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ROME (CNS) — At 8 years old, Alex Abdallah knows that some people need more...

ROME (CNS) — At 8 years old, Alex Abdallah knows that some people need more time than others to forgive someone.

“When I heard my brother and sisters died, my mum and dad told me they forgave the driver, but I wasn’t that happy because I was like, ‘Too quick.’ People don’t forgive that quickly. Like, I had to wait,” Alex told Catholic News Service June 24.

In February 2020, as four of his siblings and three of his cousins were walking to the store to get ice cream in Sydney, a driver who was drunk and on drugs drove up on the sidewalk, striking all seven children. Four of them died.

Leila and Danny Abdallah lost their children Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 8, and their niece, Veronique Sakr, 11.

Two days after the horrible accident, Leila returned to the scene, which was covered in flowers, candles, notes, balloons and stuffed toys. She prayed there.

Then television reporters put a microphone in front of her and she told them: “I don’t hate him. I think in my heart I forgive him, but I want the court to be fair.”

In 2021, the driver was sentenced to between 21 years and 28 years in prison.

But what has dominated the Abdallahs’ life — and hours of television coverage about it — is their focus on the power of forgiveness.

They have received government, ecumenical and interreligious support for “i4Give Day,” each year on the Feb. 1 anniversary of the children’s death.

With their surviving children — Liana, Alex, Michael and newborn Selina — the Abdallahs were invited by the Vatican to share their story at the World Meeting of Families in Rome June 22-26.

“Just so you know,” Danny said, “we never asked our kids to forgive the driver.”

But Alex said that about a year after the tragedy and after the driver “said a very big sorry,” he, too, was ready to forgive.

“It felt good,” he said.

Leila credits the Holy Spirit with moving her heart and her lips the day she first said she forgave the driver.

“As a Christian, I am meant to forgive,” Leila said. “Forgiveness is the core message of our Christianity. All our prayer is about forgiveness. And when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ And these are words to be taken seriously.”

Without forgiveness, she would be wallowing in anger and bitterness, she said. “I would be living in agony and misery. I would have lost my marriage. I would have lost my kids to trauma, to suicide, drugs and alcohol. But we live in faith. We are Christian, and we live in hope of the resurrection.”

Danny said he was not surprised at all that his wife forgave the driver so quickly.

Later that night, “we spoke about honoring God. We said, ‘OK, the kids are in heaven. All we ever wanted was to get them there,'” Danny said. And they knew that they had to follow God’s will and be forgiving so that they could be reunited with their children one day.

Danny said he was a fighter and, if it weren’t for his wife and surviving children, he might have gone after the driver. “But I had to keep my ‘dad hat’ on and make every decision as a father.”

“If I had made the option of revenge, bitterness and anger,” he said, “I can guarantee you, it would sit in my kids’ souls as well and my wife’s, my whole household would have been lost.”

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — An official of the New York State Catholic Conference expressed disappointment with...

WASHINGTON (CNS) — An official of the New York State Catholic Conference expressed disappointment with a June 23 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns a century-old law and asserts that there is a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.

“We are troubled that the court has overturned a law dating back more than a century that has been largely accepted by the state’s population for all of that time,” said Dennis Poust, executive director of the conference, which represents the New York bishops on public policy matters.

“The duly-elected members of the state Legislature could have at any time over the past 110 years revisit its policies on how it licenses individuals for the purpose of carrying concealed handguns outside the home if it was the will of the citizens of the state. It’s regrettable that the U.S. Supreme Court has now chosen to step in to do so,” Poust said in a statement.

The court voted 6-3 to strike down the New York law requiring anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense to demonstrate a specific need for doing so.

Legal experts said the decision puts at risk similar laws in five other states: California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The court’s ruling follows recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and elsewhere in which dozens of children and adults have been killed or injured. The incidents have led to an outcry of support for wide-ranging gun control measures.

Writing for the court’s conservative majority, Justice Clarence Thomas referred to an earlier court ruling while explaining that “the constitutional right to bear arms in public for self defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant's right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self defense,” Thomas wrote in the 66-page opinion.

Hours after the Supreme Court’s issued its ruling, the Senate passed the first significant new gun restrictions since the mid-1990s. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was approved 65-33, with 15 Republican senators joining all 50 Democratic senators to pass the legislation.

A vote was set for June 24 in the House of Representatives, where it was expected to pass as well. President Joe Biden pledged to sign the bill as soon as it reached his desk.

“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House after the Senate vote.

The chairmen of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committees sent another letter to members of Congress June 23 calling for passage of the bill. It was the second such letter in June from the chairmen urging the adoption of “reasonable gun control measures.”

The letter was signed by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; and Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.

The bill calls for expanded criminal background checks for some gun buyers, blocks more domestic violence offenders from purchasing firearms, funds programs for local authorities to confiscate guns from troubled individuals, and provides $15 billion for mental health services and school security measures.

