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The pope didn’t summon Spain’s bishops to ‘chew them out,’ Cardinal Omella says

Pope Francis meets with the Spanish bishops at the Vatican on Nov. 28, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Spanish bishops at the Vatican today to inform them of the conclusions of the apostolic visit made to the country’s seminaries in early 2023.

Before discussing the report, the preacher of the papal household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, offered those present a meditation starting at 8 a.m. that took Pentecost as its starting point.

The Holy Father joined the meeting once the meditation began, and when it was over there was an extensive conversation for about two hours. After a break, the meeting with those responsible for the Dicastery for the Clergy began.

During a press conference, the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE), Cardinal Juan José Omella, stated that it soon became clear that the meeting with the pontiff “was not about chewing them out or condemning anyone. It was to see how we can improve. We are in a change of eras and in some way we have to prepare.”

Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona at the June 28, 2017, consistory in St. Peter's Basilica. .  Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona at the June 28, 2017, consistory in St. Peter's Basilica. . Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Although the pope specified that the apostolic visit “is not an investigation” in an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC published in December 2022, the unusual call for all the bishops to come to Rome raised some concerns.

The secretary general and spokesman of the CEE, Bishop Francisco César García Magán, stated on Nov. 24 that there was no “fear” among the bishops about the meeting today in Rome, although he acknowledged that it was “a singular event.”

Ask questions and hold nothing back

For the Spanish cardinal, it was a conversation “in keeping with the synodal path” in which the pope encouraged the prelates to ask questions and hold nothing back.

Repeatedly asked by journalists whether the only topic of conversation with the pontiff had really been the situation of the seminaries in Spain, the cardinal drew on a childhood expression to reinforce his explanations: “By Sweet Jesus, I’m telling you the truth.”

Omella thus sought to rule out that either the issue of the sexual abuse of minors within the Church or the complicated sociopolitical situation in Spain in recent weeks had been addressed.

Throughout the press conference, which he gave with García and the president of the Spanish bishops’ subcommission on the clergy, Bishop Jesús Vidal, Omella stressed Pope Francis’ interest “in forming very mature men, rooted in the person of Jesus Christ; men of God, but with their feet on the ground.”

For two hours, the conversation addressed questions about the different types of formation offered or the pastoral experience of the seminarians.

For Vidal, the Holy Father established “a spiritual dialogue in an atmosphere of unity and communion” in which “we have been asking him and he has been sharing his insights based on his experience.”

He said that “the pope would be interested in the formation of future priests in Spain is a privilege” and stressed “the push he gave us by encouraging us to continue implementing the formation plan” of the seminaries.

Reorganization of seminaries and houses of formation

Vidal explained that Spain has 86 seminaries sharing 55 houses of formation, which means that not all seminaries have their own house of formation. For example, there is an interdiocesan seminary in Catalonia attended by candidates for the priesthood from seven different dioceses.

Forty of the 69 Spanish dioceses currently have their own seminaries. Of the 40, 29 are diocesan and 15 are Redemptoris Mater seminaries run by the Neocatechumenal Way. Several dioceses have more than one seminary.

One of the issues raised is the need to reorganize this structure due to the decline of vocations. According to the latest data provided by the CEE, fewer than 1,000 candidates for the priesthood have been in formation in the 2022-2023 academic year, the first time that the figure fell below that level since records have been kept in modern times.

New admissions were below 200 and ordinations were under 100 for the first time. Two decades ago, Spain had nearly 1,700 seminarians and almost 200 were ordained.

Omella pointed out that, among other factors, this is caused by the low birth rate and that the Church has to face a kind of “corporate downsizing” in this area.

“The reality is different from the ’60s. The low birth rate affects the seminaries as it affects the universities and they have to rethink the future,” the president of the CEE explained.

Vidal said there is no fixed date to obtain “concrete” results for what has been proposed, because it’s an ongoing process. However, a three-year period has been established to evaluate progress.

“On the issue of the merging of seminaries, the pope encouraged us to continue following the path the Church is on in Spain,” where there are 15 houses of formation that take in seminarians from various dioceses, Vidal added.

Emotional formation

The president of the episcopal subcommittee on the clergy stated that the emotional formation of future priests “is a topic that the pope is very interested in.” In this regard he said the pontiff “encouraged future priests to be men capable of creating communion and fostering dialogue, priests who can live out synodality in this Church.”

