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Controversial Dominican priest to lead October retreat for bishops at start of synod

Fr. Timothy Radcliffe addressing the bishops of the Catholic Church in England and Wales / © Mazur/

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2023 / 09:21 am (CNA).

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich announced Monday that the October 2023 session of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will begin with a three-day retreat led by a Dominican preacher whose statements on homosexuality have previously sparked controversy.

Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe will lead the Catholic bishops and participants in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in a retreat near Rome from Oct. 1–3 at the invitation of Pope Francis, according to the cardinal. 

Radcliffe, 77, served as head of the Dominican Order from 1992 to 2001. His heterodox statements, particularly those on homosexuality, have previously caused controversy in the Church.

In the Anglican Pilling Report in 2013, Radcliffe wrote that when considering same-sex relationships, “we cannot begin with the question of whether it is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means and how far it is eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual, and nonviolent. So in many ways, I think it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.”

Hollerich announced the synod retreat at a Vatican press conference on Jan. 23 promoting an ecumenical prayer vigil that will be held in St. Peter’s Square to entrust the work of the Synod of Bishops to God.

“The synod is not about Church politics. It’s about listening to the Spirit of God and advancing together and praying. So there will be one different point compared to the other synods. After the prayer vigil, the bishops and the participants of the synod will leave for a three-day retreat. So we start with prayer, with listening to the Spirit,” Hollerich said.

The bishops’ retreat and ecumenical prayer vigil will both take place in the days immediately preceding the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the synod on synodality.  

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in two sessions. The first session will take place from Oct. 4–29, 2023, and the second in October 2024.

At the press conference, Hollerich underlined that he is “not preoccupied … that there are different opinions in the Catholic Church,” but that he sees “tensions … as something positive” for the synod on synodality.

“We do not need the synod in the Catholic Church in order to experience tensions. There are already tensions without the synod and these tensions come from the fact that each one honestly wants to see or share how we can follow Christ and proclaim Christ in the world of today. That is the source of tension,” he said.

“Now in the document for the continental phase of the synod, we saw tension also as something positive. Because in order to have a tent, you need some tension. Otherwise, the tent is falling down. And I think that the synod, the listening to the Word of God, the listening to the spirit, praying together, being together on the way, will ease bad tensions. So we do not want bad tensions destroying the Church, but good tensions sometimes are necessary for harmony.”

Hollerich, who serves as the relator general of the four-year global synodal process, said in an interview with Vatican Media last October that he believes Church blessings for same-sex unions, which the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has ruled against, is not a settled matter.

The cardinal’s statement came in response to an interview question about the decision by Belgium’s Catholic bishops to support the possibility of blessings for unions of same-sex couples — in defiance of the Vatican.

“Frankly, the question does not seem decisive to me,” Hollerich told L’Osservatore Romano in an interview also published Oct. 24, 2022, by Vatican Media.

In today’s press briefing, Hollerich said that he hopes that the synod will lead to “a new springtime of ecumenism.”

The ecumenical prayer vigil, called “Together: Gathering of the People of God,” will be led by the Taizé Community in the presence of the pope on Sept. 30. 

Young people aged 18 to 35 from all Christian traditions are invited to attend what the Vatican described in a press release as “a follow-up to World Youth Day” with praise and worship with Taizé music and prayer.

According to its website, more than 50 Christian groups representing many denominations have already partnered with the prayer vigil project, including the World Council of Churches, World Lutheran Federation, and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Exarchate Europe.

The Vatican invited ecumenical representatives to speak at the press conference about the vigil, including Anglican archbishop Ian Ernest, Armenian Apostolic Church archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and Brother Alois, the prior from the ecumenical Taizé Community. Pastor Christian Krieger, the president of the French Protestant Federation, also participated remotely.

Last year, the Vatican issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the local stage of the synod on synodality.

Ernest, who serves as the personal representative of the archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and leads the Anglican Centre in Rome, reflected that he “felt more as a participant than an observer” at the inaugural session of the synod in October 2021 because his “voice was listened to in the group discussions.”

