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Catholic News

Bishop Pierre André Dumas is vice president of the Haitian Bishops' Conference. / Credit: Wikimedia CommonsRome Newsroom, Feb 20, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâneis and vice president of the Haitian Bishops' Conference is reportedly in stable condition after being caught in an explosion in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday evening. A communiqué sent out by the Conference of Catholics Bishops of Haiti on Monday announced that Dumas "was affected yesterday evening by an explosion which reached the house where he is accommodated during his stay in Port-au-Prince." The press release noted that the bishop is "stable" but did not provide additional details on the explosion or the bishop's condition. In a sign of solidarity with the bishop and the Church in Haiti, the Bishops Conference of Mexico (CEM), wrote on X: "We join in prayer and solidarity with the Episcopal Conference of H...

Bishop Pierre André Dumas is vice president of the Haitian Bishops' Conference. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rome Newsroom, Feb 20, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâneis and vice president of the Haitian Bishops' Conference is reportedly in stable condition after being caught in an explosion in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday evening. 

communiqué sent out by the Conference of Catholics Bishops of Haiti on Monday announced that Dumas "was affected yesterday evening by an explosion which reached the house where he is accommodated during his stay in Port-au-Prince." 

The press release noted that the bishop is "stable" but did not provide additional details on the explosion or the bishop's condition. 

In a sign of solidarity with the bishop and the Church in Haiti, the Bishops Conference of Mexico (CEM), wrote on X: "We join in prayer and solidarity with the Episcopal Conference of Haiti in the face of the suffering of its people and the incident that affected Monsignor Pierre André Dumas." 

"We are aware of the difficult situation of violence and insecurity that Haiti is suffering. We admire the strength and firmness of the pastors of the Haitian Church who, despite the terrorist acts they have suffered, do not give up in their evangelizing mission," the CEM's full press release continued. 

The bishops of Mexico also expressed that they were united "in the pain of violence" and would pray "that soon there will be a time of peace, justice, and reconciliation for the people of Haiti. Count on our prayers and our commitment to continue working together as a Church for a future of hope." 

This is the latest incident to hit the Catholic community in the Caribbean island that has been rocked by gang violence, murder, and political instability. 

Nearly a month ago, six Haitian religious sisters of the St. Anne Congregation were abducted in Port-au-Prince and released on Jan. 25 after a week in captivity. 

In the wake of their release, Dumas said that "this traumatic event has once again put our faith to the test, but it remains unshakable." 

"We cried out to God. He made us strong in our trials and brought our captives back to freedom," he continued.

Dumas has been vocal in denouncing the widespread violence and "the formalization of banditry in the country," warning that without concrete action the situation could deteriorate into civil war. 

The acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, assumed leadership of the government on July 20, 2021, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse fewer than three weeks earlier.

Henry was faced with a deadline on Feb. 7 to step down from office. However, in a TV address broadcast on the evening of the ultimatum, the de facto Haitian leader said that elections would be held once security in the beleaguered capital was restored, CNN reported

In a report released Monday, a judge in Haiti responsible for investigating Moïse's assassination indicted Moïse's widow, Martine Moïse, ex-prime minister Claude Joseph, and the former chief of Haiti's National Police, Léon Charles, among others, the Associated Press reported.

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A pro-abortion activist displays abortion pills as she counter-protests during an anti-abortion demonstration on March 25, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty ImagesCNA Newsroom, Feb 20, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).Several pro-life scholars are pushing back on a recently published study that claims abortion pills are "safe" and "effective" when prescribed without an in-person meeting and distributed through the mail.The referenced study, which was published by pro-abortion academics in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Medicine, claimed that telehealth chemical abortion "is effective, safe, and comparable to published rates of in-person medication abortion care." The study evaluated risks and potential complications related to the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.According to the study, nearly 98% of chemical abortions procured via telehealth effectively aborted the preborn child. The study also claimed there was a very low likelihood of "serious ab...

A pro-abortion activist displays abortion pills as she counter-protests during an anti-abortion demonstration on March 25, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Feb 20, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Several pro-life scholars are pushing back on a recently published study that claims abortion pills are "safe" and "effective" when prescribed without an in-person meeting and distributed through the mail.

The referenced study, which was published by pro-abortion academics in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Medicine, claimed that telehealth chemical abortion "is effective, safe, and comparable to published rates of in-person medication abortion care." The study evaluated risks and potential complications related to the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.

