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Pope Francis names Jeffrey Sachs to pontifical academy

Economist Jeffrey Sachs. / World Trade Organization via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday appointed the economist Jeffrey Sachs to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The Holy See press office said on Oct. 25 that the pope had named Sachs as an “ordinary member” of the academy founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II to promote the study and progress of the social sciences.

Sachs, the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, has been a frequent visitor to the Vatican in recent years.

The 66-year-old was a featured speaker in at least six Vatican conferences in 2019-2020, lecturing on topics from education to ethics.

The president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network also took part in the Amazon synod in October 2019 and “The Economy of Francesco” international virtual event in November 2020.

Sachs, who has served as an adviser to three United Nations secretaries-general, has advocated for a reduction in fertility rates in developing countries through the dissemination of contraception, a view at odds with Catholic teaching.

“Success at reducing high fertility rates depends on keeping girls in school, ensuring that children survive, and providing access to modern family planning and contraceptives,” he wrote in 2011.

CNA asked Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, about this statement in February 2020.

Sorondo responded that Sachs had made the comment in 2011. “Now he has changed,” the Argentine bishop said.

He explained that Sachs had featured with such frequency at Vatican conferences “because he integrates the magisterium of the Church and of Pope Francis into economics by putting the human person and the common good at the center.”

CNA asked Sachs in February 2020 how his advocacy for reducing fertility rates and contraception squared with Pope Francis’ sense of “integral human ecology,” and whether he believed it was right for people in the developed world to advocate lifestyle choices to those in the developing world.

Sachs replied that he strongly agreed with “Pope Francis’ support for ‘responsible parenthood’ as also enunciated by Pope St. Paul VI. This idea means that families, that is mothers and fathers together, should take a rational decision on having children based on their circumstances with focus of securing their flourishing.”

Sachs is a special advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by U.N. member states in 2015 in a resolution called 2030 Agenda.

SDG target 5.6 is to “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”

Sachs told CNA in 2020: “Access to abortion is a choice left to each nation. The Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 do not mention abortion or promote abortion.”

Sachs was born on Nov. 5, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated in economics from Harvard University. He has taught at Harvard and was director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Time magazine has twice named him among the 100 most influential world leaders and the Economist magazine ranked him among the top three most influential living economists.

A specialist in monetary theory and international finance, Sachs is associated with the term “shock therapy,” used to describe his plans for post-communist Poland and Russia to move rapidly from a state-controlled to a free-market economy.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who ran for president in 2016 and 2020, wrote the foreword to Sach’s 2017 book “Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable.”

Sachs has criticized the Biden administration’s contention that China is engaged in genocide against the Uighur people in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

In April, Sachs wrote: “There are credible charges of human rights abuses against Uighurs, but those do not per se constitute genocide.”

According to the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, candidates for membership are proposed to the body’s president by at least two current members.

“The Council of the Academy presents to the Academy a list of candidates for each vacancy. The Assembly takes a secret vote to indicate the order of preference in which the candidates are to be proposed to the Supreme Pontiff,” it says.

“Academicians are appointed for a term of 10 years and can be reappointed directly by the Supreme Pontiff after consulting the President and the Council of the Academy. Academicians may also resign.”

Indian Catholic archbishop criticizes Christian missionary survey plan

St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, mother church of the Archdiocese of Bangalore. / Saad Faruque via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Bengaluru, India, Oct 25, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

A proposed survey of Christian missionaries and their places of worship could lead to church workers being “unfairly targeted,” a Catholic archbishop in India has said.

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore made the statement on Oct. 15 in response to media reports that the state government of Karnataka, in southwest India, intended to undertake a survey as it deliberates over whether to pass an anti-conversion law.

“We consider this exercise as futile and unnecessary. There is no good that will come out of it,” the archbishop said.

“In fact, in the background of the conversion bogey and anti-religious feelings that are being whipped up, it is dangerous to make such surveys.”

