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Pope Francis appoints Fr. Stephen Chow as new bishop of Hong Kong

Fr. Stephen Chow, S.J. / Photo courtesy of Society of Jesus.

Vatican City, May 17, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Stephen Chow, S.J. as the next bishop of Hong Kong.

Chow, 61, has served as the provincial of the Jesuits’ Chinese Province since 2018. In that role, he led the Jesuit order in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China as the Vatican-China deal was first signed and during the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy protest movement.

The Vatican announced Chow’s appointment on May 17, more than two years after the death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung left Hong Kong without a permanent bishop.

Fr. Stephen Chow Sau-yan, 周守仁, was born in Hong Kong on Aug. 7, 1959. He studied in the United States, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota, before entering the Society of Jesus in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 25.

During his Jesuit novitiate, he obtained a licentiate in philosophy in Ireland and then returned in 1988 to Hong Kong, where he was ordained to the priesthood on July 16, 1994.

Chow continued his studies at Loyola University in Chicago, where he earned a master’s degree in organizational development in 1995. He spent the next five years working as a campus minister, vocations director, and ethics teacher at Wah Yan College in Kowloon and Hong Kong.

In 2000, Chow began a doctoral program at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education studying development and psychology. He graduated with a Doctorate in Education in 2006.

The following year, he made his final vows in the Jesuit order and worked as an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong from 2008 to 2015 and Jesuit Formator from 2009 to 2017. He also served as the president of the Chinese Jesuit Province’s education commission since 2009 and the Hong Kong Diocesan Council for Education since 2017.

Chow began his role as provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus on Jan. 1, 2018.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers have historically enjoyed freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, by contrast, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.

With the 2020 passage of new “national security laws,” the Chinese government seized more power to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law is broad in its definitions of terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion. Under the law, a person who is convicted of the aforementioned crimes will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

On April 16, authorities in Hong Kong sentenced several Catholic pro-democracy figures, including lawyer Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to prison sentences under the new security law.

Hong Kong has been without a permanent bishop since January 2019. John Cardinal Tong Hon, who retired as bishop of Hong Kong in 2017, has served as the diocese’ apostolic administrator since then.

The date of Chow’s episcopal consecration will be postponed until Dec. 2021, according to local media in Hong Kong. The General Curia of the Jesuit order released a statement on Chow's appointment on May 17.

"The Society of Jesus recognizes that Fr. Stephen has been called to serve the Church during these very challenging times, and assures him of our prayer and collaboration. May the Lord bless him in this new ministry," it said.

Pope Francis: Children’s deaths in Israel-Gaza conflict ‘terrible and unacceptable’

Pope Francis delivers a Regina Coeli address at the Vatican. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 16, 2021 / 06:31 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal Sunday for an end to surging violence in the Holy Land.

Speaking after the recitation of the Regina Coeli May 16, the pope expressed alarm at the Israel-Gaza conflict which has left more than 100 people dead, many of them children.

He said: “In these days, violent armed clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel have taken hold, and risk degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction. Numerous people have been injured, and many innocents have died.”

“Among them there are also children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it.”

The pope also lamented intercommunal violence involving Jews and Arabs within Israel.

He said: “Furthermore, the crescendo of hatred and violence that is affecting various cities in Israel is a serious wound to fraternity and peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if there is not an immediate opening to dialogue.”

“I ask myself: where will hatred and revenge lead? Do we really think we will build peace by destroying the other?”

He appealed for calm in the region, urging local leaders and the international community to help secure peace.

“Let us pray unceasingly that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers,” he said, before reciting a Hail Mary for the conflict’s victims, especially children.

The pope gave his live-streamed Regina Coeli address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where pilgrims stood wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He reflected on the Gospel reading (Mark 16:15-20) for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which is celebrated on Sunday in Italy and other countries, but on Thursday at the Vatican.

He said: “Usually, as we know, farewell scenes are sad, they give those who remain a feeling of loss, of abandonment; but this does not happen to the disciples. In spite of their separation from the Lord, they are not disconsolate, on the contrary, they are joyful and ready to leave as missionaries in the world.”

