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Archbishop Vigneron rallies Catholics to engage in a spiritual ‘campaign’ this Lent

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron imposes ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14, 2024, at St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron encouraged Catholics to think of this Lenten season as a military campaign proclaiming the kingdom of Christ. / Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., Feb 19, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued a spiritual call to arms to Detroit’s Catholics this Lenten season, explaining how by accepting ashes, they have engaged in a 40-day campaign to overcome sin.

The archbishop gave his traditional preaching during the midday Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14 at St. Aloysius Parish, a few blocks from Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, home of the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

Reflecting on the martial language featured in the collect of the Mass — “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint” — Vigneron invited the faithful to think of Lent beyond the usual reference of 40 days in the desert or as a spiritual retreat.

“Maybe as you were thinking this morning about beginning Lent and taking the ashes of repentance, you didn’t realize you were enlisting in a military campaign,” Vigneron said. “But that is one way the Church has for us to think about what we are doing over the next 40 days.”

Lent is a very personal journey, the archbishop said, but is a journey one makes with the catechumens who will be entering the Church at Easter and the entire faithful, who will be renewing their baptismal vows and their identity as Jesus’ disciples. 

The Lenten season is compromised of three main pillars: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, all of which help us strive to be better followers of Christ, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
The Lenten season is compromised of three main pillars: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, all of which help us strive to be better followers of Christ, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

It is a communal campaign centered on three core tenets prescribed in the Scriptures: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But the archbishop challenged the congregation to think “outside the box” of what Lent can be.

“This is a way for the Church to think about Lent as a military campaign, so that we can have some new energy,” Vigneron said. “I’m in my 76th year, so from the age of reason, about 70 of these I’ve done. But this might be a fresh perspective for all of us to think about how Lent is a kind of military campaign that we are enlisting in today by taking up the ashes.”

By choosing to come to church on Ash Wednesday and accepting the ashes placed upon one’s forehead, people are deciding to “re-up” in the campaign to be ambassadors for Christ, to live for something beyond one’s pleasure and self-satisfaction, he said.

“The Holy Spirit brought you here today, inspired you to leave your pew and come forward and let the ashes be imposed on you,” Vigneron said. “You want to be a soldier, a warrior in the great war led by our captain, Jesus Christ. The war [is] against sin. The war [is] to establish the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of holiness, the kingdom of charity.”

Father Mario Amore of St. Aloysius Parish greets parishioners after Mass. Archbishop Allen Vigneron challenged Catholics gathered on Ash Wednesday to consider how God is calling them to engage in a great campaign to win back the world for Christ. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
Father Mario Amore of St. Aloysius Parish greets parishioners after Mass. Archbishop Allen Vigneron challenged Catholics gathered on Ash Wednesday to consider how God is calling them to engage in a great campaign to win back the world for Christ. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

The faithful were handed information about the Lenten campaign and ways to get involved and grow in holiness, including the Archdiocese of Detroit’s I AM HERE Lenten Challenge, featuring daily trivia questions on what’s happening during Mass, powered by the Hallow app.

Vigneron said even if a person hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do for Lent, it’s not too late to reflect and hear what God is calling them to take on during this holy season.

But he did point to a key resource that will power them along the journey: the Eucharist.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron said the Eucharist serves as the faithful's "ration" during this Lenten campaign. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
Archbishop Allen Vigneron said the Eucharist serves as the faithful's "ration" during this Lenten campaign. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

“During this year of Eucharistic revival, realize the Eucharist is our ration for us as soldiers in this great struggle,” Vigneron said. “This is the most important struggle anyone can be engaged with in life: the struggle to be a saint, the struggle to be God’s daughter, to be God’s son, the struggle to be the person that God created me to be, that he wants me to be by the power of the grace of baptism.”

And even as it seems this battle is just beginning this Lenten season, Vigneron assured the congregation of its outcome.

“I promise you victory,” Vigneron said. “I promise you we have won. That is what Easter means. Yes, we engage in the struggle, but we know how the war ends. It ends in Christ’s victory.”

This article was originally published at Detroit Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

Are all religions equal? A Catholic priest responds

Symbols of several of the world's leading religions. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Father Eduardo Hayen Cuarón, director of the weekly newspaper Presencia of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, recently responded to the question of whether all religions are equal, good, and true.

Responding on X Feb. 4, the priest addressed the following question: “I am an open-minded person and I believe that all religions are equal; they are all like rivers that one way or another flow into the sea. As long as religions lead man to do good, any religion is good and true, right?”

