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Look inward to resolve war, famine, injustice, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The social and political problems plaguing modern society can be resolved only by allowing the Holy Spirit to heal humanity's inner turmoil, Pope Francis said.

"Around us, we can say there is external chaos, social chaos, political chaos. We think of wars, we think of so many children who do not have enough to eat, so many social injustices. This is the external chaos," he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 29.

"But," he said, "there is also internal chaos. Within each of us, we cannot heal the former if we do not begin to heal the latter."

Beginning a new series of audience talks, "The Spirit and the Bride," on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the church, the bride of Christ in Christian theology, Pope Francis asked Christians to turn their "inner confusion into clarity through the Holy Spirit."

"It is the power of God that does this," he said. "Let us open our hearts so that he may accomplish it."

Pope Francis begins his general audience.
Pope Francis begins his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 29, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis said that even in the first lines of the Bible, the Book of Genesis' account of God creating heaven and earth, "the Spirit of God appears to us here as the mysterious power that moves the world from its initial formless, deserted and gloomy state to its ordered and harmonious state."

"The Spirit creates harmony, harmony in life and in the world," he said, adding that the Holy Spirit is the one who moves creation from "chaos to cosmos, that is, from confusion to something beautiful and ordered."

And the New Testament recounts how the Spirit is present at key moments in the new creation, Pope Francis said, such as when the dove descends over the Jordan during Jesus' baptism or when Jesus breathes on the disciples and instructs them to "receive the Holy Spirit" just as God breathed life into Adam.

But it was St. Paul who "introduces a new element in the relationship between the Spirit and creation" by identifying the cause of the suffering present in creation as being "the corruption and sin of humanity that has dragged (creation) into its alienation from God."

A Swiss Guard stands at attention.
A Swiss Guard stands at attention in St. Peter's Square during Pope Francis' weekly general audience as a Mexican band performs at the Vatican May 29, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"This remains as true today as it was then," he said. "We see the havoc that humanity has made and continues to make of creation," especially on the part of those who have a "greater capacity to exploit its resources."

Pope Francis extolled the model of St. Francis of Assisi, who "shows us a way out, to return to the harmony of the Spirit: the way of contemplation and of praise."

Humanity's calling on earth, the pope said, "is about putting the joy of contemplating before the joy of possessing," noting that "no one has rejoiced in creatures more than Francis of Assisi, who did not want to possess any of them."

After his speech, Pope Francis spoke about the church's first celebration of World Children's Day, hosted in Rome May 25-26, and about meeting Ukrainian children who were injured in the war.

"War is always cruelty; these children must start to walk (with artificial legs), to move with artificial arms; they have lost their smile," he said. "It is awful, very sad, when a child loses his or her smile, let us pray for Ukrainian children."

Pope Francis greets visitors.
Pope Francis greets visitors as he leaves St. Peter's Square in the popemobile after his weekly general audience at the Vatican May 29, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope also asked for prayers for Palestine, Israel and Myanmar and other countries at war.

Pope Francis also noted that May 29 is the feast of St. Paul VI, "an ardent pastor of love for Jesus and the church and for humanity," and encouraged people to read "Evangelii Nuntiandi," St. Paul VI's apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world which he said "is still current."

Written after the 1974 Synod of Bishops on evangelization, the document elaborated on the role of all Christians, and not only members of the clergy, in sharing the Gospel.

U.S. Bishops Release National Synthesis for the Interim Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued the National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Interim Stage. The synthesis marks the completion of the Interim Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission 

Following the conclusion of the First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod in October 2023, the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops invited episcopal conferences to engage in a listening process in response to the synthesis report A Synodal Church in Mission.   

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, has been leading the synod process for the Conference and shepherded the preparation of the synthesis. Participation in this Interim Stage has been an opportunity to deepen our ongoing formation in synodality and in the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council,” he said. It is with deep gratitude that I share this synthesis which now becomes part of our ongoing record of theological and pastoral reflection together.” 

