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Holy Spirit makes Christians gentle, not 'overbearing,' pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Christians are called to develop the gentleness needed to proclaim the Gospel to all, Pope Francis said.

Just as the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, transformed their hearts and instilled in them a "serene courage" to share their experience of Jesus, the pope said that today's Catholics who received the gift of the Spirit in baptism and confirmation are called to develop a similar missionary impulse.

"From the 'upper room' of this basilica, like the apostles, we too are being sent forth to proclaim the Gospel to all," Pope Francis said in his homily for Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica May 19. "We are sent into the world not only geographically, but also beyond the frontiers of race and religion for a truly universal mission."
    
Yet, he said, Christians are called to evangelize through the "power and gentleness" of the Spirit, "not with arrogance and imposition."

People gather for Pentecost Mass with Pope Francis.
People gather for Pentecost Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 19, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

"Christians are not overbearing," he said; "their strength is another: the strength of the Spirit."

While Pope Francis presided over the Mass, Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was the main celebrant at the altar, which currently is surrounded by scaffolding due to restoration work on the canopy that stands over it.

Vested in red, the pope said that Christians must tirelessly share the Gospel as the apostles did, not "with calculation and cunning, but with the energy born of fidelity to the truth that the Spirit teaches us in our hearts and causes to grow within us." 

In that way, he continued, "we surrender to the Spirit, not to the forces of the world."

Pope Francis said that emboldened by the Holy Spirit, Christians should not be "intimidated by hardship, derision or opposition," but proclaim peace, solidarity, life and fidelity to those who act in discordance with the Gospel.

"At the same time, our proclamation seeks to be gentle (and) welcoming to everyone," he said. "Let us not forget this: everyone, everyone, everyone."

The pope then encouraged Christians to recall Jesus' parable of the great banquet, in which a king asks his servants to invite anyone they can find, "good and bad," to a dinner banquet.

"May the Spirit give us the strength to go forth and call to everyone with that gentleness," the pope prayed. And "that it gives us the gentleness to welcome all."

Pope Francis gives his blessing to visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis gives his blessing to visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the "Regina Coeli" at the Vatican May 19, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

After Mass, Pope Francis prayed the "Regina Coeli" with visitors wearing rain ponchos and holding umbrellas in a drizzly St. Peter's Square. 

"The Holy Spirit is that which creates harmony," the pope told visitors after the prayer. "He creates it from different, sometimes conflicting realities."

Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would increase the "communion and fraternity of Christians from different confessions" and that the Spirit would give the leaders of governments "the courage to make acts of dialogue that lead to putting an end to war." 

The pope lamented the many wars taking place in the world and prayed particularly for the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, which has been the site of a renewed Russian assault in recent days, as well as for Palestine and Israel. 

Pope Francis prayed "that the Holy Spirit may bring the leaders of nations and all of us to open the doors toward peace."

"Today, on the feast of Pentecost, let us pray to the Holy Spirit, love of the Father and the Son, that it may create harmony in hearts, harmony in families, harmony in society, harmony in the whole world," he said. 
 

Pope prays for peace on Pentecost

Pope prays for peace on Pentecost

Pope Francis prayed for peace in the world on the feast of Pentecost.

Pope Francis Appoints Cardinal Tagle as Special Envoy to the National Eucharistic Congress

WASHINGTON - As the Catholic Church in the United States prepares to celebrate its first National Eucharistic Congress in over half a century, Pope Francis will send His Eminence Luis Cardinal Tagle as his special envoy. His Eminence currently serves as Pro-Prefect of the Section for the First Evangelization and New Particular Churches of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Evangelization. Cardinal Tagle will celebrate the closing Mass of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress being held July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Commenting on the announcement, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the appointment by Pope Francis “a gift to the Eucharistic Congress.” Archbishop Broglio said Cardinal Tagle’s “deep passion for apostolic mission rooted in the Eucharist is sure to have an inspirational impact for everyone attending the Congress,” adding that the Cardinal knows the United States well, having earned a doctorate in theology at The Catholic University of America in 1991.

Looking to bring the Catholic Church together for a national celebration of the mystery of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, the bishops of the United States approved the National Eucharistic Congress as a milestone moment in the three-year National Eucharistic Revival with the vision that it would flow into the final year of the Revival, the Year of Missionary Sending. “The Congress will give public witness to the Church’s core identity rooted in the Eucharist, and we pray that it will inspire a renewed sense of mission as we live out the gifts of unity and charity.  May it be the catalyst for a continued deepening of our faith in the Real Presence,” said Archbishop Broglio.

