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Archbishop Gallagher: Innocent people will suffer from conflict in Ukraine

Catholics pictured near the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv, Ukraine. April 3, 2021. / paparazzza/Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s foreign minister said Wednesday, in reference to tensions between Ukraine and Russia, that it is a scandal that those who suffer most from conflict are those most helpless to prevent it.

At a prayer service for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher said, “we all know how tragic war is and we have its serious consequences constantly before our eyes, even more evident in our times.”

“These are painful situations that deprive many people of even the most fundamental rights. It is even more scandalous to see that those who suffer most from conflicts are not those who decide whether or not to start them, but are above all those who are only helpless victims,” he said at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The prayer service was organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio in light of Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer for Ukraine amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

During his general audience on Jan. 26, the pope renewed his appeal for peace.

“Please, no more war,” he said, addressing those in power. To pilgrims he said: “I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day.” 

“Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions,” he added.

Gallagher, who is the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, presided over the period of prayer in Rome at 7:15 p.m. local time. At the same time, Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidio gathered in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

During the Rome service, Gallagher said, “it is truly sad to see entire populations torn apart by so much suffering caused not by natural disasters or events that are beyond human power, but by the ‘hand of man,’ by actions carried out not in a fit of rage, but carefully calculated and systematically carried out.”

In the face of such situations, we must all recognize our joint responsibility for promoting peace, he stated.

“Let us open our hearts today to the God who ‘has plans for us for peace, not for misfortune’ (Jeremiah 29:11), and who sent his Son into the world to proclaim peace to all and to reconcile us with the Father.”

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

“He, who from the moment of creation entrusted us to one another, has made us all brothers and sisters,” Gallagher said on Wednesday. “Carrying in our hearts the tragedy of the conflicts that tear the world apart, we recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters both to those who cause them and to those who suffer their consequences, and in Jesus Christ we present to the Father both the grave responsibility of the former and the pain of the latter.”

“Let us invoke for everyone from the Lord of history, who sees all and before whom we will all stand, the gift of peace, not limiting ourselves, however, to waiting for agreements and truces to be reached and respected, but imploring and committing ourselves so that in ourselves and in all hearts the new man may be reborn, the man recreated and unified in Christ, who lives in peace and believes in the power of peace,” he said.

Puerto Rican archbishop condemns toppling of colonist's statue ahead of Spanish king's visit

The statue of Juan Ponce de Leon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. / P. Hughes via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan 26, 2022 / 15:08 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Roberto Octavio González Nieves, expressed his sorrow and repudiated the demolition of the city’s statue of Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish colonizer who was Puerto Rico’s first governor.

“I would like to express my sadness over the acts that led to the demolition of the statue of the first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León. Said action must draw our strongest feeling of repudiation,” the archbishop said in a Jan. 24 statement.

The statue was torn down the night of Jan. 23-24, shortly before the visit of Felipe VI, the king of Spain, to the U.S. territory. The statue was reinstalled later on Jan. 24.

Felipe’s visit marks the 500th anniversary of the founding of San Juan, and is meant to strengthen commercial exchange.

Archbishop González said that "any feeling of recrimination that one has with the facts of our historical past, is not resolved with acts of vandalism or damaging historical places or places valuable for tourism."

The prelate said that "to protest past events you have to act uprightly, openly and without violence."

“Past injustices are rectified through orderly processes of reparation. The mistakes and wounds of the past are corrected through decisions and actions achieved as a result of a dialogue, coordinated by the Government, between the social, economic, educational, cultural and political institutions of the country,” he commented.

The prelate also stressed that "past errors cannot be remembered in order to act with a present marked by violence, but rather we all must learn from these errors by taking steps forward with a reconciling, healing spirit and with respectful, open and fruitful dialogue.”

Archbishop González acknowledged that "in the process of the conquest and colonization of Puerto Rico, blows were suffered that still require reparation and healing, such as the mistreatment of indigenous people, slavery and colonialism."

However, he said that "during recent centuries Puerto Rico has achieved a relationship of friendship and brotherhood with Spain."

