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Catholic News

On Nov. 17, 2019, Pope Francis shared a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine at the Vatican for the 3rd annual World Day of the Poor / / Daniel Ibanez/CNAVatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 07:10 am (CNA).Pope Francis will visit Assisi, Italy on Nov. 12, where he will spend time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe, the Vatican announced Friday.The encounter will take place as part of the Catholic Church's celebration of the 5th annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.According to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the meeting, Pope Francis will make a private visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis.The pope will then meet a group of 500 poor people, praying with them and listening to their experiences.The theme of this year's World Day of the Poor is "The poor you will always have with you," the words of Jesus recorded...

On Nov. 17, 2019, Pope Francis shared a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine at the Vatican for the 3rd annual World Day of the Poor / / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 07:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will visit Assisi, Italy on Nov. 12, where he will spend time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe, the Vatican announced Friday.

The encounter will take place as part of the Catholic Church's celebration of the 5th annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.

According to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the meeting, Pope Francis will make a private visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis.

The pope will then meet a group of 500 poor people, praying with them and listening to their experiences.

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

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, issued in 2016 at the end of the Church's Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The idea came about, he explained, during the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People.

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

The Day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Feast of Christ the King.

In his message for this year's celebration, released in June, Pope Francis appealed for a new global approach to poverty.

He also said democracy is threatened when the poor are marginalized and treated as if they are to blame for their condition.

"This is a challenge that governments and world institutions need to take up with a farsighted social model capable of countering the new forms of poverty that are now sweeping the world and will decisively affect coming decades," he wrote.

"If the poor are marginalized, as if they were to blame for their condition, then the very concept of democracy is jeopardized and every social policy will prove bankrupt."

The pope also lamented what he said was an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.

"There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups," he commented.

"A market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations," he said. "We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility."

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St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni / Public DomainWashington D.C., Oct 15, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).The Knights of Columbus have released a new documentary on St. Joseph, inspired by Pope Francis's declaration of the Year of St. Joseph."The film opens up a new avenue for individuals who want to learn more about St. Joseph, who want to cultivate a devotion to him," the film's director, David Naglieri, told CNA. The 60-minute documentary "St. Joseph: Our Spiritual Father," which premiered on Oct. 10 for a six-week run on ABC-affiliated stations across the country, features reenactments, interviews with scholars, and testimonies of people with a devotion to St. Joseph.Naglieri said that the "visual medium" used to tell the story of St. Joseph is what makes the project unique. "I'm not saying there's anything original in this film that could not be found in books," he said, "but what is original is putting it all together along with these individual stories in a ...

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni / Public Domain

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus have released a new documentary on St. Joseph, inspired by Pope Francis's declaration of the Year of St. Joseph.

"The film opens up a new avenue for individuals who want to learn more about St. Joseph, who want to cultivate a devotion to him," the film's director, David Naglieri, told CNA. 

The 60-minute documentary "St. Joseph: Our Spiritual Father," which premiered on Oct. 10 for a six-week run on ABC-affiliated stations across the country, features reenactments, interviews with scholars, and testimonies of people with a devotion to St. Joseph.

Naglieri said that the "visual medium" used to tell the story of St. Joseph is what makes the project unique. 

"I'm not saying there's anything original in this film that could not be found in books," he said, "but what is original is putting it all together along with these individual stories in a visual medium that can inspire you in ways that a book can't."

The airing times, as well as segments from the documentary and resources on St. Joseph, are available on the Knights of Columbus website.

"I think reading and engaging in media visually are two different ways to learn and to grow and to educate yourself and so it's good to have both," Naglieri added. "If you're just watching stuff, you're missing something and if you're only reading and you're not watching some educational or informative films, you're missing something there as well."

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, with more than two million members in 16,000 councils worldwide. 

Naglieri said the film is a result of Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly's strong devotion to St. Joseph. Earlier this year, Kelly was installed as the head of the order in June, and consecrated his new administration to St. Joseph. 

According to Naglieri, who is the director of film and digital media for the Knights of Columbus, Kelly asked him to consider producing a documentary film to highlight St. Joseph's life and his importance as a role model for modern times.

Naglieri said that he chose to highlight devotion to St. Joseph through six different stories. 

One of the six stories, told by a member of the Knights in Poland, tells about the Catholic priests in the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. Naglieri said the testimony, told by a prisoner's grandson, notes that 20% of the priests in Poland ended up as prisoners at Dachau.

Fearing for their survival, the priests prayed a nine day novena to St. Joseph for protection. The people in the camp were liberated at the culmination of their novena, and discovered that the day of their liberation was originally the day of their scheduled execution, Naglieri said.

It was a "remarkable story," Naglieri said. To pay thanks and homage to the saint, he noted that there is an annual pilgrimage on the day of the liberation, April 29, to the St. Joseph Shrine in Kalisz, Poland.