Hayen responded that “it is good to have an open mind to try to perceive all that is good in religions. Without a doubt, Muslims are very observant in prayer and fasting; Buddhists also mortify the body, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are tenacious in promoting their magazine by knocking on doors.”

“But judging a religion by some good elements it may have is not a valid criterion to say that it is the true religion. Not all religions are true. No,” the priest said.

“If we affirm that there is only one God,” the Mexican priest continued, “then there is only one divine truth, and therefore one religion is the true one. So be careful not to be so open-minded, so open that you are eventually left in a frightening spiritual confusion. Chesterton said that ‘having an open mind is like having an open mouth: It’s not an end, but a means.’ And the end, he said, is to close your mouth on something solid.”

The priest also said that at one point in his life he also believed “the tale that any religion leads to God and that therefore we should not bother finding the true one.”

“Many religions teach things contrary to those of other religions, so not all of them are true. Don’t get confused. If there is only one God, only one religion is the true one,” he continued.

In conclusion, Hayen said that “always living with an open mind can be a problem in finding something solid on which you can base your life. I hope your search is sincere, because when it comes to discerning what the true religion is, you must go as deep as possible. If you find it, your life will have hit the nail on the head.”

Which is the true religion?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the right of every person to religious freedom and states that it is a duty of Christians to inspire in every person the love of truth and good.

No. 2105 of the catechism points out in this regard that “the duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is ‘the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.’” 

The catechism explains that “the social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.”

“Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies,” the catechism teaches.

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

‘Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity’ opens Feb. 22 in U.S. theaters

Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Goya Producciones has announced that the film “Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity” will premiere on Feb. 22 in the United States (with English subtitles), Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Chile.

“Shot on location in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Germany, the feature film opens with powerful fictionalized recreations of the five apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe in 1531, inspired by the original true account of St. Juan Diego,” said a press release sent to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. 

Spanish filmmaker Pablo Moreno directed the portion of the film that includes powerful testimonies and features actress Karyme Lozano as presenter, Angelica Chong as the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Mario Alberto Hernandez as Juan Diego. Pepe Alonso, popular EWTN host, does the narration.

The film debuts in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay on Feb. 29, in Spain on March 1, and in Brazil on May 2.

The movie tells the true story of a Hollywood producer who owes his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe; a movie actress who prays to her in the midst of the hustle and bustle of filming; two converts from crime and drug trafficking; and a post-abortive woman who recovers her faith and the desire to live thanks to Our Lady. 

The archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, also testifies to the miracles attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe in that city.

Andrés Garrigó, the overall director of the film, “shows us the dramatic history of pre-Hispanic Mexico at the time of arrival of the Spaniards and how, after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the people abandoned in masse the bloody human sacrifices to embrace Christianity,” the press release explained.

“With the help of the latest technologies, the film reveals the messages hidden in the tilma, the miraculous cloth on which the image of the Virgin Mary was

captured: the human images that appear in her eyes, the meaning of the stars, and other drawings on the mantle,” the release added.

“With this movie, we set ourselves a very high goal: to recreate in the hearts of people today the marvelous effect that the apparitions of the Virgin of

Guadalupe had 500 years ago. We can now offer many people the joy of

experiencing them again,” stated director Garrigó.

More information about the film can be found here.

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

Pope Francis: Lent is a time to ‘encounter wild beasts and angels’

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis focused his Angelus address on the temptation of Jesus in the desert to highlight that it is an invitation for us to enter the proverbial desert to come “in contact with the truth.”

Observing that during the 40 days in the desert Christ was in the company of both “wild beasts and angels,” the pope reflected that when we enter this symbolic “inner wildness,” we too “encounter wild beasts and angels.”

These wild beats assume a deeply symbolic meaning in our “spiritual life,” and so “we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide our heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them,” the pope said to the nearly 15,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Expanding upon this idea of “disordered passions,” the pope suggested that we can conceive of them also as “the various vices,” such as “the lust for wealth” or “the vanity of pleasure.”

“They must be tamed and fought, otherwise they will devour our freedom,” the pope emphasized. 

In order to confront these vices that afflict each and every one of us, the pope stressed that we need “to go into the wilderness to become aware of their presence and to face them — and Lent is the time to do it.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The setting of the desert has featured prominently in the pope’s catechetical series throughout the year and is the main theme of this 2024 Lenten message, taken from the Book of Exodus: “Through the Desert God Leads Us to Freedom.”

