decisions, quickly. It is in times like these that the value of the habits that we have formed and the formation that we have received is clearest of all. In these moments, when a decision is demanded of us, we fall back on what we have practiced. We fall back on the insights with which we have grown familiar and on the skills that we have developed over many years. It is then that we are most grateful for our firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good.

This was the first characteristic of practical wisdom that I wanted to discuss: It is a distinct aspect of practical wisdom to understand how quickly or slowly to arrive at a conclusion in a given situation. You need not rush. Nor should you delay. This is a skill for each of you to acquire.

IV.    An Example of Practical Wisdom: St. Ignatius of Loyola

The second characteristic upon which I would like to reflect is not a systematic component of practical wisdom but a particular example of its appearance. It is an example both fitting and startling in light of our experience of the pandemic and comes from the autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I quote:

"At that time the plague was beginning to spread in Paris ... Ignatius [entered a house in which there were many corpses of those who had died of the plague, and he] consoled and revived a sick man he found lying there. When he had touched the wounds with his hand, Ignatius departed alone. His hand began to cause him great pain, and it seemed as if he had caught the disease. The fear that came upon him was so great that he was unable to vanquish and drive it away, until with a great effort he placed his fingers in his mouth, and for a long time kept them there, saying [to himself], 'If you have the plague in your hand, you will also have it in your mouth.' As soon as this was done, the illusion left him and the pain he had felt in his hand ceased."

After caring for a sick man, Ignatius worried that he too had been infected. If he had had a deeper understanding of bubonic plague, he would have known that infection would not have been indicated by pain in his hand. But that is beside the point. What is striking is his deliberate action. He puts what he takes to be his infected hand in his mouth. He does not want to fear infection. He prefers to have the infection, and to know that he has it, rather than to fear it. For us, after the enormous sacrifices made to reduce the spread of COVID, the action of Ignatius might appear utterly reckless, even offensive.

But his action brings to light something profound, or rather a series of profound insights. First, you are all familiar with the claim that virtue seeks the mean, the middle way between two extremes. In order to hit the middle, virtuous action must often overshoot its target. When we naturally incline to one extreme, such as fear for our own health, virtue must tend toward the opposite extreme, again and again, until what is truly the middle way becomes clear to us. What may appear to be an extreme action by St. Ignatius perhaps allowed him to find the mean. He feared that he had already been infected with bubonic plague. By his dramatic action, he did not expose himself anew but simply disciplined his own fear. He rebuked himself, prohibiting fear from troubling him, from discouraging him from tender care for the sick, and from distracting him from the work of God.

Second, Ignatius' action is decisive. Once he has spread the infection to his mouth, according to his own understanding of the plague, there is no turning back. Beforehand, he was greatly troubled. He could not contain his fear. Different goods, different interests pulled him in different directions. In those minutes or hours of anxiety, he must have undertaken some form of deliberation, as much as his overwhelming fear would permit — considering, on the one hand, the value of his health, his natural fear of death, his fear of suffering the agony of plague, and then, on the other hand, his vocation to service, the freedom to which God calls us all, and the judgment before God that awaits us after death. Once these factors were weighed and considered, he acted suddenly. No further deliberation was necessary. There was no need for delay. And by his action, the tension is resolved. He has made his choice.

This is the third insight that we can glean from Ignatius' account. Not only does virtuous action appear to be extreme at times, and not only is it decisive, it reveals a choice. Practical wisdom culminates in decision. It commits us to one path instead of others. And in so doing, it re-arranges the values in our lives. It reorders how they appear to us and how they appear to others. The choice of Ignatius to risk his life to overcome his fear affects us all. He presents to us courage and self-sacrifice and perhaps even a degree of foolhardiness as choice worthy and preferable to overwhelming fear of disease. Health is a legitimate good, which we ought to take care to preserve. So, the choice of Ignatius was not simply an act of courage. It was a decision of practical wisdom, aided by the supernatural perspective on life and death that comes from Christian faith. He shaped his life in that moment, and set before us all a startling manifestation of human choice and human virtue.

V.    Conclusion

It is to such action that we here today are called. Not necessarily to expose ourselves to disease. But to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us. I propose to all of you to carry the account of St. Ignatius in your heart, knowing that God will call you, too, to surprising, startling, and decisive choices that will shape your lives and the lives of all around you.