The USCCB invited dioceses and eparchies to hold two to three listening sessions during Lent and submit a three-to-five-page document to the U.S. Synod Team. Additionally, the U.S. Synod Team created three working groups on participation in Church life, social justice, and vocations, bringing bishops, USCCB staff, diocesan synod leaders, theologians, experts, and pastoral ministers. The resulting diocesan and working group reports served as the source material for this synthesis, submitted to the Holy See earlier this month.   

The National Synthesis for the Interim Stage will, along with the contributions of episcopal conferences worldwide, form the basis of the work to be engaged by the Catholic Church until the Second Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod in October 2024.  

Bishop Flores expressed, This document reflects the sense that there exists among Catholics in the United States a deep desire to rebuild and strengthen our communion as the Body of Christ.  Rebuilding trust where it is frayed involves practicing the humanly graceful art of listening to each other and speaking together. The more we do this, the more we realize that it is the Lord who never fails us.”  

The National Synthesis for the Interim Stage is available in English and Spanish. More information about the 2021-2024 Synod is available at usccb.org/synod.

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Pope apologizes for using 'homophobic' slang

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis "never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term, reported by others," that is considered vulgar in Italian, the Vatican press office said.

Six days after Pope Francis had a closed-door meeting with members of the Italian bishops' conference, a notorious Italian gossip website reported that the pope used a derogatory slang term in Italian to describe some seminaries as being marked by a gay culture.

The website, Dagospia, said the pope used the term May 20 when responding to a bishop's question about admitting gay men to seminaries as candidates for priesthood.

Leading Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera said May 27 they confirmed with unnamed Italian bishops that Pope Francis had used the vulgar slang, although Corriere also noted that the pope "sometimes stumbles over somewhat creative Italian without being aware of the nuances."

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, responded late May 28 to repeated requests for comment.

"Pope Francis is aware of articles that recently came out about a conversation he had, behind closed doors, with the bishops of the CEI," he said, using the Italian acronym for the Italian bishops' conference.

"As he has had the opportunity to state on several occasions, 'In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone,'" Bruni said.

Pope Francis speaks to Italian bishops
Pope Francis speaks to members of the Italian bishops' conference during their spring meeting in the Vatican synod hall May 20, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

La Repubblica had reported that the word the pope used in Italian "made more than one bishop flinch. The man (Pope Francis) is no stranger to verbal intemperance; the meeting was behind closed doors, the conversation informal, but when Pope Francis used that word" there was tension in the room.

While Pope Francis insisted to the bishops that LGBTQ+ Catholics must be accepted in the church and treated with respect, he reportedly said at the meeting that it is better not to accept gay men as candidates for the priesthood. Bruni did not comment on that report.

During a similar closed-door meeting with Italian bishops in 2018, La Repubblica reported, the pope told them if they had "even the slightest doubt" about a gay candidate being able to live a life of celibacy in the seminary and as a priest, "it is better not to let them in."

In a book-length interview in 2018, Pope Francis had said superiors must be able to help gay candidates prepare for a life of celibacy or encourage them to leave the seminary.

"Homosexuality is a very serious matter, which must be discerned adequately from the beginning with candidates, if it is the case. We must be demanding," the pope had told Claretian Father Fernando Prado in the book-interview, "The Strength of Vocation: Consecrated Life Today."

Pope Francis made it clear in the interview that he was talking about homosexual activity among priests and religious who make vows of chastity and celibacy.

"In consecrated life or that of the priesthood, there is no place for this type of affection," the pope said. "For that reason, the church recommends that persons with this deep-seated tendency not be accepted for ministry or consecrated life."

A 2005 instruction from the then-Congregation for Catholic Education, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, said the church "cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.'"

Bishops and superiors of religious orders, who are responsible for the final decision about admitting candidates to the priesthood and religious life, have continued to discuss and debate the meaning of "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," which apparently was what prompted the question to the pope during his meeting with the Italian bishops' conference.

 

Kids get life lessons from pope, Italian comic on World Children's Day

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Always pray, and pray especially for an end to all wars, Pope Francis told children during Mass concluding the first World Children's Day.

