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Pope Francis asks Secular Franciscans to take St. Francis’ path of conversion

Pope Francis meets participants in the general chapter of the Secular Franciscan Order, Nov. 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Secular Franciscans on Monday to embrace the “path of conversion” taken by St. Francis of Assisi.

The pope spoke to participants in the general chapter of the Secular Franciscan Order on Nov. 15, days after making his fifth visit to Assisi since his election in 2013.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Addressing members of the order originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, he reflected on the 13th-century saint’s transformation from a gilded youth to a humble friar nicknamed “Il Poverello.”

The pope said that the Secular Franciscan vocation was “born of the universal call to holiness,” a term used in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

“This holiness, to which you are called as Secular Franciscans … involves the conversion of the heart, attracted, conquered and transformed by the One who is the only Holy One, who is ‘the good, every good, the supreme good,’” he said, quoting from St. Francis’ writings.

“This is what makes you true ‘penitents.’ St. Francis, in his Letter to all the faithful, presents ‘doing penance’ as a path of conversion, a path of Christian life, a commitment to do the will and works of the heavenly Father.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope noted that in his Testament, St. Francis said that he was at first repelled by the sight of lepers. But when God inspired him to do penance, the saint wrote, “that which had seemed to me bitter was changed for me into sweetness of body and soul.”

“The process of conversion is thus: God takes the initiative: ‘The Lord gave to me to begin to do penance.’ God leads the penitent to places where he would never have wanted to go: ‘God led me among them, the lepers,’” Pope Francis said.

“The penitent responds by accepting to place himself at the service of others and by using mercy with them. And the result is happiness: ‘That which had seemed to me bitter was changed into sweetness of mind and body.’ Exactly the path of conversion taken by Francis.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He went on: “This, dear brothers and sisters, is what I urge you to achieve in your lives and in your mission. And, please, let us not confuse ‘doing penance’ with ‘works of penance.’ These — fasting, almsgiving, mortification — are consequences of the decision to open one’s heart to God.”

“Open your heart to God! To open one’s heart to Christ, living in the midst of ordinary people, in the style of St. Francis. Just as Francis was a ‘mirror of Christ,’ so may you too become ‘mirrors of Christ.’”

The Secular Franciscan Order belongs to the third branch of the Franciscan family, after the First Order of friars and the Second Order of nuns, known as the Poor Clares.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Franciscan Third Order dates back to 1221, when St. Francis outlined a way of life for lay people seeking to do penance but unable to join the First or Second Orders.

Well-known Secular Franciscans include Dante, St. Joan of Arc, Christopher Columbus, Michelangelo, and St. Thomas More.

Each of the orders has its own Rule, rooted in St. Francis’ original Rule of 1209. Pope Paul VI approved the current version of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order on June 24, 1978, with his letter Seraphicus Patriarcha.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The order’s general elective chapter was due to take place last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. It is being held in Rome on Nov. 13-21.

Pope Francis told participants in the general chapter: “You are men and women committed to living in the world according to the Franciscan charism. A charism that consists essentially in observing the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The vocation of the Secular Franciscan is to live the Gospel in the world in the style of the Poverello, sine glossa [‘without gloss’]; to take the Gospel as the ‘form and rule’ of life.”

“I urge you to embrace the Gospel as you embrace Jesus. Let the Gospel, that is, Jesus Himself, shape your life. In this way, you will take on poverty, minority, and simplicity as your distinguishing marks before all.”

The pope described the Secular Franciscans as “part of the outbound Church.”

“Your favorite place to be is in the midst of the people, and there, as lay people — celibate or married — priests and bishops, each according to his or her specific vocation, to bear witness to Jesus with a simple life, without pretension, always content to follow the poor and crucified Christ, as did St. Francis and so many men and women of your order,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“I encourage you too to go out to the peripheries, the existential peripheries of today, and there to make the word of the Gospel resound. Do not forget the poor, who are the flesh of Christ: you are called to proclaim the Good News to them, as did, among others, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, your Patroness.”