Naglieri said the story shows the power of devotion to St. Joseph "during one of the darkest periods of the 20th century."

If viewers miss the airing on ABC, Naglieri said the full documentary will be available on the Knights of Columbus website in December.

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Cardinals and bishops in the Vatican's Synod Hall, Oct. 14, 2015. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.London, England, Oct 15, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).This weekend, dioceses in the U.S. and around the world will formally launch a local consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality in Rome. Supporters bill it as one of the most important events in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council and the greatest consultation exercise in human history.But as the diocesan phase of the ambitious two-year project begins, many Catholics are either wholly unaware of the "synodal path" or unsure of its significance. The synodal process starts with a diocesan consultation lasting from October 2021 to April 2022. A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission," at the Vatican in Octob...

Cardinals and bishops in the Vatican's Synod Hall, Oct. 14, 2015. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

London, England, Oct 15, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

This weekend, dioceses in the U.S. and around the world will formally launch a local consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality in Rome.

Supporters bill it as one of the most important events in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council and the greatest consultation exercise in human history.

But as the diocesan phase of the ambitious two-year project begins, many Catholics are either wholly unaware of the "synodal path" or unsure of its significance.

The synodal process starts with a diocesan consultation lasting from October 2021 to April 2022. A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission," at the Vatican in October 2023.

An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.
An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.

The process will be guided by two texts -- a preparatory document and handbook -- released last month by the Vatican.

But at an event in Rome last weekend, Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said it would be wrong to see the texts as an attempt to dictate the direction of the global process. The cardinal explained that the documents were not intended to "pre-establish the conditions of the path or dictate the way, obliging the Church to follow a path established in advance."

With that caveat noted, CNA asked theologians what the preparatory documents tell us about where the synodal path could lead.

While they expressed enthusiasm about the synod on synodality's potential for renewal, they voiced reservations about the vagueness surrounding its ultimate goals, the preparatory texts' theology, and the timing of the process.

The promise of synodality

Christopher Ruddy, an associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that there was "a lot that's really commendable" in the texts.

"To be trying to foster deeper communion in the Church, deeper participation, greater mission — those three goals are all really worthwhile," he told CNA in a phone interview.

"I think that sense of co-responsibility — that all of the faithful are called to take an active part in the life and mission of the Church — is something that's really important and is still a work in progress."

He added: "The emphasis on listening and discernment, and trying not to reduce the synod to a parliament or political struggle, is really good."

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap., a former member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission, praised the global scope of the synodal process.

"It could enliven not only the local churches but the entire worldwide Church," he told CNA via email.

"[Through] a global growth in faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would more fully be called Lord of all of the world to the glory of God the Father."

"Also, the faith of the Church could be confirmed and strengthened and people could be helped to live holy lives. It could enliven a whole worldwide evangelization. All of this would be marvelous to behold."

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Images of the Church

Ruddy, who teaches a course on Vatican II, noted that the preparatory document seeks to root the synodal path in the ecumenical council held in Rome in 1962-65.

"It's very clear that it's placing itself in a sort of trajectory of Vatican II and the idea that the Church is a pilgrim People of God journeying towards the Kingdom," he said.

"And of course that's conciliar teaching and it's scriptural, but there are other things that don't get emphasized as much in terms of looking at the Church, like the images of the Church as the Body of Christ or the Temple of the Holy Spirit, or even the Bride of Christ."

"These are all obviously legitimate and valid ways of looking at the Church, but they bring out different emphases. I think that sometimes when you're emphasizing one dimension of the Church, or one image, it has its strengths but also its limits."

Ruddy said that highlighting the image of the Church as a people "walking together" (the origin of the word "synod") raised the question of "where it is journeying to."

"I think there needs to be a clear sense of the goal here. I think of that line, 'it's not the destination, it's the journey,' and I've never liked that. When you're on a journey, you need to be surprised sometimes by that, but you do need to have a sense of why you're doing this and where you're ultimately heading."

He added: "Even granting that this document is just trying to get something going, I think it's still important to have a sense ultimately of where you're going, so that it doesn't just become amorphous."

Referring to the Bible, he noted that when the Israelites were in the desert, they were seeking the Promised Land, and when people went up to Jerusalem in Jesus' time, they did so for a definite purpose.

"They weren't just trying to journey together, they were trying to go somewhere," he commented.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

Consulting all the baptized

The synod on synodality's handbook urges dioceses to include "all the baptized" in the process.

It says: "Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc."

Ruddy said it made sense to consult those who no longer take part in Church life, just as a company would seek to listen to dissatisfied customers so it could improve its service.

"You'd be like, 'OK, what are we doing wrong? What can we improve? What are we missing here?'" he said.