For more information on the Eucharistic Revival, Pilgrimage, and Congress, please visit https://www.eucharisticrevival.org.

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Don't let discord lead to death, pope says in city of Romeo and Juliet

VERONA, Italy (CNS) -- Adults in the world's richest nations deserve "the Pontius Pilate Nobel Prize because we have become experts at washing our hands" of the violence and injustices in the world, Pope Francis said.

Always insisting on having the last word, being concerned only for one's own well-being, investing in weapons manufacturing and thinking that war can solve problems all contribute to a lack of peace in the world, the pope said May 18 at the "Peace Arena" in Verona.

The Arena in Verona
People attending a meeting of popular movements and church groups committed to working for peace and justice, listen to Pope Francis in the Arena in Verona May 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

In the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater built in the year 30 and famous today as the setting for operas, some 12,500 people involved in popular movements and Catholic organizations committed to service, peace and justice met with the pope to pray for peace.

In the city that is the setting for Shakespeare's play, "Romeo and Juliet," organizers chose "Justice and Peace Will Kiss" from Psalm 85 as the theme for the pope's visit.

Maoz Inon, an Israeli whose parents were killed Oct. 7 by Hamas militants, and Aziz Sarah, a Palestinian whose brother was killed by Israeli soldiers, were given a standing ovation by the crowd when they spoke arm-in-arm from the same podium.

After they shared their story, they went up to Pope Francis, and the three enclosed each other in a strong embrace as the crowd continued to applaud.

Pope Francis at Verona peace meeting
Pope Francis waves to an estimated 12,500 people attending a meeting of popular movements and church groups committed to working for peace and justice at the Arena in Verona May 18, 2024. Comboni Father Alex Zanotelli, right, one of the event organizers, holds a peace flag. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"Please, let's have a short moment of silence, because there isn't much to say after that," the pope said. "Just watch and, seeing the embrace of these two, everyone pray in their hearts to the Lord for peace and make a decision to do something to end wars."

Earlier, responding to questions about peacemaking, Pope Francis insisted that the secret is to start with the small things in life.

"Aggression multiplies," he said. "If someone insults you, you immediately want to double down."

"Once there was a funny scene: A person went to buy something and it was obvious he was not given the right price," the pope said. "He shouted all sorts of things. The store owner listened and then said, 'Sir, are you finished?'

"'Yes,' the customer said. 'Then go take a hike,' the owner said. He didn't use those words -- he used stronger words," the pope said, eliciting laughter. "But he sent him to take a walk. When things start getting heated, go take a walk. Calm down."

On a larger scale, the pope said, people in a society always will have different ideas about how things should go.

"A society without conflict is dead," he said. "A society where there is no dialogue about conflicts is a suicidal society. A society where conflicts are taken in hand and there is dialogue is a society with a future."

Pope Francis ended the morning at Verona's Montorio prison where he met with inmates -- women and men -- and stayed for lunch.

Pope Francis receives a flower from an inmate
An inmate at Verona's Montorio prison gives Pope Francis a flower grown in the prison garden during a meeting in the prison yard May 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope's staying for a formal program and for lunch did not go unnoticed. Leonardo, 22, welcomed the pope on behalf of all the inmates, telling him, "None of us will ever forget this day. We've noticed you are giving us more time than you did to any other appointment today."

Greeting the inmates and staff in a yard and giving a shout-out to inmates watching from the windows of their cells, Pope Francis told them, "For me, entering a prison is always an important moment, because prison is a place of great humanity -- humanity tried, sometimes fatigued by difficulties, guilt, judgments, misunderstandings and suffering, but at the same time filled with strength, a desire for forgiveness, a desire for redemption."

"In this humanity, here, in all of you, in all of us, is present today the face of Christ, the face of the God of mercy and forgiveness," the pope said.

Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. Zeno in Verona
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives at the Basilica of St. Zeno in Verona May 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Before going to the Arena and to the prison, Pope Francis and about 5,500 children and young people were welcomed to the Basilica of St. Zeno by "The Embrace," a 32-foot-tall statue of a smiling Christ with his arms extended wide. The sculpture is made of 300 metal cutouts of children, women and men. The statue, commissioned by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and made in Verona, was planned for the roof of a Catholic school in Jerusalem, and hopes are that one day it can be erected there.

