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Pope Francis offers condolences for Monterey Park shooting

A woman takes a closer look at the names of 11 people killed in a mass shooting written on crosses and displayed during a candlelight vigil in front of the City Hall in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 24, 2023. / Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has offered his condolences after 11 people were killed in a shooting at a Los Angeles dance hall, one of two deadly mass shootings in California this week.

The pope sent a condolence telegram to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles on Jan. 25 expressing his sadness and assuring his spiritual closeness to “those affected by this tragedy.”

A gunman opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night amid celebrations of the Lunar New Year. It was the worst massacre in Los Angeles county history, according to the Associated Press.

The LA County Coroner Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victims on Tuesday as Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Lilian Li, 63; Mymy Nhan, 65; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; Diana Man Ling Tom, 70; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Ming Wei Ma, 72; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; and Chia Ling Yau, 76.

“His Holiness joins the entire community in commending the souls of those who died to almighty God’s loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved,” the papal telegram said.

Sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, it said: “As a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing.”

Two days after the shooting in Monterey Park, seven people were killed in a mass shooting in northern California’s Half Moon Bay, which authorities suspect was a workplace grievance at a mushroom farm.

In an interview following the back-to-back shootings, Pope Francis was asked about the large number of weapons in the U.S. and the frequency of mass shootings.

“I say when you have to defend yourself, all that’s left is to have the elements to defend yourself. Another thing is how that need to defend oneself lengthens, lengthens, and becomes a habit,” the pope told AP in an interview published on Jan. 25.

“Instead of making the effort to help us live, we make the effort to help us kill,” he added.

Catholic bishops in California have also responded to the shootings. Archbishop Gomez offered prayers for the victims and their loved ones and asked God to “grant wisdom and prudence to law enforcement and public officials working to make sense of the violence and keep our communities safe.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said: “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.”

“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.”

Pope Francis: ‘I had nothing to do’ with Father Marko Rupnik case

Father Marko Rupnik, SJ, in an interview with EWTN in 2020. / EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 11:16 am (CNA).

For the first time, Pope Francis has commented publicly about the scandal surrounding Father Marko Rupnik, denying he intervened to help his fellow Jesuit avoid punishment for the alleged sexual abuse of women in a religious community in Slovenia.

Speaking to the Associated Press Jan. 24 in a headline-grabbing interview published Wednesday that covered a wide range of topics, the pope said his involvement in the case was strictly procedural: assigning the case to the same tribunal that had earlier reviewed the automatic excommunication Rupnik incurred by absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sex.

After Rupnik repented the excommunication was lifted later the same month. The tribunal wound up dropping the second case because the statute of limitations had expired.

Francis explained that he thought it best to have the second case “continue with the normal court, because, if not, procedural paths are divided and everything gets muddled up.”

He added: “So I had nothing to do with this.”

The first complaints against Rupnik, a well-known Jesuit artist, became public in early December after Italian websites published stories quoting unnamed women who came in contact with Rupnik in the Loyola Community in Slovenia with which he was connected, accusing him of sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse.

Pope Francis, who was reportedly close to Rupnik, told the AP he was shocked by the allegations.

“For me, it was a surprise, really. This, a person, an artist of this level — for me was a big surprise, and a wound.”

While the abuse allegedly took place in the 1980s and early 1990s — beyond the Vatican’s statute of limitations for abuse cases involving adult victims — questions persist about why the statute wasn’t waived, as is routinely done in cases involving minors.

Francis told the AP he “always” waives the statute of limitations for cases involving minors and “vulnerable adults,” but said he is inclined to uphold traditional legal guarantees with cases involving others.

Using a Spanish term that implies a no-holds-barred approach, Francis told the AP his approach was: “No loose reins with minors, the reins are pulled pretty tight.”

Francis said he wanted more transparency in how cases are handled, but he suggested that is difficult to do in an institution that in the past has handled such cases privately.

“It’s what I want,” the pope said. “And with transparency comes a very nice thing, which is shame. Shame is a grace.”

Pope Francis unpacks Jesus’ good news: ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 11:01 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told Christians Wednesday that if they want to understand Jesus they should pay close attention to the “good news” he brings in his sermon in the Nazareth synagogue when he says he is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy.

At his weekly public audience Jan. 25, the pope said that when Jesus enters the synagogue and reads the passage from Isaiah he “then surprises everyone with a very short ‘sermon’ of just one sentence, just one sentence. And he speaks thus, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Lk 4:21).”

“This means that for Jesus that prophetic passage contains the essence of what he wants to say about himself. So, whenever we talk about Jesus, we should go back to that first announcement of his,” the pope said.