He added: “And just as the ‘fraternities of penitents’ of yesteryear distinguished themselves by founding hospitals, dispensaries, soup kitchens and other works of genuine social charity, so today the Spirit sends you to exercise the same charity with the creativity required by the new forms of poverty.”

Croatian president raises plight of Bosnia’s Catholic minority during Vatican visit

Pope Francis receives Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović at the Vatican, Nov. 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2021 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović highlighted the situation of the Catholic minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina during a visit to the Vatican on Monday.

The Holy See press office said on Nov. 15 that after meeting with Pope Francis, Milanović held discussions with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“During the cordial discussions, the parties expressed their appreciation for the good existing bilateral relations, and the intention to further develop collaboration,” it said.

“In addition, several international and regional issues were discussed, including the situation of the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed independence in 1992 amid the breakup of Yugoslavia, which was followed by the Bosnian War that claimed an estimated 100,000 lives.

The presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia reached an agreement to end Europe’s bloodiest conflict since the Second World War on Nov. 21, 1995, after negotiations at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio.

Under the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain a single sovereign state, consisting of the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat federation, with Sarajevo serving as the undivided capital city. The text resulted in the creation of a political apparatus described as “the world’s most complicated system of government.”

Catholics — most of whom are Croats — are a minority within the country, comprising 15% of the population, according to a 2013 census. Half of the population is Muslim and around 30% belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Medjugorje, a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination, is located in southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 miles east of the country’s border with Croatia.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Agreement last November, the Catholic bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the pact ended the Bosnian War but failed to create “a stable and just peace.”

Cardinal Vinko Puljić of Sarajevo said last year that up to 10,000 Catholics leave Bosnia and Herzegovina every year.

Reuters has described current turmoil in the southeastern European state, home to 3.3 million people, as the worst political crisis since the war.

Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest bilateral supporter, has threatened to cut financial aid to the country following calls for secession, especially in the Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need earlier this month that Catholics faced discrimination “in all respects: politically, socially and also economically.”

“The Catholics often have problems when they have Croat names. It is also difficult for them to find work. There is one part of the country, West Herzegovina, where they can more or less live in peace. But the Catholics are leaving the country even there,” he said.

He added that Catholics acted “as a sort of ‘adhesive’” between the Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosniaks.

“Should this adhesive disappear, then these two worlds — the Islamic and the Orthodox — will drift ever farther apart. This will give rise to even greater unrest,” he commented.

Pope Francis to speak at meeting of bishops and mayors in Florence

Pope Francis visits Artemio Franchi Municipal Stadium in Florence, Italy, on Nov. 10, 2015. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will visit the Italian city of Florence in February to speak at a meeting of bishops and mayors of the Mediterranean region.

The pope’s Feb. 27 visit will also include an encounter with refugee families. The trip will conclude with Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Cross, followed by the Angelus.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, said in a Nov. 15 press release: “I express deep gratitude to Pope Francis for this gesture of attention to the initiative that involves the ecclesial and civil communities of the Mediterranean.”

The gathering of Church and civil leaders follows a meeting of bishops in the southern Italian city of Bari.

Pope Francis visited the coastal city on Feb. 23, 2020, to speak on the final day of a five-day meeting bringing together more than 50 bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries spanning North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

The 2022 edition of the bishops’ meeting will take place at the same time as a parallel gathering of mayors from cities in the Mediterranean region.

Pope Francis will address both groups on Feb. 27, the final day of the events, at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall.

Bassetti said: “The Florence meeting will be an opportunity to continue reflection, starting from the commitments that the Holy Father gave us in Bari: ‘Rebuild the bonds that have been broken, raise the cities destroyed by violence, make a garden flourish where today there are parched lands, instill hope in those who have lost it and exhort those who are closed in on themselves not to fear their brother.’”

“Let’s start again, then, from Florence, to ensure that the shores of the Mediterranean once again become a symbol of unity and not a boundary,” the bishops’ conference president added.