The pope had a brief question-and-answer session with the young people, limiting the questions because, he told them, he did not want it to turn into "a torture session."

A boy asked how children can be peacemakers. The pope responded that they could start simply by not fighting with their siblings, classmates or parents and by sharing always, especially with people who have less than they do.

And, he told them, "do not be afraid to go against the tide if you want to do something good."

Pope Francis greets nuns in Verona
Pope Francis greets nuns who left their cloister to attend his meeting with priests and religious in the Basilica of St. Zeno in Verona May 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Beginning the day with priests and members of religious orders inside the basilica, Pope Francis urged them to never forget that "at the origin of every Christian life, there is the experience of an encounter with the Lord, which does not depend on our merits or commitment, but on the love of the one who comes to seek us, knocking on the door of our hearts and inviting us into a relationship with him."

"We are not better than others. It is pure grace," the pope told them. "He is the one who chose us" and not the other way around.

At the end of the meeting, Verona Bishop Domenico Pompili gave Pope Francis a copy of the baptismal certificate of Father Romano Guardini, a priest, philosopher and theologian, who was born in Verona in 1885, but studied, was ordained and worked in Germany, where he died in 1968. Pope Francis studied the priest's theology and often quotes his work.

 

Pope Francis works for peace in Verona

Pope Francis works for peace in Verona

On a day-trip to Verona, which included a busy schedule of visits with priests, religious communities, young people, and prisoners, Pope Francis also met with some 12,500 people involved in popular movements and Catholic organizations committed to...

Vatican publishes new norms to discern alleged supernatural phenomena

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has published new norms for the church to discern alleged supernatural phenomena, such as Marian apparitions and mystical visions, which streamline the discernment process for bishops, allow the Vatican to avoid making definitive judgments on the authenticity of the events and reaffirm that Catholics are not obliged to believe in the purported phenomena.

In the document released May 17, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, laid out six possible conclusions that can be reached when discerning a possible supernatural phenomenon, ranging from a declaration that an event is not of supernatural origin to authorizing and promoting piety and devotion associated with a phenomenon without affirming its divine nature.

The significant development in the text, signed by Pope Francis, is that "as a rule, neither the Diocesan Bishop, nor the Episcopal Conferences, nor the Dicastery will declare that these phenomena are of supernatural origin," though "the Holy Father can authorize a special procedure in this regard."

Rather, declarations of supernatural authenticity "are replaced either by a 'nihil obstat'" -- a judgment meaning "no objection" that finds no problematic elements with a reported phenomenon -- "or by another determination that is suited to the specific situation," Cardinal Fernández wrote in his presentation of the new norms.

If a "nihil obstat" is issued in response to alleged supernatural phenomena, "the Diocesan Bishop is encouraged to appreciate the pastoral value of this spiritual proposal, and even to promote its spread, including possibly through pilgrimages to a sacred site," but "without expressing any certainty about the supernatural authenticity of the phenomenon itself," the guidelines said.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández speaks at a news conference.
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at a news conference to present the dicastery's declaration, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity") on human dignity at the Vatican press office April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Other conclusions may require bishops: to further discern events that have positive aspects but also some signs of confusion; to intervene directly against people who are misusing a phenomenon for personal gain; to publicly forbid adherence to a phenomenon deemed to have serious risks; or declare that a phenomenon is decidedly not supernatural based on concrete evidence or proof that it was false.

Another conclusion specifically addresses phenomena with "various or significant" negative or "critical elements" but have "already spread widely" and have led to verifiable spiritual fruits. "In this situation, a ban that could upset the People of God is not recommended," the guidelines said. "Nevertheless, the Diocesan Bishop is asked not to encourage this phenomenon but to seek out alternative expressions of devotion and possibly reorient its spiritual and pastoral aspects."

Cardinal Fernández wrote that the possibility of concluding the discernment process with a "nihil obstat," as opposed to declaring the phenomenon is true and worthy of belief, is meant to "prevent any further delays in the resolution of a specific case involving an event of alleged supernatural origin."

He also cited historical instances of bishops issuing definitive statements that appear to oblige the faithful in their dioceses to believe the authenticity of certain supernatural phenomena.

"These expressions conflicted with the Church's own conviction that the faithful did not have to accept the authenticity of these events," the cardinal wrote, and they "effectively oriented the faithful to think they had to believe in these phenomena, which sometimes were valued more than the Gospel itself."