While it is imperative to undertake this journey of self-examination, the pope underscored that we are not alone: We are aided by the angels, who “are God’s messengers, who help us, who do us good.”

“Indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service, the exact opposite of possession, typical of the passions we spoke about earlier,” the pope continued.

Juxtaposing the spirit of possession with the virtue of service, the pope stressed that the angels “recall the good thoughts and sentiments suggested by the Holy Spirit,” adding that “while temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us in harmony, they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, ‘the flavor of heaven.’”

“Thus, order and peace return to the soul, beyond the circumstances of life, whether favorable or unfavorable. Here, too, however, in order to grasp the thoughts and feelings inspired by God, one must be silent and enter into prayer,” the pope continued.

The pope asked the faithful to examine what are these personal “wild beasts” in our own lives, so that we can “recognize them, give them a name, understand their tactics.” In this way we can “permit the voice of God to speak to my heart and to preserve it in goodness.”

On Sunday evening the pope and the members of the Roman Curia will start their private Lenten retreat, which will conclude on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23.

All regularly scheduled papal audiences are suspended for the week.

New wilderness program for seminarians promises to ‘strengthen faith and brotherhood’

Incoming students at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, are required to take a three-week wilderness trek that challenges them both body and soul. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Aeja DeKuiper

Cheyenne, Wyo., Feb 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A small Catholic college in Lander, Wyoming, has launched a new program that challenges seminarians with wilderness experiences to strengthen their faith, vocations, and pastoral skills as eventual priests.

Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), known for its rigorous academics and COR Expeditions, offers backcountry treks to high school students, families, and undergraduates as well as specific seminaries such Holy Trinity in Irving, Texas, and the New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. But its new St. Jogues Seminarian Project is open to individual seminarians ages 18+ from dioceses throughout the country. 

Applications are now being accepted for the 10-week summerlong program, which includes multi-day backcountry hikes in the Rocky Mountains for 12 men and a priest with daily Mass and adoration followed by practical pastoral experience with homeless people in urban environments. The program begins the first week of June.

Thomas Zimmer, Ph.D., and Andre Klaes of COR Expeditions told CNA that the project is named for the heroic martyr St. Isaac Jogues, a French Jesuit missionary priest who spread the Gospel in North America in the mid-1600s under harsh conditions. 

“For the last two years, we have attended the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and shared our mission with them and talked about what the Lord is able to do with us on our seminarian trips that we have been running for six years,” Klaes told CNA. 

According to Zimmer, vocation directors have been seeking summer assignment opportunities for seminarians to foster lifelong friendships and community as well as pastoral awareness amid adverse environments and challenges. 

After a typical nine months of seminary studies, seminarians are usually sent to parishes and other summer assignments as part of their formation. Seminary deans are looking for programs that get seminarians away from computer screens and out of classrooms but still prepare them for pastoral assignments, according to Klaes, who described what they will experience for a summer assignment in the Rockies.

“They are forced to live in a tent with three other guys, live seven days straight on the trail, cooking meals, and never alone. It’s a very different experience for guys who’ve been able to isolate themselves. So that’s a big part of what we provide,” he said.

“We are providing human formation: They are literally living together, relying on each other to cook, gather water, set up shelter, and endure storms. These are things that are easily stripped away from us in today’s society where everything is so easy,” said Zimmer, who has led wilderness trips in much of the United States and several foreign countries for more than a decade. He is also a faculty member at WCC.

Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College
Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College

Beginning this June 3, six to 12 seminarians will start with wilderness and first aid training plus three weeks of hiking in the Rocky Mountains. They will hike five to eight miles each day with heavy packs and attempt mountain climbing and river rafting. There will be daily Mass and adoration, plus spiritual direction from their chaplain. 

Upon completion of the expedition, the seminarians will spend several weeks assisting in wilderness trips for high school students and families before a final week of ministering to homeless people in conjunction with Christ in the City ministries in Colorado. 

A former seminarian, Klaes recalled that a seminary dean once told him: “’The friendships you form now will be those you carry into the priesthood.’”

In Klaes’ experience, he said, “some of my priest friends struggle in the priesthood because of a lack of friendship coming into the priesthood. But those who are full of life, full of joy and doing amazing things are those who have a tight-knit group of friends on whom they can rely. Formation directors have acknowledged the fact that diocesan priests often live entirely alone, so it will be their friendships that carry them through their priesthood.”