The priest, “like anyone, must be a mature, free person, capable of developing a full life and a suitable social life,” Vidal noted.

Wearing a cassock?

Vidal also explained in response to questions from the media that during the conversation with Pope Francis the question of what kind of clothing the new priests should wear was addressed. The bishop said that this is a matter framed in the idea that priests must be “rooted in the reality” that surrounds them.

The prelate pointed out that “we can get carried away by trends that are not central, that are peripheral,” without clarifying what they are. 

The pope’s health

Omella noted that Pope Francis was able to speak “without coughing even once” in his conversation with the Spanish bishops, despite the lung condition that has forced him to reduce his schedule, and said: “He’s healthier than us.”

For the Spanish cardinal, this meeting has had the effect of “puncturing two balloons: Nothing serious is happening in [the Church in] Spain and the pope is not as ill as it seemed.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Some pro-life lawmakers urge new approach amid electoral results

Voting booths on Election Day. / Credit: vesperstock/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

Amid electoral struggles since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, some pro-life lawmakers are considering changing how they approach the issue of abortion — but many of them are still divided on what the best strategy is.

This November, the pro-life movement suffered a string of losses in an election cycle that was heavily focused on abortion policy: They lost a referendum fight in Ohio by a 13-point margin, Kentucky voters opted for a pro-abortion Democrat in the gubernatorial race by a 5-point margin, and Democrats narrowly defeated Republicans to control both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly.

Some pro-life lawmakers are trying to moderate their position on abortion in response to these results, but others are doubling down on their pro-life stances. 

A moderate shift on abortion for some politicians

“We can’t save lives if we can’t win elections,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina, told CNA. 

“If pro-life Republicans want to actually save lives, they have to learn to read the room,” Mace said. “We need to listen to women. Roe’s repeal changed the playing field and the conversation, and too many are stuck in the policies and arguments of the past.”

Mace, who has urged Republicans to moderate their positions on abortion, has criticized pro-life bills that do not include exceptions for rape and incest and bills that establish reporting requirements for rape victims who seek an abortion. She testified against a near-total abortion ban in South Carolina because of the lack of exceptions in the initial proposal.

“We need to talk about commonsense abortion restrictions, but the conversation doesn’t end there,” Mace added. “We need to discuss access to prenatal care, adoption services, counseling for women considering abortion, and other resources like my bill to establish, which gives women access to information that encourages them to choose life.”

Similar electoral concerns are also being expressed within the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, who co-chairs the caucus, told CNA that Republicans should shift their focus away from federal policies and “stop talking about any kind of regulation at the federal level and [instead] leave it to see what states do.” 

Harris, who is Catholic, said that most voters are more concerned about “the economy,” “personal security,” and “international issues” than they are about abortion right now and that Republicans should not “make [abortion] a focus” on the campaign trail. He said: “There is a middle ground and I think we should seek the middle ground,” arguing that most Americans “don’t believe that abortion should be legal throughout pregnancy, especially through the third trimester.”

“We’re not for complete bans on abortion,” Harris added. “We’re for reasonable regulation, consistent with the majority of Americans.”

Harris, as Mace did, noted that pro-life lawmakers need to emphasize that the movement is “not only for the babies but for the women as well.” He also referenced the work of pro-life pregnancy centers, saying that many women in a crisis pregnancy “need help and they don’t always need abortion.”

This approach has also permeated the Republican presidential primary battle, with former President Donald Trump sidestepping many abortion-related questions and refusing to commit to a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Trump is the current frontrunner by a large margin. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis initially dodged the question as well but ultimately said he would support a 15-week ban. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said she would also support the ban but has emphasized that it would not be her focus and is unlikely to pass. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has said he would not sign a 15-week ban and said it is a state issue. 

Other pro-life lawmakers intend to double down

Despite the concerns from some of his colleagues, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, told CNA that the pro-life position is “not only the right issue, but it’s also a winning issue,” urging other Republicans to “in no way be discouraged” and instead “redouble our efforts.” 

“[The] Dobbs [ruling] empowered the federal government, as well as state governments, to defend life,” Smith, who is Catholic, said in rejecting the notion that this should only be handled at the state level. 

Smith said Republicans should “robustly call out the Democrats,” adding that “all but one voted for abortion until birth twice” and said that any pro-life lawmaker who “thinks that they should talk about something else … like inflation” should recognize “that doesn’t work.”

“That’s the absolute false lesson to learn,” Smith said. 