“This synodal process initiated by Pope Francis will be giving wings to our ecumenical togetherness, to our quest to work to walk together, and to see how best we could help in the suffering of those who live in distressed situations of this broken world,” Ernest said.

Pope Francis: To stay with Jesus requires the courage to leave our sins

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

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said that following Jesus requires the courage to leave behind the sins that are holding us back.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Jan. 22, the pope said that “our vices and our sins” are like “anchors that hold us at the shore and prevent us from setting sail.”

“To stay with Jesus, therefore, requires the courage to leave, to set out. To leave what? Our vices and sins,” he said.

Pope Francis added that in order to set out on the “new adventure” of following Christ it is right to start by asking forgiveness, as well as leaving behind “what holds us back from living fully.”

“It also means giving up the time wasted on so many useless things,” he said.

The pope pointed to the example of someone who chooses to spend time in prayer or serving others, instead of wasting time.

“I am also thinking of a young family who leaves behind a quiet life to open themselves up to the unforeseen and beautiful adventure of motherhood and fatherhood — it is a sacrifice, but all it takes is one look at a child to understand that it was the right choice to leave behind certain rhythms and comforts, to have this joy,” Francis said.

Pope Francis asked people to reflect on what Jesus may be asking them to give up and leave behind in order to “say ‘yes’ to him,’” like the first disciples who left their nets on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to follow Christ.

“May Mary help us to respond with a total ‘yes’ to God, like she did, to know what to leave behind to follow him better,” he said.

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis asked people to pray for peace in Myanmar, Peru, Cameroon, and Ukraine.

The pope expressed his closeness to the civilian population in Myanmar, who have suffered “severe trials” since the military coup began in 2021.

“My thoughts, with pain, go in particular to Myanmar, where the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the village of Chan Thar, one of the oldest and most important places of worship in the country, was set on fire and destroyed,” he said.

The pope asked the crowd to pray a “Hail Mary” together to Our Lady of Myanmar asking that the conflict will end soon and that “a new time of forgiveness, love, and peace will begin.”

Pope Francis also said that he was joining the Peruvian bishops’ call for an end to acts of violence in the South American country.

“Violence extinguishes hope for a just solution to problems. I encourage all parties involved to take the path of dialogue between brothers of the same nation, with full respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

The pope expressed hope that progress is being made toward a resolution of the conflict in English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

“I encourage all the signatory parties to the agreement to persevere on the path of dialogue and mutual understanding because the future can be planned only in encounter,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also wished a “happy new year” to all who celebrate the Lunar New Year in East Asia and other parts of the world, adding that he was thinking of “all those who are still going through moments of trial caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The pope reminded everyone that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is dedicated in a special way to the Word of God.

Before the Angelus, Pope Francis formally conferred the ministries of lector and catechist upon four men and six women at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God.

“Let’s rediscover with amazement the fact that God speaks to us, especially through the holy Scriptures. Let’s read them, study them, meditate on them, and pray with them. Every day we should read a passage from the Bible, especially from the Gospel. There Jesus speaks to us, enlightens us, guides us,” the pope said.

Pope Francis confers lay ministries upon 10 people in St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis confers the ministry of catechist in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis formally conferred the ministries of lector and catechist upon four men and six women from the Philippines, Mexico, Congo, Italy, and the U.K. on Sunday at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 22, the pope presented Bibles to three new lectors and said: “Receive the book of Holy Scripture and faithfully transmit the Word of God, so that it may germinate and bear fruit in the hearts of men.”

Pope Francis formally confers the ministry of lector upon a woman on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis formally confers the ministry of lector upon a woman on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media

The pope then spoke to the future catechists who knelt before him. He handed each one a silver crucifix, saying: “Receive this sign of our faith, seat of the truth and charity of Christ: proclaim him by your life, actions, and word.”

Pope Francis conferred the lay ministries on the Sunday of the Word of God, a day that he declared in 2019 on the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, who famously translated the Bible.

The ministries themselves have also been shaped by Pope Francis in recent years. The pope changed Church law in January 2021 so that women could be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

Pope Francis established the ministry of catechist as an instituted, vocational service within the Catholic Church in May 2021.