Like the disciples, he said, we too should rejoice to see Jesus ascending into heaven because the Ascension completes his mission among us.

Pointing upwards, the pope said emphatically: “He is the first man to enter heaven, because Jesus is man, true man, he is God, true God; our flesh is in heaven and this gives us joy.”

“At the right hand of the Father now sits a human body, for the first time, the body of Jesus, and in this mystery each of us contemplates our future destination. This is not at all an abandonment; Jesus remains forever with the disciples, with us.”

The pope said that this should give Christians not only a sense of security but also of joy because Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit.

“Jesus has gone to heaven: the first man before the Father. He left with the wounds which were the price of our salvation, and he prays for us. And then he sends us the Holy Spirit, he promises us the Holy Spirit, to go and evangelize. Hence the joy of today, hence the joy of this Ascension Day,” he said.

“Brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Ascension, as we contemplate heaven, where Christ has ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, let us ask Mary, Queen of Heaven, to help us to be courageous witnesses of the Risen Lord in the world in the concrete situations of life.”

After praying the Regina Coeli, the pope noted that Sunday was the start of “Laudato si’ Week,” inspired by his 2015 environmental encyclical and organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

He also asked for a round of applause in honor of the German priest Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan, who was declared blessed in Rome on May 15.

“May his apostolic zeal be an example and guide to all those in the Church who are called to bring the word and love of Jesus to every environment,” the pope said, pointing out a group of pilgrims holding a large image of the new blessed and waving white scarves.

‘Do not lose hope’: Pope Francis offers Mass for Myanmar’s Catholics in St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for Burmese Catholics in St. Peter’s Basilica, May 16, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 16, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday for Burmese Catholics, urging them not to lose hope as their homeland is engulfed by violence.

In his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica May 16, the pope encouraged people not to fall into despair as security forces in Burma repress protests following a military coup.

He said: “Please, do not lose hope: even today, Jesus is interceding before the Father, he stands before the Father in his prayer. He stands before him with the wounds with which he paid for our salvation. In this prayer Jesus prays for all of us, praying that the Father will keep us from the evil one and set us free from evil’s power.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Francis, who became the first pope to visit the Southeast Asian country in November 2017, offered the live-streamed Mass at the Altar of the Cathedra, beneath the amber stained-glass window depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove.

The congregation -- drawn from Rome’s small Burmese community, which consists mainly of students -- sat socially distanced and masked as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Religious sisters proclaimed the first and second readings in Burmese. The responsorial psalm was also sung in the official language of the ethnically diverse country, also known as Myanmar, where approximately 100 languages are spoken.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The Gospel reading for the Mass was John 17:11b-19, in which Jesus prays for his disciples before his Passion. In his homily, the pope encouraged Burmese Catholics to learn from Jesus’ example how to face the painful and dramatic moments of their lives.

He said: “Dear brothers and sisters, in these days when your beloved country, Myanmar, is experiencing violence, conflict, and repression, let us ask ourselves: what we are being called to keep?”

“In the first place, to keep the faith. We need to keep the faith lest we yield to grief or plunge into the despair of those who no longer see a way out.”

The military seized power in the early hours of Feb. 1, detaining the country’s elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with Burma’s President Win Myint.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

After nationwide protests, Burma’s new leaders launched a crackdown that included police firing live rounds at protesters. The advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that 790 people have died in the violence as of May 15.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In addition to repression, Burma is facing steep rises in food and fuel prices. The United Nations World Food Programme reports that up to 3.4 million more people will go hungry as a result of pre-existing poverty, the coronavirus crisis, and political instability.

The pope said: “To keep the faith is to keep our gaze lifted up to heaven, as here on earth, battles are fought and innocent blood is shed. To keep the faith is to refuse to yield to the logic of hatred and vengeance, but to keep our gaze fixed on the God of love, who calls us to be brothers and sisters to one another.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, Pope Francis has called repeatedly for harmony in the country, which has a population of 54 million people and borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand.