"But if it's used as a way to almost privilege those voices, as the document says, I think, in a couple of places, that can lead in a problematic direction."

Weinandy, the former executive director of the U.S. bishops' secretariat for doctrine, also expressed concern about this aspect of the process.

He said: "It would appear that everyone, even non-Catholic, can express their various opinions on a whole variety of topics both concerning doctrine, liturgy, and morals. However, if such opinions are contrary to the faith of the Church, and these opinions are loudly proclaimed, then chaos will ensue."

He offered the German "Synodal Way" as an example of what happens when Church teaching is put up for debate.

"As the Synodal Path in Germany has created a mess, so the global synodal path could create an ecclesial worldwide mess. I hope that this does not happen, but this is what I fear," said Weinandy, who has previously criticized the German initiative.

.  Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.
. Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

The role of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is critical to Pope Francis' understanding of synodality. As he put it last weekend, "the synod is an ecclesial event and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is not present, there will be no synod." The 60-page handbook mentions the Holy Spirit 50 times.

Ruddy noted that the Spirit is often spoken of nowadays as the impulse for change in the Church, but that the Third Person of the Trinity also acts in other ways.

"Sometimes the Holy Spirit makes something clear that we didn't see before and that the Church can develop in that sense," he reflected.

"But there's another way in which the Holy Spirit is something that is given to the Church. Both, I'd say, to all the faithful to awaken the sense of the faith and also to the Church leaders, to teach and lead."

"And so the Holy Spirit can't always be associated with 'Oh, something new is happening,' a kind of rupture."

"It's also in this sense that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus," he said, "and that it has not just this sort of disruptive role but a confirming role as well. The Spirit is not a spirit of disorder, of chaos. It's a spirit of peace and of order as well."

Weinandy encouraged Catholics to pray that the Holy Spirit guides the synodal process.

"We must pray that the Holy Spirit enlightens all who attend these meetings, and especially the bishops, clergy, and faithful laity (the sensus fidelium) so that these gatherings do not get hijacked by the devil," he said.

"Of course, we must remember that the Lord works good in all situations for those who love him. Some may see this as an opportunity to undermine the Church and her faith, but it could be an opportunity for all faithful believers to bear witness to the faith and be strengthened in so doing. The crucified and risen Jesus would then shine gloriously throughout the world."

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

A missing call?

Ruddy added that he was interested in "what's not being said" in the synod texts.

For example, he said, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the "universal call to holiness." A whole chapter of Lumen gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, was dedicated to the notion that "all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity."

While the preparatory document rightly stressed participation and co-responsibility, he said, "I don't think it really took up the fact that the Vatican II spoke very essentially about the universal call to holiness."

"Participation is a part of that holiness, but it's not just trying to get people more active in the Church, it's that we want them to do all this because we want them to be more closely united to God and sharing God's life," he said, while acknowledging that "no document can say everything."

.  L'Osservatore Romano.
. L'Osservatore Romano.

Practical challenges

Writing at the National Catholic Register, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza noted that the Vatican is asking dioceses to organize "the most massive set of meetings ever conducted in the history of the Catholic Church" during a global pandemic.

"No one had heard of this idea 120 days ago, when it was first announced, and the official guidance comes less than 60 days before launch," he wrote on Sept. 17.

"Most sacramental-preparation classes are more extensively prepared than that."

Ruddy said that dioceses already conducting some kind of synodal process — such as the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis — would have a head start in responding to the Vatican's requests.

He suggested that the coronavirus pandemic's toll on parish life should not be underestimated.

"People are wiped out by COVID," he observed. "I don't even mean just physically but, you know, people are weary. People are just trying to get back on their feet, trying to keep parishes open and do all of that. And the idea of now organizing meetings when we don't even have social hours in our parishes anymore…"

"How are you going to have listening sessions, and so forth? It'd be hard to begin with, but I think the COVID situation makes things a lot trickier right now."

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Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary / / Gianluigi Persi (public domain).Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).The release this month of a watershed report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France has sparked another debate over the secrecy of confession.The Catholic Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is obliged, under the severest legal penalties, to keep absolute secrecy concerning everything learned in the context of sacramental confession. French law has long recognized the Church's strict rules about the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but the government is contemplating amending the law for confessors, as it has done with lawyers and other secular professionals, who are required to report child sexual abuse if they learn of it. In comments to the National Catholic Register on Wednesday, the spokeswoman for France's bishops' conference, Karine Dalle, clarified that the country's Cat...

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary / / Gianluigi Persi (public domain).

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

The release this month of a watershed report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France has sparked another debate over the secrecy of confession.

The Catholic Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is obliged, under the severest legal penalties, to keep absolute secrecy concerning everything learned in the context of sacramental confession.