Citing Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Fernández wrote that a "nihil obstat" allows the faithful to believe certain phenomena "in a prudent manner" but that their devotion "is not obligatory."

The cardinal said such a response "naturally leaves open the possibility that, in monitoring how the devotion develops, a different response may be required in the future."

The document explained that the procedures for discerning alleged supernatural phenomena previously followed were approved by St. Paul VI in 1978, more than four decades ago, and remained confidential until they were officially published in 2011.

Yet since those norms were put into practice, "it became evident that decisions took an excessively long time, sometimes spanning several decades," it said, noting that "since 1950, no more than six cases have been officially resolved, even though such phenomena have increased without clear guidance and with the involvement of people from many Dioceses."

A religious sister holds an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A religious sister holds an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 24, 2018. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

"This way of proceeding, which has caused considerable confusion, shows how the 1978 Norms are no longer adequate to guide the actions of the Bishops and the Dicastery," the cardinal wrote.

In its introduction, the document also noted that with "the advent of modern means of communication, these phenomena can attract the attention of many believers or cause confusion among them."

A revision process of the 1978 norms began in 2019, and the current document began being prepared in 2023, it said.

The document laid out procedures for bishops to follow in investigating supernatural phenomena in their territory and explained their responsibility to formulate a final judgment on them, from among the six conclusions provided, to be sent to the dicastery for approval. In fact, the new norms assure bishops that the dicastery will be more explicitly involved in working with them if they need to conduct an investigation. The bishop's decision must be sent first to the dicastery before it is made public and the dicastery will have the power to intervene at any time.

The procedures said that a bishop must "refrain from making any public statements in favor of the authenticity or supernatural nature of such phenomena, and from having any personal connection with them."

If forms of devotion arise in connection with an alleged supernatural event, "the Diocesan Bishop has the serious obligation of initiating a comprehensive canonical investigation as soon as possible to safeguard the Faith and prevent abuses," the document said.

The bishop should also "prevent the spread of confused religious manifestations or the dissemination of any materials pertaining to the alleged supernatural phenomenon -- such as the weeping of sacred images; the sweating, bleeding, or mutation of consecrated hosts, etc. -- to avoid fueling a sensationalistic climate," it said.

The sun rises behind the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal.
The sun rises behind the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal, before Pope Francis arrives Aug. 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Outlining the norms for the investigative phase, the document said the positive criteria to consider in response to a supernatural phenomenon entail the credibility of persons involved with the events, the doctrinal orthodoxy of the phenomenon and messages associated with it, the spontaneity of the event and the fruits that it bears in the life of the Christian community.

Negative criteria, on the other hand, involve potential doctrinal errors associated with the event, the rise of a sectarian spirit revolving around it, an overt pursuit of personal gain or gravely immoral actions committed by those involved in the phenomenon and psychological or psychopathic tendencies among those who may have been influenced by the phenomenon.

If a bishop is granted a "nihil obstat" by the dicastery regarding an alleged supernatural phenomenon, the document said a bishop will indicate that the faithful "are authorized to give to it their adherence in a prudent manner," while ensuring they "do not consider any of the determinations as an approval of the supernatural nature of the phenomenon itself."

If a precautionary or negative determination is made, the bishop "must formally make it known," using clear and understandable language and considering whether to make known the doctrinal reasons for the decision, the norms said.

Pope praises California death penalty moratorium, governor says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis supports the steps taken by California to halt the use of the death penalty, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Newsom told Catholic News Service that during their meeting May 16, the pope "immediately brought up the issue of the death penalty."

The governor said that during their exchange the pope expressed "how proud he was of the work we're doing in California."

Newsom was at the Vatican for a summit on climate resilience that brought seven other governors and 16 mayors from around the world to Rome. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu were the other U.S. elected officials who participated in the summit.

Newsom told CNS after his meeting with Pope Francis that he was "struck" by the pope's sudden comments to him on the death penalty.

"I wasn’t anticipating that, especially in the context of this convening," he said.

While capital punishment remains legal in California, Newsom signed an executive order in 2019 implementing a moratorium on executions. The state has not executed anyone since 2006.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a Vatican conference.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a summit, titled “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience,” in the synod hall at the Vatican May 16, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

California has the largest death row in the United States with 638 condemned inmates as of May 6, the last time the public data was updated. But in 2022 Newsom announced he was closing down the state's two death row facilities -- at San Quentin for men and Chowchilla for women -- and would move prisoners to different facilities. The moves are supposed to be completed by the end of the summer.

