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‘I lost a dad’: Pope Francis speaks about losing Benedict XVI

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict embrace each other at the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, June 30, 2015. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 08:50 am (CNA).

In a new interview published Wednesday, Pope Francis said the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meant he had lost a “good companion” and a father figure. 

“I lost a dad,” Pope Francis told the Associated Press, praising his predecessor — who died on Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95 — as a “gentleman.” 

Francis said he would visit Benedict for counsel at the converted monastery Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens, where the retired pope resided. 

“For me, he was a security. In the face of a doubt, I would ask for the car and go to the monastery and ask.”

The 86-year-old pontiff called Benedict’s decision to live in Mater Ecclesiae a “good intermediate solution” in the wide-ranging interview that also included remarks about the Church’s stance on homosexuality, the German Synodal Way — and his health.

Pope Francis blesses the coffin of Pope Benedict XVI at his funeral on Jan. 5, 2023, at the Vatican. Vatican Media
Pope Francis blesses the coffin of Pope Benedict XVI at his funeral on Jan. 5, 2023, at the Vatican. Vatican Media

Pope Francis has repeatedly praised his predecessor. In April of last year, he described Benedict as “a prophet” of the Church’s future and in November acknowledged his leadership in responding to sexual abuse. On Jan. 4, he said Benedict brought Catholics to an “encounter with Jesus.” 

Francis, who has not ruled out retiring, said Benedict’s decision to live in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens was a “good intermediate solution” but that future retired popes might want to do things differently.

“He was still ‘enslaved’ as a pope, no?” Francis said.

“Of the vision of a pope, of a system. ‘Slave’ in the good sense of the word: In that he wasn’t completely free, as he would have liked to have returned to his Germany and continued studying theology.”

Benedict “opened the door” to future resignations, Pope Francis said. The pope also confirmed what he said six months ago: If he should retire, he would choose the title of “bishop emeritus of Rome” — not “pope emeritus” — and live neither in his native Argentina nor the Vatican but in Rome.

Asked if he would reside at Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in a TV interview broadcast on July 12, 2022, Francis said “that could be,” since he would like to retire “to hear confessions at a church.”

Pope Francis says intestinal problems have ‘returned’ but insists, ‘I’m in good health’

Pope Francis, seated in a wheelchair, greets a child during the pope's general audience at the Vatican on Jan. 25, 2023. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has revealed a recurrence of the intestinal ailment that has plagued him in recent years while also professing to be in good health for his age.

He also indicated he has no plans to resign, although if he were to step down he reiterated that he would want to be called “bishop emeritus of Rome,” rather than “pope emeritus,” the title given his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press published Wednesday that also included pointed remarks about homosexuality, the pope disclosed that diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall, had “returned.”

At the same time, however, the 86-year-old pontiff — who is preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo next week — insisted he was in relatively good condition.

“I’m in good health. For my age, I’m normal,” he told the AP on Jan. 24.

Pope Francis arrived at Paul VI Hall using a cane to walk on Jan. 18, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis arrived at Paul VI Hall using a cane to walk on Jan. 18, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rumors of Francis’ possible resignation, and speculation that his health problems are more serious than the Vatican has acknowledged, have swirled since he underwent surgery in 2021 to have 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine removed for what the Vatican said was inflammation of his colon.

A slight fracture in his knee Francis suffered in a fall also has made it visibly painful for him to walk, making it necessary for him to rely on a cane and a wheelchair. But Francis told the AP that the fracture had healed without surgery after laser and magnet therapy.

Speaking about papal retirements, Francis dismissed speculation that he is preparing to issue norms for how future papal abdications will be handled.

“I’m telling you the truth,” he said, adding that it was premature to “regularize or regulate” papal retirements because the Vatican had too little experience upon which to draw. Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022, after nearly a decade of retirement, was the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years.

Francis hasn’t ruled out retiring, and he repeated Tuesday that if he did so he would be called the bishop emeritus of Rome and would live in the residence for retired priests in the Diocese of Rome.