“If we can get seminarians to have an incredible experience, where the stakes are high … the hope is that with the friendships formed, they will be well prepared with friendships as they return to seminary,” Klaes said. He added that bishops and formation recognize that while diocesan priests do not typically live with other priests, they must serve as “social people who can build rapport and have connection.”

According to Zimmer, the initial first-aid course provides skills that, as priests, they can transfer to parish life.

“They will be taught risk management and how to recognize problems before they occur,” he said, adding that he will teach the course based on his decades of mountaineering, skiing, and wilderness travel.

“They may never go into backcountry again. We want to get them to transfer what they learn to their vocation. They will recognize heart attacks, for instance, so that as parish priests, if they notice someone at a parish barbeque with symptoms, they can apply their knowledge,” Zimmer said.

As part of the application process for the project, seminarians are interviewed and informed about the challenges they face. For example, they are expected to carry backpacks weighing 40-50 pounds for 21 days. Priests who join as chaplains are also expected to backpack along with the younger men. Use of cellphones is limited to taking photographs on all trips organized by COR.

In addition to hiking and pastoral work with high school students and families, participating seminarians will have the opportunity to take college credits through WCC applicable to seminary studies. There are courses in Latin, theology, and philosophy available.

Zimmer said there is no other comparable program for seminarians anywhere. “We are the only Catholic program that is nationally accredited and the only one connected to a Catholic college that’s for credit,” he said.

“There are a few programs that do short trips, here and there,” Zimmer added about the summerlong experience, “but in the Catholic world of outdoor ministry, we’re the biggest program doing things like this.”

The St. Jogues project is designed for incoming college-age seminarians in their first and second year of formation.

COR missionary Damien Walz, 22, who will accompany seminarians this summer, said the program is “not for the faint of heart.” 

“The wilderness is a very real environment and you can’t hide from it. You can’t put on a mask and pretend everything is okay. There’s no place to hide. All of your strengths, all of your weaknesses come out and force you to acknowledge them,” he said.

“There is ‘decision point’ in every course,” Walz said. “You see people come to a point where they are going to man up and decide to grow or they won’t engage with it. What I tell the formation directors and seminarians is that this isn’t a backpacking fairy tale. This is real life and as real as it gets. It is a place where we can delve into who we are as sons of God and live as sons of God in an authentic and masculine way. By going through the challenge, they are able to engage better with the rest of seminary formation and the people whom they will lead and serve.”

Blake Brouillette, managing director of Christ in the City, who will receive the St. Jogues seminarians toward the end of the program, told CNA that the ministry is now working with more than 20 dioceses and seminaries.

“Formation directors are seeing a transformation in their seminarians, and we are grateful to be a part of it,” he said. “We are telling seminarians, ‘Come join us. Learn and equip yourselves for your call to the priesthood, serve the poor, and equip your parishioners to do so.’”

Norway begins preparations for Jubilee of St. Olaf in 2030 

Celebration in Olaf’s chapel, Stiklestad, St. Olaf’s Day, July 28, 2023. / Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese

Trondheim, Norway, Feb 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In 2030, Norway will celebrate the millennium of the death of St. Olaf (“Olav” in his Norwegian homeland), martyr and king of Norway (995–1030). In preparation for this major event, considered a national jubilee, the Catholic Church in Norway is organizing commemorations of various kinds throughout the country. The jubilee will be of particular importance in the prelature of Trondheim, where Olaf was martyred, at Stiklestad.

Pilgrims process on July 28, 2023, near Stiklestad church, erected over the site where Olaf Haraldsson was killed. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese
Pilgrims process on July 28, 2023, near Stiklestad church, erected over the site where Olaf Haraldsson was killed. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese

Olaf Haraldsson, who became King Olaf II of Norway, is celebrated in the Church on July 29. A leading figure in the history of Norway, he is remembered as a monarch who tried to unify the country and who contributed to bringing the Catholic faith to the northern land. 

According to the official website of the Catholic Church in Norway, Olaf was the son of King Harald Grenske, a local king in Vestfold and a violent and unfaithful man whom Olaf never met. Olaf was also a descendant of Harald Fairhair (850–933), the first Norwegian king.

Choosing to follow in his father’s footsteps, Olaf embarked on Viking raids to the east during his teenage years. He partook in raids of the Baltic lands, then went southeast to England, and then went further south to the Spanish coast. As he was preparing to head to the Mediterranean, Olaf was struck by a strange dream of a man telling him “to abandon his plan” and “go back to Norway,” where he “shall be king forever.”