"For example, cultural exchange, economic trade and specifically the aid from Caritas Spain to Caritas Puerto Rico have been significant blessings and have helped overcome the disasters of the recent hurricanes," he added.

The Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico extended "a cordial, fraternal and affectionate welcome" to Felipe, and asked "our people to pray that his visit may be of benefit to our sister nations, Spain and Puerto Rico.”

"I hope that this visit of His Majesty is an important occasion to strengthen the Hispanic and Christian roots that define us as a civilized and respectful people."

“This visit not only invites us to look at the past, but also at the future, strengthening our roots of Hispanicity, faith and language. In a word, that it may reaffirm our Puerto Rican national identity in the mosaic of the families of humanity,” the archbishop concluded.

‘Our future is in danger’: 1,000-year-old Order of Malta in turmoil amid crunch talks

Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi. / Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

In a turn of events described as a “direct attack” on the Order of Malta’s sovereignty, Pope Francis’ delegate refused to permit a representative of one of the order’s highest-ranking officials to attend a meeting discussing sweeping changes to the 1,000-year-old institution.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as it is officially known, is both a lay religious order of the Catholic Church and a subject of international law. In 2017, Pope Francis ordered reforms of both the order’s religious life and its constitution.

That reform was supposed to enter a decisive stage at a Jan. 25-26 meeting in Rome, where the order, which also operates a worldwide relief agency, has its base.

But in a Jan. 18 letter, Albrecht von Boeselager, the order’s Grand Chancellor, announced that he would not join the working group overseeing the drafting of a new constitution. In his place, he appointed Marwan Senahoui, the leader of the order’s vibrant Lebanese association.

The working group included Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, papal delegate to the order, Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a canon law expert, Msgr. Brian Ferme, secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy, Maurizio Tagliaferri, Federico Marti, and Gualtiero Ventura.

On Jan. 25, the group was expanded to incorporate senior members of the order. Boeselager was included, but he stepped aside. Senahoui did not participate in the meeting as Boeselager’s replacement, as Tomasi refused his appointment.

Beyond Boeselager, the expanded working group also included Mauro Bertero Gutiérrez, Peter Szabadhegÿ de Csallöközmegyercs, and Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis.

Riccardo Paternò, president of the Italian association of the Order of Malta, took part in the meeting, although he was not officially included in the working group.

In a circular letter delivered to all the order’s top officials, Kristóf Szabadhegÿ, president of the Hungarian association, criticized Paternò’s presence at the Jan. 25 meeting.

Addressing him directly, Szabadhegÿ wrote: “Your presence there leads me to believe that you have been in regular contact with the commission of the papal delegate and were intimately involved in behind-the-scenes coordination of activities of the papal delegate and his working group.”

Szabadhegÿ suggested that “the fact you did not inform your legal superior within the order that you were invited to participate in the joint commission meeting could in and of itself be subject to disciplinary procedures.”

He challenged Paternò to explain his “actions and motives in our constitutional reform process.”

In a letter sent to the order’s top officials, Senahoui explained that “the decree issued by the Lieutenant of the Grand Master on Jan. 18, 2022, appointing me as chairman of the steering committee with our confrére Péter Szabadhegÿ at my side, has been rejected by His Eminence Cardinal Tomasi."

Tomasi, he added, “requested our Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager to have the Lieutenant of the Grand Master overturn [the decree], threatening to intervene personally.” Senahoui described this as “a direct attack on the sovereignty of our order.”

Senahoui noted that, while Tomasi had refused to invite him to the Jan. 25 meeting, he had a “cordial” private audience with Pope Francis on the morning of Jan. 24, lasting 25 minutes.

Senahoui recalled that he asked the pope to “consider requesting the postponing of the meetings scheduled on Jan. 25 and 26 to a later date, as these will be held in an unhealthy and insufficiently prepared environment.”

He argued that “the majority of the people involved in the current commission do not have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the specificities of our order and activities.” So it was necessary “to provide the commission with additional information, necessary for the success of these reforms, after gathering the inputs of all our leaders around the world.”

When invitations to the two-day meeting were issued on the afternoon of Jan. 24, Senahoui was not among those invited. Szabadhegÿ attended the meeting, where he complained about Senahoui’s absence.

