Browsing News Entries

UK plans to end gender ideology in schools, set age-based sex education rules

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

The United Kingdom’s Department of Education intends to prohibit the promotion of gender ideology within public schools, set age-based guidelines for sex education, and protect parental rights, according to proposed guidance for schools.

A proposed update to Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lesson guidance, which is now undergoing an eight-week public comment period, would prohibit schools from teaching that “gender is a spectrum.” Rather, if asked about gender identity, schools would need to “teach the facts about biological sex” and could not present alternative views about gender as being facts. 

“Material suggesting that someone’s gender is determined by their interests or clothing choices should not be used as it risks leading pupils who do not comply with sex stereotypes to question their gender when they might not have done so otherwise,” the proposed guidance reads. 

The proposal states that “schools should not teach about the broader concept of gender identity” and calls the concept “a highly contested and complex subject.” The proposal adds that schools “should be clear that an individual must be 18 before they can legally reassign their gender.” For students under the age of 18, it states “a child’s legal sex will always be the same as their biological sex and, at school, boys cannot be legally classified as girls or vice versa.”

When using “external resources,” the proposed guidance would instruct schools to “avoid materials that use cartoons or diagrams that oversimplify this complex concept or that could be interpreted as being aimed at younger children.” It also states that “schools should consult parents on the content of external resources on this topic in advance and make all materials available to them on request.”

The guidance also states that schools should teach students about laws related to protected groups, which includes those facing discrimination for gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion, sex, and other characteristics. 

Per the proposed guidance, schools would not provide any sex education until Year 5, when the students are usually 9 or 10 years old. The proposal also sets age-based guidelines for the type of sex education students receive. 

However, parents can opt their children out of all or some sex education lessons, except for lessons that are part of the science curriculum (which teach about topics such as puberty and sexual reproduction) — this is already part of existing guidance. A student who is at least 16 years old can opt themselves back into the sex education lessons with or without parental approval, which is also part of existing guidance.

The guidelines would establish new protections for parental rights. Per the proposal, schools would need to make all sex education material available for parents to review.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said in a statement that the proposal “puts protecting children at its heart, and enshrines parents’ right to know what their children are being taught.”

“It will support schools with how and when to teach often difficult and sensitive topics, leaving no doubt about what is appropriate to teach pupils at every stage of school,” Keegan said. “Parents can be reassured once and for all their children will only learn age-appropriate content.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that he was “horrified” to hear reports last year that schools were providing sex education to students that was inappropriate for their ages.

“I will always act swiftly to protect our children and this new guidance will do exactly that, while supporting teachers to teach these important topics sensitively and giving parents access to curriculum content if they wish,” Sunak said.

Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is a nonprofit based in London, expressed support for the proposed guidelines. 

“We are glad and relieved that primary school children will now be protected from such lessons,” CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. “But this must only be a beginning. So much harm has been done and so much confusion sown. Schools must return to their Christian roots and the biblical beliefs on identity and sexual ethics, which set children and stable families up for life.”

The changes come just months after England ended the prescription of sex-change drugs to minors back in March. Scotland soon followed, ending such prescriptions in April. The policy changes stem from an independent review from Dr. Hilary Cass, which found insufficient evidence to support the efficacy and safety of providing these drugs to children. 

Pope Francis praises historic council in China as ‘an authentic synodal journey’

Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’” at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. / Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN

Rome Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 13:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has praised the Catholic Church’s first council in China 100 years ago as “an authentic synodal journey” that opened the way for the Church in China “to increasingly have a Chinese face.”

In a video message to a conference in Rome on the Catholic Church in China, the pope noted that Chinese Catholics have endured “times of patience and trial” in the past century.

“The Lord in China has safeguarded the faith of the people of God along the way. And the faith of God’s people has been the compass that has shown the way throughout this time,” Pope Francis said in the May 21 address.

Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’" at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN
Pope Francis delivers a video message to the conference “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’" at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Fabio Gonnella/EWTN

The pope pointed to a Church council that took place in Shanghai 25 years before the Chinese Communist Revolution as an example of a moment when “the communion between the Holy See and the Church in China manifested its fruits, fruits of good for all the Chinese people.” 