In his homily, he stressed the importance of unity in a nation that has been marked by internal conflicts since it secured independence from Britain in 1948.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He said: “This is a deadly disease: the disease of division. We experience it in our hearts, because we are divided within; we experience it in families and communities, among peoples, even in the Church.”

“Sins against unity abound: envy, jealousy, the pursuit of personal interests rather than the common good, the tendency to judge others. Those little conflicts of ours find a reflection in great conflicts, like the one your country is experiencing in these days.”

“Once partisan interests and the thirst for profit and power take over, conflicts and divisions inevitably break out. The final appeal that Jesus makes before his Passover is an appeal for unity. For division is of the devil, the great divider and the great liar who always creates division.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for an end to violence in Burma in March. Speaking at his general audience on March 17, the pope referred to an image circulating on social media of a Catholic nun kneeling before police, begging them not to attack protesters.

He said: “I also kneel in the streets of Myanmar and say: ‘Stop the violence.’ I too stretch out my arms and say: ‘May dialogue prevail.’”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

There are around 750,000 Catholics in Burma -- roughly 1% of the population, which is 90% Buddhist. Pope Francis named Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon as the country’s first cardinal in 2015, in a mark of support for the Catholic minority.

The pope encouraged Burmese Catholics in Rome to strive to be builders of fraternity.

He recalled that in his prayer before his Passion, Jesus asked God the Father to consecrate his disciples in truth.

“Keeping the truth does not mean defending ideas, becoming guardians of a system of doctrines and dogmas, but remaining bound to Christ and being devoted to his Gospel,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He continued: “At times, we Christians want to compromise, but the Gospel asks us to be steadfast in the truth and for the truth, offering our lives for others. Amid war, violence, and hatred, fidelity to the Gospel and being peacemakers calls for commitment, also through social and political choices, even at the risk of our lives. Only in this way can things change.”

At the end of the Mass, a Burmese priest thanked the pope for bringing international attention to the crisis in his country.

He said: “This Mass is a great occasion for healing, not only for us here, but for thousands of Catholics in Myanmar and for the diaspora throughout the world.”

Concluding his homily, the pope said: “Dear brothers and sisters, today I wish to lay upon the Lord’s altar the sufferings of his people and to join you in praying that God will convert all hearts to peace.”

“Jesus’ prayer helps us keep the faith, even in times of difficulty, to be builders of unity and to risk our lives for the truth of the Gospel.”

Sisters of Life: 'You are irreplaceable', just like the child in the womb

Sisters of Life.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 15, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The members of an order of religious sisters are dedicating their lives to sharing the message that every person, from the moment of conception, is infinitely loved.

The Sisters of Life recently spoke with EWTN host Montse Alvarado in remembrance of Mother’s Day. Sr. Magdalene Teresa Mercy stressed the joy of life and discussed spiritual motherhood during EWTN News In Depth May 7.

Alvarado introduced the order as one that helps to choose life by “providing shelter, supplies, and counsel” in six U.S. locations. She spoke with Sr. Magdalene Teresa, who serves as a local superior and mission coordinator for the Sisters of Life at a crisis pregnancy mission at St. Andrew’s Center in lower Manhattan. 

The Sisters of Life, the sister said, embrace “spiritual maternity.” 

“Motherhood really is a foundational piece of our charism,” which is “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” she explained. Motherhood is the “floor or the ground that we walk on.”

John Cardinal O’Connor founded the Sisters of Life in New York in 1991. The community of Catholic religious women profess four vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience, and “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

They dedicate their lives to offering support and resources to pregnant women and mothers, hosting retreats, evangelizing, practicing outreach to college students, and helping women who suffer after abortion, among other things.

At St. Andrew’s, the sisters receive women who are “just really wondering what to do.”

“They’re in the throes of the decision about abortion or choosing life,” she urged. “And for us, it’s such a joy to just invite them to see everything a little different.”

She revealed one of the questions they ask pregnant women to help them discern.