Whether the dream is historically true or not, Olaf felt compelled to return to his ancestral land “as a matter of conscience.”

In 1013, he sailed first to Rouen, the capital of Normandy in northwest France, where he spent the winter as a guest of Duke Richard II of Normandy. There he discovered the Christian faith and was baptized. This period remained unforgettable for him since during his reign as king, he was inspired by the Frankish king Charlemagne, whom he regarded as his model.

When Olaf returned to Norway, he found a territory divided politically and religiously between the Danes, the Swedes, the earls of Lade, and the rulers of local villages and small kingdoms.

A celebration in the Stiklestad church on July 28, 2023, on the day before the feast of St. Olaf. Credit: Ivan Vu, Trondheim Diocese
A celebration in the Stiklestad church on July 28, 2023, on the day before the feast of St. Olaf. Credit: Ivan Vu, Trondheim Diocese

Undertaking battles, one after another, Olaf gained possession of the land and was slowly recognized as king, parliament after parliament, and eventually over the whole of Norway. In an attempt to establish relationships with Sweden, he also married the daughter of the Swedish king. 

Once on the throne, Olaf employed all his strength to Christianize the country, according to the Church in Norway’s account. In addition to building churches, he established “the Christian law.” Inspired by biblical commandments, this law prescribed that slaves be ransomed each year, forbade polygamy and meat on Fridays, and imposed penalties for rape and the kidnapping of women, among other things.

Preoccupied by justice and peace, Olaf Haraldsson is described as a “king zealous for the Christian law,” which did not please some of the clans in power. His intransigence created enemies, which is what ultimately led to his demise. 

Faced with a farmers’ rebellion, King Olaf was compelled to fight, meeting his death at Stiklestad in Trondheim on July 29, 1030.

“When the king received this wound, he lent against a stone and threw away his sword, asking God to help him,” the story goes.

Soon after the king’s death, the tone changed among his enemies. 

“That winter, there were many in Trondheimen who began to say that king Olaf was truly a holy man and that many wonders took place because of his holiness. Many began to pray to king Olaf,” the website says. 

One year later, Olaf was proclaimed a saint and martyr. His body was exhumed and found intact, with a fragrant of roses. 

The calling of Bishop Varden

Stiklestad, where St. Olaf died, is today an important memorial and pilgrimage site. A chapel has been built on a hill in the middle of the site, located in the prelature of Trondheim. 

“By his work as a legislator, he shows us that a Christian community must be governed by universal principles of justice. By his courage in the face of resistance, he shows us that some things are worth dying for,” explained the prelate of Trondheim, Bishop Erik Varden, who spoke to CNA about the legacy of the king. 

“For the Catholics in Norway,” he added, “St. Olaf represents a purposeful Christian life. He shows us that grace works slowly but surely; that it calls on us to make radical choices; that a life lived in the service of the Gospel brings freedom and flourishing but not necessarily success. After all, he died a martyr.”

Bishop Erik Varden with St. Olav’s relics during a procession in Stiklestad on July 28, 2023. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese
Bishop Erik Varden with St. Olav’s relics during a procession in Stiklestad on July 28, 2023. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese

At a solemn Mass on the feast of St. Olaf in Nidarosdomen last summer, Varden remarked in his homily that at the time of Olaf’s martyrdom, “people came in droves to pray before Olaf’s remains. They found comfort and healing.” And it still happens today. “We have in our midst some who have been healed of grave illness after praying before St. Olaf’s relics,” the bishop said.

Varden told CNA that the preparations of the jubilee have begun early because “great things take time.”

“We wish to use this time of grace to become more conscious of the legacy entrusted to us through the Church and to assume responsibility for it in a commitment to conversion, that our lives may be credibly Catholic and Christian,” Varden explained.

As to the numbers of pilgrims expected for the 2030 event, in a country where Catholics account for about 3% of the population, the bishop remarked that “in the Middle Ages, people flocked to the tomb of St. Olaf from all over Europe. We see a resurgence of this pilgrimage tradition.”

The preparation on the way

In view of the jubilee, the prelature of Trondheim will launch an initiative called Mission2030 on April 13 of this year at St. Olaf’s Cathedral in Trondheim. Coordinated through EWTN Norway, the inaugural conference will reflect on “the meaning of ‘mission’ in the year of Our Lord 2024.” (Note: EWTN is the parent company of CNA.)