Making his announcement at a news conference in January 2022, Newsom said, "The prospect of your ending up on death row has more to do with your wealth and race than it does your guilt or innocence."

In his pontificate, Pope Francis has expanded church teaching on the capital punishment, condemning it in all instances.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said the death penalty "violates the inalienable dignity of every person, regardless of the circumstances" in a recent document written by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, dicastery prefect, and signed by Pope Francis.

The document, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity") released at the Vatican April 8, also reaffirmed the dignity of incarcerated people "who often must live in undignified conditions."

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church previously taught that capital punishment could be justified in only "very rare, if not practically non-existent" circumstances, Pope Francis ordered an update to the catechism in 2018 to state that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."

The catechism continues to state that the Catholic Church "works with determination for its abolition worldwide."

Christian love embraces the unlovable, enemies, the unborn, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While it is easy for people to love what is good and beautiful or to be generous and heroic for an ideal, Pope Francis said Christian love embraces what is not lovable, it offers forgiveness and blesses one's enemies.

This "greater love," which comes from God, "drives us where humanly we would not go: It is the love for the poor, for those who are not lovable, for those who do not care for us and are not grateful," he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square May 15.

"It is love for what no one would love, even for one's enemy," he said in his main catechesis.

Pope Francis rings a bell
Pope Francis, with a young boy's help, rings a bell called "The Voice of the Unborn," before his general audience at the Vatican May 15, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

This "great selfless love" includes love for "the poor, the sick and the helpless, such as unborn children," he said in brief remarks to visitors from Poland, who had brought a bell, known as "The Voice of the Unborn," which will be taken to Kazakhstan. He also greeted representatives of the Yes to Life Foundation, which started the initiative.

The bell serves as a reminder of "the need to protect human life from conception to natural death," the pope said.

In his main audience talk, the pope continued his series about vices and virtues by reflecting on the "theological" or New Testament virtue of charity or love. Of the three -- faith, hope and love -- "the greatest of these is love," according to St. Paul the Apostle.

Many people consider themselves to be good people who love their family and friends, when in reality they may know very little about the love of God, he said.

"Christians are capable of all the forms of love in the world: they too fall in love, more or less as it happens to everyone. They too experience the benevolence that is felt in friendship. They too feel love for their country and the universal love for all humanity," the pope said.

Pope Francis rides in the popemobile
Pope Francis greets visitors as he rides the popemobile around St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before his weekly general audience May 15, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"But there is a greater love, a love which comes from God and is directed toward God, which enables us to love God, to become his friends, and enables us to love our neighbor as God loves him or her, with the desire to share the friendship with God," he said.

Love is charity, he said. And "we immediately realize that it is a difficult, indeed impossible love to practice if one does not live in God."

"Our human nature makes us love spontaneously what is good and beautiful. In the name of an ideal or a great affection we can even be generous and perform heroic acts. But the love of God goes beyond these criteria," he said.

"So much love is needed to forgive. Christian love blesses those who curse while we are used to responding to insults and curses with another insult and curse," he said.

"Love is the 'narrow gate' through which we will pass in order to enter the kingdom of God," he said. "We will not be judged on generic love, but precisely on charity, on the love we concretely had."

 

Don't antagonize the elderly, pope says in grandparent's day message

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The elderly must not be accused of saddling younger generations with their medical expenses and pensions -- a notion which foments intergenerational conflict and drives older people into isolation, Pope Francis said.

"The accusation that the elderly 'rob the young of their future' is nowadays present everywhere," the pope wrote in his message for World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, a church celebration that will take place July 28.

Even in the most advanced and modern societies "there is now a widespread conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of the social services that they require, and in this way are diverting resources from the development of the community and thus from the young," he wrote in the message released May 14.

Such a mentality "assumes that the survival of the elderly puts that of the young at risk, that to favor the young it is necessary to neglect or even suppress the elderly," he wrote.

Yet the pope stressed that "intergenerational conflict is a fallacy and the poisoned fruit of conflict."

"To set the young against the old is an unacceptable form of manipulation," he wrote.

The pope's message expanded on the theme chosen for this year's world day which was taken from the Book of Psalms: "Do not cast me off in my old age."