"We are here to pray, to pray together and to pray to God," the father, who created the world, to his son, Jesus, who saved humanity, and to the Holy Spirit, "who accompanies us in life," he said in his homily May 26, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

About 50,000 children and adults gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Mass wrapping up the two-day event which began in Rome's Olympic Stadium May 25. Pope Francis established the world day as a "movement of boys and girls who want to build a world of peace, where we are all brothers and sisters, a world that has a future because we want to take care of the environment around us," he said at the stadium. 

altar servers
Girls and boys minister as altar servers during a papal Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 26, 2024, wrapping up the first World Children's Day held May 25-26 with Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Girls and boys were active participants during the Mass, ministering as altar servers, singing in the choirs, doing some of the readings including the prayers of the faithful, and bringing the offertory gifts. The pope also took the time to briefly and simply explain different moments of the Mass when it was his time to speak.

The pope did not read his prepared homily, choosing instead to remind the children of the meaning of the Holy Trinity as three persons in one God and why it is important to pray to them. 

"God loves us so much," he said, and the faithful always ask him to "accompany us in life and help us grow," especially by praying the "Our Father." 

"We pray to Jesus so that he may help us, so he may be close to us," the pope said. The faithful receive Christ by taking Communion, and Jesus forgives all sins, even the worst ones. 

pope crosier
Pope Francis holds his crosier during Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 26, 2024, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, wrapping up the first World Children's Day held May 25-26. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"Do not forget this. Jesus always forgives everything, and we must have the humility to ask for forgiveness," as well as recognize one's mistakes and difficulties, and one's intention to change course and seek help from God, he said.

The Holy Spirit "is inside of us," after receiving him with baptism and the sacraments, the pope said. The Holy Spirit "tells us in our hearts the good things we should do," and "he scolds us when we do something bad." He gives the faithful strength and consolation during difficulties.

"The Holy Spirit accompanies us in life," he said, asking the children often to repeat what the Holy Spirit does.

"We are happy because we believe. Faith makes us happy, and we believe in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit," he said.

Blessing the children, Pope Francis asked that they pray for each other so that they all may continue to forge ahead in life, to pray for their parents, grandparents and for children who are ill, some of whom were at the Mass.

"Always pray and, above all, pray for peace so that there will be no more wars," he said.

After Mass and the Angelus, the pope shook hands and greeted dozens of kids who went up to his chair. He also announced that the next world day would be in September 2026. 

pope benigni
Pope Francis greets Italian actor, Roberto Benigni, as he gives the closing talk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 26, 2024, wrapping up the first World Children's Day held May 25-26. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Italian actor and comic, Roberto Benigni, gave an energetic "pep talk" to the children, encouraging them to read, create and share fairy tales. 

He assured parents that fairy tales don't teach children that dragons and ogres exist; kids already know they exist. "Fairy tales teach kids that dragons can be defeated!"

Benigni told the children that when they become adults, they might not like some things they see, but they should not be afraid, "don't run away, dive right in" the vortex and open their wings.

"We know the world is very often governed by people who don't know what mercy and love are, people who commit the most serious and stupidest of sins: war," he said.

"When children play 'war,' as soon as one of them gets hurt, they stop. The game is over. So why, when (adults) wage war, don't they stop when a child suffers or gets hurt? Why? What cowardice is this? Wars must end," he said.

He said there is only one rule in life, and it is "the only sensible thing" he has ever heard "in the history of humanity," and that is what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. Basically, be deeply good, he said.

"Don't wait for the world to take care of you. Take care of the world, at least what is within reach. Love each other, love everyone closest to you, be good," he said.

Pope to children: Be peacemakers

Pope to children: Be peacemakers

On May 25, Pope Francis met with some 50,000 children, parents and educators at the Olympic Stadium in Rome to kick off the first World Children's Day. The event concluded with Mass May 26 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Pope tells children joy is good for the soul, always help others

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To change the world, children must press ahead, be joyful, ask adults why there is injustice and always help others, Pope Francis told thousands of children gathered in Rome's Olympic Stadium for the church's first ever World Children's Day.

"We are gathered here at the Olympic Stadium, to 'kick-off' the movement of boys and girls who want to build a world of peace, where we are all brothers and sisters, a world that has a future because we want to take care of the environment around us," he said May 25. 