We live in a time of crises — a time that demands of us decision after decision to respond to the immense challenges that we face and that will shape our lives and the lives of generations to come. I think of Saint Joseph, who is rightly called the "Terror of Demons," since he made decisions without delay in obedience to God's Word. At yesterday's Baccalaureate Mass, I invited you to take Mary "into your own home," "into your own affairs" and into every aspect of your lives. Today, I invite you also to "go to Saint Joseph." Ite ad Joseph. With the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph at our sides, let us rise to the challenge. Let us thank God for the formation that we have received. Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not.

Our most profound deliberations and our clearest vision of what lies ahead come to us when our hearts rest in silence. Especially silence before the Lord in the Eucharist — either in the silence of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or in the sonorous thread of silence that runs through the Holy Mass. Before Him, in light of faith and in the grace of the sacraments, we receive the greatest help in confronting the crises that we face and in choosing rightly and in accord with His will. By recognizing the responsibilities to which we are called, and by taking the appropriate time to deliberate, especially in silence, and to respond to the challenges ahead with practical wisdom, we will fulfill our vocations and reveal to the world the beautiful constellation of values that God shapes within each of us in order to "restore all things in Christ" and so to rebuild Christendom.

Pope Francis prays for consolation for injured and bereaved in Texas shooting

Pope Francis at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, March 14, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 11:24 am (CNA).

A telegram sent to the Archbishop of San Antonio on Wednesday conveyed Pope Francis' deep sadness over the deaths of 21 people at a school shooting in Texas the previous day.

“Assuring those affected by this attack of his spiritual closeness, His Holiness joins the entire community in commending the souls of those children and teachers who died to almighty God's loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved,” reads the May 25 telegram sent on the pope's behalf.

“With firm faith in the risen Christ, through whome every evil will be overcome by good, he prays that those tempted to violence will choose instead the path of fraternal solidarity and love,” it continued.

A gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 90 miles west of San Antonio, May 24, killing 19 children and two adults.

A Border Patrol officer killed the shooter, a local 18-year-old identified as Salvador Ramos. Two police officers were injured by rounds from Ramos.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pope Francis had addressed the tragedy after his General Audience address.

“My heart is broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas. I am praying for the children and the adults killed and their families,” he said in St. Peter's Square.

“It is time to say enough to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons. Let us all work hard so that such tragedies can never happen again.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said May 24 that the country was facing an “epidemic of evil and violence.”

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent,” the USCCB’s public affairs director Chieko Noguchi said in a statement.

“Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others, and we join our prayers along with the community in Uvalde and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.”

“As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

Hours before the general audience, Archbishop Garcia-Siller appealed to Pope Francis to pray for the victims of the shooting in his San Antonio archdiocese.

He tweeted: “Holy Father Pope Francis, say some prayers for the souls of our little ones killed today and two teachers. Uvalde is in mourning. The families are having a very dark time. Your prayer will do good to them.”

He added in Spanish: “Gracias por ayudarnos. Queremos ser como Jesús. Cuente con nuestra oración” (“Thank you for helping us. We want to be like Jesus. Count on our prayers”).

Will Cardinal Zuppi lead Italy’s bishops’ conference in a new direction?

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Italy. / Francesco Pierantoni from Bologna, Italy - Premio Colombe d’oro per la pace via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi’s election as president of the Episcopal Conference of Italy is, at one level, unsurprising. For at least two years, he was spoken of as a frontrunner to succeed outgoing president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti. And everyone pointed to Zuppi as the only figure who could lead the bishops’ conference in the direction desired by Pope Francis. Yet, on another level, the appointment was somewhat unexpected.

Zuppi’s election was announced as Italy’s bishops met for their plenary assembly at the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel. In the corridors of the hotel near Rome’s Fiumicino airport, there was a somewhat defiant air.

Some bishops, who asked to remain anonymous given that the ballot took place in secret, suggested that the pope was “forced” to select Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna, because he received the most votes among the three candidates sent to him for a final decision. It was evident, they said, that the pope would have preferred Cardinal Paolo Lojudice of Siena, who, they indicated, would be appointed as the new vicar of Rome.

Presidents of Italy’s bishops’ conference have a five-year term. At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis had asked for the statutes to be modified so that the bishops would elect the president themselves. But they preferred to keep the existing arrangement whereby the pope, as Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, chooses the president.

A compromise was reached: the bishops would settle on three names and the pope would either choose one of them or appoint his own candidate.

Shortly before the latest election, Pope Francis said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he preferred that the next president was a cardinal. After this, the three candidates were narrowed down to Zuppi, Lojudice, and Bishop Antonino Raspanti of Acireale, Sicily.