Benedict’s decision to live in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens was a “good intermediate solution,” he told the AP, but future retired popes might want to choose a different course.

“He was still ‘enslaved’ as a pope, no?” Francis said. “Of the vision of a pope, of a system. ‘Slave’ in the good sense of the word: in that he wasn’t completely free, as he would have liked to have returned to his Germany and continued studying theology.”

‘Being homosexual is not a crime,’ Pope Francis reiterates in new interview

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience at the Vatican, Dec. 21, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has reiterated that homosexuality is “not a crime” in a new interview published Wednesday.

The interview with the Associated Press covered a wide range of topics, including laws that criminalize homosexuality and sodomy.

“Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” the pope told the AP.

The remark promises to be a point of controversy. On the one hand, the Catholic Church has condemned the unjust discrimination of those with same-sex attraction. On the other hand, the Church does not teach that same-sex attraction is sinful in itself but that it is "intrinsically disordered." 

In the interview conducted at Pope Francis’ residence in Vatican City on Jan. 24, the pope reiterated the Holy See’s position that laws that criminalize homosexuality outright are “unjust” and that the Church must work to put an end to them.

Under Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a statement in 2008 urging that “every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided” and that countries should “do away with criminal penalties against them.”

“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Pope Francis said.

The pope told AP that bishops who support laws that criminalize homosexuality “have to have a process of conversion” and should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Francis attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“Every man and every woman must have a window in their lives where they can pour out their hope and where they can see the dignity of God. And being homosexual is not a crime. It is a human condition,” he said.

In the interview, which lasted more than one hour, Pope Francis also decried the German Synodal Way as unhelpful, revealed that the intestinal problem that he had surgery for in 2021 has returned, and denied that he had any role in the handling of the alleged abuse by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik.

The AP first published the pope’s comments about distinguishing between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality before publishing the full transcript of the interview in Spanish.

The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality, that is having same-sex attraction, is a sin. 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” it says.

“These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

In 2021 the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a clarification approved by Pope Francis that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican also stated at the time that “the Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

In his response to the question about laws that criminalize homosexuality, Pope Francis also described the ending of the pop opera “The Prodigal Son” as an example of how “God is generous in his mercy.”

“If we preached more about that and not about nonsense, we would be better off,” the pope said.

Church in Bolivia denounces ‘perverted curriculum’ with gender ideology for children

null / Credit: Pixabay

CNA Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Father Pedro Flores, delegate of the Educational Community of the Local Church of the vicariate of Beni in Bolivia, criticized the “perverted curriculum” on comprehensive sexual education presented by the Ministry of Education.

In a Jan. 20 press conference, Flores pointed out that the content, which will be taught in schools beginning in the Initial Level (0-6 years old), “is a perverted curriculum, which will pervert the minds of children.”

“Under the umbrella of what sex education is, they want to present gender ideology and show, as if there were a third way, the identity of the human person,” Flores criticized.

The priest called on the entire population to express itself in the face of “such a perverse action as this.”

The president of the Association of Parents of La Salle School, Jeannine Vaca Cuellar, announced a mobilization to stop this interference in the education of their children.

“We cannot allow the Ministry of Education to come and tell us how we’re going to educate our children,” she said.

Several days ago, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference urged citizens to not be mere observers in this process that profoundly affects families and society.

The conference also asked the Ministry of Education to review and take into account the demands that teachers and parents have already made. The bishops called on parents to have a “critical sense” based on principles and values, not on “ideological impositions.”

The new curriculum was announced in December by the Ministry of Education. On Jan. 3, Ministerial Resolution 001/2023 was issued, a pedagogical document that regulates Educational and School Management for the year 2023.

The resolution will go into effect Feb. 1 with the start of classes in Bolivia.

Registration for the 2023 school year in Bolivia began Jan. 16. The new curriculum includes instruction on chess, origami, and sexuality for the different levels of education.