According to the study, nearly 98% of chemical abortions procured via telehealth effectively aborted the preborn child. The study also claimed there was a very low likelihood of "serious abortion-related adverse events." 

About 1.3% of women required visits to the emergency department after their chemical abortion, 0.16% needed treatment for ectopic pregnancies, and 0.25% required more serious treatment for adverse events, such as blood transfusions or abdominal surgery.

The study relied on self-reported responses to a survey. Only 74% of the outcomes were known, which means that the outcomes for more than one-fourth of the survey respondents were not included in the study.

Pro-life scholars have questioned the veracity of the findings, noting that it relies on self-reported survey results rather than actual concrete data and fails to account for the results for approximately one-quarter of the women surveyed.

"Once again, the abortion industry is relying on patchwork, piecemeal survey data to conclude that abortion drugs are 'safe and effective,' but there are key gaps in the study that should call into question this conclusion," Tessa Longbons Cox, a senior research associate at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA. 

"With a 74% follow-up rate, we don't know what happened to a quarter of the women in the study," Cox added. "We know that the women who feel the most negative reactions following their abortions are least likely to participate in follow-ups, and FDA data shows that women who have been harmed by abortion frequently end up seeking care from another doctor. Those missing voices are a crucial piece to the clinical puzzle as we can't assume that those women had a positive outcome."

In a statement to CNA, Dr. Ingrid Skop, the director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a board-certified OB/GYN, also questioned the researchers' definition of a "serious adverse event." 

Skop says she has treated women who, after receiving a chemical abortion, have required emergency surgery to remove the child's tissue or placenta. Others have bled heavily for six to eight weeks but did not require a blood transfusion, and still others have contracted an intrauterine infection that required medical care and could lead to future infertility. 

"According to these authors, my patients' experiences would not qualify as a 'serious adverse event,'" Skop said. "It's extraordinary to see these serious complications dismissed and considered not worthy of discussion when I know these women felt otherwise." 

Michael New, a professor of social research at the Catholic University of America, told CNA: "We really have no idea what happened to [about] 25% of the people" and that women who have health complications are "less likely to respond to a follow-up." 

He pointed to studies that have shown that chemical abortions have "complication rates [that are] four times higher than surgical abortions." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also pointed to these studies when voicing its opposition to chemical abortion pills. 

In addition to health complications, New warned that the deregulation of chemical abortion pills could have other adverse consequences, such as an abuser or romantic partner obtaining these pills to coerce an abortion by drugging a girl or woman who he does not want to go through with a pregnancy. 

New added that "these are not unbiased researchers," pointing to the academics' ties to the pro-abortion movement. He said "there's a lot of bias and I think it's getting worse in the field of public health."

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of mifepristone to kill a preborn child up to 10 weeks into a woman's pregnancy. The drug accomplishes this by blocking the hormone progesterone, which cuts off the child's supply of oxygen and nutrients. Misoprostol is taken between 24 to 48 hours after mifepristone to induce contractions meant to expel the child's body from the mother, essentially inducing labor.

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit that challenges the FDA's approval of mifepristone and subsequent deregulation, which currently allows the drug to be prescribed without an in-person doctor's visit as well as be delivered through the mail.

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null / Credit: OFFSTOCK/ShutterstockCNA Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).Jerry Trzeciak leads a lot of Catholic retreats. But the participants aren't your typical parishioners, and they live in a place where not many people have the courage to go. For the past several years, Trzeciak has worked with the Texas Department of Corrections as a volunteer chaplain in the Jim Ferguson Unit, located in Midway, Texas, which has a maximum capacity of over 2,000 men and mainly houses those who are violent and gang-affiliated.Working with a Catholic lay group called Kolbe Prison Ministries (KPM), Trzeciak and his fellow volunteers are admitted to the prisons to lead three-day retreats for the inmates, usually about 66 at a time. The volunteers share their faith in talks, pray with the incarcerated men or women, and give them opportunities to attend Mass or Communion services. After the face-to-face retreat ends, the volunteers are able to provide the inmates with follow-up educati...

null / Credit: OFFSTOCK/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Jerry Trzeciak leads a lot of Catholic retreats. But the participants aren't your typical parishioners, and they live in a place where not many people have the courage to go. 