The Holy Father then proceeded to break down the following passage from Isaiah that Jesus read in the synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to release the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

The pope explained that the teachings or “proclamation” Jesus delivered that day can be distilled into five essential points that make up the Gospel or “good news”: joy, deliverance, light, healing, and wonder.

1. Joy

The “good news to the poor,” is “a proclamation of gladness,” the pope said. 

“One cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared. Bearing witness to Jesus, doing something for others in his name, to have received ‘between the lines’ of one’s life, so beautiful a gift that no words suffice to express it,” he said.

Joy is also the mark of the Christian faith, he said, adding: “When joy is lacking, the Gospel does not come through.”

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

2. Deliverance

Pope Franics explained that when Jesus says he was sent to “release the captives” it means “that one who proclaims God cannot proselytize, no, cannot pressure others, no, but relieve them: not impose burdens, but take them away; bearing peace, not bearing guilt.

“Those who witness to Christ show the beauty of the goal rather than the toil of the journey,” he said.

3. Light

Referring to Isaiah’s prophecy that one would come to “bring sight to the blind,” the pope noted that the restoration of sight is something new that came with Christ.

“It is striking that throughout the Bible, before Christ, the healing of a blind man never appears, never. It was indeed a promised sign that would come with the Messiah,” he said.

The light that Christ brings, he said, is one of a relationship with God.

“He brings us the light of sonship: He is the beloved Son of the Father, living forever; with him we too are children of God loved forever, despite our mistakes and faults,” the pope said.

4. Healing

Pope Francis devoted the majority of his catechesis to the subject of “healing,” particularly healing from guilt and the burdens of sin.

“Jesus says he came ‘to set at liberty those who are oppressed,’” the pope said. 

“The oppressed are those in life who feel crushed by something that happens: sickness, labors, burdens on the heart, guilt, mistakes, vices, sins.” 

“We think of the sense of guilt, for example. How many of us have suffered this?” the pope asked. 

“But the good news is that with Jesus, this ancient evil, sin, which seems invincible, no longer has the last word,” he said.

“Those who carry burdens need a caress for the past. So many times we hear, ‘But I would need to heal my past,’” he said.

“Brothers, sisters, do not forget: God forgets everything. How so? Yes, he forgets all our sins. That he forgets. That’s why he has no memory. God forgives everything because he forgets our sins. Only he wants us to draw near to the Lord and he forgives us everything,” the pope continued.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

5. Wonder

When Jesus says he came “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19), the pope explained, he was declaring a “jubilee” —  but “not a scheduled jubilee” such as we have today. 

“Christ is the Jubilee of every day, every hour, drawing you near, to caress you, to forgive you,” he said.

This new reality or “grace” should be received with an attitude of wonder, he said. 

“The proclamation of Jesus must always bring the amazement of grace. This amazement… ‘No, I can’t believe it! I have been forgiven.’ But this is how great our God is. Because it is not we who do great things, but rather the grace of the Lord who, even through us, accomplishes unexpected things. 

“And these are the surprises of God. God is the master of surprises. He always surprises us, is always waiting, waits for us. We arrive, and he has been expecting us. Always. The Gospel comes with a sense of wonder and newness that has a name: Jesus.”

The pope added that the “good news” Jesus shares in his proclamation is addressed to “the poor” and that all Christians must become poor to encounter Christ.

“You have to overcome any pretense of self-sufficiency in order to understand oneself to be in need of grace, and to always be in need of him. 

“If someone tells me, ‘Father, what is the shortest way to encounter Jesus?’ Be needy. Be needy for grace, needy for forgiveness, be needy for joy. And he will draw near to you,” the pope said in concluding his catechesis.

The pope’s general audience message was the third in a new weekly series of catechesis, or teachings, on evangelization and apostolic zeal.

Following his remarks, the Holy Father noted that the International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be observed Jan. 27. 

“In remembrance of that extermination of millions of Jewish people and people of other faiths that must neither be forgotten nor denied. There can be no sustained commitment to building fraternity together without first dispelling the roots of hatred and violence that fueled the horror of the Holocaust,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded with a prayer for Ukraine.

“In our thoughts and prayers, may the tormented Ukraine, so much afflicted, not be absent,” he said. “This morning I had a meeting with the leaders of the different confessions of faith that are in Ukraine — all united — and they told me about the pain of that people. Let us never forget, every day, to pray for definitive peace in Ukraine.”

‘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.

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.