Smith argued that Americans “aren’t as pro-abortion as the pollsters suggest” and accused Democrats of supporting “taxpayers paying for abortion until birth,” which he called “extreme and outrageous.” 

Regarding the recent electoral losses, he said: “The problem is that they have distorted so well” and that “lying and deception sometimes has its moment of victory.”

“Our advertisements need to become much more focused and need to hold these extremists to account,” Smith added.

Where Smith did align with his colleagues in some regard was in a new approach to messaging the pro-life position, saying the pro-life lawmakers need to “underscore how pro-woman we are” and that this “needs to be conveyed with compassion.” But, he added, “don’t do that in lieu of defending your position.”

The changing electoral climate for pro-life Democrats

Republicans were not the only party to suffer electoral defeats for their pro-life stances. The last self-identifying pro-life Democrat in the Virginia General Assembly, Sen. Joe Morrissey, was ousted during his Democratic primary by a whopping 40-point margin in a campaign that was heavily focused on abortion.

Pro-abortion Democrats won a narrow majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, which will prevent Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin from passing new restrictions on abortion. The governor and many legislative Republicans ran on supporting a 15-week limit. 

“[My pro-life views] cost me my position, but you know what, I stuck to my values and my principles and I’m good with it,” Morrissey, who is Catholic, told CNA.

Morrissey was the only Democratic lawmaker in the General Assembly to support legislation that would have prohibited most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lashrecse Aird, who defeated Morrissey in the primary, focused much of her campaign on abortion.

“If you’re not all in 100% pro-abortion as a Democrat, you’re going to be persona non grata in the party,” Morrissey warned, adding the party now embraces “abortion up until the point of delivery.”

Despite the results, Morrissey said pro-life Democrats should “stick to your values [and] stick to your core beliefs” but added that most will not do so because they “will get primaried” and be “out of a job.” The senator said he would consider running as an independent in a future race.

Morrissey also suggested the pro-life movement change its messaging strategy, arguing that “you can’t have the word ban in your message” and that the promotion of a 15-week limit on abortion should be phrased as being “in favor of abortion up to 15 weeks” rather than using the word “ban.”

Abortion is likely to remain a focus in national and statewide elections over the next few years as lawmakers continue to debate the country’s future on abortion-related issues in a post-Roe country. Nearly a dozen abortion-related referendums could appear on statewide ballots next year. 

When an Oregon town told a church to limit its meals to the homeless the DOJ stepped in

Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this month signaled its support for an Oregon Episcopal church in a legal dispute over a homeless meals program that the church has run for years. 

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings, Oregon, has for years regularly provided meals for homeless people in the area up to six days per week, but the city in 2021 ordered that it could only do so up to two days per week. 

The church subsequently sued the city over the order. This week, the Department of Justice filed a statement in support of the church.

The DOJ said in a press release that the city’s new ordinance might run afoul of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). That law, according to the DOJ, “protect[s] individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws.”

The department noted that St. Timothy’s has been providing “meal service up to four days per week, and as many as six days per week,” for needy individuals in its community. 

The city, however, recently enacted an ordinance “that prohibits the church from serving free meals to persons in need more than two days per week, subject to a discretionary permit,” the DOJ said. 

In its statement of interest, filed in federal district court, the DOJ noted that the city’s new permitting system — which was enacted after neighbor complaints of the activity at the church — “effectively requires St. Timothy’s to significantly reduce the number of days it serves meals to persons in need,” which the parishioners argue “compels them to violate their religious beliefs to feed those in need” when the need exists. 

RLUIPA forbids land use regulations that impose a “substantial burden” on religious entities. The city said the ordinance did not run afoul of RLUIPA and its imposition did not “substantially burden” the church’s meals program. The DOJ said in its press release that it was disputing the city’s claim. 

“Specifically, [the DOJ] asserts that RLUIPA’s protections apply in this context, that St. Timothy’s provision of meals to people in need is protected religious exercise, and that the city’s attempt to restrict St. Timothy’s meal service may have substantially burdened the church’s religious exercise by forcing it to violate its beliefs in order to comply with local land use laws,” the DOJ said.

The city “makes virtually no attempt to show that its meals restriction is ‘narrowly tailored’ or that it employed the least restrictive means of burdening St. Timothy’s religious exercise,” the department said in its filing. 

The DOJ in its filing “respectfully request[ed] that the court … deny the city’s motion” in the case.