French law has long recognized the Church's strict rules about the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but the government is contemplating amending the law for confessors, as it has done with lawyers and other secular professionals, who are required to report child sexual abuse if they learn of it.

In comments to the National Catholic Register on Wednesday, the spokeswoman for France's bishops' conference, Karine Dalle, clarified that the country's Catholic leaders do not intend to compromise on the Church's teaching that the confessional seal is sacrosanct.

To learn more about the seal of confession, ACI Stampa, CNA's Italian partner agency, spoke to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the head of the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary.

ACI Stampa: Why is the seal of confession so important? What is it and where does the law come from?

MP: The nature of the Sacrament of Reconciliation consists in the personal encounter of the sinner with the Merciful Father. The object of the sacrament is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God and with the Church, and the restoration of filial dignity by virtue of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.

The Church's teaching on confession is briefly presented in paragraph 1422 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which collects the teachings in Vatican II's [constitution] Lumen gentium and canon 959 of the Code of Canon Law.

It is essential to emphasize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, being an act of worship, cannot and must not be confused with a psychological session or a form of counseling. As a sacramental act, this sacrament must be protected in the name of religious freedom and any interference must be considered illegitimate and harmful to the rights of conscience.

So the priest hearing confessions must keep the seal, but at the same time, shouldn't he help report crimes to the ecclesial and civil authorities? How can he do that?

Everything said in confession from the moment in which this act of worship begins with the sign of the cross to the moment in which it ends, either with absolution or with absolution denied, is under absolutely inviolable seal. All information referred to in confession is "sealed" because it is given to God alone, so it is not usable by the priest confessor (cf. canons 983-984 CIC; 733-734 CCEO).

Even in the specific case in which, for example, during confession a minor reveals that he has been abused, the conversation must, by its nature, always and in every situation, remain sealed. This does not prevent the confessor from strongly recommending that the minor himself report the abuse to his parents, educators, and the police.

In the case that someone confesses to having committed abuse, if the confessor has no doubt about the penitent disposition of the person asking for absolution it cannot be denied or postponed (cf. canon 980). There is certainly a duty to make amends for a perpetrated injustice and to sincerely commit to preventing the abuse from happening again, resorting, if necessary, to competent help, but these serious duties linked to the path of conversion do not involve self-denunciation. The confessor must in any case invite the penitent to a deeper reflection and to evaluate the consequences of his actions, especially when another person has been suspected or unjustly condemned.

How can we respond to bishops who are tempted, even if for a just cause, to concede a part of the obligation of secrecy in confession? How does the seal of confession differ from professional secrecy or confidentiality?

Comparing the sacramental seal to the professional secrecy which, for example, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, etc. are required to keep, must be absolutely avoided.

Apart from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there is no [professional] secret that cannot yield to requirements to the contrary established by law or by a judge, by ethical codes or by the interested party who authorizes its disclosure.

The secret of confession, on the other hand, is not an obligation imposed from outside, but an intrinsic requirement of the sacrament, and as such cannot be dissolved even by the penitent himself (cf. canon 1550, §2, n.2 CIC; canon 1231, §2, n.2 CCEO).

The penitent does not speak to the human confessor, but to God, so that to take possession of what belongs to God would be sacrilege. The safeguard of the sacrament, instituted by Christ to be a sure haven of salvation for all sinners, is accepted.

If the faithful lose confidence in the seal, reception of the sacrament of confession could nosedive, causing very serious damage to souls and to the whole work of evangelization.

It is essential to insist that the seal of confession cannot be compared to professional secrecy, in order to prevent secular legislation from applying the justifiable exceptions of professional secrecy to the inviolable secrecy of confession.

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Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in NeedRome Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).Children in South Sudan, Burma, and Lebanon have joined a worldwide initiative to get one million kids to pray the rosary this year on Oct. 18."One million children praying the rosary" is a prayer campaign by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) held annually on the feast of St. Luke.This year, the organization has provided meditations on the mysteries of the rosary for children in 24 languages, along with printable coloring pages and a prayer to St. Joseph.More than 100,000 children from 44 countries, including the United States, Spain, Kenya, India, Colombia, and the Philippines, have already registered to take part in the rosary campaign, according to an online map published by the pontifical charity.Children in South Sudan participating in the rosary campaign. ACNAmong the participating dioceses is a Catholic community in Myanmar, also known as Burma. A Catholic leader fro...

Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need

Rome Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Children in South Sudan, Burma, and Lebanon have joined a worldwide initiative to get one million kids to pray the rosary this year on Oct. 18.

"One million children praying the rosary" is a prayer campaign by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) held annually on the feast of St. Luke.

This year, the organization has provided meditations on the mysteries of the rosary for children in 24 languages, along with printable coloring pages and a prayer to St. Joseph.