“With this our community places of worship as also pastors and sisters will be identified and may be unfairly targeted. We are already hearing of such sporadic incidents in the north and in Karnataka.”

Eight of India’s 29 states have passed anti-conversion laws, aimed at preventing conversions from Hinduism to minority religions by “force” or “inducement.”

Christians comprise 2.3% of India’s population, according to the 2011 census, making it the third-largest religion after Hinduism (79.8%) and Islam (14.2%).

Machado, archbishop of Bangalore since 2018, asked why the state government wanted to single out Christian personnel and places of worship in the proposed survey.

He appealed to Basavaraj Bommai, the chief minister of Karnataka and a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), not to give in to “the pressures from fundamentalist groups, who wish to indulge in disturbing the peace, harmony, and peaceful co-existence.”

UCA News reported that the state government decided to conduct the survey on Oct. 13 after a BJP lawmaker claimed that conversions were widespread, saying that his mother had converted to Christianity.

The state of Karnataka has a population of 64 million people, 84% of whom are Hindus, 13% Muslims, and 2% Christian.

Machado, president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council, said in his message: “Let the government take the count of the educational institutions and health centers run by the Christian missionaries.”

“That will give a fair idea of the service that is rendered by the Christian community to the nation-building. How many people are converted in these places and institutions? If as alleged by some, Christians are converting indiscriminately, why the percentage of Christian population is reducing regularly when compared to the others?”

The archbishop, who is responsible for a 400,000-strong flock, underlined that the Church had always opposed “forceful, fraudulent, and incentivized conversions.”

He added that the Catholic community abided by the “supreme and sacred” Constitution of India.

He pointed out that Article 25 of the constitution guarantees “the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.”

“Why do we need any anti-conversion laws when there are enough safeguards enshrined in the Constitution and the legal system of the country to punish the guilty?” Machado asked.

“Further laws will only be tools in the hands of a few to hound and persecute the innocent.”

The 67-year-old archbishop concluded: “The Christian community is patriotic, law-abiding and would like to be foremost in the service of the poor and downtrodden in the country. We need support and encouragement from the government.”

Pope Francis appeals that migrants not be sent back to unsafe countries

Pope Francis gives his Angelus address on Oct. 24, 2021. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Oct 24, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made an appeal for migrants Sunday, calling on the international community to stop deporting migrants to unsafe countries.

“I express my closeness to the thousands of migrants, refugees and others in need of protection in Libya: I never forget you; I hear your cries and pray for you,” Pope Francis said on Oct. 24.

“We need to end the return of migrants to unsafe countries and prioritize rescuing lives at sea,” he said.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope asked the Catholic pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray in silence for migrants, many of whom he said had been subjected to “inhumane violence.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Once again I call on the international community to keep its promises to seek common, concrete and lasting solutions for the management of migratory flows in Libya and throughout the Mediterranean,” the pope said.

“And how those who are turned away suffer! There are real camps there,” he added.

Libya is a main transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East who seek a better life in Europe.

An estimated 87,000 migrants have been intercepted by the Libyan authorities since 2016, according to a report from the United Nations, which found that about 7,000 of those migrants remain in detention centers in Libya.

Libyan authorities have recently crackdown on migrants, detaining more than 5,000 people in a few days, according to the Associated Press, which reported that the detention centers were “rife with abuses.”

In his appeal, the pope called in particular for “safe and reliable rescue and disembarkation equipment,” and alternatives to detention with decent living conditions.

Pope Francis underlined the importance of ensuring “access to asylum procedures” and establishing regular migration routes.

“Let us all feel responsible for these brothers and sisters of ours, who have been victims of this very serious situation for too many years,” he said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Gospel account of Jesus restoring sight to Bartimaeus, a blind man begging by the roadside.

“His blindness was the tip of the iceberg; but there must have been wounds, humiliations, broken dreams, mistakes, remorse in his heart,” the pope said.