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

Priest found guilty of blocking entrance to abortion clinic, faces prison time

Father Fidelis Moscinski (lower left, standing behind the cross), a well-known pro-life activist and priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) is seen during a tense standoff between pro-life and pro-abortion demonstrators in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022. The pro-life marchers were trying to reach a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic where they planned to hold a prayer vigil, and the pro-abortion demonstrators were trying to block their path. / Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest who blocked access to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic could face up to one year in prison after being found guilty Monday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also known as the FACE Act.  

On the morning of July 7, 2022, Father Fidelis Moscinski, 52, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, effectively shut down the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic in Hempstead for about two hours, according to the DOJ. He placed locks and chains on the gated entrance and covered some of them with glue, which prevented anyone from getting through the gate. After the fire department and the police department eventually cut through the locks, Moscinski laid down in front of the entrance to prevent cars from going through the gate, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. 

On Monday, the court delivered a guilty verdict from the bench. Post-conviction motions must be filed by Feb. 7, and the sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 24. 

“The defendant attempted to prevent women from accessing their legal right to vital reproductive and pregnancy services,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement on Sept. 29, 2022, after Moscinski was charged. 

“This office will enforce federal law to protect clinics and staff that provide reproductive health services while safeguarding the rights of their patients. I commend the local police, firefighters, and bystanders who came to the health center’s aid to ensure that it could continue serving the community.” 

In an interview with EWTN on July 16, 2022, Moscinski acknowledged that he blocked access to the clinic so he could “talk to the mothers who were coming in that morning.”  

“Imagine if you were one of those children scheduled to be executed that day,” Moscinski said. “Would you not want every possible effort to be made to save your life? And saying that something is a step too far is simply saying, ‘Well, some lives are less valuable than others; we could sacrifice only up to a point and then we’ll let these others die.’” 

The sentencing will be before Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione. 

Pro-life community commends Moscinski 

Some members of the pro-life community commended Moscinski for his actions at the abortion clinic and criticized those who would put him behind bars.

Michele Sterlace, the executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, told CNA that the law is “unjust” and the pro-life movement should work to change laws to “protect innocent human lives.” She cited the overturning of Roe v. Wade as an effective example.  

“People like Father Fidelis that have such courage, that we are in absolute awe of, they’re well aware of the consequences they may potentially face,” Sterlace said. “Father Fidelis is a smart, courageous individual … [who] was there to protect the lives of unborn human beings.” 

Monica Migliorino Miller, the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, also praised Moscinski’s actions.

“When Father Fidelis chained the gate shut on the Planned Parenthood abortion center he performed an act completely appropriate in response to the impending extermination of innocent human persons,” Miller told CNA.

“A true, glorious nonviolent act of love and defense against the killing of the unborn,” Miller continued. “Father also sought to reach out to the women coming to the abortion center. The only reason he is convicted of the unjust FACE law is because in New York the unborn count for nothing as Father was denied a ‘defense of others.’ We can hope that Father’s heroic action will inspire others to rescue the unborn. We must be their voice.” 

The FACE Act 

Moscinski was found guilty of the FACE Act, legislation passed in 1994 to grant protections to reproductive health care centers including abortion clinics and pro-life counseling centers. According to the DOJ, a person is guilty if he or she engages in “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with an individual’s right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

According to the DOJ, first-time convictions are misdemeanors, which can carry up to one year in federal prison. All subsequent convictions are felonies.  

In New York, abortion is legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, abortions are legal past that point if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if the preborn child is not viable.  

Past protests

Moscinski has garnered media attention in recent years for his prayerful protests in the face of pro-abortion opposition and his work with the group Red Rose Rescue. In 2021, photos of the procession at Brooklyn’s Witness for Life day of prayer showed pro-abortion advocates shouting, holding signs, and smoking cigarettes in the face of a calm Moscinski.