More than 100,000 children from 44 countries, including the United States, Spain, Kenya, India, Colombia, and the Philippines, have already registered to take part in the rosary campaign, according to an online map published by the pontifical charity.

Children in South Sudan participating in the rosary campaign. ACN
Children in South Sudan participating in the rosary campaign. ACN

Among the participating dioceses is a Catholic community in Myanmar, also known as Burma. A Catholic leader from the southeast Asian country wrote a letter to ACN saying that the rosary has been a source of strength amid the difficult times the country is facing after experiencing a coup.

"The situation has been bad for months now. The pandemic is rather severe in our area. All the villages are in lockdown. Praying the Rosary daily is the only source of strength physically and psychologically in the villages," said the Burmese cleric, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

"Our diocese will join you and pray for you and for your intentions. I am ever grateful to you for all concerns, love, kindness and generous support," he said.

Aid to the Church in Need is a pontifical foundation, established in 1947, dedicated to helping persecuted Christians around the world.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the president of ACN, said that the 2021 rosary campaign seeks to encourage children to pray "hand in hand with Our Lady and under the protection of Saint Joseph."

He said that St. Joseph is "a great example for us of how God can turn all things to good through our prayer, our fidelity and our obedience to His Word."

Children in Lebanon pray the rosary. ACN
Children in Lebanon pray the rosary. ACN

The ACN rosary initiative originated in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in 2005. According to the official website, children were praying the rosary at a wayside shrine when "several of the women in attendance strongly felt the presence of the Virgin Mary."

"They immediately thought of St. Padre Pio's promise: 'When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change,'" the website said.

St. Padre Pio is known for his deep devotion to praying multiple rosaries daily. The Franciscan priest from Pietrelcina, Italy was often seen with a rosary wrapped around his hand and had other rosaries under his pillow and on his nightstand.

Two days before he died in 1968, Padre Pio encouraged his spiritual children to pray the rosary saying: "Love Our Lady and make her loved. Recite the Rosary and recite it always and as much as you can."

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Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles visits the scene of the fire at Mission San Gabriel church, July 11, 2020. / Jon McCoy/Angelus NewsWashington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).The U.S. bishops' conference on Thursday reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020."These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God's grace," stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.Dolan is the chair of the U.S. bishops' religious liberty committee, while Coakley is the chair of the bishops' domestic justice and human development committee. Both episcopal committees have advocated for increased funding of a federal non-profit security progr...

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles visits the scene of the fire at Mission San Gabriel church, July 11, 2020. / Jon McCoy/Angelus News

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops' conference on Thursday reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020.

"These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God's grace," stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Dolan is the chair of the U.S. bishops' religious liberty committee, while Coakley is the chair of the bishops' domestic justice and human development committee. Both episcopal committees have advocated for increased funding of a federal non-profit security program, citing a rise in attacks on houses of worship.

The conference began tracking such attacks on churches in May 2020, and now says that at least 101 incidents have occurred in 29 states since then. Incidents include graffiti being sprayed on church walls, Catholic statues beheaded or smashed, gravestones desecrated with swastikas, and arson.

Last Sunday, Oct. 11, Denver's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was vandalized with graffiti, including phrases such as "Satan Lives Here," "White Supremacists," and "Child Rapists, LOL." 

On. Sept. 29, a parish in nearby Boulder, Colorado was also desecrated with pro-abortion graffiti, which included the phrases "Jesus [Loves] Abortion," "Bans off our bodies" and "No Wire Hangers Ever." 

Other attacks have been more severe. In November 2020, a Catholic church in Washington state was damaged by fire in an apparent case of arson. Earlier that year, the historic Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in Los Angeles County, a church founded by St. Junipero Serra in 1771, suffered a devastating fire. In May 2021, a California man was charged with arson in connection to the fire.

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged various reasons behind attacks on churches, but stated that "this destruction must stop. This is not the way."

"In all cases, we must reach out to the perpetrators with prayer and forgiveness. True, where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity," he said.

The bishops' religious freedom committee has launched a "Beauty Heals" campaign of short videos as a response to church vandalism.

In the summer of 2021, churches across Canada were discovered to be on fire in burnings deemed by police to be "suspicious" or outright cases of arson. The fires, many of which occurred on indigenous lands, happened as unmarked graves at the sites of former Catholic-run residential schools for indigenous children were discovered.

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null / Vatican pool.Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 14:35 pm (CNA).Dioceses across the United States are preparing for the consultation process for the Synod on Synodality, a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local diocese.Most dioceses contacted by CNA said they are still in the process of determining how feedback will be collected from the faithful, and several dioceses are planning an opening Mass on Oct. 17.One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine "how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel."The "diocesan phase" of the synod will run until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod docum...

null / Vatican pool.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

Dioceses across the United States are preparing for the consultation process for the Synod on Synodality, a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local diocese.