For the past several years, Trzeciak has worked with the Texas Department of Corrections as a volunteer chaplain in the Jim Ferguson Unit, located in Midway, Texas, which has a maximum capacity of over 2,000 men and mainly houses those who are violent and gang-affiliated.

Working with a Catholic lay group called Kolbe Prison Ministries (KPM), Trzeciak and his fellow volunteers are admitted to the prisons to lead three-day retreats for the inmates, usually about 66 at a time. The volunteers share their faith in talks, pray with the incarcerated men or women, and give them opportunities to attend Mass or Communion services. After the face-to-face retreat ends, the volunteers are able to provide the inmates with follow-up education, including Bible studies and OCIA (formerly RCIA).

KPM's work with the inmates — bolstered in recent years by a large donation of study materials from Ascension, a Pennsylvania-based Catholic publisher — has changed lives, Trzeciak says. 

"The retreat is always received positively, and it's amazing to see not only the growth of the ministry but the growth and the witnessing to the way the Holy Spirit works," said Trzeciak, a retired sales and marketing professional and a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua Parish near Houston. 

"Without a doubt, we hear this cliche, but I just can't tell you how much God rewards those who do the corporal works of mercy, and in particular those folks who do prison ministry, because Jesus knows it's difficult. It's not easy to go in there, right? It's not for everybody. And when you extend yourself, when you put those fears aside, when you put self aside for what God wants, he just rewards you constantly. It's just a constant blessing, a gift."

Jerry Trzeciak, a Catholic prison ministry volunteer from Texas. Credit: Photo courtesy of Jerry Trzeciak
Jerry Trzeciak, a Catholic prison ministry volunteer from Texas. Credit: Photo courtesy of Jerry Trzeciak

Security measures in the prison mean the likelihood of any harm coming to a prison ministry volunteer are very low. But needless to say, the idea of entering a maximum security prison at all — let alone with the intention of sharing Jesus with the inmates — can be intimidating and takes some getting used to. The key, Trzeciak said, is to as much as possible come in with a nonjudgmental, loving attitude. 

"Generally speaking, folks don't have a positive image of prison inmates," he commented to CNA. 

"The majority of the prisons that we go into are high security, maximum security units. And for many folks, until they've gone in once or twice or three times, they can be a little uncomfortable."

Perhaps in part because it is such a challenging call, Catholic prison ministries across the United States have struggled for years to attract volunteers and, with often meager financial resources, provide the materials needed to ignite or nurture the faith of men and women in prison after the volunteers leave. 

But that changed — at least in Texas — in March 2022, when Catholic publisher Ascension connected with KPM to coordinate a donation of $338,000 worth of Bible study materials related to Ascension's flagship Bible study, "The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation," a 24-session program presented by Jeff Cavins. Ascension is known, among other things, for producing Father Mike Schmitz's "Bible in a Year" podcast. 

Thanks to the blockbuster donation, Kolbe says it now has nearly 400 inmates participating in "Bible Timeline" Bible studies at facilities across Texas and other states. Trzeciak said they had been using the "Bible Timeline" before the donation and that he has seen the course foster "amazing" growth in the faith of incarcerated men and women. He said the inmates are often interested in talking about forgiveness — both for others and for themselves. 

"It's just amazing to see the growth in the men and women due to the 'Bible Timeline' courses," he said.

Ascension, in a press release, added that inmates have reported to them that they "feel much more confident and able to respond to questions about the Catholic faith and practice from fellow inmates of other faiths."

The retreats given by KPM are not exclusive to Catholic inmates; any inmate is welcome to attend, though Trzeciak said Catholic inmates are generally the most enthusiastic to participate. Some inmates come for the free food but stay for the content. 

"From our standpoint, if it's the food that brings them in, praise God, because again, by the end of that day three, the Lord has worked his miracles," Trzeciak commented. 

"It's closed to no one, open to everybody. And I believe that, in its own way, just really builds a faith-based community in the institution by making it more inclusive, as opposed to exclusive."