The court’s three liberal members voted to uphold the New York law. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer noted that more than 270 mass shootings have occurred since January and that data shows gun violence is now the leading cause of death of children and teenagers.

The majority ruling will make it more difficult for state legislators to act to prevent gun violence, Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The New York bishops, Poust said, welcomed Justice Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion that the court’s ruling “decides nothing about who may lawfully possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun,” nor does it “decide anything about the kinds of weapons that people may possess.”

Poust added that “this decision does not appear to slam the door in any way on licensing requirements, age restrictions or assault weapons bans.”

He also reiterated that the New York bishops “support reasonable gun laws to address street crimes, domestic violence, suicide and mass shootings.”

“We are happy to support efforts by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature to pass new legislation that will meet constitutional muster with the Supreme Court,” Poust said.

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a 6-3 decision June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its...

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a 6-3 decision June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its nearly 50-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in this country.

The court’s 213-page ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization was not totally unexpected due to the leak of an opinion draft a month earlier. The ruling emphasizes that there is no constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

The Dobbs case focused on an abortion clinic in Mississippi opposed to the state’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The court’s reversal of its longstanding abortion ruling brings abortion policy decisions to the state level. At least half of states plan to ban or restrict abortions with this decision in place.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion. Casey v. Planned Parenthood is the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment,” he added.

U.S. Catholic bishops who have supported a reversal of Roe immediately reacted positively to the court’s decision that comes at the end of this year’s term.

“We give thanks to God for today’s decision … This just decision will save countless innocent children simply waiting to be born,” said a June 24 statement by the New York Catholic bishops shortly after the court’s opinion was released.

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez tweeted that the decision “affirms deep value inherent in human life.”

Protesters were outside the court when the ruling came down, as they have been for days, anticipating it. Those on both sides of issue were also at the court when the document first leaked.

The Dobbs opinion is similar to the leaked draft that called Roe “egregiously wrong from the start.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote a joint dissent that said: “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

They also noted that their dissent “with sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection.”

– – –

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Photo Courtesy of Christian Gennari/www.chiaracorbellapetrillo.it / nullDenver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:47 pm (CNA).On June 13, 2012, a 28-year-old Italian woman, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, died in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. In the 10 years since her passing, the story she left has touched the hearts of many around the world.At the age of 18, Chiara met the man who would become her husband, Enrico Petrillo. As a married couple, they would face many challenges together. They suffered the death of two of their children, both of whom died 30 minutes after birth. Chiara became pregnant again with their son Francesco. The joyful news was short-lived as she was diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be carcinoma. She rejected any form of treatment that posed a risk to her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to...

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Photo Courtesy of Christian Gennari/www.chiaracorbellapetrillo.it / null

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:47 pm (CNA).

On June 13, 2012, a 28-year-old Italian woman, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, died in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. In the 10 years since her passing, the story she left has touched the hearts of many around the world.

At the age of 18, Chiara met the man who would become her husband, Enrico Petrillo. As a married couple, they would face many challenges together. They suffered the death of two of their children, both of whom died 30 minutes after birth. 

Chiara became pregnant again with their son Francesco. The joyful news was short-lived as she was diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be carcinoma. 

She rejected any form of treatment that posed a risk to her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see. 

Chiara's cause for canonization was announced on June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of her death.

Her parents, Roberto and Maria Anselma Corbella, shared their daughters' moving witness of faith during their speech at the Festival of Families, part of the World Meeting of Families, which is being held in Rome from June 22-26. 

They shared the struggles they have faced within their own family, touching on the lives of both of their daughters, Elisa and Chiara. While Elisa lives in northern Italy with her three children, it was the battle Chiara faced that left them "like Mary at the foot of the cross," but taught them how to embrace their cross and trust in God's plan.

Her mother Maria explained that Chiara's son Francesco, now 11 years old, was only one when she passed, but during that time she showed them how "in every situation, one can expect the utmost happiness in this life with God as a guide." 

"It was difficult for us to accompany her to the threshold of Heaven and let her go, but from that moment such grace flowed that gave us a glimpse of God's plan and kept us from falling into despair," her mother said. "Chiara's serenity opened for us a window to eternity and continues to shed light on it to this day." You can watch the couple's testimony about their daughter in the video below.

In his speech during the Festival of Families, Pope Francis addressed Chiara's parents and her legacy saying, "You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara's sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate, or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith."

"As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously," the Holy Father added. "Chiara's heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as a gift of self: Hers was a life given to her family, to the Church, and to the whole world."

Describing his daughter, Roberto said, "She did not run away in the face of life's trials, she faced them with her gaze heavenward. … Her every step was directed toward the goal with God's help and Mary's guidance, she was committed to reaching it, with personal prayer keeping her in relationship with the Lord from whom she received the grace that nourished her faith."

"May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear," Pope Francis concluded.