“We’ll say, ‘If everything were different – if you had this dream and that dream and all the things that you hoped for – if it were different, if it were this, what would you do?”

According to Sr. Magdalene Teresa, these women give the same response: “Of course I would give life to my child, if I had all these resources.”

“That’s our biggest thing,” she said, “is to make their dreams come true because nothing should stand in the way of them achieving everything they want.”

“Pregnancy is not a disease,” she emphasized. 

Sr. Magdalene Teresa agreed that material resources can be an obstacle to choosing life. But she said that the biggest challenge is “the spiritual and the lack of hope and the sense of basically not knowing” motherhood, including from their own mother.

“For me, that’s a big desire, is to provide that gift of maternity in our mission,” she responded.

The sisters do little things to lead to a “bigger place” – a place where women know, “I can rest in my maternity” and “rest in joy of being with my children.” One of those little things is offering women a cooking class to make dishes with chicken.

At other locations, like their Sacred Heart convent in midtown Manhattan, they house and live side-by-side with pregnant women in need. 

“The beauty of our charism,” she said, “it does speak to the heart.”

The sisters’ “basic message,” she said, is, “You are made in the image and likeness of God. You are unrepeatable and irreplaceable. And because you’re unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the child in the womb is.”

“You’re so loved by God,” she added. “You’re loved into being. If you were somehow not loved, you would cease to exist.” 

The sisters dedicate their lives to both speaking and acting on that message. They’re not alone either, with over 20,000 volunteers to help them.

Among the problems that concern Sr. Magdalene Teresa is the pressures that push women toward abortion, including diagnosis via prenatal testing.

While prenatal testing is becoming more accurate, she stressed that “sometimes God does something in the womb that is unbelievable.”

“I’ve had so many times where there’s this amazing test that says the baby’s going to have this really hard, very difficult anomaly.” she said. She remembered a time when “everybody was praying” for a baby with a prenatal diagnosis. He ended up being just “fine, he was huge.” 

“If we reverence life, even in the medical world, it would lead to great gifts,” she concluded. “There’s a great need to share the joy of life, even if it’s an hour long.”

One of the things that drive people to abortion is fear, she said. But the sisters counter that with love and “also some courage.”

“We walk with women,” she said. “That’s one of our big works, is to send coworkers or ourselves to the appointments with the women just to back them up.” 

She also looked to what the future might bring for the sisters.

“I personally am on a rampage to ask for there to be a Catholic birthing center hospital in every diocese,” she hinted. “That could be a great mission for an order.”

She ended with a message to women: to “lay our trust in the Lord, lay our trust in Our Lady.”

“She does want to be that anchor in a stormy sea that we’re in at this time and she does want to share – shine that light on where to go next,” she said.  “I also think she has her mantle around us and we often just don’t notice it, but we’re wrapped in it.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary is also a “great model for maternity”, she said.

“I tell a lot of women who are open to hearing, she wants to teach us how to be moms,” Sr. Magdalene Teresa concluded. “She loves sharing all her secrets.”

Pope Francis and John Kerry meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis meets with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, May 15, 2021. / Vatican News.

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry on Saturday.

Kerry is in Europe to meet with government officials and business leaders ahead of the Nov. 1-12 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the State Department said.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

At the time of publication, the Vatican had released no information about what the two men discussed, in line with its usual custom for papal meetings with non-heads of state. It noted the audience in its daily bulletin and released photographs of the meeting.

Pope Francis is reportedly considering a visit to Glasgow for the climate conference, and local authorities are said to be preparing for the possibility.

Kerry told Vatican News that he thought the pope would attend the event.

He said: “His encyclical Laudato si’ is really a very, very powerful document, eloquent and morally very persuasive. And I think that his voice will be a very important voice leading up to and through the Glasgow conference, which I believe he intends to attend.”

“So, we need everybody in this fight. All the leaders of the world need to come together and every country needs to do its part. And I think, I think his Holiness speaks with a moral authority that is quite separate. It’s unique and we need all the power we can bring to the table.”