The 1924 council, called the Primum Concilium Sinense, brought together 105 Catholic missionaries, bishops, and Chinese Catholics to establish a framework for a native Chinese hierarchy.

“The Fathers gathered in the Concilium Sinense lived an authentically synodal experience and made important decisions together,” Pope Francis said.

“Remembering the Council of Shanghai can also suggest today new paths to the entire Church and open paths to be undertaken with boldness to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel in the present,” he added. 

Among the crowd listening to the pope’s video message were representatives from the People’s Republic of China, including Bishop Shen Bin of Shanghai, who was unilaterally installed by Chinese authorities as bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 without a papal mandate, thereby breaking the terms of the Vatican-China deal. Pope Francis confirmed his appointment in July 2023.

The Holy See first entered into a provisional two-year agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in 2018, which has since been renewed twice and is again up for renewal this fall. 

Pope Francis opted not to speak of the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts with Beijing or religious freedom in China in his message but said that Chinese Catholics today “bear witness to their faith through works of mercy and charity, and in their witness they give a real contribution to the harmony of social coexistence.”

A large statue of Our Lady of Sheshan stood on the pope’s desk as he spoke. The pope noted that during the month of May many Chinese Catholics usually go on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Sheshan, located near Shanghai.

“I too ideally climb the hill of Sheshan, and let us all together entrust to Mary, Help of Christians, our brothers and sisters in the faith who are in China, all the Chinese people, and all our poor world, asking for her intercession, so that peace may always win everywhere,” Pope Francis said.

Following the pope’s message, Shen Bin delivered a 15-minute speech in Chinese to the packed auditorium of the Pontifical Urban University on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Chinese bishop offered a different interpretation of the 1924 council from the pope in his speech, saying that “the Council of Shanghai did not lead to an immediate and radical change in the Church in China,” adding that by the 1949 Communist Revolution “only 29 of China’s 137 dioceses had Chinese bishops, and only three of 20 archbishops were Chinese.”

“The Catholic Church in China had not really freed itself from foreign powers to become a work led by Chinese Christians and had not yet managed to shed the label of ‘foreign religion,’” he said.

Shen Bin, who has held leadership positions in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association established by the Chinese Communist Party and under the control of the United Front Work Department, went on to defend Beijing’s religious freedom record and underlined the need for the Church in China to “follow a path of sinicization.”

“The policy of religious freedom implemented by the Chinese government has no interest in changing the Catholic faith but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers,” Shen Bin said in his speech.

“Today the Chinese people are carrying out the great rebirth of the Chinese nation in a global way with Chinese-style modernization, and the Catholic Church in China must move in the same direction, following a path of sinicization that is in line with Chinese society and culture today,” the Shanghai bishop added.

The conference, titled “100 Years Since the ‘Concilium Sinense’: Between History and the Present,” was held in Chinese and Italian in the Great Hall of the Pontifical Urban University. The Pastoral Commission for China and Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, organized the conference, which featured Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as speakers.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Parolin said the Holy See would like to increase and deepen its contacts in China.

“We have been hoping for a long time now to have a stable presence in China, even if initially it may not have the form of a papal representation of an apostolic nunciature,” Parolin said.

German priests do not support Synodal Way, new study finds

Cardinal Reinhard Marx. / Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch

CNA Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 12:56 pm (CNA).

Priests in Germany are not supportive of the controversial German Synodal Way, according to a new study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference.

The study, officially titled “Who Becomes a Priest?”, found that priests are “alienated from the concerns of Church reform,” lead author Matthias Sellmann said on May 17.

“Priests are also clearly not supporters of the German Synodal Way,” Sellmann emphasized. 

According to a statement by the bishops’ conference, the study aimed to investigate “the socio-religious background and motivations of newly ordained priests in order to make strategic personnel decisions based on the results.” 

Researchers contacted all of the 847 priests who were ordained between 2010 and 2021 in Germany to take part in the study. “In total, a representative sample of 17.8% took part.”

Among other findings, more than 70% of those surveyed said that silent prayer was where they discovered their vocation. “So where do we create such places of silent prayer in our pastoral landscape?” asked Bishop Michael Gerber of Fulda, who heads the bishops’ vocations commission.