According to the Gospel of Mark, Bartimaeus called out to Jesus and said: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Pope Francis said: “Jesus hears, and immediately stops. God always listens to the cry of the poor … He realizes it is full of faith, a faith that is not afraid to insist, to knock on the door of God’s heart.”

The pope said that Bartimaeus asked “for everything from the One who can do everything.”

“He asks for mercy on his person, on his life. It is not a small request, but it is so beautiful because it is a cry for mercy, that is, compassion, God’s mercy, his tenderness.”

Pope Francis encouraged people to make the prayer of Bartimaeus their own by bringing their own “wounds, humiliations, broken dreams, mistakes, remorse” to God in prayer and repeating: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

“We must ask everything of Jesus, who can do everything. ... He cannot wait to pour out his grace and joy into our hearts; but unfortunately, it is we who keep our distance, through timidness, laziness or unbelief,” he said.

“May Bartimaeus, with his concrete, insistent and courageous faith, be an example for us. And may Our Lady, the prayerful Virgin, teach us to turn to God with all our heart, confident that He listens attentively to every prayer,” Pope Francis said.

Yad Vashem: Vatican librarian Cardinal Tisserant made heroic efforts to save Jews

Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, who was dean of the College of Cardinals from 1951 to 1972, and has been named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. / public domain

Denver Newsroom, Oct 23, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Eugene Tisserant was a librarian who knew more than 10 languages, advised multiple popes, and held key Vatican positions.

He also deserves credit for helping multiple Jews escape persecution in Europe, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, said on Thursday. The Jerusalem-based center will remember the cardinal and two of his collaborators as “Righteous Among the Nations” in a ceremony at a later date.

Yad Vashem aims to educate about the Holocaust, its millions of victims, and its perpetrators. The center has recognized about 28,000 people from over 50 countries as “Righteous Among the Nations”, non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust at great risk to themselves.

In particular, Yad Vashem recounted Tisserant’s role in aiding Miron Lerner, who was born to Jewish immigrants in Paris in 1927 but orphaned in 1937 with his sister Rivka.

In 1941 the siblings made their way to Italy with other Jewish refugees. Lerner found help from Father Pierre-Marie Benoît and others who were part of the Italian-Jewish rescue group Delasem, the Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Immigrants. The priest and his collaborators worked from the Franciscan Capuchin monastery on Via Sicilia in Rome. Benoît is credited with helping save some 4,000 Jews and was honored by Yad Vashem in 1966.

However, his work was exposed during the war and he was forced to flee from Rome, while Lerner took sanctuary in the monastery. After a different priest wrote to Tisserant about Lerner’s plight, the cardinal met with the young Jewish boy at his office outside the Vatican.

When Lerner told the cardinal he was Jewish, the cardinal replied: “That is irrelevant. What can I do for you?”

Tisserant connected Lerner to another clergyman who helped the boy find refuge with François De Vial, a French diplomat to the Holy See.

Later, Tisserant smuggled Lerner to a small monastery in the Vatican. After a month’s time, in early 1944, the cardinal moved Lerner to a monastery near the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome. Msgr. André Bouquin was rector of this monastery, where Lerner stayed until Rome was liberated in the summer of 1944. He would later recount that the clergy did not pressure him to convert, but “the nuns were unbearable.” Lerner was able to reunite with his sister in Paris.

Yad Vashem declared both De Vial and Bouquin “Righteous Among the Gentiles” alongside Tisserant. But the cardinal’s heroics saved many more.

Tisserant was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Nancy, in northeast France, in 1907 at the age of 23. He studied in Jerusalem and various French schools, becoming fluent in some 11 languages: not only Italian, German, and English but also Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Syrian, Assyrian, and Ethiopian, according to an October 1958 briefing from the National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service

He served in the French Army in World War I. After a time of service in the Vatican Library as assistant librarian, curator, and prefect, Pius XI named him Secretary for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and elevated him to cardinal in 1936, at the age of 52.

Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the then-Vatican Secretary of State who would become Pius XII, consecrated him as bishop that year. He would soon become president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, a position he would hold for more than 30 years.

Tisserant’s service at the Vatican included the period of the Second World War, when Jews suffered persecution under the Nazis and their allies across Europe.

In 1939, racial laws enacted in Italy resulted in the firing of Guido Mendes, the head of a Jewish hospital in Rome. In response, Tisserant award Mendes a Medal of Honor from the Congregation of Eastern Churches, “in clear defiance of the government,” Yad Vashem said. The cardinal then worked to secure immigration certificates for Mendes and his family.

The cardinal sought to secure a Brazilian visa for Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, and to this end he corresponded with Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Venerable Pius XII’s first Secretary of State.

He helped the Jewish linguist and outspoken anti-fascist Giorgio Levi Della Vida move to the U.S., where spent the war as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

While visiting the U.S. in the 1930s, Tisserant had met Cesare Verona, a Remington typewriter salesman from Northern Italy on a business trip. Verona sought help from the cardinal during the Second World War, and the cardinal hid him in his private residence with another Jewish family. Verona’s wife, Eugénie Crémieux, was hidden in a monastery at Tisserant’s initiative.

In a letter to the cardinal after the war, Verona told him his assistance “came from heaven.”

Tisserant continued to serve the Church long after the war. For many years he was one of the few non-Italians in the Roman Curia.

From 1957 to 1971, Tisserant served as Librarian of the Vatican Library and Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archive. He was credited with modernizing library practices there. 

He was voted a member of the French Academy in 1961 and received honorary degrees from many universities, including Princeton University, Fordham University, and Duquesne University.

In 1960, St. John XXIII named him Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. During the Second Vatican Council, Tisserant was chairman of the Council of the Presidency, a key leadership body.

The cardinal served as Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1951 to his death more than thirty years later.

Tisserant died in Rome Feb. 22, 1972, at the age of 87.

Human rights begin in the womb, Cardinal Dolan says

Cardinal Timothy Dolan. / Stephen Driscoll/CNA

New York City, N.Y., Oct 23, 2021 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

The first step to ending all forms of violence in society— whether related to crime, racism, or poverty— is ending the violence of abortion, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote in an Oct. 20 column. 

“I propose [violence] will not end until we stop the presumed untouchable radical abortion license that seems to have captivated a segment of our society,” Dolan wrote in his Catholic New York column.

“As Mother Teresa wrote, ‘We must not be surprised when we hear of murder, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left for us but to kill each other?’”

In a politically and culturally divided society, the one thing that seems to unite all sides, Dolan wrote, “is the worry that our world has lost a basic respect for life.”

Dolan cited several compelling examples of lamentable treatment of human life, including the plight of millions of destitute refugees and migrants; the recent horrific scenes during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan; disregard by some for vulnerable lives during the coronavirus pandemic; violent crime, including the murder of George Floyd; the rise in suicides, especially among the young; and the frequent spectre, in so many places, of mass shootings. 

These examples, he wrote, show how “human life is now treated as useless, worthless, disposable.” He cited Pope Francis’ words on the subject, that such things are part of a “throwaway-culture.”

Dolan argued that laws allowing for the killing and dismemberment of innocent babies in the womb send a powerful anti-life message that threatens everyone. 

“Think about it: if the fragile life of an innocent baby in the womb of her/his mother— which nature protects as the safest place anywhere—can be terminated, who is secure?” Dolan wrote.

“If conveniences, ‘choices,’ or ‘my rights’ can trump the life of the baby in the womb, what human life is unthreatened?...When the law allows vulnerable life to be destroyed, forces health care workers to do it against their consciences, and demands that our tax money subsidize it, what message are we giving about the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of life?”

Dolan noted Robert F. Kennedy’s observation that “the health and moral fiber of society is gauged by the way we protect the most helpless and vulnerable.” 

“Who is more fragile and unable to defend herself/himself than the tiny infant in the womb?” he asked. 