The logo for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly 2024.
This is the logo for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly 2024, which will be celebrated July 28. (CNS photo/courtesy of Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

The 2024 celebration marks the fourth edition of World Day for Grandparents and the elderly. In 2021, Pope Francis instituted the world day to be observed each year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the liturgical memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

In his message for this year's celebration, the pope emphasized that "God never abandons his children," even as they grow weak and "can risk appearing useless." But today, a "conspiracy surrounding the life of the elderly" often results in their abandonment by those close to them.

"The loneliness and abandonment of the elderly is not by chance or inevitable, but the fruit of decisions -- political, economic, social and personal decisions -- that fail to acknowledge the infinite dignity of each person," he wrote.

The pope explained that such a phenomenon occurs "once we lose sight of the value of each individual and people are then judged in terms of their cost, which is in some cases considered too high to pay."

Unfortunately, he said, the elderly themselves can succumb to this cost-benefit mindset; "they are made to consider themselves a burden and to feel that they should be the first to step aside."

Pope Francis identified the decline of communal structures in society and the widespread celebration of individualism as other factors behind the isolation of the elderly, "yet once we grow old and our powers begin to decline, the illusion of individualism, that we need no one and can live without social bonds, is revealed for what it is."

Pope Francis blesses an elderly woman.
Pope Francis greets 100-year-old Lucilla Macelli before celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, marking World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly July 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope then recounted the Bible story in which the elderly Naomi encourages her two daughters-in-law to return to their hometowns after the death of her husband and children since she sees herself as a burden to them. "Her words reflect the rigid social and religious conventions of her day, which apparently seal her own fate," the pope wrote.

While Orpah returns home, grateful for the encouragement, Ruth "is not afraid to challenge customs and inbred patterns of thought" and "courageously remains at her side," he wrote.

The pope encouraged all people to "express our gratitude to all those people who, often at great sacrifice, follow in practice the example of Ruth, as they care for an older person or simply demonstrate daily closeness to relatives or acquaintances who no longer have anyone else."

Pope Francis also pointed out how in poorer countries elderly people are often left alone because their children are forced to emigrate, and in regions ravaged by conflict young men are called into conflict while women and children flee for safety, leaving elderly people alone in areas "where abandonment and death seem to reign supreme."

In a statement released with the pope's message, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, which organizes the world day, lamented the "bitter companion" that is loneliness in the lives of elderly people.

"Attending to our grandparents and the elderly," he said, "is not only a sign of gratitude and affection, but a necessity in the construction of a more human and fraternal society."

The cardinal's message was also accompanied by pastoral guidelines and liturgical resources for parishes and dioceses. The guidelines suggest that Catholics visit the elderly people within their own community, share with them the pope's message and pray together.

The document said that to involve the elderly in the day, "older people can be asked to offer special prayers for young people and for peace."

"The ministry of intercession is a real vocation of the elderly," it said.

Vatican norms for Jubilee indulgence include pilgrimage, penance, service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pilgrims passing through the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica during the Holy Year 2025, going to confession, receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the pope can receive an indulgence, but so can inmates in prison and those who work to defend human life or assist migrants and refugees.

Fasting "at least for one day of the week from futile distractions" such as social media also can be a path toward a jubilee indulgence, according to norms published by the Vatican May 13.

Pope Francis said he will open the Holy Year at the Vatican Dec. 24 this year and close it Jan. 6, 2026, the feast of Epiphany. But he also asked bishops around the world to celebrate the Jubilee in their dioceses from Dec. 29 this year to Dec. 28, 2025.

For centuries a feature of holy year celebrations has been the indulgence, which the church describes as a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for their sins.

"Every sin 'leaves its mark'" even after a person has received forgiveness and absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation, Pope Francis wrote in the document proclaiming the Holy Year. "Sin has consequences, not only outwardly in the effects of the wrong we do, but also inwardly, inasmuch as 'every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death, in the state called Purgatory,'" he wrote, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The norms for receiving an indulgence during the Holy Year were signed by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience and with the granting of indulgences.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, speaks at a conference at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University in this file photo from May 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

The basic conditions, he wrote, are that a person is "moved by a spirit of charity," is "purified through the sacrament of penance and refreshed by Holy Communion" and prays for the pope. Along with a pilgrimage, a work of mercy or an act of penance, a Catholic "will be able to obtain from the treasury of the Church a plenary indulgence, with remission and forgiveness of all their sins, which can be applied in suffrage to the souls in Purgatory."