The ministry is for laypeople who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith. The ministry lasts for the entirety of life, regardless of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

Pope Francis confers ministry of catechist in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis confers ministry of catechist in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media

In his homily, Pope Francis said that “the Word of God is for everyone.” He underlined that the Word “calls everyone to conversion” and “leads us to direct our lives to the Lord.”

“All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies, and preferences, but under the one Word of God that molds us, converts us, and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ,” Pope Francis said.

The pope said that the “proclamation of the Word must become the main priority of the ecclesial community, as it was for Jesus.”

“May it not happen that we profess a God with an expansive heart, yet become a Church with a closed heart … may it not be that we preach salvation for all, yet make the way to receive it impractical; may it not be that we recognize that we are called to proclaim the Kingdom, yet neglect the Word, losing ourselves in so many secondary activities or so many secondary discussions,” he said.

More than 5,000 people attended the Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Vatican.

The Sunday of the Word of God has been celebrated in the Church each year on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time since 2020.

Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media
Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 22, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis said that the Word of God “draws us into the ‘net’ of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom.”

“Today let us also hear the invitation to be fishers of men: let us feel that we are called by Jesus in person to proclaim his Word, to bear witness to it in everyday life, to live it in justice and charity, to “give it flesh” by tenderly caring for those who suffer,” he said.

“This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed, and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, to bring the joy of knowing that he is our Father and addresses each one of us, to bring the beauty of saying, ‘Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in his Word an amazing gift!’”

Cardinal Grech: Benedict XVI was misunderstood throughout his life

Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and Cardinal Mario Grech in 2022 / Vatican Media (L) and Daniel Ibanez/CNA (R)

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Benedict XVI was misunderstood throughout his life and ministry, Cardinal Mario Grech wrote in an essay this week in the Vatican newspaper.

Writing in the Jan. 17 Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Grech said Benedict XVI “often remained a misunderstood voice. And this has been a constant in Joseph Ratzinger’s life, theology, and papacy.”

Grech is secretary general of the Synod of Bishops and the chief organizer of the Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality, currently in progress.

The Maltese cardinal compared Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — to the clown in a famous story of the philosopher Kierkegaard: When a clown tried to sound the alarm that a dangerous fire had broken out in the circus and threatened the town if not extinguished, the townspeople did not take the clown seriously but laughed at what they thought were only his attempts to get them to come to the circus.

Grech pointed out that Professor Joseph Ratzinger, as the young theologian was known then, opened his 1968 book “Introduction to Christianity” with this same story, comparing the experience of Christian believers of the day to the experience of the misunderstood clown.

“Although Ratzinger never said so explicitly, I glimpse an identification, or at least a similarity, indeed, between the story of the clown and the personal story of the Bavarian theologian pope,” the cardinal said.

Ratzinger and his family were not understood when they resisted Nazi Germany, Grech said. Nor was Ratzinger the theologian understood when, in the period after the Second Vatican Council, he questioned whether certain proposed reforms were for the good of the Church — losing friends and positions along the way.

Grech said Cardinal Ratzinger was misunderstood in Rome, too, where, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had a reputation of being rigid and inflexible.

“Ratzinger was not understood even when he resigned [as pope],” the cardinal continued. “His figure and memory are sometimes used and politicized to create an antagonism between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.”

“These few examples clearly show how incomprehension was a constant factor in the life and mission of this man,” he said.

Ratzinger, therefore, had two choices before him, Grech said: To continue to search for the truth, that is for Jesus Christ himself, with the risk of not being understood by the contemporary world; or to compromise with the truth and no longer be seen as the clown in Kierkegaard’s story.

“For Ratzinger, the answer was obvious. He was never willing to compromise with the truth, to cease searching for the truth, whatever the cost,” Grech underlined.

In his search for the truth, Pope Benedict XVI was not seeking philosophical concepts but Jesus Christ, the Maltese cardinal said.