“To suck that baby out of the womb, dismember it, or poison it is, as Pope Francis describes, like hiring a ‘hitman’ to assassinate a victim.”

Dolan urged all men and women, with faith or without, to speak up for the “defenseless” unborn babies and to denounce the “right” to abortion as “inhumane, violent, and contrary to human rights.”

Alta Fixsler dies in hospice

Alta Fixsler / EWTN News In Depth / Family Photo

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2021 / 13:36 pm (CNA).

Alta Fixsler, the two-year-old British girl whose parents fought to keep on life support, died October 18 after her life support was withdrawn. 

“Sad news, little Alta Fixsler’s life support was turned off this afternoon and she died at the hospice with her parents by her side,” said a statement from a representative for her parents, Chaya and Abraham Fixsler. 

Alta reportedly lived for over an hour once the machines were removed. 

Due to a severe brain injury suffered at birth, Fixsler was unable to eat or breathe without assistance and had spent her entire life at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Her parents, Hasidic Jews, objected to removing her from life support and fought to continue her care. 

Doctors had previously believed that Fixsler would only live for hours after her birth due to the severity of the injury. 

The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for her care, requested permission in May to remove Fixsler’s life support.

Fixsler’s case drew international attention as her parents sought to move her from the hospital in Manchester to receive experimental treatment elsewhere. 

A spokesperson for the Fixslers expressed disappointment at the October court decision that would eventually result in Alta’s death, and called for legislation to protect the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. 

"Despite our best efforts and deep discussions to continue Alta's critical care and give her the best possible quality of life, we are distraught at the decision taken by the court to end her life,” said the spokesperson. 

"We strongly believe that making life-changing decisions on behalf of children ought to be a parental right and it is important that we open up the debate around this. We call on the government to look at the current legislation and change it."

Her father, who is a citizen of both the United States and Israel, was granted a visa for his daughter in an attempt to take her to the United States for medical care. They were not permitted to leave the hospital. Her mother is also an Israeli citizen. 

The then-president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, appealed to Prince Charles in June, saying her situation was “a matter of grave and urgent humanitarian importance.” 

“It is the fervent wish of her parents, who are devoutly religious Jews and Israeli citizens, that their daughter be brought to Israel,” said Rivlin. “Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life and have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel.”

In May, the British High Court ruled against the Fixslers, saying that she should be receiving palliative care and have her life support withdrawn. The High Court said that “Alta is not of an age, nor in a condition to have knowledge of and to adopt her parents’ values.” 

In Judaism, any child born to a Jewish mother is automatically considered to be Jewish. 

Both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s ruling that Alta’s life support should be removed, as did the European Court of Human Rights. Judges said that moving her from the hospital would bring “no medical benefit” and was risky. 

After losing their appeals, the Fixslers asked if they could take their daughter out of the hospital to die at their home. That, too, was denied, and a judge ruled that she was to die in a children’s hospice. 

A hospice, said the judge, "best accommodates Alta's welfare need for specialist care at the end of her life under a reliable, safe and sustainable system of high calibre care protected from disruption, whilst allowing, in so far as possible and consistent with Alta's best interests, the family and the community to perform the sacred religious obligations of the Orthodox Jewish faith."

Fixsler will reportedly be buried in Israel.

Oklahoma City archbishop issues call to prayer for end to abortion, death penalty

Archbishop Paul Coakley. Courtesy photo. / null

Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct 23, 2021 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City has issued a call to prayer for the abolition of the death penalty and for the end to abortion in Oklahoma. 

“We must pray for a renewed focus on the precious gift of life - all life from conception until natural death,” said Coakley in a statement published on the archdiocesan website Oct. 20. “We need urgent prayers for our leaders that they have wisdom and courage to create laws and policies that respect the dignity of human life.”

Oklahoma is scheduled to execute seven individuals between Oct. 28 and March 10. The state’s last execution was on Jan. 15, 2015. 