Lead author Sellmann voiced concerns that priests were more interested in being a pastor and the liturgy than performing as a supervisor or team leader, which was not in line with the role they were expected to play “as managers of ever-larger and more resource-rich complexes.” 

Another critical concern identified by the study, according to Sellmann, is that the priest occupies a particular and idealized position in “Roman theology,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. 

This also required addressing and change management, the German theologian demanded: “What is needed is a determined, consistent, and both spiritually and theologically well-founded will to change course.”

It is unclear whether any course changes will provide for priests who support the Synodal Way, however — or indeed priests in the future: As Sellmann admitted, vocations are likely to dwindle even further, given priests tend to come from faithful families with many children, a source that was “drying up.”

Criticism and indifference

Inaugurated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx in 2019, the multiyear, multimillion-dollar project has not only failed to convince German priests but also has drawn fire for its very premise, approach, and resolutions by Pope Francis, cardinals, theologians, and many bishops around the world

At the same time, most German Catholics reportedly are indifferent to the exercise. According to CNA Deutsch, a survey in September 2020 showed that only 19% of Catholics agreed with the statement that the Synodal Way was of interest to them. The vast majority of Germans responded in the negative.

This finding starkly contrasted claims made by Marx, who said in September 2019 that “countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion.”

Since then, the Synodal Way has passed resolutions demanding the Church adopt transgender ideology, women’s ordination, and other controversial goals. Organizers are now working to turn the project into a permanent controlling body — called the “Synodal Council” — to oversee the Church in Germany.

Spain archbishop on schismatic nuns: ‘I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences’

The schismatic decision of the Poor Clares "seems absolutely wrong to me" but we must see "if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it," said Spanish Archbishop Mario Iceta. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 12:26 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Mario Iceta of Burgos, Spain, in whose jurisdiction is located the convent of the Poor Clares of Belorado and Orduña, expressed his surprise and concern over the nuns there going into schism and noted: “I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences” of their decision.

The prelate made the remarks May 17 on the “La Linterna de la Iglesia” (“The Church’s Lantern”) program broadcast by the Spanish radio station COPE following the schismatic decision of the Poor Clares of Belorado to leave the Catholic Church to place themselves under the authority of Pablo de Rojas, a false bishop excommunicated in 2019. 

“I’m worried about the situation, thinking about what has come about in such a surprising way on Monday [May 13],” Iceta said. Regarding what surprised him the most, the archbishop responded: “First of all, the secrecy with which all this has been proposed and that, indeed, when early on Monday morning, around 6 in the morning, I receive a WhatsApp message from a priest telling me that these nuns are leaving the Catholic Church, I thought it was fake news.”

“After that first surprise and verifying with the vicaress of the congregation itself, of the monastery itself, that this was the case, little by little we have learned the news. First of all [they said] that it was unanimous, and the next day a sister left [the monastery].”

In fact, on May 16, Sister María Amparo left the convent and said that she left “above all, so as not to belong to this sect,” noting that before her departure she endured “three days without Mass and without anything” and that “I suffered total surveillance so that I couldn’t speak with the older sisters,” she complained.

In the conversation with “La Linterna de la Iglesia,” the archbishop of Burgos commented that he was able to speak with that nun and that “it’s clear that they didn’t want her to be well informed about what was happening and she found out on Sunday afternoon when Pablo de Rojas showed up.”

The prelate also said that recently a person wrote a letter in which he praised the “fervor” of the nuns during Holy Week, which is why what has happened is even more surprising. “It’s all absolutely strange and I don’t know if the sisters themselves realize the consequences,” Iceta lamented.

Schism of the Poor Clares of Belorado

On May 13, when they announced their departure from the Catholic Church, the Poor Clares of Belorado indicated in a letter and a declaration that they recognize “H.H. Pius XII as the last valid Supreme Pontiff,” a decision that was explained through an attached 70-page text titled “Catholic Manifesto” claiming that “the see of St. Peter is vacant and usurped.” 