On its website, St. Timothy’s says its soup kitchen and outreach clinic offer “hot meals four days a week,” “showers during our office hours,” and “laundry vouchers,” among other services.

Rev. Bernie Lindley, the pastor at St. Timothy’s, told local news station KGW8 that the meals program “isn’t like a hobby for us. This is a deeply held religious belief.” 

“This we believe fervently, that we need to feed people, that what we do for the people who are on the margins is what we do for Christ himself,” Lindley said. “And so this isn’t something we take lightly.” 

“This is something that is a cornerstone to who we are as Christians,” he continued. “This is how we understand our relationship to Christ, so there is no doubt that this is how we practice our religion.” 

Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie partners with child sponsorship charity for special milestone 

Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie during a visit to Unbound's headquarters in November 2023. / Credit: Danika Wolf/Unbound

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

The Catholic child sponsorship charity Unbound announced Tuesday that Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus in “The Chosen” TV series, has partnered with them to sponsor their 1 millionth child currently living in poverty. 

Roumie, a devout Catholic, was cast as Jesus in the Christian-produced hit TV series “The Chosen” in 2019. He has since gone on to headline the 2023 March for Life and has partnered with the popular Catholic prayer app Hallow on numerous occasions, among other projects. 

During a November visit to Unbound’s headquarters, Roumie had a virtual visit with a 6-year-old girl from Rwanda who Unbound says is the 1 millionth child to enter their program. Roumie first began sponsoring with Unbound in 2019, financially supporting and writing letters to a child in Tanzania. 

Jonathan Roumie virtually meets his new sponsored friend, a 6-year-old girl from Rwanda, during his visit to the Unbound global headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Danika Wolf/Unbound
Jonathan Roumie virtually meets his new sponsored friend, a 6-year-old girl from Rwanda, during his visit to the Unbound global headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Danika Wolf/Unbound

“Sponsoring a child is a direct expression of faith,” Roumie said.

“When you have the chance to participate in their life and, to an extent, be able to alleviate some of their suffering, it answers the call to bear one another’s burdens and serve each other through love. I’m excited to spread the word about the good work Unbound is doing and encourage more people to participate in a program that helps so many people around the world.”

"The Chosen" actor Jonathan Roumie meets Pope Francis (right) at the Vatican on Aug. 11, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
"The Chosen" actor Jonathan Roumie meets Pope Francis (right) at the Vatican on Aug. 11, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Based in Kansas, Unbound was founded in 1981 by Catholics as an agency focused on putting resources directly in the hands of the world’s poor. Formerly the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), the agency today uses a network of thousands of sponsors to deliver personalized support to children, elders, and their families living in poverty in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. 

Dan Pearson, Unbound’s chief international program officer, told CNA in an interview that Unbound’s work is rooted in the Gospel call to view each person living in poverty as “infinitely important,” with inherent dignity and worth, and connecting them with people willing to help, many of whom are people of faith. He said he has seen the connections that Unbound fosters make real changes in the lives of the poor but also in the lives of their sponsors. 

People who sign up with Unbound commit to supporting their “sponsored friend” — a child or elderly person living in poverty — with a donation of roughly $40 a month. More than 90% of the money donated goes directly into a bank account that is in the name of the sponsored child and, usually, his or her mother.

The funds can then be variously used to improve the child’s living conditions — such as providing better food and nutrition or enabling the child to attend school — with the goal of ultimately lifting the child out of poverty entirely.

“What you’re doing is you’re investing in the goals that that family has set for themselves. When a family enters the program, they identify their short-term and long-term goals. And as they check off those short-term goals, they set new ones to walk out of poverty,” Pearson explained. 

“You’re accompanying them, and you’re investing in the plan that [the] mother has for her children,” he continued. 

“The mother, she knows what her family needs and she can use that money effectively. She’s already nurturing and growing her family on just a few dollars a day, so she knows how to use a small amount of money very effectively for the betterment of that family.”

Unbound also facilitates letter writing and the exchange of photographs between sponsors and their sponsored friends in an effort to build personal connection. 

Pearson said when Unbound discovered recently that Roumie was already a sponsor and was passionate about their mission, “it seemed like just a natural partnership to explore.” He said he hopes that more Catholics will consider sponsoring with Unbound, as the organization says it currently has 20,000 children and elderly people awaiting sponsorship.