“I ask that we offer special prayers now through the beginning of Advent for greater respect for life, and to pray on the day of the execution for victims of these horrendous crimes and their families, and for the souls of the condemned,” said Coakley.  “As Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical, ‘The Gospel of Life,’ may God grant that all who believe in Jesus proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.”

October is regarded by the USCCB as “Respect Life Month” and the “Month of the Rosary.” 

Coakley encouraged those looking to respond to his call to prayer to pray the rosary, spend time in adoration, pray every day explicitly for an end to abortion and capital punishment, and to pray for the respect of all life.

Oklahoma had previously paused the use of the death penalty following the botched execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett. Medical professionals repeatedly failed to insert an IV into Lockett’s veins, and the execution was halted after 33 minutes. 

Lockett eventually died 10 minutes after the execution was paused due to a massive heart attack.

Indigenous prayers, dancing in San Bernardino Synod Mass spark backlash

Michael Madrigal, a lay minister in the Diocese of San Bernardino, recites the “Native American Prayer to the Four Directions” at the beginning of the diocese’s opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality, Oct. 17, 2021 at Holy Angels Church in Riverside, California. / Screen grab photo of YouTube video.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2021 / 11:33 am (CNA).

The Diocese of San Bernardino says its opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality Oct. 17 sought to celebrate the California diocese’s rich cultural diversity and welcome those on the “periphery” of the Church.

But the liturgy’s unusual pageantry, featuring liturgical dancers, a Native American prayer to the “four directions,” and the appearance at the end of Mass of a colorfully costumed figure that resembled traditional representations of an Aztec demon, has raised eyebrows and sparked criticism on social media.

“Paganism in full bloom,” read one comment on YouTube. “This is an absolute disgrace to God and His Holy Church,” stated another.

The Synod on Synodality is a global consultative process that Pope Francis initiated earlier this month to gather input from Catholics and others around the world about important issues confronting the Church. Many U.S. dioceses held Masses last weekend to inaugurate a yearlong period of listening sessions and other means of soliciting feedback.

Bishop Alberto Rojas was the main celebrant of the San Bernardino diocese’s approximately two-hour-long opening Mass, held Sunday evening at Queen of Angels Church in Riverside, California. San Bernardino Bishop Emeritus Gerald R. Barnes concelebrated the Mass.

The live streamed, multi-lingual liturgy began in dramatic fashion. A lay minister who works at a nearby Indian reservation led the procession into the sanctuary, waving a large bird feather with one hand while carrying a basket in the other, to the accompaniment of beating drums.

After circling the altar and arriving at the lectern, Michael Madrigal, who the diocese identified as a lay minister at St. Joseph Mission Catholic Church on the Soboba Indian Reservation, removed a wooden rattle from the basket and shook it while chanting in a Native American language. Then, in English, he recited the “Native American Prayer of the Four Directions.”

“We begin to the North,” Madrigal began. “It is the direction of the cool winter snows and ice. It is the direction of our healing medicines from where we receive prayer and ceremony and blessings from our creator. In this direction, we pray for all of our spiritual leaders. We pray for strength and blessings for Pope Francis, as he has called us together for this year of Synod. We pray for all of our bishops, priests, religious, and community leaders. We ask you to give them wisdom, strength for the journey.” Similar prayers directed to the East, South, and West invoked the Trinity and asked God for guidance, healing, and protection.

You can watch the full Synod Mass in the YouTube video below. The Mass begins at the 7:53 mark. The entrance procession begins at the 11:15 mark. Matachines dancers appear at the 2:03:13 mark.

Contacted by CNA, a spokesperson for the diocese explained in an email that the prayer’s significance is two-fold. First, the prayer is meant to “reflect the multicultural character of the Diocese and to give voice to Catholic expressions that could be considered on the periphery.”

Second, “this prayer, by its nature, helps the faithful reflect on the entire web of life that God has created — a central idea in Pope Francis’s [encyclical] Laudato Si.”