At the time, the nuns stated that their community “is leaving the Conciliar Church to which it belonged to become part of the Catholic Church.” They complained that in recent years there have been “contradictions, double and confusing language, ambiguity, and loopholes in clear doctrine have been coming from the Chair of Peter.” 

The archbishop stressed that if for them ”after Pius XII everything that follows is invalid, then the ministry of apostolic succession is invalid and this means that all the sacramental acts, except baptism, are invalid and evidently all vows and legal issues. Therefore this means that they haven’t taken vows as religious either.”

“When I saw on a television network that they were happy, content, well I am glad that they are well but I don’t know if they are really aware that this is not like changing your room or changing your habit or dress,” the prelate continued. 

“I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences that this step has and that is why my option or my opinion is that this should not be done precipitously, let this media tidal wave pass, let’s see if it’s possible to establish a relationship with them and dialogue and look at these issues and give them time to reconsider this situation that seems so surprising and strange to me,” the archbishop said.

After pointing out that Sister Paz, the vicaress, told him that the decision to separate from the Catholic Church was unanimous, Iceta said that on the contrary, “the sister who left [the monastery] says that there was no chapter, there was no vote, and therefore it is totally irregular” since “the proper capitular and voting mechanisms of the congregations” have not been respected.

Path of reconciliation for the Poor Clares of Belorado

A possible path of reconciliation for these Poor Clares, the Spanish prelate noted, involves “first a meeting and a reconsideration, and also listening to them about how they got to this point. They express discontent, they express difficulties, things that they have not conveyed to the [bishop’s] delegate for religious” nor to the chaplain.

Then it is necessary to listen to “what are the reasons for profound discontentment, because life is complicated, but to the point of saying I am leaving the Catholic faith to embrace another type of doctrine, it seems to me to be so extreme.” 

This decision of the Poor Clares “seems absolutely wrong to me,” but we must see “if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it” and “give time for this to happen,” he emphasized.

“It seems to me that a 90-something-year-old nun, after 70 years” of religious life, can’t just go over to “another worldview of life.” For these sisters, the archbishop said, it would be good to spend “the last years of their lives in the Catholic Church.”

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

Pope expresses ‘spiritual closeness’ to Iran after death of president in helicopter crash

People participate in a funeral procession of president Ebrahim Raisi and his seven aides in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, on May 21, 2024. / Credit: Photo by AZIN HAGHIGHI/MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 11:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday offered prayers to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the country’s president was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was among eight killed in the Iranian Air Force helicopter crash in the country’s East Azerbaijan Province on May 19.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also among those killed. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. 

In a telegram signed by Pope Francis on Monday, the Holy Father wrote that he sent “condolences upon the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and all who perished” in the disaster.

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and with prayers for those who mourn their loss, especially their families, I send the assurance of spiritual closeness to the nation at this difficult time,” the pope said. 

The letter was addressed to Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic. 

The Holy Father had spoken with Raisi last November about a month after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. In that discussion, the Iranian president reportedly asked the pope to use his influence to bring an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza. 

Raisi reportedly also asked the pope to “correctly explain the position of the oppressor and the oppressed” in the conflict. Iran and Israel have been engaged in a decades-long “proxy war.” 

Amir-Abdollahian, meanwhile, spoke with Vatican foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher in October, with the two diplomats also discussing the Israel-Hamas war. 

Mohammad Mokhber, formerly the vice president of Iran, is currently serving as acting president of the country following Raisi’s death. 

Pope Francis on female deacons: ‘No’

Pope Francis sits down for an interview with Norah O'Donnell on CBS' "60 Minutes," which aired Monday, May 20, 2024. / Credit: CBS News/Adam Verdugo

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 11:26 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has once again come out strongly against an ordained female diaconate, reiterating what for the Holy Father has been a consistently firm stance against women becoming clergy. 

The pope made the remarks this week in an interview with CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell during an appearance on the network’s flagship magazine program, “60 Minutes.”

“You will have many young boys and girls that will come here at the end of next month for World Children’s Day,” O’Donnell said to the pope at one point during the interview. “And I’m curious, for a little girl growing up Catholic today, will she ever have the opportunity to be a deacon and participate as a clergy member in the Church?”

“No,” the pope replied. 