Ahead of his meeting with the pope, Kerry delivered a keynote speech at the “Dreaming of a Better Restart” conference, a closed-door meeting in Vatican City on May 14.

The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, included panel discussions on debt relief for developing countries and climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, both spoke at the Vatican event via video link.

Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz came to the Vatican to take part in the one-day event, as did economic ministers from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, France, and Germany.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, and Félix Tshisekedi, head of the African Union, were also featured speakers.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

Kerry, a baptized Catholic, previously met Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014 and 2016, when he served as U.S. Secretary of State during the Obama administration.

He also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, during his last visit.

The 77-year-old diplomat visited St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of May 14, where he was shown Michelangelo’s Pietà up close.

After meeting with Italian and Vatican officials in Rome, the climate envoy will travel to London to meet with U.K. government representatives hosting the COP26 summit and then to Berlin to meet with German officials.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

Kerry told Vatican News that the pope could exert an influence far beyond that of most other leaders.

He said that “because he is above politics and outside of the hurly-burly of day-to-day, national conflict, etc. I think he can sort of shake people a little bit and bring them to the table with a better sense of our common obligation.”

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

“And I think that the Vatican may be a small entity, but the flock is enormous on a global basis and His Holiness, Pope Francis, has the ability to help galvanize action from countries. He has the ability to be able to affect citizens in many different countries all at the same time and have them call on their governments to be responsible, to do what we need to do to preserve the planet.”

“So, I think that the world has a special respect for Pope Francis and there is no question that he has already been a significant leader in this endeavor. And we look to him for further guidance and help in getting this job done.”

This report has been updated to include John Kerry’s comments to Vatican News

Polyglot priest beatified after miraculous healing of unborn baby

Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan is beatified at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, May 15, 2021. / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Vatican City, May 15, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A polyglot priest and founder of the Society of the Divine Savior was beatified at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on Saturday.

Bl. Johan Baptist Jordan, also known by his religious name of Francis Mary of the Cross, was declared blessed during a Mass offered by Rome’s vicar general, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.

/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.
/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Pope Francis approved the beatification of Francis Mary of the Cross last summer, after recognizing a miracle through his intercession involving the unborn child of a couple in Brazil.

The couple, lay members of the Salvatorian family, asked for Francis Mary of the Cross’ intercession for the healthy birth of their child after she was diagnosed with a severe form of skeletal dysplasia during the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Months later, the baby girl was born completely healthy on Sept. 8, 2014, the anniversary of Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross’ death. Now six years old, she attended the beatification Mass with her family in Rome.

Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan was born to a poor family in a German village in 1848. His father died when he was 15, and though he felt called to the priesthood from a young age, he was forced to work for a time as an itinerant laborer and painter to support his family.

As he traveled around Germany for work, he witnessed the effects of the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf, a conflict between the government of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Catholic Church. This motivated him to start his priestly studies.

Though he struggled with the sciences, he quickly showed an aptitude for foreign languages, even presenting one essay for his graduation examination in eight European languages, and another essay in four other languages.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Freiburg in 1878 and shortly afterward sent to Rome by his bishop to study Syrian, Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek.

In Rome, he began to feel a call to start an apostolic movement uniting priests and laity. While visiting the Holy Land and Lebanon in 1880, the call to do so grew even stronger.

Back in Rome, Francis Mary of the Cross founded the Catholic Teaching Society. Later, Baroness Maria Therese von Wüllenweber joined the society as its first female member, taking religious vows together with two other women. She was beatified in 1968.

The Catholic Teaching Society continued to spread across Europe, and then to the region of Assam in India.

In 1893, Francis Mary of the Cross gave his religious communities the names Society of the Divine Savior and Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, commonly known as the Salvatorians.

With the outbreak of World War I, Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross moved the administration of the society from Rome to Tafers, Switzerland, where he died on Sept. 8, 1918, at the age of 70.

Today the Salvatorian Family has 3,100 members in 45 countries on six continents. Its mission is to make Jesus known and loved through all ways and all means.

/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.
/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.