There is a danger, however, that cultural expressions during the Mass can distract from the proper focus on the Eucharist, said Fr. Daniel Cardó, Benedict XVI Chair of Liturgical Studies at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

“There are many occasions in the life of a diocese or a parish for cultural and self-expression, but the Mass is not the place for these,” Cardó wrote in an email to CNA. 

“True and lasting ecclesial unity comes from the Eucharist, not from our well-

intentioned human experiments,” he stated. “Celebrating the sacraments according to the rubrics and their spirit is the ordinary and simple path for genuine participation in the graces God offers through them.”

Bishop Alberto Rojas of San Bernardino during the diocese’s opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality, Oct. 17, 2021 at Queen of Angels Church in Riverside, California. Screen grab photo of YouTube video.
Bishop Alberto Rojas of San Bernardino during the diocese’s opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality, Oct. 17, 2021 at Queen of Angels Church in Riverside, California. Screen grab photo of YouTube video.

In his homily, Rojas described the synodal path as an invitation to listen to and welcome “all the people in the margins of society.”

“Guided by the Holy Spirit, we come together from different cultures and languages around the world, but united in Christ as one family of families to pray and to listen to each other,” he continued. “We want all the people in the margins of society to know that they are welcome in our communities because they are all children of God created in the same image and likeness of God our Father.”

Near the end of the Mass, Rojas took a moment to explain the symbolism of the entrance procession.

“If you noticed, when we entered the Church, the entrance procession, it was a little different than what we have done in the past,” the bishop said. “Normally, the priest or the presider or the bishops come in the very back, at the end of the process. You noticed this time we were in the middle, symbolizing walking together.”

Moments later, traditional Mexican Indian dancers, called matachines, wearing bells on their clothing and tall, feathered headdresses, filed in front of the altar. After a final blessing, interspersed with loud drum beats, they processed out of the church, dancing.

One of the two drummers positioned at the foot of the steps leading to the altar appeared to be wearing a jaguar costume, which some viewers associated with the Aztec jaguar-demon Texcatilpoca. The diocese did not respond to a followup email from CNA seeking an explanation.

While some social media commentators said they were deeply offended by some of the cultural aspects of the Mass, the Church generally has provided wide discretion in the liturgical use of cultural traditions.

Inculturation of the liturgy has a long history, but has come to particular prominence since the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the sacred liturgy included norms for adapting the liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples. 

Echoing Sacrosanctum Concilium and recent documents of the Congregation for Divine Worship, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal indicates that “the pursuit of inculturation does not have as its purpose in any way the creation of new families of rites, but aims rather at meeting the needs of a particular culture, though in such a way that adaptations introduced either into the Missal or coordinated with other liturgical books are not at variance with the proper character of the Roman Rite.”

Cardó, however, said there is a proper time and place for celebrating cultural traditions and diversity.

“Thankfully, there are plenty of occasions for other kinds of human and cultural exchanges,” he stated. “But the Mass is the supreme act of adoration, thanksgiving, expiation, and petition, and this is truly experienced through a beautiful and reverent celebration of the Eucharist.”

Pope Francis: Our response to injustice must be more than condemnation

Pope Francis meets with the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation at the Vatican on Oct. 23, 2021. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Denunciation is not enough when it comes to issues of injustice, the pope said this weekend.

“Our response to injustice and exploitation must be more than mere condemnation. First and foremost, it must be the active promotion of the good: denouncing evil and promoting the good," Pope Francis on Oct. 23.

“This means putting the Church's social doctrine into practice,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to “sow many small seeds that can bear fruit in an economy that is equitable and beneficial, humane and people-centered.”

He spoke in an audience with the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation’s annual convention, which was held at the Vatican Oct. 21-22.

The foundation is named after the ninth encyclical by St. John Paul II, which addressed the social teaching of the Church, particularly in regard to workers and the economy, and the relationship of the state to society.