Pressed by O’Donnell as to whether a female diaconate was “something you’re open to,” Francis replied: “If it is deacons with holy orders, no.” 

“But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right?” he said. “Women are of great service as women, not as ministers, as ministers in this regard, within the holy orders.”

The Holy Father in the interview stressed the importance of women’s roles in the Catholic Church, describing them as “the ones who move changes forward, all sorts of changes.” 

“They are braver than the men. They know how best to protect life,” the pope said. “Women are masterful custodians of life. Women are great. They are very great. And making space in the Church for women does not mean giving them a ministry, no. The Church is a mother, and women in the Church are the ones who help foster that motherliness.” 

“Don’t forget that the ones who never abandoned Jesus were the women,” he pointed out. “The men all fled.”

Francis last year reaffirmed the impossibility of women becoming priests, or even modern Church deacons, stating that “holy orders is reserved for men.”

The pope in his discussion with O’Donnell — his first in-depth interview with a U.S. broadcast network — touched on a wide variety of subjects, from immigration to war to antisemitism.

Here are some other highlights from the Holy Father’s remarks during the interview, which aired in full on Monday evening: 

On immigrants fleeing violent countries for safer nations:

“The solution is migration, to open the doors to migration. For an immigration policy to be good, it must have four things: for the migrant to be received, assisted, promoted, and integrated. This is what is most important, to integrate them into the new life.”

On washing the feet of female prisoners at a women’s prison in Rome on Holy Thursday: 

“It is true, this time it was only women because it was a women’s jail. And the message is that men and women, we are all children of God. That men and women we are all apostles and we all can lead. Let us not forget that the bravest apostles, the most courageous, were the women: Mary Magdalene, Mary Salomé, and Mary of Santiago. They stayed with Jesus to the very end.”

On climate change: 

“Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point of no return. It’s sad, but that’s what it is. Global warming is a serious problem. Climate change at this moment is a road to death. A road to death, eh? And it is an artificial climate change, no? Something provoked, not the normal climate change, right? …

“In great measure, [wealthy countries are to blame], because they are the ones that have more of an economy and an energy based on fossil fuels that are creating this situation, right? They are the countries that can make the most difference, given their industry and all, aren’t they? But it is very difficult to create an awareness of this. They hold a conference, everybody is in agreement, they all sign, and then bye-bye. But we have to be very clear, global warming is alarming.”

On his plans for retirement:

“It has never occurred to me. Maybe if the day comes when my health can go no further. Perhaps because the only infirmity I have is in my knee, and that is getting much better. But it never occurred to me.”

Vatican: Investigation of Canadian cardinal found no ‘misconduct or abuse’ 

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix is archbishop of Quebec, Canada. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 10:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican on Tuesday said it would take “no further canonical procedure” after an investigation into abuse allegations against a Canadian cardinal revealed no evidence of misconduct or abuse.

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, the archbishop of Quebec and member of the Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis, was accused as part of a class-action lawsuit against his archdiocese of abusing a 17-year-old girl almost four decades ago. The cardinal has denied the accusation. 

The Vatican in March commissioned André Denis, a former judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, to conduct an investigation into the allegations.

In a Tuesday statement, the Vatican said Denis’ investigation concluded on May 6 and had been “consigned to the Holy Father in the following days.”

“In the light of the facts examined by the judge, the report does not permit to identify any actions that amount to misconduct or abuse on the part of Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix,” the statement said. “Consequently, no further canonical procedure is foreseen.”

Pope Francis has authorized Denis himself to issue a statement “summarizing the elements of his investigation,” the Holy See said. Denis is also permitted to “answer any questions that may arise on the matter.”

“The Holy Father extends his profound thanks to Judge André Denis for having completed, within the prescribed time, the mandate entrusted to him and which he carried out with impartiality in the context of the class-action lawsuit brought against the Archdiocese of Quebec,” the statement continued. 

In January LaCroix said he “categorically” denied the allegations made against him.

“Never, to my knowledge, have I made any inappropriate actions towards anyone, whether minors or adults,” he said. “My soul and my conscience are at peace in the face of these accusations, which I refute.”