“It was his love for this God, his encounter with Jesus, that guided his whole life,” Grech said. “In fact, as he used to say, ‘at the beginning of being a Christian there is not an ethical decision or a great idea, but the encounter with an event, with a Person, who gives life a new horizon and thereby the decisive direction’ (Deus caritas est, 1). This Person is Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis: In the Mass, prioritize awe over aesthetics

Pope Francis meets participants in an international training course for liturgical celebrations in Catholic dioceses on Jan. 20, 2023 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2023 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday encouraged diocesan leaders to prioritize awe, evangelization, and silence before mere aesthetics in liturgical celebrations like the Mass.

“A celebration that does not evangelize is not authentic,” the pope said Jan. 20, quoting from his 2022 apostolic letter on liturgical reform, Desiderio Desideravi.

Without evangelization, he added, the liturgy “is a ‘ballet,’ a beautiful, aesthetic, nice ballet, but it is not authentic celebration.”

Pope Francis spoke about the liturgy in a Jan. 20 meeting with participants in an international training course for liturgical celebrations in Catholic dioceses.

The Jan. 16-20 course, organized by the liturgical institute of the Pontifical University of St. Anselm in Rome, was on the theme “living liturgical action in fullness.”

The pope said one of the aims of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council was “to accompany the faithful to recover the ability to live the liturgical action in its fullness and to continue to marvel at what happens in the celebration before our eyes.”

Francis underlined that the Council was not talking about aesthetic joy or the aesthetic sense but wonder and amazement.

“Awe is something different from aesthetic pleasure: it is encounter with God. Only encounter with the Lord gives you awe,” he said.

To this end, the pope said, the liturgical formation of priests is essential, since they go on to form the faithful, who see whether they celebrate Mass properly and in a prayerful way.

Pope Francis also urged those who help organize liturgical celebrations to cultivate silence, especially immediately before the Mass, when people sometimes act like they are at a social gathering.

Silence in the pews and in the sacristy “helps the assembly and the concelebrants to focus on what is going to be accomplished,” he said.

“Fraternity is beautiful, greeting each other is beautiful, but it is the encounter with Jesus that gives meaning to our meeting with each other, to our gathering,” he said. “We must rediscover and value silence.”

The pope encouraged those who help a priest or bishop organize all of the ministers of liturgical celebrations, called masters of ceremonies, help “enhance the celebratory style experienced” in parishes.

He gave the example of when a bishop goes to celebrate Mass at a local parish.

“There is no need,” he said, “to have a nice ‘parade’ when the bishop is there and then everything goes back to the way it was. Your task is not to arrange the rite of one day, but to propose a liturgy that is imitable, with those adaptations that the community can take on board to grow in the liturgical life.”

“In fact, going to parishes and saying nothing in the face of liturgies that are a bit sloppy, neglected, poorly prepared, means not helping the communities, not accompanying them,” he added. “Instead, with gentleness, with a spirit of fraternity, it is good to help pastors to reflect on the liturgy, to prepare it with the faithful. In this the master of celebrations must use great pastoral wisdom.”

Pope Francis to do private Lenten retreat in 2023

Pope Francis on retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro retreat center in Ariccia, Italy, in March 2017. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Like the two years prior, Pope Francis and the Roman Curia will again do the Vatican’s annual Lenten retreat on an individual basis this year.

The Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis had invited cardinals living in Rome and the heads of dicasteries to participate in the spiritual exercises “in a personal way” during the first full week of Lent, Feb. 26–March 3.

During that week, all of Pope Francis’ appointments will be canceled, including the Wednesday general audience of March 1, the Vatican announced.

The pope asked the superiors of the Roman Curia to suspend their work activities and to use the five days for prayer.

Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. Credit: Vatican Media.
Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. Credit: Vatican Media.

This is the third year the Lenten spiritual exercises, formerly organized as a group retreat, will take place in a private manner.

In 2021 and 2022, the Vatican cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the change.

In 2020, a strong cold kept Pope Francis from joining the cardinals and leaders of the Roman Curia at a retreat house outside of Rome.