In his letter, Senahoui expressed astonishment at Paternò’s presence at the gathering and questioned “how and on what basis” the president of the Italian association was able to attend “without an official invitation.”

Szabadhegÿ left the meeting in protest at the refusal to invite Senahoui. The Lebanese official stressed in his letter that “under these circumstances, I consider that our order is not respected, that our dignity is violated and that our future is in danger.”

Despite initially announcing that he was going to step aside, Boeselager ultimately took part in the Jan. 25 meeting, thus accepting the delegate’s request.

The draft of the order’s constitution was due to be discussed at the Jan. 26 meeting. Leaks revealed that the new constitution would make the order a subject of the Holy See. Such a provision might jeopardize the order’s sovereignty and put at risk its bilateral relations with 112 states, as well as its permanent observer status at the United Nations.

Tomasi has insisted that the draft was not definitive and could be changed.

In a Jan. 24 letter that Tomasi wrote to convene the working group, he said he “thought it appropriate to reflect on some articles, which I have modified.”

He added: “I, therefore, share with you the text on which we will be discussing today, confirming that, once further reflections have been gathered over these two days, a new draft will finally be sent to you, exclusively by this office, on which I await your comments and suggestions.”

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly to retire

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks at Brookings, Jan. 21, 2016. / Paul Morigi/Brookings Institution via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 26, 2022 / 11:07 am (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will be retiring from the court, NBC News reported on Wednesday, Jan. 26. The network cited “people familiar with the decision” in its reporting.

Breyer, who at 83 is the Supreme Court’s oldest member, was appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton (D). He has served for 27 years.

Details on when exactly the associate justice will be retiring were not announced.

The White House did not confirm or deny the reports that Breyer would soon be announcing his retirement. Shortly after NBC’s story was published, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today.”

Paski added that the White House had “no additional details or information to share” at the time. CNN reported that Breyer could formally announce his retirement as early as Jan. 27.

A member of the liberal wing, Breyer has consistently supported abortion rights throughout his time on the court.

In 2000, Breyer authored the decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, which found that Nebraska’s law banning partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional as it did not have an exception to preserve the health of the mother. In Hill v. Colorado, which was decided one day before Stenberg v. Carhart, Breyer joined with the majority in upholding a Colorado law prohibiting protests outside of abortion clinics.

If Breyer were to retire, it is a near-certainty that President Joe Biden (D) would appoint someone of a similar ideology to the Supreme Court. This is Biden’s first chance to appoint a justice to the court.

Due to Breyer’s age, calls for his retirement have been increasing since Biden’s election, to avoid a repeat of what happened when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020.

In 2020, shortly before the presidential election, Ginsburg, who was considered to be on the court’s liberal wing, died after a battle with cancer. President Donald Trump (R) then appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, to the Supreme Court, shifting the balance of the court.

The Supreme Court’s new term begins on Oct. 3, just under one month before the midterm elections. As the Senate could change hands with these elections, it is likely that Biden would seek to confirm a new member to the Supreme Court before that date.

According to CNN, Breyer wishes to remain on the court until a new member is confirmed to replace him.

Speculation about who would replace Breyer began as soon as rumors began swirling that his retirement was imminent.

Biden pledged multiple times in 2020 to appoint a Black woman to the court, saying in June that, “We are putting together a list of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be on the court,” and that he would not be releasing that list until they are vetted.

Munich abuse report: Vatican editorial director says don’t look for ‘scapegoats’

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 08:15 am (CNA).

An official at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication responded on Wednesday to a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

In an editorial published by Vatican News on Jan. 26, Andrea Tornielli, the dicastery’s editorial director, wrote: “The words that were used during the press conference to present the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, as well as the 72 pages of the document dedicated to the brief Bavarian episcopate of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have filled the newspapers in the past week and have triggered some very strong comments.”

“Predictably, it was Ratzinger’s four and a half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators,” he said.