Taiwan president writes to Pope Francis about ‘preserving regional security’ with China

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in Taipei on Dec. 27, 2022. / Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has written a letter to Pope Francis underlining the importance of maintaining peace with China and a commitment to the island’s sovereign democracy.

“The war that erupted between Russia and Ukraine last February has brought home to humanity just how valuable peace is,” Tsai wrote in a letter to the pope published by her office on Jan. 23.

“Preserving regional security has become a key consensus shared by national leaders.”

Tsai sent the letter in response to Pope Francis’ message for the 2023 World Day of Peace, the pope’s annual letter sent to all foreign governments around the world to mark the new year.

The president of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China (ROC), cited a speech that she gave last October following a dramatic rise in tensions between Beijing and Taipei over the summer.

“In my 2022 National Day address, I underscored that peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are the basis for the development of cross-strait relations and that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option,” Tsai said.

“I made clear that only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy, and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait.”

Vatican City State is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country.

Taiwan, an island less than 110 miles off the coast of China with a population of more than 23 million people, has maintained a vibrant democracy with robust civil liberties despite increased pressure from Beijing regarding the island’s status.

The Holy See has had formal diplomatic relations with the ROC since 1922, while the Church has not had an official diplomatic presence on the mainland People’s Republic of China (PRC) since it was officially expelled by Beijing in 1951.

Only 14 states worldwide still have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, among them Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay. The Chinese Communist Party government in mainland China views Taiwan as a rebel province and has put pressure on countries to cut diplomatic ties with the island.

Amid concern over what a Vatican decision to renew its 2018 provisional accord with Beijing would mean for the Holy See’s diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in 2020 that it had received assurances from the Vatican regarding the renewal of the Vatican-China deal.

Tsai, the first female president of Taiwan, noted that last year marked the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China and the Holy See.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,”  she said.

“Taiwan aspires to serve as a light in the world and will work closely with the Holy See to create a society of greater justice and peace for humanity.”

Jesuits ask Father Marko Rupnik to stay close to Rome during ‘ongoing preliminary inquiries’

Father Marko Rupnik / Credit: Centroaletti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rome Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 10:47 am (CNA).

The Society of Jesus has asked Father Marko Rupnik to stay close to Rome as more alleged victims of the Jesuit priest and artist go public with their stories.

Father Johan Verschueren, SJ, this week told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that he had asked Rupnik “not to leave Lazio,” the Italian region where Rome is located.

Verschueren is the major superior for the international houses of the Jesuits. It is still unclear whether Verschueren or the superior general of the Jesuits, Father Arturo Sosa, is Rupnik’s direct superior.

Rupnik, originally from Slovenia, has been accused of the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse of women from a religious community with which he was formerly connected.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. An investigation into the claims was dropped by the Vatican in October 2022 due to the statute of limitations.

Responding to ACI Prensa by email, Verschueren said he asked the 68-year-old Rupnik to remain in Lazio “in order to be available for some ongoing preliminary inquiries” related to new information and new allegations the Jesuits have received.

In mid-December, the Jesuits said they had a few months prior set up a team of people to deal with abuse-related issues and asked victims of the priest to report abuse complaints to them.

At the beginning of January, the news site The Daily Compass reported that Rupnik was living in a monastery.

Asked on Jan. 23 where Rupnik was and if it was possible he was living outside of Italy, Verschueren said this “would surprise me greatly.”

Verschueren said the Jesuits may release further information about the new inquiries into Rupnik in February.

The first complaints against Rupnik became public in early December after Italian websites published stories with reports that Rupnik had abused consecrated women in the Loyola Community.

In a statement dated Dec. 2, 2022, the Jesuits said the order had put Rupnik under restrictions for a complaint received in 2021.

The Jesuits later confirmed that Rupnik had incurred excommunication “latae sententiae” for absolving an accomplice in confession of a sin against the Sixth Commandment. The excommunication was lifted by the Vatican in May 2020, the same month it had been officially declared.

In the nearly two months since then, reports of alleged abuse by Rupnik with then-young women under his spiritual guidance have continued to be published under aliases.

Italian newspaper Il Domani published Monday an interview with another alleged victim of Rupnik who shares that she was pressured by the priest to join the Loyola Community at the age of 23.

The woman shared explicit details of the sexual acts Rupnik subjected her to over several years in her early 20s and the spiritual manipulation and grooming behavior that started as early as her mid-teens.

The woman claimed that in 1988, one year after she entered the Loyola Community, she was sent by Rupnik to stay with another woman formerly connected to the community, then living in southern Italy, who touched her sexually in order to teach her how to engage in a “threesome.”