St. Olaf's Day procession in Stiklestad on July 28, 2023. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese
St. Olaf's Day procession in Stiklestad on July 28, 2023. Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese

A similar conference — with a panel discussion, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and exhibitions — will take place each spring in the years leading up to 2030, according to the official website. The topics in these upcoming years include “St. John Paul II and the Call to New Evangelization,” “Christian Faith and Charitable Action,” “Literature and Good News,” “Preaching through Beauty,” “To Follow a Call,” and “Life and Faith According to the Scriptures.” 

Since St. Olaf died on a Wednesday, beginning on the Wednesday after the July 29 feast of St. Olaf — July 31 of this year — the prelature will offer regular Wednesday services in the Stiklestad Chapel. 

The official logo of the jubilee, painted with the national colors red, white, and blue, represents the ax with which Olaf was killed, the orb, the royal crown, and a drop of water in reference to the millennium of Norway’s baptism.

German bishops halt move toward establishing a Synodal Council at Vatican’s request

The cross of the German “Synodal Way” / Maximilian von Lachner / Synodaler Weg

National Catholic Register, Feb 17, 2024 / 18:35 pm (CNA).

In a significant setback for the Synodal Way project in Germany, the German bishops will not be voting on a step toward a forbidden “Synodal Council” at their upcoming plenary assembly at the Vatican’s request.

German Bishops Conference (DBK) spokesman Matthias Kopp confirmed on Feb. 17 that the bishops have removed a vote on endorsing a committee that is preparing the Synodal Council, a mixed body of laity and bishops that would govern the Church in Germany, from the agenda of their Feb. 19–22 meeting in Augsburg.

The development comes after the DBK received a letter from the Vatican on the same day.

“This letter requests that the General Assembly — also due to upcoming discussions between representatives of the Roman Curia and representatives of the German Bishops’ Conference — not vote on the statutes of the Synodal Committee,” Kopp told Germany’s Catholic News Agency (KNA).

Although it had not been explicitly on the publicly available agenda of the DBK assembly, a vote on approving the committee preparing the Synodal Council had been widely expected to take place in Augsburg.

The DBK’s co-sponsor of the Synodal Way, the Central Committee of German Catholics lay lobby (ZdK), had previously approved the statutes of the preparatory committee on Nov. 25, 2023, and is likely to harshly criticize the bishops for not following suit.

The removal of the vote on the synodal committee from the bishops’ agenda marks perhaps the first time that Vatican pressure has caused the DBK to balk from moving forward with a Synodal Way priority since the alleged reform effort began in 2019.

Of all the Synodal Way’s priorities, the Vatican has been particularly critical of the Synodal Council. In January 2023, the heads of three Vatican departments wrote to the DBK criticizing the proposed council as incompatible with Catholic ecclesiology, emphasizing that neither the bishops nor the Synodal Way had any authority to establish it.

More recently, Pope Francis wrote a private letter to four German Catholic laywomen describing the preparatory committee, and not just the Synodal Council, as one of “numerous steps being taken by significant segments” of the Church in Germany “that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path.”

The committee, which claims Germany’s 27 ordinaries among its members, held its first meeting Nov. 10–11, but eight bishops were absent, with four of them rejecting the committee outright.

Those four — Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt — had also voted in June to block financing for the committee from a common inter-diocesan fund.

As indicated in the Vatican’s letter, representatives of the DBK and the Roman Curia are expected to continue their series of meetings on the Synodal Way. The first occurred in July in Rome, and German bishop participants in the October Synod on Synodality assembly also met with Vatican leadership at the time.

In an exchange with the National Catholic Register last week, Kopp would not confirm that the DBK representatives and the Vatican had met in January, as was previously publicized, but disclosed that more meetings between the two parties are expected to take place.

Diocese of Rapid City announces death of Bishop Peter Muhich

Bishop Peter Muhich of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota. / Credit: Diocese of Rapid City

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 17, 2024 / 16:13 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Rapid City on Saturday announced the death of Bishop Peter Muhich at the age of 62, with the prelate’s death coming days after he entered hospice care.

“With sorrow, the Diocese of Rapid City shares the news that Bishop Peter M. Muhich, 62, died on Feb 17,” the diocese said in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.

“He was in hospice care after suffering from esophageal cancer,” the diocese said. “Funeral arrangements are pending. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.”