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An archaeological guide provided historical information and answered questions during a visit to the catacombs by delegates of the Synod on Synodality. Early Christians gathered within the catacombs for funeral rites and to honor the martyrs. Rome, Italy. Oct. 12, 2023. / Credit: Vatican MediaRome Newsroom, Feb 19, 2024 / 13:50 pm (CNA).Rome's catacombs will open to the public for free guided tours and moments of prayer and reflection on Saturday, March 2, as part of the 7th edition of Day of the Catacombs. A press release circulated by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, the event's sponsor, announced that the theme for this year's edition of the Day of the Catacombs is "from remembrance to prayer." Observing that "the pope wanted this year to be dedicated to prayer," the press release went on to note that this event fits "into the preparatory journey to the Jubilee of 2025." The press release emphasized that visiting the catacombs is an opportunit...

An archaeological guide provided historical information and answered questions during a visit to the catacombs by delegates of the Synod on Synodality. Early Christians gathered within the catacombs for funeral rites and to honor the martyrs. Rome, Italy. Oct. 12, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 19, 2024 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

Rome's catacombs will open to the public for free guided tours and moments of prayer and reflection on Saturday, March 2, as part of the 7th edition of Day of the Catacombs. 

A press release circulated by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, the event's sponsor, announced that the theme for this year's edition of the Day of the Catacombs is "from remembrance to prayer." 

Observing that "the pope wanted this year to be dedicated to prayer," the press release went on to note that this event fits "into the preparatory journey to the Jubilee of 2025." 

The press release emphasized that visiting the catacombs is an opportunity to "experience an encounter with the memories and testimonies of the first Christian community of Rome," and that they remind us of the "people, events, stories that are extremely significant and important even for the present." 

"So evocative memory, directly perceived and experienced, cannot fail to arouse profound reflection and therefore, for believers, prayer; a prayer addressed to the Lord, God of life and savior, but also to the Martyrs and to those who witnessed their faith, whose example and whose intercession support us on the present journey," the press release continued. 

The commission was established by Pope Pius IX in 1852 "to take care of the ancient sacred cemeteries, look after their preventive preservation, further explorations, research and study" as well as to "safeguard the oldest mementos of the early Christian centuries, the outstanding monuments and venerable Basilicas in Rome." 

Visitors will have the opportunity to see many ancient symbols "that speak of prayer," such as the 3rd century Cubicle of the Velata in the Catacomb of Priscilla, as well as early art depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments. 

The catacombs of Rome are Paleochristian burial sites scattered around the city that were dug underground during the height of the Christian persecution. Here many of Rome's early popes, martyrs, and Christian families were entombed. 

These sites assumed a deeply significant place in popular piety and have long been a place of encounter, prayer, and reflection for many of the Church's saints, including St. Jerome and St. Philip Neri.

On March 2, several of Rome's most prominent catacombs will be open to the public including the Catacomb of Priscilla, the Catacomb of Saint Agnes (where the third century Roman martyr was buried), the Catacomb of Callixtus (which contains the burial sites of popes between the second and fourth centuries), the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, the Catacombs of Domitilla, the Catacombs of Sts. Marcellino and Pietro, and the Catacomb of San Pancrazio. 

Access to the catacombs is free of charge and a full list of events, including musical concerts, lectures, and guided tours, as well as kid-friendly events, can be found at the event's official website.  

The day will conclude with Holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Pasquale Iacobone, Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, in the Catacombs of Priscilla, in the Basilica of San Silvestro at 6:30 p.m. CET. 

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Father Fernando Gonzalez, / Credit: Cameron County Sheriff's DepartmentCNA Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 14:51 pm (CNA).A priest in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, has been arrested after being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor victim. Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said in a statement last week that diocesan officials had "received an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor by Father Fernando Gonzalez."Flores had received the report in early February from the diocesan victim's assistance coordinator. The following day he "removed [Gonzalez] from active ministry" and "prohibited him from exercising any priestly ministry anywhere." "The individual who came forward, who is now an adult, spoke to the Diocesan Victim's Assistance Coordinator and was advised to report the allegation to the police," the bishop said. "The investigation is in the hands of law enforcement and is ongoing. The diocese will fully cooperate with the investigation."Law enforcement reporte...

Father Fernando Gonzalez, / Credit: Cameron County Sheriff's Department

CNA Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 14:51 pm (CNA).

A priest in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, has been arrested after being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor victim. 

Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said in a statement last week that diocesan officials had "received an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor by Father Fernando Gonzalez."

Flores had received the report in early February from the diocesan victim's assistance coordinator. The following day he "removed [Gonzalez] from active ministry" and "prohibited him from exercising any priestly ministry anywhere." 