About 50,000 people gathered in the stadium for a sunny afternoon of music, dance and even a brief friendly match in the center field between two teams made up of kids and retired Italian soccer champions. Multiple award-winning goalie, Gianluigi Buffon, placed a soccer ball in front of the pope's chair. The pope stood and kicked the ball from the sidelines to symbolically kick-off the game. The pope later signed the ball and the kids' jerseys. 

pope soccer ball
Pope Francis signs a soccer ball for kids that played in a brief friendly match with retired Italian soccer champions during the first World Day of Children May 25, 2024, in Rome's Olympic Stadium. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope established the world day, which will include a Mass in St. Peter's Square May 26, after holding a smaller encounter at the Vatican in November 2023 with some 7,500 children from 84 countries dedicated to learning from young children and listening to their questions about the future.

That event "brought a wave of joy" and "left a lasting impression in my heart," he told the kids and those accompanying them in the stadium. He said he wanted that conversation to continue and expand to reach more children and young people, and "that is why we are here today: to keep the dialogue going, to ask questions and seek answers together." 

pope child
During an audience at the Vatican May 25, 2024, Pope Francis meets with a group of children who come from countries experiencing war or conflict and who have suffered physical injury or the loss of a family member. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope told the children he knows they are sad about war, and he recounted his meeting earlier that day with children from Ukraine, Palestine and other parts of the world experiencing war. Many of the children had been injured and were in Italy to receive care. Vatican News reported that among those at the audience was Yana Stepanenko, 13, who lost both legs from a Russian missile strike in Ukraine. She ran the 5K at the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for prosthetics for a Ukrainian soldier in need.

The pope asked the children in the stadium to pray for their peers who cannot go to school, who suffer from war, who have no food or who are sick and lack medical care.

"Dear children, let us press ahead and be joyful. Joy is healthy for the soul," he said, quizzing them to make sure they knew that Jesus loved them, and the devil did not.

Dozens of children representing different continents and countries gave the pope gifts, including two baskets of letters, 5,000 drawings and a pectoral cross modeled after the large and colorful "cross of joy" that was created for the world day and accompanied the events.

Riad, a young boy from Syria, gave the pope copies of photos taken in 2016 when Pope Francis invited 12 Syrian refugees, Riad included, to fly with him to Italy from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece.

"He's grown!" the pope said, looking at the young boy and the photos of him as a small child. 

pope flags
About 50,000 children and adults gather for the first World Children's Day May 25, 2024, in Rome's Olympic Stadium with Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Between musical sets, children from different parts of the world asked the pope questions, such as what can children do to make the world a better place. Speak nicely, play together and help others, the pope replied.

How can people truly love everyone? a boy asked the pope. "It's not easy," the pope said. But start with just the people in one's own life, including one's classmates, and expand from there, he said.

When asked about why there were people without jobs or homes, the pope said all injustices were "the fruit of malice, egoism and war."

Those who "climb the ladder," crushing those below, are bad, and many countries spend money to build or buy arms while there are people going hungry, he said. He asked the huge crowd to be quiet for a moment of silence, praying for all those facing injustice and remembering that everyone shares a bit of the blame.

When asked how to help adults be more compassionate about those who are less fortunate, the pope said kids can help others and be a good example, and they can create "a true revolution" by always asking God and their parents, "Why?" such as why are there people living on the street or going without food.

He also urged the kids to visit their grandparents, who gave life, raised families and passed down their wisdom. "We have to respect," visit and listen to grandparents, he said.

Be proud of your uniform, committed to peace, pope tells military

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Entrusting to God's mercy all of their comrades-in-arms who have died serving their countries and defending peace, Pope Francis urged Catholic members of the military to let their faith inform their service.

"The world needs you, especially at this dark moment in our history. We need men and women of faith capable of putting weapons at the service of peace and brotherhood," said the papal message to thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and cadets making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

The annual International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, held May 24-26 this year, involves some 15,000 current, retired and wounded members of the military from 40 nations -- including members of the Vatican's Swiss Guard. They are joined by military chaplains and bishops who head their nations' military ordinariates, including Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, led the pilgrimage and brought with him the pope's blessing in a message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The message was released at the Vatican May 25.