When it was filed in 2022, the class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec included the testimony of 101 people who said they were sexually assaulted by dozens of clerics or Church staff from 1940 to the present. 

In that filing, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet was also accused of sexual assault. The Vatican in 2022 said an investigation revealed “no elements to initiate a trial” against the prelate.

Pope Francis names Bishop Joseph Williams as coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey

Bishop-elect Joseph A. Williams. / Credit: Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Rome Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 09:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday named Bishop Joseph Williams as coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey.

Williams, 50, has served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis since 2022.

As coadjutor, Williams will assist 79-year-old Bishop Dennis Sullivan in the administration of the Camden Diocese and will automatically succeed him as bishop upon Sullivan’s retirement next year. 

“I am overjoyed in coming to a diocese whose bishop is held in such high esteem by both the faithful and the Holy Father,” Williams said after the announcement was made public.

“I look forward to learning from Bishop Sullivan, my brother priests in Camden, the deacons, consecrated women and men, and the faithful of South Jersey about their needs and their hopes for the future.”

According to the Diocese of Camden, Sullivan submitted his letter of resignation to the pope on his 75th birthday in 2020. Pope Francis recently notified the bishop that his resignation will be accepted on his 80th birthday on March 17, 2025.

“I am also humbled that the Holy Father is allowing me the opportunity to complete my time as the bishop of Camden working alongside my successor,” said Sullivan, who has led the Camden Diocese for more than a decade.

“I am immensely thankful to Pope Francis for his decision to appoint to the Diocese of Camden a bishop with so much experience as a pastor, and one so familiar with Latino culture,” he said.

Williams was born in Minneapolis on May 2, 1974, as the third of nine children. He studied at the University of Minnesota-Morris and at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where he discerned a vocation to the priesthood.

He began his priestly training at the Saint Paul Seminary in Minnesota in 1998, earning a master’s of divinity degree.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis at the age of 28 on May 28, 2002, by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn. His brother, Father Peter Williams, was also ordained a priest in the archdiocese in 2004. 

Williams took on an active role in ministry to Latino and Spanish-speaking Catholics while serving at the Cathedral of Saint Paul and the Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault. He then went on to serve the parishes of St. Mathias in Hampton and St. Mary in New Trier.

He was appointed pastor of St. Stephen in 2008, taking on responsibility for Holy Rosary Parish in 2020. He was named episcopal vicar for Hispanic ministry in 2018. 

Williams was ordained a bishop on Jan. 25, 2022, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He chose “Misericordiam Volo” as his episcopal motto, meaning “I desire mercy” (Mt 9:13).

The Diocese of Camden serves more than 486,000 Catholics across 62 parishes in South Jersey. 

Sullivan will retain full responsibility for the diocese until March 17, 2025, when Williams will automatically succeed him.

EWTN designated official channel for 2024 International Eucharistic Congress

The President of the Communications Commission of the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress, Father Livingston Olivares (left), accompanies EWTN Vice President for Programming and Production Peter Gagnon (center-right), EWTN Vice President for Spanish-language Production, Marketing, and Radio Enrique Duprat (center-left), EWTN Production Director Michael Holmes (far right), and IEC Quito 2024 Communications Coordinator Marcelo Mejía (front, kneeling) at the Monument to the Equator, the exact location of the Equator (from which the country of Ecuador takes its name) on the outskirts of the country's capital city of Quito, site of the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: Communications Commission of the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The 53rd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) has chosen EWTN as the official channel for providing live coverage of the event, which will take place from Sept. 8–15 in Quito, Ecuador.

“The 53rd International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Quito Sept. 8–15, has chosen EWTN as its official channel, which will broadcast everything related” to this great event, said Father Juan Carlos Garzón, secretary-general of the IEC Quito 2024, in a statement sent from Rome to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

The theme for this year’s International Eucharistic Congress is “Fraternity to Heal the World.” On Monday, the Vatican also announced that Pope Francis designated Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect for the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life, as pontifical legate to the congress.

Garzón was in Rome last week as part of a delegation, chaired by Alfredo Espinoza Mateus, archbishop of Quito and primate of Ecuador, “to hold a series of meetings with the main papal authorities.”