The more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese in southern Germany, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

In an article that was also published on the front page of the Jan. 26 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican official underlined that the pope emeritus did not evade the questions of the law firm commissioned to draw up the report.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to Westpfahl Spilker Wastl as it compiled the report.

“The reconstructions contained in the Munich report, which — it must be remembered — is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence, will help to combat pedophilia in the Church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” Tornielli wrote.

“Only by avoiding these risks will they be able to contribute to the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.”

It cannot be forgotten that as pope, Benedict XVI “promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers, special laws to combat pedophilia,” Tornielli said.

He pointed out that Benedict XVI was the first pope to meet several times with abuse survivors during his papal trips.

“It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” he wrote.

“It is precisely in this penitential image that the heart of Benedict’s message lies. The Church is not a business, it is not saved only by good practices or by the application, even if indispensable, of strict and effective norms.”

“The Church needs to ask for forgiveness, help and salvation from the Only One who can give them, from the Crucified One who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.”

The Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the study’s conclusions “after a first reading and examination.”

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said on Jan. 24 that the 94-year-old was carefully reading the extensive report and would make a statement once he had finished examining it.

Tornielli highlighted words that Benedict XVI said “with extreme lucidity” during an in-flight press conference in May 2010.

He wrote: “Benedict XVI recognized that ‘the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a truly appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church needs deeply to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need for justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.’”

Major archbishop: Pope Francis’ day of prayer for Ukraine brings ‘hope of peace’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 26, 2022 / 07:27 am (CNA).

For Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Pope Francis’ declaration of a day of prayer in Ukraine brings “the hope of peace” in the Eastern European country.

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church told CNA in an interview on Jan. 25 that the pope’s initiative underlined that “if ever a conflict would break in Ukraine, it would be a threat not only to Ukraine but to the whole world.”

Amid a build-up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, Pope Francis called last Sunday for a day of prayer for peace on Jan. 26.

The event is the culmination of a series of papal appeals for peace and political negotiations in Europe’s second-largest country by area after Russia.

Since the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014, Ukraine has faced enduring conflict. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea, the war is ongoing in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Pope Francis has consistently shown his concern for the Ukrainian people. In 2016, he launched a charitable project, known as “The Pope for Ukraine,” that has helped more than a million people.

In July 2019, he summoned the bishops and synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to Rome for a meeting with the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has visited Ukraine twice. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, also traveled there, reaching the territories engulfed in conflict.

Shevchuk told CNA that the proclamation of a day of prayer for Ukraine “was for us like the Christmas Star that came to shine out of the dark.”

“We are grateful to the pope, who heard our voice and reaffirmed that the situation here is serious. Not only Ukraine but humanity would suffer if a conflict broke out,” he said.

He explained that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome — has organized a chain of prayer on Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, during which “all of our eparchies, metropolitan churches, monasteries from all over the world will join in prayer with us in Ukraine.”

Shevchuk said that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has eparchies and exarchates in four continents, was already engaged in praying for peace.

“Every day, we pray the rosary for peace at 8 p.m., which is broadcast live on television and followed by 20,000 people. In addition, every day of the week, according to a rotation, an eparchy or exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church commits to fasting for peace,” he noted.

While the major archbishop shares concerns about a deeper Russian incursion into the country, he said: “This is not the first time that fear spread: we have been living in conflict for eight years. But, sad to say, people sometimes adapt to the situation, and they live as if there was no war in Ukraine.”

Shevchuk is the past president of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which gathers all the country’s religious groups. He said that in Ukraine, churches have always served as a “hotspot of safety, hope, and reasonable proposals to address difficult situations.”

“Churches and religious organizations are cooperating for the good of the people, at every level: they help to find missing people, they negotiate the liberation of hostages, they commit to providing humanitarian assistance to those in need,” he said.

Asked if ecumenical efforts in the country could work as a “track to diplomacy,” Shevchuk replied that the council is currently drafting a declaration.

“The declaration will be first of all addressed to the faithful, our first interlocutor. We want to prevent their panic, as panic is the worst enemy in this hybrid war we are living in. Because of panic, people bought all food supplies, withdrew money from the bank system, and carried on a series of initiatives that can lead society to collapse,” he said.