Pope Francis visited Florence on Nov. 10, 2015, during which he held a landmark meeting with representatives of the National Convention of the Italian Catholic Church. He urged them to shun concerns about “power, image, and money” and focus on applying his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium “in a synodal fashion.”

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, said: “In prayer, we prepare to welcome Pope Francis and the bishops of Mare Nostrum [a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea]. May the Lord enlighten these days and our dialogue so that we can contribute to building peace in an area still today marked by wars, emigration, and inequality.”

Betori recalled the example of Venerable Giorgio La Pira, the “holy mayor” of Florence, who died in 1965. The Italian politician advocated for the poor and workers’ rights. His influence also extended beyond his municipality in the form of official trips behind the Iron Curtain, to Russia, China, and Vietnam, to promote peace and human rights — seen then as an unusual gesture for a Western politician. The Third Order Dominican was also well respected by religious leaders.

La Pira was declared Venerable, the step before beatification, by Pope Francis in 2018.

“The Holy Father honors the diocese and the city for the third time with his presence,” Betori added. “We are grateful to him and at the same time we feel a particular responsibility: The pope will be among us, heirs and direct witnesses of the work and of the commitment to fraternity among the peoples of Venerable Giorgio La Pira, the ‘holy mayor.’”

“Like him, we want to be bearers of hope so that the shores of the Mediterranean will once again unite and not divide.”

Pope Francis: ‘This world will pass away and only love will remain’

Pope Francis gives his Angelus address on Nov. 14, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

When one is faced with an important difficult decision, Pope Francis’ advice is to imagine standing before Christ at the “threshold of eternity” because that is what ultimately matters.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square below, the pope urged people to reflect on whether their time is spent focusing on things that are transitory or in “the ultimate things that remain.”

“Brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves: what are we investing our lives in? On things that pass, such as money, success, appearance, physical well-being? … When our time comes ... we have to leave everything behind,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Nov. 14.

“The Word of God warns us today: This world will pass away and only love will remain,” he said.

Pope Francis recalled Jesus’ parable in which he warned not to build one’s life on sand, but to lay a solid, deep foundation on rock.

“According to Jesus, the faithful disciple is the one who founds his life on the rock, which is his Word (cf. Mt 7:24-27), which does not pass away, on the firmness of the Word of Jesus: this is the foundation of the life that Jesus wants from us, and which will not pass away,” the pope said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Those who do good are investing in eternity,” he said.

“When we see a person who is generous and helpful, meek, patient, who is not envious, does not gossip, does not brag, is not puffed-up with pride, does not lack respect (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-7), this is a person who builds Heaven on earth.”

Those who do good may not make headlines or receive any recognition for their good efforts, the pope acknowledged, but he underscored that “what they do will not be lost because good is never lost. Good lasts forever.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Here then is some advice for making important choices,” Pope Francis said.

“When one does not know what to do, how to make a definitive choice, an important decision, a decision that involves Jesus’ love … before deciding, let us imagine that we are standing in front of Jesus, as at the end of life, before Him who is love.”

“And imagining ourselves there, in His presence, at the threshold of eternity, we make the decision for today. We must decide in this way: always looking to eternity, looking at Jesus. It may not be the easiest, it may not be the most immediate, but it will be the right one, that is sure,” he said.

At the end of his Angelus address, Pope Francis reminded the crowd that the Church is celebrating the World Day of the Poor this year with the theme: “The poor you will always have with you.”

He said: “And it is true: humanity progresses, develops, but the poor are always with us. There are always the poor, and in them Christ is present. Christ is present in the poor."

The pope offered a Mass for the World Day of the Poor earlier in the day in the presence of 2,000 people living in poverty and the volunteers who assist them, according to the Vatican.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“The cry of the poor, united with the cry of the Earth, resounded in recent days at the United Nations Climate Change Summit COP26 in Glasgow,” Pope Francis said in the Angelus.

“I encourage all those with political and economic responsibilities to act now with courage and vision; at the same time, I invite all people of good will to exercise active citizenship for the care of the common home.”