Most dioceses contacted by CNA said they are still in the process of determining how feedback will be collected from the faithful, and several dioceses are planning an opening Mass on Oct. 17.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine "how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel."

The "diocesan phase" of the synod will run until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. Earlier this month, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook to help dioceses to take part.

The concept of "synodality" has been a topic of frequent discussion by Pope Francis, particularly during the previous ordinary Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment in October 2018. The pope, speaking about the present synod, has said that the synod is "not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit."

Synodality, as defined by the International Theological Commission in 2018, is "the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God." Pope Francis launched the consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality Oct. 10. 

According to Vatican documents, the "fundamental question" to be considered by the dioceses and the bishops over the multi-year process is as follows: "A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, 'journeys together.' How is this 'journeying together' happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our 'journeying together?'"

In San Antonio, the consultation period will begin with an Opening Mass at the Cathedral of San Fernando Oct. 17. The diocesan website for the synod process, available in both English and Spanish, says that "listening and interactive sessions" to collect feedback from Catholics in the diocese are set to be held "in the following months."

Jordan McMorrough, Archdiocese of San Antonio Communications Director, told CNA that the Synodal Process Steering Committee will "launch a series of meetings in every corner of the archdiocese" in the coming days.  

The Scranton diocese is also set to hold an opening Mass for the Synod on Oct. 17, Bishop Joseph Bambera wrote in an Oct. 4 letter. 

"In the coming weeks, we'll have more updates on how the consultation process is expected to play out in parishes, schools and other diocesan structures," Eric Deabill, communications director for the Scranton diocese, told CNA. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge accepting the offertory gifts at the Mass for Persons with Disabilities, Sept. 29. .  ZOEY MARAIST/Arlington Catholic Herald
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge accepting the offertory gifts at the Mass for Persons with Disabilities, Sept. 29. . ZOEY MARAIST/Arlington Catholic Herald

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington will celebrate an opening Mass on Oct. 17, and has said that focus groups and surveys are being arranged to collect feedback from the faithful of the Arlington diocese. 

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark announced he would be celebrating an opening Mass for the synod on Oct. 17 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. 

"Sister Donna Ciangio, OP, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and Father Bismarck Chau, the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, have agreed to coordinate the synodal process throughout our Archdiocese," Cardinal Tobin wrote Oct. 11. 

"Together with their team, they will ensure that every parish will have the opportunity to participate in this important moment in the history of the Church. But they will also be concerned with voices from the 'periphery,' voices that are easily and often overlooked in Catholic discussions. The Holy Spirit is moving throughout the Church and we need to listen. As a result of the diocesan consultation, a report will be written that will collect our voices."

Carmen Gaston, Director of Mission Advancement for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, told CNA that Archbishop Alexander Sample is set to announce plans to participate in the Synod at a special Mass celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the archdiocese, celebrated at St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 24.

Mark Haas, spokesman for the Denver archdiocese, told the National Catholic Register that plans for how the synodal process will unfold will be "communicated to all the faithful once the plans are finalized."

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois completed its fourth diocesan synod in 2017. That process included consultations with all the laity, priests, deacons, and leaders of the religious communities in the diocese, as well as delegates from each of the 129 parishes.

"I think much of the information that we are being asked to gather during the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality can be gleaned from what we learned from our surveys of active and inactive Catholics and what we heard during our listening sessions and consultations held during our Fourth Diocesan Synod," Bishop Thomas Paprocki wrote in a recent column. 

"Additional consultations will be done with our canonical consultative bodies, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Presbyteral Council, and parish pastoral councils, supplemented perhaps by focused listening sessions in the deaneries as needed."

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Similarly, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is currently in the midst of its own archdiocesan synod. Some of the information collected for that synod will be applicable to what Pope Francis has requested from dioceses for the synod on synodality, the Catholic Spirit reported. Archbishop Bernard Hebda is set to celebrate a Mass in solidarity with the pope on Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

The Diocese of Brooklyn opened its own diocesan synod Oct. 10, and is set to hold a series of "listening sessions"— first at the parish level and then at the diocese's 22 deaneries — from now until April, The Tablet reported. 

The worldwide synod will conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

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Pro life protesters outsider the Belfast High court, as Northern Ireland abortion laws were being challenged. Belfast, UK. Oct. 3, 2019 / meandering images/ShutterstockDenver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).A proposal to require so-called "buffer zones" around abortion clinics - an area where protests would not be allowed - is reportedly drawing support in Northern Ireland's parliament. If passed, the law, which has progressed past the first legislative stage, would be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. The bill would empower the Department of Health to establish "safe access" zones outside abortion facilities, the BBC reported. Patients and employees of abortion clinics are identified in the bill as "protected persons." Offenses under the bill would include "influencing a protected person, whether directly or indirectly...preventing or impeding access by a protected person...causing harassment, alarm or distress to a protected person."The member of p...