The priest has served jail time for his Red Rose Rescue efforts before. Typically, a rescue involves a pro-life advocate entering the waiting room of an abortion facility to offer a red rose along with pro-life literature. 

Trial of Mark Houck, pro-life advocate, begins with night of prayer

A woman attends a rally for Mark Houck outside the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 2023, while holding a sign that says “Justice for Mark Houck!” / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 24, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Opening statements for the trial of Mark Houck, a pro-life advocate charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, won’t begin until tomorrow, but that didn’t stop a crowd of about 50 supporters from gathering in front of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Tuesday to rally for Houck’s acquittal.

Houck, a Catholic father of seven, was arrested at his home in front of his terrified wife and children by federal agents last September and is being charged under a controversial law known as the FACE Act.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” More about the allegations, and the charges, can be found here.

Kathleen McCarthy, Houck’s mother-in-law, spoke at the rally and talked about his courage and faith through this time of trial.

“Mark Houck is the real deal,” McCarthy said, fighting back tears.

The allegations in this case stem back to an incident that occurred at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 2021. The federal indictment alleges that Houck twice shoved a clinic patient escort during a verbal altercation while a then 72-year-old man — identified in the indictment by the initials “B.L.” — was attempting to lead clients inside the clinic.

Houck and his lawyers dispute the allegations, saying that he was just defending his son from being harassed by the clinic escort. Criminal charges were never filed with local law enforcement. The clinic escort filed a civil suit, but that was thrown out.

Almost a year after the altercation, Houck was arrested at his home in Kintnersville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the early hours of the morning and was charged with violating the FACE Act.

The rally Tuesday was organized by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Coalition, a pro-life advocacy group. Attendees prayed and sang hymns while several speakers stood in front of the crowd with a microphone and gave testimony in support of Houck. Some members of the media were there as well as a police presence.

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Houck runs a Catholic men’s ministry called “The King’s Men,” which aims to help men become better husbands, fathers, and leaders.

Father Jim Hutchins, a retired priest living in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, who serves as the chaplain of the apostolate, showed up to support Houck.

Hutchins told CNA that he was praying that Houck would “receive justice” and compared the pro-life advocate to Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Also in attendance was Jack O’Brien, 87, who has worked on behalf of the unborn with The King’s Men in the past.

Calling the FACE Act “phony” and an “obscenity,” O’Brien said: “We think the charges are going to be dismissed.”

Ryan-Marie Houck, Houck’s wife, told CNA at the courthouse that the couple prayed before the Blessed Sacrament at eucharistic adoration all through the night on Jan. 23 in preparation for the trial, which is set to begin Jan. 25 at 9 a.m.

Brendan Whitaker, a Catholic and supporter of Houck who was also at the courthouse, told CNA that he was one of 40-50 people who joined the Houcks in prayer at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

Whitaker, of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, said that about 25 people stayed and prayed past midnight and mentioned that the group prayed at least three rosaries and some other scriptural prayers.

Some of Houck’s siblings were present at the court, along with members of his wife’s family. The couple’s children were not there.

The Houcks’ teenage son, Mark Houck Jr., will, however, be taking the witness stand during the trial.

Houck is being represented by a legal team of four attorneys: Brian McMonagle of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis; Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation; Michael McHale, Thomas More Society senior counsel; and Andrew Bath, Thomas More Society executive vice president and general counsel.

Representing the Department of Justice (DOJ) is Anita Eve from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Ashley Martin, also from the U.S. attorney’s office; and Sanjay Patel from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, criminal section in Washington, D.C.

Gerald Pappert is the presiding judge. Pappert said on Tuesday that jury deliberations could begin as early as Thursday.

See more photos from the rally below.