The Rome pilgrimage, Cardinal De Donatis said, can be to the papal basilicas of St. Peter's, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran or St. Paul Outside the Walls. But also to one of the churches connected to outstanding women saints and doctors of the church: St. Catherine of Siena at the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva; St. Brigid of Sweden at Campo de' Fiori; St. Teresa of Avila at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria; St. Thérèse of Lisieux at Trinità dei Monti; and St. Monica at the Church of St. Augustine.

Pilgrims to the Holy Land also can receive the Holy Year indulgence by praying at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Pilgrims enter through Holy Door
Pilgrims make the sign of the cross as they pass through the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica in this file photos from August 2000. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

For those who cannot travel abroad, local bishops around the world can designate their cathedral or another church or sacred place for pilgrims to obtain the indulgence, the cardinal wrote, asking bishops to "take into account the needs of the faithful as well as the opportunity to reinforce the concept of pilgrimage with all its symbolic significance, so as to manifest the great need for conversion and reconciliation."

People who cannot leave their residence -- "especially cloistered nuns and monks, but also the elderly, the sick, prisoners and those who, through their work in hospitals or other care facilities, provide continuous service to the sick" -- can spiritually join a pilgrimage and receive the indulgence, according to the norms.

Visiting the sick or a prisoner, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or welcoming a migrant, "in a sense making a pilgrimage to Christ present in them," can be another way to receive the indulgence, the cardinal said, adding that an indulgence could be obtained each day from such acts of mercy.

"The Jubilee Plenary Indulgence can also be obtained through initiatives that put into practice, in a concrete and generous way, the spirit of penance which is, in a sense, the soul of the Jubilee," he wrote, highlighting in particular abstaining on Fridays from "futile distractions" like social media or from "superfluous consumption" by not eating meat.

"Supporting works of a religious or social nature, especially in support of the defense and protection of life in all its phases," helping a young person in difficulty or a recently-arrived migrant or immigrant -- anything involving "dedicating a reasonable portion of one's free time to voluntary activities that are of service to the community or to other similar forms of personal commitment" also are paths toward an indulgence, he said.

"Despite the rule that only one plenary indulgence can be obtained per day," Cardinal De Donatis wrote, "the faithful who have carried out an act of charity on behalf of the souls in Purgatory, if they receive Holy Communion a second time that day, can obtain the plenary indulgence twice on the same day," although the second indulgence is "applicable only to the deceased."

 

U.S. Bishops to Meet June 12-14 in Louisville; Assembly to Be Live Streamed

This release has been edited to include the National Review Board's update to the bishops on the plenary agenda.

 

WASHINGTON - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather for the 2024 Spring Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, June 12-14. The public sessions on June 13 and 14 will be livestreamed on the USCCB website.

The public portion of the assembly will begin with addresses by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, who serves as president of the Conference.

During the plenary, the bishops will receive updates on various issues and initiatives. The meeting agenda is not yet finalized and therefore, subject to change. However, it is expected to include updates on: the Committee on Migration; the bishops’ national mental health campaign; the Synod on Synodality; the Task Force for a National Directory for Instituted Ministries; the National Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Congress; and the National Review Board. The bishops will also hold a consultation on opening the cause for beatification and canonization of Adele Brise.

Votes are expected on a number of action items including:

  • Three action items on liturgical texts pertaining to the Liturgy of the Hours, presented by the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship.
  • Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults, by the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
  • Keeping Christ’s Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry, a pastoral plan for Native American and Indigenous Ministry by the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.

Prior to the public sessions, the bishops will spend time in prayer and fraternal dialogue with one another. They will also be reflecting on positioning the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) for the future. For a half-century, grants made possible through the annual CCHD collection have gone to help community organizations working to empower people striving to overcome poverty. Now, the bishops have begun the process of discerning the next 50 years.

Over the past several years, including during the pandemic, the CCHD maintained its level of support for those in need, despite a decline in donations. Last year, the CCHD started a review to explore ways to renew the mandate and mission of CCHD. The bishops will spend time prayerfully discussing the best way to adapt to the post-pandemic needs and resources, while at the same time continuing a steadfast commitment to helping the poor and disenfranchised emerge from the cycle of poverty.