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null / Prostock-Studio/ShutterstockWashington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).Pro-life pregnancy centers have saved over 800,000 lives since 2016, according to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers "exist to provide support, education, classes, medical care and critical resources for women faced with difficult circumstances surrounding unexpected pregnancy."CLI, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, conducted the analysis with data from more than 1,100 Care Net pregnancy centers, according to a press release. Care Net is a Christian non-profit that offers a network of pro-life pregnancy centers and pro-life education. The data was then weighted by CLI to create national estimates. Data from the years 2016 through 2020 published by CLI show that an estimated 177,716 babies' lives were saved in 2019, marking the highest number out of all five years. The lowest estimated number of lives s...

null / Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers have saved over 800,000 lives since 2016, according to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers "exist to provide support, education, classes, medical care and critical resources for women faced with difficult circumstances surrounding unexpected pregnancy."

CLI, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, conducted the analysis with data from more than 1,100 Care Net pregnancy centers, according to a press release. Care Net is a Christian non-profit that offers a network of pro-life pregnancy centers and pro-life education. The data was then weighted by CLI to create national estimates. 

Data from the years 2016 through 2020 published by CLI show that an estimated 177,716 babies' lives were saved in 2019, marking the highest number out of all five years. The lowest estimated number of lives saved was in 2020, with 144,176. 

In 2016 there were an estimated 173,587 lives saved. In 2018 there were an estimated 169,547 lives saved. In 2019 there were an estimated 177,716 lives saved. 

The total number of estimated lives saved throughout the data set is 828,131. 

In the press release president of CLI, Charles Donovan condemned the recent attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers. 

"Radical pro-abortion activists have violently attacked pro-life pregnancy centers in recent weeks, which Speaker Pelosi and other national leaders have failed to condemn," he said. "Yet real-world data shows that compassion and decency are winning, with more than 800,000 precious babies saved thanks to brave volunteers and staff who willingly take the risk of helping women and their families."

Data from 2019 shows that 2,700 clinics across the nation were run by just short of 15,000 staff members and nearly 54,000 volunteers. The staff and volunteers included 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says. 

Out of the 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says that 3,791 were clinic staff members and 6,424 were clinic volunteers. There are about 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers across the country today, the analysis says.

The lead author of the analysis, Moira Gaul, said that "On average, pregnancy centers consistently have client satisfaction rates over 95% leading to many 'word-of-mouth' referrals to pro-life pregnancy centers — meaning that the 800,000 lives saved just since 2016 represent a significant number of women who received support and then told their friends and families about the compassionate and cost-free care they received."  

"More than any other group, pro-life pregnancy centers are best equipped to support women facing unintended pregnancies in a post-Roe America," Gaul, an associate scholar at CLI, said. 

Another analysis done by CLI showed that in 2019, approximately 2 million women, men, and youth were served by more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation, the press release says.

Those services included free ultrasound services, prenatal and parenting classes, and over 1.2 million diapers given.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under attack since early May when a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked showing that the justices may have been poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that created federal protections for abortion. 

The court is expected to release the opinion or decision in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, at the end of June or beginning of July.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers began organizing in the late 1960s, the same time some states began legalizing abortion.

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nito/ShutterstockWashington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 17:45 pm (CNA).The Biden administration proposed expanding the definition of "sex" to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a gender equality law that applies to thousands of schools across the U.S.Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Today, its protections impact everything from women's participation in sports to sexual harassment at schools. Its text reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."The Department of Education intends to expand discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on "sex stereotypes, sex characteris...

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration proposed expanding the definition of "sex" to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a gender equality law that applies to thousands of schools across the U.S.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Today, its protections impact everything from women's participation in sports to sexual harassment at schools. 

Its text reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The Department of Education intends to expand discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on "sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity," it announced Thursday.

These changes, the Washington Post reported, would, among other things, permit transgender students "to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, using their correct pronouns and addressing bullying based on their gender identity."

Title IX includes exceptions, including a religious exemption for educational institutions "controlled by a religious organization" if the application is inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

Before becoming law, the proposed changes must undergo a public comment process. After it is published in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted the following 60 days via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

CNA reached out to several Catholic colleges and universities for comment Thursday. One responded by publication time saying that it will review the changes and will submit comments if necessary. 

Title IX applies to approximately 17,600 local school districts and over 5,000 postsecondary institutions, charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums, according to the department. It also applies to vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies.

Regarding athletics, the department announced Thursday that it will address Title IX's application to athletics at a later time. The announcement came the same day that female athletes from across the country expressed concern in Washington, D.C., about competing against transgender athletes.

For the 49th anniversary of Title IX, in 2021, the Biden administration issued a "notice of interpretation" that it would enforce Title IX protections against sex discrimination in education to also protect sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed changes that came Thursday would make this federal law.

The Education Department's fact sheet clarifies that the proposed regulations "would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations."

The changes also include revisions regarding how schools and higher education institutions address and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment — and they expand the definition of sex-based harassment.