Pope Francis noted that he was also praying for people with diabetes and those who care for them on World Diabetes Day.

“To base one’s life on the Word of God … is not an escape from history, but an immersion into earthly realities in order to make them solid, to transform them with love, imprinting on them the sign of eternity, the sign of God,” Pope Francis said.

“May Our Lady help us to make the important choices in life as she did: according to love, according to God,” he said.

Pope Francis on World Day of the Poor: Be ‘tireless builders of hope’ amid suffering

Pope Francis offers Mass for the fifth World Day of the Poor on Nov. 14, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).

On the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis urged Christians to be “tireless builders of hope” amid the darkness and suffering in the world.

“The World Day of the Poor which we are celebrating, asks us not to turn aside, not to be afraid to look closely at the suffering of those most vulnerable,” Pope Francis said in his homily on Nov. 14.

“Let us ask ourselves: what is demanded of us as Christians in the face of this reality? We are required to nurture tomorrow’s hope by healing today’s pain,” he said.

The pope offered Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of 2,000 people living in poverty and the volunteers who assist them, according to the Vatican.

In his homily, Francis emphasized the importance of making “concrete gestures” and drawing close to the poor to “sow hope.”

“The hope born of the Gospel has nothing to do with a passive expectation that things may be better tomorrow … but with making God’s promise of salvation concrete today. Today and everyday,” he said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Christian hope is not the naive optimism ... of those who hope that things may change, yet in the meantime go on with life; it has to do with building daily, by concrete gestures, the kingdom of love, justice, and fraternity that Jesus inaugurated.”

“This is what is asked of us: to be, amid the ruins of the everyday world, tireless builders of hope; to be light as the sun grows dark, to be witnesses of compassion amid widespread disinterest; to be an attentive presence amid growing indifference. Witnesses of compassion,” the pope said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the feast of Christ the King.

“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.

“Unless our hope translates into decisions and concrete gestures of concern, justice, solidarity and care for our common home, the sufferings of the poor will not be relieved, the economy of waste that forces them to live on the margins will not be converted, their expectations will not blossom anew,” Pope Francis said at the World Day of the Poor Mass.

“We Christians, in particular, have to 'organize hope' ... to make it concrete in our everyday lives, in our relationships, in our social and political commitments.”

Pope Francis began the celebration of this year’s World Day of Poor with a pilgrimage to Assisi on Nov. 12 in which he spent time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe and listened to six moving testimonies.

“How lovely, evangelical and youthful is a Church ready to go out from herself and, like Jesus, proclaim good news to the poor. ... A prophetic Church, which by her presence, says to the broken-hearted and the outcast of the world, ‘Take heart, the Lord is near. For you too, summer is being born in the depths of winter. Even from your pain, hope can arise again,'" Pope Francis said.

“Brothers and sisters, let us bring this outlook of hope to our world. Let us bring it with tenderness to the poor, with closeness, with compassion, without judging them -- for we will be judged -- Because there, with them, with the poor is Jesus; because there, in them, is Jesus, who awaits us.”

Benedict XVI meets with recipients of the Ratzinger Prize

Benedict XVI meets with recipients of the Ratzinger Prize on Nov. 13, 2021. / Photos used with permission from the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2021 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Benedict XVI met with four recipients of the Ratzinger Prize at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican on Saturday.

The meeting lasted one hour and allowed each of the academics to discuss their work with the pope emeritus, according to a statement from the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation. Before parting ways, the group prayed a Hail Mary together.

Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation.
Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation.

Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, a specialist on the German philosopher Edith Stein, and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, an Old Testament theologian from Germany, were presented with the 2021 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis in an award ceremony at the Vatican on Nov. 13.

The 2020 Ratzinger Prize winners, Australian professor Tracey Rowland and French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion, were also present to receive the award due to the fact that the 2020 prize ceremony was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation
Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation

At the awards ceremony in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said that the conferral of the award was an opportunity to express “affectionate, grateful and admiring thoughts” for his predecessor for whom the award is named.