Muhich had announced Wednesday that he would be moving into hospice care amid treatment for esophageal and lymphatic cancer.

“Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” the bishop said in a statement posted to the diocesan website.

The prelate had previously announced his cancer diagnosis in a July 2023 Facebook post. He said after several months of difficulty swallowing food, an endoscopy procedure found cancer in his lower esophagus.

Pope Francis appointed Muhich to lead the diocese, which serves roughly the western half of South Dakota, in May 2020. He was born in northern Minnesota and was ordained a priest in 1989 for the Diocese of Duluth.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral offers reparation Mass after ‘scandalous’ funeral for trans activist

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. / Credit: Richard Trois via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

CNA Staff, Feb 17, 2024 / 13:56 pm (CNA).

The pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City said the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held there this week for a well-known transgender advocate.

The Manhattan cathedral hosted the Feb. 15 funeral service for Cecilia Gentili, an activist who helped to decriminalize sex work in New York, lobbied for “gender identity” to be added as a protected class to the state’s human rights laws, and was a major fundraiser for transgender causes. Gentili was a man who identified as a woman.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as “our sister.” Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the “mother of whores.”

On Saturday, Father Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, said in a statement on the website of the Archdiocese of New York that Church officials shared in the “outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week.”

“The cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way,” Salvo said.

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual 40–day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us,” the priest wrote.

“At [archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s] directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation,” Salvo said.

Several mainstream media outlets had framed the event as a breakthrough occasion and a sign of the Catholic Church shifting its teaching — or at least its tone — on sexuality and human anthropology.

Time magazine described the fact that a funeral service for a trans activist was held in a Catholic cathedral as “no small feat,” while The New York Times described the service as “an exuberant piece of political theater.”

Organizers reportedly did not disclose to the cathedral that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a biological man who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the service’s organizer, told The New York Times.

Pope Francis launches study groups to analyze Synod on Synodality’s key issues

Pope Francis at the Synod on Synodality’s closing Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 17, 2024 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has launched synodal study groups to analyze key issues ahead of October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Pope Francis has issued a chirograph asking the dicasteries of the Roman Curia to collaborate with the General Secretariat of the Synod to establish the study groups for “in-depth analysis” of some of the themes that emerged in the first Synod on Synodality assembly.

The pope did not specify in the chirograph published on Feb. 17 how many groups will be formed, what topics will be studied, or who will participate in the study groups.

The synthesis report published at the end of the first synod assembly lists 75 different “matters for consideration,” including women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy, and “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples. 

These “matters of consideration,” which could not find a consensus in the first synod assembly, are defined as “points on which we have recognized that it is necessary to continue theological, pastoral, and canonical deepening.”

In addition, the synthesis report also calls for the establishment of a “special intercontinental commission of theologians and canonists” to examine the definition and conceptual understanding of the “idea and practice of synodality” and its canonical implications, as well as the establishment of a joint commission of Eastern and Latin theologians, historians, and canonists.

According to Vatican News, the study groups will require a substantial amount of time and will not “directly constitute the material up for discussion in the next session of the synod, which will focus on synodality itself.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod, led by Cardinal Mario Grech, will coordinate the work of the study groups among the dicasteries, which will “involve experts from all continents” following a synodal process, the Vatican’s state media outlet said.

The Vatican also announced on Saturday the dates for the second Synod on Synodality assembly and the appointment of six new consulters to the General Secretariat of the Synod.

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops’ second session will take place from Oct. 2 to Oct. 27. The participants in the assembly will arrive in Rome on Sept. 29 to participate in a two-day spiritual retreat ahead of the start of the assembly.

Among the new synod consulters, Pope Francis chose three female professors.

Dr. Tricia Bruce, a sociology professor at Maryville College in Tennessee and president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and Dr. Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, a theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, are both appointees.

Sister Dr. Birgit Weiler, a German missionary in Peru and theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, was also appointed. Weiler is a member of the Congregation of the Medical Missionary Sisters and has lived for more than 35 years in Peru, where she works with the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM).

The other appointees are Monsignor Alphonse Borras, a Belgian canon lawyer and specialist in the theology of the diaconate; Father Gilles Routhier, a professor of religious studies at Laval University in Quebec; and Father Ormond Rush, a theology professor at Australian Catholic University. Rush addressed the first synod assembly in October with a speech that focused on Vatican II’s discussion of tradition as the authority for the Synod on Synodality.