The changes also affect pregnant and parenting students. 

"The proposed regulations would update existing protections for students, applicants, and employees against discrimination because of pregnancy or related conditions," the fact sheet reads. "The proposed regulations would strengthen requirements that schools provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students, reasonable break time for pregnant employees, and lactation space." 

The department identifies "key issue areas" where Title IX applies: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education, and employment.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Perhaps signaling some improvement in Pope Francis’ painful knee, the Vatican...

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Perhaps signaling some improvement in Pope Francis’ painful knee, the Vatican announced June 23 that he will visit Canada in late July. However, the Canadian bishops said that, due to the 85-year-old pope’s age and limitations, it is expected that his participation at public events will be limited to approximately one hour.

The Vatican confirmed the pope’s plan to be in Canada July 24-29, returning to Rome July 30. The focus of the trip is his meetings with members of Canada’s Indigenous communities in the cities of Edmonton, Alberta; Quebec; and Iqaluit, Nunavut, the country’s most northern region.

The visit, drawing on the theme of “Walking Together,” will include a combination of public and private events.

The Vatican said Pope Francis will arrive in Edmonton July 24 and, following a brief airport ceremony, will take the remainder of the day to rest.

On July 25, Pope Francis will visit Maskwacis, home to the former Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest residential school sites in Canada. He will join former residential school students from across the country as part of a formal program. Alberta is home to the largest number of former residential schools in Canada.

Later in the day, the pontiff will visit Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, a National Indigenous church in downtown Edmonton.

On July 26, the feast of St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus, Pope Francis will celebrate an open-air Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. In the early evening, he will travel to Lac Ste. Anne, the site of an annual pilgrimage that welcomes tens of thousands of Indigenous participants from throughout Canada and the United States each year. Programming will be offered throughout the day leading up to the pope’s participation in a prayer service.

On July 27, he will fly to Quebec City for private and public meetings. He has been invited to participate at a dedicated area on the Plains of Abraham, where there will be opportunities for Indigenous cultural expression as well as the chance to view papal events on large screens.

On July 28, Pope Francis will travel to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where he will celebrate Mass at one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America. The basilica draws more than a million visitors — including annual Indigenous pilgrimages — each year. Later in the day, he will meet with bishops, priests, seminarians, consecrated men and women as well as those who work in various church ministries. The pope will have the remainder of the evening for rest, while a dinner focused on friendship and ongoing dialogue will bring together Indigenous leaders from Eastern Canada and representatives of the Catholic bishops of Canada.

Following a private meeting with the Jesuits July 29, Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders from Eastern Canada before departing for Iqaluit, where he will spend the afternoon in a private meeting with residential school survivors before attending a public community event hosted by Inuit. He will depart for Rome from Iqaluit at 6:45 p.m.

Pope Francis had promised to visit Canada during a meeting April 1 with representatives of Canada’s Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Assembly of First Nations — three groups he also had met with individually. A delegation from the Manitoba Métis Federation met separately with the pope April 21.

Many of the representatives in the groups were survivors of residential schools — boarding schools the government established to educate and forcefully assimilate Indigenous children. Many of the schools were run by Catholic religious orders or dioceses.

Canada’s Catholic bishops have said that “the pope’s visit will provide a unique opportunity for him, once again, to listen and dialogue with Indigenous peoples, to express his heartfelt closeness and to address the impact of colonization and the participation of the Catholic Church in the operation of residential schools throughout Canada.”

The Indigenous communities have asked the pope to publicly apologize on Canadian soil for the church’s role particularly in the schools.

He already apologized to the Indigenous representatives at the Vatican. “For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church,” the pope told the representatives in April, “I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry.”

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Rome - June 22, 2022: Day one of the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis during the Festival of Families. / Vatican MediaRome, Italy, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).Here is the full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families during the World Meeting of Families 2022, which was held in the Paul VI Audience Hall on June 22, 2022.Dear families,I am happy to be here with you, following the disturbing events that you have all recently experienced: first the pandemic and now the war in Europe, to say nothing of the other wars afflicting our human family.I thank Cardinal Farrell, Cardinal De Donatis, the personnel of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, as well as those of the Diocese of Rome, whose dedication has made this meeting possible.I would also like to thank the families present, who have come from many parts of the world, especially those who have shared their testimonies with us. Thank you so much! It is not easy to speak before so large a...

Rome - June 22, 2022: Day one of the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis during the Festival of Families. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families during the World Meeting of Families 2022, which was held in the Paul VI Audience Hall on June 22, 2022.

Dear families,

I am happy to be here with you, following the disturbing events that you have all recently experienced: first the pandemic and now the war in Europe, to say nothing of the other wars afflicting our human family.

I thank Cardinal Farrell, Cardinal De Donatis, the personnel of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, as well as those of the Diocese of Rome, whose dedication has made this meeting possible.