"The individual who came forward, who is now an adult, spoke to the Diocesan Victim's Assistance Coordinator and was advised to report the allegation to the police," the bishop said. "The investigation is in the hands of law enforcement and is ongoing. The diocese will fully cooperate with the investigation."

Law enforcement reportedly arrested the priest last week. The Cameron County Sheriff's Department lists Gonzalez as arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a child and "trafficking of persons." His total bond appeared to be set at $600,000. 

The Cameron County District Attorney's office told local media that as part of his bond conditions Gonzalez "must install an ankle monitor before release, surrender his passport, and not leave Cameron County" while the case is pending.

Prior to the charges the priest had served as pastor of St. Luke's Catholic Church in Brownsville. As of Monday Gonzalez had been removed from the parish website's list of parish staff.

"I am deeply saddened and ask you to join me as I pray for the individual who came forward and the family, and all the parties affected, including parishioners and the clergy across our diocese who tend to their faithful with fidelity and compassion," Flores said in his statement.

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Credit: Courtney Mares/CNAACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).Goya Producciones has announced that the film "Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity" will premiere on Feb. 22 in the United States (with English subtitles), Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Chile."Shot on location in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Germany, the feature film opens with powerful fictionalized recreations of the five apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe in 1531, inspired by the original true account of St. Juan Diego," said a press release sent to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. Spanish filmmaker Pablo Moreno directed the portion of the film that includes powerful testimonies and features actress Karyme Lozano as presenter, Angelica Chong as the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Mario Alberto Hernandez as Juan Diego. Pepe Alonso, popular EWTN host, does the narration.The film debuts in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay on Feb. 29, in Spain on March 1, and in Br...

Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Goya Producciones has announced that the film "Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity" will premiere on Feb. 22 in the United States (with English subtitles), Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Chile.

"Shot on location in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Germany, the feature film opens with powerful fictionalized recreations of the five apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe in 1531, inspired by the original true account of St. Juan Diego," said a press release sent to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. 

Spanish filmmaker Pablo Moreno directed the portion of the film that includes powerful testimonies and features actress Karyme Lozano as presenter, Angelica Chong as the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Mario Alberto Hernandez as Juan Diego. Pepe Alonso, popular EWTN host, does the narration.

The film debuts in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay on Feb. 29, in Spain on March 1, and in Brazil on May 2.

The movie tells the true story of a Hollywood producer who owes his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe; a movie actress who prays to her in the midst of the hustle and bustle of filming; two converts from crime and drug trafficking; and a post-abortive woman who recovers her faith and the desire to live thanks to Our Lady. 

The archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, also testifies to the miracles attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe in that city.

Andrés Garrigó, the overall director of the film, "shows us the dramatic history of pre-Hispanic Mexico at the time of arrival of the Spaniards and how, after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the people abandoned in masse the bloody human sacrifices to embrace Christianity," the press release explained.

"With the help of the latest technologies, the film reveals the messages hidden in the tilma, the miraculous cloth on which the image of the Virgin Mary was

captured: the human images that appear in her eyes, the meaning of the stars, and other drawings on the mantle," the release added.

"With this movie, we set ourselves a very high goal: to recreate in the hearts of people today the marvelous effect that the apparitions of the Virgin of

Guadalupe had 500 years ago. We can now offer many people the joy of

experiencing them again," stated director Garrigó.

More information about the film can be found here.

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

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Symbols of several of the world's leading religions. / Credit: ShutterstockACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).Father Eduardo Hayen Cuarón, director of the weekly newspaper Presencia of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, recently responded to the question of whether all religions are equal, good, and true.Responding on X Feb. 4, the priest addressed the following question: "I am an open-minded person and I believe that all religions are equal; they are all like rivers that one way or another flow into the sea. As long as religions lead man to do good, any religion is good and true, right?"Hayen responded that "it is good to have an open mind to try to perceive all that is good in religions. Without a doubt, Muslims are very observant in prayer and fasting; Buddhists also mortify the body, and Jehovah's Witnesses are tenacious in promoting their magazine by knocking on doors.""But judging a religion by some good elements it may have is not a valid criterion...

Symbols of several of the world's leading religions. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Father Eduardo Hayen Cuarón, director of the weekly newspaper Presencia of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, recently responded to the question of whether all religions are equal, good, and true.