Spanish priest calls out Father James Martin for his ‘poisoned doctrine’ on homosexuality

Father James Martin, SJ. / Credit: Flickr by Shawn (CC BY-NC 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Jan 24, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Father Francisco José Delgado, a priest of the Archdiocese of Toledo in Spain and host of “The Sacristy of the Vendée” program on YouTube, criticized Jesuit Father James Martin for a controversial post on Twitter about the gay “marriage” of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

The controversy began with the accusation that Buttigieg’s travel expenses as secretary were excessive. The official responded that he “traveled with his ‘husband’ as other senior officials travel with their wives,” Delgado explained.

Martin tweeted “Pete Buttigieg is married,” commenting on a tweet from the Catholic League, which read that “it is true that Peter Buttigieg is legally married, but that is a legal fiction.”

On Jan. 22, Martin posted: “Surprised this got so much attention. Like it or not, Pete Buttigieg is legally married.” 

“You may disagree with same-sex marriage (or not). But @SecretaryPete is married in the eyes of the state, and his church, as much as anyone else is. To claim otherwise is to ignore reality,” wrote the Jesuit priest, who is also a consultant to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications.

Responding to the evolving controversy, Delgado tweeted in response to Martin’s post. “You can go to his ‘church’ and stop sullying that of Christ, prophet of Satan,” he wrote.  

Wave of criticism

Martin’s tweet sparked a wave of other criticism on social media. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, archbishop emeritus of Durban, South Africa, pointed out that just because the state sanctions something doesn’t make it right:

“Not so long ago people of colour were considered by the State to be less than human & so denied them their human rights! Sorry! That did not make people of colour less than human! In fact only God, our Creator, could do that. Instead he chose to become human to prove his point!” he tweeted.

“He’s not married in the eyes of God. To claim otherwise is to ignore reality,” tweeted Sean K. Davis in response to Martin’s assertion regarding Buttigieg’s relationship.

Adele Scalia, daughter-in-law of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, countered: “You are, in fact, not surprised this got so much attention. You tweeted it for the attention you knew it would get.”

‘Poisoned doctrine’

Delgado said in a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, that “Father James Martin, an American Jesuit, has the habit of speaking out on social media in a scandalous way against the Catholic faith.” 

“His favorite theme is the acceptance of everything that has to do with homosexuality, not only the tendency or the acts, but even the recognition of homosexual unions as true marriages,” the Spanish priest remarked.

Martin’s first comment in support of Buttigieg, the Spanish priest said, was that “‘Pete Buttigieg is married.’ Faced with such an outrageous statement, many Catholics have reminded him that it is against Church teaching, and have even asked him if he would be consistent and confer the sacrament of marriage (although Buttigieg is not Catholic, but is currently an Episcopalian),” Delgado continued.

The Spanish priest noted: “James Martin has insisted that the politician ‘is married in the eyes of the state and his church, as much as anyone else is.’ This, said by any Catholic, would be excusable if it is due to ignorance and, simply, it would be necessary to proceed to explain to that person what the doctrine of the Church is.”

However, the Spanish priest pointed out, “Martin is not only a Jesuit priest but also holds a position at the service of the Holy See as a consultant to the Dicastery for Communications. Therefore, with regard to him there is not only room for a correction that, on the other hand, many other Catholics have already tried to make to him.”

In reality, “what we Catholics and especially priests feel is terrible indignation at the attitude of this priest openly contrary to the teaching that he should defend and communicate.”

“By doing so, he causes serious damage to the Church and to the simpler faithful who, considering his priestly status, think that what he says corresponds to the official position of the Church,” the priest lamented.

Delgado then recalled what the Catholic Church teaches, specifically what is established in the document “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition of unions between homosexual persons” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” the Vatican document states in Section 5. 

In conclusion, the Spanish priest invited “the priest James Martin, if he is not willing to stop sullying the face of Mother Church with his poisoned doctrine, to leave as soon as possible, since it doesn’t seem that those who have authority over him want to do anything about it.”

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

Millions still suffer from leprosy. Here’s Pope Francis’ message about it

Pope Francis prays in front of a crucifix during his general audience on Oct. 26, 2022. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is calling on Catholics and people worldwide to remember those suffering from leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, ahead of World Leprosy Day.