In his homily at the priest’s beatification Mass May 15, Cardinal De Donatis said: “Bl. Francis of the Cross fully understood the evangelizing power of this apostolic communion, of the harmony between the people who proclaim the Gospel.”

“Our diocesan community of Rome, which since the time of the Apostles is the cradle of many figures of holiness, today is again in celebration, because a new star comes to illuminate the sky and is added to the ranks of the blessed,” the cardinal said.

“Francis of the Cross Jordan can be considered a full son of the Church of Rome,” he said, noting that Rome is where “he spent the years of his formation; here he received as a gift from the Spirit the founding charism that inspired him to establish the early Apostolic Society on Dec. 8, 1881, in Piazza Farnese. Here, in Via della Conciliazione, rest his mortal remains.”

“Today where it all began, in the city of Peter and Paul, where his endeavor took its first steps, he is beatified,” De Donatis said. “The Church recognizes that he was transfigured in the death and resurrection of Christ and now lives in Him among the blessed. Francis of the Cross lives in Christ!”

Pope Francis to anti-pedophilia group: ‘Your work is more necessary than ever’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Meter association in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, May 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told an anti-pedophilia group Saturday that its work is “more necessary than ever.”

Speaking to members of the Meter association in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on May 15, the pope noted that the internet is facilitating child abuse.

He said: “Your work is more necessary than ever because, unfortunately, the abuse of children continues. I refer in particular to the solicitations that take place through the internet and the various social media, with pages and portals dedicated to child pornography.”

“This is a scourge that, on the one hand, needs to be addressed with renewed determination by institutions, and, on the other hand, requires an even stronger awareness on the part of families and the various educational agencies.”

He added: “Even today we see how often in families, the first reaction is to cover everything up; a first reaction that is always there in other institutions and even in the Church. We have to fight with this old habit of covering up. I know that you are always vigilant in protecting children even in the context of the most modern media.”

The Guardian newspaper reported in February that the rapidly expanding volume of child abuse material online is threatening to overwhelm U.K. police.

It said that the U.K.’s child abuse image database contained 17 million unique images, with half a million more added every two months.

In his address, the pope noted that the Meter association, based in the city of Avola, Sicily, dates back to 1989, “when few people talked about this scourge.”

Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, the association’s founder, decided to dedicate his life to combating abuse in the late 1980s when he first became aware of the exploitation of minors on the internet as a student at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

He began sharing his research with police around the world, leading to hundreds of arrests and the liberation of abused children. He formally established the association in 1996.

The pope said: “Over the years, with your generous work, you have contributed to making visible the Church’s love for the smallest and most defenseless. How often, like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel, have you reached out with respect and compassion, to welcome, console and protect!”

“Closeness, compassion, and tenderness: this is God’s style. How many spiritual wounds you have bound up! For all this, the ecclesial community is grateful to you.”

Describing child abuse as a form of “psychological murder,” the pope said that all states had a duty to protect the young and identify traffickers and abusers.

“At the same time, denunciation and prevention in the various spheres of society -- schools, sports, recreational and cultural organizations, religious communities, and individuals -- are more than ever a duty,” he said.

Concluding his address, the pope reflected on the association’s logo, which features a large letter “M” drawn by children evoking the idea of a womb. Inside the “M” are 12 stars, symbolizing the Virgin Mary’s crown.

He said: “She, a caring mother, fully intent on loving her Son Jesus, is a model and guide for the entire association, encouraging us to love with evangelical charity the children who are victims of slavery and violence.”

“Charity towards our neighbor is inseparable from the charity that God has for us and that we have for him. For this reason, I urge you always to root your daily activity in your daily relationship with God: in personal and community prayer, in listening to his Word, and above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity and bond of charity.”

Pope Francis thanks charismatic Catholics and evangelicals for offering ‘sign of fraternity’

Pope Francis sends a video message to the Italian Charismatic Consultation, May 15, 2021. / Screenshot: Vatican News YouTube channel.

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 04:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday thanked charismatic Catholics and evangelicals in Italy for offering a “sign of fraternity.”