“We’re just very excited about working with Jonathan, and at this time of year, it is the giving season when people tend to give to organizations that are here to serve,” Pearson continued.

“And we feel like Unbound has something special to offer because it’s not just helping someone who’s in need but also connecting on a human level. And we often miss that.”

Vatican cancels Pope Francis’ trip to climate conference in Dubai, citing ongoing illness

Pope Francis pictured on Nov. 27, 2023. The pope felt well enough to keep his scheduled appointment with the president of Paraguay on Monday morning as he recovers from the flu. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 14:53 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis will not attend the United Nations COP28 climate conference in Dubai this week due to his continuing struggles with lung inflammation stemming from influenza, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

The Holy See Press Office announced on Tuesday that “although the general clinical picture of the Holy Father in relation to the state of influenza and inflammation of the respiratory tract has improved,” the Holy Father’s doctors “have asked the pope not to make the trip planned for the next few days to Dubai on the occasion of the 28th Conference of the Parties for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

“Pope Francis accepted the doctors’ request with great regret and the trip was therefore canceled,” the press office said. 

The Vatican indicated the Holy Father will still attempt to participate in the conference in some fashion.

“As the pope and the Holy See remain willing to be part of the discussions taking place in the coming days, the ways in which this can be implemented will be defined as soon as possible,” the press release said. 

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed on Tuesday that the Holy Father will take part in his customary Wednesday general audience on Nov. 29.  

The Vatican had confirmed on Monday that the Holy Father’s condition was “clearly improving,” with the pontiff in “good and stable” condition and without a fever. 

The pope last week visited the Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome while suffering from a “mild” flu. During that visit, Francis underwent a CT scan to rule out the risk of “pulmonary complications,” the Holy See said on Saturday.

The scan had come back negative, though the Vatican on Monday had said it revealed “lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties.”

The pope had been scheduled to travel to Dubai this weekend to deliver a speech at the COP28 climate conference. The Holy Father would have visited the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1–3 for the conference, marking the first such time a pontiff had attended the event.

Confronting controversy: German-Polish bishops’ dialogue highlights synodal way tensions

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Germany, (left) and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań, Poland. / Credit: Bistum Limburg/ / Bistum Limburg/

CNA Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

A public dispute between the German Bishops’ Conference president and his Polish counterpart took another turn on Monday when both prelates met in person to discuss what the German bishop called “irritations.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Germany, and Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki of Poznan, Poland, spoke on Nov. 27 on the sidelines of the annual plenary meeting of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) in Malta, according to a report by CNA Deutsch.

The German Bishops’ Conference confirmed the encounter. It followed a strongly-worded letter by Bätzing to his Polish counterpart, published on Nov. 21, in which the German bishop accused the Polish archbishop of making “false statements about the Synodal Way.”

The German prelate roundly criticized the Polish archbishop for raising several serious concerns about the controversial German process with Pope Francis.

Bätzing accused his Polish counterpart of “overstepping his authority” and “unbrotherly behavior” by not raising the issue during the synodal meeting in Rome. The German bishop did not explain how the Polish prelate should have done so, given the limited time allocated to delegates for speeches.

Both prelates have already exchanged views over the controversial German initiative: As early as 2022, Gądecki raised serious concerns about whether the controversial German process was rooted in the Gospel.

‘Irritations had arisen’

Bätzing’s latest missive across the German-Polish border — published by the newspaper Rzeczpospolita — likely made for an awkward encounter between the two prelates on Monday.

After the conversation, Bätzing said they had spoken “frankly” with each other, “before we celebrated holy Mass together, about the irritations that had arisen.”

“We agreed that these are not easy times for the Church in both countries,” Bätzing continued, “and that we want to stand together as neighbors, especially in these times, even if we perceive cultural differences in the legitimate diversity of Catholicism and seek our way into a good future in which we aim to witness the good news to people as we have always done.”

The German added that in future, “questions that arise and possible misunderstandings in our mutual perception should be addressed and shared in the tried and tested way in the German-Polish Contact Group.”

It’s unclear whether this maneuver by the German prelate will quell concerns over the Synodal Way. Not only have fears of a new schism from Germany increased over the past few months, but for years concerns have been publicly raised about the Synodal Way by Church leaders not only from Poland but also the Nordic countries and around the world.

The Vatican has also repeatedly intervened against the German process.