“We cannot forget these brothers and sisters of ours,” the 86-year-old pontiff said in a message to the Second Symposium on Hansen’s disease held Jan. 23-24 in Rome. “We must not ignore this disease, which unfortunately still afflicts many people, especially in the most disadvantaged social contexts.”

While the disease is easily curable and rare in countries such as the United States, people from around the world still suffer from it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2-3 million people are living with Hansen’s disease-related disabilities worldwide.

World Leprosy Day, which is held annually on the last Sunday of January, began in 1954 in an attempt to raise awareness of the disease.

“What should concern us, today more than then, is that not only the disease can be forgotten, but also the people,” Pope Francis urged in his message.

He added: “On the contrary, convinced of the human family’s vocation to fraternity, let us allow ourselves to be challenged and to be asked: ‘Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others? Will we bend down and help another to get up?’”

The pope encouraged symposium participants to see World Leprosy Day as an opportunity to “revise our models of development,” “denounce and try to correct the discrimination they cause,” and “renew our commitment to building an inclusive society.”

Those who suffer from leprosy, he stressed, are human persons of inherent dignity and worth.

“Specifically, we must ask ourselves how best to collaborate with people affected by leprosy, treating them fully as people, recognizing them as the key protagonists in their struggle to participate in fundamental human rights and to live as fully-fledged members of the community,” he invited.

Pope Francis concluded by expressing his closeness to those who suffer from Hansen’s disease and encouraging participants to ensure that those struggling with the disease have both spiritual support and health care.

He asked for the intercession of Mary Most Holy as well as the “many saints who served Christ in people affected by leprosy” for the symposium participants.

“May everyone experience that Jesus came so that every man and woman might have life, and have it in abundance,” he said.

‘Never take human life for granted,’ Archbishop Cordileone says after second mass shooting

FBI agents arrive at a farm on Jan. 24, 2023, where a mass shooting occurred in Half Moon Bay, California, the day before. Seven people were killed at two separate farm locations that were only a few miles apart. The suspect, Chunli Zhao, was taken into custody a few hours later without incident. / Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in California, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone released a statement Monday reminding people of the frailty of human life.

“The recent shootings in Monterey Park and now in Half Moon Bay remind us of how fragile human life is, but also how precious human life is,” the archbishop said in the statement posted on the archdiocese’s website. “We must never take human life for granted. We must never take out our aggressions and our frustrations on others, especially in any form of violence.”

Seven farmworkers were killed and one was critically injured after a gunman opened fire Monday afternoon at two separate nurseries in Half Moon Bay, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

The 67-year-old suspect, Chunli Zhao, is thought to have worked at one of the farms and is believed to have acted alone, NBC Bay Area news reported. He was taken into custody without incident later that afternoon.

“We must never take out our aggressions and our frustrations on others, especially in any form of violence,” Cordileone said in his statement.

“Yes, we need to come together to pray, and we pray for the victims, their families, the perpetrator, but we need to pray all the time,” he said. “Not just during these moments of great tragedy, but all the time.”

Investigators on Tuesday were still trying to figure out a motive for the crime, according to NBC Bay Area news.

The Half Moon Bay shooting comes just two days after another gunman killed 10 and wounded several others at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park outside Los Angeles on Saturday. An 11th victim succumbed to injuries sustained in the shooting on Monday, KTLA reported. The shooter in that incident died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as authorities surrounded his van Sunday morning.

The niece of one of the victims of that shooting — which occurred in the midst of the Lunar New Year festival — 65-year-old My Nhan, posted a tribute to her aunt on Twitter.

“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends. It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,” Tiffany Liou wrote. “We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly.”

“We need to reclaim God at the center of our lives,” Cordileone concluded his statement. “He is the one who will grant us his peace.”