Responding on X Feb. 4, the priest addressed the following question: "I am an open-minded person and I believe that all religions are equal; they are all like rivers that one way or another flow into the sea. As long as religions lead man to do good, any religion is good and true, right?"

Hayen responded that "it is good to have an open mind to try to perceive all that is good in religions. Without a doubt, Muslims are very observant in prayer and fasting; Buddhists also mortify the body, and Jehovah's Witnesses are tenacious in promoting their magazine by knocking on doors."

"But judging a religion by some good elements it may have is not a valid criterion to say that it is the true religion. Not all religions are true. No," the priest said.

"If we affirm that there is only one God," the Mexican priest continued, "then there is only one divine truth, and therefore one religion is the true one. So be careful not to be so open-minded, so open that you are eventually left in a frightening spiritual confusion. Chesterton said that 'having an open mind is like having an open mouth: It's not an end, but a means.' And the end, he said, is to close your mouth on something solid."

The priest also said that at one point in his life he also believed "the tale that any religion leads to God and that therefore we should not bother finding the true one."

"Many religions teach things contrary to those of other religions, so not all of them are true. Don't get confused. If there is only one God, only one religion is the true one," he continued.

In conclusion, Hayen said that "always living with an open mind can be a problem in finding something solid on which you can base your life. I hope your search is sincere, because when it comes to discerning what the true religion is, you must go as deep as possible. If you find it, your life will have hit the nail on the head."

Which is the true religion?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the right of every person to religious freedom and states that it is a duty of Christians to inspire in every person the love of truth and good.

No. 2105 of the catechism points out in this regard that "the duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is 'the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.'" 

The catechism explains that "the social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church."

"Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies," the catechism teaches.

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

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Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. / Credit: Vatican MediaVatican City, Feb 18, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis focused his Angelus address on the temptation of Jesus in the desert to highlight that it is an invitation for us to enter the proverbial desert to come "in contact with the truth."Observing that during the 40 days in the desert Christ was in the company of both "wild beasts and angels," the pope reflected that when we enter this symbolic "inner wildness," we too "encounter wild beasts and angels."These wild beats assume a deeply symbolic meaning in our "spiritual life," and so "we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide our heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them," the pope said to the nearly 15,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.Expanding upo...

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis focused his Angelus address on the temptation of Jesus in the desert to highlight that it is an invitation for us to enter the proverbial desert to come "in contact with the truth."

Observing that during the 40 days in the desert Christ was in the company of both "wild beasts and angels," the pope reflected that when we enter this symbolic "inner wildness," we too "encounter wild beasts and angels."

These wild beats assume a deeply symbolic meaning in our "spiritual life," and so "we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide our heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them," the pope said to the nearly 15,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Expanding upon this idea of "disordered passions," the pope suggested that we can conceive of them also as "the various vices," such as "the lust for wealth" or "the vanity of pleasure."

"They must be tamed and fought, otherwise they will devour our freedom," the pope emphasized. 

In order to confront these vices that afflict each and every one of us, the pope stressed that we need "to go into the wilderness to become aware of their presence and to face them — and Lent is the time to do it."

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The setting of the desert has featured prominently in the pope's catechetical series throughout the year and is the main theme of this 2024 Lenten message, taken from the Book of Exodus: "Through the Desert God Leads Us to Freedom."

While it is imperative to undertake this journey of self-examination, the pope underscored that we are not alone: We are aided by the angels, who "are God's messengers, who help us, who do us good."

"Indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service, the exact opposite of possession, typical of the passions we spoke about earlier," the pope continued.

Juxtaposing the spirit of possession with the virtue of service, the pope stressed that the angels "recall the good thoughts and sentiments suggested by the Holy Spirit," adding that "while temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us in harmony, they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, 'the flavor of heaven.'"

"Thus, order and peace return to the soul, beyond the circumstances of life, whether favorable or unfavorable. Here, too, however, in order to grasp the thoughts and feelings inspired by God, one must be silent and enter into prayer," the pope continued.

The pope asked the faithful to examine what are these personal "wild beasts" in our own lives, so that we can "recognize them, give them a name, understand their tactics." In this way we can "permit the voice of God to speak to my heart and to preserve it in goodness."