Italian military gather at Lourdes grotto
Members of the Italian military and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are seen in this screen grab gathering for Mass at the grotto of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes, YouTube)

Making a pilgrimage is a time to renew one's baptismal commitment by listening to the Gospel and receiving the sacraments, the message said. "This spiritual pause in Lourdes is a time to rethink your military vocation from the perspective of faith and of the love that every Christian must cultivate toward his brothers and sisters, even his enemies."

"Be military men and women, proud to honor your uniform, your regiment and your homeland, but also be aware that you are part of a single human family, a family that is torn and wounded but which Christ came to redeem and save through the power of love, not the violence of arms," it said.

The military pilgrimage to Lourdes, the message said, also is "a faith experience that helps us discover the beauty of journeying together, supporting one another and reaching out to one another."

British and Croatian bishops and soldiers in Lourdes
Bishop Paul Mason, bishop of the British Forces, center left, and Bishop Jure Bogdan, military ordinary of Croatia, center right, pose for a photo with two members of the Royal Air Force and two Croatian soldiers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Flt. Lt. Luke Bluer)

Being in Lourdes is a time "to be close to your sick and wounded comrades-in-arms and to care for them -- especially in a place where the sick are so present -- and to bring God's mercy to the military world," the message said. "May this translate into true, simple and humane gestures that reveal the tender face of our God."

"May you live this out not only in Lourdes, but wherever you are sent, bearing witness to the Gospel among your fellow soldiers," it continued.

The message assured the pilgrims that Pope Francis "entrusts to God's mercy all servicemen and women who have died in the service of their country or in international operations to defend peace."

"He invokes on all present at Lourdes and their families, as well as on the soldiers engaged on various fronts, on missions for the preservation of peace far from home, and on those who are wounded and suffering, a special abundance of graces," it said.

 

Youth Ministry Congress emphasizes need to listen to young people

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As young delegates and the coordinators of youth and young adult ministry from the world's bishops' conferences gathered near Rome, an archbishop asked them: "How can we be a church that young people come back to, not a church they leave? How can our young people find hope and courage in the church and transform their lives?"

The questions were posed by Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul, South Korea, host of World Youth Day 2027, during the Vatican-sponsored International Youth Ministry Congress May 23 in Ciampino, just south of Rome.

The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life convoked the three-day congress to consider answers to the archbishop's questions as they marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis' exhortation to young people, "Christus Vivit," reviewed World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, and looked forward to the Holy Year 2025 jubilee of young adults and, more remotely, to WYD in Seoul.

The theme for the gathering was "Synodal Youth Ministry: New Leadership Styles and Strategies."

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell
Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, talks with participants at the International Congress on Youth Ministry May 23, 2024, at a conference center in Ciampino, outside Rome. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, said that since the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, many bishops' conferences, dioceses and Catholic movements have worked with young adults to uncover new ways of communicating with them, to set up structures to listen to them and encourage their participation and to launch "programs of faith education, accompaniment and evangelization in both the digital and the non-digital spheres."

"It is precisely young people who can be the main agents of renewal so that the church can 'unblock' itself and become young again," Cardinal Farrell said, adding a quote from "Christus Vivit": "Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make it grow old, encase it in the past, hold it back or keep it at a standstill."

Archbishop Chung told the group, "When the decision was made for Seoul to host WYD, I wondered, 'Are our young people happy right now?'"

"They are connected to others 24 hours a day through social media and are more materially affluent than ever before," he said, "but our young people today just don't seem that happy."

In many parts of the world, they struggle with "unemployment, low wages, endless competition, polarization and inequality, hatred, war, terrorism, the climate crisis," he said. "Why do our precious youth, whose only job is to love, be loved and dream of a better world and future have to live in this reality?"

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul
Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul, South Korea, talks about plans for World Youth Day 2027 during the International Congress on Youth Ministry May 23, 2024, at a conference center in Ciampino, outside Rome. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

When celebrated as a pilgrimage of faith rather than an event, the archbishop said, World Youth Day can help people find a response. "It's a pilgrimage, a time to share our stories, work through our concerns together and find answers in our faith," he said.

Paul Jarzembowski, associate director for laity at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, was attending the congress and told Catholic News Service, "Listening is a foundation to so much of what we do in ministries with young people as our response and activities build upon what we have heard in the stories of youth and young adults."