I would also like to thank the families present, who have come from many parts of the world, especially those who have shared their testimonies with us. Thank you so much! It is not easy to speak before so large an audience about your lives, your troubles and those gifts, wonderful but profoundly personal, that you have received from the Lord. Your testimonies have served as "amplifiers": you have given voice to the experiences of other families in the world that, like yourselves, are sharing in the same joys and concerns, the same hardships and hopes.

For this reason, I would like to say something to those of you here present and to all the married couples and families listening to us throughout the world. I want you to feel my closeness to you, wherever you are, and to your concrete life situation. My word of encouragement is precisely this: start from where you are, and, from there, try to journey together: together as couples, together in your families, together with other families, together with the Church. I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan who meets someone wounded and in need. He draws near to him, cares for him and helps him to resume his journey. That is what I want the Church to be for all of you! A Good Samaritan that draws near to you and helps you to continue your journey and to take a step forward, however small. Never forget that closeness is the "style" of God, closeness and tender love. I will now try to indicate a few "steps forward" that need to be taken together, by reflecting on the testimonies we have heard.

1. "A step forward" towards marriage. Thank you, Luigi and Serena, for having told us with great honesty about your own experience, with its hardships and hopes. I think it was painful for all of us to hear you say, "We did not find a community that would support us with open arms for what we are". That is painful! It should make us all think. We need to be converted and to journey as a welcoming Church, so that our dioceses and parishes can increasingly become "communities that support with open arms". How much we need this, in our present-day culture of indifference! Providentially, you found support in other families, which are in fact "little churches".

I was greatly consoled when you explained the reason that led you to baptize your children. You said something very beautiful: "Despite our noblest human efforts, we are not sufficient unto ourselves". It is true, we can have the loveliest dreams, the loftiest ideals, but in the end, we also discover – and this is wisdom – our own limitations, which we cannot overcome by ourselves but by opening ourselves to the Father, to his love and to his grace. That is the meaning of the sacraments of baptism and of matrimony: they are the concrete helps that God gives us in order not to leave us alone, precisely because "we are not sufficient unto ourselves". It was good to hear those words: "we are not sufficient unto ourselves".

We can say that whenever a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift; that gift is marriage. It is a marvelous gift, which contains the power of God's own love: strong, enduring, faithful, ready to start over after every failure or moment of weakness. Marriage is not a formality you go through. You don't get married in order to be "card-carrying" Catholics, to obey a rule, or because the Church tells you to, or to have a party… No, you get married because you want to build your marriage on the love of Christ, which is solid as rock. In marriage, Christ gives himself to you, so that you can find the strength to give yourselves to one another. So take heart: family life is not "mission impossible"! By the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey, to be undertaken together with him and never alone. The family is not a lofty ideal that is unattainable in reality. God solemnly promises his presence in your marriage and family, not only on the day of your wedding, but for the rest of your lives. And he keeps supporting you, every day of your journey.

2. "A step forward" to embrace the cross. I thank you, Roberto and Maria Anselma, because you told us the moving story of your own family, and in particular about Chiara. You spoke to us of the cross, which is part of the life of every individual and of every family. You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara's sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith. You told us how "Chiara's serenity opened for us a window onto eternity". To see how she experienced the trial of her illness helped you to lift up your gaze, not to remain imprisoned in grief, but to be open to something greater: the mysterious plans of God, to eternity, to heaven. I thank you for this witness of faith! You also quoted something that Chiara had said: "God puts a truth in each of us and it is not possible to misunderstand it". God put into Chiara's heart the truth of a holy life, and so she wished to preserve the life of her child at the cost of her own life. As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously. Chiara's heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as gift of self: hers was a life given to her family, to the Church and to the whole world. We always need great examples to look to. May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear.

3. "A step forward" towards forgiveness. Paul and Germaine, you found the courage to tell us about the crisis that you went through in your marriage, and we thank you for that, because every marriage has its moments of crisis. We need to say this, not to hide it, and to take steps to overcome those crises. You didn't try to sweeten matters with a bit of sugar! You called every cause of the crisis by its name: insincerity, infidelity, the misuse of money, the idols of power and career, growing resentment and hardness of heart. As you were speaking, I believe that all of us relived our own experiences of pain before similar situations of broken families. To see a family break up is a tragedy that cannot leave us indifferent. The laughter of married couples disappears, children are troubled, serenity is lost. And most of the time, nobody knows exactly what to do.