Shevchuk added that “as churches, entrusted with a moral authority, we must address the issues of people who are suffering, because living with the fear of losing everything tomorrow is one of the greatest tortures.”

The declaration will also be addressed to Ukrainian politicians, asking them to be united, as well as to international interlocutors, as many ambassadors have sought to engage with church leaders.

Shevchuk underlined that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has a global reach. He mentioned an appeal by the Archieparch Valdomiro Koubetch of Curitiba, which had an “impressive echo in Brazil,” as well as statements issued by Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops in North America.

“They issued their appeals not only as a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church but also as a member of the bishops’ conferences of their countries,” he observed.

Pope Francis’ interest in Ukraine has prompted rumors of a possible papal trip to the country. Shevchuk did not confirm the rumors, but said: “We are waiting for him and we will do everything we can so that the pope might visit Ukraine and get in touch with these people he prays for every day, as the pope himself said.”

Ukraine is a majority Orthodox Christian country where ecumenical relations are sometimes difficult. There are also tensions within Orthodoxy: After Bartholomew I of Constantinople granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate broke ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, accusing it of encroaching on its canonical territory.

With a second meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow seemingly imminent, Shevchuk said that he was not concerned about the possible outcome.

“We are happy about an eventual meeting since it is good that the mediator meets both parties when there is a conflict,” he commented.

“We know that Pope Francis often meets Patriarch Bartholomew, and we hope that this routine will be replicated with Patriarch Kirill. A meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will give them time to think together, and this will make things clearer for us in Ukraine.”

He added: “These meetings have a prophetic dimension, as they show the will to carry forward a culture of the encounter and dialogue. If there will be a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, it will pave the way for similar meetings at a local level, also in Ukraine.”

Pope Francis on day of prayer for Ukraine: ‘Please, no more war’

Pope Francis during his general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Jan. 26, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 04:28 am (CNA).

At the beginning of the Catholic Church’s day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, Pope Francis made an earnest appeal to those in power: “Please, no more war.”

“I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 26.

“Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions.”

The pope urged people not to forget the more than five million people who died in Ukraine during World War II.

“Think that more than five million were annihilated during the time of the last war. They are a suffering people; they have suffered hunger, they have suffered so much cruelty and they deserve peace,” Francis said.

“May the prayers and invocations that are being raised to heaven today touch the minds and hearts of those in positions of authority on earth, so that dialogue may prevail and the good of all be put before the interests of one side. Please, no more war.”

Pope Francis called for Jan. 26 to be a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine during his Angelus address last Sunday amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, will preside over a prayer for peace in Ukraine in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere at 5:30 p.m. local time, the same time as Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidio will gather in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 23.

“Those who pursue their own interests, to the detriment of others, disregard their human vocation, as we were all created as brothers and sisters.”

Catholic bishops in Europe have also expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) said.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said earlier this week that rising tensions with Russia pose “a great danger” to the whole of Europe.

“The current situation represents a great danger for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the entire European continent, which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe,” their appeal, also signed by other bishops, said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

In their joint message, the bishops of Ukraine and Poland called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“Today, the quest for alternatives to war in resolving international conflicts has become an urgent necessity, since the terrifying power of the means of destruction are now in the hands of even medium and small powers, and the increasingly strong ties existing between the peoples of the whole earth make it difficult, if not practically impossible, to limit the effects of any conflict,” they said.

“Therefore, drawing on the experience of previous generations, we call upon those in power to refrain from hostilities. We encourage leaders to immediately withdraw from the path of ultimatums and the use of other countries as bargaining chips.”

“Differences in interests must be resolved not by the use of arms, but through agreements. The international community should unite in solidarity and actively support endangered society in all possible ways.”

Pope Francis to parents: Never condemn a child

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday never to condemn their children.

At his Jan. 26 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope encouraged parents to turn to St. Joseph for help, including those whose children are of “different sexual orientations.”

He said: “I am thinking at this moment of so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”

Speaking off the cuff, he added: “And I am thinking, too, of parents in the face of their children’s problems: Children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent maladies — how much pain is there! — parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.”