In response to "Christus Vivit," the U.S. bishops launched "Journeying Together," a process that brought together young adults, bishops, youth ministers and campus ministers "to engage in respectful yet honest dialogue in matters of faith, culture, racism, inclusion and the issues that affect them as young people," according to the program's web pages.

Although it formally concluded in 2023, Jarzembowski said the conversations are ongoing "as the young adults continue to convene together and engage us at the USCCB."

The 1,500 young adults involved, who came from many cultural and ethnic groups, "included those who were active in their practice (of the faith) and those who are less engaged," he said. The initiative was not about convincing them to return to church, "but about trying to understand the realities facing younger generations. Through this process, some did reconnect with active practice, but that was not its original goal. It was a pleasant surprise and the result of authentic listening."

In June, he noted, the U.S. bishops will vote on a new national framework on ministries with youth and young adults. The document, "Listen, Teach, Send," he said, aims to help the church engage and build up trust with young people by being a church "that truly listens, one that teaches as an act of response and witness, and one that motivates young people to be sent out to transform the world in the company of the Holy Spirit."

Another key result of listening, he said, has been the church's efforts to respond to the mental health crisis among teens and young adults, "raising awareness, combating stigmas and promoting a balance of clinical and spiritual support so that those who need help" can get it.

In discussions at the congress, Jarzembowski said, it was clear that "most continents are experiencing this crisis yet in different ways. However, the U.S. experience is certainly amplified by our polarization, digital landscape, consumerism and the struggle many families experience, especially around divorce."

Cardinal Americo Aguiar of Setubal, Portugal
Cardinal Americo Aguiar of Setubal, Portugal, one of the chief organizers of World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, speaks at the International Congress on Youth Ministry May 23, 2024, at a conference center in Ciampino, outside Rome. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

Cardinal Américo Aguiar of Setúbal, Portugal, one of the chief organizers of World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, told the group that an essential part of planning involved setting up committees in every Portuguese diocese and almost every parish, involving thousands of young adults, many of whom "were not part of or engaged in any other ecclesial reality. They were and are one of the most important fruits for the Portuguese church and society."

Those planning the Lisbon gathering "did everything and gave everything" to ensure it would promote a true encounter of young people from around the world with their peers, their pastors and with Pope Francis, "but above all an encounter with the living Christ," the cardinal said. "Did it happen? We do not know, there are no statistics" that can answer that question.

But "personally, I know they did. I know it in my heart of hearts," he said. And God knows, too; "he knows about each particular person, as only a Father can."

 

Pope recognizes miracle needed for church's first 'millennial' saint

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis formally recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old Italian teenager whose birth in 1991 will make him the first "millennial" to become a saint.

In a meeting May 23 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for Saints' Causes, the pope signed decrees advancing the sainthood causes of Blessed Acutis, as well as one woman, and six men.

The Vatican announced May 23 that the pope had signed the decrees and that he would convene a consistory to set a date for the canonization of Acutis and other future saints: Blesseds Giuseppe Allamano; Marie-Léonie Paradis of Québec, Canada; Elena Guerra; and eight Franciscan friars and three Maronite laymen who were martyred in Damascus, Syria, in 1860.

Blessed Acutis was born and baptized in London to Italian parents in 1991, but the family moved back to Milan, Italy, while he was still an infant. 

acutis2
Italian Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Carlo Acutis)

After he started high school, he began to curate, create or design websites, including one for a local parish, for his Jesuit-run high school and for the Pontifical Academy "Cultorum Martyrum," according to the saints' dicastery. He also used his computer skills to create an online database of Eucharistic miracles around the world.

He volunteered at a church-run soup kitchen, helped the poor in his neighborhood, assisted children struggling with their homework, played saxophone, soccer and videogames, and loved making videos with his dogs and cats, according to carloacutis.com, the website dedicated to his cause for canonization.

"To always be close to Jesus, that's my life plan," he wrote when he was 7 years old.

He was devoted to Our Lady, praying the rosary every day, and to the Eucharist.

"The Eucharist is the highway to heaven," he wrote. When people sit in the sun, they become tan, "but when they sit before Eucharistic Jesus, they become saints."