“In every area today, we are more than ever obliged to bear witness to attention for others, to to go out of ourselves, to commit ourselves with gratuitousness to the development of a more just and equitable society, where selfishness and partisan interests do not prevail,” the pope said.

“And at the same time we are called to watch over respect for the human person, his freedom, the protection of his inviolable dignity. Here is the mission to implement the social doctrine of the Church.”

“In carrying on these values ​​and this lifestyle, we know we often go against the tide, but let us always remember: we are not alone. God has come close to us. Not in words, but with His presence: In Jesus, God became Incarnate," Francis said.

The theme of the foundation’s conference this year is “Solidarity, cooperation and responsibility: the antidotes to combat injustices, inequalities and exclusion.”

“These are important reflections, in a time in which uncertainty and instability mark the lives of so many people, and communities are aggravated by an economic system that continues to discard lives in the name of the god of money, fostering destructive attitudes towards the resources of the earth and fueling many forms of injustice,” the pope said.

“As Christians we are called to a love without borders and without limits. We are called to be a sign and witness that it is possible to pass beyond the walls of selfishness and personal and national interest, beyond the power of money which often decides the destiny of peoples, beyond ideological divisions that foster hatred; beyond all historical and cultural barriers and, above all, beyond indifference,” he said.

“It is therefore a great task to build a more united, just and equitable world. For believers, however, it is not simply a practical matter detached from doctrine. Indeed, it is the way to embody our faith, to praise the God who loves men and women, who loves life. Dear brothers and sisters, the good that you do for every person on earth brings joy to the heart of God in heaven,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis asks religious sisters to pray for him: 'It is not easy to be the pope'

Pope Francis meets with the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco in Rome on Oct. 22, 2021. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Oct 23, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis paid a visit to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians on Friday and asked the religious sisters to pray for him as they live out their mission of service to the young and the poor.

“Thank you for who you are and what you do. I am close to you with prayer and I bless you and all your sisters in the world,” Pope Francis told the Salesian sisters on Oct. 22.

“And I ask you to pray for me; it is not easy to be the pope!”

Pope Francis spent the morning at the General House of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, as they are commonly known. He encouraged the sisters to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who “always points to Jesus.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Openness to the Holy Spirit enables you to persevere in your commitment to be generative communities in your service to the young and the poor,” Pope Francis said.

“These are missionary communities, going out to announce the Gospel to the peripheries with the passion of the first Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.”

The religious congregation, founded by St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello in 1872, has grown to become the largest congregation of women religious in the world with 11,000 sisters in 97 countries, according to their website.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis encouraged the sisters to work to ensure that their community life is intergenerational, so that the elderly are never separated completely from the younger sisters.

“It is true that old people can sometimes become a little capricious -- we are like that -- and the flaws in old age are more visible, but it is also true that the elderly have that wisdom, that great wisdom of life: the wisdom of fidelity to grown old in one’s vocation,” the pope said.

“Yes, there will be homes for the elderly who cannot lead a normal life, they are bedridden, ... but go there all the time to visit the elderly, to spend time with them. They are the treasure of history,” he added.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis shared a story from the life of St. Therese of Lisieux as recorded in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.”

The pope said: “I am so helped by that experience of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who accompanied an old nun, who could hardly walk.”

“The poor old woman, who was a bit neurotic, complained about everything, but she [St. Therese] looked at her with love,” he said.

“And it happened once, in the walk from the sanctuary to the refectory, that a noise was heard from outside ... there was a party nearby. And little Therese said: ‘I will never exchange this for that.’ She understood the greatness of her vocation.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The Salesian sisters have held their 24th General Chapter in Rome from Sept. 11 to Oct. 24 focused on the theme: “Communities that generate life in the heart of the contemporary world"

Pope Francis told the congregation to go forward with enthusiasm, accompanied by the Virgin Mary, on the path that the Holy Spirit proposes with a watchful eye to recognize the needs of the world.

He asked the sisters to have “a heart open to welcome the promptings of God's grace … and a heart always in love with the Lord.”