The bishop made the final three for two reasons. First, two other cardinals were ruled out of the running: the current vicar of Rome Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, who no longer seems to enjoy the pope’s favor, and Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence, who is heading for retirement. Second, there was a need for a “weak” name to better highlight the two real contenders.

Zuppi received by far the most votes from his brother bishops and Pope Francis had to take this into account. Rumors had previously suggested that the pope was wary of the great publicity that surrounds the “papabile” Zuppi and was leaning toward a different candidate. The pope was also said to have been negatively surprised when Zuppi applied the motu proprio Traditionis custodes in the Bologna archdiocese in a benevolent way.

The rumors that constantly circulate in the Vatican, aiming to scuttle or promote candidates, have always carried a lot of weight. Those cited are, in any case, sensitive issues for the pope.

“The bishops were courageous in voting for Zuppi and giving a signal to the pope,” a participant in the Italian bishops’ assembly told CNA. “Now it will be necessary to see who will be the secretary general [of the bishops’ conference] to understand the line.”

In his interview with Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said that he wanted the new president to choose the secretary general, so that he would be “someone willing to work with and for him.” But the pope did not specify how this choice should take place.

In formal terms, the pope also chooses the secretary general, based on a list of names suggested by the bishops’ conference.

When he picked Bishop Nunzio Galantino in 2013, he selected him though he did not appear among the initial three names presented by the then bishops’ conference president Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. In 2018, the pope chose Bishop Stefano Russo from a list of seven offered by Cardinal Bassetti.

That Pope Francis was unhappy with the work of the bishops’ conference presidency over the past five years could be seen from a series of details.

The most striking was that Russo ended his mandate as secretary general a year in advance. Moreover, his appointment as a residential bishop was announced a week before the bishops’ plenary assembly, effectively delegitimizing him.

A tense climate could also be seen during the closed-door meeting that the pope held with the bishops on May 23. Nobody other than bishops was allowed to attend, not even their secretaries. The pope reportedly joked about Russo’s appointment to the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri–Segni, saying that the 60-year-old had been “sent on vacation to the Castelli Romani,” a hilly area serving as a popular leisure destination for Romans.

The pope also reportedly told the bishops that he had not sought to highlight the idea that the next president should be a cardinal in his Corriere della Sera interview. Rather, he said, he had simply emphasized his preference when the journalists suggested that Archbishop Erio Castellucci of Modena might be a candidate.

Other topics of discussion included the pope's health and the Vatican’s China policy.

Pope Francis reputedly said that he did not want an operation to resolve his knee problems and would prefer to resign rather than undergo general anesthesia again.

Regarding China, Pope Francis praised the diplomatic approach of Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He spoke about the “martyrdom of patience,” a phrase attributed to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who served as Vatican Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II and is the architect of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik.

The future direction of Italy’s bishops’ conference now hinges on the choice of the secretary general, the body’s real engine. Will it be someone who will work with Zuppi to forge a new line that goes beyond the pope’s indications?

In his first comments after his election on May 24, Zuppi said that he would be guided by three criteria, which he named in order of importance as “obedience to the primacy of the pope, synodality, and collegiality.” How he puts these into practice will be closely watched in the coming months.

Bishop Flores on Texas elementary school shooting: ‘Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem’

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville delivers the St. Thomas Day Lecture at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paul, Calif., Jan. 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of TAC. / null

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 07:55 am (CNA).

Bishop Daniel Flores said on Wednesday that he was sick of hearing people say that “guns aren’t the problem” after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

“We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them,” the bishop of Brownsville, Texas, wrote on Twitter on May 25, the day after the shooting.

“Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin,” Flores said.

It was one of many responses from Catholic bishops around the U.S. after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. Among the victims were 10-year-old students in the fourth grade.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston was one of the bishops who took to social media to share his reaction to “the unthinkable loss of so many innocent young lives.”

“Our nation has too often become a place of unspeakable crimes of gun violence that have taken far too many lives, though none more heartbreaking than innocent children. We must take action to stop this senseless carnage,” O’Malley said.

“We pray for the grieving families and the Uvalde community, whose lives are forever changed. In this moment we embrace them with prayers for peace and healing as we commend to the Lord those lost, consoled by the promise of eternal life,” the cardinal wrote on Twitter.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago published a long thread on Twitter, highlighting how parents at the Uvalde elementary school faced “a delay in identifying the victims — such was the extent of the damage done to these children’s bodies by the killer’s weapons.”