When he was only 15, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and died Oct. 12, 2006. He had said, "I'm happy to die because I've lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn't have pleased God," according to carloacutis.com. 

acutis tomb
The body of Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006, is pictured after his tomb was opened in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 1, 2022. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino)

His mortal remains were moved to the municipal cemetery in Assisi in 2007 to fulfill his wish to be in the city of St. Francis. Then his remains were moved to the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi in 2019. He was buried wearing Nike sneakers, black jeans and an athletic warmup jacket -- clothes he was used to wearing every day.

In February 2020, the pope formally recognized a miracle attributed to Acutis' intercession and in October that year, the teen was beatified during a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. An estimated 117,000 pilgrims visited the teen's tomb in just the first year after his beatification, the Diocese of Assisi said the day before his feast day, Oct. 12, 2021.

The two miracles attributed to the intercession of the teen involved alleged miraculous recoveries for a young boy in Brazil in 2013 and a young woman in Florence in 2022.

The miracle Pope Francis recognized May 23 that paves the way for the blessed's canonization involved a young woman who was born in Costa Rica in 2001 and moved to Florence in 2018 to study.

The woman fell from her bicycle at 4 a.m. July 2, 2022, and suffered a serious head injury, according to the dicastery website. Even after emergency surgery removing part of her skull to reduce severe intracranial pressure, doctors warned her family she could die at any moment.

An associate of the young woman's mother began praying to Blessed Acutis the same day, and the mother went to Assisi and prayed at the blessed's tomb July 8 -- the same day the young woman began to breathe on her own again. She slowly recovered basic mobility and a CT scan showed the hemorrhage was gone. After a period of rehabilitation therapy and a complete recovery, she and her mother visited his tomb Sept. 2. 

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Clergy attend the beatification Mass of Carlo Acutis in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 10, 2020. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Assisi- Nocera Umbra- Gualdo Tadino)

Pope Francis has urged young people to learn about Blessed Acutis, who "did a great deal of good things," despite his short life.

"Above all, he was impassioned by Jesus; and since he was very good at getting around on the internet, he used it in the service of the Gospel, spreading love for prayer, the witness of faith and charity toward others," the pope told young Italians Jan. 29.

"Prayer, witness and charity" were the hallmarks of Blessed Acutis' life and should be a key part of the life of every Christian, he said.

Humility is the 'gateway to all virtues,' pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Though not found on the classical list of cardinal or theological virtues, humility lies "at the base of Christian life," Pope Francis said.

"Whereas pride and arrogance swell the human heart, making us appear to be more than we are, humility restores everything to its correct dimension," he said. Human beings are "are wonderful creatures, but we are limited, with qualities and flaws."

During his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 22, the pope ended his series of talks on vices and virtues by discussing humility, which he said is "the gateway to all virtues."

In the beatitudes, Jesus praised the "poor in spirit" and said "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," he said. "It is the first beatitude,"because it underlies those that follow it: meekness, mercy (and) purity of heart arise from that inner sense of littleness."

"Blessed are the people who guard this sense of their own littleness in their hearts," he said. "These people are shielded from an ugly vice: arrogance."

Pope Francis steps onto the popemobile.
Pope Francis steps onto the popemobile after his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 22, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Humility is present throughout the Gospel, even in its opening pages, he said, noting how the Angel Gabriel announces Jesus' coming birth not in Jerusalem, but in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, "but it is precisely from there that the world is reborn."

Similarly, the person selected to bring the Son of God into the world "is not a queen who grew up coddled, but an unknown girl: Mary."

God is drawn to the "littleness" in Mary, "which is above all an interior littleness," the pope said. "He is also drawn to our own littleness when we accept this littleness."

Although Mary may have faced difficult periods "in which her faith advanced in darkness," Pope Francis said that Mary's "rock-solid" humility never wavered.

Mary's humility, he said, "is her invincible strength; it is she who remains at the foot of the cross while the illusion of a triumphant Messiah is shattered."

Pope Francis gives his blessing.
Pope Francis gives his blessing to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his general audience at the Vatican May 22, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Pope Francis added that humility is what "saves us from the devil and from the danger of becoming his accomplices."