That is why your story transmits hope. Paul said that at the bleakest moment of the crisis, the Lord answered his heart's deepest desire and saved his marriage. That is what happens. Deep within the heart of each person is the desire for love not to end, for the story of a love experienced together not to be cut short, for the fruits of love not to be dispersed. Everyone has this desire. No one wants a love that is short-term or is marked with an expiration date. So we suffer greatly whenever failings, negligence and human sins make a shipwreck of marriage. But even amid the tempest, God sees what is in our hearts. By his providence, you met a group of laypersons specifically committed to assisting families. That was the start of a journey of rapprochement and healing in your relationship. You began to talk to one another, to be open and sincere with each other, to acknowledge your faults, to pray together with other couples, and all those things brought you to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, forgiveness heals every wound. Forgiveness is a gift welling up from the grace that Christ showers on couples and whole families whenever we let him act, whenever we turn to him. It was wonderful that you celebrated your own "feast of forgiveness" with your children, and renewed your marriage promises at the celebration of Mass. It made me think of the feast that, in Jesus' parable, the father organized for his prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:20-24). Only this time, the ones who went astray were the parents, not the child! "Prodigal parents". Yet this too is wonderful and can be a great witness for children. Young people, as they emerge from infancy, begin to realize that their parents are not "superheroes"; they are not all-powerful, much less perfect. In you, your children saw something much more important: they saw the humility to beg forgiveness and the God-given strength to pick yourselves up after the fall. This is something that children really need! For they too will make mistakes in life and realize that they too are not perfect, but they will also remember that the Lord raises us up, that all of us are forgiven sinners, that we have to beg forgiveness from others but also be able to forgive ourselves. The lesson that they learned from you will remain in their hearts forever. It was good for us too, to hear this. Thank you for your witness of forgiveness!

4. "A step forward" towards welcome. Thank you, Iryna and Sofia, for your witness. You gave a voice to all those persons whose lives have been devastated by the war in Ukraine. In you, we see the faces and the stories of so many men and women forced to leave their homeland. We thank you, for you have not lost your trust in providence and you have seen how God is at work in your lives, not least through the flesh and blood people he led you to encounter: host families, the doctors who helped you, and other kind-hearted men and women. The war brought you face to face with cynicism and human brutality, yet you also encountered people of great humanity. People at their worst and people at their best! It is important for all of us not to keep dwelling on the worst, but to maximize the best, the great goodness of which every man and woman is capable, and from there to start over again.

I thank you also, Pietro and Erika, for telling your own story, and for the generosity with which you welcomed Iryna and Sofia into your already large family. You shared with us that you did so out of gratitude to God and with a spirit of faith, as a call from the Lord. Erika told us that welcoming them was a "blessing from heaven". Indeed, welcoming is a genuine "charism" of families, and especially of large families! We may think that, in a large home, it is harder to welcome other people; yet that is not the case, for families with numerous children are "trained" to make room for others. They always have room for others.

In the end, this is what family is all about. In the family, we experience what it is to be welcomed. Husbands and wives are the first to "welcome" and accept one another, as they said they would do on the day of their marriage: "I take you…" Later, as they bring a child into the world, they welcome that new life. Whereas in cold and anonymous situations, the weak are often rejected, in families it is natural to welcome them: to accept a child with a disability, an elderly person in need of care, a family member in difficulty who has no one else… This gives hope. Families are places of welcome, and woe if they were to disappear! Society would become cold and unbearable without welcoming families. Welcome and generous families give "warmth" to society.

5. "A step forward" towards fraternity. I thank you, Zakia, for having shared your story with us. It is amazing and consoling that what you and Luca built together remains alive. Your story was born and built on the sharing of very high ideals that you described when you said: "We based our family on authentic love, with respect, solidarity and dialogue between our cultures". Nothing of that was lost, not even after the tragedy of Luca's death. Not only do the example and the spiritual legacy of Luca continue to live on and to speak to the consciences of many people, but also the organization that Zakia founded in some way carries on his mission. Indeed, we can say that Luca's diplomatic mission has now become "a mission of peace" on the part of your entire family. In your story, we see clearly how what is human and what is religious can become intertwined and bring forth precious fruit. In Zakia and Luca, we find the beauty of human love, passion for life, altruism and fidelity to one's own beliefs and religious tradition, as a source of inspiration and interior strength.

Your family expresses the ideal of fraternity. In addition to being husband and wife, you lived as brother and sister in your humanity, in your differing religious experiences, and in your commitment to society. This too is a lesson that is learned in the family. Living in the family together with others different from ourselves, we learn to be brothers and sisters. We learn to overcome divisions, prejudices and narrow-mindedness, and to build together something grand, something beautiful, on the basis of what we have in common. Lived examples of fraternity, like that of Luca and Zakia, give us hope; they help us to look with greater confidence at our world, so torn by division and hostility. Thank you for this example of fraternity!

I don't not want to move on from Luca and you without mentioning your mother. She is here, and she has always been at your side. This is the goodness that mothers-in-law bring to families, good mothers-in-law and good mothers! I thank her for coming with you today.

Dear friends, each of your families has a mission to carry out in our world, a testimony to give. We the baptized are especially called to be "a message that the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 21). For this reason, I would like you to ask yourselves this question: What is the word that the Lord wants to speak through our life to all those whom we meet? What "step forward" is he asking of our family, my family, today? Everyone should ask this. Stop and listen. Let yourselves be changed by him, so that you too can change the world and make it "home" for all those who need to feel welcomed and accepted, for all those who need to encounter Christ and to know that they are loved. We need to live with our eyes raised to heaven: as Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi used to say to their children, confronting the efforts and joys of life, "always looking from the roof upwards".