On Nov. 24, Rome informed German bishops that the ordination of women and changes in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality could not be subjects of discussion in the upcoming meetings with delegates of the German Synodal Way in Rome.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis told four prominent German women who quit the German Synodal Way that he shared their concerns.

The German Bishops’ Conference president and other Synodal Way organizers have either dismissed or decried all concerns.

In his latest letter to Gądecki, Bätzing claimed that “nowhere in the texts of the Synodal Way” was there an “intention to bring about a revolution in the universal Church.”

Pope Francis reportedly takes Vatican apartment, salary from Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke at EWTN's studio in Rome during the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. / Credit: Steven Driscoll/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2023 / 13:34 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has stripped one of his top American critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, of his Vatican housing and salary privileges, the Associated Press is reporting.

According to the AP report, which is based on conversations with two anonymous sources briefed on the measures, the pope discussed his planned actions against the American prelate at a Nov. 20 meeting of Vatican office heads.

The pope reportedly said that Burke was a source of “disunity” in the Church and that he was using the privileges afforded to retired cardinals against the Church.

The Italian Catholic news blog La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana first reported pending actions against Burke on Nov. 27.

“Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I take away his apartment and his salary,” the pope had said at the Nov. 20 meeting, according to Bussola’s undisclosed Vatican source.

CNA was unable to immediately reach Burke to confirm the measures against him. The Vatican’s communications office did not respond to EWTN’s request for comment by time of publication.

The AP reported that the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, “referred questions to Burke.”

“I don’t have anything particular to say about that,” Bruni told reporters.

Burke was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1975 and was bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1995 to 2004 and archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008. Widely regarded as an expert in canon law, Burke was appointed in 2008 as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Church) by Pope Benedict XVI. Two years later, Benedict made him a cardinal. 

Pope Francis removed him from the post of prefect in 2014 and instead appointed him cardinal patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a mostly ceremonial role dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the members of the order. He remained patron until this year but had held only the title, having been reportedly restricted from active involvement since 2016 and thus sidelined during the extensive institutional reforms of the order over the last years. In June, Pope Francis named Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, as Burke’s official replacement. At the time of the announcement, Burke was only a few days away from the customary retirement age for bishops of 75.

Burke has emerged as a strong critic of some of Pope Francis’ initiatives.

He was one of the five cardinals who sent “dubia” to Pope Francis asking for clarification on the Church’s position on doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women’s ordination, and sacramental absolution. 

The document was made public on the eve of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican and discussed at an Oct. 2 press conference in which Burke took part and expressed his concerns about the synod.

“It is unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has for its purpose the advancement of an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke said.

This would not be the first former curial official this year asked to leave his Vatican living quarters.

According to a German newspaper report in June, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop Georg Gänswein to leave the Vatican and return to Germany. Gänswein, a longtime secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, served as prefect of the Papal Household to both Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, until February 2020. Gänswein’s departure from the Vatican following the death of Benedict and subsequent dismissal by Pope Francis was seen by some as a fall from grace.

According to the German media report, Pope Francis in his comments on the decision “referred to the custom that the former private secretaries of deceased popes did not remain in Rome.”

Like Burke, Gänswein, 66, is without portfolio.

This is a developing story.

5 things to know about the debate on euthanasia in Ecuador

null / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The discussion about the decriminalization of euthanasia in Ecuador started Nov. 20 when the country’s constitutional court began to evaluate the arguments for and against the request of a woman with an incurable disease who seeks to end her life.

Here are the key points to understand in the debate:

1. In Ecuador, euthanasia is illegal.

Euthanasia is illegal in Ecuador. The country’s constitution establishes in Article 66 “the right to the inviolability of life” and “to personal (physical) integrity.” In addition, there is no specific legislation that allows euthanasia or that considers there to be a “right to death.”

In a recent interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Pablo Proaño, a lawyer at the law firm Dignidad y Derecho (Dignity and Law) of Ecuador, explained that euthanasia is considered a “crime of homicide” and that the penal code “does not admit of exceptions.”

He also clarified that patients have the right to decide to undergo or continue with treatment or to decide not to do so. “If, as a consequence of this informed and free decision, the person dies, there is no penalty.”

In Latin America, only Colombia allows euthanasia. In 1997 that country’s constitutional court decriminalized the practice and in 2015 it issued a ruling that regulates it under certain specific conditions.