On Sunday evening the pope and the members of the Roman Curia will start their private Lenten retreat, which will conclude on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23.

All regularly scheduled papal audiences are suspended for the week.

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Incoming students at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, are required to take a three-week wilderness trek that challenges them both body and soul. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Aeja DeKuiperCheyenne, Wyo., Feb 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).A small Catholic college in Lander, Wyoming, has launched a new program that challenges seminarians with wilderness experiences to strengthen their faith, vocations, and pastoral skills as eventual priests.Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), known for its rigorous academics and COR Expeditions, offers backcountry treks to high school students, families, and undergraduates as well as specific seminaries such Holy Trinity in Irving, Texas, and the New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. But its new St. Jogues Seminarian Project is open to individual seminarians ages 18+ from dioceses throughout the country. Applications are now being accepted for the 10-week summerlong program, which includes multi-day backcountry hikes in the Roc...

Incoming students at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, are required to take a three-week wilderness trek that challenges them both body and soul. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Aeja DeKuiper

Cheyenne, Wyo., Feb 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A small Catholic college in Lander, Wyoming, has launched a new program that challenges seminarians with wilderness experiences to strengthen their faith, vocations, and pastoral skills as eventual priests.

Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), known for its rigorous academics and COR Expeditions, offers backcountry treks to high school students, families, and undergraduates as well as specific seminaries such Holy Trinity in Irving, Texas, and the New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. But its new St. Jogues Seminarian Project is open to individual seminarians ages 18+ from dioceses throughout the country. 

Applications are now being accepted for the 10-week summerlong program, which includes multi-day backcountry hikes in the Rocky Mountains for 12 men and a priest with daily Mass and adoration followed by practical pastoral experience with homeless people in urban environments. The program begins the first week of June.

Thomas Zimmer, Ph.D., and Andre Klaes of COR Expeditions told CNA that the project is named for the heroic martyr St. Isaac Jogues, a French Jesuit missionary priest who spread the Gospel in North America in the mid-1600s under harsh conditions. 

"For the last two years, we have attended the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and shared our mission with them and talked about what the Lord is able to do with us on our seminarian trips that we have been running for six years," Klaes told CNA. 

According to Zimmer, vocation directors have been seeking summer assignment opportunities for seminarians to foster lifelong friendships and community as well as pastoral awareness amid adverse environments and challenges. 

After a typical nine months of seminary studies, seminarians are usually sent to parishes and other summer assignments as part of their formation. Seminary deans are looking for programs that get seminarians away from computer screens and out of classrooms but still prepare them for pastoral assignments, according to Klaes, who described what they will experience for a summer assignment in the Rockies.

"They are forced to live in a tent with three other guys, live seven days straight on the trail, cooking meals, and never alone. It's a very different experience for guys who've been able to isolate themselves. So that's a big part of what we provide," he said.

"We are providing human formation: They are literally living together, relying on each other to cook, gather water, set up shelter, and endure storms. These are things that are easily stripped away from us in today's society where everything is so easy," said Zimmer, who has led wilderness trips in much of the United States and several foreign countries for more than a decade. He is also a faculty member at WCC.

Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College
Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College

Beginning this June 3, six to 12 seminarians will start with wilderness and first aid training plus three weeks of hiking in the Rocky Mountains. They will hike five to eight miles each day with heavy packs and attempt mountain climbing and river rafting. There will be daily Mass and adoration, plus spiritual direction from their chaplain. 

Upon completion of the expedition, the seminarians will spend several weeks assisting in wilderness trips for high school students and families before a final week of ministering to homeless people in conjunction with Christ in the City ministries in Colorado. 

A former seminarian, Klaes recalled that a seminary dean once told him: "'The friendships you form now will be those you carry into the priesthood.'"

In Klaes' experience, he said, "some of my priest friends struggle in the priesthood because of a lack of friendship coming into the priesthood. But those who are full of life, full of joy and doing amazing things are those who have a tight-knit group of friends on whom they can rely. Formation directors have acknowledged the fact that diocesan priests often live entirely alone, so it will be their friendships that carry them through their priesthood."

"If we can get seminarians to have an incredible experience, where the stakes are high … the hope is that with the friendships formed, they will be well prepared with friendships as they return to seminary," Klaes said. He added that bishops and formation recognize that while diocesan priests do not typically live with other priests, they must serve as "social people who can build rapport and have connection."