Pope Francis and the Roman Curia on their annual Lenten spiritual exercises in Ariccia, Italy, in 2019. Vatican Media
Pope Francis and the Roman Curia on their annual Lenten spiritual exercises in Ariccia, Italy, in 2019. Vatican Media

The practice of the pope going on a Lenten retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries began approximately 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but starting in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat in Ariccia, about 16 miles southeast of Rome.

Pope Francis: World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon will open horizons, hearts

Pope Francis greets pilgrims near the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fatima apparitions on May 12, 2017. / LUSA Press Agency

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 02:08 am (CNA).

World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, will open horizons and hearts, Pope Francis said in a video message to the young adults who will attend the international gathering in August.

He said: “At this meeting, during this [World Youth Day], learn to always look towards the horizon, to always look beyond.”

“Don’t put up a wall in front of your life,” the pope encouraged. “Walls close you in, the horizon makes you grow. Always look at the horizon with your eyes, but look, above all, with your heart.”

Pope Francis sent the video message on Jan. 20, fewer than 200 days before World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 in Portugal’s capital city Aug. 1–6.

Organizers met with Pope Francis and Vatican officials in Rome last week to discuss final preparations for the six-day gathering, which expects to see hundreds of thousands of participants.

In his Jan. 20 video message, Pope Francis noted that 400,000 young adults had already registered to attend World Youth Day.

“It calls my attention and fills me with joy that so many young people will go to WYD, because they need to participate,” he said.

“Thank you for having already registered so far in advance,” the pope added. “Let’s hope others will follow your example.”

Francis said though some participants may claim they are only going to the event as tourists, rather than pilgrims, “deep down, he or she has the thirst to participate, to share, to tell their experience and receive the experience of others.”

He encouraged them to open their hearts to other cultures and to the other young men and women who will be there.

“Get ready for this: to open horizons, to open your hearts,” he said.

World Youth Day was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The meeting is typically held on a different continent every three years with the presence of the pope.

Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is approximately 75 miles from Fatima, one of the world’s most popular Marian pilgrimage sites.

Pope Francis is expected to attend the global Catholic gathering with stops in both Lisbon and Fatima.

The last World Youth Day was held in Panama in January 2019.

In 2020, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day, originally planned for 2022, would be postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the six newest venerable servants of God in the Catholic Church

The sainthood causes of Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922) and Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677) were advanced by Pope Francis on Jan. 19, 2023. / Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons and P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis declared six Catholics as venerable servants of God on Thursday, moving them each one step closer to canonization.

In a decree signed on Jan. 19, the pope recognized the heroic virtue of an Italian stigmatic, four 20th-century priests, and a holy laywoman who spent much of her life in a sickbed.

Each now needs a miracle attributed to his or her intercession to be approved by the Vatican in order to be beatified. Here are their stories:

Bertilla Antoniazzi (1944–1964)

From the age of 9, Bertilla Antoniazzi was often in and out of hospitals after suffering from a rheumatic fever that damaged her heart and left her with a lifelong disability.

The young girl from northern Italy eventually came to understand that her mission in life was to “console those who suffered and to bring sinners closer to God,” according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

Antoniazzi began exchanging letters frequently with other sick women and girls and offered up her suffering for the salvation of souls, entrusting herself to Our Lady of Monte Berico, a Marian devotion in her hometown of Vicenza, Italy.

One year before she died at the age of 20, Antoniazzi made a pilgrimage in 1963 to Lourdes, where she asked the Blessed Virgin Mary for the gift of holiness rather than healing as her condition worsened with pulmonary edema and heart valve disease.

Her holiness inspired many of the people both in life and after her death on Oct. 22, 1964.

Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677)

This 17th-century contemplative nun was known for her extraordinary spiritual gifts. After entering the convent in Florence of the Sisters Established in Charity (Suore Stabilite nella Carità) in 1672, Sister Maria Margherita Diomira received visions, prophecies, spiritual ecstasies, the ability to read hearts, and mystic participation in Christ’s passion, including receiving the stigmata.

Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677). Credit: P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677). Credit: P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Her confessor, Father Domenico Baldi, required Diomira to describe all of her mystical experiences out of obedience, assigning another nun to transcribe the entire account.