"Humility is the source of peace in the world and in the church," he said. "Where there is no humility, there is war, there is discord, there is division."

Pope Francis ended his audience asking Christians to pray for peace for the world consumed by war.

"Let us not forget the martyred Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, that this war may end; let us not forget Myanmar; let us not forget the many countries at war," he said. "Brothers and sisters, we must pray for peace in this time of world war."

Pope says faith in China has been safeguarded by God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Lord has safeguarded the faith of the people of God in China, Pope Francis said.

"And the faith of God's people has been the compass that has shown the way" to Christians in China throughout history and until today, he said in a video message to people taking part in an international conference in Rome May 21.

"Those who follow Jesus love peace, and find themselves together with all those who work for peace, in a time in which we see inhuman forces at work that seem to want to accelerate the end of the world," he said. 

The pope's video message was played at the beginning of a one-day conference marking the 100th anniversary of the first and, so far, only Council of the Chinese Catholic Church. The conference was organized by the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome together with Fides, a Vatican news agency, and the Pastoral Commission for China. 

The council, referred to as the "Concilium Sinense," was held in Shanghai in 1924 and was attended, for the most part, by foreign-born bishops, vicars general, religious and priests who went to China as missionaries, according to a report by Fides.

Archbishop Celso Costantini, the then-apostolic delegate in China, led the council with the aim of revitalizing the mission of the church in China in light of Pope Benedict XV's recognition that faith in Christ "does not belong exclusively to a certain nation" and that becoming a Christian does not mean submitting to "foreign tutelage," Fides said May 14.

The council, Fides said, came up with "detailed provisions to promote and accompany the flourishing of a native church with Chinese bishops and priests being entrusted with the leadership of local communities" and "to counteract the colonial mentality that had also penetrated church practices."

Archbishop Costantini "simply repeated that the mission of the church was to 'evangelize, not colonize,'" the pope said in his video message. 

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Pope Francis delivers a video message released by the Vatican May 21, 2024, to people taking part in an international conference in Rome marking the 100th anniversary of the first Council of the Chinese Catholic Church. (CNS photo/screengrab Vatican Media)

Those gathered at the council "all made an authentic synodal journey and signed the provisions that opened up new paths, so that the Catholic Church in China could also increasingly have a Chinese face," the pope said.

They recognized that "Christ's proclamation of salvation can only reach every human community and every single person if it speaks in their 'mother tongue,'" he said.

"The church's journey through history has been through unforeseen paths, even through times of patience and trial," he said. "The Lord in China has safeguarded the faith of the people of God along the way."

"Chinese Catholics, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, walk in the present time. In the context in which they live, they also bear witness to their faith through works of mercy and charity, and in their witness they give a real contribution to the harmony of social coexistence, to the building of the common home," he said. 

"We too, like the council fathers of Shanghai, can look to the future" and "open paths to be undertaken with boldness to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel in the present," he said.

Among those speaking at the conference was Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. 
He told reporters he hoped the Vatican's diplomatic arm could have some kind of "stable presence in China," according to Vatican News.

"Even if initially it may not take the form of a pontifical representative and an apostolic nunciature, nevertheless it could increase and deepen our contacts. This is our goal" regarding advancing diplomatic relations between the two countries, he said.

Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Shanghai also spoke at the conference. 

"We will continue to build the church in China into a holy and Catholic Church that conforms to God's will, accepts China's excellent traditional cultural heritage, and is appreciated by Chinese society today," he said, according to Vatican News.

He said the church in China "has always remained faithful to its Catholic faith, albeit with great effort to constantly adapt to the new political system" adopted in 1949 with the proclamation of the People's Republic of China.

"The religious freedom policy implemented by the Chinese government has had no interest in changing the Catholic faith, but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers," the bishop said.

The problems in the past between the church and state in China were due in part to the "strong sense of European cultural superiority" of some missionaries, who "even intended to use the Christian religion to change Chinese society and culture," he said. That attitude was "opposed and even detested by many Chinese" and "hindered a greater spread of the Gospel of love among the Chinese people."

Bishop Shen said the priests and faithful in China are called "to love their country and their church and to closely link the development of the church with the welfare of the people."