Pro life protesters outsider the Belfast High court, as Northern Ireland abortion laws were being challenged. Belfast, UK. Oct. 3, 2019 / meandering images/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A proposal to require so-called "buffer zones" around abortion clinics - an area where protests would not be allowed - is reportedly drawing support in Northern Ireland's parliament. If passed, the law, which has progressed past the first legislative stage, would be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. 

The bill would empower the Department of Health to establish "safe access" zones outside abortion facilities, the BBC reported. 

Patients and employees of abortion clinics are identified in the bill as "protected persons." Offenses under the bill would include "influencing a protected person, whether directly or indirectly...preventing or impeding access by a protected person...causing harassment, alarm or distress to a protected person."

The member of parliament who introduced the bill, Clare Bailey, claimed that while volunteering at a Belfast abortion clinic over 10 years ago, she was "spat at, I had holy water splashed on me, I was verbally abused, I had one young woman who was so distressed she ran into four lanes of oncoming traffic to escape the protestors."

However, the leaders of a British pro-life group pushed back against claims that harassment outside abortion facilities is commonplace.

"Contrary to the claims of Claire Bailey, the harassment of women and staff outside abortion facilities has been proven to be extraordinarily rare," said Michael Robinson, executive director of the British pro-life group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

"The intimidation of women outside abortion facilities has been proven time and time again to be a lie, while the abuse that pro-lifers have suffered has not been subject to a review at all," he added, pointing out that a pro-life supporter was assaulted outside a Belfast abortion clinic in June. 

Politicians of the Democratic Unionist Party, the leading pro-life party in Northern Ireland, described the bill as "regressive."

"Under the Bill, anything from a conversation to a leaflet would be deemed criminal. Notwithstanding whether such a definition would be enforceable in practice, that is an incredibly broad scope. Some Members will deem those who hold a pro-life stance as offensive, and others, like me, can consider a pro-abortion stance as equally offensive," DUP lawmaker Jonathan Buckley said during an Oct. 12 debate on the proposal. 

"Neither I nor my party, nor the vast majority of pro-life advocates, have any common cause with those who engage in either aggressive or violent activities, and they should be pursued with the full rigour of the law," he added. 

Proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales were rejected by the then-British Home Secretary in September 2018, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive.

The British parliament legalized abortion in Northern Ireland in March 2020. Before then, abortion was legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life was imperilled or if there was a risk of long-term or permanent, serious damage to a woman's mental or physical health.

The new regulations allow elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortions up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to the mother's physical or mental health; and abortion without time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment or fetal fetal abnormality.

After the parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 to legalize abortion, the Northern Ireland Assembly was deadlocked due to a dispute between the two major governing parties. As the assembly failed to do business by the Oct. 21, 2019 deadline, the abortion law took effect in March 2020.

The country's Catholic bishops have called the act "an unjust law," one "which was imposed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland."

The bishops added they are "morally obliged, wherever possible, to do all we can to save the lives of unborn children, which could be lost through abortion, and to protect mothers from the pressures they might experience at the time of an unplanned pregnancy. We trust that you recognise this to be an obligation we all share as concerned citizens and public representatives."

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland's Secretary of State, issued a formal direction on July 22 requiring the Northern Ireland Executive and Department of Health to make abortion and post-abortion care available in the region by March 31, 2022. A ??High Court judge in Belfast recently ruled that Lewis had failed to comply with his duties as Secretary of State by not "expeditiously" making abortion available to women in Northern Ireland.

In England, a buffer zone was imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in April 2018. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic.

The Ealing buffer zone, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in August 2019, was cited by then-Secretary Sajid Javid as an example of a local government using civil legislation "to restrict harmful protest activities," rather than a nationwide policy.

Shortly after the Ealing buffer zone was adopted, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that "to remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received."

"The imposition of 'no-prayer zones' outside clinics – I mean prayerful vigil, not militant or disruptive action – is unhelpful, unjust and unnecessary," Bishop Egan said.

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Carl Anderson receives the Totus Tuus award at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 9, 2021. / Rycerze Kolumba.Warsaw, Poland, Oct 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).The Catholic Church in Poland has honored Carl Anderson, the former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.Anderson received the Totus Tuus award -- known as the "Catholic Nobel" in Poland -- at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on Oct. 9. Rycerze Kolumba.The Polish bishops' foundation "Work of the New Millennium" gave Anderson the award "for the promotion of the person of St. John Paul II and credible international implementation of the values that he proclaimed." Receiving the honor, Anderson, who served as supreme knight from 2000 to 2021, said: "John Paul II changed the history of Poland and the United States. He changed the history of the world.""He was a great advocate of human rights, solidarity, and freedom. He always defended the truth about the human person and his dignity." "Modestly helping to fulfill his mission...