Seattle archdiocese says parishes must merge due to decline in number of Catholics 

St. James Cathedral, Seattle. / DarrylBrooks/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Jan 24, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

A decline in Catholic religious practice and other changes in western Washington state means parishes will have to merge so that parish life can sustain itself, the Archdiocese of Seattle said Sunday.

“The mission of the Catholic Church is at the heart of strategic pastoral planning,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said Jan. 22. “To achieve our mission, we must reinvigorate the faith of our people and re-envision how we live our faith in our parish communities, which includes adapting to our current reality so that we can strengthen our relationship with Jesus, accompany one another in faith, and credibly proclaim the Gospel.”

Despite a growing overall population in western Washington, the number of practicing Catholics continues to decline, the archdiocese said in a statement. There are fewer households registered with a parish and fewer people attend Mass, receive the sacraments, and take part in parish life. From 2010 to 2019, the archdiocese said, Mass attendance fell by 11%, baptismal numbers declined by 30%, and weddings declined by 18%.

“With all of the changes that we’re facing today — globally, culturally, and within the Church — it’s very clear the status quo is no longer an option,” Etienne said.

The archdiocese’s strategic planning process, called Partners in the Gospel, is “a plan for how we embrace these realities with hope and confidence,” the archbishop said.

Under the planning process, most parishes will combine into a “new family structure.” Two or more parishes will become a single canonical parish under the leadership of one pastor and one or more parochial vicars. The pastor, parish leaders, and parishioners will then determine questions such as how to share resources, staff, ministries, outreach efforts, and facilities.

The Seattle Archdiocese has fewer resources, including priests, lay leaders, and financial assets. There are 80 diocesan pastors for 174 locations, but it predicts it will have only 66 pastors in 2036.

“We need to adapt to times,” said Jesús Gómez Sánchez, a member of the archdiocesan pastoral council. “The worst we could do is remain not doing anything about it and just seeing the numbers in our Church decrease.”

The archdiocese’s 2021 annual report said it had about 600,000 Catholics in its territory. There were about 182 diocesan priests, including 81 retirees, 118 permanent deacons, 17 religious brothers, and 292 religious sisters. That year there were almost 3,200 infant baptisms, 4,700 confirmations, and 849 total marriages.

Caitlin Moulding, chief operations officer for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said the situation of Catholicism in the region has changed.

“We have churches that were built for many more people than are attending Mass, and most parishes have constrained resources with significant expenses to maintain facilities,” she said. “Many smaller parishes have fewer resources, so they can’t invest in the programs and the staff needed to bring people together and re-enliven their faith.”

The Minnesota-based PartnersEdge consultancy, which specializes in assessment, planning, and leadership, will aid the archdiocese in gathering data, analysis, and structural redesign.

The consultation launches this month. Parish and archdiocesan consultations will take place in spring 2023, while public comment on parish groupings will take place in fall 2023. The final “parish family” structures will be announced in early 2024 and will take effect in July of that year. By 2027, parish groupings are planned to merge into canonical parishes.

The archdiocese’s financial report for fiscal year 2020-2021 said parish collections drew in $93 million. The archdiocese financial report found a 3% decline in parish offertory giving on top of a 4% decline the previous year. The previous 10 years, however, showed “moderate increases” each year.

For 27 parishes and missions, especially in rural areas, ordinary income was under $100,000 each. About two-thirds of parishes operate at a deficit when income from rental properties and special gifts is excluded, the Seattle Times reported. The archdiocese as a whole is fiscally solvent with about $16.5 million in cash and investments.

The Seattle Archdiocese covers the western part of Washington state, from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Mountains. At present, it has 72 Catholic schools and 174 parishes, missions, and pastoral centers. It celebrates more than 500 weekly Masses in eight languages.

Washington state is among the most secular in the country. About 32% of its residents are religiously unaffiliated, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019. Still, 61% of Washingtonians are Christian. Evangelicals make up 25% of the population, while Catholics make up 17%.