I thank you for coming here. I thank you for the efforts you make in raising your families. Keep moving forward, with courage and with joy. And please, don't forget to pray for me.

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Wolodymyr, Tatiana, Franciszek, Magdalena, and Teresa Korczynski on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNAVatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:42 am (CNA).A Ukrainian family of 10 is participating in the World Meeting of Families this week.Wolodymyr and Tatiana Korczynski arrived in Rome on June 21 with a Ukrainian flag and a desire to pray at St. John Paul II's tomb for peace in their home country.As Catholics from 120 countries are gathered at the Vatican to discuss the joys and challenges of family life, the Ukrainian family, currently based in Poland, has shared how war can weigh heavily on children."I see that the current situation in Ukraine requires more responsibility from children. They grow up faster," Tatiana told CNA on June 22.The mother of eight has seen this especially in her 13-year-old son Franciszek, who often accompanies his father on trips across the Polish border to provide aid and support for the Ukrainian cause."Franciszek often goes to Ukraine, but he also stays ...

Wolodymyr, Tatiana, Franciszek, Magdalena, and Teresa Korczynski on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:42 am (CNA).

A Ukrainian family of 10 is participating in the World Meeting of Families this week.

Wolodymyr and Tatiana Korczynski arrived in Rome on June 21 with a Ukrainian flag and a desire to pray at St. John Paul II's tomb for peace in their home country.

As Catholics from 120 countries are gathered at the Vatican to discuss the joys and challenges of family life, the Ukrainian family, currently based in Poland, has shared how war can weigh heavily on children.

"I see that the current situation in Ukraine requires more responsibility from children. They grow up faster," Tatiana told CNA on June 22.

The mother of eight has seen this especially in her 13-year-old son Franciszek, who often accompanies his father on trips across the Polish border to provide aid and support for the Ukrainian cause.

"Franciszek often goes to Ukraine, but he also stays at home as an older man to support and help me a lot. This is because more responsibilities fall on his shoulders," she said.

While the war has forced her kids to grow up faster, Tatiana has also observed that her children have also grown in compassion, knowing that many of their peers have lost parents in the war.

"I have more than once sensed that my children would want to adopt those children who stay in Ukraine, who have lost their families," she said.

A pilgrimage of prayer

Amid the upheaval and uncertainty that their home country has faced, the Korczynski family sees their participation in the World Meeting of Families as an opportunity to pray for Ukraine.

"We feel very honored to represent Ukraine at this congress and to participate. For us, it is a great gift and at the same time a task to be done," Tatiana said.

"All our prayers and the prayers of the people in Ukraine, who are now praying for peace, we can bring to God here in Rome and implore in an extraordinary way for a miracle, for God's lavishing his grace on our nation."

Wolodymyr pointed out that the timing of the World Meeting of Families coincides with the anniversary of John Paul II's apostolic journey to Ukraine in June 2001.

"It is no coincidence to be here now, to ask John Paul II for his mediation, for peace in Ukraine. I think God runs all this," he said.

Faith passes through the family

"I can honestly say that Wolodymyr and I grew up at a time when the Catholic faith was being persecuted in Ukraine," Tatiana recalled.

"Our grandmothers taught us the catechism … I think family is the bedrock and the very beginning of the Church," she said.

Tatiana sees the World Meeting of Families as a celebration of how "we come to know God through love for our neighbor, first of all in the family."

The Korczynskis' daughters, 12-year-old Teresa and 9-year-old Magdalena, added that they like being a part of a big family because of all the time spent together. 

The girls dressed up in matching blue dresses, white hats, and pigtail braids for their Vatican visit, alongside their elder brother, Franciszek. The Korczynskis' four youngest kids stayed in Poland in the care of their oldest daughter.

The Korczynski family are Latin rite Catholics originally from the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi in western Ukraine. The family relocated to Poland five years ago in an effort to keep the family together after their eldest daughter was accepted to a school in Szymanów.

"We decided to move and stay together because we think that the greatest gifts of a family are unity, collective prayer and being together in everyday life," Tatiana said.

Tatiana remembered how the family all prayed the rosary together for peace in the days leading up to Pope Francis' consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

"We took part in the consecration. We prepared ourselves by confession, participated in the service, and prayed together at home," Tatiana said.

"At this moment, when Ukraine is suffering, when a lot of people are experiencing great suffering, more people are asking and turning to God. I think it was very timely at that moment to talk about reparation, prayer, repentance, and forgiveness," she said.

Justyna Galant provided the translation for this interview from Polish to English.

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MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican bishops’ conference called on the country’s president to revise...