Carl Anderson receives the Totus Tuus award at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 9, 2021. / Rycerze Kolumba.

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Poland has honored Carl Anderson, the former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Anderson received the Totus Tuus award -- known as the "Catholic Nobel" in Poland -- at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on Oct. 9.

Rycerze Kolumba.
Rycerze Kolumba.

The Polish bishops' foundation "Work of the New Millennium" gave Anderson the award "for the promotion of the person of St. John Paul II and credible international implementation of the values that he proclaimed."

Receiving the honor, Anderson, who served as supreme knight from 2000 to 2021, said: "John Paul II changed the history of Poland and the United States. He changed the history of the world."

"He was a great advocate of human rights, solidarity, and freedom. He always defended the truth about the human person and his dignity."

"Modestly helping to fulfill his mission and carry on his legacy has been the greatest honor in my life."

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order, was founded in New Haven, Conn., in 1882 by Blessed Michael J. McGivney.

It has 1.8 million members worldwide who perform volunteer service and advance the order's principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.

Fundacja 'Dzielo Nowego Tysiaclecia'
Fundacja 'Dzielo Nowego Tysiaclecia'

Under Anderson's leadership, the Knights established a shrine in 2011 in honor of St. John Paul II in Washington, D.C. The U.S. bishops designated the sanctuary as a national shrine in 2014.

In an interview with the Family News Service, Anderson discussed the central themes of John Paul II's pontificate, which lasted from 1978 to 2005.

"The message of Pope John Paul II was mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness, recognition, and respect for the dignity of every human being," he said.

"It wasn't just an abstraction; it was something personal, and you could see that in the pope. Now, I believe that this is what gave his teaching such power."

Family News Service.
Family News Service.

The Polish pope appointed Anderson as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1998 and the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 2002, and as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2003.

Anderson said that the decision in 2005 to establish Knights of Columbus councils in Poland was, in a sense, an act of gratitude to the Polish pope and his role in promoting the laity.

"So many people have been kind and supportive to the Knights of Columbus, including the Holy Father John Paul II. So, we are very happy to be here in Poland," he said.

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The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy. / Sergio D'Afflitto via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 it).Vatican City, Oct 14, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).Italy's Supreme Court has overturned an arrest warrant against a broker wanted in Italy and the Vatican on allegations of financial crimes.According to a statement from the lawyers of Gianluigi Torzi late Wednesday, a precautionary measure against the Italian businessman who brokered the final stage of the Vatican's controversial purchase of a London property has been "annulled in its entirety."The case has been sent back to Rome's Tribunal for Review. A written ruling explaining the reason for the annulment will be released by the Italian court within a month, according to the AP. Torzi is one of the key suspects in a significant finance trial being heard by the Vatican City State's tribunal about the London property deal.The Vatican has accused the businessman of being part of a conspiracy to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions...

The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy. / Sergio D'Afflitto via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 it).

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Italy's Supreme Court has overturned an arrest warrant against a broker wanted in Italy and the Vatican on allegations of financial crimes.

According to a statement from the lawyers of Gianluigi Torzi late Wednesday, a precautionary measure against the Italian businessman who brokered the final stage of the Vatican's controversial purchase of a London property has been "annulled in its entirety."

The case has been sent back to Rome's Tribunal for Review. A written ruling explaining the reason for the annulment will be released by the Italian court within a month, according to the AP.

Torzi is one of the key suspects in a significant finance trial being heard by the Vatican City State's tribunal about the London property deal.

The Vatican has accused the businessman of being part of a conspiracy to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions of euros, and has charged him with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering. He denies the charges.

An Italian magistrate issued an arrest warrant for Torzi in April on suspicion of similar financial crimes committed in Italy. The businessman has been under precautionary measures in the U.K. while awaiting extradition to Italy at the request of the Italian authorities.

The Supreme Court decision to annul the precautionary measures calls into question whether Torzi will be extradited from the U.K.

In a hearing on Oct. 6, Vatican judges ruled that Torzi's portion of the finance trial would effectively be on hold until he could present himself at the Vatican.

A statement from Torzi's communication team on Oct. 13 said that Torzi's lawyers, Ambra Giovene and Marco Franco, called the high court's annulment of the precautionary measure "an important step towards proving their client's innocence."

The statement also said that evidence used by the Supreme Court in its decision was provided by Vatican prosecutors.

In March, a British judge reversed the seizure of Torzi's accounts, saying that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the U.K. court.

Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court overturned another judge's decision to seize the British-based accounts of Gianluigi Torzi, as had been requested by Vatican prosecutors.

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