2. An ALS patient initiated the debate for the decriminalization of euthanasia.

On Aug. 8, Paola Roldán, a 42-year-old woman who has been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for three years, filed a lawsuit with the constitutional court to declare Article 144 of the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code unconstitutional. The article punishes causing a person to die under various circumstances (i.e., not first degree murder) with sentences of 10-13 years in prison.

ALS is a neurodegenerative and muscular condition that paralyzes all the muscles in the body including those used for eating, speaking, and breathing.

After a period of three months, the Supreme Court of Ecuador determined that her case should have a public hearing, which began Nov. 20 and could last several weeks. There is no set time for the ruling to be issued, and the decision will be made by a majority vote of the nine justices.

The first hearing was chaired by constitutional judge Enrique Herrería, who listened to Roldán’s arguments and her lawyers as well as representatives of the government, the National Assembly, and experts with different positions.

3. Roldán’s legal team advocates for a supposed right to “death with dignity.”

One of her three lawyers, Ramiro Ávila, told the Spanish news agency EFE on Nov. 19 that “Paola needs legal authorization to have a mercy killing, because if someone assists her in the death, he could face a sentence of up to 13 years.”

During the Nov. 20 hearing, Ávila asked the court to recognize the supposed “death with dignity” for those who experience intense physical or emotional suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or injury and who freely choose to undergo a euthanasia procedure.

The law firm Dignity and Law pointed out Nov. 15 that the constitution does not consider there to be a “right to death” and that an effort is being made to “oblige the state to recognize, guarantee, and promote the supposed right to ‘death with dignity’ well beyond establishing an exception to the punishment of the crime of homicide.”

“Instead of recognizing the ‘right to die,’ both the constitution of Ecuador and international treaties reject this notion and establish the duty to accompany and protect the incurably sick, disabled, elderly, and dying, precisely out of respect for human dignity,” he noted.

4. The decision of the constitutional court will create a precedent.

Farith Simón, one of Roldán’s lawyers, told the Associated Press that the ruling could create “a set of situations similar to those to which the norm would apply.”

“Paola filed this appeal thinking about herself and other people who could suffer similar circumstances so that they can, if they want, exercise this right,” he added.

Dignity and Law attorney Proaño explained to ACI Prensa that, indeed, the ruling of the constitutional court would open the door for all people in similar situations to “access euthanasia without legal consequences for doctors and family members.”

The lawyer also pointed out that in other countries in the region, such as Peru and Colombia, the decriminalization of euthanasia has advanced through the higher courts with similar cases.

5. Experts advocate access to palliative care instead of euthanasia.

Dignity and Law said in a Nov. 21 statement that the Ecuadorian legal system is not only opposed to euthanasia “since it involves forcing the death of a human being” but also to therapeutic cruelty.

Therapeutic cruelty refers to the medical practice of continuing aggressive or invasive treatments without obvious benefits for the patient, despite suffering from serious or terminal illnesses. “It unjustifiably prolongs life and lengthens the patient’s suffering,” the law firm explained.

Dr. Pilar Calva Mercado, a surgeon with a specialty in human genetics and bioethics, said in a Nov. 21 statement that “avoiding cruelty involves accepting a consequential death and the natural end, unlike euthanasia that seeks to cause it directly.”

Dignity and Law demands that terminally ill patients not be forced through unnecessary medical treatments to prolong their agony “but that, at the same time, they do not stop receiving the necessary ordinary care: food, hydration, cleaning, and a patent airway in addition to palliative care that, currently, reduces pain by up to 95%.”

The law firm highlighted the need to “reinforce the mechanisms that allow a dignified life for these people” and that they be “guaranteed the minimum care necessary so that death comes naturally with due support for the patient and their loved ones.”

The firm also noted that instead of allowing euthanasia in Ecuador, the National Health System must be improved as well as financial and medical support for the families of incurable patients. Dignity and Law also demanded respect for international human rights treaties.

“What international law seeks is to protect those who suffer from terminal illnesses, so that they can die with dignity, that is, by receiving adequate medical, emotional, and legal support that does not force them to endure unnecessary suffering or prolong life unjustifiably,” Dignity and Law argued.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Here are Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 at the Vatican

Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 24, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 09:03 am (CNA).

As the preparatory season of Advent draws near, the Vatican has published the schedule of Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 through the Jan. 7 feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Most of the liturgies will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following his custom in recent years, Pope Francis will preside over a Christmas Eve “Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m. in the basilica.