In a video message to a May 15 online meeting organized by the Italian Charismatic Consultation, the pope praised the group’s commitment to ecumenism.

“I join you and participate spiritually in this meeting, in this gathering of yours. I pray with you, I pray for you and I ask you to pray for me too. Brothers and sisters, thank you very much for doing this, this sign of fraternity,” he said in the message to participants.

The Italian Charismatic Consultation was founded by leaders of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Italy and several Italian evangelical churches.

It began with a 1992 meeting in Bari, a southern Italian port city, between members of the Catholic Comunità di Gesù (Community of Jesus) and the Evangelical Church of the Reconciliation in Caserta.

Pope Francis visited the evangelical church in 2014, giving a 30-minute off-the-cuff address. The pope first met the church’s pastor, Giovanni Traettino, in 2006, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The pope has offered encouragement to charismatic Catholics throughout his pontificate. In 2017, he addressed around 50,000 members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement during an ecumenical prayer vigil at Rome’s Circus Maximus.

The pope told participants in Saturday’s virtual meeting: “I would like to be closer to you, to be with you, at least with a video message. Thank you very much for this work that you have been doing for years -- for years! -- since the celebration in 1992 in Bari, every year.”

“And the meeting you are holding today is on the theme of fraternity: it is a meeting of fraternal dialogue. The guide will be the Word of the Lord: ‘Go to my brethren and say to them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

“Jesus sends us to proclaim that He is with us, He is before the Father, He accompanies us; and as Christians, without exposing the divisions that still exist but that do not prevent us from working together, walking together, and washing each other’s feet: let us remember Bari. To serve together. Brotherhood.”

The Vatican has a commission for healthcare facilities, but there is little trace of it

St. Peter's Basilica. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Vatican City, May 15, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

In 2015, facing scandals in the healthcare sector, Pope Francis established a Pontifical Commission for the Activities of the Public Juridical Persons of the Church in the Healthcare Sector. The board of the Commission was renewed in June 2020. However, there is no trace of the Commission in the Annuario Pontificio.

The absence of the commission is striking, especially considering it has a dedicated page on the Vatican website. Even so, it is not among the organs listed in the Roman Curia page on the Vatican website.

The commission was designed as an organ of the Roman Curia, attached to the Secretariat of State and its regulations. The commission's objective was to control and supervise how the health facilities managed by religious congregations manage money and assets.

The Ccmmission was established in 2015, following a series of scandals that affected some Catholic healthcare facilities.

The most important is known that of the crack of the IDI, the Dermopathic Institute of the Immaculate, which had found itself 800 million euros in debt due to systematic embezzlement of funds by some administrators and had had to declare bankruptcy in 2012. In 2015, the Secretariat of State acquired the hospital, pulling it out of the bankruptcy administered by the Italian state, through a for-profit partnership with the religious order that had owned and managed the hospital.

Recently, the Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Tiber Island risks being sold after another financial crash.

Not to mention the case of the Camillians, an order that manages 114 hospitals in the world, founded by St. Camillus de Lellis in the 16th century with the specific task of "giving complete service to the sick person" and "being a school of charity for those who share the mission of assistance to the sick." 

In 2013, Fr. Renato Salvatore, superior of the Camillians, was arrested because he organized the kidnapping of two Camillians friars to be re-elected as general superior. Fr. Salvatore wanted to secure the re-election to keep control over the Hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà in Casoria, near Naples.

When Pope Francis established the commission in 2015, he stressed that its aim was that of "contributing to the more effective management of activities and the conservation of assets while maintaining and promoting the charism of the founders."

The board of the commission was appointed in 2015 and renewed in June 2020. The president is still the same: Monsignor Luigi Mistò, president of the Holy See's Health Assistance Fund, is president.

Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, joined the commission to replace Msgr. Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, who was secretary of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers until its suppression and absorption into the integral human development dicastery.

Out Mariella Enoc, president of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital board, owned by the Holy See. Still, Giovanni Barbara, professor of commercial law, a consultant to Mariella Enoc, joined the Commission.