Diomira also experienced a difficult period of spiritual dryness that was overcome on Christmas Eve in 1676. She died the following year at the age of 26 after suffering from consumption and offering herself as a victim of love to the Lord.

Father Vicente López de Uralde Lazcano (1894–1990)

Father Vicente López de Uralde Lazcano was a Spanish priest who was a beloved teacher and a sought-after confessor known for his Marian devotion.

After professing his vows in the Company of Mary, López de Uralde spent 62 years as a teacher and chaplain at the St. Philip Neri College in Cádiz, Spain.

When the school where he taught was occupied by militiamen during the Spanish Civil War, López de Uralde quickly sought to protect his students and to save the Eucharist. 

After his retirement from teaching at the age of 70, López de Uralde dedicated more time to hearing confessions. He died at the age of 96 on Sept. 15, 1990.

Father Gaetano Francesco Mauro (1888–1969)

Father Gaetano Francesco Mauro founded the Rural Catechists association in Calabria in southern Italy in 1925 as a group of priests and laypeople dedicated to teaching the catechism to farmers and others who live in remote areas.

The diocesan priest also restored the former convent of St. Francis di Paola in the town of Montalto Uffugo, where he began to live in common with some of the members of his Religious Association of Rural Oratories (A.R.D.O.R.) in 1928.

Prior to founding the association, Mauro served as a military chaplain in World War I and was imprisoned in Austria, where he became sick with tuberculosis.

Based on his diaries, it is likely that the diocesan priest suffered from a form of depression with feelings of anguish, inadequacy, and desolation intensifying in the last years of his life, according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. He died on Dec. 31, 1969, in Montalto Uffugo at the age of 81.

Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922)

Born into a noble family on the Spanish island of Majorca in 1854, Miguel Costa y Llobera initially obeyed his father’s wishes for him to study law at the University of Barcelona.

After experiencing a spiritual crisis that left him with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction, Costa y Llobera realized that God was calling him to be a priest. Despite opposition from his family, he moved to Rome and was ordained a priest in 1888.

With a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Father Costa y Llobera became a professor of sacred archaeology and history of literature in the seminary of Palma de Mallorca.

Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922). Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922). Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Spanish priest gained a reputation as a great poet. People knew him as “a very pious and learned man,” according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

St. Pope Pius X appointed him pontifical canon of the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca in 1909.

Costa y Llobera died at the pulpit on Oct. 16, 1922, while he was giving a homily to mark the 300th anniversary of the canonization of St. Teresa of Ávila in the Discalced Carmelite Church in Mallorca.

Father Giovanni Barra (1914–1975)

As a diocesan priest in the northwest Piedmont region of Italy, Father Giovanni Barra was a sought-after preacher, writer, and journalist who also opened the “Casa Alpina” retreat center in the Alps, where young people and families came together to pray in the summer.

Barra served as the rector for the Seminary for Adult Vocations in Turin and was particularly devoted to offering spiritual direction and the formation of seminarians.

He died at the age of 61 after undergoing surgery for an intestinal blockage in January 1975.

Before he died, Barra wrote in his spiritual testament: “When I look back, I feel a wave of joy and gratitude rising in me from my heart. I am truly a happy priest in my priesthood.”

Cardinal Koch: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity a time to pray for peace in Ukraine

Cardinal Kurt Koch / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Under the shadow of the war in Ukraine, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an opportunity for Christians to work together to achieve peace, according to a Vatican cardinal.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that he is praying this week that “we can re-find peace between Christians in Ukraine.”

In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, the cardinal explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”

“I think we have, with this war in Ukraine, a very difficult situation, because Christians kill Christians, and above all Orthodox kill Orthodox. And this is a very bad and sad message for the world because the Christians have the duty and the responsibility to be engaged for peace,” Koch said.

“Religion cannot be part of the problem of war but must be part of reconciliation and peace.”

Cardinal Koch said the Catholic Church is working to “re-find unity” amid the tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world through dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox.

“And now we have many, many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world, and this is a difficulty. For instance, we have an international and mixed commission between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox churches, but the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t participate in this dialogue,” he said.