Since the beginning of the preparations for IEC 2024, Garzón added: “EWTN has been present at the orientation and training for IEC 2024 communications personnel.”

Logo for the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress that will take place in Quito, Ecuador, from Sept. 8-15, 2024. Credit: Communications Commission of the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress
Logo for the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress that will take place in Quito, Ecuador, from Sept. 8-15, 2024. Credit: Communications Commission of the 2024 International Eucharistic Congress

EWTN preparations for IEC Quito 2024 

In tandem, to coordinate EWTN’s transmissions of IEC Quito 2024, a team from the network visited the Ecuadorian capital, including the Quito Metropolitan Convention Center, where the congress will be held.

The team was comprised of EWTN Vice President for Programming and Production Peter Gagnon, EWTN Director of Production Michael Holmes, and EWTN Vice President for Spanish-language Production, Marketing, and Radio Enrique Duprat.

Gagnon said EWTN transmissions of the event will be offered in Spanish, English, and German. “This will be a wonderful event for those attending and for those watching,” Gagnon said. 

“For EWTN, it is an immense joy to be the channel for the Quito 2024 International Eucharistic Congress,” Duprat said. “It is essential for us to be the platform on which, no matter where our audience is, everyone can enjoy the most important Catholic events in the Church.”

As for coverage details, Duprat said: “The plan is to be able to offer this International Eucharistic Congress live and direct from Quito and in multiple languages [Spanish, English, and German] both through our television and radio signals, the internet, and through our digital app.”

The event coincides with the 150th anniversary of the 1874 consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1886, Quito was also the site of the first National Eucharistic Congress.

During their preparatory visit, the EWTN team traveled the route of a procession that will take place on Sept. 14 in the historic center of Quito, which will begin with a Mass in San Francisco Plaza and then head to the Basilica of the National Vow, where benediction will be given.

They also visited the IEC offices, where they were received by Garzón, who explained how the organization of the event is progressing, including the schedule of a theological symposium to be held Sept. 4–7, just prior to the Sept. 8–15 congress.

The EWTN delegation also visited the Middle of the World Park and Monument to the Equator, marking the equator dividing the northern and southern hemispheres and where a Liturgy of the Word is planned with emphasis on care for creation.

Registration underway

Registration for the International Eucharistic Congress, both for the theological symposium and for the congress itself, is underway and available through the event website.

The largest Catholic media organization in the world, EWTN’s 11 global TV channels and numerous regional channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 425 million television households in more than 160 countries and territories. EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and more than 600 domestic and international AM and FM radio affiliates and a worldwide shortwave radio service.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., EWTN News operates multiple global news services, including Catholic News Agency; The National Catholic Register newspaper and digital platform; ACI Prensa in Spanish; ACI Digital in Portuguese; ACI Stampa in Italian; ACI Africa in English, French, and Portuguese; ACI Mena in Arabic; CNA Deutsch in German; and ChurchPop, a digital platform that creates content in several languages. It also produces numerous television news programs including “EWTN News Nightly,” “EWTN News In Depth,” “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” and “The World Over.”

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

Mother of twin priests: The greatest wealth for parents is to have sons who are priests

Mother of twin priests Eliete Dahan dos Santos says “there is no greater wealth than having priest sons.” / Credit: Personal album of Father Wallace Dahan dos Santos

ACI Digital, May 21, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

“I believe there is no greater wealth for parents than having sons who are priests, because the priest, especially when he administers the sacraments, is Jesus in them. It’s something very sacred,” said Eliete Dahan dos Santos, 79, mother of twin priests Wallace and Wellington Dahan dos Santos of the Archdiocese of Niterói in Brazil.

“People say: ‘Can my son be a priest?’ They are very happy if that happens with other people’s sons but not with their own. They want them to be doctors, lawyers, people with a lot of power,” continued Eliete, who said that “it’s a great gift from God” to have sons who are priests.

For Eliete, seeing today’s world, listening to today’s news, there is eternal gratitude to God for having called her sons, “both of them.”

“I find myself within a great mystery, a very visible love of God for my family,” she said.