According to Zimmer, the initial first-aid course provides skills that, as priests, they can transfer to parish life.

"They will be taught risk management and how to recognize problems before they occur," he said, adding that he will teach the course based on his decades of mountaineering, skiing, and wilderness travel.

"They may never go into backcountry again. We want to get them to transfer what they learn to their vocation. They will recognize heart attacks, for instance, so that as parish priests, if they notice someone at a parish barbeque with symptoms, they can apply their knowledge," Zimmer said.

As part of the application process for the project, seminarians are interviewed and informed about the challenges they face. For example, they are expected to carry backpacks weighing 40-50 pounds for 21 days. Priests who join as chaplains are also expected to backpack along with the younger men. Use of cellphones is limited to taking photographs on all trips organized by COR.

In addition to hiking and pastoral work with high school students and families, participating seminarians will have the opportunity to take college credits through WCC applicable to seminary studies. There are courses in Latin, theology, and philosophy available.

Zimmer said there is no other comparable program for seminarians anywhere. "We are the only Catholic program that is nationally accredited and the only one connected to a Catholic college that's for credit," he said.

"There are a few programs that do short trips, here and there," Zimmer added about the summerlong experience, "but in the Catholic world of outdoor ministry, we're the biggest program doing things like this."

The St. Jogues project is designed for incoming college-age seminarians in their first and second year of formation.

COR missionary Damien Walz, 22, who will accompany seminarians this summer, said the program is "not for the faint of heart." 

"The wilderness is a very real environment and you can't hide from it. You can't put on a mask and pretend everything is okay. There's no place to hide. All of your strengths, all of your weaknesses come out and force you to acknowledge them," he said.

"There is 'decision point' in every course," Walz said. "You see people come to a point where they are going to man up and decide to grow or they won't engage with it. What I tell the formation directors and seminarians is that this isn't a backpacking fairy tale. This is real life and as real as it gets. It is a place where we can delve into who we are as sons of God and live as sons of God in an authentic and masculine way. By going through the challenge, they are able to engage better with the rest of seminary formation and the people whom they will lead and serve."

Blake Brouillette, managing director of Christ in the City, who will receive the St. Jogues seminarians toward the end of the program, told CNA that the ministry is now working with more than 20 dioceses and seminaries.

"Formation directors are seeing a transformation in their seminarians, and we are grateful to be a part of it," he said. "We are telling seminarians, 'Come join us. Learn and equip yourselves for your call to the priesthood, serve the poor, and equip your parishioners to do so.'"

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St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. / Richard Trois via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 17, 2024 / 13:56 pm (CNA).The pastor of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City says the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held there this week for a well-known transgender advocate. The Manhattan cathedral hosted the Feb. 15 funeral service for Cecilia Gentili, an activist who helped to decriminalize sex work in New York, lobbied for "gender identity" to be added as a protected class to the state's human rights laws, and was a major fundraiser for transgender causes. Gentili was a man who identified as a woman. Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as "our sister." Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees fre...

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. / Richard Trois via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 17, 2024 / 13:56 pm (CNA).

The pastor of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City says the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held there this week for a well-known transgender advocate.

The Manhattan cathedral hosted the Feb. 15 funeral service for Cecilia Gentili, an activist who helped to decriminalize sex work in New York, lobbied for "gender identity" to be added as a protected class to the state's human rights laws, and was a major fundraiser for transgender causes. Gentili was a man who identified as a woman.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as "our sister." Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the "mother of whores."

On Saturday, Rev. Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick's, said in a statement on the website of the Archdiocese of New York that Church officials shared in the "outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick's Cathedral earlier this week."

"The Cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way," Salvo said.

"That such a scandal occurred at 'America's Parish Church' makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual forty–day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us," the priest wrote.

"At [Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan's] directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation," Salvo said.

Several mainstream media outlets had framed the event as a breakthrough occasion and a sign of the Catholic Church shifting its teaching — or at least its tone — on sexuality and human anthropology.

Time magazine described the fact that a funeral service for a trans activist was held in a Catholic cathedral as "no small feat," while The New York Times described the service as "an exuberant piece of political theater."

Organizers reportedly did not disclose to the cathedral that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a biological man who identified as a woman.

"I kept it under wraps," Ceyeye Doroshow, the service's organizer, told The New York Times.

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