“Parents who see their children leaving because of an illness, and also — even sadder, we read about it every day in the newspapers — children who get into mischief and end up in a car accident. Parents who see their children not progressing in school and don’t know how... So many parental problems. Let’s think about it: how to help them.”

“And to these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”

The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience to “St. Joseph, a man who ‘dreams,’” in the ninth installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November 2021.

He emphasized the saint’s sensitivity to dreams, which he said were “considered a means by which God revealed himself” in biblical times.

“Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly,” he said.

The pope recounted the four dreams of St. Joseph described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the first, an angel told the saint not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

“Life often puts us in situations that we do not understand and that seem to have no solution,” he said.

“Praying in these moments — this means letting the Lord show us the right thing to do. In fact, very often it is prayer that gives us the intuition of the way out.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never allows a problem to arise without also giving us the help we need to deal with it.”

In the second dream, Joseph grasped that the Infant Jesus was in danger and the Holy Family needed to flee to Egypt.

“In life we all experience dangers that threaten our existence or the existence of those we love,” the pope reflected. “In these situations, praying means listening to the voice that can give us the same courage as Joseph, to face difficulties without succumbing.”

In the third dream, St. Joseph heard that it was safe to return home and, in the fourth, that he should settle in Nazareth, away from Archelaus, the son of Herod.

“Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer,” the pope commented. “God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness.”

The pope underlined that prayer was an active practice, always connected to charity.

“Prayer, however, is never an abstract or purely internal gesture, like these spiritualist movements that are more gnostic than Christian. No, it’s not that,” he said.

“Prayer is always inextricably linked to charity. It is only when we combine prayer with love, the love for children in the cases I just mentioned, or the love for our neighbour, that we are able to understand the Lord’s messages.”

“Joseph prayed, worked, and loved — three beautiful things for parents: to pray, to work, and to love — and because of this he always received what he needed to face life’s trials. Let us entrust ourselves to him and to his intercession.”

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.

Speaking to English-speaking Catholics, he highlighted the day for prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, which he announced at last Sunday’s Angelus.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from the United States of America. Today, I especially ask you to join in praying for peace in Ukraine. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

The pope also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on Jan. 27.

He said: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope told pilgrims that he was unable to move among them at the end of the audience because of a temporary “problem with my right leg.”

He said: “A ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing.”

With a smile, the 85-year-old added: “They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but... I don’t know.”

Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for many years. He spoke about it shortly after his election in 2013, saying it was “very painful” and “I don’t wish it on anyone.”

He suffered a resurgence of the condition at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, which forced him to cancel public appearances.

The pope ended his general audience address by reciting a prayer:

St. Joseph, a man who dreams, teach us to recover the spiritual life
as the inner place where God manifests Himself and saves us.

Remove from us the thought that praying is useless;
help each one of us to correspond to what the Lord shows us.

May our reasoning be illuminated by the light of the Spirit,
our hearts encouraged by His strength
and our fears saved by His mercy. Amen.

How big was the March for Life? Here’s how one pro-life group came up with a massive total

Students for Life of America estimates that about 150,000 people attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022, based an analysis of a video of the marchers. / Screen shot of Students for Life of America video

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pro-life Americans recently traveled from across the country to attend the 2022 March for Life. Despite the pandemic and local COVID-19 rules, marchers gathered in numbers comparable to years past, leaving people to ask: How many marched for life?

The nation’s largest annual pro-life event in Washington, D.C., is held on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. While the march condemns abortion every year, marchers exhibited a new momentum on Jan. 21, as the Supreme Court considers a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.  

In other words, the 49th march could also be the last.

While neither the March for Life nor the police provide specific numbers, organizers estimated that tens of thousands attended the 2022 March for Life, in a statement to CNA. 

Another pro-life group made a more exact estimate: roughly 150,000 marchers. Students for Life of America (SFLA) made the estimate by reviewing footage from their timelapse video capturing the entire 2022 March for Life. They shared the 45-second clip just hours after the march concluded.