The alleged victim said she was so “blocked” and embarrassed that one evening the friend of Rupnik called him and told him that “there was nothing to do with me.”

From that point onward, she said, “Father Rupnik totally changed his attitude toward me and began to treat me very badly: I was exploited, ignored, and marginalized in the community.”

She said she left the community at the age of 35.

Until the end of December, Rupnik was listed as the leader of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in Loreto, Italy, in mid-February.

The leader of the Feb. 13–17 retreat for priests will now be Father Ivan Bresciani, SJ, also from Slovenia and the vice director of the Centro Aletti, an artistic and theological center in Rome founded by Rupnik.

Rupnik was removed as the director of the Centro Aletti in May 2020, according to the Jesuits.

Rupnik was the creator of the official image of the 2022 World Meeting of Families, and for more than 30 years he has designed mosaic artworks for chapels, churches, and shrines around the world, including inside the Vatican.

In March 2020, Rupnik preached the first Lenten sermon for the pope and the Roman Curia at the Vatican.

Pope Francis: Amid polarization in Church, we are called to speak truth with charity

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address on Jan. 22, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 08:42 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has urged Christians to “speak the truth and to do so with charity” amid polarization and divisions within the Church.

In his message for the World Day of Social Communications on Jan. 24, the pope said that everyone has the responsibility to “communicate truth with charity” in a time “marked by polarizations and contrasts — to which unfortunately not even the ecclesial community is immune.”

“We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable, but of doing so without charity, without heart,” Pope Francis said.

“Because ‘the Christian’s programme’ — as Benedict XVI wrote — ‘is “a heart which sees,”’” he added, quoting Benedict’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

Pope Francis underlined that this call to speak the truth from the heart “radically challenges the times in which we are living” in which the truth can be exploited with disinformation. He said that “it is necessary to purify one’s heart” to see clearly and bear good fruit in communication.

“Christians in particular are continually urged to keep our tongue from evil (cf. Ps 34:13), because as Scripture teaches us, with the same tongue we can bless the Lord and curse men and women who were made in the likeness of God (cf. Jas 3:9),” he wrote.

“No evil word should come from our mouths, but rather ‘only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear’ (Eph 4:29).”

The pope’s message was released on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists.

“A brilliant intellectual, fruitful writer and profound theologian, Francis de Sales was bishop of Geneva at the beginning of the 17th century during difficult years marked by heated disputes with Calvinists,” he said.

“His meek attitude, humanity, and willingness to dialogue patiently with everyone, especially with those who disagreed with him, made him an extraordinary witness of God’s merciful love.”

Pope Francis recalled that 2023 will mark the centenary of Pope Pius XI’s proclamation of St. Francis de Sales as the patron of Catholic journalists in the encyclical Rerum Omnium Perturbationem.

He noted how the saint’s words “heart speaks to heart” have inspired many generations of Christians, including St. John Henry Newman, who chose it as his motto, “Cor ad cor loquitur.”

St. Francis de Sales understood communication as “a reflection of the soul,” rather than as “a marketing strategy,” the pope said.

“One of his convictions was, ‘In order to speak well, it is enough to love well,’” he said. “For St. Francis de Sales, precisely ‘in the heart and through the heart, there comes about a subtle, intense and unifying process in which we come to know God.’”

Pope Francis said that he dreams of “an ecclesial communication that knows how to let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit … that knows how to find new ways and means for the wonderful proclamation it is called to deliver in the third millennium.”

Speaking of the Church’s ongoing “synodal process,” the pope said that there is a pressing need in the Church for “listening without prejudice” and for communication that is “balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters.”

The pope added that with the war in Ukraine it is urgent to reject hostile forms of communication in favor of “paths that allow for dialogue and reconciliation in places where hatred and enmity rage.”

“It is terrifying to hear how easily words calling for the destruction of people and territories are spoken. Words, unfortunately, that often turn into warlike actions of heinous violence,” he said.

“This is why all belligerent rhetoric must be rejected, as well as every form of propaganda that manipulates the truth, disfiguring it for ideological ends. Instead, what must be promoted is a form of communication that helps create the conditions to resolve controversies between peoples.”

Pope Francis concluded his message, signed in the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Jan. 24, with a short prayer:

“May the Lord Jesus, the pure Word poured out from the heart of the Father, help us to make our communication clear, open, and heartfelt. May the Lord Jesus, the Word made flesh, help us listen to the beating of hearts, to rediscover ourselves as brothers and sisters, and to disarm the hostility that divides. May the Lord Jesus, the Word of truth and love, help us speak the truth in charity, so that we may feel like protectors of one another.”