Public sessions of the assembly will be held on the afternoon of June 13 and the morning of June 14, and livestreamed at: www.usccb.org/meetings -- news updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations, and other materials will be posted to this page. Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media can use the hashtag #USCCB24 follow on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb), as well as Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb), Threads (www.threads.net/@usccb), and X, formerly known as Twitter (@USCCB).

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Peace in politics, in the world starts in people's hearts, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Believing security can be obtained through war and fear is a great deception, Pope Francis said.

"To guarantee lasting peace, we must return to a recognition of our common humanity and place fraternity at the center of peoples' lives," he told participants in a conference on human fraternity.

"Political peace needs peace of hearts, so that people can meet in the confidence that life always triumphs over all forms of death," he said in his talk during a late morning audience at the Vatican May 11.

The pope met with some 350 participants of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity being held May 10-11. Organized by the Vatican's Fratelli Tutti Foundation, the conference brought Nobel laureates, government officials, scientists, experts, athletes and artists to a series of roundtable discussions across Rome and at the Vatican to discuss specific themes aimed at strengthening solidarity and peace.

Those attending the conference included: New York Mayor Eric Adams; Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize; Graça Machel Mandela, former first lady of both South Africa and Mozambique; the former quarterback, Tom Brady; and NASA administrator, Bill Nelson. U.S. country singer, Garth Brooks, was scheduled to be part of a late evening concert held in front of St. Peter's Basilica May 11.

In his address, the pope quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "We've learned to fly the air like birds, we've learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven't learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters."

"War is a deception. War is always a defeat, as is the idea of international security based on the deterrent of fear," the pope said. "It is another deception."

"In a planet in flames, you have gathered with the intention of reiterating your 'no' to war and 'yes' to peace, bearing witness to the humanity that unites us and makes us recognize each other as brothers and sisters, in the reciprocal gift of the respective cultural differences," he told conference participants. 

pope fraternity
Pope Francis greets people taking part in a conference on human fraternity at the Vatican May 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

One of the conference's aims was to renew the Declaration on Human Fraternity released at the first conference in Rome in 2023 and to draft a new "Charter of Humanity" outlining a "grammar" or code of choices and behaviors needed to build fraternal coexistence in a world marked by uncertainty and fear.

In his speech, the pope underlined the importance of compassion and he encouraged everyone "to make this spirituality of fraternity grow, and to promote, through your diplomatic action, the role of multilateral bodies."

Only by recognizing everyone is part of a common humanity and putting fraternity at the center of peoples' lives "will we succeed in developing a model of coexistence capable of giving the human family a future," he said. 

Later in the afternoon, the pope attended a special roundtable, dedicated to children and future generations, held in the Vatican Synod Hall.

The moderator told the pope that a group of special "scientists" had to be introduced before they could start the meeting in the half-empty hall. As the music to "A Thousand Years" played, scores of children walked into the hall wearing crowns made of laurel leaves.

They held paper leaves with words of wisdom written on them and handmade drawings they gave the pope. Some stayed with the pope, sitting next to him behind the dais.

In an informal exchange, the pope asked the children what happiness was and where it could be found. "I love you very much!" was the first and fourth response. 

child question
A child responds to a question asked by Pope Francis during a meeting dedicated to children and future generations at a conference on human fraternity in the Synod Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Those who kept on topic answered, "to be united together," "to be part of a family," when everyone is doing well, by loving one another, by staying in touch with God and when there is peace.

Peace, they said, can be found when people speak nicely to one another, and insults only cause unhappiness. 

Pope Francis then asked them if they understood there were children in the world suffering from hunger and war, and whether they thought the children on "the other side" of a war were enemies.

"No!" they shouted, with one explaining the reason was that war "is not their fault" and "all children are part of one family." 

One child asked the pope to pray for his grandmother, and the pope led everyone in praying the Hail Mary for everyone's grandparents, ending with the cheer "Long live grandparents!" and explaining how the future depends on young and old working together. 

pope relic
Pope Francis blesses a relic of Blessed Pino Puglisi of Palermo during a meeting dedicated to children and future generations in the Synod Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope signed a copy of a declaration crafted by the children expressing what fraternity means to them, and he blessed a relic of Blessed Pino Puglisi of Palermo, who spoke out against the Mafia and helped underprivileged children. The priest was murdered in 1993 by order of local Mafia bosses. The relic was a small Gospel that had been buried with him and had remained intact and found when his body was exhumed.