The Ratzinger Prize was launched in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Benedict XVI.

“Today we thank him in particular because he has also been an example of passionate dedication to study, research, written and oral communication; and because he has always fully and harmoniously united his cultural research with his faith and his service to the Church,” the pope said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Candidates for the prize are chosen by the scientific committee of the Ratzinger Foundation and presented to the pope, who approves the winners.

Pope Francis said that he was fascinated by the brief presentations of the award-winners. He highlighted that their works “range from philosophical reflection on religion to listening to and interpreting the Word of God and from the Song of Songs to the phenomenology of being and love as a gift.”

Schwienhorst-Schönberger, 64, studied theology and Holy Scripture in Münster, Germany, and Jerusalem, Israel, and is considered one of the foremost experts on the Sapiential books in the Bible, especially the Song of Songs.

He taught exegesis of the Old Testament and Hebrew language at the University of Passau in Germany from 1993 to 2007, and is now a professor of the Old Testament at the University of Vienna.

Gerl-Falkovitz, 76, is a specialist on the German philosopher Edith Stein -- also known by her religious name, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- and the prominent intellectual Servant of God Romano Guardini. She has also edited books of the complete works of both 20th-century Catholic figures.

She received her doctorate in philosophy in 1971 and was a professor of philosophy of religions and comparative religious sciences at the University of Dresden from 1993 to 2011.

Gerl-Falkovitz now leads the European Institute of Philosophy and Religion at the Pope Benedict XVI Philosophical-Theological University in Austria. In recent years she has been publicly critical of “gender theory,” which she said instrumentalizes the body.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

In his speech at the awards ceremony, Pope Francis said: “The dynamic of the human mind and spirit in knowing and creating is truly boundless.”

“This is the effect of the ‘spark’ ignited by God in the person made in His image, capable of seeking and finding ever new meanings in creation and history, and of continuing to express the vitality of the spirit in shaping and transfiguring matter.”

“But the fruits of research and art do not ripen by chance and without effort. Recognition therefore goes at the same time to the prolonged and patient effort that they require to reach maturity,” he said.

Pope Francis also recalled that Benedict XVI celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood earlier this year.

Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation
Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation

The 94-year-old pope emeritus is “full of zest for life,” according to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

“He is stable in his physical weakness, crystal clear in his head, and blessed with his typical Bavarian humor,” Gänswein told Germany’s Bild newspaper on Oct. 20.

Pope Francis said that he can feel that Benedict XVI “accompanies us in prayer, keeping his gaze constantly fixed towards the horizon of God.”

“You only have to look at him to realize this,” he added.

“Let us not forget that Benedict XVI continued to study and write until the end of his pontificate. About ten years ago, while fulfilling his governmental responsibilities, he was busy completing his trilogy on Jesus and thus leaving us a unique personal testimony of his constant search for the face of the Lord,” Francis said.

“It is the most important search of all, which he then continued to pursue in prayer. We feel inspired and encouraged by it, and we assure him of our remembrance to the Lord and our prayers.”

Pope Francis: 'The Church is not a political organization that has left and right wings'

Pope Francis meets with Vatican journalists on Nov. 13, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2021 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told Vatican journalists on Saturday to remember that the Catholic Church is not a political organization or a multinational company, but that “the Church exists to bring the word of Jesus to the world and to make possible today an encounter with the living Jesus.”

In a meeting with veteran Vatican journalists on Nov. 13, the pope urged the importance of on-the-ground reporting and in-person interviews to communicate the truth. He also offered an explanation of what the Church is and what it is not.

“Please, remember also that the Church is not a political organization with left and right wings, as is the case in parliaments. At times, unfortunately, our considerations are reduced to this, with some root in reality. But no, the Church is not this,” Pope Francis said.

“It is not a large multinational company headed by managers who study at the table how best to sell their product. The Church does not build itself on the basis of its own project, it does not draw from itself the strength to move forward and it does not live by marketing strategies.”