On Christmas Day, he will deliver the traditional “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing from the central balcony on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This blessing is given only on Christmas and Easter or on other exceptional occasions and includes the pope’s wishes for peace in the world.

For the vigil of the Jan. 1 solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the pope will preside over first vespers, also known as evening prayer. The prayer service will also include the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.

This year, Dec. 31 will also mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 95.

On Jan. 1, 2024, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is also commemorated as the World Day of Peace.

For the solemnity of Epiphany, which is observed in Italy and the Vatican on Jan. 6, Francis will again preside at a Mass at 10 a.m. 

And on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 7, Pope Francis will preside at a Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where he will also baptize the babies of several Vatican employees.

Among other pre-Christmas festivities, the Vatican will also unveil its Nativity scene and light its Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 9, one day after the Dec. 8 solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when Pope Francis will mark the feast day by honoring the Virgin Mary with a prayer near the Spanish Steps.

Here are 14 Catholic organizations to support this GivingTuesday

Outside a homeless shelter. / Credit: Adrian Fallace via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

GivingTuesday, annually held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity.” First created in 2012, GivingTuesday is a day that encourages people around the world to do something good for others — whether donating to a worthy cause or simply helping your neighbors take out their garbage.

In honor of GivingTuesday, we’ve compiled a list of Catholic organizations that are making a difference globally or in their local communities.

Pro-life support

St. Gianna’s Place in Londonderry, New Hampshire, is a transitional home for women facing unplanned pregnancies and their children. In addition to providing women with shelter, St. Gianna’s place offers women job and life skills training, parenting skills, and spiritual, emotional, and social support.

Gabriel’s Retreat Ministries helps women “find love and support when expecting the unexpected.” Retreats offered by this ministry are available for pregnant or new moms, up to one year postpartum, at no cost and are designed to nurture their faith as daughters of God and find joy in motherhood. The retreats, which take place across the state of Missouri, are also open to women facing an unexpected maternal or fetal diagnosis.

Vocational support

The formation of priests is an essential part of the life and growth of the Church, as well as ensuring Catholics around the world can have access to the sacraments. The St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C., works to prepare young men for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination into the priesthood. Similarly, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminaries bring men from all over the world, inspired by the Neocatechumenal Way, to prepare for life as a missionary priest. There are 101 Redemptoris Mater seminaries throughout the world and six in the U.S.: Newark, New Jersey; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Dallas; and Miami.

You may also consider visiting your archdiocesan website to see if there are any special collections for your local seminary. 

Support the elderly

St. Agnes Home is a senior care facility run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in Kirkwood, Missouri. The assisted living facility offers 24-hour nursing oversight, care from certified nurse aides, access to physical therapy, and group outings, among several others. However, what sets St. Agnes Home apart from the rest is the spiritual aspect. Daily Mass is celebrated along with weekly Eucharistic adoration, rosaries, and other spiritual activities. 

Housing support

For men suffering from addiction, the Assisi Bridge House in Houma, Louisiana, is a residential halfway house that gives these men the opportunity to live in a community setting in which they make a commitment to change their lives. Each individual is given a care plan tailored to their personal needs, and family participation is highly encouraged. The rehabilitation program also includes aspects of spirituality and church attendance. 

Support for the disabled

Camp I Am Special in Fruit Cove, Florida, fosters and celebrates the lives of children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities by hosting in-person camps that give these individuals the opportunity to grow in independence. The programming at the camp allows them to take risks, stretch their abilities, and enjoy the company of others.

Several dioceses also have their own foundations individuals can donate to supporting those with disabilities. For example, in the Diocese of Wichita, the Holy Family Special Needs Foundation works to foster the human, intellectual, and spiritual growth of people with disabilities through education, activities, and services.

International aid

If you are looking to help those suffering in the Middle East, there are several organizations accepting donations in order to help with critical relief. Catholic Relief Services is working to provide families with assistance in the Holy Land and Palestine. In addition to bringing aid to those in the Holy Land, Aid to the Church in Need and Caritas International are working to help those suffering in other parts of the world such as Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, Africa, and Morocco. 


Catholic media organizations such as Word on Fire and Ascension work to provide Catholic content to the faithful and help them encounter Christ through digital and print media.

EWTN is looking for 1,000 new monthly donors to proclaim the Eternal Word worldwide. Consider becoming a monthly donor to help provide programming that is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. (Editor’s note: EWTN is the parent company of Catholic News Agency.)