Other members: Renato Balduzzi, full professor of Constitutional Law at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and former Minister of Health in the Monti government; Fabrizio Celani, national president of the Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers; Maurizio Gallo, entrepreneur in the consulting and institutional relations sector and also involved in the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation; and Saverio Capolupo, tax magistrate.

On Feb. 16, 2019, Pope Francis appointed Capolupo as a consultant for the Vatican City State, particularly for the structures provided for by the state's legal system in economic, tax, and fiscal matters. Capolupo, among other things, was called to chair the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation, which manages the IDI, after the foundation had been led for a concise period by a son of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception who had founded the hospital, Father Giuseppe Pusceddu.

Sister Annunziata Remossi, an official of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was confirmed as secretary of the commission. At the same time, Fr Marco Belladelli, ecclesiastical assistant of the Catholic Union of Italian Pharmacists, was appointed director of the Commission Office, "With the right to participate, with voice and vote, in the activities of the same."

All names that stood to testify how the commission's work should continue and continue with experts.

There are various hypotheses for why the commission is not included in the Pontifical Yearbook, all speculations.

The first is that being an active commission until the pope decides otherwise is not considered an organ of the Curia in all respects, even though the statutes say the opposite.

The second is that the Vatican does not want to publicize the commission's work too much, considering that it must intervene in challenging and complex situations.

The third is that the commission is not considered active because the meetings have almost not taken place – according to a source familiar with the commission, the board met twice and virtually after the new membership was announced.

However, it remains a mystery why such an organ is not present in the 2020 pontifical yearbook.

Medjugorje to host global rosary marathon for end to pandemic

A statue of Our Lady in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Gnuckx via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 02:33 am (CNA).

Medjugorje’s shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace will lead the global rosary marathon for an end to the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday.

Catholics gathering on May 15 in the town where six local children saw alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary starting in 1981 will offer the rosary “for all migrants.”

The shrine in southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina is the 15th of 30 Catholic shrines across the world to lead the rosary during the month-long initiative launched by Pope Francis.

The rosary will take place at 6 p.m. local time, followed by Mass, and will be live-streamed on the Vatican News YouTube channel.

Pope Francis approved Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje in May 2019, but he has not issued a formal judgment on the authenticity of the alleged apparitions.

The reputed apparitions began on June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town that was then part of communist Yugoslavia, began to experience phenomena which they reported to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the alleged seers, the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer, and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

The purported apparitions at the site have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the town for pilgrimage and prayer, with some people claiming to have experienced miracles and others concluding that the visions are not authentic.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission ended a nearly four-year-long investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015 but declined to stop in Medjugorje during his trip. During his return flight to Rome, he indicated that the process of investigation was nearly complete.

On the return flight from a visit to the Marian shrine of Fatima in May 2017, the pope spoke about the final document of the Medjugorje commission, sometimes referred to as the “Ruini report,” after the head of the commission, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, calling it “very, very good,” and noting a distinction between the first Marian apparitions at Medjugorje and the later ones.

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts,” the pope said.

The pope launched the prayer marathon on May 1, when he led the rosary in St. Peter’s Basilica. The initiative will end on May 31 with a rosary in the Vatican Gardens.

The first shrine to lead the rosary was Walsingham in England, followed by the shrine of Jesus the Savior and Mother Mary in Elele, Nigeria, on May 2, the shrine of Jasna Góra in Poland on May 3, and the Basilica of the Annunication in Nazareth, Israel, on May 4.

Pope Francis sent a message last August to an annual youth meeting in Medjugorje.

“The great example of the Church that is young in the heart, ready to follow Christ with new freshness and fidelity, always remains the Virgin Mary,” the pope said.

“The power of Her ‘Yes’ and Her ‘Let it be unto me’ which she said before the angel, delights us at all times. Her ‘Yes’ means to participate and take risks, without any guarantee except knowing that she is the bearer of the promise. Her ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ (Luke 1:38), the most beautiful example that tells us what happens when a man, in his freedom, surrenders himself into God’s hands.”

“Let this example inspire you and be your guideline!”