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican bishops’ conference called on the country’s president to revise his security strategy as violence continues convulsing Mexico and claiming innocent lives, including clergy.

The bishops’ statement followed the slayings of two Jesuits and a person they were protecting in their parish — a crime attributed to a local crime boss in a part of the country dominated by drug cartels, rife with poverty and long neglected by the state.

“Crime has spread everywhere, disrupting the daily life of our entire society, affecting productive activities in cities and the countryside, exerting pressure with extortion against those who work honestly in markets, schools and small businesses, along with medium and large companies. (Criminals) have taken over the streets, neighborhoods and entire towns, as well as roads and highways,” the bishops said in their June 23 statement.

“Most seriously, (criminal groups) have expressed themselves through levels of inhuman cruelty in executions and massacres that have made our country one of the most insecure and violent places in the world.”

Jesuit Fathers Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar died defending their parish in Cerocahui, in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua state, which serves the Indigenous Tarahumara population.

The priests had opened the parish to a person fleeing a kidnapping June 20, according to Chihuahua investigators, but an armed individual burst inside and killed that person — identified as Pedro Palma, a tour guide.

Jesuit Father Javier Ávila, a prominent human rights defender in Chihuahua state, subsequently told multiple Mexican media outlets that one of the priests immediately rushed to provide “spiritual assistance” to the victim and was killed. A second priest approached the gunman, saying, “calm down,” and also was killed. A third priest intervened, but was not attacked, according to Father Ávila’s version of events given to the newspaper Reforma. The attacker subsequently took the three bodies from the parish.

Father Ávila later told journalist Pascal Beltrán del Río that the gunman had been baptized by Father Campos.

Chihuahua state officials said they found three bodies June 22. The Jesuits confirmed June 23 that two of the bodies were those of Fathers Campos and Mora.

Mexican authorities named a local crime boss, José Noriel Portillo Gil, as the suspect in the slayings and offered a reward of 5 million pesos (US$250,000).

Palma, the tour guide, was kidnapped and apparently escaped from Portillo’s custody and ran into the church. Two other individuals also were abducted by Portillo after an altercation with him earlier the same day, according to the prosecutor.

The slayings drew outrage from Jesuits and the wider Mexican society as yet another atrocity in the country’s unrelenting violence.

“Acts like these are not isolated,” the Jesuits’ Mexican province said in a June 21 statement. “The Sierra Tarahumara, like many other parts of the country, confronts conditions of violence and neglect which have not been reversed. Every day, men and women are arbitrarily deprived of life, as our brothers (who) were murdered.”

“The Jesuits of Mexico will not remain silent in the face of the reality that lacerates the entire society,” the Jesuits said. “We will continue to be present and working for the mission of justice, reconciliation and peace, through our pastoral, educational and social projects.”

Father Arturo Sosa, Jesuit superior general, said via Twitter: “I am shocked and saddened by this news. My thoughts and prayers are with the #Jesuits in #Mexico and the families of the men. We have to stop violence in our world and so much unnecessary suffering.”

At least seven Mexican priests have been killed since December 2018, when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center in Mexico City.

López Obrador has promoted a poorly understood security policy of “hugs, not bullets,” though violence continues tearing through many regions of Mexico. He also has blamed the policies of his predecessors for provoking the violence.

Mexico’s bishops called for a different approach.

“It’s time to review security strategies that are failing. It is time to listen to citizens, to the voices of the thousands of relatives of victims and of the murdered and disappeared (and) the police officers killed by criminals,” the bishops said.

“We believe it is not useful to deny reality and blame the past for what we have to resolve now. Listening to each other doesn’t make anyone weak; to the contrary, it strengthens us as a nation.”

López Obrador insisted he would stay the course on security, saying in his June 23 news conference, “When they say, ‘change security strategy,’ No!” he said, adding, “You cannot confront violence with violence.”

The Jesuits have a long history of working in the Diocese of Tarahumara, which covers Copper Canyon. The region is home to the Indigenous Rarámuri people, also known as Tarahumara.

Father Campos, nicknamed “El Gallo,” was born in Mexico City and joined the Jesuits at age 16. He had worked with the Jesuit mission in the Sierra Tarahumara for 34 years, serving as vicar for the diocesan Indigenous ministry and as regional adviser for ecclesial base communities.

Father Mora, nicknamed, “El Morita,” was born in Monterrey and also joined the Jesuits at age 16. He served in the Sierra Tarahumara for 23 years and worked for a period with the Jesuit mission in southern Chiapas state.

The man accused of killing the priests reputedly terrorized the region, controlling drug running, illegal logging and liquor sales, according to statements from priests and press reports.

Father Ávila and other Catholics in the region have told the media they stayed silent after the slayings due to safety concerns. Father Ávila had to receive state protection after denouncing the enduring impunity of a 2008 massacre that claimed 13 lives at a party in the municipality of Creel, a departure point for tourists visiting the Copper Canyon.

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