Koch explained that the Russian Orthodox Church pulled out of commission after the Orthodox Church of Ukraine declared its autocephaly, or hierarchical independence, in 2019.

“And when the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t participate in this dialogue, this is a challenge,” he added.

The cardinal underlined that the Vatican is working to keep the door open for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, despite the difficulties.

“But for us, it is very important that we can continue the relations with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. But it is a very difficult situation, because we have the impression that the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate sustains this war, and we have another vision, as said by the Holy Father … that this is nonsense, this war. But we must keep open the door for relations and to deepen what is possible,” he said.

The Catholic Church dedicates one week each January to prayer for unity among all Christians. The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is taken from Isaiah 1:17: “Do good; seek justice.”

The 56th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began Jan. 18 and will continue with daily ecumenical prayers until the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on Jan. 25, when Pope Francis will preside over an ecumenical prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, 2023, Cardinal Kurt Koch explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”. Daniel Ibañez/CNA
In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, 2023, Cardinal Kurt Koch explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

On the first day of the week of prayer, Koch reflected how Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Africa reflects the “common work” for reconciliation and peace shared by the Catholic Church, the Anglican World Communion, and the Presbyterian Church in England.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Sudan from Feb. 3–5 for a visit that he is calling “a pilgrimage of peace” to the African country that has long struggled to implement peace agreements to end violence between armed groups and military forces.

The pope has desired for many years to make a trip to South Sudan together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland. A previously scheduled papal trip to South Sudan with Welby was canceled in 2017 due to security concerns, and the current trip was rescheduled for 2023 after it was postponed last summer due to Francis’ knee problems.

Koch sees a message of hope in the upcoming trip. He said: “This apostolic visit of the Holy Father in South Sudan will be a common pilgrimage between the archbishop of Canterbury, Welby, and the president of the Presbyterian Church in England and the pope because all these churches are engaged to re-find reconciliation in this country.”

“And this is a very beautiful sign that all the churches collaborate together for re-finding peace in this very difficult situation.”

Pope Francis discusses ‘ecological conversion’ with Buddhist monks from Cambodia

Pope Francis meets a Buddhist delegation from Cambodia on Jan. 19, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 07:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke with Buddhist monks from Cambodia on Thursday about the need for “ecological conversion.”

In a meeting at the Vatican on Jan. 19, the pope defined “ecological conversion” as “true repentance” that leads to the end of “ideologies and practices that are hurtful and disrespectful to the earth.”

Francis said that it requires people to commit to “promoting models of developments that heal wounds inflicted by greed, excessive search for financial profits, lack of solidarity with neighbors, and disrespect for the environment.”

He commended the delegation, which included civil society from Cambodia, for choosing “ecological conversion” as the theme of their visit to Rome focused on interreligious cooperation.

Pope Francis underlined “the profound richness that our respective religious traditions offer in  sustaining efforts to cultivate ecological responsibility.”

The pope said: “In following the tenets that the Buddha left as a legacy to his disciples (Pratimoksa), including the practices of metta, which involves not harming living things (cf. Metta Sutta sn 1.8) and living a simple lifestyle, Buddhists can achieve a compassionate protection for all beings, including the earth, their habitat.”

Francis continued: “For their part, Christians fulfill their ecological responsibility when, as trustworthy stewards, they protect creation, the work God has entrusted to them ‘to till and to keep’” (Gen 2:15; cf. Laudato Si’, 95; 217).

Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, also traveled to the Vatican for the meeting. The bishop from Strasbourg has served as a missionary in Cambodia for 25 years and speaks Khmer.

Pope Francis thanked the Cambodian delegation for their visit to the Vatican, where they will continue to meet with Vatican offices dedicated to interreligious dialogue.

“I am also certain that your meeting with the officials of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue will provide an opportunity to explore further ways to promote ecological conversion through the initiatives undertaken by Buddhist-Christian dialogue both in Cambodia and in the whole region,” the pope said.

“Upon you and upon all in your noble country I invoke an abundance of blessings from on high.”