The pope described the Church as “a vehicle” to bring the mercy of Christ to the world.

“The Church, composed of men and women who are sinners like everyone else, was born and exists to reflect the light of Another, the light of Jesus, just as the moon does with the sun,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke at a ceremony in which he conferred the title of “Knight” and “Dame” of the Grand Cross of the Order of Pope Pius upon Vatican reporters Philip Pullella and Valentina Alazraki.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Alazraki has reported from more than 150 flights on the papal plane. The Mexican journalist for Noticieros Televisa has covered five pontificates as a Vatican correspondent. Pullella has served as a correspondent for Reuters in Rome since 1983.

Pullella has said that his approach to covering the Vatican is to cover it as an institution like the United Nations or the White House.

“My rule on covering the Vatican is to take religion out of the story whenever possible,” Pullella said in an interview with Reuters in 2018.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope described journalism as not simply a profession, but a mission “to explain the world.”

He encouraged journalists to escape “from the tyranny of always being online,” to get out from behind their computer screens, in order to encounter and communicate reality.

“We need journalists who are willing to ‘wear out the soles of their shoes,’ to get out of the newsroom, to walk around the city, to meet people, to assess the situations in which we live in our time,” Pope Francis said.

“For a journalist, listening means having the patience to meet face to face with the people to be interviewed … the sources from which to receive news. Listening always goes hand in hand with seeing, with being present: certain nuances, sensations, and well-rounded descriptions can only be conveyed to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen for him - or herself,” he said.


The pope’s comments came just over two weeks after Vatican journalists protested the lack of access to report on President Joe Biden’s meeting with Francis firsthand.

After journalists were already barred from having a pool representative present for the initial handshake, the Vatican also abruptly canceled its scheduled live broadcast of the meeting without explanation.

The Associated Press reported that it had formally complained to the Vatican about the canceled live stream, along with members of the Vatican correspondents’ association. The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association declared the group's solidarity with Vatican reporters in expressing disappointment with the lack of transparency.

“Every piece of news, every fact we talk about, every reality we describe needs to be investigated,” Pope Francis said.

“At a time when millions of pieces of information are available on the web, and when many people obtain their information and form their opinions on social media, where unfortunately the logic of simplification and opposition sometimes prevails, the most important contribution that good journalism can make is that of in-depth analysis.”

Pope Francis: Governments must act urgently against child pornography

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after the Wednesday general audience, June 1, 2016. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has called on governments to take urgent action against the production of child pornography in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match.

“I believe that governments should act against this delinquency as soon as possible. The groups responsible behave like mafias who hide and defend themselves,” the pope said.

“Their victims are children and minors who are used for filming; so many people, so many young people, sometimes even minors, watch these things.”

The publication of the pope’s condemnation of pornography on Nov. 11 came days after a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to life in prison on convictions of sex trafficking of youths under 18, child pornography, and sexual exploitation of children.

In the interview with the French publication, the pope also responded to a landmark report published last month which estimated that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years.

Pope Francis underlined his sense of “shame” in response to the report — a word he also used when he spoke the day after its publication at a general audience.

“To the victims, I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the center of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers,” he said Oct. 6.

The pope said that when speaking of this shame, he recalled “the Prophet's words, ‘To Thee, O Lord, be the glory, to me be the shame.’”

Pope Francis has repeatedly called this year for the legal protection of human dignity online.

In an audience with the International Catholic Legislators Network, the pope urged the use of public policy to combat child pornography, data breaches, and cyber attacks.

“In our age particularly, one of the greatest challenges confronting us is the administration of technology for the common good,” the pope said on Aug. 27.

“By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it. I think, for example, of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals, and the spread of false information on social media and so on,” he said.

The full interview with the pope will be published in a book in French, “Pourquoi eux: Ils ont fait notre époque” (“Why them: They made our epoch”), by Caroline Pigozzi on Nov. 18.

When asked in the interview about his health after the pope’s colon surgery last July, Francis responded: “I am doing well. I lead a normal life and can work at the same pace as before.”