Cupich shared statistics on the uptick in gun violence in the U.S. in 2020 and noted that the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting is scheduled to take place in Texas this week.

He wrote: “As I reflect on this latest American massacre, I keep returning to the questions: Who are we as a nation if we do not act to protect our children? What do we love more: our instruments of death or our future?”

“The Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them,” Cupich said.

Other U.S. bishops focused their social media responses on praying for the victims and their families.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence wrote: “I join my fervent prayers to those of many others for the victims of the horrible shooting at the school in Uvalde, Texas. May God grant eternal peace to those who died and as much consolation as possible in this dark hour to their families and loved ones.”

Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles said: “May Our Lady of Guadalupe take the victims of this violence in her tender arms, and bring comfort to those who mourn, and healing those who are hurt. And may God grant peace to every heart that is troubled tonight. We ask this in Jesus’ name.”

Pope Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on May 25: “My heart is broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas.”

“It is time to say enough to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons. Let us all work hard so that such tragedies can never happen again,” the pope said.

Pope Francis calls for a Christian economy based on community

Pope Francis meets members of the Global Solidarity Fund in a room adjacent to the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, May 25, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 25, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday called for the creation of a “new kind” of economy based on Christian values and community, not communism or the Enlightenment.

Speaking to members of the Global Solidarity Fund at the Vatican on May 25, the pope urged the creation of an economy in support of the people.

“Look also for a new kind of economy,” he said. “The economy must be converted, it must be converted now. We have to convert from the liberal economy to the economy shared by people, the community economy.”

In off-the-cuff comments, Francis said: “We cannot live with a pattern of economics that comes from liberals and the Enlightenment. Nor can we live with a pattern of economics that comes from communism. We need ... a Christian economy, let’s say. Look for the new expressions of the economy of this time.”

In this area, the pope praised the progress of young economists, especially women, naming the Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato.

The Global Solidarity Fund is a network helping to connect development groups, philanthropists, and investors with marginalized people around the world, including migrants.

Pope Francis said he liked it when people went to the peripheries to help others, “simply because Jesus went to the peripheries: He went there to show them the Gospel.”

“The peripheries, be they of the body, be they of the soul; because there are people who are somewhat well off but their souls are broken, torn: go with them too; [there are] so many people who need closeness,” he said.

In brief written remarks, which the pope handed out at the meeting, he focused on the concept of “solidarity.”

“It is one of the core values of the Church’s social doctrine,” he said. “But to become concrete it must be accompanied with closeness and compassion toward the other, the marginalized person, toward the face of the poor, the migrant.”

Cardinal Zen: ‘Martyrdom is normal in our Church’

Cardinal Zen offers Mass on May 24, 2022 after appearing in court in Hong Kong. / Screenshot from livestream of Mass

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 05:44 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen offered Mass after his court appearance in Hong Kong on Tuesday and prayed for Catholics in mainland China who are facing persecution.

In his homily on May 24 after pleading not guilty to charges of failing to register a pro-democracy association, Zen chose not to speak about his legal case, but to highlight how Catholics in some parts of China cannot attend Mass right now.

The 90-year-old retired Catholic bishop of Hong Kong prayed in Chinese for his “brothers and sisters who cannot attend the Mass in any form tonight — for they have no freedom now,” Reuters reported.

The authorities in Shanghai and Beijing have issued the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the world this spring, stopping people from leaving their apartment compounds for any reason, including religious worship.

Additionally, Catholics under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to attend any public Mass in mainland China and local authorities have cracked down on China’s underground Catholic community in recent years.

On the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Zen said that the Holy See “made an unwise decision” to enter into a provisional agreement with the Chinese Communist Party government when it did.

“There is an urge to unify those above the ground and those underground but it seems that time is not ripe yet,” Zen said, according to AFP.

“The Vatican may have acted out of good faith, but they have made an unwise decision.”

The day after Zen’s arrest by Hong Kong authorities on May 11, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he hoped that the cardinal’s arrest would not complicate the Holy See’s dialogue with China.

The Vatican has shied away from public criticism of the crackdown on democracy protests in Hong Kong since it first entered into the provisional agreement with China in 2018.

Zen offered Mass in a Hong Kong Catholic church with about 300 people in the congregation. The cardinal also live-streamed the Mass on his Facebook page, which received thousands of views in less than 24 hours.

His trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 19.

“Martyrdom is normal in our Church,” Zen said. “We may not have to do that, but we may have to bear some pain and steel ourselves for our loyalty to our faith.”