The twin priests Wallace and Wellington, 51, were born in Cabo Frío in the state of Río de Janeiro, where their mother, Eliete, still lives today. They also have an older brother, Jennerson Dahan dos Santos, who is married and has a daughter.

Eliete shared with ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news partner, that she was born into a Catholic family but that she “wasn’t assiduous or persevering.” After marrying Jenner Antônio dos Santos, she began to participate in some events in the Catholic Church such as Marriage Encounter, Cursillos in Christianity, and the Charismatic Renewal movement.

Catechist for 20 years and first Communion preparation

“I had a personal encounter with Jesus and I haven’t stopped,” she said. She was also a catechist for 20 years and was the one who prepared her sons, both future priests, for first Communion.

“God gave us the grace, to me and their father, to form and educate our children in the Christian life, and they persevered in a very beautiful way,” she said.

Seeing her twin sons priests and also her other son married and living with his family in a faithful, Catholic way is the most delicious fruit of her Christian journey, she said.

“I raised my children from a young age to follow God’s commandments; everything I learned in conferences and meetings I tried to live in my home,” she said. “So, they saw concretely everything I counseled them, when I said ‘no,’ why I said ‘no,’ when I said ‘yes,’ why I said ‘yes.’”

“I think we parents should do this, guide them with the presence of God in our lives. That’s what I did in my children’s lives,” Eliete reflected.

The importance of a life of prayer

“If I gave a talk and they were present, I knew that my children were seeing how we really were in our home, there was no inconsistency, but a reality. So, this was a reason for them to fall in love with Jesus and follow religious life, because of the witness of their parents at home. I think witness is very important. We always try to live what we preach,” she explained.

Eliete also said that the family would attend Masses and have moments of prayer together. “We did novenas; when there weren’t any at church we did them at home. It wasn’t always possible to have our prayer life together, due to schedules, but when there was a possibility, we were together in our conversations, at meals, sharing our faith,” she said.

The mother also commented that her priest sons, Wallace and Wellington, “always had a great love for the Church.” After catechesis they continued with ongoing formation groups and participated in ecclesial activities. “For them everything that related to God, and the Church was indispensable.”

The vocations of her priest sons

It was when they were taking college prep classes that the twins felt the call to the priesthood. First it was Wellington who made the decision to enter the seminary and then Wallace, who waited a few months to make sure he was not being influenced by his brother.

Eliete recalled how she felt when her sons told her they wanted to be priests: “It was a shock at that time, because I didn’t see anything in them that made me think they would be priests, nor did I encourage them to be priests. It gave me and their father great joy to see them as young people participating in the Church. But does this beautiful call from God on my family cross my mind? I would never have thought that I would receive this grace, but it happened.”

The initial shock, Eliete shared, was soon replaced by “great joy.”

“I was very moved to know that God, from my womb, called both of them, Father Wallace and Father Wellington, by name,” she said.

The ordination of her twin sons as priests

For Eliete, the day of her sons’ ordination to the priesthood, June 29, 1998, was a very special day.

“I even have the words I’ve kept in my heart about what I felt at that moment. What came to my heart and remains to this day is: ‘Heaven opened before my eyes,’ because it was wonderful to see that my sons were being consecrated, they were being completely given to God. They were so young.”

“When they entered the seminary they were still 17 years old. They were ordained when they were 25 years old. They were still young, so I was moved by a great miracle, something divine that was happening in our family,” she said.

“To this day, with 25 years served in the priesthood I feel in my heart a joy that there are no words to express. I have great gratitude to my God,” she continued.

Eliete told ACI Digital that she lovingly keeps in a box “the cloth that enveloped her hands on ordination day.”

This white linen cloth, called a manutergium (hand towel), is used to wipe off the oil or chrism with which the bishop anoints the hands of the new priest on the day of his ordination.

According to tradition, when the priest’s mother dies, she must be buried holding this cloth in her hands. When the mother appears before God, he will tell her: “I gave you life. What did you give me?” Then she will hand him the manutergium and respond: “I have given you my son as a priest.”

“We don’t know who goes first, only God, who is the Lord of life, only he knows the day and hour of each person. I don’t know if anyone will remember at that moment, but I always tell them and show them the cloth,” Eliete concluded with a smile.

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