Pope Francis to UNESCO: ‘The Gospel is the most humanizing message known to history’

Pope Francis and UNESCO’s Audrey Azoulay at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, Oct. 7, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that “the Gospel is the most humanizing message known to history.”

He made the remark in a video message marking the 75th anniversary of UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural organization.

“From my heart, I express my congratulations on the 75th anniversary of this United Nations agency. The Church has a privileged relationship with it,” the pope said in the message released on Nov. 12.

“Indeed, the Church is at the service of the Gospel, and the Gospel is the most humanizing message known to history. A message of life, freedom, and hope, which has inspired countless educational initiatives in every age and in every place, and has inspired the scientific and cultural growth of the human family.”

“This is why [UNESCO] is a privileged partner of the Holy See in the common service to peace and solidarity among peoples, to the integral development of the human person and to the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity.”

The video message was played during a live-streamed 75th anniversary celebration attended by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and artists including the actor and director Forest Whitaker and singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo.

UNESCO, based in Paris, France, was founded on Nov. 16, 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Today, it has 193 member states and 11 associate members.

The Holy See has permanent observer status. The first permanent observer of the Holy See to UNESCO was Angelo Roncalli, the then apostolic nuncio to France, who was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958 and canonized in 2013.

The Italian priest Msgr. Francesco Follo has served as the permanent observer since 2002.

Pope Francis sat alongside Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, at an event at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome last month.

The pope was launching a degree course on ecology and the environment, in cooperation with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, while Azoulay was inaugurating a UNESCO Chair “On Futures of Education for Sustainability.”

Vatican calls for ‘clear roadmap’ as climate summit enters final stretch

The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) logo displayed on a smartphone. / Rafapress via Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2021 / 10:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican called on Thursday for a “clear roadmap” as the United Nations climate summit in Scotland entered its final stretch.

The Vatican said on Nov. 11 that the Holy See delegation, led by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, appreciated the commitments made by states taking part in COP26, a two-week gathering in Glasgow that ends on Friday.

“During these two weeks, various ‘gaps’ have emerged in the fields of mitigation, adaptation, and financing,” a Vatican statement said.

“The resources made available for these three aspects, which are fundamental for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, will need to be strengthened and renewed in order to achieve these goals.”

“The Holy See hopes that COP26 can reach an agreement on a clear roadmap to close these gaps soon, with developed countries taking the lead.”

The Vatican issued the statement hours after releasing a letter from Pope Francis to Scotland’s Catholics.

Expressing regret that he was unable to attend the summit in person, the pope wrote: “Time is running out; this occasion must not be wasted, lest we have to face God’s judgment for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care.”

COP26 President Alok Sharma echoed the pope’s words on Nov. 10, saying that “time is running out” to reach an agreement and calling for a breakthrough on financial support for poorer countries most affected by climate change.

Pope Francis has sought to galvanize efforts to protect the environment since his election in 2013. He issued the encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015, ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in France, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.

The Glasgow summit is encouraging governments to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Vatican said on Thursday that the Holy See’s delegation had brought the pope’s concerns to COP26 participants, “emphasizing the human face of the climate crisis, its impact on the poorest and those who have done the least to cause it.”

“The ambitious commitments made by states to limit the rise of the global average temperature to 1.5 °C [2.7°F] above pre-industrial levels and to provide the needed financial resources to do so are promising and indeed essential for the survival of the most vulnerable communities,” it said.

The Holy See highlighted the “issue of loss and damage,” which it said was vital to communities suffering most from climate change.

It said that a joint message signed by faith leaders and scientists at the Vatican on Oct. 4 recognized the importance of the topic.

It also noted that the pope had stressed “the ecological debt and the solidarity that industrialized countries owe to the poor” in Laudato si’.

It concluded: “The Holy See delegation hopes that the final decisions of this conference may be inspired by a genuine sense of responsibility towards present and future generations, as well as the care of our common home, and that these decisions may truly respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”