“We froze a frame of the timelapse, counted all the people individually, and multiplied that by total frames,” Lauren Enriquez, deputy media strategist for SFLA, told CNA.

Ahead of the 2022 march, organizers guessed that 50,000 Americans would attend, in their permit application. After the event, news reports estimated anywhere between “thousands” and “tens of thousands” of Americans attended. SFLA stands by their 150,000 estimate.

“The Pro-Life Generation showed up in force to remember the sisters, brothers, friends, classmates, children, and neighbors lost to abortion in our lifetime — millions of priceless, beloved individuals who should be here with us today,” Enriquez told CNA. “We also showed up to represent the nearly five decades of activism and hard work that have led to this truly historic moment of potentially reversing Roe.”

She emphasized the resilience of the pro-life marchers.

“What’s more is that those thousands and thousands of marchers, young and elderly, braved sub-freezing temperatures to be out there,” Enriquez added, commenting on the harsh weather that day. “Their sacrifice is a testament to the unshakable fervor of this generation — and this moment. We are ready for a Post-Roe America!!”

Spanish PM meets with head of country's bishops' conference

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez meets with Cardinal Juan José Omella Jan. 24, 2022. / CEE

Madrid, Spain, Jan 25, 2022 / 17:11 pm (CNA).

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez visited the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, on Monday to discuss a series of issues including the registered assets of the Catholic Church.

In the one hour meeting, Sánchez’ first visit to the conference’s headquarters, "we expressed the desire for collaboration between the two institutions, the State and the Church, for the common good, for the good of Spanish society,” explained Cardinal Omella.

"There are issues that affect us very directly, such as social issues, poverty, the suffering of many people because of this historical moment that we are living through, also because of the pandemic," the Archbishop of Barcelona added.

The cardinal said that other issues they touched on that came up during the Jan. 24 conversation were medicine, life, abortion, euthanasia, freedom of conscience, housing, immigrants, and humanitarian corridors. 

Regarding migrants, the cardinal explained that Caritas and the parishes are already working to help them “for the good of society.”

"Then there are the other issues where we can diverge on a little more, not agree completely, which are the most moral issues, which affect morality the most, such as the issue of abortion and euthanasia," he noted.

“We also touched on the issue of education. I believe that it is very important how the new generations are formed, with the whole issue of the difficulties encountered in the application of the Church-State accords on the subject of education, of religion,”  Cardinal Omella said.

“It was a very beautiful moment of rapprochement between the government's presidency and the president of the Episcopal Conference,” he concluded.

At the meeting Cardinal Omella handed Sánchez the book containing the study carried out by the Church on the list of registered assets covering the years 1998 to 2015 that the Government delivered to the Congress of Deputies.

A statement on the bishops’ website explains that “Recently, the capacity of the Church to possess material assets and to register them in the Registry of Property has been questioned. It has been said that the Church should not have so many assets and that its inclusion in the Registry of Property has been carried out fraudulently.” 

The statement further explains that in past centuries there was no question of what the Church owned. However, a controversy has arisen as to whether certain properties claimed by the Church are actually public property or vice versa.

Another statement notes that "out of the meeting held last August between the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) and Democratic Memory Law and the President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the work of the 'ad hoc' Committee set up between both parties has intensified within the dialogue between the Church and the Spanish State, on the matter relating to assets registered by the Catholic Church.”

The Church in Spain "in the context of dialogue with the Government, has made an exhaustive study of it through timely consultations with the dioceses."

"This study has consisted in cataloging the assets, their division by diocese and verification of the registration processes in each of the aforementioned assets" from which it follows that approximately one thousand assets "the Church considers belonging to a third party, or there is no record of ownership of it.”

It is then expected that “the Government will inform local entities and registries of this information and the processes of regularization can thus be initiated wherever appropriate.”

"To this end, the Church expresses its commitment to collaboration in order to facilitate such processes," the statement concludes.

Bishop Luis Argüello, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, said that the report delivered to the government will be made public through the conference website.

Bishop Argüello also stressed that, in general terms, "the Church offers the radical affirmation of human dignity and works for the common good."

He said Monday's meeting was "satisfactory for both parties."